This morning, on what is predicted to be the hottest day on record in the UK (39° in Deepcut, over 100° in old money) a post popped up on my Facebook feed from Surrey Environmental Partnership. Clicking through on the link I was immediately challenged by the question: “Are you a recycling superstar?”
As I delved further it became increasingly obvious that some of the content was relevant to me (emphasised by the sound of my recycling bin being trundled up the road to the waiting refuse truck).
What nuggets did this initiative have for me? Sadly, very few. Avoid ‘wish cycling’ i.e., recycling things that you know not be recyclable but wish they were; always carry a shopping bag, buy loose when possible and carry a refillable water bottle — hardly innovative.
As I write it is Plastic Free July. This global wide initiative focuses the mind and enables one to grasp the bull by the horns. An excellent initiative and one that the NFWI Climate ambassadors living in Surrey have brought vividly to our attention.
But how to sustain our actions long-term? My world seems full of climate change impacting decisions to examine and balance. Is yours? Is your WI constantly being challenged by decisions regarding the use of single use plastics, in the context of food hygiene considerations, in a post-Covid world?
I am hosting Bagshot WI’s Summer Garden Party — a strawberry tea. Scones I can bake myself and store in tins. None of the ingredients are packed in plastic so good to go.
Craft ideas
Next strawberry jam, lots of tiny individual glass jars, necessary for ensuring minimum cross-contamination. Already I have lots of ideas of how they can be used in a craft session. If you have any imaginative craft ideas about how these jars can be put to a different use, please let me know via SWIN.
I have made my own butter from sell-by dated, bottled cream as per a recipe from a Denman course. But I must wrap it. That’s not a problem, my grandad managed a grocery shop. Butter wrapped in greaseproof paper in a precise way, my hands still recall how.
Cream – one large box, useful for storage after. Finally, the strawberries. But what to serve them in? I find some decades old plastic single-use bowls. “To [use], or not to [use] that is the question…” Single use better than no use. Maybe I can wash and use them as seed trays for salad leaves. I’m comfortable with that.
The strawberries come in nasty single use plastic trays with horrible cellophane lids. No, they don’t, they grow on plants and in the UK. The obvious source would be my vegetable garden, but alas the strawberries found their way into the stomachs of myriad squirrels the moment they were ripe.
With no farm shop or pick your own within miles, I must use the supermarket. Drive or cycle? Cycle with 200 strawberries? — risky. So the car it has to be. New housing development has ousted the one general store we had. I feel full of guilt.
Did you take part in the Big Plastic Count run in conjunction with Greenpeace? My major sins turned out to be packaging for cheese, butter, cold meats and soft fruit, and medication blister packs and inhalers. Thankfully the latter two can now be recycled — medication blister packs at branches of Superdrug.
Life has been an incredible challenge over the last two and a half years. Would we have been able to cope so magnificently if we had known what lay in store, how long it would go on for and how much it would influence even the simplest of tasks? As WI members I am sure that we would.
Can we be similarly resilient and determined in our journey to dispense with all unnecessary plastic? How can we harness this strength going forward? The challenge to Save our Planet is a much greater one, and the decisions and actions we make now will, however small, make a huge and long lasting difference.
We are being called on, once again, to make substantial changes to the way we live our lives in order to ensure the survival of our planet and to ensure health and longevity for succeeding generations, although they might not always be grateful.
My smallest grandson was not happy when I proceeded to dry him with a line dried towel made brittle by the rays of the scorching sun.
‘Grandma, its scratchy, you’re hurting me, ow, OW, OW!’

Carol A. Gartrell
Federation Chairman

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