Category Archives: Environmental

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!

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