Landfill mishaps (and a bit of a Christmas ranty thing)

Filed in Blog by on October 23, 2008 25 Comments
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poppadoms in plastic packaging contributing to landfillWell there is still no food waste, but there is some serious landfill waste today.

Yesterday I did that thing. I’ve been dreading Christmas already because of all the STUFF that people insist on buying for Little Miss Green. Let’s not go into the gift horse and mouths thing here. Or the ‘I should be grateful’ thread. I AM grateful and touched that people thinking of her, it’s just, that, well, you know, I don’t want any more stuff and there is nothing Little Miss Green NEEDS. Some of you will know exactly what I am talking about, others of you will log off right now and never visit again, but that’s ok.
Across the world, children are starving, parent’s can clothe their children, buy them shoes or send them to school. Yet over here on December 25th all hell breaks loose and we get MORE crayons, MORE pens, MORE toys, MORE clothes………

I was sitting with Little Miss Green across the table the other day when she mentioned her Santa visit. She has a wonderful yearly tradition of visiting Santa with Grandma and Granddad Green. Granddad Green had made the suggestion that LMG was ‘too old’ for visiting Santa this year and she was horrified, bless her.

Anyway, reassurance from Grandma Green put things right and LMG SHALL go to the grotto. I was asking her what she would be asking Santa for this year (Santa needs to know in advance, right?) and she said ‘Oh some things for Otto.’ (Otto is her baby). Things like clothes, shoes and she (Otto is a female Otto) wants some drawers and a mirror for her clothes.

I nodded in the right places and asked ‘nothing for yourself then?’.
Her reply was that No, she didn’t really need anything. And she knew Santa would bring her something for herself, because he always did – just a packet of sweets or something.

So out of the mouths of babes then (although, that’s an awfully expensive ‘pack of sweets or something’ that Santa has been giving her for the past 8 years. Which just goes to prove it’s not about the presents at all).

Little Miss Green’s memories are not of stuff, but of the traditions – the decorating of the tree, the food and the treasure hunt around the house. They are of singing in front of the fire and story telling. Trips to Santa with Grandma and Granddad and catching up with friends. Stuff that nourishes the soul like no THING ever could.

Anyway, back to the story. Yesterday, LMG was out for the day, so I took charge of a ‘situation’. The messydiningroommessybedroommessyhouse situation – you know the one? The one where I couldn’t breathe for all the clutter.

I went through ALL the toys, craft supplies, books with pages missing, cat biscuits found stashed away in her bedroom (yes really), dirty knickers that had been put away in her wardrobe last time I asked her to tidy, clothes that she has cut holes in with scissors <sigh>, chewed up pieces of paper and broken crap.

Everything that was salvageable was salvaged and is making its way to charity shops, Freecycle and the textiles bank, but alas there is a big looming bag of stuff weighing on my conscience and about to make its way to the landfill this morning. Do you think it’s an inevitable part of 21st century life – that things get broken beyond repair?

The thing is, as I put out some of her toys yesterday, I found all her wooden animals. We used to buy her one or two a month when she was a baby and built up a collection of them. They are made by a local craftsman from sustainably managed hard woods. We bought the first when she was about a year old and now, at the age of seven, they are still in good condition and have been played with virtually every day. Compare that to some cheap, plastic tat that is designed to do nothing more than provide a quick hit.

I’m thinking about Christmas presents for children in your life, and I would urge you to think about buying quality pieces that will last and are sustainable. With an emphasis of MORE on our consumerism, it’s a tough call.  If all else fails, give them chocolate (in foil and paper of course). At least you know it will get eaten and won’t end up in the landfill!

My finale was that after a DAY of sorting stuff out and of getting LMG to Brownies, it was late, we were tired and Mr Green fancied a curry. After my week of Earth Mother cookery we bought, wait for it, a curry in a plastic tray and a humongous plastic tray of poppadoms.

Will the earth survive my call of convenience, do you think?


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 (25)

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  1. Sally says:

    Very synchronisitic, just an hour ago my friend and i were chatting on the way back from school about not buying into Christmas. For her the extended family get upset if they dont receive gifts, for me its not too bad my family are pretty cool with homemade edibles.
    As for childrens presents i try really hard to buy things that will get used and often opt for a more adult/sturdy version ie last year we bought our son a wooden table (small adult size)which i varnished and its his arts table, he was obsessed with charlie and the chocolate factory so instead of going with the marketed crap we got a cardboard box and filled it with organic chocolate, foil wrappings and chocolate moulds (from a confectioners).
    Ideas please on non land fill gifts for this year please as I will be wrapping a gift or too for him this year even if the rest of the family get shortbread and home made jams.

  2. Karen says:

    I came across a lovely rhyme about christmas pressies for kids – don’t ask me which blog it was on, I was having a surf!!! Anyway, it said to buy: “Something they want, something they need, some kind of toy and something to read.” I’m (kind of) going to take that as my guide this year.
    One area I’ve tried really hard on is stocking fillers. We have always had stockings and I don’t want to lose that tradition but I hate all the plastic rubbish that seems to go with it. I now get my fillers from . They do lovely big toys, too. Some are well beyond my price range but not everything is!

  3. esther says:

    Gosh, I have the same problem, and I already did, before I was thinking about landfills…the kids have so much, we don’t even no anymore what to give them…;Stuff and stuff and then again some….a lot of it, ends up in charityshops, but hélas, some of it, has to go to a landfill….quality, what happened to you?

    And then, I just bought, one month!!! ago, a pair of brand-sneakers, for the oldest….and they have two big holes looking at me, right in the (fake) leather. Impossible to repair…and I don”t know what to do with it. Does the whole shoe go to a landfill, or are there parts that I can put in the recycle bin?

  4. Di Hickman says:

    This takes me back…. when I was a child we couldn’t afford lots of gifts. My cousin got the barbies with the jeep, the house, complete house furnishings and I got a couple of Barbies. This didn’t deter though. In true blue peter fashion I took some cereal boxes and MADE my own house and furnishings. I used old clothes and me and mom SEWED new clothes for her. And you know what? I liked all mine were better than store bought stuff!

  5. Oh yes, I have “that” conversation with the grandparents every year. And I have to do the annual clearing of crap to make room for more crap. *sigh*

  6. Mrs G – We get that too. It always feel like I’m getting prepared for battle when it comes to Christmas. Now I know the real meaning about the phrase “It’s better to give than receive”…what it actually means is, it’s better to fill your house up with crap than mine. Hope you enjoyed the curry 😀 x

  7. Mrs Green says:

    Sally, it’s good that your family are happy with homemade things – sometimes the emphasis is too much on STUFF, but we can’t blame the individual here, it’s what our culture is all about and we have it indoctrinated from birth that this is how life should be. We’ll be running some zero waste Christmas articles soon, so hopefully we’ll all be sharing lots of ideas. The art table sounds fab 🙂

    Karen, the rhyme is really good, isn’t it? I like that too and will keep it in mind. Myriad is my favourite toy store. The new catalogue came out this week and I can’t put it down. I have a massive wish list in it! You’re right though, you kinda need a second mortgage to fund all their lovely items.

    Oh Esther, sorry to hear about the trainers; that’s awful. Do you have textiles banks over there? I *think* shoes like that can go in there, but I’m not sure. Other than that, how about a funky plant pot or bird feeder 😉

    Di, your comment was great. You remind me of LMG – if she doesn’t get what she would like, she just makes it. Like you, she feels her creations are better and I love that about her. She is so creative and will spend hours making things. It’s wonderful to watch her. I know that if I bought her everything she set her eyes on, it would be a five minute wonder because I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

    Sarah – shall we both do Christmas on an island all alone?! LOL!

    Mrs A – you’re too funny “it’s better to fill your house up with crap than mine”. Thanks for the giggle with that one 😀

  8. “it’s better to fill your house up with crap than mine”.
    Funnily enough that’s almost exactly what my mum said to me last year, then I said that I’d just refuse to take it all home with us (we go to see them)

    Christmas on an island? Or somewhere remote with no phone and no internet….

  9. LOL Sarah I think I might just retreat into a cave this Christmas. 😀

  10. Oh yeah, hibernating works too….

  11. Poppy says:

    We get a double whammy as it’s J’s birthday on the 16th 🙁 We need digging out by January 🙁

    I must say it’s gettig a little easier as he gets older – Smaller but more expensive presents. I need to get in in room again though and part him from some of the stuff that he is suddenly so attached to if I dare to mention a clear out.

    Best deal last year was from my Dad who sent Argos vouchers for a much wanted DS that has really proved its worth over the year. A nature investigators kit from my Mum has had a surprising amount of use too. I can’t for the life of me remember what the in-laws gave him, whatever it was, it can’t have seen much daylight.

  12. Kris says:

    My inner child gets quite invested in the getting presents thing – but as I think I’ve said before I get round it by just not buying things I want and waiting for them to be gifts!

    My limit is reached when it comes to extras and twitty little bits tacked on with the main present. I struggle myself not to do it, it’s so easy to keep embellishing and adding on, yet I wish others wouldn’t do it for me.

    My sister who has two little ones very cleverly puts aside nice things she picks up at NCT (National Childbirth Trust – I think!) nearly new sales and then shares them out amongst the family rather than leave us all blindly charging through toy shops without a clue.

  13. Rebecca says:

    Last year me and my family – in-laws, sister+ kids, my parents- had a “sustainable” christmas. We were either allowed to make presents (lots of chutneys,peppermint creams, fudge and even italian biscotti)or buy from charity shops. It was the best christmas i have had in years! No one was anxious about looking grateful for something they didn’t want and we all felt like it was a proper old fashioned Christmas. This year I am buying them all second hand books from charity shops. I trawl the shelves for new-looking spines and then see if the book would “fit” any of the family. This worked well last year as well as you tell them they are from charity shops and they can just take them to another one if they don’t like it! It meant we all got to try authors or subjects we would never have done otherwise.

  14. Mrs Green says:

    Oooo, Sarah – I’ll be phoning you on 26th to find out how much crap you were given and whether you bought it all home LOL!

    So that’s at least 3 of us then Mrs A – in our cave not doing Christmas?! Mr G said to me early in the year that he was going to take care of all the food. When I mentioned it this week he denys all knowledge of the conversation **sigh**. I do the presents and cards, why shouldn’t he do the food?? Perhaps I’ll threaten soup for lunch; that will get his arse into gear!

    Poppy, how inconsiderate of you to give birth on 16th 😀 You need to pick your timing carefully with clear outs, because we too suffer from the fact that every piece of string and shredded paper becomes a favourite item. Ho hum. It sounds like you had some good presents last year 🙂

    Kris, you have a rather Baldrick style ‘cunning plan’ when it comes to taking care of that inner child of yours. Which is fab – I don’t mind thousands of presents as long as they are wanted and will be used and enjoyed. It’s the needless giving that drives me to distraction. Perhaps I’m just getting old LOL! (no comments please 😀 )
    Your sister has a great idea too. That sounds like it works really well.

    Hi Rebecca, your Christmas sounds awesome. Do you have a recipe for peppermint creams? I’m never sure whether you use the pure essential oil or something from the baking department……I love the books idea too. Your Christmas sounds really special; slower paced and with more meaning. Thank you for sharing your story with us 🙂

  15. Ah, we’ll be away for a few days over Xmas. Most people are reasonably well trained now and get more suitable stuff.

  16. Kris says:

    It’s the ‘where to put new things’ that drives me nuts, so that does factor in with what I’ve put on my list this year. After a proper sort out of the bathroom I’ve realised that I no longer want excess toiletries ready to carry me through the next ten years.

    I love the charity shop books idea too, because in theory books can just brighten our lives for a while and then move on (though tell that to my groaning bookshelves…)

    I fell asleep last night dreaming of a cunning plan in which I sewed morsbags type sacks to put everyone’s Christmas gift in, and then they would have present *and* useful bag ready to use. I don’t know where it came from though as I’m sewing-machine illiterate!

  17. Mrs Green says:

    Kris, don’t talk to me about ‘where to put things’. I’m not even going to start on that one. A toiletries fast sounds good. Sally from Natural Spa Supplies has challenged me to a week of using only clay for all my toiletries needs. That will be really interesting. The idea of making the wrapping part of the gift is wonderful; I try and do that too, but like you, sewing is way outside my comfort zone.

  18. Mrs G – Morsbags are dead easy, it’s all straight lines and very forgiving if you’re a bit wonky.

    You could probably use soap nuts and soap nut solution for all your bodily cleansing too.

  19. Mrs Green says:

    Oh I know, I know Sarah; the theory is all there. Straight lines and all that. I couldn’t figure out how to attach the handles when I tried to make one 😀
    Have you used soap nut juice for your hair and skin? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

  20. Oh if you were closer I’d come and show you. It was the sewing of the bag part that got me first time and I ended up with a bag that was inside out!

    I have used soap nut solution for skin and hair. It’s fine on skin, a little drying but does the job but I don’t like it’s action on my hair. However, I do have a nastily flaky scalp that really only does well with certain shampoo’s so I’m not sure if it’s just me.

    We use a small spray bottle of soap nut solution in the kitchen for hand washing when we come in from the hens or gardening – it deals with mud well!

  21. Mrs Green says:

    An inside out bag – I think I could manage that 😀 Using the soap nut juice for washing hands sounds like a good idea; it might be handy to carry around too; I’m thinking mums to use instead of wet wipes when out and about…….

  22. Marie Phillips says:

    Don’t know how this will go down with the nearest and dearest this year but we’re “adopting” animals or “planting” trees for all the grown-ups. We have very few kids in the family and buy books for them. I shall also make small parcels of chutneys and jams to go with the animals and trees. When my children were young (eldest 50 this year), we were very poor and made use of jumble sales to buy things that could be “done up”, one year it was a bike. I think this might be looked down on in these more affluent days but now the “crunch” is with us jumbles and charity shops might come into their own again. Happy Christmas everyone!

  23. Mrs Green says:

    Marie, I like the idea of charitable gifts. I remember my brother having an adopted dolphin or similar when he was younger and he seemed to really enjoy getting the newsletters. Last year I think, an Aunty of mine adopted part of a vineyard and got some bottles of wine made from the grapes! Books are nearly always a well-received present for kids.
    I think you’re right about ‘credit crunch’ ideas this Christmas; perhaps a return of the charity shop bargains will win through 😀

  24. Poppy says:

    I’ve just survived a very non-Zero Waste 8th birthday. The amount of plastic that had no other home than landfill, was quite depressing 🙁 Why-oh-why do kids toys have to be wrapped and bolted down as though they are going to come to life and escape??!! Even my usual rescue of the wire ties was impossible as they’d been done so tight that I had to cut them out 🙁

    I sat forlornly in the living room, chopping yucky hard plastic casings into small compactable pieces and just wondered WHY?! My DH was wondering why as well, but for somewhat different reasons to me!

    Oh well, I suppose it was good practise for next weeks onslaught!

  25. Mrs Green says:

    Hey Poppy; sorry to hear about your plasticky Birthday endevours; it’s very difficult isn’t it? Still, ELC are getting better with their packaging policy and Mrs A and I discovered this month, so things are changing. If one major manufacturer will take the lead there will be radical changes. Happy Birthday to Master Poppy. 🙂

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