Taking on the canteen

Our cut-the-rubbish project has been running 6 weeks now and there have been some major successes and few struggles. I have been so delighted by the shopkeepers and business owners willing to support us in lowering our waste, in particular Mike O’Neill, our butcher has been great to use zero-plastic when serving us, we normally bring our own container but when we have forgotten he has wrapped our meat in paper. Our coffee man Shane Kelleher of Red Strand Coffee has helped me set up a system where I can return my coffee bag for refill, making coffee a completely package-free endeavor – delighted not to have to give up my cuppa!

The market on a Friday has helped enormously with veggies, fish, olives, apples & bread all purchased without the need for packages – and the refill station for around the house cleaning type stuff will be a savior. So that’s been the successes, the hard bits have been lunching out, those tiny ketchup and butter packets with a two year old who wants a bit o’ketchup & butter. I want this to be a fun experiment for him as well and so I have brought back a few of these already to start of my ‘waste capsule’ in the shed, where I am keeping all waste & recyclables for the year. An easy solution I found is just to move those bits off our table, then he doesn’t even ask or stick my nose into the kitchen and ask for a bit straight from the bottle, which for some reason I find more difficult than it should be.

I’ve also recently discovered most tea bags actually are made with plastic, so don’t biodegrade, we’ve switched to loose leaf, peppermint tea and infusions from the garden are fine but for the regular kind from the shop, even loose leaf there is still that lightweight metallic-y rubbish inside the box to keep the tea fresh… so I guess we’ll just be drinking a lot more coffee! I’m also producing more recycling then I was hoping; yoghurt, ice cream pots, pickles and wine have all featured this month, the plan is not to be too hard on recycling at first but to keep chipping away at it, making cutting-the-rubbish ‘normal’ in our house.

On April 21st the lovely people at Friends of the Earth are encouraging people to ‘shop and drop’: buy your groceries as normal but leave all excess packaging with the cashier at the counter. The campaign is also writing to 6 major grocery retailers to suggest ways to reduce their plastic waste. To find out more or get involved visit www.foe.ie.

My main cut-the-rubbish celebration this month is Grainne’s petition. I have known Grainne for years and her mum recently told me she has started a petition to introduce a 10c charge for plastic cutlery in the school, rather than it being provided for free. She hopes that, like plastic bags, a small charge will be enough to encourage students to cut back on single-use cutlery at her school, Sacred Heart. To find out a bit more about what makes Grainne tick I decided to interview her for this month’s column.

A – What do you like to do when you’re not running your petition?

G – I like to read, spend time with my friends, bake, do ballet, play flute, do gardening and playing with my cat.

A-Who inspires you?

G – My mother inspires me because she’s very into global warming, not using so much plastic and aside from that she’s also the person I always go to for advice or when I just need someone to comfort me.

A – Why do you feel that there should be charged for plastic cutlery, and why did you decide on a 10 cent charge?

G – There are about 600 students in my school and I would guess that about 150 pieces of cutlery end up in the bin each day. If people buy the forks and then throw them away they may feel as if they are throwing away their own money, so they might get fed up with that waste and start bringing in their own cutlery. I think 10 cents is just enough so that you don’t throw the plastic cutlery away for the fun of it.

A – How many signatures are you hoping to get and what will you do with them?

G – I am hoping to get 100-200 signatures and after that I will bring them to the year-head, the student council or the vice principal.

A – Thank you Grainne, I just love that you are doing this. How can other students or parents get involved with your petition?

G – I am hoping to send the petition home with some friends for their parents and friends to sign.

I am totally inspired by Grainne’s courage and willpower, young students leading the way start movements and have the ability to make great impacts.   She has been running her petition for a month now and if anyone wants to sign in support I will have an electronic copy up on my blog at www.explodingtree.com/cuttherubbish

Over and out! A

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Fairtrade, Bean-to-Bar, Alternative Everything.



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