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Sustainable consumption: Make it instead of buying it

Do it yourself (DIY) is the in thing. Bread, deodorant or detergent: You don’t require much to make things at home. DIY products are often cheaper than the supermarket, are environmentally friendly and are fun to make.

Being a consumer was never as difficult as it is today: we generate far too much packaging waste. Many deodorants contain carcinogenic aluminium salts and cosmetics are still commonly tested on animals. While some supermarket bread may last for three weeks, it also contains many preservatives. The list could go on forever.

For consumption to be as sustainable as possible, we need to know whether a product is an eco-friendly and a fairtrade product or whether it contains substances that are harmful to people or the environment. In the supermarket this means studying the fine print on labels that list the ingredients and details of the country of origin – and that’s a science in itself.

Yet a way out of this dilemma is easier than you think: just make it yourself! Then you know exactly how the detergent has been made and whether the toy is safe for children. DIY, which frequently draws on long-standing traditions, has been popular for years. For instance, baking soda was long considered a miracle cure for grime in the house. Yet hardly anyone knows this today. And for centuries, kitchen gardens in monasteries supplied highly effective medicinal herbs; many of which have, however, been replaced by pharmaceutical drugs.

Do it yourself: many pros but also some cons

There are many advantages to DIY: you know all the ingredients and can be sure that no microplastics or mineral oils are used. A homemade vinegar cleaner cuts down on expensive manufacturing processes and generates less packaging waste. As for savings: a DIY product is often cheaper than the same product in the supermarket because usually not much is required to make it.

Of course there are also disadvantages. Homemade cosmetics often do not have a long shelf life. A jar of cream can become a breeding ground for germs and that does you more harm than good. DIY homemade beauty products should therefore be used up as quickly as possible. The consistency and fragrance may also take some getting used to – both differ from industrially manufactured products, and for good reason. Of course, it is also more time-consuming that just picking something off a supermarket shelf. But if you enjoy making things yourself, you will take this in your stride.

DIY recipes for the house, kitchen and personal care

  • Brot aus dem eigenen Backofen

    1. Bread from your own oven

    What tastes better than homemade bread that is still warm? You can be sure that no artificial enzymes have made their way from the laboratory into the mixing bowl.


    • 400g spelt flour
    • 100g wheat flour
    • 25g yeast
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 500ml lukewarm water
    • sunflower seeds (optional)


    • put all ingredients into a mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to combine well
    • place dough in a greased loaf pan, sprinkle with sunflower seeds, if desired
    • cover and leave for about 15 minutes
    • bake at 220 C in a pre-heated oven

    Source: Author’s own family cookbook

  • Peeling selber machen

    2. Sugar and rosemary scrub

    A glance at the long list of ingredients reveals that several scrubs available in the supermarket contain microplastics and other dubious substances. Yet a good scrub is very easy to make:


    • 5 tbsp sugar
    • 3 tbsp olive oil
    • some fresh rosemary


    • mix sugar and olive oil to produce a thick paste
    • add some fresh rosemary to the mixture – that’s it

    Source: utopia.de/ratgeber/peeling-selber-machen/
    By courtesy of Utopia – Translation by Alumniportal Deutschland

  • Thymian-Hustensaft mit Salbei und Honig

    3. Thyme cough syrup with sage and honey

    A cough, a runny nose, a sore throat… We are all familiar with the symptoms of a cold. But instead of buying a cough syrup in the pharmacy, you can rely on the healing power of nature.


    • 200ml water
    • 50g thyme
    • 25g sage
    • juice of ½ lemon
    • 6 tbsp honey


    • put thyme and sage into a pot, bring water to boil and pour into pot
    • cover with lid and let stand for 30 minutes
    • add honey and bring everything to a boil once again
    • leave for 2-3 hours
    • sieve and pour into a bottle rinsed with boiling water

    Source: we-go-wild.com/hustensaft-selber-machen-thymian-salbei/
    By courtesy of We Go Wild – Translation by Alumniportal Deutschland

  • Ein Allesreiniger für die ganze Wohnung

    4. An all-purpose cleaner for the entire home

    Instead of buying different cleaning materials for the kitchen, bathroom and floor, all one needs is this vinegar cleaning solution to remove grease, grime and limescale from all parts of the house. It is ideal for kitchen and bathroom sinks, tiles, wooden and synthetic surfaces, bathtubs and showers. Warning: do not use on a natural stone floor.

    Ingredients for 750ml of vinegar cleaning solution:

    • 500ml white vinegar
    • 250ml water
    • 20 drops eucalyptus, tea tree or lavender oil for a pleasant fragrance (the three oils are also effective against bacteria, viruses and fungus)
    • 1 spray bottle (an empty old cleaning bottle will do)

    Preparation: mix all the ingredients and pour into the spray bottle

    Source: smarticular.net/universalreinger-aus-essig-einfach-und-schnell-selbermachen/
    By courtesy of smarticular.net – Translation by Alumniportal Deutschland

  • Zum Spielen: Knete für Kinder

    5. For children: playdough

    For generations, children have loved shaping dough or any other material. Be careful when buying playdough: children love putting it into their mouths but it often contains harmful chemical additives. We have a tip here too: simply make it yourself with safe ingredients.


    • 250ml lukewarm water
    • 750g flour
    • 500g salt
    • 2 tbsp neutral-flavoured vegetable oil (e.g. sunflower oil)
    • food colour or any natural food dyes
    • 1 large bowl
    • 4 small bowls (for 4 colours)


    • put flour and salt into the big bowl and mix well
    • pour equal amounts of water into each of the four small bowls and add a different colour to each bowl
    • put 1/2 tbsp of oil into each bowl and distribute the flour and salt mixture equally between the bowls
    • combine ingredients well
    • dust the work surface with flour and knead dough well (one colour after the other) – as you would with bread dough – until it is smooth and elastic.

    Source: smarticular.net/essbare-spielknete-fuer-kinder-selbermachen-ohne-kochen/
    By courtesy of smarticular.net – Translation by Alumniportal Deutschland

DIY is in keeping with the spirit of the times

More and more people are opting to make things themselves. Sebastian Knecht of smarticular.net – a German ideas portal that publishes many DIY tips – has also noticed this: The idea of a simple, sustainable life is perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the times and will become a way of life for many people, sooner or later. It simply feels better than the mass consumption that the advertising industry tries to make more palatable for us at great expense. His favourite homemade product is a baking-soda deodorant cream with just three ingredients: baking soda, starch and coconut oil, and a few drops of an essential oil. “It works much better than all the deodorants that I used to use without thinking, but that always generated a great deal of waste,” he says.

There are many places where you can find DIY advice and tips

For DIY homemade cosmetics, in particular, you can find several websites, plenty of advice, tips and recipes. Online vendors offer the ingredients and accessories required, such as spray bottles, beakers or cream jars. Even cookery books offer any number of recipes for baking bread or pickling fruit and vegetables. And websites such as smarticular.net or utopia.org will give you many ideas for sustainable consumption through homemade products.

It’s in our hands to run a sustainable kitchen and a sustainable home. Making things ourselves rather than buying them is therefore definitely worth a try. The face cream may not be ideal at the first attempt, but, as the saying goes: practice makes perfect!

November 2018

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Juan Pérez-D
27 November 2018

Easy and helpful!

23 November 2018


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