All posts by Raakhee Stratton

Decluttering my clothes

I have too many clothes! There, I said it! Not something a female would admit to, but there it is. It’s a fact.

I can easily declutter anything else around my home but I seem to be unable to part with my clothes. For most of my adult life until I had a child, I was size 12. Once I had my daughter, I’ve become a size 14. Being a bigger size has never bothered me, I’m happy with my figure and don’t see the point in stressing out about it. I don’t bother dieting so there isn’t a likelihood that I will one day magically fit into my size 12 clothes. But, I still can’t bear to part from them, whether they fit me or not.

Even clothes that still fit me, I probably haven’t worn for a year or two. I’ve got a few size 14 evening dresses in my wardrobe but I don’t go anywhere to wear them; what’s the point in keeping them. The whole ‘I may wear it one day’ reason is getting old.

I recently read about the environmental impact ‘fast fashion’ is having on the planet. Brand new clothes can be bought so cheaply, in most cases, the quality is incredibly low and is discarded after a few months. Some materials used to make clothes don’t degrade and will sit in landfill, possibly for centuries.

I’m self-employed and work from home so I don’t have to worry about dressing for the office; I practically live in jeans. A while ago, someone conducted an experiment where all the denim was removed from a pair or stretch jeans and what do you think was left? Plastic! It looked like a plastic skeleton shaped in a pair of jeans. To say I was horrified was an understatement. I didn’t realise how much plastic was in a pair of jeans. Since then, I repair my jeans.

So this is year, I’m going to do something about decluttering my wardrobe.

On 1st January, I have turned all hangers around and throughout the year, I will pick my clothes, as usual. By the end of the year, any hangers still facing the other way will be donated to a charity shop. If I have no use for it, someone else will.

Decluttering my clothes

Recently, I’ve started buying clothes from a charity shop and I’m a big fan of ‘make do and mend’ (I’m not great with a sewing machine but it’s all practice).

For years the last 20 years, I randomly bought clothes not realising the environmental impact of my choices.

We all need to do better.

I will do a blog next year to see how I got on.

My blog has been listed Top 15 UK Sustainable Living Blogs And Websites To Follow in 2021

Environmental Awareness Days 2021

Everyday there seemed to be an ‘International day of xxx’ or ‘National day of xxx’ and in 2020 there were quite a few that I had missed. So I thought I would do a calendar for 2021.

Although, this isn’t a complete list, I’ve tried my best to include awareness dates for when they would be usually be held but with coronavirus, these could be delayed or even cancelled until next year.

January

  • Veganuary 1st January to 31st January – This has been going for a few years now and the idea is to only eat vegan food throughout the month of January. This is a good opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint, see how you get on being a vegan for a month and to try different foods.
  • Big Garden Birdwatch – 29th January to 31st January – Organised by the RSPB, you can spend an hour in the park or garden, making a note of the birds and how many you see. By submitting this information to the RSPB, it allows them to monitor the challenges faced by wildlife and whether the population of a particular breed is growing or in decline. Click on the link and you can sign up.
  • Houseplant Week UK – 11th January to 17th January – Houseplants are brilliant at purifying the air, this week is a perfect opportunity to find out which houseplant to buy. A good place to start is a blog I wrote last year about houseplants.
  • Big Energy Saving Week – 18th January – 24th January -This week is dedicated to cutting your energy use and how to save money lead by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in partnership with the Energy Saving Trust and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. The website is full of tips and ideas.

March

  • Compost Week – 15th March to 21st March – As the name suggests, this week is dedicated to composting and its benefits. Composting is becoming quite popular and it’s really healthy for your garden.
  • The Great British Spring Clean – Usually around 22nd March to 23rd April – Encouraging you to pledge whatever time you have, even if its an hour, and use that time to go litter picking or join a litter picking group. Keep an eye on their website for 2021 dates, it’s usually held in March/April but in 2020 it was held in September.

April

  • Discover National Parks Fortnight – Around 4th April – 19th April – There are secret coves and ancient forest to explore all around the UK. This is a brilliant opportunity to discover a new place and get some fresh air into your lungs.
  • Community Garden Week – 5th April to 11th April – This week takes the opportunity to celebrate school and community gardens up and down the country. Working together and inspiring each other, what’s not to love?
  • Earth Day – 22nd April – The Earth Day network is a global effort to work together and their mission to ‘To build the world’s largest environmental movement to drive transformative change for people and planet‘ (https://www.earthday.org/about-us/). This movement has been going since 1970. You can sign up to their newsletter and keep up to date with their progress and campaigns.

May

  • No Mow May – 1st May to 31st May – I found out about this campaign last year and it’s a fabulous idea. The idea is that you don’t mow your lawn for a whole month, allowing flowers to bloom which is vital source of nectar for bees and other insects. You can even construct a ‘scaremow’ – click on the link to the National Trust Website to find out more.
  • National Children’s Gardening Week – 29th May to 6th June – What better way to get your children interested in gardening. It’s fun for all the family and gets you out into the fresh air, what’s not to love?
  • Bike Week – 30th May to 5th June – In partnership with Cycle UK, this is a campaign to celebrate cycling and the benefits. Also, a fabulous way to reduce your carbon footprint!

June

  • World Environment Day – 5th June – ‘The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature.’ (https://www.un.org/en/observances/environment-day). This year’s theme is biodiversity and with everything that is going on with the planet, it’s very appropriate.
  • World Oceans Day – 8th June – Raising awareness of the vital importance our oceans play and how it helps to sustain a healthy planet. There is much in the media about plastic in the ocean and the effects our choices have on the oceans. Sign up to get involved.
  • National Refill Day – 19th June – I remember this from 2020. In an effort to prevent plastic pollution, this campaign encourages us to make the switch from single-use plastic bottles to reusable ones. I, for one, am already on board and have quite a few reusable bottles already!

July

  • Plastic Free July – 1st July to 31st July – I love this global campaign which encourages us to make changes to reduce our plastic use. I even wrote a blog about what I did for 2020. Small changes make a massive difference and I would encourage everyone to make a change. Their website is full of ideas.
  • Plastic Bag Free Day – 3rd July – This is a global campaign to eliminate the use of single-use plastics which is part of the Break Free From Plastic movement. I honestly can’t remember the last time I bought a plastic bag! Their website also has some interesting facts about the different types of plastic used in bags.
  • Don’t Step on a Bee Day – 10th July – Bees are so crucial to the ecosystem that I’m in the process of writing a blog about why they are important and what they do. Bees are precious and need protecting.

August

  • National Allotments Week – 9th August to 15th August – This week is to celebrate the importance of allotments and their benefits; growing and cooking your own food should be a life skill. The theme for 2021 is ‘plotting for the future’ highlighting how allotments contribute to a sustainable future.

September

  • Organic September – 1st September to 30th September – This campaign aims to bring awareness by trying organic food and to educate people about farming practices in growing organic food.
  • Recycle Week – 20th September to 26th September – As the name suggests, it’s a week to promote and encourage recycling. Full details are yet to be released for 2021 so the dates could change, last year’s theme was ‘Recycling. It’s in our hands’.

October

  • Unblocktober – 1st October to 31st October – This was one I had never heard of before. This campaign promotes awareness for our drains, sewers and waterways by changing your habits at home. The amount of things people put down their drains that can cause blockages is alarming. I remember watching a programme last year about the damage baby wipes can do to drains. Their website has some brilliant ways to make these changes.
  • No Disposable Cup day – 4th October – as the name suggests, it asks everyone not to take a disposable cup for that day. Personally, I think everyday should be disposable cup day!
  • National Clean Air Day – 8th October – Their website states 36,000 a year in the UK die from air pollution, that’s shocking! As well as stats, their website provides information on how you can get involved.

December

If there are any other events that you feel should be mentioned, please do let me know 💚

How I became greener in 2020

I started writing this blog at the beginning of 2020 and as well as writing about my opinions on green issues, I’ve blogged about what I’ve been doing adopt a greener living lifestyle.

As this crazy year draws to a close, I thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on the changes I made throughout the year.

I found that if you change many things in one go, it becomes overwhelming so the best thing to do is to start a bit at a time and when they become automatic, pick something else. This has definitely worked for me.

Before I start, I think we can all agree that 2020 was a different year to any other. Yes, I am referring to COVID-19. This virus turned the whole world upside down so maybe not the best year to start this but changes still matter, even if they are small ones.

The garden

First thing I did was look at growing some food. I don’t have much of an outside space so it’s not like I could grow many different vegetables but I did successfully grow potatoes and strawberries. Also, I had a broken storage container which I repurposed to grow my potatoes in, really happy with that decision. And the strawberries were a hit too. I’ve been reliably informed there’s a chance I won’t ever have to buy strawberries again, that’s fine with me as I only eat it in the summer.

Zero Waste Shops

I bought more from the local zero waste shop. I absolutely detest throwing away empty plastic containers knowing they won’t be recycled into anything as useful as they previously were so I try, where I can, to buy plastic free. I rock up at the zero-waste shop with my containers and ask for them to be refilled, what could be easier than that?

Fountain pen

I’ve also ditched disposable pens and opted for a fountain pen. Now, I know what you’re thinking – the ink cartridges come in disposable plastic – I have a solution. I bought a bottle of ink, which comes in a glass bottle, and a syringe. Once the ink in the cartridge has run out, I simply refill it. And the result, no plastic to landfill. It helps that I’ve always had a love for fountain pens.

Loose Tea

I love my tea and it’s something I will never give up. When I discovered some teabags are made of plastic and some contained bits of plastic in the glue, I felt a little disgusted. Also, I don’t understand why teabags need to be bleached but that’s a whole different story. Upon doing some research, there are some brands that do not use any plastic in their teabags. I could have just switched to other plastic free bags. But I didn’t. Why? Because in the past, some brands (in general, not tea) quietly change their products and, in truth, I didn’t trust the brands to stick to their words. I know, not very trusting, am I? So, I buy loose tea and I use a tea infuser. As someone who has always made tea with bags, it took a bit of getting used to but now, I don’t notice it.

Print on both sides of the paper

Over the last year or so, I have thought about whether I really need to print something. I’ve moved my business accounts to online and seldom use the printer. When I do have to print something, I automatically put the sheet of paper back in the printer the other side (once I no longer need the printout) so it’s ready to print on the other side as long as it’s not sensitive.

Supermarket receipts

Earlier this year, I found out that supermarket receipts can’t be recycled as they are made from thermal paper. To say I was horrified was an understatement and I even wrote a blog about it. There are some supermarkets that don’t offer you the option to have a receipt but where I am given an option, I don’t request a receipt.

Sugar waxing

I’ve been waxing since my teens and have always used traditional wax strips available in shops. So, when I heard about DIY sugar waxing, I was intrigued. After checking out video upon video on YouTube, I don’t think I use sugar wax how it was intended. From what I can ascertain, you roll up a ball, smooth it on your skin and pull it off quickly, I found that hurt WAY TOO MUCH and was messy. I quickly realised that I needed strips, so I cut up a cotton shirt my partner no longer needed into strips and used them to help me instead. I’m not going to lie, it does still hurts but I don’t feel like my skin is being ripped off, a feeling I have been familiar with from using shop bought wax strips and, what’s better, 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!

Second-hand September

I took part in Second-hand September and I really enjoyed it. I needed a new pair of jeans which I bought for £3 at a charity shop. That’s not all, I also bought a pack of unused bamboo toothbrushes – £1.99, books for my little one – £6, photo frames £2, Skirt (with the tag still on) – £2 and so much more. I’ve even introduced my Mum to charity shop. She’s in her sixties and had never been in a charity shop. She now loves it and sees that not everything needs to be brand new.

Toothbrushes

I found a pack of four unused bamboo toothbrushes in my local charity shop for £1.99. Once I have done with it, I can continue using them to clean around taps etc or I will pull the bristles out and put them in my eco brick and dispose of the bamboo in the compost.

I am so happy with the changes I have made in 2020 and have managed to encourage my family to join me. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2021 brings and the further changes I can make.

This proves anyone can make a change; you just need to start somewhere.

Air Purifying House Plants

Let’s talk about house plants. I don’t have a great track record with plants but I do have two plants and they’re called Peace Lily.

I remember growing up, we always had a house plant in the living room. If I remember rightly, it was called a Sweetheart plant. I always remembered the name because the leaves were heart-shaped. Even now, when I go to visit my Mum, her living room is littered with houseplants, and they’re lovely.

I’ve never been good at looking after plants. I remember having a cactus about ten years ago and I think I watered it too much; it started losing its spikes on one side and started going bald! Needless to say, it didn’t last long!

I never thought about how plants contribute to purifying the air until I came across an article about two years ago. So I thought I would have a go at looking after a plant again and settled on Peace Lily, it’s been almost two years and they’re still alive!

I’m sure there are people out there who would like to buy a low maintenance house plant so I’ve put together a little list together.

Peace Lily

Of course, I will start with this one because I have two and, as someone who has managed to kill a cactus before, they really are low maintenance. They don’t like over watering, check the soil and if it’s dry, that’s a good time to water.

Spider Plant

This is one I have seen in many houses and I remember seeing them in classrooms growing up. I’ve been reliably informed this is one of the easiest houseplants to grow. They do well in indirect light so there are many options of where you can place them around the house

Areca palms

I’ve seen this one in many houses, mainly in the conservatory. They’re great at purifying the air and I believe they aren’t toxic to cats and dogs. They need quite a bit of water during the summer and not as much during the winter

Snake Plant

Also known as ‘Mother-in-law’s Tongue’. They’re really low maintenance and can grow up to two metres tall. They do well in dry conditions so a word of warning – don’t over water them.

Aloe Vera 

You may have heard of Aloe Vera for relieving sunburn and healing wounds, but they go beyond medicinal purposes, they even purifies the air. They love bright and sunny places and are really low maintenance.

If you are planning to buy a houseplant, please ensure you do your research, especially if you have pets.

Ditching tea bags

Following a program that aired on the BBC and the discovery how much plastic there are in tea bags, I am so glad I’ve made the change to loose tea.

Firstly, I would like to state that I’m a tea-loving brit. I work from home and probably have about six cups of tea a day so there was no way I was giving up tea forever, I needed a solution.

My partner works for a food distribution company who supply restaurants, pubs and cafes food and beverages. Luckily for me, he is able to purchase these items too and asked him to source loose tea (sometimes at large discounts).

The only issue I have from ordering from my partner’s workplace is that it comes in a plastic bag that can’t be recycled, not really helpful! Once I’ve finished the bag I’ve got, I will be trying out different companies in the UK to find the one I like.

For someone who has always used tea bags the transition to loose tea wasn’t as smooth as I thought it would be. Making tea from loose tea leaves…how hard could that be?

Firstly, I bought a pack of three tea infuser strainers from Amazon. They seemed to be perfect; scoop up tea leaves, leave them to hot water and remove…until they broke, that didn’t last long!

I refused to give up so I looked for a teapot infuser. I found in Sainsbury’s and I was very happy with the results. I’d forgotten that there could be some leaves at the bottom of the mug but that is expected from loose tea anyway. Word of warning; don’t drink every last drop from your mug unless you want a mouthful of tea leaves!

It took a while to figure out how many spoonfuls of tea I would need to make a round for guests but as I post this, we are in a pandemic and haven’t had many, if any, visitors. I will worry about that later. I’ve figured out how to make a cuppa for myself and have it down to a fine art.

Also, the bonus is that I know there is no plastic in this and can confidently put this in my compost bin.

There are so many places in the UK that sell loose tea leaves and some offer 10% off your first order. I’m also on the lookout for companies so if you have a recommendation, please let us know.

The change from tea bags to loose tea may be little but it still makes a difference to the environment.

Plastic Recycling Symbols

Have you ever looked at a plastic bottle and seen a triangle with number? Ever wondered what they mean?

Although, it would be better to try to avoid using plastic altogether, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a little guide to help.

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). What is it used for? – Soft drinks bottles, food packaging. This plastic is easy to recycle

High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). What is it used for? – Milk cartons, cleaning products, yoghurt pots. This plastic is easy to recycle

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). What is it used for? Pipes, Electrical cables, insulation. This plastic is difficult to recycle.

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE). What is it used for? Shopping bags, wraps for magazines. It can be recycled…just about.

Polyethylene (PP). What is it used for? Butter and margarine tubs, food trays, carpet fibres. Easy to recycle.

Polystyrene (PS). What is it used for? Plastic cutlery, takeaway packaging, insulation. Difficult to recycle.

This is the ‘other’ category. This will include the other packaging that is incredibly difficult to recycle; crisp packets, salad bags

You may have noticed that the text for each of these are separated into three colours; Green, Orange and Red, this determines the ease or recycling that plastic.

Green – Recyclable

Orange – Recycled at specialist points

Red – Not easy to recycle and will most probably end up in landfill

One important aspect to bear in mind that if something is easy to recycle, this is more likely if it isn’t attached to a layer of another type of plastic. Mixing plastics comes with a new set of problems.

The best thing to do is to reduce the amount plastic you buy, where you can.

Reusing Water

During the summer, I hang my washing outside. There’s something really rewarding about being able to dry your clothes outside; they smell fresh and it’s free!

However, during the autumn and winter months, it’s a different story. I use my dryer. I’ve looked at other ways to dry clothes but it just didn’t work.

I hung the clothes on the radiator; however, this wouldn’t heat up the room as well as when the radiators were clear of clothing. I bought a load of radiator airers but I found I ran out of radiators to hang all the clothes. This ended up with a continuous cycle of washing and clothes dotted around the house on radiator airers. Not pleasant when you have company.

In order to get all my washing done in a day, I have resorted to using the dryer, however, I have a condenser dryer. For those who aren’t aware, in condenser dryers, any water from the drying clothes is collected in the tank at the bottom. The advantage of having a condenser dryer means it isn’t necessary for a builder to knock a circular a hole in your kitchen wall to create an outlet for the moisture.

Once I hear the beeping from the dryer notifying me that the tank is full and needs emptying, I would remove the tank and empty the water contents down the sink. For some reason I did this automatically and didn’t notice the writing on the tank.

I can’t believe I never noticed this before.

I only use filtered water in the iron so I wouldn’t consider using the water from my condenser dryer but I do have plants. After a washload, I empty the tank into a massive jug I have and leave it next to the sink. I fill up a plastic bottle I have purely for watering the plants and walk around the house doing just that.

I also have a dishwasher and I tend to use tap water to rinse off any remains but I now use my condenser dryer water to rinse the cutlery (if they need it) before I put them in the dishwasher.

I can’t be the only person with a condenser dryer and I wondered what else I could use this water for?

Ways to reuse water

If I had a water butt I could top up the water, that would really come in handy during the spring and summer for watering the plants or even washing the car.

I can’t see any reason why this water can’t be used in the toilet to fill up the cistern tank, I wonder anyone actually does this?

Plastic in tea bags

Us Brits are tea-lovers. We love our tea; we have it with cakes, biscuits, toast and we can even go to expensive shops to have luxury ‘afternoon tea experience’. When we’re sad we have a cuppa, when we are happy we have a cuppa, when we go to a friend’s house, guess what…we have a cuppa.

But, do you think about the tea bag?

When you discard your teabag, where you do put it? Bin? Compost heap? Food waste? Nope, the only place is landfill because some brands use plastic to make their tea bags and some could be leeching micro plastics.

Just what you want, you’re enjoying a nice cup of tea and, unknowingly, your cuppa has millions of micro plastics swimming around in there. Yuck!

About three months ago, I found out about plastic in tea bags and I was mortified. I had put my tea bags in the compost and they don’t actually belong there. Of course, all brands are different so it’s worth checking the label but, in my experience, if a company is doing something they shouldn’t be doing, they won’t be very vocal about it. So, I changed to tea leaves. It took a while to get used to but I can’t ever imagine going back to tea bags.

My decision to move to loose tea leaves was further reaffirmed by a recent BBC programme called War on Plastic presented by Anita Rani and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Anita investigated the claim of plastic in tea bags this with the help of the team at University of East Anglia (UEA). The team of scientists aimed to dissolve six of the UK’s biggest tea bag brands to see what was left. Some dissolved completely and some tea bags left, what looked like, a plastic skeleton.

There are even some tea bags that aren’t made of paper at all – they’re entirely plastic! A team in Canada conducted a study on these tea bags where billions of micro plastics and nano plastics were found in the cup of tea. How gross!

The thought of these floating around my cuppa makes me feel sick and with all the plastics found in the oceans, I wouldn’t be surprised if micro plastics have already entered our food chain. Who knows what damage these will all do to our fragile bodies.

I think I will stick to my loose tea leaves.

Extinction: The Facts – review

This David Attenborough documentary aired on the BBC called Extinction: The Facts which explains the truth about the dying biodiversity.

This documentary really didn’t hold back, it showed the upsetting havoc and effects humans have wreaked on the natural world. Unlike breathtaking images from his previous documentaries like The Blue Planet or Planet Earth, the images we instead saw were of animals escaping fires, scorched landscapes, dead killer whales and piles of Pangolin scales. It wasn’t easy viewing nor should it be.

I’ve watched other documentaries about what we are doing to life on this planet and the destruction we have caused to the only home we have, but this time, the stark urgency was impossible to ignore.

In 2019, the UN asked a team of 500 scientists to investigate the state of the natural world. It found that all groups of species are in decline and estimate 1 million species out of 8 million are at risk of extinction. I know extinction is a natural process but the difference here is that humans are accelerating the process. When scientists look at fossil records, extinctions are shown to occur over millions of years, this is now occurring over tens of years with no evidence of slowing down.

Viewers got the opportunity to meet the last two Northern White Rhinos left on the planet and learned about the Pangolins being killed for the supposed medicinal purposes of their scales; which are made of Keratin, the same keratin found in fingernails. Of course, there is no evidence these scales have any medicinal purposes.

I was interested to see the documentary made a link between the loss of biodiversity and Covid-19. The more humans encroach into our natural world, the more chance of exposing ourselves to viruses opening us up for the risk of having to deal with a new pandemic more frequently. For those who only understand money; this is something our economies won’t be able to cope with.

Although, this documentary is grim viewing, it also provided us with hope. Rwanda has had a fantastic success story by increasing their gorilla population.

Throughout this documentary, all I kept thinking was that nature can survive without humans but humans cannot survive without nature. We are such an arrogant species and think we are indestructible. We are not, we are more vulnerable than we want to admit.

Nature can survive without humans but humans cannot survive without nature ExtinctionTheFacts #ClimateChange #Attenborough

This documentary must be watched by all and used as an educational resource. Especially to governments and decision makers. Everyday thousands of babies are born into a world where humans are killing life on this planet; killing their future. Seriously, what are we doing?

The time for talking is over, it’s time to ACT!

The time for talking is over, it’s time to ACT! ExtinctionTheFacts #ClimateChange #Attenborough

My Local Zero Waste Shop

Last year, I found out there was a local zero waste shop in my town called Bare Bazaar and I was really excited about it.

Since then, I had purchased some bits like a safety razor from them, ditching my plastic razor forever and made enquiries about refilling hand wash containers, hair shampoo and packaging free soap.

I wanted to wait until I had finished what I had so could take my empty containers for a refill. But I wasn’t able to so as we were in the grips of a pandemic with many businesses forced to close their doors. I had no option but to buy what I needed from the local supermarket. During the pandemic, I noticed many shops heavily increased their plastic use by wrapping certain items individually in plastic wrap, I was eager for shops like Bare Bazaar to get the green light to open.

Fast-forward to now and I’m happy to say, Bare Bazaar are open again. Hooray! They had moved locations from the last time I visited and needed a few bits so I went along to their new home.

Below is a picture of what I got. I kept hold of the empty herb jars so I handed them over and asked them to be half-filled. In the green container was handwash – which is Lime and Aloe Vera and smells amazing – I transferred that into my empty Carex pump container, a bar of shampoo and safety razors. I never tried shampoo bars so I wanted to give that a go.

Kati allowed me to take some pictures as I was eager to write a blog about it.

I absolutely adore this shop and It’s such a simple concept; pasta, lentils, rice, cereal, pules, herbs and so much more all stored in see through containers and jars. All you need to do is go along with your clean containers and let them know how much you want. They take contactless and it was easy peasy.

Not only are they zero plastic; you only pay for what you need. Can you imagine how much less waste there would be if we were free to buy exactly what we need?

In my opinion there is a need for more places like Bare Bazaar, not only is it plastic-free shopping, you’re supporting a local business and that, to me, is the icing on the cake.  Why don’t you have a look to see if you have a zero-waste shop in your local area.

If you would like to find out more, their FB page is https://www.facebook.com/barebazaar

Make Your Own Food Mesh Bags

Over the last year, whenever I go to the supermarket, I make a conscious effort to avoid fruit and veg in plastic wrapping. Apart from wanting to cut down on my overall plastic, this all started with some lemons!

I went into my local supermarket and, as well as making my usual purchases, I wanted a lemon. Yes, that’s correct, A lemon, just one. After searching carefully, wanting to ensure I hadn’t missed the loose lemons, all I could find was a netted bag of four lemons. What on earth would I do with the three other lemons? Why am I being forced to buy more than I needed. I got in a right huff, paid for my shopping and left…without any lemons, I might add.

Looking back on it, it sounds really silly getting annoyed about some lemons. I wanted a single lemon, surely, that’s not a lot to ask for?

Since then, whenever I’ve got to the supermarket and need fruit or veg, I buy them loose and leave them rolling around in my trolley because I haven’t got a little mesh bag to put them in.

Fast forward to now.

I needed some mesh bags for my shopping but reluctant to buy them brand new. I’ve been trying to buy second-hand where I could and I had an idea.

I went to my local charity shop and bought a pair of net curtains for £1.50p – bargain. I got home and out came my sewing machine.

And for my first attempt, these are the pictures. Not too shabby if I do say so myself!

Goodies from My Garden

Back in March, I wrote a blog called Busy in the garden where I intended to starting planting in the garden. Even though I had planted potatoes last year, I hadn’t watered them enough and most of them grew with small holes in them, they looked like blocks of cheese…lesson learnt for this year.

I also purchased some strawberry plants a few days before the UK was placed on lockdown due to Covid-19. I had never planted strawberries before and was reliably informed that this is one of the easiest things to grow. For someone who has killed a cactus, that’s quite reassuring!

So, how have I been getting on? Let’s start with the potatoes

Check these out!! I have to say that there is something very satisfying about growing your own food. It was like finding treasure! We mainly have mashed potatoes and they tasted delicious.

Onto the Strawberries, how did we get on?

Check out the size of these? Just to clear things up, I didn’t just get two, these were the first ones I picked. My little one and I love strawberries so we have been eating a few every day. As well as being able to nip into the garden to get some strawberries, we don’t have to buy them from the shop anymore (I will only eat them when they’re in season and from my garden), one thing that always bothered me was the amount of plastic packaging that comes with strawberries. I appreciate that they bruise easily but there must be another way. Anyway, for us, that’s not a problem anymore!

Growing this food has most definitely given me a confidence boost to grow more food next year, I was thinking about giving cauliflower a go and maybe spring onions.

I have to make sure I don’t go nuts; I don’t have a particularly big garden!

Green Infrastructure

One of my recent assignments was to put together a report to a local, fictitious council making the case for the benefits of green infrastructure in a town and ways the town could become more sustainable in the future.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term ‘green infrastructure’, this term relates to a network of multi-functional green spaces. It doesn’t just refer to parks and open spaces, it also incorporates trees along the pavement, living roofs and walls, allotments as well as bodies of water such as rivers, streams, canals (sometimes referred to blue infrastructure).

I found this module really interesting, I had never thought about green spaces in my local area, I took for granted that everywhere I lived, I lived near a park and had trees. I was surprised to learn how green infrastructure is key to our lives and our future. Why didn’t I learn the basics in school?

Urban Cooling

Trees and green infrastructure plays an important part in reducing urban temperatures. Areas that have trees help reduce the temperature in the local area providing evapotranspiration and shading. Trees play a vital role in reducing the temperature of the air in parks and green areas.

Habitat and Biodiversity

When you have green, you’ll have nature. Green infrastructure plays a crucial part in urban biodiversity by providing habitats for insects, birds and other species allowing them to have a home and thrive. This also plays a part in environmental awareness by local residents.

Air Quality

As trees remove gases from the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides and ground-level ozone, they are vital in reducing greenhouse gases and improve air quality. If more trees were planted, what do you think would happen to some of our respiratory issues?

Water Systems and Flow Management

Roads with green verges and trees play a vital role in water and flood management on the road. When it rains, a lot of the rainwater will be soaked up by the trees and verges and helps with flood management, if there are no green infrastructure, the rainwater has nowhere to go and usually ends up flooding roads and even homes. Roads with green infrastructure reduce the water’s runoff rate and slows down the pressure placed on the drainage system by soaking up the water.

Mental Health Benefits

Green spaces are spaces where people can leave their homes and encourages outdoor activities including walking, cycling, playing sports with friends, having a picnic, social interaction and other recreation. Some studies have shown that green spaces reduces the feeling of stress, improves your ability to concentrate and mood by providing a calm space away from the stresses sometimes caused by everyday life. These spaces are especially beneficial to children.

If you have a large tree in your garden and the only issue you have is that it’s blocking some light in your garden or you think it looks a little messy, think about whether you really need to cut off any branches or if you are caught in the rain and seek shelter under a street tree, or you decide concrete over your garden and haven’t considered where the rainwater will go when it hits the hard surface. Think about how important the green infrastructure around you plays a vital part in your life.

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!