My name is Lenka, I am originally from Slovakia, but I have lived in different countries during my life. I have lived in Spain, Taiwan, and now I live in Chile. My interest in eco-friendly lifestyle started when I was a kid. I always loved nature, animals, and the planet. First, I became a vegetarian when I was 14 years old, even though no one in my family supported me.
I can track a more focused action on my side to when I was living in Taiwan. Taiwan has a great recycling program, that really encourages you to recycle as much as possible. Me and my then-boyfriend, now-husband started to recycle and learn more about the impact of trash going to landfills or incineration plants. If you want to know more about how Taiwan transformed from being called Garbage Island to one of the countries with the highest recycling rate, read this article.
Every now and then we incorporated a new way of reducing trash in our life or other eco-friendly action. We are still on this journey, we are nowhere near to perfect, but we strive to be the best possible in our own condition.
What we do
We live in a small apartment, with a small balcony, and we have a vermicomposter on our balcony. Vermicomposting is a type of composting, where earthworms are used to enhance the process of organic waste conversion and produce so-called hummus. Usually, it is done in a closed drawer like composters. The final product is later used to put in planters to improve the quality of the soil. This action has reduced our trash by more than 60%.
It is a miracle. In such a small drawer, I can be putting all my fresh food scraps week after week, and it does not fill up, because the worms eat at it much faster than I can feed them. They are so happy at our balcony.
Locally produces groceries, buying in bulk with no packaging
We buy locally produced groceries in bulk, without packaging in the shop near our house. The only groceries we still buy wrapped in plastic are whole wheat and rice pasta, just because there is no option to buy in bulk. The groceries we buy in aluminum are yeast and spaghetti sauce, and we buy soy milk in the Tetrapack (plastic and aluminum-coated paper carton box, that is possible to recycle). We buy very little of these items and we recycle the packaging as instructed. I use the bought soy milk to make plant-based yogurt only, for the rest of our plant-based milk needs I make my own homemade soy or almond milk.
To reduce even more of the trash produced by packaging, I make almost everything from scratch at home. Sauces, dressings, snacks, bread, preserves, jams, fermented foods, yogurt, etc.. I love to spend my time in the kitchen either cooking or preparing other home products.
Fix broken stuff
To further reduce trash, we try to fix all the broken stuff, we don’t buy unnecessary things, we are mindful of buying higher quality products that will last for much longer.
We recycle everything possible that we still buy. When buying anything that is wrapped in plastic, first we make sure it is possible to recycle.
Diet and eating habits
We eat a plant-based diet, so we do not contribute to the meat and dairy industries, which are one of the most polluting and water wasting industries. We buy local produce as much as possible, and we grow a bit of the food ourselves on the balcony. It isn’t much food, but its a start. We use a water filter, so we never buy bottled water. We brew the tea from loose-leaf tea, so we don’t buy teabags. And I use a pressure cooker to prepare many meals in order to save gas.
We only use cloth napkins that I made, we wash and reuse them. I only use cloth towels to clean or dry the surfaces, there is no space for paper towels or napkins in our home.
We take short showers, never a bath. We remember to turn off the water while brushing our teeth. When taking a shower, we collect the cold water that comes out before the warm water and use it to water the plants. Moreover, we try to waste as little water as possible while washing the dishes. These are small steps, but it is what we can do in an apartment.
We changed our light bulbs to LED bulbs. Also, we turn off the lights when not in the room and unplug all the appliances while not in use. We line-dry all our clothes during the whole year, even in the winter. It might take a bit longer but with good planning everything is possible. This contributes to our clothes lasting much longer as the dryers tend to ruin the clothes faster than air drying.
Soap and cleaning products
I make our own soap and I brew lemon vinegar that I use to clean surfaces and the floors. I only buy dishwashing soap in bulk in my own container.
What we want to do
We are planning to move to the countryside, where we want to build our house: This will be a big project because we want to incorporate so many eco-friendly technologies and techniques. We have already built four wooden cabins for rent. Now, the next step will be building our house.
The house will be made of eco-friendly construction material, the ideal for us would be building a mud house (wooden structure, mud walls). There are plenty of environmental and other advantages of this kind of structure.
For heating, we will have a wood stove. Unfortunately, wood stoves pollute the air, but we will install a highly efficient rocket stove and we will build a thermal mass stove. These two improvements increase the efficiency of wood stove greatly. So, in the end, you use very little wood to heat your house. Also, the mud houses are greatly insulated increasing heating efficiency even more.
We want to incorporate a greywater recycling system, that would take the water from the sinks, and the shower (not the toilet), recycle it to use for watering the garden. Moreover, we want to have compost for garden scraps, and a home biogas system to recycle all the food scraps to make gas for the kitchen. We will be collecting and reusing the rainwater, plus we want to add a solar system and solar water heating system.
We have already planted several fruit and nut trees, and we will continue planting more trees and making a big vegetable garden that can help feed us.
Where we need to improve
There is still plenty that we need to improve. Sometimes we still buy things wrapped in plastic that can’t be recycled and we must send it to landfills. Usually, its because we don’t have any other choice. For example, I remember we could not find any LED light not wrapped in plastic.
We use our car a lot when traveling to the countryside, to our piece of land, as there is no better way to get there. We can get to 35 kilometers away from the land by public transportation, but then, there is no other way to get there. At least in the city, we limit our use as much as possible. We ride our bikes or use the subway and public buses to get everywhere.
Old clothes disposal
Also, we haven’t found a great way to recycle clothes that are no longer in good shape. We have donated clothes in good shape to charity organizations, but we have a lot of clothes that are no longer good for use and we haven’t figured out a good way to dispose of them. Recently I have discovered a company, that converts any kind of fiber (clothes in any shape) into recycled yarn, I hope we can try their service soon.
In our small apartment, in the winter, we use gas heating. Our building doesn’t have any heating system installed and this is the way we have been doing it since we got here. We don’t know if there is a better and more eco-friendly way. At least the winters here are short.
What we cant improve much is that every year we travel to Slovakia, and we take a long flight. This is probably our biggest contaminator and we cant get rid of it because I want to visit my family at least once a year.