7 Dirty Secrets of Supermarket Shampoos

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Discover natural alternatives for your skincare

Itchy Flakey Scalp!?

This used to be the addictive catchline of the famously annoying shampoo advert in the 70s -but itchiness can be due to the ingredients rather than the hair type?

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Here are the dirty secrets on 7 Ingredients you will find in most supermarket shampoos, conditioners and skin creams…

1) Parabens
Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in personal care products; they stop fungus, bacteria and other microbes from growing in your favourite creams and makeup, especially in the moist, warm environment of a bathroom.
Typically methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben have been in use for 70 years now, replacing Formaldehyde.

But over the past few years, a debate has been building that parabens, which have a weak ability to mimic estrogen, have been found in breast cancer tumours in both women and men.

Fortunately, there are natural alternatives in oregano, thyme, rosemary, goldenseal root, grapefruit seed extract or Lavender Oil

2) Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Once found in pretty much every shampoo, SLS help cleanse and foam. Both are derived from coconut oil, but they’re two different ingredients. “They’re similar, but the Laureth goes through an ethoxylation process,” says Pollock. Which means? “Ethoxylation results in a byproduct called 1,4 dioxane—it’s not listed on the label, but that is the cancer-causing aspect of the ingredient. So, avoid any ingredients ending in ‘eth.’ ” Which means you want to avoid ammonium laureth sulfate.

While it used to be found in almost every shampoo, when concerns were raised over the ingredient’s toxicity level, a lot of companies switched over to the ammonium versions—not that it’s much better. Says Pollock, “The sodium and ammonium laureth sulfates are known cancer-causing ingredients.”

So what should you look for instead? Anything with the words “glucose” or “glucoside” in them—for example, sodium lauryl glucose or lauryl glucose.

3) Polysorbates

This solvent or emulsifier helps to bind oil and water together, and is often used to dissolve in the fragrance or other oil additives. And while it’s predominantly found in conditioners, there are some shampoos that carry it, too. But this one’s loaded with trouble for your body.

“It’s damaging at a few levels,” Pollock explains. “The chemical process isn’t one of my favorites, and while some professionals don’t report any real health concern, mine comes from the reaction with the scalp (in haircare products) and the skin (in face and body products) since it often leaves a residue on the skin, disrupts the skin’s natural pH, and emulsifies lipids in the natural protective barrier.”

There are alternatives to using polysorbates, but as Pollock warns, “They’re expensive, so they’re often not used. My favorites are derived from corn: zea mays or maize, often listed as corn water or propanediol.”

4) Glycol

Not all glycol is created equal. It’s a common ingredient in hair and personal care products, but there are different types. Says Pollock, “The more common are polyethylene glycol, often listed as PEG. These, again, are ethoxylated and are cancer-causing chemicals.” It’s used as a solvent to incorporate products into a formula, and they’re extremely dangerous—they’re known carcinogens. So what can we use in their place? “The corn maize-derived solvent listed above,” Pollock suggests.

5) Amodimethicone

That smooth feeling you get when you run your hands through freshly conditioned hair? That’s amodimethicone, a silicone-based polymer used to seal in moisture. But it comes with its own host of troubles.

“Dimethicones and silicones are occlusive, meaning they don’t allow something to breathe—they seal in moisture and seal out everything else,” Pollock notes. “I avoid dimethicones and silicones when possible because I believe the scalp needs to breathe. Sealing the scalp, in my opinion, could lead to thinning of the hair. However, on the hair follicle, it can protect it from heat and provide shine.”

So what should you use instead? Look for natural oils like jojoba, argan, rose hip, sweet almond, olive oil or Shea Butter

6) Hydrolysed Soy Protein

This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a soy-derived protein, including their amino acid compounds—which are essential building blocks. Found in tons of different haircare products, hydrolysed soy protein is thought to nourish and strengthen the hair follicle. But whether it’s problematic for your body or not depends on your constitution.

“Some have a problem with soy,” Pollock admits. “It’s processed, so those with soy allergies wouldn’t necessarily have a problem. Some doctors swear by soy as the key to any diet or part of any healthy lifestyle, while some think you should avoid soy. In this form, I use it and don’t have a problem.”

If you’d rather play it safe, Pollock recommends other hydrolyzed proteins—like rice, vegetable or wheat—as an alternative.

7) Hydrolysed Collagen

Here’s the trick with collagen: It’s a key component to our bodies, but the skin can’t absorb it because the molecule is too large. So while it’s not damaging to your body, any brand claiming to strengthen your hair—like conditioners or hair masks—is just giving you a load of marketing hype. Says Pollock, “The best bet is to get the body to synthesize it, using a peptide, vitamin C or other technology to get the body to synthesize collagen on its own.”

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Next time your shopping look at the ingredients

So who are the good guys?

Here is a list of a few less aggressive ingredients that are safe to use next to your skin.

Sodium Chloride

You may be surprised but sodium chloride—found in thousands of shampoos—is just salt used to thicken or trigger thickening capabilities in your shampoo. No need to fret—or search for an alternative.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine

You’ll find this foaming agent—a surfact derived through a chemical process with coconut oil—in shampoo and body washes. In a finished product, it causes no harm to the body, and while there are alternatives, they’re not necessary.

Citric Acid

It’s not just for oranges. This citrus fruit derivative, part of the alpha hydroxyl acid family, can be found in thousands of personal care products—including many in the natural line of care. Typically it’s used to lower the pH balance. And there’s no need to fret—it’s all good for your body, so there’s no healthier alternative needed.

IN SUMMARY THEN..

Avoid Parabens and SLS as they dry the skin and can leave it itchy and sore. Look for Corn or Maize solvents, Glucose, natural oils, Jojoba, Shea Butter and Vitamin C in the ingredients.

Dont forget to visit our website for Organic cleaning and skincare products
http://www.used2bee.com
Delivery is only £4.95 and free on orders over £30!

Further Reading on the Subject
Effect of Parabens on Breast Cancer. http://www.besthealthmag.ca/look-great/beauty/parabens-what-are-they-and-are-they-really-that-bad
David Pollock, Beauty Expect and author. http://www.justaskdavid.com/whats-really-inside-your-products/

Project – Plastic Bottle Greenhouse

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172 plastic water bottles went into making this Greenhouse

I originally had this idea last November when I was Inspired by an installation at Paignton Zoo. The local school had built a greenhouse there entirely from re-using recycled plastic drinks bottles to show an effective use of one of our most wasteful single use products.
Since November our lovely customers have been bringing their bottles in for us and had collected enough to get started; in fact 172 plastic water bottles went into making this Greenhouse.

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Paignton Zoo Installation was my inspiration

cutting, measuring, sawing, drilling and screwing!

You have to start by laying out your tools and materials: 2×1 treated timber frame, enough water bottles for the job(see below), screws, and bamboo canes. You will also need 3×3 treated corner posts to support the frames but i already had these in place.
I hope your good at cutting, measuring, sawing, drilling and screwing! The bottles slide onto each cane by drilling a hole in the bottle base, then assembling the canes into each cut frame to make the sides and roof of your greenhouse, and then screwed to the posts.
You will need to estimate about 3 bottles per square foot for your panels, plus an additional row on top to cap off. The bottles are aprx 10cm wide so your greenhouse size should be a multiple of that plus the timber width. Each panel is made up of 2×1 timber 20mm thick so add 40mm to your total bottle width when cutting your timber ie: 1600mm +40mm = 1640mm.

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Allow 10cm bottle cane width + 40mm for timber frame

Decide on your greenhouse size

The height usually is up to 1830mm for convenience as this is a standard 6′ length from most DIY stores. The bottle length are then cut to size to fit.
So decide on your greenhouse size: length, width and height to get your upright panel sizes.
Allow a space for the doorway, and decide on your roof style. Paignton Zoo featured a pitch roof made up of 2 panels and 2 triangular shaped ends; but my design was only a ‘lean to’ against my fence panel. This made mine alot easier to do!

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‘Lean To’ style roof panel is alot easier

drill a hole in the bottom

Once you have assembled your frames for the panels, remove caps/labels and clean bottles, then you can begin to cut the bottles and slide them onto the canes. You will need to remove the necks from two and drill a hole in the bottom, for each cane as the top and bottom caps.

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remove the tops from 2 bottles for each cane
Then remove the bottoms of as many bottles required to fill the length of cane, and slide the neck over the cane to fit snug into each other.

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with bottoms removed the bottles fit snug into each other

quick and easy to finish

Once all your bottles are on the canes and cut to fit into the frame, drill a hole big enough (about 10mm) for the canes into each frame, top and bottom 100mm apart starting 50mm from one side. This will make the job quick and easy to finish, but you may have to loosen the frame a little to get each one in.

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Drill holes in frame to allow canes to fit

Dont forget to recycle your waste

This just leaves fitting it all together! My design was for two big barn doors at the front with fixed sides and lean to roof. So i completed the door frame, fixed the roof section to it and the fence posts, then mounted the doors on recycled hinges, using recycled spoons as handles!
Dont forget to recycle your waste! Most council sites now recycle hard plastics and bottles.

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Recycled spoons as handles!

Further Reading

Paignton Zoo Green Projects. http://www.eaza.net/activities/sustainability/Documents/Paignton.pdf
Inspiration Green- Homes made from plastic bottles. http://www.inspirationgreen.com/plastic-bottle-homes.html
Recycling Guide- plastic bottle facts. http://www.recycling-guide.org.uk/facts.html
Used2bee – This is our shop website! Recycled Organic and Fairtrade products. Great for gifts furniture and clothing. http://www.used2bee.com

Twitter is like…

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For anyone who gets asked..’what is twitter like?’, this is what you can say

dorkymum

Twitter analogy

I was out for coffee the other day with a non-tweeting friend. “So what’s Twitter actually like?” she asked.

I ummed and ahhed, and explained it all very badly, mumbling some fairly dry stuff about retweets and hashtags and follows. She didn’t look convinced. So I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and here’s what I’ve come up with.

View original post 886 more words

PROJECT -1950s GPlan Coffee Table

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Working on this table I look back over the 20 years I had been director of a Waste Management company. Not a job I had picked when I left school, but who really knows what occupation is going to pay the bills when leaving school?

i was going to be an Astronaut

At school I demanded I was going to be an Astronaut, but when that wasnt achievable, an electrician, then fate had steered me in another direction and i became an Entreprenuer!
Having your own business has its own rewards, upsets and responsibilities: but the goals, achievements and direction are your own. It was being in the waste business so long that gave me ideas for making use of our mountains of unwanted things. Now i set upon restoring and upcycling furniture in my own unique way.
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E Gomme Ltd, famously known as G-Plan

This English made Coffee Table came to me via a second hand furniture shop in Paignton Devon. It was originally made in the 1950s by E Gomme Ltd, famously known as G-Plan, who at the time made very high quality Danish style furniture from their Birch premises at High Wycombe in the glorious royal county of Buckinghamshire.

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high-quality arts and craft furniture

This group of buildings was originally owned by Wm Birch Limited, manufacturers of high-quality arts and craft furniture. The three-storey factory was newly built in 1901 with a later four-storey range built fronting at Leigh Street in 1913 by Architect Thomas Thurlow. Time marches on and so production finished sometime in the 1990s: the site now has been developed for offices and mixed commercial use.

With this heritage in mind I want to reveal the quality of the fine workmanship found in the jointing and the use of different timbers to great effect in the top. 20140324-105404.jpg

You realise the quality of materials

I have stripped off the layer of varnish to show the natural bare wood(pic), which i have now polished with beeswax.
The base is jointed with mortice and tenons, and originally painted with a black gloss that I have brought up to date with several coats of Blue Teal, sanded and polished.

You realise the quality of materials used when you see the solid brass adjustable feet and leg caps, which i have polished with brass cleaner.

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reflecting Mid Century ideals

I love this piece and I am really impressed with the level of quality in its original manufacture. Growing up in the 80s this style of furniture went out of fashion in the UK, to be replaced by Scandinavian Pine. Fashions change and the classic simplicity of this style is back! reflecting Mid Century ideals of technology, the Atomic Age and the Space Race.

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This item can be bought at http://www.used2bee.com/Gplan_Mid_Century_Table_Torquay_p/fh1st-gp.htm
Or from our ETSY page at https://www.etsy.com/listing/183810746/g-plan-british-1950s-upcycled-coffee

Project: Sandra’s Table Turns Gypsy

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G-Plan turned Gypsy

Sandra used to be a Carer, loves chocolate pudding, and regularly visits our shop.
She lives around the corner from the shop, beside the church and above the barbers shop, where she has a cosy snug cabin at the end of their garden. In this cabin, they both enjoy their time in the quiet reading the paper, watching the wildlife, and relaxing. Lovely!
The snug cabin is kitted out quite comfortably with the basic requirements: chair, cupboards, light and table. Over christmas, they decided to change the table.
After the christmas holidays had ended, Jo was working on the sale tickets in the shop when in she come and said ” can you recycle and old table?” : Jo agreed to send me round to have a look.
I found a 1970s Danish style G-Plan Drop-Leaf table sat centre stage in the cabin, waiting to be collected. Sandra knew i am a sucker for a new project, and that we needed one for a new dining shop display, so i obliged and said yes and her dad gave me a hand to carry it to the van.

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This is why they were so popular for over 30 years!

It was in good clean condition, which is quite unusual for most of my recycling projects!
The table could seat six at a push, and didnt come with any chairs, so i may have to find those. Its original teak veneer is polished to a semi gloss finish and exposes the light golden grain. The two tapered ends drop neatly down when the supports are folded inwards and under, revealing a neat quarter moulded edge. The whole finish to the frame is smooth and rounded danish style, not a harsh corner in sight. This table amazingly folds down to virtually no space at all, this is why they were so popular for over 30 years!

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the hardest part was deciding on the design!

The hardest part of this project for me was not the actual work, although the detail of the artwork was quite a challenge: the hardest part was deciding on the design!
I had found my inspiration when i researched the internet, trendy furniture shops, Kirsty Allsop Homemade Home show (@KirstieMAllsopp), and George Clarkes Amazing Spaces https://www.facebook.com/GeorgeClarkesAmazingSpaces. The best way to attack this was to make a plan of the design and practice some of the techniques.

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I had already collected scraps of wallpaper and cuttings of floral designs i had found, so i could use these as decoupage within the design. I would make a large square of rose patterned paper the dominant block in the centre of the table and embellish with additional artwork around it.
Giving the table a good all over rough sanding to remove dirt and varnish, i then added a sound coat of chalk emulsion that was rubbed down to a smooth finish using fine sandpaper. This gives a good base to apply the paper design and paint on the final decoration.

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you only grow when you seek to improve yourself

I could imagine the incredible flowing artwork used on traditional Gypsy caravans as the final decoration on my table, but these techniques take years to master, i would have to apply them in weeks. I had found much useful resource on YouTube, particularly with Nick Dows work. He famously restored a Romany Caravan for Ronnie Wood and you can watch him talking on the subject of gypsy art, life and his blues band http://youtu.be/9O8LyVnz9ls
My efforts are simple by comparison but you only grow when you seek to improve yourself.

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Further reference on the subject of traditional gypsy caravans, their restoration, art, furniture and lifestyle can be found at http://www.gypsy-wagons.com. This site represents the Ingham and Fallon families, who are the oldest Irish families still living the traditional lifestyle in the UK.

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Recycle Devon Awards 2014

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I am delighted to inform you that Steve has been shortlisted for an award in the Small Business Champion category

Devon’s recycling heroes were celebrated at the Recycle Devon Thank You awards last Thursday at County Hall Exeter and I was delighted to receive an email, at the start of the new year, from Liz Jarvis confirming my nomination for my first recycling award! I was nominated by my long time friend, Torbays Recycling Officer Carol Arthur, who i have known since our early recyclings in the 90s Amazing!
This was now the second annual ceremony to thank outstanding individuals and groups for their hard work in helping to protect Devon’s environment, so you can imagine my excitement that I was to be included. The award is special in Devon as last year it marked the 10 year anniversary of the Don’t Let Devon go to waste campaign and continues to celebrate a consistently high 55% recycling rate for the county.

I am humbled though! On arrival at the event I learnt that there really is an impressive league of dedicated people in Devon who do inspiring, creative, and thankless recycling work and like me, they love it! Not for occasional praise or fleeting recognition but because they believe its right for stable engaged caring communities, or better for healthy happy children, or even pride of the job well done.

Anyone was welcome to attend the event, not only the nominees, and we certainly were made welcome with fresh coffee, tea, and homemade scones and cream! Each nominee was give a floral name tag made from recycled paper embedded with seeds, so that it can be planted after and not wasted. Neat idea!

The Chairman of the Devon Authorities Waste Reduction and Recycling Committee was there to add official weight and proudly open the event. Councillor Mel Lucas said: “The Recycling Thank You awards were created to recognise the unsung recycling heroes across the county. We wanted to say a special Thank You for everything that they do to ensure that Devon does not go to waste. They have not let us down and we have been truly amazed at the enthusiasm and unselfish efforts, that all our winners go to reduce, reuse and recycle. On behalf of the Devon Authorities Waste Reduction and Recycling Committee and personally, I would like to say thank you to you all. You are all winners!’

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Then Heart Radio’s Matt and Caroline from the breakfast show followed with their usual fun banter, and witty anecdotes to give an excellent presentation of the nine category awards:

. Your Recycling Hero (Friend, Family Member, Neighbour or Local Recycling Champion)
. School Recycling Hero (Child)
. School Recycling Hero (Adult)
. Community Group Recycling Hero
. Collection Crew/Operative (Recycling, Garden, Food or Refuse Collector(s))
. Street Cleansers
. Recycling Centre operative/site staff
. Small Business Champion
. Special Award for Innovation

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Category Winner: Daniel Salter, Forches Cross Primary School Barnstaple
Daniel has been described as a fantastic member of the School! Without fail, he goes to the Eco co-ordinator every day to ask if there are any outstanding jobs that need doing. Daniel takes responsibility for the eco-notice board and has enrolled some younger eco-councillors to help him. He shows them how to gather and display information so that the rest of the school can see how well the school is doing with its Green Flag work. Daniel is never short of new ideas to make the School even more eco-friendly and he keeps everyone in School on their toes, including the adults!

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Category Winner: George Tribe, Bratton Fleming Community Primary School
George has worked as a caretaker at the School for the last 21 years. He has lived in the village all his life and he cares very passionately about it. He has reduced his working hours at the school as he is 85 years old, but he still comes into school every morning without fail. He opens up the school for all the staff and then spends an hour or so sorting out the school recycling and food bins ensuring everything is put into its correct place. He is real trouper and the children love him being part of the staff. George’s dedication sends out a fantastic message to the children about how vitally important it is to recycle! After doing his work, he has a mug of tea in the staffroom and then goes on his way.

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Category Winner: Dean Mallon, Otter Rotters
Dean has had a troubled background and has struggled with serious issues for many years which have left him unable to work. This year Dean took a very brave step and approached Otter Rotters offering to volunteer. His confidence was none existent and despite being terrified he started to volunteer on the garden waste scheme rounds. This was challenging for him but he has driven himself to address and overcome his issues. Dean is so committed that he purchased his own safety work wear and paid for physiotherapy so he can be more productive whilst doing this physical job. The improvement in Dean’s well-being is visible and so is his pride at serving the community. His ultimate aim is to get paid employment and he has been doing everything he can to earn a reputation for being hard working and dependable. Furthermore Dean’s interaction and team work with his learning disabled co-workers has made him worthy of recognition – he has done himself, Otter Rotters and the community proud.

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Category Winner: Mike Hollyer, Cleansing Operative, Exeter City Council
Mike was the first operative to pilot the Exeter Looking Good regime in Heavitree, Exeter.
He takes pride in his work and is building a really good rapport with the community that he serves.

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Category Winner: Tom Clark, Seven Brethren Recycling Centre, Barnstaple
Tom has been described as hard working, always polite, courteous and extremely helpful. He is a pleasure to deal with and makes weekly trips to the recycling centre a pleasure as opposed to a chore and he always has a smile on his face.

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Category Winner: Jeff Brown, Aliway Scrapstore, Paignton
Jeff used to be a service user at Hollacombe Community Resource Centre in Paignton but ceased to meet the criteria and could no longer attend the centre. He was always involved with the Aliway Scrapstore based at the centre, so when he left, he decided that he would come in for two days a week under his own steam and volunteer to run the store. He has done this for the last two years and has been a real asset to the store who would struggle to open some days, without his presence.

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Category Winner: Dave Coles, Arena Park Green Group
Dave, a local resident and Chair of Arena Park Green Group is proactive about resolving problems for the whole community. Arena Park Estate in Exeter had a lot of problems with fly tipping of garden waste. Dave formed a Green Group from like-minded residents and collectively they now manage a community composting site for all residents to use. There have been no reported instances of fly tipping and the compost generated is freely given back to the residents. Under Dave’s leadership, the group are planning to encourage residents to compost their kitchen waste and are providing kitchen caddies to households who wish to participate. The group also hope to inspire local children to dispose of waste appropriately to help reduce waste going to landfill and carbon gases.

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Category Winner: Steve Clark, Used2Bee, Torquay
Steve and his wife Jo have been running Used2Bee since the 90s, well before recycling was popular! They sell recycled products and upcycled items from their premises in Torquay and by mail order. With vintage becoming more and more popular, they are really coming into their own. Steve and Jo are both very creative people and make some wonderful products themselves, using ‘rubbish’. Steve really should receive a lifetime achievement award, but he is far too young!

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Category Winner: Geoff Read, Devon and Cornwall Food Association (DCFA)
(Award collected on Geoff’s behalf by Charlie Taylor)
For the last three years the DCFA has been redistributing waste but in-date food from landfill to communities that can make use of it. From rice, flour and tinned food to Christmas turkeys, pheasants and pâté! The DCFA has now ‘recycled’ over 100 tonnes of food and saved communities over £185,000. Geoff who is the company secretary and his team have worked tirelessly to promote this service which now supports over 90 local charities and works with a list of local suppliers that is growing all the time. Geoff also supports the DCFA volunteers through skills training and in promoting the message that food is a valuable commodity that should be recycled and not landfilled. Working in Plymouth and Exeter, the DCFA is currently developing a hub in Bodmin and looking towards expanding its services if a current funding bid is successful.

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Category: Recycling Hero For Devon
Winner: Dean Mallon
The shortlisted candidates from each category received a recycled glass trophy and there was a Bottle of Champagne and trophy for the overall winner.

If you would like more information on the award ceremony, Recycle Devon, or how to get involved please visit the

PROJECT: Recycled Cat Bed

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for anyone with a couple of hours, likes sewing, and who has a cat

We love feedback from our followers, and we received this one recently. I thought it was quite an easy one for anyone with a couple of hours, likes sewing, and who has a cat. The credit goes to Steven Bishop for discovering it on elizabethskitchendiary.co.uk, which is a really intelligent site for craft ideas and for healthy homemade food.
Elizabeth is a mum, secret wannabe adventurer, scientist-in-training, RNLI volunteer, crafter, ex-pat Canadian & quite possibly Britain’s most northerly food blogger. She also loves cats, and has four of her own from the rescue centre which is what inspired her to this comfy cat creation.

Does your pet need a new bed? Recycle your old sweaters

Homemade pet bed for your dog or cat. Minimal sewing ability required. This is the recipe

Time: 2 hours, including cutting up scraps for stuffing

Materials:
-1 unwanted sweater
-2 terry towels or unused dishtowels or bath towels
-Scraps or cotton for stuffing
-Thread
-Wool
-Needles
-Scissors

Cut your stuffing fabric into small pieces. Fold towels so that they are nearly the size you want the base of your pet bed. Layer with scrap stuffing if required. Baste the layers together in a rough oval shape.

Turn over the edges toward the inside of the circle and loosely sew in place. Place inside the body of the jumper.
Sew in place using some thick wool. Stuff the arms and neck area with scraps or cotton.

Arrange in a circular shape around the base area. Using a thread and needle, sew into place. If you use a matching thread you don’t have to worry about how perfect your stitches are. Embellish as desired!

Source: http://www.facebook.com/l/jAQE9YmY3AQFufKLgn3cDE1ch2-etGn8KbA2YPfOxpeBlzg/bit.ly/1cWKd8y

Aside

Project: Recycled Cat Bed

for anyone with a couple of hours, likes sewing,and who has a catrecycled jumper cat bed

We love feedback from our followers, and we received this one today.  I thought it would be an easy one for someone with a couple of hours, likes sewing and who has a cat!  The credit for finding this goes to Steven Bishop who discovered Elizabeths Kitchen Diary, which is a really intelligent site for useful craft ideas and healthy homemade food recipes.

RedChardLoaf1Example of the exquisite food recipes

Elizabeth is a mum, secret wannabee adventurer, scientist in training, RNLI volunteer, craftyer, ex-pat Canadian and quite possibly Britains most northerly food blogger.  Like us she loves cats, has four including Issy (pictured in cat bed), all of which come from the rescue centre.

 izzyElizabeths cat ISSY

Cat baskets are so expensive though arnt they!?  I expect this is what has inspired her to make this comfy cat creation, so if you fancy giving it a try here is the recipe…

Time: 2 hours, including cutting up scraps for stuffing
Sewing ability: minimal!
Materials:
1 unwanted sweater
2 terry towels or unused dishtowels or bathtowels
scraps or cotton for stuffing
thread
wool
needles
scissors

cat bed tutorial

Cut your stuffing fabric into small pieces.

Fold towels so that they are nearly the size you want the base of your pet bed.
Layer with scrap stuffing if required.
Baste the layers together in a rough oval shape.
Turn over the edges towards the inside of the circle and loosely sew in place.
Place inside the body of the jumper.
Sew in place using some thick wool.
Stuff the arms and neck area with scraps or cotton.
Arrange in a circular shape around the base area.
Using a thread and needle, sew into place. If you use a matching thread you don’t have to worry about how perfect your stitches are.
Embellish as desired!

Well, good luck, hope it turned out ok and if you want to show off your work send me a message or feel free to post a pic on our facebook timeline  

2014: The Year of The Small Trader

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I believe this year could be a good year for the small shops, businesses and traders…and i will tell you why

strong trends towards quality, individuality and service

Supermarkets are the main competitor for any small retailer in the UK as they have diversified into every sector. They rely heavily on volume sales with easily recognised top brand products and spend a great deal of time and money on analysing shopper data to get the balance right on promotions. Like all retailers, small or large, you make a choice to sell volume goods at a small profit or sell quality products at a higher profit: supermarkets need to fill baskets!

I think public opinion of supermarkets is low in the wake of meat quality concerns and mis-labelling. This graph from ONS data for Retail Sales shows clearly the dominance of volume sales and low profit goods slipping as we passed into 2011 and the demand for higher priced and quality niche products growing strong as we leave 2013.
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I think this shows a definite trend towards quality, individuality and service, something the supermarkets naturally struggle to do and can never fully achieve. There maybe many reasons for this change in our shopping habits, but i believe strong motivations to buy are affected by;
1) Herding and Overcrowding
2) Perception of Value
3) The X Factor

queues, crowds, stress: why do we do it? are we nuts?

To illustrate my first point, take a look at the two pictures below: the top is an award winning community shop Lodsworth Larder in West Sussex http://www.lodsworthlarder.co.uk and at the bottom is a typical Tesco store. You know what i am going to say…

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….where would you rather be?
Supermarkets feed the human herding instinct to be with others like yourself, have a sense of belonging (clubcards, loyalty cards etc) and not to miss out (reductions, offers, vouchers). Many small retailers of all types (including my shop) recognise the frustration customers have in this overcrowded environment and offer a ‘holiday feel’ relaxed shopping experience. We often take the trouble to explore the quaint village shops on holiday and exciting little boutiques with new, interested and unique products, why not do this at home? It is very addictive feeling: to be relaxed, free from the stress of crowds and in control of your purchasing.

Do you really feel any better for owning a basket full of BOGOF deals?

Marketing tools have only one purpose: to make us spend more! How many times did you go for milk/bread and walk out with a £30 basket? Could you say that about your small cornershop? Do you really feel any better for owning a basket full of BOGOF deals? This is your ego being massaged, you feel good to brag about the stuff you got free!
Personally, i spent many years scooping up deals, happy until i had to use or eat the goods i had bought, upset at the poor quality or taste, and vowing never to buy cheap again. This cycle ends when you discover a small independent shop you never knew existed, and buy only what you need for a little more money, and then feel you have value because it is better than you expected (not worse!)

when shopping adds joy to your soul

My wife Jo and I love exploring little backstreets, seaside town streets, craft fayres, farmers markets and small shopping arcades. This is the best places to find the most unusual hand crafts, artisan foods, retro and antique shops. Every now and then you stumble on one treasure that really inspires you, a beautiful store full of wonders that are perfect to you and your life, this is when shopping adds joy to your soul! You take something away from the day that can never be bought at a supermarket.
We often find this shopping’ X factor’ in quite ordinary products, say like cheese or recently this christmas i discovered Spicy Tomato Chutney from The Cherry Tree at a local Food Fayre http://www.cherrytreepreserves.co.uk/Online-Shop/Chutneys/Spicy-Tomato-and-Caramelised-Onion/

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Mary Portas, the retail expert and columnist for Daily Telegraph is a great champion for the small shopkeeper who is constantly looking for the X factor in the high street. She said recently at that London Local Shop Awards ceremony of giving local shops the “recognition they deserve”.

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I think i can sum up what i am saying with; happiness is not found in endless consuming, you only need to find a few special things in your life to find contentment

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New Recycled Shop Sign: Finished!

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“WOW! What a Difference a Day Makes!”

20131213-185424.jpgIts amazing what difference a day can make…. I mean once i had spent the last 3 months planning, cutting, planing, sanding, painting, designing and agonising over the details!

The preparation and crafting that went into this project was long, but to most people, except my wife and a few friends, it all happened in one day! That day was Thursday 12th December 2013.
We went from an ordinary looking shop that people pass by to one that inspires interest, sparks imagination, and creates excitement. Its best feature for me was Joannes idea: to make the ‘Bee Logo’ wobble in the wind by attaching it to a bed spring!

The morning began when we ripped down the old sign20131213-190828.jpg

“was plain,uninspiring, and almost invisible”

We have been in this shop since 2004: at that time we needed an office as our recycling services business was expanding and we didnt need to court passing trade as customers came to us over the phone. We had a corporate sign: it was simple and boring, so when the business changed last year we quickly drew up plans to re-focus our business on retail and make a dramatic change!
Away with a sign that was plain, uninspiring and almost invisible and in would come one that would inspire, and exite!

The sign is made up of 51 cut planks recycled from old pallets, 9 carved letters and logo recycled from old pine furniture, 8 recycled wire stand-off brackets, and a rusty bedspring.

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Once the old sign was ripped down to reveal the Tongue and Groove cladding beneath, it was necessary to gloss the timber to help protect from the harsh south westerly weather. We had to use a quick drying one coat paint to give us more time to complete the job in one day.
Taking a starting point at the joint between the front facia and its return over the door, we worked away from this to the far edges for a balanced appearance. Each plank had to be cut down to 550mm to line up with the window frame, and the bare end sealed with varnish. Each piece has different properties of width, shading and grain, so the overall effect when these are mixed is superb.

Years ago i had recycled some industrial fencing wire that I had now used to make the 8 stand-off brackets, lucky that i had kept it! These had to fit each letter exactly so as to make them appear to float and be resistant to the strong winds. These have been coated with Hammerite to protect against rust.

The overall effect is enhanced now that we have also decorated the outside walls of the shop in a tasty Mint Green. This complements the Chocholate Brown, and Rich Berry colours that we use in our shop to promote the Recycled , Organic, and Fairtrade products in the shop (notice the food related thread there!).

PLEASE COME TO VISIT OUR SHOP and share your views!