The Big 4

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When it comes to Plastic Free July and reducing your single-use plastics for the long-term good of the planet in general and the oceans in particular, there are 4 major culprits.

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Although they are the worst offenders, I think it is relatively easy to make changes to eliminate many of them.

In no particular order they are:

Coffee cups
Bags
Straws
Bottles

Why are they regarded as the biggest problems?

  1.  Volume – there are just so many used every single day.
  2.  Only used once in most instances.
  3. Lightweight – so they easily become unintentional litter which ends up in waterways and ultimately in the ocean.
  4. Unnecessary – there are easy alternatives.

What do you currently do and what can you change to reduce your usage of these plastic ‘nasties’?

I will address one of these items each day and today I will begin with coffee cups.

Australians have developed a love affair with coffee, and more specifically takeaway coffee.  Once upon a time we were a nation of tea drinkers and coffee was almost a special occasion drink.  Even more recently the norm was to go to a cafe and sit down with a cup of coffee.  However, the trend of grabbing a coffee ‘to go’ has become a national pastime and we are killing the oceans in the process.

Those innocuous paper cups are NOT recyclable, compostable or anything else.  They are rubbish, that at best ends up in landfill or at worst in the ocean.  This is because they are made of composite materials, including a layer of plastic.

The recent ABC television program, ‘War on Waste’ shone the light squarely on disposable coffee cups and the havoc they are creating.

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I am not a coffee drinker and fail to grasp what amounts to an addiction to coffee but you can still have your ‘caffeine fix’ without destroying the planet.

Simply take your reusable cup along to your favourite cafe and have it filled for you to take away.  Simple.  Easy.  We could very quickly eliminate disposable coffee cups.

Some cafes even offer a discount as an incentive to bring your own mug.  If your cafe is not willing to oblige you could vote with your feet and take your custom elsewhere as there are no shortage of cafes looking for your business.  Remember, conscious consumption can make a difference.

So, what is your coffee story?  Do you take a reusable cup for your coffee?  How it is received?  Do you get a discount?

 

 

A Critical Mass

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The Australian government continues to lag behind most of the rest of the world when it comes to any kind of action with respect to climate change.  I have often thought that any serious action would need to be driven by a groundswell of public opinion but despaired that it would ever happen.

For many years I have felt like I was swimming against the tide as I refused excess packaging, tried to avoid as much single-use plastic as possible and generally tried to reduce my carbon footprint as much as possible.  Gradually, I have seen an increase in groups and individuals trying to make a difference but recently this seems to have taken a definite upswing.

There even seems to be some interest in the mainstream media with programs such as ‘War on Waste‘.

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Are we reaching a point where there are enough voices to actually begin to make a difference?  What do you think?

Fit to Wear

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There are many ways of approaching the goal of producing less waste but for me, one of the most obvious things is to consume less and make do with what you have.

Mending, repairing and refashioning will significantly extend the life of items, save them from landfill for longer and of course, reduce the need to purchase a replacement.

Here is a practical example that I did this morning in less than an hour.

This is GMan’s sweatshirt which he wears on the weekend when gardening, mowing and painting as you can see.  The cuffs and lower band are all frayed and badly stretched but the body of the garment is still relatively sound.

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When I said that I could replace the cuffs, he commented how much he liked the fit of it – although I don’t think ‘fit’ is actually the right word.  So, The first thing I did was to make a pattern for future reference.

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I use lightweight interfacing for this purpose and have a roll of it.  I find the patterns cut on interfacing are durable and unlikely to tear.

There are only 2 pieces required – one for the front and back (with different necklines marked) and one for the sleeves.

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Next, I had a dig in my stash of ribbing to find a suitable piece.  I found some bottle green which was exactly enough for the lower band and sleeve cuffs – no wastage at all.

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I then found a piece of black for the neckband and set to work.  I will not try to explain how the ribbing is attached as there are plenty of good instructions which can be found using Google.

The final result.

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GMan is happy and I am sure this will see plenty more wear in the garden.

 

The Last Drop

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It is often difficult to extract the last of a product from the container using the regular method of dispensing.  However, there are ways of getting the best value from what you have bought and minimising the amount of waste.

Bottles of shampoo and tubes of toothpaste are classic examples of where there is often unused product which is discard.  Buying the largest bottle available is a good strategy because you come to the end of the bottle less frequently.  You can add a little water to shampoo, conditioner and laundry liquid bottles and get several more uses from them.

Tubes can be cut open to reveal more than you can ever hope to extract via the nozzle.  Here is a tube of face wash which I have cut the end off.

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This is not the face wash I usually use but it was left behind some months ago by a guest and I felt it would be a waste to just throw it out so a few weeks ago I decided to use it.  There was not a lot left in the tube but once I had squeezed out what I could I then unscrewed the lid and was able to get a bit more on the tip of my finger for several more days.

I cut the end off yesterday and discovered that there was quite a bit more.

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I estimate that there is at least enough for another week, possibly longer.  It is definitely a worthwhile exercise to spend 2 seconds to cut off the end of the tube rather than tossing all of this in the bin.

What do you do to make sure that nothing gets wasted?

Gobsmacked

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Sometimes titles for my posts are really easy to choose and other times it is a little harder.  The title for today was immediately obvious.

According to the dictionary it means utterly astounded.  Yes, that really sums it up.

I and many, many others care about waste, saving the planet, using resources wisely and so on.  Some people are more passionate and devoted to their cause than others and all of us do our bit in different ways.  However, almost everyone makes some effort.

So, I was shocked yesterday when a young work colleague appeared with a large handful of good quality, plastic-coated paper clips and announced that someone was throwing them out.  I have a small box of these at work which I carefully use and re-use as files become obsolete and and put in the confidential waste bin for shredding and the large handful was more than my entire collection.

Worse was yet to come.  She returned with another handful and announced that there were ‘heaps more’.  My curiosity got the better of me and I went with her to check out the source.  I found that someone had thrown a bulk quantity of these paper clips into a green wheelie bin in another area of the office.

I quickly considered my options and located a reuseable shopping bag from another work colleague and we set about retrieving as many as we could.

These paper clips were loose and not contained so they would quickly and easily slip to the bottom of the bin which was already about 2/3 full.  We carefully scooped up handfuls and although we could not get them all, I feel that we probably saved about 90% of the discarded paper clips.

Here is the result of our efforts.  I apologise for the poor quality of the photos.

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Half a bag full of paper clips which I estimate weighs between 5 and 8kg.  It was so heavy when I lifted it that I carried it in my arms rather than by the handles because I was concerned that they would break.

Here is a close-up.

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I am still angry when I think about the appalling waste that this represents – both in environmental and economic terms.  The other question that bothers me, is why did someone come to have this many paper clips in the first place?

What did I do?

Firstly, I have no idea how these are going to be used, so at the moment, the bag is in the bottom of the small storage cupboard beside my desk.  It is just as well that I maintain minimal ‘stuff’ at work as well as at home so there was some spare space.

Secondly, I sent an email and photographs to the team who are responsible for sustainability on a corporate level.  I do not know who discarded these paper clips, nor do I want to, but the team who work hard to improve the sustainable credentials of the business need to know where there are problems and develop strategies to change this sort of behaviour.  I believe that this is an extreme but not isolated incident.

The next challenge is to work out how best to distribute these paper clips to people who will use and reuse them wisely.  What do you think?

A New Life

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In the 6 years that I have been writing this blog there have been numerous posts about mending and repairing clothes to extend their life.

Tonight I want to show you a couple of projects I completed on the weekend.

This was a long-sleeved shirt which was worn at the cuffs.  The traditional repair of this problem is ‘turn’ the cuffs, that is, to remove the cuff and replace it with the worn outside to the inside, thus doubling the life of the shirt.  Unfortunately, this had worn right on the edge and was visible from both the right and wrong sides.  So, I decided on a different course of action as it is a much-loved shirt.

Using an existing short-sleeved shirt as pattern, I re-fashioned it to a short-sleeved shirt.

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The excess that was cut off did not go completely to waste, either.  I removed the buttons and added them to my stash because, to quote my late father, “you never know when it might come in handy”.  I think that growing up in the Great Depression drove much of his thinking in that respect.  I do not hoard stuff but I do recognise that some things are likely to have a potential future use.  It is all a matter of balance.  I also managed to cut 6 x 5″ squares for future patchwork projects.

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My next project is a perfect example of when those salvaged bits do actually come in handy.  A elastic in a pair of GMan’s shorts had stretched to the point where even the associated drawstring was not sufficient to comfortably keep them up.

I unpicked the stitching and removed the elastic and salvaged the drawstring.  I just needed some suitable elastic and I would be able to reconstruct the shorts.  I found some that I had kept from some underpants that had worn out!  Of course, the fabric from the underpants had ended up in the rag bag.

Here are the shorts with the elastic removed and the drawstring and ‘new’ elastic ready to be re-assembled.

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So, thanks to my stash of salvaged elastic the shorts have been repaired and are as good as new at zero cost.

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What’s the Obsession?

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I am intrigued.  I read various posts from Facebook groups, blogs and various forums on the internet and am constantly amazed by some of the questions posed and resultant discussions.

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There are many questions about saving money and bargains to be had.  But is it really a bargain if you did not intend to buy it and more so if you have no idea of what you are going to do with it?  An example is, “Help, I bought a box of bananas for $5, what can I do with them?”  Invariably, there are lots of useful responses and I sincerely hope that the person manages to use them wisely and does not end up wasting their money.

It is even more odd when I read, “What else can I use shampoo for?  I have 4 bottles in the cupboard.”  I am tempted to reply with, “Use it to wash your hair”.  It seems that people stock up on an item and then want to use it up as quickly as possible.  I want to make things last as long as possible.

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I think too many people are seduced by the crowd – shop for a bargain, stockpile, use it up, downsize, declutter.  Whatever the catchcry of the day, they seem to feel the need to jump on the bandwagon.  It is no wonder they feel confused.

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My advice is to think independently, decide what works for you, make your own choices, forge your own path and don’t be sucked in by the crowd.

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The only things I buy are what I know I will use.  I buy larger quantities of items where I have to travel some distance or out of my way simply to avoid having to do that every week.  I have enough food to feed us for weeks, or in some cases, months.  Fruit and vegetables are bought locally each week so I try to buy only what I need in an effort to eliminate any waste.  If there is cheap produce, I will buy it if I have the time and skills to prepare and store it.

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What is your experience?  Do you stockpile or keep the bare minimum?  Have you changed your shopping habits/philosophy over time?