Welcome to our impuls section!

This section contains everything we come across, but that doesn’t fit into our article format. That doesn’t means it’s less fun – or less important! Quite the contrary! Here you may find inspirations, questions, experiences, diary entries, recipes… whatever. There really are no limits. Check it out!

01
May

Facing Malta Part 1: Car addiction

I’ve moved to Malta. For everyone who doesn’t know where it is – I don’t blame you. It’s a tiny Island in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily, Tunesia and Libya, which once belonged to the British Commonwealth. You’ll need to type it in Google maps to see it on the map.

I’m here voluntarily and generally I’m not complaining. There are already 9 sun-hours per day in April and if I stand on my balcony, I have a nice sea view. It’s definitely not the worst place to be for a while.

However, in terms of environmental protection and sustainable lifestyle things are – mildley said – quite different and some situations just put me to the edge of sympathy. Especially compared to the city I lived before, Leipzig, where living alternatives was easy.

Therefore, I’d like to introduce to you the TOP X (don’t know yet how many it will be) environmental problems I am facing here in Malta.

Let me start with the moste severe issue: Cars

Given the fact that Malta is just 316 km² tiny (longest distance bewteen North/South is not even 40 km), you could basically go by bike or foot everywhere. Could. Because Malta has a serious car problem. It’s not only one of the most populated countries worldwide, it’s also one of the country with the hightest car number per person in the EU.

In 2016 there where close to 350.000 licensed vehicles on the roads, whereby most of them are passenger vehicles. In fact, private car population in Malta is over half the size of the human population – almost 600 cars per 1000 people – and the number of licensed vehicles keeps on rising.

Certainly other European countries do quite bad as well. In Germany for instance, every second person owns a car. However, you also need to put this into relation to the country size! Whereas in Germany there are around 227 people per km², in Malta 1330 people are squeezed in the same area – together with their 800 cars!

As a consequence, it took me over 2 hours by bus to get from Mellieha (where I currentlly live) to the capital Valetta – which is just a distance of around 22 km. A medium skilled runner could do this in the same time.

The Problem is that people obviously think, they need a car to be flexible and faster. Of course this is an illusion, since it’s not only the busses which get stuck in the traffic madness.

Laziness + poor public transport System = traffic madness

People are going by car everywhere. Partly this is related to laziness: People are to comfortable to walk to the supermarket, restaurant – or the gym. Still, the public transport system and infrastructure is not really helping to improve the situation either. For instance, there is no direct bus connection from North to South, some villages only have a bus every hour and in the evening there is almost no chance to get back home without a taxi. Also, bus schedules are not really reliable – which probably goes back again to the bad traffic. Additionally, many routes don’t have pavements which makes it difficult to walk.

In the end car addiction of inhabitants and the poor public transport system are amplifying each other towards escalation.

What about cycling?

Going by bike is an option – if you are interested in committing suicide. ‘Cycling path’ is a foreign term, roads are narrow and cars drive ruthless. There are some brave people who go by bike. They are rare, but they do exist. Basically you could almost refer to them as activists.

The situation is especially sad, since it could be so easy: just leave away the cars, give each person a decent bike and improve public transport system. Everyone would be faster, happier and healthier. However, if not the government puts an effort in changing this situation, I highly doubt people will change their habbits.

photo: pixarbay

20
Jan

Why I like to travel alone

Well there are two main reasons really: the freedom and the conversations. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy traveling with others too – certain others that is, it won’t work with everybody. Still, traveling alone has its own advantages!

Firstly and most obviously, traveling on your own comes with a lot of freedom. For me it is the kind of freedom that allows for total relaxation. The relaxation results from not having to make any plans. I would generally have a vague idea of what I want to do with my day, but then something else might come up and I’d often end up doing something completely different and that’s fine. It’s really interesting and inspiring what kind of things you discover if you just follow your gut and have a stroll around a place you don’t know. This is somewhat harder when you are traveling with others. While you might be able to reach a consensus on what to do quite easily, just having to discuss and agree on something changes the feel of the moment. Furthermore, traveling alone relieves this self-induced pressure to make sure the other person is having a good time. When I’m alone I don’t have to feel guilty if something I wanted to do on the trip turns out not to be that great. I know that the people I have traveled with before would like to chime in at this moment and tell me that I don’t have to feel any guilt when I’m with them either, and I know that, but for some reason I still do. So, just being able to turn off the guilt for a couple of days, not being responsible for anybody but yourself, is very relaxing.

Travelers alone somehow seem to have a radar for other lonesome wanderers – so you meet and have a conversation. And what’s so great about it, is that you have no prior knowledge of each other. You (ideally) don’t have any prejudice or preset idea of how that person is and what to expect of him or her. Of course that’s true of every time you meet a stranger, but most of the time that stranger is a new colleague or neighbour. That means there is a certain pressure coming with the meeting – you’d better get along, as you’ll be stuck with each other for a while. You don’t have that pressure when you’re traveling. You meet a person, you talk and whenever you feel like it, you go your separate ways again and no hard feelings. It makes for a much more free and relaxed conversation. You feel like you’re getting the real people, not some filtered version of themselves. But of course you’ll never know for sure, because you won’t meet again and that’s okay. If you’re traveling with a friend or partner not only is meeting people itself getting harder, if you do meet people you will never have that totally relaxed and unrestrained conversation because there is someone there who has prior knowledge of you. For me this feeling of not having to adhere to the social construction of yourself appears somewhat similar to what many people experience on festivals – a place where the perception of normality shifts. The setting of a festival, so far away from reality, allows you to try on different versions of yourself, versions that might have gotten lost in your everyday life, but that are still part of you. Talking to strangers in a foreign place gives you a similar opportunity. Most of the time those meetings end with you having a head full of new ideas while not even knowing the other one’s name. But sometimes these meetings result in long-lasting friendships, which are strong simply because of the way in which they developed.

As a bonus reason, there is something very mind-opening about the loneliness itself. While you often have these great conversations with fellow travelers, you tend to also spend a lot of time in silence, simply because there is no one to talk to. The silence in combination with being in an unfamiliar place away from all the things of everyday life which your mind usually attaches itself to, somehow allows the thoughts to wander more freely. I get the feeling that being quiet for a while, not talking to someone or distracting yourself with a book, movie or your phone allows the mind to clean and reset itself. When coming back from such a trip I feel that I can think a lot more clearly and have more inspiration and creativity – and I am almost certain that a lot of this inspiration is due to being silent in unfamiliar surroundings.

It might not be for everyone, but for me this mixture of fun conversation and silent inspiration is the perfect way to allow the (slightly dominant) introverted part of me to restore itself, while keeping the extroverted me happy too. So if you feel like you need a recharge – dare to give it a try!

02
Aug

Green Low Budget Challenge – Final words

Amazing how fast one month goes by – even if you don’t have much money to spend since doing a green low budget challenge.

Low budget in this terms meant trying how to survive with only 500 Euros a month (for everything – rent, side costs, food and lifestyle). In my case that resulted in having 120 Euros left for food and fun after paying all fixed costs.

The whole thing was green because heading to the cheap discounters and having toasts and canned soup every day was not an option. Instead, I wanted to stick to my personal ‘sustainable consumption rules’, meaning buying as organic, regional and plastic free as possible, with wasting as less as possible.

In the end I can say: I succeeded and it was far less challenging than I expected it to be. A reason surely is that I am already living a quite frugal life without excessive consumption. I don’t feel the urge to buy and own more and more stuff anymore. So things like going to the shopping mall on Saturdays and spending money on clothing or cosmetics was something I used to do in the past, but not anymore. I wear the clothes I have or exchange them with friends and my bathroom shelf is rather minimalistic with self-made products included.

Furthermore, since it was summer time, I was perfectly happy with going out for a run, chilling out in the sun with a friend and a beer or reading a book. Consequently, I could use almost all 120 Euros for food.


13 pieces of wisdom

  1. You can perfectly use a tea bag twice (at least).
  2. Old bread + (oat) milk + oat flakes + honey give a wonderful French toast.
  3. Preparing oat milk yourself is super easy and doesn’t cost more than 30 cents a liter.
  4. Food sharing is definitely worth a try.
  5. Not spending any money for several days does work – and feels incredibly releasing.
  6. Multi-functional products like lemons, (cider) vinegar, baking soda, (palm oil free) soap or coconut oil can make your life way easier.
  7. Blondes can lighten their hair with lemon juice – and use the squeezed fruit for cleaning the sink afterwards.
  8. Learning a language via a language partnership (‘tandem’) is fun – and doesn’t cost a cent.
  9. Bringing your own bottles and hiding them in front of a concert location is not something only teenagers can do.
  10. It can make you truly happy to bring back your deposit bottles and spend the extra 3.50 Euros on something special.
  11. Going by bike instead of taking the bus is great for your purse – and legs.
  12. To stop drinking coffee is an option – but not mandatory.
  13. Same counts for beer.

However, I also felt that such a way of life will become more challenging with time. One month was easy, because I still had some food basics at home, which in consequence I didn’t need to buy.  With each week yet I saw my stocks decreasing more and more and if I continued living on low budget another month I’d probably get some serious shortage. One month was also easy, because there are a lot of things you can do in your free-time without spending money. I am pretty sure though, that after a while I would feel a bit restricted in flexibility and travelling.

For living such a low budget life in the long run, I would need to try harder, becoming more minimalistic and probably going for a food sharing supplier position to meet my nutrition needs. Probably, I would need to get rid of my coffee addiction then as well… Surely it would be a deep change in lifestyle; however, I truly think it is possible.

I am now switching to my general ‘medium budget life’ again. But I will certainly keep an eye on the hard way and step-wise try to improve my budget skills. This challenge will not end here.

Photo: Fabian Blank│unsplash.com (adapted)
29
Jul

Green Household Challenge: Hair

The hair too will want to get washed this month. And that is actually quite the challenge with my hair. Most of the shampoos at the store don’t really work for me – I often feel like I can’t properly wash them out of my hair again. These last few months I was very happy with the shampoo I was using so I was a bit unsure about trying something new. Was I right being unsure?

Version 1: Chestnut Shampoo

This one I had already tried out before the challenge month. Since I had already collected, cut and dried a lot of chestnuts last autumn for my laundry detergent. These I could now use as the basis for my chestnut shampoo. If chestnuts work as a detergent, why not as a shampoo.

Ingredients:

  • 280g dried chestnut powder (or fresh ones cut into slices)
  • 700ml water
  • 1 apple, cut into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons starch flower/ 2-3 tablespoons psyllium husks

Put the chestnuts and the apple into a pot with the water and let it boil for 25 min. Afterwards I put the mixture through a dish towel in order to separate out the liquid. Then the liquid needs to be thickened either with starch flower or psyllium husks. Stir those in and let it boil down until the mixture has a consistency like shampoo.

The first time I used the psyllium husks. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to stir them in without having any lumps left. For that reason I gave it another try and used starch instead. With that I managed to get a good consistency.

So let’s get in the shower and give it a try. The shampoo was easy to apply and felt good in the hair. Nonetheless I had the same problem I have with many other Shampoos, I couldn’t get it out of my hair completely. I think I just used too much starch and the shampoo is too sticky because of that. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough chestnuts left to give it another try, as I still want to use it for my laundry. I will try again this autumn with fresh chestnuts and a different thickening agent (e.g. apple pectin).

Version 2: Baking soda and apple vinegar

The first experiment in this challenge month was to wash my hair with baking soda and apple vinegar.

Ingredients:

  • 4 teaspoons baking soda (natron)
  • 400ml warm water
  • 2 tablespoons apple vinegar
  • 5 drops essential rosemary or tea tree oil
  • 1l cold water

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In this version baking soda mixed with water used as shampoo replacement, and apple vinegar and essential oil with water as conditioner. Both are mixed right before you use them. The amounts above are for my long hair. For shorter hair smaller amounts will be enough. Stir the baking soda into 400ml warm water. The apple vinegar and essential oil are mixed with 1l of cold water.

Under the shower first spread the sodamixture in your hair and then rinse it. Afterwards the same with the apple vinegar. Watch out for your eyes – I’m speaking from experience.

Using this shampoo and conditioner replacement is a bit unusual at first, as it feels like your just pouring large amounts of water over your head. However the result is convincing. After the first try I figured out the best way to spread it in my hair and avoid burning eyes. After this treatment my hair was wonderfully soft and easy to comb.

Version 3: Rye Flour

When I heard about the rye flour shampoo I was sceptical. From baking I know how sticky flour is when mixing it with water. I was thinking it would stick to the hair, too. On the other hand rye flour apparently has a lot less gluten than spelt or wheat does. Ok, so its worth a try.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons rye flour (preferably wholemeal)
  • 300ml lukewarm water

_MG_2641

Again these are the amounts you need for long hair. Just try it out to see how much you need for  your hair. Stir in the rye flour into the water using a wire wisk.  Even if it seems to watery at first, it will thicken after a while and get ‘shampooy’. If wholemeal flour is used the mixture should stand for 1-2 hours so that the hard bits soften and the active components become free.

The ryeshampoo can be applied to the hair like every other shampoo and should be left to do its job for about 5 minutes. Rinse carefully and your done. The hair feels like after a good conditioner. The rest of the shampoo can be used as shower gel – it’s great for the skin, too! The shampoo can be kept for a short time (max 1 day) in the fridge, but generally should be made fresh.

All of those possibilities can be ‘upgraded’ with certain ingredients dependent on your needs. Furthermore coffee grounds are also great as a conditioner and peeling. I guess I will now use baking soda and apple vinegar if it has to be quick and the rye shampoo on  regular basis for some extra care. I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

Photo: Andy Happel Photography
24
Jul

Green Low Budget Challenge – Low Budget Beauty

So far I have predominantly talked about food in my challenge. Although I need to say that good quality food is in fact the area I usually spend most of my every-day money, there are some other things remaining, people once in a while need or wish to consume – to make us look neat and pretty for instance.

I am talking about the bathroom and cosmetics section.

Mine is rather minimalistic nowadays and most things I use, last for quite a long time or are self-made, so that I don’t need to buy new stuff each month. This definitely is one of the reasons why I don’t feel particularly restricted or overstrained while living on 30 bugs a week and this is also why I didn’t need to spend money on it so far. I don’t have a huge make-up bag, conditioners or any perfume selection, which needs to be restocked.

However, it hasn’t always been like this. I used to have more stuff, tried many different products that promised beauty and perfectionism and there were days on which I spent more time in a drugs store than in a grocery shop. I certainly haven’t been always immune against the persuasive power of the cosmetics industry.

But step by step, I uncoupled myself from its influence and I figured out that a few items are absolutely sufficient, even for a woman who still cares about her appearance and does not look completely wasted (well, at least no one ever complained on that issue).

I guess this is the right moment to introduce you into the secrets of my current bathroom shelf (not 100% correct though, as some of the items are placed in my bedroom; but we aren’t so fussy):

  • A piece of soap (palmoil free) for washing body and face
  • Shampoo bar for my hair
  • Coconut oil as body lotion alternative (twice a week is enough), for removing mascara and sometimes for my face. I also use it for cooking.
  • A very new item is a self-made cider vinegar-facial tonic (great if you tend to sensitive skin and/or impurities), which I apply with self-made pads from old cloth; however, no facial tonic works for me as well.
  • Almond oil for my face
  • Lip balm (palmoilfree) – although coconut oil works good as well, so I probably won’t rebuy extra lip balm in future
  • Self-made Deodorant
  • Toothpaste (I haven’t tried a self-made version yet, but I definitely want to give it a go soon)
  • Toned day creme
  • Mascara
  • Kajal
  • Blemish stick
  • Red nail polish (probably the most unecological thing in my whole flat, but I still use it now and then…)
  • Mineral based sun lotion

In terms of completeness, I don’t want to keep quiet about still having a half-full bottle of hair spray standing around, but I stopped using it months ago. So I wouldn’t really count it.

For some people this list might appear small, but certainly some of you even need less (especially the men among us who quite rarely use mascara). There are also still some products I’m personally trying to get away from, since it’s not good for the environment or because I’m convinced that it’s just another habit, I don’t necessarily need. Toned day creme and nail polish would be such instances.

However, currently I feel good with the list above – and feeling good shouldn’t be underestimated. If you force yourself to do (or not to do) something, because you think you must change it – or worse – others tell you so, but you don’t actually feel comfortable or happy with it, then there is no chance you’ll maintain it. But if you feel good after changing something, because you see the benefits and it actually convinces you, then it’s easy to integrate it into your daily life. In many cases, like it was for my up-to-date beauty list above, this is a step-by-step process.

If I had done such a green low budget challenge five, two or even just one year ago, it would have been far more difficult for me than it is now. It wouldn’t be as green as well.

In fact, this is a significant point this challenge shows me: It is not as difficult as I thought it would be, because I’ve already made some important steps towards frugality and contentedness – and this is the very way I want to continue. It provides confidence that many other steps will follow and this makes me feel even better.

To be continued…

Photo: unsplash.com/Isabell Winter
23
Jul

Green Household Challenge: Skin

Even though I (luckily) don’t have many issues with my skin, I still need some products for the skin. Normally I would use soap for washing my hands as well as showering. Since I didn’t have enough time to make my own soap, I decided to make shower gel and liquid soap. I also needed some kind of moisturizer.

Shower gel

_MG_2597

Ingredients:

  • 100g Curd Soap (preferably without palmoil)
  • Water
  • Optional: 2 table spoons of coconut oil
  • Optional: Some drops of essential oil

I cut the curd soap into thin slices and heated it with approximately 500ml water stirring constantly. The curd soap dissolves in the in the water. Stir in coconut and essential oil. As long as it is still warm, the mixture is very thin, but as it cools down it turns into a gel. How much water is needed depends on the type of curd soap used. For me 500ml were not enough and I had to add some water. Afterwards the shower gel is filled into containers. It is good to leave some space in there, so you can fill it up with hot water if the shower gel has gotten to firm again.

The shower gel is very efficient. While the consistency is a bit different than for the shower gel you can buy in the store but not at all unpleasant. You can also add some other ingredients for extra care.

_MG_2600  _MG_2601

Liquid Soap

Ingredients:

  • 50g Curd Soap
  • 1L Water
  • Optional: Honey
  • Optional: Coconut Oil

For the hand soap I grated the curd soap. Afterwards I dissolved the soap in hot water like I did for the shower gel. Then adding a teaspoon of honey and some coconut oil. Again the consistency of liquid soap develops when the mixture is cooling down. For the soap I also needed to add some extra water. The result I filled into a soap dispenser and there it was!

Moisturizer

The ingredients for the moisturizer are particularly simple: coconut oil. Coconut oil is very good for the skin.

For my skin that is all I need. If you have other skin care products you want to replace, leave a replay and maybe I have an idea for you!

17
Jul

Green Low Budget Challenge – Deposit bottles and fast food falafel

Is it against the challenge rules, if I make some extra money by returning deposit bottles? I was asking myself this question last Thursday while standing in front of a whole bottle selection.

I should add that I did not collect these bottles from waste bins. However, I was seriously considering this. In Germany you get between 9 and 25 cents back on deposit bottles and since many people are throwing them away or leaving them on the streets you can actually make some extra money by just collecting bottles. In the end I decided that this wouldn’t be fair towards the people who are really depending on that money.

The bottles I was facing were my own or from friends leaving them after having a beer or two at my place (I was pretty sure, they will request them back). Fact was: I needed to return them, since my deposit bottle space was simply full. But I wasn’t quite sure if I should include this in my weekly 30-Euros budget or not. In the end I decided for the latter.

You can blame me now and call me a cheater, but the prospect of having two Euros or so extra was just too tempting.

So it came that on Saturday I had enough money left to enjoy myself a bit. I went to an alternative book fair (entry free) where I could also get some lunch for a small donation. It was a sunny day and I allowed myself having two regional (though rather cheap) beers and even invested extra money to get them cooled from a small kiosk. Jori was so kind and donated me her empty bottles and so I could start filling up my returnable bottle space again this weekend (It definitely helps if you have friends who support you in such a challenge and spend a low budget day together with you.)

Since we couldn’t wait the on-donation dinner, we were actually planning to join as well on that day; we spontaneously went to a small diner having a falafel sandwich. Sure, fast food is not the most ecological option and of course I could have gone home and cook something from my edibles available… But it was Saturday and so I decided to have a decent falafel for three bucks.

My balance at the end of this week is + 1.95 Euros, which I will very likely spent on buying toilet paper next week.

To be continued…

Photo unsplash.com/Bhavyesh Acharya
16
Jul

Green Household Challenge: Cleaning the Bathroom

As much as I hate it, from time to time the bathroom needs some cleaning. Normally I would use a couple of different cleaning supplies to do the job. This month however, those are off limits. Nonetheless I really need to clean. Luckily I had already prepared a citrus-vinegar cleaning agent a couple of weeks ago, that we included in our recycling-recipe collection – it consists of citrus peels and vinegar. This has now had enough time to incubate and is ready for usage.

After filling the cleaning agent into an old spray bottle and adding some water to it, I’m ready to go. I did the cleaning with a somewhat unusual sponge – dried sponge gourd. This sponge is great for the skin, but also works for cleaning. I bought mine at Echt Unverpackt in Leipzig, but they are also available online.

So let’s get started! My first victim was the tub. This really needed some cleaning, as I had left the window open constantly over the last couple of weeks. I have to say I was in for a positive surprise. Yes, of course some scrubbing was necessary, but I guess that would have been the same for every other cleaning agent, except maybe some very aggressive chemical ones. Finishing off with some cloth and the tub is all shiny again.

On to the sink. After the bathtub, that of course was easy and I’m absolutely happy with the result. But then I looked up – damn, the mirror. I completely forgot about that when planning this month. The cleaning agent I made is not meant for cleaning windows or mirrors. Nonetheless I tried it out, expecting to end up with a smeared mirror. Normally the alcohol in the cleaning agents makes sure it evaporates, and doesn’t leave smears. But, surprise again, the toothpaste stains (which are brown nowadays, but I’ll tell you more about that in a later post) were gone, and there were no streaks to be found.

The final step was the toilet. The spray bottle makes it easy to reach under the rim of the toilet and it can therefore be cleaned just as easy as with normal cleaning agents. Here, too, the cleaning agent exceeded all expectations in terms of cleaning power. I doubt that anyone would notice, that my bathroom was cleaned with anything other than normal cleaning agents. After all the citrus-fragrance is included for free.

I look forward to finding out how the cleaning agent does in the kitchen and with bad stains. Normal dirt and scale are no problem for it in any case.

To be continued…

Photo: Gabor Monori, unsplash.com
13
Jul

Green Household Challenge: Dirty Dishes?

Dishwasher

When mentioning my plans for this challenge to someone, I was frequently asked: and what are you going to do about the dishes? Only washing them by hand? No, I figured, I don’t really want to do that… There has to be another way! And, there is: mixing your own detergent for the dishwasher! This detergent consists of only 4 ingredients, and you don’t have to pay heaps of money for expensive plastic. In addition you get rid of the plastic around every single tablet. Admittedly, my basic ingredients are also packaged, but, since I use most of them for other products as well, and bought large amounts, in sum there most likely is less packaging.

_MG_2609

The ingredients are:

  • 300g Citric acid powder
  • 300g Soda
  • 300g Baking Soda
  • 125g dishwasher salt

The different soda types are sold in drugstores (there is a difference between the two). I still had some dishwasher salt at home, but it is sold in every supermarket. I just had to buy the citric acid online, as I wasn’t sure where else to get it. This needs to be a pure powder, as it iwll otherwise react with the soda before it even enters the dishwasher.

The only thing left to do is to mix it all together. It is important that all the ingredients stay perfectly dry, otherwise they will clump together and won’t work properly. I just put all the ingredients into a large glass jar and mixed them by turning and shaking it. When using it, I just put a table spoon of the powder where the tablet normally goes and turn on the machine.

As the mixture gets into contact with water it reacts and develops an astonishing cleaning power. Everything I put in the machine up to now has been perfectly clean, even if it had been standing there for a while already. By the way, you can easily replace the rinse aid by putting citrus peals into the cutlery tray in the machine.

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Dishwashing by hand

Unfortunately I can’t clean everything in the dishwasher (that would be too easy). Some pans, knives or cutting boards simply have to be cleaned by hand – so we need a replacement for the detergent. A bit of research showed: there are many options. I chose one for which I had all the ingredients at hand.

_MG_2628

Those ingredients are:

  • 1 TL Baking Soda
  • 1 EL Soda
  • 20 drops of essential oil (I used lemongrass)
  • Water

The dry ingredients are filled into a bottle, of course it works best with the bottle of your former detergent. The bottle is then filled-up with water and the essential oil is added. In the original recipe lemon is used, but as I had lemongrass at hand, I used it. Of course you can pick whatever fragrance you like. Screw the cap on, shake the bottle, and your done!

The cleaning power is absolutely convincing and its cheap, too! Different from store-bought detergent it of course is a very thin liquid and doesn’t produce much foam. This needs some getting used to. Other than that however, it is, in my experience just as good as any other.

If you’d like it to be more viscous and foamy, you can try an alternative (sorry, German) with cured soap (preferably one without palm oil). Furthermore, you can also clean your dishes with the water from cooking pasta, or with potato peels. Up to now I have only had the opportunity to try out the pasta-water and I was able to clean my pan with it, though it involved a little more scrubbing. You just have to rinse it with clear water afterwards to wash the starch (which is the cleaning factor here) off your dishes. Another alternative is ivy – I might try it out later this month.

All in all I am very convinced by all the alternatives. I don’t think I’ll buy expensive dish washing detergent anytime soon. It is not necessary at all, and all those chemical substances can stay out of my household. Try it out, tell me about your experiences and let me know if you know of any other alternatives!

To be continued…

Photos: own, Scott Umstattd unsplash.com
10
Jul

Green Low Budget Challenge – between organic box, food sharing & coffee(addiction)

I went weak. Despite my current very low weekly budget of 30 Euros, I couldn’t help myself but heading to the city and buying some sexy coffee. It cost me 6.20 Euros for 250 g and thus I had been spending 20 % of my money for a luxury food.

What can I say… I just love drinking coffee and so far I couldn’t manage to give it up. Of course, I could have got it much cheaper. However, particularly in regards to coffee, quality is very important to me, since it isn’t the most eco-friendly product in the world anyway. Therefore, I established a personal rule: if coffee, then rightly!

And damn right I recently discovered in the heart of my city in a nice Fairtrade Shop (a small chain, called Contigo fairtrade) There, you not only get freshly grounded organic and Fairtrade coffee, but you also get it in a reusable bag, which you can bring again every time buying new coffee. Well, they definitely got me with that!

So in the end, my addiction has been satisfied as sustainable as possible. However, since coffee alone doesn’t make you full, I still needed to find something edible. Therefore, I went a second time this week to the food sharing locations in my city, with the deep hope to find something. Unfortunately my yield was quite moderate again, but it was still worth it: cauliflower, radish, parsley and some home-made jam (thanks to the unknown donor!)

The cauliflower needed to be prepared the same day and together with radish, parsley, oat flakes and my wizen potatoes I converted it into delicious vegetable pancakes. This works for various types of vegetables and is an excellent way to make use of leftovers. For this just (1) cook and mash everything (alternatively use it raw and grate it) (2) mix and season it and finally (3) form and fry it! Combined with salad and dip, it represents a wonderful meal!

I had five Euros left and I used it for buying some missing ingredients for making a carrot-buckwheat-bread (another ingenuity that does not come from me – recipe will follow soon), which I can combine very well with the jam. To further ensure my breakfast, I needed to come with some oat milk as well. This, I didn’t buy, but prepared it myself – which not only saves money but also packaging (again: recipe will follow soon).

Being honest, I needed to drive around a lot in order to get my quite few groceries this week; and additionally the whole thing requires a certain degree of flexibility and improvisation. However, in the end I was full and happy – and this is the main thing, I think.

Altogether, I spent 29.97 Euro this week. So unfortunately there is nothing left for the outdoor cinema event, I could have visited today with another 3 Euros extra. However, I think it looks like rain anyway, doesn’t it?

To be continued…

Photo unsplash.com/Blake Richard Verdoorn
06
Jul

Green Low Budget Challenge – Easy Start

This week I officially started my personal green low budget challenge. Being honest, the first three days have been very easy so far. Monday and Tuesday I visited my parents and didn’t need to pay anything for food. No, I did not plan this visit on that special date to make my challenge deliberately easier! It was organised beforehand – Honour bright! Yes, it made my start easy-going, but since such visits kind of belong to an everyday-life as well, I didn’t want to ban it.

However, it was quite an effort to prevent my mother from giving me a big food box to take home with me. Obviously she is not overconfident that I will survive this month. If I took the box, I probably wouldn’t need to buy any food for the next three months plus I would have needed a personal train cabin (I did not take it).

Also today was pretty uncomplicated, since I usually have some basics and leftovers at home from the previous weeks. So I didn’t need to start buying stuff from the very beginning. As I want to be as transparent as possible, here comes the list of my still available food: salt, different herbs, oil and vinegar, soy sauce, flour, honey, tea, buckwheat, millet, chickpeas, porridge oats, lentils, nuts and seed-mix, chia seeds, three onions, very few wizen potatoes, two apples, one small turnip and a package of oat milk. Please see above the photo of proof (an extraordinary still life).

Since I had these edibles available, I didn’t need to worry about my breakfast. Happily, I even discovered a self-made soup in the freezer from last week, which was good enough for a nice dinner.

However, I also discovered a limiting factor, which was coffee. I managed to scratch enough out of my coffee box to prepare one cup – which means I need to buy some tomorrow… or I switch over to tea. Well, I’m not too sure about the second option. I’m definitely still doing too well…

My first real expenses I needed to register were those for my organic box, which will be delivered on Friday. Usually I am ordering the “small regional box”, which contains a mix of different regional organic fruits and vegetables. Apart from the good quality, I also appreciate the variety, which provides good cooking inspiration.

This time I was choosing my content more practically – with only basics I use regularly and that can be combined well:

  • 1 kg apples
  • 1.5 kg potatoes
  • 1 bunch of carrots
  • 1 bunch of spring onions
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 head of lettuce

Including shipping charge this costs 18.79 Euros. Since I have an average weekly budget of 30 Euros, I only have 11.21 bucks left for this week.

… maybe I really should go for tea!?

On the other hand, I still have the possibility of food sharing. In Leipzig, we have several small food sharing “distribution-locations”, where a non-profit organisation manages the public storage of food-leftovers of supermarkets, markets or private persons. It is food that cannot be sold anymore, but which is still edible. My hope is that I can save good money with these so-called Foodsharing Fairteiler. Today, I couldn’t gain much, but still it was enough for a simple lunch plus I got some fruits for breakfast.

Let’s see what the next days will bring!

To be continued…

Photo: facingchange

05
Jul

Green Household Challenge – Preparations

In order to get my challenge started I needed to take a look at myself and my apartment in order to see what I need to replace. Looking around the kitchen and bathroom revealed the following list:

  • Dishwashing soap
  • Dishwasher tablets
  • Shampoo
  • Shower gel
  • Toothpaste
  • Hand soap
  • Creme
  • Sunscreen
  • Mascara

I had already made laundry detergent from chestnuts and an all-purpose cleaner from vinegar and citrus peels earlier, so I didn’t need to make those anew. So now I just had to find out how to make those other products myself. Some research on the internet, largely on the website Smarticular revealed that it is not just possible, but actually quite easy to do.

Now I just had to get the ingredients somewhere. Many of the ingredients are available in most households (e.g. cider vinegar, baking soda), others might be a bit more unusual (e.g. Xylit, citric acid). I would have liked to buy everything directly at the shop. That would probably have been possible with a little more time. I did get most ingredients at the organic store, drugstore and pharmacy. Still, I needed to buy a few things on the internet. I intended not to use any ingredients that had already been processed. Unfortunately I would have had to think about that a little earlier, as it takes several weeks to make soap or tinctures. I had to buy those ready made in order to use them. Nonetheless, I want to try to make these myself.

Saturday then was the day those ingredients should turn into household and cosmetic products. Even though my kitchen looked somewhat like a lab from time to time, it actually only took me a few hours. Within half a day I had most of the products above ready. In the next few days I will try them out and see how well they work for me. Since there are so many possibilities and preferences vary especially for things like shampoo, toothpaste and  shower gel, I will likely try out a few alternatives in the course of the month.

To be continued…

Photo: facingchange

29
Jun

Green Low Budget Challenge

This July, I want to challenge myself as well! My subject will be: Green low budget. In short that means: I am going to reduce my flexible monthly costs (food and leisure) to a minimum, without deviating from my usual level of sustainability in everyday life.

Consequently, I still want to (1) avoid discount supermarkets (2) try buying as much of my food as possible regional and organic (3) minimize package waste and (4) of course having fun.

The major intention behind this challenge is a combination of two things: experiencing minimalism and finding alternatives. For one month, I want to try living at the edge of financial means and with that avoid spending money needlessly. In fact, I even want to find ways to completely go without any money for several consecutive days. However, this should not become a month of complete abstinence – or even starvation, but I want to find alternatives. Alternatives that allow me to eat reasonable, live sustainable and to enjoy my free time – despite having very little money.

My inspiration for this experiment came from a friend I got to know earlier this year during a seminar: a sunshiny and very pleased guy from Ecuador of my generation who is now living in Munich, Bavaria – with a total budget of 500 Euros a month! Paying roughly 400 Euros for rent, the remaining 100 he is yet sometimes saving for holiday. I need to add, that he is volunteering very actively in the food sharing community and therefore does not need to spend money on food. This is different to my situation and a detail I need to consider.

However, Munich is a very expensive city. So I thought: If you can live from 500 bucks a month in Munich, it must be also possible in Leipzig (where living costs are much cheaper). Well, at least without saving a hundred for holiday… Challenge accepted!

I decided to take the budget of my friend as a guiding value: 500 Euros a month.

Less all monthly fixed costs (including rent, electricity etc.) only 120 Euros remain available for discovering culinary and cultural alternatives in my city. This equals a weekly budget of 30 Euros. Not much, I grand, but I am optimistic: I will survive.

Challenge start is Monday, 4. July.

To be continued…

Photo: Fabian Blank│unsplash.com
28
Jun

Green Household Challenge July

This July I want to challenge myself: by the end of this month I want to replace all the cosmetics and household products I use by something I made myself. I want to completely turn away from any store-bought, ready-made products. I have tried a couple such things lately, some things are even completely replaced already. Nonetheless, there are still a lot of products in my household that I need to find an alternative for.

Even though the products I buy tend to be organic and as environmentally friendly as possible, the problem remains, that I don’t really have an overview of what is in there. Often they contain some ingredients that I personally do not need. This counts especially for preservatives and scents. Unnecessary chemicals in cosmetics and cleaning supplies inevitably end up in our waste water, where they accumulate. They therefore aren’t only harmful for me, but also for the environment. In making them myself I can avoid these chemicals and adapt the products to my personal needs.

Another relevant aspect is the packaging. By using do-it-yourself products that I can fill into old glasses and bottles, I will (hopefully) reduce the waste I produce – that of course depends on how my ingredients are packaged. I will try to take inputs from nature as much as I can, thereby using unpackaged, fresh and free ingredients. However, I will have to buy a couple of ingredients in order to keep up the standard of cleanliness I am used to. My task therefore is also to consider the packaging my basic ingredients come in.

This week I will therefore start to research and acquire the necessary ingredients, in order to be able to start production of my cosmetics and household products at the beginning of July. By the end of this month I will hopefully have said goodbye to all the chemicals in my household!

To be continued…

Photo: facingchange

23
Jun

awesome carrot cake

I really love cake and there is always a reason to bake some!

However, it is not too long ago that I was still convinced – like many other people – that a proper cake needs to contain eggs.  Every recipe without eggs felt like an alternative full of compromises, which could never be as good as the original. Already the term ‘egg replacer’ sounded pretty unattractive to me. Honestly, it still does…. but I better should not judge anything, I didn’t try yet!

What I did try is to bake cake without using eggs. And this works excellently!

Why should anyone want to abstain from eggs in a cake? Well, there are several, individual reasons. As a vegan of course you abstain from any kind of animal product. Others specifically want to go against laying hen breeding. But there are also many people who are simply allergic to eggs or just don’t like them. Whatever reason, it is definitely worth trying to bake egg-free!

For all sceptics I’d like to provide the proof that in fact, it does work and is addictive:

The awesome vegan carrot cake.

Recipe:

  • 3-4 carrots, grated
  • 200 g applesauce (without added sugar)
  • 100-120 g cane sugar
  • 200 g grounded almonds
  • 150 g spelt flour
  • 100 g chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts…)
  • 80 ml neutral edible oil  (e.g. rapeseed)
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • skin of a grated lemon or orange 
  • cinnamon (good dose, like you prefer it)
  • a pinch of salt
  • if you like 1-2 tbsp. Whiskey (no smoky one)

Mix applesauce, oil, sugar, salt, cinnamon, lemon skin and whiskey with a wire whisk. Mix flour with baking powder and add grounded almonds and chopped nuts. Stir dry ingredients into the applesauce mixture by using a spoon.

Fill the dough into a cake pan (the smaller the cake pan, the higher and more juicy the cake!) and put it into the oven. Bake at 160°C-175°C (top and bottom heat) for approximately 40-50 min. I usually check  after 40 minutes by using a fork, turn down the temperature a bit afterwards and continue baking for 10 minutes. It all depends on the oven and the type of cake pan.

Let the cake cool down on a rack and optionally decorate with lemon-icing sugar icing and nuts.

It tastes best, if you let it rest some hours or over night. Enjoy!

photo: facingchange

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