Paul H. Ray, Ph.D. and Sherry Ruth Anderson, Ph.D. say that in the United States there are 50 million people whose views, values and lifestyle have drastically changed. They think in an ecological and planetary way. They are aware of the importance of relationships, and a female view of things. They emphasize their spiritual and psychological development, do not have a high regard for the great institutions of modern life, including political parties (left and right), at the same time rejecting materialism and status symbols. This is 26 per cent of the adult population in the U.S.A. In the early sixties, less than five per cent of the population had undergone this transformation. According to Ray and Anderson, a very similar process is taking place in Europe.

Yes, a global shift of awareness is on the increase, although our environment is unfortunately still mistreated. However, it is always a welcome sign for me when I discover articles on sustainability in women’s magazines. Then I really know that the message is spreading via mass media. I was inspired by an article in the magazine BRIGITTE.DE 20/2016 which I would like to share with you.

FIRST BELIEF: PAPERBAGS ARE MORE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY THAN PLASTIC BAGS

Plastic bags, which are made using valuable oil, consist of long-lasting synthetic material. This material is not naturally degradable. As a result, huge amounts of rubbish and small plastic particles end up in the oceans, eaten by fish and marine animals. They either die a cruel death, or are subsequently eaten by us.

However, paper bags are not the ideal solution either. Paper degrades more quickly and easily than plastic, but needs much more energy resources during production (according to Thomas Tischer, German environment aid), namely electricity, water and also chemicals.

It would be sustainable to simply use your own bag for shopping.

SECOND BELIEF: THE CONSUMPTION OF TOFU AND SOYA DRINKS DESTROYS THE RAIN FOREST

It is true: we consume a lot of soya resulting in the destruction of rain forest. But this is certainly not due to vegetarians and tofu-sausage-lovers, but is more the result of the steaks on your plate, and the salami on your bread. Because the majority of German soya imports are fed to cattle, pigs and poultry, as there is not sufficient farmland (for example in Germany) to grow protein plants. The fodder soya, which is, by the way, predominantly genetically modified, comes from the former rainforest areas. Only 2 % of soya is used to produce tofu and co.

It would be sustainable to buy animal products (if at all) of organic quality, from the farmer, or at the market. Ecological farming restricts the number of animals to the land available.

It would be even better to eat more vegetable protein which we do not only find in soya but also in many other different grain types, such as beans, peas, lupines or lentils.

THIRD BELIEF: OLD HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES CAUSE POLLUTION

Yes, it is true: older fridges, dishwashers or washing machines are energy-wasters compared with modern household appliances. In the early nineties, a dishwasher consumed more than twice as much energy as an energy-efficient current model. The conclusion for environmentally-conscious customers is: if I swap the old one for a new one, I save money and protect our climate. Unfortunately, it is forgotten that also the production of appliances consumes resources. The shorter the life of devices, the higher environmental pollution! Therefore, save up money for a high-quality appliance. This strategy has paid off in my case. My washing machine has been happily working for me for the last 15 years without one single repair. And I hope it will continue for some time more!

It would be sustainable to use technical devices as long as possible, even if they consume more electricity and water. Do not constantly replace smartphones and computers with the latest models.

FOURTH BELIEF: FRUIT AND VEGETABLES SHOULD ONLY BE BOUGHT FROM YOUR REGION

Fresh fruit and vegetables, from the surrounding region, do not only taste better, but are also climate-friendly. Energy-consuming transport, and long storage times are eliminated. But: if you buy fruit and vegetables out of season (shortly before a new harvest), you are better off with products from overseas. Why? Fruit and vegetables are transported by ships which produce less carbon dioxide than local products, which have to be stored in refrigerated warehouses for weeks and months. With every week and month of storage the energy balance gets worse.

It would be sustainable to do without exotic fruits, out of season, as they have to be transported by planes. That apart we should buy fruit and vegetables only when they are in season in the region, to avoid long storage periods.

FIFTH BELIEF: A WASHING MACHINE’S SHORT PROGRAMME SAVES ENERGY

Unfortunately, the short washing programme only saves time, but not energy. On the contrary: more electricity and water are consumed per kilogram washing, than with the normal washing programme. Choosing the eco-programme saves energy, as the temperature is kept lower. After all, the heating up of the water in the machine needs the most energy during the washing process. In this mode, the washing takes longer, but saves a third of the energy.

It would be sustainable to wash everything in eco-programme, unless you suffer from allergies. Only if you are allergic to house-dust, or suffer from fungal disease or diarrhoea, should you use the normal programme, at 60°C.

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