Pecha Kucha Brighton – Volume 22 – Good Grub…

The Pecha Kucha format is something that has to be experienced. It is a quick fire set of presentations, usually formed around a theme, where the speakers are limited to 20 slides, with 20 seconds per slide. Each one flicks on automatically, so if you are behind in your talk, you are in trouble. This is a brilliantly entertaining way to learn something exciting in a concise way, and we are delighted to announce that we will be taking part in the next Pecha Kucha in Brighton.

Volume 22 of Pecha Kucha Brighton on 22nd November will be around the theme of ‘Good Grub’, with a great line up of speakers talking about food in a variety of ways, from typography to crochet. Claire will be speaking about Urban Foraging and the rewilding of the city and it’s inhabitants, based on our Edible City escapades.

Tickets are £15 (+ booking fee) and include a light dinner at Silo, the venue for the evening, and Silo founder Dougie McMaster will also be talking about the philosophy behind the project – which is incredible both in concept and practice.

But even though the event is just over a month away, tickets are selling like zero waste organic hot cakes, so if you fancy it, head to the Pecha Kucha Brighton site sooner rather than later!

(image via Pecha Kucha Brighton)

*** EVENT *** our next Urban Foraging Walk in Brighton is up…

cherry plum foragingFancy a bit of guided foraging in Brighton? join us on our next Urban Foraging walk in Brighton on Sunday 6th September – check out our Eventbrite page for more details here…

Monday Musings – glyphosate and radical transparency…

It is becoming ever clearer that we really do not know what is actually in the things we use, wear or eat. Not a day appears to go by without a product, formula or chemical being revealed as being ‘possibly detrimental to human health’ (note the possible, and the limitations on ‘human’). We live in a world of complicated concoctions with often untraceable foundations. But, for many, ignorance is bliss. What you don’t know won’t harm you. Well, quite possibly it will.


Glyphosate has long been outlawed by organic gardeners for the fierceness and obliterating chemical qualities it has on everything it comes into contact with, but a report issued this week from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has categorised the chemical as a ‘probable carcinogen’.

For some, this is no great surprise, but for many this has come as quite a shock, especially as retailers were quick to announce the removal of the products from their shelves. Given that glyphosate is the active ingredient in the majority of weedkillers, including Monsanto’s Roundup, it is far more common an ingredient than you may think, meaning that many gardeners and farmworkers are exposing themselves to the probable carcinogen each year.

So – will glyphosate be banned? Possibly not. There is (of course) a bit of an uproar from Monsanto (what a surprise), plus other European research groups have declared it safe for use, but this poses an interesting question. If there is some risk, is it worth it?

This same question is raised in ‘Ecological Intelligence – the coming age of radical transparency‘ by Daniel Goleman. An empowered consumer is one with the facts, so if there is risk, or a possibility of harm, that consumer may decide the risk is just not worth taking – even if the findings are disputed by others.

This is probably why the big box retailers acted so quickly and publicly when the report was issued on glypsophate. Even if there was the tiniest chance of risk, they certainly do not want to be seen to putting their customers in the firing line.

And what can we do, as the everyday consumer? Well, we can respond in the way that hits the brands the most. We switch brands and make it clear that we are not willing to take on the risk, however small. If we have a choice (and there are natural alternatives to weedkillers, like digging the blighters up), then we are in a position to affect a change. The safe and ethical brands will rise to the top and the Monsanto’s of the world will begin to sink.

Legislation is one thing, but for some, profits shout the loudest. Hit them where it hurts.

Weekend words – when life gives you cherry plums…

when life gives you cherry plums

(image and photography by claire potter)

Monday Musings – foraging – taking advantage or taking your share?

Today on Monday Musings we have a very apt discussion to wade into – foraging. Yesterday we ran one of our popular Urban Foraging walks in Brighton, leading a small group through a couple of parks and streets of the city. We pointed out what is edible, abundant, how you can use it and the folklore and traditions that surround the things we walk past every day. But one discussion that we had, was not how we should forage, but whether we should at all.

cherry plum foraging

This had arisen with the recent discussion – and argument in the Daily Mail – that foragers are stripping the New Forest bare of mushrooms. John Wright, the foraging expert linked with River Cottage (and one of our heroes) came under fire, as his paid foraging courses were blamed for the sparseness of mushrooms in the area. This accusation was quickly rubbished by Wright and River Cottage, who stated that not only do they operate within the law, but that they collect a tiny fraction of the mushrooms discovered on a walk – taking only one basket of edible mushrooms and one basket of ‘interesting’ mushrooms between the whole group. No mushroom is picked twice, and only Wright picks the mushrooms. And of course, only with permission of the landowner.applesPlus, the mushroom is only the reproductive organ of the living organism below ground, so saying that picking mushrooms is harmful, is quite honestly, rubbish. Where the argument against over picking stands is when the forest is laid bare of mushrooms – not perhaps from a conservation point of view, but it is indeed a sad sight.

So this is an interesting argument. With the increasing interest in foraging taking hold, how can we ensure that us, who teach the skill, are being responsible? 

Frankly, I believe that the people I teach to forage – those who want to reconnect with the seasons and their landscape (with respect) and supplement their weekly shop and autumn larders with nutritious and plentiful goodies are not the problem. Like Wright, I only point out items that are so common we would have to all locally down tools and pick for a week to make any kind of dent in the harvest. Hawthorns? Japanese Roses? Nettles? Do me a favour. hawthorn

We never pick items that are rare, or unusual, and if we do discover something, we look and learn.

My personal bugbear with foraging does not sit with people (like me) who run paid for foraging courses, or write books or blogs on the subject. It does not sit with people who post their foraging forays on twitter, facebook and instagram. It certainly does not sit with the individual who picks a kilo of apples on a piece of waste ground. My bugbear sits with those few unscrupulous ‘commercial foragers’ who flaunt the 50 shades of grey areas of the law – picking wherever they can, in large quantities for resale to restaurants and gastropubs. Whenever I see ‘locally foraged’ on a menu I ask questions. Where, who, when? With permission?

Foraging is about being respectful. And the vast majority of us are just that. We respect our local areas, we respect the local biodiversity and we respect the knowledge that has been gathered over generations that we risk losing forever in the eternal glow of the supermarkets.

So will I stop foraging, or teaching people how to forage? Not on your nelly. Knowledge is power and respect comes from education, not ignorance.

*** EVENT *** Urban Foraging in Brighton – 2nd July 2015

Hooray! Only a couple of days to go until our next Urban Foraging event in Brighton and Hove! Starting at the Dyke Road Cafe, we will wind out way through the parks and streets of Brighton and Hove over two hours, identifying the fantastic things that are abundant and edible in our urban hedges. What can you use? When can you use it? How do you use it? We will cover all of this, plus the legal requirements that need to be taken into consideration when foraging…

cherry plum foraging

Join us for a bit of an educating walk, get reconnected with your urban environment and enjoy a bit of a foraged drink at the end.

A perfect way to spend a Sunday morning!  Click here to go to our Eventbrite page with all the details…

(image by claire potter design)

our latest Urban Foraging Walk is now live!

We have been pretty busy on the foraging front this year – mostly running foraging walks for other lovely people in the city, but we have had so many people ask us whether we are running any more, we are!

cherry plum foraging

Up now are full details of our Urban Foraging walk in Brighton on 2nd August… Ever wondered what you walk past each day which you could add into to your daily diet? Ever wondered what this whole urban foraging thing is about, where it has come from and what you can actually do with that random looking leaf? Well, during our 2 hour intro walk, we will help guide you through the laws and pitfalls of foraging and help you identify up to 20 things that are abundant and actually rather delicious in the city. Finishing off with a little drink at the end, this introductory foraging walk through the parks and streets of Brighton will give you a taster of what you are missing…

The walk is £10 per person (with kids free) and you can book through our Eventbrite page…

We look forward to seeing you!

(image by claire potter)

Growing food on waste coffee – the Espresso Mushroom company…

We are big supporters of creating new things from waste, especially as most waste – with a bit of thought – can be redirected into creating new products. This can come in many forms, from buildings that  can be created from waste materials (like the Waste House in Brighton) through to new consumer products (such as truck tarpaulin bags from Freitag). And we predict that this pattern will escalate over the coming years as we start to realise that raw materials are either too scarce or expensive to use. It is a huge opportunity for designers to think in the circular rather than linear. But it is not just products that can be created – what about our food? This is exactly what the Espresso Mushroom Company are doing…

Hot Pink Oyster Mushroom Kitchen Garden Espresso Mushroom Company

Founded in Brighton, the Espresso Mushroom Company grow, and create kits allowing you to grow mushrooms from a substrate based on reclaimed coffee grounds which are gathered by bike from local cafes.

But one of the staggering elements of this project is the sheer scale of the waste coffee grounds that are produced daily – and usually get directed straight into landfill. For instance, the Espresso Mushroom Company puts it into perpective:

‘Less than 1% of the coffee cherry harvested from the coffee tree is in an espresso coffee and over 70 million cups of coffee are drunk every day in the UK.’  That’s a lot of coffee – the grounds of which are currently wasted.

And the kits are simple – open, water, grow, harvest. (and we are planning on getting one for our new studio…)

So – fresh food created from waste. What’s not to love? Check out the main Espresso Mushroom Company website for full details of the kits available…

(images via the Espresso Mushroom Company website)

2014 recap – October – first Eco Open House weekend…

2014 was a big year for us in many ways – including completing the building of our new studio in Brighton, which we have converted from an old public toilet into an industrially styled, eclectic space. And in October, we opened our studio to the first visitors on the Eco Open Houses tour weekend, whilst we were still finishing it up…

first published 21st October 2014…

We have been a little bit quiet over here on the ecospot over the last week or so. There are many reasons for this – for one, we were having a bit of a major design overhaul (and we hope you like the new look!) and as well as having a digital redesign we were working in the physical too – trying to complete our new studio in time for the first Brighton and Hove Eco Open Houses tour weekend on 18th / 19th October. Long days, long nights and lots of goings on. But, we are nearly there on both respects, and it was with delight that we opened our doors to the public for the very first time on Sunday morning…

studio loo front

We are not completely there, but very nearly and there was loads of stuff that we could say about the project to explain to people where we had started from, where we were and where we will be when we open again on Saturday 25th.

studio spider chandelier small

It was fantastic. We had put notes on a lot of the key areas of the rebuild and conversion from old public toilet to design studio and it was not long before our pen had nearly run out. From our Celotex insulation to locally sourced plants, recycled paint from REBORN paints to upcycled cabinets from local charity Emmaus, we spoke about a different side to the eco buildings in the city.

studio plants small

We do not have our solar panels on our roof yet, but our electricity is supplied by Ecotricity and we have used A+ appliances throughout and energy saving bulbs. Plants also feature heavily in the studio to not only create a nice environment but to act as air cleaners – removing the toxins which will be given out by our printer, computers and even as we breathe.

labels on the wall

And despite not being completely finished, we were delighted at the comments that people gave us when they visited. Some people had travelled specifically to see our studio, others were doing as many of the Eco Open Houses as possible and others were just walking along the road and happened upon us. All in all, we had just over 60 visitors, which we were most chuffed about.

reborn paints small

But, as soon as the last visitors had gone, the building materials were back in and we were back at the works, with the flooring, front door and tiling set to be finished off this week. I have the job of putting in the hanging planters that I was speaking to people about as well…

neon green flex. grey and copper

So – if you are about, pop by and say hello this weekend – we are at 201 Portland Road in Hove and will be open on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th between 10-1 and 2-5. And we can highly recommend the cafe along the road, Pelican on Portland for all things tasty, lovely and delicious.

(all photos by claire potter)

Wednesday walls – espalier apples, alliums and box…

Today on Wednesday walls we are giving you a very brief peek at our new studio, which is finally taking shape and will be open very soon for the Brighton Eco Open Houses tours in the middle of this month. It is an old public toilet that we have converted into a new design studio (in keeping with our upcycling obsession), and as well as having a lovely interior space, we have a lovely exterior space too – which we are filling with fruit and herbs, including espalier apples, alliums and box. espalier apples alliums and box 1Now, you may be thinking where the wall aspect comes in today – well, with our south facing studio we have two walls which are perfect for fruit trees – and specifically, espalier trained apple trees.

The espalier trees not only benefit from the support of the wall (they will be tied into supports on the wall), the fruit will benefit from the heat that the bricks will store.

espalier apples alliums and box 2We have chosen two espalier apples for the front of the studio, which have now been underplanted with Purple Sensation Alliums, Box (which will be trained into spheres) and lavender, to aid pollination. The rest of the planters are now filled with more bulbs, grasses, herbs and fruit – plus there will be seasonal vegetables planted too over the coming months.

As well as the side walls, we have the front facade of the building, which will soon have a kiwi fruit scrambling up the front and a green wall planted above the cycle racks…

So – make the most of your walls for planting – and get fruity!

(photos by claire potter)