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:
Please come along and check out some the entries: you're in good company!
All the best,
L**** A****

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! ;-)