We’ve been out on the estate distributing a new gadget for the Maiden Lane residents to use: the not-so-snappily titled ‘request dials’.

Maiden Lane's new 'request dial'

The creation of the dial is a direct result of residents’ feedback, from recent workshops and discussions. Residents were complaining that they had to scrawl notes to request new supplies (like caddy liners) and wanted an easier way of telling ELCRP what they needed every week. So we mocked up this dial which allows residents to request additional bin liners, an extra caddy, some more Bokashi powder and even compost! It’s cheap, easy to use and quite quick to attach to the caddies. Best of all, the dial works with the red elastic bands that postmen use to bundle up letters, allowing us to recycle something that otherwise litters the streets.

We tried the request dial out with a few resident volunteers a few months ago, perfected the design and got them produced, and now they’re out there.

Yesterday we had our first planting day on the estate! We’ve recently got the first batch of compost produced from Maiden Lane food waste, and to celebrate we had a day where we gave away compost and free plants. We had over 120 purple sprouting broccoli, ying yang beans, climbing green beans, perpetual spinach and tomato plants – grown by SEED, and snapped up by residents:

Tiny jungle of plants

The community centre roof has recently been cleared, and some of the planters refilled with fertile new topsoil. Throughout the day, about 30 residents came to help us mix in compost and plant in them. We had some fantastic advice from Chris who works at City Leaf, who knows everything there is to know about plants and growing, and who was around all day to provide personalized advice to residents.


We also built a raised planter as an example of the new growing spaces that could be created on the roof.

While the election was going on, we cooked up a whole batch of new communications materials for the estate, informing residents about the food waste scheme. Firstly, there’s an updated leaflet for residents (including info about how to join the new texting service):

New leaflet

There’s also stickers for the recycling bins and main refuse bins:

Refuse bin sticker

…and also a sign, that the owners of the shop on Maiden Lane have kindly agreed to put up. This was suggested in the recent discussion groups, and we’ve been able to make it happen very quickly; action research…in action! More on the way, soon.

In the focus groups last week, all of the residents consistently complained about the new, smaller caddy liners which are being distributed on the estate. We spoke to the service provider, ELCRP, and apparently they were provided to them in error. ELCRP have got the old, bigger bags back, and have distributed these notes around the estate:

Bigger bags are back!

This is one of the advantages of using action research methods; you can respond very quickly to problems and issues and get them sorted out.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been holding discussion groups with three different groups of residents – varying from people who use their green caddies all the time, to those who haven’t started using the food waste scheme yet. We’ve talked to 30 people from various parts of the estate and it’s been really useful. We asked people how they felt about the food waste scheme; whether it was working well; whether it was a good idea; how they felt about food waste; and a whole plethora of other questions!

We got a lot of information from the residents, and some really great suggestions for how the scheme could be improved. Some residents suggested central drop-off bins next to the existing recycling bins; others wanted to change various ways that the service is being run. All very interesting stuff, and over the next few weeks we’ll see what it will be possible to implement.

While the general and local elections have been going on, we haven’t been able to do much on the estate (there’s something called ‘purdah’ which prevents any activity related to the Council). BUT we have used the time to good effect, and have been working on lots of new was of promoting and publicising the food waste scheme. Watch this space!

Pimp your pavement!

April 21, 2010

Although we try to only use this blog for posts about our project, something occasionally catches our eye that we can’t resist sharing. So here’s a post about Pimp Your Pavement, the brilliant new campaign launched by the crafty cultivator Richard Reynolds.

For many years, Richard has been the brains behind Guerilla Gardening – a movement which encourages people to ‘fight the filth with forks and flowers’, by improving public spaces with flowers and plants (often planted in secret at night!)

The newly launched Pimp Your Pavement campaign aims to bring guerilla gardening closer to home, by encouraging people to brighten up their streets by planting on pavements and tree bases.

At the end of our last workshop, we gave everyone who attended a bag of bulbs to take away and plant wherever they wanted. If you’re interested in how you can brighten up your street, find out more at the Pimp your Pavement website.

In February we surveyed 95 people on the estate (in the freezing snow!) about the food waste collection scheme. Our results were very positive: 93% of people were happy with the scheme and of the 25 people we spoke to that weren’t taking part in the scheme, 14 people wanted to start as soon as possible!

We also got some really helpful suggestions for improving the service and identified some further room for improvement.  For example, someone suggested we should be talking more to the Estate caretakers, who tend to be trusted by elderly residents and who could help us spread some useful word-of-mouth about food waste scheme!

We also asked residents whether they’d be interested in learning more about food-growing on the Estate and were pleased to learn that most people were. Now that Spring has finally arrived, we’re going to be starting to think about putting Maiden Lane’s very own compost to good use. Watch this growing space!

In our second workshop quite a few residents mentioned that they sometimes forgot to put their bins out the night before collections. As the collections are pretty early (8am on Mondays), this meant they missed their collection and had to look after a caddy full of food waste for another week.

They had a brilliant suggestion for getting round this though – a text message reminder on Sunday night. Thanks to some quick work from Camden Council, we’ve been able to set this up quite quickly. In our recent round of surveying, 27 residents volunteered to trial the scheme, and will be receiving text message reminders for the next month.

The service won’t just be a reminder though. Residents will also be able to use the service to request more caddy liners, Bokashi bran (which helps with the composting and stops bad smells) and extra caddies if they need them. We should know soon enough whether the new service has been helpful.

This week we’ve been out surveying residents on the estate about their attitudes to food waste, and about a couple of innovations we’re thinking of making to the service. Between Monday and Saturday the research team and ELCRP have talked to people in almost 100 households on Maiden Lane! Not only this but the surveying took place during the week and weekend, in the day and evening, and even in the snow! A dedicated effort all round.

Thanks to all the residents who took part in the surveys. We’ll have more on the results soon.