Reusing plastic utensils in the garden

Reusing plastic utensils (flatware) in the garden (and elsewhere)

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Plastic fork plant label holder1-webDon't toss those plastic knives, forks and spoons. There are number of reasons why you should plant them in your garden beds instead. No, they do not sprout roots if you do and reproduce, but for other reasons.

These days people are looking to be more environmentally conscious, which means using reusable utensils instead of plastic ones. However, if you have to use plastic utensils there are ways that you can reuse them instead of just tossing them out after eating one meal.

Also, although to some this may sound gross, why not pick up and take home those plastic cutlery pieces you may find laying about when on a walk or such. Plastic utensils can work wonders for your garden. Well, if not directly wonders then they still can be useful.

Deterring garden “pests”

Place plastic utensils in your garden to keep pests that might sabotage growth, like dogs and cats, at bay. They will not want to maneuver around the pointed objects where your fruits, vegetables, and flowers are in the process of growing.

If you have animals who like to trounce or do their business in your garden, certainly may want to use this option. You can remove the cutlery when your plants grow.

You, obviously, won't keep slugs and snails at bay with this method but it could help to keep squirrels, cats, and others off your plants when they are growing.

Plant labels

Don't waste your money on fancy garden labels. You can write the names of your plants on handles of the utensils and stake them in the ground next to your plant.

This goes especially for the white of light colored ones, not so much the black ones, unless you have a white permanent marker.

Alternatively, use plastic forks, and here the color does not matter, stuck into the soil by their handles, and tuck the pack into the tines.

White plastic spoons, for instance, you could paint and then write the name of the plant, or draw/paint a picture of it, on the spoon. The back of the bowl probably would work best for this.

Make a little fence

Place forks into the soil with the prongs facing upward and in a row to create a spiked fence. This will keep squirrels out – well, hopefully – and can also make a cute fence for a fairy garden, if you are thus inclined.

Strong plastic forks – more of the reusable plastic cutlery kind that people nevertheless tend to treat like disposable – can also serve as small garden forks in pots, hanging baskets, and window boxes, etc. for loosening soil should this be deemed necessary.

Oh yes, I did not get around to ideas about the “elsewhere”, but that might happen in another article.

© 2017

Fleet Farming?

How One Group Wants to Turn Your Front Yard into a Full-Fledge Farm.

Fleet Farming1A group of volunteers in Orlando is trying to change the way we eat. Owners keep a portion of their produce and the volunteers take the rest to local farmer’s markets and restaurants.

Watch the video here.

A cracking idea!

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

x-defaultEdinburgh Napier student produces range of tableware made from her own patent pending egg shell material

It’s the food stuff that is traditionally enjoyed scrambled, poached, boiled or fried. The egg that is, not the shell.

But eggs, or at least their shells, could soon be appearing on tables in a way never seen before thanks to the work of one Edinburgh Napier student.

Martina Zupan, a fourth year product design student at the University, has struck upon the cracking idea of using eggshells to make a range of disposable tableware.

The 26 year-old has designed and produced a product called ‘Colleggtion’ – a disposable circular plate with tearaway cutlery that is made from waste eggshells.

One of hundreds of exhibits at Edinburgh Napier’s More Than A Degree Show, the designer has developed a process that allows for waste eggshells to be formed into products.

This process is currently patent pending, but Martina believes her tableware could help highlight the opportunities that upcycling waste eggshells can bring.

She said: “The idea literally came to me one day as I was making scrambled eggs in the house and after some extensive research I found that despite eggshells carrying a range of beneficial components, very little was actually being done to upcycle waste product.

“I tested eggshell powder in a range of formats – including adding it to muffins, into plaster for egg cups and even cement and other resins but it was the tableware idea that really caught my imagination.

“I worked closely with research teams at Edinburgh Napier who had some leftover raw materials from various experiments that they were happy for me to use. I started testing it with the eggshells and things fell into place from there.

“I think I’ve managed to produce a sophisticated product that has the potential to highlight a new method of producing sustainable tableware and cutlery – it’s been really exciting to work on.”

Martina’s idea was sparked by becoming dismayed at the lack of recycling options for by-products within the food industry, meaning that potentially beneficial components such as calcium carbonate were simply being lost in landfill.

According to, the UK consumes more than 12.5 billion eggs each year, which equates to more than 75,000 tonnes of eggshell waste. As a result of current laws and regulations, egg processors are obliged to send their eggshell waste to landfill, with more than 17,000 tonnes being disposed of in this way last year.

Despite some eggshell waste being used domestically, in restaurants and recycled generically though food bins, Martina still believes there is room for improvement when it comes to finding an alternative use for leftover waste.

She added: “Sustainability was a key consideration throughout the entire project and I’ve been careful to ensure that nothing goes to waste throughout the process. In my testing, I’ve even tried using waste food material to dye my tableware in certain colors – there is so much scope to be creative with food waste!

“Very few know of the benefits that eggshells can bring to the environment. With this project, eggshell waste could not only be prevented and reduced, but eggshells would be recycled into a valuable product. Being fully compostable means the tableware can be disposed of together with food waste, which will then be, with the help of anaerobic digestion, turned into biogases which act as a source of green energy as well as nutrient-rich bio-fertilizer. It has massive potential.

“I’d love to continue the development of the tableware after my time at University comes to an end. Ideally I’d like to work with like-minded investors who could help commercialize the patent pending process further – it would be great to get some help and support to fully get the product up and running and onto kitchen tables.”

Richard Firth, Programme Leader, BDes (Hons) Product Design, said: “One of the many achievements that singles out Martina’s project is the incredible amount and range of her research and ideation process. Martina’s commitment, determination and drive to ‘try and try again has been rewarded in a design project that is truly unique with the potential to achieve real change with regard to how we think about materials, design our products and how we engage with producing our products within the 21st century.”

Edinburgh Napier’s More Than A Degree Show is an annual showcase of the creative talent of new and emerging designers, photographers, film makers, journalists, publishers, musicians, creative writers and actors from its School of Arts and Creative Industries and School of Computing. The exhibition runs within Merchiston campus and is open to the public from 19-28 May.

Edinburgh Napier University, which takes its name from the brilliant 16th century mathematician John Napier, has more than 19,000 students from more than 130 countries. Its six Edinburgh-based Schools are spread across three campuses, and it also has transnational education partnerships in Hong Kong, China, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore and Switzerland. Teaching programs have strong links with industry, and more than half of the university’s research was recognized as world-leading or internationally excellent in the most recent Research Excellence Framework review. Through the Bright Red Triangle, the university offers a one-stop shop for extra-curricular innovation and enterprise activities.

While this is a good idea, I guess, to make disposable tableware from eggshells rather than plastic, Styrofoam (which is expanded polystyrene, that is to say also a plastic) or coated card, we really, everywhere, should be getting away from this find of tableware.

Un-coated paper plates paper plates can be composted – even in the copost bin at home – but nor recycled as any paper – and that includes the paper from the chips shops – and card, such as pizza boxes, cannot be recycled due to having food residue and grease in the form of fats on them.

I cannot see how, however, those plates, etc. made from eggshells can be composted anywhere else but in commercial hot composting plants which, again, means collecting the waste in a separate waste stream and then processing, both which cost energy and thus compounds the problems.

© 2017

You can thank antibiotics for all the cheap meat

cattle feedlot

Farmers pump livestock full of drugs to keep them 'healthy' and fatten them up quickly. Unfortunately this could be a global death sentence.

In her 2015 TED talk, journalist and author Maryn McKenna tells the tragic story of her 30-year-old great-uncle who died from an infection in a New York hospital in 1940, just three years before penicillin became available. Those were times when people died from injuries and the infections that ensued, not lifestyle diseases like cancer and heart disease. Now, we take for granted the idea that antibiotics can protect us from the simplest things.

This is going to change, McKenna warns. We are poised at the edge of the post-antibiotic era, when drugs will no longer be effective and routine procedures, like heart surgery, C-sections, joint replacements, or anything that "opens the hidden spaces of the body," could be a thing of the past. Already 50,000 people die in the United States and Europe every year from antibiotic-resistant infections. One British study estimates that, unless we get antibiotic use under control by 2050, the death toll will be 10 million people per year. This is a horrifying future to consider.

McKenna, who's written a book called "Superbug," gives several solutions in her talk, including technological data harvesting and gatekeeping to minimize prescriptions, as well as changes to personal habits, such as refusing an unnecessary prescription; but these solutions do little to address the main driver behind antibiotic resistance – the animal agriculture industry.

Meat, dairy, and farmed fish are responsible for using 80 percent of all antibiotics in the United States, totaling 34 million pounds a year. This is four times more than what’s used for human health. And it’s not the only country doing this: Brazil, India, China, and Germany all join the U.S. in the top five.

McKenna argues that drugs play a greater role in producing cheap meat than do genetics, precise nutrition, or the design of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Antibiotics are used to ward off the infections that are rampant in such unhealthy, filthy, and tight living conditions; and they are also used to fatten animals rapidly. Increasing growth speeds production and reduces likelihood of errors.

The result? Whole chickens that go on sale for 69 cents a pound or a buck more for boneless breasts. This is meat so cheap that even poor families can afford to put it on the table every day. Little do they know that they’re clearing the way for their own – and everyone else’s – eventual demise.

Read more here.

How 36 million pounds of soybeans treated with pesticide became 'organic'


A shipment of 36 million pounds of soybeans sailed late last year from Ukraine to Turkey to California. Along the way, it underwent a remarkable transformation.

The cargo began as ordinary soybeans, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. Like ordinary soybeans, they were fumigated with a pesticide. They were priced like ordinary soybeans, too.

But by the time the 600-foot cargo ship carrying them to Stockton, Calif., arrived in December, the soybeans had been labeled "organic," according to receipts, invoices and other shipping records. That switch - the addition of the "USDA Organic" designation - boosted their value by approximately $4 million, creating a windfall for at least one company in the supply chain.

After being contacted by The Post, the broker for the soybeans, Annapolis-based Global Natural, emailed a statement saying it may have been "provided with false certification documents" regarding some grain shipments from Eastern Europe. About 21 million pounds of the soybeans have already been distributed to customers.

Read more here.

Poundland's Charlie Dimmock Tool Bag – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

175215Part of the new and exclusive beautiful garden range, the tool bag (not tool belt as the website refers to it, erroneously) is a useful accessory to carry and store you essentials whilst in the garden.

So, OK, it's a tool bag and what and how much can one say about a tool bag and yes, like (almost?) everything at Poundland, it is just one British Pound.

Well, whatever, let's get down to some details about this bag, such as materials and such.

The bag is made from – what in my opinion is – a medium weight Hessian (known as Burlap in the USA), coated with a plastic kind of material. I assume to make it wipe-able when it becomes soiled on the inside due to dirt on tools.

On the front of it are three pockets sewn on that are a cotton material, though this could be canvass, that is to say hemp, that appears also to be coated with the same kind of plastic material. Those pockets are for small tools and such.

How a bag like this is possible for just a Pound I do not know but whatever for a pound you get a serviceable bag for all your small garden tools, your string, and what have you, to have together with you whenever you venture into the jungle outside your back door. While a machete won't fit into the bag many other gardening hand tools and paraphernalia will. Then again, who uses a machete in the garden (bar me, at times)?

The bag seems to be quite well made though a double seam, such as often employed for jeans and other workwear, might have been better than the single seam with the rather thin thread. But then again, it's just a Pound. Definitely beats using a plastic bag for one's tools or a thin cotton tote and you are not going to carry heavy items in the bag.

A nice addition to anyone's garden armory, I'd say, in which to carry the weapons.

© 2017

A green Aggresivhaus proposed for Hamburg


The Passivhaus is Germany's most important recent contribution to sustainable design, but here is another that I will label Aggressivhaus: the repurposing of very aggressive buildings like bunkers into alternative uses.

Read more here.

'The Moveable Feast Garden' – Let's Roll With It Baby!

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Bringing a touch of portable gardening to the brand new RHS Chatsworth House Flower Show

Tanya Batkin's 'Moveable Feast Garden', which will be on display at the RHS Chatsworth House Flower Show in June, will be showcasing the best in fruits, plants and well...wheels!

ac74d581-398b-4981-b500-1b91e64da39fThis garden will provide all the knowledge that 'generation renters' will need to produce edibles for seasonal recipes, a beautiful outside area to simply enjoy and all safe in the knowledge that even if they move property, they will be able to simply take their garden with them!

A stunning array of flowering plants, including Anemones, Brunnera and Geraniums will be provided by Hawkesmill Nurseries, and edibles such as DeliDahlias and Tiger Nuts will be supplied by Lubera.

'69ff7638-52d3-49ac-9253-283c1ca69529The Moveable Feast Garden' can be specifically reconfigured for moving and adapting to a new area. Natural materials such as the wood fencing which will be supplied by Zest For Leisure and the stone which has been supplied by Digby Stone, can be updated with paint finishes and semi permanent transfer colour, to ensure your garden keeps up with your fashion desires.

In keeping with the natural feel of the garden design, the shed and pergola will be topped with a green roof from Green Roofs Direct. 'The Moveable Feast Garden' planters will be handmade with wood from Gibbs & Dandy and the wheels ....finally lets talk about wheels, because every 'Moveable Feast Garden's' gotta have 'em and the bright blue beauties, which will be attached to the specially designed planters, have come from Castors Online.

So let the good times (and our garden) roll baby.

Tanya is the director of Vergette Ltd, Garden Design. Vergette Ltd – Garden Design can be found on the border of Hereford and Worcester in the fabulous Teme Valley. She design gardens in and around the UK as well as Internationally.

So, here ends the text from the press release. Now let's talk tacheles about this.

The problem, as with so many of the RHS show gardens, is, once again also with this one, that anyone wishing to replicate one would have to take out a second or third mortgage. We can see this once again with regards to the winning garden at the 2017 RHS Chelsea Flower Show; a garden that now one could financially be able to reproduce and, to be honest, I also don't think anyone would want to.

As to the “moveable feast garden on the other hand, if one does not want to be that ambitious and totally replicate a garden such as this then it can be done “on the cheap” without a problem though maybe not looking as beautiful but nevertheless, and that's what counts also and especially, functional.

Castors, of the right kind, can be put on (almost) any container and even shopping carts can be used for a moveable vegetable garden. And, while the latter definitely don't look very beautiful they make a statement of a different kind. No, they don't scream I am a cheapskate but more like “here is someone who cares about the environment and thinks laterally”.

© 2017

Nashville Teens Mapped Their Daily Routes—And Got a New Bike Lane as a Result

In Nashville, Tennessee, and Chicago, city planners are responding to demands for better neighborhood mobility and bicycling infrastructure.



North Nashville was once a “mobility desert”: A highway dissected the neighborhood, and public transportation left many areas without service. For young people, the burden was especially heavy.

“When you get dropped off of the school bus, you’re pretty much confined to your neighborhood,” says Dan Furbish, who runs Oasis Bike Workshop, which provides students with bicycles and mentoring. He finds that many kids have not visited parks just 2 miles from their homes.

To make the case for better neighborhood mobility, Furbish’s class of middle and high school students mapped their movements around North Nashville, tracking the spaces they visited most and the barriers that kept them from getting around, such as the lack of crosswalks and paths. They developed suggestions for connecting North Nashville to the rest of the city, eventually sharing their findings with urban planners.

After meeting with the class, city planners incorporated a new bicycle lane along Rosa L. Parks Boulevard. Although the lane stretched only 2 miles, it created a bicycle route across the interstate, connecting North Nashville to downtown.


Studies show that improving city bike infrastructure isn’t just good for reducing traffic congestion. More sidewalks and bike lanes also boost health, generate business for local merchants, and help people feel more connected to their communities. The reason is simple: Moving through a city at 10 miles per hour allows for taking in more than if zooming by in a car.

With those benefits in mind and inspired by a community bike project in Detroit, Jamal Julien and Oboi Reed launched Slow Roll Chicago in 2014. Every Wednesday night, they lead group members—sometimes a few, sometimes a few hundred—on bike rides to introduce them to Chicago neighborhoods. “People don’t patronize the local businesses here because of this narrative that there’s crime and violence and you’ll get killed,” says Julien. “So what we found is that taking these people on the slow-based community rides, they can enjoy the local culture despite what the media says.”

The program yielded an additional result. After riding through the South Side, cyclists were most alarmed by traffic, not violence, Julien says. Despite Chicago’s commitment to being one of the most bikeable cities in the country, the South Side and West Side neighborhoods lacked a network of bike lanes.

Later that year, Slow Roll Chicago, together with other local cycling groups, published an open letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel calling for the equitable distribution of bicycle resources across Chicago. They attended city meetings and cycling forums, spoke with officials, and organized with other cyclists to push the city to expand infrastructure.

Read more here.

Greenwash, greenwash everywhere

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Greenwash, greenwash everywhere but very little truth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2017