Organic Milk – Tastier and Healthier than Inorganic!

According to an article in The Times on Wednesday (28th May) organic milk is healthier. The milk tested from cows fed on organic diets contained more good fatty acids (the level was up to 60 per cent higher in the Summer months) when compared with cows fed in fields where fertilisers are used. The difference is thought in part to the higher levels of clover in the diet of the organic cows. This is leading to research to improve the health qualities of butter and cheese.

Having switched to organic milk about a year ago (although Waitrose do have a tendency to run out from time to time) I can definitely say that not only is it better for you but it also tastes better and is creamier too.

Beavers to Come Back to Scotland

There was an article on the BBC news website today announcing that 400 years after we wiped them out in the UK beavers are going to be reintroduced into Scotland.  Three or four families of beavers will be captured in Norway in the autumn, kept in quarantine for 6 months and then released to a number of sites in Scotland.  

The reintroduction of species has been the subject of controversy, this seems to be more the case with mammals than in the bird world which has seen reintroduction programmes for red kites and ospreys in the last decade.  This will be the first reintroduction of a mammal in the UK, and has followed a lengthy period of preparation and research.

Although some people seem concerned about the effect reintroducing these creatures will have on the environment, they are being settled in areas that they used to inhabit (unlike the ospreys at Rutland Water), and will bring benefits to the environment.  It seems to me that the planning for this was probably more in depth than that for new houses on flood plains and many of the other project we carry out which are detrimental to the natural processes which keep the environment balanced.

The full article can be found on the BBC website.

Interesting Articles

Just thought that I would post a quick summary of a few articles that I found in the last couple of weeks that I thought were interesting.

The BBC website has reported on the latest proof that the Thames is getting cleaner – the discovery that short snouted seahorses, normally found in the Mediterranean have been discovered living and breeding at three sites along the river.

New Scientist has recently reported that bamboo fibres can act as an antibacterial agent and protect against UV, although there is apparently some dispute about this. However, as someone who owns several bamboo t-shirts (purchased from I can certainly say that they are very comfortable, seem to wick sweat away better than other t-shirts and also seem to reduce static. This supplier also claims high environmental and ethical credentials.

In the Times dated 8th April 2008 there was an article stating that as a nation we apparently throw away 4.5 million apples every day – I found that truly shocking (I thought at first they meant 4.5 million per year and had to read the article twice).
The full report is due to be published by WRAP (Waste Resource Action Plan) next month. In addition we are apparently throwing away 5.1 million potatoes and 1.6 million bananas. When added together the average household throws away £400 of food every year. This is at the same time as people are claiming they cannot afford to feed their families with fresh, local, free-range or organic food.

Also in the Times (dated 11th April 2008) there was an article about the nation’s railways. I was surprised to learn that last year passengers travelled 30 billion miles on our much maligned rail network, more than any other year in peacetime. This is despite rising prices and delays. The article was highlighting a report from the Association of Train Operating Companies which included a vision for 2057 by which time it is expecting passenger numbers will have trebled. This calls for high speed rail lines to Scotland along the east and west coasts and another to Cardiff as well as a number of other links operating at conventional speed. Unfortunately the government (and this seems to be the case whatever the flavour) seem relatively non-commital about rail travel and its ability to alleviate congestion and overcrowding in the South East and seem to have developed a grand total of 0 plans for the long term, although they may think about commissioning a study some time.

My first attempt at a carbon footprint calculation was less than satisfactory.

Whilst browsing the internet today I decided that I would make a first pass at looking at our carbon footprint so I checked out the government website. Whilst I admit that I didn’t have my energy bills to hand so it possibly wasn’t as accurate as it could be I found the recommendations that it gave to be somewhat disappointing.
Firstly I should apparently buy a microwave as this is more economical than heating in an electric oven – sorry but I cannot find a use for a microwave, my kitchen is not big enough to fit one in, we do a lot of our cooking on the gas hob and most people I know use a microwave to heat things that I would use a hob for or to reheat things that they should have eaten hot, i.e. they use the oven and then the microwave.
Their second recommendation was to buy an A rated dishwasher – first I would need to buy a bigger house to put it and all of the extra pots that I would need to buy in order to fill it – we don’t create that much washing up. Am I missing something or is it better not to buy all of these electricity using appliances that use up quickly vanishing resources?
Another recommendation involved travel – I should walk or cycle for small journeys – it wasn’t listening, I already do that. Then when I replace my car I should get one that is more efficient – sorry car manufacturers, but I am not planning to do that for a long time. My mileage is small enough that I am hoping to keep this car for at least the next 10 years rather than buying another one.
I noticed nothing on the website about recycling, reducing waste, buying less.
Now call me cynical if you like, but many of the recommendations seemed to me to involve me spending more money, a more efficient this, an extra that, and therefore creating more tax revenue for the economy.
I think I need to find a better starting place in my bid to live a greener lifestyle.

There is no such thing as an environmentally – friendly diesel car.

In the latest issue of the RSC’s Chemistry World (April 2008/Volume 5/Number 4/Page4) there is a small news article confirming what I have always suspected – there is no such thing as a good diesel car. The article reports on recently published findings which seem to indicate that far from being better for the environment (of which we are a part) low emission diesels may in fact be worse than their soot-chucking predecessors. The smaller sizes of the emitted particles can apparently penetrate more easily into lung tissue. This just goes to prove that the only way to help the environment and ourselves is to leave the car at home and use our feet – after all, that is why we have them.

Recycling at the supermarket.

Whilst doing my weekly shop this evening at the previously lauded Waitrose I noticed a bin next to the magazine section. This was labelled as a repository for all of the unwanted supplements and advertisements in the magazines. What a great idea, it saves me having to put them in the recycling at home and earns them brownie points. The question is, how do we stop the magazines from putting them in there in the first place. After all, do people buy any of the things they advertise, or do most people, like myself, empty out the magazine as soon as they get home and not pay any attention to them?

When food shopping becomes a hobby.

I am lucky enough to live in a town that has a Waitrose in which I can do my weekly grocery shopping. I know that most people think that you need to have unlimited funds in order to shop there, but we have found that we actually spend less there than in other supermarkets. Although some products are more expensive, it is so much more pleasant to shop there that I am willing to pay more.

My other half and I have increasingly found ourselves looking at the origin of the food that we buy and tryto select produce from the UK, or at worst, from parts of Europe (I think the food miles from the north of France are probably less than those for produce from the north of Scotland). There are obvious exceptions to this – for example I don’t know of anyone supplying UK grown bananas, but we always buy Fair Trade bananas from the Windward Islands.

There are people who think we are mad, but as I see it, not only does the food taste better when it is fresher, hasn’t been refrigerated or stored in a preservative gas, it is good for the environment and supports the British agricultural industry (or what is left of it). Why buy Mange Tout imported all the way from Africa when you can buy Pak Choi from England? Importing food may seem a cheaper alternative, but the jobs that are lost as more and more farms become uneconomical result in a bigger burden on the tax payer, not to mention the environmental consequences of numerous farms being sold for housing.

The plus side of this approach is that food shopping and subsequent cooking has become more of a hobby. Buying seasonal, British produce has resulted in the discovery of crops we had never tried before: – Jerusalem Artichokes (not sure about these), Cavolo Nero (delicious in pasta and high in iron), red cabbage and purple sprouting broccoli (we bought this today and haven’t tried it yet). In addition to this there is the fun of trying out different recipes with the seasonal ingredients.

I will be trying to go one better this summer and grow some of my own produce and will hopefully have more luck than last year which resulted in lots of courgettes (although I have since found some recipes to use these) and green tomato chutney (which I believe is better than most as there seemed to be a lot of blight about last year).

So, next time you are in the supermarket and pick up those South American berries, South African pears or African beans, think of the environment and the farmers and try something different and British instead.

First Frosts

frosty leaves

On my way to work this morning (and for the past week) everything has looked so beautiful, the sun is just coming up, all the plants are coated in frost and the air is so still that even the industrial units look stunning bathed in an orange glow and reflected in the lake.

Autumn and Winter have combined into a colourful, but subdued tapestry.

So, by walking to work, not only do I get some exercise, I get to look at what nature is exhibiting and, as an extra Brucie Bonus I arrive at work toasty warm. If I get bit chilly by lunchtime – time for another walk.

I work in an office surrounded by people that constantly complain that it is cold. Now that the weather has been a little frosty in the morning (or bitterly cold as my colleagues choose to describe it) the air conditioning has been turned up to heat the office to 26oC and, if I didn’t turn it off each evening it would be left on continuously.

If only my colleagues could be persuaded to leave their car behind and walk the 20- 30 minutes to work then we would cut costs, reduce the carbon footprint and I wouldn’t have to listen to them constantly complaining about the cold!

Commuting – why would anyone want to?

When I first started work a combination of minimum opportunities and the job of my other half meant that I commuted for over an hour each way (this didn’t include the time spent in a petrol station or taking my car for a service every few months). We then made the decision to move to a house approximately half way in between our respective places of work. This still meant a lot of money on petrol and at least 40 minutes each way (when I wasn’t stranded by flood water). So, I made a decision to look for a professional job in my (now) home town. Easier said than done, these are few and far between in Warehouseville. I now have said job, and, will freely admit that it is not the job of my dreams, much less one that uses my full potential or training. However, I am making less impact on the planet, don’t have to worry about the weather, the price of petrol or the latest shed load on the M40. Still, every now and then I have a hankering to look for another job which would inevitably involve getting back in the car.

This week I have taken my beloved to an Open University exam at Birmingham University (not ideal, but it could have been worse). We decided to go along the M42 – and I am now cured – the queue in the other direction seemed to be pretty much constant for the entire stretch, and the warning signs were up for a further queue at the western end of the motorway on the M5. I was in luck I thought – until I queued along the A38 for nearly all of the distance between to the University. All of this makes me wonder why anyone should choose to commute. It is bad for the planet, is only going to get more expensive, without a huge investment in public transport it will only get more difficult, and it takes a huge chunk out of your life. Imagine if you had an extra two hours every day (10 hours a week) to do whatever it is you want to do?

More Environmentally Friendly Transport?

At the end of September Daventry played host to a showcase for what some would consider to be the next generation of transport. This was featured in the National Press and on the National News (briefly). As this was heralded in the local press for several weeks before, it was with a small amount of excitement that I went to go and look at the travel pods!! I have to admit to a small amount of disappointment (why? look at the photos below).

21st Century Travel?Daventry Travel Pod

Whilst it was publicised as only a prototype one can only hope that the next generation of travel pods will look better and travel a little faster than these golf-buggy wannabees. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for new and innovative transport solutions particularly from a town that several centuries before was a major coaching town, but I am not the type of person that needs convincing. I try to walk wherever I can, but would be quite happy to be able to call up a pod to get to Long Buckby station, but I am not sure that many of the sceptics would be convinced to leave their cars behind when the prototype could be overtaken by anyone not requiring a walking aid (and I saw someone crash the buggy into the grass verge!)

The display that the council had did have some lovely graphics showing what they could look like, and I was informed that there would be a system installed in one of the London airports in the next couple of years, but the monorails looked a little like something that already exists in some American airports. What I wanted to see was something a little more state of the art and modern that would put Daventry on the map, maybe we will get this one day, but it seems a long way off.