L’Oreal employee volunteers – making a difference locally in Hammersmith

We welcomed staff from a local business to support us in an ambitious 2 week project which saw more than 50 employee volunteers helping us across 3 locations. L’Oreal UK are our neighbours and run an annual citizen day where they encourage employees to volunteer with local charities and give something back to the local community. We’re thrilled to be chosen as one of the charities and wanted to share the results with you.

L'OrealDay one
First we welcomed a team to our Head Office to discuss some ideas around marketing Books for Free. One of the ideas that came from that session was to run an internal campaign at L’Oreal to encourage each of the 600 staff to donate a book, plus create a case study / toolkit so that other businesses could run a similar campaign.

L'OrealDay two
We met the team tasked with helping take our new Chiswick shop from an empty unloved shop into a vibrant “Books for free” centre. This group of volunteers was headed up by Ulisses Retail Design and Visual Merchandising Manager, we were extremely lucky to have someone with such a wealth of expertise in retail shop design and also loves books to create the vision for the new centre.  The morning was spent planning and gathering the things needed for the transformation.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAThe afternoon more volunteers arrived to help decorate and paint, we also had furniture delivered from our partners Furnish who sell second hand furniture. The team proceeded to paint things in the black and white palette and create large sheets of wallpaper made from the pages of old books which had fallen apart and also lining the bookcases with the pages from the books. We also received a delivery of 3 pallets of books (around 3,000) so lots of heavy lifting getting the boxes into the centre, it really hit home how many we are rescuing from landfill and pulping and how much space they take up.


L'OrealDay three
The fourth team arrived at Chiswick to take the batten to finish the space, lots of painting, we began to start on some of the finishing touches such as the bunting for the windows and painting photo frames.

Day four
Saw the bookshelves put into their correct positions and books starting to go onto shelves, sorting thousands of books requires a really organised team to focus on getting all those fiction and non fiction in their rightful places. We created signs for each section by using old broken books painted with chalkboard paint and then using a chalkpen. We even made an open/closed sign by upcycling an old frame and using book & map pages to create the letters.

L'OrealThis day also saw an enthusiastic team visit our HQ to discuss advertising the new centre, press releases were written, our communications toolkit for the volunteers rewritten,  new streamlined processes agreed and some great ideas put forward. We are also going to be able to reuse this for any new shops we open up which really helps build capacity.

Day five
saw us move across to the established centre in Shepherds Bush which we share with the lovely Petit Miracles team who upcycle and sell furniture.

We were kindly allowed by the West 12 shopping centre to have a stall downstairs to help spread the word about the centre which is up on the first floor, lots of people did not know we are up there!

Recently Updated1We did this for the next 4 days with a few volunteers in the morning and afternoon coming to lend their support, they chatted to members of the public and helped out in the shop. It was really valuable and at 50% increase in visitors was reported in the shop upstairs due to the promo efforts.

We were also lucky enough to be chosen by Sophie Gasperment the Chairman of the Body Shop who are also part of L’Oreal we had a major reorganisation of the books to make it easier for visitors to find a great book to take home and also alphabetised the fiction section and Sophie was a brilliant book sorter up in the shop.

Finally we had another team visit the HQ to support the internal and external messaging for the Books for free centre, this team are from L’Oreal Paris and coordinate Marketing across a wide brand portfolio so they had some brilliant and creative ideas of ways we could layer our comms and encourage people to get involved with the centre.

This project has been really valuable to us as a charity it has offered us a chance to connect with retail and marketing professionals which would be worth thousands of pounds in consultancy.

As a thank you we are holding a little party to launch the shop on the 9th of July. RSVP http://booksforfreechiswick.eventbrite.co.uk

Find out more about:

Knitting & nattering at Healthy Planet’s Books for Free centre in Upminster

We are pleased to launch a new series of blogs about each of our 38 Books for Free centres across England and Wales.  We want to highlight the amazing work done by the volunteers that run the centres and showcase their unique Our first interview is with Lead Volunteer, Daphne.

Daphne tells us all

Daphne tells us all

Tell us about this Books for Free centre…

Books for Free Upminster (in the London Borough of Havering) opened in premises previously occupied by a Woolwich building society branch, in September 2010. We have a large collection of books, vinyl, audio & video tapes, CDs, we can find something for everyone that visits young and old.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering for Healthy Planet and what do you get out of it?

I’ve been at the centre from the beginning – my husband and I had both retired a couple of years beforehand (Daphne worked in the health service) but I was never as keen as he was to retire – They [husbands] just want you to wait on them all the time hand and foot! My husband was passing by one day and noticed in the window the advert for a volunteer to start up the centre here. We initially opened the doors with just a single table near the door. We even asked a local Indian restaurant who were having a refurbishment if we could have their old tables. Otherwise they would just have been thrown away.

I live close the centre and I’ve lived in the town for 30 years – I knew very few people in the town other than my close neighbours before Books for Free. Now I know so many faces to say hello to, it’s great.

Browsers in the Upminster centre

Browsers in the Upminster centre

Male Visitor: “It’s friendly at Upminster Books for Free and adds to my bedside table book collection. They have a great selection and we often donate books and always return books we pick up from the centre. No one likes to see books go to waste so this is a great way to save and reuse them.”

Female Visitor: “When it first opened I was wary about coming in but when I did it was so friendly and I love that I never know what I am going to find, I always bring the books back when I am finished with them.”

Dave & Daphne Volunteers

Dave & Daphne Volunteers

Your centre is now fully sustainable – book donations from visitors keep stock levels up. Visitors often donate a carrier bag of books – and the bag then gets reused as well.

Where else do the book donations you receive come from?

We have a good relationship now with charity shops in the area. They donate books to us that they can’t sell. Local fetes do the same.  All the unsold or unwanted books that had no where to go except landfill can now come here to continue their life. There’s also someone who does house clearances and often brings us books from those. And there was a lady who came to us who had just had a bring & buy sale at her WI (Women’s Institute). She told us she knew instantly where to bring the books they couldn’t sell. We have a ‘Look for me, keep for me’ book, where we write down their requests so that when the type of book is donated to us we know immediately if someone is interested in it, and then we give them a call to let them know.

Knitting circle Upminster

Knitting circle Upminster

Does your BFF centre have any group’s meetings or special events? Could the general public get any more involved?

We have a weekly knitting circle (this afternoon, every Wednesday). Visitors sometimes come in to ask the regular ladies for a bit of help with their knitting. The rest of the time they spend knitting – with wool donated to the centre – making blankets for the premature baby units of the local hospitals, and hats and scarves for the local clothing guild, which distribute garments to people in need and The Mission to Seafarers charity. Only two of the four ladies here today knew each other before they started coming here. They enjoy the natter just as much as the knitting. They also hold the occasional coffee morning. Daphne would like to be able to start up a storytelling event for the children.

Books and browsers at Books for Free Upminster

Books and browsers at Books for Free Upminster

Volunteers at Upminster Books for Free

Volunteers at Upminster Books for Free

Tell us about your team of volunteers…

Some are what I call our converted customers, basically people who I recognise as book nuts, like myself, because I will have noticed them browsing for periods of an hour or more at a time. They might as well help us by doing a three hour shift – they’re here that long anyway! And we have one volunteer who simply comes to the centre to take away our rubbish for us.

How do they work well together? Do you have any stories?

Two of our team are recently widowed ladies who now volunteer together on Sundays – They live on the same street but before they volunteered at Books for Free they didn’t know each other!

Books donated to the centre

Books donated to the centre

It’s very laidback here, and I don’t like ever having to throw visitors out because it’s time to close [The door does indeed finally close on the day we visit around twenty minutes or so after three o’clock, only once the final visitor of the day has chosen what they want to take] Last week we [Daphne, and recently retired engineer Dave} helped pass the time by reading up about world history and geography – discovering the names of new countries in the world and how they came into existence.

We have a retired solicitor among our team. He looks after any law books we get in and offers free legal advice to any visitors who ask.

Dave tells us he likes Books for Free because he felt bored at home since retiring in February, and volunteering is social – he enjoys meeting different people, listening to their stories, and making new friends.

Stories shared with all generations

Stories shared with all generations

Does your centre work alongside any particular organisation, and what does the relationship do for your centre?

Local authorities have asked us to place a couple of people with learning difficulties – they’re a part of our team of volunteers.  We have a community noticeboard by the door, and as an example of some of the help that visitors provide to the centre, there’s one who regularly brings us dog food which we then pass on to a local charity which cares for retired greyhounds. If there are any magazines for older people that the visitors don’t take, we send them to homes for the elderly rather than recycle them because they have difficulty holding weighty books but still enjoy having something to read. Any books we think won’t be of any interest to our visitors we tear out the pages and donate to schools for the children to make papier mache.

Do you have a favourite type of book yourself?

I like science fiction (Julian May, Iain Banks), thrillers and murder mysteries. We get to know what types of books our regular visitors enjoy.

Interested in Books for Free? Want to get involved?

You can volunteer, visit or donate books at any of our 38 centres across the U.K

If you would like to find a centre near you please visit our website: www.healthyplanet.org/booksforfree


Be the start – campaign for May 2013

May 2013 be the start of more vibrant communities

May 2013 be the start of more vibrant communities

We’re proud to be part of a nationwide campaign by Start UK called #bethestart which is featuring us on the 13th of May around our #Booksforfree project encouraging sustainability in the community.

If you would like to find out more please visit http://www.bethestart.org/

Be the Start of rescuing books from going to waste.  As part of their goal to rescue books from going to waste, Healthy Planet is asking for pledges from the public to rescue books. This may be by donating books, organising a book swap at your school or office, or share books amongst friends. Conversation is taking place on twitter, #bethestart and @healthy_planet

We're part of start

We’re part of start

Going green in London

The rare sunshine on 9 June this summer seemed a good omen as I disembarked the tube at Regent’s Park station. With not a clue as to what direction I should be headed, I wandered a bit (across the road—back across now in the right direction—past some gardens, those seemed promising—finally through the park) until I stumbled upon my destination: the London Green Fair.

London Green Fair - Books for Free Booth

London Green Fair – Books for Free Booth

For many tourists visiting London in the summer, an eco-festival of different stalls, speakers, performances and workshops might not make the list of must-see places—but it should! The fair had an open and invigorating atmosphere, with every booth offering not only friendly conversation but also a unique take on sustainability. Whether it be giving out free trees to offset the combined carbon impact of everyone’s travels to the event, or selling homemade, chemical-free soaps, the stallholders truly embodied the heart of the festival and the reason we were all there—to celebrate, enable, and inspire a green lifestyle. The food vendors, children’s activities, speaker’s forum tent, and various workshops that were scattered throughout the fair also made for a fun event.

Although I wanted to visit the fair anyway, I was fortunate enough to also get to experience it from the perspective of a true member of the community when I volunteered with Healthy Planet, where I am interning for the summer. By helping Camen and Olivia at the Books for Free booth, I could see firsthand the amazing potential this initiative has as a positive impact on the community, even aside from the environmental implications of reducing landfill by reusing books. The good in encouraging people to read and even in just celebrating reading seemed palpable in the immediate atmosphere around the booth. A kind of excitement was definitely present, with every visitor equal parts incredulous and delighted that they were actually being given free books with no catch.

Actually, as it turns out, the Books for Free scheme has a bit of history with the London Green Fair—back at the festival in May 2010 was the trial run for our initiative. Two years later, with 5 stores opening just this past week and adding to an assemblage of over 25 stores nationwide, I would say that the fair helped create quite a legacy for what is now our most popular initiative. And aside from being an initial enabler for its success, the fair is truly just too pleasant of an experience for Healthy Planet to stay away—we were really in our element there.

Visiting the London Green Fair and volunteering at the Books for Free booth have definitely comprised a highlight of my summer here. Even though I am but a temporary visitor to the UK, the close and friendly community feel of this event made London feel just a little bit smaller.

You can read more about the fair and its attendees on the website, http://www.londongreenfair.org/.

This blog was written by Meg (Healthy Planet Intern)

John Brookes speaking at the Ideal Home Show

“The ideal homes show has been a really great event for us; we’ve had lots of footfall, with many visitors interested in what we do, especially our Books for Free and Adopt a Plot projects. Considering the exhibition is not environmentally focused it’s been great that people have come up to the stand wanting to chat about what we do.

Perhaps it helped that we were giving away free Basil seeds, but people generally seemed really interested in what we’re doing, with lots of visitors wanting to donate books or asking about how to get involved; either through volunteering or using our empty spaces for their own green initiatives. So hopefully from talking to people on the stand we can help make some great ideas happen!

So it’s been a really positive event for the charity and we feel really lucky to have been given the opportunity to exhibit for free by the Ideal Homes Show.”

John Brookes speaking at the Ideal Home Show is the Marketing & Communications Consultant for Healthy Planet.

Healthy Planet is always an ideal home for those seeking to make an environmental difference and have been given a great opportunity to showcase ideal environmental solutions too; which you can see at the Ideal Home Show this weekend at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre.

Healthy Planet will be planted next door to the Swedish House exhibit, on Princes Avenue. The Swedish House presents functional, well designed interiors that also offer great energy efficient solutions; creating a perfect example of how to produce innovative and sustainable ways of living.

The Ideal Home Show is starting Friday 16th March and running till 1st April. With 270,000 visitors expected here at Healthy Planet we are incredibly excited to have been invited to exhibit; thanks to our innovative green take on consumerism (Books for Free) and our award winning online support for conservation projects (Adopt a Plot).

To highlight the Adopt a Plot initiative Healthy Planet will be giving away promotional seed packs and screening our specially-made Healthy Planet film to highlight the projects.

Our supporters can get 10% off the ticket price by clicking on the banner below. We would love to see you there!

A healthier planet starts here.

Try throwing a book, any self-respecting book, into a bin…

It’s near impossible to do, isn’t it? Because a book has its own story. Its own history. Its own soul.  Once it is read you leave your fingerprints upon it, and in turn it imprints itself upon your mind. And once tossed aside it remains alive, seeking another mind to enrich should you decide to clear some space upon your shelves during a ritual clean-out…

But rather than throw it to the trash or try to re-sell it for pennies, why not donate it to Healthy Planet’s BooksForFree initiative? Healthy Planet is a not-for-profit organisation, managing volunteer-run BooksForFree projects that take in public donations, publishers’ surplus, and unsold books from charity shops before giving them away for free. Really. You can walk into any one of the initiative’s nation-wide stores and feel free to take up to three books, free of charge. Regardless of whether you’re donating your own books or not; as the project works to the classic tune of supply and demand, receiving a bag-full of books one minute before passing the same books on in their threes to a new home soon after.

As this is essentially what the project is all about, keeping books in circulation by extending their lives beyond the Kindle revolution and away from the scrapheap. Giving the book another pair of eyes to entertain, another mind to educate, and another set of hands to nestle into whilst converting your own trash into someone else’s treasure. But you needn’t think that you’ll only find old wives’ novels upon these generous shelves, as they are stacked high with fact and fiction, contemporary titles, timeless classics, children’s favourites and even those pricey university textbooks. However this plentiful supply isn’t exclusive to books, as BooksForFree also cater for magazines, Videos, CDs, Audio Books, DVDs and even the old record to complement Dad’s dusty collection. So why not bring the whole family along…

You may well discover their true shopping personalities, as reading the stores’ scattered signs signalling the 3-book-maximum will instantly divide customers into either Camp X’s astounded “three for free??” or Camp Y’s covetous “what, only three?!” responses. As it is a strange concept to grasp, especially when approaching the counter where you find yourself confronted by a donations box in place of a cash register and receive a bookstamp rather than a receipt. You can even return your ‘purchase’ at any time free of receipt squabbles, creating some form of library-shop hybrid without the loyalty card. This makes up a refreshing anomaly within the average shopping experience, noticeable for the distinct absence of cash transactions, chip & pin machines, and promotional offers.

For today’s businesses set a price for everything, but know the value of nothing. And this is how BooksForFree distinguishes itself, as it recognises the value of a dust-ridden literary classic but refrains from barcoding it with a price. It is simply stamped with Healthy Planet’s logo complete with a discreet request to “Pass me on when you’ve finished reading me”, and it becomes a priceless entity. And this collection of entities combine to create a project that provides a contemporary outlet to the cyclical nature of the purchase and disposal of goods, whilst being sustainable in tackling the world’s financial and environmental problems. For these threats are posing ever more questions to our economic evolution, and projects such as this may prove to be part of the solution.

Follow this link to find your nearest store, and be part of the solution;


Daniel Bowen.

One man’s trash is another man’s Shakespeare!

Did you know that half the books printed in the UK are never read? Sounds unbelieveble, I know, but it gets worse! These books aren’t redistributed, but disposed of, usually pulped or left to rot in a landfill.

As a keen reader this left me feeling shocked and frustrated. But the real victim, as I discovered, is the environment. If we take carbon dioxide emissions into consideration, the UK publishing industry effectively pumps 600,000 tonnes of the harmful gas into our atmosphere from the 200 million books printed every year. That’s the equivalent of putting 100,000 extra cars on our roads.

This huge waste of paper has a major effect on our forests too. Worldwide each year, millions of hectares of ancient forest are logged. That’s the same as an area of forest the size of a football pitch being destroyed every two seconds. With a gob-smacking 80 per cent of the world’s original forests severely damaged or destroyed something has to be done!

What can we do?
Now, imagine if there was some way to prevent all these perfectly good books going to waste and at the same time help cut down on the need for those industries that contribute towards global warming. Well Healthy Planet’s new Books for Free outlet in Basildon does just that. The Books for Free project has just taken over an empty shop in the local community to provide local residents with access to literature and stop thousands of books from going into landfill.

Healthy Planet’s founder Shaylesh Patel said: “When books are sent to landfill there’s a financial cost to the community and the environmental cost is even greater. We don’t have to waste these resources – people can make use of empty buildings and learn from books even when times are tight. This initiative saves everyone money – councils, residents, and commercial landlords who receive a discount on their business rates through hosting us intheir shops.”

Healthy Planet is working side by side with Book-Cycle on this exciting project. Visit their website to find out more about the great work they are doing towards saving the precious book.

Come and visit us at 21 Town Square, Basildon, SS14 1BA Books for Free on either Tuesdays and Thursdays. Londoners can get their books for free from Kensington High Street and outlets are opening as quickly as we can find volunteers to fill them.