Grass Edger from Lakeland – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith

Grass Edger – Lakeland Ref 50965 – 21.96 GBP

This Grass Edger sold by Lakeland comes as a 2-part tube steel construction that is assembled by means of a bolt with a wing nut. The assembly cause no problems whatsoever as it was all too obvious and the device appears to be quite sturdy.

The circular cutter of the Grass Edger is not over sharp – but is probably intended to be in is way – and the cutter assembly too looks fairly robust as well. Obviously, as will all things, the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating, meaning here that only over a more prolonged use would one be able to gauge how it performs and holds up to the rigors that some may inflict it the tool.

The operation of the Grass Edger is straight forward and it cuts the edge very well, even rather matted grass, as was the case with the overgrown edges at my garden areas, some about a quarter of an inch thick. I know, shame on me for letting it get that way.

Over time, when one gets used to the way that this device works, this tool will be a definite improvement over the speed and accuracy of an ordinary Edging Iron, and even more so as to neatness.

The test that I subjected this Grass Edger to is and was probably rather unfair as it is hardly intended to cut the kind of heavy matted grass, the result of neglect. It must be said though that the tool performed well, even under those circumstances though I am a little concerned that this may have put some undue strain on the tool, strain that it would not encounter under normal conditions.
In all fairness, the edges that I was cutting with this manual Grass Edger for a test would have been a challenge even probably for a motorized cutter of this kind. Thus, I made hard work for the tool and for myself. No problem though, as the Grass Edger performed well throughout.

This Grass Edger from Lakeland is about 10 GBP cheaper than the cheapest similar tool that I have seen in Garden Centers and other garden catalogs, and such.

While the real reliability and sturdiness, as I have said, will only be found in time and use, as far as I can see this is a good tool at a fair price.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Green Issues Will Rise To The Top Of The Agenda Again

by Michael Smith

In today’s economic climate, some companies may see ‘green’ issues as something to put on the back burner. But Sally Taylor, of not-for-profit organization “Environmental Population”, believes that taking steps to be ‘green’ could actually save money and enhance a company’s reputation.

In fact, the way I see it, customers and consumers are demanding that companies do the “green” thing and do it properly, not a “greenwashing” exercise, and any business that does not keep up here in that field or that is seen to be not doing it with the heart in the right place may find that customers will vote with their feet.

“Being environmentally aware is no longer an optional extra,” says Sally, “and companies need to realize that being green can indeed make positive changes on the bottom line.

“For example, adopting changes in simple work routines can make electric, gas and water savings part of company life and telling people what you’re doing can only improve your reputation.”

Sally believes there is still much that can be done by companies to reduce their carbon footprint, either by looking internally at their systems and procedures or externally through evaluating the company’s effect on its surroundings.

Environmental Population gives practical advice to companies who wish to be, and be seen to be, ‘green’. It provides environmental information to SMEs (small to medium enterprises) about; climate change, biodiversity, waste management and energy and water reduction.

“Publishing your energy ratings alongside improvement programs will help your business gain accreditation whilst building a more positive profile in the tougher and greener economic landscape.

“A good example is Walker’s Crisps, who have now started to publish information on their packaging as to the carbon footprint of the product, giving customers the moral choice whether to buy – this appears to be working well.”

The Government has set some bold targets to meet: an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 and recycling 40% of waste by 2010 rising to 75% by 2020. Savings can be made through initiatives such as landfill and fuel taxes, development of carbon neutral homes and businesses, energy efficiency certificates and greater recycling.

“The economic climate has taken over headlines for the time being…but very soon green issues will rise to the top of the agenda again,” said Sally.

Environment Population is an online network of businesses, started for companies who have recognized the importance and need for environmental policies in business, and is calling like-minded companies to join and together make a difference.

Membership of the site can provide companies with links to appropriate resources, a forum for discussing issues, downloadable white papers, plus artwork and templates for posters, newsletters and e-mail communication.

The valuable resources are in contrast to the relatively low cost of membership. No matter how large or small a company is, membership is very cost effective at £60 and then £50 annually.

For more tips and ideas visit

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

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The British International Motor Show is the latest victim of the economic downturn

by Michael Smith

London, March 2009: The British International Motor Show has been cancelled in a move that organisers say was “almost inevitable” in current economic conditions.

The event, traditionally organised by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and IMIE, has been running for more than a century, attracting more than 900,000 visitors to Birmingham’s NEC at the peak of its popularity in 1978.

However, numbers dropped in the ‘90s. A move to London’s Excel saw attendance increase slightly in 2008 to more than 470,000, but a number of no-shows from the big brands signalled the troubles to come.

SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt says: “The global credit crunch has placed the automotive sector under unique pressure and has created a level of uncertainty that deters manufacturers from committing to large-scale, international events.”

Globally, motor shows are struggling, with Porsche, Ferrari, Land Rover, Rolls-Royce and Nissan absent from the 2009 Detroit Auto Show.

What a lot of the venue companies do not, however, seem to realize is that it is not just the fact that the recession is biting that sees the big names in the industry drop out of trade fairs and shows; the reason is that in Britain the prices are just so much higher than in other parts of Europe, including places such as Germany.

British industry has a bad habit, in recent years, and not just in the most recent years, to price itself out of the market, in Europe and globally. The same is true for consumer pricing. Many goods can be obtained cheaper in other parts of Europe and let us not even start talking about train travel and public transport in general. Here Britain leads – a rather sad lead though – as being the most expensive country of all EU member states as far as rail and public transport fares are concerned.

Are we still wondering why we are in dire straights? Maybe the depression in which we are now will bring us all to our senses once again. One can but hope.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Spring cleaning your yard and your garden

by Michael Smith

Spring is right around the corner, even though it officially has arrived in Mid-March, and now is the time of year when we emerge from our homes to find our yards and gardens in disarray and somewhat in a mess even.

Winter isn’t usually kind to our shrubs, our lawns, or our gardens. Follow these tips to get ready for spring:

Make a list: Before you head to your local home improvement or garden center, make a list of everything you need for the chores that you plan to undertake. A list eliminates the need to make multiple trips because you forgot something.

The same for seeds. Think and plan what you want to sow, especially as regards to vegetables – and my suggestion with the way the economy goes a great deal of your lawn should be turned over to vegetables, and also as regards to “local foods”. For any of those that you can grow yourself you do not have to buy. Also, homegrown taste better. You can also grow in planters and boxes on the patio and other hard standing.

Sew and plant according to the instructions for your area and also use the old almanacs as regards to moon phases and such like. Yes, I do believe in that. The old ones have shown that it works.

Leaves and branches: Normally leaves should have been sorted in late autumn but if you have, say, an oak tree or a beech tree that borders your yard and garden then you may find that you still have some fallen leaves to deal with. The leaves of oaks tend to to hang onto the limbs well into February, so you end left with a bunch of leaves that fell during the coldest months of the year; with beech trees the leaves cling on often even longer, sometimes till the new shoots arrive. If you did get the majority of your leaves under control at the end of autumn then this chore should not take too long.

Branches, especially twigs and twigs may be all over the place if, especially like me, you have birch trees around you. They best be cleared up too.

Mind the edges: Nice clean borders seem to blur during winter. If you do this job correctly now it will be easier to maintain those nice clean edges in the months to come.

Fertilize: Depending on the size of your lawn and garden, fertilizing may be a quick step or a step you might consider avoiding. Fertilizing a lawn always if a questionable operation, in my opinion, unless you have a bowling green or such. With areas for growing crops this is, obviously, a different story and ideally here you should fertilize using organic fertilizer, such as good well rotted down manure and well rotted compost. The latter you make yourself in the yard using compost heaps or composting bins.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Need a beer glass? Pull out a Frankfurter jar.

Let’s, maybe, start a fashion trend

by Michael Smith

In the old poor student days of the 1960s and 1970s this was the way things were done. Glass jars of this kind, and smaller ones even, were got out and used for serving drinks, as many of them did not have the money to buy glasses and such. Then there were the old Hippies did this too and it was trendy in those circles for sure. They did it because they were making a statement; the same statement, in a way that we should be making today.

Why buy when you can reuse. After all, you paid for that glass jar when you bought those sausages. When we talk about recycling, recycled goods, etc., why do we never, it would seem, in the main, think about the simple act of reusing?

Students, the poor, and the Hippies used to do this many a times in years gone by. For the latter, as I said, it was a statement, for the former two groups it was done for reasons of necessity. Maybe it needs to be made a fashion and I am rather serious here. Why not just directly reuse such items? This could be the start of a fashion and a trend and why not.

The same could be done with the smaller jars whence mustard, for instance, comes in. They make great “green” Whisky tumblers. Just add Malt and soda or ice, or just have it neat without anything added – the way I like it – and cheers. Frankfurter jars are great for beers and ales, as well as the alcoholic and non-alcoholic “long drinks”, as well as for the likes of Coke (Yuck! But some like the stuff), while the smaller ones are great for, well, other drinks.

With the use of a “frosting kit” or such designs too could be etched into the jars and voila, even more fashionable still.

By by re-using the right kind of jars in lieu of glasses all the costs and impact of making new glasses, even from those jars by reworking and recycling, or by factory recycling, could be avoided.

Some jars, obviously, lend themselves to such a re-purpose operation much more easily than others. For beer the best are the slim Frankfurter jars and for use as Whisky tumbler the ones mentioned before, those from mustards, are best, I am sure even shot glasses can be found and others.

By re-purposing such jars we might just, as said, start a trend and a fashion and I am sure it would not be the worst of trends now, would it.

My view always is on this: why should we send those jars to the recycling center for no reward. At least this is the way it goes in Britain. In America, I know, things are different in most places, and you actually get money for bringing them in. The fact is that you and I, when we bought the product, we also paid for the glass container. Hence my view is that we should, ourselves, think of ways of re-purposing the items, as in the case of such jars for drinking vessels, before we even think of sending them to the recycling centers. Such is my view, at least, anyhow.

Maybe this could be called, the way Tom Szaky does at Terracycle, upcycling rather than recycling and hopefully, by doing so, we could lead for others to follow.

If others indeed follow this could become a fashion, one that is good for the Planet as it would keep a great deal of stuff out of the waste stream and this has to be good.

This kind of upcycling principle here can also be employed for other items of waste as well, such as tin cans by way of an example. While those would not, necessarily, become drinking vessels they can, however, became most interesting and useful pencil bins and such like for desks and elsewhere. And that is just the standard tin cans. More on that, however, in another article.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Lakeland Late Spring 09 Catalog just arrived

A little preview

by Michael Smith

Lakeland's Late Spring 09 catalog dropped onto my doormat here the other day and it is brim full with great ideas for the home, and there are also lots of items on how to green your home as well, though we are not talking paint here.

In the “laundry” section of the catalog we have Ecozone's Ecoballs, Soap Nuts and a few other items of environmental friendly products for doing the laundry. A number of non-power drying solutions for the laundry can be found in that section too, such as proper clotheslines and the fold up things. Drying clothes the natural way outside in wind and sun is the best way to go, for both your clothes and the environment.

We then come to the kitchen section where we encounter the Ecoclean range of cleaning products and then the various compost crocks and compost caddies, etc. intended to keep veggie peelings and such out of the landfill by redirecting them to to your composter and finally into your garden.

In addition to that here we encounter also the Eco-Blend bin liners and also the collection of recycling bags intended to separate your cans, bottles, paper, etc.

Further then in the “clean & protect” section of the catalog the Eco marked Mabu multicloths also look and sound rather impressive.

In this section you can also find some of the good old tried and tested cleaners, such as, for instance, “Bartender's Friend” and many others.

Then we finally arrive at the “living” section where the first green thing one encounters are the IntelliPanels designed to control all your TV, Multimedia and PC power, taking them off standby when you turn the screen off, and with the PC, I assume, this to mean the PC, which then will turn off all the peripherals plugged into the strip. We all know how important it is, I am sure, to turn off the appliances and not leave them on standby. Laving TVs and PCs and such on standby costs a staggering £740 million a year all told. That is a lot of energy that is wasted. Well, worry no more. Help is at hand.

Further on in this section we then find the environmentally friendly ways of protecting clothes, and especially wool, against moths by means of natural wool protector sachets and cedar wood balls for moth protection. Moths do not like certain smells and will therefore no damage the clothes. Cedar smell, on the other hand, is rather pleasant, in my opinion, to the human nose. Those can be found on page 67 of the catalog.

On page 84 and still in the same “living” section we then find a nice selection of different reusable shopping bags, including the old, as in from the good old days, shopping net or string bag.

As I have said in a previous article, the string bag, the shopping net, so familiar in the days of my childhood, is sure making a comeback and ti was about time too that we cam back to our senses and did what our parents and grandparents did when they went shopping. They took along a bag or two or even more for the very purpose of buying the supplies. This was, I know, before the advent of the free plastic bag.

And this, folks, is just the green items in that catalog. It is jam-packed with great ideas for the home, from laundry to living and everything in between.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Gasification plant to join planned sustainable business park on the Estuary

by Michael Smith

A high-tech energy-from-waste plant is the latest facility to join the line up of business planned for an “eco-business park” designed to showcase sustainable industries on the Thames Estuary.

Waste management firm Cyclamax will build a gasification plant on the London Sustainable Industries Park, part of the ongoing Thames Gateway developed on the eastern outskirts of the city.

When operating at full capacity the plant will transform 100,000 tonnes of waste into 15 megawatts of energy – enough to power 20,000 homes.

It will divert commercial waste that would otherwise have gone to landfill, including non-recyclable waste from offices, restaurants and retailers.

The government-backed regeneration agency London Thames Gateway Development Corporation (LTGDC) is trying to create the UK's largest concentration of environmental industries and technologies at the SIP in Dagenham.

Environmental technology businesses are expected to be worth £45bn to the UK economy by 2016 and the Dagenham industrial estate aims to provide a model for others to follow.

Mark Bradbury, deputy director of development at LTGDC, said: "The London Sustainable Industries Park represents a major opportunity for London's environmental technology businesses.

"It provides access to Europe's largest urban area and has an unrivalled source of raw materials and a multi-billion pound marketplace on the doorstep."

John Williams, chief executive at Gateway to London, said: "Cyclamax's plans are proof of London Thames Gateway's position as the number one location for businesses working in environmental technologies and we are seeing huge interest from companies who want to join the region's burgeoning market.

"The London Sustainable Industries Park is the core element of this proposition and working with LTGDC we look forward to building on the Cyclamax success and securing even more investment into this prime location."

If, in addition to this, we now could also get some methane plants stuck onto sewage works and such this would really be nice and really sustainable. Presently we are wasting million of cubic meters of methane gas from sewage works on a daily basis in that we simply flare it off, much like the gas being flared off in the oilfields.

Our landfills too are full to bursting with methane gas and in many locations this gas is just simply, so it would appear, vented to the atmosphere. Not very good for more than one reason. Methane from sewage plants was the gas that was used to fire the first electric power station(s) in the USA until such a time that fossil fuels and especially coal and petroleum became too cheap and the oil magnates bullied the plats to use oil instead.

Let's face it: methane is created by all of us on a rather regular basis and each property, each house, could have, theoretically, have its own methane digester and its own gas productions and a CHP for heating and powering the place.

Not rocket science and has been done many times before. The only thing that is keeping us from it is vested interests.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Spend more on trees and less on roads, government told by advisers

by Michael Smith

Bodies set up to advise the government on the built and natural environment are calling for a shift in emphasis on public spend, with more cash needed for green spaces and urban tree planting.

This funding could be made available by cutting the cash spent on 'grey' build such as expanding the road network.

This is the conclusion not of radical green groups, but of key government advisers the Commission for Architecture & the Built Environment (CABE) and Natural England.

The organizations argue that this change in emphasis would help recovery from the economic recession while at the same time helping to tackle carbon emissions – with the additional benefit of improving quality of life for those living in the Britain's towns and cities.

"The spend on grey schemes, like building and expanding roads, is out of kilter with spend on assets like street trees and parks and green spaces, and the public funding pot cannot be realistically expected to fully accommodate both," say the groups in a joint statement.

"The creation and maintenance of green infrastructure will generate new and sustainable jobs in the private sector as well creating desirable areas to live and work, stimulating local business and attracting inward investment."

Richard Simmons, the chief executive of CABE, argued that we have no choice but to redesign our towns and cities in response to the imperative of climate change.

"Greening towns and cities needs to be part of the Green New Deal, as much as technology" he said.

Investment in green roofs, for instance, would not only protect cities from flooding by absorbing heavy rain, cool the air in summer, improve air quality and support biodiversity, but it would also create many new jobs.

CABE and Natural England argue that if just 10% of the national £10 billion budget to widen and build roads was put aside, that could pay for 40 new parks, half a million new street trees, one and a half million square metres of green roofs, and 1,000 miles of safe greenways for cyclists and pedestrians.

And all one could add to that is that this could not come soon enough.

As indicated in another article, it is imperative that we rather than creating new developments that will be touted as eco-towns somewhere in the countryside where, in fact, no one really wants them, we must green our villages, towns and cities, whether by ways of retrofitting the buildings or by creating parks, woodlands, and community gardens. In fact this all must be done in combination.

The agenda does seem to be a different one though and this eco-town business, all of which will require all brand new infrastructure laid on for, from gas, waster, electricity to roads, is all out of kilter, in the same was as the other grey schemes of government. Not wishing to be facetious here I nevertheless wonder who is getting backhanders from which developer in regards to the eco-town business.

Returning to the theme by CABE and Natural England, however, we need more street trees, more parks and more open spaces in the towns and cities and at their fringes for (1) the people to be able to go and enjoy and (2) in order to negate, to some degree, the effects of climate change.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Free Food by Avoiding Wasted Food

by Michael Smith

Have you ever felt you were throwing away more food than you were eating? It would appear that that is exactly what we are doing, whether in Britain or the USA. In fact we all throw away tons and tons of perfectly good food every year simply because we did not store it properly, or also because we assume that the “best before” date on a product means that it cannot be used a day or so afterwards. A “use by” date is a different story.

Many people do not buy much fresh produce because they are afraid that it will go bad before it gets eaten. The problem is that often people simply store fruit and vegetables wrong. Bananas, for instance, must never be put together with other fruit as the, the bananas, give off a gas that will cause apples, pears, and other fruit to go off much quicker than would normally be the case.

The proper kind of storage can make your produce last longer and, doing it right, you can avoid throwing good food – well it was before it went rotten – into the trash or the compost heap.

If you think everything should be stored in the refrigerator think again. Some people seem to stuff just about everything into the fridge but that could be the wrong place entirely for some produce. Potatoes, for instance, should never be refrigerated.

Avoiding wasted food is a bit like getting free food. OK, I know, you did pay for it to start with but I am sure you know what I mean.

Improper storage very often is the cause of food going to waste, in our homes as much as elsewhere. This can, however, be avoided by employing some rather simple storage habits which may help your food stay fresh days – if not months, even:


Store apples on the counter, away from other produce. For long-term storage, wrap perfect apples (no spots, bruises or blemishes) individually in paper. Then, place them in a box and store in a cool, dark place.


Store bananas at room temperature until they ripen. Store ripe bananas in the refrigerator to impede further ripening.

Note: When you refrigerate or freeze bananas, the peel will turn black, but the fruit will still be good.

Do not store bananas with other fruit. Bananas exude a gas that will prematurely spoil other fruit.


Store bread in a breadbox or on the counter. The best kind would be of wood.


Store butter in its original packaging inside the refrigerator compartment (not inside the door). Butter can also be frozen for up to six months.


Remove cheese from its original packaging. Then, re-wrap it in a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper, and seal it inside a plastic bag. Some hard cheese benefit from being packaged in a breathable cloth, such as muslin, and then stored in the fridge.


Store eggs in their original carton inside the refrigerator and not inside the refrigerator door, despite the fact that the inside of the fridge door tends to have a compartment for eggs; use that for something else.


Freeze flour for 48 hours to kill any insect eggs that might be present. Then, place in a tight-sealing container; and store in a cool, dry spot away from sunlight. Keep whole-grain flours in the refrigerator or freezer to extend their life.


Store heads of garlic unpeeled in an open container in a cool, dry place. For long-term storage, garlic can also be dried and braided.


Store honey in a cool, dark place in an air-tight container. No need to put it in the fridge though.


Remove the lettuce from its store packaging. Then, wrap it in paper toweling, and place it in an open storage bag.


Store fresh mushrooms in a paper bag inside of the refrigerator. Do not keep them in the crisper.


Store nuts in the shell until you are ready to use them. Refrigerate or freeze any that you plan to keep for more than three months.


Store whole onions in a cool, dark place away from moisture. For bulk storage, cut the legs off of a pair of pantyhose; drop an onion into one of the legs, and tie it off. Then, drop in another onion and tie it off again. Continue doing this until the legs are full. Then, hang.

Note: Potatoes give off a gas that ripens onions, so be sure to store them separately.


Store whole pineapples unwrapped in the refrigerator. Store cut pineapples in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.


Store potatoes unwashed in a paper bag, pantyhose or a similarly vented container. Then, place in a cool, dark and dry spot. Not so long ago I reviewed the “Potato Bag” from Lakeland and I must say that it certainly does the job. The same can also be achieved with a good old-fashioned burlap or Hessian sack, like those that peanuts often come in to the stores., if a potato sack itself it too bog for your storage requirements.


Store tomatoes at room temperature. Keep out of the sun, once they have ripened.

The correct storage of food is what will keep it from spoiling too early and keep us from wasting food. We can certainly here take a few leaves out of the books of the old ones who managed to keep food better than we seem to do today.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Greenpeace Backs FuturEnergy to Power 'World'

Lighting up the World – clean renewable energy generated by three FuturEnergy micro-wind turbines together with a bank of solar panels, provided all the power to illuminate and run the latest Greenpeace earth-shape Climate Research Station in Poland.

Part of Greenpeace's ongoing campaign against the continued use of coal to generate power, the four-storey 'world' was positioned next to a vast open cast coal mine in Konin, Poland. The protest highlights the minimal effort Poland is making to curb its dependance on coal, which currently accounts for 93% of the country's power.

The three British designed and manufactured wind turbines, each rated at one-kilowatt, complemented by a series of six solar photovoltaic panels provided all the electricity for the station's fluorescent lights, cameras, laptops and satellite communications equipment, with a small biodiesel powered generator as an emergency backup.

FuturEnergy wind turbines were chosen because of their small size and simple cable-stayed assembly which enabled them to be installed easily and quickly without the need for the substantial concrete footings required with much larger wind turbines.

“We are extremely pleased that our wind turbines were selected for such an auspicious project,” says Peter Osborne, managing director of FuturEnergy.

“We overwhelmingly support Greenpeace in its mission to draw attention to the long-term dangers of coal usage and the need for a greater use of renewable power,” comments Peter. “We have many projects around the world that prove just how valuable micro wind turbines can be not just in cutting energy bills and cushioning people against fluctuating fuel costs, but also in dramatically curbing CO2 emissions.”

Since its launch three and a half years ago, the the British designed and manufactured FuturEnergy wind turbine has rapidly proven itself to be one of the most effective and widely used micro wind turbines in the world, with extensive application on homes, farms and small businesses around the globe – including installation on an Arctic exploration vessel coping with temperatures down to minus 32C, an offshore North Sea Second World War naval fort - the home of the independent community of Sealand – and on Britain's best eco-home, the Penwhilwr straw house.

For more information on FuturEnergy see

Source: The Right Angle PR Co.

Will Recycling Survive the Recession?

The question here is more like "will recycling as a money spinner for authorities" and municipal recyclers survive the depression...

The point is that we can make recycling survive the recession and even a depression if we bring the work associated with it “home”, so to speak.

by Michael Smith

The recycling industry worldwide is in a state of panic, as it is hit by two forces beyond its control.

The first problem is the economy, which is headed down the tube rather rapidly and whether or not the likes of the chief of the Federal Reserve or the Chancellor of the Exchequer et all keep telling us that it will all over within this year – when they come and live on this here planet from their parallel universe they may actually discover reality – it is headed down fast.

This results in the demand for consumer products being down (really?) and retailers are focusing on price versus value.

China, presently the manufacturer of the world's products, is not ordering recycled polymer and China also is not taking in any recyclables for reprocessing either.

In fact, a large number of factories in China are closing down due to lack of demand. On top of this, as recycling is a commodity industry, the price of plastic is directly related to the price of gas, and gas prices are low.

If you make virgin plastic, your costs are directly dependent on energy costs. However, if you are a recycler, your costs are not in the making of the plastic, but in the collection and sorting of it – and these costs are not as dependent on energy costs.

Therefore, recyclers are faced with a problem that may be beyond a solution: They are forced to collect and incur costs – due to their municipal collection contracts – on a material that is worth 50% of what it used to be months ago and they cannot sell it anyway since there is less demand. The result of all of this is predictable: recycling centers are closing at a record pace.

Some people predict now that if nothing changes in 2009 the recycling industry could die. The problem, as I have indicated already, is not the recyclables but that everyone is looking for a quick buck here and is not interested in really reducing the landfill load and all that. It has everything to do with money and how much can be made from the sale of recyclables.

Hold for a moment! Why not do the work at home and collect and reprocess, rework, into salable goods?

There is a twist to all of this doom and gloom. Perhaps it will allow us to revisit the idea of recycling and why it is a risky proposition. If you define waste as a something you are willing to pay to get rid of then the approach to recycling is only 50% efficient. In other words when you make a plastic bottle you spend resources – that is to say, money and energy – to create plastic and then additional resources to turn that plastic into a bottle. When a recycler gets that bottle they view the plastic as valuable and the shape as waste since they spend resources to destroy the shape to get to the valuable plastic.

If recyclers didn't focus on being a commodity business, they could instead collect soda bottles, clean them, sort them by volume (noting there are only a few shapes since most everything in our globalized system is standardized) and become a company that sold bottles to companies like TerraCycle. Not only would recyclers by definition become the cheapest source of packaging in America, they would also be the greenest source.

As Buckminster Fuller said, "Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we've been ignorant of their value."

And how right he was for it has been shown by countries who, for instance, use “scrubbers” in factory and power station chimneys that even sulfur and other valuable materials can be harvested from the smoke. So, why it is not being done everywhere?

But even by selling the collected soda bottles, cleaned and sorted, to companies such as TerraCycle so-called recyclers would still be nothing bot commodity brokers in the end phase.

The term recycler here in some cases is rather misleading, is it not, for all those recyclers with a municipal contract do, in the main, is collect and sort recyclables and then sell those to those that reprocess the recyclables again into such things as polymers, etc.. They do not actually make anything with the stuff that they collect.

Now true recyclers reprocess the material themselves and that is an industry that we must create and encourage. Home-grown this must be as well. It just does not compute to send the recyclables to China and then get the products back from there. It must be, and indeed it is, as can be seen from the small number of recycler/re-processors in Britain, for instance, possible to produce products at a decent price at home.

Let's revisit everything we consider "waste" since the solution many times lies in that realization.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Government consults on eco-friendly farming

by Michael Smith

Following EC plans to scrap payments for farmers who left fields uncultivated to avoid over-production Government is looking for views on ways to protect biodiversity on agricultural land.

Until recently farmers could claim subsidies for set aside land as part of Europe's efforts to control food production.

This had the additional bonus of providing important habitats for wildlife and reducing pollution from pesticides and fertilizers.

But the latest CAP health check has scrapped these subsidies, removing the cash incentive for farmers leaving fallow land.

However, with the current problems as regards to food production and the need to produce more local foods maybe farming needs to take a new approach.

Habitats can still be created by leasing field margins, as always were in the older days, as they were needed for the turning of a span of horses, for instance, and also hedges could be reintroduced to protect crops from the effects of adverse weathers. Our old ones knew what they were doing with all those shelter belts of hedges and woods.

Recently Environment Secretary Hilary Benn announced the publication of a consultation paper looking at how Britain might avoid losing the environmental and biodiversity benefits.

It will also seek views on introducing wider buffers alongside water courses to protect water quality from run-off, how best to promote hedgerows and how to encourage farmers to take a more active role in managing soil quality and erosion.

Mr Benn emphasized the need to strike the right balance between reducing burdens on farmers and ensuring that the natural environment - on which farming depends - is maintained.

And while Mr Ben may emphasize those above needs, let's face it, as I have said before, in the olden days farmers did exactly that for they knew very well that they depended on a healthy environment. Only when Agri-Industry came in with fertilizers and the intensive farming during, and especially after, World War II we started having problems and then there was a time when we even had an overproduction of foods and that was why the European Union was giving subsidies for leaving land fallow.

Mr Ben said: "Farming is hugely important, not just to produce the food we eat but also to maintain the landscape which we hold so dear and on which our ability to produce food in the future depends.

"We stand ready to support an industry-led way of doing this if it can deliver what's needed, with industry-wide ownership and leadership.

"Farmers do much to help already, and we need to ensure that the environmental benefits of set aside are not lost amid regulations.

"That's why it's important that we get views from all interested parties so that we can protect and enhance natural wildlife habitats without hindering farmers."

What we need, in the same way as a new approach to the economy in general, is anew approach to farming. This approach, in fact is a trip back to the future, so to speak, in that we must concentrate – and let's ignore the EU demands as to exports and such – on producing food in our farms first and foremost for the people of our own individual countries.

So much is said as to “local foods” now that we best start and do something about it, and we have the chance to do so.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Eco Grease – Product Review

Environmentally-friendly bicycle grease

Review by Michael Smith

The same small environmentally conscious company that brought you the Green Oil , the eco-friendly cycle oil, now brings you Eco Grease, the environmentally-friendly bicycle grease.

I must admit that I have been sitting on this – though not literally – for a while now, as I received the sample at last year's Cycle Show. However, I had not reason to try to really use it before. Having recently had to re-tighten the crank on my favorite Raleigh Pioneer Classic I used the Eco-Grease to lube the crank shaft through the grease hole with this Raleigh bike has on the underside and while it would have been better had I had the grease in a grease gun with some more pressure to push it in it worked well enough from the plastic bottle.

The result is very satisfying and the crank is the quietest it has been for many, many years.

The best past with Eco Grease, the same as it is with Green Oil, is that it is not harmful to the environment during use or disposal. This is not what could be said for any other grease that is petroleum based or even the majority of synthetic oils, bar may those that are base on Castor oil. Those latter ones still do contain some harmful chemicals. Green Oil and Eco Grease, on the other hand, are free of those.

Once again a great product, especially for the cyclist.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Illegal EU waste shipments on the rise

by Michael Smith

Illegal shipments of hazardous waste from European countries are increasing and are putting the environment and human health in developing countries at risk, so a new report warns.

European Environment Agency report “Waste Without Borders in the EU”, published in March 2009, says statistical data from member states "show a growing number of illegal shipments".

This is something that has been obvious for ages and I doubt that we would have needed a report really. Investigative journalists have found toxic e-waste from EU countries, including Britain, in Africa and India, and a great number of that came from British government sources.

Between 2001 and 2005 member states reported increasing total annual illegal shipments of "hazardous and problematic waste" of between 6,000 and 47,000 tonnes - figures the report describes as "probably minimum".

It says: "It is expected that reported cases represent a fraction of the actual number and that the number of illegal shipments is considerable."

The illegal waste is either exported to other EU countries or non-EU countries, including developing countries.

But exports of hazardous waste from EU to non-OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) is banned because receiving countries "usually do not have proper and sufficient treatment capacity," the report says.

For example, statistics show many discarded TV sets are shipped to Africa despite the export of e-waste (electrical and electronic equipment) from EU to African countries being prohibited.

This does not, however, appear to make one iota of a difference, as from some pictures that have been seen the mountain of such e-waste – and not just TVs – in African countries, and other countries of the Third World and also China, is increasing.

The companies that export recyclables seem to have no scruples and we can nigh on bet that in theh current economic climate this is not going to decrease but rather he opposite.

Non-Governmental Organisations there say dismantling operations often lack personal protection equipment for workers or pollution control measures for toxic substances and leftover materials are frequently dumped.

"It would appear that the EU exports a significant quantity of used electrical and electronic products to developing countries that do not have an adequate waste management infrastructure," the report says.

"These are then probably subject to treatment that poses a threat to the environment and human health."

The clean up of dumped waste also puts and economic burden on those countries as well as leaving legitimate waste disposal businesses at an financial disadvantage.

A lot of the waste and the run off from the dismantling operations end up in rivers and streams and in the soil. Water and soil are both being contaminated and with it the health and the very lives of the people are put at risk.

The report describes tracking cross border waste shipments as "very difficult" and a "serious problem" affecting policy enforcement. It calls for more to be done to deal with the problem.

"Sufficient control and inspection of transboundary shipments of waste are important tools if the number of illegal shipments is to be reduced," it says.

The report also examines legal waste shipments from EU states to other EU and non-EU countries.

These almost quadrupled between 1997 and 2005, it says, and have helped fuel a global recycling market for waste materials, such as paper, plastics and metals - especially in the Far East - although this has slowed with the current economic downturn.

"Whereas the environmental and economic impacts of legal waste shipments can be positive or negative, illegal shipments of waste clearly are a matter of concern for the environment as well as for the economy," the report concludes.

This affair is extremely serious but will anything be done other than this report have been written, distributed and disseminated? I doubt that anything really will happen.

If we are really concerned as people and governments then no recyclables would leave the shores of our respective countries but all dismantling and recycling would be done at home and the recyclables reworked in an industry based in our own countries. But. Alas, if any dismantling operations and reworking is indicated as going to go in operation somewhere then the NIMBYs come out and protest against it.

Not here, they say.

But where then?

In our own countries we can police the dismantling and the reprocessing of the recyclables, while at the same time creating much needed employment. So, let's do it at home.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009



BWEA, the UK ’s leading renewable energy association, welcomed today RSPB’s “Positive Planning for Onshore Wind” report, which sets out how to significantly expand UK ’s onshore wind capacity. Evidence shows that it is possible to develop onshore wind farms, without damage to wildlife.

Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of BWEA says: “Research on wind farms has consistently shown that wind turbines have a minimal impact on wildlife. On the other hand, it is now beyond doubt that climate change could have a devastating impact on bird habitats, if we don’t act soon. RSPB’s call for a step change in onshore wind deployment is timely and well judged.”

The report recognises that as a part of a wider mix of renewables, a significant increase in onshore wind capacity, meaning a greater number of turbines, will have to be deployed in order for the UK to meet its objectives under the EU 2020 targets on renewable energy.

The report emphasises that the Government must ensure the national and local planning process is well resourced, in order to handle an increase in the number and scale of renewable energy projects. BWEA also pointed out that the issue of spatial planning raised in the report must not be used as an excuse to tangle wind farm applications in red tape.

“BWEA feel it is important that the RSPB report is followed with action on the ground. Government now needs to provide better resourcing for local authorities to deal with wind f

The British Wind Energy Association is the trade and professional body for the UK wind and marine renewables industries. Formed in 1978, and with 453 corporate members, BWEA is the leading renewable energy trade association in the UK . Wind has been the world's fastest growing renewable energy source for the last seven years, and this trend is expected to continue with falling costs of wind energy and the urgent international need to tackle CO2 emissions to prevent climate change.

The copy of the RSPB report can be seen here:

Sign up to support wind energy at

Source: BWEA

Lakeland Garden Catalog – Review

by Michael Smith

Recently I received the Garden Catalog from Lakeland, the well-known household goods company in the English Lake District, hence the name “Lakeland”.

While Lakeland have had in their catalogs in the past items and tools for the garden here and there this is the first dedicated Garden Catalog of Lakeland.

The range of tools and products is overwhelming and all look very good and impressive.

With gardening, especially as to growing your own food, being on the in crease, due to environmental green concerns and also the state of the economy, on the in crease this catalog is a great addition to Lakeland's range.

Amongst the items that very much have caught my attention in this catalog are the Patio Garden Range of durable polyethylene sacks on page 22 and 23 of the catalog and which, from the looks in the pages of he catalog are of the same or similar material as the builder's bags in which sand and such items are nowadays delivered, but smaller and specially designed with gardening in mind.

Those should be most interesting to anyone who does not have the facility for digging up a garden for the growing of food crops, not even for raised beds. Those, as far as I can see, could also be used on balconies and not only on the patio.

Another item of great interest to me is the Mini Grow Bed and its accessories on page 21 of the same catalog. This too is ideal for the town dweller and the suburbanite who does not want to dig up his or her garden “for victory” but nevertheless wants to grow food at home.

Obviously there is a lot more in the dedicated Lakeland Garden Catalog for the gardener of whatever kind, from growing food to just – excuse me but – keeping flowers and a great and healthy lawn.

Another great thing for the urbanite and suburbanite with the wish to be more self-reliant as far as fresh vegetables and such are concerned is a Patiogro system on page 24 and 25. I saw the Patiogro for the first time at the Garden Press Event 2008 and it is, in my opinion, a great invention for those that wish to grow lots of salad stuffs and such in a small space.

I hope to be able to review a couple of the items in the pages of the Green (Living) Review (and associated publications) in due course.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009


Aspenware Inc provides biodegradable knives, spoons and forks to the JUNO Awards Gift Bags

Lumby, B.C. (March 23, 2009) - On March 26-29th Vancouver plays host to The 2009 JUNO Awards. When Canada’s top recording artists arrive in the stunning host city, they will discover a limited edition, cedar giftbox adorned with Coast Salish art and loaded with “made in B.C.” gourmet and luxury items.

Designed locally by The Uptown GiftBox Company, the exclusive gift package is part of this year’s coveted JUNO Awards Gift Bag, and unites some of the province’s best purveyors of gourmet specialties and artisan products.

“I was inspired by the 100-mile-diet approach and we carefully chose the contents and suppliers. This giftbox took us six months to design and secure the best of the best of British Columbia. We scoured the province for some of the most inspiring and intriguing,” says Uptown CEO and founder Gabrielle Durning. “Aspenware was a natural choice to include in this gift design.”

The exclusively BC-Made Uptown GiftBox will be presented to the likes of Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan, Nickelback, Diana Krall, Elvis Costello and host Russell Peters.

Aspenware was selected as one of the suppliers for the coveted gifts along with other prominent BC companies. Owner and President of Aspenware, Terry Bigsby, commented that “this is a great opportunity for Aspenware and all of Canada to have a look at another aspect of Canadian Innovation.” It is exposure like The JUNO Awards and presenting the cutlery on an episode of CBC’s the Dragons’ Den that has created a cascading effect with Aspenware. “We are starting to see the push towards healthy, functional alternatives in all aspects of our lives,” says Bigsby. “People are wanting and creating positive environmental changes; gone are the days of using cheap plastic that affects our planet forever.”

In North America billions of pieces of plastic disposable cutlery are used every year. The ecological and health consequences associated with the production, use and disposal of these products are growing. Aspenware believes that their biodegradable wooden cutlery will help reduce these issues one meal at a time in our ever growing disposable world.

At Aspenware, they make planet & people friendly wooden knives, spoons and forks. Wood is renewable, recyclable and biodegradable making it the material of choice for people today and for future generations. Their cutlery is well-designed, functional and the knives are strong enough to cut through steak! It is 100% natural and backyard compostable.

Fore more information on Aspenware please visit

Source: Aspenware

GreenLifeBuzz Launch!

Green (Living) Review a proud participant in GreenLifeBuzz

by Michael Smith

London, UK, March 24, 2009: An new exciting project is being launched today, GreenLifeBuzz and Green (Living) Review is proud to be a participant in this new venture.

When it comes to trying to follow all the Green Blogs – same as all those on IT, for instance – it is hard to keep us, unless one manages to subscribe too all, or at least most, of them. Not everyone wants to do that, however.

Therefore aggregated services such as GreenLifeBuzz, which has just launched on March 24, 2009, are great for both the interested readers and the writers of Blogs and sites.

The Green (Living) Review was approached at the set-up stage of this exiting project and naturally the Green (Living) Review agreed to participate.

While we have decided not to take the opportunity of using the keyword widget on the site due to the fact that its size would interfere with the readability of the sidebar the keywords are, generally, a valuable tool, but something that we, because of the nature of our site, had to do without.

GreenLifeBuzz will centralize green living and Eco Friendly blogs in one place, making it therefore easy for anyone interested in the subjects too find the articles that have been written by the Bloggers and can read extracts on the site and then, if they want to, can go to read the rest of the entry at the Blogs where the piece originated.

GreenLifeBuzz's is being aimed at the 95% of people who do not subscribe to Blogs but are interested in this content. GreenLifeBuzz is a way that they can more easily find the content they are looking for and it can also an aide to Bloggers in terms of organizing their content.

The Green (Living) Review is proud too be a part of this new and exiting projects and we hope and believe that it will be beneficial to all parties concerned.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Turn our cities into eco-towns, not build new ones

by Michael Smith

A leading environmental institute has hit out a Government plans to build new eco-towns from scratch, arguing that it would be more sustainable to address the impact of our existing urban centers. And this was about time too.

In a response to the Government's Draft Planning Policy Statement on Eco-towns the Chartered Institute of Water & Environmental Management (CIWEM) has questioned whether the planned settlements will really forward the sustainability agenda – and rightly so.

I have been questioning the policy of new settlements as Eco-Towns for a considerable time now – in fact from the beginning that it was suggested.

It is totally bonkers, to use a good old English phrase, to think about building new settlements as Eco-Towns where we have perfectly good examples that could be turned into eco-towns already in existence, namely our existing towns and cities.

The eco-towns program of the government aims to address the twin concerns of climate change and the growing demand for housing. The solution, therefore, that government puts forward is, in essence, to build new settlements that have environmental measures built in from the outset.

The CIWEM is among the growing number of organizations that have begun to question the wisdom of this strategy, however, arguing that while building new low-impact towns might seem an easy win, the impact from the built environmental could be more effectively tackled by making better use of what we already have in place.

"From the outset, eco-towns will involve the construction of new homes, transport infrastructure and other basic services," said a statement published by the institute.

"But the UK already has potential eco-towns, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds, which have the fundamentals of settled and sustainable communities such as schools, hospitals and transport.

"CIWEM recognizes that re-developing existing urban centers in a more sustainable form raises major challenges but, if challenging targets on carbon emissions reduction are to be met, the Government must focus on this front.

"CIWEM believes that a commitment of funding and retro-fitting would make these cities carbon-neutral.

"In the context of the UK, new housing provision as discussed by the Barker Report is simply unsustainable and wider policies relating to population growth, consumption and lifestyle must be discussed by Government as a matter of urgency.

"What is faced in modern times is not a housing crisis per se, but an unsustainably large population living on a small island, using resources at a far greater rate than can be replenished."

In addition it has to be said that there is a lot of empty housing stock about that simply is allowed to fall into disrepair and is left standing without anyone occupying it. Let's give people the ability to rent those properties at a low rent with also giving them the possibilities of doing up those properties.

Landlords that speculate with empty housing stock which is falling apart, more or less, must have this housing stock taken away from them and put to use by the local authorities and we must get back to rented housing that, in fact, is owned by the municipalities.

If we want to have enough housing for everyone in the British Isles then we must revert the policies of the Thatcher years. But, it would appear, that no one is willing to do so.

Eco-towns, as envisaged by the current regime in Britain is not going to solve anything. It is neither going to have any impact on the housing crisis nor is it going to benefit the environment. In fact all that building is going to be impacting negatively on the environment and the climate.

Any blind person with a white cane can see the impact the building, from scratch, of such new eco-towns is going to have.

Even regardless of whether or not new eco-towns be built, the existing buildings, residential and non-residential, in our villages, towns and cities must be “greened” in the same way. Otherwise all the eco-town stuff will do nothing and be nothing but window dressing.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

A new Green Social Networking website is launched

by Michael Smith

On March 11, 2009,, the new social networking site dedicated to connecting like minded people around the world who care for the environment, fight global warming and other ethical issues, went live.

It's pretty easy to find greenies on social network sites like Facebook and Twitter, but if you want a community that is specifically geared towards getting green-minded people together, check out this new website.

Its founder, Hessia Fernandes, explains that Cooltribe offers a communication platform for groups and individuals around the world to share their thoughts, ideas, videos and all other forms of content. Joining the community is free for everyone.

Cooltribe includes daily news imported from across media sources, daily discussion topics where members can air their views and experiences and daily action challenges, where a small action taken daily can help reduce man's negative impact on the environment. will provide more features to its members moving forward. "we are well aware that people currently use more developed forms of social networking like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo amongst others successful sites. Our aim is not to compete with the Facebooks but to create a vibrant community and keep the environmental topic at the forefront of the social agenda."

"There are a large number of groups, of all sizes and from all corners of the world, who are doing amazing things everyday and these people don't have a platform to publish their news and attract more people to join their causes. That's one of the key reasons Cooltribe was created, we give them a voice" she adds. welcomes international users. The site is currently in English language only but Cooltribe hopes that its success will attract investments to help them develop new and cool applications.

Cooltribe is not an accredited body, nor a charitable organization. Cooltribe believes in the spirit of community and its power to make a difference.

"We believe the global warming problem and its social repercussions are so important that they warrant their own environmental social networking site." says Hessia.

It must be added, however, that Cooltribe is not the first Green Online Community, others wear that crown, and there are one or two that have a similar philosophy and a way of creating groups and in at least one, if I am not mistaken, those are called “Tribes” as well.

Cooltribe calls itself the "international social networking site with a green conscience" and its purpose is to take the hassle out of hunting down fellow green thinkers in larger social networking groups but, as said already, there are other groups that are Green only orientated and hence no hunting needed.

However, the site pulls together everything people might want in a social network - from meeting great people, to finding out about environmental activism, to staying updated on news all shared by users, and maybe will even go so far, in time, to act as a green news aggregation service.

Other groups worth considering are “WiserEarth”, which is a very advanced networking website based on environmentalism, and also and especially “Greenopolis” and I say that regardless of the fact that I am a “Thought Leader” there, and there there is also "Creative Citizen".

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Accept climate change as man made or you are mentally ill

Disagree with man causes climate change and be labeled as mentally ill

by Michael Smith

This appears to be the message that is being put forth by those that vehemently will only allow the world to believe that the change in climate, once referred to erroneously as global warming, is cause (entirely) by human activities and the farts of cows.

It is impossible even to have a discussion and discourse with them without them becoming venomous, as we have experienced on some forum recently. They are right and everyone else who disagrees with them and their theories is wrong and is suffering from a mental disorder, climate change denial.

No one was even denying the fact that the climate is changing; the question was whether it is attributable (entirely) to human activities (and the passing of wind of ruminants). What was brought forth was the question as to whether it may not be – as I am many, it would appear, a natural cycle of the Earth. No way would anyone of the so-called scientists – and some that are not – accept even the possibility that it could be a wobbly that Mother Earth throws every thousand or so years. All the evidence in history points to this but, oh no, say the “scientists”, it is CO2 and man's activities.

Those are the same kind of scientists, though not necessarily the very same, who in the 1960s and 1970s claimed that we were going to go into a new Ice Age and gave the same reasons for it, such as the increasing desertification of the African Savannas and such, etc., etc.

Then, suddenly, the discovered the hole in the Ozone layer and – oh dear – that was due to human activities and the CFCs. The truth is that the only reason we were suddenly able to see this hole in the Ozone layer was that our technology made it possible at that point. Who, therefore, can say that that hole is not something that is natural too? Who?

So far all I am seeing is some changes in climate and when it is said that species are declining because of climate change I would like to see the proof.

Most of those species are not in decline because it is getting warmer or whatever but are in decline because us humans have destroyed and are destroying the habitat on which those animals and such depend or e have hunted or fished then to extinction.

The house sparrow, for instance, in Britain is in serious decline and will probably in the not so distant future, unfortunately, end up on the red list if he is not already. Please no one try to claim that this has to do with climate change, for it has not. It has to do with loss of habitat and, for instance, the fact that so much of our earth has been concreted and tarmacked over. Nothing to do with climate change.

The decline of animals in the African steppe or the tigers in India also is not due to climate change but to what us humans have done to them, be this destruction of habitat or just huinting them for this or that reason.

However, in some arguments for man-made climate change this is being mentioned, and other such issues.

The cod did not decline because of change in water temperatures, for instance, off the Newfoundland coast, but because it was just fished to near total extinction. And we keep doing that left, right and center.

Eminent environmentalists and scientists who disagree with the accepted climate change is man-made line have been silenced with the treat that they would not be able to publish anything anymore if they did not shut up, such as in the case of David Bellamy, opposing the “accepted” line. This is the same as what happens when someone comes along an upsets the applecart as regards the studies on the Gypsy People, the Romani. We have seen the same thing there. This is worse then religious bigotry and this is very close to an environmental version of the Inquisition.

Folks, we are still, even in the field of climate change “science” of hypothesis and theories; nothing has been proven as yet.

However, there are some historic points that should be taken into account.

Let's start with the Romans in Britain. During their time they grew dark-red, often referred to as black, grapes, for the making of red wine, all the way up to Hadrian's Wall in the British Isles. The Romans, I would like to add, liked, so the story goes, sweet and potent red wine. To achieve that you need lots of sun and and warmth and a rather long growing season. This would not be possible in Britain now. Therefore, no other explanation is possible than that the climate was warmer in the British Isles then. Oh, when was that? In the first couple of centuries BC. It got rather cold again then though at around the time the Romans packed their bags and left.

Now enter the time of the Vikings on their travels, about the 9th and 10th century.

The History Channel had a special in March 2009 on Greenland. Certain areas of Greenland that were under ice have now melted and it has made it possible for historians to study the Viking settlement of Eric the Red and others that had been on the island before the island was covered in ice.

Greenland is the example for the fact that climate changed like this before, or was it the methane emissions from all those cattle that they kept that did it and caused that warming, or maybe their boats were not powered by sail and oars but had diesel engines instead. Maybe it is time someone read the Viking Sagas.

The Vikings named the island Greenland (Gronland in their language) because is was green and covered with vegetation of all kinds. This story was very interesting especially in the context of the Global Warming/Climate Change issues. The island had trees and grass etc during the Medieval Climate optimum and then iced up during the Little Ice Age in the 14th and 15th century.

This tallies with the story of the Vikings' arrival in Newfoundland and calling the land “Vinland”, that is to say “Land of the Wine”, because of the juicy dark-red grapes they found there.

The Vikings were not just raiders and such like. They were cattlemen and they settled in Greenland because of the great pasture land that was to be found there. When in the centuries after the island iced over and also the Canadian areas became cold they left and returned to Europe, most of them.

Other records too speak of the fact that the period of the 11th and 12th centuries in Europe, for instance, were very warm. There are journals of monks in the French Jura that speak of little boys swimming naked in the rivers (of the Jura) in January and February and of playing about naked. The monks seems to make it a habit – a bad one – to watch small boys, so it would seem. Nevertheless, aside from the fact that small boys were, probably, a lot hardier in those days than they are today, swimming in those rivers in what is winter would not be feasible unless the climate was rather warm. I would not want to swim in those rivers even in summer today. No sir.

And after those times we suddenly see a change again and the northern regions are being abandoned by settlers, whether this was Newfoundland and Labrador by the Vikings or Greenland.

But, I know, it is not going to make one iota of a difference to list all those periods of warm and cold; the eggheads will continue with their pratter that global warming, aka climate change, is man-made due to CO2 emissions, etc., and with their hidden agenda. The latter is which? Well, if we but knew. Suspicion, however, must go to the attempt of controlling where people can live and work by removing their right to personal transport in the form of the motorcar.

Maybe someone also should take a close look at Australian findings that state that the temperatures of the Earth have not risen for the last 6 or so years and have indeed plateaued out. Even the IPCC's president accepted the findings from that university in Australia. Shame that he and his ilk then continue to spout the stuff about “if temperatures are going to rise by this or that” - if they have plateaued and not risen by even a fraction then they are not going to do so, more than likely.

Having said that that does not mean, however, that the sea levels will not rise whether or not the temperatures will. They will, simply because of the fact it is now warmer than it was and thus the ice will continue to melt. That particular problem is not going to go away, regardless. Not until the sea ice freezes again and that will mean the temperatures will have to drop rather significantly.

The Earth's climate has been changing forever and a day and the problem is that, if it is natural phenomenon, then we have no way of stopping it. So, what now? We have to learn to live with it as our ancient ones did when it was warm and when it got to a mini ice age again.

The fact is, whether the eggheads with a hidden agenda want to believe it or not, the climate of the world has been changing about every 1000 years or so. Accept it that we may not be able to stop it. We have to live with it. And this is where the problem comes in. All effort is concentrated on “combating climate change and greenhouse gas emissions” and no one seems to look at what we are going to do if we cannot stop anything.

That does not mean that we should not stop living the way we do, for that way is way beyond unsustainable.

We have to even more than ever conserve energy and especially water. Our wastage of water also greatly contributes to sea level rises, more so, more than likely than any melting of ice.

We must, regardless of whether or not climate change, global warming, or whatever we may wish to call it, is caused by CO2 and other so-called greenhouse gas emissions or not, move over to a sustainable lifestyle, all of us.

Sustainability must be the watchword in everything that we do and the three “Rs” or even more “Rs” than that and other activities must become second nature and habit for us.

Looking at every item that we wan t to consign to the trash bin more than once with the thoughts of “what can I use this for rather than throwing it”, “what could I, or some other crafty person make from this”, etc. Only then should we put it into the appropriate recycling bins and not before.

Oh dear. I digressed again a little towards the end, I see. Now, how did we get here?

Oh yes! The established climate science community and the advocates of man-made climate change think that all of us who think a little different on that matter are in fact climate change deniers and are therefore to be considered as mentally ill and in need of immediate treatment. “Ve ar vrom ze gavernment ent ve ar hier to helk yu” (sorry for my bad German accent).

I for one do not deny it happening, I know it is happening; I question, and so do many others, as to whether it has anything to do what man has done, and historical evidence points to the fact that the Earth has always gone through such cycles, and if it is not man-made then what do we do. We must then find ways of how to live with it in the same way as we must learn to live with Nature rather than always trying to fight Her. Only in living in harmony with Nature can even hope to survive and that calls for a big reduction in our environmental footprint and our impact on the Earth.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009


New technologies provide solution

SADDLE BROOK, NJ, March 23, 2009
: Ever wonder where those Styrofoam® school cafeteria trays end up? Not to mention those Styrofoam coffee cups. What about the Styrofoam packaging that comes with appliances, such as TVs and computers? For most of America, they get tossed into the garbage and hauled to the landfill. But why. . . they take up valuable space in landfills, and take years to decompose.

In Florida, an Innovative Waste and Reduction Grant between the State and RecycleTech Corporation is attempting to stop the flow of Expanded Polystyrene (Styrofoam®) into landfills. Awarded in 2008, the grant has placed RecycleTech’s EPS processing machines in several counties and businesses throughout Florida.

Since the first unit was placed in June of 2008, over 1,607,400 cubic feet of landfill space has been saved. This amount is equivalent to 423 fifty-three-foot trailers loaded with expanded polystyrene foam.

Environmentalists have no love for polystyrene, claiming that, “it often ends up as litter and has become notorious for breaking up into pieces that choke animals and clog their digestive systems.” (source: Earth Resource web site)

Clean post-industrial and consumer packaging, expanded polystyrene (EPS), is being disposed of into landfills at alarming rates. The low density of EPS increases the transport costs of these materials as a waste product for the generator. EPS has historically been a waste stream that was not recycled due to the low cost/benefit ratio of the processes that were available. In the past, equipment designed to process EPS was either too expensive or large and cumbersome, requiring significant floor processing space.

Recent improvements in technology have made the recycling of expanded polystyrene a practicality. Process equipment can reduce the volume of polystyrene 90 times, using a special heat extrusion method that melts and compresses the polystyrene into a solid, heavy ingot. The block becomes the base raw material in the production of other plastic products such as plastic picture frames or soles for shoes and the backs to CD jewel cases. “This process eliminates polystyrene from the waste stream,” says Howard Adams, General Manager of RecycleTech, a New Jersey-based company that has developed and refined the process. RecycleTech’s XT 500 consists of a Crusher, Conveyor and an Extruder capable of processing 500 lbs. of EPS per hour.

RecycleTech was formed in 2005 to address the issue of polystyrene recycling through technology. The company has produced a line of equipment which shreds and processes via heat, polystyrene and other plastics into a solid ingot. RecycleTech will purchase the condensed ingot from the customer to close the loop and keep EPS out of the waste stream. With customers and plants in the US, Korea, New Zealand, Ecuador and China, RecycleTech has become the leader in polystyrene processing equipment.


Governor Schwarzenegger Launches the California Green Corps

State To Utilize Federal Economic Stimulus Funds & Public-Private Partnerships For Green Jobs Training

Sacramento, Ca., March 2009: Immediately after meeting with President Obama's Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis in Sacramento to discuss federal economic stimulus funding and job creation, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today launched the California Green Corps. Building up communities and the state's green workforce, the California Green Corps will place at-risk young adults aged 16-24 into jobs in California's emerging green economy.

"President Obama and I share similar priorities right now when it comes to helping the economy rebound and creating a greener California and America," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "In California we will utilize federal economic stimulus funds and public-private partnerships to help stimulate our economy while initiating actions to improve our environment. Green jobs are exactly what our economy and environment need right now - and the California Green Corps targets that need while helping at-risk young adults realize a brighter future."

Investing at least $10 million in federal economic stimulus funding from the U.S. Department of Labor and an additional $10 million from public-private partnerships, the initial phase of the California Green Corps will consist of a 20-month pilot program reaching at least 1,000 of California's at-risk young adults. The program will consist of a minimum of 10 regional Green Corps throughout the state - with at least one regional Green Corps located in each of California's nine economic regions. All programs will be public-private partnerships that include green job training, a stipend, an educational requirement and community service.

To help ensure the success of the Green Corps, it will be housed under CaliforniaVolunteers - an agency in a unique position to leverage federal economic stimulus funding and to work with public-private partnerships and across state agencies.

This program furthers the goals of California's Green Collar Jobs Council which was created when the Governor signed Assembly Bill 3018 in September 2008. The Council is charged with developing a comprehensive approach to address the workforce needs associated with California's emerging green economy.

Source: Office of the Governor of California

The Green Agenda – Are We Engaging the Consumer?

One Day Conference at Kingston University
April 22nd 2009

The rise and rise of the green agenda is creating an ever increasing numbers of green initiatives, CSR projects, local and national government proposals. Almost all organisations – both commercial and non commercial - want to establish their green credentials and communicate them to the consumer.

But what do consumers themselves think about this? Are they listening? And how does the green agenda really impact on them? In order to answer these questions we need to go beyond the familiar and well trodden paths that lead so often to ‘green wash’. We need to explore ways of delivering green credentials in ways that are authentic, motivating and transformational for the consumer.

In order to explore these issues, Kingston University has brought together a number of leading experts from a wide range of sectors – manufacturing, retailing, NGO’s and a number of consultancies. Speakers include Kirsten Reeves (Defra), Prof Elizabeth Shove (ESRC Sustainable Development Fellow), Julia Clarke (Tate and Lyle), Louise Adams (Innocent), and Pete Askew (GoodBrand).

More information and registration go to:

Typhoon Green Pan from Lakeland – Product Review

Go Green In Your Kitchen

Review by Michael Smith

If you’re keen to pick eco-friendly products then check out these beautifully designed pans – must-haves for a greener kitchen!

The pans are crafted from recycled aluminium and the manufacturing process uses less energy, making them the ideal choice for eco-conscious cooks, whatever is on the menu.

Using recycled aluminium also means that no new Bauxite needs to be mined in order to produce “virgin” aluminium. A great plus for sure, giving old aluminium a second life.

In fact, aluminium is a metal that can be nigh on indefinitely recycled, similar to stainless steel, though, I believe, the latter's properties for that are a litle surperior to aluminium.

The Kyoto range is coated with Thermolon, a ceramic-based non-stick covering which contains fewer chemicals, gives easy-release for food, is easy to care for. Please note: Do not use metal utensils with this pan. The non-stick coating will get damaged if you do.
Thermolon non-stick coating is manufactured PFOA-free and in an environmentally friendly way, resulting in 60% less CO2 emission, according to a statement by the manufacturer. The coating also PTFE-free and therefore does not “off-gas”, that is to say, does release any toxic fumes during the heating process, unlike other coatings one could mention but better does not.

The packaging of the pan, bar the plastic bubble wrap of the handle, is cardboard made of post-consumer paper in a bleach-free process.

Typhoon Green Pan Kyoto Range - 20cm ref 12909, £21.52, 24cm ref 12910, £25.44, 28cm ref 12911, £29.35

One word of advice: Do not, under any circumstance, use metal utensils in this kind of pan and also do not use any abrasive scourer, whether metal or other.

Well, I have tested the frying pan that arrived here, the 20cm one, and I must say that I am very impressed. Please the reader might like to note that I am not easily impressed by anything but. I am a lover of fried egg sandwiches and we all know how eggs stick to a pan, even one coated with the material that was developed for space flight (get what I am talking about?), but here there is no sticking whatsoever. In fact the eggs float in the pan while being cooked to perfection without burning. Wow! The best fried egg sandwich I have had for year.

The pan heats up quickly and cooks extremely well and evenly, making for well-cooked food. With the egg there was absolutely no burning but then I must admit that I did follow the full advice and used Olive Oil for frying.

Unlike many other pans that I have used and tested with different non -stick coatings and none that appear to have problems with the use of Olive Oil none of these exist, so it would appear, with the Typhoon Green Pan.

Needless to say, I guess, that this pan may be in daily use for my fried egg sandwiches and such.

Another great product from Lakeland and a great green product too seeing it is made from 100% recycled aluminium.

Oh, and no, Lakeland do not pay me for writing this; just in case you wonder. Chance would be a fine thing but...

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

The effects of climate change on vegetation affected by the weather?

by Michael Smith

“The clock of climate change is ticking ever faster towards midnight. We are simply not reacting quickly enough” HRH The Prince of Wales

A very interesting statement by His Royal Highness but the question is, is climate change something we have any influence over... even though this may not be completely to discussion in this piece.

Climatological and environmental research has led scientists to expect global warming and other climate changes to occur within the next few decades. The causes seem to be man-made, so it is claimed. I say purposely “so it is claimed” for the Earth's climate has been going through these patterns, around every thousand or so years, for ever and a day.

One question is what influence, if any, a warmer climate will have on flora and vegetation in the areas where we live, regardless of where that may be.

The most important ecological results of these effects is higher temperatures. Cities are “heat islands” or “hot sports” on the surface of the Earth. How much higher the temperature is depends very much on the size of the city; the difference can reach 12degC on clear days, or 1degC to 2degC in yearly mean temperature. Climatic conditions within a city can vary considerably, depending on such factors as an area's location within the city; its type of construction and paving; its density of buildings and the emanation of heat from them and especially, its distance from large tracts of vegetation.

Different climate zones, usually more or less concentric, can be distinguished within a city. A city's internal heat islands usually coincide with its built-up areas, but changes in wind direction can temporarily heat other areas as well. The warmer climate in cities is associated with the following:

A shorter none growing season (time between first and last frost) and less severe frosts

A reduction in the number of frost days (to nearly half the normal amount and snow days.

This warmer climate has the following effects on the vegetation in cities: a longer growing season (e.g., in Vienna, by about 10 to 20 days yearly) a shift in phenological phases.

Urban areas of central Europe are experiencing a retreat of native species and archaeophytes. Ate the same time they are and will continue to be centers of introduction and have an abundance of newcomers. The origin of those new species is primarily the warmer regions of Europe, Asia and the Americas.

There must be a few questions here that one must look at. One of those would be: is this all really such a band thing? Could we not make use of such climatic advantages and, for instance, use roofs and other spaces within towns and cities where to grow vegetables that could do with a longer growing season or simply in order to supply the demand by people for local foods.

Certainly there are ways of utilizing cities too for a variety of purpose of growing foods and this is being done already in some places. We just need more of that. There are enough unused spaces, including roofs, that could be utilized.

While there then would be food grown locally the growing of such plants would also reduce the temperatures then in those heat islands of the city somewhat, of that we can be more or less certain.

In addition to the food we should also add trees to the cities and towns, as those especially would reduce the heat and, if fruit trees, could also add to the food and reduce the food miles of fruit and vegetables in the shops.

Most cities and towns do have municipal parks and some even municipal woods and forest. Those could also be utilized for wood production even and especially as a climate controller. Burning wood is carbon neutral as the wood burned for heating and power generation only releases that amount of carbon dioxide that is has stored over its lifetime. Leaving fallen trees to rot, however, releases both carbon dioxide and also methane, the latter being more dangerous a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, without giving any benefit to us. Hence we need to have to return to the old ways of managing woods.

But, I digressed again a little.

However, trees in cities and plants of various kinds can have a beneficial impact of the local climate of those and can reduce the impact of any climate change that may be happening.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009

Using trees in public spaces

by Michael Smith

The environmental, economic and social benefits of trees are well known, I should think, and have also been well enough documented in many places.

Trees have an immense role to play in the built environment and we have been neglecting this for too long. If we look at the towns that were created by the likes of Rowntree and Cadbury they incorporated a great deal of trees in their design, because it was obvious to them that trees benefit people. The same was done during the slum clearances of, say, Bermondsey under the involvement of Dr. Salter. Why we ever nigh on went away from it beats me, and I should assume many others who are passionate about trees, in the urban and other environments.

The location of trees and and the benefits they bring, can be secured for future generations by influencing the planning, design, construction and management of our urban infrastructure and spaces.

The role of the planner, architect and urban designer is crucial in allowing trees to remain an essential component of pubic life and the life of our towns and cities. The numbers of trees planted, including within new developments, is much less relevant and is much less of an issue than the quality and scale of the trees planted.

As far as cities are concerned it is the larger landscape species that confer the greatest benefit to a city. This especially in terms of attractiveness, stature, creating a sense of place and, crucially, for casting deep shade and cooling our buildings, public squares and meeting places in future.

Such trees must be, as indicated, of a good quality and of that kind that already has attained a certain height and strength. On cannot simply go and plant forest nursery stock of the kind that is used in woodland and forest planting and expect them to grown and do something.

Trees, as any forester knows, take a long time to grow to any stature that will give shade and also small trees may not survive the rigors of town and city, and this includes vandalism.

I am sure that most of us who have any dealing with this subject know far too well that as soon as you have planted some young trees somewhere, whether in a park or open space or by the side of the road, that this is like a red rag to a bull fort the young hooligans and they go an try to inflic as much damage as they possibly can.

Large stature trees are not as easily affected by such actions as are small saplings and hence the recommendation for larger landscaping species of trees, ideally tub grown.

The management of such trees, as well as the trees in parks and other public open spaces in towns and cities must be approached in a new way too. It should, in my opinion, in the same way as in other European Union countries, be done by city forestry departments and if and when trees have to be felled for whatever reason or when trees fall in parks they should be fed into the “food chain” so to speak. That is to say that they should be marketed for the good of the parks and open spaces, whether this be for firewood or for furniture lumber.

Residential areas should enjoy tree canopy cover of at least 25 per cent to alleviate the impacts of climate change, with 15 per cent canopy cover in mixed-use or commercial areas.

This should mean more planting of trees in parks, open spaces, car park areas, etc.; avenues of trees again in residential areas where, in the not so distant past they had been removed for reasons of overshadowing people's homes and gardens. And this is certainly not before time.

In this context it would be nice to also goo back to the avenues of fruit trees that used to line the roads all across the counties and which were in fact harvested for the common good. Our ancestors were not as stupid as many of the modern folks might like to think. While they may not have had the modern technology we have today they knew what Nature had to offer and how to make use of Her gifts. Time we had a little trip back to the future, so to speak, and took some leaves out of the old ones' books.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009