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Month: March 2018

Keeping Southsea Beach Clean

Most of the blog posts at Shades of Green are focused on the small changes that Tamara and I (Emma) are making to create a greener world (i.e. buying organic food or cutting down on water usage), but this month, we are highlighting the work of local community activists.

This time we are focusing on the efforts of Lara Skingsley, the organiser of the Southsea Beachwatch since 2015, who is helping to keep our beachfront free of litter through monthly clean ups with large groups of volunteers (sometimes up to 400!).

These cleanups, which take place on the first Saturday of each month, are part of an initiative by the Marine Conservation Society to keep all human-made rubbish (and recycling) out of our oceans while leaving natural materials in place to support wildlife.

Lara sat down with me in late February (via Twitter) to explain why she organises these cleans, what we can do as individuals to keep our seaside litter free, and what Portsmouth City Council should be doing to reduce the amount of rubbish on Southsea seafront.

Keeping Southsea Clean

Beach clean volunteers ❤️

A post shared by Southsea Beachwatch (@southsea_beach) on

Lara, a former student of Marine Environmental Science, explains that she’s always loved nature, particularly coastal wildlife, and wanted to do something practical to target marine pollution, which is why she got involved with the cleans.

She said: “Beach cleans ‘do good’ instantly, and help to raise awareness of environmental issues… As well as keeping Southsea looking beautiful, cleaning the beach of litter makes it safe for people, pets, and wildlife.”

Throughout the course of the beach cleans, Lara and her team have collected tens of thousands of items of rubbish – including a catheter and colostomy bag, a bovine skull, and an intact light bulb as large as a child’s head – but the vast majority of the waste is plastic, as evidenced in the 2017 Great British Beach Clean Survey.

Pie chart of today's beach clean and survey results!

A post shared by Southsea Beachwatch (@southsea_beach) on

Lara advises that there are many ways to reduce the amount of rubbish that ends up on the beach, but the most important would probably be cutting our dependence of single-use plastic, which is why she’s made the decision not to use any plastic straws, takeaway cups, or single-use plastic bottles in 2018.

The role of Portsmouth City Council

https://www.instagram.com/p/BSRyr5_Dr3d/

Another issue of key importance to Lara is what Portsmouth City Council can do to keep Southsea clean, from improving the designs of bins on the seafront (so that rubbish can’t blow out and wildlife can’t get in) to strengthening regulations on local businesses and construction projects with regards to waste disposal and secure storage of materials.

Lara said: “PCC should ensure that local construction and businesses keep their waste and materials appropriately secured. For example, recently an open skip next to South Parade Pier was left uncovered for weeks and despite people reporting it to PCC, nothing was done to cover it, so the material littered the beach. We also find a lot of disposable and novelty items, like take-out coffee cups, lids, straws, and balloons. Seafront business should be encouraged to be more responsible for the products they buy, sell, and throw away.”

Want to get involved?

https://www.instagram.com/p/BdnDwCWD64H/

Southsea Beach Watch is always looking for new people to join their ranks. If you’d like to get involved in one of the upcoming beach cleans, then check Southsea Beachwatch’s Facebook and other social media pages for upcoming dates (next one is 10am-noon on April 7th!), locations, and any cancellations/amendments due to inclement weather.

Yours truly tried to attend the March event, but it was unfortunately cancelled due to the Beast from the East. Good thing, I checked their Insta!

If you’re planning to attend and can bring your own thick gloves (the sort used in gardening) and/or litter pickers then please do, as Lara has limited supplies of both. She does provide bin bags for collection though.

Lara said of the volunteers: “I’m always inspired by the thoughtful and positive local people who join these cleans and who enthusiastically care about our shoreline and wider environment.”

What about if I can’t do those Saturday beach cleans?

Some of us will have other commitments on Saturdays (work, sporting events, etc) which make it near impossible to make Southsea Beachwatch’s events – I once couldn’t get a Saturday off to go to Pride, so I don’t think my boss would have let me take the morning off for this.

That’s why Lara recommends the Two-Minute Beach Clean; an initiative where you do what you can in the time that you have.

Waiting on the beach for a friend to meet you? Pick up some litter and pop it in a bin.

Walking home via the beach? Pick up any litter you spot as you walk.

Going to the beach? Volunteer to take the rubbish to the bin for your friends/family so that none of it gets dropped en route.

 

Now, dear reader, I turn the floor to you. Have you gotten involved in one of the beach cleans? What do you think we can do to reduce rubbish on our seafronts? And what should PCC do to combat the problem? Let us know in the comments section.

Anna Against the Machine

In honour of International Women’s Day, we are thrilled to be celebrating the achievements of local community campaigner and Portsmouth Green Party activist, Anna Koor.

In this extended interview,  we discuss Anna’s involvement in the ongoing campaign to get the road around Camber Dock in Old Portsmouth registered as a Public Right of Way.  This is a longer blog post than usual, but I (Tamara) hope you will agree that it is worth the extra scrolling!

So to bring you up to speed, last week saw a significant win for the campaign; Portsmouth City Council was instructed by the Environment Secretary to raise an Order for a Restricted Byway.  

Thanks to the steadfast dedication and campaigning of Anna Koor, Ken Bailey and the Camber Action Group, and with the support of the Open Spaces Society; the quayside path around the Camber is now on the road to becoming a Public Right of Way – which is what the campaign is all about! This milestone step towards the protection of our public access to this pathway comes after a lengthy four-year campaign of rejected applications and appeals.

“This is wonderful news Tamara”, I hear you cry! “But what does that actually mean? Raising an order? Public right of way? What is this language you speak?”

Well, dear reader, basically this means that Anna and the campaign are moving closer to their aim to ensure that this historic route finally becomes fully protected by law. 

Headshot of community campaigner Anna Koor

 

But don’t just take my word for it, as to tell us more and to explain in plain English what this all means, Anna Koor is here with me.

campaign Chat Time with Anna

Tamara: Anna, welcome to Shades of Green and congratulations on the success of your appeal.

Let me start by saying  I am feeling rather sheepish as I know next to nothing about public rights of way and raising orders, and so will probably be asking you some rather obvious questions!

Anna: Hi Tamara, it’s great to catch up with you and even better to also explain more about what a milestone this news is for people in Portsmouth.

Tamara:  Before we get to the nitty-gritty of your recent triumph, please tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement in the community.

Anna: I’ve lived back in Pompey with my partner since 2005 – we both were here in our formative years as students at the Polytechnic in the 1980s. So in that respect, I do consider Portsmouth my spiritual as well as physical home. I’m self-employed as a book editor but also work locally as a barista and baker.

I am very involved in my local community and campaigns like Community Speedwatch. Speeding is something I could rant on about endlessly so a few years ago I signed up for Community SpeedWatch with some of my neighbours and we started doing education exercises on our 20mph streets.

I also joined the Green Party in March 2015 and ended up standing as a Green Party local council candidate. The Greens did really well across the whole city and from talking to voters I got the impression that they were fed-up with the three big parties and wanted an alternative.

The Camber dock

Boats on the Camber

Tamara: You seems to be very connected with your community. Where did the Camber Dock come in? I have to admit I don’t know much about it, apart from The Bridge Street Tavern pub!

Anna: The Camber Dock is just around the corner from us. One of our first discoveries, when we moved back to Pompey, was this little gem tucked away behind the Cathedral — the Camber Dock became our daily post-work ‘constitutional’.

The Camber Dock is part of the Old Portsmouth Conservation Area. It really is a hidden treasure – I think we must be the only seafront city with a fishing fleet right in the heart of the urban environment. The Camber is where Portsmouth was born – the city grew out of this little enclave centuries ago.

The land the Camber sits on is owned by Portsmouth City Council and is used by the Port– it, therefore, belongs to all of us and is a valuable heritage asset. The public – locals, visitors etc – have always used this quayside road along with users such as boat owners and fishermen.

Many of us would be unhappy to see this land sold and possibly lost to the public.  

THE CAMPAIGN FOR RIGHT OF WAY BEGINS

Tamara: Gosh, I had assumed that as it was public land, the council would have to honour that. How did you get involved in campaigning to protect the area? What brought it to your attention?

Anna: Ken Bailey and I are the applicants who originally applied to the Council in 2014 to register the Right of Way. Ken was born and brought up in and around the Camber and still lives a stone’s throw from it – he remembers using it as a playground back in his youth.

It was only when we heard about the redevelopment plans at the Camber in 2014, to make way for the Ben Ainslie Racing building, that we got together with fellow residents because we were worried that the right of way we had all been using might be under threat. It wasn’t the building we were concerned about but the possibility that the route around the water’s edge might no longer be accessible to the public.  

Tamara: I have no idea how to challenge the Council on public access other than complaining on Facebook, which as we all know isn’t always super effective! How did you and Ken go about it?

Anna: Well, when it became clear that the Camber quaysides were in danger of being blocked to the public, a group of us teamed up and joined the national Open Spaces Society in order to learn more about rights of way and what we could do to protect this route in law under Section 53 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Like you, I knew very little about rights of way other than thinking perhaps this could be a way of legally protecting this established route that the public have used for decades. We applied to Portsmouth City Council to have the definitive map and register amended to add a Right of Way.

Tamara: Definitive map? Is this like Google Maps but more authoritative?

Anna: *chuckles politely at Tamara’s terrible joke* Not quite – Definitive Maps are a legal record of all Rights of Way in England. They are kept by Surveying Authorities who have a duty to keep them updated. Portsmouth City Council is a Surveying Authority.  

THE JOYS OF APPLYING TO THE COUNCIL

Tamara: Ahhh, I see. Thanks for explaining that. What did putting together the application involve? I can imagine it wasn’t simple and straightforward?

Anna: It has been a very long and drawn out process.  Along with other volunteer supporters, we spent an age going through historic records in the Portsmouth History Centre. We scoured the minutes of council committees going back to when records began.

The process we used essentially involved supplying witness statements demonstrating that the Camber route had enjoyed uninterrupted use by the public over a 20 year period. We provided witness statements to that effect, along with documentary and photographic evidence of historic use.  

Tamara: Anna, this sounds like SO much work! I feel overwhelmed just thinking about all the research and paperwork. With all this evidence behind you, why didn’t the Council approve the application?

THE FOUR-YEAR KNOCKBACK

Anna: Well, our first application in 2014 was refused, partly because the Council considered that a right of way around the quay edge would interfere with the duties of the Port, even though our evidence demonstrated that the public has always used this route in happy co-existence with port activities.

Tamara: I assume you took to Facebook in armchair rage at the futility of local politics?

Anna: Not exactly! Instead, we appealed to the Secretary of State. This was dismissed – not because of reasons to do with the port, but because of an amendment to government legislation. It is very convoluted, but to cut a long story short, we had no option but to make fresh applications in 2016 to the Council to record a different category of Right of Way – either a Restricted Byway or a Footpath.

Tamara: Please tell me this time the council agreed and they offered you the key to the city. (I have been watching a lot of ‘Parks and Recreation‘ lately.)

Anna: That would have been nice but no such luck. Again, the council refused.

Tamara: So far, it’s sounding like you were being knocked back at every turn. The Council rejected your application twice. How did you turn it around?

AN ORDER IS RAISED (THIS IS A GOOD THING)

Anna: Last year we appealed for the second time to the Secretary of State. This time, the Planning Inspector re-examined all the evidence and any fresh information we had unearthed and instructed Portsmouth City Council to raise an Order for a Restricted Byway. Ultimately, this will lead to getting the Right of Way registered on the definitive map.

View of the Camber

Tamara: Yes! Result! Anna and Ken against the Man!  Just to clarify…asking for a friend – what does it mean to raise an Order?

Anna: Basically, to amend the definitive map by adding an established Right of Way, the Surveying Authority (Portsmouth City Council) needs to publish an Order which anyone has the opportunity to comment on.

Tamara: Whew, what a process to get to this stage! You and Ken have my admiration as I don’t know many people with your tenacity and perseverance.  It must have been rather disheartening to do so much work and get numerous rejections. What kept you going?

*hums Tubthumping’s ‘Chumbawamba -I Get Knocked Down‘*

Anna: Really, it was the strength of feeling among the local community, the compelling evidence we found and the feeling that we had to see this through to some kind of just conclusion meant we felt compelled to Appeal. The only way we could feel that our case could be properly settled was by an independent Planning Inspector.

Tamara: Which is what has finally happened with the Planning Inspector instructing PCC to raise an Order for a Restricted Byway. I will definitely be commenting on this Order, in your favour obvs, when it is published. When is that going to be?

Anna: We hope this is now done without further delay and that this route finally becomes fully protected in law so that future generations can continue enjoying it.

Tamara: Thank you so much for speaking to me today. It has been a pleasure. Good luck with the rest of the campaign and please do come back and update us after the Order is published.

 

For more information or to get in contact with Anna Koor or Ken Bailey about the Camber Dock campaign,  email anna.koor@ntlworld.com.

You can also find out more about their appeal success here as reported in The Portsmouth News.

What are your thoughts on the Camber campaign? Have you ever gone up against the Council? Tell us in the comments below.

How I Eco-Hack My Kitchen – A Green Goddess Series

In my household eating is a much-beloved activity and cleaning is most definitely  not. In this series on eco-kitchen hacks, I (Tamara) will be focusing on my attempts at green kitchen living. I will share with you my tried and tested tips – from how to eat sustainably, to where I buy food for me and my husband, to food storage and food waste, and of course the ever-dreaded cleaning.

In this post, I will be focusing on five easy and sustainable changes I have made. So, as they sing in Oliver, let’s get started with Food, Glorious Food, magical Food, Wonderful Food!

Man eating strawberries and cream

  1. Buy Sustainable & Certified Foods

fair trade Madagascan cacao bag

My requirement of food is simple –  I want the food I eat to cause me transcendental bliss, to tickle my tastebuds into spasms of delight, to satisfy my stomach and my mind. Surely that’s not asking for much?

What I do not want to taste is worry and guilt in every bite about the unfair treatment of producers and farmers, horrific animal welfare, industrial-scale deforestation, overfishing, air miles, and pollution, and the overall negative ecological impact – ain’t nobody got time for that!

This is why, wherever possible, I buy certified and sustainable food that can relieve both my conscience and my hunger. Whatever your food preferences, whether you are a meat-lover, meat reducer, pescetarian, vegetarian, vegan or fruitarian (not an exhaustive list!) – my first nugget of green wisdom is to be on the lookout for food produced to certified and traceable standards, ideally that goes above and beyond the legal minimum.

Logos and marks I look out for include Fairtrade, the green frog of Rainforest Alliance, the bluefish of MSC (Marine Stewardship Council), RSPCA Assured, Free Range and Soil Association Organic.

Yes, some certified foods can be more expensive as there are higher welfare and environmental standards involved with the farmers and producers are being paid a fair living wage. Yes, I have to make choices and yes, compromises also have to be made. This is why I have my ‘non-negotiables’ and my  ‘if-money-allows’.

My non-negotiables include free range eggs, Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance bananas and coffee, MSC fish and seafood, and free-range or RSPCA-assured meats.

If money allows, I have organic eggs, vegetables, meat and cheese, and Fairtrade flowers and wine for when I am feeling fancy.

And finally, I always buy local if that option is available to me – this Christmas I had family visiting from Trinidad and so as it was a special occasion, I splashed out on a local free-range goose for them from the family-run Ashford Farm near Petersfield. I won’t lie, it was expensive but (I am assured) delicious and so worth it!  I also regularly buy fresh produce from my local Milton Market greengrocers Portsmouth Fruit and Flowers who stock veg and flowers from Titchfield. My Titchfield-grown daffodils from them are nodding happily to me as I type!

Basket of Daffodils

So whether it is choosing Fairtrade bananas in your a weekly food shop, or making the choice to buy RSPCA ham from Lidl or MSC certified fish fingers from Tesco’s or buying locally grown sprouts and daffodils from Portsmouth Fruit and Flowers greengrocers; each ethical, sustainable and local choice you make means an unsustainable food item is being left on the shelf. And that my friends, is the power of consumer choice. Boom!

For more information on the various certifications I mentioned and many that I didn’t, I found this list on the Love British Food website useful.

 

  1. Make Your Own Bread

Bread Rolls

Keeping on the topic of food, mine is a bread-loving household as the Dutchman (my husband) would eat bread for every meal if he could. Bread with cheese, bread with peanut butter, bread with chocolate spread – I think I’m married to a man-child!

Last February 2017, he was gifted a bread machine from a kind friend and it has seriously changed our lives! He makes a bread every 2 days and as we no longer buy shop-bread, we no longer have to deal with the plastic bags they come in, thus reducing our plastic waste. I salute those who make bread by hand – we tried it a few times and failed miserably. I’m happy with the convenience of the bread machine, for us it’s revolutionary!

 

  1. Use cloth napkins

cloth napkin with flowers and cutlery

Another small change that has helped reduce the amount of waste we produce is using cloth napkins instead of paper kitchen roll.

I am a mucky pup and spillages are a common occurrence. Cloth napkins are reusable, can be chucked in with my laundry, and it looks fancy shmancy!

I sourced mine from charity shops and my Mum who had more cloth napkins than one person could ever need. I have greatly reduced my (FSC and recycled) paper towel usage as I just use tea towels or cloth napkins instead.

 

  1. (Re) Fill Your Own

refill spice jars

As a prolific user of herbs and spices (smoked paprika makes everything taste yum!), I was delighted to find I can refill my spice jars at Wild Thyme Wholefoods who offer an amazing self-service for herbs and spices as well as a refill service for laundry and washing up liquid.

I recently refilled my Ecover laundry and washing liquid at Southsea Health Shop and it was cheaper than Tescos! Trust me, I checked! This does require a tiny bit more planning, and I am aiming to have one bottle in use and one pre-filled under the sink so I don’t run out and have to do a supermarket dash.

 

  1. Composting

compost heap

I have been lucky that the majority of places I’ve lived in here in Pompey had outdoor space for a compost bin. I compost all uncooked fruit and veg peelings and for years had been also innocently including tea bags made from polypropyleneNow if I am unsure if the material of the tea bag is made from plastic, I just add the tea leaves to the compost and discard the bag. I am currently working my way through a back-supply of tea bags and will be moving onto loose tea to save myself those 5 seconds of extra work.

Other than that, I just throw in my veg scraps every few days with some newspaper and let the compost do its magic. I might aerate it once a year if it’s lucky, but the rest is up to the worms! So far, so good! Though eggshells and coffee grounds can also be added to the compost, I add these to my garden as snail and slug deterrents. Those little bastards eat everything except the bloody weeds!

For those of us in flats or with no outdoor space, you could experiment a wormery or bokashi bin. Years ago,  I used to have a bokashi bin, but was too lazy to look after it properly and so it went horribly wrong. I’ve been thinking I might give it another go as you can add almost all food waste in a bokashi bin including cooked food. I need to research it first as it needs to be convenient for my lazy ass!

Alternatively- or as well as- find a friend or neighbour with a compost bin who you can donate your organic waste to! Try signing up with ShareWaste, a free app that links together people with organic scraps with people who have compost bins, wormeries, or chickens. So far, there are only a few of us in the Pompey area on there, but the word is getting out there, so sign up! Coincidentally, the first request I received was from someone who has the fermented organic waste from her bokashi bin to donate to my compost.

In this post , have just scratched the surface on the many small changes that I have made to green-ify my kitchen. What green kitchen tips do you have? Do you compost and if so,  do you just chuck it all in and hope for the best like me? Have you signed up to ShareWaste or know of any other similar useful apps? Let us know in the comments below.

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