Category Archives: Westmeath Examiner 2015

More home baking – Nicola Dalton and family

More home baking– Nicola Dalton and family

We are making changes to old habits, and I am definitely more aware of the waste going into the green bin. Through some small changes and a little planning, I reckon that the green bin waste is now half what it used to be six weeks ago.We are cooking a lot more fresh food,baking bread and buns instead of the packaged alternatives, it’s great because it’s healthier for the kids as there are no extra preservatives: you can’t trust a cake that has a shelf life of three months, can you?With the heels of our lovely home-made bread I am making bread crumbs in the food processor for the Sunday roast.The kids are loving all the home baking so much that I have to make two of everything,otherwise it doesn’t get as far as the lunch boxes the next day. They love to help me mix the cake mixture and putting the mix into the tins, but when it comes to the cleaning up,they always seem to disappear, but I don’t want to put everyone off because there’s generally only a bowl and spoon and a few ingredients to put away.We have had lots of really interesting school lunches, rice pudding with diced mango, fruit smoothies… In a smoothie taste is all that counts, and you can whiz up any fruit you like + ice + milk. Most are sweet enough but if not, add a teaspoon of honey or a handful of grapes.I do the same thing at the end of the week with the veg, and I call it left over veg soup. It’s delicious and kids take it to school in flasks, with some home-made brown bread,perfect for wet, wintery days. The key is to blend it up so they can’t see the veg.Our blue bin is only going out half as much as it used to. And when I’m buying I’m less inclined to purchase if I can get something without packaging or with packaging that is 100% recyclable.I got some funny looks when I removed the card covering at the supermarket a couple of weeks ago, and asked the supermarket to send it to their recycling bin!But things like that will force the shops to look at ensuring there is choice available to help reduce packaging. If there are any supermarkets happy to get involved and take back their unnecessary packaging I’ll shop there.

The Dalton kids enjoying the home-made leftover veg and potato soup, and white soda – no packaging in sight and we used all those bits of veg that would have gone to waste in a few more days.
The Dalton kids enjoying the home-made leftover veg and potato soup, and white soda – no packaging in sight and we used all those bits of veg that would have gone to waste in a few more days.

Packaging– Orla Dynes

One of the beauties of this project is that for every problem you encounter, someone out there will have a solution – if you just ask. For example, we have five cats and when I started the project I decided I had better wash out the cat food tins so that they could be recycled.As anyone who does this job knows, it is pure gross – I would prefer to change nappies any day.But when I complained to a friend of mine who once had a 21-year-old cat, she said:“Give them the food in boxes! You can recycle the cardboard and it’s far better for them anyway.”Now I can assure you that five out of five cats do not prefer this method but they and the planet are better off.Another problem I encountered was the whole issue of organic food. I am prepared to pay a little bit more for organic produce but am really against the fact that it comes in packaging which leaches gases into the food and has to be disposed of afterwards.Some plastics can be recycled but a lot are destined for landfill.One night at a Westmeath EnvironmentalGroup meeting, we were all allowed one moan per person. Mine was about packaging.Someone suggested the Fairgreen market on Thursday mornings. All of the produce is organic and you can bring your own bags.Now I can assure you that four out of four people in my family prefer this method as the food at Fairgreen is nutritious, delicious and great value!Some 15 per cent of the price of every product we buy goes on the packaging. Then we have to consider all of the resources used in both the manufacture of packaging and its eventual disposal.Our national waste would fill nearly 500,000 trucks every year. Put end to end,those trucks would form a convoy that could stretch from Malin Head to Mizen Head 17times.As the participants in this project will testify,there are alternatives to this mess. All you have to do is ask a little, and read a little.Hopefully, one day the saying ‘good things come in small parcels’ will be changed to ‘good things come with no parcels’!

Orla’s cats are adjusting to a new way of eating.
Orla’s cats are adjusting to a new way of eating.

Anyone have more suggestions?
Veronica Lynam

This last month has been quiet, just continuing what I’ve already stared, like shopping for ingredients with meals already planned in my head. Apart from no waste, I’m feeling more organised and that’s a welcome step for me. I’m still using the coconut oil for hands, face and hair. It’s lasting for ages.I have discovered my small dog likes my food even though it’s all vegetarian, so I cook a little extra for her. Today it was just cabbage and spuds added to her nuts. She loved it.This means the bag of nuts lasts longer and just as important – fewer non-recyclable bags in the waste bin.I’m using bread soda with a few lavender drops to get rid of smells in the car – just think of wet dog smell. It’s also a lovely scent to have anywhere in the house and there’s absolutely no need for artificial air fresheners.My sink was blocked the other day. This timeI put vinegar and bread soda (again) with hot water down the sink and then used a plunger.Problem solved. Why didn’t I think of these things before?So far, all the changes have been so incredibly simple. I think it’s really just a matter of trying to live more simply and acting on it day by day.What did our parents and grandparents use before we had all the plethora of household cleaning products and cosmetics.I’d love if some readers would help us out and give us some more ideas. I’m sure the Westmeath Examiner would love to publish them and then we’d all benefit. Finally Christmas, a lovely time for family and friends and for giving. But many of us get caught up in the shopping frenzy and there’s so much stuff out there.If you want to keep it simple, why not doKris Kindle for family, where every family member just buys for one person. It’s only one gift you have to buy and you can put thought into that gift and make it special. It means less stress, less stuff and less packaging and there’s still a gift for everybody under theChristmas tree.

From Decluttering to Home Baking

Orla Dynes, Killucan – decluttering

Orla Dynes, Killucan – decluttering Usuall y when we think of reducing our rubbish, we think of cutting down on food waste and packaging. However, our possessions can also be a source of rubbish that results in us leading lives of needless frustration and chaos. I realised this after reading about a man goes through all his possessions every January and gives away everything he hasn’t used in the previous year. I remember feeling a wave of serenity wash over me when I thought of living with just the things I needed and no more.

And so, after tackling my family’s food waste, I decided our waste of possessions was the next item on the list. I went out and bought 10 bin liners and gave my son and daughter one each. I told them they would get €5 each if they filled the bags up with clutter. “But I don’t have any clutter!” protests my son. “Okay, no fiver!” I retort. Within minutes his bag is full. Ditto with herself. Hubby isn’t swayed by the fiver so I’ll have to get back to him.

Over the next few days, I scour every room in the house and pounce on any item that hasn’t been used in the last year. The bags are quickly filled with books, DVDs, ornaments, cushions, kitchenware and toys. Some items, like decapitated dolls, cannot be passed on and end up in the bin. Old papers and the banana skins down the sides of the beds are respectively recycled and composted. I organise my wardrobe into seven everyday outfits and two dressy outfits for the winter. All other clothes go into the bin liners.

It takes about a week to haul everything into the charity shops in Mullingar. They are delighted. The more items we donate to charity shops, the more choice there will be in the secondhand market. Charities receive more money and fewer resources are depleted to manufacture new products. Back at the ranch every room is filled with light and space. We can actually find things again and because we have fewer things, each possession is cherished. I also shop less knowing that I have enough for the moment. I prefer to put my feet up, thanks, and let that wave of serenity wash over me!

The Dalton family of Coralstown are working to reduce their domestic waste as part of the Get Involved 2015 project, (from left) Noel, Lila (age 5), Jack (12), Róisín (2), Katie (7) and Nicki.
The Dalton family of Coralstown are working to reduce their domestic waste as part of the Get Involved 2015 project, (from left) Noel, Lila (age 5), Jack (12), Róisín (2), Katie (7) and Nicki.

 

Veronica Lynam, Coralstown

What I like about this initiative of ours is that it is all about doing, not talking, just doing. Trying to have as little waste as possible is a practical challenge for me now on a daily basis. I like that!

So, what have I done in the last month? Firstly, I’ve stopped using toothpaste. Don’t worry, I’m still brushing my teeth. My friend Orla gave me a talk about using bread soda as an alternative to toothpaste. So I tried it. It did taste a bit strange the first time but now it’s fine, and it means a small saving for me and more importantly, one less item going into the bin.

Then my supply of face moisturiser and beeswax cream for dry hair ran out. Both were good products but the containers are not recyclable. What to do? Well, I happened to be doing a clean-out of cupboards and found a glass full of coconut virgin oil hidden away at the back and well past its expiry date. The labelling stated that the oil can be used for cooking and also used externally on the skin and hair. I’m using it on my hands, face and on my hair. It’s working a treat and will mean less again for the waste bin. Next came food.

Being a vegetarian who is not crazy about cooking and can even sometimes forget about it, cooking can be a problem. Sometimes, the only solution is a lovely Indian take-away. This has happened twice in the last month. The first time, I brought in a plastic container that I had kept from a previous occasion and asked politely for that to be used for my meal. There was some embracement on my side and definite puzzlement on his side but he eventually said yes.

Thankfully, the second time was much easier. I think he knows me know. It dawns on me as I’m trying to remember what I’ve done (in the last month) is that much of it has been simple things, such as doing all the shopping (food and otherwise) in one driving trip. That’s saving petrol and forcing me to be more organised. The decluttering is continuing bit by bit. The DVDs have gone, now it’s parting with clothes that I won’t wear again.

I have a lovely pair of jeans that I last wore 20 years ago. They have survived other decluttering attempts but this time there is no escape. They are going to the charity shop. Somebody much younger than me can enjoy them. As well as that, it is a few more euro for the charity shop.

Nicola and Noel Dalton and family, Coralstown

My name is Nicola Dalton, I’m married to Noel and we have four children, Jack (12), Katie (7), Lila (5) and Roisin (2). We also have a dog and cat so we know all about the struggles to keep waste to a minimum. As a family of six, with three children in school, and the two of us working full-time, managing and reducing waste is probably one of the last things on our minds. Being creative and frugal when it comes to waste can be a chore with a big family, but it is possible to make a difference, even in a very busy household. We’ve already been changing some things in the last 4-5 years, which have shown some dramatic reduction in our waste output, and we’re now ready to take on this challenge and take things to a whole new level, and hopefully see a reduction in waste, and have more money in our pockets as a result. I think that getting our waste down to one litre a year for a family like ours is optimistic but I do like a challenge!

What we have been doing:

  • We reduced our food waste by cooking less, how often have you put in that extra potato? ‘One for the pot’. Any leftover potato or dinner can be frozen and makes a handy lunch for the baby. Rice is great spiced up and served cold a lunch for school the next day.
  • Breastfeeding all the babies was a good choice that not only was great for our health, saved me time, but saved me a fortune on formula, bottles, sterilising equipment, and then the cost to remove the leftover tins or plastic containers. It’s estimated that formula and bottle feeding equipment can cost around €1,500 or more a year, and that’s not including the waste disposal!
  • We have a compost heap for the raw vegetable peelings.
  • Our chickens do a great job at clearing up cooked potato skins and left over salads, and they love the occasional crusts from the lunch boxes.
  • The dog and cat will happily take care of the occasional cooked meat leftovers from the plates.
  • We reared a couple of pigs one year for the table, which provided a good year’s supply of pork and ham, and unlike kids, they are not fussy eaters. They also ploughed up the ground and fertilised it ready for next year’s growing.
  • Like a lot of families, in recent years we went through a grow-it-yourself phase, and filled the garden with veg and potatoes: last year wasn’t great but hopefully next year will be, and our polytunnel will help. It’s rewarding growing your own food and the kids love getting mucky and eating all the fresh veg and fruits from the bushes.
  • When our chickens had a bad laying day, we got our free range eggs from a farmer up the road, we bring the empty cartons and leave him his to use again.
  • Another year we got big into the organic home baking and cooking from scratch. My husband is a great bread baker, and I specialise in the cakes and biscuits.
  • I’m back making my own yogurts for the kids, which is really easy, you can find the recipe and method online and best of all is you can add what you like to it.
  • It takes time and effort to plan lunches, but once you get into the swing of it, it’s no extra bother.
  • I put sandwiches into reusable containers, they get cheese cubes in a mini Tupperware box, I give them a home-made yogurt in one of those small, jars for pate or yogurt, you can use a smaller Tupperware box if you prefer.

So now we have the challenge of combining all these things and taking on the new challenge of reducing the packaging coming into the house in the first place.

If you’d like to Get Involved too… ‘Get Involved’ is a way for communities all over Ireland to work together to improve their own lives, create local jobs, and protect the environment. ‘Get Involved’ is a sustainable communities initiative developed by 51 local newspapers throughout Ireland. The Westmeath Examiner project comprises a group of people who are aiming to reduce their domestic waste. If you would like to find out more, or talk to the people whose reports feature below, contact the newsroom in Mullingar at 04493 46747 or editor@westmeathexaminer.ie

Westmeath Examiner Get Involved Round 1 Updates

Westmeath Examiner’s Project Description

Our project has been inspired by an American family who have reduced their household waste to ONE LITRE a year. In the process they transformed their health and relationships and managed to reduce their household budget by 40%.

Bea Johnson, the mother in the family wrote a book called Zero Waste Home. In this book she tells us that she uses 5 steps to reduce waste. She calls these steps the 5 Rs: Refuse what you do not need; Reduce what you do need; Reuse what you consume; Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse; Rot (compost) the rest.

Our group will come together and discuss how we will implement the 5 Rs in our own homes. While the book Zero Waste Home will be our guide, we will focus more on creating our own community which pools our individual ideas, resources and experiences.

Some people might have more experience composting for example, while others might be used to growing their own vegetables. Others might be able to offer recipes for leftover food and household remedies.

Everybody will be able to offer something. The reduction in our waste will happen gradually to give us time to adjust our shopping habits. We will agree as a group on a standard container for rubbish.

This size will vary depending on how many people are in each individual household. As the weeks go by we can reduce our standard containers to smaller sizes depending on how successful we are. Our goal is of course one litre a year!

June Kelly, Orla Dynes and Veronica Lynam.
June Kelly, Orla Dynes and Veronica Lynam.

GET IN VOLVED 2015 – the first reports

Orla Dynes, Killucan

My name is Orla Dynes and I am married with two teenage children and we live in a housing estate in Killucan. I was inspired to reduce my rubbish after reading the book Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson. Also a member of a family of four, Johnson has managed to reduce her household waste to one glass jar a year. I think she is amazing and feel if she can do it, so can we! The first step we took was to tackle our food waste.

A huge problem in the modern world, it is estimated that here in Ireland, the average family throws out €1,000 worth of food each year. When this food is sent to landfill, it gets mixed in with all the other rubbish such as plastics and doesn’t get the chance to biodegrade properly.

As a result, toxic gases like methane are released into the air. We decided to buy a compost bin so that we could separate our food waste from all the other rubbish. All the fruit and vegetable peelings can now be composted but it is not recommended to throw cooked food in the composter as it can attract vermin.

This means you really have to stop wasting food in the first place. And boy we were throwing out a lot of food – especially the dinners. I had to face facts: I obviously was not the best cook on the planet. So I went into Easons and bought a little cookbook called 150 Stir-fry Recipes, for €3.99. The recipes are easy-peasy and delicious.

My family now think I’m the best cook since Rachel Allen. Our food waste has dropped by about 90%. And, we are all eating lots more veggies. Another tip I learnt is put the dinner in a bowl like the Chinese do. In this way people can’t see all the vegetables you are giving them. Happy Days!

June Kelly, Mullingar

Recycling as a resident of a two-bedroom apartment My husband and I live in a two-bedroom apartment in Mullingar. Waste disposal is a daily consideration – what to do with wrappings boxes plastics and aluminium and tin cans. The rubbish collection company servicing the apartment block requires a separation of the various kinds of waste.

Once a week generalised waste is collected and the next week it is the turn for dry waste collection – newspapers, magazines, non-corrugated cardboard, plastic containers and wraps, aluminium and other metallic items.

Bottles and other glass containers we deposit in bottle banks located in the car park area of our local supermarket. Used batteries are disposed of in supermarket collection boxes. Hazardous items such as light bulbs and containers formerly containing toxic substances require specialist treatment.

Difficult but at least assistance is provided twice yearly by Westmeath County Council. Then too, if you buy a new electrical appliance it helps to know that the provider will remove the old item for recycling. Food waste: apartment dwelling allows for no pets or compost facilities and unfortunately our food waste ends up in the general bin facility. Not ideal.

Some private refuse companies will take food waste but this is contingent on all apartment dwellers agreeing to pay the extra fee. Communal living as in apartments requires clarity regarding waste disposal. Detailed information on waste disposal should be automatically available to all apartment residents.

Veronica Lynam, Coralstown

I live in the countryside and have only myself to be responsible for and have been trying for a long while to live a simpler lifestyle, with as little waste as possible. I have achieved some success but it’s been haphazard and sporadic.

One is just one and I didn’t feel I could make much difference, but now that I am part of a group of like minded people, it’s a different story. Now my efforts are more consistent and determined and I am trying to make the right choices every day.

Mind you, it’s not all plain sailing. Two weeks ago I walked into a supermarket looking to buy vegetables and after seeing that all vegetables were packaged I just walked out again empty handed and said “I’m not doing this again”.

So now it’s buying vegetables not packaged either from Fox’s or at the Fairgreen market every Thursday. I want to be able to see what I’m buying, choose the amount I want and not have to deal with packaging. My next step was to try and use up all contents of the fridge and food cupboards before I did a planned shopping. I’m nearly there.

When that’s done, the idea is to plan my meals for the week and shop accordingly. But I cannot allow myself to buy anything that comes in a container that cannot be recycled. Lastly, I’m also trying to have less ‘stuff’ in the house so I’m decluttering bit by bit. That includes clothes I don’t wear and books and DVDs the charity shops will love. After a few weeks of this I will only have what I need and even better, know exactly what I have and where it is. I’m feeling better already.

Waste heroes aim for zero

The group selected as the Westmeath Examiner entry for the 2015 Get Involved project have an eventual aim of cutting the waste they produce to one litre per household per year. Veronica Lynam and Orla Dynes are members of Westmeath Environment Group and they are on a mission to show what can be done, and by demonstration to encourage other people to join them. “We are part of a group of local people who are sick and tired of the amount of waste in our society,” said Veronica. “Plastic packaging stands out as enemy number one – food waste and non-recyclable containers are high on our agenda too, as are non essential items we bring into our homes.” Veronica said that what they are doing is asking people to stop, stand back and then decide what is essential for their needs. Then the task is to find out where to buy those essentials without packaging, and in recyclable form. “If we are unable to find them, can we do without them, or better still, find alternatives for ourselves?” she asks. “Our aim is to have as little waste as possible going into our rubbish bins and to live a simpler, more environmentally friendly lifestyle.” Veronica explained that if they can’t find an item they need, either because of packaging or because the container can’t be recycled, they will come up with alternatives, or exchange ideas among group members. “Or better still,” she said, “we are appealing to readers of the Westmeath Examiner. Older people, in particular, have a wealth of knowledge and would be invaluable in giving us ideas. “We also feel that undertaking this project will help us financially because of carefully planned shopping and a minimum of waste going into bins. We are hoping that some of your readers will join us in our project.” Veronica points out that it is hard to return to wasteful ways once you make the change, and that the timing of the project is good, given pending changes to waste collection in Westmeath, which will mean pay per weight.

Rationale for project

Each year the average Irish household sends over a tonne of rubbish to landfill. One third of this waste is food. Some of the rubbish e.g. plastic bottles will not decompose for 100 years or more. Our precious soil, air and water are being poisoned. Rapidly. We, the Westmeath Environmental Group want to reduce our contribution to this catastrophe. We are asking ourselves to stop and think each time we are about to buy something. We will ask the following questions: (1) Do I need this item? (2) If yes, can I buy it without packaging? (3) if not, how will I dispose of this packaging in a way that cares for the environment?

Project Description

Our project has been inspired by an American family who have reduced their household waste to ONE LITRE a year. In the process they transformed their health and relationships and managed to reduce their household budget by 40%. Bea Johnson, the mother in the family wrote a book called Zero Waste Home. In this book she tells us that she uses 5 steps to reduce waste. She calls these steps the 5 Rs: Refuse what you do not need; Reduce what you do need; Reuse what you consume; Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse; Rot (compost) the rest. Our group will come together and discuss how we will implement the 5 Rs in our own homes. While the book Zero Waste Home will be our guide, we will focus more on creating our own community which pools our individual ideas, resources and experiences. Some people might have more experience composting for example, while others might be used to growing their own vegetables. Others might be able to offer recipes for leftover food and household remedies. Everybody will be able to offer something. The reduction in our waste will happen gradually to give us time to adjust our shopping habits. We will agree as a group on a standard container for rubbish. This size will vary depending on how many people are in each individual household. As the weeks go by we can reduce our standard containers to smaller sizes depending on how successful we are. Our goal is of course one litre a year!