Week 53 – All wrapped up

img_0681.jpgThis is our last official duty of our rubbish free year, to report on our rubbish free party and to do the final telly of whats in our bag.

The party went well.  Rubbish aside the biggest worry we had on the day was actually the weather!  The forecast was for a gale force southerly and we knew it was going to be a very tight squeeze inside the house.  But amazingly the southerly was late and never amounted to much.  We had loads of everything, including ice and from what I could tell the dipping bowl (in lieu of serviettes) worked really well. Everyone seemed to enjoy our rubbish free food and drink. The glasses, saucers etc were all no hassles – mostly because we decided to hire a couple of student friends who were kept busy in the kitchen.  In all the preparation for the party only one piece of rubbish was created, this was a piece of gladwrap wrapped around a round of cheese from the farmers market.  I had thought their cheese rounds were plastic free but this was not the case. The party itself was also entirely rubbish free apart from one rather amusing incident; a relative (who shall remain nameless) brought a packet of chips!  Was this a moment’s slip up or was it a complete failure to understand what we have been doing all year?  I wonder if its a good example of people not recognising rubbish unless its screwed up and empty.

We had put lots of little signs around our house and yard so that curious guests could wander through and see all our rubbish free ways.  People seemed to enjoy going through and opening cupboards etc to find wooden scrubbing brushes, homemade toothpaste and all our various bags and containers for shopping.  Some were enjoying it so much they didn’t even notice when a particular sign instructed them to lift the lid of our pit.  But once opened I am sure most found the contents of dog poo, fish bones and hair quite sobering.  It is odd having people look at all that type of stuff, but then it awesome seeing people get ideas about what they could do.  We also had our rubbish on display!  In total, here are all the things we accumulated:

  1. One bag of paint chips from when the house was scraped and sanded ready for painting. 47% of total weight. Reason: toxic, must go to landfill.
  2. Over a 100 bits of scrappy plastic blown on to our section, unearthed by the chickens or given to us by way of gifts or mail.  18% of weight and approximately 80-90% of the items accumulated. Reason: thought a Campbell Live reporter was bound to find out about it if we started throwing rubbish over the back fence, so we recycled what we could and kept the rest.
  3. Broken car parts from when the car was fixed, (radiator hose and leads).  21% of weight.  Reason:  didn’t go for horse and cart.  (Yes we did bike, but bikes can still generate rubbish if unlucky)
  4. Blob of paint from paint spill.  5% of weight.  Reason: plastic polymer, can’t be recycled.
  5. One scratched DVD from Campbell Live.  They nicely were trying to give us a copy of our story, but it wasn’t to be. Reason:  No one knows anything…
  6. One ball of dental floss.  Reason:  deemed necessary.
  7. One light bulb that blew. Reason: weren’t committed enough to live with the rhythms of nature.
  8. A little bag of bits of scrappy foam, single serve milk, old cigarette lighter etc, about 20 items. Reason:  gathered from our new boat, bought unseen on Trade Me.
  9. Jess’s expired dog tag.
  10. Plastic liner from a 20 kg bag of dog food.  Reason we thought this brand used thick waxed paper, but when it was empty we realised it had the plastic liner.  After this we bought dog food from Bin Inn.
  11. Plastic liner from two cement bags.  Reason:  We couldn’t source cement without it and needed it for a couple of D.I.Y projects.
  12. The bristles from the paint brush used to seal the poxy resin on the polished concrete hearth we installed. Reason:  tried to salvage but that stuff set like concrete.  Recycled the wood and metal from the brush
  13. Wrapping etc from a couple of bunches of flowers given to us.
  14. Clearwater Yoghurt container and lid.  Reason:  Yoghurt was very difficult to find in a recyclable container.  This company are great because they take their containers back to be reused as pots for plants (or something like that).  Unfortunately this container was smashed when dropped.
  15. One pair of rubber gloves. Reason:  Something to do with Matthew.  I, Waveney, had been successfully using them all year with out any problems, and Matthew used them for the first time last month and left them in the sun and they melted.
  16. One Air New Zealand baggage tag.  Reason: We actually flew more than this but the tags look just like paper and it took us a while to realise it was non-recyclable paper and plastic composite.
  17. Packaging from our Canon digital camera and our Airport (wireless Internet).  Reason:  really really wanted both of these things new so bought them.  In the case of the Airport the packaging was done well, really minimal.  In the case of the camera, we had just bought a Sony camera for a 21st present and we noted at the time how good the packaging was and then when we went to buy our camera we assumed that the Canon camera would be a similar deal, but we actually got slammed with quite a bit of non-recyclable plastic.
  18. The wrapping from a mini-DVD tape. Reason:  needed it for consulting work. Hoping to work out ways around that one in future.
  19. Ten or so little plastic clothing I shaped tags and tiny hangers (like the ones for socks).  Reason:  when it came down to it, we just weren’t that into buying all clothes second hand to avoid them.  Having said that we did try hard to avoid as many as possible.
  20. One plastic clothing label tag. Reason:  wouldn’t have bought it but didn’t spy the plastic in time.
  21. 3 wristbands from gigs/events.   Reason:  Never knew in advance if it was going to a stamp, waxed paper or plastic, so just had to go with it.
  22. One used angle grinder disk thing (hmm Matthew should be writing this, I don’t even really know what this thing was used for actually).
  23. One broken plastic peg. Reason: should have had wooden pegs that can be composted or burned if broken, we switched after this peg broke.
  24. One cheap and nasty plastic pen knife. Reason:  somehow missed being purged when we swept through the house getting rid of ‘potential’ rubbish, sure enough it broke.
  25. One plastic top from an alloy drink bottle that started to leak.  Reason:  the bottle was taken to the scrap metal dealer but the plastic was non-recyclable.
  26. Two non recyclable batteries.  Reason:  bought inadvertently with a bike light, dead in a few months time.
  27. Last but not least, one plastic seal from a wine bottle.  The only item of rubbish generated by grocery shopping.  Reason:  Matthew bought it when he was sick and wasn’t thinking – there are plenty of bottles of wine to choose from that don’t use plastic.

And thats it!  A year’s rubbish. Ironically we wont be throwing it out any time soon as it has become such a point of interest for people to see.  Its slightly less than 2kg and fits easily into a supermarket shopping bag.  Thank you again to everyone who have been following our experiment, it was your encouragement and interest that spurred us along on the valley of plastic packaged isles.  Good luck with your own rubbish reducing adventures.  If you get stuck on anything check out our website and you are always welcome to contact us.  Its currently rubbishfreeyear.co.nz and will be changing in a few weeks to rubbishfree.com.  We will still blog, but this is our last week in the Green Pages of the New Zealand Herald. img_0858.jpg

Week 52!!!

Well, as I write this there are two days of our challenge year left and a party still to have, so next week’s blog will be the last official rubbish free year blog, and will have the final update of the rubbish we collected during the year.   But we will keep blogging, if for nothing else than to  keep us honest.

The way this year has gone was quite unanticipated – the way the media has been so interested and how widely people have follow our exploits.  It amazes me, who would have thought RUBBISH would have such general appeal?

I’ve thought of an analogy that I think explains what’s going on for many of us.   Imagine if you had never seen lollies before, and then one day your friend says, hey check out this new amazing thing I’ve found.  You look at this brightly coloured fantastic looking thing and you love it already.  Taste it,  encourages your friend.  What then happens in your mouth has no precedent.  Better than broccoli for sure.   For weeks your friend supplies you with lollies and you marvel at the rich energy source, the taste and the colour – but most of all you can’t believe the price – cheaper than broccoli too.   Time passes, lollies spread and soon a generation arrives who need lollies for breakfast , lunch and dinner.  It is about this time, when you and many others get a niggling feeling that your bodies aren’t running as well as they used to, but you’re not sure what to do about it.  Avoiding lollies seems time consuming and expensive, even backwards.  Then you hear of a young couple who have challenged themselves to live for a year with out lollies, and you watch them with interest…

And so it is.  Collectively we leaped at plastic. It was durable, cheap and convenient.  Mum said when manufacturers starting using plastic ice cream containers and meat trays people couldn’t believe they were getting such good quality containers for free.  Kindys, gardeners and handymen seemed to need an endless supply of them.  Parents who already had their hands full appreciated shopping bags with handles and jars that didn’t break when dropped.  And now, as it’s slowly dawning on us that something’s not quite right, we find ourselves unable to stop throwing away kilos of plastic every week.  Its not that we want to, its just we aren’t sure how to change.  I think this has really been what our year has been about, about our own experiment to live differently, and  by way of the media, this blog, speaking engagements etc we have journeyed with so many of you all.  And its been great!!

I wouldn’t have guessed it, but my last rubbish free week has been busy with making ice!!  Because we can’t buy party ice for our party (because of the plastic bag) I have been making our own!  I borrowed some ice trays and every 5 hours or so I empty all the ice cubes into large containers in the freezer and refill the trays with water.  I also have a friend doing the same thing, so we should have heaps.  We have also solved the serviette problem, I couldn’t think how to avoid the plastic they come in until a friend suggested dipping bowls.  So guests with dirty little fingers will dip them in the bowls and dry them on the hand towels provided.  I like this idea – so simple, I’ll report next week how it went.  Will everyone end up with food on their face and no ice in their drinks? . . .

Week 51 – Say it with flowers

We are in down to the last week now!!  – And plenty of room in our one rubbish bag.  I did an interview this morning for RDU (Christchurch student radio) and the interviewer suggested that we had a week to rush around filling it up before it was all over!! Hmm, typical of student radio.  What we are filling our time with though is our wee rubbish free party – which is turning out to be a microcosm for living a rubbish free life:  full of planning ahead and creative thinking – but no rocket science.  At the risk of  spoiling any surprises our guests may have had, here’s how things are shaping up.

Firstly we have a couple of big shout outs to the generous companies/organisations that are donating stuff.  We approached companies that we thought fitted our rubbish free philosophies and we are delighted with how thing have turned out.  Huge thanks to Villa Maria for supplying the wine.  Villa Maria are enthusiastic members of Sustainable Wine Growing New Zealand and avid recyclers.  Approximately 70% of their packaging is made from recycled material.  They recycle everything they can at the plants and even reuse their waste grape marc.

We are also thankful to Harrington’s Brewery for supplying a keg of their wonderful organic pilsner!  We approached them for several reasons.  Firstly, we thought a keg was the ultimate in rubbish free!!  Its about as minimal as packaging can get, designed to be reused, and its metal – not plastic.  Secondly, Harringtons are our closet brewery, and one of the best in Christchurch.  Also they are intending on setting up a bottle washer this year, which will mean that bottles can be reused rather than melted down and remade – heaps more efficient.  And they offered to supply us  with all the glasses we’ll need too.  That’s awesome, saves hiring them.

We also asked our local church, Holy Trinity on Avonside, if we could borrow their tea and coffee cups they were happy to ‘come to the party’.  Nice ay.  Food is probably the more difficult thing to provide rubbish free, but again we thank Bin Inn for supplying the raw ingredients for the party food – all we have to do is get baking.  Honestly, without them we would have been stumped over and over again.  So, huge thanks to them.

Let me finish with a conversation I had with our local florist a couple of days ago.  After picking out the flowers I wanted I gave them to the florist.   As she was wrapping them I said – no plastic thanks.  She was lovely and was more than happy to wrap the flowers minimally, with just a piece of silver paper and she creatively folded another piece of paper in lieu of plastic ribbon.  As she worked I thought I might mention our rubbish free year challenge.  I usually don’t, but she just seemed like the type of person who would be interested.

“Actually, my husband and I have challenged ourselves to live for one year without creating any rubbish”

“Ohhhh, were you on TV?”

“Yeah”

“Oh, I saw you.  You might think its weird that a perfect stranger might think about you, but I often think of you.  Like the other day we were at the supermarket and my husband went to grab a bag for two onions, and I said ‘hey, we don’t need that’ – I was thinking, what a waste!  I never used to even think about it.  But now I do.”

“Wow!  That’s amazing.  Well, I am here today because florists are actually a pretty on to it way to buy flowers.  I can’t get them from the supermarket, because to avoid the plastic I need to  have  a conversation with the person who wraps them.”

“Wow!…

Etc.  We talked for ages and I think we both felt pleased with ourselves at the end.  I think its totally worth going without packets of chips and margarine for a year for that one conversation.

Week 50 – Ordinary, thoughtless and rubbish free.

We have been enjoying having extra family  around over the holiday period.  One day, after taking the nieces and nephews climbing we spontaneously invited everyone back to ours for lunch. With out any thought, we bought pies, fizzy drinks and juice for the kids.  Then when we got home produced tomato sauce, tea, coffee and some green salad leftovers.  All very normal right?  I  thought to myself as we were eating, I bet when people think about a rubbish-free lifestyle they don’t have this in mind.  I bet you imagine us more at Bin Inn, scooping up lentils (and that will be because you can find us doing as such…).  I think we have even tended to write about that stuff more because it is different.  But its just like taking photos.  We take shots of ourselves at parties and on holidays and then, when we look back at all the photos, it looks like we’ve never worked a day in our life.

any rubbish?So, when we were having lunch, I suddenly jumped up and took a photo.  I wanted to capture one of the normal, quiet victories of our rubbish free year.  I say ‘victory’  because it was ordinary, and thoughtless, and rubbish free.  Imagine if every ethically driven consumption decision had those three qualities.  After lunch I composted leftover bits of pies, smoothed the brown paper bags to be reused or recycled,  rinsed and squashed the plastic beverage bottles and put the tomato sauce bottle away – noting that it wasn’t quite ready for a refill.  We’ve had the same sauce bottles, olive and canola oil bottles, salt shakers, jif bottle, honey container and peanut butter container all year.  So it all looks normal, and happily feels normal, but there is something suspiciously sustainable  going on.

We continue to plan our wee party,  it looks like I might be able to borrow tumblers from the local church hall and hire wine glasses for $50.  I have even looked into getting a keg!  Seems a bit of over kill for a Sunday afternoon get together but they do come in different sizes 🙂 and what could embody the rubbish free philosophy more?  We plan to launch our Rubbish Free Consultancy Service at the party too.  We are in the final stages of producing a Rubbish Free DVD,  writing a completely rubbish free guide book and compiling a kit of essential products for being rubbish free.  While we intend to tailor our services as needed, we think our DVD, guide book and Rubbish Free Kit are a great little pre-made package. We have pitched it for a ‘non rubbish focused’ audience – no point preaching to the converted.  Having said that, hopefully all but the zero rubbish household or workplace will find the resources useful.

Week 49 – Happy New Year!

 As our Rubbish Free Year draws to a close, with just three weeks to go till the end of the challenge, the most commonly asked question has changed from “What do you do about…?” to “What will happen once your year is up?”.  Currently, we have three responses.

Firstly, rather than feeling like we are now winding down to the the end of the challenge we have been talking about how our new habits feel very sustainable longer term.  We are not hanging out for the challenge to end and we have no plans whatsoever to rush out and buy anything we couldn’t get whilst the challenge was on. We are absolutely stoked by this, as the whole point of our challenge was to create new habits that became so ingrained that they require very little energy to keep going, leaving us free to concentrate on other aspects of our lifestyle where we might lighten the load on the earth and humanity.

Secondly, the Rubbish Free Year website has become a great venue for the exchange of ideas and tips on living rubbish reduced lifestyle and so we absolutely plan to keep it going.  In addition there has been some requests from various businesses for Waveney and I to engage with them in order to raise their awareness of ways they can reduce rubbish being created both as office spaces but also as manufacturers of products ultimately destined for the landfill.  We are really excited about this because we are not advocating for a return to 1950s lifestyles, but rather, would love to see technology exploited to it’s full potential to enable a more sustainable use of resources employed in products we use daily.

Finally, it is time for a party! We are inviting all the people that helped make the year what it was,  and are planning for it to be completely rubbish free.  People say it can’t be done, but we think that if anyone can, it might be us!  We figure its a great way to both example to everyone how we do it and to kick back and celebrate this amazing year.  Any rubbish free party ideas and tips would be appreciated.

Week 47 – Christmas Blog

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Christmas was always going to be the riskiest time of our rubbish free year, and I suspect that had we just started the challenge it might have blown us right out.  However, we, and more importantly, our family and friends have had almost 11 months to get our heads around doing Christmas rubbish free.  Everyone did very well, giving us gifts without landfill destined packaging, but I think the prize for most innovative and creative packaging solutions goes to my parents in law.  They sent us gifts from Auckland, using flour and water glue to secure the packaging (which held despite the package getting wet from rain),  tied with string for extra support.   My gift, which was a great ceramic piece, was packed in a box with popped pop corn taking the traditional place of styrofoam.  It worked really well and the present arrived safe and sound.  Another great rubbish free gift was a ‘Gift for Life’ card from Tear Fund, whereby instead of giving us something, money was donated to Tear Fund for chickens and seeds for a micro-enterprise project in a rural area of Malawi, Africa.

We have been quite considered in stocking up with food to see us over the next few days.  For example, the old impromptu barbecue can cause a few problems when the butcher isn’t open and the supermarkets still insist on only offering meat on styrofoam trays.  Therefore, we purchased plenty of barbecue meat which we have frozen in appropriate quantities so that we can pull that out when the need arises – as it did last night.  The only additions we’ve had to our rubbish bag this week, was the plastic clear wrapping around the lid of a jar of dijon mustard that I bought in a bit of rush completely forgetting about rubbish free as I did so, and a bit of plastic from the patch in a bicycle tire repair kit.  We are in complete awe of our friends and family for pulling off a rubbish free Christmas – well done!

Next week we are hoping to be well out of reach of internet and computers as we celebrate the new year arriving, so will see you all the following week.  Also huge apology to any vegans who freaked out about the comment on cellophane last week.  Waveney has asked me to pass on her apologies regarding the misinformed statement that cellophane is made from ground calves hooves.  It is cellulose – plant based matter.  Sorry about that one!!  Special thanks to Moria who pointed it out.

Week 46: Peace be upon the recyclers

We had Campbell Live here with us this week, some of you would have seen it last Thursday night.  They requested that we have a Christmas tree.  So we found a young self-seeded one on Matthew’s parent’s property and borrowed our mates Christmas decorations!  There we go, secrets out.  It did look really good on telly though.  Even though we are actually finishing on January 31, because their show finished last week they covered the ”finish” a few weeks out.  Still, things are coming to an end rather quickly.  It was great watching our whole year summarised in 5 minutes – if you’re more of a visual person then I suggest you ditch reading this right now and just check out the TV3 website we are under news.  A picture tells a thousand words and they always do such a great job.

Guess what everyones getting for Christmas this year? (Family – skip this paragraph if you will.)  If you took the time I’m sure you could guess actually… Everyone’s getting either a gift hamper or baking – all products from Bin Inn.  We’ve got cane baskets and we’ll wrap everything in cellophane or little brown paper bags.  Cellophane, for those like me who had never given it much thought, is not plastic.  Its the same stuff that jellybeans and jetplanes are made of – ground calf hooves.  Therefore it breaks down.  But you have to be careful because a lot of cellophane apparently now has plastic mixed with it.   We will fill our hampers with macadamia nuts, cashews, dried apricots, mangoes and cranberries etc, chocolate and lollies.   We also thought another nice rubbish free gift we could produce was baking.  Using flour, cocoa, sugar etc from Bin Inn and eggs from our very own chooks.  Last week I made an absolutely decadent chocolate cake with cream and chocolate filling – yes we can use cream, the plastic’s recyclable.  We had a really healthy year this year avoiding packaging and processed foods – but it didn’t have to be that way – some lollies, chocolate, butter, cream and sugar are still on this list – so long as you know where to shop and /or how to deal with the packaging you could actually get fat living rubbish free.  I am sure that’s a heartening thought for some.

Merry Christmas everyone.  I know Christmas has different meanings to different people, but one thing we can all agree on is this:  Christmas is not, definitely not,  about rubbish.  So peace be upon those who compost the leftovers and blessings to all who fold and recycle their Christmas wrapping paper.