Monday, 21 February 2011

Plastic Fantastic?

An article in the Independent on Sunday yesterday reported on unpublished government research on plastic bags which was purported to show plastic bags as a greener option than re-usable ones.

This has been done before with re-usable nappies v disposables and with plastic cups v washable ones, but these always seem to be based on flawed assumptions about how long they're used for and ignore the whole of the life-cycle of the items concerned.

The article says:

"Six billion plastic bags are used across the UK annually and there is no doubt that they cause environmental problems such as litter and marine pollution as well as using up oil, and limiting their use and re-using them reduces their harm."

so it begs the question as to why it is a controversial topic at all. If the only issue is about other bags not being re-used enough, then we need to make sure that they're well enough made that they don't need to be thrown away. Personally, I've never thrown away a cotton or jute bag - they can be used again and again - I only ever refuse them at events where people are trying to give them away, so as not to end up with more than I could possibly use.

The report doesn't seem to look at recycling, the raw materials needed for different bags or the effect of all the bags that aren't disposed of properly (ending up in hedgerows, blowing across our streets or in waterways).

Paper bags probably aren't always the best option either, but the evidence for plastic is certainly not strong enough to revisit the direction of policy to go in their favour.

Joe Peacock

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Edible Erdington Potato Day

I've just received this press release about a great sounding event coming up, so thought I'd share it with you. Eleanor Hoad, the organiser, was also involved in our Edible Birmingham event last year when she brought along her apple press from which I enjoyed some delicious fresh juice!


16th February 2011 for immediate release

Edible Erdington Potato Day

On Saturday 26th February between 11am-3pm visitors to Erdington High Street will be able to join in the ‘Edible Erdington’ Potato Day celebrations. Edible Erdington is a project that has successfully transformed 3 large brick planters on Erdington High Street into vegetable plots. Dreamed up by Erdington Artist in Residence Eleanor Hoad ‘Edible Erdington’ has grown over 60 different varieties of vegetables in the last year with a group of volunteers, right in the high street and local people have welcomed the unusual edible change from flowers to vegetables.
Celebrating the humble potato, Potato Day will have activities for everyone including; a display of some of the 150 different varieties of potato available in the UK, free potato themed food, the chance to taste some of the high street harvest, free seed potato giveaways, Morris Dancing, a hands on session planting potatoes and vegetable growing advice. A ‘Seed Swap’ will take place on the day, bring along your spare seeds to swap.
Visitors will also be able to enter “The Great Erdington Potato Self Portrait Competition”. Everyone will have the chance to create a self-portrait using just a potato and a variety of craft materials! Prizes are available for the best entries and a display of all the entries will be created through the day. There will also be the chance to make a seed bomb to take away. Seed bombs are used by guerrilla gardeners and are a handy portable mix of seeds, compost and clay for planting in unusual locations.
Eleanor Hoad said “ We often overlook the humble potato but they are a great source of vitamin C and fibre and there are so many unusual varieties available that we hardly ever see in the shops. Potatoes are easy to grow at home in the ground or in containers, its amazing how many you can grow even in a small space.”

For more press information, pictures or interviews please contact Eleanor Hoad on 07974 934 917,

Monday, 7 February 2011

Low Energy Party - more exciting than it sounds!

Next Thursday, Urban Village is hosting a special kind of party. The bar has agreed to install low energy lighting in the bar using twenty percent of the money they take.

This concept is called “9carrots” - businesses making themselves more sustainable using a portion of the extra sales from 9carrots promotion. Any business can join and progressively builds up extra sales over time to invest in green upgrades.

The 9carrots project is a way of connecting your community to its supply chains, production methods, employment and financial decisions by creating an ongoing dialogue between people and business. Then, together, your community can start making changes it needs become resilient to peak oil and Climate Change.” - Tom Tierney, Kings Heath Transition Initiative

In March, the Kings Heath Transition Initiative are planning to launch a larger scheme involving a dozen local businesses. Groups have also recently started in the USA and Canada.

The evening will be opened by the comedian Richard Higgs, followed by the superb soul-funk band Route 49. Entry is free and it starts at 8pm. It's open to all - please come down and show your support!

RSVP (optional):

This is not a BFoE event, but we welcome the idea and a number of our members will be going along to support it.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Time for a Cuppa?

We Brits love our tea but would we be so fond of our traditional beverage if we knew the consequences of sipping our favourite thirst quencher?

Water is used in almost every stage of food production, from growing crops to animal feed to washing and preparing products. Researchers at Cranfield University have calculated just how much water is used to produce common foods:

  • Cup of tea –-32.4 litres

  • Pint of Beer – 160 litres

  • 1 glass of wine – 120 litres

  • 1 glass of milk – 200 litres

  • 1kg of beef – 15,000 litres

  • 1kg poultry – 6,000 litres

  • 250g packet of peanut M&M's – 1,153 litres

  • 575g Dolmio pasta source – 202 litres

Surprisingly the British Hydrological Society has stated that a typical balanced diet requires 3,500 litres of water per person per day!

So what does this all mean?

As the world population increases the demand for food will also increase and so will the demand for water to make this additional food. A three year study complied by the The World Business Council on Sustainable Development concludes the next 20 years could see the globe witness:

  • Conflicts in many countries

  • Cholera may return to London

  • Mass migration of Africans could cause civil unrest in Europe

  • Chinas economy could crash by 2015

So it seems the old ditty once chanted by sailors, “Water water every where but not a drop to drink” may become a reality during our lifetime!

To find out how you can get help to combat water shortage and reduce climate change, contact Birmingham Friends of the Earth and help us with our campaigns. There are also national weeks looking at doing something for the environment: Go Green Week at universities ( and Climate Week ( ) held nationwide from the 21st - 27th March. We will be out and about at events in Birmingham this year to offer friendly supportive advice on climate change as well as other important environmental issues, too.

So now then - Anyone for a cuppa?

By Soraya Hodgetts