London College of Garden Design to sponsor new design series for leading podcast


Supporting podcasts are an integral part of our marketing strategy now.

The London College of Garden Design has announced their sponsorship of a new series interviewing some of the world's leading designers on ‘Roots And All’, the podcast that last week won 'Podcast of the Year' at the Garden Media Guild Awards.

The first episode features Thomas Rainer, Principal Designer at Phyto Studio in Virginia and co-author of the book ‘Planting In A Post-Wild World’. LCGD are also supporting a workshop day in Central London with Thomas on Saturday 18th January 2020.

Sarah Wilson host of ‘Roots And All’ said “I attended the London College of Garden Design myself and I’m always banging on about what a brilliant place it is to study if you’re looking to get in to garden design”.

Director Andrew Fisher Tomlin said “Supporting podcasts are an integral part of our marketing strategy now. Our previous sponsorship of Peter Donegan’s ‘Sod Show’ and now Sarah’s ‘Roots And All’, are a reflection of a growing interest in and improvement in the very high quality of broadcasts that are beyond the very traditional form of radio shows.”

About the London College of Garden Design
The College is one of Europe’s leading specialist design colleges and offers professional level courses including the one-year Garden Design Diploma and a unique Planting Design Diploma delivered over 5 months. Both courses are taught from the College’s home in the world-famous Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

The Thomas Rainer workshop day is being ran by Gillian Goodson with the support of LCGD and London Stone. For more details visit www.lcgd.org.uk

The hidden cost of your 2019 choccie-filled advent calendar

Here's why your Christmas countdown is a single-use plastic nightmare

In the next few days, millions of children – and quite a few adults – will open the first window on their advent calendars without a second thought of the mountain of waste to which they're contributing.

One of Britain's top waste and recycling companies estimates that there are 16.5 million advent calendars containing single-use plastics out there this year, which will be impossible to recycle and will end up either burned or dumped in landfill.

And, according to UK based BusinessWaste.co.uk, well-meaning attempts to recycle them mean that genuinely recycled waste will be contaminated, making the situation worse.

"Once again, we're going to be the Grinches who stole Christmas", says BusinessWaste.co.uk's Mark Hall, "We're the guys who are taking this one little bit of Yuletide joy and make you feel bad about it."

It's just cardboard and chocolate. What's the problem?

It's not just cardboard and chocolate, and there is a problem, says BusinessWaste.co.uk.

And with 16 and a half million advent calendars out there – more than enough laid end-to-end to stretch from London to the North Pole – that's an awful lot of used calendars going into the bin once the Festive Season ends.

BusinessWaste.co.uk explains: Long gone are the days when kids would open the window on their card-backed advent calendar to see the picture hidden behind.

"We’re a society based on instant gratification – we want MORE," company spokesperson Mark Hall explains, "That means advent calendars with even better gifts inside. Lovely."

Now the vast majority have a chocolate or some other gift behind the door, and that's where things have got complicated.

"They've added plastic and silver foil to the mix," says Hall, "and because they're glued together that's made it expensive to recycle."

It is – he says – a single-use plastic nightmare where it's difficult to separate the two, meaning it's more economically viable to either burn them or dump them straight into landfill.

"And frankly, neither of those is an acceptable outcome. What a waste."

What makes it worse is that well-meaning attempts to recycle the innards of these calendars by putting the plastic/foil mix into the household recycling bin means that entire lorry loads of "recycled" waste in the New Year will be rejected as contaminated loads.

"That time of year is always a nightmare for refuse collectors," Hall explains, "Shiny Christmas wrapping paper is another reason to reject loads intended for recycling, and the added plastics just make it worse."

TIP: Rip your old advent calendar apart. Recycle the card packaging, just bin the rest.

Surely there's an alternative?

Of course there are alternatives to these mass produced disposable efforts.

"Just Google 'refillable advent calendar' and you come up with dozens of affordable examples," says BusinessWaste.co.uk's Mark Hall.

"You fill them up with your own treats – and get this – you don't throw it in the bin when Christmas is over. Used again and again it becomes a family heirloom – all part of your own Christmas traditions.

And what makes these reusable calendars so unique is that you get so much more that a tiny lump of chocolate for breakfast.

"What you put in them is up to your own imagination. How about throwing in the odd lump of coal the night before as a warning when your little one is heading for Santa's Naughty List?"

BusinessWaste.co.uk is at pains to say that we're not out to suck all the joy out of Christmas. (And we get no joy from the thought of a coal-based breakfast tantrum)

In fact, the exact opposite is true – we want people to dump the damaging convenience items that surround the Festive Season, use a bit of imagination and make it a proper family occasion.

"And if we can do that while protecting the environment, we're quite happy to take all the Scroogey-Grinchy criticism on the chin and make this world a better place," says Hall.

"Humbug, anyone?"

BusinessWaste.co.uk is a leading expert in recycling and waste disposal for businesses of all kinds.
The UK's fastest-growing commercial waste company, we manage waste and recycling collections for companies in and around major towns at the best possible prices.

Our company is committed to reducing wasteful landfill, and works to help companies increase their recycling targets.

BusinessWaste.co.uk campaigns for tighter laws to discourage littering, wasteful behaviour, and to encourage greater recycling. We're the waste company that hates waste.

Website: https://www.businesswaste.co.uk

Correct spelling of company name: BusinessWaste.co.uk

Ivy in the woods

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A great many of – often rather uneducated – people believe that ivy, climbing up trees harms the trees and strangles them but this is not the case. Unfortunately some people, alas, will not be told and, illegally, if they are not the owners of the woods, will cut the ivy and remove it.

A good amount of ivy in the woods is good. As well as being a great habitat for wildlife, it's a food source for pollinators woken by, such as this year, 2019, unseasonably warm weather. It is also a most important food source for some solitary bees before they turn in for the winter.

Ivy creeping up a tree does not harm the tree with one exception and that is when it gets too much into the canopy and suppresses light reaching the leaves of the tree itself. In general the rule should be; leave well alone. While it may appear that ivy would strangle a tree this is actually not the case, unlike other climbers and creepers.

Other creepers, on the other hand, such as honeysuckle, etc., are stranglers and they do harm indeed the trees, literally strangling them. Having said that, though, some interesting patterns are often created on saplings making for fantastic and very sought after walking sticks, for instance.

When it comes to ivy, however, trying to convince members of the public that ivy is not harmful to trees is often like talking to the proverbial wall; they just do not want to believe it, even if one presents them with the scientific evidence.

© 2019

Needs are problems looking for solutions, not products

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Needs are problems looking for solutions, not products, and we also have, quite seriously, to learn to differentiate between needs and wants. Often our wants masquerade as needs when they are not needs at all. To say I need a new smartphone or simply new cellphone, while the old one is still performing well and is doing all you will ever need it for is not a need but a desire and want to have a new one just because there are new ones around.

The marketing industry, also known as advertising, has trained us well to buy products that will supposedly solve all of life's problems. But with a little creativity and resourcefulness, you may find more sustainable and less expensive solutions to your predicaments than shoddy consumer goods designed to break quickly and languish in landfill for an eternity.

Nothing is sometimes an excellent choice

But what if a major appliance has broken? Maybe it is an opportunity to change habits. For example:

Your microwave dies
You really crave popcorn. You open a box of microwave popcorn, pull out a bag, tear off the plastic, throw that in the trash, place the bag in the microwave, press a few buttons and – nothing. You try again but cannot revive your appliance.

If your microwave breaks, you have no moral obligation buy a new one. You could instead:
1. Repair the microwave.
2. Look for a secondhand microwave.
3. Stop using a microwave.

Your dryer dies
In the USA it is most uncommon for laundry to ever be hung outside, at least in suburbia, and in some areas it is actually against the local ordinances (by-laws) to do so, even in your backyard. The vast majority of people, therefore, and also for “convenience”, use electric dryers, even in sunny and hot California.

However, if and when your dryer dies (as it eventually will if it is still working), become a rebel and hang your clothes to dry. This is also better for the clothes.
1. Saves money.
2. Makes clothes last longer.
3. Liberates you from owning one more large appliance in need of space and infrastructure to accommodate it and money to maintain it.

In the winter, and in bad weather, you can hang the clothes up around your home in the basement, in the garage, on a rack in the laundry room or wherever. If your clothes take too long to dry hanging up, buy enough extra clothes, ideally secondhand, so you and your kids don't have to go naked, although indoors and on the property that would be an option to be considered.

But what if your car dies?
When your car finally dies the question of whether to replace it depends on whether you could, if you consider it properly and without prejudice, actually live without a car.

Unless you live in a rural locality, in most places, at least in the UK and other European countries, and in those probably still better than in Britain, as their public transit is better and a cycling infrastructure actually exists in most places, walking, cycling and bus, tram, and train, can very well replace the car and it is also in general cheaper to travel about in that way that using the car, considering the costs for fuel and especially parking charges and, in places such as London, the so-called “congestion charge”.

There was a time – I do say was – when you could get about the country rather cheaply using the train, and even travel abroad by train (and ferry) cheaper than flying. Today the roles are reversed and it is cheaper to fly from the UK to Spain or Germany than it is to go from London to the North of England or Scotland by train.

Patience pays off
Often, if you think you need something and wait, you can find what you want inexpensively or secondhand (or you might just forget about it and save some money).

Change our mindset
I am one of those people, though I guess in many places they are a rarity, who looks for solutions first rather than going to buy a product, or a new product. That is not to say that I do not buy (new) things, I mean aside from the essentials such as groceries, but often those are only the tools with which to solve the problems and create the solutions, and sometimes those are, whenever possible, secondhand. Consumables, such as screws and nails, will have to be purchased if salvaged ones are not to hand, though I have masses of salvaged ones as well.

I have not really bought any clothes, bar socks and underwear, for years, but bought those that in Britain are called Charity Shops secondhand though often even brand-new, and that has, in the past, included shoes and boots.

Cooker and washing machine, I have to say, if they break down it is either repair or getting a new one, and often, I hate to admit it, it is cheaper to buy new than to repair with a call-out running to £50 + before we even look at parts and labor costs.

In many places if you do not have a microwave, a dryer, or a TV, etc., in your home you are seen more or less as a deviant. More so still if you do not buy into the consumer society and buy secondhand, including clothes. So, let's be deviants.

© 2019

Become a wildlife guardian this autumn

  • As birds struggle to survive the autumn chill your garden can become a haven
  • RSPB suggests five easy ways to help, including making wildlife friendly food and leaving out kitchen scraps
  • These simple guidelines can improve your garden birds’ chances of survival throughout the colder months
Fiery colours sweeping through parks and woodlands, complete with leaves crunching underfoot, mean autumn is here. But the colder nights and bitter winds mean garden birds will struggle for food and shelter - and the RSPB is appealing to people to help our garden birds survive the winter.

Nature looks beautiful in autumn as summer leaves fade to a sunset palette of gold, red and orange. But as we start digging out our cosy scarves and gloves the countryside is being stripped of the food sources birds rely upon. At the same time, birds need more energy to stay warm and have less daylight time to find food.

Wildlife charity RSPB wants people to become stewards of their gardens this autumn and help protect their feathered guests. The RSPB says the key things birds will need this winter are food, water and shelter.

RSPB Wildlife Advisor, Charlotte Ambrose said: “Up until now birds have been able to feed on insects and seeds, but the cold weather means they move into our gardens to find refuge. You can make a real difference and improve their chances of survival, as well as being rewarded by great views of wildlife in your garden or outside space.”

Take it easy- kitchen scraps like mild grated cheese, bruised fruit (not mouldy), cooked rice, unsalted bits of hard fat, roast potatoes and dry porridge go down a treat with garden birds. You can provide an excellent full-fat winter food by making your own bird cakes or fat balls. The RSPB also suggests calorie-rich foods like mixed seed, sunflower seed, nyjer seed and good quality peanuts.

No thank you! There are some foods you should avoid as they can be dangerous for birds. Cooking fat from the roast mixes with meat juices during cooking to make a runny, greasy mixture. This sticks to feathers and stop them from being waterproof. Other foods to avoid are dried coconut, cooked porridge oats, milk, and mouldy or salted food.

Keep it fresh: Another essential is fresh water for drinking and bathing. Finding sources of water can be hard with freezing temperatures, but a simple trick will help keep a patch of water ice-free. Float a small ball, such as a ping-pong ball, on the surface of the water and even a light breeze will stop it from freezing over.

Plan your planting: Providing shelter from the harsh weather is extremely important. Plant dense hedges such as privet or hawthorn, or let ivy or holly to grow and you’ll be providing a great place to roost in and shelter from the elements.

Warm and cozy: Nestboxes are not just used over the summer egg-laying season – many birds will use them on a cold winter’s night. These boxes are frequently communal with many residents packing in together for extra warmth. The record number of birds found in one box is 63 wrens!

Ensuring your garden is filled with food now will improve your chances of having a successful Big Garden Birdwatch. The RSPB’s annual event runs from Saturday 25 to Monday 27 January 2020. To take part, all you need to do is spend one hour at any time over that weekend noting the number of feathered visitors to your garden or local green space. You can sign up for this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch from December 12 rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

To buy high-quality bird food, feeders and other treats from the RSPB visit rspbshop.co.uk/birdfoodgifts and save nature while you shop.

Origin: RSPB Press Office

London College of Garden Design to sponsor planting design competition


The London College of Garden Design has announced their sponsorship of a Planting Design Competition at the Belvoir Castle Flower and Garden Show 2020. This is the second year that the College has sponsored the Countryside Borders Competition which aims to help budding new garden designers and experts to show what they can achieve with plants.

The competition is open to anyone involved in garden design and landscaping and Tina Worboys, winner of the 2019 competition said “It was a real honour to create my Countryside Border. Andy and the team were so encouraging, and the public response to my ‘Rewilding Hedgerow’ concept was so positive that it made my first taste of a flower show very special.”

Director Andrew Fisher Tomlin said “At LCGD we are committed to improving the role of innovative planting design within our profession and our unique Planting Design Diploma is now regularly fully enrolled.” He added “This competition is just another way in which we can encourage new designers to exhibit and it’s working as we are aware that some of the 2019 entrants have submitted schemes for the RHS Young Designer of the Year competition for RHS Tatton Flower Show in 2020.”

The Belvoir Castle Flower and Garden Show takes place on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th July 2020 and is located in the Capability Brown parkland of the beautiful Belvoir Castle. More details of the competition can be obtained by downloading a brief from the LCGD website news pages.

About the London College of Garden Design

The College is one of Europe’s leading specialist design colleges and offers professional level courses including the one-year Garden Design Diploma and a unique Planting Design Diploma delivered over 5 months. Both courses are taught from the College’s home in the world-famous Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

In 2020 the London College of Garden Design Melbourne will open its doors in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne Australia.

The possibilities of pallets and pallet wood

...also packing crates and similar


by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There was a time when shipping pallets (not so much as to packing crates and such) were – supposedly – to be returned (not that that always happened) and then, not so long ago, like so many other things, pallets became “disposables” in that they were no longer being taken back (especially not for deposit return) by the companies.

This means that today, unless someone takes pity on them they end up at best being burned (for energy and heat) but mostly in landfill.

The wood, while often so-called softwood (pine, spruce, etc.) in Europe, though in the USA much more in the way of hardwoods including oak, maple and others, is a valuable resource for the recycler working with wood. And do not be fooled by the word “softwood” as the heat treatment that the wood has to be, in Europe generally, subjected to can turn the “pine” wood into a rather hard material. If something can be made from wooden boards it can be made from pallet boards.

I know of people who have furnished (almost) their entire home with things made from pallets, made by themselves, and of several enterprises making lovely furniture from pallets wood and other “waste” wood used, often combined.

Rustic furniture, including and especially small items, such as small wall shelves and other such, made from pallet wood can be very decorative indeed and today, with shabby chic being very much in vogue, are also something that people want to buy. So it is not just something that one can make to furnish a home cheaply but also something that can generate an income. At the same time the wood is kept out of the waste stream and is neither burned nor buried in a hole in the ground and thus the carbon stored in this wood will remained locked up in there for a while longer.

There are quite a number of companies that sell similar (small) items of home furnishings, made in places such as India, and others, from “reclaimed” wood, sold at a relatively high price, which can easily be made in an hour or two from pallet wood even by the not overly skilled person. With a little more time and effort invested in the work those items are also, as said previously, saleable and any entrepreneur-minded person could start a little business doing it. Ideas aplenty, if own ones are lacking, are to be found online at Pinterest and other places.

The greatest challenge to using pallet wood is the breaking-up of them into usable parts especially as the so-called Euro-Pallets nowadays no longer have the batten runners but wooden, often press-wood, blocks. But even those blocks, the ones from solid wood and not so much those from pressed wood (sawdust), can be made into something, though the batten runners were much more useful. However, those blocks make the breaking-up of pallets somewhat more of a challenge than the old traditional battens, but it can be done, though at times not as easily as with the older style.

For the batten-style, still in use in the USA and elsewhere outside the EU, tools have been designed that make the breaking-up of pallets quite easy. With the blocks those tools are, generally, not going to work, and hence it is back to the old tool, the crowbar (prybar) and hammer, and it means that there might be breakages. Also, some Euro-Pallets have riveted over nails at some areas which means that sometimes only short boards can be reclaimed. That, however, should not stop us from reclaiming the wood for use and reuse.

For projects in the garden pallets more often than not do not (even) have to be broken up and can make great fences, for instance, internal and external, and there are many ways to use them for this. You do not even need many posts if done the right way.


When it comes to making other things out of pallet wood, such as items of (small) furniture, etc., then boards are needed to be reclaimed and then we have to accept that some are shorter than others, that some may get damaged (some already may be due to the load the pallet carried or the handling it received), and so on. That should not deter us to do it, however. To waste this material just would not do, in my opinion. Pallet wood is a valuable resource in many ways.

While the old style pallet, with the battens, in a way, was better for the recycler, the Euro-Pallet found all over Europe now still can be used and even the blocks, unless they are press-wood, are usable. Pencil/pen holders are just one example. It just takes a different approach to disassembling them, that is all, and, alas, there are no nice battens to reuse. But so be it. The wood of those pallets is still a valuable resource far too good to be wasted and the possibilities for the wood of all kinds of pallets (and wooden packing cases and crates) are almost legion.

© 2019

England is too lazy to hit recycling targets – Time to get tough

PRESS RELEASE – Republished as received
The UK's waste management agency says it's time to start fining companies that don't recycle their waste

Britain could quite easily hit its 50% waste recycling target overnight if only people, companies and organisations up and down the country could be bothered.

At the moment, we only recycle 45% of our waste – a figure that's stayed roughly the same for the last three years – and that's a national disgrace when we consider (current) European partners currently aiming for 100% recycling targets and hitting them, says a national waste management company.

According to BusinessWaste.co.uk, it would only take a relatively small effort and a one-off cash injection to provide the facilities to convert the UK from one of the losers in the European recycling waste to one of the leaders. We could stop 70 million tons of waste going to landfill in just one year with new legislation, the waste agency estimates.

"The message from central government been one of 'Why bother?'," says BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall. "They came to office saying they'd be the 'greenest government ever' and they've done virtually nothing on that front. We already have the ability to hit more ambitious targets, just not the will."

BusinessWaste.co.uk says it's time for England to come into line with the rest of the UK and enact strict waste and recycling laws for companies organisations and schools. Scotland compels businesses to recycle as much as is practicable, and Wales is to follow up with a similar law. It's only in England, home to 80% of the UK's waste output, that nothing is being done.

"It's time to wield a big stick on waste," says Hall, "But also to be as helpful as possible to assist organisations into complying with any new law."

BusinessWaste.co.uk recommends:
  • Big fines for companies that do not recycle waste, up to £100,000 for repeat offenders
  • Tax credits to help companies and organisations offset the purchase price of new bins required to sort the waste at site
  • Local help points to assist companies in formulating an effective waste policy
  • A 12-month amnesty at the start of the law to get as many companies up to speed as possible
  • Allowances for smaller companies to run joint recycling schemes with neighbouring businesses
The waste management company BusinessWaste.co.uk estimates that up to two million new bins and skips would be required to make English companies compliant with any new law. BusinessWaste.co.uk says a one-off cash injection would be required, which could be offset against tax and reduced waste costs for most companies.
  • A new recycling law would mean one-off extra costs of around £2,500 for the average business
  • This cost would be offset year-after-year with reduced landfill tax payments
  • Arrangements should be made to allow the initial cost to be written off in corporate end-of-year tax returns.
The benefits for the United Kingdom would be clear almost immediately, says BusinessWaste.co.uk
  • A national jump from 45% recycling to 70% would take around 70 million tons of waste out of landfill every year, taking pressure off our nearly-full landfill sites
  • This would mean extra business for companies that recycle goods back into raw materials, generating jobs
  • It would also mean lower factory gate prices for many companies as they are purchasing cheaper recycled raw materials rather than having to buy 'new'
"All we need is the political will for this to happen," says Mark Hall, "But it appears that those in power are scared of the cost of setting the wheels in motion."
BusinessWaste.co.uk says that England could quite easily join the rest of the UK and parts of western Europe in taking a giant step toward waste and recycling targets overnight if the country just put its mind to it.

"We've set a ten year target to reach 70% recycling from homes and businesses," says Business Waste's Mark Hall. "Ten years! What a joke! We could do that tomorrow if we could be bothered."

BusinessWaste.co.uk is a leading expert in recycling and waste disposal for businesses of all kinds. We manage waste and recycling collections for companies in and around major towns at the best possible prices.

The company is committed to reducing wasteful landfill, and works to help companies increase their recycling targets.

BusinessWaste.co.uk campaigns for tighter laws to discourage littering, wasteful behaviour, and to encourage greater recycling. We're the waste company that hates waste.

Website: http://www.businesswaste.co.uk

Source: BusinessWaste.co.uk

Making do is a deeply pragmatic philosophy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Making do is a deeply pragmatic philosophy. One that our ancestors, and many not even that far removed, definitely had.

It means asking of our things the only question we should ever ask of them: “Can you fulfill your intended use for me?” The answer – if we can be honest, and resist a moment of discomfort, inconvenience or boredom – is, extraordinarily often, yes.

Making do is about taming the reflex to discard, replace or upgrade; it’s about using things well, and using them until they are used up. Taken literally, it simply means making something perform – making it do what it ought to do.

That is one part of the making do philosophy, the other part is reusing things and repurposing them, including items that are otherwise considered waste, and that is something has been done by our ancestors, and that not all that long ago. Every glass jar was put to use as a storage container, for instance, and many an empty tin can also was reused for something or reworked into something else.

It is very much the philosophy that I grew up with as a child. To some degree that was due to the fact that we had very little in material wealth and income and we just had to make do, whether it was hand-me down clothes or toys, or making our own toys, games and also other things. This attitude has stayed with me till this very day, now being almost sixty years old. In fact I take great pleasure out of the ability to make things from what others consider waste and to reuse whatever comes along.

But it also goes for things that may have been bought. Trying the very best to make them last for as long as at all possible and perform. Where everyone else, it seems, is replacing their cellphone every six months or so because they get an upgrade from their service provider and then toss the “old” one even though that is still working perfectly, or simply buying a new one (I'd love to have that kind of money to waste) simply because a newer version, with more “bells and whistles”, has come out and, again, tossing the old one even though it still works perfectly.

I can also never pass up the chance to rescue things that other people have thrown and try to make those things either work again for their intended purposes or repurpose them for other uses. This includes bicycles that have been abandoned or thrown away, often with more or less nothing (much) wrong with them and I have a collection of bicycles that have come that way or been rebuilt and built with the parts of others that have been “thrown”. Those that cannot be rebuilt are cannibalized for spares that can then be used for the other bikes, and that what is left over and cannot be made use of goes to the scrap yard.

The biggest problem with that mentality (of mine), though, is that one needs a barn or two to store all the things one comes across that “might come in handy” for this or that project or repair of this or that item, or simply in the future because this “rescuing of things that others have thrown away” also extends to furniture, wooden pallets, and what have you.

The pallets are used for many things, including building fences in the garden, as well as making (small) items of furniture for the home, and also for sale. I hate those things to go to waste and nowadays the great majority of them are single-use items in that if you receive something on a pallet you have to dispose off it. They can no longer – in general – be returned to the supplier. The great majority of them are also, when the go to the waste dumps, recycled but simply get landfilled. At least if they would be burned for energy and heat they would have some end use. Hence I try to take as many as possible out of the waste stream and make new products out of them. But where to store them all?

So, the mindset can also harbor its own problems.

© 2019

Reuse and Repair

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Half a century ago, we were a thriving culture of reuse and repair. What happened?

What happened? Simple. Industry decided that it was too expensive for it to develop new products that people really wanted and needed and rather made products that broke rather quickly and were made in such a way that they can no longer be repaired and thus people have to buy the same (kind of) product again and again.

It, more or less, began at the time of Osram taking on the manufacture of light bulbs, or so it is said, when they started to make them with a built-in obsolescence of lasting but x-number of turn on and off cycles, as the way the bulbs were then they would last almost forever.

But it really went from bad to worse, at least as far as Western Europe is concerned, from around the beginning of the 1980, may be even a little earlier, when first the deposit schemes for bottles, including beer, was abandoned and bottles became buy and throw, and then products were being made in such a way that they could no longer be opened to be repaired, thus making it impossible to extend their life.

Then came the outsourcing of manufacture to countries such as China and products became so cheap to buy and repair, if at all possible, to expensive that buying new is often many times cheaper than repair. And everyone is surprised, strangely enough, that we have a waste problem.

Yes, it is true that most of our countries, with the exception, but then it was not a Western nation during that time, the German Democratic Republic, often, falsely, referred to as East Germany, did not have a recycling culture but then that is also not entirely true for the rag and bone man was the collector of items for recycling, often doing some of that work himself.

In the German Democratic Republic what we can recyclables today were referred to as secondary raw materials and they were sorely needed as the country itself was very short of raw materials of any sort bar some iron ore. Every tin can was made back into steel, every bottles and even glass jar was reused and not broken up and downcycled, as is all too often the case nowadays – or does anyone really believe that when all glass is tossed together (broken) into the recycler they are able to make bottles and other glass products out of that mass of glass shards again – and industry in the country heavily relied on such secondary raw materials. Waste paper, newspapers and other paper, also was seen as such secondary raw material and most newspapers, books, school books, exercise books, etc. were made from truly recycled paper. The quality of this paper was not always the best but the German Democratic Republic did this well before any one in the West even thought it necessary.

Reuse and repair also was – out of necessity – the order of the day in the GDR and most products were made in such a way that they lasted and that they could be repaired, by the user often even in more or less simple DIY, and it was also the same case still in the West until about the 1980s or so.
Thereafter products in the West were either made in such a way that often even a repairman could not open an item that needed repair due to so-called proprietary screws to which only the manufacturer had the drivers. Thus access to the internal workings of a device was no longer given and repair not possible, much like today with many products, such as the i-Phone where things are glues rather than screwed and any attempt to access the interior for repair may result in compete destruction of case and device.

In other cases it has just simply become too expensive to even consider repair. When the repair for a brand-name (I won't mention the name though) computer printer, which itself has cost £30, is being quoted as, including parts and labor, more than 4x the purchase price, then repair is definitely not something anyone with sense would consider. Hence, waste. How can, however, a manufacturer justify the cost of a small spare part to be £75 in a printer that has cost less than half that amount, in all honesty, beats me. The labor costs was quoted at the same rate, and in addition shipping to and from manufacturer. It would have had to be sent in as no access to the area in the printer where the broken part resided.

A switch on a coffee machine cannot be repaired, as also encountered by this author, simply because the manufacturer has used screws that cannot be removed, thus rendering the machine obsolete and thus waste. Has everyone gone absolutely stupid; us, as consumers as well for accepting this?

The same goes for shoes and boots. Even if one can find good ones, where, for instance, there is actually a midsole that has been sewn to the upper, for instance, as in a pair of boots that I had. The seem had split a little and needed sewing but, alas, I did not have the correct needles and was unable to find them in the UK. So I took it to a shoe repair shop and first of all it took me several time of explaining what I wanted doing and all the operator understood was that I wanted new soles put on. When the finally grasped it the reply was: “I do not have a machine to do that”. It didn't need a machine but two bent needles and waxed thread; that was all. But those repair shops, today, are but machine operators and if there is not a machine for it it can't be done.

Forty years ago there would have been the men and even women who could have, in their little shops, been able to do such a repair within minutes with needles and thread, as the above one, and the same was true for radios, TVs, and other electrical appliances. To repair a car you did not need a degree in computer science and the right kinds test computers and such, but just some wrenches, screwdrivers, or what have you, and many people did a lot of tinkering on their cars themselves. Spare parts often came from the scrapyard because you just unbolted something from a scrap car and bolted it onto yours. Today that cannot be done. When the “glass” (plastic nowadays) of one of your indicators, for instance, is broken you have to replace, nowadays, the entire thing. No more going to just buying the “glass” or salvaging it from a scrap yard. Nope. An expensive new entire light has to be bought and fitted.

How did we ever become that stupid? Well, it was not so much us, the consumers, but the manufacturers. But then again, we have to share some of the blame for allowing it to happen.

© 2019

Holidaymakers encouraged to save their lilos from landfill by turning them into designer bags

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Holidaymakers can see their unwanted lilos transformed into designer bags and pouches thanks to a holiday company that’s pledging to reduce the number of inflatables sent to landfill.

Holiday Hypermarket has teamed up with sustainable designer Wyatt and Jack to encourage customers to turn their holiday inflatables into one-of-a-kind bags, with the package-holiday specialist picking up the postage costs for sending the plastic products. The pre-paid labels can be downloaded here:

https://www.holidayhypermarket.co.uk/hype/love-your-lilo/

Whether transforming a blow-up unicorn, a giant rubber doughnut, a classic lilo or any other weird-and-wonderful inflatable, the designers at Wyatt and Jack will work their magic. They'll create a new pouch or tote bag and generate little, if any, waste.

Georgia Wyatt-Lovell, founder of Wyatt and Jack, says: 'Holiday inflatables are great fun for a week or two, but when the holiday’s over, most people have no further use for them. By taking part in our inflatable amnesty, you can turn your lilo into something that’s unique and practical and literally carry around the memories of a wonderful holiday and cut down on plastic waste.'

For this partnership with Holiday Hypermarket, Wyatt and Jack is offering a 15% discount on all purchases, with prices for A5 pouches starting from just £8.

The initiative follows research of 2,000 British holidaymakers by Holiday Hypermarket that found:
- 25% leave their lilo at the hotel at the end of their holiday
- 9% throw their lilo into the bin before heading home
- 57% of holidaymakers won’t reuse a lilo left behind by someone else
With Association of British Travel Agents’ (ABTA) figures suggesting there will be more than eight million package holidays taken by Brits in 2019*, these figures imply that:
- More than two million people will leave their lilo behind
- More than 700,000 holidaymakers will throw their inflatable into the bin

Craig Duncan of Holiday Hypermarket says: "We were astounded by how many British holidaymakers say they abandon their lilos after their holidays. Plastic pollution is a real problem and we all have to think about the decisions we take and the impact they have on the destinations we visit.
"During our research, we spoke to hotels and they described lilos as an awful problem that is getting worse. When a holidaymaker leaves a lilo behind, hotels have little choice but to store them or send them to the local landfill.

"We asked holidaymakers if they would use free lilos and inflatables provided by their hotel, but more than half said no. This means that even if people think their left-behind-lilo will be used by someone else, the chances are it won’t, as most holidaymakers prefer to buy their own.
"This plastic problem needs smart solutions, and we are delighted to team up with Wyatt and Jack to give holidaymakers the opportunity to do something useful with their lilo after their holiday.'

To find out more about upcycling your lilo and to download the free Holiday Hypermarket postage label for sending inflatables to Wyatt and Jack, visit https://www.holidayhypermarket.co.uk/hype/love-your-lilo/.

*ABTA’s Holiday Habits Report 2018 says that 49% of British people took a package holiday in the past 12 months. According to the latest census information, the UK population is 66.7m, so 49% is 33m. Based on four people per booking, there were 8.25m package holidays taken over the past 12 months.

About Holiday Hypermarket: Holiday Hypermarket is a member of the TUI AG group of companies, selling package holidays from a variety of operators in countries across the world. Holiday Hypermarket is fully ABTA bonded and ATOL protected.

About Wyatt & Jack: Wyatt and Jack is a sustainable British brand that has been making bags and accessories from up cycled vintage deckchair canvas and broken bouncy castles since 2010. Follow then on social media @wyattandjack and #inflatableamnesty.

The great thing about Wyatt & Jack is, aside from what they do, is that all the products are made in Britain, in their workshop in Bembridge, on the Isle of Wight, and not in China or some other low-wage country.

© 2019

ARS-UVR-32PRO – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

ARS-UVR-32PRO from Sorbus International

Pro pruning saw with sheath, curved blade 4mm pitch, rubber grip. Blade high-Carbon Steel with hard-chrome plating. Curvature ground teeth (SUPER TURBOCUT®) and impulse hardened. 4mm tooth pitch with 1.5 mm tooth thickness. Blade length 320 mm and overall length 480 mm with a weight of 430 grams.

Having used Silky saws, including the Zubat, before I was really wondering how this one compared to everyone's favorites, namely Silky. Personally I am not, necessarily, balled over by Silky, I hasten to add. I must say the performance that I have had from the ARS-UVR-32PRO so far, in green standing and dead standing wood is far above that of the Silky flagship, the Zubat, probably due to the fact that the blade of the ARS-UVR-32PRO has 4 cut-outs, for lack of a better word, to remove the swath rather than just one, as in the case of the Zubat, at least the one that I have.

The cutting action if very smooth (OK, the saw is new) and there is none of the, what I call, “hooking”, when the saw bites itself somewhat tight. The latter is often due to an accumulation of swath in the cut which the four “cut-outs” in the curved blade eliminate, and four “cut-outs” are definitely better than one.

At just over £72 the ARS-UVR-32PRO is a little more expensive than the Silky Zubat but its performance is by better than that of the latter, so the few quid extra are well worth it, I would say.


© 2019

The pencil; a most reliable writing tool

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The question as to how “green” it is as far as manufacture and such is concerned is one thing but as far as reliability goes it trumps all. But I should think that it is a great deal greener, in manufacture as well as in disposal, as is the ballpoint pen, especially the one that is encased in plastic and which, more often than not, is tossed out after it has run out of ink.

The pencil also writes under low gravity or zero gravity conditions, upside down, etc. and that is while the USA spent millions upon millions developing a pen for their spaceflights (enter the Fisher Space Pen) the USSR took what was about, the (indelible) pencil, just as they did during the war.

The pencil writes well also in sub-zero temperatures without any problems and all it needs is a (pen)knife with which to sharpen it. It is, for that reason, also the ideal choice as a writing instrument in a survival kit. Unlike an ink pen, whether fountain or ballpoint, it will not dry up either during long storage, which is a great advantage if one has a large stock or keeps one in a survival kit where it may not be looked at, so to speak, and used in anger for a very long time.

While the fountain pen and the more common ballpoint pen, whether the disposable or not, write, generally, well enough under normal conditions when it comes to cold weather and others then they let you down. Also, regardless of whether the ballpoint pen is a disposable there is always the aspect of waste, be this as the entire pen or just the refill. The pencil, on the other hand, writer in almost all conditions and the only waste there is are the shaving (biodegradable) and the stub that may no longer be usable. It also rots down in the compost nicely, leaving just the graphite, which is no problem either.

I love the fountain pen but, alas, today's paper (no, not the media) is of such a standard that the ink from any such kind of pen bleeds through and thus is not suitable. That leaves only then the ballpoint pen or the pencil then. The former has some issues, especially when it comes to certain conditions and to the fact that the ink may – and more often than not does – dry up when “in storage” or not used and even when it has been used but has not for some time. This is not a problem with the latter, that is to say the pencil. It works in most, if not even all, conditions, and also on surfaces where the pen might not, upside down, on a wall, in zero gravity; none of that a problem for the pencil.

© 2019

Sprout Lands – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Sprout Lands
by William Bryant Logan
Published by W W Norton, April 2019
Hardcover 165 x 244 mm / 384 pages
ISBN 9780393609417
Price: £19.99

Arborist William Bryant Logan recovers the lost tradition that sustained human life and culture for ten millennia.

Farmers once knew how to make a living fence and fed their flocks on tree-branch hay. Rural people knew how to prune hazel to foster abundance: both of edible nuts and of straight, strong, flexible rods for bridges, walls and baskets. Townspeople cut beeches to make charcoal to fuel ironworks.

Shipwrights shaped oaks to make hulls. In order to prosper communities cut their trees so they would sprout again. Pruning the trees didn't destroy them. Rather, it created healthy, sustainable and diverse woodlands. From these woods came the poetic landscapes of Shakespeare's England and of ancient Japan. The trees lived longer.

William Bryant Logan traveled from the English fens to Spain, California and Japan to rediscover and celebrate what was once a common and practical ecology – finding hope that humans may again learn what the persistence and generosity of trees can teach, and the reader can travel with him on that journey through the book.

I found this book very easy to read and times it felt like reading a novel in that one did not want to put the book down. Even as a professional forester and someone who has worked with coppice a great I learned more than I would have thought possible. It is definitely a vividly insightful exploration of tree regeneration and I enjoyed every minute.

We all, foresters, woodland workers and everyone else really, should, if we not already do, share the vision of the author of a world in which humans and trees work together to mutual benefit; a world that has existed in the past and can exist again in the future.

© 2019

Chemicals from sunscreen products do seep into bloodstream

Sunscreen chemicals seep into bloodstream a new study by the FDA confirms

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Summer is on the way (well, at least according to the seasons) and soon everyone will be lathering on sunscreen and more of it onto their children to protect them from the possible impact of the light of the sun. But beware, the stuff is not as harmless as claimed. Maybe gently adjusting to the sun and its effects would be better than chemicals.

Sunscreen companies have long claimed the chemicals in their products are not absorbed into the body. Turns out the companies were rather economical with the truth and they are.
Today's sunscreens contains more chemicals at higher concentrations than they did 50 years ago and sunscreens are also applied much more frequently.

It is these two facts have prompted the FDA to re-evaluate the safety of sunscreen.

First the agency conducted a study to determine whether the chemicals used as active ingredients in the products are absorbed into the bloodstream, which the industry has denied.

“Because sunscreens are formulated to work on the surface of the skin, some have argued that sunscreens would not be absorbed in appreciable quantities and therefore that studies are unnecessary,” the agency said in a press release. (https://www.fda.gov/news-events/fda-voices-perspectives-fda-experts/shedding-new-light-sunscreen-absorption)

The study, published May 5 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found the opposite to be true. The chemicals are absorbed into the bloodstream at concerning levels.

The 24 participants in the study were instructed to apply sunscreen four times per day for four days on all areas that wouldn't be covered by a swimsuit, an amount one might realistically apply on a beach vacation.

Researchers then measured the concentration of four different active ingredients in their blood: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule.

After just one day, all four chemicals were found in levels that far exceed the level at which the FDA requires safety testing (anything higher than .5 nanograms per milliliter).

For oxybenzone, which has been found along with other sunscreen ingredients in breast milk, blood concentrations reached the threshold after a single application and exceeded 20 nanograms per milliliter on day 7 of the study.

Oxybenzone is also toxic to coral reefs, which has led Hawaii to ban sunscreens that contain it.
Three of the chemicals remained in the bloodstream seven days later.

Now the FDA must conduct further studies on all four ingredients before they can be considered generally safe and effective.

Specifically the agency needs to determine whether the chemicals the risk for cancer, birth defects, or other adverse effects.

“With sunscreens now being used with greater frequency, in larger amounts, it is more important than ever to ensure that sunscreens are safe and effective for daily, life-long use,” the press release says.

“Creation of sunscreen products with SPFs greater than 15 and greater broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays have led to currently marketed products with more active ingredients combined together in higher concentrations than were previously used.”

The FDA recommends continuing to use sunscreen while the chemicals are being studied, claiming the risks of sunburn outweigh the risks of sunscreen, but considering they haven't weighed those risks yet, it may be wise to take their advice with a grain of salt.

While too much exposure to the rays of the sun can cause damage the biggest problem that, when vising the beach, people tend to immediately plonk down in the sun to be frizzled. Proper and gentle acclimatization, over a couple of days is called for and also avoiding actually going for a roasting. How is our body to respond when generally we are all covered up and then, suddenly, we, including the kids, bare (if not all then most of it) and sit or lie out in the hot sun when at other times we rarely expose out skin to the elements and the rays of the sun?

It would appear that we need to apply not sunscreen but proper common sense and not immediately be out in the hot sun and especially not going for a roasting.

© 2019

In the past – not that long ago – people were happy with less

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the past – not so long ago – people were happy and content with less. Today people are not even happy if they have everything; they still want more. And then? Well, they are still not happy and need more, and then more still. But happiness never comes.

For some reason – the brainwashing of government, industry and their advertising has probably worked – people do seem to believe that by buying and consuming more they can attain happiness. There is even the talk of “retail therapy”, of shopping to drive away the blues and such. Normally the depression comes back again when the credit card bill arrives, though, if not already well before.

We cannot buy our way to happiness; it is a delusion. It is also not good for our wallets, our bank balance, and especially not good for the Planet.

The capitalist economic systems of industry and commerce, however, is designed in this way that it needs people to buy more, more and then still more, of the same products even, in order to keep growing and generating profits for the capitalists and the shareholders of the companies.

Today, if you are thrifty and happy with little you are looked upon as poor, as not being able to afford all those new shiny toys every six months or so – even if you are not – and in the eyes of our governments those of us who do not wish to buy – pardon the pun – into consumerism are even considered “domestic terrorists” because we do not support the growth of the economy and thus the nation's GDP.

Peer pressure, government pressure, advertising and the way industry produces things nowadays with built-in obsolescence push people into this consumer madness but it still does not explain why in their mind they believe that happiness can come from an accumulation material things and monetary wealth.

The story begins in childhood already when parents are not prepared to use the two-letter word “no” when the child wants this and that and that and that. Oh, but little Johnny will be unhappy when we don't get him what he wants. And that happens when he has got this new toy or the new toys even. They are used for five minutes and then he wants some more new toys and the cycle continues. And this is where and how, already in the children, this all happens that we are not happy with little and small things.

From all sides we are being conditioned to believe that we have more money, more shiny toys, a bigger house, a bigger and faster car, etc., we will be happy.

I grew up with little, I have to admit, and maybe that is why I can make do with little and do not base my happiness or lack of it, which ever may be the case, on things or the lack of them, or on money or lack of same.

Having grown up that way taught me also to make things and I get great pleasure from doing just that; making things I want and need – as far as possible – myself and, if at all possible, from things that are considered waste or from natural materials such as wood.

There is a saying that is apt in so many instances and in this one here too which goes something like: “The rich are rich because they live like the poor and the poor are poor because they live like they are rich”.

While it is, generally, understandable that those who grew up dirt poor want to “better” themselves they have to understand though – only no one is prepared to tell them that because it does not sell products and services – that they cannot buy themselves happiness and neither love.

Not only do I, personally, find it very strange that today people can no longer appreciate the little things and be happy with what they have but I find it also rather disconcerting and believe it shows the failure of our society today. Neoliberalism has brought us this strange attitude of what is called “entitlement culture” where everyone seems to believe that he or she is entitled to get everything that they want when they want it.

Our culture has bred consumers and addicts. We eat too much, we buy too much, and we want too much. We set ourselves on the fruitless mission of filling the gaping hole within us with material things. Blindly, we consumer more and more, believing we are hungry for more food, status, or money, yet really we are hungry for connection.

Anyone who does not and cannot appreciate the little things also will never be able to appreciate the big and expensive things and the same goes for being happy with less or more. They will not and anyway things won't make one happy, at least not in the long run.

When it comes to “entitlement” all people should be entitled to work that pays a decent salary, a home that is fit for human habitation and of a good size, leisure time, clothing, food and electricity and heating for the home, and the first two and the last two, should be where the state should provide, if need, but sadly does not in most places.

So, but now I shall go and rest my case; it is getting heavy.

© 2019

Off the boil: Mayor’s cashback scheme fails

The Mayor has pulled the plug on a £10 million boiler cashback scheme as only two projects ever got off the ground – Caroline Russell AM discovered the money has been ‘diverted’ to business projects instead.

The commercial boiler cashback scheme, which was designed to help small businesses replace old, inefficient boilers, has been left with £500,000, and 30 more projects still stuck in the application process.

Yesterday Caroline questioned the Mayor’s LEAP team (London Economic Action Partnership) about the £9 million underspend.

Caroline Russell said: “We are in a climate emergency – and the Mayor knows this. He keeps blaming central Government for a lack of action on climate change but in areas where he can make a real difference he is failing.

“This scheme was supposed to help small businesses replace polluting and inefficient boilers, but it has barely made a dent in the carbon emissions it was supposed to reduce.

“This seriously undermines the Mayor’s credibility on tackling climate change. It’s totally unacceptable that only two projects are in delivery, when there are over a million small and medium sized enterprises in London.”
 
[1] The Mayor’s set up a £10 million Cleaner Heat Cashback commercial boiler scheme for small and medium sized enterprises to “rapidly boost” to rapidly replace inefficient heating systems with cleaner replacements to cut NOx and carbon emissions. The delivery period April 2018 – March 2020. https://www.london.gov.uk/moderngovmb/documents/s63520/11 LEAP Quarterly Reporting.pdf

[2] According to the LEAP Quarterly report for January 2019 – April 2019 https://www.london.gov.uk/moderngovmb/documents/s63520/11

LEAP Quarterly Reporting.pdf there are only two projects in delivery and 30 are ‘stuck in the application process as unable to meet all requirements’

[3] London Assembly Economy Committee report, Helping SMEs to thrive: “SMEs make up over 99 per cent of all businesses in London. Their number have increased by almost one third in the last six years (+29per cent), and now account for over one million (1,010,100) businesses.” https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/helping_smes_to_thrivefinal.pdf

Caroline Russell was elected as a Green member of the London Assembly in May 2016. She has been an Islington councillor since 2014.

Dumping garden waste in woods

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Many people believe that dumping their garden waste in woods, parks and the countryside is a good idea as it goes back into soil but far from it. This practice actually spreads diseases as well as invasive species. In Germany, for instance, it is a felony that can get the offender, if caught, into very hot water.

While garden waste, grass clippings, tree prunings, old plants and whatever else organic does, in the end, rot down and become compost, soil pests, diseases and the rhizomes of invasive species more often than not have escaped well before that process has taken place. Some also remain active after, as I see time and again in the case of compost in the garden that had some potato peelings in it and even after three years the potato “seed” is still viable.

Disposing illegally of garden waste in woods, parks, and open spaces, is a crime and falls, in the same way as any other waste, under fly tipping, and that rightly so, and that despite the fact that the material will rot down.

Aside from it looking bad and untidy, and that for quite a time, the material can and will spread invasive species and also soil and plant diseases far and wide. This is very detrimental to the environment as a whole and dumping garden waste therefore is not an innocent thing to do, aside from being illegal fly tipping, in the same way as dumping any other waste.

© 2019

Burgon & Ball Container Root and Transplanting Knife – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Burgon & Ball Container Root and Transplanting Knife - RHS-Endorsed
RHS Container Gardening

£16.99

Like all the tools in our container gardening collection, this container root and transplanting knife is endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society, perhaps the ultimate accolade in the world of gardening.

This specialist container root and transplanting knife is invaluable for planting, weeding and maintaining beautiful container displays. Slide it around the inside of a pot to release a plant before transplanting. Slice through tangled roots with the serrated blade. Dig tight holes for adding new plants, either by scooping or by plunging in the blade and pulling it towards you. You’ll find your own ways of using this indispensable tool, but one thing is certain; you’ll wonder how you managed without it.

Crafted in high-carbon steel for strength and durability, this root and transplanting knife has a tough powder coating for rust resistance, and the blade features depth markings for accurate planting. Like all the tools in the container gardening collection, the knife comes with a ten-year guarantee.

You may also be interested in our RHS-endorsed container weeder and RHS-endorsed container scoop.

Handle: 100% FSC certified hardwood
Tool head: high-carbon steel with powder coating
Hanging cord: leather

This tool is akin to, and, and I hazard a guess now, based on the Japanese Hori-Hori though the cutting edge is not as sharp as it would be on a Hori-Hori of Japaneses manufacture. Then again such an edge, if the blade repeatedly goes into the soil, won't stay sharp for long.

In this tool you, basically, have a multi-tasking tool for the garden which includes a trowel, suitable for tight spaces, as well as cutting edges that allow you to do other things, such as, as mentioned above, cutting through tangled roots, or to open bags, and much more.

A very useful little tool at about half or less of that of a Japanese Hori-Hori with almost the same capabilities. A belt sheath for it to make it possible to carry it around the garden with leaving the hands free would have been nice but there are other ways to achieve that, such as by a little DIY and recycling (see my article here). Different story though.

© 2019

Three in ten children can't tie their shoelaces when leaving primary school

And 62% of parents admit they have no time to teach them

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

3 in 10 children are still unable to tie their shoe laces on leaving primary school according to findings from a survey commissioned by OSGO* to coincide with National Feet Week (13th – 20th May).

Of the 500 surveyed, 46% of parents thought that being able to tie your own laces was an important life skill yet 62% of parents admitted to tying their children’s laces for them to save time and stress every morning. One mum said: ‘Its far easier for me to tie my children’s laces before we leave the house on the school run or we would be really late.’

As well as time constraints, 57% of those questioned said that their children also had no interest in tying their shoelaces and were not bothered about learning how.

Advances in footwear design and fashion trends have meant that many children don’t wear shoes with laces until much later than in previous generations, who were expected to learn by the age of around seven. Velcro and pull-on designs are the most popular amongst parents because of ease of use and time-saving.

76% of parents said they taught their children to tie laces at home with only 14% relying on school to teach their child. During National Feet Week, OSGO are urging parents to help their children begin to learn this essential life skill which helps to support feet as they continue to grow and develop.

Tony Gavin, CEO at OSGO believes that children should be taught to tie their laces from an early age and said: ‘It’s a worrying statistic that children are progressing to high school without having learned a crucial life skill. Children’s fine motor skills should be developed enough by aged six to begin learning to tie their shoe laces and parents should dedicate time to teaching their kids to perfect this. Not only is it a key life skill, being able to tie laces properly supports young feet that are still growing and developing.’

The problem is that children's fine motor skills are not developed for many kids by the age the read primary school. Some are not even strong enough in their fingers to hold a pencil due to having spent far too much time playing with touchscreens. If there would be an app to tie laces they could do it but without an app... no.

Shockingly one mum claimed: ‘My 11 year old son plays football on a Saturday and the matches are regularly stopped so the referee can tie a players laces!’

I find this, I must say, rather shocking but not surprising I must say considering that parents are so busy nowadays, mostly with themselves and their cellphones.

OSGO is a podiatry membership organisation, created for private podiatry practitioners. OSGO provides, support and information for podiatry practices nationwide.

- National Feet Week (13th May – 20th May) encourages people of all ages to prioritise foot health in the same way they would dental and eye health with regular podiatry appointments.
- National Feet Week is raising money for Forgotten Feet www.forgottenfeet.uk – a charity that provides chiropody and podiatry services for those most in need. Purchase your National Feet Week laces for GBP £1.00 donation from podiatry practices across the UK.

© 2019

Futurekind – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Futurekind
Design for and by the People
by Dr. Rob Phillips
Published by Thames & Hudson, May (16) 2019
240 pages 900 illustrations Hardback 25.5 x 21.0 cm
ISBN: 978 0 500 519790
Price: 39.95 Hardback

Manual and manifesto, an inspiration and a call to arms; this rich and timely survey is all in one and presents over sixty innovative, socially and environmentally conscious design projects changing the world for the better.

We have grown accustomed to two beliefs: the first, that only experts can be designers; the second, that our everyday activities are harming the world. Yet, with new platforms, digital communication and engaged online communities, the products we can now design - and truly need - can be made by anyone for social and environmental good. Social design can see that primary school children learn to code, and uses local information in off-grid locations to create global change. Open-source design is enabling us to remake our world right now.

Structured into eight areas of application, from healthcare to education, Futurekind showcases over sixty projects from across the globe and across every scale and budget to reveal how design practice is being transformed by open-source platforms, crowd-sourcing and the latest digital technologies. Each has made a genuine different to lives and communities around the world.

Rather than being client-driven, as commercial design often is, each project here is the result of designers who reach out, communities who get involved and the technologies that are helping people to realize ideas together. From a playground-powered water pump in South Africa to a DIY budget mobile phone, each of these groundbreaking projects is presented through fascinating and life-affirming stories, diagrams that reveal the mechanisms and motivations behind each design approach, and photography that celebrates the humanity of the endeavor.

Open-source and open-source design, aka open design, can make a difference on so many levels, both for the Planet and for the people, and there more that those sixty projects that are listed in the books worldwide at the moment and more coming “on stream” all the time. The most important thing with those designs is that they can be replicated in many cases in a garage at the place where whatever it is is required and wanted. The small plastic recycling “plant” of the project “Precious Plastics” on page 152 to 155 comes in full open-source, if I am not entirely mistaken, with the plans downloadable under Creative Commons and all the machines can be built, basically, from scrap parts with some welding and other tinkering skills. It is aimed to enable anyone, including in Third World countries, to build such a “plant” and to recycle plastics of all kinds into new products (for sale) thus creating a livelihood too.

This is not about the world of design, but the design of the world

Dr. Rob Phillips is an award-winning product designer and a senior tutor on the Design Products Course at the Royal College of Art. His research into open design and citizen science has resulted in internationally taught methods at MIT, Goldsmiths, Cornell, and the BBC. As a designer, his past clients have included: Puma, Samsung, Save the Children, Visa; the Victoria and Albert Museum and Google. His research seeks to 'Engage Design' processes to decrease people's impact, gaining insight into what people really do ... thinking how can we be Futurekind to Humankind.

A most interesting book and read for anyone interested in socially and environmentally conscious design and especially open-source and open design. I can wholly recommend it and also to do some further research on the subject, as there is much more out there than could have fitted into the book.

© 2019