Zero Waste Home

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It bothers me how much waste we produce, mostly as a result of our convenience and the amount of consumption. All the things we throw away end up in landfills or are burned, either way destroying our Lebensraum (living space). What really upsets me is the amount of trash that does not even find its way into the trashcan but is just dropped somewhere. In particular, it seems socially acceptable to throw cigarette butts just about anywhere.

In Germany, general waste is expensive and limited to a special sized bin. However, instead of pushing for waste reduction, the problem is rather moved to a very popular recycling system. But, in my opinion, this just moves the problem instead of solving it, because those mountains of plastic have to be dealt with somewhat other than just shipping it to China or elsewhere, or worse just getting “lost” on the way (e.g. Great Pacific Garbage Patch)….

Everything we throw away is produced at some point. The production uses resources and often generates (harmful) byproducts. Therefore, reducing our waste means on one hand to reduce our consumption, and on the other hand to consume more consciously, always keeping in mind how things are produced and how they will eventually be disposed of.

I am not a saint myself. I have a baby and am not using exclusively cloth diapers, and I put out a trash bin every other week. But I am trying to improve. A big inspiration is Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home. She has an almost waste fee home, following the simple rule of “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (strictly in this order)”. She keeps a small home, only buys her food items on farmer’s markets and in bulk, bringing her own containers. Everything else she tries to buy second hand. Her website has a wealth of information and tips how to reduce waste in all areas of living.

IMG_9497a(This is our bakery bag. I think my cousine made it for us when we were both still children.)

There are many easy steps to reduce waste (see Bea’s site or her book for many useful tips!) which can make already a big impact. Bringing our own bags to the store, and avoiding packaged and/or processed foods as much as possible are the most obvious steps. Buying less in general and trying to reuse what we already own are others. A good idea is also to just look into our waste bin and recycling container and maybe there are items which could be easily eliminated. A good check for me is always to think about how an item is produced and how it eventually will be disposed before I consider purchasing it.

However, our society is so much based on and geared towards consumption, that avoiding waste can be quite tricky.  One thing that I find really difficult here in Germany is to avoid packaging. I cannot buy rice, grains, pasta, spices, cleaning supplies etc. in bulk but need to buy it packaged. Meat and cheese I buy at the counter, but I cannot bring my own containers because of hygienic regulations. Bea has now released an App to collect information about bulk stores. I hope it will at some point include (and inspire!) Germany as well.

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Socks

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My first pair of socks! I started knitting socks in the lag of warm weather (cold, grey, rain, so not spring) – socks can never be wrong, can they? Although I did a fair bit of knitting over the years, for some reason, I never knitted socks. So while being cold, busy with visitors and not having enough time to sit down to a big project I dug out a ball of sock yarn, got myself needles and started on a pair of socks. In search of instructions how to knit socks I remembered this old book:

Werkbuch

“Crafting book for girls” from the fifties. I received this book when I was a child from an aunt and since then it collected dust in a far corner of our bookshelf, almost forgotten. Sure enough it contains a chapter about knitting socks. And how about sewing stuffed animals, weaving baskets or building small furniture? I will keep this book handy from now on!

Socks

Yarn: TOFUtsies of SWTC (50% superwash wool, 25% SOYSILK brand fiber, 22.5% cotton, 2.5% Chitin, made from shrimp and crab shell!). I bought it several years ago in a store in Montclair, NJ.

Needles: 2.75 (US 2)

Pattern: cast on 64 stitches; 16 rows 2k, 2p; then stockinette. Heel: knit 27 rows; German heel with 11/10/11 stitches. Gusset: Take up the sides of the heel (14 stitches on each side), decrease 2  every third row. Toe cap: Here I followed the instructions of Hermione’s Everyday Socks: decreasing four stitches (ssk 1 stitch at the end of needle 1 and 3 and k2tog at the beginning of needle 2 and 4, knitting the last and first stitch, respectively) on row 1, 4, 7, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19 and closing the last 24 loops using the Kitchener technique.

Pasta with asparagus and shrimp

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It is asparagus season. In our region mostly white asparagus is grown, but I really like the green one. Of course it doesn’t hurt that green asparagus does not need peeling. Our quick go-to recipe for green asparagus is to put it on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake it until tender or a little bit crisp at the tips, and eat it just like that. But what I want to show you today is a wonderful pasta dish with asparagus and shrimp, a recipe from our good friend Pascale. Here is what you’ll need:

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2-3 gloves garlic
  • 1 tbs sesame seeds
  • sesame oil
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 100g pees
  • 300g shrimps
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 300g angel hair pasta (spaghettini, spaghetti extra thin)
  • fresh parsley
  • Parmesan cheese
  • salt, pepper
  1. Heat some olive oil in a large pan and saute finely chopped onion and garlic until tender with a pinch of salt. Add sesame seeds.
  2. Wash asparagus and break off the lower wooden ends. Cut the asparagus into 2-3 cm long pieces, putting the tips aside. Add the asparagus to the onion mix, except the tips. Saute until asparagus starts to get tender.
  3. Add pees and shrimps and asparagus tips.
  4. Put water to boil and cook pasta according to instructions al dente.
  5. When shrimps are cooked through, switch off heat, and add pasta, lemon juice and sesame oil to the pan. Mix well.
  6. Serve with finely chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese. If you like sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.

Bon Appetit!