Tag Archives: Environment

Our environment, global warming, ecology etc.

‘Green’ eggs and ham?

So the Swedes have done something that us Penybanc’ers have long been talking about… putting a ‘climate label’ on produce in the supermarket.

We already have the traffic light labels to tell us what danger we’re in from that high percentage of fat in our butter and “how useful that is!” I hear you cry. Perhaps it is useful sometimes – I can’t say I’ve ever found it so. Now what is more difficult to know about your food and what I hope at least some people care about is the environmental impact of the produce that you are buying… we resort to looking at the country of origin, try to buy seasonally, buy locally etc. but this is not always the best approach. For example tomatoes grown in this country may have demanded significantly more energy through being grown in a heated and artificially lit greenhouse or stored in inert gas chambers for months rather than being flown over from southern Europe.

So the Swedes are trying out a labelling method which aims to clarify this a little. The idea, as I understand it, is that each foodstuff (eg. Tomatoes) has a reference (I guess the average?) climate impact and a particular product’s position relative to that average is calculated. So if you are a tomato that has been grown in a significantly (25%) more environmentally friendly manner than the reference product then you will get a gold star (or whatever). This, theoretically, takes into account everything that it took to get the food to the market – cultivation, harvesting, transportation and packaging. Of course no climate labelling scheme can be exhaustive or 100% accurate, but this seems like a pretty good effort (Tell me more)

I, for one, will be interested to see how it goes and perhaps one day we might do something similar over here.

Ed: Incidentally the Swedes also did, in my opinion, a better method of the ‘health rating’ labelling using a keyhole symbol. Read more here.

Ash Dieback – a slow motion catastrophe

To those in a nice flat in the city Chalara Fraxinea, or Ash Dieback as it is commonly known, is probably a (brief) discussion point over a gingerbread latte before returning to the truly important topic of ‘Strictly’. For those with a few trees it becomes at least relevant but for people like us it is a huge huge disaster. We have over 2 acres of mature woodland that is roughly 90% ash. The aim is to coppice the woodland to provide us with all of our heating and hot water needs. If we lose our ash trees not only will we have a decimated woodland which will take 10 years to restore but we will have to buy in wood to heat the house over that time, which we can ill afford.

Ash is my favourite wood – so much so that it is the logo of our website. This is due to its wonderful burning properties, beautifully light and open canopy that encourages undergrowth and clean subtle grain, strength and workability for furniture and building. Not only would we be in trouble from a self-sufficiency point of view if we lose our Ash but, in a truly tree-hugger way, we would be very upset at the loss of some graceful, powerful and, not to mention, old trees.


So a quick update on the facts (thanks wiki):

  • -The disease is characterised by leaf loss and crown dieback in the infected trees
  • -First discovered in Poland in 1992… yes, 20 years ago!
  • -By 2008 the disease was also discovered in Scandinavia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Germany, Austria and Switzerland
  • -By 2012 it had spread to Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Britain and Ireland.
  • -The number of sites has doubled in the UK within the last month
  • -Young trees will usually die in their first year. Older trees may survive a few seasons but will succumb eventually
  • -A proportion (<5%) seem to have a genetic resistance to the disease


The reason for the title of this post is that I have rarely been more annoyed at the government for such ineptitude and slowness to react to an impending disaster. As the disease has spread across mainland Europe it has been clear that there is no easy way to stop it…  but we have one clear and obvious advantage – we are an island. So when, you might ask, did the government stop the import of ash trees from Europe knowing, as they did, that the disease was progressing inexorably towards us (And that we could quite easily produce enough of our own ash saplings)?…October 2012. WHAT?!?! That’s 8 months after the disease had already been found in the UK at sites that had received saplings from nurseries!!
Now we have to watch a farcical show as various committees discuss strategies on how to close the gate after the horse has bolted, had a few foals, retired to the seaside and written a postcard to the committee about the new extension to the stable and how glad they left that gate open so many years back. The government is being sued for its lame response – but that doesn’t do us small-fry much good. And most strategies now being discussed are focussed on how to replant all those woodlands that will undoubtedly be ravaged over the coming years.


Here at Penybanc we are keeping a close eye on our small-leaved friends and trying to form our own strategy to manage it but, needless to say, the outlook is bleak…

Washable Nappies

nappiesOur life now revolves around baby stuff so we thought it was appropriate to do a very short post about nappies. This will be very boring to most people!

We have opted for washable nappies most of the time (we sometimes use biodegradable disposable ones, but worryingly there are no 100% biodegradable nappies, so we try to avoid them). There are about a million types of washable nappy on the market and we did a LOT of research before investing a few hundred pounds in these bad boys. Our requirements were: 1) fast drying above all else; 2) one size from birth to potty in order to keep the cost down; and 3) that they be easy to use and reliable. We ended up buying Nature Babies Big Softies in cotton, which also have the advantage of being made in England so they haven’t been shipped around the world. The nappies have to be used with a waterproof outer layer (a wrap). The ones we use are the Nature Babies Essential Wraps. We also use washable wipes rather than the usual baby wipes and a flushable liner so you can just drop the poo in the loo!

It is all actually very easy once you get used to doing a load of washing every other day. It is not only better for the environment but they also cause less nappy rash and we’ve heard that it is easier to toilet train babies that use these as they can actually feel when they have wet themselves since they don’t have those gel balls that suck the moisture up.

There really is no excuse for using non-biodegradable nappies that take 200 to 500 years to decompose….