Tuesday, 23 December 2008

My Festive Stocking Fella

I've been wondering what to do with my old laddered hosiery, which has been piling up on top of my cupboard for months. A few scraps of material and a couple of buttons later, I came up with the perfect solution just in time for Christmas...and with it... a little festive greeting.

So Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you have a brilliant time and manage to keep those festive bins looking as slim as Scrooge's old dusty wallet. Thank you for a real fun year and cor blimey it was a good 'un.

Well, that's me signing off for a while but I'll see you in 2009, when I'll be pondering my new year resolutions. Why don't you join in too, and get set for another trashtastic Rubbish Dieting year!

See you soon....

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Great expectations

I've had to think carefully before writing this post. After all there are only 5 days to go until Christmas Day and I've realised that this year I have been living in a HUGE state of denial.

And it's the kind of denial that makes you want to run to the hills and live in a cave for a week and then come out when it's all over.

Yes I know, perhaps I need therapy.

Especially when you see the evidence...

  • I've only written one card - and yes I know today is the last posting day before Christmas.
  • I've not bought any crackers - we're going to make hats and Mr A will make up some jokes instead.
  • Our presents for the boys have been pared right back to just a few things each, plus some coins and the traditional satsuma.
  • I have not even bought a bottle of Baileys Irish Cream.
Oh my word - you can see what I mean can't you!

But therapy would only be useful if I really wanted to get back to the norm.

And the norm is - or more to the point was - filling the house with booze and food that would end up going to waste or making me fat, spending stacks of cash on Mr A and the children and expecting him to do the same and then surprising others with presents they probably don't need or even want.

I'm not really up for that this year! Not now that I've woken up to the amount of waste that our excesses used to create.

I don't think I need therapy and I'm certainly not going to run and hide in a cave because believe it or not, after months of denial I am actually looking forward to Christmas and the festive cheer actually starts today!

Not September, when the shops start selling presents, nor the middle of November when the lights are switched on. And visiting Father Christmas at the beginning of December, when we all know the big guy doesn't make an appearance until next week was most certainly not on the agenda.

Phew - at last I feel that I've broken free from the burdens of Christmas that has become as traditional as the event itself and I can tell you, with it comes a huge feeling of relief.

But I really feel like I'm breaking the rules. - the rules of social etiquette that bind us together giving us a shared understanding of how things should be.

To break away from all that is not easy. It is hard to be different and really does need strength of character to fight those feelings of automatic generosity or conformity, whilst defending any impressions of selfishness. It's not even as though I am particularly religious but I can't help wondering whether, it might be easier if I was bound to a faith.

But I do have renewed faith in Christmas and now feel brave enough to share my beliefs.

It's taken me a while but I've grown to realise I don't need gifts to know that someone cares for me. For those that do, I will respect it but memories of good times, traditions and laughter last much longer than presents.

And a card is only useful for sending Christmas wishes that I can't deliver myself. A personal hello, a telephone call or an email are much more appreciated than an automatic card from someone who has become a stranger.

But the one thing that has kept me most sane is the growing realisation of one important fact and I can't believe it's taken me so long to work it out or indeed share the knowledge.

Right....here we go, my one pearl of wisdom, for what it's worth.

"Christmas Day is a just day and not a deadline".

There, I said it and how wonderful it feels to get that off my chest!

So please forgive me if I remain calm while the rest of the world scurries around me. I shan't judge those who do, just as I hope those who enjoy or accept the excess and panic of Christmas will not judge my realisation that it no longer suits me.

Ah...Peace at last.

Now doesn't that sound festive.....so as I break into the Carols and start organising Christmas, I'll see you next week, when I will have finally sorted my Christmas greetings and caught up with replies to other posts.

.........Tis the season to be jolly, tra la la la la, la la la la!"

"Ho, Ho, Ho!"


Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Today's Twitter with Working with Nature

When I've not been busy on the blog, the book or indeed preparing for Christmas, I've been having a really good Twitter. Not just twittering to myself, but twittering to others over at www.twitter.com, where everyone else is having their fair share of tweets too. And it's fab, you get to meet all sorts of new peeps or tweeps as twittering people are called.

And one of those gorgeous tweeps is the lovely Allyson Proudfoot, who runs the Bellingham Soap Company, making luxury soap and skincare products under the brand Working with Nature. If the name sounds familiar, it's because as well as having an online shop, Allyson distributes to a whole range of stockists across the UK, including National Trust gift shops.

Well I couldn't resist ordering myself a treat (or indeed a tweet) for Christmas and it arrived today. So while I'm off to indulge in a Fabulous Frankincense Fizz Bath, I have the pleasure in handing you over to Allyson for her to tell you more about her work.

How long have you been making soap and what inspired you in the first place?

"I've been making soap for 11 years, started selling at my local farmers market in 1999. I started because I needed something to do with my surplus goats milk and then began making creams and balms about 4 years ago, as a natural progression!"

What's your favourite product?

"I don't really have a fave product, I like them all. If I don't like something I don't make it again even if it is popular...like glycerin soap, I could sell cart loads but it is just melted down factory base and even the so called organic stuff doesn't fit in with what I believe in. If I was pushed I would have to say that I love my Patchouli soap."

What kind of packaging do you use?

"I only use biodegradable packaging, natural cellophane, jute bags and fairly traded saa paper. I band my soaps with Ellie Poo paper as it helps to conserve the habitat of elephants in Sri Lanka.

I use recycled packaging to send out my orders, I usually use recycled brown paper and corrugated cardboard but I also re-use what is sent to me, if it is a plastic sack or bubble wrap then I got it from someone else! I use cellulose sticky tape too!"

What would be your top tip for any other small business wishing to reduce its waste?

"My top tip would be think about waste in the first stages of designing a product, and save every thing you can in case you can re-use it later, shred your waste paper and use it as packing."

Huge thanks to Allyson for joining in with The Rubbish Diet. I can truly vouch that the packaging is just what she promotes through her work. It arrived this morning, all gorgeous and eco-friendly, with a few reused bits too. To find out more about her wonderful products, pop over to www.bellinghamsoapcompany.co.uk.

If you want to follow our tweets, log onto www.twitter.com/therubbishdiet
and www.twitter.com/workingnature, where you'll find a whole load of tweeters at it too, with many friends you'll recognise and a whole load of new ones to connect with.


Monday, 15 December 2008

My Trashy Update!

What a couple of jewels I've discovered this weekend. Having spent the last few weeks indoors at my computer, it was a true delight to go out and play. And look what I've found.

My first discovery was Raspberry Rascals, a fantastic children's shop that's just opened in Langton Place, Bury St Edmunds. Here's Heather, the founder, sorting out a few clothes that I decided to buy for the children.

Now this shop might look expensive, but Raspberry Rascals isn't just any old new shop if you get my drift. It's a gorgeous nearly new store aimed at children under 5. With clothes, toys, books and nursery equipment, Raspberry Rascals stocks a wonderful range of items in such excellent condition, you'd hardly know they were pre-loved.

It's a real gem of a shop and a perfect addition to the town centre. I can see it will be a regular hang-out for a fussy bargain-hunter like me.

Talking of real gems, on Sunday I popped over to one of Bury St Edmunds' other treasures, the wonderful craft fair at Blackthorpe Barn, a major event in Suffolk's Christmas calendar.

And look who I bumped into! The fabulous Steve Weeks, who'd travelled all the way up from Wiltshire to promote her stunning collection of handcrafted bags

And they really are beautiful, but as you can jolly well guess, I wouldn't just rave about any old bags, apart from my gorgeous Radley of course.

You see, each handbag is made from rescued materials that are sourced locally, which means every item is unique and a real eco-friendly find. Steve's work is really worth a blog post of its own, so I'll be coming back to that in the new year. In the meantime, take a look for yourself at www.beaubags.co.uk.

And if the weekend wasn't exciting enough, Just Gai over at Zero Waist has published December's Carnival of Trash today, so do hop over and have a read of all the fabulous posts. Then when that's done, tune into BBC Radio Suffolk's James Hazell Show on Tuesday morning when I'll be popping up at around 11.10 to chat about minimising waste this Christmas.

At last I'm beginning to feel some festive vibes. It's about time too. After all, I've done nothing but polish off mince pies since Friday. So before my Christmas spirit takes another nosedive, I'm off to decorate the Christmas Tree and wrap some presents.


Saturday, 13 December 2008

A right rubbish matchmaker

Oh...I'm feeling like Cilla Black on Blind Date...

I've been matchmaking...and it's so exciting...but not how you'd think!

This particular story begins with an evening out with friends at an Indian Restaurant last night. An evening of hilarity and good humour, full of all sorts of innuendos...the fun, the laughter...well you know how it is!

One minute you're having a regular night out innocently enjoying your meal. Then before you know it time's whizzed by and the hot towels arrive, a refreshing treat at the end of the evening.

Of course I couldn't wash my hands without asking THE question about what happened to the towels once they were used.

"Madam, I'm afraid we throw them away" came the answer.


"Er yes madam."

Well I wasn't having that. Looking at the towels again, there was no logical reason why they couldn't be put to good use as reusable wipes for the kids or as cleaning cloths perhaps...so I popped them in my bag and brought them home to wash.

Yes I know it might appear to be eccentric behaviour, others might say my rescue mission was fuelled by wine.

But when you wake up to waste, I'm afraid you can't close your eyes to it even after a few glasses of the white stuff.

So yes, I rescued 7 hand towels. But thinking about it, they are just a drop in the ocean when you consider the numbers that must be used in a whole day, a week, or indeed a year, not by one restaurant but the thousands of establishments across the country.

But guess what...for this particular restaurant, there is indeed a happy outcome.

In idle gossip today, I mentioned the story to a friend.

We both frowned, seethed and tutted.

Then came the spark of ingenuity.

"I always need cleaning cloths" she remarked

"I can give 'em a wash and use them in my cafe".

Well, what can you say to that!

The only thing to do was to skip home, get on the blower to the restaurant manager and make a date!

And that's where this story ends...well for the moment.

I've got his mobile so she can give him a call and arrange a regular pick-up.

A neat solution to a wasteful issue.

I think my work is done!

So next time you're out for a curry and are freshening up at the end of your meal, please do be inquisitive. Who knows what could happen!


Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Liquid Soap Virgin

Sorry I haven't got time to blog much at the moment, busy writing book and all that. But I did tear myself away to make some new liquid soap for the bathroom.

I've never made it before, so I thought I'd video it so we could all see how easy or indeed difficult it was. What's great about the ingredients is that they're all natural and don't contain any nasty chemicals and they can be used to keep refilling any old bottle you've got hanging around. And of course it's one less thing to pick up at the supermarket.

So how easy is it? Well here's the video

All ingredients can be purchased from Summer Naturals. And if you want to see what else you can make, check out some recipes here. If anyone else knows of other things that are just as simple for a novice to make, please share, who knows what I'll get up to when in the mood.


Monday, 8 December 2008

The Hen Party

My weekend was so exciting. I went to a neighbour's house to meet up with some special girls. It was a Hen Party run on behalf of Omlet for people interested in keeping chickens. Truth of the matter is I've been feeling broody for years and these ones had me running home clucking with intentions.

So if you fancy the idea of keeping some too and want a sneaky peek at how to handle a chicken, check out the video below. They're gorgeous! (Huge thanks to Graham for agreeing to be uploaded and featured).


Sunday, 7 December 2008

All in a Christmas lather

Blimmin 'eck. It's Sunday night and there's a bit of a lather going on in the Almost Average household.

I've been falling over myself with responsibilities with the dawning realisation that the festive season is upon us and the one thing that I really want for Christmas isn't really possible. It might sound drastic but I could do with the whole thing being pushed back a few months.

Blubbedyrubbedyflibbedy-woo. The tell-tale signs are starting.

Take last week. Mr A went brought our Christmas tree home and put it up on Wednesday (we always do it early in our house). I had explained that it would not be possible to decorate until Friday.

So the bare tree sat in the corner of the living room.

There were my school governor responsibilities to deal with on Thursday followed by speaking at a regional Climate Change conference on Friday. With so much impending excitement leaving me on the cusp of turning green, by the time the evening arrived I'd felt like an alien had eaten my brain. All I could do was stay awake long enough to enjoy the curry that Mr A had made to celebrate the anniversary of when we first met back in 1992. A delicious Rogan Josh followed by a big long sleep.

So the tree stood bare in the corner again.

Then there was the book to write in the morning, followed by a quick visit to the market and then an afternoon Hen Party with a difference as well as a champagne laced Christmas party on Saturday night.


Another busy day today and the tree's still bare. Too tired to do it tonight. It's a two hour job that'll have to wait till tomorrow.

Problem is...I'm beginning to like the minimalist look and I think I'd like it to stay. Perhaps pop an angel on top to show some festive spirit.

But someone's been busy in my absence. I think they're a bit desperate, either that or the Christmas fairies have got some other ideas. Have a look at the photo again. It's certainly a new take on a hanging decoration.

Having been woken up early by my 4 year old for the 7th day running, I'm now off to bed to catch up on my beauty sleep. But don't let that spoil your fun.

Before you head off, be sure to visit the brilliant Just Gai over at the ZeroWaist blog to find out how you can take part in the Christmas Carnival of Trash that's taking place on the 15th December. Looks like I've got the perfect Christmas Tree photo to kick off the seasonal fun. So please join in and submit your entry by Friday 12th and do take time to find out how Just Gai managed with her own zero waste challenge earlier this year.

And come back soon, when I'll be revealing some photos of my neighbour's hen party. It was definitely the best zero waste event I could have wished for


Thursday, 4 December 2008

We would love you to recycle this packaging...

"....but you have to separate the cardboard from any plastic. Just pop it along to your local recycling centre, and place it in the relevant bin."

Well what can I say? I must be in chocolate heaven and so close to Christmas too! Not only am I sat enjoying a box of yummy Thorntons chocolate mints, but the considerate product designers have included instructions on what I should do with the packaging.

It's common knowledge that one of the problems with getting people to recycle is the lack of knowledge about whether something can be recycled. Indeed 48% of recyclers interviewed for WRAP's Barriers to Recycling study admitted to throwing things in the bin because they weren't sure what to do.

Which is why explicit instructions on consumer products is an absolute necessity.

So if you're the type of person who screams at products that whisper the words "Recyclable if facilities exist" with no hint of the materials used, you'll be inspired by Thorntons' range of chocolates that shout their credentials so loudly you'll no longer need a degree to work out your options.

Take the Mint Collection for example. The instructions explicitly state that the plastic used is 50% recycled PET, enabling consumers to check local facilities with confidence. The cushion pad that protects the chocolates can be recycled too, as it's just paper. I know that from simply reading the box. I didn't even have to tear it up to work it out.

How refreshing to find a product where there is no ambiguity over its core packaging. This is most definitely a worthy zero waste benchmark, especially as Thorntons are one of the few chocolate manufacturers to avoid wrapping their products in that annoyingly awkward film. Of course if I wanted to be picky, I would suggest an extra note for recycling the foil wrappers, but I'll be thankful for small mercies that things are moving in right direction.

And Thorntons aren't the only ones at it. It seems Nestle have been making an effort too, proudly announcing their kids' selection box now uses 40% less packaging than previous products and boasts clear instructions to recycle the plastic tray, which itself is made from 50% recycled PET (RPET) and 75% recycled board.

Yes I know it's cheaper and a more sensible zero waste option to pick your own selection and package them up yourself, but millions of people buy these things and even I remember the excitement over that special box at Christmas, so this feels like positive progress too.

But we can't forget that all these positive noises about recycling come at a time when the market for recyclables has taken a nose-dive. The good news is that WRAP has just launched a help service for local authorities that have concerns about their mounting piles of materials and their advice to the public is to keep recycling what packaging you can. I suppose these resources are just like stocks and shares. What's down one day is up the next and markets are still available for quality products, just as these chocolate boxes illustrate. Now that should inspire consumer confidence.

And talking about quality products...it's time to get back to that box of chocolates. Well this is The Rubbish Diet after all...but at least you know I'll be responsible with the empty box.


Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Just look how I fell off the wagon!

Now if you'd spent a whole month trying to avoid buying nothing new, what would be the first thing to encourage you to part with your cash? Bet it wouldn't be a tub of dishwasher powder! Something with a touch of luxury would probably win the day and who could blame you.

But for me it was pure unadulterated minimal packaging that broke the financial fast, a tub of Bio-D dishwasher powder, a gleeful alternative to packaged tablets that are not just fiddly to open, but make it difficult to be more economic with measures, especially those with the plastic wrappers that dissolve in the dishwasher.

By now you probably think that I'm either jolly sensible, satisfactorily frugal, or indeed barking mad. A combination of all three might be appropriate. A Buy Nothing New month, in November, just before Christmas...perhaps bonkers might spring to mind.

But with the exception of some new pyjamas - bought to cobble together an elf costume for the Defender of the Bin's Christmas play - we did it! And oh boy did we save a decent amount of cash in the process. Mr A avoided the departments stores down in London and rejected the temptation of a brand new extension set for his Warhammer hobby. That alone saved us a whopping £100. I denied myself a couple of books and avoided all my usual retail haunts. Altogether, I reckon we saved ourselves about £200 from our usual whimsical spending.

So what about Monday...the first day of December and the end of our month's challenge?

Did I rush to the shops? No

Was I itching to treat myself? No

Was my credit card burning a whole in my pocket? No

So I got away with it for another day then....a whole new me?


Well, I would have got away with it if it hadn't been for those pesky kids, er I mean the most wonderful people over at Natural Collection with their fabulous range of goodies.

You see, all I did was innocently log on during Monday evening to buy a a tub of Dishwasher Powder. Yep, the one shown above, which is refillable and a super duper Zero-Waste winner.

But with my Christmas browsing head on I happened upon this....

a solar powered lamp that would be perfect for the kids' playden, which means they can hang out there after school even in the Winter.

Then this...

a solar powered multi-gadget recharger, ideal for charging up Mr A's phone and other gadgets. Never will his Blackberry be out of juice again.

And just as I was closing down, I saw the most delicious present for the kids...

Mr Robot Head, a wind-up toy which looks like it could prove an interesting challenge for the whole of the family and no doubt will create a big buzz this Christmas.

Look at him....how could I say no!


The best bit for me is that I covered most of my Christmas shopping in just one evening and even remembered the wrapping paper, recycled of course. And with all that's on offer, I may be revisiting Natural Collection very soon to finish the task in hand.

So there you have it. The end of the challenge and the credit card put to work again.

I just hope Gordon Brown will be pleased with my efforts as I'm always a good barometer for the economy you know.

So it's now feet up and rest until I welcome my delivery!

This is my kind of Christmas shopping.


Monday, 1 December 2008

A zero waste lifestyle in a nutshell


If you're keen to reduce your household waste but don't know where to start, why not consider the quick start guide below and follow your very own Rubbish Diet plan. Just remember to regularly weigh-in and watch that bin get slimmer by the week.

STEP 1: Set the date!
Find an appropriate date when you will take part in your very own Zero Waste Week. During that week your challenge will be to avoid buying or throwing away anything that can't be composted or recycled. A week with zero waste to landfill! Just make sure you've got about 8 weeks to prepare for your challenge. The longer you've got, the easier it will be. And tell your friends, so you can gather support. You could use your efforts to fundraise for a good cause, such as Comic Relief in March. It'll be a lot easier than running a marathon and more pleasant than sitting in a bath of baked beans and you're guaranteed a few laughs while you're at it.

STEP 2: Weigh in! Eight weeks before your Zero Waste Week starts, measure your weekly\fortnightly landfill waste so you get a real understanding of what you're up against and how badly you need to slim that bin! Estimate the cubic litres (based on the size of your bin) or put your rubbish on the weighing scales. Just be consistent as you'll need to weigh-in every Bin Day to measure your progress and keep motivated towards your goal.

STEP 3: Analyse your rubbish! Look at what you throw away and work out the greatest offenders as a percentage of your waste. Then tackle them one by one.

STEP 4: Do your research! Even if you're confident about what can be recycled in your area, phone your council for the latest information on kerbside facilities, recycling centres or bring-banks. If you prefer using the Internet look up the details at www.recyclenow.com.

STEP 5: Revamp your recycling system! You'll need a system that is convenient and easy to use. An excellent range of sorting bins is available at www.homerecycling.co.uk, but if money is tight, you can create a well-organised solution with just boxes and bags.

STEP 6: Remember to recycle everything you can! Get to know your recycling labels and scour the shelves for products where the packaging can be easily recycled in your area. Swap products that can't be recycled for those that can or find packaging that can easily biodegrade in your compost bin. Remember that polythene bags can be reused and when they wear out, most supermarkets will take them off your hands. TetraPak now has a carton recycling point in many areas of the UK as do Brita for the collection of its water cartridges. Drop things off on the way to work, share a rota with friends and neighbours, or swap items with family. Reuse what can't be recycled.

STEP 7. Reduce everything else! Try some of the following ideas that can be incorporated into your daily lifestyle and watch your rubbish gradually disappear. Take each idea one step at a time and you'll have a slimmer bin in no time at all.

  • Break free from Junk Mail! Cancel your catalogues, telephone directories and junk mail. For top tips, visit www.stopjunkmail.org.uk.
  • Shop with waste in mind! Avoid packaging and buy loose where possible. Onya Weigh Bags are great for bagging up loose fruit and veg. Take your own containers for meat and dairy products and if you're in London, make a trip to Unpackaged, which sells packaging-free produce. Lush sells unpackaged toiletries including shampoo bars, butter bars and deodorants. When going shopping remember your own bags, baskets or trolley bag and don't forget to buy recycled products to help drive the demand for recyclates back into a closed loop economy. With resources piling up in warehouses this is more important than ever before.
  • Think reusable and refillable! When it comes to toiletries or cleaning products, look for things that can be refilled or reused. Microfibre cloths use water and don't need chemicals at all. Eco balls are great for cutting down the laundry bills and for cleaning products try the Wiggly Wigglers refillable Ecover service, which it offers by post. Think about ditching disposable sanitary products for washable ones and if you're looking for refillable cosmetics, try Naturisimo, which offers a great range of lipstick, mascara and powder refills. For the office, consider refilling your printer cartridges. Regular visits to Cartridge World could make you a huge saving.
  • Become an experimental cook! Turn your kitchen into a science lab and set yourself some mini-challenges. Try your hands at bread, pasta, pastry, jam or even yogurt. With a little practice. they're all easier than you'd expect and just take time and a new routine and it will help ditch more packaging, even if it's once in a while. Take lessons at your local college and you'll soon be proficient. Londoners can also drop into Just Fresh Pasta for tips on how to pick up a few Italian skills and if you live in Somerset book up with the Magdalen Project to take part in one of Tracey Smith's breadmaking courses (I've heard she's very good).
  • Reduce your food waste! Food waste left to rot in landfill generates methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23% more powerful than carbon dioxide. So work on cutting down your food waste. If convenient, shop more regularly and buy less food. Cook with friends and use up leftovers. Then freeze portions for another day. See www.lovefoodhatewaste.com for lots of inspiration.
  • Compost it! Even if you've just got a few containers, home composting is a great way of recycling your kitchen scraps into something nutritious for your plants. If you haven't got much space think about a wormery. And there's always a bokashi bin, which accepts fish and meat, then after a few weeks the contents can be added to your compost bin, wormery or dug into the ground. Another solution is the Green Cone, a food digester.
  • Plan it! Remember a zero waste lifestyle also applies when you're out and about. So buy coffee in reusable cups and take a lunch-box to work. Plan a zero waste picnic without clingfilm or foil and use reusable containers instead.
  • Repair it! Don't just throw something away if it's broken. Take your shoes to the cobblers, your clothes to a tailor or get an electrician to fix your gadgets. And if it's spares you need for your electricals, visit the online shop at espares.
  • Exchange it! Even if it's broken don't just dump it, give it away through exchange communities such as Freecycle or LETS bartering groups. Or if you need a few bucks, sell it at a boot fair or on eBay. Just be honest about its condition. Of course, there are always a whole host of charity shops that could do with your well cared-for goods in good condition.
  • Go Virtual! Avoid physical clutter by going digital. Read your newspaper online or download your favourite magazines at Magazinesondemand and Zinio.com. Listen to books at Audible.com or buy ebooks instead. Ditch CDs for digital downloads on itunes, emusic or napster. Or if you can cope with adverts try Accuradio for free. Find films on Sky or Freeview or download movies on demand from BT or Tesco's new digital service. For those who enjoy PC games, dump the CD for downloads at Steam. And if you really don't fancy the virtual option, there's always your local library.
  • Give Recycled Gifts! Buying recycled gifts may not directly reduce the size of your dustbin, but it helps keep materials out of landfill. And there are so many different products available there is something for everyone's taste. For hand-crafted gifts try Eco Emporia and for a wonderful stationary range and some really funky chickens take a peek at Love Eco. EcoCentric also offers many a stylish gift for your delectation. And if you still can't find what you're looking for, lots more ideas can be found at the Recycled Products Guide.
STEP 8: Finally enjoy your Zero Waste Week with ease! With so many things to think about, your Zero Waste Week will arrive before you know it. But if you've reduced your packaging, recycled what you've bought and composted your organic waste, you should find it much easier than you could have ever imagined. Just remember to weigh-in before you start and then once again at the end of the week. Then celebrate your successes in style. And if you've got some plastic bags, yogurt pots, or bottle tops that can't be recycled locally, send them to the recycling angels at Polyprint and Impact Recycling.

By resolving to reduce your rubbish, you'll be joining a popular trend. For inspiration visit My zero waste, Aiming-low, Zero Waist, jrzerowastechallenge and Home Zero Waste. There are also loads of other links in the sidebar that will give you plenty of options to consider.

And as for life thereafter. Well, there's one thing that can be guaranteed...it will never be the same again....for you or indeed your bin.

[*Edits - this post was originally published in December 2008 and has been edited to remove the Christmas context as it can be applied to any time of the year]


Sunday, 30 November 2008

Taglicious Tangents

If you follow this blog for my murmurings about reducing waste, then look away now because today I'm going off on a tangent and it's a real 180 degrees one at that.

You see I've been double tagged, by the lovely ladies Just Gai and Maisie who have been waiting patiently for me to stop talking rubbish and reveal some random photos and interesting minutiae of my life.

So, the photo you see above is in response to Maisie's tag, where she asked me to select the 6th folder in My Pictures directory and then publish the 6th photo in the list. The risk...and then the relief...that it wasn't a photo of me doing something embarrassing. Who knows what I could have found. At least the one I uncovered is appropriate for the blog.

The photo might look seasonal but it isn't really. I took it in February this year, when using up the mincemeat left over from last Christmas. Little T and I had mixed it with apricot jam to make a batch of tarts, which were delicious. At the time, I bought ready-made pastry. Now, I make my own. So if you've got surplus mincemeat this Christmas, I recommend a good dose of apricot jam to add a lighter touch.

Now onto the next one, Just Gai's tag to reveal six interesting(?) facts about me. Hmm...so here goes....and don't say I didn't warn you.

Fact 1. I have an inexplicable dislike of Mickey Mouse and all talking animals. My mother always said if she "won the pools" she'd take my sister and I to Disneyland. I remain extremely pleased that she never did. Meeting a real life Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck would send me running to the hills.

Fact 2. I am immensely accident-prone. Recent events include setting fire to some cutlery in the kitchen, boiling the teapot instead of the kettle and falling down the steps outside a French tourist office to a cosmopolitan audience of tourists. However, the most momentous occasion was when I was nearly killed by a wardrobe. It's true...an old oak one that fell towards me when I turned my back on it. The moral is, never turn your back on an old piece of furniture. See the full story here.

Fact 3. I have a love of nostalgia...from black and white movies to vintage jewellery. A time where ladies wore dresses and hats. I adore vintage brooches, the more sparkling the better.

Fact 4. My dad died when I was only 4. He was killed in a motorbike accident. I have never got over it and I never will. I haven't told my children because I don't want them to have the fear of losing a parent so young so I will tell them when they're older. In the meantime, my 4 year old is fascinated by motorbikes and talks about riding them when he's grown up. I live in hope that he doesn't. The anniversary of my dad's death coincided with the first day of my Zero Waste Week and my first broadcast on Woman's Hour. I hope I would have made him proud.

Fact 5. I made my "national TV debut" in 1989 when the BBC came to film the opening of Djanogly City Technology College, a new flagship school based in Nottingham. I was a library assistant pretending to check-out books to students using a lightpen, which back in those days was new technology. Margaret Thatcher came to open the college and my job was to follow her around with a camcorder...a tricky job indeed, trying to avoid filling up the film with images of her back. I would never have guessed my next national news appearance would be almost two decades later, wearing my pink wellies in landfill.

Fact 6. I once let a woman walk out of the loo with toilet roll tucked into her knickers. I know that might make me look evil, but it was in the day when I wasn't that confident, wouldn't say boo to a goose and I didn't want to embarrass her by saying "excuse me, you've got toilet roll tucked in your knickers." The shame...both hers and mine and I am truly sorry. Every time I see an Andrex advert the memory comes flooding back.


Oh, I love tags. They make take some time but they're a great way of finding out more about other bloggers. So being the nosey-parker as I am, I'm now going to tag six other people I don't get to visit as much as I'd like but have deliciously interesting blogs that you should really take a look at.

And here they are...

A Pot a thought and a smidgen of dirt
Aiming Low
Margaret's Ramblings
Millennium Housewife
One stitch at a time

Good luck folks.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Guest Post: The Clean Bin Project

I can't remember how I first came across The Clean Bin Project. It might have been through Mrs Green's site over at MyZeroWaste, but when I first hopped over at the blog, I couldn't help being impressed.

I had felt utterly stunned that I had managed to do a Zero Waste Week back in March but over at the Clean Bin Project, blogger Jen had signed up to a much bigger event, a consumer free year no less. A year of buying nothing new! Well you can see where I got my inspiration for my Buy Nothing New month can't you.

So as I put my feet up and consider all that I haven't bought this month, it's over to Jen in Vancouver to tell us about her amazing project.

The Clean Bin Project

How it all began

I had never done even a single overnight bicycle trip, but last summer my boyfriend, Grant and I decided to bicycle to Mexico. Looking back, I realize that trip was the catalyst for the Clean Bin Project, our year of living consumer free and waste free.

Doing a 2 month, self supported cycle tour, carrying only the essentials with us, made us realize that we needed a lot less stuff to be happy than we had thought. When we got back home we figured that, after 5 years of collecting outdoor gear, clothing, and material goods, surely we had enough stuff. I mean, how many tents, CDs, kitchenware, and pairs of underwear does one person really need?

Inspired by Buy Nothing Day, and joined by our room-mate Rhyannon, we started the Clean Bin Project on July 1, 2008. The goal: to live a consumer-free, waste-free lifestyle for 365 days. (we added the waste-free bit because we classify packaging as “stuff” too, and we don't really want it in our household).

The rules

Basically, we only buy food and hygiene essentials. If we have to get something packaged, then it must be a recyclable package. We have three separate garbage bins as a competitive incentive to create the least amount of true, landfill garbage by the end of the year, and we're always checking up on each other.

We bring all our waste home to be properly recycled or composted in one of the 10 bins we have set up in our kitchen. That means even the lemon wedge in our restaurant water has to brought back to our compost.

The challenges

Have you ever noticed that when something is on your mind, it appears everywhere? If you're in the market for a new car, you start noticing what everyone else is driving; if you're looking for a romantic partner, it seems like there are happy couples on every corner; if you are trying to avoid sweets, sugary treats jump out from every shop window. It is the same with me and waste.

It pops out at me, glaringly obvious everywhere I go. People buying crap they don't need, single fruits wrapped in saran wrap, plastic shopping bags. After only 4 months, I have reached a point where I can't imagine ever buying meat on a styrofoam tray or coffee in a to-go cup.

As long as I avoid the mall, I'm not tempted to buy many things. However, this being Christmas craft fair season, I've been having some struggles to hold back in the face of original art work, pottery, and handmade clothing. I also feel a fashion crisis coming on as winter hits. Even though I have a full closet, I'm starting to have that “I have nothing to wear” feeling that Grant, and men in general, seem immune to. I'm far from a fashionista, but I like to buy clothes, sometimes new, sometimes secondhand, always a “good deal”. If nothing else, I have started to value my better quality clothing more. When I know I can't just buy a new sweater, the few that I have become much more important.

Alternative Gifts

Gift giving is another hard one. It's one thing to make yourself do without, but another to impose it on your loved ones. It definitely takes a little more time, but so far I've made finger paint (for kids), knitted things, baked things, canned things, sewn things, and bought organic veggie delivery. My favorite thing to give is an experience. Everyone already has so much “stuff”, we figure it's more fun to give something they can DO: theater tickets, a snowshoeing trip, swimming passes, a pedicure, a massage, or a trip to the art gallery.

A couple years ago we got my Dad a trip to fly a plane for father's day from TryThat. Pretty cool, and more memorable than whatever the heck we gave him the year before that.

Making progress

I'm surprised by how much extra time I have now that I'm not constantly researching or shopping for new things to buy (although I have seemed to replaced much of that time with researching where the heck I can get tofu without plastic or a shampoo bar with no wrapping).

So far, we haven't taken the garbage out in four months. Being public with our project helps me a lot. If I had just told myself not to buy any stuff, I'd be inclined to cheat, but because we've told practically everyone we know and because I'm writing a blog, I feel more pressure (and encouragement) to stay on track.

I've also been really inspired by all the other “garbloggers” out there who have been living plastic free, or reducing their weekly garbage or generally living greener. I was amazed when we first started that were so many people out there doing the same thing! So here's to everyone out there trying to reduce their impact in some way, and thanks to The Rubbish Diet for letting me shamelessly promote the Clean Bin Project.

Huge thanks to Jen for sharing her inspirational story with us. I can relate to her experience in more ways than one. To find out more about her project visit: http://cleanbin.wordpress.com and don't forget to check out the video documentary of the cycle trip, which can be found at http://uk.youtube.com/user/SlowCoast. Also do pop back next week, when I will be releasing the moths that have been trapped in my purse and counting up everything we didn't buy this month.

And if you're inspired to do something yourself, join in Buy Nothing Day this Saturday. For more details, click on the image below.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Greening up your green fingers with Wyevale

It might not be the weather to tempt you out into the garden, but a browse around our local Wyevale store yesterday has resurrected my enthusiasm for tackling our little patch of land.

And I needed a pick-me-up having spent the last few days suffering from man-flu (yes I know, I freely admit it I am the only woman to come down with the virus and am happy to defend blokes who suffer from it).

So a trip to Wyevale was just the tonic I needed, conducting a recce for the latest chapter in my book. And when it comes to zero waste I was very impressed with what the company has to offer gardening enthusiasts across the UK. To see what I mean, here's a an insight into some of the things I discovered during my wander.

First up, on entering the store there was a huge crate welcoming customers to recycle their plastic plant pots. Given that 500 million of the critters are used across the UK, it is great news to hear that following a trial in Spring, Wyevale has now rolled out this facility to over 100 stores nationwide.

For anyone wanting to plant onions ready for next year, there was the encouraging sight of a "fill-a-pot" scheme. So as well as buying onions loose in the market, you can now do the same with your onion sets.

Then there were the tools that come with 100% FSC cardboard labels attached with a piece of string and hanging basket liners made from compressed recycled paper and others made from coconut coir as well as ground pegs made out of cornstarch

And if that hasn't already knocked your socks off, you should have seen the border edging and mulch products made from recycled tyres. Amazingly, they looked like treated hardwood products, but with none of the maintenance required. It's a product you can simply just cut, lay and leave!

This wonderful range is all part of Wyevale's Plan Apple, which not just introduces eco measures into the operation of the company but also how the business can help its customers live a more sustainable lifestyle through how they use their gardens, for example by offering more recycled products and increasing its "grow your own" range.

The name itself was chosen because apples are a symbol of the opportunity to seed, nurture and harvest a new way of thinking about the real value of gardens, wildlife and food.

The 10 commitments of Plan Apple are:

1. Rediscovering our local community
2. Connecting with the source of our food
3. Working with nature
4. Encouraging carbon positive gardening
5. Ensuring our supply chain benefits everyone
6. Protecting our endangered forests
7. Towards peat-free gardening
8. Using less water
9. Towards zero waste
10. Inspiring personal well-being and sustainable lifestyles

And here is a timeline of the measures that have been introduced so far.

  • Phasing out patio heaters (Easter 2007)
  • Trialling and then rolling out plastic flower-pot recycling facilities to all stores (Easter 2008)
  • Banning all polystyrene bedding packs from January 2009.

Other actions include hosting composting events, sourcing local food for the company's in-store restaurants, trialling farmers' markets in six stores as well as organising a tool amnesty to collect garden tools for Feed the Children and the Conservation Foundation. In its largest stores, the company has also committed to stocking at least 200 products sourced from small artisan producers in the UK.

And when it comes to packaging, Wyevale is on a Zero Waste mission which recognises that over-packaging causes unnecessary carbon emissions, wastage and costs. Consequently the company's product packaging review has meant that suppliers have had to reassess their products. One example is the the shift from polystyrene packs in January, which will see the introduction of black plastic containers that comprise more recycled materials than the white plastic alternative with greater capacity, which carries better delivery efficiency and reduced road miles. Other changes also include the introduction of a 5p charge on plastic bags.

It's great to see another example of a well-known company that is taking responsibility for waste at source, instead of passing the buck to the consumer. Top marks too for encouraging sustainability in the garden.

There was so much on offer I could have bought the shop, including the cheeky fleece blanket that proudly declared "I am not a patio heater". It's a good job I'm still on this Buy Nothing New month otherwise I'd be in big trouble, AGAIN! However, my visit has inspired me to sort out our garden in the new year, so I will be back soon to splash the cash on a few goodies.

But I couldn't leave completely empty-handed, so treated myself to a bagful of loose sweeties from the pick and mix range near the exit. Come on...after a day on my sickbed, I most definitely needed a treat and it was a cheap one at that.


Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Landshare: a growing revolution

Hugh on Landshare from River Cottage on Vimeo.

I'm not the best gardener in the world but in our small back garden we manage an apple tree, a blackberry bramble, rhubarb, leeks and tomatoes as well as some must-have herbs such as rosemary, mint and thyme.

It's more of a snacking garden really, not enough to support a family of four, but an enjoyable source of edible goodies for us to pick at.

Just imagine if we had more land, with space to share, to grow more produce and the opportunity to learn from others and share the work. Imagine what we might grow then.

But with an increase in people who want to grow their own combined with long waiting lists for allotments, the opportunities are limited, which is why projects such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Landshare have got a huge part to play. So have a gander at the video and please spread the news on what might become the next down-shifting revolution.

And if you know someone with land, send them the link. I've already done this...so keep your fingers crossed and watch this space. If the council can't find some land to help people grow their own in my neck of the woods ...perhaps someone else can.

For more information visit www.rivercottage.net/landshare


Monday, 24 November 2008

Early Learning: Zero Waste Style

It is well recognised that if you've got young kids in your life, you're guaranteed to end up with a pile of excess clutter filling their bedrooms as well as the remnants of cheap broken toys and packaging filling your bins.

So if you're lucky enough to enjoy the company of little angels, the great news is that it is becoming easier to choose a zero waste present that they will enjoy and won't impinge on the sanity of their parents. And even better, you don't have to look any further than your high street, which as far as green credentials are concerned it comes as a refreshing change.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, if you're shopping for toys this Christmas, it is well worth checking out your local Early Learning Centre.

I haven't been to our local ELC for ages but this weekend I popped in to look for an elf costume. I didn't find what I wanted but I didn't come out completely disappointed.

As I browsed the store I was cheered to see a good range of toys that didn't have packaging. Many of those that were packaged came with compostable interior card, or were in open fronted boxes with none of the usual superfluous plastic.

From a parent's perspective. the less packaging on kids' toys the better, regardless of your zero waste intentions. It means far less mess on special days such as birthdays and Christmas Day. Less time for clearing up and more time to play.

So having had a good browse around the shop, I couldn't wait to check out their website and I'm glad I did because there is some happy news...

...The Early Learning Centre, a company that is owned by Mothercare, is officially going greener....and here's the lowdown.

* 20% of their toys have no packaging

* 25% of their toys are in recyclable packaging

* All instore display signage is on recyclable material and all catalogues and leaflets are printed on FSC or recycled paper

* Their innovative 'Book Amnesty' has recycled 130,000 books

*60% of their wooden toys are now made from 'forest friendly' wood certified by the Forest Steward Council

And it doesn't stop there. The Early Learning Centre has got a cunning plan to make us even happier and the world a greener place with some major targets for 2010 to make their business even more sustainable. Here are just some of them.

*By 2010, all their wooden toys will be made from either recycled wood, bamboo, rubber wood or wood independently certified by the Forest Stewardship Council

*All packaging will be made from materials that are easy to recycle

All cardboard packaging will be made from at least 70% recycled fibre

*They will reduce the amount of packaging by 30%

*They will cut carrier bag use by at least 30%

So, with 215 stores across the UK, this company seems to be doing its bit towards sustainable retailing. If you don't have a shop near you, you might be able to find some of the company's range of toys at your local Debenhams, Sainsbury's or Boots or even order online. Visit www.elc.co.uk for more details.

Things are starting to happen on the high street but we need more shops to follow suit, enabling people to make zero waste choices even if they don't know they're doing it. So I wonder who else will be standing out from the crowds this Christmas? If you spot a high street chain doing its bit for waste, do give them a shout-out.


Saturday, 22 November 2008

Elf Needed!

What's a mother to do? I've advertised on Freecycle, I've trawled the charity shops AND phoned a friend...well quite a few friends actually...and I am now running out of ideas.

The problem? I need an elf costume...well not for me but for my 7 year old defender of the bins, for his school play.

Yes, I know I can get one at Sainsbury's for just £8....yes just £8...but of course my Buy Nothing New month has put the spanner in the works as far as that's concerned. Besides, it seems that all the elves in Bury St Edmunds have bought out the local stock.

So, if anyone has any other ideas (sorry ain't got time to make one) or indeed has a spare outfit knocking around, I would really appreciate your help...especially as time is quickly running out. And to give you an idea of what I'm after... and I really can't believe I'm showing you this...check out the You Tube thingy I magicked up for my other blog last Christmas.


Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Eco Emporia: Desirable objects from discarded things

Why is it that when you've signed up to a Buy Nothing New Month, a whole array of temptations arrives at your door?

There I was minding my own business, when an email popped into my inbox last week, bringing my attention to Eco Emporia, a new business whose strapline is "desirable objects from discarded things".

No sooner had I hopped onto their website, I found myself wanting so many items, it felt like all my Christmases were coming at once. Here's a company that is not only helping to reduce waste by repurposing discarded items into something desirable, but is also helping craftspeople to earn a living. With a personal love of crafts, I could have committed my credit card to so many things, especially the funky chicken shown above that's made from plastic bags. There's something about my quirky taste that somehow finds it appealing.

So not being in a position to shop until December, I thought I'd stick the chicken on my Christmas list and instead of splashing the cash, spend some time catching up with co-founder Anna Burns to find out more about her new venture.

What inspired you to set up the company?

"Like many businesses, my husband Peter and I came up with the idea for an eco gift company by identifying a problem. We were becoming greener at home - reducing, reusing and recycling, but when it came to looking for Christmas presents in 2005, we struggled to find suitable things that were both eco-friendly and desirable too.

At that time many of the green stores offered only functional products or 'eco-gadgets' as gift ideas. For us they weren't attractive enough. So we'd identified a gap in the market for an online company specialising in desirable eco-friendly gifts. Our entrepreneurial plans had to be put on hold though, because we'd just got married and were about to embark on a year long honeymoon travelling around the world.

That year away gave us the chance to dream about our business idea and to get inspired by seeing craftspeople who reused and recycled as a way of life. We had a 'eureka' moment in Australia when we wandered into an art gallery exhibiting recycled crafts from South Africa. We were excited by the creativity and amazing stories behind the products and the people who made them, and this really helped us to focus on our niche market of handmade recycled gifts."

What is your favourite product and why?

"I really do love all of our products so it's difficult to pick a favourite, but the ones which appeal to me most are those which are ingenious yet simple in design. Like Darrell & Julia Gibbs's Rescued Paper Notebooks where each page is made from a sheet of waste paper with the printed side folded in on itself to make two sides of blank paper to write on.

I also love fun products that make me smile like Lorraine Berkshire-Roe's quirky papier-mache tea-cups which even have bubbles painted in the 'tea'."

What sustainable packaging do you use when sending gorgeous items like this to your customers?

"All of our packaging is made from recycled, reclaimed or biodegradable materials. Some of the outer cardboard packaging we use has been made by refurbishing larger, solar panel boxes and making them into smaller cartons just right for posting. We've sourced biodegradable bubble-wrap which we use sparingly when needed and all our tissue paper is 100% recycled.

Smaller items like earrings are packaged in little gift bags I've made myself using pages from old unsaleable charity shop novels. Other items are wrapped in tissue and dressed up with a decorative book page pinwheel, made by me too.

Every item comes with an information card about Eco Emporia and a card telling the recipient more about the product's past life and the craftsperson who made it. We offer an optional gift message and we've had great feedback from customers and gift recipients who love these extra handmade touches."

I've read that you manage your business affairs in an environmentally-friendly way too. What would be your top tip for any other small business wishing to reduce its waste?

"Do all your business online to help reduce the amount of paper you send out and receive. We store all our documents digitally, use an online bank and we don't print anything unless we really need to. Even then it's on 100% recycled paper and we print on both sides."

So if you're still pondering what to get your friends for Christmas, it really is worth a visit over to Eco Emporia to pick up a few ideas, with the full guarantee that you'll have a zero waste present. You might even be inspired to make something yourself using their easy-to-follow instructions.

I'd like to say a huge thank you to Anna for sharing some of her time last week. Now, I mustn't forget to tell Mr A about that chicken. For more details visit www.ecoemporia.com

Monday, 17 November 2008

Alara Foods - the UK's first Zero Waste food manufacturer

News from MRW has revealed that Alara Foods, based in Camden London are the first UK food manufacturer to become a Zero Waste company.

The UK's main organic muesli producer set itself the goal of Zero Waste three years ago and has now achieved this. The company now throws nothing away, illustrating that it's possible for a company, even a food producer to achieve a zero waste business and manufacturing process. Everything is recycled, composted or reused, including hard-to-recycle polystyrene, which is reused for packing.

As well as managing its in-house zero-waste processes, the company has also re-evaluated its consumer packaging and has chosen to pack all its new products in paper bags instead of using the traditional bag-in-box production.

So if you are looking for a zero waste breakfast, which not just supports slimming your own bin, but gives a thumbs up to the oft-forgotten process of sustainable manufacturing, Alara products are the way to go.

To find your local retailer, check out Alara's online directory. And if you don't have a shop nearby, the good news is that the company also has an online store.

More information on Alara's recycling policy can be found at the company's website.


Sunday, 16 November 2008

Fishy business

According to news in today's Sunday Telegraph, the Conservatives have unveiled proposals to bring an end to what they refer to as "scandalous waste" in the fishing sector, hoping to change current EU policy.

To protect fish stocks, the EU Common Fisheries Policy currently enforces a limit on the number of fish that fishermen are allowed to catch and bans crews from landing any fish outside the quotas, forcing fishermen to throw them back into the sea, even if they have died during the fishing process.

The Telegraph reports the shocking statistic revealed by Bill Wiggin, the shadow fisheries minister who is quoted as saying "For every cod we buy in our local fish and chip shop another fish is being chucked back into the sea due to a system that is immoral and environmentally wrong".


The Tories are now seeking EU support for a pilot that would enable fishing crews to actually sell "over-quota" fish with the revenue shared between fishermen and the Government, allowing the profits to be reinvested back into the fishing industry. And it looks like the Conservatives are confident that the EU will accept their proposals.

If so, it will add to the sea of change which has already seen a U-turn by the EU allowing knobbly carrots and bendy cucumbers to return to the shops.

Thank goodness. At last is seems that our very bonkers world is getting less bonkers by the day, a slow process but good news all the same.

Who knows, one day even bananas might get a reprieve.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Your very own DIY Island

With the economy in crisis, the housing market taking a dip and sales of recyclates going down the pan, thanks to a tip-off from blog reader Simon, over at UV Artist, I think I've found the solution....

Right, I'm off to raid the recycling centre....

I'll be away for a while, not building an island quite yet but working towards my looming deadlines, so please feel free to chat amongst yourselves. And don't forget Jo Beaufoix will be hosting the Carnival of Trash tomorrow, so do pop over to www.jobeaufoix.com to say hello.


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Do you ever stare at the broccoli?

Do you ever catch yourself staring at the broccoli, the avocado or even the melon?

You know the kind of thing... by the time you've bunged it in your trolley, carted it home and put it in the fridge you've gone off the idea altogether. If your taste buds don't play tricks on you, the social gremlins soon will, tempting you to change your plans at a drop of a hat.

And you end up staring at what was once your object of culinary desire and watch it slowly wilt and wither. You know you should eat it, but somehow you lose your appetite for something so limp and off-colour.

Well...if you live in a disorganised house like mine, with a bunch of faddy eaters, and where there are more comings and goings than the local hostelry, help is on hand...

....in the form of a little gadget called the Fresh Pod. Here it is...all lovely and green....as is the broccoli!

I bought that Broccoli (or Calabrese as it's known on the market - we're posh here you know) well over a week ago, hoping to have it for a Sunday lunch...but yes but no but didn't!

Now I don't normally go for gadgets, but as the Fresh Pod is sold by a local company based in Thetford and I'd heard such good things about them I thought I'd give it a try. After all, in the current economy and wanting to make every effort to reduce food waste in what is my haphazard life, who could blame me. When I rang up to find out about it it, Colin, one of the co-directors kindly offered to drop one off for me to try out. And I am so glad he did.

The pod sits in a refrigerator salad draw or in a fruit bowl and works by removing the ethylene gas given off fruit and vegetables as they ripen. By removing this gas from the environment the ageing and ripening process is slowed, keeping fruit and vegetables fresh for up to 4 times longer than normal. The Fresh Pod sachets also have the added benefit in that as well as controlling ethylene gas, research has proven it also kills bacteria, viruses, fungi and moulds found in fridges.

The sachets last six months after which time they need to be replaced. However, the contents of the sachets are recyclable and make a great fertilizer sprinkled on pot plants or in the garden when no longer of use in the fridge.

So for a gal who's not really into gadgets, that's me very much convinced. Okay, there is a small amount of packaging that can't be recycled, but I'm told they're working on that and it's neither here nor there when it comes to my veggies.

So thanks to Colin and Fresh Pod, the future looks firmly green instead of floppy yellow.

And yes, I still stare at the broccoli, but only in amazement.

And I promise I'll get round to eating it before the month is out! In fact, I'll have it for lunch THIS Sunday.

For more info about the Fresh Pod, visit www.freshpod.co.uk.


Monday, 10 November 2008

Sent to Coventry

I'm been off on my virtual travels again, this time popping up in the West Midlands at the Coventry Telegraph where the lovely Tara Cain has invited me to write a guest column for her wonderful blog From Dawn till Rusk.

You'll never guess what it's about this time...

Okay...you've got it out of me...rubbish, blogging and book deals. If you fancy a peek at the inside story, you can find the post here.

Huge thanks to Tara for sharing some of her blog space. While you're there, do have a gander at some of her other posts, her blog is an excellent read.


Friday, 7 November 2008

Carnival of Trash Time

Here's my gorgeous blog friend Jo Beaufoix who writes a very funny and often poignant blog over at www.jobeaufoix.com. I've known Jo for what seems like years but has only been a couple since I started blogging over at my other blog 21st Century Mummy. I've hardly hung around there since I've been talking rubbish over here, but we've remained good friends and I even had the pleasure of meeting her for real just recently.

Anyway, before I lapse into one of my Ronnie Corbetts you might remember Jo from when she did The Rubbish Diet challenge earlier this year and managed to get her bin Stinky Simon back on track and slim him down a bit.

Well having since enjoyed adventures with composting, Jo is now really getting into this shrinking rubbish thing and is hosting the Carnival of Trash this month.

Apologies for the late notice, but the deadline for submissions is Monday 10th (which is next week), so for all contributors it's time to get your thinking caps on and submit your favourite article over at: http://blogcarnival.com/bc/submit_4478.html

And don't forget to pop over to Jo's very funny blog on the Thursday 13th to check out the entries.

....oh and before I forget, if you're up for hosting December's carnival or even an edition in the new year, then do let me know.

In the meantime, hope you all have a great weekend and I'll see you next week.

P.S. Huge thanks to everyone who left me some wonderful comments yesterday, I've put a proper thank you at the end of the last comment on yesterday's post. x


Thursday, 6 November 2008

In Remembrance

I'm finding it really hard to get going today, because yesterday was the funeral of a very special lady, Mr A's Grandma, who recently passed away only a few weeks after her 95th birthday. We travelled over to Bristol, where we gathered with family and old friends for what was a very emotional service.

So my usual topic of conversation is far from my mind. Instead I'm finding myself thinking about my elders and in particular Rose.

Grandma Rose as she was known to our children was a beautiful and gentle woman, full of kindness, consideration and spirit of fun and yesterday was a celebration of her life as well as mourning her passing.

Born in 1913, she would have reached the same age as my eldest son in 1920, almost a century ago. Sat here at my laptop in 2008, that seems such a long time ago.

I can't help wondering what life was like for a seven year old girl in those times and how it must have been to be in her shoes, witnessing all the changes that took place through the 20th Century.

After all, she spent her early years growing up through the Great War and her thirties living with the second world war and then bringing up a family through times of rationing. She also witnessed the emergence of technologies and the mass penetration of televisions, phones and cars.

With each grandchild came new developments in toys and Christmases and birthdays must have looked so different to how they once were. After the grandchildren, came the great-grandchildren, who now belong to a different age altogether, with different expectations to how things were when she was their age.

Like my own grandparents who passed away in the 90s, Grandma Rose wasn't green. Like many things back then "Green" hadn't even been invented, yet by modern standards she was as eco-friendly as they come. In the sixteen years that I knew her, she grew her own fruit and vegetables in her back garden and home-baked. She didn't have a car, wanted for very little, but had fun. Indeed she had masses and masses of fun, until a stroke sadly crippled her a few years ago.

I really wish I'd known what she thought about modern times, but I never took the opportunity to ask. It never occurred to me. Instead we would happily talk about family, her church, her friends and her love of dancing.

And as I now try to capture the spirit of old-fashioned values, I can't help feeling regretful that it's taken until now to find my feet, at a time when it all feels too late.

I feel like I've spent the last forty years partying, and running away from anything that was deemed old-fashioned. Now, I find myself turning my back on the party and grasping at the traditional, like an old comfort blanket to keep me safe, to protect our children and to keep the world from harm.

But as I try to leave the big party behind I realise I don't really want to be green. I don't want to be eco-friendly either. I just want to live lightly in a world where that's the norm, where such values aren't labelled as different. I want to be like the generations that are gradually leaving us behind.

I also want my children to follow suit and their children too. I want their actions to be our grandparents' legacy.

I want old-fashioned to be the latest trend, in a way that outshines retro.

But most of all. I want us to remember our ancestors for what they did and how they were, whether it was at war or peace.

And of course this Sunday is Remembrance Day, a day to remember all those who fought for our country through the terrible wars, a time to remember that the past wasn't all rosy.

All those people who have trod our earth and have now gone, many of whom were too young to have fathered children of their own and didn't live to see the modern days that came.

Oh dear, I apologise for these ramblings but I suppose, after all this outpour, you can probably guess I'm just an old-fashioned girl at heart. So thank you so much for listening, while I just get things off my chest.

We'll miss Grandma Rose now she's gone, but what we won't do is forget her special gifts, not things, but her smile, her kindness, her gentleness, her traditional values and her dancing.


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