How does working part time relate to sustainability transformation?

Two years ago, before my current job, I had a job offer at a NGO in Indonesia. We negotiated the salary, which was around 1.200 USD. An acquaintance mentioned not to start with a low salary like that considering my education and work experience. Before he said that, I felt confident with 1.200 USD and after he said that I wondered whether my decision was right. I went back to management to talk about it and management asked me „What do you need more money for? With that money you can rent a small but nice apartment, eat enough food, have health insurance and after that there should still be enough for trips and fun. Locals also have fun with that amount.“

Now it’s been two years on a part time-Job(30/h) in Germany and I really enjoy it. Before 9 am and after 3pm I get to do what I want. I could have a side job, I can write, volunteer, I can practice playing music, I can play with my cat, I can google, watch YouTube, I can help a friend with after day care for their children, I can do nothing, I can play video games (for instance, Pokemon on my outdated Game Boy Colour 😉 ), I can spend time being.

This made me curious and I kept on having discussions on that topic more often with people. „How happy are you with your life and your work hours?“. Often we end up in arguments like „I want a large apartment, then I want a better car and it’s just nice to have more money. My job is so stressfull honestly, so it also compensates for that, like a nice vacation etc.“”Would you be okay with earning less money?” “Yes sure, I mean I could probably get a cheaper car” someone said then feeling insecure, whether not working full-time would fullfill their lives. What to fill time with?

And I get that, a lot and I wonder what would be needed for part-time to become a new norm. A norm in which we don’t run after an idealized version of happinnes (thinking that more hours worked, a better car and a house like symbolized in the American Dream are worth persuing), but a life-style of being instead. So that, when we talk about sustainability transition, the human focused center is thought of more often. Whether people can be more happy with less and viewing less as more? Whether people can spend more quality time, be that just laying on a couch, cooking, playing video games, anything they desire as human, and in retrospect can be more fulfilled at work and in their lives? Moving away from buying or other forms of overconsumption to compensate a lack of happiness or stress to being more, at the same time being the same or more productive at work.

What does that mean for sustainability? What questions should be asked?

  • What would be needed to make part time jobs the new norm? Do people want that? Why not? (How would they fill a potential lack experienced? How could that lack be filled so that it feels rewarding to ones subjective form of well-being)
  • How much money is needed to have enough to sustain and to engage in other interests? (Thinking about salary variances and people with different fundamental needs).
  • Can business models support a lifestyle with less money (renting of music instruments, cars, interior, etc) as oppose to people having them owned? (Enabling access to entertainment or well-being also for people with lower incomes, making sustainability more inclusive instead of exclusive)
  • How could such societal and economical transformation look like? (What does it mean for cities, companies and design-thinking, but also policy?)
  • How could the perception on working part time being shifted? (Part time not being for mothers or for people with specific reasons, but because people simply want to work part time, because people are diverse and because people have different interests)
  • What gains and losses would one have to agree to? (Not owning a car but agreeing to shared transportation or more rides on the bycicle and companies installing shower stations at work).
  • If less money buys less materialistic goods, how can time be used to provide the same or a similar type of quality meaning to oneself detached less from the notion of need for money (relationships, etc. what do people want today? what fullfills them?)


McGowan, T. (2012). The end of dissatisfaction?: Jacques Lacan and the emerging society of enjoyment. suny Press.

Oswald, L. (1996). The place and space of consumption in a material world.

Ruti, M. (2013). The call of character: Living a life worth living. Columbia University Press.

Warren, T. (2004). Working part‐time: achieving a successful ‘work‐life’balance? 1. The British journal of sociology55(1), 99-122.

Could the future of paper be cow-dung? An experiment to turn cow and horse dung into paper.

Background (Initially posted in April, 2020)

Since toiletpaper has become an important topic over the last weeks, I became dedicated in learning about its production process. I quickly learned that to extract fibers from wood ligning (acts as natural glue) for (toilet)paper but also textile, a lot of chemicals are needed.  Because I had no machinery to produce toiletpaper, I experimented with producing paper only with naturally abundant resources mechanically.

To begin with, I started producing paper made of grass, as the fibers are very long and stick well without having to use any glue.

Because I was drying and then processing the freshly cut grass, it appeared rather time-consuming; This made me remember the role animals play in digesting only parts of their food and dispersing seeds and other residues for further use. To avoid the processing of fiberous grass or hay mechanically, I came up with the idea to experiment with my neighbors’ cow and another neighbors horse dung.

And hurray!  the processing of it into paper was much simpler. Because the residues were rather short, I mixed it with grass fibers to hold the paper together. Ta-daa; I created different types of paper using only organic (waste) materials.

The Process

Extracting Grass Fibers as dung chip paper binder

Step 1

  • Cutting wildely growing grass
  • Drying it (i.e window or on top of a heater)
  • Because grass has long fibers, I recommend cutting it into smaller pieces
  • Cooking it between 1 and 2 hours

Step 2

  • After cooking, rinse the fibers. To do so, I used a simple noodle strainer.
  • Feel free to pour more water over the strainer and wash the grass more often with your hands.

Step 3

  • Because grass is very fiberous, I recommend using a small portion, fill it in a bucket with water (rather use more water then too less) and mix it. To do so, I used a simple blender with two blades.
  • It is likely that the fibers will quickly tweeze around the blades and knot together.
  • Unplug the blender from the socket and add the blend back into the bucket and rins it out.
  • Repeat this process multiple times until you do not see a lot of greens around the fiber mix anymore (This could take between 10 to 20 minutes)
  • Your fibers are ready and can be put aside.

Extracting dung-chips for paper

Step 4

  • Find a horse or cow dung supplier (for paper I recommend using horse dung, because the diet is less mixed. The horse dung I used came from a horse that is mainly fet with natural grass, so the residue, I would call it dung chips is available in high quantity and quality)

Step 5

  • If you try it at home, please cover the area around the sink, because you don’t want the dung splashing around
  • Fill the bucket with water and mix it with a spoon until the dung dissolves into one liquid mass. It goes very quick with horse dung in oppose to cow dung.

Step 6

  • Rinse and wash it multiple times.
  • The water will become gradually lighter

Step 7

  • Here is now the part where I am washing the horse chips with laundry detergant.
  • I followed the same processing of washing and rinsing it out. The laundry detergant (used it 1 time) really helps in cleaning the chips as you can see on the lighter water.

Step 8

  • Cook the chips (I added 5 tablets of soda) for around 20 minutes to remove the bacteria.
  • Rinse it out again for two more times to have pure and clean horse/cow chips/dissolvant.

Step 9

  • We are ready to mix horse dung chips with grass fibers.

Step 10

  • Now we can follow a simple paper making process using the grass fibers and the horse chips.
  • I recommend watching the video below, because it nicely illustrates the entire paper making process

Here are a few photos of my paper making process for which I used an old picture frame and a mosquito net.

Step 11

  • Ready!

Congrautlations – We made paper from farm waste and wild fibers!

  • Amazingly as gift 🙂
  • The paper smells very natural (not like dung)
  • The chips can be used for many more products (creating a truly circular bio-based economy), i.e. pallet parts and pellets.
  • Nature (fauna and flora) has many interacting solutions towards a more sustainable world. By using animal chips, we skip the process of wood chipping and simply create value from waste.
  • Could animal could play a solution for deforestation?
  • A mind shift may be needed to move our thoughts away from “stinky dung” to value dung.

Special Thanks to

  • Amazing YouTubers
  • Friends and family
  • My former teacher in ecology at TU Dresden for teaching me about seed digestion and dispersal
  • My former university Windesheim Honours College that engaged us students in a human waste challenge
  • My last university (Maastricht University) for reaching out to alumnis and asking how we spend our time in the face of covid-19 and motivating to write a blog on that topic
  • Maastricht Sustainability Institute, who taught us students to think in systems and about innovation for sustainability
  • My enthusiastic cowfarm neighbor
  • The wonderful owner of a horse
  • Very much, the innovative farm I get to stay and help out at 🙂

Interested to learn more about it or curious to think about new bio-based innovations? Please feel free to reach out.