Let's have a jar

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Let's have a jar is often heard as a statement among the working classes in Britain when they talk about having a beer.

old timer with glass jarI am now going out on a limb to say that this saying originates with the fact that the people used to use, well, yes, glass jars as drinking vessels as they did not have the money to buy drinking glasses.

Still today in the American backwoods the moonshiner may offer you a jar of his finest and you can bet that the jar is just that, namely a small glass jar used as a glass. And why not?

It is amazing how, I find, by just looking closer at a common phrases in a language we can come to understand their possible origin and it was common in the early part still of the twentieth century, and even until about the late 1950s (and later still probably) to find homes in the countryside using only repurposed glass jars as everyday drinking vessels. After all they can free with stuff you bought.

Maybe, in this time of recession and austerity (and the recession, despite the claims of being over is far from so), it is time to rediscover this kind of frugality (I have never given it up, mind you) and make use of such things in our daily lives rather than spending money on glasses.

While, today, it is true, drinking glasses and such can be had for little money but a Pound is still a Pound to me and I rather have it in my pocket than in the form of a glass and the ones to repurpose I have paid for anyway by buying the stuff that was in it. Why should I throw it away, even if it is the recycling bin?

Let's rethink waste and think frugality...

© 2013

Aldi's statement on GM foods

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Genetically Modified (GM) foods

aldi-logo1We know that GM food is controversial and that many of our customers don't want to eat it. That's why we have a 'No GM' policy that requires all of our own label products to be free from GM ingredients.

https://corporate.aldi.co.uk/en/responsibility/resources-for-our-products/genetically-modified-foods/

cornIf Aldi can have such a policy, being a discounter, we can but wonder why no other supermarket chain, as far as I can see, in the UK (and elsewhere), is prepared to go to the same length to do this.

Unfortunately neither Aldi nor any other store chain can extend this to others than their own label products as (other) food manufacturers will not play fair when it comes to this issue in the same way as, for reasons of costs, they will happily, until found out, use horse meat disguised as beef. All for profit and the same goes for using GMOs in foods. The profit in the latter case, more than likely, comes from the brown envelopes offered by the manufacturers of those ingredients in the same way that they, so it would seem, give nice sums to politicians in return for their support of GMOs.

It is time the system got changed and the people really had a say in what they want to eat but that, as we can see by the rulings of the EU is a definite no, no. The powers-that-be now rule what we can eat and even what we can – legally – grow in our own gardens and allotments for food.

We don't need a new government; we need a new system.

© 2013

Is it time to rethink our communications?

Is it time to rethink how we communicate and what means we use?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the light of the government surveillance of Internet traffic, etc., it may be time to rethink how we communicate with one another and which steps to take to regain our privacy.

When it comes to letters and especially emails the use of ciphers may have to be considered once again to stop the authorities spying on the content of such messages.

dead drop1However, any algorithm-based and especially computer-generated codes and cyphers can be broken by the same machines that generate them. It has been shown, though, that messages as were created by espionage agencies during the World Wars, the Cold War, and already before, are, basically, uncrackable by computers. The message found on the leg of a dead carrier pigeon from the time of WWII in 2012 in Britain and which GCHQ and other have admitted they will never able to crack as they cannot understand what the code is based on. It could appear that that particular cypher is based on a book that both the sender and recipient had and the code based on that.

The 5-figure code thus created never repeats the same number for the same letter or word and thus is, basically, uncrackable, at least not in a short space of time, not even by the most powerful computers.

Both emails and letters have been and are subject to intercept by the like of the NSA, GCHQ and other spy agencies and while emails will arrive at the recipient letters may not or are also subject to intercept and then delivery, slightly delayed.

While, in theory, law enfarcement (no, this is not a typo) do require a warrant to intercept mail (and this goes also for telephonic communications) the truth is a different one and intercept without warrant happens rather all too frequently.

We can always, nowadays, take it for granted that the authorities will take it upon themselves, claiming they have to act to prevent terrorist attack, to read the letters (and other postal communications) of people who they deem to fall into the terrorist category, and this could even simply be journalists and bloggers.

So other ways needs to be found and used to prevent such intercepts.

Here we may have to reconsider, and I use that word deliberately, the use of couriers and dead letter drops.

Such couriers, as in the days of the coffee houses of old and the penny post, could just be someone who travels to a certain location where he or she either drops a letter or package off at an address or, better still, some other collection point. In the days of the penny post such a drop off point was another coffee house, obviously, where the recipient would visit daily or every so often and then take receipt of his mail.

It is a sad state of affairs that in a so-called free society one has to even consider such steps despite the postal law that states that tampering – and that includes the agencies – with the mail in any shape or form is a felony. It would appear that the law only applies to ordinary mortals and the agencies deem themselves above the law and, apparently, are treated in such a way as well by the law.

Every citizen is, in our society, which is supposed to be free, regarded as a terrorist and criminal, so it would appear, considered guilty until he or she can prove him- or herself innocent and every contact one may have and correspond and communicate with, whether by email, mail, telephone or social media is considered a co-conspirator.

It has to be assumed that even if the authorities are not reading each and every mail and email the details of sender and recipient are being recorded and archived “just in case”.

Dead letter drops – and no, you don't have to kill the letter first – can be many kinds of locations and I am sure that we all have seen such in use in spy movies or read about them in the appropriate kind of books. But dead letter drops were not just used by spies but also by others who had to operate in one way or the other clandestinely and it would appear that in our society today we all will have to send much of our communications in one or the other clandestine way.

Other ways of such communications are letters (and emails) that appear totally normal stating, for instance, that “Uncle Jim's cow has a new calf”, but the true meaning being only known to the sender and the recipient. Such messages were used, by radio broadcast via the BBC in those days, for the resistance and SOE agents in occupied France.

Telephonic communications cannot, unless one has a serious end-to-end encryption VoIP system, be considered secure at all and cell phone communications not at all. All must be regarded as being monitored and thus we must either work out codes with the other side or, on the other hand, be careful what we say and how we say things.

The spy agencies of our various countries, external and internal, employ computer programs – Echelon and Carnivore being just two of them – that scan in real time for so-called key words and the list of those words is available on the Internet on more than one location. The mere use, in email or telephone call, of such a key word or several of them will immediately trigger the program to intercept and record the communication and may render the parties subject to investigation and further surveillance.

Government and its agencies are definitely out of control and no change in government will make the slightest difference. It would appear that, while we are all being considered terrorists and criminals we will have to make the change and change the system, not the government.

© 2013

Weeding tools

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

What do monks and gardeners have in common? They spend much of their time on their knees.

Where monks spend this time in prayer gardeners spend this time battling weeds and often the only way to do that is, simply, by doing it by hand and kneeling is part of this exercise.

hoof-pick1While some weeds are beneficial and many even are edible others are a nuisance and thus must be removed if our plants, especially our vegetables, are to thrive and, as said, often the only way to do that is removing those plants in the wrong place, aka weeds, by hand.

The fingers may be able to do some of the work there are definitely times, and I know that for certain, when weeding tools are called for. Many gardeners will use trowels or hand forks to loosen the ground and then pull the weeds by hand and, yes, that does work. Others, on the other hand, and pardon the pun, swear by the use of a weeding claw, much like the old-time cultivators.

To a degree, as with many gardening tools, it is a case of horses for courses but, as far as I am concerned, the best tool for hand weeding plant beds of any kind is a wire weeder, sold under the name of Wonder Weeder, but which can be made by easy DIY, or substituted with a hoof pick.

I have made my own wire weeders and do, more often than not though, use an old hoof pick for this purpose.

The advantage of a wire weeder or hoof pick to loosen the soil and pick out weeds is that you do not have to lay the tool aside when picking the weeds up with the hand and disposing off them into a trug, for instance. The tool just rests inside the palm of the hand while picking and then is ready for use again straight away. Saves time.

There are, no doubt, times when you have to remove a larger weed, or one with a deep root that has become rather established and other tools are required, whether this the hand fork, trowel, or a weed removal tool such as Grampa's Weeder or the Fiskars Weed Puller W52 or W82.

In general, however, a wire weeder is all you need, with the other tools as a back up

© 2013

Fracking will not get economy growing

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In response to the announcement the British Geological Survey on the quantity of shale gas underneath Lancashire on Thursday, June 27, 2013 Greenpeace said, and rightly so, that it could lead to a surge in exploration activity across the UK, bringing increased traffic, noise and flaring to communities, while threatening house prices.

According to Greenpeace research almost two thirds of England has been earmarked for potential fracking, and local opposition, particularly in Conservative constituencies, is expected to be fierce. Local hostility in Balcombe, West Sussex is already delaying the fracking process, with the Campaign to Protect Rural England warning of a massive backlash if large areas of countryside are 'transformed into industrial sites'.

Commenting on today’s announcement Lawrence Carter, energy campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “The idea that shale gas is going to get the economy moving again is groundless. There’s a huge difference between the amount of gas in the ground and how much fracking companies will be able to commercially extract. Even if they do manage to get some gas out, the fracking industry’s own research reveals that production wouldn’t reach meaningful levels until well into the next decade. If shale is the answer to Britain’s economic malaise then the Chancellor is asking the wrong question.”

He continued: “Analysts from energy regulator Ofgem, Deutsche Bank and Energy UK are lining up to say that UK shale gas won’t bring down bills for households or businesses. Even the company with the biggest stake in Lancashire shale gas, Cuadrilla, privately admits that it won’t reduce energy prices. It’s alarming that the Chancellor is staking his growth strategy on an industry that doesn’t buy his hype.”

Last month Greenpeace recorded a senior member of Cuadrilla, the company planning to drill in Lancashire, saying the impact of fracking on energy bills would be “basically insignificant”. Its spokesman also said locals in Lancashire were right to be concerned about “well integrity” and increased traffic.

Polling in the Chancellor’s Tatton constituency revealed a majority are opposed to fracking, with widespread concern about noise, disruption, falling house prices and earth tremors. Even more interestingly, 12% of those who voted Tory at the last election said they’d be less likely to do so again should fracking get the go ahead.

Responding to the government ‘s proposed financial package to communities affected by fracking, Lawrence Carter said: "Whilst communities should receive benefits from local energy development, a cash package won’t alleviate concerns about fracking's impact on water supply and house prices."

Once again we can see that this government is lying to the people to get its way and they will do so on any matter that will benefit them and their cronies.

On the same issue Friends of the Earth said that shale gas is not solution to UK's energy challenges.

Friends of the Earth Energy Campaigner Tony Bosworth said: “Shale gas is not the solution to the UK's energy challenges. Its potential has been hugely over-hyped and there's little evidence it will drive down fuel prices.

“Extracting shale gas will have a significant effect on local communities and our environment - the more that's extracted, the bigger those impacts will be.

“The North could be at the heart of Britain's green energy and economic transformation, but not by turning it into another 'gaslands'.

“We need a 21st century energy revolution based on efficiency and renewables, not more fossil fuels that will add to climate change.”

But we have also learned in the speech of the same day by Treasury Secretary Alexander that the government is going to be subsidizing the building of a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point rather than looking properly, following examples in countries such as Germany, at renewables – all kinds of renewables – to meet our energy needs and towards a target of reducing our energy consumption.

In Germany several communities and areas have gone – basically – off-grid, including areas with industry, and those communties have become net suppliers to the grid rather than consumers. Still, however, the UK government keeps telling us that the lights would go out would we put our money on the renewables card.

While nuclear may be considered a low carbon energy source it seems to be forgotten how much carbon is being generated in creating the plants in the first place. And also forgotten seems to be the environmental footprint of the production of the uranium to fuel those reactors. It is not a clean energy source; not by a long shot even, and that is without even considering the issue of nuclear waste. The brown envelope manufacturers are definitely having a field day with the amount of those things that seem to be needed presently in which to package the bribes that are being paid to politicians and government officials. From the tune being played we can see only too well as to who is paying the piper.

© 2013

Green Deal flop - new figures released

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Commenting on the release on Thursday, June 27, 2013 on the first official statistics of take up of the Government's flagship Green Deal scheme for energy efficiency, Friends of the Earth's Warm Homes Campaigner Dave Timms said that the figures are a disaster but not unexpected. “The Green Deal's potential”, he continued, “has been absurdly overhyped by Ministers to cover the fact they didn't have a comprehensive strategy for insulating the UK's cold, expensive to heat homes.”

To which he added: “Saving energy is vital for making energy bills affordable and tackling climate change, but with only four households taking up loans since the Green Deal began, the Government's efforts are falling embarrassingly short.

“Lower interest rates, more incentives and tough regulations on landlords to improve the worst insulated rented homes would all increase the take-up of energy efficiency measures.

“The fuel poor especially have been left in the cold by recent cuts to Government energy efficiency schemes, which must be reversed.”

For the figures on the Green Deal visit DECC's website.

The “greenest government ever” still has not delivered despite all the promises and all the hype that accompanied the statements that were made when the Con-Dem coalition took office.

In fact, instead of real green measures all this government has done is supporting those that are responsible for pollution and the gases that contribute to an acceleration of climate change.

The feed-in tariff was reduced more and more even though the people not even received, in the UK, unlike in Germany and other countries, the wholesale price of electricity of the energy they fed into the grid from their solar or wind installations. A proper return on investment might have caused a great uptake as would have enforcing the legislation that said that no planing permission be required any more for solar PV and small wind installations.

While Whitehall said that it was supposed to be a right to install such local authorities still demanded the planing process and more often than not refused permission.

The “greenest government ever” simply never delivered on its hyped up promises and still does not. It rather supports an energy industry that will leave our children and grandchildren and their children and generations to come a dangerous legacy in the form of nuclear waste.

We do not need a new government; we need a new system.

© 2013

Marks and Spencer calls for plan to save bees

Marks and Spencer has on Thursday, June 27, 2013 called on the Government to create a Bee Action Plan. The retailer joins businesses such as Co-op and B&Q, key scientists, 200 MPs from all parties, and tens of thousands of the British public asking for action on the issue.

The call comes ahead of a summit meeting of key stakeholders on Friday, June 28, at which Environment Minister Lord de Mauley is expected to outline the Government's plans to protect bees from decline.

Friends of the Earth has seen an early draft of the Government's plans, and fears tomorrow's announced proposals will be too weak.

The environment charity says urgent action is needed to reverse bee decline and protect all kinds of bees, whose numbers have declined dramatically over recent years due to disease, chemicals, loss of habitat, and poor weather.

Bees are vital for pollinating our fruit and vegetables. Without them, it would cost more than £1.8 billion per year to pay farmers to hand-pollinate crops.

Mike Barry, Head of Sustainable Business, Marks and Spencer, said: "We need bees to produce good quality fresh produce at the right price. At M&S we are already working with our own suppliers to boost bee populations.

“But we need a comprehensive set of measures from Government to ensure that there is help for bees across the countryside and in our towns and cities - that's why we are backing the call for a National Bee Action Plan.”

Friends of the Earth's Executive Director Andy Atkins said: "With leading retailers like Marks and Spencer joining the call for a Bee Action Plan, our voice is louder than ever.

“Bees are worth more than £1.8 billion to our economy every year - the Government cannot afford to ignore the growing momentum from businesses, scientists, beekeepers and conservation groups who recognise that the time for action is now.

“Ministers must give us a plan that tackles all of the causes of bee decline and keeps bees pollinating our food, gardens and countryside”.

Environment Minister Lord de Mauley will announce the Government's plans to protect bees on June 28 at a Bee Summit hosted by Friends of the Earth alongside Waitrose, the Co-operative and the National Federation of Women's Institutes. The meeting will bring together Government officials, MPs, scientists, farmers, landowners, food retailers and producers to agree on the action required to reverse the decline of all Britain's bees.

Lord de Mauley is under growing public and political pressure to introduce an urgent Bee Action Plan to tackle the worrying decline in UK bees and other pollinators - not just action on managed honeybees. Almost 20,000 people have signed Friends of the Earth's petition for a Bee Action Plan in the last five days, calling on Lord de Mauley to tackle all the threats bees face, such as habitat loss.

Source: Friends of the Earth Trust

Greenpeace response to the Obama climate plan

Commenting on President Obama’s new climate plan, which was announced the other day in a speech in Washington, Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “The President is embracing policies that will excite people around the world, and if the full potential of this plan is realised then we could look back at this speech as a landmark moment. At the very least it sends a huge signal. For years, since the failure of the Copenhagen summit and the onset of the financial crisis, politicians have ignored this issue. Now the world’s most powerful man is saying, “We’re going to talk about climate change again.”

“This speech could be the dawn of a new era in which the White House finally stands up to the fossil fuel giants. We’ll know soon enough, when negotiators next meet at the UN climate talks in Warsaw. If this speech is to mean anything, if Obama is serious about challenging the dominance of the oil, gas and coal lobby, then the US diplomats who go to Poland will be the first to push for real action instead of holding the world back.”

Obama plan can be read here: http://thehill.com/images/stories/news/2013/06_june/25/obama-climate-plan.pdf

Source: Greenpeace UK

The role of the police

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

If you think that the police's job is to serve you and protect you then I suggest that you rethink that rather quickly. While the shield of most police forces in the USA does state “to serve and protect” the truth is a totally different one.

usapoliceIn a ruling some years ago the United State Supreme Court stated that it is not, repeat not, the role and duty of the police to protect and serve the public but that the role of the police is – simply – to enforce the laws.

Anyone who still thinks the role of the police is to do anything other than defend class privilege from the threat of economic and social justice after following events in Turkey needs their head examined.

And Turkey is but one example in a more or less crack pot regime and country anyhow. Demonstration have been almost as brutally smashed in Germany recently and in the UK time and again.

The task of the police today – predominately – appears to the protection of the ruling class and the protection of the 1% from the 99%. Shame that the majority of the officers who use force against the 99% have not, yet, realized that they are – themselves – part of that number and not of the other section.

While the police, such as the Bow Street Runners, from which the Metropolitan Police grew, as well as that of the Surete Nationale, was to keep the people safe from harm and crime things seem very different today.

If, as stated in the ruling by the SCOTUS the police's job is but to enforce the law and not to serve and protect then they are being used to enforce laws, whether just or unjust, and that is not what they are for.

As, because it is, so we are told, the job of the police to protect us from crime and harm, we, the people, are not allowed to protect and defend ourselves and have all self-defense rights (and arms) taken from us, but then the highest court of the land rules that the job of the police is to enforce the law and not protection of people and property, what does that make the people?

The answer is simple, is it not... slaves. Or, in fact, free as a bird, outside the law, who can be set upon by villains and law equally without protection.

© 2013

City Bike Company Brooklyn Cruiser Partners with Keep-A-Breast™ Foundation for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Urban Bike Company Will Donate 100% of Proceeds of Limited Edition Bike

gI_128351_Willow_pinkBrooklyn, NY : City Bike company Brooklyn Cruiser today announced it will be partnering with Keep-A-Breast foundation, which is a youth-focused organization that helps to raise awareness about breast cancer prevention. As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), Brooklyn Cruiser will be offering a limited edition Pink Willow 3 Three Speed step through bike. One hundred percent of proceeds of sales will go to the Keep-A-Breast Foundation.

“When we were looking for a partner for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Keep-A-Breast Foundation caught our attention as we loved their fresh approach and mission to educate a younger audience about the importance of prevention and early detection of breast cancer,” said Brooklyn Cruiser President Ryan Zagata. “We’re thrilled that we will be able to contribute to a cause that will help many generations to come,” he added.

“Encouraging a healthy lifestyle is an extremely important part of the educating a younger generation about breast cancer prevention” said Keep A Breast Foundation founder Shaney jo Darden. “We are super excited that Brooklyn Cruiser will be releasing these limited edition pink bikes to benefit Keep A Breast. 30 minutes of exercise can lower your risk for cancer, and what better way than riding a bike!!” she added.

Brooklyn Cruiser’s Limited Edition Willow 3 Three Speed bike will be available online at http://www.brooklyncruiser.com. As with all the company’s online purchases, Brooklyn Cruiser will have the biked shipped and assembled at a local bike shop near the buyer as part of their Buy and Ride program. The bike will retail for $649 plus shipping.

The Keep-A-Breast Foundation is the leading youth-focused, global, nonprofit breast cancer organization. Our mission is to eradicate breast cancer for future generations. We provide support programs for young people impacted by cancer and educate people about prevention, early detection, and cancer-causing toxins in our everyday environment.

Established in 2011, Brooklyn Cruiser mirrors the same iconic qualities of Brooklyn itself - accessibility, durability, and original style. Brooklyn Cruiser commuter bikes are available in single speed, three speed and seven speed models starting at $399. Bikes can be found at retail locations across the United States and in Canada or can be purchased online at http://www.brooklyncruiser.com.

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

Square Foot Gardening Celebrates Thirty Years of Worldwide Success and Goodwill

Mel Bartholomew developed the square foot gardening method thirty years ago, and it has since become the most adopted gardening method in the world. This has led to Bartholomew channeling that success into a nonprofit foundation that has as its goal using the SFG technique to help end world hunger.

gI_75615_Mel in GardenMinneapolis, MN : Is Mel Bartholomew America’s most influential gardener?

With the zeal of a tent evangelist and the precision of a civil engineer, Bartholomew has preached his unorthodox Square Foot Gardening gospel in all corners of the world for more than 30 years. From Africa to South America to practically every Main Street in the USA, he’s hopped onto his soapbox, adorned in a famous straw Panama hat, and delivered the good news: If you follow his method, you can grow more in less space. With well over two million copies of his Square Foot books in print, his message has found its audience.

But to gauge Bartholomew’s influence by book sales alone is to miss most of the story.

The impact of Square Foot Gardening is rooted in two highly unique points. First, the “SFG” method really is revolutionary, in every sense of the word. Prior to it, home gardeners planted exclusively in rows. And row gardening, Bartholomew points out with barely concealed disdain, is a wasteful exercise that is innately “stuck in a rut.” In his world, a garden is a 4 x 4-foot wood box filled with a carefully concocted potting soil he dubs “Mel’s Mix.” Equal parts peat moss, compost and vermiculite, the planting medium discourages weeds while nourishing plants so effectively that they can be sown with much greater density than in soil. The exacting plant spacing is established by dividing the box into one-square-foot grids (hence the name of the method) and growing the number of specimens recommended for each plant type. Based on this, Bartholomew claims that a typical SFG can match the yield of a row garden in only 20 percent of the space and consuming only 10 percent of the water.

The second unique point behind the success of Square Foot Gardening is Bartholomew himself. While many authors work hard to promote their books, Bartholomew engages in a regimen of lectures, workshops, TV shows, personal appearances and ceaseless travel that has a larger point. He literally wants to save the world.

He is convinced that his method of growing edibles can be deployed effectively anywhere in the world where poor soil and scarcity of resources lead to hunger. And he has made this outcome his mission in life, creating a 501(c)3 nonprofit called The Square Foot Gardening Foundation to facilitate the plan. All of the royalties from All New Square Foot Gardening go directly to Foundation, which employs a small staff to run the global outreach program.

To help disseminate the SFG strategy, Bartholomew and the Foundation recruit and train dozens of new certified Square Foot Gardening instructors every year. And, in turn, each instructor conducts classes and workshops attended by thousands of home gardeners who almost uniformly buy into the method. Where most gardeners enjoy learning a new tip or discovering a new cultivar, Square Foot Gardeners embrace a complete methodology and a comprehensive approach to growing that at times seems as much a lifestyle choice as a gardening technique.

The Square Foot Gardening History

Square Foot Gardening had its beginnings, appropriately enough, in a community garden. In 1975, Bartholomew was trying to fill his schedule after retiring from an engineering career. He decided to start a community garden to fill his time (and use his considerable energy). The garden was based on the traditional row method, and the experience quickly became an exercise in frustration. Halfway through the growing season, most of Bartholomew’s fellow gardeners had simply given up in the face of so much work, and the garden was fast in the process of losing the battle against weeds. It made no sense to Bartholomew’s orderly mind, and presented an intriguing problem—one that for a lifelong engineer, needed solving.

“I thought,” he said, “that I had better do some research about why we had failed.”

He realized that row gardening had room for improvement. In his view, it wasted space, resources like water, fertilizer and seeds, and took far too much redundant labor. So he did what any good engineer would do faced with inefficiency: he devised a new system.

Rather than improve soil every year, thin out seedlings each season and weed almost constantly, his method would control the soil culture and confine it to a raised “box.” Rather than long rows, he would plant in a square box divided into 16 individual square foot squares. This revolutionary type of garden would be completely contained in a small area, where the gardener could control it all with much less work than growing in rows required.

As Bartholomew points out, it was a matter of savings. “Traditional row gardening is wasteful start to finish, and I think people have done it for so long, they just don’t question it any more.” But when Bartholomew put together the numbers on his new system, they were thought-provoking to say the least. “Square Foot Gardening is all about saving resources,” he says. “It takes about 10 percent of the water a row garden would use, and a square foot garden produces 100 percent of the harvest in 20 percent of the space of a comparable row garden.”

With benefits that obvious, it’s no surprise that the method quickly caught fire, at first locally, and then nationally. News coverage led to more news coverage. And soon, Bartholomew had more queries for information about the method than he could reasonably respond to. So he decided to write a book that would help others to effectively Square Foot Garden. Square Foot Gardening would go on to become the bestselling gardening book of all time. That book led to a series of TV programs, merchandising and Bartholomew’s founding of the Square Foot Gardening Foundation. He would go on to work with the public school systems in California and Utah to introduce Square Foot Gardening into elementary schools, with an educational program entitled “Square Yard in the Schoolyard.”

By then, Bartholomew had fine-tuned the method, making it even easier, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly. He captured the improvements in a new book, All New Square Foot Gardening (the second, revised edition has just been published by Cool Springs Press). With millions of books sold, the method continues to convert row gardeners everywhere.

The Square Foot Gardening Foundation

Contacted by a think tank a decade ago with the simple question, “How many people could an acre of land feed, using the Square Foot Gardening method?” Bartholomew put his engineer hat on once again, sat down, and came up with a plan. “I worked out a plan for third-world countries where you could feed 500 people from just one acre of land, using the SFG system.” Shortly thereafter, the Square Gardening Foundation was launched.

But not content to plan, Bartholomew has traveled extensively to bring the message to everyone who will listen. The last two decades have seen him travel to parts as widespread as India, South America, and Europe. He’s worked directly with local poor populations in setting up both Square Foot Gardens and SFG training programs, all with an eye to actually wiping out world hunger.

Bartholomew’s grand plan would be an easier road with governmental or non-governmental support. But Bartholomew isn’t holding his breath. The SFG method has yet to be widely embraced by either the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s extension service, or the mainstream gardening community. “Unfortunately the government still doesn’t recognize SFG as a viable method. They’ve been teaching row gardening for so long, that the department of agriculture and the county extension services don’t even list it Square Foot Gardening as a method of growing. Sometimes, some innovative agents teach it, but it’s not officially recognized,” Bartholomew says. He’s at a loss to explain why, but offers, “I just think it’s just common sense. And I’m afraid it’s too simple for the majority of those in power to see. What they need is an expensive, big, monumental project. Something splashy that they can talk to voters about.”

So the SFG movement continues to spread, one gardener at a time. If Bartholomew has his way, eventually he’ll convert every gardener worldwide. Until then, keep a watch on your own backyard (or community garden, or park, or church, or school) because the revolution could show up just about anywhere at any time. All it takes is a few square feet after all.

Want more information on Square Foot Gardens or Mel Bartholomew? Visit The Square Foot Gardening Foundation at http://www.squarefootgardening.com.

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

Brighten up the Summer – English Woodlands promoting trees with Summer Foliage

With summer finally coming into its own, English Woodlands are looking to remind customers about the beauty and variety available through summer foliage, not just fruits and flowers.

logoEast Sussex, UK : When making buying decisions, people tend to gravitate towards some of the more overt, standout features of trees and plants. Early flowers and late fruits are closely scrutinised, weighing up the aesthetic and functional possibilities until a satisfying conclusion is reached.

This month, English Woodlands are pulling back from this to focus on a sometimes overlooked characteristic, quality of summer foliage. Once the flowers have faded summer foliage defines the look and feel of a tree for some months, and in the right species can prove to be a truly standout feature. English Woodlands have a number of species just coming into season noted for their unique and varied foliage, and are looking to promote them in the coming months.

Visiting their blog, customers and trade professionals alike can gather information on varies genera and species singled out for the value of their foliage. Acer platanoides ‘Royal Red’ and Acer Platanoides ‘Princeton Gold’ are identified for their impressive stature and tolerance, with beautiful deep red and bright yellow summer foliage, respectively, particularly effective when planted in combination.

The company goes on to discuss species like Sorbus aria Lutescens, or ‘Whitebeam’, which boasts rare, silvery foliage throughout the summer, fully capable of standing out in a crowd. The Japanese maple Acer Palmatum ‘Garnet’ is instead noted for its deep purple hues. Japanese maples stock circulates regularly, and consumers are encouraged to call the company if they have any interest in the group or other questions to post.

With all the new trees and shrubs coming into season, English Woodlands will be promoting through their blogs and newsletters, so keep coming back regularly to find out more.

English Woodlands are now one of the United Kingdom’s leading tree suppliers, having been established in 1919. Through a highly trained team of expert staff and enthusiastic blogging programme they work to keep customers informed of seasonal interest and help their customers satisfyingly complete their planting goals.

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

New WORX 14 in. Cordless Lawn Mower Is Efficient, Lightweight and Easy to Store

The new WORX 14 in., battery- operated lawn mower is an affordable, environmentally friendly choice for urban lawns and homes with small lots. It combines cutting efficiency, instant start, maneuverability and convenient storage all in one package.

gI_125317_WG775_WORX MowerCharlotte, N.C. : The deck of the WORX 14 in. mower is engineered to improve efficiency 40 percent over its predecessor. This has been accomplished by strategic placement of air flow fins on the cutting deck to create greater grass lift, which helps the mower cut grass more efficiently. Equipped with a mulching blade, the 3-in-1 mower deck provides the options of mulching, bagging or discharging grass clippings.

At 33 lbs., the WORX 14 in. mower weighs only half as much as a conventional, gas-powered mower. The compact mower is easy to maneuver and reaches into tight spaces where larger yard machines can’t go. Its comfort-padded handle is fully collapsible for quick space-saving storage.

The battery-operated lawn mower has no pull-cord, gas tank to fill or oil to check. There’s also no extension cord tethering the operator to an electrical outlet. The mower starts instantly every time with the pull of a lever on either the right or left side of the handle.

The mower is powered by a 24-volt, lead-acid battery that lifts out for charging and storage. The battery features a charge level indicator, which is actuated by pressing a red indicator pad.

To charge the battery, it is simply lifted from the mower deck, connected to the charger and plugged into a power outlet. The charger signals “green” when the battery is fully charged, which typically takes 4 to 5 hours. With a full battery charge, the mower can cut up to 6,000 sq. ft. of lawn.

The cordless mower features three height-of-cut adjustments, including 1.8 in., 2.6 in. and 3.3 in. positions. It also has a grass bag level indicator that alerts the operator when the bag is full. The mower’s wheels are rubberized for easy rolling over the terrain.

One battery and charger, mulch insert, rear -discharge chute and 0.85-bushell grass bag are included as standard equipment.

WORX cordless mowers feature 75 percent noise reduction when compared to most gas powered lawn equipment. They also have zero emissions, making them a greener and cleaner solution for the environment.

The WORX 14 in., 24V Mower (WG775, $229.99) is available at http://www.worx.com.

Other WORX mowers include the WORX 14 in., 24V Mower with IntelliCut (WG782, $249.99); 17 in., 24V Mower (WG787, $349.99); 19 in., 36V Mower (WG788, $429.99) and 19 in., 36V Mower (WG789, $499.99). These models are available at http://www.worx.com and retailers including Lowe’s, Menard’s and Amazon.com.

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

The Green Economy Reports: Nicaragua: From Blackouts to Powerhouse

Nicaragua’s thriving, renewable energy program is one of the most ambitious in the world, despite being the second poorest in Latin America, according to The Green Economy.

gI_145768_fair_trade_fine_art_nicaragua-759179Princeton, New Jersey : Nicaragua’s ambitious renewable energy program promotes foreign business investment through tax incentives for foreign investors. International organizations such as the World Bank, International Finance Corporation and many NGOs support the government’s work, hoping to reduce poverty and foreign oil dependency.

As recently as 2006, Nicaragua’s energy production was so poor that 6-10 hour daily blackouts were common occurrences blamed on derelict energy plants and an unreliable electric grid. The country is vulnerable to climate change—already having lost 9% of its agriculture industry—which helps foster the political will necessary to ensure energy development. In only a few years, the Sandinista government increased grid capacity 41%, paving the way to develop the country's immense natural resources.

“The good news is that Nicaragua has an abundance of renewable options, from geothermal to wind, solar to hydro, and biomass as well as waste-to-energy,” according to Maryruth Belsey Priebe, senior editor of The Green Economy. “This, doubtless, is one of the most convincing arguments in favor of renewables development in the country.”

If they continue to increase renewables by 10% annually, Nicaragua will be an energy leader in its region and a model for other small countries seeking energy independence. Attractive investment opportunities, continued growth in the renewables market and prospects of decreased oil dependency make Nicaragua’s future bright.

The Green Economy is an online magazine and website, providing reliable, fact based, in-depth reporting on energy, technology, policy, design and finance.

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

Colle Farmers Market Affirms Need for Organic Farms to Sell Products Online

Colle Farmers Market stresses the need for more organic farms to sell products online and why it could benefit them to market to a larger audience.

gI_102847_colle_logo-01Bohemia, NY : On June 25, Colle Farmers Market, the first national online organic farmers market, stresses the need for more organic farms to sell products online and explains how it could change the way farming works.

Founded last year, Colle Farmers Market is the first organic online farmers market. Though the market is online, it still acts like a traditional physical farmers market where farmers can connect directly with consumers. The bonus of participating online is that it opens up the possibility to reach more customers and allows farmers to expand their market.

According to a representative from Colle Farmers Market, e-commerce is the way of the future and it could be extremely beneficial for farms to sell some products digitally. “With Colle Farmers Market, we’re giving people a way to radically change the farming and agriculture industry by expanding organic food to a larger audience,” the rep says. “There are many people that want to buy fresh, sustainable, affordable organic food, but sometimes it isn’t readily available. We strive to make it accessible to everyone and help small farmers grow.”

By joining an e-commerce platform, the Colle rep says farmers are able to promote their sustainable, organic products to more people while raising brand awareness. “Many consumers are buying products on the Internet, so it would make sense for farmers to go to where consumers are,” he says. “Farmers can make a bigger name for themselves and promote their personal brand.”

The Colle rep says the company is looking for more farmers to be a part of the website to meet the growing demand of fans. “We are confident that our platform will help farmers grow, while assisting in increasing revenue,” he says. “We would like farmers to join the site and see how it can help them.”

Colle Farmers Market is an E-Commerce enabled farmers market community that is passionate about sustainable consumption and responsible conservation. The Colle movement is dedicated to connecting natural product vendors, organic farmers and all people who are living an organic and natural lifestyle.

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

Big ideas change the world - starting with the city

friendsoftheearthlogo1What are the Big Ideas that will change the world? Friends of the Earth is inviting your answers as part of its new project, which launches online on June 24, 2013 with a series of provocations, starting with the future of the city.

Drawing on human ingenuity, creativity and expertise, Friends of the Earth asks what are the practical solutions and interventions needed to shape a better city for the future - and how can tomorrow's cities help deliver quality of life and wellbeing for future city dwellers.

More than half of the world population already live in cities, but what will the urban spaces of the future look like? What do we need to do to make them future-proof, to provide the quality of life we want and to meet the environmental challenges we face.

Will city dwellers learn to share and share alike? London's former Mayor, Ken Livingstone tells Friends of the Earth how sharing things - from power tools to books and ideas - can help make our cities more sustainable.

Different cities face their own unique challenges, so we explore the benefits of cities going it alone, developing their own economies, introducing city-wide taxation, developing their own infrastructure, or legal and political systems. And we ask whether grassroots democracy might hold the key to city living.

City author Leo Hollis tells Friends of the Earth why he think cities are good for you - while Friends of the Earth campaigner Jane Thomas explains what it is that makes the city she lives in great.

Mike Childs, project leader for Big Ideas Change the World, said:

"We know we need to make changes to the way we live on our planet if we're going to dig ourselves out of the mighty big hole we're currently in.

"Big Ideas Change the World is all about identifying how we can do that. We're an incredible species, and by working together, we think we can find a way forward.

"Where better to start than with cities - the places where most of the human population now lives."

Big Ideas Change the World is a three-year collaborative research project, bringing together experts, politicians, academics and individuals to discuss 10 separate topics, starting with cities. To find out more visit here.

Source: Friends of the Earth Trust

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

Becoming an almost vegetarian – A personal story

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There are more reasons than one for my decision to begin the transition to become a vegetarian; presently an almost vegetarian, and none have anything to do with not wanting to kill or eat anything that has been killed.

vegetablesThe first reason for my steps in the direction of almost vegetarian is the fact that unless I know exactly where the meat comes from I do not trust anymore any claims as to what it is and how it was reared and killed. The horse meat in burgers and lasagne, etc., in the EU, including the UK, has made me rethink this and horse for me, as a Romani-Gypsy is taboo. Reason number two is that I wish to live and eat better, lose weight and stay lighter, and also to have less of an impact on the Planet and meat rearing has a large environmental footprint rather.

Having always been fond of vegetables and more or less preferred them over meat really and having great recipes to play with to hand such a transition should not be a too difficult one at all and playing, so to speak, with any recipe I will to make it better still. Often it just takes some additional ingredients such as various herbs and spices, whether fresh, dried or powdered.

Meat was a treat, more or less, when I was growing up with just vegetables and such for most meals and I have never understood why, today, most people insist that they have to have meat at least once a day, though often it is more than just once a day. Once a week it was with us, if we were lucky. Personally I could not afford doing that for starters and it is not only bad for the wallet but also for our health and that of the Planet.

Animals are not the greatest converters of plant protein into food energy either and we are using way too many of our Planet's acreage to feed the meat craze. In fact, we are destroying rainforests for this and for palm oil and both has to stop.

So far I have gone almost vegetarian as I do not wish to waste the meat and meat products that I still have in freezer and pantry by tossing them out. But once those are gone, by presently limiting myself to the occasional meat day only, they are gone and that is going to be it.

Animal protein will still be in my diet after that, however, still as my hens provide me with a good number of eggs per week. So many, in fact, that I cannot actually eat them all unless I would have eggs several times a day. Meat, on the other hand, will no longer feature in my diet after that time. I seriously have gone off the stuff and I believe that our present “love affair”, for lack of a better word, with meat is harming our health and the health of our Planet.

I must say that I am beginning to find that meatless is not at all difficult and meals can be very tasty, tastier even, without than with. But, then again, as said before, I have always loved my vegetables, even as a child, in all shapes and forms.

© 2013

Businesses diversifying into renewables makes sound economic sense, says Opus Energy

Independent energy supplier to UK businesses, Opus Energy, has announced the signing of three new hydro-powered renewable energy generation plants in Scotland.

renewables-hydro

Selcoth Farm Hydro Plant

Steve James, Director - Corporate Solutions, Opus Energy, comments on the new signings: “The renewables division at Opus Energy continues to perform strongly as businesses realise that generating their own renewable power makes sound economic sense, particularly in today’s economic climate. We’re thrilled to be adding hydro-generation to our portfolio.

“We’ve found that many businesses aren’t aware that, by generating renewable power and therefore putting a lower demand on the grid to supply them, they are also cutting down on rising industry charges.”

The first of the new hydro agreements, signed in May 2013, covers two plants - totalling 57kW in size - based at Auchencheyne Farm in Scotland. The third agreement is for a 190kW plant at a Selcoth Farm in Dumfries & Galloway, which is a mixed sheep and aquaculture unit. The scheme will come online June 2013. The plants generate enough power to supply 58 small and medium enterprises.

The plants are Opus Energy’s first hydro-powered generators, and complement its existing portfolio of over 650 businesses that are generating renewable power from wind, solar and anaerobic digestion. Opus Energy supplies its customers with the excess renewable power bought from these generators.

The popularity of wind and solar generation in Opus Energy’s renewables division is in line with a recent survey it conducted of more than 1,000 business owners. Overall, 86% of respondents said their businesses would consider generating renewable power using solar technology. Wind power was identified as another popular choice, with 27% of all respondents saying their businesses would consider it as a source for generating energy.

Steve James concludes: “The survey results were really exciting in showing that businesses are switched on to the idea of generating renewable power. The Opus Energy renewables team supports companies looking to move into renewable generation, in order to help them meet their goals of self-sufficient energy supply and generating additional income. We look forward to using our market expertise to help more businesses in the future.”

The survey is based on YouGov data: December 12th, 2012. Opus Energy works with hydro plants from 30kW in size.

Opus Energy is the UK’s leading business energy supplier. The company employs 485 people over its Northampton and Oxford-based offices.

Opus Energy supplies more than 150,000 business locations across the UK with power. Customers include: White Stuff, Paperchase, Stagecoach, Pizza Hut and Virgin Media.

In addition to supplying energy, Opus Energy also purchases power from over 650 renewable generators in the UK which it then supplies to its customers.

Opus Energy was ranked as the highest-rated provider for small and medium energy users in Datamonitor’s 2012 B2B Customer Satisfaction Survey published in March 2013.

The management team has a 50 per cent stake in the business, while GDF SUEZ holds 30 per cent and Telecom Plus Plc. has 20 per cent. For further information about Opus Energy, please visit www.opusenergy.com

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

Using glass for food storage

Using glass containers for food storage instead of plastic

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

reuse_glass_jars_in_pantryWhen advocating glass containers for storing foods, including leftovers in the fridge, it always amazes me that most people today cannot think further than their wallet.

Invariably there will always be a number of people who will chip in that they would love to change from plastic containers to glass ones but that it is too expensive.

We seem to have become so orientated – or should I say brainwashed – towards consumption that even people wish to think of themselves as “green”, and as “homesteaders” even, cannot think further than buying.

Instead of looking at how much something we need or want costs we should first of all consider as to whether we can reuse or repurpose something for it or make it ourselves by means of upcycling or otherwise.

When it comes to glass containers for use to store food and leftovers I am sure everyone, like myself, has a fair number of glass jars coming into the home on a weekly basis filled with this or that, and in many different sizes; the ideal candidates for storage jars.

Far too many today cannot see, or so at least it would appear, further than their own noses and rather toss such jars into the recycling bin and then look at buying new jars in which to store food.

And then they say that they would like to change from plastic to glass but cannot see how they could afford it as glass is expensive.

I find it amazing that apparently so many people can no longer think straight like our parents and grandparents did. No glass jar from pickles, jam, mustard, etc. was ever thrown out. They would be used again and again. The attitude was – and they understood the fact – of our old ones was that they had paid for those jars in the purchase price and were going to put them to use, and that indeed they did.

The kitchen and the larder were full of different sized reused glass jars holding all manner of dry foods, etc., such as beans, peas, rice, pasta, flour, sugar, coffee, tea, you name it, and that was just in those two places, and as far as food storage goes.

Such glass jars also were employed to hold buttons and other things for sewing projects, seeds for the garden, nuts, bolts, screws, washers, and much, much more, and oh, candy (most important for a child).

Reuse of everything was the norm back then and that not just for glass jars. Biscuit tins, cigar boxes, show boxes and much more, all found a second or third use. But, since the last two decades of the twentieth century, or thereabouts, most seem to have lost this mindset and can only think of buying what they want and need.

© 2013

Stripping the Gangmasters Licensing Authority of powers will put vulnerable workers at risk

Stripping the Gangmasters Licensing Authority of powers will put vulnerable workers at risk, says TUC

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

glaThe Trades Union Congress (TUC) warned on Friday, June 21, 2013 that government plans to strip the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) of powers to regulate the forestry sector, land agents and cleaning contractors operating in the food processing industry would put thousands of vulnerable workers at risk.

Under the new proposals, which could be introduced later this year, agencies in these sectors would no longer have to get a GLA licence before they start operating or be subject to inspections by the GLA.

The GLA will also no longer be able to protect the rights of apprentices supplied through an apprentice training agency, people employed through the government's work programme, or volunteers.

With more than one in four apprentices already paid below the minimum weekly rate, removing some trainees from the GLA remit sends completely the wrong signal about apprenticeships being paid decently and offering a proper introduction to the world of work, says the TUC.

Ministers also say they want 'lighter regulation' when it comes to initial inspections by the GLA, which the TUC says could lead to further abuses in sectors already covered by the GLA and permit rogue operators to return.

In its submission to the government consultation on changes to the GLA remit, which closes today, the TUC warns that watering down the GLA will encourage bad bosses not to comply with health and safety standards, basic employment rights or tax obligations when supplying agency staff.

Instead of reducing the scope of the GLA, its remit should be extended to other high-risk sectors including construction, hospitality and social care, says the TUC.

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: “We all remember the horrible events of Morecambe Bay and it defies logic for the government to scale back the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.

“The GLA licence is not red tape. It provides vital safeguards for people working in high-risk industries, it ensures that people are paid the minimum wage and makes sure apprentices are not exploited. It also increases consumer confidence that workers who help prepare their food are not being mistreated.

“Rather than reducing the GLA's ability to protect vulnerable workers the government should be looking to extend its licensing powers to other industries such as construction.”

This move to strip the GLA of powers proves, yet again, where the Con-Dem coalition stands with regards to (vulnerable) low-paid workers, namely firmly on the side of the exploiters.

The workers are losing more and more rights and protection under this Tory-led government much in the same way, if not to some degree worse, than under the Thatcher regime of the 1980s.

Thatcher destroyed the trade unions, or at least the power they could wield on behave of the working class, and now the Cameron led coalition is hellbent on finishing the job, so to speak, by removing more and more safeguards that the working class had in unions and similar organizations.

It has to be said, however, that the Labour Party, the party that is supposedly for the working class, when in government under Blair and Brown, also did little to nothing to change the course begun by Thatcher. The anti-union laws were retained and used against unions.

The Labour Party, in fact, has deserted the working class, and this began under so-called “New Labour” and is, no doubt, bound to continue under “One Nation Labour”.

Milliband and his motley crew should be ashamed of themselves for having turned the Labour Party, a party created out of blood and tears as a bulwark for the workers against exploiters and exploitation, into what it has become today. Kier Hardy, Dr Salter and others would turn in their graves if they but knew.

© 2013

America's new found beverage love... Water

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

bottled-waterIt was not all that long ago that America had a serious love affair with all things soda. Now, a new drink, which is in fact an old flame, is taking the country's heart by storm.

As New York City grapples with the legality of a ban on the sale of large cups of soda and other sugary drinks at some businesses, one thing is clear and that is that soda has run as the nation's beverage of choice has fizzled out like a flat Coca Cola. In its place we find a favorite for much of history, namely plain old H2O, also known simply as water.

But, while this is a great move, no doubt, the problem is that in most cases this water still has an enormous impact on the environment as it is, more often than not, bottled water, drunk in the belief that it is healthier than tap water, this is but a myth. This myth is, however, being perpetuated by the bottled water suppliers, including soda companies such as Coca Cola and Pepsi.

For more than two decades, soda was the No. 1 drink in the U.S. with per capita consumption peaking in 1998 at 54 gallons a year, according industry tracker Beverage Digest. Americans drank just 42 gallons a year of water at the time.

But over the years, as soda increasingly came under fire for fueling the nation's rising obesity rates, water quietly rose to knock it off the top spot.

Americans now drink an average of 44 gallons of soda a year, a 17 percent drop from the peak in 1998. Over the same time, the average amount of water people drink has increased 38 percent to about 58 gallons a year. Bottled water has led that growth, with consumption nearly doubling to 21 gallons a year.

It was not too far back in history that tap water was the top drink but then in the 1980s, carbonated soft drinks overtook tap as the most popular drink, with Coca-Cola and PepsiCo Inc. putting their marketing muscle behind their colas with celebrity endorsements from the likes of pop star Michael Jackson and comedian Bill Cosby and, I guess, that everybody thought that if those people endorse it then it must be good. Not considering that the main ingredient in both of those colas is phosphoric acid, an industrial cleaning agent and one which, when mixed with chlorine bleach, turns into phosgene gas. Lovely stuff, eh?

The problem with the new found love affair of the American nation is that the water that they are consuming predominately is not tap water but bottled water that the advertising agencies suggest to them to be purer and cleaner than tap. And who are the greatest water bottlers? Coca-Cola and PepsiCo Inc., and their best-selling waters are, wait for it, from municipal sources; in other words nothing more than tarted up tap water. And the consumer pays a hundred times more for it per liter than for tap. Nice marketing ploy.

There is no “smartwater” or “vitaminwater”... it is water, period and if you do not like the taste of your tap water – and the chlorine can be tasted at times – then use a Brita filter or similar and if you want to really go the whole hog as to safety then use a water distiller such as the Megahome Water Distiller. But go for tap and use a reusable water bottle. Your wallet and the Planet will thank you.

© 2013

Deception is a state of mind and the mind of the state

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Deception is a state of mind and the mind of the state ~ James Jesus Angleton, Head of CIA Counter Intelligence 1954-1974

Illustration: Truth and LieIt is a shame that James Angleton was so right in his statement and that it is still as valid, if not even more so, today than it was then. Instead of becoming more open government and society has become more deceptive and secretive.

It is all a game of smoke and mirrors and the general public do not seem to see this or simply do not want to see and accept it. They go even as far as saying that if the government would be planning anything evil (against the people) they would announce it on TV. Right, sure, and pigs do fly!

It is the people that gave and give government the right to exist and not the other way round and thus government is accountable to the people regardless of what they may think.

However, it would appear that it will take something other than the so-called democratic process of elections to get that into the thick skulls of the Skull & Bones people that have decided that they can lord it over the people who put them into office – unfortunately often – in the first place.

Overthrowing the government is, by the powers-that-be or better the powers-that-they-have-assumed, regarded as treason but who put them there. We, the People, did and it is the right of the people to remove a tyrannical government and one that disregards the people.

Government has only those rights of existence as given to it by the people and if the people remove consent the the government has no longer got any right to govern. It is as simple as that. That is the theory. In practice things are different as the powers-that-be will not allow themselves to be removed and replaced, not even by so-called democratic means.

Democracy is one of those smoke and mirrors devices that the ruling classes have invented in order to deceive the people and make them believe that they, the people, have a say in who governs them and how they are being governed.

Time to de-cloak the real enemy of the people...

© 2013

People avoided the window tax by blocking up their windows

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

733769_547441215276260_1817137701_nPeople avoided the window tax which began in 1698 and ran until 1851 by blocking up their windows.

May be if we would rise up and take off our bedroom doors which would make our homes open plan then the bedroom tax could also be defeated as, without a door a room is not separate. At least not in theory and thus, again in theory, no tax to pay.

It would be good way to make mischief for a ridiculous uncaring government by forcing lots of court cases to prove a point. A point which should never have been raised in the first place.

However, as most people affected by that tax may be living in council, or nowadays housing association, properties where this might not – legally – be possible it might cause more grief. Worth a try it might, nevertheless, be.

© 2013

Owen Paterson, MP, says GM foods safer than conventional foods

Owen-PatersonBritish Environment Secretary (Minister for the Environment), Owen Paterson, says GM foods are safer that conventional foods

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Could someone please tell me what planet this man lives on? It would appear that the brown envelope manufacturers and dealers have had a great day again.

This shows, once again, how many lies this government peddles in order to help their cronies in industries without not even the scantest regard for the people and their health and that of the Planet.

This man is not fit to be minister of the environment and not even fit to be a minister or a member of parliament. Genetically engineered – for that is that they should really be called – foods have not been around long enough to come up with claims, regurgitated and originally made by the proponents of genetically engineered foods on an European and world-wide level, that they are safer (probably) that conventionally grown foods.

We must remember that the Secretary of the Environment gave the speech which contained this rather stupid claim and remark at an institution for genetically engineered crop research and he had to pander to the audience (to give value for money, no doubt).

Questioned after his speech on whether the safety case for GM crops over conventional one was clear cut, Mr Paterson said: “This isn't speculation. We have had a categoric (sic) statement from the (European Commission's) chief scientific officer and you have the biggest field trial in human history when you think of the colossal volume of GM material that has been eaten in all those countries growing GM food.”

Mr Paterson, who ultimately wants the European Union to relax very tight restrictions on growing GM plants, wants to make Britain a center for GM research and development, which has the potential to become a multi-billion pound industry.

Proof, yet again, if proof was needed, that government in the UK, most of the rest of the EU and the USA, is in the pockets of the corporations and that, in fact, the corporations run the ministers.

We do not need a new government, we need a new system without a government.

© 2013

Caring for your cast iron skillets

Never ever wash your cast iron pans with soap, not even the mildest washing-up liquid. It will destroy the seasoning of the pans and stop them from being non-stick.

Instead scrub your cast iron with coarse salt and a soft sponge. The salt is a natural abrasive and will absorb oil and lift away bits of food while preserving the pan's seasoning. Rinse away salt and wipe dry.

Wash cast iron with salt

ENVIRONMENT PROJECTS COMPETING FOR PUBLIC SUPPORT

uklogoSeven inspirational environment projects are battling it out to be named the UK’s favourite National Lottery funded environment project.

The National Lottery Awards reward and recognise the inspirational work of National Lottery funded projects across all sections of society. National Lottery players raise more than £35 million for good causes every week.

Over 900 good causes from across the UK entered this year’s Awards. A panel of judges had the unenviable task of whittling those down to a shortlist of seven in each of the seven categories reflecting the different areas of National Lottery funding: arts, sport, heritage, health, environment, education and voluntary/charity.

The 49 good causes are now competing for public votes. The seven winners will take their place at a glittering awards ceremony in September which will be broadcast on BBC One. Winners will not only pick up a coveted National Lottery Awards trophy but also a £2,000 cash prize[1] to spend on their project.

The finalists in the Best Environment Project category are:

Sustrans’ Connect2 has brought the National Cycle Network deep into the heart of communities across the UK, enabling many more people to get about on foot and by bike.

Arkwright Meadows Community Gardens is a unique community-led green space in Nottingham where local people grow and sell organic produce and world foods reflecting the diversity of the local community.

The Woodland Communities Project encourages people in Warrington and Runcorn to take ownership and clean up their local woods, and use them as places to exercise, enjoy nature and relax with family and friends.

Stepping Up is a recycling project in Mansfield which aims to improve the self-confidence and employability of people affected by long-term unemployment.

Foyle Women’s Aid: The Secret Garden is a tranquil haven for mothers and children who are victims of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland.

The rich natural and industrial heritage of Lightshaw Meadows in Wigan has been explored by hundreds of visitors, local people and school children.

Once run-down, St James’ Park in Southampton has been transformed into a welcoming place for the whole community to enjoy.

TV star and actor John Barrowman, presenter of The National Lottery Awards, said: “National Lottery funding helps transform communities and changes lives for the better. National Lottery players should be proud that their contribution to good causes makes such a positive difference to environment groups across the UK.

“I would urge everyone now to get behind their favourite project and do their bit to ensure they get national recognition for their invaluable contribution to society.”

Jackie O’Sullivan of National Lottery Good Causes added: “We have been overwhelmed by the number and standard of entries for this year’s National Lottery Awards. Each week National Lottery players raise over £35 million for good causes. The impact of National Lottery funding at the heart of communities cannot be over-estimated.

“The good causes competing for public votes are just a snapshot of the life-changing influence of National Lottery funding. Now for the hard part, every one of the nominees is a winner in their own right but it is up to you, the public, to get behind your favourite good cause and make sure it picks up one of the top prizes.”

Voting for The National Lottery Awards started at 9am on Wednesday 19 June and ends at midnight on Wednesday 24 July. You can vote at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards and follow us on twitter: hashtag #NLAwards

Calls cost no more than 5p from a BT landline. Calls from other networks may vary, calls from mobiles could cost considerably more. Callers are advised to check with their telephone network provider to be certain of the cost. No profit will be made from the cost of the phone vote by The National Lottery

All voting will be independently adjudicated and verified by Electoral Reform Services

[1] NB: This is not a National Lottery grant. All projects have already received Lottery funding and this cash prize is in addition to the National Lottery money they have already been awarded

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

RealiTEA: The bitter compromise in our cup of tea

Cafédirect reveals the uncomfortable truth lurking behind Britain’s favourite beverage

infoA new investigation by Cafédirect has exposed the true extent of the crisis facing the treasured cuppa. Whilst the cost of growing tea has soared by as much as 94% in the past five years, crippling smallholder growers, the market hasn’t been keeping pace, with prices paid to these growers increasing by just 25%. Compare that to the price of tea on UK shelves, which has risen by a measly 3.8% over the last 3 years.

In its new report, RealiTEA, Cafédirect reveals that in order to offer tea at the low prices seen on UK supermarket shelves, compromises have to be made. These compromises usually come at the expense of the farmers at the beginning of the supply chain and directly impact on the quality of tea that ends up in the cup. For an industry worth £629M in the UK, this is shocking. In contrast, for every box of Cafedirect Hand-Picked Tea sold, 22.5% goes directly back to the smallholder tea cooperatives.

Alarmed by the situation facing their smallholder tea partners, and the future of a good cup of tea, Cafédirect conducted a series of in-depth interviews with tea growers from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

Their responses showed that the traditional, artisan skill of hand-plucking the tender top two leaves and a bud (widely considered the only part of the plant suitable for making tea) is being fast replaced by far less accurate machine-cutting. Machine cutting is the standard for mass market, low-grade tea, which results in twigs and the tougher lower leaves in tea bags.

Until now expert smallholder growers have rejected these mechanical changes, not just because of the effect on quality, but also to protect the long-term health of the bushes and reduce the environmental impact. However, continual pressure on price is forcing farmers to make the choice between quality and survival.

The tea farmers also highlighted spikes in production costs, such as the price of oil, which increases both transport and fertiliser prices. Living costs have rocketed with the worldwide cost of food increasing by over 137% in the last five years. This in turn drives up labour costs, such as bringing in extra help during at harvest season. Oxfam’s recent report on tea workers’ wages highlighted the chronic underpayment on plantations, demonstrating that it’s not just smallholders who are suffering at the hands of monopolies.

UK tea drinkers have, for the most part, been shielded from the truth. As 54% of the tea category is sold on promotion it is easy to see how tea is perceived as a ‘cheap’ commodity, which in turn undermines its value.

Wilson Tugei, Chairman of the 100% member-owned Siret cooperative in Kenya, describes the extent of the impact to the smallholder growers, “The farmers often have to make compromises elsewhere. When prices are low or crops fail, farmers will have to sell their food stocks, fell trees to burn or sell for charcoal or they might resort to lease out their tea farms – often at a very low price.”

He continues: “They will make sacrifices in their personal lives too. It may be that they cannot afford to pay school fees for their children. Or that they might have to change their diet to save money, thereby compromising their health. Some are forced to financially overburden themselves by securing overdrafts and loans to meet their daily needs”.

“The global tea industry is in crisis,” explains John Steel, CEO at Cafédirect. “Tea has long been considered a cheap commodity in the UK, a telling sign of a lingering colonial mindset that distances consumers from the real value of tea, with many large companies exploiting local resources whilst reaping huge profits for themselves. Our demand for cheap goods is twisting and buckling the supply chain and we can’t just sit in a bubble and ignore it because it’s not on our doorstep.” He continues, “Look at the horsemeat scandal and the horrifying clothing factory collapse in Bangladesh. Businesses are driving down the cost of goods to meet consumer expectation of low prices, rather than meeting their demand for quality and value. It is a downward spiral, stripping out moral and ethical standards and undermining quality. Ultimately we all lose out.”

According to the Fairtrade Foundation, 85% of tea production is controlled by seven multinational companies through their factories and estates. Which poses the question of where the profits end up. When it comes to tea, the ethic of ‘buying local’ is best translated to buying from smallholders. Harriet Muhebwa Katiti, Chairwoman at Igara Tea Factory in Uganda explains, “If you buy direct from smallholders then you know the money is going back into the local economy. If you buy from a multinational then money will be taken out of the country and spent in other places.”

To show their support for smallholder tea growers, Cafédirect is asking British tea drinkers to make a pledge to ‘think before they drink’. The pledge celebrates the people behind our food and urges tea drinkers to stand up for a better brew.

The pledges collected will be shared with the tea industry to shape a future that is better for the farmer and ultimately delivers a much tastier brew for the tea loving public. Pledge now at www.drinkbettertea.co.uk.

The cost of producing tea

It was acknowledged by all the tea partners that the costs of production have increased substantially. This financial burden does not transfer up the supply chain, so is rarely born by the tea brands, or tea consumers, but by the farmers themselves because they hold the least power in the whole process.

The production costs for tea include: the purchase of land and its preparation, buying seedlings, labour for planting and plucking, fertilizer (the cost of which has increased by up to 100% in five years), weeding, pest control and transportation to processing units. These costs are not controlled by the farmers, but impacted by commodity rises in other sectors, such as oil.

Robert Ejiku, Group Manager at the Igara Tea Factory in Uganda, confirms, “The price of tea we receive has not gone up in line with these input costs. We need to align tea prices or smallholders risk losing their livelihoods.”

Jill Pinda Birungi, Tea Farmer and Board Member at Mpanga in Uganda, shared a story of how these rising costs affect the farmers on a day to day basis: “One time in Mpanga we went two years running with no fertiliser because Mpanga couldn’t afford it.”

Adolf Sabiiti, General Manager continues, “Production was very low. We were producing at a capacity of around 40%. We went to our friend, Shared Interest, they gave us a loan of 150,000 US Dollars. We purchased fertiliser, we gave it to the farmers at a subsidised price. Then from that, we saw magic. We were producing at around 40%, we started producing at around 100%.”

Once the tea is matured, the single greatest cost is plucking. Labour costs in Uganda have risen from 2,000 to 4,500 Ushillings (per hr) in recent years, a rise of 225%. By contrast, the cost of tea to consumers has remained relatively stable during this time.

In addition, improving education and higher aspirations have led to high urban migration and the knock on effect of a labour shortage and exodus from growing tea.

Kenneth Kyamulesire, Factory Unit Maganer at Mbale in Uganda, explains, “Increased running costs force farmers to abandon tea growing and move into other crops. Issues with aging growers as youths seek other forms of employment is a problem as tea plucking is strenuous, early morning work and older people cannot do it, so they have to let their valuable land become overgrown, harming the long term productivity of the bushes.”

Cafédirect’s role

Cafédirect buys tea exclusively from smallholders as a direct transaction, excluding middlemen traders. Not only does this offer a direct dialogue and the ability for smallholder partners to negotiate, but it builds a partnership that results in the growers receiving a far greater proportion of profit.

Calculations show that for every box of Cafedirect Hand-Picked Tea (80 tea bags) sold, 22.5% goes directly back to the smallholder tea cooperatives. In addition to this Cafédirect also reinvests a proportion of its profits back into projects at origin, equating to more than 50% of their profits to date.

John Steel, CEO of Cafédirect, offers further detail on this support programme, “Recent projects have included kitchen garden schemes and bee keeping training to produce honey both to eat and to sell at the local market. Projects like this are vital for smallholders, who are unable to survive on tea sales alone and are unable to predict their income from one year to the next.

Traditional tea traders are fair-weather friends and offer no long-term commitment and when climate change threatens crops. That’s why a long-term, direct relationship and support to face these global challenges are essential for survival.”

Cafédirect’s direct trading model also has a positive influence on the quality of tea. Robert Ejiku, from Igara Tea Factory in Uganda, explains: “Of all our Fairtrade buyers, Cafédirect has been paying us the market price, then an additional premium, but more than that they have also been paying an incentive for farmers to produce very good quality tea.”

UK consumers’ product choices can help smallholder farmers all over the world. By pledging to ‘think before they drink’ and appreciate the value inherent in traceable and personal supply chains that deal directly with the farmer.

The value of smallholder production

In line with many globalized products, tea growing has been affected by the drive to increase production and mechanize processes to deliver more to the market faster and cheaper. In contrast, smallholders need to rely on quality over quantity to maximize the revenue from their small plot of land. Robert Ejiku, from Igara Tea Factory in Uganda, explains the difference in quality: “Smallholder-grown tea is better than tea you get from a plantation for various reasons. It is likely to be a family business and they have to do hand picking that guarantees you the quality of the product you get; that’s what smallholders are known for all over this world.”

The Fairtrade Foundation reports that seven companies control 85% of tea production through their factories and estates Local smallholder cooperatives have been increasingly squeezed as they attempt to compete with large tea plantations, often owned by multinational corporations dealing with multiple commodities and located across the globe, thereby decreasing their exposure to volatile prices in any one commodity. To further highlight the imbalance within the industry, the UK retail tea market is worth £629M.

The value of a direct supply chain

The issue of transparency in supply chains is an important one in tea. Smallholders may end up supplying tea to multinationals but, through various layers and changing of hands, they rarely have the ability to negotiate fair terms. These short-term relationships also reduce the ability for smallholders to effectively plan for the long term.

Reducing unnecessary links in the supply chain by trading directly with smallholder farmers is beneficial for both the growers and the industry. It results in a positive impact on growers, their communities and local economies, and ultimately the consumer with better quality tea reaching the market place.

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.