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Ethical Banking; Debt, Tax and The Environment

Last Tuesday (23rd) a few of our members headed over to the Birmingham and Midland Institute to attend an event entitled ‘Ethical Banking; Debt, Tax & The Environment’. The event was organised in collaboration between Birmingham Friends of The Earth, the Jubilee Debt Campaign and the Methodist Tax Justice Network. There were a few technical difficulties to overcome and, with some the noises coming from the microphone, the audience could have been forgiven for thinking we were about to watch an episode of Doctor Who. Thankfully these were resolved and the audience of over 70 was treated to really interesting talk by the guest speaker Charles Middleton, Managing Director of Triodos Bank. Charles began by talking about Triodos, its history, purpose and guiding values. The Bank was established in 1980 by a group of Dutch bankers and its name derives from its tri-purpose; people, planet and profit. The bank operates in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Spain and the UK. It deals in savings and investments, focusing its activity on sustainable and ethical business. What Triodos does or does not invest in is influenced by its team of researchers and excludes any business which is seen as having non-sustainable goods or services (weapons, tobacco, pornography, fur, environmentally hazardous substances and gambling) or non sustainable working practices (animal testing and inhumane farming methods, corruption and support for dictatorial regimes, breaches of fundamental labour rights). Charles suggested that transparency was one of the most powerful features of the bank; he insisted that all information about services offered by the bank were made as clear as possible and all the companies that it...

Climathon to Zero Waste

“What is the role of the citizen in a zero waste Birmingham? “ This was the question posed at a Climathon, a marathon international event, which was recently hosted by Innovation Birmingham. As waste campaigners we could not stay away since a zero waste Birmingham sounds like the right goal (although far from today’s reality). Our team of John Newson, Maria Marsden and Libby Harris had 24 hours in the bowels of the Novatel hotel to come up with some solutions. The problem we identified is that the current involvement of citizens is to mix up potentially recyclable items with waste food and other smelly stuff to make “rubbish”, which is then burned in the incinerator at Tyseley to emit 322,000 tonnes of CO2 a year into the air. This was originally required by the City Council’s 25-year contract with waste giant Veolia, which happily ends in 2018, after which citizens are free to change their relationship with waste. Birmingham’s recycling rate is only 30% compared with Wales, which recycles 60%. The main difference is that in Wales all the authorities collect food waste in separate bins from their households. Other West Midlands councils such as Sandwell do this, so we believe Birmingham people could, too. Our first step is to imitate this system using existing vehicles, teams etc., to separately collect the waste. People have been happily signing our petition in support of such a change. The primary purpose is to remove the organic contaminant, leaving a waste stream of items that could be sold for recycling instead of rubbish. What to do with the waste? If a...

Basecamp 2015

I had been looking forward to my first trip to Basecamp and I was not disappointed! Situated in the picturesque Castleton, Derbyshire, I could not think of a better place to hold this annual gathering. It brought together people from all over the world each with their own story to tell. Friday night provided the perfect opportunity to catch up with fellow campaigners, whom I had not seen in a long time. We sat outside in the warm evening with a locally brewed cider, which definitely set the tone for an amazing weekend. The rain on Saturday could not dampen the mood and energy of Basecamp. There was so much to do that I found it hard to decide: film screenings, discussions, workshops and crafts. I took part in a variety of discussions from TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) to sustainable diets. I picked up some useful advice in the workshops and my interview skills were put to the test during the media workshop. The ‘how to lobby your MP’ was very useful and I will be using tips from that when lobbying the Council. The Real Junk Food Project returned to Basecamp this year and produced a tasty dinner from food that would have otherwise ended up in the bin. At the Earthmover’s Ceremony on Saturday night we celebrated the past year’s achievements of campaigners.  After the ceremony, the party began with a lively reggae band that kept the party going till midnight. The evening’s entertainment did not end there. There were stories and songs around the campfire, which was a relaxing end to a busy day....

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Ask Your Councillor to Support Waste isn’t Rubbish

As part of our Go Local: Waste isn’t Rubbish campaign, Birmingham Friends of the Earth is calling on Birmingham City Council to introduce a greener waste system. Birmingham needs a better waste system, to make it easier for everyone to reduce, re-use and recycle. So that Birmingham makes best use of its local resources and becomes a zero waste city. As well as signing the campaign petition we’re asking Birmingham residents to contact their councillors to ask them to support the campaign by agreeing with the following statement: I support Birmingham Friends of the Earth’s Waste isn’t Rubbish campaign and its call to: Make it easier for people to recycle food waste, by providing a food waste collection and more support for home and community composting. Make it easier for people to recycle more types of waste from home. Use local companies to process our waste. so Birmingham City Council can close Tyseley Incinerator. Councillors can show their support by filling in this online form. We also prepared this template email letter which you can use when contacting your councillor. You can find you councillors on the Birmingham City Council website or by using Write to...

Waste Campaign Launched with food recycling stunt

We formally launched our new campaign Waste Isn’t Rubbish with a stunt outside Birmingham Council House this afternoon Birmingham residents queued with kitchen caddies to recycle their food waste outside the Council House. Our Waste Isn’t Rubbish campaign is calling on Birmingham City Council to implement a greener waste system for the city that makes best use of the city’s resources locally. This includes: Making it easier for people to recycle food waste by providing a food waste collection and more support for home and community composting. Making it easier for people to recycle more types of waste from home. Using local companies to process the waste. Birmingham City Council is consulting on its new waste strategy this year and we hope to push for as green a waste system as possible, which would mean the Tyseley Incinerator is no longer needed. Our waste campaigner Libby Harris said: “Waste is a rubbish fuel. We need a waste system that makes best use of the resources in all our waste, instead of letting them go up in smoke in an outdated incinerator. With the Council contract with Veolia up in 2019, now is the perfect time for the Council to rethink its waste strategy. “41% of the residual waste sent to the incinerator is organic matter. By taking food out of the waste stream, and sending the food waste to an anaerobic digester, it becomes a cleaner, renewable energy source. “Seperating out organic matter means we can make better use of all the resources in our waste. This would mean the incinerator is no longer needed, leading to a reduction...

Power for Good Seek Investment for Community Energy

Power for Good (PfG), believed to be Britain’s first faith-based community energy enterprise, has now launched its pilot project in the West Midlands.  Solar panels are to be installed by November at two churches: St Andrew’s Carters Green in West Bromwich (expected to produce 23.635kWh pa) and St Richard’s Lea Hall in Birmingham (expected to produce 8,075kWh pa). Both churches are community-minded and located in disadvantaged areas.  St. Andrew’s is home to youth work, children’s and older people’s activities, as well as being a meeting place for settlers from Zimbabwe.  In Lea Hall, where little non-statutory community provision remains, St Richard’s has a major role in meeting local needs, sponsoring after-school activities, help for the unemployed, support for parents, families and special-needs children, computer training and youth work. Power for Good has now launched a Share Offer to finance this project; investment of £42,000 is needed.  In just six weeks over half the shares have been purchased; the whole sum is needed by August 5th. Shares are withdrawable.  Investors can expect four benefits: a tax break equal to 50% of the sum invested; a projected annual return of 2% from Year 4, membership of PfG and – satisfaction! – every pound invested will reduce the carbon footprint and the daytime electricity costs of all who use these premises. This is PfG’s pilot project.  When it’s all completed in November, PfG aims to initiate a much bigger scheme to supply solar panels on an inter-faith basis for religious communities across the less affluent areas in the West Midlands. See the Power for Good website for more information and for the...

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