Thursday, February 26, 2015


Going to try and do at least one a day, porting over from the site, I guess, just starting from the top of the list.

Arts & Crafts

Arts and Crafts Information

The term 'Arts and Crafts' means a host of activities and hobbies that are related to making things with ones hand or skill. Arts and crafts can be in the form of knitting, weaving, patchwork, card making, scrap booking, collage, beadwork, and decoration. 

Arts and crafts often play a big part in a child's development. It helps develop and encourage imagination, creativity and skill. Nowadays you can buy many craft materials from shops. Glue, glitter, beads, cardboard, paint, paper, ribbon, stickers, paper, pens, plastic etc. It can all add up. Alternatively why not take a look at some of the items your about to throw away. Everyone remembers the classic washing up advert when the child is waiting for his mother to finish the bottle so that he can use it to make something. Here are a few examples of potential art and craft materials:

* Washing up liquid bottles - make the robot body, or a water pistol

* Plastic milk bottles - great for making ships and robots

* Toilet rolls - great for a number of things such as decorations on the Christmas tree

* Ready made meal trays - pirate boats

* Caps off plastic drinking bottles - various colours can be turned into board games, into robots, used for building ships etc. 

* Shoelaces - used to tie things together (not to tie up a brother and sister!)

* Newspaper and magazines - for paper mache

This isn't just for children though. Many people make a living from making things such as cards (quite popular in card shops) patchwork quilts to handmade candles. 

For community groups such as brownies, scouts, or schools, why not take a visit to a scrap store to get art and craft material? A scrap store is where people can donate material they no longer want, for community groups and schools to use. Sometimes a small fee is involved.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015



(Note: as we re-design the site these will crop up here on the blog, erring more on being just sources of further info - never claiming to be exhaustive. Happy to add to main text if advised of anything interesting or worthwhile in comments below)

Certainly the option of creating a low footprint appeals, and if the opportunity to endure is presented in nice ways too, well why not?

Ported over from one of's soon to be parked Article pages:

Environmentally Friendly Funerals

So planning your own funeral is probably the last thing on your mind right now, but it is something that perhaps people should give more thought it. After all, planning a funeral for a loved one can be very traumatic, life changing and expensive.

Traditionally, a funeral is a ceremony that marks someone's death. Funerary customs comprise of beliefs and customs used by a culture to remember the dead, from the funeral itself to prayers, songs and other rituals undertaken in their honour.

What is a traditional funeral?

Although in different cultures and religions the service maybe different, traditionally in the UK, a person's death is usually marked in two/three stages:


Once the person has been placed in a coffin (or casket), close relatives and friends can go and give their last respects, and say goodbye. Alternatively, the person can be laid out at their home until the service takes place.

Funeral service

Traditionally mourners will be dressed in black as a sign of respect. A clergy from the decedent's or bereaved's church or religion conducts the service. A service may include readings from the bible or other sacred texts, hymns, prayers, songs. A eulogy is usually given by a relative or close friend to highlight happier times.


This service happens after the funeral service where mourners can give their last respects before the decreased is buried or cremated


After the funeral and burial service there is usually a gathering of the deceased's family and friends, which gives the chance for the mourners to recall memories of the decreased. Sometime a buffet and drink is provided.

What is an Eco-Funeral?

Some people want to be remembered by having a less traditional funeral, and it is more common nowadays for people to have 'eco-funerals'. Although some of the stages of a traditional funeral may remain the same, more environmental choices can be made in regards to the type of coffin you have and where you are buried.

Eco Coffins

There are many types of environmentally friendly coffins, which people can choose from. These may include bamboo, wicker, cardboard, wood from sustainable forests, biodegradable, to name just a few.

Alternative transport

The hearse that traditionally carries the coffin can be replaced with horse drawn hearse, or even a motorbike hearse.

Woodland burial

As the grave is in a natural setting, it is envisaged that as the woodland matures, it will be a haven for wildlife and flowers, which can the mourners a sense of peace. Many people like the idea of this. Many woodland burial sites will not supply double graves because it means unearthing and disturbing plants and wildlife. Some may feel that this isn't as environmentally friendly as cemeteries whereby arrangements can be made to have several people buried together, creating more space. A few months after burial, a tree can be planted to help encourage the woodland to grow. It is also important to know that many woodland cemeteries will not allow spots to be reserved.

Taken from the Blog (And added to ITanic Vs. until we know)

Cremation or burial?

Despite most in the eco-sphere on this topic surrounding casket design (Cardboard, bamboo, etc), I must confess to having treated it as a bit of a niche thing, despite death, along with taxes, being a bit of a growth industry, along with the global population.

And that is a key consideration. Because if there's more and more of us standing on top of the earth, there's an ever more limited series of places to stick folk under it. And once we start fighting with the guys planting bio-fuel crops, it could get ugly.

Of course it already has to an extent. When I lived in Singapore over a decade ago, large numbers of ancestors were quietly, if rather unceremoniously JCB'd from their eternal slumbers and popped in an urn in a wall if they were lucky.

So pretty much my whole experience, including personally with my Dad, has been cremation.

But in the whole dental filling (mercury) pollution and simple combustion products (heat, gas) scheme of things, is it a good idea?



For more information about alternative funerals, and advice on how to arrange funerals, please check out these organisations:


We opted for a wicker version for my Mum, and it was a beautiful creation that I am sure she would have approved of.



Ok, hubris is a capricious mistress.

That should be 'Breakthrough?'

We're creeping towards slimming the site down to move it to the new platform... a lot, but as an inveterate hoarder (how else would have been created) I was/am loathe to lose neat stuff, and opportunities to share.

Currently, beyond 'IDEAS' (ironically, or in protest at what we propose, not working yesterday and on go-slow today), there is:


Most look simple enough to move to a Wordpress format, with the possibility of interactivity retained.

But I was looking at ARTICLES and thought it a pity that all the great work Chief of Stuff Emma would get lost, and all the bits 'n bobs I stumble across in my travels would not be collated and archived any more. Well, beyond the FaceBook group, which few are aware of and is not searchable.

But... of course it can be! Here!

I just need to create a Page Label and category, and away we go. Then link the new ARTICLES page to it.

Whenever I see a new story I can just call it up and update. No idea when, but of course all the old material can also simply be ported across in this way too.

Ironically, and with dark humour, thanks to the latest share on the FaceBook page, the first to be created is likely to be CATEGORY - FUNEREAL, with info and links on eco-funerals, etc, of course inspired by and based on this page.

Seems apt as we design away on the new site Phoenix to rise from the ashes of the old.

Well, that's the theory. Here's hoping!

ps: Also, as a plus, it means we may still snag a few pennies from Google adwords by not sending visitors away elsewhere:)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Un-social media, hours, funds... etc...

Warning: this rare post is one of those Junkk Male 'stream of consciousness' efforts.

It has been a while. 

Make that a long while.

No excuses. Reasons aplenty... time, health, money... the usual. But at the end of the day, it's down to me that really not much has happened on (or other, associated parts) in a rare old while.

And while sorry is actually the easiest word, doing something takes a whole lot more.

A BIT OF CONTEXT was created almost 20 years ago. I hesitate to use the term 'ahead of its time', but nice people have and do, and it is true. It has always been meant well in compliment, but also carries a sense of curse too.

The concept was pretty unique back then, and remains so in some key areas today. As far as I am aware, no other 2nd/Re-use site has the searchable database of household products and materials, detailed descriptions and data, and associated ideas.

Likewise other innovations, such as JunkkYard, that was created around the same time as Freecycle, but had images from the outset, and nice features like poster-to-beneficiary distance guide and safe intranet contact.

And it all cost.... a... mint. Yet now, most would be achievable with free scripts and/or cheap apps.


I actually didn't mind the money, and was lucky to see much often at least half-offset by match-funded grants from supportive bodies.

But as with many things, especially in the world of innovation, it is easy to forget that content, maintenance and repair never go away, and carry on as long as the entity exists. In's case, although as much as possible has been created to evolve and endure even if I can no longer chip in, it has operational costs before factoring in the time to source and upload and administer.

I was happy and able to bear these costs at the start and for a long period thereafter. I believed in's potential and still do. Not just as a 'green' service, but as a possible money-earner.

At one stage we had three permanent staff, and one contracted. Me, First Lady PJ, Chief of Stuff Emma, and Head of Prose & Comms Anita. And that team achieved a lot. In our heyday we were running 150,000+ unique visitors... a month. 

I was inventing and writing. PJ was composing and designing. Emma was doing everything from creating and updating category info to fielding questions and  modding the Forum. Anita was helping with PR that got us noticed everywhere... big time.

But just as Coke and Pepsi as brands need to keep advertising even when they are at the top, so needed... needs this 24/7, 365/365 to maintain and grow. 

A few roles were left out at the start. My fault. There was no business management and, crucially, media sales. To be fair to myself I tried to find them, but those who may have helped (by which I mean taken a cut) never materialised. Then it was 'come back when you hit 500k visitors'. I wonder if that would be true now? many less popular sites seem to muddle along on a lot less.

Even those with staff and funding struggle:

And those with deep pockets were seldom interested unless they had control, or things had tangibles they could grasp. Even then, green can be a hard way to turn a profit.

So much of the funding we got went on consultants to tell us what we already knew; for instance that we needed specialist staff. But for which funding was not, apparently, available. And not one of scores of state-supported quango advisers appeared able to put us in touch with complementing talents.

So as mortgages needed paying and kids feeding, with no revenue, we had to cut back, in staff and hours, which on a website means content. And content on a site is king, though when this king moves on there is no new one to rise in their place.

Hence, stagnation... followed by reversal.


But not all the news is bad.

Despite the woeful support from within, the site has performed its ongoing function well, if with a few stumbles only a binary whizz could explain happening. For some reason a 'yes/no', on/off, 1/0 set of codes can and does suddenly acquire a life of its own and pull a sickie or has a wobbly.

Better still, it chugs along at its core, quietly absorbing new data like Voyager beyond the constraints of the solar system.

And, amazingly, people still swing by. Not many to contribute sadly, but for sure to visit.

I have no recent stats on from Google Analytics as I am a self-confessed ITiot (we had them, and they doubtless still exist...somewhere), but looking here on Blogger the Junkk Male RE:view blog alone gets several thousand visitors a month still. And that too has been pretty dormant for... too long.

Anyhoo, with great responsibility comes great ambition, so we (First Lady and I) are looking at a SWOT of what we've had, what worked, what didn't, what can't and where we can go next, to try and reinvigorate things but also draw down the running costs. 

Thanks to kids leaving the family nest we had one of those conversations with our lawyers on wills and legacies, and the subject of trusts and leaving funding to projects came up. I would like to endure no matter what. Calculating annual costs threw up the monthly hosting, the annual fee, domain renewal, ICO licence and an amount for servicing. That still added up to a fair capital amount in trust to provide operational cost cover annually.


So paring down is clearly necessary.

Certainly there are vast chunks (like the forum - I dare not look at it) and things like Junkk Questions (which takes up my day winnowing out spam) that can simply be dropped, though with luck not lost if ever they need need firing back up. Doubtful as it is all pretty much older than the ark. A vast capital outlay down the pan, but the old girl is holed and hard to keep afloat on old tech. It created the brand at least, which lives on.

We're looking at creating some kind of WordPress site, with the possibility of linking a few things to it. Apparently keeping the home page and video is not a problem. Sadly, the searchable database... is.... may be. 

Would that be such a loss? Looking back, although many kind souls did share ideas, few have of late, and almost nobody has bothered ever to fill out the data fields to match dimensions or materials.

Most else can be reproduced, and now with free scripts that when the site was created cost thousands... yes... thousands. We are of course looking at other things like a tip jar at least, which seems common these days, and easily included. 


Interactivity is mostly handled now by either the blog (for which this post is admittedly the first in months) or the 'Here Are Some We RE:made Earlier' FaceBook page. This latter I do keep bubbling daily with snippets, though few respond. I do always try to reply though. I did/do have a twitter feed, but need to remove that as a link as it has become more a personal, maybe too personal ramble around all my interests, from politics to music, green to the ad world, etc. 

I wish twitter had the ease of switching and linking that FaceBook has. I can find stuff online and post it in one click to the relevant category with the latter. With twitter you need to close out and sign in with the new timeline. When you have several to match varied interests, that can be a headache.

Plus, with any such direction away from a server you own and control, there is always the risk of a plug being pulled. Hard to commit too much passion to pages if it all may get lost! Plus of course revenue goes to the hosts; not the content creators. I wish I knew a bit more about back-ups, the Cloud, etc, in this regard.

But it all works and is easy, from posting to sharing, especially things like images or videos. There must be a way to auto-port new FaceBook posts to the homepage at least. I also have a huge backlog of nifty products as data, and a fair few of these as new ideas to upload.

I currently could not tell you how the admin system gets a new still on the home page, as it was and remains so complex. But one thing above all is clear on a new design... KISS!

Anyway, a lot of soul-searching, number-crunching and pondering here. And while we're at it, if anyone who knows their stuff and way around the back-end of a website has any suggestions... we're open to 'em. 

Yours in evolution....

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Junkk Social - Too rare, not very well done:( Sorry!

The recent 'Your Green Future' Event we were part of, was a wake up call.

In two days a lot of folk swung by, checked out the ideas, liked what they saw, took a card... and came back home to sign up to the site.

It was only because of a few bounces that came into the mailing address PC that I was reminded to check the nether regions of our steam-driven admin back-end, and especially the registration database.

Logging Jam

There were a lot in there. The total now is over 4,000 (many, as we'll come to, doubtless lost to the disposable email sky... or hotmail, or gmail fairy). That's the ones signed in and already up.

There were also a large number stalled in our awful 'double opt in' system (sign up, get sent an email, re-confirm to activate. All genius for security, but less spiffy in a world of spam, filters and firewalls). This originally seemed like a good plan, imposed on us by those who know better. Long gone now, but as the guy who agreed, the buck stops with yours truly. Time has moved on.

And I just spent a lot of it going through scores that were in limbo, approving manually. Amazingly, very few 'spammers', who are easy to detect. 

Many new friends still as a result of the Poundland packaging (if sadly likely to end soon), the Joy of Junk book, mentions on such as the FoE or Guardian, or shows like the one just held in U of Worcester.

I wish I could change the system for the better. I am sure it can be. All things can of course change, be improved, evolve...

But they almost always also take time, and if it's Junkk IT, that means 3rd parties and money, as I don't know my HTML from my SQL. And as such skilled consultant fees I don't have currently.

However, things must change, so ways must be found.

Spring Into Summer Cleaning

So the summer hols reading on the beach will include a bit of drastic editing of pages that have been left fallow too long to serve now, and hiving off bits that it's possible free scripts and social media plug-ins from such as FaceBook and Blogger and Wordpress can do easier, better and much more integrated.

I've noticed Facebook or twitter pages or articles I follow or find all can be shared in the blink of an eye, as I do now especially on the 'Here Are Some We RE:made Earlier!' FaceBook page linked from the home page.

Maybe I can also reproduce the categories within these, to get these shares archived in a way to easily search under various topics again.

It will of course be a bunch of work, but with luck doable. 

Looking For Help In All the Right Places

I am also looking at converting to social enterprise or even charity status to see if this can help find more help, especially in terms of the warm bodies (as funded staff or volunteers) to get us back to when we were running 150,000+ unique visitors and climbing monthly.

Friday, June 13, 2014

IDEA - Kelly Kettle, plus some musings on efficiencies & enviROIs

One of the joys (of many) of this lark is what you can stumble across. 

And, of course, who. Which can always lead on to all sorts more fun stuff.

The other day on twitter I shared a link to an electric 'eco-kettle' (I'll save detail on this for another day, as this thread is set to head off on enough tangents already).

Suffice to say it was... is... claimed as a very green way to boil water.

I was convinced enough to be tempted, and shared this intention on said twitter, FaceBook, etc. I believe I added a caveat on its claimed values until bought and tried.

What followed was a most interesting serious of exchanges on what it takes to boil water, as you do, with an impressively credentialed gentleman who goes under the name of Roger Tallbloke. On many matters, but especially science and even more so that of climate, well worth a follow:

With that too often over-used and abused (esp. by our glorious 4th estate) term, I think he'll allow me to also confer upon him the accolade of on occasion erring on the 'controversial', but then who worth their salt is not?

But he and I do share a love of science, engineering and, crucially, second-use design (which we will get to soon, promise).

However reductions of waste and promotions of efficiencies do also score high with us.

So let me simply share what he did with me to my apparently incorrect notion that an electric kettle was the most eco (we shall suspend such as health & safety, speed, style & convenience factors for now) way to get water hot:

RT: Electric is a lot less energy efficient than gas for domestic water boiling.
JM: Really? Presumed an element within water was much more efficient than what first needs to heat pan & gets lost around edges.

RT: A lot of energy wasted heating air in bubbles forming on element which then rise to surface and lost to atmosphere. Well designed gas kettle loses little heat because turbulence makes heat cling to sides and be absorbed through to the water

RT: Other forgotten factor in elec vs gas is transmission losses for elec. Mad use of high grade energy for instant gratification.

He then topped the lesson with a lovely design example, including data:

RT: My 2oz kelly ketttle design boils a pint in 4 mins with 16g denatured alcohol. around 56% efficiency.

(Tangent - Interestingly enough, I just took delivery of a 'Junkk' Stirling Engine kit (sadly half the parts missing) that looks just like this. It will be subject of another post once finished, so watch this space. Clearly aluminium beer cans also have their re-uses.)

He has offered to expand when he has a moment, which may happen here, or on the 'Idea Page' on the site I have created in complement.

Roger has kindly amplified in significant detail:

For those who don't know what a kelly kettle is, look at this cross section:

Usually made from 16 gauge aluminium (old ones in copper), they are too heavy for solo backpackers but great for windy campsites.

So I made this lightweight version using UK and USA beer cans (they do the big in america). Rather than using wood for fuel I keep it clean using ethylated spirit (denatured alcohol). The stove at the bottom has two sets of flame-jet holes which heat both the inside and outside of the kettle. A simple aluminium windshield made from an extra large beer can opened out is used as necessary.

The kettle sits on the stove and uses a large american Fosters can with an internal chimney made from a UK beer can of smaller diameter. They are jointed with aluminium solder (and a lot of patience and swearing).

The chimney has flutes folded into it so it tapers from a wide circular base to a narrow 5 pointed star at the top. This raises the velocity of the combusted gases, creating the 'draw' to make the boil happen quickly. The 'hat' in the photo is a section of UK beer can with exhaust holes in and it conducts exhaust gas heat back into the water.

Updates posted - 16/05/14:

If you take care with drying times, you can use superglue for jointing and it'll last 20-30 boils.

I also make smaller versions with pint UK beer can + 2x red bull cans for chimney. Tricky jointing. Just enough for a cuppa. 1oz

The UK version uses a 4g stove made from a lip balm tin - 'internal' jets only. In use here on Red Pike


Finally comes the tricky bit as I need to refer to the blog there and the site page here, but to cut and copy across I need to publish both, go back and then re-edit. Or something.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

EVENT RE:View - Your Green Future

University showcase events have got a bit grander since my undergraduate days.

Last week was invited to bring along our RE:use ideas stand to this event, spanning two days.

In that time about twenty schools attended, sending pupils ranging from about 10 to 16 years of age, in class batches of about 30.

Amongst a variety of other things (I lost my stand-assistant son the second day as he ended up as a judge on a Dragon's Den feature elsewhere) the classes roamed the exhibition hall tasked with gaining an appreciation of what various 'eco' companies were, what they did, how their products or services contributed to sustainability, etc, plus what was involved career-wise should these be seen as appealing avenues to pursue.

The hall presented an eclectic bunch.

In addition to several University of Worcester (host campus - ironically where 'Chief of Stuff' Emma graduated from and who carried out our RE:tie market research) departments (including Computing and Robotics, with a 3D printer set-up I found most interesting given our RE:tie prototyping adventures and future design ambitions for new product ideas) & council sustainability offerings, there were such as Green Buying, marketing green products, World Aluminium, the Canal & River Trust  and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (who had a Stirling Engine model that has inspired my next Junkk project - watch this space... Already located and ordered from amazon to reverse engineer!).

Plus of course, (son included):

What was nice was the level of interactivity we could all offer the students, which made it very much a 'hands-on' experience'. This stand from actonenergy had a thermal imaging camera and, as you can see, yours truly was hot stuff:

There were sadly few opportunities for distractions, especially when I lost my lovely assistant, but I actually did come up with a new idea whilst there that I'll be adding to the site soon which many of the kids really liked... a totally easy cable labelling system... and also noticed another possible opportunity whilst rummaging under the table. If ever there looked to be a mass volume item that currently needs buying whose function surely could be met free with 'Junkk' materials, this is it:

So how was it all? Was it worth it?

Overall, yes. Kids, like adults, come in all shapes and sizes, so we got the 'get it over with' box-tickers, the 'why bother?' brigade but... also some real sweethearts vowing to go back home to search the site for inspiration. That is always nice.

All the teachers who visited were also very positive. Even got a few guys from various eco NGO/charity outfits swinging by. All very keen for us to come and exhibit at their fayre/expo/whatever.

The trouble is, exhibiting takes a lot of time and often money to get there. I was kindly offered expenses to be at this one but really it doesn't help much on the mortgage. Looking around the hall almost all others there I am pretty sure were getting paid in some form for their time too.

I need to get my head around this better. As clearly there are opportunities to see such contributions getting official support/sponsorship. And though not eco, which at least does carry a raft of benefits educationally, this example of what can get funded (a lot)* made me smile:

Whatever else, no one can accuse of being a waste:)

I was thinking of attending this, but it is a fair old hike. But maybe turning into a social enterprise or charity is, ironically, a way to actually cover costs if not make some money.

We do serve a pretty useful, as well as re-useful purpose, after all!

*Addendum - 17 June 14

For wry smiles, this also served well:

Especially seeing this: "The FoI requests revealed Cole had been awarded the second £150,000 of her award despite failing to fulfil the criteria. Nesta told us had been released the money for "achieving scale" – despite not actually having launched. That's quite an achievement. When asked if it could define "scale", Nesta failed to respond."

That's quite an amount.

Maybe it's more 'who you know' than 'what you are actually trying to achieve?'

Interestingly. NESTA is getting a lot of profile across normal and social media with its latest largesse.

One hopes the most money goes where it will do the most good, less expenses of course. The results, and numbers (beyond that eye-watering £10M to play with), will be interesting.

We used to submit to such prizes, but given the effort required vs. what seemed to win, we have tended to avoid them now.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


Check out this TVC:

I am... excited.

This is a huge brand not just paying CSR lip service to second use, but building a major marketing campaign around it.

This post will with luck be added to as I request more info.