A few years ago, I came across an amazing woman on the internet. Her name was Bea Jonson and I bought her book called „Zero Waste Home“ immediately. I was really struck by the content and how her whole life was based on the credo: „Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot“. Her aim was to produce as less waste as possible to keep her environment clean, to own fewer things, to make her life lighter and to waste fewer resources.
Although these reasons made total sense to me, I never managed to bring these principles into my life. I could tell you many reasons why, but the truth is, I never tried hard enough. In last summer, I moved to Copenhagen and was blown away, about the role waste plays here.
In this article, I want to concentrate on Recycling.
If Copenhagen wasn’t such an expensive city, maybe I would have spent less time thinking about recycling. But it is. And so I started seeing things. You have to develop a sense for it. And once you did, you see resources everywhere.
The first thing I realized about, was Foodsharing. Friends of mine took me to an event and I realized, that this is a big thing. In Germany where I come from, Foodsharing is a small shelf with some rotten vegetables, hard roles and very few people going there. I always loved the concept, but it wasn’t efficient at all. But here it is a big group of volunteers, collecting and sorting out huge amounts of food, which they picked up from the markets just an hour before the event. If you are interested in this concept, I recommend visiting that website.
At this very day in Copenhagen, I was standing at the meeting point with at least a hundred other persons.
When I came home, I had a box full of vegetables, fruits, bread and pastry. Since then, I mostly nourish myself, with this food. Sometimes I go shopping for some butter, milk, outs and pasta. But all the fresh ingredients I am cooking with are from Foodsharing. There is only one thing: they are sometimes wrapped in plastic.
And at this point, I am not sure, if I agree with Bea Jonson. Of course, it is good to avoid plastic. And in a perfect world, we should rather refuse plastic, before we recycle it. But the world is not perfect and „roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.“ Source: FAO.
So yes, there will be plastic in my bin, but its plastic which has been in another bin before.
Another way of saving resources I want to tell you about is Dumpster Diving. I know some people feel quite reserved about it because it includes being seen while searching for materials in the trash. But here is the thing: Dumpster Diving is generally a really clean matter. You just have to think about a few things: If you don’t want to make your hands dirty: wear gloves. If you feel uncomfortable about eating things somebody else trashed: most of the things, which are nowadays sold in a supermarket are wrapped in plastic. Generally, this is a bad thing. But in this case, let’s be happy about it. So when you come home with all the products you dived, you just take them out of the plastic, wash it and store it in an appropriative way. And don’t be afraid of getting sick. Some products in the trash are even before the best before date. Just don’t take any eggs, fish or meat, no matter how good it looks. And you will be fine. Also, our bodies are better than we think in finding out if something is good for us.
So go out in the dark when the supermarkets are closing, locate the dumpsters, take along a flashlight and have fun.
Unfortunately, more and more markets are locking their dumpsters. In my eyes an interesting reflector, how our society deals with waste and people who are trying to reuse it. But also some supermarkets don’t. So I am sure, you will find the right spots quite fast.
When I moved to my first own room here, I finally needed furniture. I didn’t have the money to do one big Ikea-shopping as I assume, most people do, when they get into a new place. But I also didn’t want too. Because, as I said in the beginning, I started to see that the street, neighbours or simply the trash have more diversity to provide than IKEA. The first piece for my brand new apartment was my wardrobe.
He and I met like this: It was still surprisingly warm in November and I went for a walk in the neighbourhood. On my way back, I saw a wardrobe standing on the street. A white note was attached to it: For free.
I feel in love. It was one of the types of furniture, which seem to come right out of Astrid Lindgren’s Bullabü-Story. Green and white, on the backside decorated with small rose birds and wonderful doors, who couldn’t be locked anymore, because some child was hiding the keys years ago. I just had one problem: It couldn’t lift it alone. So I was sitting there, the for free note in my pocket, that nobody could see, that it actually was gratis, when the previous owner of the wardrobe arrived.
Half an hour later, he and I had brought the closet to my apartment, had a nice talk and I was the owner of a closet and mirror, he gave to me as well.
To make a long story short: Almost all of my belongings came to me that way. Bed and desk, where build with a friend from materials nobody else needed, the chair is from a little shack, my house is recycling old things, as well as books, brand new IKEA plates and any other kind of decoration.
The thing with recycling is, that there is no right way to do it. You just have to keep your eyes open and see the world around you. Fleamarkets are a good event to start with. At least for decoration and clothes, I can’t think of something better. But also thrift shops are a good solution. In this article, I was talking about free resources. These are the easiest to find on the street, in recycling stations (If they are allowed to donate things) or in associations, with the aim to reduce waste. Otherwise is swapping and exchanging resources a good idea as well. Free shops, simple shelves where people store there books and clothes they don’t need anymore, became a thing in the last years as well and all over the city, you find small rebellions against consumption.
If you train your senses you will get everything you need. Because there is more than enough. The furniture in my room is not in bad condition. Some of it is technically new. The people who owned it before didn’t throw it away, because it wasn’t good anymore, but because they had enough money to buy something even newer.
In the end, I did go to IKEA, to buy a mattress, the one and only thing I don’t want to use from other people. An I saw my chair from the trash, STEFAN he is called. And I hoped that his life will be as long as the one from STEFAN at home.