Monday, 25 October 2010

Welcome to Waste Week

I went to the Great Unleashing, nervous but interested, keen to find out what this exciting thing called Transition was. My real interest was in waste, and I hoped to find out more about it. But then I saw the tables: a vast spread of tables, each with a placard saying what was to be discussed on it: Youth, Food, and so on. I found a table labelled waste, but there was nobody sitting at it. I strolled a little further to see what else there was, and found several of my friends sitting at a 'food' table. I walked between the 2 tables, terribly undecided about where to sit. Waste just didn't seem so exciting- and I worried I'd be sitting at the waste table on my own for 2 hours, so I chickened out and scurried back to the food table. (Where, it has to be said, I learnt amazing things about the way our food is produced- and after lots of conversations with 'food group' people and reading lots of books I find myself involved in setting up a Community Supported Agriculture for Norwich.)

A Transition Norwich Waste group did get off the ground- despite my cowardice- but there were only 3 members, and one of us had to drop out after a few months due to family reasons.

We met a few times, but we didn't feel that we had the energy to solve Norwich's wastefulness between the 2 of us. Along the way we came to the conclusion that waste isn't something you can tackle in isolation: no bin is an island.

The amount of packaging our food is wrapped in is often related to the amount it has been processed and the distance it has to travel to get to us (admittedly there are exceptions: coconuts spring to mind). We can't easily reduce the waste from food packaging without changing the nature of our food system.

The average UK family throws away around 20kg of 'stuff' per week, and 4kg of that is packaging. But packaging generally comes with something in it- and we might not be able to reduce the amount of packaging significantly without changing the amount that people buy. And that might mean we need to change the whole of our consumerist society and growth-based economy to make any real inroads into that average bin.

You can see why John and I didn't quite feel up to the challenge.

Not being the types to give up, we continued on our efforts to reduce our own waste, here are a few of my favourite small steps:

I noticed that I throw away a lot of tissues (I get hay-fever and love spicy food!), and scratched my head a bit until I remembered hankies. I have to confess I did think 'ewww' at first- washing snot out of fabric and then using it again- seriously? But I decided to give it a try. My mum told my grandpa, who dug around and found some hankies that used to belong to my grandma, parcelled them all up nicely and sent them to me. And I really like them. They're pretty, comfortable on the nose and I don't have to throw them away afterwards. (And the snot really does wash out!)

I recycle envelopes of course, but not until I've made a list on them. Then cut them open and made a list on the inside. After joining the mail preference service to stop receiving junk mail I can nearly keep up with the envelopes- I do make a lot of lists.

Packed lunches get to me: the amount of cling film, tin foil, kitchen paper and food bags that people manage to use in wrapping up a bite of lunch is quite unbelievable. I resolved to stop using food bags many years ago, and happily found a set of plastic boxes exactly the right size and shape to hold my sandwiches. Good old Woolworths! (I think Lakeland still do them too.)

And I try my best to learn how to repair things- over the weekend we fixed an office chair with a broken wheel, a washing machine, a computer monitor (half-fixed, anyway) and 5 socks.

Now I shall hand you over to Erik for tomorrow's blog- and you can learn from a real expert!

1 comment:

  1. Very funny about the snotty hankies. Sorry to lower the tone further but I wonder also about the efficacy of bidets and/or a good old fashioned flannel as opposed to toilet paper...

    Making a roll of toilet paper uses 1.5 pounds of wood, 37 gallons of water and 1.3 KWh of electricity not to mention using other resources and/or harmful chemicals in the process - chlorine, sulphur, calcium carbonate.

    I got my info from the following source, which is also trying to sell a plastic gadget from China (the blue bidet) so please surpress the urge to purchase this and other dubious 'eco' products including i-phones from Foxcomm and sustainable sexy lingerie advertised on this site...