Julia Stephenson: Green Goddess
Thursday 16 November 2006
I'm fed up with everyone banging on about recycling like it's the ne plus ultra of green living. In the old days there was a green mantra, "reduce, reuse and recycle", but the "reduce and reuse" bit seems to have been jettisoned. Recycling is an extravagant use of resources. The energy expended to make a glass bottle or plastic cup, using it once then destroying it again to reassemble as exactly the same product, is a vastly extravagant use of energy.
Many of our recyclables now get shipped to developing countries where the underpaid labour force, often made up of children, risk their health sorting through our toxic waste mountain for us.
Even in the dark days, when my idea of being green was to buy organic blueberries out of season from Tesco, I was always a rubbish Nazi.
It was heaven living in Davos, Switzerland, which has a satisfyingly draconian method of dealing with rubbish. No, not a firing squad for those who recycle envelopes without removing the plastic windows first, but by making it illegal to throw away rubbish in anything but special bags costing 1Sfr.
And although people feel a warm glow as they fill their car boots with old bottles and papers and go to the bottle bank, an unknown quantity will end up in landfill. For while 80 per cent of people recycle at least one type of waste regularly, a paltry 11 per cent actually buy recycled products. This means that there just isn't the market for much of what we diligently recycle.
To close the recycling loop it's vital to buy as many recycled products as possible. Kitchen paper, toilet roll, envelopes and computer copy paper, for example, are now easy to buy. Although it's important to look after our bottoms, we don't need to use virgin pulp paper on them. The recycled stuff does the job just as effectively and it won't give you haemorrhoids, as an anally retentive commentator pointed out on national television last week.
To close the loop, buy recycled glass products, vintage/second-hand clothes, and furniture from auctions to save the carbon emissions and environmental toxins created from making new furniture.
EBay is very eco-friendly, giving people hours of pleasure while keeping our useless junk endlessly circulating and out of landfill.
If you can't sell something, give it away on www.freecycle.org, an organisation that puts people and unwanted stuff in touch with each other.
This is a great idea, but luckily my saintly cleaner Mrs Pippolata is a one-woman freecycle outlet and happily takes everything off my hands. I suspect she has her own "retail outlets" - or maybe she's sticking it all on eBay too. Whatever, it's fine by me.
I don't want to put you off recycling, just put the emphasis on reducing and reusing what we have.
Next week I'll pass on some tips to help you cut down your rubbish mountain and become more healthy and beautiful while saving reams of money.
Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around
Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
A million homes to be heated by river water energy
Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past
Animal Extinction - the greatest threat to mankind
- 1 Germanwings crash: Police make 'significant discovery' at home of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
- 2 JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
- 3 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 4 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 5 Jeremy Clarkson calls on trolls to leave producer Oisin Tymon alone: 'None of this is his fault'
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Andreas Guenter Lubitz intentionally crashed flight 9525 into the Alps in act of mass murder and suicide – latest
£50000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued business growt...
£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established and expanding ...