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I cannot pretend to be back just like any other post in the past, because it’s been 18 months since my last post. But life changes, routines change, circumstances change and priorities change. Which doesn’t mean that anything cooking-related is not my priority anymore, or that the things that were important to me two years ago are not, it just means that I don’t take the time to document all of what I’m doing anymore.

Still, as continuously striving to live a life that does good to people, to the environment and to animals, or let’s say to do as little harm as possible to the above mentioned by the things I buy and consume, I am writing this post.

I don’t live a zero-waste lifestyle. I am not vegan. I sometimes take the plane when I travel. I sometimes eat a chocolate cake in a conventional restaurant. I buy oat milk in tetra-pack.

And still, the rest of the time, I try to do things – sometimes very little things – that, in my opinion, have an impact. The impact might be little, it might be tiny. It might not make a difference at all. I still do it. Because I believe we all have responsibility to contribute. For some it might be that they live in a very small apartment. For some it may be they never travel by plane. For some it may be they eat vegan. For some it may be they live zero-waste. For some it may be they eat organic. For some it may be they don’t own a car. For some it may be they collect trash from the floor. For some it may be they buy fairtrade products. For some it may be they don’t do any of the things and donate to organizations that do good. Possibilities are endless.

I want to share some of the things I’ve been doing. They are my way of contributing to a cleaner planet.

#1 | I always carry some cotton bags with me, no matter where I go. They prove nice when you realise you have to do some kind of shopping on the way.

#2 | I always carry my water bottle with me. In Graz you can officially fill up your water bottle at many places. Check out Refill Graz to see all the partner places. When not in Graz, I fill it up in café or bathroom washrooms or ask for it to be filled up and haven’t made any negative experience.

#3 | In the bathroom, there are several things I replaced by homemade products. Apart from saving money, I don’t put chemicals on my skin and produce very little waste.

You need a big pot, about 3 litres of water, 4 tablespoons of washing soda and 30 g of grated or finely cut curd soap. Place the ingredients in the pot, bring to a boil and let simmer until the soap is dissolved. Let cool, stirring occasionally. Fill into the sterilised bottles. Shake before use. I usually add a drop of bought washing detergent because of the smell, but it’s not necessary. Can’t be used for wool.

  • As a deodorant, I use half bicarbonate of soda (the same you use for baking) and half corn starch. I keep it in a little jar and spread it with wet fingers.

  • As dry shampoo, which I never used before, I mix cinnamon and corn starch and apply it with a brush on my scalp. For light hair use only starch, for darker hair cocoa powder. The same mixture I use as a powder for my face, when I put on face cream or olive oil and need the shininess to go away!

  • To wash my hands, I use normal soap. It often comes package-free or, at least, wrapped in carton or paper, whereas liquid soap causes some trash or the other, no matter how you buy it.

  • I also use soap for showering (though I wash my skin only with water most of the time) and every now and then I wash my hair with hair soap and rinse them with an apple cider vinegar rinse. I sometimes just wash them with bicarbonate of soda, and when I wash them with shampoo, I add a little bicarbonate, which reduces the amount of shampoo needed significantly.

#4 | For cleaning, I use the following:

  • Descaling: dissolve about a spoon of citric acid (or vinegar) for 1 litre of water and use to descale just about anything (kettle, glasses, shower glass etc.)
  • Toilet: Every now and then, I throw in 1 tbsp of bicarbonate and 1 tsp of citric acid after I go to sleep and let it do its magic overnight. Proper use of toilet brush is key, too.
  • Cleaning sink and shower: put some bicarbonate on an old sponge and rub.

#5 | In the kitchen, these are the main things I do

  • Replacing milk with water: when a recipe calls for milk, I often replace some of it with water, the rest with oat- or soy milk (which have the lowest ecological footprint and are produced in Austria). These are my favourites:
Crépes, pancakes and cakes (also Kaiserschmarren): 80-90% water

Bechamel sauce: 30-50% water, oat milk works great as the natural starch it contains lets it thicken much quicker

Hot chocolate: dissolve cocoa powder in hot water, then add milk

Even if you buy your milk in glass bottles from your local farmer, water is always more sustainable than anything that has been produced. 

  • I buy organic vegetables at the farmer’s market and take my own bags with me. Therefore I produce zero waste when it comes to buying fruits and vegetables – and I make sure to buy regional and seasonal as well. Win-win.

  • Spices and things of which I need little and which come in a lot of packaging (hello 4 g spice in a plastic bag!), I buy at the zero-waste store. For things like millet, polenta, the zero-waste store is always an option (for any other thing, too, of course), but I know they aren’t existent in every city. Ordering big quantities (5, 10 kg) of staples you use a lot (legumes, nuts etc.) and sharing with friends is a thing I did once and want to do again, as you save money and a lot of packaging!
  • Whenever something is in season, I try to preserve it in some way or the other (jams, compote, fermented veggies etc.). One of the best things is making your own vegetable stock. I use 10 g salt per 100 g vegetables (onions, garlic and celeriac, carrots are a good base – add leek, parsley, parsnips, curcuma). Mix everything and place in glass jars. Keep in the fridge for up to three (!!) years.

  • #6 | Anything I need, I try to buy second hand. I buy clothes at second hand stores, or if I’m looking for something specific I use Kleiderkreisel. Swapping clothes with friends is a really cool thing, too. My absolute favourite for anything is Willhaben and there is almost nothing you can’t find there. I haven’t bought fast fashion for about two or three years now and knowing about the environmental risks and health risks for workers doesn’t want me to go back to anything else anymore. When I want to get something new, I buy fair fashion.

Before I buy something, be it used or new, I ask some questions to myself:

  • Do I really need this?
  • What would change if I didn’t buy this?
  • How often will I use it? Can I maybe lend it from someone if I don’t need it often?
  • What will I think of this in one year?

Before throwing something away, I consider reusing it. Ribbons of presents are such a thing. I keep them in a jar and use them when I give presents (which I ususally don’t wrap to save paper). I use toilet plastic wrapping as trash bags. Flour bags I use when buying groceries at the zero-waste store (much lighter than jars!).

What are your pro tips when it comes to a more conscious lifestyle?