Week 24 – half hour use, half millennia disuse


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.

Week nine: Is waste free a waste of time?

Two months into our challenge and we are starting to generate enough interest that even people who don’t give a toss about their rubbish are starting to talk about ours. One media critic said our blog was enough rubbish for one year and pointed out that even if there were 1000 more Kate Valley landfills the area would still be less than 1% of the South Island. Another guy has started a rubbish bag a day group on Facebook to counter our Rubbish Free Year Challenge group! Ha! So our adversaries are both witty and creative. I am sure there are plenty of people out there who agree with them, the question is why? Has this become our religion that people feel the need to defend their way of thinking against it? We never did say that we were campaigning against landfills specifically or that the act of throwing out your dental floss made you some sort of enemy of the peace. We know that there are bigger things to worry about and that we are all on different journeys. Yet for us the Rubbish Free Year is addressing something big. Let me explain. We didn’t start with a passion for rubbish reduction but with a frustration at the way we lived and the system that we lived in.

Taken from our website: rubbishfree.co.nz>home>why focus on rubbish: With a growing awareness of the ethical and ecological disaster that were part of Matthew and I pondered what to do when the solution is difficult, complicated and scary. Being ‘ethical’ was way too huge (and vague) for types as uninformed as ourselves, and narrowing it down to consuming ethically was still overwhelming: is this can of beans/ pair of jeans / dog toy etc produced in harmony with the planet and all humankind? Who owns the parent company and do they invest in the arms trade/ fell rain forests etc? We definitely lacked the time and resources to figure all that out. But the alternative – apathy – annoyed us. In response to the stalemate we somehow came up with the “The Rubbish Free Challenge”. It was smaller and finite, and gave us a simple, tangible question that we could answer ourselves: Will this item (packaging included) contribute to the Landfill?

While the challenge ignores the complexity of whether a product is ultimately a good thing for our world and doesn’t address aspects of lifestyle, it has put the power in our hands, and frequently channels us into the positive paradigm we were trying to connect with. We support local farmers at the farmers market. We support small local business as we seek to return and reuse containers. We buy fair trade and ecologically friendly alternatives because the packaging is usually biodegradable or recyclable. We feel better off for eating fresh, whole foods. We discover community when talk with the butcher or neighbours who we share bulk tofu with or friends when we swap home made relish for jam. Yes, we actually enjoy living rubbish free, and you can’t argue with that!