Kate Edgar shares her zero waste week challenges

Filed in Blog by on January 27, 2009 4 Comments
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three-rsI’ve had the opportunity to talk to some wonderful people this week about the Gloucestershire zero waste week challenge. What I keep finding is that we all face different challenges with the week. From time constraints to picky eaters to lack of choice in the shops, there are obstacles to be overcome for everyone who is taking part.

I caught up with Kate Edgar at the beginning of the week:
MZW Kate, tell us a bit about yourself.

KE I am a single parent of a 5 year old boy. I work 23 hours a week as a clinical psychologist and constantly feel like I’m multitasking and chasing my tail. We don’t have any pets, although we have 3 chickens which are looked after at my parents’ house so we get free eggs without any effort! They will be a popular food source this week.

MZW Why did you sign up for zero waste challenge week?

KE I love a challenge and was determined when I signed up that I literally would produce nothing. I also thought it would be relatively easy to achieve, we already do the ‘reuse and recycle’ part of the 3 ‘r’s.We use Freecycle a lot, recycle most things both at kerbside and our local Tescos and reuse things as much as possible, saving anything quirky to go into Harry’s school for junk model making. We have a compost heap which to my shame is well fed with forgotten about vegetables, but at least it’s rich! We use reusable shopping bags (most of the time).

MZW You tried to do some planning before zero waste week; what happened?

KE Going around the supermarkets this week though was a hugely depressing experience. Just seeing the aisles and aisles of non recyclable stuff that will probably be in landfill in 2 weeks time made me feel that my efforts are pretty pointless. I also felt rather annoyed with the supermarkets/ manufacturers for making this so acceptable. Felt a Daily Mail moment coming on during which I was thinking ‘why should I try so hard, this is not my problem, someone else should be doing something about this’. Why do single peppers have to be shrink wrapped? Why is every sort of snack bar wrapped in nonrecyclable packaging. Why aren’t more of the plastic bags compostable? Why aren’t plastic bags banned altogether? Even the health food shops, which I hoped would contain a few totally recyclable products, were absolutely full of plastic packaging.

Edit from me. Kate talks about feeling hugely depressed and that her efforts can feel pointless. I know some of you feel that way too. If your feelings get out of hand and you need professional help, you can use a service like BetterHelp.com for online counselling

MZW I think many of us have had those thoughts too. How do you think you might get around this issue?

KE I am contemplating removing any nonrecyclable packaging at point of purchase and leaving it in the supermarket (watch out my local Morrisons). This will require a bit of bravado on my part!

MZW It’s an excellent way to get the message across and we wish you success with that if you decide to go ahead! Tell us what sort of food you normally eat.

KE I always try to eat healthily but I hate cooking and that’ll be one of the biggest challenges of the week, if I am to give Harry a diet other than jacket potatoes and baked beans. I don’t have much energy when I get home from work and usually do something unimaginative like pasta. I also don’t have the time to be a domestic goddess and bake cute little cakes/ flapjacks etc for us to eat rather than the ready made varieties. We do eat a lot of fruit though and of course have lots of eggs.

MZW What do you think some of your challenges will be?

KE One of the biggest problems for me this week will be that I haven’t been organised enough to book Harry in for hot school lunches, which would have avoided the nightmare that is the school lunch box. Now I am faced with more of a challenge (he only really likes ham sandwiches but the ham I usually buy is pre-packed, and a more regular trip to the supermarket for the deli meat is going to be pretty inconvenient.

MZW Any other challenges you can forsee?

KE I had big plans to prepare for ZWW, for example, planning our meals, but I haven’t had/made the time…….. I have though been keeping a list of what goes in the bin this week just to remind me of what I need to cut out. One of the biggest problems is snack bars –  cereal bars etc, none of those wrappers are recyclable. Another culprit are the plastic punnets that fruit and veg often go in and the plastic outer wrapping. My most heinous waste crime is chucking away unopened bags of salad, admittedly on the compost heap, but nevertheless….

What about your successes? I’m sure there are some thing that are working out well?

KE I have some plastic containers ready to use to avoid using cling film etc. In my shopping this week I have included a number of fresh Tetra pac soups, rather a lot of baked beans, pasta and sauces (in jars). I guess I’ve cheated a little bit in that I’ve bought larger packets of some things so at least I know I won’t get through the whole bag and create any packaging waste during the official ZWW. I have also bought some boxes of the sort of cereal I never buy (Choco hoops etc) which I will mix with some raisins and other dried fruit to try and compensate for the lack of a snack bar in my son’s lunch box. I could make my own, I appreciate, but even if I had the time, that’ll still produce waste (e.g. butter wrappers).

MZW How do you think Harry will cope with zero waste week?

I think I am conscious of not wanting my son to feel too different from his peers. His lunch box is already rather puritan, containing as it does wholemeal bread, fruit and yoghurt, and lacking the cheese strings and packets of crisps of his peers so getting the balance right will be a bit of a challenge too.

I can forsee some weight gain as I eat the leftovers on my son’s plate to avoid them contaminating our empty bin! Though on the plus side it might make me more thoughtful about how much I cook, and, as I can’t eat chocolate, I may even lose some weight!

MZW What about work lunches for yourself?

KE At work I should be ok. We take in our own lunch so I can make it as waste free as possible. I’ve started a compost heap at work too so any fruit or veg waste can go in that. I tend to eat mostly fruit during the day, though may have a packet of couscous for lunch – this won’t be allowed this week of course as the packet is not recyclable. Anything in tins will be ok though so maybe I’ll be eating lots of soup…. I eat a lot of yoghurt so I shall stop have to stop buying them and use my yoghurt maker (which makes the yoghurt in glass pots), which I’m actually looking forward to. I also have a bread maker that I’ll be using too.

MZW Any other particular challenges that might crop up?

KE I have a major physical challenge on Sunday (“Tough Guy”) which will require high energy food and anything to help prevent hypothermia. So it’s possible that may generate some waste, e.g. packaging around newly purchased thermal clothes, high energy cereal bars….

MZW And what about your tips for other people wanting to reduce their waste?

KE Set yourself gentle and realistic targets. Don’t feel like you have to convert all at once. Make it as easy to recycle as possible – I actually fill my garden waste refuse bin with all my non kerb side recycling and then bribe my son to post it into the nifty machines at Tescos (where you can also collect points on some items). I think getting the recycling out of the kitchen as soon as possible is important. Having recycling kicking around my feet or making the kitchen messy and cluttered makes the whole experience more aversive. Make sure you have easy access to your recycling bins too, especially in this cold weather when even opening the back door can be a major effort!

What a great interview! Our thanks go to Kate for sharing about her experience and we look forward to catching up with her later in the week to see how she is getting on. I’m sure many of you can relate to some of the challenges Kate faces; not having time and / or desire to cook, combining working with bringing up children and difficulties finding suitable products in the shops.

We wish Kate the best of luck with the challenge 🙂


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 (4)

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  1. Sarah says:

    Lovely interview! Nice and positive while realistic. Good luck Kate, and all the other Zero Wasters this week.

  2. Mr. Green says:

    KE Going around the supermarkets this week though was a hugely depressing experience. Just seeing the aisles and aisles of non recyclable stuff that will probably be in landfill in 2 weeks time made me feel that my efforts are pretty pointless

    This is typical experience of so many that try as hard as they may to reduce waste and packaging. Supermarkets are in general, interested in marketing and nothing else;

    1- Making foodstuff as attractive as possible, even if that means exagerated packaging.
    2- Buying in foodstuffs with the longest possible shelflife to avoid loss through spoilage.

    Those 2 points ensue the greates sales and the greatest profit to the supermarket and that’s all they really care about.

    When consumers take up the challenge to go zero or minimal waste, it’s always a great step forward. However, when a supermarket, or producer takes up the challenge to produce a product that avoids waste and bad packaging it’s a huge leap forward that impacts thousands of consumers by default.

    What we really need is a strong government line that rationalises and legislates for eco-packaging by law. Only then will we see a national sea-change in packaging waste on a significant scale.

  3. Mrs Jackson says:

    Thanks that was a great interview.
    I actually found it was very depressing that there was a lot of recyclable packaging in the supermarkets but that we don’t have the facilities to recycle it here.

  4. Mrs Green says:

    Mrs J – I feel the same way too. It almost feels like a token gesture or a way of the companies absolving responsibility. Whenever I see the words ‘where facilities exist’ my heart sinks a little……

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