Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

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The Independent Online

I've been following this newspaper's war against packaging with interest. I thought I was the only fanatical anti-rubbish Nazi in the country, but no. Judging by the scores of e-mails on the subject, there are other desperate souls boiling their heads with rage at the amount of pointless waste thrust upon us.

But the odd thing is, despite so many of us apparently avoiding shrink-wrapped coconuts and eschewing plastic bags, I've never seen any of these rubbish-avoiders as I perambulate about the shops. I rarely see anyone bring their own bag and refuse the one proffered. I cut a lone figure with my expandable string bag, which takes up no space in my bag yet stretches to Tardis-like proportions. Occasionally I see someone buy a "bag for life", but I don't think I've seen anyone reuse one.

And as for the supermarkets' great green renaissance, like the Second Coming, it doesn't seem to be coming any time soon. Yesterday I visited Waitrose, which is vaguely felt to be the greenest of the supermarkets, which is odd as it isn't, and was confronted as usual by grapefruits, avocados and mangoes encased in yards of "protective" wrapping (as if they didn't have perfectly good wrapping of their own), plus hundreds of bomb-proof impregnable plastic boxes each containing 15 air-freighted Italian cherries.

My other top waste-reducing tip is to install your own water filter. We chuck away 15 million plastic bottles a year in the UK and the market is growing despite evidence that small amounts of carcinogenic plastic leach into water - especially if bottles are left in the sun. Even if you recycle bottles, this uses up huge amounts of energy to melt down and recreate exactly the same product again. Why?

The stuff that comes out of my water filter tastes just as good. So good I'm flogging it to local restaurants as "Sloane Square Spring" in refillable bottles at £3 a pop. Yum.

A worm bin will take care of your kitchen waste. As I have a small patio I keep my bin on the terrace of my neighbour, an elegant, pallid banker who doesn't get a lot of sun (because he never uses his roof terrace). Having colonised his roof terrace, I'm getting delusions of grandeur à la Napoleon. What's to stop me claiming all the roofs in my terrace? Instead of flags I shall stake my claim with my rubbish-munching worm factories.

But, worryingly, the bins are getting very heavy and I live in dread they will crash through his roof, bringing an end to my fast-expanding worm empire. I fear he will look far less elegant if a bucketful of worms falls on his balding head but hopefully I'll be able to convince him that a worm toupee is a small sacrifice to pay for reducing the UK's waste mountain.

String bags available from www.naturalcollection.com; water filters from www.freshwaterfilter.com

j.stephenson@independent.co.uk

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