Friday, 20 June 2008

You say Tomayto I say Tomahto: but none of us would throw one away.

(Photo by Flickr's Alincolt)

Since emerging from my bin this week, I decided to make the most of my new-found freedom.

Yes I know... give the girl an inch and she'll take a mile and all that.

And indeed I have. I am oh so guilty m'lud, but I am not sorry! I have been having way too much fun.

Over the last few days, I've taken a virtual tour of New Zealand, Canada and the U.S. to catch up with some fellow trash-talkers and get us all together to ruminate about our rubbish, garbage and trash.

So pull up your chairs ladies and gentlemen. Grab a drink and come and join us for the first international gathering of garbloggers.

Yep, according to an article on the North American Take Part website, this is what we're called. And there are growing numbers of bloggers all over the world talking rubbish. We may use different words or pronounce them differently, but we're all talking about the same thing, waste, whether it's general waste, food waste or plastic.

The world's garbloggers are truly amazing people and I am so pleased that I've caught up with four of them to take part today. I can't wait to introduce them. So come and join the fun as it's time to say hello.

All the way from Christchurch, New Zealand, we have Matthew, who along with his other-half Waveney, are following the most amazing challenge by living rubbish-free for a whole year. Yes a year!

When you consider that my own personal challenge was a Zero Waste Week, a rubbish free year sounds incredible. Having begun the challenge in February, you can follow their progress on their website

Please say a big "Hi" to Sarah from Toronto in Canada, who along with her partner Kyle, decided to go garbage-free for 31 consecutive days back in Spring. They each achieved their goals in different time-frames and the great thing is they're still keeping it low.

Just like me, the only thing that Sarah threw away during her challenge was a plaster, or band-aid as they say in Canada. What an amazing coincidence.

To find out more about Sarah's and Kyle's experiences, pop over to their website Say No to Trash, which can be found at

I'd also like to welcome Beth from Oakland, California over in the U.S.

Beth is celebrating the anniversary of her blog this week, which she set up out of concern over the effects of plastic on nature and the environment. Inspired by EnviroWoman's Plastic Free Year, she wanted to explore the possibilities for eliminating plastic waste, looking at alternative uses for plastic that already exists, finding ways of recycling and reusing as well as exploring non-plastic substitutions.

Beth has managed to reduce her use of plastic packaging and other products to an amazing level. You will be truly stunned at her achievements but I shan't give the game away. Go and have a peek yourself at

Last but certainly not least, I'd like to introduce Jonathan, a journalist from Boston, Massachussetts. Jonathan's specific interest is food waste, which he has been researching since 2005. This is a major issue in the U.S. with statistics revealing that 40% of food is needlessly wasted.

Jonathan's research experiences include volunteering in a homeless shelter that rescues wasted food from restaurants and supermarkets and has worked in the produce department of a large grocery chain. As well as writing a book on the subject, his research and personal experiences can be found at his website

With the introductions out of the way, it's time for me to get nosey.

So guys, this really feels like you're the A-Team against landfill. What incredible achievements! Tell me what has been the hardest thing about your individual challenges?

Matthew: No nachos! We can't buy the chips, sour cream or cheese! Other than that the hardest part was starting, our apathy had a strong gravitational pull.

Sarah: The hardest thing for us was going out, and also receiving gifts from others.

Beth: For me it was giving up convenience foods and remembering to plan ahead. I used to live on frozen meals and energy bars and other individually wrapped snacks. The snacks and energy bars were the first things to go. It took a while to let go of the frozen meals. I thought I could buy only meals that came in cardboard boxes (instead of plastic trays) with only a thin layer of plastic across the top. But then I learned that any cardboard container that holds food is also lined with plastic to keep it from leaking. So at that point, I just let go of all frozen foods except ice cream.

Another tricky thing has been to remember to bring my travel containers with me (water bottle or travel mug, bamboo cutlery, leftovers container) to avoid disposables. It's a habit now, so I don't really have to think much. And if I do leave the house without them, I either make sure to sit down and eat somewhere that provides durable dishware or I go without. I've learned I won't starve if I have to wait a bit to eat.

Jonathan: Regarding food waste, the hardest task has been convincing businesses to change their ways. Getting a restaurant or grocery store to donate or compost food is an uphill battle, because it requires them to do things a little differently. If that requires spending money, even if it's an investment that will pay off later, you'd better hope that the people running the company have their heart in the right place.

What have you found to be the easiest thing?

Matthew: Once clear of the aforementioned gravitational pull, the whole thing has actually been surprisingly easy. It took us about three months to really get into the swing of things and to find alternatives to products and items we've been consuming for years, but now that that is done we are finding it surprisingly easy to not have a rubbish bin.

Sarah: Giving up things like chips and tooth floss.

Beth: Giving up plastic produce bags. Easy easy. I carry a few cloth produce bags in my backpack and have learned that most produce doesn't need a separate bag anyway.

Jonathan: Saving leftovers is the easiest way to cut food waste. You'd be surprised how many people elect not to keep the remains of their meal, whether at home or a restaurant.

What has been the impact upon yourselves and your habits?

Matthew: It is very unlikely that we will go back to having a landfill destined rubbish bin in our house again now that we have formed new habits. Also we have been impacted by how often there are complementary bonuses of being rubbish free, in that products where the manufacturers have thought about packaging often seem to be fair trade and/or organic. By focusing on one aspect we are finding it easier to consume more ethically generally.

Sarah: Our project had a huge impact on us. It changed the way we live. It taught us a lot about balance, patience, humility and change. We are still learning how to live happily within a world we are not happy with, and how to make changes within our own lives.

Beth: It's generally made me more aware of what I buy and the choices I make. It's not just about the plastic, although noticing plastic has helped me to slow down and shop more consciously. It's about paying attention each day as I live my life to the world around me: what's offered for sale in stores; what's being littered on the ground; what others are doing to contribute to or help alleviate the problem. I think giving up plastic has made me a more conscious person all around.

Jonathan: Since I began researching the topic about three years ago, I've made a few changes in my habits. First, I plan the week's dinners before shopping. I make a grocery list and, within reason, try to stick to it. I also try not to overeat, as that leaves more of each dinner for the next day. In addition, whatever I don't eat or isn't edible (peels, scraps), I compost in my backyard (or feed to my dog).

What you've done has generated a lot of interest from the media. How do you think you've influenced others through your writing and media coverage?

Matthew: We have been blown away by comments from folk and their assertions that we have inspired them in some way. I think that people find environmental militancy, or a guilt trip, unattractive and a turn off, and that the majority of people respond best when encouraged and supported.

Sarah: Ummm, er well we've gotten mostly positive responses and people say we are inspiring. Some people have also said we're weirdy beardy sideshow freaks, but hey beards are good and I like sideshows, so that's cool. It was really a project for ourselves. I made it public because I hoped to help other people who were interested in doing similar projects. We learned a great deal over the few years it took us to achieve one garbage free month and I didn't want the knowledge to go to waste (no garbage!). I like to share. It was hard work, and I thought people could benefit from our discoveries instead of having to do all the research and mistake making themselves.

Beth: I hope that I have shown them that if someone like me can do this, they can too. Because I'm not a professional environmentalist or professional writer. I'm just a regular person with a regular job who woke up one day to some horrific facts about what we are doing to our world and realized I had to do something to help.

Jonathan: I would hope that I've convinced some folks to examine their behavior and think about how they can trim their waste. If everyone does their part, we can make a massive dent in the amount of food that goes for naught.

So what would be your top tip for anyone else who was thinking about reducing their garbage or rubbish?

Matthew: Move your rubbish bin out of your house into a shed, garage or trash can outside. This means you start becoming acutely aware of what it is you are throwing out and more likely to consider this when purchasing items. Especially if it is winter and you have to trudge outside!

Sarah: Treat it like a budget or a diet and somehow (keeping a list, taking photos, keeping your garbage in view etc.) keep track of all the garbage you obtain.

Beth: Just one tip? Try to shop in stores that have bulk bins where you can fill up your own containers instead of purchasing pre-packaged items. Give up bottled water. And when you need new durable goods, ask yourself if they really need to be new or if borrowing or buying used would work instead. There. That's three tips!

Jonathan: Start composting. You'll be amazed at how much less garbage you'll have. By recycling paper and food—the two largest materials discarded in the U.S. waste stream—you're almost halving your trash output.

Before you throw away anything, think about whether there's a better place for it than the trash. Think about whether it can be repurposed, recycled or composted.


Wow, what fabulous advice guys. It's at times like this I wish I had a podcast, so the whole world can hear you ... hmm now there's an idea for next time.

It truly highlights that the issue of waste is an international one and that more and more people in all corners of the globe are not just recognising the problem but are taking responsibility for their own actions. And what actions eh! Despite my best efforts, I can't imagine what it must be like to live rubbish-free for more than a week, let alone a month or a year. Reducing plastics is another challenge in itself and as for tackling the subject of America's food waste, what a feat.

I've had a great time delving into everybody's experiences. It is a real privilege to have gathered everyone together in one virtual place and I would like to say a huge thank you to Matthew, Sarah, Beth and Jonathan for their valuable time.

I wish there was both time and space to include other "garbloggers" but it would have got really crowded on my little blog, especially as most people would hang out in my experimental kitchen and you know how small that is.

However I recommend that when you have a spare few minutes, pop along to one or more of the websites listed below, where you will find encouraging stories from many other people about reducing waste. You'll also find a few artistic inspirations along the way.

And don't forget, if you do want to find out more about the projects featured above, please visit and introduce yourself. You'll learn loads and get a huge welcome at the same time. Also if you want to see Beth's Flickr stream showing her weekly plastic tally visit:

Oh...what's this coming in the room?

...oh wow it's a birthday cake.

I wonder who that can be for?

Eh it's time to celebrate Beth's first anniversary...

Don't be shy Beth...And don't worry, it's all home made! The butter came in a wrapper not a tub and I've ditched the plastic candle holder.

So while Beth blows out the candle...perhaps it's time for a toast or three...

"Congratulations to Beth and to Sarah & Kyle on their amazing achievements. "

"Good luck to Matthew and Waveney for their rubbish-free year."

"And to Jonathan, best of luck with your book and to raising awareness across the pond."

And before you go folks, I'm sorry I was stingy on the food but you know I don't like to over-cater. If your tummies are still rumbling, I suggest you join me at Jonathan's for his weekly Friday Buffet. Beth, you bring the cutlery and Matthew and Sarah go round up Waveney and Kyle quick.

...And I'll bung that rotten tomato in the compost.

Oh.... and before I forget... if you've enjoyed today's gathering, let's make it a regular event. Why stop at a party when we can go the whole hog and have a carnival. How exciting is that...a carnival! Drop by next week for your invitation. I often say that other people's rubbish is fun and it really is!


Some other incredible rubbish sites with fabulous trash content
(and in this game that's a real compliment) The Green Family's Zero Waste Challenge (UK) Ruby's Rubbish Diet (UK) Jo Beaufoix's amusing post about her Rubbish Diet (UK) Sue's account of healthy cheap meals and minimising waste, (UK) John Costigane's 104 week bin bag challenge (UK) Artist Fran Crowe's challenge of walking to save some sea (UK) exploring the more quirky side of trash (U.S.) A photo collection of trash in New York City (U.S.) Ari Derfel's collection of 12 month's trash (U.S) Leila Darabi's closer look at what we throw away (U.S.) Sustainable Dave's attempt at throwing nothing away for a year (U.S.) Now into its second year, follows EnviroWoman's progress of living without plastic (Canada) Thoughts on the waste situation in Italy (Italian) Danda's musings on waste and other things (Italian)



Anonymous said...

Yep. I'm a tomayto sayer. Thanks so much for the interview. It was fun. And for the anniversary wishes. Looking forward to the Carnival of Trash!


Mrs Green said...

Wahee. I have a name - a garblogger; how about that :D

Thanks for another excellent post. I really enjoyed reading this and of hearing about other's achievments,

Loved the party too - a bit tired today though. However, a waste free party means there is never much tidying up to do ;)

Mrs G x

Jo Beaufoix said...

Hee hee, I'm a garblogger.


Hi Beth - Thanks so much for your involvement, I really enjoyed it. I love the sound of Tomayto, I was singing the song yesterday morning whilst sat writing in a hotel once frequented by Charles Dickens...

LOL...someone also got to my blog today with the search "Does anyone say Tomahto"...the answer is yep...I do.. ;-D

Hi Mrs Green - isn't it great to have an official name! Glad you enjoyed the post...other people's stories are so inspirational. Thanks for coming to the party. Hope you don't have a hangover :-D x

Hi Jo - that's something you don't get called that often. I wondered whether the British Contingent should be termed Rubloggers, but it sounded too much like an innuendo ;-D

birthblessed said...

Hey. We've trying to become Zero Waste here in Austin, TX, too. I have a family of 9, and each week we manage to produce only one 13 gallon bag of trash each week. My kids have been in cloth diapers, using as few as possible by doing "EC" (have them use the POTTY! as early as an hour after BIRTH!). They all know how to sort recyclables, and they know why we don't get yogurt at the store. For Nachos, Matthew (it was Matthew, right?) you can take a cloth "produce" bag to the local Tex Mex restaurant, they will sell you a huge bag full for $5 or less. I can even take a small glass jar and get a pint of sour cream from their huge 5 gallon bucket full, for $1.

Danda said...

Thank you so much having linked me!
It's funny to be a "garblogger"!
And It's strange but nice to be a drop in a ocean of people who are so aware of waste problems, and who share the same efforts to reduce it!
It's like to be in a big and weird virtual party with wonderful people! Thanks for inviting me!


P.s.: I've done it! Here's my face too!!! ;-)


Hi Birthblessed - thanks so much for visiting and sparing the time to say hello. I'm in awe of the small amount of rubbish you create with such a large family. It just shows it can be done. That restaurant you have nearby sounds fantastic. I figure out that the pint of sour cream would be about 50p over here which is hardly anything. Please do share any other experiences you have. I always love to hear other people's stories.

Hello my lovely Danda - there you are...I can see you at long last. Well done for being brave and coming out from behind your bin too. I'm glad you enjoyed the party and meeting up with the other folks. It's great to know that there are many others out there isn't it ;-D

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