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the plastic wars: part 1

January 13, 2011

It used to be a slag heap but now it is a place that bursts with life, enthusiasm and a can-do spirit that makes saving the planet seem not only possible but fun.

This is part of the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), an amazing institution in Machynlleth, Wales, that pioneers solutions to environmental problems. When we decided to visit last year, I was apprehensive. I expected to leave feeling a combination of despair at the scale of the problem, guilt that I don’t do more, and confusion about whether one person can make much difference anyway.

But CAT doesn’t work like that. I left bubbling with excitement and went back just a few days later to learn more – and to ogle their fabulous vegetables.

courgettes

Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’

CAT aims to address every aspect of the average lifestyle, testing and showcasing real, workable solutions in areas such as renewable energy, environmental building, energy efficiency, organic growing and alternative sewage systems.

We’re not quite ready for an alternative sewage system in our house, but after seeing all the ways that seemingly intractable environmental problems could be tackled, I felt ashamed of my lazy approach to dealing with things I know are unsustainable. CAT gave me the energy to do something about it. As they say on their website: ‘Averting a massive environmental disaster is not out of our reach, although if we continue to treat the early signs with apathy, it soon will be.’

I decided to start by reducing the amount of plastic we consume.

With great serendipity, a milkman had shoved a card through our door while we were away. It shames me to say that we had been buying supermarket milk in plastic cartons for years, even though I knew it might take up to half a century for them to decompose. I had always, lazily, assumed that milk from a milkman would be much more expensive. It’s not. I think we have added £1 a week to our milk bill – that’s 20p for every person in our house – and we no longer have the hassle of carting the stuff back from the supermarket.

If there’s any theme to this blog, it’s the attempt to find ways of living that promote mental well-being. A wise woman once told me that small changes in the way we do things can result in big differences to how we feel. I know I am happier for reducing the amount of plastic we chuck in the bin, and happier that we are spending money with a local business rather than a supermarket behemoth. Simply feeling more connected to where our food comes from makes a difference. I had to ring the milkman the other day and when he answered I could hear cows mooing in the background. That beats listening to an automated message any day.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 15, 2011 11:13 am

    Oh, well done you. I have stuck with the milkman here – I like the fact that someone is around very early in the morning starting the day off as much as the convenience of the milk. I do supplement when necessary with a big (plastic, alas) bottle from the local supermarket. We use these for the “wormjuice” we collect from the wormery or for, ahem, natuaral compost activator. The compost then goes back on to the allotment. Perhaps local council recycling schemes have made us all a little complacent knowing that when we do buy plastic, we can put it in the recycling bin, when we should be going back to first principles.

    • Joanna permalink*
      January 16, 2011 7:08 pm

      I think those are the greenest uses I have ever heard of for plastic milk bottles! 🙂

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  1. the plastic wars: part 2 (and a recipe for yogurt) « Caim and Coracle

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