Family matters and work waste

Posted on: 8th October, 2018

Category: Trash Talk

Contributor: Allison Roberts

Allison Roberts of Exploding Tree is documenting her family’s self-imposed challenge to create zero rubbish for a whole year. If you would like to join Allison in her quest, or suggest some tips to help her achieve it, you will find her blog at

I helped organise a ‘Fair and Local Feast’ during the Taste of West Cork for Fairtrade Clonakilty’s 15th birthday celebrations and, as part of that, we made a short film featuring Jennifer Sleeman, founder of FT Clon; it was two minutes long, but as expected it packed a punch. Not only was it inspiring, she also suggested not taking things too seriously…to enjoy the projects we get ourselves involved in.

This month I’ve welcomed two more members of my family into my cut-the-rubbish project. My mum and dad are visiting from Canada for three weeks and I had to decide how to approach houseguests and the project – whether to bin their waste separately or to own it as part of the experiment. I decided on the latter. One thing I often suffer from is a lack of being able to hold things loosely, a general uptightness or rigidness to my own rules (which I’ve been told is trademark of my nationality…) so I decided to consciously lighten-up this project, to attempt to gently invite my parents in, rather than force it on them, as a kind of way to practice how I could encourage others to take this cut-the-rubbish project on board, to make it easy and attractive, not something just for zero-waste extremists.

The conversation with my parents went something like this. “As you know I’m doing this documented self-imposed waste-reduction thing…” “Yes…” “Since you guys are staying here for three weeks all of your rubbish will be part of that project.” “Ok….” “So, I don’t want you to feel too much pressure but it would be great if you can think twice about buying things that are packaged unnecessarily… like veggies and meat and bread and…like maybe before you buy something consider if it would be easy enough to buy the same thing somewhere else with no packaging.” “Ok, can I still buy Cheerios?”… the answer was yes. My mum loves Cheerios for breakfast and this isn’t about forcing anything on anyone, but because of the simple exchange above, what in the past has been a bit of a clashing of wills has, this visit, seemed like such an easy transition! Of course there has been an overall increase in waste produced, but really aside from said Cheerios (think ‘Desert Island Discs’ luxury items) and a few packets of crackers, most of the waste produced has been a result of my business.

I was asked last month by a friend to go into a bit more detail about how I’m managing with waste-reduction in my home-workplace. I make chocolate, and because I make it from whole ingredients (cocoa beans that come in hessian sacks, coconut sugar that comes in big 10kg plastic bags and milk powder that comes in big 25kg paper sacks) the manufacturing side of things doesn’t actually produce much waste. Our packaging is all biodegradable and at best compostable, so I’m trying my best there (I know biodegradable is not a long term solution!), and now via the new Twig shop we’ve got some unwrapped chocolate up for sale. So that is all fairly well-organised and low-waste, as in the office, which I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been buying paper tape, amazing eco-paper and other bits and bobs from Klee Paper. I’ve sourced paper-mailing bags (eco-craft in the UK) and have stopped printing invoices for web orders. But still, the rubbish bin isn’t empty. Unfortunately it’s the post that comes to the business, the little name tags people give me at events, and the bartering, which I love, but that often means I’m coming home with plastic.

So, tasks for next month are to get off mailing lists of freepost and catalogues, bring my own name tag to events or return the ones I’m given, don’t take pamphlets, ask if I can find said info online instead and always (unlike when we were up in Dublin for a tradeshow and I ended up eating my meal with a tiny wooden toothpick) bring a fork.

On a sidenote – check out Irish company Grown; concerned with micro-plastics these two have started an all-round inspiring clothing company. Steady and gently onwards we go.


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