Monday, 15 July 2013

Rural Wiltshire is where it's all at!

Last Monday, Potterne Springs WI devoted its evening meeting to the topic of reducing waste.

It was a hot, sunny evening, and I wondered how many people would make the effort to wend their way down the lane to the Wiltshire Scout centre for the evening. We're a little bit obsessed with recycling and reusing here but our enthusiasm is not always matched elsewhere, and given the choice between a sunny Monday evening in the garden at home or a thrilling talk by Wiltshire eco bloggers and Wildlife Trust staff, even I might have faltered.

But this is Potterne Springs WI we're talking about. Sue Groffman had put a huge amount of effort into promoting the evening further afield and opening it up to the local community as well as WI members, so the turnout was impressive. Over 40 people came along (double the usual attendance figure).

Jen showing people how to make a bag from an old t shirt,
and recommending ways to reuse your old jeans!

Jen from My Make Do and Mend Year gave an impassioned speech on reducing waste and fighting consumerism (which she is doing very successfully in her 'buy nothing new' year), Emma from the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust gave her top waste-watching tips, and I waffled on about some of the things we have been doing to reduce waste since the blog was born last year and since we took part in the Slim Your Bin project. As someone in the audience pointed out, there is nothing new to this way of thinking - for many of our mothers and grandmothers it would have been second nature. 

I'm sure that to some extent we were preaching to the converted in Potterne. But as my family found from taking part in the Slim Your Bin project, there's always one more little thing we could all be doing when it comes to saving the planet. My 'one more little things' for the evening were learning that you can recycle butter packets by soaking them in water to separate the paper from the foil, and that rubber bands and latex rubber gloves can be composted. 

Emma demonstrated how to turn a plastic bottle into a planter.

Speaking was a little nerve wracking, but the real fun started when we got going with the workshops. Jen was busy with her sewing machine. Emma transormed a milk container into a planter (and if there had been time would have decorated it with sweet wrappers to give a mosaicy effect).

I took along green cleaning ingredients like vinegar and bicarbonate of soda to show how you can knock up your own washing powder, tooth paste, vinegar cleaner and bath bombs. There were two strands to my thinking: a) once you learn a little about eco cleaning, you realise that if you've got vinegar and bicarb in the cupboard under the sink, you can tackle many cleaning tasks easily, and without generating lots of waste. It also empowers you to have a go at other things made with similar ingredients, like whipping up bath bombs, and b) even if you never make washing powder or toothpaste again, the simplicity of the ingredients and the ease with which it can be made will make you wary of the advertisers' claims for their fancy laundry wares or oral care products. There is a choice - we don't have to buy into their products in fancy packaging with a list of ingredients as long as your arm, and the alternatives don't have to be expensive.

Sarah from Devizes Freegle poses
at the eco cleaning table.
Between the three speakers, we all made the point that resources are precious, from crisp packets to clothing. Just think of all the energy expended to make them and transport them, before you even start thinking about their disposal. A second use for all that everyday treasure is always better than hasty disposal or even recycling.

Washing up scourers made from
satsuma/orange/onion nets.
Hopefully we converted a couple of people to composting, or reusing and making do and mending, or simplifying their cleaning cupboards. Or maybe we validated the good things that people are already doing. For me, there was also something very hopeful about being in the depths of rural Wiltshire in a room buzzing with people who care, and are keen to do their bit. 

"Never underestimate the power of a small group to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead


  1. Replies
    1. A nice fizzy smelly thing that goes in the bath. Recipe coming up soon!

  2. I need to make some of those scourers - I buy a lot of my veggies in those netting bags. Do you have a special technique?

    1. Absolutely no special techniques required! Just stuff a load in one bag or bundle some together, as big or small as you wish, and use a rubber band or two to secure the whole lot together. Simple as!

  3. That sounds a great evening - so pleased that you had so many people turn up - I bet they were glad they did.

    1. It felt like a positive atmosphere so I hope they were glad they turned out!

  4. A small community of people can make huge changes. I like your approach, show them how to make the changes but don't preach. I'm sure you have a few new converts in the bunch.

    1. Seeing stuff in action makes it more tangible. For the cleaning workshop a lot of people knew about such things but weren't sure where to get hold of the ingredients, other than in the supermarket food aisles which makes it expensive, so just being able to sign post was a useful exercise.

  5. Great post and really impressive one to read. thanks for sharing