GOING GREEN : Good and Bad, Let’s Have Debate

The Monthly Column of Advice, by Diana Barnett

Good and Bad, Let’s Have Debate

Phew what a busy month! There was certainly a lot going on with many opportunities for picking up nuggets of green information.

Badgemore School opened their grounds to the public – a wonderful site imaginatively maintained by the Badgemore Garden group. They even have beehives. My attention was drawn to the solar powered watering system rigged up for one of the raised beds.

The Green Gardener’s Question Time had an interesting line up of alternative panelists. However it was noticeable that gardeners are still using the term ‘weeds’ when referring to our native plants. Our native
species serve more of a purpose for our ecology than many of the hybridized ‘foreign’ plants we seem to admire so much. Are ‘gardeners’ just interfering with nature? I guess that’s a question for another time.

At the Green Tactics for local businesses seminar we heard some very interesting statistics about how to reduce our carbon use by being more vigilant in clearing out our devices. Ryan Irving of RiWeb told us that by unsubscribing from newsletters you don’t read, you save 4g of carbon per email. Even when your mobile devices are switched off they are still using ‘vampire’ power through spam emails and browsing history left open.

This led me to look at Mike Berners-Lee’s measure of the carbon footprint of everything in his book ‘How bad are bananas?’ A short email sent and received on a phone uses 0.2g carbon, the same email sent
and received on a laptop uses 0.3g carbon. Whereas a long email that takes 10 minutes to write and 3 minutes to read, sent and received on a laptop uses 17g carbon.

These might seem small amounts but if you count how many emails the average device sends and receives, it soon adds up.

The relaxed atmosphere at the Library was a great venue for the Poetry Reading event for Great Big Green Week. We are fortunate in Henley to have such a pleasant Library space and such a forward thinking team who are encouraging more and more community activities there. I went along to a lovely creative writing group recently and I know they have regular knitting, crafting, board games and foreign language groups for adults and lots of fun adventures with books for younger residents. Henley Library is a key resource for our community, so it is important that we use their services and keep this valuable asset in the town.

The Café Scientifique held a fascinating talk on Earthworms: The Unsung Heroes of the Soil. Fantastically one earthworm can mix several tonnes of soil in a year! Sadly the heavy plant used in some farms compacts the ground so much it kills these natural soil helpers. Also herbicides have a devastating effect on the soil and drastically reduced the earthworm population. On average a field of potatoes is sprayed 22 times. According to FarmEd we need a whole system change.

However more and more farmers are re-thinking their practices and realising the value of invertebrates like earthworms and dung beetles. Sadly many people with gardens don’t give earthworms a second thought when they introduce hard surfaces and worst of all plastic grass.

Talking of invertebrates, has anyone noticed the severe lack of insects this summer, both in the garden and when walking around the town? May and June seemed particularly short on flying insects.

Usually the mixed shrubbery in my garden has clouds of tiny flying insects around them. Plants like lavender and catmint should be humming with pollinators by now, but I’ve only spotted one or two at a time. This means that birds like swifts are having to fly much further distances to get enough food to feed their young and that of course will affect the number of young birds they will be able to rear.

The monitors of air pollutants in the town centre show that mostly the trend is downward but in peak times may exceed the national target level of 40µg/m3. However the World Health Organisation limit is 10 µg/m3. Why should there be such a disparity between the WHO and what the UK government thinks is all right? You’ve only got to walk past the traffic queueing along Greys Road, Reading Road and Duke Street to know the noxious fumes given off are not acceptable.

If you would like to comment on any of the subjects mentioned in this column – please join in the conversation, we’d love to hear from you at https://greenerhenley.org.uk

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