What a week! And it's only Wednesday.
But boy, have I been having fun.
Yes, I've been poking my nose into people's rubbish again. I know, it's becoming a bit of a hobby.
And the latest victim?
The very funny Pete May, author of "There's a hippo in my cistern: one man's misadventures on the eco frontline".
With hilarious tales of guerilla gardening on golf courses, crouching over compost loos and temporary cave dwelling in foreign lands, this book had me laughing right to the very end.
The only trouble is I am now left with the image of this immensely happy looking man defending his chickens at 7am and chasing a sub-urban fox with a broom, while wearing only DMs and a flapping dressing gown that doesn't quite cover his decency.
So how did this former Loaded columnist, with a life full of beer, girls and football fixtures end up on the "eco frontline"?
Love of course!
And the object of his affections?
None other than Nicola Baird, an environmental journalist and author of Save cash and save the planet and The estate we're in: who's driving car culture.
It really is a tale of Lads Mag Columnist meets Eco-bird. Lad falls in love. Eco-bird becomes his goddess. Lad becomes "Green"!
With the book behind him, Pete still gets new ideas thrown his way and as I discovered on their family blog, Around Britain without a plane, one of their latest challenges was to reduce their household rubbish.
Being the nosey old bird that I am, I thought I'd catch up with Pete and find out more. You could call it an exclusive interview if you like (well, I guess no-one else is going to be sad enough to interview him about his bin).
He was good enough to oblige and there are no surprises that the rubbish challenge had something to do with Nicola...
So Pete, what prompted you and Nicola to go for the challenge?
Other women just want chocolates and night out in a restaurant for their birthday present. Nicola wanted a month without waste!
So how much rubbish did you throw away before you started?
We were fairly green in our habits, but normally had around one bin bag of trash every fortnight.
One bag every fortnight is brilliant in itself, but how much was it reduced to by the end of the challenge?
After a month we only had a quarter of a bag.
Wow, that's fantastic. So what was the biggest challenge?
The worst thing was all the letters/magazines that come wrapped in plastic, and also the supplements from newspapers. I’m getting my late father’s mail forwarded and the Post Office sends everything in plastic bags. Sometimes they even bag mail already in plastic bags!
Am I very old fashioned, or is there something wrong with paper envelopes? We did take some the plastic in to Friends of the Earth to recycle, but it’s a drag.
It is really hard when you can't recycle stuff on your doorstep and plastic bags are often the main culprits. Was anything else tricky?
Bottle tops were difficult, but eventually we kept them in a box and discovered the kids love to play games with them.
The kids complained about no more ice creams and Kinder eggs though and I missed Tivali vegetarian sausages, although Holland and Barrett’s sausages are better, just coming in cardboard.
Also the bits of plastic that seal tubs of Marmite and the yellow top of a Marmite jar had to go in the bin.
Razor blades are impossible to recycle and also how do you recycle what Cherie Blair might refer to as “contraceptive equipment” without getting arrested?
Nobody wants to get arrested for recycling "contraceptive equipment" ooh, the thought..... So, err what was easier than expected?
It was also great to tell Nicola that going to the pub was ethical, because the glasses are reused.
Buying strong, flavoursome cheese from a deli minus packaging meant we had some lovely varieties and needed less.
Cutting crisps was fairly easy, we felt healthier and richer. And once we got used to it, it was fairly simple to stop buying plastic pots of hummus and yogurt.
We bought coffee beans and cheese and pasta from a shop called Unpackaged and that eliminated all the plastic/foil packaging. In the local shop I’d take their paper bags for croissants etc and put say mushrooms in them instead of using plastic.
Ah...I see the inner Lad is still there, with the focus on the pub and all that, but there's definite evidence that the lad's been "greened".
So Pete, tell me, have you gone back to your old ways...and what are they?
I still have an aerosol of shaving foam, but now think I really should shave with soap instead. I buy crisps and hummus again, but feel guilty about it. And sometimes I get coffee in packets when the beans run out and I’m desperate to wake up with a caffeine fix.
So, what have you taken from the whole experience?
We’re now much more careful about what we throw away, and still shop at Unpackaged as much as possible. A trip to the supermarket now has me gazing in disbelief at the rubbish wrapped around our food.
And have you got any top tips for people teetering on the edge of slimming their bin?
We actually saved money through eating less junk! ... So my advice would be to just go ahead so you can say 'bin there done that'.
So on the advice of Pete May, if you haven't already done it, give it a go. You can always get further inspiration by reading the family's waste challenge on their blog.
Of course, my advice is when the going gets tough, just pick up a copy of "There's a hippo in my cistern: one man's misadventures on the eco-frontline". As I've already found out, Pete will have you laughing all the way to your bin.... That's if you've still got one.
Available in all good books shops now, including Amazon.
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
What a week! And it's only Wednesday.