Green Matters

Greener Church LogoAs Christians we try to care for all people and also look after our world. The Greener Church group was formed in June 2009 and, among other initiatives, has been managing a collection service for church members and the many other users of the premises. We have been collecting spectacles, batteries (over 66,000 up to the end of 2018!), printer cartridges, mobile phones, DVDs, CDs, unwanted jewellery and foreign currency, digital cameras and other electronic equipment.

A special ‘Big New Year Recycle’ occurs in January. This year wool was collected for a group knitting blankets and shawls for Ethiopian mothers and their toddlers; shoes for asylum seekers awaiting decisions about their futures; and a fourth collection of tools for Tools With A Mission, who refurbish them before shipping them to needy communities in Africa to help people get jobs. Previously we have collected men’s suits for unemployed men needing something decent for interviews.

The Group actively promotes energy conservation, provides advice when needed, and promotes awareness of environmental matters with ‘Green Tips’ in the Church’s monthly magazine, the Messenger, many of which are summarised below.

Green Tips

LIMIT SHORT CAR JOURNEYS: Despite media reports, new diesels are very clean due to the development of modern catalysts. Indeed small diesels emit no more carbon dioxide than all-electric cars when power station emissions are taken into account. But catalysts don’t work efficiently until they reach full temperature. Short journeys therefore cause disproportionately more harmful pollution, especially in urban areas. Every time one walks, cycles or catches a bus for that short journey instead of using the car, it will be a major help. Sept 19

ZAP THOSE WEEDS: Weeds are tough but herbicides may persist in the ground and do harm. Mains powered zappers are an alternative. They use electricity rather than chemicals so use them on sunny, windy days when most of the electricity will come from renewable or nuclear low carbon sources. July 19

SAVE THE PLANET: PLANT A TREE: Surprisingly 10% of England’s land surface is still covered by woodland (about the same as at the time of the Black Death in the mid 14th century) and has been   steadily increasing since the end of the 1st World War (from 5%). Trees ‘mop up’ carbon dioxide, the main global warming, greenhouse gas. Always replace trees where they have reached the end of their lives and add extra ones where there is space.  May ‘19

PLASTIC? WHAT CAN BE RECYCLED? Plastic is not one material but a range. Much cannot be recycled: it is too difficult or expensive and there are no markets, so it needs separation. There is an American ‘triangle’ scheme which helps if you can find a small (sometimes very small) triangle on an item with a number 1 to 7 inside (and sometimes letters beneath. The groups and common uses are:  1, 2 and 5 can be recycled; 3, 4, 6 and 7 not.

  1. PET (or PETE) Water and other drinks and liquids bottles
  2. HDPE A softer plastic than PET used for milk, household cleaners etc
  3. PVC Very common in guttering, window frames, sheathing electric cables but also used for bubble wrap and packaging
  4. LDPE A flexible plastic typically used for 5p shopping bags, shrink wrapping, magazine sleeves
  5. PP Bottle tops, straws, yoghurt pots, food containers
  6. PS (Polystyrene) disposable cups, insulation, packaging.
  7. Other (sometimes PC) Everything else. Apr ‘19

LESS MEAT MORE VEG? We eat to live: to maintain all the various bodily functions, to grow and repair the body, and provide energy. Besides calories, the body needs specific nutrients: 10 vitamins (A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, D, E, K), 2 acids (folic and pantothenic) and 15 minerals including iron, calcium, salt and traces of others such as copper and zinc. Meat is a rich source of iron and B12, so vegetarians need alternatives lest they suffer from anaemia.  Dairy products are rich in calcium so vegans need additional alternatives or supplements, lest they risk weakened bones, teeth, muscle action and blood clotting. Though the healthiest advice is to enjoy ‘everything in moderation’, a re-balance away from meat, especially beef, would help the environment. Dec ‘18

RECYCLING BATTERIES: Virtually all shops selling batteries are required by law to take them back for safe disposal. Complain loudly if your shop doesn’t. Nov ‘18

NON-PLASTIC BAGS + WRAPPERS: Some magazines are now coming in bio-degradable wrappers. These look ‘milky’ in colour and feel softer than the usual polythene. They are made of starch from potato waste and can go in a normal well aerated compost heap (though will take a year to decompose, or in your green wheelie bin. Oct ‘18

CHECKING CARBON FOOTPRINTS: One’s Carbon Footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main global warming gas, each of us puts into the air. We do this when we use electricity, gas, travel, or buy something because energy is used supplying all goods and services. Different calculators are available. Try Carbon Footprint ( July 18

LOOSE TEA, NOT TEA BAGS: The UK consumes 60 billion cups of tea a year, 96% using tea bags. A plastic goo seals the bags. Alternatives are being sought but using leaf tea helps. June 18

MORE LEMON FOR YOUR SQUEEZE: A simple law of physics means you get more juice from a lemon if it is warm. Just put it in a microwave for 5-10 secs before you squeeze. May 18

BRIGHTEN GARDENS: Bring birds, butterflies, bees and blossom into your garden! Some plants are particularly good at this by providing the necessary food (directly or as insect) and habitat. Lavender, Buddleia, Ceanothus, Pyracantha are good shrubs; Cornflower, Lobelia, Alyssum, Lupin, Sunflower, Aster and Cosmos, good flowers; Fennel, Dill, Borage, Marjoram, Chervil, good herbs. Mar 18

HOUSEHOLD CHEMICALS CAN BE DANGEROUS: Many bottles and cans of stuff we have in our garages, sheds, kitchens and bathrooms are toxic.  Left overs of pesticides, herbicides, lawn feed; old paint; paint thinners, paraffin, petrol; battery acid and anti-freeze, some household cleaners – all need safe disposal. In Solihull take them to the Bickenhill ‘Tip’. Nov 17

DOES IT NEED TO BE IRONED? One for the men, perhaps? Most household electricity goes on heat. So, if you doubt whether something really needs ironing – don’t. Nov 17

STAND ALONE INDUCTION HOBS AVAILABLE: Cookers with induction hobs have been available for some years but ‘stand-alone’ hobs are now available. Only 2/3rds of the electricity is needed, the hob reacts immediately to the dial setting but remains cold (and safe) when not actively cooking. Sept 17

SAVE MONEY WHEN TOASTING: Suppose you just want one slice of toast (or just one more). Most toasters heat for 2 (or more) at a time and waste half the electricity when you toast one. Argos now sell the Kalorik KitchenOriginals Giant 2 Slot toaster. It will toast thick or thin slices and only one side if needed. May 17

SMELL YOUR FOOD SAYS WRAP: In the past before the various ‘use by’ (a measure of safety) and ‘best before’ (a measure of quality) dates on food labels came in we used sight, smell and taste, to judge whether food was safe to eat. Research in the USA and UK has found uncritical adherence to dates is causing unnecessary waste worth, in the UK, £700/year to an average family. WRAP, the authoritative Waste Resources Action Programme, has asked the Food Standards’ Agency to change the ‘use by’ date on milk to ‘best before’ and review other products. If something looks ok, smells ok and tastes, on the tip of the tongue, ok, it probably is. April 17

HOT WATER COSTS MONEY: It is a terrible waste to boil anything vigorously or run a kettle until the steam switches it off. The water doesn’t get hotter: it just converts, expensively, to steam. Mar 17

FROM DANISH PASTRIES TO PLANTS: All kinds of pastries come in plastic containers. Don’t throw away. Fill them with soil and grow seedlings. May 16

PLASTIC BAGS – USE AGAIN: The problem with plastic bags is not their use but disposal. Use instead of bin liners. Use thicker bags to wrap parcels.  Cut off the handles and turn them inside out! Oct 15

EATING MEAT: About ¼ the Earth’s land is good for crops but a third of that is needed for meat and milk products. Farm animals emit 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions (the same as transport).  Eating chicken or pig products is less harmful than beef or lamb.  Eating fish is even better. Oct 14

DISHWASHERS – READ THE MANUAL!  Most of us are just relieved when a new machine works but the manual may also tell you how to do half loads and eco and shortened programmes.  Experiment to find the most frugal programme.  Do the same with your washing machine. Nov 13

PEDESTRIAN TRAFFIC LIGHTS – USE WISELY: If there are breaks in the traffic and it is safe to cross don’t use the lights. If a vehicle stops unnecessarily it wastes fuel and causes pollution Sept 13 

BUILD A BUG HOTEL! Birds come to a garden for food, especially juicy insects. A few bamboo poles, a rotting tree stump, a pond or a ‘hotel’, as in the picture, will be better than a bird table June 13

READING METERS: Read your electricity and gas meters weekly and use charts to show the results. Having the ‘evidence’ in front of you acts as a check on waste. April 13

TYRES: New tyres have energy ratings for energy efficiency, wet grip and noise. An ‘A’ rated tyre should give you 7.5% more miles/gallon than a ‘G’ rated one. July 12

GARDEN WATERING: You don’t need a huge tank to store water for use in dry summers. Fill one water butt from a drain pipe and use a pump + hose to fill others at points round the garden. June 12

FOOD LABELLING: Food labelling can confuse. ‘Best before’ indicates quality. Food, eg biscuits will be safe to eat long after that date. ‘Use by’ dates are for safety but contain margins. If in doubt smell and taste like Grandma did. Ignore ‘sell by’ dates. Those are for the shops. April 12

FREEZER FOOD: When you want to use something from the freezer, defrost it in the fridge first. It will cool the fridge down and save energy. Dec 11

FLATTEN CANS: When you recycle cans or plastic containers, flatten them as much as possible. It is a waste of energy when lorries cart around a lot of empty space. Nov 11

UNWANTED SPECS: Vision Aid gets volunteers in prisons to measure the strength of old spectacle lens before sending them to the poorly sighted in Africa and India. Most opticians will forward unwanted spectacles if you take them to them. July 11

ENERGY EFFICIENT APPLIANCES: TV sets are now graded for energy efficiency using the 7 colour A-G labels, and washing machines, fridge freezers and dishwashers now have 3 additional grades, A+++, A++ and A+.  An A+++ fridge freezer will be 60% more efficient than an A. April 11

BARCODE USES: Barcodes give not only the price but lots of other information on a product which can include the material of the container, eg aluminium, glass etc. This can then be used to separate waste into streams for recycling. It is done in some Canadian stores. It could be done here if the public demanded it. Nov 10

MAINS NOT BATTERIES: Use mains electricity, not non-rechargeable batteries wherever you can. To make a battery takes around 50 times the electricity they actually contain. Rechargeable batteries are more efficient but more toxic. Feb 10

45 MPH IS BEST: Cars run most frugally at around 45 mph. Short journeys, when the engine is cold, are very inefficient, polluting and expensive. Dec 09

CURTAINS: When it is cold draw curtains as soon as it becomes dark. Curtains can be as helpful as double glazing. Cut down drafts as well. Oct 09