Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Time to save some money and hopefully the world!

I am back from holiday but have not been well enough to be at work all day.

I decided to log on and check my emails - it was a nightmare! I had been so efficient before I went on holiday I had unplugged everything, modems, routers, stereo etc.

When it was up and running I started fantasising about buying solar panels to run my broadband connection and in the process came across some products that we should all give a go!

You change your plug on your fridge or freezer for a savaplug and it can save you up to 20% of the electricity running costs.

It came out of a government funded project - it does work so get buying them! I'll let you know how much my bill has gone down by.

Another interesting product - you plug it into a socket and it regulates the electricity supply. I can't quite see how this works but I'm here to live ethically so I probably will order one so I can tell you if it works or was a hoax.

Now we are talking more money for this baby but it helps you realise what electricity you are using. You put the sensor on the cables coming in the house and you get a little portable screen which shows how much power your consuming.

It won't save money directly but imagine if you could see how much power the telly on standby was wasting!

If you want more information have a look at Windtrap they have some cool products.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Twice in a day - is too much!

Two people today commented I haven't posted for a long time. One of my reasons is I have been too angry - blogs discuss ideas but what I want to see is some action!

Here is a great example:

Wakefield Council is going to sign the Nottingham Declaration By signing, they pledge to actively tackle climate change in your area and work with others to reduce emissions country-wide.

At the same time we proposed a Hydro Power project 12 months ago at the council's flagship project "Wakefield Waterfront".

Was it technically too difficult?
No - we had engineers say it was possible.

Was it too expensive?
No - It would actually make money over its life time.

Did we have the time to put a plan together?
Yes - the engineers said we could do it - just political delays and people not making decisions. In fact we have been planning the Waterfront for over 15 years!

This is one of the biggest wears in Yorkshire - lets celebrate it, make a fantastic looking hydro project at the heart of our city that could generate electricity for 400 houses. It would be a wonderful opportunity to kick start our commitment to the Nottingham Declaration and send a message out that people in Wakefield care about our planet.

The probelm is we don't have the political will in Wakefield - I'm not just blaming Chief Executives or local politicians.

Who in Wakefield is standing up and campaigning for sustainable energy? We all sit by why new developments are built but we don't ask how sustainable the behavior is.

It is about time people banded together and did something in Wakefield.

If your interested then get in contact with me.

Anybody up for it?

Friday, January 26, 2007


A couple of weeks ago I said we were getting a local organic veg box. The goodies were so great we started eating the content before I took a photo. Sorrt for the delay but here is our second box.

Today our organic produce arrived so I took a picture before I started making dinner!

The local veg is a success - friends of ours bought us a seasonal veg recipe book and others have been chipping in with ideas - we have had a range of really great meals.

The farm is about 15 miles away and apparently it is cut fresh the day it is delivered - which seems to be true.

We order the box from Myrtle Health Foods who are based a few miles away and deliver to Wakefield on a Friday. We spend £15 and they deliver for free - it is a bargain because it takes the two of us two weeks to get through all the veg. We also ordered Yorkshire, organic, free range eggs and organic cheese - there is loads more on the site to.

It is local, organic, really fresh, and works out much cheaper than organic stuff from the supermarket.

Start ordering a veg box it is great!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Congratulations to our neighbours!

I was in Sheffield yesterday and firstly I must congratulate the council and railway authorities on this amazing square!

You walk out of the station and the gateway into the city is this incredible water sculpture. There is a mirror like curved piece of steal with water running down into various water features below.

I have to say whether it is driving into Huddersfield and seeing the wind turbines or getting of a train in Sheffield and seeing this incredible sculpture - Wakefield's neighbours are changing the face and attitudes of northern towns and cities.

My reservation is that even as Wakefield's plans emerge they are not meeting 'flagship status'. We need to be pushing boundries - I remember Jonathan Hall (Ex-Wakefield Regeneration) saying that we need the econmic regeneration and then we can think of changing peoples attitudes and looking at sustainability.

I have to say - our neighbours are showing that you can put people and sustainability first and then peoples will help you drive the change forward.

Again well done everyone in Sheffield who worked hard to pull of this fantastic gateway to the city!

PS. Sheffield have had bill boards around the city encouraging people to recycle over Christmas! In fact they are giving profits from the recycling to Sheffield's Children's Hospital - to encourage people even more!

Well done again Sheffield!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

New Year Anger!

I explained at the begining of this blog that I am involved in a number of community initiatives. I chair the Wakefield District Partnerships 'Sustainability Advisory Group' which promotes sustainable practice in our district.

I was absoluely fuming today when I heard what has being happening at one of Wakefield's recycling centres over Christmas.

A local Wakefield citizen after Christmas had his kids stripping of the paper, and plastic, seperating the bottles and cans etc. so he could take it down to his local recycling centre. He then realised he hadn't enough to fill the car so he went and spoke to his neighbour and took his waste as well.

They then jumped in the car and headed off to the centre - after a long cue they were told, "PUT IT ALL IN THE BIG SKIP WE ARE TO BUSY TO RECYLE TODAY - IT IS ALL OFF TO THE LANDFILL"

This makes me so angry. I am going to speak to people this week and get this issue addressed. I am sure the person in question has commitment to continue recycling but people so often in the district say, 'it all ends up in landfill there is no point recycling'. What can I now say to these people?

The WMDC website says "If we each take more responsibility for our waste, as individuals and as communities, we can try to ensure that our local environment is protected both now and for future generations." Well guys, individuals are taking responsibility but it seems that either council staff or policy is causing the problem now - get it sorted!

Happy New Year

A week late I know but we got home from Street Angels, (If you want to know more go to - ), at 5am on New Years day and then I was in court in Leeds with a client at 9am, 2nd January! A busy start - but not the way I hope to carry on.

I said this blog would be considering my 'Emergy' consumption in 2007 - wrestling with the real issues of trying to live a sustainable life.

1. I am now vegetarian! - I had some chicken and mushroom pizza at 11.55pm on the 31st December and now the year of not eating meat has started. Before you ask I have not brought myself to give up dairy - that is too much. My aim is to buy local organic dairy products - so that I know they have been farmed in a sustainable manner.

2. Car - At the moment we car share 3 cars between 4 of us. We are going to go down to two cars as a start. My personal aim is to walk to any meetings under 2 miles and use public transport whenever possible.

3. Organic & Local - I have ordered our first organic veg box from a farm in Wakefield - I have been told it is totally organic and picked on the day - so I let you know on Friday what it is like. They are also delivering Organic Yorkshire Eggs to us.

4. Supermarkets - Can I survive without going to the supermarket? At home I think it is probably possible - at work when we have to cook for lots of people cheaply it will be a lot, lot harder. My aim at the moment is if we need supermarket provisions we will go to the COOP in either Outwood or Ackworth. The COOP has a long history of supporting both local and global communities. There is a strong commitment to fairtrade and organic. I am now a member of the COOP!

5. Clothes - I have been committed to ethical clothes for a while. I love Howies and above is a picture of my 'No Sweat' Trainers (from I got for Christmas - thanks mum. My intention is to cut down on what I buy, go hunting in charity shops and then buy Fairtrade and organic clothes. By the way Howies sale is on NOW!

6. Heating - We have stopped out central heating coming on automatically every day. Much better to snuggle up in front of the fire. Today is so warm I haven't even needed the fire.

7. Cleaning Products - We have moved over to a range of organic, natural stuff - I'll tell you how it has gone!

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Positive Face : The Negative Face

The second tallest wind turbine in the UK may be built in West Yorkshire.

The 125m tower will be constructed in the car park of Asda's distribution depot in Normanton, if plans are approved.

The turbine would be taller than Big Ben, and only slightly smaller than Blackpool Tower and the London Eye.

Asda who are part of the Walmart group says it may face opposition to the plan, but sees it as part of its eventual aim to become 100% dependent on renewable energy.

"The turbine will completely pay back the energy it takes to build it in just eight months, and then will continue to produce carbon-free electricity for the rest of its life."

As the chair of 'Wakefield's Sustainability Advisory Group' I have got to be excited that one of the biggest companies in the world is taking environmental sustainability seriously.

Do any of you remember last weeks headline?

Supermarkets' sweatshop shame.

The claims in a report, 'Fashion Victims', based on interviews with workers at six factories which employ more than 5,000 people in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka.

Wages in the factories start at just £8 a month. They can rise to £16 a month for sewing machine operators but workers complain it is still not enough to cover food, housing and medical bills.

The working day is a minimum of ten hours but some staff work every day in the factories, clocking up to 96 hours a week. Some staff work up to 140 hours unpaid overtime a month and are threatened with dismissal if they refuse.
Can a company like Walmart not afford to pay these guys more out of their 11 billion pound profit they made last year? Can a company take responsibility for it's CO2 but not take a responsible view on employment?

The area of 'Emergy' when it comes to supermarkets is huge.

I am not going to start to unpick this now - you can just ponder a company that can do both these things. Over the first months of the new year I will start to unpick this . . . . . . .

Finger lickin-horror!

I was helping some friends with their bussines plan for an 'organic / fairtrade shop'. The decision was that we were going to send out for junk food. I settled for a Bean Burger from Burger King as the best ethical option! (Hold off your hate mail - you may as well hear the whole story - it is only going to get worse).

Unfortunately Burger King had closed so a KFC family bucket was brought back. (Now start the hate mail).

What interested me is that I am not a great fan of the battered variety of chicken so I don't normaly eat it. My presumption was that KFC was an evil company but I actualy didn't have a clue - I have been involved with the old McDonalds campaigns, watched Supersize Me but was KFC all evil? A joke question someone asked me was 'Do they boil there chickens alive?'

The answer is, 'YES' - no really - KFC apparently put live chickens into large pans of boiling water!

I have found a campaign and a half - where famours 'chicks' support humble poultry. You can get this solid source of information from Auntie Pamela. In fact she has made herself very solid over the years!

The poor humble chicken has very few rights. KFC treats 850 million animals a year in ways that would warrant legal action if the animals were cows or your humble pussy.

I think that was my last KFC.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What is worse than my car?

Well a new report tells us that it is meat and milk production. I have been trying to find a trusted source for this information that has been going round. I think the United Nation report on the 29 November is fairly solid evidence.

Livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions, (as measured in CO2), than transport - in fact it is responsible for a whopping 18% of Greenhouse Gases.

The UN say, “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.”

Perhaps the way rich nations like us: Farm, cut down forests, waste food, eat processed meat etc is the problem rather than the poor humble animals - who spend their lives inside buildings, in factory farm conditions. The lives that they live are often short and painful, without the grace, dignity and enjoyment that all life deserves.

In many poorer nations, people often cannot afford to eat meat. As we know, the wealthier nations of the world consume far more than their share of resources, leaving others with less and with a deteriorating world environment to boot.

The report also says that meat production is leading to deforestation, water pollution and land pollution.

We could provide enough food for everyone if we were not feeding it to livestock - 80% of the corn produced in the USA goes to feed livestock. That is a lot of corn.

Over simplified perhaps? Are you already on your carbon neutral site buying another tree to appease guilt? (Is that a con - another article perhaps).

This is really important though folks. We may be doing our bit with our Fairtrade advent calendar but: poor people starving - biggest contributor to Greenhouse Gases.

Big Story, Big Issue and Big Action Needed

Why Emergy?

'Emergy' can be defined as the total solar equivalent available energy of one form that was used up directly and indirectly in the work of making a product or service.

There is loads of scientific stuff about 'emergy' but that is not what this blog is going to be about. If you want to have a look at that start with Wickepedia and you will find various links.

I want to think through all the energy - physical, emotional and metaphysical that it takes to get a product, project or service in front of me. (You can tell I have an arts degree).

Why am I doing this? Am I a lentil weaving vegetarian Eco warrior who wants to spread my personal propaganda? I don't think so. I am sat here wearing a 'gap' jumper (Some of you have probably already started sending me hate mail. It was a present from a close friend, do I reject hospitality? It is 4 years old - do I buy a new Fairtrade jumper even though I don't need one?) This is contrasted with my Howies jeans - company run by totally cool, ethical surfer dudes - but they have just took a large investment from Timberland. Dave & Claire from Howies say that Timberland are also very cool guys - my extremely cool wife says they are a bit towny, they are definitely a much bigger corporation, who haven't really spread their ethical message thus far.

So Why? I want to treat the people, animals and the earth with care and respect.

So really why? I have a beautiful veggie but very cool wife who over the last 4 years has gradually helped me turn some of my thoughts and ideas into actions.

So . . . . . why? I have a belief, that we should love others, even enemies, (I'm not very good at the enemies bit) and also to look after the earth. The guys who I work and play with talk about 'rebuilding the ruined walls' - whether that is physical regeneration or metaphysical. The way we buy, use, throw away - is a really broken system that needs to change and really fast.

This blog will map my 'emergy footprint' though out 2007 . . . . . wish me luck . . . . .


I have been working for a number of months in 2006 on local community projects and hopefully doing some good work. I am trying to make Wakefield a little bit better.

I do a mix of stuff - I spend some time as an advocate helping people speak up, a fair amount of time coordinating Street Angels a bit of time on Fairtrade, lots of meetings and stuff for Wakefield's Sustainability Advisory Group and recently time helping people look at starting a 'chic' Ethical Shop and cafe for 18 to 35s.

A friend and community worker said, "You're going to end up ill if you keep doing all this stuff." Then I was told by a colleague, "After you finish your large advocacy case in early January you will need a few weeks off to recover."

Well. I am fairly tied, probably fed up, don't know what work I am doing in '07 and not too sure anymore what I belive in, 'but the fight is strong in me'.

For 2007 I am going to focus on one word 'Emergy'. Looking at the full cost of what I and others do . . . . . . . . .