Tag Archives: Save the planet

Recycling in the UK with TerraCycle

Since TerraCycle came to the UK in 2009, its recycling programmes have grown in popularity. The company boasts that 80% of us living in the UK now have a TerraCycle collection point, for hard to recycle waste, within just four miles. This seems like a fantastic step forward to reducing waste for landfill and incineration, and we can all get involved. However, as TerraCycle’s founder agrees “We can’t recycle our way out of waste. We need to change our buying habits to support durable goods, used goods and ideally not buying whatsoever“.

Reading about TerraCycle and its founder Tom Szaky, it’s evident that his heart is in the right place, and the company and sister companies are earnestly trying to find sustainable solutions to the global garbage problem. It’s good to know that serious thinkers like Szaky are calling for a complete gear change when it comes to waste, and we can see that large corporations, brands, retailers and manufacturers are being involved at ground level. However, it’s also obvious TerraCycle hasn’t ‘solved’ the problem. Well not yet!

So, is it worth getting involved in their recycling programmes?

Why we need to do our bit

We all know that burying or incinerating our waste is detrimental to the environment, wildlife and us. Our waste problem affects air-pollution, land-pollution, delicate ecosystems and global warmingix. The facts are undeniably stark, especially when it comes to plastic:

Did you know?

Looking at the UK’s household waste statistics it’s easy to see we’re not doing nearly enough when it comes to dealing with our garbage. From 2010 to 2019 the volume of waste collected per person has fallen by roughly only eight percent. Recycling rates of household waste in England were only 43.8% as of March 2020.

“One issue with the amount of recycling that can be done in England is that not all local authorities collect the same materials. As recently as 2017, just 18% of local authorities in England collected plastic film, nearly half as many as in Wales, which has a significantly higher recycling rate than England. Currently, plastics account for just 8.5% of the composition of dry recycling waste from households in England.”

Recycling rate of household waste in England 2010-2020

Published by Ian Tiseo, March 17, 2021

If we continue to rely on local authorities to collect our waste we’re simply not tackling the problem. And this is where changing our habits is key. One way to do this is to look at the services that TerraCycle offer.

What is Terracycle?

TerraCycle was founded by 19-year-old Tom Szaky in 2001, and was primarily to help eliminate the idea of waste by making quality fertiliser from food waste. As the company grew, Szaky knew that producing fertilizer was not the solution to the world’s waste problem and decided to focus his efforts on the wider problem of how waste is recycled.

In a 2020 interview he said, “We decided that we needed to switch the ‘hero’ of our equation from the product to the garbage, and that’s what led to what the company is today.”

Since refocusing the business, TerraCycle now runs several recycling schemes, and launched the first ever recycling programme for cigarette butts in 2021.

TerraCycle’s mission statement is “Whether it’s coffee capsules from your home, pens from a school, or plastic gloves from a manufacturing facility, TerraCycle can collect and recycle almost any form of waste.”

How TerraCycle works

It’s quite easy to take advantage of TerraCycle’s recycling services, but to begin you need to think about which one of their schemes you want to join, as there are quite a few. At first, I assumed I could just collect all my recycling, bag it up and have it collected. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but thankfully the TerraCycle website is straightforward and simple to use. Here’s an overview of the many schemes you can get involved with…

Free Recycling Programmes

TerraCycle offers a range of free recycling programmes in partnership with brands, manufacturers and retailers. Instead of bagging up all your hard to recycle plastics together, you can target specific packaging and waste. For example, you can recycle Acuvue® Contact Lenses, bread bags, crisp packers, Colgate® Oral B Care products, pet food pouches, cheese packaging, Febreze® Air Fresheners and even Ferrero Rocher packaging. There’s also a beach plastic recycling programme for rigid beach plastic you find along the shoreline, but as of April 2021 this programme is not accepting new members in the UK

Three ways this recycling get collected

  1. Drop off recycling at your nearest local collection point, which you can find using interactive maps on the TerraCycle website.
  2. If you can’t find a collection point within a five-mile radius of your house, you can set up a drop-off location in a public place.
  3. Alternatively, become a private collector and arrange a free pick-up using labels printed from their website.

Collecting TerraCycle points

TerraCycle points are credited to the accounts of public drop-off location administrators and private collectors as a reward for their collection efforts. Points can be redeemed into financial donations to the charity or school chosen by the owner of the points.

So what if you can’t find what you want to recycle in these free programmes?

For waste that can’t be recycled through the Free Recycling Programmes for whatever reason, TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box™ Solution may be the answer.

Zero Waste Box™ Solution

You still can’t put all your recycling in one box for this one, so you still have to look on the website and see what kind of waste you want to recycle. This scheme doesn’t just stick to specific brands and takes more generalised waste such as 3D printing materials, baby equipment, glue sticks, glasses and school backpacks. Plus, one that particularly caught my eye, disposable gloves and face masks. It seems if you can’t find what you want to recycle in the free programmes, paying for a box is the answer.

How much do they cost?

This all seems great but you do have to pay out a considerable amount for the boxes themselves. You choose from small, medium or large boxes depending on how much you estimate you will collect. To buy an All-In-One Zero Waste Box™ you pay £151.39 for a small box, £246.46 for a medium box or £415.60 for a large box. The good thing is that this particular box takes non-hazardous waste including flexible and rigid plastics such as art supplies, eye wear, home cleaning accessories, office supplies, beverage capsules and party supplies.

TerraCycle say, “The Zero Waste Box™ system is convenient and easy to use, making it the perfect option for households, schools, businesses, manufacturing facilities, and events looking to offset their impacts and lighten their footprint”.

So, where does the waste go and how is it recycled?

TerraCycle promise that collected waste won’t end up as litter, in landfill or incineration, but instead will be used to make new materials and products. Unlike municipal recycling, they focus on a wide range of waste streams. They work with scientists and specialists to analyse the materials to determine the right way to break it down into its building blocks and how to process it into new materials.

The different material types are cleaned, then sent to third-party processing partners that recycle the materials into usable forms. Metals and aluminium are shredded and smelted into metal sheeting, ingots or bar stock. Glass is crushed and melted to be used in new glass bottles or brick, cement or concrete applications. Rubber is generally cryo-milled to freeze, then size-reduced into a powdered state for flooring applications. Organics are composted or used in industrial and commercial fertilisers. Plastics are melted and reformatted into pellets, flakes or a powder format.

But here’s the rub

Speaking to the World Economic Forum (WEC) during a live Facebook webinar in February 2016, Tom Szaky said, “We show that if you promote recycling platforms around waste then you will drive consumerism”. This is the main criticism of TerraCycle’s Recycling Programmes and Zero Waste Box Solution™. While these schemes are great, they’re not giving an incentive to big companies like Nestlé, Walkers, Pepsi to change their thinking on how they package their products.

TerraCycle’s solution – Loop

To give TerraCycle their due, they recognised the problem and in 2019 launched their most ambitious attempt yet to eliminate plastic waste from the household shop. Their new solution is Loop, which sits alongside their previous schemes. 

Szaky says, “The idea for Loop came up when I was talking to colleagues. We asked ourselves whether or not recycling and making products from recycled content was going to solve the garbage problem. We realised that it’s an incredibly important thing to do, but it’s only solving the symptom of waste and not really eliminating the idea of it – or solving the root cause.”

As they say on the website: “Why own a product’s packaging (and have to throw it away when you’re done), when all we really want is the stuff inside? With Loop, temporarily place a 100% refundable deposit to borrow the packaging, and we’ll professionally clean and reuse it once you’re finished”.

Loop is now available in the UK in partnership with Tesco and is the UK’s first online shopping service that delivers food, drink and household essentials from leading brands in reusable packaging. Loop is currently being used for some 300+ products, including Häagen-Dazs ice cream, Crest mouthwash and personal care product Dove.

But can we all do even better?

TerraCycle’s recycling programmes are a great start and perfect if you rely on products such as contact lenses and baby products and want to ensure they are recycled responsibly. However, looking at the long list of waste they take on, you have to ask yourself if using alternative products is just a whole lot smarter. There are plenty of sustainable eco-friendly swaps you can make, and ways to upcycle at home. Plus, we need to start asking ourselves if we can do without items such as coffee machines, plastic cotton buds, wet wipes, disposable gloves and disposable masks.

If you want to see how TerraCycle can help you do your bit, take a look at their two websites https://loopstore.co.uk/ and https://www.terracycle.com/

But remember to check in with this blog for tips on how you can make easy, smart choices which will help the environment without perpetuating the problem by checking out this blog. You can also sign up to our newsletter

Going Green – How You can Save Money

Going green and making small changes to your lifestyle is a great way to save you money and it’s good for the planet too. I love saving money, who doesn’t?

A while ago, I was having a zoom call with a friend (during lockdown three) about how expensive it is to go green. She was referring to things like electric cars and solar panelled roofs.

When you focus on high ticket items, of course it’s going to sound really expensive. Who has £30k sitting around?! Similar to buying a new house; they’re long-term goals.

Instead of focusing on the big things, I would always advise to start small when you’re going green. Here are a few ways to get you started…

Clothes

Do you really need that new pair of jeans? Or a new winter coat when your old still does it’s job? Challenge yourself to not buy any new clothes for a year. And if you do need something new, look to see if you can buy it second-hand instead – not underwear though! I managed to find a skirt in a charity shop that still had its original tag; it had never been worn. The tag said £35.99 and I bought it for £2. I do love a bargain!

Get on your bike

Where you can, leave your car at home and either walk or cycle. You will save money by not having to fill your car up regularly and you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint. Win Win! Facebook tend to have local selling pages and you may be able to pick up a second-hand bike.

Make do and mend

I have to say, I love this one. I’m not that great at sewing but I have gotten better. Do you have a hole in your jeans pocket or a small section of hem has come loose on your skirt? Get your needle and thread out and get stitching. There are oodles of videos for beginners on YouTube for mending clothes. Mending your clothes mean you don’t have to replace it; saving you money.

Eat less meat

I know this can be a contentious issue at times because it’s not easy for everyone. I’m not saying cut out your meat intake completely but look to reduce the amount of meat you eat. Try ‘Meat Free Mondays’. Meat is expensive to buy; you may even notice the extra few ££ in your pocket after a shop.

Planning your meals

A great way to reduce your waste is to plan your meals in advance so you only buy what you need and won’t be wasting money. Anything that is leftover in the evenings could be eaten for lunch the next day. Another great tip is to see if you can buy your fruit and vegetables loose. Buying food in packaging means you could end up buying more than you need. You may only need one lemon so don’t pick up a pre-packaged pack of four; waste of money and waste of food.

Please share your ideas 💚

Looking at your household waste is a really good way to save money. You can download your analysis here.

If you want to read more, check out these blogs

How I became greener in 2020 and Things I no longer buy

Reduce Your Household Waste Consumption

The amount of waste us Brits throw away is eye-watering and I wasn’t aware of how much household waste is created.

In March 2020, The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) produced a report which shows how much household waste is currently being produced in the UK each year.

  • It is estimated that the UK generated 41.1 million tonnes of commercial and industrial (C&I) waste in 2016, of which 33.1 million tonnes (around four-fifths) was generated in England. The latest estimates for England only indicate that C&I waste generation was around 36.1 million tonnes in 2017 and 37.2 million tonnes in 2018.
  • The UK generated 221.0 million tonnes of total waste in 2016, with England responsible for 85% of the UK total.

221 million tonnes!

What does this household waste mean?

Let’s put that into context. I’ve got a Seat Leon car which weighs about 1.2 tonnes. That’s about 184 million Seat Leons. That’s a whole lot of household waste and it’s not sustainable at all!

We have become a throw away society. Things can be bought so cheaply now which means the quality isn’t high and certain products don’t last long anymore or they aren’t made to last.

I just want to add that I’m sure there are those who would love to have the money to buy good quality products that last longer but finances dictate your purchases.

In order to reduce what we throw away, we need to be smarter when buying products and looking at the packaging and the quality of the product. WE are the ones who spend the money and WE have a lot more power than we realise.

Companies will create and sell products based on demand, if the demand is dropping off, the product will eventually become obsolete.

The amount of packaging that comes with products is astonishing and it’s these choices we have to adapt.

I’ve been careful about what I buy so my bin isn’t overflowing every week. I’ve been actively reducing my household waste but that isn’t possible for everyone. So, I created a download to help you do just that.

I’ve written how how I’m trying to reduce my consumption you may want to check out

How I became greener in 2020

Ditching tea bags

My Local zero-waste shop

Here’s what I’ve come up with

Here’s my Household Waste Analysis. Each day has its own page covering 10 – 14 days (whichever you choose) and separated into four sections

  • Recycling
  • Composting/Food Waste
  • Donating/Selling online
  • Landfill

Plus, it’s an editable form so you don’t even have to print it off! Last thing I want to do is add to your household waste!

Oh yeah, and it’s FREE! Who doesn’t like a freebie?! Get yours here

Household waste analysis download

Each day you can record what is in your rubbish and save the document. Once you get to the end of the 10 days (or 14 days), you will have a full analysis of what you are throwing away.

When you see it in black and white, it may shock you!

The last page will give you ideas on how you can reduce your waste.

If you’re ready to start reducing your household waste, get your free download

I genuinely believe we have a serious consumption issue that we can’t recycle our way out of.

Please do let me know how you get on 💚 💚 💚

7 Eco-conscious Books For Children

I love the idea of encouraging children to read and become eco-conscious. When I was a child, I remember my imagination taking on a life of its own when I would read a book. There’s something really magical about reading and nothing makes me happier than seeing a child with a book in their hand.

This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a commission.

As children will be inheriting this planet from us, I believe it’s important in encouraging an early understanding of the environment and what we can do to protect it (and ourselves!). They need to be eco-conscious.

I’ve put together a list of environmental reads perfect for children. There’s no time like the present to starting learning about the environment.

What A Waste: Rubbish, Recycling, and Protecting our Planet by Jess French

7 Eco-conscious books for children

Ideal for age 7+

A beautifully illustrated book is filled with facts about the environment; some good, some bad and some ugly. It explains the impact we have on the planet by the things we do; wasting water, renewable energy and examples of single-use plastics we consume everyday. There’s also a section on alternative eco-conscious swaps to reduce your waste.

Buy from Waterstones

Buy from The Book Depository


Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers About Plastic by Katie Daynes (author), Marie-Eve Tremblay (illustrator)

7 Eco-conscious books for children

Ideal for age 3+

A great lift-the-flap book for teaching young children about plastic, how it affects the environment and recycling. The book is 14 pages with over 60 interactive flaps explaining how plastic ends up in the ocean and how it’s made. This is a colourful and informative book for little ones to learn about the environment.

Buy from Waterstones

Buy from The Book Depository


Dear Greenpeace by Simon James

7 Eco-conscious books for children

Ideal for age 3+

Dear Greenpeace by Simon James is such a sweet book about a little girl called Emily who finds a whale in her pond and is worried it is unhappy. She decides to seek advice from Greenpeace by writing to them. Emily clearly has a caring nature and wants the best for her whale.

Buy from Waterstones

Buy from The Book Depository


Charlie and Lola: Look After Your Planet by Lauren Child

7 Eco-conscious books for children

Ideal for age 3+

Charlie and Lola: Look After Your Planet by Lauren Child a lovely book, when Lola is cleaning up her room and Charlie explains to her that we have to keep using things again otherwise we will run out of everything. Lola decides to inspire her class and includes some ‘green promises’. A great read for young eco-conscious activists.

Buy from Waterstones

Buy from The Book Depository


Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins (author), Vicky White (illustrator)

7 Eco-conscious books for children

Ideal for age 5+

A beautifully illustrated book will help children understand the threats animals face, how they become endangered by human behaviour and why it’s important for us to protect them.

Buy from Waterstones

Buy from The Book Depository


Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet by Kate Pankhurst

7 Eco-conscious books for children

ideal for age 8+

Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet by Kate Pankhurst is a book with strong female role models from diverse backgrounds, the reader is taken through aspects of recycling, tackling the plastic problem, the importance of shopping fair trade and cruelty-free. Full of hope and encouragement, this book shows everyone has a part to play regardless of how big or small. Any change is still change.

Buy from Waterstones

Buy from The Book Depository


You Can Save The Planet 101 Ways You Can Make a Difference by J. A. Wines (author), Clive Gifford (author), Sarah Horne (author)

7 Eco-conscious books for children

Ideas for age 9+

You Can Save The Planet 101 Ways You Can Make a Difference is a great step-up for young activists to gain a deeper understaning of the destruction of our plants, global warming and the effects of pollution. Explaining the huge problem faced by global warming, it gives children hope as it is packed full with practical and smart ways children can make a differnce in their community.

Buy from Waterstones

Buy from The Book Depository

If you have any recommendations, please feel free to share 💚

For older children, I wrote a blog about a book called  No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg

Environmental Awareness Days 2021

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

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

January

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

March

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

April

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

May

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

June

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

July

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

August

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

September

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

October

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

December

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

How I became greener in 2020

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

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

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

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

The garden

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

Zero Waste Shops

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

Fountain pen

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

Loose Tea

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

Print on both sides of the paper

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

Supermarket receipts

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

Sugar waxing

I’ve been waxing since my teens and have always used traditional wax strips available in shops. So, when I heard about DIY sugar waxing, I was intrigued. After checking out video upon video on YouTube, I don’t think I use sugar wax how it was intended. From what I can ascertain, you roll up a ball, smooth it on your skin and pull it off quickly, I found that hurt WAY TOO MUCH and was messy. I quickly realised that I needed strips, so I cut up a cotton shirt my partner no longer needed into strips and used them to help me instead. I’m not going to lie, it does still hurts but I don’t feel like my skin is being ripped off, a feeling I have been familiar with from using shop bought wax strips and, what’s better, it’s made of natural ingredients; sugar, lemon, salt and water. It’s a lot cheaper too, to wax both of my legs cost me eighty pence. Bargain and nothing to landfill!

Second-hand September

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

Toothbrushes

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

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

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

Ditching tea bags

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reusing Water

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t believe I never noticed this before.

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

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

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

Ways to reuse water

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

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

Plastic in tea bags

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

But, do you think about the tea bag?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think I will stick to my loose tea leaves.

Extinction: The Facts – review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Local Zero Waste Shop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make Your Own Food Mesh Bags

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

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

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

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

Fast forward to now.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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