Monday, 21 January 2013

Happy anniversary Rubbish Diet! Five years old today.

Distracted by the snow,  today's school closure and the prospect of sledging with the 8 year old, it almost passed me by that today is the fifth anniversary of when I launched The Rubbish Diet blog. 

So forgive my momentary lapse of celebration as well as my now very loud 'whoop-whoop'!

5 years!  Blimmin' 'eck!

Back then, I didn't think I'd still be blogging about rubbish even a few months later, let alone five years on.  And as for the amount of rubbish I've avoided and the money saved, that's worth celebrating in itself. 

So, thank you to ALL who have inspired me and to everyone who has taken steps to make a positive difference to help reduce the amount of waste our society generates.

I hope this is going to be a very exciting year in the world of bin-slimming and as I turned over the calendar this year, I realised that for the first year ever The Rubbish Diet is actually now bigger than this blog, developing a life of its own out there in the big wide world, like a small child that you wave off to school for the very first time.

Following hot on the heels of the first Rubbish Diet Shropshire trial, which took place last year,  it feels appropriate that today, of all days, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust launches its own Rubbish Diet challenge, engaging 15 households in the process of slimming their bins over an eight week period, following the very same method that I took back in 2008.

I can't wait to find out how they all get on and I look forward to heading down to Wiltshire to help celebrate during their finale, a Zero Waste Week, which takes place in March.

And March will indeed be a hectic month in more ways than one.  Not only is there a fair chance that you could see 'Yours Truly' making an appearance on The One Show, but I am also looking forward to representing the Zero Waste Alliance UK at an International Zero Waste Symposium, which takes place in San Francisco.  I am, as you can probably guess, both nervous and excited!

And that's just March.  Gawd knows what will happen during the rest of the year.... well, I have an inkling, but for now will just cross my fingers and wait, and burst into song only when necessary.

So, thank you all again for your inspiration, support and engagement.  It's you that keeps me going as well as that HUGE pile of unnecessary waste!

I'm now looking forward to the next five years and encouraging even more people to join in and help tackle it together. 

So good luck to everyone who takes up the challenge this year.  I hope it goes well for all involved.  It's really great to have even more people on board and I believe we can make a huge difference.


Now, I'm off to celebrate by dodging some snowballs and enjoying that sledge before the opportunity disappears...  ah, such imagery!


For more information about the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust Rubbish Diet challenge, follow their project blog, which will feature all their latest updates. Also Wiltshire blogger, Jen, is joining the WWT challenge and you can follow her progress at Make Do and Mend Year. More news on Rubbish Diet Shropshire's project will be announced soon.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

We've caught the swapping bug! Sustainable Bury launches its first Swap Shop

L-R: Pippa, Fiona & me: Some of the founding members of Sustainable Bury, at our very first Swap Shop. Photo credit: Sandy Jackson. 

I've been to several 'Swap shops' or 'Give & Take' days organised by Transition Town groups around Suffolk. the last one being being held by Sustainable Bungay in September.  I must confess that when I left that event, I was both quite jealous that Bury St Edmunds didn't have such an occasion to get the good town-folk out swapping, but also very much inspired to do something about it.

After all, in Bungay, what I witnessed was not just a great way of motivating people to declutter their unwanted items and let someone else take them home for free, but there was also a fantastic vibrant community spirit.  

Now left to my own devices, that inspiration might have remained a pipe dream due to competing priorities.  However, my visit to Bungay coincided with the gathering of like-minded folk in Bury St Edmunds - mainly in a pub - to organise a new Transition Town community group called Sustainable Bury.  As we were planning our events, I mentioned how much I'd love to bring the Swap Shop idea under our umbrella.  All it took was someone to suggest enthusiastically that we should run one just after Christmas and Bob's your uncle, the first community event for Sustainable Bury was born!  Such is the power of team-work.

The posters went up, leaflets were distributed and we received some great mentions on Radio Suffolk and excellent coverage in the Bury Free Press, but it was still quite nerve-wracking yesterday morning as we got ready for our 'big event'.  Would the good folk of Bury St Edmunds turn up?

Setting out the tables at the St John's Centre.

Thankfully, yes they did!

Including Kim, one of Bury St Edmunds' entertainment organisers.  I never did find out whether she took those funky specs home, but I really hope she did!

The idea was that people could drop off items that they no longer wanted and take anything away that they wished, for free!  If they didn't have anything to bring, they could simply leave a donation at their discretion.  Any items that were left, we simply pledged to donate them to the charity shops, dotted along St John's Street.

As with any Reuse event, the swap shop featured a real eclectic range of stuff.  I loved these little Saki cups.

And this unopened Body Shop gift pack was certainly a great find for its new owner.

As was this Past Times tea cosy. proclaiming "Where there's tea there's hope"!  That might become my new mantra.

I'm really pleased that for our first event we had around 30 people, perhaps even more.  To be honest, we were so busy listening to all the great feedback from the visitors who dropped by that it was really tricky to keep count.   In fact, the feedback that we received was so encouraging, we have decided to bring forward plans for our next Swap Shop, which we will now run in April.

I'm now looking forward to the Swap Shop becoming a regular event that supports the Reuse infrastructure in Suffolk, in a way that is truly fun and brings the community together.   For those who struggle to get stuff into town, it would also be wonderful for satellite events to be hosted by community centres and schools in the the surrounding estates and villages and I would certainly be happy to help get those rolling.

However, Sustainable Bury is not just about encouraging reuse and reducing waste, there are other great plans on the cards too.  There is a real wealth of ideas coming through, so if you have time, do check out this great piece by the Bury Free Press from yesterday's event, which also features a video of our members, sharing some thoughts about what they'd love the group to achieve.


Sustainable Bury really is in its infancy, so while we wait for its website/blog to be created, more information can be found at the Facebook page or by following @SustainableBury on Twitter.   If you are local to Bury St Edmunds and would like to get involved,  please do get in touch via Facebook/Twitter, email me or alternatively leave a note below and I will be pleased to pass on your details to the team.  The next planning meeting is this Tuesday, 15 January, 7.30pm at the Fox Inn, in Eastgate Street.  All are welcome.

More information about Transition Towns can be found at

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Don't let food waste be next year's shock headline - my two penneth

Well Happy New Year everyone.  I can see it's kicked off in fine style!

Having just got used to my back-to-school routine and having my first day at the laptop, this morning I found my Twitter stream awash with the topic of food waste and the media's shock that statistics published by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers reveal that 30%-50% of the world's food never gets eaten.

These are huge figures to contemplate, whichever way you look at it, with growers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers all playing a key part or being affected.

But this isn't the first time that the headlines have been full to the brim with the horror of food waste.  Here's a random sample, taking us back to 2007, when I first became aware of the issue.

2012 - Unilever calls on companies to tackle food waste mountain

2011 - UK families are wasting less food but are told to do more

2010 - UK Restaurants waste 600,000 tons of food a year

2009 - Elimination of food waste could lift 1billion out of hunger, say campaigners

2008 - Brown urges Britons to cut food waste

2007 - Call to use leftovers and food waste

Despite making inroads into the waste mountain, I am very much concerned that each spell of outrage even when followed by best intentions, dwindles back towards stunted action, as we move on - for whatever reason - to other competing issues in our lives and organisations.

However, with austerity biting at politics, retailers as well as the householder, 2013 could very well be the year that we look back on as being a watershed period in all our efforts to tackle this huge issue.  There is certainly enough expertise around us to help, with WRAP offering a bank of resources for the hospitality and retail sectors as well as its Love Food Hate Waste website for consumers.  And saving money is a bloody good carrot to wave in front of our noses.

But even so, it can be very easy to slip into old routines when hit by everyday pressures, and that, especially for the householder, is one of the greatest problems in tackling food waste.

If that sounds like you, there are simple steps to help you grab the problem by the balls, and which will help to ensure that you're not contributing to next year's food waste horror story.

1. Make yourself accountable.   Tell your family, friends, Facebook pals, Tweeters or blog readers that you are determined to tackle food waste.  If you think it'll help to keep you motivated, get them to sponsor you for a good cause.

2. Set a deadline to help give you a focus.   For example, trying to reduce it over the next couple of months.  It takes a while for new habits to form, so commit to going the distance rather than the novelty of a short sprint.

3. Start a food waste diary, to identify what type of food goes to waste and why.  This will help uncover regular waste habits.  And remember, throwing that mouldy fruit into the compost bin is still a waste, even if you think you're going to get some 'free' compost out of it.

4. Use a separate bin to monitor your food waste.   Then rejoice when you see it reduce.

5. Stop buying things that you regularly throw away.  If you reduce the problem at source, you'll have pounds in your pocket and less food in the landfill heap.  Check out my ornamental melons story as a very good example.  If you have regular leftovers when buying takeaways, just buy less next time.

6. Freeze it!  Food labels now advise that you can freeze certain products up until the use-by date.

7. Visiting is a must!  You'll get top advice on portions, recipes for leftovers and food storage.

Of course, if you've got fire in your belly and want to do more to either understand or tackle the wider issues of food waste, there are various avenues available, including

  • Join food waste campaigner Tristram Stuart and his Feeding the 5000 campaign to help bring an end to food waste in the retail and supply chain.
  • Follow Kerry McCarthy MP and her work commitment to drive change through parliament.  See last year's blogpost about her Food Waste Bill.  And of course, you can always lobby your local MP to get behind the issue.
  • Contribute to the WI Great Food Debate, the NFWI's series of debates about Food Security, which reaches at the very heart of the organisation.

And last but not least, if you live in Wiltshire, Shropshire or Suffolk and want to get involved in slimming your waste-line either on your own or as part of a community project, keep your eyes peeled for some fantastic Rubbish Diet initiatives coming up.

For instance Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is kicking off the new year with a county-wide Rubbish Diet, which will mentor householders through slimming their bins over a period of 8 weeks. If we get through to the next round of the Nesta Waste Reduction Challenge competition, Rubbish Diet Shropshire will be hot on their heels in the springtime, with a choir, school and football club all joining in with the bin slimming antics.  And in Suffolk, my own neck of the woods, there'll be a lot of fun and games involving local well-known personalities who will be leading the way too.   Tackling waste will be a key topic for each of these projects.

Even if you're not a resident of any of these counties, hopefully you'll be inspired to take action from a distance and come together in National Zero Waste Week, which will be held in September, where there'll be another chance to work together to focus on reducing the amount of food waste, and other superfluous stuff that ends up in our bins.

Hopefully, this should all make for a great 2013, especially if we can pull together to ensure there are no shock food waste headlines this time next year.

And on that note... I'm off to have another word with my 8 year old, who's busy listening to BBC Newsround about this very topic.  Time to remind him about his bad habit of abandoning bread crusts!

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