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.