Taking recycling too far?

Firefighters in Sittingbourne, Kent, were called out to an Asda petrol station last week after a woman fell into a recycling bin.

A 35-year-old woman dropped off some clothes into a clothes recycling bin at the Millway Ada petrol station on 22 July, but changed her mind and tried to fish something back out again.

She fell headfirst into the bin and got trapped in the slot, and was only rescued after a fellow recycler spotted her feet hanging out and then alerted the emergency services.

An ambulance and a fire engine with five crew members on board turned up and used heavy duty hydraulic spreaders and hand tools to prise apart the hinges and set her free.

(27 July 2007)

Vegetarianism & Animal Welfare

Most of who have become vegetarians, except for those who follow a vegetarian lifestyle for reasons of religion, such as some of the Hindu faith, have done so because they think that eating meat is cruel because animals get slaughtered for it.

I wonder, however, if any of them have ever considered what would happen if all the world would suddenly go vegetarian. Have they ever considered what would happen to all the cows, chickens, sheep, pigs, rabbits, etc. that are kept for food, if we all suddenly would give up the eating of meat and meat products? I doubt that they have.

Due to the fact that the pasture land for cattle (and horses) would, if we all would go vegetarian, would have to be ploughed up as it would be required for the growing of vegetables, grain and such, in order to be able to feed the world. Those animals, bar a few, would all be the very first casualties. They would be killed and disposed off, probably as dog and cat food.

It can also be assumed that they would soon be followed by wild animals, such as deer, rabbits, and such, which would be bothering the crops.

People must wake up to the fact that, as soon as deer, rabbits, hares, etc. are no longer managed and culled for meat, they will become rampant and will invade the fields and gardens and either destroy the crops, causing famine, or they will be shot, trapped or even poisoned. Not such a fuzzy and cuddly prospect, is it now. And no, fences will not keep them out in the long run. I have seen deer jump so-called deer-proof fences in forestry and that with absolute ease. Such fences were over six foot tall.

I would suggest that we all, but especially the vegetarian lobby, took a reality check.

It is always amazing how many people do not have a cue of what they are talking about but try to “educate” and “convert” the world.

© M V Smith, July 2007

Simpler Life - In Praise of Paper-based PDAs

Even in today's digital world paper still has its place, more maybe even than before, and I am referring here to such things as Filofax agendas and the like, and even such as being compiled by the users themselves rather than by purchasing such an agenda binder as a Filofax itself and/or the inserts for such binders.

The person who invented the POCKET Mod “Paper PDA” has had an absolutely brilliant idea, in my view, especially as one can use paper that is basically waste, printed on one side already and unloved and unwanted, often because it is spam post, to turn into a small notebook of eight small pages.

Personally I have designed my own POCKET Mod online with the tool provided on the website, then printed one, scanned it into the PC, made it into a word processor document and then turned it into a PDF file. When I need some need little notebooks – I use those especially for projects and articles – I print them out from the PDF, make them up and then carry a small number of them with me.

I tend to use those small notebooks for special projects and article drafts even though I also use a Filofax, though this cannot be carried all the time for its size. I use a POCKET Mod almost daily, I must say.

Why do I advocate low-tech solutions here many will wonder seeing that, obviously, I do use a PC, and I must admit more than one even, ect.? Why indeed?

For more than a year I used to carry and use a Palm Pilot PDA but I have had nothing but problems with hand-held devices and after the umpteenth time and also wiped its backup on the PC and Palm's customer service was simply non-existent, as many people said on the Internet forums about that company (BTW, that is OLD Palm and not the company that uses the name now) I decided to revert back to the use of pen and paper, in the form, initially, of the Filofax binder.

The great advantages of pen and paper, and paper-based notes, is (1) the fact that no batteries and no operating system or other software can fail and (2) that is it not a sensitive unit that might get damaged or broken if dropped or if water gets spilled upon it, and I have to say that, as I get my pens free from Trade Shows and other exhibitions, it to me is the most effective system.

Paper-based systems still valid in the twenty-first century.

Also, I have to add, that the pages for the Filofax paper PDA that I carry are made at home by using an old Lotus Organizer program on Windows ME which prints pages in Filofax size. I then cut the pages to the right size, more or less by eye judgement after lots of experience, making some blank (at least one side of it) pages at the same time, and then punch the holes. For this I did invest in a Filofax-specific hole punch – and they do not come cheap but then neither do the store-bought inserts. In fact I am sure that the hole punch has by now definitely paid for itself.

Pen and paper based notes, to me at least, work much better than do PDAs of whichever operating system, but then that is my personal view.

Yes, I admit, I do have to type my notes up on the PC afterwards and to a degree people may think this to be rather time consuming and a waste but considering the time it takes to input text and data onto a PDA by means of a stylus and the touch screen I do not think that it takes me more time altogether with typing up my notes.
It also give me the time, while typing them up, to already edit and make additions, etc. to my draft that I have written in pen on paper in longhand.

Using POCKET Mob notebooklets and the Scrybe online organizer (Iscribe.com), with its off-line facility, where pages can be printed out similar to the POCKET Mod, and definitely the same pocket size, one does not even have to lug around a Filofax, though the latter does come in rather handy for contact details and other such things, so, therefore, a lot of times I still have the Filofax binder in my briefcase nevertheless. When I go somewhere without the briefcase, however, then the other two little systems suffice and fit into the shirt pocket or hip pocket of jeans or other pants.

I am not saying that we should abandon modern technology and the PC and even pocket PCs and other electronic PDAs; I am no Luddite, but what I am saying is “ask yourself whether you actually NEED one.
While I am quite the gadget man and have several – five indeed – PCs I cannot see, as yet at least, really a need for having a (new) electronic PDA and definitely no benefit and justification.
When I bought my so far first and only electronic PDA, the Palm Pilot, it was the lure of the gadget, a new toy, so to speak, but I have learned the hard way.
For the time being at least, I personally, shall stick with a paper and pen based system for on the move and I will type up my notes and article- and report drafts into the computer when back at base.

Will the hand-held PC displace paper-based systems? I do not think so. In the same way as e-books will not, I think, displace or replace proper paper books.

I have to say that with me the hand-held will not replace paper-based systems. I took a PDA a couple of years back now but with the problems I experienced with it, and the great – NOT – customer service from the company,I would not go back to one, that is for sure.

Having used a Palm Pilot PDA for fourteen month, when it gave up its ghost finally, after six months of problem prior to it giving up, and, as said, a non-existent customer support from the makers, I went back to using a Filofax binder and the other paper-based systems for note taking and for contact details and I have not regretted this move one bit.
While I cannot transfer, that is true, my stuff electronically from my paper-based systems to a PC – for obvious reasons – which is obviously something that the electronic gadgets are capable of doing – the reliability and the robustness of the paper-based systems of the electronic PDAs and Pocket PCs outweigh those factors.
I just type my data and notes into the PC and often this gives me a change to make amendments right away or, as in the case of articles and such, to work on the piece by expanding the notes into a proper essay right away proper or at least into the beginning of one.

The greatest advantages of the ordinary and not so ordinary paper based PDA systems is the fact that, as said already, as aside from the pen running out of ink – that's why I always carry at least one backup pen – and fire, the notes are safe.

From an environmental aspect and that of sustainability any paper-based system, especially as I described them here as used by me, has a much smaller impact as paper is recyclable – and I am doing this already by reusing previously printed material – and also shredded can be put into the domestic composters where it will break down easily (though coated papers may not work too well or not at all). Electronic PDAs on the other hand require specialist waste facilities and treatment as neither the basic units nor their batteries can be put into landfill sites, which any way are running out at an alarming rate, due to the fact they contain toxic substances which could contaminate groundwater and soil.

I do know that some of the environmental movement might disagree with me in some respect as to advocating a paper-based system over a paper-less one, e.g. electronic devices, that is to say PDAs and Pocket PCs, but so be it. I believe that it is far more environmentally responsible to use paper, sourced, obviously, from sustainable forests and to, especially, us the backs of old printed emails, letters, etc.

© M V Smith, July 2007

Sheep could be drafted in to cut the council grass

Norfolk County Council is thinking of abandoning it gasoline-powered lawnmowers and bringing in sheep to keep the grass trimmed at it Headquarters in Norwich.

The move is part of the authority's ongoing effort to improve its environmental performance, reduce emissions and its carbon footprint.

Grazing animals like sheep and goats and even cows are widely used as a natural alternative to mowers and brush cutters in conservation projects up and down the country. Some refer to goats as foresters with horns even.

This plan of the Norfolk County Council is still at an early stage with officers looking into the details of this and member will yet have to decide on whether or not to adopt such a scheme.

© M V Smith, July 2007

Recycling is not enough

Recycling on its own is not enough to tackle the UK's ever growing waste problem. people must change their habits and consume less in the first place, but even more important is the reduction of packaging waste and we must reuse and repair more. We have become, in the UK and the USA especially, it seems, a throw-away society where it is also cheaper, unfortunately, to buy new rather than to repair. As an example we should see the fact that an Epson computer printer of the low range costs UK£29.99 but when the ink reservoir was full up six month into its use and the warranty did not cover that a quote of £72 for a new ink reservoir was given and another £70 for fitting the said ink reservoir. How come that the unit itself, with the ink reservoir, can be sold for £30 while a repair would cost £110 more than a new one? This just is the wrong way round. We must change this, again.

In its report, “Consumption: reducing, reusing and recycling”, the Economic and Social Research Council argues that the process being made by increasing recycling rates is undermined by the sheer volume of waste that is being generated by all of us. Therefore the ESRC advocates 'social marketing' as part of the solution.

It estimates that, if household waste output continues to rise by 3% a year, the cost to the economy will be £3.2 billion and the amount of harmful methane emissions will double by 2020.

The report highlights the many ways that social science can contribute to waste policy development, either by devising initiatives, by providing tools to evaluate their relative effectiveness or by helping to understand why they did or did not work.

Commercial marketing tools could be used, said the ESRC's Professor Ken Peattie, to influence public behavior for the benefit of society as a whole.

This social marketing, he said, can be successful because if focuses on the target audience's point of view, taking account of any emotional or physical barriers that may prevent people from changing their behavior.

We must return to the old ways of glass bottles that have a deposit on them which is refunded when the bottle is returned, as well as take on board tried and tested methods from other countries, such as the reverse vending machines for aluminum soda and beer cans. In the USA many families – especially those forced to live on the street, but also others – make a living from collecting, including removing them from litter bins, such cans and feeding them into the reverse vending machines where they are paid a couple of cents each per can. We will not be getting far by punishing households for not recycling “properly” but will get a lot further if we give people incentives to recycle.

Guilt messages are ineffective, as are punishments, in this instance. A better way is to focus on the benefits of a greener lifestyle as encouragement to people to reduce their consumption. If people can see no benefit it it for them – the greater good may appeal to some but not all – then many will not do it. But do we have the political will to see this through as a country? Do we also have the will as individuals to make this work by firstly reducing our consumption and secondly by ensuring that everything can be recycled in one way or the other?

© M V Smith, July 2007