Sorting Ecobricks

Don’t assume you know how to make them!

It has become time for Ecobricks UK ( at New forest Aquaponics cic ) to sort out the underweight ecobricks we have been sent since 2018. 

It has always been our intention to be able to use these to insulate some of our aquaponic ponds. Sadly we need to reduce the number of them before we can get that far, as we have to find a new site before we can dig any ponds. 

So a dedicated team of passionate ecobrickers came to start the process of sorting and remaking as many as we can so they are usable in modules

We decided to make a video to help you understand why we need you to make really good solid, dense ecobricks that fulfill plastic sequestration principles and earthen ethics, rather than underweight ‘ecobrick’ attempts that can’t be used.

We do understand and appreciate that every underweight ecobrick represents an attempt by someone to express their feelings about plastic, the desire to see change from a plastic dependent society.  It also shows us the dangers of social media, how messages get spread without detail, and how we forget to research for ourselves the information we find on a facebook post. 

Thank you to everyone who cares enough to try, thank you to everyone who has and is reducing the plastic that comes into their lives ……we know it isn’t easy! Regardless of if you make ecobricks or not – just keep working on not consuming the plastic, the earth will thank you for it. 

Here is the transcript for the video. 

It has been put together under the directorship of James who is 10 – and who leads by example and follows the earth’s ethics. 

Ecobricking is a way for anyone anywhere to take personal responsibility for their plastic. Together we can keep it out of the biosphere and out of capital and carbon intensive industrial processing. 

Ecobricking follows the Earth’s example towards cycling and sequestration. Based on indegenous wisdom, extensive evaluation and earthen ethics, ecobricking isn’t just about packing plastic– it’s about petro-capital transition.

This can be quite a lot to take on, but it is so important,

 This short video is about why it is so important to  follow the principles of ecobricking and make really good solid and dense ecobricks. 

Underweight ecobricks cause problems for those who end up looking after them.

Have you ever wondered why?

At ecobricks UK we were caught out when the idea of ecobricks went viral october 2018, we had 1000’s of poorly made ecobricks sent to us. Every underweight ecobrick  is a well meaning  attempt to do something about plastic, but if we do not follow the principles of plastic sequestration we are failing our biosphere. 

We have looked after these ecobricks, but we can’t not use them as they are and still uphold the principles of plastic sequestration. So a team of volunteers came and spent a day with us to start the process of sorting them out. 

We are going to remake as many of the ecobricks  as we can so the plastic is taken care of. This means opening them, and chopping up the plastic.  As we opened the poorly made ecobricks we came across so much that should not be in an ecobrick. 

And some were just too dirty to even think about opening……

We found paper, compostable plastics, metal, full teabags, paper, lots of bits of food and a nappy……..

An underweight ecobrick that contains materials other than plastic can become compromised, we want the ecobricks to last as long as the plastic. Excess air, organic matter and any moisture can cause the ecobrick to become weak which will affect  any structure it might be part of or even burst the top off.

We ask you to wash and dry your plastic for good reason, not only will any  dirt in the ecobrick slowly break down leading to bacteria and fungus to grow and this can lead to methane gas  forming inside your ecobrick.

When ecobricks are used to  make home furniture you  want to avoid unsightly ecobricks or bloated bottles. It has been known for dirty wet plastic to cause the lids to pop off. 

Logged ecobricks are the best  reassurance that the ecobricks can be used in many different projects throughout its lifetime.

One of the reasons we advise anyone running a project to only accept ecobricks that have been logged and authenticated on gobrik is to stop underweight ecobricks being given to the project. 

For more information www.ecobricks.org/how

I hope you like James video, and I hope this will help you understand that a good well made solid, dense ecobrick is a building block, a poorly made one is no good to anyone. 

If you would like to book a starter workshop for your community, join our ecobrick trainer network or have any other questions pop me an email watercressqueen1@watercressqueen1

Transformation Advocacy Network Uganda – TANU

I met Joel Odongo online via ecobricks. He could see how much plastic there is in Uganda and would love to be able to do something about it. But as with everything in life sometimes we have to do lots of groundwork before we can look at achieving our goals. And that has been very true of Joel. You can read the first post I did about him and the TANU youth centre here

One of the goals we have with working with them is to find a way of creating an income for TANU so they can support more young people to learn the skills to earn a living, support themselves and their families.

Now they have built there skills centre, they can start the real work they wish to achieve. Building the skills centre took all of there money, (thank you to those of you who helped with the last bit of cement) , so they are going to be baking cookies to sell locally. They have found this helps to get the centre known within the local village and is teaching skills – cooking, selling, money management and working together. All very import things to learn.

And this is where I need to ask for your help. To test the post between Uganda and the UK, back in the spring they posted a small packet of four purses they had made.

They are made using plastic beads, in traditional patterns, using traditional weaving techniques. They made linings with zip pockets, on the one treadle sewing machine they have – we hope to get more of them for them in due course.

The next purses they make will be with natural plant fibre weaving – which they have been learning to make.

But to kick start the whole process they need to be able to purchase the ingredients to make the cookies. For every £3.50 of ingredients they can make a profit of around £1.50 which will go to buy the supplies to make the purses.

If you would like to buy one of these purses they would be super grateful. I think £20 each would be a perfect amount ( plus £3.50 postage) You can order one using this link a https://donorbox.org/purses-from-tanu

Please let me know which one you would like – but please understand their is only the four in the picture.

The four purses
Inside

And if you would like to know more about the people who made the purses check out their letters

Washkers the most environmentally way to wash your clothes

https://donorbox.org/washkers-natural-clothes-washing-with-conkers

Washkers – prepared conkers for you to wash your clothes with

Using conkers or horse chestnuts is a free way for you to make sure your washing chemical free and will do no harm to our world.

I have used them for four years now, and every year I get to have lots of conversations with people helping them start this journey.

The one thing I found was that even when people really loved using them, preparing enough to last a family from session to session was quite hard for many.

Pressures of modern life, working, parenting, or not having anywhere close to collect conkers, and for many not having the physical ability to chop and dry was the biggest barrier to having enough for a whole year.

So WASHKERS was born.

I will always provide the instructions and help people prepare their own, but for those that can’t I hope that by offering washkers for sale I can help them on the journey of regenerative modern living.

Here is my post on how to make your own – and how the journey started

https://thewatercressqueen.wordpress.com/2021/07/12/conkers-for-clothes-washing/

When someone buys washkers from me, they are directly supporting a UK based, non profit that works towards putting more back than it takes from the biosphere.

Every year we plant a minimum of 30 horse chestnut trees, more if we can plus other spices of trees.

Our packaging is upcycled 100% cotton material so it can be composted when you have finished using it – although they make great produce bags, or storage bags. You can even post back to us to refill if you wish, all before it heads to the compost pile.

So what are you waiting for ? why not try some today, see if you like them before conkers session gets here – October – and then you can either make your own or keep supporting New Forest Aquaponics cic with our regenerative work supporting our local community.

Until I work out how to add a shopping cart please could you use this link to purchase the washkers.

https://donorbox.org/washkers-natural-clothes-washing-with-conkers

Please note to reduce our impact, as we have to travel by car to visit a post office we post all orders once a week.

Happy washing 🙂

Our Journey with ecobricks and aquaponics.

Why I put nothing in my recycling except tins…..

1 April 2020|Ecobricks

Why I put Nothing but Tins in my Recycling

So your passionate about saving the world from plastic? Surely you recycle everything you can? I am often asked this question

Well no I don’t,  I am working towards living my life in a very different way, taking inspiration from how things used to be along with some very wise people from around the world. 

I have always been a bit of a hippy, and always felt that the way we lived was wasteful and it felt as though the only way to avoid this was to be a hoarder, keeping everything “in case it will be useful”- and then that has its own issues, I have had to clear hoarders homes who keep everything for a rainy day and I don’t want that for my children. Nor do I wish to live that way.

I used to recycle everything, and believed as most people like to think, that I was quite good at it.

Most people in the UK have the ability to recycle tins, glass, paper & card 

And these processes are fairly straight forward, with a high percentage of recycling happening – ie a tin can become a tin, a glass bottle can become a glass bottle. And it is easy to get right, put the glass with the glass etc. 

I remember the start of glass bottle banks in 1977, and slowly we have been provided with many ways for the result of our consumption to be whisked away from us so we do not have to give a second thought to what happens with it  – the magic recycling fairy will wave a magic wand…..

Let’s look at the recycling  – or to give its correct name – reprocessing of plastic.

To be truly circular plastic would have to be able to become oil again, back to its original form which of course can’t happen as plastic is made of one part of oil ( we are also now using gas from fracking ) – the once waste part  – now turned into a resource, IF used wisely……..

The journey  of the oil goes from the rigs collecting the  oil  – to the refinery – to the factory – into the products we use ( how long for ) and then we pass them on to where?

Depending on where you are in the world will depend on the exact route  into the biosphere.

– burning in fires or incinerators gets the toxins into the biosphere.     Fires directly,  incinerators indirectly.

– landfill or open dumps a very quick route to the biosphere

–  or back through factories and processing plants where we have no way of knowing how careful they will be, a huge exercise in trust

I am sure you have all seen the numbers on plastic to tell you what type of plastic it is, all of which need to be processed using more resources to become something else. At the moment this system be it council run  – via our bin collections or through our own actions via collection schemes is all geared up to make money, and to support our consumerism. It all has the magic reprocessing fairy waving a wand to take the responsibility from our hands.  Her wand takes a huge amount of energy and biospheres resources to wave.

Each time plastic is reprocessed it is in effect downcycling to end up where?

Trees are a good way to look at how nature works in a simple form, when a tree loses its leaves they fall within 10 metres or so of the tree, they decompose back into the soil and provide nutrients for the tree to grow its leaves next year. Our biosphere is a wonderful clever system. 

When did I stop sending things for reprocessing?

I live in the New Forest and we have a set number of council bin bags given to us each year.  We have bags  – plastic of course because the forest is very pretty and a tourist destination and wheelie bins would look unsightly apparently

Black ones for general use, and clear for recycling, they don’t take many things  – 6 in all cans, tins, PET plastic bottles, aerosols, paper and card.  Plus a glass bottle box.  And I tried to be good with what I put in, making sure I got it right, and then slowly I realised that things were not as they seemed. Our black bags go for incineration, and so do large amounts of our reprocessing bags. The council have tried to tell us it is just when they are contaminated, but then it was found out that if they ran out of room for the reprocessing bags or they ran out of things to burn, the reprocessing was sent to the incinerator. This happens with other councils as well I have been told.

Christmas day 2017 I discovered ecobricks, I saw a picture on facebook, and saw the amount of plastic in my living room, and something clicked, I made my first one, and that sent me on a journey of living differently. I have become an ecobrick trainer. I run workshops all over the country and have looked at people’s plastic consumption. It horrifies me, and made me realize how we had changed our consumption already as a family. We have almost no income  – life events and along with being self employed meant we had already changed our shopping habits through lack of money. 

So as a family we had already cut out all the beige plastic wrapped pretend food from the middle isles of supermarkets.  But a few things persisted. Gradually as our family ecobrick adventure took place and we embedded the ecobricking as part of our normal daily routines  we were able to explore in more detail all aspects of the leftovers of our consumption.  Our food consumption had become the component parts – as in, we cook from scratch, and our lack of income had got us out of the habit of buying anything that wasn’t a total necessity. 

One thought I hold close to me when I am tempted to buy something I don’t need is 

“There are people in the world who do not have the privilege to express greed. “

The rules we now live with in our family are 

Consume less

Avoid plastic

Go organic – as in only things that can become part of the biosphere again

Ecobrick

But I felt I needed to go further, to really understand what my personal impact  is, and I wasn’t totally sure how, just buying something that was organic – as in not plastic – felt like it was adding to the problem.  I constantly get people saying to me if we all change just one thing it adds up to a big impact……..

One thing didn’t feel like enough, so I sought inspiration elsewhere

I remembered an essay I had read during my ecobrick training and went back and read it again and again, and then I was lucky to have an in depth conversation with the author Russel Maier,  I knew that this was the way I wanted to live my life, it was the thing that made sense.

Ayyew, a way of living within the biosphere 

As Russell states  

“It became clear to me that this was an important Igorot virtue, a word used to describe the attribution of value to the tighter cycling of an object.  The closest we have in English is ‘thriftiness’– but its emphasis on saving money, and slightly derogatory connotation mean it is not the same. Ayyew, is entirely positive and exults and praises the maximizing of cycles of utility.”

We have become so far removed from our connection to living naturally,  things that we just “did “ as the circles of life turned have long been forgotten.

We wrap up our children so they are protected from our biosphere and live a  life afraid of connection. If we are to solve the many problems we have with anxiety and mental health we need to find our place again. 

From Russels essay – 

Children are encouraged to be more Ayyew and finish their meal down to the last grain of rice — not because it will be ‘waste’, but to respect their place in the cycles of harvest, season and sun that made the rice possible. Sure, the leftover food could be given to the pigs.  However, the cycles of life are even more enriched when the rice is eaten by a human, who can then tend the cycles of the pig and garden.  It’s a subtle, yet powerful, distinction and affirmation.  This exultation of Ayyew, leads to not only to the prioritization of  maximizing ecological cycles in Igorot culture — it enables the Igorot to know their place in the cycles, and work towards enriching them at every turn.’

Sounds idyllic and maybe impossible to apply to our modern lives? Well that became my challenge! 

It was important to me that I needed to be responsible for everything that left our lives  – I had to be able to trust where the result of our living went, I had to know what effect it would have long term on our biosphere.

I was already ecobricking plastic, so I started there, re-examining the plastic that was coming into the house, and what we did with it.  We eat lots of cheese, it comes in plastic, so now we select the bags that are resealable, these get washed and used as sandwich bags over and over again, or as freezer bags, and only when they can no longer be used as bags they will be ecobricked.  

This is just one example of many of how to reuse the plastic before it is ecobricked. 

I ecobrick because I know where the plastic is, I trust myself and my family to look after the ecobricks and to use them responsibly. The plastic becomes useful and valuable to us as a family instead of passing it on to others who may not be careful with it. 

Cardboard, paper, organic materials like food peelings, hair and fur, egg shells, tea leaves all get composted. I am lucky that running New Forest Aquaponics gives me space for lots of compost bins  – 5 pallet sized bins. 

Cooked food waste. The solution for this is a work in progress as we still need to refine some of the process but we will be using black soldier flies to eat leftover cooked or non compostable food. Black soldier flies can eat anything, and once they have pupated they can be fed to chickens and more importantly to us, fish. 

Clothing – everything is 2nd hand, as a family we buy no new clothing. The only exception is shoes,  My shoes are all from the charity shop but my partner has size 15 feet and my older son is a size 13 already, these sizes  just do not appear in charity shops! But we have given a lot of thought as to how we can minimize the impact of our footwear with wellies being turned into planting spaces, and out clothes have repairs on top of repairs

I could go on – but you will have far better results if you work out the things you can do and how you can do them from your heart. It is your responsibility how you impact our biosphere 

This should lead you to AYYEW !

You will notice there are some words missing from blog post

Trash –  Waste –  Rubbish

As Russell Maier says 

“The words ‘trash’ and ‘waste’ are essentially linear judgments.  The act of “trashing” an object is a condemnation. We are judging the object to be worthless and no longer fit for a place in our world.  Is there any difference between a piece of plastic before it has served its purpose, and after? The molecules and atoms are all still the same. The only difference is the word “trash” we’ve labelled it with. 

A glance at the highly evolved civilizations that came before us, and in particular those still with us, shows us that solving the pollution crisis, has little to do with technology and way more to do with our way of looking at the world.”

Let’s be positive in our thoughts towards our biospheres resources. 

I went looking for some slides to illustrate the negativity of the words trash etc.

All the ones I found were like this one,  what does it tell us about our view of the world that the words environment, ecology and conservation and mixed in with all that negativity 

Change the words, change the story.

Everyone can ecobrick.

13 July 2019| Community, Ecobricks

Aaliyah on her ecobrick module

I would like you to meet a very special young lady I have meet on my ecobrick journey, her name is Aaliyah and she makes ecobricks

She also has a disability, uses a wheelchair and has a wonderful laugh.  I have come across many people who have said , “I can’t make ecobricks because I am disabled”  I find this so sad, because one of the things I truly love about ecobricks is that they are about building community and inclusivity.

Let me tell you how  meet Aaliyah, she belongs to a church community, Kings Church, Southampton.  I did a starter workshop for them earlier this year, although she did not come that day, so I had to wait to meet her.  The workshop went really well and from there every Saturday they hold an ecobrick social making session in one of the rooms at the church. The church runs its own community cafe (which serves amazing cake) and the socials help to bring customers into the cafe and and the cafe provides willing ecobrickers. 

The ecobrick group have made around 90 ecobricks so far, and they are all logged on the Gobrik website. They have around 15 people who are active in the ecobrick group, with around 8 members turning up at the socials each week.  The group has made one two litre ecobrick stool which Aaliyah likes sitting on, and have big plans for benches at the church and to help the local school build with ecobricks. They also turned up one Wednesday afternoon at the greenhouses to have a basic lesson in cob building ready to build.

Aaliyah doesn’t have a huge amount of strength to stuff the bottles, but she can cut up the plastic, which she will sit and do for hours making sure the rest of the group has plenty of plastic to stuff with, and then fills bottles loosely for the others to get tightly packed. She also encourages the rest of the group to look at the plastic they are using and to look at what they can change.

Could Aaliyah have been able to be involved as she is if the community didn’t work with her?  I doubt it, she may have achieved a couple of ecobricks, and they may not have reached the weight, but as part of a group she can make ecobricks, she can be an inspiration to others to make ecobricks, and they all have fun together. When I visited the Saturday morning social, there was lots of chatter, and laughter, it felt like a community should.

This to me is what is at the core of ecobricks, community working together, finding ways that everyone can be included. There is no reason why anyone cannot be involved in making ecobricks other than we don’t include them.

What are you doing in your community?

*********************************************************************************

2021 Update!

Since I first published this post, the church community has kept making ecobricks, taking the socials onto zoom during 2020. They have achieved an earth and ecobrick planter in one of the groups gardens – picture is from before it was fully finished

And they have now teamed up with another Southampton church and will be encouraging each other with their ecobrick projects.

Introducing Waterside EcoHub

23 January 2020| Community

Pictures from Fawley church conservation group

**January 2020 felt like the right time to bring my skills in helping people live a greener lifestyle to the place I call home.  I live in the New Forest, a very beautiful place that is being crushed by the sheer number of visitors who come to enjoy the beauty, bringing air pollution and litter, as well as the economic benefits to the area, as well as big commercial developments. The side of the forest I live in is referred to as the Waterside, this tends to include the villages that are situated between the edge of the New Forest and Southampton waters. The main road is the A326 and often referred to as the UK’s longest cul de sac, and at the end of it is the sea!  

I knew I wasn’t the only one to care locally about what was happening to our beautiful biosphere, time to get everyone talking to each other and to bring the things I wanted access too into the waterside area for everyone to benefit from.

14th January saw our first meeting where I explained some of my ideas, and we talked way past the time as it seemed there was so much to talk about  In our second meeting the discussion took more of what personal actions we can take in our own lives. It became apparent that this will be an important part of what the hub will do, and I really hope that individuals will bring the solutions and changes that have worked for them to share with others. We started with the most biosphere friendly way to wash your hair, if baths or showers were better, what is the best diet to follow when thinking of our personal impact ( a huge and complicated subject) , community gardening, and how we heat our homes, and that was just the start!

I had been sent a message by someone who wasn’t able to come along to ask our collective thoughts about the impact the possible roadworks along the A326 will have, if it will involve cutting down the trees along the road, when we know we need more trees? And would it serve the area well to have a network of cycle paths in the area?

Collectively we came to the conclusion that as far as the A326 is concerned we didn’t know enough about the plans and what we did know seemed to indicate that the parts of the road that get clogged quickly with traffic will end up with more traffic so will clog up quicker and cause more pollution……….

As for a cycle path network, yes this would be amazing, especially in the forest towns and villages. The first place we would like to see a path would be down to Lepe beach, not only would this cut car journeys to the beach and so pollution, but would make it safe on a busy country road for walkers and cyclists alike and open up access for locals who don’t drive or can’t afford the car parking.

We also had the really lovely gentleman who looks after Fawley church conservation area, he has been doing an amazing job creating a home for wildlife, we are connecting him with local scout groups and our local home ed group so he can share his knowledge and the youth can help him with some of the more physical jobs in return.  The pictures below are from his display board he brought along to show us. 

***If you live in the waterside area and you would like to join us please do, we are meeting every Tuesday in Blackfield and we have a Facebook group and a group on the  nextdoor app. 

There are plans for the group to run clothes swaps, litter picks, jumble trails, local food events, community gardening and more. We would welcome your help and support and to hear your ideas.

And if you don’t live in the waterside area is there a group like this in your area? Can you connect with others and make a difference to your local community?  It doesn’t have to be huge, it can start by inviting a few friends round one evening to share ideas and see where it takes you.  Just remember now is the time to act, be the change you want to see 

Love and light to you all – go do the stuff…….. 

** This was written January 2020 – we ran weekly meetings till March 2020….and of course you know what happened then!

***We are hoping to get monthly meetings going again soon, if you can find us a venue or suggest a place to meet please let me know. there is a page and a group on FB or you can get in touch through this page.