Pens

This week’s topic is one that has been bothering me pretty much since I started writing this blog. Can you recycle a pen? Can you buy eco-friendly pens? Should you even stop using pens altogether?

Pens are made of a lot of different components, including plastic, metal and ink. Because there as so many different bits, it’s currently very difficult to recycle them. You could take them all apart and try to recycle all the bits separately, but I’m not sure how many of the pieces would actually be able to make it through the recycling process. With this, I think that the best way to go is to contact your local recycling facility. If you can find out the type of plastic the main part of your pen is then you might be able to recycle that too.

But there aren’t any nationwide programmes to recycle pens. Unless you’re willing to use the components to make other things, or to create pen artwork (it’s true, some people do it!), then I feel a little stumped. Pens are everywhere…school, work, you get given them free wherever you go, and they seem to breed at home. Plus I used to love buying new stationary so I bought a lot for myself too, which are now lying around, half-used.

I think for this topic my main pointers are:

  • Try not to pick up new pens, whether they’re freebies, handed to you at work or staring temptingly at you from a shop shelf.
  • Use the pens you already have. I think that if you’ve already got something, it’s even more of a waste to throw it away without using it. So stick to using the pens you have at home – this could save you money too! I took a pen I got in a Christmas cracker to work the other day, instead of getting a new one from the stationary cupboard.
  • Use pens that allow you to replace the ink component or ink cartridge (such as a fountain pen). Although this is still generating waste, I think that this is less than it would be if you bought a whole new pen.
  • If you do need to buy a new one, find one made from recycled materials. Although it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find a pen made from recycled pens, this option is better than buying one made from brand new materials. A lot of websites sell pens made from recycled materials (such as Nigel’s Eco Store and Eco-Gifts, to arbitrarily name a couple). The charity WWF also sells pens and pencils made from recycled materials.

What do you think? Do you do a lot of writing by hand? Or maybe you’ve gone completely digital and have no use for pens any more? I’ve love to hear if you’ve thought of any solutions!

Trash Challenge Week 4

So here we are at the beginning of March, which means my trash challenge is done! It’s been four weeks of collecting all the rubbish I’ve generated (excluding items such as food waste), and it’s given me even more ideas for reducing my impact on the environment. Here’s week four’s photo:

Trash Challenge Week 4

  • 2 milk bottles
  • 1 large yoghurt tub
  • 1 glass soy sauce bottle
  • 1 bread bag
  • 1 small butter tub
  • 2 sausage roll wrappers
  • pizza packaging
  • 1 spring rolls box and plastic tray
  • plastic wrap and plastic tray from a whole chicken
  • 1 cod fillets box
  • 1 mine packet
  • 1 plastic grapes tray
  • 1 takeaway container
  • 1 crackers box and inner bag
  • 1 garlic bread bag
  • 3 chocolate wrappers (2 used for baking, 1 given as a gift)
  • 4 paper cases from a biscuit tin
  • 1 individually-wrapped mini roll
  • 2 old gift cards
  • assorted recipes and small pieces of scrap paper
  • prescription bag
  • magazine wrap and paper advert
  • junk mail (which came before I put a note on our letter box)
  • 3 cardboard toilet rolls
  • 3 contact lens cases
  • 1 Amazon box, paper padding and note (from a gift)
  • 1 instructions list
  • 1 sticker
  • 1 plaster and packaging
  • 1 cardboard label

There’s definitely still a lot I want to do, but this challenge has been great at making me more away about what I throw ‘away’ every week. If you’re stuck in an eco-rut or just fancy a challenge then give it a go!

This week I put a ‘no junk mail’ sign on our letter box, bought a sandwich from a sandwich van and had it put straight into a container not a paper bag (I was very proud of this!), tried to buy more things in bulk (such as meat and baking ingredients). I’ve kept baking too, which has definitely saved on a lot of plastic waste.

Supermarket shopping is a little scary for me at the moment, because I’m so conscious of all the packaging surrounding me. But it’s great to be aware of it, and I know that I’ve definitely reduced waste from fruit and veg shopping, so that’s a big plus. Here are my four photos from the challenge:

Trash Challenge Week 1 Trash Challenge Week 2

Trash Challenge Week 3 Trash Challenge Week 4

I don’t feel like I can see much of a difference from my photos, but as I said before, it hasn’t been very long yet. My blog is all about changing your impact on the environment and I know that if I keep making small changes then the amount of rubbish I produce will reduce. One of my main aims is still to cut down on food packaging, particularly that from meat and fish.

I hope you’ve found this challenge interesting – I really think it’s something everyone should try, even if it’s just for a week! If you don’t fancy collecting it, then you could try making a list of everything you throw away, and taking a look at it at the end of the week. Maybe you can spot some habits that you can change?

As always, I would love to hear from you :) Thanks for reading!

Trash Challenge Week 3

Welcome to week 3 of my trash challenge! It’s been interesting again this week to see where all my rubbish has come from – food is still the main culprit!

Trash Challenge Week 3

  • 3 tins
  • 1 large yoghurt pot
  • 1 milk bottle
  • 1 paper sandwich bag
  • food packaging: 1 sausage packet, 1 mince packet, pizza packaging, 1 pie box, 1 cardboard egg carton, 1 foil pie tray, 2 cereal boxes plus inner plastic bags and 1 plastic wrapper from a gammon joint (which somehow missed the photo)
  • chocolate box and chocolate wrappers, 3 chocolate bar wrappers
  • paper cases from a box of biscuits
  • baking chocolate wrapper and inner foil
  • foil
  • 1 plastic grapes bag
  • 3 bread bags
  • 1 tea bag packet
  • takeaway cartons and bag from last week (it lasted us 2 meals so spilled over into this week’ trash count)
  • 2 cardboard toilet rolls
  • medication blister packet
  • assorted papers: junk mail, scrap papers, 2 receipts, 2 envelopes and letters
  • 1 contact lens case
  • plaster packaging

I feel that it’s a little less than last week, but ultimately it’s only been 3 weeks since I started the challenge so I’ve only made a few small changes so far.

This week I continued to bake (brownies and cookies), although I succumbed to a couple of chocolate bars whilst at work. We didn’t pick up much packaging from buying fruit and veg again, and we won’t as long as we stick to greengrocers rather than supermarkets! We have also tried to buy a few more things in bulk packaging, such as meat and rice. I’m hoping that this’ll mean there’s a smaller packaging:food ratio and therefore less waste.

We also bought a joint of gammon to cook and slice for lunches during the week rather than buying small packets of ready-cooked ham or chicken. It worked really well and definitely reduced our trash in that area.

From buying the takeaway and a sandwich from a sandwich shop, I’ve learnt more forcefully how so much of being eco-friendly involves preparation and planning in advance. We’ve got very good at remembering reusable bags whenever we go shopping so hopefully I can extend this to other areas of my life too.

I also signed up to the Mail Preference Service I mentioned last week. This means that I should no longer receive direct mail from companies that I haven’t previously done business with. This should reduce our post slightly, but I think I’m also going to put a ‘No junk mail’ notice on our letter box to try and reduce the many leaflets we get each week, which tend to go straight to the recycling bin!

With one more week to go on this trash challenge, I’m going to continue thinking about changes I can make, and keep up with those I’ve already started. As a meat eater, I’ve noticed that a lot of packaging comes with meat, and I’d really like to reduce this. Visiting a butcher or meat counter with my own containers could be a good option so hopefully I’ll be able to explore this soon too.

Thank you for reading, and good luck on your own eco-friendly journey as always!

Trash Challenge Week 2

Here we are the end of the second week of my trash challenge! I’ve been feeling very self-conscious about all the rubbish I’ve generated this week, and have had it on my mind a lot, so this challenge is definitely heightening my awareness, which is great. Here’s my rubbish from this week:

Trash Challenge Week 2

Again, if you’re interested, here’s a list of it all:

  • 1 milk bottle
  • 2 large jars, 1 small jar and 1 small tin
  • 1 cardboard box for cocoa powder
  • 1 large butter tub and 1 large yoghurt pot
  • 4 sweet wrappers and 1 chocolates bag
  • 1 pie tray
  • 1 bread bag, 1 bagel bag and 1 garlic bread bag
  • other food packaging: 1 sausage roll bag, 1 fish finger box, 2 meat packets, 2 cheese packets, 1 broccoli and cauliflower bag
  • 1 fortune cookie wrapper and fortune
  • 1 tea bag packet
  • 1 apple sticker
  • 1 cardboard toilet roll
  • 1 contact lens packet and 1 contact lens cardboard box
  • packaging from a bunch of flowers
  • clothing price tags (I forgot to add these last week)
  • assorted papers, including a pile of junk mail, 1 letter, receipts, 1 envelope, scrap papers reused and 3 print-outs
  • address paper and packaging from a magazine (apparently the packaging should be biodegradable)
  • plasters and packaging
  • 2 medication boxes
  • 2 boxes and 1 padded envelope
  • box and packaging from kitchenware
  • 2 cardboard kitchenware labels

It’s easy to see that it’s tricky to completely turn things around in one week. But I’ve tried to make some small changes. For example, the only packaging we picked up whilst shopping in the greengrocer’s this week was the plastic bag the grapes came in. I also switched to yoghurt in a larger pot – it’s Yeovalley, which is organic and made in the UK, so I’m happy to stick with this for now. I’ve been putting a portion in a small tupperware to take to work each day.

I tried to make tortillas instead of buying them, a recipe that I think will need some practise! And I baked shortbread and a cake instead of eating shop-bought desserts.

This week I’ll try to keep baking instead of buying desserts, and I’m going to investigate how to reduce junk mail through the Mail Preference Service. This won’t stop me from getting junk mail entirely but it could help to reduce that which is directly addressed to me.

It’s a slow journey but I’m quite enjoying this challenge and trying out new ways of reducing my waste. Again, I’d love to hear any tips or links to others’ posts about similar challenges!

 

Trash Challenge Week 1

So I’ve finished week 1 of the trash challenge I have set myself for February. I decided to collect all the rubbish I generated this week, to see where I can make changes to continue my eco-friendly journey.

Trash Challenge Week 1

I’m not sure if it’s more than I expected, but it was definitely a shock when I laid it all out today! If you’re interested, here’s a list:

  • 8 individual chocolate bar wrappers and 2 outer wrappers
  • 4 sweet wrappers
  • top from a packet of chocolates
  • 6 yoghurt pots and lids
  • 3 tins
  • food packaging: 2 turkey containers, 1 sausage packet, 1 bacon container, 1 pie tray, 1 fish finger box and 1 pizza box plus thin plastic wrap and polystyrene circle from the pizza
  • 2 bread bags and 1 tortilla bag
  • 3 veg bags
  • 1 egg box
  • 1 milk bottle and 1 juice carton
  • 1 apple sticker
  • 2 cardboard toilet rolls and plastic packaging
  • 1 cardboard kitchen roll
  • used ink cartridge and wrapper
  • 2 batteries
  • 2 contact lens packets
  • assorted papers, including 8 receipts, 5 print-outs, 1 leaflet, 4 letters, 10 old cards, 1 invitation, 1 envelope, 1 expired voucher and 6 pieces of scrap paper reused
  • plastic wrapper from a magazine and paper advert contained within it
  • clothes catalogue
  • plastic wrapper from a congratulations card
  • bit of white plastic not needed from a set of drawers
  • prescription bag plus prescription paper

And this isn’t including the things that it was too impractical to keep, such as food waste, toilet paper, paper towels, kitchen roll, sanitary towels, contact lenses, foil from a butter tub, 5 paper cake cases and items disposed of at work (wrapper from a packet of printer paper, and some envelopes).

I found it quite hard to see all of this, but it’s also great because it’s shown me that I produce most waste from the food I eat. This is going to hopefully be my focus for the next few weeks, so I will be looking out for differences in my weekly photos!

This week I’ve decided to make desserts from scratch, instead of buying individually-wrapped chocolate bars (as you can tell, I have a bit of a sweet tooth!) I’ve also bought a 450g tub of yoghurt instead of 85g individual portions to try and reduce packaging from that.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by this but I’m reminding myself that I have already made a lot of changes in my life, and by being conscious of what I throw away I can make more. I also don’t throw all of these things away every week (the ink cartridge, letters and other papers, for example), so that’s something to take into account.

Anne over at Minimalist Sometimes is doing the Plastic Free Challenge too, so pop over and check out her post! Have you done something similar? Or perhaps you have tips on how I can cut down my waste? I’d love to hear from you!

Plastic Trash Challenge

Welcome back to Every Week is Green after a unexpectedly long break! I’ve still been trying to keep up with my green changes despite being off the blogosphere for a while, and I’ve decided to set myself a new challenge for February.

One of my favourite books to read about going green is Beth Terry’s My Plastic Free Life. She gives fantastic depth on what plastic is made from, what all the different types of plastic are, how/if they can be recycled, and why it’s important to start cutting them out of your life. There are also numerous tips about reducing it in different areas (food, cleaning, personal hygiene etc), so it’s a great read if you’re looking for something new and green to try, or if you just need a little motivation.

One of her first challenges is called Plastic Free Challenge. The aim is to collect all of your plastic rubbish for a week (or more) – instead of throwing it away – because this gives you a much clearer picture of how much waste you’re generating. Beth has a blog page about it which you can find here.

I’m keen to know about all the things I’m throwing away, so my aim is to keep all my trash for at least one week, but preferably the whole of February. This will be plastic, cardboard, paper, and anything else that would normally go in the bin or be recycled. This won’t include things like food waste, which it obviously isn’t practical to keep lying around. As Beth says, I’m including anything that I have used, but nothing that my boyfriend is throwing away that I haven’t used – e.g. I’ll include packaging from foods we have both eaten, and that I have eaten by myself, but nothing from foods he has eaten by himself.

I’ll post a photo of my trash at the end of the month – it’ll be interesting to hear what you think! Have you tried doing a similar challenge? Or maybe it’s something you’d like to attempt?

Fireworks

This week’s topic was suggested by my sister Lauren…fireworks! Since Diwali was celebrated last week, and Bonfire Night is coming up next week in the UK – not to mention New Year and any other celebrations that generally involve fireworks – I thought this week would be a good time to investigate it.

As a family, we normally do a few small fireworks and sparklers on Bonfire Night, and I tend to watch fireworks on TV at New Year, but of course even small things have an impact on the environment.

I was really interested to find out what fireworks are actually made of. I knew they contained gunpowder, but that was about it. Professing my ignorance entirely, I was actually quite surprised to learn that they actually contain chemicals such as cadmium, barium and dioxins. If you want to know more about these chemicals and which colours they produce in fireworks, have a look at this brilliant little graphic and the accompanying article.

Just as pesticides used on fields can pollute water supplies and eventually affect us higher up in the food chain, the elements in fireworks can be spread great distances, affecting water, soil, plants, animals, and, ultimately, us. Whilst they may be very small quantities, the fact remains that they still have an effect and they are still being used. But I think that knowing about the impact that fireworks can have and making differences to how you celebrate with fireworks can still have make a difference!

Challenging why we celebrate using fireworks in the first place is a great first step. Bonfire Night is a tradition in the UK that has been developed on and enlarged upon until it is almost unrecognisable. We don’t have to stick to traditions that we don’t feel a connection to, but it’s also fun to celebrate even if the original meaning has been somewhat lost! ;)

Watching larger organised fireworks events could be a great alternative to home fireworks, because although these displays are obviously bigger, at least they are put on for much larger numbers of people than just your family or a few friends in your back garden. You also might want to consider how you’d get to a fireworks event, if you want to focus on the emissions you are creating.

Edible sparklers - from this website.

Edible sparklers – click on the photo to view the original recipe.

Some other great ideas – not necessarily specific to Bonfire Night – include:

  • Have a bonfire instead. Bonfires are fun to cook over, dance around and watch, as well as keeping you warm! (Please stick to burning wood though and don’t chuck any rubbish on there!)
  • Watch a fireworks display on TV instead of having your own.
  • Watch other people’s fireworks out the window or on the street. I enjoyed some whilst I was waiting for the tube home the other day.
  • See a laser display instead (thank you to the earlier referenced article for this idea). These are just as colourful and beautiful as fireworks. Going for this option will depend on whether there are any laser displays in your area, and how you feel about the power that laser displays use (although, on balance, I think they’re better than fireworks displays).
  • Celebrate with a party or street party.
  • Do some themed baking – just a quick search on Pinterest found edible sparklers which look fantastic (finger biscuits dipped in sprinkles, see photo) and fairy cakes iced with colourful fireworks.
  • Think up a fun new tradition. Wherever I am on New Year’s Eve, we always end up playing board games during the evening as we wait to celebrate a new year.

If you’re not ready for this yet, maybe you could try cutting down on the number of fireworks (or sparklers) you use to celebrate. Try buying a smaller box or saving half the box for next year instead!

Do you celebrate with fireworks? Or maybe you’ve thought of alternatives? I would love to hear your thoughts! :)