Thursday, October 20, 2011

Retro Green - Eco friendly 'oma' style

My late German grandmother was 'green' before I could even say the word, well before I was even born, and most definitely long before it came - along with 'eco' - the buzzword of the 21st century. And it certainly wasn't a conscious effort of her tabard-clad self to be seen as being eco-friendly.

My nan was however - even despite her inspiring effort to be resourceful - part of a massive crowd. Without generalising, it really seemed like the whole of Germany was equally as keen to be practical, economical and assert simple common sense. As a country, it always seemed to be miles ahead of England in their recycling culture. 

Indeed, Germany was one of the first countries to introduce a container deposit legislation, or ‘pfand’, whereby single use containers such as cans, glass, and plastic are bought with a deposit charge. If taken back to recycling centre then you can reclaim your deposit: 0.25. That's a little, but it amounts to a lot. Just as my Austrian ski bum seasonaire friends found out when they cleared their tepid flat out of hundreds of beer bottles and made a nice tidy sum.

Living off a paltry minimum internship wage and scrimping every which way I can just to save a few pence has really taken me back to my mum and nan’s daily routine when we stayed in her big farm house in Germany. I scold myself now for being embarrassed of my mum, and her mum, for going about their ‘strange’ habits. It wasn’t in my Nan’s nature to waste anything and only now do I understand that it wasn’t embarrassing or strange at all. They were doing it to save money. This in turn happened to be ecological. And all the while they were bloody cool for doing it.

Being eco-friendly 'oma' (that's nan in German) style

Catching water
My oma went to extreme lengths to catch any rainwater that fell by lining the house with millions of buckets, containers and watering cans, so she could water her plans during the baking summer season. A garden water butt might be a better option. In a country that famously moans about the amount of rain we get, do we really need to use our hoses as much as we do? On a smaller scale you can turn the tap of when brushing your teeth.

Keep your left-overs
It actually upsets me to think about the amount of food which is thrown away. Not only for the absolute physical waste, but for the fact that a lot of supermarket items have racked up some serious gold standard air miles. Most left-over’s taste even better reheated the next day and save you cooking up yet another meal after a long day.  Spare vegetables added to any meal. Potatoes, in true Bavarian style, can be fried up again and taste great with bacon, onions, eggs and seasoning. Even little things like oil left in olive pots can be used as an infused oil when cooking. If you’re food is going off still wrapped in its cellophane packaging, stop buying so much!

Any food waste can be kept for the compost heap and your garden will thank you by looking great. Egg shells are particularly known for providing a good source of nutrients for unfertile soil. If you don’t have a garden you don’t have to bin your food. Order a free brown food waste bin from your local council for any food waste: meat, raw food and tea bags included. Find out more about this and recycling in your local area by visiting:

And finally…
"If it's yellow, let it mellow,
…flush it down, if it’s…"
This doesn’t need explaining does it?