Recycling is a fraud, a sham, a scam

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Recycling is a fraud, a sham, a scamRecycling is a fraud, a sham, a scam, perpetrated by big business on the citizens and municipalities to make us all feel good about single use packaging. It won't save the planet.

We blame ourselves, or consumers are getting blamed, that's you and me, by government, for not recycling more plastics, and yet our efforts are like “hammering a nail to halt a falling skyscraper.” It is time we got to the root of the problem.

“People need to get better at recycling” is a comment we often hear as soon as the topic of (plastic) waste comes up. It is a misleading assumption, however, to think that tossing more items in the recycling bin and fewer in the trash can make that much of a difference in dealing with the catastrophic level of plastic contamination that our planet currently faces. In fact, it is actually pretty much pointless. And the same goes for other single-use, or perceived single-use, items of packaging, even for glass jars. Aside from the fact that the latter can be reused in so many ways and do not have to end up as recyclables.

We need to rethink the way that we deal with trash because individual consumer cannot solve this problem as individual consumers are not the problem. We have taken it on as our problem because of some very astute, corporate-driven psychological misdirection in the form of campaigns like Keep America Beautiful and other such “initiatives”, created by industry.

Keep America Beautiful, Keep Our Country Tidy, Don't Be A Litterbug, and others were all, in one way or another created, brought to life or sponsored, by industry in an attempt to place the problem of litter, waste and trash on the shoulders of the consumer rather than keeping it on their own and dealing with it.

Keep America Beautiful was founded by major beverage companies and tobacco giant Philip Morris in the 1950s as a way to encourage environmental stewardship in the public. Later it joined forces with the Ad Council, at which point, "one of their first and most lasting impacts was bringing 'litterbug' into the American lexicon." This was followed by the 'Crying Indian' public service announcement and the more recent 'I Want To Be Recycled' campaign.

We can safely assume that campaigns of a similar nature in other countries were and are sponsored by the same entities, be it the programs like “Keep Our Country Beautiful” (UK), ot others of a similar nature.

While these PSAs appear admirable, they are little more than corporate greenwashing. For decades Keep America Beautiful has actively campaigned against beverage laws that would mandate refillable containers and bottle deposits. Why? Because these would hurt the profits of the companies that founded and support Keep America Beautiful. Meanwhile, the organization has been tremendously successful at transferring the blame for plastic pollution onto consumers, rather than forcing the industry to shoulder responsibility.

The greatest success of Keep America Beautiful has been to shift the onus of environmental responsibility onto the public while simultaneously becoming a trusted name in the environmental movement. This psychological misdirect has built public support for a legal framework that punishes individual litterers with hefty fines or jail time, while imposing almost no responsibility on plastic manufacturers for the numerous environmental, economic and health hazards imposed by their products.

The burden, whether as regards to plastics or other waste, was placed on the should of the consumer, and the same, today, happens also as regards to food waste. The majority of food that is wasted has never even made it to the consumer.

If we are serious about tackling plastic pollution, then corporations' actions are where we should start. They are the real litterbugs in this situation. The focus should be on the source of the plastic, not its near-impossible disposal.

This also goes for any packaging and also for food waste. It needs to start at the source and not at the consumer. When it comes to food waste, as mentioned already, the majority of waste occurs before it ever gets to the shop let alone on the consumer side. When the market buyers refuse vegetables and fruit because it does not fit certain criteria and the farmer is ordered to destroy the crop. That is where the waste starts.

With plastic and packaging it starts at the manufacturers of products who use too much packaging.

But, it would appear that we, the consumers, allowed ourselves to accept individual responsibility for a problem we have little control over. In fact, a problem over which we have almost not control.

I know we all want to feel that we can do something to make a difference and, indeed, we can, but it starts well before we think “recycling”, or at least it should. We can refuse, where possible, to buy things in plastic bottles – though in certain cases it gets more and more difficult. We can refuse to buy bottled water altogether for in most places the tap water is at least as good as to water in those bottles – which often is, by the way, from municipal sources, in other words, it is tap water, just bottled tap water.

I am not saying don't separate your recyclables and put them out for the municipalities to collect, only that that, in itself, is not going to make much of a difference, especially not considering that much of what you are going to put out ends up in landfill again because either the price that can be achieved for the recyclables is too low to make dealing with them viable or, as with China refusing to take the West's garbage, many countries do not know what to do with the stuff. Processing it at home, obviously, wouldn't do – in the eyes of the powers-that-be – as at home there are higher environmental protection standards and thus it would cost a lot of money to do so. So, if they can't dump it on third (world) countries they just dump it in holes in the ground.

We need to start well before recycling but often we have little to no control over that department other than buying products elsewhere where there is no over-packaging but, alas, some cannot afford to do that. Nor is the suggestion to leave all the packaging at the checkout a brilliant idea because for one it often is not possible and also, in some cases, should you have to return anything the packaging, to some extent, such as a box in which some item came, has to go back as well with the item to be returned.

So where does that leave us, as the consumer? It leaves us as the reuse, repurpose, upcycle and such stage. True, you can't do that with everything and how many glass jars (and other items) can you really reuse. Fair enough, I seem to be able to make use of an awful lot of glass jars for storage purposes but not everyone can. I also tend to make things from plastic milk jugs and such for the garden and for other uses. In addition to that many of those things could even be upcyled by craftspeople for sale, but, alas, few seem to think along those lines.

Where it all has to start, however, is with industry and also with design (do you hear me #designers). Designers come in to design packaging either to be compostable, or with a second use automatically obvious. This has been done, and is still been done, with mustard, and similar glass “jars” and containers, such as in France where they have the automatic reuse potential as drinking glasses, such as the ones used commonly for vin de pays in the homes, and even bars.

This should also be possible with other packaging, including plastic packaging, thus making us think as to whether we want to throw the item away in the first place or whether we do not, maybe, have a personal use for it. It can be done because it has been done before. We just need to remember, dearest designers, and adapt some of the things from the past when it was done to the present. Not rocket science but then you have studied design, not rocket science.

For us as consumers, yes, we can do our bit but the recycling bin, please remember, should always be the last consideration.

© 2018

Nettle fiber, nettle cloth

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

nettleIn ancient times stinging nettle was used to make fiber and cloth similar to canvas and linen. In fact all three processes involve retting.

It would appear that, while many talk about bringing hemp back into cultivation, nettles are not looked at as to whether they might have the same properties.

The good thing would be that one wouldn’t have to cultivate nettles; they just grow, and that almost everywhere and anywhere without any input from us. Not even the need to water them.

Already, or maybe just because, in ancient times, including in Britain, stinging nettles were used to make fiber and cloth, including clothes. But then came hemp and flax (or the other way round) and nettle fell out of favor. But why? It is readily available, does not need sowing or planting, looks after itself, basically, all by itself.

The only thing I can think of, besides the fact that nettles are not as easy to handle, due to their stings, is that, probably, nettles cannot be processed mechanically, as can hemp and flax. But that is only a guess by me. Also, and that may be more the reason, nettles do not grow in neat rows on field but more in the wild, on marginal land, and more often on land that has had some human disturbance.

We, as gardeners, groundsmen and farmers continuously wage a battle against nettles. Should we not rather, instead, acknowledge their potential and make use of them, including for the production of fiber and cloth? I think we should. Instead of fighting a losing battle against the nettles we should make use of them. Aside from providing fiber the leaves of the stinging nettle are also edible and also make a great herbal tea.

Hemp, even the so-called commercial hemp, needs certain favorable growing conditions and watering and while it maybe, though who knows, superior to nettles they, the nettles, will grow and will grow tall, without any input by us. They need no watering and no other care. They just grow and don't they just grow, and that (almost) everywhere. And, most importantly, nettles have been used for fiber and cloth before in the very old days.

Considering this would it not be an idea whose time has come to actually try and use this resource. I am sure that with today's technology it could be worked commercially to a much larger extent than ever before.

© 2018

The Book of Trees – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Book of Trees
by Piotr Socha  (Author), Wojciech Grajkowski (Author)
Published by Thames and Hudson (Big Books) (13 Sept. 2018)
Hardcover: 80 pages
Size: 15 x 2.2 x 21 cm
ISBN-13: 978-0500651698

The Book of Trees

Why are trees so important? How many types are there? How do they benefit the environment and wildlife?

This book, by the award-winning author Piotr Socha, answers these questions and more, tracking the history of trees from the time of the dinosaurs to the current day.

A very nice and informative, and beautifully color-illustrated book, that should especially be interesting for younger readers.

The one thing that is, unfortunately, missing as far as the uses of trees and wood are concerned is wood for kitchen utensils and much more. But then there is only so much one can get into an 80-page book, even a large format one as this.

A well written – and well translated – book with an easy text that should appeal to any reader, but one that is also easy enough to be understood by younger ones and with great double-page illustrations.

A very nice and informative book.

© 2018

Poverty Mindset vs Voluntary Poverty

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

voluntary-simplicityWhat was once called voluntary poverty is now referred to as voluntary simplicity because some people seem to have had problem with the word poverty.

When you decide to go that route on your own accord, to live a simpler, more or less, poverty lifestyle, it is a different kettle of fish to having it forced upon you by circumstances, some beyond your control.

We have looked at Voluntary Poverty before so now let us consider the Poverty Mindset with which we have, more or less, been programmed through various societal pressures and via the power elite.

The reality of this here and now of our existence in this world is that money, in one form or another, is an inherent part of the global interactive construct.

While many of us, if not indeed most, would love to live in a different kind of economic collective where money would not, necessarily, be the means of exchange fact is that currently most of us live in one where we have to use money for most of our transactions regardless of our beliefs and ideology surrounding this “energy”.

This “Poverty Mindset” is a mind control program that has cleverly created and disseminated by the wealthy elite who want us to believe in and operate from. The poverty mindset formula is simple: if we don’t have access to financial abundance, then we don’t have access to the resources we require to become more effective in this world. It is a program of suppression and oppression. Interestingly, it is also a program that requires resentment to fuel it.

In addition to that the mind control has gone so far that we see everyone who does not have the financial abundance as a failure and someone who is alone to blame for his misfortune.

Those elites and “our” politicians keep referring to money as “resources”? But money is not a resource. It is, at the very best, a piece of printed paper (or minted metal), at worst it is a bunch of numbers on a screen. The only thing that gives it any value whatsoever is our shared belief in its value. This means that money is actually a faith-based religion and the politicians and bankers its clerics. But are you and I ready to become non-believers?

Money only has the value that we give it. After all it is only a piece of metal, or worse still a piece of paper, with a number, a “value”, printed upon it. If we would so decide we could use anything as “money”, such as the bits of paper for the Monopoly board game, shells, copper discs of different sizes (in the latter case at least the metal does have a value in that it is something that is needed for the making of things), or bits of wood or simply figures written in a book.

What is “Poverty Mindset”?

It is the mindset that we are being programmed with, through societal pressure, into believing that only if we have a certain amount of money, a fancy car, a big house, and so on, that we are valuable to and in society. That those that have a lot of money and possessions are our betters and thus we should look up to them and, maybe, even obey them.

There is nothing wrong with having a lot of money and there is also nothing wrong with having not so much. However, people should not be pushed into poverty through high prices and low incomes, despite the fact that they work all the given hours, while others who work little or not at all “make” lots of money. That we should not accept. The worker is worthy of his hire, and in all honesty the people that many look down upon because they do the so-called menial and manual jobs are probably worthy of it more than the bankers and the chief executives of industry. Without the worker all the wheels would stand still.

But we are conditioned to believe in this exploitative capitalist system that those “at the top” are worthy of greater pay and remuneration than those “at the bottom” and that those who are in more or less poverty have only themselves to blame for not doing well at school so that they too could be in those “higher” positions. But what would happen if we all would be academics? Who would then maintain the parks, the forests? Who would collect the trash, keep our streets clean, care for the elderly and the sick?

Everyone's hours of work should have the same value and be rewarded in the same way, for the hour of the academic, of the chief executive, of the prime minister, is worth no more than the hour of the road sweeper, the dustman, the gardener, the forester, the nurse or the carer. An hour is an hour is an hour.

It is the system that pushes people into poverty and it is also the system that keeps them there and the majority blames the poor for their condition and looks upon them as something of no value. Mind you, those of the middle class and the upper class also look down upon those of the working class as if they have little or no value. And in the poor the same mindset takes hold, of believing that they are not worthy, but also resentment of those that have more.

And all, including those that are poor not by their own choice, look down upon those that chose Voluntary Poverty; who chose a simple life and lifestyle, trying to do with little money only and few(er) possessions. Doing without a car, a television, foreign holidays, and so on. Few, even those that are poor, believe that people could be (so stupid, as many see it) to voluntarily life a life of poverty (aside from, maybe, some monks).

There should be no poverty, aside from the voluntary kind, in society, if our society is as it is meant to be, with equality. Everyone should be equally remunerated for the hours that they work regardless of what the work is that they do. But for that we would have to change the system, including and especially the “monetary system”.

When everyone's work is regarded the same and everyone is being remunerated in the same way for the hours worked in hours and not coin and when there is work for all then, and only then, the poverty mindset will no longer exist either.

© 2018

What does it mean to be frugal?

There is more to frugality than penny-pinching.

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

What does it mean to be frugalThe dictionary defines frugality as "the quality of being economical with money or food," but there is far more to it than that. It is a word worth examining closely because it embodies values and principles through which we can improve our overall quality of life.

Most basically, frugality is about getting maximum bang for your money. It reflects a conscious effort to allocate your resources (that is to say money) in ways that offer the most value. A major part of getting value out of an investment is how well something does its job, and the cheapest item does not necessarily offer value if it generates more work, nor if it last only for a short while and then breaks.

Let us use, say, garbage bags as an example. If you purchase the cheapest bags, at 5 cents apiece ($5 for 100 bags), and they can only be filled halfway and occasionally split open, creating a huge mess on the kitchen floor there may greater value in the 20-cent bags ($20 for 100), which can be filled much further and are stronger, thus not having the mess on the kitchen floor.

There are more costs to the things you buy than just the initial dollars and cents. Using things costs time and energy, too. If you are saving money on something that is going to end up requiring additional time and energy to use, you need to make sure that the saved money is worth the extra time and energy.

Frugality means allocating resources toward things that matter to you; this can also be called “voting with your wallet.” The money you spend reflects values of many different kinds. In the example above, it it time and effort spent cleaning and taking out the trash that matter than saving 15 cents on each garbage bag and not just that, because if you need two or three bags to do the job of one it is also the resources and energy that goes into making those that you save. Other values could also be choosing plastic-free packaging, supporting a local food co-op, buying organic food, etc. Though, in general, frugality means making the pennies count and getting the best value for money and not just the cheapest product.

But frugality and being frugal is not just all about looking after our money when we buy things. It is also about making do, reusing and repurposing all the way up to upcycling, making things for your use from packaging waste, for instance, including glass jars, which are often the obvious choice for reuse. Alas, some people need reminding of that and the way our parents and especially their parents and theirs reused every jar they could and so many other things. Those jars were often the receptacles into which the other saves items for reuse where stored; buttons from worn out garments, reclaimed nails, screws, nuts and bolts, and so much more.

While with some of us frugality was put into the cradle many today have to learn it and cannot even see, for themselves, the reuse potential, say, of glass jars. As far as they are concerned those jars belong into the recycling bin and storage jars, for they have to match don't they, have to be purchased but then they have to be of recycled glass. The brainwashing has worked well. The brainwashing about recycling and buying recycled, that is.

© 2018

WATER SAVING INSPIRATION FROM ELHO

Press Release

pure raindrop.i3We're in the middle of a heatwave and saving tap water is becoming increasingly important. Any rain that falls is precious, so it makes sense to catch it while you can. With the Pure Raindrop water barrel, doing the right thing doesn't have to be dull. This award winning beauty is the designer option in rain barrels.

An economical alternative that looks great

The Green Basics Rain Barrel is a good value option that still looks great. With an integrated planter on top it's also an eco-friendly way to add some colour to your garden.

Built in water reservoirs

Many Elho pots and planters, including the funky Loft Urban collection, come with a built-in water reservoir. If you overwater, or there's a heavy summer downpour, surplus water is saved in the base of the pot for your plants to absorb when they need it. The overflow pipe makes sure that when it finally does rain your plants won't drown.

Watering cans

Sustainability isn't just about saving water. The Green Basics Watering Can in Living Black is made of 100% post-consumer waste material - about a dozen old detergent bottles. So your more delicate or precious specimen plants can have a much needed drink, even when there's a hosepipe ban.

Caring for your houseplants

Don't forget about your indoor plants when the weather is warm. A lot of houseplants need more water during the Summer months, which can be particularly problematic if you are going away for a few days. The Aqua Care watering system ensures your indoor plants get the right amount of water whatever the weather.

Elho pots and planters are widely stocked at all good garden centres, retailers and available online.

W: www.elho.com. F: www.facebook.com/elho

About Elho

Elho is a family-owned company and the leading innovator in the synthetic pottery market. For more than 53 years, Elho has dedicated itself to the product development and production of grow your own, outdoor, indoor and designer pots and planters. Every year Elho launches dozens of innovations that continuously inspire people with fun, functional and creative products.

Give room to nature

Nature makes you feel healthier, boosts your energy and makes you happier. That is what the purpose of Elho is about; inspiring people to bring more nature into their daily lives. With the Elho collection you can give room to nature in and around your home. At Elho we are green in everything we do. Most of our pottery collection is made of recycled material, all of our pots last for a long time and are produced with 100% wind energy. Our aim is to be circular by 2020. Enjoy nature with Elho in a sustainable way.

Fewer toys definitely beneficial for children

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

fewer-toysThe other day I observed a small boy – about five to six years old – in the Park, while I was cutting the grass on the estate, playing for hours happily on his own with a toy truck while his adults were sitting on a bench.

With one single toy he was occupied, and seriously engrossed in play, on his own, without getting distracted or fidgety. I assume that, had his adults not wanted to leave, he would have happily been there for another few hours still playing with the self-same toy.

While parents seem to believe, all too often, that the more toys the child has the happier he – or she – will be and the more play and better play, and play experience, they will have. The opposite, however, seems to be the case rather, as also some research appears to strongly suggest as well.

The more toys a child has the less he (and the he stands for both genders here in the continuation of this piece) will be using his imagination during play but using imagination in play is what makes play the work of the child, as Maria Montessori said about play, especially unstructured play.

When we were children we, more often than not, made our own toys, often from scrap, wood or other, some of it waste materials, and from natural wood. We made slingshots – yes, working ones with rubber bands and leather pouch – stick guns, you name it. Sticks and stones often also were the materials for play constructions and we had fun for hours on end making our own entertainment.

On the other hand, even then, children that had (too) many toys – even though we did envy them at times – got bored with one thing very quickly and moved on to the next, never being able to link their play in the way that we did, looking back at it now, with hindsight. What we lacked in store-bought manufactured toys we made up for in imagination in play and in creating our own toys and stuff.

Too many toys in a child's toy box seem to distract play and learning and actually seems to lead to boredom rather than the opposite. In other words, masses of toys are not boredom killers but rather boredom creators because the child gets soon disinterested in the toys. There are just too many which is overwhelming. Fewer toys also make for less clutter in the playroom, bedroom, or any other room where the kids may play.

© 2018

DIY gardening apron from an old pair of jeans

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Upcycling an old pair of jeans into a gardening apron. Almost costs nothing and should give a long service, especially if sharp tools are put into the pockets in pocket protectors, made from old leather or plastic lotion bottles. 



© 2018

The madness of perpetual growth on a finite planet

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

31417091_10155122896907820_6858558697170272256_oIt is amazing how many, apparently same, people believe that you can have infinite perpetual economic growth on a finite Planet such as ours.

Perpetual economic growth and its cousin, limitless technological expansion, are notions and beliefs so deeply and firmly held by so many in this culture that they often go entirely unquestioned.

Even more disturbing is the fact that these beliefs are somehow seen as the ultimate definition of what it is and means to be human: perpetual economic growth and limitless technological expansion are what we do.

We cannot have perpetual economic growth and limitless technological expansion on a Planet that itself cannot grow; no planet can grow above its size. It is also impossible to have those two, each on its own or combined, with the limit of non-renewable, many of which are, almost, exhausted, as we speak, so to say.

Perpetual growth is a capitalist idea to keep profits flowing into the coffers of shareholders and CEOs to the detriment of the Planet and the poor that live on it. The entire idea of capitalism is based on this exploitation of the Planet and of the poor. Instead of the Earth's resources benefiting all creatures on this Planet, including humans, they are being exploited for the benefit of some rich elite, including water.

We have to change the system, the world over, in order to save the Planet, so to speak, and all of us. Tinkering around at the edges is not going to work and neither is reforming the system. The system is not broken, it was designed that way. Thus a new system is needed. A system when everything on the Planet counts, and not just profits for the few.

© 2018

In the heat do not drink (ice) cold water

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

psa-squareWater, yes, lots of it, but (ice) cold no...

We have all heard, and often assumed it to be an old-wives-tale and thus even discarded this warning, not to drink really cold water in hot weather conditions. Turns out though that it is good advice.

Apparently, if you are too hot and chug a bottle of cold water, it can send your body into shock. The body thinks that the stomach is suffering from hypothermia and so it takes the warm blood from your hands, your feet and head and sends it to the stomach. You will lose consciousness. And, in certain circumstances, that could be fatal.

Cold water is good, but only in sips. Room temperature water is better if you need fast rehydration. So, when (over)heated don't grab the ice cold water but the slightly warmed up one instead.

© 2018