Saturday, 19 December 2009

Copenhagen shame

Made a snowman with my son this morning as we've had a lot of snow in Norwich. We had a lovely time and for a time I could forget about the news I heard at breakfast time of the complete failure to delivery anything meaningful at the Copenhagen Summit. The politicians and delegates should be ashamed. Ours and future generations were depending on them for binding and realistic action to halt the harm we've been causing because of excessive use of fossil fuels and resources. Its time for us all to be leaders and make our own contribution to saving the planet, because our elected leaders failed and let the world down. I will certainly be showing my anger at the next election and voting for whoever has a clue and a plan to do what is necessary to look after my childrens future. We thought we had another leader to inspire the world into amazing achievements but Obama let us down. A sad day, but at least we made a great snowman! :-)

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Green Living Guide

I was offered a review copy of the second edition of the "Green Living Guide", edited by Hugh Bowring.

Now that we are gradually realising that the "make do and mend" culture of grandparents and parents was progressive in terms of saving money and not wasting the planet's resources, a book like this is welcome. It's an opportunity to relearn some useful skills, approaches and way of thinking.

The book has been organised into 6 sections, Home and Garden, Family & Children, Food & Drink, Work & Office, Transport & Motoring, and Fashion & Beauty. This works quite well, as it is definitely a reference book that you might dip into now and again for useful advice, be it when thinking about tackling the rising energy costs and finding tips to save energy, what to think about before you buy at the supermarket or on the high street, greening your office, and causing less harm when you need to travel.

As a quick way in to some of the issues relating to sustainable living, this is a good buy. Some useful research has gone into this and the book is full of web links if you want to find out more.

If I'm being picky, there were 2 areas I disagree with.

The section on Food and Drink pushes us towards buying local as the more sustainable option on the basis that there tends to be fewer food miles involved and certainly not air freight. I don't think that this big issue is really that simple, as shown by the facts in the excellent recent report by Oxfam "Fair Miles: Recharting the food miles map", with much of the imported food from Africa coming by sea with a very low carbon footprint and local tomatoes in December would mean high energy costs and carbon emissions from heated greenhouses. In fairness, there is an excellent calendar that helps us remember seasonality to help us know when and what food to buy locally.

On a more minor point, based on personal experience of the product, the appliance section suggests you buy a Kenwood energy saving kettle at nearly £45. Whatever you do, don't but this kettle, as it is terrible! The lid breaks and if you live in a hard water area like me, despite regular descaling, it leaks. This ended up being disposed as WEEE waste at my local dump and I bought a Phillips one instead. Not the most sustainable outcome so don't make my mistake.

Overall, at £7.99 this is well worth buying as an interesting and useful guide to how to save money in these tricky times and cause less harm to people and the planet. Could be a good stocking filler?

It is available from Magbooks, WH Smith and online at Amazon.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Heritage tomatoes - they don't make them like they used to!

It is nearly the end me November and I have left a tomato plant in a small raised bed as an experiment. The variety is Tibet Appel, which I got last year from Garden Organic's Heritage Seed Library. The plant was late and the claim is that the seed came from Tibet and thrives outside in cooler conditions. Well it has been very chilly in Norfolk and the fruits are still developing well. Only got 3 fruits but at least that will be plenty to get seeds from for next year. If you want to grow vegetables that are more diverse, interesting and taste better in many cases, them I recommend joining the Heritage Seed Library. Could be a good Christmas gift for someone?

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Eco and ethical Christmas stocking from Biome Lifestyle

Christmas is coming and I received an email from Alex at Biome Lifestyle telling me about her business and offering me a free Christmas stocking.

I haven't heard of the company before so had a quick look at their web site and was quite impressed with the company's commitment to ethics and the environment in sourcing its products.

Received the stocking and it is a bit too stylish for my young children and not nearly kitsch enough but maybe it will be just the thing for my wife.

Anyway, thanks to Biome Lifestyle for the excellent stocking and as Christmas approaches, I'd recommend looking for some present ideas on their web site.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Reheat Britain - sign the Number 10 petition for a boiler scrappage scheme

I got an email letting me know about this petition a while ago. We've all heard and read a lot about the car scrappage scheme, being a government led initiative to boost UK car sales and encourage the purchase of more environmentally friendly cars and scrap the inefficient gas guzzlers.

Given that homes and transport are the biggies for consuming and wasting energy and heat, and emitting greenhouse gases, the petition to start a boiler scrappage scheme seems really sensible to me.

Quite frankly, we can't afford to replace our boiler and will only do so if it were to break down and not able or viable to be repaired.

If a scrappage scheme for old inefficient boilers were implemented, it would certainly be attractive to us as energy prices go up. To me, this seems like for minimal tax-payers investment, we will all save in the long run.

The petition owner states the following benefits for supporting this petition and scheme:

According to the 'Energy Saving Trust' if everyone in the UK with gas central heating installed a high efficiency condensing boiler, we would save enough energy to heat 3.4 million homes for a whole year and save around 13 million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide. The householder could also save around a third on their heating bills.

The recently introduced Car Scrappage scheme has proved a success for the car industry, but a Boiler Scrappage Scheme, along the same lines, could be even more successful.

It would help the Government to achieve it's climate change targets, it would benefit boiler manufacturers, plumbers merchants and installers by stimulating demand and it would benefit the householder by saving them money.

This has gained some momentum with Sian Berry, Green London Mayor canditate in the last elections, beingthe campaign manager. She is getting the petition some much-needed publicity with TV coverage and a new website. She hopes to sign up some high-profile MPs to support the campaign.

To find out more, please visit the Reheat Britain site and click on the link to sign the Number 10 petition.

I've signed it.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Green Party residents survey in Eaton

I guess with the main political parties having their conferences, we should expect more knocks on the door and questions about our main issues locally, nationally, and oh yes, who do we intend to vote for?

I get a bit weary of politics and politicians like most people. That said, I'm not sure what the alternative is? Given that there are some good people out there who do have a calling to serve the public and are brave enough to have a go at politics, I guess we should try to support them. The rest is up to them.

When our doorbell went at lunchtime with some far-too-young canvasser asking us to complete a residents survey form for the Green Party, we decided to fill it in. Apart from a bit of a leading question on re-nationalising the railways and having more regulation on the buses (would have preferred a series of options here), it was a good survey and I hope Adrian Ramsay listens to the residents of Norwich South when he stands at the next election.

Not sure who I'll vote for but it is so important that you vote, if only so you don't lose the right to moan about whoever gets in.

After months of disillusionment with politics and politicians, I think it is time we helped them out to turn things around and tell them like it is.

I've dcided that I'll fill in any surveys that I'm asked to do, even by the Conservatives, who I'm definitely allergic to! ;-)

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Commuting hell - there must be a better way than the car? Not in Norwich!

Normally it takes me 20 minutes to commute to work by car. For 2 days a week, I need to drive because of childcare needs (one going to nursery and one to school, and pick up later).
Just now, I was on the A47 southern bypass in Norwich for an hour and 30 minutes. Clearly something serious must have happened as the road was closed next to the turnoff for Trowse, and I hope no one was hurt.
I abandoned the journey and came home, thereby wasting time, fuel and emitting CO2 for no real benefit.
Apart from the need to look after my children's needs, it would be great to cycle to work. The reality is though that for me, an unfit thirtysomething bloke, the 20 mile roundtrip along busy roads in Norwich, particularly now the weather is turning is not a tempting prospect.
If I had an electric bicycle, such as the ones a colleague let me know about at work from Gocycle, that might help, if I could be brave enough to get back on a bike saddle after about 14 years! The sad reality though is that the tipping point for me financially falls on the side of the car, and not via the Gocycle-To-Work scheme.
Public transport for me is poor. Park and Ride buses have a later timetable than the regular buses but of course, they have few stops and do not pick up fares on route. Instead I see them driving around Norwich virtually empty later in the evening, contributing to congestion, and adding fumes and greenhouse gas emissions.
This is madness.
At the moment, I have to look at what meets our needs and the costs, with the environment and the social considerations taking a back seat. Excuse the pun! ;-)

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Waitrose charitable donations and Grow Our Own initiative

In my local Waitrose, they have a scheme where each month called "Community Matters", customers place tokens in containers to help apportion £1000 between 3 local charities. This month, it looks ap if the Grow Our Own initiative at Bluebell Allotments has three quarters me the vote and the donation. It's funny how people are starting to move towards and support growing your own. Maybe its these hard financial times or worries about the quality and origin of the food we eat? Either way, I think this initiative by Waitrose is great and would remind you about the upcoming open day for Grow Our Own in a previous blog post.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Local or Fairtrade? Dilemma in times of recession

I was listening to 'Farming Today' on BBC Radio 4 this morning, and heard some Professor urging us to buy Fairtrade rather than buy local. In these times me economic hardship, if wanted to emphasise the social aspects above the environmental, ignoring the food miles involved. I understood his good intentions but isn't it a short term strategy to not try to balance all 3 of the aspects of sustainability? Surely people, planet and profit need to be considered especially in hard times like these? Seems extreme to favour Fairtrade at the expense me local. I'm not sure what the answer is but when I next go to the supermarket, no doubt my basket will have East Anglian carrots, beer and Kenyan green beans in it.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Innovation in Sony Ericsson mobiles and energy saving tips

I've been trying to sort out a replacement handset with O2 for 2 months after my beloved C905 handset developed a faulty earpiece speaker (basically you could not hear the person who called you!). Turns out to be a fequent known fault.

Eventually, after being passed around and being given incorrect information, O2 Customer Services were very good and sent me a new replacement Sony Ericsson W995.

It is a Walkman one, which made me feel a bit old as I remember the first cassette Walkmans. That said I can still take good photos and use it for blogging as I did the old one.

A nice surprise was that after charging the battery and disconnecting the charger, an energy-saving message came up on the screen (as pictured above). It points out:
Unplug the charger from the socket as well, in order to save energy.

A simple thing to add but well done Sony Ericsson! So many of us leave chargers plugged in and switched on, little knowing that this means the charger carries on consuming electricity, costing us money and resulting in needless extra carbon emissions and climate change.

It is great to be able to say a well done. These little steps do make a difference.

Before you buy you next item of electrical equipment, why not take a look at Greenpeace's table about Greener Electronics and how well known companies are performing?

Sony Ericsson are 3rd behind Samsung and Nokia at the top, suggesting that the mobile phone industry is trying to take a lead on sustainability, which is great given the millions of handsets disposed of and manufactured each year.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Grow our own

For various reasons, mostly to do with not being very organised, we've not had much luck with our small veg patch. Our runner beans as you can see are starting to show some promise. This is great as the 'Meesher' seeds came from the Heritage Seed Library at Garden Organic, which I've been a member of along with Garden Organic. Hope the kids will eat them though as our daughter decided to go on a 'no veg' diet at 15 months and after two months is starting to tolerate a few things!

If you fancy having a go at growing your own and live in Norwich, it is well worth a visit to the Sustainable Living Initiative at Bluebell South Allotments, off the Avenues, at their "Grow Our Own" open day event on Saturday 26th September, 12p.m.-4p.m. More information is available here.

I've had the pleasure of visiting the SLI and meeting the inspirational Mahesh who is the driving force behind this non-profit-distributing social enterprise. It is a great community project, which other communities would do well to emulate, with young and old involved, and the site is accessible for wheelchair users and even has an amazing composting toilet!

Even if you don't apply for an allotment, you go and purchase produce or plants and have a go at home.

Reasons to be cheerful

My little daughter has been taking her first steps this week and this morning managed 4 in a row! It is easy to miss special moments like this and it is great when you remember to pay attention and notice the little things that make life special. :-)

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Save The Beach Campaign

Got an email this week about Corona Extra's "Save The Beach" campaign.

It is easy to be skeptical of a company, such as one that produces beer in bottles, that suddenly sponsors a campaign linked to cleaning up waste from Britain and Europe's beaches.

I hope the motivation really encompasses more than fishing for good PR and is Corona's attempt to embrace corporate responsbility and promote sensible drinking and proper recycling of its bottles. All companies that try to do the right thing should get our support I think so I'm happy to promote this campaign.

The project is to identify, protect and preserve the beaches of Britain and Europe, by identifying the most dirty ones most in need of cleaning up. Members of the public are invited to send in photos or videos of the dirty beaches they find, showing the beach litter, marine pollution and sewerage outlets running into the sea and any other related issues that blight our coastlines. You can register here.

Blue Flag is supporting the project. Beaches will be judged and you can cast your vote on the most dirty beaches. A shortlist of the worst ones will be drawn up and then Corona has pledged to clean up and maintain the worst one. Looked at the UK's Blue Flag site and discovered that Norfolk has 4 beaches awarded a Blue Flag out of 13 in East Anglia. There's a lot of coastline around this region and no doubt the hideous amounts of waste washed ashore from litter-louts out at sea has a big detrimental impact.

More information can be found at the campaign's web site and the Dirty Beaches blog. Jade Jagger and Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of the famous Oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, are supporting the campaign.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Summer's here, and so is the noise pollution!

It's been really humid and hot in Norwich this week. Time for opening up the doors and windows to let some air in the house.

Not that I'm complaining about Summer weather, its just takes it's toll with our young children. Being able to keep the windows open overnight makes a big difference to helping them get a good night's sleep.

What I do object to is those inconsiderate neighbours who are displaying selfish behaviour and playing their booming music, normally reserved for modded Vauxhal hatchbacks with oversized amps in the boot.

Its dire music and we don't thank you for extending your living room into our homes by turning the volume up to the max.

What happened to consideration for others?
I must be approaching middle age. If I don't watch out, I'll end up voting Tory. Aaaah!

Friday, 5 June 2009

Think twice before buying Simple slippers - not so sustainable after all!

In a previous post on receiving for Christmas what I thought were the best eco-slippers ever. These were from Simple, and were the grey coloured underlay sort.

Regretfully, I had a duff pair with the sole peeling off one of them.

After having these replaced without any problems by John Lewis, my replacements have started to self-destruct with the upper on one of them coming apart in two places.

I have worn these as slippers around the house and have not caught the woollen uppers on anything.

These are expensive and Simple promote them as sustainable. Frankly, that seems like rubbish to me, much like the materials from which they are made.

It is disappointing and makes me angry that a company has such poor testing in its product development and seems to have jumped on the "sustainble living" bandwagon to cash in.

When you next are in the market for some slippers, please think twice before spending a lot of money on Simple Shoes products.

Might be better to make your own, as suggested on Sew Green or maya*made, or maybe support your local market traders and buy some there?

If you read this Simple Shoes, selling duff products at a premium price is outrageous and two sets of slippers coming apart like this for the same person must mean they are dodgy. And by the way, where is my reply after contacting you about the first pair?

Simple Shoes give sustainability a bad name and undermine an important lifestyle change that we all need to make. :-(

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Springwatch in Norfolk - be inspired

Watched the BBC's Springwatch programme last night. It's at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve again this year, which is a great place to go if you like birds. Chris Packham suggested that we site our bird feeders closer to our houses so we get rewarded at being able to watch the birds feed at close quarters. Our feeders are at the bottom of the garden away from the house so not to scare away the birds. Decided to have a go although I thought moving a feeder this late in the day would mean the birds will lose track of it and no longer visit our garden. After a few hours I have been rewarded and I watched this little chap eat some peanuts while I washed up! Happy days. :-)

Friday, 8 May 2009

The joy of pegs

We had good weather in East Anglia yesterday, and maybe I'm a bit sad but it was pleasing to be able to peg out some washing to dry. We try to use a clothes airer when the weather is bad but with children, we sometimes have to use a dreaded dryer or drown in piles of damp washing. It may not be much but pegging out your washing can be a simple act to reduce how much money you waste on electricity and the CO2 produced.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Think feet

Had to go to London for a conference on reducing corporate carbon footprints. Was staying in a hotel near the venue and had to work out how to get there in time for the early start. Saw this 'Think Feet' campaign being promoted by the London Mayor, suggesting that many journeys can and should be made on foot in London. If you use the Underground, it is easy to miss the fact that you may only be around the corner from your destination with the Tube costing more and taking more time. It took me less than 200 minutes to walk in the lovely sunshine we had today. The thought of the Tube wearing a suit in the heat was not inviting. Had to do this on the way back to catch the train home to Norwich and had my own taste of global warning, or at least of melting rather than the glaciers. ;-) Maybe Think Feet should go nationwide?

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Energy Wasting Day on 1st April and the eve of the G20 summit

Dan Power is urging us to buy his T-shirts,

and get his new single in at No.1. See the video here.

On the eve of the G20 summit in London, the 1st April sees a meeting between our Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the President of the United States Barack Obama at No 10 Downing Street.

Let us hope that they do more for us than produce a lot of hot air. Certainly, this first official trip for President Obama has a lot of pitfalls and a lot riding on it.

They will need to achieve quite a lot to offset the financial and environmental costs of hosting the G20, put in the region £50 million, and ferrying the President around the world.

Not sure that President Obama will be added to this list of the top 5 most environmental US Presidents quite yet.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Plastic bag free day and Earth Hour - 28th March 2009

Two good causes on the same day.

If you are in Norwich following last year's successful Plastic Bag Free Day, the Norwich Carbon Reduction Trust is holding another event this Saturday 28th March 2009.

The Norwich Carbon Reduction Trust will be at the Forum to promote Plastic Bag Free Day, and urge shoppers to not use plastic carrier bags.

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.

So join the people of Norwich - both traders and shoppers – and support the NCRT 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.

On the same day it is Earth Hour, and we are encouraged to switch off our lights for 60 minutes from 8.30 p.m. until 9.30 p.m.

We can all show that we care about the problem of climate change and choose to save one hour of electricity. Collectively we can make a huge difference to the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere.

As the campaign says...

and sign up here.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Go Bananas For Fairtrade

Its still Fairtrade Fortnight. Why not Go Bananas For Fairtrade from noon on 6th March until noon on 7th March? More details at

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Happy pancake day!

With all the doom and gloom of the credit crunch, I hope you can, like me, take some time out for a treat and have some pancakes using freerange organic eggs and organic milk. Even found some organic maple syrup but I couldn't resist some regular chocolate ice cream. Well nobodys perfect. ;-)

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Help Britain go green for Valentine's Day

Support the Energy Savings Trust and help Britain go green for Valentine's Day.

They have launched a Britain Unplugged community site and a few ideas for going green on the day of love are:

  • Buy some eco-friendly bath products and share a bath or shower. If all the couples in the UK shared their showers on Valentine’s Day we could save a collective 220 million litres of water

  • If you are buying some romantic chocolates this February 14, make sure they are produced locally and recycle the packaging

Please visit their "Turn me on, turn it off" community site for more details.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Tesco grinds down city's planners on Unthank Road development

Tesco is celebrating after gaining planning permission for its controversial Unthank Road site after 5 years of wrangling and appeals. Never mind the years of passionate opposition by local residents and the likely traffic chaos that will ensue (just see the daily nightmare on the Fiveways Roundabout and the Tesco Metro at Earlham). Pressure will be on the established businesses in the area as well. Not true sustainability, just sustaining Tesco profits at the expense of others. A sorry day for Norwich and local democracy. :-(
More on this story at the EDP web site.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Norwich Dragon Festival 2009

Don't forget the Norwich Dragon Festival. There is 3 weeks of events including exhibitions, puppet shows, story-telling, arts and crafts, a trail, talks and films around the city from 31st January until 22nd February 2009. A lot of effort has been going into creating something very memorable as you can see if you visit the Past Horizons' Weblog - -World Archaeology blog. This is the first Dragon Festival and is intended as a celebration of dragons and their importance to this fine city. Many of the events are free. More info at the Dragon Festival web site.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Happy Christmas? Eco slippers from Simple prove disappointing

Hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year. Mine was a lovely time with the family. I seen to have got to an age when receiving slipper, socks and aftershave is great. Not sure when that happened?!
My wife splashed out and got of what seemed like the Rolls Royce of slippers from Simple, a very eco and ethical company. Simple call them 'house shoes' and mine were the grey coloured underlay sort. These sustainable slippers did, for a few days, rank as the best ever on comfort, looks and feel good factor because of the materials used.
Then the glue failed and a sole started to seek apart. It is annoying as you pay a premium for these things and the finish or glue was not up to standard. Ok, it is environmentally friendly water-based glue but as much as I care about the environment, we really should be able in 2009 to be able to produce glue that actually sticks.
No wonder why some people are reluctant to try sustainable products if Simple make shoes or in my case slippers that are not fit for purpose.
Against my better judgement we went back and exchanged them at John Lewis for an identical pair.
I just hope this was a rare bit of bad luck for me and Simple can justifiably make their claims of 'sustainable slippers for a sleepy planet' and 'shoes for a happy planet'.
Sustainability is about people, planet and profit so Simple would do well to remember that it is no good having a happy planet without happy customers as well. Improve your quality control, otherwise no customers and no profit.