Green Things

This page contains a series of articles by Liz Dixon and Megan Tomlinson, first published in the Aughton & Ormskirk u3a Magazine.

We’re on a mission to do our bit for the environment and we’d like to encourage as many people as possible to join in. Rather than keep adding our rubbish (especially plastic rubbish) to landfill we always think about ways we can minimise what goes into our grey bins by considering the following.

And if you’d like to move towards a greener life then the best advice is to start slowly and choose one or two ideas that will work easily for you, then build up from there. If you’re bewildered about where to start, feel free to contact Liz or Megan for some help.

REDUCEReduce the amount of unnecessary stuff we buy, especially items that contain a lot of plastic
REUSEReuse items so they have a longer life
REPAIRRepair items instead of throwing them away
RECYCLEOnce we have reduced, reused and repaired as much as we can, we should be able to recycle almost everything else


Rule number 1 – be organised so you know what you’ve got in your cupboards and won’t be tempted to buy yet another bottle of bleach because you’re not sure whether you have a spare one or not. Don’t buy what you don’t need.

This goes for clothes, food and toiletries too.

When it comes to buying things we do need, let’s consider how we can reduce our impact on the environment.

It’s heartening to see some manufacturers switching to plastic-free packaging so we can recycle the packaging our purchases come in, but the industrial processes required for manufacturing plastic alternatives are also potentially bad for the environment so, where possible, wouldn’t it be better to choose items without any packaging at all?

You can now buy greetings cards without a wrapper (hurray!). Fruit and vegetables are other examples. If there’s a choice between carrots in a plastic bag or loose carrots, why not choose the loose ones? You’ll only pick up the number you need and even if you’ve forgotten your fabric (reusable) produce bag, carrots won’t come to any harm put straight into your trolly.

Refill shops are also starting to emerge. They can be a bit daunting at first but they are usually run by lovely people who will help you get what you need. You take your own container and can fill up on things like washing up liquid, shower gel, shampoo. Imaging how many plastic containers you could save each year by refilling. Other useful things you could try buying in this way are spices, pasta and rice.

There are plenty of farm shops in our area so, if you are able to use them, there is a double-win – support of local businesses and significant reduction in the distance many of their products have been transported. Don’t forget to take your reusable bags!

Thank you to a couple of our members who have mentioned the impact of technology, specifically the storage of electronic files. There are massive servers all over the world using power and other resources to store all of our electronic data. The servers need power to keep them switched on and power, plus billions of litres of water every year, to keep them cool. How much of that data do we really need? It would make quite a difference if everyone was better at housekeeping so we are encouraging you to delete all emails you don’t need (both received and sent by you) and all the photos you’ve taken but you’re never going to look at. Should we really keep six versions of the same scene just because there are slight differences between them? Remember how careful we had to be before we pressed the button on a camera with a roll of film in it? It’s great that we can take as many as we like now but it’s always good to clear out the unnecessary ones. Housekeeping can be a bit daunting so best done straight away.

Does anyone hate cutting the grass? Well nowadays you have a legitimate excuse to put your feet up during the whole month of May as everyone is encouraged to observe ‘No Mow May’. It reduces the amount of fuel used for lawn mowers and gives pollinators a chance to enjoy extra daisies, buttercups and dandelions etc. See the “No Mow May” item.

Do you have any ideas of how we can reduce what we buy, especially plastic items? Let us have your green thoughts and we’ll put the best ideas here on the website.


Here are some ideas for reusing items prior to them being recycled or thrown away.

Old clothes, curtains etc

  • Swap with friends

  • Take to charity shop

  • Make into shopping bags or food produce bagsCut up and use as cloths

Supermarket plastic carrier bags

  • Reuse, reuse, reuse.

  • Did you know, despite carrier bag charges being introduced in 2015, we still buy 57 carrier bags per household per year?*

Cups, plates, cutlery

  • Be old-fashioned and choose the proper stuff instead of single-use items. How many times can a real plate be washed and reused?

  • Buy a lovely reusable cup for your takeaway coffees

Envelopes, greetings cards etc

  • Use them for shopping lists Then recycle them.

Butter and margarine tubs

  • Use in the freezer a few times for batch cooking

  • Use for leftovers in the fridgeThen recycle them.

Ziplock bags

  • Wash and reuse

Bread bags

  • How often do you need a plastic bag for something? Clean bread bags are handy for transporting or storing something you need to stay dry.

  • Then recycle them with soft plastics at the supermarket.

*figure from Greenpeace (relates to 2019)

Do you have any ideas of how we can reuse items so they have a longer life before we recycle them or throw them away? Let us know …..


HOW many people can darn socks or sew a button on? These are life skills that seem to be dying out as clothes have become cheaper and people don’t see the value in prolonging an item’s life. It would be great to hear of members who are teaching their children and grandchildren these skills.

Shoes used to be such an expensive commodity that they’d be repaired many times. Thankfully there are still a couple of places in Ormskirk where shoes can be r e p a i r e d . It’s worth reminding o u rs e l v e s that this is an option.

A little while ago we heard about ‘repair cafés’. They are places in the community where you could take your b r o k e n household items and get them repaired by s k i l l e d (gene rally o l d e r ) people. Has anyone been to a repair café?

Pictured is one example of how we can repair an item instead of throwing it away.


Please note, the information relating to kerbside collections, below, is relevant for West Lancs. If you live in another council area, you’ll need to check whether there are differences in what they’ll take. Certainly, the colour of the bin is likely to be different.

Aluminium cans (drinks and food) can be endlessly recycled so that’s an easy win, and something most of us are probably already doing. Rinse them first though! Foil is made from aluminium so that can go into your blue bin but it needs to be clean. Some councils require it to be scrunched together into a rough ball shape at least the size of your fist so the sorting machine can identify it. Did you know, West Lancs Council also collects empty aerosol cans? Put them in your blue bin.

Glass is 100% recyclable but do not recycle light bulbs, drinking glasses or Pyrex in your blue bin. Put clean glass bottles and jars into your blue bin.

Paper and cardboard are also easily dealt with as they are collected by the council and we’re used to doing it. But are there more things we can add to these bins? Envelopes with windows can be added. Even pizza boxes can be added (but please remove any bits of cheese or pepperoni first!). Wrapping paper that isn’t foiled or plasticised can go in (scrunch it up and if it doesn’t start to un-scrunch then you’re fine to put it in. West Lancs also takes shredded paper. Before you put cardboard packaging in, please remove any plastic tape.

Plastic. The dreaded plastic. It’s the most tricky item to deal with so the best policy is always to try to buy items that are plastic-free. Having said that, we know how hard that can be in this day and age because it’s so cheap to produce and useful for manufacturers. So we’re all bound to have some plastic we need to dispose of. For those of us in West Lancs, you can put anything showing a 1, 2 or 5 in the recycling triangle into your blue bin (with your glass and cans). Examples of items with a 1 are drinks bottles and cooking oil bottles. Examples of items with a 2 are milk jugs, cleaning agents, laundry detergents, bleaching agents, shampoo bottles, washing and shower soaps. Examples of items with a 5 are pots, tubs, trays, medicine bottles and plastic lids. Always make sure they’ve been rinsed first.

Supermarkets such as Morrisons and Co-op now offer a place for us to recycle our soft plastic such as crisp packets, salad bags and bread bags. Again, items should be clean before they are deposited for recycling.

Uncooked fruit and vegetable waste can be composted, as can egg shells, dead flowers, fallen leaves etc. Don’t put any food waste in your brown garden waste bin, put it in your own composting bin and enjoy some free compost, eventually.

We would encourage group leaders to ensure anything recyclable is taken away and disposed of in the proper manor rather than taking the easy option of putting it in the bin.

Do you have any ideas of how we can recycle more? Let us know (our phone numbers are listed under Management Committee).

Remember, we can’t be perfect, but a lot of us all doing our bit will make a difference.

Last Updated on May 21, 2024