Going lean is the new green

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

And going lean here means especially reducing the waste that we produce on a daily basis, much of it, most of it, in fact, by way of packaging waste. The next movement in green marketing, therefore, is and must be about focusing on waste reduction.

While we, as individuals, can do little with regards to packaging waste and the waste that is produced by industry, we can do a great deal by reducing the waste that we produce in our homes (and offices). Here reuse, repurposing and upcycling comes into its own, as far as packaging and such waste is concerned, and then there is reducing food waste by proper storage, not buying too much and by understanding what the dates on the packages mean.

There will soon be 9.5 billion people on Planet Earth and 3 billion more consumers in the “middle” class. And they are all wanting to buy cars, use products with packaging, and so on. But, frankly, there are not enough resources on the Planet to sustain that.

It just is not enough to buy so-called green products – we have to promote responsible consumption and we have to get away also from what I like to refer to as greensumption; buying green goods because “we must have them to be green”.

Often people buy recycled products because they think that that makes them “green” while they do not consider reuse of something that they have – such as an item of waste that, by reuse, can fulfill the same task as something they will buy recycled. An empty and cleaned out tin can for a pencil bin for the desk instead of buying one made from recycled steel is just such an example.

When it comes to recyclable packaging and those that are compostable people still do not take the necessary steps to ensure that the items go into the correct bins, for instance. It is great that we now have compostable potato chip bags, but we need consumers to put those into a composting system and not just the trash. But many of those so-called compostable items do not compost in your ordinary compost heap; they require commercial composting with heat. So here we also have some kind of greenwash going on.

I personally hate to see things go to waste and therefore I am always on the lookout as to what might possibly be done with this or that item of packaging waste (or other kind of waste) by way, first of all, of reusing and upcycling and then sharing those ideas with others.

Probably, no, not just probably but definitely, my approach to waste and hating it and trying to make use of everything that can possibly be used, reused and upcycled, stems from my childhood of not having very much and the attitude of my parents and their parents of making do with what could be had.

When it comes to industry and marketing and products people are usually, at least before the recession, attracted to “green”, but not at any price and not to greenwash. The interest can have many reasons; the great outdoors, health, caring about animals, concern about resources and minimizing waste, or several combined.

The biggest problem, even with so-called “green” products is that even those are rarely repairable and have a limited lifespan (built in) without the ability to be repaired. That is not “green” and that does not prevent waste.

On the other hand people also – even, it would appear, people in the “green movement” – to make do and mend and as long as it says “made from recycled” and “recyclable” they buy into it. That, however, is not the answer. Products need to be redesigned to be repairable and to have a low impact and secondly people need to come to value what they have and not always desire the latest.

We are slowly getting to that goal, at least with some people, and also slowly but surely, methinks, people are beginning to understand, or so, at least, I hope, that reuse and upcycling is a thousand times more important that recycling and products being recyclable.

Every item of waste, especially packaging waste, should be seen as a potential resource for reuse and upcycling and only when all possibilities have been exhausted should recycling be considered. Not before.

To me reuse and upcycling is something that comes rather natural and I put that down to my upbringing when there was not much in the way of things, including toys, and we made use of what came along, and not just for our own use but even for sale on markets. But then again, it was a different era. And no, I am not as old as Methuselah.

Going lean and not just green can save lots of green though, in the form of greenbacks, that is to say Dollars, or Pounds or Rubles or Euros. The colors of those currencies may vary but the result is the same.

© 2015

We must consume less ... and this not just with regards to energy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

On a finite Planet, such as our Earth is, the very idea of perpetual growth of the economy that we are being indoctrinated to accept is preposterous and it is simply not possible. Period!

While this message is not (going to be) a popular one it must be repeated, however, time and again until people understand the the whys and wherefores of it. It is also a message that the powers-that-be would rather not hear and especially one they wish the people not to hear and heed.

We do not need a (perpetual) growth economy but a resource-based economy and our resources, especially the non-renewable ones, at running out at a rate of knots. Even many of our renewable resources – renewable by right – such as fish stocks, for example, are being depleted faster than they can be replenished due to extreme over-fishing and bad fishery practices. Timber is being felled to be made into (EURO) shipping pallets the great majority of which are but used once and then discarded and on and on this story goes.

We have to consume less (and learn to make do with what we have) rather than wanting more and more and bigger and bigger still. Products are designed and made in such a way that they have to be replaced shortly after the warranty on them has run out – if they come with one – and all in the name of economic growth, though we better read this as “in the name of profit for the capitalists”.

Just in Autumn 2014 the British electricity generating companies announced that they may have problems in keeping the lights on in the country for Winter 2014/2015 as they have less than 4% spare capacity. While there may be some other reasons for this announcement that just our energy demand fact is that we must reduce our energy consumption and if we reduce other consumption too then this will also reduce energy consumption in general.

As far as reduction of energy consumption goes it must not just be concentrated at our homes, as government keeps doing, but especially at reduction of energy consumption in industry and commerce, as well as government offices and establishments, and that means turning off the lights in our offices, buildings and shops at the end of the working day and the lights in the shop front window by 10pm latest.

But, as said already, it is not just a reduction in energy consumption by us all that is needed. A reduction in all consumption is called for.

The powers-that-be, however, governments, industry, et al, are trying to convince the people all that we must consume more, more and then still more in order for us all to live better lives. What they really mean so that the capitalists can have ever bigger profits, but they don't say that. Talking of moronic does not even cover this stupidity. On top of that people who want to exit the consumption madness are likened by them for not supporting economic growth.

We need, as individuals and countries, learn to live within the limits of a finite Planet and its resources and indeed below those limits and not trying to live on the resources of two Earths. There is but one.

Living within the limits of the Planet and its resources means reducing consumption and making do with less, especially as regards to material things. Using the things we have until there is really no way of using them any further.

But as things cannot be repaired more often than not today due to the built-in obsolescence extending the life of our possessions, especially our electric and electronic goods, is not easy. That is why we must demand a change in attitude and production and demand that goods are made (again) in such a way that they can be repaired and thus live, as many things did not so long ago, forty or more years productively. It can be done because it was once done, and that not all that long ago even.

The best way to do something about our consumption is to buy well-made products and that wherever possible from local (as local as possible) producers. And, while this may be somewhat more expensive the goods will, in general, be better made and repairable if and when something goes wrong.

Also simplifying things will make for better purchases and a longer life of the product. Far too many products of whatever kind almost are too sophisticated for their own – and our – good. In order to use many, especially electrical and electronic products today one almost needs a degree in computer sciences and for repair, if one can get the things open, a doctorate in electronics.

Furthermore employing reuse and upcycling will cut our consumption also especially when we can make things we need and/or want from and for almost nothing. Oh, but I must not say such things, I am encouraging economic terrorism.

While some people take the step of a total strike as far as buying new things or buying things altogether this is not a step we will have to, necessarily, take but taking the route of Voluntary Poverty is one that is not just a good idea but one that we will have to take, and in the end it will not be voluntary anymore.

That means doing with less, a lot less, of always new stuff and making do with what we have, be that our clothes or our computers and cellphones, and also getting used to, as our grandparents and their parents did, reuse and upcycle and to make things for ourselves. Not a popular move but a necessary one.

© 2015

US Customs and Border Protection Agents to be stationed at UK and European airports

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

U.S._Customs_and_Border_Protection_patchArmed US border guards with the power to search holidaymakers will be stationed at British airports for the first time, under controversial plans being discussed by Washington and London.

The US Department of Homeland Security wants to introduce the scheme at airports worldwide, including Heathrow and Manchester, to reduce the risk of Islamic State terrorists flying to America.

Guards from Customs and Border Protection would carry out immigration and customs checks before passengers board.

They would be given diplomatic immunity so they could not be prosecuted for any crime committed on British soil.

What this means though what we are not actually being told by none of the governments nor the media is that the policing powers at our airports will now (have to) be handed over to US personnel which will not be accountable for their actions in the UK or elsewhere where they are stationed.

The turning away of a British Muslim family wanting to go to the US on vacation and to Disney World in Orlando, FL is proof that they are not going to be stationed at UK airports but they are already stationed there, though may be not with all the powers that the US would wish them to have and especially not the diplomatic immunity.

For some time already I have tried to wake people up to the fact that in Germany and also the UK there is, ever since World War Two, a very hidden legislation in place which actual can allow the United States (forces) to take over the policing of the entire country as and when the Commander-in-Chief, that is to the say the President of the United States (POTUS) so decides but, alas, people did not want to believe it. We are seeing this here being implemented incrementally.

© 2015

Government as footpads – Denmark

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The right-conservative government of Denmark is trying to do everything possible to deter refugees and migrants from coming into the country. A new draft legislation is to be put before parliament which will create a special police unit tasked with the confiscation of all valuables carried by refugees arriving in the country, such as money or jewelry, practically everything that exceeds an estimation value of more that 300 Euro.

After protests by some parts of the Danish people an exception shall now be made from wedding rings and any such personal pieces.

The Minister for Justice and Immigration, Søren Pind, has this kind of highway robbery defended recently on government television stating that the income from those confiscations shall used as a part contribution to cover the expenses incurred by accommodating and feeding the refugees.

The chances for this draft legislation to be ratified by the Danish parliament and become actual law are very good as the governing coalition is supported in this question by all the members of parliament of the more or less right-wing Danish People's Party.

Seeing things like that going on and then that being followed by others statements to the effect that refugees arriving in Denmark are to be paying for their accommodation and food from their own means one can but wonder what kind of game is being played and it is not only in Denmark that strange shenanigans are being played with the refugees and migrants. One can thus but begin to wonder whether the idea of migrants as a weapon, that has been put forward by the CIA and other US military agencies, is something that is being played out here, in order to cause havoc.

© 2015

Grow Your Own still on the rise

Grow Your Own still on the rise as seed firm reports strongest ever start to retail year

Seed and plant specialist Thompson & Morgan is predicting the best ever year for grow your own following a sharp rise in vegetable seeds sales for the 2016 season.

The Thompson & Morgan seed retailing year runs September to September. The Ipswich based mail order expert has reported an impressive 24 per cent rise in seed sales through September to end of November 2015, compared to the same period in 2014. While flower seed sales remain strong it is vegetable seed that has driven the increase.

Interest in grow your own hit an all time high in 2009, when industry wide sales of vegetable seeds peaked at an historic £60million for the year. Some said the bubble would soon burst but Thompson & Morgan customers are showing no sign of giving up on the good life. Thompson & Morgan Horticultural Director Paul Hansord says if vegetable seed sales continue to perform at current levels then the firm will be reporting its best ever year for the category.

Tomato seeds sales have jumped 51 per cent in the three month period. Much of this growth has been generated by sales of Thompson & Morgan’s Vegetable of the Year for 2016 – Tomato Mountain Magic, a fully blight resistant variety ideal for a trouble-free late season outdoor crop. Akron and Sweet Aperitif join with blight buster to form T&Ms top three tomatoes.

Brassica seed sales have risen 52 per cent, while onion seeds have seen an impressive growth of 67 per cent. T&M says the loss of show bench favourite Onion Kelsae from other retailer’s 2016 catalogues (the Italian seed crop was destroyed by a hail storm and will not be available again until at least 2017) has driven growers towards other large varieties including Onion Bunton’s Showstopper, an exclusive show bench variety developed by one of Thompson & Morgan’s customers. Pea and Bean sales have risen 82 per cent, with Runner Bean Firestorm - the 2016 Thompson and Morgan Seed Catalogue cover star - alone seeing a 75 per cent rise in sales.

Thompson & Morgan’s Chilli and Pepper range has seen the biggest growth, with sales rising a staggering 111 per cent. This has been driven by a complete overhaul of the category for 2016. Paul said: “Much of our product development focus has been on making growing from seed as easy as possible. Our redesigned sweet and hot pepper range does away with the complicated Scoville Heat scale. Each variety has been given a 1-10 heat rating, from cool & sweet to explosive, allowing gardeners to make a quick informed decision on which varieties are right for them.

Thompson & Morgan is also helping veg growers to take the guesswork out of crop timings in 2016 with All Season Vegetable Collections. Each packet contains at least three top- performing varieties of the same vegetable that can all be sown in one hit but will crop at different stages to give the longest harvest window from a single sowing. The All Season Mange Tout Pea collection for example contains Oregon Sugar Pod, Sweet Horizon and Kennedy for a 16 week harvest from June through to October, while the All Season Leeks collection provides a massive 36 week crop window from August through to the following April.

Thompson & Morgan has a long history as market leader in the mail order supply of seed and young plants, direct to gardener’s doors since 1855. Its award winning website and seasonal catalogues have undergone a massive product expansion through 2015, now listing 10,000+ items covering most areas of garden supply, from sheds, greenhouses and mature plants to garden machinery, composts, fertilisers and hand tools.

Despite this, Paul says Thompson & Morgan remains committed to offering the best selection of garden seeds on the market. He says: “Seed sowing is economy-proof, remaining core to our customers’ garden experience in both good and bad years. Nothing beats the satisfaction of nurturing a seasonal crop from plot to plate, especially when you can make a huge saving against supermarket produce and slash your weekly spend.”

Source: Thompson & Morgan

This press release is presented without editing for your information only.

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

The way products are made must change

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

If it can't be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production. ~ Pete Seeger

Let me add one more to the above statement by Pete Seeger and that is “if it cannot be upcycled” and then we have got it all together.

But, the problem is that industry has not intention to change the design of things. It is the built-in obsolescence that they created after the Second World War that is the cause of our waste problem and of the perpetual growth economy and they will no let go of this principle. That is unless we, as “consumers”, are prepared to make a stand and buy from those that are prepared to make things that fit all the criteria.

In the main such products that fit all or most of the criteria will only be found made by people and companies in small production runs – though there are some exceptions – in small local workshops and factories. This also means that those products therefore are somewhat more expensive than what we have gotten used to over the last couple of decades. On the other hand they are made to last and thus can become heirlooms even in the way many things were in the past.

When it comes to packaging, our greatest source of waste per se, aside from, maybe, food waste, it must be reduced, and where not possible designed and made in such a way that it can have a secondary life through reuse and upcycling or it must be compostable.

Recycleability of products and of packaging materials is not really an issue, as far as I am concerned, as recycling is not the best way to go in the first place because recycling still takes a great deal of energy and often the original material is downcycled rather than upcycled, as in the case of glass, quite frequently, when bottles and jars are ground down and the resultant “sand” is but used for road building.

There are several examples where packaging has been designed in such a way that an secondary use is immediately obvious or even indicated and such designs should become the norm and not the exception.

Not so long ago many products in glass jars actually came in containers that were made with a secondary use in mind as well, such as some mustard types and some chocolate spreads, for example, where the jars were – and in some cases still are – actual reusable drinking glasses. It is not rocket science.

Our general products must be designed again without the built-in obsolescence and with repairability and then ideally in such a way that they can be easily fixed, even by a competent user applying DIY methods, or by making use of, alas most of them no longer exist, small repair shops. It once was that way and it must become that way again, as norm. Anything less will not do.

© 2015

'Reduce waste, buy packaged' crusade looks to bust food waste myths

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A campaign to educate consumers about the role that packaging can play in reducing food waste launched apparently in later summer 2013 to counter negative public perception on the issue.

INCPEN, the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment, has launched 'The Good, The Bad and The Spudly' initiative in response to growing awareness of wasteful food habits, both in the home and throughout the supply chain.

Jane Bickerstaffe, the director of INCPEN argued that used wisely, packaging kept food fresher for longer and that over the past 20 years, material innovations had come of age.

"Packaging has got cleverer and cleverer at doing more with less," she asserted. "There's always room for improvement, there is some not very good packaging out there but we think it's in the minority. I believe that all parts of the [packaging] supply chain are trying [to be better]."

She also pointed to the fact that in terms of overall resource inputs, packaging accounted for a fraction of the overall food supply chain.

"More than 10 times more resources are invested in making the food than in the few grams of packaging that's used to protect it," she said.

"The packaging is a sensible investment in resources and if manufacturers can use it well, it will keep their costs down as well as their environmental impacts - it's a win-win situation."

Bickerstaffe said one key challenge was to communicate these benefits to the consumer in a way that was meaningful enough to influence  their purchasing habits.

"It's very difficult, people aren't interested in packaging," she acknowledged. "What they want is their food in good condition so that's the message we need to promote - if you want fresh peas, then buy the packaged option, especially frozen."

She added: "People have been fed a diet of 'packaging is bad' - they will avoid packaging and buy unpackaged and wonder why it's gone off."

Questioned about the rising complexity of material use in packaging and the challenges this creates for reprocessing, Bickerstaffe admitted that far more collaboration was needed across the entire supply chain.

"To understand the environmental impact of packaging you have to have to engage with not only the raw material suppliers, the packaging manufacturers, the brands and the retailers - but reprocessors, councils and the waste management sector too."

However she maintained that compared to more recyclable materials, complex packaging such as foil laminate packs was just as environmentally beneficial as they used far less material at the design stage.

I must say that I have never heard as much rubbish but then they do represent the packaging industry, so it is not really a wonder. Though I do agree with the buying of frozen peas and other frozen vegetables as there is no waste aside from the packaging, in the form of a plastic “bag”. Anyone who wants to be frugal could, and I personally do so, reuse such bags as sandwich bags and as those bags are relatively strong they can be washed out and dried and then reused a number of times.

Foils laminate packaging, more often than not, cannot be or is not being recycled simply because it is too difficult or too labor intensive to separate the components and thus the packaging ends up in the landfill.

It is true that, as far as frozen vegetables, for instance are concerned, and they are packaged, for sure, it is less wasteful to use those, and that for more than one reason. First of you use only what you really need and the rest goes back into the freezer and second you do not have any peelings and trimmings, and you also, thus, save financially, as you only pay for the weight that you are actually going to use.

However, as for other packaged foods, I cannot help but disagree with the “findings” of the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment and see them as biased towards the industry that it represents. Period. Potatoes packaged in plastic do not, repeat, not keep fresh longer because in most cases they are washed and that treatment causes them to sprout and go off faster, and especially is encased airtight in plastic. But then, as said, they would make such claims as it is a body of the industry that gains from more packaging being used.

© 2015

No right to resist arrest

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the US (and elsewhere in the democratic - oh dear - world) citizens have no right to resist arrest by the police or security services. If they do they will be arrested for resisting arrest.

Even if the arrest is arbitrary and for no good reason no one, even, it would appear according to US Supreme Court ruling, has the right to resist such an arrest and if he or she dares to do so the arrest will be carried out with a reason, that of “resisting arrest”.

I am sure that we can all imagine that soon there will be a ruling that we have no tight to resist anything or we will be arrested for resisting and if we resit that we will also be arrested for resisting arrest.

One can but wonder who made up those laws to suit themselves. It is the same when we are told that policing is by consent and that none of us can withdraw the consent, however. Much like the “social contract” which no one had a choice about either and most of us don't even seem to know about it and those that do do not remember signing any contract.

What we need is a change of system, not just a change of government. A system where the people govern themselves.

© 2015

One of the great things about recycling

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

One of the great things about recycling is that the process helps to minimize the presence of waste material in our communities but recycling is really the last stage of waste management which begins at home.

Waste management does not begin with recycling, it ends with it, for when we toss stuff out we have actually lost in the waste management game. The first stage is, obviously, waste reduction on all levels and that especially in the packaging department for packaging waste is – more often than not – the largest amount of waste that is being created, closely followed by food waste.

Reduction, therefore, is the first step on all levels. When it comes to packaging most products found in the stores are seriously over-packaged and often in materials that are not reusable nor recyclable. This goes especially when several materials a “welded” together which then are (almost) impossible to separate for recycling. This also goes for the “paper” coffee cops which are paper lined with a wax or a plastic coating and cannot, for that very reason, generally, be recycled.

The next step is and must be REUSE and that includes finding reuse for packaging materials that just possibly can be reused. Tin cans, glass jars and metal or plastic sweet tins are great candidates for reuse as are sturdy shoe boxes and many other things.

Our ancestors were masters in reusing, they had the mindset, and very little was thrown away if they could think of a use for it. And we must develop this mindset again to avoid the amount of waste that is going to landfill and even to recycling. Recycling still uses lots of energy and also, to some extent, raw materials, as often virgin materials have to be mixed with the recycled materials to make new.

Reusing waste is, after reduction of if, the most important step in our waste management strategy in the home, as well as everywhere else. And it is even easier than the reduction of waste, especially as far as packaging is concerned, as we have very little direct control of it.

When it comes to packaging waste we have, as said, very little control of the materials and the amount of them as, more often than not, we are being forced to buy good that are packaged, often seriously over-packaged, in plastic or other materials and thus the reduction of this waste is not, really, in our hands bar for trying to get the message across to manufacturers and stores alike that we do not want packaging or at least not the amount that we are presented with on a daily basis.

Aside from simple reuse there is upcycling, that is to say to use this item of waste and make something better out of it and/or to put it to a greater use and, in as way you do that already when you, for instance, reuse, as many of our ancestors did, a glass jar as a drinking vessel. Or a tin can as a pencil bin. And there are many more things that you can do in that department and the Internet is full of ideas.

Recycling is the absolute last resort, and when you have to throw something into the recycling bin you have already lost as far as your waste management strategy is concerned, but there are, I know, only that many glass jars and tin cans or shoe boxes, etc. that a man or woman (even a child) can possibly make use of.

© 2015

Private electricity grids fueled by renewable energy the future for communities

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In “The Lead south Australia” Andrew Spence wrote: 

CONNECTING new housing estates to their own private electricity grids fuelled by renewable energy is the cornerstone of ZEN Energy's plan to put power back in the hands of consumers.

The company has launched ZEN Communities – an “end to end” service from power generation through to networks and retailing to deliver low cost renewable energy direct to entire communities.

ZEN Energy Director of Innovation Richard Turner founded the company in South Australia 11 years ago and has overseen its evolution from solar panel installer to Australia's first dedicated “community energy provider”.

Read more here.

What we are seeing here is, to a degree, the “small is beautiful” approach as it was suggested many decades ago in the book by the same title by John Seymour. 

However, we need to go further than private energy grids to community-owned, to people-owned, energy grids, for energy from renewable sources, and renewable sources here does not just mean solar, or wind, but also methane gas from digesters, which can be used for cooking and heating as well as for generating electricity. 

Only when the people themselves are in control of their own energy production will we be getting somewhere but that, obviously, is not something that our governments and the corporations would like to happen for people who are independent of government and corporations simply cannot be controlled. 

It is for that very reason that, despite all the government rhetoric, red tape makes it very difficult for people to set up their own power system on their homes or in their localities. I mean, really, come one, we just cannot have people do their own thing and be the master of their own energy production. 

© 2015

'Biodegradable' plastics are not at all great for the environment

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
The UN has stated that 'biodegradable' plastics are not so great for the oceans but the truth be told they are not so great anywhere actually, just a feel-good sop to our consciences.

Biodegradable plastic sounds like a wonderful idea when you first hear about it but the truth is a different one to be honest.

Most plastics are notorious for how long they stick around in the environment and how hard it is to break them down naturally, so to think that all those bits of plastics that end up scattered to the four winds could just melt away harmlessly sounds almost too good to be true. And well, once you read the fine print, it kind of is. The same also goes for “compostable” plastics. 

A new report by the United Nations looks at these so-called biodegradable plastics and their impact on oceans, and compared to the theory, reality is a lot less rosy. The biodegradable plastics rarely actually degrade because they require long-term exposure to high-temperatures (around 122F, or 50C), like those found in large municipal composters, to actually break-down. Those conditions are not found very often in nature, and especially not in the oceans.

To add insult to injury, once those biodegradable plastics are in the oceans, the water reduces UV and oxygen exposure, so they degrade even slower than they would otherwise... Basically, biodegradable label or not, those plastics will be there for a very long time. And even when they do break down, after years, the small pieces still pose a threat and just add to the existing microplastics problem that we've written about in the past.

On top of all this, biodegradable plastics are less recyclable than regular plastics, and they can contaminate the feed of recycling plants:

"If you're recycling plastic you don't want to have anything to do with biodegradable plastics," says Peter Kershaw, one of the authors of the UNEP study. "Because if you mix biodegradable with standard plastics you can compromise the properties of the original plastic."

So unless we can somehow make biodegradable plastics that actually degrade under regular conditions fairly rapidly without causing problems, and that can also be easily recycled, or at least kept out of recycling plants, maybe these aren't the best idea. It might make people feel good when they see the label, but if they don't work as intended, then it's just greenwashing.

But it is not only in the oceans that the so-called biodegradable plastic is causing havoc. It is no different in the environment on land and the fact remains that even plastic that is made from plant polymers still remains plastic and plastic just is and will remain a problem. With the additional problem mentioned above that that biodegradable plastic and the plant based plastic cannot be recycled together with ordinary plastic and in some cases cannot be recycled at all.

Thus we are being sold a dud, as they say, as regards to compostability and biodegradability of much of those plastic products made from those kind of polymers which brings us back to the issue of plastic per se and that we should simply – if and where possible – avoid the stuff, with some exception, and some products.

© 2015

Grow Your Own Mushy Peas From Suttons

Mushy peas? Mmmmmm ... yes please!!

Ah yes, nothing like a bag of chips and some mushy peas on a wet winter night to warm the cockles of your heart. The Suttons team know all about fish and chips coming from sunny Devon and they have decided to bring a little bit of the seaside to your garden!

So if you fancy growing your own mushy peas … just like the ones from childhood trips to the chippy. Look no further than Suttons new Pea ‘Maro’. This premier ‘marrowfat’ variety is ideal for making your own mushy or as some proper old Devonians call them ‘soapy’ peas. Harvest your peas when the pods are fully dry and mature and the peas are hard and firm. Peas can also be soaked for stews and casseroles. These little beauties can also be eaten fresh when the pods are young - although the peas are less sweet then most garden varieties they do have a distinctive savoury taste.

Sow from March for delicious peas from May.

  • Makes perfect mushy peas
  • Harvest when peas are hard & firm
  • Rehydrate for stews & casseroles

Packet of 300 seeds costs £2.79

Suttons Mushy Peas - Just Like One From the Chippy

Source: Suttons Seeds www.suttons.co.uk

This press release is presented without editing for your information only.

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

Modern Farming vs Natural Farming

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The more we pour the big machines, the fuel, the pesticides, the herbicides, the fertilizer and chemicals into farming, the more we knock out the mechanism that made it all work in the first place. ~ David R. Brower

JohnDereTractorAnd this goes for farming as much as for forestry, by the way, as far as the use of big machines is concerned.

The big farm machines are expensive to produce, expensive by way of raw materials and to the Planet, and are expensive to buy, run and maintain. They use vast amounts of diesel and pollute the atmosphere no end. And as far as biodiesel is concerned, which was heralded as the great savior it would appear that we have jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

Modern farming with its big machines and its heavy reliance on and input of oil-derived fertilizers and other chemicals simply is not sustainable as it destroys the very soil and air and water that we all, including plants and animals, depend upon.

About two years ago the United Nations have called for an end to industrialized farming and have stated that we could feed all the world from small organic farms and still no one is believing it nor do they want to heed this message. Not only can we do so, we must as the current way cannot continue any longer.

Glysophate is killing our earthworm population (see), insecticides our bees, fracking and other activities are poisoning the water, and everything else is polluting the atmosphere, soil, etc.

The use of machinery, and chemicals, in forestry is not much better and the large “harvesters” that are used nowadays seem to be one of the, if not indeed the, reason that today's forests and woodlands do have a problem with wildlife, including and especially invertebrates and fungi.

When it was working in forestry and woodland management as a youngster – from about the age of seven – there was a clean forest floor policy and still the wildlife in all its forms lived and thrived. The only reason why this has changed today must have something to do with the way we work rather than anything else and I believe that the heavy machines are to blame and, no doubt, the same is also true in farming.

A tractor of around ten tons in weight has a much greater impact – even if it has the large wheels and tires said to distribute the weight – than the small tractors of only a couple tons that we had not all that long ago or the heavy horse and thus the damage to the soil, by way of compacting, etc., is immense. It is no wonder, aside from the use of the chemicals that are killing things, that our farmland soil is having problems. It can't breathe.

And the same for the forests and woodlands. The ground is being compacted and with it soil life is being destroyed. The problem with the habitat piles that are now being scattered all about is – while they help the wildlife – that they harbor forest diseases and also are a fire hazard. And, no, they do not complete decay within a year or so. I have only recently gotten rid off such materials (logs) of even pine and spruce, that have been laying on the woodland floor for more than five years with very little decay.

We are trying to rectify the damage that we continuously do to farm and forest soil and ecosystem by this or that – artificial – remedy instead of changing our practices back to those that were used when the land was fertile, both on farms and in the forest. It is like putting a band aid on a cut only then to make another cut to which we apply yet another band aid.

© 2015

You are not stuck in traffic; you are traffic

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

TrafficJamFrustrationIf you are driving and getting nowhere you are not stuck in traffic. You are traffic. Get out of the car. Cycle, walk or use public transport and you no longer are traffic and maybe things might work a little – may be even more than a little – better.

How often do we hear someone excuse themselves for being late for a meeting or whatever with: “Sorry I am late. I am/I was stuck in traffic”. Sorry, no, if you are with a car “stuck in traffic” you are not stuck in it, you are it. The traffic that is in which you say you are stuck.

The governments' answer to the “traffic problem” is ever more roads and bigger roads and wider road “to accommodate” all the traffic but no one ever stops to think that that will not actually make any difference to the “traffic problem” but will exasperate even further. The London Orbital Car Park, otherwise known as the M25 motorway, is a shining example for this. Well, not very shining, in fact.

When it was realized that more cars and trucks were on that road than it could cope with the answer by government was to make it bigger, that is to say, wider, adding another lane and guess what happened? Yes, even more gridlocks as more vehicles began using that motorway.

The problem is that Western society, in the main, is heavily motoring orientated and no serious effort is made to change this by creating, for instance, proper public transit infrastructure and especially infrastructure for cycling and walking.

While it is true that London has, for instance, created some “bike lanes” they are a joke as they are (1) not physically separated from the roads and thus the cars and trucks and (2) often have parked vehicles on them meaning that cyclists have to get into the road and endanger themselves. On top of that many of those routes end rather abruptly and the cyclist finds himself or herself again slap bang in amongst the cars. Taking a lead from what is being done for cyclist, and has been for decades, by our European neighbors is not something that is being considered or it is written off as something that is, supposedly, not possible in Britain. And that excuse we also tend to hear with regards to many other issues, be that as to waste management, or other things. Always the response is that it is not feasible in Britain. Where there is no (political) will there never is a way.

© 2015

UK government pledges bold ambition for electric cars

DfT logoGovernment reaffirms UK’s commitment for almost all cars and vans to be zero emission by 2050 at Paris COP21 conference.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

On December 3, 2015, the UK government has continued to lead global efforts to cut vehicle emissions at the international climate conference in Paris.

The UK was one of 13 international members of the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Alliance to sign a commitment to promote cleaner motoring and slash transport emissions, alongside Germany, Holland, Norway and California. It includes an agreement to make all passenger vehicle sales zero emission vehicles by 2050.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “The UK already has the largest market for ultra-low emission vehicles in the EU, and the fourth largest in the world and today’s pledge reaffirms our commitment to ensuring almost every car and van is a zero emission vehicle by 2050.

“Electric cars are greener and cheaper to run and we are making them more affordable, spending more than £600 million between 2015 and 2020 to support the uptake and manufacturing of ultra-low emission vehicles here in the UK.

“By leading international efforts on this issue, we are playing our part in helping achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions of more than 1 billion tonnes per year across the world by 2050.”

The ZEV Alliance formed in September this year with the ambition to increase the global uptake of greener vehicles through international co-operation.

As well as the UK, members include Germany, the Netherlands and Norway in Europe; California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont in the United States; and Quebec in Canada.

All very nice words and ambitions but no one seems to even look at the problems actually facing electric vehicles. One of them is the rarity of the materials from which the batteries are made and two the fact that fossil fuels will still be needed for the manufacture of the vehicles, as well and especially for the extraction of the rare earths and other raw materials. Thus to actually call them zero-emission vehicles is also rather misleading in the extreme.

None of the governments, NGOs, and what-have-you are, unfortunately, willing to state that motoring, especially the personal motoring with the private motorcar, whether infernal combustion engine or electric motor, is not going to be able to continue and also that electric vehicle technology will not make tractors, combine harvesters, and road haulage trucks feasible. While it does work for small delivery trucks running around our towns and cities the large road haulage of 35 or even 50 tonnes as now envisaged for trucks just is not possible with electric battery-powered motors.

The future of transportation, private, agricultural, and haulage will actually be a re-visitation of the past and I am sure the reader will well know what I mean. However, maybe I must spell it out for the government agencies and NGOs... it is the horse and the bicycle.

If it would not be that sad the way governments and NGOs are being affected by the ostrich syndrome and trying to keep the masses in the dark it would actually be funny and laughable but, alas, it is not.

© 2015

Our society has lost sight of what is truly important in life

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Our society has indeed lost sight of what is truly important in life and it is high time to find it again.

What if – Instead of worrying about whether we should give kids gold stars for participating or gold stars for being the best, we would involve them in real world activities where the end result of the activity itself is the reward?

Teach them gardening, woodworking, repair skills, fiber arts, sewing, cooking. Get them out hiking somewhere with a gorgeous view. Raise animals – have them learn to care about something other than themselves. Have them help out a grandparent or elderly neighbor.

Schools, unfortunately, do not teach things that are important to children but teach them how to pass tests instead. Woodworking classes, or even “Design & Technology”, as they were called later, cooking (Home Economics), and such have gone out of the window and instead they are just taught to – basically – memorize what they require to pass those tests so that the schools look good in the so-called “league tables”.

While lessons in “mindfulness”, in meditation, as being introduced in some primary schools in Britain now, are a good idea there are other practical aspects that are important and that from a very early age. Practical skills such as using tools to make things, to grow things, to cook, and so on.

Memorizing dates and events and information that they will, more than likely, never need in their lives after school is not just a waste of time. It prevents proper learning. It would be much better to teach kids to read and write properly, and to enjoy reading for the sake of reading, as well as where to find the information that they may want to know. It is not what you know but knowing where to find the information and to use this information that counts.

Most important of all are life skills, practical skills, and the skill of critical thinking. Schools, teachers, and others also fail kids and society in that they do not teach them how to think but what to think. This is not new at all. School and the compulsory school “education” was, after all, invented for the very reason to indoctrinate children into what to think rather than to teach them critical thinking.

In addition to that everything is geared to academic “success” which in the end means that we have people with PhDs flipping burgers are burger joints. There are only that many places available for all those that have attended university and gotten a degree in this or that, and more often that not, as is now very often the case, in useless subjects. However, schools will insist to push pupils, even if they, the pupils that is, are not interested, towards academic subjects and university and it can be one heck of a fight for the student and his or her parents to get the school to accept the young person's decision to pursue a non-academic career.

Working with one's hands is nowadays seems to be considered by educators and people in general as something dirty and a career in “manual” trades, whether agriculture, horticulture, forestry, carpentry, plumbing, and whatever else, as something that no one really should aspire to. And then we wonder that we have no carpenters or plumbers, and whatever else, and complain that they are all Poles.

Everything is being geared to making lots of money and then still more, often at the detriment of others in society. We have lost what really matters in the pursuit of what really does not and we must rediscover those things that really matter.

© 2015

Poverty is now a way of life for many again

The scourge of modern day poverty in Britain

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Tories have for a long time, under various administrations, intended to bring the country back to Victorian values; to the Victorian era more like. And to all intents and purposes they are succeeding.

We have today an epidemic in the Britain, a scourge in our communities, and this epidemic and scourge is called poverty. Taboo, however, does make it difficult for sufferers to admit that this epidemic affects them. Millions are being condemned by a food poverty that has reached the level of a ‘health emergency’ while Government policy merely fans the flames of this national scandal. At least 1.3 million people, adults and children, in Britain live in poverty and this is a national disgrace for a nation that is rated as the 11th richest country in the world. A country with a GDP of $2,375 trillion.

The poverty that we see today differs somewhat from poverty from the past. We may not see the squalor and hardship as yet that was seen prior to the creation of the welfare state but the effects of poverty still hit extremely hard. One definition of poverty is: “People are said to be living in poverty if their income and resources are inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of living acceptable in the society in which they live.”

Poverty has a horrendous effect in the UK but this is exasperated by a Government that has no interest in combating poverty, in fact, it is near fatal to appear poor as it makes the Government want to kick you.

Today’s Government has a mantra of ‘making work pay’. They tell a story of shirkers vs. skivers, a narrative that informs us that people living in poverty do so due to them being feckless, workshy individuals languishing in the bed all day watching repeats of the Jeremy Kyle show. But the rhetoric doesn’t match the stats.

In 2011/12 there was 1.3 million people living in poverty in the UK and over half of these people were in employment. How in the name of the Big Man above did we end up in a situation where so many people in our fantastically rich country are living in poverty while in employment?

One of the reasons is Income Inequalities. The UK’s Gina coefficient, a method to measure income inequalities between nations, is now higher than at any time in thirty years.

This is reinforced by data showing that, in the last decade, the poorest 10% of our nation have seen a fall in their ‘real income’ after deducting housing costs which is in sharp contrast to all other sections of our population.

In layman’s terms, it means that after adjusting for inflation, the poorest 10% of the UK have had less income that they did 10 years ago while everyone else has seen a rise in their income.

What makes matters worse is the Government’s attack of the welfare state which is removing the protection that people had from the blight of poverty. Their attacks, under the auspices of reforms, has linked to the rise in the use of foodbanks and homelessness. Their system of unwarranted and senseless sanctions has literally take food from the tables of our children which an extra 600,000 children being thrown into absolute poverty by Governmental policy.

So what do the Conservatives do when they are confronted by the facts? Kent Council commissioned an official report which concluded that the rise in foodbanks and a rise of homelessness being linked to the Government’s welfare reforms. After looking at all the evidence the report concludes that these rises were due to ‘welfare reform as no other alternative explanatory factor is yet apparent’.

Did the ruling Conservatives at Kent council at Kent Council act on this report? No, they attempted to suppress this report as they did not like the report’s conclusion.

So we live in an unequal country where the poorest become poorer and the wealthy become richer. But there is an alternative. There is a better way so that we can have a democratic nation based on equality and fairness which I will write about in future post.

It has to be said, however, that there is poverty and then there is poverty. And while this may sound a little too cryptic I will try to explain.

What is perceived by many today as “poverty” is a reduction of what they have been used to and the problem is that many, I am afraid to say, are not prepared to forgo some things that are not necessities and needs but only wants. Many also are unable to manage the money that they have and spend it unwisely.

Do you really have to have cable TV (pay for) or TV at all? Do you have to have take out meals almost every day of the week? And the list of questions could go on and on. Fact is that that is exactly, I am afraid to say, the way some of the poor behave.

I am not trying to lessen the fact that, according to the way the index is used, people are poor and some are even poorer than that, but there are times when people also must blame some of their own actions for the fact that they are short of money and not try to shift the blame onto others, onto circumstances and especially the government, even though the latter has a great deal to answer for.

© 2015

Recycling is taking our mind off the real issue

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Recycling and recyclability is taking our minds off the real issue and that is the overconsumption and consumerism but then that is also the aim.

The act of recycling and the recyclability of products and/or their components is meant to make us feel good and forget about the real culprit; our wasteful consumption and the built-n obsolescence in most of the products on the market today.

Not so long ago goods were made to last and so they could be repaired if and when they eventually did break down, but they did cost more, by comparison. We did, therefore, not simply throw them out when they were a little older or when a new model came out. We used them for as long as it was possible. Often the money would not have been available to afford to change them. Instead things got repaired, whether this were clothes or shoes and boots or other goods, and that even in the homes and offices of the very rich.

Today the model has changed to cheap(er) goods that fail soon and we have to buy the same product over and over again as they cannot, more often than not, be repaired, or it is much more expensive to repair than to buy new. This is the way our economy today actually functions. Company profits depend on products breaking just at the right time so that we have to rush out and buy new and the cycle begins all over again and this built-in obsolescence is equally found in expensive brands as in discounter products, and about the same time span goes for them all.

But this built-in obsolescence is only half of the problem though, to a degree, a large one. The biggest problem by far is consumerism and our belief that we must have this or that, or that we must this or that item new because the old one, well, is old and old in this context is often six months to a year old only, and that all the while the old one still dos work and still does the job perfectly well. But throwing it out is not a problem, industry now tells us, as everything in it is recyclable. And so what if it is? Is that a good enough reason? No!

Recycling and recyclability is not the answer to the problem. It only clouds the real issues and problems, namely consumerism and the perpetual growth economy.

We all know what we must do if we want to rectify this and that is to stop buying all those products we do not need and to upgrade our things every five minutes even though our “old” ones still work perfectly well.

We must learn to also repair the things we have and to maintain them, even, though it is often claimed today that this cannot be done, although with some products this is, unfortunately, the case, and that is a rather sad state of affairs. But even when repair is easy and can be carried out by almost anyone there are still people who rather buy new than to spend half and hour or an hour fixing it again. The case of a bicycle someone brought to the refuse tip because it had a flat tire which they could not bother to repair is but one of those “shining” examples. Oh yes, they had already bought a new bike, by the way.

But, seems to be the attitude, those products can all be recycled and thus I can just go and buy new and toss the “old” one into the recycling bin or whatever. Scary, I know!

Despite the fact that almost everything nowadays can be recycled chances are that most things are not and are just dumped into landfill. Or they are sent, a great cost to the Planet, to Third World countries to be broken up into their component parts, causing misery to the workers and pollution the environment. Much of the so-called recyclables, however, and that includes glass, textiles, and what have you, that are being collected by the kerbside collections, end up in the very place we don't want them to end up, namely the landfill.

That, and because I have learned from a very young age to value things and money is the reason I try to make everything last for as long as possible. In some instances I probably take things to the extreme as far as this and repurposing and reuse is concerned. But so be it.

© 2015

The Eco-Home Design Guide – Book Review

The Eco-Home Design Guide
Principles and practice for new-build or for retrofit
by Christopher Day
Published by Green Book 29th October 2015
ISBN 9780857843050 (paperback)
£24.99 paperback (£39.99 hardback) 256 pages, 255mm x 205mm

4039With a foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales

The Eco-Home Design Guide is the fantastic new book by Christopher Day. Designing an eco home is about working with your house's place and situation, not about relying on intrusive technology and hi-tech materials.

Christopher Day draws on his extensive experience to explain the key principles of eco-home design, common-sense methods to create a pleasant, comfortable and healthy home, all illustrated with beautifully simple hand-drawn illustrations. The book includes several case studies of eco homes, reviewing with the hindsight of what worked well and what could have been better. It is perfect for anyone designing or building their own eco-home as well as for professional builders, architects, surveyors and developers. If buying to eco-convert the book shows how to work out how easy it will be to remedy the problems of an existing building.

Compared to a conventional house, an eco-home will be more comfortable thermally, cheaper to keep warm or cool, healthier and more resilient to extreme weather and power disruptions. By looking at a variety of “why”, “where”, “how”, “what” and “when and who” issues you can identify what aspects of eco-design are important for you, enabling you to create a home that is in harmony with the environment around it at the same time as matching your individual physical, social aesthetic and space needs – a house where life is worth living.

Day's approach to eco building uses simple, easily-accessible materials and techniques and remedying shortcomings of a home's location to give an improved microclimate. This not only keeps the embodied carbon of the building lower, it also makes it accessible to anyone building with a limited budget or poor access to resources (such as in the developing world).

Unlike most building and design books, The Eco-Home Design Guide encourages people to think of whole- of-life care. This makes it perfect for anyone who wants to design a home that is wheelchair friendly. With the benefit of experience, Day shows how a few small changes can make sockets and switches accessible or enable a wheelchair user to turn around easily in a corridor.

Regardless of your reasons for building or retrofitting an eco-home, Christopher's advice is the perfect starting point. He walks you through all the essentials, helping you to put together a realistic and achievable design, whether you are an homeowner taking on your first project, or an experienced architect or developer.

Christopher Day has studied architecture and sculpture and has been committed to eco-architecture and an ecological lifestyle since the 1970s. He was Visiting Professor in Architecture at Queen's University of Belfast and has received four design awards, including a Prince of Wales Award, for his work on eco-houses and Steiner schools. He is the author of Consensus Design; Environment and Children and Spirit and Place. In his Dying: Or Learning to Live? he talks about how he came to terms with his diagnosis of motor neurone disease (ALS).

This is a very detailed book that looks at all aspects of eco-home design and the refurbishment of older buildings into eco-homes. When I say all aspects I do mean all aspects, up to and including perimeter defense, that is to say making your home and properly secure against intruders, including defensive landscaping, though there are still more of those, if one should need them, that are not covered in this book.

A great manual, for a manual it is, for anyone considering designing, building an eco-home, or refurbishing/retrofitting an old(er) home to eco-home standards.

A great and extremely useful manual. Five out of five for sure.

© 2015

Talking Trash With The Cyclists Behind This Compost Startup

An eco-preneur hits pay dirt with a bike-powered pick-up service in the heart of Austin, Texas.

compost pedallers

Last year the world generated more than 1.3 billion tons of food waste. Tons. That’s more than 20 pounds of food per person per month that floods into landfills and emits harmful methane gasses. Some cities have gone to bat on the problem by creating civic compost programs. For example, Seattle recently passed a law mandating that all food scraps be kept out of residential garbage and offers weekly pickup of food waste bins. And in Austin, Texas, there’s a similar pilot program, but expansion to the entire urban area could take up to 10 years.

Until then, small business and private networks are popping up to fill in the gaps, including Austin’s Compost Pedallers, a startup that offers bike-powered, carbon-neutral food waste pickup. Since its founding in 2012 by Dustin Fedako, Compost Pedallers has diverted 500,000 pounds out of the waste stream a la community composting. Their 650 subscribers within a five-mile radius of downtown Austin pay $16 a month for pick-up services. Anyone who signs up simply finishes, say, his or her morning coffee and tosses the grounds into a green 5-gallon bucket that the Pedaller crew cleans and delivers once a week. Once banana peels, egg shells, and other nonanimal waste accumulates, the bucket goes out on the porch for pickup. Then one of the company’s nine cyclists arrives in style on a cargo bike and dumps the residential food scraps into large bins strapped to the front of their ride or in a bike trailer that follows behind. At the end of the daily route, the haul goes to the company’s garden partners—called compHOSTS—like Springdale Farms. These hosts add the scraps to their personal compost piles and—with guidance from Compost Pedallers’ how-to handbook—transform the waste into usable material for their growing operation. So far the operation has kept an estimated 70 tons of methane out of Earth’s atmosphere.

Read more here.

3 Things Getting In The Way Of Your Urban Farm—And What You Can Do About It

Growing food in the city isn’t without its challenges, but there are things you can do to start living out your farming dream right where you are.

Starting your urban farm may take some creativity to get around certain hurdles.

The homesteading life—a productive yard, some chickens, a canner bubbling on the stove, perhaps a little extra cash coming in from farmers market sales—has never been a more popular dream. As a hedge against the fragility of corporate employment, as a psychological antidote to the intensity of modern life, as a solution to questionable and uncertain food production, there are more and more people wanting to find a way to bring their food production "on site” to their urban or suburban yard.

But obstacles can make it difficult to take the leap—or even to feel like it is possible to get started. Here are some ideas that might help you get started working around those challenges and headed towards a better life.

Read more here.

Homeless People Plant a Rooftop Garden and Feed the Shelter Organically

Heartwarming stories about individuals and organizations offering compassion and help the homeless abound and most of us enjoy being reminded of the goodness in our fellow humans and being presented with a ray of hope within what is a widespread challenge that faces our world and local communities; and while idealistic gestures that are very often well-intending are certainly feel-good and help bring attention to the issue of homelessness, the issue itself remains.

While it has come to public understanding that one of the biggest problems faced by homeless people is loneliness and lack of connection with other humans, the real issues of being out of sync with the system itself remain and those issues need to be explored and understood.

This is why the Metro Atlanta Taskforce for the Homeless, is catching some big media attention.  The Taskforce is serving the homeless in the community by allowing homeless people to serve themselves.  A rooftop organic garden in the city is designed to feed displaced people green natural healthy foods and to establish routine capabilities of self-sufficiency, otherwise known as Agorism.This truly allows individuals without homes the opportunity to empower themselves in tangible ways.

The rooftop garden,operated by the Metro Atlanta Taskforce for the Homeless, provides marginalized individuals routes through which their root problems can be addressed, rather than simply providing temporary solutions to cover symptoms.

Read more here.

Carrots, Eggs, or Coffee

Grandmother says... Carrots, Eggs, or Coffee; "Which are you?"

A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, "Tell me what do you see?"

"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they got soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it.

After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma. The granddaughter then asked. "What's the point, grandmother?"

Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity--boiling water--but each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

"Which are you?" she asked her granddaughter.

"When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"

Think of this: Which am I?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff?

Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level?


A Note On Recycling, From Your Crappy Old Furniture

Before you haul me to the curb, let's have a little chat.

Boy looking at old chair

Hey there! I’m that old wingback you got for your first apartment—remember me? I totally lent that studio some respectability. And we had some good times, cuddling up with books, doing crossword puzzles together, staying in and watching movies. Sure, I was a little broken-in when you first found me, but you had more time than money back then, and I made a great fix-up project. You ironed patches on my thin spots, and we had fun with that ill-fated painting experiment. When I came out looking less damask burgundy and more multi-colored barf, you sewed me several slipcovers, and I’ve got to say: Each was more professional-looking than the last.

But I can see you’re not so keen on me anymore. You haven’t sat in me forever. And lately you’ve been dumping all over me (usually your dirty laundry). And I get why—I’m not as comfortable as I used to be. I’ve got a broken spring that’s a pain in the ass if you sit in the wrong place, the cat’s been tearing at my arms and back for years, and I’ll admit: One of my legs is a little wobbly. I saw your look the other day, and I know what you’re thinking—it’s time for me to go.

Read more here.

Fall yard cleanup bad for bees, warns apiarist

Leave those leaves where they are, says beekeeper Erica Shelley. Solitary bees embed their larvae in the ground and raking leaves can harm their chance of surviving over winter.

A local apiarist is encouraging people to skip major yard cleanups this fall for the sake of bee health.

Bee expert Erica Shelley says people unwittingly destroy important bee habitats when they rake leaves and clean away dead wood.

While honeybee colonies overwinter in their hives, solitary bees don't survive the winter months and bury their larvae in the ground or in the hollows of branches. When spring arrives and temperatures warm up, the new insects know it's time to emerge, says Shelley.

"If people are throwing out their dead wood, rototilling their gardens and throwing down mulch in the spring, then they actually can't emerge," she said.

Read more here.

You could soon go to jail for wearing body armor

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

BodyArmor1You could soon go to jail for protecting yourself from bullets: Congress proposes a ban on body armor which will make it illegal to own and use full ballistic armor.

A new piece of legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives, H. R. 378, labeled the Responsible Body Armor Possession Act, which if enacted would deprive law abiding citizens of another means of self defense.

The legislation, forwarded by Rep. Mike Honda, would ban citizens from ownership of enhanced body armor, defined as “body armor, including a helmet or shield, the ballistic resistance of which meets or exceeds the ballistic performance of Type III armor, determined using National Institute of Justice Standard-0101.06” in the bill. Level III and higher body armor can defeat most common rifle ammunition.

The body armor in question has a sole purpose of protecting the wearer from potential serious injury or death from being shot.

If passed, this bill would usurp people's ability to own a truly defensive form of protection, with penalties for possession/ownership ranging from fines to jail time or both.

In his press release, Rep. Honda states: “This bill allows law enforcement to respond to active shooting situations more effectively. The bill prohibits the purchase, sale, or possession of military-grade body armor by anyone except certain authorized users, such as first-responders and law enforcement.”

Perhaps if Honda put as much effort into disarming the overly militarized police, as attempting to take away law abiding citizens ability to defend themselves from would-be shooters, people wouldn't have the impetus to wear body armor.

The armor is purely defensive in nature, and people should always have the ability and right to defend themselves against attack.

The right to self-defense is the right from which all other rights are derived. As John Locke stated, self-defense is the first law of nature. Each person owns his or her own life and no other person has a right to take that life, or hinder the preservation thereof.

The Supreme Court has held that the police have no duty to protect citizens , so that responsibility now falls squarely on the shoulders of individuals themselves. Only problem is that when people wish to do it the law says that they can't, and especially not from the government and their agents.

To take away people's ability to access defensive armor, after telling them that they are on their own and are owed no protection by law enforcement, almost seems like a cruel joke.

Why should a law-abiding citizens, that takes steps to defend themselves passively, be criminalized? Interestingly, government employees and personnel who work for the various government agencies, departments, or “political subdivisions” are exempted in the bill.

Additionally, the bill states that citizens who own body armor prior to the bill taking effect, would, in essence be grandfathered in and be treated the same as government personnel.

Where is the sense in government banning something that provides people protection from harm?

The logic of this bill is so askew that it wouldn't be surprising if perhaps next they will try and pass a bill that outlaws hiding behind things while being shot at.

In a continuation of that logic, law enforcement could use the PR line: “If you haven't done anything wrong, why would you need to hide behind anything?”

But we have to ponder what this is really all about and that is namely that the government is afraid of the people, as it rightly should be, and that the people with arms and body armor could present them with a problem in their endeavors to enslave everyone.

If this has not, as yet, gotten into your head, dearest reader, then it is about time it did. And this is but another step on the road to further restrictions as to personal self-defense and the ability to defend yourself against a tyrannical government. The lunatics are running the asylum and have no intention of giving it up.

© 2015

You’re obsessing about the wrong home energy uses


Keeping an eye on your own energy use is the “duh” approach to a smorgasbord of environmental problems, up to and including climate change. As a reporter, I can obsess over research funding for renewable technology, or streamlined permitting for solar installations, or more public transit, or better roads for cyclists and pedestrians, or how much fuel is burned in schlepping and refrigerating my food before it gets to me. But if I actually want to feel like I have control over one small corner of the world, I turn off the lights when I leave the room. When the downstairs neighbors in my apartment building turn all the lights on in the basement, because they are little weenies who are afraid of the dark, I go downstairs, turn them off myself, and generally think uncharitable thoughts about them and their various lifestyle choices.

In all this light-switch obsessing, I am a textbook illustration of a phenomenon explored recently by the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Chris Mooney over at the Washington Post does a good job of summarizing the study:

People generally weren’t very good at estimating how much total energy use the different categories consumed. For one, they didn’t realize that the biggest energy users — home heating and driving “private motor vehicles” — were dramatically more energy intensive than many other smaller energy users, such as computers or dishwashers.

You know what this means: I have been judging my neighbors for all the wrong reasons. This is pure tragedy.

Read more here.