Where there is a will there is a way

Monday, March 26, 2012

NZ Herald Article by Dean Baigent-Mercer: Mining by stealth for Northland

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10793603

Dean Baigent-Mercer: Mining by stealth for Northland

Northland needs to prepare itself for multinational mining companies. Photo / Thinkstock
By Dean Baigent-Mercer

Northland: the skinniest parts of our country with spectacular coastlines, low rugged mountains, is culturally and historically rich and under attack. The charge has been led by the National Coalition Government and Northland councils to smooth the way for multinational mining companies.

The public opposition to mining in 2010 saw 50,000 people march up Queen St against mining in conservation areas. I was there and the mood was clear, the public objected to Government plans to open our national parks to international mining interests. In response, John Key and Gerry Brownlee led us to believe that they had listened to the public, backed down and would protect our precious areas.

But since then it's been full steam ahead with the mining agenda. Without landowner consent, and using $2 million of public money, land from Warkworth to Cape Reinga had aerial geomagnetic surveys carried out last year. Again we were told there was nothing to worry about, that they just wanted to see what was underground.

Two weeks ago a Government delegation and the Far North Mayor Wayne Brown played host at the world's largest mining trade show in Toronto, Canada. They took a promotional booklet that gives the false impression that Northland would welcome all miners with open arms, the natives were friendly, and the Northland life would suit them fine and be prosperous.

The Government timetable sets the next fortnight for northern councils and Maori to point out sensitive areas where mining would be inappropriate then treat all other areas as open for mining applications from next month. Only in May will the ordinary landowners and the public be told in which areas what minerals have been found and where the mining industry is being directed.

This is mining by stealth, despite what the Far North Mayor says.

What we do know is that the two main gold deposits are in deep quartz veins beneath mountains of eastern Northland called Whakarara and Puhipuhi. Accessing gold beneath both would involve literally moving mountains, destroying native forests and reopening some of the largest mercury beds in the country.

Whakarara peak is over 300 metres above sea level. The gold begins 200 metres down through very hard rock. Tunnelling is not an option. Mining would mean another Waihi-type hole in the ground. Toxic waste from hard rock mining, over 18 tonnes per gold ring, would need to be safely stored beyond timescales we can imagine. Both areas are prone to extreme floods as witnessed in recent years and flooding around Kaeo this week.

These mountains head the catchments of the Bay of Islands, the Kaipara and Whangaroa Harbour making waterways downstream at risk of toxic mining pollution, including Matauri Bay, Helena Bay and Mimiwhangata. We can't risk anymore waterways being further contaminated. Already the Far North District Council and Northland Regional Council cannot deal with pollution from dairy farming, let alone pollution from mining companies.

Local authorities are claiming that all mining applications will be subject to 'strict' requirements. But right now the Crown Minerals Act is under review and powerful mining interests are lobbying to strengthen their corporate 'rights' and relax their environmental compliance. They want easier access to any land with minerals and the key objective of new mining laws to be promoting attractiveness for business and investment. All this would further undermine genuine environmental, public concerns and sensible protection.

And despite what the Government promised two years ago, mining investigation permits have since been given the thumbs up for World Heritage areas and South Island National Parks. Will Coromandel and Great Barrier Island be next in the firing line?

The Department of Conservation has recently sacked their "back office" staff with the knowledge and skills to address biodiversity and recreation threats from mining applications. Internal memos now instruct what the Department can and cannot comment on. In contrast there has been a major staff expansion within the Ministry of Economic Development to promote the discovery and extraction of minerals, metals and oil.

But the public backlash has already begun as local communities in Northland feel betrayed. Perhaps that's why the politicians are rushing ahead, to try and sign contracts with miners before the mining reality sinks in.

* Dean Baigent-Mercer is the Chairperson of the Far North Forest and Bird Branch. He has worked on national and international conservation issues.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

How to make your own toilet roll seed pots and peat free seed raising mix (sustainably sourced)

I saw a link to making toilet roll pots for seedlings a little while ago, and I thought it was brilliant. You plant the seed in a toilet roll with the bottom folded up like the bottom of a box, and then when you plant the seedling you never have to take it out - you just place it in the dirt and the paper rots away without disturbing the roots of the plant.

Not only was it something I hadn't thought of at all - and I just love using objects for not-their-intended purpose - the tutorial had a really great sustainable recipe for making your own seed raising mix. More sustainable, in that it used coir instead of peat to prevent damping off.

Peat bogs are ancient, and they store carbon. Peat may store twice as much carbon as forests globally. Digging up peat releases the stored carbon. Go here to read a BBC News article on the importance of preserving peat bogs.Coir was pretty new to me - so that was two great new ideas. One, make your own, free "jiffy pots" for planting seeds, and the other was the coolness of coir which I discovered when I used it. It's a lovely red fluffy fibrous substance that gives the soil lightness, or you can place it around trees in your garden for that forest floor feel.

I will provide the recipes and my experience below, but if you want to go to the source I got it all from this post by Colleen Vanderlinden on treehugger.com, Savvy Alternatives to Peat-Based Products for Starting Seeds Indoors.

toilet roll seed pots (with no disruption to soil as pot rots away)

girlingearstudio/CC BY 2.0

The one thing I realized I did wrong was to not cut the toilet roll in half. I think a half size pot (like above photo) would have been better - for waste of the mix, and the seedling doesn't need that tall of a pot! (And many veggies prefer to be directly sown, like carrots and onions - so check first if it's an advantage.)
To make the pot: cut the bottom of the empty roll in four places. You will have created four flaps. Fold them up against each other - as you do the top of a box, each flap holds the next one down.
Then fill with excellent coir-based seed-raising mix below!

peat free (sustainably sourced) seed growing mix

Mix together:

- 1 part coir
- 1 part vermicompost
- 1 part perlite

I got my block of coir for only $5 from the local garden centre - and it yielded a huge amount of fibre when it was wet and broken apart. For my seed-raising mix, I only needed a chunk off the corner, which I then soaked in water.

I got my "perlite" from a local brewing shop. It was like popcorn rock - the kids loved breaking it into dust. According to Colleen Vanderlinden... "the coir provides water retention and bulk. The vermicompost provides nutrients to the seedlings, but, perhaps even more importantly, protects seedlings from diseases like damping off. And the perlite (light volcanic rock) provides lightness and helps the mix drain well."

How to buy fish with a better conscience - guide for sustainable fish shopping based on Hook, Line and Blinkers book (NZ)

How to know which fish in the supermarket are truly sustainable is a murky issue. If all we have to go on is labelling of the product in the store, that is simply not enough information.

Forest & Bird has put out indepth information, including a wallet guide about which fish they feel is more sustainable, which is great. However, unless you have knowledge about the fishing industry, it's hard to understand the framework in which they have made their choices. That's why I was glad to read a synopsis of this book: Hook, Line and Blinkers: Everything Kiwis never wanted to know about fishing by Gareth Morgan and Geoff Simmons (Phantom House Books 2011, $35), in Good magazine.

Much of it is new to me - the lists of regulatory bodies, the fishing industry and so on - but it was interesting to get another opinion to weigh alternatively to Forest & Bird's conservatism and the fishing industry's obviously self-serving promises. I tend to be on the conservation side - but I too am not a millionaire and need to feed my family.

Here is a useful tool to assist you in the (ethically) hazardous journey to the supermarket, another opinion of which fish or more (or less) overfished, using the "Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch criterion" at http://www.blinkers.co.nz/wild-caught.aspx
And I have reproduced Good magazine's (Issue 23) original article about Hook, Line and Blinkers, below (but with my emphasis in red at times) to help you understand their thought processes. Reading the book itself would be great, but at least this is something - as we don't all have time to do all the research. Thanks, Good!

Something’s fishyYou’re looking for tasty, healthy and locally sourced food for yourself and your family – including fish. But is it possible to make an eco-friendly choice? Keen fishers and authors of the new book, Hook, Line and Blinkers GARETH MORGAN and GEOFF SIMMONS investigate the options

There are many challenges facing today’s ethical eater. There are carbon emissions to consider, the environmental sustainability of the food we eat and how the workers that grew and harvested the food were treated. That’s before we even think about whether it is healthy to eat, or get tangled up in random trivialities like food miles. Eating fish is no exception.

Gone are the days where the ocean can provide limitless food and hide all our waste. We believe the world has hit the point of depletion we’re calling ‘Peak Fish’ and that we have to think urgently about how we manage our impact on the oceans, before we damage them beyond repair. That needs to start with fishing.

In researching the book Hook, Line and Blinkers we looked at New Zealand’s supposedly world-class fisheries management regime. We were ‘struck’ by the huge gulf in advice about which fish to eat – between environmentalists on the one hand and the fishing industry on the other. It’s a source of huge confusion, with environmental groups telling us to steer clear of most fish on the supermarket shelves, and the fishing industry telling us that if it's in the supermarket, it must be sustainable.

Given the number of issues that a consumer has to consider in making a purchase, this confusion is decidedly unhelpful. But the question that we have to ask is, 'How much environmental damage are we prepared to accept in exchange for our supply of food?' All human activities cause some damage to the planet, but how much is too much? Where do we draw the line?

Clearly some environmental groups like Greenpeace and Forest & Bird are prepared to accept only a little bit of damage. By all means eat the fish that they recommend -they are the most environmentally friendly. But should you completely write off the fish on their red list? We have to think about the alternatives. What would we eat instead? If we were to replace this fish protein with farming for animal protein on land, it's very possible that we could end up causing even more environmental damage. I don't know about you, but our heads are starting to hurt.

Certification schemes like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) are designed to bring some balance to this debate. This scheme was created by the World Wildlife Fund and Unilever, and has subsequently put its stamp of approval on an impressive five million tonnes of seafood -around six percent of the global supply, with a total value of $1 billion. In an independent review the MSC criteria were considered the most robust of all certification schemes. However, the MSC system is still far from perfect: it relies on rating agencies that are paid for by the fishing industry -meaning there is some incentive to 'go easy' on the fishery during the rating process. We reckon the MSC needs to sort out this potential conflict of interest before it faces a crisis of confidence of Global Financial Crisis proportions.

The clash of ideals over how much environmental damage is acceptable has come to the fore over the New Zealand hoki fishery. The MSC has faced heavy criticism from environmental groups for its certification of the fishery. This criticism was over the use of bottom trawling to catch the fish, the levels of bycatch (particularly mammals and seabirds), and the perceived overfishing during the mid-2000s.

In our opinion, the claims of poor management and overfishing in hoki fisheries are ill-founded. In the early 2000s the allowable catch was slashed from 250,000 tonnes to 90,000.

Environmentalists seized upon this as a sign of overfishing, but fisheries science is a difficult beast, and these rapid cuts were in response to several seasons of low breeding rates. Indeed such rapid cuts in catch are a sign of excellent fisheries management -quickly responding to problems when they arise. As it stands, hoki stocks are voluntarily managed by industry at 35-50 percent of their original population, far higher than the 25 percent target required of most fisheries.

Other areas of the hoki fishery are more debatable. There have been bycatch problems but these have improved significantly over time -something that the MSC continues to watch closely and encourages improvement on. As for bottom trawling -well there is simply no other way to catch the fish. So while it causes damage to habitat. most of this is sandy or muddy seafloor with a comparatively quick recovery time.

As long as the area of trawling is confined, this damage could be deemed acceptable -otherwise we would struggle to catch New Zealand's largest fish stock.

Does that make hoki okay to eat? MSC thinks so, and we reckon they're as good a guide as any. But what about other seafood in our supermarkets?

We decided to put our money where our mouth is and try to develop a more balanced recommendation list. To do this we borrowed the criteria from Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch (MBASW) which is respected internationally. You can check out the results in more detail at http://www.blinkers.co.nz/wild-caught.aspx

Of course the sort of fish that gets the approval of Greenpeace and Forest & Bird will pass the test with flying colours. Most of these are small, fast­growing fish that can be caught with little environmental damage - for example sardines, blue cod and kahawai. MBASW's criteria award fish stocks with one major environmental problem but otherwise good management a 'Good Alternative' rating. Hoki with its bottom-trawling issue makes this grade, but other fisheries with more than one problem, such as orange roughy, are rated as 'Avoid'.

How about farmed fish? Just because a seafood is farmed doesn't automatically make it sustainable. Farmed filter feeders like mussels are ideal from an environmental and health perspective. Carnivorous fish like salmon face the problem of needing to eat fish oil to grow, which reduces the total supply of fish for the world population to eat.

Unlike overseas operators, New Zealand salmon farms are well managed environmentally, so they squeak in a 'Good Alternative' rating. Vegetarian fish like basa don't face the feed problem. but they are generally grown in Asia where the management is not so good - so again they get a 'Good Alternative' rating.

Most imported prawns are from farms in Asia, and face the double whammy of the feed problem as well being poorly managed environmentally -so they should be avoided.

The debate over which fish to eat overlooks the question of how much we should be eating in the first place. The health benefits of eating wild fish are well known as it's high in protein, low in fat (depending on how it's cooked) and rich in omega-3 oils. On the other hand, we need to go easy, as we've hit the capacity of the ocean's ability to provide wild fish, and the world's population is still growing.

The recommended intake of fish (100­150g twice a week) for health purposes adds up to about 15 kg per year. Currently there is enough farmed and wild fish for everyone in the world to eat 17kg each. New Zealanders typically munch down around 25kg a year -more than our fair share. And yet Kiwis don't eat seafood as regularly as recommended.

How is this possible? Like most of our eating, portion size is the problem - we scoff large amounts of seafood in one sitting, which significantly lessens the health benefits of omega-3 oils.

The lesson? We need to eat smaller portions of high quality seafood. The sad truth facing ethical consumers is that all of our food choices have some impact on the planet, and there are no easy answers, other than smaller portion sizes. In the end it comes down to how much we're willing to trade off our conscience for taste.


"We're starting to understand what can go horribly wrong when our fishing technology outstrips our ability to restrain ourselves."
- Gareth Morgan, Hook, Line and Blinkers: Everything Kiwis never wanted to know about fishing

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Little drops of change

As I go about my daily life - just such an insignificant person in the midst of a huge world, I do notice that everywhere I go, the topic of the environment always arises - mostly because I don't take plastic bags. Or it comes up when I do something differently at the till grocery shopping, such as put reusable containers of meat through instead of plastic wrapped parcels, or when I am at the meat counter trying to explain why I want my meat put directly into reusable containers.

Although seemingly insignificant, each little interchange is like a drop of water, adding to the whole. And all the little interchanges of every person communicating concern for the environment, each day, in each place they go to - contribute to making the only change possible in the battle to preserve the health of our environment: our collective awareness(and resulting social stigmas for certain destructive behaviours).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Carbon tax review could lead to better future for B.C - Vancouver Sun (Canada)

How amazing! A carbon tax! This article originally appeared in the Vancouver Sun on February 29, 2012.

Carbon tax review could lead to better future for B.CBy Ian Bruce and Matt Horne And Merran Smith, Vancouver Sun February 29, 2012
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Carbon+review+could+lead+better+future/6227607/story.html#ixzz1pAR1tyLH
Imagine a British Columbia with reduced traffic gridlock because public transit service gets better and faster every day. Imagine a B.C. where we spend half as much to heat our homes and buildings. Imagine a B.C. with businesses that compete successfully on a world stage that demands the highest quality. Imagine a B.C. where environ-mental innovation, training and knowledge are at the core of our economy.

The good news is that we can build this better B.C., and the way to do it is within reach.

Although the B.C. budget offered little in the way of a more innovative, greener economy, it did hand British Columbians an opportunity to build that future with the announcement that the B.C. carbon tax will be reviewed.

The review, if done well, could be a game changer for improving the quality of life in our province. To reach that potential, the process must be transparent, rely on credible information, and engage British Columbians from all walks of life.

As a starting point in the review, we need to remember why B.C. implemented the carbon tax in the first place. We know that global warming threatens to devastate our forests, our agriculture and our communities if we don't transform the way we produce and use energy.

Evidence already suggests B.C.'s public institutions, communities and businesses are starting to make changes because of the carbon tax. For example, the University of B.C. is phasing out fossil fuels for heating and instead is pursuing renew-able energy. We also know that these positive examples aren't yet standard practice, so B.C.'s greenhouse gas pollution is still increasing and we're not yet on track to accomplish what we set out to achieve.

A second topic for the review is whether all of the carbon tax revenue needs to be used to reduce other taxes. A strong case can be made for investing some of that revenue in job training and infrastructure projects such as transit. These are the types of investments needed to make our communities more enjoyable and healthier places to live while building a strong and innovative economy.

Lastly, the review process should ensure that B.C.'s carbon tax is fair. Ultimately, support for the carbon tax will continue to increase if families, communities and businesses from all parts of the province have an opportunity, and an expectation, to be part of the solution. .

Sweden, a jurisdiction with a similar size population and economy as B.C., introduced a carbon tax in 1992, and the country's economy has since grown 44 per cent while green-house gas emissions have dropped by nearly 10 per cent. Last year, the World Economic Forum ranked Sweden second in the world on economic competitiveness.

It's not just Sweden jumping on the green bandwagon. Norway, Den-mark, Australia, Switzerland and others all have carbon taxes. The European Union has created incentives for companies to reduce their emissions, and Korea, China, California and Quebec will be starting similar emissions cap programs soon. Furthermore, worldwide investment in clean energy totalled $243 billion in 2010, as many governments recognized the need to act on climate change, make the air cleaner and develop modern energy systems. B.C.'s abundant renewable energy resources, skilled workforce and strong engineering and knowledge sectors put the province in an ideal position to capitalize on this global opportunity.

At last, we have a win-win situation for both the environment and the economy.

With more ideas from British Columbians on what the future could hold for B.C.'s carbon tax, we could make that win-win a reality. Communities could see new investment and jobs, a balanced transportation system, reduced traffic congestion, cleaner air, more green spaces, energy savings, and, best of all, a better quality of life. But only if we demand it. We hope that British Columbians will engage in this conversation in the coming months so that we can all build a better future.

Ian Bruce is with the David Suzuki Foundation;

Matt Horne with the Pembina Institute;

Merran Smith is with Tides Canada.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fair Trade Warriors - All Good bananas in New Zealand)

Fair Trade Warriors! (Get 'em while they're young.)

In NZ, the only certified Fair Trade bananas are All Good Bananas! I live North of Auckland, and buy mine at the New World in Orewa, or the Fruit World in Silverdale.

Update October 2012: Pak'N Save in Albany didn't sell them.  I tried to talk to the produce manager (Al) but he basically walked away from me halfway through my question, muttering something under his breath about their cost.  But I didn't give up - I had the idea to make a public post on the Pak'N Save Facebok page about it.  I knew, from working in the AUT's student movement office who were operating and responding to students on their Facebook page that a marketing team would notice every comment of this new medium.  My hunch worked.  After a comment or two - they started selling them!  Coincidence? 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rachel Garden's Wall in Tairua

In Tairua (NZ), we stumbled upon the most amazing mosaic which was part of an outdoors area of someone's house. The artists whose home it was were working on it, so they allowed me to take photos. The mosaic is made from broken ceramic dishes, and it's the work of Rachel Garden.

Her husband was creating the stone paved steps - and I would imagine had been involved in the building of the outdoors area as well.

Tree with a view

We went to Tairua on the Coromandel Peninsula (NZ) on the weekend, and happened to drive by this seaside tree with its own deck.

Rainbow Table and Chairs

Rainbow kid's chairs and table-top. The rainbow on top was painted by children! They stamped various stamps along my pencil guides.  

I decided to buy a big can of water-based varnish - as the clear glaze I had been buying was really expensive.  It did work!  I was able to just painted with any cheap water-based paint, then seal it after since the varnish was water-based as well (i.e. not oil based).  However, the paint did get "moved" by the topcoat, which was a pain.  For the clouds on the chair - I did the chairs first - I just went with it and "repainted" the clouds to get the protective clear coat on.  But I was wiser for the table, which I had the kids do - Troy and her friend. I mixed a bit of the water-based varnish in with their poster paints.  That kept the paint immobile enough for me to varnish the heck out of it after.  Although as always, learning by doing can be frustrating (the chairs), learning new methods is great - the kids table and chairs are now almost bombproof - and I have a flexible art painting method - as long as I have some water-based varnish. 

From problems to opportunities - the holes in Lukie's jeans

During a weekend away, I hand-stitched nice dark denim over some holes in Luke's jeans. You need to be relaxed, not under time pressure to enjoy doing this.

Just fold the edges under of the patch fabric so they won't fray, pin, and watch TV or listen to a radio show. (I watched a great Indian movie that I hadn't expected to like!) The letters are sewn with a large needle and wool/yarn.

If you take a positive spin on holes worn in knees (in otherwise strong jeans), they stop being problems and start becoming opportunities.

Check out these reusable bread bags by Ginger Pye

Check out my new reusable bread bags! They were custom made by Ginger Pye based on their lunch sack design, but larger (I gave them measurements), and lined with EVA which is food-safe and BPA and phthalate-free. These are large enough to fit any size loaf of bread (or a batch of muffins, or rolls...)

Two came to $40 (NZ).
I love being able to make extra bread and store it in these bags without the guilt of causing horrible landfill fodder...and they bring extra life into the kitchen (instead of taking it away).

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dad's tip: How to seal and protect a wood cutting board used for food

My father told me this great tip for looking after cutting boards.

He loved wood - he built often out of wood, and would usually varnish wood to protect it. He always nagged us if we were careless with water around wood. He told me that with cutting boards, you could protect the wood and seal it by coating it with vegetable oil, such as olive oil. Then you place it out in the sun to cure - and it creates a foodsafe varnish. This would be instead of the usual wood oils such as (non-food safe) linseed oil.

You just do it once in awhile when it wears off.

After I did it the wood was supple and felt beautiful again - as the wood's moisture was sealed in.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Yellow and Stripey Tomatoes grown from heritage seeds (Koanga Institute)

Look at these cool yellow tomatoes! They are called "Yellow Cropper", they are heritage seeds from the Koanga Institute.

There are also stripey tomatoes called Guernsey Island that are very very delicious.

I grew them from their "Tomato - 3 Colour Mix" (you can get Koanga Institute's heritage seeds from NZ garden centres or order them online).

The Koanga Institute was started by Kay Baxter, who wanted to preserve old seed lines that had been grown and cultivated in NZ for many years - brought with settlers as their most treasured family possessions, gumdiggers, etc. Also there are diverse varieties of and colours of Maori veggies such as kumara. (Nowadays you just find very few varieties compared to in the past.) Tomatoes you buy in the grocery store must last longer on the shelf - so they've been selected for long-lastingness or their looks. My tomatoes that sprouted from these seeds were tasteless compared with the Koanga seed varieties. They can be eaten from your garden fresh, so delicousness can be their dominant trait!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

How to make your own simple sturdy cotton book bag

In NZ school kids have vinyl pouches to take their reading and workbooks home every day. They don't cost much, but also don't last for long before shredding and becoming landfill fodder. It's actually REALLY easy to make your own out of a sturdy fabric such as heavy cotton.

I embroidered my daughter's bags before I sewed the pieces together (photo below) but it's not necessary. I can picture other kids having sturdy cotton book bags in their favourite bright colour, like orange, or blue, or even pink, with matching colour of bias binding/ribbon along the edges. Just having a well-made real fabric book bag would look great.

The design of the bags is one piece only - with a bias binding sewn around the edges. (I was about to use thick strap material, but a crafty friend stopped me fortunately - so my embroidering was not wasted.) Bias binding is easy to use and light. However, I did notice after that there are a huge variety of choices in ribbon out there in a haberdashery shop, which would be of very little cost - if anyone thought that bias binding was too expensive.

You will need...
Heavy cotton fabric - at least 1 m
Bias binding (preferred) or ribbon
A few centimeters of velcro for keeping the top closed
Scrap of leather or other tough material
Marking pencil (white or dark)
Long ruler or straight edge
White fabric name label
The usual: Thread, needle, scissors
A sewing machine if possible

Step 1: Trace and cut out the one piece shape for the bag. The design of this book bag is one piece - wrapping around the bottom. Draw the bag shape using a white pencil crayon or black marker, depending on whether your fabric is light or dark. Use a ruler to measure and mark straight lines. The large book bag piece is 45 cm long and 36 cm wide, the small bag is 38.5 long and 26.5 wide. Bevel the edges of one end as in illustration above. The bevelled end folds over 9 cm in the large bag and 8.25 for the small. (But I just traced the old cheaply made book bags - it was really easy that way.)

Step 2: Measure and cut binding. Fold the bag piece in half, with the square end stopping where it should, and mark where it should come up to. Cut your bias binding by following around the edge. Piece 1: Along the square edge that goes inside flap lid. Piece 2: Follows the left edge of the bag, and then along the flap, and hten down the right side again.

Step 3: Sew binding along edges. I strongly recommend pinning first. Fold the short piece of binding along the square end first, pin it into place, then sew along it using a sewing machine using an appropriate thread colour. Then fold over the long piece that covers the edge including along the flap and down the other side. Pin, then sew it. Presto, the bag is made! Now you just have to handsew on velcro inside the flap, and a reinforcing piece of leather or other sturdy material (to the outside opposite the velcro. You could also optionally sew on a pull tab.

It's alot harder to describe than it is to make it. If you can borrow another book bag to follow the design, it's really easy.