Talking Rubbish, Loud and Proud!

Filed in Blog, Guest Posts by on October 1, 2009 6 Comments
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Mrs A and her lovely boys

Mrs A and her lovely boys

I don’t think our guest author for today needs much introduction – She’s almost part of the furniture here at zero waste towers and she certainly has her feet under our Freecycled Dining table.

It’s none other than wonderwoman herself, Mrs A from The Rubbish Diet!

In her post, Mrs A shares how she has moved from individual to community action in her quest for a zero waste world and shares her tips on how you can make a difference.

Talking Rubbish, Loud and Proud!
But don’t worry, even a whisper can do the trick

I remember the first time I started blogging about rubbish.  It was January 2008.  I’d signed up to our council’s Zero Waste Week and with 7 weeks to go until the challenge itself, they wanted to use my profile as a very average householder to help promote the campaign.

In short they wanted me to become a community champion.

The idea was frightening.  I was just a blogger who was used to hiding behind the comfort blanket of anonymity.  I was interested in reducing waste, but I didn’t know anything about it and the thought of going public in our local community left me with a feeling that I’d much rather go bungee-jumping in a narrow crevasse while singing the Hallelujah Chorus.

But I agreed and not anticipating the roller-coaster ride that would ensue, I did everything I could to drastically reduce my family’s waste in time for Zero Waste Week.

And it was during this period that I realised the serious nature of the impact of waste on landfill and the environment and why the council were keen to reach out to as many people as possible.  While most people are busy trying to remember to switch off lights at home and reduce unnecessary car usage, I quickly understood how slashing waste has its own significant part to play in reducing an individual’s carbon footprint.  Suddenly I felt a sense of responsibility regarding climate change that I’d never experienced before and it has since remained.

It didn’t feel like an extra personal burden as many folk would expect. Instead it made me feel even more empowered to “do my bit”.  It became clear I could actually choose how much rubbish left our house by making small and gradual changes to our lifestyle and our shopping activities.

However, I also realised that I was simply an individual and what I did at home would only have an impact in a solitary setting unless I did more to help spread awareness about the opportunities and necessity of reducing waste.  Before I knew it, I was asking people to blog about their rubbish, take up their own recycling or zero waste challenges and reached out to my local community to take action during Recycle Week.  I was even cheeky enough to invite our local BBC radio presenters to attempt their own zero waste activities too.

For someone like me, who would have preferred to remain anonymous and hide behind my bin, it’s been a very daunting experience at times but has also been personally rewarding.  There have been so many positive responses that I’d now encourage anyone who has concerns about waste to go forth and share the enthusiasm that’s needed to create cultural change.

Of course, being loud about the need for waste reduction can understandably take us out of our comfort zones. You may feel embarrassed and even lack confidence in your own convictions, and worry what others might think too.  I know how this feels and have experienced lots of barriers that have almost stopped me in my tracks many a time.

But there are many ways in which even the shyest supporters can reach out beyond their own bins, even if you just begin with a quiet whisper.  And remember quite often a whisper is all that’s needed to inspire someone else.

Here are a few ideas that could appeal to a whole range of personalities who would like to take more positive action, but not sure where to start.

  • 1.    Add your voice to the global map: For the quieter folk amongst us, an easy way to show your support for reducing waste is to join the “Let’s Waste Less” global map.  It is featured on the My Zero Waste site or can be directly accessed by this platial link. You don’t even need to add a photo, just a name and your city, town or village will do.  Use a pseudonym if you prefer complete anonymity.  It will great to see a global picture of supporters.  And if you’re a blogger, it would be brilliant if you could embed the map onto your site too.  So if you are actively minimising your waste, please add your voice today.
  • 2.    Become a friendly sticky-beak:  If you are disappointed in recycling facilities at a local event or have questions about a manufacturer’s packaging, drop them a line.  After all, it’s you who has to pay for the cost of landfill at the end of the day.  In a similar vein, if you’re impressed with certain products or the way in which an event has handled its waste stream then send some cheery words of encouragement and share the good news with others.
  • 3.    Get writing: If you are confident you can write an article about particular aspects of reducing waste, for example food waste is always an interesting topic, get in touch with your local community magazine.  Editors are often scratching their heads for content and would most likely appreciate your input.  And why stop there; you may enjoy it so much you end up with a regular column. If you’re worried about revealing your identity, you can remain anonymous.  I did for years when I started writing for our local magazine.
  • 4.    Support your council: Most councils would love extra help from individuals in their local area and are often on the look-out for community champions.  Activities range from leaflet-drops to sharing ideas or even helping out at roadshows. You don’t need to know the technical details to get started, but if you’re enthusiastic and fired up you could soon find yourself developing new skills and gain a whole load of recycling or composting knowledge too.  Keen gardeners may even find themselves earning the title of Master Composters and hosting local workshops.  Visit Compostwoman at The Compost Bin blog to see what she gets up to at events in and around Herefordshire.  Then contact your local recycling officer to see if they need any help.
  • 5.    D-I-Y: If you wish more services could be made available to help recycling within your particular community, whether it’s a school, business or a residential area, you could try doing it yourself.  Simple actions such as organising a collection for textiles, phones and printer cartridges or installing a paper bank can help raise funds and save landfill costs.  Rag Bag, Bag it Up and Bags 2 Schools are just some services that can help you recycle more in your community.  For information contact your local council, who may be able to recommend local service providers.  If you would like to go further and organise more regular events and recycling opportunities for the wider neighbourhood consider joining or setting up a Community Recycling Group.  Further guidance on this is available from Waste Online.  The Community Recycling Network also has a wealth of information that will help you, including how to set up a scrapstore.
  • 6.    Network: Of course, local neighbourhoods aren’t just the only communities where you can help spread your enthusiasm.  There are also many opportunities within online communities via blogs,  forums, discussion groups, Twitter, Facebook and Ning sites.   You could start with a simple thread and if there is sufficient support, you could even suggest a friendly challenge.  A good example is the British Mummy Bloggers Let’s Waste Less challenge that I kicked off in June to support the UK’s Recycle Week.  The idea was simple and was like a game of tag, asking individual bloggers to pick a challenge from the Recycle Now website and then choose other bloggers to take up the challenge too.

There are indeed many ideas that might tickle your fancy, far more than can be mentioned here.   In fact there are lots of readers who are already doing fantastic things that are out of the ordinary I would love to know what you’ve been getting up to.

Recently I read a poignant statement highlighting that we are only at the foothills of where we need to be in relation to protecting the earth’s resources.  So any extra action that you can take to promote waste reduction in your own communities will help us climb these mountains faster.

Who knows, you might even find yourself challenging your colleagues, neighbours or friends to a sponsored Zero Waste project and raise some money for a charity in need of extra cash.  It’s amazing what people will do to help others.  And if you tie it in with a local or national campaign, such as Recycle Week, National Zero Waste Week or an Environment Day, it’ll be even easier, as you’ll have the backing of a much louder voice behind you.

And as for being nervous, at least it’s very reassuring that these days I am much happier talking rubbish in public that I would ever be bungee-jumping in a narrow crevasse.

And all I can say to that is “Hallelujah”!


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 (6)

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  1. Mrs Green says:

    Amazing article Mrs A – thank you so much for sharing it here. You provided heaps of inspiration and some great links to empower people to help spread the word.
    It’s been a great reminder to me to actually DO something in my community as well – thank you!

  2. Brilliant article Mrs A.

    You among others have been my inspiration to reduce our families rubbish.

  3. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs A,

    Great to see your fine coverage of the many ways to promote Zero Waste. It takes a special type to take on community sized projects. Havng some community activities already can help and I hope others follow your example. Of course, you may be invited to lend assistance to other areas. There is no doubt about the positive aspects of community effort.

  4. Thanks for hosting Mrs G and for the intro 😀 – It’s been a great week with some lovely guests on here and I am glad to have been part of it. I hope you managed to have some really good time off.

    Thanks too Maisie – and it works both ways off course. While sat around the table for my eldest’s birthday dinner, I thought I’d try and start notching up a list of his favourite meals based on your meal planning ideas…please send me some patience though as he only got as far as the spaghetti bolognese that we were eating and meatballs. It may take a few years, but we’ll get there. If it wasn’t for the support of you and lots of other folk including Mrs G and John, I would have probably gone back and hid behind my bin a long time ago. 😀

    Hi John – I think the more people who put their hands up to work together, the easier it is. I am in awe of the community over in Wenhaston (East Suffolk), who have done some amazing things. As well as having a community group focused on reducing the area’s carbon they also managed their own zero waste week without even having a recycling collection. I am hoping that there will be other folk locally who want to do similar things. Trying to find them is really hard however. But hopefully they might appear one day….the funny thing is, they’re probably sat at home thinking the same thing 😀

  5. Layla says:

    Aww, Mrs A, you are awesome!! 🙂

    And your boys are pretty gorgeous too!! Lovely beach in the back!!

    I feel pretty guilty for not doing more about the ‘community zero waste’ – well, it’s ‘baby steps’ (and sometimes I certainly want to hide behind our bin too!! :))

  6. Thanks Layla, that’s really kind of you 😀 Little J on the right really takes after Mr A in both looks and character. Whereas Little T is like a mini-me (including temperament LOL).

    Thinking back, I suppose I didn’t have chance to even take baby-steps, if I had I’m sure things would have been different. Instead it was more like….”You’re It”…as soon as I’d signed up for the challenge. It was all managed in a nice way though even if it felt quite scary.

    It may be worth considering doing something quite small-scale at first, helping out a local organisation and finding your feet. As I said gentle whispers of activity are great too.

    P.S. The beach in the photo is Southwold, a beautiful seaside town in Suffolk….one of our favourite places 😀

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