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

Volunteer with us and help make sure a book is never binned again

We want a world where a book is never binned again. We believe that books are precious, for the knowledge held within them and the trees they were created with. We think we should all share our books and give them a chance at a second life, even books that may no longer be readable can be repurposed into lots of cool things such as alternative Xmas trees, chairs, desks and other crafty things. We don’t think there is any excuse for throwing them away.

https://i1.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8246/8578320968_4e7da556de_c_d.jpg

Books for Free volunteers in action

Our Books for Free centres rescue unwanted books from landfill or pulping.  Using empty high street retail units Healthy Planet sources used books and our volunteer run centres give out the books to the public for free. We now have 30+ centres nationwide and we’ve saved 2 million books from landfill /pulping. The programme supports more reading, reuse & green behaviour and community / regeneration.

Books for Free - How it works Infographic

Books for Free – How it works Infographic

We are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to help sustain our centres, this opportunity would suit someone interested in books or green issues, wishing to gain experience in retail or anyone who would like to meet new people and help in their local community.

If you would like to check where your nearest centre is please visit www.healthyplanet.org/booksforfree

Volunteers needed in the following locations:

bffvolWe are currently urgently seeking volunteers in the following locations:

– Redditch
– High Wycombe
– Richmond
– Liverpool
– Swindon
– Holborn (London)

Get full details: Download full role description (PDF)

Interested?Get in touch: 0203 405 2485 | volunteer@healthyplanet.org

http://www.healthyplanet.org/projects/books-for-free/volunteer-in-one-of-our-shops.aspx

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

Stallholders at Healthy Planet’s Stuff for Free event

We’re are proud to be working in partnership with several organisations to create a small fair at our Leytonstone event on Saturday the 24th and Sunday the 25th of November 2012. www.healthyplanet.org/stuffforfree

Stuff for free stallholders


(Sat & Sun)

Community RePaint

Stored in homes and garages across the UK, there is approximately 50 million litres of unused, reusable paint – enough to fill 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools! The Community Repaint scheme collects this leftover paint from homes and businesses. The paint is then redistributed to individuals, families and communities to improve the wellbeing of people and the appearance of communities across the UK. http://www.frponline.org.uk/

(Sat only)

Petit Miracles

Petit miracles are a registered charity who works with people who have experienced homelessness and long term unemployment, and with vulnerable women. The charity is a provider of accredited interior design training, DIY workshops and upcycling courses, to help participants improve their living environment, build confidence and provide opportunities for further training and employment. www.petitmiracles.org.uk

(Sat only) Green Peas

Green Peas provides classes for children aged 15 months – 4 years, where children can get involved in messy and creative play with natural objects. The classes are a unique opportunity for children to actively engage with nature in an urban environment, allowing them to create art out of ordinary objects like leaves and acorns which can boost children’s creativity and problem solving skills. www.greenpeasevents.co.uk

(Sat only)

Juliet Landau-Pope

Juliet Landau-Pope is a certified coach and professional de-clutterer who aims to ‘liberate your space, your schedule and your story’, through decluttering your home. The service empowers you to decide what to reduce, reuse, recycle, donate or discard, and find positive ways to part from items you no longer need. www.jlpcoach.com | Twitter: @jlpcoach

 

(Sat & Sun)

Love Food Hate Waste

Love Food Hate Waste is an NFP organisation which works with community organisations, UK businesses, trade bodies and local authorities to raise awareness of the need to reduce food waste and help us take action. Love Food Hate Waste also provides practical information to homeowners on how to reduce the amount of household waste through food shopping and recipe ideas, portion size planning and how to maximise the shelf life of your shopping. http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/

 (Sun only)

DHL Envirosolutions

DHL Envirosolutions is one of the largest collectors of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), and helps to promote recycling within the local community. http://www.dhl.co.uk/en/logistics/supply_chain_solutions/

(Sun only)

 

EcoACTIVE

EcoACTIVE is an environmental education charity who, through eye-opening experiences, helps explore the complex issues of sustainability and develop the knowledge of both children and adults in schools and the wide community. Projects include: waste and recycling, composting, energy and climate change, and water conservation.  http://ecoactive.org.uk/

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;

http://www.healthyplanet.org/projects/books-for-free.aspx

Daniel Bowen.