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Monday, 30 December 2013

The Paperless Office - Week 12

Now I've recycled my tree's worth of paper, the last week of my paper challenge is going to be about reducing the amount of paper that comes into my office next year.

So, by looking back over the last eleven weeks, I've put together a list of habits that I'm going to try to change.  Here goes:

Envelopes - I will stop using new envelopes altogether.

Books -  I will limit my purchase of print books to those I buy for my work as I'll be using them again and again.  All other books I will get from the library or on Kindle.  I am also going to aim to give away ten books every month to charity, as I still have way too many for my bookshelves.

Business Cards - I will stop hoarding business cards and instead use my phone to connect to people I meet via social media, either on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Bills - I will keep up my household bills spreadsheet and once entered onto that the bills will be recycled.  Where paperless billing options become available I will sign up for that option.  I'm sure more and more companies will start to offer this.

Notes - I will aim to type up notes straight into my blog, but where that doesn't happen I will transfer them from my notebook or from the scraps of paper I often use, into the blog on a weekly basis. This will be a good way to ensure that I've acted on everything I've taken notes about and it will mean a clearer desk, and I hope, a clearer head!

Every year, when I finish my year end accounts, I will dispose of the oldest set of company accounts so that I am only keeping six years of paperwork.

Manuals and Instruction Booklets - From now on, when a gadget goes, so does its instruction booklet!

I'm no longer going to keep the boxes from any new gadgets or appliances.

That's my New Year's Resolutions sorted.  I hope I can stick to it!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Making the most of the Christmas Turkey

I do love turkey - and not just for Christmas dinner...

Boxing day had to be the classic cold meat and bubble and squeak favourite.  Then on Friday we had a choice of pies - Turkey and gammon with a white sauce and turkey and pork with gravy, both with a home made short crust pastry top.

Turkey and gammon awaiting its white sauce and shortcrust pastry top

For Saturday, something a little spicy ... a turkey tagine with couscous.
We have some turkey stock in the fridge to make into parsnip soup for New Year's Day and I've just put two more pots of turkey stock in the freezer to remind us of our lovely Christmas dinner on some frosty night of 2014.  I think we've made the most of our lovely turkey.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Paperless Office - Week 11

Today I've collected up all the envelopes that have been hidden away in drawers into one basket.  I've got sticky labels  at the ready and I'm going to go through and make them ready for use.  All the tatty ones will make their way to the recycling.

The last time I bought envelopes was about four years ago.  I think this lot is ample supply for the next four years!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Paperless Office - Week 10

After nine weeks of slimming down the paperwork in my office, I've got to the really hard part now, where I have to tackle the things I actually have a reluctance to part with.

I've decided next on my 'hit-list' has to be the books!

I have to admit that I'm one of those books as wallpaper people.  There are books in every room of my house.  I have so many books that every time we've found a new space for a bookshelf it has been full in no time.

I can't bring myself to part with all of these books, of course, but I have come up with a reasonable compromise.  I'm going to select 50 books to go to my local 'community shop' which does a fantastic job raising funds for local charities and organisations within my village - every village should have one.  It really is a great example of how one person's trash is another person's treasure.

Now I know I'm going to find it hard to select 50 books to give away en masse, so I have set a rule.  As soon as I have posted this, I'm going to grab a couple of hefty carrier bags and I've given myself a target  of twenty minutes to grab and bag.  Otherwise I could be there for ever staring at my bookshelves in contemplation instead of sitting at my computer getting on with writing my own book!

Here goes...

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Dreaming of a Green Christmas

It is Christmas Shopping day for me today.  I have concocted a plan to make the whole process easy and fun.  And it's this...

My sister has a gift - she can make any present look ten times more inviting and special - by the way she wraps it.  So yesterday, I made a deal with her.  Today, I shop, tomorrow she wraps.

I've decided that this year's gifts will be foody or arty and they will all be locally made.  I'll be buying no wrapping paper, and I'll be choosing gifts that don't come in fancy excess packaging, because I have my sister to transform whatever I buy.

In the summer, I had a big sort out of Harry Potter's bedroom (the cupboard under the stairs - in case anyone reading this needs an explanation).  I sorted out all the bits of Christmas paper from years gone by, the collection of ribbons and bows, and tissue paper, so they are all neat and tidy and ready for my sister to get creative. We have spiced apple cake and nice coffee to help and we may even get out the Christmas music!

Christmas is so often a time of excess and waste - mountains of food, mountains of packaging.  But after a year of making a conscious effort to go Zero Waste, I'm not going to let Christmas change that.

My green Christmas shopping list for 2013:
  • Support local small businesses as much as possible

  • Avoid anything that has excess packaging
  • Avoid anything that is not reusable / recyclable once no longer required or if it breaks
  • Use last year's gift bags, or get creative with wrapping (thanks, Anna, for Tip 99 in my book!) 

Monday, 2 December 2013

The Paperless Office - Week 9

Well, three quarters of the way through and I've smashed my target.  I've recycled the equivalent of a whole tree's worth of paper.

Last week out went 2kg of appliance manuals for all those gadgets I no longer have.  This week I'm going to tackle the sprawling pile of business cards.  The pile is supposed to look like this...

... which is pretty harmless in terms of an amount of paper and the space it takes up.  But then every time I try to find a particular card for contact details, it more more often than not ends up looking like this...

So, from now on I have decided to stop collecting business cards where possible and to use social media as the point of contact instead.

As a precursor to that I will be going through the stack of business cards and adding the relevant ones to my email contacts list, and as I do so, sending an email, Twitter or LinkedIn message to each one.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Pig Idea Feast

Walking through Trafalgar Square today didn't seem the same without a friendly piglet to accompany me.  Last week I lent a hand at The Pig Idea Feast in Trafalgar Square, where I was tasked with enticing the public to join in the festivities with the help of Norris, one of the piglets pictured below.
Photo credit:Diana Jarvis & Karolina Webb
The Pig Idea team gave away over 5000 portions of porky delights at their feast on 21st November. All the pork served, from nose to tail, had been reared by the team at Stepney City Farm on a healthy diet of spent brewer's grains, whey, unsold fruit and veg and okara (a tofu byproduct), all collected locally - food that would have otherwise been wasted.

I'm sure all the food was delicious, but speaking from first hand experience, I can certainly testify to the deliciousness of the spicy pork tacos served by the Wahaca team.

After my leafleting trip round the local area with Norris the piglet I was tasked with gathering pledges in support of the Pig Idea.

As I chatted to people while they ate their lunch, enjoying the glorious winter sunshine, I was surprised how many people hadn't realised (or maybe hadn't remembered) that there has been a ban, for the last ten years, on feeding food waste to pigs.  Most people seemed appalled at the idea that pigs were often being fed on soya that had been grown half way round the world when there was so much they could have been fed on that was just going to waste.

Many times I was asked why, when we've been feeding our food waste to pigs for centuries, did we have to stop.

The ban was a response to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001.  As I understand it, all food whoever you are feeding it to, whether that's people or pigs, has to be treated in the correct way.  If we are cooking the food, we have to cook it properly, ensuring that it is cooked to the correct temperatures and for long enough.  We have to be careful when we reheat foods and we have to store them properly.

Here's some information from The Pig Idea that explains more.

'It was tentatively concluded that the FMD outbreak originated on a farm that was illegally feeding its pigs unprocessed restaurant waste. It was originally intended to be a temporary measure, but has remained in place ever since.

As a result of the ban, farmers have had to find alternative sources of pig feed, mostly from ‘virgin’ materials - crops like soya, maize and wheat.

A return to the practice of feeding waste food to pigs would have a number of major social, environmental and economic benefits:

*      Liberate food supplies, particularly cereal crops, so that these can be eaten by people instead of being fed to pigs;

*      Lower feed costs for pig farmers, and so help to protect the beleaguered British pig industry;

*      Avoid the economic and environmental costs of disposing of food waste, including dumping food waste in landfill sites and leaving it to rot which produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas;

*      Protect landscapes rich in biodiversity, such as the precious Amazon rainforest and the Cerrado grassland, that are under pressure to grow crops to feed pigs;

*      Create jobs and revenue in the new eco-feed industry that will be needed to collect, treat and distribute surplus food so that it can be fed to pigs.

Is it safe?

Cooking leftover food renders it safe for pigs, and also for chickens, killing pathogens such as Foot and Mouth Disease and Classical Swine Fever. Pigs and chickens are omnivorous animals, evolved to eat all the kinds of food that humans eat, and there is no evidence that feeding them properly treated food waste is unhealthy either to the animals, or to the humans that eat their meat.' 

You can still pledge your support on the Pig Idea Website:

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Paperless Office - Week 8

The files are sorted out and slimmed down and I've added another 5994 grammes of paper to my recycling, giving me a total so far of 58,575 grammes.   I got a bit fed up with looking through each file, picking out what needed to be kept and then tearing off the bits giving personal details, to minimise the need for shredding, so I kept putting off the task, and thinking that as it was out of sight, it would remain out of mind.  But it was bothering me, so I scooped up the pile of files on Saturday evening, headed for the comfort of sofa and log fire and watched Strictly while I tore away at all the old insurance policies, more old bank statements, contracts of employment for past jobs and more. Now they are all gone, to be turned back into something useful.  And I feel cleansed!

My target was 58,823.5 grammes, so I have less than 250 grammes to go.  That should be no problem, as next week I plan to tackle these...

I have a drawer full of instructions for electrical appliances and their guarantees. The clue's in the photo! I'm not exactly gadget girl, I don't own an iPad or even an iPod and I confess to still owning a handful of video tapes and a whole box full of audio cassettes!  I've owned the same phone for nearly three years.  I've had only three others in my nineteen years of owning mobile phones, one of which I lost, one was stolen and the third broke after about 5 years. But with twenty years of living in the same house, even though I'm not one to rush out and swap my stuff for the latest model, I'm pretty sure there are a fair number of these manuals belonging to appliances that have long ago gone to the white goods graveyard at the local recycling centre or to the little pink box in Sainsbury's car park.

Next week's task should be a doodle then. Out will go the manuals for the appliances I no longer have! Anyone joining me?

Monday, 11 November 2013

The Paperless Office - Week 7

The last couple of weeks have been great for tidying and making space and my office is a happier healthier place now with room for future development and inspiration.  But I've not been making much paper recycling to add to the grand total.

Last week I was typing up notes into a private blog and when I wrote the blog post about this I'd managed an overall total of 49.759kg.  By continuing to add notes to my blog to clear out my old notebooks, I managed another 288g of recycling to get me over the 50kg mark!

I haven't by any means finished going through all my old notebooks and handouts from the various meetings, events and training courses I've been on, but this will take time.  The rule from now on though, is to write them up into the blog as soon as I can.  Tagging each note with appropriate key words, means that it will be much easier to find the information as and when I need it.

This will most certainly be a huge saver of both paper and time.  My blog is already developing into a useful resource.

But onto this week's task.  And it's a big one...

This week I am going to go through my file of bills for house running costs.  I keep these bills so that I can look back through what electricity / oil / water etc that I'm consuming.  We have regular attempts at making reductions in what we use.  But like using a blog for my notes, this information can be kept in a spreadsheet rather than having to keep all the paper work.

I have set up my spreadsheet with a worksheet for each service: water / oil / electricity / council tax etc.

I record units used, unit price and total amount paid and any other information I feel is useful.  Then the piece of paper can go to the recycling.  I tear off the part with address and account number for shredding, which is much quicker than shredding the whole document.

Having dealt with the house running costs, I had a quick look through some of the other files and found plenty of paperwork that I just don't need to keep any more.  Once you start to really think about what you do and don't need, it is fairly easy to kick the hoarding habit.  I think it helps that I've started to see all this paper as a valuable resource as it can be turned back into paper.

I've added a further 2534 grammes bringing the total to 52.581kg and have freed up more space in the crammed full drawers of my filing cabinet.  But I can now see the bulging files in between the down-sized ones so... week's task is to go through these!

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Paperless Office - Week 6

Half way through my challenge, but already nearly there in terms of recycling my tree's worth of paper and card.

My filing cabinet has plenty of space, my desk is looking a whole lot better.

From the rest of the paperwork on my desk I recycled another 180 grammes.  But I'm still left with a pile of notes about either the process of writing or the research I'm working on that I want to keep for the future.

The problem with filing things away is that you need some kind of retrieval system.  So, I decided the best way to keep them was to resurrect an old blog I used to use when I did my Masters Degree.

A blog is a good way to keep notes, because you can tag each note with multiple key words so that you will be able to quickly find the relevant information in the future. Blogs don't have to be public.  My notes blog is private.  No-one but me can see it.  So the notes can be as messy as they are on the pieces of paper on my desk.  As I type them up I might be tempted to tidy them up or add to them, but I can do that any time.

So far I've typed up several notes out of notebooks and from scraps of paper and added another 400g grammes of paper to my recycling, bringing my total to 49.759kg so far.  I think by the time I've typed up a few more notes and extracted anything out of date or no longer relevant from my note books, I'll have crossed the 50kg line!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Vandana Shiva: Earth Democracy

Listen out for Vandana Shiva's views on big business versus youth in the issue of food security and food sovereignty.

Food for thought.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Paperless Office - Week 5

So far I've recycled or found new homes for:

1. Magazines
2. Old paperwork from the bookshelves and filing cabinet
3. Cardboard boxes
4. Lever arch files & ringbinders

That has resulted in 48.661kg of recycled paper and card.  My target is 58,823.5 and I have 8 weeks to go.  It feels like going on a diet. A slow but encouraging start, (that was 8 kilos).  Then came break through on week two and three with all that old paperwork and cardboard.

Week four was more about tidying up, but over the next 8 weeks I hope to make my way towards the last 10 and a bit kilos.

Today, I'm going to tackle my desk and notice board, and I hope that will take care of the 'and a bit'.

My desk is sadly often a bit of a dumping ground.  But here goes...

Do I go for the easy bits first or the hard bits? Easy bits, I think!

1. Stuff to put away or give away...

2 new copies of my book, wrapped in reused magazine wrappers and ready to give to eager purchasers, need to go back in to the box of books in my cupboard.
1 tatty copy of my book, which I'm forever referring to for various reasons, goes on the bookshelf.
2 copies of Clean Slate Magazine, which I want to keep, on the bookshelf.
2 articles on food waste from the local council magazines torn out and put into the ring-binder for my next book.
2 printer cartridges into the recycling envelope.

2. Deal with post

3. Amalgamate the outstanding items from the various to-do lists!

Into recycling goes:
The rest of the magazines, some post that I've now dealt with, 5 to-do lists (now down to one!) and a 2012 calendar from the notice board.

It's looking better but I'm left with a pile of papers and notes which I will work on later and now the paper's gone I can see all the odds and ends like paper clips, pens, cds and flash drives, so they are going to be sorted out too.

This week I've recycled another 518g of paper and card.  I'm getting nearer that target!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Primary School Visits

I've been asked a number of times if I do talks for primary schools.  The answer is YES!!!

There's lots of great work going on in primary schools and plenty of recycling schemes (look out for more information about these next year).  And there's no doubt that our children are keen to learn how to live sustainable lives.  They are, after all, the ones who are going to have to find new ways to live without fossil fuels, are they not?  So, I guess that's not surprising.

But there seem to be fewer opportunities for the older age group and that's why I set about filling that gap with my book, 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free, and my Dustbin Diet workshop that enables young people to work on their own ideas for sustainable lifestyles.

There's more information on my Dustbin Diet website!

However,  I love to 'talk rubbish' with anyone who will listen, and I've long missed the pleasures of primary school. For several years I ran a French club for 5 to 11 year olds in my village primary school.  Having a degree in Early Years Education, I also have lots of friends who teach in primary schools and so my book has had the benefit of their opinion.

"My year 5 would love this."
"The maths is challenging for them but I've promised we'll have a go at some of it next week.  They are so keen."

It then dawned on me that although the students in my pilot secondary schools enjoyed their course and love the book they produced, they may have been even keener if they had already seen and worked with the book in primary school.

So I've set up some games and resources for Key Stage 2 based on the book and have arranged a package of 30 books and some downloadable information sheets that schools can purchase for £180 including postage.

I will be offering half day morning or afternoon visits to all schools who buy a box of 30 books.  The visit can comprise an assembly for the whole school (venue permitting) together with specific sessions for individual classes and/or eco-teams who may be doing work in conjunction with my book.  I do ask schools to cover my expenses but don't make a charge for the actual sessions.

If you would like to purchase a box of books and / or arrange a visit please email me.

You may like to take a look at my Dustbin Diet blog too where I plan to show off some off the lovely work from both primary and secondary schools.

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Paperless Office - Week 4

This week is all about creating space.  Now I've recycled all that paper, various files from my book shelves are now stored in the filing cabinet where they should be and I still have an entire shelf of my filing cabinet empty.  But I have a sofa in my office and that's now piled high with empty lever arch files and ring binders.

So these need to find new homes. There were a few that were old and tatty, so these would be no use for giving away.  But they were perfectly serviceable for holding my company accounts documents, which no-one looks at except me and my accountant.  So I swapped the tatty files with some better ones that were storing past years' accounts.  The better files will be easier to re-home.

Senior Daughter is re-homing 5 of them. Junior Daughter has asked to have some too. I've put a big pile aside to take to a charity shop tomorrow, and the rest are in a bag to be offered to JDs friends at sixth form.  I'm sure they will have no problem finding a new home there.

Total paper recycling contribution - a mere 66g of paper inserts from the files.  But space gained - priceless!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Wonderful Wind Power

Yikes, it's been cold today.   But I still managed to get my laundry dry for free, thanks to the wonderful power of wind.
From 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free.  Check out the savings this can bring!

I couldn't resist making use of the bright sunshine beaming down on my solar panels and so I put on a load of washing at around 10.30 this morning.  I took a short break from work late morning to make a cup of tea and while the kettle was boiling I nipped outside to hang the washing on the line.  It was cold, but even so, I could feel a pleasant warming of the sun on my back as I pegged everything out to make use of this perfect wash day combination of wind and sunshine.

This was particularly appreciated, not only for the sheer pleasure of enjoying a few moments of autumn sunshine, but all the more so, to think that Junior Daughter might also be benefitting from its gentle caress as she treks in the Brecon Beacons for her Silver Duke of Edinburgh challenge. Each Duke of Edinburgh challenge she's done so far has been non-stop rain.  Fingers crossed this lovely weather holds for a couple more days!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Paperless Office - Week 3

Another 15,523g of old bills, questionnaires from data surveys and some old notebooks gets added to last week's total.

Already well over half way there, we are on to step three.  After all that paper last week, I thought I'd go for something quick and easy this week.


How many boxes is your office home to right now?  When you buy computer equipment, it comes with a guarantee.  That guarantee often specifies that you have to keep the box, because you need to return the product in its original packaging if anything goes wrong.

Those guarantees are often only for a year, yet I find the boxes hang around long after that.  Besides, I can't remember ever actually having to use any of these boxes as 'original packaging'.  So, I've decided it is time they went.

My local council collect cardboard in the kerbside collections.  You do need to flatten the cardboard, and sometimes they need to be broken up to fit into the recycling boxes. If the boxes are very large, then it is sometimes easier to take it to a recycling centre, if you are passing.

I've recycled the cardboard box from a laptop which had an inner cardboard box too.  Out went the warranty booklet and various other leaflets, and now the recovery disks and the user manual (kept even though it is unopened!) are now taking up much less space on my bookshelf.  A large box from a printer, plus the box from my Kindle have gone to a recycling bank I was passing and that has freed up a good bit of space!

Then I went through the boxes of software which were taking up half a shelf.  First, I recycled two cardboard boxes from some software I no longer use along with the user guides.  I've sent the CDs for recycling too.  There's a collection bank for media in a car park in my nearest town.

Then I looked at the boxes for the software I do use.  A lot of software comes in a large box with an inner that houses a small plastic case or even just a CD.  I checked to make sure the product keys were on this inner packaging or on the discs themselves.  And that means I can recycle the large cardboard outers.  The software now takes up a lot less room.

The over packaging typical of software products.

Add to that, the cardboard document wallet beyond repair and it all weighs in at 10,669g.

My total for three weeks is 48.001kg

Monday, 30 September 2013

The Paperless Office - Week 2

On to the next step...

Week 2.  Go through the filing cabinet and bookshelves and extract all those files you no longer need but still have because they contain confidential or sensitive information or have simply been kept for nostalgic reasons.  Set up your shredder and get shredding.

If you don't have a shredder, then you could try to borrow one from a friend, from work or perhaps  from a local share club such as or

Shredded paper can be recycled.  However, some councils don't accept shredded paper in the kerbside recycling collections.  This can be for a number of reasons:

  • The shredded paper can be problematic for MRFs (Materials Recovery Facilities).  The machinery is designed to recognise and sort different types of paper and card.  But small scraps and shredded paper can be hard to distinguish.  Shredded paper can also jam up the machinery.
  • Shredded paper can be easily wind blown and therefore cause litter in the streets.
  • Each time paper is recycled the fibres get shorter and eventually become too short to knit together.  Shredding paper is said to shorten the fibres which means it can only make lower grade paper products.

Other councils can accept small amounts.  It is helpful to wrap your shredded paper in a piece of newspaper to stop it blowing away.  Small quantities of shredded paper can be sealed inside envelopes. Wrapping the paper in plastic bags is far from ideal as the plastic bags need to be split open and again this can cause litter.

When I was out with my local collection team last year, we came across a back bin bag, which we could see had some shredded paper coming out of the top.  However, it was impossible to tell whether it was entirely full of shredded paper or not, without splitting it open in the street.  Even though my local council do accept shredded paper, the policy is not to open a black sack in the street because of the likelihood of causing litter, as shredded paper and other materials are likely to blow away.  The team seemed reluctant, but they had limited time, and had to decide to leave it behind for the landfill collection.  I asked what could have been done.  They suggested putting the shredded paper directly into the recycling boxes with a lid, or labelling the bag.

What to shred.
Unless your document is a confidential report, you don't need to shred the whole thing.  Separating and shredding just the bits that are confidential will save time and effort.  It is also easier to manage paper that hasn't been shredded.

What if you can't recycle your shredded paper?
Shredded paper is good for the compost.  That's where I usually put my regular small amounts.
It can also be used for animal bedding.  There are more ways to use your shredded paper on the My Zero Waste Blog.

From 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free

Onto the task...

I've pulled out a pile of old files, including

  • Minutes of Parish Council Meetings. - these don't need shredding as they are public documents, so they are going straight in the recycling bin as they are.
  • Customer's data from past studies and reports.  I've shredded these as I can't judge whether the information is still sensitive.
  • Very old bank statements.  I've cut off the personal information from the top and shredded it.  The rest went into the recycling unshredded.
  • Old company accounts.  HMRC recommend you keep accounts information for a minimum of six years.  Some information, such as dividend vouchers and bank interest certificates have to be kept for longer.  Documents like public liability insurance certificates have to be kept much longer and it can be up to 40 years in some cases.  I've decided to keep my company accounts for six years, which means I'll be recycling anything that relates to years prior to 2007.  Most of this will be shredded.
  • Various extracts from novels and short stories from the days when I used to edit on paper. These days I rarely need to print anything in order to edit it, as the screen quality is good enough to make it easy on the eye and editing on screen gives an array of useful editing tools, such as the ability to track changes, highlight text, add comments etc.  None of this needs to be shredded, so it is going straight in the recycling box.
  • Presentations and course notes from my M.A. and various other writing courses - interesting, but I have no need to keep them!  Straight into the recycling box too.

The total weight of this paper is 12,966g, so far.  And there's more to go.

I have minimised what actually needs to be shredded, in order to preserve as much value from my paper as possible.  I've gained lots of shelf space and have a pile of files to put away for future use or give to my daughters and their friends for their school work.

In two weeks I've recycled just over 21 kilos of paper. That means I'm more than a third of my way to my target of one tree!

By the way, next week's task will be a lot easier :)

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Paperless Office

My office is a sea of paperwork going back 20 years.

I'm aiming to reduce the amount of paper I'm storing by around 75% before the end of the year.  Want to join me?  The plan is to part with all that old paper work you don't need and get it into your recycling bin.  Making paper out of recycled paper uses 45% less energy than making it from the virgin wood pulp.  Recycling one tonne of paper saves around 17 trees.  As paper is pretty heavy, I reckon I can save at least one tree all on my own.

I'm going to weigh the paper I recycle, because I do crazy things like that, so I'll let you know if I've saved a tree by Christmas!

Over the coming weeks I'll post my 12 steps to reducing your paper mountain by 75%

Are you ready... here's a nice easy one to get you started!

Week 1.  Pull out all your old magazines.  You can either give these away or put them in your recycling box/bank.  Every magazine you recycle, makes about enough carbon saving to watch the next six episodes of Downton Abbey!

This week I've recycled:

12 x Writer magazines
4 parenting magazines
4 copies of Woman and Home
3 travel magazines
2 copies of Golfer magazine
2 copies of  RSPB's Birds
1 copy of Good Housekeeping
1 weekend Observer magazine
1 Guardian weekly guide
1 copy of Time magazine (from 1996!)
1 copy of l'Equipe
1 copy of Marie Claire
1 brochure from Oxford University's Continuing Education Department

Yes, I'm a bit of a magazine hoarder, I confess, but I'm sure this is not unusual.  These magazines have a combined weight of 8843 grammes.

If I really want to save a tree by Christmas, then I'd actually need to recycle 58,823.5 grammes in total.  So I've still got just under 50kg to go.  Hmm!  I wonder..?

For next week, you'll need a shredder.  If you don't have one, then maybe you can borrow one from a friend or from work.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Best Before Dates on Eggs

I was reading the waste and recycling section of a local council website today in preparation for visiting one of the primary schools in their area.  In their food waste guidelines they give some explanation of 'Use By' and 'Best Before' dates.

The website quite rightly explained that it is the 'Use By' dates that you need to pay attention to, but 'Best Before' dates don't imply a health risk after that date.  However, I was surprised to read this:

Most foods can be eaten after the ‘best before’ date, except for eggs. Never eat eggs after their best before date, or other products after their ‘use by’ date.

I didn't think this information about eggs was correct.  Having grown up with free-range chickens at home I've always gone by the float/sink rule.  You submerse your eggs in a bowl of water and if they sink, then they are good to eat but if they float then they are not.  Floating eggs go straight out onto the compost heap, because they'll stink if they break.

Food Aware tweeted me some information about eggs and their best before dates. The most recent information from the Food Standards Agency is that eggs can be used a few days after the 'best before' date...

'providing the eggs are cooked thoroughly until yolk and white are both solid, or if they are used in dishes where they will be fully cooked, such as a cake. After the 'best before' date, the quality of the egg will deteriorate and if any salmonella bacteria are present, they could multiply to high levels and could make you ill.'

Did you know that you can also freeze eggs.  So if you have some eggs that you've had a while you can beat them and store them the freezer until you need them - great if you have eggs unused before holidays, for instance.  Frozen egg whites are particularly good for meringues as they whisk up well.

Here's the Food Standards Agency's information on Use By/Best Before Dates:

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Serendipity Fig Rolls

I've just tasted the best fig roll ever.

And it was an accident.

I have long been wondering what to do with a jar of fig jam I was given.  It didn't quite work as jam on its own as it was just a bit too sweet.

Having just come back from a weekend at a friend's house, where I'd had a slice of home-made fig roll, I decided that while the oven was on for Sunday roast dinner, I'd see if I could turn my fig jam into fig rolls.

My friend's recipe was shortcrust pastry spread with fig paste (from the figs in her garden) and rolled.  It was lovely.

I weighed out my 100g of unsalted butter, and poured in the flour.  But in my recent cook-in with Senior Daughter to try to use up the jars that had been breeding in the fridge, I somehow must have switched over the self raising and the plain flour.  They're stored in two different crock pots and I must admit I usually check I've got the right one, but must have been a little over excited at at the thought of saying goodbye to another jar.  I just dolloped in the flour and had nearly put in my 200g when I noticed the bag was self-raising flour not plain flour.  Ah well, I decided not to worry about it and just give it a whirl.


Here's the accidental recipe...

Rub together 100g unsalted butter (cut up into small pieces) with 200g of self-raising flour until it looks like bread crumbs.  Sprinkle in a table spoon of granulated sugar for the texture.  Bind together into a dough by adding around 100 ml of water about a third at a time and using a knife to gently squish together the wet pastry into the dry crumb mix.

Using a little more flour to stop the pastry from sticking to the pastry mat and the rolling pin, roll out into a rough triangle.  Spread with fig jam and then roll up along the longest side.

Then cook for twenty minutes to half an hour until the pastry is cooked.  My cooking times are always a little vague as I use a wood fired Rayburn.  It always cooks it but the temperature varies according to what else is in the oven, what kind of wood we're burning and how much air we give it.  It kind of proves that you don't really need to worry too much about times and temperatures. Just put it in and check after 15 minutes, then again after another 10 and it will probably be done. Mine needed 5 minutes more today - you can tell by the colour and texture if it is done.

My Serendipity Fig Rolls

Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Plastic Bag Tax

Bring it on!

From 2015, shops will be required by law to charge 5p to customers for a 'single use' plastic bag.

Ok, so I know they are not actually single use, in that we often use plastic bags for other things than just to get our shopping home.  But the point is, by having this system of being able to use brand new bags each time we shop it's creating a huge environmental problem.

A while ago, Sainsbury's removed their 'single use' plastic bags from the tills and just had the 'Bag for Life' bags available which cost 10p.  But for reasons I'm not party to (but probably involving being scared to lose customers to supermarkets that didn't follow suit) they stopped the initiative and back came the plastic bags, cluttering up the till area and cramping our packing space.

It is just so much nicer in France where there are no bags at all in the packing area of the till.  And people, funnily enough, don't seem to forget their shopping bags.   Well, if your only alternative is to go to the customer service desk, queue up behind all the people who need their complicated enquiries answered, and wait to be served, so you can purchase a sturdy and quite pricey shopping bag, then you're unlikely to forget a second time, right?

Now, I've heard people arguing for the need to get a constant weekly supply of shopping bags, just in case they run out at home.  Well, I've used reusable shopping bags for at least 5 years now - probably nearer ten - and, d'you know what?  I still have a whole stash of single use carrier bags in my recycling cupboard - despite twice taking several bags to my local charity shop.  All these bags are just the ones left by other people bringing stuff into my house in single use plastic bags.

Maybe once the tax comes into place, my plastic bag holder will become redundant, but I guess they mount up because I don't find a use for them very often.

You've got two years to practise!  The law doesn't come in until the autumn of 2015.  All you need to do, is follow two tips from my book, 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free.

Simples, says the Meerkat!

For more waste reduction tips that save you a fortune too, you could buy the book!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Recharging your batteries

Do you get through an endless supply of batteries?  We certainly seem to in our house.  About a year ago, I was just about to pick up yet another pack of AAs when I noticed just below it that you could buy a pack of rechargeable batteries and a charger for just under twice the price of one pack of batteries, so I decided to swap to that.  Now when my mouse is squeaking for new batteries I use the rechargeable ones.  I realised that I’ve saved myself about £20 in just a year.  Not sure why I didn’t think of it years ago!