Saturday, 12 February 2011

Week One of the Rubbish Diet Challenge (Part Two)

I'm afraid I've been quite tired this week and fairly busy, so blogging has taken a back seat.  The good news is that I think that I have nearly finished my NVQ in Information and Library Services.  I'm not sure how much good it will do me, but I shall be very glad not to have to spend any more time on it.

I noticed that the first week of the Rubbish Diet Challenge has several aspects, which is why I've divided it into several parts.  If I were starting this challenge from scratch, having never before given any thought to the rubbish I created, I suspect that I would need at least a week for each aspect.

If you want to try this yourself as a complete beginner where reducing waste is concerned, I would suggest you see each part as a stage to complete and don't worry if it takes you a few weeks or even a couple of months to make the suggestions part of your life.

So, I thought I'd look at 'eking things out' or, in other words, not using more than you really need, which is another sensible way to reduce rubbish.  Karen issues a further set of 10 mini challenges to encouraged us to be less wasteful.

1. The first is a reminder to only use a pea sized amount of toothpaste when we brush our teeth.  It is good economical sense, too, as toothpaste is not cheap.   If you are concerned that your plastic toothpaste tube will end up in landfill, Weleda do sell toothpaste in metal tubes, and other companies may do, too.  Try your local health food shop or search the Internet to see what is available.

2.  Karen suggests using less shower gel by applying a smaller amount on a sponge or flannel.  Last year I decided I didn't need to use shower gel at all.  We are able to recycle the plastic containers, but I know it takes a fair bit of energy and resources to recycle plastic and as a rule the pots are made from brand new plastic.  Also, I think I heard that plastic can't be recycled continuously as it tends to degrade.   So I now use wonderfully scented soap, which is as natural as I can find, instead of shower gel.  There are some lovely natural soaps on the market, so who needs shower gel really?

3. Reduce the sugar in your tea or coffee by a little each time, if you use it.  This  will be healthier and reduce your sugar bill.  I'm not sure how much impact it will have on the environment.  I rarely have sugar in my tea but then I don't drink tea or coffee as a rule.

4. Karen recommends making fruit juice go further by diluting it with water: ¾ parts fruit juice to ¼ part water.  I tend to dilute my fruit juice with half to a third water.  Recently I've started buying juice in glass bottles rather than tetrapak cartons as glass takes less energy and resources to recycle.

Equally Karen suggests that if you use squash regularly use less concentrate each time to gradually reduce the strength. It’s kinder on your teeth and if you’ve got kids, you’ll save stacks of cash.

5. Karen reminds us to try to avoid food waste, which is good for our purses as well as the planet. Her tip is to start saving leftovers and stretching out the portion sizes of each meal.

This can be difficult with young children, but don't feel you must feed them up.  Be wise to what they eat and if they have small appetites, give them small portions.  Make sure they don't fill up with junk food between coming home and eating dinner.  Have healthy snacks like fresh and or dried fruit available.  If they don't want them they probably aren't very hungry.

As Karen also says, there are lots more ideas for avoiding food waste @ Love Food: Hate Waste

6.  On the subject of cheese Karen says,
"Grate onto sandwiches instead of using slices. It’s a great way of making a popular product last longer and fewer plastic wrappers to throw in your bin. You can also freeze grated cheese for later use, so don’t just throw away any lumps that look like they are past it. Grate it and pop it in the freezer."

I'm trying not to eat much cheese or other dairy products as I seem to have less earache as a result.  I am eating more hummus, which comes in small, recyclable plastic pots.  I'm hoping to make a batch myself at some point, so as to have less plastic to send to recycling.

7. Filter Coffee.  I don't drink coffee at all, but if you do you might like Karen's suggestion, which is that
"instead of filling a cafetière or coffee machine for just one person, use a one-cup filter instead. You’ll use less coffee each time and fewer granules will go to waste – if you’ve got a garden, don’t forget to save your coffee grounds to put to good use elsewhere, either in the compost or as a slug and snail repellant around plants."

8. With regard to meat Karen says,
"Don’t feel you have to use the meat you buy to cook up just one dish. Put half the amount aside into a sealed container and store in the fridge\freezer for the next meal. Bulk out recipes with carbohydrates such as pasta, potatoes and rice and a healthy selection of vegetables or pulses. Not only will you save on hard-to-recycle meat containers, but with the rise in meat prices you’ll be able to enjoy more healthy meals on less money. Also with their farts and belches, cows have managed to get a reputation for producing a lot of methane that is damaging to the environment, so cutting back on your beef could help in more ways than one."

I agree that it's a good idea to eat less meat, however, eating grass fed beef and organic meat is better for the environment than meat fed on soya and high concentrations of grain.   If you are concerned about the ethics of eating meat you will probably find Simon Fairlie's book Meat: A Benign Extravagance of interest.  I believe he argues that good farming practices when raising animals for meat can be good for the environment as well as giving the animals themselves a good life. The book seems to have changed George Monbiot's thinking on the matter quite substantially.

9. About flowers Karen says
"if your cut flowers are looking droopy, don’t just bung them in the rubbish bin or even the compost. Instead, cut their stems, give them some fresh water and mix in a teaspoon of sugar to perk them up. Remove dead flowers and replace them with fresh foliage from the garden. They’ll brighten up your house for a while longer and will save you buying more on your next shopping trip. The plastic wrapper will be one less thing to throw away."

I don't tend to throw flowers away until they are no longer presentable.  I hadn't thought of adding anything from the garden to bulk them out when I've had to remove a few dead ones, though.  I'll try to remember that a bit later in the year when there might be something suitable.

10. Lastly, Karen has lots of good advice on the subject of paper:
Reduce the amount of print-outs and if you really do need to print something, use both sides. And if you find that you’re always getting through notebooks at the speed of light, why not make your own from old print-outs, letters you get in the post or even greetings cards.

Now is the time to think about how you can make better use of the rest of the paper that comes into your house and reduce it wherever possible. If your household is pretty average like mine, you’ll be getting through about 250 kilograms per person each year, in the form of toilet roll, magazines, greetings cards, books and mail alone.

That’s one tonne of paper for just one family of four, which equates to 17 trees. In the UK only 42% of this is recycled. The rest goes to landfill. I can’t help but think that’s one heck of a lot of trees to bury in the ground.

So you can do your bit by simply reusing envelopes, using greetings cards as note-cards or for craft activities, sharing magazines with your friends and buying recycled products whenever you can. This way, you’ll save money as well as reducing the amount of paper that ends up in your bins. Given that 70% of paper still comes from unsustainable sources, by reducing your dependency on paper and reusing or recycling what you do use, you’ll be helping the environment too.

I must admit I have a problem with paper.  I do try to use both sides as much as possible and am trying not to bring too much into the house, but it still feels like I'm drowning in the stuff at times.  This is partly because I was in the habit of printing off all sorts of 'useful' information at one time.  As most of it isn't useful any more I have got rid of a lot of it into the recycling box, but there is still quite a bit left to work through as well as the paper that still manages to find it's way into the house.

Recycling paper is good and using recycled paper is better, but using less paper is best of all as recycling still uses energy and resources.  I believe a lot of water is used in the recycling of paper for a start.


  1. Hi Karin,

    Finding all the info really interesting & I didn't know that metal toothpaste tubes could be recycled. I wonder if we can just put them in with cans, etc...

    Also, we used to buy bottled fruit juice from the whole food warehouse, but they've stopped selling it & was wondering where you get yours from?

    Keep up the good work!

    Kay :)

  2. Yipee! Another mini quiz.
    1 Our tube is plastic. Like the Smiths I'd be interested to know how to recycle a metal tube. Our council's website doesn't give any guidance in relation to toothpaste tubes. You can always make your own ( but I've never dared.
    2 I use one of those nylon scrunchy balls which has made a tremendous difference to the amount of shower gel I use. It's difficult to find plastic-free soap but I've tracked down a naked bar in our local health shop.
    3 I don't take sugar.
    4 We can recycle Tetrapaks but I'm not sure whether the process is more efficient than for glass.
    5 I don't waste much food, though I suspect this owes more to my Scots blood than to my compulsion to recycle.
    6 Useful tip about grating cheese. Ikea sells a useful gadget with interchangeable lids - one a grater and the other a plastic cover.
    7 I'm a tea jenny. I make two cups per bag and then compost it. If I can be bothered I tear the bag in half to make it more biodegradeable.
    8 My Low Impact Challenge forced me to reconsider my meat consumption and I vowed to reduce my intake. I'm afraid I haven't done very well so far, partly on account of the re-opening of our local butcher. I'm interested to hear of Fairlie's book and I shall read what Monbiot has to say.
    9 I don't often buy flowers but when I do I try to keep them going for as long as possible.
    10 I'm with you on this one Karin. Despite my best efforts we put out a bag a week. What happened to the paperless society?

    Well done for carrying on despite your NVQ work. Good luck with it!

  3. Hello Kay and welcome back from your travels. I would check with your local council, but we can put metal and plastic in together, so things like aerosols, which are made of both can go in together. If the tube is made of aluminium or any other metal that is included in your local can collection, it should be fine and the plastic lid might be OK too.

    As to juice in glass I bottles, I get mine from Riverford, although if my son was home drinking a litre a day nearly I would be buying it in tetrapaks.

    Gai, I believe glass is one of the easiest materials to recycle, while I understand tetrapaks are more complicated and use more resources as a result.

    I have one of those graters with a lid from Ikea and I've seen something very similar in Sainsbury's. I think grating cheese with it is easier.


All relevant comments to this post are welcome, so feel free to have your say.