The Eco-bedding

The environmental bed

The researches in the context of the transnational educational partnership-project have shown that the global agriculture is contributing with a substantial part to the over exploitation and pollution of the drinking water world-wide. A major part has the cotton-production, which additionally is mainly produced in areas with a shortage of drinking water. The usage of animal products, such as down represents likewise a huge problem for us: On the one hand because the production of animal products has a major part of the encumbrance of water, on the other hand, the problems of animal husbandry are inextricable and we would like to support the idea of not using animal products.

The most spread alternatives on the market are products made from polyester (synthetic substance). But also this carries a number of problems with itself: First of all, these products are based on the resource oil/ petroleum. Additionally, the production process needs a lot of energy, uses a remarkably big amount of water and produces a lot of co2. Furthermore, polyester is not an ideal product as a bed cover for its characteristics with respect to the transportation of moisture.
Some producers already changed their production by using recycled polyester (made from used plastic bottles) which is improving the impact on the environment at least.


Fibers of Viscose represent an interesting alternative product. Viscose has very good characteristics with respect to the transportation of moisture and therefore is very suitable for bed covers. Additionally, there are modern ways of production, already in use on a large industrial scale in Austria. They have a positive environmental usage of water and energy could be reduced on a minimal level. The fibers are sold under the label “Tencel” and are increasingly used for beds. A current “life-circle study” has shown, that these Austrian tencel-products are very environmental friendly and even show positive effects on the climate. Also, the usage of water is reduced to a minimum.
Therefore we classify this product as the best choice for bed covers and pillows. At this point, the product is mainly sold in combination with cotton. Consequently, we compared the different kinds of production of cotton and their influences on the usage of water as well as the ecosystems in the producing countries. The small rural production of cotton, especially following ecological standards, shows the best environmental and water balance. But also conventional small farms normally use little pesticides and do not water the plants artificial, but with rainwater.

During our researches, we discovered the project “Cotton made in Africa” of the “Aid by Trade-Foundation”, which was set up by the “Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer technische Zusammenarbeit” (GIZ) (German Society for Technical Cooperation) in cooperation with numerous companies of the textile industry. Cotton made in Africa guarantees small-scale-farming in African countries. More than 270.000 farmers participate in this project and are profiting additionally of the social as well as educational projects and the minimum standards of the initiative. However, the standards of fair trade or of controlled ecological cultivation are not fulfilled.
But also ecologically produced cotton neither guarantees small-farming, nor does it meets the standards of fair trade criteria, but the observance of ecological cultivation is the focus.

Our conclusion: Ecological cotton, produced by small farms, sold under the conditions of fair trade, would be the ideal choice.*

Unfortunately, the determined optimal standards of production on the market are connected to an unjustifiable input and expenses. We made an analysis of the market of products with a price up to 100 Euro. We summarized our conclusion the following table, which is comparing and evaluating the products in regard to their characteristics.**

Based on the table, we decided to purchase the following products:

    • Badenia “Trendline Steppbett Tencel”
    • f.a.n. “Cotton made in Africa Tencel”
    • Badenia “Irisette Tencel”The final production of the bed cover and the pillow of these products takes place in Germany.

*The product “Catona” of the ecological mail order house “allnatura” used ecological cotton from fair trade, the price is noticeably over the sighted price of a maximum of 100 Euro. Furthermore 100 % cotton is used, which we do not consider to be the best mix of materials, as also ecologically produced cotton is often an encumbrance for the water resources. Additionally, the artificial watering following Eco-criteria (kbA) does not demand any standards. Beyond all that, allnatura does not identify the origin of the cotton.

**The table does not claim to be scientific of “objective”, but summarizes the intermediate results of our Partnership. It is not a (scientific) evaluation of products as other big foundations and institutions carry out.

DIY Fizzy instead of mineral water transportation

The Mineral Water Problem

Since the opening of our seminar house we face the problem that many guest groups want to drink mineral water with carbonic acid.
Most of the groups arrive without cars and so they can not transport many drinks crates to the seminar house. In addition, there are only few storage capacities and there is no elevator to transport the drinks conviniently. Often many bottles are left after the departure of the group, which we have to bring to the supermarkets or dispose.

In our water partnership we came to know that the Berlin tab water has an excellent drinking water quality and there is no reason not to drink it, the more so as it is directly and conviniently available for a good price. Yet it is not carbonated.
Therefore we procured initially a home carbonation system from the producer „Soda Club“. But now several problems occurred, which made the usage difficult and unsatisfying:

Special expensive water bottles are needed for the carbonation.
•     It is difficult to guarantee the bottles are hygienically.
•     The CO 2 -cylinder of the carbonation machine only last for a small amount of water (ca. 40l)
•     The price for the CO 2 -cylinder is relatively high with 7-8€ per piece.
•     All available low-priced home carbonation systems are offered by the Isreali enterprise „Sodastream“ that is controlles the market with over 70% of the produced home carbonation systems. The company is in the focus of critics because they are producing in the occupied Palestinian territories (in the settlement Ma’ale Adumim)*.

The Alternatives

Our recherche revealed that for the public use of carbonation systems professional providers mostly rent their gadgets and close a contract for maintenance, amounting 80-100 € per month. In addition they offer complex buying systems

Our System: simple and flexible.

Our System: simple and flexible.

which often cost more than 1.000 €.

In our recherche we found the very interesting system of the south-german company Aquatechnik Peter Röhl und Partner. On the website of the company http/ two simple, genious and reasonably priced carbonation system are offered.

The Advantages

•     The system works both with the home carbonation CO 2-cylinders and the much cheaper CO 2 returnable bottles.
•     For the system common PET mineral water bottles are used.
•     The system is very hygienic because the water is not in contact with the gadget.
•     The special caps for the bottles can be cleaned in the dishwasher and can be replaced cheaply.

Simple and flexible – the System of Aquaspender

A simple system, here in the version for using a big CO2-bottle. The water bottle is a standard PET returnable bottle. (1 or 1,5 liter). The system costs 379 € (2014) in the standard version (with connection to the small CO2-cylinders from the supermarket) and 479€ in the version with connection to the big gas bottle.

Ecological Consequences of Mineral Water Transport
The ecological costs of mineral water transport depend on comsumer ́s behaviour. Both the choice of the place of production and the type of the bottle are important. Those who buy water of the benchmark „Spreequell“ or „Bad Liebenwerda“, get the water from the 150 km apart south Brandenburg (Bad Liebenwerda). The bottle boxes are transported by trucks.tabletransport

The average consumption of mineral water per person in Germany was 140,2 litres in the year 2013. Returnable bottles are the most ecological way of package as a study of the national environmental office shows. It saves more than 50% of the material and 40% of the greenhouse-gas CO2 in comparison to the one-way bottle. According to a study** of the company Gerolsteiner the water consumption in the production of PET returnable bottles is only 1/3 of the water consumption of glass returnable bottles. Per consumer of Bad Liebenwerdaer mineral water in Berlin 2,43 kg CO2-emission are caused by the transport of the water to the supermarket.

When the water is transported from the supermarket to the households, the whole transport is nearly tripled. When water is bought in glass bottles, the CO2 emission from the transport to the supermarket are doubled.
And if you buy for example „St. Leonhards Wasser“ from Chiemgau, which is offered in Organic-markets, it extends the transport way and the emissions again by the factor 4,5. Thereby the overall emissions of the transports are 9 times higher as with the Spreequell-water.

A swiss study, which compared the ecological impacts of tap water with different mineral waters in the year 2006, came to the conclusion that from one liter of daily consume on the overall ecological strains and also the costs are less when you use tap water. The greenhouse-gas emission of tap water are only 20% compared to mineral water.***


** Source: „Ökobilanz für die leichte PET-Mehrwegflasche“, Prognos&IFEU Institut für Energie- und Umweltforschung GmbH, 03/1999

*** see: gwa, 3/2006: „Vergleich der Umweltbelastungen von Hahnenwasser und Mineralwasser“ on

Open Cola selfmade

The big Cola-Producers like Coca-Cola (R) and Pepsi Cola (R) are hardly criticized for their practices concerning human rights, labour rights and ecological impact. The offensive strategies are conquering traditional markets all over the world. Coca-Cola is criticised as well on health issues, because it contains a lot of sugar. The Coca-Cola Company is the worlds biggest soft-drink seller. With it’s franchising-system they only produce the syrup of the Cola and sell it to local franchise-companies who exclusively produce and distribute it in their region. The local franchisers mix and bottle the syrup with local water-sources. The franchise companies are selling as well a couple of other Cola-products like Fanta and Sprite or table-waters like Apollinaris etc. Of these, beverages bearing the trademark “Coca-Cola” accounted for approximately 78% of the company’s total gallon sales. The recipe of “coke” his kept strictly secret and since the global success a lot of companies tried to copy it.
The main competitor of Coca Cola is the Pepsi Cola (R) Company “PepsiCo”. PepsiCo is the second biggest food and beverages producer and seller in the world after Nestlé (R)

Open Cola on the other hand is a brand of open-source cola, where the instructions for making it are freely available and modifiable. Anybody can make the drink, and anyone can modify and improve the recipe. You can use the Open Cola recipe to make your own home-made Cola with an own flavouring. The drink can be distributed licence-free if you mind the rules of the GNU General Public License.

Open Cola can easily be produced by everyone. We produced Open Cola in our association and offered the final product on a anniversary celebration of our Project-network “KuBiZ”. The reactions have been controversial but mostly very positive about the taste of the Open Cola. Especially the possibility to design your own Cola with the right amount of ingredients and with know origin of the ingredients was mentioned very positive. In combination with our home carbonation system we could use local tab-water. As well we tried to use organic flavours and fair-trade organic sugar for the production. The syrup for the Cola can be produced in bigger amounts and stored space-saving in the fridge.

Here is the way of Open Cola production we choose:

Step 1:  Preparing the 7X (Top SeekrutTM) flavoring formulaOpenCola_Ingredients

3.50 ml     orange oil
1.00 ml     lemon oil
1.00 ml     nutmeg oil
1.25 ml     cassia oil
0.25 ml     coriander oil
0.25 ml     neroli oil
2.75 ml     lime oil
0.25 ml     lavender oil
10.0 g     gum arabic
3.00 ml     water

Mix the oils together in a cup*. Add gum arabic (natural!), mix it with a spoon or a hand-mixer.
Add water and mix it well. Use the mixer for 4-5 minutes. You can also transfer to a blender for this step. Can be kept in a sealed glass jar in the fridge or at room temperature.
Please note that this mixture will separate. The Gum Arabic is essential to this part of the recipe, as you are mixing oil and water.The ready-mixed flavours can be stored in a closed glas in the fridge.

* Oils: Can cause skin irritation. If oils come in contact with skin, wash with soap and water.

Step 2: Preparing the Syrup-concentrate

2.00 tsp.     7X formula
3.50 tsp.     75% phosphoric acid or citric acid*
2.28 l         water
2.36 kg     plain granulated white table sugar
0.50 tsp.     caffeine (optional)**
30.0 ml     caramel color
Mix it In a 5 l container

Take 5 ml of the 7X formula
add the 75% phosphoric or citric acid
Add the water, then the sugar.
While mixing, add the caffeine, if desired.
Make sure the caffeine is completely dissolved.
Then add the caramel color. Mix thoroughly.
The concentrate is ready!

* 75% Phosphoric Acid: Due to its acidity, this product is corrosive to the eyes and skin. Handle with gloved hands, and use extreme caution. If comes in contact with the eyes or skin, immediately flush with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes. Get medical attention. Rinse any spills on clothing or other surfaces thoroughly. Store in a secure area. Do not store more than 50.0 ml.
** It‘s best not to store caffeine in any amount. Caffeine can kill people in relatively small doses. The median lethal dose for an adult human is around 10 grams, or approximately one third of an ounce

Step 3: Preparing the Cola-Drink

To finish the drink, take one part of the syrup and add 5-8 parts (home-)carbonated water.

Further information…

….is available on the wikipedia-website

Washing with the right waters

It’s good that we can mention good news in the beginning: the biggest problem of water pollution from washing detergents is largely solved in Germany now: The use of phosphates.

By legal regulations (prohibitions) and technical innovations in the water-treatment plants, the load of phosphate has been greatly reduced. Therefore, the energy efficiency in the washing process has become the most important environmental factor.

But still other ingredients of detergents pollute the waters.

Factors that influence water consumption and water pollution are:
1. Washing machine water consumption
2. Efficiency of the washing process and proper dosage
3. Choice of detergent and ingredients
4. Packing of detergent

1. Water consumption of the washing machine
When buying new washing machines, the consumption values must be specified.
Consumers should make sure to use a machine with the energy efficiency class at least A ++ or A +++. This machines consume at least 35% less energy than a machine of class A. In addition, care should be taken on water consumption. In the standard wash program – depending on the machine size – the water-usage should be between 40 litres (5kg machine) and 50 litres (8kg machine) per wash cycle.
In addition, the machine should have a capacity mechanism, which adjusts the amount of water used in accordance with the load factor of the machine.
The Eco-top-ten list of the Öko-Institut e.V. can help in selecting an appropriate product:

2. Efficiency of the washing process and the dosing.
630,000 tons of detergent are consumed annually in Germany. That are nearly 8 kg of washing-detergent per resident on average. In addition, 220,000 tons of special agents, softeners, cleaning products, etc. pollute the environment and in particular the wastewater.
Compact detergents can help you to dose the detergent and additives exact amount. Detergents can work only with soft water. Therefore, each detergent must contain softeners. But the local water hardness varies depending on the region. The Berlin tap water has an average water hardness of 17 ° dH, which means that it is “hard” water. In order to ensure an optimal blend of detergents and softeners, we recommend the use of a modular system, because otherwise ready mixed detergents contain unnecessarily many surfactants, enzymes and possibly bleach and with this pollute the wastewater useless.
Duty detergents also contain bleaches and should therefore only used for white laundry or to disinfect laundry against infectious diseases. Modular systems in this case allow the targeted use  as well.
Instead of a modular system colour detergents are used with minimum dosage (soft water) and combined with additional bleach and softener. At the Berlin water hardness, this can save about 40% of the detergent substances. Remember: Also ecological detergent pollute the water – though usually far less than petrochemicals.

Moreover, the choice of the right wash cycle is of central importance.
Temperature: In general, the washing temperature should be set for standard soiling in between 30 and 40 °.  According to the German Federal Environmental Agency this is sufficient for modern detergent (also eco). To disinfect the machine (as well as in case of diseases) every 2 to 4 weeks a machine should be washed with 60 °C.
Only in special cases, where germ-free laundry is needed, a hot wash with 90° is recommended. Boiled washing requires more than twice as much energy as a 60° wash.
Wash cycle: It is important to adjust the wash cycle to the appropriate wash. This washing separation makes sense to use the optimal washing programs. In general, we recommend a high loading factor of the machine but ensuring not to overloaded it. This increases the washing efficiency and saves a lot of energy and water. Modern machines have extra long eco-programs. This saves despite its long program-duration a significant amount of energy and water.

3. choice of detergent and ingredients
Although no phosphates are used in Germany any more many other ingredients of detergents pollute water heavily.

The yield of the detergent, their ingredients and the proper dosage play a crucial role to reduce water pollution. Modern detergents use surfactants (cleansing substances) to dissolve grease and dirt from the clothes. The natural soap surfactant has been replaced with synthetic surfactants in conventional detergents, which are made with high energy consumption from coal and petroleum. But there are surfactants derived from renewable resources such as sugar and vegetable oils. They are readily biodegradable and are often used by eco-brands. Ecological detergent also go without fillers (to make it appear larger by volume), optical brighteners, chlorine or controversial genetically engineered enzymes that are frequently used by the conventional detergent industry. But who wants to minimize environmental burden, should resort to a perfume-free detergent. Some fragrances, such as the citrus fruits are toxic to aquatic organisms.

A major problem of vegetable detergent surfactant production is currently, the extensive use of palm kernel oil and coconut oil. The ever-increasing demand for these oils has already led to massive environmental destruction, especially in Asia and has a comprehensively dramatic impact on ecosystems and therefore the water. Palm oil from organic production can alleviate this dramatic development. However, the production of organic palm oil worldwide is currently negligible.

When selecting a detergent one should consider the following criteria:

1. Efficiency of detergent power even at low temperatures

2. Biodegradable (organic ingredients as possible)

3. Modular system to dispense water softener and bleach correctly

4. Free of optical brighteners and perfume

5. Not tested on animals

6. Recycled packaging material

7. Phosphate free (in Germany already standard, but in other countries not very often!)

8. In general, enzymes are important cleansing ingredients, but allergies sufferers should consider whether the use of enzymes for them has negative consequences.

Two certifications can assist in the selection of detergents:

The stricter Eco-guarantee logo and the EU Ecolabel

Apart from that also the usage of fabric softeners should be largely dispensed. Often they contain a large number of potentially allergies promoting and environmentally harmful ingredients.

The strength of washing of diverse products is regularly tested by e.g. Stiftung Warentest (Foundation of product-testing) or Öko-Test (eco-test).

Our Eco-Tips

AlmaWin / Klarwashingcomparison

During our research, we were particularly convinced by the products of the company’s Almawin / Klar. In addition to using exclusively plants, easily biodegradable and largely organically produced detergents, the company produces with clean power. With the product line “Klar” the company Almawin offers a perfume-free detergent, which achieved good washing results in the test of the magazine “Öko-Test”. But it’s relatively expensive.

Finally OBUK e.V. decided to use the AlmaWin detergent in the guest-house as a first choice.


Products of the company Ecover also have good washing results. Ecover pays attention to ecological production and use of substances that put little stress on the the waters. In addition, perfume free products are offered. Ecover endeavors to reduce and perspectively abolish the usage of detergents that contains environmentally and socially often very problematic produced palm oil.

Frog – to strike a balance

The Color washing powder of the brand “Frosch” convinced us with good washing results, good environmental properties and an average price. The German manufacturer Werner & Mertz is committed to organic production, ensuring animal welfare and the exclusive use of plant surfactants with high and rapid biodegradability. In addition, the manufacturer is trying to reduce the use of palm oil and foster the use of surfactants from European raw materials. Unfortunately, however, he offers no perfume-free products.

The conventional way

The drugstore chain DM offers with their product “Denk mit – Colorwaschmittel Aktiv Schutz” value for money as well as good washing results but little information about the production process. After all, the manufacturers have set their target of sustainable production.

FOOD CHOICES: For the little hunger and thirst

Agricultural production accounts for the majority of water-consumption world-wide. There are several products that causes serious water-stress in the production regions. As consumers, we can decide to foster ecological and water-sensitive production by choosing the right products. OBUK is starting to develop an own transnational seminar branch, which includes as well accommodation and food for the participants. In order to consume eco-sensitive we started to investigate the water footprint of some of the products that we do or will consume in larger amounts. There are some “peak”-products with very high demand of water and origin from regions with water-stress that were the focus in our investigation.


According to the tables on, Cocoa beans have one of the highest water-footprints of crops: around 20m³ per kg. But only 179 litres are grey-water and there is almost no use of blue-water. That means that the water-footprint is mainly rain-water. So it becomes very important in which way the crops are planted. Traditionally the cocoa-trees are planted in-between and under others threes in mixed cultures, because the cocoa-trees don’t like the direct sun. Most of the cocoa is produced from one of the worlds up to five million smallholder cocoa farmers mainly located in West-Africa, Asia, Central- and South-America. The Ivory-coast and Ghana are the biggest producers which delivered in 2014 more than 60% of the world’s cocoa-harvest. Cocoa-production got in critics because of extensive use of child-labour and forced labour. The big majority of cocoa-producers are small farmers that are working with a very limited usage of pesticides, mainly because of the lag of financial resources.elceibo

The fair-trade criterias guarantee that a fair price paid to the farmers, they fight against child-labour and for workers rights and often support social and environmental initiatives in the villages. A good example of fair cocoa-production is the cooperative El Ceibo in Bolivia. El Ceibo has been growing, processing and exporting Bolivian cocoa beans for the last 30 years. It is a cooperative of cooperatives, consisting of 1000 families spread across El Beni’s forests, a tropical region to the north of the country. The cocoa plantations from the air look no different than a pristine jungle. The cocoa trees are shade-grown, with species that protect the plants from the sun and heavy rains. This technique also protects wildlife habitats and ensures a more sustainable use of the soil’s resources.

OBUK decided to use and provide chocolate and cocoa-powder from the El Ceibo-cooperative.


A cup of coffee has a average water footprint of 140 litres. Respective the production-country of the coffee beans the water footprint of 1 kg of coffee is between 6m³ in Vietnam and 49m³ in Togo. This big range has it reasons mainly in the climate-conditions of the origin-country because 95% of the water footprint is green-water. Coffee is typically cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas at high elevations, often in rugged mountainous areas and naturally grows under a shaded canopy of trees. “Traditional coffee is often integral to agro-forestry systems in which tree species are cultivated together with coffee and other agricultural commodities”, Victoria Moore from Manchester University writes.* “These regions are home to many different floras that contribute to high biodiversity levels. The sheltering from canopies also provides a valuable habitat for indigenous animals and insects, as well as preventing topsoil erosion and removing the need for chemical fertilizers. However, due to increased market demands in recent years, this innocuous form of agriculture has been superseded by “sun cultivation” techniques. Originating in the 1970’s, sun cultivated (or sun grown) coffee is produced on plantations, where forestry is cleared so that coffee is grown in rows as a monoculture with no canopy.

rebeldia_bohneSun cultivated coffee, in concert with the necessary addition of fertilizer, creates the highest yield of coffee, but eliminates the diversity of plants which support an array of insects and animals, posing detrimental impacts to the biodiversity of the region, as well as other environmental harms.”

Over 2,5 Million acres of forest have been cleared in Central America alone to establish coffee plantations. Moore reports further on that: “Contamination of waterways also pose serious environmental threats from the processing of coffee beans. Largely irrespective of how coffee is grown, discharges from coffee processing plants represent a major source of river pollution. Ecological impacts result from the discharge of organic pollutants from the processing plants to rivers and waterways, triggering eutrophication of water systems and robbing aquatic plants and wildlife of essential oxygen.”

The ecological alternative to the big scale-plantation-coffee is shade grown Coffee. Coffee plants are interspersed beneath local forest trees. It’s the traditional and natural way how coffee grows in this regions.

With our goal of supporting fair-trade relations and cooperative organisational structures we found the Hamburg-based fair-trade Coffee-marketing-cooperatives “Café libertad” and “Aroma Zapatista”. They are offering fair-trade ecological Coffee from small farmers in Chiapas (Mexico). The small farmers of the cooperatives are producing shadow grown (and mostly organic certified) coffee.

OBUK is mainly ordering the coffee from these partners and offering it to the groups in our guest-house as well.


The Banana is for a long time mainly a mass production plantation-product. Global players like Chiquita (22%), Dole (26%) and Del Monte (15%) are dominating the market. Only 5 percent of the Bananas sold in Germany are sold under the Fair-trade criterias. Around 10% of the Bananas sold in Germany are produced with organic standards.

logo-banafairBananas are grown in tropical or subtropical regions with high precipitation. Despite that, a lot of Banana monocultures are irrigated. That does not cause scarcity, but the problem is the pollution of the water. Industrial farming methods keep the weed away so that heavy rains a flushing away soil, pesticides and fertilizers that are polluting the surface water. The preparation for the transport as well pollutes the water heavily. In organic growing techniques this problem does not occur.

OBUK prefers organic grown fair-trade bananas for example from the fair-trade association Banafair, that imports Banana from the Ecuadorian peasants organisation UROCAL.


Apples are the Germans most favourite fruit. Apples grown in Germany don’t have a high water-footprint – only 213 litres per kg. The regional production doesn’t force water-scarcity. More important is the carbon-footprint that gets very high in case of long storage in cooling houses over the winter or long transportation ways. We prefer locally produced apples from old mixed fruit-tree grasslands or organic production.