Monday, 21 June 2010

It's a Compostable Life

Yippee! Finally, we have set up our composting bin. It’s only been sitting in the shed since last October. Bron and I live in an area that’s quite exposed to the elements and the bin being as lightweight as it is, I was afraid it would get blown away during the winter months before we had a chance to anchor it with all our veg scraps.

‘But it’s plastic!’ you might be saying. Yes, I know, it’s plastic. Before settling on this particular bin, I did actually do quite a bit of research into my composting options. It all seems like quite a while ago now, but it is easy to buy wooden composters, and I certainly would have done had I thought it appropriate to do so.

My reasons for not buying a wooden compost bin are:

1. Our house is a small two-up two-down semi-detached new build-type on a small, fairly enclosed estate with a very small garden. Wooden bins are generally open and with slatted sides, and the neighbours (never mind our landlady) really wouldn’t have been too happy about the sight or the smell of our rotting foodstuffs. One day, when I have my own little cottage in the countryside with a big garden full of trees and bushes and winding walkways, I will certainly go for a wooden bin, because then I can tuck it away at the bottom of the garden where it won’t upset anyone.

2. Apparently plastic composters also keep the heat in - because they are enclosed and, well, plastic - which speeds up the composting process. Although maybe that will also keep the worms and the bugs out, so it might be a bit of a catch 22.

In the meantime, until I have that garden with it’s winding pathways where I can plant a luscious vegetable patch, and while I love that I am reducing my landfill waste further, I am wondering what I am going to do with the compost itself. I don’t have any garden plants or vegetables, or anything growing per se, that I can put it on. I’m not particularly green-fingered - the one plant I was really proud of, a white cyclamen widely known within our household as ‘Plant’, was killed off for good in January when I forgot to bring it in from the snow.

And what if we have to move house – how on earth are we going to transport it? Plus we haven’t told our landlady about it, so I hope she won’t mind us temporarily destroying a small patch of her lawn.

But for now I am going to stop worrying, and start basking in the good that is composting. I am returning my waste to the earth’s system - now that’s what I call recycling.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Football Fever

I've been thinking about football the last couple of days. I'm not a football fan, but it's kind of hard to ignore at the moment. I don't have anything against football, it just doesn't interest me - despite the men in shorts, I'd rather read a book or watch an episode of Gilmore Girls. But, like I say, I've been thinking about football - or, more precisely, footballs.

Pig's bladders 'r' us
What are footballs made of, I wondered? The everyday balls being touted in all the shops look distinctly plastic.

'Inflated pig's bladder,' Bron declares when I ask him about footballs. That's what he reckons the first ever balls were made from.

'I wonder what would happen if in the final of the World Cup, the ref came out onto pitch with an inflated pig's bladder for them play with?' I suggest. Can you imagine? It would be great!

Despite this unlikely scenario, I thought I'd put my investigation head on and find out what footballs really are made of. And, according to Wikipedia, although early commercial footballs were constructed of vulcanised rubber, today's balls are more likely to be leather or - yes, of course - plastic.

Synthetic Leather?
As for the official 2010 World Cup football, Addidas is responsible. It even has it's own name, the Jabulani. SoccerWorld is a font of information - blimey, who ever would have thought I'd be reading SoccerWorld! Their balls, including the Jabulani, are constructed of synthetic leather. Synthetic leather? What's that? Synthetic leather may be made in a variety of ways, but is typically PVC and polyurethane. Hmmm - synthetic leather? Why don't they just call it what it is? Plastic!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Packaging Psychology

Looking through some of my earlier posts on this blog, I found a comment in ‘Post’ that reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend a couple of weeks ago: is there a perception that better items are those that are wrapped in plastic?

Picture our friends’ small back garden, half paved, half gravel, predominantly taken up by a trampoline, several small children, and a barbecue. All the men are customarily gathered around the wild fires said barbecue, talking man talk, and gradually turning small hunks of meat into charcoaled burgers.

‘These are only cheap burgers,’ announces Bron’s best mate, P. ‘You can tell from the box,’ he says, nodding towards the discarded packaging at his feet.

Hmm, I think. Looks like a pretty good box to me. Paper, no plastic wrapping in sight, though I suppose that may have already made its way to the bin.

Despite my normal reticence when it comes to discussing plastic with friends, I can’t resist this particular opportunity.

‘What kind of packaging would you say expensive burgers come in then?’ I ask.

‘Well, the design of the box,’ he tells me. ‘The graphics, the colours. Plus the burgers would be in a plastic tray or something inside. These were just in the box as they are.’

So more packaging - and plastic packaging - equals better food? That is, assuming that more expensive also equals better. How did we come to have this mindset? Advertising, marketing; we’re right back to the debate about consumer society, how businesses manipulate us, and how we fall for it. Every day.

How can we break this vicious circle? I wonder. I see two possibilities:

1. The power of the individual. Those who are clued in, like you and me, try not to buy into it. If enough of us do it, eventually companies will notice demand for their products are falling. And teach our children the better path. The problem with this is that it’s a very long, very hard road, and I worry that any changes it effects will be too late to make a difference in terms of sustainable living – will resources hit crisis point first?

2. A change of heart by those who hold the top of the strings. In recent years, lots of companies have clued into the fact that consumers respond well to green credentials, so these are used more and more in advertising today. If these credentials are genuine, great. But how often do we get to see the whole picture? Of course, it is a start, but what I’d really like to see happen is for every business, and the government to boot, to stop telling us we need to buy their products in the first place, and why theirs is the best thing since sliced bread. Well, I can dream, can’t I?