Greenwash, greenwash everywhere

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Greenwash, greenwash everywhere but very little truth.

Pet peeve warning! If there is one thing that I hate more than unnecessary waste then it is greenwash, and I hate both with a vengeance.

NoPapercupThere seems to be greenwash almost everywhere that we look at the moment, and that especially in the UK (won't talk about the US).

Only the other day we reported about the stunt in the Square Mile about single use coffee cup recycling, which does not actually work, and you will read in that article why not.

The “coordinator” of the organizing company contacted me via Facebook after my initial article telling me that indeed the cups are recyclable and are being properly recycled. Now then they are capable to doing things that all recycling experts and the UK government say are not possible, namely recycling those plastic lined cardboard coffee cups.

Then there is the glass recycling which is not recycling but downcycling for when waste operatives state that they cannot understand why people meticulously sort bottles and jars by color as it all ends up in the same bin in the wagon anyway. That should give us something to think about, should it not? All colors in the same bin. In other words when we are being told that new bottles and jars are made out of those “recyclables” we are being lied to.

There is the claim that Sweden is so great in recycling and that because of that the country keeps running out of rubbish is also rubbish. Why? It is not because of their great recycling rate though, admittedly, it is better than the British one, but due to the fact that all the refuse in Sweden which is burnable ends up in waste-to-energy plants. In other words, it is incinerated. OK! They get electricity and heat from it at the same time but that is neither here nor there. It is the way that this is presented in the media and by the governments that should give us food for thought.

The only time that we are not, it would seem, lied to when it comes to recycling seems to be with regards to metals, be that aluminium or tin cans, etc. Those really do become aluminium or steel again in that they are melted down to get new metal from them. As far as the rest is concerned, with a possible exception of some plastic recycling, greenwash abounds and that by the tonne. But as far as plastic recycling goes it is also not without greenwash.

I think it is high time that government and industry came clean and stopped pretending to be green when they are not. Admit to the people what works and what does not and tell the people honestly how the recycling is done or whether it is at all done.

Too much about recycling is just a box-ticking exercise which achieves very little to nothing. We need to take a different approach, that of reduction of waste, be that packaging, food or other, as in the case of take out coffee cups, and then reuse and repair, for products. Products must be made repairable so that they can be used for as long as possible. It can be done and is not rocket science. The packaging that is necessary should be made in such a way that either it is biodegradable, that is to say it will turn into soil over time if left to do so, or designed in such a way that an immediate reuse is obvious. That too was done, at least by some companies in times not so long ago and some still do it.

© 2017

Biodegradability greenwash

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Biodegradable does not – necessarily – mean what people think it does.

BiodegradabilityWe are told that this plastic and that plastic, because it is made from or with plant-based polymers, is biodegradable. But what does biodegradability for plastic, including the vegetable-based plastic, mean? In short all – yes, all – plastic will biodegrade, but that does not mean that it will, miraculously, turn into harmless soil; it will not. And that includes the plant-based ones. They biodegrade, at least in Nature, in a similar way to ordinary plastic, namely into small, smaller and ever smaller plastic particles. Some of the plant-based ones may, in commercial hot composting plants be composted but not in the normal environment, not even in that that of a compost heap or even compost bin. The same also goes for compostable. It does not – necessarily – mean it will work in your compost heap. More than likely it will not.

It does not even work for the so-called compostable plastic liners for the food waste caddy. After two years they were still not composted in the home composter. Again they only work, if at all. in a commercial hot composting plant and not at home.

Another great villain in this department are the wet wipes of all kinds that are causing havoc in the sewers and sewer systems and waste water treatment plants. While it may says “flushable” and even biodegradable on the packs they are neither, regardless of what the manufacturers may claim to the contrary.

Today's tea bags also are – no longer – compostable as they are either entirely made of nylon, as in the case of at least one manufacturer in the UK, or partly. They still can, like the “compostable” waste food caddy liners, be found years after almost entirely whole in the compost heap. So they are not compostable either.

We encounter greenwash, it would seem, at almost every corner along the street, so to speak, and the companies even use this to push products on us at a higher price compared to the “ordinary” products because they have been greenwashed.

Plastics today are so ubiquitous that we almost cannot get away from them. A large, if not indeed the largest, percentage of all packaging is, well, plastic of some kind or the other. And, if and when we cannot avoid it we should – at least afterward – stop and think as to whether there is a way that we can use, reuse, repurpose or upcycle the packaging, be that a plastic jar, bottle or whatever, for something for our use or for someone else to use. Well before we even think of tossing the thing into the plastic recycling.

The other problem with so-called biodegradable plastics, the plant-based ones, is that they cannot be recycled into other plastic products, or at least with some difficulty, and that the that kind of polymer cannot be mixed successfully with oil-based polymers to make new products. Looks like we have shot ourselves in the foot here.

It would appear that probably the only way out of this dilemma would be to return to the ways of our grandparents and their parents, such as shopping loose products (not all that easy), taking our own shopping bags to the stores (very easy and simple), and so on and so forth. We certainly cannot rely on industry and not even government to tell us the truth, it would appear, nor it would seem, to make and bring about any positive changes.

© 2017

Scottish potato enthusiasts go for Gold Medal hat trick at Chelsea Flower Show

PRESS RELEASE

Morrice and Ann Innes of Newmachar, north of Aberdeen, have won a prestigious RHS Chelsea Gold Medal at the renowned annual Flower Show for the past two years. They are returning to the Great Pavilion this year in the hope of making it three in a row. What is unusual is that there are no flowers blooming on the Innes’ exhibit. Their stand, sponsored by Thompson & Morgan, is a showcase of potatoes; a homage to the tuber.

The potato display aims to highlight the diversity and versatility of the nation’s favourite vegetable, whilst tracing the origins of some of the potatoes in Morrice’s extensive collection of some 500 varieties.

CHELSEA16 Potato Stand_TM use only copyright Thompson & Morgan_web

In 2015, Morrice and Ann won the first ever Chelsea Gold Medal for a potato-only display in the show’s 150 year history.

CHELSEA16 Innes photo_TM use only copyright Thompson & Morgan_webFrom l to r: John Marshall, Rhona Marshall, Ann Innes, Morrice Innes

Displayed on the stand this year will be a selection of Wild Solanum potato plants, grown by Morrice and Ann, and by Thompson & Morgan’s potato expert, Colin Randel, as well as around 150 potato varieties in all shapes and colours. According to Ann, there will also be some ‘weird and wonderful’ tubers of Solanum Tuberosum, cultivated from wild species of the group Stenotomum, as well as a selection of mini tubers which are in the early stages of new variety production.

The display will feature a new variety, Vizelle, which will be launched in September 2017 ready for the 2018 growing season. Vizelle will be available exclusively from Thompson & Morgan.

Based in Ipswich, Suffolk since 1855, Thompson & Morgan is the UK’s most successful horticultural mail order company.

It is the only mail order seed and plant specialist to develop its own plant lines in the UK. Due to the continued success of its breeding programme, the company has introduced more species and varieties to the British gardening public than any other mail order company in the industry.

Its product range includes an award-winning choice of seeds, young plants, bulbs, seed potatoes, onion and garlic sets, soft fruit and fruit trees, as well as an extensive range of gardening equipment and supplies. See the full range at www.thompson-morgan.com

Source: Thompson & Morgan

Thriftiness in the garden

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

thriftiness_in_garden1_web

Top: Mushroom tray repurposed as a riddle. Bottom: Chopstick dibblet 

There are many methods to gardening on a fixed income and being thrifty has always been the way of the allotment gardeners, whether in Britain or in continental Europe such as Denmark and Germany. Often you had, and have, to be.

I have somewhat the tendency – well, more than somewhat really – to pick up all manner of things for reuse and repurposing in the garden (and elsewhere) and those even include abandoned shopping carts. I know that, theoretically, those carts are the property of the stores but when they are found and the stores in fact refuse to come and pick them up then what is one to do? So, lined with a variety of materials, but more often than not old builder's bags (ton bags), they become high planters and I found them especially good for growing carrots as the height is above the vector of the carrot root fly.

A small old stepladder found – no longer useable really as a ladder – is employed as a plant stand, and part of an old folding bed is currently awaiting the arrival, once they have come up and are ready to go out, of cucumber plants, in a planter, to act as a trellis for them.

Five liter and smaller PET water and soda bottles become, with their bottoms cut off, cloches for use outdoors to cover young plants when frost threatens, and indoors they become propagators for raising seedlings.

Although I generally do have many plastic plant pots in which to start my seedlings due to my work as a groundsman at a municipal park nevertheless pots from yoghurt, cream and sour cream, etc., all become, by drilling a drainage hole in the bottom, seed starting pots. Waste not, want not.

In a way, I can't help myself. I have always been a thrift-loving person for as long as I can remember. In fact, I guess I could say I was raised that way, which also is true. And, as far as I am concerned there is a certain thrill (unlike any other) that I get when I save money by utilizing something I found for free or make use of some kind of packaging waste or such. I also the excitement I get, the buzz, when my mind employs its ingenuity for to “design” some use for this or that.

Talking of designing (and making) I have also made a harvesting pot – belt-worn – from a plastic milk jug and am now looking at employing that selfsame, or similar plastic material, from other kinds of strong(er) plastic bottles (non-PET), from which to design and make tool holsters for secateurs, folding pruning saws and such like. We shall see how it goes. Shall report on that, no doubt, in due course.

I know I am strange but I prefer making things from waste materials – if possible – rather than buying something like this or other things.

As far as tools go I am a lucky guy that in being a garden writer I get quite a lot of them for review (or in press packs at events). If I have to buy tools, on the other hand, which is rather rare, then I prefer to go to flea-markets and look for good old tools that can be refurbished and thus rescued and put back to use for another generation or so.

For pricking out seedlings I have adapted a wooden chopstick – one of those that come with takeout Oriental meals, including sushi, and are often found discarded after picnics and such. But, in all honesty, you could just use a twig to do this job or a pencil or ballpoint pen. I just loved the idea of reusing, repurposing and to a degree upcycling that thrown-away chopstick.

And don't forget to pocket any bailing twine that you may find. That stuff comes very handy indeed for many jobs in the garden and the tool shed. Oh, and don't get me started on pallets and their many uses in the garden.

I highly recommend opening minds and seeing beyond the normal use for things before casting them aside or those that others have cast aside. Warning, however! Once you start you will see more and more things that you could reuse and repurpose and even upcycle, and not just in the garden, and you may not be able to stop that easily.

I could – probably – write a book on the subject on thriftiness and reuse, whether in the garden or elsewhere; maybe I really should.

© 2017

Comment on “villainous” recycling products

Simon - B&W_webSimon Ward, Head of Environment at Prova PR, gives his views on the current recycling debate, and in particular today’s Recycling Association list of troublesome packaging: “It’s clear the recycling debate needs impetus and fresh thinking. Whether naming ‘villains’ is the right way to go about it, I’m not so sure. But it certainly puts a spotlight on the challenges the industry faces and on the question about what good recycling really is.

“I would argue that the notion of ‘good recycling’ has yet to really filter into public consciousness. We know vaguely that we need to do something (put stuff in different coloured bins, right?). But if I asked you what to do with last night’s messy takeaway pizza box? Most people would put it in recycling, which is wrong. The food and the oils have ruined the potential for that item to be recycled. But how many consumers know this and, more importantly, how do we get them to know this?

“Education is key. We need a public awareness campaign, explaining what good recycling is and how and why to do it. Otherwise the dreams of a circular economy will remain just that.

“We also need a collaborative approach, working together with commercial bodies and councils to create a unified approach across quality, consistency and collection.

“The issue isn’t just Lucozade bottle tops or Pringles tubes. It’s a lack of consistency that’s permeating across the whole of the recycling industry. Brands and councils need to work with households and reprocessors to ensure a consistent approach.

“We would like to see a system which separates fibres and food, uniformly applied across all councils and communicated with clarity. Only then will householders be able to confidently and accurately place out for collection a common set of materials and food waste for recycling.”

Source: Prova PR

Keith Taylor MEP: Tory manifesto scraps 'greenest government' pledge for 'energy extremist government'

PRESS RELEASE

fracking_2Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for the South East, has slammed the Conservative Party's manifesto pledge to weaken oil and gas drilling regulations in a bid to fast-track fracking across the UK [1].

Mr Taylor, a member of the European Parliament's Environment Committee, said: "Theresa May has previously committed to putting the UK up for shale but it's not happening quickly enough for our wannabe supreme leader or the oil and gas firms she's in hock to."

"It is little wonder then that the Conservative manifesto is desperate to strip away all those irksome barriers to extreme oil and gas extraction, like local democracy and environmental regulations."

"That the processes are extremely dangerous and overwhelmingly opposed by local communities, that avoiding the exploitation any new fossil fuel resources is essential if we're to avert the very worst effects of climate change, that our countryside needs protection, not industrialisation counts for very little when you have oil and gas barons to keep happy.

"Rather than address the weaknesses in the current regulations - defiantly flouted by oil and gas firms like Angus Energy in Surrey without sanction - Theresa May has decided that the easiest way to stop firms abusing the rules is to scrap the rules."

"It's one of many retrograde steps in a manifesto full of backwards-looking policies. Theresa May is abandoning the Tory promise to be the 'greenest government' and instead pledging to be an 'energy extremist government'. The Conservatives have given up even pretending to care about the environment or climate change."

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/election-2017-conservatives-fracking-party-manifesto-tory-gas-shale-domestic-enivronment-a7742496.html

Keith is the Green MEP for the South East of England and is one of 50 Greens/EFA MEPs in the European Parliament. He sits on the Committee on Transport and Tourism, and the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. He is a member of the European Parliament’s delegation to the Palestinian Legislative Council which works to forge greater links between MEPs and parliamentarians in Palestine. Keith is also Vice Chair of the parliament’s Intergroup on animal welfare and a member of the parliament’s Intergroup on LGBTI Rights.

41 is the age Britons officially get into gardening

PRESS RELEASE

41 is the age we officially get in to gardening, a new survey has revealed.

14517581_1436859639688223_7420774459892560744_nResearchers took an in depth look into the precise time in our lives that we turn our attention to our outdoor spaces – and found that it is not until we reach 41 that we become green fingered.

Up until this point, nearly three in ten adults continue to rely on elderly parents to sort out their outdoor space – with one in twenty even calling on grandparents to tend to their gardens.

A further one in ten resort to watching clips on YouTube to help remedy their horticultural issues.

The poll by garden tool supplier Fiskars revealed a third of clueless adults have NEVER trimmed a hedge and nearly a quarter haven’t ever potted a plant.

A further 23 percent of the 1,500 adults polled claim to have NEVER mown a lawn or raked leaves in the garden.

Botanist and broadcaster, James Wong, comments: “The study shows there is a lack of engagement between the younger generation and gardening, but it’s so important we don’t lose that passion for our outdoor spaces.

“A lack of enjoyment or interest in maintaining a garden usually stems from people not knowing where to start. That’s why developing an interest in gardening and showing the rewards that outdoor spaces can bring is essential, such as growing plants in small spaces, which can be fun and productive – you just need a little sunshine and some imagination.”

A spokesman for Fiskars commented: “Getting in to gardening at the age of 41 may seem late, but with many adults not getting on the property ladder or living in flats until their late thirties, it’s becoming the norm.

“Gardening can seem daunting at first and it’s only natural to want to call upon parents or grandparents who tend to be much more knowledgeable. Our innovative range of products makes gardening easy and hassle free, helping you to reconnect with your outside space, no matter your level of skill.”

The survey showed more than a third of respondents describe their garden as a place to escape it all and one in ten said they were immensely proud of the way their outdoor space looked.

James Wong added: “Despite these findings, there is still some hope that Brits get into gardening at an earlier age. Nowadays there are plenty of cutting-edge gardening tools at hand which are ideal for all types of gardeners – amateur to novice – making light work of transforming outdoor spaces. Gardening is a great hobby for people of all ages and is particularly beneficial. It’s a fun, healthy activity plus the sense of satisfaction you feel when you watch something you’ve had a hand in growing is immeasurable.”

A quarter of Brits see themselves as a keen gardener – with more than half of adults itching for summer to arrive so they can get back out in to their gardens.

However, half of the adults that took part in the poll said they wouldn’t be able to identify a fuchsia, 40 percent would struggle to spot a pansy and more than half wouldn’t know a germanium when they saw one.

Getting stung by stinging nettles, pulling up a flower, mistaking it for a weed and trapping fingers in deckchairs are just some of the calamities Brits have faced when trying to tackle the garden.

Cutting the grass with no blade in the mower, putting your hand in cat mess and treading on an upturned rake were other common faux pas.

Despite spending on average five hours per week in their gardens, Brits say they are ashamed of the state of their outdoor areas, yet in a typical year they will invest just £119 in maintaining and improving the space.

Kid’s toys strewn everywhere, the grass growing too quickly and not having the right tools for the job are among the things that annoy us about our gardens.

Source: Ginger Comms on behalf of FISKARS

Parents Learn School Choice Options at Virginia Homeschool Convention

HSLDA President Michael Smith Addresses Homeschoolers at One of the Nation's Largest Homeschool Conventions

PRESS RELEASE

shutterstock_251872234RICHMOND, May 17, 2017 – School choice remains a hot debate across the country and the conversation shows no signs of cooling down. Just recently, Congress considered a new tax program that includes a school choice tax credit. Depending on the outcome, school choice options could broaden for many families. Regardless, homeschooling remains a viable option.

Michael Smith, president of Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), will discuss this freedom as a keynote speaker during this year's Virginia Homeschool Convention in Richmond. The annual convention, scheduled for June 8 - June 10, takes place at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. In addition, Smith will address the need for homeschooling families to continue to push back on Common Core curriculum.

"Homeschooling continues to grow in popularity because it gives parents the opportunity to provide an individualized education for their child," says HEAV president Anne Miller. "Coming to the convention gives parents three days of unparalleled support, resources, encouragement and instruction."

Taking the step to educate children at home can be intimidating. That is why HEAV offers FREE "How-to-Begin Homeschooling" sessions at the annual Virginia Homeschool Convention on Thursday, June 8. These sessions include information on the homeschool law, curriculum choices, high school requirements, how to begin, and more.

The Virginia Homeschool Convention is the second largest homeschool convention in the nation with nearly 14,000 participants last year. The convention offers support to thousands of families through more than 140 workshops on teaching high school at home, special needs, healthy living, preschool, home management, college, finance, and more.

For more information and to register, please visit www.heav.org or call 804-278-9200.
Home Educators Association of Virginia equips and encourages homeschooling parents, and protects homeschooling freedoms in Virginia. HEAV, a statewide, member-supported, nonprofit association, has served Virginia homeschool families through information, legislation, and resources for more than 30 years. Teaching children today. Bringing hope for tomorrow.

Poundland Charlie Dimmock In the Garden Hand Hoe – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Poundland hoeThis hand hoe – which is a like a small mattock – is part of the new and exclusive Charlie Dimmock range assortment of wooden handled hand tools at Poundland and yes, it costs just one British Pound. The assortment, according to the website, includes, aside from this hoe, a trowel (already reviewed), a “rake”, which actually is a three-pronged weeder more than a rake, a fork, and a scoop.

OK, but we shall, in this review, be talking about the hand hoe; a review of the trowel you can find here.

Like in the case of the trowel the steel of the blades of the how appear to be stamped steel rather than hammer forged steel but I have found it to be, in initial tests, quite robust, and I even attempted to dig out some bramble roots out of rather hard, compacted, soil. Anyone who has ever attempted to dig out bramble roots knows what fun that is (not) and that they don't actually come out, at least not all if the root, and that was also the case in this test. The hoe stood up fine to it, however, without any bending or what have you. Then again, I really would not want to overdo it but then neither would one want to do that with any small hand tool, regardless of who the maker might be. I have had a Bulldog trowel fail on me before due to bad spot welding between the blade and the shaft that goes into the handle.

The quality of those tools is good for the price but you cannot expect Rollins Bulldog or Burgon & Ball quality for a Pound now, nor should you expect a ten or even twenty-five year warranty.

Considering the price of just one Pound, including VAT, I cannot fault the tool and if you have to count your pennies but still want a dual-purpose hand hoe that you can afford – and the cheapest you will find elsewhere if metal blade and wooden handle is desired will set you back around seven to ten times that much – then this is a good choice.

The trowel-shaped blade of the hoe can be useful for a number of things, aside from hoeing, and that includes the making of furrows for sowing and also in lieu of a trowel for planting.

This hand hoe from Poundland may just become yet another tool that will regularly travel with me – not that it is a long distance – into my (vegetable) garden with me, together with some other favorite ones.

As I said before for less than a tenner you can, at Poundland, get all the hand tools you will need for your gardening endeavors, as long as you do not expect battle tank strength.

© 2017

How can anyone working class vote Conservatives?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

2012-05-12 polling station 580I am sorry to say this but to me any worker voting for the Conservative Party, the Tories, is the same as turkeys voting for Christmas; or for Thanksgiving if in the US, and treachery.

Personally I must say that I even have problems voting for the social-democrat model of Labour, as we have it today. The Labour Party, founded, originally, as a socialist party, has become social-democrat, and even, as far as so-called “New Labour” and its outcrops are concerned, neo-liberal, and thus an enemy of the working class themselves.

Social-democrats are dealing in socialism-lite, trying to create capitalism with a social face and -conscience, rather than abolishing capitalism and its structures and working towards true socialism.

In 1979 Margaret Thatcher “romped” to victory in the general election. That election was was to be the first of three consecutive election triumphs for Thatcher and the Tories and they immediately set about unleashing unfettered, laissez faire capitalism on the British public, the disastrous consequences of which are still being felt today. And a very crucial element in those Tory victories was the working class vote.

Working class Tories. What a contradiction in terms. That is like turkeys voting for Christmas (or Thanksgiving if they'd be in the USA). But it is nothing new. Ever since working class people won the right to vote a large number of workers have voted for the Conservatives. It beggars belief, I know.

And the question is, simply, why? Why do working class people vote for a party that so clearly and consistently attacks their interests and that of the class? What does someone eking out a living on the minimum wage or collecting benefits have in common with an over-privileged, multimillionaire Tory politician? Absolutely nothing as far as I can see. But, somehow, the Tories manage to persuade gullible sections of the working class to help put them – and keep them – in power. The lack of class consciousness may also have something to do with it, I hazard to guess, and it is this lack of class consciousness that gets those workers time and again to vote for the class enemy.

And Tories are still at it. Cameron, Osbourne, Lansley et al. Mostly Old Etonians, Oxbridge, filthy rich. That is about as elite as it gets. Yet, again, working class people, tugging at their collective forelocks, have voted for those toffs. Turkeys voting for Christmas. And the tragic (and this really is a tragedy) irony is that the present government is presiding over the dismantling of the welfare state whose whole premise was to provide a decent life for working class people.

It all is ominously, and depressingly, reminiscent of some of the characters in Robert Tressell's classic book: The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. Completed in 1910, the book was a detailed and scathing analysis of the relationship between working class people and their “betters”. The “philanthropists” of the book's title are the workers who, in Tressell's view, acquiesce in their own exploitation in the interests of their bosses. Some things, it seems, never change. They also blamed foreigners, such as French onion sellers, and others, for their ills rather than the capitalists and the politicians in their pay.

Robert Tressel's “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” should be mandatory reading for every member of the working class and maybe, just maybe, we need to get some working class education established again in several ways.

For any working class person to vote Tory is nothing short of a betrayal. In fact, at least to me, it is treachery of the highest order. A betrayal of the workers who fought and died to create a better world for their class. It is also a betrayal of future generations of workers who will have to start all over again.

Those people are the enemies of the working class and even more so that that they are of the that class themselves.

© 2017