Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year - It's party time!

Photo credit: Flickr's Martin Pettitt

So, this is is it! The last day of 2009 and indeed the last few hours of a time period that will go down in history as "The Noughties". Yep, it's New Year's Eve, and amongst the celebrations it's the traditional time to reflect on the past as well as take a moment to welcome in the new year that lies ahead.

And as we get prepared to celebrate the dawn of a new decade, I would love you indulge me for a moment as I take a brief trip down memory lane on a topic that's very close to my heart and allow me to elaborate on why I am so passionate about the role that recycling has to our future.

I can't believe how things have changed during the last decade. Ten years ago, I was a regular London commuter, working as a full-time research manager for a digital rights management consultancy at the cutting edge of technology, but with a laptop that sounded like a jet engine. Today, I'm happily ensconced in Suffolk as a housewife and mother of two lovely children, with a more modern laptop that....well...still sounds like a jet engine.

Back then recycling hardly ever crossed my mind. We were living in Hertfordshire and had a small bin where we could put jars, tins and paper. Everything else went into a wheelie bin, which was always full by the end of the week.

However, these days there is hardly a day that goes by when I am not thinking or talking about some recycling issue or other.

It might feel like a cumbersome domestic chore to many, but when you consider its role in our future, it is far more interesting a topic than you might first imagine. It's about maximising resources, managing supply and demand and is reliant on world economics, political will, logistics, legal issues and environmental debate. It's an area that also focuses on behavioural change, with psychology being a key feature in all public communications, leading to some very inspirational marketing campaigns that could knock the socks off PR campaigns of many top consumer brands. And it's something that anybody, no matter what their background can talk about and get involved in.

So you see, it's not just a chore, it has so many interesting facets guests at a dinner party could find themselves debating all night!

But being a girl with a fascination for technology, it's the sexy innovative side of recycling that really catches my attention as well as the environmental benefits.

It's like a new industrial revolution and I just love all the gossip about developments that I would never have thought possible.

For instance, take the news about a company in the US that is using infrared technology and carefully controlled temperatures settings, to convert hard plastic into a product that can be sold as fuel. This surely has to be a fascinating development that would have made the headlines of Tomorrow's World if it were still broadcast today. If you're interested, you can find more details of the story at the New York Times.

Then there was the day I discovered a dishwasher-proof chopping board that was made from 100% recycled cardboard. Hard to believe I know, but check out the Ecocentric site for evidence that I'm not going completely bonkers.

With such a thirst for inspirational developments, you can imagine the excitement whenever I stumble across any technological gadget that's made from something so ordinary as the humble plastic bottle, like the Motorola W223 Renew that was launched earlier this year.

As well as preserving depleting stocks of virgin resources, these innovations are gradually increasing demand for post-consumer waste, otherwise known as recycling to you and me. Most importantly, these developments are helping to create a closed loop for materials that would otherwise be lost in landfill, polluting the landscape and adding to our financial burden with increased landfill taxes.

So as we raise a glass to the last twelve months and the end of the Noughties, I'd also like to celebrate all the developments that have taken place in the world of recycling and recognise the achievements of all those who have made a difference to the exciting landscape that lies ahead.

And I'd love you to join me in making a new year's resolution to increase your participation somehow, because without your continued involvement these innovations could all go belly-up, not to mention the bit about the environment!

I know most people who visit this site are already doing what they can within the scope of local facilities, but it's always worth another mention with new year's resolutions on the horizon, especially if there are new passers-by.

So here are a few reminders about what you can do when tonight's celebrations are over...

1. It is really worth taking five minutes to see if there have been any new developments. Visit www.recyclenow.com, to check the latest information on what can be recycled in your area. Councils across the country are adding extra services all the time, especially with the gradual roll-out of mixed plastics recycling, which can include anything from clean plastic meat-trays to yoghurt pots. Even if you can't recycle such things in your household bins, it's always worth checking if such facilities are available at your local Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRCs). If you live in Suffolk, all the local information you'll need can be found at www.suffolkrecycling.org.uk.

2. Remember that glass jars can also be deposited at your nearest bottle bank along with any empty glass bottles that you might have left over from your party. Jars are often the forgotten cousin and in comparison, many end up in landfill instead.

3. Has your council introduced a carton recycling scheme yet? If you're not sure, you can check on the Tetra Pak website. See www.tetrapakrecycling.co.uk/locator.asp for specific location details and if are able to recycle your drinks cartons, remember to to squash them first, so that the trucks can carry more per load. And remember, the same packaging is also used for other liquid products such as ready-made soups, so put those in too.

4. If your supermarket has a plastic bag collection, check whether you can include plastic film packaging such as pasta bags and rice bags. As one supermarket famously says..."every little helps". Residents across Suffolk can already take these materials to the HWRCs

5. If you happen to have any leftovers from your party, don't throw them in the bin. Pop over to www.lovefoodhatewaste.com for some fabulous tips on how to use them up and remember to compost what you can either through your council's recycling services or in your own back garden. If you fancy having a go at home- composting, then check out www.recyclenow.com/compost/ for more information.

Of course, there's lots you can do to help reduce waste in the first place by looking for opportunities to avoid unrecyclable packaging whenever it's feasible. And if you're hosting a party, try to avoid disposable tableware, choosing reusable items if possible. Borrow extra plates if you can. And if it all seems like too much hard work, then choose compostable products instead, such as those available at Little Cherry.

Whichever way you're celebrating the new year, I hope you have a fabulous time. And with the festive season almost over, I'll be back tomorrow with lots more news on what you can do when you take down your cards and decorations as a final farewell to Christmas 2009.

In the meantime, I'd like to wish you all a Happy New Year and thank you for your unwavering support during the last twelve months. I hope that 2010 is kind to you.

Now where is that song that we recycle every year... you know the one. It's the ditty where we join hands and shake our arms about in a very peculiar fashion. No it's not the hokey cokey - please behave yourselves!

Ah there it is...you'll be pleased I've found it. Okay, from the top everyone, including you in the corner....as loud as you can...one, two, three...


Should old landfill be forgot
and never brought to mind...
Should old landfill be forgot

and those days of rubbish times!


For old landfill sites are dear
and can lead to extra fines
Recycle all our junk instead
It doesn't take much time.


Oh dear. Someone stop me please...I've obviously had one champagne too many! But at least you know I'll recycle the bottle.

See you next year....hic!

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Oh I nearly forgot, here's my last ever reminder about the Green Web Awards. If you haven't voted yet and would like to make an old bird happy in 2010, please help boost my rating in the Social Media Hero Category. A couple of clicks and a few seconds of your time is all you'll need: http://www.nigelsecostore.com/green-web-awards/vote/

And if you're around at 11:10 this morning, listen into BBC Radio Suffolk's Rob Dunger show, where I will be continuing my series of top recycling tips for this festive period. You don't even have to live in Suffolk to tune in. You can catch it all online at http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/suffolk/hi/tv_and_radio/

***UPDATE*** If you were listening in to Radio Suffolk today and heard me chatting about the Strauss family who haven't put their bin for a whole year, you can find the story online at The Times Online. And for regular visitors, the article refers to our well-known blogging friend Mrs Green. For more inspiration on how they've done it and to show your support, pop over to their website www.myzerowaste.com and spare some time to say hello.

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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Avoiding rubbish at the sales...

(Photo Credit: Flickr's DavidDMuir)


... and using the sales to avoid rubbish!


So the winter discount season is officially in full swing, with high street stores and online sites already reporting bumper sales activity.

But what's good for the till might not be so great for the bins. With every sale comes a whole sackful of potential rubbish - and I'm not criticising the quality of the goods purchased, it's the consequences of the sales that concern me. When the UK is out shopping, the bins naturally get fuller, whether it's on the high-street or when we return home with all our brand new goods.

Take a look at a typical shopping scenario, and you'll see what I mean.

Unless you walk to the shops, your first encounter with potential rubbish is on public transport or at the car park with paper-based tickets being issued. And that's just the start of the paper trail. By the time the tills are ringing louder than Jingle Bells, you've also got a till receipt, a credit-card receipt, perhaps some tissue wrapping to protect your purchase and if you're in a designer shop you'll have a posh paper bag to top it all off. And we haven't even started on the the tags that hang off clothes or the other products that are protected by packaging, batteries that come with gadgets or even dealing with the obsolete goods that your new purchases have replaced, those pre-loved items that are now your history.

Every purchase is followed by a natural waste trail, but the good news is that hitting the sales doesn't mean stuff has to end up in landfill, especially if you look out for waste-traps and avoid whatever rubbish you can, such as polystyrene and anything else that you can't recycle locally. The trick is to be prepared in a way that allows you to grab some bargains without spoiling your fun!

Here's my guide to making the most of the sales with a Rubbish Diet twist.


1. Take an old bag shopping, even when you're buying clothes!

But before you ask, I don't mean me... cos at the moment I feel all shopped out and I'm far too cosy sat at home, thank you very much!

It's a reusable bag you need, or indeed several, so you can Say No to Unwanted Bags (SNUB) when the till assistant automatically starts shoving the stuff into their free carrier bags.

Remember, reusable bags aren't just for supermarkets! They're for other types of shopping too!


For many people, a carrier bag lasts just the journey home before it gets binned or recycled, including paper bags, which should not necessarily be seen in a better light than a plastic one . Even if a shop is offering disposable bags made from recycled materials, it is still better to decline and use your own shopping bags instead. As BBC Radio Suffolk's Rob Dunger highlighted on Monday, there is a certain feel-good factor to avoiding the ubiquitous bag and I can't help but agree. I've even turned down bags in Harrods, feeling quite peachy as a result.

So if you haven't already got a smart bag or a rucksack to pop your shopping in, perhaps that should be your first treat in the sales. Most chain stores sell their own at little cost, but there's a wider range available on the internet. The most practical are those that are rain repellent and can also fold up into your handbag. Check out www.ecohandy.com, Onya Bags as well as the totally self-contained Trolley-Dolly, which is perfect for supermarket shopping too.

For more bulky goods, jute ones are best thanks to their hard-wearing properties. I particularly love the colourful bags from the British Red Cross as well as the ReSACKel bags made from oriental rice bags, which can be bought from MyZeroWaste.

Once you've made sure you're all kitted up, you can decline as many bags as you like and carry your shopping home with pride. Besides I predict that as fashion becomes more homogeneous, the best way to let your individuality shine will be through the bags that you carry!


2. ReThink your bargains!

Of course one sure way to cut down on rubbish is to prevent it in the first place and rethink whether you actually need that bargain. Buying something that you've had your eye on for a while is one thing, but it's the impulse purchases that you need to be wary of. We all love a bargain and it is so easy to fall in love with an item when you're hit by the adrenalin rush that invariably comes with sales shopping, especially when discounts show 75% off and you're on a time limit. But what happens when you get it home? Often the magic wears off.

So before you part with your hard-earned cash, ask yourself if you'll still be in love with that item in one month's time or even six month's time and whether you are really saving money in the sales. If you have the slightest doubt, turn around and leave the object of your affections on the shelf because there's no such thing as a bargain if you don't really want or need it and all you're buying is a piece of future junk. It sounds harsh, but your bank balance as well as your rubbish bin will be better for it.

If you really have some spare cash to splash around this Christmas, and are serious about making lifestyle savings, then rethink the bargain and consider buying practical yet fun things that will help you slim your waste and keep a bulge in your wallet when the holiday season is over.

You might want to try some of these for size:

Travel Mugs are perfect if you're a commuter. Just froth up a coffee before you leave the house in the morning and you'll have a latte-to-go. With the amount you'll save on take-away drinks, you'll soon claw back your investment, saving at least £40 a month if a daily visit to a coffee shop is a regular habit. If you need to grab a hot drink when you're around town, the great news is that companies such as Starbucks offer a 25p discount when you hand over a reusable mug. Travel mugs can be picked up at most supermarkets, coffee chains or department stores, but if you'd like some inspiration, check out the Brugomug and help make disposable coffee cups history.

Water Bottles have the same impact too, saving money on bottled water that comes in plastic bottles which are often difficult to recycle when out-and-about. If you've got kids, who are always thirsty on days out, a refillable water bottle will soon reduce your rubbish footprint and save tonnes of cash. So pick one up while you're sale-shopping and start using it straight away. As designs are constantly changing, you should be able to bag a bargain.

Rechargeable batteries may seem an expensive option when you consider cheap "two-for-one" offers on disposable batteries, but take some time to think about the amount of money you're throwing away each time you bung those batteries in the bin. Single-use batteries soon become the more expensive option, especially if they're used to power computer game controllers. My favourite rechargeable batteries need no extra kit, as you can plug them straight into your computer's USB. See www.USBCell.com for details. Alternatively, there are currently great bargains to be had on docking stations that charge-up handsets, such as those used for the Nintendo Wii. From prices currently under £7, you really can't go wrong. However, if you you've received a lot of free alkaline batteries with gifts, try the Alkaline Battery Recharger, which claims to recharge single-use batteries up to 10-20 times.

Christmas fabrics have become a popular alternative to wrapping paper and expensive gift bags, so make a point of visiting fabric shops or market stalls to look for end-of-season bargains. Switching to material for wrapping up your family presents will save a fortune on paper in years to come. Influenced by the Japanese art of Furoshiki, there are many ways in which you can use fabric to wrap gifts. See www.recyclenow.com/christmas_09/furoshiki_eco.html for details.

Pretty floral dishcloths are probably the last thing you'd want to look out for in the Christmas sales, but if you are seriously interested in grabbing a bargain, hunt out some cool dishcloths and start using these in favour of paper kitchen towel from now on. I've already saved £130 since I picked up mine last year, which means I've had an extra £130 to spend on stuff that I really want to buy, rather than on something that gets bunged in the bin. When you add in a microfibre cleaning cloth that just needs water instead of chemicals to clean windows and other surfaces, that's a few more tenners in your pocket.

3. Look out for goods made from recycled materials.

These days there are so many products that are made from recycled materials, that at last the conscious consumer is beginning to have real choice. Including umbrellas and fleeces made from PET bottles to solar powered calculators produced from recycled electronics, the quality of these products easily matches competing products manufactured from virgin materials. To ensure the recycling economy works to its full potential, it is really worth voting with your wallet and where possible choosing recycled goods in the sales.


4. Remember your WEEE responsibilities when buying electricals.

If you've been browsing the electricals aisles in any UK department store lately, or have visited an electronics retailer, you will have most probably seen notices advertising the latest regulations for recycling end-of-life WEEE products - otherwise known as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment.

With the amount of electrical waste generated in the UK - which is enough to fill the whole of Wembley Stadium six times in just a year- this is serious stuff, and local authorities are working hard to keep it all out of landfill. The new recycling regulations affect all brand owners, importers, distributors and retailers of electrical and electronic equipment.

So if you're visiting the sales to replace an electrical or electronic item that is beyond repair, ask the retailer if they will take your old equipment in exchange. Most stores will now do this free of charge, on a like-for-like basis, as long as you take your old products back to the shop within a defined period after purchase (e.g. 30 days). If you are buying larger items such as televisions and washing machines, your old goods can be taken away when your new products are delivered. Alternatively, if your old appliances are in good repair, consider other ways of repurposing them (see the Furniture Reuse section below).

For smaller broken items, it might just be easier to take them along to your local Household Waste Recycling Centre. You can check whether it has WEEE recycling facilities using the postcode search at www.recyclenow.com.

The other news on this is that from 1 February 2010, UK stores that sell 32kg or more of household batteries will have to take back these batteries in-store, free of charge, when they become waste. In the meantime, check if your local HWRC accepts household batteries for recycling. All of Suffolk's 18 sites do and in Bury St Edmunds, we can recycle them via our kerbside collection.


5. Watch that TV!

Continuing on the WEEE theme, with digital television currently being rolled out across the UK, one particular temptation this year may be to grab yourself a brand new digital TV. However, if your existing television is relatively new and you're finding the prospect of replacing it so soon rather hard to swallow, be rest-assured that even with the digital switchover, you may not need to splash out on anything more than a digital-box. Even then, if you've bought a DVD player in the last few years, the chances are it will already have an integrated digital receiver, so you might already be sorted. So before you hit the sales, it's really worth checking what equipment you actually need. For more information, check out this factsheet at www.digitaluk.co.uk. Where I live, in Suffolk, we don't actually switch over until 2011, by which time technology will have moved on even further, so it's worth holding out as long as possible.

If there is still life left in your old TV and you decide to go for an upgrade after all, rather than trade it in where it would only be dismantled to recover materials, why not earn great karma by giving it away on Freecycle or donating it to a charity shop or re-use store that accepts electricals (see below).

It feels a real shame to send working technology off for recycling, especially when others can make good use of it. On the other hand, recycling facilities for end-of-life electronic products are a very welcome addition to the waste management sector, which is a growth industry in the UK. If it's of interest, you can see what happens to old televisions in the BBC video here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7747975.stm.


6. Furniture Reuse

Christmas is a time when many people also reassess their interiors, taking advantage of massive savings that can be found in the winter sales . Many of these purchases are to replace items that have worn out or have simply gone out of fashion. If your initial response is to throw away your old items in anticipation of welcoming in the new, or letting the retailer get rid of it for you then it's worth pausing for a moment to consider what other options are available.

It's a sad fact that of the 10,000 items of furniture that are thrown away each year, almost a third of these items could be reused and even more could be repaired. Furthermore, according to the Furniture Re-use Network, four million children live in households that cannot afford to replace worn-out furniture.

The Furniture Re-use Network has a membership of over 400 furniture and appliance re-use organisations across the UK, providing used and repaired items to local people on low incomes, who suffer from hardship, distress and poverty. Given the opportunity, it is far better to breathe life into old furniture than assume its only destination is landfill, so it's always worth contacting your local organisation to ask if they would like your redundant items. To find your nearest re-use charity, visit www.frn.org.uk and click on their UK map.


7. Beware of the Snack Attack!

Beating your way through the sales can be hungry and thirsty work and even if you're normally good at managing waste, it's easy to hit the rubbish danger zone when you're out and about.

When you're snacking on the go, drinks bottles, aluminium cans and even paper packaging are more prone to be bunged in the rubbish bin than when you're sorting out your stuff at home.

Of course, there is absolutely nothing to stop you bringing an empty bottle or drinks can home with you. Once you consider such packaging as a resource with vast potential for making new things rather than rubbish to be buried in landfill, bringing it home for recycling seems a natural extension of your regular recycling activities.

But if this all feels one burden too far when you're bags are already stuffed with your shopping, you'll be relieved to hear that an increasing number of urban centres have now introduced on-street recycling facilities, including our county town of Ipswich. So all you need to do is keep your eyes peeled and use them wherever possible.


PHEW!

After all that, I'll bet you'll be glad to put your feet up and grab a cup of tea.

But before I finish up today, I just want to highlight one final thing that will make your sales shopping really go with a bang!

Remember bags aren't the only thing you can decline. There are plenty of other things that shop assistants try to shove in your bags when you are least expecting, including vouchers you'll never use and freebies for you to try out. If you're not interested, just say so.

And if you're offered a coathanger, remember to say no to those too...

... especially if it's a plastic one. They're far more tricky than the blimmin' bags!

And on that note, Happy Shopping and may all your bargains be waste-free.

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If you've enjoyed this post, then why not listen into today's Rob Dunger show, where we will be discussing many of these issues live on air at BBC Radio Suffolk from 11:10 this morning and covering even more content during the rest of the week.

And if you're feeling particularly benevolent today, pop along to the Green Web Awards and vote for me in the Social Media Hero Category. While you're there, it would be great if you could support some of my other favourites too including MyZeroWaste, Waste Aware Love Food and Suffolk's Adnams brewery. Voting closes tomorrow, so you'll need to hurry.

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Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Making the most of that unwanted present

Now how many times have you opened a present only to think "What the heck am I going to do with that?"

Of course it's the thought that counts. Someone you hold dear has spent time thinking of you this Christmas and that's wonderful. But it doesn't mean that you have to keep the slippers that don't fit or the ornament that doesn't go with the decor and carry the burden that goes with it.

For someone to have spent good money on buying a gift, simply for it to be kept in a cupboard would be a real waste, even if it isn't going straight to landfill. So what can you do about it?

Here are a few easy-to-follow steps, that might help.

1. SHOW GRATITUDE. No matter what the circumstances, the first thing you should do is to accept the gift graciously and show appreciation for the time and thought put into the present.

2. MANAGE EXPECTATIONS. Once you've demonstrated your gratitude, if you are still convinced the gift isn't up to the mark your next job is to manage expectations. This is always easier said than done, especially if the person who bought you the gift is a close friend or relative. Stuffing the item in a cupboard may just lead to a truck load of arguments further down the line, so it is best to be as truthful as possible from the outset. However you don't want to hurt their feelings unecessarily.

If it's not possible to take it back to the shop and you are truly worried about hurting the person's feelings, you could always have a little comment tucked up your sleeve to help you out:

*"That'll come in handy for our holiday" to yet another gift pack of smellies.

*"It'll be perfect when we've redecorated" to all sorts of things for the home;

or how about...

*"That's lovely. We must make sure we put it out of reach of the kids as we'd hate them to break it", to anything that's just a tad too "delicate" to put up around the home.

There are all sorts of ways of managing expectations kindly and I prefer the polite and gentle approach. Unfortunately some of my family use sarcasm to get their message over, others are simply silent if they receive something that doesn't suit and my husband screws up his nose in a quizzical fashion.

However my mother's comment "So you think I stink do you?" has led to me never buying her bathroom gifts ever again.

3. SET YOUR UNWANTED GIFTS FREE . Don't just hide your gift away or even worse, dump it in the bin. Find someone else who needs the gift more than you, to ensure that its value is maximised. This could involve anything from returning it, selling it, bartering it, giving it away, regifting it to someone else or donating it to charity.

Return it! If the gift is not your colour, or your size, or indeed broken, ask whether you can exchange it for a replacement or something more suitable. The bearer of the gift might be very happy for you to have the receipt, especially if it's faulty.

Even if you can't get hold of the receipt and the item is obviously from a recognisable store, try to exchange it for credit note. Stores have different policies about exchanges and although they are not obliged to provide a refund under such circumstances, many offer a credit note as an act of goodwill.

However, if your gift has been discounted in the sales, without a receipt you are likely to only get the value of the latest ticket price. If you need to return something, whether to a retail outlet or online store, it's worth finding out more about your consumer rights, in which case you may find the following article from the Guaridian helpful: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2009/dec/27/returning-christmas-gifts-consumer-rights

Sell It! If you can't take it back, make a decision to sell your gift along with other items in your home that you haven't used. Set yourself a target figure of what you'd hope to earn and how you'd spend any money that arises from your sales.

The online auction house eBay is a good place to start and if you've been daunted by dipping your toes in the water so far, you'll find some useful advice at www.about.com. CDs, DVDs and books can also be sold at more specific online sites, such as Amazon. The Which guide, provides a good overview of selling CDs online, with a particular focus on MusicMagpie.

Of course, Car Boot sales are also good for earning income and the website www.carbootjunction.co.uk is great for finding events close to you. Even though the cold winter weather might not be the most appealing time for you to be touting your stuff right now, you can always set a target date for the spring and start boxing up your unwanted items over the next few weeks.

Make New Friends! Now might be a great opportunity to take your unwanted items to your local bartering club, such as a LETS group, which allows members to barter surplus goods as well as favours, using a rewards system of points. I've belonged to a LETS group for eight years and late winter is often a busy time for trading unwanted gifts. It's a great way of meeting new friends, as well as discovering opportunities to learn new skills. My local group is Bury LETS in West Suffolk, but other groups operate right across the UK and throughout the rest of the world. For more information check out www.letslinkuk.net or www.lets-linkup.com.


Save money! Another way to enjoy the value of your unwanted gift is to package it up and regift it to someone else at the earliest opportunity, making the most of the item and saving you some cash too. I am convinced many presents travel around the world for this purpose alone. There are probably items that have been in circulation longer than decimal currency, that have enjoyed a whole range of celebrations being unwrapped, then wrapped up again, before finding their final resting place on the tombola circuit. The only word of caution is to be careful to whom you regift the item in question. After all, as well as avoiding offending the recipient by sending it back to them, you'll also want to avoid it being regifted back like a boomerang. For lots of ideas about regifting, check out the fabulous website Present Sense.


Boost your Karma! If you're feeling particularly generous, and prefer to receive good karma rather than cash, you could always give away your unwanted gift. As well as donating to your favourite charity shops, there is always the option of simply passing the item onto your family or friends, or even handing it over to complete strangers.

Of course, I'm not recommending that you just approach people on the street, touting your stuff around for free. You might get some funny looks or even worse be arrested for disturbing the peace. There are much more sensible alternatives, that help you retain a sense of fun as well as pride.

BookCrossing is a lovely way of surprising strangers with free books. The idea is to register your book online for free and leave it in a place where someone else can pick it up. If all readers join in, you can see how far your book has actually travelled.

Local community sites such as Freecycle are also popular for giving things away and the benefit of such groups is that recipients usually collect items from you, so you don't even have to organise postage or delivery. There are increasing numbers of similar communities growing throughout the UK, including Freegle, SnaffleUp, MySkip and vSkips. They are particularly useful for getting rid of things that are sometimes in too poor a condition to sell but are also too good to throw out to landfill. However, many items advertised on these sites are often in really good condition and some sites such as SwapCycle, iSwap and SwapZ actually encourage direct swaps, so you can get something back in return.

Raise money for a good cause! Donating your items to a local charity shop is a great way of using your gift to help others, which also increases your karma too. Even if your favourite charity doesn't actually have a physical shop, you can still help them raise funds through a relatively new service called Jumble Aid.

Jumble Aid is a non-profit website that allows you to advertise your unwanted items, stating a price that you would like the lucky recipient to then give to charity. You can select the cause that you would like to benefit from the sale of your item and the funds raised goes directly to their account. It's great for organisations such as schools and other small charities who want to raise extra money through the online community, but don't necessarily have the space or indeed time to organise table-top sales or car boots sales.

4. FINALLY, START GETTING READY FOR NEXT YEAR!

According to the international charity Practical Action, £2 billion pounds gets spent in the UK on unwanted gifts. That's a lot of money going to waste, along with the resources used to manufacture, package and transport the goods in the first place, just to be discarded.

There'll always be the odd unwanted present knocking around. It's simply part of life, demonstrating the diversity of us beings who walk this earth. However wouldn't it be great if next year we could help lessen the burden somehow, whether it's by finding a good use for the stuff we actually don't want or even better, by taking steps to avoid it in the first place.

If you really do find yourself in the regular awkward position of receiving unwanted gifts, then it might be worth taking the bull by the horns and preparing a strategy for next year. Here are just some things you could try.

*Devise a personal project now! Think about something that you would like to save for and spread the news around your family and friends about how important it is to you. If you drop enough hints throughout the year, those close to you may be willing to help you achieve your goal by offering money as a present or buying something that will help you on your way, such as components, equipment or paying for a course.

*Reduce your Christmas List.
If your children receive too many presents that you're left with no space to swing a cat, regardless of whether they are suitable or not, now might be the time to suggest to a small number of people that you you stop swapping presents. I did this three years ago and cut our present list by ten. All my friends were relieved and between us we saved on 20 presents (ten incoming and ten outgoing). It's one step towards a simpler, less frazzled Christmas as well as the opportunity to reduce the amount of unwanted gifts that are in circulation.

Set up a wishlist. It may seem rather practical, but more and more people are now creating wishlists for birthdays and Christmas and this is fast becoming a popular feature on Amazon. BBC Radio Suffolk presenter James Hazell also told me last year about a website he created for his family enabling all members could register their gift ideas. It certainly beats second-guessing and is a fabulous system for reducing waste. Even though it is possible to write lists on paper, somehow registering ideas on the internet seems less cheeky and less direct. And you can be generous with your ideas too, by asking for donations to charities that are close to your heart. Alternatively you could consider joint activities with your friends such as a visit to a cinema, the theatre or going out for dinner.



I hope you've found today's links and tips useful. And if you're wondering why I've not included a photo of my unwanted gifts at the top of this blogpost, well the great news is that is for the first time ever, I haven't got any..

....well perhaps there is one possible questionable item that I'm currently pondering upon but it would be too rude of me to show that now...especially as one never knows who's looking in and I am still very positive I can find a home for it.........in a charity shop in Ipswich perhaps? Although I am still convinced I can find a place for it in my own home.

So instead, I'll leave you with a photo of me with BBC Radio Suffolk's Rob Dunger from my visit to the studio yesterday, where he helped me finish of the leftovers of my Christmas cake while we were talking about... yes you guessed it....leftovers! You'll catch me back on the show later this morning, somewhere around at 11:10am. It would be great if you get a chance to listen in.



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Monday, 28 December 2009

There are more ways than one to avoid food waste



Christmas is a time when food waste can sneak up from behind faster than can you can say boo to the cooked goose on your festive table.

Yesterday, I discussed how we've handled our leftovers this year and I'm pleased to add that apart from a few vegetables, there is now nothing left from our Christmas dinner and with the time on my hands I even managed to make a crumble from the plums that have been sitting in our fridge since autumn.

If you're looking for other ideas on what to do with all the gubbings in your fridge, as well as the the LoveFoodHateWaste recipes, I can recommend a visit to Mrs Green over at MyZeroWaste who has some fantastic suggestions for sorting out your turkey.

And if you prefer to spend your evenings curled up under the blanket with a book rather than huddled around your computer, you'll do well to check out this fabulous book by Kate Colquhoun. Entitled The Thrifty Cookbook, 476 ways to eat well with leftovers, it offers excellent advice on turning old bread into croutons and even shows you how to make gnocci. For those who can't tear yourself away from taking your laptop into the kitchen, you'll be pleased to know there's even a website of the same name with lots of tips and free advice. You can find it at www.thethriftycook.co.uk.

Of course using up your cooked leftovers to create fantastic meals will do your bin the world of good this Christmas and should never be under-estimated when it comes to saving you cash.

However, there are some other options for managing potential food waste that you may like to consider too, which go beyond feeding the cat or dog, and here are just some of them.


1. Watch the birdie

The RSPB is always appealing for the public to feed garden birds, especially in Winter, and you may be surprised at how much of your Christmas food can be fed to our feathered visitors. Christmas cake and mince pie crumbs as well as more regular food such as rice, breakfast cereals, grated cheese, cooked potato and fruit will all help them join in your festive celebrations. However, the RSPB warns against giving birds cooked turkey fat, stating that it is highly dangerous as it can smear onto feathers and ruin the water-proofing and insulating qualities needed to keep them warm during the winter. For more information, visit http://www.rspb.org.uk

2. Support Food Banks

Using up cooked food or opened jars of food is one thing, but what about unopened food that you have no intention of using? It could be something you've been given as a gift or bought yourself only to find no-one else in the house likes it. Don't just throw it in the bin. That would be a real waste. If you have a local foodbank consider donating it instead.

The Haverhill Food Bank is one such community project, which was created to help local people in Suffolk, with the support of the Trussel Trust, who itself has launched a growing network of food banks around the UK to help feed people in crisis.

The initiative welcomes unopened and in-date tins of food amongst other products to help bridge the gap for those in need for three days until other agencies come to their aid. Anglia Food Bank, operated by the Newmarket charity Newmarket Open Door, also collects and distributes food to vulnerable people and supporting agencies throughout the region.

It may not always be practical or feasible to donate the odd item from your Christmas hamper, especially if you live miles away from your nearest Food Bank, but it could be worth getting in touch to find out if your local community could offer collective support.

Schools, churches and community groups often organise collections of food, so you may be able to help in this way and find a home for your unwanted jars and tins. If you don't know where your nearest food bank is, your local church might have the necessary information, especially as they often get involved in co-ordinating collections of this kind.


3. Share amongst your friends & family

If you open a packet or jar of something that you find is not to your taste, the natural reaction may be to throw it in the bin. Instead of just bunging it into landfill, ask your best friend if they'd like it, or take it around to a family member.

It may feel like an irrelevant offering, but when passing it on highlight that you don't want to waste things uneccesarily and that you've committed to reducing your food waste and the methane associated with it. However, be prepared to be the target of the most obvious jokes that come your way and keep smiling in the knowledge that you're not some mad acquaintance, but someone taking positive action in the right direction.


4. Don't compost too soon.

If you're a fan of composting and keen to reduce your rubbish this way, that's fabulous news. However, beware of composting too soon. Bananas that look worse for wear, as well as the odd bruised apple, can easily be classed as candidates for the compost. Consider making smoothies or banana cake instead and indeed apples can be juiced or chopped and made into crumble or apple cake. And don't forget broccoli stalks. I used to bung these in the compost but have recently discovered they can be tasty additions to soups. More hints and tips about using up fruit and vegetables that might be on their last legs, can be found at www.lovefoodhatewaste.com. You can save yourself stacks of cash.


The final hurdle - there are other ways to avoid landfill.

Of course, there comes a time when your only option is to throw some of your food away. You can save fruit & veg peelings from landfill by composting, either via your council service or through your own facilities at home, but did you know that you can divert your cooked food waste too?

It's not advised that you put untreated cooked food into your compost bin, but if you don't have a council food waste collection, there are still options available to you to avoid sending your waste to landfill. There is an associated cost with each of these options, but it's worth it if you can afford it and you'll also get the added benefit of nutrients being fed back into your garden.

A Wormery (vermicomposting) is a good start and makes great compost too. Wormeries are small enough to fit into the tiniest of gardens and accept all sorts of cooked food waste including pasta, rice, cereals as well as fruit and vegetable peelings. However, they should not be used for meat or fish waste and are also poor processors of citrus fruit peelings. Aside from that, they are very versatile and create a fun experience for children too. More information about composting and wormeries can be found at Recycle Now's Home Composting site, www.recyclenow.com/compost/

Bokashi bins are a fabulous alternative for anyone who wants to manage cooked food waste including meat and fish (and bones). A kit comprises a couple of specially adapted bins, with a nozzle for extracting liquid run-off (which itself can be diluted and used as plant feed). Food waste is managed by adding small layers to the bin and sprinkling Bokashi bran on top of each layer. Gradually the layers build up and are then left to ferment for a couple of weeks, before adding to a compost bin, wormery or simply buried in the ground. More info about Bokashi systems can be found at www.wigglywigglers.co.uk.

The Green Cone is a food digester that can be sited in a garden with sufficient drainage. It looks very much like a compost bin and accepts all sorts of food waste including cooked and raw meat as well as bones. More info about The Green Cone can be found at www.greencone.com.

Reducing food waste has become a major priority in the UK. With 8.3 million tonnes of food being thrown away by households each year, it has become a serious environmental issue. By taking measures to reduce what is wasted in the first place and avoiding landfill wastage, the CO2 savings could be the equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road...

...and as for financial savings, a family with children could be saving as much as £680 a year.

I can certainly support that statement. By buying less, cooking smaller portions and reusing leftovers, we've already saved ourselves around £1000 during the last couple of years. And that goes for Christmas too. Our Christmas bills this year have significantly dropped in more ways than one.

I just wish I could see the same results on my hips!

As no-one else in the family really likes Christmas cake as much as I do, it looks like I'd better watch out.

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Sunday, 27 December 2009

Christmas leftovers. It's just the beginning.

Beef Wellington made by Mr A for some special guests.

Welcome back to The Rubbish Diet, following the recent festive celebrations. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

Despite spraining my neck building a snowman, being hit by a "knock-me-off-my-feet" kind of cold, being inconvenienced by a broken washing machine, non-functioning Christmas lights and a permanent error appearing on my digital camera, we've actually had a lovely time. I can only put it down to a sense of humour from all parties involved as well as my conviction to ditch all attempts at a perfect Christmas weeks ago.

Mr A was happy. The kids were happy. And despite becoming a one-woman orchestra of sniffles and snuffles, even I enjoyed a peaceful time snuggled under a blanket on the sofa.

At one point I was waited upon by my own little junior chef, sporting his new apron. What else could a mother ask for? Ironically, it really was the perfect Christmas.

However I am still baffled how I managed to pull together the Christmas Dinner. I can only thank our decision this year to buy a quick-roasting lamb crown, which took just forty minutes to cook in the oven.

I tried to keep on top of portions, but despite my efforts the festive table soon began to resemble the tale of the magic porridge pot, with a pile of leftovers that remained uneaten. And I can't blame my appetite either. The term "feed a cold" really does ring true. But there there was no messing - straight into the containers went the leftover food ...

so it could be turned into this: Lamb cutlets coated in a red cabbage sauce spiced up with chilli and ginger and served with the remaining vegetables and cous-cous.
....which was far more interesting than the cold meats and cheese, to which Mr A has been helping himself over the last couple of days.

I now find it hard to believe that apart from the meat and our traditional Delia Smith braised red cabbage dish, I was once in the regular routine of throwing away the rest of the food that hadn't been eaten. However, these days, even vegetables are kept for reuse as well as whatever's left of the gravy.

Before The Rubbish Diet, I'd never really appreciated the value of food or the environmental impact of throwing uneaten food in the bin.

Now everything is kept, which actually suits the side of my character that is a real experimental cook. I haven't got the patience for recipes and prefer to make things up as I go along. Whether it's meat or vegetables that need using up, I can often be found making up some stock from a couple of cubes and adding herbs and spices to suit the dish. It's very easy to create a sauce this way, with flexibility to add chopped onions, flour, yoghurt or cream to change consistency and taste.

My particular larder favourites include Garam Masala, a ready-mixed set of spices which is used to create Balti dishes as well as the Thai 7 Spice mix, which is fabulous for adding to stir-fries.

However, everybody's tastes are different. So if you need any inspiration for using up your own leftovers this Christmas, I can highly recommend the LoveFoodHateWaste website, which is full of fabulous ideas. Managed by WRAP, the site allows you to search for recipes based on whatever food you have left over and also offers advice on portion control. It even has hints and tips on how to manage food in the freezer, an area where I often fear to tread, but am seeking regular help thanks to the advice available.

Of course cooking up leftovers is just one way to reduce the amount of rubbish that gets sent to landfill. For the rest of the week, I will be covering many other options for minimising waste over the festive period. I will also be discussing each topic live on air with BBC Radio Suffolk's Rob Dunger starting Monday at 11:10am and continuing each day until New Year's Day.

To give you an insight into what you can expect throughout the week, here's a brief rundown of the schedule:

Monday 28th: Food waste & leftovers
Tuesday 29th:
Unwanted presents
Wednesday 30th:
How to avoid rubbish in the sales
Thursday 31st:
Party time
Friday 1st January:
Packing away Christmas

So this really is going to be a busy but fun-packed week, with lots more family adventures to enjoy too. It's a good job there was some Beef Wellington left over from a big family dinner when my sister's family and my mother visited last week. That's most definitely going to be a treat for New Year's Eve, when I won't have even a moment to think about cooking.

If you're conciously making extra effort to reduce waste of any kind this week, then do let me know how you're getting on. It would be great to share your efforts with other readers. Also, if you blog, you may be interested to know that in the new year I will be publishing a carnival of everyone's favourite blogposts. Watch out for more news later this week.

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Tuesday, 22 December 2009

STOP PRESS:Ouch! I fell off the wagon!


It's been roughly 1 year, 10 months, 29 days, 16 hours, 27 minutes and 11 seconds since I discovered that I don't need cling film. Well that's what the man who took that photo of me with the bin bags told me almost two years ago.


(copyright: St Edmundsbury District Council)

You might think I'm smiling, but that facial expression is actually a grimace. In that brain beneath what was an exceedingly long mop of hair, the cogs were cranking away, pondering every single convenience I was going to have to give up for the zero waste challenge.

And I couldn't believe my ears when the photographer who was taking the publicity shots for the council suggested I could give up cling film. What! For-go something that was so bloody useful, just for the sake of a waste project. He had to be joking! I'm sure he even said something about ditching the bin bags too! It was like having my photo taken by a stand-up comedian.

But he was right. I didn't buy cling film ever again. Instead I've managed to store our prepared food and leftovers in reusable containers or glass jars, as well as using the odd piece of aluminium foil - of which, the original roll is still in my cupboard today. As well as contributing to the waste reduction plan, I estimate that by ditching the cling film, we've also saved about twenty-five quid during that time.

When you add other considered essentials such as foil, washing-up sponges, paper kitchen towel, laundry detergent, bin bags and sanitary products, the total saving from avoiding all those disposables comes to a figure somewhere in the region of £400 (£130 of which has been saved just from avoiding kitchen towel - can you believe it - you will when you discover I used to get through at least eight rolls per month).

I appreciate I've spent some of those savings on alternative products such as reusable sponges, washing balls, e-cloths, plastic containers and washable pads. However the cost hasn't exceeded £100, which means that we're still a whopping £300 in pocket and just goes to show how worthwhile an exercise this bin slimming lark actually is - particularly useful when it comes to Christmas.

However, I never started the Rubbish Diet with frugality in mind. The cash savings are simply a bonus that I hadn't even anticipated.

It was reducing waste that mattered and since I started this blog post it's now been 1 year, 10 months, 29 days, 17 hours, 10 minutes, 20 seconds
since I realised I didn't need cling film.

Well that was until yesterday, when Mr A prepared his shopping list for the Beef Wellington recipe that he's cooking today!

When he told me what he needed, I almost fell off my chair in shock.

"Cling film!" I shrieked, in an incredulous tone reminiscent of Lady Bracknell's exclamation of "A handbag" in the Importance of being Earnest.

I scanned the recipe, trying to consider a suitable alternative that might include tea-towels, food containers and a mallet, but found there was only one option!

"Cling film!" I hollered once more; my last opportunity to resist defeat before surrendering and falling off the wagon, reluctantly placing it in my trolley at the supermarket.

Oh well. With all things considered, having gone without the stretchy stuff for almost two years is quite remarkable. I haven't missed it one little bit and at this rate, I reckon the roll that I bought yesterday will see me through to 2050 at least.

I might even leave it in my will, eh!

Well you never know, it might be more valuable than the figure of £1.16 that it is today. Then there's the provenance to consider. It could even be a rarity of an age gone by.

Any takers?

I thought not. But at least it was worth a try. I suppose I could always give it to my mother for Christmas. Well, she always likes to have something practical.

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Friday, 18 December 2009

Like a chicken in a snowstorm


Oh heck! Today's the last day of school and Christmas is in one week's time. The family arrive on Sunday and I still need to tidy the house, sort out the laundry, make their gifts....and do X...and Y...and Z as well as the rest of the Christmas alphabet. I had so many plans, but time is running out...tick, tick, ticking away before my very eyes. I feel caught in a snowstorm, totally bewildered and wondering which way to turn. A bit like the chicken really - bless her!

Oh well, I could always hide in the henhouse...If I don't return, you know where to find me.

In the meantime, Click Here for a special Christmas e-Card prepared especially for visitors to The Rubbish Diet. I hope you like it. I chose this one over many alternatives this year because Tesco are donating money to The Woodland Trust, for the first 100,000 sent. £465 has been raised to far, which is brilliant.

Now, where was I? Oh yes... on the way to the henhouse. Well that's if they'll let a proverbial headless chicken join their brood.

Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck!

Bok, bok....see you soon!

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Tuesday, 15 December 2009

A Recycled Christmas Carnival


A few weeks I was wax lyrical about the amazing range of creative ideas for Christmas gifts that exists on the web, featuring recycled or reused materials. I'd been inspired by some research I'd done for the Recycle Now website and came up with the notion of this carnival to share details of things that other people have made or have even spotted on the Internet.

While I was waiting for creative bloggers to send me their links, I got busy with my own ideas and started making presents to give to some lovely people this Christmas. The gift that you see above is something I've made for Mr A's aunt. It's pot pourri, which features dried rose petals that I'd gathered from the garden this autumn, along with rosehips, pyracantha berries, sliced clementine peel and some cinammon sticks from the cupboard. I packaged it in an old jam jar, wrapped in an offcut of fabric taken from a festive organza tablecloth. It really was that simple and cost just a small amount of time.

I have to admit it's been an uplifting experience creating some handmade gifts this year, particularly using things from the garden that would have otherwise perished. Although I haven't had much time available, I've given it my best shot and even when we've sent our relatives money, I've tried my hand at "banknote origami" to add some originality - try googling it as I'm sure it will bring a smile to your face.

Well that's enough of my exploits. In this post I want to highlight the creativity and inspiration that has come in from other folk and as ever, between them there is a massive amount of enthusiasm that I hope will inspire you for years to come. So grab your favourite seasonal tipple, put your feet up and enjoy.


A bit of festive recycling from around the web.

Kicking off the carnival, is the lovely Nixdminx, who in her post Recycling this Christmas highlighted a fabulous pair of Vivienne Westwood shoes made from a fabric that will be recognisable to anyone who has visited London. It really shows how recycled products can be both stylish and cool.

I can't believe when I initially put this together that I forgot Evie George's most wonderful Baby Friendly Christmas Tree. I'd lost the email link and have been scratching my woolly head to find it again. And I am so glad I did because her work of recycled art is truly inspirational as is her gorgeous blog.

Mrs Green over at MyZeroWaste.com, (who you might recognise as being featured in the Sunday Mirror this weekend) has been a real busy bee. Her post A Zero Waste Christmas highlights how she's discovered her inner creative child, just in time to make an MP4 player case from an old pair of pyjamas for her 8-year-old. For someone who hasn't had confidence in picking up a needle and thread for years, the results are amazing.

Maria at Fabmums has also been creative with decorations made from branches, fir cones and recycled ribbons. I love her Monday Crafts post about how she made the festive branch, which not just saves pounds, but is so versatile it can be used in a number of ways to decorate the house this Christmas.

I'm sure you'll also fall in love with the painted garage in this post called Loving-Not Loving-Christmas, which has been submitted by Simone from Great Fun For Kids. How she has transferred an old battered child's toy is utterly awesome and is really worth a look.

With a totally thrifty feel, Cambridge Ecothrifter, also called Simone, has submitted her fabulous ideas in her post Cheap Christmas Cheer, which includes a whole host of creative thoughts on alternative gifts this year.

And if you have any doubts at all that you're up for the job of crafting your own recycled presents, Grit has done a great job of inspiring confidence, especially if you have children to hand and need to come up with that "something special" for the loved ones in your life. For an amusing tale, check out Grit's guide to Christmas for mean parents.

Now last - but definitely not least - is this cracking submission from a new website that I've recently discovered, thanks to a tip-off from the wonderful Mrs B from York. If you haven't visited the website Present Sense, then it really is a must. I guarantee that regular readers of The Rubbish Diet willl absolutely love it. Set up by a group of mothers who are passionate about sustainable gifting, the website offers bundles of alternative ideas for sourcing recycled or reused presents and helps break down any social barriers in doing so. I've already caught up with Karen, one of the founding members, who is delighted to include their Gift Ideas page in this carnival.

***

So there you have it, lots of inspirational posts and links to keep you on the straight and narrow in preparing for this Christmas and many more to come. Huge thanks to everyone who took the trouble to submit their entries. With so much to choose from, the difficulty will be deciding between what recycled gifts to buy and what goodies you can make. Judging by this year's experience I know that I will be champing at the bit to start my plans in January.

But Christmas isn't over yet and with that in mind, don't forget there is still time to enter Recycle Now's draw to win this stunning recycled Christmas Tree, the deadline for which is 17th December.



And while you're there, be sure to check out the latest ideas for making Christmas decorations as well as musical instruments from things that might otherwise be thrown away.

So all that's left to do is to officially wish you a merry recycling Christmas. And do come back soon for some more waste-free fun!

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Sunday, 13 December 2009

Feeding the 5000 and you're invited


Of all the days I wish I could be in London, it is this: Wednesday 16th December, where volunteers will be gathering at Trafalgar Square to prepare and serve good food that would otherwise have been thrown away.

Organised by Tristram Stuart, author and food waste campaigner, the event is to highlight the ease of cutting the enormous levels of food waste in the UK and around the world and promote the work of the partner organisations, Save the Children; ActionAid; This is Rubbish; and FareShare. Supporters of the event include the Mayor of London; the Bishop of London; journalist and campaigner Rosie Boycott; and celebrity chef Thomasina Miers.

All the food handed out on the day to passers-by will be made from fresh and nutritious ingredients that otherwise would have been wasted at some point in the distribution chain. The menu will include hot soups made from vegetables cast out because they are not cosmetically perfect, a range of sandwiches and freshly-made fruit smoothies, pressed on the day by customised bicycles.

So if you're going to be in London on Wednesday, please do try and get along to the event, which is between 12-2pm and tell your friends. After all, there is such a thing as a free lunch and let's hope there will be more. It just goes to show that it's far better to use the produce than to waste it.

More information about Feeding the 5000, can be found at www.feeding5k.org.

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Monday, 7 December 2009

All I want for Christmas...


Are you listening Santa Claus?
I've finally made my Christmas List.
I would have sent it months ago
but I sprained my blimmin' wrist.
At last it's now recovered
So I'm sending you this rhyme
To say all I want for Christmas
is a trolley-full of time!

I don't want it wrapped with bells on
or bought from BHS
I don't want it to run on batteries
or to wear it on my dress.
But I'd be happy if it glistens
in a fairy godmother kind of way,
whose touch of festive magic
could add more hours to every day.

I'd work, I'd rest and play more games
with the family I adore
I'd even have time for all the shopping
and sort out every recycling chore.
I'd phone, visit and go on days out
with
all my beloved friends.
And raise a toast to our special memories
as each get-together ends.

But this wish isn't just for Christmas
It's for every season too
I need to find more hours each day
for everything I do.
So if you're listening Santa Claus
this is my Christmas Wish.
And if you can really make it happen
You'll get a big fat juicy kiss.


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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Recycled Christmas Carnival: Call for entries


I can't hide the fact that this Christmas I am really inspired by the amazing talent that exists out there, with people creating fabulous things out of stuff that would otherwise have been thrown away.

It all started last month, when I was invited to write a feature article for Recycle Now's Christmas Website and got a preview of the photo shown above, of their specially commissioned recycled cardboard Christmas tree.

My particular mission was to uncover a range of other awesome items made from recycled materials and everyday used objects such as pens, CDs and old cassettes. I'm sure you'll be as amazed as me by the range of really desirable objects that can now be found in shops and on the web. To see all my quirky finds, just click here.

So now I am well and truly hooked and I hope you will be too and will be just as excited to join in my Recycled Christmas Carnival to help spread the word about the growing trend for recycled gifts.

Whether it's something that you've made or bought yourself, have received from someone else or have even discovered on the Internet, I'd love you to write a blogpost about your finds. Then when it's done, send it to me for inclusion in my carnival post, which will be published here at The Rubbish Diet on Tuesday 15th December.

If you'd like to, you can use the following image as a header for your posts, which shows how recycled items have moved on from hippy appeal to stylish features of modern homes. You might recognise this as the finished recycled Christmas Tree prize for the competition that Recycle Now is running this Christmas. It would be great if you could spread the news about the competition on your blog too, either as a separate blogpost or as part of your carnival entry. You might even want to enter the competition yourself. See yesterday's blogpost for more information.



I am really excited about including your ideas and I can't wait to see what you'll find.

For the next few days I'll be away from the blog, getting prepared for my very own recycled Christmas and I might even enter our local council's Christmas wreath competition, but please send all carnival entries to me by Monday 14th December.

Simply email karen(at)therubbishdiet(dot)co(dot)uk or follow me on Twitter and send a DM to (@therubbishdiet).

Right, it's time to switch on the CD player and recycle some of those favourite Christmas tunes.

"T'is the season to be jolly...falalalalalalalala
Time to grab some twigs and holly....falalalalalalalala!"


Oh dear, I'm recycling the lyrics again! Someone stop me!

P.S. If you have a mo, I'd love to know what you think of the objects I found for the article. I think my favourite is the birdie coat hanger but it's a really tough choice.
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Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Win a fabulous recycled Christmas Tree with Recycle Now

When I heard about the recycled cardboard Christmas Tree that Recycle Now was offering in its website competition, I couldn't wait to see it especially as it is based on the inspirational work of designer David Stark.

And I have to say, I am not disappointed. The 6 ft tree sculpture certainly looks like it could feel at home in my own living room.

The Christmas Tree competition is part of Recycle Now's campaign to raise awareness of the amount of waste that is created over the Christmas period and to remind people that most of it can be recycled.

The website also includes a whole list of inspirational tips on how to reduce waste, by upcycling everyday products into jazzy decorations. There's something else of interest on there too, which I'll tell you all about tomorrow.

In the meantime, why don't you pop over to the Recycle Now site and sign up for the draw. It's free to enter, but you'll have to be quick as the closing date is 17th December. However, before you go, take a peek at the video below, which reveals how this unique piece of art was made.





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Monday, 30 November 2009

A sense of déjà vu: but this time we've got company


I've got some really exciting news about the Seven Suffolk Streets project about which I wrote a few weeks ago.

We received a letter today announcing that St Edmundsbury has selected our street to be part of a major waste reduction project, which is being co-ordinated by the Suffolk Waste Partnership. And over the next few months residents will have the opportunity to sign-up and find out ways in which households can volunteer to halve the amount of waste that's currently sent to landfill.

The idea is that during March next year, fellow residents will attempt to cut our rubbish by half for a Waste Reduction Fortnight, which is a whole collection period. There won't be any extra wheelie bins laid on for additional waste streams. It's simply about raising awareness of recycling opportunities that already exist and sharing tips about reducing waste.

Of course I am very excited that our household can be part of this project. However, at the same time I am extremely nervous too and I'm not sure why.

It's not that I think we'll have any problems throwing out so little waste. It's actually the opposite. We haven't put out our black wheelie bin since February thanks to having very little rubbish and we only had to put it out then because of some cat litter and giblets. Before that the last time we dragged out our black bin was the beginning of January.

I'm not even worried about filling out the questionnaire, which goes into detail about the stuff that gets thrown in our bin. Because of all my previous rubbish antics there is the issue that the recycling officers will know who I am and will also learn exactly what I throw away. But I'm pretty comfortable with that too.




So I might as well admit here that I'll be simply ticking the box marked "Pet Waste" and then "Other", specifying details such as odd crisp packets, sweetie wrappers,plastic foil wrappers from collectors cards, polystyrene, old pens and pieces of broken toys. Geez, that's a far cry from two years ago when I would have been ticking all the other boxes. Shows how times have changed eh!

Of course, where I would have once been nervous about any media attention that such a project could potentially bring, these days I'm now comfortable with that too and am much more confident than I was almost two years ago when my voice trembled during the Woman's Hour radio recordings - and that wasn't even live! Since, I've been happy to go on air and regularly chat about my exploits to anyone in Suffolk who'll merrily listen. Thanks to the new project, I am sure there will be other community champions who will come forward and will be keen to support the initiative too.

So really, this time around, there should be absolutely nothing for me to worry about at all. There'll be advisers on hand to give help and advice and we'll even get a visit from the Recycling Bus. There'll also be compost give-aways, home composting clinics and Give & Take events to promote reuse. And to top it all there's the promise of awards for the best performing individuals and streets.

Indeed it's all positive news, with so much to look forward to.

So what's the worry?

Well after pacing around the living room, I think I've finally pinned it down.

I'm not worried about the challenge at all. I can only congratulate Suffolk Waste Partnership for winning the funding and having the vision to roll out such an exciting project.

No, the one thing that I'm feeling very nervous about is...

...that people in my street will discover I've got this blog!

Oops!

Oh heck!

I may be an old hand at this blogging lark & the bin slimming challenge, but I still can't get used to people I know finding out about my blogging habits.

So if anyone from my street is looking in, I just want to say, good luck if you're joining in. It's not as hard as it sounds, honest, and I promise I am still as normal as I was before I set up this blog.

I may not throw much rubbish out, but in every other way, I am still almost average!

Well, I'd like to think so anyway.

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More information about the Seven Suffolk Streets project, including the locations that have been selected, can be found on the Recycle for Suffolk website.

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