Sunday, 24 August 2008

Day ?: penguins and jam

Some minor failures this week...

I was at the Hollywood-themed Mersea Island Festival in Essex, accompanying a group of young people from KEEN. One long bus journey later, we arrived, only to be given plastic wristbands, which I couldn't refuse! We slept in canvas tents which we closed using rope - and after pegging them down properly, there were no leaks, and not much wind... There were plastic ground sheets (but that doesn't break the rules of the challenge).

Breakfast on the first morning (and lunch on the final day) was served on polystyrene plates with plastic cutlary - but all was well as I'd brought my own. I was really pleased to see that instead of individual plastic servings of ketchup, jam, butter they used bottles, jars and plates of butter on each table. I imagine this was cost-saving rather than environmental in origin.

A few deserts were in plastic containers, but they were easily refused. However, we were provided with a packed lunch on the Colchester Zoo trip with rolls wrapped in plastic, crisps and a (chocolate) penguin. Then we fed the elephants.

The absolute most dispointing 'error' was in the arts and crafts tent. I was helping out / participating in some clay modelling. And only after the second session did I read the packet and realise that the clay was reinforced with nylon.

Today, I travel to Cambridge for a two-week summer school in theoretical particle physics...

Friday, 15 August 2008

Day Twenty one: camping and bananas

Tomorrow I set off for a three week trip away. This may prove to be a major challenge...

The first week will be volunteering with a group of young people from Oxford, at the Mersea Island Festival, somewhere in Essex. I'm prepared to some extent - I've packed a plate, bowl, cup etc but as I've had no hand in planning the thing I really don't know what plastic challenges will present themselves. A report will follow eventually.

The following two weeks, I'll be at a theoretical physics summer school. I think the mug will help - last conference all the cups were polystyrene (though I kept mine and reused it).

On another note, the absence of flapjacks and other plastic-wrapped snacks means that I am eating A LOT of bananas. But it seems that you need at least 15 to be in danger of potassium poisoning...

Monday, 11 August 2008

Day seventeen: photography

So this is a plastic-free camera! A photography talk + demonstration required a pringles tube to make a pin hole camera. But I suceeded with some card, masking tape, greaseproof paper, tin foil and pva glue. An image from a pin hole is projected onto the screen (placed part way up the tube). AND even though I had to construct a plastic-free pringles tube before starting, I wasn't even quite the last to finish!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Day fifteen: Plastic-free DIY...

It would be wrong to claim that I've actually succeeded here...

I needed to fit a gas fire that I'd bought ages ago (wrapped in a fairly minimal amount of plastic). So my dad came round with tools and know-how... but we still needed a few things-

  • tin snips (plastic handle, plastic packaging)
  • plastering-trowel-thing (plastic handle, but non-plastic packaging)
  • rubble bags
  • cap for gas pipe (plastic packaging)
I first bought the trowel from B&Q, in a plastic wrapping. But when on the search for bricks in Wicks, I found the exact same one but in cardboard wrapping.

The rubble bags have been used many times as my dad usually empties and reuses them. But they'd come to the end of their life and we couldn't keep them anymore!

Had I had time and had I known what we needed in advance, I could have searched around... there is some kind of recycling DIY shop in Morecambe... I shall investigate one day

Friday, 8 August 2008

Day thirteen: magazines

All was going fairly well (except a purchase of some much-needed ibuprofen... I shall do some research into alternative pain killers sometime) until I arrived at work this morning to find the August edition of Physics World waiting in my pidgeon hole. Wrapped in plastic.

So I wrote an email:


This probably seems like a rather odd request, but I've 'given up' acquiring new plastic for three months. However, as I discovered this morning, PhysicsWorld comes in a plastic bag. Would it be possible either to send this to me in a paper envelope (with no plastic window...), or just not send it to me for the next two months? I really don't want to cancel my membership of the IOP!



Lets see if there is any response. Oh and I also emailed Booths to check that what we think are greaseproof paper cheese bags are actually greaseproof paper...

A rather speedy response from the Institute of Physics: my record is now 'flagged' and they won't send physics world again until I ask them to, and they sent the link for reading it online.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Day nine: Mixed news

First some good news - the olive stall at the market refilled my homous pot (and gave me a 10p discount). All you have to do is ask it seems!

Then the less good news. This weekend I've had three drinks in three different pubs/bars in Lancaster. Wasn't difficult to find a plastic-free drink, but in only one of these did I manage to stop the bartender from adding a stirer or straws. It seems I must be always on guard.(Or return to drinking tap water, which is actually my favourite drink, or avoid any social activity and sit at home listening to radio 4 on my (plastic) digital radio.)

I've made a decision on gifts - if it is impolite to refuse them, then I can accept, but should give it to someone else.

And finally, a recipe for pitta bread. This is incredibly easy (total kneading: 30 seconds) though may greatly diminish your enjoyment of any shop-bought substitute!

300g Strong white flour
200g Plain flour
1 level teaspoon easy blend yeast*
1 level teaspoon sugar
1 level teaspoon salt*
2 tablespoons oil**
325ml warm water

1. Briefly warm a mixing bowl with some boiling water.
2. Mix all to a sticky dough (don't worry if it seems too sticky...)
3. Leave covered for 10 mins
4. On an oiled work surface, knead the dough for 10 seconds
5. Repeat 3 and 4 twice more
6. Leave dough for 30 mins
7. Turn on oven and heat baking sheet (
250C or more)
8. Make 8 balls and leave for 15 mins
9. Roll out pittas
10. Cook two at a time for 3-5 mins (until risen + barely coloured) - keep oven
11. Cool under a tea towel to keep soft


*plastic-free from Single Step in Lancaster
** the olive stall (Lancaster city centre, Wednesdays and Saturdays) will refil bottles of olive oil.