Royal Forestry Society warning on Lyme disease for forestry workers

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Just in time for tick season the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) has produced a new fact sheet designed to prevent forestry workers and members of the public visiting forests and woodlands getting Lyme disease. The move is seen as particularly important because the disease is becoming more common and the symptoms can be severe.

The disease is caused by Borrelia bacteria transferred from infected wildlife to humans, through a tick bite. In the UK the disease is usually carried by lxodes ricinus – known as the sheep, deer or woodland tick.

The disease starts as a rash, but can lead to meningitis, facial palsy, nerve damage and arthritis. It can be treated by antibiotics, but if left undiagnosed complicated treatment may be needed. In the United States fatalities have been reported resultant from Lyme Disease.

Simple measures, such as wearing appropriate clothing or cleaning boots after use, can help reduce the incidence of the disease.

RFS chief executive Dr John Jackson said: “Lyme disease is a major problem in Europe and North America. Although it is still relatively uncommon in this country, there have been 6,000 cases since 1999 and numbers are steadily increasing.”

The ticks are particularly active in late spring, early summer and autumn. Not all areas are infected, but the New Forest, South Downs, Thetford Forest, North York Moors, the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands are regarded as high risk areas.

One should, however, regardless, consider all areas as potentially dangerous as there is no guarantee, same as with the no-see-um midge, that infected insects do not colonize other areas.

The Ticks and Lyme Disease factsheet can be downloaded from the RFS website

© 2010

We must simplify our lives

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

We must simplify our lives, every bit of it, and that seriously.

A lot of lip service is being paid to this, to simplifying our lives, and against consumerism, in the “green” movement, only for then to be replaced with a “green” version of it.

Green and eco merchandisers vie for consumers all over the web and also on the High Street and on fairs everyone tries to better the other and many “green” craftspeople exploit the consumer wanting to buy recycled products, for instance.

Are we not about to become what we had hoped – I for one, at least – to stand against, namely the mad consumer society? But we are now, as it would appear, transposing this mad consumerism to the “green” movement and everyone seems to be advocating green consumerism.

Obviously, if you write and publish a book teaching people how to live a more sustainable life, in whichever way, it is fine to sell it at a decent price but when you see craftspeople and companies reinventing this or that and calling it a green invention then that is another thing.

I, for one, have seen the “recycled vase” for £35 ($60) which was but an old wine bottle with some colored cotton string wrapped around it. We used to do that as kids in the 1960s and 1970s. I mean, come on! About sixty bucks for this.

The latest “joke” was the reinvention of the glass bottle for use with tap water for eighteen to twenty-two dollars where reusing a Snapple lemonade bottle made of glass or a glass Ketchup bottle could be reused and repurposed for free. Really people, this is ripping the public off.

While I very much accept (the need for) green businesses I do not and cannot accept that this is used to exploit and con the consumer, as it is so often done in the “ordinary” economic ways and transactions.

I had seriously and honestly thought that we, that is those in the “green” movement, would be doing things differently, in a new way, but this does not seems to be the case. Some just see green and eco as a way of making a quick buck. What a shame!

We have been at the gates and the threshold of something new but, alas, it seems that idiots involved decided not to step through those gates and over the threshold. Instead they locked the gates with a new padlock, threw away the key, and decided to go on as is but with a green-washed economy. Barf!

It is just such a shame that the green agenda has been and is being misused in such a way.

How are we going to get to the new way this way? We don't and that is the truth of the matter.

However, it is not down to those green-washers but to use, to each and every one of us. For we, if we are really concerned and serious, can make a difference and change the way things are being done.

Too often, though, people seem to believe that they have to buy this or that green product in order to be really green and environmentally friendly.

This gadget or that “recycled” products is hyped up as a definite must, and so on, and being green, in many a mind, becomes a complicated and expensive affair. It is not and nor should it be thus.

A simplified life is what is needed, but is is such a shame that the governments do not allow for this either.

Government insists on making our lives more difficult from one day to the next More bureaucracy that is to make things easier. Not for the ordinary punter though, and when government departments screw up it is never ever their fault but always s.

Simplification of life is needed everywhere and first and foremost government must get out of our lives.

There are times and places for government, but not in our personal lives.

Every aspect of our lives need simplifying. Not one area will be exempt and when we are hitting the end of oil we will also be hitting the end of life as we presently know it.

Things will have to be done in a different, simpler and slower way then, and this may not be a bad thing at all.

We also need to relearn to do our own repurposing and reusing of things and that – and if anyone wants a recycled bottle vase then I suggest simple DIY and the same for other items too.

A glass water bottle for the carrying of your tap water can also be had by simple reuse and repurposing without having to spend money and the transportation costs and footprint associated with the “made” product.

Time for a serious rethink.

© 2010

Waste incineration – yes or no?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Waste incineration is a very touchy and controversial subject to many among the environmentally conscious people.

Friends of the Earth again and again, in Britain, come out against wast incineration and on one level I am with them there and that is that much of the incineration is just a case of “great landfill in the sky”.

Waste incineration is often just a replacement for the landfill and of no further use, except of keeping the stuff out of holes in the ground, thus just replacing one way of “waste management” with another.

However, in other countries it is used for all that kind of rubbish that cannot be recycled in any way and then used to run power stations. Sweden can be seen and held up as an example here.

But, waste incineration should only be used as a last resort, for all that material that cannot be recycled, and most of it can. There is, though, always some that cannot and, until such a time that we have changed that, burning it to power electricity generators might be the lesser of the evil, especially if the right kind of filters are employed in the chimneys.

We must look at waste, as, I am sure we all by now know, with a completely different eye and we must look, aside from reducing it, to changing the components so that all can either be recycled or composted and that there is no part that cannot be recycled in one way or the other.

Until such a time, however, there will always be some part of the waste entering the waste stream that cannot be recycled in any way and it can only be dealt with in one of two ways; landfill or incineration.

While we don't want to have a great landfill in the sky really as the air is polluted enough already in the absence of a better way using the incineration of waste as a means of generating electricity might be the best option. But, as said, this does mean strict filtering and strict controls.

The ideal scenario, as far as waste is concerned, would be to have none that cannot be recycled in some way; a completely closed loop, but that is still a way off it would appear.

The reason that we seem to have to wait for that appears to me that industry just has no inkling of changing its ways. Over-packaging is still the norm in most cases and often this is the kind of material, because it is a laminate of different materials that simply cannot be recycled, properly.

TerraCycle is showing the way as to what to do with some of those things and how well the products from waste can turn out. It is also a very labor intensive and time intensive process.

On the other hand, if we would return to old style practices of making things we might, just about, be able to change those things and do away with the overproduction of waste and also have a way of recycling the waste that there is and which is useable as a resource.

Time for a real change and new ways.

© 2010

World Ocean Day at Nausicaa Boulogne

The three mast Belem, once owned by the Duke of Westminster, celebrates World Ocean Day at Nausicaa, Boulogne from 6 to 8 June 2010

A REAL CELEBRATION OF THE SEA will take place leading up to World Ocean Day (08 June 2010) that aims to stimulate public interest in the marine environment. The organiser, the World Ocean Network, of which NAUSICAA is a founding member, has organised a full program of activities, entertainment and workshops from 5 to 8 June. This year World Ocean Days’ theme is « Biodiversity » and in particular how to handle the benefits that the Ocean provides to Man.

The BELEM in Boulogne

Launched in 1896 the three mast BELEM is the last of the big French commercial sailing ships still in commission. Today she is used as a sail training school. At NAUSICAA’s invitation and on the occasion of World Ocean Day, she will be in the port of BOULOGNE-SUR-MER from 13.00 Sunday 6 June. Public tours are available on Sunday 6 June from 14.30 to 17.30 and on 7 and 8 June from 16.00 to 17.30. Tickets are 4 € per adult over 14 years old (all children under 14yrs are free). For further information and to purchase tickets contact the Boulogne Tourist Office: +33 321 10 88 10,

Sail on the BELEM

On Wednesday 9 June, the BELEM sails from Boulogne for Cherbourg with 48 students onboard. During this 3 day course students will learn, discuss and participate in life on board a three mast barque. A discussion is planned with maritime specialist, François SARANO, who amongst other things worked with Cousteau on the Calypso and who more recently participated in the filming of the “Oceans” film. For further information and to sign up for the 3 day course contact the BELEM Foundation on

the BELEM was originally a cargo ship, transporting sugar from the West Indies, cocoa, and coffee from Brazil and French Guiana to Nantes, France . By chance she escaped the eruption of the Mount Pelée in Saint-Pierre de la Martinique on 8 May 1902. All Saint Pierre roads were full of vessels, no place to anchor the ship. Captain Julien Chauvelon angrily decided to anchor some miles further on in a beach - sheltered from the exploding volcano.

She was sold in 1914 to Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster, who converted her to his private luxurious pleasure yacht, complete with two auxiliary Bolinder Diesel engines 300 HP each.

In 1922 she became the property of the beer baron Sir Arthur Ernest Guinness, who renamed her the Fantôme II (French spelling) and revised the rig from a square rigger.

Hon. A.E. Guinness was Rear Commodore of the Royal St. George Yacht Club, in Kingstown , Ireland from 1921-1939. He was Vice Commodore from 1940- 1948.

Hon. A.E. Guinness took the Fântome II on a great cruise in 1923 with his daughters Aileen, Maureen, and Oonagh. They sailed the seven seas in making a travel round the world via the Panama and Suez Canals including a visit to Spitsbergen. During her approach to Yokohama harbour while sailing the Pacific Ocean the barque managed to escape another catastrophe - an earthquake which destroyed the habour and parts of Yokohama city. Hon. Arthur E. Guinness died in 1949. The 'Fantome' was moored in the roads of Cowes, Isle of Wight.

Finally, in January 1979, after a long sojourn, she came back to her home port as the “Belem” under tow by a French sea-going tug, flying the French flag after 65 years.

Once she was fully restored to her original condition, she began a new career as a sail training ship.

'Belem' is an abbreviation of the town Bethlehem.

UK waste can supply half renewables energy target by 2020

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A study finds UK energy-from-waste can contribute up to 50 percent of the UK renewable energy target by 2020

An award-winning study concludes that energy-from-waste (EfW) technologies can contribute up to 50 percent of the UK renewable energy target by 2020. It states that this will depend on the pace of investment and availability of suitable feedstock. The study won the first Geotech Bursary / CIWM Award.

Biomethane Benefit

This research study by Cranfield graduate, Kofi Apea Adu-Gyamfi, considers the development of energy from waste (EfW) technologies and their potential contribution to the UK ’s renewable energy targets. The study identifies the use of biomethane as road transport fuel and small-scale EfW deployment at community level as applications with huge potential benefits for the UK . These two options are easily implementable and could provide substantial savings in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. His study concludes that, depending on the pace of investment and availability of suitable feedstock, EfW technologies can contribute up to 50 percent of UK renewables target by 2020. The full paper can be downloaded from

Landfill Limit

The study notes the UK ’s traditional use of landfill as the main method of waste disposal and management. However, landfilling is unsustainable due to its harmful effects on the environment and public health. Under the European Union (EU) Landfill Directive, member nations are now required to divert biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) from landfills.

The UK has also committed to the EU Renewable Energy Directive, which binds it to sourcing at least 15 percent of its energy mix from renewables by 2020. To meet these targets, the UK has to support alternative waste management options whilst achieving considerable deployment of renewables.

Winning Ways

The paper was completed by Kofi Apea Adu-Gyamfi while at Cranfield having had his proposal for a paper selected as the first winner of the Geotech Bursary / CIWM Award. Sponsored by Geotech and run as part of the CIWM’s Professional Awards programme, the paper was presented at a recent CIWM awards ceremony. The next CIWM Professional Awards ceremony is on 20th October 2010 at Lord’s Cricket Ground. There, the second winning paper on 'The Future Roles of Landfill Gas and Biogas' to win the Geotech Bursary will be presented. The Geotech Bursary / CIWM Award is open to all, internationally.

Geotech is the market-leading manufacturer and supplier of portable landfill gas and biogas analysers. For all its landfill, biogas and waste-to-energy gas analysers Geotech's calibration lab received UKAS ISO17025 Accreditation in April 2010.

Widely used is the GA2000 portable landfill gas analyser. Worldwide Geotech gas analysers are rapidly becoming even more important with growing focus on energy-from-waste (EfW).

For continuous and fixed gas analysis, Geotech’s Automated Extraction Monitoring System (AEMS) equipment can be installed by Geotech field engineers worldwide. Fully automated, AEMS controls and protects CHP engines, verifies CDM, aids environmental compliance (e.g., PPC), helps optimise methane (CH4) output and quality in EfW.

For anaerobic digestion biogas the Geotech Biogas Check is popular for its accuracy, reliability and robustness within a package which suits user budgets. Central to Geotech analysers is 'Geotech-design' which gives continuous development of gas monitoring products. These include the portable landfill gas and biogas analysers and the G100 analyser for CO2 incubators and food production, the G150 CO2 analyser for indoor air quality (IAQ), the G200 for background N2O exposure and the G210 for checking piped medical gas.

The Geotech Diveair for marine breathing air and the Geotech Hyperbaric CO2 analyser are used in life-critical applications. Supporting our excellent reputation in landfill gas analysis, Geotech also offers ATEX certified leachate and condensate pumps. This highly dependable range of top quality pneumatic submersible pumps has been in use throughout UK landfills and around the world for nearly twenty years.

Additional liquid-level monitoring and groundwater sampling instruments illustrate the extent of the Geotech product range. Geotech products are supported with its fast calibration and service turnaround and all necessary consumables, spares, technical help and training as required. More:

The stupid thing is that Britain, and other countries, have for decades been flaring off the gas from the landfills and sewage works which could have been powering much of the country by now.

Where the hell have we been that long?

Sorry, folks, that was a rhetorical question. The answer is simple as well as simply annoying, amazing and stupid.

We have been – and still are – in the clutches of the fossil fuel industry. It is as simple as that and until such a time that we get them out of our hair we are getting nowhere.

This is equally true as to electric cars as it is to the use – the proper use – of renewable fuels, including and especially methane gas, that is to say landfill and sewage gas.

This is even more amazing considering that the first ever power stations were not designed to be fuelled by coal or oil but but sewage gas and the same is true for the first motorcars by Henry Ford.

The power and lobby of the fossil fuel industry, however, screwed us and the Planet and is is now nearly too late to change that but change it we must and we must keep those out that cause us the problems in the first place.

There is and can be no place for the oil and coal industry at this table, and bio-diesel is not up for discussion. We cannot hope for the problems to be solved by those that caused them.

© 2010

U.S. Wind energy potential is three times higher than previously estimated

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released new estimates of the United States’ wind energy potential, which tripled previous estimates of the size of the nation's wind resources. The new study, which was carried out by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and AWS Truewind, finds that the contiguous 48 states have the potential to generate up to 37 million gigawatt hours annually. To put that in perspective, total U.S. electricity generation from all sources was roughly 4 million gigawatt hours in 2009. The estimates show the total energy yield that could be generated using current wind turbine technology on the nation's windy lands. (The estimates show what is possible, not what will actually be developed.)

Along with the state-by-state estimates of wind energy potential, NREL and AWS Truewind have developed wind resource maps for the United States and for the contiguous 48 states that show the predicted average wind speeds at an 80-meter height. The wind resource maps and estimates provide local, state, and national policymakers with accurate information about the nature of the wind resource in their areas and across the nation, helping them to make informed decisions about wind energy in their communities.

Why Has Wind Energy Potential Gone Up?

The new estimates reflect substantial advances in wind turbine technology that have occurred since the Department of Energy's last national wind resource assessments were conducted in 1993. For example, previous wind resource maps showed predicted average wind speeds at a height of 50 meters, which was the height of most wind turbine towers at the time. The new maps show predicted average wind speeds at an 80-meter height, the height of today's turbines. Because wind speed generally increases with height, turbines built on taller towers can capture more energy and generate more electricity. The new estimates also incorporate updated capacity factors, reflecting improvements in wind turbine design and performance.

While it is good that the potential has gone up here and there everyone in the industry is looking at running wind energy the wrong way round. We have with renewable energy and us having to go that route the potential to complete rescale our electricity network and scale down voltage and change to direct current from the present alternate current. As AC cannot be stored in batteries, something that is required with renewables as neither sun nor wind will be active all the time, DC is a prerequisite for renewable energy to work properly.

Small turbines can do this for the householder quite nicely and can put a home either off-grid or make it, via inverter, a feed-in producer.

But this all requires complete rethinking of our electricity net in the home and elsewhere but it would also make electricity so much safer to use, as electrocution with 12V DC is not very easy, especially not in the way of serious injuries and fatalities.

Maybe the big guys get the idea one day ...

© 2010

Places of Change wins silver for 500 homeless and disadvantaged gardeners at Chelsea

500+ homeless & vulnerable people celebrated today as the Places of change garden was awarded a silver medal at the Chelsea Flower Show 2010

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Homelessness agencies, their service users and prisoners around the country had cause to celebrate on Tuesday, May 25, 2010 when the “Places of Change Show Garden” won a silver medal at the Chelsea Flower Show. The Garden is the largest ever in the history of the event.

The “Places of Change garden” part of an ambitious collaboration between national regeneration agency the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), Communities and Local Government (CLG), the Eden Project, the national membership charity Homeless Link, and the London Employer Accord. It builds on the success of the silver medal award-winning Key Garden at the 2009 Chelsea Flower Show, which required the manpower of over 200 homeless service users.

At almost 600 square meters and almost three times the size of the Key, and containing around 12,000 plants, a journey through the Places of Change garden reveals exclusion, choices, opportunity, hope, achievement, enterprise and change - and its powerful and challenging themes have proved a winner with the Royal Horticultural Society judges.

The Garden has been created by around 500 volunteers from over 40 homeless agencies from all corners of the country, including Deptford Reach in London, the Salvation Army in Plymouth, St George’s Crypt in Leeds and Stonham Women’s Services in Hull. People from eight prisons also joined in with the growing and planting. Overseen by the Eden Project’s award-winning designer Paul Stone, participants have been involved at every stage; from design, planting, gardening, construction, and carpentry during the site development, to on-site hospitality and multi-media facilities during the week of the Show. In doing so, they have gained new skills, new confidence, and discovered new talents.

Rob, a volunteer and service user at Watford New Hope Trust, who helped grow the vegetables in the food zone of the garden said today: "It’s been a privilege to be here and part of such a major event. It’s been a pleasure to focus on growing, which has been a great release from the pressures of daily life, and, most of all, hugely therapeutic."

Richard Cunningham, Manager of the HCA's £80m Places of Change capital program, which funded the project, said: "We are delighted with the success of the Places of Change Garden, which has helped provide new opportunity, skills, and hope for some society’s most disadvantaged people. But more importantly, this garden is just one part of a major step change we’re helping bring about in the way homeless services are delivered, through the Places of Change programme and the Government’s wider rough sleeping strategy, in demonstrating that homeless service delivery is about more than just providing a bed and a roof, it’s about helping people develop the necessary self-confidence and skills to make real change and move on with their lives. The Garden is a powerful metaphor for this.”

It is also hoped that by experiencing this garden, and seeing Places of Change in action, some of the stereotypes often associated with society’s most disadvantaged people can be broken down.

Howard Jones, the Eden Project’s Director of Human Networks, said: “Throughout the whole process of running this project and working with the extraordinary collection of people who have made this possible, it has been clear to me that any prize belongs to everyone - and to each one it would mean different things. Triumph, recognition, humility are all in there, but most of all, I suspect the feeling is of gratitude that we have been listened to, understood and supported. This is a big message and it is a big achievement - we are very grateful to have had the chance."

Jenny Edwards, Chief Executive of Homeless Link, said: “The Garden is a bold statement: just see the potential and creativity of homeless people when they are given a chance. The ideas, hard work and team spirit of the people taking part is breath-taking. It’s been a feat to bring everyone together. The love people show for their gardening and the natural world has made this a triumph.”

The overall theme of the garden is craft and enterprise, and the importance of teamwork, which is reflected in a number of specially designated zones such as crops and food; forestry and leisure; medicine and health – which features a “green man” made of hundreds of healing plants grown in the precise bodily regions to which they bring benefit, to symbolist nurture and well-being; industry and manufacture; and conservation and the environment. All of these act as a metaphor for new skills and the journey embarked on by the individual to get there.

A trade stand adjacent to the garden is providing an opportunity to showcase some of the other skills being developed around the country as well as products from social enterprises employing homeless and formerly homeless people. This is a real demonstration of how services are really working to help people develop the skills necessary to bring about lasting changes in their lives.

The London Employer Accord are organizing a series of employer events throughout Show Week whereby businesses from a range of sectors will be able to gain an understanding of the range of marketable skills that the homeless volunteers possess, with the ultimate aim over the coming months to provide them with opportunities such as apprenticeships, training, work placements and eventually sustained employment.

Neville Cavendish, Director of the London Employer Accord, said:“We are going to use the London Employer Accord network to showcase everyone’s skills and, working with the London Development Agency, Jobcentre Plus, Business Action on Homelessness and a range of training providers, aim to move as many of the volunteers as possible into paid employment over the coming months. I have already met some of the volunteers who are working on the garden and they are very keen to talk to the employers and discuss their aims and goals for developing their skills and getting a job.”

As I have said before in my coverage of the 2010 Chelsea Flower Show, the “Places of Change garden” with its themes that so much reflect the way we have to come to reconnect with Nature and some of the skills and knowledge that we must come to use again, was the garden that really spoke to me.

As far as I am concerned a gold medal would have been in order simply for ingenuity and simplicity, as well as the layout in general. However, it would appear that the judges seem to always favor the learned landscape architects and designers rather than the little guys and girls.

© 2010

Stop needlessly sending waste to landfill

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Hilary Benn, the former Environment Secretary, has, on March 18, 2010, set out plans to sort more waste, save resources and cut greenhouse gas emissions. Too many everyday waste materials such as metal cans, wood, paper, and food end up in landfill when there is a market for them and an environmental argument for re-using and recycling them.

The Environment Secretary visited Bywaters Materials Recovery facility in Bow where a mixture of co-mingled and separate material is processed. At Bywaters he set out the economic benefits of reducing waste to landfill.

During this launch of plans the minister said: “This consultation shows that we are serious about tackling the huge mountain of waste that needlessly ends up in landfill. So much of what we throw away has an economic value or can be re-used, but instead we are burying it.”

“We must take action to reduce the constant demand for new materials when we can recover materials from used products – this costs less money and saves the earth’s precious resources at the same time.

“Waste comes from both businesses and households. I want to make it easier for us all to do the right thing and I am making it very clear today that any obligation to sort waste would fall primarily on the waste collection authority and on businesses, and not the individual householder.”

The joint Defra and Welsh Assembly Government publication ‘Consultation on the Introduction of Restrictions on the Landfilling of Certain Wastes’ considers the case for restricting sending the following types of waste to landfill: paper and card; food; textiles; metals; wood; garden waste; glass; plastics; and electrical and electronic equipment.

We want to make the most of the materials and waste flowing through our economy at every step of the way. By thinking much more carefully about what we do with our waste instead of sending it directly to landfill we can expect to see:

  • New markets for recycled products and recovered materials – a tonne of aluminium cans is currently worth £819-850 and 100,000 tonnes of aluminium packaging are currently landfilled each year;

  • New jobs as the waste sector gets bigger over time - ‘Less is More’, released earlier this week reminds businesses that there are opportunities for new markets in recovered materials, ranging from mixed plastics to food waste and coloured glass.

  • Householders, businesses and councils saving money, by providing an incentive to prevent waste from arising in the first place.

  • Making an aluminium can from scratch uses nearly 20 times more energy than making it from a recycled can;

  • A reduction in food waste; and

  • More energy generated from waste – the Government intends to produce a new Energy from Waste policy towards the end of 2010.

We must consider how best to get good quality materials out of the waste stream into a form that industry can use to make new products – that’s why we are consulting on the need to go further with local authorities and businesses in sorting local waste and on the principle of restricting materials from landfill.

Britain’s reliance on landfill is already reducing with people reusing and recycling more, and Local Authorities providing more services to allow this to happen. Having the right incentives and regulations will help businesses and LAs to make the most of waste in a way that makes economic sense.

The consultation seeks views on different options to restrict these wastes sent to landfill including: doing nothing and relying on current measures such as landfill tax to continue to reduce the amount we landfill; introducing bans on landfilling on their own or accompanied by a requirement for waste to be sorted; introducing a sorting or tougher pre-treatment requirement without a landfill ban; and introducing producer responsibility requirements for certain wastes.

Also launched were:

  • A consultation on how the UK meets the EU Landfill Directive targets to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill. In future the targets will extend beyond waste managed by local authorities to include more commercial waste managed by the private sector, but this will not mean local authority landfill allowances or their obligations to collect waste will change.

  • A Strategy for Hazardous Waste Management in England, which will help drive hazardous waste away from landfill, and promote prevention, recycling and recovery. It should also help the provision of infrastructure for the management of this waste by providing clarity on the principles that should apply.

Apparently landfill bans of biodegradable or recyclable wastes have successfully worked in many other European countries including Germany and Austria. In most cases a ban has been implemented alongside other measures such as landfill tax and other requirements such as mandatory sorting or treatment of waste.

Landfill bans in other countries were implemented over a 2-12 year period.

Research into how a landfill ban might work in practice in the UK is also published today. The research was carried out by Eunomia and looked at the practicalities of implementing landfill bans in the UK. The research can be viewed at

It is amazing, as per usual, how this government, and particularly in the environmental realm, as well as that of education, chooses to make use of, for instance, German examples when it suits them, as in this instance.

On other occasions when equally well working schemes from Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, etc., are pointed out to them, such as the reverse vending machines for bottles and drinks cans, or other aspects, the answer is that it would not work in the UK.

If this can work other schemes can be made to work as well. Let's have some political will to, for instance, reward people for recycling and sorting recyclables and bringing them in, for instance, as it is done in the USA and other countries.

We also do not have to have a lengthy study to see whether it works, giving some academic think tank or such lots of money and a reason to exist. All we need is have a look at the way things are done in the places where they work and then adapt those schemes for our own use. It is not rocket science and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Maybe the new government will understand that.

© 2010

Report confirms North Sea as ‘Saudi Arabia of wind’

  • RenewableUK welcomes groundbreaking valuation of UK’s offshore renewable resource
  • Study shows long term potential of offshore resource matches North Sea oil and gas production

  • ‘Just as 30 years ago, North Sea could be our ticket for economic growth’

RenewableUK, the country’s leading renewable energy trade association, has welcomed today’s publication of The Offshore Valuation, a groundbreaking report comparing North Sea offshore energy potential with the region’s oil and gas production.

Published by The Offshore Valuation Group, a coalition of government and industry organisations, the report suggests that using less than a third of the total available offshore resource could:

  • generate the electricity equivalent of 1 billion barrels of oil annually, matching North Sea oil and gas production

  • create 145,000 new jobs in this country and provide the Treasury with £28 billion in tax receipts

  • enable Britain to become a net exporter of electricity by 2050

  • reduce carbon emissions relative to 1990 levels by 30%

Commenting on the announcement, Peter Madigan, Head of Offshore Renewables at RenewableUK, said: “This is a hugely exciting piece of research which sets out compelling factual evidence of the huge potential of the UK’s offshore renewable energy resource. As an association we have long been saying that the North Sea will become the Saudi Arabia of wind energy, and today’s tonne of oil and employment comparisons amply bear this out. Just as 30 years ago, the North Sea could be our ticket for economic growth. We are looking forward to the new Government putting in place the policy framework to make this happen”.

Source: RenewableUK

“Places Of Change garden” at Chelsea Flower Show 2010

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

As I have already said in my visit report of the Chelsea Flower Show 2010 the “Places Of Change garden” was, in all honesty, the only show garden that really and truly spoke to me but then this is hardly surprising as recycling and reuse, and the woodland worker theme also, are all part of me and my background.

The great news is that the “Places Of Change garden” has been awarded a Silver Medal though I must say that, in my opinion, it should have had a gold one.

The garden had a number of themes, one of which was growing your own food, which incorporated raised beds, a greenhouse made from plastic drinks bottles in a wooden frame – a great idea and easy to recreate in any setting.

Another theme was that of a bodger's camp, complete with an open-sided log shelter with a turf roof, with two shaving horses, tent pegs, and other wares and tools.

The garden attached was full of what would be called weeds today but which all were ones used as flowers in cottage gardens and for food, such as Common Sorrel or Garden Sorrel (Rumex acetosa), often simply called sorrel and also known as Spinach Dock or Narrow-leaved Dock.

We have come so far from our roots – pardon the pun – that it is frightening at times and we must, and I am serious, return to those and reclaim the knowledge of wild edibles as much as of healing and cooking herbs that grow in the wild.

Without that knowledge we may be in deep you-know-what as and when the oil finally runs out and we need to look for food and healing once again much closer to home in the realms of Nature.

The same is also true to the crafts represented in the bodger's camp garden for which “Scruffy” was responsible, and I must say that a handmade clothespin work much better and last so much longer than one of those machine made ones with the spring, regardless as to whether they are made of wood or plastic.

The “Places Of Change garden” was a real tonic and I sure hope that many people will be taking inspiration home from that garden in particular.

My congratulations to all of those that made that garden com to fruition and “well done”, and that not only because of the silver medal. The “Places Of Change garden” simply is a great idea of many things, and all of them ideas that can be replicated in one's own garden and on one's own allotment.

© 2010

Do people really have to be told?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Do people really have to be told that they can reuse a biscuit tin and how? It would appear so.

In the photo below you will see that this definitely has to be thus nowadays and the makers now add the information to the container.

This one is not a tin tin in that it is not made of metal but of plastic but the rule applies in the same way. Help!

Where have all those people been? Our parents and grandparents made great use of such containers already decades and more ago. Now, it would appear, people have to relearn how to do things like that. What ever happened to “common sense?”

When I was a kid everyone's grandfather reused glass jars and all manner of tins to keep this and that in them, while the grandmothers too reused glass jars and other containers for sewing bits and pieces.

Today, it would appear, people have no idea whatsoever that this can be done and is the first recycling step before consigning the jar, the tin, or what-have-you, to the recycling bin.

So now, in order for people to understand this, manufacturers seem to think is necessary to print on confectionery tins, whether plastic or tin, that the container can be reused and even how.

Am I mad or is it the rest of the world?

Quality Street tins now have, printed on the bottom of the tins, instructions of how to recycle the tin, including reuse as a storage container.

How far away from common sense have we actually come? Somewhere along the way the world really seems to have lost the plot and all that goes with it.

In years gone by it was common for anything like this to be reused, including ordinary tin cans, for a legion of things. No one in their right mind would have thought of disposing of a biscuit tin or such like in the same way as no one would have thought – bar the real rich – of going to buy a pencil bin when a tin can will do the same job for nothing.

The consumer society, however, seems to have “educated” this out of the great majority of people today and it is very sad to see that they have to have basic instructions nowadays of how to reuse something.

We must really have taken a wrong turning somewhere along the road and I guess it is the Sat Nav's fault.

I personally find it incomprehensible that the world has gone into such a strange direction that all we can think of is to go and spend money and that even the governments keep telling us that, in order to keep the economy healthy, we have to go and spend some more.

Thrift was once upon a time common and, rather than frowned upon, something that was being encouraged by everyone, including the governments but now the thrifty person is labeled in the same category as terrorist as they do not “support” the economy.

In the other hand we now have instructions as to and of how to reuse confectionery tins and such like, given by the manufacturers even.

While it is a good thing for people to be encouraged to reuse in this way it is just so sad that people have to be told rather than have the sense to know as to what to do with something like that.

© 2010

Chelsea Flower Show 2010 – Visit Report

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

This was my first ever visit to the Chelsea Flower Show, held annually in the ground of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the home of the Chelsea Pensioners.

My visit coincided, purposely, with the Press Day for the event as there is no way that I would want to traipse through that show with the general public there as the attendance is normally high and this year all tickets were sold out already before the Press Day.

When looking at the even through my eyes, that of someone more interested in the green and GYO level the only show garden that really spoke to me was the “Places Of Change garden”.

The most interesting features in the “Places Of Change garden” are and were the allotment setting, the woodworker shelter and the herbal section.

The First is rather obvious as the interest is in “Grow Your Own” (GYO) with the greenhouse made with plastic water/soda bottles. Real effective and a great recycling project. I can envisage one of them – at least one of them – in my garden.

The interest in the second is for the very fact that, sooner or later, we will have to return to such crafts and skills that are represented there for many of our things. In addition to that the cottage garden with wild flowers and wild edibles, so often regarded as “weeds” (but what is a weed but a plant in the wrong place), that benefit us and wildlife, that went with the woodland shelter.

The edible and medicinal herb section also is a valid pointer to things we need to reconsider.

Also cute and interesting was the use of the old white goods and such as a planting wall, and for garden sculptures.

Bio-diversity was the great theme and this was good to see, and represented in many of the expensive show gardens which, let's face it, no one really could ever recreate at home, for reasons of lack of finance for starters.

On the other hand, the “Places Of Change garden” can be used as inspiration for may a garden and allotment and I hope it will. Recreating something like that at least will not require a number of mortgages.

While many of the high-bracket show gardens had great bio-diversity features included and can serve – also – as inspiration for planting with Nature in mind, the “Places Of Change garden” had it “all under one roof”, so to speak, though it may not do much for those that want a great organized garden with manicured this and that.

The 2010 Chelsea Flower Show was also used as a launching pad for a number of new products, amongst which is the wool compost by Dalefoot from the Lake District and some by Fiskars, such as the PowerLite range of hand tools and the PowerGear cutting tools.

Obviously, Dalefoot and Fiskars were not the only ones presenting new products and ranges and they shall thus stand only as an example here.

New plants also were shown amongst which were some of the most beautiful Clematises that I have seen.

Chelsea is well worth a visit. However, if you have not got a ticket for this year's show then, alas, there is no way that you stand a chance of visiting, as all tickets are sold out. Next year then. Or hurry and get tickets for Hampton Court Flower Show.

© 2010

McDonald's promotes British food at 2010 Olympics

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

McDonald's has launched a campaign to promote its use of British produce and British farmers in the lead up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

From within the hive of construction activity at what will be the Olympic Village in East London, McDonald's chief executive Steven Easterbrook, said the company was eager to demonstrate its commitment to British farmers.

"We will showcase the British farms and farmers to raise awareness among our customers, our staff and the public about what British farming has to offer," Mr Easterbrook said.

"The standards at these farms are so exemplary. We will showcase the quality and welfare standards, promoting the best to ensure that legacy of a healthy farming sector."

At the moment five farms are scheduled to open to the public in 2010 as part of the Open Farms program. However, McDonald's chief executive Steven Easterbrook said that the numbers of people visiting farms will be limited.

"We're really only looking at tens of people purely for the health and safety reasons and to get closer access to the farmer," he said.

"This isn't about scale it's about opening the access to school children and members of the public... there'll be a range of people on those visits."

The Open Farms scheme is part of a wider program that will include a TV campaign promoting McDonald's use of British produce as well as the company sponsoring agricultural awards.

London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games chief and former Olympic gold medalist Sebastian Coe said the campaign would leave a lasting impression for farmers. "Open Farms will be a legacy for the farming sector through 2012 and beyond," Lord Coe said, and he certainly would know, NOT.

McD are the greatest sponsor for the games and that is why everything is done to keep them sweet. That stuff is not even food that is being served there.

"While the games are principally based in London, we want to spread the benefits of the games from east to west, urban to rural," he added.

One in five of the estimated 14 million meals that will be consumed during the Olympic Games in London in 2012 will be sold by McDonald's.

Is this not a little like putting the fox in charge of the hen house? McDonald's stuff is responsible, to a great deal, for British children, and not just British children getting more and more obese with the health hazards associated with this.

Instead of even allowing McD to sponsor the games that company should be kept away from everywhere, including our High Streets.

© 2010


Cross-party political consensus is vital if we are to address our environmental challenges, so CIWEM welcomes the new Conservative-Liberal coalition.

Many of the environmental policies outlined by the new Government have been lobbied for through CIWEM’s ground-breaking manifesto, Fitting the Bill. The Institution especially welcomes their promise to create a low carbon economy through the creation of a green investment bank, feed in tariffs, a smart grid and the roll-out of smart meters, as well as their transport policies, such as the introduction of high speed rail. And the replacement of the air passenger duty with a per flight duty sends a clear signal on the environmental impacts on aviation. CIWEM also welcomes the appointment of Chris Huhne MP as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and Caroline Spelman as the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

However, CIWEM believes the Government must go further and create a low carbon society. CIWEM believes that the environment has to play a fundamental role in our economy, education and agriculture, allowing us to live within environmental limits. The Government must also address issues surrounding biodiversity, waste and continue with the development of a comprehensive water bill, none of which were mentioned in the coalition deal.

CIWEM’s Executive Director, Nick Reeves, says: “The importance of the new Government adopting a strong stance on environmental issues cannot be overstated. Strong political leadership is required to face issues such as the overexploitation of resources, species extinction, population growth and climate change. We also hope that any commitment to nuclear first resolves the issue of what to do with nuclear waste and that it doesn't undermine a wholesale commitment to renewable energy.”

“The environment cannot continue to be sidelined in the manner it was during the parties’ campaigns. Whilst the economy and banking crisis are clearly important issues requiring immediate actions, they are dwarfed in their potential impacts by what climate change could bring about in the future. The new Government is in a unique position: it can set the UK onto a trajectory of an adaptable, low-carbon society; or it can go down in history as the Government that failed to act in time. The public will look to this Government for strong leadership; it is not the time for procrastination.”

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is an independent professional body and a registered charity, advancing the science and practice of water and environmental management for a clean, green and sustainable world.

Fitting the Bill: A Manifesto for Environmental Action is available to download on

Source: CIWEM


Human interference is causing deterioration in the water quality at Ramsar site Deepor Beel in India, according to a new paper published in CIWEM’s Water and Environment Journal.

The study investigated the impacts of rapid urbanisation on the water quality of the Deepor Beel, a natural, freshwater wetland in India that harbours a large number of migratory aquatic birds and provides livelihoods to local people through fishing and surrounding flora.

The deterioration in the water quality is the cumulative result of human interference through encroachment, extensive fishing, agriculture, habitat destruction, hunting and pollution from pesticides and fertilisers. The Beel has lost much of its importance as a source of income for the people living on the banks as the fish population has declined rapidly. This is the result of the large organic load introduced by municipal wastes.

The water of the Beel is overburdened with inorganic and organic pollutants, beyond permissible limits and guideline values. Although people seldom use the wetland water for drinking, a large number of wild animals, domestic cattle and poultry are dependent on it for their water needs, so some pollutants are entering the human food chain.

Although wetlands are best known for their function as habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife, their less well known hydrological and water quality functions include reducing the severity of flooding and erosion by modifying the flow of water and improving water quality by filtering out contaminants. The study highlights the need for adopting appropriate management plans for restoring the wetland to its pristine state.

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, CIWEM, is an independent professional body and a registered charity, advancing the science and practice of water and environmental management for a clean, green and sustainable world. 

“Impact of urbanization on the quality of water in a natural reservoir: a case study with the Deepor Beel in Guwahati City, India” was written by Krishna G. Bhattacharyya and Nibedita Kapil from the Department of Chemistry, Gauhati University, Guwahati, Assam, India.

Source: CIWEM

Cycling & Children

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

When it comes down to cycling it is something that kids just love. It is being said time and again that if you get you child a bicycle you give him the best toy he could ever get.

I remember when I got my first bike and the distances we cycled. My mother – God bless her – would have a fit if she would have ever known.

My first bicycle was a hand-me-down, much as my clothes were, from an army brat. It was a cruise much like on ET – minus the basket and the alien, as the basket was not boyish enough and aliens were difficult to get hold of in those days – and I covered miles on it.

Twenty to thirty miles a day was nothing for us and our parents would have gone mad, I am sure, had they known what we were doing “playing on our bikes”.

Too many children today are being molly-coddled and, aside from the fact that they often are not even allowed to play outside – parents fearing all manner of evil things happening – bicycles seem to be seen as dangerous by parents, much like knives.

Their little darlings could hurt themselves should they fall off.

So they kids sit indoors in a virtual reality world growing fatter by the day with heart attacks happening at age eight.

While spending quite a bit of time – too much actually – in front of a computer I have never outgrown the bicycle nor found driving in any way pleasurable. Cycling, on the other had, is most o the time a pleasure to be even when having to go some distances.

To make cycling safer for children and adults alike in Britain the transport infrastructure must change and be made (more) bicycle centered. And I am sure this is the same in many other countries, though I also know that it is different in other European countries where the bicycle is much more considered than in Britain or the USA.

As far as children are concerned having and riding a bicycle gives them a sense of freedom and independence and this they will value and with it the bike. Give you child a bike and see him or her bloom.

© 2010

Save Water, Save The Planet

By taking small steps to conserve water, you can help the planet in big ways.

Just because water comes gushing out of our faucets, it doesn't mean that it's an infinite resource.

According to the April issue of National Geographic, Americans use about 100 gallons of water at home each day, compared to millions of the world's poorest who subsist on fewer than five gallons of water per day, per person; 46% of people on earth don't have water piped to their homes; women in developing countries walk an average of 3.7 miles to get water; and most alarmingly, in 15 years, 1.8 billion people will live in regions of severe water scarcity.

In the same issue, National Geographic explains this water shortage: The Tibetan Plateau, a huge sheet of ice and snow that feeds all the major rivers that supply about two billion people in more than a dozen countries, is rapidly shrinking due to its sensitivity to global warming.

To save water and put less pressure on nature, we need to be more mindful about how we use water. Switch off the faucet when brushing our teeth, turn off the shower when we shampoo or lather up, install water efficient toilets, dish washers, and washing machines.

There is currently financial incentives in replacing old appliances with Energy Star ones. This incentive extends to include low-flush toilets. If you don't have time or money to replace the toilet, simply bottle a jar or plastic bottle of water and sink it into the toilet's flush tank. This will displace an amount of water that translate to a easy and sound earth friendly practice.

Does a low-flush toilet really matter? The EPA declares that an estimated 4.8 billion gallons of water are flushed down the toilet every day. According to the American Water Works Association, the average household uses 20-28 gallons per day just to flush the toilet. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 took a step in reducing water waste by mandating that all new toilets produced for residential conform to a 1.6 gallon-per-flush (gpf) standard, moving away from conventional 3.5 - 5 gpf models

For those who already know about carbon footprint, learning more about water footprint will heighten awareness of how much water each consumer product and business practice consumes.

A product's water footprint is an inventory of the total amount of water that goes into its manufacture. For a cup of coffee, for instance, it costs about 40 gallons of water to grow the coffee plant and to cool the roasters during processing.

This doens't mean that we need to give up our java, it means that we need to stop assuming that a cup of coffee is just a cup of coffee. Regardless of a cup of coffee's price, we're paying an environmental cost whether we realize it or not.

The water footprint is designed to help consumers and businesses understand just how much water is required to make products.

However, it's a great deal more complicated than that as experts try to consider all the factors involved in tabulating the environmental cost of water usage and wastage.

Counting gallons is not enough. Before consumers can know what to do with the water footprint number, they need to know where that water comes from.

For example, Corn grown in Minnesota depends on rainwater, which is abundant and not otherwise used by people. But in Arizona, corn crops compete with human consumption. The current definition of the water footprint doesn't address these discrepancies.

In a study published in the February issue of the journal Global Environmental Change, an authority on the subject of water footprint named Ridoutt proposed a strategy that takes the original location of the water into account when evaluating the environmental impact of its use in product manufacturing.

To illustrate, Ridoutt chose two common household food items: an 18-ounce jar of Dolmio pasta sauce and a small bag of peanut M&M's. For the pasta sauce, the volume of water needed to grow the tomatoes, sugar, garlic and onions added up to 52 gallons. For the M&M's, the total volume going into all the ingredients was a whopping 300 gallons.

Comparing these conventional water footprint values would lead one to think the bag of M&M's takes a far worse toll on freshwater resources. But that isn't the complete picture, Ridoutt says.

Because tomato plants are typically grown in hot, dry climates, they are watered using irrigation systems that draw from the same locations as human drinking water. On the other hand, the cocoa and peanuts in M&M's are grown in more temperate regions, where the crops absorb rainwater directly from the ground. Taking location into account, Ridoutt says, drastically changes how you think about the water going into your food. According to his calculations, the pasta sauce is about 10 times more likely than the M&M's to contribute to water scarcity.

Ridoutt is not the only one trying to redefine the water footprint. Conservationists around the world are trying to figure out how to best include environmental impact in the footprints so they can be incorporated into food labels. The International Organization for Standardization now has a project underway to tackle this problem using methods similar to Ridoutt's.

Although many researchers support Ridoutt's work, others say we don't yet know enough about global water cycles to accurately measure environmental impact. Organizations such as the Water Footprint Network and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) still believe that simply reporting the total volume of water is currently the best and clearest way to communicate a water footprint.

Whatever the experts say, it's always a good idea not to waste a precious resource like water.

Source: WWF


Green infrastructure (GI) can provide sustainable regenerative solutions for the urban challenges we face, according to CIWEM’s new briefing report Multifunctional Urban Green Infrastructure.

With a dramatic increase in land use pressure coming from over 80 percent of people living in urban areas and an increase in temperature due to climate change, it is essential that green infrastructure is embedded into planning and funding priorities.

A variety of green and open space standards have been put in place over the years relating to access and provision, and there are many places in the UK that boast significant amounts of green space, but a lack of attention has been paid to its function.

GI can provide numerous solutions to environmental challenges. Cooling can be achieved through green corridors, open spaces, street trees and green roofs, removing some of the causes of urban heat island effect; urban green space also reduce run-off and increase natural infiltration, whilst the restoration of natural river channels adds to flood prevention; conservation of functional habitats supports biodiversity; and GI can help to ameliorate air pollution through providing more attractive green transport solutions. Community involvement in the design and management of green infrastructure can also add to social inclusion and promote stewardship.

However, green infrastructure is not addressed in an integrated manner. CIWEM’s report calls for the current range of PPSs cross referenced to promote multi-functionality and sustainable approaches to urban planning.

Strategic planning should create networks and corridors for wildlife, incorporating protected habitats and BAP species, whilst Regional Spatial Strategies should be used to embed green infrastructure into regional and local policy. CIWEM hopes to see a presumption for SuDS in new developments, designed and maintained according to CIRIA Guidance C697, and further attention should be paid to retrofitting SuDS to existing properties.

CIWEM also believes that density thresholds are needed for new housing on private gardens to ensure that adequate green infrastructure is provisioned, and planning guidance is required to ensure that local authorities and developers are fully aware of the potential biodiversity value of private gardens. Funding for parks and green space is currently non statutory for local authorities. Whilst investment in grey infrastructure runs into billions of pounds, the value of green space as part of environmental infrastructure for flood prevention and for climate change adaptation needs to be accounted for. CIWEM urges the Government to prevent future cuts to ensure this vital resource is maintained. It is hoped that CIL regulations will provide funding for the creation and maintenance of extensive green infrastructure.

CIWEM’s Director of Policy, Justin Taberham, says: Urban temperatures in some cities are creeping up to levels that could make them unlivable in if climate change projections come to pass. This could have serious implications for public health and urban dwellers. Therefore, CIWEM believes the aim should be to achieve areas of multi-functionality in urban areas where land is valuable and the challenges are greatest. Green infrastructure should be embedded into spatial planning and viewed as part of the wider infrastructure of urban areas.”

This report is aimed at policy-makers and practitioners and discusses the drivers and barriers to increasing green infrastructure provision in our towns and cities.

Multifunctional Urban Green Infrastructure is freely available to download from

Source: CIWEM

Senate Climate Bill: “Achieving Fast Mitigation” Through Non-CO2 Strategies

Action on black carbon, methane, HFCs and biochar to avoid abrupt climate change

Washington, DC, May 2010 – The Senate climate bill unveiled mid-May 2010 by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) contains a section entitled “Achieving Fast Mitigation” to address non-CO2 climate forcers, including black carbon soot, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These non-CO2 greenhouse gases and pollutants, together with others like ground-level ozone, make up 40-50 percent of total climate forcing.

One of the non-CO2 forcers’ most important attributes is that they are short-lived in the atmosphere – days to a decade and a half – meaning reductions will produce benefits fast and help to avoid the tipping points for abrupt climate change. Reductions in CO2 on the other hand, while essential for the long term, won’t produce cooling for hundreds of years.

“We’re in a race against time with climate change and it’s becoming more and more important to capitalize on the mitigation opportunities that can produce big benefits quickly,” said Durwood Zaelke , President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Kerry and Lieberman are breaking the mold of CO2-only climate policy with their section to achieve fast mitigation by reducing non-CO2 climate forcers as well as using carbon-negative strategies such as biochar. This is historic. It shows the way to win, in the short term, and in the long term.”

The call to phase down production and use of HFCs – a group of “super” greenhouse gases with hundreds to thousands the global warming potential of CO2 – is similar to the HFC provision in the Waxman-Markey bill and complements the proposal submitted in April by the US, Canada, and Mexico under the Montreal Protocol ozone treaty which, if the Parties reach agreement in November, would result in avoided emissions of at least 100 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent.

Another good reason for targeting non-CO2 climate forcers is that the technology is already available. Environmentally-friendly alternatives are available to replace HFCs in most refrigeration and air conditioning applications, and the majority of black carbon emissions can be reduced through particulate filters in diesel vehicles and cleaner-burning cookstoves in developing countries. This is reflected in the bill’s voluntary grant program to reduce black carbon emissions through the use of particulate filters as well as a study on black carbon emissions to report on both domestic reduction opportunities and how the US can assist with reducing emissions globally.

Methane is a greenhouse gas with 20 times the warming potential of CO2 and also contributes to another climate forcer and health hazard, ground-level ozone. The Senate bill would expand the efforts of the US-led Methane to Markets Partnership to help reduce global methane emissions as well as scale up research on new methods for reducing emissions and capturing methane for energy use.

In order to bring atmospheric levels of CO2 back down to the safer zone of 350 parts per million, and keep global temperature rise below 2˚C, the world will also need to start implementing carbon-negative strategies. Expanding biochar production is one such strategy which could provide up to 3.67 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent in climate mitigation per year by 2040, using only waste biomass, and perhaps as much as 20 to 35 billion tonnes per year if plantation-grown biomass is used. The Kerry-Lieberman bill will “provide grants to up to 60 facilities to conduct research, develop, demonstrate, and deploy biochar production technology for the purpose of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.”

“These fast-action strategies offer multiple collateral benefits that go far beyond the climate issue,” said Zaelke. “For example, reducing black carbon emissions is important for climate change but it is also a major boon for public health; biochar can sequester CO2, but it can also serve as a natural fertilizer for crops, boosting food production, and can solve some of our agricultural waste problems. Methane can be captured and turned into energy. These are critical co-benefits that should appeal to both sides of the aisle.”

In addition, the bill would require an interagency study on other potential non-CO2 fast mitigation strategies led by the US EPA in collaboration with the Secretary of State and Secretary of Energy. The study would include a focus on measures that are carbon-negative and those that could help increase Arctic and urban albedo to reflect solar radiation.

“Cutting CO2 is essential for the long haul, but fast action right now is key for vulnerable regions like the Arctic and island nations,” added Zaelke. “The bill’s fast mitigation measures show the way to protect them.”

Read the bill here:

Source: Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

Game farmers slate new welfare code

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

DEFRA has issued a new code of practice for the welfare of gamebirds, setting out minimum space allowances and other recommendations.

This code was, however, immediately condemned as an "unworkable mess" by the Game Farmers' Association.

The code is expected to come into effect on 1 October 2010 and will include recommendations on providing food and water, and the use of certain types of equipment.

It also specifies space allowances for housing breeding pheasants and partridges, with 1sq m a pheasant, 0.5sq m a grey partridge and 0.29sq m a red large partridge.

Food and farming minister Jim Fitzpatrick said: "The government promised to address concerns about the welfare of gamebirds, and I believe that the new code strikes the right balance between welfare needs and protecting businesses."

But the GFA referred to the new changes to the code as "last-minute" and chairman Jonathan Crow said: "The government's code, as now laid, will spell chaos for the industry unless it can be changed."

He continued: "The code must now be withdrawn and re-worked - a process with which we will be happy to help."

Other organizations represented on DEFRA's Gamebird Working Group, set up in 2007 to draft the code, were equally angry.

Chris Davis, a specialist vet with The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, said that the space allowances could be "disastrous" for gamebird welfare.

"One only needs to imagine a pair of partridges kept for any length of time in a metre-square pen on grass to think of the problems."

Another gamebird vet, Stephen Lister, said: "The emergence of space allowances is particularly confusing, especially as this was not a feature of any of the options in the consultation document. I am not aware of the science on pheasant space requirements, nor why grey partridges need something so different from redlegs."

The GFA also raised the issue that the area limit for partridges is not stated as a minimum so, if a partridge system is either smaller or larger, there is a risk of prosecution.

As it stands, Parliament cannot change the detail in the code at this stage. If it is not withdrawn by the minister or annulled in its entirety by Parliament during the next 40 sitting days, the code will automatically be approved.

It is unclear whether compensation for disruption of livelihoods as a result of the new code would be payable.

Despite the fact that I am neither a game farmer nor have I read the code as yet the truth is that if it is from DEFRA, as it it, the GFA will be correct in when they say that it is an "unworkable mess", for anyone who remembers the MAFF and the gobbledygook that their guidelines use to be will understand what the GFA says.

Having had experience with them in the forestry sector I can very well understand the unhappiness, to use a gentle term, of the game farmers concerned who are supposed to work with and implement the code.

As to the size of pen; do those government people actually know how big a 1m square are but is?

Once again our government and its agents show that they do not live on the same planet as everyone else and are definitely resident in a parallel universe. Which one we do not know but it certainly is nowhere close to Planet Earth, that much is certain.

© 2010


Game Show Takes Deadly Turn with Knives Thrown at ‘Orangutan’

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Portsmouth, UK – Staff at Lush Cosmetics are used to going the extra mile to help draw attention to ethical issues, from stripping-off to extol the virtues of unpacked “naked” products to suspending themselves from hooks in windows to draw attention to the killing of sharks; but now one of Lush Portsmouth’s staff will literally put their life on the line to draw attention to the environmental and social cost of biofuels.

On Wednesday 19 May, 2010, Store manager Tom Pearson will be dressed in an orangutan costume, strapped to a spinning “Biofuel Wheel of Misfortune”, while a knife thrower hurls foot-long razor sharp knives at him.

This is going to take place at Lush Cosmetics, Unit 1, Cascades Shopping Centre, Portsmouth, PO1 4RL.

The “wheel is misfortune” is a twisted take on the wheel of fortune game show, with each segment of the wheel documenting the problems with biofuel, as follows:

  • Rainforest Destroyed;

  • Less Space to Grow Food;

  • Massive Carbon Emissions;

  • Orangutans Endangered; and

  • Land Taken From People.

Every store in the UK will be displaying a wheel of misfortune in the window this week, but only Derby and Portsmouth will have the live knife-throwing events.

Customers will be asked to sign a postcard calling on the government to scrap subsidies (called ROCs) for biofuels, and each person that signs a card will get to a spin of the wheel and a chance to win a limited edition “Get your ROCs off” soap.

Lush have campaigned against palm oil for several years, and there are now plans to build power stations in Britain fuelled by palm oil from Indonesia, where rainforests are being chopped down to make way for palm plantations. Demand for palm oil as a biofuel is now one of the main drivers of deforestation in Indonesia and so Lush have been working with Biofuelwatch to find out how we can stop the burgeoning biofuel industry. Biofuels are also responsible for increasing hunger and poverty in many developing countries. Action Aid have documented how jatropha, a poisonous plant with oil-rich seeds, is being grown as a biofuel in India and Africa, taking land that would otherwise be used to feed people.

Lush Campaigns Manager Andrew Butler says, “The world’s tropical forests are already on the brink of collapse through aggressive logging and clearance for food crops. If the EU and UK government continue to subsidise biofuels for transport fuels and electricity generation then we can kiss goodbye to the last remaining forests and all the people and animals who depend of them for survival.”

Lush’s “Biofuel Isn’t The Answer” campaign will run in all 90 of their UK stores from 17th to 23rd May. For more information please visit

Biofuels, for those that may not know, are made from plants, such as palm fruit, jatropha and corn. These plants are processed into oil which is then burned to generate electricity, produce heat, or are used in transport fuel for cars, trucks and busses.

So what’s wrong with biofuels?, you may rightly ask.

At first glance the idea of moving away from non-renewable and polluting fossil fuels to using plants which you can keep growing to meet our energy needs seems like a good idea. Unfortunately our energy needs are so vast that the amount of land needed to grow fuel is causing massive deforestation, taking land away from food production and is displacing people, increasing poverty and hunger in places like Indonesia, India and parts of Africa and South America.

Couldn’t biofuels help people in developing countries by providing industry and income?

The development charity Action Aid has looked at the effect growing crops biofuel is having on people in developing countries in a report called “Meals per gallon”. Here’s what the author of the report, Tim Rice, had to say: “Biofuels are driving a global human tragedy. Local food prices have already risen massively. As biofuel production gains pace, this can only accelerate. Poor people can spend as much as 80 per cent of their income on food. Even small increases in the price of staples such as maize and wheat mean that many more will become increasingly desperate.”

Turning a food crop like corn into a fuel stock means that the price of corn goes up as rich energy companies start buying it up for fuel, taking it out of the reach of poor people who can on longer afford to feed themselves and their families.

What about non-edible crops like jatropha?

Crops like Jatropha are non-edible and some people claim they can be grown on “marginal” land (i.e. land that is not forest and is not suitable for growing food crops). There are two problems with this, first is that so-called marginal land is usually very important to local people, as it is used for collecting fire wood and medicinal plants. Second, jatraopha requires fertile agricultural land in order to be commercially viable, producing enough oil per hectare to make economic sense for the energy companies to use it. Companies growing jatropha as a biofuel are now using land that would otherwise be used by local people to grow food, adding to the burden of hunger and poverty many already face. Again, Action Aid has documented this widely. Here is Elisa Mongue’s story:

Elisa is a smallholder farmer in Mozambique. She used to grow many different crops on her land including maize, millet and pumpkins. Then the family smallholding, their livelihood and primary source of food, was seized by a company to grow industrial biofuels for our cars. The company did not ask her permission to take the land nor have they given her any compensation. Alisa says, "I don’t have a farm, I don’t have a garden…I have given up because we don’t have anything to eat."

Are biofuels currently used in the UK?

Unfortunately biofuel is already in all of the fuel used in UK petrol stations. Currently the mix is around 3% biofuel in our road fuel, but EU targets aim to increase this first to 5% then to 10%.

There are also plans by a number of companies to use biofuel to produce electricity. This is happening because currently the government given the maximum subsidies to biofuels as a “green” and “sustainable means of producing energy. These subsidies are in the form of Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROCs) and biofuel power stations are eligible for the same amount of ROCs as off-shore wind farms!

Who is campaigning against biofuels?

There are lots of groups campaigning against biofuel, from Friends of the Earth to Greenpeace, Action Aid to Oxfam. Lush are working with a small grassroots group called Biofuelwatch on this issue. Biofuelwatch are run by volunteers who are been instrumental in fighting against every biofuel power plant that’s been put forward in Britain. We’ve already given Biofuelwatch a grant through Charity Pot, and we hope this campaign will help to raise their profile and also make more people aware of this important issue.

What are Lush asking people to do?

The most important thing we can do is to stop the government from subsidising biofuel energy production. At the moment biofuels are profitable and therefore viable because they are given millions in subsidies, which ultimately we all pay for through a levy on our electricity bills. We need to get as many people as possible to insist that the government stop subsidising biofuels by signing our postcard to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Biofuels are not sustainable, not even at the greatest stretch of anyone's imagination and it is but yet another way for the internal combustion engine and the oil industry to be kept artificially alive.

I have said it before and will do so again: We must find different ways and electric vehicles must be a start when it comes to the car and van. We also may have to consider once again how we travel and where are stuff is made and how it comes to us.

For more info visit

© 2010

SlingSax from Envirosax – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

SlingSax are a handy, hands-free accessory for busy people on the go. Easy tie-together handles allow SlingSax to be worn long and diagonally to rest on the hip, and the handles can be adjusted to suit different body shapes.

The SlingSax is a very stylish messenger-style bag which is equally suited for men and women. The bag is easy to deploy and easy to roll up again as well.

The SlingSax can be worn in a variety of ways and the only difference between a messenger bag per se and the SlingSax is that the latter does not have a flap.

The sleek design, however, suits busy urban dwellers who need their hands free while negotiating buses, trains and the daily grind. Convenient, stylish and featuring recycled content, SlingSax are the epitome of contemporary eco conscious living.

The SlingSax is made from RPET, that is to say that it has a 45% recyclced PET contents.

Envirosax Pty Ltd has gone into partnership with Unifi Inc of the USA to make its own Envirosax RPET. The Envirosax RPET is a mix of 55% flat filament polyester and 45% Repreve® polyester.

The 45% Repreve® in the ENVIROSAX RPET is made up of 100% recycled product, with 80% pre-consumer and 20% post-consumer recycled polyester content (mainly plastic bottles).

The key point however, is that Envirosax Pty Ltd can verify and prove that the 45% Repreve® is in fact 100% recycled content, as it has been tested and certified by the only company in the world able to accurately do this - Scientific Certification Systems (SCS).

Another nice product from Envirosax and I, for one, love it.

© 2010

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

Solar speakers, solar lights, solar chargers ...

... are they any use?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The answer here must be manifold for it depends where they are used and how but ... and here come the but ... they only really are efficient in countries where there is lots of sunlight.

I have made that experience with the BOGO Light. The MKI is perfectly OK charging in UK light conditions, bar in winter, but the MKII really needs much more direct sun and lots of it.

Also, and that is what many manufacturers, vendors and writers don't tell you is that when it comes to the lights and chargers they don't just run on the solar; they charge internal batteries. And yes, that also applies to many of the cell phone chargers and such. Some are just solar panels but others do have back-up batteries in them and the charge goes via them to the phone, for instance.

Recently one vendor stated that he wished that everything would be solar powered now that the government has introduced a way of making solar panels pay for themselves, especially toys, cameras and phones.

He then continues: “Apparently we use over 600 million batteries every year, but we're rubbish at recycling them. Since February of 2010, by law, battery retailers have to take old ones back, which is good news, because they are pretty toxic.”

While this may be thus the problem is also that solar, as indicated, does not always work and what does he think the power actually comes from in the end? Rechargeable batteries built into the device often, and that in such a way that they cannot even be replaced.

When it comes to flashlights it has occurred to me that standard rechargeable batteries are much better than any fancy solar lights and if one does need an alternative way of changing them, let's think of one.

One thing to remember when we talk about rechargeable batteries and flashlights; the batteries lose charge over time when they are not used and rechargeables are not much use for long-term storage emergency flashlights as you may find them drained when you need the light.

Crank-handle flashlights also, by the way, have a battery or batteries in which to store the charge and the reliability of them still leaves much to be desired of both the lights and the batteries that are built into them especially. Again, the batteries are built-in and cannot be removed or replaced. Obsolescence of the device factored in again and the lifespan is about twelve to eighteen months, if lucky.

If you want to use solar or crank-handle power for recharging then, in my opinion, recharge removable batteries and use those. They can, at times, in the UK, gotten cheaply at Lidl stores, for instance and the next time they have them again I shall buy a whole load of them. I missed out on that last time.

© 2010