An update on a month without plastic

We thought it was time for an update on our project plastic free now that we are over halfway through. We suspected that it would be challenging and hoped it would engage you guys out there, but we never expected the response we have received! What a bunch of fantastic, inspiring and smart brains we have had the pleasure to meet. 
As many of you may know, we are two sisters behind Radical Broccoli, and as we speak, one is up in the mountains at a winter cabin, and the other is at a yoga teacher training close to the equator. When we considered having a plastic-related challenge, we went back and forth discussing when would be a good time, what we needed to prepare and so forth. As soon as we got challenged by a big news channel to announce it on their snapchat, we just had to jump into it, without preparing anything. Nevertheless, it made the whole thing more relatable and trustworthy.
The first week - easier than expected?At the beginning of the month, we presented to you the rules we were going to stick to. For example that the plastic-free challenge didn't include food prepared by others and that we would use everything we already had. This made it extremely easy the first couple of days, except for a lunch meeting out and about at a café in Oslo, when we had to ask for reusable cutlery, as they serve with plastic also for those eating in. What an idéa! When we asked why, they said it was because people mistake the real forks and knives for plastic, and throw them out. Don't know whether to laugh/cry believing it or by the excuse!
Our first big grocery shopping took about two hours, and we stopped by Kiwi (average grocery store), Juels 33 (more of a specialty store) and Røtter (health shop) to get everything we thought we needed for a week. We got quite a lot of fruits and vegetables at Kiwi (mango, banana, tomato, grapefruit, lemon, dates, avocado, beets, pineapple) that we packed into cloth bags to weigh them together. We also got some dried goods in cardboard boxes such as beans and lentils, crisp bread, flour, oats, and tea. What a pleasure to not bring a single piece of plastic out of a plastic-filled shop (almost - we saw afterward that each fruit and veg had a sticker on it - now collected in our jar). We almost bought a bag of snacks that looks unmistakably like paper but actually is made of plastic - good thing some stuff is labeled!
Week two - some good fortune and some failure 
At the beginning of the second week, we started to run out of all the main frozen breakfast smoothie ingredients and cosmetic products such as shampoo, conditioner and body lotion. One Instagram and some comments later we learned that apple cider vinegar and baking soda works like hell for a nice hair wash and that many of you guys use this regularly (!). We tested it out, skeptical about the smell, but it turned out quite well and looked all shiny and nice. The second wash was not so successful, and we are considering another of the advice - buying a shampoo bar wrapped in paper from Lush.
At the end of a long work week, we were ready for some Indian take away. We both completely forgot about the challenge when we ordered, and had such luck as it came in aluminum and cardboard containers. Which then again made us think of whether this is any more eco-friendly?
Anette also got some juicy plastic wrapped packages that she had ordered in January - three plastic bags - one covering the other. How on earth will it all fit in the jar?
Oh, and we had some kombucha bottle failures too!
At the end of the second week, it was time for departure for both of us. The traveling yogi had to prepare food for the trip - and made these scones - all plastic free minus baking soda which we had from before. She also checked how they consider plastic at the yoga retreat, and it seemed to be a conscious kind of place. The hardest thing was actually at arrival - not knowing whether or not the tap water was safe to drink. The first day out in town the water bottle was left at home at a trip planned to last for 20 minutes that lasted 8 hours. A day with a whoooole lotta tea! Shampoo and conditioner were borrowed from new friends.
The mountain goat got a real bonus as the cabin was full of food and shampoo from those who were here the weekend before. Jackpot. And a feeling of cheating a bit.
Now we have nine days to go, and we will be even better at the updates in the coming week+. The biggest, best-hidden secret behind all of this is how it feels so good to use every last drop of the body lotion and cooking the weirdest new meal of veggies we have never even considered buying.
Some lessons along the month
  • Always always always bring a water bottle, cup and tote bag (even though you don't think you're going shopping, you might end up doing it. Life is insane).
  • If you're getting take away - check in advance what kind of containers they use, and consider bringing your own
  • If you're eating out make sure to ask if they can give you real cutlery if plastic is their thing. They often have it, but they just didn't put it on display
  • Question the eco-friendliness of plastic's brothers such as glass and aluminum. Sometimes plastic is the most eco-friendly!
  • It's actually not embarrassing to bring cloth bags to the store :)))
  • It is very embarrassing to leave plastic at the store
  • You can freeze things in glass and tin containers (as many of you probably knew)
  • Homemade oat milk is a winner - recipe coming soon!

Super environmentalist Gina shares her top 5 tips for getting involved

We had decided that we wanted to do a beach cleanup during our "glamping" weekend at Bukubaki in Peniche to see if we had a different experience in another part of the country. We had already seen the amount of trash in the beaches close to Lisbon, and the contrasting amazingly clean beaches in downtown Cascais. Via Instagram we found "The Peniche Beach Conservation", and that they had posted photos from cleanups. We took contact and were met by the most welcoming, engaging and warm spirit of Gina, the German girl who moved to Portugal to live a life in stronger contact with nature.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

As a child, I was already deeply in love with the ocean, this feeling of being ONE! Whenever we were on family holidays at the coast I spent hours in the water and I have always been a collector. Back then I collected rocks, fossils, and shells.I have always been in awe and love with nature, animals, being outside and caring for things and people.I spent some years traveling the world and working in many different jobs, among others on the vineyards in Australia, as a farm helper, in restaurants and cafés, in a kid's toy store, learning to grow edible mushrooms in Peru, at the radio as a reporter in Germany.Then I started studying Biology in Berlin. I came to Peniche because I needed to get away from the city - to the ocean, which I usually did during short travels. Peniche appealed to me because of the description "sleepy old fishing village with world class surf" and because of its funny shape on the map in the travel guide. At the end of my studies, I contacted the local university and asked if I could write my final thesis about "Microplastics on sandy beaches in and around Peniche, Portugal". Sad but true, all the samples I collected (five samples at each of the five tested beaches) contained microplastics and nano plastics on a very small scale. The majority of microplastics were microfibers, which could derive from fishing-related tools like nets but also synthetic fibers from our laundry. The synthetic fibers end up in the ocean because filtering systems in wastewater plants are not sufficient enough to filtrate these tiny pieces of plastics out of the water...I realized the danger of the plastic in the ocean, but also saw the potential "beauty". Some of the pieces of plastic seem to be a message from the ocean, and I would like to translate that message to other humans, simply by documenting and sharing things that I find on the beach or by creating artwork.

The ocean is our "Life-Support-System": The ocean does not need us but we need the ocean. I think it's my mission to spread this message and to invite people to be good and to be the change now.

After my studies, I stayed in Peniche and started a non-profit organization called Marmeu. Our first project is the "Peniche Beach Conservation Program". On the Facebook and Instagram page, we share some scientific facts and information on how to be good to the ocean, together with things I find on the beach. We organize monthly beach cleanups, recycle the plastic, and keep the "treasures" - pieces of beach plastic that we later transform into artwork. We (try to) sell the things to raise funds for our work.

When and why/how did you become an environmentalist?

Travelling the world, I discovered great injustice related to unsustainable consumption and mass production, monoculture, and drought. In Australia, we went to a lake which was on the map, but when we arrived we were wondering where the water had gone. In the middle of a little village, there was a hole in the ground with remains of boats and piers. It turned out that because of climate change it had not rained for ten years, the lake had dried out, its inhabitants had died, and the village's inhabitants had to leave their home because of the drought.I also saw people living in paradises, surrounded by jungle with sweet tropical fruits, sun, and nature. But on the streets, there was no-one to be seen. It turned out they were sitting indoors, watching TV, abusing drugs and alcohol, dreaming of living an "American/western way of life" including buying all products that one "needs" in this world: Smartphones, Coca-Cola, brand clothing...I saw giant landfills with fumes that went up in the air and drove through palm tree fields - for hours - which were sprayed, and the orang-utans and other animals shot, and I saw beaches full of plastic garbage.I realized that I didn't want to do any harm through buying the products that I buy or the way that I live. For a while, it was really stressful because I couldn't really manage to change my life in order to have less impact on climate change and injustice and environmental destruction. But in the past two years, I have changed many things. I moved to Portugal, where I live outside, I started a garden, I make things myself, I repair and build things, and in general, I try to be as sustainable and as self-sufficient and independent of brands and big industries as possible.

In 2050 there will be more people picking up trash than there will be producing trash ♥

What is your favorite meal?

From the taste, I must confess it's fries! But I really really love "fresh" stuff that you could say is still ALIVE - coming straight from a tree or picked up in the garden.... Mmmmh!!!!

Why should people join beach cleanups?

To see the SOS that the ocean is sending us. What it sends us in the tides, being disposed on the beach is a mirror. Our garbage, the things we use in our everyday lives, is in the ocean and on our beaches. 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. We need to be aware that plastic is a serious harm to the environment and to the ocean because it does not go away. Animals get tangled up and die, others eat the plastic and also ingest a toxic mix of chemicals.  These mess with the hormone system, because they have the same structure as estrogen, leading to irreversible effects in not only fish but also its end consumer (us).It's also really fun to get together in community and to do something good for nature.And, if you like the ocean and it's obviously calling for help when you take a closer look, it simply feels good to give something back. It gives us so much, but we cannot take it for granted.

What are your top 5 tips for a more environmentally friendly life?

  1. Start a garden - grow your own food (and make compost)
  2. Buy local - support local farmers & refuse supermarkets
  3. Slow down - be happy with less and see beauty in the little things (nature)
  4. Reduce! Reuse! Recycle! and RETHINK to find ways to live without
  5. Be motivated to #bethechange and to be part of the people who change the world! It's tough at first finding out about all that bad stuff in the world, but actually, it's a really creative mission to be good to the planet in these times. Don't be upset and don't give up! Find like-minded, they are everywhere around you.

The corporate hippie Simen Knudsen

Some people are so inspiring that you literally want to do just like they do. These are the kind of people we want to put in the spotlight in this series of "inspiring people & projects". Simen Knudsen is one of those - a 32-year-old self-proclaimed corporate hippie who works for various environmental initiatives in Norway, and a dedicated surfer. We had a chat with Simen to get some insight into the life of a tall blond beach cleaner.Tell us a bit about yourself?I am a 32-year-old male. I was born in Nord-Jæren, and I am currently living in Oslo. I love to be outdoors playing, and surfing is my favorite activity. I work as a Business architect in Æra with an initiative for sustainable innovation called Floke. We founded Nordic Ocean Watch a couple of years ago because we thought we should get more people to take care of the ocean. I am also an ambassador for Infinitum Movement.

NORDIC OCEAN WATCH (NOW): A Nordic environmental organization which is dedicated to taking care of the ocean. The organization aims at building a culture where nobody uses the sea without giving anything back. Get involved by sending them an email or visiting their Facebook pages NOW Norway, NOW Sweden and NOW Finland. They regularly organize events such as beach cleanups, hangouts, pop-up movie screenings etc.

INFINITUM MOVEMENT: An environmental movement, which is also the owner and manager of the recycling arrangement for bottles (pant) in Norway. They have an amazing website which is a source of inspiration for various environmental engagements, and a paper magazine (printed on environmentally friendly paper) that is sold across the country.

FLOKE: An innovation program designed by Æra to solve complex societal challenges in order to put society on a more sustainable trajectory. Together with a number of organizations from private, public and volunteer sector Floke uses innovation tools to create new and more sustainable solutions.

Why do you care so much about the environment?Because it's essential for a happy and healthy life. And because it's not doing to good right now, mainly due to our way of living. Especially the ocean, which actually is on the verge of collapse. Being in nature and outdoors is the key ingredient for to have a good life. And if I don't care for my favorite playground, how can I expect others to?What are your top five tips for living a more environmentally friendly daily life?

  1. Recycle (especially your plastic bottles aka pant)
  2. Eat more greens, less meat, and fish
  3. Use WWF's seafood guide for sustainable fish choices
  4. Fly less, and play more in your own back-yard.
  5. Leave a handprint anywhere you go, e.g. pick some plastic.

In general, start looking at yourself as a contributor instead of a consumer, and magic starts to happen ;)

Who and what inspires you?I get inspired by everyone I meet that uses their energy to leave the world in a better condition. I love all initiatives, big and small. I get a lot of inspiration from Arne Næss, Daniel Quinn, Sustainia, my colleagues in Æra and Floke, the Nordic Ocean Watch collective and the Infinitum Movement ambassadors.What is your favorite meal?Veggie burrito with black beans, sweet potatoes, and Midsummer hot sauce from Jæren. Mmm.Follow Simen on Instagram to see what kind of stuff he is up to next.Tavaha!

The #1 environmental solution isn't what you think

Who saves the world? Plant based, non food-wasting, educated girls 

Can we actually combat climate change at this point, and how do the things we do in our daily lives even matter? Here is the most up to date, science based list of actions that really give a bang for the buck.A group of scientists, geologists, engineers, biologists, economists, architects, NGOs, activists, entrepreneurs and scholars already asked this exact question, and together they wrote the amazing book "The Drawdown - The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming", edited by Paul Hawken. The book maps, measures, and describes the 100 most impactful solutions to global warming. There are reasons to get excited, because half of the top 20 solutions involve food on our plates and educating girls.The goal of the research behind the book is to determine if we can reverse the buildup of atmospheric carbon within thirty years. (Breakdown: atmospheric carbon is the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, which has increased over the past years due to burning of fossile fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. When greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) go into the atmosphere they act as the glass in a greenhouse, trapping heat below the atmosphere. Scientists believe that this contributes to global warming (1)).The Drawdown list of climate change solutions consists of actions recommended to take regardless, since they benefit communities and economies. It is ranked according to total atmospheric CO2-eq reduction (breakdown: when calculating the warming effect of a specific gas, it is measured in CO2 equivalents, called CO2-eq, which is a unit describing the effect a given amount of CO2 has on global warming for a fixed period of time), net cost and savings (billions US$).We want to highlight the Drawdown-inspired actions that you can do from the comfort of your own home!

#1. Materials refrigerant management

Okay, what?!This might be new to many, but refrigerators and air conditioners contain something called chemical refrigerants, which basically absorbs and releases heat to enable chilling. There are different types of chemical refrigerants, where the most dangerous one for the environment are the CFCs and the HCFCs (ozone depleting chemicals). However, due to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, they have been gradually phased out (2). Today, the most common refrigerant is HFC, which is said to be better than its predecessors, but harms the environment by its global warming effect. It has 1,000-9,000 times greater capacity to warm the atmosphere than CO2, and is said to add a potentially disastrous 0.5 C to global temperatures if it's not phased out (3).So, whats the tip here? Check your old appliances for which refrigerants they are using, and when buying a fridge, freezer or air conditioner find out if they contain CFCs, HFC or HCFCs. Do not look for buying old, used appliances, as they definitely do more harm than good. Modern producers such as Miele, Siemens, Bosch etc. only make freezers and fridges that are CFC and HCF free (4). A modern, more eco-friendly alternative to the substances mentioned above is hydrocarbons (HC) (5).In short: Bad guys = CFC/HCHC/HCF. Good guy = HC.

#3. Reduce food waste 

As we have written about before, a third of the food produced never makes it to your plate. Greenhouse gases are released at each step of the production, causing food waste to be responsible for about 8% of global emissions (6). The sad thing about food waste is that in higher income countries the reasons for the waste are mostly superficial. We are served too much food, and we reject food based on its color, shape or bumps and bruises.

#4. Eating a plant-based diet 

Starting with your next meal you can already make a difference and transitioning to a plant based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change. Eating a plant based is easy and delicious, and you don't have to become a hard core vegan or vegetarian to reduce your meat consumption. Eating meat is the most expensive diet for the planet, and as the Drawdown points out, "if cattle were their own nation, they would be the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases" (7). Plant based diets also tend to be healthier and reduces the risks of chronic disease. The study highlights:

Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations shows that if 50 percent of the world’s population restricts their diet to a healthy 2,500 calories per day and reduces meat consumption overall, we estimate at least 26.7 giga tons of emissions could be avoided from dietary change alone. If avoided deforestation from land use change is included, an additional 39.3 giga tons of emissions could be avoided, making healthy, plant-rich diets one of the most impactful solutions at a total of 66 giga tons reduced (8).

Not only does the study find that emissions could be reduced by as much as 70 percent with a vegan diet, but $1 trillion in annual health-care costs and lost productivity would be saved....And what about the girls?

The effect of #6 and #7 combined tell us that educating girls is the number one most important measure. Better educated girls can have less children, which prevents over-population and enables more well informed financial and dietary choices.

Stay tuned for a new post on this topic.

3 ways to go green today

As rational beings we tend to look for results of our actions, which in the big picture sometimes are hard to find. Therefore, we looked up three simple actions with a positive effect for your environment.1. Does it matter if I use a plastic straw?It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the water if we continue to consume like we do today, as this previous post points out. #Stopsucking on single use plastic straws when you buy a drink.2. Does it matter if I use plastic bags every time I buy food?5 trillion disposable bags are used each year across the world (1). We use the bags for 12 minutes on average, but they remain in nature for thousands of years. About 10% of the bags end up in the oceans.     The production of plastic bags requires millions of gallons of petroleum. Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for their favorite food (jellyfish) and may choke on them. So maybe this is just a habit which is quite easy to quit or at least consider.San Fransisco was actually the first state to ban plastic bags already in 2007. In 2016 France became the first country to ban plastic bags entirely. In France it was estimated that 17 billion plastic bags were used each year and 8 billion were just discarded in nature. So, yes! It does matter. France also banned the use of plastic cups, plates and cutlery, which comes into effect in 2020 (2).4. Does it matter if I eat meat everyday?Scientists have found that by pursuing a plant based diet, you can cut your carbon footprint by 50%. Animal agriculture accounts for more greenhouse gases than the combined effect from all transportation (3). Having a meat free Monday can be the personal sacrifice with the largest environmental impact of them all - one day per week of replacing red meat and dairy for veggies can cut your annual emissions by the equivalent of a 1900 km car ride. Thats like driving from Oslo to mid France!Every single step matters, no matter how small!(1) http://www.theworldcounts.com/counters/waste_pollution_facts/plastic_bags_used_per_year(2) France: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/france-bans-plastic-cups-plates-cutlery-energy-transition-for-green-growth-a7313076.html(3) https://www.paulmccartney.com/news-blogs/news/meat-free-monday-the-facts