Our zero waste resolution for 2010

Filed in Blog by on January 4, 2010 31 Comments
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zero waste by name, zero waste by nature!

zero waste by name, zero waste by nature!

What are a family of Green’s to do for their new year resolution?

In 2008, we reduced our weekly landfill by as much as we could. I tentatively thought we might be able to reduce it to one carrier bag per week. After the first week of creating 1 SWING BIN liners worth, I was feeling a little overwhelmed. But with your support and some serious reducing, reusing, recycling and composting, we eventually achieved our target.

For 2009, we decided on the crazy idea of only having our bin emptied once. We emptied it on 31st December 2008 and it will be taken ‘away’ again on January 13th 2010.

Where do we go from here? How can we improve on one dustbin for a year?

Zero landfill waste for 2010

You thought that was crazy, right?

Well ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of the future and cute furry pets prepare to be shocked and amazed.

Yes for this year, 2010, we’ve decided to send ZERO waste to landfill. And to those critics who think we have a mini incineration plant at home with our woodburner, I’d like to point out that it means zero waste to woodburner as well! Yes we burn a small amount of paper or card to get the fire going, but we most certainly do not throw everything on there. If we did that we would have no site, because we would not have any tips or ideas to share with you all.

Just like our namesake we are going to be the zero waste family we’ve always called ourselves.

How to achieve zero waste

Now there are two ways of doing this. First, we can stop buying EVERYTHING that has landfill packaging and become rubbish purists. Unfortunately for this, like most people living an ‘ordinary life’ it will be quite a lot of the things we like to indulge in that would need cutting out of our lives altogether. We will be making some changes to our consumer habits and supporting more and more of the companies, retailers and brands who offer us more sustainable goods, packaging and services. We will be launching our zero waste shopping community site which will be a chance for all of us to give a thumbs up to the ever increasing products, brands and stores that fulfil a zero waste criteria for product packaging. You think twitter is good? Wait to we unveil our new site!
We’ll be saying a hearty NO to some items and keeping others but am I prepared to give up all our favourite products for the sake of our mission?

No freakin’ way!

For two reasons:

First the selfish one: I know what I like and I like what I know. And do you seriously think I’m going to start making my own yogurt on a regular basis??!! I tried it once before, acted very virtuous about it, but soon went back to the shop bought variety; even though I hate having to pack up and send off my empty yogurt pots for recycling.

The second reason is I figured I could simply stop buying products (voting with my money and the like), but I am one of millions of shoppers and to be honest, my actions; by the people who matter, will go unnoticed if I do that.

Dealing with rubbish

So what are we going to do with the inevitable amount of waste that we do create?

The one thing I’m not terribly good at is talking to manufacturers and retailers. Sure I’ll chat to the checkout staff when they ask about our bags, have a conversation with the deli counter assistants and send the odd email, but I’m a bit backwards in coming forwards as they say.

Our Green Resolution this year then, will involve being a little more proactive, a little louder than before and a teensy bit more than just an armchair activist. I’m not about to do too much undressing in the supermarket (although I will if I need to), wave banners in the street or deliver petitions to Downing Street but I will be getting my voice heard, even if it’s through my computer keypad and at the end of the year we’ll be sending back non recyclable packaging to retailers for them to dispose of it. This isn’t passing the buck or absolving our responsibility; a lot of thought has gone into our decision and our mission this year is about raising awareness.

If I start returning non-recyclable packaging or unmarked packaging along with a letter this raises awareness and I believe it can sow the seeds of positive change for the future.

Better labelling and packaging

Hopefully we’ll find during the course of the year that packaging will be better labelled, manufacturers will use more recyclable products and our local recycling facilities will improve.

We have decided we won’t be taking into account any plastic that Little miss green buys with her own money. For more about this, read my recent ‘parenting dilemma‘ post.

So that’s us – zero waste my name and soon to be zero waste by nature.

What about you? What is your green resolution for 2010?

This post is part of the Green Mom’s Carnival (you might remember another of my resolutions is to take part in more internet carnivals!). The topic, hosted by Katy over at Non Toxic Kids is ‘Green Resolutions’.
Be sure to check it out on 11th January to see all the fabulous stories Green Mom’s from across the globe have to share!

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (31)

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  1. Wow – that’s incredible news Mrs G and good luck with your new resolution. You’re a far braver woman than I. I was only writing today, that if I reduced our rubbish any further it would lead to divorce. Anyway, I was thinking about you as I wheeled my bursting to the brim wheelie bin to the kerbside this morning. You’ll remember it’s the first time I’ve put it out since I had to get rid of the cat litter last Feb. Gee I was cursing…not by the activity itself, but the fact that I missed the rescheduled bin day two weeks ago and the two collections before that and due to the inactivity of my backgate over the winter, it was almost impassable, thanks to the wooden gate having warped over time and the path being icy. Out of practice you see and I would have given up but for the fact there was no more room in the bin!

    I’m looking forward to news of your latest antics. Enjoy it :-) x

  2. John Costigane says:

    Great to see upcoming website improvements and a more proactive approach. The latter is a hard nut to crack since the plastic industry and supermarkets cooperate very closely. At the end of last Easter, when the Zero Waste Easter Eggs had almost sold out, plastic packaging re-asserted itself immediately when teabags on sale suddenly had foil bags. There have been many positives over the last year and doubtless many more to come which should keep the trend moving in the right direction.

  3. Hands down you are amazing. I am still learning and get great inspiration from you. Although I can try to have zero waste, its a bit harder for me. I have a family of 6 which means I buy a lot of food. I do my best to buy local and am against plastic but it seems to still slip into our home. Its a battle we continue to fight. Keep up the good work and you really do encourage all of us to work harder. Thank you for that!

  4. Sooz says:

    That all sounds very exciting! I’m looking forward to seeing it happen!
    p.s. I saw you on Midlands today, today!!! Go you!

  5. Your goal is truly inspirational! Like Surviving above me, I have family of six too and it is hard to get around plastic. Look forward to your journey.

  6. Amber says:

    Wow, you are impressing and inspiring me! Go Greens! :)

  7. Sarah says:

    That’s fabulous! I’ll be here cheering you on.

  8. Layla says:

    WOW!!

    Yes, you are brave!!

    lol, I wouldn’t dare to send plastics back to manufacturers…? Also, how will you know if something is really recyclable and recycled, and to what extent? Will you return anything that is not 100% recyclable, or is there a smaller goal? (Just the recycling sign – those are sometimes misleading – or..?)

    Can’t wait to read about your new adventures!! :)

  9. sandy says:

    well done, I think you are very brave, good luck, keep us updates, LOL

  10. Speaking up more – to manufacturers & retailers, to recycling companies, to local councils/govt, to other people who need encouragement – is my green resolution for the year too. As you say, we can only achieve so much on our own as individuals. It’s time to conquer my natural shyness and get vocal :)

  11. Deb from Boston says:

    I’m speechless. What will LMG do for chips?

  12. H0gg1t says:

    Am a keen recycler from Cardiff, where we have good recycling facilities. My NY resolution is to approach Zero Waste, am starting the 8 week process, have just found your website via “Rubbish Diet” and will follow you and take advantage of your tips and posts. Good luck and it’s great to join this active fraternity!!

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @Almost Mrs Average: Hey Mrs A – I’m not sure about brave; crazy more like. Mind you, when I hear of the antics you’ve been up to to actually get your bin to the kerbside, maybe I’m not alone in my craziness! :D

    @John Costigane: Hi John, it’s going to be a really interesting year. I expect it to be tough, but equally it should be satisfying.

    @surviving and thriving on pennies: What a lovely comment – thank you so much. Feeding 6 people must come with its own set of challenges, and you’re right; plastic creeps in somehow. I’m so glad you’re feeling inspired however, and I wish you lots of luck!

    @Nick Palmer: Thank you Nick! I trust you are well?

    @Sooz: Hi Sooz, several of our friends saw the programme; we were really pleased with it. You’ve done brilliantly with some of your challenges during 2009 too – it’s been great to see!

    @Anna @Green Talk: Hi Anna, thank you so much. I must admit, 6 people must be daunting; it’s bad enough with just 3 of us! I love your site btw and love that you plan to create more messes during 2010!

    @Lisa @ Retro Housewife Goes Green: @Amber: @Sarah: @sandy: Thank you ladies; great to have you hear sharing in our journey :)

    @Layla: Hi Layla, we have all those questions to deal with when we cross them and heaps others no doubt. We’ve done a certain amount of planning, but we will come across lots of things we haven’t accounted for. It’s going to be a very interesting year!

    @Louisa @ RecycleThis: brilliant Louisa, a great goal and not at all dissimilar to ours. We need to speak up more too and I’m not very good at it, so it will be a good challenge for me on a personal level. Keep up the great work with your site – I’ve been a fan for a LONG time :)

    @Deb from Boston: Chips come in polythene bags which can be recycled with the carrier bags and of course they come in paper from the takeaway ;)
    You didn’t think I was going to get out a deep fat fryer now did you? :O

    @H0gg1t: Hi HOgg1t welcome to the site; it’s great to have you here and you’re not too far away either ;) Perhaps I’ll have to pop over and have a rummage through your bin LOL! Have a great time with your challenge; you’ll have a lot of fun and you’re in great hands if Mrs A is taking care of you :)

  14. Deb from Boston says:

    Lucky you on the chips bags. Here in the states potatoe chips and other snack foods are not in packages that are marked as recycleable. Likewise all of our crackers and breakfast cereals come in cardboard boxes with an inner liner bag that is unmarked. These are the bags that we have been shipping of to an artist to upcycle. However, we are starting to question if the cost of the shipping (and the fuel used to do so) is worth it. Sigh.

  15. T says:

    Congrats on your zero waste challenge! Koodos to you and your family. I am a little shocked to hear that you don’t make yogurt. Have you tried making it in your slow cooker? Its SO easy! I’ve tried it about 4 times now, once it’s cultured I store it in little mason jars that were washed in the dish washer. I don’t sterilize them. Just be sure to eat it up within a week or two.

    Here’s a couple of links that I use to guide me:
    http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crockpot.html

    http://www.nourishingdays.com/?p=912

    I double dare you to try it!!

    We sweeten ours with vanilla extract and either honey or maple syrup and we add fresh fruit to it. Tastes as good or better than the store brands.

    T

  16. Deb from Boston says:

    T; Funny – I think this is the same website that I found about a year ago to make yogurt. What I love about this method is that we found that you can be very flexible on the time’s – often leaving any one of the steps longer then mentioned. Also if you find that if it is a bit thin at the end, we just leave it wrapped up in the towel longer and it will thicken up a bit more (We’ve accidently left it a full day and had great results).

    For add-ins, over time I’ve added less and less sweetners (honey, jelly etc), and now just add chopped fruit. (currently my favorite is crockpot cranberry sauce). Dear wife still uses honey to sweeten.

  17. Mrs Green says:

    @Deb from Boston: Ahhhh, translation error of course. You’re talking about crisps, and I’m talking about what you call fries. Ok, back to crisps – yes they would be impossible to buy for a zero waste year but guess what? I think I have a very exciting solution to this problem which I will be blogging about over the next week or so. I’ve been talking to someone who may just have the answer! We should be able to recycle our toothpaste tubes too, so it’s all very exciting.
    We have the same with most cereals – that horrible unmarked bag….

    @T: Hi T; welcome to the site and thanks for the kick up the butt! You have found my green sin, my weak spot and the one I am firmly rooted to. I have made yogurt, I even bought a yogurt maker, but I just didn’t like it as much as shop bought and my yogurt appetite is so big Mr green jokes that I wouldn’t have the time to keep up with my own demands LOL! Oh but maybe I should try again

  18. Nick Palmer says:

    As you said in the Mail/Times articles, making choices and decisions when buying stuff is most of the battle. But individuals, unless it’s everyone, are not enough. Here’s an inspiring story about the Subaru car manufacturing plant in Indiana that made a similar pledge and achieved it! When manufacturers generally start to make zero waste pledges then we’ll be well on the way. After that, it will be the miners and extractors of raw materials and the processes that the materials go through before they get to the factories…

    link to Subaru video

    When most people choose products that are designed for long life, economic maintenance and repairability, easy recycling and minimal waste then that will send a powerful market signal to the “producers of stuff”.

    When it becomes more profitable for companies to ditch the dangerous old philosophy of “planned obsolescence” and produce sustainable goods, we will have just about arrived and we will be able to relax a bit as the roots of a sustainable civilisation start to grow.

  19. Mrs Green says:

    @Nick Palmer: Hi Nick, thanks for the comment. The subaru story is great and I have a similar one about Toyota that I’m trying to get a guest post for. Great thoughts in your comments – thanks for sharing them.

  20. Nick Palmer says:

    @Mrs Green: Toyota = JACKPOT!!!! Subaru is a relatively minor car manufacturer – I can hardly wait…

    Along the same lines, Walmart surprised everybody a few months ago with their announcement of their plans to introduce a “sustainability index” so ordinary people can reliably compare the “green’ness of competing products. Even Treehuggercom said “it’s getting harder and harder to hate Walmart”.

    If we’ve got Walmart and Toyota coming out with stuff like this, then I think I see hope…

  21. @Mrs Green:
    On 2 different cereal boxes I have in at the moment for the boys one Kellogs, one Nestle both state that the inner bag is made of HDPE – type 2 and can be recycled where facilities exist, they also both state that the outer is cardboard and is readily recycled.

  22. H0gg1t says:

    OMG; I have not been checking the outer cardboard cereal boxes for recycleability of the inner plastic bags, have been putting them in my kitchen bin as they haven’t had anything displayed on them!! Change of tactic now at our house!!

  23. Mrs Green says:

    @Nick Palmer: well let’s hope toyota step forward and take the stage for us. Great news about Walmart; I’ll have a read of that later.

    @maisie dalziel: Fab news, Maisie. I need to go shopping tomorrow, so will have a look myself. thanks for sharing this!

    @H0gg1t: Never mind; we’ve both learned something new! I’d stopped buying cereal, but I’ll have a look again tomorrow

  24. Heather says:

    Hi,

    Do you know about these people? They only made less than a single bag of rubbish in a year (in New Zealand), so might have some useful ideas for you:

    http://www.rubbishfreeyear.co.nz/

    Cheers,

    –Heather :-)

  25. Poppy says:

    @Heather:

    They’ve done a fantastic job Heather, but I have to say, I noticed a couple of things that Mrs G and family would have recycled. The main one was the CD/DVD and then the ‘angle grinder thingy’ – I would presume that this is made from metal, but the description was vague, so maybe not ;)

    I’ll go back to have another look. The basics of life are the real crunchers as these so very often have plastic involved somewhere. It would be great if someone opened up the shops that used to have loose dry products again. We used to have one not far from us about 20 years ago, but people started getting worried about things being contaminated and the whole idea died a death :(

  26. Mrs Green says:

    @Heather: Hi Heather, welcome to the site, I’m a great fan of Matthew and Waveney’s work. They did really well and I put in an update this week as well, which was great to read. Are you in NZ or are you closer to the UK?

  27. Heather says:

    Hi Mrs. G,

    I’m in NZ – I heard about Matt and Waveney originally through one of our national newspapers and followed their blog through their year. I came across you guys through the green mom’s carnival.

    All the best,

    –Heather :-)

  28. Mrs Green says:

    @Heather: that’s great Heather – so glad you found us! I hope you’ll stick around and join in with the conversations :)

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