Saying no to plastic

I don’t know about you but, personally, I hate cling film. That thin, sticky plastic that’s meant to keep food fresh, used once only and discarded. It makes my blood boil using a product that was created to be binned, that can’t be recycled and doesn’t decompose naturally. Basically, when it comes to plastics, cling film really is EVIL.

So, I don’t buy it. But how do I keep my food fresh I hear you ask. Well, you know, I try not to cook too much in the first place, but if I have leftovers they go in a plastic resealable tub for taking to work, or in a bowl with a flat plate on top. Is that so hard, no, don’t think so. Alternatively, you can get reusable silicone lids, like these ones here, but frankly, there’s no need.

What about sandwiches, you say, surely you need cling film for them. No, no, and thrice, no. I have a nifty little solution (well, two of them actually in different patterns) called the Wrapper. (in the interests of honesty, there are other, similar products, but this is run by one of my oldest friends, so I’m mentioning hers).

wrapper 1 wrapper 2 wrapper 3 wrapper 4 wrapper 5

The re-wrap-it sandwich wrapper is plastic one side and fabric on the other. You put the sandwich inside, wrap it as shown, and seal with the Velcro. It’s hand made in Scotland (so good for local employment) and you can use it again and again, washing it in between, obviously, for my younger son’s packed lunch, which he takes every day. And, yes, it does contain plastic, but compare that one sheet of plastic with 240-or-so sheets of cling film/plastic sandwich bag/aluminium foil that I could be using for his sandwiches/pitta/wraps over the course of the year, and you see where I’m coming from.

Bye bye wasteful plastic, hello reusable metal

Farewell wasteful plastic, hello reusable metal

On the subject of packed lunches, I finally weaned myself off my addiction for cartons or mini-bottles of some sugary soft drink inside them. Well, it was more cold Turkey really, as I just stopped buying them. I had a small black, metal bottle (a freebie from a cycling proficiency course my elder son did) taking up space in a store cupboard, so I decided to utilise it. Bye bye to five mini-plastic bottles or cardboard cartons going into recycling every week, and welcome to less waste.

Thanks for the tips, Rae and Bea, my zero waste godmothers.

PS Look at the picture at the top of this blog. Really, look at it, see how much plastic is in the sea – that you can see. Now read this and see how much plastic there is in the sea, that you can’t see. Does this make my blog sound less like a rant and more like impassioned reasoning? Good, thought as much.

Refusing and reducing

Bea Johnson uses the mantra “refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot”, so at the end of last year I took steps to up the ‘refusing’ aspect to bring less waste into my home. I’d already gone paperless on all my bills and filled out the Mail Preference Service requesting no junk mail, but I was still inundated with with a seemingly endless stream of brochures and catalogues landing on my doormat every week. So, as each one arrived, before chucking it straight into the recycling box, I took the offending brochure to the computer, found the company’s website and emailed their customer services requesting they stop sending them to me forthwith.

My next step was to request one one of those ‘no junk mail’ stickers from my local council that I can stick to my letter box to instruct the food deliverers, tree surgeons, painters and decorators and various other tradespeople against stuffing their gaudily printed advertising sheets through my door.

I also applied the ‘no thanks’ policy when I went shopping for my birthday present – not only did I take my own bags with me (been doing that for a few years now), but I also refused the box that was offered (again something I’ve done on and off for years, although sometimes those shoe boxes have come in very handy for my sons’ school projects).

However, on bringing my shoes home, I went one step further and embraced the Zero Waste philosophy about reducing the amount of stuff you have in your home so you can live more simply. Hands up, I am guilty of hoarding, so many of my cupboards are stacked with items I just can’t bear to throw away. This time I took a more ruthless approach, and rather than keep the shoes – “just in case” – my new ones were replacing, I thought “no” and donated them to a charity shop. Do I miss them? No, I have my new shoes. I did the same with an old handbag that had been gathering dust on the floor of my wardrobe for the last few years – again I couldn’t bear to chuck it – after receiving an OnFriday Fairtrade leather one from my lovely mum for my birthday.

Feeling virtuous, I was motivated to truly to get to grips with my recipe books. Hubby had given me Ottolenghi’s vegetarian recipe book Plenty for Christmas so I took a long hard look at my groaning shelf of largely unused recipe books and decided to be ruthless. Going beyond the ‘one in, one out’ mantra I put half of them in pile and took them to a second-hand shop. What a satisfying feeling, that was made even more so, as I realised that I now had a spare half shelf, which by further disposing of various ‘it will come in useful one day’ items around it, became an entire shelf. Finally, I could re jig a total of four shelves to improve the ‘flow’ of my kitchen by relocating items where they are most accessible. The joy of rationalisation was mine. And, none of the stuff went in the bin, it was put for re-use in a local charity shop, hopefully helping other people.

Are you trying to reduce your waste levels? I’d like to hear how you’re getting on – leave a comment below.

My new year’s resolution – cutting out waste

My new year’s resolution – cutting out waste

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. Often they seem to be guilt-infused declarations of denial brought on by a month of binge eating, drinking and shopping. Any decision made while feeling overweight, hungover or in a house bursting at the seams with festive detritus is never going to be anything more than a pointless exercise in the ultimate failure of will power.

For me, fundamental promises of change comes about after a proper period of reflection, often after a summer holiday when a few weeks of rest, change and – hopefully – sun have given me a proper chance to reconsider where my life is going. Hence, the autumn is more generally when I find myself trying to do things differently or starting new challenges. September 2012 is when I joined the Green Party and a month later I wrote the first post in my blog Action Against Apathy, both of which came about because I realised how fed up I was – and still am – with the political status quo, what the Tories are doing to society and state under the guise of austerity and the lack of response from the people to it. September 2014 was when I became vegetarian, a result of months spent reading about and considering the harm the industrialised production of meat causes to our planet.

September has always seemed a more natural time of renewal given that is when the academic year starts, and I spent nearly 20 years of my life starting a new school year that month and adapting to the change that wrought. Furthermore, since joining Kingston Liberal Synagogue two-and-a-half years ago to prepare our sons for their Bar Mitzvahs, I have learnt that the Jewish New Year (Rosh HaShanah) which occurs in autumn (the exact time is dependent on the moon) is a time of reflection and renewal, because this is when Jews get to the end of the Torah and start reading it again from the beginning.

However, this 1st January 2015 I have decided to break with my own tradition and I am making a New Year’s resolution and it will indeed be a declaration of denial. So for 2015 and forever onwards I will be denying myself waste, as in the production of rubbish, whether it goes into landfill or recycling, and in particular plastic packaging. This has come about because the amount of reading I’ve done into the plastic waste in our seas, the fact that a 22-carriage train leaves west London four days a week laden with landfill and from a book by Bea Johnson called Zero Waste Home. I have only dipped into it, but one of her strongest messages is about not bringing waste in to your home that you then have to dispose of somehow. So instead of gettting my fruit and veg from Sainsbury’s, too much of which I am forced to buy pre-packed, I will be going to my local greengrocers with my own mesh bags to put my provisions in, rather than taking the small plastic ones they offer.

A small step maybe, and seemingly insignificant, but this is how I’ve been trying to live my life since the autumn of 2012 – as outlined in my blog – by doing one small thing every day, in the hope that if we will all do something that is better than nothing.