Thursday, 31 July 2008

Some rubbish things to do

While I'm on my travels, here's an important announcement about some rubbish things that are coming up.

Firstly the lovely Kate, who supported me through Bury St Edmunds' Zero Waste Week, is doing it all again. This time in Norfolk.

Norfolk councils are teaming up to run the waste free week and are challenging everyone to reduce the amount of rubbish they throw away to nothing. Anyone who would like to join in will be encouraged to use only products that can be recycled, reused or composted, avoiding things going in the rubbish bin. The Waste Free Week is running from 27 October- 2 November. Interested residents can sign up at www.recyclefornorfolk.org.uk/waste-free-week.asp.

So if you live in this area or know anyone who does, give your friends or family a nudge to join in. With Kate's help, participants will be in very safe hands.

If one week isn't long enough for you, then why not try The 30 day No Trash Challenge, where various authors take it in turns to blog about their experiences. The blog, originally set up by Miss Dayva, is looking for a new blogger to take over for August. Could this be you? If so, pop over to the blog and see how you can join in.

If you can't bear the thought of blogging about rubbish for a whole month, it's likely that you've still got something to say on the topic. If so, then you may like to contribute to the August edition of Carnival of Trash. This month it's being hosted by the lovely Mrs Green over at MyZeroWaste.com. So if you have a blog and want to submit an article, please do so by clicking on this link. We would like to welcome as many people as possible to join in.

Now that should keep everyone busy while I'm enjoying the Alpine views.

And if you're looking for even more inspiration, pop back tomorrow for my latest You Tube discovery.

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Wednesday, 30 July 2008

What if your bin is just too slim?

Here I am trying to promote the idea of slimming those bins, but these ones look like a bit of a challenge. (I'm afraid you'll need to turn your head to see the real effect of how a slim looking bin can miraculously quadruple in size).



Amazing eh, that an innocent looking bin can suddenly change into a bottomless pit...well almost!

It's a good job these bins are in Zurich in Switzerland, one of the finest recycling cities in the world, as it gives me some faith that this amount of trash will be dealt with in the most appropriate manner.

And if you don't believe me, did you see how neat the waste was as it was let loose from the bottom of that bin? It all looked too clean to be rubbish! That must be one heck of a waste management system they've got going over there.

To find out more about recycling in Zurich, have a peek at the excellent description on the Swiss Story blog, where American expat Jessica documents life in the city. Her wonderful account is fully backed up by an article in the International Herald Tribune published in 2005, which explores how Swiss recycling works so well.

"Stores like IKEA now put products in far less packaging, or allow customers to unwrap at the store, and appliances now leave stores nearly naked," the article states.

Doesn't that sound wonderful!

The article also goes on to highlight "Perhaps the biggest innovation is a 'pay as you throw' policy, where garbage collection fees are linked in some way to the actual amount of trash a household produces. In much of the world, garbage taxes are a flat fee or related to household size."

Hmmm...interesting given the debate over the effect of "pay-as-you-throw" schemes in the UK.

So why the sudden interest in this small, yet amazing country?

Well... it's because I am about to embark on a visit to this recycling heaven that is Switzerland and will have a fabulous opportunity to experience it first hand. Not in Zurich but in the French speaking part to the West.

But don't worry, I haven't gone all international on you.

There's no Convention in Geneva that I'm thinking of gatecrashing .

No, it's definitely not anything like that.

I am simply off to visit my little sister and her family.

Yes, we're off on holiday.

So I've eaten the contents of the fridge. I've packed my bags (and I don't just mean my suitcase) ... and am now looking forward to the mountainous air.

And as we spend our days walking in the Alps, there'll be plenty of time to find out more about rubbish in this fine country.

Apparently my sister's also got broadband...

...so look out for the odd postcard winging its way from the la famille presque moyenne en vacances. All waste free of course and no stamp needed!

Alors.... À Bientôt mes amis....

Hmm.... où sont les boîtes de recyclage?

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Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Considering Condiments


I tried to snap this photo without drawing attention to myself, but was spotted by two guys out of shot, who must have thought I was bonkers. Indeed, as my camera went "click" at the M25 Clacket Services on Sunday, one man nudged the other, tipped his head towards me, the other one turned his head and whispering conversations and laughter ensued.

And there I was thinking I was being discreet.

But what a rare sight for sore and weary eyes. As a frequent visitor to all kinds of catering establishments, it was a delight to see an alternative those nasty little things....which have been proliferating the country's eateries at a rate of knots.


Yes the ubiquitous condiment sachet, with all those plastic wrappers that end up languishing in landfill.

Does this mean that changes are afoot in the UK?

I really hope so. With the McDonalds fast-food chain swapping sachets for condiment dispensers and DEFRA promoting the use of reusable containers in public sector catering, we may be gradually waving goodbye to this little bit of flimsy plastic.

Sauce bottles may not be the perfect solution, given some people's habits but it does mean that those annoying sachets are teetering on the edge of BIN 101.

So without further ado, nip over to www.bin101.co.uk for the latest candidate to face the public vote. Please do your bit to help get them banished forever, and if you see them on your travels, why not tip a wink or a nod to the restaurant owner, suggesting they have a look at The Rubbish Diet, where they'll find more sauce than HP.


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P.S. Just in case you've missed it, scroll down to see the latest packaging news from WRAP, which was announced yesterday.

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Monday, 28 July 2008

WRAP CEO thanks consumer campaigners whilst making a big announcement

Today was good news day as the Waste & Resources Action Programme WRAP, the agency which helps industry and consumers reduce waste and recycle more, announced that the amount of waste packaging in the UK grocery sector has halted despite increased sales in 2007.

Hooray!

New figures reported by The Telegraph show that there had been no increase in packaging used by supermarkets and high street stores since 2006 when results weighed in at 2.843 tonnes. This means that the industry has met the first target of the Courtauld Agreement which was set to design out packaging waste growth and can now focus on reducing the amount further, to meet packaging waste targets for 2010.

In its press release announcing the news, WRAP CEO Liz Goodwin thanked consumer campaigners for "helping to push the issue of packaging further up the agenda.”

So I guess we should keep up the good work, keep writing those letters and making those phone calls, because to quote a famous marketing catchphrase,

"Every Little Helps"

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Nice day for a white wedding!


Meet Mr & Mrs H, the very happy newly-weds, whose lovely wedding we had the pleasure of attending this weekend.

It was a beautiful day in Chichester. The sun was shining, the guests were happy and the champagne was flowing.

The preparations made the day perfect and we were delighted to have witnessed the marriage of a very dear friend ...and doesn't she look gorgeous, smiling up at her Mr Right.

It really was a wonderful day.

But weddings eh!

Such an occasion is a great opportunity for guests to dress up and splash out on a brand new outfit to look the part.

On announcement of impending marriage vows, the "old me" would have been off to the high street at the drop of Cilla Black's hat. I'd shop around for the perfect dress, the matching shoes and handbag, the most stunning jewellery, oh and I mustn't forget the make-up, with the perfect shade of co-ordinating eye-shadow, lipstick and nail polish.

Mr A would have been right behind me hunting down his killer shirt and tie combo, jazzed up with some cuff-links.

Oh yes, the old me and my partner in crime were brilliant at supporting the fashion industry when it came to weddings, with a decent spend of anything up to £350 to look the part (much more than the £54.75 the average person is estimated to spend)...and with that we would bring home the carrier bags, (made from paper if the shop was "posh"), plus the labels, the tissue paper, till receipts and the car parking tickets. There'd also be the refreshment pit-stops, with napkins, straws and any other waste left over from our visits to restaurants\cafes as we surveyed our choices.

And what would happen to all those things after the big day?

Hmm, Mr A has always been good at making the most of his purchases but my new stuff would simply hang about in the wardrobe, jewellery box and make-up bag for a number of years, then end up at the charity-shop, car-boot or bin when the novelty had worn off, the dress had "shrunk" or fashions had changed.

After all, I couldn't possible wear that outfit to the next wedding...where was the fun in that! Everything had to be new, new or new!

But how things have changed and it's a good job too, when you consider that we've been invited to three weddings this year...trust me, that's more to do with coincidence than popularity as there's been a bit of a dry spell on the matrimonial front over the last few years.

But three weddings in one year! Now that would create a lot of unnecessary waste and expense if I was still my old self.

So the challenge was on to reduce unnecessary purchases and reuse what we already had in our wardrobes, without turning up to the wedding looking like a pair of hillbillies.

For Mr A, it was very easy, a work-shirt and tie...pretty much of a doddle I'd say. But for me, there was the exhaustive turnaround of co-ordinating pieces, which could easily match the costume changes for any modern catwalk model...until to my relief, I finally settled on Mr A's suggestion of my little Laura Ashley number, circa 2005.

I can't even remember the occasion for which I bought it now, probably a wedding or Christening. But thankfully, I still had the matching shoes and little bag. Perfect! And even better, in the event of a chilly evening, there was the pashmina, a recent birthday gift from a friend. Although, that did bring on the extra panic of searching the Internet to find out how one should wear such an item without looking like an overdressed sack of spuds.

For once, there were no brand new cosmetics or even jewellery. All these came from my existing collection, including my sparkling vintage necklace.

So here we are, with a rare glimpse of Mr A, joining in the special celebrations without a brand new item in sight!



But what about the kids? Well...er...hmm...that was more tricky! With feet bursting out of their now scruffy shoes, their little tootsies were in need of a smart makeover. So each had a visit to the local shoe shop and proudly carried out their boxes of new footwear (vowing to save the boxes for future school projects). The only other expense was one pre-loved, mint-condition M&S shirt from Cancer Research for just £1.50. Phew, that was lucky and the betting is it will last a few years too!





But that's enough from us. Our outfits might have been a challenge, but it was not our big day....

It's back to the lovely bride and groom...and a toast.

A toast.... for a wonderful life together, bringing happiness and good health......(with the hope they also enjoy the minimal waste impact of a gift voucher and a wrapper-free wedding card).

So ladies and gentlemen....please charge your glasses.

as I give you...the Bride and Groom!



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Friday, 25 July 2008

Hooray for Mr & Mrs Green and Gloucestershire



Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand up and give a huge round of applause for Mr & Mrs Green and Little Miss Green over in the Forest of Dean.

Do you remember when I invited them to have a go at The Rubbish Diet at the beginning of May and they took their first steps towards slimming their bin? Mrs Green had been worrying about her rubbish, so I sent her off to do an audit of her bin.

They began analysing their rubbish and weighing-in and finding solutions to cut down on their waste. They hunted down new recycling options and pondered new ideas at home. They looked at their weaknesses and played to their strengths, agreeing for Mr Green to do the compost run and Mrs Green to sort out the tins. They even set up a website to chart their progress at myzerowaste.com, where they also host regular competitions and offers.

They were getting on so brilliantly that within two weeks...just two weeks...of having started the challenge, I suggested to Mrs Green that they step up a level and hold their very own Zero Waste Week. Oh the relief, when she said yes, or rather when Mr Green said yes! No councils needed, no-one in authority to give them permission, just the Green Family honing in what they set out to do, with their Zero Waste Week set for the first week of September.

Oh the excitement!

But get this, it gets even better....because....Mr & Mrs Green have been having tea with the invaluable waste department people at Gloucestershire County Council who were already planning their own Zero Waste Week for the whole county in January.

And even better, they are launching the information during the Green's very own Zero Waste Week challenge.

....And even, yes EVEN better, they are so impressed with the Green's lack of rubbish that they have asked them to be Gloucestershire's shining lights, as the family that will inspire others.

Isn't that the most amazing story and I am so looking forward to tracking their progress. I know that Zero Waste Week will be a breeze for them and it is so fantastic that they will be able to tell their story to the whole of Gloucestershire.

So, if you're in their area be sure to keep a look out for the Greens. You'll recognise them easily, they'll be the ones with no rubbish.

I feel my work here is done and has been for a while. The Greens are really flying and deservedly so. They have worked really hard at slimming their waste.

But what we need now are people to take up the challenge all across the country and tell their councils that they are doing so. Don't worry, they won't think you're batty, they will be delighted to have local champions on their doorstep. Suggest they might want to run a Zero Waste Week too. After all, it happened in Bath & NE Somerset and is happening again on 29th September. It's happened in Bury St Edmunds and it will soon be happening in Gloucestershire.

I suppose this is simply a call to arms for people to put their hands up and say, "I'll give it a go" regardless of whether your local authority is running such an initiative. Even if you don't think you can aim for Zero Waste, why not try going for 50% and if you think that's too much of a challenge try just 10%.

If you know anyone who might be interested in joining in the challenge, email this post to them using the links below. Please spread the word on the blogs and forums to rally support behind the Greens and Gloucestershire. The more people who are watching and inspired, the better. And if you are inspired, email your councillors and your local waste departments as well.

Oops, I feel like I'm starting a campaign.

You'll be surprised how easy it is to put your bin on a diet and anyone can have a go, whether they are green or not (no pun intended), and whether you're at home or work. The best thing is, it's a cheap way of being green and helping to reduce the amount of methane produced from rubbish that's dumped in landfill, especially as methane is regarded as 21 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

You don't need a blog, but if you have one that'll be great, you can join us in writing about your experiences. If you want help setting up a blog to track your challenge, Mr & Mrs Green are happy to help out.

So let's try and do for rubbish what Jamie Oliver did for school dinners...make our lives much better. The Rubbish Diet may be crap for school meals in the traditional sense, but it's a real winner for bins everywhere!

And on that note, let's give a standing ovation for the Greens in Gloucestershire and wish them luck with a special Rubbish Bag singsong. But I must warn you, the overall performance is much better than the lyrics.





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Thursday, 24 July 2008

Meet WALL-E


I fell in love with WALL-E as soon as I saw the movie trailer. So yesterday I took my six year old bin monitor to the cinema to see what this summer's animated blockbuster is all about.

We had a great time, but rather than tell you all about it myself, I'll leave you in the hands of Little J, to give you his point-of-view.


Who's WALL-E?

He's a robot who lives on earth in a little shelter and has to clean up the planet all by himself. The planet was a mess. There were piles and piles and piles and piles and piles and piles and piles and piles and piles and piles and piles and piles of litter everywhere and WALL-E makes them into big tall piles.


How many points would you give the film?

10/10


What was the best bit?

All of it!


What was the worst bit?

The free watch. That was rubbish. It didn't even fit me properly.


Thank you Little J, we both enjoyed the film and I hope it will encourage more people to think about the impact of landfill on the planet.....but it doesn't help matters when every child going to see the movie at our local cinema was given a free watch!



It really is a trashy bit of unnecessary merchandising, so Pixar and Cineword...shame on you. If WALL-E becomes a reality, he'll be busy clearing up millions of these useless objects 700 years in the future.

The adverts don't help either. One was for the WALL-E computer game, contributing to the major problem of stuff. But apparently we needn't worry if we find ourselves drowning in a huge sea of stuff, because the Big Yellow Storage advert showed us we could just package it up and hide it away in their warehouses. Geez the world's gone mad!

At least the good news from my visit yesterday is that Cineworld is starting a recycling programme for all the rubbish that's left behind by cinema-goers...and not a moment too soon.

As you can see, the summer holidays have kicked off big style. If you haven't seen WALL-E yet and you want to find out more, check out this You Tube trailer.






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Wednesday, 23 July 2008

School's out for Summer! Waste-free tips for the holidays



So today marks the beginning of the summer holidays, with lots of fun, frolics and adventures to be had over the next six weeks...

...which means that battle will indeed commence in trying to keep the house as waste-free as possible....(sigh) all those temptations, kids' magazines, ice-creams and sweeties...what is a girl to do with two constantly hungry young lads on her hands with high testosterone levels?

At least I had a practice run during half-term and will be reinforcing my plan in an attempt to keep the waste down over the summer.

So, if you're in the same boat and are slap-bang in the middle of school-holiday fun, try the following tips to keep you and your rubbish bin as sane as possible:

Tip 1: The first trick is to avoid taking the children to the shops at all costs, unless it's to try on new shoes, in which case flee the shopping mall as soon as you can. Otherwise, you will be prone to temptation for the simple sake of sanity.

Tip 2: If you must be accompanied by children wanting this that and the other, use the promise of a treat that you have already prepared at home. If it's tempting enough, they will be champing at the bit to race you to your front door.

Tip 3: Be prepared with easy-treats at home so that you can keep your promise: Even if you're not a confident cook, try simple things like mixing Rice Crispies or Corn Flakes with melted chocolate to create chocolate nests. Even better use reusable cupcake cases! Buy large chocolate bars in foil\paper wrapping which can be recycled easily rather than small bars which come in landfill-destined film wrappers. Buy sweets or candy loose in paper bags instead of those that come in small plastic bags.

Tip 4: If you find it hard to resist the Pied Piper effect of the mobile ice-cream van and its jaunty tune, make sure that you've got a tub of ice-cream at home (in a recyclable or reusable container of course). This way you will avoid the useless sticky wrappers that end up in the dustbin. Make it special. It is summer after all. Follow in the footsteps of restaurants and invest in some reusable chocolate sundae glasses, where you can hide little treats at the bottom of the ice-cream. Fresh fruit is best. Try heating up soft fruit with some water and sugar to create a fruity sauce. The kids will love it, especially if it's topped off with some grated chocolate. You may even get hooked on making the ice-cream from scratch. But if this isn't your thing try ice-pops instead, where you can make your own with fruit juice or home-made smoothies. Old yoghurt pots are good for this. Just remember to insert a lolly stick, which you can later compost or reuse.

Tip 5: If you are going on holiday or vacation, avoid the temptation to buy new toys to keep the kids quiet. Dig out some old toys that might have been buried in the bottom of the toy basket. They will be as good as new, saving you both money and extra clutter. If travelling by road, play some travel games...e.g. Road Sign Bingo, giving everyone a list of different road signs to spot, where the first to cross-off everything on their list is the winner. For younger children try Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, where they get 2 points for every lorry of that particular colour. The first person to reach 10 points can pick the next colour (change the points system to encourage numeracy skills as appropriate).

Tip 6: Have fun in the garden! If you're a real Fun-Time-Frankie, prepare to get your hands dirty! Fill up a watering can, preferably using the water butt, and find a spot of garden which can be turned into mud pie heaven. Plastic cups or plant pots are perfect for the job, but make sure that you are suitably covered up. Otherwise it will be more than your hands that will be covered in mud! After all, you don't want to stain your best clothes. That's not good for Zero Waste.

Tip 7: For adventures outside the home, gather a kit-bag that is ready-to-go with a packed lunch. Take your own drinks bottles, which can be refilled as necessary. Try to avoid the landfill-sinner cling-film and make use of washable food containers instead. Fresh fruit is better than film-wrapped snacks. Take some of your home-made goodies when you can. If you find it more convenient to buy snacks en-route, look for packaging that is compostable or recyclable and if you can't find a suitable recycling point while you're out and about, consider taking it home.

Tip 8: Use the free time to save yourself waste and money later in the year. With a whole summer ahead, get the kids to design some home-made cards. Stockpile for birthdays, Christmas and other occasions. Try to use materials that won't stuff up the recycling system at the end of the waste stream, so avoid things like googly eyes, foam shapes and glittery bits. Instead use a variety of papers cut into different shapes to make interesting features, patterns or a picture collage. You could even glue some seeds, which the lucky recipient can plant into the ground once the intended celebrations are over.

Tip 9: Ah...did anyone mention Christmas? It will be here before you know it, with more clutter hitting your kids' carpets faster than you can say Festive Greetings! So with time on their hands over the holidays, have a good clear-out and get your children to have a go at the CBBC's Clutter Nutters challenge. If your kids think you are the battiest or meanest parent on the block, then this will help your cause. Instill a competitive spirit enticing them to clear as much clutter as possible, with a trip to a car-boot sale or charity shop to follow. No doubt bribes, I mean tokens of encouragement, may be needed, but these can be as waste-free as possible.

Tip 10: And finally, remember the power of No! If your little angel has a desperate need for something that you know will be gracing your bin within minutes of play, be brave enough to say it...N.O....but be prepared for temper tantrums, pleading eyes or even threats of strike action. For that brief (but seemingly long) challenging moment, grab your confidence with both hands knowing that there are many parents standing shoulder-to-shoulder in full support of your actions. We will applaud you as you rise to defend your bins from mini waste-saboteurs. No matter how old your children are, be sure to tell them why you've said no and if you feel it helps, try offering an alternative distraction that is bin-friendly. They'll thank you when you're old and grey.


So...with my defences in place I am now looking forward to a long summer of creative fun with Mr A and the kids. Of course this all means that while I'm enjoying myself I may not have access to the computer, so be prepared for my posts and comments to be more random than they have ever been before.

You might even find me popping up in odd places, like France or indeed the Swiss Alps? Who knows where I'll end up. If I appear randomly at a spot near you, please let me know and I will come and drop off my recycling....or even swap it for some of yours.

Please feel free to have a good old poke about the site and visit some of the older links and don't be afraid to comment and chat amongst yourselves. You're very good at encouraging each other! Even if I can't reply, I have the technology to at least read what you've got to say, which means I'll never feel homesick.

So summer fun, here we come......and happy holidays to you all!

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Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Recycling School Friends - The Update

Remember my recent news about introducing recycling at our school fayre?

Well the fayre went ahead at the weekend and true to my word I set up a recycling centre. It's a bit primitive looking I know, but it did the job and even survived the wind and the amazing heavy downpour of rain.


With bags available for plastic cups and containers, plastic bags, cans, tetra paks, as well as paper and card, the system was generally quite effective.

....especially as we saved this amount of "rubbish" from landfill...




.... leaving just two bags of real rubbish to put in the landfill bin.

I did get some ribbing over taking photos of recycling...but I couldn't resist...blog fodder and all that.

The best news is that the summer fayre helped to raise an extra £1200 to towards our imaginary world, which is what the event was really about.

ADDENDUM: Not school friends us such, but recently acquired recycling friends Mr & Mr Green over at myzerowaste.com have just been awarded Red Hot Blog of the Day by RedOrbit. Please take a visit and show your congratulations for their superb efforts and find out a new thing or two about Mr Green.

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Monday, 21 July 2008

Colin Firth, Beefburgers and Cupcakes.


What a lucky girl I am. Not only have I got some great friends and family who have learned to accept (and seem to love) my madcap ideas, but I also get to see the gorgeous Colin Firth on my birthday. That's right, the actor Colin Firth in my very own living room on my 40th birthday.

Okay, I may not have rubbed shoulders with the great man himself, but there he was smiling at me from the newspaper that had been used by my good friend Nigella to wrap my gorgeous birthday gifts.

What a clever girl that Nigella is. She'd only gone and recycled last week's "Green" supplement of The Bury Free Press as wrapping paper for my birthday presents. She hadn't picked just any old stories either. She'd carefully themed them.

She'd used Colin Firth, who is also co-founder of eco-store Eco-Age, to wrap a gift with a note to say it contained "something to keep me stylish even when saving the earth".

Then there was local MP David Ruffley, (who is influencing the reduction of plastic bags locally), used to wrap something that promised to "nurture my creativity".

Finally there was an exciting story about outlawing plastic bags which contained "something to make me laugh".

They turned out to be a floral trowel with accompanying gloves, a Dare to be Different notebook and a funny tea-towel.



Aren't my friends thoughtful and generous with their creativity? As well as family combining resources for the telescope of my dreams (one which can automatically find any planet of my choice), there were also some amazing gifts from people, including some lovelink beads to add to an existing bracelet, a home-grown pepper in a recycled plant pot, which was presented in a pristine recycled gift bag.

Then there was the pre-loved gorgeous Radley bag from the bottom of Dorothy's wardrobe, not to mention some lovely unwrapped gifts, presented in a beautiful gift box, which I can use for storage...and I am always in need of extra storage. There was also the unwrapped bird box, which was posted in a cardboard box, as well as gifts in brown parcel paper, which can be easily composted. Oh, and of course the make-up in a little wooden pot, which was bought by Ruby, intervening just as I was about to pay for it.

And as for the birthday cards, I was overwhelmed not just by the number and their humour but also the alternative ideas. As well as some lovely ecards from Mrs Green and our local Freecycle co-ordinator Cybele, I also received this wonderful digital work of art from Danda at Dandaworld.



What a fantastic graphic! Thank you Danda.

Anyway, recycled newspaper seemed to be the theme of the day, with some great hand-made cards lovingly created by some seemingly normal people...If I didn't know any better I would think these two had been plotting!....





So what a day! It was truly fabulous and I now feel that the start of my forties has been well and truly celebrated! I hope that you've been inspired by a few real-life waste-free ideas along the way. I know I have.

But I have a confession.

Please forgive me..... because this weekend I lost my senses...you know...special birthday celebrations and too much champagne...

We had a small barbecue on Saturday night for some friends who can't make it to my other celebrations. It was a great evening but I fell into the trap of over-catering....I know, I know... I'd been in a rush and miscalculated, by four beefburgers!

Mr A remembered to rescue some and promptly put them in the fridge, which we managed to have yesterday. But one burger had been abandoned on the barbecue, with a chicken kebab, both left as a meal for all the insects to devour overnight. Having been once bitten and now twice shy about maggots, there was no way I was going to put either of these in my bokashi.

So, today they are going in the bin...

Together with a couple of nappies kindly left behind by a friend!

So, there you go! No sooner have I turned forty I've become a landfill litterbug and have to put the black bin out for the first time in 6 weeks.

On the plus side, it's a relief to know I'm still human and still pretty average at that!

Anyway...swiftly moving on.... for those on the edge of their seats awaiting news of the cake. Yes Mr A excelled himself. As well as a lovely cake which was bought from a local shop and presented in a plain cardboard box, he also made some cupcakes with the children, which they decorated individually.

So that's what I call a fantastic fortieth birthday... all played out to the background of recycled music from 1968, courtesy of Baba.

Forty eh! It finally happened!

But as a friend reassured me over the weekend...

Forty is only twenty recycled twice!


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Friday, 18 July 2008

My Birthday Compost Bin

Thank you to everyone for my birthday wishes. I had such a great time with Ruby in London celebrating the last day of my thirties. We wined, dined, bought recycled jewellery made from old cutlery and took photos of bins.

Ooooh I know how to live.

But to celebrate my birthday today I decided to treat myself to something really special...

.....in the form of

.....a new compost bin!

For the last decade one compost bin has served us well.

But to see us through the next decade I decided we needed a second.

However this is no ordinary bin, as you'll see in the video below.



To explore its other exceptional features, have a click on my new You Tube channel....ooh the wonders of technology!

However, what worries me now is that all the fruit and veg peelings I throw in are at risk of being tossed back out.

Oh well, you live and learn.

Anyway, I've got a birthday to celebrate, cards to open and some presents too....not to mention all those candles to blow out.

Er...that's if Mr A has remembered the cake.

...is there a cake?

...is it home-made?

...or will it come with packaging?

Ooh the intrigue...the suspense...the anticipation...

...and a cliff-hanger to boot!

So will I have my cake and eat it?...

...all will be revealed next week.

xxx

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Thursday, 17 July 2008

Sentiments on turning 40

TODAY IS THE LAST DAY OF MY THIRTIES

Tomorrow my body clock will be ticking its way to 40, yes FORTY, with full chimes belting out at around 6pm in the evening. If you listen carefully you may hear them, even if you are as far away as Japan.

40...eh!

It's arrived.

I knew it would.

But like Christmas every year, it's crept up behind me and taken me by surprise.

I wonder if this is when I graduate as a grown-up.

Once the champagne has been devoured, maybe it will be time to roll up my sleeves, don my hat of responsibility and venture into adulthood.

A destiny of practical gifts awaits. Socks here, shampoo there or gift vouchers to buy things you want as a strategy to avoid any unwanted gifts and waste.

I can see I've changed. Moi, goddess of consumer delights has somehow metamorphosed into a pared-down version of my old self, using big words inspired by Kafka whilst shedding material excesses of the 21st Century.

How the heck did that happen?

All I ever wanted was to slim my bin.

But something's happened to my make-up... and I don't just mean my favourite Dior lipstick?

During my twenties and thirties I was lavish, bought loads of clothes, accessories and indulged in lots of fine food. We had dinner parties, where I treated people like kings and queens, offering an abundance of culinary delights, which if not used would be thrown in the bin, without any further thought.

I surprised people with gifts that were often expensive. The more expensive the better right? It showed I cared and valued that special person.

When older family members asked for practical things that could slot into their everyday lives, I thought that was simply boring. "How unexciting" I'd say, desperately wanting to surprise them with a special gift that would bring extra sparkle.

I now wonder how many of my special gifts have ended up in charity shops, car boot sales or landfill.

It's amazing how people can change. It's even happened to my friends who are getting married this year, with very minimal wedding lists or suggesting donations to charity.

Since writing this blog, I have moved on in so many ways. Not completely away from my sense of adventure and fun, you understand, or indeed from my aspirations to improve my lot with the odd thing here and there...and trust me these days they are odd.

You see I am still hoping for some birthday gifts (but not swamped by them) and would dearly love a telescope.

I don't have one and probably don't need one, but I hold a yearning to see the galaxy, the constellations and the stars. I want to take a closer look at the moon and virtually feel the bumps on its surface.

But I don't want a new one. This time around a pre-loved one will do as I've lost all my old hang-ups over second-hand goods.

And it shows. One of my dear friends is giving me one of her old bags for my birthday. It's a beautiful bag, a Radley one in pristine condition. It's been sitting in the bottom of her wardrobe in the five years that I've known her. If she had pulled her finger out in the last few years, she would have got a fair whack by selling it on eBay.

Instead, I am getting it for my fortieth birthday and what a pleasure it will be.

So is it an age thing, or is it the indulgence of pouring out my thoughts through blogging?

Who knows?

But one thing's for certain, I've been inspired by many of my family, friends and strangers alike, and am glad to be surfing the sea of change.

So, as I spend the last day of my thirties enjoying myself with some close friends in London, I would like to raise a glass to mark the end of a handsome decade full of fun, frivolity and friendship.

But most importantly I would also like to raise half-a-glass to celebrate the beginning of my forties.

And by no means is the glass half-empty. Oh no! In good old Almost Mrs Average style, it is most definitely half-full!

So please join me in a toast to happy days and a future of more fun, measured frivolity and long-lasting friendships.

And with a slow sip of champagne, and a big deep breath...it's time to shout...

"Let the fortieth celebrations begin."

Hooray!

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(I would like to dedicate this post to both my mother Ellen and to my late mother-in-law Pauline, whose sense of "everything in moderation" I never fully appreciated until it was too late. We still miss you Pauline. But three years on I now get it and have every gratitude for the memories that live on.)
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Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Pick Your Own


As I drove into the car park of the local farm shop to buy some fruit and veg, I saw the sign PYO.

Yes "Pick Your Own Strawberries" it said.

And this is how I was led down the path of temptation.

Strawberry picking or going home to do the housework?

Hmmmm. Not difficult.

The housework could wait. The worst that would happen is chaos. If the strawberries aren't picked they'll go off and what a waste that would be. That was my excuse anyway, in the hope that Mr A would never use it as grounds for divorce.

The excuse for the morning was school assembly and I can't remember what Monday's was now. It seems so long ago. But you can see I am very easily led and distracted by things that are more exciting than the laundry. Always have been and I suppose I always will. No wonder there's always a depletion of pants, as highlighted in a former post!

So I spent the afternoon with Little T, picking some delicious strawberries and raspberries.

I envisaged it would be a great opportunity for some fantastic teamwork. Delicious time for mother and son bonding. However, I'm not sure if his contribution of sitting in my basket and watching me from the corner of the field mounted to a team effort, even if he insisted that he was looking after my things.

Surely with his height and a nose for strawberries, he would have the advantage. Instead he preferred the spectator sport of watching his mother crouch down among the strawberry plants to see how quickly she could fill the basket.

We are real fans of strawberries in our house and during an average week in summer, we can spend up to £10 on the delicious soft fruit that can't help but encapsulate sunny days. The basket that you see here contained about a kilo of strawberries and only cost £3.50. At our local Tesco Express I'd only get about 300g for the same price and it's not much cheaper on the market.

Using the PYO has also meant reduced packaging, with a basket that can be used time and time again. So it's a shame the farm's strawberry picking season is over next week. No sooner discovered than "disparu"... until next year that is. A good job really, as I'd never get any work done!

However on the subject of packaging I asked the owners of the PYO why strawberries need the annoying little piece of bubble wrap that normally sits at the bottom of punnets of strawberries that are sold in shops. It's become really fashionable of late.

They had no idea what benefit it served.

Which leaves me wondering whether it is needed after all?

Perhaps it's time to decide as I launch a brand new site called....

BIN 101.

So please click on the link to have a peek in the bin and tell me what you think of those little bits of bubble wrap

In the meantime, I'm off to rescue the housework situation before Mr A tells me it's strawberry fields forever.

No rest for the wicked eh!
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Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Recycling School Assembly


Phew. I'm back! Having walked the wheelie bin to school, yesterday, I've talked the talk at school assembly today...and survived.

The children were great. We started off by letting them guess how much rubbish I had in my wheelie bin after six long weeks...and it was so exciting showing them how little there was...just one carrier bag full. There were gasps and wows. I could see my eldest boy, little J in the audience looking dead chuffed.

I showed them this excellent video about a town in Japan that doesn't have bin lorries and where residents recycle everything by separating waste into 34 containers. We then talked about Zero Waste and with a couple of helpers, we demonstrated how we can actually do this in Bury St Edmunds. The difference is that over here we have the luxury of bin lorries that come and get some stuff from the kerbside, but most other things can be recycled through services dotted around in the shops, garden centres and recycling centres.

Isn't it amazing how much recycling can be done if you know where to find the hotspots. I've even read that the council is planning on-street bins so that people will be able to recycle on the go too. So for the school fayre on Saturday, we're going to have our own bins that will help us recycle people's plastic bags, fruit juice cartons, plastic bottles, paper and cans. This week the children will make up labels for the bins...and will no doubt tell their parents where to put their rubbish.

But what about the finale?...well, I couldn't resist my favourite video illustrating the Jack Johnson's rendition of The Three R's...Always a winner. I've pointed to it on the site before, but just in case you've missed it, here it is again. Enjoy.


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Walking the wheelie bin

I hope the local paparazzi weren't out with their cameras last night.

If so there will be photos knocking about of a mad old bird taking her wheelie bin for walk.

That's right, you heard...a wheelie bin!

Most people walk their dogs, there's a lady in town who walks her ferrets and I have known some people to walk their cats...but a wheelie bin! This is how folklore starts.

"Remember the lady who used to take her wheelie bin for a walk around the streets of Moreton Hall?"

"Yes...a jolly figure, who would wave at the passers by with one hand, and wheel with the other"

"Every Monday if I remember."

"I wonder what happened to her."

"Probably moved into the recycling centre...what with the cost of fuel."

Well before there is a risk of any rumour circulating the cafe-bars of Bury St Edmunds, there was indeed a funny looking lady wheeling her bin through the streets of Moreton Hall.

It was indeed me, but trust me it's a one-off. I've not got in the routine of giving the bin some regular exercise. If nothing else, it's pretty slim these days so doesn't need it.

I was in fact preparing for today's recycling assembly at our local school and people would have stared if I delivered it during the middle of the school run and that wouldn't do. I'm not the kind of girl to stop traffic and I didn't want to start today!

So the bin is waiting for the 149 kids to have a guess at how much rubbish is in there, having not put it out for six weeks.

So pop back later for an update. That's if I make it back in one piece of course and haven't been recycled myself.
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Monday, 14 July 2008

Carnival of Trash # 1


The Rubbish Diet is pleased to host the very first edition of Carnival of Trash and would like to thank all participants for their submissions. We've got everything from composting to recycling with poetry, art and letters, with lots of tips, all intent on highlighting the madness of waste.

It's really great to get everyone together again and what a pleasure to be doing this in the week of my 40th birthday, which is coming up on Friday. Most people get a party for their birthday, but I get a brand new Carnival, which is why everyone's contributions are even more special.

So, please do take the time to visit these thought-provoking links and if you are inspired, please feel free to get involved.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the round-up. Enjoy the Carnival and have fun!


Trash

Madeleine Begun Kane kicks us off with Trash Day posted at Mad Kane's Humor Blog.


Composting

Matthew Philip presents Why Composting is So Important for the Environment posted at EnviroHumanImpact, saying, "We recently ran an article discussing the importance of composting for the environment. We detail the top 7 most important reasons for composting and how to get started, which are both simple and can save money!"


Recycling

Tip Diva presents Tip Diva | Top Ten Tips - Recycling Old Newspapers And Magazines posted at Tip Diva, saying, "If you have old newspapers or magazines and don’t know what to do with them, don’t fret - there are plenty of ways to recycle your pile"

Tip Diva also presents Tip Diva | Top Ten Tips - Reusing Chinese Takeout Containers posted at Tip Diva, saying, "When you receive Chinese, Japanese or other takeout food in plastic containers, do not throw them out after consuming your wonton soup. They are versatile and can be employed for many different uses"

Danda presents "Progetto Metamorphosi" / the 'Metamorphosi Project' posted at dandaworld, saying, "I discovered a wonderful couple of young Italian artists who recycle glass as artworks and design objects. They also founded an organization, the "Metamorphosi Project" which is involved in helping Latin American people to reuse waste and having a more environmentally friendly life."


Reducing Waste

Alison presents One Can Challenge Update posted at Green Me.


Rethinking

Donna Freedman presents Why is it so easy to throw things away? posted at Smart Spending, saying, "How many of these things would have ended up in the waste stream?"

Donna also presents Yard sale stuff that nobody wants posted at Smart Spending, saying, "Nobody really needs another coffee mug."

Beth Terry presents Dear Citrus Solv, Dear (Blue Vinyl DVD Distributor) New Video, and National Geographic: You're green but you could be a little greener, a series of letters posted at Fake Plastic Fish, saying "For companies who bombard us with excess or non-biodegradable packaging."

Zero Waste

Mrs Green presents No Rest for the Wicked, at myzerowaste.com saying, "Getting prepared for our Zero Waste Week in September".


That concludes this edition and what a jolly good start it was. If you would like to get involved, please submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of Trash using our carnival submission form. Future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

It would be great if we could find a fantastic image for the Carnival. So if you are a bit creative and would like your work to be promoted, please email your design to The Rubbish Diet, by clicking on this link.


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Friday, 11 July 2008

Recycling School Friends

I'm getting a bit of a reputation at my sons' school.

I think it's the right reputation. However I can see why I could have given folk the wrong impression...having walked home from the school barbecue last month with a dozen empty wine bottles.

I can see the curtains twitching now...

"Look at her! How much has she had to drink? With two kids in tow as well. The poor husband".

A Saturday night at home maybe, but certainly not at the school barbecue. I've got standards to keep you know.

The bottles were the empties that I'd collected from an event which was run by The Friends committee, the fundraising team for our excellent school. Not content with slimming just my own bin, I thought I'd do my bit for the school so I brought the bottles home and by the following lunchtime, they were cosied up in the bottle bank. I also rescued about 50 plastic cups from a life of landfill and are still reusing those to this very day.

But get this...As a consequence of my drastic action, I have now been bestowed with a new title on the Fundraising Committee...

Recycling Coordinator!

Hooray! Yes Recycling Coordinator and I think every PTA should have one!

Even though the school is great at recycling, when it comes to the business of fundraising events and all of the other event management that goes with it, there's never been much time to consider the clear-up operation.

Aha...until now!

However, it doesn't stop there. I've already mentioned my other goal...reassessing prizes, gifts and snacks to reduce wasteful packaging, i.e. stopping rubbish at source.

I didn't push, but planted a seed.

Initial reactions such as "that'll be tricky", suddenly developed into "but if we bought little boxes of Smarties instead of packets of sweets...".

So Project Infiltration has begun.

And for our Summer Fayre on 19th July, the most important thing is to have our recycling bins in place, ready to receive cans and bottles or rubbish.

I thought it would be great to get the school involved so I asked the Head if he could get the kids to decorate them.

To which he replied, "Yes, we could, and you could come in and inspire them".

"Deal" I said, quite happy to get my hands dirty with paint.

At which point he opened his diary, pencilled in Tuesday and said "Assembly it is then"!

What!

How the heck did that happen? I know he's a smooth operator, but eh, I'm also know as Mrs Non-Stick who could have been the inventor of Teflon if I'd been born just 10 years earlier.

A school assembly....

with 149 children...

with me at the front.

No paint, just chat...

with teachers watching.

Now my reputation is really at stake!

So recycling friends, wherever you are. Wish me luck, give me strength and fortitude...

...because next Tuesday, I will most definitely need it.
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Thursday, 10 July 2008

A glamorous side to recycling


Writing about rubbish may give the impression that I'm always knee deep in trash, washing out containers here, composting there and sorting out maggots.

Well yes, life is often spent washing out another tin of cat food or dropping off stuff at the recycling centre, which is why I feel it is really important to take a morning off, glam up and spend some time on little indulgences. So now and again I get out of the house and meet up with my writing partner in crime, the young Ruby of the Living in Bury St Edmunds blog.

Once a week, we make ourselves comfortable in the lounge at the very glamorous Angel Hotel and over a coffee we talk rubbish and explore other ideas that take our fancy. She gets on with her writing projects and I get on with mine. Sometimes we even get entertained by the appearance of The Angel's very own recycling bin being wheeled out to the back door.

But yesterday was even more special. Just before I was due to meet Ruby at The Angel, I received a call from BBC Three Counties Radio, inviting me to appear on the JVS show to discuss the idea of financial incentives for recycling.

How glamorous is that? A live radio interview from the lounge at The Angel hotel.

A chance to comment on the Shadow Chancellor's plans to pay people to recycle...A chance to say that it was good news but shouldn't be seen as a "one size fits all solution"... A chance to remind that it shouldn't just be us consumers that need sorting, but the top of the food chain needs addressing too.....like do we really need all those overpackaged multipacks?

Anyway, I quickly discovered that my mobile connection in The Angel wasn't good enough for radio and spent the next twenty minutes hunting down a quiet corner with a great mobile reception...but with very little success. So the only other option was to head out in the rain to track down somewhere quiet in the centre of Bury St Edmunds. Somewhere peaceful on market day is a pretty big challenge.

After a not-so-glamorous run in the rain I finally arrived at the most wonderful Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery, where as a member I regularly enjoy their quiet space. That would be a great location for the interview I thought, set against the backdrop of the Suffolk Showcase exhibition. And my phone was showing 5 bars...excellent! Another glam location for my glamorous day.




The Art Gallery Director was kind enough to help me in my urgent quest for a quiet spot. However, the gallery was far too lively with the lovely music playing in the background. That wouldn't do for radio.

So I was kindly offered the meeting room and I was very grateful to her for helping me.

I got the call from the radio station.

And I said my piece...

....from the little meeting room, which was very fitting indeed, not just because it was private and quiet...

...but because the room itself had been recycled.

Yes... it used to be the gentlemen's lavatory and even though everything else has been removed, the old hand basin is still intact.

So if you get a chance to listen into yesterday's Jonathan Vernon Smith show on BBC Three Counties Radio (about 22 minutes in), you'll now be able to picture the scene.

And eh...if the Tories do actually pay me for my recycling efforts, that would at least cover my coffee expenses at The Angel for a few years to come. You never know, I may even be able to afford a regular lunch.

Now how glam would that be?

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Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Talking Rubbish with Fran Crowe

Some of you may remember my excitement over the wonderful and thought-provoking exhibition that I visited at Landguard Fort in May, called Walking to Save Some Sea. If you missed it, click here to read my review .



Well, here's some more excitement because I have managed to catch up with the Suffolk artist behind it, a lovely lady called Fran Crowe.



After a couple of busy months, we finally managed to meet last week in the picturesque setting of Ipswich marina. And for two hours we chatted like a pair of old friends who hadn't seen each other for years. You would never have guessed we were strangers.

And yes, we talked about rubbish and as you can see for yourself, I couldn't wait to ask Fran about her art, her inspiration and her recycling and I am pleased that she was able to oblige.

You address a number of pertinent issues through your art. What inspired you to start expressing yourself in this way?

Whilst studying for my degree (which I completed in 2006), it became clear to me that I did not want to be the kind of artist that creates beautiful things. Lots of artists already do this really well and in any case I think nature does a much better job of beauty than I possibly could. Rather, I wanted my art to ‘create waves’ and to provoke people to think differently about the world - but in an engaging and often playful way. I am concerned about the damage our lifestyles are doing to the world and am really interested in the ways that artists might use their creativity in response to the massive problems that we are facing as a result of this.


If you could pick one project, which has been the most significant and why?

Definitely the marine litter project ‘Walking to save some sea’. As well as being my most ambitious project to date (it took me a year of walking on the beach just to collect my 46,000 pieces of litter), I was also able through this project to connect something local and that I could see for myself with a global problem about the state of our oceans, caused by our runaway consumption (and careless disposal) of plastics, in particular. Also I really love just being by the sea, and collecting, so it was good to do too.


I loved the Walking To Save Some Sea exhibition, could you tell me more about the project?

I started the project having no idea what I would do with all the rubbish I collected but sure I would come up with something! I was then really lucky to be awarded a bursary and solo exhibition by Babylon Gallery in Ely which was a great opportunity to do something really creative with the rubbish. Initially I was just going to dump it in one big pile iin the gallery but realised this might shock people but would not give me the chance to engage people with the issues. So I spent hours sorting the rubbish - by colour, by material and by use (eg paintbrushes, pens and pencils etc). I used these to create huge floor displays as well as a museum-style area of ‘collections’. I really wanted to bring my exhibition back to the Suffolk coast and was lucky to secure Landguard Fort for this. The fort is a stunning place with amazing huge rooms and lots of character - and I was more-or-less given the run of it, an artist’s dream! I was able to extend the exhibition and create some really eye-catching installations.


How long did it take to set up at Landguard Fort?

It took months of preparation and the actual installation took several days. I had so much choice of space and a third of a tonne of rubbish to create things with. It took a whole day to take down too... I was lucky that the Suffolk Coastal refuse collection service agreed to deliver all my rubbish to the fort too which was rather appropriate.



So where do you store the items you collected?

I am lucky to have an outbuilding which is meant to be my studio. Unfortunately it is mostly filled with rubbish and other stuff I can’t bear to throw away these days. It’s hard to find space to work!


You were recently featured on Radio 4's MidWeek show. What was that like?

I thought I would be really nervous and was terrified I’d say something stupid but the other guests really made me feel quite at ease. It was a great experience!


What impact has your work had on your home-life in terms of managing your household waste?

We have always recycled as much as we can but my research into the impact of plastics, in particular, has made me quite obsessive about trying to recycle everything I can. Even then, I think some things - although useless or broken - are too good to send for recycling so I am saving these and thinking about how I might use them for a future project... I also try really hard to avoid products with unnecessary packaging but it is very hard. Most of all I am trying to cut down on inappropriate use of plastics - you certainly won’t find me buying any more ‘disposable’ cups and things for barbecues and picnics.


What is the hardest thing to recycle at home?

I am particularly fed up with cellophane type wrappers that you get on so many products and which you can’t recycle. I bought a lampshade this week and it was wrapped in yards of the stuff. I try to avoid crisps and biscuits bars which are wrapped in it but with teenagers in the house I don’t really get away with this.


What is your next project going to be?

I’m not sure yet. In the past I have worked with fresh air and also earth so anything is possible! But I am sure it will have a strong environmental message and, knowing my habit of collecting stuff, it’s very likely to involve lots of discarded objects in some form or another... And I’d still really like to exhibit ‘Walking to save some sea’ in other locations so am working on that too... fingers crossed!





It was a really wonderful experience meeting Fran and after two hours of chatting we are both now buzzing with lots of ideas and even future possibilities of collaborative work. That would be so much fun! Something tells me we're going to see each other again soon and I am now champing at the bit to go and take a peek at her barn in the other side of Suffolk.

To find out more about Fran's inspirational work, please visit her website www.flyintheface.com. You can also listen to Fran's recent appearance on the Radio 4 Midweek week show, by following this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/midweek.shtml

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Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Travelling with Michael Palin

Yesterday I disappeared for another adventure in the Big Smoke. I know... I know... you can't keep the girl away from the bright lights!

But when I set off from my provincial little town of Bury St Edmunds I hadn't quite expected that I would be travelling with Michael Palin.

It sounds so exciting doesn't it? The honour, the pleasure and a chance to muse over rubbish with a well-know globetrotter and much loved actor and writer.

Except the globetrotter that I'm talking about is probably unknown outside the East of England and hardly travels much further than Cambridge or Ipswich. Travelling over the border to Cambridgeshire is as much an adventure for the Michael Palin from my neck of the woods.

Yes, my Michael Palin is nothing more than a train, a British Rail Class 153 no. 153335, named after the honorable man himself!

But I'm not really sure that you can call it a train. It's not much more than a carriage that shuttles backwards and forwards in the singular. Even that it does with a creak.



An engine might be nice. I really don't know how it manages to get from Bury to Cambridge. Perhaps it's operated by a gaggle of cyclists pulling it from the front.

No offence Michael, but despite the fact you can get me from A to B it's always a relief to get off at Cambridge and find a proper train for the rest of the journey.

Anyway..............when travelling by train, I've often wondered what happens to the stuff that people carry with them when they are out-and-about....you know things like plastic bottles, newspapers, cans etc...the stuff that I now bring home with me to ensure that it is disposed of properly.

Once-upon-a-time any such rubbish would have been simply sent off to landfill, but having had a quick chin-wag with a conductor, it was great to hear that train companies are now making tracks in recycling.

Some services are better than others and it is all dependent on the facilities that are available at destination stations. For example recycling services are available at London Kings Cross, which helps companies such as First Capital Connect improve their targets. When you consider that 60% of rubbish left on First Capital Connect's trains is made up of newspapers it shows how important such facilities are.



First Capital Connect has also looked at other recycling schemes and in May this year, the company launched a book exchange facility at Bedford Station, where commuters can swap books for free.

If we had a service like that in Bury St Edmunds, I would be very tempted to leave secret messages in the books like "Meet me by the lift on Platform One at 16.00 on Thursday, wearing a red carnation." and then sit and observe from behind my copy of The Times. There'd probably be others joining me on the bench, sat behind their copies of The Guardian, Telegraph or Daily Mail!

But it's not just First Capital Connect who are at it. National Express also claims to be targeting recycling, while Virgin has set up newspaper recycling facilities at London Euston and is also rolling out on-board recycling on its trains, as is First Great Western.

The Stagecoach group has developed what it refers to as "an industry leading waste segregation and recycling operation" at South West Trains Wimbledon Traincare Depot, where waste is sorted into different types. The train company states that this scheme, which it calls "Garbology" is saving South West Trains around £70,000 per year in waste disposal fees. Other recycling schemes have been set up at nine pilot locations in partnership with waste management and recycling company SITA.

That's one heck of a lot of recycling going on and I haven't even covered the full length or breadth of Britain, so it may be worth finding out what your local train operator is getting up to and hassle them if they don't seem to be doing much.

Now it's all very well recycling a plastic bottle or a newspaper, but what if you wanted to recycle a train..you know...as you do...

If you are in the market, it's reassuring to know that you can get rid of a train or indeed pick up the odd part or two at Immingham Railway Terminals.

Hmm, now that could be a job for Little T, my four year old waste saboteur. Sometimes his Brio trainset resembles a train scrapyard, so I am sure he'd feel right at home!

So are you listening Michael Palin...the train that is?

If you don't get a shift on and stop that creaking, be warned because this is where you could end up. However, be rest assured, you'll be stripped of your cans and bottles first!

Oh dear, what have I let myself in for...there's probably a Michael Palin Carriage fan-club out there somewhere, full of people who are quite happy to travel on the funny little "train". Next time I'm on my travels I'd better watch my back.


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Monday, 7 July 2008

Unwelcome Guests

"Don't leave me this way!" I beckoned as Mr A fled the crisis last Sunday.

Unlike The Communards' hit from the 1980s it wasn't because my heart was full of love and desire. That had been quickly dampened by the events of the morning. And there was certainly no fire in my soul burning out of control. It was more like stomach churning nausea that was quickly spreading from my guts to my head and taking over each and every limb.

As my almost average knight in shining armour drove off into the mid morning sun, I lamented. Not because I was feeling physically ill, nor because I was left with a room to declutter or a birthday party to organise, or because I had been left on my own to do it all.

I was in distress because I was MOST DEFINITELY NOT on my own.

As well as two lively little boys who were intent on tearing around the house, I also had an army of maggots to keep me company, intent on holding their very own house party in my compost bin.

Yes, I know.

I thought if I just mentioned them in passing, then I wouldn't squirm as much as when I first discovered the horrible disgusting, small in reality but huge in my mind, ghastly, white, wriggly creatures dancing around in the compost.

But having written that sentence, I've just caught myself with fists clenched and holding myself still in a position of defence, waiting for them to creep out from the corners of the sofa and crawl over my flesh! Now I hope you didn't think I was talking about my boys. Shame on you.

But that's what maggots mean to me. In my imagination they are bad. In reality they are far worse.

So how could Mr A leave me with a casual "just pour some boiling water over them, that'll sort 'em" departing sentence?

As if a kiss goodbye would make me feel any better. He was off for a three day residential in Buckinghamshire while maggots were enjoying their own residential in our compost!

I might have had other company, but I was on my own with this one.

So I boiled the kettle and quickly changed my sandals for my wellies ready for Operation Hot Water. There was no way I wanted any maggot to fall on my toes. Shudder at the thought!

I worried about what the boiling water would do to any innocent worm that got in the way, but I was a desperate woman on a desperate mission, more concerned about what I would do if I lost my grip on my shiny Alessi kettle and had to delve deep to retrieve it!

There'd be no cups of tea until Tuesday!

Having given them a blast of the hot stuff, I quickly sprinkled over some anti-acid pellets that I use in the wormery for discouraging flies. Thankful that the kettle hadn't fallen in, I spread sheets of newspaper on the top and put the lid on it. I filled the kettle up again, put the lid on that and made a cup of tea, pondering how the heck those hideous creatures got there in the first place.

I've had a compost bin for ten years and have never had a problem. I've also been using the Bokashi since February and that hasn't caused me any worries either, even in hot weather.

But last month, I put some gone-off cat food in the Bokashi, the remains of the Whiskas that my fussy cat wouldn't eat. Now I wonder whether a little house-fly might have come along and while my back was turned, laid some eggs in the remains before I threw it in the Bokashi bin.

The other possibility is that Little T, my waste saboteur could have bunged a piece of ham sandwich into the compost bin when I wasn't looking.

Whatever! There was NO WAY I was going to take another peek into that compost bin while I was home alone.

I'm leaving that job to Mr A, who after his three day residential, several late nights and a busy weekend, will be home early today and will be on hand to perform a recovery operation. Should he lift the lid to find damn maggots, let him "boil the kettle and sort 'em". My searches around the Internet reveal that it isn't a major problem as far as composting goes (except for the squeamish of course) but if he should need any further help, he could take some advice from here, here, here or here.

Meanwhile, it's my turn to go off and do something more glamorous today. It's time to get dolled up, don my Inspector Gadget rain mac for Project Secret Agent and get ready to check out more bins in London.

While I am there, I ought to go and chew the fat with Gordon Brown. I've heard he's worried about food waste and it's not a minute too soon, what with the credit crunch, energy issues and what not. He might be talking about spending and wasting money on stuff that's in short supply, but I'll take my Bokashi bin along should he be interested, just in case of the odd emergency. So, put the kettle on Gordon, I'm on my way. And don't worry, I'll be wearing my dark glasses should anyone is following....I can always dream...shame he's in Japan.

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