Tag Archives: Green

Sustainable Home – A book review

For Christmas, I was lucky enough to get a copy of Sustainable Home: Practical Projects, Tips and Advice for Maintaining a More Eco-friendly Household by Christine Liu. I really have the best friends!

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Firstly, I would like to say that this an absolutely beautiful book which has been perfectly separated into five sections; living, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and outdoors.

Each sections discusses what changes you could make to live a more sustainable lifestyle and things to consider when making your choices.

I’ve been starting to implement a lot of these changes – here’s the first product review on safety razors

Here’s my book review for Sustainable Home

The author offers excellent advice and includes step-by-step guides, for example, making your own toothpaste – something I am keen to try.

Sustainable Home: Practical Projects, Tips and Advice for Maintaining a More Eco-friendly Household book cover

Sustainable Living

Sustainable living takes you through the benefits of minimalism and the environmental impacts our choices have with an fabulous guide on how to declutter your home; how to decide what to keep and what to do with the things you don’t need anymore.

Following onto the furniture we buy, the benefits and concluding on a guide to indoor plants, something I have recently fallen in love with.

Sustainable Kitchen

Food can be a contentious issue as it’s well documented how much of an impact farming for meat has on the environment. Christine navigates this issue really well giving you information to make your own choices.

If you aren’t able to cut out meat completely, reducing your meat intake still makes a massive difference. I particularly like the guides to making your own cashew and oat milk, I’m looking forward to giving these a go. Sustainable kitchen concludes on some really good tips on reducing food waste.

Sustainable Bedroom

This chapter begins with your wardrobe and how to create a minimalist wardrobe but still maintaining your personal style.

In particular, I loved is repairing and repurposing clothes and I am a superfan of ‘make do and mend’.

Following onto bedroom furniture and concluding the section on how to make your own room spray.

Sustainable Bathroom

A place in your home where you can make the biggest changes to live a more sustainable life is in your bathroom.

This section is jam-packed with ideas and guides on how to make your own toothpaste, body scrub, body butter and lip balm.

This section includes an overview of shampoo and shampoo bars, cleaning, water usage and my favourite of all; the safety razor. I moved away from disposable razors about a year ago and I’ve never looked back.

Outdoors

Inside the home isn’t the only place to make a change, this final section discusses ways in how a workplace can become greener, when you’re eating out and looking at your carbon footprint when you’re out and about.

Conclusion

Firstly, the main thing I love about this book is that is doesn’t preach to me. It’s very well written and easy to read.

There are so many ideas and examples of changes you can make to live more sustainably. It’s okay that you can’t do everything in one go; it’s a marathon, not a race.

Would I recommend this book to others? A massive YES.

If you would like to know more about Christine Liu, here are her links

If you would like to purchase the book – click here

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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 💚

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?

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!

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…

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!

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.

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

Will The Coronavirus Make Us Think Differently About Our Food?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's time to support local businesses

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

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

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

The Paddling Pool Water Problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This lot will keep me going for a bit.

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

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 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.