Wednesday, 18 June 2008

There's a hippo in my cistern...and as for my bin...!

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.



Mrs Green said...

:D It sounds like you had a lot of fun with that interview and that Pete is a genuinely funny guy.

What a blast you're having. Thanks for sharing the interview with us; it was great :)

Mrs G x

gemma_anslow said...

Great to read about Pete's experiences.
To Mrs A, Pete and anyone else interested (or prepared to take the trouble!). You can send polythene (the stretchy plastic used for magazine wrappers, catalogues, some bread bags, fruit bags, etc) to Polyprint and they will recycle it. You obviously have to pay postage but 2nd class for that kind of stuff is pretty cheap, even if you've a big wodge of it, as it squashes down.


Hi Mrs Green - yes he's a really great guy and I am very grateful that I got this "exclusive" about his bins :-D

I know you will find his book a fabulous read.

I would offer to loan you my copy, but Pete needs to feed his chickens and I don't want to be responsible for any suffering. x

Hi Gemma - glad you enjoyed the interview. That's a top tip about Polyprint. They are a great company, with just the right attitude. Thanks for the reminder :D.

If you're looking in Pete, thanks so much for your time, I really appreciate it and I hope you're now wearing your undies when you're off fighting foxes. ;-D

C. Marie Byars said...

Cute blog name! I occasionally publish an eco item on my Christian Nature Poetry site. It's not the primary focus of the site, though, so it's rare.


Hi Marie - Thanks for passing by and leaving a comment. It's really good to hear from you. It's great that you're raising the awareness of waste on your site too. "The more the merrier" ;-D

Karin said...

I've just checked to see if it's in my local library and i see there are 16 copies on order for the whole county, so I'll get hold of a copy when they arrive. Sounds like a great holiday read.


Hi Karin - I guess Pete will be pleased to hear about the 16 copies...that's more food for his chicken. Enjoy the read and I hope you get it soon :-D

Karin said...

Well the book was waiting for me when I got back from holiday mid-August, but hubby picked it up and only recently put it down. He kept letting out guffaws and saying, how much it reminded him of us, but he couldn't go into detail or it would spoil it for me.

Anyway, I think I finally got hold of it about a week ago and am half way through. It is highly amusing, so I'm afraid it's now me letting out intermittent chuckles and guffaws.

We've tried the organic veg box and wading through more beetroot and Jerusalem artichokes than two people can comfortably manage - we didn't train the kids at a young age, but waited until they were already teenagers. Big mistake.

We are now trying to grow our own organic veg and contemplating chickens. And I'm afraid I mostly expect hubby to take our cardboard and tetrapaks to the recycling points, although it's mostly me that insists on recycling them. :|


LOL - Hi Karin. I am so pleased my that my recommendation paid off. It really is fun is isn't it.

Now as for the Jerusalem Artichokes, I have tried to like them but just can't hack it. Shame really, because I could benefit from free food from quite a number of sources over the next few months ;-D

Doctor_Eva said...

If your kid suffers from obesity think about his/her cardio-vascular system! But I know, how to loose weight!

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