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Friday, 28 August 2015

Zero Waste Week 2015

Have you signed up to Zero Waste Week yet?  This year it is taking place from 7th to 13th September and it is all about reuse.

You can sign up on the Zero Waste Week website for a series of daily emails from Monday to Friday taking a different waste stream each day and giving you tips on how to reduce that waste through reuse of materials.

I've taken part in Zero Waste Week for the last two years and I've found it a great opportunity to have a good clear out and cut down on the amount of unused resources around the house.  The 2013 waste week was all about reducing food waste and I enjoyed the challenge of using up everything in my fridge. Here's my blog post all about it.

In 2014 the theme for the week was 'One More Thing"  and my "One MoreThing" pledge was to GET MENDING.

In the summer of 2013 I had a huge clear-out and parted with 80 bags of bits and pieces to recycling bins or to my local community shop.  With my daughters to help out, we went through every room in the house and cleaned, tidied and sorted out the things we didn't use and popped them into our bags to take to the charity shop or relevant recycling point.  Clearing out on such a huge scale meant that speed was of the essence and that meant not dealing with the bits and pieces that we couldn't give away because they were broken or needed a thorough clean or some other time-consuming treatment.  That's what led me to my 2014 Zero Waste Week pledge to GET MENDING.  I'm not naturally good at mending stuff.  I find it a challenge and so that's why I thought that making this my focus for Zero Waste Week would help me to finish off the clearing out job that I'd started the previous year.  And it did!  With the help and advice in the daily emails and my own daily blog posts about the mending experience I successfully repaired and often re-homed several more items.

For a while these lovely ladies graced the window of our community shop.
  I'm sure they preferred the view here to being stuck on top of the wardrobe gathering dust!
I successfully re-homed an old saddle and bridle after giving them a really good clean.  They were put back into service on a pony.  I parted with some netting from the village cricket nets to an allotment, to be used as a fruit cage I think.  I mended a porcelain doll and gave this away to a children's entertainer.  One thing I didn't manage to find the time to mend were some very lovely, but broken chairs.  Thanks to freegle I gave them away to someone who would mend them!  I also patched a pair of jeans with some snazzy material from an old sheet.  It was great to realise that I can actually still sew.  All in all, it was an excellent week of getting some resources back into use.  Each day I managed to mend at least 'One More Thing'.

So…What's it to be for 2015?  This year, I've been cutting down on packaging, particularly avoiding single use plastic.  It has been very hard and not entirely successful, though my packaging has been drastically reduced.  One of the things that my plastic free year has brought to my attention is just how much plastic packaging we already had around the house, and in fact just how much stuff we still have despite our efforts at clearing out and de-cluttering.  So this year for Zero Waste Week, as my contribution to 'reuse' I'm going take a good look at all the stuff that we have around the house and see if I can again get some of it back into reuse, by re-purposing it, by giving it away or getting it into a recycling bin to be be turned into something that would be of use.

To sum up, my pledge this year is to GET REUSING or GET RECYCLING.  Zero Waste Week 2015… bring it on!

Sign up and join me.  Click on the Zero Waste Week logo below.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Not So Plastic Free July

So how was your plastic free July?

Mine was by no means plastic free.  We probably had almost as much plastic in July than we've accumulated during the rest of the year.

It started with a party - Senior Daughter's 21st birthday with around 120 guests enjoying the sunshine in our garden and partying through the night.  I did aim to minimise the amount of plastic by making the food simple and tasty from local ingredients that I could buy without packaging.  However, it was a bit of a fail! I think all would agree the party was a success (just the plastic-free bit was the failure).

Although we pre-ordered a large quantity of bread rolls from Sainsbury's for collection on the day, we didn't make any attempt to negotiate having these packaging free, so we had our 120 hot dog rolls and 120 burger baps all in packs of four or six.  We also bought five French sticks and these came wrapped in a plastic sleeve.  Looking back, it really shows that it is all about organisation and if I had made the time I could probably have found a source of rolls that were not all packaged.

There was another bit of plastic we couldn't avoid.  I ordered sausages and burgers from my local butcher - to be packed into my own reusable tubs, avoiding the need for any plastic bags.  They are always excellent quality and the advantage of buying fresh meant that any we had left over would be put into the freezer to keep us going for the summer.  The sausages involved no plastic at all, but the burgers all have a thin circle of plastic in between each burger.  This makes it easier for storage purposes and when you freeze them you can easily separate the exact number of burgers you want to take out of the freezer.  I also found out, though, that the plastic discs are necessary in order for the burgers to come out of the machine that shapes and presses them. So I couldn't go plastic free.  However, I know from experience that when I serve these burgers nothing ever gets wasted because they are so good.
The burgers we had left after the party went into the freezer to be cooked from frozen as needed.
I took three of these cake boxes to the butchers and then picked them up on
 the day of the party filled with burgers, hence minimal packaging. 

All of the accompanying salads were entirely plastic free as I bought pasta, rice, bulgar wheat, and couscous in my own tubs from the SESI refill service.  Although SESI no longer have their shop on the Cowley Road, you can still order on line for home delivery in the area, so I arranged with them that I would leave my tubs with them one day when I had a meeting near by and then pick them up a few days later when I was passing by again.

All of the vegetables that went into the salad were ordered from Cultivate Online and I picked up my delivery at the community shop in Bladon on my way back from work.

We managed to ensure all desserts were plastic free.  I made an array of cakes and served a big bowl of strawberries.  The strawberries were from Millets Farm pick-your-own and I took my own containers to  transfer them into and they happily took back the plastic tubs for picking in order to rinse and reuse.

Eggs are 20p per 1/2 dozen cheaper if you refill
 your own egg boxes at my local butcher
For my cakes, I bulk buy flour from FWP Matthews flour mill in Shipton under Wychwood.  I get sugar and cocoa power in bulk from SESI in my reusable tubs and I take my own egg boxes to refill at the butchers.  Butter comes packed in paper or foil in most retail outlets.

More plastic, though… It is very hard to buy cheese that isn't wrapped in plastic, even when you buy whole cheeses like we did for the party.  However, I've learnt that there's less packaging and less waste by buying larger pieces but limiting the different kinds of cheese.  My standard offering is Oxford Blue, a Cheddar and a Brie and that's it.

The one thing I always make sure to avoid is plastic (or paper) plates, plastic cups, and plastic cutlery.  We have a large box of party glasses, which I've had for 25 years and very few ever get broken.  If we need more than this we 'hire' them from Waitrose.  This is a free service and a few other retail outlets also do free glass hire.  It really doesn't take long to wash them up - which I usually have to do before and after!

I borrow extra serving dishes and plates from family and I will say I had to do a mid-way through the evening wash-up of some cutlery and bowls.  But I always find that someone offers to help, so it doesn't take long and means there's less clearing up later.  I hate seeing people clearing up after parties and throwing everything away.  I'm going to be bold now and say it… it is just lazy.  Let other people help and have fun while you are doing it, but don't try to avoid it with plastic substitutes.

I think the most important way to reduce waste at parties is to make good, fresh, simple food from local ingredients.  None of the food we made was wasted.  We shared out some of the leftover rolls and froze the rest for use at cricket tea the following week.  We shared out the small amount of salads for various family members to have as packed lunch on the Monday and we froze the leftover sausages and burgers.  By sticking to a simple menu - i.e. burgers and sausages and avoiding high risk foods such as cold meats it is very easy to ensure that you don't have food waste.  How to decide on quantity?  I had 120 guests so I allowed 1 burger and 1 sausage each.  Not everyone will eat one of each but because they were bought fresh we knew we could just freeze what we didn't use.  The meat came out of the fridge in batches to be cooked and then more was cooked as and when stocks ran low. If you try to introduce added complications such as more meat options then that's when things get wasted as I usually see that people cook too much in an attempt to make sure there's enough of everything for everyone.  You don't need to do that!  Your guests are not all going to have everything.

Keep it simple, keep it fresh and top up as you go is the way to a great zero waste party. Enjoy!