Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Addicted to Plastic

I have just found this amazing documentary called Addicted to Plastic, about a chap who realises he is - like the rest of us - addicted to plastic. The documentary is the culmination of his three year journey around the world looking at all things plastic and their impact.

You can see a quick trailer on YouTube, or watch the whole kaboodle online for free, care of The Documentary Log.

Or you can read an interview with the man himself, Ian Connancher at PSFK.

Go and make a cup of tea (black to avoid the plastic milk bottle), select that foil-wrapped choclate bar from your cupboard, settle down, and watch it now!

Friday, 15 January 2010

A Mobile Quandary

Are mobile phones anti-environment?

They kind of scream modern corporate living and they certainly contain all sorts of nasty things that are bad to dig up and bad to dispose of.

But I'm not sure I could live without one in my current lifestyle. Having it there in my pocket makes me feel safe. If I get into trouble I can whip it out and phone someone to come and rescue me. Take all the snow last week, for example. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to attempt driving to work in it without my trusty communication tool. Except for the part where my current communication tool isn’t as trusty as I’d like it to be anymore.

Yes, I’ve decided: I need a new phone. But this, obviously, throws up all sorts of problems. Aside from the stuff that goes into making a new mobile phone there’s the packaging that it comes in, and then there’s the question of what to do with my old one.

‘Can you get phones that aren’t plastic?’ my trusty eco-friend, C, asked me yesterday when I mentioned my quandary.

No, is the simple answer. At least, not that I’m aware of.

But then I found Sony Ericsson and their ‘Green Heart’ eco-friendly range. Well, more eco friendly than your standard phone anyway. Not plastic-free, but made using recycled plastic. What a simple idea. As well as this, the use waterborne rather than solvent based paint; they have engineered a low energy charger and a low energy screen; and the phones are 100% PVC free, 100% beryllium free, and 99.9% free of bromine and antimony.

Sounds pretty good to me. But I’m afraid it’s in my nature to question it: how much of this ‘greatness’ is marketing? It’s easy to trump up the bits that sound good, whilst glossing over the rest, and leaving out what they don’t need to tell you. This phone is 100% PVC free, but how much PVC is there in your average phone normally? And what if, by virtually removing beryllium and antimony, they have had to use something else instead that is actually more harmful?

Maybe I’m just a cynic, I don’t know. Maybe I should learn a little trust. The good thing is that at least they’re trying, at least they’re thinking about it. And I definitely like the recycled plastic part of it – it’s such an obvious, but largely ignored, concept. And the thought I’m ultimately left with is: If Sony Ericsson can do it, why don’t more companies do it? And not just with mobile phones...

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Snow Days

I have very mixed feelings about snow. It’s gorgeous, beautiful, soft, quiet. It scares me.

Driving in it scares me. A lot. The police on the news warnings tell us not to drive in it and they tell us that for a very good reason. So when I got up to go to work early last Tuesday morning to find not just a snow-covered village, but heavily falling snowing, obviously I didn’t go to work. Or Wednesday, or Thursday. The problem with this – other than upsetting my boss – is that I also didn’t go shopping. And I had missed the order deadline for my Riverford veg box the night before. Result: no fresh food in the house. Well, with the exception of one courgette and half a cabbage.

Fortunately, the village I live in is significant enough to have a greengrocer come butcher, a Spar, a corner shop, and even a pharmacy. So Bron and I put on all our outdoor togs and ventured out to these local facilities on foot. Unfortunately, these village shops aren’t into stocking goods that don’t come in plastic. Actually, they don’t seem terribly interested in stocking vegetables either. We managed to rustle up a few onions, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips, but nothing green. And we had to settle for plastic-covered cheese and plastic-covered bread.

Could we have survived without cheese and bread for a couple of days? Probably, but the cold had at this point settled into my brain for the long-haul and was telling me I must buy these things while I could. So I did. Sorry and all.

We live at the top of a hill and so, since the cold snap started, even before the snow came, I’ve been leaving my car in the village so that I don’t have to worry about driving up and down an icey hill. Am I paranoid? Possibly. But these fears are not unfounded – one little slip in these conditions and you’re done for. My previous car got written off in the snow of February 2009, and three of my colleagues having crashed their cars so far this winter trying to get to work.

Result? When I finally left the village on Friday and went to Sainsbury’s I bought – oh no! – coke bottles wrapped in plastic! Yes Bron is still addicted to coca cola, but if he wants to drink it I usually make him buy his own so I can keep it off my plastic tab. This time it was one step worse – a pack of four bottles bundled together in plastic with a handy plastic handle. Perfect for lugging them up the hill to the house.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

A Plastic Christmas?

So, is it possible to have a plastic free Christmas? Ok, so I expect it is, if you really try, but apparently not for me. Not this year anyway.

To be or not to be plastic free?
As Christmas approached, I found myself debating the different options open to me:
1. try really and genuinely hard to have a totally plastic free Christmas, or
2. view it as an opportunity to treat myself with all those forbidden things I’ve been trying to avoid for the last few months.

Which side of the line do you think I fell? Well, I did want to try, honestly I did, but the closer it got to Christmas the more downhill it went. And do I have a valid excuse for this terrible failure? That probably depends on your perspective. Hopefully, anyone who has ever worked in retail over the Christmas period will be able understand my perspective. It’s awful. Crazy, manic, utterly exhausting. Holiday time? Pah, not likely. All my carefully laid, plastic-free plans went swiftly out of the window as I suddenly found myself in the last week before Christmas with no more time off work to concentrate on anti-plastic presents.

The good and the bad…
There were some successes, though, which I am now going to big-up as best I can in order to make me look better. My plastic-free purchases included: a wooden, heart-shaped photo frame, a wonderful Emma Bridgewater metal lunchbox, beautiful decorated glass earring dishes for each of my sisters-in-law made by Jo Downs, an interestingly shaped vase complete with a bulb to grow in it from Daisy Roots, a brilliant local ‘ecoflorist’. I also made my own Christmas cards using a torn up sheet of reindeer wrapping paper, although I completely ran out of time to post any of them. Oh, and I gave lots of books too, though sometimes I wonder whether there is some form of plastic in the glossy covers.

And the failures? Cds and Dvds were the biggest culprits. A few items had a little bit of plastic packaging – a tea infusion gift set I bought had a small plastic bag inside, and a flagon of cider I bought for my secret Santa offering, though in a glass bottle, had a plastic label. I had intended to try and find alternative wrapping paper that wouldn’t involve any plastic packaging, but ran out of time and ideas; and I originally thought of trying to wrap gifts without sellotape, but again time and energy just weren’t on my side. That really does sound like a pathetic excuse, doesn’t it? I say again, though: retail at Christmas, aarrgghh!

As for treats, well, they came into their own on the food shopping side of things. Roses chocolates, smoked salmon, Pringles, different cheeses… Actually, thinking about it, it’s not as bad as it could have been. Not perfect though, and I haven’t included the gifts I received either. But wouldn’t it be boring if I were infallible?