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Archive: Mar 2019

  1. Creating a Bug Paradise For Biodiversity

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    At the start of June a group of young people took part in a Wildlife Garden Workshop at the Ebbw Vale Institute. They created bug hotels and seed bombs to help pollinating bugs and improve the area around the building.

    Young people from Llamau, Act Training and Blaenau Gwent Youth Services took part in this special workshop run by Eggseeds, an organisation that delivers outdoor education teaching people about nature and biodiversity. The workshop was organised as part of a series of sustainability measures taking place at the EVI as part of a WCVA supported project made possible through the Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Scheme.

    bug houses being painted
    Painting the bug hotels in lovely bright colours

    Vacancies at the Bug Hotel

    The workshop began by building bug hotels, small wooden buildings that can house all kinds of insects and even some birds. These wooden structures will be attached to a big slab of AstroTurf and placed just outside the front of the EVI. This will create a small, elevated street for bugs to thrive in inside the community garden.

    Before the buildings could be made ready for the bugs to move in though, it was time to smarten them up a little to catch the eye of passers-by. The young people got to work by painting the bug houses and bug hotels!

    The inside of the bug houses
    Chalkboard roofs, with straw and bamboo filling

    Attracting the bugs

    “The three taller structures will mainly attract flying insects. Bees, butterflies and lacewings might like to nest inside them” explained Sam from Eggseeds.

    “We stuffed some of the smaller houses full of sawdust with just a few small gaps to get in. This makes it ideal for beetles to burrow through. We added larger round holes to some of the smaller houses too, to make an ideal nesting place for birds.”

    Once painted, the chalkboard roofs (good for writing messages on) were nailed to the buildings with power tools. The houses were then stuffed with sawdust and cut bamboo tubes. Sawdust stuffing creates a malleable environment for insects to burrow and nest inside. Think of all the extra surface area for their tiny bodies to slip into and crawl along. It’s hoped that the bamboo tubes will become a place for bees to lay eggs.

    finished seed bombs
    Seed bombs are a great way of planting wildflowers

    Bombing for blooms

    With the bug buildings looking fantastic it was time to move on to the next activity – creating seed bombs. Seed bombing is an ancient Japanese organic farming technique, a way of seeding which is kinder to the land and protects the seeds from birds and other wildlife. This is a great way to increase biodiversity in your local area. 

    They used seeds that sprout hardy wildflowers. As the seeds are encased inside hard-packed earth, birds can’t easily eat them, giving them time to start growing.

    dirty hands rolling seed bombs
    Getting muddy creating seed bombs

    How to create your own Seed Bombs:

    Step 1: Scoop up some wet clay and mix it with some soil. Roll into a ball and make a dent with your finger

    Step 2: Pick up two or three seeds and drop them into the dent. Any more and the seeds will be competing for resources and won’t grow to their full potensial

    Step 3: Knead the seeds into the centre of the ball

    Step 4: Throw the seed bomb onto any fertile or waste ground and hope that plants will grow

    bug houses in situ
    The bug hotels and houses standing proudly outside the EVI

    Be a wildlife hero

    It doesn’t take much to make a difference to the biodiversity of your local area. Why not take some of the ideas above and create a paradise for birds and insects in your own garden? The participants were really happy with the finished results and headed off home having learnt some valuable skills thanks to the Eggseeds team for all their expertise and hard work.


    This workshop was funded through the Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Scheme through the WCVA. The EVI received funding to improve energy efficiency at the building, increase the local biodiversity and involving the community through volunteering.

    This is the latest in a series of articles on the many ways we’re promoting sustainability at the Ebbw Vale Institute. Read the others here:

  2. Tackling Plastic Pollution at the EVI

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    ‘Sustainability’ is everywhere at the moment, and the Ebbw Vale Institute is on board with this and has an on-going sustainability drive at the building and in the community. We held a plastic pollution workshop at the EVI for Earth Day.

    Llamau’s Laura Wheeler, who was hosting the workshop, is herself really passionate about plastic pollution. Laura started by showing the young people attending some shocking images of plastic pollution, like birds and marine wildlife being choked by debris or fishermen sailing through toxic reefs. She then asked them how that made them feel.

    How does plastic pollution make you feel?

    Sick“, came one answer.

    Sad“, said another.

    Guilty. Depressed. Ashamed. Shocked. Disgusted.

    Clearly, nobody is proud of the effect mankind’s hunger for plastic has had on the planet’s oceans. But how does it affect us?

    Plastic, plastic, everywhere

    It was time to think about the prevalence of plastics in all areas of our lives. There are microbeads in skincare products and plastic in polyester clothes. Things made of card, glass or wood can even have small plastic additions. When you wash synthetic clothes tiny plastic microfibres get into the water supply. The fish digest this plastic and then we eat the fish. They took a look at medical equipment too, like asthma pumps, drips, jabs and more. It was agreed that this was a worthwhile exception.

    The group considered the cost-benefit analysis of reducing our plastic usage. The average adult buys three plastic water bottles each week. If we stump up the extra cost for a nice reusable bottle, how long until we start making back that initial investment? When you’re on a tight budget, sadly, even a small initial cost can be a big deterrent. Should the government and big corporations be making it easier for individuals to make sustainable choices?

    Selection of plastic alternatives for plastic pollution article

    Making a difference

    One workshop attendee mentioned that her brother sometimes goes into the supermarket and dumps all his plastic packaging on the checkout. Discussing this as a group they decided that this probably just inconvenienced the workers at the supermarket and rarely got through to anyone higher up in management or the supply chain

    Laura showed some serious alternatives to plastic. When making sandwiches, for example, she packs them with beeswax wraps rather than cling film. You can use beeswax wraps as a lid on a jar too – pack it over the top and the heat of your hand will close the air gap. It’s antibacterial, nontoxic, and of course fully biodegradable. You can even make it at home should you wish to.

    Then Laura showed a whole series of packaging and plastic free products, from body scrubs to shampoos, probably one of the easiest ways to cut plastic quite significantly from our lives.

    One final tip from Laura: if you do have to buy something in a plastic bottle, buy it in bulk and/or in concentrate, thus reducing your plastic usage.

    All in all it was a really successful session thinking about what little steps could be taken to improve our sustainability practices.

    The EVI has been improving the sustainability of the building and running sustainability workshops as part of a WCVA supported project made possible through the Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Scheme. We have already carried out work to improve the air heat pumps and the lighting at the EVI.