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: