Oslo, Norway, is giving residents $1200 toward purchasing an electric cargo bike


One way to move toward a cleaner, greener city is through offering citizens financial incentives to get out of their cars and onto two wheels.

Getting around on a bicycle can be an excellent way to clean up our daily commutes and errand runs, but sometimes you need a little bit of a boost, which is where electric bikes come in. And sometimes you need a little more space to haul groceries and gear with you, which is where cargo bikes come in. Combine the two, and you've got an efficient and fun way to not only get from point A to point B, but to also get the shopping home in a single trip without having to stack boxes and bags on your rear rack until you're wobbling your way precariously down the road (been there, done that).

The capital of Norway, Oslo, is looking to get more of its citizens out of their cars and onto bikes, and more specifically, onto a set of wheels that is made to haul more than just a single person, in the form of grants covering part of the cost of an electric cargo bike. Last year, the city council offered residents a financial incentive toward buying an electric bike, up to 20% of the purchase price of an e-bike, capped at 5000 kroner (about $600). Now that effort has been extended a bit into an electric cargo bike grant program, which will cover part of the cost of purchase of one of these electric workhorses.

Read more here.

Caffé Nero reports coffee-waste-to-biofuel success, plans expansion

Italian-style coffee shop chain Caffé Nero is looking to extend an innovative coffee-to-biofuel recycling scheme beyond greater London after a successful partnership with recycling company First Mile and technology firm Bio-Bean.

First Mile's chief commercial officer Joe Allen (left) and Caffè Nero's commercial director Matt Spencer (right) are pleased by the success of the ongoing partnership

Nero expects to have converted 218 tonnes of used coffee grounds into 98 tonnes of biomass pellets – enough fuel to power the equivalent of 453 homes – when the retailer reaches the first annual milestone of its partnership with First mile and Bio-Bean in July.

“We are always looking at ways to improve our recycling so we are very excited to be working with First Mile and Bio Bean on this initiative and will seek to extend it beyond Greater London,” said Caffè Nero’s commercial director Matt Spencer.

The ongoing agreement sees First Mile provide Caffè Nero with special recycling sacks for used coffee grounds. These sacks are collected by First Mile every evening and passed onto Bio-Bean for processing into advanced biofuels.

First Mile’s chief commercial officer Joe Allen said: “This service marks another step in our ambition to create a world where you can recycle everything. Waste coffee grounds would previously go to incineration or landfill, and it is fantastic to see Caffè Nero embrace this new initiative and start recycling a significant amount of waste coffee. We look forward to supporting a wider roll-out and working with Caffè Nero on other recycling challenges.”

Caffé Nero reports that London-based Bio-Bean is also now exploring the opportunity to refine the oils within the coffee grounds into bio-diesel for use in vehicles. One tonne of waste coffee grounds creates 245 litres of bio-diesel and Caffè Nero claims that its current annual recycled coffee waste levels would be enough to fuel a complete circle of the M25 3,689 times.

Fellow coffee shop chain Costa Coffee announced the launch of a new partnership with Bio-Bean at the end of 2016, which will see 3,000 tonnes of Costa's waste coffee grounds converted into biofuel.

Closed-loop coffee

Caffé Nero’s coffee-to-biofuel recycling scheme forms part of a company-wide push towards a circular economy after the retailer was singled out by celebrity chef-turned environmental campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in his Hugh’s War on Waste TV programme last year.

Nero was recently involved with the #1MoreShot social experiment campaign, which saw 11 giant coffee cup bins placed in Manchester to solely collect paper coffee cups. The retailer has also trained its back-of-house teams to sort through waste before it is handed over for collection, to maximise efficiencies. This behaviour change scheme alone has resulted in over 154,000kg of cardboard and more than a million kilograms of mixed recycling being recovered in London since July 2016.

The group has also been expanding on its broader CSR strategy. Last year, edie reported that Nero was building on its work with the Rainforest Alliance to “move beyond certification” and train-up coffee farmers across South America, having launched a farming community support initiative in Nicaragua in 2015.


Ikea Releases Open Source Designs For A Garden Sphere That Feeds A Whole Neighborhood

It doesn’t even require nails.

If you’ve already constructed Ikea desks and chairs, then it’s time to take your skills to the next level.

This week Space10, Ikea’s lab for futuristic, solutions-oriented designs, released open source plans for The Growroom, a large, multi-tiered spherical garden designed to sustainably grow enough food for an entire neighborhood. Hoping to help spur local growing and sourcing, Space10 made the plans available for free on Thursday.

All it takes to complete the 17-step, architect-designed DIY garden of your dreams is plywood, a visit to your local community workshop, rubber hammers, metal screws and some patience:

Though it’s intended mainly for use as a neighborhood garden in cities, you could also build a Growroom for your own backyard, a spokesman told HuffPost.

Read more here.

Are we in the final stages of capitalism?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

karl-marxThe final stages of capitalism, Karl Marx predicted, would be marked by global capital being unable to expand and generate profits at former levels. Capitalists would begin to consume the government along with the physical and social structures that sustained them. Democracy, social welfare, electoral participation, the common good and investment in public transportation, roads, bridges, utilities, industry, education, ecosystem protection and health care would be sacrificed to feed the mania of short-term profit. These assaults would destroy the host.

If all those indicators are something to go by then we are in the last, the final, stages of capitalism as an economic (and political) system. The only worry is that the monster, this dragon, in its death-throes will take many people with it into the abyss. And it will not be the elite, the rich and powerful, unless we do something, but the working class and the poor that will be its victims.

The indicators certainly are all there, and there can absolutely be no denying that, and this includes the destruction of the ecosystem as much as that of everything what makes a society.

When we look at the UK every aspect of what once was, we have to say now, a public service, or at least almost every aspect and everything, is now being privatized our outsourced to private operators.

The postal and telecommunications, water and other utilities, transportation (still called public transport) – all buses, trains and trams – and now they are aiming to sell off the National Health Service in Britain. Capitalism, in its final hour, so to speak, is destroying the state and everything that goes with it, and with it society as we know it.

In its death throes capitalism will also turn into fascism and destroy even the very pretense of liberty. We can very well see that presently in Europe with the European Union (EU) where politicians and others openly talk about democracy being in the way of what they want to achieve and also and especially no longer want to see democracy as a government by the people. They want an elite that rules, without the people getting a looking in. In other words a return to, though a modern version of it, feudalism. Feudalism, on the other hand, is nothing different than fascism.

Fascism is not something that was invented invented by the National-Socialist Party of Germany, that is to say Hitler and his ilk, nor by Mussolini or Franco. It is much older though it may not have been called thus. The authoritarian form of government by emperors, kings, queens and what-have-you, that is to say feudalism, all was and is a form of fascism, as is any other authoritarian and oppressive form of government that predominately benefits one person or a group, whether political or ethnic, or which oppresses other or another ethnicity simply because of ethnicity. Thus, for example, the Zionist state is a fascist state. But I digressed by way of explanation.

In Germany it is always claimed – and that is not the only country that claims such a system – that they have a social free market economy and democracy. But the truth is a totally different one. What Germany has, and in fact all of the so-called free market economies have, is an antisocial dictatorship of capital, of corporations. The free market capitalist economy, we can also call it simply capitalism, is a dictatorship of the corporation and the investors over the masses and nothing else but fascism.

Everything, almost everywhere, is being privatized; health and social care, infrastructure and utilities, public transportation, etc. The services that should be run for the benefit of the population are being turned into profit-making enterprises to fill the pockets of CEOs and shareholders.

Marx' prophesies are on the road to fulfilling itself. The host, as he called it, is being destroyed. The worrying thing, however, is that, instead of heading towards true socialism as the stepping stone to communism we seems to be headed in another direction of a system akin to that of the so-called Third Reich, a pseudo-socialism of the kind that a particular little corporal from Austria and his ilk were preaching.

The growing army of unemployed and homeless are also a sign of what is going on. Some of it, probably, even deliberate to remove – physically – a certain strata of the population in the capitalist countries.

Valueless and useless (useless in the capitalist sense) life has to be eliminated. He who does not work also shall not eat! That were the words of a German government politician only in 2016. workers are no longer needs in such great numbers and thus they have become superfluous and one wants to reduce the population anyway. However, the creation of concentration camps and labor camps they do not dare to consider openly as yet. But death can be made invisible by simple leaving people to starve or freeze to death and thus weather conditions and such can be blamed for their death, not, however, so seems to be the reckoning, the governments. Thus they cannot be held responsible for this and be prosecuted.

Without a lot of money have people have no (political) power and this entire system needs to be turned inside out and replaced. We don't need new governments of a lesser of the two – or how ever many – evils but we need an entire new system and that will not come out of the capitalist one, and also not by giving capitalism a social face, as the social-democrats like to say.

It was the social-democrats, whether the SPD ine Germany or the Labour Party in Britain, and similar parties in other countries, that have betrayed the working class everywhere and sold them down the proverbial Swanee.

But, as Marx predicted, the capitalist system is now in its death throes but is destroying everything with it while it is fighting tooth and nail not to die. Every piece of infrastructure, every public service, including health care, social services, public transportation and utilities, is being sold off to stave off this inevitable death. The capitalist and neoliberal elite are even prepared to start another world war in an attempt to stop that which is already in a coma from dying.

And what does the working class do? Its members are being misled to fight the wrong battles or sit at home being entertained with bread and circuses, by means of the god in the living room, and other rooms in the house and even on their cellphones. No one is going to do it for us and the politicians that want us to vote for them in the elections won't do it either. To bring about the change that must be brought about the working class has to get off its backside and get active. The ways and means may vary but by itself it is not going to happen. The rich, the elite, and those politicians, will never permit their money and power to be voted away in election. It is not going to happen.

Capitalism (as we know it) may be dying and already be in a coma, but definitely in its last throes, but unless we take control of our destiny the outcome may be worse than what we have now. A real system change, as we must work for and achieve, a true revolution, will never be brought about by the ballot box, never. They will never allow it.

© 2017

The Compost King of New York

What happens to food scraps after the city takes them? Soon a large fraction will wind up on Long Island, where Charles Vigliotti hopes to turn them into profit.

On an overcast winter morning, Charles Vigliotti, chief executive of American Organic Energy, drove me to his 62-acre lot in rural Yaphank, N.Y., 60 miles east of Manhattan, to show me his vision of the future of alternative energy. He snaked his company Jeep around tall piles of wood chips, sandy loam and dead leaves. Then, with a sudden turn, we shot up the side of a 30-foot bluff of soil. At the top, we gazed down upon those many piles and breathed in the mildly sulfurous exhalations of a nearby dump. Vigliotti radiated enthusiasm. Within the next several months, he expected to break ground — “right there,” he said, thrusting his index finger toward a two-acre clearing — on a massive $50 million anaerobic digester, a high-tech plant that would transform into clean energy a rich reserve that until recently has gone largely untapped: food waste.

This resource, Vigliotti knew, had a lot going for it. Like oil and coal, kitchen scraps can be converted into energy. But unlike oil and coal, which are expensive to dig out of the ground, food waste is something that cities will actually pay someone to haul away. Many innovative municipalities, in an effort to keep organic material out of dumps — where it generates methane, a greenhouse gas — already separate food from garbage and send it to old-fashioned compost facilities. There, workers pile the waste in linear heaps called windrows, mix it with leaves and grass clippings and let oxygen-dependent microbes transform the gunk into lovely dark fertilizer. But the more material you compost, the more space (and gas-guzzling bulldozers and windrow turners) you need to process it. It can get a little smelly, too, which is yet another reason New York City, which generates about one million tons of organic waste a year, will probably never host giant compost farms.

Read more here.

Ein Hektar Sibirien für alle

Es ist Russlands neue Bodenreform: Seit dem 1. Februar kann sich jeder Russe einen Hektar Land zur eigenen Nutzung im äußersten Osten des Landes sichern. Die Grundstücke lassen sich online markieren, sie werden vom Staat kostenlos überlassen und können später auch privatisiert werden. Was verspricht sich die russische Regierung davon?

Darf es ein Grundstück auf Kam­tschatka sein, mit Blick auf einen Vulkan? Oder ist doch das Ufer des Pazifischen Ozeans vorzuziehen? Jaku­tien, wo sich die kältesten Orte der Welt befinden, soll auch sehr schöne Flecken haben. Man wird ja wohl noch träumen dürfen.

Beim Träumen muss es seit dem 1. Februar dann auch nicht bleiben. Denn jetzt kann sich jeder Russe –Ausländer sind leider ausgeschlossen – per Internet und völlig kostenlos einen Hektar Land in Sibirien reservieren, genauer gesagt in den neun östlichsten Provinzen Russlands, die den fernöstlichen Föderalbezirk bilden. Dabei handelt es sich um ein Regierungsprogramm, das dem Bevölkerungsschwund in diesen entlegenen Gegenden entgegenwirken und eine Art „Gegenverkehr“ für die Abwanderung erzeugen will. Spätestens bis 2020 sollen sich die beiden Ströme mindestens neutralisieren. Jurij Trutnew, Russlands Beauftragter für den Fernen Osten, hofft darauf, dass es schon 2018 so weit ist, wie er zuletzt der „Rossijskaja Gaseta“ sagte.

Der Ferne Osten macht mehr als ein Drittel der russischen Landmasse aus, stellt aber nur fünf Prozent der Bevölkerung (6,3 Millionen). Alle Regionen haben seit dem Ende der Sowjetunion massiv an Einwohnern verloren, Tschukotka an der Beringstraße sogar zwei Drittel.

Hier weiterlesen.

Man Single-handedly Repopulated Butterfly Species in a City Using His Backyard

Pipevine Swallotail Butterflies-Tim Wong

Tim Wong may work as an aquatic biologist during the day, but when he is back on terra firma he tends to other wildlife: raising endangered butterflies in his backyard.

Studying butterflies had been a childhood hobby of Wong’s, so creating a backyard conservation area wasn’t a life-changing metamorphosis for him—but it certainly was for this species, which had vanished from the San Francisco skyline.

When he first learned of the predicament of the pipevine swallowtail, the 28-year-old swooped in to help by creating a screened backyard enclosure with ideal environmental conditions for the insect.

He filled it with specific plants that the insects like to feed on. Then, he gathered a group of 20 different pipevine swallowtail caterpillars from nearby areas. As he carefully nursed the small tribe of precious insects, their numbers began to quickly multiply.

Read more here.

Garden Press Event 2017

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Thursday, February 16, 2017 saw the 11th Garden Press Event at the Barbarian Two Exhibition Halls in the City of London.

Elho_Tote1_webAccording to what I have heard the show attracted the registration of about 50% more journalists in the field compared to last year. This, to me at least, shows that the interest in all things gardening is still growing, and which also should me the interest in gardening in general, and that, hopefully keeps including grow your own, as in growing food. A good thing, surely.

Quite a few new interesting products were on show and here also and especially from old well-known companies, but there too were new ones present with new innovations.

Gardena: This German company was represented again, like last year, though with some new products as well. One of those that caught my eye and interest is their City Gardening range, especially here the Balcony Box, designed for the small urban garden, on the terrace or on the balcony. Many people in a urban setting do want to grow things – also by way of food, even if it is but a small amount – on their patios, terraces, balconies and in window boxes and the larger trowels, weeders, and what have you, are generally way too big to be used in such an environment. Thus the Balcony Box will definitely fill a gab in the market.

Wilkinson Sword has decided that green is the new black in that its carbon steel gardening tool have gone green, as in color green. This is as much an answer to the fact that people want a little color on their tools as well as an additional protection of the steel of the tools.

Kent & Stowe is including a children's gardening range to its gardening tools with proper forged tools suitable for little people, younger than the usual late elementary school age to which other children's gardening tools seem to be aimed, and those tools are, it would appear, to be of the same quality as their adult tools, with the same kind of proper wooden handles and stainless steel working bits. Those children's tools, especially here the trowel and the hand fork, will also lend themselves well for use by the urban gardener who uses containers and works in small spaces.

Elho was showing their latest additions to their range and a lot of nice things they are. As far as I am concerned the tote bag that was given out to journalists as gift should also become part of their range of products, in a number of different sizes. A slightly smaller version (in szie) would make for a great tool carrier for the home gardener. The tote itself, in the size that it is, however, lends itself equally well for use in gardening – a different kind of trug, so to speak – as for going shopping, now that the plastic carrier bags have become more or less a no-no.

It was also interesting to meet Charles Dowding of the No Dig method of gardening and author of many books at the show where he was, among other things, promoting his latest book, the Vegetable Garden Diary (of which more in a review later) and the upcoming one, written together with his partner, Stephanie Hafferty, “No Dig Organic Home & Garden”, to be published in May 2017.

Burgon & Ball also has brought out a couple of new products to their range including the hib-trug which comes in two different sizes; one more for dead heading of flowers and the bigger version for harvesting clipping onto belt or into the waistband of the trousers allowing both hands to be kept free for working (review to follow).

In closing I would like to thank the organizers of the Garden Press Event for another great one and the members of the sales and PR teams of the various companies for their time and attention.

© 2017

Plastic 'nurdles' found littering UK beaches

Nurdles on a beach

A search of 279 beaches around the UK has found that almost three-quarters of them were littered with tiny plastic "nurdles".

Volunteers signed up to search their local shoreline, ranging between Shetland and the Scilly Isles, for the lentil-sized pellets, used as a raw material to make plastic products.

They can cause damage to such wildlife as birds and fish, which eat them.

The findings will be reflected in a government study into microplastics.

What's the problem?

Campaigners estimate that up to 53 billion of the tiny pellets escape into the UK's environment each year.

This happens during the manufacture, transport or use of plastic products.

The nurdles are often spilt accidentally into rivers and oceans or fall into drains where they are washed out to sea.

Experts warn nurdles can soak up chemical pollutants from their surroundings and then release toxins into the animals that eat them.

Read more here.

Obst- und Gemüsebeutel selber nähen

Obst- und Gemüsebeutel selber nähen: Beutel mit Obst

Im Supermarkt liegen kleine Plastiktüten für Obst- und Gemüse bereit, das ist praktisch aber nicht umweltfreundlich. Besser ist es, einen wiederverwendbaren Beutel zu nutzen und darin Tomaten, Champignons oder Nüsse abzufüllen. Diese Beutel musst du nicht kaufen, sondern kannst sie ganz einfach selber machen.

Sicherlich bist du schon über die nützlichen kleinen Beutel gestolpert, welche Plastiktüten für Obst und Gemüse im Supermarkt überflüssig machen: Aus dünnem Material, klein, faltbar und waschbar sind sie eine tolle und vor allem nachhaltige Alternative zu den Plastiktütchen aus dem Supermarkt.

Solche wiederverwendbaren Beutel brauchst du nicht zu kaufen, hier erfährst du, wie du sie ganz einfach selbst nähen kannst: Aus Materialien, die du bestimmt schon zuhause hast! Ob mit oder ohne Nähmaschine – dein Beutel ist im Handumdrehen fertig. Näh doch gleich mehrere Obst- und Gemüsebeutel, entweder für den eigenen Großeinkauf oder zum Verschenken: Gemeinsam Verpackungsmüll vermeiden macht noch mehr Spaß.

Hier weiterlesen.

Feeding the nation

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

russian-dacha1The first and foremost job and task of a farmer is not to produce for the export market but it is that of feeding the nation. Export should never be (seen as) the first priority but, alas, with many, especially the large corporate farms, it would appear to be just that. One only needs to hear them when they talk about how this or that regulation might interfere with their ability to export their produce. Any surplus, after the needs of the nation have been satisfied, that is for export but growing specifically, as seem seem to be doing, for the export market is not in the brief. First feed the nation.

In order to produce more produce – no, it's not a typo – to feed the nation we have have to get more people back on the land to actually grow the vegetables, etc. that are needed in the country rather than to be producing for export. That would also mean reducing the grasslands and reduce beef production, grasslands that today are wasted – for some grassland pastures are not on marginal land. And as far as so-called “marginal lands” are concerned, if crops cannot be grown then let's plat trees there.

Prehistoric man did not settle to raise cattle. He settled in order to crow crops. It was arable mixed farming. He did domesticate animals as well; cattle, sheep, goats, horses – though even the nomadic ones did that. But predominately prehistoric man settled to grow a garden and a farm, crops for food, so he did not have to hunt and gather.

Once again, also in this regard, it would appear that we don't just need a system change but a full revolution. A revolution of land use and of agriculture. A proper land reform and agrarian reform.

Comments from our politicians such as one some time in 2016 or thereabout who said: “we don't really need farmers in Britain. We can get all the food we need from abroad” show what morons the people permit to rule over them.

In order to get to this new peasantry system, however, requires, a full about turn. Only a complete land reform and agrarian reform will make such proper agriculture for the people by the people, so to speak, possible.

The current system, ever since the Second World War, or thereabouts, is not benefiting the people of the country at all and despite the fact that the farmers grow a lot for export, and seem to be looking for export opportunities before they ever look to sell to the home market, they cannot – or so they try to tell the world – make ends meet without large subsidies, including payments from the European Union.

Vast areas of our countryside, of areas that could grow food (and trees) are not utilized properly and are, predominately, “sporting” estates in the hand of the so-called landed gentry and the aristocracy. It is time that the land and woods were (back) in the hands of people willing to live on the land and make a living from it and produce food, wood and wooden products for the nation.

On the farming side we need many small farms, as the dacha system in Russia has shown, rather than large agricultural factory farms. This is also the way forward as regards to biodiversity and protection of soil and water. We need a low impact and low input agriculture – low input as in little in the way of chemicals and such like for it will have a lot of input by way of labor – rather than high intensity agriculture that we have at present, which is destroying the very soil that all life depends on.

Let me recap once again: The job of the farmer is... feeding the nation and the job of the forester is... producing timber for the nation. Everything else is secondary. Export is for any surplus that may be but should never ever be the primary thought. Alas, though, it appears to be that at the moment and that needs to change.

© 2017

'Extraordinary' levels of pollutants found in 10km deep Mariana trench

Presence of manmade chemicals in most remote place on planet shows nowhere is safe from human impact, say scientists

Scientists have discovered “extraordinary” levels of toxic pollution in the most remote and inaccessible place on the planet – the 10km deep Mariana trench in the Pacific Ocean.

Small crustaceans that live in the pitch-black waters of the trench, captured by a robotic submarine, were contaminated with 50 times more toxic chemicals than crabs that survive in heavily polluted rivers in China.

“We still think of the deep ocean as being this remote and pristine realm, safe from human impact, but our research shows that, sadly, this could not be further from the truth,” said Alan Jamieson of Newcastle University in the UK, who led the research.

“The fact that we found such extraordinary levels of these pollutants really brings home the long-term, devastating impact that mankind is having on the planet,” he said.

Jamieson’s team identified two key types of severely toxic industrial chemicals that were banned in the late 1970s, but do not break down in the environment, known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These chemicals have previously been found at high levels in Inuit people in the Canadian Arctic and in killer whales and dolphins in western Europe.

The research, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, suggests that the POPs infiltrate the deepest parts of the oceans as dead animals and particles of plastic fall downwards. POPs accumulate in fat and are therefore concentrated in creatures up the food chain. They are also water-repellent and so stick to plastic waste.

Read more here.

Move Over Cotton, Say Hello To Hemp – The ‘Forbidden’ Crop Taking The World By Storm…

Move Over Cotton, Say Hello To Hemp – The ‘Forbidden’ Crop Taking The World By Storm...

If domestic hemp use and cultivation were practiced and encouraged, we might just be able to change the world…

The cultivation of the plant would be a boon for small farmers, especially organic farmers. We’re talking about industrial hemp this time, not medical cannabis/marijuana, which continues to prove its merits and gain acceptance.

The worldly benefits of using hemp are in plain view and clear to see. But it’s a complex concoction of legal and bureaucratic nonsense even without THC – the psychoactive element found in cannabis – that holds the industrial revolution of hemp back.

Commercial hemp cultivation is legal in Canada but the US government pushed the industry to the side when industry monopolies were threatened when it appeared that a hemp boom may compete for the very products of their monopolist concerns.

Around 1937 the hemp industry was boosted by the introduction of the decoricator machine. It replaced hand shredding of hemp to glean its fibers, fibers that could be used for textiles, clothing, paper, and plastic.

With this new invention, hemp would have been able to take over most competing industries in areas such as  paper, textiles, fuel, and plastics. Growing hemp in abundance was easy, and it’s plant to harvest time was no more than six months.

Read more here.

GROW – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)


GROW: A Family Guide to Growing Fruit & Veg
by Ben Raskin
Published Leaping Hare Press February 2017
(in association with the Soil Association)
Hardcover: 48 pages - 15 x 2.2 x 21 cm
Age Range: 8 - 11 years (or may be infinity)
ISBN: 9781782404514
Price £9.99

Have you ever wondered how plants work and how they get their food? Or why we eat the fruit of one plant and the leaf of another? What’s the big deal about growing things – and how do we decide what we need to grow in the space we have?

In Grow, Ben Raskin shares his expert knowledge, in this funky guide for families who are new to edible gardening, looking at the whole life cycle of food, from seed sowing and saving to planning and planting, and—most exciting of all – harvesting the food that you’ve grown. From planting your very own pizza toppings to becoming runner bean rivals!, and learning that a strawberry is actually lots of little strawberries, teach your kids that growing fruit and vegetables is easy and fun, and eating food that you have produced together is even better.

In GROW, you'll get all the inspiration and knowledge you need to get out there and start planting. It includes:

  • A visual guide to the world of plants – what they need, how to care for them and much more.

  • Grow your own pizzas! How to plant for a recipe, with fruit and veg in pots or a whole vegetable garden

  • Pull-out activities, including a temperature chart, a fruit pairs game, 'how long does it take to grow?' wheel, and a “runner beans and hose pipes” game (a gardening version of “snaked & ladders”).

This is a beautifully illustrated beginner's guide for parents who want to have a go at growing something with their family with easy to understand scientific info and instructions in a very accessible format.

In order so that the activities and stickers, and what have you, can be removed without damaging the book instead of being bound, as it the normal way, the pages are held in by screw posts.

Love the book and its design. But then, I guess, I am still a child at heart. Then again, what is age. It is but a number and in all honesty this book is equally well suited for parents wishing to garden with their children as for youngsters or older people just starting out in gardening.

Ben Raskin is the Head of Horticulture at the Soil Association. He runs courses and training and launched the Soil Association's flagship Organic Apprenticeship Scheme in 2007. He also mentors and advises on organic growing. Ben got the gardening bug working on an organic vineyard in northern Italy, and has worked in horticulture for more than 20 years, including a stint as Assistant Head Gardener at the UK charity Garden Organic.

© 2017

Ride out the crisis with homegrown veg

Blighty’s supermarkets are in crisis. Heavy rains and frost in Spain and Italy mean courgettes and iceberg lettuce are running low. The lesson? To cook with the bountiful produce of Britain’s cold climate: brassicas, roots and alliums

Rationing of any kind is always likely to make people sit up straight – the idea that we can’t buy as much of whatever we’d like causes instant consternation, even if it is iceberg lettuce. It causes some understandable confusion, too, in this case, as being only allowed three heads of the stuff prompts the question why you would ever want that many – of all the veg to pick from, iceberg has got to be up there with the least flavoursome items nature has ever come up with.

And therein lies the solution to the current supermarket vegetable shortage: the best approach to filling your fridge – and eating your fill – is to be guided by flavour. This means scouring the veg aisles for what looks most vibrant. Flavour stems from vibrancy, and locally grown, seasonal produce is always going to be where it’s at. As Jane Scotter of biodynamic farm Fern Verrow puts it: “Things only taste good when grown in the right conditions and climate. I never buy lettuce or tomatoes out of season because they just don’t taste that good.” And what is good in Blighty right now are brassicas, leeks and root veg – swede, potatoes, celeriac, beets … Spring greens are coming into their own and purple sprouting broccoli – infinitely superior in flavour, according to organic farm Riverford’s Guy Watson, to the calabrese variety that the Spanish frosts have depleted – is mere weeks away from hitting our shelves. So it’s all about making do and being creative. And we’ve got the goods for you right here.


First up, there are many, many salads you can make with a good cabbage. “We probably have a raw cabbage salad at least three times a week at the moment,” says Scotter. Similarly, at Spring, which Fern Verrow supplies with fresh produce, Skye Gyngell has a brassica plant in nearly every dish on the menu, not that you’d know it from the variety of shapes and flavours she has wrought from them. Kale is the primary contender: serve it massaged with pear, pine nuts and crisp pecorino, warm with nduja or raw with lemon-baked ricotta. And you can’t wrong with a good slaw – the Hemsleys’ winter one combines cabbages with carrot, celeriac, celery, shallot and radish. Of course, you can bake, roast, braise, char and smother your brassicas, too. Then there’s this.

Read more here.

Hedging your bets on hedgerows

In addition to looking attractive, trees and hedgerows can help to sustain a farmer’s livelihood as well as the landscape, says Tim Field


Restoring the patchwork quilt may be a guilty government’s attempt to repair the landscape or it could have great benefits for farm businesses. Tim Field decides whether new trees and hedgerows are sustaining farmers’ livelihoods.

Country types see hedgerows as opportunities: for a tricky jump, for a flushing point or for an excellent wild fruit jam. Follow the 7 best recipes for your hedgerow harvest for teas, tipples, sauces and jams.


The cynic in me looks at a young hedgerow, copse or shelter belt and thinks “subsidy”. It’s just a government’s guilt-ridden attempt to rectify the travesty of grubbing up tens of thousands of hedgerow miles in the destructive heights of the Green Revolution. Here we are, keeping the tax payer and tourists happy by restoring a quaint patchwork quilt over our green and pleasant land.

However, the countryman sees an opportunity: a hedge to jump; a larder to forage; a flushing point or a shelter from icy winds. Trees and hedgerows act as the natural corridors to connect on-farm habitats with neighbouring features and beyond. They have heritage value, with regionally distinctive architecture that creates an impenetrable barrier of uniformly laid hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, dog rose or field maple. Hosting the Cotswold Hedgelaying Championship this winter has been a reminder for me of a farm’s affinity with trees and shrubs.

This is all very well but how do a few trees and hedgerows sustain a livelihood as well as a landscape? After all, the norm is to advise conventional farmers to refrain from spraying conservation headlands along field margins under the pretence they are the least productive zones of an arable field, suggesting hedgerows might inhibit rather than improve crop yields. Don’t get me wrong, headlands have been an excellent initiative but this attitude implies hedgerows are nice to have but not essential and we lose sight of their wider value in production.

Read more here.

Questions to ask yourself before buying something

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

secondhand_shopAll too often we impulse buy because with think we are going to need or use this or that, or simply because we like this or that. Not that there is anything really wrong with this but often those purchases then are either never used in any way, shape or form. Been there and done it and have more than one white elephant to show for that. In fact those “white elephants” are not, actually, on display.

At this very moment – well, sort of, for not right now, as I am writing this article – I am sorting through a lot of my things and at times wonder what they heck and why the heck as to some of the things. That goes as much for clothes as for kitchen gadget and other things. I like to cook, yes, but found that the deep fat fryer that I bought (OK, it was cheap at Lidl) was a waste of money, though it was not all that much, as I have used it five times, if that. It just used too much oil and for one person making a few, what we in England call potato chips, and other may call French fries, is just silly. Oh, and then there is a juicer – also very well priced from Lidl – that has been used for while quite frequently but it is such a hassle cleaning that, to be honest, it is not worth the effort and also juicers are not really cost effective.

As far as the clothes are concerned they were all charity shop purchases and thus I don't, necessarily, feel overly guilty about those purchases only the question is how many trousers and how many shirts can one wear. So now I have definitely come to the decision to think twice buy once, and thus I am beginning to ask myself those questions – well, most of the time – before buying anything, other than essentials and tools for the various jobs that I do.

So, here are those questions:-

1. Do I really want to mess with this?

By “do I really want to mess with this, in this context, I mean take care of, such as in cleaning, maintaining, protecting, and/or restoring it. Am I willing to deal with the effort necessary to make this item worth the space and time it will take in my life? Good stewardship in my life means taking care of what I own. That goes as much for new as for secondhand purchases.

If the answer is yes, then that is a good sign it might be worth my money. If it is no, then it really is not worth the expense, even if it is “cheap”. You will more than likely happier without it.

2. Would I come back in 24 hours to get it?

I am not necessarily saying that you should wait a whole day and make the effort to head back for the item. The question is would I or you? If I were to set the thing down and walk away to think it over somewhat, would it still have that draw I am feeling right now? If the feeling is a no then leave alone.

At a car boot sales, fleamarket or such that option may not necessarily be there because as soon as you put it down someone else might pick it up and buy it. But, at least that's how I take it, if that is the case at such places, that is to say that I walk away a little to think it over and when I come back someone else bought the item then it was not meant for me (at that time) for whatever reason fate may have had in mind. I also do that with Special Buys at ALDI or Lidl. If I am not entirely sure I will not buy it and if there is still stock of the offer left over when I come back a coupl of days to a week later then, maybe then, I will buy.

3. How was this made?

It is not always easy to tell how it was made and under what conditions and what exploitation has taken place of Planet, of man and of beast. Often the things we buy cheaply so often come at a high price to the Planet and its inhabitants. Then again, having said that, even if something has certain certification, I have learned, often means nothing either.

That's why often – more often than not – I get my things from charity chops (a kind of thrift store in the UK) or from car boot sales, and then, depending on what I want to get, I look for old stuff, and ideally made in the UK, Germany, the GDR, the USSR, or the USA. And, whenever I can I make things myself from scratch or by reusing, repurposing or upcyling things that are already there and especially in this department items that are considered waste.

4. Could I get this secondhand?

We have already touched upon that subject in the previous paragraphs but it should become very much a conscious thought when we are looking at purchasing something we want or need.

As far as I am concerned with many things the first stop should always be to look for good secondhand rather than going to buy new and that for several reasons. The main one of them being that no new resources were required to make this item. The second one being that if it has already reached a certain age and is of a certain vintage and is still good and working then the quility is a great deal better – more often than not – than of anything that is being made today. I do that especially with regards to hand tools, be those for wood carving or whatever.

5. Could I make this myself or something that would do the job as well?

This is probably the question I ask myself more often than not when I need or want something and if the answer is yes to the question then I set about doing that rather than going to the shops – or on line – to buy something.

On the other hand there are times when, instead of actually making or building something, I go and restore something, be this old(er) tools or other things.

My philosophy is that if I can make something from almost nothing or make something old(er) work again that I may have gotten cheap or free then I will do that rather than buying something.

So, think about this all before going to buy something.

© 2017

UK's cash-starved parks at tipping point of decline, MPs warn

Slashed budgets risk the nation’s 27,000 parks becoming no-go areas, with negative effects on park-goers’ health and the environment

The UK’s cash-starved parks are at a tipping point of decline, MPs have warned, with severe impacts expected for park-goers’ health, community cohesion and the environment.

The nation’s 27,000 parks are highly valued by their 37 million regular users, but funding has plummeted in recent years as local authority budgets have been slashed. An inquiry by a cross-party committee of MPs found that the huge benefits that flow from green spaces are now at the point of being lost.

“Parks are treasured public assets, as the overwhelming response to our inquiry demonstrates, but they are at a tipping point, and if we are to prevent a period of decline with potentially severe consequences then action must be taken,” said Clive Betts, who chairs the communities and local government committee.

Over 92% of park budgets have been cut by local authorities, which have suffered an overall 27% budget cut in real terms since 2010-11. Some city councils, such as Newcastle’s, have cut park funds by 97%.

“Areas of parks are being downgraded and left to grow wild,” said Betts, while football pitches are being left unplayable and flower beds left unplanted. The committee’s report also found evidence of broken playground equipment going unrepaired and litter, vandalism and other crime rising.

Park managers warned in September that the neglect of parks was set to plunge them “into the disaster crisis of the 1980s and 1990s when they became no-go areas full of syringes and no park rangers.”

The report concludes that ministers and local authorities must find new ways to run parks that involve all the organisations that benefit from them, for example using funds aimed at cutting obesity to maintain parks as places to exercise.

Read more here.

7-Jähriger wird Recycling-Idol

Mit 3 Jahren war Ryan das erste Mal auf dem Recyclinghof seiner Heimatstadt. Aus dem Hobby, Müll zu verwerten, ist ein großes Geschäft geworden. In den letzten Jahren hat der 7-Jährige 2,5 Tonnen Glas, Plastik und Aluminium gesammelt und damit über 10.000 Dollar verdient.

Orange County, Kalifornien: Vor vierJahren begann Ryans Recyclinggeschichte. Mit drei Jahren fährt er mit seinem Vater zum lokalen Recyclingcenter und ist beeindruckt, dass man mit Müll Geld machen kann, zugleich fragt er sich, wieso das nicht alle tun. Ryan hat eine Idee: Er verteilt Müllbeutel an die Freunde seiner Eltern und die Eltern seiner Freunde: Sie sollen Ihre Dosen und Flaschen sammeln und er bringt sie dann für sie zum Recyclinghof. Der Tatendrang des kleinen Jungen inspiriert die Menschen vor Ort. Mittlerweile sammelt er Glas- und Plastikflaschen sowie Aludosen in ganz Orange County.

Über 200.000 Dosen und Flaschen hat er bereits abgeliefert. Die 10.000 Dollar, die er mit den 2,5 Tonnen Wertstoff bisher verdient hat, möchte er fürs College sparen, oder für einen Mülltransporter, da ist sich Ryan noch nicht ganz sicher. Doch nicht nur für sich selbst sammelt er Geld. Auf seiner Website vertreibt er mittlerweile auch T-Shirts: Der Erlös geht zu 100 Prozent an des „Pacific Marine Mammal Center“.

Hier weiterlesen.

The myth of glass recycling

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Glass jars and bottlesThe great majority of people, I am sure, firmly believe that the glass bottles and glass jars, of which they so diligently remove the labels and then put out for the kerbside recycling pick-up are going to make new glass bottles and -jars. But this is a myths that needs busting.

The great majority of those items of glass recyclables does not go to some glass-works to be melted down into glass products again – some of it does get recycled in that way but the majority of it does not – but gets ground down to make basically that from whence glass is made, namely sand, in this case mostly for road building.

Instead of breaking up those bottles and jar when we generally put them into the recycling bin still being whole they should be, as bottles were until about 1980, returned and reused. The bottles from the dairies that still have doorstep deliveries still are being treated like that, at least for the moment.

As most glass jars have but a few different neck sizes – lid sizes – they could, like they were done during World War Two, also be going back for reuse. It would not take much to make people do that, for both bottles and jars. All that would be needed to have a deposit incorporated again in the price.

Unfortunately, it would appear, the political will is not there to do this (again) and I guess – OK, time for the aluminum hat – somewhere along the line new bottles are better for the economy – you see, we just have to make new stuff and consume it all the time otherwise the economy, according to government and economists, would fail – and reuse just does not fit into that equation.

There have been statements, some years back, from ministers of the British government actually claiming that such a system simply could not work in this country as it had never ever been used. I have no idea where they were during the years before 1980 to say things like that. Some may be too young to actually remember that time, maybe, but just maybe. Or they simply, as children, never collected glass bottles that had been tossed away by people top bring back to the shops for the refund money. Those from the rich background, as most of them are, probably never did this or especially never had to do that.

Recycling is not the answer to glass bottles and jar. Only reuse it. That is as long as they, obviously, are not broken. And in order to get to the reuse part of it we must bring in incentives for people to return such glass items and the system of deposit was that and would work again. It does in other countries, at least as far as bottles are concerned. In Germany there is even a deposit on plastic bottles and thus a great many of them go back, though they are not cleaned and refilled, that is to say reused, but go for recycling. But, obviously, this does not work in this country, as far as our politicians are concerned.

As with much of the recycling we are being sold a half-truth, one could almost say a lie. Much of the recyclables are, more often than not, actually landfilled because there is a lull in the market or the prices for them are considered too low. Few of the recyclables, glass may be an exception to a degree, are also not reclaimed and reprocessed in the home country but are shipped to China and countries in Africa. Most of it due to the fact that environmental protection laws there either do not exist or are much more lax than are those in the UK, the Eu and even the USA.

As far as glass is concerned no glass jars ever get near the recycling bin in my house. They are reused for all manner of things. Bottles, if I cant reuse them in any other way become woodworking scrapers, aka glass shave. For that I do have to smash them up, yes, and that glass can then, when it has done the job I need it to do, go to recycling into whatever.

Reuse is always better than recycling, and, as far as glass jars are concerned I reuse them for all manner of things, from drinking vessels to storage containers and vases.

© 2017

Metro Buses Converted Into Mobile Food Markets For Low Income Neighborhoods

Former bus turned mobile food market in Toronto, Canada

Back in 2010, the city of Toronto (in Ontario, Canada) decided to launch a program that converts old unused metro buses into mobile grocery stores called Mobile Good Food Markets, and ever since, they've been traveling across the Toronto metropolitan area selling affordable fresh food. They have been especially successful (and helpful) in low income neighborhoods.

How they got started?

It started out as a collaboration between FoodShare Toronto, the city of Toronto, and United Way Toronto. They came up with the idea to take an old bus and convert it into what is now a mobile food market.

Everything from broccoli and lettuce to apples and onions are available when the bus comes to town, twice per week. Because the costs involved by the bus have to be taken care of, food prices aren’t much lower than what might be found in a supermarket. However, at least families have the opportunity to purchase higher-quality, nutrient-dense food when the bus visits.

Read more here.

Hate having weeds in your garden? Here’s how cardboard can protect your garden


If you’re struggling with weeds in your backyard, you’ve probably looked up and found nearly a million different ways to deal with them. If you think that you’re just stuck with these weeds, think again. There’s a new trend that’s been blowing up online and for good reason: cardboard gardening.

If you’ve never heard of cardboard gardening before, you’re not alone. Essentially, you’re putting down a decomposable shield between your garden and the actual soil of your backyard. Some weeds, even after being uproots or killed, can grow back thanks to leftover roots in the soil or other neighboring weeds. Cardboard gardening stifles the weeds while still allowing the plants you want to flourish.

Another great reason to cardboard garden is if you find yourself lacking garden space due to an oversized lawn. If you don’t want to tear out your garden, try just cardboard gardening right over it!

Let’s break it down.

1. Start with a thin layer of newspaper.

Now’s the time to dig into that pile of leftover newspaper you have gathering dust in your garage. Once you’ve cleared out the area that you want to cardboard, put down some newspapers first. These will help soak up water and create a primary barrier between your garden and the soil.

You’ll want to fold out each newspaper and layer about 5-10 pages per square foot. Make sure no area is too thin or too thick, as this will make the next step much more difficult.

Read more here.

Renewable energy will not support economic growth

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Renewable energy will not and cannot support perpetual economic growth, the way we have been doing it for so long, for too long, in fact. But this does not, actually, have to be a bad thing at all.

smallwind1The globalized consumer society has always been and will always be unsustainable anyway, and we might be happier without it. But unless we plan for the post-growth renewable future, and do this now, existing economic institutions may tend to shatter rather than adapt smoothly.

Industry, and its practices, as is the case today, requires large amounts of energy in the form of electricity and gas (not to mention water also often) and is not sustainable in in its current way. Solar, wind and small-scale water, cannot provide for such requirements. Thus a total and complete change of working practices is required and that also means a change in the attitude of consumers.

Oh, and while I am at it let me throw yet another rather large monkey wrench into the works and that is that electric vehicles, that is electric (battery-operated) cars, vans and trucks, etc., are also not going to make the grade. Aside from the fact that the “rare earth” and minerals required to make both vehicles and their batteries are close to running out the charging of large amount of electric vehicles by use of electricity from renewables just will not work. Aside from that a great majority of car and van users today – on a personal, not fleet level – use on-street parking and it just would not compute to run a charging cable to each and every car right across the sidewalk.

While battery technology may be improving in time making such vehicles more energy efficient and thus giving greater range and quicker battery charging times the restriction that will come about from a full transition and uptake – as must happen – of renewables will make the manufacture of both electric vehicles and batteries almost impossible if not even entirely impossible.

Renewables, and we must face this, and that despite the fact that we have no other option than to move over to renewables, cannot ever fulfill all the energy needs of today because (1) we simply waste too much of it and (2) many of the practices are far too energy hungry.

In the post-growth society (and economy) things will have to me done differently, made differently, and we will have to change many of our current ways and practices.

While this may mean a great deal of change and the need to adjust and acclimatize, which will take some time, considering that most of us have been living in this current way of things all our lives, it is the only way that we, as a species, and the Planet, can survive.

It will mean a reconsideration as to where we live and work, what we do for a living and where and how, and how we travel to and from work, and so on. Living miles and miles, in many cases ten, twenty or even more miles, away from our place of work and having to commute by car or, maybe, by rail just will not longer be an option.

Unless we want to continue with a “the devil may care” attitude destroying the Planet and our own source of life then we will have to change, and we will have to begin that change, that transition to a different way yesterday, or preferably the day before that. As that, however, does not compute it will have to be today and we cannot put this off to some time in the future. We must act now.

In order, however, to make this transition to a post-growth and post-carbon society and economy we must change society first of all into one where people and the Planet matter from the current one where profits come before everything. Not an easy task, I know, and especially not in view of so many people wanting everything for almost nothing and immediately.

In this new economy things will no longer, as they won't be able to, made by large factories but mostly, no doubt, by hand and thus prices will be higher but quality too will be much, much better and those products will then, once again, be made to last and be repairable, unlike currently where everything is made in such a way – built-in obsolescence it is called – that they break soon after the warranty expires.

Factories of the kind that we know today that are consuming vast amounts of energy and other resources we will not longer know in this new economy and society and to some extent it should also mean a return to making many things that we want and needs ourselves once again, as used to be the case a time past when things were similar to those at the threshold of which we stand today.

But this new society and economy where people and Planet matter and where exploitation of man and Nature will be a thing of the past will not come about on its own nor can we rely on the powers-that-be, but should not be, to bring it about. It is not in their interest and their capitalist cronies. We must do it. We must create it. So, let's get to it.

© 2017

DIY Rotating Canned Food System

DIY Rotating Canned Food System

Storing canned food in your kitchen cabinets is an inefficient use of space and you will often find old cans in the back that have been there for years. This easy-to-build shelf system will solve the problem by rotating the cans. The cost is a small fraction of the price of retail canned food systems. There are many variations, so modify the plans to suit your needs and abilities.

Read more here.

Port Macquarie residents promote sustainable living through thriving community garden

Ali Bigg standing in the Lost Plot community garden which she said was flourishing and encouraging sustainable living.

A community garden on the New South Wales mid north coast is thriving and playing a key role in promoting sustainable living.

The Port Macquarie garden called The Lost Plot was initiated by the Port Macquarie Hastings Council and started in April 2014.

It is now entirely managed by volunteers through not-for-profit organisation Port Macquarie Community Gardens.

President Ali Bigg said the garden was a vibrant space where community members could grow and harvest food together, as well as socialise.

"It's a beautiful space. It's a place for growing food but also for people to come and meet and gather, hold community events, learn new things, just hang out and have a good time really," she said.

Ms Bigg said the garden food was organically grown, and working bees were held twice a week for members who, in return for a small annual fee, were able to share in the garden harvest.

"It's a true community garden, rather than an allotment style garden," she said.

Read more here.

Ikea launches kitchen range made from recycled plastic bottles

The world's biggest furniture retailer Ikea has launched a new range of kitchen fronts made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles and reclaimed wood, eliminating the need for virgin oil-based plastics in the range.

In future, other Ikea products such as the REINSVOLL wardrobe doors, set to launch in August 2017, will feature the recyclable foil

The new kitchen fronts, listed as KUNGSBACKA, went on sale online and in-store this month. Ikea stated that around 25 half-litre PET bottles are used to make a plastic foil coating that covers and protects the wood kitchen fronts.

Ikea’s product developer Anna Granath said: “What we do at Ikea has a big impact on the environment due to the large quantities we produce so by using recycled materials, we can create products which are more environmentally-friendly and sustainable.”

“Our ambition at Ikea is to increase the share of recycled materials in our products so we are looking into new ways to re-use materials, such as paper, fibre, foam and plastic, so that we can give them a new life in a new product.”

Ikea claims that the use of PET bottles, which are recyclable but often end up in landfill, doesn’t compromise on the quality, design or price of the product. Ikea notes that 70% of all PET bottles are either sent to landfill or end up in the seas and oceans. Replacing the virgin oil-based plastics traditionally used also enhances environmental protection, the firm states.

Traditionally, corporate efforts to introduce PET bottles into portfolios has seen the products remain largely untouched, although attached with improved recyclability. Some of Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) flagship brands now incorporate new packaging, which is composed of up to 50% post-consumer recyclate (PCR).

Coca-Cola used recyclable PET plastic in 1991 and has since pledged to ensure that 40% of the PET it uses is made from recycled or renewable materials by 2020. In 2009, the company became the first beverage company to introduce PlantBottle, a plant-based bottle package, with more than 40bn rolled-out into circulation across 40 countries.

Positive momentum

In future, other Ikea products such as the REINSVOLL wardrobe doors, set to launch in August 2017, will feature the recyclable foil. All products consisting of the foil coating will come with a 25-year guarantee.

Ikea UK & Ireland’s business leader David Vine said: “The new KUNGSBACKA range is a start in turning everyday waste into beautiful furniture. Today, 90% of waste created in the kitchen is recycled but few think about the kitchen itself, we hope that the launch of this range will help people to think about the materials that are in their home furnishings and create a more sustainable home setting.”

It’s been a positive couple of months for Ikea, as it pushes ahead with its People & Planet Positive sustainability strategy. Backed by a new €1bn financial framework, Ikea revealed that it has almost trebled the sales from its 'sustainable life at home' products, which are designed to promote sustainable living to its customers.

The company also sent zero waste to landfill across all of its UK and Ireland facilities in 2016, achieving a 90% recycling rate in the process.


Pruning Old Apple Trees

Prunig Old Apple TreesIt’s the time of year to prune apple trees. We used to have an old orchard, and I loved renovating the apple trees there; it was amazing to see them springing back into life with renewed vigour. They must have been around 80 – 90 years old, so towards the end of their time, although pruning will extend their lives. This is one of the reason why orchards are such good habitats. Apple trees don’t last long, so there is always lots of dead and rotting wood around, with their attendant flora and fauna.

There are several reasons to prune, which you should bear in mind. Firstly, remove badly placed and rubbing branches, which can be an entry point for infection. Then think about increasing the light and air flow through the tree, to reduce the risk of infection and help apples ripen properly. I also cut out diseased wood rather than spraying a tree with fungicide to help biodiversity. You also want to manage the tree’s shape so it doesn’t blow over or risk losing major limbs in windy weather.

I was always told not to be frightened of taking too much off an old tree – up to 25% as a guide is fine – and to concentrate on taking bigger branches off to reduce the number of wounds. An old apple grower in Kent used to say a well pruned tree was one you could throw your hat through!

Read more here.

Beat the science – grow your own tomatoes!

Don’t wait for science to put the taste back into mass-produced supermarket tomatoes – grow your own at home!

Journalists are reporting a scientific breakthrough by a professor of horticultural sciences at the University of Florida.  Dr Klee says he’s found the answer to tasteless supermarket tomatoes and having sequenced the genome of nearly 400 varieties and identified 26 genes which are involved in the production of the unique tomato flavour, he’s planning to breed a better-tasting tomato.

Tomato Sweet Aperitif_TM use only copyright Thompson and Morgan_webThe research work has apparently taken years, but they could have just asked Paul Hansord, Thompson & Morgan’s Commercial Director, whose answer to bland-tasting shop-bought tomatoes is simple: grow your own!

Of course it’s clear that Dr Klee’s research is aimed at the bulk tomato growers who are paid by the pound (or kilo in Europe) to mass produce tomatoes for sale in supermarkets, but Thompson & Morgan maintains that those in the know have been growing delicious tomatoes with that traditional tomato taste for years.

Tomato Sungold_TM use only copyright Thompson and Morgan_web“It’s just so easy to grow your own tomatoes at home. All you need is a grow-bag, a sunny spot and a watering can”, says Paul Hansord. He also suggests adding a bit of tomato fertiliser and reading Thompson & Morgan’s top tips on growing tomatoes which help guide gardeners through the tomato growing process.

“There really is no fresher, more aromatic and naturally delicious taste than a home-grown tomato, picked from your own plant and still warm from the sun”.

Top-Tasting Tomatoes

For really fabulous tasting tomatoes, Paul recommends growing Tomato ‘Sungold’ F1 Hybrid and Tomato ‘Sweet Aperitif’. Both are available from http://www.thompson-morgan.com/tomatoes

Tomato ‘Sungold’ F1 Hybrid £3.69 8 seeds

Tomato ‘Sweet Aperitif’ currently 79p for 10 seeds – save £2.50

Based in Ipswich, Suffolk since 1855, Thompson & Morgan is the UK’s most successful horticultural mail order company. It is the only mail order seed and plant specialist to develop its own plant lines in the UK. Due to the continued success of its breeding programme, the company has introduced more species and varieties to the British gardening public than any other mail order company in the industry. Its product range includes an award-winning choice of seeds, young plants, bulbs, seed potatoes, onion and garlic sets, soft fruit and fruit trees, as well as an extensive range of gardening equipment and supplies.

This press release is presented without editing for your information only.

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

The Community Gardening Handbook – Book Review

The Community Gardening HandbookThe Community Gardening Handbook
Plant & Grow Together
by Ben Raskin
Published by Leaping Hare Press in association with Big Dig and the Soil Association
February 2017
ISBN: 9781782404491
Price: £9.99

Join the community gardening revolution for a greener future!

Whether you are a budding grower setting up a new plot, or an experienced green thumb looking for new inspiration, The Community Gardening Handbook offers expert advice and insight on how to grow food, especially as a community. The authors clearly presents the unique workings of community gardens, covering everything from legality to land tenure, to skill shares and seed sowing, seed saving, and much more.

The book is divided into four chapters

  • An Introduction to Community Gardening

  • Extending Roots

  • Planning Your Site and Planting

  • Plant Directory

that again have subsections which tackle the bits that go with it.

The Plant Directory has all the information you m need to have about the plants listed as to planting how and where, and also how to grow them in containers.

Easy to read and follow. No lengthy waffle. Every point explained in short sections, with lots of illustrations.

Community gardening is a growing revolution that is taking root in towns and cities all over the world. Groups of like-minded people are transforming neglected plots of land into green, flourishing spaces for everyone to enjoy.

The “community gardens” mentioned for Germany in “An Introduction to Community Gardening” in this book are a very old institution and generally called Schrebergärten or Kleingärten. Akin to the Allotment Gardens in the UK but the individual plots are generally larger, with the minimum being about 400m2 while the standard allotment plot in the UK is just a little over half of that. They cannot, per se, and neither can the allotment gardens in the UK, seen and understood in the same way as community gardens as they are being understood in the USA and by those setting up such gardens, say on vacant lots as, in general, those are worked by all (no individual plots) and the produce being shared by all.

In The Community Gardening Handbook, Ben Raskin shares his keen expertise in an invaluable introduction to a new wave of collective self-sufficiency, encouraging a community audience to grow food and to garden together. A look into different types of inspirational community gardens from all over the world is followed by a practical guide: planning advice is laid out alongside essential etiquette tips for running a successful site and proven ideas for involving the whole neighborhood.

Ben says: "With a growing disillusionment with global capitalism and multinationals there is a desire to take back some control of our food system. What better way than to do it yourself!"

This is a very well presented book and very recommendable.

Ben Raskin is the Head of Horticulture at the Soil Association. He runs courses and training and launched the Soil Association's flagship Organic Apprenticeship Scheme in 2007. He also mentors and advises on organic growing. Ben got the gardening bug working on an organic vineyard in northern Italy, and has worked in horticulture for more than 20 years, including a stint as Assistant Head Gardener at the UK charity Garden Organic.

© 2017

GardenTags Takes The Fear Factor Out Of Gardening

98166dae-0264-4bec-b512-f3090899fd02The FREE social gardening community platform...growing well together

The UK's quickest growing social gardening platform, GardenTags, has a mission to take the fear out of gardening and turn it into the joy of growing.

It has been found that there may be a missing generation of gardeners, as some parents neglected to teach their children about growing plants and vegetables. The GardenTags team want to inspire this generation of 25 to 40 year olds to get outside and grow.

The desire for this missing generation seems to be growing for gardening however, especially in urban areas.  It has also been found that 40% of the 70,000 GardenTags members express an interest in urban growing this represents a significant opportunity to connect with UK urban growers.

Many young couples in the UK may have just bought their new house and are excited about growing their own vegetable and flowers In their new gardens, but simply do not know what to do and could feel silly asking at garden centres.  So with the GardenTags app this allows them to connect with other gardeners, from budding novices to expert botanists and everyone in between in an easy, comfortable way and to share knowledge of plants and gardening techniques.  And it's working, with 68% of users having more gardening knowledge as a result of using the app!

But how does GardenTags work?

It's simple! 

  • Download the app here www.gardentags.com/joinfree
  • Keep a photographic record of your entire plant collection and garden in one place so you can see how it has grown over the weeks, months and years
  • Tag your plants and take care of them using our community generated plant encyclopedia and plant care task list
  • Get planting inspiration and advice from 10,000's fellow gardeners. Let them help you identify unknown plants in your garden
  • Show off! We hope your gardening prowess improves and you'll share your planting success by taking more photos and uploading them to GardenTags. 
  • Watch our video here which will explain how to take the fear out of gardening https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0BseAERi3A

Launched in the UK in 2016 GardenTags is now the global social platform and garden management app exclusively for gardeners. The inclusive community is for budding novices through to expert botanists.  The growing community is encouraging more people into gardening with 63% of users enjoying gardening more as a result. Our members share photos and offer advice and inspiration to others which builds on our purpose to turn gardening fear into growing joy (see our explainer horror movie here: https://youtu.be/W0BseAERi3A ). Members also get regular automated care reminders to help them manage garden tasks. Some facts:

  • 100k+ downloads in 6 months
  • Over 40% users expressed an interest in urban growing
  • 1,000,000+ user comments and advice
  • 300,000 garden and plant photos shared
  • 14,000+ plants in the encyclopedia

We believe strongly in the power of the community - we give less experienced gardeners a helping hand when they join by recommending expert gardeners to them that we know love to share tips and advice. Over time these novice gardeners become expert gardeners themselves and help the next generation out. It’s a virtuous growing circle!
For more information please visit our website

This press release is presented without editing for your information only.

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

The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered, as we have no direct knowledge if them. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase.

This high-quality ink is made from air pollution harvested from vehicle tailpipes

Graviky Air Ink

What if the ugly, in this case air pollutants, could give birth to something beautiful?

One of our most common industrial outputs, soot, has a harmful effect on human and environmental health, but thanks to some resourceful thinking and innovation in pollution capture technology, combined with the development of a process for detoxifying and refining it, it can be 'recycled' into ink and paints.

An MIT Media Lab spinoff company is turning soot into an art supply, which at first glance seems to be working backward - after all, shouldn't we focus on reducing soot and other particulate emissions? However, like many issues, there is more than one way to skin an avocado, and perhaps by turning something harmful into something useful, it could be part of a potent message about the importance of addressing air pollution, by providing one of the tools for artistic expression and activism.

A device developed by Graviky, called Kaalink, can capture 95% of particulate matter from tailpipes and other air pollution sources, without inducing back-pressure (which can harm the operation of those sources), which is then refined and detoxified and turned into a high-quality black ink called Air Ink. According to Graviky, 45 minutes worth of vehicular emissions captured by the Kaalink device can produce 1 fluid ounce of Air Ink, and in essence, the device and its products could help to mitigate some of the world's most harmful emissions.

Read more here.