Trying to be environmentally friendly in Switzerland

I’ve been meaning to write this post for weeks… or actually more like months. It was partly inspired by Kezzie, who does a much better job than me at protecting the environment – here’s a post she wrote about refusing to buy fish and chips that came served in a polystyrene container – although I did have a vague idea of writing something about how to recycle in Switzerland before that. So, today I want to tell you about how I try to be environmentally friendly in Switzerland (which turns out to be slightly harder than it was when I lived in Germany…).

When we first moved to Switzerland, we were shocked to discover that residents are not provided with bins for recyclable waste at their homes. Instead, a scheme of making people pay for ordinary household waste by volume is supposed to encourage you take your recyclables away to the collection points yourselves. How the payment works differs by municipality… where we live you buy a sheet of stickers to stick on your bin bags, whereas in Basel city itself you have to buy a special kind of bin bag and only those ones will be taken away.  It took us a few weeks, but eventually we figured out exactly which kinds of materials could be taken where and now have a set up like this in our flat:

recycling bins

Paper is the easiest. It’s collected from outside the building once a month… our day is the last Friday of the month, so all we have to do is tie it together or place the loose paper inside a cardboard box/paper bag then take it down at the right time. You can also buy official bags for paper but they’re made of plastic so I’m not sure I see the point?

Tin cans and glass of all sorts can be taken to various recycling points that are dotted around. We have at least two within 5 minutes walk of us, so no problem there – well, other than the minor issue of not having a car, but that just means we have to go more often so that it’s kept to an amount that we can actually carry. Oh, and slightly annoyingly the recycling points are subject to the dreaded Swiss “quiet hours”, which means I’m not allowed to take cans and glass bottles away during my lunch break (even though the place I take ours is next to a school and a playground so I doubt I would actually be interrupting anyone’s rest!).

I’m ashamed to say that for about our first six months in Switzerland we threw PET and plastic bottles into the normal household waste. That’s how long it took us to work out that they could, in fact, be recycled by returning them to the supermarket. They only take bottles though (plastic milk bottles, shampoo bottles, bottles that contained cleaning agents)… no toothpaste tubes, yoghurt pots, cling film or the PET packaging that a lot of food comes in. Tetra Pak’s can’t be recycled either, so I’ve actually switched from buying milk in those to the plastic bottles so I can at least take them to the supermarket when we’re finished with them – glass milk bottles don’t exist here and despite the issues with plastic I feel plastic bottles are the lesser evil compared to Tetra Paks. Anything else that’s made of plastic unfortunately has to go in the regular household waste.

And the final type of rubbish that we collect to be taken away is organic waste. Some areas have neighbourhood compost sites where you can take all your food waste to be composted and in return buy compost for your garden (if you have such a thing, which we don’t). We use a slightly different solution… the organic waste container. At a local organic shop and café, you can pay a deposit for a card then all you have to do is grab your food waste, insert the card into a reader on the container, then you can open a flap and put in your offerings. I hate this job because it means walking through town with my smelly bag full of vegetable peelings, etc. that more often than not is already starting to mould and dissolve (it gets hot in our little organic waste container!), but I do it – inwardly cursing the whole way. I mean, I didn’t find dealing with the Biomüll particularly pleasant in Germany, either, but at least there I only had to take it to the Biomüll bin downstairs…

Biotonne

And that’s it as far as rubbish is concerned. Some other things I do to try and be environmentally friendly:

  • Carry a canvas bag with me wherever I go. This is used for any shopping I do. I will only occasionally accept a bag from a shop if I’ve either bought more than I expected or an item is too big for my bag. At the supermarket, I will occasionally buy a paper bag to take my groceries home in so that I can use it to put paper in for the monthly collection.
  • Any plastic bags I do end up getting always get reused, either as bin liners for the bathroom bins (they are then placed into the big bin bag with the sticker on to go out) or for carrying the bottles and cans to the recycling point.
  • Take re-usable vegetable bags to the supermarket. They’re just large mesh bags with a tag on the side where you can stick the little labels you get when you weigh your fruit and veg. This means I never need the plastic bags the supermarket provides – although annoying most organic produce here seems to come pre-packaged in plastic, so I have a choice of avoiding plastic or eating organic fruit and vegetables!
  • Fill a flash with tap water to drink when we go out for the day. This doesn’t help if I fancy drinking something other than water, but at least means I’m not constantly buying plain old water in plastic bottles.
  • Use eco-friendly washing powder, dishwasher tabs, washing-up liquid and bathroom cleaner. I’m afraid the oven cleaner contains chemicals though… I tried the baking soda thing and it just didn’t work!
  • This one is cheating a bit since I can’t actually drive, but I walk or take public transport almost everywhere. Jan drives but, like I said, we don’t have a car… instead he’s a member of a car-sharing scheme, which allows you to pick up a car at short notice when you need one. We will take a car if we want to go out for the day to somewhere that’s not easily accessed by public transport (or if we want to stop off at several places) or if we’re buying some bigger items that we wouldn’t be able to carry home by ourselves, such as furniture – although we have been known to bring IKEA purchases home by train and bus (not recommended, if you can avoid it!).

That’s about all I can think of. Like I said, I could do so much more, but it’s a start. And admittedly a lot of these things are not specific to Switzerland (I’ve always reused carrier bags – my dad did so it never occurred to me not to!) but hopefully at least the first part of this post will give anyone else who’s living in Switzerland a vague idea of what actually can be recycled around here! Although I should add that on some things I can only speak for the Basel area – all Migros should have a place to recycle plastic bottles but I can’t guarantee that everywhere has a paper collection from outside residences, for instance. Still, I hope this helps.

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Recent doings #30

Hi friends! Can you believe it’s August already? That means I will be turning 35 this month! And with so much of my 35 before 35 list left undone 😉 I have done a lot of the things on the list though – and also quite a few that weren’t even on there so I’m fine with it. Anyway, let’s not get ahead of ourselves… today I’m here to talk about what I’ve been doing in July.

whats new with you

 

Eating. Lots of salad – it’s been far too hot to cook! Trying to eat fish twice a week. And before you start thinking how virtuous I am, a  lot of ice cream has also been consumed 😉

Reading. I didn’t manage to read as much this month partly thanks to work being crazy busy and also because I had a lot of cross stitching to do and also I feel like work has been trying to drown me in translations…. I did so much overtime in July! I managed to read 6 books for Erin’s challenge though, plus 3 other full books and I finished one I had started in June. I also started 2 other books for Erin’s challenge but one I couldn’t manage to get into and the other is long so I haven’t finished it yet.

Watching. Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars… which means we’ve actually finished a whole series. Woo! Also football because World Cup and Young Sheldon.

Cross stitching. Birthday season has begun! Actually, it started with my mum’s birthday on 26 July but I didn’t stitch her a card this year so the first cross stitched card was one I started last month for my friend’s son’s 1st birthday. I then stitched a card for another friend’s son, whose birthday is on 27 August. Next up are my brother’s birthday (1 September) and my godson’s birthday (13 September). And I also started my Christmas stitching in July… yes, I know that sounds crazy but past experience tells me if I don’t want to be stressed in December I have to start now.

Going. Up mountains. As I mentioned last month, we took an overnight trip to Vitznau on Lake Lucerne on 30 June. On 1 July we took the cable car from Vitznau up to the Wissifluh – part of Rigi – then drove down to Stans and went up the Stanserhorn. We saw loads of butterflies on both mountains. I’ve never seen so many different types outside of a butterfly house! It was pretty amazing. Then last Sunday we spontaneously decided to drive to French-speaking Switzerland last week – St Ursanne and Neuchâtel.

butterfly

Seeing/hearing. The Basel Tattoo! Jan was performing with the tattoo choir again and I had a ticket for the first Saturday. It’s definitely an experience I can recommend.

Buying. Too many books, as usual. Also a bird necklace from Etsy. Anything else? A birthday present for my friend’s son, which also happened to be books 😉

Wishing. Things would cool down just a little. This is Switzerland – there’s no need for it to still be 28°C at 9 o’clock at night!

And that was basically my July. Work, boil to death, prepare food that preferably doesn’t involve generating more heat, attempt to sleep even though I apparently live in an oven, wake up, repeat. With a little trip at the beginning and end of the month to balance things out.

How was your July? Anything new you want to share? Check out the link up to see what other bloggers have been up to lately.

Recent doings #29

Good morning! It’s that time of the month again where I link up with Kristen to tell you what’s new with me. June was a weird month – at the time it didn’t feel like it was going fast, but looking back I can’t believe it’s actually over already. Work has also been pretty busy recently, which is why I haven’t been around much on the blogosphere. I’m so sorry if yours is one of the blogs I never got around to commenting on! Anyway, let’s have a look at what I got up to last month…

whats new with you

Reading. The month started off relatively slow and I didn’t think I was going to read many books, but I actually ended up completing 18 again! One of those was started in May and I only read the last few pages in June, so I read 17 entire books in June. I also started two others, which I’ve now abandoned for Erin’s challenge because of course I have. Actually finishing what I started is overrated 😉

Watching. We’re still recording Young Sheldon each week and then watching it on a different day. And I’ve been watching football… way more than I would have chosen to watch if I’d been in charge of the remote 😉

Eating. Salad. Lots and lots of salad. We’ve also made use of the barbecue, so there have been quite a few sausages as well. Oh, and ice cream. It’s okay though… I kept breakfast/lunch really low calorie so I managed to fit it into my plan and even get the scales moving in the right direction. Although I put on half a kilogram when we went away for the weekend and it’s taken until today for the scales to finally be back where they were on Friday. *Sigh*

Going to. Like I said, we went away for the weekend. Jan hired a car and we drove to Vitznau on Lake Lucerne, where we spent one night. We went on 30 June and didn’t get there until early evening so most of what we did will be covered in my summary for July 😉 But here’s a picture taken from the car ferry that brought us across the lake

Lake Lucerne

The weekend before, we took a day trip to Wasserfallen, which is a short drive from us. We took a cable car up a mountain, walked around and saw some people returning from llama trekking. It looked so cool and now I want to take a llama for a walk!

Cross stitching. I stitched a smiley card for a Post Pals sibling and started a card for my friend’s son’s birthday. Need to start Christmas stitching soon!

Celebrating. A school/university friend’s wedding… the one we travelled to England for in May. Also a colleague of Jan’s birthday. Here, have a look at what I wore for the wedding:

wedding outfit

Baking. Biscuits, as you saw, for the aforementioned birthday celebration and then to use up the leftover butter cream icing.

Seeing/hearing. Jan had another performance – this time a project set up by someone from one of his other choirs – so of course I went along to see it.

Attending. A meeting with our housing association and some architects. Our building is being renovated next year and all the flats are getting new windows and new kitchens/bathrooms. It will mean a lot of disruption and a temporary shower for everyone on the ground floor, but we have the most annoying toilets so I can’t wait for them to be replaced. We will also be getting individual washing machines, so no more making appointments for the communal one only for people to steal them. Can. Not. Wait!

Buying. Umm… books, of course. Including two at the airport on the way back from England. I actually can’t think of anything else I bought in June, other than groceries, stamps… things that don’t count.

I think that’s everything that happened in June that I can actually talk about (so vague. So cryptic. So sorry). I hope you all had a great month. Tell me what you got up to… or come link up with the rest of us!

A Photo an Hour: 19 May 2018

It’s taken a couple of days, but finally here is my post for Saturday’s photo an hour. The link up is hosted by Louisa and Jane.

9 a.m. Yes, you read that right. I was up before 10 on photo-an-hour day. Breakfast time!

10 a.m. Off for a shower – this is the shower curtain over the bath since Jan was using the actual shower

11 a.m. Jan left for a choir practice (hence me being up so early – practically my only chance to see him!) and I started hoovering.

12 noon I temporarily gave up on housework and decided to walk into town.

1 p.m. In town.

2 p.m. Home and about to have lunch – it was in the oven at this point so I took a photo of the packaging.

3 p.m. Decided to sort out some of the shelves on my bookcases. No idea what possessed me!

4 p.m. Still at it. I put together a nice pile of books to get rid of, but the shelves are still practically full. Also, I realised I can’t bring myself to get rid of any BBC Big Read books, even ones I hated, until I’ve actually completed the challenge!

5 p.m. The bookcases still aren’t exactly as I want them, but I needed a cuppa by that stage.

6 p.m. Contemplating my shelves of unread books. They never seem to get any less… hmmm I wonder why that could be?

7 p.m. Jan’s practice finished early so I walked back into town to meet him. Stork was in residence!

8 p.m. Dinner at a restaurant. Rösti with cheese and ham. This is why I’m failing miserably to lose weight!

9 p.m. Home. Jan immediately switched on the laptop to sort out some bills so I thought I might as well read.

10 p.m. Almost finished my book – just a few pages to go.

I could have taken one more photo after this, but I didn’t because I hate it when my photo-an-hour posts aren’t symmetrical!

Did you do anything nice on Saturday?

Recent doings #28

Another month has been and gone… does anyone else feel like life is passing by too quickly for them to have a chance to do anything? Please say it’s not just me! Anyway, it’s link up day with Kristen so I’m here to tell you what I did in April.

whats new with you

Eating. I think I actually managed to eat fish twice a week in April, so yay for that! At the beginning of the month I ate way too much ice cream, then I made the mistake of getting the tape measure out so for the last week of the month I got back on My Fitness Pal and started trying to eat healthily again. There have been a lot of salads…

Drinking. Still too much black tea. At the beginning of the month I tried to cut down, limiting myself to one cup of black tea in the morning and drinking strawberry cheesecake tea (which is really an infusion) in the afternoon, but that only lasted maybe a week. Since then it’s been all normal tea all the time.

Reading. Show us your books is coming up so I’ll tell you all of them then, but a book I started reading in April was The Godfather. I’ve actually finished it now, but it was already May so it will be recapped in next month’s round up.

Watching. We’re still keeping up with Young Sheldon. I tune in to Pointless and Eggheads occasionally. And Jan has started putting CBBC on for Dragon Riders of Berk (I think that’s what it’s called), so slightly randomly I’ve been watching that. Toothless is the cutest!

Making. Many more birthday cards for Post Pals children.

Cross stitching. I stated a wedding card for a friend, but I didn’t have all the colours so I will be finishing it in May when the new threads I’ve ordered arrive. And while I’m on the subject…

Booking. Flights to England for the wedding of the aforementioned friend.

Buying. All the books, all the time. Also, a dress (I couldn’t resist – it has butterflies on!). Also, three-quarter length leggings to go under skirts in summer. I spent too much in April and have now put myself on a spending ban for May. *sigh*

Receiving. Don’t you love it when things come in the post that you don’t even remember ordering? That was the case with these Super Mario themed fridge magnets. I love them!

Mario magnets

Seeing/hearing. Jan performing with a choir… a different one to the one I saw in March.

Walking. On Easter Monday (which was just about in April) I went to a nearby town and walked up to a castle ruin on the hillside. I’ve also walked into town and along the river a few times (about an hour of walking). And, as evidenced by Saturday’s photo an hour, I walked half an hour through the woods (uphill!) to St. Chrischona, then we walked some more in the woods at the top of the hill. And that has basically been my exercise in April… my poor yoga mat has yet to justify its existence by being used!

Listening to. Yeah I actually remembered the existence of the music player on my phone… Anna Nalick’s Wreck of the Day album. Billy Joel’s greatest hits. The Eagles.

Playing. Mini golf. I started off okay but Jan still ended up beating me by loads. I will achieve my 40 before 40 goal though!

I can’t think of anything else I did in April so I’ll stop here. What have you been doing recently?

Check out the link up to see how everyone else spent April.

A Photo an Hour: 28 April 2018

I meant to write this post yesterday, but clearly I did not. But today is a holiday (May Day) and Jan is too busy to do anything with me so I actually have time to resize all the photos. Here’s what I got up to on Saturdays photo an hour day.

10 a.m. Making breakfast… porridge and a cuppa.

11 a.m. Helping Jan look for a receipt he needed to pick up some trousers he was having mended. It turned out to be very sensibly on the notice board… where neither of us had thought to look!

12 noon. Starting some cross stitch, even though I was missing half the colours I needed.

1 p.m. I had a shower and now the walking shoes are on because we’re off out.

2 p.m. On the smallest bus ever!

3 p.m. After a half hour walk through the woods, we’re at St Chrischona!

4 p.m. We walked around the woods some more then stopped for a beer.

5 p.m. Heading home… waiting for a tram.

6 p.m. Back to my cross stitch.

7 p.m. Jan was off to a barbecue, so I heated the oven ready to make my dinner.

8 p.m. Finally food! If I’d realised it needed so long I would have started earlier. (Also, I slightly overcooked it, but it was okay)

9 p.m. I started a jigsaw puzzle while I was waiting for dinner and continued after I ate.

10 p.m. Still puzzling. Got a bit further.

11 p.m. Time for  bed, where Eeyore already awaits.

And that was my Saturday. I hope you all had a good one!

Switzerland, three years on

Basel

Today is exactly three years since we packed the last of our stuff in a van (the rest having been taken a month earlier when Jan moved), said a final goodbye to our flat in Karlsruhe and I came to join Jan here in Basel. So, what’s been going on?

I still have the exact same four friends/acquaintances as last year, but our friends who moved here from Karlsruhe will probably be returning to Germany soon and I’ll be back down to two. I was hoping Jan would make friends for both of us, but despite him being involved in more choirs and singing projects than I can count I rarely get to actually meet any of the people he spends time with. I’ve been to every single one of his concerts and even joined the performers for dinner after some of them, but once it’s been established that I don’t (can’t!) sing, the rest of the conversation goes on without me. Basically I need to find some less antisocial hobbies… and the courage to go out and meet people by myself.

Other than that, we have visited even more places in Switzerland, including Geneva (finally), Spiez (in the dark!) and Castle Chillon, tried quite a few new restaurants in Basel, watched the fireworks for Switzerland’s national day and attended both Fasnacht in Basel and the Liestal fire parade again this year. We had fewer visitors in 2017, but have already had one in 2018 and will hopefully be seeing more later in the year.

basel-rhine

All in all, I am still very much enjoying living here and I hope we can continue living here for a very long time!