Fantastic when people enable change

The average EU citizen produces 161 kilograms of packaging waste per year. 161 kilograms is an insane amount of waste! Globally we produce 420 million tons of packaging waste. This is only packaging. 420 million tons that is literally wasted. Many products come in excess packaging. The typical example is bananas, they have a great peel and really don’t need any plastic packaging to keep fresh!

Packaging waste mainly includes paper and board (40%), glass (20%), plastics (19%), wood (15%), and metal (6%). That means lot’s of trees unnecessarily chopped down!

Luckily there are people who actively try to turn around the trend of increasing packaging waste. Ingrid Caldironi has recently opened London’s first package free shop! The Bulk Market in Dalston is a small but well stocked store. I think it’s fantastic and the world needs more people who do concrete actions like opening a zero waste store to tackle large-scale problems. I would not be able to even try to live zero waste if it weren’t for the people who decide to sell packaging free products.

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I had the chance to visit the store last week. For 5 minutes only because had to visit in such a rush after work and before the store closed but the service and the products were excellent. I had with me a washed glass jar that used to contain pickled cucumbers, my favourite reusable bag from the Finnish Red Cross webshop, and two tupper ware boxes to fill up with deliciousness at the Bulk Market. I ended up buying soy sauce, popcorn, pasta and plastic free toilet paper. I wanted to buy a reusable straw but I want a long one and they had run out of them and had only short ones at the moment. Buying popcorn in my own bag was pretty awesome, I’m back on track with my snacking I can tell you 😉

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Sources:
2015, Qingbin Song, Jinhui Li and Xianlai Zeng: Minimizing the increasing solid waste through zero waste strategy
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095965261400849X#sec2.4

2017, Emma Henderson/The Independent: Inside London’s first plastic free shop
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/bulk-makert-recycling-zero-waste-first-plastic-free-market-london-hackney-a7924781.html

 

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No disposable plastic this week

This week I try to live completely zero waste. It just feels absurd when I walk into any normal store or supermarket. Whenever I visit a beach I find trash everywhere. Whenever I visit a supermarket there is plastic every where, shelf up and down. Whenever I read the news I hear more and more about kilometers after kilometers of plastic waste. Some researchers even think plastic waste is a greater ecological catastrophe than climate change! Did you know that 70% of European tap water is contaminated with micro plastic? In the US this rate is over 90%! Even the sampled bottled water contained plastic.

Knowing this, it is just absolutely absurd that humanity keeps producing more and more plastic. I usually avoid plastic and packaging as best I can but doing it 100% takes a lot of energy. This week I try harder than normally and I try to get as close to 100% as I can!I got inspired when I saw a Facebook event called “Muoviton Marraskuu”, plastic free November in Finnish. I’ll see how long into November I last but I’ll try my best! I have not yet made my own toothpaste though…

So my first totally zero waste day was yesterday. Many people trying out zero waste find food shopping to be the hardest part. You can avoid buying many things but you have to eat. So I am going to share my Zero waste dinner from last night with you! For any readers living in London, there are a few good zero-waste places to shop: for East London, head to the Bulkmarket in Dalston. This is Londons first absolutely zero-waste shop! For Elephant & Castle, head to the FareShares co-op. Borough market at London Bridge is also great. I am lucky to have a store called Greensmith’s near Waterloo station which is right on my way home from work! They sell most of their vegetables without packaging. I always carry my own reusable bags with me (it just lives in my backpack) so it is really easy to do even spontaneous food shopping on my way home, without causing any waste! I’ll post the recipe for this zero-waste meal later this week.

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Plastic Pollution Garbage Dump Bottles Floating

 

I did it again! Moved from Helsinki to London by train

I’m back in London again for at least 6 months to do an internship! Since I had holiday before my work here started, I had the time to take the train from Helsinki to London again. Scroll down for pictures!

I spent some time in Malmö, a full day in Berlin and a day and a night at my friends place in Amsterdam! Everything went so smooth, the changeover from ferry to train in Stockholm was easy taking less than an hour. My afternoon in Malmö was great and I visited some beautiful gardens. I enjoyed the night train between Malmö and Berlin, sharing my cabin with some really nice people. Seeing a bit more of Berlin was great since I have been there only briefly once before. And seeing my friend in Amsterdam was obviously awesome!

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Pros of taking the train versus flying

  • I got to see awesome cities on the way
  • I had the chance to visit my friend in Amsterdam for a day
  • It is more of an adventure, you meet more new people
  • My carbon footprint from travelling was between 30-60 % lower according to my calculations (one estimate is by this calculator).
Cons of train vs flying
  • Hard to fit in time if you are not on holiday
  • Booking via multiple websites instead of just one
  • Can be more expensive, depending on route

 

 

 

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I saved 10000 liters of water by upcycling old bedsheets

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We talk about reusing and recycling clothes all the time, but bedsheets use a lot of fabric too! I needed a new duvet cover, and I realised how much fabric (a.k.a. natural resources) that actually takes to make. I couldn’t find any secondhand duvet covers that would fit a double sized duvet. Selling your old sheets doesn’t seem to be a thing! Instead, I went to my parents and asked them for some old sheets they do not use anymore. Believe me, people tend to have stuff accumulating over the years at a crazy rate so they had quite a few odd ones to spare! No double sized ones were to be found so I took two single sized ones and made a new cover out of them. Both of them were at least 20 years old, but still of very good quality.

Two old sheets, scissors, a few needles, thread and my grandmothers sewing machine. Voila, it took about 3 hours in total. A new double sized duvet cover would have cost at least 50 euro. This cost me absolutely nothing and I love how it ended up looking! About 2000 liters of water are used for producing a cotton t-shirt, so for producing a duvet cover made from cotton, it would take approximately 10000 liters of fresh water. I really managed to save a lot of natural resources by reusing the textiles for a new duvet cover!

The double sized duvet I got was unfortunately brand new and I don’t really know its environmental footprint.  But I really like my new duvet so I guess it’s worth the environmental price. I did check online for a secondhand big duvet but when I could not find one I bought a new one. A lot of people would find the thought of a secondhand duvet a bit disgusting. I would not mind using a secondhand one, I would just have it properly washed at the dry-cleaner. When I lived in England, I had a secondhand duvet. It turned out to be quite difficult to sell when I moved away! Secondhand duvets are just fine if they’re only a couple of years old, I wish more people realised that used stuff isn’t un-fresh at all.

I gave my old duvet to a beggar, who said her child was freezing and she wanted money to buy one. I did not do it because I’m a particularly good person, I merely thought that this would be a good excuse to buy a new duvet since I wanted a big two-person duvet instead. However, I do hope that she got some use of the duvet. Since I sincerely cared about her family’s wellbeing, and not only about getting rid of my duvet, I did buy her some groceries as well.

I am going to sound harsh here but it’s the truth: Don’t ever think that you are doing the world a favour when you donate bad quality clothes to secondhand shops. Working for a secondhand fashion company (secco.fi), I have become even more aware of how much clothes of really bad quality people have bought. It is really, really difficult to recycle a H&M t-shirt with a hole in it. With good quality fabrics, you can reuse it as a textile and sew a new piece of clothing out of it. Please, dear readers, start checking for the quality of all the textiles you buy. I am writing all this to remind you, that even though recycling projects like this one with my bedsheets, really DO save a lot of natural resources: the only reason I could do it in the first place was because I had quality sheets to work with. It would have been really difficult to sew something from a bad quality fabric.

The environmental hypocrites

All environmentalists that I know are hypocrites, myself included. Some more, some less. I’m sure there are people who follow their ethics to 100%, I just don’t know anyone who does that when it comes to environmentalism except one remarkable green politician in Finland called Leo Stranius. At least he says he’s 100% vegan, never flies and cycles everywhere. Goals.  I have just arrived in Dubai, by plane. We environmentalists know we are hypocrites every time we make an ‘non-environmetal’ choice. And if we didn’t know that we’re hypocrites already, there will be hundreds of people in line informing us about what awful hypocrites we are.

Like the guy with a 400 gram steak in front of him, telling me how unethical I am for tasting a tiny bite of my friends dish that contained meat. Or the anonymous commentator who thinks this zero-waste blogger is wrong to promote environmentally friendly sunscreens when in fact, flying is the worst part of her trip. Or all the millions of people who say Leonardo di Caprio isn’t an environmentalist because he flew in a private aircraft twice in a year.

I made an extremely hypocritical choice. I went on holiday to Dubai and Abu Dhabi with my family even though I think airplane traveling is not good. Flying by plane is something I should not do. I took the train to London because I’m really am trying to quit flying but it’s extremely tempting to do it. 7 hours direct flights for a very affordable price to see white beaches and another culture. It’s easy to make quite irrelevant justifications for myself like “but at least the flight is shorter than to Thailand, less fuel is required, no stop overs means less fuel for takeoffs too…”.  But the truth is I’m going to a state that’s criticised for using slave labour, that has a very high oil consumption, a very high water consumption and promotes very much commercialism. I wanted to go out of curiosity, to see what it’s like. Dubai is very popular, and seeing many people going here made me want to go too. If I stay more true to my values than I did this time, perhaps I’ll never go again. I’m sorry if I let someone down by making this choice, I’ll try not to do it too often anymore.

The criticism does have grounds, but by calling environmentalists hypocrites you put the focus on the wrong thing. Saying “airplanes are bad for the environment” and taking an airplane OR saying “I never ever think about the environmental impact of planes” and also taking the airplane has the exact same environmental impact.The individual environmental hypocrite is in no way worse for the environment than the ignorant person. By saying “airplanes are bad” the environmentalist is at least more likely to start looking for alternatives. I’m less likely to go to Dubai or Thailand every year. I think companies who put millions of dollars on Greenwashing-marketing are the right subjects of being called hypocrites. They do it on purpose, to make money. I make hypocritical choices because of weak moments of temptation, that partly is a result of that greenwashing marketing. Like Norwegian air, which I’m flying to Dubai, saying they have the newest, least polluting fleet in the world. It´s still at least 3x more polluting than train but they don’t mention that in their marketing.

Dubai is a catastrophe environmentally. I didn’t know how much it is so, until I came here. I’m not going to regret coming here and I’m sure I’ll enjoy my time, but really this isn’t the best travel destination. It is still a massive construction site and the main thing to do is shopping. We’ll drive (yes driving is bad too) to the old town of Al Ain tomorrow because Dubai is so silly. The stupid thing is, after we booked this trip I started hearing from friends they didn’t enjoy Dubai too much either, but they didn’t say that on social media when they posted nice pictures. Please dear reader of this blog, be smarter than me: don’t come here. Don’t book a flight to Dubai, even if they are cheap. 

Environmentalist are trying to change society. But sometimes we just want to wholly be part of our society. And our western societies include food wrapped in plastic or occasional very polluting airplane rides. My friends and family go for holidays, it look’s lovely, is it so hard to imagine I might want to go too, even if it’s against my ethical principles? Social media does things worse here. In the long run, we want to get rid of unenvironmental travelling but it’s a change that might take some time. Allow us to fail without judging too hard on our journey towards environmentalism.

So cheer us for the times we do choose vegetarian food, cheer us for choosing the sunscreen that doesn’t harm coral reefs and cheer us when we take the train instead of flying. Shouting “hypocrite!” just creates a negative feeling. If you feel an environmentalist could be even more environmentally friendly, share your tips with them in a friendly way! Tell them in what way life can be nice while doing something even better. Ugly words and blaming those who really try to change isn’t the best way of making society more sustainable.

Trust me, we know better than anyone how polluting airplanes are. We just think that occasionally, it’s nice to travel. Just like a smoker, knowing how unhealthy it is but still enjoying smoking. Some environmentalists have already stopped flying, other’s are still, just like that smoker, thinking that perhaps next year I’ll have more self control… Perhaps next year I won’t be as tempted to fly to a warm location for a quick getaway from the Finnish winter. We are weak sometimes and that is okay. We should love ourselves anyways.

Why don’t you join me and become a hypocritical environmentalist? Allow the changes in your life to take it’s time, maybe some of them never happen. Keep an open mind, accept that you’re a hypocrite and continue learning so that everyday you can become less of a hypocrite. I welcome you in the club of self-declared environmentalists, even if you do the smallest change.  

The worlds tallest building is about the only thing I really like in central Dubai. But there are other skyscrapers in the world, go to Taipei, New York or Tokyo instead.

I’m in love with these sustainable luxury handbags

 

 

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I won’t buy a new bag until I can afford these two. The Finnish sustainable high-end brand Lovia has absolutely lovely products. I’ve been dreaming about this bag for a while now, but at the price of roughly 500 euro, I can’t afford it now.

The thing is, I don’t mind waiting. When I say I won’t buy a new bag, I mean brand new bag. I will be perfectly happy with buying secondhand handbags until I can afford something that is sustainably produced and that is so lovely I know I will cherish for years. For me, sustainable consumption of new things means to buy high quality that you use for many years or that has value to sell to someone else.

If you’re going to buy an expensive bag, like a Louis Vuitton bag, why don’t you put that money into buying a luxury bag made from reused leather or leather from wild, free animals? Louis Vuitton leather is often from calves. Not only do I think it’s ethically questionable to slaughter calves at the age of just a few months old just to get a handbag, but the cattle industry is also very damaging for climate change. So next time you have the chance to buy an expensive handbag, look at sustainable brands like Lovia!

Happy sustainable shopping!

xo, Felicia

 

 

Other wonderful green bloggers

I follow a few other great blogs with sustainability theme’s, some of them in English, some in Finnish and Swedish. Some of them are professional, where running the blog is a full time job, others are people that I know who want to document their lifestyle changes at the really beginning of ‘going green’. I want to share all of these with you guy’s so you have something great & green to read even on day’s when I don’t update!

I’ll start with the smaller blogs in Finnish and Swedish, scroll down for the English speaking ones.

My friend Amanda blogs in both Finnish and Swedish at amandapasanen.fi. She is running as a candidate in the local election for the Green party, so she has a lot of very wise thoughts about sustainability while living in a city! Amanda is also an environmental science student, so she knows a lot about this stuff.

A Swedish-language blog from Finland that I really like is Grön i Åbo. That’s focused on zero waste too, but also on environmentalism in general. I really like reading it because the girl writing it is about the same age as me and from the same country so it’s just really easy for me to understand the way she’s thinking, being able to get the products and do the things she recommends.

My friend Otso just started blogging in Finnish at Get Wasteless. I can’t wait to follow his journey towards a life that creates less waste!

Two more known Finnish blogs are also Kemikaalicocktail (The Chemical Cocktail). It’s absolutely great and has a lot of information about the origin of different products! The second one is “trashionista” Outi les Pyy who’s been a great inspiration for me when it comes to ethical and environmentally friendly fashion. 

Then the internationally known English speaking one’s:

Eco Warrior Princess is a blog I have followed for the past 2 years or so. It’s run by Jennifer Nini, an Australian who started blogging about eco fashion in 2010. Nowadays, it’s more a collection of blogs, which is great because you get so many texts about different things! I especially liked this text discussing Green Business labels.

Trash is for tossers by New York city based Lauren Zinger, who creates so little waste that she can fit it all in a little jar! She provides great tips about what disposable products you can easily replace with long lasting ones to create less waste. Lauren studies environmental science and I think her blog shows beautifully how she applies what she learned to real life.

Bea Johnson blogs at Zero Waste Home about the same theme, not producing waste! I admire her and her home for it’s minimalism. It’s cool, modern, practical and environmentally friendly. She does, however, indirectly advocate travelling by plane by describing her lifestyle which is a bit against environmental values. But on the other hand, I use airplanes myself so I shouldn’t be too critical.

 

Shoes look young again when you give them love

skor-pa-rad1Repairing your shoes instead of buying and throwing away is a great way of becoming a sustainable consumer.

Shoes are my thing. That used to mean I bought a lot of them. A lot. And as a teenager, I never even thought of repairing them! Growing up, I’ve definitely improved. In the past years I’ve spent significantly more money on repairing shoes than buying new ones. Now I appreciate the shoes I have and take care of them, instead of throwing them away to get new ones.

I found a lovely shoe repair shop in the Sörnäinen area of Helsinki. The service I got at Kinaporin suutari shoemaker was great and the prices were affordable! Why do I bother mentioning this particular shoemaker? Just as a contrast – in central Helsinki I asked another shoemaker to do some maintenance and he said it’s too difficult to do and asked for a much higher price. Not very business minded of him, I think! Luckily, I found this place. The great thing is, that when you find a really nice place you always know where to bring your shoes when they need some repairing!

They probably will need some repairing. Shoes always wear out, that’s just how it is. Really good quality does it slower but if you really want to have them last for a while: you need to have some maintenance done on them. The heel wears down especially fast. The black shoes in the middle of the picture are bought secondhand but they are originally from H&M. As you can see in the pictures below, the heel was in quite bad shape. If I would have walked in them for much longer without having the heel replaced, the shoes would soon have been totally ruined. So the trick is to check the condition of your shoes often enough and not let them ever become total disasters! My Timberlands are just going in for a little wash and the boot shaft will be made narrower.

If you’ve watched any documentary like Cowspiracy, you know how bad leather is for the environment. All the shoes in the picture are made of leather and I have really been thinking that in the future, I’ll avoid buying leather shoes. Therefore, it’s even more important for me to take care of the shoes I already have! I’ll update in a couple of weeks showing what they ended up looking like after their makeover.

Show your worn out shoes some love, save some environmental resources and bring them to a shoemaker for a repair or a maintenance!

Do you usually repair you shoes? if not, why not? Please comment below in either Swedish, Finnish or English!

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Making less waste: a first step

Many of us feel quite bad about the amount of waste we create. Whenever we see some news about it, that little thought appears in our heads: “oh we should do something about it”. But then we go back to how we used to be, because it’s easier. If you do feel you’d personally like to make a change there are two very easy first steps towards a waste-free life. Plastic bags are one of the worst pollutants of nature so…

  1. Start recycling. This will lead to a situation where you won’t be able to use the typical excuse “I need to take a plastic bag because I have to have something to put my trash in”. Everything recyclable has no need for a plastic bag: the glass, cardboard, paper all  goes well into the big recycling bins by pouring them out of a reusable bag.
  2. Stop taking plastic bags in the store, put the things in a tote bag or in your rucksack, handbag or whatever bag you usually carry around. Especially the tiny plastic bags you get in cosmetics stores are very unnecessary, just put the thing in your pocket!

Most people, that I know, have something like 20 plastic bags at home right now. When I’m visiting someones home, I always notice a huge heap of plastic bags stuffed away somewhere. If you recycle fairly alright, those plastic bags should be enough for your bin for the next 6 months. Personally, I’ve estimated that if I exclude my flatmates waste, I use about 15 plastic bags per year for trash. No one needs to keep collecting bin bags when you actually have a storage of bin bags for the next year at home so stop making that excuse, you do not need more plastic bags.

This little re-usable fruit and vegetable bag is great! My mum bought it for me this Christmas and ever since, I always carry it in my bag wherever I go. It’s washable and is the perfect substitute for the small, very harmful plastic fruit/vegetable bags that are provided in Finnish supermarkets. Buy one for yourself today and commit to stop using plastic bags!

This is the first step towards zero waste, a very easy start. My personal zero-waste start was a bit of an extreme crash course. In 2014 I randomly decided I would live for one whole month without using any disposable plastic. This is only 3 years ago, but the zero-waste  lifestyle wasn’t a “thing” back then. Believe me, people around me probably thought I was so weird when I suddenly refused to eat a cookie just because it had been in a plastic wrap!

Nowadays, I’m not that strict and I do buy some amount of things wrapped in plastic. I never take a plastic bag myself at the store, the one’s I use for waste are usually brought to me by someone visiting me, and leaving them behind. I’m a great admirer  of people like Bea Johnson and Lauren Zinger who has really helped making zero-waste a thing. It will take a long time before I’m as great as the two of them, producing only like one glass jar of waste in a couple of years! But if I could already cut my waste to only 10 bags a year in 2017, I would be really proud! Everyone has different life situations and any sort of change always requires a bit of engagement. Once you have excellent habits, like Zinger, it’s not difficult anymore. Therefore, I suggest you start with this little change that doesn’t require too much effort! Plastic bags kill animals everyday, they break down and end up poisoning seafood that we like to eat. Go for reusable bags, skip the plastic.

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The real reason I took the train all the way to London

Watch the two last videos from my train journey from Helsinki to London! If you haven’t seen the five first videos: you’ll find them by clicking at the “Everyday  Eco choices” category and scrolling down. These are the last videos out of 7 in total and  the final one you’ll get to see why I made the journey in the first place…