Archive for March, 2011


The onions have sprouted (or onioned!?!).  There are definitely green shoots coming up in the onion patch (some of them are weeds, but some of them are onions – hurrah!).  Given I’ve seen no signs of anything happening in the potato patch, I am relieved that something is actually growing!

Plus, in an unrelated but also excellent bit of environmental progress, the council has been persuaded to put us in a shower.  Fab – soon we will be able to cut our water consumption as we move from baths to showers and embrace 20th century technology!!

By the way, that little experiment I did some time ago – the joke post with all the top key search words in the title?  Well, I’m still getting a smattering of hits from that – mainly from people searching for “free sex”!  So maybe I was too quick to judge it as a failure! 

This leads me to conclude that I need to “sex up” my blog – so any suggestions for environmental themes with a sexy twist gratefully received! 😉

The weather has been so unseasonably fabulous this week, I couldn’t resist going out in the garden after work today and putting in some more veggies – including:

  • carrots (early variety)
  • parsnips
  • peas
  • spinach

Gave everything else a thorough watering since we really haven’t had any rain for quite a while and all of a sudden the soil is looking extremely dry.

Really satisfying to know that all those little seedlings are in there, growing away…. 😉

I swear I’m not actively seeking these things out – they just keep appearing! 

The latest is, I grant you, not as silly as the previous two items, but it’s still (in my opinion) a triumph of over engineering and the kind of thinking which is not compatible with a simple, sustainable way of life.   I give you “The Insinkerator”.  Basically, it’s a posh waste disposal unit, and of course they’ve been around for years (standard grumble – they require electricity to run – so that’s another electrical gadget in your house which you don’t need), but what really gets me about this product is the way they’ve chosen to market it.  Statements such as “and then watch as your food waste is washed simply, cleanly and effortlessly away” meaning  “less smelly food waste sitting around in your bin” just send me into orbit. 

The advertising for the Insinkerator says it’s environmentally responsible because it reduces the amount going to landfill. But the stuff in the advert is chopped vegetable matter – now that can go straight on the compost heap.   And if you don’t have a compost heap, you jolly well should, else you’re continually robbing your garden of nutrients without putting anything back (or you end up having to buy in compost to improve your soil.  Madness!).  And if you don’t have a garden or a compost heap, Local Authorities in many areas of the country now provide a container specifically to take food waste. You certainly shouldn’t have to put vegetable waste in the bin which is for the stuff which will be dumped in landfill – vegetable waste is biodegradable, unlike the plastic bag you probably put your waste in. 

And our two-fold obsession in this country – “clean” and “effortless” – yup, keep everything sanitized and try to put minimal energy into anything.  No wonder we’re a nation of obese people susceptible to every virus going!  One of the Insinkerator’s boasts is that it “minimises trips to the dustbin”!!!  Whoa – all that way!!  Gee, thanks!  

I also wonder about what happens to all that ground up waste which goes down the waste pipe.  The advertising literature mentions how food scraps that have gone through the waste disposer can be used as a biogas or biosolid as part of a “holistic waste management approach”.  But presumably, there’s isn’t a holistic approach – the ground up waste just goes into the sewerage system.  Do the water companies provide this “holistic approach”? I don’t know, but I’m willing to be they don’t.

In our household, the kitchen waste either goes to the hens, or the compost heap as appropriate.  It’s about six paces from the sink (via the back door) to the compost heap, and the hens have a little tub in the kitchen for their scraps – which are taken out to them first thing in the morning.  Not exactly tricky.  I would hope that in the main the only thing which goes in our bin is non-recyclable plastic or bits and bobs which are made of composite materials which can’t be separated for recycling.  Indeed, last week the bin men didn’t empty our bin because presumably they thought it was empty (it only had three small bags in it). 

Why do we have to make the simplest things more complicated than they need to be?  On the up side, most adverts nowadays do seem to make me laugh – even though it’s a kind of despairing mirth! 😉

Just so Dettol don’t think I’m picking on them, what about Glade or Air Wick Air Fresheners – the “automatic” ones?  “Automatic” meaning, of course, BATTERY powered!  So, you spend your hard-earned cash buying something made of plastic (which will probably end up in landfill), which has to be powered by batteries (which will probably end up in landfill), and it sits in your lounge or wherever, spewing chemicals into your house to mask the smell (of what??!) because adverts have made you paranoid that your home might smell revolting to other people, but you’ve got accustomed to it because you live with it all the time…   

And if you’re thinking of purchasing such an item, don’t feel you have to just take on board my (totally biased) view – an internet review of one of these products said it “smells stronger than the armpit of beelzebub” (see http://www.ciao.co.uk/Air_Wick_Freshmatic_Automatic_Spray__Review_5918799  for more amusing feedback).

I’ve got an idea – instead of “automatic air fresheners“, why not…..er…..open a window!!  Or failing that, get a Victorian airer on which to dry your laundry – a two-fold benefit as 1) you won’t need to use the tumbledryer, and 2) you’ll find the lovely smell of clean clothes pervades your home.   Spend the money you save on having a drink in the pub with your mates, or donate it to charity, or better still, don’t work such long hours and instead do something more meaningful with your newly acquired spare time.

Let’s all make a pledge to stop buying tat we don’t need!  😉

What’s wrong with soap?

Have you seen that ridiculous Dettol advert?  OK, I probably need to narrow it down a bit – I realise all Dettol ads are fairly ridiculous, designed as they are to tap in to our deep-seated paranoia about germs [pause for panic, gasps, screams etc].  The one I’m talking about is for the new “Dettol No Touch”.  If they gave out awards for the most over-engineered product ever, I’d back this one for the top spot.

The idea, if you’ve not seen the ad, is that you just wave your hands near the hand wash dispenser, and it automatically dispenses “just the right amount of soap“.  Now I have several issues with this concept (over and above my usual reaction to Dettol ads, which is along the lines of “er…healthy human beings are designed to fight off germs”) .  The first is pretty minor – how can it dispense “just the right amount of soap” because how does it know exactly how dirty your hands are?  And then there’s a quibble with the concept (i.e. it’s designed so you don’t have to touch the “germy soap pump”, but why does that matter because even if the soap pump is “germy”, you’re just about to wash your hands….so…er…problem solved!).  Of greater concern is the complicated nature of the packaging – surely a landfill concern.  But the thing which really left me speechless with disgust was that the bloody thing requires BATTERIES!!! 

This product has got to symbolise practically all that is wrong with society today. The purchase price (apparently rrp £9.99) of said Dettol product for one paranoid middle-class family frightened of dirt, could probably pay for water purification for a starving family in Africa.  The packing, and the thing itself, is made of plastic – most of which I’m willing to bet will end up in landfill.   And there is already a perfectly good solution to the problem of dirty hands – a solution that we’ve been using quite successfully for centuries (first evidence dates back to around 2800 BC).  It comes in the form of a bar, with minimal packaging.  It’s cheap and lasts for ages.  And you can get lots of different types so you don’t have to smell like your nan. 

Yes, I’m talking about good old honest soap.  Let’s bring back into fashion the humble bar of soap.  Let’s stop spending more money than we need to on something that will only last a fraction of the time, and will create many more times the waste.  And if I can’t convince you on any other point, just remember, a bar of soap does not require batteries!  😉

Something nice about starting off the day eating homemade rhubarb marmalade on toast (not as weird as it sounds – trust me!), and then being able to spend some time in the garden after work, tidying up the herb garden.  It’s suddenly as though spring is really in the air – buds appearing, crocuses, daffs, forsythia coming out.  It’s amazing – a few weeks ago (it seems) everything in the garden was frozen solid – now, it’s like all that weather never happened.  And the days are getting longer – clocks will soon be changing – and there’s all that glorious summer stretching before us.  Hopefully the potatoes and the onions are starting to grow.  The garlic is doing well.  Time to make a start on the raised beds.  Oh, and we need to build that cold frame we’ve been planning for ages….

All I can say is that it’s a good job the days are getting longer – I’m gonna need all the hours I can get! 😉

In amongst all the doom and gloom of the majority of national and international news, there was an item of hope tonight.  Scottish Power Renewables (http://www.scottishpowerrenewables.com/default.asp) has been given the go ahead to build ten off-shore tidal turbines.  Good to know there’s some good sense in the world – and that there are businesses prepared to invest in renewable energy.  Visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-12769350 for more info on the item.

Been reading up about William Morris – someone who fascinates me because he seems a man of such energy and varied interests – many of which fall into the same areas as my own (he wrote books and poetry, he loved the countryside, he cared about the design and preservation of buildings, he wanted only beautiful or useful items in his home).  He was a passionate believer that hand-made products, produced by skilled craftsmen (and women) who took pride in their work, were infinitely superior to mass-produced factory-made items.  The benefits of this were both that the products themselves were more intrinsically valuable (and valued), and so was the skill of the workers.  Whilst the “division of labour” made economic sense, it did nothing for the development of the worker’s soul. 

There was a problem with this though – the goods produced by Morris’s workers took so many man hours to make that they obviously had to be sold at extremely high prices.  This put them beyond the reach of Joe Public, and meant his customers came from the upper classes.  As a socialist, Morris must have felt pretty uncomfortable with this situation.  Understandably, he came in for a fair amount of criticism from the press of his day who were quick to point out that if he was such a socialist boss, he ought to operate a profit-sharing scheme.  Apparently, he did look into this, but decided against it.  His reasons seem just a tad on the flimsy side – along the lines of: a) well, my doing the profit-sharing would be a drop in the ocean – it wouldn’t change the whole of society… and b) by the time you shared out the profits, each worker would get such a small amount as to not be worth doing – it wouldn’t change their material or social position…  Hmm…. 

But it obviously weighed on his conscience.  And there’s no realistic answer – after all, you’d need a Utopian situation where everyone was working in a skilled job, everyone was well-paid for it, and thus everyone had the means to buy quality goods and services from each other.  Plus you’d need everyone to place value on quality in the same way – not, as seems prevalent in our current culture, getting the largest quantity for the lowest price.

The funniest thing is that in his own day, Morris was known mainly as a poet, whereas now, more often than not, he’s “that bloke who designed wallpaper”.  In his relatively short life (62 years) he managed to do an awful lot of other stuff too – and perhaps it’s that energy and enthusiasm for such a wide range of interests which makes him so admirable.

Here I am, chatting away about the hens and my veg plot with no consideration for the wider world.  I’ll admit, my focus does tend to be fairly close to home, but the disaster in Japan hasn’t escaped even my attention.  One of the most obvious areas of concern was the damage done to one of their nuclear power installations.  Now, I’ve never been terribly keen on nuclear power.  I grew up living quite close to Hinkley Point, and remember doing a project for GCSE English on the then proposed Hinkley C reactor.  (Currently there’s a “Stop Hinkley” campaign – see http://www.stophinkley.org/StopPress.htm for more info.)

Obviously, I can appreciate the benefit of nuclear power – the massive amount of energy which can be created to satisfy our continuously rising requirements.  But I feel it comes at too high a price.  It is simply too dangerous, and the devastating results of any leak are too severe and too long-lasting. 

We should learn from the Japanese experience – they have a good safety record with nuclear energy, but even their systems have not been able to cope with the earthquake – they are, as I understand it, now using sea water to cool the reactors – something they don’t usually do because of the….er….corrosive properties of salt water…hmm….

I believe technologies such as solar and wind energy are the only way forward – safe and sustainable.  And if this means cutting our energy requirements (as individuals, as a nation, as a planet) well, so be it.  Better than the risk from radiation if we rely on the nuclear approach.