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

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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

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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

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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/

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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

Off to market

Wondering what to do with your weekend, how to support local business and how to make a smaller environmental footprint? Local organic markets offer a welcome food-shopping alternative: fresh, seasonal food that tastes great, supports local producers and puts the heart and soul back into communities.

Ethical spaghetti junction

For the conscientious consumer, a simple weekly shop can become a maelstrom of choice and counter-choice. There are many, often competing, issues to consider. Organic? Local? Fairtrade? All three? It can seem impossible to reconcile the three, not to mention other considerations like budget.

Local, organic markets offer a refreshing antidote to this confusing mental ’roundabout’. Reassuringly human, they give you a chance to come face-to-face with local food producers and ask questions about the food you are buying.

Fresh ideas, better eating

Markets offer a ‘palate cleanser’: an-ever unfolding source of culinary inspiration. They remind us that food is not, and cannot be expected to be, at its best all year round. Eating seasonally has the added bonus of keeping our diets varied and interesting, by encouraging us to move with the seasons in our cooking too.

The markets are always keeping me on my culinary toes. Last week I was seduced by a pyramid of pumpkins stacked to a worryingly wobbly height. Roast pumpkin soup it is then. Shopping in this way becomes sensory: tastebuds start fizzing, recipe ideas bubbling.

Local health, local wealth

Supporting local producers harnesses the collective buying power of communities and directs it towards local farmers, growers and food producers thus enabling them to flourish. This in turn, helps to safeguard local jobs, keep communities thriving and food sources resilient.

Local food has clear environmental benefits. Fewer miles to travel from fork to fork, leads to reduced emissions and reduced energy consumption. Local food that is also organic has been produced without the use of pesticides or artificial fertilisers: resulting in a healthier planet and healthier people.

Community and conviviality

A weekly market is more than just a place to buy weekly provisions. My local farmer’s market is a place where our small part of a large city gets to transform itself into a thriving ‘village’ community once a week. A place to meet old friends and make new ones; somewhere you are as likely to learn about a new potato variety as you are a local event. Shopping in this way becomes less of a drudge or chore; it is relaxed, slower-paced, warm, convivial.

Find out about your local farmer’s market and learn more about organic food on the Soil Association website.

Go green for 2010: five ways to change for good

If you’re already struggling to meet your new year’s resolutions – whether you’re trying to quit smoking, loose 10 pounds, or trim your spending – we’ve come up with five top tips to keep you green in 2010.

If we do nothing, rising global temperatures will seriously affect our personal health and the health of our planet. So, we at Healthy Planet have a few things you can do right now to help combat climate change that might tick some of your other new year’s resolution boxes as well.

Healthy Planet’s top tips to help save the planet

1. Adopt land in one of the world’s protected parks
Making a difference to environmental change can be easier than you might think. Join Stephen Fry and Nigel Marven to become a land guardian – choose and personalise your plot in any of the world’s 70,000 protected parks in 2010 using Google technology. Adopt land now.

2. Get a unique code for your school Follow in the footsteps of Eastenders’ Charlie Brooks to make the most of your cash, help your school and help the planet at the same time. By using a school’s unique code for every plot you adopt, starting from £20, you will be funding Healthy Planet’s conservation work and £9 (45%) will be given back to your choosen school in a Healthy Learning grant. Help your school and help the planet.

3. Encourage local businesses to turn their empty commercial space green
Healthy Planet charity qualifies for an 80% rates concession, so if you’re paying business rates on empty commercial space then you could save 50% or more on your rates by handing over your empty office and retail space to us. We’ll brighten up your high street with images of beautiful parkland and encourage your community to think green too. Save on rates with us.


4. Get healthy and reap the rewards

Sign up to our “Healthy Choices” Rewards Programme and/or adopt land to earn more rewards for taking steps to a healthier planet. We believe that rewarding healthy choices encourages even more healthy choices. Start earning rewards.

5. Make some small changes to your lifestyle to make a big difference to the planet
Here are some great ideas from across the web to get you started today.

  • Leave the car at home; walk, cycle or use public transport when you can.
  • Save water; take a shower instead of a bath.
  • Change to low energy light bulbs.
  • Buy the most energy efficient and water saving appliances you can afford.
  • Take reusable bags with you when you go shopping.
  • Sign up with Green programs with your energy supplier.
  • Purchase products without unnecessary packaging.
  • Grow plants native to your area in your garden.
  • Remember the three R’s: Reduce, Recycle and Reuse.

Check out Act on CO2 for more ideas.