Week 25- snowballing

People keep saying snow is on the way for us Cantabrians, but all we are getting so far is rain. But there is a ‘snowball’ to comment on never the less. Over our 6 months of rubbish ducking, as we blog and answer comments, or meet people at various events we hear of more and more people embarking on their own rubbish challenges, (shout outs to Melanie and Carrie!). Perhaps it is hyperbole to speak of it as snowballing movement, but our actions have so far had more influence than we would have ever imagined. Last week we met a woman, Jules, from the Lyttelton Time Bank who is nothing short of a ‘fan’. She has been wanting to be rubbish free but has felt overwhelmed by the task of research, sourcing etc. When she found our website and found that the information was already all there – especially for Christchurch people – she decided to commit to one bag for the rest of the year. She has two boys, 7 and 5, so it will be really interesting to see how they go. Of course it will be heaps harder avoiding rubbish with kids, lucky for her the kids are really into the project too. Matthew and I will be ‘mentoring’ Julz, which means among other things, a tour of our rubbish free house and direct dialing privileges! In return she will credit us with ‘timebank‘ credits, which we can ‘spend’ on any service offered by other timebank members. I will get some more fruit and veg bags sewn I think, given how bad I am at sewing. What a great system!

In regards to the what-to-do-with-bones conversation one person commented that they burn theirs in their logburner! I bet Clean Air Canterbury wouldn’t want me to be promoting such a practice, but whose to say? It might be totally fine. Any scientists out there want to do an emissions test? There was also a very interesting comment from a hospital doctor responding to my rant on a restaurant using disposables, she writes:

I really admire what you two are doing but what ever you do don’t get sick or have a baby this year. I used to be appalled by the amount of rubbish created by take-aways (still am) but it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the waste created by hospitals. The birth of one baby creates enough rubbish to fill a home skip. When I first started practising in the 90’s the only dispossible things used during surgery were our gloves, blades and swabs. Now almost everything is disposable except for a few instruments. Glass bottles and steal bowls have been replaced with plastic, linen sheets have been replaced with a horrible paper plastic sheet, even our gowns are often disposable. It’s cheaper apparently than paying people to clean up and the companies’ sales men convince hospital managers it’s more hygienic.

Unbelievable! What a can of worms. On a more positive note, the razor blade issue has resolved itself. I found the blades at the supermarket, but ensconced in plastic, and therefore out of my reach. I briefly considered emailing the Plastic-Free woman in California, who apparently solved the same problem by buying the blades bulk and now has some ridiculous amount. Read about her razor blade blog here. I thought she might be up for sending me some. (but then there’s the carbon foot print thing! arghh!) Meanwhile Janet, a reader of our blogroll, emailed us offering her blades. She inherited them from a farmer friend who passed away, because he was on a farm everything was bought in bulk and so she has had this huge stack of blades sitting around for years – decades actually. They fit my razor perfectly and we are delighted with the old fashioned packaging. Each one is wrapped in wax paper and slipped into a card pocket. Each pack of 5 is in a cardboard pack which is wrapped in cellophane. These would have originally been for individual sale. I am sure this brings back memories for some of you. By the way, cellophane is a natural product, that breaks down. If only manufactures thought of plastic free solutions these days, but as the doctor commented, things just don’t seem to be going in that direction. Yet.

Week 24 – half hour use, half millennia disuse

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A friend of mine living in Las Vegas, (who I have to say hasn’t previously showed much sign of environmental sensitivities – we must be getting under his skin), sent me this picture the other day. The photo is of the rubbish created from a sit down meal at a restaurant. Styrofoam trays and cups, a plastic bag (presumably to get the meal from the kitchen to the table) and several small plastic sauce pottles. No doubt it is cheaper for this restaurant to buy disposables than to employ staff to do dishes. It happens here too, especially at cheaper places like food courts and of course fast food chains have been doing it since before I can remember. I often muse on how economics is the dominant ‘philosophy’ of our age, and how something can make no sense at all on social or environmental fronts but will be considered clever if it gives a player a competitive edge. Like USA and EU swapping millions of tonnes of almonds each year, EU almonds go to the States and Californian almonds go back to EU. This makes no sense, neither does over fishing or using Styrofoam for a half hour use and half a millennia disuse. There are many ways of challenging this destructive way of being, some more effective than others. Essentially this year Matthew and I are attempting to communicate something in a language well understood: money. Companies produce what sells well. If we buy the most ethical product then it will make economic sense for companies to produce the most most ethical product.

Anyway! That was a bit of a rant! Thanks to all the people who gave us their dog food recipes, but the suggestion we most liked was buying dog food from Bin Inn. I have always marveled at how we can cook for half an hour, eat for 10 mins and wash dishes for another 10… meanwhile the dog’s dinner took 2 seconds to scoop, 30 seconds to eat and she leaves the bowl cleaner than when she started. It just seems a shame to complicate this beautiful routine. Jess wolfed down the new food last night so I guess thumbs up (paws up) for her. There was also quite a bit of discussion about what I should do with my underarm hair! Quite an odd thing to be discussed for me really, but so be it. While I am very happy with my ‘new’ old fashioned razor I do need new blades. I looked around unsuccessfully for blades, tried a couple of barbers etc. Finally someone said that I could buy them in a supermarket. How ironic. I assumed they were a rare novelty. Good news anyway.

Heather of Avondale, Auckland asked about how we dispose of bones. We do eat meat but have relatively little issue with bones. This is because 90% of the meat we eat is red and most of that is stewing cuts and mince -without bones. If there are bones we put them in our organic bone destruction unit (Jess). Chicken and fish bones (which choke dogs) are put in our long term compost system. This is basically a hole in the corner of our back yard, which once full will be left for 5 or so years. It also has fur, hair, fingernail clippings and dog poo. Hope this helps. Apparently butchers used to take bones back off their customers because they sold their bones to a bone collection service. I believe this situation has now reversed, with butchers having to pay to have the bones collected. I assume the bones are still used for useful purposes, maybe you could even give the butcher money to take your bones – although I suspect they might look at you funny. Heather’s question, which was through the NZ Herald blog site, made me realise that if you have been following our year through the Herald, either printed or online you may not realise that we have a very comprehensive website: http://www.rubbishfree.co.nz. One of the features of the site is our Rubbish Free Guide. In it we have detailed all of the things we have done / are doing to be rubbish free. The site is also searchable. This enables people who have specific interests to easily see all on the site that relates.

Finally (this has been a long blog…) we are delighted to announce that Bin Inn is now sponsoring us to be doing what we were doing anyway. We have been thinking over the months what a good little advert we were for Bin Inn (this blog is again case in point) and so we approached them, hoping that they would agree. Happily they did. Thanks Bin Inn! Its great to be working with you.

Planning the challenge

Welcome to our first blog.

When we first decided to commit to a year of living without creating any rubbish I assumed the going would get tough when we started, but the last couple of months have been so full of a myriad of little preparations that I find myself hoping that living rubbish free will be less work than getting ready for it. The barrier is much bigger than we imagined. Preparations have consumed time and forced creative thought as we leap (or lurch?!) from our existing system of doing things to a new way, but hopefully in a years time, we can be working comfortably from a new ‘operating system’.

The following 2 blogs overview of the preparations we have made so far, this one is about ways to ‘re-home’ with rubbish, the second one is about alternatives to products that can’t be recycled.

Re-homing Rubbish

After doing a few “zero waste” google searches, I have learned that there are some people and communities out there who have found ways to re-home 100% of their rubbish. (e.g. this youtube clip of a zero waste apartment building http://nz.youtube.com/watch?v=tOsoXpasexU) This means plastic packaging, gladwrap, styrofoam, toothpaste tubes etc can all be used and recycled. In New Zealand the best I have heard of is Xtreme Waste in the Raglan area who divert 75% of rubbish from the landfill. Obviously the more research we do in this area the easier our year will be. All links, thoughts and comments would be really appreciated, as we are very new to all of this and I know there is a lot of information out there. The following is has widespead relevance, but is particularly relevant to Christchurch readers

  • Paper and cardboard: reuse, recycle, compost
  • Organic matter: compost, bury (eg dog poo, hair, fingernail clippings), feed to dog (dairy produce, meat etc that would attract mice if left in the compost) and chickens, return excess bones to butcher (they have a bone collection service where the bones are used to create other products), burn (we have a logburner which is great for excess green matter when it dries), mulch… I am sure this list will grow.
  • Plastic: reuse (a lot of what we throw is useful, e.g good containers, but we get overwhelmed with the sheer volume, so the trick will be to buy these things more often than we need their containers), recycle (we can do 1’s and 2’s in Christchurch) What else could we do with it A lot of work has gone into finding places that we can shop, and comparing prices etc. Finding toilet paper that comes in paper packaging for example. Checking out the alternatives to toothpaste in a plastic tube etc.
  • Glass: reuse, recycle. Broken glass: I am not sure yet but I am sure there will be somewhere that will take it
  • Metals: reuse, recycle. I am not sure what our curbside recycling will take just yet, but I intend to take the rest to a scrap metal dealer.
  • Textiles: mend things, clothing bins, rag bins (I have heard of these but haven’t sourced one in Christchurch yet),
  • Composite materials (eg computer, jug, old couch): Things that still work can be given to places like the City Mission and New Harvest Trust (two excellent Christchurch charities). Otherwise: Take apart and deal with as above, sell on Trade Me (there are plenty of people out there who want these sorts of things, I guess they are good at fixing things), find places that take specific things, eg Molten Media (a Christchurch community trust) take computers and related gear.

Note: For Christchurch readers check out this link: <http://www.cyberplace.org.nz/environment/recycle.html&gt; It has great information on how and where to recycle particular things. (It is a bit old though, anyone got a better link?) Among other things, it mentions Creative Junk, which is a genius Early Childhood Resource Centre. To shop there you must first join up (about $10) and then its fill a bag for some insubstantial sum, about$3. They sell (bright, shiny, fluffy) industrial off cuts that would otherwise be rubbish and welcome new supplies of reuseable materials from anyone. Wonderful place for creative minds. They are now at 254 Port Hills Road, Hillsborough, phone 376 6292 for opening times and more info.