Sunday, 21 December 2008

Outdoor Christmas lights - good or bad?

video
I used to think that outdoor Christmas lights were wasting electricity and to0 distracting for passing drivers. Is this a load of 'Baa humbug'? We saw these on a house near us on the way home and I have to say that in the darkness on the shortest night of the year, our son thought they were great. Clearly someone has made a real effort to entertain and brighten up the neighbourhood. Given that there weren't really any other lights about, it hadn't turned into oneupmanship. I know energy saving matters and so does community so, for what it is worth, thanks to the household who added some Christmas sparkle on the Winter Solstice for my family.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Old Christmas albums never die, they just go to Cheerful Earful

Ever wondered where those cheesy Christmas albums have gone? Are they lost forever?

Thankfully, a kind-hearted soul at Cheerful Earful offers them a home and a place for us to go and download these long gone, yet still appealing tunes (well, once you've started the over-indulging over Christmas).

So if you are bored like me of dusting off the various Now It's Christmas/Best Christmas Album Ever-type CDs, why not get some strangely appropriate cheesy Christmas tunes coutesy of Inkydog?

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Donate a gift to a child in The community this Christmas


When you are out shopping in Norwich this Christmas, why not buy an extra one for a child in the community less fortunate and donate it? The scheme is called the Giving Tree and you hand in the gift at the Castle Mall shopping centre along with a gift tag that you will be given to write your Christmas message. Never mind the excess drinking and Christmas pud, this is what it is really about! :-)

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Winter is here so don't forget to feed the birds and wrap up the wormery


We're having a cold snap in Norwich and we woke up to our first snow in ages. Time to check the bird feeders are full and make sure the wormery is wrapped up. Cold worms slow down and so take longer to munch through the kitchen scraps. Sadly we can't add building a snowman to the list as there is rain with the snow.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Greener Trends - ideas for a more sustainable life




I know, this site is based in the US but I received a comment on my blog from Kate at Greener Trends and thought I would take a look.

As a gadget lover, to see a backpack covered in solar panels immediately got my attention, even if I don't really need one, it is still quite cool. :-) If you want one, go and take a look at the Voltaic Systems site for more info.

This site is worth a look as there are some good posts to inspire you about greener and more sustainable living, technology, greenwashing and even ideas for toys for Christmas for children.

It is great to see and read about like minded people in the US. With the imminent arrival of President Barack Obama, who knows, maybe we will have a new champion for sustainable living with some real clout on the world stage?

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Autumn leaves and trying to still love trees


I've been putting off collecting the fallen leaves from our enormous sycamore tree, hawthornes, beech hedges, and the millions of vicious needles from the black pines in our garden. Had to make a start yesterday as the grass had disappeared under this Autumn carpet of rotting brown and yellowness.

This year I invested in a Powerbase Garden Vacuum in a recent Homebase sale, naively thinking this would bring an end to the backbreaking monotony that is picking up leaves. For the pine needles and sycamore leaves, this gadget is pants and constantly gets jammed.

So it was back to low tech with a rake and garden sacks and now armed with my toddler son. We had a great time throwing the leaves about, pretending to hibernate in them and doing just about anything but pick them up! The job took longer but was good fun and I'm starting to like trees again, despite all this effort. At least it is only once a year.

I read about resarch that the Woodland Trust has done that suggests that Britain’s ancient woodland is being felled at a faster rate than the Amazonian rainforest. Scary stuff.

According to the Trust, nearly half of all the woods in the UK over 400 years old have been lost in the past 80 years. A further 600 ancient woods are threatened by new roads, electricity pylons, housing and airport expansion.

The Woodland Trust’s Campaigns Director pointed out that England’s ancient woodland, i.e. woodland designated as being over 400 years old, is the equivalent of rainforest and is irreplaceable. The rate of loss of this woodland in the UK is now one of the fastest in the world. The Trust is appealing to the Government for better protection of the woods that remain.

So as you gather up the leaves from your garden and moan about your backache, just remember that our woodland is under threat and be thankful for any trees you may have near you or in your garden.

Why not become a Woodwatcher and support the Woodland Trust in protecting our ancient woodland before its too late? You can read more on the Woodland Trust's blog.

Monday, 3 November 2008

The ultimate Secret Santa idea this Christmas


Received my blood donor card today after my first donation a few weeks ago.
Found out that I'm O+ which confirms how common I suspected I was!
Apparently it is the most common blood group with 37% of people having this group. Being common has its advantages. My blood donations can potentially help 83% of the population. How cool is that?! Although you can only donate 3 times per year and only after a 16 week gap between donations, it won't stop me making an appointment in advance for the next donation online.
I never realised what a positive effect this experience would have on me and if you want to get close again to the true spirit of Christmas, do consider giving blood.
It really is about giving the gift of life to someone you will never meet. The ultimate Secret Santa present. :-)

Monday, 27 October 2008

Green digital photography - little steps by Olympus and its packaging



I'm a big fan of photography, no expert, just an enthusiast who tries to get the most of a budget DSLR (Pentax K100D) and recycled Pentax K lenses.


I received a press release from Olympus in August and after reading it for the first time thought, more greenwash and so what?

You might see what I mean if you read it for yourself:

Olympus Consumer Packaging Goes Green

Good Things Come in Smaller
Packages, Plastic Reduced by 70-80 Percent

CENTER VALLEY, Pa., August
28, 2008 – Olympus Imaging America Inc. takes another major step in its “green”
initiative by eliminating 70 percent of the plastic from the packaging for its
audio products and 80 percent for its xD-Picture Card™ packaging, which will be
hitting retail shelves this fall. In a 12-month period, this will equal more
than 83 tons of plastic that will not need to be recycled or otherwise disposed
by consumers.

“Olympus takes its corporate responsibilities very
seriously, and is committed to helping to ensure that future generations inherit
a safe and thriving environment,” said Hirohide Matsushita, senior vice
president, Olympus Imaging America Inc. “Today’s announcement is part of a
larger, global company strategy to develop products, services and production
technologies with a careful and conscientious regard for environmental
protection. Olympus also recently announced its relationship with the National
Park Foundation, highlighting the company’s commitment to promoting healthy,
active lifestyles and building awareness about living in harmony with the
environment.”

Starting this fall, consumer digital audio products will
be converted from plastic blister packs to paperboard. This move will reduce
plastic used in the packaging by approximately 70 percent. Additionally,
xD-Picture Card products will begin the transition from plastic to paperboard
packaging, reducing the amount of plastic used by approximately 80 percent. The
packaging is also printed with soy and vegetable inks, which contain no harsh
additives and are healthier for the environment.

These changes further
improve on previous packaging modifications made with the environment in mind.
In 2007, digital cameras were the first Olympus consumer products with packaging
made from paperboard. Audio product packaging was also targeted, moving its
WS-110 S, WS-210 S and WS-300 Series blister packaging from PVC (polyvinyl
chloride) to PET (polyethylene terephthalate). Unlike PVC, PET does not produce
dioxins or hydrogen chloride when incinerated. Recently, Olympus Imaging America
also reduced the use of PET plastic by 50 percent on the WS-110 S and WS-210 S
by using recycled paperboard.

To learn more about Olympus’ environmental
principles and Certified Eco-Friendly products, please visit: http://www.olympusamerica.com/environment/enviro.asp?page=4.

It is easy to condemn companies for taking these little steps to reduce packaging waste, use of platics and switching to less harmful alternatives, and say hurry up and do more!

But maybe we should be more encouraging and maybe other companies will take notice and the move towards less toxic and wasteful manufacturing will gain pace?

Certainly Greenpeace's "Green Electronics Consumer Guide" has made a difference with companies being praised and shamed in equal measure.

It is a shame that more companies that manufacture digital cameras are not listed on this. It would be good to know whether my beloved Pentax is environmentally responsible, or indeed how the big names shape up.

Like a lot of consumers, I need some independent scrutiny on these companies rather than just press releases as I cannot help being a bit cynical of all the greenwash that is still about.

That said, if you are serious about corporate responsibility Olympus then well done and keep it up.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Charitable giving during the credit crunch - give blood


Last week I took the plung and gave blood. We had a mobile blood donation lorry from the National Blood Service park near to my workplace and I thought that there were no excuses.

I had made an appointment in advance and had the obligatory questionnaire to fill in. Questionnaires are usually a pain but in this case, don't we all want the reassurance that our blood donated and indeed given to someone is suitable and safe? Didn't take long and the staff were brilliant.

The lorry was small but really well organised and had a friendly and happy atmosphere. The blood donation bit was fine and it was nice to lay down for a while and have some time to relax away from work, listening to some mindless drivel on a local radio station. It was only about 10 minutes but I was there for about an hour and got a drink and a snack afterwards.

I will definitely do this again, not least because I discovered only about 5 in 100 of us who can give blood actually do.

At a time when we are all watching our pennies and are probably cutting back on charitable donations, why not give blood and save a life?

It'll cost you nothing and give someone everything.

I am still on a high at the thought of that and it isn't the blood loss, as that was just under a pint! ;-)

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Wierd weather and green tomatoes


Despite some cold nights recently and sunshine and showers, I managed to harvest a fair few kgs of tomatoes. Sadly the rubbish yet weather this season and lack of sun has meant our little raised beds only managed green tomatoes, a few french beans and 2 lovely giant sunflowers. Nothing else for it but to make green tomato chutney ready for Christmas. Yum! Time to rekindle there cost saving measures during the credit crunch.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Hallowed Bonfire Christmas - say no to excess packaging!

We are in that strange period when Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas merge in the shops and they are bursting with excess packaging from all the novelty tat.

I received a plug for Green Voice and its petitition to just say no to excess packaging and there is also a video promoting it. They raise money and awareness for environmental campains.

Quite a laugh with a serious point.

Why not take a look for yourself and support this worthwhile campaign in the run up to this time in the shops of excess wrapping and packaging?

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Friends of the Earth Petition "For Less Polluting Cars" in Europe


Friends of the Earth have started a petition to set tough CO2 emission limits on new cars registered in the European Union.
In October 2008 the European Parliament is to vote to adopt the European Commission’s proposed regulation on CO2 emission limits.
The proposed limit for new cars registered in the EU is to be 130g CO2 / km instead of the existing 160g CO2 / km.
Friends of the Earth believes that 130g / km is not enough and is campaigning for a more restrictive limit of 120g CO2 / km with further reductions to follow, (80g/km in 2020 and 65g/km in 2025).
To highlight this they have set up a microsite called For Less Polluting Cars to get people concerned about this to write to their MEPs.
Our car is not the most environmentally friendly one but like many families, we need an MPV and it was what we could afford second hand at the time. That said, we want things to get better so supporting this reduction is in all our interests, and may make less polluting cars more affordable.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Cut your carbon footprint when you have a beer - drink Adnams East Green


After a very pleasant few hours at the Norwich Greenstock 08 event last Sunday, the Green Grocers stall were selling off boxes of 8 Adnams East Green beer for a tenner instead of £2 per bottle. Not one to miss a bargain I got a box and was only sad that I could only carry one. My toddler is too small and too young to be carrying beer after all! ;-) This beer is lovely and a real session beer. A good beer to try he you haven't given pedal alf a in before. If we ever have a Summer this year, it will be good for that too. Adnams claim that it is the first carbon neutral beer in terms of its production. All I can say is keep up the good work. This is great stuff and I hope some pubs in Norwich get it in on draft.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Something for the weekend? - Be Greentastic with The Green Grocers at GreenStock08!

If you are looking for something good to do over this Bank Holiday weekend in Norfolk, why not go to The Green Grocers: GreenStock08 event?

Best of all it is totally FREE and green.

It is on Sunday 24th August and is held at Heigham Park, Norwich from 10:30 a.m. until 7 p.m.

It is great fun for all the family with good local and organic food (sponsored by Adnams), live music, and a children's marquee with lots of activities from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m.

At 1pm they will stage the Climate Change Question with Councillors Andrew Little (Conservative, Leader of Norwich Conservatives); Brian Morrey (Labour, Deputy Leader of Norwich City Council); April Pond (Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Broadland); Adrian Ramsey (Green Party candidate for Norwich South Constituency, Leader of the Greens at Norwich City Council).

May sound dry but last year it was quite a lively debate and didn't go on too long! ;-)

Take a picnic (and maybe a brolly!), or just get food and some good beer there.

Went last year and it was really good fun.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

John West slammed in Greenpeace's "Tinned Tuna's Hidden Catch" Report

Greenpeace has just published a report into the tinned tuna industry called "Tinned Tuna's Hidden Catch".

It is a massive global industry, with tuna exports worth more than any other fish species, at around 2.7 billion dollars per year.

Some tuna species are being over-fished, and bad fishing practices are being blamed for large numbers of sea turtles, sharks and other fish being wiped out by this global industry.


Worryingly, I discovered that a dolphin-friendly label is not a guarantee of sustainably fished tuna.

In the UK, John West is cited as having the worst record, and Greenpeace has produced a league table of tinned tuna retailers to help you shop in a more ethical and sustainable way.

We do buy tinned tuna and am pleased to say that we tend to shop at Sainsbury's and they currently top the league table with the most responsible sourcing of their tuna.

Let's hope the other retailers catch up and are shamed into action by this league table and report.

Why not nudge them by voting with your feet and shopping for your tuna at the better retailers?

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Recycle or reuse plant pots at Notcutt's Garden Centres


Went to the HFG farm shop today at Notcutt's Garden Centre and discovered that you can recycle your plant pots in the car park, or reuse them by helping yourself.
Brilliant idea.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Can a photograph help sustain the planet? - the Prix Pictet 2008









Came across a competition that tries to answer this question, and judging by the shortlist of entries for the Prix Pictet 2008, these photographs really do communicate the implications of climate change the urgent need for remedial action.
This is touted as the World's Premier Photographic Award in Sustainability. Not sure about that but the photographs are brilliant.
18 photographers have been shortlisted and the entries are well worth a look.
The award is sponsored by Pictet & Cie, in association with the Financial Times, and the winner will be announced on 30th October and will win CHF 100,000.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Norwich Puppet Theatre - top day out in the school holidays!


Took my 3 year old son to the Norwich Puppet Theatre to see the 3 Billy Goats Gruff yesterday. He was a bit wary and I was wondering whether the Troll would put him off this sort of thing for life.


No need to worry. The Garlic Theatre company did a fantastic job.


The children and we adults had a real treat. The puppeteer was brilliant, it was funny, and even had an eco message.


Through clever story telling, we even sympathised and saw the Troll's point of view and there was a happy ending.


Will definitely go again and am inspired to sign up for a course in puppet making!


This theatre is a national treasure and help keep it open by going to see their productions or take your children and yourselves to a puppet making workshop.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Preserve teeth and the planet - cheaper toothbrushes at Sainsbury's


Sainsbury's have reduced Preserve toothbrushes by a third to £1.99 each.

I've used a Preserve razor for ages and find it good and, this also recycles what I used to think wasn't recyclable - yoghurt pots!

Not only are these toothbrushes made from 100% recycled plastic including yoghurt pots but also when you need to replace yours after 3 months or so, you can send your old one to be recycled.

Address is:
Recycle Me
PO Box 149
Haverhill
CB9 7PQ

Worth a try at this price I think.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Is organic milk more attractive to wildlife?


Had a doorstep milk delivery from Dairy Crest this morning. Didn't ask for one but that seems to be the way this service has gone since Co-Op sold it.

As you will see from the picture, birds nr something removed 3 out of 4 lids on the bottles to get at the milk. Didn't used to happen when we got regular full fat and semi-skimmed.

Silver and red-silver lids then and now they are green-silver for organic. Is this colour more attractive to birds I wonder?

Either way, at these prices and with a family we cannot afford to share most of our milk with them.

Any ideas to stop milk bottles getting pecked that won't harm the birds will be gratefully received. Please leave a comment.

Thanks.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Eaton Park 80th Anniversary Celebration on 15th June


Sorry for not posting for ages.
Just re-adjusting to a newborn baby in the house and every spare minute is filled, regrettably not by sleep which we all crave!!!
If you are looking for something worthwhile to do on Sunday 15th June, why not go to the 80th annivesary celebration at Eaton Park, Norwich?
The event is from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
There is model boating, extreme frizbee (whatever that is), line dancing (also extreme in my view!), bug hunting, tennis and football.
Don't forget the miniature railway, live music at the bandstand , a raffle and lots of childrens activities.
The event will be opened by the Lord Mayor of Norwich at 12.15p.m.
You are invited to bring a picnic but not barbecues. Refreshments are available at the Cafe Essense at the South East Pavilllion.
The event is organised by the Friends of Eaton Park and Norwich City Council.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Raise money for charity by web searches with VeoSearch.com


Received a comment following my post on the free eco search engine called Ecocho, letting me know about a search engine that supports sustainable development charities.


Veosearch gives money to a number of Sustainable Development projects through the online searches made via the site. It has just launched in the UK having started in Paris.


Every search generates advertisement revenues. 50 % of these revenues are distributed to the charities on the site.


The searches are in partnership with Google, Yahoo, Ask, Exalead so should be pretty good.


The charities are engaged in at least one of the three main pillars of Sustainable Development: social work, environment protection or sustainable economics. The list of charities can be added to and can be found here.


For more information on Veosearch works visit the FAQs area, and to support specific charities, you need to register an account. After that, you support the charities you want by clicking on “add” or “+” on their own pages. These will then automatically be part of your selection and will remain until you change your selection.


Looks like a good idea and I will get round to changing the search engine on my blog to help generate revenue for one of the charities. More info on how to do this or other ways to show your support for Veosearch and its fundraising follow this link.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Mapping the credit crunch with BBC Radio 4



Came across this blog on the BBC Radio 4 site which attempts to assess and map the UK public mood on on particular issues, starting with this question:


What single factor is hurting you most about the credit crunch?

You can choose from six options and will be asked for the first part of your postcode - that's it. It should take less than a minute to complete and the map is updated every 30 minutes.


You won't be asked for any personal information and what you do submit won't be used for any other purpose.


BBC Radio 4 are working on this project with CASA (Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis) based at the University College London, who've developed MapTube, a map-sharing website.


You can view the current map here.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Norwich to get Connect2 pro-cycling funding for river crossing between city and Whitlingham Park


Sustrans, the UK sustainable transport charity, have been successful in the People's £50 Million Lottery Giveaway for their Connect2 project.


Sustrans will use the funding to invest in walking and cycling UK-wide as part of the 5-year Connect2 project in partnership with local authorities.


One of the Connect2 projects is up to £1 million to benefit Norwich by providing a river crossing from the City to Whitlingham Country Park.


The planned route would stretch from Whitlingham Country Park over the River Yare and River Wensum and behind Norwich City Football Club. Photos of the event to launch the Norwich bid can be found here.

The Tour Norfolk site has good information about Whitlingham Country Park and its facilities.

The former gravel quarry is now an excellent centre for water sports, and a great place for walking, cycling and wildlife. The official web site Whitlingham Outdoor Education Centre is here.

Sustrans are the charity behind the National Cycle Network, Safe Routes to Schools, Bike It and TravelSmart.

This might inspire me to pump up the tyres on my old bike and brave cycling again after more than 10 years!


I came across the excellent Norwich Cycling Campaign web site, which provides useful information to promote cycling and cyclists in Norwich.

NCC are also campaigning against the insane decision by Norwich City Council to pilot the use of our cycle lanes by HGV's, which I previously blogged about.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Launch of first free eco search engine in the UK





Got an email about a new search engine called Ecocho.

The name “ecocho” means “Ultra ecological” derived from: “eco” for ecological and “cho” meaning “extremely” or “ultra” in Japanese.

It is a free search engine, which plants up to two trees for every 1000 searches made via the engine.


With over 1.5 billion internet searches made in the UK every month, if every search was made via ecocho.co.uk, that would equate to a maximum of 3 million trees every month. It's essentially a really easy way to offset your carbon footprint.


It might not be Google but it works and has a worthy aim. Why not give it a try?


Here is their press release:


Search your way to a greener planet. World’s first “ultra ecological” search
engine launches in the UK

ecocho.co.uk, the world’s first free green search engine that offsets carbon emissions at no cost to the user, launched this week in the UK and 14 countries across the world.

Powered by Google and Yahoo, ecocho.co.uk is an Australian initiative designed to fight climate change by sponsoring the planting of up to two trees for every 1000 searches made. Switching to ecocho.co.uk is a simple step towards saving the environment without sacrificing quality search results.

Founder of ecocho.com, Tim Macdonald said “In the UK alone, people conduct over 1.5 billion Internet searches a month*. If we can capture just one per cent of that traffic, we will make a significant contribution towards lowering the impact of harmful greenhouse gas emissions.”

In Australia, ecocho will purchase carbon-offset credits through the New South Wales Government Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme (GGAS) and KPMG will check the acquisition, registration and retirement of the carbon credits.

“ecocho.co.uk aims to reinvest 70 per cent of the site’s revenue in carbon-offset credits and as the site progresses, we’ll begin to support similar carbon-offsetting schemes in other states and countries,” said Mr Macdonald.

“The search engine is one of the easiest ways people can change their everyday behaviour to make a positive impact on the environment.”

To find out more about the initiative and start offsetting your carbon emissions, visit http://www.ecocho.co.uk/
-Ends-

*
Data supplied by Nielsen Online, MegaView Search, February 2008

Notes to Editors:

Ecocho.com buys carbon-offset credits using money generated through advertising on the website. Carbon credits are then used to invest in tree growing initiatives. The site is powered by both Yahoo and Google technology; the user can choose their favourite search engine to power ecocho.comecocho.com is a completely free service.

The process of “carbon-offsetting” involves contributing to a reduction in the amount of damaging carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – trees qualify as a recognised form of carbon-offsetting. The name “ecocho” means “Ultra ecological” derived from: “eco” for ecological and “cho” meaning “extremely” or “ultra” in Japanese.

About echocho.comecocho.com is owned by Yield Media, a subsidiary of Photon Group. The young core group of staff responsible for the ecocho.com is passionate about climate change issues and creating behavioural changes that impact the environment now.

Monday, 28 April 2008

How to live off-grid




Got sent a review copy of "How to live off-grid" by Nick Rosen.


Apparently he is an award winning journalist and documentary maker, for PBS Frontlineand Channel 4 Dispatches amongst others.

This is a new concept to me, living "off-grid" but I guess it may be something we all could do well to find out more about. With the credit crunch, building a yurt in a forest maybe the only option for some of us!

"Off-Grid" means living without mains water and power, sewage and a landline. If you are cut off from the mains you have no choice but to conserve power and water as much as you can, and perhaps, as Nick Rosen would say, makes you more in harmony with nature.

The book charts his journey around Britain in a camper van meeting people who live outside the system and off the grid, i.e. not on mains water and not on the national grid for electricity.



For more information about living off-grid, you can go to Nick Rosen's site.


Read this book whilst waiting for my daughter to be born last month, and it was interesting, challenging and informative. Made the hours of waiting and worrying a lot more bearable.


The style annoyed me a bit at first as it was part travel log, part off-grid guidebook but I soon warmed to it. In some ways, it was like a conversation, rather like a blog, and because of this, it did bring some of the characters and experiences Nick Rosen had a bit more to life.


The UK certainly has some eccentric and some inspirational people around, as well as some con-merchants cashing in on the green thing.


Worth a mention is Nigel Lowthrop, who on leaving the RAF, bought Hill Holt Wood , moved his family there and created a social enterprise with a sustainable income from the wood that involves the whole community and helps disadvataged children. Politicians are taking an interest in learning from and replicating such pioneers and schemes, which must be a good thing.


I am not sure I will rush to buy an old bus off eBay, off-grid it with solar panels etc and fill the tank with old chip fat and drive my family into the wilds of the UK.

Can't afford it for a start and all the energy saving measures I would like to install at home are just beyond us financially because the technology is so expensive still in the UK.

Not only that, trying build a house in the middle of no where off-grid seems like too much hassle to navigate the labyrinthine planning regulations and application process.

If you are rich, you can probably find a way through quite easily. That said, the book has some innovative, brave and driven people, like Mr Lowthrop and family, who make a success of it.

Good luck to them and I would heartily recommend this book as an enjoyable window on the world of living off-grid.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Another option to manage junk and unwanted communications




In this lead up to the local elections, I am more conscious of the amount of junk mail we get through our letter box.


Most people have come across the Mail Preference Service, which is a free service to help you manage that unwanted junk mail that usually ends up straight in the recycling unread (at least if you are anything like our household).


I got an email about a new free service called Choose Your Mail, which takes the MPS a bit further by allowing you specify what direct mail you don't mind receiving.

Apparently, UK households receive something like 6.3 billion items of junk mail per year and most of it ends up in the bin unread.

In addition, if you receive annoying cold calls on the telephone, there is also the Telephone Preference Service to try out.

It isn't foolproof but it does reduce the calls a bit.

I haven't tried this yet but there is also an Email Preference Service to, which is another weapon against spam.

Trading Standards are the place to go if your life continues to be hounded by unsolicited calls, post or emails.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Liberal Democrats can't spell, but support the lorry ban


The Liberal Democrats have been doing their best to fill up my recycling box with numerous leaflets and newsletters.
Mind you, so has Labour.
I had to post this article from their Norwich Mail newsletter. Not because of the worthy campaign to block lorries from using the cycle lane on Newmarket Road.
Rather the fact that the current Councillor for Eaton is holding a makeshift sign that has a spelling mistake on it. Can you spot it (and no, there is no prize)?
Yes, I'm being pedantic. It does not inspire much confidence though, as the inability to spell or quality check your communications when you plan to abolish one tax and replace it with another.

At the last general election, I checked out the Lib Dem's new tax proposals and my household was significantly worse off. We aren't well off so that wasn't an attractive proposition.
Much as I agree with some Lib Dem ideas and have voted for them in the past, I am concerned about whether they really know what they are doing. In this case it may only be forgetting to spell check a road name.
I do hope that lorries will be kept out of this cycle lane, not least as it was only recently that a cyclist was killed on Newmarket Road.
Fingers crossed that the 500+ signatures handed in to City Hall by the Lib Dems will end this bad idea before it is given a trial.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Energy Wasting Day on 1st April




In the true spirit of impartiality and balance, you might want to support today's Energy Wasting Day?



Dan Power is promoting the unnecessary use of energy and suggests that you:
  • Leave the lights on when you leave the room
  • Fill your kettle to the brim
  • Turn up your thermostat to the max
  • Wash at 90 degrees for the ultimate clean

It's easy to waste energy and find out some top tips from Dan Power on YouTube.



Monday, 24 March 2008

Are children safe in the UK or are we exaggerating and worsening the risks?

I was reading the Observer yesterday, which had an excellent Climate Change issue with Thom Yorke, lead singer of Radiohead as the guest editor.

He helped launch the Friends of the Earth "Big Ask" Campaign, to lobby the government to bring in a 3% carbon reductions year on year to reach the 60% reduction needed by 2050. Watch an interview with him here.

In amongst it was an article about what could be the greenest city in the world, namely Freiburg, Germany. I remember going there in my teens on a school trip in the late 1980s and thought it was great. There were a few mediaeval bits that allied bombing in WWII had not completely destroyed, and a brilliant tram. Trams were a novelty to me then and now, although I did use the one in Sheffield when I was studying there in the 1990s.

What struck me most about this article was not the climate change angle and public transport options. It was a picture with little toddlers, not older children, playing in a woodland on bits of plank and felled trees. It was called "an adventure site" an was largely Freiburg's answer to a children's playground.

How can this be? Where is the health and safety? What about splinters? Is this irresponsible?

The kids looked like they were having a great time but being a father to a toddler myself, I could feel my concern rising as the planks and log was in no way secured and looked like something I would have put together when I played with my friends in the 1970s.

But isn't that the point?

Don't get me wrong, I am a Dad and have baby number 2 on the way. I worry about my kids and my natural instinct is to not let any harm come to them.

What I struggle with is letting my son grow up and explore the world around him. I'm pleased to say that he has a cautious head on his shoulders and still gets cuts and bruises as evidence of him trying new things out and learning about his environment, and maybe having some fun along the way.

Should we be protecting children or should we be teaching them to spot potential risks and manage them?

The Noise To Signal blog has collected together some info on the old child safety films that many of us grew up with. It is amazing how long this tough line in parenting has been going with children made to see a little squirrel, Tufty, narrowly avoid becoming road kill by a wise owl, or the scary tales of the unfortunate Charley the cat.

Tim Gill's is an expert in this area and you can read more at his site Rethinking Childhood .

Maybe we are playing it too safe? Before I became a parent, I thought that there was a lot of scaremongering.

You hear about flashers and worse near children's playgrounds as if it is worsening problem. The fact is, bad people have always been around and there are probably no more around now than in the past. My Mum surprised me once by recounting a story of being flashed by some pathetic man in the 1940s when she was growing up in the country. She was so matter of fact about it and even managed a cheeky joke about saying how "he had nothing to boast about"! ;-)

What I want is for my children not to be scared, be in control and to be able to deal with what life throws at them and hopefully have good lives.

Wrapping them up in cotton wool, fitting GPS devices to their clothing and even locking them indoors is not going to help them.

As Tim Gill would say, adults worry about children (which is ok) but where we probably go wrong is by trying to make childhood zero risk.

Wouldn't it be even better if we taught our children how to manage risks not to always avoid them?

Maybe they would grow up better able to deal with life and have a great childhood in the process?

I did, although the thought of my son climbing and jumping out of trees is starting to give me palpitations.....

Happy Easter and good food from Horstead Farming Group

I hope you had a very happy Easter. It felt more like Christmas here with the snow. Been decorating today and the family sensibly left the house for a few days to avoid the dust, fumes and chaos.

I was left some lovely treats that my wife bought for me from a new farm shop that has opened at the Notcutts Garden Centre on Daniels Road in Norwich.

The farm shop is run by the Horstead Farming Group. HFG was established in 2005 and is a group of 5 family run farms based around Horstead in Norfolk working co-operatively.

If you live in Norfolk and want some lovely local traceable food, HFG have 3 farm shops at Blofield, Beeston St Andrew and Notcutts in Norwich, as well as two seasonal pick your own sites at Blofield and Sprowston.

If you do eat meat, I can certainly recommend their lamb.
Even if you don't, the veg was great and you can buy big sacks of locally produced spuds (25kg or 10kg) or onions (10kg or 5kg) and save on the shopping journeys you have to make.
Not something the supermarkets offer!




Thursday, 20 March 2008

Plastic bag free day - 28th March 2008


The Norwich Carbon Reduction Trust, known also as CRed, is running a series of events over the year with a Plastic Bag Free Day in Norwich on 28th March.

On 28th March, if you are shopping in Norwich, or indeed wherever you are on that day, why not ask yourself, "Do I need another plastic bag?".

According to CRed, most plastic bags have on average a lifespan of 12 minutes and yet take over 400 years to degrade in landfill sites!

Each year in the UK, 13 billion plastic bags used in a year in the United Kingdom.

Norfolk is taking a lead on this issue. Already the market town of Aylsham is trying to become the first plastic bag free town in Norfolk.


So join the people of Norwich - both traders and shoppers – and support the Norwich Carbon Reduction Trust in saying no to plastic bags on Friday 28th March – make that the day you start to use a bag for life and prolong the life of the earth.


If you want to take this further and get better at managing the waste you produce at home and recycle more, why not get inspiration from Almost Mrs Average at The Rubbish Diet?

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Recycled materials in the home - get inspired by Oliver Heath this Easter

Got an email this week to tip me off about a video that has been produced by the government recycling agency WRAP with the eco-designer Oliver Heath.

It seems we under bombardment from advertisers to go to the sales or DIY shops this Easter weekend. In fairness, the email I received was not from an advertiser.



Thought I would put the video up as I look forward to a weekend of DIY myself having to paint what will be a nursery with, of all things and co-incidentally, some "Eco Chic" eco-paint from the Oliver Heath range at Homebase! :-)

More of his top tips are available on the WRAP web site here.

Have a great Easter break.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Future of waste in Norfolk - have your say

Norfolk County Council is inviting residents of the county to have their say on the future of how household waste is managed in the county.

You can complete the questionnaire online , or download it, or request it by email.

The deadline for completed questionnaires is 11th April 2008.

Visit this link for some useful background and related links to help you decide on what the priorities are.

The annoying and undermining thing for me was that I got a hard copy of this questionnaire about waste management in Norfolk as an insert when I bought a copy of the Eastern Daily Press newspaper today, which was wrapped in clear plastic just to emphasise that it was on sale for 25p today.

Big thumbs down to the EDP for being rubbish by creating unnecessary rubbish with this needless packaging!

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Prime Minister Brown and the Bags of Doom


Got an email to say that Number 10 has responded to the online petition to put a tax on plastic carrier bags.
You can read the Number 10 response here. The original petition "Introduce a tax on plastic carrier bags" was signed by 1,964 people when it closed on 28th February. May not seem a lot but it does at least give you hope that a few like minded people with a worthy cause are occasionally listened to by the government.
Hopefully we will soon stop seeing these bags flapping around in trees and discarded on our streets and countryside. We shouldn't wait for the government to act though, and keep on leading by example by reusing bags, refusing new ones at supermarkets if they try to pack for you, or using non-plastic ones.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Green Jelly Bean in the Times Online '50 Best Eco Blogs'!



Received an email from TheTimes Online that went as follows:

Hi there,
We thought that you might like to know that we have featured your site in our '50 Best Eco Blogs' roundup:

http://timesonline.typepad.com/environment/2008/02/the-top-50-eco.html
Please come along and check out some the entries: you're in good company!
All the best,
L**** A****

TIMESONLINE
The Times and The Sunday Times, in real time



You can follow the link here on The Times Online. Green Jelly Bean is mentioned in section 6 "The micro activists".

Wow. Didn't know many people read the blog. Better make sure I watch my language in future! ;-)

Friday, 29 February 2008

Leap year traditions


If you are an eight year old with a birthday today then is it really your second birthday? Heard on the radio that about 700,000 women in the UK will propose marriage on the Leap Day! This year, why not use this day to do something small that will be amazing? Talk to a stranger while you wait at the bus stop. Donate an hours wage to charity. Do some volunteering. Reuse a plastic bag at the supermarket. Register on the National Organ Donation Register or to give blood. Whatever you do, have a good day.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Fairtrade Fortnight 25th February - 9th March 2008

Fairtrade Fortnight started on 25th February.

More of us are concerned about where our food and goods come from and the circumstances of their production, the human rights, ethics and environmental aspects.

You can get lots of ideas about how you can get involved and raise awareness over the next few weeks on the Fairtrade Fortnight website. There are resources available to help put up displays and hold events at your school, workplace or within your community.


A list of events taking place in Norfolk are:
  • Sheringham Quaker Meeting House: A Fairtrade sale selling merchandise and locally produced organic produce will be held at Sheringham Quaker Meeting House, Cremer Street, on March 1, 10am-noon in aid of Practical Action and Quaker Peace Projects in Northern Uganda. There will also be tea, coffee and biscuits available, all using Fairtrade ingredients.


  • Dereham Baptist Church: To celebrate Dereham Baptist Church becoming a ‘Fairtrade Church’ it will be holding a ‘Fantastic Fairtrade Fare’, including a cafe serving Fairtrade tea, coffee, chocolate and homemade cakes, and stalls selling Hatti Hand-bags, Traidecraft and Stop the Traffik. March 1 from 10 am-12.30pm at Dereham Baptist Church.


  • The Forum in Norwich: The Forum in Norwich is marking the end of the fortnight by holding a day of ‘Fairtrade festivities’ with local and national stalls selling fairly-traded produced, family entertainment, games and music – including the Norwich Samba Band. Saturday 9th March from 10am to 5pm.


  • Wells library: 'Wells Action for Fair Trade’ is holding an exhibition throughout the fortnight at Wells’ library.


  • Ethika, Timber Hill, Norwich: The shop which sells ethically sources, fair-trade and locally created clothes and homewares is holding a photo-graphic exhibition in the Timber Hill entrance of the The Mall in Norwich during Fairtrade Fortnight. The images will show how some of the shops produce is made both locally and in the developing world, including Rajasthani women creating the striking hand blocked tiger linens, wood turners and weavers in Thailand and East Anglian artists and crafts people whose work is also available at Ethika. From February 28 to March 8, 10am to 5pm daily.
Even if you don't want to go to any of these events, if you go to your local Co-op, you will get 20% off the price of all Fairtrade products.

Time to bulk buy on those goods you like to cut down on the number of journeys you make.

Chocolate for me then! ;-)

Monday, 25 February 2008

Join the "Stamp It Out" Campaign

It is my view that there is only one race, the human race. And yet we see and experience inequality and discrimination.

In the UK we are lucky that we have a voice and most people recognise and increasingly speak out against racisim and inequality.

One of the most subtle forms of reinforcing false difference, and promoting inequality is the use of language.

This is most dramatic in its effect when you consider the work of charities such as Survival International. They and their supporters fight for fair and equal rights for tribal peoples around the world.

The power of the media can be a force for good and if innappropriate language is chosen instead, the media can be a force for harm.

Using words such as "primitive" or "stone age" are more than innacurate or insulting - they can be a way of building a campaign to justify the supression and persecution of contemporary tribal peoples.

If you are like minded, please visit the Survival International link to get involved in the "Stamp It Out" campaign.

This campaign is just over 2 years old and I think it is worth me giving it some promotion, and getting involved myself.

Survival's Stamp It Out campaign aims to challenge racist descriptions, however unwitting, of tribal peoples in the media.

Several examples are cited by Survival and perhaps suprisingly, although regrettably, the UK is not exempt. A UK example of such innappropriate descriptions and language in the media is the article entitled 'Face to face with Stone Age man' in the Daily Mail on 21st July 2007.

Visit the Survival web site to get involved and find instructions on how to send one of the Stamp It Out postcards or e-cards to make a real difference to people's lives.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Calendar of Norfolk and UK Green and Ethical Events

I've decided to try to keep a calendar going of events in Norfolk and the UK that have an environmental or ethical living theme.

It's called NUKGEE for short, or Norfolk and UK Green and Ethical Events.

Over time it will improve and if you have any events that you think are relevant and of interest, please get in touch and I will add them to the calendar.

Although I put it together for my benefit so thay I didn't forget and miss out on things, I hope you find it useful too.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Make your town climate-friendly with the Greenpeace EfficienCity

Greenpeace has just launched a natty 3D interactive virtual city called "EfficienCity".

Its aim is to show how we in the UK can fight climate change, although it is being blogged about all over the world like at the excellent EcoGeek site.

It is a fantastic resource with a huge amount of information on the different options available to us, from saving energy to generation from renewable sources.

The way it is presented and the large amount of photographs, videos, and technical presentations make it a brilliant educational resource for individual citizens, schools, and the workplace.

You can even download the whole thing to run it offline with a PC version (51.5MB) and a Mac version (53.6MB).

You can take it further than just learning and you are invited to join Greenpeace's campaign to put pressure on you local council to find out what they are doing about climate change and securing a sustainable energy for the future. You can encourage your council to work with experts in Greenpeace to increase access to decentralised energy generation.

Whatever your views on Greenpeace, this is an excellent educational resource about the options we have to respond to climate change. Tell as many people as you can about it.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

National Nest Box Week 14th-21st February 2008



On the day of love, why not do something caring for our birds who rely increasingly on our gardens for their habitat?

Now in its 10th year, the British Trust for Ornithology has its annual National Nest Box Week from 14th-21st February. Their site has loads of information.

For some excellent advice and a DIY guide to building your own, you can visit this excellent post from The greenfingered photographer.

Happy Valentine's Day! :-)

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

More on a UK Ban for Patio Heaters




There is a good review of the debate on patio heaters on the Mygreenweek site.


Although this opens the debate more on the potential energy inefficiency and harm caused by patio heaters, suggesting it is not so clear cut, I would urge people to consider the fact that it is not just CO2 and water vapour that is emitted, they also give out other harmful, unfiltered by byproducts and gases, as pointed out by Leo Hickman of The Guardian newspaper.


We know that B&Q will stop selling patio heaters when its current stock is sold. Wyevale were the first when they announced they would stop selling these back in April 2007.


In the UK, there is increasing support for a total ban on these heaters with various campaigns, perhaps led most prominently by Friends of the Earth. I came across this plain speaking one called Patio Heaters are Evil. Definitely worth looking at if you are considering buying one of these things.


You can read the full details of the EU's Energy Efficiency Motion in its full proposal, which includes the proposed withdrawal from sale of patio heaters.


It is obvious that this is going to be most strongly opposed by the pub and catering trade who have had to deal with the smoking ban introuduced last summer in the UK. I have seen figures that suggest it could cost the pub and the catering industry £250 million per year in lost trade.


Maybe if we ban smoking completely as well then we can have the double benefit of improving human health and reducing the gases that cause climate change? ;-)

Friday, 8 February 2008

Garden waste scheme to be extended across Norwich


Norwich City Council launched a brown bin pilot scheme last April. For £35, residents of Eaton and Crome wards could buy this service for fortnightly doorstep collection of gardening waste.
It has been a great success with 1,700 households signing up, and more than 400 tonnes of garden waste collected in its forst six months.
As a result, the scheme will now be made available to all residents within the Norwich City Council's area.
This is great news and I have even seen at the Waste Disposal area/Dump at Kettingham that you can purchase compost. I guess that this will be an output from some of this garden waste?
We'll certainly be renewing this service.
You can download a leaflet about the scheme or visit the Garden Waste Recycling section of the Norwich City Council web site for more details.



Thursday, 31 January 2008

Act of kindness at Pret A Manger in London



Been on a training course all week in London. It is amazing what a culture shock it has been. Loud, busy, scruffy and at times, unfriendly. On my way back to the hotel in the cold and wet, I spotted a Pret A Manger and decided to get a coffee.
Placed my order and a lady got on with making it. Got ready to pay when she said "I am sorry that I did not give you my full attention so please accept the coffee as a gift".
I was a bit shocked and said there was no need and I was happy to pay. Then I realised that she was being sincere and looked a bit disappointed.
You don't expect people to offer you gifts, especially strangers working in Pret on The Strand. So in the end I accepted the gift and thanked her for the kindness shown.
It is far too easy to become suspicious of people and sometimes, like this evening for me, a person just wanted to be generous.
Thank you whoever you were. You made my day. Just the sort of person you want working for you. Give her a pay rise Pret A Manger! :-)
Also, well done Pret on going organic and Fairtrade. You can find out about their sustainability efforts from their web site.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

EU debates patio heater ban


The EU will debate a ban on patio heaters tomorrow. It seems a bit mad for us all to be encouraged to save energy and produce less greenhouse gases, only for these things to be allowed to heat up the night sky outside pubs. bars and restaurants. Fingers crossed that the EU can take the lead on this and vote to ban these devices of doom.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Happy Burn's Night!


Managed to get a haggis. Even in Norfolk!
Not sure about the sustainability of the haggis industry but we have at least got a veggie one for this year and the tatties and nips are local.
Proper haggi (is that the plural of haggis?) are making use making use of the bits that might otherwise get wasted. Ok, it is still offal but with the whiskey as well, you soon forget such minor details.
Happy Burn's Night to you all. Especially those in Scotland. :-)
I'm off to remember the good old days at University when I picked up my taste for haggis and put on my Tartan Amoebas CD!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch



Get ready to join in this weekend for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

Over the weekend of 26th and 27th January, you are asked to spend an hour counting the birds you see in your garden or maybe your local park.

The instructions are these:

Taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch is simple and fun.


All you need to do is watch your garden or local park on either Saturday 26 or Sunday 27 January 2008.


Simply spend an hour counting the birds, recording the highest number of each species seen in your garden (not flying over) at any one time.


It's important you don't count all the birds you see because some birds will return to your garden many times in the hour. Seeing the same blue tit come back 10 times does not make 10 blue tits.


You can do your Birdwatch in your garden or a local park. Either way it's best to decide on a place where you can see the birds well and where you can sit quietly so they are not disturbed.


Even if, like me, you know very few birds and are not a birdwatcher, you can this opportunity to try to learn some new ones and spend an hour doing something relaxing, and a bit different.

The RSPB site gives you all the info and lots of advice.

You can download and print this sheet to help you count the birds you see.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Shame those green claims - your chance to rate the greenwash in those advertisements










Came across a great web site, the EnviroMedia Greenwashing Index which encourages consumers to submit examples of advertisements by companies making dubious environmental claims about their products.

The site defines "greenwashing" as:

It’s Whitewashing, But With a Green Brush.
Everyone’s heard the expression “whitewashing” — it’s defined as “a coordinated attempt to hide unpleasant facts, especially in a political context.”

“Greenwashing” is the same premise, but in an environmental context.

It’s greenwashing when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. It’s whitewashing, but with a green brush.

A classic example might be an energy company that runs an advertising campaign touting a “green” technology they’re working on — but that “green” technology represents only a sliver of the company’s otherwise not-so-green business, or may be marketed on the heels of an oil spill or plant explosion.

The Greenwashing Index is well worth a browse, and if you are out and about and see a dodgy claim on a billboard, why not take a picture, upload to the site and rate it accordingly for its degree of greenwashing?

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Support the Save our Puppet Theatre Campaign

The Evening News newspaper has been running a campaign to save the Norwich based Puppet Theatre following the planned cut to Arts Council cuts.

These cuts are tantamount to what has been described as "cull" for arts in the region, and may be the death nell for the Puppet Theatre.

The strategy appears to be to kill off arts at smaller venues and centralise it in larger metropolitan cities.

As only one of two such theatres in the country, this is essentially killing off a national treasure that has over the years given children and families pleasure and has fed their imaginations.

Information about the campaign, the petition, and video news items can be found on the Evening News web site.


Last weekend saw an event organised with hundreds of people attending and staging a march in the city to show support for the theatre, and protests against the cuts and the shambolic and questionable way in which decisions appear to have been reached on the funding.
You can watch a video of the event here.
You can download and display these campaign posters from the site.


Poster 1









Poster 2



Saturday, 12 January 2008

End of an era - Co-op to sell dairy business


Got a letter from the milkman this morning. Co-op are looking to sell their dairy business and transfer the Society's milk rounds to Dairy Crest this February. What a sad day. We just hope Dairy Crest don't give up as well and enough people pay a fairer price for their milk rather than the unfair supermarket ones.