Christmas wreaths from old stuff – we took the Emmaus UK Second Hand Santa challenge!

We have a few favourite places in Brighton and Hove, but one of our favourites has to be Emmaus. Many a day has found us rummaging around in the various areas in their shops, finding materials for our projects and having a chat and a cuppa with the wonderful companions who call Emmaus Brighton and Hove their home. So, we were delighted when we were invited to take part in the nationwide Emmaus UK ‘Second Hand Santa’ challenge – representing the Brighton and Hove community.

Image result for emmaus brighton and hove

Armed with a budget of £30, we headed up to the main Brighton and Hove Emmaus in Portslade to find materials to create something for our challenge: a Christmas wreath.

As typical designers, we started with a couple of questions for shop manager, Andy. ‘What do you have a lot of? What can be a problem to sell…?’ We were taken out to the front of the store, where two large boxes of picture frames were sitting. Even at a bargain 50p each, there were masses – and more waiting to come out from the warehouse… we decided these were going to be our main material for our Christmas wreath. We gathered an armful and started looking the next bits…

Heading down into the sorting areas, we found a load of damaged metal items that were on their way to the recycling skip, including a wire fruit bowl. We liked it, so it went in the basket along with the frames.

But we needed some colour, some sparkle and a base for our wreath. A trip to the fabric area bagged us some faux shot silk in red and silver and some gold upholders fabric, and a rummage through the costume jewellery resulted in some brilliant silver bangles. But we still needed a wreath base…

Sometimes the best thing about designing is the abstract thinking. Chatting to the guys on the loading door about what we needed for the base made us describe our elusive object as ‘like an old bike wheel or something?’ Two minutes later, two old 26inch diameter wheels were fished out the skip. Blinking marvellous.

Once we’d got it all back to the studio, we started playing and constructing (ie, the fun bit!) The timber picture frames were de-glassed and with a bit of bashing, each one was split down into the four sides, with their metal pins removed with the help of some pliers. The spikes of the bike wheel were cut out with some bolt cutters and the rim was cleaned up.

We started laying the now random pieces of timber from the frames on the rim, tying them in place with strips of the material, gradually building up the construction inwards. The wreath soon took form. But no wreath is complete without a bow, so we took the rest of the gold fabric and fashioned a nice fat bow for the top. Wreath one – the Rustic One, was complete.

But we still had stuff left, including the busted fruit bowl, various bits of silver things and the silver bangles. After bending the arms of the fruit bowl down a bit, a modern ‘starburst’ started to form. We threaded some of the bangles over the arms, pinching them in place at various heights and closed off the centre with a sparkling snap close bracelet.

A couple of bits of wire secured a beautiful old swan handle to the centre bangle, and some long strips of the remaining silver fabric tied at the top and left to cascade behind the bowl completed Wreath two – the Modern One.

So – what do you get when you cross two excitable designers, a wonderful Emmaus community, a Second Hand Santa Challenge and £30? Two brilliant Christmas wreaths – one for inside and one for outside, made from bits of stuff that needed new homes.

And what would our advice be for creating your own Emmaus Christmas wreath for your own Emmaus Second Hand Santa challenge? Find a solid base (like our wheel and fruit bowl), find something that you can get multiples of (like our picture frames and bangles) and get busy with building up layers

A HUGE thank you to all the guys and girls at our brilliant Emmaus Brighton and Hove for helping us find stuff for our challenge. See what you can find in your local Emmaus!

*** Emmaus Brighton and Hove is open Monday to Saturday, 10 – 5 ***

Ghost Gear investigations… weeks five and six…

So far, our project – ‘Investigating how Ghost Gear and Marine Plastic can become Precious Plastic’ has been focused on the ghost gear that can be picked up from beach cleans themselves. This has resulted in quite a range in types of material being gathered along with a range of qualities of material too. There has also been a significant amount of bio-fouling on the gear with regards to seaweed entanglement, which means that the amount of time that it takes to ‘process’ each of the batches can be quite high (and sometimes for little useful material return). However, these more community based collections allow for public empowerment – and a potential for education on the areas of Ghost Gear and marine plastics themselves, which is always useful.

However, the last two weeks we have not only been processing and recording the materials we found, we have been looking at one of the industrial sectors on our map – Newhaven Port.

By speaking directly to the fishers themselves in Newhaven and Eastbourne too (not on our map, but an area where a very influential and well respected local fisher works), we were able to understand the scale and complexity of the material that is available directly at end-of-life rather than being recovered from the sea / beach.

Quantities were huge – with materials being available in tonnes rather than kilos as we had been working with on the material recovered from the beaches. These materials were also very varied – from different types of nets to traps and fish boxes too – but many were relatively ‘pure’ in material with little or low biofouling.

There is a distinct advantage from getting end-of-life material directly from fishers to create a critical mass for re-manufacture, therefore we are considering that this may be our main focus for the ‘waste food’ for the project, with beach clean material being added in, rather than forming the main material stream. Space was a key issue for the fishers as many of them had limited access to storage, so regular pickups of material were highlighted as being important.

We were also keen to understand how nets were / are currently recycled in this area, as some of the fishers had been working with an international partner to recycle their nets. Due to the distances that the nets have to be shipped, it is currently unfeasible financially to process the material, which gives strength to this projects investigations – would more localised re-manufacture of material that is ‘lower cost’ in recycling terms make more financial sense?

As we start to quantify the ghost gear materials into type and weights we will should be able to start to look closer into the finances and establish feasibility for each type…

WEEK FIVE and SIX summary…

  • end-of-life gear shows potentially a more economically feasible route for the ‘waste as food’ for the project
  • partnering with the fishers will be key to create trust and also to ensure purity of material for reuse.
  • adding in ‘beach clean’ materials could be used as an additive to create public connection.

Ghost Gear investigations… week four…

Week four has been a pretty big one in our Discover stage of our ghost gear investigation project – as it was also the Surfers Against Sewage Autumn Beach Clean Series week (and we are also volunteer Regional Reps), we employed a crowd collection tactic for our data collection.

Image result for sas autumn beach clean

With multiple beach cleans all occurring on the same weekend, with the same weather, we would be able to compare the data from each area very clearly… materials, quantities – and crowd knowledge of ghost gear itself.

So – we identified the three key SAS Beach cleans that were focussed in our areas:

  • SAS Autumn Beach Clean, Hove Lawns 28/10/17: our Sector 3, which attracted around 70 volunteers over a 2 hour beach clean
  • SAS Autumn Beach Clean, Rottingdean 29/10/17: our Sector 5, (volunteer numbers tbc)
  • SAS x Pier2Pier + Silent Disco Beach Clean 29/10/17: our Sector 4, which attracted around 110 volunteers over a 3 hour beach clean.

We created a poster that acted as an introduction to the project, and spoke to the volunteers at each Beach Clean – asking them to separate out the ghost gear that they found…

This was an experiment – many people we spoke to at the start of these beach cleans had never attended a beach clean before, so asking them to both identify, and separate lost, abandoned or discarded fishing gear was a trial. After a briefing talk from us, each pair were given a small collection bag and sent out on to the beach.

The benefits of this system soon became clear. The vast majority of the volunteers filled their collection bags with ghost gear, clearly identifying them to keep them separated from the rest of the litter they had picked up. Some did come back with questions, but even those who had never done a beach clean could identify ghost gear. As our project is ultimately looking at how ghost gear can be incorporated into a new material stream to make new products, creating an empathic connection between cleaning the beach – doing a good thing – and a new item, could be critical.

It also meant that we had around 100 bags of ghost gear pieces picked up in a VERY short period of time over three separate areas that we had marked for research.

Week five will be spent looking at two of our other key areas – Sector 1 – Shoreham Port, and Sector 7 – Newhaven Port, speaking to fishers themselves and investigating the issues with collecting end-of-life nets and gear, rather than collecting it on the beaches itself.

And we will be washing, categorising and photographing the VAST quantities of ghost gear that our marvellous volunteer army collected over the Surfers Against Sewage Autumn Beach Clean series weekend…

WEEK FOUR summary…

  • ‘ghost gear’ is a term that not many members of the public know.
  • however, anyone can be easily briefed on the issue – and pick up ghost gear correctly.
  • mobilising volunteer collectors was very effective for collecting large quantities of material over a short period of time.

Ghost Gear investigations… weeks two and three…

Weeks two and three on our Ghost Gear investigations have gone like an absolute flash. We have spent a huge amount of time cataloguing the HUGE amount of ghost gear that we have found so far in our field visits – which have been mostly concentrated on the more public beach areas of Brighton and Hove. These are also the beaches which are more frequently cleaned by the team at City Clean, but it is still eye opening the quantities that we have found.

There are some patterns forming though… the types of materials we are finding the most of are quite distinct. If we can determine a reprocessing system for these, we could be able to redirect a great deal of ghost gear from landfill / incineration into a new product material stream.

Watch this space…

(images by J. Arney – claire potter design)

MORE BIG NEWS! We won the PEA Awards Arts Category!!!

Sometimes you look back over a week and wonder how you will ever top it. They do not come around very often, but they are the glorious weeks where everything falls into place, all the gambles pay off and everyone seems to be giving you equivalent of the Paul Hollywood Bake Off Handshake of a job well done. Last week was one of these weeks. Not only were we officially announced as one of Kevin McCloud’s Green Heroes, we appeared on BBC Radio Sussex talking about our plastic reduction campaigns, Plastic Free Pledge and then, on Friday 13th October, we won the PEA Award (People Environment Achievement) for our marine litter re-design work and PFP campaign. We were pretty shocked.

PEA Award founder, Jarvis Smith

The night was fantastic – a Day of The Dead themed party in Cornhill Banking Hall, London, we were truly honoured to be amongst a room of brilliantly inspirational people working in all reaches of the environmental sector.

(L-R) Jake Arney + Claire Potter (claire potter design), Cat Fletcher (Freegle), Dr David Greenfield (SOENECS)

After an opening reception of Juniper Green Gin cocktails, a three course vegetarian meal followed – with the awards, hosted by the fabulous Oliver Heath… It is lucky that we were the first award to be announced, as we were very nervous, despite being convinced that we were not going to win!

We can barely remember getting up on stage to collect the award – a stunning skull decorated with reclaimed and recycled elements, enclosed under a clear dome by jeweller Katie Weiner, and the next hour of the ceremony passed like an absolute flash.

So many wonderful people came up to congratulate us on the award too, which was really humbling. We do what we do because we deeply feel that it is the right thing to do – and to be recognised for this is just incredible.

THANK YOU to all the judges who selected us as the winners, to the fantastic sponsors of the night, our fellow category nominees and all of the people in attendance – it was so brilliant to meet you all and hear your stories too. We hope our paths cross again one day…

(last image by claire potter – all others courtesy of PEA Awards)

BIG NEWS! We’re one of Kevin McCloud’s Green Heroes 2017!

Wow. More big news – we’ve just been listed as one of Kevin McCloud’s 10 Green Heroes for 2017!

Selected by Kevin himself, we have been included on the very prestigious list for our circular economy work using marine plastics to create new products – in particular our lighting range, ‘The Smack’ which we exhibited at Clerkenwell Design week in May this year. The jellyfish type lights all use PET plastic bottles which were collected en-masse when we helped lead a beach and street clean in February and have proved a very thought provoking design indeed. As designers, how can we reinvent a material? How can we positively impact the crisis of marine litter? What can we all do as consumers?

We had some great comments from Kevin in the selection process too… ‘We should not just recycle (plastic bottles) but reinvent them, says McCloud, “and upcycle them into beautiful and useful objects”.

So – you can see The Smack exhibited at Grand Designs Live at the NEC in Birmingham from 11th – 14th October and again in 2018, 5-13 May at the Excel in London.

Thank you again to Kevin McCloud for choosing us as a Green Hero!

(images courtesy of Grand Designs Live + by claire potter)

Ghost Gear investigations… Week one…

And we’re off! At the end of week 1, we’re taking a look back at the first developments from our research project titled ‘Investigating how Ghost Gear and Marine Plastics can become Precious Plastics’.

(If you don’t know what we’re talking about, take a look at our last post!)

So what have we been up to?

The week began with some desk based research to find out a little more about Ghost Gear around the ports of Shoreham and Newhaven; both included within – and at the borders of our research area. As it turns out, there isn’t a great deal to be found. (Information that is… we are sure there is plenty of Ghost Gear!) Both port authorities provide a reasonable amount of information on environmental policies through their webpages, however very little of this links directly to our research area. So I guess we can call this our first major finding – the port authorities of Newhaven and Shoreham have very little publicly available information relating to Ghost Gear! However, this isn’t a major problem for us as we have already began discussions with Fisheries Consultant and industry expert, Harry Owen. Harry is going to be contributing to the work of the project at various stages; but first he is helping to connect us to members of the local port authorities as well as local fisherman who will be able to provide us with the information we require.

We haven’t been sat at our desks all week either! On Tuesday we planned out our observational research. This meant evaluating each section of the Greater Brighton coastline to select areas to investigate and plot any washed up Ghost Gear. The map below shows the different areas for investigation.

At each location, we continue to record information including the types of gear, quantities and contamination levels. Wherever possible, we will also be removing the Ghost Gear so that we can take samples for testing.

These observations are now well underway! On Wednesday, we headed down to a very windy Newhaven beach to conduct the first on-site part of our research stage. This is one of the less commercial stretches of coastline in the Greater Brighton area – and the effects are obvious. Not only was there huge quantities of Ghost Gear, but the amount of plastic washed up on the beach was shocking. Just goes to show that just because you may see less of it on commercial, more populated beaches (because they are regularly cleaned), marine plastic is there… and it’s a serious issue.

We were able to remove a huge amount of gear from the beach; enough to fill a (now slightly smelly) hatchback…

This was repeated on Friday, when we travelled to sector 6 on our map – Rottingdean. With a combination of beach type, from rock groyne bounded pebbles to rockpools, we were particularly interested to see where the ghost gear collected. We had not gone far when we discovered an incredible amount of Ghost Gear wrapped around, under and within the huge rock groynes.

There was too much to leave, so – after braving the inner parts of the groyne (caution – do not try this at home!) we were able to cut free and haul up massive chunks of gear. We will be back to Rottingdean next week to carry on our survey on the rockpool stretches.

WEEK ONE summary:

  • publically available data on ghost gear from Shoreham and Newhaven ports is sparse.
  • ghost gear quantity is higher on less populated beaches.
  • ghost gear variety in the area ranges from nylon nets, to a variety of rope types and rope nets.
  • sometimes there are large accumulations of gear that is hard to retrieve easily, or safely.

BIG NEWS! Claire Potter Design to lead a new Innovate UK co-funded project in marine litter…

We have big and exciting news! Starting today, Claire Potter Design will be leading a £34,000 research project concerning marine litter in the greater Brighton area. The project aims to create local value from marine plastic waste and ghost gear; fishing equipment that has been lost, abandoned or otherwise discarded.

The project, titled ‘Investigating how Ghost Gear and Marine Plastics can become Precious Plastics’, is being co-funded by Innovate UK; the UK’s innovation agency, and will be supported by a number of parties including fisheries consultant Harry Owen, and Professor Martin Charter, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Design at the University for the Creative Arts. Progressing in 3 stages, the studio will begin by collecting data relating to marine plastic in the area including variations, volumes and the economic impact of their loss. The second stage is to define the problem, opportunities for reuse and how fishers can be involved in the process. The final stage of the 6-month project requires the development of small scale machinery that can be used to produce 20 prototype products from the recovered materials.

The public awareness of marine plastics and their impacts on our oceans, aquatic life and coastlines has greatly increased in recent years. Reports, campaigns and increasing media coverage have helped to highlight the issues of plastic ingestion and entanglement. Currently, recovered marine plastic is brought to the land in preparation for incineration or landfill, however plastics can last for up to 600 years meaning that they could prove a valuable resource material.

If value can be created from this ‘waste’ material, the incentives to remove it from our oceans will be increased, and both gear loss and recovery could increase mitigation. The material and machinery will also provide opportunities for an increase in localised, small scale manufacture, supporting a local economy for marine waste reuse in the greater Brighton area.

Despite this being their first funded research project in this area, and as readers of The Ecospot are probably aware, the team at Claire Potter Design are not new to marine litter research. Our multi-disciplinary design studio have been working in the area of circular economy design for a number of years, alongside volunteer roles as Global Ghost Gear Initiative Design Consultants for the World Cetacean Alliance, Regional Representatives for environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage, and sitting on the British Standards Committee, MADE; Design for manufacture, assembly, disassembly and end-of-life processing.

To ensure maximum benefit to all parties involved (including the public), we are providing complete transparency during the research. This will include regular reports and updates HERE at The Ecospot as well as public consultation and open meetings. This will provide a greater understanding of the public perception of marine plastic, as well as providing a useful resource for replication in other parts of the UK.

And why are we doing this…?

  • It is estimated that marine litter costs UK local authorities over £18m a year in removal and disposal (Surfers Against Sewage, 2014)
  • It has been estimated that over 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear alone are lost or discarded in our global oceans every year (Macfadyen, et al., 2009)
  • Ghost gear causes the death of around 1 million seabirds and an estimated 100,000 mammals per year through ingestion and entanglement. (Surfers Against Sewage, 2014)

So. Let’s get going eh? Follow our updates on the Precious Marine Plastics project tab above…

(all images by claire potter design)

‘The Smack’ at Clerkenwell Design Week – from marine plastic to lighting…

Yikes. Where have the last two months gone? It feels like an age, yet only yesterday that we were down in the underground cells of Platform for Clerkenwell Design Week 2017, showing the latest iteration of our marine plastic product research work – ‘The Smack’.

Made using 365 recovered Lucozade Sport bottles, split into their component materials and remade into fittings reminiscent of jellyfish, ‘The Smack’ went down an absolute storm. We had a huge amount of interest not only in the installation, but the story of marine plastic itself. Press interviews, TV interviews and a spot on a documentary – as well as hundreds of conversations with people staggered at awfulness, yet beauty of the piece and countless tweets and instagrams. #TheSmack was well shared!

What was really encouraging was the amount of people who knew about the wider issue. Some people knew about the Parley x Adidas marine plastic trainer, others had been watching the Sky Ocean Rescue project and some had even seen the latest marine plastic documentary – A Plastic Ocean. Awareness is certainly growing.

The few days of the event zipped by, but we are already booked in and planning what we will be doing for Clerkenwell Design Week 2018. We will be back down in Platform again with our next iteration of products made from reclaimed marine plastics. We have a VERY exciting project in the pipeline that you will see popping up here very soon… watch this space as they say.

(images by claire potter)

We’re back at Platform with ‘The Smack’ for Clerkenwell Design Week 2017…

Where has the year gone? It seems like only yesterday we were up at Clerkenwell Design Week for the first time with our ‘Ghost Gear Chandelier’ we built in collaboration with the World Cetacean Alliance and the Global Ghost Gear Initiative. And here we are – back in May – and heading to Clerkenwell Design Week for the second time with our new iteration of products made from marine litter – ‘The Smack’.

Image result for clerkenwell design week logo

This year, we have utilised 365 plastic sports drinks bottles that were picked up on an SAS supported beach clean we led in February with the Brighton and Hove Eco Supper Club – which was run on the same day as the Brighton Half Marathon.

Now, it has to be stressed that the Brighton Half Marathon HAD organised help to pick up the discarded Lucozade Sport bottles cast aside by the runners, but there were too many bottles and too few people helping too late in the day. Bottles were strewn over the beach and promenade on a blustery day – and we only made a dent in the bottles that we could see.

But even when the bottles were picked up by the organised contractors, they were not being separated – or emptied, so would have been consigned to the local incinerator. As circular economy designers, we were not going to let that happen to the bottles our group had collected, so they were brought back to the studio to be emptied, washed, sorted and re-processed. 

Many, many hours and 7 different processes later, we have created ‘The Smack’ for CDW17 – a series of 30 plastic jellyfish lights made from the Lucozade Sport bottles, which have also just been identified and reported as being the second worse item for recyclability in the UK. This exhibit is to demonstrate exactly how much you have to do to a sports drink bottle to make it re-usable, and how we could start to rethink the material…

So – come and say hi to us at Platform from Tuesday 23rd May – Thursday 25th May – and see ‘The Smack’… 

(and if you want to see our press release and download images, you can do so here…)

Welcome back.

Well. January has been and (almost) gone, but has certainly been eventful. The world as we know it has been turned upside down, with global turmoil and global uncertainty. And it can be really easy to lose heart. To become disillusioned and to become resigned to the fact that this is the way things are going to be from now on.

But this is not the way it has to be. 

Every few weeks or so, we re-do the studio window, with new ideas, new creations or new displays. In January, we came back from the break feeling that we had to do something. We had to be part of something that stood up and said No. We are all better than this.

So, perhaps because we went to watch Star Wars: Rebel One, the rebellion was very much in our minds when we came to redoing the studio window.

Resistance means Hope. Says it all really. Do not sit and despair. Stand up, join up and be hopeful.

Welcome to 2017…

(image by claire potter design)

Seasons Greetings from The Ecospot…

Well, 2016 has been eventful eh? But thank for being here with us at The Ecospot – we would like to wish you all the very warmest of seasons greetings and a peaceful new year.

Here’s to an exciting and positively disruptive 2017. See you in January.

(marine litter Christmas Tree image by claire potter and the world cetacean alliance – December 2016)

the Ecospot Eco Gift Guide – day 23 – the gift of time…

Almost Christmas Eve. We are nearly there folks. But if you have got to this point and still do not know what to get someone, we have one final suggestion for you. Give the gift of your time.

In a world where we are connected virtually at every minute of the day, giving someone your time is perhaps the most precious gift you can give.

Free, yet utterly priceless, time is also something we can all give, no matter where we are, or how lined our pockets are with gold.

And time spans all of the world too – taking time to stop and say hello to a neighbour, enjoy a cup of tea with a friend or make a phone call to someone at the other side of the globe is precious. Do a few hours of volunteering locally, help with someones shopping, undertake in a bit of lobbying for a cause that you support. It all adds up, yet it all takes time.

Touching base and keeping connected is so special. Standing up for causes you admire is important. So. Take your time and give it to someone else.

Last Christmas, Wham! may have given you their hearts, but as we know, the very next day, you gave it away. If they’d given time, they would have saved a little heartache and spread a little more love.

the Ecospot Eco Gift Guide 2016 – day 22 – donate to Sea Shepherd…

In the second of our virtual gifts for great projects and people we are featuring one of our most favourite movements here at The Ecospot – Sea Shepherd. Founded in 1977 as the direct action marine conservation group, Sea Shepherd run annual campaigns to protect marine life from the Faroes to the Southern Ocean. Tackling illegal fishing, whale hunts, seal hunts and the trapping of dolphins for transportation into a life of captivity, Sea Shepherd does exactly what they pledge to do – Defend, Conserve and Protect.

Image result for sea shepherd

Many people will know Sea Shepherd from the Whale Wars programmes, or more recently, the Ocean Warriors series, which tracks the Operation Icefish campaign from last season where the Sea Shepherd vessel, the Bob Barker, led by Captain Peter Hammarstedt chased the illegal Patagonian toothfish vessel, the Thunder for 110 days.

Bob Barker

The vast amounts of illegal gillnets that were recovered by Sea Shepherd’s Sam Simon vessel were used as evidence against the Thunder before they were given to Parley for the Oceans as part of their link up with Adidas. The result? Their new ocean plastic trainer that we have spoken about here as part of our own marine litter reporting.

adidas X Parley 1

But the heroic actions of Sea Shepherd that do so much to protect our oceans and marine life need supporting in so many ways. Even with a completely volunteer crew, the vessels and campaigns of Sea Shepherd cost money to run. Donating towards the running costs ensures that Sea Shepherd can continue to Defend, Conserve and Protect.

Donate through the main Sea Shepherd UK pages here, or buy merchandise from their ebay store here.

(images via Sea Shepherd / Adidas)

the Ecospot Eco Gift Guide 2016 – day 21 – membership to Surfers Against Sewage…

Want to really give a gift that helps do something positive? Well, for the last few of days before the 25th, we have selected gifts that really help a cause, a charity or a movement. First up is a gift membership to Surfers Against Sewage…

Not just surfers and no longer just about sewage, SAS is one of the UK’s leading marine environmental charities protecting the UK’s oceans, waves and beaches for all to enjoy safely and sustainably, via community action, campaigning, volunteering, conservation, education and scientific research.

Claire is one of the local volunteer Regional Reps for SAS in Brighton and is incredibly proud to spread the powerful work that the whole SAS community undertakes. Gifting membership to someone really does help support the work of SAS on shores around the UK, plus your giftee will also receive a welcome pack of SAS goodies, 3 copies of Pipeline Magazine a year and member discounts in the SAS shop.

Support the work of SAS and gift a membership to someone who loves our beaches and oceans!

Available through the SAS website here – £4 a month or £48 annually…

(image from SAS)