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Friday, 31 October 2008

Freecycle It

Freecycle is a great way to turn your rubbish into someone else's treasure. Found at this Internet based group has local branches so that people can give away unwanted items in their local area. In the past year I have parted with off-cuts of lead flashing, a big box of outgrown art materials, some large plant pots, a spare kettle, some black paint, a rickety pasting table and an old Dyson that I had stopped using because it was too heavy for me.

I have also parted with a television which although it worked some of the time, it didn't always turn on straight away. No-one in my household had the skills to fix it but someone locally who didn't have a television, gratefully picked it up from me. He thought he might be able to fix it, but even if he didn't he felt it would be better than nothing. We had been using it for over a year in the same state. Why would someone want to take on something that doesn't work?

Well, firstly, some people have the skills to fix things. Some people love trying to fix things even if they don't succeed. Some people just don't like the "I can't afford it at the moment, so I'll buy it on credit" culture.

The first television I owned was given to me by a work colleague who was getting a better one. This television also cut out at odd times. We used to joke that it would wait until the most dramatic moments to switch off, but we still used it for three years and then gave it away to someone else.

So before you bin anything at all, it is worth considering whether someone else may be able to make use of it. I have seen requests for old carpet for allotments, broken electrical items for spare parts, and amazing array of weird wants for fancy dress parties or theatre groups. There really doesn't seem to be anything that can't be re-homed this way. (Oh, except naughty children!)

Monday, 20 October 2008

Last night’s curry

I used to be one of many who felt the need to plan every meal for my family. I thought that in doing this I would make sure I only bought the food I needed, so saving money and saving waste. But I have come to realise that I can take an extra step.

Even though I planned meals, tried to only buy what I felt we needed in the quantities we needed it, I still found that I would end up wasting a shameful amount of what I bought. It is all very well carefully storing your leftovers in the fridge or freezer, but what is the point if we are just going to throw it away a few days, a few months, a year later?

I now plan into my week at least two 'unplanned' days. These unplanned days are the times when we will eat up leftovers, use up something from the freezer or get creative with anything that needs using up before it goes out of date.

The Lovefoodhatewaste website tells us that if we all stop wasting food that could have been eaten, the CO2 impact would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 5 cars off the road. I like the sound of that. I also like the fact that in times like these, when everyone is saying their food bills have rocketed, it is a great way to save money too.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

The humble sandwich

I was on a course today and arrived early in order to help someone with a computer problem. In return for my help he offered to buy me lunch. It felt rude to refuse and besides, even I will admit , it is not very hip to eat last night's leftover tea served out of an old ice cream tub in public. So I accepted the invitation and we went to Marks and Spencer for sandwiches (this was a working lunch).

I noticed that all the sandwiches were packaged in cardboard with a cellulose window made from 100% natural plant material.

Having eaten our sandwiches I folded my sandwich packet flat put it in my bag and suppressed the blush when my colleague commented on my 'strange' behaviour. I explained that I would take the packaging home to compost it.

Composts need a combination of green material, such as kitchen waste and brown material such as paper and cardboard so the sandwich package makes a good contribution to my compost heap or my wormery.

Before putting the packing in my compost caddy I read the recycling information and noticed the website link which gives lots of useful tips about recycling and composting, including how to set up your own office recycling scheme.

Monday, 13 October 2008


Did you know that you can use the water from boiling eggs for watering your plants? The water will contain valuable nutrients from the eggs that the plants will appreciate.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Recession Buster

In an attempt to reduce the number of miles we travel taxiing our children to and from their afterschool activities we decided to eat out in the hour and a half we had between dropping off one child and picking up another. So we picked a nearby hotel / restaurant which we knew did good, reasonably priced food.

When we checked with the landlord if he was serving food the reply was 'sort of'. He went on to explain that he really wasn't busy enough on a Monday and Tuesday evening to employ a chef so there was just him on his own to do everything. So he had set up a new initiative. On Monday and Tuesday nights he was serving what he called a "builders' supper" for the overnight guests. His guests would 'get fed' but they would 'get what they were given' so on the Monday night he had served cold beef, cold pork, bubble and squeak and salad to use up the meat and veg left over from Sunday's carvery. Last night's offering was spaghetti bolognaise served with garlic bread and it was going to be ready in fifteen minutes. Perfect! The upside for his guests was that it was just £5 a head. "And that," he said. "... is my recession buster."

Out came two large bowls – one of spaghetti, one of bolognaise - a smaller bowl with freshly grated parmesan and a bread basket piled high with garlic bread. The plates were in a pile by the side and everyone helped themselves to what they wanted and went back for more when they wanted. Delicious!

With the price of fuel these days and the hike in food prices I thought we probably couldn't have driven home and back and cooked spaghetti bolognaise for much less than £10. With the spotlight we've had earlier in the year on the 4 million tonnes of food wasted in the UK every year initiatives like these should be praised. Next week I will probably be eating pasta salad served out of an old ice-cream tub in the car reading my book, but I think before long I'll be back for a builder's supper.

Read more about food waste.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Bags more

When I went for a swim today I thought about how many people take a new plastic bag for their wet swimwear each time they visit.

I used to find that I was forever forgetting to put the plastic bag back with my gym bag. I had to make a conscious effort to think about putting the bag back each time, but I'm getting there!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Bag that news spot

From today Sainsbury's are removing their free plastic bags from the checkouts in the hope of encouraging bag re-use. Read more

Back in February this year Marks and Spencer introduced a 5p charge for plastic bags for their food shoppers.

Most supermarkets offer the 'Bag for Life' plastic bags which generally cost 10p the first time you buy one but can then be replaced for free when they wear-out.

I guess the problem is the spur of the moment purchases when you are out and about and just think of something. I always carry a couple of the old style carrier bags (because they fold up so small) and a 'bag for life' in my handbag. Each time I unpack the bag it goes straight back in my handbag. It has probably taken me about six months to get properly in the habit of doing this but I feel all these little changes in habit add up.

Supermarkets are now also giving customers loyalty card points for bag re-use. It pays to remember your bags.