Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Life after Zero Waste Challenge Week

I have to confess that I found posting a daily blog during the 28 days of the challenge more exhausting than avoiding waste. So I've taken a bit of a break. But I'm back, if not every day, at least every fortnight.

Why every fortnight? Well, although our recycling bins are collected weekly, our rubbish bin is collected only every fortnight, so it makes sense to weigh our rubbish at the same time.

On Thursday 23 October we threw away 445g of waste ie approximately 225g per week, which is disappointing, as I would like to come in under 100g per week. However, without wishing to excuse myself, this was due in part to the fact that my local butcher was on holiday for a week. I could have turned vegetarian but there would have been protests from a younger member of the family. So I resorted to the supermarket where meat comes in rigid plastic containers sealed with plastic film. I meant to weigh the packaging but I forgot. Almost half way through the next fortnight we appear to be doing slightly better but, with a family bereavement, building work and the visit of a French exchange partner, life is a bit more unsettled than usual and, in my experience, this generally means more waste. Which is not to say that I have given up entirely. It's just that I am less stringent than I would otherwise be.

However, there is hope on the horizon, in terms of a local green shop. Recently, despite considerable protest, the government shut our local post office. One of the reasons I gave in opposition to the closure was that it is one of, if not the only, remaining shops in our neighbourhood. However our local postmaster, determined that it should not necessarily be the end of the story, has teamed up with various local producers to open The Bristol Green Store at 10 am on Saturday 1 November. I am particularly interested in the refillable detergents but I am open to temptation from all or any of the other sustainable products on offer.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Day 28

Well, here I am at the end of my Zero Waste Challenge Week. Time to reflect and review. But first to today.

This morning I braved the rain to visit the now weekly Tobacco Factory market. I bought some Brie de Meaux, wrapped in greaseproof paper, and some quince paste (perfect partner to mature salty cheese), which went straight into one of my now ubiquitous plastic containers. So far so good. However I regret to say that while preparing dinner this evening my husband came across another plastic tape on the organic box carrots. Tut tut!

I added this to the other piece of tape, the five labels and the small metal seal from the chorizos and weighed the lot. They came to under 5 g. Whoopee! Not exactly zero, but as near as dammit, as I hope you will agree.

So what next, I hear you say.

Well I'm not going to pretend I can keep this up on a permanent basis - or at least not at this level. There are just too many things I can't live without in the long term. Not luxuries, just essentials. I'm thinking of pasta, couscous, pitta bread, dried fruit, nuts, yoghurt, cream, cheese - all of which are packaged in unrecyclable plastic. However, there are some things that have changed, possibly forever. I'm going to continue to ask shopkeepers to place my purchases in my plastic containers, to recycle all my plastic bags, to make my own yoghurt, to bake my own bread and biscuits and cakes - and maybe even my naan. In time I'm hoping they may become part of my life, things I do without thinking.

Looking back over this week I have learned three things:
  1. It's almost, if not equally, important to consider not just what's in everything I buy, but also what's outside it. Zero packaging is the ideal, but when this is impossible then I should look for the product with the most environmentally friendly alternative.
  2. If I'm to make the less wasteful choice then I need to be adequately informed. I need to request that suppliers give me as much information about the packaging as they do about the product. Perhaps I need to go higher, to the government, to request that such labelling is made mandatory.
  3. I need to recycle as much as possible using all the facilities available.

None of these are difficult and if everyone gave them a go then I'm sure we'd see a lot less waste heading towards the landfill. From the many conversations I've had over the past few weeks I know there is an keen interest in waste and a genuine desire to do something about it. I hope that this Zero Waste Challenge Week will have given us the impetus to do so.

I'd like to thank everyone who's advised and supported me over the past month and everyone who's read and commented on this blog. I hope to continue to post on various waste issues from time to time.

Day 27

This morning we paused from shopping for a latte and an almond croissant. Mmm! The latte came with a couple of paper sachets of brown sugar and one of those annoying plastic stirrers. I didn't require either. Does that make it my waste? I suppose I could have brought the stirrer home and found some use for it but I suspected it would only end up languishing in a drawer, so I left it on the table. I can understand cafes not wishing to use proper spoons for fear of them being nicked, but there must be a better alternative to plastic. I've seen wooden stirrers but unless they're composted I guess they end up in a landfill too.

No one felt much like cooking this evening so we resorted to a ready meal - an M&S steak pie. However, even here there was no waste, as both the cardboard box and the foil tray will be recycled. I try to avoid ready meals, for economic as well as environmental reasons, but it's good to have a list of waste free options for when you need one.

So, if I don't count the stirrer, it was another successful day. Only one more to go!

PS I did try the baking soda to brush my teeth the other day. It was a bit salty but otherwise not unpleasant. My friend, Mrs A of The Rubbish Diet, has suggested the Aquafresh aluminium pump dispenser which I should be able to dispose of in my black box.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Day 26

On Fridays we have sandwiches delivered from a local sandwich bar (the Flying Frog). It's a welcome relief from the chore of getting up early to made a packed lunch, and it's one I didn't have to pass on in Zero Waste Challenge Week as they come wrapped in paper bags.

Which takes me neatly from yesterday's bathroom to today's kitchen, where I've been making a few changes to reduce waste. I've swapped my disposable dishcloths for washable ones. I still use kitchen paper, albeit sparingly, as the plastic packaging from Sainsburys can be recycled instore along with carrier bags. I used to use plastic food bags or clingfilm to wrap sandwiches, but I now use paper bags, which I buy in large quantities from a local stationers (Wyatt & Ackerman). Used kitchen paper and empty sandwich bags are torn up and added to the compost or brown bins. Aluminium foil is washed and reused until it tears, when it's recycled in the black bin. I use Ecover cleaning products which can be refilled at Windmill Hill City Farm. Simple little changes that have saved a lot of waste.

I bought fish for this evening's curry from the fresh fish counter at Asda. Although I've been shopping locally with my plastic containers it's the first time I've taken them into a supermarket, and wasn't sure how they'd be received. However I was pleasantly surprised to find that the assistant was quite happy to place my haddock and salmon fillets straight into the container and stick the price labels on the lid. However my search for plastic free toilet tissue drew a blank.

My younger daughter requested salad and naan bread to accompany her curry. The former wasn't possible as I couldn't find a 'naked' lettuce anywhere but I managed to provide the latter by making my own. They weren't quite the same as any I've eaten before but they tasted good and my daughter said she preferred them to shop bought, so they may well become a permanent fixture.

And this evening my bin was empty again - for the third day running!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Day 25

Another waste free day. Hooray!

I ate out with friends but I cooked dinner for the rest of my family. I bought my chicken breasts from my excellent local butcher, Bob Wherlock, who wrapped them in paper and placed them directly in my plastic container. If you're a bit embarrassed about asking your butcher to do this, as I was at the outset, please don't be. Chances are he'll be more than happy to oblige and I've found the request invariably leads to some very interesting conversations.

While most of my waste is food related there are, of course, many other kinds. Bathrooms are full of it. Plastic bottles can be recycled but not always the lids, which are often made of a different plastic. So I've opted for solid shampoo from Lush which comes simply wrapped in paper. They also sell solid deodorant which lasts for ever and solid bath and shower products. My local health shop, Health Unlimited, sells 'naked' soap in a variety of fragrances. Biodegradable feminine hygiene products are now widely available. Toothpaste is my only downfall. I believe that you can use baking soda and salt but I must confess that I have never tried either. However, for the purposes of this challenge I may give it a go tonight and let you know how I get on tomorrow.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Day 24

I've done it! My first 100% zero waste day of the week. So it is possible and surprisingly normal.

Breakfast was toast, butter and jam to accompany my essential mug of tea. Lunch was the leftovers of yesterday's dinner, carried to work in a recycled takeaway container and reheated in the microwave. Dinner was tortilla (aka Spanish omelette) with sweetcorn and beetroot. I don't do puddings midweek - just a piece of fruit.

I baked some chocolate chip cookies for my daughters' lunchboxes tomorrow. Chocolate chips come in plastic packets so I used bars of Divine milk chocolate cut into pieces. I've saved the inner foil wrappers to make recycled Christmas cards - my half term project.

There was another article in the Evening Post. It was visitor who told me about it. He also told me about Scoopaway, a natural and organic wholefood shop on the Gloucester Road, where you help yourself to cereals, pulses, dried fruit, nuts etc. It's a fair way from where I live but I could get there by bus. Sounds worth a visit.