Thursday, 13 March 2008

Zero Waste Week: Thinking about the Young and Old

Life has become really crazy this week.

It's been very strange getting used to the daily "appearance" on Woman's Hour and juggling the various interviews that have been arranged for various radio stations and newspapers. It's almost as though I've stepped into someone else's life.

When I first started The Rubbish Diet, I hadn't quite expected the attention that the blog would receive. I'm now beginning to think that I've really gone and opened a can of worms, but have been glad to have raised the issue about how much waste we generate as a society.

What really brought this home to me was the front page story in yesterday's Daily Express, highlighting that people are paying as much as £200 each year to private companies to take away their rubbish. Apparently, households across the country are creating too much waste to cope with the fortnightly waste collection routine that many councils are now adopting.

Does that sound like Britain's gone mad? I'm beginning to think so. But who's really to blame? It would be so easy to blame the households, wouldn't it, or even have another pop at your local council? However before the fingers are pointed in either direction, we need to take a good look at our culture and how this situation has arisen.

I am still trying to get a handle on how our country and indeed how Western Society has reached a point that we are locked into this long-term relationship with this big ugly monster called waste. It's like an impossible divorce. We don't want to live with it, but we find it difficult to separate our lives from it. While humans have existed and consumed products, waste has been a by-product of society. It's nothing new and you can see for yourself. Wasteonline has some excellent information about the Chronology of Waste. But what's worrying is why do we have so much today?

When I was a child in the 1970s, we had just one bin, which contained the ashes from the fire and all the household rubbish. Of course, we didn't have to deal with so much packaging back then, so all the empty tins and other similar offenders all went in together. But even then, we didn't really throw much away.

However, fast-forwarding to modern life in the 21st century, I now feel part of a generation that has somehow lost its way and which now needs to get back on track. I suppose, all I have been doing over the last few months is revisiting some of the skills of our forebears, who were more sustainable than we are today, mainly because they had to. There was no other choice. However in what appears to be today's land of plenty, sustainability has dropped off the agenda of mainstream everyday life, and only makes a guest appearance on the latest wave of green initiatives. Just like food was organic back in the old days, people were also "greener", even if they didn't quite know it back then.

It is interesting to see that writer and broadcaster Tracey Smith, of what is now International Downshifting Week. is petitioning the government to bring sustainable living lessons into schools. This would be a great way of introducing the much needed skills that our future generations will need to help us create a more balanced sustainable society in the 21st Century. I wish her well.

On a separate note, I touched on the conveniences of the 21st Century very briefly during yesterday's interview with James Hazell at Radio Suffolk, when we talked about how we should be able to enjoy many of the conveniences of contemporary life, while adopting "best practice" from decades gone by, for example being able to buy things that aren't so heavily packaged.

We also chatted about the general problems of waste and how The Rubbish Diet can be adapted to many situations, where even if people are able to make just one small change, it would be something to be proud of.

It was great to have the opportunity to visit the studio for the live interview yesterday. The subject of No Smoking Day was the main topic on the show and with that in mind I couldn't help but mention the fact that it can take up to 15 years for cigarette butts to decay down to what becomes a plastic powder (thanks to St Edmundsbury staff for that info). What this has made me aware of is how difficult the Zero Waste thing must be for smokers, unless they've got a fire into which they can throw the cigarette ends. I now wonder if anyone has gone as far as giving up smoking as part of their Zero Waste challenge. That would be one hell of a commitment.

Anyway, I am amazed that at the end of Day 3 of Zero Waste Week, we still only had one plaster in our bin and that's even after I had been out for the whole day (don't forget the rules are, that any rubbish I create I have to bring home for disposal)!

So... what excitement is coming up today?

Well there's a photo session lined up with a regional paper and I've also been invited to do a telephone podcast for Wiggly Wigglers.

However the big event of the day is the Zero Waste Lunch at our local primary school, where all the children at Abbots Green are going to attempt to be Zero Heroes, by eating all their lunch and making sure that their lunch-boxes contain no packaging.

Now that will be amazing!



Simon Sherlock said...

Really looking forward to the Wiggly podcast - please keep us updated on that one.

Jen Herrington said...

I listened in for the first time to WH on Radio 4 this morning and am very excited about your efforts to reduce your rubbish production. I have been thinking for the past few months that it is about time we started taking this issue very seriously as it has really got out of hand. I am really impressed though, that you seem to have turned such a serious issue into one that can also be fun to implement. I too find that composting, recycling etc can have a real boost to the ego - yes, I know that makes me really weird, but it's about time we saw the benefit in following this new 'lifestyle' and thinking more what is going to happen much further on down the line for our children. Please count me as someone totally on your bandwagon and if you ever get time (now you are an E-list celebrity) and fancy chewing the fat on this one, please get in touch. Go get 'em girl.


Hi Simon - I'll let you know when the wigglies post it up. Great to hear from you again!

Hi Jen - thanks so much for getting in touch. You're right about the benefits of having a lighter waste lifestyle. It's so refreshing. I'm glad to have you on the bandwagon and I think we will most definitely be keeping in touch. Please come back soon.

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