Jubilee 2012. Celebrating or cashing in?

Thanks to charleschen via Flickr for this great image.

Everyone is talking about the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, which will take place in a flurry of bunting, flags and cake over the weekend of 2, 3, 4 and 5 June.

Does this mean we’re all patriotic royalists, or are we just looking forward to a long weekend? I think it’s a bit of both.

After the royal wedding last year and the high profile work of the younger royals, the royal family do seem to be popular at the moment, and not just because we’re all getting a couple of days off.

And it’s hard not to be impressed by the Queen, well into her eighties and still working hard.

Of course, along with a celebration like this, there’s lots of opportunities for Jubilee merchandise, and Jubilee ‘stuff': almost every shop in my home town of Brighton has a display of union Jacks, bunting and corgis.

As a retailer we understand that shops need to take every opportunity to boost sales. Especially at the moment when times are tough.

However, we’re not just a retailer, we’re a resourceful retailer.  It’s not that we’re not looking forward to the Jubilee weekend, it’s just that we think it would be a shame to encourage to people to buy lots of throwaway decorations and paper plates and cups, that will only get used once, then chucked out.

So we asked our customer for a few tips for a low-impact, resourceful street party, that will still be lots of fun.

  • Make your own bunting: you don’t need expert sewing skills, and making recycled bunting from donated material from your community will be so much more meaningful than something bought new.
  • Persuade neighbours to lend plates, cups and cutlery, or  help out a local charity shop by buying from them, and re-donating when the party’s over.
  • Don’t forget to recycle: get the local kids involved in creating some colourful recycling bins, and people will be much more likely to use them. And the more people recycle, the less clearing up to do at the end.

For more ideas about what to do for the Jubilee, check out The Big Lunch and find out more having a street party.

Are you having an eco street party? Tell me your tips for keeping it resourceful in the comments.

3.4 billion Litres of Water a Day

Dripping tap
Thanks to SamHudson 2011 via Flickr for this great image

Yesterday I read this thought provoking article in the Guardian.

Despite being in the grip of one of the worst droughts in the last 25 years, over half of the water companies in the UK will not have to fix leaks in their pipes until 2015. The Guardian also found that overall, leaks will only be reduced by 1.5% during this time.

And then I read this: “Every day, 3.4 billion litres of water leaks from the system, almost a quarter of the entire supply.”

Wow. 3.4 billion litres. Every day.

I can’t even begin to work out what 3.4 billion litres of water means in terms of their carbon footprint.

The rest of the Guardian article also makes interesting reading. Whilst water companies are not fixing their leaking pipes, they’re increasing water bills, and passing the obligation to save water onto customers.

As a resourceful retailer, we’d advise anyone to live in a more resourceful way, which means making the most of what we have. Water especially is an essential resource: how often do we forget how much energy it takes to collect, treat and clean our water so it comes flowing out of the tap whenever we need it?

Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen a rise in the sales of water saving products, especially our hand siphon for re-using grey water on your garden. There’s no doubt that recent publicity around the hosepipe ban has got people thinking about how important water is, and how to use less: in the kitchen, bathroom and in the garden.

But you’d be forgiven for taking another look at your shower timer, your toilet cistern water saver, hand siphon and rain water butt, and thinking: I’m doing my bit to save water, so why can’t the company that supplies it do their bit too?

Come on Southern Water, Yorkshire Water et al, follow your customers lead and start thinking resourcefully.

Inventive ways to re-use grey water

Water saving

It’s been chucking it down with rain in the UK these last few

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Ironically it doesn’t seem to have stopped since the water companies imposed hosepipe bans at the start of April.

The water shortage won’t be cured by this rain, but isn’t the hosepipe ban a bit silly? It doesn’t stop anyone using bucket loads of water, or flushing the toilet a lot.

Some thinkers say we’d be better off if instead of a ban on using it, the price of water went up when there was a shortage. Because at the moment the way we pay for our water allows us to waste a lot of it, no matter what the weather is doing.

Maybe they’re right. It might be better if we were all metered, and were charged based on how much we used.

But at the same time we need inventive ways of saving and re-using water. Other drier countries routinely re-use grey water from showers or baths, to flush the loo or water the garden, instead of using drinking water as we do.

James Dyson recently challenged bright young engineers to solve Britain’s drought problem by developing new inventions that could cut down the amount of water we use in our day-to-day life.

Well, I spoke to Harry ‘Aitch’ Parker last week.

Harry is in his seventies and builds dry-stone walls in Cumbria. He’s also the inventor of the ingenious bath water diverter.

Like all good products, his diverter is simple but effective. It fits onto the waste water pipe from the bath (on the outside wall), and with a tug on its string diverts bath water as it empties, into a water butt or hosepipe.

Harry got the idea for the diverter several years ago when he was taking baths to soothe his back, sore from dry-walling all day. During a hot dry spell he’d got fed up with carrying buckets of used bath water downstairs to water the garden.

Harry’s not really a business man, his computer “runs on carrots” and he’d really like to retire so he can finally stop working and go fishing, but due to the current hosepipe ban he’s never been busier.

Despite the rain, resourceful solutions for saving water are still front of mind for us. We’d love to stock anything that Dyson or his bright young engineers come up with.

In the meantime though, we’ve got a great water saver from an inventor in his seventies.