Sunday, 27 January 2008

Pondering Less

After much dancing yesterday and clanging of dustbin lids to the tune of the 3Rs, the whole family has settled into the Zero Waste challenge with great gusto.

I even won the battle of the bin bags with great victory over the King of Declutter (my husband), who created a whole bin-bag full of miscellaneous items, all destined for the black bin. There was good reason, especially as being the Queen of Clutter I often have many piles dotted around the house, ready to give to friends, charity shops or one of the local amenity sites... and which often lurk around for weeks and weeks (er...and sometimes months), waiting for the right opportunity to be set free.

Yesterday the King of Declutter was taking no prisoners, but I was, and with great determination I rescued the home-made nativity crowns, which could be re-used for craft activities, various paper products that could be redirected to the blue bin and finally his old worn-out shoes, which could be taken to the clothing bank. The bag immediately shrunk to a third of its original size. Then today, he went off to our local amenity site with the old shoes and the load of tetra-pak cartons which had been collected over the last couple of weeks. Kerching! That's two gold stars, I should say, especially because two weeks ago this kind of stuff would have been destined for landfill.

I have a theory that it's all in the genes and I am just very fortunate to have married someone with excellent decluttering skills, helping to reduce the number of superfluous things that get in the way, which brings me onto the subject of LESS and its relevance to the Zero Waste challenge. Would we have the same problems if we just had fewer things? It makes sense that having less means that there would be less to throw away.

The experts in the field refer to this as "Reduce", the first of the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), highlighting that if we reduce what we buy and use, the result will be less waste.

This is all very well in theory, but what does it mean in practice? I suppose it depends on your view of life and the relevance of stuff!

"Less is more."
Mies van der Rohe, Dutch-American "Modernist" architect (1886-1969)

"Less is a bore."
Robert Venturi, American post-Modernist architect (b. 1925)

Hmm. I think I am definitely a "Less is More" girl, unless you're talking diamonds over cubic zirconia, where for me caret holds much more value that cut. So, I am sorry to disappoint if you're hoping to see a complete eco convert. However, this highlights why I am average, sorry, I mean almost average.

Less is definitely not boring if you know how to use it wisely and I have come to the conclusion that I need to concentrate on this to reduce our household waste in time for Zero Waste Week.

So here is my target hit list for the next few weeks.

1. Receive less mail, especially those catalogues that companies send through the post just because I bought one or two items over the last few years. (I picked up the phone and cancelled one of these today, so that's another Kerching).

2. Reduce the rubbish that we buy for the children, e.g. the cheap little gimmicks that come with children's magazines, which have very little use and normally end up in the bin (hence why I refer to them as rubbish).

3. I'll say no to free samples, all free samples. Do I really need them? Does my bin really need them? I've decided the answer on that one is no.

4. Waste less food (by buying only what we need and making sure we use it).

Now that's an area that deserves much more attention than just a follow-up comment in brackets, so much so that a whole website has been created to promote its relevance. The website highlights the significance of food waste in the UK, reminding us that we throw away 6.7 million tonnes of food each year, sending it directly to landfill. The amount of food we discard contributes significantly to the production of greenhouse glasses, which is why it is a key area for waste reduction.

Whilst pondering upon the subject of less, I've realised that it is probably food waste which contributes mostly to our black bin and if I am going to try and slim it down, this is where I really need to concentrate most of my efforts, ensuring that I measure out only the amount of food that we need and learn how to make best use of leftovers.

So armed with some weighing scales, a measuring jug and the lovefoodhatewaste website to check on my portion sizes, this is now beginning to feel like a real diet.

Hmmm, I wonder if I can get thin along with my bin. Now that's another point to consider, but bearing in mind statistics reveal that we throw away our weight in waste over a 7 week period*, I suggest you watch this space.

Further resources:

*Recycle Now - Facts and Figures:


picklesmum said...

I'm going to sound nit picky I know and I don't mean to cause offence, but isn't it defeating the object taking stuff to the dump as it will end up in landfill site in the same way as if you put it in the black bin?


Hi Picklesmum - thanks for raising this point, especially as I'd previously assumed that anything that gets taken to the local amenity sites is for sorting in order to avoid sending things unnecessarily to the landfill. So I did panic, thinking that the effort that I'm making might be in vain.

However, I phoned the council this afternoon and they have reassured me that my initial presumptions were correct, much to my relief. I am hoping that I can get more information, which I can then share on the blog to reassure everyone else.

In the meantime, I'll keep on sorting. ;-D

Fake Plastic Fish said...

Hi. I found your blog through the mention on Bean Sprouts. I have a question. Is composting allowed on the Zero Waste diet? I understand that you want to reduce your food waste as much as possible, but there are some things, like stems and cores, that can't be eaten. Can you compost them instead of throwing them away?


Hi Fake Plastic Fish - yes composting is allowed. If it wasn't I think I would have trouble with the amount of apples and bananas that our family eats. I am going to cover composting soon so please keep coming back as anything you can add would be great.
I love your blog by the way and what a great name. Thanks for popping over from Beansprouts.

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