The Unnecessary Future Project

Hi guys,

In a theoretical scenario, that I sometimes play out in my head, I have this really cool conversation with future young people. I will be an old lady by then and I am staying around to answer their seriously awesome questions that I’m sure they will have for me. The questions are actually for all of us that lived during the big shift in the world that was the era of transformation for the climate.

“Lady, what did YOU do, to make a change while it was still possible, and so very obvious what was about to happen to the planet?” , they will probably ask of me. For your knowledge, the conversation with the kids is happening AFTER the big collapse, in post apocalyptic times if you will, caused by the global climate weirding and followed by the great wars about what should be shared resources, like clean water. There will have been movements of entire populations of countries…

And this is the answer I am preparing for them. I truly hope it is an unnecessary project. I just keep making these short films from my life during the transition to a more sustainable future, in the hopes that more of us will join in a simpler lifestyle that eventually might render this whole theoretical conversation in my mind completely obsolete:

I PICKED my bilberries instead of working to BUY them

 

I slowed my life right down as an act of rebellion

 

I went looking for wildlife in the mountains, making sure it hadn’t gone extinct yet

 

We didn’t spend our ONLY lifetime on a day job, but in a cottage, making cheap breakfast for hours by the fire

 

We decided to go enjoy life and breath ocean air while it’s still unpolluted

 

We took time to hang out in the (still thriving, but biodiversily struggeling) forests

 

“I wanted to film and capture my everyday life the way I conciusly chose to live it in 2016-2018, while the world and civilisation carried on with its destructive habits. This was my contibution to the lifestyle changes necessary to slow down our consumption and exhaustion of global resources in the early 2010s.”

 

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Inner peace for a sustainable life

At the end of a yearlong sabbatical with my boyfriend, about year ago or so, I was completely certain that my health was in good condition, stress levels at an all time low and that my reading list was shorter than ever after a whole year of soul searching and climate studies. As it turned out there would still be much for me to learn about sustainability and health in the year to come…

Lake Dellen in Sweden

We traveled through Sweden to find sustainable alternatives to our hectic modern lifestyle.

Pecha kucha in Sundsvall

Lecturing about our sabbatical and how we made the necessary lifestyle changes for the planet. Photo: Henrik Muskos

After all of our massive research about alternative lifestyles, greener living, future of housing and sustainable food systems there was something left to ponder that I had completely missed out on during planning. The fact that all of those categories mentioned were external factors. It didn’t matter what green technology I used or however sustainable the material with which I was building our house was if I myself continued to be the same effective, productive, manager type person on the inside!

Winter in Medstugan

We spent the winter in the Swedish mountains to reflect on the learnings from the sabbatical. That was when my body decided I had been productive enough for a few years and sent me into a physical and psychological meltdown.

So, what happened was that after the sabbatical year my body and mind crashed as I had triggered an autoimmune decease due to my in fact quite unsustainable lifestyle. The physical reaction came as a respons to the big project our sabbatical had turned into, with a good amount of media exposure and people coming to ask our advice, adding to the previous years of intense work in projects – ironically, all of them concerning sustainable development.

The way that we put pressure on each other and our selves in modern western society is a mirroring of what we are doing with the planet. We expect production to increase every year and that our resources are ever growing. As I discovered that is not true. Not for the planet and not for ourselves…

It really doesn’t matter how conscious you are about the state of the world, what foods to avoid and that plastic is bad if you don’t consider what you are putting your body and mind through in the process. EVERYTHING has to be sustainable, including the way you treat yourself in the process of transitioning into a more sustainable external lifestyle.

Watching the sunset in Juniskär

Taking care of myself is equally important to taking care of the world!

Now another year has passed since the sabbatical and my health has slowly started to improve. My body seems to have taken matter into its own hands and shut down some critical functions in order for me to understand the importance of keeping my own internal ecosystems in good health. By the end of it all, this has been my realization:

“Being a good protector of this precious planet of ours really starts with taking good care of our selves, our bodies, our inner ecosystems, and truly respecting our own boundaries. Just like we need to respect the boundaries of the planet as a whole.”

Original Unverpackt, Berlin: Shopping with no-added plastic

Original Unverpackt_ Jendrik Schro¦êder_ Foto3

Photo credit: Jendrik Schröder for OU

According to the German Environment Agency, there are up to 140 million tons of waste at the bottom of oceans, floating in the water, or washed up on beaches.

This shocking statistic is one of the first things you’re confronted with when you visit the website of Original Unverpackt, Berlin’s first packaging-free supermarket, that this month celebrated its first year anniversary. Original Unverpackt means something like “Originally Unpackaged” in German, and the concept is simple: they offer the same products as a normal supermarket, but they buy them in bulk, and the customers bring along their own jars, bottles, boxes and bags to put their items in (or they pay a small deposit and borrow some containers from the store). Fruits and vegetables are all free of plastic packaging, and dry stuff like rice and cereals are in big vats where you can take as much as you want to fill your container.

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Photo credit: Katharina Massmann for OU

It’s all really simple actually – the only thing you have to remember to do on your first visit is to weigh the empty containers before you start, so that the weight of the container can be removed from the total weight at the till, allowing the cashier to work out how much of each product you’ve actually bought. (I forgot to do this a couple of times on my first trip, but the workers there were really nice, and very patiently helped me empty, weigh and then refill my beloved mason jars).

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Photo credit: Jendrick Schröder for OU

And at the end of it you end up with a whole load of groceries, minus the added plastic, and for a similar price.

This is what a quick trip to a normal supermarket in Germany usually ends up looking like (particularly because I usually try and buy organic things, which until recently at least, were for some reason always packaged in more plastic than the non-organic ones, example: bananas in a “bio” plastic bag). And yes, I went to Netto rather than an organic supermarket, where lots of things are sold in reusable glass bottles, so it ended up looking pretty horrible and package-y…

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And this is what my shopping looked like after a trip to Original Unverpackt.

shopping from original unverpackt berlin

I was surprised that they even had things like tofu (pictured in the jar in the middle), that was locally produced, and lots of different sweets, nuts, cereals, spices and herbs.

Original Unverpackt_ Jendrik Schro¦êder_ Foto5

Photo credit: Jendrik Schröder

The only thing I couldn’t find that I usually buy every week was soya/rice/almond milk. I’m assuming this is hard to source directly in bulk from a supplier, and maybe it’s something that they’ll start stocking in the future. They had normal milk though, and they even sell beautifully-designed (and very expensive!) glass bottles for you to take your liquid stuff home in.

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And I was surprised that they had vodka on sale…

held vodka original unverpackt berlin

…and even red wine!

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I went there on a Saturday evening (just before they closed for the weekend – German supermarkets aren’t open on a Sunday), when supermarkets are usually really busy, and Original Unverpackt was no exception. This shop was busy. It was almost difficult to move around. And it wasn’t just the kind of people you might expect to be shopping in a place like that (women in long hippy skirts and men with manbuns maybe?), but a completely average mix of people.

inside original unverpackt berlin

I was annoyed for a second at first when I realised that they didn’t have some of the things I wanted, particularly when it came to fruits and vegetables, but then I realised that that is actually exactly how a supermarket with fresh produce should work. If their shelves had been full half an hour before closing time, they would have had to throw away a whole bunch of stuff, just so that I could have the luxury of buying that one pomegranate, or whatever it was (I can’t even remember, that’s how important it was).

Original Unverpackt_katharinaMassmann_Foto4

Photo credit: Katharina Massmann for OU

Okay, so I have to admit I haven’t been shopping there regularly since – it’s just too far for me to travel for a few things – and I tend to get most of my food from the sort-of-dumpster-diving organisation known as Foodsharing (an article about that will follow some unspecified time in the future). Doing your main supermarket shop here requires dedication, like any lifestyle change does. You need to plan ahead and have your containers ready, and be ready to transport your really heavy shopping home (there’s extra weight of course, because glass jars are way heavier than flimsy plastic trays and cardboard cartons). You basically need to be ready to not be as lazy as I am.

Despite all that, going there is definitely an eye-opening experience, and a really good reminder of how much waste we as consumers create in our day to day lives. And although I’m currently too lazy to go all the way to this shop to buy my groceries, there are other things I try to do when I do end up in a supermarket, as an attempt to minimize the amount of plastic I end up taking home. Like trying to avoid putting my vegetables in a plastic bag when I buy them – either choosing a paper one, or just putting them loose on the conveyer belt (even though this means the cashier and the other customers look at me really strangely while my tomatoes and all other round things roll all over the place), and choosing things in paper packaging rather than over plastic (like really simple bags of oats, rather than buying the fancy pre-mixed müsli in a plastic bag). Actually, even just writing this article has inspired me to go back. After all, is there a better sight in the world than a mason jar full of goodness?

Photo credit: Daniel Lee on Flickr

Photo credit: Daniel Lee on Flickr

For an interview with the owners and a look around the shop in more detail, check out the video below

“Sustainability is the path to a much more attractive, to a cooler, more technology advanced, more healthy and democratic future”

Swedish summer cabin with flowers

A classic Swedish summer cabin

“Climate change hasn’t been proved. The media just panics, and we all believe it and get scared.”

This is what I heard somebody say this morning. I was speechless at hearing so much ignorance.

A few weeks ago I heard a fantastic podcast explaining climate change. It explains what we can do against it and how bad it actually is.

But this podcast is in Swedish and because I’m not living in Sweden (but in Switzerland instead), nobody would understand it here.

In Sweden there is a radio show called “Sommar”, which means – as probably everybody understands – “summer”. Every day during summer a person talks for one hour about a topic he or she chooses and plays music. I would even call it a Swedish tradition to listen to the summer hosts during the holiday. I’m not Swedish and I didn’t grow up with this program but everybody talks about it all the time when you’re on holiday there. The programme started back in 1959 and every Swede can tell you their own story about it. I decided to listen to all of the talks this summer. (Unfortunately there were too many in the end, but I listened to a lot of them!)

Tove recommended a talk by Johan Rockström to me, who is a professor in environmental sciences at Stockholm University. He explains the consequences that are going to happen if we don’t take environmental questions seriously. This podcast was so great, scary, but also hopeful. Tove already told me once that she thinks that everybody should listen to it. And that’s exactly what I thought this morning when I heard that person denying climate change. I wished he could listen to the podcast so that he could understand how important and serious the topic is.

When I was looking through my pod feed later, I saw that Johan Rockström did the talk in English too – this is so great! Everybody can listen to it now. And you really should! (And hopefully you can also get a glimpse of the Swedish summer feeling. Even if it’s only at the beginning when the show’s music is playing).

You can listen to the podcast here