Join us….online

In the first quarter of 2021 we are running some new events online – follow us on EventBrite to find out more.

Our first event is a new online group to share ideas and techniques around textile repair and why it matters. Join Planet Aware and friends at these informal sessions to connect anyone in the Solent and Isle of Wight area who is interested in textile upcycling and repair and learn a bit more about the relationship between fashion and the environment. We will be curating an evening of video clips, short talks in between sharing examples of great upcycling and repair. Bring your sewing or upcycling project to share, ask for advice or just join to learn and be inspired by others. While each event will have a focus on a garment or technique there will be lots of opportunities to share what you have been doing, ask for advice or generally share useful info.

Sew and Tell

Our second event series is The Plastic Files – looking at the problem of waste and consumption locally.

Sign up for the first event in this series below which looks at the challenge of the rise of takeaways during the pandemic and the impact this is having on our local environment.

The Plastic Files – the Takeaway Challenge

Looking back… and forward

Welcome to our first Planet Aware review of the year. And what a year we chose to write our first one….

Thank you for joining us as we look back at 2020 and forward to 2021 … Certainly since March we have not been able to do many of the activities we had scheduled, but we’ve soldiered on… There has been some time for reflection and planning, and we have been grateful to receive support from funders and time from our volunteers.  So, read on to find out how this support and funding is helping us to help our local coast around the Solent and Isle of Wight and the people who live here – and how you can get involved in 2021.

Looking back over 2020

Despite the challenges of lockdown Planet Aware still got out to the beaches on the south coast of the Isle of Wight throughout the year with Sarah adapting our beach clean events to take account of the changing situation while ensuring that everyone kept safe. Thanks to a combination of socially-distanced, individual and small group clean-ups, around 850kgs of rubbish was cleared off Isle of Wight and Solent beaches by Planet Aware supported clean-ups. Thank you to Doug and the Isle of Wight Council and Norse in Havant for removing the rubbish over the year. The clean-ups were made possible thanks to support from Waitrose in East Cowes and also to Isle of Wight poet Sandy Kealty. Sandy named Planet Aware as a beneficiary of a gig she hosted at Quay Arts back in March. And of course no beach clean would be possible without the support of a dedicated hardworking group of volunteers.

In the summer Planet Aware teamed up with Portsmouth University marine biology student Kai Grundy to launch the Ocean Challenge – seven challenges for the summer to help our oceans! Originally conceived as a summer school with fun face to face workshops, we went online – with downloadable resources. An even more action packed version of the Ocean Challenge will be returning next year. Thank you to everyone who helped share and promote this project including local schools, Community First, Visit Portsmouth, Visit Isle of Wight and Claire Crampton. Do get in touch if you would like to support or sponsor the Ocean Challenge in 2021!

Our Textile Transformation programme in Havant, funded by Hampshire County Council’s waste minimisation fund, was put on hold following the first workshop in March but Anne still managed to make a couple of online appearances talking about circular fashion at the Sustainablish Festival in May and for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Sustainable Business Network. She also did a few textile transformations herself including creating a pattern for a 2-minute beach clean bag from a broken umbrella and a no-sew face-mask from an old t-shirt!

My Planet My Voice is a project funded through the LUSH Charity Pot enabling people to use creative means to share their environmental concerns. The project started in December 2019 with a song-writing workshop led by Glenn Koppany from Coppersmith and will end in 2021 with a story telling project led by Stephanie Brittan. During 2020 the project went online – find out more about My Planet My Photo, a journaling project supported by positive psychology coach Kim Furnish and listen to the songs that were written as part of Glenn’s workshop. We hope you will be inspired to write songs of your own-please share them with us if you do!

Looking forward to 2021

In autumn 2019 Planet Aware was fortunate to be named as one of Co-op’s Good Causes which meant that we received a small percentage of sales over 2020. This income has enabled us to develop a brand new project which will kick off in 2021 called “Trees for Seas” – a project that links the health and carbon capturing properties of trees with healthier oceans. Look out for tree planting and other events near you in 2021 and contact us if you’d like to get involved! Thank you to Anthony Gillingham, tree audit officer from the Isle of Wight Council for supporting us.

Throughout 2020 we have been supporting the development of a new Repair Café for the Isle of Wight which will be launching in spring 2021. Anne has also been helping set up a Repair Café in Havant, and under the Repair Café umbrella this summer ran six pop-up Dr Bike sessions in Havant Park with volunteers checking and repairing 85 bikes. Repair Cafes are a great way of keeping stuff in use for longer – and for communities to learn about the lost art of repairing. Read more about Repair Cafes and register your interest below as a volunteer for Repair Café Isle of Wight or to find out when and where the Repair Café will start running. Repair Café Isle of Wight is pleased to have the support of Sovereign Housing as well as a great team of volunteers working behind the scenes ahead of the launch.

Virtual Beach

One of our most popular features at our festival Ecohub in 2019 was the timed beach clean game which had both kids and adults queuing up to see who could rid the sand (actually an old yellow sheet!) of rubbish in the fastest time. Now thanks to the support of Postcode Lottery funding we are developing this into an educational game that we can bring to you. More details to follow in early 2021 – but drop us a line to register your interest!

Sadly we could not hold our Alternative Spirit of Christmas event this year but we kept the “Spirit” alive by creating daily posts on reducing waste at Christmas and looking beyond the consumer culture of the season. We are grateful to all the musicians, storytellers and poets that have supported us each year for the Alternative Spirit of Christmas events. Check out our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds for our latest Christmas posts.

The Solent Beach Hub is our online resource developed with the support of Sea Changers to provide a one-stop shop for people wanting to run, get involved or find out about beach cleaning and other events that promote a love of our Solent coastline and our oceans in general. We are looking forward to developing this further in the New Year adding interviews with those who work and live along the cost as well as lots more links and ideas on how you can learn more about and get involved with your Coast.

Planet Aware goes East.. We are really excited to welcome Paula, Sarah and Julie on board to Planet Aware. They will be working with us to help us develop Planet Aware projects in East Cowes and have already set up local litter picks. If you are interested in setting up a Planet Aware group in your area please get in touch – or visit our volunteering page to find out more,

Support us

In our conventional economy encouraging people to use less stuff does not generate income… so we rely on support from funders and individuals to help us do what we do, and we welcome and value all the support we receive. Please do consider supporting Planet Aware so we can do more. Here are some ways you can support us:

  • Sponsor an event or project such as the Ocean Challenge – email us or fill out our contact form to express your interest.
  • Let Planet Aware organise a corporate beach clean on the Isle of Wight for your team. Find out more and make an initial no-obligation enquiry. 
  • Buy us both a Ko-fi  and Planet Aware will be able to clear another bag of rubbish from the beach! 
  • If you have some free time perhaps you could volunteer with Planet Aware.
  • If you have an idea for a project that we can deliver together – or can help us with what we are doing please let us know. We are particularly keen to hear from people with skills or knowledge in marine biology, resource use (e.g. recycling/waste), social media, youth work so please do get in touch!
Stay safe and see you in 2021!

Join the Planet Aware Ocean Challenge!

Come and join in the Planet Aware Ocean Challenge this summer. 

The challenge is a series of 7 tasks to get people of all ages out to the coast and having fun while learning about some of the issues our Ocean faces. The Planet Aware Ocean Challenge was developed from an original idea suggested by University of Portsmouth marine biology student Kai Grundy. 

The Challenge is aimed at people on the Isle of Wight and along the Solent coast and runs between now and 6 September but can be done anywhere in the UK.

Anyone who completes all or some of the challenges can get a certificate emailed at the end to show they have taken part.

This is a great opportunity for families as well as individuals to start thinking more of the challenges that face our Oceans at the same time as getting involved in some fun activities. This is the first year of the challenge and we’d love feedback from those who take it on to develop it further for next year.

It has been great to work with Kai who has provided a fresh perspective in showing the importance of our coasts and seas to a wider audience. Because of the pandemic it has not been possible to run our usual Planet Aware events, but this Challenge offers a different way of getting people engaged with our coasts.

Kai explained, “As someone who studies the ocean intensively, I know how incredibly important it is to get more people aware of the struggles that our ocean community faces and how we can all play a part in tackling these. Also, the ocean is my favourite place in the world and this project is a super fun way to learn about our oceans. Who doesn’t love looking in rock pools for fun and interesting critters!”

Clean sweep on Isle of Wight beaches

After many phone calls and emails Planet Aware’s Sarah Marshall organised a double beach clean that saw over 400 kilos of rubbish removed from two Isle of Wight beaches.

Beach cleans led by Planet Aware working with partners including the Isle of Wight Distillery have seen over 400 kilos of accumulated rubbish removed from the Island’s beaches within eight days.

At the most recent of the two clean-ups on 2 July Planet Aware worked with a team from the Isle of Wight Distillery and the National Trust at Compton Chine. The teams moved more than 200 kilos of rubbish up the steep steps so that it could be collected. The group also completed a beach clean which they said was a welcome rest compared with wrestling the various bags of waste up the steps!

A week earlier in baking sunshine Planet Aware’s core beach cleaning group bagged and moved another 200 kilos of marine debris from Watershoot Bay near Niton. Much of this had been taken up to the adjacent land over time by well-meaning members of the public. Unfortunately, this had become an eyesore and a litter hazard as wet ground and lockdown had made removal difficult.

Planet Aware beach clean leader Sarah Marshall said, “It is sad to see so much marine litter pile up. We know members of the public all want to play their part to help by removing this from the beach which is fantastic. The problem is however, that large items are difficult to remove and once left in a pile they attract more litter. It certainly has been a workout removing all of this and we would encourage anyone picking up marine litter from the beach to try and take what they can home with them.”

Sarah continued: “It is great to have the support of the Isle of Wight Distillery and inspiring to know that even in these challenging times local businesses still want to do their best to work toward sustainable practice. We are grateful to the support from the National Trust team and waste contractor Amey who collected the waste from these events.”

Robin Lang from the National Trust said “Marine litter is a global problem and more and more people are wanting to raise awareness and do something about it. We are extremely grateful to local volunteers from Planet Aware and the Isle of Wight Distillery for their help in removing the large piles that have built up on National Trust land over the winter. It was a huge effort, particularly dragging it up the long flight of steps at Compton Chine. It shows how much people care about our coast. If it wasn’t for the generosity of Amey in removing the rubbish for free, the National Trust, which is a charity, would have to foot the bill. The biggest challenge remains, that of preventing this waste arriving on our shores in the first place and that can only be done by lobbying and international Government support.”

Xavier Baker, co-founder of the Isle of Wight Distillery, said, “Planet Aware have done a fantastic job of clearing some of our stunning coastline. The Distillery team were delighted to fall in and contribute to clearing Compton beach.”

Photos: Before and After the clean-up at Compton Chine on 2 July. Credit: Georgina Bottriell


Nurdle hunting

What is a nurdle? Well, pick up a plastic item in your home and there is a good chance that it will have been made from lots of nurdles. They are tiny pellets that are the building blocks of the plastic products that we use in our homes. They are also found on a lot of beaches. And they really should not be.

Nurdles and other microplastics found at Wittering

After nurdles are produced they are transported across the world in their billions. During each stage of the industrial process, from pellet to product, nurdles are spilt and, if not cleaned up, enter our rivers and waterways, eventually reaching our oceans. Across the UK it is estimated that as many as 53 billion pellets could enter our oceans every year. That’s 35 tankers’ full being dumped in the seas.

Once at sea, nurdles and other plastics are known to attract and concentrate chemical contaminants in the sea to their surface. Due to their size, and often clear colour, nurdles can look like fish eggs or other small animals which makes them particularly attractive to seabirds, fish and other marine wildlife. Plastic can get trapped in an animal’s stomach making them feel full and stopping them eating real food leading to starvation and potentially death. So, they are not good.

Nurdles don’t need to become marine litter at all. In fact, there are simple measures that can prevent them escaping into the environment. Data gathered by The Great Nurdle Hunt which is running from 13 to 22 March, shows industry and decision makers that there is a problem and that people care about it. The Great Nurdle Hunt was launched in 2014. Since then the data collected has helped build up a growing picture of nurdle pollution and evidence of the problem. Last year “As You Sow” lobbied oil and gas shareholders to support the publication of data on nurdle spills. Exxon was the first to agree to this.

In the UK, over 6,000 companies are part of the plastics industry; producing, importing and converting nurdles into plastic products. You may remember on the BBC’s War on Plastic programme when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall visited the INEOS petrochemicals plant at Grangemouth. INEOS has specially made boats which are bringing a constant supply of US Shale Gas to feed its ever growing oil refinery to produce – yes you have guessed it – plastics. The INEOS plant on the north east coast of Britain produces a mind boggling 65 million plastic pellets or nurdles every day.

In 2018 about 450,000 nurdles were found on a beach in North Queensferry as part of the Great Nurdle Hunt. This beach is about 12 miles from the Ineos Polymers plant where nurdles are produced. The nurdles collected weighed a total of 9.35kg.

When you find and report nurdles on our beaches you are helping to draw attention to nurdles that end up in the ocean because of poor plant management practices. You can do this by taking part in your own Great Nurdle Hunt  or by joining Planet Aware for a group nurdle hunt on 22 March.

Information from FIDRA – the environmental charity working on plastic waste.

Make a mini beach-clean bag

Turned inside out in the gusts and rain of storms Ciara and Dennis many umbrellas have been consigned to the scrapheap. But a few, (at least part of them) are going to find a new lease of life as a collection bag for mini-beach cleans. Usually it is the metal spokes of an umbrella that break while the fabric itself remains largely in good condition. And that is the bit we need for this project.

Our throwaway society often means that as soon as a product or item no longer fulfils its original function we chuck it out and say that it is no longer our responsibility. But all that rubbish has to go somewhere – either in the ground or into incinerators or worse still into the oceans. Some is recycled but it is unlikely that difficult to recycle items like umbrellas will be among them.

At Planet Aware we try and produce less waste, while recycling and reusing where we can. Finding a new lease of life for a bit of an umbrella is a small thing. But it is also an example of a way of thinking that we can apply more generally. Something might no longer fulfil its original function – but that does not mean it should be considered waste. Apply this to everything – from DIY to unwanted clothing and you will soon start to reduce your waste and resource consumption. Stuff is only waste because we choose it to be.

And the great thing about the umbrella bags is that we genuinely need them for our #2MinuteBeachClean boards. And I am pretty sure that we are not alone in that as you will find these boards across the country.

The umbrella bag

If you would like to make your own umbrella bag you need one broken beyond repair umbrella. WARNING: a broken umbrella can have some nasty spiky bits so PLEASE TAKE GREAT CARE. Remove the fabric from where it is attached to the umbrella snipping the thread carefully and not the fabric itself. The broken bit may be recycable if it is all metal. Remove the pointy bits at the end of the umbrella panels too so you only have fabric left.

You many need to wipe clean your fabric or just brush it down before you make your umbrella bag, depending on how dirty it is.

One you have removed your umbrella fabric from the rest of the umbrella you will have a nice big circle of fabric like this (right). My umbrella had eight panels. I decided to make a bag out of two panels which meant that one umbrella can yield four mini beach clean bags. I tried to minimise the amount of sewing needed but you can experiment.

Carefully cut along the seams of one umbrella panel. Then cut along the next but one panel seam. You will now have a quarter of the umbrella fabric in the form of two triangles attached on one side (see below left). Fold it over at the seam so the seam on the connected side of the panels is showing and pin the open side together. You will need to sew the open sides together – copy the sewing on the seam that it is already attached.

On a machine start sewing about 5cms from the top and reverse sew up to the wide opening and then back down the side seams. Stop when you get about 12cms from the point of the bag. and reverse stitch a few cms to make the end strong.

Turn the bag inside out and sew along the bottom from the bottom from the 12cms point. Trim off the fabric below this seam close to the seam. Turn the bag the other way and then sew along the bottom to hide the raw edge.

The bit of fabric that you have trimmed off will be used to make the handle. This is the trickiest bit but it is great if you can make it work rather than cutting a new piece of fabric.

Take the triangle that you have trimmed off. Cut along the seams to separate this into two triangles. Place one on top of the other and measure about 4cms from the point. Sew across the two piece of fabric at the 4cm point to join them. Open out this single piece. It will look a bit like an hour glass. Now fold the fabric together with the long sides meeting and sew along these sides so that you have a tube. Turn this inside out. This is your handle.

Fold the raw edges inside – you may need to trim a bit off here and then attach them to your bag on the outside – either side of a seam is best. I have done a quick sketch to explain these steps. If they are incomprehensible please message me!

You will find that one of your bags will have the little strap that is used to keep the umbrella folded up. Do leave it on and use it to keep the umbrella bag folded up.

If you make any of these bags and use them anywhere please do send us a picture! And if you find another use for umbrella fabric – indeed the whole of an umbrella let us know!