Happy New Year!

Filed in Blog by on January 9, 2012 13 Comments
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Keep your eye on the Wendy House in the background; there's some exciting news coming up about it!

Keep your eye on the Wendy House in the background; there's some exciting news coming up about it!

Happy New Year folks!

Have you made any ‘zero waste’ resolutions this year? Are you going to increase your recycling, swap a disposable product for a reusable one or make an extra effort to remember your reusable bags?

Whatever you’ve decided, make yourself accountable by letting us all know in the comments below!

You might have noticed a distinct lack of our presence in the press this year. We decided to take a break and remove the focus from us.

After all, we’re only one family and to be honest, even if we DO live without much landfill waste, it’s only a drop in the ocean when you consider the vast amount of waste being accumulated by the masses.

What we need is more of a movement. We need more and more of us ‘doing our bit’ because then we can create real and meaningful change. What we need is not for one ‘freaky’ family to do extreme recycling and to appear in the papers, but for the odd carrier bag of waste per month to be the norm for everyone so that it’s not a front page story…

Little Miss Green will soon be 11 and has made the decision to go to school full time. This means her priority is making friends and being ‘one of the crowd’. Having to worry about recycling things in the right container isn’t really ‘cool’ so we’re allowing her time away from the limelight so she can get on with being ten years old.

Mr Green and I have some major personal changes coming up this year so our focus will be in a different place to scouring the shelves for recyclable packaging.

At home we’re continuing what we’ve done for the past 3 years because it’s now just ‘normal’ for us. It’s ‘normal’ to wash out a tin and recycle it. It’s ‘normal’ to take our own containers to the shops. It’s ‘normal’ to buy things loose where possible and refuse overly packaged food.

But we ARE going to ease up a little.

For the past two years we’ve created around one carrier bag of landfill waste for the year. But it’s not been easy.

It HAS involved small sacrifices. Ones which we’ve been more than prepared to make, but ones which aren’t really sustainable in the long term. I think a comfortable amount of waste for us would be one carrier bag every month or two. Still pretty impressive, but an amount which allows for a little more convenience in our lives. It’s an amount that is low enough to show we care but large enough to be able to lower the commitment to zero waste a little.

I’ve also been on my decluttering mission for the past two years and now I’m stepping it up. This means going into the deep, dark crevices of the home and garage which probably house some pretty unsavoury stuff. ‘Stuff’ that was acquired long before myzerowaste was born. ‘Stuff’ that was bought on a whim in the hedonistic days of consumerism. ‘Stuff’ which really has no home now apart from landfill…

Of course my ideal is still ‘zero waste’ but it’s not possible. Not at the moment. Not with our current recycling facilities. Not with the current lack of recycling information. Not with manufacturers allowed to produce whatever kind of packaging they want without any comeback if it ends up trashed after use. Not while manufacturers take part in voluntary ‘Emperors got new clothes’ attempts at sustainability rather than mandatory legislation. Not while the Government is too scared to even ban the plastic bag let alone do anything really meaningful about our waste issues. Not while incinerators are being proposed as a ‘solution’ to the ‘problem’. Not while we continue to use the word ‘rubbish’ instead of ‘resource’. Not while Political Will is missing.

So that’s us. Still doing what we’re doing, but to a slightly lesser scale. Still here to cheer you on, whatever steps you are taking. Still here as an advocate for change if and when it comes about but we’ll be producing just a little more landfill and you might see us occasionally at the recycling centre loading a few black bags into the ‘non recyclable’ skip as I achieve my goal of a fully decluttered home.

What about you – what changes are you making this year?

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 (13)

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  1. Sandy says:

    well I think you have done really well with this, a little leeway (hope that is spelt right) is good for the soul. you ahve set us all a very good example, which \i try to follow, I have not made one carrier bag a year, I do manage one black bag every two months, which we are very pleased with, sounds a lot now I have written it down, should try harder. keep inspiring us plea.xx

  2. Paola says:

    All very true and a bit sad. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) it would be better if eveybody reduced their waste by 1% than if just few people reduced theirs by 100%. So you are right, there must be a collective response to the problem. On the other hand, as you say, good individual actions become “normal” once one has started and it’s not possible to go back. So, no matter what, one must go on. As far as I’m concerned, I would like to concentrate on reducing plastic wraps this year. My first step has been that of not buying biscuits and cakes for breakfast any more (they all come in plastics or not recycable wraps) and cook them myself. Sounds easy, but is quite an achievement for a disaster like me at cooking! Happy new year!

  3. Ann says:

    Very understandable! How you could do one supermarket carrybag a year, I do not know! I have cut us (3 adults) back as hard as I am able, and that works out at one carrybag a month (sometimes I can get to 5 weeks, never yet longer).
    Like you, I am attacking the clutter of (in our case) decades, and some of that is “rubbish” only, surprising amount of what looks to be rubbish is taken by people on Freecycle. Does freecycle apply in Great Britain, I know it does in N.Z., Australia, and U.S.
    Good luck for the future, and do keep us all up to the mark, please ……

  4. Stephanie says:

    Thanks for your very honest comments. I do appreciate that, in this day of “spin and inauthenticity.

    Thanks a lot for all your work. I have been much more conscientious. We dont use bags for shopping . I carry one in my handbag and use string bags. We cut our recycling from putting out the bin once a fortnight to one every three months. We do our bit, but the producers/supermarkets dont do theirs. But thanks to you and your work we have been much better and will continue. I now have a fabulous compost bin for example. i now grow my own veggies. I use every scrap pf food (well nearly…….) Take a break and enjoy what you have achieved.
    We are moving from Australia to France and will continue to follow all the recycling principles. Happy New Year for 2012

  5. Thank you for giving us such a fantastic example! I have so many goals this year, my head might explode. But like you say, one person and one family is a drop in the bucket. We need a movement! How do we do that? I’m here, you’re there, and we’re together on this. It’s the government and the legislation that seems to have its head up its #%$. (Sigh.) I’m so overwhelmed. And I feel I’m not making enough of a difference.

  6. Happy New Year to you all 🙂

    I have been reading but just not contributing as much, my own blog has even gone on the back burner. RL sometimes takes over and aomething has to give.

    Our recycling bin is full every 2 weeks (is this good or bad), good in the fact that alot of things we use have recyclable packaging, bad in that we have a lot of packaging.

    The landfill bin still only goes out approx once every couple of months on average.

    It was yourselves and Mrs Average who first got me going with reducing our waste so I thank you for that.

    We did a big declutter of the 3 sheds and had to take quite a bit of stuff to the tip (HWRC), but alot was recyclable once there.

  7. Not sure I really want to put this out there in a public fashion, but I’ve invested in some reusable panty liners this year via http://www.earthwisegirls.co.uk. Bought them to ease my guilty conscience of buying the disposable ones, and wish now I’d done it years ago. They are far more comfortable and no more hassle than disposable ones. And I figure they’ll also be cheaper in the long term.

  8. Sue C says:

    Thanks Mrs G and the G family for your encouragement, hints, tips and exhortations. We manage one carrier bag every week and sometimes I make it last two weeks. And I’ve spent the last week blitzing the house, sorting out stuff, tidying up so I can see enough surfaces to actually clean. Sure there are still toys everywhere – as you’d expect with two small-ish girls – but at least I know what we have now. Mind you I stuck my head in the loft earlier….. now that’s scary! There’ll be quite a lot of soul-searching when we clear out THAT stuff! But for now, I’m off to Ebay some no-longer-needed belongings. Enjoy 2012 everyone – make this the year that changes your life for the better!

  9. Julie Day says:

    I think you deserve a break from all that hard work. I aim to recycle more this year, and I can do so now that my council allows us to recycle more plastics and that from home. I too am decluttering majorly. Have started going through my photo albums and chucking out duplicates and ones that don’t mean anything to me anymore. Have chucked out several already and have several more albums to go through. A big job.

  10. this post may be the most endearing article i’ve read this season, this whole year, indeed..
    i feel sad and quiet, but oddly satisfied to find you harvesting the wisdom of experience; the balance of hard work and leadership. you and your family have devoted yourselves to the wellness of an out of control consumer society.

    on this part of the planet, i find small accomplishments are slowly turning to the good—the economic crisis has done a service to mother nature in many ways = people drive less, share more, buy less new items, more used ones..much is being recycled compared to 2 years ago, more grow their own food, less buy presents that would end up in landfills sooner or later..so yes, it is thanks to the Mr and Mrs Greens of this world that step by step we are walking toward equilibrium, at home and at work..

    i have personally used your incentives to keep myself and now my husband on a narrow waste line..1 carrier bag per month, i just applied for a 1/4 reduction on my garbage collection bill, and got it..!

    for the new year, i will write positive news concerning waste management, local, personal, industrial and global. good new year to you in all health and wellness. nadine

  11. Rachel says:

    Happy new year!

    Here in Wales, all shops are now required to charge 5p for plastic bags, so at least one government is listening. Let’s hope it spreads…

    As for my personal goals, my biggest project for the new year is recycling old radiators into new solar panels, so I can stop ‘wasting’ electricity using it to heat my shower water. This will count as decluttering, too, as the radiators are currently sitting in a heap cluttering the place up!

  12. Jane says:

    I think that what you have achieved has been superb. Your website has certainly enouraged me in reducing waste, and I have found some very helpful tips here to enable me to do so.

    Before we started reducing our waste, we thought we were “doing our bit” by recycling everything that could be put in our kerbside collection, taking our bottles and jars to the local bottle bank, having a compost heap, taking our own shopping bags to the shops, and returning egg boxes to the farm where we bought our eggs. We also either sold, gave away, or donated to charity shops anything for which, exceptionally, we had no further use.

    Our achievement since then is nothing like as good as yours. However, we have reduced our landfill waste from one wheely bin full a month to one wheely bin full a year and, at the same time, we have reduced the amount in our kerbside recycling bin from one wheely bin full a fortnight to one wheely bin full a month.

    Key things that have helped us to reduce rubbish include using filtered water (carried in steel bottles) rather than bottled water, using cloth table napkins, using cloths instead of paper towels for most things, buying cat food in (recyclable) tins instead of (nonrecyclable) foil and plastic pouches, stopping using cling film,and using reusable net bags for loose fruit and vegetables when shopping. I have also swapped to washable panty liners, sanitary towels and toilet wipes – which are so much nicer (not to mention cheaper!) than disposable products, that I wish that I had done this years ago. Although I use cloth handkerchiefs, my husband still likes paper tissues. However, we now compost any paper tissues, etc that are used rather than throwing them in the bin.

    With the reductions we have made in our day to day landfill rubbish, I have been quite frustrated that we have not reduced our landfill waste more than we have, as by my calculations we should be producing no more than a third of a wheely bin full a year. However, most of the stuff in our landfill bin seems to consist of one-off extras – generated by some clearing out and some work on the house over the past few months. Therefore, I actually find your need to ease up a bit encouraging to me.

    I am not sure what we can do at the moment to reduce our landfill waste further, and I agree with your comments about manufacturers being allowed to produce whatever packaging they please. Excluding the one-off items from clearing out, the bulkiest item in our landfill waste is packaging from prescription medication – mainly tablet blister packs – plus foil and plastic sachets that one lot of tablet blister packs are packaged in. Supermarkets seem to have decreased their packaging over the past few years but, if anything, pharmaceutical companies seem to have increased theirs.

    Keeping costs down is an important issue for us, and we have to buy some of our vegetables and fruit wrapped because they are cheaper (round here at least) than the loose versions. Although we have facilities to recycle this packaging locally, we plan to reduce our consumption of this packaging in the coming year by growing some of our vegetables ourselves.

  13. Jane says:

    Happy New Year!

    You’ve made an incredible effort and great difference to many. As a hub for like-minded people your website has been invaluable. Unfortunately the downturn will have made it harder for manufacturers to change their packaging and it is a great shame that Government is so toothless (how polite of me) in requiring more sustainable packaging.

    The amount of lobbying by companies of MPs and the interests that MPs have in lobbying companies and in companies who would prefer not to make any changes to their packaging should not be underestimated. Every so often the Press comes up with yet another expose. Due to customer inertia we became overwhelmed with their packaging while packaging magnates reached the top of the Rich List.

    The lack of Government leadership in the general overall advertising that everybody should be conscious of reducing their contribution to landfill waste and increasing their participation in their domestic reuse and recycling at home and work recycling at work is noticeable. So the LAs should be doing that? Well where is the in-your-face advertising/general information telling people to ask/find out from their LAs what they should/could be doing? Perhaps we should start a league table of LAs? Who comes top of the league for keeping their residents best informed? Who has their residents tearing their hair out in frustration? It just gives the impression that they are not bothered about the earth’s finite resources.

    The Panorama programme showed how valuable general information can be and how the piecemeal allocation of grants to the LAs is not enough. We should ask all our MPs and Local Councillors to take part in that test and show us how well informed they are. The leaders should be showing us that they know what they can recycle in their area. Incineration is not the answer. There are incinerators on the continent with not enough to burn. Please explain to me how they catch the escaped fumes when they escape by mistake.

    Like many we have more changes to make this year. More decluttering and some alterations to make life more comfortable as we get older. This cold weather is a good time to re-look at the insulation and heating of the house to see what else we can do. I have still to read and watch your post on that competition. I do think that reduction in energy use and reduction in reliance on electricity for everything is important. The Transition Towns are interesting. I like the way some of them are sharing the information so can help each other with solutions and share expensive equipment for pinpointing areas of heat loss in homes. Another visit to the wonderful Ecobuild conference/exhibition at the Excel Centre in March for more ideas I hope! I want to have a look at water harvesting ideas there too this year.

    Like the other Jane above I would like to know how pharmaceutical companies can justify the packaging they use on their products. Why does toothpaste need to be in a foil lined cardboard box and why does it need a box as well as a tube anyway? That ‘s what I call overpackaging and I know I ought to be approaching Trading Standards….

    This year I MUST MUST MUST grow my own herbs and NOT buy daffodil bulbs and plants and fail to plant them again.

    Good Luck with your new ventures!

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