Bochum / DPA
Instead of a vase with fresh flowers on her dining room table, Shia Su has collected the rubbish of the past few months. In a glass jar are a few bottle caps, receipts and window envelopes – you can’t avoid all rubbish, she says.
But the jar is big enough to hold an entire year’s worth of her trash. The 32-year-old German and
her husband Hanno are trying to live a “zero waste” life and Su has been writing about the experience on her blog Wasteland Rebel for
the past year.
Her book on the subject, WenigerMuellist das neueGruen (Less Rubbish Is The New Green), has just been published. In her bathroom cupboard Su keeps a jar of homemade mouthwash, hair conditioner made of rye bran and compostable dental floss made of bamboo.
The couple shop very carefully. “Every couple of weeks, Hanno gets dry goods like pulses and grains from a bulk food shop near his work in Muenster,” says Su.Su prefers to shop in a vegan supermarket in the city of Bochum where they live.
She has jute and net bags to carry her fruit and vegetables and she puts muesli straight into a glass jar that she takes with her. In the hallway on a shelf is the couple’s “redistribution centre,” which currently contains some key rings, egg timers and a shower head.”Visitors can just help themselves,” says Su.
And in the kitchen, behind the door in an inconspicuous wooden box, there’s a hive of activity; beneath the lid hundreds of worms munch their way through coffee grinds, salad leaves and newspapers.”They can eat half their own body weight every day. They’ve never escaped either,” says Su.
While Su and her husband are managing to produce just a jar of rubbish, the average citizen of North Rhein Westphalia state produced 480 kilograms of rubbish in 2014 according to official statistics.
“For many people “zero waste” isn’t a model that’s suitable for everyday life long term,” says Philip Heldt, an expert on waste and conservation of resources at the consumer advice center.”But it’s nice to see people trying it out for short periods or that people are trying to do without plastic bags and takeaway coffee cups.” Some ways to save on rubbish are easier than you might think.Vegetables for example are already packaged by Mother Nature.And there’s no reason to drink bottled water rather than just tap water.”In the supermarket, it’s a good idea to see if you can find alternatives that have less packaging,” adds Heldt.
If you look around, there are more and more opportunities for people to shop more responsibly.In the Kleiderei clothes shop in Cologne, you can pay a fixed sum every month in order to borrow clothes, shoes, hats and jewellery.
“This was once a man’s shirt,” says Verena Klaus, as she stands admiring her sleeveless dress in front of a mirror.The 32-year-old costume designer also blogs about zero waste on her “simply zero” blog, and this week is writing about Kleiderei. The clothes are secondhand and come from sustainable labels or have been “upcycled” by shop owner and designer Lena Schroeder.Pleated skirts become kimonos, old jacket lapels are given a new lease of life as part of new coats.
Klaus’ family manage to produce just a container of rubbish every month and her ruthless approach also extends to her wardrobe.”I only wear what I really need and like,” she says.When she leaves Kleiderei, she’s a paid up member wearing a new outfit – no bags and no receipt.