A good way to encourage recycling?

How do you get people to recycle more?

I’ve lived in a few different parts of Britain over the last few years. Each council treats recycling differently.

In Warwick, it was – after a shambolic introduction – somewhat of a Nazi affair: up to six different bins for each item. Grey bins couldn’t be overfilled, each red box had to have different contents they had to be sorted neatly or they would be left by the side of the road.

In Stratford, also in Warwickshire, it was very similar; they had a bit more of a user friendly system in place.

Now I’m in Hull, and there’s not nearly as much faffing around. Two boxes…one for paper, one for everything else. Quite easy. But the council are doing other things to make sure we keep up the good work – like texting people to remind them to put their boxes out:

“Up to 6000 residents have already subscribed to the council’s text reminder service for the blue recycling bins. The evening before the blue bin collection, the council texts those residents to remind them to take their bins to the kerb. The success of the text service prompted the council to launch its email service.” (council press release)
Simple idea – but makes a big difference. More of this please!

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From four wheels to two wheels…

“When I see a person on a bicycle, it gives me hope for the human race” (H.G. Wells)

This week I’m saying goodbye to this….

My beautiful (but polluting and expensive) Nissan Micra

My beautiful (but polluting and expensive) Nissan Micra

…and hello to this!


My new "duel suspension" mountain bike!

Yes, it was one of my first aims on my “Green Manifesto” last week, and I’ve wasted no time in getting this one sorted.

In his inspiring book “365 Ways to Change the World” the author Michael Norton talks about all the benefits of taking to the saddle, including saving petrol, not giving your hard earned cash to evil oil companies…and flying through rush hour traffic.

Instead of driving the 1.5 miles to walk, from next week I’m going to cycle it instead, reducing one of my major carbon emissions down to zero.

And environmental benefits aside, this is a massive money saver. My car currently costs £40 a month, just in tax and insurance and another £60 a month on petrol.

I acquired the bike off the website Freecycle – a phenomenon I discovered about 2 years ago, which is steadily becoming more popular. It’s management system – through Yahoo Groups – is cumbersome though, and I think it would benefit from a Gumtree type design.

But still, it got the job done. I posted a message a week ago saying “WANTED: men’s bicycle”. And within days someone contacted me. I didn’t pay a penny for this bike and it’s in excellent condition.

Now to buy a helmet and revise my Highway Code……..

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My Green Manifesto

I realised early on that breaking the bounds of my own apathy was going to have to happen in two phases. Yes, I eventually want to become more of an activist, taking a stand on issues which matter.

But first I need to limit the impact my own existence has on the planet. So here it is, my green manifesto to cut my carbon footprint and the damage I do to the environment. I hope to have achieved all thest things by the end of 2008, so I can start the new year with a clean slate.

My Green Manifesto

  1. Replace my old lightbulbs with energy efficient ones
  2. Recycle everything: glass bottles, plastic bottles, every scrap of paper and metal
  3. Unplug anything I’m not using
  4. Eat less meat (see my previous post)
  5. Drink only fairtrade coffee
  6. Buy in season food from local, independent suppliers
  7. Keep the thermostat down 2 degrees
  8. Buy organic food where I can
  9. Drive much, much less
  10. Get a bike, and cycle to work!
  11. Never use another plastic bag – reusable’s all the way
  12. Consume less water
  13. …and by the end of the year, I’m want to have planted at least one tree!

So there it is. 13 things I have come up with. This blog is supposed to be about me making these changes, talking through how I’m going to make it happen, and (fingers crossed) showing off the results.

If I’ve missed any off then post them on the comments below and I’ll add them! Here’s to making a difference.

Heres to making a difference

Here's to making a difference

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Meat free meal #1

So on Sunday I wrote how, after an IPCC report, I was going to reduce the amount of meat I consume in a week, as part of my attempts to break through my apathy barrier.

I did it tonight, with a lovely bit of pasta and pesto, with a bit of salad on the side. Very easy of course, but hey why not – he’s me taking 1 small step…

get some water boiling

Step 1: get some water boiling

chuck in some pasta!

Step 2: chuck in some pasta!

a lovely bit of God's own pesto

Step 3: a lovely bit of God's own Pesto...

...and stir it all in..lovely jubbly

...and stir it all in..lovely jubbly

So there you go. Now I’m not claiming to have just done something revolutionary here, but for the point of this blog, I’ve taken a small, pratical, tangible step towards making a difference, however small.

My guilty pleasure though is a good home made Thai curry…I dread to think of the airmiles all the sauces collect!

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Cutting out the meat

The man in charge of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is giving a talk in London on Monday – and he’s going to tell us all to eat meat for one less day a week

Methane is one of the most dangerous emissions

Methane is one of the most dangerous emissions


According to today’s Observer Dr Rajendra Pachauri says that we should use that as a base to eventually reduce the amount of meat we consume.

He’s a vegetarian himself, so that’s easy for him to say. But if the science is right, he’s making a good point.

Meat production – including fertisiler and cattle feed – accounts for nearly a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions. And then you have the amount cow’s emit when they, you know, let one off.

Here’s the crux – this is important because Dr Pachauri is asking US to make changes to OUR LIVES.

And it’s great because to start it is a small step. One less meat meal a week. Have a vegetable stir fry instead. Or pasta and pesto. Or a roast vegetable salad.

I really believe individuals are going to have to make changes like these if we’re to make any headway in stopping climate change. We can’t leave it to Washington and Whitehall.

That’s why from today I am going to have at least one meat free meal a week – and reduce it from there.

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“Not On Our Watch”

Now here’s a book which gets at just what has been going round my head for ages.

Not On Our Watch

Not On Our Watch

Activist John Prendergast and actor Don Cheadle team up for a book which works, I think, on two levels. It tells quite a reliable account of the attrocities in Darfur and how they unfolded. It’s got lots of facts and info.

But far better it is a call to action. It tells us to get off our asses and not just let this happen ‘on our watch.’

Don explains how he was just focussed on his acting until his part in the film Hotel Rwanda, which opened his eyes to other attrocities still happening to this day.

They describe what they call the ‘four horsemen enabling the apocalypse’: apathy, inertia, indifference, ignorance.

Spot on.

The book could quite easily be a moan, but instead it is a call to action. It has practical advice on starting your own campaigns, and how to pressure political leaders and decision makers. Both John and Don seem convinced writing letters – lots of letters – and heaping pressure on the policy makers does work.

Maybe it does.

I have written quite a lot about the Darfur crisis – and in particular the media coverage of it – on a blog in a previous life.

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Giving up the car…

One of my biggest aims in my fight against apathy this year is to change my lifestyle and end my reliance on my car.

I’m pretty sure I can do it (and I’ll keep you updated here!), and after my forthcoming move, I plan to join the ranks of the cyclist!

But how many other people are joining in?

Worrying new research, published yesterday suggests not many. According to research by the AA, our cars are one of the last things we’d ever consider giving up. According to their research, the average person would rather give up:

  • Drinking, 15%
  • Holiday, 15%
  • Flat screen TV, 14%
  • Smoking, 11%
  • Favourite food, 7%
  • Pet, 4%
  • Computer, 3%
  • Job, 3%
  • Spouse/partner (!), 3%
  • Favourite pastime, 2%

If we’re going to have a big impact on climate change, more people are going to have to sacrafice their wheels. It doesn’t look good! But at the same time, research in the news today hints bike retailers are doing rather well out of the credit crunch….

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