Make Do and Mend

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

18557251_1397913886914578_1270310445997979841_nMake do and mend is a basically philosophy and mindset that I grew up with as a child, as much as I grew up in hand-me-downs whether this were clothes, bicycles, or what-have-you, and it is something that has stayed with me to this day. I still practice this philosophy – which nowadays is often known as practical recycling, reusing and upcycling – in various forms to this very day.

Already as a small boy I developed the habit, which was actively nurtured by our parents and other elders, and it has – unfortunately, some of my friends would say – stayed with me too, of picking up anything from the streets, the woodland paths, the hedgerows, and so on that might just come in handy. Old nails and screws; nuts and bolts; tools that have been lost or thrown away; even “old” knives; and much more are in that category.

Among the knives that I have found there have been knives for the re-working into sheath knives, as well as pocketknives with nothing wrong with them; there have been spanners and wrenches, screwdrivers, and many other tools, including a Leatherman Wave, in its holster, that was almost new and only required deburring the two knife blades. It had been deliberately thrown into the trash in a Park and had not just been lost accidentally. Some people simply seem to have too much money to know what to do with it, it appears, and more money than sense, that's for sure.

The habit of making do and making things also stretches with me to making use of everything that can be, in one way or another, re-worked into something else, whether this be old and worn Jeans into Ditty/Possibles bags or other things; old kitchen and butcher’s knives into “new” sheath knives. The leather of old boots, shoes and bags will be made into the sheath for such knives and/or into other items such as belt pouches for folding-knives, compass, pocket-watch, and so on.

There is only one severe drawback to such a habit and that is the need for a fairly large storage area in your home for all the things ”that might come in handy some day”.

During WWII in England booklets galore were published by the Ministry (and there was a shortage of things but they seemed to have enough paper to produce those official booklets) on the very subject of “Make Do & Mend” telling people, for instance, of how to change adult clothes into underclothes for children; to convert Dad’s old cotton shirts into nightshirts for the boys, and so on.

The philosophy and attitude of making do also applied in those days to digging up one’s flowerbeds and “digging for victory” by growing vegetables there instead of flowers in one’s garden. That could also still be a very valuable philosophy today too – instead of filling the garden up with grass and flowers, which may be esthetically pleasing to the eye and all that don’t feed no-one. Growing at least some of one’s own vegetables and such could give one some more cash in one’s pocket. Vegetables can – in actual fact – grown behind say a flowery border in a garden and look quite nice as well. The trees in one’s garden should not be ornamental this or that but fruit trees such as apples, pears, cherries, walnut and hazelnut, and anything else in that league and the ground beneath such trees should be utilized by vegetables and soft fruit such as strawberries. Also grow your own culinary and medicinal herbs in your garden, including such beneficial plants as Aloe Vera. If the climate isn’t suited for growing the latter out-of-doors than grown those in pots in the house. The same can also be done with many other herbs and spices.

And if you have no garden to speak of to grow your own vegetables and such then you can use various forms of containers such tubs made of various things such including old bathtubs even. Almost everything can be grown in containers, fruit trees even. Hanging baskets of all kinds also can be employed for growing fruit and vegetables. Strawberries do well there, and even beans and peas can be grown in such containers.

But back to the make do and mend philosophy per se.

While make do and mend seems to be coming back into fashion to some degree many people still have the disposable attitude and seem to have to have the latest in fashion, be this with regards to clothes or anything else.

Among children and young people peer pressure may have something to do with it in that clothes from a charity shop don't, in their minds, have much street cred and all that. Years ago it had to be Adidas, then Fila, then Nike, and the wheel keeps turning in that department. But what makes them better then non-brands? The name only, not necessarily the quality, and the price is often astronomical. The same goes for other things. And ordinary cell phone doesn't cut it; it has to be an iPhone, and ideally always the latest.

All need to learn, and the children and young people have to be taught, that it does not have to be the latest and that the latest and most expensive is not always the best, especially not for the Planet and the wallet.

Staying with what we have, making things ourselves even from things considered “waste” in the common perception, and generally making do and mending, buy secondhand, and so on, must be the way to go. The latter also and especially keeps money in the local economy, though only if we are using local secondhand shops, thrift stores and charity shops. And, if things can be repaired and you cannot do it yourself then use local repair shops to do it. Keeps the money local and also work.

© 2017

Some eco-friendly actions you can take to protect the Planet

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

14570257_10205580764277263_3669665344947784806_nTaking steps to protect the environment is something everyone should do and can do. It is our Planet and our responsibility to do what we can to protect and preserve it.

Whether you are believer in climate change and global warming or not, the actions you take do have consequences. As our children and their children will be inhabiting this world long after we have gone, it is important we take a few key actions to protect the environment in which we live.

Clean-up your local community: You don't need a national “clean-up day”, or even a regional or local one to pick up around your local community and encourage others to do the same. If you see trash, pick it up. Toss it in the nearest trash can.

Where I live and work, in a municipal park, there are a number of dog walkers and other park users who do exactly that. In fact they reach the parts that park staff often does not get to, or not very often, and thus keep the park clear of littler even more. Some actually carry their own bags and picking gear. Other dog walkers, unfortunately, are less considerate and dispose of their dog waste bags by simply leaving them everywhere.

I have come across advice from some people who have written on this matter as to politely challenging people who they observe dropping litter to please put it into the bins. Personally I would advise against such actions. A great many people who inconsiderately drop litter will not be happy to be reminded of it.

Reduce and minimize waste: United Nations estimates indicate around 33 percent of the food that is produced around the world is wasted, according to The Guardian. This means close to 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year, while close to 795 million people are going hungry or suffering from malnutrition. When you break this down by category, it is easy to see which foods are being wasted most:

45% fruits and vegetables

35% fish and seafood

30% cereals

20% dairy

20% meat

People living in the highly developed countries, such as the US, the UK, Germany, and others, appear to be the worst offenders, whereas those living in less-developed and poorer countries are generally more frugal. And that goes not just for food. They are more frugal in general.

Do a little gardening: Those who grow their own food can become more sustainable, and will be less likely to waste the food for which they worked so hard. In addition, gardening is good for your overall health and well- being. You know what you are eating, as you grew it yourself, so you won't have to worry about ingesting harmful pesticides and toxins and GMOs bits. Parts of the herbs, fruits or vegetables that aren't used can go right back into your garden a compost to complete the circle.

Oh, sorry, what was that? You haven't got space to grow food? If you have a garden you can grow food and even if you haven't got much of one or none at all you can.

Get busy reusing, repurposing, upcycling and finally recycling: The more you you do that, the less will end up in dumps and landfills.

Before you even go near the recycling bin(s) with anything think RRU first. First think reuse, then repurpose, then possibly upcycling, and that well before you ever toss it into that bin or those bins.

You should first work on reducing your overall consumption, reusing those materials and goods that can be used again, and upcycling items which no longer have a use in their current form into new, usable items. You might as well get the most out of your purchases.

Think of those glass jars that certain produce come in. Aside from the fact that you have paid for them through your purchase they are useful for so many things. Warning everyone, I am now on a roll again.

Our grandparents and their parents rarely would ever toss such things out until or unless they were broken. Such jars were used for storage of dry goods and foods by grandma and grandpa, and they were even used for drinking vessels. After all, they would say, they paid for them, and right they were. Empty tin cans too were used for a variety of tasks and purposes and even the lids.

Food waste, after you have eliminated as much of it as possible, does not belong into the trash can. It belongs into the compost bin or composter to be used in the garden.

Only when all the reuse, repurposing and upcycling options are exhausted, and only then, the recycling bin(s) come(s) in. though that only works really if there is a kerbside collection in your area.

Stay in touch and in tune with Nature: Take the time each day to get out and about, so you stay closely connected with Nature. The better you understand its value, the more respect you will have and the more you will do to protect the environment. Even if it is just for a short time each day, go for a walk, take a bike ride, go on a hike or just sit outside and look around. When you look closely, you will be amazed and awed by Nature and its capabilities.

Lowering emissions: Don't forget to lower your emissions by opting for eco-friendly forms of transportation. I know that that all depends on where you live and the distances that you have to travel; for work for instance. If distances are not too far then opt for a good quality bicycle and also learn how to maintain it. When traveling further than you would wish to with a bike and the facilities are there opt for public transport, such as bus, tram, metro, train, over the car. Only use the latter if absolutely necessary.

While none of these actions will not necessarily change the world over night or even in a day, each can make quite a difference. When we work together as a whole, all our small actions combined, the people of the world can accomplish quite a bit. Start now and be the change you want to see in the world.

© 2017

Freeplay Energy launches Bluetooth option for Encore radio range

Press Release

London, June 2017: Freeplay Energy is proud to announce the launch of a new Bluetooth option for the Encore range of off-grid radios.

Freeplay Encore Player 1 lr_webThe Bluetooth feature is designed to support education in off-grid environments by enabling teachers who have downloaded educational content to their mobile phones to then play it back through the radios’ speakers. Educators will be able to use a wide range of previously inaccessible content, whilst students will benefit from a broader curriculum, improved educational opportunities and, ultimately, enhanced life chances.

This Bluetooth feature also makes distribution of on-demand educational content to remote locations much more straightforward for content producers.

Announcing the availability of Encore’s new Bluetooth feature, Freeplay Energy’s managing director John McGrath said: “Encore was designed for, and is ideally suited to, extended use in off-grid schools, colleges and homes. And as technology moves on, so does the Encore radio.

“That is why we are delighted to offer a brand-new Bluetooth option for our Encore range.

“The Bluetooth feature is now an option throughout our Encore range of solar-powered and wind-up radios. It means that, after using mobile phones to access and store information, teachers can then play the content back via the Encore’s powerful speaker.

“As a result, students who have no access to mains energy can benefit from global educational resources, as well as broadcasts made outside of school hours. They can therefore make the most of an unprecedented breadth and depth of information, improve their educational attainment and increase their life chances.

“Freeplay Energy’s Bluetooth feature for Encore radios really is a game-changer.”

More than 32 million children of primary school age in Sub-Saharan Africa have no access to schooling. For those lucky enough to attend school, teaching quality is often poor because of a lack of resources and limited teacher training. Freeplay Encore and the new Bluetooth option have been designed to increase access to educational services and to boost the quality of available educational resources.

All Encore radios feature a multiband radio with FM/AM/SW1/SW2 channels, and excellent speaker quality, allowing groups of up to 40 listeners to hear clearly. In addition, the radios feature a solar panel and a failsafe winding mechanism so that they can be used in off-grid settings. Reading lights are included so that teachers and children can study after dark and optional mobile phone chargers can be integrated into each product.

To find out more about Freeplay Energy’s Encore radios, including the brand-new Bluetooth option, please visit www.freeplayenergy.com.

About Freeplay Energy

Freeplay Energy is a leading manufacturer of windup and solar powered products designed to meet the needs of the 1.2 billion people around the world who are currently living off-grid. Its patented technology harnesses human, solar and rechargeable energy and converts it into electricity to power unique portable consumer products, replacing conventional disposable batteries that are environmentally toxic and expensive to replace.

Freeplay Energy's products have been distributed throughout the developed and developing worlds by a range of businesses, charities, NGOs and government and UN agencies.

Spōn by Barn the Spoon – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Spon coverSpon: A Guide to Spoon Carving and the New Wood Culture
by Barn the Spoon
224 pages, Hardcover, 16.5 x 2.2 x 23 cm
Published by Virgin Books (25 May 2017)
Language: English
ISBN: 978-0753545973
Price: £20.00

I was send this book by the publishers upon my request having just learned of the publication of it. Knowing of Barnaby Carder, better known as Barn the Spoon, I was most interested to have a look at it and I was in no way disappointed.

The book itself is a spoon carving guide but also introduces the reader to the new wood culture, or wood renaissance, and that being right up my street being a forester by original trade, and a carver of wooden things, including spoons as well.

Spōn is not really a technical manual like, for example, Willie Sundqvist's 'Swedish Carving Techniques', but instead takes the reader through a personal journey that Barn himself has taken, though it does give the reader many instructions, hints, and tips.

In his book Barn the Spoon explains to the reader the how and why as regards  to certain woods, tools, and techniques that he has found best suited for carving usable spoons and he then explains it all in more detail and shows the reader some of his favorite spoon designs to try.

Aside from that he walks the reader through every aspect, from choice to tools and how to keep them sharp and well maintained. Personally, though, I have different ways of sharpening knives, including hook knives and I believe that too much emphasis is placed on certain ideas, such as the supposed Scandi grind not having a secondary bevel. But I have only been a professional knife grinder for almost my entire life and have never encountered such a grind, not even on Scandinavian knives.

Spōn is a lovingly written book, with many color illustrations, that is full of the passion of someone who really appreciated wood and its properties and what can be made from it, though Barn mostly touches on wooden spoons only.

As a Romani-Gypsy by birth I very much enjoyed and appreciated the fact that the “Roma Spoon”, as Barn calls it, the traditional one of the Roma of Romania, in included. It is more a serving spoon that for any other purpose; the eating spoons are often different.

But that spoon, however, is only one of many different Romani spoon designs that used to be and are still carved by Gypsies in Eastern Europe (and beyond), such as by those in Poland where the bowl is the egg shape, reversed, and not as pronounced in the reverse.

In Russia the Romani carve spoons that are akin to those of the Doukhobors which are similar to the Welsh Cawl Spoon though without the pronounced crank in the handle and a handle that is almost round. But I digressed.

As I said before, Spōn is not really a technical manual but a book that, while teaching the reader about spoon carving, leads you more on a personal journey of the way the author does things and why and also introduces the reader at the same time to the new wood culture, or wood renaissance. I hope that readers will discover the joy of carving spoons and other treen objects from reading this book but also be encouraged to connect without our woods and trees and to value the handmade wooden kitchen utensils and such like. Handmade goods are so much different to factory and machine produced and thus are also higher priced. A good wooden spoon is not tuned out in five minutes flat. It often takes hours and the price does then often not even reflect an hourly minimum wage. Let that sink in.

A very good book that I can most certainly recommend.

© 2017

Alexei Navalny & the Anti-Corruption Movement in Russia

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Alexey_NavalnyIf we remember that the Maidan “demonstrations”, which led to the problems, which is still expressing it mildly, in the Ukraine also started claiming to be an anti-corruption movement. Where it led to we have all seen.

Also what is being attempted in the Russian Federation has the same aim, namely to destabilize Russia and create there also one of those “colored” revolution, just like in the Ukraine and other places.

The players behind the scenes are definitely the same, and Navalny is nothing but a puppet in their hands. We can almost guarantee that one major player behind the scenes, and the main source of funds for Navalny and his “movement”, is the very same who has been behind the Ukraine issue and those color revolutions in many other countries. It certainly does not require a degree in intelligence work to figure that one out.

Thus regime change in the Russian Federation is the name of the game in which Navalny and his movement are a pawn, in the same was as regime change was the plan in the Ukraine and still is in other countries. The US even are being used, whether they know it or not, in this operation run by this particular person and his organizations. On the other hand it could be the US using that person and his organizations. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

© 2017

The latest model is not the greenest

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

14570597_1317930151553422_1404047324989227567_oPlease note that I have not even inserted the word “always” in the headline as it is a fact that the latest model is not the greenest, period.

The latest model is not the greenest even if it is being promoted and touted as having greener credentials than the one you already have got. Stick with what you have got (as long as it still works, obviously) for that is the greenest, and you know what, that even applies to your car.

I know that we have visited this issue before but let us, nevertheless, do so again.

Every new product that you buy to replace another one that is still fully functional, even though the new one may have, according to claims, “greener” credentials than the “old” one, comes at a much higher environmental cost than the one that you are already using.

Sticking with what you have got, for as long as at all possible, is far better for the Planet and much “greener” than any new product however “green” its credentials are made out to be.

First of all credentials are all but claims made by the makers which we, the ordinary consumers, can absolutely not verify in any way, as can be seen from the supposed cheating on emission standards by various car manufacturers.

How can we verify the claims that are being made without testing equipment and the technical know-how to carry out such tests? We cannot, and that is a fact. And it is also a fact that most of the accreditation industry awards itself by way of a voluntary code of practice and such jazz.

There is so much on greenwash about that all such claims must be taken with an extreme large dose of salt; the proverbial pinch does not suffice. Therefore sticking with the things that you have already got rather than believing and being taken in by the claims is by far a better and “greener” choice. It is also kinder on the wallet.

© 2017

Staycations up by a quarter this summer, research suggests

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

staycation_uk1The number of British people opting to take domestic holidays this summer is up by as much as quarter over last year, research reveals.

The unfavorable exchange rate and unpredictable political landscape have attributed to the rise in staycations, it is suggested. To that we should also add that there are still many who literally cannot afford to go abroad as they have not had a pay rise for many years.

A 23.8% rise in British holidaymakers planning UK stays for summer 2017 was identified based on searches and bookings made between October 2016 and January 2017 to depart from June to August this year.

UK trips are getting shorter too, as the data indicated that more than half of domestic holidaymakers are planning a break of three days or less – up 8.8% from last year.

A notable decline of 5.2% was found in the number of UK travelers planning a staycation of 12 days or more, however this group still accounts for 16.6% of the total. The top five UK destination cities this summer are London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Glasgow and Manchester.

While staycation bookings are up, Spain remains the top summer destination for UK holidaymakers, followed by with Italy, Greece and Portugal, though France has dropped out of the top five this year despite being the third most popular destination for Britons in 2016.

With Sterling plummeting 13% against the US dollar and dropping 9% against the euro since the EU referendum vote last June, we are seeing a notable uplift in UK tourists opting to holiday at locations at home. Others will be vacationing at home at home, so to speak, in that they are not going to any resort or anything of that nature.

We have seen that stay-at-home staycations have become very popular over the last couple of years ever since the Great Recession and austerity in Britain and this could be seen in the local Parks with a serious increase of visitors.

We have seen an almost a 25% year-over-year increase in people opting for staycations in the UK this summer rather than going abroad and over half the people are planning shorter trips for less than three days. That trend has seen an increase of almost 10% over the previous year.

For some, as mentioned, opting for a staycation at UK destinations (and even altogether at home) is closely tied to the unfavorable exchange rate between Sterling and Euro since the Brexit vote but, in my opinion, it has also a great deal to do with lack of cash flow, so to speak, as many workers who would have traveled to destinations on the European mainland just cannot really afford to do so.

Other concerns, no doubt, are those of security and the ever increasing restrictions of what you can and cannot take with you on an aircraft nowadays, with regards to terrorism concerns. Check-in rimes are getting longer and also the check-out, so to speak, on the other end. And on the way back you have a repeat performance creating hassle and stress which almost requires another holiday to get over it.

Personally I cannot think of any better kind of holiday, vacation, than staying at home and spending it there.

© 2017

Reusing silica gel packets

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

silica gel packetsDo not throw those packets away which come in different sizes. While they are not edible – please don't try – they can be reused in several ways.

We find those little – and sometimes not so very little – packets everywhere. They pop our of all sorts of packaging and lurk like an ugly bug or something in vitamin bottles, new shoes and many other products. The majority just toss those packets out but there are many ways in which we can actually reuse them. So, hold on to them. They can come in handy.

Silica gel is a desiccant, a substance that absorbs moisture. It is not a gel, despite its name, but actually a very porous mineral with a natural attraction to water molecules, that is to say, in simple terms, moisture.

Manufacturers utilize the “gel” to keep goods from spoiling, molding or degrading due to humidity. The “gel” itself is nontoxic, but can have a moisture indicator added (cobalt chloride) which is a known toxin that turns pink when hydrated and is otherwise blue in its dry form. Most silica found in our food and household purchases, however, looks like tapioca beads and is benign unless combined with certain chemicals. Even in that benign form, though, you should not eat it.

Although silica gel has massive potential for reuse, there do not seem to be an recyclers, commercial ones I mean, that are prepared to, well, recycle it.

I tend to keep them, whatever the size, for future reuse. The only problem I have is that I keep forgetting where I put them. Which reminds me that I must look for all of them and – finally – put them somewhere all together into a box or such and then label the box. – Update: Box with packets found. Now must put label on box and remember where it is.

There are a number of reuse possibilities for those little, and not so little, sachets, that can keep the stuff out of the landfill for a little longer.

  • Put some packs in your ammo cans and gun cases/safes to keep the ammo and guns dry. The same goes as to where you keep your knives.

  • Protect personal papers and important documents by putting some gel in a bag wherever these are stored, such as filing cabinets (oh, I know, I am old-fashioned and yes, I still use them – the filing cabinets that is).

  • Keep with photos to protect them from humidity.

  • Put and keep a little sachet of gel in your camera bag. After snapping photos in cold or wet conditions, silica gel will absorb moisture to keep your lens from fogging or streaking.

  • Leave a couple packs in your tool box to prevent rusting of tools.

  • You could also use the gel to to dry flowers or place with seeds in storage to prevent them going moldy.

  • Put some packets on your window sills to banish condensation.

  • Use in luggage while traveling.

  • Put some bags with your leather goods, such as coats and shoes, bags, belts, etc., wherever you keep them to to prevent them going moldy in storage.

While these packets may be annoying and seem like a waste of resources, they can extend the life of many items. Another reason someone needs to be collecting them to recycle: they can be reactivated repeatedly. To recharge, you just need to bake the saturated beads on a cookie sheet in the oven, though that takes a while, or gently in the microwave. They can also be air dried near a radiator or other safe heat source.

P.S. If you don't have silica gel packs handy then rice in small cotton bags will also do the trick of absorbing moisture. Our parents and grandparents used to do that to keep salt from getting lumpy.

© 2017

Sources of wood for the treen worker

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Arborist1While the coppice worker, the woodsman and underwoodsman, who carves and turns treen goods, makes furniture and walking sticks, has choice and ample supply, often others who make such goods not not have such a source and ready access to a steady supply of raw materials and have to find other ways of procuring those. It can be done, however, and that even in towns and cities.

There are the municipal and the private tree surgeons and tree contractors that more often than not have to pay to get rid off the lumps of wood they cut on an almost daily basis and the less of that they have to take to the dump or such the less they have too pay for it and the happier they will be. So make friends with them. Most, if not indeed all, will be more than happy to let you have whatever you want out of what they have cut, generally for free, unless they have an outlet for it that pays, which most of them do not seem to have.

Those contractors may even be happy enough to deliver the stuff to your door in order for you to take it off their hands for the less they have to chip and the less they have on their wagons to dump the more money is in their pockets. Generally a win-win situation for both, them and you.

So, if you see them working approach them. Most don't bite. Make acquaintance with them and ask. Showing interest in what they do and being able to engage with them about trees and such matters has them open up in no time. Those guys and gals are generally so passionate about their work that they love to find someone sharing a similar passion for trees and wood. I have yet to find a real tree surgeon who does the job and has chosen the career, if he or she is a true professional, for the sake of the money. It is a passion with most of them and not just a job. Thus if someone shares their passion they will be more than happy to part with some of the wood, especially if they have to pay to dispose of it.

In my own neighborhood there is a small farm where many of the tree surgeons, who have no other outlet for the wood, bring their stuff in order too get rid off it, against payment to the farmer who, though, turns the logs into firewood and bags the wood chips and sells both at a price, making money from two sides. In my view this is unethical but this smallholder, I guess, sees it as offering a service to the tree surgeons while at the same time creating a small business and income for himself. But that business and income could also come from not charging the tree surgeons and just charging for the wood and the wood chips when one sells them. But then again that is just the way I see it.

Back to obtaining wood for carving if you have not got access to a woodland.

Most tree surgeons and other such contractors, I am sure, will be only too happy to let you have all the wood that you want and that you can use and that for free, more than likely, and they may even be kind enough to drop it off right in your front yard. Go and talk to them and see.

© 2017 

The bane of the wooden disposable chopstick

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

disposable chopsticks1_webI might just be able to live with it – but then more than like not even then – if the majority of those disposable chopsticks that are given out with sushi and other East Asian takeout dishes were made of bamboo but they are not. The great majority are made of wood, and it would appear of some hardwood as well in most cases. Some of them may be bamboo but the majority that we encounter here seem to be more wood, hardwood, in nature.

Chopsticks have a long and storied history, dating back to 2100 BC when Da Yu, the founder of the Xia dynasty, was trying to reach a flood zone. In his haste, he didn't want to wait for his food to cool down, and adapted two twigs to help him eat his food quickly. With the popularization of Asian food all over the world, chopsticks – especially the disposable kind – are now being used the everywhere.

But “throwaway” chopsticks are an unmitigated environmental disaster. In China alone, 80 billion chopsticks are thrown away each year, requiring hundreds of acres of forest to be cut down every day just to keep up with the demand, so some reports go. From where we are sitting this is, obviously, very hard to verify. In response to this, however, the Bring Your Own Chopsticks (BYOC) movement began and is gaining ground in places like Japan, China and Taiwan.

Often I tend to find them thrown away unused, still in their packets, which means that the person eating the dish opted, more than likely, for a plastic fork or spook instead of the supplied chopsticks. In that case the chopsticks come home with me to be (re)used as tools for which they are intended for, namely eating with.

From those I have made up a couple of BYOC sets, one in a leather sleeve that can be easily tucked into a pocket, for use when out and about so as not to use disposables from a restaurant.

Those that are out of their packets and have been used or otherwise tossed are reworked into dibblets, that is to say for tools to prick out seedlings in gardening.

In North America, apparently, those single use chopsticks are more of bamboo than of hardwood. How that is to be I do not understand but so the story goes and in Canada recently a young start-up has begun recycling those into a variety of products.

In Vancouver, Canada, this young start-up called “Chopvalue” cleans them up and turns them into home accessories and furniture.

Chopvalue's founder, Felix Böck, is a doctoral student in the faculty of forestry at the University of British Columbia. The idea for the start-up came when he realized how many chopsticks were thrown out every day.

Böck estimates that in Vancouver alone over 100,000 pairs of these utensils are sent to the landfill every day. Wanting to do something to address the problem, Böck invested in some recycling bins, and recruited restaurants to get their customers to throw their bamboo chopsticks in the recycling bin, rather than in the trash. These are then picked up by Chopvalue, and then taken to their lab, where they are cleaned, coated in resin and then hot-pressed with a machine to come up with a flat material.

The use of a fair amount of resin in the making of the products, however, makes me question the green credentials of this though as no information is given as to what kind of resin is being used. Also the heat and pressure in the production required a great deal of energy and again the green credentials are, thus, at least in my opinion, more than questionable.

Better would be if we would first of all not use them and really bring our own chopsticks or, alternatively, find ways to reuse and upcycle those sticks on a different level that does not require an amount of chemicals and energy. I am sure that it can be done in a way that is much better for the environment than making “planks” our of them by use of resins, heat and pressure.

© 2017