by Carol Newburn
JUNE 2019 - LET'S 'BEE' FRIENDLY!
Pollination is the transfer of pollen from the male part of a plant to the female part of the plant and is essential to ecological survival. Pollination agents can be animals, insects, birds, bats, wind, water and even plants themselves. The Pollinators now most endangered are the insects and particularly bees, as bees carry out most of the pollination needed to grow our vegetables, fruit and food crops in Ireland. Baby food for bees is exclusively pollen and they cannot survive without it. We tend to think of the honey bee, but in Ireland we have 98 different types of bees:
• The honey bee is generally domesticated in beehives.
• 77 different solitary bees need to nest in holes in walls or wood and some mine into bare ground.
• 20 different bumblebees which need to nest in long grass.
• One third of the Irish species of bees is threatened by extinction. By providing some long grass, bare
ground and old wood you will help most of the wild bees to find a safe place to survive.
To help restore our gardens and open spaces we need to take urgent action. All bees need to forage in healthy bee-friendly spaces with a variety of habitats. Our beloved Pelargoniums, Begonias, Busy Lizzy, Daffodils, Tulips and Petunias have virtually no pollen and nectar. It is much better to plant single flowers like Cosmos, single roses, pyracantha, lavender, thyme, rosemary, hawthorn, ivy, apple and fruit trees. Try to make sure to have suitable flowers from March to October.
Eliminate pesticides - that includes insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. Pesticides are harmful directly or by damaging plants and the habitats the pollinators depend on.
Don’t mow the grass too often - try six weeks in some area if possible. Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has a ‘Slow to Mow’ initiative. Allow dandelions to flower - they are one of the first foods for bees in a hungry season. Some plants in garden centres have an RHS ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ logo.
Sixty-eight governmental and non-governmental organisations have agreed a shared plan that identifies 81 actions to make Ireland pollinator friendly 2015-2020.
APRIL 2019 - ALL ABOUT PLASTICS
Here are some sobering facts about plastics.
David Attenborough estimates there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050. We are all disgusted by the sight of plastic bags on our roadsides, rivers and sea, but in reality the biggest danger is from plastic when it breaks down into micro plastics. David Attenborough also said “we have a responsibility to take plastic off the menu.” Most of us have eaten plastic now, particularly from the seafood we consume. All single use plastics (such as drinking straws) should be banned, but in the meantime, we can wield our consumer power by not choosing Single Use Plastic. Plastic takes centuries to degrade, so every bit of plastic ever made is still with us.
• One of the hidden sources of plastic microfibers comes from the clothes we wear. Synthetic materials like polyester, rayon, nylon and acrylic shed microfibers of plastic which are not caught by the washing machine filters. Choose linen, wool, silk, hemp and cotton fabrics because the fibres will degrade naturally. We cannot all change our existing clothes overnight and a Guppyfriend Bag will capture the mircofibers in your washing machine. They are available online.
• ‘Blacklist’ black plastic. The automated machines in our recycling plants can’t recognise it, so it is unrecyclable.
• Plogging is a combination of jogging and picking up rubbish - a movement started in Sweden. Jog or walk with gloves and a bag and intensify your workout by bending to pick up plastic as you go.
• Choose paper, glass and metal instead of plastic.
• Plastic can only be recycled a few times, then it is down-cycled or sent to landfill. Most plastic isn’t recycled.
• Metal and glass take more energy to produce but can be broken down and recycled infinitely.
• Paper and cardboard can be recycled seven times, then it can be composted.
• Mixed materials - plastic lined paper - generally cannot be recycled as it takes too much energy to separate.
• Buy big packages as they use less packaging than several small packages.
• Choose paper packaging where possible. Porridge oats can be bought in paper, most processed cereals are in plastic.
• Choose a natural cloth instead of wipes, they produce fatbergs in our sewers and most have plastic content.
• Does a bunch of bananas need to be in a plastic bag?
• Buy loose tea. Check your tea bags as most have some plastic in the bag and they don’t compost properly.
• If you buy cotton buds, make sure they have cardboard stems.
• Choose reusable nappies wherever possible. Lobby your local Council to provide grants for the purchase of cloth nappies. Nappuccino - a cloth nappy information group - is coming to south Dublin end of March and end of April. www.clothnappylibrary.ie/local-libraries.html
• Instead of using clingfilm which is never recycled, cover food with a plate or use beeswax covers. Beeswax covers are now available at Marlay and Dun Laoghaire Markets, and on-line or are easy to make. Recipes can be found on Pinterest and YouTube.
• Take jam pots with you to the shop or market when buying deli items, olives etc. Most of the stall holders give a discount to you if you bring your own container. Ask what the discount is.
• Zero Plastic Waste isn’t new. Previous generations practised it because they had no plastic and we should be able to also.
• It can seem overwhelming but individuals can make a difference. Mary Robinson said. “If you are small and don’t particularly want credit for what you are doing, you can achieve a lot.”
Happy Easter and give it your best!
DECEMBER 2018 - SUGGESTIONS FOR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
Spend some spare time before the New Year deciding how many of the following suggestions could be your New Year’s Resolution. Don’t overwhelm yourself and maybe try a few more suggestions as a Lenten ‘Fast’. The earth is changing because of our constant demands on resources like fossil fuels, soil, water and air. The more we squander what little accessible oil we have on the planet on single use plastics, the more we depend on drilling and fracking dangerously to get every last drop of oil.
1. Shopmarkets. We have a new local Farmer’s Market nearby at Airfield 9am to 2pm every Friday. The stalls include breads, bakery, fruits, vegetables, cheese, honey, Wicklow lamb, jams and chutney. You will be able to speak directly with the producer and avoid unnecessary packaging. Bring your own bags and containers.
2. Cook from scratch and avoid processed food. Most processed food has ingredients you wouldn’t have in the kitchen and comes in plastic containers.
3. Eat organic where possible as it is kinder to the environment and kinder to you.
4. Avoid fast fashion. Only buy clothes you really need. Buy timeless clothes that you can wear for a longer period. Swap clothes with friends and look in thrift shops.
5. Get chemicals out of your toiletries. A bar of soap wrapped in paper is good. Shampoo bars: avoid plastic bottles. Refill bottles at the Refill Centre. You will find recipes for toothpaste, deodorant and creams online.
6. Get chemicals out of your household cleaning materials. Use a steamer to clean without chemicals. Indoor air can be more polluted than outdoor air because of the chemicals we use. You will find recipes for household cleaners on line.
7. Carry a reusable cup and water bottle. Many cafés offer a reduction if you bring your own cup.
8. Hang your laundry out to dry. An electric clothes drier uses a huge amount of power.
9. Refuse a plastic straw with your drink. Steel and glass alternatives are available and they are small to carry in your bag.
10. If you use cotton buds make sure the stems are not plastic. Paper/ card stems are available and degradable.
The Water of Life. Water is our most precious commodity, essential to life. This summer has given us a timely reminder to put plans in place to harvest rainwater for garden irrigation for next summer. If, as is likely, we have other summers of drought, our gardens and plants won’t thrive, insects become homeless, pollinators die and our food crops will fail. It is all interconnected but we have plenty of rain in the winter just going down the drain. This is not just a problem for farmers, we who live in the suburbs need to be careful with our use of water from the reservoirs. Water butts to collect water off the roof are available from our local Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Recycling Park at Ballyogan and in many local household suppliers. Even collecting from a shed roof will yield a lot of water. By putting a water butt or a series of water butts in place now you will collect water for use next summer. More sophisticated Water Harvesting systems are available but are expensive. It seems crazy that we are flushing our toilets with drinking quality water.
Ireland’s 3rd National Biodiversity Action Plan was launched last year to cover the years from 2017 to 2021. It is easy to think that this Action Plan does not affect us here in the suburbs, but suburban gardens are a very important habitat and a haven for many insects, animals and plants. I am particularly thinking of the collapse of our bee and insect population in Ireland.
Insects are in decline and of the 98 Irish wild bee species, one third is endangered. Why should we protect the creepy crawlies which most people don’t like? Insects are important pollinators of our food; they provide food for many birds, bats and small mammals; they provide food for other insects and are decomposers - cleaning up dead matter.
We are constantly cleaning up, spraying, killing ‘weeds’ in the lawn, paving and concreting which leaves no space for wildness. Dandelions, clover and daisies provide food for starving bees. Dandelions are especially good early spring pollinator plants.
Choose flowers for your garden to support the bees, for example, open-centred flowers like, daisies, single roses, asters, buddleia and lavender. The County Dublin Beekeepers’ Association has a good list of bee friendly plants.
http://dublinbees.org/want-to-learn-about-beekeeping/garden-plants-for-bees/ We are all interconnected. Flowers feed the insects, birds need insects for food, we need insects to pollinate our food. Many of our birds are in decline because of the decline in insects.
Love your local creepy crawlies!!