Rubbish Ramblings

Filed in Blog by on June 24, 2008 7 Comments
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black bin bag
I can’t believe how quickly my thoughts have changed about this whole ‘zero waste’ challenge lark.

When we started out, just three short weeks ago, there was a man who put in many comments all across the site; John Costigane . He really was a stalwart (don’t know if you are still reading John?) and a tremendous support in those first few days. We’re really grateful to him, a ‘stranger’ who came along on the first day and got the comments section up and running with some thought provoking words.

I found out that he had his own personal goal. It was to let one black bin bag last him 52 weeks.

52 weeks!

Our first zero waste week generated a landfill swelling 1/2 a swing bin liner. I felt a bit helpless during that first week. I thought we had done so well, yet couldn’t believe how much rubbish we still had. And it was all plastic. I never thought we would be able to reduce it without making some major changes and giving up all sorts of lovely things that our Western life had allowed us to become accustomed to.

Anyway, two weeks later and I’m feeling a bit more of a landfill pro. I now understand where John is coming from. I think we might just be able to do that too – create just one bag full. In my defence (because we all like to make excuses when feeling threatened with failure, now don’t we), there are three of us, whereas there is only one John.

So could we produce just 3 black bin bags in a year? I’m beginning to seriously think we might be able to achieve that now. I’m also thinking that our zero waste week at the beginning of September is going to be easier than I thought. I said ‘easier’ not ‘easy’. πŸ˜‰

There are unexpected little tykes that come up in 21st century life; the odd bit of packing tape on a parcel, seals around glass jars made from non recyclable plastic, and my food cupboards are still groaning under the weight of things bought in plastic months before I had contemplated the amount of rubbish I send to the landfill each week.

This is also quite difficult with a child. So much plastic tat is aimed at kids and they love it. They love all that ‘instant fix’ hype-em-up, disposable rubbish that comes in bright packaging. We give Little Miss Green information about what we are doing and why we’re doing it. We inform her about good choices and not such good choices; pointing out the consequences of each, but I understand that the most important thing for her right now is her peer group. It’s not fair that we turn her into somebody too ‘different’ from the rest of the children she plays with.

This is her journey through life as much as it is ours. We can only lead by example and allow her to make her own choices. It’s a tough balancing act at times, but each of us here at Chez Green has one or two things that we don’t want to give up!

Mr Green is struggling to give up his plastic packaged beef on a Sunday; he’s not found anything quite so tender and tasty as that. I’m not letting go of my rice that comes in foil backed plastic. So why should Little Miss Green be forced to give up her chocolate that comes in a plastic wrapper or the occasional rubbishy toy?

We all know that we have choices that could really lead to permanent zero waste. I could give up rice, Mr Green could find an alternative to the meat he is eating at the weekends and there are a few alternatives to plastic wrapped chocolate.

We might get there one day; something I’ve learned about this challenge is never to say never. I never contemplated for one moment a couple of months ago that I would be making bread and yogurt or washing tiny bits of foil that stock cubes come wrapped in, for example!

The thing is, with more and more people gaining awareness of the landfill problems and the knock on effects on climate change, more and more people are changing their habits too.

I was contemplating this last night and wondering what a difference it would make if every household put out just one carrier bag for the dustmen each week. Even just one bin bag. Collectively, we could make such a difference.

That landfill space that is threatening to run out in 9 short years, might last us over 30. In the meantime, with a few more Daniel Burd’s working on it, the technology for packaging and pressure on manufacturers might have increased to a point where choices were so much easier.

In these three weeks I’ve learned about so many people ‘doing their bit’. I’m going to talk about some of them tomorrow. Knowing that there are other people looking at ways of reducing their rubbish and making lifestyle changes really helps in those ‘no body else seems to care’ moments that we all have from time to time. There are some truly inspirational people all over the world making some real changes and it’s heartening to read their stories.

Until the morrow then…….. xxx

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 (7)

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  1. Melissa says:

    Good Morning Mrs. Green:
    I this you’re doing such a wonderful job with your challenge, and I find it so interesting to read about how much progress you’re making in such short time!
    I think you’re right, people seem to feel as though as individuals they can’t make a difference, and it’s a wonderful idea of yours to share what others are doing so we can all feel as though whatever we can do is going to make a difference, no matter how small!
    Cheers! -M-

  2. Jane says:

    It’s a very valid point “what a difference it would make if every household put out just one carrier bag for the dustmen each week. Even just one bin bag. Collectively, we could make such a difference.”

    I walk past some houses and wonder how they can create so much waste… how, in a week, can one household of 3 or 4 people create so much waste that the big wheelie bin is overflowing, and as is often the case, the recycling bin is full of rubbish too…. Do they not think at all before buying something? Do they not make anything themselves?

    I’ve ordered some of the Onya Weigh-it bags and am looking forward to them arriving so that I do away with more packaging. I’m trying to build up the courage to leave excess, non council recycled, packaging at the supermarket. Some of the staff at our local shops think I’m strange already (although the other day I did hear one say, as she was handing over the till to someone else … “don’t worry about bags for that lady, she’s organised and brings her own”!. I was impressed…)

    Has anyone else noticed that it’s often older generations that take their own bags? As I walk around town I see very few people in their 30s (I’m one!) and 40s or teenagers carrying empty bags to use when they are shopping, but as for women in their 60s… well, it’s unusual to see them with disposable carriers. In my view that’s got a lot to do with not growing up in a disposable society, but in one that valued possessions. Those of us in our 30s have a lot to answer for…. so surely we need to lead the way in changing things too.

  3. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Melissa, thank you for your lovely comment. You know, it’s really my thing at the moment – encouraging others to realise that doing a ‘bit’ is valuable and worthwhile. When we stop and look at the collective of everyone doing their bit, it can add up to so much significant change πŸ™‚

    Jane, we used to be ‘one of those houses’ that generated heaps of rubbish. What did we do? Well, we just didn’t think whenever we bought anything. We’ve just got back from a few days holiday and I’m planning on writing about it because the amount of waste we generated (we bought convenience food) was shocking; really shocking.

    On this holiday, it highlighted how much packaging you save by making your own food from scratch rather than relying on ready made items. It’s embarrassing actually, but I think it needs to be written about because it highlights a really important issue.

    I love the comment from the lady in the shop about you – there is a wonderful positive reframe. Do let me know how you get on with the onya weigh, and if you want to write a review let me know πŸ˜‰

    I’m not sure about it being the older generations that take their own bags around here. I saw a guy in his sixties the other day take a carrier bag for one loaf of bread. I think that the even older people – in their seventies and eighties are less of the disposable culture, but not necessarily those in their sixties. I don’t know, maybe I should observe more when out and about πŸ™‚

    Mrs G x

  4. Kris says:

    I agree with Jane about seeing people reusing bags. Since getting rid of our second vehicle and getting into a routine of one car-use day a week, my shopping time is now early on a Wednesday morning and to favourably stereotype the older generation a little further :o) they also seem to be up and doing bright and early – as well as well-supplied with their own bags. Conversely the worst offenders for using the supermarket flimsies provided are the big shoppers with a trolley-full – often people around my own (30-something) age.
    There is a cute bag called the Trolley Dolly which velcroes onto a supermarket trolley handle and contains about 14 lightweight and foldable bags that are strong and durable. As it’s been hailed in so many magazines and on television as a hot product they seem to be permanently out of stock, but the principle seems quite sound even if a big shopper took any old bag stuffed full of the scores of carrier bags they might need…

    On the original note of the article, we put out one swing bin liner a week but I’m now inspired to try to cut it down to one carrier or similar size bag. The only downside to this is my sad tendency to adopt plastic tubs and pots that are perfectly useful (if only they didn’t already have so many siblings that I have no room for!!)

  5. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Kris – great comment; thank you πŸ™‚

    I was heartened to see in the Co-Op this morning the man infront of us and the lady behind us all with their own shopping bags! I always do a secret ‘happy dance’ inside whenever I see that. They were in their fifties seeing as we’re doing the sterotyping rounds at the moment πŸ˜€ !

    I’ve heard about this trolley dolly. Tbh, I thought it was a bit OTT; we only use three onya bags at most, but I can understand if you shop for a month; one of those might be really good. They’ve had really good write ups haven’t they?

    I’m glad you’re inspired to try and cut down your waste further. One swing bin liner a week is really good. Where else do you think you could make significant changes?

    Good luck with the pots! There comes a time where you have to draw the line and take no more waifs and strays in, doesn’t there?!

    Have a lovely day,
    Mrs G x

  6. as a total frugal,
    i make bulk pudding and use re-usable dishes to store lunch portions – buy meat in bulk if available – eat wild or native – local or close enough – raise my own – grow our own – make cleaners out of vinegar or ammonia or salt and baking soda – whatever plastic we do have – we re-use till unsafe – 2 large bags/year? could do it – i burn paper and cardboard in fireplace – and seldom buy packaged foods – re-use jars to can or store dry foods.

    yes we proudly use our sturdy totes at the one local food store. only have seen one other so far – but receive envious or approving glances – the US. Midwest moves at a slower pace.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Nadine,
    It sounds like you are doing so much. I bulk bake too and make some of our own household cleaners. This week I combined bicarbonate of soda with liquid castile and drops of my favourite essential oils for a foaming all purpose cleaner. I can’t tell you how effective it is and how wonderful it smells!
    It sounds like you are leading the way over there πŸ™‚
    How does burning paper weigh up against recycling it, do you think? I’m not sure where I stand on that one, or what the ‘evidence’ says………

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