Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Spring has sprung

 'Tis the season for spring cleaning (almost) - which often means getting rid of clutter, as much as dusting and polishing.

This time last year, we had a dilemma in our house. There was a pile of stuff that we no longer used. It had too much life left in it, so I didn't want to take it to the dump. But at the same time it didn't have any resale value. What to do?

First up was an old dining table with 4 chairs. They were made of solid wood, but there were some stains and scratches on the table top, and the chairs were looking battered and worn. It was all very sturdy though, and would be great for someone who fancied a project sanding them down and re-varnishing them.

But would anyone bother with a DIY repair project when it's so cheap to buy new? (under £100)

Yes, apparently they would! The table and chairs went on Freecycle, and within a couple of hours 2 people had offered to come and collect them. They were picked up the following evening.

Next was a large pine cupboard with a missing handle and a broken drawer. This went to a local charity who give work training to people who have recovered from substance abuse. It helped someone to learn joinery skills, and the repaired unit was sold to help fund the charity. Everybody wins.

Just goes to show that there are places for unwanted and unsaleable items, besides taking them to the dump! Have you found any others?

(Photo credit: Broom Closet by wayne's eye view, CC-BY licence, obtained via:

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Earth Hour
Do you fancy an atmospheric, candle-lit night in? Well, here's a great reason to have one.

Earth Hour has been running for several years now, and is supported by WWF, the World Wildlife Fund. The idea is to switch off your lights for one hour, starting at 8.30pm on 31 March. This has three purposes:

 1. It's a fun way to save energy and money.
 2. It's a good reminder of how reliant we are on energy, and what things might be like if we were without it.
 3. It's also a good time to reflect on our own energy use, and how it might affect the environment.

In our house, we joined in last time by having candlelit snacks and a few board games. However, ours was the only house in the street with the lights off. I'm glad to see that this could radically change this year, as WWF are predicting that hundreds of millions of people around the world will be involved. All will be switching off their lights at 8.30pm local time, creating a kind of ripple across the globe.

I've already seen posters in the local community (with the title "60+ : Go beyond the hour"). The WWF have also scored a coup by signing up many famous landmarks, from the Eiffel Tower in France to Sydney Opera House in Australia. It looks like this year could be a big one!

The WWF have a site explaining more about the campaign here: , and there's a UK-specific site here: .

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

It's in the bag... already

Reusing shopping bags is something I'm trying to make a habit of.

So, off I go shopping, and actually remember to take some bags along to reuse. I arrive at the checkout, look for my wallet, and when I look back... all my items are in a store carrier bag. The assistant smiles back, happy that they've packed so many things in so little time. Like 10 milliseconds.

I've even had this happen to me when I've already put my empty bags on the counter. It seems that many sales assistants use new bags automatically, especially if they're busy, as it saves time waiting for people to unfold their reusable bags.

In the small stores where I regularly shop, I'm trying to actively point out that I've brought my own bags. Even so, the assistant in one shop refused to listen, and pointed to a tiny hole my carrier bag. She then double-bagged my purchase (two more bags!) to "make sure it all gets home safely". Arggghh!

On the other hand, I sometimes manage to dispense with bags altogether. Like at lunchtime, when I walk off with a sandwich, a drink and a bag of nuts, using nothing more than my bare hands. "Are you sure you don't need a bag?", they say. "You've got a couple of items there". I'm sure the shop staff think I'm some kind of balancing act who has escaped from the circus.

What are your experiences of trying to re-use shopping bags?

(Photo credit: "carrier_bags" adapted from an original by "How can I recycle this", licenced under CC-BY licence; obtained via )

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Reducing food waste

I always feel guilty when I end up throwing good food away.

I try to avoid over-buying when I go shopping, and always check the Use By dates before I buy. But sometimes meal plans change, and things get lost at the back of the fridge.

I looked in the fridge last night and saw a pack of butter that was hiding at the back. It's Best Before date was 31 May. That may not sound bad, but I realised that it meant May last year - when I bought it.

I'd been checking the butter regularly though, and it always smelled fine and there had been nothing growing on it. So yesterday I tasted a bit - and it was fine.

So I've made some chocolate chip flapjack with butter that's a year out of date. Talk about reducing waste to the extreme! I'm eating the first couple with my morning coffee today, and if you see me posting again, you'll know I haven't poisoned myself!

What's your record for (safely) consuming out of date items? (that's a question, not a challenge!)