Monday, 31 January 2011

Anyone for Coffee?

On Saturday I helped at a local Freecycle event.

For those of you who haven't come across one before, what happens is that people bring along stuff they no longer want, lay it out on tables and allow other people to take it away ... for free. It's brilliant!

We donated our old telly. It was still there when I left ... carrying an an espresso coffee machine, half a dozen spice jars and a set of three handkerchieves!

I'm a sucker for containers, and the handkerchieves will help reduce paper waste, but it was the espresso machine that had me most excited. I've fancied one for some time now but they are expensive and I couldn't justify the investment.
Imagine my disappointment when, after giving it a good clean, I discovered that it uses Nespresso capsules instead of ground coffee.

These are wrong on two counts. Firstly, because they are made by Nestle, a company that I have boycotted for many years, and secondly because they produce unnecessary aluminium waste.

So the machine has to go. Thank goodness there's another event in Spring!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Didn't you hear us the first time?

Between 2004 and 2010 a total of 57 new supermarkets opened in Bristol. We went from having 19 to 76(!) in the space of 6 years. That's 9 a year. With 11 approvals between November 2008 and November 2010 our city ranked 4th in the list of Approved 'Big Four' Stores (ie Asda, Sainsburys, Tesco & Morrisons). What an honour, and I don't think! I believe there is an 'app' to find your nearest Tesco store. Why bother when you can be sure of coming across one round every corner!

In just over one month's time Bristol City Council's planning committee will hear Sainsbury's latest application. It's to build a 9,000 sq m superstore at Ashton Gate. This is not the first, nor even the second application to build a supermarket on this site. Tesco's application was rejected by the planners. Sainsbury's first application was recommended by the planners but turned down by the committee. Unfortunately for us some people won't take no for an answer and they're back again. Unfortunately for them, we'll be waiting!

If you live in Bristol, or somewhere else that's being threatened by the relentless march of the supermarket giant across our land you may be interested in the Stop Sainsbury's website or the Panorama website from which I pinched the statistics and the photo.

I reproduce below the text of the objection I submitted this afternoon.

Watch this space!

I object to Sainsbury’s planning application for the following reasons:

Sainsbury’s describes their proposal as a relocation. While this is technically true it is far from the full story. The distance between the existing and proposed stores may only be 500m but the move is from Ashton Vale, an isolated area with few other shops, and for whose residents Sainsbury’s has become the local retailer, to Ashton Gate, a residential area with a thriving local high street. Relocation implies a simple move, but here too Sainsbury’s have not painted the whole picture. The proposed store will be almost double the size of the existing one with over 200 more parking spaces and a 50% increase in the number of petrol pumps. The ratio of food to comparison goods will be altered, with much greater emphasis on the latter (4% increase in convenience goods as opposed to a 240% increase in comparison goods). This is not a relocation. This is a new store and to describe it otherwise is both inaccurate and misleading.

Sainsbury’s assert that their proposed store will create 450 new jobs. However, given that there are 29% less jobs at Sainsbury’s since their last expansion in 2001, when they promised a 50% increase, it is hard to believe them this time round. The existing store has already installed a number of automated check outs and it is likely that these will feature heavily in the proposed store. There is no account taken of the number of jobs that might be lost in the area if businesses close as a consequence of this development.

Sainsbury’s claims that the proposed store will better meet the needs of its customers. While they may be able to offer the residents of Bedminster a wider range of products and an enhanced shopping experience, they will be unable to offer them a better quality of life. By Sainsbury’s own admission the proposed store will lead to a 20% increase in traffic in the surrounding vicinity. However if the proposed development was treated as the new store it will be, rather than as a existing store with an expansion as claimed, this figure would increase to anything between 45% and 63% at peak times. Duckmoor Road, one of the most congested routes in Bristol, is likely to grind to a standstill under the combined impact of traffic to the proposed store and the new stadium at Ashton Vale. Air quality will deteriorate and roads will become more dangerous, particularly for children and the elderly. The walking route to Ashton Park Secondary will be ‘unsafer’ and access to Greville Smythe Park will be more hazardous.

Sainsbury’s will make their existing site available for housing and employment development. However, in order to do so, the existing store will need to be demolished, as will the existing stadium at Ashton Gate. It seems to me to make far better sense to keep the store where it is, serving the needs of Ashton Vale, and locate the housing and employment development at Ashton Gate which offers both better access and infrastructure for such a project.

Sainsbury’s states that their proposed store will help to bring a new regional stadium to Bristol. The council have already dismissed the enabling development argument and, given the fact that the World Cup will now not be coming to England, let alone Bristol, this is a spurious argument. If Bristol City Football Club, despite their position in the lower half of the Championship League and their precarious financial situation, wish to pursue their dream of a world class stadium, they must do so without holding the local community to ransom. It is grossly unfair and deeply divisive to equate objection to a superstore with opposition to a new stadium.

Sainsbury’s have come up with measures to make it easier for people to reach the store without using their car. These are apparently in response to points made by the committee and feedback from the community. Unfortunately they amount to no more than window dressing as they make very little difference to the unsustainability of the application. The proposal to double the number of existing bus services and introduce three new ones will indeed make it easier for people in areas such as Long Ashton to reach the proposed store but will encourage them to do so at the expense of their own local shops. Likewise for the 100 cycle parking spaces and new cycle path and enhanced walkway.

Sainsbury’s have revealed themselves to be very disingenuous in these revisions to their original application. Their proposed store was never meant to attract shoppers on foot, by bike or on buses. If this were the case why would they need a car park with 200 extra spaces for vehicles or a 50% bigger petrol station? The truth of the matter is that this store is designed for the car owner to drive in, park, shop, consume, load up and drive off. It is a one stop shop for ‘everything’ a shopper needs, literally all under one roof. The suggestion that a visit to the proposed store might be combined with a visit to North Street is fanciful. And, the notion that improved pedestrian features on Ashton Road and Winterstoke Road would make the application more acceptable is insulting.

Sainsbury’s have raised the proposed store’s BREEAM rating to excellent. This is quite frankly the least they could have done but if Dartmouth’s experience in 2008 is anything to go by then they will fail to deliver. In any event, even if it ensures that the building itself is the most sustainable Sainsbury’s in the South West, it does nothing to mitigate the damage from the intolerable levels of carbon emissions generated by the hundreds of vehicles that will flow through its car park every day.

Bristol City councillors have to face up to their responsibility. It is all too easy to pay lip service to initiatives such as the Green City Momentum and the 10:10 campaign. It is much harder to take the decisions that make an actual difference. This is one of them.
Sainsbury’s are developing a package of support for local retailers. I find it impossible to believe that the traders have not already considered these suggestions themselves. Indeed some of them are already being successfully addressed. I were a local trader I would consider the best support Sainsbury’s could give me would be stay where they are in Ashton Vale and leave North Street to continue to flourish as it has been doing over the past years.

The planning committee rejected Sainsbury’s application on 21 July 2010 on grounds relating to traffic and threat to local retail. This revised application has not only failed to address these issues satisfactorily but has, in some instances, only exacerbated them.

It is for these reasons that I urge the Council to reject the application.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Fish Fight Back (2)

Last week as I queued for my pollock the couple in front of me were buying razor clams. I don't think I've seen them anywhere other than on a beach before, and even then it's only their abandonned shells.

This week I took my courage in both hands and bought eight of them for dinner. I asked the fishmonger's advice on how to cook them and he advised me to treat them pretty much the same as mussels ie steam them in white wine with shallots, garlic etc. He also suggested that I google 'razor clam recipes' for further inspiration.

As I made my way home I remembered the half ring of chorizo I had in the fridge and decided that its rich smoky tones would complement the creamy smoothness of the shellfish.

Imagine my surprise when the first recipe that popped up on my internet search was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's one for - yes, you've guessed it - razor clams with chorizo!

I'm not terribly squeamish but cleaning the razor clams was a bit disturbing, particularly when they started emerging and squirting water. I managed a cursory rinse under the tap but was very grateful when my husband volunteered to give them a good scrub.

They took but a couple of minutes to cook and we were soon sitting down to bowls of steaming broth with thick slices of Mark's oaty groaty (to which I am officially addicted) for dunking.

I like to think that Hugh would be proud of me!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Here be Dragons

Wherlocks reopened today. Yeah! (For the background see here.)

I could have gone for the famous Southville Sizzlers I've been yearning for these past two months, but I was tempted by the new kid on the block, the Welsh Red Dragons. Instead of shoving them in the oven for half an hour or so, I skinned them , divided each sausage into four pieces, formed them into balls and fried them with onion, garlic, a tin of tomatoes and a couple of spoonfuls of cream. We ate them on a mound of spaghetti.

One of the new butchers is a Scot who has promised to sell their own haggis and Lorne sausage. I know what I'll be having for breakfast this weekend.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Spring Is Just Around The Corner

I'm hopeless at remembering to plant bulbs at the the right time of year, so I cheated and bought these threee hyacinths in our local greengrocer's. It's amazing how fresh flowers brighten up a room.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Sunshine in a Jar

Yesterday I made marmalade. Riverford made it so simple with their Marmalade Kit, complete with Seville organges, lemons and a recipe. There's even a video tutorial on their website!

There's something so gratifying about turning a brown paper bag's worth of fruit into six gleaming jars of preserve to spread on your morning toast.

I love the nubbly surface of a Seville orange.
I love cutting the peel into thin strips.
I love it that nothing gets wasted and that even the pith and the pips play their part in the process.
I love the way the peel turns transluscent when it's boiled in the sugar syrup.
I love watching the surface crinkle when testing for the setting point.
I love pouring the amber liquid flecked with golden peel into the warm jars.
I love the crackle of the celophane covers as they tighten.
I love the rows of jars on my shelf.
I love making marmalade.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

English as it is Wrote (2)!

Chalkboard outside a restaurant in Bristol.

In Praise of Bob

This poster has made my day.

At the end of November Bob Wherlock, our local butcher, lowered his shutters for the last time. He and his staff had reached the age of retirement and, although we wished them well, his customers were devastated by the loss. There was some confusion over who, if anyone, would take over the business and, as the weeks passed and the shutters remained down, I grew less and less hopeful that the shop would ever reopen. So imagine my joy when I saw this poster taped to the shuttered window this morning.

That's the thing about local shops. They're so much more than glass fronted temples to consumerism with their brights lights, interminable rows of shelves, overpackaged goods and promotional displays urging you to buy more than you need; where you can walk in, around and out without exchanging even a word with another human being.

Going to Bob's was a Saturday morning ritual (supplemented by the odd weekday fix). There was usually a queue, but it didn't matter when the chances were you knew someone in it, or were entertained by the good natured banter between staff and customers. It was a place to catch up on local gossip, pick up recipes, ask for advice, share a joke, or even sample a new product. Christmas was even more special with the queue looping round the shop, winding out the door and snaking up the street. Customers disappeared, returning with takeaway coffees, and on at least one occasion Bob organised live music. I never once heard anyone complain. A couple of hour's wait was a fair price for a succulent roast on Christmas Day. When was the last time time you heard the same of a supermarket?

If anyone needed convincing of what Bob and his team meant to Bedminster then they need only have stuck their head through the door during that last week of trading. Cards crowded every available surface and the chiller cabinet was packed with of bottles of wine. There were hugs and kisses and not a few tears. A sad day for the street.

So I wish Bob's successor well. If he lives up to the claims on his poster then I for one will be a very happy customer.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Fish Fight Back (1)

I've always thought I should eat more fish but have lacked the confidence to know what to buy or how to cook it. Besides which it is often quite expensive. However, after watching Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall's series on Channel 4 last week I was inspired not only to join his Fish Fight campaign but to have the courage to try out a few recipes.

I began on Sunday with a pair of Arbroath Smokies from the Tobacco Factory market. One of the advantages of buying fish in a market or from a fishmonger is that you can ask for advice on how to cook it. The stallholder suggested that they would taste good boned, dotted with butter and flashed under the grill. He was right. I added a couple of lightly toasted slices of Mark's oaty groaty bread and some diced beetroot. Delicious. So much so that I dived it before I remembered I'd meant to take a photograph.

A while ago Fishminster opened on our local high street. I've bought the odd piece of fish from time to time but I'm determined to so more often, maybe even once a week. Today I was after coley to make Jamie Oliver's Coley Korma. There was no coley for sale so I settled for a fillet of pollack. When I got home I discovered we didn't have any korma paste either, so I improvised with some Thai green curry paste. It was delicious, served with basmati rice and watercress.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

English as it is Wrote (1)!

Every so often the Book People man delivers a box of books to my place of work, returning a week later to process any orders.

Today's list read:

Sounds Of The Wild Birds
Maths For Mum's & Dad's
Read At Home 31 Book Pack
Bedtime Story's In A Bag
Best Ever 500 Recipes
1000 Home Remedies
Hairy Bikers Mum's Know Best
Hairy Mc Clary Magnet Book
Time's Atlas of Great Britain
Walkers Britain
15 Min Home Workout
Colour Me Beautiful
Big Book Of Top Gear 2011

I make that 7 errors. Can you spot them all?

If we ever get that English Academy it'll certainly have its work cut out for it!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

No Impact Week - Day 8 - Eco-Sabbath

I'm afraid I didn't do very well today. I was to have planned a day of rest and relaxation but the weather wasn't fine enough for the walk I'd fancied, and I'd wasted so much time the day before that I was left with a long 'to do' list. So much for my New Year's resolution to be more organised!

However I'd still like to reflect on the week that has passed and what I've learned from my No Impact experience.

Day 1 (Consumption)
It was no surprise to realise that I consume too much, but writing a list at the beginning of the week, and not just for food, was a good idea and might help reduce the likelihood of impulse buying.

Day 2 (Trash aka Rubbish)
An opportunity hasn't arisen this week to use the no-waste travel pack I put together, but I'm sure its day will come. I have, however, been using the fabric shopping bag I've been carrying around with me in my handbag.

Day 3 (Transportation)
Without appearing to blow my own trumpet I think I do pretty well in this area, so it's difficult to see what more I could do, except more of the same. Lobbying the government is the only other action that springs to mind. Not that it's likely to make any difference!

Day 4 (Food)
Buying food from local independent retailers ties in very well with the Stop Sainsbury's campaign I'm involved in. I can't commit to living on a 250 mile radius diet but I can pay more attention to how my food's produced and whether the producers get a fair deal.

Day 5 (Energy)
I can switch off lights and swathe myself in blankets, but I spend far too much time watching the telly and surfing the net. A lot of it can be justified on the grounds of entertainment or education, but there has to be a limit and I know I'm exceeding it by a long way.

Day 6 (Water)
By far the biggest revelation was learning how much hidden water I'm using. I can't stop eating and drinking, but I can reduce my meat consumption, especially beef.

Day 7 (Giving Back)
As with transport I'm already doing a fair amount but perhaps the time I'm going to save by cutting back on energy I can devote to other people instead.

Day 8 (Eco-Sabbath)
My parents brought us up to keep Sunday special. We went to church and spent the rest of the day as a family, playing games, going on picnics, visiting friends etc. There's a lot to be said for taking time out from the normal routine. Next Sunday we've got friends coming round for lunch. Perhaps we should do so more often.

It's be a worthwhile experience and thanks to Karin, the Smiths, Realfoodlover, Craig and Blue Hands for their inspiration and support. I feel the better for it.

No Impact Week - Day 7 - Giving Back

I've taken stock of the ways in which I 'give back' to my community. These include working for the public sector, through regular monthly giving to charity to being involved in the work of voluntary organisations.

I consider myself to be a very fortunate person and feel compelled to donate at least some of my resources to make this world a better place for everyone to live in. Even so I am still rewarded with the satisfaction I feel and the friendships I make. There are a lot of generous people out there and it's a privilege being associated with them.

Today I feel grateful for:
The weekend
The prospect of a reunion of college friends next month
Dinner cooked for me by my husband
A good film on the telly
A text from a work mate

The photo's one of me taken at a Climate Change Demonstration in London last year. We travelled up from Bristol in a couple of coaches and met up with an old friend. It was a lovely day.

Friday, 14 January 2011

No Impact Week - Day 6 - Water

I've just calculated my water footprint using the Kemira calculator where I discovered that I'm almost bang on average for the UK, ie 3410 litres of water per day.

I was a bit disappointed that I wasn't below average, as I consider myself to be fairly economical in my use of water ie I take quick showers instead of baths, I switch off the tap when I'm brushing my teeth, I don't have a car to wash etc. However it turns out that hidden water, ie the water used to produce the food I eat and the beverages I consume, accounts for 3249 of the 3410 litres I go through per day.

By far the easiest way to reduce my water consumption would be to cut down on, or even eliminate, meat from my diet. It takes 15,500 litres of water to produce one kilo of beef. Chicken fares better at 3,900 litres. A vegetarian diet requires 2,000 litres of water per day compared to a non-vegetarian diet which requires 5,000 litres.

Even tea and coffee use more water than meets the eye. An average cup of coffee uses 140 litres of water . Fortunately for me a cup of tea 'only' uses 30 litres.

So, if I'm serious about trying to reduce my water footprint then I'm going to have to think very carefully about my 'virtual' water consumption.

What I feel grateful for today
The start of the weekend
The arrival of my quilting order
Cooking for a children's activity at church
Cups of tea to keep me going
Text from my daughter

Thursday, 13 January 2011

No Impact Week - Day 5 - Energy

I've made an inventory of everything in our house that uses energy to operate. I make it 31 appliances, from our fridge freezer to my ipod charger, but there may very well be others I've forgotten about. Some of them are switched on all the time and others spend most of their time in a cupboard in the kitchen.

So which of them am I prepared to mitigate or even eliminate?

Perhaps I should start by listing those that I'm nowhere nearly ready to give up. I'm talking about my fridge freezer, my washing machine, my cooker, my kettle or my radio. I just can't imagine life without them. Or rather I can, but it wouldn't be at all pleasant.

As for the rest, with a few notable exceptions, I really do believe that I make sensible use of our appliances. I turn lights off when I leave the room, I don't overheat the house, I wrap myself in a blanket, I buy energy efficient appliances, I turn off at the socket etc.

My weak spots are the telly and the computer. I watch too much of the former and spend too much time on the latter. Some of it's justified, after all we all need educating and entertaining, but it's too easy to carry on watching/surfing ad infinitum instead of switching off and doing something more useful, even if it's only getting to bed before midnight.

So my challenge is to be more selective in the programmes I watch and set a daily limit on my internet fix. An hour a day sounds reasonable.

Today I am grateful for
Hugh Fearnley-Whitingstall
The Fight Fish campaign
An invitation to a 50th birthday party
Phonecall to an old friend
The last piece of Christmas cake

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

No Impact Week - Day 4 - Food

Today's challenge of only eating food grown within 250 miles of Bristol, was always going to be the hardest. I made a note of everything I ate yesterday and entered it on this low carbon diet calculator. I'm not convinced of the accuracy of my entries but it indicated that the carbon dioxide equivalent of my intake was approximately 3,500 ie very high. I ate:

Slice of chocolate roll (in lieu of breakfast!) - cocoa beans from Central America?
Bacon and avocado granary baguette - bacon from the Netherlands? or New Zealand?
- flour from Canada?
Macaroni cheese - durum wheat from Italy?
Lemon drizzle cake - lemon from Spain?
Cherry flapjack - light brown sugar from the West Indies?
Tea - tea leaves from India?
Coffee - coffee beans from South America?
There was, in fact, very little that was grown in this country let alone in the south west.
Today I attempted to do better. I had porridge for breakfast. Ok, Scotland's more than 250 miles away from Bristol, but the milk was delivered in a glass bottle by our milkman. I had an omelette for lunch made with free range eggs from our vegetable box scheme. The bread for my toast was probably made with Canadian flour but it was at least baked by an independent bakery in Bristol. For dinner I made a big effort. I walked in to town to shop at the weekly Corn Street Farmer's market where I bought a mixture of fish portions for a fish pie (all British apart from a piece of tuna from Sri Lanka). I bought potatoes and carrots from a local farm. And yesterday I found a bag of flour milled from English as well as Canadian wheat. I even managed to limit myself to just three cups of tea today, which is very good for a tea jenny such as myself.
I'm full of respect for anyone who manages to stick to the 250 mile radius rule, but I can't see me achieving it or getting anywhere close. I am however going to continue to monitor my shopping basket and eat more sustainably. This means buying fruit and vegetables in their season, cutting down on my meat and dairy intake, choosing the organic and free range options, cooking from scratch instead of relying on overpackaged processed products, only buying as much as I need and using up leftovers instead of throwing them in the bin. To be honest I do most of these already but there's always scope for doing better.
There are, fortunately, a number of websites to keep me on track. Eat Seasonably tells me what produce's in season and how to prepare it. Love Food Hate Waste is packed with ways with leftovers. My cookery book library contains a few vegetarian books and I only need to google 'vegetarian recipes' to find more ideas that I can shake a carrot stick at!
Today I am grateful for
Warm dry shelter from the rain
Corn Street Farmers' Market
Fast food (omelette and toast)
A nice cup of tea
(Relatively) sustainable fish pie

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

No Impact Week - Day 3 - Transportation

Today was to have been a breeze - until I booked a pair of Easyjet flights! More of that later.

I don't own a car - never have and hopefully never will. I don't really need one, nor even want one. I'm quite happy to get around on foot or by public transport and I have organised my life to ensure that almost everything I require is within walking distance.

Walking is great. It's good for my health (and my figure). It's cheap. It allows me space to think. It gives me greater control over my movements. But most importantly, in No Impact Week, it is sustainable.

I only wish I could be as positive about public transport. Don't get me wrong. I'm a passionate believer in it in all its forms. It's just that it doesn't work very well in Bristol or the UK.

Bristol's bus service is run by a private company. Most of the buses are presentable and the drivers helpful, but fares are high, customer information is woefully inadequate, routes are limited and evening and Sunday services are patchy and sometimes non existent. As a result it's not nearly as widely patronised as it could be. Even I only use it when I have to. I'd almost always much rather walk.

The UK's rail service is run by a number of private companies. The track is owned by another. The standard fares are prohibitive and the process of purchasing them so complicated that it defies all but the most determined traveller. An article in last Saturday's Guardian suggested a variety of strategies for getting the best deal, which included shopping for the cheapest online booking website and splitting long distance journeys into smaller sections! Why does it need to be so complicated?

Which brings me back to those Easyjet tickets. My younger daughter wishes to visit her older sister in Glasgow. The cheapest train fare (two singles are cheaper than a return!) would have cost £121. The two Easyjet flights cost £53. Even allowing for the cost of the airport bus fares at either end (£10 in Bristol and £7 in Glasgow) the rail option is almost twice as expensive - and so much longer! It is, of course, true that had I started looking six weeks ago when the rail tickets were first released I could have got them much cheaper, but it's not always possible to plan one's life three months in advance. So on this occasion I sacrificed my principles in favour of ease and economy. I wish it had been otherwise. However, until our government seriously addresses the environmental discrepancies in its transport policy there will be little incentive to take the more sustainable option.

Still, I don't often fly. Our last holiday flights were to Greece in 2006. I have only flown four times since, thrice to/from Edinburgh when my Dad was dying and once from Glasgow to allow us more time to settle our daughter into university. It's important not to let principles override other more important considerations when they arise.

Today I walked to work as usual. However, given that it is no more than a quarter of a mile from home this is no hardship. I popped out to the shops on foot at lunchtime and walked to a friends' house for dinner.

The five things for which I am grateful today
Sunshine and blue skies
The internet
A busy day to keep me distracted
Old friends
Lemon drizzle cake

Monday, 10 January 2011

No Impact Week - Day 2 - Trash (or, Rubbish, as I prefer to call it!)

One of yesterday's tasks was to collect all my personal rubbish in a bag. I'm sure that a physical collection would have had greater visual impact than the virtual one I created but, given the nature of some of my waste, I thought it would be easier to type a list.

I've been through my rubbish and separated the stuff I used for more than 10 minutes from the stuff I used for less than 10 minutes. I'm not altogether sure what is meant by this, but I have given it a go.

Stuff used for less than 10 minutes
2 x used paper tissues
Coffee grounds
Tea bags
Stuff used for more than 10 minutes
Plastic wrapping (sheet, bag and tag) from bacon
Egg shells
Plastic wrapping (sheet, bag and tag) from sausages
Vegetable parings
Fruit parings
Milk bottle
Milk bottle foil cap
Plastic cream tub

I deliberated over the wrappings and containers. They could have been included in the 'less than 10 minutes list', on the grounds that their function is merely to protect their contents during the short journey from shop to home. I think this is the purpose of the experiment, ie to show the wastefulness of creating a product that will continue to exist (invariably in a landfill site) long after it's useful life.

However, although it's all rubbish, most of it can still be of some use. The tea bags, egg shells and fruit and vegetable parings all ended up in our brown household waste bin. I was once told that coffee grounds are good for drains, which is where mine have been going ever since. The milk bottle was returned to the dairy via the milkman, where it will apparently be reused approximately 20 times, and the foil cap went into the black recycling box. The plastic tub will taken to the plastic bottle bank in Asda's car park. Even the plastic wrappers can be recycled by Sainsbury's.

Which only leaves my used tissues. I'm not sure of the health and safety implications of composting germ laden tissues, so I play it safe and consign them to the bin.

Lest I become complacent I must acknowledge that the first and most important of the Rs is Reduce, and that I need to cut down on my use of plastic. I'd got into the habit of taking a couple of plastic containers with me on my visits to the butcher but the practice is slipping, hence the mince and bacon wrappers.

Avoiding rubbish is not easy. I put back a packet of salad leaves in Aldi this afternoon assuming I'd be able to pick up a naked lettuce in the greengrocer. But I was wrong. And I have yet to source plastic free yoghurt, or cream or ice cream. Do I compromise or do I go without? And when it comes to blister packs of medication, the decision's been made for me. I'm making progress but I'm not there yet!

I've put together my no-rubbish travel kit, comprising a plastic knife, fork and spoon, all retrieved from disposal. The seal on my pink aluminium water bottle is lost so I'm making do with a small plastic bottle in the the meantime. I've also got my Fair Cup insulated mug for hot drinks. I'm ready to go.

The 5 things for which I am grateful today
My life
The hug from my friend's little girl
The deli
The people who care enough about our local community to campaign to protect it
Macaroni cheese

Sunday, 9 January 2011

No Impact Week - Day 1 - Consumption

'99% of the stuff we harvest, mine, process, transport - 99% of the stuff we run through this production system is trashed within 6 months.' Annie Leonard: The Story of Stuff

It's a sobering note on which to launch my No Impact Week.

My first task was to make a list of everything I needed to buy this week and then delete anything I could do without. Then I had to consider which, if any, of the remaining items I could buy secondhand, borrow or make for myself.

Well I've made my list and it here it is:

Portable radio
Blood pressure tablets

The food has got to stay. I've planned my menus for the week to cut down on shopping trips and ensure that I only buy what I need. I've also taken stock of what I have in store and will use mince and sausages from the freezer. I'll opt for free range/organic and buy as many items as possible from local shops and markets.

I need a new pair of slippers. I bought my current pair because they were cheap but they've never fitted properly and the soles have worn through in several places. I was given an M&S voucher at Christmas and was going to go into town on Saturday to spend it. It's not technically shopping but I could make do for a while longer. The trouble with going into town is that I invariably come home with more than I intended to.

The portable radio I was given as a birthday present many years ago has broken. I'm not exactly sure what happened but it gave off a nasty burning smell the other evening and hasn't worked since. It sits on a shelf in the kitchen and I listen to it all day, from the Today programme in the morning to the 6:30 comedy slot in the evening. I also use it to tell the time. Although I've only been without it since Thursday I miss it dreadfully and will have to replace it as soon as possible. It's probably irreparable but I think I'll take it in to our local electrical shop to ask their advice. I'm sure that if I lived in India there would be someone who could fix it for a small fee. Here it's probably just as cheap to buy a new one and in any case I'm told the FM analogue signal is going to be switched off very soon. I could look for a second hand one but with items that are going to be used on a regular basis I think it's worth buying good quality to ensure that they won't just have to be replaced in a short time. So I've done some research and found a Roberts DAB radio with reduced power consumption and an increased battery life. In addition all the cardboard packaging is made from recycled paper.

My blood pressure tablets are not negotiable for obvious reasons.

So what have I learnt from today's exercise?

1 Making lists (and sticking to them!) is a good discipline.
2 Buying cheap goods isn't always a good idea.
3 Some goods have built in obsolescence.
4 The best way to avoid unnecessary purchases is to stay away from shopping centres.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

No Impact Experiment

Although I've heard of No Impact Man previously, I have Karin over at Green and Generous to thank for alerting me to his project. See here for all the details but basically it's an experiment to test how sustainable my life is and what changes I need to make to reduce my footprint on the earth.

The challenge started on Sunday 2 January but, as I didn't read about it until yesterday, I've decided to delay it by a week, which also gives me time to read through the documentation and prepare myself mentally and physically for the tasks ahead.

Why not give it go yourself and compare notes with me through the course of the week?