Slightly Off Topic

Usually I stick to purely equine topics, but with Christmas coming up I think it’s an important subject to discuss.

This last year everyone has become more aware of the problems of plastic. And microfibres. And recycling. And waste. And, well everything that we do.

Whilst it’s important that we recycle what we can, there are numerous logistical problems with categorising items as well as the sheer quantity, which leads to many councils not actually recycling that much of the recycling they receive. What I think we should be focusing more on is reusing things. There’s a kids TV programme called Junk Rescue, which encourages kids to make things out of bits and pieces lying around the house, such as wooden clothes peg dolls. Much of it involves their imagination – e.g. making rockets to play space. But the programme also visits craftsmen who upcycle things. Like a rag rugger, or a stained glass maker. It’s actually really good at highlighting the second use of everyday items.

My Dad is the king of reusing things. Anything that breaks is taken apart and useful pieces salvaged. I’m not quite that good, but I pass things his way if I think they’ll be useful to him, and I remove obviously useful things. He’s my first port of call if I need any bits and pieces is him – he’s usually got just the right size piece of wood or sized screw.

This year I’ve been trying to reduce our carbon footprint around the house – the impact we have on the planet. Little things don’t make a huge difference to our lives – in terms of time taken to carry out the task. But if we all try and do a little bit more then we can start to make a difference.

Here are a few changes we’ve made.

  • We’ve stopped buying milk at the supermarket in plastic bottles, instead reverting to the old fashioned way of having glass bottles delivered to the door twice a week, and returning the empty glass bottles each week. The foil lids are recycled each fortnight by the bin men.
  • Batteries (we use them more rapidly with a baby!) are kept in a tumbler on the kitchen side then when it’s full it’s taken to be recycled.
  • We tear off the stamps on any envelopes which come through the post and collect them for charity.
  • My Granny collects ring pulls for a charity which sends them to Africa where they’re made into jewellery by locals. Thus helping them earn a living. We collect them too, and give them to her to pass on.
  • Any clothes we’ve wanted to get rid of have gone to the clothes charity bins, so will hopefully help others.
  • This spring I sorted out the compost heap in the garden. I took our old plastic cone shaped composter and sold it, before getting a larger wooden one. Now we try to put non-meat food waste on the compost heap. Although some of it goes to Phoenix of course!
  • We have our own water bottles now. Partly to increase our water intake, but also to decrease our use of plastic bottles. We don’t tend to get hot drinks on the go, but we have travel mugs anyway if we ever wanted.
  • We have fewer plastic bags now, getting the majority of our shopping with the bags for life or tote bags. I refuse to buy bags, so frequently leave the shop with an armful of precariously balanced food!
  • I find I am more conscious of the packaging when I buy items. For example, I’m more likely to buy a make of food if it’s in a recyclable packet, or loose if possible. For example, loose veg or we buy baby formula in metal tins rather than the cardboard and plastic ones as the metal tins are useful storage tins to my brother, Dad and Uncle in their man caves. However, there’s only so far we can go like this, and really producers need to take more steps in minimising packaging.
  • I’d really like Amazon to introduce a policy whereby they collect old boxes and bubble wrap the next time they deliver to you. Surely it would be easier and better for the environment to recycle cardboard boxes as cardboard boxes rather than flattening them and sending them to the recycling plant to be mushed back into a pulp?
  • On that theme, it would be good to be able to do more direct recycling, either to those who can upcycle or so that we’re sorting items before the council collects it.
  • Reducing our waste is one thing, but also reducing the quantity we require is another. For example, buying a quality product that will last for years as opposed to a cheap one which will break within months.

    This is where Christmas comes into things.

    When I was younger I remember cutting up Christmas cards we’d been sent the year before to make gift tags, but this seems to have gone out of fashion. When I tried recently I had very few cards which were actually suitable – I think they’d been written on on both facing pages. Looking at the cards we’ve received so far this is a possibility for next year. Fewer and fewer people send Christmas cards now, and I think it’s right to not send cards to the people you’re going to see just before Christmas, or even on Christmas Day itself, but it’s a useful tradition to touch base with long distance friends and family, who you perhaps don’t see as frequently as you like.

    Wrapping paper. I get so frustrated with the quantity of waste surrounding presents. My parents taught us not to rip into our presents, scattering paper everywhere. Rather we had to open our presents leaving as much paper in tact as possible. Then on Boxing Day, Dad and I would sort through, fold up the pieces, cut off worn areas and put them into the Second Hand Wrapping Paper Box (that almost needs a fanfare announcement). Everything would come out, and Christmas paper would go at the bottom. Dad does take this to the extreme (the box is huge) and the paper they received on their wedding paper is still there. They celebrated their ruby wedding anniversary this year …

    Last year I kept quite a lot of uses wrapping paper and have recycled it with our gifts. It’s a win win situation really; it helps the environment and we don’t have to purchase as much new paper. It’s also a bit of a puzzle working out if a piece of wrapping paper will fit a certain present. I used to feel quite embarrassed about Dad’s frugality, but now I see the environmental benefits I’m getting more confident at keeping paper and using it again. The same with gift bags. We have a huge number (many with “baby girl” written on) which will stay in the cupboard until needed. But just think, if everyone kept 50% of their wrapping paper to use next year then that’s 50% less waste going to the tip on Boxing Day, and 50% less that you need to buy next year. Yep, you can feel smug!

    I challenge you readers, to save as much wrapping paper as you can this year, to help save Earth for our children.

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