Interview with kindby (SIA-Finalist 2018)

Together with the Social Impact Award (SIA) I’m interviewing the ten SIA 2018 finalists about their social entrepreneurship projects. One of them, kindby, is Austria’s first rental store for baby clothing. Read the interview below to find out why. You can vote for your favourite project until the 25th of September here:

Since babies quickly outgrow their clothes, parents often resort to cheap baby clothes. Founder Okan and his team at kindby want to stop the purchase and sale of low-grade and unsustainable baby clothing through their platform for leasing clothes. In doing so, they want to have a positive impact on the consumption behaviours of newly arrived parents and teach children about sustainability at the same time. We spoke with Okan McAllister about his project, the circular economy and the Students’ Impact Initiative (SII).

Elisa from This Sustainable Life: What was your motivation? Why did you start your project?

Okan from kindby: The obvious reason here is that we want to combat textile waste and unsustainable production methods. However, we would also like to create a social business that is not just for the people who have a sustainable lifestyle, but for everyone. For this, you need a variety of factors, one of which being a competitive advantage. In this case, we have a price advantage we can offer. Usually, sustainable products demand a price premium which might discourage the part of the population who is not necessarily prioritizing sustainability in their lifestyle. We would like to offer an entry way for this segment of the population by solving real life problems for them.

Elisa: How do you achieve this price advantage?

Okan: Especially for baby clothing the leasing model makes sense, since baby sizes change so frequently in the first two years of life. You will be able to rent the clothes for a few euros per month and are able to return it for free. kindby then checks the quality and washes it and then it goes back to the inventory. The rental model saves parents 60% per year, while providing them with the best quality clothing and accessories available.

Elisa: How often can you resell the clothing and is it organic?

Okan: We are not sure yet, we need to find out together how often it can be rented. We also still need to decide if we use organic or normal certified cotton and find out which one is more sustainable since normal cotton could have a longer durability. Reusing the clothing as often as possible would have the most positive impact. We are working with a consulting company on this to find out which method is better from an environmental perspective. It should also be 100% circular and one of the main problems for recycling is multi-fibre textiles. By ensuring that we have 100% recyclable materials the waste management companies don’t need to downcycle anything, we can mill it down to fibres and can sell it to the reclaimed fibre industry.

Elisa: How often do you rent or share things?

Okan: People share stuff because of an economic incentive, but then there is also stigma (e.g. when wearing used clothes). Unfortunately there are not so many options for 2nd hand clothes for men, so I try to buy high quality (sustainably) and buy less. Because the main problem is that we are buying too much and are throwing away to quickly. Reuse mechanisms like 2nd hand clothes thus don’t address the source of the problem. This is why kindby wants to make it more accessible and easier for people to transition into a more sustainable lifestyle without having to pay more for sustainable products.

Elisa: Sounds good! How did you get the idea for your project? What did you do the moment you came up with the idea?

Okan: Although there are current efforts to make second hand cool, charity shops do not address the core issues of textile waste and production. There are several problems along the way. Recollection rates, sustainable production, clothing or accessories that are not recyclable are some of these issues. We wanted to come up with a way to combat most of these areas in a scalable and financially sustainable way. With this business model we are able to empower existing social businesses, sustainable producers, and teach children about responsible consumption, as parts of the profits of kindby will go towards our existing programs we have teaching middle school and high school children about sustainability ( The moment I had the idea, I was on my way to a meeting in the subway, I simply wrote it down as with most ideas I have. Not an exciting story there, unfortunately. If I see a problem, I want to do something about it.

Elisa: How did you find a team for the project?

Okan: This initiative is implemented by an organization called Students’ Impact Initiative. We create social businesses, and teach children about societal issues. With SII we create impactful ideas and find people that would like to implement them. We have several different initiatives. We want to show that successful bottom-up initiatives can also provide a best case example in our transition to a circular economy. We recruit from all universities every semester! Anyone can be a part of our team and can check us out at However, for a startup project it is quite difficult to find the right people, since they should technically commit around 2 years full-time to test it and you also need to ensure that your vision is aligned with them. In this case, it’s helpful to write a manifesto as a team to set the right expectations for each other, so that everyone is on same boat (what do you expect from each other? Where will the company go in 10 years? How much time etc. can you invest? How would you react if an investor wants to buy the company?). Set honest expectations and think about the future realistically.

The kindby-Team (c) kindby

Elisa: You probably know that there are already some similar social businesses in Germany and Denmark for leasing baby clothes, how do you distinguish yourself from them and do you see them as competitors or partners?

Okan: After I had the idea I did some research online and also found those companies, but I don’t see them as competition. Social businesses should align to become better together. Social entrepreneurs go into markets that are not well known. When they create a market, regular companies come and compete with them. If you are doing it for the impact you want to have and not for the money only, other social businesses aren’t competition, but partners in crime.

Elisa: What is your biggest difficulty in developing your project? What personal qualities help you?

Okan: It is quite difficult to choose your producers with a vision like ours. Responsible producers and suppliers of baby clothing and accessories are more than welcome to get in touch with us at [email protected] In terms of qualities, we use diversity as our strength. We have people from various backgrounds in our team that provide different perspectives on our projects, which helps us immensely. We do not focus on recruiting people with a business background to our team, but recruit according to mindset. We as SII have an exclusive development program for our members that cover all the relevant areas from project management, business strategy, content marketing, graphic design, all the way down to event management and pitching. This is called the Prime Mover program.

Elisa: What was a funny anecdote from your project life? 😉

Okan: In one of our first pitches for kindby, the title slide had a very cute baby as a background. On the lower left hand corner, we had our logo and the tagline: high quality at affordable prices. It was only until after our pitch that we realized that people initially thought that we were about to talk about renting out babies…

Elisa: Last but not least, what advice would you give to a potential founder?

Okan: In my opinion, there are two main things a founder has to have regardless of background; emotional intelligence and discipline. It starts off by being extremely self aware and secure, which allows you to know what kind of feedback you should be listening to and then having the discipline to not only work on your lagging areas but also just relentlessly keep going. At the end of the day, there is a huge set of hard and soft skills you will need to be able to move forward, and there will always be people who have various opinions on what will work and what won’t. Being truly self aware of what you’re overlooking, what you are not good at and more will help you accept what needs to be better, and a dose of emotional intelligence will help you understand what kind of feedback you should be listening to and what to not focus on. This is why hard work on its own is nowhere near enough. Be at a level of awareness where you can objectively look at yourself and your idea so that you can make sure to work hard on the right things.

You can find further information about kindby on their homepage, Facebook and Instagram.

Die Interviews mit allen 10 Finalisten werden auf der Website des Social Impact Awards , der Facebookseite des Social Impact Awards, sowie auf dem Blog “This Sustainable Life” von Elisa Gramlich veröffentlicht. Die Interviews dienen dem Community-Voting, für welches man auf der Website des Social Impact Awards bis 25. September 2018 abstimmen kann.

Interview mit MobiDic (SIA-Finalist 2018)

Together with the Social Impact Award (SIA) I’m interviewing the ten SIA 2018 finalists about their social entrepreneurship projects. The first one, MobiDic, makes documentation for social workers easier. Read the interview below to find out why (unfortunately only in German). You can vote for your favourite project until the 25th of September here:

Sozialarbeiter haben den ganzen Tag nur mit Menschen zu tun? Ein großer Irrtum, schließlich müssen sie nach anstrengenden Diensten stundenlang ihren Arbeitsalltag dokumentieren. Doch diese Aufgabe haben sie nicht mehr lange – Dank MobiDic, einem Startup, welches eine App mit Speech-to-Text-Technologie entwickelt hat, welche die Dokumentation vereinfacht und vor allem auch verkürzt.
Wir baten den Gründer Paul Laireiter uns das Projekt näher vorzustellen und einen Einblick in die Arbeit im sozialen Bereich, sowie in die Gründungszeit eines Startups zu geben.

SIA: Was war eure Motivation? Warum habt ihr euer Projekt ins Leben gerufen? Wie und wo habt ihr die Idee für euer Projekt bekommen?

MobiDic: Aus meiner eigenen Erfahrung aus dem Sozialbereich weiß ich, dass Dokumentation sehr zeitintensiv und anstrengend, aber dennoch unverzichtbar ist. Warum das Ganze also nicht so gestalten, dass es einfach und effizient wird und eventuell sogar noch Spaß macht? Wir erkannten schnell, dass eine mobile Dokumentationsapp viel Potenzial aufweist und viele Probleme im bürokratischen Alltag gleichzeitig lösen kann. Diese Idee wurde im Rahmen des “Social Hackathons 2018” in einem interdisziplinären Team weitergesponnen und konkretisiert.

SIA: Warum hattet ihr das Gefühl das Projekt jetzt umsetzen zu müssen und für wen setzt ihr es um?

MobiDic: Durch das Weiterarbeiten am Projekt wurde uns klar, wie groß das Einsatzgebiet einer solchen Applikation ist und wie vielen Menschen es den Arbeitsalltag erleichtern würde und vor Allem wie viel Zeit eingespart werden könnte. In erster Linie soll die App im Sozialbereich die Arbeit erleichtern und viel Zeit sparen, da hier die verwendete Zeit für das Dokumentieren nachher für die Klient_innen fehlt und diese würden besonders von der App profitieren, da zusätzliche Zeit für die eigentliche Betreuung gewonnen wird.

SIA: Ein Artikel, der 2012 im Spiegel veröffentlicht wurde, befasst sich mit der Arbeit von Jugendamtsmitarbeiterin. Man findet unter anderem folgende Aussage: „Der Dokumentationsaufwand ist enorm, meiner Einschätzung nach pflegt der Sozialarbeiter nur noch 30 Prozent seiner Zeit den direkten Kontakt zur Familie. In der restlichen Zeit arbeitet er vom Amt aus und dokumentiert.“ Wie wird sich MobiDic auf die geringe direkte Betreuung auswirken?

MobiDic at work (c) MobiDic

MobiDic: Es gibt Sozialarbeiter in ganz unterschiedlichen Bereichen, die jetzt schon wesentlich mehr Kontakt zu den Klienten haben als jene, die am Amt tätig sind. Aus meiner Erfahrung ist trotzdem sehr viel Dokumentationsaufwand in sämtlichen Bereichen der sozialen Arbeit da. Durch die App können ca. 50-60 Prozent des Zeitaufwandes für die Dokumentation eingespart werden.

SIA: Woran könnte es liegen, dass Sozialarbeiter bisher noch nicht auf derartige Technologien zurückgegriffen haben?

MobiDic: Aus meiner Erfahrung verwenden im Speziellen große Einrichtungen ihr Dokumentationsprogramm schon seit Jahren oder auch Jahrzehnten. Hier wird derzeit vor allem die herkömmliche Dokumentation am Computer oder sogar noch auf Papier in Form von Formularen verwendet. Eine Dokumentation, wie wir sie machen wollen, gibt es aber bisher noch gar nicht. Die Möglichkeit, dass man ins Handy spricht und das sofort verschriftlicht wird, findet man im Sozialbereich noch nirgends.

SIA: Was ist eure größte Schwierigkeit bei der Entwicklung eures Projektes? Welche persönlichen Eigenschaften helfen euch dabei?

MobiDic: Es tauchen Fragen auf, die wir alleine nicht mehr bewältigen können und dazu brauchen wir Experten, die sich in gewissen Bereichen besonders gut auskennen und uns Tipps bzw. Empfehlungen geben können. Beispielsweise im Bereich des neuen Datenschutzgesetzes stehen wir vor einer großen Herausforderung, da unsere App sensible Daten erfassen würde. Diese Herausforderungen können wir aber gut durch unser Durchhaltevermögen und den Teamgeist der Gruppe entgegentreten. Da wir viele unterschiedliche Typen im Team haben ergibt sich auch ein breites Spektrum an Wissen und Kontakten.

SIA: Und eure Hauptaufgabe ist die Erstellung der App?

MobiDic: Die App weiterzuentwickeln und fertigzustellen, Werbung zu machen und gleichzeitig auch den Bedarf zu erheben, wo die Einsatzgebiete liegen, das sind unsere derzeitigen Hauptaufgaben. Im Rahmen meiner Masterarbeit mache ich auch eine Bedarfsanalyse, in der ich mich damit beschäftige herauszufinden, wie viele Arbeiter im Sozialbereich wirklich dokumentieren müssen, wie hoch der Aufwand dafür ist, wie groß die Zufriedenheit und der Bedarf einer Änderung ist.

MobiDic team (c) MobiDic

SIA: Erzählt uns eine lustige Anekdote aus eurem Projektleben. 🙂

MobiDic: Bei der Namensfindung für das Projekt gab es sehr unterschiedliche Meinungen was den Namen “MobiDic” betrifft. Komischerweise waren unsere weiblichen Teammitglieder besonders skeptisch. Aber durch zahlreiches positives Feedback von Außen konnten wir auch unsere Skeptikerinnen überzeugen.

SIA: Gab es auch schon eine peinliche Situation oder einen besonders tollen Moment (abgesehen von dem SIA Finalist Announcement ;-)) von dem ihr uns berichten möchtet?

MobiDic: Die schönsten Momente sind immer jene, wo man besonderen Zuspruch und Lob für die Idee des Projekts bekommt bzw. auch die Bestätigung durch eine Jury, die das Projekt zu den Besten unter vielen kürt.

Mehr Information rund um MobiDic und ihr Projekt findet ihr auf Facebook.

Die Interviews mit allen 10 Finalisten werden auf der Website des Social Impact Awards , der Facebookseite des Social Impact Awards, sowie auf dem Blog “This Sustainable Life” von Elisa Gramlich veröffentlicht. Die Interviews dienen dem Community-Voting, für welches man auf der Website des Social Impact Awards bis 25. September 2018 abstimmen kann.

Tag der Lebensmittelverschwendung

Lebensmittelabfall-Vergleich Kärnten, © by WWF Österreich

Der 2. Mai ist Tag der Lebensmittelverschwendung. Das heißt, dass alle Lebensmittel, die seit Jahresbeginn produziert wurden, rechnerisch ungenutzt im Müll landen. Dieser skandalösen Verschwendung von Ressourcen muss dringend entgegen gewirkt werden. Laut einer Studie des WWF gehen ein Drittel der produzierten Lebensmittel entlang der gesamten Wertschöpfungskette, vom Feld bis zum Teller, verloren. Global gesehen entspricht das ca. 1,3 Milliarden Tonnen. In Österreich fallen jährlich rund 577.000 Tonnen an vermeidbaren Lebensmittelabfällen an – das ist so viel wie die gesamte Kärntner Bevölkerung isst.

Lebensmittelabfälle in der Wertschöpfungskette, © by WWF Österreich

Die meisten noch genießbaren Lebensmittel werden mit 206.000 Tonnen in den Haushalten weggeworfen. Aufgrund von falscher Lagerung und Fehlinterpretationen des Mindesthaltbarkeitsdatums kommt es hier zu enormen Verschwendungen. Dicht gefolgt mit insgesamt 175.000 Tonnen liegt die Außer-Haus-Verpflegung, also Betriebskantinen, Restaurants und Caterer. In der Produktion fallen jährlich 121.800 Tonnen an vermeidbaren Lebensmittelabfällen an. Fast ein Drittel davon ist hier dem Handel zuzurechnen, da es sich dabei um Retourware handelt, die nicht verkauft und an die Produktion zurückgestellt wird. Der Einzelhandel selbst belegt mit 74.100 Tonnen nur Platz 4, was Lebensmittelverschwendung betrifft. Für die Bereiche Landwirtschaft und Großhandel sind nach wie vor keine gesicherten Zahlen und Studien vorhanden, d.h. dass die tatsächlichen Lebensmittelabfälle noch deutlich höher sind.

Lebensmittelverschwendung ist nicht nur teuer, sondern hat auch Folgen für die Umwelt. Für Produktion, Transport und Verpackung von Lebensmitteln werden beispielsweise Böden ausgelaugt, wird Wasser verbraucht und viel CO2 emittiert, nur damit diese dann ungenutzt wieder im Müll landen. Dabei ist Verlust nicht gleich Verlust. Die Ökobilanz einer entsorgten Ananas aus Costa Rica, die mit großem Energieaufwand eingeflogen wurde, ist natürlich deutlich schlechter als jene einer entsorgten Birne aus dem eigenen Garten. Bis ein Kilo Bohnen aus Kenia auf unseren Tellern landet, werden fast fünf Liter Erdöl verbraucht. Am stärksten belastet die Umwelt das Wegwerfen von Fleisch, weil dessen Produktion besonders viele Ressourcen braucht: In einem Kilo Fleisch stecken zwischen sechs und 16 Kilo Futtermittel. Eine Reduktion des Fleischkonsums und ein gleichzeitiger Umstieg auf qualitativ hochwertigeres Fleisch – am besten bio und regional – ist daher dringend nötig.

Doch was können wir tun um den Tag der Lebensmittelverschwendung weiter in Richtung Jahresanfang zu rücken?

Besonders im eigenen Haushalt lässt sich Lebensmittelverschwendung mit diesen Tipps leicht vermeiden:

  • Bewusst Einkaufen: Im Voraus überlegen, welche Lebensmittel tatsächlich benötigt werden. Bei Großpackungen und Mengenrabatten lieber zweimal nachdenken, ob der Kauf wirklich Sinn macht.
  • Richtig lagern: Lebensmittel sollteentsprechend den Empfehlungen gelagert werden. Neue Einkäufe werden im Kühl- und Küchenschrank am besten hinten verstaut. Essensreste halten in luftdichten Behältern länger frisch. Nicht jedes Gemüse muss in den Kühlschrank. Eine Übersicht zur richtigen Lagerung im Kühlschrank findet ihr in dieser WWF Broschüre.
  • Haltbarkeit beachten: Lebensmittel, deren Mindesthaltbarkeitsdatum bereits abgelaufen ist, können oft noch problemlos konsumiert werden. Zuerst testen, ob abgelaufene Produkte wirklich nicht mehr genießbar sind, bevor sie im Müll landen.
  • Kreativ verwerten: Aus Essensresten können neue Gerichte kreiert werden. Auch überreife Früchte oder altbackenes Brot lassen sich weiterverarbeiten. Viele Reste eignen sich zum Einfrieren und Wiederauftauen.

Auch die anderen Akteure der Wertschöpfungskette sollten zum Handeln aufgerufen werden, so sollten Restaurants z.B. variable Portionsgrößen anbieten und das Küchenpersonal auf effiziente Verarbeitung und alternative Verwertungsmöglichkeiten schulen. Der WWF Österreich geht noch einen Schritt weiter und fordert von der österreichischen Bundesregierung einen Aktionsplan, damit die vermeidbaren Lebensmittelabfälle bis 2030 tatsächlich um die Hälfte reduziert werden können. Neben eine flächendeckenden Datenerhebung, bedarf es hier klarer Zuständigkeiten und verbindlicher Maßnahmenpakete mit Reduktionszielen für alle betroffen Akteure entlang der gesamten Wertschöpfungskette.

Weitere Tipps und Infos zum Thema Lebensmittelverschwendung könnt ihr dieser tollen Broschüre vom WWF Österreich entnehmen.

Reflection on the concept of sustainability

What I like the most about the concept of sustainability is its interconnectedness. The illustration of the three pillars of sustainability shows this quite well. A system is only sustainable when all three (social, environmental and economic) pillars are strong. Thus, it is not only important to focus on the environment, but also on the economic and social elements of a system.

Three pillars of sustainability (, 2014)

However, most large organisations only focus on one pillar and no powerful international organisation covers the concept of sustainability as a whole. This is a large drawback as weakness in one of the other pillars can directly weaken the environmental pillar, as the financial crisis of 2008 has shown. Many environmental NGOs saw their income decrease and nations were postponing stricter environmental laws or investments. Besides the economic pillar also the social pillar is critical, as wars or poverty undermine the importance of the environmental dimension. Thus, a sustainable future can only exist if we strengthen all three pillars.


Logo of “This Sustainable Life”

To illustrate this importance I also included the three dimensions of sustainability in my logo (shown as the three circles). The social, environmental and economic pillars of sustainability are hereby arranged in-line, since they are equally important.

As the interconnectedness of sustainability fascinates me, I also want to cover all aspects of it in my blog: Starting with the social inequalities, to living a more eco-friendly life, to the importance of sustainable businesses and finally to one owns spirituality that makes one realize this interrelatedness.



Is meal replacement the future?

The last few weeks I had the opportunity to test Huel (pronounced similar to fuel, as it is fuel for your body 😉 ). Huel sent me a test package with 1,75kg of their vanilla and 1.71kg of their unflavoured/unsweetend powder. I wanted to test Huel since I am quite busy at the moment with writing my thesis and am sometimes struggling to find affordable, fast, nutritious and vegan food on the go. I also really like the mission of Huel to “make nutritionally complete, convenient, affordable food, with minimal impact on animals and the environment”.

After trying Huel for several weeks (usually 4-5 times a week), I can say that it met my expectations. It is really easy to prepare and tastes good (especially the Vanilla flavour). I did not really like the unflavoured version, but when I mixed it with vanilla (2:3), it tasted very good (and also not too sweet like the vanilla one). The consistency is also very nice, like a normal shake. However, if you have a mixer, you should use that for preparing Huel as I sometimes had a few clumps when only preparing it in the shaker (moreover you could then add some fruits to make it even tastier 😉 ). I think Huel is a really good meal replacement that you can use 1-2 times every day. If you would want to, you could even replace all meals with Huel. Personally, I would not like to do it as I enjoy eating out with friends and I like good and varied food. I found that especially replacing breakfast and/or lunch with Huel is quite handy when I am working or studying in the library, as it is fast, nutritious and very cost effective. Usually I would need to pay at least 6 EUR for a meal and with Huel a meal costs me less than 2 EUR and is probably more nutritious and better for the environment. Also you can get very creative with Huel and e.g. use it for baking pancakes or making normal smoothies by mixing it with fruits etc.

One of my main reasons why I wanted to try out Huel was due to environmental and ethical considerations. I like about Huel that it’s 100% vegan and gives me the nutrients (26 essential vitamins and minerals) that I need in the most efficient way. Moreover, CO2 emissions and packaging are reduced. Thus, it has the potential to solve the global problem of feeding 9 billion people in a sustainable way. However, it is of course still nicer to eat normal food, cook with friends, and take a proper lunch break from work. Occassionaly it is really handy if you are very busy and want to have a nutritous and environmentally friendly meal. Tell me if you give it a try and send me a comment with your experiences. 🙂

My experience with trying to be vegetarian

Since January 2017 I am trying to be 90% vegetarian. I say 90%, because for me it is mainly about trying to reduce my meat consumption as much as possible in order to protect animals and the environment. Since 2012, I never cooked any meat for myself. However, I used to occassionally cook meat together with friends or eat meat at restaurants. As a New Year’s resolution I decided to be more strict about it and am now also trying to not eat meat in restaurants and at friends’ places. My priorities are here to especially avoid beef, as this is the most unsustainable meat option. Then I try to avoid all other kinds of meat and very seldom make an exception for chicken as it is (besides fish) the most climate-friendly meat. I still, however, eat fish (also because I am not yet used to cooking much with soja and beans).

Chia pudding with strawberries and bananas (

I found that eating no meat for breakfast is very easy for me, cause there are so many delicious and healthy breakfast options – even vegan ones! I usually eat a vegan breakfast with oats/cereal and soymilk, as I am also trying to reduce my milk consumption (since the milk industry is as bad as the meat industry, especially on large industrial farms, as you can see here). I sometimes also cut an apple and cook it together with water and oats in a pot for a yummy oat meal or prepare some chia pudding the night before. You can pretty much use any plant-based milk for chia pudding and at fruits and spices like cinnamon and vanilla as you wish. I recently found this recipe for a high-protein breakfast bowl and want to try it out on a sunday morning. I’m also planning to try out a tapioca instead of a chia pudding soon. By the way, if you are living in Europe you can also use flax seeds as a more sustainable alternative to chia seeds, as they contain a similar amount of proteins and omega-3.

Zucchini stuffed with couscous (

For lunch I often buy something in the canteen or a grocery store, as I am usually working in the library. As there is always a vegetarian option in the canteen, this is also rather easy for me. However, sometimes I am having a hard time resisting the other delicious meal options, but I usually stay strong. The good thing is that I am faster at deciding what to eat now, cause there are not so many veggie options yet. 😉 If I cook at home, I often make a veggie stir fry, pasta or a soup. I love to make a vegan coconut-pea-lime soup, which is very similar to this recipe. If it has to be a quick lunch, couscous is a really great options. I just pour hot water on the couscous or cook it quickly in a pan/pot and add some veggies like tomatoes, peppers, chickpeas, carrots and spices and nuts or dried fruits like cranberrys. If you have some more time stuffed zucchini is also a great option. For a delicious veggie-couscous stew you can use this recipe, but substitute chicken with vegetable broth. Also there are many great vegetarian pasta recipes, like this one.

While vegetarian and even vegan breakfasts and lunch have been very easy to manage, I am still sometimes struggling with not eating meat for dinner. As I live in Austria where it is common to eat a ‘Jause’ (or ‘Brotzeit’) with many delicious sausages and bread, it is sometimes a bit difficult to limit my food options to only cheese and vegetarian bread spreads. As I am living together with my meat-eating boyfriend, there are always some of his delicious sausages in the fridge, which makes it even more challenging for me. While I usually manage to resist the temptation (by thinking about how badly the animals were treated and which negative impact meat production has on the environment), I sometimes get bored of eating only cheese and veggie-spreads. So if you have some suggestions for delicious veggie-spreads, hummus, etc., feel free to post them in the comments below. 🙂



Local fruits and veggies in winter

Recently, I looked up a restaurant online and was surprised to see a note in their menu that said that they don’t buy tomatoes and peppers in winter and thus can not offer all the food options. This made me think about my own consumption of fruits and vegetables in winter. When I opened my fridge I saw that I had carrots, tomatoes, peppers and zucchini, which I usually have all year. In my fruit basket were apples and bananas. I usually try to buy fruits and veggies that are produced in Europe, but did not make an effort yet to change my convenient “mediterranean” diet in winter time. However, when I saw the restaurant’s notice, I realized that I was behaving a bit hypocritical, as I knew that tomatoes, peppers and zucchini can not be produced in a sustainable way in winter. Luckily, I found on Utopia a calendar that shows the seasons when certain local fruits and vegetables are available from field and greenhouse growing. I immediately checked the fruits and veggies that I had at home and found out that peppers, zucchini and tomatoes should only be eaten from June/July to October. While the main season for carrots is also June to October, they can be eaten through storage all year round. The same applies to mushrooms, potatoes and cabbage. Of all local fruits, only apples can be stored and eaten all year round. Unfortunately there are no other local fruits in winter, but one can eat corn salad. The local vegetables that can be grown or stored in winter are pumpkin, spinache, leek, Brussels sprouts, savoy and red cabbage, beetroot, radish, and parsnip.

At my university a student organization organized a weekly bag of local and organic fruits and vegetables, which one could buy for 5 EUR. I really liked this concept of the “Groentetas“. In their weekly newsletter they also give very good recipes, which is why I posted some of them for winter vegetables here to give you an idea on what you can cook with them.







Life in a township

The most eye-opening experience that I had in South Africa was my visit to a local slum. A researcher named Yondela, who also lives in this informal settlement, showed a few friends and me around his home Enkanini. Enkanini was established in 2006 in Stellenbosch when underpriviledged people claimed this land and made it (illegaly) to their home.

As we walked through the mud we saw children playing in the dirt and annoying their mother while being on the toilet. Although the government set up a few toilets, most toilet locks were broken, which made it difficult for the mother (and other women) to have some privacy. Moreover, apart from the unhygienic reasons, these toilets are also a safety issue for women as they are often molested there. As we continued our walk we past by some small local shops and a waste collection site, which had one container and lots of trash all around it as well as in the nearby stream. Most people looked at us curious and greeted our guide Yondela. All the self-made shacks were constructed in a unique way, one even had a small garden with plants in tires and the shack’s wall was made out of earth filled tires for increased insulation. As we continued to the top of the hill we saw a promising sight – there were many solarpanels on top of the shacks! This was the main reason for our visit, we wanted to ask Yondela about how it is to live in an informal settlement and what possibilities there are to improve the livelihoods of these inhabitants. The solar panels represent a big improvement for Enkanini’s inhabitants as they provide enough electricity for a household to power a refridgerator, some lights and a mobile phone, which fosters education and access to opportunities via the Internet. The residents pay a installation fee for the solar home system and then a monthly fee of R150 for the use of the system. The iShack organisation is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the solar panels and has installed since 2007 over 700 solar home systems. There is a high demand as many of Enkanini’s 2,500 households are on the waiting list to obtain their own systems. The solar panels are a major improvement as Enkanini’s residents do not have access to electricity and often cap illegaly electricity lines, which causes fires in the settlement.

Enkanini (informal settlement in Stellenbosch)

Enkanini (informal settlement in Stellenbosch)

The iShack project improves the livelihoods of the local inhabitants as well as the sustainability of the informal settlement through various different measures. Besides the solar panels, the in 2010 established organisation shows the inhabitants how to construct their shacks in a more energy-efficient way through sustainable “demonstration” shacks that are built from leftover or recycled materials as well as an innovative layered wall construction for better cooling and insulation. Moreover, biogas digesters are installed in the bathrooms to turn human solid waste into biomethane for cooking. Furthermore, the iShack project tries to improve the rain water and grey water collection systems.

If you are interested in the iShack project, you can check out the following videos.

2-3min video:

12min video: