Mrs Green’s six stories on Sunday

Filed in Blog by on August 23, 2009 15 Comments
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You are a Star, And sew is Green Gal...

You are a Star, And sew is Green Gal...

Roll up roll up for six scintillating stories all about reducing, reusing, recycling and composting our way to a zero waste future.

Actually it’s seven, because I like them all.

Perhaps that makes up for the week you were short changed with stories!

Reuse wine bottles for shelving

Here’s a great DIY project for you! How about turning your old wine bottles into shelving?

It might not be the look everyone is after, but it would certainly make a talking point in your home and is a great way to reuse your empties from a Friday night.

You can find out how to make your very own shelving and tables using glass bottles over on Instructables, courtesy of zero waste design.

Reusing cans and tins

If wine bottles shelves aren’t your thing, how about old cans for utensil storage, sweet tins as drawer organisers, soup cans for storing children’s crayons, and even using tins to store gloves and scarves?

HGTV have got some great photographs to inspire you with their “Clever organisers: Can the Clutter” post.

Co-mingled waste collection

Hitting the headlines again are co-mingled kerbside collections.

According to Greenstar, co-mingled collections help to boost overall recycling rates.

Once blamed for stockpiling packaging waste, Greenstar claim that rejection rates are an acceptable trade off for higher volumes of recycling!

Read more with “Greenstar relaunches debate on co-mingled collections“.

How to recycle incandescent light bulbs

Over on Re Nest, one reader asked what to do with old incandescent light bulbs that still work.

The questioner wants to switch to LEDs or CFLs for environmental reasons, but still has a house of working incandescent bulbs.

When I last checked the post, 12 people had put in their ideas ranging from making a dinosaur sculpture (symbolic!) to making Christmas ornaments.

Why not take a peek at “What to do with old incandescents?” and add your answers to the mix.

A home grown harvest

I’m absolutely blown away by the amount of harvesting Compost woman has been doing this week.

If you have visions of the Good Life or of a little self sufficiency, her ‘Harvest time‘ post will give you real inspiration.

You can feel her energy and enthusiasm as she takes you on a guided tour of her crop and tells you how she has been harvesting and preserving everything. And no plastic packaging in sight! Well done Compostwoman; you’re my hero of the week!

Home made cards

Apparently, Clinton cards have amassed £72 million debt because people have stopped buying greetings cards in favour of sending e-cards or making their own.

As I’ve mentioned before, I aspire to making my own cards, but I was certainly at the back of the queue when it came to handing out the artistic genes.

Greengal, however, has taken sewing to a new dimension with her gorgeous hand made card. Go and take a look at her idea with her ‘Sewing isn’t just for fabric‘ blog post.

Recycled candles

Finally, I found a blog this week written by Cara, aka the failed feminist. On her blog, she talks about her experience of crafts, frugal living, gardening and going green.

On one post she shows how she makes recycled candles out of old candle stubs.

If it were me I would undoubtedly end up with some muddy brown colour, but not Cara! She has created some lovely recycled candles which she sells through her Etsy shop.

Take a peek and find out how she makes her recycled candles.

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 (15)

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  1. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    The debate on source-separated and commingled rages on with pluses for both. My bone with the all-in-one solution is the 5-10% waste arising from this type. This is hardly a Zero Waste practice since this is a constant percentage, and therefore recurring source of waste. Source-separated is better in this respect, though more demanding. Householders and collection staff have more to do in sorting the recyclables properly. Undoubtedly, both will be used. The better type should emerge in time.

    CompostWoman is going great guns with the polytunnel system. Even though July/August have been dismal, the harvest is ace. It was good to see basil among the displays. The various types available broaden the uses for the herb, eg lemon, cinnamon varieties. That will be a target for my next year’s effort.
    The main stalks on my 4 plants are now wood coloured. Cutting the top third is advised at this stage. I could still do this but growth in the young plant is still strong as ever.

  2. Sarah says:

    My harvests have been rubbish this year – one of the downsides to partial self sufficiency is when it goes wrong for whatever reason. This year has been a series of disasters both personal and weather/climate wise with ill health and rubbish weather causing pest problems, late sowing, failed germination, failed fruit set etc. I think a greenhouse or polytunnel is the way forward – I have neither and not enough room for a polytunnel, so will be on the look out for a greenhouse of some sort for next spring.

    Even my pumpkins have failed. *sob* About the only decent crops I’ve had this year have been blackcurrants and carrots – oh and the apples are looking ok at the moment. Ah, and courgettes, over run with those and fed up of them now.

  3. Compostwoman says:

    Gosh! I hadn’t realised I was in your round up! Thank you, thank you 🙂

    polytunnels are the way to go I fear now our weather is so variable..I have mixed feelings about the huge amount of plastic used BUT the crops it allows me to grow, the food miles and packaging it saves me must go a long way towards mitigating the plastic cover I hope….

    Given the dreadful time we had here in June /July with illness and building work I am just SO greatful to have ANY harvest…and it is actually not a bad one at all….

    John C I grow lots of different basil! I LOVE Basil, my favs are Red Rubin, Lettuce Leaf and a cinnamon one which is allegedly a perennial, so I am looking forward to overwintering it 🙂

    Mrs G, drop round and see up before school restarts? we would love to see you and I am sure I can find some produce for you to take home…… 😉

  4. John Costigane says:

    @Compostwoman: Hi CompostWoman, If the cinnamon Basil is perennial that adds to my interest since annuals are less versatile.

    Polytunnels can be Zero Waste, if Reusable, since the recurring waste aspect of plastic packaging is its real problem. They seem sturdy enough to last many years. Can they be smaller sized to suit small plots? That would allow more extensive use.

  5. Compostwoman says:

    Yes you can get greenhouse sized polytunnels now, with flat vertical sides rather than the more conventional hemi cylinder type. I have one of those with metal hoops which is 7 m long and 4.5 m wide, but if it were vertical sided I would have a lot more usable floor space in it!

    our old cover was taken away and recycled by the people we bought the new cover off, also ( we kept some bits as they were really handy to make cloches and cold frames out of though)

    But then we tend to reuse what ever we can here…which is why I was so upset by the skips we had for the recent building work (

    I will check out what sort the basil is when I go in the polytunnel….

  6. John Costigane says:

    @Compostwoman: @Compostwoman: Hi Again, That size/shape would be more appropriate for most gardens. The Reusable factor I meant was simply extended use over a number of years, to defer the waste result indefinitely if practicable. The retailer might be happy to sell new covers every year but this should be avoided.

  7. Compostwoman says:

    Gosh John, the covers last years and are certainly not replaced every year!
    We are on the second cover in 13 years, the first came was on the PT at least 4 years when we bought the house and lasted us another 5 years until it split in the great storm of ’02, the new cover went on in early ’03 and is still there now… 🙂

    they usually have a life of at least 5 years guarenteed though, and often much much much longer if well looked after…

    Sorry Mrs G, didn’t mean to hijack….

  8. Mrs Green says:

    You’re not hijacking, Compost woman – it gives me a break if you just carry on your own conversations LOL!
    I love reading about your life anyway 🙂

  9. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Removing the top third from basil plants, when the main stalk has turned wood-like, was advised. I tried this with 2, of 4, branches, each with 2 well formed four leaf developments, partly shaded by the top leaves. After removing both branch tops, the 4 hidden leaf sets have started new growth, as suggested which is encouraging at this late stage of summer. The cut parts have been repotted to see if they will develop themselves. So far, their leaves are collapsed but only a couple of days have elapsed.

    This was done with the younger quick-growing plant. Finding the best plants and using them seems to be key to getting maximum leaf output, especially with the cooler northern situation.

  10. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    I decided to prepare the frozen Sweet Basil leaves for winter storage. There were several options but the quickest was to place in the oven at 350 C or gas mark 4 for as many minutes as required. After thawing and drying on a paper tissue, about 10 leaves were placed on a baking sheet and tray and then placed in the oven.

    The first attempt yesterday resulted in incomplete drying due to fear of burning the precious leaves into a brown mess. Today, I removed the tray after a few minutes and lifted some clearly dry, and still green, leaves off and crumbled into small particles, as in purchased jars though much greener. The process was continued and again several were removed and ground to powder. Any dampish residue was returned with the other unbaked leaves into the oven. Eventually, all leaves were suitably finished. Yesterday’s part baked pieces were re-baked to the correct texture.

    I read that at season end the whole plant could be removed from the pot and hung upside down for drying in a dark, cool location indoors. A paper bag should also cover the leaves.

    The weekend Sweet Basil/Tomato Chicken will be the first chance to test results.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    Hi John, it sounds like the baking process went well. We favour air drying, as you mentioned, and have sprigs of mint hanging in the conservatory. I bet your kitchen smelled wonderful as you were drying the basil. Roughly how long did the basil take to dehydrate?

  12. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    After several untimed runs, I decided to try 4 minutes at Gas mark 4. At the end of four, 1/3 leaves were ready. These were removed and the tray put on for 1 further minute. The bulk of the rest were finished. A further minute took care of the last leaves plus some bits which still had moisture, These latter were still soft to the touch and required further baking.

    Some bulk of the leaves were lost in drying so the final amount could manage 4-5 chicken meals. The other 4 plants are still growing so the best bet might be to grow as late as possible to shorten the off-season. I now realise that the contents of a small jar require a lot of leaves. Next year I will have to increase the number of plants and a propagator will be help speed the early growth.

  13. Mrs Green says:

    Thanks John; I never realised it was so quick to dry herbs!

  14. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    It is quick but you need concentrate to prevent browning getting too widespread. The ease of crumbling makes the end process straightforward. Again, the only negative is the huge decrease in volume which 75% plus.

  15. Jane says:

    Recycling has become more of a norm. Any major information campaign such as that which happens with a change of system provided it is clear is going to increase recycling rates. There is no mention of when the last big campaign with information was in the Greenstar info. I bet there was a big increase then as well.

    I don’t see the difference between the two collections in terms of householder effort. What still seems to be forgotten is the reduction of waste. There is too much concentration in increasing recycling rates – which looks good in targets and and in the league tables – with no mention of a reduction of residual waste. It would be good to see reduction in waste tables as well – somehow those seem to be missing.

    If you live in a small space and make little waste then you will not want to have any small garden space you do have filled with empty or half-empty enormous nose-high stinky wheelie bins.

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