All posts by Raakhee Stratton

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg – Book Review

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference for Christmas from a friend who knows me very well.

It’s not that often I write book reviews but as the subject is relevant today, I would like to make an exception. Plus, I really enjoyed it!!

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For those who don’t know (where have you been?!), Greta Thunberg is a Swedish teenager who has shot to fame for her climate activism. It started by sitting outside the Swedish Parliament with a simple sign “School Strike for Climate”. Her persistence gained worldwide recognition at attracted attention from the media. This has inspired other students around the world to join her #FridaysforFuture demonstrations.

What struck me from the outset is the anger or maybe the intense passion she possess in her fight to protect the environment. This book is essentially a collection of her speeches and when you read them it is clear that she’s not trying to be a scientist, she wants the world leaders to listen to science rather than thinking about how much revenue will be lost if a government’s policy changes.

As she is not old enough to vote, this is the only way she can get her voice heard and her actions are being replicated around the world. I admire anyone, young or old, for standing up for what they believe in. They’re not hurting anyone, but our actions are hurting their future. The amount of criticism and abuse she has received is awful and no one, not even a teenager, should have to put up with that.

Overall, I felt her words were very powerful and I really enjoyed this book.

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.

My Carbon Calculator

Let’s talk carbon calculators. I recently started a course with The Open University to study for a degree in Environmental Science. I’ve always wanted to study for a degree but I had no idea in which subject. I had my eye on this degree for about six months. Eventually I got bored of talking about it and signed up. Six years of studying! Eeek!

One of my activities was to work out my carbon footprint. This was something I was really looking forward to doing and I was curious how high (or low) my carbon footprint was compared to the national average.

The calculator was quite easy to navigate, it asks about the number of people in your household, information about your home; insulation, doors, windows, heating, they energy rating for your appliances, your travel habits, food and income.

There were a few areas I had to make an assumption, for example, how long I spend in the shower? I don’t know about you but I’ve never timed myself in the shower. So, I decided to put 7 times a week for 7 minutes. Another assumption I had to make was my salary, if you’re self-employed, you will know that your income fluctuates all the time, so I worked out the monthly average and went with that.

My carbon calculator - easy peasy greeny
© 2018 The Open University. Developed by Peter Harper with Robin Roy from a calculator produced by Peter Harper for The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) with acknowledgments to CAT. Software and graphic design by Callum Lester and Vicky Eves, The Open University

According to the calculator, the UK average carbon footprint is 14.60 CO2 emissions per year. It turns out that mine is well below the national average of 8.80 CO2 emissions per year. I had a feeling it would be low but I didn’t realise how low it was until you visualise it.

If you look at the bar chart on the right-hand side of the image, you will see that my travel is non-existent, I do travel and I do have a car but I don’t use it that much, only at the weekends and even then it’s few and far between. I live close to Ashford town centre so most things are within walking distance for me. I haven’t been on a plane in two years and I haven’t got any plans to go on a plane anytime soon. The only time I use public transport is when I use the train, which isn’t that often anyway, mainly for networking opportunities.

The OU calculator also allows students to enter in their own personal reduction target, I set mine at 20%, to find areas where they can reduce their carbon footprint further by amending your answers; making sure your loft insulation is efficient, not using the dryer as much, showers instead of baths (or quicker showers), changing your travel habits, buying some clothes or furniture second-hand instead of brand new and looking at changing your diet by eating less meat.

By looking at these, it allows you to identify areas you think you can make the changes in order to hit your personal reduction target.

Areas where I have / will be looking at are as follows:

Room Heating – Loft insulation

In order to work out whether my loft insulation was efficient, I got the ladder out, went into the loft and quickly realised my loft insulation is woefully inadequate. I’ve been in the loft many times but the insulation was something I had never noticed. I wondered if that would explain why the upstairs rooms in my home are always noticeably colder during the winter periods, despite living in a terraced house.

According to the National Insulation Association, the recommended depth for loft insulation is 270 millimetres for glass wool, 250 millimetres for rock wool or 220 millimetres for cellulose (https://www.nia-uk.org/understanding-insulation/loft-insulation/). I’m working out the figures and looking to get this fixed soon.

Appliances

Next, I looked at the appliances I have in the kitchen. It appears that most of them have an A++ or A+++. The only one that I couldn’t find the energy rating was my tumble dryer, it’s an old tumble dryer so I don’t think it’s a good energy rating. When the weather is good, I would always hang my clothes out in the garden, what’s the point in using the dryer when the sun and wind dry your clothes for free.

However, during colder weather is a different story and always used my dryer when I am not able to hand the clothes outside. Since doing the calculator, I’ve stopped using the dryer and hang my clothes in the house to dry. At the weekends, my house looks like a laundrette but it doesn’t bother us that much.

Goods

This is where I looked at my buying habits and how often I replaced things. I’ve never been one for having the most up-to-date phone or the latest fashion. I tend to wear my clothes until they fall apart. But one thing I could change is making an effort to buy certain items second-hand. I had been looking for a chest of drawers for a while and thought I would wait until Black Friday for any deals. It turned out that my Mum had one she never used so I now have hers.

Food


I’ve eaten meat all my life and have never been a big fan of vegetables. But I have looked at what I eat. Eating meat/not eating meat can be a contentious issue for many people and we don’t like to be dictated to regarding what we should/shouldn’t eat. I believe, as an adult, it’s up to you to eat what you want and respect other people’s choices. I have friends who are vegans and friends who probably won’t ever give up eating meat. That’s their choices, and I respect them. What I am trying to do is to slowly change a 40-year habit.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to cut meat from my diet completely but I am making an effort to eat less meat. In the last month I haven’t eaten beef, which probably doesn’t sound like a major achievement but for me it is, I don’t miss it and by looking at what I eat, it’s allowing me to have a more varied diet and try different foods I have never eaten before. A month ago, was the first time I had ever bought a parsnips.

Since doing this calculator, my carbon footprint is constantly in the front of my mind and I do look at what I do and the impact it has on my environment. I look at the packaging we get when we purchase food in a supermarket and I do wonder why a melon needs to be shrink-wrapped. I make more of an effort to buy loose fruit and veg and have started to ‘make do and mend’.

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.

My First Litter Pick

On a very bitter, cold Saturday morning, I joined my first ever litter pick in Ashford. The area targeted for litter picking was a park in Ashford called Victoria Park.

The litter pick was organised by a local group who have a Facebook page called Keep Ashford Clean. I’ve seen their litter picking events on my feed for a while and this time I decided to stop thinking about it and just do it. It’s only two hours of volunteering.

We all met by the fountain at Victoria Park at 1pm and there were in total about 10 volunteers.

We were all provided with the equipment; a high-visibility vest, a litter picker, gloves, a bag for rubbish and a bag for recycling. We were split into teams of two and sent off on our way to cover areas of the park. Although, we were in pairs, it wasn’t really easy to have a chat with your buddy because there was so much ground to cover.

Here’s how I got on with my litter pick

Once I got underway, I put my headphones in and started listening to a playlist I had downloaded; *Nysnc, East 17, Jon Bon Jovi, Backstreet Boys and Timbaland, I was in my element. No judgement, please 😉

I was under the impression that I would mainly find drink cans and bottles, but this wasn’t the case. I found so many crisp packets and sweet wrappers, the items that can’t go in the recycling bag for Ashford Borough Council, and these wrappers get everywhere! You really have to look in hedges, fencing, play areas. It was a little sad to see.

About 45 minutes into my litter pick, my fingers started going numb. We had been provided gloves but despite wearing my own gloves underneath, the tips of my fingers were struggling. Despite this, I carried on.

Victoria Park Ashford my first litter pick
Me with my numb fingers trying to take a selfie!

With the rise of knife crime in this country, I did wonder whether anyone had ever found any knives, I asked my ‘buddy’ and she said there had been cases of knives being found. And not just knives, needles too. She said needles were mostly found in the play area! Imagine taking your child to the park to play on the swings and slides and finding a needle!

About an hour and a half in, I started noticing other volunteers moving towards the water fountain so I started litter picking in that direction and arrived back to the fountain about an hour and 45 minutes after we started.

I was astonished by the amount of bags we filled!

Victoria Park Ashford my first litter pick

The blue bags were rubbish and the clear bags were for recycling. The volunteers even found a TV, bicycle tire and what looks like part of a child’s scooter. In just two hours, this is what we collected!

It doesn’t make sense

I never understand why people litter? When I was growing up I was always taught to put your rubbish in the bin and if you couldn’t find a bin, put it in your pocket and wait until you get home and throw you rubbish away. When I’m on the school run, I do see kids drop things on the floor and it really annoys me, but it’s not always kids, it’s adults too. Just because they have no pride in where they live, they have no respect for others.

People dropping litter isn’t the only way litter in found on the roads. Council’s clearly aren’t emptying the bins quickly enough so when they are overflowing, and bit of wind and the rubbish goes everywhere. Council’s need to take more responsibility too. There also needs to be an element of common sense, although that seems to be lacking nowadays, if the bin is overflowing, don’t keep trying to add to it!

I hate littering, always have done always will do and I will ensure my little one knows not to litter.

Despite the cold, I enjoyed myself. I felt a sense of achievement just for two hours volunteering and hopefully the people who use Victoria Park regularly appreciate it the work that was put in to make their park nicer.

I look forward to the next week and hopefully it won’t be as cold next time!

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.

My first blog post

The reason I decided to start a blog is because I’ve been making small changes to my lifestyle in order to go greener. I don’t have the money to get solar panels on my house, buy an electric car or stick a wind turbine in my garden, although I think my neighbours would have something to say about that! But there are small things we can do to make a different.

I’m not good at gardening but I will attempt to grow my own potatoes, I’m not good at sewing but I will ‘make do and mend’ where I can and I will take part in local litter picking too.

If I can do this, there’s no reason why you can’t!