Saturday, 17 November 2012

Zero Waste Europe - my top 10 favourite blogposts


So, did you know it's the European Week for Waste Reduction?  I guess it's not the most snappy of names to roll off the tongue, but I love the fact there is one week in the year that's dedicated towards bringing our diverse continent together in the fight against waste.

It also makes me feel that my dusty old degree in Modern European Studies from (cough) the 1980s, still has some relevance to my life today.  The concluding motto in 1989 was that 'Europe is a unity through its diversity'.  I can't remember what I made of that back then, but when it comes to tackling our mountain of waste, it's certainly relevant to today's range of initiatives - diverse yet united towards the same goal, that of waste minimisation.

So for EWWR, (a much snappier title), I thought I'd kick off with an introduction to one of my favourite Zero Waste blogs, Zero Waste Europe, and my top ten favourite blogposts, revealing some of the great ideas that are taking place on the continent as well as inspiration from further afield.

The association of Italian Zero Waste towns has been created

Little Museum of Bad Industrial Design

Kretsloppsarken. Recycling or amusement park?

A Zero Waste month in Sweden: 4 people = less than 1kg of waste!

The first European university to ban bottled water?

Retorna – When waste has a value it stops being waste

Repair café – a project to make friends, not waste

The art of Zero Waste!

David Andersen Copenhagen; designing waste out of fashion
 
On the Road to Zero Waste: Lessons from around the world


But seriously, don't stop there.  There are plenty of other great posts, including some wonderful examples of waste reduction activities in the UK too, such as Nappy Ever After and Unpackaged.

For anyone who wants to explore the wider approach to Zero Waste, Zero Waste Europe really is a great place to start.

And on that note, as you travel virtually from country to country, perhaps all that's left to say, is 'Bon Voyage!'



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European Week for Waste Reduction runs from 17-25 November.  More information can be found at www.ewwr.eu.  To follow events and discussion on Twitter, use the hashtag #ewwr.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Rubbish Diet could be coming to a town near you!

The Rubbish Diet team visiting Nesta!
Please excuse my tardiness in sharing this VERY EXCITING news with you. 

I should have done it last week, but with news of my mum falling ill, then rushing to Wales to see her, then losing my laptop en route, and continued worries about her health, understandably this blog has had to take a back seat.

However, I can't keep it quiet any longer!  What's happening with The Rubbish Diet is far too exciting to keep tucked away in my desk drawers and if you follow me on Twitter, you may have indeed caught a few snippets of the news.

So to the sound of an imaginary drum-roll, I am chuffed to pieces to announce that my Rubbish Diet challenge has been selected as a semi-finalist in a national waste reduction competition, which could see the 'slimming club' analogy rolled out to villages, towns and cities, right across the UK, helping communities achieve an amazing impact on reducing their rubbish.

The Waste Reduction Challenge, run by Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, and funded by the Cabinet Office, aims to identify new ideas that can influence and mobilise communities to make significant reductions in waste and impact behaviour for years to come.

In partnership with the Zero Waste Alliance UK (working with Katy Anderson, pictured above), the Rubbish Diet competition entry proposes to engage with established community groups around the UK, including schools, Transition Towns and W.I. branches, to help them organise their own waste-busting challenges, following an 8-week plan of fun and lively events that will help to empower households to slim their bins.

The idea is, of course, based on the very roots of this blog, when I took St Edmundsbury Borough Council's Zero Waste Week Challenge almost five years ago, (remember that plaster?), and which then developed into the online Rubbish Diet Challenge 2012, where I mentored 8 households through the process of slimming their bins, by at least 50%, at the beginning of this year.


Building on that, I have since been busy with Transition Shrewsbury, which has already launched its Rubbish Diet Shropshire community pilot, where 20 households have signed up to reduce their waste.  This is just the first stage. The Rubbish Diet Shropshire project, which is being managed locally, will launch even wider in the new year,  with events run by the community for the community, with households just like yours and mine, sharing knowledge about how they reduce their waste and attempting to overcome the hurdles that arise.

And it's that process, which the Nesta Waste Reduction Challenge will help to replicate around the UK.

So, we're in the semi-finals!  What next?

This is where even more hard work begins, in putting together an ambitious but realistic plan to roll-out the Rubbish Diet challenge next year, featuring a communications strategy, participant engagement, measuring & monitoring procedures and lots of other exciting things that will help communities launch their own slimming clubs for bins.

So, there really really could be a fun Rubbish Diet challenge coming to an area near you.  Just imagine!

We just need to get through the next round! But, boy, is the competition tough! So please keep watching this space for further news.

And of course, if you think your community would like to join in, then do get in touch.

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The Waste Reduction Challenge Prize is offering a prize for the innovation that achieves the biggest measureable reduction in waste, by providing new opportunities for communities to come together to give time, skills and resources.

The semi-finalists (which also includes a Mattress Recycling Scheme in my home county of Suffolk) will be supported to develop a detailed plan for their idea. In January, five concepts for each, with the potential for sustainability and scale, will be selected to test their ideas. They will receive up to £10,000 and professional advice to set up and test their projects before a winner for each challenge is selected in September 2013 and awarded £50,000.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Celebrating the launch of The Rubbish Diet in Shropshire

Meet Ali, my new partner in grime from Shrewsbury. Well, I say 'grime' what I really mean is striving for lighter, cleaner bins throughout Shropshire.

Ali Thomas is the driving force behind the launch of the Rubbish Diet challenge in Shropshire. Organised by Ali and Katy Anderson, as a Transition Shrewsbury project, the challenge was announced on Thursday to a room full of local residents who are now set to slim their bins before Christmas.

The Shropshire project will be based on the Internet-based Rubbish Diet 2012 challenge, which I ran earlier this year and I will be working closely with Ali to develop resources and processes that can be tailored to help empower the local community.

The households, which are taking up the challenge over the next few weeks, will play a vital role in helping to gather research on local waste issues and waste-reduction opportunities, supporting the next phase of the project, which will be launched in the new year.

It really is an exciting time for the development of the Rubbish Diet into the wider community and it's great timing that this is being rolled out in Shropshire now, supporting the recent news that Shropshire council has recently launched a mixed plastics collection.  Naturally, there will be challenges for the residents, as cardboard is no longer collected from the kerbside, but Transition Shrewsbury is already prepared for that and will be re-running its successful 'Cardboard Christmas' campaign that took place last year.

The Rubbish Diet Shropshire project already has its own blog, where Ali will be posting regular advice and updates.  You can also follow the latest news on Twitter, via @RDShropshire

If you know anyone in Shrewsbury, or Shropshire, who would love to get involved with this exciting challenge, please forward these details, so they can get in touch. If you are interested in running a similar challenge in your own community, I also would love to hear from you. Email enquiries@therubbishdiet.co.uk.

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More information can be found at www.rubbishdietshropshire.blogspot.co.uk.  Ali Thomas can be contacted by email at alison.thomas08@gmail.com.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Rubbish Diet Challenge goes on tour!


I am immensely excited to announce that the Rubbish Diet Challenge, which until now has been kept to the confines of the Internet, is, for the very first time, being launched as a community based initiative in a number of locations around the UK.

Inspired by my online challenge, which took eight households through slimming their bins at the beginning of the year, two organisations are now taking the concept into their local communities and are seeking volunteers who want to reduce their waste for an 8 week challenge, set to start in the new year.

Transition Town Shrewsbury in Shropshire is launching its Rubbish Diet Challenge next week, to an audience of community leaders and interested residents, to outline how they can be involved in creating a fabulous slimming club with a difference. I am delighted to confirm that I will be attending the launch.

Elsewhere, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust launched its Waste Watchers Rubbish Diet project last week, highlighting its own exciting plan for weekly events to support all those who take part.  Emma Croft's interview with BBC Wiltshire (fast forward to 1hr 10m) calls for 8 residents from around the county to join in.


It really is an exciting time to witness the adoption of the Rubbish Diet by independent organisations and I can't wait to see the results. I also hope that these two initiatives will be the first of many that will be held around the country over the next couple of years.  So watch this space for further news.


For more information about the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust project, please contact Emma Croft on 01380 736074 or email EmmaC@wiltshirewildlife.org.

To find out more about the Transition Town Shrewsbury project or to attend its launch on Thursday 25th October (7-8.30pm at the Hobbs Room, Shrewsbury Library), contact Ali Thomas on 07972 858313 or email Alison.thomas08@gmail.com.


Sunday, 14 October 2012

Talking biogas & green heroes with Kevin McCloud at Grand Designs Live

Kevin McCloud at Grand Designs Live. (photo copyright GDL)

If there's one event that's fast becoming a highlight of my annual calendar, it's Grand Designs Live and the opportunity to a have a peek at Kevin's Green Heroes. a collection of ten designers who have been handpicked by Kevin McCloud for their commitment to both sustainability and innovative ideas.

And this year didn't disappoint. From sustainably produced wallpaper to tiles, reclaimed wood furniture to rainwater harvesting, there is something to appeal to everyone who is interested in great eco-design.

For instance I love this gorgeous wallpaper by MissPrint, an Essex based business, which uses PEFC certified materials and non-toxic inks.


And I think Hendzel and Hunt's chairs, made from reclaimed hardwood and Victorian floorboards, are just gorgeous. I'd love them for my dining room.




But when it comes to products that can have a wide impact on waste reduction, the design that stood out for me this year is the Compo food waste digester, developed by Nottingham Trent graduate Oliver Ling.



Its sleek design makes it an attractive product for any kitchen and that is crucial for opening up the marketplace to those interested in better managing their food waste.  Not everyone has a local authority food waste collection and many people are simply not interested in the idea of bokashi bins or wormeries.  However, I can see a whole host of apartment-dwellers and gadget-geeks taking a keen interest in this.

What sets the Compo apart from other systems is that as well as creating well-digested compost, its key by-product is actually biogas. Stored in small canisters, an easy collection system is central to its design, allowing its owners to earn money from the fuel generated from their domestic food waste.

Of course the message to households should always be to reduce what they can, but a solution like this helps to manage residual food waste and turn it into something useful that benefits the individual, instead of carting it off in trucks.

As I declared my particular interest in this to Kevin McCloud, he tempers my excitement with the news that the Compo is still only a prototype.

"Green Heroes usually features products that are already available for consumers to buy," he confirms. "However I thought this was such a good idea, I had to include it."

And I am glad he did because I can really see a lot of potential here.

Having caught up with the designer, Oliver Ling, it became clear that the driver behind the product was his own passion in helping to tackle the food waste problem. The prototype was created as his final year project at university, where he undertook a lot of primary research analysing the contents of domestic rubbish bins.  This is further demonstrated in that the Compo is designed to be manufactured from recycled plastic derived from food packaging.

"I wanted to design something that was sustainable," Oliver affirms.  "In fact, I believe it is so important, every product designer should get involved with sustainability".


Designer Oliver Ling, at the Green Heroes stand at Grand Designs Live

I couldn't agree more. Designers have immense power to revolutionise the future waste landscape, either through designing-out wasteful and hard-to-recycle materials from their products or in developing new processes and infrastructures that manage our wastes better.

I was interested in Kevin McCloud's view on this, especially as there is potential to develop more scaleable applications of the Compo.

And having watched his recent series of Man Made Home, which involved the construction of a cabin that enabled him to live off-grid, it was the localised production of biogas that particularly caught my attention.

Politely referring to it as "Episode 3", rather than "the one where you cooked on gas made from your own poo", the programme featured a visit to an Anaerobic Digestion plant, which incorporates the collection of dog poo and other materials to create a rich compost and biogas, capable of powering a small village.

Kevin wanted to apply this idea to his own cabin experience and in an entertaining fashion set about building an outdoor loo and biogas infrastructure to collect and process human wastes, supplemented by a good dollop of lion dung, which was retrieved from nearby Longleat.

"This isn't revolutionary," he insists. "And it's not unproven. In India, for 150 years, people have been building biogas digester systems across the country and lots of villages now have them."

Behind the obvious fun involved in building his own off-grid cabin, he was actually keen to explore what was possible, discover what could work in the UK and consider which solutions could be scaled up.

"I'd like it to go one step further and connect to the grid," he adds, "Especially as an average family can produce enough methane to cook all its food."

However, he doesn't envisage a future where households would have their own individual digesters and personally, despite my fascination for the subject, I feel a certain relief in that.

So what is the way forward?

Kevin tells me that the sensible way to do this is on a more ambitious scale, supporting several streets to divert waste from sewage systems into a local biodigester, which connects with the gas main to bring the energy source back into the home.

"Currently our infrastructure is national or regional," he says. "We could be considering all those services at a more local scale. Many sewage sites are starting to cover their tanks with methane collectors, but there is potential to create better self-sufficient communities."


"The infrastructures for collection already exist but we are very early in the process of transition and it will take philanthropists to influence and direct building self-sufficient communities."

"And where society once viewed those who once lived off-grid as green extremists, we are now considering them as true pioneers."


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Kevin McCloud is the ambassador for Grand Designs Live Birmingham and London.  For more information please visit www.granddesignslive.com
 

Monday, 1 October 2012

Trashed! An evening in London with Jeremy Irons.

Jeremy Irons and producer Candida Brady 
introducing Trashed at London's Raindance Festival

My passion for waste reduction has taken me to many places, but Saturday was the first time it's ever landed me in a movie premiere in the heart of London.

But you can forget the red carpet on this occasion, even if the leading man was Jeremy Irons. For Saturday's movie was not some glitzy affair in Leicester Square,but an independent documentary, being screened as part of an independent film festival.

Trashed, featuring Jeremy Irons and produced by Blenheim Films, takes us on a journey around the world highlighting the issues with how our waste is managed.  It begins with the sobering sight of a rubbish dump on the coastline of Lebanon, discussing the effects of the pollutants from physical trash and leachate that spill into the Mediterranean, a serious international environmental problem.

Closer to home, the portrayal of dioxins from toxic waste sites and incinerators renders the UK's experience just as harsh viewing.  In one of the few countries in the world where waste management is so tightly controlled and where we have some of the best technology available, it is shocking to hear that even a modern incinerator in Scotland has breached emissions limits 172 times.  And that's only since 2009.

Thanks to the effects of emissions and leacheate, even if they appear to be tightly controlled, there seems to be very little escape from the consequences of burying or burning our rubbish.

And sadly, the images of villagers in a developing country throwing their rubbish into the river behind their homes, drinking water from that river, washing in it and eating the fish that they had caught from it, suddenly felt like a microcosm of the wider world within which we live.

 
It's truthful to say that Trashed, with its evidence of the amount of chemicals reaching our food chain, is very depressing viewing, not to mention the shocking images of fish and mammals that are physically injured by the debris floating in the sea.

To add a few figures to this, oceanographer Charles Moore highlights that there is now six times more plastic in the ocean than zooplankton, which form the very basis of the food chain.  And it's not the physical plastic that we can see that should only concern us, but more worryingly the material that we can't, i.e. the stuff that's so small it's easily absorbed, suppressing immune systems, hormones and reproductive systems.

With examples of whales being now so heavily contaminated that many can no longer reproduce, the documentary makers refer to the analogy of the canaries in a coal mine, a worrying prediction that what currently affects these mammals, will in the course of a few generations affect us.

I don't think any of us like to face harsh news like this, especially if we don't have the scientific background to make judgments for ourselves.  We can always believe that it is someone else's problem or that it doesn't matter to us, because we don't witness it or we won't be around to experience the sorry consequences. The problem may be seen as being too great for us to handle anyway. And the result? We just go about our everyday business, pushing it into the back of our minds, continuing life as normal.

But personally, even with the hard-to-swallow science, my own ignorance and how insignificant my own contribution is in this global picture, I welcome documentaries like Trashed.

It is better to know what we are up against, so we can mobilise human intelligence to more widely monitor, reinvent, better legislate, engineer solutions and develop new economies that reverse such trends, as well as place political pressure on those who have the power to influence international development.

Trashed gives a taster of some of the efforts that are already taking place to better manage, at the very least, Western approaches towards waste, including the San Francisco Zero Waste programme, where it is a legal requirement for every resident and visitor to participate in the recycling initiatives.  The documentary also featured a new approach to modern retail such as that promoted by Catherine Conway and her shop Unpackaged in London.  Even without such frameworks and facilities, Rachelle Strauss of MyZeroWaste.com demonstrated to Jeremy Irons, how as an individual we can take better care in choosing what we buy and vote with our wallets.

So rather than hide from this harsh tale, I would much prefer we stared it straight in the eye and committed to taking some form of action, whether it's through changing our shopping choices, recycling efforts or participating in a spot of activism.

So next time you hear that it's better to burn or bury our rubbish than fight for well managed and resourceful zero waste solutions, I'd like you to think of Trashed.  But don't take my word for it, watch the trailer.


Jeremy Irons not only makes such a powerful storyteller but having witnessed the issues first-hand, he believes that with the right support and backing from consumers, industry and governments the situation is indeed curable.

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Trashed is being screened as part of London's indie film festival Raindance,and has been nominated for the Best Documentary Award.  It is being shown again, on Tuesday 2nd October at 3pm.  Another waste related film, being screened on Saturday 6th October, is the 10 minute short, Emptys.

If you are new to the idea of Zero Waste and want to know more about action that's being taken in the UK, follow www.myzerowaste.com and the Zero Waste Alliance UK (of which I am a trustee) for further news.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Beyond our bins: An inside peek at the UK's largest waste exhibition 'RWM with CIWM'



Having delivered a presentation last year at the country's largest waste management exhibition, I was keen to revisit RWM with CIWM and have a decent peek at what's really happening beyond our bins.

It looks like I wasn't the only one!.

The star attraction was not quite the latest wheelie bin that teleports your waste to the nearest recycling centre, but the rather marvellous Professor Brian Cox, who, thinking about it, could surely one day make that kind of magic happen.

He was, unsurprisingly, a teeny bit popular, so I tried another route in...


...but for want of a pair of stilts and an invisibility cloak, I failed, like a balloon that had popped too soon!

So very near to the particle recycling party, but yet so far.

And sadly very much out of earshot.

Thankfully, with the industry press fairy godmothers at the helm, I can still share the words of the prof, who not only teased the audience of waste professionals with the concept of space disposal, but on a serious note, reasserted that the Earth's resources are rare and must be protected.

But, I must confess I didn't trek all the way to Birmingham's NEC, just to see the professor.  I wanted to get a picture of how the waste industry is planning to helping householders and businesses waste less.  I soon got the impression that despite there still being many hurdles, those involved in the waste stream are ready to face these challenges, hurl themselves forward and keep improving targets.

Of course, the issue of targets is an interesting one and I was intrigued to discover what a panel of thought-leaders from the industry felt about the realities of Zero Waste.

Featuring senior representatives from APSRG, CIWM, WRAP and SLR Consulting, the message came over quite clearly that the view of panellists was that we will never quite reach 'zero waste to landfill'.

However, it was also discussed that great strides towards a zero waste economy are actually possible and regardless of never being able to hit zero, the benefits along the route are really worth the journey.

Maybe it is the optimist in me, but I would like to think that the members of the panel were all holding onto a secret hope that even though they said we'll never hit the magic zero, we will one day reach the rather cheeky figure of a 99.99% waste reduction rate. Okay, maybe I'm a tad extreme, perhaps for now I'll settle happily at 98%.

After all, this is the same panel which acknowledged that in 1980 the industry didn't even aspire to a 5% recycling rate and would have laughed at targets as high as 50%, a figure that in many areas is currently being met.

Another 32 years of innovation and rethinking will present a different picture, I am sure of it.

The industry already speaks of waste as now being a matter of logistics, with businesses such as Stobart  taking an interest.  It also acknowledges how it needs to be better at communicating the opportunities of designing out waste with designers and manufacturers, a process that really it shouldn't fear.  Better product design will bring better recyclate, which can be more easily streamed, fetching greater financial value in a properly managed circular economy. 

Elsewhere, we are also seeing stronger partnerships between recycling companies and manufacturers, such as Coca-Cola's joint venture with Eco Plastics.  From the retail perspective, Sainsbury's is seeking to work with local authorities to roll-out better recycling facilities at the company's stores, which will include mixed plastics recycling as well as banks for small electricals.  As for local authorities, those in charge of Household Waste Recycling Centres are increasingly seeking partners in the third sector to help push reuse, as illustrated by this recent example from Buckinghamshire

As for kerbside innovations it's great to see that developments in wheelie bin design, as well as collection vehicles, can now enable easy and smarter recycling opportunities, which offer better quality recyclables for the end markets.

However, for the industry to maximise its efficiency, it is also in the area of consumer education, where the waste sector needs to urgently innovate.

We can aspire to having the best recycling facilities in the world, yet if the materials needed to support that zero waste economy still end up in landfill or incinerators, the industry might as well pop on its slippers and smoking jacket and spend the next few decades staring into the flames of the comparatively unimaginative energy from waste.

The waste reduction and recycling messages must not just continue as they, they must be stronger and more innovative to capture the imaginations and support of a greater public, to inspire individuals and organisations to increase participation.

Independent businesses need to better understand the process of diverting their landfill waste to a recycling service, which many currently see only as a fincancial burden rather than the economic incentive that diversion offers.  And community leaders, should be encouraged to create zero waste plans that support their local areas, through recycling incentives and third-sector benefits.

Wherever EfW facilities exist, recycling messages need to be stronger still, and yes, I do recognise the irony.

There are so many fantastic innovations taking place that the waste sector has a huge story to tell.  Yet, the headlines which hit the mass media are normally those that knock the recycling process, leaving local authorities to work harder at the 'Reduce, Reuse, Recycle' message to battle the bad news stories.

It is encouraging to hear that industry journalists, such as the strong editorial team at MRW, are now forging closer links with the national media to help bring, into the public arena, news that would have once remained solely in the sector.

For it is the national media that has a key role to play in helping to change our behaviour.  As well as the "how to" advice that comes from local authorities and the Recycle Week campaigns organised by WRAP, we also need innovative features to entertain magazine & newspaper readers, TV viewers and social-media users.

Features that close in on exciting technologies, quirky recycled products, popular economics and science, or even delving into the odd celebrity bin!  It really is time for the sector to find its place in modern and popular culture.

Just imagine if someone like Clare Balding got uber-excited about waste reduction and let the cameras follow her rubbish, recycling rates would probably double by December, and if she did a double-act with Prof Brian Cox, we'd be hitting zero waste by the end of the decade.

Now there's an idea.

I rather like that.

I'll bear that in mind as I wander back to my washing-up!


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For an excellent industry overview of the highlights of the RWM with CIWM, visit Edie Waste and LetsRecycle.



Monday, 10 September 2012

I'm feeling all decluttered after National Zero Waste Week.


What a week!

I must have been absolutely out of my mind to suggest that I decluttered my kitchen for National Zero Waste Week. Nothing like pressure eh!

When I first mentioned my plans to my husband, he threw me one of his looks, accompanied by hands on hips, warning me that surely I'd got the wrong idea.  That really, I shouldn't aim to chuck so much out during a week intended to slim our bin.

Having ventured nowhere near the far corners of some of the cupboards for... er... 5 years, he had a point.  I really didn't know what I would be up against!

But look!  The overhaul of the kitchen cupboards didn't impact on our rubbish at all. 

That small bin bag, pictured above, is the sum of our landfill rubbish last week, despite getting rid of a load of stuff!

If I had attempted the declutter five years ago, it would have been a different story.  Not least because I probably wouldn't have gone to the trouble of sorting it.

These bags full of unused baking equipment and storage containers would still have probably gone to charity.



But most of this junk, now destined for the reuse\recycling skips at the Household Waste Recycling Centre would have no doubt ended up in the bin! Thankfully, these days our local facilities include containers for broken hard plastics and small electricals, which helps tremendously when you're in the midst of a blimmin' good clear out!



And as for this wonder drawer of mixed tat, my impatient hand would have dumped it all in a bag and got rid of it within minutes.


Instead, I set aside an hour to sort it properly, sending some random bits of plastic off for recycling and organising the rest of the stuff so it can be easily found and used.


Even the freezer, where our leftovers historically suffer a frozen death, received a visit from the decluttering hand, which helped to salvage a sausage casserole, a packet of mince, some fish, a dozen chipolatas and some bacon rashers,  This enabled me to happily avoid the supermarket for a week, using up what we already had.  I am such a lazy defroster and rarely plan ahead, the freezer proved to come up trumps as a right little goldmine during Zero Waste Week.  My aim now is to gradually work through the rest of the contents and relieve more space so that I can use it more efficiently.

But did I really achieve my overall aims last week?

Yes! I believe I did!  Working my way through this.


And creating much needed space in the cupboards to achieve this!



What pleases me most is that I am finally in control of the contents of my kitchen.  It took five days of sorting and clearing and no area has been left untouched. What helped me along were the wise words of a friend who reminded me that unwanted stuff left at the back of cupboards was just as wasteful as if it had been dumped into landfill. I am now confident that everything that I have kept will be put to good use. All the unused clutter has been rehomed and will no longer be wasted.

Of course my key aim was to create much longed-for space, so that I can put my creative culinary skills to good use again and be far better at avoiding food waste.

I can already see the return of the 'old me' and I have been busy cooking up the random contents found lurking in the fridge\freezer. And having rediscovered a whole cupboard of flour to use up, benefiting from that space once more has really proved to be the icing on the cake!




I now wonder which room I should tackle next!

So thank you to everyone who left supportive comments as well as all the Twitter crew who cheered me along during the week. 

As well as having my head firmly in the kitchen cupboards, I have also been busy waving the flag locally in Suffolk for National Zero Waste Week.  Huge thanks to BBC Radio Suffolk's Mark Murphy and James Hazell for giving me some much appreciated airtime.  And a major round of applause to Barry Peters, the editor of the Bury Free Press, for taking up the Rubbish Diet Challenge and doing a marvellous job for his own Zero Waste Week.

Well done to MyZeroWaste for an amazing awareness campaign for 2012. I was proud to support it.  For more information about what else was going on around the country, visit www,myzerowaste.com.

Friday, 31 August 2012

My pledge for National Zero Waste Week: decluttering my kitchen, the final frontier!


Yes, you heard it here first!

I'm going in!

Venturing deep into my kitchen, where for the first time in nine years I am going to attempt to clear out all the cupboards, banish the clutter, get organised and prepare myself for the new school term!

And that is my pledge for National Zero Waste Week, which kicks off on Monday.

The theme this year is to encourage participants to do that "one more thing" to reduce waste.

When I thought about what I could do, I knew that as we already recycle all we can, the only thing left to tackle was food waste. We still have some, not an enormous amount, but some food waste all the same.  And with the wormery still out of action, it's the main thing that gets sent to landfill, along sweet wrappers and crisp packets.

I thought if I pledged to use up what we have in the fridge during National Zero Waste Week, and try not to go shopping until we'd done that, it would be easy.

Then I thought again.

That's like putting a sticking plaster on a broken leg.

The truth of the matter is I CAN'T STAND MY KITCHEN!
 
These days, I spend as little time in there as I can get away with and yet underneath I am a bloody good cook with a sense of adventure for creating good food.

But I need space to create.

I simply don't have it.

And it's all got on top of me.

Our kitchen is tiny and as the household has become busier and busier, the space has become more and more cluttered. My previously much-loved gadgets,such as the yoghurt maker in the photo above, have become unused and gather dust, supporting bowls that can't even be squeezed into cupboards for lack of room!

All too often, when I'm at my busiest, I take one glance at the kitchen, and sigh, before scooting the family off elsewhere.  Then follows the guilt of trying to rescue perishables in the fridge before they die a certain death. And it is here that I sometimes fail.

So I've decided that this vicious circle must stop!

I need to clear out the stuff that I will never use again, rehome it or recycle it and find some space in the cupboard so that I can clear the worktop.

I must also decide how much I really need those gadgets and cookbooks.  The breadmaker, juicer and yoghurt maker all sell the idea of such a lovely lifestyle, but if they clutter up the workspace and make me feel too disorganised to use them, is there any point in keeping them?

And as for the sound effects that add to the atmosphere, my washing machine and dishwasher have both started groaning like a poor elephant with a hernia.

It really doesn't create a relaxing environment, so I'm going to see if we can get them repaired.

Then maybe, if I make it safely back from my excursion into the unexplored corners of my freezer, I will finally have the quiet, uncluttered, well-organised kitchen I dream of...

... and the creative space I need to avoid food waste!

This National Zero Waste Week pledge may be my toughest challenge yet, but I'm rolling up my sleeves and going in and hopefully I will feel better for it. Admittedly, I may need some gin first to avoid the lemons going to waste!




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To keep up with National Zero Waste Week, follow @MyZeroWaste on Twitter.  Now in its fifth year, the awareness campaign is really gathering momentum with a whole host of industry leaders, politicians and celebrities making personal pledges, and even before the week starts, over 800 people have signed up on Facebook. So it would be great if you could join in and do that "one more thing" to help tackle the world's waste. Just one more thing!  And I doubt it will be as tough as my blimmin' kitchen.



Sunday, 5 August 2012

Did you hear that I went to THE OLYMPICS? You have now!



There are very few moments when this blogger is speechless, but as I'm sat here watching the Olympics on TV, all I want to do is cry with happiness and  pride over the achievements of our athletes.  Since the opening ceremony last Friday, there has been so much to celebrate.

And yesterday evening I was there, in the Olympic Stadium on 'Super Saturday', where I witnessed one of the greatest sporting events in history, the night that Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah all achieved gold medals for Great Britain, helping to celebrate the most successful day in British athletics for over 100 years.

My husband and I were guests of London 2012 sponsors Coca-Cola, a thank-you gift for launching and judging the recent Sustainable Games blogging competition, the results of which I was pleased to announce on the company's website a couple of weeks ago.

Along with our corporate hosts, we were accompanied by competition winner Lucy along with winner-in-reserve, Laura, who received the news of her ticket as a last-minute surprise, when one of the other finalists had to pull out at short notice. Here we are, in high-spirits with our men-folk, in the stadium taking in the excitement of the athletics!





As well as the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch some amazing sport, it presented a great opportunity to finally witness the background recycling infrastructure that Coca-Cola has helped to create, including the fabulous bins about which I've waxed lyrical for what now feels like months!  As we waited to go into the stadium, I couldn't resist the chance to familiarise myself properly with these colourful beauties, which are there to help visitors easily pre-sort paper, plastic packaging, food waste - and even ponchos - from non-recyclable materials.



And to make it even easier for Olympic supporters to work out which receptacle to use, and to minimise contamination levels, the packaging was colour-coded to show its intended destination.


But as I think back to the atmosphere in the Olympic Stadium last night, I don't want to just talk about rubbish!

Goodness no! And I know many of you will now fall off your chairs to such news, but surely you won't be that surprised!  This was the Olympics and no way was I going to hang around the bins all evening!

All I really want to do now, is what I have been doing all day, and that's to relive the astounding evening that resulted in athletes' dreams being turned into a reality.

An amazing evening that distinctly made British sports history!

And the evening when I realised that I was most definitely one of the luckiest women alive.

I have had many exhilarating moments since I started The Rubbish Diet, and last night's Thank You present was most definitely the highlight of my time as a blogger.  Frankly, it's going to be a tough one to beat!

The atmosphere in the stadium was electric and highly charged wth emotion.

And sat in the thirteenth row, just behind the discus net, I could no longer hold back the tears of overwhelm and national pride as I watched Jessica Ennis complete the 800m stage of her gold medal Heptathlon.



With every stride she took, she was met by the tremendous cheer from thousands of spectators who knew the gold medal was already hers, a cheer that simply grew louder and louder as she closed in on the finishing line.

It was one of the greatest moments in sporting history, which left me feeling very humble at such amazing talent, yet proud to be amongst the 80,000 spectators that witnessed such an achievement, a victorious feeling for the athletes and country.




And the night just got better, with the news that Greg Rutherford had achieved another gold for Team GB in the Long Jump. The music and cheer just kept the beat of Olympic success pulsing throughout the stadium.

That pulse then became faster and faster as we watched Mo Farah put his strength and stamina to the test in the 10,000 metres!




With only three laps to go the commentator urged us to build the cheer and shout for Mo, but we didn't need encouraging at all.

We were already on our feet, waving the flags to the sound of  tremendous roars of support, straining our necks to watch the progress on the large screens when the leading athletes were out of our range of sight and applauding with all our might as Mo Farah sped towards the finishing line!

And forgive me as the tears roll down my cheeks again at that all encompassing memory of being in the right place at the right time to celebrate yet another proud moment for one of Great Britain's athletes, achieving his dream and making another moment of Olympic history!

When I first entered the Olympic Park yesterday, I could not even have guessed at the excitement that would come and the feelings of pride, hope and cheer of simply being there!

London 2012, Team GB and sponsors Coca-Cola have created an amazing experience that is really out of this world.  Every element of yesterday's sporting extravaganza went like clockwork, from the efforts of the athletes, the helpfulness and humour of the Gamesmaker volunteers and the organisation of London's transport facilities.

And the international spirit was alive and kicking too, as illustrated by this group of Belgian supporters who distracted me to record a message of support for one of their own athletes, a hockey player... delivered in French, to tell him he was king of his sport! 

 

Well, I hope that's what the message said and that they didn't take advantage of my good humour....!  Despite their wigs, they look innocent enough...er... don't they?  Then again, those cheeky smiles may prove otherwise and somewhere on YouTube there could now be a bizarre video of me repeating a potential Belgian double-entendre in my very best Anglo-French accent!

The photo of these strangers typified the atmosphere yesterday, with smiling faces everywhere I turned.

But the photograph that I love the best, is this one, which demonstrates that  it’s not just my geeky interest that prevails when it comes to recycling, it’s rather the olympic spirit of other visitors that were putting the facilities to good use. And this chap was such a good sport for letting me take this picture!






I hope LOCOG achieves its aims of processing at least 70% of its waste through recycling, composting and reuse. Through streamlining its packaging, material choices and provision of the relevant recycling processes Coca-Cola has set some solid foundations that can be replicated elsewhere. As soon as the waste data streams are available, I can’t wait to find out the relevant statistics.

But most of all, at this moment in time, I’m looking forward to more fabulous outcomes from the wonderful athletes and enjoying such great memories for many decades to come.

To witness Jessica Ennis receive her gold medal last night was a tremendous experience that I will never ever forget, and it can only be matched by watching the victory ceremonies for Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah on TV tonight and reliving the events of last night as I typed up this blogpost.

If there is one thing that I took from the experience, it is the appreciation that nurturing a passion, talent and an individual's determination with the right amount of support, coaching and direction, it really is possible to achieve something incredible.

As a mother whose real passion is to create a foundation that helps her children to achieve their own dreams, whatever they may be, it is already evident that the London 2012 Olympics will inspire them in many ways.

And as a 'rubbish blogger', I am now more determined than ever to aim as high as my own abilities will stretch, to encourage more goal-enthused innovators to push towards that ultimate goal of zero waste.

The tears of emotion have stopped now, temporarily.

And as for being speechless, I think I'm now over that!

Clearly!

Good luck Team GB for the rest of the Games!

I know I will remember London 2012 for many decades to come!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

National Zero Waste Week 2012: Coming soon!






Coming soon to a household near you - PREFERABLY YOURS - National Zero Waste Week is back!

And this year, it is encouraging you to recycle ONE MORE THING!  It's so easy to get involved, either on your own, at home, or at your place of work!  You can find out much more information over at My Zero Waste, where the fabulous Mrs Green is leading the way once more.

As ever I will be supporting National Zero Waste Week from my corner of Suffolk and will be back soon with more exciting news on what's happening locally. 

In the meantime, for a trip down memory lane, here's what happened on the Rubbish Diet last year, along with a glimpse at 2010, a retro peek at 2009 and a real delve into the archives of 2008 when My Zero Waste launched their very first Zero Waste Week! 

So which one more thing are you going to recycle this year? 

Have you decided yet?

For inspiration, visit www,myzerowaste.com, pop along to www.recyclenow.com, and if you happen to live in Suffolk, you really should take a look at the fantastic resource for Suffolk Recycling!

So remember, National Zero Waste Week takes place on 3-9 September!  But please don't contain your excitement until then.  Check out the NZWW 2012 page on the My Zero Waste website and please help spread the news on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

So who made your pants? Let's talk about ethical underwear

Being a lover of fancy lingerie and a right nosey parker, I couldn't resist the opportunity to visit ethical pants manufacturer Who Made Your Pants?.

I have been following them on Twitter for about six months, having spotted that they use end-of-line lace, which other lingerie manufacturers discard at the end of their seasonal runs. However, I soon discovered that this business was not just about saving waste, it was about turning around people's lives too.

And it's that which tempted me to scoot all the way from Suffolk to Southampton for the company's open day and to finally have the chance to meet founder Becky John (pictured left) and to find out more about what goes on at Who Made Your Pants?.

Immediately, it was easy to detect the warm and welcoming atmosphere of a small enterprise that was specifically created to help the people who work for it. As Della, the Operations Manager took me on a tour of the business she described how the enterprise helps women, such as refugees, get onto the work ladder, in a way that allows them to overcome language barriers and other cultural hurdles.

Although clearly working as a team to create what felt like a family atmosphere, the philosophy of the organisation, which is managed as a co-operative, stems from one woman's passion, that of Becky John, to tackle, in her own words, the issues of waste, both in wasted stuff and wasted lives.

Becky understands what this means, having volunteered with Amnesty and having been nurtured through her own life-changing experiences. With women who have arrived into the country from as far afield as Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan, she wants Who Made Your Pants? to work for them, as well as enabling them to work for the enterprise.

It was very easy to see her passion as she explained,
"The women we work with are marginalised and isolated in so many ways and they are bursting to do something.  They are just like you and me and any other woman. They get bored, passionate and curious and that's why we are here, to unleash that and do something good."
Becky continued to tell me about one of the younger women who had arrived from Afghanistan with her mother. When she first met her at a refugee organisation, her body language showed her distinct lack of confidence. She was hunched over the table, very nervous and shy and she knew no English.  She's now been to college for a couple of years, has done a media course and a computer course and now confidently teases her team. Becky recognises this as an amazing change and is just one of the examples of how she's seen her staff develop.

"I believe in this, and this organisation, with everything I am," she added. "It's about an opportunity to help women learn and help them feel empowered, as well as providing good role models for the daughters in the family."

And that's one of the reasons why Becky had committed to sponsoring last weekend's Winchester Science Festival. She wants girls and women to follow their curiosity and have the confidence to believe in themselves.

I liked Becky very much and loved the environment that she and her team had created.  And by team, I don't just mean the 'Management Team'.  It was everyone in this enterprise that makes the Who Made Your Pants? co-operative work so well.  Whether it's translating basic vocabulary into one of the many languages, helping the women have access to office computers, respecting prayer routines or everyone enjoying delicious home-made food that's brought in to share.

.... as well as special cake for Who Made Your Pants? Open Days.

All hands on deck - to cut the celebratory cake!

Of course no visit to any organisation like this would be complete without a nosey around the bins and it was great to see that all the lace off-cuts are sent to a local social enterprise to stuff cushions, so no waste is created.  They've also had requests from Knickerbockaglory artist Fanny Gogh, to provide extra lace for her fabulous fundraising collages, which helped raise money for the British Heart Foundation.

But recycling and repurposing doesn't stop with lace. Waste reduction is really at the heart of the business and almost everything acquired into the office is reused or upcycled, including computers, printers, desks, whiteboards, book cases and some reconditioned machinery.

"I love old and have always loved things that are different," Becky tells me. "Even our stock boxes are from the Ordnance Survey."

As she shows me the page of the annual report, which highlights how little waste they created in 2011, I realise that even as a small business it weighs waste to ensure that it's included in the business assessment criteria.

Becky nods at my positive response.

"If you are going to be a good organisation, you have to start at the very beginning, so we've done this from the start. We also try to engage the women in the recycling process and help them understand why it needs to be done."

She tells me that this enterprise could have been based around anything, but due to her ludicrous love of underwear, a passion to which I also confess, and her desire to provide the world with a fabulous ethical choice, knickers it is!

Having risen out of her fundamental question about who made her pants and the welfare of the women concerned, Who Made Your Pants? has made great progress in helping a small group of women in the UK and Becky still campaigns to raise awareness of the issue of sweatshops.

My pants in progress!

Having seen my own pants being made last Tuesday, by a small team of women working for an enterprise that cared about their welfare, the first thing I did on my return was to contact my long-standing lingerie brand to query their own ethical and sustainability policy.

Seven days later, I've still not received a reply but I shan't give up.

People like Becky John really do make you stop and think, and if you are inclined to begin asking questions about fast fashion, you can't really find a better place to start than with pants!

More information about Who Made Your Pants?,  its ethos and how it is run as a co-operative, can be found at www.whomadeyourpants.co.uk. An online shop, where you can browse and purchase the beautiful lace goodies, is also available.

Monday, 9 July 2012

An educational farmers' market. Lessons from a Suffolk primary school


On Friday, my son's primary school held its end-of-year award winning "Farmers' Market".

With gazebos and traditional bunting to set the scene, the hall was transformed into a wonderful entrepreneurial venture, with fresh vegetables, plants and food on offer as well as toys that the children had either decorated or made.

Organised entirely in-house, with just some support from the school community and a couple of external producers, the school Farmers' Market has already won a Green Suffolk award.  And it really is well-deserved.  This is something really special and here's why I love it....


  • Most of the vegetables sold - including those in the photograph above - are grown by the children and are planted and watered during lesson time or by the gardening club.  Not only do they learn about growing food as part of the curriculum, but they also learn that there is a real market for their produce as well as the economic value of food.
  • In preparation for the event, some of the classes had the opportunity to make food and drink for sale. The Year 4 children were really proud of the pizzas they had made. Year 3 had also been busy that day making fresh lemonade. Not only was it a great commercial opportunity, but the educational benefits can be long-lasting. My 8-year-old was so proud that he knew how to make lemonade, he woke up on Saturday and Sunday wanting to show off his new skills and make some more!
  • It's also a fabulous way to raise funds from existing resources. Our school is blessed with lots of lavender, which flourishes in the summer and is then cut back as part of the grounds maintenance work.  The market offers a great opportunity to gather bunches and sell it to children and parents, raising a few extra pounds from a resource that could otherwise go to waste.
  • It also gets the wider community involved. Families have a chance to contribute, with home-made jams, cakes, biscuits and seedlings helping to raise money for the school. Kind donations were also received from local potato growers as well as a supplier of free-range eggs.
  • The older children have a chance to manage stalls, serving their customers and handling the money, some independently and others with staff help.  It was obvious to see that it was a great confidence-builder and what a fantastic way to bring maths out of the classroom into a real practical setting!

For an after-school event that only lasted an hour, I could rave on about it for hours more, but I guess you already get the gist.  This is only the second summer Farmers' Market, but the school has also held one at Christmas, which was a real festive highlight.  Seriously, if you've got school-aged children, I'd recommend having a word with your headteacher in the hope that they can organise something similar. This is learning at its finest - with children and the school community, working together on a practical project that doesn't even feel like education!

So, while you go and stir up the vegetable beds, I'm off to indulge in a glass of my son's home-made lemonade and ponder a proposition that might encourage him to become my regular supplier.

I could get used to this life.  If I play my cards right, this could lead to my retirement on a lemon orchard somewhere on the continent, or even here in Suffolk.  By then, we might even have the weather for it.



Thursday, 28 June 2012

Bloggers! Win tickets to the Olympic Games with Coca-Cola


Examples of Coca-Cola's colour-coded recycling bins designed for London 2012

I hope all you bloggers with some waste-busting credentials out there have got your fingertips at the ready, because today's news is that I'm judging a fantastic competition that's promoted by Coca-Cola as part of its Olympic Games Sustainability Challenge and which is inviting YOU to talk about my favourite topic.

REDUCING WASTE!

And the prize on offer is an exciting package featuring two tickets to the Olympic Games for 4th August, as well as travel and accommodation, all of which are provided by Coca-Cola as as an Olympic sponsor.


All you have to do is publish a blogpost about easy ways in which you are reducing waste in your household and link it to the competition blogpost at the Coca-Cola Website

I would love you to take part and share some inspirational and entertaining snippets of how you juggle your waste at home  - and seriously, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the entries did actually feature some snazzy juggling action.

For more information about the competition, go straight over to my blogpost at their website, and follow the instructions there. I've included lots of ideas about ways in which you can take part.

But remember, to be in with a chance of winning, make sure you enter by the closing date which is midnight Friday 13th July.

And with any luck, if you're one of the winners, I will see you there.

I won't be difficult to spot, I'll be the one snapping photos of the colour-coded recycling bins as well as some of the other examples of waste reduction featured around the Olympic Park.  I may even drag along Shedwyn, my roving reporter from last summer's 1000 bins campaign. After all, it's right up her street.

Until then, good luck to all who enter. I can't wait to visit your blogs and be inspired by your talent.

Now, get ye gone from here and go over there instead.

http://CokeURL.com/karen




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Disclaimer: I will not be paid by Coca-Cola for launching, promoting and judging the Olympic Games Sustainability Challenge. However, I have been invited to attend the London 2012 Olympic Games along with some of the competition winners and a Coca-Cola representative as a thank you for working with them.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Cheering myself up with zero waste flower power


I've been feeling totally rubbish today, possibly overtired following the weekend's BritMums conference.  I've got a busy few days coming up, Mr C's at a long conference and to be honest, I'm feeling overwhelmingly disorganised and quite glum!

After a morning of sweeping and mopping the floors like a charlady - no, we don't live in a huge house, it just takes my procrastination that long to get into the swing - and working my way through the emails and four cups of tea, my mood still hadn't lifted.

There was nothing for it!

I took to the garden with a scissors. Not even my pruning shears.  Honestly, there was no time for such precision in getting the proper tools.

I was on an urgent mission to find something cheery amongst the flowerbeds!


I know I could have sat down on a bench and admired the Sweet Williams outdoors, but I was after mood-lifting prettiness, to give me a visual energy boost and supplement those mugs of tea, indoors!

As I dropped the cuttings into the vase, I acknowledged that this was something I now take for granted, but here I had a vase of flowers with:

no plastic packaging;
no rubber bands;
no plastic packet of flower food;
no paper wrap;
and zero flower miles. 

That's very different to the regular bunches of flowers I used to bung in my trolley at the supermarket.

I tell you, I was that excited thinking about how much crud I've saved on my floral habit, I also got snip-happy with the Alliums




There are lots of resources and discussions about growing food, encouraging us to keep it local and to avoid packaging, but its floral cousins get much less attention, even though almost 90% of cut flowers are imported into the country. So if you're looking for proper inspiration regarding what to grow in your garden or further information on buying British seasonal flowers, I recommend the following links.

Cut Flowers-Growing & Selection, The RHS
Choosing British cut flowers, Sarah Raven.
Growing cut flowers, BBC
Why buy British grown cut flowers, The Flower Co-Operative
British flower bouquets, Wiggly Wigglers

Now as for that glum mood, which inspired this blogpost in the first place.  I am very happy to say that it's lifted!

Here's to happy planting!

Monday, 25 June 2012

BritMums Live! A glimpse at blogging for the greater good.

The 'Blogging for the Greater Good' panel at Britmums Live with Camila Batmanghelidjh - Kids Company, blogger Kylie Hodges, Claire Hazelgrove - ONE.org, Polly Gowers - Give as you Live and blogger Kate Davis-Holmes


If you haven't been introduced to BritMums yet, I urge you to listen up and take note.

This weekend, the online community, formerly known as British Mummy Bloggers, gathered together for BritMums Live, a high-profile conference with over 500 delegates in attendance, attracting members from all parts of the country and with a diverse range of personal stories and blogging achievements.

Bloggers, old and new, listened to inspirational talks from blogging peers, as well as a range of celebrities from the more traditional media world.  Well-known bloggers such as Antonia Chitty, Julia Boggio and Kate Davis-Holmes, sharing programme time with some of the nation's well-known faces including Sarah Brown, Cherry Healey, Eleanor Mills, Katy Hill and Ruby Wax.  The topics were just as extensive, from experiences with depression to finding your voice, photography, publishing, video blogging, beginners tips, advanced tips, work\blog\life balance, food and blogging for happiness.  And the great thing was, it didn't matter about any individual's background, whether it was journalism, TV or blogging, being a speaker or a member of the audience, the atmosphere felt very much a level playing field.

One of the key messages to emerge from the conference was how influential bloggers have become and the evidence was pretty clear, with major names such as TK Maxx, Crocs, Panasonic, Lego, Warner Bros and Butlins being present on the day as sponsors. Brands are keen as ever to win over online voices, using modern-day word-of-mouth to share news of their latest products, through blogging platforms and micro-blogging such as Twitter.

But it's not just about manufacturers and retailers getting buy-in. In recent years, there has been an increased trend in bloggers standing up for their passions and working in partnership with the third-sector, raising the profile of charities and key issues.  For example, many of the BritMums community have already voiced support for PiggyBankKids, a charity founded by Sarah Brown, that helps vulnerable babies and children.  PiggyBankKids' presence at the conference spoke volumes, as did the fact that fundraising enabler Give as You Live was the event's key sponsor, highlighting how online shoppers can raise money for their favourite charity at no extra cost to themselves.

At the Blogging for Greater Good discussion, members of the panel - pictured above - highlighted the power of bloggers in profiling good causes and reinforced the point that charities don't necessarily need bloggers' donations, it's the blogging that is most important, encouraging support from online followers, as well as friends and families.  It's very much about sharing the personal stories that people have to tell that can connect closely to a specfic cause.

Whether as individuals or a a group, blogging seems to be entering a new era,  It was mentioned on more than one occasion how professionals within 'traditional' media have been turning to bloggers and Twitter to source stories, topical commentary as well as content for programmes and new TV formats.  My own experience can already testify to that, having had several opportunities to contribute towards and influence production content for a range of local radio broadcasts, national radio and a TV documentary.  It now seems to come with the territory and as been something that's taken some time for me to get used to.

Four years ago, it felt like wading in jelly to justify myself as a blogger but things have since changed and both BritMums Live and the recently-held Cybher demonstrated that many other bloggers have noticed the changes.

So, what did I personally gain from this weekend's event?

Firstly there's the gratitude that I've continued to blog about a topic that I care about, despite numerous moments of self-doubt and the odd period of burn-out.  BritMums Live served as a reminder of why I started blogging.  It's about the passion and the sharing.  This blog may be niche, but I do it because I care about my children and the generations that follow.  If I can learn and help shape positive change as a result of my discoveries, I will be happy that I've done my job as a blogger.

Then there's the awesome support. A hugathon, full of old friends and new aquaintances. I tend to be one for discrete waving than shouting out a total roll-call, so I shall just say, quite warmly and with much appreciation, thank you all, you know who you are. And to my pals who buffered my nerves during the awards evening, and then boosted the flow of wine when I didn't win, an even bigger thank you to your good selves.

And finally, there's that kick up the backside again, the one where I should really pull my finger out and write that book. With great advice from author and mentor Antonia Chitty, I now need to jump those hurdles of time-conflicts, mobilise my resources and get cracking.

Of course, being a waste-geek at a conference that coincided with Recycle Week, I couldn't help cast my mind back to the fabulous contribution the community gave to the campaign, just three years ago in 2009, and I wondered if there could be scope again.  It was much fun with lots of people rising to the challenge and demonstrating tonnes of creativity in spreading the word, so I very much hope it can happen again.

In the meantime, there's no way a rubbish blogger should really end a blogpost about a blogging conference, without demonstrating some evidence about what bloggers are doing to shrink their rubbish.

So here's my old pal and 'Rubbish Dieter', Tim, author and blogger at Bringing up Charlie, who after a dash of wine, attempts to reveal the fullness of his relatively new compost bin.  He slimmed his bin by 50% you know!


Oh yes, sorry I forget to say, the conference may be called BritMums Live, but in this age of equality, fathers are made welcome too.





Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Recycled Paint? Yes please!

Anyone who's tried to take a pot of paint to a recycling centre will most likely have been met with the disappointing news that unfortunately it can't be recycled due to the nature of the chemicals. Often the advice is to use it up, donate it to a community repaint scheme, or dry the contents thoroughly with sand before bunging it in the rubbish bin.


But there is another solution, one that I discovered quite recently, which is to actually recycle waste paint into new paint.  This is something that I thought would be impossible, until I stumbled upon the West Sussex based company Newlife Paints.

Newlife Paints does exactly what it says in its company name.  It breathes new life into old paint by reprocessing it into a new product, which contains a minimum of 50% recycled paint.

Created in 2008, the business has an agreement to recover water-based emulsion paints from nearby Household Waste Recycling Centres. The tins are separated into key colour groups, exterior or interior use and matt versus silk finish, after which the paint is blended, tested and treated, before being filtered and packaged ready for sale.  As a result of this process, each year, the company has been able to divert an estimated 100 tonnes of paint from landfill or incineration.

A few months ago, following my cheeky request to try it out, Newlife Paints were kind enough to send me a tester pot.  Unfortunately since then, things have been so busy,  it has spent most of its time just sat on the shelf.

But seeing as it's Recycle Week, I thought there was no better time to give it a go and yesterday I finally managed to grab myself a roller, open the pot and slap it - yes, that is my decorating style - onto a wall that has been in much need of redecoration for as long as I've been staring at the unopened pot of paint.

So what's my verdict?

I'm no professional, but on application, the pale magnolia emulsion certainly seemed to live up to any quality brand that I have used before and provided good coverage and a finish that offers more credibility to my decorating 'skills' than I possibly deserve. Even after the first coat.

I was particularly pleased with this, because the wall upon which the paint was tested (pictured above), has seen a lot of knocks and handprints from the younger members of our household.

The paint also dried fairly quickly and left no real distinct smell around the house.

That's the verdict on the product.  Sadly my husband's verdict on my decorating skills is not so positive. Apparently preparation is the key to perfection and I really should have taken the trouble to mask off the areas which I didn't want to paint. Admittedly, I was over-keen to get started and as a result I'm not sure I'll be trusted to be left unsupervised with a roller in future, whether I'm doing my bit for recycling or not!

But now that there's a choice of  buying 'new' or 'recycled' paint, for me I'll be choosing the latter, especially as Newlife Paints state that every 5 litres of paint recycled results in an estimated saving of 13.58 kg in CO2. 

Stockists are mainly limited to West Sussex based companies at the moment, but the company has an online store for nationwide orders and is also preparing to launch its product range into 120 B&Q stores. The emulsion range is good, offering a choice of 32 colours and Newlife Paints provides a colour matching service too.

With innovative processes like this now being available in the UK, I would hope that paint recycling along with community reuse schemes will continue to divert increasing amounts of paint that is wasted through landfill and incineration.

It would be great to see more recycling centres collecting pots for recycling or reuse and I certainly hope that Newlife Paints can expand its recovery and reprocessing service into new areas.

Local paint collection is one thing that I feel we currently miss out on in Suffolk, but I now feel confident that it's only a matter of time.

____________________________________________________

More information about Newlife Paints can be found at www.newlifepaints.com. For details of Community Repaint schemes, visit www.communityrepaint.org.uk.





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