Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Recycling category.

Every Little helps – February 2012

Every Little HelpsSo, depth of winter, hunkered down against the cold, possibly the gloomiest time of year in the UK – maybe that’s why I’ve got disenchanted with sustainability recently. It all makes me want to turn up the heating and eat too much.

Of course, it could be the continued ineffectiveness of governments (local, national, international) to keep the sustainability ball rolling … up in the air … whatever. I mean: reducing local recycling, cutting the renewable energy tariff, forgetting to agree CO2 levels … who’s in charge here?

Anyway, my enthusiasm was renewed (oops) by friends who have bought an eco house in Dorset – built with all the right technology and lovely views to boot – for their retirement. I like to think I’d be able to retire with a zero carbon footprint, at least when it comes to my home and travel arrangements. The house was a one-off, created by an engineer for himself. Maybe watching Grand Designs has affected me, but I’m thinking I’d like to build an eco house one day. Somewhere with good views, local shops (and good medical facilities). There are a few building companies aiming at the “Passivhaus” energy saving standard – 90% energy reduction compared to “standard” new houses. Perhaps I’ll have a chat with some of them.

So, back to here and now: I’m starting to prepare for the EFO Summer Open and wondering if I can use “found” materials in my work. I like the idea that the work could have renewable credentials. I’ve seen lovely work with driftwood; amazing African craft using plastic bags, drink cans, old nails; handbags made of old vinyl records; vintage clothes re-purposed. If anyone working likewise wants to show their work with me, let me know.

Meanwhile, on with another jumper, back on the bike and roll on summer!


Every Little Helps – June 2011

Every Little HelpsI’ve been writing these articles in The Archer for a year, so lets see how little changes have helped. I started out thinking that if everyone tried to do less harm, overall some big changes could take place – amazingly it seems to work.

I’ve had many comments about these articles, where something stuck in someone’s mind as being both practical and a positive effect. People shave tried some ideas, been inspired to look into others, overall been more thoughtful and prepared to consider changing what they do.

However, there have been big changes in government-level thinking about “climate change”: it’s become clearer how difficult fixing the world’s climate will be. If anything, there’s less support for “big projects” and more attention on changing people’s lifestyles. We’re all re-defining what basic, normal and luxury mean, but brought about more through reactions to financial crises than from worried scientists.

So my articles – in that context – will update progress on how “every little helps” and cast wider for what can be done by us, as individuals.

One idea that’s loud and clear is: reduce, re-use, recycle. A snappy summary of an approach to doing less harm day-to-day. Measure and cut down on use of materials, packaging, food, water and energy. Make stuff last longer by re-using it (or letting other people re-use it). Minimise real waste (land-fill) by recycling as much as possible into raw materials for new stuff, through buying stuff that can more easily be recycled.

Re-use and recycling are on the increase, apparently, with more people passing stuff on through Freecycle or Gumtree web sites (and local charity chops). Recycling of Haringey municipal waste has doubled to 25% in the last 10 years – but needs to reach 50% in the next ten. Apparently recycling leads to more jobs than waste disposal (much of the stuff needs sorting by hand) so there’s even more positive benefits.

As to re-use, anecdotally it seems it’s more acceptable now to pass things on and more acceptable to receive stuff too. It’s always in my mind to ask friends first, try Freecycle or DontDumpThat or take advantage of Haringey’s white-goods pickup service.

Let’s see how much we can reduce, re-use and recycle this year.

Every Little Helps – February 2011

Every Little HelpsAlmost time for spring clear-out. There’s a pile of stuff that – at one time – seemed essential to our lives. Now it’s past it’s use: kids grown up; girths have expanded; technology moves on. What to do with it?

Of course, there’s land-fill (actually this is deemed “last resort” – a rapidly dwindling resource, reckoned to run out in the UK on present usage by 2018). So “reduce, re-use, recycle” …

We’ve put stuff outside our house “for anyone that wants it” – but recently it got picked up by scrap metal dealers (leaving the non-metal bits). I prefer to think some could be re-used, preferably in a good cause.

“Freecycle” is a way to offer (or get) used stuff: for free! Log into, join a local group (eg Freecycle Barnet). Email a list of the stuff you have (with a contact number) and get loads of people offering to take it off your hands. They collect from your door and you give it to them for free. It works the other way round: send a “wanted” email or reply to someone else’s offer and pick it up from them for free. There are some sensible rules: no animals, personal services, explosives etc. and the goods are all offered “as seen”. We’ve handed over wardrobes, shelving, light fittings, packing cases, bicycles …

If you don’t like the idea of people coming round, East Finchley charity shops welcome donations they can sell, to raise money for their causes. They all like clean clothes and books, jewellery and knick-knacks; some will take toys; most won’t take electrical items or soft furnishings.

Tech stuff can be harder to shift and you should always check the hard drives are wiped properly or removed before handing them over (they’ve got your identity data all over them). Check out for ethical and established tech recycling organisations for phones, computers, TVs etc.

That pile of stuff is looking smaller and more beautiful already!

Every Little Helps – December 2010

Every Little Helps

So … it’s Christmas morning and as I unwrap the new executive toy I wonder whether batteries are included … and what their green credentials are.

Batteries keep us going when there’s nowhere to plug in to get electricity, so they are incredibly handy (700 million per year in UK). That’s provided you don’t need much power. That’s because they don’t hold a lot of energy unless they are big and heavy (a low “energy density”) so battery cars are only recently viable.

Batteries are getting smarter though – remember the huge batteries on your old mobile phones and laptops? Smarter means more complex and costly to make. Smarter might also mean more “rare earth” materials too.

The energy they hold has to come from somewhere so that means nasty chemicals during manufacture and – unless you charge them from a solar cell – the electricity grid when they are re-charged. Then there’s the energy to re-cycle them when they get to the end of their life.

So how can you make sure these nasty chemicals don’t escape and that the energy to make and re-charge them is kept to a minimum?

Firstly, you can try “downcycling” disposable “AA” or “AAA” batteries from high-power stuff like digital cameras and toys into low-power ones like TV remotes and clocks – you’ll be amazed how much longer they keep working.

The good news is that – over their whole life cycle – rechargeable batteries are better. Much better – 28 times less impact on the environment than disposable ones. So get loads of rechargeable ones (and an efficient or solar charger) and feel better immediately.

Luckily, there are places you can dispose of dead batteries safely: retailers should have “battery back” disposal bins for consumer batteries and the council tip at Summers Lane will take complete, undamaged lead-acid (car) batteries too.

So, take charge and re-charge!

Every Little Helps – August 2010

One thing I’ve done about our family’s carbon footprint is measure it, using an assessment form from Muswell Hill Sustainability Group. It showed the amount of carbon equivalent our household uses in a year – about three times the national average (gulp). That’s the average that’s supposed to be reduced by 20% ASAP and 50% before too long … bit daunting.

One thing we can do on holiday, is opportunist carbon reduction: reduce, re-use, recycle!

At home we try to pass on what we’re no longer using – charity shops and FreeCycle are our friends. When we’re away, we’re contributing to some other country’s carbon footprint, but keeping it to a minimum won’t hurt. Here’s some ideas for that:

  • When it’s hot, it’s tempting to have a lot of showers – apparently hot places use loads more energy getting drinkable water to their taps than in the UK. So, we try to keep showers to a minimum and cut all baths. We’ve found short cold showers are lovely when it’s hot outside – and they save water-heating energy as well.
  • We were delighted when the holiday cottage we rented had lots of toys and beach stuff for us to use. When we mentioned this to the agents, who said they had come from previous renters donating them for the next people. We thought this was a good idea, so as well as using these second-hand items, we donated some of our own beach things (and unopened long-life food) as we left.
  • As for re-cycling, some places make it really easy but others (particularly hotels) haven’t caught on yet. We decided to keep up with our normal practises – collecting and washing cans and bottles, bagging paper, cardboard and recyclable plastic – and made a single journey to a local recycling place at the end of our holiday.

Back home, it’s time to get our energy bills down … we’re way over on energy usage and flights – oops. More about that later in the year, when I’ve worked out how to tackle them.

FreeCycle Stuff

It always amazes me how much stuff we have that we don’t need – partly a function of moving house, partly because I tend to hoard things that “might be useful”, mostly because the kids grow out of things very quickly.

So … I was looking for a way to pass things on – younger relatives were rebelling, friends were in the same boat – and came across the FreeCycle concept. Basically, it’s an email “pass it on” service based on Yahoo. It’s intended to avoid things going into landfill … so it’s not for services or volunteering (there are places for that).

The deal is about donating and re-using: if you “offer” to give something away for free, people will pick it up from you and re-use it; if you “want” something that looks useful, you can pick it up from the current owner for free.

Here’s how it works:
– you join a local FreeCycle group on Yahoo (these are the ones for Barnet and Haringey). You will need to have a Yahoo account – that’s free as well
– you get a confirmation email explaining what and how to post – and what not to do
– you receive emails daily – I prefer a daily summary (digest) as there are lots of offers/wants but some bargains go very quickly so if you’re looking for something, you can opt to receive immediate (individual) emails
– you reply to the person offering something (they will give their email or phone number) and they decide who to give it to and arrange pickup OR people will call/email you to pick something up and you decide who get it


I’ve had success donating loads of things – some small some large – and felt pretty good about it I can tell you. This works really well – try it!

Every Little Helps – June 2010

Introducing Archer column – Every Little Helps. Topic is recycling.

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