On Being Green: One Man’s Rubbish…

One of my goals for moving into a new house was being green.
As anyone who knows me will know, I’ve turned into a borderline fanatical eco-thinker. I recycle almost everything, evangelise ethical and green living, and have got an annoying habit of nagging friends and family into doing the same. I guess I’ve turned into one of those annoying religious types who try to force their beliefs on others – except my religion is being “green”. Mental note to self – calm down.
So the goal was to re-use existing items wherever possible and if I needed to buy new then buy energy-efficient or ethically sound.

Buying Energy-Efficient

It’s definitely harder than it seems. I’ve already become aware that reconciling my green thinking with my career as an IT Consultant is difficult. Computers use electricity, lots of it, and aren’t very recycle-able. I try my best. It’s the same for a new home.
I’ve already taken steps to make the home more energy-efficient. Draught-proofing, insulation, low-energy lightbulbs, lined curtains, etc. I’ve moved to a green energy provider – making sure all electricity comes from renewable sources.
The Fridge/Freezer that was already at the house caused me to consider. It was about 8 years old, labelled “Eco Plus” but I’d hazard a guess it wasn’t as energy-efficient as modern models. It worked, but the Freezer Unit door was missing – thus when turned on the Freezer worked overtime to keep cold, and lowered the temperature of the Fridge section too much.
My initial thought was to replace with a brand new more energy-efficient model.
But then I recalled a web-site I’d seen that encouraged people to buy spare parts for their “White Goods” instead of replacing them. They didn’t have my specific Fridge/Freezer Part in, but to their credit, they tracked it down, it was reasonably priced, arrived quickly and I’ve now a fully working Fridge/Freezer.
I’m still not sure whether it’s better to fix a less-energy efficient model than it is to buy a brand new one – answers on a postcard, please.

Using Freecycle to Give Items Away

Then there was the rubbish left behind by the previous owner. This included some old double glazing units, some wooden pallets, industrial-sized plastic tubing, and more. The easy option would have been to take this to the tip – but instead, I turned to Freecycle. I’ve mentioned Freecycle before, but in a nutshell, it’s a collection of groups of people in almost every location across the world who give away unwanted items that may be useful to others locally.
The higher goal is to stop items ending up in Landfill. I’ve used it quite a bit in Birmingham after de-cluttering sessions, to give away all manner of items. Old Computers, Books, Electrical Equipment – all of which have been easy to give away. There will always be people who are happy to receive free Television or Computer!
But giving away things such as old Double Glazing or Industrial piping would be more difficult… or so I thought!
To my surprise and delight, the items were given away with ease. It put a smile on my face to know that somebody else could make good use of items that even I’d consider to be headed to the dump.
But I’ve gone a step further with Freecycle this time and used it to source some items that I’d otherwise have bought. So far I’ve picked up an Ironing Table, and a Clothes Airer – both in good nick and otherwise heading to the tip. I’m currently trying to get hold of a 3 piece Suite for the living room – they are given away all the time as people replace furniture.
If you’ve not checked out Freecycle before – you’re bound to find it useful.
It really is a case of “One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure!”

Comments

  • Richard2006-06-28 11:15:56

    A quick update. This week, Freecycle provided me with the 3-peice Suite (2 Single Chairs and a Sofa) I was seeking. After hiring a van and trundling down to Appleton (South of Warrington) I met a lovely couple who were happy to see the Sofa go to a good home and not landfill. It was so nice to have something to sit on in the living room to watch the Football! :-)   Also managed to pass on an unwanted Single bed & Mattress to a fellow Freecycler who was very pleased to receive it.   All in all, a good weeks Freecycling!

  • Matt2006-06-22 15:58:03

    We just have major hurricanes every few years to clean everything away

  • Chris2006-06-22 15:56:56

    I'm glad you keep an older car on the road like myself (although I do now keep 2, the 97 R reg Ibiza GTI with an LPG conversion, and my P reg discovery van which I brought as an offroad toy (but its much to nice to damage offroad) which is now on 100% biodiesel).  A chap I work with has the opinion that a car that is older than 5 years old should be scrapped as newer cars are cleaner / more efficient, but this is complete bull-locks as I believe its about 1/2 the energy expenditure of a car in its lifetime is during manufacture.  Its much better to do as we do, use our older cars and keep them well maintained to ensure they are as efficent as possible - I mean our age 'd cars are unleaded, have catalytic converters and have electronic engine management - so there pretty good already (especially compared to the horrendously energy in-efficent SUVs in America).  All said and done, this is still hard for me to do and I do love nice fast shiney cars and motorbikes - but I also know its the way most of use contribute to enviromental problems, so I keep on motoring in my nearly 10 year old cars.  I also try to avoid using the cars as much as possible, this can be either walking to the shops, lift sharing to work, or collecting my daughter on my bicycle (she sits in a trailer which I tow) which is a 9 mile round trip.   A nice idea would be to have all car engines adhere to a common template of physical size, weight, and interfacing to the cars transmission.  Then potentially 5 years after you've brought your new car - you could op to have your engine replaced with a new state of the art unit which contains all the new engine management etc, this would then be a case of remove the current unit and replace with a newer design. As all the interfaces to the new powerplant are the same its just connect the fuel pipes and instrumentation cables etc etc and your away - your current car with a newer, cleaner, more efficent engine.   concepually a bit like a super socket 7 motherboard from back in the day, it could have Intel, AMD or Cyrix cpus - it didn't matter, they all used the same pinouts and FSB, clock multipler settings etc.   For other readers interested in Biodiesel - do some research on google as there are a few gotcha's to be aware off (some car compatibility issues) - and the guys I get my fuel from are http://www.dbbiofuels.co.uk/   In the spirit of spreading the green word - if someone wanted to try some biodiesel, contact me (Via richard) and if your in south b'ham, I can get a fuel can off you and fill it up next time I replenish my disco.   My final word (lucky I don't want to be productive at work today) is about computers and PC's.  You are right that its frequently un-economic to upgrade a few components of a computer vers buying a whole new machine which is many times quicker.  When hunting components on ebay for my old computers the price quickly rises to a level above its natural worth.  I've now not upgraded my old Dell for over 6 years, so other than my work laptop - my own desktop is just a humble PIII 800Mhz with 512Mb Ram - I can't play any of the latest killer games but how much horsepower do you need for surfing and D/L'ing & watching pr0n :-)   Also with my geeking and desire to have seperate FW, web server, emule/bit-torrent client on 24x7 instead of having lots of seperate machines on I just have a single old compaq server, PIII 500Mhz x 2, 1024 MB ram, raid scsi HDD's.  Its not fast compaired to any modern desktop hardware - but its utterly fine for running VM ware with my different virtual machines each doing there own thing.  When it breaks I get a newer (but still old) piece of server HW - but until then it ticks over quite happly, as its hardly a bottle neck when my adsl connection is only 512kb.

  • Richard2006-06-22 15:33:17

    I may hold off my visit until Houston is accessible by water on all sides - which it pretty soon will be if you yanks continue polluting, 'cos sea levels will rise so much every other damn state bar Texas will be underwater. ;-)

  • Matt2006-06-22 15:01:09

    You geeks need to move to America. We've got the single best recycling solution ever... dump everything in the State of Louisiana! ;-)I joke, but damn man, you really should rethink visiting me next year, I don't want you to blame you new-found ulcer on me and my shameful ways :-D

  • Richard2006-06-22 13:32:38

    Chris - glad I did the right thing on the Fridge/Freezer front. It's the same situation with the Motor - I've got a 1998 L Reg Vauxhall Astra that I keep well maintained and running. I'd suggest it's better to keep this, admittedly not as efficient as modern motors, car running rather than buying a new motor which has had so much energy expended to build it.   Now a pity that same philosophy can't be applied to PC's. After all, technically you can replace memory, MoBo, HDD, etc. to keep a Computer running nicely. The reality is, though, that's it's cheaper to buy a new PC than it is to replace individual components. This needs to change somehow.   You hit the nail on the head with Freecycle. It really is about patience - the patience to store items you don't want until somebody wants them, and the patience to wait for items to be offered rather than go and buy them.   Thanks for the comments Chris - when you aren't insulting me you always make valid points. ;-)

  • Chris2006-06-22 12:47:18

    Hurrah, well done that man.  Other readers won't know but I am also a borderline eco-activist and I do also try to been as green as richard.  But with his new house and the proficent use of freecycle he earns a pint of beer (a crate even) from me.  Having the patience and persiverance to depose of his "rubbish" using freecycle (and thus save more landfill etc) is truely excellent, although I had no involvement in Richards house work - I feel this is such a success.   As for fixing the old fridge instead of buying a new super dooper eco one - you've done the correct thing as people don't factor in how much energy is used to manufacture these products (but this isn't an excuse to live with the product malfunctioning and wasting TONS of energy - thats just been lazy and shit people), especially since your using green electricity so your not adding to carbon output etc.   As a side green story, I'm now running my new main vehicle (a '97 landrover discovery) on 100% biodiesel which is produced locally in Warwickshire.  Its a drop in replacement fuel (no mods required) and is only 79 ppl as a bonus.  I do have to divert my normal journey home about 15 miles to get it - but they sell it in 200 Litre drums, or 1000 litre pallets for no extra cost that the volumne of fuel.  So I plan to have a couple of 200 litre drums at home and refuel at home.  WHAT A FUEL NERD!!!!!!!

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