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!

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! 🙂

Why Organic?

You’ve probably heard a lot of talk about how eating organic food is much better for you than just buying the non-organic fruit and veg the supermarkets generally have for sale. But as with my post about climate change, I think it’s always good to remind ourselves exactly what organic food is, and why it can be better for the environment.

So, first of all, what is organic food? The Soil Assocation describes organic food here: “Our definition of organic food is food which is produced using environmentally and animal friendly farming methods on organic farms. These methods are legally defined and any food sold as ‘organic’ must be strictly regulated.” And organic farming is “recognises the direct connection between our health and how the food we eat is produced. Artificial fertilisers are banned and farmers develop fertile soil by rotating crops and using compost, manure and clover.”

Different countries have different standards that have to be met for a product to be classified as organic, but you can’t define a food as organic if it risks contamination from non-organic sources, e.g. having a field of genetically modified (GM) crops next to your field means there could be a risk of cross-contamination through the air. Also, some products – such as fish – can’t always be certified organic (in this case, the water they live in is influenced by so many factors that’s impossible to guarantee that it’s organic!) So certifying a product as organic is actually much trickier than it sounds, as crops, animal feed etc. can all be accidentally cross-contaminated, even if by a GM seed that blows onto the farm.

But what are the pros and cons of growing and eating organic food?

Pros:

  • No chemicals (such as pesticides) are used. Chemicals can kill wildlife and leach into water, causing health problems in animals, which can eventually work up the food chain and affect humans. They can also be absorbed by fruits and vegetables, so even if you wash them before eating, you might still be eating some of the pesticides sprayed on them.
  • Crops are rotated so the soil isn’t exhausted and still contains nutrients without having to add fertilisers and chemicals. This also breaks pest and disease cycles, as they don’t have a constant supply of food (according again to the Soil Association website).
  • Conserves biodiversity – as above, wild plants and animals won’t be damaged or killed by chemicals designed to make crops grow better.
  • Organic livestock will have regular access to pasture. They also cannot be given antibiotics.
  • More carbon is stored in the soil.
  • No genetic engineering or use of genetically modified products is allowed. So crops can’t be GM, for example, and animals can’t be fed with GM foods.

Cons:

  • Growing organic crops takes up more space than growing non-organic, so more land will be required to grow the same amount of organic crops.
  • Crops and animals can be more prone to pests and diseases as no chemicals or antibiotics are used.
  • Organic foods might not last as long as non-organic foods as they won’t contain additives to help them keep longer.
  • Organic foods are generally more expensive than non-organic foods.
  • Consumers have to rely on certification to know whether a food is organic or not, unless you buy straight from the farmer or producer.

I came across this good infographic a while ago (you can find it pinned on my Pinterest board Going Green – Food). Of course, not all fruits have stickers on, but this is a good guide to go for. (Click on it to make it bigger!)

fruit-stickers2

If you want to know more, you could start with the Soil Association website, or these articles: When Organic isn’t Really Organic and The Hypocrisy of Organic Farmers.

What do you think? Do you eat organic?

Sandwich Containers

This week I want to think a topic that I’ve been putting off for a while…the foil I’ve been using to wrap up my sandwiches every day. I suppose that because I can recycle foil where I live, I hadn’t before thought much about how much energy it takes to produce it. And foil is so convenient, so I’ve been sitting on this issue. I stopped using it, and then started again. A lot of energy is required to make foil (I really wanted to find an infographic showing this but the internet has let me down – do let me know if you find one!)

Today’s post is about the different alternatives I could use instead, although I’m still sitting on the fence a little about which one is best!

  • Recycled foil – this is so much better because recycling foil actually requires 95% less energy than it takes to make brand new foil! However, I’ve trying to move away from disposable options, so although this is a good option, it’s not the one for me.
  • Plastic container – e.g. Tupperware. This is what I’ve swapped to instead of using foil at the moment as it’s what’s already in the house, so it’s not costing me anything more. However, chemicals from plastic containers can leach into food, so if this is something that concerns you then this might not be the option for you, particularly if you’re going to be heating things up.
  • Stainless steel containers – there are a variety of these out there, such as LunchBots and Eco Lunchboxes. They come in different sizes, some with plastic lids, some with metal. I feel that this is the best option if you want to entirely avoid wrapping your food in plastic. I really like these, but I feel like they’d take up a lot of space, and because I have a long commute to work and back I would rather carry a smaller bag. I am definitely keeping my options open on these though as I think they’re a great idea.
  • Reusable sandwich wraps – there are a variety of these too, the Eco Snack Wrap being just one of them. They are designed to be reused again and again, but tend to incorporate some plastic to make them wipedown-able. But they do mean that you’ll be saving lots of foil/clingfilm/sandwich bags from the landfill!
  • Make your own – you could sew your own sandwich wrap, or even make your own out of plastic bags. Rachelle from My Zero Waste recommended this tutorial on how to make a recycled plastic sandwich wrapper. I do like this idea, but I feel a bit uncomfortable with it: the plastic bags would be unlikely to be entirely clean, and, as already mentioned above, heat (from the iron) would cause the plastic to leach out chemicals much more readily.

So these are what I feel are the most environmentally friendly options available to me for keeping my sandwiches all wrapped up throughout my day.

How do you carry your lunch around? I would love to hear about your experiences to help me decide which option I should go for! 🙂

Thanks for reading!