Monday, 30 May 2011

Plastic, plastic, everywhere

After a few weeks with no internet connection I'm finally back online - so hopefully I can get some semblance of regularity back to my blogging! I am now officially settled in London: new house, new job, and phone and internet connection, yay. Now I can get back to these green missions with my complete attention.

So back to my last mission - to go plastic free...

Rule number 1: Never go food shopping when you're hungry. Now this is a general rule that should be followed at all times, but if you try this while going plastic-free you'll realise that it takes on a whole new level of importance. Why? Because everything that is ready-to-eat comes in plastic. And I mean everything. The one exception to that rule in the supermarket seems to be chocolate blocks in their lovely paper wrapping. Not an ideal healthy snack option, but I did resort to this when I broke rule number 1 on my first shopping outing.

So on the supermarket run what can you buy? I mostly stuck to canned foods (veges, beans, fish etc), things that come in jars (all standard spices, sauces etc), and things in paper packaging (baking essentials, chocolate). I did purchase some fresh produce as well, but here I find that even most fresh fruit and veges come in some plastic. I'm going to start exploring the local markets over the next few weeks to see if I can find some 'naked' alternatives there. So after rule number 1, what else did I learn about going plastic free?

Rule #2. Never buy coffee on the run. Yes, it's possible to get takeaway coffees without a plastic lid, or in your own travel mug... But for myself I've just decided on a general rule that if I want a shop bought coffee I'll drink it at the shop.
Rule #3. Always check that you have a reusable bag with you before you leave the house. I used to always do the 'phone, keys, wallet' check before heading out, but now I've expanded it to 'phone, keys, wallet, foldup bag' check. If you don't take it with you, you are bound to need something last minute and like me - may end up on the bus ride home with a dangerous carton of eggs in your very expensive handbag.
Rule#4. Not so much a rule but a tip - keep an eye out for foods that package themselves: such as bananas, pumpkins, and onions that are simply sold in their own skin.

But mostly over and above everything else I learned on this mission was just how plastic has invaded every part of our lives. Living plastic-free permanently in this society would take constant effort and planning. The couple of times I did slip up on this mission were simply moments of oversight where I didn't even think about the plastic content of an item I was buying. I'm committed to keep trying to limit my plastics as much as possible though - and I'm more impressed than ever by those people who can manage to cut plastic almost completely from their lives (check out My Plastic Free Life).

Now for this week I'm setting myself a challenge that I'm particularly dreading (don't judge me for this one). I confessed right from the beginning that I loved shiny new things - that's a big part of my not-green problem. Now that I'm all moved into my new house, there are a few extra bits and pieces that I need to get fully set up. So to avoid buying more new stuff, my mission this week is to go second-hand shopping.

Now second hand shopping is not something I should dread, but as a lover of new stuff, I find old musty second hand stores a bit scary! I'm the first to admit that it's a bit ridiculous, so I'm out to over-turn my preconceptions about buying 'pre-loved' this week.

If anyone has any good second-hand shopping tips (or knows good stores in London!) then do let me know.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Waste not, want not...

Another week's challenge has flown by. Another challenging challenge too. Last week my mission was to waste no food, but was also complicated by the fact that I was on holiday (in Greece - beautiful!).

Not wasting food was much more difficult than I expected actually. On holiday we were eating out every day so getting our portion sizes right at restaurants was the biggest test. What did work well was sharing meals. I was travelling with two good friends who have reasonably small appetites - at most restaurants we shared meals, and so generally finished what was on our plates. We also managed to get take away containers for leftovers for a few of our meals, saving waste and giving us a free lunch the next day.

The down side of our waste-saving behaviour was that we did get a fair few sideways glances from our Greek hosts (not always the most hospitable), who must have thought we were very cheap travellers...

I've decided to continue my challenge for another week now that I'm back home to see how I can incorporate it into my home life. I made a good start this morning cooking up some past-their-best apples that I might otherwise have had to throw away to puree and freeze for future baking.

The next challenge I'm adding in the mix for this week is to go plastic-free. Basically that means purchasing no new plastic. It sounds reasonably straight forward, but when you start to think of how many of the foods we eat daily or buy from the supermarket are packaged in plastic it will certainly mean quite a change in behaviour.

There are lots of good sites with hints and tips though so I'll have plenty of help. Do you have any good plastic-free living tips for me??

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Carbon offsetting?

This week's blog is a tad late - as I mentioned last week I was moving to London, and arrived bright and early on Tuesday morning. I'm pleased to report that I've now recovered from the 30 hour journey! My mission for last week was to purchase some carbon offsets for my long-haul flight to get here. It sounded like a simple challenge, but once I started researching I found it was far more complicated and confusing than I'd anticipated. I found myself asking a number of questions and here's what I discovered...

Carbon offsetting is basically purchasing a reduction of greenhouse gases in another location to offset your own emmisions. Projects might include: renewable energy, energy efficiency or reforestation. The more I read though the more I found questions about how effective carbon offsets are.

Apparently in the UK less than 30 pence in every pound (30%) spent on some carbon offset schemes goes to projects designed to reduce emissions. The rest goes to the company that takes on the risk of the project, the project's investors, and organisations involved in brokering and auditing the carbon credits. A lot of offsetting also seemed to just be trading paper money through different trading schemes, rather than investing in new tangible projects. In fact I found a number of examples where offset projects might actually be damaging the environment. For some interesting reading check out these articles in The Guardian or BusinessWeek.

All this left me feeling a little under-enthused. What's the point in giving money away to a trading sheme that isn't guaranteed to make a difference, just to make me feel better about indulging in some un-eco friendly travel?

So I've decided instead to put my offsetting money aside and donate it to WWF who I know work on some fantastic climate change projects, and aren't a for-profit company. I'll try not to consider last week's mission a total failure - I guess the lesson for me is that you can't buy being green, you have to earn it yourself!

My next week's mission is inspired by an article I read yesterday in a newspaper I just happened to pick up on the tube. Here are the stats that I read: In the UK households waste 25% of all the food they buy. 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in rich nations come from production of food that is never eaten. Pretty shocking.

So my mission for the week is to waste no food. This could be interesting as I'll be holidaying and therefore eating out most of the week, but after reading those statistics I'm very motivated!