Being Frugal... Now an Unpatriotic Activity

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It is now considered unpatriotic now to save and to be frugal. That is the latest that we are hearing from the government in Whitehall and in Washington DC.

It would appear from what has been said in DC that people adhering to a frugal lifestyle could be regarded as engaging in Un-American activity and this all because they think that people going out and spending, spending and spending will get us all out of the depressions that the powers that be have gotten us into. No way, Jose.

For years they have complained, at least in Britain, that the people were not saving enough – not enough in the coffers of the banks hence – and we were being told to be a little more frugal and reduce our consumerist attitude and now; the opposite.

In some quarters it has even been mooted that people who save and who are living a deliberate frugal and thrifty lifestyle could be regarded as terrorists.

Now in Germany that certainly would not be a problem for it would appear that the entire population, from baby to centenarian are considered now terrorists until proven otherwise, or so it at least would appear from what we have seen as to the retention of all emails, phone calls, etc.

Oh, but I digressed...

So, now those that save, scrimp and live frugally and those that upcycle rather than buy new are also in that same category, that is to say, they are seen as unpatriotic and even as domestic terrorists as they do not help the economy to recover. Help the economy with what? If you are poor that's why you scrimp and save, you have n o money to help the economy.

But, alas, it appears that is is not the bankers' fault after all that the economy went south but the fault of all of those that are not spending for the sake of it to “help the economy”. What a world, eh?

© 2009

BOGO LIGHT - Bringing Light into Darkness

TerraCycle Goes Global! Brazil first in TerraCycle International

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the beginning of June 2009, TerraCycle, the upcycling company, officially launched in Brazil. This new global launch comes less than six months after launching with Frito-Lay in the USA.

The expansion now into Brazil – with other countries to follow, so we understand – makes an important point, namely that big business is not always a bad guy and does not have to bee seen as such. In fact, so says Tom Szaky of TerraCycle, it can help small business grow via sustainability.

The Brazilian operation is a joint project with PepsiCo Brazil/Wal-Mart Brazil and TerraCycle on the Frito-Lay potato chip bags, in the same way, basically, as in the USA.

This launch marks the first step in TerraCycle's efforts to go global. The next steps include, so I understand, launching with national programs in Canada, Mexico and the UK later this year.

What we can take home from this is a new major realization and that realization is something that all of us that are dedicated to the green movement can be a part of.

We tend to, typically, spend much of our time criticizing big businesses, especially global conglomerates, as to their impact on the environment and the way the do business and with many it is the case, as with Kimberly Clark (yes, pet peeve of mine) in their exploitation of the forests of Canada, but if we can come up with big ideas that do good and fulfill the goals of one of these corporations they will do everything in their power to embrace the idea and make it huge.

The cynic in me and others would, probably, also say here that they only do that in oder to look good in front of their customers. To a degree it is thus; for the truth is that they have to go green and greener or their customers will walk. It is as simple as that.

As a case study the idea of having companies pay TerraCycle to run national waste collection programs is less than two years old. Today over five million Americans are collecting waste for TerraCycle – a number that is doubling about every six months – and over a billion units of garbage have been diverted.

TerraCycle launched with Frito-Lay in the United States less than 6 months ago and in that short period of time Frito-Lay has driven an ambitious expansion into Brazil.

What is unique and exciting about our Brazilian expansion is manifested in how differently countries in the world view garbage. In Brazil there are over 500,000 people in Brazil that make their income by digging through landfills and sidewalks for garbage they can sell.

While in America people can sign up for our chip bag collection (or any other waste stream) and get 2-cents US per unit of waste plus free shipping, the people in Brazil will literally be building an industry around collecting chip bags. Instead of getting paid by unit they will be collecting so much that the only choice is to pay by ton. More over entire cooperatives (that already exist) will now be building infrastructure to collect chip bags in a very big way.

In the minds of the Brazilian people the chip bag has clearly gone from being trash to being a valuable commodity. This thanks to (noting the irony) Frito-Lay Brazil + Wal-Mart Brazil embracing the TerraCycle idea.

It is good to see how the mindset can be changed, as regards people of a country seeing suddenly, when upcycling comes to their midst, certain items of trash no longer as waste but as a valuable commodity.

Nice would be if we could change that for all – or at least most – trash.

In many Third World countries, Brazil included, there are many that not just make a living from going through the garbage for stuff to sell. Nay, many indeed run businesses upcycling waste into resealable goods themselves, and some of those businesses and co-ops have gone from strength to strength over the years.

Maybe there is something that we can learn from places such as that and from the ingenuity of that can be made from what is considered by most people in the developed world still as waste and garbage.

Time for everyone to rethink ...and TerraCycle and its partners here show the way.

© 2009

Eco-Festivals, Inc. Announces First Annual San Ramon Eco-Festival

Bay Area Festival will be a Celebration of Environmentally-focused Entertainment, Education, and Eco-Friendly Inspiration

SAN RAMON, CA – Eco-Festivals, Inc., an organization that encourages people to live simple and cost-effective green lifestyles, has teamed with leading environmentally-conscious vendors and experts to announce the first annual Eco-Festival being held at Bishop Ranch Civic Center in San Ramon, California on August 29-30, 2009. The free two-day event aims to provide "good green fun for everyone." Event hours will be Saturday, August 29 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, August 30 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The San Ramon Eco-Festival will be designed in collaboration with eco-greenroom guru, Robert Craymer, best known for his elite-greenrooms backstage at the Oscars, Golden Globes, Bravo A-list Awards, Young Hollywood Awards, Sundance Film Festival and Al Gore's LiveEarth concert series.

To add to the sensory experience, the Eco-Festival will feature lively chatter from several HGTV stars, including six-time Emmy-award-nominated actor Ed Begley Jr. and his wife Rachelle Carson-Begley of "Living with Ed;" Nicole Facciuto, host of "Red Hot, & Green;" and Susie Coelho, host of "Outer Spaces" and reoccurring guest on "The View" and "Oprah."

"The City of San Ramon is excited to welcome this groundbreaking event to help our local and bay area residents and business community experience the positive impact of a green lifestyle," said H. Abram Wilson, Mayor, San Ramon, California. "The San Ramon Eco-Festival will offer attendees the tools to become more environmentally conscious in a fun and inspiring atmosphere."
The Eco-Festival will provide no shortage of entertainment as the main stage and several themed 'zones' offer opportunities to experience aspects of eco-friendly living, such as:

  • Main Stage: listen to the sounds of well-known environmentalist rock band U2 through cover band Zoo Station, and additional performances by Bay Area talent.
  • Meet the Experts: learn about different green industries as experts share their knowledge in sessions designed to raise environmental awareness and provide take-home tips.
  • Kids Zone: play sustainable carnival games, ride solar/bio-fuel powered rides and enjoy performances by the country's most famous children's acts, such as nationally acclaimed PBS children's performer SteveSongs, as well as the Happy Birds (featured on "The Tonight Show").
  • Food Court: experience the future of organic dining while testing the latest tools for eco-friendly cooking, cleaning, and disposal.
  • Vendor Village: browse the latest sustainable goods and services for the home, garden and office.
  • Fashion Show: view chic, stylish fashions showcasing clothing, jewelry and beauty products made from organic materials.
  • Auto Zone: discover the latest innovations in electric cars, hybrids and sustainable car care that don't sacrifice quality or style.
  • Career Zone: learn how to make sustainability a full-time career at the on-site job fair.

"Today, average citizens are eager to minimize their impact on our planet," said Robert Jacobs, Executive Director, Eco-Festivals, Inc. "The San Ramon Eco-Festival will provide a simple blueprint for sustainable living that demonstrates going green can be easy and fun."

Anyone interested in participating in or partnering with Eco-Festivals, Inc., is encouraged to contact or For more information please visit

Eco-Festivals, Inc. is a non-profit organization seeking 501(c)(3)) status that aims to educate everyday people on how to incorporate environmentally-friendly practices into every day life and live a green lifestyle. Eco-Festival events are designed to engage consumers of all ages through interactive entertainment and exhibitions that make learning how to minimize harm to our environment fun.

SOURCE Eco-Festivals, Inc.

TerraCycle Recycled Newspaper Pencils – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The TerraCycle Newspaper Pencils are made from used newspaper by rolling whole newspaper sheets around a high quality No. 2 lead. No mulching or mixing with toxic chemical is required. A special adhesive formula is used to bind the newsprint together into a cohesive trunk, which then makes it as hard as wood.

Approximately four pencils can be made from one broadsheet of recycled newsprint.

After drying, the pencils are smoothed to a consistent round barrel. Newsprint images are still visible on the pencil surface.

U.S. made quality ferrules and rubber erasers are attached to the pencil end.

Over time, natural oils from your hand will tend to highlight the interesting newsprint.

Sharpens easily – just like wood – with a normal regular run-off-the-mill pencil sharpener, and this is the truth. It works better still with the desk sharpeners for pencils as used to be common in offices and schools.

What can one say about recycles pencils from whatever material? Well, quite a bit, methinks.

I have encountered recycled pencils, made from a variety of materials, though more often than not recycled vending cups and such, from a number of sources by now and have found most of them, I am afraid to say, wanting.

The main reason for the wanting bit was and is the fact that the trunks of made from recycled vending cups and such like plastic is not rigid enough and because of this flexing of the trunk the lead gets broken all the time, making the use of the pencil a pain.

The TerraCycle Newspaper Pencil, on the other hand is, as stated in TerraCycle's information, as hard as wood and does not flex. Hus, in my humble opinion, making it the best recycled pencil that Ii have so far seen and tested. Could I have a big case if them please...

They sharpen easily with use of either said run-off-the-mill pencil sharpener and better still with the crank version; much more than can be say for all the others I have seen and handled. A real big thumbs up!

The lead definitely appears to be very high quality No. 2, deducing from use, and is a very strong lead too.

From the newsprint used on the pencils that ended up with me I would deduce the country of manufacture to be China because of the fact the paper used has Chinese characters on it. I do pity the readers of that paper though; they need a microscope and not just spectacle to read the paper, I am sure. Never seen small print like that, LOL.

OK, and now the rating... wait for it... drum roll... five out of five even though not made in USA, as those are, in my opinion, the best recycled pencils one can get.

Unfortunately I do not have any information as to price per item or per box.

Brilliant pencils and highly recommended.

The cost $4.99 for a pack of 24 and that definitely is a good price, this is less than 21 cents per pencil.

© 2009

Frito-Lay has partnered with TerraCycle to 'upcycle' used Chip Bags

by Micheal Smith (Veshengro)

PepsiCo Food Service's Frito-Lay division has partnered with TerraCycle about six months ago to "upcycle" used chip bags. As part of its continued "Conserve & Preserve" efforts, Frito-Lay is partnering with TerraCycle with the goal of keeping 5 million used chips bags out of landfills this.

Frito, which on Earth Day of 2008 unveiled a solar thermal generation facility at their manufacturing plant in Modesto, CA, with the capacity to power that entire plant, is making public its desire to reduce the environmental footprint of their packaging. By partnering with TerraCycle, they are making a significant stride toward that end with an innovative program wherein they provide incentives for people to upcycle their chip bags (people will actually ship them directly to TerraCycle, but Frito pays the postage). Terracycle will then do what they do best, turning the chip bags into everyday products like clipboards and tote bags.

To help reach the goal of diverting 5 million bags from the landfill in 2009, Frito-Lay is asking employees to form "Chip Bag Brigades" at every site to collect used bags. Bag Brigade Captains at each site will receive bins to place around their sites to collect bags from employees, pre-paid shipping materials to use to send collected bags to TerraCycle and additional information to help lead their local Bag Brigade.

"Collecting and 'upcycling' 5 million bags is an ambitious goal, but we're confident that with the power of our 48,000 Frito-Lay associates, we can do it," said Matt Smith, associate brand manager of sustainability in a prepared statement. "Employees are already showing their commitment to environmental sustainability each and every day – whether it's by serving on a Green Team, recycling their shipping cartons, or using a reusable mug for their coffee – and our partnership with TerraCycle is another great way for all employees to get actively involved in the company's 'Conserve & Preserve' efforts."

Personally, I can't wait to lay my hands on some of the products from this venture for review for I have seen already some of the cool designs they have come up with for all those brightly colored Frito's, Cheetos, Doritos, and Lay's bags. And it is the same with regards to the cools designs and products that are going to come out of the Mars/TerraCycle joint operation.

But why TerraCycle, an “upcycling” company, and why not just a traditional recycling effort? And how much can 2 cents per bag really add up to? And perhaps most importantly, how much good will this do for the waste stream?

TerraCycle 'upcycles' items by directly turning them into new products. One of the problems associated with recycling is that used materials must be broken down. Plastic bottles must be chemically, physically, or thermally broken down into usable raw materials, for example, before being processed again into a new product, and this takes energy, lots of it and also, at times, such as with paper recycling, harmful chemicals. Recycling, therefore, is much more energy intensive than 'upcycling', though still far better than making products from virgin raw materials.

Frito will donate 2 cents to a non-profit organization of your choice for each bag returned. It doesn't seem like much, but the potential for restaurants, school or hospital cafeterias, and catering companies could be substantial, due to the volume of small chip bags sold through those outlets. The potential for the waste stream could also be substantial: Frito's written goal is to divert 5 million chip bags from landfills in 2009 alone.

Refreshment service operators should make their customers aware of this "upcycling" program and encourage them to be involved in it. This is one of many environmental initiatives that industry suppliers are sponsoring.

Environmental issues have become important to consumers. In many instances, refreshment service operators have been able to win business by demonstrating the ways they are involved in operating "green."

When I see how many potato chip bags (crisps the call potato chips in Britain) go into the waste in the UK daily – and one can watch that very easily in the local parks – as well as the Capri Sun and similar drinks pouches, one becomes well aware how urgently Britain needs the likes of TerraCycle here. It cannot come soon enough, is the truth.

© 2009

Top ultra cyclist joins Sustrans to get more pupils on bikes

The UK 's leading sustainable transport charity Sustrans, will be working in partnership with top ultra cyclist Jim Rees to inspire pupils across England and Wales to choose cycling as a real alternative for the school run.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

On 17th June, as the UK celebrated Bike Week; Jim Rees started one of the toughest non-stop road races across America . He will be cycling the 3000 mile route through 14 states, enduring blistering heat and grueling climbs through the Rocky Mountains . Jim is aiming to beat the UK record on two counts - to be the first Britain to complete 3 (consecutive) solo crossings and to be the quickest Britain by completing the race in under 10 days. (The current record set last year by Mark Pattison in 9 days 17 hours.).

Sustrans ‘Bike It’ officers will be using Jim's ‘Race Across America’ as the theme for one of their annual ‘virtual’ bike races, that schools from across the country can take part in. This staggering physical achievement will be turned into a documentary film by Boxing Bear films that will be shown to children up and down the country. This unique film will be tailored made for the Bike It program. Virtual bike races aim to increase the levels of cycling in schools across England and Wales, previous events have included the Tour D’Afrique. Jim, who is sponsored by Vitabiotics Wellman, will also make inspirational visits to schools to get pupils to see the benefits of cycling.

Sustrans Bike It Officer Andy Casson said: “Jim’s race will act as great tool to get pupils cycling. Sustrans has been running national virtual bike races for the last two years. They have been a great success and this year’s race generated a staggering 94,000 extra journeys to school by bike and involved 123 schools. I am sure with Jim’s help we can double this number.”

Jim Rees said: “I am excited to be working with the Bike It project to inspire children to use their bikes as a source of inspiration, and a great way to improve their health and social well being. Team Inspiration is all about inspiring children to believe in what is possible by sharing mindset tools to help children succeed in any aspect in their lives.”

‘Bike It’ is one of the leading projects that encourages pupils to get onto bikes. Currently Sustrans is working with over 400 schools and around 89,000 pupils.

Readers can follow Jim and his crew live on the Team Inspiration website or via the official Race Across America website they are raising money for Wallace & Gromit which supports unwell children in hospitals and hospices across the UK

© 2009

Family Roots

The gift of heritage: Discover your past and put down some new roots with

June 2009 (Golden Goose PR) Family history website, has teamed up with Trees for Cities, the charity that plants trees and re-landscapes public space in urban areas to create the perfect gift package. Family Roots includes a six month subscription to and a tree planted by Trees For Cities in some of the world’s bleakest urban spaces. Available at the package is priced £49.95.

A six month membership to allows unlimited access to over 500 million names through award-winning birth, marriage and death records, census transcripts, parish records, trade directories, landowner and military records, electoral rolls, wills as well as Popular Institution and Non-Conformist Records as far back as the 12th century. Through these records, members can discover how their ancestors lived and build their own family tree online. There is also the chance to meet fellow researches in the forum to share stories and help with the search for your ancestors.

The other half of the Family Roots gift package will allow Trees for Cities to plant and care for a tree that will continue growing for years to come. Planting an urban tree with Trees For Cities is a unique, living gift, which will help make cities greener, healthier and cleaner. The tree will be planted in one of Trees For Cities urban projects around the world, from London ’s East End to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia , and will help combat global warming, create vital wildlife habitats and beautify the urban landscape.

This gift is available at priced £49.95. Recipients will be sent details of membership and personal login to, as well as a letter of thanks from Trees For Cities via email. is one of the UK ’s leading family history websites. Founded in 1999, offers members access to over 500 million names through award-winning birth, marriage and death records, census transcripts, parish records, trade directories, landowner and military records, electoral rolls, wills as well as Popular Institution and non-conformists with records going back to the 12th century. has indexed an extensive range of historical records making it fast and easy for members to search and build their own family tree online using Tree View. Users can also meet fellow researches in the forum to share stories and offer advice. For more information visit

Trees for Cities is an independent charity that plants trees and re-landscapes public spaces in urban areas of greatest need. The charity’s vision is to stimulate a greening renaissance in cities around the world that will impact on global warming and beautify the urban landscape, as well as encouraging greater social cohesion through the active participation of local people. A special effort is made to involve children and young people in all of the projects. The public can get involved by sponsoring trees, registering as a volunteer, enrolling in training programmes and going to fundraising parties – see for more information. top ten tips for getting started with your research

  • Work backwards in time. It is easier to work methodically from a fact such as the date of birth or a marriage of a relative rather than a person you do not know much about.
  • Ask the family. Ask relatives what they remember about their families. Make a note of any nicknames or name changes, family stories, what your ancestors did for a living and what they looked like. Also be conscious that there might be conflicting stories about an event.
  • Take notes. You never know what information will come in useful in your research so get into the habit of taking notes.
  • Check out the web. The Internet can be a useful tool for contacting relatives and finding data. There are some superb websites that will help you start your family history such as
  • Meet other family historians. Family historians are an incredible help to each other. The Society of Genealogists is the largest genealogical society with a remarkable library and education programme of talks, workshops, seminars and tutorials on all aspects of ancestry. The forum at allows members to share stories and get advice on how to continue with research.
  • What’s been done before? It is worth checking if anyone else is doing research into your family before you start. Your local family history society may hold talks and have relevant indexes to help you. The Society of Genealogists library collects published and unpublished family histories and research notes. Genes Reunited and TreeView on may also have relevant family trees.
  • Read up on the subject. Family history is a popular hobby but it might seem hard to get started. There are many good books, websites and magazines devoted to discovering the subject. Your local library will have a wide selection and dedicated magazines have tips and detailed accounts of records and sources.
  • Ask questions. Who are you dealing with? Where did your ancestors live? When were they alive? What did your ancestors do in their lives and will that affect what information you can find? Finding answers to these key questions will help you build up the family story.
  • Get some documentary evidence. Your family history will be drawn from myriad of sources throughout history. Birth, marriage and death records, censuses, wills, church records, occupational records, education, military service, tax records, criminal records, poor law, newspapers, trade directories, ecclesiastical licences, church court records and tombstones might all reveal valuable information.
  • Stay focussed. It is easy to get overwhelmed with all of the information available. Remember to have a clear idea of what you are looking for and why you started the search in the first place. Family history is fun and thoroughly absorbing. If you like detective stories and have a mind for solving puzzles then it is definitely the hobby for you. Happy hunting!


The Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana and the United Nations Environment Programme join the effort

World premiere of Acid Test: The Challenge of Ocean Acidification with Sigourney Weaver

This summer, Planet Green presents Blue August, a robust month of on-air and on-line programming that brings to life the wonders and mysteries of the aquatic -- from the majesty of our oceans to the critical issue of clean drinking water. Featuring awe-inspiring documentaries including the network premiere of the Blue Planet series, all new episodes of Focus Earth with Bob Woodruff, innovative and entertaining short-form content, world renowned partners and experts, Blue August will captivate and immerse audiences in a world of intrigue, real-life drama and the important choices that will shape our future. Prominent conservationists and explorers Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau host Blue August. Planet Green President and General Manager Laura Michalchyshyn made the announcement:

“With this special month of programming, Planet Green is shining a spotlight on the critical and complex role our oceans and water play in the health of our planet and to those who do and will inhabit this earth,” said Michalchyshyn. “Working with leading experts and a team of distinguished partners, Planet Green will leverage all of its platforms during Blue August to engage our audiences in understanding and protecting this elemental part of life on Earth.”

Planet Green’s Blue August helps audiences take the plunge into an enlightened and brighter future with the following features and platforms:

  • Hosts Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau draw on the half-century legacy of their legendary family of explorers. These dynamic siblings have dedicated their life’s work to advocacy on behalf of the oceans, conservation and clean water, undoubtedly one of the most daunting and important challenges of our time. Philippe and Alexandra bring their engaging personalities, individual expertise and experience to Blue August through short-form content and entertaining hosted segments throughout the month;
  • Poignant and vivid programming including the network premiere of the award-winning series Blue Planet, a special oceans-themed episode of Focus Earth with Bob Woodruff and the world premiere of Acid Test: The Challenge of Ocean Acidification, an original, groundbreaking documentary by the (Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) featuring Sigourney Weaver. View the trailer for Acid Test at ( and find out more about the film and ocean acidification at;
  • All month long on, readers can engage with a broad range of original content from viewing slideshows of jaw-dropping waves to voting for your favorite sea creature to Beach Tips 101. Get involved with volunteer activities, get informed with buying guides and get started using everyday actions with big impact;
  • goes deep with a comprehensive look at the state of our oceans and clean water, with the latest politics, opinion, and news. Interviews and special features with thought leaders and experts explore the present challenges and future solutions for a healthy blue planet;
  • Renowned environmental advocacy and conservation organizations the NRDC, Ocean Conservancy and Oceana bring resources and information about humankind’s role in protecting and improving the future of our oceans and waterways throughout the month, and
  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) joins the month-long event with research, scientific findings and political context about water and ocean issues spanning the globe.
Planet Green is the multi-platform media destination devoted to the environment. Launched on June 4, 2008, this brand with a mission is available in 57 million homes. Planet Green is the center for a new conversation, speaking to people who want to understand how humans impact the planet and how to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. It’s for people who truly want to make a difference in meeting the critical challenge of protecting our environment.

Planet Green and its two robust websites and, offer unique, original, insightful, inspiring, and entertaining content related to how we can evolve to live a better, brighter future. Planet Green’s unique programming, digital tools, and content will enlighten, empower and most certainly, entertain.

Planet Green is a division of Discovery Communications.


SPIN-Gardening™ Discussion and Action Guide Now Available

Guide Helps Gardeners Become Leaders of the Local Food Movement

by Micheal Smith (Veshengro)

The creators of the SPIN-Gardening online learning series have launched the SPIN-Gardening Discussion and Action Guide, which can be used by gardeners to create action teams to rebuild local food systems. It can be purchased for $19.99 for immediate download at the SPIN-Gardening website.

Contained in the SPIN-Gardening Discussion and Action Guide are ten sections that detail how non-commercial local food production can be conceptualized, championed and implemented, whether it be in the middle of an urban jungle or on the suburban fringe, or in a small town. Topics covered include assembling land bases, sub-acre growing practices, valuing production, workflow and management practices, harvesting and post-harvesting protocols, investments and establishing food production groups.

“Others have written persuasively on why the current food production system should be re-localized,” says Co-author Wally Satzewich. “SPIN provides the how, by offering a system that makes food growing un-intimidating, productive and fun.”

There is no one-size-fits-all plan, according to Co-author Roxanne Christensen. “Individuals and communities will create local food systems that reflect their abilities, needs and resources. They just need a clear way to get started, and the SPIN-Gardening Discussion and Action Guide provides that.” And we must admit that there will never be a “one-size-fits-all” solution to anything, whether it is gardening or anything else for that matter.

Satzewich and Christensen first developed a commercial sub-acre farming system called SPIN-Farming which they also make available as an online learning series. They started to hear from gardeners who asked how they could take their gardens t the next level by turning them into significant sources of food crops. In response, the authors launched the online SPIN-Gardening learning series.

By serving as a common denominator between commercial and home and community-based food production operations, SPIN is helping to define what is possible and do what is practical, according to Satzewich.

“What gardeners are telling us now is that they don’t just want to grow food. They want to grow a new culture,” says co-author Roxanne Christensen.

SPIN-Gardening is a do-it-yourself food production system that adapts the commercial sub-acre farming techniques of SPIN-Farming® to a home and community-based context. It shows how to grow a steady and dependable supply of vegetables that have all the quality of farm-grown and all the convenience of store-bought by working part-time or full-time, working alone or with family, friends or a like-minded group. A self-serve, self-study online learning series on SPIN-Gardening is available at

SPIN (S-mall P-lot IN-tensive) Farming ( is an organic-based, non-technical, easy-to-understand and inexpensive-to-implement farming system that makes it possible to generate significant income by growing common vegetables on sub-acre plots of land. It is organic-based and can be practiced on a single plot or multi-sited on several residential backyards in urban or peri-urban areas, or as part of a larger acreage in the country. A self-serve, self-study online learning series on SPIN-Farming is available at

I have to say that I have neither tried this approach as yet nor have I studied any of the guides though shall attempt to get one or two of them in order to review them.

© 2009

TerraCycle Juice Pouch Messenger Bag – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Great product that takes a number of juice pouches out of the waste stream.

The sample of the messenger bag that I was sent, which uses Kool-Aid Jammers juice pouches in the flap and the back, though it was an “Oreo Messenger Bag” I had in fact wanted to use for review. Not that that matters, though, I am sure.

It must be said, however, that I do like the green color – it goes with the magazine and what we are trying to convey– and therefore this bag is most welcome.

The strap could be a little longer – in my opinion – for the people who are a little on the bigger side, such as myself, and I am here not just speaking of being rotund. But, then again, the bag may be more intended for children and young people rather than of my age and stature.

The quality of the bag appears to be rather good, as in the seams and such, though I wonder why juice pouches are used ONLY in the flap and the back and for the cell phone pouch attached to the side. The rest of the bag appear to be made from virgin fabric, a nylon kind of material, as far as I can tell.

The construction, as said, is very sturdy, and the only concern that I have is that the flap does not totally cover the interior of the bag with a little overlap either side. But that is also a problem that I have found with many other a messenger bag.

This, however, then makes for a bag where the contents could get wet during rain. However, this is not something that could be easily overcome and rectified unless one would redesign the design of such a bag itself, and because of where the shoulder strap has to be attached the flap is in the way that it is.

My star rating for the TerraCycle Juice Pouch Messenger Bag would be a 4 out of 5 and the one star lost is due to the fact that the product is not made in the USA but in Mexico.

I can but assume that the pouches collected by the brigades are shipped to Mexico where the bags then are sewn and the finished bags then, obviously, get shipped back to the USA.

This increase of the environmental footprint (I do not use carbon footprint as environmental footprint conveys much more, such as use of water, etc.) to some degree negates the good impact by removing the juice pouches from the waste stream.

© 2009

TerraCycle Corkboard – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The TerraCycle Corkboard is made entirely of corks that would normally end up in a landfill with a wooden frame. Price US$19.99.

This very useful corkboard made by TerraCycle, which is an ideal message center for home and office, may have originated as an idea from a DIY project with wine corks that has been making the rounds for a number of years.

The TerraCycle corkboard is made in the USA, it now comes fully assembled, in a stylish black frame of 16 x 16 inches, thus being small enough to fit almost anywhere while still big enough to be useful. Just the right size, in fact, I would say, for sure.

The board is made from waste wine corks collected through cork brigades fitted into a wood frame to create a fun way to pin up notes and clear up landfills.

The TerraCycle corkboard is a great way of reusing cork stoppers from wine bottles and keeping them out of the landfills. This despite the fact that cork is a natural products and material, the bark of a tree, in fact, that would biodegrade, that is to say, compost. Much better to put those corks to use, however, in the way done here in this case by TerraCycle.

TerraCycle alo now is going to produce such boards from synthetic corks and those will be called “corcboard”.

This should go down very well too and is even better still as here it is a plastic material, otherwise non-recyclable, that is being kept out of the waste stream and landfills.

As a rating I am giving this TerraCycle product 5 stars out of 5 with an extra star for “Made in USA”. OK, so this makes it then 6 out of 5 and I am bad at maths but so what...

© 2009

Value for money National Cycle Network is cutting car traffic and getting more people active

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans announced on June 13, 2009 the latest figures for cycling and walking on the National Cycle Network and, for the first time in the Network's 14-year history, it carries more than one million journeys every day. In 2008 a total of 386 million trips were made on the Network - half by bike and half on foot - just under a third of the 1.2 billion passenger journeys made on Britain 's railways in 2007/08.

The figures were released at the beginning of Bike Week (13-21 June) and will be published in the charity's Route User Monitoring Report for 2008. The popularity of the National Cycle Network for journeys to work or school continues to rise, with 96 million commuter journeys and 17 million trips to school made over the year. If these commuter trips had been made by car (given the average car occupancy in the UK of 1.6 people) there would have been an extra 60 million car journeys made on our roads at peak hours.

The National Cycle Network reinforced its "No Carbon Necessary" credentials by enabling over of a third of its users to leave their car behind - 134 million journeys were made by people who could have used a car but chose not to.

New sections and links are constantly being added to the 12,000-mile long Network but the number of journeys being made is growing faster than its length. Every pound spent on developing it brings around £35 worth of benefits compared with most other transport schemes which deliver ratios of around three to one.

Benefit to cost ratios are used by the Department for Transport to evaluate transport projects. They attribute a monetary value to a number of factors, from public health benefit (ie the cost saving of a healthier population), the savings to employers whose fitter workforce take less time off, and the time saved through shorter journeys, particularly during the school run peak periods. The costs include the investment costs of safe routes, maintenance expenditure, and losses to the Treasury that might result from tax revenue decreases due to reduced fuel sales as people switch from using their cars to walking and cycling.

It currently costs in the region of £200,000 to build a mile of traffic-free greenway of National Cycle Network.

The Network, the UK's definitive barometer of cycling and walking, is also giving people the chance to get more active and meeting expert recommendations for getting people moving around. Organizations including NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) advise that the key to getting more people active is to create the right environment for encouraging walking and cycling such as pleasant, green, traffic-free routes. Nearly three quarters of people asked say that the National Cycle Network is helping them to increase the amount of physical activity they take.

Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans CEO, said: "It is gratifying to see this increasing and sustained use of the National Cycle Network. But it is also frustrating because, in spite of the increasingly vital role it plays in the environmental and physical health of the UK, the Network remains the only nationally important travel network for which there is no obligation or consistent level of financial support for its maintenance or development.

"Yet we face a low carbon future, escalating fuel costs, and an obesity time-bomb that is set to devastate not just our health but also our economy. While the National Cycle Network is not the only solution to these issues, these figures surely prove it should sit high on the list. And when we read that the National Cycle Network's value for money far outweighs all other transport schemes, perhaps the Network and cycling and walking in general have earned the right to benefit from proper and consistent investment and promotion."

While this “National Cycle Network” by Sustrans is fine and good and expansions of it would be better still, I shall reiterate again that what the UK needs is not just a little Cycle Network such as the Sustrans one but we need all roads to have cycle paths alongside them, in the same way as it is done in other EU countries, one of which is a neighbor just across the sea, namely the Netherlands.

It does, alas, appear that the British governments, local and central, do not appear to be prepared to do that, e.g. create cycle paths everywhere. It has been done everywhere – basically – in other EU countries, such as the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, but when this is put before the British government the answer is always that it would be too difficult and too expensive to do so.

Each and every time that kind of answer comes back from the government and it amazes me that such answers are being accepted by everyone. In those other countries it did not cost the taxpayer extra having such paths created and nor does it seem to have been to expensive. So, why do we get such excuse from the British governments?

I leave the reader to conclude for him- or herself as to the why.

© 2009

Kashi Joins TerraCycle, Inc. in National Upcycling Program to Reduce Landfill Waste

TerraCycle to Repurpose Kashi Natural Foods Packaging Into Eco-Friendly, Affordable Accessories

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

LA JOLLA, CA, USA, June 2009 – Kashi Company, the premier natural food company, has announced that it has partnered with TerraCycle, the eco-friendly pioneer, to create the Kashi Brigade, a program in which Kashi fans in any city nationwide can join together to collect and mail in their used Kashi boxes and wrappers to TerraCycle, which together with other Kashi packaging will be repurposed into eco-friendly, affordable products. As part of the program, which is of no cost to consumers, fans sign up to create local Brigades. For each Kashi package returned to TerraCycle, the company will donate $.02 cents to the Brigade's charity of choice. Kashi is the largest natural food company committed to this program.

"At Kashi, we believe a healthy lifestyle isn't only about what you eat, it's also about how you interact with the world around you," said Keegan Sheridan, Kashi's natural food and lifestyle expert.

"We're excited to collaborate with TerraCycle on the Kashi Brigade because it provides our friends another simple way to make smarter choices and feel good about their food purchases. We encourage Kashi fans everywhere to start a brigade in their own neighborhood as a positive move towards living a natural lifestyle."

Developing a Kashi Brigade is quick and easy, beginning with registration on TerraCycle's Web site, where participants provide their brigade's location and select a nonprofit organization or school to receive a donation. Once signed up, TerraCycle will send participants pre-paid shipping labels to return the collected Kashi packaging for free. TerraCycle utilizes the returned materials and other Kashi packaging to create eco-friendly, affordable accessories, such as office supplies and tote bags, which are sold by major retailers nationwide. TerraCycle also carefully tracks each Brigade's activity and distributes donations to designated charities twice a year, in June and December, based on the total amount of materials collected by each brigade. For each approved package received, $.02 is donated to the nonprofit organization or school of each Kashi Brigade's choice, or one from TerraCycle's list.

"The Kashi Brigade stands out in our eyes because we are able to upcycle more than just Kashi's cereal boxes, but most of their all-natural foods packaging including wrappers and liners," commented Albe Zakes, vice president of TerraCycle. "Kashi also complements TerraCycle considering both companies are committed to helping others live their best life by taking small steps every day towards a brighter future."

For more information on TerraCycle and the Kashi Brigade, please visit or

TerraCycle in one of the only companies in existence that produces products entirely made of waste. In this TerraCycle stands in a category or "landfill" unto itself.

But TerraCycle is more than just a company; it is a group of people that has defined the power of a product made solely from waste and who are passionate about what they do. I know, I have read Tom Szaky's book and spoke to TerraCycle's Chief Publicist George Chevalier III.

Since its inception, TerraCycle has saved over 70 million drink pouches, 10.5 million cookie wrappers, and 3.1 million plastic bottles from ending up in a landfill.

Founded in 1984, Kashi is a company on a mission to redefine how people eat to achieve their best lives. As a pioneering health food brand, Kashi is dedicated to providing great tasting, healthy and innovative foods that enable people to achieve optimal health and wellness. Its products are natural, minimally processed, and free of highly refined sugars, artificial additives and preservatives. Kashi brands include: GOLEAN cereals, bars, shakes and waffles; Kashi Heart to Heart cereal, instant oatmeal and waffles; Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs, Honey Puffs, Nuggets and Flakes cereals; Kashi Vive Digestive Wellness cereal; Kashi Good Friends and Kashi Good Friends Cinna-Raisin Crunch cereals; Kashi Mighty Bites cereal; Kashi Organic Promise cereals; Kashi TLC chewy and crunchy granola bars, fruit & grain bars, soft-baked cereal bars, TLC party and snack crackers, and Kashi TLC Chewy Cookies; Kashi All Natural Frozen Entrees; Kashi All Natural Frozen Pizzas, Kashi Honey Sunshine cereal, Kashi U and Kashi 7 Whole Grain Pilaf.

As per usual we can be sure that TerraCycle is going to turn those wrappers into great upcycled products the main important part of which, aside from the fact that they keep the material upcycled out of landfills, is the fact that the products are indeed affordable and do not come at a high premium as is so often the case with “green” and recycled products from other makers.

This is something that TerraCycle has been doing from its very inception and this is something that others can and should learn from.

TerraCycle's eco-friendly, affordable products are available at major retailers nationwide and online at or learn more at

© 2009

ASUS Eee PC: Best Low Power Solution for Developing Countries

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The ASUS Eee PC has been recommended as the best low power computing solution for developing countries, following the publication of results from an extensive study by UK charity Computer Aid International in April.

The research into the best low power PCs for use in developing countries was carried out in conjunction with three African universities and the ZDNet technical labs in London. After considering dozens of choices, ZDNet tested 8 computers, resulting in the following shortlist:
* ASUS Eee PC (overall winner)
* Intel Classmate
* Inveneo Computing Station
* Ncomputing X300

The above five were shipped to three African universities; Kenyatta University (Kenya), Jos University (Nigeria) and the National University of Science and Technology (Zimbabwe).
Using in depth qualitative and quantitative testing methods, the study has determined the ASUS Eee PC as the best solution, after it was preferred unanimously by all testing teams and considered to offer the perfect balance between power consumption, performance and portability.

The ASUS Eee PC findings were drawn from results of testing such as the installation and testing of additional software, compatibility with other operating systems and internet connection via LAN and wireless networks. In addition tests for video playback, web browser usage and word processing were also conducted.

Reporting on the results, the research team at Kenyatta University stated that “Asus had the best solution for an average individual owner and user in rural Africa who needs a low power PC”.

Tony Roberts, Founder of Computer Aid International, commented: “Many communities in Africa have no reliable access to mains electricity and are forced to rely on expensive alternatives like solar panels or diesel generators, so we set out to find a low power, low cost solution that will facilitate the availability and use of information technology in those regions.

“ICT can play a vital role in economic growth and education provision in the developing world, but it’s vital that we offer equipment that can meet the unique requirements of these countries. By working with ZDNet’s technical labs and three leading African Universities we have been able to accurately assess the performance and suitability of a number of low power computing options in the countries where they are required, to better inform future choices in ICT for education and development.”

The full study report is available to download now from:

Computer Aid International champions the enabling role that ICT can play in attaining the UN Millennium Development Goals, which include universal primary education, improvement in healthcare and poverty reduction. The charity is the most experienced non-profit provider of ICT for development having provided more than 140,000 PCs and laptops to support e-learning, e-health, e-inclusion and e-agriculture projects in more than 100 countries such as Rwanda, Ecuador and Zambia.

Computer Aid is licensed by the Environment Agency, as an Authorised Approved Treatment Facility, to handle old electronic equipment. Comprehensive data deletion, using the world’s leading data destruction software from Blancco, and full asset tracking ensures the compliance needs of all UK donors are fully met.

ASUS is a leading company in the new digital era. With a global staff of more than ten thousand and a world-class R&D design team, the company’s revenue for 2008 was 8.1 billion U.S. dollars. ASUS ranks among the top 10 IT companies in BusinessWeek’s “InfoTech 100”, and has been on the listing for 11 consecutive years. ASUS was rated No.1 in quality and service by the Wall Street Journal Asia.

With an unparalleled commitment to innovation and quality ASUS won 2568 awards in 2007 – an average of 7 awards for every day of the year.

Over a remarkably short period of time ASUS has become one of the top laptop manufacturers worldwide creating compelling computer experiences that have delighted consumers across the world. ASUS are the Fastest Growing Laptop Brand in Europe and ASUS sales are outstripping manufacturers who traditionally dominated the market.
ASUS notebooks have changed the face of the consumer electronics market place with the introduction of highly original and ground breaking notebooks like the Eee PC™ family and the Lamborghini range. ASUS’s design excellence is renowned and it is always informed by the life-style needs of consumers creating laptops that are technologically advanced, sophisticated and refined yet ruggedly robust.

Personally, having been using an ASUS Eee PC 900 now for a considerable while, I am not at all surprised that the Eee PC has become the overall winner in this study.

The Eee PC Netbook has low power consumption, especially in the Linux version, and boots fast.

The only problem that I have found with the battery is that if the unit is, when in battery mode, booted up then shut down and then booted again.

It is my experience that booting from battery reduces the level of same immediately to 80%. If a shut down is then executed and the unit then booted up again later the battery level drops by another 10-20% immediately.

There is a way around it, and that is in that you boot up the PC with the power supply plugged in at the mains. Then shut the lid, putting the PC into “sleep mode”. Thus is seems to hold the power much better and a longer battery life can be achieved. Though I have to say that I find anything about 2 hours even with that little trick impossible to do.

While the Eee PCs, and other Netbooks, and even laptops, have a lower power consumption as compared to desktop PCs, this works all best still from the mains via the power supply. Batteries, in my opinion, are really an emergency power source only as far as computing is concerned, until such a time that we have batteries that can hold power for more than 10 hours in full use and that are light enough. We can dream, I know.

© 2009

Environmentalism classed as a ‘belief’ in UK

You don not have to be crazy to be an environmentalist, but (according to an employment tribunal in London) it helps.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 prohibit discrimination in the workplace by reason of any religion or belief. The regulations were amended in 2007, so that “belief” now means “any religious or philosophical belief”.

Tim Nicholson, who had been head of sustainability at Grainger Plc, was made redundant. He brought a number of claims, including unfair dismissal and discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.

The discrimination claim was on the grounds that Nicholson had “a strongly held philosophical belief about climate change and the environment”.

He argued that his beliefs were “not merely an opinion, but a philosophical belief which affects how I live my life including my choice of home, how I travel, what I buy, what I eat and drink, what I do with my waste and my hopes and my fears.” A pre-hearing review was held to consider various issues, including whether Nicholson’s beliefs were protected.

The employment judge held that Nicholson’s beliefs about climate change and the environment were capable of being a belief for the purposes of the regulations, taking into account the McClintock case, where the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that the test for determining whether beliefs can properly be considered to fall into the category of a philosophical belief is whether they have “sufficient cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance and are worthy of respect in a democratic society”.

The employment judge held it was difficult to argue that beliefs around the impact of climate change did not fall within this definition and Nicholson’s beliefs gave rise to the sort of moral order derived from most religions.

It was also held that the case could be distinguished from McClintock (where the EAT held that a view relating to adoption by same-sex couples did not fall within the definition) as Nicholson’s views went beyond a mere opinion as they affected the way he led his life.

This is the first reported case where a claimant has successfully argued a belief not similar to a religious belief may be protected under the regulations. Previously, tribunals have tended to take a narrow interpretation of what could amount to a belief.

For example, patriotism and loyalty to a flag or support for the British National Party were found not to fall within the definition, although both these cases were made before the definition was amended. While not binding on other tribunals, this case does suggest a broader approach.

Based on this view, strong opinions on vegetarianism or sexual abstinence or those of survivalists would arguably be capable of constituting a “belief”.

However, as the employment judge noted, claimants may often find it difficult to establish that the reason for their treatment was on the grounds of their belief, so it is unlikely there will be a deluge of these types of claims.

On the other hand I find it hard to understand, and then again we are not able, for reasons of privacy, to be privy (no, nothing to do with an outhouse) to all the details of this case, how the claimant can make such as claim in view of being made redundant.

If he had been sacked for reasons of his “beliefs” then that might be one things – at least if it be openly stated to be for such reasons – but a general being made redundant is another kettle of fish altogether.

The way people go about the environmental and especially the Climate Change issue it is becoming a religion, it would seem, with the same kind of zealots as can be found in other religious sects and there especially with the fundamentalists, where Christian, Muslim or other.

As regards religion the only one that does not seem to have such problems, as to fundamentalists, seems to be Buddhism. But, alas, I digressed again.

But it is true that environmentalism is rather full of its fundamentalists, including its very own Grand Inquisition which declares anyone not agreeing with the notion that Climate Change is caused by the activities of mankind as insane and decries him or her as a heretic, who should be given no platform anywhere to broadcast his or her views. Looks like the new middle ages are upon us.

© 2009

New 'cycle superhighways' have been announced for London

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The proposed routes for the first two of London's 12 cycle superhighways have been announced.

The two pilot routes, which will be up and running in May 2010, are from South Wimbledon to Bank via the A24 and A3, and Barking to Tower Hill via the A13 and Cable Street.

Boris Johnson, mayor of London, and Transport for London are consulting closely with the eight boroughs the routes will run through.

The aim of the cycle superhighways is to provide safe, direct and continuous routes into central London from the outer boroughs, making life easier for cyclists and encouraging those who travel into work by other modes of transport to commute by bike, helping to cut congestion, relieve overcrowding and cutting emissions.

Another ten routes, spanning across London and greatly improving the capital's cycling infrastructure, are being developed ahead of 2012, with each route covering between ten and 15 kilometres.

Mr Johnson said: "I'm not kidding when I say I'm militant about cycling, and these Superhighways are central to the cycling revolution I'm determined to bring about.

"No longer will pedal power have to dance and dodge around petrol power - on these routes the bicycle will dominate and that will be clear to all others using them.

"That should transform the experience of cycling - boosting safety and confidence of everyone using the routes and reinforcing my view that the bike is the best way to travel in this wonderful city of ours."

Each route will be given its own identity with consistent and easy to follow road markings and signs.

One can but say that such cycle routes are well overdue for the capital and for the country as a whole. When we look at countries such as the Netherlands where cycling is very high on the agenda and has always been, as well as Germany, then we really lag behind.

In Germany, for instance, it is, basically, possible to cycle from the North to the South of the country and all places East and West on dedicated cycle paths that criss-cross the entire country and, in most cases, are even physically separated from the roads. This, apparently, seems to be something impossible in Britain.

It is time that people in local government in this country and also in central government became serious about sustainable transportation, especially about cycling, ane had a look at what other countries provide and then, without stupid excuses, got down to doing something about implementing the same kind of schemes in Britain, for example.

© 2009

Old methods and old ways lead to the future

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Old methods and old ways must be used again in many instances as they are much better for us than the modern ways, and this includes a different way of travel.

If mankind wants to have a future on Earth, our Mother, our Planet; the only one that will sustain us, for there is not another Earth or Earth-like planet within reach, then mankind must change its ways and that rather pronto.

A great many methods of old, as said, may have to be – and more like will have to be – rediscovered and employed in order for us to be able to live more sustainable and in harmony with our Planet.

This may even mean heating and cooking with wood in many places as wood is the only carbon neutral fuel about, as far as I am aware.

While it may be true that the BTU output from wood may be different that that of coal we must reinvent the wheel, so to speak, as to living better on this Earth. It can be done and we must learn from those that are more or less masters in this field.

The ones that know their business as to using wood as fuel in the most efficient ways, at least as far as cooking and heating stoves are concerned are the Amish and we should take a leaf out of their book here. Maybe not only in respect of wood fueled heating and cooking but in respect to other points as well.

In many aspects the ancient ones too knew more about things environmental than it would appear does modern man; man of the twentieth and the twenty-first century.

We cold start, for instance, at the size of the windows in the nineteenth century and before. They were smaller than today's windows and studies have shown – surprise NOT – that smaller windows lose less heat to the outside.

It is often claimed that the windows were that small was because of the cost of glass then and also that glass could not be produced in large sheets in those days. That may be so but whether that was the reason for smaller windows or not is another question.

The same study that found that smaller windows are more efficient as to heat also found that they do not allow the sun to overheat a house and hence no need to cool it too much in warm summers. In addition to that those windows often were deeply recessed into the walls thus shading them from direct sunlight.

While this may make for slightly lower light conditions it means, however, that heat in winter is not lost at a large scale to the outside and neither is the building becoming too hot in hot summers.

Did those ancient ones know more than we give them credit for? I think yes. It is the same in that today we cannot make, so it seems, good manual watches anymore that can keep proper time, or at least not at a reasonable price.

Nino Cochise in his autobiography mentioned a Swiss pocket watch that he was given in the later nineteenth century and when he tried to get it repaired just after the first moon landing (if there ever was one) – and yes, Nino Cochise was over 100 years old – he was told that they were unable to reproduce the hair spring in the watch. This is a very poor show when in the nineteenth century and before they could make such springs by hand and in our modern world we cannot do this. One really must wonder then as to how much we have advanced since or whether, in some aspects, we have actually gone backwards.

The same seems to be true as regards the electric cars. In the first years of he twentieth century there were, so I have read, such cars that did have a far better range at 30mph than today's ones despite the fact that they were very heavy, being but converted horse wagon with iron hoops on wheels, etc., and very big heavy lead acid batteries. The batteries also, so it would seem, could be charged rather fast too. If that all is the case why then can we not make then electric cars today that are faster and have a greater range as the cars and the batteries are lighter today? What happened to the knowledge? Was it destroyed on purpose by the powerful oil lobby?

It would seem that many such technologies have been allowed to be forgotten and such because of certain lobbies that could wave large wads of money in the faces of politicians.

While my suspicions of such fact that we seem to have “lost” all that technology and knowledge may be the fault of lobby groups such as the oil industry and other groups with an agenda, much like today as regards to Climate Change being the result of man's activities, and politicians in their pay, may be seen by some as conspiracy theories, there seems to be some truth in that. How else can we explain the loss of such knowledge and skills?

Much akin as well in regards to medicines when it always has to be the chemical compounds, ideally synthesized, rather than herbal and natural ways.

When people began using colloidal silver in the late twentieth century again all the medical professionals , bar one or two, were saying that this is all just old wives beliefs and now... well, now we have plasters that are coated with silver for better healing and for the antibacterial properties. Oops!

Honey for wound treatment is as old as the hills – well, nearly – and it has been found – at great cost no doubt – that it does work, after medical science had for decades claimed that honey is no good for use on wounds.

I could go on and will for a moment for the other treatment, often also pooh poohed by the medical profession is the use of copper in the form of jewelery for the treatment of arthritis.

While the use of copper bracelets, for instance, and rings, etc., will not cure arthritis, and I doubt that there ever will be a real cure for it, it eases things and I am living proof of that.

So, back to the future we must go in order to have a chance of real survival on the Earth and of living in better symbiosis with the Earth.

While I would not like to live without the PC, Netbook and Internet, etc. and I am no Luddite there are many things where we can and should go back to older ways and technologies.

However, but then this is my opinion, the old technology of paper, as in notebook, Filofax, or such, and pen still beats that of the hand-help PC or PDA. Having experienced those things going wobbly again and again I must say that I am much happier with a notebook and a pen – or even pencil – to draft my articles, take notes, and such. I also am not dependent on batteries and can read it in most light conditions, unless it is dark and there is no light source available.

Can we create a hybrid society that uses good old proven technologies together with modern ones? We better for, otherwise, we may be lost.

© 2009

Farming faces climate change risk

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

London, June 2009: Agricultural pests and diseases are set to increase over the next 40 years due to climate change, so says a major report launched on June 18, 2009.

Farmers face droughts and floods, increased heat stress in livestock, more storm damage and increased risks from pests and diseases, and we are talking here – or better they do – about the United Kingdom.

Yields, however, could increase with higher temperatures and the opportunity to grow new crops, reckons the UK Climate Projections 2009 report, including grapes and citrus fruits.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is critical to avoid exacerbating climate change but past emissions mean some changes is now inevitable, it says.

Experts used the latest climate science to develop the projections, which show likely changes in temperature, rainfall, sea-level, humidity, cloud, and radiation.

Summers are likely to be over 2°C hotter in southern England by the 2040s, accompanied by a 20% drop in summer rainfall.

Winters are likely to be wetter, with winter rainfall increasing by a similar amount in north-west England and Scotland.

DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn said: “There is no doubt about it – climate change is the biggest challenge facing the world today.

“Climate change is already happening – the hottest 10 years on record globally have all been since 1990.

“This landmark scientific evidence shows not only that we need to tackle the causes of climate change but also that we must deal with the consequences.”

Mr Benn said the government was already tackling climate change through a series of measures.

They included doubling spending on flood protection since 1997, developed a heat wave plan in the NHS and is helping communities affected by coastal erosion.

But the Conservatives said further action was vital.

“Effective measures require more than setting targets,” said shadow farm minister Jim Paice. “Practical steps to de-carbonise the UK’s economy are now essential.”

He added: “The impact of rising temperatures on our natural environment, agriculture and water resources will be significant, and it could be severe.

“We are already facing biodiversity loss and water shortages in many areas.”

DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn stated that there is no doubt about it and that climate change is the biggest challenge facing the world today. He went on to say that climate change is already happening – the hottest 10 years on record globally have all been since 1990. However, the problem is that he forgets to mention the fact that there are also scientists there that warn of a possibility of a global cooling on the horizon in the next couple of years which could last for a number of decades if not more.

Yes, we do have a changing climate but more than likely there is nothing that we will be able to do about it – sadly – with the exception of getting used to it and learning to adapt to it and live with it.

We must not stop, whether or not we can stop the change of the climate, however, with the efforts that have been set in motion as to renewable energy and also and especially the reduction of waste, the recycling and the cleaning up of the environment.

The truth is that if we don't do it we will kill the Planet and that will be the end of it and a lot of other life to boot.

Time we got going...

© 2009

Misleading the public on green issues

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In a so-called survey, also called a quiz, on a Green website the other day may claims were made that do not, in fact, hold up against some of the new evidence that is emerging but which some people see to wish to suppress by all means possible.

On of the “claims” in that survey is that the Antarctic is heating up all over which is, in fact, not the truth. About two-thirds of the Antarctic is getting colder year by year, and this has been going on for a while now. Why are people then misled in that this factor is not mentioned.

While it may be the case that Antarctica has gotten warmer from the 1950's onwards there is a very large chunk of that continent that is getting colder now, according to scientists, and that already for a number of years.

An inconvenient truth, methinks.

It is also claimed that vegetarians can get all of their needed protein from their vegetarian diet. This may be so in regards to protein but they – vegetarians – are, in the majority, so medical practitioners state, lack in the right minerals and vitamins. Some vitamins can only be gotten from meat and other animal products and are not available in a totally vegetarian diet. Humans are, like our cousins, the chimps and such, omnivores and while our diet should include much more vegetable content, in a way it used to be around the time of WWII, we are not herbivores.

In addition to this I wonder what those that advocate a totally vegetarian or even vegan diet “for the good of all those animals” think would happen to all those animals that are raised for food presently should the entire world become vegetarian tomorrow.

Unlike what some believe that someone would be paid to care for all of them and give them a great life the truth is that all those animals would be killed and destroyed. Their only reason for the very existence is the fact that they are raised for meat and as soon as they no longer have a use that would be it; period.

Those that claim otherwise, I am afraid, not only do not live on this planet; they do not even live in this universe.

The claim was also made that (licensed) professional hunters have no benefit as to wildlife conservation and this is where one has to really disagree for in today's world, without this professional hunter, many sick animals and such like would b e allowed to continue to live, a miserable existence often.

The proper professional hunter is a conservationist of the highest order as the animals are his livelihood, so to speak, and he culls out the sick, the malformed, and such like, in order to guarantee the survival of the animals as a strong line. The professional hunter, nowadays, performs the task – and hunters have been around since man, basically – of the predatory animals of the past that no longer are about and that, for our own safety, best remain where they are.

The problem is that many, far too many people in the environmental, the green, movement are often ignorant to those facts and just blabber the stuff that others, equally uneducated of the fact, have told them.

The only points where I do not have an issue with is the fact about turning of the computer between sessions as a saver of money, the PC and the environment and that in many cases old technology beats new, such as cast iron cookware, for instance.

The agenda definitely is visible and obvious now when it comes to some groups in the green movement and to that end they will twist theories into supposedly irrefutable facts – and you must not question any such statements or you will be considered mentally ill – totally confusing and misleading the general public.

This is the fate that has befallen Professor David Bellamy, for instance, and will befall many more that may dare to disagree with the “accepted” line. Professor Bellamy is, probably, one of the most well-known biologists in the world and television presenters.

Similar fates have befallen other academics before when they challenged theories in other fields and we can see this entrenchment, calling everyone who disagrees all the names under the sun, also in the “field” of “Romani-Gypsy Studies”.

The green movement does itself a very great disservice by permitting some of the falsehoods to be perpetuated and theories to be presented as one hundred and ten percent proven facts, which they so often are not.

All of us need to have an open mind and we need to learn from then lessons and events of the past and, in order to do justice to the Planet, our Mother, we must slow down somewhat – in fact a great deal – and live life in a different lane.

We must concentrate on cleaning up our environment, local and global. Deal differently with things and throw away less. Concentrating alone on the carbon dioxide issue and Global Warming/Climate Change and the likes of “carbon capture” and “carbon storage” is not going to do much. That is not going to deal with the other, probably much more pressing issues, such as where do we park the waste generated as landfills are full and leaking methane like no one's business.

The Hippies in the 1960s already tried to wake up the world as to the environmental catastrophe possibilities if we were not going to stop polluting the air, the water and the soil, and we just went right ahead.

The cleanup is needed now and more than urgently. Carbon can wait.

While it may be true that the world's climate is changing and Mother Earth is throwing a wobbly the way I see it there is precious little that we can do about to change that. There is, however, a great deal we can do to be kinder to our Earth, such as reducing our impact as far as pollution and such is concerned.

So, let's stop waffling and standing about and let's clean up this Planet, literally. Those issues are much more important than anything else.

© 2009

Lakeland “Out of the Kitchen” Catalog – Review

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Recently the lastest catalog from Lakeland dropped through the letterbox here as a Press Preview copy and I must say it is another most interesting catalog from Lakeland, a company renown for kitchen and other goods of quality.

The catalog is divided into:

“Summer entertaining” with everything barbecue and patio living and the array of goods is amazing.

“Summer Living” where you find everything for outdoor living and picnics, sun loungers and much, much more.

From there we reach the “In the Potting Shed” section with everything about growing your own and looking after your garden, whether fruit and vegetables or – just – flowers.

The latter section “In the Potting Shed” has lots for the allotment holder as well in the form of tools and such. One of the very interesting items for someone with an allotment would be the solar-powered shed light with remote control. But other items in that section of the catalog too should be of interest to those that have allotments and such.

The final section of this catalog, even though it is titled “Out of the Kitchen” does have a lot of good kitchen and other household items and there should be something int his catalog, yet again, for everyone.

I shall, hopefully, try to obtain a couple of products that have roused my interest for review and those shall be featured here in this journal for sure.

Watch out for this catalog coming to you very soon – if it has not arrived as yet. It is well worth a good study.

© 2009

TerraCycle Samples

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Epsom, England, June 20, 2009: Yesterday a package arrived here at the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW from TerraCycle in Trenton, NJ, via UPS, with some sample which shall be subject to a review by yours truly soon.

The samples received are:

Messenger Bag (from Kool-Aid Jammer pouches) – this bag is made in Mexico – and pouches are incorporated with fabric in the back and the flap of the bag, rendering it thus shower-proof in that area.
Cork Board (from waste wine corks) – made in the USA
Set of 6 Coasters (made from waste circuit boards) – made in China
a couple of pencils upcycled from waste newspaper – country of manufacture unknown.

The latter, I must say, are some of the best pencils made from recycled materials that I have so far seen and used.

The local authority here, during their drive for increased recycling by the residents, when they had their “Recycling Roadshow” were giving out pencils from recycled materials but they were so useless that it was no longer funny.

From the lettering on the paper use to make the pencils they are made in China are it is Chinese characters that are on them.

This is not to be a review of any of the products, however. That is to happen soon.

I am delighted to be able to have, for the first time, review some of TerraCycle's product range and I would like to thank George Chevalier III, TerraCycle's Senior Publicist, for sending them over across the Big Pond.


Change Your World - make a pledge for the planet

Thousands of people across the UK are going to make a pledge to change their world by changing the way they travel.

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Sustrans’ Change Your World campaign began Monday 1st June and thousands are expected to visit and promise to swap just one car journey between 29 June and 4 July in favor of walking, cycling, taking public transport, car-sharing or simply not making the trip at all!

If everyone in Britain made one less car journey every week it would reduce car travel by at least ten per cent, which would mean an annual saving of almost 7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

This would be a significant step towards achieving Britain ’s target to reduce emissions to at least 34 per cent below 1990 emissions by 2018-22, set by the Chancellor in April as part of the World’s first carbon budget.

And that is not even considering all the pollution that could be prevented and that could make the air more breathable. Pollution from motorcars and especially trucks and buses that blast out diesel particles into the air is as dangerous if not more so as carbon dioxide.

On average across the British population there are 435 car driver trips per person per year. 57 per cent of the population has a drivers' license so there are around 435/0.57 = 763 car driver trips per car driver per year.

A 10 per cent reduction equates to 76 fewer car driver trips per car driver, per year, or 38 return journeys.

Switching one journey per week would achieve at least this (even taking into account that not everyone who has a license drives, and that there are less than 52 traveling weeks in the year).

Total UK carbon dioxide emissions from transport are 173 million tonnes. Passenger cars account for 39.7 per cent of this - 68.7 million tonnes. A ten per cent reduction would therefore save around 6.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. (Source: Department for Transport Carbon Pathways Analysis July 2008)

Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans’ Chief Executive, said: ‘One person changing just one journey may seem like a small step. But when that person is among thousands of others, all making their own pledge to leave their cars at home, then the potential impact is huge.

‘Individually, we can all take positive action to tackle climate change, reduce traffic congestion, and increase our activity levels. Collectively, it will make a difference.’

As well as benefiting the environment, people who swap a journey as part of Change Your World will be improving their health.

A quarter of all car journeys are two miles or less, so walking a two-mile journey instead would burn an average of around 140 calories – the equivalent of a medium glass of wine or a bag of crisps. A steady two-mile cycle journey would burn an average of 80 calories – the equivalent of a chocolate digestive biscuit. (Source

Pledgers don’t have to walk or cycle. Using public transport instead of the car will help increase activity through walking to and from stations and stops. It’s also a far more sociable way of traveling - as is car-sharing - and will help cut local traffic congestion.

In 2008, around 8000 people pledged to swap a journey as part of Change Your World. Sustrans is hoping even more people will get involved this year and demonstrate that alternatives to personal car travel are a real option.

For more information, or to make a pledge, visit or to find out more about Sustrans and how to support its work, visit

Once upon a time, and no, I am not about to start a fairytale, it was said about the Americans that they would use the car to go to the lavatory even if they could, that attached to their cars they appeared. Nowadays is would be more true to say this about the average British family.

In the UK people use cars for so many unnecessary journeys that it is very hard to believe indeed. Some take is thus far as to go by car – and in fact it is not just some but a great majority by now – to the local small grocers to get the newspaper or cigarettes or the forgotten pint of milk.

It takes them more time and effort to get the car off the drive, to drive to the store, find a parking place where you don't get a ticket, and this all can take longer than going there and back on foot and if would be faster even by bike. But no, it has to be the car.

© 2009

Non-CO2 Agents Are Key Targets in Climate Change Fight

Bonn event emphasizes complementing CO2 cuts with reductions in black carbon, methane, and HFCs, along with bio-sequestration through biochar

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Bonn, Germany – Although aggressively reducing CO2 emissions remains the primary target for avoiding the long-term effects of climate change, panelists at a side event last week at the UNFCCC meetings in Bonn, Germany, emphasized that the contribution of non-CO2 climate forcers cannot be ignored and called for urgent action to reduce these forcers in order to avoid abrupt climate change.

“I think we sometimes forget that carbon dioxide is only half of what is causing climate change,” said Cynthia Ehmes, head of delegation for the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Ehmes spoke at the event on behalf of Andrew Yatilman, the Director of the Office of Environment and Emergency Management for FSM. “The climate challenge is simply too immense to be solved by only addressing half of the problem.”

FSM co-hosted the side event on “Targeting Non-CO2 Climate Forcers for Fast Mitigation to Complement CO2 Cuts” along with Sweden , and has also submitted a proposal to the UNFCCC for a Programme of Work for rapid climate mitigation. Ehmes was actively meeting with other delegates during the two weeks of negotiations in Bonn to build support for the proposal. “Acting fast is the only way to help us preserve our countries and our cultures,” said Ehmes.

Not taking aggressive action means risking passing tipping points for abrupt climate change, including the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet, West Antarctic ice sheet, and the dieback of the Amazon rainforest, all of which are estimated to be approaching more quickly than anticipated. “There’s no question that reducing CO2 emissions is absolutely essential and the number one target,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “However, this does not mean we should ignore fast action strategies like reducing black carbon and HFC emissions that could help prevent near-term damage to vulnerable regions.” Zaelke delivered a presentation on climate tipping points and also chaired the event.

Using the term “dieback” for what is happening to the Amazon Rainforest is, methinks, a little far fetched when we all know that the primarily problem of the destruction of this forest ecosystem is due to (illegal) logging activities, as well as squatters and cattle ranching, primarily for beef for burgers of the McDonald's group.

Dr. Malte Meinshausen from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research also emphasized the importance of keeping the focus on CO2, but acknowledged the non-CO2 contribution to global emissions and the need for reducing them, not only for climate but for other co-benefits as well.

Emissions of HFCs, a group of powerful short-lived greenhouse gases that can be up to 11,000 times more potent than CO2 in warming the atmosphere, are quickly growing as refrigerator and air conditioner production increases.

“Phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol or a similar type agreement would result in a significant amount of mitigation, in a quick and cost-effective manner,” said Mack McFarland from DuPont Fluoroproducts. “To maximize climate benefits, we need to make progress now toward a global agreement on how to deal with this potent group of gases.”
Zaelke added, “HFCs could be up to one-third of total climate emissions by 2040, under a CO2 stabilization scenario.” The Montreal Protocol ozone treaty, with its track record of 20+ years of success in phasing out over 97 percent of almost 100 ozone-depleting substances would be a possible framework for phasing down this potent greenhouse gas. Although HFCs are currently regulated under Kyoto , there are various ways that the two treaties could work together fore effective regulation. “HFC regulation under UNFCCC/Copenhagen with Montreal Protocol leveraging is a win-win situation,” said Husamuddin Ahmadzai from the Swedish EPA. “The ozone treaty already possesses the necessary expertise and has a very high chance of being successful, which is the ultimate goal if we hope to avoid climate catastrophe.”

The panel also discussed black carbon soot, now considered to be one of the major contributors to climate change as well as a significant threat to prominent ice masses in the Arctic and Asia; when it falls and darkens the snow and ice, the surface absorbs more heat instead of reflecting it, accelerating melting. It is also the cause of millions of pollution-related (both indoor and outdoor) deaths each year.

“While black carbon poses a serious threat to the world, the good news is that it can be reduced through fairly straightforward measures,” said Dennis Clare, Senior Law Fellow at the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. With a very short atmospheric lifetime of several days to several weeks, black carbon is an ideal target for achieving almost immediate climate mitigation. Wider use of diesel filters in developed and developing countries and more efficient cookstoves for developing countries are two such strategies for cutting black carbon emissions.

Methane is another non-CO2 short-lived climate forcer and a top contributor to climate change. “With a short atmospheric lifetime of about 12 years, methane presents an important opportunity to achieve significant near-term climate benefits,” said Scott Bartos from the Climate Change Division at U.S. EPA.

The greatest amount of methane is being generated by the trash heaps all around the world, whether landfills or just rotting piles of garbage, as in some countries, as well as sewage works. In many places the methane generated in the landfills is just vented – to prevent build up and the risk of explosion – which means it goes straight into the atmosphere.

The question here must be a huge WHY for that gas could be used for the production of electricity and heat and also for cooking even.

In addition to these fast-action strategies, the panel discussed the potential benefits of bio-sequestration through biochar, charcoal produced from biomass, has the potential to permanently sequester large amounts of carbon, helping to draw down CO2 concentrations. “Biochar is a very promising carbon-negative technology that could sequester a significant amount of CO2 emissions if adopted globally,” said Debbie Reed, Executive Director of the International Biochar Initiative. “It’s another tool that we can use to help avoid the devastating effects of climate change, while improving food security by enhancing soils and crop productivity.”

Faced with increasingly dire forecasts on climate, global action on these non-CO2 forcers is imperative. “We cannot overlook black carbon, HFCs, and other short-term forcers if we want to win on climate and avoid irreversible damage to the planet,” said Zaelke. “These are strategies we can act on now with available technology to help pull the world back from the tipping points.”

A lot of solutions to our problems of those gases, if indeed they have anything to do with the Climate Change, are quite simple but, it would appear, we need more and more such events where big experts hammer out their theses for their PhDs and such like rather than looking at real, practical solutions on the gound.

© 2009