Tag Archives: landfill

Pumpkin Horror

I’ve been experiencing seasonal pumpkin horror for about a week now – ever since the massive boxes of massive pumpkins turned up in the supermarkets. I noticed today that many of the ones now revealed at the bottom are full of cracks and bruises. No one will buy those, and I expect they’ll go to landfill.

Of the ones that are bought, the majority I expect will be carved, used as decorations for an evening or two and then discarded. Some may go to compost or food recycling. Some will go in the bin.

I wonder how much land it took to grow them all, how much water, fertilizer, pesticides. I wonder how much energy it took to harvest them, what the food miles are on this edible decoration that mostly won’t be used for food. I wonder what could have lived if they hadn’t been grown.

I’m aware, because I’ve talked about this kind of thing before, that there are people who will see me as a miserable kill-joy. ‘It’s just a bit of fun’ is such a popular defence. One of the major problems with humans as I see it, is the way we feel entitled to our ‘fun’ and disinclined to look at the cost. As we drive other species towards extinction, our ‘bit of fun’ seems ever harder to justify or excuse.

If you feel the need for a pumpkin, hollow it out well and cook the innards and eat them. The flesh of a pumpkin is easy to cook and has a mild flavour. Toast the seeds and eat those too. What you can’t eat, put out for the wildlife because lots of things will cheerfully eat your pumpkin leftovers. Don’t put them in a bin to go to landfill, that’s the ultimate pumpkin horror.

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Cats, bins, snot and plastic

Late this spring I started properly monitoring how much my household sends to landfill, and what we send. I turned out that we were putting out a small bin bag per month – which for a household of three didn’t seem too bad. Our landfill waste was, for the greater part, un-recyclable plastic, so the bin bags were light and loosely packed and could have been compacted to take up little space. Sometimes we’d have to throw out a truly broken and useless item, but there weren’t many of those in any given month.

Then we took in a cat. Our bin use increased dramatically. As we live in a flat, cats have to be up for being indoors cats, and they have to use litter trays. This creates waste. However, what creates far more waste, is the non-recyclable sachets most cat food comes in. We can’t do tins because we haven’t got a fridge, and an open tin of cat food in a cool box in summer conditions is not going to work. One elderly cat with a small appetite does not get through a tin quickly. For a few months we were throwing away far more and far more often.

Eventually we found a food that the cat really likes and that creates less waste. Dry cat food of course comes in cardboard boxes. You can also get a sort of chewy and dry cat food in bags. It doesn’t go off in the way that fresh meat will, and doesn’t attract flies. We’d had an arrangement with our local crows about leftovers, but on the whole it’s better not to have an issue. One big bag creates far less waste than lots of little sachets.

With the cat food containers under control, and the contents of the litter tray leaving in the un-re-cycle-able bags some food stuffs come in, we’re fairly organised again.

I noticed during the same time frame that if the household all has colds, we create a lot more waste – entirely in the form of snotty tissues. I’m a bit more relaxed about those going to landfill as I think there’s less issue with those than plastic. I also note that at times when I’ve had an open fire or woodstove, tissues full of snotty disease have mostly been burned. I have no idea which outcome is the most problematic. And yes, I have tried fabric hankies, but they really do need boil washing and we really can produce a lot of snot…


Humbug season

I get round to blogging in this way every year. I am not a fan of Christmas. I have no issue with spiritual Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus – that’s their festival and they have every right to get on with it. What drives me nuts, is this other thing. This celebration of gluttony and excess in which we are supposed to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need to give to people we don’t even necessarily like with a side order of a lot of wasted food and a frightening amount of rubbish destined for landfill.

Every year, I get more hostile to the whole process and my desire to get away from it grows.

I’ve made myself a promise therefore, that this is going to be the last year in which I do anything conventional around Christmas. The boy is ten, and able to cope with the idea, and I think also conscious of the same issues. He’s too environmentally aware not to be uneasy about the waste and excess, even while he does like getting presents. We’ve talked a lot about making good memories rather than owning more things.
What would happen if we took a tiny fraction of the money spent on things that will never be used, or played with, and did something else with it? What if that money went to people who have nothing, who are homeless, hungry, and suffering around the world? What would happen if ‘keep things out of landfill’ got hardwired into the Christmas message? Hard to imagine that one. Tis the season to generate a great deal of junk. What about all the animals who are still given as gifts, despite, surely, everyone knowing that this is not a clever time to get a puppy or a kitten?

I’ve sung a lot of Christmas carols down the years – I like community singing and it’s a great way to raise money for good causes. I notice all those messages about peace and goodwill. I don’t remember a single carol about getting drunk, eating too much, trying to be polite about unwanted gifts and throwing far too much in the bin on Boxing day. I remember Good King Wenceslas taking things to peasants, and I remember tidings of comfort and joy, and I keep thinking how far off the mark we are, so often.

If you want to do Christmas, please, please reclaim it as something warm and human and get away from this orgy of commerciality and irresponsibility.

In the meantime, I’m plotting what I’m going to do next year, when I’m not going to be living in the middle nowhere and my scope to be useful should be much improved. And I’m trying not to feel too horribly frustrated about what I’m not able to do this time around.