Thursday, 30 April 2009

Obsessions and Guilty Pleasures

The thrifty and nifty Nixdminx has tagged me for a meme. The great thing about these tags is they offer an opportunity to stop for a while, take a breather and share some of the otherwise ignored details of your life that simply pass by unrecognised. Even better you get a chance to find out about other folks too.

The rules of the meme. Respond and rework. Answer questions on your own blog. Replace one question. Add one question. Then tag 8 people. So here goes.

1.What are your current obsessions?
Collecting vintage jewellery and wondering how to inspire other Suffolk residents to go Zero Waste. That's what I call sparkling ambition!

2. Which item from your wardrobe do you wear most often?
A black and white print dress that I bought from Phase Eight about four years ago. It's still going strong but is in strict competition with a beautiful blue peacock feather print skirt that I bought three weeks ago at a charity shop for just £4.50.

3. What’s for dinner?
Chicken stir fry, with fresh chillis and cous-cous cooked by Mr A, followed by delicious strawberry ice-cream from a local farm.

4. Last thing you bought?
Three gorgeous ReSACKel bags made from beautifully printed rice bags, only available from Worth a look!

5. What are you listening to?
A copy of a compilation CD that I made for Mr A for Christmas, with downloaded music from Napster. Includes Tainted Love by Soft Cell, Whole of the Moon by the Waterboys, the Nolans' I'm in the mood for dancing and Abba's Dancing Queen. I think you get the picture. Eclectic, nostalgic and fun.

6. Do you have a pet and if not, why not?
Two white cats with black splodges and three chickens.

7. Favourite holiday spots?
St Ives, Cornwall. It's romantic, an artist's paradise and is a key contender as one of the best UK seaside destinations. Also, Leysin in the Swiss Alps, utterly breathtaking.

8. Reading right now?
Just finished Remembrance by Theresa Breslin, a most wonderful book that brings the first world war to life, following the lives of 5 young people, highlighting their courage and ambitions. It's the best book I've read in a long time. I am now ready to pass it on, so if you would like it let me know in the comments. First person to ask gets it. But beware it's a real tearjerker.

9. 4 words to describe yourself.
Optimistic, cheeky, happy and a dreamer.

10. Guilty pleasure?
Watching Kirstie's Homemade Home.

11. Who or what makes you laugh until you’re weak?
The panel on Have I got News for You. Such a fabulous tonic to a serious world.

12. First spring thing?
Daffodils and narcissi.

13. Planning to travel to next?
Off to York to see Ruby hopefully in June, (shh, I haven't told Mr A yet) followed by a family holiday to Switzerland in the summer.

14. Best thing you ate or drank lately?
A glass of Chablis with dinner just now. OMG....and the chocolate cake I made last Monday. Geez, I made chocolate cake. I couldn't believe it. It's only taken me 40 years!

15. When did you last get tipsy?
At the MediaGuardian Innovation Awards celebrations in March. The champagne was flowing. I was with great friends and I just couldn't help it.

16. Favourite ever film?
Hard to choose: Goodbye Mr Chips - happy, sad and poignant or the Ladykillers, a very funny Ealing Comedy that just makes you laugh all the way to the bank. Damn it....the Ladykillers wins hands down. Who needs new movies when you can just recycle the old ones eh!

17. Care to share some wisdom?
It's no good recycling if you don't buy products made from recycled materials. Switch to recycled products where possible, close the loop and drive the demand for a greener economy.

18. Favourite song?
Porcelain by Moby. Makes me tingle every time.

19. What's your favourite meal you make without sticking to a recipe?
It's got to be Sweet and Sour Balti Chicken, which I picked up from a Balti recipe book. The book has since been lost after is was loaned to a friend. Good job the memory cells work because here it is. Combine two tablespoons each of greek yoghurt, tomato puree and mango chutney in a bowl, with a teaspoon of garam masala and add to a wok of hot corn oil. Bring to a high temperature and mix well before adding strips of chicken. Throw in some freshly-chopped chillis and cook for five minutes before adding water to dilute. Leave the chicken to simmer for 10 minutes or until fully cooked. Stir in a tablespoon of cream and a handful of chopped coriander. Serve with rice that has been boiled with cardamom pods

20. Who would play you in a movie of your life?
Please let it be Dawn French, she'd eat The Rubbish Diet alive and despite the serious nature, it really has been a bag of laughs.

21. Facebook or Twitter? Other or Neither?
Twitter! I think it's great for finding out new information and sharing brief snippets of news.

So which bloggers shall I pick for a game of tag? Erm let's see.....who haven't I visited for a while who I'd love to catch up with and might be up for a round of tag?

I think it just has to be Jo Beaufoix, Fiona over at A pot, a thought and a smidgeon of dirt, Sam at Feel the rhythm inside, Layla at Layla's Experiments, Katy at Aiming Low, my long-lost evil twin Katyboo, Grumpy old woman, and Picklesmum.

Yes're it and I'm coming to get you!

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Wales to become a Zero Waste nation

It is a very exciting day indeed because today the Welsh Assembly Government has declared a new 70% recycling target to be in place by 2025, including households, businesses and the construction sector.

The Assembly has also announced that it will become a "Zero Waste" nation by 2050.

This announcement is part of the Welsh Assembly's new draft waste strategy which sets out how Wales proposes to tackle the issue over the next four decades. It includes plans to encourage a more integrated recycling infrastructure across Wales and capitalise on new green jobs and business opportunities as recycling services expand.

My own visits to the green green grass of home have already indicated a dynamic and proactive approach to waste management solutions. St Arvans in Monmouthshire is now well established as a zero waste village and can be hailed as a role model for many areas in Wales and indeed the rest of the UK.

Throughout the rest of Wales, local authorities have also been busy implementing food waste collections, including Merthyr Tydfil, my home borough. My mother gave me a demonstration when I visited last October and remains pleased with the facilities the council is providing.

Jane Davidson Minister for Environment, Sustainability & Housing said on the matter.

"Research shows that recycling is often the thing people most recognise as being their main contribution towards improving the environment. We need to create a truly comprehensive recycling society, where everyone can recycle where ever they are – at home, whilst out relaxing or at work. But this isn’t just about recycling. It is about getting people to rethink why they are producing so much waste in the first place."

So being a supporter of Zero Waste as well as being Welsh, I'd like to say "diolch yn fawr" to Ms Davidson and the Welsh Assembly for its forward-thinking plans. Yes thank you! And who knows, I may even be able to persuade my English husband to move over the border. Today he asked me to reorder a new wooden toothbrush on his behalf, so dragging an Englishman from his home country could now be a possibility.

More information can be found at the Welsh Assembly Government's website.


Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Wenhaston Green: Greening up a village community in Suffolk

Today I'd like to highlight the achievements of Suffolk based energy support group Wenhaston Green whose amazing work is helping its village community to cut carbon emissions. From organising insulation projects for households and community buildings to setting up car-sharing schemes and implementing alternative energy solutions, including solar-powered water heaters, this group is making it easier for residents to make choices that are more environmentally friendly.

Reducing Waste

With the support of environmental social enterprise Bright Green (the organisation behind the National Materials Exchange - Eastex), Wenhaston Green has embarked on its latest project, helping the village community to reduce household waste.

Their very own Zero Waste Week was launched at the weekend, kicked off by the best idea I've seen in a long time...A Give or Take Day!

Hosted at the village hall, residents were invited to bring along items that they no longer wanted and take away anything they wished. It was a great event, with a whole range of items exchanging hands including heavy furniture, clothing, crockery, toys, video, books and bric-a-brac. All for free.

I was also allowed to take part, even though I'd arrived from the other side of Suffolk. So I emptied my wardrobe of all the clothes I no longer wear and came away with some gorgeous Readers' Digest books and a glamorous pair of shoes.

During the event residents also had the opportunity to find out about ways to reduce their carbon footprint thanks to representatives from Suffolk County County recycling services and the Energy Saving Trust. There was even a master composter available, demonstrating the benefits of home composting, including the use of Bokashi facilities.

The Zero Waste Challenge

Eleven households have signed up for the Zero Waste Week challenge, where they will attempt to minimise their waste over the course of the next week. With a weekly rubbish collection, the results will be measured next Monday.

Before the start of the challenge representatives from Bright Green conducted an audit of residents' bins to determine the amount of rubbish that each household throws away and how much of their rubbish could be recycled or composted.

The results of the audit were presented to the volunteers at a meeting following the Give or Take event. It was no surprise that the starting points were varied, giving the nature of the mixed household sizes.

However, what was surprising is that Wenhaston does not have a kerbside recycling collection, which means that residents do not have an easy solution to recycling plastics.

The village community has recycling facilities for metal, glass and paper, but household collection facilities will not be in place until March next year. This could be a major challenge for participants of the Zero Waste exercise.

On the plus side, residents can recycle food waste through their fortnightly brown bin collection which also includes garden waste.

Managing Plastic

With a long wait for plastic recycling facilities, there is an opportunity for the participants to analyze their dependency on plastic packaging and reduce what they can. Reusable bags and use of containers when shopping will provide some relief. The group also discussed making muslin\cotton weigh bags, which they can sell to other residents to avoid the plastic variety normally found in shops.

There may also be opportunities to recycle other plastics that come their way, through combining efforts. Unfortunately the nearest recycling facilities are an estimated 15 mile drive away and for individuals to travel there in the name of slimming their bins would be simply increasing the carbon footprint that they are working hard to reduce. However, if one resident could take the materials when they are next passing, this would help this challenge immensely and maybe it could lead to an interim solution for enthusiastic recyclers while they are waiting for a permanent recycling collection.

Community solutions

What I experienced at the weeked was inspirational community action. As individuals attempting to reduce our carbon footprint, it is often difficult to know where to start and options can appear to be confusing. However community groups that serve to help the local area seem a natural step forward, combining the knowledge and enthusiasm needed to move communities forward.

I believe there is much to be learned from proactive communities such as Wenhaston Green and organisations like Bright Green, also based in the East of England and who are able to empower and transform companies and communities by raising environmental awareness and helping to implement change.

The Wenhaston Green energy support group was formed just two years ago in March 2007. Originally created by Parish Councillors who were keen to have carbon reducing ideas as part of its parish plan, the group is now independent of but still supported by the Parish Council. In its short existence, the energy group has already been awarded funding by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) to refurbish the village hall with insulation and photovoltaic panels and in 2008 won the Community Energy Award from Suffolk Strategic Partnership's "Creating the Greenest County"

It just makes you think doesn't it? There is much that an enthusiastic individual can do on their own, but combine that with the knowledge, support and enthusiasm of others and the opportunities can be amazing.

If you are based in the UK and are inspired to find out what can be done to reduce the carbon footprint of your own community, more information can be found at Transition Towns. Local advice is also available from and it is also worth contacting your local regional development agency for details of which projects are supported. Funding opportunities can also be sourced through the Energy Saving Trust.

And if you are lucky enough to be based in the East of England, why not put a call into Bright Green.

Huge thanks to Sue from Bright Green for inviting me to the Give or Take Day and for the members of Wenhaston Green for making me feel very welcome. And most of all, good luck to all the residents who are busy with their Zero Waste Week challenge. I can't wait to hear the results and find out what happened to all the usual plastic.

If you're already involved with a local community group that can help inspire others, please share your good news and if you have a website, I will be happy to include a link on the blog.


Sunday, 26 April 2009

Beth Terry's Letter to Oprah

Plastic is all around us. We take it for granted along with its convenience, versatility and its ability to protect and preserve. But has this convenience become so ubiquitous it's emerged as one inconvenience too far? I'd like to introduce a video by one lady who is making us think again about our responsibilities as consumers. Spurred on by the environmental cost of plastic, she has taken major steps to reduce her own dependency and has inspired individuals and companies to reduce their reliance on it too. Most people know her as Fake Plastic Fish, creator of the blog that shares the same name.

In the last couple of years Beth has inspired many people to change their habits of a lifetime but for such change to have the impact required, her work needs to be shared with a much wider audience. So this weekend she wrote a letter to Oprah and recorded a video that highlights her passion. Here is the video revealing the inspiration behind Beth's work, her personal commitment and her achievements so far. If you know other people who could be inspired by her message, let's not just leave it to Oprah. The Internet is a powerful thing so it would be great if you could share Beth's message too. And yes, after watching the video, there will be a few changes that I can make too.


Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Celebrating Earth Day

Regular readers will know how I love crisps, especially Walkers Quavers, but will also know that the packaging can't be recycled or composted easily. So in honour of Earth Day, I'm giving them up for a whole week, while I share some great news about the future of crisp packaging, or chip packaging, as they say in the US.

The following video reveals what FritoLay, an American crisp company, has promised for next year's Earth Day for their Sunchips brand. Interestingly, FritoLay has some connection with the UK Walkers company through the Pepsi empire.

I can't help wondering whether I will soon be able to eat Quavers and still keep my rubbish nice and slim. If so, my only worry will be my own diet rather than that of my bin. Now that's reminded me, my other Earth Day promise is to get on my bike....that'll certainly help!


Monday, 20 April 2009

Green Pepper goes Naked

It's a busy week with the kids still off school today, so it's the great outdoors for us. However, if you're looking for a dose of entertainment, pop over to the Green Pepper blog where the lovely Paul has invited me to submit a guest article. So grab a cuppa, put your feet up and discover why I believe going naked is easier than stripping. Surely you can't resist a title like that eh. Now where did I put that palm leaf?

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Some waste-busting highlights from UKAware

Well having stretched my cycling legs to venture into Bury St Edmunds to see Her Majesty last week, this week's adventure was a visit to London. But before you get all excited thinking it was trip to Buckingham Palace, I'm pleased to tell you it was more exciting than a royal garden party. I was indeed off to meet the royalty of UK sustainable living, the movers and shakers who are making it easier for us to live a lighter and brighter life and who happened to be congregating at the green lifestyle exhibition UKAware.

It was a great opportunity to catch up with friends new and old, including Al from Natural Collection, Angus from Ecoboom and Chris from SnaffleUp, as well as my old mucker Tracey Smith, founder of International Downshifting Week and author of The Book of Rubbish Ideas. My only regret was that I'd given myself just 4 hours for the visit. I could have done with a whole day, but here are some rubbish diet treats, revealing my top 10 highlights of the day.

1. Looking for a desktop wormery?

Then look no further than Bubble House Worm Farm's easy solution for somewhere to pop your apple cores and bread crusts. Made from recycled plastic here in the UK they also have a larger version for all your kitchen waste and with its neat design sits well on the smallest of patios. You can even use the top layer as a herb planter. Visit for more details.

2. From recycling to recycled!

Whether you're looking for solutions for sorting your recycling or closing the loop with recycled gifts, take a peek at what The Recycle Warehouse has got on offer. Even the bins, as demonstrated by John are made from recycled materials. Visit

3. Fed up with all your bills arriving through the post?

Then say hello to Gavin from, a brand new one-stop secure service that enables users to easily access bills, statements and correspondence online. He can't do much to reduce your bills but he can certainly help to reduce the amount of paper that lands on the doormat. Visit

4. Onya back, onya side, onya everywhere!

Having been a fan of Onya reusable bags for some time, at last I had the chance to meet the man behind the UK operations, Dan, who was kind enough to offer a discount to offer a 15% discount for bin slimming fans, which you'll find over at For more information about Onya bags, visit Thanks for the discount Dan and I hope you had a good trip back to Suffolk.

5. Want a chance to go potty?

Thanks to a fabulous demonstration from Caro at the Nether Wallop Trading Company, I am now an expert in making paper plant pots. Here she is demonstrating the Paper Potter. Having wanted the opportunity to make my own seedling pots for ages, I couldn't resist buying one and it really is that easy. For lots more sustainable home and garden products visit

6. From Junk to Chic in one beautiful step!

If you've ever wondered whether your junkyard find could have more potential but not sure how, designer Katie from Junkyard Chic is your woman. With a fabulous portfolio of designs, this lady has a talent for converting the most uninspiring piece of furniture into a beautiful and unique work of art for your home. Check out her gorgeous and stylish designs at

7. Solving plastic party nightmares

Thanks to Lucy at Little Cherry, sustainably-minded parents now have a wide range of eco-friendly options to make kids' parties go with a green bang! From recycled plates to compostable crockery and sustainable toys, the company provides a complete solution for planning the best party ever. More information can be found at

8. First impressions matter!

And nobody could agree more than Bruce at First Impressions Last Longer, Europe's first carbon-neutral office supplies company. While doing your bit at home comes easy, the good news is that at last there are simple solutions for the office too. So if you want to upgrade your office supplies to products that create less waste, visit

9. Reuse and recycle your energy!

Not sure what to do with your old batteries? Well this irresistable guy here will show you the way. He's the walking talking battery that promotes the recycling of batteries across the UK. To find out what you can do with yours and how to discover your nearest recycling point, be sure to visit Even better, send them a photo of you recycling your batteries and you can get 50% off USB rechargeable ones.

10. Let the wind be your guiding light!

It's true! You can now turn wind into light without installing your own windfarm in your back yard. If you're looking for a revolutionary decorative outdoor light that doesn't just look good but provides an eco-friendly talking point, then check out the Firewinder. It doesn't need batteries or electrical power, just wind and its effect is stunning. Whether you want to buy one for yourself or distribute them through your business, these are the chaps to contact, inventor Tom and Marketing Director Joe, who've just been told a great joke by our rubbish friend Tracey Smith. For details visit

The Rubbish Diet will be featuring some of these fabulous folk in more detail over the next few months so you can have a closer look at their products and the inspiration behind their ideas. In the meantime, do pop along and have a gander at their websites. You'll never know what goodies you'll find. You'll also find more highlights in the latest edition of Sustained Magazine.

UKAware was a great day out indeed. So huge thanks to the organisers for their vision. And what good timing to hold such an event, as this weekend is also the start of International Downshifting Week 2009.

So if you want a chance to slow down as well as watch your waste, there's no better time to pop over and say hello to the founder Tracey Smith at, where you'll find lots of inspiring ideas.

Ah downshifting eh! After a busy day out in London yesterday, I think today's the day for most definitely unwinding in the garden. It's a bit breezy too, so I now regret not buying that snazzy light. where's that cup of tea......


Thursday, 16 April 2009

Curiouser and Curiouser: A right royal tale

"Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!" I muttered, as I struggled to get my bike out of the garage.

I felt like the white rabbit from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, hurrying and scurrying around whilst fiddling with my two-wheeled contraption that had been hidden away for most of the Winter.

But why the rush?

I was off to see the Queen. Or rather, off to see if I could see the Queen. Not Lewis Carroll's Queen of Hearts I should add, but Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, on a rare visit to Bury St Edmunds. I've only ever seen her on TV, so I was curious to see her in the flesh.

I had only 10 minutes to cycle into town. I was most definitely running late.

But it was downhill all the way.... which meant descending a very steep slope, the kind that makes you want to shout "wheeeee" - all childlike, with my legs stretched out in a manner suited to balancing at high speed.

It was good to feel 10 again.

But I bet a 10 year old wouldn't have had a red face when they reached the bottom of the hill, like a big juicy raspberry on legs, huffing and puffing as the incline gave way to a a more level street, lined with people perfectly positioned for their first view of the royal party.

There was no traffic in front or behind. Just me, peddling past all the locals, the policemen and the men in dressed in black - the security professionals that had the whole town under scrutiny.

I wondered whether my reusable bags-for-life all scrunched up in my shopping basket would be met with an air of suspicion. I hoped not. I would have crumpled if I'd been stopped by a man in black and too scared of the consequences, despite my innocent nature. It was a curious experience indeed.

It was also a miracle that I made it into town just in time to see Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh passing through. The people clapped, cheered and waved flags. The crowd then followed the royal car towards the cathedral, while I made my way to the lounge of the historic Angel Hotel, where I often hide away with my laptop, regularly witnessing the appearance of the glass recycling bin being wheeled to the back door and bemusing the staff with my interest in such an activity.

So while Her Majesty distributed the Maundy Money and then wined and dined with the guests, I worked away like a busy little bee, tapping at the laptop to get as much done as I could possibly achieve before the arrival of the Easter bank holiday

But disturbed by a sudden noise, I looked over towards the lobby as the gentle humdrum of the lounge gave way to heavy footsteps marching up the stairs.

Blimmin' 'eck I couldn't believe my eyes - there were Beefeaters climbing the apples and pears. A whole army of them, or whatever the collective term may be for the traditional warders of The Tower of London. There were so many, I hoped the crown jewels were still in safe hands.

There they were, all the way up from London, looking fabulous in their costumes of red and gold. So distinguished and so British and so rare a sight in Suffolk.

Before the experience rendered itself into a figment of my overactive imagination. I rang my friend Ruby, who has a passion for historic events but who was unfortunately otherwise engaged and unable to make it into town that day.

"Guess what I've just seen," I chuckled and told her the tale of the Queen's Beefeaters."

She listened intently as I related my right royal story.

"Well guess what I've just seen," she said with a more serious tone.

"Waitrose's right royal parody of a veg box".

Now that's something special I thought. Waitrose selling veg boxes with a royal warrant by appointment.

But what she described was certainly no veg box, more of a recession-beating bargain of a veg bag, all prepacked with assorted vegetables for just a fiver. Now that was cheap, but with such a low price tag, surely it had to come at a cost! And it did because each group of vegetables were all carefully wrapped in their own plastic bags before being placed in the larger plastic bag, all for extending shelf life of course. How my jaw dropped. There's more plastic in there than one can shake a stick at, if you beg my royal pardon.

My day of flirting with glimpses of royalty might have been a curious adventure, but for me Ruby's tale of the assorted veg bags was the most curious event of them all, especially when retailers are busy trying to reduce the amount of packaging on their shelves, suddenly we were witnessing an example of a reversal in trend.

Where I'd glided down that hill in delight, I groaned all the way back up, not at the steepness of the incline, but at the thought of all those bags and whether other supermarkets are doing the same. I was certainly more red-faced by the time I'd reached the top. And as I arrived home, I felt more like a raspberry jelly balancing on a pair of wobbly legs.

I've since written to Waitrose, this evening in fact, after I'd managed to see the veg bags for myself in their plastic glory as Ruby had described.

I wonder if the royal household has bought any yet because of course Waitrose holds a Royal Warrant with Her Majesty The Queen.

Maybe I should ring and ask, but then again, maybe I'll mind my own business and stick to the local market, where I can get a whole lot more for a fiver, contained in just one reusable bag.

And maybe, just maybe, an alternative recession-busting solution can be found for Waitrose's assorted bag of plastic wrapped veg.


Thursday, 9 April 2009

The New Adventures of Almost Mrs Average. Part 2!

At last, at last, at last!

I've been champing at the bit to share my latest news. And at last I can!

The previous weeks have been very introspective in nature, focusing on the positive events highlighted in this blog and the changes that have taken place in my life. My personal journey has been amazing but I've also been keen to wrap up the past and now make a serious contribution to the future, working more formally with others to promote the Zero Waste trend.

For a long time I've felt that one thing that's missing in our online community is a one-stop shop where interested consumers can find out about products that can be deemed to be zero waste, offering awareness of suitable choices that can help make rubbish bins lighter as well as landfill. And I know other bloggers have felt the same. Mrs Green, aka Rae Strauss at MyZeroWaste would most certainly agree. But having written a blog on a full-time basis for over a year, I also know how challenging it would be for one blogger to compile such a list.

So while I've been quiet over on this blog, I've been busy elsewhere...yes I've been busy collaborating.

And here are the results: a brand new website called The Zero Waste Checkout.

Although in its infancy at the moment, its aim is to raise awareness of emerging and existing products that help consumers reduce waste and will include shops who specialise in unpackaged produce as well as items where packaging has been redesigned with reduced waste in mind. There are a few posts up already, so please feel free to have a browse and let us know your feedback. You'll recognise many of the collaborators, whose photos are starting to appear on the site. We're not an exclusive bunch, so please, if you would like to join in, we'd encourage you to get in touch.

I can certainly say that this year will be most exciting indeed, especially as this is one of several collaborations with which I am involved and I'll be able to share more news on these exciting projects nearer the time.

But as you know, my intention is not to sit at the laptop. I've got lots of other things planned too. Many of these are personal, but my other news is that this year I'll be getting out more!

Yes I'm delighted to have received a number of invitations that will drag me onto the streets of Suffolk, where I will be promoting and supporting zero waste activities.

So if you live near Suffolk, keep your eyes peeled for what's coming up:

Saturday 25th April: I'll be attending the launch of the Zero Waste Week at Wenhaston, dropping into the Give and Take event. Further information can be found at Wenhaston Green's website or by contacting Bright Green who are supporting the event.

Saturday 2nd May: I will be hosting a brand new seminar at West Suffolk College, Bury St Edmunds, called You don't have to be green to be green. The morning workshop will focus on zero waste ideas as well as local community initiatives, giving a helping hand to anyone who wants to do their bit for climate change, by simply incorporating small changes into their everyday lifestyle. For further information, please contact the adult education department at West Suffolk College.

Monday 11th May: I will be the guest speaker at the International Women's Group, hosted by the Volunteer Centre in Bury St Edmunds. The presentation will cover personal waste reduction tips that people can take home with them as well as touch on the global awareness angle, as experienced through this blog. More details will be available soon.

In the meantime, if you happen to tune into James Hazell's morning show on BBC Radio Suffolk, you might just catch me if you listen in on Friday 24 April - Yikes, that's just two weeks tomorrow. I've been invited to join the programme's GirlsTalk panel (formerly known as Press Gang), where we will be discussing the day's news items from a female perspective. So will I be spouting more rubbish? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

All that's left to do now is to wish you all a very happy Easter holidays. And if you still haven't bought your eggs, pop over to the Zero Waste Checkout for some zero waste ideas. I should add I bought my zero waste eggs about three weeks ago - and have since eaten them. My poor children - well it has been a busy few weeks, don't you think.


Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The New Adventures of Almost Mrs Average: Part 1

Well I know I promised to come back with an update on Friday, but I'm afraid a few things have kept cropping up that have kept me away from the computer.

Yes it looks like the school holidays have started just as they mean to go on. And I'm determined to enjoy them as much as possible because in just two weeks time both boys will be in full-time school, leaving me home alone.

"What will you do with your time?" folk have begun ask.

Well, if the last few days are anything to go by, it looks like I'll be busy chasing cheeky chickens around the house. Talk about getting all in a flap - both me AND the flighty bird. It's been like a Benny Hill sketch, with my little brown hen following me into the kitchen and giving me the slip before legging it up the stairs. The cheeky girl!

So when the boys go to school, it looks like I'm still going to have my hands full. I'm also looking forward to the opportunity to revisit all the fun things and new skills that I've learned over the last twelve months, such as making bread rolls and yoghurt. I'm certainly planning on spending less time online and more time focusing on the family as well as aspects of homelife that were neglected last year, including growing our own produce and managing our home more efficiently - Great at recycling, rubbish at housework seems to have been my motto in recent months.

But don't worry. I don't think I'm ready to become a full-time domestic goddess yet, especially as my key priority is to finish my book and find a new publisher. When the original book deal fell through it was a huge disappointment. Some of you gave me some fabulous contacts but it didn't feel quite right to go seeking out a new opportunity straight away so I procrastinated. I admit my confidence had been knocked but before trying again I also felt that I needed to complete the journey that I'd started with The Rubbish Diet. I didn't know when that journey would end or indeed how it would end, so I needed it to run its course. And I now feel that it has.

And seven months on from when I started the original manuscript, the need for the zero waste message is stronger than it ever was, especially with Nicholas Stern - the economist behind the 2006 Stern Report - confirming that his original work underestimated the risk of climate change and that the effects of global warming will be worse than he had predicted.

So my determination to publish the book is also now greater than ever. When I first set up this blog in January 2008 I had very little knowledge of the impact that my family's rubbish was having on the environment or indeed the cost of waste management to householders. Back then I was also unaware of the alternative choices that would not just help reduce waste but could save money too. If I can publish the book it will provide the perfect window to raise awareness of the issue in a real fun way and offer readers the opportunity to take control of their rubbish, allowing them to do even more in the battle against climate change.

But if you think I'll be out of sight-out-of-mind, I have some more news.

Although I said my journey has now ended, perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that it probably has only just begun. I now know that The Rubbish Diet has simply been the first part of my adventures in waste and that there will be a lot more fun and frolics to be had around the corner. So I am grateful that you convinced me to stay.

But there's only so much a girl can do with her own rubbish thoughts and I feel the time is right to push things a little further. After all there are so many folk doing brilliant things and have their own stories to tell as well as knowledge to share. So the big news is I'm going to busy collaborating with these other folk and hopefully lots more people if all goes to plan, all with the aim of sorting out the world's naughty rubbish bins for good.

Now I hate to keep you on tenterhooks, but there's way too much news for just one blog post especially as there's lots more to tell. So do pop back soon to check out the next set of developments! It's all very exciting.

And while I'm busy getting on with the next post...please don't leave without having a nosey at this cheeky wheelie bin I found on YouTube. If there's one rubbish bin that could do with going on a diet, I believe it's this fella. It might be great at recycling, but that's more than could be said for its taste in food waste.



Thursday, 2 April 2009

Oh the memories: Part 3 - Eco Warrior? Moi?

Remember this little introduction?

"So, why have I set up a blog? I enjoy writing about things that are important to me as well as those that may be of interest to others. Also for me, Zero Waste Week is not about the week itself, but the effort over the next seven weeks to really try and reduce the amount of waste created by my family and stick to it thereafter. Therefore this will act as a very useful diary of our progress. Despite my enthusiasm, you won't find any holier than thou attitude on this blog. There are so many people out there who are much holier than me, which is why I am just your Mrs Average (well almost)."

That statement is an extract from my second blog post, where I introduced myself right at the very start of this blog, completely incognito as Almost Mrs Average.

Yep. That's me.

And 15 months later. It's still all true.

I'm still pretty much average. Honest.

However in the months and the year that has followed, I've been labelled green, been called an eco-warrior and - probably the most memorable of them all - I've been referred to live on the radio as a bunny-loving tree-hugger.

And even more recently someone said to me"you're just one of them".

What was that all about?

Stereotypes eh!

Don't you just love 'em!

We know where we are with stereotypes don't we?

Or do we?

You see behind the blog and the fun that The Rubbish Diet has brought with its bizarre zero waste challenge, the issue of being categorised and put in a box has been at the forefront of my mind all along the way.

And it's certainly no accident that my nom de plume has been Almost Mrs Average right from the very start.

You see, I'd never considered myself to be green just simply a kind, considerate and traditional old girl who just wants to protect and nurture my family - but with a prior penchant for high consumerist living.

And before I started this blog, the idea of being green always represented either a political party or - and please don't shout at me - folk dressed in tie-died clothing detached from "normal" society and living in yurts whilst on a break from demonstrations.

I know, I know. I feel ashamed to admit it myself. Especially thinking back to a time in December when I broke down in tears as I emerged from the shower one morning. I'd been pondering the climate change conference at which I'd spoken the previous day and the strong messages from the environmental speakers were pressing hard on my mind.

As I towel-dried my hair I began to sob, almost uncontrollably.

And then the words came, pouring out from my tear ridden scrunched-up face, in a way which meant there was no going back.

"I think I'm turning green," I cried to Mr A, then lay on the bed all motionless, overwhelmed by the emotion that had disabled my physical being.

"There there" he said quite calmly "It'll do us good to have our very own eco-warrior in the house."

And that was that. Even my husband thought I was an eco-warrior.

Then when I retold the story, my best friend gave me a hug.

"Well it's about time you admitted it," she said in a manner that implied she'd known all along.

But an "eco-warrior"?


Blimmin' 'eck. What a responsibility eh. Do people really think that of me?

But stop for a moment and let's just slow this thing down. Especially as this looks like just another round of stereotyping in action, when the truth is I'm just a regular housewife who set up a blog about a zero waste week and who was amazed at how easy it was for an average family to reduce and take control over the amount of rubbish that is thrown away. And having discovered the urgency of the environmental message associated with rubbish, I've simply felt inspired to tell the tale.

So am I truly green?

If so how green am I?

Light green or dark?

And what are my credentials? I still sometimes drive my car while my bike is hidden in the garage because of convenience and lack of time - not to mention the bloody big hill. There are also days that I get caught out, when I have no intention of going shopping but end up buying something out of the blue and have to walk away with an odd plastic bag. It's a rare occasion but it happens because that's life.

Then I have to question whether that one particular action wipes out all my previous good work.

So perhaps it's not stereotypes and personal assumptions that make me fearful of my conversion to a greener path. Maybe it's actually the fear of my inability to achieve the holy green grail.

They used to say that cleanliness is next to godliness but today it appears to be green not clean that proffers the moral high ground.

Being green eh! Who would have guessed that something with such honorable intentions could cause so much angst. And am I the only one who has such issues?

I really don't think so. I know people who are most definitely prejudiced against absolutely anything with an eco-friendly tag and are all too happy to rebel against any green suggestions that are thrown in their direction, yet left to their own devices they naturally make sustainable choices just through being sensible.

Perhaps such actions are driven by guilt, uncertainty, misunderstanding or even downright ignorance or defiance. Who knows. It might even be down to the fear of being labelled green.

I'm no psychologist, so I daren't hazard a guess on such matters and I detest the idea of patronising others or indeed judging other people's circumstances so I won't go there either.

But what I do know is that it's time to grow up and come to terms with ditching the stereotype that represents the green image.

It's no longer about politics, ideologies and treehugging. The green landscape is changing and is gradually being occupied by ordinary average people who have their role to play alongside the scientists, environmentalists and activists whom have forged ahead to get this far and have done an admirable job in pushing the agenda .

Amongst the new kids on the block some may be concerned about climate change and the environment and others worried about poverty for themselves or for others, while the rest follow their survival instinct based on the understanding that to protect themselves and their future generations they need to respect the earth's resources and live more wisely.

But the one thing that all these people have in common is acknowledgement that transition has to take place somehow as well as the recognition that everyone can play their part no matter how small.

I think I've played my part and if my adventures with my bin have made me green, so be it.

And if by telling my story and helping others makes me an eco-warrior, I accept that too.

Indeed I am now proud to accept such labels for what my contribution is worth.

But I still insist that I am just an average mother, enjoying an average lifestyle, in an average family home.

And guess what! Most of the people who I have come across on this journey are pretty average too.

So for all the nay-sayers and deniers who call me "one of them" and "a bunny loving tree hugger" the truth of the matter is I am still like you as are most of my friends - even my dark green ones. The only difference is that these days I choose to create less rubbish and buy less crap. And the best bit is it feels really good. I no longer suffer the guilt that I should be doing something for the environment because I actually know that in my own way I've made a significant change, which when I look back I recognise it was a very gradual and relatively easy step to embrace. And I'm glad of the help and the friendships that I discovered along the way.

But I still don't feel holier than thou and I certainly won't be found preaching. Goodness no. That would be against my principles.

My enthusiasm is what it is, just plain and simple enthusiasm, based on the knowledge and respect that what has worked for my family might not necessarily work for others. The Rubbish Diet and its zero waste challenge is not for everyone.

But I will always add just one small but cheeky addendum and that'll never know unless you try.

So if you haven't done already, why don't you give it a go.

And if you don't like the colour green, why don't you just stuff the bloody stereotype! After all that's so last century.

Just pick your favourite colour, the one that makes you feel most comfortable and wear that instead.

Now having got all that off my chest, the only thing left is to raise a glass and offer a toast to all those who are doing their bit for transition as well as the folk who want to have a go themselves, including those who don't know where to start.

And now with that out of the way, I'm off to celebrate the good times that the last 15 months have brought.

Yes - indeed I'm off to hug a tree!

Oh my word - my apologies. I forgot April Fool's Day is over.

Anyway, why shouldn't I.

However the truth is I'm actually off to cook dinner and finish the bottle of Chablis I opened yesterday.

And if I'm not suffering from a hangover in the morrow, I might just come back and let you know what I've been up to and the excitement that lies ahead in the almost average life of Almost Mrs Average and all her good friends.

Let the adventures continue I say, particularly if it involves rubbish. And on that very subject...anyone remember this little cartoon?............ Look at that nice slim bin. Oh stuff the Chablis - where's that champagne?

The Rubbish Diet, by the fabulous illustrator Ray Smith.
If you've been inspired to slim your bin, please feel free to share on your blog.


Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Oh the memories: Part 2 - April Fool?

Yesterday I mentioned a certain event that's been a major highlight of The Rubbish Diet blog. It was an experience that happened exactly one year ago today and convinced me there was just no going back as far managing our own household waste was concerned. I briefly mentioned it on the blog last year in this post (accompanied by several photos) but here is the full account, which forms an extract from the book that I am hoping to publish.

Crying over landfill

I’d been going about my very ordinary day with my new found enthusiam, preparing the kids’ tea with one hand and washing up yoghurt pots with the other, when I received an urgent request to be interviewed for national TV. I may be calm now, but at the time it involved a frenzied attack on clearing up the garden because that was where they wanted to film me. When I think back now, I’m sure I even polished my wheelie bins for the task in hand.

The call had come from the council announcing that the BBC wanted to film a local resident who was good at recycling. Following the success of the Zero Waste Week a few weeks earlier, they thought I’d be perfect, as they wanted to do a story about the effects of a huge hike in landfill tax, an extra £8 levy* on each tonne of rubbish that is dumped in landfill.

If you can’t picture what a tonne is, just think of the weight of a mini, which means that’s £8 per mini sent to landfill. Apparently there would be a similar hike the following year too.

However, it wasn’t enough for the BBC to poke about my bins at home. Once I’d spoken to them in my garden, the producer also wanted to do a live interview, “on location”, the very next day. In short, they wanted to send me to landfill on April Fools Day.

Now there’s a potential April Fools hoax if I ever I’d heard one. As I drove to the site the following day, I almost expected my friends to be at the welcome gate ready to jump out shouting “Gotcha”.

But there was no spoof welcome committee, just the landfill site itself, sitting there in all its glory with its plastic bag fence and gulls soaring overhead.

The site manager kitted me out with a fluorescent vest and a safety hat and I swapped my wedge-heeled boots for my beautiful Wellingtons. I felt like Bridget Jones, about to embark on a mad media adventure, set to brighten the dearth of greyness with a flash of pink footwear.

As we trudged along to the “film-set”, it was hard to ignore the rubbish that was buried below the surface, physical remnants of society poking up through the thin layer of soil. Amongst the old shoes, cracked plates and socks were sheets of paper, cardboard and plastic bottles. Then there were plastic bags, a naked doll and broken toys. There was also a fair share of gone-off food. You name it and it was in there, accompanied by a nasty putrid stench that filled the air.

I watched a bin lorry regurgitate freshly collected trash onto the ground. Bin bags dropped down from a great height creating a carpet of garbage below. A bulldozer came to flatten it and as the mechanical beast reversed, the rubbish bags rose back up with all their might. It was as if the landfill was alive, and taking in a huge breath of air. It was sickening. The sight of the trainers and slippers poking up here and there gave the impression that they could still be attached to people who lay beneath. It felt like a burial ground for life’s ills.

Suddenly the thought of being interviewed live on landfill had lost its appeal. Merrily, sorting out the rubbish at home was one thing. Ending up in the harsh reality of a rubbish dump was another.

What I was witnessing felt like a sad portrait of society, representing affluence, boredom, excess, thoughtlessness and lack of respect. It really felt like we just didn’t care about what we threw away and what happened to it.

How could it be like this?

As the reporter pointed the microphone in my direction, it became clear I was live on air. He asked me to describe the scene and as I started to speak, I felt a tear in my eye. I was overwhelmed by the state of the landscape and the sheer amount of stuff that was being wasted. The TV camera was waiting to broadcast my response.

Oh dear, getting emotional was not the right thing to do. Not at that moment.
Can you imagine? The reporter would shake in his shoes, the director would have to shout “Cut” and the newsreader would end up apologising to the nation.

Instead, I held my head high and told the reporter what I thought.

I acknowledged that the level of waste I’d witnessed was disgusting. It was a strong word, but that's how it made me feel. It wasn't judgemental, more so a sentiment that reflected my own lack of consideration and personal responsibility towards the environment.

I also acknowledged the rise in landfill tax and the impact on council tax, accepting that as a taxpayer I would see increased fees to cover the extra landfill tax. He wanted to know if I would be happy to pay extra to cover the cost of other people’s rubbish to be dumped in landfill while I trod lightly with my own.

Surprisingly I said “Yes”.

It was becoming clear to me that something had to be done to reduce the amount of waste that was being dumped in these burial grounds. I didn’t care about being compensated for having so little rubbish as long as my contribution to council tax could be invested in national solutions to make recycling as efficient as possible.

After all, it is expected that the UK will run out of landfill space in the next ten years. And what then? We can’t just dig another hole in the ground because research has already demonstrated that landfill as a solution is harmful to the environment. Residues from plastic waste impact on the soil and groundwater and biodegradable matter such as food waste produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times as powerful as carbon dioxide, and which is a key contributor to climate change.

The alternative is a whole network of Incineration\Energy From Waste (EfW) plants, which government is planning to roll out across the UK to burn our rubbish instead of burying it. However organisations such as Friends of the Earth have raised questions over the environmental impact of such facilities and are also concerned that incinerators create less energy by burning waste than that which is saved through recycling.

Whatever the outcome, the answer now seemed obvious. While local councils are making efforts to increase recycling opportunities, including anaerobic digestion solutions for food waste, as a consumer society we need to take more responsibility and seek more control over our waste. Most importantly we need to reduce the amount of rubbish that comes our way, allowing us to reduce the amount that we then have to throw away, which is why the idea of zero waste is becoming increasingly relevant. By voting with our wallets, industry will follow and indeed more and more manufacturers are already switching processes and materials to create less wasteful products for us to buy.

I’d been so used to throwing my rubbish away. But as Anita Roddick once quoted in a Body Shop campaign, there is no such place as away and this was the living proof. I now realised that while I was sorting out my own rubbish at home, something else was afoot and I couldn’t believe I’d been blind to it all. Whether I was dodging the yoghurt pots in the old days or doing my bit for recycling now, my own choices and habits were having an impact on the country, its reputation and the environment.

When the interview ended, I left the site, but not before finding a place to leave my own small bag of rubbish that I’d taken as an emergency prop.

I was told I could throw it anywhere. So I looked around for an appropriate spot but it took me a while to find one. I knew this was landfill, a place where we are allowed to send our rubbish and even pay for the privilege to do so, but on this occasion it felt totally wrong.

I dropped my small bag on the side of a bank and then left, with a feeling of responsibility and guilt. It didn’t feel like a privilege or even a relief to throw it away. It felt as if I’d littered the countryside.


*As an incentive to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, last year landfill tax was increased to £32 per tonne. Today - one year on - it is now £40 per tonne. In just twelve months time taxpayers will be looking at a bill of £48 per tonne - that's a rise of £16 in just two years.


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