Happy Birthday to us!

Filed in Blog by on June 2, 2009 18 Comments
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My zero waste celebrates one year!

My zero waste celebrates one year!

We made it – My Zero waste is one year old today! It was on 2nd June 2008 that we first set foot into blogland to celebrate the first day of WRAP’s recycle week.

Back then we were creating over a bin full of rubbish for the landfill each week; now we are generating less than 100gms and we’re all set to having our bin emptied just once this year. Six months into the year and it’s not even half full.

We have 464 posts under our belts, and you’re a talkative lot too, clocking up 6,000 comments on the site! However, a great Birthday party does not involve the people celebrating standing on a stage in the limelight. No, a good party is all about mingling. It’s about getting to know new people, enjoying good conversation and sharing ideas.

So today, instead of me rabbiting on as usual, I want to hear what you have to say! Mr Green and I were talking about our ‘hindsight’ moments over the past year and we’d love to hear yours.

He said that in hindsight, reducing waste is much easier than he ever thought it would be. In addition, many more shopkeepers than he would have anticipated, are open and helpful when it comes to helping us reduce waste. Who would have thought our local butcher would merrily send us on our way with our purchases in our own reusable containers?

For me, I’ve learned a lot about creative reuse and how our society is conditioned to wanting things that look right above all else. We really do judge a book by its cover, and our neighbours and friends by their possessions.  And it is this that creates a lot of our waste.

So yes we have a shed that was given to us for firewood, but we have in fact, patched it up and kept it going.
We have a greenhouse that has had a couple of footballs through it and hence has the odd pane missing.
All three of us buy most of our clothes second hand.
I have just one saucepan with the original two handles; and today I cursed them again as I burnt my hand.
We have many ‘rustic’ looking things around our home.
But you know what? I feel good about them; far better than many of the things I have bought new.

Why is this? Because I believe that I am doing the right thing by using things until they are literally unfit for use. It’s creative, we have kept perfectly serviceable items out of the landfill, we all know that within a few weeks of purchasing something we’re onto the next ‘fix’ and I find myself becoming less and less tolerant of creating waste when half the people in the world don’t know where their next meal is coming from and we are destroying ourselves and the environment with our greed.

Several years ago I was privileged to help a friend of ours move house. Our friend is in her eighties and she moved from her large family home. It was the local mill house; a rambling, prestigious property in its heyday. She was born in that house, spent her childhood there, grew up and took care of her Mother and father until they died and finally, laid her sister to rest.

This left my friend on her own in a cold, damp, draughty house with only a robin for company. Mould crept up the walls, rain came through the ceiling into the bedrooms and you could see downstairs when you’re upstairs, through holes in the floorboards.

One would look at the holes in the ceiling, the missing window panes, their own breath as they speak and the orange and black fungus growing up the walls and decry the place unfit to live. We could have had the place condemned years ago and a nice new property found for her, but this was her HOME.

Her life, her history, her memories and her childhood were all wrapped up in the walls of that house. No matter what state the property and furnishing were in, it was a wrench for her to leave.

She left a lifetime of memories in that tumble-down cottage and moved to a modern bungalow (a rabbit hutch as she calls it). She traded her open fires for economy 7 heating, her warped floorboards and scatter rugs for plain green carpet, her missing window panes for double glazing and her mouldy walls for Magnolia paint.

Most of the time was spent finding new homes for all the stuff she had acquired. We called in antiques dealers, house clearance people, put up private ads and took numerous boxes of junk to the landfill.

This had a massive impact on me; even then.

I figured that we spend the majority of our lives buying and acquiring things. One of the things that frustrates me most about my life is the amount of TIME I have to spend taking care of my stuff! And at the end of it all, when we take our last breath, what becomes of everything? Does it have meaning or value to us anymore?

That ‘thing’ that we dreamt about owning and finally possessed, does it have an impact as we travel off to meet our Maker? I doubt it.

It’s my guess that we are left with our memories and hopefully a heart full of love. I don’t think for one moment our new shed, perfect greenhouse, Jimmy Choo shoes or matching dining room suite comes into the equation.

Oh dear! I said I wasn’t going to take centre stage at our party and look what I’ve just done! So, without further ado, please raise your glasses to a successful rubbishy year, share your ‘hindsight’ moments or tell us what has been your most valuable learning over the past 12 months in your own life. Or if you’ve got nothing to say, you can just tell us how fabulous we are; we don’t mind.

Seriously, we thank each and every one of you for supporting the site over the past year and making it what it is. It’s been a total blast; we’ve enjoyed every most moments of it and we look forward to another year of planet friendly fun with you.

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 (18)

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  1. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Congratulations on a full year of leading the Zero Waste challenge. So much has been achieved so much more to change. You have covered a massive range of relevant topics, helping to build a knowledge base for other enthusiasts. That was one of my initial unfulfilled aims, great credit to you for making that a reality.

    The 1 year target for the family is well within reach, and comparable to my 5 year effort. The importance is that the family situation is central to progress on the home front, and the most relevant. Other enthusiasts have their family styles which add to the overall experience.

    After bemoaning the loss of loose food, and other, items locally, it now seems that trading has resumed. Further details later.

    Anna’s affairs are nearly over, with the house sold. After 6 months of looking after it, my daily routine will change. Some thought I grew too close to the house, with its family memories. The truth is simply that I did the task out of regard for my late aunt. Going past any related family home, now occupied by other families, is a strange experience so avoiding the area for a while is a good idea. Anna’s items have spread around the family especially to those closest.

    I also look forward to the time ahead with Zero Waste becoming even bigger, worldwide.

  2. Compostwoman says:

    Many Happy Returns MZW….and all at chez Green

    Here is to the next year!

    (and I will post about the Love Food Hate Waste training course anon…….just for you….)

  3. Congratulations on your achievements.

    Even though I was “dabbling” in being greener, your blog inspired me to go at it whole hog.

    I just told the family we were doing it and as I didn’t work/only work parttime this was fine as it is me that sorts everything.

    Some things are not easily done depending on where a person lives and the local facilities to them; but you seem to take all that in your stride.

    So I will again say congratulations, and here’s to the next year!!!

  4. Happy anniversary honey and to Mr G and Little Miss Green too. What a brilliant result. My hindsight moment is why the hell didn’t I start sooner. Anyway, hindsight is a great thing, but for now here’s to another year and as soon as it hits wine o’clock I’ll raise a glass in celebration. In the meantime, I’m going to just put my feet up with a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake in your honour. 😀 xxx

  5. Nick Palmer says:

    I only just found this blog and already you’re a year old! Many happy returns


  6. thegreengal says:

    Congratulations the Green Zero Waste family! It’s really, really impressive the difference you’ve made and the example you’re shown us all. Fully inspiring! Are you sure you don’t have a cupboard that’s bursting with stuff that you haven’t binned but also don’t know what to do with…?!

    Think I’ll join Almost Mrs Average in the kitchen of your party for some tea and cake.

  7. Kira says:

    Congratulations on surviving to your one year anniversary and for everything that you’ve achieved during the year. I am nowhere near as far down the road as you are but still I’m considered unusual in the surban estate I live on because my bin never overflows and I don’t buy everything new that comes on to the market. Once you start to think about our consumption versus our needs and what happens to all the waste we produce other people’s habits start to look very strange! Thank you for helping to open my eyes and I look forward to reading many more posts that will encourage and teach me as I travel further down the zero waste road.

  8. Despairing says:

    Congratulations on your birthday! Now how are you going to get that slice of cake to me, waste free?

  9. Jackie says:

    Many, many congratulations to all membersof the Green family. Your ongoing journey has been a source of inspiration to me and made me look to where I can cut down waste and use the 3 Rs. Still having a bit of an ongoing battle/discussion with the two males in our house!! But geting there slowly…

    Waiting for the toms to come up now and gathering the jars for the bumper crop of strawberries I’m hoping for.

    Well done

  10. Ben says:

    Congratulations on the past year! You’ve clearly made a lot of changes and discovered many new things, but also managed to share much of it with us here, which is important.

    I’ve been reading some of the pages and I’ve discovered a lot. I didn’t actually think zero waste was possible before, well not at least without making huge lifestyle changes. I’m willing to make many changes, but have never for example wanted to move out the city, grow all my own food and make my clothes or anything! I felt that modern life meant waste was almost inevitable. I was wrong, fortunately it seems, because zero waste seems possible now without making extreme changes.

    I’ve always made an effort to recycle as much as I can locally, and reuse various materials, as well as buying second hand often, and I’ve never been a big consumerist. However, I haven’t yet done a huge amount to cut back on rubbish. Currently I’m absurdly busy with moving, helping someone else move and exams for the next two weeks, so not up for any huge changes until things are settled in the new house. However, I plan to make some changes after that.

    I’ll get milk and fruit juice delivered in glass bottles, so no more plastic bottles and cartons to bin. Also a vegetable/fruit box as they seem to be good value for money and avoid most packaging. I’ve found a shop that does cleaning product refills too, so no more plastic bottles and boxes to bin. A lot of our rubbish should be gone after that, so even if this is all I do it’s going to make a positive change. But, I’m investigating other possibilities. I’ve found a few shops that are happy to refill my containers with other items, like ground coffee, and someone who makes jam (very good jam!) in reused jars, so when empty I can take them back for refilling rather than recycle them and binning the lids. I don’t just want to cut landfill waste, I’d like to put less in the recycle too. It still costs a lot of energy and resources to recycle things, and recycling means we need to remake things over and over again. Useful items should ideally last more than one use.

  11. Wendy says:

    WOW, congratulations! I think it’s marvelous what you guys have managed to do in a year and I’m so thankful that you wrote the journey down as you went to teach the rest of us that it can be done. Well done you!

  12. @Ben: well done on this Ben, it isn’t just about reduce and recycle it is reuse as well.

    Alot of people think that if they are recycling everything then that is good but it needs to go that stage further in that the recycling is also reduced by reuse or even changing habits again.

  13. sandy says:

    thanks and happy birthday
    please keep going, a few more tipe would be very useful

  14. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Thank you John. This has been a very poignant time for you with sorting out Anna’s affairs; you’ve no doubt done a wonderful job. I was reading today that Scotland is set to become a zero waste nation – do you know much about this?

    @Compostwoman: Thanks Compostwoman – some info on the love food hate waste training would be fab. I hope you are feeling stronger and fitter day by day 🙂

    @maisie dalziel: Thank you so much Maisie. Your support and encouragement is so valued on our site; I hope you know that 🙂

    @Almost Mrs Average: Hey Mrs A – lovely comment; thank you! I hope the win was good and the hands didn’t take too long to turn to the bewitching hour. Yes, funny how we feel we could have done all this years ago too 🙂

    @Nick Palmer: Thank you Nick and thanks for joining us. I hope you stay with us and enjoy the ride. As you know, I’m reading your blog too and look forward to sharing some thoughts.

    @thegreengal: 😀 greengal, thanks for the laugh; but you know what? You might just be close to the truth – stay tuned for the week beginning 22nd June for all to be revealed LOL!

    @Kira: What a lovely comment, Kira – thank you so much. I know what you mean about stopping to think about disposal and impact even before you’ve bought something. I’m glad we have another ‘unusual’ suburbanite to join in the fun 🙂

    @Despairing: Thank you Despairing. Hmmm, zero waste cake. I guess I’ll just have to arrive in person and make it in your kitchen 😀

    @Jackie: Hi Jackie; thank you so much and best of luck with your glut. I’ve not yet tried jam making, but would love to give it a try. It sounds like you have your work cut out with the two males in your home!

    @Ben: Hi Ben, thank you for the congrats and I’ve really enjoyed reading all the thoughtful comments you’ve left around the site. it sounds like you’ve thought hard about your lifestyle and how you can combine this with reducing your impact on the environment.

    I admire that because, as you said, not all of us want to move out of the city and live the ‘good life’ – it’s great to empower ourselves to be able to reduce our environmental impact whilst living the lifestyle we choose.

    I think you end with a very important point about reuse. We try to use recycling as a last resort too. Even though we promote it heavily on the site, as it is the best way for ‘beginners’ to reduce their landfill waste, ultimately, we must lead a more sustainable life which means reducing and reusing before recycling; as Maisie says in her comment to you …

    @Wendy: Thank you Wendy, I appreciate you leaving a comment as I know you are so busy at the moment. And you know I love what you are doing with your sites too 🙂

    @sandy: Hi Sandy; good to see you again and thank you for the Birthday wishes. Never fear; we are not going away and there will be lots more tips appearing on the site. Let us know if there is anything in particular you would like to see covered.

  15. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: A Zero Waste Scotland is a worthy goal but the reality for most of Scotland is very poor recycling facilities with people waiting for Mr Instone’s ‘Initiative’ PFI’s his favourite-incineration, to change things. It will be a looong wait.

    My Zero Waste attitude is strict simply because the practices of others are unacceptable. I envy the good situations you and Mrs A find locally. The best way forward from my perspective is to promote Zero Waste countrywide and then Scotland can catch up when ready. The problem is down to politics with Labour and SNP bitter rivals.

  16. Wow! One year already!? It’s amazing how fast people can change their ways. it gives me heart for the big issues (like fossil fuel dependence etc). I know we can all change fast if we have too.

    You forgot to mention that how when you buy less stuff, you don’t have to make as much money and therefore, can spend your time doing other things that are equally as valueable but perhaps not as financially rewarding. (at least that’s what I’ve found).
    Great work guys!

  17. CGabriel says:

    Congratulations! I enjoyed reading your treatise on the journey you’ve taken. Inspiring, informative though not quite in-step with the vast majority of the world….which means, you’re well ahead of the pack. 🙂

  18. Mrs Green says:

    @Jen Clean Bin: Thanks Jen, I like your thoughts that we can change fast when we want to. You’re right and yes, it gives hope for some of the bigger issues.

    @CGabriel: Great to see you Christopher, thanks for your comment and good luck with your new show tomorrow.

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