Book Review and Interview with Author Tracey Smith
As I took an over-ripe pepper and nearly full bag of mushrooms out of the fridge and set them aside for the compost bin I thought about the first few pages from Tracey Smith’s Book of Rubbish Ideas. I don’t feel good about wasting this food but at least I know it will decompose in a matter of weeks and will, in the form of home made compost, go towards growing my own next year.
But what about the other things I’ve thrown out today? A plastic bag from the celery, the coffee packet, a chocolate bar wrapper and how many other people in this country, in fact in the world, have thrown away similar waste today? I need to think more creatively around the products that come into my home and how I deal with the waste from them and this is exactly what this book is about.
How we got where we are today
Tracey starts by educating us about how waste was dealt with historically and why some methods of getting rid of our rubbish might, at first, seem sensible but is in fact wasteful in itself. She describes the steps which have led to to the dire situation we’re in today and addresses the serious issues around waste (energy consumption, landfill, pollution and climate change) whilst giving solutions at the same time.
The bulk of the book takes you room by room (and outside) through the home and shows us how to deal with our waste in a very practical way. Its not all about recycling but thinking about how we can reduce waste in the first place. Tracey highlights that its not all down to the individual but that other parties such as manufacturers, sellers and local authorities have a great responsibility too. Throughout the book she provides excellent example letters to help us give supermarkets, local councils and other bodies a nudge in the right direction.
This environmental book is very different from others I’ve read recently which have focused on telling us which green alternative products to buy. This book questions why we have to consume in the first place and guides us in looking after the things we already have. And, in the current economic climate, that’s not only relevant for the environment but for our piggy banks too.
Full of practical ideas
With the ‘Project Box’ sections interspersed throughout Tracey provides creative tips which make you go “Oh that’s a good idea” and get exercising your crafting skills, which gets a big thumbs up from me! For further motivation the case studies give real life waste dilemmas which we all face and shows us how others have dealt with them. We also get insight into the habits and views of a few celebrities in the ‘Star Struck Celebrity Questions and Answers’ section.
GGG readers can buy the book at a discounted price from www.bookofrubbishideas.co.uk. Check out the website too for even more ideas, tips and reasons to cut the rubbish out of your life!
Interview with Tracey
Now I’m an extremely lucky GGG editor because I not only got a sneaky preview of the book but I also have an interview with the lady herself, Tracey Smith…
Q – Tracey, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. The first thing I wanted to ask you is about your inspiration. The book is absolutely jam-packed full of really useful, do-able ideas; Where do you get your inspiration and where did you learn all of these wonderful tips?
Hi Vicky – you’re welcome mate – thanks for asking me and I’m really pleased you’ve enjoyed the book! Moving onto your question, it’s 8.30pm here so I can safely say, my inspirations are all tucked up in their beds asleep! I dedicated the book to my kids and at the front of the book I say, ‘It’s for your children and your grandchildren; they are the leaders of the future’ and I meant every word. They are going to face so many sociological changes and perhaps even further climatic chaos in their lifetime. It’s our duty to help get them into the right, green groove long before they step into adulthood, so they are best prepared to lead themselves into ‘their’ future. The tips have been picked up from friends who know their onions and derived from some good old-fashioned common sense; it’s my mission to make it sexy and funky again and to get everyone leaning towards the green!
Q – Its surprising actually how much you can do to reduce, reuse and recycle in the home and really make a big difference. For those starting out, which 3 areas would you say they could focus on reducing waste first in order to have the most impact?
Well the most obvious room to pick on and have an immediate and positive effect on, would be the kitchen. Food waste still remains an enormous problem, despite the best efforts of organisations like the Love Food Hate Waste campaign. We are far too anal about sell by dates too – it’s ridiculous. The food isn’t going to explode if you go a day or two (or MORE) over that bloomin’ date! Cooking will kill anything dodgy, which is very unlikely to be residing on your newly expired food, so stop worrying about it and shove it in the oven! The BOGOFs are part of the problem though. We cannot resist a bargain and go all ‘hunter, gatherer’ and hog the other pack even if we have no intention of eating it. The best way to get over this is go shopping with a friend or neighbour, share the petrol, enjoy the experience a bit more and share those BOGOFs. You can also buy larger quantites of things and split them too, another great money saver. Of course, an extension of the Kitchen is the Garden and if you are able to make use of a composter/wormery or Bokashi, then do so! You’ll cut your bin down dramatically by doing so and you can also sling in loo roll holders, cereal boxes, hair from your brushes, cut up cotton tee shirts that are too knackered for the charity shop and much more besides. Then if you think about your cleaning materials that lurk under the sink you find another area where you can really make a difference. Ditch the chemical options and go for soda crystals, borax, bicarbonate of soda, lemons, salt, eco balls, soapnuts and essential oils, to name but a few. They are all multi purpose cleaners that will eradicate the need for the cornucopia of squirty guns that all bear the ‘X Caution Irritant’ sign on the back of the bottle…
Q – As well as giving individuals and families the tools and inspiration to reduce their rubbish you recognise the responsibilities of those in charge to make big changes too. If you could pass one law in relation to waste what would it be and why?
Oh, that’s a chunky monkey missus! I don’t know about a law, but I would like to change the constitution somewhat. I’d like to see sustainable living lessons be part (a fully integrated part) of the National Curriculum, from nursery age upwards! Kids should be learning how to cultivate and cook some delicious organic fruit and veg. They should understand and respect the importance of composting and recycling and on a scientific point, they should embrace sustainable forms of energy and be tackling the many other layers and levels to living in harmony with our volatile and beautiful planet. That would be a fantastic achievement.
Q – I really liked the celebrity ‘Q and A’ section because it gave us a little insight into how they deal with the less glamorous part of life, their rubbish. If you could ask any celebrity in the world any question about the environment who would it be and what would you ask them?
I don’t think they come under the remit of celebrities (in fact I’m quite sure they don’t) but I would like to see all our emminent politicians and leaders telling us what ‘they do’ to make a difference and they should also show us how they do it! More to the point, there should be a national telly, radio and written media campaign showing us what they and all the ‘stars’ are doing. There’s no doubt about it, the world of the A lister has enormous influence on our more humble existence and it could effect a very positive and almost overnight change on our immediate, local and global environments too.
Q – The book itself is absolutely full of so much useful advice and there is the website too. What is the future for ‘The Book of Rubbish Ideas’ and all that goes with it?
Good question. Well I’ve just started making a few short films for the website and am enjoying doing them very much. I doubt there’s a BBC series on the horizon, but hey, never say never… There will certainly be a daily entry on the website to look forward to and I’m really enjoying doing a few talks and demonstrations extolling the virtues of a bit of simple, green living and rubbish reduction. It’s great when you meet people and you see that penny dropping for them – a whole new world of green opens up which is very exciting and I love being a part of ‘their’ transition.
Tracey, thank you for your detailed and energetic answers. I look forward to seeing your short films and more in the future!