Tag Archives: recycling

Emily’s EcoJustice Challenge – are you up for it?

I tumbled across Emily’s EcoJustice Challenge when reading Charlotte’s blog. Please read Emily’s whole post, in the meantime, I’m cutting to the chase and quoting verbatim.

So, here is how this challenge will work. The first step is for anyone who wants to participate to pass the link onto at least five other people (or even if you don’t plan to participate, if you like the idea, please pass it on). If you have a blog of your own, this can easily be accomplished merely by linking to this site in a post on your own blog. Below is a list of things you can choose to do. Once every quarter between now and April 21, 2009, I will add to this list. Your challenge is to choose something from this list, to experiment with it, and to post about it here. Or, if you’d rather not post, that’s fine. You can just choose what you want and leave comments on this blog. You can choose to implement as many or as few from the list as you would like. You can choose to stick with one (or more) for an entire quarter, or you can mix and match (one — or more — this month, a different one next month, etc.). My hope is that by the end of the year, at least one item from the whole list will have become a way of life for you and your family. And if you’re already doing some or all of these things, come up with others you want to do, share them with us, and post on them instead.

To join the blog as a posting member, please send an email to: ecojustice08 AT gmail DOT com with your user name and the email address you’d like to use for the purposes of this blog. I will add you to the list of users. Also, please post on your own blog, if you have one. That’s it. And now, here are your choices for this quarter:

1. Choose one day a week in which you will not use your car at all (barring a major emergency, like having to drive your spouse/child to the hospital for stitches). Before you immediately dismiss this one, because you have to drive to and from work every day, please think about it. Is there no one with whom you could carpool two days a week? If so, the day you’re not driving would be the perfect day not to use your car at all.

2. Choose one “black out night” per week. All lights and all electrical appliances are off by 7:30 p.m. and don’t go on again until the next morning. What will you do without lights, television, your computer? Well, the weather’s getting nice where many of us live. Sit out on the porch/deck and tell stories. Read by candle light. Write letters by candle light. Play games by candle light. You know, people did this sort of thing for thousands of years. My guess is that if you have kids, this will be an exciting and fun challenge for them.

3. Choose two days a week in which you are only going to eat organic and/or locally-grown food. Do you know that inorganic farming is one of the best examples of evolution that we’ve got going these days? All the pesticides that have been used to grow our food have helped to create “super bugs” who are becoming more and more resistant to our chemicals. We’re definitely losing this battle in more ways than one. Talk to the people at your local farmer’s markets. Many of them are growing their food organically anyway; they just aren’t certified, because it’s a difficult and expensive process to be so. Buying locally, of course, cuts down on the oil used to transport food long distances.

4. If you need to go anywhere that’s within a 2-mile round trip radius of your home, walk or bike. Where might this be? The first place that springs to mind for me is your children’s school bus stop. Perhaps the post office is close to your home. The library? For me, it’s both the post office and the bank. If you’re super lucky, maybe you have a farmer’s market that’s close by. Or maybe you don’t live close enough to anything, but you do work close by to that deli, say, where you always drive to pick up lunch.

5. Read that challenging book about the environment that you’ve been putting off reading, you know the one you don’t want to read, because it might make you a little uncomfortable (e.g. The World without Us, Diet for a Small Planet, Affluenza). Read it. Post about it. Maybe implement an idea or two based on what you’ve read.

6. Buy only those things sold in recyclable packaging and make sure you recycle that packaging.

None of it should be too hard, right?

But all of it really is hard, isn’t it?

I’m going for the two options I’m already nearly doing, I’m afraid, which are the organic and local veg and recycling the packaging.  But since I’m already 3/4ths of the way there with those two, I’m also going to go for the lights-out option one day a week because it’s summer and it should be easy.   The thing that would make the biggest difference is if I wangled a transfer and worked in t’city, because I could get there by public transport.  Hmmm.  Small steps, I think, for the time being.



I’ve mentioned already that I work near an art gallery. I noticed a piece of opportunistic recycling as I walked into town today.

Reinstall 02

Apparently the artist

“creates new relationships, experimenting with unexpected combinations of materials creating objects and environments, which encourage us to see the everyday world with fresh eyes”

and she

“fashions monumental objects from scrapyard materials and throws them away after use”

Though I do wonder if a graffitied garage door is quite what she intended. It pleased me though.

My Legendary Bookcase. Shelf.

Ladies and gentlemen…

… let me present …

My Legendary Bookcase

My Legendary Bookcase - 01

Actually of course it isn’t a bookcase at all, it’s a bookshelf. However I am inordinately pleased with it. For over a year it was entirely Mythical while no-one else thought it could, would or ever should exist. Since it is now manifest, it seems only right that it should be promoted to Legendary.

My Legendary Bookcase - 03It began its life as a twinkle in my mind’s eye early last summer when my neighbour threw out some pine floorboards and the council started digging up the by-pass.

Hmmm. Now that I write it, that sequence of cause and effect does look rather odd, even to me. I am sure you can see the relevance of floorboards to a set of free-standing bookshelves. The by-pass never actually came into the thing, but it was my Muse. When the workmen ripped out the old armco barriers they piled high stacks of wooden posts which whispered to me “take us home and use us to support the floorboards and make a bookcase”. Shelf. Bookshelf. They were rough and interesting and distressed and chunky bits of wood. They’d have looked fab. Now I am a socially confident woman, but stopping at the building site and asking if I could have the posts from the armco barriers was a complicated conversation I just didn’t feel up to having, so I kept on putting it off. Then one day they were gone and I thought I’d lost my chance.

I was telling a friend of mine about this and she said “oh, my neighbour’s got some flooring blocks she’s giving away” which was how I came by six bin-bags of flooring blocks, 3″ x 3″ x 6″, with pegs and holes to hold them together and bitumen on one side to glue them to the floor. These were blocks that had lived; some were burned, some were splashed with paint, some were heavily scored and had pieces of metal bedded in them, and almost all were covered in coal-dust. Who keeps coal in a room with a parquet floor? The bin bags also contained earth and some small creatures such as woodlice. I piled them in the car, took them home, invested in a couple of scrubbing brushes and a box of Lux flakes and started cleaning them. I’d worked my way through five of the bags when the autumn set in and it got too cold to sit outside covering myself with soapy water and mud splatters.

My Legendary Bookcase - 05My neighbours took a gentle interest in the proceedings and one of them pointed out that cheap pine tongue and groove floorboards would not hold up to the weight of books. He was right of course. He got me some bits of Southend Pier, but not enough for bookshelves. So once I’d finally cleaned the last of the blocks about six weeks ago and rearranged the living room to clear a space by the wall, I took myself online to look for floorboards. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find floorboards that are 8″ wide and 1″ deep? Don’t bother; it’s damn near impossible. I eventually tracked down a reclaimed timber yard about an hour from where I live. After much scepticism on their part and some delays on mine I went over there a couple of weekends ago. They didn’t have any suitable floorboards, but they did have pew seats. They were about 14″ deep, made of pitch-pine and very, very solid with bull noses, flat on one side and gently curved for pious bottoms on the other. They cut them into 5′ lengths for me, tactfully not telling me they thought I was mad all the while they did it.

And lo! After some considerable time knocking the flooring blocks together with their little pegs and almost as much time cleaning the dirt off the pews and fannying around with a tape measure and a spirit level, we have My Legendary Bookcase. Shelf. Bookshelf. A particularly pleasing part of the whole pleasing exercise is that I had exactly the right number of wooden blocks, which is all the more remarkable because I selected them at random from a pile of the things in the middle of last summer.

I really am pleased with it.

My Legendary Bookcase - 06

Apologies for the quality of the photographs, I took them as the light was fading yesterday evening, and the camera on the Ericsson 850 is noticably less sharp and crisp than it was when I bought it. I should probably clean the lens.

Going green

Like Charlotte, like a lot of us, I am trying to be greener. Unfortunately when I bought my house a year ago, I did not pay attention to the poor public transport connections between where I live and where I work. Let’s put the rather embarrassing fact that I drive about 20,000 miles a year on one side. I am finally making practical changes to my lifestyle which make me feel virtuous, even though will make no practical difference to the future of the planet at all.

(1) Freecycling. http://www.freecycle.org – just the most wonderful idea. A true example of think global, act local. The website provides links to tens of thousands of yahoo email groups, and the idea is that stuff is offered for free locally. The chances are high that there is one in your town. So far I have got rid of two half bottles of Citroen hydraulic fluid (how else would one get rid of that?) a couple of tickets to Alton Towers and a clothes rail. When I told a colleague he muttered about people taking the good stuff and re-selling it on ebay, but – as with beggars – I’d rather be ripped off than not trust. A lack of trust erodes the soul. I get a huge amount of pleasure out of giving stuff away to be honest, and this is a cool route to a quick hit.

(2) Padded curtains. This comes under the energy efficiency section really. I am slowly making myself padded curtains for the doors, and curtains with thermal linings for the windows. I’m also putting up thermal roller blinds in the windows. If you are having curtains made, you should be able to order padded interlining and thermal linings, and making curtains really is not that difficult. You just need a large floor for cutting out and pinning, and the ability to sew in fairly straight lines.

(3) Woolly jumpers. This comes under the energy efficiency section too. Looking back on it, it astonished me that when I was elbow high my grandmother and my mother would change into long skirts in the evening. With my grandmother it was more understandable, a generational habit. My mother was younger so it was odder. These long skirts were not glamorous. They were home-made out of worsted or some other itchy wool and because they were itchy they were lined. When I asked my mother why she bothered, she said “but it gets cold in the evenings”. And indeed it did. Ice on the inside of the windows cold. So what I had assumed to be a legacy of pre-war standards was just a matter of thermal-efficiency. I draw my personal line at long skirts, but I do have sheepskin slippers and woolly jumpers and cardigans.

(4) Carbon Neutrality. This one really is papering over the cracks in one’s conscience. Essentially, you work out your carbon profile, and then pay a company to plant enough trees to ‘compensate’. The problem with this is that current experiments in forests in the US, Germany and Australia are challenging the received wisdom that trees reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and that most people won’t do it. I am sure there was a similar scheme run by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. Pardons? Indulgences? I need a medievalist to tell me. On the other hand, I like trees, so I regard it as a charitable gesture and hope for the best.

(5) Organic Veg box scheme. The internet was made to make it easy to find box schemes for organic veg. The reason for using small schemes is that they use veg from local farms, so you are improving your local economy, eating fresher food and reducing your food-miles. Do not be seduced by supermarket schemes. Their schemes just pimp out their existing vegetable section; and like most pimps, the supermarkets bully their suppliers and don’t care about food-miles. I rather like the randomness of not knowing what veg I will get next week, and the discipline of planning my meals around what I’ve got.

(6) Composting. My local council sells compost bins ‘worth’ £40 for six quid. With an offer like that it’d be rude not to. Mind you, one of my neighbours muttered darkly about smells, so I had to say “if it smells, we’ll get rid of it” – I did offer him the compost for his allotment, which made him marginally less gloomy about the whole thing.

(7) Recycling paper, glass, metal, plastic. Did you know you can recycle plastic milk- and drinks-bottles? Neither did I until our local kerbside recycling scheme started up. I recycled before, but at least my car is no longer full of carrier bags of tins and bottles waiting for me to take them to a supermarket recycling centre. The composting and recycling have reduced my rubbish to landfill by about 2/3rds, which is practical and pleasing.

(8) Public Transport. Having admitted that I drive some 20,000 miles annually, I do try to take the train or the bus when it is sensible. National Express is one of Britain’s unsung transport treasures. Trains too, are much easier to use now that we have the internet to plan journeys and book tickets, and there are some oddly useful routes, Birmingham to Brighton via Kensington and Gatwick for example. I still think that a rail journey should be significantly cheaper than the same journey by car, but that is another rant for another blog.

(9) Expensive stuff. Now we move into the realms of expensive stuff, like solar roof panels, lpg vehicle fuel, and domestic wind turbines. I haven’t done any of this, but it is interesting that B&Q are starting to sell this stuff (though in what sort of world can £2498 be described as “only”?) In the meantime it seems simplest just to give a list of links which kinder and greener people gave me when I was first investigating the subject.

  • The Low Carbon Buildings Programme – which makes the expensive stuff cheaper: “The low carbon buildings programme will provide grants for microgeneration technologies to householders, community organisations, schools, the public and not for profit sector and private businesses.”
  • The Centre of Exellence for New and Renewable Energy – A good source of information on the choices available for domestic generation – “NaREC is involved in developing the micro-generation technology. We are supporting items as diverse as roof parapet wind turbines, biomass combined heat and power, and systems to integrate renewable generation into homes at the build stage.”
  • The Centre for Alternative Technology – “We address every aspect of the average lifestyle – the key areas we work in are renewable energy, environmental building, energy efficiency, organic growing and alternative sewage systems.”
  • The Alternative Technnology Centre – slightly dippy-hippy organisation based in West Yorkshire (it runs courses on how to recycle plastics as a medium for crafts, art and technology) – “As an educational resource centre, we aim to make sustainability achievable and simply irresistible by working from a strong base within our local community to provide inspiration, accessible information and advice to improve the quality of life using sustainable means – economic, environmental and social.”
  • Micro-cars – This is so not suitable for me, given that 30% of my mileage is motorways, and another 50% is A roads: But the G-Wiz makes the Smart Car look big, clunky and gas-guzzling. To be honest though, shouldn’t you be using public transport, if you live in a place where this is a suitable vehicle?

Right, enough time indoors this morning! I am off outside to scrub up some reclaimed flooring blocks to use as the uprights in a bookcase. Sustainable forestry? Eat your heart out Ikea!