All posts by Raakhee Stratton

Things I No Longer Buy

Over the past year, I’ve become more aware of my carbon footprint which has made me make some changes in my life. The things we buy have a carbon footprint; production, transport etc so I’ve stopped buying certain items I realised I personally didn’t need anymore

Plastic Bottles

I’ve actively refuse to buy drinks in a plastic bottle. I have quite a few reusable bottles and when I go out with my daughter, I make sure I fill up a bottle for her. She also has a water bottle she takes to school everyday. When my partner comes home from a football match after eating his fried chicken on the train, he always buys a plastic bottle on water. I’ve used this bottle for things like watering the plants in the house. Ideally, I would prefer if he took a water bottle with him…I’m working on it!

Shopping Plastic Bags

Reusable bags can be bought from anywhere and there is no excuse to have to purchase plastic carrier bags from the supermarket. It helps if you have a few bags in your handbag, car, workplace desk. They will always come in handy.

Strawberries

I know this is going to sound like a weird one but I love eating strawberries and they are always sold in the plastic tub with a sheet of bubble wrap at the bottom. I know strawberries can be easily bruised and need protection but this packaging really irks me. I started growing strawberries in my garden and although I won’t be able to eat strawberries all year round, when they’re in season, I nip out to the garden and pick what I want.

Clothes

The only time I buy clothes brand new is when I need underwear, which isn’t that often anyway. Some friends and family turn their noses up at charity shops but it’s never bothered me. Quite a few months ago I needed a hat a scarf, I washed my hat and shrunk, a lot! I found a hat and scarf for £2 each, bargain! I bought a pair of jeans for £3. I even buy furniture too.

Cling Film

I’ve stopped using cling film a while ago and I’m trying to get my Mum to do the same. For leftover food, I put the food in reusable plastic containers or reusable wraps. There are plenty on the market to choose from.

Dishcloths

I don’t buy new dishcloths anymore, I just chuck them in the washing machine with the rest of the washing.

Loose fruit and veg

I make a conscious effort to buy loose fruit and vegetables at the supermarket. I will never understand why buying four apples loose costs more than buying four apples in plastic wrap. I think it’s something to do with the grade of the item but I think it’s just a cop out. Give us more choice.

Making changes to our habits takes time, when we realise we’ve changed your shopping habits, we need to keep adding more. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

What things have you given up?

What I did for Plastic Free July 2020

On the run up to July 2020, I started noticing the hashtag #PlasticFreeJuly. For someone who has been making changes in an effort to reduce plastic use, I am embarrassed to admit I had never heard of them before.

Based in Australia, Plastic Free July started in 2011 and have an amazing website offering a wealth of ideas of how you can reduce your plastic use at home, school, work, businesses and within local communities. If you’re stuck of ideas, check out their ‘What Others Do’ page for some fantastic inspiration.

In light of this, I decided to take on the #PlasticFreeJuly challenge. I started looking at what changes I could make to reduce my plastic use.

Fruit and Veg

Every Tuesday and Thursday, there is a fruit and veg stall and when I need something, I buy from the stall (#SupportLocal). When I used to buy fruit and vegetables at the supermarket, I found it frustrating that the only options available to me was pre-packaged and, in most cases, more than what I needed. At least buying from a stall, I can buy what I needed. However, the downside I found was that they offer to package your items in a plastic carrier bag. Nope, not for me. I have a small bag that I leave in my bag I only use for loose food. I also started growing my own strawberries at home so no need to buy them.

Tea Bags

I’m a tea-loving Brit and after the shock of discovering that some teabags contain micro plastics, the thought of little bits of plastic swimming around in my tea made me feel a little queasy. In light of this new information, a solution was urgently needed. After some research, it turns out that there are some brands who advertise their products don’t contain plastic but one thing I’ve been aware of in the past, not necessarily by tea bag brands, is that when a company changes something about their product, they aren’t always as vocal or transparent as they should be about the changes. I guess, as a consumer, I’m not that trusting. Therefore, I found a place that sells loose tea. I had to buy a tea infuser and using loose tea did take a bit of getting used to but I don’t notice it anymore.

Waxing

I’ve been waxing since my teens and I’ve always used wax strips available in shops, yes, that ones that can’t be recycled. So, I decided to convert to sugar waxing, however, I don’t think I use sugar waxing how it was intended. I appears that you should roll up a ball, smooth it on your skin and pull it off quickly, I found that hurts WAY TOO MUCH. I quickly realised that I needed strips of some sort so I cut up a cotton shirt my partner no longer needed into strips and used them instead. I’m not going to lie, it still hurts but I don’t feel like my skin is being ripped off like shop bought wax strips and it’s made of natural ingredients; sugar, lemon, salt and water. It’s a lot cheaper too, to wax both of my legs cost me eighty pence. Bargain and nothing to landfill!

I’m really happy about the changes I’ve made so far and I won’t be waiting until next July to make more changes, I will continue to do so until I can reduce my plastic use as much as I possibly can. What changes did you make for #PlasticFreeJuly?

Are we really killing the planet?

Before you start attacking me, just hear me out.

Due to human activity, we are accelerating climate change, I believe this to be true. Global warming has occurred in Earth’s history, the difference is that we, humans, are accelerating it. But I began looking at it differently since I started studying for an BSc in Environmental Science.

We aren’t killing the planet; we are killing life on the planet. Two very different things but just as serious.

The earth is 4.6 billion years old and has survived five mass extinctions:

  1. Ordovician–Silurian extinction – 439 million years ago
  2. Late Devonian extinction – 364 million years ago
  3. Permian–Triassic extinction – 251 million years ago
  4. Triassic–Jurassic extinction – 199 million to 214 million years ago
  5. Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction – 65 million years ago (Asteroid)

From my studies, the third mass extinction, Permian–Triassic extinction, which was the deadliest, wiped out about 75% of life on land and 95% of life in the ocean. 95%, that’s huge! Especially since life actually began in the oceans and made its way onto land. Despite this devastation, some form of life was still able to continue and evolved. The fifth mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs wasn’t as devastating as the third one and that was due to an asteroid colliding with earth.

Whenever the planet has experienced an extinction, Earth has always been able to regenerate itself and there is no reason to believe it can’t do that again. However, I do wonder whether humans will be part of the future. Although we are an arrogant species wielding the superiority sword, we are also incredibly fragile. A little fact I learned during my studies; 95% of ALL life that has EVER lived on earth is extinct.

It is believed by some that we are in the sixth extinction event, Holocene extinction. As our CO2 parts per million is at the highest level than at any recorded time in the past, something has to give. We are on a path of destruction and the crazy thing is that not everyone is on board with this.

We humans really do need to change our habits instead of playing lip service. I don’t believe we, humans, can stop the sixth extinction. However, we do have the capability to slow if we all worked together. The painful truth is that the officials we elect have so much power and are able to make colossal changes but they just aren’t doing enough. In June 2019, the UK became the first major economy to in the world to pass a law requiring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 and we’re not even the richest economy in the world!

I believe in science, and no one knows how this is going to play out. Scientists are providing us with their best predictions based on various models but these are being readjusted because certain factors are accelerating the problem. There will always be variable factors; number of people living on the planet, the next pandemic and the resulting loss of life.

I’m still at the early stages in my educational journey, maybe my views may change along the way. That’s what I want out of my education; learning, listening to different opinions and forming my own conclusions based on the facts in front of me.

Geologists can tell a lot about history from rock layers built up over millions and millions of years. In the very distant future when more intelligent species start investigating the planet’s past, they will find our legacy in the rocks, a thin layer of plastic pinpointing the age of humans.

UK Cities pledging to become carbon neutral

Cities in the UK are looking how they can transition to becoming carbon neutral in the future.

The climate has been a long standing issue, however, more recently, this issues has become more urgent and voices (rightly so) have become louder. Protests, demonstrations, documentaries and even celebrities are lending their names and voices to the cause. Things really do need to change and one of the primary places for real change will be from government.

As the debate for climate change is becoming harder to ignore, government and local authorities are starting to take notice, albeit, slow. In June 2019, the UK became the first major economy to in the world to pass a law requiring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Even before this became law, there were some UK cities that pledged to become carbon neutral ahead of the governments 2050 target, lets explore these cities.

Glasgow

Following a report by the Climate Emergency Working Group’s 61 recommendations, the city decided to adopt of the recommendations and have pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030. If you would like to read the report, here is a link.

Nottingham

Having declared a climate emergency in 2018, Nottingham City Council are committed to becoming the first ‘net-zero carbon’ city after setting a target of achieving this by 20208. If they achieve this, they will become the UK’s first city to do so. They have set out how they plan to do this, for more details, follow the link.

Bristol

In 2018, Bristol pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030. Bristol was the first council in the UK to declare a climate emergency. City Leap was set up between the council and Bristol Energy in order to bring together local businesses with a view to working together to achieve their target.

More and more cities have started to make their own pledges in becoming carbon neutral, in some cases, way before the governments 2050 date. Reading about cities taking responsibility for their own carbon emissions is a positive step in the right direction. If cities end up competing with each other as to who is greener, surely that can only be a good thing…

How Long Does Plastic Last?

I recently saw pictures on the news of all the litter (most of it plastic) left on some UK beaches after a week long heatwave…during a pandemic!

Along with many other people, I was dismayed and disgusted at the mess left behind by a lot of the beach visitors.

The only way to describe it… a sea of plastic on the sand.

As plastic has been woven into every part of our lives, a fair assumption that majority of the rubbish is likely to be plastic; food packaging, plastic bags, plastic bottles and how much of this rubbish has already made its way into the sea?

When our everyday rubbish enters the sea, how long does it take to decompose in the ocean? This doesn’t include the damage caused by the microplastics during decomposition.

According the the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, the below shows how long it takes for certain items to decompose.

HOW LONG DOES PLASTIC LAST?

There are some images of wildlife being tangled up in our rubbish in Greenpeace’s website.

The plastic doesn’t only affect the wildlife, it will also enter our food chain, if it hasn’t already. Plastic bags break into smaller pieces and eventually become micro plastics which will eventually be ingested by fish. It’s inevitable this plastic will wind up on our plates, but that doesn’t seem to be a concern.

I wonder whether this issue will be taken more seriously when the micro plastics we ingest will start affecting our health? What could microplastics do to the human body?

If you’re interested in reading about what I’m doing to be greener, check out my blog and if you’re interested in signing up to my newsletter, click here. I promise not to spam you.

What’s the issue with Palm Oil?

Over the last few years I’ve seen articles and videos about Palm Oil and how it’s bad for the environment.

I don’t know what palm oil actually is and how can something that is found in so many everyday products be bad for the environment. What is it? Where does it come from? What everyday products contain it? Is sustainable palm oil really sustainable? What are the alternatives?

As someone who is studying towards a BSc in Environmental Science, I’m learning to question the source of a statistic; are they showing us the whole picture and what is their agenda.

Some organisations will only tell us what they want us to know because it fits within the agenda, that can sometimes mean the reader has been misled. I want to find out for myself what’s the issue with palm oil.

What is Palm Oil?

Palm oil is a vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree. It’s scientific term is Elaeis guineensis. It’s quite cheap and therefore popular.

Where does it come from?

Although, Oil Palm trees are native to Africa, they are now grown in almost all tropical climates around the world close to the equator, within 10 degrees north or south, and part of tropical rainforests that are rich in biodiversity. According to greenpalm.org, the top five biggest producers of palm oil in 2015 were; Indonesia: 33.4 million tonnes, Malaysia: 19.9 million tonnes, Thailand: 1.8 million tonnes, Colombia: 1.2 million tonnes and Nigeria: 0.94 million tonnes.

How is palm oil produced?

I think to understand it’s apparent link to deforestation, we need to briefly look at how it’s produced. In order to produce palm oil, forests, including their inhabitants, need to be cleared. You may be familiar with seeing images of Orangutans in relation to palm oil deforestation. The seeds are then planted to create a plantation and takes about four to five years for oil palms to grow to a point where their fruit is ready to be harvested. The tree will then produce fruit for about thirty years. In a video produced by GreenTV, it claims 45% of the producers of palm oil are smallholders lifting them out of poverty.

What everyday products contain palm oil?

According to an article by GoodToKnow, the following products contain palm oil; Wall’s Soft Scoop Ice Cream, Dairy Milk chocolate and Maltesers, Flora Buttery margarine, Ritz crackers, Batchelors Super Noodles, Head and Shoulders shampoo, Dove original soap and much more.

How to identify if a product contains palm oil?

There are many products that use palm oil but isn’t always clear on the label.

Different names for palm oil

I had a look around my bathroom and, based on the above list, the following everyday products contain palm oil; Cien Aloe Vera Bath soap (Sodium Palm Kernelate), Carex Original handwash (Sodium Laureth Sulfate), Colgate Max White White Crystals Toothpaste (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), Cien Baby Shampoo (Sodium Laureth Sulfate), Oilatum Junior Bath Additive (Isopropyl palmitate), Maybelline Dream Brightening Creamy Concealer (ethylhexyl palmitate). The ingredients were on the item, the only one where it wasn’t displayed on the pack (probably on the cardboard box) was the toothpaste which why there’s a hyperlink to the product. 

Is sustainable palm oil really sustainable?

It’s causing a lot of damage to the environment and the reliance we have come to for palm oil is staggering.

There needs to be a solution but I don’t know what it is.

Ecobrick overwhelm

A while back, I saw an article online about someone creating a ecobrick with their plastic that can’t be recycled. I was intrigued.

For those who aren’t familiar with ecobricks. lets start with a quick overview.

Ecobricks are plastic bottles that are filled with plastics that would usually go to landfill because they can’t be recycled. The plastics are cut into small pieces and packed tightly into the plastic bottle. Once the ecobrick exceeds the weight for the size bottle used, it can be used in various projects; building garden walls, furniture and other structures. The plastic doesn’t go to landfill, what a genius idea!

So I decided to take part.

I had a few 2 litre plastic bottles I had put to one side and started collecting plastics that can’t be recycled. I found that that the plastics I collected built up pretty quickly so I had to ensure I kept up. A few times a week, I sat with my plastics, cut them up into small pieces and filled the bottle. Using a stick helped me to pack the bottle tightly.

In my area, the refuse was collected fortnightly and I quickly noticed that we only needed to put the refuse bin out once a month. However, I was struggling. I just couldn’t keep up with the plastic. The plastic would build up much faster than I could cut and pack them into the bottle.

I felt overwhelmed!

I genuinely never realised how much plastic we were throwing away. Maybe I was looking at this the wrong way, instead of trying to find ways of reducing how much plastic my household send to landfill, I should look at why we have this much plastic in the first place.

Create eco bricks and reduce plastic to landfill

This was the reality check!

I firstly looked at what I was buying at the supermarket. We eat a lot of potatoes so I buy a lot, but I picked up the ones that were in a plastic bag. It turned out buying fruit and veg in plastic bags were cheaper. I’ve noticed that I make much more of an effort buying loose fruit and veg. I also buy from the local greengrocer where majority of the produce is loose.

We do eat a lot of crisps and recently some charities take these to be recycled so I ensure these are put to one side for the charity.

I read recently that although plastic bottles can be recycled, they are recycled into lower grade plastic so won’t end up being plastic bottles again so I actively avoid plastic bottles.

I don’t use cleaning wipes anymore, after watching a program a few months ago, I was horrified to find how much plastic they contained. I use a spray and cloth. Once the cloth is a bit grotty, it goes in the washing machine, not to landfill.

When I buy frozen food, I try my best to avoid plastic bags the item comes in; chicken nuggets, chips etc. I make wedges now and have been trying to make my own chicken nuggets.

I know there are so many other areas I can make changes. However, it is incredibly overwhelming and I have learned to start small and change one or two things, once you realise you do them without thinking, pick another one or two and keep going.

I’m sure many will agree that the man-made plastic problem is real and we all have to make an effort to change our habits but we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about not doing everything perfectly; start off small, the rest will follow. I plan to restart my eco brick shortly so I will update you on my progress.

The Global Ecobrick Alliance has it’s own website, if you’re interested in learning about eco bricks, the benefits or want to start your own, there is a wealth of information to get you started and let me know how you get on!

Homemade Mickey Mouse Cushion

A milestone in my daughter’s life; she moved from a toddler bed to a single bunk bed. Apart from the excitement of sleeping in a new bed, this also meant a whole new set of bedding; duvet, duvet cover, fitted sheets. For the first time, she got to choose what designs she wanted.

I was eventually left with a problem. What do I do with her old duvet?

I recall a notice at the recycling place stating they don’t accept duvets so my problem now was what I was going to do with it. Putting it in the rubbish and throwing it out wasn’t an option. From learning as much as I have about the environment, I know there is no thing as ‘out’. I put the duvet to some side and put my thinking cap on.

I think it must have been in the cupboard for a few days until I had that light bulb moment. My daughter was sitting on her bed leaning against the bars of her bunk bed and she said the bars were hurting her back as she leaned against them while she was looking at books.

I could make a large cushion! I’ve got loads of Mickey Mouse fat quarters, a sewing machine and pins. I had everything I needed.

I will be honest, I had no idea how to make a cushion. I explored a few videos on YouTube but I decided to go for it. I’m not a professional and it’s for my daughter, it’ll be unique.

It was easier to cut out squares and make the cushion cover to resemble a patchwork cover. That was easy enough, I’ve done that before. However, I’d forgotten how slow this bit usually takes.

But it was worth it.

After a few hours, the cover was finished. I folded up the duvet so I could fit it in the case. I have to say, this did take a while trying to get fit but it worked.

And here’s the finished product. I know it’s not perfect and the edges aren’t quite right but my daughter loves it and now she has a cushion to lean on while she’s reading.

Doing this project made me realise there is a lot of things we throw away that we could re-purpose, if we really thought about it.

If you have a look on the internet, there are so many ideas for re purposing items; old pallets made into planters, plastic bottles into vases, even up cycling old furniture with a bit of TLC.

Have you repurposed something? Share your ideas

Say No To Balloons

When you think of balloons, you think of party and celebration. No child’s birthday celebration, young or old, is complete without balloons. The different sizes, colours, shapes bring joy to people. Not only do we gift them for birthdays, but for new births, when someone is recovering, christenings. Balloons can be used at a time of sadness too. Releasing balloons allows us to show respect for our loved ones who have departed, you can’t deny that the way the balloons rise into the sky is quite grateful. However, releasing balloons like this has a downside, it hurts the environment and wildlife.

We need to say no to balloon releases

Whenever we’re at a party, friends and family tend to give my 4-year-old a balloon at the end of the night. I won’t lie, the smile it brings to her face fills me with joy, however, deep down I’m thinking ‘how on earth am I going to dispose of that’. There’s no part of it that can be recycled; the balloon, the ribbon or the weight. Although, there are some balloons on the market that claim they are biodegradable, they can usually take years to fully decompose and the damage done in the meantime can last longer than the balloon.

Reasons why we should start saying no to balloons

They are harmful to wildlife

We’ve seen it on TV and David Attenborough has told us that certain wildlife will mistake a floating carrier bag or balloon for food. Turtles will mistake them for Jellyfish. Once ingested, the damage this does to them internally can lead to starvation. The string attached to the balloons cause just as much damage. The string be ingested or wrap itself around a marine animal’s neck, eventually choking them to death. If the choking doesn’t kill them, the cuts to their skin caused by the string can cause infections and will probably kill them.

It’s littering

If you think about it, a balloon release is an accepted form of littering. You would never dream of leaving all your rubbish on the grass after a picnic (normal people wouldn’t) and sensible people would clean up after themselves but when a balloon is released and disappears from view, what goes up must come down. Where do you think it’s going to land? On a farm? In a river? If the release is by the sea, it almost certainly will end up in the ocean.

There’s a helium shortage

I was a little shocked when I found out there was a shortage and even more shocked at what helium is used for aside balloons. Helium is used in other (more important) areas of business and exploration; inside MRI Scanners, as a cooling agent for the Large Hadron Collider, it’s used in space exploration as a cooling agent for equipment and even by deep sea divers. I’m a little surprised in light of this, why the sale of helium isn’t more restricted? I hope you would agree that these other uses are more vital that filling up a balloon for a party.

What can you use instead?

Balloon releases – can be replaced by releasing flowers into the sea, or even planting a tree. Planting a tree in a quiet place can be somewhere you can come for time on your own to think and think about your loved one. They may no longer be with you but their memory will.

Alternatives to balloon releases

Birthday Parties / celebrations – Paper chains are really easy to make and your little one(s) can get involved too. Paper flowers are a really good way of adding colour to a party, there are oodles of videos on youtube to choose from and when the party is over, they can be given to the guests as they leave as memento. There’s nothing wrong with using the traditional banners, bunting and decorations you can buy on the high street and storing them in the wrappers they came in. However, the key is to not purchase decorations with a number on them, this way they can be used over and over again. Trust me, no one is going to think “Weren’t they the same banners at Wendy’s birthday last year?’

For a treat, I take my 4-year-old to McDonald’s and I recently started to explain why she shouldn’t accept a balloon when it is offered by one of the employees, my daughter now says ‘no thank you’ and it makes me so proud. It doesn’t seem to bother her that she’s not getting a colourful balloon as long as she’s got ketchup with her chips, all is good in the world.

By using alternatives to balloons, it allows you to be creative and the whole family can join in to make the day special. You’d be surprised how much stuff you already have around the house for materials.

By saying no to balloons, you are protecting the environment and wildlife too.

Alternatives to Cling Film

Majority of homes in the UK will have cling film in their kitchens. Used to wrap sandwiches and cover left over food, we’ve been using this product for decades. It’s not a friend to the environment and there are alternatives out there.

What exactly is cling film?

Cling film is a single use plastic that cannot be recycled. As with other plastics, it is harmful to the environment. As it breaks down, the particles get smaller but will never fully disappear. The smaller the particle, the more chance of it being ingested by animals and even a possibility of it entering our food chain.

Cling film is usually made from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and there has been some concern about these materials attaching to food and drink. It’s believed the main issue arises when it’s heated up in the microwave.

I stopped using cling film about a year ago and although I’ve still got a roll in my kitchen drawer, the thought of using it makes me a little queasy. I’m not sure what I will do with it but it’s in the drawer not getting in anyone’s way.

What are the alternatives

Lunch box of fruit

Another thing I’ve done before is to cover the dish containing the leftovers with a plate or a bowl. I’ve done this for years and I know my mum does too. The benefit of this is that you can stack another dish on top.

Something that has appeared in the last few years are silicone lids. I have never tried these myself but I’ve heard some really good things about them. They come in different colours, shapes and sizes allowing them to cover dishes in various sizes. As someone who hasn’t tried them yet, I can’t personally recommend them but the small downside I can see is that you can’t stack on top of them. Although, that is a small price to pay for saving the environment.

I have been told wax paper is a brilliant alternative to cling film. It works very well with wrapping cold foods, but don’t use it for anything hot, the wax will melt.

Bees wax wraps

The long term

Not using cling film may seem small, but the difference it will make to the environment is huge. It really does matter. Wildlife won’t get wrapped up in them and suffocate, if they blow into rivers and eventually drift into the sea, marine life won’t confuse them with food. Cling film may not cost a lot of money but by using the alternatives, you will be saving yourself some money in the long-run and make a massive difference to the environment.

Our Plastic Problem

A few months ago, I watched a film on The Discovery Channel which made me feel very sad. It was aired on Earth Day 22nd April 2020 called The Story of Plastic.

We are familiar with images of where plastic ends up; in rivers, on landfill, in the oceans and wrapped around sea life, but it’s not often we see where it comes from.

One thing that was very striking to me was that a lot of leftover plastic used by richer countries are shipped to the poorer countries to deal with, we are looking at them to sort out our mess without taking ownership of our own rubbish. I was acutely aware of the rubbish being sent to Asian countries but I wasn’t aware of how much. Recently, China have said they don’t want anymore and the problem has been dumped onto other smaller nations in the region.

These plastics are shipped off to Asian countries and end up polluting their waterways endangering wildlife and drinking water or burned in incinerators which brings a whole host of health implications to local residents; shorter life expectancy, skin conditions and respiratory conditions to name but a few. Imagine living next to an incinerator?

It appears the producers of plastics are shifting the blame onto the consumers because we are not disposing of them correctly. By shifting the blame onto the consumer, it eliminates the company’s ownership of the plastic problem ‘I didn’t use it, not my problem’. According to the film, 14% of plastics are recycled and a mere 2% is recycled effectively, which means it’s recycled into something as usual as it previously was. What we’re not being told is that majority of plastic degrades and cannot be reused into something useful second time around.

The film also focused on the source. As 99% of all plastic is from fossil fuels, the corporations behind plastics are the same who drill of oil and gas; Shell, Exxon and others. Due to some of their extraction plants being located in or close to residential areas, the impact on the health of local residents are almost inevitable.

Who is to blame?

I don’t know if it’s constructive to assign blame because they are both reliant on each other; these companies produce the products and we consume them. If one side changes, the other side will have no option but to change. This brings us to the introduction of the UK’s plastic bag charge. A 5 pence levy was introduced in October 2015 and on 31st March 2020, parliament released a report stating sales of carrier bags in major supermarkets have dropped 87%. Could this have happened without parliament introducing a levy? I don’t think so. As we all know, if there is going to be any kind of substantial change, it really needs to come from government. In April 2020, the Evening Standard reported the UK government decided to postpone the ban on single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers from April to October

A Defra spokesperson said:

Given the huge challenges posed to businesses by coronavirus, we have confirmed we will delay the introduction of our ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds until October 2020.

We remain absolutely committed to turning the tide on the widespread use of single-use plastics and the threat they pose to our natural environment. This ban is yet another measure to clamp down on unnecessary plastic so we can better protect our precious wildlife and leave our environment in a better state for future generations.

 Does it sound like there’s more to this?

Why are companies not made to deal with the problem?

One of the most frustrating things I keep asking myself is why aren’t companies like Procter and Gamble, Unilever and Nestle (the three companies singled out in the film) aren’t being forced to find a solution to this. Surely we need to stop waste from entering the system in the first place, I don’t think recycling is really the answer. The film talks from the point of view from United States but I’m interested in the point of view for the United Kingdom.

The decisions made locally have an impact globally.

How can we live plastic free?

This thought kept cropping up for me throughout this film; how can we live plastic free? Is it even possible? Without realising, we have become so used to plastic that we use it everyday. If you look around your home, I bet it wouldn’t take long before you find something that is made out of plastic, this is worse in bathrooms and kitchens.

Can the plastic container be repurposed?

Ways to ditch the plastic

In 2018, Prime minister at the time, Theresa May, pledged to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042. This was their commitment to the environment for the next 25 years.

First thing that comes to mind is why does it take 25 years? The plastic problem is happening now and a solution is needed now.

What are you doing to reduce your plastic? 

Want To Understand Climate Change? Watch these films

As someone who takes a keen interest on the effects of climate change and how global warming is effecting our lives, I try to watch anything I can to learn more about the subject and be better informed. Here are some films I enjoyed watching.

Cowspiracy : The Sustainability Secret

I will be honest, I didn’t actually read the synopsis for this, someone suggested I should watch it. Unlike other documentaries, it answers the questions it asks. I was aware of the impact agriculture is having on global warming but I didn’t realise how much and the amount of water that goes into producing a burger, it’s huge! Water is a limited resource! This really opened my eyes in terms of the price we pay to the environment from eating meat and shows the need for drastic change to our lifestyles.

A Plastic Ocean

I felt this documentary was very powerful, watching this I was absolutely shocked and saddened by the amount of plastic in our oceans and the effect it’s having on marine life. This documentary is beautifully made and makes you question your choices as a consumer; is it really worth it?

Our climate change problem

Climate Change – The Facts

This is narrated by Sir David Attenborough and for me, if Attenborough is talking, I will listen. Attenborough and the team looked at the science behind climate change. No politics, no NGOs, just science and it’s pretty grim. The last 20 hottest years have occurred in the last 22 years. The documentary interviews some of the world’s leading scientists to analyse the changing weather patterns. It gives us a stark warning of what is in store for us if we don’t make a change. If there is one documentary you should watch, it’s this one.

Before the Flood

Leonardo DiCaprio, as the narrator, uses his celebrity status by bringing attention to the plight of the planet due to climate change. He travels the world and looks at the effect of climate change first hand and how it’s changing societies forever and explores our dependence on fossil fuels. It’s a very well thought out documentary and he doesn’t pretend to have all the answers which is evident when he is talking to an environmentalist from India. I won’t say anymore, I don’t want to spoil it.

Films to help understand climate change better

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

I absolutely loved An Inconvenient Truth, it was probably one of the first documentaries I watched where I started to understand we have a serious problem and not many people were talking about it. This is the sequel for An Inconvenient Truth released 11 years later, it follows on from what happened in the last 11 years; the flooding of the World Trade Centre site, the changing weather patterns and how people are being affected.

The Story of Plastic

This film was aired on Earth Day 22nd April 2020. Watching this made me very say because it was a stark reminder of what we are doing to the planet and how a decision on one side of the planet can impact another side. This film not only focused on where plastic ends up; rivers, oceans, inside sea life, incinerators, it talks about the start of the plastic journey too and the health implications of residents local to these plants.

If you have watched any films and want to shout about them, please share!

Can Shopping Receipts Be Recycled

I recently came across an article published on Wired about the 11 billion receipts printed every year in the UK being an environmental nightmare. For someone who makes sure the recycling is separated, this caught my attention.

Whenever I make a purchase in a supermarket, I always request a receipt and I’m sure I’m not the only one. There are quite a few stores that ask whether you would like a receipt and even giving you the option of having your receipt emailed to you. These options make the consumer ask the question; do I really need a receipt?

Recycling to a better world

I’ve never had to refer back to receipt after I’ve checked to ensure my points have been added on and they end up all crumpled in the receipt graveyard that is my handbag. Every few months or so, I have a clear out. I scribble out the bank and loyalty card details and discard them in the recycling bin. Something else that didn’t go to landfill, little tick for me.

But it’s not a tick at all. Apparently, they can’t be recycled!

It turns out the vast majority of supermarket receipts and some small shops are printed on a special kind of paper called thermal paper, they are anything but environmentally friendly and the best place for them is landfill. Thermal paper, just like coffee cups, can’t be recycled because they contain more than one material.

These coffee cups can't be recycled

They’re coated in a substance which reacts with the printer head leaving our shopping list, card details, date, time etc on the paper. These substances are called BPA and BPS and after some research, they have been banned from other products such as toddler cups because they are dangerous when ingested in large amounts and can even be absorbed through the skin. Which begs the question, why are stores still using this paper?

With alternatives like having the receipt emailed to you is a great option but giving away your information, even if it’s an email address, can make us nervous because we have no idea if we’re going to get bombarded with junk email from the company or what they’ll do with our information. Having a receipt is protection for the consumer. If your purchase is faulty or damaged, there’s more chance of the store exchanging the item or refunding your money with a valid receipt. With no receipt, you’ll be lucky if you get store credit.

If the use of this paper for this purpose is to cease, the change will need to come from top. Once legislation is been passed, only then will this force processes and mindsets to change, until then it will keep happening.

This has really made me think how much I really need a receipt. In most places, you don’t get a choice as to whether you get a receipt or not but some businesses do give you the choice.

The question to ask yourself; do I really need that receipt?

The Story of Plastic

The Story of Plastic was aired in the UK on Earth Day 22nd April 2020. I found the film to be incredibly moving giving us the story of not just where plastic ends up but also where it begins.

Since the 1950s, plastic was seen as an incredible invention with multiple uses and since then it has weaved itself into every aspect of our lives. We are starting to discover the true cost of this material that never actually goes away.

We have been encouraged to separate our rubbish and ensure we recycle as much as we possibly can. As well as metals, glass and paper, we put our plastic in our recycling bins in good faith believing it is being taken away and something useful is made from it, after all, that’s what the word recycle means, doesn’t it? This film shows us what happens to our plastic once it has been collected from our bins.

The focus at the start of the plastic journey was a plastic processioning plant in Texas, USA, where toxic chemicals are released into the local water and air. Tiny plastic pellets end up into local rivers and will eventually be ingested by local marine life which will inevitably enter the food chain. The cancer rates and health issues in the local areas are shockingly high; child leukemia, infertility and respiratory issues.

What I found shocking was that a product sold in a European country displays that it is recyclable but the same product sold in an Asian country in sachets which cannot be recycled. Decisions made in these boardrooms are adding to the plastic problem faced in Asia and companies should be responsible for installing the necessary waste infrastructure.

What is plastic recycling?

The film shows plastic sorted from India and the Philippines discussing the issues faced when it comes to recycling. One point that struck me was that the whole recycling industry is only possible because there is poverty in the world, who else will do it? Most of the plastic from the West is shipped to Asian countries to deal with and it is hand sorted. Unlike other materials, there are around 80 different categories plastic falls into and therefore the sorting process is a time-consuming one.

When a plastic is sorted and can be ‘recycled’, it is washed, melted down and chopped into plastic pellets; the dirty water used to clean the plastic is dumped into a local waterway leading to pollution, the melting process emits harmful chemicals to the workers, who do not have any protective clothing. Incinerators come with their own set of problems too; skin rashes, increase in cancer rates and other health issues.

It turns out that plastic recycling is a myth.

Who does the buck stop with?

Fossil fuel companies have aired their concerns about the pollution caused by plastic but they seem to prefer shifting the blame onto consumers rather than admitting their products are ill-designed. The film shows that these companies aim their products towards the Asian market flooding them with single-use plastics forcing them to be reliant on these products while hiding behind the excuse of a rise in demand.

I would highly recommend everyone watching this film. The plastic issue is everyone’s problem, not just Asian countries (where the west are dumping their plastic).

If you’re interested in this eye-opening film, click below for the trailer

16 Easy Ways To Go Green

In the last year, I have actively changed my habits to go green but sometimes it’s not cheap. We can’t all afford solar panels on our homes or a brand-new electric car (or just a brand-new car for that matter) but there are things we can all do to take a step in the right direction.

One mistake I made was trying to do too many at once, it’s a case of training your mind to start thinking differently. Make two to three changes and then add to it. You will start noticing you have changed your old habits and the new ones are automatic.

Here are my tips to go green

Take your own bags to the shop

You can purchase little tote bags everywhere nowadays and they come in handy little pouches that fit in your pocket or bags. Some even have a clip that you can attach to the outside of your bag.

Change your light bulbs to LED

It’s well known that LED light bulbs used up to 80% less electricity than traditional bulb. Traditional bulbs need more electricity to function.

If you have a condenser dryer, use the water to water the plants

The water tank that collects the water can be used to water your plants rather than throwing it down the sink. Or even, if you have one, add it to your water butt.

Turn off the lights when you are not using them

There is no reason why you should have the lights on in a room you’re not using. It’s a waste of electricity.

Fix any dripping taps

Sometimes, it’s only a case of replacing a washer but the amount of water that is wasted due to a dripping tap is eye-watering. Water is not an infinite resource and shouldn’t be wasted. If you have a dripping tap, call a plumber.

Reuse your old mobile phone

We all have old mobile phones gathering dust in a draw somewhere. Why no utilise it? I downloaded an app so I could use my mobile phone as a CCTV camera. It now sits at the back of the house and alerts me when anyone comes near the back door.

Buy fruit and veg with no packaging and only what you need

A few months ago, this really got to me. I wanted to buy a lemon but the supermarket didn’t have any loose ones, they were only available in packs of four; I didn’t want four. So, I went to a local greengrocer and bought a lemon. The pack of four lemons were sold in that plastic netting that can’t be recycled. No thanks! I wrote a blog about eating seasonal food.

easy ways to go green and towards greener living

Stop Junk mail

What do you do with junk mail? I have a quick flick through and put it into the recycling. What an absolute waste. The easiest way is to create your own sign saying ‘no junk mail’ on your door.

Energy efficient appliances

Appliances are now tested and improved to ensure their efficiency. There are many appliances that now come with a rating of A+, A++ or A+++ tells us that the products has a lower energy consumption.

Clean the back of your fridge

I didn’t know this until very recently. All fridges gather dust at back but how often do you clean the dust? Probably once? Never? The dust makes the fridge work harder which uses more energy. Dust every so often to keep your fridge working efficiently.

Check your tyre pressure regularly

If your tyre pressure is too high or too low, it makes the car work harder to compensate, which uses more fuel.

Print on both sides of the paper

If you have to print something, and it’s not confidential. Keep the paper to one side and if you need to print something else, use the other side. I do this all the time and had saved me quite a bit of money on paper.

Go Green, Go paperless

Do you really need a printed copy of your bank statement? You will probably look at it once, file it then you will eventually shred it. Bank/credit card/ energy statements are all kept online. If you don’t want to keep logging onto your bank to view them, you can download them to your computer or even save them to a cloud storage. Ask yourself, do you really need a printed copy?

Insulate your loft

A lot of heat is lost through the roof due to poor insulation. If this isn’t resolved, you are more likely to increase the thermostat to keep warm. You are best to get a professional in to sort this out for you.

Buy second hand where you can

This is one that I’ve embraced a lot recently. When something is no longer needed but still useful, it can be ditched at the tip, which is a complete waste. I needed a new set of chest of drawers and instead of buying a brand new one for £55, I found a second-hand one on Facebook Marketplace for £8. It was in very good condition apart from a little dent at the back that no one will see. You can also save a lot of money by doing this.

Make do and mend

My favourite go green tip! In my grandmother’s time, she would always say ‘make do and mend’ and I feel that this has been lost through the generations. How many times have you thrown a sock away because it has a whole in them? It won’t take long to sew them up and keep wearing them. You don’t need a sewing machine; a small sewing kit will suffice.

These are my easy tips, of course, this is a subject that I can do on and on about. I will look at writing another blog with further tips.

In the meantime, why do you share your tips on how to go green!

If you’re interested in reading about what I’m doing to be greener, check out my blog and if you’re interested in signing up to my newsletter, click here, I promise not to spam you.

Will The Coronavirus Make Us Think Differently About Our Food?

The coronavirus or COVID-19 has gripped the world changing all aspects of society; school, work, visiting friends and family, and even just going out for a walk.

When we started learning about the effect this pandemic was having on the citizens of China, there was fear that this virus may spread. Why wouldn’t it? We are a global society. We are always on the go, whether it’s commuting to work, travelling for business or going on holiday, we don’t stay in one place so something like spreading a virus is always a strong possibility. Each country has been handling the crisis in the best way they know how, although, this has differed between countries.

If a county you rely on for exports are having a problem and affects the supply chain, especially in terms of food, this can be disastrous. Not just for economies but for people too. People start to panic.

As well as many other countries, people in the UK started panic buying. Before we knew it, you had more chance of seeing a Unicorn than a pack of toilet roll and shortly after that other products were proving difficult to come by; flour, eggs, bread and pasta. Supermarkets just couldn’t cope with the demand.

Since supermarkets finally limited the number of each item per customer was allowed to purchase, the shelves seem to be stocked although some products are still hard to come by.

A local service I signed up to in January was for milk delivery from a local dairy. I had always thought about having my milk delivered, purely as a way to reduce my plastic and someone knocked on my door offering this service. Having milk delivered twice a week is a real benefit to us (they’re in glass bottles too, no plastic!) and as they are a local business, the service has been unaffected. If anything, I think they’ve become busier since the coronavirus outbreak as they offer fruit, vegetables and bread. Demand for services like this has skyrocketed.

Fifty or so years ago, towns and cities had a local food supply infrastructure; butchers, family dairies, greengrocers but in that time majority of these services have disappeared as products offered by these businesses can be found conveniently (and cheaper) at supermarkets resulting in small family run businesses shutting down.

It's time to support local businesses

When normal services resume, and they will resume, I really hope this will encourage consumers to change their buying habits as well as their mindsets and purchase food from local businesses. I hope #SupportLocal takes on a whole new level and consumers will do this automatically.

Will this encourage us to look at maybe growing our own vegetables in our back gardens, will the waiting list for allotments become longer? Will we start eating food that is in season in the UK rather than shipping in strawberries from Spain all year round?

I hope this will make us look at our food and allow us to do things differently.

Have we forgotten the fight against single-use plastics due to the coronavirus?

A plastics problem – since the outbreak of this pandemic, there have been some environmental benefits. I read an article on the BBC website about the canals in Venice starting to clear and fish are visible for the first time in years thanks to the massive drop in water traffic, the drop in air travel and the only people using their cars are essential workers so the traffic will be significantly reduced which means pollution has been reduced too. NASA reported that airborne nitrogen dioxide had sharply declined over China and this was partly due to the slowdown of the economy.

Shopping habits have drastically changed recently and we may have to buy a product because that’s the only one available on the shelves, not really taking into account the extra packaging this products comes in. We need food, we need produce, we will buy what we can get. Households have been encouraged to wash their hands frequently, leading to millions of extra hand wash containers headed for recycling or landfill.

PPE Plastics problem

People have started wearing face masks and rubber gloves when they are out in public, we are all taking precautions to ensure we do whatever we can not to catch this virus and not pass it on to someone else. However, I noticed the other day at the supermarket someone had left a discarded purple latex glove in the trolley. Over the last few days, I’ve noticed discarded gloves by drains, stuck in a bush or left on the pavement.

single use plastics latex gloves

I appreciate people feel the need to use this protective equipment but there are some people who are taking no care in disposing them properly. These will all end up on landfill, I can’t see where else they will end up but it heartbreaking to see that someone would wear this to protect themselves but just don’t care about how they dispose of them.

Yes, we are in the grips of a pandemic and thousands of people are dying worldwide daily but we need to think about what we are still doing to our planet and how single-use plastics have an impact on our society and the planet.

single use plastics bottles

The single-use plastic problem hasn’t gone away, we still need to fight that fight.

If you’re interested in reading about what I’m doing to be greener, check out my blog and if you’re interested in signing up to my newsletter, click here, I promise not to spam you.

How to be eco-friendly during a lockdown

This coronavirus pandemic has resulted in people ditching the cars they used for the commute and school run. This has led to empty roads and less air pollution.

We are all isolating at home and using this time could really benefit the environment allowing you to make eco-friendly choices during this lockdown.

Grow your own vegetables

If you have an outside space, growing your own veg isn’t as difficult as you think. There is a wealth of information about how to grow veg; potatoes, carrots, spring onions, lettuce can all be grown in the UK. This is also a good way to support your local garden centre as some of them are still doing deliveries. There’s nothing more satisfying than eating something you’ve grown yourself. If you don’t have a garden, the kitchen windowsill also works well.

Explore your cupboards

This is a great time to see what you have in the back of your cupboards, what’s the point in buying lots of new products when you’ve got food already at home and also means you don’t have to queue for the supermarket. If you found something you don’t particularly like (and it’s in date) donate it to a food bank so someone else can use it.

Zero waste Shops

These shops are popping up all over the place and you are able to buy food without the packaging. The food is usually stored in large jars and you only pay for what you need, kind of like the old fashioned sweet shops (showing my age, aren’t I?) and you may find a lot of these shops are better stocked than supermarkets so why not take some empty clean Tupperware boxes with you and see what they’ve got. Most of these shops are independent businesses so you’ll be supporting a local business too. Win win!

Cooking

This is a great time to start cooking again. Dust off those cookbooks and give a new recipe a whirl. If you’re anything like me and are rubbish at cooking, you could try an app called Supercook where you add in the ingredients you have and it comes up with a recipe for you. Why not try something new for dinner? Cooking also reduces waste because you’re not throwing away packaging you would get from a microwave meal. Anything you don’t eat, you could put in the fridge and eat the next day.

Ditch the car for a bit

As the only reasons we would use our car is to commute (for key workers) and shopping, if the supermarket is within walking distance, why not try walking to the shop instead of taking the car? This will contribute to your daily exercise too. A bit of fresh air, exercise, pop in your headphones and catch up on The Archers, what’s not to love? Also, if you filled up the car before the lock down, imagine how long it will be until you need to fill up again! You’re saving money too.

Make do and mend

I have to say, I do love this one. Do you have a top or shirt that has lost its button an you never got the chance to repair it, now’s your chance. If you don’t have a sewing machine, get your needle and thread out and make repairs to clothes that are sitting in your wardrobe you can’t wear because a button is missing or a part of a hem has come undone. Have you been meaning to finally put the new kitchen cabinets on or do the weeding in the garden or change one of the spotlights in the kitchen that stopped working a year ago. Have a wander around your home and look at what needs fixing and try to fix it.

The Paddling Pool Water Problem

It’s Easter Weekend and the weather is glorious. The only problem we have is that the corona virus pandemic is stopping us from going about our normal lives. We are on lock down and we must stay indoors. Of course, when the weather is as lovely has it has been today and yesterday, staying indoors is a shame but we are in exceptional circumstances and must collectively do what we all can to ensure this virus doesn’t spread any further.

For those who have gardens, this is the next best thing. Having an outside space is a wonderful thing to have. And if you do have one, this is your chance to make the most of it and do something different with the people who live in your household. Enter…the paddling pool.

I’ve never had a paddling pool before as wasting the water was always an issue for me. However, it’s quite a challenge trying to explain that to a 4-year-old. She just wants to have fun, especially as her school has been shut for 3 weeks now and you can’t deny that a paddling pool is an amazing source of fun.

I knew the weather was going to be nice for two days so we set it up on Friday, covering it Friday night to enjoy it on Saturday as well. I have to say, it was a great success. My little one absolutely loved playing the water and I have to admit, I enjoyed it too. Hopefully all the excitement tires her out for bedtime tonight!

Now the question, what do we do with the water?

I decided to save as much water as I could find containers for and use the water to water the plants over the next few days/fortnight. I would’ve used the water directly from the tap to water my plants anyway, why not try to save what I could from the pool? The water has just taken a slightly little detour.

So, I tried to find as many buckets and tubs from the shed filling them with water until I ran out and had to let the rest of the water go to waste. I can only imagine what the neighbours thought I was doing but I didn’t care. I managed to find enough containers for half of the water from the pool. Maybe I should invest in a water butt?

This lot will keep me going for a bit.

This is a good opportunity to update on my potatoes and strawberry plants. I was a little concerned about the strawberries a few weeks ago as we had some frost but I got a fleece blanket and ‘put them to bed’. I never thought I would be doing that for strawberries but there you go. There’s a flower on a strawberry plant so I’m guessing that’s a good thing. Also the potatoes have just started to sprout. I’m making a extra effort in watering them a lot more than I did last year.

Busy in the garden

As the weather is starting to change, this is the perfect opportunity to start planting in the garden.

I planted potatoes last year and they went okay. A mistake I made was that I didn’t water them enough and it was very hot last summer.

This year, I decided to get my daughter involved and although I don’t have a particularly big garden, we can still grow things so that’s what we’re doing. I remember when my ex-husband’s nephew was about five or so, he was asked where eggs came from and his reply was ‘Tesco’. The rest of the family thought this was hilarious and never bothered to correct him, he genuinely thought eggs came from Tesco. My daughter is five and I want her to know where our food really comes from. Also with the current Corona virus crisis, it’s something to do in the garden rather than being stuck indoors all day. Luckily, I had already bought supplies before the lock down so we were all set.

We started with the Strawberries and I have to be honest, I didn’t realise there were so many different varieties of Strawberry! Who knew! I stood there trying to figure out what I should be buying so I decided to buy three different varieties.

Planting them was pretty straightforward to do, especially for someone who isn’t particularly green fingered. And volia! We have planted strawberries.

Although, the tags state they can be planted in March, we’ve had a few nights of frost so I bought a fleece and covered the strawberries on the nights that were particularly cold. I felt as if I were tucking the plants to bed that night. LOL

My next project was to plant the potatoes. But I was doing it a bit differently to last year.

I had a plastic storage container where the lid was broken and wasn’t suitable for stacking but instead of taking it to the tip, I decided that I could use it for my potatoes!

Strawberry plants - busy in the garden

Of course drainage is needed so I got my drill out and drilled some holes at the bottom. I collected the leftover plastic bits from the drilling and put them in a little pot which will be deposited in my ecobrick, don’t want that getting into nooks and crannies out in the open. Wildlife may think it’s food!

Then I set about filling the tub. I’m really glad that rather than sending something to landfill, I was able to utilise it in a different way. It may be not be how the professionals do it and my neighbours probably think it’s a little odd too but I don’t care. I like it.

Strawberry plants - busy in the garden

I remember from last year how satisfying it was to be able to go into the garden whenever I needed potatoes and hope it’s better this year than last year.

The mistake I won’t make this time is to neglect watering these. I will check them everyday and report back.

If you’re interested in reading about what I’m doing to be greener, check out my blog and if you’re interested in signing up to my newsletter, click here, I promise not to spam you.