Grassroots Project - Helping to lead more sustainable lives!Grassroots Project - Helping to lead more sustainable lives!

Sustainable Choices

Living a sustainable way of life means not compromising the needs of future generations by:

a) avoiding the use of any resources that cannot be readily replaced and,

b) eliminating any negative impact we might have on the environment,

 

 

 

 

 

    For those of us who wish to live more sustainable lives, there are many decisions to take:
  • How can we protect our beautiful South Hams environment?
  • Do we need that second car, or indeed do we need to use a car at all?
  • How great is our household's 'carbon footprint', and how could we reduce our carbon emissions?
  • How can we avoid contributing to the consumer demand for food products that are supplied from distant sources, out of season and at the expense of hundreds of 'food miles'?
  • How can we sensibly dispose of potentially poisonous or damaging household waste?
  • Can we meet the energy requirements of our homes from renewable sources, and if so, what are the options?

This section of the Grassroots websitewas designed to help you to answer these questions and others, in order to live more sustainable lives. Below are the answers to a number of Frequently Asked Questions. There are links alongside to local suppliers of Sustainable Services, and we will regularly feature any new services or sources of information to help you make sustainable decisions. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Question: Is it possible to live an active life in the South Hams without a car?

2. Question: How should I dispose of used goods that might be harmful to the environment? I'm thinking particularly of my old fridge, and those batteries that I tend to put in the general waste?

3. Question: What is the most environmentally friendly way of drying my hands (towel, hot air dryer, paper towel etc), while maintaining good personal hygiene - particularly when I'm working with food?

 

Answers

1. Question: Is it possible to live an active life in the South Hams without a car?

Answer: First of all, it depends on your lifestyle and what for you constitutes an active life. With some forward planning, many car journeys could be avoided by using public transport. Similarly, when you consider the total financial costs (never mind the environmental costs) of using a car – purchase, depreciation, insurance, road tax, petrol etc. – occasional car users would be better off using a mixture of public transport and local taxis, or replacing the car with a scooter or an electric bicycle (www.powabyke.com).

Another alternative is to use a car share scheme or car club, where these exist – and to push for one in places where they don’t. Ashburton’s car club called Moorcar (www.moorcar.co.uk) is an example of what is possible within a local community. For details of car share options, contact www.carsharedevon.com..

Finally, if you still can’t see a way of doing away with your car, then consider replacing it with a hybrid car such as Honda’s Civic Hybrid (www.speedwell-honda.co.uk) or the Toyota Prius (www.toyota.co.uk). If you are not ready to replace your car, then have your current model changed to bio-fuel. For information on changing to biodiesel and a list of biodiesel filling stations contact www.biodieselfillingstations.co.uk. Plymouth Bio-Fuels is part of the Centre for Implosion Research (www.implosionresearch.com) and provides equipment to make diesel engines more tolerant to bio-fuels..

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2. Question: How should I dispose of used goods that might be harmful to the environment? I’m thinking particularly of my old fridge, and those batteries that I tend to put in the general waste?

Answer: The general status of recycling arrangements in the South Hams region is ‘better than some, but needs to be improved’. The overall level of recycling within the South Hams is currently 30% (57% if composting is included), with a national recycling rate of 27%, and a figure for the South West overall of 32% (close to the East Midlands’ leading figure of 33%). This is achieved through the alternate weekly collection by South Hams District Council (www.southhams.gov.uk, Helpline 01803 861199) of landfill waste and recyling/compostable waste. There is a separation of plastics and cans into clear bags, paper & card into blue bags and green waste into green bins – with the remainder (landfill waste) being collected in grey bins.The local Civic Amenity Site at Tor Quarry is achieving an overall recycling rate of around 80%, based on a policy of site workers being paid mainly from the proceeds of their resale efforts.

The overall level of recycling is aided by individuals taking bottles to bottle banks and general waste to recycling centres (run by Devon County Council, see details of each centre and restrictions via www.devon.org.uk) where it is separated as much as possible into: wood, cardboard, metals, bottles, green waste, rubble, and textiles. It is also possible at the recycling centres to dispose of white goods (including fridges & freezers), engine oil, car batteries tyres (max. of 5, to be signed for) and asbestos (provided you have obtained a licence number and it is in double sealed bags)..

For the latter, call Devon County Council Environmental Department on 01392 382000.

For some people, getting their old fridge to the nearest recycling centre may be difficult or impossible. Options available are to contact South Hams District Council regarding their collection service (up to 2 items for £27.29, collected from garden not house), or a commercial service such as Devon Community Recycling Network (www.dcrn.org.uk) or Devon Furniture Forum (01752 897311). South Hams DC also provides a collection service for bulky waste (transit van full for £45) – although the extent to which items are recycled is a little unclear..

Regarding household batteries (as opposed to car batteries already mentioned), we are currently expected to put them into our grey bins (for landfill), as they cannot be economically recycled at present. This is not a good situation as some batteries can contain hazardous elements such as lithium, mercury, cadmium or lead – and we must continue to press for a wider range of recycling/safe disposal services. Mobile phone batteries can be disposed of at your local mobile phone retailer. Some 30,000 tonnes of general purpose household batteries are disposed of each year, and in some areas (not the South Hams at present) there are schemes for recycling them for their metal content..

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3. Question: What is the most environmentally friendly way of drying my hands (towel, hot air dryer, paper towel etc), while maintaining good personal hygiene – particularly when I’m working with food?

Answer: First of all let’s deal with the way you wash them. Our hands are the source of many infections, and hospitals have realised the importance of good hand hygiene as a major factor in preventing the spread of infections. While we may think we wash our hands well, the majority of people would fail a hand-washing test at the first attempt. The main areas to be missed are typically the thumb, pads of the fingerprint area, wrists and knuckles. Nailbrushes cultivate micro-organisms between the bristles, and liquid soap is preferred to bar soap as they also pass on residues to the next user..

When it comes to hand drying, it is pointless to use the same towel that everyone else has been using if we don’t know how long it’s been hanging there. Paper towels have proved to be the best way to dry hands, as they are slightly abrasive and can help rub away bacteria. However, the paper is not normally recycled. Hot air dryers are the worst offenders in spreading bacteria – leading to more bacteria on the hands after use than before..

Environmentally, hot air dryers are non-sustainable, as they use relatively large amounts of electricity. Cotton towels are effective if clean, and I have read somewhere that the most sustainable way of drying hands in public toilets is a clean roller towel, provided it is made of organic, fair trade, cotton from replenished sources, and washed in a non-biological detergent at low temperature and dried naturally. As if……

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