THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Feb20

50 Shades of Sustainability

When we started the Modern Mint Shop we wanted to focus on products that held sustainability as a high value – we imagined they would be created from recycled materials, or from natural sources that, managed correctly, would save or improve an eco-system.

It would be easy to meet the supplier, check they were doing what they said, and feel good about doing our bit. Nice and simple!

But…

… we had little idea the depth the word ‘sustainability’ has – significantly, products that may appear ‘green’ may prove themselves to create other problems somewhere along the way.

A good example is the use of plants to create bio-fuel in which to run our vehicles. It seems like a grand idea, as we reduce our carbon emissions instantly. But for us to have a crop that we can burn as fuel, it means someone won’t have a crop they need in order to eat. It places our transport ahead of a human life, and what looked like an easy switch for the first world countries to make has far more shades to it than we can first imagine.

Seedballs Bee Mix
Seedballs – the BEE MIX!

(Pictured above – Seedballs from our shop. A pretty deep shade of green!)

What shade of sustainability are we looking for?

Doing our ‘bit’ may make us feel good, but there is a journey to go on here – we are educating ourselves as we go, and hope you will join us and learn as we learn. A good place to start are with the three r’s – reduce, reuse and recycle. Do our products meet these basic (and necessary) standards?

When designing gardens we try to add a fourth ‘r’ – refuse. This is where we try and find solutions for the garden where we don’t have to do add anything new. Often just managing a particular area in a certain way will produce the desired effect. Right now we are working on a garden which needs definition to the space used as a lawn. The lawn slopes down onto a pond and a hedgerow, then out into fields. We could add a wall and steps across the lawn, to sit the green space in scale with the house and add this lovely element to the garden. To do this will need lots of inputs – building materials, machinery and labour.

Instead we intend to define areas of long grass, to demarcate this transition from house to the wilder edges of the garden. It is simple, and a refusal to ‘add add add’ – in fact, it should mean reducing the amount of mowing necessary every week. A benefit in a garden of this size…

Embedded costs must be looked at – for example, the water needed to grow your food must come from somewhere, even if it gets forgotten by the time you open your bag of salad. This ‘virtual water’ must be included in the cost of what we buy and use.

Give something back – this is the exciting part, as we take aim on our journey to sustainability. Can we find solutions that not only reduce the energy and waste from our actions, but actually rebalance what we have done? Can our gardens be carbon sinks? Can we create spaces that provide the best environment possible for our health, both mental and physical? Can we support the planet and the people who are on it?

That is what sustainability means – to support.

It is answers to how we support this earth that drives us to keep learning, to keep discovering the many shades of sustainability.

7 Days Waste

Here is a list we made last summer of what we threw away. An (R) signifies what was recycled.

Monday

  • 10 x kitchen towel
  • 1 x plastic magazine sleeve (R)
  • 7 x various leaflets flyers (R)
  • 1 x wrapper for Ryvita crackers
  • 1 x cardboard inner roll for kitchen towel (R)
  • 1 x plastic wrapping for kitchen towel
  • 1 x plaster bag for coriander
  • 2 x rubber band
  • 1 x egg box (R)
  • 1 x netting bag for garlic
  • 1 x plastic garlic label
  • 1 x cardboard punnet (R)
  • 1 x wrapper from tin of tuna
  • 1 x paper bag (R)

Tuesday

  • 1 x kitchen towel
  • 1 x plastic seal on peanut butter jar
  • 1 x 2litre milk bottle (R)
  • 1 x square of Clingfilm
  • 1 x plastic tub for hummus (R)
  • 1 x card sleeve for hummus (R)
  • 1 x plastic halloumi wrapper
  • 1 x milk bottle seal

Wednesday

  • 1 x bag for popcorn
  • 1 x netting bag for limes
  • 1 x egg box (R)
  • 1 x square of cling film
  • 1 x pen
  • 2 x kitchen towel
  • 2 x brown paper bag (R)
  • 1 x piece of paper (R)

Thursday

  • 2 x paper receipts (R)
  • 2 x rubber band
  • 1 x plastic punnet for blueberries (R)
  • 3 x paper (R)
  • 1 x plastic wrapper for flap jack
  • 1 x shaving foam canister (R)
  • 1 x 2 litre milk carton (R)
  • 1 x glass jam jar and lid (R)
  • 1 x plastic salad bag (R)
  • 3 x napkins
  • 1 x square of Clingfilm
  • 1 x little cardboard box and plastic lid (R)
  • 1 x plastic seal from milk carton

Friday

  • 1 x shampoo bottle (R)
  • 1 x square of cling
  • 1 x cardboard inner roll (R)
  • 1 x wine bottle (R)
  • 1 x paper (R)
  • 1 x kitchen towel

Saturday

  • 3 x brown paper bags (R)
  • 1 x local magazine (R)
  • 1 x square of Clingfilm
  • 1 x cinema ticket (R)

Sunday

  • 1 x kitchen towel
  • 1 x plastic packaging for fish (R)

The sheer amount is frightening – and it is nothing compared to what we see others throwing away. We are making a conscious effort to do better – and it is possible. Growing more food would be a brilliant first step.

Clarity in Sustainability

Every week we find out more about how to live lightly on the earth. Questions of sustainability are important ones to answer, and though it seems huge and we are, at times, unclear of the way forward, this blog and the products we sell on the shop are significant and solid marking points on the way to discovery. They are a place for us to experiment, brainstorm, test and learn.

It is exciting. We hope you will continue learning with us.

(If you would like to read more from Modern Mint, why not try this interview with the Cycling Gardener of Liverpool?)

Nov17

Topiary Provocation Autumn 2021

This Autumn I have presented another ‘Topiary Provocation’ to keen gardeners and designers. If you want to know more about topiary, the report on what we discussed and where modern topiary is going can be read by clicking the link below: Topiary Provocation Report Autumn 2021 This report is free to post on your own website or blog, just credit Modern Mint, and don’t change anything within it. Alternatively you can just share it with keen friends… or enemies?

Sep29

New Topiary In South London Out Of Yew

Making a new topiary out of the large, dull facade of a Taxus blob… My work was to change it up from a ‘jelly drop’ shape and give it texture, open it out and let the light through, and make it a sculptural feature in the background of the garden in summer… yet a major part of the garden in winter. A few more years before it becomes something special, but there was far more leaf and growth inside the plant than I thought and so it will not take too long for it to gain in character and become …

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Sep27

Topiary Teacher – Put on The Spot!

topiary teacher

Two weeks ago I was invited to teach topiary at the garden of Griselda Kerr, the author of The Apprehensive Gardener. I love teaching and sharing skills, but I was placed on the spot in the afternoon and asked to show how I would make a new topiary from an existing shrub. So below is a speeded-up video of me creating a cloud-pruned topiary from an old boxwood tree. I particularly love the ending when the class get involved….! See the video here. One hour was all it took, and though it needed a little tidying-up, it was made by …

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