Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Waste Free Latte

Inspired by Beth Terry over at Fake Plastic Fish, it has long been my intention to invest in an insulated mug to eliminate the cardboard and plastic waste inherent in takeaway drinks. So today, when I stopped for a latte at the Fair Cup stall in Colston Circus and saw their own cheerful red mugs for sale, I jumped at the opportunity. It cost me £3.95 and I get 10p off every drink I fill it with on future visits.

I plan to carry it around with me and use it in other coffee shops. I'm not sure what reaction I'll receive from the big chains but I'm going to give it a go. I'm not necessarily looking for a discount, although I wouldn't refuse! I'm just hoping to save waste.

Has anyone any experiences they would like to share?

Friday, 9 October 2009

Top Tips for Zero Food Waste

I have come to the end of my Zero Food Waste Challenge, during which I have succeeded in throwing away no more than a few tablespoons of edible food. And none of the inedible waste went to the landfill site, but has all been recycled by some means or other.

The Bristol challenge invites participants to share their tips for avoiding food waste. The prize for the most useful or original suggestion is a cookery course for two at Bordeaux Quay. I am an admirer of Barney Haughton and if I win I would take my elder daughter, who is off to university next year and might appreciate a few lessons to help her keep body and soul together.

So, my top tips are:

1 Stop treating leftovers as waste and start using them as ingredients
2 Store them properly (fridge or freezer) and label them clearly
3 Build up a repertoire of leftover-friendly recipes (soup, stirfrys, risottos, fried rice, omelettes etc)
4 Check your fridge/freezer regularly
5 Invest in a compost bin, wormery or a bokashi bin
6 Try not to be too hard on yourself when, despite your best efforts, you have to throw something away
7 Enjoy the challenge

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Day 7 - Wednesday 7 October 2009

The last day of my challenge and not much waste to report.

1 egg shell
3 tea bags
30 g vegetable peelings
1 banana skin
1 pear core

I was going to use up the roast chicken from Sunday. The girls, who were going to eat earlier than us, were going to have chicken fajitas. My husband and I were going to have chicken risotto later. However I'd forgotten that, in a fit of efficiency earlier in the week, I had frozen the chicken meat. There wasn't enough time to defrost it so I used fresh chicken for the girls and we had two salmon steaks that were on special offer.

Deciding where to store leftovers is crucial to waste management. If I hope to use them in the next few days I put them in the fridge, but if not then I opt for the freezer. Problems arise when, for one reason or another, I don't get round to them before they go off - or when I forget to take them out of the freezer in time! Regular fridge inspections are essential. So is labelling, an area in which I need more practice. It's amazing how similar frozen leek and potato soup looks to frozen stewed apple, but only one of them goes with custard!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Day 6 - Tuesday 6 October 2009

This morning we had porridge for breakfast. My younger daughter was in a hurry to get to school on time so she left a bit.

At lunchtime I braved the leftover bolognaise sauce with some couscous and have lived to tell the tale. I ate it with the remains of the beetroot salad I'd made on Saturday.

So today's waste amounts to:

a few tablespoons of porridge
2 apple cores
1 banana skin
1 pear core
3 sweetcorn cores
240g vegetable peelings and sweetcorn husks
2 used tea bags

As usual, the cooked waste will go in the brown bin and the raw waste in the compost bin

Monday, 5 October 2009

Day 5 - Monday 5 October 2009

We had boiled eggs and soldiers for breakfast. There were egg shells and a bit of white left in one of them (my elder daughter only eats the yolk).

I had soup for lunch. the vegetable one I'd made on Saturday. I only work part time so am usually home for lunch and tend to eat what's left over from the night before, or what can be concocted from what's I discover in the fridge or the cupboard. I enjoy the challenge and the finished dish is usually quite tasty.

This evening I stripped yesterday's chicken carcass and my husband boiled it up for stock.

Today's waste offerings include:

3 egg shells and one egg white
1 chicken carcass, half an onion, a carrot and a broccoli stalk (boiled)
35g vegetable peelings
2 used tea bags

The cooked waste will find its way to the brown bin and the rest will probably be added to the compost bin rather than the wormery as the worms haven't yet eaten all they've already been given. They seem to be less hungry in the cold weather.

I've just thought that I should possibly include the tea bags I use at work. I go through a couple a day but I do try to use each one twice (a habit I picked up from my Aberdonian flatmate at university!)

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Day 4 - Sunday 4 October 2009

Today, being Sunday, we had a roast. Actually we don't always have a roast on Sundays but today we did and it was chicken. I find that the effort in preparing a large meal is rewarded later on in the week by the benefits obtained from the leftovers.

It was my husband who cooked the chicken and he did so according to a recipe we picked up from the family we visited in France this summer. Cut a couple of slices of bread (stale bread would do nicely) and rub them with the cut edge of a clove of garlic. Then stuff the bread into the cavity of the bird and roast as normal. The dry bread soaks up the juices released on cooking and the garlic flavours the meat from within. I can't remember whether this was in the original recipe but, in addition to the garlic, my husband seasoned the bread with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. The result was exceedingly tasty.

There was minimal waste from the chicken today; just a few wing bones. The remains of the bird have been returned to the fridge. Tomorrow I'll salvage every last edible morsel of meat from the bones before boiling the carcass with an onion, a carrot and a couple of bay leaves to make a fragrant stock. I haven't yet decided what to do with the meat, but it will provide one more meal. If the chicken had been a larger one we might have got another two meals, but it was a smaller bird and we were very hungry/greedy this evening!

So today's waste comprised:

2 egg shells (from biscuit making this afternoon)
170g vegetable peelings
bones from two chicken wings
3 apple cores
1 pear core

The bones will be added to our brown council household waste recycling bin. This is collected weekly and sent to a special heat treatment plant where it is converted into compost. It can take meat and fish waste which we can't compost at home and which would otherwise have to be put in the landfill bin. The introduction of this bin collection has made a considerable reduction to our waste.

Two of the three apple cores will go to the wormery. The third has been fed to our hamster!

PS The chard we ate with our chicken came from our garden. It was planted in amongst the alpines in our rockery in the spring. It made a slow start but then it suddenly took off and has produced a bountiful harvest. Besides which the rhubarb pink stalks are rather decorative.

Day 3 - Saturday 3 October 2009

This morning I emptied all the vegetable drawers in my fridge and washed them and the ever-so-useful green sponge cushion I bought from Lakeland. The leftover vegetables went into the soup pot and the clean drawers were filled with the contents of yesterday's organic vegetable box.

Before you fall back in admiration at my efficiency, let me assure you that it is not aways so. All too often I leave the fruit and vegetables to lie in their boxes until I need them, only to find that they have suffered, sometimes irredeemably, from neglect. I regret that I have, more often than I care to admit, thrown away food that would have been perfectly fine had it been stored properly, but that had rotted in a plastic bag or wilted in the dark recesses of the box.

However today was different and I'm hoping will be a sign of things to come.

Soup is an excellent vehicle for using up odd bits of vegetables, including anything too sad to be presented whole on a plate. I started by sweating a chopped leek in a glug of olive oil and a knob of butter. To this I added a wilted head of kale, a runt of white cabbage, an odd spring onion and a couple of potatoes. When the vegetables had softened and were just beginning to colour I covered them with water and a bit of milk, added a few teaspoons of Marigold bouillon powder and left them to simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes. Finally I blended them to a smooth puree, poured the mixture into a plastic container and put it in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch.

While I was making the soup I baked a couple of old beetroots in the oven. They went into a low (150 C) oven in a casserole with a tight fitting lid and a couple of tablespoons of water for 3 hours. When they were cool enough to handle I skinned and chopped them and tossed them in a couple of tablespoons of honey and mustard dressing. I ate some of this salad for lunch alongside a couple of slices of cold meat that had reached their use by date. The rest went into the fridge for another day.

I went out to a party in the evening so I didn't eat with the rest of the family, but they tucked in to a stir fry which included, among other ingredients, a handful of carrot sticks recovered from my daughter's lunch box on Thursday and a portion of lightly boiled green beans left over from dinner that same day. Sir fries are another excellent way of using up leftover, raw and cooked and my husband is very skilled in rustling up a delicious meal using nothing more than a packet of noodles, the leftovers from the fridge and a couple of store cupboard essentials (ie soy sauce, pad thai paste and sesame oil).

So today's items for the bin were:

5g breakfast cereal
265g vegetable peelings
1 used tea bag
50g grape waste (stalks, pips and squidgy ones)
90g sweetcorn husks
65g beetroot peelings
1 large tomato

The raw vegetable waste fed the worms. The tea bags went into the compost bin. The beetroot peelings were cooked and went into our council household waste bin.

The only items of real waste were the breakfast cereal, broken pieces from the bottom of the bag, and the tomato, which came from our own plant but which was bruised and had sat on the work surface for a day or so longer than it should have and had gone too soft to be edible. On reflection I could have fed the cereal to the hamster but it went into the brown bin instead.

Day 2 - Friday 2 October 2009

Today I had to work overtime. What with that, and it being the end of the week, and my feeling a bit groggy with a cold I cannot shake, I decided that we would have an Indian take away for dinner. We ordered it from The Clove and were able to recycle all the packaging, which was a bonus.

As a result I didn't have much to throw away today:

1 pear core
3 used tea bags

The pear core will be fed to my worms and the tea bags find their way to the compost bin.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Day 1 - Thursday 1 October 2009

Today I have thrown out the following:

vegetable peelings (380g)
egg shells (3)
lemon skins, pith and pips (2)
tea bags (3)
apple core (1)
pear core (1)

The vegetable peelings and the apple and pear cores will be fed to the worms in the wormery. The rest will end up in the compost bin. Eventually they will all be used to grow more fruit and vegetables in the garden.

The wormery, which we have had for over a year now, has been a great success. After a slow start the worms have been munching their way through regular supplies of vegetable and fruit waste. I cut it up to speed up the process, and avoid citrus fruits. The compost they produce is light and moist.

All other plant waste, including reasonable amounts of citrus fruits, goes in the compost bin. Egg shells benefit from being crushed and I tear open the tea bags to release the contents. After having left the bin to decompose over the winter we used the well rotted compost in our garden this spring.

So no real waste today.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Love Food Hate Waste

I am taking part in Bristol's Food Waste Diary Competition, being run in partnership with the excellent Love Food Hate Waste campaign.

Each month the average family throws away £50 worth of food that was bought but not eaten. Nationally this works out at 4 million pounds or 6.7 million tons. Unbelievable! Unforgiveable!

Having been born and brought up in India and seen hunger at first hand, I have always felt a twinge of guilt every time I throw away a piece of food that might otherwise have been eaten. I try to shop thoughtfully, buying only what I know I will use. I relish the challenge of producing a meal from leftovers. And I tend to rely on my own senses rather than a printed date when deciding whether or not food is still edible. However, despite my best efforts I do sometimes have to throw stuff away. Bread grows mouldy. Ham lingers past its use by date. Leftovers are shoved to the back of the fridge and forgotten. Milk turns sour. Potatoes sprout and turn green.

So for one week I will log every morsel of food I throw out and where it ends up. And I will let you know how I get on.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

I'm Still Here

It's been a while since I last blogged here, or anywhere for that matter. Life has, as it does from time to time, got in the way.

I haven't, however, given up on my zero waste mission and have continued to weigh my weekly landfill rubbish. It's averaged around 300g per week, which is above my target of 100g and leaves much room for improvement.

The chief obstacle to zero waste is lack of forward planning. If I work out what we are to eat in the coming week and plan my shopping trips carefully I end up buying less packaged food and producing more homemade meals. It's the days I have no idea what we are going to have for tea that I end up in Tescos buying ready meals.

So I'm going to be more organised.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Clean Bin Project

If you haven't heard of this remarkable trio then pop over to their blog right now and see what they've been up to these past 7 months. I'm afraid they put my feeble efforts to shame.

Week 7 - Plastic Basics Packets

By basics I mean the sort of food I buy week in week out and which I could not conceivably live without ie sugar, pasta, rice, couscous, porridge oats, noodles, pulses etc. With a bit of effort I can avoid buying biscuits and cakes and ready made meals and I can ask shopkeepers to pack meat and olives etc into my own containers, but I can hardly do the same with any of the staples mentioned above. The annoying thing is that I cannot for the life of me work out why any of them cannot be packed in paper bags or cardboard boxes. Flour and some sugars and Quaker porridge oats are readily available in paper bags and Lidl sells rice in cardboard boxes. So why isn't it standard practice with the rest? I can feel an email to a supermarket formulating in my head. Watch this space!

PS Now that our local deli has installed self service hoppers I can buy some of my staples loose, but this facility is not available to the vast majority of shoppers.

Weekly Weigh-In = 495g (including a plastic light switch and bulb weighing 150g, and 6 free Yakult bottles from the milkman at 60g). If these are discounted the total is reduced to 285g, which is still well over my target of 100g. All I can say in my defence is that we did seem to finish a number of the packets mentioned above this week!

Friday, 13 February 2009

Week 6 - Coffee Packets

I have to confess to being a bit of a coffee snob. I love coffee but it has to be the real thing. None of that instant rubbish. Normally we drink cafetiere coffee but for breakfast at the weekend we use a stove top percolator to make strong dark coffee which we dilute with warm foamy milk. The problem with coffee is that most of it comes in mixed material packets with plastic widgets designed to preserve its freshness. Not very environmentally friendly. However, our local deli sells coffee beans, freshly ground to your own specifications, in brown paper bags. And it's organic and fair trade!

Isn't it amazing how many waste-related issues can be solved by shopping local?

Weekly Weigh-In = 230g

This is, unfortunately, up on last week. I baked a cheesecake to take to an NCT reunion and was left with two cream cheese and one double cream container. Reminder to self to chase up Recresco's promise to have more wide ranging plastic recycling facilities in the future.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Week 5 - Plastic Wrapped Bakery Products

During the week we breakfast on toast or cereal, with the occasional boiled egg. At the weekends we like to treat ourselves to something more exciting - invariably croissants. The trouble with the croissants from our local Tesco Metro is that they are encased in plastic. They sit in a preformed plastic tray which is then placed in a plastic bag, neither of which is recyclable in our area and are destined for the landfill. However, one of our local bakeries sells loose croissants and the deli sells almond ones which are wickedly delicious. Unfortunately both of them are further away, but the extra distance might help to work off some of those calories!

When I'm feeling energetic I make pancakes which the girls devour with crispy bacon and maple syrup. I remember attempting croissants once, but also remember them failing to live up to my expectations.

I've been trying to cut down on shop bought bakery items and bake my own, which are not only less wasteful but also better for us. The girls take a biscuit or a cake to school with them in their bento lunchboxes every morning and always need a snack when they come home in the afternoon. I try to go for recipes containing oats or fruit, with a bit of chocolate thrown in. Flapjacks are a perennial favourite and this week I made tiffin which is ridiculously easy and doesn't even require cooking, if you don't count heating a few ingredients in a pan.

If anyone has any good recipes to share I'd love to hear from you.

Perhaps someone could also let me know what the rules are regarding the posting of recipes. Is it alright to do so if you acknowledge the source?

Weekly Weigh-In = 165g

I'm very pleased with this and hope I can keep it up.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Week 4 - Meat Packaging

One of the secrets of reducing waste is forward planning, as I have learnt to my cost these past few weeks. My local butcher closes on Monday afternoons and all day Wednesday so, if I want to buy mince or sausages on these days I'm forced to visit my local supermarket, where they are sold in plastic containers or plastic wrappers. The same applies to cold meat. The butcher and deli sell it loose but local supermarkets don't. This week I had to buy chicken in Tescos. Last week it was salami.

This week I'm going to plan my menus in advance so that I don't get caught out.

Weekly Weigh-In = 360g

This is an improvement on last week but 70g more than my current best. I must take this more seriously.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Week 3 - Plastic Spouts

Since Bristol introduced recycling facilities for Tetrapak containers I have been taking regular bagfuls of juice and milk cartons to our nearest bin in the Bedminter Asda car park. It's a positive step and I welcome it.

However, before I can recycle my cartons, I have to remove the plastic spouts and/or lids, which are not recyclable and which I fear may contaminate the recycling process.

I remember when containers were made of treated cardboard and nothing else. You snipped the corner with a pair of scissors to form a spout and poured yourself a drink. If this was done carefully there was no mess and the whole container could be recycled.

While preparing for last year's Zero Waste Week Challenge I discovered that Sainsbury's Basics fruit juice comes in spout-free cartons. I shall have to seek them out again.

Weekly Weigh-In = 345 g + a broken gas lighter weighing 95 g making a total of 440 g.
This is well up on last week's 290 g. We are still throwing out a lot of Christmas waste. I'm hoping that as this peters out my levels will go down again.

PS To encourage members of my family to consider what they are throwing away I have removed the waste basket from the living room. I think it's helping.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Gifts (contd)

An alternative to buying chocolates wrapped in layers of plastic is to make your own. I use Nigel Slater's recipe from Real Food but there are also ones here and here on the BBC website. This is not without its own waste. For example I don't know of a plastic free source of cream. However, if you make them in decent enough quantities then it is probably still less wasteful.

I've offered homemade truffles as Christmas presents and they have been well received. I know I always appreciate homemade gifts.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Week 2 - Gifts

This week's chosen items of waste are a number of empty chocolate packages. The cardboard boxes and foil wrappers have been recycled but the plastic trays that held the choccies remain.

I didn't buy any of these boxes of chocolates. They were all Christmas presents. Which brings me to the problem - how do I let my friends (and family) know that I do not want any waste without causing offence?

I was grateful for the effort to which some of my friends went to offer me environmentally friendly presents - fairly traded and sustainably wrapped. However other presents contained varying amounts of plastic (admittedly some of it hidden). Not that I can claim the moral high ground, as many of the presents I gave my family and friends were wasteful.

Judging by her list of Christmas presents Jen at The Clean Bin Project seems to have got the message across.

Perhaps the trick is to lead by example.

Weekly Weigh-In = 290 g

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Plastic Straws (contd)

I haven't been shopping this week, so no luck yet on the reuseable plastic straw. If only I lived in the USA I could go one better and buy my daughter a glass straw. Thanks to Cousin Yellowstone for sending me to the GlassDharma site with their exquisite creations, in two sizes (the wider one for smoothies!) and supplied with a cleaning brush. Wow!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Week 1 - Plastic Straws

I thought I'd start with an easy item? My younger daughter loves plastic straws. This week's rubbish contained two of them, one red and one yellow. I bought two packs (the others are blue and green) from Ikea some time ago now and she's been steadily working her way through them ever since. There can't be many left now.

They're easy because they're quite unnecessary - or at least they are to me. But she likes them. And suddenly it's not so easy.

If I lived on my own it would be so much easier to avoid waste. But I have a husband and two teenage daughters and although, as chief shopper and cook, I control most of what we buy and eat, it's only right that I take my family's wishes into consideration, even those involving plastic! There are some things I just won't buy, some that are open to negotiation and others to which I reluctantly give in.

But to return to the straws, there are 3 options:
  1. refuse to buy any more and let her learn to live without them
  2. buy a reuseable plastic straw
  3. get her to buy her own

I think I'll go for no 2.

Weekly Weigh-In = 385 g

PS Mrs A is hosting the Carnival of Trash at The The Rubbish Diet today. Well worth a visit!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Towards a Waste Free 2009

What with assorted building work and the festive season my weekly weigh-ins were abandoned, the result of which has been that our landfill bin has dramatically increased in volume. However, now that we are back to normal(!), I have reinstated the paper carrier bag on top of the kitchen bin and started to think long and hard before I buy.

Following my success in producing a mere 5 g during Zero Waste Week my weekly total crept up to between 200g and 250g, almost entirely composed of unrecyclable plastic. I'd like to set myself a weekly target of 100g. However, given that half way through this week we'd reached 250g, it's not going to happen overnight, nor without serious reconsideration of our purchases, because that's where it all begins.

I am, however, cautiously optimistic for several reasons.

Firstly, having done it once, I know it can be done again.

Secondly because, with careful planning, it is perfectly possible to cut right back on plastic. It just requires a bit of effort.

Thirdly, the opening of the Bristol Green Store in our old Chessel Street Post Office and the arrival of self service bins in Southville Deli will make it easier to buy waste free staples.

And last, but by no means least, because I am not alone. There are hundreds of you out there, all over the world, committed to a greener way of life and supporting each other along the way.

So, starting this Thursday, I am going to select one piece of waste from my landfill bin and spend the week working out if and how I can ensure that it never turns up in my bin again. Some things are going to be easy but I suspect that the majority of them will prove to be somewhat of a challenge.

Wish me luck!

Waste Free Christmas & New Year?

I didn't aim for a waste free Christmas and New Year - largely because I didn't believe I'd ever achieve it and didn't want to have to deal with the disappointment. Having said that I did take steps to reduce the amount of rubbish I generated, including a few firsts.

Christmas Cards: I pruned our Christmas card list and only sent cards to friends I wouldn't be seeing in the run up to the day. I realise now that I missed out a few who should have received a card. I hope they'll forgive me. Also, I made my own cards from recycled blanks and last year's cards and was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had with them. I've made a mental note to start earlier next year and involve the girls more.

Christmas Presents: I cut back on these too and resisted the temptation to feel mean. Alan and I agreed not to buy each other a big present, although we both still filled each other's stockings. I bought the girls presents as usual and baked a few stollen for some good friends but that was about it. Building works put paid to my notion of making more homemade gifts but I was encouraged to see both my daughters offering their friends elegantly wrapped truffles and iced biscuits. I'm going to keep my eyes open for locally crafted items for next year's presents.

Christmas Dinner: We haven't had a traditional turkey dinner for years. This year, inspired by my daughters' visit to the south west of France, we had duck confit. I bought two ducks. Our butcher was too busy to joint it for me so I did it myself and, although we only needed the legs for the confit, absolutely none of the birds went to waste. The wings and breasts were eaten as separate meals, the carcass was boiled for stock, the fat was rendered for the confit and the skin crisped to make a tasty snack. Even the offal is in the freezer waiting to be fried and eaten with bruschetta. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstal would have been proud of me.

Christmas Wreath: I fully intended to buy a traditional holly wreath but by the time I got round to it there were none to be had. So I made my own out of a willow ring and shiny wrappers.

Christmas Tree: We had a real tree, cut and mounted on a stump. I can't be sure of the environmental friendliness of its origins but it's even now sitting on our front wall waiting for the next recycling collection.

Wrapping Paper: With fewer presents there was less to wrap and I was able to manage on what I'd bought in previous years. I've a pile of used paper to sort through. What can't be salvaged for next year's cards will be recycled.

Decorations: Every year I allow myself one more decoration for the tree. This year it was an elephant from Bath Christmas Market. It's made of papier mache, so is probably not too damaging. Besides I intend to keep it forever.

Food: We ate and drank well, but not to excess. Most of our food came from Riverford and local shops.

All in all I was reasonably pleased with our efforts and hope to use this year's experiences to celebrate an even greener Christmas next year.

I'm interested to hear how the rest of you got on. I love picking up ideas from other people, so I hope you'll share.