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 is being 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 4th 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 summarized below.

Green Tips

WHERE DOES YOUR BUS GO? Frankly bus travel is not as comfortable or reliable as by car. One reason of course is the other traffic – the cars! The fewer cars clogging the roads, the better the service will be. Do you know where your nearest bus stop is, what buses run from it, and how frequently they run? And, did you know that bus pass holders can travel anywhere for £1 before 9.30 am if they also tap in the pass? Feb ‘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

VOLUNTEER TO HELP THE ENVIRONMENT: We can help by creating awareness, passing on good ideas, donating money. We can also help by joining a volunteer group. Contact details of these 3 in Solihull are on their web sites:

  • Solihull Conservation Volunteers: They aim to improve the natural environment (woodlands etc), and meet at the station at 10:00, 2 Sundays a month, returning at 16:00.
  • Warwickshire Wildlife Trust: They care for wildlife and improve wildlife habitat.
  • Love Solihull: This is a Council initiative aiming to make Solihull the cleanest, greenest and safest borough in the country. They support local groups by suggesting needs and lending kit. 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

CANAL WALKS BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT?  England has a rich legacy of public footpaths and canal towpaths. You can reach many by bus or train. Here are 6 walks which start from Solihull railway station.

  • Through train to Galton Bridge. Return to Brindley Place by the Birmingham canal then the Birmingham-Fazeley Canal to Livery Street. Turn Right to Snow Hill station. The Old Contemptibles Pub opposite the station is good for lunch. 5 miles
  • Train to Bournville via Moor Street and New Street stations. Return by the Worcester-Birmingham Canal to Brindley Place and then Snow Hill station as above. 5 miles
  • Train to Olton. Walk to city centre along the Grand Union Canal to Livery Street. Turn Left to Snow Hill station. 6 miles
  • Train to Lapworth. Return along Grand Union Canal to Knowle Locks. Then a) turn Left to the Wilson’s Arms (good carvery) in Knowle for bus to Solihull (5 miles) or b) continue to far side of M42. Turn Left to Warwick Road and back through Brueton Park (9 miles). Look out for kingfisher near motorway.
  • Train to Hatton and back to Lapworth Station along the Grand Union canal. (5 miles).
  • Train to Stratford. Return by Stratford Canal to Bearley (5 miles) or Wootton Wawen stations (7 miles).  Sept 2018

TAKE YOUR OWN COFFEE CUP: Companies are reacting to the waste of throwaway cups. Waitrose in Solihull are going further, offering free coffee to shoppers only if they bring their own. Encourage and spread the word. Traidcraft sell attractive re-usable mugs made of bamboo.  Sept 2018

VOTE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: Waitrose, Tesco, Specsavers and others, donate money each month to 2 or 3 charities; invite customers to choose one; and share the money pro rata to the support. Suggest ‘green’ charities and support them when they appear. Sept 2018

BIO-DEGRADABLE BIN LINERS: Plastic is wonderful  – until we discard it. Plastic bags, are a big problem. Many end up as litter, some break up and get into our rivers, seas and food chains. Starch based bin liners are now available which compost down. Morrisons sell rolls of 20 under the Addis label, and Tesco and Sainsbury own name rolls of 25. Try them. July 2018

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 2018

HELPING THE HOMELESS: Solihull Churches Action on Homelessness provide ‘starter kits’ for the homeless obtaining accommodation.  They can take bedding, crockery, cutlery, kitchen items like saucepans, cleaning items and towels in reasonable condition.  May 2018

CUTTING OUT PAPERWORK: Email removes the need for paper copies. The Church has used email for its business meetings for some years and now offers the option for its  weekly notices. Members receive the notices early and even if they can’t get to church. The church saves paper and time of office staff.  ‘Tis the way to go. May 2018

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 2018

CLEVER PACKAGING: Many items are sold in a package with a clear plastic front stuck to a cardboard back. Because mixed materials can’t be recycled and it’s a pain to separate them when glued together, most gets chucked away. Now some plastics fronts are designed to slide into the cardboard and be clipped into position making separation easy. Choose. April 2018

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. March 2018

PLASTIC MICROBEADS CAUSE HARM: Most comes from ordinary gels and other body cleansers. Formerly particles of ground up pumice, nut shells and so on less than 1 millimetre across were used to help clean but tiny plastic beads have replaced them. Once down the drain they go straight through the sewage works into our rivers to the sea where they can be consumed by fish, some of which we eat.  Companies have been phasing them out. Currently own brand products at Waitrose, Morrisons, Co-op, Sainsbury, M & S, and Boots are now ok. If in doubt Google to check. February 2018

DRINK TEA, PROVIDE A WHEELCHAIR: Yorkshire Tea products, including biscuits and cakes, carry barcodes. If cut off and sent to the Wheelchair Foundation at PO Box 658, Wetherby, LS22 9AD Yorkshire Tea donates a generous 3-4% of the purchase price to buy wheelchairs for the poor. Christmas 2017

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’. November 2017

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. November 2017

RECHARGEABLE BATTERIES PREFERRED: Rechargeable batteries are cheaper in the long run. Although their contents are more toxic than non-rechargeable ones, they do less overall harm to the environment. AA and AAA battery chargers should have controls to prevent overcharging shortening life. Most re-chargeables are a mix of Nickel and either Cadmium (Ni-Cd) or Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) and can be allowed to go flat. Lithium (Li-ion) ones last longest if charged little and often. October 2017

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. September 2017

GROW YOUR FOOD FROM SCRAPS: A little book Don’t throw it, Grow it! by Deborah Peterson explains how the ends of vegetables like carrots, lettuce and green onions; herbs like basil and coriander; and stones (seeds) like avocado (all of which would otherwise be thrown away) can give second crops or decorative green displays.  July/August 2017

BORROW, NOT BUY, THROUGH BORROCLUB: Borroclub is a scheme where someone’s infrequently used item, like a gazebo, power washer, candy floss maker or scaffold tower, can be hired to someone else needing it for just one job. It is environmentally friendly because it reduces the number of items manufactured and saves you money.  Key in for info. July/August 2017

AIR POLLUTION – NOT JUST FROM DIESELS:  29,000 premature deaths/year are attributed to air pollution which can trigger breathing problems, lung cancer, heart attacks and so on.  ‘Dirty diesels’ are a major source, but doctors point out air pollution can be worse inside, rather than outside, a home where wood stoves, gas fires and gas cookers may be in use. Chemical reactions from domestic items like lemon and pine scented air fresheners can create pollutants. The major concern is small particles less than one hundredth of a millimetre in diameter, so called PM10s which are not filtered out by the nose and can enter the lungs, and nitrogen oxide gases which cause breathing difficulties. PM10s come from burning (petrol, diesel, wood, coal) but also brake dust and tyre wear! Nitrogen oxides also come from burning, more as the temperature rises, which is why diesels produce more than petrol engines.

So, beware pollution in the home. Keep the air fresh each day by opening windows not fresheners and limit use of domestic chemicals. Drive less, avoid congested times if possible, and drive carefully. This will reduce tyre and brake wear and save fuel and money. June 2017

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 Kitchen Originals Giant 2 Slot toaster. It will toast thick or thin slices and only one side if needed. May 2017

RANGE OF LED LIGHTS KEEPS GROWING: 100 Watt equivalent LED light bulbs are now available. If they are on in the evenings most of the time, for example in a lounge, you will save enough electricity in 6 months to justify (on environmental grounds) throwing out the old-fashioned bulb straightaway! April 2017

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 common sense or, more precisely, our senses of sight, smell and taste, to judge whether food was safe to eat. Research in the USA and UK has now found that uncritical adherence to dates is causing unnecessary waste. In the UK, this is worth £700/year to the average family. WRAP, the authoritative Waste Resources Action Programme, is currently asking 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 even if a day or so over the ‘use by’ date and, much longer if over the ‘best before date. April 2017

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 any hotter: it just converts, expensively, to steam. March 2017


  1. Buying bottled water.
  2. Eating red meat (beef and lamb) because it uses the most energy of all protein in its production.
  3. Using a car for journeys of less than a mile, when not carrying goods or frail passengers.
  4. A little heating by lowering the central heating thermostat by 1oC.
  5. Supermarket shopping on Fridays 5th March and 2nd April when there are farmers’ markets in Solihull.
  6. Leaving lights, TVs and computers on when not needed.
  7. Running tap water when cleaning teeth.

More suggestions, welcome. February 2017

MAKE YOUR OWN GIFT BAG: Take any plain carrier bag and decorate with left over wrapping paper to make a really attractive container for all sorts of Christmas (and other) presents. Glue the gift wrap into place with a glue stick. Christmas 2016

A USE FOR CARPET OFFCUTS? Turn them into mats or rugs. The family business of F.J. Bentley in Kidderminster will cut offcuts into the size you want and neatly bind the edges. And they will do it while you wait! Their address is Unit 6 Acorn Enterprise Centre, Frederick Road, Hoo Farm Industrial Estate, Kidderminster, DY11 7RA; website; and telephone 01562 755795. A lower value use is to fix strips to your garage walls so that the doors don’t get scratched when you squeeze out. Large sheets of corrugated plastic packing can be used in the same way. October 2016

LED LIGHTS: KEEP RECEIPTS: LEDs work on 12 Volt DC (direct current) which needs to be ‘rectified’ when an LED is connected to the mains. The rectifier can be separate from the bulb (eg at a plug) or incorporated into the bulb. If there is not enough air moving around the rectifier can get too hot. Keep receipts for any LEDs so that the bulbs can be returned if they fail to last the 25,000 or so hours claimed. July/August 2016

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 2017

RE-USE YOUR COFFEE GROUNDS: Used coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen (N) and have some potassium (K), two of the constituents of commercial N-P-K fertilizers. They are easy to dry and handle and are good, sprinkled around, for fertilizing plants needing a slightly acid soil like azaleas, hydrangeas and rhododendrons. They will also deter slugs and snails and, it is claimed, discourage moulds and fungi. Christmas 2015

RECYCLE AT ARGOS? Customers can now trade-in their unwanted mobile ‘phones and tablet computers at any of the 788 UK Argos stores in return for an Argos Gift Card. November 2015

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! October 2015

CHOOSE TAP WATER: Some 2000 times the energy is needed to produce bottled than tap water when producing, distributing, and disposing the bottles afterwards is included. In small bottles, the water can cost more than petrol, yet blind tasting and chemical tests show tap water tastes is as good and often safer. March ’15

EATING MEAT: Around a quarter of the Earth’s land is suitable for crops but one third of that is needed to feed the animals we eat and use for milk. Meat demand could double by 2050 and there’s no more land. Animals also emit 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions, the same as transport. Eating chicken and pig products is around 3 times less harmful than eating beef or lamb so meat eaters could help by choosing these more and eating fish or vegetarian meals 2 or 3 times a week. October 14

RENEWABLE HEAT?  The government gives cash incentives for households installing solar hot water panels; boilers using ‘biomass’ such as wood pellets; air source and ground source heat pumps. House holders are paid 19.2p, 12.2p, 7.3p and 18.8p respectively for every unit (kilowatt hour) of heat produced for 7 years. June 14


HELP THE NHS. DON’T OVER-ORDER DRUGS: The cost of unused medicines is a big drain on the NHS. Over ordering costs £750,000/year in Solihull, enough for almost 1,000 operations.  It seems some patients over order or don’t tell their doctor when they no longer need their drugs.  May 14

A ‘WEE’ WIN: Nothing need be wasted! Urine is a sterile, rich source of nitrogen and contains both phosphate and potassium – the basic nutrients in fertilizer.   Used fresh but diluted about 8 times it can be sprayed on plants replacing commercial fertilizer.   Used neat it will do wonders for one’s compost.   April 14

MICROWAVE COOKING:  Microwave ovens are energy efficient though not suitable for all foods, eg roasts or pies. Use them for cooking vegetables like cauliflower rather than boiling and for re-heating food instead of using the oven. March 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 as well as  the eco and shortened cycle programmes.  Experiment  to find the most frugal programme.  Do the same with your washing machine. November 13

TrolleyABANDONED SHOPPING TROLLEYS: If you come across an abandoned shopping trolley and have an iPhone or Android device, download an app from, use the app to take a photo and forward to Trolleywise. They will find the trolley from your ‘phone position and aim to collect within 48 hours.  October 13

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

MINI GREENHOUSES: Reuse is even better than recycling. Old plastic bottles placed over young plants will help them grow. Old tights are wonderful for tying plants, saplings etc up in the garden. July/August 13

Bug hotel

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

KEEP FIT BY WALKING: Walking is a better exercise than running. One needs to walk for twice as long as running but it requires no special kit and is unlikely to lead to injuries. May 13

graphREADING 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 and helps you do better each year. April 13

GROWING VEG: Do you want to grow your own vegetables but don’t have enough garden space? Why not ask an elderly neighbour whose garden is getting too big for them if you could have a plot. Share the produce! March 13

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Using buses reduces fuel use, congestion and pollution. If you find them unreliable or unpleasant to use, complain to Centro. They can’t take action unless they know of the problem. February 13

HOME MADE JAM: Ignore the anti-EU myth that empty jam jars can’t be reused to sell home made jams, chutneys etc. They can. They just need to go through a dishwasher and be properly dried first. December 12

GIFT AID GIFTS: You can help the Heart Foundation and many other charity shops raise more money if you let them claim gift aid on the books, clothes etc you give them. You need to be paying income tax and must give them your name and address. November 12

SCRAP METAL: If you have scrap metal or defunct electrical equipment ‘phone Batchelors (0121 707 4593). They are licensed scrap dealers and will collect. November 12

LEDs: Light Emitting Diodes are coming down in price and increasing in power and are being made with bayonet, large and small screw, and ‘halogen’ fittings. They reach full power immediately, last longer and are about twice as efficient as compact fluorescents. November 12

KETTLES: The most important thing in buying a kettle is to be able to see clearly that you have filled it with just the right amount of water. Then buy an induction heated kettle if possible. Try to switch the kettle off immediately the water boils. All this saves energy and money. October 12

BUY BRITISH BUTTER: One can help Britain’s dairy farmers not just by buying milk but British butter, cheese and cream. All save ‘food’ miles. September 12

Tyre labelTYRES: 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 one huge tank to save winter water for use in dry summers. Instead fill a water butt from a drain pipe and use a pump + hose to fill other water butts at convenient 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

SHOWERS: Do not buy power showers. They can use as much water as a bath. 4-5 litres of water/minute for 4/5 minutes should be more than enough. March 12

RAZOR BLADE BOXES: Razor blades and some other items are nowadays sold in locked, but recyclable, plastic boxes. If you self check out at the supermarket it is easy to forget to get them unlocked before you leave and there is no way to open them without wrecking the box. February 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. December 11

RETURN TO SHOP: More and more shops are required or are willing to take back batteries, fluorescent lights, electronic goods and so on. If recycling points are not obvious, ask! December 11

Can flattenerFLATTEN 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. November 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 your unwanted spectacles if you take them to them. July 11

FUEL EFFICIENT CARS: The world is not short of gas and coal but it is finding it more difficult to obtain the oil we need for our cars. Careful driving increases miles/gallon and comparative figures of miles/gallon can be found at May 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

FOOD IN DUSTBINS: Keep as much food and garden material as possible out of your dustbins. Any going to a tip will decompose and release methane which, if it leaks away, will be 20 times as bad a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. March 11

LIGHTS OFF: Switch off all lights when not needed. Even fluorescents should be switched off if unneeded for more than 15 minutes. February 11

RECYCLE VIA EBAY: Charity shops will be pleased to receive a whole range of items from usable furniture down. Alternatively use the internet to register on eBay to sell any item, or Freecycle to offer them for free. December 10

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. November 10

irrigationBUY BRITISH: There are good environmental reasons for ‘buying British’ as well as helping our trade balance. Much food we import comes from drier countries than ours. These use water for irrigation which can be in short supply. Manufacturing in this country is invariably done with higher standards of pollution control and more energy efficient processes. June 10

INDUCTION HOBS: When you next change your cooker consider an ‘induction’ hob. Induction uses magnetism to ‘induce’ heat. One needs steel or iron based saucepans, not aluminium, glass or ceramic ones but the hob is cool after use (a safety feature) and they save about 20% of the electricity. May 10

CARBON FOOTPRINTS: The average Briton causes 3.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide to be emitted to the atmosphere each year for their gas, electricity and car fuel. To calculate your ‘carbon footprint’ multiply the units of gas and electricity on your bills by 0.19 and 0.58 kg/kWh respectively and your mileage by the emission figures in grams/kilometre for your type of car. March 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. February 10

45 MPH IS BEST: Cars run most frugally at around 45 mph. They are less efficient both above and below those speeds. Short journeys, when the engine is cold, are very inefficient, polluting and expensive. December 2009

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. October 09

BICKENHILL TIP: An amazing number of different items are now collected at the Council’s Bickenhill recycling site, from old paint and engine oil to timber, electric appliances, fluorescent tubes and more. July 09