New Plastics Economy: Businesses support action plan to recycle 70% of global plastic packaging

A cross-sector coalition of multinational businesses have today (16 January) thrown their weight behind the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's new global action plan to recycle and re-use 70% of the world's plastic packaging.

The report estimates that $80-120bn of plastic packaging material value is lost to the economy due to a linear, take-make-dispose value chain

The New Plastics Economy initiative, which has released its latest report at this week’s World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, provides a roadmap of priority actions for businesses to move towards a circular global plastics system in 2017.

Supported by more than 40 major industry actors such as Unilever, Marks & Spencer (M&S) and the Coca-Cola Company, the report highlights that re-use provides an attractive economic opportunity for 20% of global plastics packaging, while a further 50% could be profitably recycled through concerted efforts on design and after-use.

The remaining 30% of plastic packaging must shift towards fundamental redesign and innovation, or face the reality of never being reused or recycled, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation says.

Dame Ellen MacArthur said: "The New Plastics Economy initiative has attracted widespread support, and across the industry we are seeing strong initial momentum and alignment on the direction to take. The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing action provides a clear plan for redesigning the global plastics system, paving the way for concerted action."

“We look forward to following the progress of this singular and powerful initiative over the coming years as it stimulates the innovation, redesign and new thinking needed to pave the way towards creating a plastics system that works.”

Read more here.

Over Two, Under One: Basket Weaving With Reeds

If you like working with your hands, basket weaving can provide you with beautiful objects for your home, to give as gifts, or to sell.

basket weaving fig 04 japanese weave 550p jpg

Everybody loves a basket! And whether you're using that woven container to tote vegetables from the garden, display fruit on your kitchen table, or just stash away an unfinished needlework project, you'll find that your satisfaction in the task is doubled if the basket is one you've made yourself.

Many types of material are suitable for basket weaving, but one of the best is reed. Strong, pliable, and light, reed comes from the core of the long shoots of the rattan palm, which grows in the tropical forests of many South Pacific islands. These shoots reach lengths of 200 to 600 feet as they trail over the floor of the jungle or hook onto other trees and plants. And once the thorny outer bark has been removed, the smooth, glossy underbark is stripped off in specific widths to be used for caning chair seats and such.

Beneath this layer is the actual reed — the core of the vine — which is harvested and machine-processed into round and flat strips of different diameters and widths. The sizes range in diameter from No. 0 at 1/64" (used for making miniatures) to No. 12 at 3/8" (used for sturdy handles). As a rule, the spokes — which are the ribs or framework — of a basket should be two numbers coarser than the weavers... which are the flexible strands that are woven over and under the spokes.

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A picture is worth.... how to avoid the flu

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Refurbishing an axe head

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

What is a hatchet and what is an axe?

hatchet1-1A hatchet is a small axe of up to about 2 pounds in weight while everything above 2 pounds in weight becomes an axe proper.

Hatchet and axe are important tools for the woodsman, coppice worker and greenwood carver and -worker, although the main tool for the coppice worker, more often than not, is the billhook.

Good hatchets and axes often can be very expensive to purchase new and thus refurbishment of good to high quality old ones that at times can be had at flea markets for little money are well worth the time and effort. At the same time while giving you a quality tool at a reasonable cost it also saves valuable resources.

The proper refurbishment of a hatchet or an axe head is not something to be hurried along by use of power tools, however. And it is amazing to see even so-called experts coming out with the most stupid things imaginable. You look at those articles and videos and wonder “what the heck?”.

Do NOT use angle grinder or bench grinder, especially not for regrinding the edge and never burn out the (remains of the) old handle in a fire. Both of it can and will affect the temper of the steel and could ruin the axe or hatchet head.

Time and again, and only recently in the Bushcraft magazine in the UK, when the talk (and advice) comes to refurbishment of axe heads the use of an angle grinder (and in some cases and incidents the use of a bench grinder) is talked about. This is as stupid as burning out the remains of a handle in a fire. Both will harm the temper of the steel. And I do not care about whatever supposed credentials the author who writes such an article has. The same goes for sharpening billhooks and also knives. A bench grinder or similar is an absolute no go here.

While it is fine to remove any burring over of the back of the axe head with an angle grinder, a belt grinder, or even a Dremmel tool – and even that very, very carefully – to use a high-speed grinder on the edge is a No-No. Even the slightest overheating will change the temper of the blade and make the edge soft and that is something we definitely do not want to happen. Unless, that is, you know how to and wish to re-temper the blade in the end.

The only way to resharpen the edge is by way of hand tools, that is to say by file and by sharpening stones, aka whetstones, or, if you have access to one, a sandstone wheel in a water bath, like the big old whetstone wheels that used to be found in village smithies and on many farms, that needed a second person to turn the handle. And the same, obviously, also goes for the sharpening the edge on a newly forged tool.

But, as said, again and again we see people, even those claiming to be experts, using dry high-speed bench grinders with their harsh abrasive “dry” wheels and then comments such as that one needs to keep quenching the tool in water to prevent overheating. Hello! You heat that steel to such an extent that it requires quenching you have already done damage. So, don't do it.

Most billbooks, hatchets and axes are, in fact, soft enough in the cutting edge to be sharpened by use of a mill bastard file, a fine cut file, and those that are not will have to be done with “stones”, by hand. The only safe and precise way that will ensure the integrity of the steel is maintained. It is not difficult but may take a little while.

I must say that there are times when I cringe as regards to the advice that is being given by people claiming to be expert on the subject as to how to refurbish an axe, a billhook or a knife and of the sharpening of same. It is worrying in the extreme, at times.

© 2017

Cabin fever: how Scotland is back in love with the joys of ‘hutting’

Bothies once offered a bolthole for urban workers. A legal change has revived them

Dylan Thomas had one. So did Roald Dahl, Arthur Miller and Norman MacCaig. Virginia Woolf wrote her last words in one and Gabriel Oak had one in Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd.

Fishermen and shepherds have long recognised their value and between the wars they were promoted as boltholes, a means for the working classes to escape toxic cities for the good of their health. In Scotland, the hut, whether a mountain bothy or forest retreat, has long been part of both the scenery and the cultural landscape, immortalised in the “but an’ ben” of the Broons cartoon strip – a tiny two-room, one-storey holiday cottage.

But a toughening up of land access rights, a change in attitudes by landowners and tighter planning regulations led to the tradition of the rustic getaway almost disappearing, leaving just sheds for those with gardens, and holiday lets for those who could afford them.

Now a ‘hutting’ revival is predicted after the Scottish government signalled that later this month it will change legislation to exempt huts from building and planning rules, allowing people to put up these most simple of second homes in the countryside wherever they can rent or buy a plot of suitable land.

Read more here.

Neighbors feed neighbors with Little Free Pantries

Little Free Pantry

These ingenious kitchen cupboards are mounted outdoors, and food and toiletries free to the public.

A new type of food pantry is sprouting on American lawns. Called a ‘Little Free Pantry,’ this outdoor cupboard is mounted above the ground, with a see-through, unlocked door that allows people to give and take food items at their leisure. The idea is to have a constantly-accessible, public source of food for anyone who may need it, and to enable generous-minded neighbors to share their bounty in a direct way. The name, of course, is inspired by the Little Free Libraries which operate on the same concept of "give what you can, take what you need," only with books.

The Little Free Pantry, which only came into existence in May 2016, eliminates the need for a ‘middleman’ or additional paperwork, which can be deterrents for some people when visiting public food banks. It’s entirely anonymous and available 24/7, which is attractive to those people who do not want to be seen accepting donated food.

Read more here.

Message in a Bottle: Permaculture & Disruptive Innovation

At this critical time in human civilisation, what are the next steps for permaculture? How can it become widely recognised as a vital tool for regenerative agriculture? Here are five ideas to help us explore this questions.

In 1974, two pioneers, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, gave birth to permaculture during the heyday of industrial agriculture. Permaculture has been quietly developing at its own pace ever since, like a message in a bottle. It is time for humanity to read this message: permaculture can feed our hungry planet in a way that does not poison the land and water, reduce biodiversity or remove topsoil. If this is true, why has it taken so long for permaculture to become widely practiced?

The answer to this question can be found in the patterns of human evolution. By understanding how consciousness evolves, we can trace the development of permaculture and even predict what will come next as we endeavour to design a viable nutritional ecosystem that is beneficial for all life.

Permaculture was born out of crisis in Australia in the 1970s. Environmental degradation had reached crisis levels in Tasmania in the 1950s, and had stopped Mollison dead in his tracks:

It wasn’t until the 1950s that I noticed that large parts of the system were disappearing. First fish stocks became extinct. Then the seaweed around the shorelines went. Large patches of forest began to die.
I hadn’t realised until those things had gone that I’d become very fond of them; that I was in love with my country.

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Purple paint means 'no trespassing' in Texas

purpleTYLER, Texas (KETK) - While visiting the countryside of Texas, have you ever seen trees and fence posts with unique markings the color purple? It's not backwoods graffiti,  it means no trespassing.

"It holds the same weight and the same law violations apply," said Prairie View A&M Extension Agent Ashley Pellerin. "It's no trespassing period."

It started out in Arkansas in 1989 as a way for property owners to notify the public of private land and in 1997, the state of Texas adopted the law.

"The reason the Texas legislature did that is they were trying to keep landowners from constantly having to replace signs," said Jonathan Kennedy, owner of "In Texas as we know, people like to take target practice at signs so they are having to replace them frequently."

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Nifty Tote Bag Made From a Feed Bag

Feed Bag Tote

You'll find step-by-step directions, with helpful photos, here: DIY CHICKEN FEED SACK TOTE on the Community Chickens pages from Mother Earth News and Grit magazine.

Poster Rebecca Nickols has made these totes from other kinds of feed bags, too, including a very handsome one from a bag of wild-bird seed.

Read more here.

Innovative Neighborhood Farm Adjacent to Housing Complex Increases Food Access and Grows Community

orchard-gardens-neighborhood-farm-and-community-garden-photo-dave-victor-min-683x325“Beyond growing vegetables, beyond growing soil, we’re building community through agriculture,” says Dave Victor of Orchard Gardens Neighborhood Farm and Community Garden. “That’s a big part of the mission, a big part of the vision for the farm. It’s all about providing healthy fresh local food for low income people.”

Dave Victor, after five years honing his growing skills with Garden City Harvest, became the manager of Orchard Gardens Neighborhood Farm just last year and he couldn’t be happier with his new position.

“Just like any sustainable agriculture farmer the focus is on building soil,” says Victor. “I tell people that I’m a vegetable farmer but first and foremost it’s all about growing soil and building that soil ecology.”

Using a diversity of growing techniques and products, Victor and his team integrate urban food growing with urban community growing focusing on building a firm relationship with the local youth.

The farm sits against the fence of the Orchard Gardens Apartment Complex on the west side of town in Missoula, Montana. Founded in 2005, the farm covers two acres of historically agricultural land in an area now occupied by housing projects and busy roads. The farm is a partnership between Garden City Harvest—Orchard Garden’s umbrella organization firmly established in Montana’s community and urban agriculture movement—and Homeword, a sustainable housing construction company. Together they planned the construction of the farm in unison with the construction of the apartment complex. The land needed for the farm meant that some of the complex’s parking space went underground.

Three paid staff positions, two long term interns and 20 volunteers made up the bulk of the farm’s work force this year. In the last growing season, Orchard Gardens produced 19,000 pounds of food using bio-intensive growing methods on half an acre of land. In addition to growing seasonal vegetables, the farm contains a small fruit orchard, herb and flower gardens, and a community garden.

The farm produces over 30 different varieties of vegetables for its 25 CSA customers and also sells culinary herbs and orchard fruit. CSA members can also participate in a u-pick flowers program during the 18 weeks of their CSA program. Orchard Gardens is a “combination site” also housing a community garden with rentable 15 x 15’ plots. One of those plots is ADA accessible with raised wooden garden beds. ADA plots are common among Garden City Harvest community farms.

The produce is distributed to members of the farm’s CSA as well as to the local community through its farmstand outside the apartment complex every Monday and Thursday night. The CSA operates on a sliding scale and runs from June through October. The surplus produce is sold to the community at a vastly reduced rate. Children living in the housing complex, ranging in age from 3 to 13, spend a lot of time on the farm and around the farmstand helping with set up and learning about the vegetables.

“As soon as they all see us out there setting up, they’ll all come running over immediately,” says Victor. “They like to help us carry out boxes of food or help us set up our tables, spread out the tablecloth and in return we give them carrots and peas and green beans and they just love that.”

Read more here.