Living mindfully #1

I was born and raised in East Germany until I was about 14/15 years old. I moved to the US in 1995, a few years after the Berlin Wall had come down. Since then I have been living in 5 different countries and visited more than 30 others in the process. I started the #zerowaste movement in Bangkok about 4-5 years ago after seeing the devastation at the beaches. Since November 2019, I am living in Barcelona facing other struggles to live a zero waste lifestyle.  

Here are some tips: 

Face Cleansing – The majority of Face cleansers contain lots of bad chemicals and in the end do more harm than good. When a friend had mentioned about the Oil cleansing method (http://www.theoilcleansingmethod.com/) I was a bit reluctant of the fact, that I had oily skin and couldn’t image washing it with Oil in order to improve the condition, but I thought what did I have to loose actually. 

My personal mix:

7 tbsp – Olive Oil 

3 tbsp – Castor Oil

More details on this video:

Oil Cleansing Method

Sometimes I add Vitamin E or Rosehip Oil for additional benefits, but it all depends whether I have it at home or not. I started using the Oil Cleansing method September 2015 and wouldn’t dream of ever using anything else again. I have never really had issues with my skin expect for the oiliness throughout the entire day. But that’s all gone, which is fantastic!

I use two fingertips in the morning rubbing it in evenly, then washing it off with a hot wash cloth – it’s amazing, my pores have become much smaller and I am oil free for the whole day. In the evening, I sometimes use my homemade apple cider vinegar to cleanse my face. I don’t use any additional moisturiser since I started using this method. 

Project Koh Sak Feb ’17 ++

(Photo Credit: Mahidol University International College)

And the journey continues… this past February ’17 I decided to stay the whole weekend on the island of Koh Sak. Just reaching the pier the first day already put me into shock… a constant flow of incoming tourist buses unloading thousands and thousands of Chinese tourists. It’s not only about the size of the groups I was concerned about, but also about the infrastructure of the pier and everything else. Transporting such large groups at such fast pace has certain downsides…. Reaching the island this time was yet another shock to the system, even though at this stage I should be used to it already. The teams separated into two groups and did remarkable research work during the morning hours….

As always upon arrival to the island, we would separate into different groups and collect the waste found on the beach. You have to imagine, that the temperatures would often reach around 35 – 40 degrees, so we always started early and took lots of water breaks. People often think that the collection is easy, but it’s not only the plastic bottles, cleaning products, straws, cotton buds, cups and more we looked for, but also #microplastics. Dr Wayne Phillips (Professor at MUIC), would often return with the microplastics and put them into different sizes and count even those.

It was a tiring process, but much needed. We cannot start working on solutions, if we don’t know what the problem is and where it starts.

Watch the pics and see how the story unfolds…

#education #plastic #waste #rethink #reduce #refuse #noplastic #nowaste #mindful #consumption #experiental #learning #handson

Shower Gel – Do it yourself!!

homemade-shower-gel

For some time already, we have been using natural soap bars at home in order to avoid the shower gels, which come in a plastic bottle. Apart from the plastic packaging, we have also started to realize the amount of chemicals which are being used in the production process. We both decided it would be a good time to start living without plastic packaging and chemicals. Living in Bangkok, we have been coming across a wide variety of great natural soaps, so the transition period has been easier than expected.

As I am the more zero waste person in the household most of the new homemade products have been a blessing for me. My husband still misses his shower gel, so I started to do some research and found something worth trying out. Remember, that any recipe you try out will still require some time from you as well as some personal adjustments, because everyone has different preferences….

As castile soap is quite pricey in Bangkok, I have tried the recipe with the natural soaps, which I have purchased locally and it has worked for us.

What you need (apart from the natural soap):

  • sharp knife or grater
  • large pot
  • funnel
  • whisk

You can either use a glass flip top bottle or a recycled shower gel/ shampoo plastic bottle from before (Gel must be cooled down before using a plastic bottle in order to avoid leakage of chemicals). Some people prefer not to have glass bottles in their shower in case of breakage. There is nothing wrong to up cycle some existing products.

Depending on where you purchase your soap, the recipe will require some adjustments. Here is what has worked for me so far:

  • Cut 100 grams of soap into smaller pieces (Soft soaps work well with a knife whereas you would use a grater for the harder soaps)
  • Add the soap pieces to the pot with 500 ml water. Soap should dissolve quite fast and become bubbly. Make sure to stir constantly! It shouldn’t burn to the bottom of the pot.
  • After the soap has dissolved, the mixture could still be quite liquid. Let it sit for a while, but continue stirring. It will turn eventually into a gel type liquid.
  • Let the mixture sit over night and stir it the next day. In case you are not satisfied with it, you can either add more water or soap.
  • Fill the bottle to 3 parts with the gel, but leave some space in case it turns harder over the next few days. You can always add some hot water!

If you prefer a creamier shower gel, then you could blend it in the mixer for about one minute.

Additional treatment options:

  • Replace the water with natural tea (chamomile, lime blossoms, sage, thyme) – works well as an anti-inflammatory
  • Add two tbsp of either coconut, – olive, or almond oil, then add it to the mixer – especially for people with dry skin

As you can see, making your own Shower gel is easy and you will actually know about every single ingredient in it. Have you tried it already? If yes, what have you used? What has worked for you? Would love to hear more about your experiences…

Would love to learn more from this community. What has worked for you?

Cleaning products – “I’m scared”…

Cleaning products – “I’m scared”…

Have you ever looked at the ingredients of your home cleaning products? Do you know what you are actually cleaning with? Is it safe for you and your family (pets included)? I have always believed that the definition of clean (free from dirt, pollutants or harmful substances – Oxford English Dictionary) would be quite straightforward until I started to take a closer look.

During my life in Communist Germany (up to 1989), we didn’t have nearly as many cleaning products as there are today. Speaking to older generations, it seems that about 50 – 60 years ago people had used basics such as baking soda, vinegar, alcohol, soap, salt, etc to lift stains, polish wood, repel pests, and deodorize and disinfect every surface. What has happened? 

“The dawn of the chemical age followed quickly on the heels of World War II, instigated by war-related research and a host of ‘new and improved’ products like cleaners, plastics and disposable goods that quickly became symbols of American prosperity and modern luxury, along with advertising slogans like ‘better living through chemistry’. Vinegar and soap were out, chlorine and synthetic, petroleum-based detergents were in. The modern marvel of petrochemical wonders made domestic chores a breeze. Who needs elbow grease when chemicals will do the work for you? As America’s economy bloomed, so did the dizzying array of cleaning products on supermarket shelves, backed by big business’s muscles and marketing genius, and tried-and true methods were subjugated to the products of the chemical revolution. ” (Renee Loux, Author – Easy Green Living)

cleaning-chemicals-660-title

It is time to take a closer look at our cleaning cabinets, rething and start using greener and environmental friendlier solutions. It’s not just about saving animal species, but also about enjoying a quality of life and health that are worth passing on to future generations. Why not return to the basics? 

Green guidelines (if you don’t understand the label, then don’t buy it!!!):

  • Plant based
  • Solvent free
  • Phosphate free
  • Chlorine free
  • Biodegradable
  • Ammonia free
  • No synthetic fragrances or dyes

Look for these words on your product labels! Start a greener lifestyle and save money at the same time …. Your health, wallet and environment will thank you for it.

If you want to take it a step further, then try making the following homemade cleaning products with the basics from the past. I have been using them for some time already and loving it. Apart from having a toxic free home environment I am also able to save a lot of money.

DIY cleaning products:

  1. Drain cleaner: 1/2 cup of baking soda, 1/2 cup vinegar, boiling water

Pour baking soda and vinegar down the drain. After 30 minutes add some boiling water!!! It works like magic!

how-to-unclog-your-drain

2. All purpose cleaner: White vinegar, lemon or orange peels (measurement up to you)

In a pint size mason jar, combine the peels of about 2 oranges or 4-5 limes/ lemons and cover them with white vinegar. After letting them sit in a sunny windowsill for about a week, remove some of the liquid. You can leave the rest to continue brewing for a few more weeks as it’ll continue to get stronger. Simply put some of your new homemade all purpose cleaner into a spray bottle and clean like normal.

For me, it worked as you would expect and had a pleasant citrus aroma that I really enjoyed, much better than the chemical smell of some harsh cleaners! Use a squirt bottle for optimal usage. (I have been using an old plastic spray bottle from before)

orange-vinegar

3. Black Tea Window Cleaner:  Brew strong black tea (I normally brew extra black tea, when I’m preparing my Kombucha) Allow to fully cool, about an hour or two, then transfer cleaner to spray bottle or dip cotton cloth into solution. Clean your windows and wipe them dry with a towel. If you have dirty windows, you might need a second application.

As you can see from the ingredients, most of them contain baking soda,  vinegar, fruit peels or even tea. For the past few months I have also been making my own vinegar from extra Kombucha scobys, so I can avoid the plastic bottles from the supermarket. Sounds time-consuming, but its actually not. The Scoby works on its own (20-30 days) and the home-cleaning products get whipped together in an instant.

I will continue to add more recipes as I move forward …. Please feel free to share what has worked for you….. any recipes you would like to share? Looking forward to learning from each other.

TIPS FOR A PLASTIC-FREE BATHROOM (GUIDE 1)

TIPS FOR A PLASTIC-FREE BATHROOM (GUIDE 1)

The bathroom is one of the places, where I truly had a awakening moment when I first did my revision of plastic items in my environment. As I’m not a woman, who has lots of different make-ups, shower lotions, face creams/ lotions, etc., I think the transition was a bit easier. Before I started this journey, I already used soap bars, which came in carton boxes. Now, I’m even taking these soaps under a closer lens. What are the ingredients? Are they healthy for me and my hubby as well as for the environment? Using this approach I started to change the following items gradually. No, making these products is actually not as time-consuming as people think.

For my face wash I only had to purchase castor oil, as I had the other ingredient (Olive oil) already in my kitchen. At the beginning, I was kind of resistant in using oils to wash my face, but over time I have become convinced that this has been one of my favorite transitions. Having an oily skin type while living in a tropical climate is not always easy. I used a face scrub in the morning and evening not knowing the damages I was doing to my face. In the end, it actually became oilier and I needed to wipe my face with wipes quite frequently. It was quite frustrating, when you spend time going through aisles of products for oily-skin and then you achieve nothing. Its also not a very cheap option as you try different products and throw away what doesn’t work. Yes, I admit to having committed lots of plastic waste crimes in the paste in the name of beauty!

So here are some tips, which have worked for me….

  1. Cut down on the products you use 

Like I had said earlier, I have never really used lots of different creams, lotions, etc, so this process has been quite easy. Don’t start throwing everything away, but consider it a step by step process. Do you really need all the things you have in the bathroom? Is it good for you? Do you understand the ingredients you use on your skin? Check whether there are better natural options. My face wash also serves as a hair mask once a week.

  1. Make your own products

    (I found most ingredients in my kitchen). Remember that this is a learning process and some of the tips you might want to adjust to your own preferences.

Face wash: 30% Castor Oil, 70 % Olive Oil, Tee Tree Oil (optional)

Using the oil cleansing method for the past 1 year and 3 months has taught me so much more about my skin. I use it once in the morning with a hot wash cloth and that’s it. No more scrubbing, no more wiping for the rest of the day. Anyone who has oily skin knows about this. Check out the website for more details: The Oil Cleansing Method

oil-cleansing-method

Toothpaste: Baking Soda, Coconut Oil, Sea Salt, Peppermint essential oil (optional) Living in the country of production, we can get really good Coconut Oil locally without spending lots of money. As I am part of a Facebook group for healthy living in Bangkok, we ordered directly from the producer in bulk, so I am happy.

Baking soda can be bought in all stores, but it still comes in a plastic pouch. As I also use it for my deodorant and home cleaning products, the fact, that I use one item covered in plastic is ok for the moment, but will need to change this in the near future.

Deodorant: Cornstarch, baking soda, coconut oil, tee tree essential oil (optional) I have been using it for the past 1 months and I’m truly happy about it. Just purchased organic bees wax, so I can turn it into a stick for my husband. As everyone reacts differently to the products, my hubby couldn’t really work well with the oil part.

Mouthwash: Sea Salt and Water

Body Scrubs: There are lots of wonderful recipes online and I will share the ones with you, which have become top of my list. For example my coffee scrub has become a favorite gift item for many friends, who can’t stop raving about it after using it. I get the coffee grounds for free at a local shop, then add some sea salt and coconut oil to it…. Be careful, you will never want to change!!! The smell of coffee in the shower is simply addictive!!

Insight: Coffee beans are a good source of antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties, adding oil turns them into an incredible moisturizer.

Hair Rinse: Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon and Water

I have been using it for only a few weeks and I’m totally blown away. I didn’t believe it would get rid of my knots, which I tend to have after shampooing, but it has… Another homemade item, which will stay…. Now, I am also making my own vinegar thanks to my Kombucha Scoby cultures….

  1. Use bar soaps for everything

    handmade-soaps

    Using plant based natural soaps is not only a better choice for you and your loved ones, but also for the environment. Petroleum based soaps take a long time to biodegrade!

You can either learn to make your own or visit local farmers or other markets to buy homemade soaps. Just make sure to check whether they are plant based and free of synthetic fragrances and colors. In Bangkok there has been a rising trend for it, so enjoy the variety. I did attend a soap making workshop, but soon realized, that it was too time-intensive for me and I rather support the local economy. This could be a wonderful birthday gift as well to share with friends and family.

Struggles to date (please help and share your insights): Shampoo (I simply don’t see myself trying the No Poo method on my hair, as it is already quite delicate; Sun tan lotion (living in a tropical country, this is one of the most hazardous and chemical damages we do to our water), …..

As this is only the first guide, please stay put for other ideas/ tips. We haven’t completed the bathroom section yet, as we still have the toilet paper, feminine products, shaving cream, razors, …. But, since this is a journey and I am also a working woman, I will share once I have gained more knowledge about this.

However, I would love to hear more from you. Have you gone green in your bathroom? What have you changed? How has the transition been?

Are you quite mad? A Zero Waste journey in Bangkok? …..

Are you quite mad? A Zero Waste journey in Bangkok? …..

It’s been quite over a year now, that I started to aim for a Zero Waste Lifestyle in a city of over 14 million inhabitants – Bangkok. I still get the odd looks and questions why I would even think of something like that, when life could be lived so much easier… And I agree that it sounds mad, but it has become one of the most rewarding journeys in my life.

Here goes my story….

I have always considered myself quite “green” taking my reusable bag and bottle with me everywhere. (“I must have been hallucinating”…) I remember that going on vacation with friends and hubby last year to Koh Pangan was the first time, I took a closer look to what I found on the beaches and roads around me. Of course, I have seen the waste issues around Bangkok many times, but never really questioned it until I was on vacation that time April, 2015. I guess, it really opened my eyes and made me think. How plastic or wasteful had my life become?

Taking a closer look at my own waste – September 2015

little-people-movement-9

I was blown away by my own waste production… Packaging of all kinds (food packaging, cleaning products, beauty and menstrual items, etc.) I was part of this ever-growing consumer circle not realizing the impact of my own carbon foot print. This is when I started to re-evaluate my life again:

  • Plastic bottles, bags and Straws had already been banned for as long as I can remember!!!!!!
  • Packaged food items: I banned Styrofoam from my home knowing that this is one of the worst pollution items as we cannot upcycle or recycle it!! This required a re-thinking process for both of us, but it was an immediate change we could implement right away.
  • Local food markets replaced packaged fruit and vegetable items… I couldn’t believe that I had developed such a bad habit. Living in Bangkok, we have plenty of local food markets, where one can shop without plastic wrapping, if you bring your own bags..
  • Bathroom: The Oil Cleansing Method replaced my endless supply of facial cleaners with a few simple steps… It was amazing to discover how much money I spent on chemical cleansers and moisturizers and now I wouldn’t go back…., Homemade toothpaste and deodorant, Shower gels were replaced by Bar soaps, Shampoo (still struggling to find a better solution), Conditioner – Apple cider vinegar, which has so many different uses, Sanitary towels by a menstruation cup, Plastic toothbrushes became Bamboo toothbrushes, …..

Screen shot 2016-01-10 at 10.21.09 AM

  • Household Cleaning Materials: All non-sense cleaning products in plastic containers were replaced by the old and common recipes from the past, … Vinegar, baking soda and lemons have been doing an amazing job, Soap nuts have become my new best friend in the laundry department and the list continues…..

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-6-52-02-pm

Of course, all these changes didn’t happen overnight. Its been an adaptation process over this past year and a lot more has happened/ changed, which I am proud of.

So I want to finish my post today with a quote from from Bea Johnson (Author “Zero Waste home):

“Start small. Start anywhere. It feels good because it’s the right thing to do – and that’s contagious.”

Are you quite mad? A Zero Waste journey in Bangkok? …..

It’s been quite over a year now, that I started to aim for a Zero Waste Lifestyle in a city of over 14 million inhabitants – Bangkok. I still get the odd looks and questions why I would even think of something like that, when life could be lived so much easier… And I agree that it sounds mad, but it has become one of the most rewarding journeys in my life.

Here goes my story….

I have always considered myself quite “green” taking my reusable bag and bottle with me everywhere. (“I must have been hallucinating”…) I remember that going on vacation with friends and hubby last year to Koh Pangan was the first time, I took a closer look to what I found on the beaches and roads around me. Of course, I have seen the waste issues around Bangkok many times, but never really questioned it until I was on vacation that time April, 2015. I guess, it really opened my eyes and made me think. How plastic or wasteful had my life become?

Taking a closer look at my own waste – September 2015

little-people-movement-9

I was blown away by my own waste production… Packaging of all kinds (food packaging, cleaning products, beauty and menstrual items, etc.) I was part of this ever-growing consumer circle not realizing the impact of my own carbon foot print. This is when I started to re-evaluate my life again:

  • Plastic bottles, bags and Straws had already been banned for as long as I can remember!!!!!!
  • Packaged food items: I banned Styrofoam from my home knowing that this is one of the worst pollution items as we cannot upcycle or recycle it!! This required a re-thinking process for both of us, but it was an immediate change we could implement right away.
  • Local food markets replaced packaged fruit and vegetable items… I couldn’t believe that I had developed such a bad habit. Living in Bangkok, we have plenty of local food markets, where one can shop without plastic wrapping, if you bring your own bags..
  • Bathroom: The Oil Cleansing Method replaced my endless supply of facial cleaners with a few simple steps… It was amazing to discover how much money I spent on chemical cleansers and moisturizers and now I wouldn’t go back…., Homemade toothpaste and deodorant, Shower gels were replaced by Bar soaps, Shampoo (still struggling to find a better solution), Conditioner – Apple cider vinegar, which has so many different uses, Sanitary towels by a menstruation cup, Plastic toothbrushes became Bamboo toothbrushes, …..

Screen shot 2016-01-10 at 10.21.09 AM

  • Household Cleaning Materials: All non-sense cleaning products in plastic containers were replaced by the old and common recipes from the past, … Vinegar, baking soda and lemons have been doing an amazing job, Soap nuts have become my new best friend in the laundry department and the list continues…..

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-6-52-02-pm

Of course, all these changes didn’t happen overnight. Its been an adaptation process over this past year and a lot more has happened/ changed, which I am proud of.

So I want to finish my post today with a quote from from Bea Johnson (Author “Zero Waste home):

“Start small. Start anywhere. It feels good because it’s the right thing to do – and that’s contagious.”