Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category

Idea #6 – community food swap

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Every community ought to have a place where food can be left for other people. The food might be food that one realises one isn’t going to use before it is past its best, or it might be food bought impulsively, say, and no use will be made of it in that household. Rather than recycling food that has been wasted, food ought to be eaten, and this would be a good way for food to be eaten by people who would like to eat it.

Idea #5 – Wedge

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Support local independent businesses by using the Wedge card, strengthen the community. And get discounts. Like a reward card, but not quite as we know it.

Idea #4 – paying people to recycle

Friday, May 21st, 2010

I don’t believe in the government overcompensating for the rest of the population when it comes to positive change. Whether the aim is to send less to landfill or to create a population that is not obese, I don’t see why money should ever seriously come into changing people’s habits.

With recycling, I think targets should be met by educating people about the facts of landfills rather than by bribing them to recycle more. Perhaps the issue of landfills filling up quickly is one considered important enough to use money to change people’s habits, but I think if something is considered important by people they will act on it.

As with any ideas of tackling obesity by paying people to lose weight, increasing the reuse and recycling of materials isn’t an idea dreamt up for the fun of it. It is in our own interests to do something about our landfill situation, so why do we have to even consider being paid for it?

It’s one thing to make recycling easier so that targets can be met, but handing out money is well beyond making it easier. We should take some responsibility for our lives (and environment).

(Incidentally, is anybody using the phrase “nanny state” in response to the suggestion of being paid to recycle more, or is it only used when there’s no suggestion of monetary incentives for a change in our behaviours?)

Idea #3 – recycling

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Maybe recycling isn’t as great as it first appears. For example, I’d not considered that white recycled paper was once paper that was not white and ready for reuse. How did it become white again? Was it bleached? What is the ecological impact of making the paper white again in terms of chemicals and energy used? How many more times can this recycled paper be recycled?

In the end, it seems, recycled materials will end up in landfill. It will just take longer to get there, as materials are recycled until they are no longer useful.

Vote for Policies survey

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

I just did the Vote for Policies survey, based on six issues: education, welfare, immigration, health/NHS, environment and economy. The result, unsurprisingly, was that I mostly prefer Green’s policies (prefering Liberal Democrat’s policies on education).

This survey is meant to be helpful. It is certainly a fantastic idea. I wonder, though, if people will follow through with their results. Of course, it is not telling people who to vote for, but it does indicate which party a person shares beliefs with. Therefore, really, there isn’t any reason for me to not vote Green on Thursday. The only thing I can think of that would stop people following through with their results is tactical voting.

Of course, manifestos are made up of much more than the nine issues included in this survey and the few brief statements made on each one (the other three issues are crime, Europe and democracy), and not everybody would have done the survey with all nine issues, but the survey can be used to give somebody like me an idea of where each party stands on key issues.

I see that 103 people in Oxford East have done the survey so far. Both in Oxford East and overall, Green has a bigger percentage than anybody else. I wonder how all of this will translate.

Waste water recycling

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Perhaps 3 weeks ago, I ran a bath. It was far too much, and it always feels uneasy draining litres of clean water away like that. So I got the bucket that we keep in the kitchen for our recycling and filled it up with the unwanted bath water. I took the bucket outside, but didn’t know what to do with the water, with my growing season not yet started. I poured it into the only watering can we have, and it filled right up to the top because it wasn’t empty to start with. I got another bucket of water from the bath and just left it outside. I can’t even remember what I did with it in the end, but I expect I poured it onto the grass.

That made me seriously think about grey water recycling. I was already aware of the practice of reusing water, but this is the first time I have seriously considered implementing it in my life, despite frequent fantasies of living in a self-reliant house of my own, complete with a composting toilet and efficient water recycling.

We have a washing machine, and we have a bowl in the kitchen sink; we have a shower, but I really only have baths; and we have a conventional toilet, with no modifications to reduce the amount of water that is used to flush it (I don’t know how many litres of water it uses). Finally, we have a garden that has been kind of neglected over winter (since around August/September, actually), but I will definitely be doing something with it this spring/summer, so will have a need for water/a place to recycle water.

So, I am thinking that I will use gravity to transfer my bath water through a length of hosepipe into buckets outside. I am interested in setting up a basic filtering system for this used water so that it will have less debris in it before going onto the plants. I am thinking this: a bucket with a tap filled with a relatively small layer of gravel with a much bigger layer of fine sand on top. The bucket will have a coarse mesh screen through which the water will go first, and the tap will have a filter to filter anything that managed to get through the sand.

Once my bath water is drained into the buckets, I will tip it into the bucket of sand and gravel, which should be set up in such a way that the water can drain into another bucket. I think I will enjoy this setting up this small greywater recycling project. I am going to do a trial before investing in a dustbin and a dustbin amount of sand to see how it works. I was passing an Oxfam shop a few days ago and noticed that they now sell the buckets that one can buy as an Oxfam Unwrapped gift. They cost £6.99, I believe, and they have a tap, so one of those will be ideal.

If it is successful, I will definitely filter all of my bath water during the growing season when I know that I will be watering the plants later in the day; I am aware that greywater should not be stored. I am going to try to be more aware of the water I am wasting, in addition to reusing the water that I do need to use, too, because it is too easy to measure how much we are recycling and completely forget that it might be better to not use the resource in the first place.

I know that any used water that can’t be reused in the garden could be used to flush the toilet, but I don’t think this is going to be the easiest thing to implement. Less easy than working out a setup for the filtering, yes, because not everybody who uses the toilet will be bothered with using a bucket to flush the toilet, and visitors might think we are strange. Also, using a bucket to flush the toilet isn’t going to be anywhere near as fun as watching the once grey water filter through the sand.

If the water I use to have a bath is used twice, that has got to be a less bad thing than being used only only once. I invite comments.

Recycling organic waste

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

On Wednesday, I went to a breakfast seminar hosted by Blake Lapthorn in Seacourt Tower. It was one of a series of such breakfasts, and a man from Agrivert was doing the talking.

He was talking about waste, and he spoke of some interesting things. I knew whilst I was there that I wouldn’t be able to properly articulate the thoughts and ideas from this seminar unless I did it immediately; I didn’t, so I can’t. I will make a list of thoughts and ideas, instead of trying to generate paragraphs.

  1. Agrivert deals with organic waste.
  2. One method Agrivert uses is anaerobic digestion.
  3. James, the man giving the talk, said that we – the people who create household waste – don’t like to see or smell the waste we create, we dislike the possibility of having the waste we create being weighed in order to tax us for creating too much, yet we have no problem creating endless amounts of waste.
  4. There is heat and electricity produced through anaerobic digestion. The heat could be put to use if there was a new housing development planned near to an anaerobic digester by being pumped to the houses and used for underfloor heating.
  5. Digestate is also produced. This is nutrient rich.
  6. There are 2 million AD plants in India, James said. There are far fewer in Britain.
  7. People in rural parts of some countries can use domestic plants, into which they can put the waste from their animals and get gas on tap for cooking.
  8. There is a prison in Rwanda that has a plant. It has reduced its energy requirements from firewood, deals with its sewage, and produces a compost to go onto their gardens.

I think there is great potential for this technology to work on a medium scale, with hospitals, prisons and schools dealing with their own waste and reducing their reliance on fossil fuels for energy requirements. Such establishments could then also grow some of their own food to deal with the resultant digestate.

Idea #2 – Reason washing machine

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

I just watched a video of Andrew Reason talking about the washing machine he invented. The drum slides open and you just drop the washing into the drum. It has a 10kg capacity, yet has standard European dimensions. When the washing is put into the drum, the washing machine weighs the load, and only uses that amount of water. It has some other clever details, too.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

On Saturday, I read an email from YouGov about TellYouGov. It is described as a service to make sure your opinion on any topic is counted in a meaningful way.

Positive or negative sentiments about any topic can be expressed using Twitter, email or SMS (for only the cost of the SMS itself), and are displayed almost immediately on the website. The index page of the website shows the most recent comments; on the separate pages for each of the topics people have so far spoken about is all of the comments in the last 24 hours.

The leaderboard has a strange filter system for organising the topics of the last 24 hours (or 48 hours, 1 week, 2 weeks or 1 month) that I can’t understand but, basically, what’s near the top is the most spoken about.

The first sentiment I offered was by text. It was about cyclists, it was a negative comment (“Cyclists – They should wear helmets and have decent lights on their bicycles. Knowing something about how the road works would be good, too.”) and, surprisingly, it was one of a flurry of comments about cyclists. I didn’t know that anybody felt so passionately about law-breaking cyclists as I do.

Immigration, the BNP,  the Robin Hood Tax, climate change, supermarkets, customer service, recycling, food, jobs, litter, Aldi, the police, “nanny state”, work, mortgages, volunteering, Jamie Oliver, schools and palm oil are all of the other topics I have commented on.

I have also expressed sentiments about cheap meat, the working week, sustainability and Money Saving Expert. Annoyingly, none of these appeared. There is something about the system YouGov is using that means some comments do not get through; I don’t know what it is. In the case of the first two, I should have (and later did) marked them as “food” and “work”. In the case of Money Saving Expert, there were already comments about it, so I do not know why my own didn’t register. I don’t know what happened with the sustainability comment.

I like that there are no usernames displayed, and no conversations take place, though comments are often related to each other. I don’t like that it is only possible to see the last month of comments on any topic. I suppose it would be undesirable to keep all comments indefinitely, but I wonder if they might be able to go through the comments on each subject every day and compile the most interesting or something.

The website is a good idea. I like YouGov’s surveys, but with surveys there is no way for the person doing the stats to know exactly what your opinions are on the subject polled, unless there is a comment box somewhere. Even if there is space for comments, that’s perhaps not what they are most interested in. With TellYouGov, the people who might ordinarily commission polls have an extra source of honest information, information they might never get if from a poll’s resultant pie chart.

For instance, on the subject of cyclists, a lot of people are concerned or annoyed by some cyclists’ abuse of the law by not wearing a helmet and by cycling on the path. If the right person was looking at these comments (and those about the police not properly enforcing laws and even breaking some themselves), perhaps something good would come out of it. For this reason, TellYouGov could prove to be quite powerful. Surprisingly, I haven’t seen much in the way of blatant advertising, and I don’t think that it will be very useful for this purpose.

Idea #1 – urban farming

Monday, February 15th, 2010

One idea and a thought before I go to bed: “Paris, just one century ago, grew more than 100,000 tons of crops; it ended up with so much that the surplus was shipped to London”.