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

Waste not, want not

Stuff for Free event January 2012

Stuff for Free event January 2012

Each year the UK alone generates 290 million tonnes of waste, three-quarters of which could be recycled! Fortunately recycling has become a key element in today’s society and due to the thousands of households who live by the ‘Reduce Reuse and Recycle’  motto, 18 million tonnes of CO2 has been saved (that’s the equivalent of taking 5 million cars off the road!) But it’s not only reduce, reuse recycle that can reduce your carbon footprint! Upcycling is a new way of revitalizing unwanted clothes and other items that might otherwise end up in the bin.

Upcycling?

Upcycled Pringles can

Upcycled Pringles can

Upcycling is a way of creating a new or different product from an old one. For example, take an old piece of clothing and rejuvenate it with bits and pieces from your arts and crafts box, and give it a new identity! This is better for the environment; fewer perfectly usable items end up in landfill and as an added incentive… you are saving money!

For some upcycling ideas and inspiration head to our Pinterest Upcycling board http://pinterest.com/healthyplanetuk/reuse-repurpose-upcycle/

Introducing Stuff For Free

Stuff for Free 2012 Infographic

Stuff for Free 2012 Infographic

If you don’t fancy getting your glue gun and sewing kit out, you can also help reduce waste by donating your unwanted clothing and household items to a variety of environmental organisations. We at Healthy Planet have developed an innovative scheme known as Stuff for Free which collects unwanted household items and redistributes the goods into the community for free! This is a great way to declutter your home of items you don’t want anymore and give them a new life. Not everything you own needs to go in to the bin and head straight to landfill –remember one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure!

The Stuff for Free event in Leytonstone, North London was a great success, redistributing nearly 2 tonnes of perfectly good stuff to a new home. Over 350 members of the community came to give and get stuff for free including clothes, books, electronics and bric-a-brac. Attendees said “we enjoyed the friendly atmosphere” and “knowing the stuff I gave or received is finding a new use and a happy home is great!” One happy person took home a full leather motorcycle suit; another left with a never before used exercise machine and many more treasures were there for the taking. We ran 4 Stuff for Free events in it’s first year 2012, check out our infographic to see what happened.

The perfect reason to declutter

Check out this handy Top Tips from a Professional Declutterer produced for Healthy Planet by a professional declutterer – you might find you have a whole load of perfectly good items around your house just collecting dust that would be valued by a friend or neighbour. But you don’t have to bring anything to take stuff – anyone can come along – you never know what you might find.

Next events:

SFF who knows what you might find

Who knows what you might find?

Stuff for Free with West London Waste Authority – Acton event

Give Date: Friday 11th January 8am – 2pm

Take Date: Sunday 13th January 10am – 2pm

Venue: The Vision Warehouse, 15 Kendal Avenue, Acton, W3 0AF

———————————————————————

Give Dates: Saturday 23rd February & Sunday 24th February

Take Dates: Saturday 2nd March & Sunday 3rd March

Venue: Unit 1 City Forum, 250 City Road, London, EC1V 2PU http://goo.gl/maps/20QPa

Nearest tube: Old Street, Islington

You can find out more on the Stuff for Free webpage or signup to come or volunteer via eventbrite.

If you could help us to promote these events by tweeting / using facebook we would be most grateful.

Who Else Wants Your Unwanted items?

There are thousands of other environmental organisations who will also take your unwanted goods and donate them to a worthy cause. A few examples are listed below:

Traid is an organisation which reuses unwanted textiles and clothing and turns them into something new. Each piece of their upcycled clothing is a unique, one of a kind piece and cannot be replicated. www.traid.org.uk

Community RePaint collects leftover paint from homes and businesses. The paint is then redistributed to individuals, families and communities to improve the wellbeing of the people and the appearance of communities across the UK. www.communityrepaint.org.uk

Petit Miracle Interiors uses upcycling as a creative way to engage and assist people who have experienced homelessness or long term unemployment and vulnerable women. They run a series of workshops employing upcycling as a vehicle to improve the living environment, to build confidence, to reduce social exclusion and provide opportunities for further training and employment. www.petitmiracles.org.uk

Furniture Re-use Network are the national co-ordinating body for 400 furniture and appliance re-use and recycling organisations in the UK: theycollect a wide range of household items to pass onto people in need. http://www.frn.org.uk

More information about waste in the UK and recycling is available on the DEFRA website http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/

—————————————————————————————————————-

I believe that the environmental movement is one of the most important priorities for the future;  Channelling the ‘throw away’ culture mindset into more creative and fun ways to save money and help the planet at the same time is the way forward.

Visit Healthy Planet to find out ways you can get involved and make some small changes that will create a positive difference to yourself, your community and the planet.

Written by Rupal Vaja, a Healthy Planet intern (and an aspiring environmental bud just waiting to flower!) – She is on Twitter

Oh no, not more socks!

WImagee all get the chance to brush up on our acting skills at Christmas. You have to put on the face of a lottery winner as you unwrap that well-meaning but awful present.

When the festive period ends, we’re left wondering what we should do with our unwanted gifts. It is estimated that 40% of toys and novelty presents end up in the bin within a year, so instead of throwing them away or leaving them in the back of a cupboard why not make sure that they go to a good home?

Luckily, in January and February Healthy Planet is helping you to do that.

Stuff for Free is a giant community reuse event that gives you the opportunity to swap those unwanted presents for something more to your liking.

What’s more, you’ll be helping the environment. By re-using things instead of throwing them away Healthy Planet is reminding us that by taking part we will be helping to reduce landfill waste, while saving the earth’s valuable resources and helping ourselves find something that we really do want.

To take part Healthy Planet is inviting everyone to:

The Vision Warehouse
15 Kendal Avenue
Acton W3 0AF

Drop off your unwanted stuff between 12 and 22 January and to take your pick of the collected stock from 27 to 29 January.

It’s free, fun and you never know what you might find.

For details, check out our Stuff for Free web page.

White Xmas? No,make it a Green Xmas!

As Christmas approaches,here are a few tips to ensure that we all make it as green as possible:

Make your leftovers into compost: While leftovers at your place could be few and far between, if you do have leftover food, turn it into compost. This will a) reduce landfill and b) be good for your garden or plants.

Recycle your wrapping paper: So the presents have all been unwrapped and met with happiness/disgust/apathy (delete as appropriate). The wrapping paper itself is forgotten about or piled into the bin. Do the right thing and recycle it or, if you can, reuse it again next year!

Turn Xmas lights off when you’re out and about or asleep: The lights are dazzling to look at, but that will not even be a possibility when the electricity they take up runs out. Turn them off when possible.

Donate unwanted toys/clothes/books to charity: Charity shops are calling out for these items and throwing them away adds to the already vast amount of landfill, as well as depriving other children of the chance to enjoy them.

Don’t overeat: Although we see Christmas as a time to overindulge, cooking too much means we use more resources than we need such as gas, water and electricity.

Put into perspective, we should obviously enjoy Christmas, but we should also be aware of how the holiday is affecting the environment. Christmas is supposed to be a time of reflection, so maybe make the time and effort to think about what you can do to ensure Christmas can still be a cause for celebration.

Healthy Planet is helping to teach school children the virtues of making Christmas more environmentally friendly with free lesson plans for teachers and parents. To find out more visit Healthy Planet’s Christmas lesson plans.

By Yasmina Jackson

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.