Monday, 30 November 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what's the worry?

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

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

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

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


Oh heck!

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

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

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

Well, I'd like to think so anyway.


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


Sunday, 29 November 2009

Adventures at London Zoo with big chickens, mummy bloggers and animal poo!

Oh yes, you could say that again! It has most definitely been a case of Animal Adventures. And at London Zoo no less, our destination on a wet and soggy Sunday!

Organised by the P&G site SuperSavvyMe and the British Mummy Bloggers network, a family visit to the zoo was a great opportunity to catch up with some old blogging friends and meet some new ones.

Like this big chicken for instance!

Well that's what Mr A called it when the kids asked what an emu was! And it must be said it was a bit more friendly than the pelicans, who had the body language of my grandmother when she got bored of visitors.

After several attempts at renegotiating the zoo map, we finally found our way to the meet-up, where we were welcomed by three fabulous ladies Susanna aka A Modern Mother, Jen from Alpha Mummy and Nixdminx, who's actually celebrating her first year of blogging.

However, the only photo that I've got of the lively atmosphere was the one taken by my five year old photographer, Little T. Well I suppose it's a perfect snap for any bloggers who might wish to remain anonymous!

It was a great chance to catch up with the very funny Potty Mummy before she disappears off to Moscow as well as Liz from one of my favourite crafting\design blogs Violet Posy. And I finally had the pleasure of meeting Kat from Housewife Confidential, who's busy preparing for the Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund Auction to kick off tomorrow along with Natalie from Bambino Goodies, where the auction will be held.

I also had fun chatting to Clareybabble Clare, Tasha from Wahm-Bam, Sandy from Baby Baby, Emily of Maternal Tales, Zoe from Diary of a Surprise Mum, Perfectly Happy Mum aka as Peggy, Babies who Brunch, and last but not least Mothership, who can normally be found immersed in Motherhood:The Final Frontier. However the event wasn't just for "mummy bloggers", it was for dads too, and it was great to bump into Jules Watkins of the video production and blog site

For a blogger who's normally attached to a keyboard behind the proverbial closed doors of a suburban home, it makes a welcome change to have a chance to meet up with other bloggers who can normally be found doing the same right across the country.

And having had a good couple of hours to exercise the chin-wag action, it was time to brave the weather and take in some sights around the zoo.

The kids had already gone ahead with Mr A who had decided that having a wife for a blogger was enough to handle. I eventually caught up with them being mesmerised by the Moon Jellyfish.

Then off we went to check out some ropes...

...before entertaining some monkeys who were happily chomping on some popcorn. They stared at the children, while the children stared at them. It turned out the boys were actually eyeing up the popcorn but were also impressed that the monkeys weren't in a cage and were simply sat in a tree right next to us.

Of course it wouldn't be a proper family visit without sussing out the recycling bins, which just so happened to be strategically positioned around the zoo. This smiley bin looks very similar to the chirpy one that I spotted in London only the other week, so it must be a popular design.

Then a stop-off at the cafe revealed that food waste is also processed for separate treatment too. Quite naturally, the zoo takes recycling and other environmental issues very seriously and by promoting fair-trade, organic and local seasonal products as well as working hard to conserve water and energy, it is no surprise that it has won several Green awards in the last couple of years.

And as for animal poo, well no self-respecting zoo would miss the opportunity would they?

All I can say is that's one bin I'm glad I don't have to empty and I promise never, ever, ever ever ever, to complain about cleaning out the hen-house again! And I am also particularly grateful my chickens really aren't the size of an emu!

Big chickens eh! Obviously my husband doesn't remember Rod Hull!

Anyway, thanks again to Susanna, and everyone else who was involved in organising the event. It really was a very fun day indeed and I'm now looking forward to what happens next. If you haven't joined yet and would like to get involved, just drop over to British Mummy Bloggers and sign up.


Friday, 27 November 2009

Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!

The official Bury St Edmunds Town Crier

Today I'm all of a lather.

I was going to dedicate a whole blogpost to Nestlé's new Christmas selection boxes - you know the ones that come with 95% recyclable packaging. As they're the first large confectionery manufacturer to ditch the plastic inserts, I thought it would be worthy news.

Then I realised time was running out to vote for the Tetra Pak video competition, so I decided a bit of self-promotion wouldn't go amiss, to plead for you to vote for our "with tantrums and tears" How Do You Squash Yours entry, before time runs out this Sunday. Please, please, please, please, please!

But more importantly, there's the matter of the online charity auction, organised by Housewife Confidential, which will be live at Bambino Goodies on Monday. That deserves a whole post in itself, especially as it's to raise urgent money for the Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund.

Oh decisions, decisions. So much news to share and so little time to do it.

So perhaps I should become a Town Crier, like the one spotted while out shopping today, promoting the Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre. Now he's a man who knows how to broadcast news.

Yes, that's it!

Forget blogging & Twitter, just give me a webcam, some regal attire and a handbell and my problems will be solved...well perhaps after a bit of practice.

So here goes...

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez...Remember to commit to reduced packaging this Christmas and to squash your Tetra Paks. And vote for our video too.

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez...Come to Bury St Edmunds this weekend and enjoy the Christmas fayre.

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez...Please, please, please support the Cumbria Flood Recovery auction. Bidding starts Monday and goes on all week.

Now I'm sure I've missed something....

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez

Ah yes...that's it.

Come back next week, when I'll have even more news. And I mean really exciting news!

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!

Oh my! Am I so glad to get all that off my chest. And it means I can now put my feet up tomorrow and give you a break too.

Altogether loudly as you can.

...Hooray, Hooray, Hooray!


Thursday, 26 November 2009

Suffolk people love their food but hate waste

Mike Culver - St Edmundsbury Borough Council

I know this post is going to show me up as a bit of a recycling groupie because while most folk are happy to be star-spotting and hanging around stage doors for photos and autographs of their favourite stars, there's me pegging it into town to try and snap our local recycling officers hard at work!

So having got the nod that it was St Edmundsbury's turn to host Suffolk County Council's marvellous Love Food Hate Waste Stand, I thought I'd drop into town yesterday to take some photos of the free tools that they were giving away to residents as part of their promotion for the European Week for Waste Reduction.

But there I was, running a bit late, yet still planning to get in before midday, when I got a call on my mobile at 11.15am. It was Mike - pictured above - from St Edmundsbury, telling me the stand had been such a success they were close to running out!

Of course, I picked up pace and full-steam ahead, hurtled into town but by the time I got there, the tables were empty and all was left were a dozen or so of the 550 promotional reusable bags that they were giving away! I know it was market day, but that is astounding.

Visitors to the stand were keen to learn how to reduce food waste and engaged brilliantly with the team which combined recycling officers from St Edmundsbury, neighbouring Forest Heath and Suffolk County Council.

So, sorry I've not got any snaps of the gadgets and gizmos folks, but if you live in the area, there should be some great coverage in the local papers and the Love Food Hate Waste stand will also be popping up elsewhere in the county. All the dates can be found at Of course if you live outside the county, you'll probably see your own council's stand coming to an event near you too. So do keep your eyes peeled.

Well at least I got the opportunity to show my support for Chicken Lovers.

Yes indeed, I can confirm that chicken lovers do hate waste, as do Apple Lovers, Lamb Lovers and Potato lovers. To see the rest of the fabulous photos that accompany the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, pop over to WRAP's, where you'll find lots of tips and recipes to help you plan for reducing waste this Christmas. Even Arctic Aunt is available, hot off the press, to help quash some of those freezer myths.

So having hunted down recycling officers and been introduced to Arctic Aunt, it looks like I've got no excuse not to go on my own Freezer Expedition in my little part of Suffolk this weekend. The mission, to start using up stuff before Christmas kicks in and to make room for more tasty leftovers.

Tv presenter, Sue Perkins, is also doing her bit too, as shown in the video below. It would be great if you could also join in. Just remember to send out the search party if I'm not back by Monday!


Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Waste Watch makes recycling fun

Fun & Frolics at the Waste Educators Annual Conference
L-R: Beverlie Warman, Laura Silverstone, Steven Lawson & me
with Waste Watch's Maree Waller

Yesterday I had the pleasure of participating in the Annual Waste Educators Conference, organised by the wonderful environmental charity Waste Watch.

It was a truly inspirational day, with workshops covering a wide range of accessible ideas to make the concept of waste reduction fun, especially for the younger audiences in the UK. There were also presentations from Kirstie Hawkes of Procter & Gamble about the ways in which the company is slimming down its packaging, and Lindsay Coyle from WRAP who talked about exciting plans for addressing food waste in schools.

The sessions kicked off with my presentation about the zero waste challenge that I took last year. To anyone who was there, I apologise now for going into extra time. Regular visitors to the blog already know I come with an appropriate warning "Talks hindlegs off proverbial donkey" and if it's on the subject of zero waste, it's most definitely a case of duck and take cover.

However, it was a real privilege to have the opportunity to chat to many of the recycling officers and waste educators who work up and down the length-and-breadth of the country to promote waste reduction within their communities. Ideas that particularly caught my eye were Green Awards winner Resource Cumbria's fantastic R Factor Campaign and Buckinghamshire County Council's Recycled Clothes show.

For me, the last workshop of the day, was most definitely the icing on the cake, offering lots of ideas to teach recycling to foundation-stage children, through the appeal of stories and song. Having a 5-year-old and also being an active governor of our local primary school, this appealed to me greatly and Maree Waller from Waste Watch was an excellent coach, opening up our imaginations to turn well-known songs into recycling messages.

Yes - she even had us huddled into groups, trying to make up our own songs that would appeal to the young. I can tell you with only about 15 minutes to play with, it was a bit of a challenge.

But our group (pictured above) featuring Beverlie Warman from Wokingham Borough Council, Enfield's Laura Silverstone and Steven Lawson, from Luton Borough Council, managed to come up with a festive little ditty, which I'll be singing to my children later.

Are you ready to join in? Come on, loosen your inhibitions, gather your colleagues or your families and get your singing voices at the ready to join in the fun. You'll already know the tune.

Jingle Bells
Rubbish smells
Don't throw it all away
Oh what fun you can have
wasting less each day!


Jingle bells
Rubbish smells
Recycle all your tins,
Paper, cards and empty jars
get made into new things!


Jingle bells
Rubbish smells
Compost all your greens,
food, leaves and Christmas trees.
It keeps the planet clean!


And there you have it! As you can see, we were beginning to get into the flow and just in time for the festive season too.

Of course I can't resist asking whether you've got any similar ditties to share? If so, jot them down in the comments below and get me singing - but make sure you keep them clean because I blush very easily you know.

So, while you're scratching your heads, I'm off into Bury St Edmunds to see if I can catch up with the folk from St Edmundsbury Borough Council at their Love Food Hate Waste stand, which is in the market today. If I ask nicely, I might get the chance to have a go on their smoothie bike.

Thanks again to all those at the Waste Watch conference who gave me a warm welcome yesterday. As ever, I've come away even more inspired than I was before.


For more information about Waste Watch and its work, please visit the organisation's website:


Monday, 23 November 2009

Charity Auction for Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund

Today in Cumbria people are still struggling to get to work and school. It's no surprise given the severity of the recent floods. As well as the terrible consequences affecting people's homes and lives, sixteen bridges have also collapsed. I can't begin to imagine what it must be like for people in the area, but I can fully understand one woman's desire to help.

Kat, at Housewife Confidential, is helping to raise money for the Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund, by organising an auction, which will be hosted on Bambino Goodies. The idea is to create a series of auction ‘lots’ of varying levels to sell in a silent auction. The auction will take place Monday 30th November – Sunday 6th December, the proceeds of which will be donated in full to the recovery fund.

So how can you help?

Donate: The auction will need lots of items of differing values.
Promote: If you know any donors, it would be great if you could contact them and also raise awareness of the auction on your blog.
Buy: Visit the auction everyday and place your bid.

More information about how you can help is available at Housewife Confidential, in this document here. Alternatively email


Sunday, 22 November 2009

What women want...according to the Independent on Sunday

Well, there's never a quiet moment in the Almost Average household, even on Sundays, especially as I woke up this morning to find my face in a double-page-spread of the Independent on Sunday, along with David Cameron, Gordon Brown and three other bloggers, Liz at Violet Posy, Sandy Calico and TwentySomethingMum Claire, all members of the British Mummy Bloggers network.

The feature which discusses the importance of the female vote to the outcome of the next election comes hot on the heels of Tory leader David Cameron's live Mumsnet chat on Thursday. The online version can be read in full by clicking here.

Compared to the length of our interviews, our quotes in the Sunday paper are rather short. In fact I am billed as "Let-down Lady", due to my concerns with the current Labour party after being a long-term voter. And it's true, I don't have faith in Gordon Brown's leadership and if the election happened tomorrow, I am undecided about which party I would vote into government.

In my interview with the reporter, I had commented at length about the current reductions in funding for education and my worries over how this will impact on future generations, as schools are our foundation for the future. I also discussed the issues at the other end of the spectrum, with my worries over the long waiting lists in Wales for my mother to get treatment for her health problems. Neither she or my stepfather are at the age where they would have to sell their property to go into a care-home, but the older they get that is something else we will have to confront and I worry about their future welfare too.

On matters of the environment, I also mentioned that sustainability should be at the heart of government policies, no matter which party is elected as it is paramount that our country's resources are managed effectively across public and private sectors and in our homes.

But I also praised the hard work of the current government on pushing recycling targets and the move towards zero waste, and said if the conservatives came into power, how I hope they would build on this rather than undermine it. The Tory plans on this appear to be pushing the right buttons - and following my last blogpost, I have emailed David Cameron with an invitation for him to provide further comment.

I have to admit that it hasn't been an entirely comfortable experience discussing politics in public. I am normally the kind of person that keeps my opinions in this area firmly to myself, probably for fear of looking an idiot and the assumption that actually everybody else knows better than me. I am not a natural moaner and prefer to offer up-beat praise instead.

However thanks to my recent appearance in the "live commentary box" at the Times Online's Alpha Mummy blog and the publication of today's feature, I feel like I've finally "come out".

Maybe it's also a sign that I have finally grown up, with a desire to provide the best possible future for my children as well as others across the country who need the government's support.

How about you, are you a political animal or someone like me who has traditionally preferred to watch others have their say? Maybe you're a bit of both. I'd love to know.

So what DO women want when it comes to the next election? when I rang my mother this morning to get her position, all she had to say was...

"Well, they're all as bad as each other!"

So it looks like Dave and Gordon will have a tough job getting my mum's vote too.

Politics eh. Well now that I've had my two-penneth, I'm off to empty my bin!


Thursday, 19 November 2009

Chatting live about David Cameron at Alpha Mummy

Today I'm getting away from the bins and the quarrels over who's going to squash the cartons. Instead there are more exciting plans afoot.

At 1.45 I will be pinning on my British Mummy Bloggers badge and popping up at the Times Online's Alpha Mummy blog to join Lifestyle Editor Jennifer Howze and blogger Susanna aka A Modern Mother as well as Nixdminx and Potty Mummy for real-time analysis of David Cameron's live chat on Mumsnet.

The leader of the Conservative Party has been invited onto the parenting forum to discuss matters that are important to its members. The questions will be posed live but many of the issues to be discussed can already be seen here.

Although I will be unable to address questions to Mr Cameron, I hope that something will come up about the Conservatives' plans for reducing waste. I would love to know more about their "Responsibility Deal on waste", a voluntary scheme encouraging producers to cut back on the production of waste and improve disposal. They also say they would encourage councils to adopt a scheme to incentivise householders to recycle. I assume this would mean a wider roll-out of the RecycleBank scheme already in place at Windsor & Maidenhead.

The Tory leader is not the first politician to be questioned by the Mumsnet members. Only a month ago, Prime Minister Gordon Brown was in the hotseat and look how he fared. I can see it is going to be very interesting indeed.

Well it looks like things are going to get even hotter, the nearer to the election we get, as leaders try to win the family vote.

Perhaps politics isn't so different from watching my children argue over who's going to squash the cartons after all.

So, if you want to see how David Cameron gets on this afternoon, pop over to Alpha Mummy at 1.45pm, where you're invited to join in the discussion too.


Well it was interesting to witness how David Cameron engaged with the Mumsnet forum and how his responses were received and I would like to thank Jennifer Howze over at Alpha Mummy for inviting me into the commentary box.

With topics such as childcare vouchers, flexible working opportunities, and educational reform taking priority, it was no surprise that the issue of waste wasn't introduced. The chat only lasted an hour and David Cameron was very slow in his responses.

But in responding to the questions that were asked I am not convinced that the leader of the Conservative Party fared any better than Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who himself received a thumbs-down from many members last month. It was a difficult format for focused political discussion, lacking in opportunities to probe responses further, especially as there were so many different topics to cover - not to mention the issue of technical hitches.

However, what a great opportunity for forum members to pitch their concerns and I hope that David Cameron's office reads the backlog of issues and takes note. With regard to future guests, members have already suggested that questions should be pre-arranged but presented on arrival.

Now, talking of questions. I think it might be time to drop David Cameron a line or two and see what he has to say on the subject of zero waste.


Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Well I have thought about moving to Cambridge with my Tetra Paks...

Enjoying The Big Weekend in Cambridge, earlier this summer.

Okay I'm not that obsessed that I would up sticks and move over the county border just because of new recycling facilities, but it is really great to hear the news that Cambridge City Council is the latest Local Authority to introduce kerbside collection for cartons. That's something we don't have the benefit of in Bury St Edmunds. Currently all our drinks cartons have to be taken to the local reycling centres for collection.

However since April 2007, Tetra Pak and the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE UK) have made significant investments in the carton recycling infrastructure in the UK. These days, cartons can be recycled in 86% of UK Local Authority areas, with one in five Local Authorities now collecting cartons at kerbside.

Fay Dashper, Recycling Operations Manager at Tetra Pak, commented:
"By enabling cartons to be recycled though kerbside collections, councils like Cambridge City are now at the forefront of recycling efforts in the UK. They are helping their residents to recycle even more of their cartons, more easily. We and our industry partners are committed to increasing the level of carton recycling in the UK and our work with local councils across the country takes us and people living in these areas one step closer to achieving that."

Of course, whether you're lucky enough to have a kerbside facility or have to deliver your cartons to your local Household Waste Recycling Centre, don't forget to wash and squash them first.

By flattening your cartons, lorries can carry at least three times as many, which means fewer trucks on the road.

And on that note, I could really do with your help now....

Do you remember I entered Tetra Pak's "How do you squash yours" competition. Well... the exciting news is that our family video, called With Tantrums and Tears, has made it to the shortlist along with some other fabulous entries.

But it's now up to you.

We really now need your vote if we're to be in with a chance of winning one of the super-dooper prizes that are on offer. The kids are very excited about having made it to the final and as for Mr A...he's already deliberating between the benefits of despatching me off overseas on a volunteer mission or enjoying the delights of a new Eco-TV should we win.

So please, please, please drop over to the competition website by clicking on the picture below and take a look at the top ten videos that have been selected by the judges revealing some whacky ways of squashing cartons.

If you like ours, select the "With Tantrums and Tears" button and click on the "Cast your Vote Now" post-it note. And to raise awareness of the campaign, please email, Facebook or Twitter your friends too. I know they might vote for someone else, but it's all for a good cause.

So, thank you dear readers. I hope some of these lovely videos help raise a heart-warming smile, especially ours..... And of course, we won't be moving to Cambridge quite yet. We're having too much fun squashing cartons in the Suffok countryside.

Voting closes at Midnight on 29th November!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Steps towards a thrifty Christmas

Friends and family should close their eyes now, as I don't want to ruin the festive surprise that awaits.

Inspired by fellow blogger, VioletPosy's Thrifty Christmas week, I took a break from blogging and tweeting on Monday to venture out into the garden to prune one of the Photinia shrubs - also known as a Red Robin. An appropriate name I thought for my festive plan, which was to strip the leaves and bind them together to make a twig star Christmas decoration.

It was a bit fiddly but with practice will become much easier. The best bit is, as I've only used scraps of fabric to tie the twigs together, this is a really thrifty idea indeed and can be made for pennies. And of course, it is a Zero Waste pressie as the leaves are already being composted.

So now you know how I'll be spending my evenings from now on.

For more inspirational ideas, pop over to, where you'll find lots of gorgeous ideas, both thrifty and otherwise.


Thursday, 12 November 2009

CIWM Awards 2009: behind the scenes in the world of waste

Apologies for my silence on the blog, but I've been off gallivanting again with Mr A, this time living it up at The Dorchester in London.

The occasion was the CIWM Awards for Environmental Excellence, held yesterday, to recognise excellence within the resources and wastes management industry.

And look, I didn't even have to sneak in through the back door. I was there in my official capacity as a finalist in the Recycling Champion category.

And yes, I can assure you that behind the cool, calm exterior, I was very nervous as they read through each of the nominations, especially as this professional cameraman behind me was poised ready with his camera to film the winners as they walked on stage...

...not to mention the opportunity to shake hands with Dragons' Den investor Deborah Meaden.

But no sooner had the nerves started to kick in, listening to Deborah Meaden read the finalists names, they were gone again, as the 2009 Recycling Champion was announced.

Well, I didn't gain the title on this occasion, but I am really pleased for the winner that did...

.... none other than the fantastic Tipton Litter Watch, a community-led environmental charity based in the West Midlands. And I must say they were extremely worthy winners indeed.

The judges had been so impressed by their "Think before you throw" educational programme, recognising not just their hard work, but also the potential for their community oriented model to be replicated around the country, that they also scooped the overall CIWM Award for Environmental Excellence.

(Photo credit, CIWM)

And here are Project Manager Lindsay Richmond and Trustee & Vice-Chair Bob Lloyd Jnr, clutching the much coveted awards.

It felt a real privilege to be a finalist in the same category, and Lindsay very graciously allowed me to momentarily share in the celebrations before she was whizzed off to be interviewed.

But don't worry this won't be the last that you've heard about Tipton Litter Watch. As a governor of a local primary school, I love the work that they've been doing with young people and how it is linked into the National Curriculum, so I am hoping to feature them in more detail on the blog quite soon.

But the celebrations didn't end there. I found myself in very good company, as fellow guests on our table scooped up awards in other categories.

Here is Neil Dugard, Development Director of The Local Epicurean Ltd, representing Thornton's Budgens who won the Sustainable Retailer of the Year award.

And it's easy to see why, for franchise owner, Andrew Thornton has been credited with implementing environmental initiatives that meet the needs of customers at his two stores, both of which are based in London - Crouch End & Belsize Park.

Not only has this included instore collection facilities for clothes, batteries, printer cartridges and small items of WEEE, but through their Pennies for Plastic scheme, they have also ditched the plastic bag in favour of donating money to local schools and charities.

So far they have raised a whopping £40,000.

That's right £40,000.

If that's not exciting enough, what also impressed the judges was that the two stores have reduced their landfill waste to just 6%, diverting the remaining 94% from landfill thanks to innovative recycling schemes, giving away whatever food they can and collecting the rest for converting to energy.

This is one shop I would absolutely love to have around the corner.

The excitement continued as another of the twelve awards was scooped up by finalists from our table, this time in the more technical category of Innovative Practice in Waste Management & Resource Recovery.

Here are Jane Hughes, the Joint Waste Manager for Cheshire West & Chester Council and Dr Chris Randall, who accepted the award for having helped lead the way with the introduction of Low Cal High Temperature flares at closed landfill sites. The technology that they have adopted will enable the continuous extraction of methane, preventing the gas from being released into the atmosphere.

This has just been a snapshop of the CIWM awards. It would have been great to have met all the winners, but there simply wasn't the time. However, the full list can be found on the CIWM awards site at My only regret of the day is that I didn't get to meet the other finalist in the Recycling Champion category, Sarah Blenkinsop, master composter and author of the Compost Bin blog.

So having had the honour of being judged a finalist at yesterday's awards event, I would like to publicly thank Suffolk County Council for having nominated me, particularly Anna Kowalczyk who has been very encouraging in her support.

It was a tremendous privilege to have been selected and to have had the opportunity to celebrate amongst those who are leading the way in what has become an exciting and innovative sector.

Of course, I wouldn't have been there if it hadn't been for St Edmundsbury inspiring me with their Zero Waste project nor the fabulous community of readers who have engaged with the blog as well as those who follow my Twitter ramblings. Despite not winning, I would like to thank you once again for joining in with my rubbish antics and supporting me with your ideas.

I would also like to thank James, Sally and Sharon of BBC Radio Suffolk's James Hazell show for their constant support, enabling me to share recycling tips with listeners across the county and reaching an audience that goes well beyond the scope of this blog. It's been great having them rooting for me from the very first day I sat in the studio like a rabbit caught in the headlights. And ever since, it's been fun and frolics all the way. We even managed a quick update on this morning's programme with, would you believe, a live recycling test to boot! You can catch it on Listen Again (Just fast forward to 3 hours 11 minutes into the show).

So, I have now returned to Suffolk even more enthused than ever and my passion for promoting the waste reduction message is even stronger than it was before I arrived at The Dorchester yesterday.

In her closing speech, Deborah Meaden's message to the waste industry was that it needs to shout louder about its achievements, innovation and the opportunities that lie ahead.

I wholeheartedly agree. And as consumers, we need to do that too, continuing to use word-of-mouth to promote the ideas, businesses and services that help us manage our waste for the better.

So on that particular note I will leave you with a final image, which I snapped just around the corner from The Dorchester.

Seeing on-street recycling bins always makes me cheery, but this one in particular brought on a really big smile. I feel it needs a caption, don't you!


The CIWM Awards for Environmental Excellence are now in their third year and are hosted and organised by The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management.


Monday, 9 November 2009

Killing Thyme but it isn't all bad news!

Continuing on a gardening theme, I thought I'd offer an update on our growing antics this year.

But I am very sorry to admit that as well as being a worm murderer, this year I have also been responsible for killing thyme too as well as a few other green and lovely things.

The problem is I am not naturally green-fingered on account of me having great aspirations but insufficient time to achieve them. And it's been a great lesson to me that I shouldn't invest time in the garden unless I am able to commit regular hours to it its upkeep, otherwise our best intentions just go to waste along with the produce itself.

You see it's not just the thyme that got the chop - or in some instances the chomp - it was the beans & peas in the front garden too. I can now admit that planting a small vegetable garden next to a "snail hotel" in the shape of a Phormium was not exactly the best brainwave I've had this year. Neither was planting lots of salad leaves just because they were easy to grow, when we don't actually eat much of them as a rule, whether they come from the back of the garden or from a supermarket plastic bag.

Seeing a lettuce bolt is not a rewarding sight.

This is why I am taking these lessons learned as the foundation for going forth for next year's garden antics and instead of growing lots of different things next year, we will be focusing on what's worked and leaving behind what hasn't.

Where the Thyme was on borrowed time, at least the runner beans jogged along quite happily as did the tomatoes grew in such abundance, it's only now that I've pulled in the remaining harvest.

You can see the last fruits of our luck and fortune here. This weekend, we even pulled the last of our potatoes from the pots in which they had been planted. Some of the beans have gone to seed, but we're keeping those as presents to share with other novice growers as part of our Thrifty Christmas plans.

So our plans for next year will focus on tomatoes, along with another crop of runner beans, which were resoundingly successful this season.

However, all this talk of reigning things in doesn't stop me from dreaming. I am currently re-reading an excellent book, which was published this summer called "The Alternative Kitchen Garden: an A-Z", written by the wonderful Emma Cooper of

As well as advice about beans and tomatoes, the book covers a whole range of inspirational ideas for novice gardeners like me as well as experienced green-fingered folk who want to try something different.

With Emma's advice, there's hope for me after all, but one thing's for sure, next time I'm definitely not going to run before I can walk.

So apologies for my green-fingered failures this year. Next year, I promise I will do better.


Thursday, 5 November 2009

Cluck, cluck,cluck, cluck, cluck!

So here they are. My three little hens: Snowflake, Chickie and Speckledy (named by the children, of course - can you guess which is which?).

I've not given them much blogspace since they arrived in the spring, partly because I've been very busy with so many other things, not least sorting out their poop - yes chickens do a lot of that as I've come to learn. However, as my thoughts this week are focusing on the garden and how composting and wormeries can help with food waste, I thought it would be great time to share news of how my hens are getting on....or indeed how I'm getting on with my hens.

I remember when I announced that we were getting chickens.

"Bloody hell!" exclaimed my mother in here lilting Welsh accent. "What ew getting them for? Havven ew got enough on yewer hands woman?"

Then I'm sure CompostWoman sent a note saying "Just wait till you see what they do to your garden".


But I ignored the advice and took the bull by the horns, or rather went to the hen breeder just off the A14 past Newmarket and came back with three hens.

And within one week the Speckledy Hen was laying. Within a month the other two were following suit.

But my mother was right. I have had to juggle around routines to fit in the extra work. But that's okay, because what it means is that I am now happier to stay at home watching the hens than gallivanting around town shopping.

Chickens have an amazing therapeutic and calming effect. I just adore watching them and their funny little movements, scratching with their feet, and pecking at the ground.

But I often think of CompostWoman's wise words about what they would do to our little suburban garden.

It's all come true. All the leaves that are spread on the lawn are thanks to the girls getting busy hunting under the bushes.

And the view from my living room has changed a lot, on account of them digging out the gravel from the flower beds. This is the scene from the French windows as I write my blog this morning.

We don't mind the leaves so much or indeed the poop that gets dropped on the lawn. Indeed parts of our garden have never looked so good.

But it's the gravel digging that has caused us the greatest problems, because the stones have spread across the lawn, killing the grass in many places.

So as a temporary measure (while we work on redesigning our space), Mr A built a chicken run to keep the girls in one place.

What he hadn't anticipated however was how the chickens would plot their great escape, particularly Chickie who appears to be the ring leader.

First she dug under the fence and was successful, so we soon put a stop to that and blocked her escape route.

Then she learned out to jump up onto the chicken wire and with a bit of a wobble was the free bird she wanted to be.

But I put a stop to that, by digging in some extra canes to block her path to freedom.

However, not to be beaten, her final "piece de resistance" has involved jumping on top of the eglu henhouse, flapping her wings and launching herself over the fence, to the admiration of the other hens she's left behind.

She's most definitely worthy of a part in the animated movie "Chicken Run". In fact it was Chickie who sent me into a Benny Hill kind of dance, with me and the boys following her up the stairs and down again the first time she "broke into" our house.

Despite our "teething trouble" with the garden, they are the most wonderful pets. The children adore them and so do their friends. Where my youngest boy is a natural in picking them up and handling them, my eldest son has been more cautious. But even he can catch and hold them now too.

And as for the scraps, they help out in many ways, supporting my 5 year old bin saboteur with his leftovers. He's not much better than when I first started The Rubbish Diet, and still leaves half-munched apples and a compulsory amount of pasta or rice, no matter how little is served on his plate.

So the chickens are now my best friends, when it comes to reducing my little one's food waste. Better on their hips than mine. Anything that's too spicy for them, I add to the wormery.

And the thanks we get are the eggs we collect each morning. Mostly three a day, except when they are broody, but even then Chickie, the Calder Ranger, kept laying every day, when all around her had stopped. They've been so productive, I've only had to buy eggs on one occasion since we've had them.

At least that's some compensation for the destruction of the garden.

And long may it continue...the eggs that is...not the gravel!


Tuesday, 3 November 2009

You really don't need much space to compost

Look, you can even get a wormery for your desk at work!
available from Bubble House

Hot on the heels of yesterday's post about my new Worm Cafe wormery, comes the news from Recycle Now that lack of space in the garden is one of the main reasons given by many people for not composting garden and household waste.

However according to Recycle Now’s Home Composting campaign, it need not be a barrier and with so many composting and other options available, anyone with outside space – around 95 per cent of households - should be able to give it a go.

Recycle Now's research reveals that over a third of us already compost garden and household waste in one way or another, using a compost bin or heap. Of those that don’t, one in four say this is because they do not have the space.

But as we've already seen on this blog, even the smallest outdoor spaces can be used for making compost.

Carl Nichols, Head of Home Composting at Recycle Now said:
“With so much choice available, anyone with outside space can compost at home. Even those of us with just a small patio or balcony, can do our bit, for example by using a wormery to turn waste food into free food for plants- indoors or out."

“Increasing numbers of people are starting to compost at home and we want these people to pass on their tips to their friends and families. By composting at home, not only are we reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill each year, we are also producing a rich and nutritious plant food with a wide range of uses for vegetables, indoor and outdoor plants and even lawns.”

To demonstrate that time and space needn’t be an issue and to bust other myths about composting, Recycle Now has put together a beginners’ guide:

1. Heap or bin? A compost heap is perhaps one of the most traditional methods for composting. However, compost bins are now widely available and popular as they are simple to purchase, construct and use.

2. What type of bin is for me? There are compost bins of all shapes and sizes, to suit your gardening needs.

· Small garden? There are many alternative designs of compost bin to suit all garden needs such as beehive designs or bins made out of recycled wood.
· Balcony or porch? A wormery is the ideal solution for someone with little or no garden. · Lots of space? The opportunities are endless – there are a range of larger bins available from many Local Authorities and most garden centres.
· No outside space? Some councils offer a separate collection for food or garden waste. Why not check with your local council to see if this option is available in your area.

3. Garden design: If you are concerned about how your garden will look when you start composting, build the bin into the design of your garden. Compost bins could be disguised behind surround made of either brick or timber (or stone if in keeping with your garden), or you can put trellis in front of your bin and grow climbers over it for a really natural screen.

4. Getting started: Simply add a selection of ‘greens and browns’ to the bin for the perfect mix. ‘Greens’ are quick to rot and provide important nitrogen and moisture – try tea bags, vegetable peelings, old flowers and nettles, or spent bedding plants. ‘Browns’ such as cardboard, fallen leaves, twigs and branches are slower to rot, but provide carbon and fibre to the bin.

5. The end product: After nine months to a year your compost will be mature enough to use. You’ll know it’s ready when the compost has turned into a dark, crumbly soil-like substance. It can be used to enrich borders and plants. If you have little use for compost, consider using a wormery as this will produce less compost but plenty of plant food. For further information about home composting and how to get started, as well as advice and information to help you along the way, visit


To support Recycle_Now's campaign I would love to feature photos of your home composting solution as well as details of the most unusual things you compost. I'll publish my favourites on the blog at the end of the month. Either email at karen[at]therubbishdiet[dot]co[dot]uk or send me a link via Twitter.


Monday, 2 November 2009

Getting all wiggly at the worm cafe

Don't you love it when folk give you a second chance in life?

It makes you feel grateful doesn't it, especially when you're carrying a whole load of guilt about being a...

...Worm Murderer!

Yes a killer of defenceless little wiggly things.

I know. I am guilty as charged m'lord and I don't feel good about it.

Which is why I am thankful for a lovely gift I received from Wiggly Wigglers, which arrived on my doorstep just over a month ago.

It was their latest wormery...appropriately called the Worm Cafe, giving me the opportunity to make up for my misdemeanours.

The Can-o-Worms wormery that I'd previously been using had been going quite well until we hit winter last year, when I really couldn't be bothered to take my peelings and food scraps along the path, past the spikey plants and delve amongst the wet bushes just to feed the worms. It was much easier to bung everything in the Bokashi bin.

If the wormery had been smaller, we could have simply stored it outside the kitchen door and would have been far more convenient to use. However as useful as the Can-o-Worms was, it was just too big to do that and would have got in the way. I know, because I tried it.

But the Worm Cafe is perfectly shaped to fit into the smallest of corners. And just like the Can-o-Worms, it is easy to set up and comes complete with bedding, worms, a lime mix, worm treat and moisture mat when bundled with the Value Pack. It's also made from recycled plastic, so that's great news too.

I'm now pleased to say that our Worm Cafe has now been established just outside our kitchen for over a month and from a convenience perspective is very easy to use, particularly because its lid rests on the edge, so you don't have to juggle that while adding the scraps.

And as we no longer throw so much away these days, it is now the perfect size for my family, especially as we also have chickens and I no longer use the Bokashi bins.

I am confident that at last we've got a fool-proof system but I suppose I'm going to have to get through the Winter and see the first compost before I can truly celebrate.

In the meantime, I'm pleased to pass on our old wormery to our Beaver Scout leader and make my promise to be better behaved with my new batch of worms.

More information about the Worm Cafe can be found at

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