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Helping wildlife and the planet in your own garden

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British gardens cover 432,964 ha, which is the area of the Norfolk Broads, and the Exmoor, Dartmoor and Lake District National Parks added together. This makes them an amazing resource for British wildlife, at a time when nature is under pressure and being squeezed into smaller and smaller spaces. Not all gardens are equally attractive to wildlife though, but gardeners can easily turn their gardens into wildlife havens.

 Wildlife gardening can fit many different styles and approaches, whether you like you garden neat and tidy or more bohemian, and whether you have little or lots of time to spend gardening. Contrary to some beliefs, it doesn’t mean your garden will turn into an impassable jungle, and a big difference can be made with some small changes.

Attracting wildlife to your garden will also help with natural pest management, and will provide you with your very own wildlife spectacle at home – listening to bird song, watching butterflies aflutter,  spotting a frog hopping away – it’s good for the soul!

In this blog post, we’ll go over some of the things you can do in the garden to help wildlife and the planet. There are already lots of useful resources online though, so we have added some useful links for each tip. Happy gardening!

  1. Provide food for pollinators…

Choose flowers which will offer nectar to pollinating insects such as bees, butterflies, moths and other pollinators. As a general rule, single-flowers- with one row of petals- are better than complex ones, which offer little to no nectar at all.

Ideally, choose a variety of plants which will flower at different times of the year, so pollinators have food all year round.

Brimstone butterfly on forget-me-not

RHS: Plants for pollinators

Butterfly Conservation: nectar-rich plants

  • … and their caterpillars

Whilst many gardeners are keen to provide flowers for butterflies, they often forget their caterpillars! Butterflies and moth will lay their eggs on food-plants specific to each species, so their caterpillars have something to eat when they hatch. Think about leaving some common food plants such as holly, ivy, hops, nettles, cuckoo flowers…

Cinnabar moth caterpillar on ragwort

Butterfly conservation: caterpillar food plants

  • Water for wildlife

Adding a water feature of any size will be beneficial for wildlife, even if only to provide drinking water for birds and small mammals. A mini-pond in an old Belfast sink will provide somewhere for dragonflies and butterflies to breed, a larger one will be a home for newts, frogs and toads.

A pond (not stocked with fish) will attract damselflies

https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/diy/how-to-make-a-mini-pond/

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/gardening-for-wildlife/water-for-wildlife/

  • Food for the birds

Feeding the birds peanuts and fat balls is great, but it is much cheaper (and eco-friendly) to grow your own. Choose plants that will provide seeds (sunflowers, globe thistle etc.) or berries (ivy, rowan, sorbus…). Also, remember that insects are birds’ favourite food, especially when feeding their chicks. Any feature (flowers, deadwood, pond…) that attracts insects will help the birds immensely.

Teasels provide flowers for pollinators, then seeds for birds, such as goldfinches

https://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/growing-your-own-bird-food/

https://www.daviddomoney.com/the-10-best-winter-plants-to-attract-and-feed-wild-garden-birds/

  • Dead wood and leaf piles

Insects love deadwood! Leave a stack of logs to rot in a corner of your garden to give insects a home, or build a minibeast hotel if you’d like a tidier look! These will provide a home for insects, and shelter for frogs, toads and newts. Larger stacks and leaf piles might even welcome a hibernating hedgehog.

https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/diy/three-ways-to-create-a-dead-wood-habitat/

https://www.hazelwoodlandscapes.com/blog/case-study-the-importance-of-waste-piles-for-wildlife

https://www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/documents/a-living-landscape/wildlife-advice/garden/nwt-deadwood-in-the-garden

https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/give-nature-a-home-in-your-garden/garden-activities/build-a-bug-hotel/

  • Plant a tree

Much noise has been made recently about trees’ wonderful capacity to capture carbon from the atmosphere and help fight climate change. Trees also provide food, shelter and nesting sites for wildlife; are good for mental wellbeing, and provide welcome shade on hot summer days. Even if your garden is small, you can plant a small tree (rowan, crab apple…) or some shrubs (dogwood, Cornelian cherry…). When autumn comes, gather fallen leaves into a pile which will provide shelter for small creatures such as hedgehogs, and turn into a brilliant soil improver for your flowers and vegetables.

Spider in a dog rose

Tips for planting / maintenance:

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/gardening-for-wildlife/plants-for-wildlife/shrubs-for-gardens/

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/gardening-for-wildlife/plants-for-wildlife/garden-trees/

What trees / shrubs to plant?

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2019/03/british-trees-to-plant-in-your-garden/

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/gardening-for-wildlife/plants-for-wildlife/shrubs-for-gardens/best-garden-shrubs/

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/gardening-for-wildlife/plants-for-wildlife/garden-trees/best-trees/

https://www.gardenanswersmagazine.co.uk/welcome-wildlife-blog/2017/11/24/plant-a-small-tree-for-wildlife

  • Be a bit less tidy

Being overly tidy can be quite detrimental to wildlife, why not try a different approach?

  • Mow your grass less, or not as short. You could leave a longer strip along your hedge or create some interesting shapes like circles underneath trees, wavy edges etc.
  • Create a gap in your fence for hedgehogs and other creatures to come in and out
  • Leave dead-heading until early spring. Seedheads can look very pretty, especially in the frost, and little insects such as ladybirds love to shelter in them.
  • Leave (some) ‘weeds’ alone. Dandelion, daisies, clover etc. are often considered weeds but they are amazing sources of food for bees and other pollinators. “A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.” – Doug Larson
Mow a bit less and watch the flowers grow!

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/gardening-for-wildlife/lawns-for-wildlife/

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/garden-wildlife-mowing-wildflowers-natural-habitat-ecosystem-a8989596.html

  • Help the planet

What you do in your garden does not only affect your patch, but the health of the planet. Here’s a few things you could do to help the earth:

  • Switch to sustainable planting. Go for bulbs and perennials which will last years, instead of seasonal bedding plants which need to be replaced each season. This requires a lot less resources, and releases much less carbon.
  • Avoid leaving garden lights all night long. This will save energy and avoid confusing and hurting the insects in your garden.
  • Refrain from buying herbicides and pesticides, and try natural pest control methods instead. Pesticides and herbicides will not just kill your ‘target’ but other wild flowers and wildlife too (and potentially harm pets). Some of them are also suspected of causing cancer and other health issues in humans! Lawn fertilisers will stop wildflowers from growing as they prefer nutrient-poor soils.
  • Go peat-free.  Peat extraction destroys peat bogs, which are amazing at storing carbon and home to unique flora and fauna. Destroying peatland is akin to cutting down rainforests. Luckily, plenty of peat-free composts are now available.

Pest control:

https://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/pests-and-diseases

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/gardening-for-wildlife/animal-deterrents/organic-pest-control/

Peat:

https://www.plantlife.org.uk/uk/our-work/campaigning-change/why-we-need-to-keep-peat-in-the-ground-and-out-of-our-gardens

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/actions/how-go-peat-free-your-garden

  • Going further

And there’s more! Here are a few websites which list even more tips and advice:

Young people’s trust for the environment

https://ypte.org.uk/factsheets/wildlife-in-the-garden/garden-habitats

RSPB

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/gardening-for-wildlife/

RHS

https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/wildlife-garden/wildlife

The Wildlife Trusts

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/gardening

Content of March Newsletter

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Here is the text of our newsletter for March, missing the exciting graphics because of my lack of skill.  But I have added a paper written by Margaret Okole who is secretary of Birmingham Green Party.  It reflects on some of the issues that we think about when we encounter colleagues who want to use disruption in their demonstrations.

John H.

Everybody out!
You may have recently seen the two environmental campaigns, Extinction Rebellion and the school strikes by pupils.
The first one is responsible for the blocking of bridges in London last year, and its stated aim is to get as many of its members arrested in non-violent direct actions as possible. So far this has failed, no arrests and no prosecutions, and a very annoyed public; what they will do next is any ones guess.
The school pupils strike is another matter, following on from the example in Sweden, problem is, Swedish education law is different to ours, in that in our country, even with parental permission, walking out of school in term time is truancy; and it is probably only a matter of time before the education authorities decide to take action.
Their sentiments are good, but the approach is troubling, and may have unintended consequences.
50 Kilowatts
The rules for aggregators (Companies that gather small generators or users together to get better prices via bulk purchase or sales) are changing, to lower the minimum level of renewable generated power to 50 kilowatts, which brings it well within the range of combining domestic renewable generation from customers together to get better prices from the energy companies.
Green Tips
Stop wasting food leftovers and garden waste, look up ‘Master Composter’ courses, It helps to reduce landfill, and provides compost for your garden, allotment, or even indoor plants.
In this issue:
• Welcome
• Everybody out!
• 50 Kilowatts
• TPIs
• Trains and Trees
• Contact Details
NEWSLETTER ISSUE MARCH 2019
Welcome
Spring is here—nearly! Which explains the snow, hail, cold and gusts of wind; get used to this, due to climate disruption, this is pretty much what spring will be for the foreseeable future.
In my role as Mystic Meg, I believe that we are slowly progressing towards a two season year, dry season followed by a wet season, rather than the present four seasons.
TPIs
These companies sell energy to users, by buying from various generators, and by aggregating them together lower the costs to customers. Unfortunately, the TPI industry is badly regulated and accordingly there are several cowboys out there.
We are warning anybody that is considering to buy their energy from a TPI to take care, and check that the company is reputable, by speaking to either ‘Which’ or Citi-zens Advice.
Trains and Trees
The Transport secretary, Chris (Failing) Grayling, has asked the train companies to bring proposals to him by the end of March, to reduce and eventually remove diesel powered trains from the network.
You may have noticed the trees being removed by Network Rail, along side of the rail lines into Birmingham, which is pretty devastating to wildlife. The need to re-duce risk of damage to rails and overhead power lines is accepted, but the ap-proach taken is overkill, as they appear to be taking the ‘cut everything’ route.
We are approaching the authorities, both Birmingham City Council and Network Rail, to take a more pragmatic approach, in only taking down trees that are a direct risk to the lines, and leaving shrubs and trees further way intact. The Environment Agency has tasked Network Rail to reconsider their approach, and to provide guid-ance to the contractors to mitigate damage to widl life and trees.
Ideas
If anyone has any ideas, suggestions, or has any questions they want answered in relation to energy or the environment, please contact the editor (Details below).
Contact Details:
Editor Roger Low Roger0910@btinternet.com
Chair Steve Lyne Stephenly@live.co.uk
Vice-Chair John Heywood Heywood_John@yahoo.com
Website: http://www.ecosutton.co.uk/

 

Extinction Rebellion: an example of mass action

Paper presented to West Midlands New Economics Group, 28 March 2019

Margaret Okole

Margaret.okole@gmail.com

 

Recent years have seen several cases of mass action in response to issues which people feel strongly about. Examples in this country are the poll tax riots, Stop the War, and the Occupy movement. The relatively small scale poll tax riots are credited with bringing down Margaret Thatcher; the Stop the War march of November 2003, despite involving a much larger number of people, failed to stop Tony Blair declaring war; the Occupy movement, which began in the US in 2011 and spread to many other countries including the UK, gained a lot of attention in the UK from 2011 to about 2014 but does not appear to have made any dent in the “capitalist” system (for want of a better word) which it blames for rising and intolerable inequality.

Extinction Rebellion seems to have a lot in common with the Occupy movement in its international focus and its organisation or lack of it. The interesting question is whether it can achieve any more than Occupy has done.

I will aim to first compare these different actions and consider why they did or did not succeed. Secondly I will look at how Extinction Rebellion is organised (clearly it has drawn from the Occupy template) and what methods it uses. Here I will give a subjective account of being involved as a member. Finally I will speculate on whether Extinction Rebellion can achieve its aims.

 

Examples of mass action in the recent past

So many examples of mass action exist that it might seem arbitrary to focus on just three. However I want to use these to illustrate some key points.

 

The poll tax riots (March 1990)

Estimated numbers 200,000 on 31 March. This began as a peaceful demonstration against the poll tax before rioting occurred in the later part of the afternoon. Both Government and opposition denounced the rioters, though a police report the following year suggested that shortage of officers and poor management of larger than expected crowds had caused the problem. However, the demonstration clearly reflected widespread public opposition to the poll tax.

Result: Opposition to the poll tax triggered a leadership challenge in the Conservative Party, which Thatcher lost. John Major as the new Prime Minister abolished the tax.

Key features:(1) The poll tax was opposed by all the opposition parties as well as a number of Conservatives. The parliamentary party could see that it would be extremely damaging to them electorally.

(2) The issue was one which affected the majority of the population in a negative way.

(3) The demand was very simple and not hard to implement: Abolish the poll tax.

 

The Stop the War Coalition (September 2001 and continuing)

Formed “to encourage and mobilise the largest possible movement against the war”on Iraq, the Coalition was initially very broad based, including communists, Quakers, Muslims and retired generals. The mass protest on 15 February 2003 against the planned invasion of Iraq was the largest so far recorded, at 750,000 by the most conservative estimate. Protests continued throughout the Iraq war, attracting crowds of over 100,000. Subsequently StWCcampaigned against British involvement in the Syrian Civil War(from 2011) and has joined with other groups such as CND in protests against warfare generally. There have been tensions and splits within the Coalition with accusations of bias in favour of Assad and the Russian Federation for example. It has been accused of being anti-west rather than anti-war and a number of prominent supporters have now distanced themselves.

Result: The Stop the War march on 15 February 2003 did not achieve its aim, despite receiving wide media coverage. Subsequent protests have attracted less coverage. Popular support has dwindled as the movement has come under fire for lack of impartiality.

Key features: (1) The Labour and Conservativeparties both supported the war, despite some Labour members opposing it. Blair could be assured that voters would not desert Labour and vote Conservative on this issue. Labour undoubtedly lost some support which went to the LibDems, but this was not enough to weaken Labour’s hold on power. If Blair calculated that he could safely ignore the strength of public feeling at the time, he was correct.

(2) The issue was one which did not directly affect the majority of the population.

(3) The initial demand not to go to war against Iraq was simple and easy to implement.

 

The Occupy movement (2009 and continuing)

This started as a student movement in the US, protesting against cuts in universities’ budgets and staff and fee increases in response to the 2008 financial crash. It developed into a movement of protest against financial and governmental institutions more generally, which were held responsible both for causing the crash and for ensuring that it was the 99% who suffered, not the 1% who had caused it. It was committed to nonviolence and maintained this in cases of physical assault by police.The numbers of people actually camping out in public spaces was not high (a few hundred at most at any one site) but their determination in staying put in adverse weather conditions and despite attempts to move them on gained them a lot of attention.Occupy Wall Street, set up in New York on 11 September 2011, attracted global media coverage and similar actions have taken place in countries around the world. Most recently (2018) in the US Occupy ICEwas set up in protest at the actions of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detaining asylum seekers at the US border, while Occupy Kalamazoo began an encampment to address homelessness.

While the movement was clear what it was against (rising inequality following the crash) it did not start with a demand. Local groups set out to achieve consensus by participatory democracy. Specific demands sometimes followed, e.g. Occupy London demanded measures to end tax evasion by multinationals.However the Initial Statement put out by Occupy London on 16 October 2011 was extremely wide-ranging and general:

  1. The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them.
  2. We are of all ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, generations, sexualities dis/abilities and faiths. We stand together with occupations all over the world.
  3. We refuse to pay for the banks’ crisis.
  4. We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable. We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people.
  5. We want regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate.
  1. We support the strike on 30 November and the student action on 9 November, and actions to defend our health services, welfare, education and employment, and to stop wars and arms dealing.
  1. We want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world’s resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich.
  2. The present economic system pollutes land, sea and air, is causing massive loss of natural species and environments, and is accelerating humanity towards irreversible climate change. We call for a positive, sustainable economic system that benefits present and future generations.
  3. We stand in solidarity with the global oppressed and we call for an end to the actions of our government and others in causing this oppression.

Result: Beyond drawing media attention to issues and influencing public opinion, the Occupy movement achieved few results.E.g. In December 2012, the Corporation of the City of London acquiesed to one of the Occupy London demands, releasing information about a previously secret bank account called City’s Cash. This fund had existed for hundreds of years and proved to contain more than £1.319bn.However the broader demands for changes in the economic system remain unmet.

Key features:(1) In the UK, the movement predictably attracted opposition from vested interests and property owners. The Church was ambivalent. The unions were supportive but the Labour Party not noticeably so. While many members of the public were sympathetic others may have seen the occupiers as unrealistic anarchists.

(2) The issue (structural inequality) was one which affected a large proportion of the population in a negative way.

(3) The demands were mainly general and there was no suggestion how they would be implemented.

 

Extinction Rebellion

Demands

These are listed on the website as follows:

  1. We believe that the Government must tell the truth about how deadly our situation is, it must reverse all policies not in alignment with that position and must work alongside the media to communicate the urgency for change including what individuals, communities and businesses need to do.
  2. The Government must enact legally-binding policies to reduce carbon emissions in the UK to net zero by 2025 and take further action to remove the excess of atmospheric greenhouse gases. It must cooperate internationally so that the global economy runs on no more than half a planet’s worth of resources per year.
  3. By necessity these demands require initiatives and mobilisation of similar size and scope to those enacted in times of war. We do not however, trust our Government to make the bold, swift and long-term changes necessary to achieve this and we do not intend to hand further power to our politicians. Instead we demand aCitizens’ Assemblyto oversee the changes, as we rise from the wreckage, creating a democracy fit for purpose.

 

Organisation and Methods

Like Occupy, Extinction Rebellion is committed to nonviolence and participatory democracy, and aims for actions all over the globe. The initial group in London has developed a training package for anyone who wants to set up a local group, and will provide support (advice, not finance) and encouragement to local groups. Local groups are organised into four subgroups: Media and Messaging; Outreach and Training; Action Planning; and Regeneration (which can be understood as support for members so they don’t burn out/drop out). Each local group is responsible for deciding what actions it wishes to take and carrying them out. Any member is free to propose an action and if it is accepted by the group, to take the lead in organising that action.

Actions to date have included disruption to traffic by sit down protests (London bridges) and demonstrations at government buildings (Parliament, local councils), with the aim of being as eye-catching as possible (fake blood, die-ins, costumes).

A key feature of proposed actions is that they may lead to people being arrested. People who join are asked to consider whether this is something they would be prepared to do (no-one is required to sign up for this and the majority of members in Birmingham have not done so). An arrestable action should not be planned without legal observers in place and training for what is involved. However, arrests of people protesting peacefully, especially of numbers of people, are seen as an effective way to get media coverage and support. The experience of fracking protesters suggests this can work.

 

Birmingham Experience to Date

The first action undertaken by the Birmingham group was a public meeting at the Birmingham and Midland Institute on 20 March, where two members of the Outreach subgroup presented the standard XR talk on the climate crisis (which is also available on the website) and invited members of the audience to sign up to be involved. There was a good turnout (around 150 people I think) and a good proportion filled in the signup form. The whole group has been meeting every two weeks since then and is planning further actions, including a petition to Birmingham City Council to declare a climate emergency, a protest at the new Primark store when it opens, and a contingent to go to London for the week beginning 15 April, when a week of actions in London are scheduled. Some of the people who attended the public meeting have been coming to these planning meetings while a number are getting updates by email, so it’s hard to tell how many people are currently involved, but the group has certainly grown since I first joined it. As well as this some members are involved in giving the talk at other venues in order to grow the movement.

Positive aspects: many members are convinced of the urgency of the situation and prepared to be very active in organising events and disseminating information. There is a sense of caring for other members, respect for different points of view, consideration of people’s needs. Members are advised not to take on more than they can cope with or are comfortable with (sensible in view of how driven some people clearly feel).

Many members already belong to a group of some sort, e.g. CANWM, Friends of the Earth, Footsteps, various churches, and can publicise a proposed action through their networks.

Problematic aspects:I have found the planning meetings quite frustrating, as they haven’t always been very structured and some people who came along once decided to drop out again. It’s difficult to cope with a shifting attendance.

Each meeting now involves a whole group catch-up followed by subgroups discussing amongst themselves and a final summing up. It isn’t easy to find a room for meetings in central Birmingham which is large enough to allow for the breakout sessions for subgroups, and which is also cheap. We have sometimes met in the small downstairs room at the Warehouse which is decidedly cramped for the numbers.

 

Prospects for Success

Key features: (1) the public are sympathetic. Awareness of climate change and the need for action is quite high. In politics, talk of a Green New Deal has been revived, echoing the Democratic Party in the US, and the Labour Party is increasingly treating action on climate change as a key policy issue.

(2) the issue affects the entire population in a negative way.

(3) the demands are general and very wide-ranging.

 

For me, the demands are problematic. It may be cynical but I don’t expect the government to tell the truth on climate change, though pressure may make it harder to tell lies. I think it is up to us, the people, to communicate the urgency for change to government, and to start doing what we can locally rather than waiting for central government to act.I don’t think our current political class could contemplate being overseen by a Citizens’ Assembly. Again, with Brexit taking up huge amounts of parliamentary time for some while to come, it’s difficult to imagine all the necessary legislation being passed in time to reduce emissions to net zero by 2025. Much of XR’s action is aimed at raising awareness among the general public by eye-catching and dramatic stunts, similarly to the Occupy movement, which did not actually achieve very much. I can imagine central government ignoring these actions for quite some time while waiting for the movement to run out of steam.

At the same time XR has been active in supporting motions to local councils to declare climate emergencies and take action locally, which have been passed by a growing number of councils (47 at the last count). I think that the more specific (and local) demands become, the greater the chance of achieving them – I would say that broadly speaking the anti-fracking movement has been a success as I don’t anticipate the next government will continue to impose fracking. But specific demands have to be politically possible. Some of the demands suggested to be put to Birmingham City Council strike me as quite unrealistic, e.g. Ban all diesel cars; plant a million trees; do it in the next six months. BCC has already received a lot of opposition to its very modest Clean Air Zone, on the grounds that it would penalise people who have to drive into the centre and can’t afford to change their car. There’s no way it would contemplate banning all diesel cars.

It may be that it’s easier to succeed with a negative demand (don’t do, e.g. No to Fracking) than with a positive one (do do, e.g. free public transport to get people out of their cars). A positive demand will require a feasibility study, cost/benefit analysis etc. which XR itself is not in the business of doing, and which local or national government can kick into the long grass.

Another factor would be if this issue became a vote winner, e.g. if parties with a strong manifesto on climate change did noticeably better at the polls. It seems virtually certain we will have another general election well before 2022. If the Labour Party were to fight it on simultaneous action on climate change and social justice, this would be a game-changer.

Newsletter Feb 2019

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Recycling
How much do you recycle?
If the answer is “I put out my recyclables in the council bins”, then you are not recycling as much as you though. The council has reduced its recycling targets, so a good proportion of the recycling waste goes straight to the Tyseley energy from waste plant to be burned; mainly due to the fact that so much waste has been reduced via various initiatives that there is not enough general waste for the plant to use, and the council is contractually obliged to provide a guaranteed amount each year for combustion.
And this was before the waste collectors strikes, so even more is going straight to incineration. If you want o guarantee recycling, take it to the various collection bins at supermarkets, as this is recycled.
Energy Cap
As you will have heard in the news, the energy price cap is going up, by £100 per year, this is the highest price rise in 15 years, so the so called cap that was meant to save consumers money has backfired. Yet another demonstration that the UKs energy policy is in trouble.
The new West Midlands travel maps for Birmingham, West Brom and Smethwick have been issued, and can be obtained from the travel office at New Street Station, near the Stephenson Street exit.
The next least polluting travel method after walking and cycling is the bus and train.
In this issue:
• Welcome
• Recycling
• Travel
• Energy Cap
• Free water
• Vegan Energy
• Contact Details
NEWSLETTER ISSUE 11 FEB 2019
Welcome
Can we be the first to wish you a happy Easter— well, the Easter eggs are in the shops already!
How ecological are Easter eggs? – With the large amount of wrapping and boxes, the waste from them is tremendous, and easily avoided—buy some regular chocolate bars instead, less wrapping and cheaper.
Guaranteed Brexit free—Hurrah!
Free water
No, not a mistype, we are looking for volunteers to help us in March to visit cafes,
pubs and restaurants in the area, to persuade the proprietors to give free water to
anyone who comes in with their own reusable water container. This is part of a national
initiative, and will help reduce plastic usage, and reduce the manufacture of
bottled water, which is environmentally unsound in every aspect possible.
Costa, Wetherspoons and Greggs already participate, but we need more. You
would need to visit the various places, either specifically or as part of your usual
shopping/social life, and persuade them to join the scheme, for which they will get a
poster to display in their window, and inclusion on the campaigns website to allow
people to know where to go (And most users of this service tend to also buy other
items, so also a good business move).
Vegan Energy
The Vegan society has recognised Ecotricity as a vegan energy company, this is
because they do not use animal products in their energy mix. Some companies use
methane derived from animal waste to produce biogas, to generate electricity,
whereas Ecotricity only uses vegetable waste for the same purpose.
Ideas
If anyone has any ideas, suggestions, or has any questions they want answered in
relation to energy or the environment, please contact the editor (Details below).
Contact Details:
Editor Roger Low Roger0910@btinternet.com
Chair Steve Lyne Stephenly@live.co.uk
Vice-Chair John Heywood Heywood_John@yahoo.com
Website: http://www.ecosutton.co.uk/

“Know your plastics”

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An article from St Peter’s Environment Group:

Know Your Plastics

A great deal has been written and talked about plastic since David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 showed the terrible damage being done to our oceans and marine life.  Numerous articles about going plastic free or giving up one-use plastics are circulating.  Now we are surely fooling ourselves if we think we can give up plastics altogether.  Plastic contributes greatly to our daily lives and has many beneficial uses e.g. solar panels are largely made from plastics as are parts of wind turbines; plastics have made cars and aircraft much lighter and therefore more energy efficient; although there is too much of it, plastic packaging helps eliminate food waste.

Below is a brief explanation of the most common plastics we deal with.  The numbers within the recycling symbol can usually be found on the bottom of the plastic item.

Name & number Main uses Recycling situation Additional information
Polyethylene Terephthalate Drinks bottles

Food trays and roasting bags

Boil in the bag pouches

Fibre for clothes and carpets

Most widely recycled plastic in the world. May absorb odours from food or drink stored in it.  Better not to re-use for food and not after heating
High Density Polyethylene Bottles for cleaning products

Food boxes  Toys

Garden furniture, Wheelie and compost bins

Commonly recycled No known health concerns
Polyvinyl Chloride Credit cards Shower curtains

Pipes,  guttering, window and door frames

Sometimes recycled Contains harmful phthalates.

Not for food use.  Old plastic containers may have been made with PVC so avoid using for food.

Low Density Polyethylene Cling film, food bags

Bubble wrap

Refuse sacks

Sometimes recycled No known health concerns but better to avoid using cling film with fatty foods such as cheese and do not use in the microwave
Polypropylene Most bottle tops

Yogurt and margarine pots

Crisp bags  Drinking straws

Fabrics and carpets

Occasionally recycled Small amounts of plastic may be transferred to food when microwaved. Safer to use glass or ceramic
Polystyrene Egg boxes  Vending cups

Takeaway containers Disposable cutlery

Commonly recycled Various health concerns.  Styrene is possibly a carcinogen
Other plastics

e.g.Nylon, acrylic

Polycarbonate

Electric wiring

Polycarbonate is used in bottles , compact discs and medicine containers

Depends on type of plastic but generally difficult to recycle Polycarbonate is derived from BPA which has been found to be a hormone disruptor.

Only buy BPA free plastics

 

The ‘best’ and safest plastics are               .    Although   is widely recycled, it degrades with each recycling until ultimately is only fit for landfill.

This is an article from the St Peter’s Maney Parish Magazine Feb 201802

  1. Some steps we can take to reduce our plastic use:
  • Buy as little one-use plastic as possible
  • Avoid plastic water bottles, one-use coffee cups, plastic cutlery
  • Refuse plastic straws
  • Take your own bag to the shops
  • Buy loose fruit and veg and put it unwrapped into your bag
  • Use greaseproof paper or tinfoil to wrap food instead of cling film
  • Use glass, ceramic or stainless steel for food storage and microwaving
  • Use a bar of soap rather than liquid; a safety razor not disposables
  • Avoid wet wipes – use a flannel or cotton pads/wool
  • Choose clothing made with natural fibres
  • Look for recyclable sweet and chocolate wrappers or buy Pick and Mix
  • Give up chewing gum (it’s actually made of plastic!)

 

  1. Take care how we dispose of plastics:
  • Check out what can be recycled in wheelie bins and at the tip birmingham.gov.uk
  • Recycle plastic bags plus the plastic film from magazines/catalogues at supermarkets
  • Before throwing anything out check if there is a reuse or recycling option available e.g. companies who sell consumer goods must take away your old appliance for recycling – this covers kettles and toasters as well as big items; if you are not buying new, electrical items can be recycled at the local tip;  most charity shops will take unwearable clothes/bedding for rags; if you are having work done on your house check what is going to happen to the old materials – there is even a scheme for recycling vinyl flooring.

 

  1. Lobby supermarkets, manufacturers, shopkeepers, utility companies, MPs. Talk to friends and neighbours about the problems and what we can do to improve things.
  • Bio-degradable plastics exist – we need more investment in developing them
  • Over-packaging can be reduced – Iceland are setting a target which the other supermarkets will have to follow
  • Washing machine manufacturers and water authorities can develop better filtering systems to stop micro fibres from getting into the seas and water supply

 

  1. Don’t worry about being different. If people see you putting fruit and vegetables in your trolley without plastic bags it will raise their awareness and encourage them to follow your example.  Staff at the checkout are quite used to it.

 

Visit to Streetly Methodist Eco Festival

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We spent September 23rd in the delightful beech glade Streetly.

We did the information stall in partnership with Eco Maney (the environmental group at St Peter’s Church, Maney).

We were able to explain about our current projects: Air Quality, contributing to the planning of the Langley Housing Development and the small-scale hydro project at Witton Lakes.

We congratulate the church on arranging such a multi-faceted day of entertainment and information.

Because their theme was trees and the celebration of 800 years of the Forest Charter, they planted a new rowan tree; and collected signatures for the Woodland Trust.

 

Photo below shows Steve Lyne (Chair of Eco Sutton) & Owen Cain (from St Peter’s Maney) on our joint stall at the 2nd Streetly Methodists Eco Festival.

Sustainability – reply to Town Council Consultation

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Because of our belief that Climate Change is the most important issue for public authorities, we made the following submission to the Sutton C Town Council:

RSCTC DRAFT STRATEGIC PLAN RESPONSE
1 Vision & Values
We suggest expanding the vision as follows: Founded in our past, working for our future to improve local services & facilities AND OUR ENVIRONMENT, making Sutton Coldfield an even Better Place TO LIVE.
2 & 3 Corporate priorities
For us ‘greener’ means giving a high priority to building a local response to climate change. We believe that our town plan has to build in sustainability and resilience, on our first steps to be where we want to be in the next thirty years at least, in order to sustain the gains to our economy and our community.
4 Key Actions
1.1 Although Birmingham City Council is an important partner, Sutton is not an island and need constructive relationships with North Warwickshire and Walsall whose councils are planning developments on our borders which will impact on our traffic and bring in residents who see Sutton as their nearest town for shops and other facilities. Similarly we need to be aware that from with Birmingham localities like Erdington and Kingstanding have a similar focus on Sutton. A revised Town Centre plan needs to link to the way plans for the other neighbourhoods are developed.
1.2 Sutton Park is clearly very important. However the comments are much too restricted: there are many groups of stakeholders who will want a say in how the park develops. The park’s ecology is as important as car parking. Has the possibility of a trust to manage the park been shelved? Should lessons be sought from the management of the National Parks? A full consultation of the stakeholders deserves a full day conference; and will take months to prepare.
1.4 The Supplementary Planning document will need to be ambitious about future-proofing the new housing and industrial area. The latest government thinking about space standards, disabled access, ‘safer by design’ ideas, high insulation standards, reducing water run-off should be included. References to these ideas can be found in public documents like:
Secured by design. ‘SBD New Homes 2014’
DCLG, DH and DWP 2008. Lifetime Homes, Lifetime Neighbourhoods
The Nationally Described Space standards
Gov UK. Housing White paper 2017. Fixing our Broken Housing Market.
2.2 Include walking and cycling routes in the signage proposals.
2.3 Link litter to the promotion of recycling
2.4 Safer roads thinking should not be restricted to car usage. Pedestrians and cyclists must be considered. And safer includes better air quality, which implies a wider discussion about car usage, public transport and promoting hybrid and electric vehicles for residents.
2.8 Safeguard and champion Sutton’s Libraries. The libraries could revise the way they display local information, given that there are hundreds of voluntary groups. Putting a leaflet into a folder is not ideal publicity or communication and needs to be refreshed.
2.9 At the end of the season, plants could be ‘grown on’ rather than dumped, and distributed by local groups.
2.10 We agree that a heritage approach to marketing Sutton as a destination is a good idea; and builds on the current initiative by Holy Trinity Church, the Civic Society and The Park – perhaps a heritage trail is possible, with the central library as tourist information centre (signed as above) and possible inclusion of other churches and the Islamic Centre.
2.12 & 2.13 Include all Sutton’s parks and green areas in the planning.
2.17 Link this idea to a Sustainability Forum, with support from Sustainability West Midlands.
2.18 Link this to a Sutton App for the walking and cycling routes.
3.1 Give consideration to a generic ‘Enforcement Officer’ for ensuring compliance with local standards like planning and building regulations, empty homes legislation and liaison with BCC colleagues.
Also consider designating an officer as Sustainability Officer, with a view to linking across disciplines the actions of the council.
And for all council appointments give consideration to employing local staff.
3.4 Use existing Neighbourhood Forums and other similar groups for communication and consultation. See that there are forums for all the areas of Sutton (see below 3.5).
3.5 This is a crucial action. The council should study the neighbourhoods and consult on how to cover the whole town with areas that have a coherent local interest. Then those groups can proceed to writing either a Neighbourhood Plan or a Community Plan. This thinking will have to chime with the Town Centre Plan
3.6 Have Sustainability as one of the performance indicators, in order to see that all council policies make the links between the local economy, local society, transportation, health and our environment.
5 Other comments
One planning issue that should be tackled early is to exempt Sutton from the Birmingham regulations that cover the height of development. Sutton should not be shackled to a policy that suits the city centre. These and many planning issues should be looked at in more detail to further the unique identity of Sutton Coldfield.
Look into a local procurement policy, similar to BCC, in order to help the local economy.

John Heywood,
on behalf of EcoSutton
31st May 2017

Paper on Sustainability discussed by Sutton Town Council 14.3.17

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Vision Statement for The

Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield

 

Clean      Historic      Green      Resilient

 

 

Sustainability  and resilience for Sutton Coldfield

By Eco Sutton

Sustainability is a way of looking at the world that emphasises that as a town we have the freedom to make responsible choices; that we can live well without wasting resources; and that we can thrive without exploiting our residents or people from other areas.  As a historic town it will be natural for Sutton to act in a way that will preserve a legacy for future generations.

The way we would do this would be to examine any policy initiative brought before the Town Council with the combined perspective of the benefits for the local economy, the protection of the environment and improving social cohesion.

The advantages of using this threefold vision would be several: it would mean that a new idea was not looked at on solely its own merits, but would be viewed from an overarching perspective; policies would be examined for how they interacted with other policies (sometimes called joined-up thinking); and over time a benchmark of Royal Town thinking would develop.

Sutton Park stands as an example of the need for this sort of approach.  We all appreciate the Park and see it as an indispensible asset for the Town; and as an attraction that brings visitors and income to us.  But too many visitors will either degrade the Park or call for increasing management costs.  Also the Park has been managed countryside since mediaeval times.  There is an ambition that the Town Council assumes responsibility for this countryside, which would then bring the town councillors and residents up against choices of what habitat to promote, what would make for an ecological balance of flora and fauna (eg cattle and ponies), what leisure pursuits to encourage, what commercial enterprises to allow.  Sustainability, comprising economic, environmental and social perspectives, could be one yardstick to measure the competing interests against.

Following the ratification of the Paris Agreement on reducing carbon emissions, some response to the impact of climate change is necessary.  Sutton is in a fortunate geographical position.  The local impacts of more extreme weather events have been slight: some small scale flooding, which is very unpleasant for some householders, but not disruptive to the town as a whole.  But changes are in the offing; and preparing a resilient and local response is better than waiting for diktats from central authorities.  Reduction in carbon emissions will imply changes to the use of oil and gas, for transport, heating and lighting.  Electric vehicles will not be a relevant replacement unless the energy comes from renewable sources.  Insulation is a cost-effective way of reducing heating bills, but not an aesthetically pleasing one.  Choices will have to be made about what is a sustainable lifestyle for residents, commerce and industry; and maybe there is a role for the Town Council in facilitating community discussions on the way forward.

If there is going to be a reduction in travel, then the importance of the local economy will rise.  Certainly the Town council should consider a policy of local procurement where possible; and continuing the provision of a local farmers’ market.  Some councils have linked procurement with other business standards like paying the living wage and other marks of being a good employer.  Promotion of such fairness in business and employment practices can instil confidence in the workforce and enhance the firm’s reputation.

Housing developments will be a factor in maintaining the health of local business and industry.  Sutton has long been a town where people aspire to live; but businesses are not purely staffed by high-flyers.  A mix of housing will provide a mix of employees.  Sustainable housing developments include a proper infrastructure of services like shopping, education, transport and availability of jobs.  The Town Council might also look at planning and building regulations that promote housing that by investment at the construction stage reduces future expenses by the provision of level access, doors wide enough for wheelchairs, water recycling, high standard insulation, solar panels for electricity and hot water, and parking areas that allow drainage rather than run-off.

Similarly a balance can be maintained between a continual movement towards automation or high-tech solutions to manufacture and the advantages of high levels of employment, which avoids the provision of the debilitating reliance on benefits.

There are at least three other transport issues that need to be considered in the town.  Poor air quality is a growing concern, especially when it is caused by diesel vehicles.  The figures show a considerable number of deaths are attributable to the effects of respiratory problems; and that the worst sufferers are the young and the elderly; and interestingly that being in a vehicle does not give adequate protection.

The second issue arises from the history and geography of the town.  Road access from the north to the town centre has to pass through the conservation area, which thus produces a bottleneck.  Access from the east is limited by where there are crossings of the brook and the railway; and this is exacerbated by the infrequent bus service in that direction.

Sutton is not yet a town where cyclists and pedestrians get much priority.  All these three issues would benefit from the holistic thinking that comes with sustainability.

Possible ways forward

  1. The Town Council could espouse sustainability as a principle for its policy making.
  2. An examination could be made of how other authorities have taken on such a principle. The Welsh Government is one example.
  3. Sustainability West Midlands could be contacted for advice.
  4. A Sustainability Forum could be established, by harnessing the existing voluntary organisations with the businesses which already have such credentials. The encouragement of green business opportunities would be welcome.

 

Among the voluntary organisations to be included are many of the churches, who have the aspiration of preserving the Earth.

 

John  Heywood

Eco Sutton.

 

 

 

Eco Sutton Achievements 2009 – 2016

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In preparing for our public stall we had a think about what we have acieved so far. Here is the list we came up with:
 Member of the City’s Sustainability Forum
 Accepted by the city council as an environmental community group for Sutton Coldfield
 Showed films from Findhorn and Transition Towns
 Ran a Garden-Sharing project
 Partner with Bike North Birmingham on cycle routes
 Now working on walking routes to improve health
 Ran information stalls at New Hall Mill and EXPO in Parade
 Distributed electricity-saving and water-saving gadgets
 Helped organise a General Election Hustings
 Ran meetings before and after the UN Paris Agreement
 Petitioned for the improvement of air quality in Sutton Coldfield
 Contributed to city consultations on their Plan for 2035; on their Green Belt proposals; on their Waste Policy for 2019
 Worked with City Council officers surveying the pools in Sutton Park with Friends of Sutton Park and Witton Lakes as potential mini-hydro-electric generation sites
 Now working as technical advisers with Witton Lodge Community Association on placing a contract for a hydro scheme to generate electricity for their Eco Lodge
 Giving initial consideration to an Anaerobic Digestion scheme for Sutton Park
 Beginning work with the new town council on sustainability policy
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
The advice given to the public has been on: solar panels, cavity wall and loft insulation; local & organic food growing; cycle and walking routes
Our campaigning has been for Sutton Coldfield to lead the way on implementing energy reduction plans in order to help preserve our planet