‘Eco home’ at the Geffrye museum

The Geffrye museum is  London’s ‘museum of the interior’ and features mocked up living rooms from houses picked from different eras over the last 400 years.  Right now they also have a really well thought out exhibition on Eco homes running in the basement.  It’s not huge, but it has been cleverly designed by eco designer Oliver Heath, and showcases all kinds of household gadgets and furniture which are pioneering ways to save electricity, gas and water around the home.  There is also a plethora of information about recycled materials and products which will come in handy whether you are re-carpeting a room or buying a new rubber mat for the bathroom.

I was particularly intrigued by the section on toilets.  Little did I realise that you can flush a toilet just by pouring water into the bowl.  The water already in the bowl then flows into the ‘siphon tube’, and the resulting suction drains it all away into the sewer.  Brilliant.  Consequently, as one of the beautifully printed exhibition boards told me, you can collect the water from your shower during the time it takes to heat up in the morning and use it to flush your toilet.  All seems a bit organised to me, but I’ll give it a whirl.

They also have this amazing integrated toilet and sink, which drains the ‘grey water’ from washing your hands, brushing your teeth etc… directly into the cistern, so that every time you flush you’re already recycling the water.  This is truly inspired, and also very useful if your bathroom is absolutely tiny, as ours is.

The free Eco Home exhibition runs until 7th Feb 2010, Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday and Bank Holiday Mons 12noon – 5pm.  Talks, workshops and debates are also running on the theme of Eco homes throughout.

City bumpkin podcast 6 – Theo Pike

Theo Pike, Chairman of the
Theo Pike, Chairman of the Wandle trust
Junk removed from the Wandle river

This month I spoke to Theo Pike, Chairman of the Wandle trust.

I met up with Theo during one of the trust’s monthly Wandle cleansing sessions.  Over fifty local volunteers were working hard to haul all sorts of rubbish including shopping trolleys and scooters out of the river.  Here’s a selection of some of the junk they removed.

Or click here to listen in a new window

The City Bumpkin podcast map!

My Podcast Alley feed! {pca-b08d8ecd933252a86865ea40c66bf4c9}

City bumpkin podcast 5 – Seb Mayfield

Seb tending some young seedlings (Thanks to Lucy Wallace for the photo)
Seb tending some young seedlings (with thanks to Lucy Wallace for the photo)

Here is the latest installment of the City Bumpkin podcast.  This month, I spoke to Seb Mayfield, of Food Up Front.

Have a listen:

Or click here to listen in a new window

And while you’re doing that, vote in the BSGL poll!

The City Bumpkin podcast map!

City bumpkin podcast 4 – Project Dirt

Nick and Mark of Project Dirt
Nick and Mark of Project Dirt

In previous City Bumpkin podcasts, I’ve spoken to container gardener Penelope Bennett, guerrilla gardener Richard Reynolds, and the project manager of Deen City Farm, Ben Cheetham.  Each podcast features an interview with someone pioneering a green initiative in London.  It will be considerably easier for me to find such people from now on, as Nick and Mark’s Project Dirt provides a hub for such activities, bringing environmental projects and people together.

Or click here to listen in a new window

The City Bumpkin podcast map!

On sustainability

Somebody asked me the other day what my views on sustainability were. Since giving what was inevitably a rather cobbled together response, I’ve been trying to work out what it is I actually think about this, and the rest of the environmental bun fight we’re all supposed to be up to our necks in.

One thing I think I have worked out is that it’s possible to be inspired by local stories of environmentalism, whilst simultaneously finding the global campaigns against climate change etc… rather depressing.  It took me a while to work out this out, but there is something quite annoying about the popular ‘make poverty history’, ‘save the penguins’ celebrity-endorsed movements.  The ones telling you the ice caps are melting, and that you must reduce your carbon footprint or else, etc…   I don’t feel that there’s a lot I can personally do about melting ice caps, that’s really only something the governments of the world can make a difference to, and I object to the likes of Hugh Grant telling me how I should be behaving.

If I start trying to take responsibility for it, well, I’ll never sleep again, plus I’ll become the most boring dinner guest ever as I try to convince the person to my left that they should really take a combination of trains and boats to Chile next summer, rather than the nice easy 8 hour flight they had been planning.  The governments of the world on the other hand seem to be more concerned about getting more flights in and out of Stansted airport per hour, so it’s a losing battle a lot of the time.

Similarly I don’t feel a need to spend time on this blog berating Starbucks for their policy of leaving a tap running all the time in each of its million branches, thus wasting enough water to give a swimming pool to each drought afflicted village in the world per hour, or whatever it is.  Who am I, to tell them how to run their business?  That’s for the newspapers to rant and rave about, and well they might.  Richard Branson deserved a slap because nobody else seemed to be bothered about how utterly ludicrous his claim about Virgin Galactic helping the environment was at the time, but there I rest my berating stick for a little while.

I prefer to concentrate on what I can do myself to live a sustainable life, and also what others are doing, both individually, and with other members of the community.  People who are planting shrubs and flowers in areas of local orphaned land, or removing rubbish from their local river, or simply growing their own fruit and veg in their back garden. A blinkered approach of looking at all the positive stuff going on around me, and trying not to think too much about all the depressing stuff is my philosophy at the moment I think.  Clearly I could make more of a difference campaigning against the expansion of Stansted airport than documenting green initiatives around the capital, but I’m just not that militant.

It’s nice to know though that not everybody is just sitting watching TV in their pants not giving a toss about anything other than whether they’re going to get a bonus in 6 months time, particularly in London.  Or, to be a little more realistic about this, that they are doing that as well, but then they get off their arse and haul a fridge out of the River Wandle at the week-end.

City bumpkin podcast 3 – Ben Cheetham

I was amazed to discover Deen City Farm just down the road from my house last year, and have been keen to find out more about it ever since.

It’s a riding school as well as a farm, with some lovely ‘growing gardens’.  The site used to be used as a dumping ground, so the existing soil is contaminated.  However they have cleverly got round this by using raised beds, and other planters such as shopping trolleys and old baths.

In addition to the growing gardens, the farm also has a fair amount of livestock, including an aviary, small animals enclosure, and more traditional breeds.

Ben Cheetham is the project manager for Deen City Farm.  He was kind enough to invite me to the farm for an interview for another Big Smoke, Green Living podcast.  (Flighty – this one is one cup of tea and two biscuits long I think).

Or click here to listen in a new window

The City Bumpkin podcast map!

City bumpkin podcast 2 – Richard Reynolds

This is Richard Reynold’s original guerrilla garden.  It’s not actually his, it belongs to the tower block he lives in.  Richard cleared it of dead plants, litter and rubbish in 2004, replanted it, and has been looking after it ever since.

It is just 2×2 metres –  even smaller than the Penelope Bennett’s window-box allotment (the subject of the first BSGL podcast), yet for Richard it was the first step on a journey which would see him developing neglected land all over London, cultivating a forum for other guerrilla gardeners around the world, now several thousand strong, and being invited to create a garden for this year’s Hampton Court Flower Show.

I met up with Richard for a pot of tea in his flat above this little patch to find out more.  He started off by telling me how he became a guerrilla gardener.

Or click here to listen in a new window

Richard’s book, On Guerrilla Gardening: A Handbook For Gardening Without Boundaries is excellent – I highly recommend it if you would like to know more about the movement.

Richard’s website has a forum where guerrilla gardening events are plotted and co-ordinated.

And check out the blog of his Recycled Garden, built for the 2008 Hampton Court Flower Show.

The City Bumpkin podcast map!

Finally, there is an article I wrote about guerrilla gardening in issue 57 (current issue at time of writing) of Permaculture Magazine.