managing zero waste expectations at PumpjackPiddlewick

For me there is something therapeutic about not being wasteful. And I will admit it, I like watching zero waste videos. You know those ones that people get their year’s(?) supply of rubbish/garbage/the stuff you actually throw away as there is nothing else can be done with it, into a single glass jar videos? Yeah, I thought you probably watched them too.

I have no doubt it is extremely satisfying to be able see that jar at the end of a year and know that’s all you will contribute to landfills. Tempting, tempting.

And then there are us mere mortals. For us every day folk it’s not something easily achievable. Nor, maybe, would I want to. But before you have a go at me for being ‘wasteful’, it did make me think about what we do throw away – and what we don’t. And of that, what we don’t in particular.

It made me realise, we are pretty darned near to zero waste. We just haven’t incorporated the glass jar to check the actuality. Zero waste to me is not about how little I put in a jar, but how little I waste.

Isn’t that the same thing, I hear you ask? Well, not really.

You see one focuses on how little is going to waste, whilst the other simply focuses on not wasting – things.

I’ll give you one example. Much of zero waste (using a jar) is about taking your own container to bulk purchase places, eschewing packaging in other words. Something I would love to do, if I could. But in our village, and beyond, there is no such option. Unless I wish to spend inordinate amounts of money on fuel to make it so. (And I suspect I am not alone in this situation.) I’ll give that driving waste a miss, thank you very much.

Not wasting, to me, is about re-using, recycling, upcycling, and all those other ‘ings. It’s about looking at by-products, whatever they may be, and figuring out what to do with them. Which to my mind is much simpler as it fits easier into normal day to day living.

And it turns out, we re-use it all. Well, almost all. (And I for one am not sweating the almost bit.)

But now I hear you ask ‘ but how’? (Honestly, I do.) How does a mere mortal achieve almost, sort of, zero waste? Well, my friends I will tell you my profound secrets.

Let’s start with the basic ones. Leftover food gets made into a new dish on left-over night. Old clothes, past their be seen in public date, are re-used as gardening or workshop clothes. Old towels or bed linen become animal beds (read: protection from, particularly duck, messes). In the garden, weeds become food or mulch, prunings become wattling, broken tiles become a patio and pathways. Even house hair balls (when you have long hair, as well as 3 cats and a dog, this happens a lot) are being collected and re-used ~ as part of our restoration houses’ rendering. (It’s a modern day take on using horse hair.)

You see, it’s rather a state of mind, with a consideration of how to re-use rather than throw away, where ever possible.

But when we do ‘throw away’, we make it easy for ourselves, we have five ‘bins’ for our waste; the actual (landfill) bin, the recycling bin, the garden bin, the dead clothing bin and Chewie, our standard sized dachshund.

Reversing the order, I will explain…

1. Chewie – a great user up of meat scraps, fat, and whatever else he may choose to eat. If I had chickens, I would include them in this ‘bin’ too, as they would even go beyond Chewie in what they will eat. So no food goes to waste, even after leftover night. (Except for cooked meat bones, but more on this later.)

2. Dead Clothing Bin – this is where old socks, etc. go to die. Hole in something, worn beyond repair? These go in this bin. This bin then gets upcycled (usually in the winter months). Currently my passion is rag rugs, a great (and fast) way to recycle old socks. Hint, you cut them like you were peeling an orange skin until you get one long piece. If not rugs then quilts (a great way to immortalise old treasured T-shirts) or pillow cases, or patches for jeans and eventually if truly nothing else, cleaning rags. As one, after all, only needs so many cleaning rags.

3. Garden Bin – this is anything we can re-use in the garden. Compost of course is part of this and vegetable scraps (peelings, tops and tails, etc.) get put in our compost heap. Any old can’t be used as packaging for Our Shop cardboard is used as weed fabric for paths and veg plantings.

4. Recycling Bin – we are lucky here in France as so much is recyclable. But also, when you think about it so much has the opportunity to be re-used. That plastic pot the mushrooms came in is great for organising items in a drawer. Any scrap papers, receipts, toilet roll (when not being made into Christmas advent calendars), etc. of a paper persuasion gets added to the compost pile. Magazine supplements, or newspapers, are bbq fire starters.

5. Our Actual Bin Bin – is a very very tiny waste bin. It’s 5 litres in size (so doesn’t quite reach my mid-calf). In this bin goes those items we have not been able to find a use for. It takes about 2 weeks to fill it. Not bad really. It may not be a jar for the year, but I am happy with the result. It suits our home.

As for the future, I am seriously going to look into the possibilities of installing a garbage disposal in my sink. When we have built our kitchen. It’s something that I have never come across here in Europe. (Why!?) This would take care of about half of our current actual waste, e.g. what we actually have to put in the bin such as cooked bones (since we can’t give them to the Chewie ‘bin’).

But why do we go to this effort? That’s easy. Why waste when you don’t have to? In this consumer led society it feels good to swim against the norm. But more importantly, it makes us appreciate what we have. And to offer things a second life.

Especially in these current times, it has actually made our life easier to have these pathways for re-use rather than having to buy, say, weed fabric, and wait and wait and wait until delivery whilst the weeds take over our patio and paths.

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