Sunday, February 10, 2008

Packaging and painting

In our mission to sell up and build an eco house, the staircase has now been painted (photos here), a new door has been hung and may need to be replaced again and various other jobs are underway. We're all working quite hard, in fits and starts, in between being overwhelmed by how much there is to do. Every now and again one or other of us (usually me, of course) can be found stumbling around muttering: "Where do I start?" or "What was I doing?" or "Where did I put - ?" and another one or other of us gently reassures the person and guides them back to the task in hand. Chips are being cooked a lot, and honey sandwiches made by way of sustenance for the workers. People keep turfing unused bits of furniture out of their bedrooms and magically unearthing baskets full of clothes we never knew we had.

In and amongst this hive of activity (by our standards), after the car tax reminder landed on the doormat (about which a tiny bit more here) and I'd seen the blog comments about plastic bags here, we got to thinking about packaging.

Because we don't do all that much with our car on the whole. It takes us to home ed meetings, but a taxi could do that (cheaper than a bus). It gets us to the supermarket, but we could shop online instead. And it takes us to the recycling centre. We were struggling to work out how we could do without this.

We are six people: we buy a lot of food. Most of this is packaged in the usual assortment of bits of plastic which are mostly what fills up our black bin bags. We used to persevere with the bin men, but their determined efforts to fill the bin with stagnant water mixed up with new black bags ground us down in the end. Also the people who collect things to recycle allow you one relatively tiny black boxful which must be stacked just so and we produce three times as much, even if we could be bothered to stack it just so. We have no wheely bins here. No litter fines either though.

So we take it all ourselves in the car. But the government wants to charge us £180 a year for running the car on top of all the other car-running costs and will probably soon start charging us for using the recycling centre too, so we've started wondering whether we can do without the packaging instead.

(Convoluted thinking? Nous?!)

This is a very long way of me asking: has anyone managed to cut down on the packaging they buy? For big families? And if so, how? I'm thinking about buying in bulk from somewhere like Suma, which is only a few miles away, though we'd still need a car to get there unless they do very cheap local deliveries. We could buy the boys' meat from the local butcher instead of the supermarket. More expensive maybe, but maybe not if it saves us from needing to keep the car on the road. I can't think what else we buy that's packaged, but I might collect it all in a pile and take photos sometime, so I can work it out. Or keep a list or something.

The ideal thing would be to take our own food containers somewhere to be filled. But that means driving.

Is there a gap in the market for mobile shops again? That would make sense.


Blogger Jax said...

we are working towards mobile shops I think - have you investigated any of the various box schemes? Some of them do meat and dairy along with vegetables - pricier than supermarket fare, but again is it if you aren't running the car?

7:25 pm, February 10, 2008  
Blogger Tech said...

I did Suma quite regularly, but haven't for a while - must get back into it. They will deliver to you but you have to have a minimum order of £250 (it was last year anyway! Although it may be less for you being closer) and they will not deliver if you live within, I think it's 3 or 5 miles of an independent shop that buys from them. Lovely people though!

8:49 pm, February 10, 2008  
Blogger Minnie said...

We have the same problem. Suma sound great and I'm keen to try them but the minimum order is way too steep for us. Maybe if you could get some other families to join you in the order?

I can't afford to run our car anymore, so it's public transport for us, which is very expensive.

To get round the problem of carrying the shopping, we have a shopping trolley which Junior likes pushing. It's worth its weight in gold!! I'm not a fan of the big supermarkets so we shop all over 'cos we're on such a limited income, but if that wasn't an issue then I suppose I'd shop online.

The recycling is a big bug bear with me. Our lot won't collect plastic and cardboard, only glass, tins and paper. We have the compost bin for food scraps, etc. Unwanted stuff that's ok is either charity bags or freecycle.

Maybe you could arrange with a friend to share a car for a weekly shop and chip in for the petrol? Have to say, I REALLY miss driving. It's the freedom/convenience thing.

10:16 pm, February 10, 2008  
Blogger Beyondmywildest. said...

We use the butcher now. We try to go every four weeks. I don't really know how prices compare but it did surprise me the first time that it wasn't more.
The benefits are that it all just about fits in one freezer draw and there is less meat waste as we can buy it in quantites and cuts that suit us.

11:42 pm, February 10, 2008  
Blogger Raquel said...

hmm I think you need to get on to your council! We are given a roll of red bin liners every 4 months and in those bin liners (weekly) we get to put in all recycleable plastics/glass/carboard it's really easy. We fill about 6 red binliners which go to be recycled and one black binliner a week... They also give us the black binliners free for other waste and there is also a green waste collection too. They are considering food waste collection in the near future.
We fill about 6 red binliners which go to be recycled and one black binliner a week...

I'm also looking for ways to reduce the packaging but I'm glad that whilst I'm investigating, it's all getting recycled. I think our council recycles about 36% of it's rubbish..but aiming to double it soon with other measures.

12:03 am, February 11, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Jax, what is it that stops office workers working from home? Attendance culture, still? Would be good if more could and we might get the mobile shops back then. I keep suggesting it to Tom and Ali, but they're not bursting with enthusiasm at the idea of running one. I think it'd be a great idea though. Box schemes! I'd forgotten about those. Thanks.

Tech, £250 is a lot, isn't it? We could get a taxi to Suma for a tenner and buy direct from the shop! I'm not even going to try to work out the eco logic to that.

Min, yes, we could try that. Good plan. Public transport would definitely be more expensive than a car for us even with the latest tax and fuel rises. We'd have to walk to most places, which might not be a bad thing but we live just too far out of town for it really. I dunno, we'd do it if we had to. And we might, at some point soon, have to. I'd miss driving too, I think. But not if the roads get much busier, or more regulated.

Lucy, it might be an idea for us to buy a freezer then ;-) But they need a constant electricity supply and I'm not sure if we'll have that.

Raquel, I might talk to the council about it, good idea. The thing I hate the most is that pedestrians aren't allowed to use the recycling centre. So if we stopped running the car, we'd have a real problem.

7:32 am, February 11, 2008  
Blogger Daddybean said...

How far is it into town - or other nearby places you need to get to.

How about bikes as part of the answer, partnered with trailer you can carry a surprising amount of stuff with them. (Yes, I know it's W Yorks, I know it proper hills, that's all manageable)

At an Av. 12 mph (not that fast for a bike) a 5 mile journey is 25 minutes.

For waste i think you really have to analyse where it is coming from first, before you can see if you can source products with less, or with more easily disposable packaging rather than plastic. Though lots is hard to avoid.

Though we can recycle a lot of ours now so even in 2 weeks we don't normally get neat filling our general waste wheelie bin

8:51 am, February 11, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

We've still got bikes from when we used to live near the canal and use the tow path a lot. Child seats and everything, but they'd need some fettling. We haven't used them since we moved here because we're at the top of a very steep hill, even by W.Yorks standards. Walking is quicker than trying to get back up here with a bike. And going down on one is just scary! I used to love cycling on the tow path regularly though.

Waste analysis - yep, that's definitely a plan. We'd manage fine with wheelie bins I think, but they haven't come here yet - we still have the little black bins, which encourage rats. Especially when the lids blow off down the hill regularly etc. Using them just became a pointless exercise.

I think I'd like to rethink what we eat and how we cook again, and buy more in bulk. Dried stuff maybe. And actually use it instead of being seduced by bargain-priced over-packaged supermarket produce. If we didn't go to the supermarket, we wouldn't buy the over-packaged stuff and the issue would resolve itself.

Hmmm.. I have just over 2 weeks to decide whether to tax the car or SORN it.

9:01 am, February 11, 2008  
Blogger Tech said...

Yes £250 is a lot :-( We had a couple of families buying stuff though so it was spread out over all of us. Once Heath is up and running again it might be worth seeing if people there want to get into a co-op - but if you got rid of the car they'd have to come and pick stuff up from you direct obviously. Oh and we also found that we had a lot of packaging to get rid of after the suma delivery - lots of cardboard boxes. Not sure what the solution is really.

10:46 am, February 11, 2008  
Blogger Elaine said...

Last spring I bought the £8 compost bin ecoMax (WR330) from waste aware Scotland and into it goes all our cardboard except any tainted with food JR took some of the mulch out yesterday but that was the first time and only a spade full . It is at the moment just under half full and boxes we put in now disappear in days rather than the weeks it took at first.there is a conifer JR bought as a wee Christmas ornament last year planted just downhill (sloping garden) that is now as tall as the bin and incredibly healthy looking so I assume mulch washes out . We poured water in the bin regularly in the summer and kept its lid on . through the winter it has been lidless which has the advantage of not having to compact big Christmas boxes just post them in and watch them sink over the days ,beats tele for boring viewing, . Now it is established I put plastic coated card in as well with the idea being that the plastic will not go wherever the card goes and one day it will merely need clearing out though I can see no evidence of it yet.
I did actually find an article on the web about it and thats what made me do it you layer the card with nettles to get it started then a certain kind of worm takes over ,and I have a wonderful nettle patch at the top which ain't worth arguing with as it is the edge of a very large patch on the castles grounds we back onto.

2:07 am, February 12, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Ooh Elaine! You've set me off down a whole new line of research and thinking there.

Because there's precise finiticky composting that you do to grow crops, which involves keeping the rain off the the nitrogen in, but of course it doesn't all have to be that way, does it? You can get rid of a whole load of biodegradable stuff by the kind of composting you're talking about.

I need to work all this out in time for our house build, and also work out how to make it all rat proof. Or to make me rat proof! (I daren't go near our compost bins in the field ATM, since I saw a hole had been chewed through the plastic wall of one..)

8:24 am, February 12, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

*to keep* the nitrogen in

Not sure where those words disappeared to! Maybe they were never there in the first place. But they should have been.

8:25 am, February 12, 2008  
Blogger Elaine said...

there is a conical food composter that theoretically you load and the half underground is where the eventual liguid compost drains out but it is not rat proof I dont think anything involving food waster will ever be rat proof so all my food waste goes in the wheelie bin

12:45 pm, February 12, 2008  

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