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.

What is Zero Waste and how do I achieve it?

Zero Waste literally means ‘no rubbish’. Basically I’m trying to not put anything into landfill, which means that everything I use in my personal life and in my home should be long-lasting, reusable, recyclable, compostable and mendable. This means that everything I buy or bring into my home cannot comprise any items that do not or cannot have a second, third, fourth or even continual life.

What set me off on this is that my rubbish bin is mostly filled with the plastic wrappers from the fruit and veg surrounding my weekly shop at Sainsbury’s, along with the other plastic packaging that dry goods and frozen items come in. I have taken my ire out on Sainsbury’s, particularly over their packaging of cobs of corn. These come in their own protective covering – leaves – that can be composted. However, Sainsbury’s remove these and replace them with a plastic wrap. Why, because their customers prefer it this way – according to the PR who responded to my complaining on Facebook. (Obviously I was not buying the corn in February, this was last summer!).

Ecover bulk buying

My 5L boxes of Ecover washing-up liquid, clothes cleaner and fabric conditioner

Before I decided to go zero waste, I had already made purchasing choices that take me beyond the norm. For example, (nearly) all my cleaning products are environmentally friendly mostly from Ecover, and I buy in bulk where possible. So my washing up liquid bottle gets refilled from a 5L carton stored in my downstairs loo. I also have 5L cartons up laundry liquid, as well as toilet cleaner, clothes softener and hand wash. They all perform extremely well, especially the washing-up liquid, and the Ecover hand wash has a particularly lovely fragrance. Buying in bulk reduces the amount of packaging an item requires upfront, and the packaging is all recyclable.

I order these items from Natural Collection, and their own protective packaging is paper rather than bubble wrap (although not for my last order which I must complain about), that I reuse to line my compost/recycling bins with or as wrapping paper for gifts and packages. Oh yes, and Natural Collection are part of the KidStart scheme as well, so my kids get 7% cashback on all my purchases straight in my bank account.

But how to stop the rubbish coming into my home, the plastic film and bags that can’t be recycled? Well, for my fruit and veg I have stopped buying it from Sainsbury’s and I use my local greengrocers, Ham Fruiterers, instead. They sell most, but not all of their produce, loose, and rather than taking the plastic bags they offer (although I will accept the paper ones) I use Trolley Dolly mesh bags. The first time I pulled them out the lady behind the counter complimented me on them and, since then, they ’round down’ my purchases as a reward for using my own bags.

What’s not to love – saving the planet and a few pennies, too!

PS When I bought my Christmas Tree from Ham Fruiterers they tied the branches up with string, rather than one of those hideous mesh contrivances that can only go into landfill! My cat loves playing with the string.

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.

Electronic Waste is on the Rise – a blog by CustomMade

Tackling the Electronic Waste Problem

Last year, the world produced nearly 54 million tons of electrical and electronic products, but only a fraction of it was reused, refurbished, or recycled. With a relatively short lifecycle, e-waste now litters dumpsites all over the world, exposing humans and the environment to toxic materials.

Some eco-conscious offices use industrial desks made mostly from recycled materials, while a number of homeowners have turned to reclaimed barnwood to create sustainable desks and entertainment centers. However, despite any sustainable intentions, there’s no stopping the constant influx of new and improved technology. In a world where a single year renders a cellphone obsolete, electronic waste is a big and growing problem.

Before you dump your smartphone in favor of the newest model, read on for more facts and figures about e-waste and how to properly dispose of your electronics.

E-waste on the Rise Infographic

Find more blogs from CustomMade.com here.

 

Our seas are sick

The issue of plastic in the ocean is one that many of you are no doubt aware of, given that the ‘island of plastic’ floating in the Pacific was discovered as long ago as 1997. However, in those intervening 17 years the situation has significantly worsened as a blog entitled A Sea Full of Trash by Morgana Matus for Fix.com reveals.

plastic,food,eat,oceans,sea

You are what you eat. Image: surfrider.org

As Morgana makes clear, some steps – although far too few – are being made to stop plastics entering our waterways, but the equally difficult issue is how to tackle the problem of the plastic already in our seas. The debris is found many fathoms deep, throughout our oceans, with unknown effects as this article in National Geographic makes clear, but what is undeniable is the sheer amount of it – 13,000 pieces of plastic litter in every single square kilometer of ocean globally. This plastic eventually breaks down into tiny microscopic particles that is then eaten by the marine life, entering the food chain and thereby being passed on to humans. And, it’s not just our seas that are ridden with this Plastic Poison, it’s reaching up into our rivers, too.

What can we do? Firstly, stop buying new plastic:

  1. Reuse your flimsy bags – when you run out (if you ever do), start using cloth bags instead. One that supports a marine charity like Global Ocean would be even better.
  2. Don’t buy bottled water – get a reusable steel bottle like these from Surfers Against Sewage.
  3. Some facial scrubs have microscopic plastic beads in them, that are having a devastating effect on fish in rivers and seas, so avoid these. The Good Scrub Guide tells you which products don’t contain them.
  4. Buy recycled products, choose reusable over throwaway, recycle as much of your waste as possible and refuse unnecessary plastics at shops and supermarkets. If you need advice on recycling check out this guide.

Secondly, support our oceans and the organisations trying to save them. I’ve already mentioned a few – Global Ocean, Surfers Against Sewage and the Marine Conservation Society, but there others you can support either financially or by volunteering for them. A quick internet search reveals a whole host of them – sadly demonstrating the huge need for their work. Organising a beach or riverside clear-up is a good start as that help prevent plastic getting into our waterways in the first place.

Thirdly, put pressure on our politicians, businesses and community leaders to tackle this problem.

  1. Write/email/tweet your MP.
  2. Tell the shops you buy from that you don’t want them to use plastics, ask them what they’re doing with their rubbish, demand they use recycled plastic wherever possible.
  3. Contact your local council and see how much of the rubbish they collect is being recycled, do they buy recycled, and if it’s not good enough, pressure them to do more.
  4. Make groups and bodies you’re involved in, such as schools, colleges, universities, youth organisations, sporting bodies, charities and faith groups, aware just how poisonous plastic is
  5. Talk about this with everyone you know. Share the issue. Alert others to the problem.
  6. You don’t have to do all these actions, just pick one, make a start.

As Anne Frank says: ‘how wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world’.

#DoOneThingToday – start saving our seas.