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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What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? by Tony Juniper – Review

What Has Nature Ever Done For Us’ by Tony Juniper – a leading environmental campaigner and sustainability advisor – is a remarkable book which highlights the true value of the natural world, and the true economic cost of human ignorance in modern day development. 

What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? by Tony Juniper (2012)

What Has Nature Ever Done For Us? by Tony Juniper (2012)

After getting thoroughly engorged into the first few chapters, I was fortunate enough to attend a book club hosted by Friends of the Earth with my manager Dawn Newton, where we had the opportunity to meet Tony Juniper himself (and get my book signed – eeeek!) and learn first-hand about his motivations for writing ‘What Has Nature Ever Done For Us’. He passionately spoke how science is basically communicated to the general public in Swahili, with poor communication methods effectively building great walls and further separating environmentalists, and everyone else.

Juniper’s key aim therefore was to communicate the science to all audiences, which he fulfilled by explaining the complexity and interdependency of nature in a story-like fashion. He produced an engaging and highly readable account of how we as a population are literally liquidating the capital of the Earth.

Tony Juniper - Executive Director

Image provided by Friends of the Earth

To introduce the complex web of interactions and relationships occurring within the Earth’s system, the prologue tells the story of Biosphere 2, the first man-made version of the biosphere which incorporated a variety of the world’s ecosystems in individual biomes. This introduction outlines how a group of eight people embarked on a 2 year experiment in a microcosm of the Earth’s closed systems and the trials, tribulations and complexities they faced.

Juniper then continues to address the importance of the different components of the Earth’s system and their vital interactions. He explains to the reader the full importance of nature’s processes; constantly moving from a cold statistic to a vivid anecdote about the economic failures we have already faced as a consequence of our need to fund our exploding population and consumption habits.

A favourite example of mine concerned the Indian vultures – a scavenger which typically doesn’t pluck at the heart strings of conservationists – who suffered a population decline of 40 million birds following the introduction of a painkiller into cattle, the carcasses of which were a key source of food for the vultures. The original aim was to increase the farmer’s revenue by increasing the productivity of the cattle; however the painkiller proved poisonous to the vultures instigating a population crash and left mountains scattered with ‘putrefying fly-ridden corpses’. The consequence was more wild dogs, more dog bites, and a rabies epidemic which cost the Indian economy $30 billion.

Indian Vulture

Junipers key message is that we must put a price on nature if we are to ensure the long term preservation of our natural assets, and in turn maintain the long-term benefits the natural world provides. Nature’s services are not free and are not limitless. To capitalize on this goal we need to move away from our ‘green economy’ dominated by engineers and politicians, and move to a ‘bio economy’ where like during the construction of Biosphere 2, ecologists, climatologists, engineers, politicians, and businesses all work together to maximise our understanding and achieve our common goal.

Overall this book has provided the opportunity for readers from all walks of life to understand the difficulties faced by the natural world and our interwoven fate.

If you aren’t eager enough to buy the book already here are links to other reviews from the Guardian, by Designs On Earth, and by Friends of the Earth! 

And if your still not convinced visit Tony Juniper’s website…

Finally if any of you are interested in attending future Friends of the Earth book clubs visit their webpage with video of Tony (which also has the link to buy the book) contact: foebookclub@foe.co.uk

tumblr_m04d7lhXKL1qc6j5yo1_500Want to do something to help?

Healthy Planet’s Conservation Community allows you to directly impact the difficulties faced by the natural world. It is a fun and engaging way for anyone, anywhere to support real conservation projects that are helping make a healthier planet.

Visit the community and get on the map. www.conservationcommunity.org

Blog post written by Rhiannon Downer: Marketing & Communications intern at Healthy Planet

2012 has been an amazing year – will 2013 be green?

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from the Healthy Planet Team

We have had a whirlwind year and we wanted to say thank you to all our volunteers, partners and supporters as we cannot do any of it without you!

Instead of sending a card we wanted to celebrate and share all the best bits from 2012 with you! We’ve created this clickable, interactive, zoomable presentation for you created using Prezi. Check it out online.

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Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Our prezi includes:

  • Infographics about Stuff for Free & Books for Free in 2012
  • Celebrating our amazing volunteers who help all over the U.K – with a video message from our Founder Shaylesh
  • Links and videos for Conservation Community
  • Updates on the year Healthy Planet went International!
  • New partnerships with MyHotels & BodyMe
  • Plus the obligatory team photo with staff and interns all dressed in cheesy Xmas jumpers! (Richard won the competition)
Healthy Planet staff & interns Xmas style

Healthy Planet staff & interns Xmas style

New stuff!

There are lots of surprises planned for 2013 including new health & art projects – if you would like to get involved please do get in touch.

Conservation Community – coming soon

If you get any spare time of the festive period please do take some time to visit our Conservation Community preview site with animated video & signup for latest news conservationcommunity.org .

Conservation Community launch video

Conservation Community launch video

The video from our Conservation Community launch event at Google campus is now on YouTube – it’s an uplifting summary of our event which brought together all of our supporters, conservation organisations, local & national charities, businesses and our whole team to a melting pot of ideas and discussion of how we can all help the planet and it’s habitats and wildlife.

Share your green plans for 2013!

Looking forward to 2013 we are really interested in what you plan to do to help the planet so we have created a poll – please share your thoughts with us!

Get On the Map!

Conservation Community launch event_Nov 12On Tuesday 27th November I attended my first event as part of the Healthy Planet team at the launch of the Conservation Community and the Get on the Map initiative, which attracted a full crowd of enthusiastic attendees to Google Campus London.

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Shaylesh Patel – click on image to enlarge

The Talks
The evening kicked off with an inspiring talk from Shaylesh Patel founder of Healthy Planet, with the hard-hitting line “for the first time since records began, our kids are on track to lead a shorter life than their parents’’ – what a way to engage an audience! Shaylesh passionately spoke about the greener and healthier choices that we, as individuals, can make to help create a better planet for future generations, and the wide variety of projects that Healthy Planet has initiated. Being a new intern at the organisation the success of the projects astounded me as much as the audience! The Books for Free initiative for example, has so far saved over 2 million books from being pulped or sent to landfill – that is a whole lot of books!

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Dr Mark Mulligan – click on image to enlarge

Next up on stage was Dr Mark Mulligan – lecturer at King’s College London and chair of the conservation advisory board for the Healthy Planet Foundation. Mark – clearly an avid conservationist – explained the core concepts behind the development of the Conservation Community which aims to combine knowledge, technology and people to actively get involved in conservation through the use of mapping and social networking. The online experience allows the user to choose projects to get involved in, create an online profile, interact with members and spread the word of conservation to the wider community. Amusingly the social media fanatics in the room all looked extremely excited at the prospect of creating a new online profile and being awarded with badges for frantically tweeting!

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Ed Parsons – click on image to enlarge

The final speaker of the evening was Ed Parsons – Google’s Geospatial Technologist – who ended the talks with a surge of optimism. He outlined the major impacts that technological advances have already had on increasing global communication and social interaction, and the positive knock on effects to global conservation. Ed continued to say that as technology continues to spread, we as individuals can build relationships with conservation projects that we care about, we can tackle local and global issues, and we can make a real impact on the natural world.

The Activities
AL0A4192The clearly inspired audience were then given the opportunity to make their own individual conservation hopes and dreams heard. To start, everyone was assigned to a team which reflected a current Conservation Community project – I was team Tiger to reflect the Phoenix Fund mission to conserve the Amur Tigers in the Russia Far East.

After learning about the different approaches Healthy Planet are undertaking to increase the conservation of each species, everyone was asked to think of their own conservation wish and attach the wish to the Healthy Planet Map – note the name of the initiative Get on the Map! Reading some of these wishes was definitely the highlight of my evening, seeing everyone talk about their favourite animals and what they would like to see done to help conserve our world for centuries to come was inspiring! All these wishes are online on flickr for everyone to view.

Conservation wishes

My personal favourite wish has to be “that future generations will be able to enjoy immense biodiversity both overseas and in the UK”.

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The Chat
The final part of the evening ‘networking’ was the part I was most dreading! Typically, when I’m nervous I stumble over my words and end up hiding in a corner, so the idea of approaching a complete stranger and plucking an intellectual conversation from thin air was terrifying! Fortunately for me however, whilst debating whether I was safer hiding in the ladies or under the stage, I was approached by a lovely young gentleman who too admitted to contemplating running to the foyer and texting his entire address book as a tempting solution to his nerves. Surprisingly I was much more at ease after this conversation – safety in numbers and all. Soon the buzz of the evening filled the air, the conversation (and wine) was easily flowing, ideas were bounding, and the growing interest in the Conservation Community was obvious.

Animal themed photo booth

Animal themed photo booth

The Food
The final triumph of the evening was the excellently chosen vegan canapé selection which was provided by Vegan Peasant Catering. The food was delicious, and that is coming from someone who usually shrivels away from a humus pot and anything resembling a vegetable. I can proudly say I tried Tahini Ganoush and Sage Crisp & Candied Lemon Zest on Crostini. In addition for anyone reading this who wants to spark a conversation with a group of powerful looking women –  go armed with a tray of Pink Sea Salted Brownies, women are like putty in your hands. See all the photos from the event on Healthy Planet Flickr.

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Find out more at on the Conservation Community Website our storify from the night or Follow Us on Twitter or Facebook!

You can watch the talks on You Tube Conservation Community launch by Healthy Planet at Google Campus

We are currently editing a short film by potentialproductions.org which will include excerpts from the event and mini interviews with the guests, watch this space.

Blog post written by Rhiannon Downer: Marketing & Communications intern at Healthy Planet

There is no planet B: Can Art inspire change?

Stitch Calendar Competition 2012 - There is not planet B

Stitch Calendar Competition 2012 – There is not planet B
http://www.stitchproject.com

Stitch Calendar Competition 2012 – There is no planet B

We are bombarded with so many different ways in which we could be greener and help look after our planet. Car adverts stress the importance of reducing your carbon footprint; magazine covers brag they have the top ten answers to living a greener life. We can’t escape it. Although we can’t walk anywhere without tripping up on the words “recycle”, some of us still manage to forget there is still so much more that can be done.

Stitch are hosting a competition inviting artists and photographers of all walks of life, to submit artwork with the theme “There is no planet B.” Stitch is a not-for-profit organisation that raises environmental awareness through the arts.

The twelve winning images will be used for a calendar to remind you, each and every day, that this planet we live in has a limit. The artwork will inspire you to be proactive about looking after the planet, reminding you that making small changes can make a huge impact. As if that wasn’t enough of an incentive, the winners will also receive a cut of the profit from sales of the calendar. (for more information see Stitch Calendar Competition 2012 PDF )

Art has been used for many years as  a way to express the conversations of the time- so what better way to express the desire to educate ourselves on the way to keep Earth a great place to live?

Inspirational eco art

We have picked out pieces of art which captured our imaginations with their eco-friendly approach to materials and inventive work:

Images courtesy of crosshatchling.co.uk

Images courtesy of crosshatchling.co.uk

Images courtesy of crosshatchling.co.uk

Images courtesy of crosshatchling.co.uk

Artist Anna Garforth is an incredible artist whose approach to recyclable materials is fascinating. Her experimental artwork is pushing the boundaries of eco art, with pieces such as edible posters, typography using reusable materials such as paper of old yellow pages. The idea of an installation made of moss, may sound peculiar to the rest of us, but Garforth’s work transforms something which is often overlooked (unless you are a gardener) into something solid and relevant. The Moss Cross is an example and was produced for the temporary project for The Urban Physic Garden.  In July Garforth also displayed her moss art work at a vacant wall in Kings cross. The moss formed a beautiful symmetrical pattern, standing out against the dullness of the city concrete. Fascinating and original.

Photographs by Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters (via hungeree.com)

Photographs by Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters (via hungeree.com)

On a more international front, we were also very intrigued by the use of plastic bottles for an incredible sculpture of fish, on Botafogo Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The piece was an inspiring form of protest which coincided with the Earth summit for United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which took place in the city in June. Accompanied by the slogan “Recycle your attitude”, it was a perfect example of art being a way to highlight an important cause. These spectacular giant fish were made up of tens of thousands of discarded water bottles, masterfully lit with internal and external lights, giving off the effect of shimmering scales. A powerful and thoughtful message about the ocean and our attitude’s to waste.

Photographs by Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters (via hungeree.com)

Photographs by Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters (via hungeree.com)

As you’ve seen many artists have used materials to make art and bring attention to greener causes; this is what the Stitch competition is about. Inspiring and educate simultaneously with images which are unavoidable and predict a future which is entirely in our hands.

Quick,  get your entries in as the competition ends on the 21st of October (extended deadline) ! We are really looking forward to seeing the end result. If you want to get your hands on a copy of the calendar follow Stitch on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/TheStitchProject or any questions of queries, get in touch by emailing calendar@stitchproject.com

Visit the Stich website for more information on the competition www.stitchproject.com

Happy Earth Day!

Dear Healthy Planeteers,

The day we have been waiting for since 23 April 2009 is finally here and Healthy Planet wants to be the first to wish you a Happy Earth Day!

Being a conservation charity means more than just counting down to Earth Day and writing celebratory blogs. It means encouraging people to make greener decisions, whether that is giving a plot of land instead of a tradition present or turning off the water when brushing you teeth. It also means ensuring a healthy future, which we are doing by distributing Free Earth Day teaching resources to UK primary schools.

The lessons are not only for Earth Day or Earth Week. We hope that teachers will continue to use these year round because our lesson plans meet national curriculum guidelines while still being fun, interactive and teaching a perennial lesson.

Celebrating by saving our world,

Healthy Planet

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.