Posts tagged ‘sustainability’

October 11, 2011

It’s been a while

by growingpeople

But to make up for my absence, here’s something which has nothing to do with gardening whatsoever.

I am a very big nappy consumer (or rather my daughter is), and like many parents, I have guilty visions of landfill piles of them (now one year high) with great big Safi-labels stuck on them. Despite my early good intentions, I manage to come up with excuses for not using the cloth ones (too messy, they leak, more washing means tons more water and electricity, our flat is too small for soaking buckets all over the place, etcetera, etcetera). I know our grandmothers managed just fine, but if we’re going down that road, they also managed without the internet.

When I was pregnant, I said I’d use cloth, then when Safi was born I downgraded to only using the bio-degradable ones, and then as my bank balance shrivelled, so did my ethics, and now it’s whichever ones are on offer at the shop. Yuck.

Of course it’s complete madness to take the “easy” option a disposable provides, of producing synthetic fibres, plastic and adhesives, packaging, shipping, and purchasing the lot hundreds of times a month when I could just be giving a piece of cloth a rinse, but I feel like I spend half my free time doing housework as it is, and I can’t be bothered to do any more, which I freely admit to. I rationalise this by telling myself that I am pedantically “green” in every other aspect of my life so I’m allowed this one thing. Kind of. And I consistently find that it’s the one thing that other, otherwise sensible and ethically sound people allow themselves alongside their solar panels, Ecover and allotments.

So. I’m very hopeful about the UK’s first nappy-recycling centre which opened last week in the West Midlands, with four more due to open over the next four years.  They’ll also recycle adult incontinence pads and sanitary towels, collectively known as AHPs (Absorbent Hygiene Products). Knowaste, the company behind the centre, “will use state-of-the-art technology to recycle AHPs, sterilising and separating the materials to recover plastic and fibre that can then be used for making new products, such as roof tiles or plastic components and fibre based construction and commercial tubes”, says the Guardian. The centre will recycle roughly one fifth of the UK’s AHPs, collecting from nurseries, hospitals and public washrooms.

The glaring omission here is obviously the vast majority of nappies which get disposed of at home and which therefore won’t be collected by Knowaste for recycling. Which makes me think how wonderful it would be if alongside our kitchen waste blue bin, garden waste brown bin and standard green recycling box, we were to start seeing nappy-recycling boxes as part of residential recycling.

Yes, it would be great if we could avoid the production and disposal of the waste material in the first place, but given that cloth has trouble taking off even among the most well-meaning of people, allowing parents an option B which doesn’t ask anything of their wallet and which slots neatly into a collection system which is already in place and perfectly adhered to seems like it could be second best. Still madness, but realistically something to be hopeful about.

 

July 22, 2011

Secret London Garden #5: The King’s Cross Skip Garden, Pancras Road

by growingpeople

“After the Olympic Park, this is the biggest building site in London”, says Paul Richens, the King’s Cross Skip Garden‘s enthusiastic and wonderfully knowledgeable gardener who shows me around – which is what makes the choice of location for this growing space so remarkable. The garden is located right inside the Kings Cross Central development, home to Eurostar, the new underground station, the nearly-finished University of the Arts campus and future-home to dozens of new office buildings and flats, the whole lot scheduled for completion by 2020. It is, as the name suggests, entirely constructed in a series of recycled skips, and designed to be a travelling garden, hoisted up and moved to new sites around the development as building work progresses.

Building work is in fact due to start at the garden’s current location on Pancras Road in the coming weeks, and it will shortly be re-housed at the other end of the building site on York Way. It will be interesting to see how its new location changes the feel of the space, which is heavily influenced by the juxtaposition of the station’s Gothic architecture, the Eurostar terminal’s metal and glass cladding, and the rubble of the building site, all visible from the garden and defining its very nature. With another 8 years to go before the site’s completion, there’s a real question mark over how, and more specifically, where, this garden may go next and what that will mean for its development and preservation.

Paul explains the garden’s design to me: each skip represents an element of a full-blown garden, so there is a poly-tunnel skip, an orchard skip, a root skip and so on, all powered by what he’s called the Green Engine – the skip housing an impressive wormery and huge tufts of Bocking 14 Comfrey, the organic gardener’s secret weapon when it comes to mulching and nourishing the earth. The skips aren’t just filled with earth, but instead contain wooden beds and a set of stairs down the centre of each one, so that the student gardeners who come along to help Paul maintain the site have easy access to all areas of the growing space.  Educational workshops and talks take place in the garden’s “bio-dome”, the cosy tent space at the rear of the garden.

each skip contains one ton of soil, arranged in beds and accessed through a set of stairs

(left) Paul at work (right) the Green Engine

(left) the Orchard skip (right) the Eurostar terminal overshadows the garden

(left) tumbling alpine strawberries mark their territory (right) the view from the educational tent

The project is an initiative of Global Generation, an award-winning organisation that provides young people with opportunities to get involved in environmental and sustainable projects, under the themes of “I, We and the Planet”, and has been heavily supported by the Guardian, Camden Council, Capital Growth and Big Lottery.

May 6, 2011

Secret London Garden #2: Garden Barge Square, Reeds Wharf

by growingpeople

The residential barges that make up the floating Garden Barge Square are moored at Downings Roads Moorings, Reeds Wharf – east of Tower Bridge on the South side of the Thames. These 200 year old moorings were very nearly the victims of closure at the hands of Southwark Council (who deemed the set-up an “eyesore”) a few years ago, but a successful campaign and cross-party support have enabled them to overthrow the eviction notice and stay put.

Which is a great thing, because as well as being a floating garden, the moorings house over seventy people, including several families with children, businesses and artist studios. The gardens themselves are built onto the roofs of the converted barges, which have been topped with huge metal trays and then filled with a thick layer of soil, the barges then joined together by a series of bridges and walkways. Self-seeded wildflowers first sprung up on the barges in the mid 1980s and provided the inspiration for the further planting up of the floating gardens. The rooftops are now home to an abundance of herbs and flowers, a quince tree, Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Fresia’, Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae, ferns and an apple tree. Evergreen and silver-leafed plants such as lavender and Stipa tenacissima are particularly well adapted to the dry and windy air of the Thames.

As well as contributing to the character of the historic wharf it occupies, Garden Barge Square provides a habitat and shelter for Thames water birds and river fish, and maintains sustainable standards through its numerous Ecological  Initiatives.

Sadly for us (it is a private residence, after all), Garden Barge Square is not open to the public for much of the year, but can be viewed from the wharfs. The Gardens are open for public visits once a year, however, as part of the Open Garden Squares Weekend, which takes place on the 11th and 12th of June.

January 25, 2011

Images for a New Activism

by growingpeople

Sustainable living meets great graphic design in Green Patriot Posters: Graphics for a Sustainable Community, a new tear-out collection of posters edited by Dmitri Siegel and Edward Morris, featuring work from 50 contemporary artists including Shepard Fairey and Geoff McFetridge, and plugged in today’s Guardian.

William Etling: Sustain

Each of the pieces promotes awareness of climate change and ethical, sustainable lifestyles, taking inspiration from World War Two posters among other mid-century imagery. As well as featuring bold design, the artists have steered clear of tried and tested environmental slogans of the past, and throw out some real pearls like There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew, and Unplug and spend time with your family.

 

Green Patriot Posters

Chester and Tracy Jenkins: Unplug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published by Metropolis Books in the US and Thames & Hudson in the UK, the book’s green credentials are top-notch, using 100% recycled paper and vegetable-based inks, as well as having used 100% wind power both in the production of the base materials and in the printing process. It’s available for purchase from Art Book and Amazon.

November 28, 2010

Planting for urban bees

by growingpeople

This week I’ve been planning out a bee and butterfly garden to plant out in the spring with one of the school groups I teach in West London.  The school has a large space (already home to several happy chickens) which will be used to plant lots of vegetables, but the students are keen to put all the odds in their favour by attracting as many friendly pollinators to the site as possible.

November 2, 2010

Railroads and Radishes

by growingpeople

The train I used to take on my commute from Stratford to Liverpool Street is raised significantly from ground level, and from it you have a wonderful view of London’s potential. Overgrown and abandoned back gardens filter past, beneath hundreds of concrete balconies piled together like teetering jenga blocks, and metal fences guard empty space, grey and desolate but for a pile of wooden palettes. Watching this scene from the train window, I used to mentally add up all the little squares of concrete and disused gardens like an jigsaw puzzle, and imagine the resulting urban patchwork of “land” as acres and acres of useable growing space.

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