Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Don't wear a wheelie bin on your first date!

That's right!

Just in case you're tempted by the idea, today's advice is that you should never wear a wheelie bin on your first date!

You will look silly and the residual stench could make your date run to the hills. And what a shame it would be if you missed the chance to impress them with your personality.

Before you think I've gone completely off my shopping trolley, last night I noticed a very unusual Google search that brought someone to the blog...all the way from Australia.

And yes the search was "Don't wear a wheelie bin on your first date!"

I'd love to know what the Googler was looking for and whether they found it. I know Zero Waste is big down under so maybe there are a whole range of uses for the ubiquitous wheelie bin, including applications of the sartorial kind.

But then I thought... wouldn't it make a great movie title for a romantic comedy! I can see it now, our very own Simon Pegg, starring alongside someone like Kirsten Dunst...

...Waste officer meets sassy PR city girl. Late on his first date, he heads straight from a recycling campaign, unable to extract himself from his promotional wheelie bin and there unfolds the battle of his love of zero waste against her fully formed wasteful lifestyle. In the face of adversity, they finally get it together. But who reforms who? Does he end up throwing it all in in the name of love, or does she become an anti-landfill luvvie?

So who was the Googler from down under? Did they end up wearing a wheelie bin on their date? Is Simon Pegg interested? Have I gone completely mad?

Time will tell, so stay tuned for the next installment....

"Don't wear a wheelie bin to your wedding"

I'm such an old romantic, but I think it's now time for a coffee.


Monday, 29 September 2008

Is Zero Waste coming to your area?

Today marks the beginning of Zero Waste Week in North Somerset, Bath & NE Somerset and South Gloucestershire and Bristol.

Just Gai, who is based in Bristol, has signed up for the challenge and is busy blogging about her experience over at zerowaist.blogspot.com. She's doing brilliantly so do visit to see how she gets on this week.

However not everyone is celebrating such challenges, particularly the Conservatives who have allegedly criticised councils' plans. Indeed Eric Pickles, the shadow local government secretary, was quoted in the Telegraph as saying:

"We are entering a brave new world of fortnightly rubbish collections that we all know is going to fuel a surge in fly-tipping and backyard burning. This is not a responsible or practical way of encouraging recycling but merely a cleverly disguised form of propaganda attempting to peddle the benefits of fortnightly rubbish collections for town halls. This is bureaucratic convenience, without any public benefit."

I'm not into politics but I would have thought the Tories would have been happy to have less waste to deal with when they finally take over the reins of government, whenever that might be.

Personally I've been happy with fortnightly collections for nearly 5 years. I'd rather this option than have my council tax go up to cope with weekly collections. I'm also happy to have gained new knowledge of how I can reduce the rubbish we create. I really feel like I've broken out from the system and am now using my own free will and choice, regardless of what collection arrangements the local authority has in place.

Anyway, I don't think we should let anyone spoil the party, whatever their politics, especially as there are lots more Zero Waste events coming up. Over the next few months the idea of waste reduction is also being promoted in Cornwall, Norfolk, North London and Gloucestershire. So if an event is happening near you, then please join in. The key dates are:

4 - 12 Oct 2008: Watch Your Waste Week - North London
20-26 October 2008: Zero Waste Week - Cornwall County Council
27 Oct - 2 Nov 2008: No Waste Week - Norfolk County Council
26 Jan - 1 Feb 2009: Zero Waste Challenge Week - Gloucestershire county Council

And if anyone needs any extra convincing about the long lasting effects of participating in zero waste activities, pop by later this week when I will be chatting to a family that took part in Bath and North East Somerset's original challenge two years ago.


Sunday, 28 September 2008

A "Grim" but Cheeky Diversion

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Retail Therapy

I went shopping to Sainsbury's on Monday!
I came home and twiddled my thumbs.

I went shopping to Sainsbury's on Tuesday!!
I came home and twiddled my thumbs.

I went shopping to Sainsbury's on Wednesday!!!
I came home and twiddled my thumbs.

I didn't go to Sainsbury's on Thursday.
Instead I typed 3,000 words.

By Friday, I could see the irony!
The subject? Retail therapy.....My problem? Writer's Block!

Somehow, discovering polystyrene-free pizza proved just the ticket as did falling for the temptation of frozen pies, ready-made sauces, 30 chocolate mini-donuts, a huge tube of Smarties and six cans of cloudy lemonade.

Not my normal purchases, research only. I guess there's nothing like experimenting with other products to expand the mind and keep the cogs in motion. Not sure I could keep it up though, my recycling bin might groan with the strain and I'm already a few pounds heavier!

Anyway if you're looking for polystyrene-free pizza, try the Goodfella's range in the frozen department. Absolute Genius!


Monday, 22 September 2008

Sorting out the Home Front

If there are any psychotherapists out there, I wonder what they'd read into this picture of my little house portrayed in its very idyllic setting.

Yet behind closed doors, all hell's let loose with a little one who's struggling with his new routine, a mother who's struggling with settling him into his routine and a backlog of stuff that's struggling to be fitted around all the struggles with all the routines there could ever be.

As well as everything else I have a fridge whose resources have been used up to the point that every time I open the door there is now a silent scream of "feed me". And I know that if I don't go shopping very soon, it'll grab my trolley and set off to the shops itself.

So I'm going to hit the shops today big style. As I can't physically wait until Market Day, I'm about to visit the HUGE supermarket down the road. It's the one that I normally avoid because it's too big, too busy and has so many tempting distractions I always have to struggle to keep my willpower under control. I suppose at least I can also put this visit down as research for a forthcoming chapter in the book.

So as I venture off to the supermarket please excuse me while I blog off for a while longer. I need to juggle a few more things on the home front to help Little T feel more settled. So, I'll be offline for about a week.

In the meantime, If you want to keep yourself entertained, you can catch me looking very serious over at Baglady's place, and sounding very serious on last Thursday's JVS show at BBC Three Counties Radio (fast forward to 2hrs, 15minutes).

See you soon xxx


Friday, 19 September 2008

Sanitary wear.... Where?

The effects of disposable sanitary products on women and the environment is now pretty much old news as you'll see in the excellent overview Seeing Red, which was published by the Womens Environmental Network in 2004.

So as we reach the end of 2008, why is it still so difficult to find alternative, environmentally friendly options widely available in high-street stores and supermarkets?

After all retailers are becoming more concerned about the environment....aren't they? With corporate social responsibility (CSR) statements brandishing promises to reduce plastic bags, packaging and such like.

If this is the case, why aren't retail stores also promoting reusable sanitary products? With the exception of Boots, where one can order a Mooncup, why is it the case that alternative products can normally only be found online or in specialist stores.

Until reusable products become commonplace in high-street chemists and supermarkets, people's awareness will remain limited and opinions will remain unchanged.

I firmly believe that if more women have the opportunity to discover alternative products for themselves, by making them more easily available, we will see a break-through in the market.

So why aren't these products more widely available, for us to select while we go about our normal shopping?

Is it because of lack of demand?

If this is the case, why are they sold elsewhere?

Is it because of lack of supply?

If this is the case, why are they sold elsewhere?

Perhaps it's because of opportunity cost? Now let's think about this one. If more women in the UK buy reusable products, they will spend less money on disposable products, which even in 2001 represented a market value of £370 million.

Call me an old cynic, but I can't think of any other reason why our beloved retailers don't do more to promote alternatives?

If you think they should change and make it easier for women to have more choice, maybe it's now time to do for sanitary products as is being done for plastic bags and packaging.

If you agree, please contact your favourite store and ask that they add reusable sanitary products to their range. The more people who do so, the more evidence there will be that there is an actual demand.

All it needs is one phone call or one email and the opportunity to see if they are really willing to put their money where their Corporate Social Responsibility mouth is.


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Colouring in the week: when the cooking gene goes walkabout

Has anyone found my cooking gene?

You know, it's the one that enables any domestic goddess worth her salt to nourish her family with delicious meals, any day of the week.

Well, mine went missing a while back. It jumped over the fence and legged it and it ain't come back. You see, it's not that I can't cook, I just can't be bothered.

Does anyone else get this? You know the thing, where food loses its inspiration and you can't think beyond the anti-climax of the next ham sandwich?

Recipes don't help either. Too many fiddly bits, and I'm not good at detail. If someone dares offer me a recipe, even in kindness, it's enough to send me running to the hills, (a challenge when you live in Suffolk). It's not that I'm ungrateful, it's that I have some kind of phobia of measuring spoons, jugs and weighing scales.

The real problem is that even my favoured Ready, Steady, Cook bung it all in approach has gone and done a bunk.

Personally, I blame it on changes in routine. It coincided with end-of-term and the beginning of the holiday. Then Mr A went back to work with the odd day spent in the office, the next banqueting at a conference, or the following coming back on a late-evening train from London with a sandwich. And now the kids are back at school. One part-time, the other full-time, while I'm always at home.

There are so many mixed-up appetites, I feel like I'm catering for an army of schoolgirls instead of a family of four.

Anyway, I think I've devised a cunning plan, or rather tripped over one when I wasn't quite looking.

It all started last Wednesday.

The kids came home from school and I cooked up some pasta. It needed to be quick because they were hungry. So I added some sweetcorn and then grated some cheese on top.

My eldest came rushing into the kitchen pleading starvation. Pasta isn't always his favourite dish, so when he begged to find out what was for dinner, I knew I needed to sell the idea to him.

I looked blankly, paused for inspiration and blurted.......


He looked at me and said "err yellow?"

To which I replied.

"Yes, tonight's dinner is yellow".

Suddenly he called to his brother "Tonight's dinner is YELLOW".

And they both did an excited jig, finished their yellow dinner and asked if the next day's dinner could be ORANGE.

So ORANGE THURSDAY came and went with breaded fish, chopped carrots and an orange and rice salad.

Then there was RED FRIDAY with spaghetti bolognese, some chopped red peppers and reddish-brown pasta, followed by some delicious strawberries and raspberries.

So it looks like we've finally found the answer. The kids plan the menu with whatever colour they decide and all I need to do is come up with the goods.

I've got a feeling they might not pick GREEN again though.

I don't think that Spaghetti with runner beans and broccoli was quite what they were expecting!


Monday, 15 September 2008

A little MORE conversation and a little more action

It's not that I'm get bored with rubbish. I'm having more fun partying in my bin than ever before, especially with trying to shrink our Christmas plans to match our new lifestyle. However, every now and again a girl has to take a break, hang up the party dress and think about other serious matters. So on 15th October, in exactly one month's time, I'm going to be talking about something different, poverty.

You might think it's an odd topic to be discussed on The Rubbish Diet, but there is a strong connection because all over the world, the need to tackle poverty can also be a key driving force in keeping items out of landfill. As well as charity shops sales, fundraisers use recycling campaigns to turn everyday items, such as mobile phones and ink-cartridges, into much needed cash.

On 15th October, The Rubbish Diet will be participating in Blog Action Day, a world event where bloggers get a chance to discuss a shared global issue. Last year it was the Environment and this year it's poverty. So I am delighted to have an opportunity to raise awareness of a very special organisation that is playing a big part in helping to overcome poverty in the UK and it's a charity that has really captured my imagination.

To find out more, make sure you make a date to visit that day. In the meantime, if you are a blogger and would also like to play your part in raising awareness of poverty, play the video below to see how you can join in.

P.S. Beth over at Fake Plastic Fish is one of the many thousands of bloggers participating. She's a very busy lady and is also hosting this month's Carnival of Trash, which is being published on her blog today. So please pop over to visit: www.fakeplasticfish.com and explore the thought-provoking blogposts that have been submitted this month.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Who's on your Christmas List?

I know the kids have only just gone back to school and we haven't even celebrated Halloween yet, but I'm already making headway with our Christmas Plans, which I kicked off in August.

This weekend, triggered by one of the comments on the blog (thanks to John) I've been thinking more about how we can plan for a minimal waste Christmas by reducing our present list. I attempted this last year and managed to save on five presents, that's five fewer presents bought by us and five fewer presents received, which meant a joint saving of about £100.

So I've finally written this year's hitlist, sorry I mean Christmas List, to work out who can be saved from the annual present exchange and all the wrapping and stress that comes with it.

Now before you start feeling sorry for them, please don't. It's hardly as if I'm going to cause anyone any harm. My list just features all those people, grown-ups and children who I consider will not be offended if I ring them to ask the all important question.

"Shall we do something different this Christmas?".

I thought that would be a good question to start discussions. It's non-assumptive and won't make me come over as a scrooge. Even better it also gives the other party an opportunity to suggest an alternative solution first. You never know, they probably have been muttering about it for years but haven't felt brave enough to suggest something different.

Christmas is so personal and my priority is not to offend, especially as there are people who we rarely see but who want to play some part in our Christmas celebrations.

So taking the opportunity now will enable time for careful planning on both sides.

Of course a Zero Present Exchange is the perfect outcome, saving wrapping paper, precious time and money. But there are lots of gift options that help to minimise waste.

  • Books (no packaging required)
  • Gift Vouchers from the Post Office (which use old fashioned paper)
  • Transferring money into a bank account
  • Contributions to a joint, shared present
  • Adopt an animal at a santuary, or a book at the British Library.
  • A home-made present such as chutneys, jams or biscuits
  • Seeds or bulbs that can be planted in the garden or in a container
  • Favourite products that the recipient already uses, e.g shampoos
  • Meeting up for a shared outing, especially if it is a special trip that is already being planned.
  • Donations to a charity that is close to someone's heart
So this week, I'm going to begin my round of friendly phone-calls, starting with those who I know make their plans early.

But what about the Christmas Cards?

As you can guess, the Christmas card list will also be pared down and where possible will be replaced by ecards and free phone calls, using the opportunity of technology to spread the Christmas Cheer.

I'm also going to ask the kids what they want to do about school cards and see if they and their teachers can come up with some suggestions for their class this Christmas. I think I might start with a small maths lesson to illustrate my thinking. See what you make of this.

If a class of 30 children each sends 1 card to every other child in the class, what is the total number of cards distributed?

Hmmm.....by my calculation that's 30 children each sending 29 cards, which means a multiplication of:

30 X 29 = 870

WOW 870 cards distributed by one class alone.

That's 870 cards that are destined for either recycling or landfill once the festive period is over. If that figure is extrapolated to take into account the capacity of our school (150 children), I guess the figure could possibly reach the whopping tally of 4530.

4530 cards in one school. Blimey I've never even considered that before. I'm now wondering how that translates to money.

If we assume that it costs 10p per card that's

4530 cards x 10p = £453

Now that's a lot of money to go to waste, even if it is recycled. It's like throwing NINE £50 notes in the bin and hoping it will be reincarnated as next year's toilet paper.

Now that I've picked myself off the floor in shock, I'd better get on with my phone calls, and after that, I'd better start thinking about the next stage of proceedings....making a good old-fashioned Christmas cake, now that's a zero-waste challenge if ever I've seen one.


Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Life after Zero Waste Week: 6 months on

Look what came through the post this morning.

A plastic sellotape reel, in a re-used envelope, with a message that read "Don't say I never give you anything" on a card decorated with pretty flowers.

What a lovely piece of mail to arrive through my letter box on what is the 6th month anniversary of the start of my Zero Waste Week challenge.

Even regular readers are now probably thinking I've definitely lost it, you know in a sandwich short of a picnic kind of a way. But honestly I haven't because this little pressie was from Mrs Green, who suddenly ran out of sellotape during her recent Zero Waste Week. When I heard the news I was hit by a bright idea.

I'd received an email from the wonderful artist Fran Crowe at www.flyintheface.com, to collect some of my rubbish for her latest project. So I thought this would be a fitting solution for Mrs Green's dilemma. So now that it's arrived, I will dutifully add the plastic reel to my shoebox of other rogue items, which include Mr A's vitamin blister packs, the packet of Quavers that I indulged in yesterday as well as a dodgy old slipper. (more on that later).

The other fabulous news that I discovered today is that my lovely friend Tracey Smith's book The Book of Rubbish Ideas is finally out in the shops. So you can at last go and buy your copy, hooray. It's what I call the perfect zero waste present for your friends, family and colleagues.

What a great end to a wonderful day.

I can safely say I am truly amazed how a zero waste challenge has changed family life since I signed up for it back in January.

Here are a few examples.

Then: 6 huge bin bags, approximately 300 cubic litres of waste was the amount we used to throw away in an average month. I used to stuff our bin bags so full that it was almost impossible to pull out from the kitchen bin. It was so heavy that it was Mr A's job to put the rubbish out.

Now: 1 small carrier bag worth of rubbish is what we now throw out every 4 weeks. Sometimes it takes 6 weeks to fill with sweetie wrappers, crisp wrappers, small amounts of leftover cat food and the odd broken toy. Mr A never puts the bins out anymore. It is my job and as we hardly use our black wheelie bin, it's now tucked up in the garage and shows its face only every couple of months when we've used cat litter.

Then: I used to recycle because I knew I should and followed the rules accordingly, but never really thought about the effect of rubbish on the environment. I was sometimes lazy and hardly ever thought about what could be recycled beyond the doorstep collection.

Now: Not only am I now aware of the environmental effect of residual waste buried in landfill, but it deeply concerns me, which is why I continue to buy so few items with packaging that can't be composted or recycled and feel so committed to spreading the message.

Then: I used Clingfilm like there was no tomorrow

Now: I have stopped using clingfilm and now use sealed containers, because there is a tomorrow.

Then: I used to throw the odd used slipper in the rubbish bin, not caring that it would end up in landfill

Now: Having found the other slipper, I wash it and save it in the hope that I'll find someone with one foot who might need just one slipper. Then after eight months feel the relief that I can hand it over for an art project.

Then: My children never really understood the concept of food waste or recycling.

Now: They now understand the message and what a Bokashi is for. My eldest understands recycling so much that if he sees the bin has so little in it, he just tells me I'm crap at recycling and I should do better.

Then: Grocery shopping was a burden, once a week in the supermarket.

Now: Grocery shopping is a pleasure, shopping as I go, picking up most of what I need from local shops and the market. I now enjoy the infrequent visits to the supermarket.

Then: I used to be a shopaholic. Spending lots of money on clothes and accessories that I admired in the shops.

Now: Now I can look and not buy, enjoying the moment of denial instead.

Then: Mr A would give me a disappointing look when I came home with a new handbag.

Now: Mr A gives me a bemused look, if I come home with another reusable bag.

Then: He would bring home shopping in plastic carrier bags.

Now: He has learned to juggle.

Then: I had friends.

Now: I also have rubbish friends.

Yes rubbish friends who I never even knew eight months ago, who now entertain my witterings whether they share the same enthusiasm about rubbish, or are just simply bemused.

So after rabbiting on for all these months, throwing the odd party here and there, I would like to thank everyone for sticking around and reassuring me that I'm not as mad as a hatter, especially those who have taken up the challenge, including Mrs Green, Jo Beaufoix and Ruby.

Most of all, I would like to thank everyone who has taken on the odd idea, shared ideas, spread the word and who might now be inspired to have a go at Zero Waste. The latest news is that Just Gai is going to give it a go to support her council in Bristol and has a new blog here. So please go and support her.

And while you bury your head in Tracey's new book, I'm taking myself off to a remote cave to bury my head in mine.

So carry on enjoying yourselves, don't be naughty and remember to wash out your yoghurt pots and if you're up for some fun, don't forget to send a contribution to the Carnival of Trash, which this month is being hosted by Beth over at Fake Plastic Fish.


Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The morning after the night before

Well, after celebrating yesterday, today is like waking up the morning after the night before

You'll know why if you saw ITV's Tonight programme, A Rubbish Service, which revealed actual evidence of "recycled" waste from the UK being illegally dumped in India. Waste from four separate local authorities had been identified. You know, I'd heard rumours, the usual hearsay, but this is the first documentary I've seen that reveals that it's more than just gossip.

So what do you do when you hear news like this? Give up? Go hide in a corner?

Of course not. You pick yourself up, believe in your values, keep cutting down on your rubbish, including recyclable waste and most importantly seek some form of official reassurance.

Send an email to the director of services and relevant councillor at your local county council to ask the question "Where does your rubbish end up?" And if you want to talk more, contact your MP, or go and have a chat with Mr Green. He knows a thing or two over at MyZeroWaste.com.

But what about me? Yes, I'm going to be sending off my email today too, but not before I've tackled a problem of diverted waste that lies closer to home.

You see, after several days of sourcing the whiff that's been percolating in the downstairs loo, sniffing here, there and cleaning this that and the other, last night Mr A presented me with my rucksack.

He could only say "It's your rubbish and it's your responsibility". He's getting into the swing of things is our Mr A.

I could smell it even from a couple of feet away and couldn't believe how I had missed it altogether.

As I looked inside, I could see two rotten bananas almost melting at the bottom of the bag. Oh the stink...eurrgh...the fruit flies!

No wonder I'd felt dizzy in loo. It must have been all that methane.

Well Mr A was right.

It is my rubbish and regrettably it is my responsibility, but I couldn't spoil the celebrations and get dirty bunging rotting bananas in the compost bin. Not last night!

Sadly, that's this morning's job! Bleurrgh


Monday, 8 September 2008

It's time to celebrate

Guess what! There's one hell of a party going down today. And it's happening right here, right now! And the mood is one of huge celebration. So get your party shoes on and please join in.

Yes folks, today we are celebrating the end of Mr & Mrs Green's Zero Waste Week over at MyZeroWaste.com. They were a little shy back in May when I challenged them to slim their bin, but no sooner had I booted up the laptop the next day, they confirmed they were committed and ready to give it a go.

And wow, what a success story it's been and after three months of preparation they've finally completed a Zero Waste Week challenge. The latest news is, they've succeeded and word has it their bin is the slimmest it's ever been, but you'll have to pop over to see her to discover how little they've thrown away. It should be announced on their site some time this evening.

So after a whirl of a week, I caught up with the lovely Mrs Green this morning to find out how she feels after the family's ultimate rubbish challenge, and this is what she had to say.

"Despite three months of preparation, this week bought with it new learnings and new issues to face. People are asking us 'what next?' believing we have reached the ultimate place, but there will be so much more, because this week has shown us that there are ever increasing levels of awareness."

"I almost feel now that the zero waste week challenge was the first step, not the last step. The next steps are speaking to manufacturers and spreading the word as much as we can so that the ripple effect can take place even more and bigger changes can occur."

"We would advise anyone to have a go at this. We have learned so much, and, if you take it at your own pace, and make targets that are within your comfort zone, you can make lasting change. That is what this week has been about for us - creating lasting change."

I can vouch for that Mrs Green, because this week marks the 6th month anniversary of my very own Zero Waste Week, which took place in March. It was the beginning of a major change in my life too, but more on that later...

Because, it's time to get on with the party.

It's time to celebrate the efforts of the Green family and everyone who has made pledges on their site.

And I've found the perfect video that I would like to dedicate to everyone out there who is committed to making an effort to reduce their rubbish and a take a break from creating unnecessary waste.

You could even call it a holiday from being held ransom to your bin! Eh, that's it. That's just what a Zero Waste Week really is. It's a rubbish holiday, where you simply pack up your bin bags and enjoy one less hassle in life.

So what are we waiting for?

Get up off your chair, turn up the volume and get copying these classic moves and grooves! If you're over forty, it'll get your circulation going if nothing else!

Saturday, 6 September 2008

The girl wants Quavers

You can so tell I'm on the mend.

I'm sat on the sofa with a glass of wine indulging in a chick-flick on Film 4 and I am desperate for a pack of Walkers Quavers, the curly cheese snacks which I have loved since I was a child. For those who are unfamiliar, they're the ones that come in the bright yellow packet, which were once owned by Smiths Crisps.

Nolstagia eh. It's a wonderful thing!

I still remember the walk to Alda's sweet shop on the corner of my mum's street in South Wales. I would part with my pocket money and being unable to wait until I got home, I would pop open the packet and let each curly quaver melt in my mouth.

With thoughts of my childhood, the melt-in-the-mouth experience, the fact that I'm enjoying a glass of wine, I've now got Quavers completely on my mind.

You could go as far as saying I've got a craving worthy of a pregnant woman.

But I can't indulge. They're off limits you see, because in support of Mr & Mrs Green's Zero Waste Week, I pledged to give them up for a week.

And so far I've been doing well.

Some might say that I've had a helping hand because for most of this week I've been struck down with tonsillitis, the worst kind of sore throat ever. It's as if your throat is made of shards of glass. You lose your appetite, your glands swell up and your head feels like it's in a different universe. So as you can imagine, the thought of indulging in any form of crunchy crispy snacks offered as much appeal as swallowing gravel.

Now you might be wondering why I chose to give up this innocent little snack as a pledge for the Zero Waste Week.

Well, you see, they're not as innocent as they may appear. Nutritional content aside, the problem that I have is like most crisps and similar snacks, Quavers are packaged in a film coated with aluminium, which is currently not recycled and doesn't degrade easily in landfill and I have a sneaking suspicion that any empty packets that I leave behind will still be in one piece when I'm dead and buried.

It's not all bad news though. PepsiCo, the company that owns Walkers, have announced in their recent sustainability report that they plan for Walkers packaging to be renewable, recyclable or biodegradable within 10 years.

What was that......TEN YEARS?!

Blinky Blimey! Not only have I had to cope with feeling ill and missing out on my Quavers for a week, but it looks like I might have to wait until I'm 50 before I can indulge guilt-free in my favourite snack again.

The question is...will I stay off the Quavers after Mr & Mrs Green's Zero Waste Week?

Who knows eh? I guess only time will tell.

While we are waiting for time to spill the beans of truth, you may like to indulge in a few flights of fancy, with some lovely stories about recycling crisp packets, which go beyond shrivelling them up in the oven to create disfigured miniatures.

My favourites are:

The Recycled Crisp handbags
from arts & crafts company Via Cornwall.

They look gorgeous and I now feel the urge to splurge on this and many of the other recycled gifts.

Then there's the story about the band ReCoup who distributed their CDs last year by reusing crisp packets, as part of their environmental message.

Here is the video that accompanies their song "Remind You", focusing on the damaging effects that humanity's carbon footprint has on the planet's natural resources.

It's the perfect reminder of why attempting a zero waste lifestyle is so important and a fitting end to the Green's inaugural Zero Waste Week, which comes to a close this Sunday. You could say it's enough to keep me off my favourite snack for a while longer.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

A surprise around every corner: Mr A, The WI and the Sustainable Communities Act


I'm afraid I've done it again. I've only gone and surprised Mr A into another one of his looks.

I think you're getting to know THE look by now. It's a silent frown, which digs deep into his brow, giving the air of defeat or bemusement.

You'd think he'd be used to it by now after all these years...a life of adventure...with surprises around every corner...

"I've been offered a job in London."

"Let's get married in a zoo."

"Shall we have a baby?"....."er, and another?"

And when life got a bit quiet(er)...

"How about a Zero Waste Week?"

"I've set up a blog"

"Do you mind if I write a book?"

Apart from the recent visit to London at the weekend, Mr A's brow has been having a rest of late. Until last week that is...when in a casual tone of voice, I piped up....

"I'm thinking of joining the WI".

This time the imaginary piano stopped playing in the imaginary saloon. His brow shot up so quickly, his eyes almost popped out of his head. Then he looked at me and said.

"The WI?"

I simply replied


While silence reigned in his corner of the room, very fast babbling protruded from mine. I was tripping over my words in excitement, describing an amazing video I'd seen on the WI website and how much I admired its work.

The look remained throughout my monologue. I think on this occasion, it represented both bemusement and defeat.

So I thought I'd share the video that put fire in my belly, to see what you think. Here it is now. The title is...World Without Jam, (which comes in two parts as does this story).


So the day of reckoning finally came. The next WI meeting in my area was scheduled for this evening.

I almost ducked out. Not for a change of heart but for a change in health. It's not been the best of days. I've been attacked by a sore throat, with a virus that's gone straight to my head. I feel like I'm swallowing glass and my ears tickle so much I want to poke them with a stick.

So I was faced with a choice...tuck myself up in bed...or go to the WI.

Well, I guess it was the strength of the formidable name that got me back on my feet. And being a girl with an impulsive conviction, I set off into unchartered territory.

And I am pleased I did. Because not only did I receive a fabulous welcome, but I've also learned something new.... indeed it's a surprise that may be of interest to you.

During the meeting tonight, I came across a document circulated by an organisation called localworks.org, which I'd never heard of before. The document was promoting the Sustainable Communities Act, which I've also never heard of before.

As you can guess, my heart started pounding with excitement...especially when I read the words...

"The Act sets up a new process where local communities and their local authorities (including county councils) can drive central government policy and action on reversing community decline and promoting local sustainability."

"The Act also requires central government to publish local spending reports which will be a breakdown of all public money spent (local and national) by local area. Local authorities (including county councils) then have the power to argue for a transfer of specific monies and function from central to local control. "

What this means is that if you are pushing for sustainable measures to be put in place in your community, you need to act pretty quickly and urge your council to "opt-in" to make their proposals to Central Government in October.

Councils that do opt in must set up citizens’ panels and ‘reach agreement’ with local people, regarding the proposals on promoting local sustainability that local authorities will submit to central government, e.g. defending Post Offices and other local services.

Well blow me down with a feather if I haven't tripped over a nugget of gold.

This looks very interesting indeed and if you are fighting for a local sustainable cause, this may be a route you could use. If you want to find out more about how the act can help your community, please contact Steve Shaw, who is the Local Works Co-ordinator. Email: steve.shaw@localworks.org. Tel 020 7278 4443. Mob: 07788 646 933. More details are available at www.localworks.org.

So I think the WI has come up trumps.

I'm glad I went. I'll go back next month.

Who knows what excitement lies ahead?

I must admit, I already do.

I've seen the agenda and I've got a feeling, that when Mr A finds out, he might throw me another of his looks.


Monday, 1 September 2008

A date to remember

As I settle down with a glass of wine, I know today will be a date to remember.

Yes, 1 September 2008, a date which I hope will go down in history, representing a time when people all over the country, indeed the world, got together to celebrate one family's Zero Waste Week challenge.

What's new about that you might say. I've done it, others have done it...so what's special this time?

Before I answer that question, I'm going to savour another sip of wine, a cheeky little Rosé number by the way, a 2007 Côtes de Provence. Mr A calls this my Ronnie Corbett moment, interspersed with a touch of Harry Hill, finding myself going completely off subject several times over before finally going back to the topic.

So, back to the topic of the one family that I would truly like to applaud today and spend some special time with. Of course it's none other than Mr and Mrs Green over at MyZeroWaste.com, who are starting their Zero Waste Week today.

What's different about these guys is that, unlike me, they didn't wait around for a council initiative to come tapping on their door to give it ago. I know, I know, it was me who rang their virtual doorbell, but that doesn't matter in the great scheme of things. What's important is where I was accompanied by 180 people dotted all over St Edmundsbury having a go at a ZWW challenge, Mr and Mrs Green are on their own over in The Forest of Dean...

...or so we might think.

They may be tucked up on a windy night in their little village, but by no means are they on their own....I've just had a peek and if my maths is up to scratch they have 107 people who have already made pledges of support, with promises to give up this, recycle that or try something new for their Zero Waste Week.

I made my very own pledge last week, to give up my recent frenzy for Quavers crisps, a habit that's developed over the last few months. Yes I know crisp packets can't be recycled, so if you're on a Zero Waste diet they shouldn't be entertained, but you know, I have my foibles, which is why they were a perfect pledge.

With Mr & Mrs G having had a fantastic start, including a flirtation with the local media, I am confident that we are the brink of social change, as more and more people make small changes to reduce their rubbish. That's right small changes are all that's needed to help make a huge difference.

And talking about change, I've got to scoot to get ready for the first day back at school and my youngest's very first day in class, a more personal date to remember. So I'll be back later this week to tell you more about those innocent looking crisp packets and what life is really like six months on from my own Zero Waste Week back in March.


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