The message of reuse is still not getting through

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I have written about this problem of how people do not seem to understand the principle of reuse many times already and that even if the message is printed large on the wrapper of the box. 

Only the other day in my work (I am a groundsman in a municipal park in my general life) a plastic box from muffins that is intended to be reused as a storage box, sandwich box, box for storage of leftovers in the fridge, or whatever tickles your fancy, thrown into the bin. Nothing wrong with it and the label on it actually states “reusable”. Needless to say that I rescued said box and it will be reused/used.

The origin of the box, despite having removed the wrapper without thinking, has been located with a little research on the Internet and is from Island (no, not the country but the store) and from Choc Chip Muffins of their Brompton House range, and the message of reuse is relatively big printed on it. 

However, it really would appear that some people, even when the reuse message, and even suggestions for reuse, are printed on the wrapper or the box itself, as is the case with some, unfortunately still do not get the message. 

When I was growing up, for some reason, the great majority of the people had a mindset that was looking for a reuse potential in most packaging, whether glass jars, tin cans, boxes of various kinds, and so on. Now the majority seem to have but one mindset, namely that of “toss out”. 

But, as I have written before, this is by far the first, and I am sure also will not be the last, of such cases. There have been incidences where entire new picnic sets, with real cutlery, bought on the day from IKEA have been thrown, in the IKEA bag with the receipt even in the bag, into the bin. Well, they were dirty and what is one to do with dirty dishes but to thrown them. 

It totally beggars belief that, if not for the environment then for their own pocketbooks, such things should not be tossed out. As my dear old Grandpa always said, “we'll reuse the things because we have paid for them when we bought the things in them”. 

We did not have to be told that a container, in those days mostly metal, that had biscuits (cookies) in them could be reused as a cookie tin. It was obvious. And they were reused not just for cookies. Grandma had her sewing stuff in one, something else in another and yet something different in yet another. 

Smaller glass jars of all kinds were reused for drinking vessels, especially for us clumsy kids, because glasses were expensive, as far as our parents and grandparents were concerned, for us to drop and break them. If we broke a “drinking” jar there always was another one. Larger glass jars, especially with screw tops, because storage jars. And so on and so forth. Today, it would appear, people need YouTube videos with instructions to, maybe, get the idea of how to reuse glass jars and other things. 

For some reason, even without a message printed on the packaging, such as boxes, glass jars, etc., we knew, when I was a child, how to make use of those things that came with most of things that we bought in such a way, and that even included tin cans.

When it came to tin can our family used to make things from them for resale on the markets even and people indeed would buy them. And our family was not the only one and we can still find this in many other countries.

The mindset of those days and years seems to have disappeared, in Britain at least, somewhere in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the disposable economy, for lack of a better word, came into force. 

Even though the message is repeated time and again the how to knowledge seems to be lacking today as it has disappeared, it would appear, through lack of use. Time to go back to the future. 

© 2022

Continued disruption of seasonal weather is causing spring activities in autumn

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Woodland Trust warns that continued disruption of seasonal weather may be causing confusion for wildlife.

After a year which saw a ‘split spring’, heatwaves, droughts and a false autumn, the UK’s wildlife may be starting to confuse its seasonal activities as spring sightings are reported in October. 

There have been reports of second flowering for horse chestnut trees, new leaves on species like ash, and plenty of active amphibians and butterflies, and the two former I can verify myself as a professional groundsman aside from a writer. Also at the Park for which I am responsible a bird cherry tree (more like a shrub as it keeps being coppiced) is again in flower and is sprouting new leaves.

We would normally expect butterflies and newts to be going into hibernation around now, and we would also not expect trees to regrow their leaves and flower or flower and then get new leaves, as in the case of prunus species, of which birch cherry is one. 

Warmer weather in autumn can extend the growing periods for plants and allows more foraging time for animals, which in the short term gives them a chance to recover from the summer heatwaves and drought. And while we can expect, after heat and drought as we have been experiencing especially in the southern parts of the UK this summer with trees shedding their leaves as a protection mechanism, some new leaves forming prior to them being shed in autumn in some cases the trees are so confused that they seem to believe spring having arrived already. 

Squirrels too, seeing that many females appear to be suckling, seem to have decided that either it is nowhere near autumn yet or that spring has arrived already, appear to have another litter. Not that there weren't enough of those gray menaces around already who, this year, have taken their toll on the trees in that this year they have done a lot more bark stripping that usual and even on species that they not normally strip. 

However, if extreme weather like we have had this summer becomes increasingly common, disruption to natural cycles may throw species out of sync. Butterflies, for example, rely on a period of dormancy during winter to save energy while food is scarce, and many plants require a spell of cold weather in winter to drive germination in spring.

It’s not just animals that struggle with rising autumn temperatures longer-term as tree’s rely on cold spells to help kill off and stall the spread of pests and diseases.  

Alisha Anstee, Lead Policy Advocate for Tree Health and Invasive Species at Woodland Trust said, “Climate change is likely to lead to a multitude of challenges for our trees and woodlands. One area that is not exempt is the threats posed to trees by pests and diseases. 

As our climate changes over time our trees are likely to be more stressed which means they will be more susceptible to the impacts of pests and diseases. Warmer temperatures will likely lead to more pests and diseases being able to thrive in the UK. These species may previously have been unable to survive in the cooler UK but an increase of up to 2 degrees could reverse this.”

Dr Lewthwaite continues, “A changing climate means changing seasons. We already know that spring is arriving an average of 8.4 days earlier each year, but not so much is known about autumn.”

Whether we can lay all the blame at the door of climate change is a question but the truth is that the UK, at least the southern parts, have not been experiencing a proper set of seasons, as there used to be for some decades by now. 

This year's events could be due, to some extent to the, and that already for some tens of years, wobbling, for lack of a better word, of the jet stream. One could almost assume it to be rather drunk. And in addition to that we seem to be having a serious La NiƱa pattern this summer. 

However, who, at least in the southern parts of the UK, can remember having even remotely have had a proper autumn and winter in the last couple of years. I doubt that anyone can. Snow has become – and, as far as I am concerned good that is too, as I do not like snow – restricted to a couple of days, maybe and the same is true for any real frost. I am old enough to remember real winters in this part of the country lasting for weeks and months. No wonder, therefore, that the natural world is confused because, unlike us humans, it takes them all much longer to adapt. 

As far as tree pests and diseases are concerned we have seen the arrival of Horse Chestnut bleeding canker about a little over 20+ years ago and then the Horse Chestnut leaf miner (Cameraria ohridella), the latter being a pest that likes it a little on the mild side. For its larvae to be killed off it requires a good frost that reaches well into the leaf litter. One can but wonder whether the reason we have so many new tree diseases arriving on our shores, aside from bad biosecurity, is the fact that those pathogen actually thrive now in our much milder “seasons.”

© 2022