Friday, 27 November 2009

Its a wrap: Knot just for Christmas

Another fun night was had at our second It’s a wrap crafting night on the 23rd November. We were a little squashed in the front resourses room at the Warehouse, but managed to move around the tables to make everyone comfortable.

We had less sewing machines than we had at our last group so some made bags on the machines, whilst others made reusable gift tags made with recycled felt made from plastic bottles. Roger, our token man, but willing crafter made bottle bags out of the sleeves of donated shirts.

A lot of chat and discussion was shared over the sewing, with Denise from COW (Creative Open workshops) talking about how she finger crochets with plarn, yarn made out of plastic bags, while Beth showed us a bag she had crocheted out of plastic barrier tape she collected together.

I also mentioned what I had spotted that week when walking past Lush I was surprised to discover this window display. Had they heard about Its a wrap and taken, but no, after looking in their promotional paper its a national Lush offering: Knot just for Christmas, Go Lush!

Knot for Christmas is a gift wrap service using vintage scarves to wrap their products in, more info is on their web page about this knot wrapping service. I have also seen this furoshiki wrapping and have got some lovely furoshiki Christmas and other wraps from my favourite folksy seller myfuroshiki which will be for sale at our Friends of the Earth Green Christmas Fair in Moseley on the 19th December, so come along and see what we have on offer.

Its a wrap had another productive night and here are some of the great bags and recycled gift tags that were made on the night. All of these will be available at the Green Fair in Moseley on the 19th December. If you want to come along and join in the fun, the next session is on the 14th December, hopefully see you there.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Buy Nothing Day - Santa Parade Take 8!

This Saturday, 28th November, we'll be doing our 8th annual Santa Parade for Buy Nothing Day in Birmingham. The pictures below are from last year's event, which as ever was a light-hearted affair with a serious message.

This year, as well as the parade for Buy Nothing Day, the Santas will also be taking part in a special Guitar Wave at midday on St Phillips Square along with members of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition to raise awareness of The Wave which is taking place in London the following Saturday and should be the biggest Climate Change march ever seen in this country with coaches galore going down there from Birmingham and other parts of the country. Ours is sold out, but look here for details of others.

Buy Nothing Day is all about thinking about your consumer behaviour and the planet as a whole. The following questions should be ones you consider before making purchases:

  • Do I need it?
  • How many do I already have?
  • How much will I use it?
  • How long will it last?
  • Could I borrow it from a friend or family member?
  • Am I able to clean and/or maintain it myself?
  • Will I be able to repair it?
  • Am I willing to?
  • Have I researched it to get the best quality for the best price?
  • How will I dispose of it when I'm done using it?
  • Are the resources that went into it renewable or nonrenewable?
  • Is it made from recycled materials, and is it recyclable?

If at the end of that list, you still think you're doing the right thing, then go ahead and make your purchase. If not, think of a better way of spending your hard-earned cash or not don't spend it until you can think of something that satisfies the criteria for doing so.

Spending time with the ones you love is far more valuable than any material object and there are certainly plenty of things you can do together without spending money. Follow @buynothingday on twitter for suggestions on that, or just use your imagination - that doesn't cost anything or have a carbon footprint.

Join us on Saturday for a day of spending nothing and having fun!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Does The 11 Go There?

On the 11th November a group of BFoE people went for an evening out on the annual no. 11 bus 11-11-11, run by Jon Bounds of BiNS fame. Those unfamiliar with the 11-11-11 event should take a look at the 11 Bus website, but essentially it consists of riding a full circuit of Birmingham's famous no. 11 bus sometime on the 11th of November (although some have taken it to extremes and ridden it for a full 11 hours).

So, a bunch of us from BFoE met up in King's Heath by the superloo, where we also hooked up with some Birmingham bloggers doing the same thing. All in all a 15 strong band, to document the 26 mile round trip through photographs, video and twitterings. Before proceedings could get underway however, there was the decision about whether we would be riding an A or C - in other words would we ride Anti-clockwise or Clockwise? Eventually after a little debate the 11C won out, and so off we went, clockwise!

Along the route various points of historical, bizzare or humorous interest were pointed out by various 11ers, each it seemed with their own area of geographic knowledge, which worked out rather well in letting us know all about the variations of the outer reaches of the city. Inevitably we received a few funny looks and questions as to what we were up to (just as one of the 11ers gaffer taped a video camera to a handrail), and even after an explanation they still seemed perplexed. The passing round of the sweets probably only compounded their confusion! Given that we had taken up most of the back half of the top deck, it seems we also confused quite a few seasoned back seat dwellers by occupying their preferred spot, and hence forcing them to sit in unfamiliar territory further towards the front.

Our route took us through Cotteridge (which bizzarely has a high proportion of party shops), Bournville (with the Cadbury chocolate factory - obviously), Selly Oak, Harborne, Bearwood, North Edgbaston, Rotton Park & Summerfield, City Hospital, Winson Green (home of HM Prison Birmingham), Handsworth (with the ever lively & colourful Soho Road), Handsworth Wood, Perry Barr, Witton (just near Villa Park), Stockland Green, Erdington (and the infamous 6 Ways island) and Ward End, where the BFoE bunch of 11ers disembarked for a well earned pit stop, whilst the Birmingham bloggers held out for a full uninterrupted circuit.

So after a quick drink in that famous North-East Birmingham drinking spot, The Fox & Goose, we reboarded the next 11 bus for the final leg through Stechford, Yardley (and the rather sad looking vacant Swan Centre), Acocks Green, past Sarehole Mill, and through Billesley back to our starting point in King's Heath. With the wonders of Twitter we managed to track down the location of the Birmingham bloggers we'd left on the bus at Ward End, and join them for a celebratory drink in the Hare & Hounds to chat about the journey.

So that was the end of an alternative but curiously fun night out, in which we saw some previously unexplored parts of Brum, dredged up some old memories, and discovered that if you're having a party, then Cotteridge is the place for all your party supply needs! Remember to check out the 11 Bus website.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Its a wrap, 9th November

Thanks for all the people that came along to the first It's a wrap crafting group, here is a selection of what was created:

Lots of people turned up with their sewing machines, including the C.O.W. Girls. I brought along a few items we could make including wine bag, draw string bags, a CD/DVD wrap and a furoshiki wraps.

My friend had donated some fascinators, which distracted the everyone at first, as you can see!

I then demonstrated the different wraps (did feel a bit like a person on QVC or one of those stalls at the market that demonstrate the veg cutting devices and someone did shout out "Do we get a free knife if we watch it all the way through!)

And then we all dived in to chose our material and get going.

We also had some lovely cakes and flapjacks to help us along the way.

So please come along to our next It's a wrap group, which will be a drop in from 6.00 pm onwards:
  • 23rd November
  • 14th December
And at the Christmas Market in Moseley CDT on 19th December all you lovely peeps will be able to buy the "It's a wrap" produce.

Hopefully see you soon!

Friday, 6 November 2009

20's Plenty for Birmingham - Help our Campaign

Birmingham FoE has been campaigning for a default speed limit of 20mph on all residential areas across Birmingham and recently I have been helping to organise the campaign locally.

The recent successes in other UK cities, such as Portsmouth and Oxford, have been very encouraging and research has showed that the public is definitely in favour of a lower speed limit.

The example of Birmingham as the second biggest city in the UK would send a positive message all over the country and really help in creating a greener and cleaner city. But more importantly it would help make Birmingham a safer city and encourage its inhabitants to walk or cycle more on roads where they do not feel secure at the moment. The change in attitude fostered by drivers associating residential areas with safer speeds would reduce road casualties and improve the quality of life.

To raise awareness in the heart of communities and get people involved to spread the word around where they live, we are looking for Community Champions following the successful example of Bristol's campaign.

If you are interested in becoming a community champion for your neighbourhood or knows somebody who might be, please contact us at There is a lot of work to do to persuade the people in charge of roads at Birmingham City Council that this is the way to go, but we really feel this is an important campaign and we need your help.

It's time to get together and make Birmingham a safer place to live!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Its a wrap: Birmingham Friends of the Earth get stitched up

Lets be honest, wrapping gifts in paper, it’s all about the eye candy and not much about the environment. In the UK, we waste stacks of trees and resources with glitzy paper for a 20 second fix. It is estimated by Waste online that over Christmas as much as 83 square km of wrapping paper will end up in UK rubbish bins, enough to cover an area larger than Guernsey and the total waste wrapping paper the UK produces over Christmas could stretch to the moon if each sheet was laid end to end.

And part of the problem is the most popular wrapping paper cannot be recycled and ends up in landfill is often dyed, laminated and contains non-paper additives such as gold and silver coloured shapes or glitter which cannot be recycled. This means paper is either dumped in the bin or, worse, put in the recycling bin, which will mean the whole lot is contaminated and has to go to landfill.

So whats this got to do with Birmingham Friends of the Earth?
We want to promote the alternative wrapping that is available, and on the 9th of November will be having its first group of crafters coming together to make creative wrappings to get people to think differently about wrapping paper and also make items that will be showcased and available for sale at our Christmas fare on the 19th December and hopefully will raise some money to get allow great campaigning around the city. Contact Joe Peacock on 0121 632 6909 or email

So here are some of the things the crafters will be making for alternative wrapping paper, (if you have other ideas, please share them as comments):

Furoshiki, which is a Eastern tradition of wrapping using material, which I discovered after watching recycle now. See myfuroshiki for the real thing, photographed is one of her great prints and will have some of their great products available on the stall on the 19th December. Also I square scarves from charity shops can do the job as well.

Material gift bags that can be used and used again, which can be made over from left over material.

CD/DVD material present bags. This one is from Thailand and can be used again and again.

Use newspaper or magazines for wrapping. Recently I have had lots of success with using adverts in womens magazines, they spend so much on the creative, such as the perfume adverts, its always nice to show them off. Use string or ribbon to wrap them up and you can use them again.

If you cant make it on the 9th November, you can still help out by contributing:
  • Any scrap, Christmassy, material we can use. Anything from old curtains, to off cuts, nice duvet covers or pillow cases picked up at a charity shop.
  • Scarves that are square shape or can be altered to fit.
  • Thread, ribbon and sew on decorations.
Please drop these off at the Warehouse and we will see what our creative people can do.

And start thinking about how you can reduce, reuse and recycle at Christmas!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Meat Free Mondays: Join the herd

Come along to the Warehouse Café in Digbeth and enjoy their Meat Free Monday, where on a Monday you can buy one meal and get one free throughout November, just ring the cafe 0121 633 0261 to reserve your table*, and mention the Birmingham Friends of the Earth blog (reservation essential).

Meat Free Mondays is not about going vegetarian, it's about revolutionising meat and dairy farming and reducing our consumption. It’s about fixing the food chain, as it’s a far from perfect world out there. However, we do not want to attack the farmers, but help them to move to planet friendly farming.

Friends of the Earth have found that the meat and dairy industry produces more climate-changing emissions than all the planes, cars and lorries on the planet. Rainforests play a vital role in reducing the impact of our CO2 emissions but they are currently being destroyed in order to grow soy to feed UK livestock. Plus increasing demand for meat and dairy has led to unsustainable farming practices that threaten our planet.

So how can we help? By getting the government to enable our farmers to grow their own feed for their animals. There is 700 million EU subsidies going into intensive farming and this could be invested with our farmers to help them grow and feed their own animals. This would be better for the farmers and better for our food security.

Plus eating more vegetables is not only great for your health but also good for the planet too! UN’s top climate scientist Rajendra Pachauri states that “People should consider eating less meat as a way of combating global warming. UN figures suggest that meat production puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than transport.” In the UK we eat 3 ½ times more meat the World Health Organisation recommends, putting us at risk of cancer, diabetes and obesity.

The point of having Meat Free Monday (or just a meat free day or meal) is it will take the pressure off the food chain and get people thinking about caring about what they eat and the impacts it has on the world around us. It is more realistic to get the whole world to alter their diet and reduce their consumption than get a few to convert to vegetarianism or veganism.

There is a lot more possibilities opened by having a meat free meal or day, for example a school changed to have one day a week meat free. Then for the other days of the weeks they were able to invest in organic meat or fish. Meat Free Monday is all about making smarter choices and it’s not about having a go at the UK farmers, which quite frankly have enough to worry about.

So by not eating meat for one day a week we are saving ourselves as well as the planet.

For November the Warehouse Café is offering the chance to ‘buy one get one free’ on all main meals bought on Mondays*.

* Offer equivalent to one free main meal to same or lower value of meal purchased. Maximum 4 vouchers used together. Limited spaces available, so booking essential and early booking recommended. Offer valid Monday until Monday 30 November.