Results of our zero waste year

Filed in Blog, Videos by on January 7, 2011 39 Comments
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photo credit: Paul Groom

photo credit: Paul Groom

Hello my lovelies, sorry I’m a bit late updating the site today but it’s been a busy and exciting day for us.

We’re now ready to share the results of 2010!

Our goal at the beginning of 2010 was to send nothing to landfill… The question everyone wants to know is “Did we achieve our goal?”

As you might remember there have been a few challenges along the path to zero waste.

At the beginning of the year, someone saw fit to dump bags of household rubbish on our drive!


Another challenge was whether or not I could find the solution to a waste free shave especially after being teased horribly by BIC.  Not being ready to embrace my inner cave woman just yet I wanted to find a way to stay smooth without dumping razors in the landfill.

In September, a major office declutter revealed some 35mm film negatives. Lots of you came up with some creative reuse ideas, but to be honest, I just wanted them out of the house…

And naturally, throughout the course of the year there have been a couple of grand tidy ups in a certain Little Miss Green’s boudoir.

There have also been gifts from wonderful friends and family, a Christmas to celebrate, friends visiting and bringing things such as delicious croissants on an unmarked plastic tray, four Birthdays and all manner of other day-to-day activities to contend with.

In case you are new to the site, during 2009 we accumulated one dustbin of landfill waste – the rest was reused, recycled or composted. Take a peek at what was in our bin for the year.


So without any further ado, we reveal the results of 2010 – take a look at our news item from West Country this evening, have a rummage through our trusty bin and see if we achieved our lofty zero waste goal for the year; I think you’ll agree Little Miss Green was the star of the show. Read our story in the Daily Mail too about “Mr and Mrs Green“.

We’re delighted with our result, we kinda knew that ‘zero’ landfill waste would be impossible, but if you don’t aim high you’ll never know what you can achieve 😉

I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for being here with us on our journey. We couldn’t do it without you lovely people sharing in our successes, commiserating with our cock ups and having a jolly good knees up with us on the site. Here’s to an amazing and rubbish-free 2011!

Mrs Green holds family rubbish for 2010

Mrs Green holds family rubbish for 2010

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 (39)

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  1. LJayne says:

    Brilliant Mrs G, absolutely brilliant. I love the sorting shelves 🙂 Well done to you all 🙂
    I see you’ve discovered 365LessThings. Me too.

  2. Hi Mrs Green,
    good for you. Your efforts this year have been rewarded by your local community and rightly so. I look forward to more of your environmentally friendly wisdom this year.

  3. Alyson says:

    Congratulations! I wondered how you got on with the challenge and now I know. The bag isn’t tightly packed either. Well done again

  4. This is such an important post – Green family, I must let you know how deeply you affect how we behave. Super inspiring. Much love and respect x

  5. Hazel says:

    Well done you! I was feeling slightly smug that when everybody else had overflowing full size bins after Christmas (and the weeks collection we missed because of snow) our slim bin wasn’t even full, but we still throw away more in a week than you binned in a year! I’m trying to feel inspired rather than inadequate…

    If I could get DH and DD1 completely on board, that would make all the difference. They’re supportive, but in a if-you-tell-me-to-do-it-I-will-but-I’ll-need-a-prod-if it-starts-to-get-a-bit-difficult kind of a way. Ah well, we’re getting better each year, so 2011 should be even better!

    What are you planning for this year? I can’t see how you can improve on 2010!

  6. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Great to see the recent media coverage which shows the relative ease for a family following a Zero Waste lifestyle. I too find Zero Waste living perfectly fine and also enjoy the positive changes from councils and businesses, who share the outlook. After all, it makes sense to stop the never-ending waste arisings which blight many parts of the world, including our own.

    Some Daily Mail commenters tried to put a negative slant on things, but the experience of the Green family, and other enthusiasts, shows the value of the trend. One thing is certain, the direction is towards Zero Waste with opponents increasingly marginalised.

    The home containers, featured on the West Country programme, are ideal for many retail outlets. The most accommodating are local traders and specialist retailers, though the occasional worker there is nonplussed by plastic packaging avoidance.

    Going from 1 full bin to 1 part-filled resealable plastic bagsworth of plastic waste is a fantastic reduction. The question is just how many of these bags would fill the bin? A bag for each year could make it decades before the next emptying, if ever. My own 5 year target could be extended but medicine based waste, in particular, does limit things. This industry has escaped notice so far but they too should take responsibility for their waste outcomes, without it affecting the useful work they do. Some type of RTS may be necessary to start the process.

  7. Julie Day says:

    Well done. I saw the article about you and your family in the Metro yesterday. Puts me to shame greenwise it does.

  8. Sooz says:

    Well done Greens! What an amazing result! 🙂

  9. the comments on the news article were revealing—disbelief? i imagine that it is indeed hard to believe that a family could be so dedicated…but how very encouraging to see that a share activity may lead to social bonding of the healthiest kind.
    time? well what do folks do with their own spare time? watch television? talk on the phone? go to the mall? i cannot think of anything more constructive than to design an organizational system to get rid of extra trash.
    plus—it takes no longer to do the right gesture than to do the wrong move…in the bin or in the recycling box?
    and a little self discipline at first leads to economy later when returns are cashed in or conscience is appeased by the results of routine recycling.


  10. Susi says:

    Fantastic! Well done Green Family!! Not been so hot on the low-waste ourselves this past week but have promised to make a more determined effort when the bins are emptied on Monday.

    Shall even start sending our crisp packets off for recycling!

    Keep up the good work, you’re an inspiration to us all!


  11. Ms Junket says:

    You are INSPIRING. Congratulations on your wonderful success. You must be so proud to know that your zero waste lifestyle is contagious and spreading across the world.

    Cheers to the Greens.

  12. Fantastic! You have improved so much this year: From one bin to just one bag!!
    Very inspiring to see the difference one family can make!!

    The majority of whats left although difficlut to re-use in every day life, through arts and crafts it could be quite easily done away with, If you did decide to keep that bag, give me an email and I will give you a home for it! 😉
    Congratulations, Ive also reposted your success through my blog!

  13. In one word……wahey!!!!!!!!

    Sending love, hugs and a huge high-five from Suffolk. Here’s to 2011 xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  14. Jane says:

    Congrats and I love the way you’ve revisited some of the things you couldn’t recycle at the beginning of last year and now have an a recycling answer for! It is sad to see from the press that there are people having real problems just because of Christmas and the snowy weather in the last month.

  15. luciana costa- Brasil says:

    parabéns. vcs são um exemplo à ser seguido. Agora o que eu gostaria de ler em próxima reportagem é de que vcs deixaram de ir ao açougue de onde não usavam as embalagens. Não consumindo carne aumentará ainda mais a não poluição do nosso planeta. Faço este desafio á vcs. Boa sorte.

  16. Just clicked through to check out your web design as promised but had to say I am very impressed by your tiny bag of landfill. What a great idea !

  17. David says:

    parabéns. vcs são um exemplo à ser seguido. Agora o que eu gostaria de ler em próxima reportagem é de que vcs deixaram de ir ao açougue de onde não usavam as embalagens. Não consumindo carne aumentará ainda mais a não poluição do nosso planeta. Faço este desafio á vcs. Boa sorte.


    Congrats. You are an example to be followed. Now what I would like to read in the next post is that you have stopped going to the butchers where you do not use the packaging. Not eating meat shall raise non pollution of our planet even further. I raise this challenge to you. Good luck.

  18. Mrs Green says:

    @LJayne: 365less things is a great site isn’t it? I love Colleen’s energy and dedication. Thanks for the comments on our story too!

    @Colleen ( Thanks Colleen; the feeling is mutual 🙂

    @Alyson: Thanks Alyson; now you know indeed and so does half the world LOL!

    @Julie Gibbons: Thank you Julie and you too with your lovely blog. And I won’t forget the wonderful support you gave us during zero waste week 😉

    @Hazel: Oh please don’t feel inadequate, that is not our intention at all., It’s all about baby steps as you have discovered. For 2011 we’ll do the same as before, see if we can beat our record and work more closely with other people to see if we can help them.

    @John Costigane: Hi John, your efforts are a brilliant example of what can be done too and you frequently come up in conversations here at zero waste towers regarding your loyal support of the site right from the start, It’s comments like yours that allow me to put Daily Mail ones into perspective…

    @Julie Day: Julie, you are doing marvellous work. Nearly every week we get updates from the things you have been doing and you sound extremely dedicated.

    @Sooz: thanks Sooz!

    @nadine sellers: thank you Nadine – you clearly ‘get it’. Others don’t but I’m sure they are passionate about other things 😉

    @Susi: That’s great susi and thank you for supporting the PCF too; the work they do is amazing.

    @Ms Junket: Thank you! I love your work too as you know…

    @Michelle Morgan: Thanks Michelle; I will be in touch; I think we could work together on a mutually beneficial project which would make great news 🙂

    @[email protected]: Thanks Sweetheart – you know you are the inspiration behind my work – so thank YOU for being a constant in all of this…

    @Jane: It must be really hard to be worrying about bin collections; something I’ve quite forgotten about. It’s nice to have that lie in once a week too 😉

    @luciana costa- Brasil: and @David: Thank you David / Luciana – Eu pessoalmente não comer carne, mas o Sr. Green e Little Miss verde fazer. Eu sinto, com todas as coisas na vida, que eu faça o que eu sinto é certo, mas eu não pregar aos outros ou tentar persuadi-los a fazer as mudanças que eles não são confortáveis. Tolerância e julgamento não são valores importantes para mim.

    @Not a NottingHill Mum: Thank you! So glad you clicked through to see what we were about 🙂

  19. Mrs Green says:

    translation of my comment to David / Luciana costa- Brasil:
    I don’t personally eat meat, but Mr Green and Little Miss green do. I feel, with all things in life, that I do as I feel is right but I don’t preach to others or try to persuade them to make changes that they are not comfortable with. Tolerance and non judgement are important values to me.

  20. Jane says:

    I enjoyed Oxfam’s Green Granny’s tips and we all enjoyed the vegetable cottage pie she describes here.

  21. Fernando L. Wiedemann (Rio, BRAZIL) says:

    Congratulations! I’m following your way. Very far at that moment, but… going in the same direction.

  22. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Thanks Jane; I’ll take a look at your link.

    @Fernando L. Wiedemann (Rio, BRAZIL): Welcome Fernando, I’m so happy you are here and making changes in your own life 🙂

  23. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Thanks for the kind comments regarding my own Zero Waste efforts and loyal backing for the website. Looking back over the near 3 years of our trend, with Karen at the Rubbish Diet closest of all to reaching this milestone, I remember the small beginning with just 4 enthusiasts, including Mr Green. Now there is a community of enthusiasts, including some in far away locations, who contribute frequently. The newer people have joined in with their perspectives adding to the site’s impact. You have worked hard to achieve this outcome and deserve much praise from all enthusiasts. Much remains to be done and I hope you can sustain the Zero Waste trend in the year ahead.

    Recent working has given an insight into M&S’s Plan A. Just as we as families, and individuals, take family/personal responsibility so M&S take corporate responsibility for their internal waste arisings to a great extent.

    There are still negative developments, some trifling, which counter the trend’s goals. Disinformation is one example. In this case claims of the home compostability of cellophane were printed on a chocolate box side. This is highly questionable for such a widely used synthetic material. Truth is important and such claims should therefore be investigated fully. Another more trivial example is the plastic labelling of loose fruit which seems to be expanding with pears and satsumas added to apples. The plastic industry is trying to turn back the clock to the good old days (for them) and we should be ever vigilant with regard to such developments.

    The milder January has given me hope of over-wintering the 3 remaining sweet basil plants. The 4th developed flowers on each branch but now has a uniform brown colour. The compost bin awaits. Another difference from last winter’s severe spell is with the bokashi, which restarted producing the juice by-product for a few days before the very recent return to colder weather. An early spring has been suggested by some. Hopefully, this occurs and the new growing season is longer than last year’s.

  24. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Morning John, well as you know our mantra is everyone doing their bit adds up to significant change 😉
    Interesting about Plan A – I’ve read about it online, but you must have better insights from being on the ‘inside’ so to speak. Compostable packaging is one of my particular bug bears and I have tried in the past to investigate this – SunChips were one notable example…
    I’m looking forward to the growing season too – will be getting some seed potatoes in the next week or so 😉 What are you planning to grow this year apart from basil?

  25. David says:

    @Fernando L. Wiedemann (Rio, BRAZIL):

    Zero waste aqui no Brasil é / vai ser um desafio e tanto! Com a Poitica Nacional do Residuo Solido esperamos ver muitas industrias tendo que repensar seus conceitos de embalagem. Por enquanto é muito plastico. Pressão dos consumidores concientes ajudaria.

    Zero waste here in Brazil is / shall be a real challenge! With the recent issuing of the National Directive on Solid Waste we expect to see many industries having to rethink their concepts on packaging. For the time being too much plastic is used. Conscientious consumer pressure would help.

  26. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: This year the plan is also to grow tomatoes again and give family, friends and neighbours 1-2 plants with fruit already forming. This should encourage their full participation throughout the season until autumn. Another target is to provide berries for small birds which seem to fare less well than the larger types. A good position is a back garden metal fence having an open approach on both its sides. A selection of green vegetables will again be tried.

    Heated propagation will run season long for best effect and growing cuttings will be attempted after the short season last year prevented this latter planned effort.

    Great to see your plans already started with potatoes. Outdoor planting is not my main interest but I may try some root vegetables later. Lavender is said to be difficult to grow from seed which makes it a challenge, particularly with feeding bees in mind. Bumble bee numbers were slightly down from previous years and I noticed mainly small, young bees at the height of summer. It seemed unusual. Did you notice any difference in bee numbers last year?

  27. LJayne says:

    @John – we have a well established lavender bush just outside our kitchen french doors and I thought bee numbers were slightly down on the previous year (we are in Berkshire), even though the plant was as vigorous as ever. We also had no wasps nests that I could detect (they had all camped at Legoland I think!) which is better than previous years.

  28. Mrs Green says:

    @David: Welcome to the site. It is good that companies will now have to rethink their packaging and this should help consumers reduce their household waste. And yes, Conscientious consumer pressure can make a very big difference! It’s all about voting with your money 🙂

    Bem-vindo ao site. É bom que as empresas agora terão que repensar suas embalagens e isso deve ajudar os consumidores a reduzir seus resíduos domésticos. E sim, a pressão do consumidor consciente pode fazer uma diferença muito grande! É tudo uma questão de voto com o seu dinheiro:)

    @John Costigane: Hi John, I noticed an INCREASE in bees last year, but we did plant a bee garden 😉
    Some of the favourites, along with lavender (needs free draining soil to survive) were:
    marjoram – which I leave to flower for them and then gather some leaves when they’ve hibernated, thyme – this was their favourite; again leave to flower then harvest for your own use at the beginning of autumn,
    Comfrey which is a wonderful ‘gardeners friend’ plant anyway and brilliant for kick-starting the compost heap,
    and we’re fortunate enough to have lot of clover in our grass – which the bees love, but you have to be careful when walking on the lawn as dozy bees and bare feet are not a good match!

    We also had a swarm which landed in a neighbours chimney; he was all set to call pest control but we gently talked them into a more humane option and I got around a beekeeper to take them 😉

    We had a bee nest in our hedge and 2 wasps nest; that’s the beauty of the country for you I guess!

  29. John Costigane says:

    The issue of falling bee numbers has been a recent thing and perhaps we both have taken more notice than otherwise of our home situations. We can all plant more suitable flowering bushes to give maximum help. Wasps which are beneficial insects can also be a problem. Last high summer, the yellow flowered hypericum bush was taken over by young wasps, with bumblebees mainly early morning visitors.

    Mrs Green,
    Country living is definitely better in many ways and we can all aspire to at least some of the advantages in our town and city locations. Thyme seems another good bet and there should be a space beside the lavender this summer. Thanks for the cropping advice as well which should add to my cooking choices. Do you plan any other new plants this year?

    I too have bees on the lawn but not for clover. Weed flowers are probably the source but do not last long in my attempts to keep the lawn moss, and weed, free. Here, bare-foot is just for the toddlers!

  30. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Hi John, the thing I’ve learned about myself is I get all enthusiastic about growing new things, but actually I should stick with what I know is a success. I’m going to really try that this year and grow fewer things which I can use and harvest well. I know what the bees like, I know what we like and I’m not going to be swayed by all the other lovely things in the garden centre 😉 Well that’s the plan anyway!

  31. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Improving techniques is just as important as trying new plants. After that new plants can be tried with confidence. My own view is to try things which will provide more for wildlife: lavender, thyme and a berry bush should be suitable. Seeing the results after the season will show the benefit, or otherwise, of each plant, helping decisions in future years. Growing things from seed is a particular interest, with sweet basil still to flower for me at the correct time.

  32. John Costigane says:

    Hi Again Mrs Green,

    Have you ever been pleasantly surprised, or even gobsmacked, by an unexpected event? One disappointment from months, possibly over a year, ago was the closure of Whittard, and its Zero Waste coffee beans, at the local Braehead Shopping Centre. This was a setback to local enthusiasts trying to avoid the plastic bagged alternative. Well yesterday, within view of the old shop location now sadly in new hands, there were a couple of gals handing out coffee tasting samples for Whittard. I immediately looked into this and was told of a current relocation to a smaller store in the Centre. Having a free home container to hand, I purchased 500g Colombian coffee beans from this new shop. The manageress was equally pleased to be back, making it a very good day!

    A recent trip to Lush, also at Braehead, gave me the chance to buy more bath salt bars, cheaper than the plastic bottled alternatives, since the home container provides all the packaging. Furoshiki scarves, silk or silk-like material, were on display and may be a better way to carry the home cosmetics.

    On a different note, the more detail I discover about the Zero Waste by 2012 target of Plan A at M&S, the more it resembles the challenges we enthusiasts face on the home front. The big difference is in the number of people involved, hundreds instead of handfuls. Thorough training is being provided for staff, not too far removed from the expert advice new enthusiasts receive from Karen and yourself. Food waste from cooking is a big issue just as in the home but there is no bokashi bucket available to cater for all eventualities. In that case, Anaerobic Digestion and composting will provide the answer in the longer run.

    The customer perspective will be worth investigation fully since it may be possible to purchase items Zero Waste, since all packaging can be recycled in store. Again, consumers can provide suitable reusable bags for the purpose. Investigation into the details of recycling, done at a different location, will be essential. Feedback can be used to perfect the system and any stumbling blocks can be addressed in an insightful way, as there are many different viewpoints to be considered. Enthusiasts contributions can also be assessed for future reference.

  33. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Hi John, what great news about Whittards – so pleased for you! And great that LUSH were displaying a zero waste alternative to packaging with their furoshiki scarves. I agree that homeowners and businesses face exactly the same problems; just on a bigger scale. This was apparent in our TV interview where we were alongside GM Ford – apparently they were in the studio listening to our interview nodding all the way through and telling the host that they too had the exact same issues…. It’s all about scaling the problem. Are you in a position to offer any suggestions to M&S? It sounds like you could be very valuable to them…

  34. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: That is a good question. Like yourself, Mr Green, Karen, and other enthusiasts, I appreciate the changes needed to achieve Zero Waste, or close to it. So far, my own activity is guided by experiences at home. An example is the odd piece of discarded food, eg banana skin, which can be left in store bags/baskets. As at home, there is a place for such material, lined boxes for food waste backstage, though further processing is done elsewhere. Discussion with staff and senior colleagues, mainly female (just like the trend) has already started, though in a minor way. The truth is that Zero Waste knows no barriers and more is likely to follow as Plan A is fully implemented. Coffee grounds, and other prepared food waste, is a larger scale issue than the householder situation, though sharing with others is feasible. Can it even be available for customers?

    The Scottish situation differs from south of the border in that bin collections are seen as a right to be defended. We are therefore behind England and Wales at present in recycling, for example. In home composting, I know of no other householder who follows my activity in Johnstone, a town of 25,000+. As for bokashi users, I may be the only one in Scotland! I am not deterred in any way since Zero Waste is the future, worldwide. When fully established, the planet will be a better place for ourselves and later generations. What is your take on the English situation?

  35. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: 😀 we have the idea that the weekly emptying of bins are a birthright too; it’s totally beyond me, but there we are. It’s strange, because I keep hearing about Scotland being a zero waste country! Maybe I need to come there and investigate the matter 😀 I’m not really sure how I feel about the English situation – al I feel is that we need some legislation that brings things into line more – fewer plastics allowed for packaging, districts and county councils having the same collections and better recycling facilities for all the materials produced… I guess that’s a long way off though 😉

  36. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: Politics is a wonderful thing, speaking of Zero Waste as if you only had to click your thumb and middle finger. Bandwagons are there to be jumped onto and this is the situation here and,no doubt, down south to soem extent. Zero Waste by 2025 here shows it will be a slow process. EFW Incineration is part of this drive which also goes against the trend’s aims.

    Recycling rates give an idea of the relative performance and Scotland lags the other 2. One example is Glasgow, whose the rate was recently 18%. EFW Incineration, or related technology, is a large part of the proposed plan to reduce the waste total there.

    That may seem a very negative personal view but it makes sense to understand the situation fully. My approach is therefore to do the best I can to promote all aspects Zero Waste, which I can impact. The working situation gives a new strand which can only add to the trend. Other enthusiasts’ working practices can add further to this.

    The milder weather has allowed some new plant growth so Spring may be nearer than last year. The 3 sweet basil plants are still growing which is a big improvement this year. They all show some pre- flowering development which I aim to remove. The question for you is: when does new plant growth begin for such plants?

  37. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Hi John, regarding plant growth I’m not sure with basil. Technically it’s an annual, so you wouldn’t be expecting it to grow again at all. However, I think you’ll keep it growing another year and I would expect to see new growth once the weather warms up. They are a Mediterranean herb, so really come alive in the summer… Is that what you meant or have I misunderstood your question?

  38. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: Hi Mrs Green, Thanks for the reply. Currently new growth seems to be flower related, ie new branches developing as with the now-dead first of 4 plants, which had part-developed flowers on every branch end. Flowering at this time of year has little value since pollination depends on insects. The idea will be to remove all flowering and watch out for new normal growth and possibly take cuttings since the stalk has a darkened base of about 2 inches, from a total 16 inches. Of course, new basil seeds can be grown at the same time and comparisons drawn.

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