All things green: The 3 R’s and Freecycle

There’s a section of society (which, if you’re visiting a website like this one, probably includes you) that has known for many years how important it is to reduce the amount of waste we produce. Just lately though, I’m starting to feel like it might actually be taking root in the wider public consciousness.

I’ve been doing a bit of spring cleaning recently; clearing out a garage, moving the junk left on my allotment by the last tenant, that sort of thing. It used to be the case that you would take the fruits of such a task to the local tip, where it may or may not be recycled. These days however, I’ve discovered most ‘rubbish’ will be collected free of charge and taken to a new home. The Freecycle website is a wonderful tool in this regard – just post details of anything you no longer require (for example, Offered: 30 old copies of National Geographic) and you will probably have a number of people keen to collect. Even broken furniture will be snapped up by someone with a wood burner. What’s more, I have twice left a pile of faulty electrical items and scrap metal in public view (waiting to be loaded into the car) only to have them eagerly removed by enterprising (if slightly scruffy) chaps in a (more than slightly scruffy) white Transit. The value of scrap is clearly making their daily circuits of residential streets worthwhile. Interestingly, they declined my offer of two rather nice wooden chairs. Either they like to stick to their niche or they know that there is more embodied energy (and thus value) in a broken hi-fi than a hand-crafted chair.

Perhaps a less personal indicator of this ‘zeitgeist’ is that most of the supermarkets have taken the long-overdue step of keeping plastic bags under the counter until you ask for them. Just by repeatedly reminding us of the issue they are clearly having an effect on our habits.

Of course before we Recycle, we should be aiming to Reduce and Reuse (in other words, buy less stuff and try not to throw it away!) but there are very few products that cannot be saved by one of those three ‘R’s. The question is, with many decades of reckless consumerism behind us and a potentially lean time ahead, how soon will we stop filling landfill sites and begin to mine them for their wealth?!


All things green: Wild Birds of my Allotment

Wild Birds of my allotmentEvery time I turn up at my allotment with my digging fork, the cheeky robin who’s resident on our plot appears out of nowhere and I can’t help thinking how lucky I am to have a little patch of my own in one of the few green areas left in my town. The robin does a great job of keeping me motivated and he eats as many grubs and ants’ eggs as I can uncover.

I’m happy to report that my site is a true haven for wild birds – so much so that the rustic arbour my neighbour built for his grapevine is riddled with woodpecker holes! In fact, across the UK allotments and back gardens make up most of the remaining safe places for breeding birds. Allotments tend to be more cat-free than back gardens, which is why we so often get the benefit of birdsong as we tend our plots.

There are lots of things we can all do to make life a bit easier for our feathered friends, and this year in particular they need all the help they can get. The late, wet and cold start to spring, preceded by a bitter winter, has led to a real shortage of food. Let’s hope the weather picks up quickly!

There are sound practical reasons for helping birds too. They provide an extremely useful form of pest control; eating slugs, snails, asparagus beetles and aphids to name just a few of the critters I’ve spotted this month. What’s more, the waste that birds produce is not to be sniffed at – I use the deposits beneath my bird feeders to enrich the soil, helping to provide bumper crops.