Monday, 30 January 2012

Monday Meeting: The Rubbish Diet Challenge Wk 2

After such a great start to Week 1, which saw our bin slimmers sorting out their recycling systems at home and getting familiar with what can be recycled locally, this week's challenge will take them to a whole different level when it comes to their waste busting mission.

Whilst last week's challenge was to recycle as much as they could, this week's focus moves to eliminating other waste through what they buy. 

There are even more mini challenges to contend with this week, which will have the rubbish dieters scouring the shelves of the supermarkets and checking the packaging to see which products will suit their recycling bins and their rubbish bins alike.

This is the week, where I'd recommend that you allow an extra half-an-hour for your grocery shopping, or if you normally do it online, make some time to go off the store for just this occasion.  It will be worth the effort.

So are you still up for the challenge?  Great, then here we go:

This week is all about getting used to shopping with waste in mind, becoming knowledgeable about packaging and your own shopping habits and asking yourself some questions before you buy.  It won't be easy because, against the aim of reducing waste you will also need to weigh-up other factors such as budget, convenience, values and personal taste.  There is lots of information in the Week 2 of The Rubbish Diet Challenge guide, but these mini-challenges will get you started in the right direction.

1: Before you buy anything, ask yourself the following questions:

  • If I buy this product, will I definitely use it?
  • Can I buy it without packaging?
  • Can I reuse, recycle or compost the packaging?
  • Are the reycling options convenient?
  • Do I really need the product if the packaging ends up in landfill?
  • Without this packaging, will the contents end up as food waste?
  • Are there alternative products that create less waste than my usual choice?
  • Is the product\packaging made from recycled materials?
  • Can you make it at home?

2. Become familiar with recycling labels: The first thing you need to understand about recycling labels, is that they should NEVER replace advice from your local authority.  Only your local council can tell you exactly what they are able to recycle.  Packaging labels only offer extra reminders about which materials can be recycled in the UK and the extent of the sevices available.

More information is available in The Rubbish Diet Challenge guide, but even without that, my top tips are:

  • Ignore this symbol, as it means nothing to UK recycling guidelines. It has no value in this country and just makes me want to spit feathers, so just pretend it's not there.

  • Look out for these labels instead, developed by WRAP and the British Retail Consortium and which have become the retail sector standard.  However even if the label says it can't be recycled, e.g. Film, as shown below, you should check with your local council first.

3. Learn to lift and separate. This particular exercise is for those who live in areas where plastics such as yoghurt pots and margarine tubs aren't recycled.  If are looking for off-the-shelf alternatives which enable you to throw less plastic into landfill, try and identify products that have been designed to use less plastic, ie developed with a thin plastic inner and a stiff cardboard outer. Brands such as Yeo Valley have redesigned their packaging in this way. It just means that before you recycle, you should split and separate the packaging.

4. Remember prevention is better than cure and here's a list that might help.

  • Pick up an old bag before you head to the shops.
  • Buy loose, where possible (Bananas don't need bags)
  • Take a container, if the shop allows (and follows in the footsteps of Unpackaged)
  • Buy concentrated products.
  • Look for refillable options.
  • Supersizing your purchase can sometimes help reduce packaging, so look for larger packs.

So, it will be interesting to see how our 8 volunteer households get on this week, throwing these extra decisions into their already busy lives.  However, as experience shows, once you become aware of how much waste results from our purchasing choices, it really does become easier to shop with waste in mind as a subconcious mindset, just as we shop with any of the other values that we carry with us.

So, without further ado, it's time to reintroduce our bin slimmers and see how they are getting on.  I think they're doing really well and the results of this week's weigh in will be updated as the results come in.

1.  Terry-anna.
Household: 2 adults, in Ipswich Borough, Suffolk. 
WK1 Weigh-in: 1.5 large bags, filling one third of a wheelie bin (fortnightly):  THIS WEEK: half a bag, with another week to go before collection.

2.  Ness.  @NessyThompson
Household: 2 adults & 5 children, a rural village in Mid Suffolk
WK1 Weigh-in:  2 full wheelie bins (fortnightly).  THIS WEEK: less than 1/2 a wheelie bin, with another week before collection.

3.  Donna.  @Donna_De
Household: 2 adults, in Tower Hamlets in London.
WK1 Weigh-in: 1 30L rubbish sack. (weekly).  THIS WEEK: 1 30: rubbish sack.

4. Amy. @AmyMarpman
Household: 2 adults in New York City.
WK1 Weigh-in: 2 bin bags - estimated 9kg / 20lbs. (Weekly) THIS WEEK: 1 small bag - 3.6kg / 8lbs

5: Kate. @BusinessPlumber
Household: 2 adults, in a rural village in Mid Suffolk :
WK1 Weigh-in: 1 unusually full wheelie bin - incl Christmas waste. (fortnightly): THIS WEEK: 1 bin bag with another week before collection.

6: Jax. @LiveOtherwise
Household: 2 adults, 3 children & a baby on its way, in Suffolk Coast.
WK1 Weigh-in: 7 small bin bags - filling one third or half of a wheelie bin (fortnightly). THIS WEEK: 3 small bin bags, with another week before collection,

Household: 2 adults, 2 children, Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire
WK 1 Weigh-in:  3 large bin bags, almost filling a whole wheelie bin. (weekly).  THIS WEEK: 2 Bags.

8.Tim @Dotterel
Household: 2 adults, 3 children, Lincolnshire.
WK 1 Weigh-in: 1 full wheelie bin (fortnightly). THIS WEEK: 4 small bags with 1 week to go before collection.

Don't forget, just because the Rubbish Diet challenge is already in WK 2, it doesn't mean that you can't join in.  Just visit the online guide to catch up with everything you need to do.  There's also lots happening on Twitter too, so to join in the conversation just use the hashtag #therubbishdiet, or tweet @karencannard.

And if you're a blogger, remember to share your latest blogpost on the topic using the clever little linky below.  If you're got any questions, please feel free to get in touch.


Friday, 27 January 2012

The Friday Journal: It's all been happening in Week 1

What a week it's been.  Very much of a whirlwind really, which kicked off in great style on Monday launching on BBC Radio Suffolk from Bury St Edmunds' Household Waste Recycling Centre.

It really is incredible to see how much can happen in just five days. News coming in from the households participating in the challenge includes great discoveries of local recycling facilities that will help keep all sorts of materials out of the bin.

There have been challenges too, including one household, which was trying to find a convenient Tetra Pak recycling bank. Hopefully that will be resolved.
The bin slimmers have also been organising new storage facilities, recycling new things and have even given me access to their bins to see if anything had been missed.  And yes, it is rewarding to find stuff in a bin that can be passed on easily for recycling and already fits in with an existing recycling routine.

I've made a few discoveries this week too, not least that all the recycling centres across Suffolk take plastic packaging such as rice and pasta packets as well as the polythene bags, but we can also bung corks in their timber collection and their media banks will accept VHS tapes, cassettes as well as CDs and DVDs.

That's the thing with recycling centres, facilities are always changing so if it's been a while, it's always worth popping in for a bit of a gander, as was discovered by one of our participants today, who drives past most days but has never been in, except for one occasion as a passenger.

Other great discoveries include improvements over the last year to council business recycling facilities in Bury St Edmunds, which now includes heavyweight items such as glass. Having met with our borough council today, I'm also looking forward to more good news being announced over the next few months.  Further afield, Aylesbury Vale District Council, home to one of our families, will also be announcing improvements to their service too.

This week, our local primary school commited to taking its own Rubbish Diet Challenge and has already started to investigate how they can reduce food waste over the next seven weeks, a project that's been adopted by their eco-club, so I'll be keeping an eye on how they get on.

And elsewhere, a local cafe, The Coffee House in Moreton Hall, signed up as a refill station, enabling passers-by to refill their water bottles for free and reduce the need for bottled water. I only suggested it on Wednesday and by Thursday, they were on the Tapwater map.

So what with our Ipswich bin slimmer receiving her new slim bin from the council, a compost bin on order for another and a kitchen waste caddy awaiting delivery and some reports coming in of less waste, it has been a really good start to The Rubbish Diet Challenge 2012.  And I really can't thank the participants enough, as well as others who are joining in as the challenge progresses.

But the proof is always in the pudding and we will find out more at next week's Monday Meeting, when a new set of mini-challenges will be set,

However, in the meantime, if you haven't seen it before, do check out one of my favourite videos of this week, put together by Tim Atkinson, aka The Dotterel, who's taking the challenge in Lincolnshire.  The full blogpost can be found here.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Rubbish Diet: The sponsored approach

It warmed the cockles of my heart yesterday, to discover that there were even more bin slimmers officially on board, aiming to reduce their household waste over the next 8 weeks, and one of them had extra news to share.

It came in the form of Joanna Boardman, who has not only pledged to see how low she can go, but has also registered her challenge on the DoNation website in the hope that she can also gain some sponsorship for her efforts. 

Now, before you think I'm going to ask you to empty out your spare change, if you haven't come across it before, the DoNation scheme is a sponsorship site with a difference.

It asks supporters not to delve into their pockets, but to donate by doing instead, a marvellous idea based on the inspiration of founder Hermione Taylor, who cycled from London to Morocco in 2009.  She didn't ask friends and family for sponsorship but asked them to do something to make a difference to help environmental issues. She was amazed that this drew sponsorship from 216 people, whose actions saved over 16 tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of 84 flights from London to Morocco.

Joanna challenge was the 100th to be registered at DoNation, and she is now keeping a diary over at her blog Let's Waste Less, which encourages people in North East Lincolnshire to make less waste.  Joanna also happens to be a waste minimisation officer for North East Lincolnshire and having just moved into the county it will be interesting to see how she gets on, whilst wearing both her professional hat as well as being a resident.

Her starting point last week was 1 sack full of kitchen rubbish and two carrier bags full of other household waste.  She lives in an area that doesn't recycle yoghurt pots or plastic meat packaging and she'll no doubt have trouble with all kinds of plastic film as well.

And having left her old compost bin in situ at the previous house, one of her first tasks has been to organise a new one for her latest property.

I remember that was one of the first things I did when we first moved to Bury St Edmunds.  Even though the council collected fruit & veg peelings and garden waste, I recall crossing my arms defensively and saying "They're not getting their hands on my compost!", so there's nothing quite like a girl after my own heart.

We'll be keeping tabs on Joanna's progress over the coming weeks, but do visit her blog for more info and pop over to see how you can sponsor her at the DoNation site.  I've just promised to switch from my car to using my bike once a week, which will apparently save 9kg CO2 each time.  It's about time I got back to pedal power..... and I suppose it's a form of 'recycling'. (Boom Tish)


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Meet the bin slimmers

Each week, I will be introducing some of the volunteers who have signed up for the Rubbish Diet challenge, so that we can find out more about their rubbish, the issues that arise and their plans for slimming those bins.

For Week 1, I'd like to introduce you to two people from Suffolk, Ness and Terry-anna.

Meet Terry-anna

Terry-anna lives with her partner in Ipswich, which falls under the district of Ipswich Borough.

When she first volunteered for the challenge she mentioned that she threw out between 2 -3 bags of rubbish every fortnight. However, already at the start of the challenge this week, she'd already slimmed this down to one and a half bags for her first weigh-in. 

This is great. Taking advantage of less waste, Terry-anna has already ordered a new slimmer bin from her council, a 180L, which will take up less room than the average 240L that's issued to most homes.

Some of the key things that her household will be tackling throughout the Rubbish Diet Challenge include some food waste (but not much), aerosol cans and those annoying little things such as tissues.  However, she doesn't want to stop there. When she was offered the opportunity to have a larger recycling bin, she politely declined.  Instead, she hopes to slim down her recycling bin too.

Huge thanks to Terry-anna for joining in and helping to support the launch of the challenge on BBC Radio Suffolk this week.  You can listen in on the link to Mark Murphy's show, with my introduction at 1hr 6min and Terry-anna's interview at 1hr 25m, where she confesses that she really hopes to get down to zero during Week 8.

*Terry-anna's new bin is part of Ipswich Borough Council's 60\40 plan where they are aiming for 60% recycling and offer residents the choice of smaller rubbish bins and larger recycling bins. 

For Ipswich's recycling guidelines, click here.

Meet Ness

Ness lives with her husband and three children (aged 6, 8 & 10) plus a dog and two cats, in the rural district of Mid Suffolk.

Currently she has two wheelie bins for rubbish, which are generally full to capacity each fortnight.  However, for her first weigh-in this week, she was already pleased to see that her rubbish was down by one bag since she's been preparing to take on the challenge.

The key challenges for Ness will be organic waste and making sure that her family follows the recycling guidelines.  It's a busy household, which means things that can be recycled often get thrown into the rubbish bin.  Just like Ipswich, Mid Suffolk residents benefit from mixed plastics recycling so most packaging can be put in the recycling bin for kerbside collection. 

However, Mid Suffolk doesn't collect compostables, except for garden waste, and even so, this service is only provided on subscription for residents who need it.  Knowing that organic waste such as peelings and odd pieces of mouldy fruit end up in her rubbish bin, Ness has committed herself to getting to grips with home-composting and has already got a bin on order.

She's also focusing on how she can organise other materials to drop at the Household Waste Recycling Centre, which admittedly is not always a convenient exercise, but will allow her to recycle textiles, Tetrapaks,  plastic film and hard plastic.  I'm hoping that by the end of this challenge, Ness will have cut her rubbish down by at least half and the council will be able to wheel that second bin away.

*For Mid Suffolk's recycling guidelines, click here.

I'll be reporting back on how both households have managed later on in the challenge.  In the meantime, for further information about recycling facilities in Suffolk, visit the county's new website.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Educating the family

Sometimes the family can make you scream!
So, we're only in Day 2 of the Rubbish Diet Challenge and several of the volunteers - and other folk  - are already confessing their first major hurdle ... and that's the recycling bin saboteurs who strike when their backs are turned!

The question I've been asked is how the heck do you educate other family members to get on board with your goal of slimming that bin!

This is a tricky one, especially if others in your household don't have the same amount of patience as you, or even think that recycling is a futile exercise,  And then there's the issue that recycling is often not as straight-forward as it should be, so without proper supervision they get confused.

Confusion is probably the easiest obstacle to tackle.  The first step is to list the rules and place it next to your recycling bin. I would suggest placing a copy on your rubbish too for double measure.  If you're a family with young children, it might be possible to task them with creating a poster with pictures of the things that should go in the recycling bin and hope they follow the rules if they've taken some ownership on the matter.  From a practical perspective you may also need to provide some extra boxes, to make it more simple.

If children are the main culprits, you could suggest they compete against each other to see who can create the least rubbish each week. Give them a box or a carrier bag each to collect their personal rubbish and see how they go.  Warning! Incentives may be required.

Even adults might want to give this a try.  For inspiration, I recommend paying a visit to the Clean Bin Project, where Jen and Grant challenged each other to see who could create the least waste for a whole year.  Yes a year!  Those taking part in The Rubbish Diet Challenge will now be grateful that this is just for eight weeks.

If the issue stretches beyond confusion over what can be recycled and moves into the area of values or different levels of patience, I woudn't want to meddle as I'm no expert in such matters, but I'd suggest expressing your feelings first and offer evidence that it is worthwhile, whether it's the £56\tonne landfill tax that we pay to dump our rubbish in the landfill, or the energy savings that are created as a result of recycling. 

The Recycle Now website is a great place to start for basic consumer information, and features useful videos.  The Recyclometer on the Coca-Cola website is also an informative resource.

For further information about policies and research that are being developed at a national level, across all sectors, including government, retail and manufacturing, I'd recommend delving into the WRAP website as well as WasteWatch, which is an educational charity.

Of course another aspect of education is food waste, but this issue is a total minefield and worthy of a blogpost of its own, which I plan to visit in a few weeks time.

This blogpost offers an insight into how things have worked in our family and amongst some of the households with whom I've discussed this issue before. And trust me, my husband is not always the most patient when it comes to recycling or my piles of stuff waiting for the charity shop run!  If you've found other ways of getting your family on board, I'd love to know, so please do share.


On Twitter?  Then do join in the conversation using the hashtag #therubbishdiet or tweet @KarenCannard

Monday, 23 January 2012

Monday Meeting: The Rubbish Diet Challenge wk 1

Welcome to Week 1 of The Rubbish Diet Challenge, 2012.

Do pull up a chair and settle yourselves in.  My name's Karen. I'm a blogger, housewife and self-confessed waste geek and over the next eight weeks, I am going to take you through a programme of talking about utter rubbish.

The aim of the challenge is simple: to slim your bin over the next 7 weeks before attempting a zero waste week. But we won't worry about that now.  I don't want to give you the collywobbles.

And of course the reason for the challenge is to cut the amount of valuable resources that currently end up in landfill or indeed incinerators, as a result of a lack of recycling facilities, insufficient knowledge or insufficient incentives. We all lead busy lives, so I hope this challenge will provide a short break with opportunities to make long-lasting changes.

The Rubbish Diet will take you through this process gradually. The focus will be our Monday Meetings, highlighting mini-challenges each week.  These challenges will hopefully get your brain whizzing, thinking about new ways in which you can keep your rubbish down. There will be links to useful resources too.

You will also be encouraged to 'weigh-in' just like any other slimming club, where you can measure your progress over the coming weeks and see that weight coming off. How you record it is up to you. You can either get on the scales, count your bags or just take photos.

So, are you up for the Challenge?

It would be great if you are. And if so, here are your tasks for Week 1.

1. Write a list of the top 5 things that fill your rubbish bin, e.g. cooked food waste, plastic, nappies. This will be your Hit List, that will help you in your goal over the next 8 weeks.

2. Try to recall the amount of rubbish that went out on your last collection day and record the level that you put out next time.

3. Phone your council, visit their website or visit to find out EXACTLY what can be recycled at your kerbside, local bring banks or your Household Waste Recycling Centre (commonly known as the Tip). Even if you think you already know, you may be surprised about new services that have been introduced. And don't forget retailers such as supermarkets or electrical stores. Leave no stone unturned! Even TetraPak has its own recycling website.

4. Organise a proper place to sort out your recycling at home, even a few empty boxes will do or hang some bags on a hook behind the door.  If you haven't got a compost bin, now's the time to consider one. Visit

5. Think about ways in which you can reduce your waste, even before the need for recycling, e.g. reducing mail, (visit reusing stuff, or simply making things last longer through repair or extending their use. If food waste is your issue, have a rummage over at

If you want further inspiration and ideas, check out The Introduction section of the online Rubbish Diet Challenge guide, which also provides the background to this challenge and the one that I took in 2008. Then have a read of Week 1, where there is a lot more information to support the tasks listed above.

Other great sources are: My Zero Waste and  Can I recycle this.

And if you can, do join in the chatter over on Twitter, either by following the hashtag #therubbishdiet or tweeting me @KarenCannard.

Participating Households

If you're joining in the challenge, you certainly won't be on your own. Eight households have volunteered - yes volunteered - to have a go and blog, tweet or show their friends their rubbish on Facebook.

So let me introduce you, along with any Twitter IDs and blogs that they might write. As their weigh-in results are recorded, they will be updated as they come in. I don't know much about their rubbish at this stage, but over the weeks all this will unfold as we get to know them better.  Just bear in mind, their rubbish will be collected on different days and they have chosen to record it in the best way that suits them.  This is okay as it's their personal challenge and not a competition.

1.  Terry-anna.
Household: 2 adults, in Ipswich Borough, Suffolk. 
Weigh-in: 1.5 large bags, filling one third of a wheelie bin (fortnightly)

2.  Ness.  @NessyThompson
Household: 2 adults & 5 children, a rural village in Mid Suffolk
Weigh-in:  2 full wheelie bins (fortnightly)

3.  Donna.  @Donna_De
Household: 2 adults, in Tower Hamlets in London.
Weigh-in: 1 30L rubbish sack. (weekly)

4. Amy. @AmyMarpman
Household: 2 adults in New York City.
Weigh-in: 2 bin bags - estimated 9kg / 20lbs. (Weekly)

5: Kate. @BusinessPlumber
Household: 2 adults, in a rural village in Mid Suffolk :
Weigh-in: 1 unusually full wheelie bin - incl Christmas waste. (fortnightly)

6: Jax. @LiveOtherwise
Household: 2 adults, 3 children & a baby on its way, in Suffolk Coast.
Weigh-in: 7 small bin bags - filling one third or half of a wheelie bin (fortnightly)

Household: 2 adults, 2 children, Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire
Weigh-in:  3 large bin bags, almost filling a whole wheelie bin. (weekly)

8.Tim @Dotterel
Household: 2 adults, 3 children, Lincolnshire.
Weigh-in: 1 full wheelie bin (fortnightly)

So, I guess that means that The Rubbish Diet Challenge 2012 is officially launched and it's no coincidence that it's the same week as I set up the blog four years ago, so this forms pretty much of a blogging celebration too.

Thank you too all who take part.  There'll be more coming up on the blog this week, as we find out more about the issues and challenges that two of our participants, Terry-anna and Ness, will be facing.

In the meantime, if you're around at 10am, listen in to The Mark Murphy show on BBC Radio Suffolk, where I will be talking more about the challenge and the households that are taking part, live from the Household Waste Recycling Centre in Bury St Edmunds.


If you have a blog and are inspired to take up the challenge, I'd love to follow your progress, so do let me know about it by adding your blogpost in the linky box below.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

My thoughts and hopes for The Rubbish Diet Challenge

It's the eve of the Rubbish Diet Challenge and I realise that part of me feels quite nervous but excited too. Who knows what will happen over the next few weeks as 8 households endeavour to slim their bins in public.

As four of these households are based in Suffolk, I will be officially launching the challenge live on BBC Radio Suffolk just after 10am, quite appropriately in an outside broadcast from our local Household Waste Recycling Centre in Bury St Edmunds. So if you get a chance, do listen into the Mark Murphy show, which is also launching its own Don't be a Tosser anti-litter campaign on the same day.

In the meantime, here's a video I made earlier today about my thoughts on The Rubbish Diet Challenge... warts and all.  See you again tomorrow for the first Monday Meeting, where I will send you away with your first set of mini-challenges.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Weight loss, Watt loss!

See that bin on the left?

That's our rubbish bin.

No, not the big one.

But that little one.

The teeny-tiny one on the left-hand-side.

Yes, I know it looks like an ordinary bathroom bin, but it actually is the main one for our household waste, and resides in the kitchen.

The bin on the right-hand-side used to be our rubbish bin, but during my very first zero waste challenge, it was promoted to handle our recycling.  As our rubbish gradually got lighter and the bin bag became slimmer, we didn't need such a huge bin, so downsized a little...or rather a lot. 

During the last few years we've also been doing the same with our energy usage.   However, unlike rubbish, it's much harder to visualise the impact if your energy source gets delivered through pipes and wires.

Wouldn't it be great if you could look at that small bin and pat yourself on your back with great satisfaction knowing that was all the energy your household used in a week instead of needing that huge bin.

Before I even begin to blow my mind with musings on the actual size of bin we would need to demonstrate that, there are simple tools that can deliver the kind of information needed for analysis, and that's in the form of an energy monitor. An energy monitor tracks how much electricity you’re using translates that into amount of money you’re spending by the hour.

We bought one several years ago and had so much fun. The children were even distracted from the TV and instead spent several evenings running around the house turning lights on-and-off and helping me to start the washing machine, dishwasher and oven.  I was just relieved they couldn't find the switch for the fridge\freezer or I really would have been in trouble.

But energy monitors aren't just fun for entertaining the kids, they're great for adults too, not that Mr A and I indulged in similar games of running around flicking the switches mind you!  STOP IT!  No, we'd look at the digital display and rub our hands together in a scrooge-like manner thinking 'Kerching' when pondering the savings made, while my mind distracted itself towards gorgeous vintage jewellery or shoes.  Wrong I know, and I've worked hard at improving my attitude since.

Soon everyone will be using them. The government has set a deadline of 2019 for all British households to have smart meters, gas and electricity meters that also monitor energy use. British Gas has already started upgrading its customers.

Since we've used our monitor, it's made me think twice about regulating the temperature of our radiators, making more efficient use of our hob & oven and even the amount of washing we do.  Where I used to bung everything in the washing machine after each wear, stuff now only goes in if it doesn't pass my quality control tests, i.e. having a whiff of it first. And we hardly use our tumble dryer these days, preferring to air-dry the washing instead.

But I know we've got to work harder.  Leaving on the various computers remains a problem for us (sometimes three can be running, talking amongst themselves, while we all sit down for dinner or are distracted by something on TV), which is why I've agreed to follow the Smart Mums Watt Loss Challenge.

Maybe I should get another bin, for recycling our Waste Electricals and if I see no progress, I can threaten to  bung the computers in there.  Ah, there's nothing like a spot of visualisation to inspire results.

And don't think I'm immune from my threat. If you don't see me again, you'll know my husband has read this post and has recycled my laptop for leaving it on when I should have turned it off!


I’m a British Gas Smart Mums Ambassador, working with BritMums and British Gas to highlight energy issues in the home.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Rubbish Diet Challenge 2012 - And you're invited!

Next Monday on 23rd Jan, I am launching the Rubbish Diet Challenge 2012.

And I am inviting you to take part, along with your friends and family and even colleagues at work.

Your mission will be to find ways of slimming your rubbish bin and you will have 8 weeks to do it.  In the final week, if you want to push the limits and create a name for yourself, there's even the chance to attempt a Zero Waste Week.

Rubbish and waste management is still a huge problem in the UK and even though recycling targets and are being increased and often met by local authorities, we still have a long way to go in tackling the wider issue of waste reduction.

I believe that people power is a key component to tackling the country's waste problem.

The Rubbish Diet Challenge aims to empower average households everywhere to do something positive about waste reduction at home or at work, even if it's just taking the opportunity to learn that little bit more about local recycling, tackling food waste or encouraging your council or community to introduce a new recycling bank.

During the next 8 weeks I want to take you on a journey of discovery, and I know I'm going to learn a whole of host of new things myself.

And just with any other diet, there will be regular weigh-ins, starting on Monday, when I will be introducing some of the families, whom I will be personally mentoring over the course of the next couple of months.

But this will not be formulaic. I have no idea of the outcomes, which I confess makes me slightly nervous. At the moment I don't know much about their rubbish, or how low they will go, but I look forward to finding out more as we investigate different lifestyles and recycling issues from all around Suffolk, London, Lincolnshire, Buckinghamshire and even New York City.

So if you want to join in and be part of the conversation, come back on Monday and find out more. In the meantime, if you want to know more about the challenge itself and see what's going to be coming up week-by-week, take a look at the Rubbish Diet Challenge page on this blog, which features links to an online guide to the next eight weeks.

So are you up for it?

I hope so!

And if you want to join in the conversation on Twitter too, tweet @KarenCannard. sharing your results, questions and thoughts, using the hashtag #TheRubbishDiet

Background info: The Rubbish Diet Challenge is based on my own experience of taking my local council's Zero Waste Week challenge in 2008.  As a result, our family's household waste reduced from almost a full wheelie bin's worth of rubbish per fortnight to what now is on average one carrier bag's worth per month.  Since then, The Rubbish Diet has been featured in all sorts of places including BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour and C4 Dispatches  It also inspired a national Zero Waste Week, which is the creation of Mrs Green over at My Zero Waste.

Disclaimer: If you're looking for picture of a perfectly empty bin, or an all-singing-dancing industry expert, I am not that kind of girl.  I'm simply an average woman, who still battles against her own family's rubbish habits, but who happens to know how to deal with it and has a passion for tickling people into wanting to find out more about theirs.  But I do confess to being a geeky waste groupie and poking my nose into the world of new technologies, meddling with my local council and talking rubbish at conferences.

For more info email: karen[at]therubbishdiet[dot]co.[dot]uk

Saving energy on the hob!

As part of the British Gas SmartMums campaign, looking at ways, to save energy around the home, I have been asked to illustrate some ideas on video.

So here's me, getting underway with Sunday dinner, demonstrating the advantages of using a steamer instead of a hob full of old saucepans.


I’m a British Gas Smart Mums Ambassador, working with BritMums and British Gas to highlight energy issues in the home.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Where will it end up? Tracking my mobile with O2 Recycle

Look! That's my scared face, which says, "I don't really want to let go of this phone, but now I'm here and I promised I'd do it, I suppose I'm going to have to let you take it."

Have you ever recycled a mobile phone? 

I hadn't until today, despite having owned six of the things ever since I got my very first phone in 1998.  Look, it was such a momentous occasion back then, we even captured it on camera!  It was so big, I almost needed two hands to hold it up my ear!

Christmas morning, 1998. I'd never wear that dressing gown with FaceTime!

It's sad to think that phone is still packed away somewhere in my loft.  When recovered, it will be like an historic artefact from the days when phones were phones, not the mini computer devices that they are now.  Even though I have no use for it, it will probably be very hard to give up.  You see, I really do get attached to my phones for all sorts of odd reasons, whether they remind me of a time when I had a cool job, or contained the recording of my toddler telling me he loved me, or even symbolise the day I jumped into a swimming pool to rescue my drowning four-year old, with my phone in my back pocket.

There is one phone that I've not particularly been attached to though and that's my Nokia N97.  It might have been great at getting me onto Twitter and Facebook and juggling my multi-media usage, but I haven't half given it a good battering these last few years. Its time was definitely up twelve months ago, not least because the back-end would fall off at impromptu moments, It's also developed several other features that are noteworthy of its early demise, including the semi-detatchment of its silver fascia as a result of recent contact with the floor.  Then there's the way it would suddenly reboot while I was surfing the mobile net.

However, if it hadn't been for a discussion with some friendly folk from O2, this phone would be sitting in the drawer that's now dedicated to out-of-date gadgets and electronic leads, while I enjoy my more up-to-date technology.

I'd explained to O2 that given my bizarre attachment to old devices, I would only ever recycle one of my phones if I could be convinced that it was worthwhile.  After all, I'd much rather keep it in a drawer than go to the trouble of stripping off the data, just for it to be taken apart.

They then reassured me that just because my phone looked like it was due for the scrapyard, that wasn't necessarily the case and that it would most likely be refurbished and sold on as a reconditioned device, probably in an overseas market.

Suddenly I was interested in finding out more.

I wanted to know exactly where my phone would end up.

And I wanted to know the story of who would be using it.

I asked O2 whether we could do that, and after some phone calls around head office and to their recycling company Redeem, they said yes.  We could certainly track my old Nokia to its end market and depending on the privacy wishes and language capabilities of the new owner, it may be possible to discover the other information too.

And that got me very excited.

So, with all my photos copied, contacts deleted and messages stripped, I skipped off to our local O2 store this morning to do the deed.  Well, I say I skipped.  Actually, for some reason, I was very nervous.  I wanted reassurance that no sensitive data, or remote access to my emails or online accounts could be retrieved from my old phone, once I handed it over. 

Glendon, the Store Leader, reassured me.  In fact, one of the first steps was to restore the phone to its factory settings and ensure that everything had been deleted off.

The rest of the process was very straight forward, confirming that I should hopefully get around £32 for my old phone, which will soon be credited to my bank account, without me having to lift a finger.

It was really that simple, I'm now wondering what the fuss was about!  Look, I'm now looking much happier about letting go of that dodgy old phone and setting it free for refurbishment and onto pastures new.

By tomorrow, the phone will be somewhere in Scotland, being refurbished by O2's recycling partner Redeem, and once it's passed quality control, it will be despatched onto its journey, where it will be tracked all the way.

Apparently it should only take two weeks until it reaches its end destination.  Hopefully then it will quickly find its way to its new owner and I then hope they will get in touch.  It's risky I know, but I've sent them a message with my email and phone number.

Oh gawd, I could be opening up a whole new can of worms, but it would be exciting to find out with whom it ends up and to discover what really happens when a phone gets recycled.


If you're interested in recycling your old phone for cash, there are many ways in which you can do it, but it you wish to use O2's service, you can recycle by post and fill your details online, or pop into a store near you.  You don't even need to be a customer.  More information is available at  O2 don't make any profit from this service.  All proceeds from their sales go to their charity Think Big, which supports community projects that help young people.   Other gadgets such as iPods, cameras and even routers can also be recycled, although these are not processed on a cash-back basis.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

My 5 year phone challenge....eeek!

I'm not sure whether this latest confession will demonstrate my inner lunacy or permanent state of wishful thinking, but eh oh, I'll show and tell and see what comes.  I'd be interested in the debate.

The thing is, I've just got a brand new spanking smartphone, an all singing and dancing top model iPhone.  It's been on my geeky-gadget list for the last 18 months and as my old phone began to fall apart / regularly freeze / randomly self-boot .... along with many other tedious failures, the seduction of the iPhone became more and more tempting, so much so that it looked as though finally it would make it to my Christmas list for 2011.

And hooray, it actually did arrive, but not quite as I'd expected (there'll be more on that later).  However, with such a frivolous addition to my gadgetry, it arrived with a new personal goal that will definitely challenge the way I think about about new technology, especially mobile technology.

You see, I am a bit of a gadget girl and since the introduction of smartphones that don't just keep you connected to the whole social-media universe out there, but come packed with video functionality and access to multimedia entertainment, I have found it harder to step back to the days when a phone was simply a phone.  I have wanted to keep pace with all the shininess that such a mini-computer in one's pocket can bring. 

My new iPhone will be the third smartphone I've owned in five years - although admittedly the first one only gave up the ghost as a result of it being in my jeans pocket, when I saved my youngest son from a potential drowning incident a few years ago.

The second phone, its replacement, has been causing me nothing but bother for the last 15 months, mainly though collateral damage, but has also developed a very clunky feel about it compared to other touch screen technology.  Consequently, my shiny new acquisition already offers much hope of a more streamlined and much more enjoyable experience in keeping me connected to the outside world of work, rest and play.

But the challenge I've set myself is to try and keep hold of this phone and keep it functioning for FIVE WHOLE YEARS!

I know I've not set myself a very good track record so far.

But aside from my accident-prone ways and technological desire, I hope this self-imposed challenge will not only encourage me to focus on the longevity of possessions, but will also bring into focus the challenges we, as consumers, have in a constantly fast-moving technological world.  And this challenge is not new. For decades, built-in obsolence has been a key consumer issue as have opportunities for exciting applications only being realised as a result of hardware innovations becoming available.

And let's face it, I am grateful for such advances in technological science.  After all, watching movies on our smartphones would not be so gratifying if we had to plug in a portable DVD player to do so.

Of course, opinions vary.  There are many friends who have told me that I've got no chance, mainly thanks to Apple's proprietary systems as well as the company's speed of innovation and all round creator of consumer desire.

But then, there are others who say that this iPhone, with all its latest technology and mod cons should see me through the five year period quite easily. 

So I guess the proof will definitely be in the pudding -or rather the apple pie -  and I'll just have to wait and see.  But I am going to try damn hard, against a world of high-speed technological change, to remain satisfied and keep hold of this phone for five years.  And I will be delighted if I can do it.

But for those who know better than me, or indeed know me better than myself,  I'd love to hear what you think.


Disclaimer.  In the spirit of blogger openness, I feel it right to declare that my lovely new phone was a surprise thank you gift that came out of the blue from the folks at O2, as a token of appreciation for the free-time I dedicated a few months ago to brainstorming a whole host of campaign ideas for a phone recycling project that's coming up soon.  There will be more on that next week, when along with other bloggers who have now signed up for the campaign, I will be relinquishing my old phone for recycling and tracking to see where it goes.  And would you believe, for many reasons, I have never recycled a phone before.  So watch out for all that comes with that next week!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Making the most of 2012. Happy New Year!

Well Happy New Year all!   I hope you enjoyed your New Year's Eve celebrations and are poised to take your empties down to the bottle bank at a decent hour.

Personally, I've been looking forward to the start of 2012.  Not that 2011 was a crap year.  In fact it was rather good to me, aside from the upsets of losing our beloved cat and having to rehome our chickens. 

Last year was most definitely one of opportunity, whether that meant understanding even more about the opportunities and challenges for Zero Waste, to interviewing Kevin McCloud about upcycling at his Grand Designs exhibition, or making an appearance on Dispatches and Woman's Hour, which both left ripples of amusement as a backdrop to the very serious subject of waste.

But there were three significant events that could solidify what 2011 was about for me.

The first was the Save the Children conference, which not only gave greater understanding of their amazing work and constant quest for support and funds, but asked us, the attendees, what we were born to do.  It was then, after many previous thoughts of ditching the blog and my incessant natterings about rubbish, did I make a personal commitment to carry on the challenge to encourage folk to reconsider their rubbish and think about the world outside their bins.  There is a great imbalance between the parts of global society that can 'afford' to waste and those which, for reasons of poverty or natural disaster, can't, and this creates a reminder of why as an international community we need to make the most of our resources and use them more wisely, both now and in the future.

The second event was my 1000 bins campaign, a 12 week challenge to raise awareness of the often overlooked on-street recycling bin. The aim was to promote Recycling on the Go through the summer of 2011 and draw attention to two significant waste related events, making a connection between Recycle Week, which took place in June and Zero Waste Week, which provided the finale in September.  Led by the bespectacled, curly-haired Welsh bundle of gorgeousness, Shedwyn, who was outed as my newly acquired alter-ego, the campaign taught me a number of things:  People will actually do things if you ask them to (demonstrated by self-embarrassment when taking photos of bins in public) and that the serious world of recycling and waste could do with a bloody huge injection of comedy that tickles people into rethinking waste.

The third event was the energyshare project, where I was sponsored to help raise the profile of the Hexham River Hydro project in its bid to win the funding. This brought me into a community of people who demonstrated not only the appreciation of protecting its foundations but illustrated the power of innovative thinking in moving forward, how making use of a renewable energy source could harness future opportunities for energy creation, generating much-needed income and knowledge sharing to inspire others.  2011 ended with Hexham River Hydro successfully winning their category, which was fabulous news.  However for me, the icing on the cake was how not only did I make some new friends, but it unexpectedly brought me back into contact with an old work friend too. A wonderful surprise, which illustrated not only what a small world this is, but how connected we all are, even if we don't actually realise it.

So, onto 2012 and looking to the future.

Drawing on lessons of 2011, I've decided my theme this year is going to be Making the most of what I've got!

Some could say it's enforced.  I confess to spending far too much money on clothes and shoes in 2011 and I've been forewarned by my husband that I need to tighten my proverbial belt.  However that picture provides an image of doom and gloom.  Friends who know me well, know that I'm stubborn in nature and never like being told what to do.

However, I refuse to consider 2012 to be a year of austerity, even if it's defined as such.  Instead, I'm going to make it into a year of opportunity, and here's a taster.

In 2012 I endeavour to:
  • Make more use of my culinary talents, instead of eating out so often (yes, they are still buried deep inside, if I dare to look). Who knows, I may even throw a party, so watch this space for invitations!
  • Make far better use of my clothes, by repairing them myself, or taking them to one of the many alteration shops that are starting to pop up in town.  The latter is already sounding a more realistic option.
  • Make better use of my space: do I really need half the stuff that's cluttering up my home? No! Especially as it clutters up my head too.  So this is the year I am going to be brutal and set things free. Oh such bravado!
  • Make things last longer, whether it's a glass of wine, an item of clothing or a gadget.
  • Make do with what I've got and borrow what I need.

And finally, yes finally, I'm going to make the most of what I've learned over the last few years and work harder to share that knowledge in 2012.  I know I've got to overcome my natural shyness first - don't laugh, I really am that shy!

I've realised, it's no good keeping my enthusiasm and jolliness about reducing waste to myself.  Other people should be entitled to a good giggle too, so that's what I'm going to do this year, get more folk laughing about their rubbish and in doing so, hopefully encourage ambitions to reduce it.

So watch this space. 

In fact, you won't need to wait long.  In a few weeks time, I'll be rolling out the 2012 Rubbish Diet Challenge and revealing a handful of bloggers, Tweeters and Facebook friends who have decided to have a go and I can't wait to see them poking about their bins!  I hope you'll join in too, or encourage your friends to have a peek.

In the meantime, I'll be back over the next few days, chatting about how I'm making the most of my gas consumption as well as my new mobile phone - but not at the same time of course.  Tut tut, that would be far too dangerous a combination.

So here's to a brand new year ahead of us and ensuring we make the most of it.

I do so hope you'll join me.

Happy New Year to you.  I hope you have a fabulous 2012!


P.S.  That hat, yes THAT HAT, is not mine, but a frivolous item that can be found amongst the treasures of the Theatre Royal wardrobe department in Bury St Edmunds.  Hat hire is available for a small donation only, whereas you can hire a whole costume for just £12.  I definitely think I'll be making the most of that this year.  As Miranda Hart would say.  "Such Fun!"

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