where do you put your biowaste?



Biodegradable waste in the form of face

by leesle/Adobe Stock

Where do you put your bio waste? If you live in a house or flat with garden, presumably on a compost heap. But for those of us living in town other approaches are needed.

As I found that cuttings and peels of veg and fruit are a main waste source in our home I asked around and researched for ways to deal with bio waste in a flat. This is the result:

  1. Get or make a worm box for vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is done using a wooden box with a container inside housing worms who take care of your cuttings. In Austria this is known as a Wurmkiste, which can be kept indoors and used as a stool. You can add raw veg and fruit, bio plastic, tea and coffee (bags), as well as paper. The worms produce fertiliser and the box can be used continuously. Cost: from 150.- Euro plus worm starter set 40.-.
  2. The bokashi method. Bokashi is a Japanese concept which involves fermenting your fruit and veg cuttings, as well as all other edible waste such as pastry, fish, meat, eggs and dairy in a airtight box. The waste has to be pressed together firmly and living microorganisms have to be added regularly for the process to work. When a bokashi box is full you have to let it rest unopened to ferment for two to three weeks. That is why you need two bokashi boxes to make it work. The remaining fermented nutrient-rich mass has to be incorporated into a compost heap, as it is too sour for direct use on plants. The bokashi liquid can be used diluted and used as plant fertiliser. Cost: around 70.- Euro for 2 boxes plus 1 kg ferment at 15.- for 3 months.

Both methods are practiced by friends of mine and I admit, that I did not notice any  smells coming from the wurmbox – the bokashi was kept on the balcony. Both were adamant that after a small learning curve at the beginning their preferred method was a smooth run. No escaping worms or leaking of the litte bokashi tap.

However, both methods stroke me as requiring too much commitment in terms of material, time and space for our present lifestyle. Also, my partner pointed out, that he wasn’t keen on extending our range of pets in the direction of worms. Furthermore both methods constantly produce compost or fertiliser and we only have a very occasional need for them.

So I felt I needed more input. A girl at a ZeroWaste event told me that her friends freeze the veg cuttings to avoid decomposition and smells. When they have a large enough amount, they find a container for bio waste.

Although freezing seemed inefficient, keeping it cool seemed reasonable and since we do have a bio waste container nearby I tried the following. I bought a large round plastic container, which fits into the drawer in our fridge:

Depending on what and how much we cook the container takes two to five days to fill. It is airtight so there are no smells and due to the low temperature and the fact that there is little oxygen in there, decomposition is minimal. When it is full, we take it down to the large bio waste container, empty it, give it a rinse, dry it and put it back into the fridge.

This simple method is cheep, non-smelly, does not require a lot of space or time, saves you from going down to the container every time you eat a banana or peel potatoes and reduces the smells from your normal garbage bag drastically. Especially in summer. It will however not yield home-made compost, but add to the communal one.


ditch the plastic packaging?


In her book ZeroWaste Shia Su suggests to take a closer look at your garbage bag in order to identify your waste problem zones by searching for garbage patterns. In my own bag I identified three main categories: 1. plastic packaging, 2. cuttings and peels of veg and fruit and 3. paper kitchen towels. First I decided to look at the packaging issue, which is what I’m looking at more closely in this section.

I have already been carrying a fabric shopping bag around for a while, so I never have to get additional bags at the shop. I also put fruit and veg without any further packaging in there, which apart from cherries and berries is no problem at all.

We eat a lot of rice, oats, pasta and polenta at home and they mostly come in plastic foil bags or paper board packaging containing plastic elements. Therefore in order to cut down on the plastic waste I got a series of glass jars for storage and decided to give a “without” shop a try.


By Dani Simon

Those shops offer all sorts of pulses, pasta and grains, nuts and teas without any packaging. The foods can be filled into small containers, fabric bags or paper bags. You can take your own containers and bags, or buy some at the shop. At home you fill the foods into jars or containers, which also has the advantage of keeping the food fresh and the bugs out. Using transparent containers improves the stock overview.

I have been doing this for a couple of weeks now and apart from my garbage bag taking noticeably longer to fill, I found that I can get most of my small shopping into my laptop rucksack. Especially the rice and oats in soft bags tend to sit very snuggly on the bottom of the rucksack and take up a lot less space than the same amount in other types of packaging.












brand reduction

clothes, Uncategorized
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One way to safe time and keep the wardrobe lean(er) is to chose two brands for clothes (and shoes) from which to buy. Either online brands or shops. The shops have the advantage, that you use less CO2, because you can try different models on in store and there is no sending back and forth of packages. Also you don’t have to stay home or go to the pick up station to get packets and take them there for sending back. The advantage of online shopping is that you don’t have to go to the shops and listen to loud music or search forever for the two items you are actually interested in.

The idea of sticking to two shops is that if there isn’t anything you like in a season you don’t buy anything. If you have the urge to buy, you ask yourself if you actually do need something urgently, or if you just like to have something new. And if you need something, how urgently you need it. Do you need it next week or can it wait a few weeks or month?

Before you go shopping check your wardrobe, if you have 10 good shirts you probably don’t need another one, even if the one in the shop looks good on you. On the other hand, if one of your three pairs of trousers is still sort of okay but wearing thin on the buttocks or very faded, it may make sense to replace it, should there be a good candidate. If not, you already know to look out for trousers next season. Ask yourself what you need. A need does not emerge because the shops have a new delivery.

when less is not more …

clothes, Uncategorized

… now would that be soothing sight …


Sometimes less is not more. “Why are they doing it?! Do you women find this attractive?” This morning on our prime recreational island (“Donauinsel“) most of the male early morning joggers were flaunting their naked upper bodies. My partner, well brought up as he is, was sporting a cycling top and assorted black pants, while asking me the above question. He doesn’t understand of course, because he is a cyclist and cyclists have a uniform. And if there is a uniform and you are not wearing it, you look like a clueless beginner. So cycling gear is what saves the eye from semi-nude cyclists.

Since there seems no such attire for the contemporary running man, best to strip. Obviously. Last year the ratio of clothed to semi-naked turned out a tiny bit in favour of the clothed bunch, but this year, the only place you’re likely to see a shirt on a male jogger, is in his hand.

Fact is, about 95% of the naked male upper bodies running around this summer would look a lot better in a shirt. And the remaining 5% would look a lot classier. It is simply unkind to expose arbitrary fellow humans to your nakedness.

You think it’s the tanning factor? How great is a brown torso over a white-pinkish groin going to look? There is a nudist beach on Donauinsel, where you can get an overall tan, so why do the stripy thing?

I suppose it has to do with the current selfie mania and taking shots of yourself in front of the bathroom or the gym mirror. Thankfully we live in a time of rapid change. So: What will replace selfie-ism? And do we have to go through a phase of the semi-naked man in public spaces and transport before that?


knockout sweetness



coffee dark candy chocolate

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Yesterday evening, as part of my shopping, I bought a raspberry chocolate bar. I was immediately very much looking forward to round off my dinner with it. So after my meal, I prepared myself coffee and put a small piece of the chocolate next to it on the couch table, sat down, snuggled up on the sofa and put the raspberry-cocoa creation into my mouth. And spit it out again. It was nothing like chocolate, it was a super-ultra-sweet piece of something. I could barely taste the cacao and the raspberry manifested it self as a somewhat sour aftertaste. Eating a sugar cube would have been less sweet and probably more enjoyable.

So, my plea is less sweetness in sweets and just one kind of sugar, so that the primary flavour(s) of the food remain detectable to the human tongue. Otherwise, all flavours collapse in the knockout-sweetness of a sugar-blend-detonation.

No fair food please ! It could limit market competitiveness!


agriculture animals baby blur

Photo by Trinity Kubassek on Pexels.com

Time and time again I read “XYZ is dangerous, because it could limit market competition”. Lately for example, this is the view the Swiss NZZ holds with respect to the current Fair-Food Initiative the Swiss are voting on this 23rd of September. The initiative calls for the application of the same rules that apply to Swiss products to those imported from other countries. It does not seem unreasonable, does it? However, many of the imported products are far from meeting Swiss standards, which means they would be barred from the Swiss market, if the initiative got a majority vote. Moreover, the production of some products typically though of as “Swiss”, which contain in fact little from Switzerland besides the Swiss flag and the word “Swiss” on the packaging, may become momentarily difficult to produce due to a lack of actual Swiss ingredients.

The initiative aims at promoting regionality, animal welfare and fair working and production conditions for farmers. Three good points that deserve support. Yet inevitably they leave a sour taste in the mouths those who couldn’t care less about the welfare of farmers and workers, let alone animals, because “fair working conditions” usually means that production prices rise and profits shrink. Similarly, for many companies “regionality” is a welcome green-tinged lip service when it comes at no extra cost, more than a conviction they actually are going to execute.

The whole point of “fair sustainable production” is that it limits market competition. That it limits the exploitation of humans, animals and the environment. Having a “free market” means that companies can profit from exploitation, destruction and oppression –  without having to pay for the damage they do. Sadly, the latter is largely the status quo – yet it is by no means desirable. And this means it needs changing. It is therefore good, that motions like the Swiss Fair Trade Initiative are dangerous to an unlimited free market. There should be more of them, they should pass the vote and they should be executed.

less pleasing plea


Businessman Working by the Beach

Businessman Working by the Beach

“Free yourself from having to please” says the good advice on a fb post. Sounds good and like an awful lot of psychological decluttering. “I don’t care what others think” I used to say. Yeah. But do I tell my partner how boring I find some of his/her friends or my friend that I don’t actually enjoy afternoons with children at the museum? Or do I smile and say it’s okay I understand? Do I dye my grey hair, because I don’t want the discussions about looking older? Get a gym membership to appease my conscious, the doctor and my partner – rather than because I want to work out?

Exactly. Why spend good time and money on getting the perfect outdoor gear when I know the only outdoors will be the park? Why stretch my financial means to a huge black 4×4 which does not fit into any conventional parking space and costs a fortune in insurance?

What would you do if you moved to a place where no one knows you? Sell your car and get a boat? Shave off your fashion beard, bin your high heels or quit toning your abdominal muscles for that elusive flat tummy or six-pack? Stop telling everybody how fantastic they look and quit drinking fancy wine when you’d rather have a coke or beer?

So, why don’t you?

Because we aim to please. We do. Sad but true. Yet everybody can change this at any given moment. That is power. The power to displease. Which is not the same as being a selfish, ignorant bastard. It is simply making up one’s own mind, taking one’s own decision for one’s own life and withstanding the dictate of “but I think one really ought to” and “but what will people think!?”. Let them think whatever they want. You will never really know and you can’t control it. What you can control are your own thoughts. Go your own way, let go of what is not you and others will be likely to join you.




a lot lot less: bye bye palm oil


If any current government administration was going to do something really spectacular I’d suggest they prohibit palm oil. As one Austrian organic supermarket brand has shouted out in their summer marketing campaign: It is possible to go without. Yet: what does palm oil free mean in daily life?

coconut tree under gray sky

Photo by Oliver Sjöström, Instagram: @ollivves, Website: https://ollivves.com/

If you do not already use organic shower gel, soap and creme and you want to go palm oil free, you can safely bin pretty much all cosmetic products. Even organic soaps are likely to contain palm oil, often “certified pam oil”, but to that later.

The same goes for make-up, domestic cleaning products and the washing liquids of all well-known brands as well as biodiesel. It equally applies to nearly everything edible that come in a packet: frozen pizzas, ready-made pasta, instant soups, crunchy mueslis or spreads such as margarine and – queen of the breakfast table – Nutella. None of them can do it appears without the magic ingredient palm oil, and neither can cookies and chocolate bars by the way. Nothing is sacred.

Evil palm oil?

How can something which is apparently so vital to so many products be bad? What is the problem with the naturally amber coloured fat? It is simple: The palm trees that grow the oil stand in the rainforest. Now, the deforestation of the rainforest has been going on for some time and it is not exactly around the corner, so why should you care?

Ten reasons why you may want to care:

1) Palm oil is usually highly processed and produces different kinds of toxic esters of fatty acid which are known to damage testicles, kidneys and the liver, or are carcinogenic.

2) Due to its high content in saturated fatty acids (nearly 50%) palm oil has a negative effect on blood fat and LDL-cholesterol as well as promoting atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes.

3) Slash and burn land clearance methods are used in order to gain land for palm plantations. This releases enormous amounts of carbon dioxide from Indonesian peat swamp forests (which is cleared for plantation), as the soil dries out and the peatland is drained.

4) Palm plantations damage local people’s health through the use of pesticides and the smoke from land clearance.

5) Amnesty International has located systematic abuse and exploitation of the plantation workers, who are not protected in terms of labour laws or health regulations.

6) Small farm peasants and indigenous people are being driven off their land.

7) Amnesty International has located child labour.

8) Palm oil plantations contribute to the extinction of animals especially of endangered orang-utan species, pygmy elephants and the Sumatra tigers.

9) Monocultures leach out the soil and pollute the water through pesticides.

10) Slash and burn land clearance methods destroy the plant kingdom.

Good palm oil?

What is so great about palm oil, that it has found its way into so many products?

1) First of all palm oil has good properties for industrial processing, it adds smoothness to soap, for example.

2) Palm oil is solid at room temperature.

3) Oil palms yield a much higher revenue than other oil-bearing plants. Palm oil holds therefore a third of the global plant oil  market share. It is much cheaper than other plant oils, as producers are in no way liable to pay for the damages they cause.

Conclusion: Palm oil pays off to industry and producers.

What can be done?

If you want to eat less palm oil or at least a more sustainably produced oil, you can buy unrefined palm oil in your local African or organic grocery shop. It is produced in small cooperatives and it is red. And it has a very characteristic taste and smell, which is in no way comparable to the refined odourless market favourite. Obviously the red unrefined oil is also much dearer and unsuitable for industrial processing.

Solution 1: Buying certified palm oil

There is also RSPO-certified palm oil which is used at least in parts by some brands. In 2004 the WWF started talking to stakeholders within the framework of the initiative RSPO, which stands for Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, to create a plan for a more sustainable palm oil.

Another initiative is the Palm Oil Innovators Group (POIG), in which NGOs like Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network and the WWF, as well as RSPO-members campaign for tougher production regulations, including social and ecological aspects.

In Germany, Austria and Switzerland the Forum Nachhaltiges Palmöl (FONAP; Forum for sustainable palm oil) strives at supplying the three German speaking markets with certified palm oil. It further aims at expanding and improving  certification systems.

However, the German environmental organisation Rettet den Regenwald (Save the Rainforest) and other NGOs explain that in order to be awarded these certification labels the companies are neither forced to renounce to slash and burn land clearance methods, nor to monocultures, or stick to climate protection measures. The working conditions on these farms are further not necessarily better, not even regarding child labour. According to reports, human right violations are barely penalised and the native inhabitants continue, at least in parts, to be driven off their land. Moreover toxic herbicides that damage the local population continue to be used. Greenpeace is trying to keep an eye on companies and their progress towards a certified palm oil production.

Solution 2: Bye bye palm oil

The total renunciation of palm oil by the industry is not a desirable goal, according to the WWF, because in consequence a greater amount of other oils would have to be produced, which would equally damage resources, animals and the environment. The goal is to reduce all oil production sustainably. This however, would inevitably increase the price of oil. Some companies and brands have already removed palm oil from their products entirely, as for example the Austrian grocery brand Ja natürlich or continue to rid their products of it, like the Italian brand Barilla. 

Many food items, soaps and detergents that have existed for decades have in the past been produced with fats other than palm oil. So it is apparently possible to do so. Yet the major part of the corporations which use a lot of palm oil is not likely to switch to a more expensive option, especially when the cheap version has such excellent processing characteristics. Not unless there is a more profitable replacement.

Hence those who do not want to finance the palm oil industry can not really do so without some personal effort. The only foods which can safely be consumed are natural untreated foods*. When it comes to household cleaners, cosmetic products and other industrially made products, it is best to check the ingredients and avoid ingredients starting with cet-, coco-, or  laur-**, or to refer to a site which lists palm oil free products.

Conclusion palm oil

The production and cultivation of palm oil have a destructive effect on climate, humans,  animals and the environment. For producers and for industrial processing palm oil has predominantly useful properties as well as being cheap, also because those who cause the damages don’t have to pay for them.

Therefore, when we buy products containing palm oil we directly support this industry with our money. By buying everyday products containing palm oil we facilitate the destruction of the rain forest, damage the climate and  harm native people, animals and nature. Stopp using palm oil and start protecting our planet.

* fresh fruit and vegetables, tinned foods (fruit, vegetables, legumen), fermented foods, meat, sausages, fish, eggs, dairy products, grains, cereals, flour, pasta, rice, polenta, legumes, honey, jam, nuts, grain-, nut- and soy drinks, as well as almost all beverages.

** As well as: capr-, cetear-, cetyl-, coc-, glycer-, linol-, myrist-, ole-, and stear-

reduce to gain



green wooden chair on white surface

Photo by Paula Schmidt on Pexels.com

The plan: to reduce packaging by half over the next two months.

This blog was essentially inspired by the thought to reduce in order to gain. At the beginning was a coffee table book about simple living, which was interesting, inspiring, an easy read and nice to look at. The idea of categorising all my belongings in order to reduce the items to only the best appealed to me, one because of the beautifully simple method and two because I knew that six month down the line I would be moving into a smaller apartment. So I started and I got hooked.

I got rid of nearly all the obviously superfluous. Put the less obviously superfluous in labelled boxes in the cellar. Replaced all plastic food containers with some made of glas. Similarly I exchanged cosmetics that come in plastic containers, with others that come in glas containers or do not need packaging. I drove to the charity shop at least once a week with a boot full of stuff that I used to absolutely need.

And now that I am reduced and I can use the dining table for dining and the desk for writing, I feel I want to go further. Clearing and cleaning is not just about tidying, it’s an attitude. This blog is about the journey away from a dictum of what “one should and one needs”, away from compulsory consumerism towards a practice that is more reasonable, responsible and true. Towards a life I feel more at ease with.