Plastic Pollution, Waste & Recycling

Doing the right thing is hard, but…

Last week, I posted excitedly that I was looking forward to taking all my extra recycling to various Terracycle drop-off points in my local area. For those who don’t know, this is a scheme whereby different categories of rubbish that aren’t taken by kerbside recycling can be taken to locations that have been set up to collect them and send them off to be recycled. Many of the locations are home addresses where the occupant has simply added a box or bin to their own rubbish collection point for eager locals to drop off their Terracycle waste.

In theory, it’s a great scheme. I eagerly set off last Sunday on the Tern e-bike – a sustainable double-whammy I thought! – to do my drop offs, only to find that, out of 4 home addresses I’d jotted down for different types of rubbish, only 1 was a successful drop-off. At the rest, there simply wasn’t a collection box anywhere to be seen.

It was quite disheartening, especially when I’d made the effort to plan a 10-mile-or-so circuit to accommodate a multitude of locations.

The GSD loaded up and ready to go

This, alongside another issue I’d experienced the previous day (cycling 5 miles in a raging headwind to collect groceries from my local waste-free shop only to be turned away because their lockdown closing time is in fact half an hour earlier than that listed on their website), really brought home now hard it is to do the right thing.

Anyone who knows anything about getting people to change their habits will know this is not good: most people simply won’t change if changing isn’t easy to do and there isn’t some kind of intrinsic motivation to do so. So, much as schemes like Terracycle and shops like Almond and Co are wonderful facilitators of doing the right thing for those of us that are very motivated to do so, a lot more needs to happen to make doing the right thing for the planet the norm.

There is one silver lining to this story: I finally made my return trip to Almond and Co yesterday after last weekend’s failed attempt. On my way out of the shop, I spotted a Terracyle collection box that takes some of the rubbish categories I’m keen to dispose of responsibly. So, next time I’ve got a bag of crisp packets that needs to go, I’ll combine the drop-off with a stock-up. Now that’s the kind of convenience I’m looking for…

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This post is a load of rubbish…

This is a rubbish picture of a whole load of rubbish. Overall, I think it’s safe to say it’s RUBBISH. But it pleases me immensely. Why?

I’ll tell you why: because this is all rubbish that, until recently, I’d have had to send straight to landfill due to the limitations of kerbside recycling. However, now that I’ve discovered Terracycle, that’s all changed! Their community recycling schemes mean I can take a whole range of waste to various local venues to be recycled. Here we have everything from crisp packets to bread bags to cheese packaging to toothpaste tubes and soap pouches. All stuff that used to go in the bin and can now be recycled: amazing!

All I have to do is sort it out into the categories that are taken within the different schemes, and drop them off at the relevant places highlighted on Terracycle’s handy maps.

Another great thing in the world of recycling is the increasing number of products whose packages state “recycle with bags at larger stores”. Though Terracycle has a specific bread bag recycling scheme, my bread bags get bundled up with cereal packets and various other eligible items to be taken to a supermarket for recycling (but, if I can help it, not before I’ve reused them as sandwich bags or food storage).

So there we have it, a whole new world of reduced waste. It feels good! I’m looking forward to heading out on the bike do drop my sorted waste at various places later. How about you? What new and exciting ways of minimising waste have you discovered lately? I’d love to hear about it – drop me a comment below!

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Oddbox: the future of sustainable produce?

I recently started getting produce from Oddbox, which rescues fruit & veg that would otherwise go in the bin and deliver it to folk like me who want to eat lovely food and help save the planet at the same time. It’s pretty awesome: much of what they rescue is simply surplus, others don’t meet the supermarket beauty standards and have absolutely nothing wrong with them (to be honest so far I’ve not even really had anything odd-looking at all, just a few particularly small apples!)

What’s more, Oddbox keep up their green credentials by delivering overnight and to a schedule that means they’re not running around all over the place every day (for instance, they only deliver to my area on Tuesday night). So, no guilt here! Most I’d their stuff comes without packaging, though there is an occasional plastic wrap to certain items. Hopefully they’ll change to a more bio-based plastic-like material soon.

The contents of my fruit & veg box

As for the produce itself, it’s great stuff! I’ve not had a single thing to complain about so far. Perhaps if choosing myself I’d go for a slightly different selection on occasion – e.g. one recent week was confined almost solely to root veg – but actually in part that’s the point: I’m getting what’s in season, and so I should! It’s encouraging me to embrace a greener lifestyle, and I’m happy about that.

What’s more, getting unexpected items is a great opportunity to try new dishes! This week we had Jerusalem artichokes, which I’d never tried before. I did some research and ended up making them into a gratin with leeks also from Oddbox. Yummy!

Admittedly when I first signed up to Oddbox, I opted for a fortnightly delivery as I wanted to choose my veg the in between weeks. The advent of the second wave of COVID, very high rates in my area and a desire to avoid supermarkets as much as possible made me think differently. II’ve just switched to weekly – which I also think I’d a good step for me in loving greener! – and from veg only to fruit and veg. I don’t regret it; I’m well impressed with the variety and quantity in my first box!

Jerusalem artichoke and leek bake

Top tip: for best value for money, choose a fruit AND veg box. I didn’t know what I was missing till I did!

Want to give it a go? Do it! Also, we can both save money if you sign up via the refer a friend scheme here.

eco friendly products, Plastic Pollution

I wish I’d known this before about recycling…

Back before lockdown, when I was still working in an office on a regular basis, I was really pleased to discover one day that a crisp packet recycling collection box had appeared in the office kitchen (that’s chip packet to those who speak American English!). I started happily collecting packets from home and bringing them in to recycle, happy that it was one less thing going to landfill. A mere few weeks or so later, the pandemic hit and with that my crisp packet recycling dream was over.

Every time I throw something in the general waste, I experience a niggling guilt that I shouldn’t be doing it, despite recycling everything my local authority will take (sadly they don’t een collect food waste in my area, but that’s a conversation for another day!). I’m doing what I can to minimise waste by refilling containers at my local zero waste store, choosing lower-packaging options where possibe ans buying almost only loose produce, but it still doesn’t feel like enough. My curiosity was therefore peaked when I got my hands on a hand soap refill package that read in bright green ‘NEW: recycle me with Terracycle’.

Terracycle, that name rang a bell: it was the company we’d been sending our crisp packets to from the office all those months ago! But how did this service work and how could I make use of it now the office collection was no longer an option? I headed to the Terracycle website to look for answers and was blown away by what I found…

Terracycle runs a huge number of programmes to recycle all sorts of items that won’t be recycled by local councils or other mainstream waste management facilities. Crisp packets and soap packaging aside, there are also programme for cheese wrappers, snack & confectionary packaging, toothbrushes & dental care packaging, games & toys, disinfectant wipes and Marigold gloves… the list goes on! Businesses can also purchase Zero Waste Boxes to recycle packing from items such as arts supplies, baby gear, beauty products, casste & VHS tapes, used gum (!)… again, the list goes on, and importantly in the current era, include disposable PPE items.

The public recycling schemes are free to use, and work on a clever community-based model. Individuals set up drop-off locations by finding a public place to place the collection box, getting permission to do so and signing up with Terracycle do getthings going. Terracycle provide all the gear and the individual ships the waste to Terracycle to do their thing once a suitable quantity has been collected. One everyone has a collection point within a 5-mile radius the scheme is full; otherwise you can set up your own scheme and get collecting. What’s more, partners who have set up a collection earn rewards for waste they return, which can be redeemed as donations to a charity of their choice. Genius!

I’m excited to find that there are collection points nearby for some of my more frequently used items, such as crisp packets, dental care and laundry packaging. Even more so that there could be an opportunity for me to set up a new collection point for other items that aren’t yet accounted for in my local area! I’m going to get the lowdown on what it entails to set up a scheme, but it feels like it could bethe perfect way to do a little bit of good in my community without taking on too much burden. Win-win!

Oh, and Terracycle is operating in over 20 countries worldwide, so it’s not only people in the UK who can benefit! Check out their website to find out more about the programmes, locate your nearby collection points, purchase Zero Waste boxes or set up a scheme. Happy Terracycling!

Travel & Transport

Deepest disappointment and glimmers of hope…

I wrote a while back about how I hoped people’s travel behaviours – both locally and on a global scale – would change in the post-pandemic world. This is the first in a short series of posts to reflect on those hopes and on my own travel actions and aspirations.

Many cyclists, walkers and urban residents alike will relate to the sense of relief and satisfaction that came with the quiet roads of the lockdown period. What a joy to be able to enjoy travelling by foot or bike without fear of being squashed at any moment, and to be able to move freely by car on those occasions when you really needed to. Oh, how I thought people would realise how much better life was for spending so much less of it in a car, realise the rewards of active travel, recognise that so many of their usual trips were unnecessary, and that life as it returned back towards ‘normal’ would lose a little of its car-centricity. This felt like such a tangible, almost inevitable outcome during those early weeks, and yet, as far as I can see now, couldn’t have been further than the truth of the situation that transpired.

What happened, in fact, was that as soon as people were allowed out and about again, the volume of traffic on the roads very quickly returned almost to pre-lockdown levels, compounded no doubt in my area by the combination of scorching summer weather, the proximity of one of Europe’s best beaches and the proportion of people still furloughed or off school. What gets to me though isn’t the number of vehicles on the road per se – disappointing as that is in itself – but the behaviour of those in charge of them: there has been a palpable upturn in aggressive driving, the proportion of inconsiderate and frankly dangerous drivers through the roof compared to pre-lockdown times (and it wasn’t great in these parts before).

Why is this? Understandably some groups of people are perhaps more stressed than usual, and hot weather is known to bring about higher levels of anger and antisocial behaviour in general, not just on the roads (case in point: the major incident that was declared in Bournemouth & Poole during the heatwave  at the end of June). But what of the supposed increased sense of community spirit and greater good brought on by the pandemic? I’m struggling to see evidence of this anymore and am instead faced with ever-growing polarisation and individualisation; every person out for themselves, getting from A to B as fast as possible no matter the consequences. An avid cyclist, I’m bordering on frightened to go out in my local area because of how things are on the roads, and historically I’ve been one to suck it up and, keep my wits about me and deal with the dick-moves when they come; all part of being a ‘roady’; but it feels like it’s gone beyond that point now and that the level of risk is tangibly high enough to avoid certain areas at all costs.

This isn’t, however, meant as a sob story about my own life. Five people a day – cyclists and walkers – are killed on the roads my motor vehicles in the UK every day, a sad fact that is under-reported and not at all adequately dealt with. What’s more, this figure will inevitably increase if people’s driving doesn’t become more considerate.

And that’s not to mention the environmental impact brought on by the sheer volume of traffic on the roads: it has been reported that during lockdown – which obviously involved a huge reduction in all forms of transport, notably flying, as well as car driving – globally there was just a 5% decrease in carbon emissions (though this could be as high as 8%). Bearing in mind that the level of reduction required per year to limit global warming to acceptable levels is 7.6% per year this decade, you can see there is a long way to go. If a global lockdown barely generates such a reduction in emissions, as life returns to what people like to call ‘normal’, some drastic changes are needed in the way we live those normal lives, with the way (and amount) we travel being a key part of the puzzle.

In an encouraging development occurring as a direct result of the pandemic, local authorities in the UK have been able to draw on funding to make walking & cycling more practical and appealing. With a progressive council leadership currently in place in my own local area, this has led to rapid and meaningful action to stand up new bike lanes and ‘modal filters’ which make active travel more attractive and, crucially, will encourage people to think twice before making short journeys by car (because certain residential streets are no longer usable as through-routes by motor vehicle).

Whilst having a mixed range of impacts – making angry drivers angrier being a possible by-product, for instance – such measures are fairly quick and simple to implement yet could transform a local area once they’ve had time to bed in. our own local council is running consultations on new schemes which may lead to their becoming permanent as positive feedback comes in. at the same time, those people who would prefer to drive everywhere (but are physically able to do otherwise) may slowly come to terms with the ‘new normal’ and discover the benefits of active travel for themselves.

So there we have it: for me, both deepest disappointment and glimmers of hope in terms of the influence of COVID-19 on people’s travel choices. Of course, my views are shaped by my own frame of reference, both in terms of existing beliefs & values and the unique experience of my own local area. How do you relate to what I’ve written here, if at all? What were your own hopes ad aspirations for the impact of COVID-19 on the world, and have these been realised? I’d love to hear about it…

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Recipe: Tasty 5-Ingredient Crunchy Nut Bites

Here’s the promised recipe for my Crunchy Nut Bites. Super simple to make with just 5 ingredients, and as tasty as honey nut cornflakes themselves, it’s a corker of a sweet snack: give it a try!

This play on the popular cereal tastes like the real deal but cleverly combines natural ingredients to create a healthier version, finished off with just a little sprinkling of honey nut cornflakes for added crunch and an indulgent touch. Dates give that classic caramel-like taste, but you could also use apricots which work well but alter the taste to a fruitier version.

The main equipment you need for this recipe is a good blender or food processor. I recommend Magimix which is just great for making all sorts of things. I use their 3200 model.

Ingredients:

  • 20g bran flakes
  • 100g dates
  • 2-3 big heaped tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • (Optional: drizzle of maple syrup)
  • Handful honey nut cornflakes

How to make:

Soak the dates for 10-20 minutes to soften slightly, which makes it easier to bring the mixture together later.

Put the bran flakes in a food processor and blend until they’re ground up really small. Drain the dates well, add them to the processor and blend until these are finely chopped. Pour in two heaped tablespoons of peanut butter and whizz up to bring it all together.

Check the consistency to see if the mixture sticks together: it will be quite crumbly but should hold its shape when pressed. Add more peanut butter and/or a drizzle of maple syrup if desired, along with your cashews. Blend until the cashews are chopped up and the mixture is the right consistency.

Take a handful of honey nut cornflakes and crush with your hands onto a plate. Grab little bits of the mixture and form into rounds (the size is up to you; I like really small ones that you can just pop into you mouth). Press two sides of each piece into the crushed flakes so you end up with little medallions (you could go for balls but I find pressing rather than rolling gets more coating to stick).

And there you have it: your tasty Crunchy Nut Bites are ready! They’ll keep in the fridge in an air-tight container for about a week. Enjoy!

There’s more where this came from, so if you like what you see feel free to follow the blog to be the first to know when knew recipes are posted!

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Gardening, Recipes

Container Gardening: steps to self-sufficiency!

I posted a while back about my very modest progress in the world of growing my own veg this year, and have achieved so much more since then I barely know where to start!

My biggest challenge was being unsure whether I had the space to plant very much: whilst we have access to a yard, it’s all concrete so we’re limited to planting in pots & containers, and there’s only so much you can grow in small spaces. Fortuitously, our landlord had some old palletes lying around, and used these to build two new planters (one for flowers to please the landlord’s aesthetical preferences; one for veg!). Not only did it feel great to minimise waste by reusing the old wood, but it massively increased the space we had availabe at home for growing and opened up opportunities to grow a bigger variety of goodies.

I’ve got a couple of rows of beetroot coming on strong, and a few carrots after a precarious start. I thought all the seeds had totally failed but it turns out it takes a few weeks for the seedlings to show, so with patience came reward in the end! You’ll see they’re interspersed with another type of plant; those are just flowers to help hide the carrots from the dreaded ‘carrot-fly’ pest. I’m experimenting with a few different varieties of carrot: the ones you see here will be purple, and just today I’ve planted a fly-resistant variety to fill the gaps and Amsterdam variety which grow well in small spaces in their own little pot. Watch this space for more on how they all do!

I also love the makeshift greenhouse, which takes up limited space and offer a chance to grow things that love heat even in the most basic of gardens. We’ve got some lettuce, cucumber and pepper plants in there at the moment. I’m particularly excited to see how the peppers do and thankful that I was donated the plants by a friend!

In other news, our tomatoes are coming on amazingly well. They’re really strong and lots of flowers have appeared already. Again the space available is confined by keeping our landlord happy with how things look, so it’s nice that the plants can sit in a nice neat row along the fance. They’re joined by my 2 surviving strawberry plants and a blackberry bush, as well as my beloved herb wheel. I love using fresh herbs from outside my door in cooking! My favorite is this green hummus recipe, which is bursting with lovely summery flavours.

I also have some other great recipes up my sleeve for home-grown veg, which I can’t wait to show you once the fruits of my labour start to materialise. As a teaser, here’s a picture of my bangin’ beetroot burgers (made with shop-bought on this occasion!), which I’m super excited to share the recipe for when I’ve got my own beetroot from the ground. You’ll have to take my word for it for now, but honestly, it’s SO GOOD, you don’t want to miss it! Follow the blog to keep up to date and be the first to see new recipes when they land.

Are you growing veg yourself or hoping to start? I’d love to hear from you! Post in the comments to share your story 🙂

eco friendly products, Recipes

Making my own snacks to save on waste!

I love making my own tasty, clean and eco-friendly sweet snacks, which is both healthier for me and reduces the amount of packaging I have to buy and dispose of! I’ve enjoyed experimenting with some fun energy ball flavours these last couple of weeks… Let me know if you’d like to see recipes and be sure to follow me for updates when they drop!

Crunchy Nut bites
Chewy date, nut & oat bars
Dark chocolate, apricot & pistachio balls
eco friendly products, Plastic Pollution

Introducing my favourite eco-friendly household items

When it comes to making eco-friendly choices, I find household items are one of the most challenging things. So many of the basic things we use in daily life – like toiletries and cleaning products – generate a lot of plastic waste and other environmental issues. From growing natural sponges to recyclable toothpaste tubes, slowly I’m discovering an array of products that are helping me overcome those problems. I’d like to share a few here and hope you’ll share some back!

Eco-friendly toothpaste

I have to admit, I was devastated a few years ago when I found out that my favourite toothpaste – the kind that has ‘micro-crystals’ in it to get your teeth squeaky-clean – was full of plastic. Exactly the thing I loved about it was tiny bits of plastic that ended up in the sea causing all sorts of harm to the animals who unwittingly ingested it. Disappointedly and dutifully, I immediately stopped using this type of toothpaste, but have continued to be bothered by the non-recyclable packaging that toothpaste inevitably comes in.

That is, until yesterday. I’ve recently been pleased to see charcoal toothpaste becoming fashionable – yes, it’s overpriced and gimmicky, but at least it’s more natural than plastic – and was hunting for the best-value version I could find, when I spotted Colgate’s Smile for Good toothpaste in fully recyclable packaging! I was embittered to find it was a good deal more expensive than other basic toothpastes (aside from all the fashionable whitening varieties and so on), but my moral compass told me I had no choice but to buy it now I knew it was on offer. i do feel happier knowing I’m now empowered to make such a choice, and have also been enjoying Colgate’s bamboo/charcoal toothbrushes. Well done, Colgate!

New recyclable packaging from Colgate

Coconut scrubbers

Coconut scrubbers & scourers seem to have made a mini-explosion in the cleaning products market, and it’s easy to see why. Over the last few months, I’ve been using an EcoCoconut scourer for the first time, and it’s excellent. They’re naturally antibacterial, which is an obvious plus for washing your dishes, and are also highly effective at scrubbing whilst also being non-abrasive, so they won’t ruin your pans. My dishes are clean and I’m no longer sending endless little bits of micro-plastic down the drain from a traditional scourer: it’s win-win!

Lush shampoo bars

When I talk about shampoo bars, friend often instantly retort that ‘they’re no good; they make my hair greasy’. Now, I’ve personally never used any shampoo bar other than Lush – I’ve never needed to because they’re so good – but have also heard friends say Lush is the only shampoo bar that doesn’t make their hair greasy. In other words, if you think you don’t get along with shampoo bars but haven’t tried the Lush ones, do it. They are, in short, amazing.

Not only are there obvious benefits of the plastic-free nature of this solution, but I find this stuff is just so good for my hair. I don’t need to wash it as often as I used to, and my bar of choice – Honey I Washed My Hair – is so softening I don’t even need conditioner. What’s more, their solid nature makes them easy to travel with and you can buy a handy tin or cork holder to transport them in. Brilliant!

Natural sponges

This could be a bit of a wildcard, but this year I’m attempting to grow my own sponges! We were offered a luffa plant (or loofah – same thing different spelling!) and jumped at the chance. This is the plant that the well-known back-scrubbing device luffa comes from. It’s a vine plant that produces fruit of a cucumber-type shape which, once dried out, can be used for various purposes such as slicing to use as sponges or scourers. I’ve read they can be a bit tricky to grow so will be interested to see how it pans out. I’m really excited to be giving it a go as it combines my newfound love of self-sufficiency through gardening with my passion to reduce waste from packaging. Watch this space!

Over to you…

What are your favourite eco-friendly household items? I’d love to hear from you so we can all learn from each other. Share your thoughts in the Comments and be sure to follow the blog if you’d like to keep up with my antics. Until next time!

Gardening, Recipes

Summer Hummus with Garden Herbs

I love using home-grown ingredients and the satisfaction that comes from that little bit of self-sufficiency. It’s too early for any fruit and veggies yet but my herbs are going strong and I wanted to share with you my summer hummus recipe that’s perfect for this time of year.

Hummus is my go-to lunch item as I try to stick to a high proportion of plant-based food. Given that I make it every week, the traditional version can get a bit samey, so I enjoy trying out different flavour combinations.

This lovely green hummus makes a great alternative to the classic recipe and is alive with the flavours of summer. I make it without tahini which gives it a certain lightness, but you can always add a tablespoon or two if you like. Mint and lemon verbena really give it that summery zing, but you can use whatever herbs you like from your garden; feel free to experiment with different combinations. Some of the quantities are deliberately vague as I like to be relaxed and go with the flow whilst making this, and encourage you to do the same!

Equipment:

Ingredients:

  • 400g tin chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or 125g dried chickpeas
  • Large handful of frozen peas
  • Handful of spinach (fresh or frozen)
  • Small handful of mint and lemon verbena leaves (or other fresh herbs)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • A good glug of olive oil
  • Salt, pepper and chilli powder to taste

Method:

If using dried chickpeas, cook or sprout them according to your preferred method ahead of making your hummus. Otherwise, drain the can of chickpeas and save the aquafaba.

Put your frozen peas in the saucepan on a medium heat for a few minutes. Once warmed through, rinse with cool water to bring back to room temperature.

Peel and roughly chop the garlic. Add it to the food processor with the chickpeas, peas, spinach and herbs. Whizz up until very finely chopped, scraping down the sides with the spatula occasionally if needed.

Juice half the lemon and add the juice to the processor along with a good glug of olive oil (a couple of tablespoons) and a splash of the aquafaba. Blend for a good few minutes until smooth (it takes patience!). Add more aquafaba if needed to get the desired consistency.

Taste and adjust: add lemon juice/zest, olive oil, salt pepper and chilli powder and continue to blend until you’ve reached your ideal flavour balance. Transfer to your container and store in the fridge. It’ll keep well for about 5 days.

Top tip: if your food processor has an accessory designed to help get a smooth consistency, use it! In the case of Magimix, I use the BlenderMix which stops the ingredients flying up the sides of the bowl, keeping them close to the blade an ensuring more effective blending.

Serve simply with pitta and carrot sticks or as a refreshing side to a summer salad.

A great alternative is to use broad beans in place of the peas & spinach, and add some green chilli for extra zing, Yummy!

I’ve got some other lovely home-grown recipes up my sleeve, so be sure to follow me to be the first to know about new recipes when they drop!

Note: As an Amazon Associate I will earn commission from qualifying purchases via links in this blog