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!

Advertisements

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!

 

Does It Cost Too Much To Be Green?

When someone considers going green, cost is one of the first things that he or she will consider. How expensive is organic food? Can I afford to buy renewable energy? I’ve found a great article from the Open University website that discusses this – see below!

For myself, I’ve been trying to be more minimalist in my purchases, so I feel that I am happier to spend a bit more on buying natural products such as shampoo bars. I’m yet to take control of a lot of household costs and issues – bills, food etc. – as I am living with my parents until next month, but I feel that by gradually reducing unnecessary purchases the expense of going green is actually being lessened. Plus, as the article discusses, there are other, non-monetary, costs to consider if you choose not to be green, such as pollutants and greenhouse gases.

I’d love to know what you think – do you spend more on a greener lifestyle? Or maybe you find it’s actually cheaper?

Does it cost too much to be green?

All too often, looking at the short-term, it seems too expensive to be green. Cleaner hybrid or electric cars, organic foods, energy efficient domestic appliances, and many other green products, all cost more than their conventional equivalents, so the majority don’t buy them. However, if we look at the long-term, it’s possible that it may cost even more for us NOT to be green. There are four main ways that our actions today can damage the world left for future generations.

  • We are consuming non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels at a rate that will make them either very expensive, or not available at all, in a small number of generations.
  • The emissions of greenhouse gases associated with our fossil fuel use are likely to cause major disruption of the climate, making some areas uninhabitable and increasing the risks of major weather-related disasters.
  • We are adding other pollutants to our environment, whose long-term effects on our health, and that of other species, may be severe.
  • In modifying the environment to support our lifestyle, we are changing or even destroying the habitats of other species, with unknowable, but potentially serious consequences.

The costs that these will impose on future generations are unknown, but certain to be large. Should we be prepared to spend a little more now, to ensure that our children and their children don’t have to spend very much more in the future?

Is green really more expensive?

The examples above certainly appear to be more expensive. However, at the other extreme, “greener” actions such as switching off unnecessary lights, turning down heating thermostats or planning car journeys to minimise unnecessary travel, all cost nothing, other than a bit of thought, and provide instant monetary savings.

In between these extremes, there is a whole mixture of costs and benefits: short-term versus long-term and individual versus communal. I would argue that when we take the longer term and wider view, the green version isn’t really that expensive.

Better household insulation, low energy bulbs and other aspects of domestic design may cost more in the short-term, but provide significant long-term savings of both money and pollution. Expensive hybrid or electric cars are at the moment largely irrelevant, but why drive a large, heavy, fuel-guzzling vehicle when a smaller, more fuel-efficient, one could do the same job at a lower cost?

For short journeys, a bicycle is even cheaper! Spurious claims about the safety of SUVs and similar vehicles do little to hide the fact that most of these monsters are an expression of vanity on the part of the owner. Driving a smaller, greener, vehicle and driving it less, is only expensive in terms of the image of the driver.

The same is true of driving smoothly and at the most fuel efficient speed. But the speeding, stop-go driver is sure that his or her time is so valuable that to travel more slowly would be expensive. And there lies the nub of the problem.

It’s a matter of choice

How do we, as individuals, mentally cost our time, our ambitions, our lifestyle desires and compare these with the needs of others, born and unborn? Do we, or should we, consider these other costs when we decide to take a long haul foreign trip, buy a bigger car, or spend on other items?

Many of the goods and services we buy are designed to save us time, so that we have more time to enjoy the additional goods and services we believe we need. Buying the ingredients of a meal and cooking them is seen to “cost” too much of our valuable time, so we spend money on ready prepared dishes that only need to be reheated.

Other purchases are designed to satisfy other desires, such as for status, novel holiday experiences and so on, but all these things cost money. To obtain this money we may even end up working longer hours, to earn enough to buy the goods and services to enjoy in our vanishing leisure time!

It may seem crazy, but this cycle of earning and spending is essential for economic growth, the requirement of liberal market democracies. It’s therefore in the interests of governments, business and the media to keep this cycle in place.

Myths of market economics

Francis Fukuyama claimed in The End of History that liberal market democracies are the final end point of human development, and therefore in some way inevitable. But, as George Lakoff has pointed out, markets are actually designedExternal link 9 and created by humans, and are based on particular sets of rules.

At present, those rules do not allow for the costs of environmental damage, and deem that benefits in the future are worth much less than benefits now, but there is no fundamental reason why this should be so. It is just that we have chosen to set up markets in this particular way. The green product or service voluntarily incurs the current cost of environmental protection, while the non-green one does not.

Until a recognition of these additional environmental costs is built into the rules governing markets, being green will always appear to be expensive. There is an enormous educational and political task here.

In the end, money is only a means of exchange, necessary to obtain something that we as individuals happen to want. In a market economy, there will always be providers ready to respond to these wants, or even, dare we suggest, to create new wants, because that is what provides economic growth. But does it have to be thus?

Are we really such inadequates that our lives are only fulfilled if we drive the latest, largest SUV, take the longest long-haul flights to currently unspoilt destinations, and in the process destroy much of what we, or others, may want? Is that really the cheaper option? We are all part of the whole Earth system, so should we not make decisions that reflect this?

It may not be expensive, but it is difficult!

Being green is only really expensive if we think solely in terms of our current lifestyles and ignore the future and the less fortunate. But even in the longer term, it’s not necessarily going to be cheap, and it’s certainly not simple.

All too often, we can reduce one aspect of our environmental damage, and even save ourselves some money, but in the process, make another aspect worse. The hybrid car illustrates this neatly. Current versions actually emit more carbon dioxide per kilometre travelled than does a modern diesel car of similar size, according to research by Which? magazine. But the diesel puts out more of some other pollutants. So while either is better than the gas-guzzler, which of them is actually the cheaper, greener alternative?

Paradoxically, buying ready prepared meals could be a greener choice than home cooking. Meals cooked in efficient industrial ovens use much less energy per item than the myriad of domestic ovens needed to produce the same dishes individually. Storing these dishes in industrial scale chillers is also better than domestic fridges and freezers.

The trouble is, we need the domestic fridges anyway, and we probably end up making extra fuel-expensive journeys to buy the ready prepared dishes. There is a strong incentive for the food manufacturer always to source the cheapest ingredients, and the distortions of the marketplace mean that this may involve the materials travelling massive distances. So the theoretical environmental benefits of industrial food production are mostly illusory.

If we are prepared to look beyond the short-term in our decisions, we need to be aware of their environmental effects, and of the sorts of complications suggested here. There is a whole range of Open University courses that tackle these difficulties, from the introductory to the postgraduate. If you are seriously concerned about the costs of being green, these provide the information you need to help you.

This article is from the Open University website, and you can find it here. I would love to hear your thoughts on it!

A Return to Project 333

A few months ago I wrote about Clothes and Project 333. I wrote about how brand new clothes use up a lot of resources (and can also be expensive), having a significant impact on the environment. Not to mention ethical issues concerning the people employed to make them!

I feel that the main options to avoid having so much of an impact on the environment in this way are:

  • having a buying hiatus;
  • buying second-hand or from sustainable sources;
  • making and mending your own.

Although of course these are interchangeable. I try to combine elements of all three!

I was initially a bit reluctant to embark on my own Project 333. I tried to donate or recycle all the clothes that I knew I didn’t wear, were past it or that didn’t fit any more, using the ‘hanger trick’ to see whether I’d worn each item or not. And for a while I was content with just doing this. If I wasn’t sure about something, I put it in a drawer out of sight to see if I would want to take it out and wear it again. There must be close to 20 items of clothing in that drawer at the moment, and I’ve only taken 1 of those out to wear – only to decide I didn’t really want to wear it and put it straight back again. Soon these will all be consigned to a charity shop too.

Following on from this, at the beginning of July I really felt that I wanted to take the step of living with less clothes and see how I coped. Here is a reminder of what Courtney Carver says on her website about Project 333:

When: Every three months (it’s never too late to start so join in anytime!)

What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.

What not: These items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear,  and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout)

How: Choose your 33 items, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of sight.

What else: Consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. Remember that this is not a project in suffering. If your clothes don’t fit or are in poor condition, replace them.

Courtney’s rules are that your 33 should include clothes, shoes and accessories, but I decided for my first 33 I would only include clothes, although I am also keeping track of the shoes I wear. To be honest I haven’t bothered boxing up the remaining items (although this is more of a lack of space issue than anything).

I also created a little spreadsheet I could use to track how often I wore each item. Here is a snippet from July (click on it to make it bigger)! The items highlighted in yellow are those I wore most often, and red those that I didn’t wear at all throughout the month.

Project 333 spreadsheet

I’ve never been much of a shopaholic and I’m sure I don’t own nearly as many clothes as others might, but even so I have been surprised over the last month as to how content I generally am just with the choice of 33 items of clothing. Here is a breakdown, if you’re interested:

  • 6 cardigans
  • 2 jumpers
  • 5 vest tops
  • 4 t-shirts
  • 1 blouse
  • 3 long-sleeved tops
  • 5 dresses
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 2 skirts
  • 2 pairs of leggings

Shoes:

  • 2 pairs of flats
  • 1 pair of boots

I should point out that my work wear and casual wear are pretty much the same (we have a very informal work dress code) so I haven’t had to set aside separate items for work, which you might have to factor in. Your style is likely to differ significantly from mine – and the climate could be very different – so you might have different numbers of items in each category.

I haven’t bought a single item of clothing for a few months now, I think, and I really feel that except for a new pair of boots (mine are falling apart and not repairable, unfortunately, and I would like to have some for rainy days to keep my feet dry), I have more than enough clothes to last throughout the warm/hot months of the year.

This project has also shown me how much I re-wear the same items. Even with this restriction, the fact that I didn’t wear 6 items at all throughout July shows how I always turn to my favourite items even when there is novelty or more choice. I suspect this is the same with most of us. Even if you don’t want to do Project 333, keeping track of how often you wear each item could be interesting!

I am definitely going to continue with my Project 333 items until the end of August, and then I’ll do a little reassessment to see if these items will continue to work if it’s cooler in September. Then I’ll create a new Project 333 wardrobe for the months of October, November and December, to include warmer items. When I move on to this new 33 wardrobe I’ll look through the clothes I chose not to include in my summer 33 and see how many of them I still want to keep.

I’m not sure if Project 333 is something I will continue every single season, as Courtney Carver and many other Project 333ers do, but I am really finding it a useful tool to assess my wardrobe and find out what I enjoy wearing the most. It is also interesting that no one has noticed or commented on my limited wardrobe!

Have you tried anything similar? What would you think about giving it a go?

100 Happy Days #6

Photos of the little things that made me happy last week…

DSC_0157

Enjoying a sandwich on the way home.

I tried out a new hairstyle, the fishtail plait. Not sure I got it quite right but it was fun to try.

I tried out a new hairstyle, the fishtail plait. Not sure I got it quite right but it was fun to try.

Enjoyed a sausage sandwich for breakfast at work - I forgot to take a photo until it was nearly gone!

I had a sausage sandwich for breakfast at work – I forgot to take a photo until it was nearly gone!

Relaxing in the TV room on my lunch break...it was lovely and cool and peaceful as everyone else was outside!

Relaxing in the TV room on my lunch break…it was lovely and cool and peaceful as everyone else was outside.

This is my Lush conditioner - it smells so lovely!

This is my Lush conditioner – it smells so lovely!

I've had a large pile of stuff to get rid of in my room for months...finally decided to bag it up ready to go to a charity shop!

I’ve had a large pile of stuff to get rid of in my room for months…finally decided to bag it up ready to go to a charity shop.

What have you been enjoying taking the time to do?

Persuading People to Go Green

Today’s post was inspired by the post ‘You Can’t Scare People Into Going Green’ from Erin at Inspired Earth Connection:

I used to think that people would adopt a greener lifestyle if they truly knew the staggering and heart-breaking damage caused to our beautiful planet and the well being of the human race by many of our modern habits.  Perhaps, they would even persuade politicians and corporations to follow suite.  I used to feel that people were just unaware of the effects of their day to day habits (after all, we aren’t taught these things in school or via popular media) and if they were aware, they would change.

While I do think awareness is part of the key (it certainly changed me), I sure as heck know that the energy of fear, anger, begging, pleading and the doom and gloom scenarios of the climate change (and other environmental disaster) is not the answer to inspire most people into effective action.

A few days ago, I came across an article that shone to me like a beacon of light. It was like a missing ingredient in a grander dish where all the other flavors can finally begin to pull together into a successful, positive creation.   In this article, the author articulates the need to educate and inspire people, while giving them manageable, life-enhancing and personally rewarding actions that create positive change.  Please enjoy Creating A Culture Of Hope–Not Fear–Around Sustainability.

In closing, here’s a little food for thought.  Sometimes, when we are confronted with the potential of creating deep and meaningful change,  our own fears, frustrations and self perceived limitations can surface.  I truly believe that these larger issues that face us, like climate change, are an opportunity for us to both personally and collectively heal our perceived helplessness, complacency and self-imposed limitations to creating the peaceful and sustainable world we truly want.

When I read this post, it made me think about how I feel knowing that the majority of people in the world have little or no concern for the environment, including many people that I know. As Erin’s title suggests, you cannot scare people into going green. Sometimes I am so absorbed in the thought that I want to make my own life as green as possible that I forget that the people around me are oblivious to everything I am working towards. They might be avid consumers, not think about where their waste ends up or not make decisions based on ethical or environmental concerns.

I used to not think about the environment much beyond recycling and turning off lights. Now I’ve started this blog and done a lot of exploration, I’ve realised that these two things, whilst easy to do and a great first step on the way, are only the tip of the iceberg. But what do you do when no one around you seems to care, even if you talk about it?

I’m as guilty as any number of people for trying to ‘up-sell’ going green and also being critical of other people who aren’t at the same stage as me. When you are so passionate about doing something (and so frustrated that not everyone has realised what needs to be done to reduce climate change), it can be incredibly hard not to try and persuade people to do what you’re doing.

But, as Erin says, you can’t scare people into going green. As I am realising, everyone is at their own stage and trying to persuade someone to do what they’re not comfortable doing will just make them more determined to stick with the way they are. Some people need educating about climate change, some people need help making the first step, others are doing their best to make a difference and others still are right at the other end of the scale, aiming for zero waste and sustainable lifestyles.

By starting up this blog I hoped to show my readers that going green isn’t overwhelming if you take it one simple step at a time. I think that by quietly doing what you can, rather than shouting about it, you will be able to show other people – without necessarily trying to actively persuade them – that a green lifestyle is one that’s both possible and enjoyable.

I have been told that when I talk about going green it is clear that I am passionate about it and I think this is something that does help people to become more engaged in the cause. If you love what you’re doing then it will seem more attractive to others!

Going green is always a work in progress and you might not feel like you’re doing very much, but by not scaring or persuading people into it, you could still be helping to shift someone’s opinion by being an example of the change you want to see in people. I think education and research are both vitally important in the drive towards sustainability but at the same time it is important not to go too far and alienate people.

How do you feel about this? Do you feel frustrated that not everyone understands the need for sustainability? Or perhaps you’re at the other end and are overwhelmed by reports on climate change and calls to do something about it?

P.S. I’m a guest blogger this week! If you want to check my first ever guest and non-environmental blog post, pop over to my friend Ellana’s blog!

100 Happy Days #3

Well, as you may have noticed from a lack of 100 Happy Days posts on my blog, unfortunately I stopped taking the time to think about the simple things that make me happy each day, let alone take photos of them!

But I have reminded myself how important it is to focus on the simple, often free, things in my life that make me happy, especially when things can get overwhelming. So here are some of my photos from this week!

I know the minimalist bloggers that I follow are great at focusing on simplicity and this really can help cut out things in your life that aren’t good for you or the environment .

IMG_1377

I wore this dress on Monday and it made me feel so summery and cheery! I was in two minds about keeping it before but I enjoyed wearing it and got compliments on it too, so it stays!

DSC_0105

I was waiting on a platform for a tube home, and it was really nice to just stand in the warm sun.

DSC_0106

I’m knitting a sock – I haven’t made much progress and it’s a little untidy (I’ve never knitted from the toe up before) but I feel like I’m gradually cracking it!

DSC_0111

A 100 Happy Days post wouldn’t be complete without a photo of a cat!

DSC_0113

I’m currently reading a book called The Gift (also known as The Naming) by Alison Croggon. It’s one of my favourites and I’m enjoying reading it again.

How do you incorporate this attitude towards simplicity in your own life?