Winter greens: How to champion our environment this season

Winter greens: How to champion our environment this season

Kya deLongchamps shows us how to champion our environment

THERE’S no sense waving those teens off to environmental marches, and slipping a direct debit to the World Wildlife Fund while you’re flicking greasy tinfoil into your green (recycling) bin. Good deeds aimed at slowing climate change and improving our natural environment, should start quietly and determinedly at home — all year round.

REDUCE PLASTICS

Please don’t blithely ignore this movement, and introduce the principles to your kids now. Draw a line between that drinks bottle and the digestive tract of a dolphin. Commit. We all now recognise that the manufacture and disposal of non recyclable plastics are an environmental disaster.

Get in sync with the tips of the charity Zero Waste Alliance Ireland (ZWAI – zerowasteireland.com) and reduce/reuse/refuse/remove this blizzard. Director Sean Cronin pleas: “At a minimum, save plastic wrapping for hygiene purposes or raw meat and only use what is necessary.

Stop buying water in plastic bottles. Period!” Soft plastics are not recyclable — not at home and not in a Lidl recycling station in-store.

FOOD WASTE

One ton of food waste is generated by every household in the country — and that’s just talking in averages, some Irish households are guiltier than others, binning up to €1,000 of foods a year.

According to the regional waste management companies and Department of Climate Action, Communications and the Environment (mywaste.ie) only 20% of this disgraceful ballast is unavoidable food waste like chicken bones.

60% is avoidable food waste - plate scrapings, leftovers, gone off fruit and veg’ and passed its date perishables. Some 20% is potentially avoidable food waste — bread crusts, potato skins.

Think about the carbon load to produce and transport that waste — never mind the moral peril hovering around the issue. The answer? Portion control (only make what you eat), learning to use left-overs, making use of the freezer, and smarter, strategic shopping practices.

SEPARATING SENSE

Knowingly adding the wrong materials to the green bin is a truly despicable way to lower weight/lift charges – so don’t be smug. Many of us are not segregating our rubbish correctly, and this leads to not only a greater dump to landfill and burning, but more man hours to winnow out the materials you couldn’t be bothered to send in the right direction.

The latest figures reveal that as much as 87,000 tons per year of the green bin load is not suited to recycling (REPAK). To learn more about what you can recycle and how to avoid contaminating your bins go to repak.ie. Materials should be clean, dry and loose.

HELP THAT HOG

To help any small mammals over-wintering in your garden, let a distant corner go wild and be careful with that strimmer and rake. Recycle a deep plastic storage box for a hedgehog house now in early winter. Place it in a quiet overgrown corner, facing south, and stuff if full of straw (rabbit bedding is fine) and dry leaves. Leave an incline for a neat drain.

Winter greens: How to champion our environment this season

To supplement their natural diet – dog and cat food are acceptable but avoid fish flavours which can be too rich for their stomachs. Don’t “rescue” young hoglets of 500g or more, and leave the leaves on the lawn to provide grubs and worms the old fashioned way.

To see off the attention of rats seal your outside bins firmly Using bait to kill rats and mice in the garden can lead to these creatures being ingested by birds of prey — cut off the food supply before dropping that hammer on the environment.

Leaving food out regularly can attract larger mammals like foxe; watch them from the dark of downstairs, leaving upstairs lights on and curtains open, for some gentle illumination. Badgers lose their minds for an unsalted peanut but are partial to a succulent hedgehog too!

TUPPENCE A BAG

To attract and nurture the widest variety of species of birds, introduce a wide choice of seed and nut types and leave some hedging for birds to use as shelter.

Ensure the feeding station is well out of the reach of predators, and keep it clean — diseases from dirty feed-stuffs is a silent killer that can take out dozens of birds in a single day.

Quality? Eric Dempsey of Birds Ireland advises: “A good rule with peanuts is to ask yourself: would I eat these? If the answer is no, then don’t put them out.” More speciality buys — mealworms, Niger seed and suet cakes — can prove expensive over the whole winter, but avoid cheap, wheat heavy mixes that are enjoyed more by rats and mice than birds.

Many waste cheese, potato, fruits and fats from the kitchen are also safe. The RSPB advice is to avoid seed mixtures that have split peas, beans, dried rice or lentils as again only the large species can eat them dry. Water? A shallow container to the edge of the pond will invite birds and other animals to drink without the danger of sliding in.

Put feeders where you can see them from the house and get involved in the Birdwatch Ireland Garden Bird Survey from December to February – birdwatchireland.ie/surveys-research.

NATURAL BLING

Get on board with newly declared environmental principles for your family and lay off the cheap, petrochemical based Christmas decorations this year. Use what you have already, and flush out the dazzle with old fashioned home produced solutions from dried fruit to popcorn strings and woodland finds (forest floor only — don’t break down anything, especially holly).

Try seed papers and paper flowers (that grow when planted) from Etsy to Sow Enchanted (Dublin/Facebook). If your wrapping paper scrunches and holds its shape – it’s probably recyclable. Brown wrap is classic and chic.

REAL OR FAKE TREE?

In Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) both have a relatively hefty carbon footprint even taking a seedling right through to a responsible end in a wood chipper and into mulch. There’s an argument that a fake tree can last a decade, but its polyvinyl chloride materials are impossible to recycle.

Over the 7-10 years of growth, real trees absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere. Reuse your synthetic or fully, recycle that natural tree. Locally grown, real trees are a reasonable compromise.

Use LED lighting to reduce your power usage and outlay. For everything you need to know about sourcing and caring for the real thing go to loverealtree.ie, an initiative of the Irish Tree Growers Association.

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