Thompson & Morgan Jazzy Grow Bag Challenge (with incredicrop®)

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

comparison_T&M_incredicropMid-April 2016 I received the challenge pack from Thompson & Morgan including two Jazzy tubers (that's the potatoes, folks), two 8 liter grow bags, a sachet of incredicrop® and a bag of 25 liters of incredicompost®.

The aim of the challenge was to see how much bigger the yield was from a single tuber thus one was grown with and one without the incredicrop® (slow release fertilizer) though both in the same growing medium, that is to say the same amount of incredicompost®.

Though the leaf growth of the potatoes that did not have the fertilizer was stronger – at least initially – the other caught up to a degree. That made me think that the former might also have the higher yield, rather than the one with the fertilizer.

OK, long story short. The results can seen in the photo, with the one on the right being the one that had a once only application of incredicrop® at time of planting. I must say that even I am surprised.

Both the bags had equal amount of water applied and stood side by side. The soil (compost) in the one without incredicrop® was also a lot more waterlogged (the bags really need more drainage for the kind of weather that we have had this spring) while in the other one the soil (compost) was a lot drier and fluffier. Whether the incredicrop® had something to do with it or not, however, I cannot really say. Just making an observation.

The tubers were both planted on April 23, 2016 and the potatoes were harvested on August 27, 2016.

© 2016

A Community Garden Became an Alternative to Juvenile Detention

A small green space in Queens helps court-involved youths turn their lives around.

The first time Tatiana visited the Curtis “50 Cent” Community Garden in Jamaica, Queens, she didn’t want to touch the dirt.

“It was scary,” she says. “I just had to stick my hand in real quick and get it over with.”

That was around two years ago. Tatiana, then in 10th grade, had racked up around 200 absences at her nearby high school. She was failing all of her classes, and a handful of petty crimes had landed her in juvenile court. Through the Queens Youth Justice Center, an alternative-to-detention program, Tatiana was placed in an all-girls group. Every Thursday, Shernette Pink, who runs the program, led the teenagers in conversations about self-esteem and motivation—discussions they rarely had at home or school.

But it wasn’t all talk. Pink had recently been contacted by Heather Butts, a coordinator with H.E.A.LT.H. For Youths, a leadership and development nonprofit that established a presence in the 50 Cent Garden, one of the few green spaces in a neighborhood where public parks make up only 3 percent of the total acreage. Butts suggested bringing some of the teens from the Queens Youth Justice Center to volunteer at the garden.

Tatiana was one of the first from the program to work in the garden, a 10,983 square-foot, well-manicured corner lot at the edge of a sleepy residential neighborhood. Just overhead, the Long Island Railroad occasionally rumbles by. The New York Restoration Project (NYRP), a nonprofit dedicated to cleaning up public spaces across the five boroughs, bought up the land along with 51 other plots in the late ‘90s. In 2008, a donation from the rapper 50 Cent (who grew up in the area) funded a rainwater harvesting system and overhauled planting areas.

Read more here.


Ecovillage community member

Have you ever thought about getting away from it all and moving to an ecovillage? What’s an ecovillage you ask? Ecovillages are communities whose inhabitants seek to live according to ecological principles, causing as little impact on the environment as possible.

It’s a rather appealing idea to a growing number of people as self-sustainability and self-governance are a growing trend. Ecovillages are popping up all around the nation with a few common themes.

Awareness of caring for the world we live in and our responsibility to this planet are common threads among the ideals of many ecovillages. While there are many models that differentecovillages follow, there are some commonalities among them.

Intentional living is a primary philosophy for most ecovillages. You’ll also commonly find things like;

  • community gardens,
  • shared agriculture,
  • off-the-grid energy,
  • bartering systems,
  • homeschooling co-operatives and more services that inspire a community of sharing.

This philosophy of intentional living within a community makes the transition to off-the-grid living much more attainable and less inhibiting than trekking off on your own homestead. Living in a community where everyone shares similar life philosophies can make the transition much more exciting and fulfilling.

Read more here.

Nestlé stürmt die Quellen

In den USA mehren sich Proteste gegen die Trinkwasser-Abfüllwerke des Lebensmittelgiganten Nestlé. Der Kampf um das öffentliche Wasser wird mit allen Mitteln geführt.

WASHINGTON –  Die Emotionen kochten hoch, als das Thema bei einer Bürgerversammlung debattiert wurde. „Aus Waitsburg darf nicht Nestléburg werden“, schimpfte eine Frau. „Wir sind dabei, unseren Familienschmuck zu verkaufen“, empörte sich ein Mann.

Andere Bürger unterstützten dagegen die Pläne des Lebensmittelgiganten Nestlé, in dem kleinen Städtchen im US-Bundesstaat Washington ein Abfüllwerk für Trinkwasser in Flaschen zu bauen und das Wasser dafür aus kommunalen Quellen zu schöpfen. Das werde 50 Arbeitsplätze schaffen, sagten sie – ein wichtiger Faktor, um mit mehr Steuereinnahmen wieder etwas mehr Leben in den verarmten Ort zu bringen. Doch am Ende schloss sich der Stadtrat von Waitsburg den Kritikern an und erteilte Nestlé eine Absage.

So wie in Waitsburg erging es dem Unternehmen mit Hauptsitz in der Schweiz einige Monate zuvor auch im Bundesstaat Oregon. Dort entschieden die Einwohner von Cascade Locks in einer Art Volksabstimmung, ihr Trinkwasser nicht einem multinationalen Großkonzern zu übergeben. In den USA wächst der zivile Widerstand gegen Unternehmen wie Nestlé, Coca-Cola und Pepsi, die sich ein Milliardengeschäft aus der kommerziellen Nutzung von Wasservorkommen erhoffen. Statistiker haben errechnet, dass schon bald die Erlöse aus dem Verkauf von Flaschenwasser höher sein werden als der Umsatz, den diese Konzerne mit zuckerhaltigen Brausen machen.

Hier weiterlesen. Read more here.

A Clothesline Comeback

A Clothesline Comeback

While clotheslines may seem old-fashioned to some, they are making a comeback due to their considerable economic and environmental benefits. Clotheslines have always been around, but sadly, in some places driers have become so common that it is illegal to hang your clothes outside at all! Here are some compelling reasons why you should hang your clothes out to dry:

-Dryers are a major household energy consumer as well as producer of CO2 emissions. Depending on your dryer efficiency and how often you use it, running one can cost from one hundred to several hundred dollars a year.* Give yours up for a month and check out the effects on your electricity bill!  You’ll be doing the environment a favor at the same time.

-Ditching your dryer means a longer life for your clothing, since putting clothes in the dryer wears out fabric–just think about how much dryer lint you remove after every load.

-That fresh, clean, smell store-bought detergents advertise comes naturally from drying clothes in the sun. Sunlight kills bacteria that create odors, and it helps bleach stains naturally. Try to hang stained clothes in direct sunlight.

-Clotheslines drastically cut down on your ironing time. Shake out clothes before you hang them on the line–the weight of the wet cloth pulls out most wrinkles without you lifting a finger. Enjoy the freedom of not needing to be there when the dryer stops to make sure clothes don’t wrinkle.

Common Clothesline Hangups
There are understandable reasons people don’t use clotheslines (rainy weather, stiff clothes, too little space, etc), but the benefits often outweigh the challenges. Here are a few simple solutions to make using a clothesline work for you.

Rad more here.

How to Save Seeds

how to save seedsIf you planted heirloom seeds this year in your garden and think you are done harvesting now, you are wrong! Today we are going to learn all about how to save some of the most common garden seeds. If you've been wanting to save money off your yearly gardening plans and learn to become even more self-sufficient, you will really enjoy today's blog post.

Before we start learning how to save seeds, we have to know the difference between the types of plants and seeds you planted in the first place in your garden.

Types of Seeds

Hybrid Seeds -
Hybrid Seeds are bred to be different than their original plant. Maybe they grow bigger or produce more or are more disease resistant. Whatever the case, hybrid seeds are not able to be saved since they are different from the original plant and can produce unreliable off-spring.

Organic Seeds -
Organic Seeds are produced without the use of chemicals and toxic fertilizers. They can be hybrid or heirloom but they cannot be genetically modified. If you have heirloom organic seeds you can save them.

Heirloom Seeds -
Heirloom Seeds are seeds that come from plants that have been around for a long time. This means they are not modified in any way from the original plant. This means you are able to save these seeds because they will grow into the parent plants.

So if you planted any variety of Heirloom Seeds, you are in luck! You can harvest your plant seeds and save them for next year's planting so you won't have to buy new seeds. Below you will find the most commonly planted veggies and learn how to save their seeds.

Read more here.

Freak occurrence: 323 reindeer killed by lightning in Norway


If the chances of getting struck by lightning are slim, the chances of 323 reindeer getting struck by lightning must be miniscule, but that’s exactly what seems to have happened on a mountain plateau in Norway.

When Knut Nylend, an official from the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate (Statens naturoppsyn – NNI) went out on a routine inspection near Hardangervidda National Park on Friday, he wasn’t expecting to see hundreds of dead reindeer lying across a field.

“They were lying there dead in a fairly concentrated area. Reindeer are pack animals and are often close together. During a heavy thunderstorm, they may have gathered even closer together out of fear,” NNI spokesman Knut Nylend told Norwegian news outlet NTB, as cited by The Local.

Read more here.

What part of reusable do people not understand?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In recent months to a couple of years I have begun wondering as to what part of the word and term “reusable” people have difficulties in understanding.

People seem to go on a picnic in a park, nowadays, and not wanting to use plastic cutlery (after all that is not very environmentally conscious and “green”) they bring, and some actually buy specifically for this picnic, reusable metal cutlery and then, hold on to your hats, throw those knives, forks and spoons, into the trash because they have, obviously, become dirty in use.

In one instance it was a case of people having bought half a dozen packs of knives, forks and spoons at IKEA (receipt found also) at £3.99 per pack, then put the dirty ones back into the plastic sleeves that they came in, though not in the right order, put the lot into the IKEA bag, and then deposited everything into the little bin.

This is the case not only reusable cutlery that is, deliberately, thrown after picnics, but also plastic drinking tumblers, often entire IKEA sets. Also washing up bowls, that have been used with ice to keep drinks cool, often also specifically bought for this one picnic, are being deliberately left behind, and at times even quite expensive chef's knives. The latter, as far as parks and open spaces, are also rather worrying should they fall into the wrong hands.

It would appear that somewhere along the line the message seems to have gotten lost as to what reusable means and I would say that that is just a tad worrying. Those people either have either more money than sense, that is to say too much money that they can waste things in such a way, or they really have not understood the message of “reusable”, or are simply too lazy to take their reusables home to wash, or all of the above.

For those who have not understood what reusable means let me spell it out slowly: “re” is a prefix here and “usable” means you can use it and together it means that you can use it again, and again, and again. All you have to do, in the case of tableware, and that includes cutlery, is to wash it.

© 2016

Neo-liberalism vs. neo-conservatism

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

While they are two different names in essence they are the same side of the same coin

Neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism are basically one and the same and are fascist, as in the true meaning of fascism, and that to the very core. In the United States they are called neo-conservatives, or neo-cons, while neo-liberals is the term that is used in Europe and elsewhere. Both are one and the same and their aims are the same.

Neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism are the enemy of democracy even though the proponents of this system vehemently claim the opposite, that is to say that the system is the height of democracy. They are the new and true fascism and it has nothing to do with the old and new Nazis. Fascism in its true sense means total rule by the state, and by oligarchs and corporations, and thus oppression of all but a select elite.

But, wherever we look today, whether the European Union, which claims to be a bulwark for peace and democracy, and almost all so-celled free and democratic countries and government, neo-liberalism and its partner neo-conservatism have infiltrated and undermined what may have, once upon a time, a long time ago, some kind of democratic institutions.

When it comes to neo-liberalism many people seem to think it is a new liberalism, as in, well liberalism and the old Liberal Party, the Whigs, of the British government and political scene many decades hence, almost a century and more. But the suffix liberal, much like the suffix conservative in the USA, to the prefix neo, makes people believe it to be a good thing and something that favors small government and freedom and all that for the people. That shows how misleading labels can be.

Those two neos, as already said, are in fact the face of the same coin, and equal nothing but pure fascism as its true meaning is, namely total stale control of everything in everyone's life and affairs. It is, when they are going to properly get going with it, and they are working on it very hard, a total dictatorship by an elite and corporations. Man and Planet will not longer count in their equation and that is the reason why we must resist this with every possible means.

However, in order to do that we first must recognize the machinations and thus their agents and today there is barely, if at all, one political party or such that has not been infiltrated by the agents of this construct and many in, say, working class parties do not even realize this infiltration and the way those people have undermined what the parties actually stand and stood for.

In Britain that can be equally seen in the Labour Party as well as the Green Party, the latter which wants to make itself to appear more left and for the working class than does Labour in this day and age. The latter is nowadays nothing but a neo-liberal creature and does not in the least have the plight and the interests working people in mind and at heart. Not is it by any stretch of one's imagination any longer a party of and for the biosphere, what used to be referred to as “environment”, and about the Green Party in Germany we so not even want to talk, and neither about Die Linke.

The European Union, as an example, is about as democratic as was the German Empire under the Kaiser and for the good of the working class, namely not at all. Neo-liberalism is the new fascism and the new feudalism in which, as in the case of the EU, the member states are to be regions with the national governments no longer being governments but a governor with his cabinet, the former appointed by Brussels, and an all European (federal) government the parliament of which being a rubber-stamping body and the president and ministers appointed by another set of unelected elites. But then, that is how neo-liberalism and it's brother neo-conservatism operate.

© 2016

Fly-tips will multiply in Surrey

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

flytip1_webFrom the 1st Sept 2016 some non-household waste will be subject to charges at the tip. These include the following:

  • Tires from cars, motorcycles and all other motorized vehicles

  • Waste from construction, alteration or repair of your home and garden such as plasterboard, breeze blocks, bricks, rubble, soil, stones, turf, ceramic bathroom fittings, tiles.

You will have a free daily allowance of chargeable waste from the construction, alteration or repair of your home and garden of one bag or one item or one sheet of plasterboard. Thereafter charges will be applied.

The charges are as follows:

  • £5 per tire or part tire

  • £4 per bag or part bag of chargeable waste; or per item or per sheet of plasterboard

  • Bags no bigger than 50cm x 77cm

Items such as a concrete fence post, ceramic bath, cistern, paving slab

sheets of plasterboard no bigger than 120cm x 240cm

If these materials are loose, a charge of £50 will apply per car load

I am convinced that Surrey County Council in this instance will cut off its nose despite its face but then again most of the fly-tips will not come under the County Council but under the local (borough) councils and it will be they who will have to pick up that waste and then dispose off it. Local councils will bear the costs and will have to pay the county at the county tips.

Several years ago when one of the shires decided to go the route of but one refuse bag per household in an attempt to encourage recycling the amount of fly-tips around the county in parks, open spaces and the countryside skyrocketed, according to reports from park and countryside rangers, and much of those fly-tips were in the forms of refuse sacks, other than council ones, with domestic refuse, including kitchen waste, etc.

Since councils across Surrey (and neighboring ones) began charging for green waste, that is to say garden waste, the incidents of the dumping of garden waste in parks and elsewhere has multiplied also by large figures. No doubt we will now see this as far as such waste as above is concerned as well.

Charging commercial operators is, obviously, understandable, and enough of them have taken to dumping their waste, some hazardous, in parks and the countryside, but charging residents who bring the waste in their own private cars will only make matters worse.

For more details, including other materials and method of payment, click the link below:

© 2016

BPA-free drinking for on the move

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

BPA-free is a very stretchable term and it is not only BPA that is a problem.

Snapple-DopperRefillable drinking bottles for when you are on the move are the environmentally-friendly alternative to the one-way bottles of water and other drinks found on the shelves of the supermarkets and other stores. Using your own bottle and refilling it with tap water is also much better for your wallet.

Often it is claimed that all plastic bottles, also refillable ones, are bad and bad for your health, but there is plastic that contains BPA and other harmful materials that can leach out and then there are others that do not. Not all plastics are alike, for starters. Also Triton, claimed to be BPA-free, has substances that leach and could, potentially, be harmful.

While plastic is, to some degree, harmful to the environment there are, as said, plastics and then there are other plastics. And the same goes for health concerns. Bisphenol A (BPA) is regarded as a hormone disruptor or even as a substance that acts like a hormone in the human body and thus should be avoided, though it is found, amongst other places, in PET bottles, the common garden variety of water, soda and other drinks bottles, as well as in many other plastic products. Some plastic bottles are, however, safe to use, and I have been told that those made of PP, LDPE und HDPE, do not contain BPA or other harmful chemicals.

The best choice as regards for material for a reusable refillable water bottle obviously is good old-fashioned glass but glass is heavy and glass is breakable. While there are bottles made of glass available that are made of one or the other kind of toughened glass they are heavier still and also expensive.

Then there are those made of stainless steel which are much lighter than glass and are, due to the fact they are made of metal, unbreakable. They just dent. I do not recommend using aluminium bottles as they are lined with a synthetic liner which, generally, contains BPA and we want to avoid that stuff, don't we.

And then, at the end, so to speak, of the spectrum, because plastics are still oil-based, there are those made from the “safe” kinds of plastic. We could include Triton though with a caveat in that a number of sources claim that Triton as well leaches harmful chemicals.

Here I will highlight two bottles and makers specifically because both ar great designs and use safe plastic. One is Ohyo, the collapsible water bottle, once kn own as Aquatina, and the other is Dopper.

Years ago Robinsons, the maker of juice drinks in the UK, sold a premixed-squash in a reusable Army-style plastic canteen with a cartoon character called “Thirst Ranger” embossed on the bottle; it was sometime around the mid-1980s. That bottle was made of one of those “safe” plastics and I still have mine today. I did change the seal in the bottle cap, however, as the original was a cork-based one that deteriorated.

As far as plastic reusable water bottles go, however, my recommendation would the De Dopper bottle, and that because of the fact that it “breaks down” into three parts, allowing for very easy and thorough cleaning.

If you want a bottle that can squish down to a small package when not in use then the Ohyo is a brilliant choice and, as far as I am aware, is the only one of its kind that does that.

At home, however, or at the office, at your desk, if you want to have water in a bottle then I would always advise the use of glass, and here you can even save a great deal by simply repurposing, say, a Snapple lemonade bottle, or similar, for this job. On the other hand, if you can give that kind of bottle some protection then it can also be carried in a backpack.

© 2016


  • David McLagan claims that consumer behaviour MUST change

  • Reusable rather than recyclable is the ONLY way to tackle the issue of waste

  • Over 100 billion single use cups go to landfill each year globally. Hugh’s estimate of 2.5 of billion in UK must be considered in this context

Press Release with comments by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

coffeecupwasteFollowing Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s BBC News Viewpoint piece on the coffee cup waste crisis this week, and the airing of Episode 3 of his War on Waste series taking on coffee shop giants Starbucks, Costa and Caffè Nero last night, David McLagan, Founder & CEO of revolutionary new reusable and biodegradable coffee cup brand, Ecoffee Cup, pitches in to emphasise the need to focus on changing consumer behaviour rather than holding out for the big coffee corporations to effect change.

“In his War on Waste campaign, Hugh estimates that 2.5 billion single-use cups per year go to landfill in the UK. But the problem is much bigger when we look beyond Britain...

With estimates of up to half a trillion manufactured, globally, over 100 billion single-use cups go to landfill each year. Starbucks, in the US alone, serves 8,000 cups per minute.

This is not a new issue… We have been talking about it for almost a decade.

Unfortunately, no-one can (or will be inclined to) disclose exactly how many cups are manufactured per year. The major culprits, the big coffee shop chains, are particularly sheepish. Single-use cups make up a major component of their consumer offering and are entrenched in their business model. It’s difficult for them to change their behaviour unless they are forced to. They also claim that alternative cup options affect the “perfect coffee experience”. So, sadly, reusables don’t meet their business criteria.

Due to the volumes produced, single-use cups are cheap and make up a miniscule percentage of the cost of a cup of coffee, which means a change to something more sustainable will impact on profits, and shareholders are averse to anything that does that.

Starbucks has announced it will be “trialling” Frugal Cup – a recyclable single-use cup – in the UK. Whilst this is a step in the right direction, we don‘t believe it tackles the problem at the source. We can’t see how this will work in practical terms either.

Separation and non-contamination of recycling is the key and unless facilities exist, it will be very difficult to ensure such separation occurs, especially when dealing with cups that are taken off premises. Instead, and as is the current reality, cups will simply end up in general waste.

In order to have any impact at all, coffee chains need to invest in special facilities - dedicated bins, dedicated waste recovery, dedicated recycling facilities - and pool resources to do it. Unfortunately, we can’t see this happening any time soon.

So rather than focusing on the recycling of single-use cups, it’s behaviour that needs to change.

Sadly, within two decades we have become a single-use, plastic society. We’re all a bit lazy. We feel it’s difficult to avoid plastic, difficult to avoid single-use. No-one is apportioning blame and preaching is counterproductive, but like single-use plastic bottles, and more recently, plastic bags, it’s evident that it’s not that hard to change a few little things to help make a big difference. Reusable coffee cups are the way forward.”

David McLagan founded Ecoffee Cup in 2013. Made from biodegradable bamboo fibre and available in a wide range of stylish designs, Ecoffee Cup is light, practical and resealable for easy storage in bags. With a number of coffee shops and cafes offering discounts for those using reusable cups, it also saves money for the British coffee consuming public. Ecoffee Cup has set up the #stopthe100billion social media campaign in an attempt to raise awareness of the issue and effect real change in the way we consume coffee.

For more information or to purchase an Ecoffee Cup, visit

From manufacture through to disposal, Ecoffee Cup is a new generation of reusable takeaway cup. Created with the world’s fastest growing, most sustainable crop – naturally organic, bamboo fibre – and non-GMO corn starch, Ecoffee Cup is BPA and phthalate free. It’s the Natural Reusable.

Ecoffee Cup feels a bit like thick, yet light cardboard. And because bamboo fibre is naturally sterile, Ecoffee Cup is lovely to drink from and won’t flavour-taint drinks. It is also super light at only 135g and has a fully resealable ‘drip-proof’ lid, making it perfect for on the go.

The cup itself is dishwasher safe and lasts for years if you treat it nicely. Ecoffee Cups are not suitable for microwave use.

The real beauty of the cup is that it is biodegradable. When it has reached the end of its life, it can be simply crushed, soaked in boiling water and buried with organic compost. The food grade silicone lid and sleeve can be recycled with curb-side recycling. Watch this space as Ecoffee Cup is working on making these biodegradable too!

Available in a wide range of fun, contemporary patterns and bright, vibrant colours, Ecoffee Cup packs just a little bit more style than its plastic, ceramic or stainless steel cousins.

The problem I have with this is that the term bamboo fiber and so-called biodegradability in this context, as well as that in regards to clothing, that it always makes me laugh and come out in sarcasm.

Bamboo fiber does, per se, not exist as it is NOT a plant that makes fibers suitable for clothing or other such products. As far as clothing is concerned bamboo is turned into a form of viscose or rayon, the same as wood was and is to make such products, and while using bamboo is a lot better than using wood, maybe, to produce viscose, the energy used in the production of this is probably the same as creating such products as a drinking cup from plastic.

In the case of those coffee cups in question here, though I have not, as yet, seen them in real life, it has to be assumed that the bamboo was used to make some sort of a polymer to mold the cups, which means some sort of so-called “bio-plastic” was, more than likely, created. Can we stop the greenwash please, everyone, thanks.

© 2016


by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Right, that is the headline that came with the press release and then it continues, as below:

An innovative eco product is aiming to bring a touch of style to home recycling.

dwissThe dwiss is a domestic recycling system carefully hand-crafted in the UK using sustainable beech plywood.

The pioneering design features four compartments that conveniently store different waste types, and which can be quickly and easily emptied into external facilities for collection by local authorities.

The innovative product comes from new Sheffield design house Fellow53. The dwiss aims to satisfy the needs of eco-friendly furniture buyers and officially launches at Tent, part of London Design Fair in September.

Founder Jon Walker set up Fellow53 last year.

Walker explained: “The fundamental aim of the dwiss is to inspire people to recycle as much as possible by making it quick, easy and fun. And to get them to think about what other everyday tasks they can do in a sustainable manner.

“The dwiss not only promotes sustainable living, it’s a simple, elegant and durable piece of furniture which itself is sustainable.

“Made from sustainable beech plywood we've minimized the amount of material required through the use of an innovative central frame, eliminated mechanical parts to increase durability, and assembled the dwiss in a way that enables re-manufacturing.

“We're also manufacturing the dwiss in the UK, so avoiding significant emissions by optimizing our logistics.”

The packaging ‘presents’ the dwiss on delivery, with two sides falling away as part of a grand reveal. The packaging is easy to disassemble and store in the dwiss, providing an instant solution for disposal of packaging.

The dwiss is highly flexible and can be configured to suit the buyer’s needs.

Walker hints that Fellow53 will be expanding its product line in the future to include more pieces.

“The aim is to develop a range of sustainable products which supports sustainable actions.” adds Walker.

“Sustainable and eco-friendly products with first class craftsmanship are very much the core values which will be reflected in our products as the brand grows.”

The dwiss will retail at £895 and orders are now being taken at for the first batch of dwiss’.

dwiss is an elegantly designed, hand-made kitchen device which adds style and ease to home recycling. Made in the UK, dwiss is a sustainable product which supports sustainable actions. dwiss is the first product from Sheffield-based designer Jon Walker under the Fellow53 brand.

And now let's look at this from a few angles.

The first issue I have with this is the term “sustainable plywood” for considering the glues and the energy used in the manufacturing of plywood, regardless of whether the wood is from sustainable sources and FSC certified, which is at times a questionable certification anyway. I cannot see that as sustainable in the same way that the term sustainable does not wash with regards to concrete, though that material is not an issue here.

The second problem that I have with this simply is the price of of almost £900 with little change.

It is little wonder that products such as this give the poorer strata in our society the impression that going green and being eco-conscious just is not achievable for them.

This product is far from being the only one in this category of things that are supposed to enable people to live a greener lifestyle which are well beyond the affordability of the ordinary person, let alone those on the lower levels of income.

Designers could do much better by putting their imagination, their innovation and their skills into designing packaging and such like that could, after having fulfilled its primary function have a secondary, upcycled function, designed into it so that those could be converted, so to speak, to something useful for the home, or elsewhere.

This product here is no eco, green, or sustainable, even though it may be re-manufacture the product (into something else) after its initial life. It is greenwash pure and simple and expensive on top of that.

© 2016


$1.32 an Hour and Forced Overtime: Major Labor Abuses Documented in Factories Making Disney Products; Consumers Urged to Speak Out and Opt to Purchase Green, Sustainable Toys.

Washington, D.C. : August 17, 2016 – With holiday shopping less than three months away, Green America is calling on consumers nationwide to send a message to Disney CEO Robert Iger asking him to address significant labor abuses in Disney factories that make Disney toys, including popular Frozen dolls. The campaign is calling on Disney to ensure living wages for workers and improved working and living conditions overall.

The campaign petition can be found at Consumers looking for toys made by workers who were treated well, and made without deadly toxins, can go to Green America’s to find options.

“Americans purchasing Frozen toys for their kids this Holiday season need to know the truth behind the toys: Disney is using factories in China that engage in exploitative practices,” said Todd Larsen, executive co-director of consumer and corporate engagement at Green America. “We’re asking all consumers to put pressure on Disney to address labor abuses in its factories, and we encourage consumers to purchase sustainable green toys this Holiday season.”

"The beautiful world of Disney is merely a fairytale,” said Li Qiang, founder and executive director of China Labor Watch. “The real world is one where evil has triumphed over good, and where profits triumph over conscience. We need those who seek justice to come together and fight the villains in the world of Disney, to create a world where Disney is wholeheartedly kind and just."

"Disney has a lot of suppliers in China. It claims to regulate these suppliers with a Manufacturer Code of Conduct, which we doubt is effective,” said Au Lap Hang, China officer at Worker Empowerment. “We observed serious violations of local labor law in Disney supplier factories, which include long working hours without proper overtime salary and not providing the mandatory state pension for workers. In recent years, the Disney Company even required suppliers to relocate their factories to Southeast Asia in order to reduce production cost. As a result, the Mizutani Factory in Shenzhen was shut down and 196 workers lost their job, without getting the compensation required by law."

The campaign asks Disney to take the following actions to address labor abuses:

1. Living wages for workers, so that workers need not rely on excessive overtime just to make ends meet.

2. Strictly voluntary overtime work and payment for all overtime hours worked.

3. Payment for all mandatory job-related activities including group meetings, training and on-boarding, including back pay for workers who were denied payments in the past.

4. Hygienic and safe housing for workers.

5. Pre-job safety training that adequately prepares workers and informs them of risks to their short-term and long-term health, and how to reduce these risks.

6. A safe work environment, including free and easy access to safety equipment, and health screenings/exams, and clear and unlocked fire escapes.

7. Allow workers to elect enterprise level union representatives and allow workers to elect their occupational health and safety representatives.

8. Pay workers the full amount of social insurance they are owed and ensure severance payments for workers who lose their jobs when Disney supplier factories close.

A recent report from China Labor Watch entitled “The Dark World of Disney” ( found significant labor violations at two Disney supplier factories in China (Lam Sun Plastic Products Co. Ltd and Dongguan Zhenyang Toy Limited Company, both in Dongguan, Guangdong province), including workers laboring 12 hours per day with brief rest breaks, cramped dormitories with unhygienic facilities, low pay ($1.32 per hour), and forced overtime. The report is just the latest investigation by China Labor Watch which has documented similar labor abuses in dozens of Disney factories. In addition, Worker Empowerment, a non-profit labor rights group based in Hong Kong has documented similar abuses at Disney factories and the failure to provide severance pay for workers at a closed Disney supplier factory (Mizutani Toy Factory Co. Ltd in Shenzhen), and is helping workers to obtain the severance owed to them.


Green America is the nation’s leading green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Green America (formerly Co-op America) provides the economic strategies and practical tools for businesses and individuals to solve today's social and environmental problems.

This press release is presented without editing for your information only.

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

The fairytale of green economic growth

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Politicians, industry and media are telling us for decades the fairytale of green economic growth and sustainable consumption and many believe in this myth all to eagerly. However, it is a myth, a fairytale, a lie. Less is more!

“Autonomous, self-sufficient, and independent is not he who has much but he who needs little”, is a paraphrased quote by Niko Paech, a German economist, and he has hit the nail squarely on the head there.

He who needs a lot is dependent on others to produce for all those needs and let's face it, as I have said more than once already in other articles, most of our needs are but wants and not needs. He who needs little has very little dependence on others and also on the state (which ideally should be non-existent anyway) but that is exactly what the powers-that-be try to prevent, namely us not being dependent on it and on others. The economy, they say, would collapse, and with it our “way of life” if people stop buying all the crap that they do not need and they will stop buying all that crap once they realize that they actually do not need all that crap.

What do you need and how much is enough?

A good question, this, or two, in fact, I guess and the answer or answers to them depend on some factors, that be true.

The general answer to the first of what do you need a difficult on it is not really. You need food first of all and drink. This be followed by shelter and by clothing. It is a little like the list that is usually found as needs for survival.

To this list you might, much like for the list for survival, wish to add tools that you will need for performing the various tasks in the garden, around the home, in the kitchen, and for making a living.

So and now to “how much is enough?” question. How much then is enough? Enough is when you have what you need to live a comfortable life without having your life cluttered up with things. Do you really need two or three cars even as a family – or in some cases five? The true answer to this should be no. And in most cases the people who have two, three, four, or even five cars on the driveway have not actually bought those outright because they have the money to do so. They have bought them, much like their large houses, on credit and this credit often is still being paid off when the car is almost on its last legs.

I was brought up with the notion that if you haven't got the money (in cash or on a bank account) to buy something outright you don't buy it and I still live by this rule because when you buy on credit, whether it is your home or your car, or whatever, it is not actually yours until you actually have managed to pay off the credit.

The biggest problem in our society today is that people believe that they have to have what others can afford – or appear to be able to afford – and thus get into debts, often well over their heads. Don't get me wrong, please, I would love to have the cash to be able to buy a house for myself and own it, but then outright, and not having to rely on renting and on the whims of a landlord as to the amount of rent and as to whether any repairs are carried out or not, and such. But, maybe, I am digressing a little here.

Point is, though, that today we have been almost programmed to consume, to buy, buy, and then buy some more, and more often than not products that have also been programmed, literally, to break down after a short while so that we have to keep buying them again, and again. All in the name of “economic growth” and now we are being presented with the fairytale of “green economic growth” as the greatest thing since sliced bread (not that sliced bread is actually such a great thing).

The notion or perpetual economic growth, even so-called green economic growth, on a finite Planet just simply does not compute and instead of buying, literally, into this myth and fairytale we must stand against it and return to a simpler life where we live with less; where we make things rather than consuming things; were we grow at least some of our own food; etc. Consumption, whether of so-called green products or others can never be green and sustainable.

But we can become more green and sustainable by making rather than buying, by growing rather than consuming, and so forth, and many things that we need, with a little knowledge and some tools, can be made from scratch or from materials that others consider to be waste. There is no need to buy into the government and industry controlled message of “it's the economy” and that if you do not buy all those things you are harming the economy. If you have to buy things then make sure that it is of high quality, made to be repairable, handmade in the case of certain goods, and from local sources wherever possible.

Less is more and it is good for the Planet and for your wallet.

© 2016

Consumption can never be sustainable

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Organic meat, “ecological” detergent, Fairtrade sandals, and so many more in this category; all aimed to give the appearance that each and every one of us can do his or her bit to saving the world by buying those. It is still consumption whether it is green products or conventional products. We cannot save the world by buying more stuff, even if the stuff is supposed to be “green” and many of the so-called green or eco products are not all that environmentally friendly at all, regardless of their marketing.

Consumption can never be sustainable and the solution lies in a personal abnegation and something other than capitalism.

We are living in a society that is geared towards perpetual economic growth which is continuously engaged in producing waste. In fact it can do no other than producing waste for it is impossible for the economy to be growing perpetually if we do not have a quick turnover of products and that means built-in obsolescence. The only way to guarantee this perpetual growth is to produce ever more products and ensure that the previous versions of those products break quickly and cannot be repaired or make them in such a way that it is financially not viable for them to be repaired. And this kind of system and sustainability simply cannot go together. In all honesty it is a paradox to demand perpetual growth and sustainability. The one is diametrically opposed to the other.

The so-called progress of our society is based on errors

We are now in a situation that is not far removed from a catastrophe. Everyone knows, or at least should know, that the crisis has already begun. We only need to consider climate change, even though some would like to deny its existence, the pollution of the world's oceans with garbage and toxins, the decimation of our fish stocks in those oceans, the destruction of the rainforests and others too many to list.

We have reduced our life essentials, all of them, to mere commodities, to be traded on the world markets, and to be exploited. Everything that the world has to offer us is being viewed only from the vantage point whether or not it is a resource for our needs. Then needs are – artificially – created in order for those resources to be exploited and for us to fulfill our “needs”. And this cycle goes on and on and on. Most of those needs are not needs and they are not even wants. They are created “needs” and people are made to believe that they have to have this product and that product in order to live a good life. Alas, and the same is also happening for some time already with the so-called “green” and “eco” products, which are sold to us under the guise that we need them in order to save the Planet.

The false needs are created in that something is offered to the people that is simply to good to pass up, so to speak, and thus creates demand via such offers. Then it is always claimed that the people are demanding those products and that is the reason that they are being made, but the truth is that the demand is being artificially created. In addition to that people become dependent as they not longer can produce things for themselves, be that in way of food or in way of things.

For more or less two-hundred years a veritable war has been waged against subsistence and also against the ability of people to sustain one another by their own power and means. The entire idea of progress in the course of industrialization and of capitalism is based on the notion to replace the actions of doing things ourselves, which appeared inconvenient, by products.

If we want to ever realize something of the idea of sustainability then we have to turn this notion of replacing doing things ourselves and making things ourselves with products made for us which we have to buy on its very head. This means also first and foremost that we have to try to make products that are made other than by ourselves as much as possible superfluous and have to replace such products again with making and doing things for ourselves. While there are some things that we may want and need that we will be unable to make ourselves we should look as self-reliance as much as possible and other goods and services we should exchange with others on a local level, the way it used to be before the advent of full-blown industrialization and capitalism. This is the only way that we can live a more sustainable life on a finite Planet.

The consequences of our perpetual consumption are not new. We all know of the exploitation of natural resources, of the pollutions of the oceans, and all the other issues. Why, though, can we not use all this knowledge and into positive action to find and create a more humane measure?

The reasons for this are many. On one hand the products with which we are being enticed with address many existential aspects of our lives. There is, for example, the promise that the more we produce and the more we can replace the making of our own with bought goods, machines, services, etc., the more spare time and time we will have. The next big promise that those goods and services promise us security, and finally the one that promises us that our possessions will give us a standing in society. Today it is less a case and question what someone does as what someone can buy.

The other problem is that though our desire to have our every need catered for we have become more or less helpless. We have become dependent on goods and services and having everything done for us instead of doing things for ourselves, growing things for ourselves and working with others in our community to make a life for all. We have been enticed by the industrial society that with it a paradise on Earth was being created and that we would no longer need to worry about anything ourselves anymore and thus we have become dependent and have been turned into consumers who are almost incapable of doing things for themselves. This, at the same time, aided and abetted by governments who want the people to be dependent on industry and government itself and incapable of doing things for themselves. Thus a dependency has been created of which we often are not even aware.

Sustainability in our time is also rather anchored in consumption. One only needs to buy the right things or less and then good quality, eat no meat or less, and so on, and sustainability is guaranteed. Is that actually the case? The answer is no.

Consumption can never be sustainable, net even the consumption of so-called green products. It is impossible and the green marketing many of us have no come to call greensumption, as it is still consumption, which has been given but a green color-wash. While many may not wish to hear the rest of the answer the truth is that we need to return to some kind of subsistence rather than wanting more and more of everything. Unless we do that we cannot crown ourselves with the diadem of sustainability. We also need to bring some kind of self-reliance back into play, of making things, of growing things, etc., rather than consuming only all the time. All that today is marketed and traded under the sustainability label is, to 90 percent a sham, as much of it is nothing more than greenwash, as it is also not sustainable to buy products that have been given an eco makeover, so to speak.

I know that this is rather a hard sell to get people to abandon and renounce all those things that are being dangled in front of them on a daily basis by advertising and also doing the voluntary poverty bit is not something that will be understood by many of our peers. Poverty is associated with failure and not with something that someone does out of their own free will for the sake of the Planet, for instance. But that is exactly the step that each and every one of us need to take, at least to some extent, if sustainability is to mean something in out lives.

Aside from that step, however, we need to, all of those at least who wish to see a different approach to the way things are being done, to go about to change the system. Capitalism will never be good for the ordinary man or woman in the street nor for the Planet. The only beneficiary of capitalism are the one percent at the top and there is no such thing as a trickle-down effect. It is a myth that is being conjured up to keep the masses quiet.

Time for a change, and that time is now.

© 2016

Nestlé 'UK's most hydrated community' push

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Nestlé UKs most hydrated community pushNestlé Waters – yes, the very company whose CEO states that water is not a human right but must be a commodity – is running a exclusive retailer competition to find Britain's 'most hydrated community' this August.

The competition is aimed to get retailers to stock up on Nestlé Pure Life, which Nestlé says is the number one water brand worldwide, and help drive consumption of bottled water during August.

Silika Shellie, Head of Category and Shopper Development at Nestlé Waters, comments: “The average person in the UK consumes 44 litres of bottled water per year which is low in comparison to other European countries, so this competition is designed to encourage retailers to educate shoppers on how to stay hydrated during August. We are excited to see the results and to have retailers on board to help spread the importance of staying hydrated to their shoppers particularly during August.”

It is all, as we can see, for them a matter of not enough bottled water being drunk in Britain compared to other European countries and they want to create a want rather than a need to increase their profits.

Bottled water is bad for the biosphere and that not just as regards to the plastic bottles and also to your wallets. Often the water in the bottles is nothing more than (filtered) tap water. Thus I would suggest we throw a spanner into their works and hit them where it hurts, namely their profits and, while staying hydrated is important, tap water is better and cheaper. Join me in a total – as far as possible – boycott of the bottled water industry, and Nestlé especially. Let us drink tap water (in reusable bottles).

© 2016

Club owned by Shell blocks small Thames hydropower scheme

Club succeeds with an appeal to stop planning permission for the west London project that would power 600 homes

A proposed small hydropower project in west London has received a further setback, as court judges allowed an appeal by a club owned by Shell against the granting of planning permission to the site.

The project, at Teddington lock and weirs, would deliver enough electricity to power about 600 homes. It is proposed by a local cooperative group, run by volunteers, who have raised a potential £700,000 to build the plant, which the proponents say would not have any damaging effect on fish in the Thames or other local wildlife.

However, a local leisure club owned by oil and gas giant Shell objected to the project. The Lensbury club was formerly a staff club for Shell employees, and is now run by the company as a leisure facility.

The club appealed against the granting of planning permission in May after its proposed judicial review of the project was rejected by the high court.

Judges ruled on Wednesday that the club’s appeal can be allowed, despite the council having previously granted permission for the plant to go ahead, because of flaws in the reasoning behind the planning green light.

The dispute raises questions over the future of small cooperative renewable energy projects in the UK, which have already suffered from changes to rules in taxation and planning permission.

Read more here.

Are we missing the point with the “war on waste”?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

waste-clipart-vector-86308580Methinks that we certainly are for the point is not waste reduction and recycling but reduction of consumption and reuse. But when reuse is being made into recycling (see my article “The politics of recycling vs reusing”) then in the mind of the people we are creating a false message and image.

Waste is something that is – more or less – unavoidable, if we count all waste, including human waste. But there is a great amount of waste that can be avoided to almost nil if we go down the reduction route for starters, plus add to that reuse.

The largest amount of waste in the waste stream is packaging due to over-packaging, mostly, of products and produce, followed, I should guess, by food waste. Obviously the single use beverage cups, such as for coffee, which are currently in the news, due to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, also make up a large quantity of waste that ends up in landfill.

As far as packaging waste is concerned it is very much down to industry to change their ways and reduce the amount of packing used. In addition to that packaging could, as it is being done on occasions, have a second use designed into it, and that would be the task for designers. Maybe we could also take a leaf or two out of the Japanese book of packaging, especially when done by stores.

It is rather irrelevant as to whether the packaging can be recycled or not. Over-packaging should be done away with and then we should be looking at, when and where packaging is required, into some kind that can have a second or even third use. It can be done and sure is not rocket science.

But, if we only put our minds to it then in many cases we would not need a guide as to how to reuse this or that item of packaging “waste”; our grandparents and their parents knew how to do it and did it. Today, however, if you engage in serious reuse of packaging, whether glass jars, or whatever, you are being looked upon as weird, and as an eccentric. But we must get back to that mindset if we want to win this war on waste. It is not – always – down to the manufacturers and to industry, but to us.

When it comes to those 5,000 single use coffee cups that we throw into the trash, en-route to the landfill, every minute of every day in the UK alone it is up to us who frequent those coffee shops and the like to make a change by bringing our own, barista friendly, reusable coffee cup, and there are a number of different kinds to chose from. It is not – always – up to industry and government, as indicated above.

When it comes to packaging for shipping, such as for sales via the Internet, and many of us today buy online (often cheaper, but not always, as the postage and packing may need to be added to the price), the biggest culprit is Amazon but it is not Amazon alone. Others can be equally silly (not to use a stronger term) to put a rather small item into a huge box. I had that with a sample I was sent for review that was in a rather several times oversized cardboard box. This is not necessary, especially as some items can be transported safely enough in a padded envelope. Having said that I generally almost always find a reuse for any cardboard box, as long as it is strong enough.

However, with all the “war on waste” talk and putting the blame entirely on to industry we are definitely missing the point, and that seriously. Reducing waste, that is to say the “war on waste”, begins to a great extent with each and everyone of us, namely by refusing to buy all the stuff that we do not need but that industry tries to sell us by means of clever advertising campaigns that create a need where there was none and is none.

Before buying anything (new) ask yourself several questions, and here is but a small list:

  1. Do I really need it (even though you may want it)?

  2. Can I make it myself (through DIY or reuse)?

  3. Can I buy it second-hand?

  4. If you already have say a cellphone or PC or whatever the question must be: does my old one still work? Does it still do what I want and need it to do?

If your answers negate a need to buy then don't.

In addition to that we must somehow force industry, and in this case it is industry (and maybe also the politicians for they can legislate) to make products that are repairable and thus sustainable and then get a repair economy going again as well.

That is the way we will reduce waste not by having a go at industry to make use smaller packaging and less of it (though a good idea that would be too), and in the case of coffee shops and such to demand that they use compostable single use cups. In the latter case it is up to us to force a change by demanding that the shops permit the use of reusable cups for us to bring our own.

In addition to that it would be good if we would also think as to whether we really have to go out to those chains and buy coffee and waste our money on such things. Just think that for the price of one cup of coffee at Starbucks, Costa or whatever the name of the chain, you can buy almost half a pound of ground coffee in the shops. The same goes for bottled water. Take your own bottle and fill it up with tap water. Wasting money is also waste. And now I will rest my case; it is beginning to get rather heavy.

© 2016

Farm Apprenticeships: Keeping Farmers From Going Extinct

The world needs more skilled, small-scale farmers — and farm apprenticeships are one pathway into this essential and rewarding career.

Farm Apprentices Tend Caretaker Farms

Small-scale farmers and homesteaders are in a powerful position to bring about the changes our food system desperately needs. By growing food locally and sustainably, farmers improve the physical, economic and ecological health of their communities.

Today’s average farmer is in his or her late 50s. These farmers will need replacements, and their numbers need to be dramatically increased. Transferring their knowledge to future farmers is vital to the expansion of the emerging sustainable food system.

Industrial agriculture is disastrous for the soil and environment, animal welfare, and local economies — not to mention human health. Most North Americans rely on this system for their food, however, and its sudden disintegration would be a catastrophe. Some experts argue that the collapse of the current food system is imminent because of its dependence on three fragile conditions: cheap petroleum, plentiful water and a stable climate.

Monsanto and Big Ag want us to believe that only industrial agriculture can feed the world. The truth is actually the opposite. The Institute for Food and Development Policy reviewed available farm productivity data from 27 countries and concluded that the productivity of smaller farms — which integrate growing multiple crops with raising livestock — is anywhere from two to 10 times higher per unit area than on industrial-scale, monocrop farms. This is due to several factors, including the following:

Read more here.

The importance of reafforestation

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

13942506_1111418662227684_221703025_nWhile reafforestation, the planting of new woodlands and forests, is more important than ever we must remember that those cannot replace ancient woods. Ancient woods are woods that have been wood continuously, even though they are not wild woods (there are no wild woods in Britain and only one or two in Europe) and have been managed and used by man, and thus are a compete ecosystem. A newly plated wood will need decades to become an ecosystem in its own right and the variety of life that exists in ancient woods will take at least a century if not more to materialize.

Furthermore it also does not good to think that any type of tree will do for this reafforestation. They have to be the right kind and the right mix as we must get away from the conifer monocultures that have been created and called forests and woods over the last five decades or more.

While it is true that there are areas and regions where broadleaved trees may not thrive and it is thus best to plant conifers that too then, ideally, should be a mix and planted in such a way that they create a habitat rather than an almost sterile forest.

As far as other areas are concerned, and not just in the UK, they must be planted with a mix of more-or-less native species of broadleaved trees, and in that realm I also, despite the anti-clamor of many so-called experts, trees such as the Sycamore (Acer pseudoplantanus), which in Germany is called, in translation, Mountain Maple, while not being native per se has been naturalized in Britain ever since Roman times and hence should, by now, have citizen status.

Where broadleaved trees do not do to well, as previously said, the conifer high forest is the only option and pine and spruce wood has its uses too. But in all other places the way to go must be the one of bringing back the species that once populated the local woods and they must be managed, again, as coppices and coppice with standards, so that also large oaks and other hardwoods are grown.

Alas, there are two problems. One of them being the forestry industry that is looking for a rather quick return on investment and thus wants to grow fast growing trees, and most of those are, obviously, conifers, ready to be felled in about forty to sixty years. The second one is that “environmentalists” wish woods and forests to be planted in order to be left to nature or other already long established and managed woods to go back to wilderness. And neither idea is a good one.

If we want to have homegrown wood and timber and products from them we must manage our woods and forests in such a way that produces such timber that can be used by local woodland businesses, whether it is for the making of charcoal, for firewood, for beanpoles, for treen goods, or for furniture and everything else that one can think of made from wood.

Bringing in firewood, as has been done (and probably still is being done), to satisfy the demand for it in Britain from countries as far afield as Poland and Western Russia and the calling it sustainable heating fuel does not only not compute but is not sustainable. However, there just is not enough wood coming out of the home woods to satisfy the demand, alone for firewood let alone for anything else.

Tool makers in Britain would like to use British ash for handles but cannot get that in sufficient numbers and thus have to import American ash to make into handles.

Britain was once an island of trees and woodland industries were found everywhere where there were woods, and all the wood harvested locally was used locally, in general. Today, however, Britain is the least wooded country of all the EU member states and if we are not very careful the percentage of woods and forests in Britain will decline even further if the powers-that-be, but which probably rather should not be, have their ways.

While reafforestation is more important than ever and the creation of new woods and forests to increase the tree cover in the British Isles those woods and forests cannot replace our ancient woods and for that reason they need to be protected but also carefully managed for the benefit of the woods, the wildlife and the economy.

© 2016

Photo credit K. Kozubek, Berlin

Is there plastic in your disposable coffee cup?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

NoPapercup1For 99% of all cases the answer is yes and that is why they cannot be recycled and end up in landfill, regardless what the manufacturers may tell you.

The problem: more than 5,000 coffee cups are now thrown away every minute across Britain, but less than 1% of those cups are actually recycled due to complex sorting and contamination issues.

While the cups may be of cardboard the liners of the cups once were of a wax product but today are mostly plastic and neither the wax product not the plastic allow for (easy) recycling, as the material is bonded to the cardboard. The so-called compostable single-use plastic/cardboard cups are not much better either as, one, the material also contaminates recyclables and, two, they are not as compostable as the name suggests. They only compost properly in high-temperature commercial composting facilities and not in an ordinary composting process.

There is only one way of getting away from this and that is not new kinds of paper cups but an end to them and, obviously, the Styrofoam ones as well, and getting used to either drink your coffee in the coffee shop or to bring your own Barista-friendly reusable cup. They do exist, trust me. KeepCup is one of them and there is even a collapsible one, called Stojo, which is, in some ways, similar to the collapsible water bottle called Ohyo and therefore there is absolutely no excuse to use disposable cups.

© 2016

For the Cost of an Iphone, You Can Buy a Wind Turbine to Power a Home


Indian startup Avant Garde Innovations has developed a low-cost wind turbine that can generate 3-5 kW hours of electricity daily

Soon after assuming office, Kerala (southern state of India) Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan kicked up a storm by publicly supporting the Athirappilly hydro electric project, which environmentalists said, if implemented, would create ecologic imbalance in the area and destroy the Athirappilly waterfalls, the largest natural waterfalls in the state.

It is not that the government is oblivious to the impact that the project could make, but it says it has no option but to leverage existing means to check the growing power crisis in Kerala, which partially depends on the private sector for electricity.

Things are no different in other states either. While Kerala has attained almost 100 per cent electrical coverage, many parts of India still remain in the dark. For a large portion of the Indian population, electricity to this day remains a distant dream.

Read more here.

Going Zero Waste

A family in France produces just 11 pounds of trash per person every year

The Poirier family, who lives near Nantes, consists of a mom, a dad, three kids, a cat and... very little trash. Claire, Emmanuel, Matthias, Elsa and Jade generate eleven pounds of waste per head each year. This is almost 50 times less than what ends up in the garbage cans of the average Frenchman!

Photo of Zero Waste family

Everything began six years ago. “Back then, our income plummeted,” Claire tells us. “My husband was laid off and then found a job that paid only a third of what he’d made before. I decided to take parental leave to take care of our two daughters.” For a family that was not used to tracking their expenditures, it was an adjustment. First, the Poiriers turned to the lowest-price items at supermarkets and discount stores, but that did not work well for them. “We found that canned food was of poor quality, the products were too fatty,” Claire remembers.

Eating well for less

“So we thought about it and decided to try something different. We are lucky to live in the countryside, in a village that had a local farmers’ association that sells organic produce at a reasonable price. We liked the fact that we were supporting a local farmer.”

As the Poiriers switched to local and organic produce, their community imposed a new tax designed to reduce household waste. “You pay by volume,” Claire explains. “This got us thinking about the waste we generate.” In order not to exceed twelve 48-gallon bins (180-liter bins) annually, the cheapest garbage pick-up option offered by the community, the family reorganized their house a little bit. “To optimize our triage, we put the compost bin underneath the sink and arranged the trash cans to make them more accessible so that we could really sort each trash item.”

Read more here.

Not a single property for less than average house price in over a quarter of London's boroughs

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

More than a quarter of London boroughs do not have a single property for sale for less than the average UK house price (£191,812)

  • Bexley flat at £94,995 is the cheapest flat currently for sale in London

  • Only 4 out of 32 boroughs can you buy a property in the 0% stamp duty band

With average London property prices currently standing at £530,409, affordability remains a major issue for Londoners. Researchers looked into the cheapest properties currently for sale in each of the 32 London boroughs, and whether it is still possible to buy a property in the capital for less than the average UK house price of £191,812.

In nine out of 32 London boroughs, more than a quarter (28%), it is impossible to find a single property currently on the market for less than the average UK house price of just under £192,000 (according to monthly Land Registry Property Index).

The figures also reveal that Bexley is the only borough where you can buy a property for less than £100,000, with a studio flat currently on the market for just £94,995. While, in Tower Hamlets, there are no properties on the market for less than £250,000. In the latter case we are talking about a London borough that was once to more than 90% working class and accommodation was predominantly rented, more often than not from the local council or, when it still existed, the London County Council, later the Greater London Council.

Looking at stamp duty bands shows that in just four out of 32 (12.5%) London boroughs is it possible to buy a property exempt from stamp duty. (0% stamp duty band is: £0 - £125,000). While, in almost half of the Capital’s boroughs, the most affordable property for sale today is a studio flat, which are typically just 100-110 sq ft in size, compared to the average UK one bed flat, which measures 495 sq ft.

And still we are being told by government that there are affordable homes to be found in the Capital. The term “affordable” is also rather questionable because the question if, “affordable by who?” Definitely not by essential workers and others on a low(er) income. The members of the British government most certainly do not live in the real world, probably not even on this Planet, when they talk about “affordable homes”. Most of them simply are not affordable to all but the rich. And rented properties are no different there either.

© 2016

Britain's independent nuclear deterrent

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

TridentThe subjects of Her Majesty – for there is no such thing as a British citizen – and the rest of the world are told time and again that the Trident missiles on the nuclear submarines based at Faslane, at Gare Loch, are Britain's independent nuclear deterrent.

Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.

Those weapons are not an independent nuclear deterrent as they are US missiles and while on UK ships are under US control. The UK could never, independently, use those weapons or not use them. If decreed by the US they will hate to be fired whether the government in Britain at that time wish to do so or not.

The weapons are made in the US, supplied by the US to the MoD (paid for by the British taxpayers) and are carried on British submarines (paid for by the British taxpayers once again) but are basically under the control of the US strategic nuclear command. It is they who decide as and when those weapons are used and the UK government has as much say in that as to whether or not strikes are launched from US airbases in the UK; namely none.

During the Cold War the joke – which is far from a joke – was going around that Britain is but a fixed US aircraft carrier off Europe's shores and this, in fact, was more to the truth than people realized at the time and still is true today.

There is a reason as to why the three “main” parties, the Tories, Labour and the Lib-Dems, do not consider scrapping Trident and that is that they simply cannot for the US won't permit it. The other, smaller parties, who are not insiders, do not realize that, though. See how independent this British nuclear deterrent is. It is even less independent than the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

© 2016

The politics of recycling vs reusing

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The politics of recycling vs reusing and the deliberate confusing of the two


On the left of the picture you see what recycling of glass looks like. It gets crushed and then used not to make new bottles but inferior products, often road aggregate. On the right, now that is reuse.

Time and again we see reuse being called recycling and while it seems a common and seemingly simple mistake there are a myriad of daily examples where reuse is called recycling. Yet it is extremely important to differentiate between the two for political and environmental reasons.

Recycling is an industrial process that collects used or abandoned materials, and smashes, melts, shreds or otherwise transforms them into their constituent raw materials. Recycling can reduce waste, the need for virgin materials, energy consumption, air pollution, and landfill leachates, though this occurs in varying degrees for different processes. But recycling is not environmentally benign. It still has an impact by way of energy use, from collecting and transporting the recyclables, over breaking them down to re-manufacturing products from them.

First of all, recycling more or less institutionalizes disposables and single-use items by treating them after they have been created, meaning more single-use and disposable items are guaranteed to be made and tossed in the future. Recycling is a form of disposal, make no mistake there, and as an industrial process, recycling still means expenditures of energy and virgin materials, and produces pollutants, greenhouse gases and waste.

The recycling paper, for instance, involves using water and electricity to separate paper fibers which must then be de-inked; a process that results in toxic sludge.

Furthermore, recycling is not a closed-loop system, even if it is being sold too us as such. And, whenever the market price for recyclables falls the majority of the stuff is then simply landfilled. In addition to that a great majority of recycling results in downcycling, which is to say the creation of inferior products with PU plastics often being turned into asphalt and other end-of-the-line products. This is, unfortunately, also true with regards to glass to a great extent which, instead of being remade into glass products, is crushed and used as a road building aggregate. The chances for a recyclable object to be recycled twice in its life is less than one percent.

Reuse, on the other hand, is an act that challenges the institutionalization of easy disposal and the politics of industry-supported “environmentalism” and that of consumption, of buying more and more and disposing of the “old” with an almost happy heart as, we are told, all the components are recyclable and will be recycled. While the components of the products may be recyclable they are not always recycled and it should also not be necessary. Products should be, once again, repairable also so that, aside from a reuse culture we have a repair culture again as well.

Reuse does not require new materials. It reduces waste instead of merely diverting it. It offers an opportunity for creativity as materials are repurposed. Currently, many acts of reuse, especially of things usually considered waste, involve individuals choosing to repurpose objects. Nowadays reuse is often made out to be something that we seem to have – more or less – just invented but our grandparents and the generations before them all reused and repurposed things all the time, from glass jars to many other things.

Upcycling, though this term being a rather new one, is also almost as old as the hills, much like reuse, and was practiced by our grandparents and their parents before them. Some of us may be lucky enough to even have had parents who did it, as is the case with yours truly.

Becoming a reuse culture – the large-scale institutionalization and normalizing of reuse – instead of a throw-away culture perpetuated by guilt-free recycling would include changing the practices of production and consumption. There would be no more single-use items. It would encourage the stewardship and care of objects. Objects would be redesigned to be durable, repairable, and safe. This possibility is why reuse is a potentially political act, while recycling maintains the status quo.

However, reuse and repurposing has to start and should start with us as individuals and households, and we should reuse and repurpose and upcycle as much of what is still today considered waste into things for our use and even beyond that. At least until such a time that large-scale reuse and repurposing takes over and even then we should continue.

It is not difficult, as some countries show, and that often not even intentionally with regards to reuse as opposed to throw-away but simply because it has always been done so – Japan is an example here with some of they way they package things, for instance, whether in beautiful boxes, or whatever, which automatically have a reuse – and packaging, for instance, can be designed in such a way that a reuse is immediately obvious. German mustard manufacturers, for instance, quite frequently, put their products in glasses that are designed and intended, in the end, to be used for drinking glasses.

When we call reuse or repurposing “recycling,” everything is seen as “recycling” and thus “recycling” is seen as the thing to do with the waste that we generate without, for many, thinking about the alternatives, such as reuse, repurposing, upcyling and such. But then again that is exactly the way it is being designed to not change the status quo as to the way products, and especially also packaging, are produced and used. In addition to that there is money in recycling, as long as the price for recyclables is a decent one, for otherwise the stuff just ends up in landfills, and thus local authorities (governments) and central government, as well, obviously, like promote so-called recycling above all other measures.

© 2016



Mel Bartholomew, inventor of square foot gardening was not a horticulturist by trade, he was a civil engineer who sold his company and retired to his garden at the age of 42.

When Mel started gardening, conventional gardens were single row gardens, averaging a 20’x30′ ft. His very first disappointment was that tending this type of garden was really hard work. You tilled and dug and amended and weeded… and weeded, then weeded some more. It was just plain hard. So much work! all summer long.

Gardeners know, by July, your energy is spent and guess what, your garden is full of weeds. And who would blame you, its too stinkin hot to be out there doing the worst gardening task to ever exist, weeding.

But Mel went along with it, after all, he wanted to garden and he was up for the challenge. So he learned, and worked hard, but his acute engineer mind griped as each new ‘conventional method’ posed another question… and he had to know why…

Read more here.

With re-creation of 1500s garden, a reminder of when herb knowledge was a survival tool

At first blush, the dozens of clay pots on the Arbor Terrace at Dumbarton Oaks seem like the treasures of a plant nerd just back from a shopping spree. In one grouping alone, you find an array of thyme, oregano, lavender, scented geranium, sage, sweet woodruff and mint.

Step back, and you see a method to this madness: The pots are arranged in a decorative circle, and for all their variety, they share one trait. They are all herbs. Culinary herbs, household herbs, healing herbs. Actually, they share something else: They were also recorded in the Padua Botanical Garden in northeastern Italy. The garden was first planted in 1545 and is the oldest surviving example of a university teaching garden. Here, medical students learned to identify plants and their pharmaceutical qualities. In an age when we have come to think of plants as mostly decorative or edible, such “physic” gardens are a reminder of a time when we needed herbs and knowledge of them to survive.

The gardeners at Dumbarton Oaks — the Georgetown estate and Harvard research institution — re-created the Padua garden to mark a gathering of scholars in May to explore the historic link between landscape and academia. That gathering is past, but the display on the Arbor Terrace, which includes an accompanying outside exhibit, will remain until midsummer.

Read more here.