White Christmas or Green Christmas – or both?

MCFly reporter Laurence Menhinick looks into ways you can lighten your carbon footprint while still enjoying a stylish Christmas…

Paper, card, glass; cartons, bottles, plastic and the compostables too- each to its own bin. Recycling is now anchored in our every day routine. But let’s face it, the novelty has worn off and we shouldn’t feel smug because we recycle some of our stuff- there’s always more we could do, and it doesn’t mean extra hassle…

This was exactly the idea behind the Watch your Waste Week organised by Recycle for Greater Manchester (1) from the 14th to 26th of November. Coinciding with the European Week for Waste Reduction, its main focus was to encourage reducing and re-using and give new ideas to the public on how to broaden their environmental efforts. A range of workshops throughout Greater Manchester promoted clothes refashioning, furniture re-using and savvy cooking. The week was a great success, ending with a fashion show in Salford in partnership with TRAID (Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development). TRAID have recently opened a base in the North West.

Sheridan Hilton of Viridor Laing (Greater Manchester) Limited who organized the event explained that “The campaign came about because it can be much more difficult to engage people to reduce their waste than to engage in kerbside recycling. The reason for this is that waste reducing actions (reduce and re-use) are more based on previous personal experience of environmental behaviour, environmental values and environmental knowledge. As a result, R4GM wanted to raise levels of public understanding of reducing waste by motivating people to change their behaviour in a fun and interactive way that would make them think about their own personal style but also their wallet.”

I have spoken to three local businesses who were involved in the event but also engage pro-actively within their local community adding an extra dimension to huge environmental benefits.

Lisa Woodger, founder of Birth2Potty (2), (“providing impartial advice, and affordable ethically produced re-usable nappies and products”), explained that realizing what disposable nappies are actually made of prompted her interest in real cloth nappies – the lack of availability and reliable information lead her to set up her business. She developed the venture into a Community Interest Company, supporting local Working At Home Mums by selling their products as well. This is where environmental meets community and this leads to greater trust and behavioural change: “Many people are unaware that disposable nappies take over 500 years to decompose, that they are full of chemicals and use so much wood pulp; once people become aware of these facts, they soon begin to look at other products and change their buying habits as a result.”

Ms Woodger explained that pre-loved nappies and a baby clothes can also be sold, thus reaching even further into re-usability. She added “Often people are just oblivious to how much waste they generate, work and home commitments often make waste minimisation something to think about, but when you present them with viable ways to do so, without adding to their already hectic schedule, people are very receptive.”

I liked the idea that changing behaviour can be contagious and also bleed into other aspects of your life. When speaking to Charlotte Keyworth , designer at “Junk”, an independent sustainable clothes shop in Dale Street, I realized that fashion could be a “way in” to encourage new – or should I say old- environmental habits. Charlotte explained that it was the sudden realization that excellent items of furniture and clothes were being wasted in landfills which prompted her to do something about it. Her shop in “sustainable fashion made in Manchester” (furnished entirely using recycled or reclaimed materials) proposes excellent vintage fashion but also independent labels from re-used clothes. The shop builds on “old-fashion principles”: mending, repairing and avoiding waste, and was voted Best Independent Shop in Manchester last year. Charlotte explained that she wanted to promote a change in values too, “vintage clothes and furniture have real quality built into them especially when you compare them with a lot of what is currently available: it is unlikely many of today’s clothes will survive decades”.

But talking to her I also felt a real need to raise awareness about wastage and encourage people to actively review their attitude. She proposes a series of creative eco workshops in sustainable recycled fashion, and also engages in community project with teenagers- this too goes beyond the commercial venture.

Finally, I visited Emmaus (3) in Mossley, on their Christmas open day earlier this month – they had contributed to the fashion show with a display of second-hand and vintage furniture. The community’s warehouse is crammed with suites, dressers, tables and cabinets (as well as books, trinkets, crockery, glass, collectibles- you name it), all at very low prices. It is indeed a sad thought that perfectly sound furniture like these could have been sent to the tips, contributing to the 1.1 million tonnes of rubbish Greater Manchester produces every year*.

So, if you plan on treating yourself to a new (sustainably manufactured) sofa or table this year, consider improving your carbon footprint even more by checking out what is on offer there- quite frankly there were a couple of items that looked new to me- and donating your old furniture too. (Pick-up can even be arranged). The gains are not just environmental: Emmaus communities provide shelter to homeless people (known as Companions) but also function as self-sustaining businesses through their recycling ventures. The Mossley group for instance has a workshop where furniture can be manufactured and renovated for sale.

For more ideas and events on reducing, reusing and recycling this Christmas, visit recycle for Greater Manchester and their online edition of I love recycling.

Laurence Menhinick
please send responses to this article to mcmonthly@gmail.com, or use the comments box!

Conflict of Interest statement: Neither MCFly’s reporter nor MCFly have been offered or accepted any financial or non-financial reward from any of the businesses and organisations named in this article.
1- Recycle for Greater Manchester is a partnership between Viridor Laing (Greater Manchester) Limited (VLGM) and the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority (GMWDA), encouraging all residents of Greater Manchester to recycle more and help reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill. www.recycleforgreatermanchester.com

2- Birth 2 Potty C.I.C. is a not for profit company, primarily based in Wigan, with a shop in Leigh, Lancs. It offers unbiased advice and demonstrations as requested, to help parents to make an informed choice and offer real customer service. In November 2010 won a Business of the Year Award (best social enterprise). They will be holding further events around Greater Manchester in 2012 http://www.birth2potty.com/

3- Emmaus: Boutique at 2a Mill Street, Uppermill, Oldham and warehouse in Longlands Mill, Queen Street, Mossley. The Emmaus communities, started in the mid 1950s, offer shelter to homeless people, and have always been involved in collecting and re-using furniture, clothes and objects which are re-sold to support the community and those in need. http://www.emmausmossley.org.uk/shop.htm
* statistics from Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority http://www.gmwda.gov.uk/about-us/why-reduce-reuse-recycle

About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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