A walk interrupted

Last week I had a mid-week day off and with it being super-hot and sunny outside I decided to take my camera and go for a hike. I went to a local beauty spot called the Washpool to sit and listen to the gently running water and recuperate in nature. However, my tranquil day out was somewhat marred by the amount of litter I found during my walk. As removed from civilisation as my destination was it wasn’t immune from the detritus of human waste, I found numerous plastic bags, pieces of paper and what seemed to be the remains of a tennis ball stuck in trees and languishing precariously close to the beautiful waterway.

This comes with little shock as recent studies have found that 80% of UK rivers and water bodies have microplastics in them, invisible to the naked eye but dangerous as they can harbour harmful bacteria and easily make it into our food stream.

What did surprise me however was that despite all of this litter there were numerous bins on the hiking trail for people to put their rubbish. How lazy do you have to be to drop your dogs poo bag, or an old receipt when there’s a bin less than 5 metres away. I can give the benefit of the doubt to some of the small bags that were caught on fences as this walk is on a quite exposed part of a hill where the wind can be quite strong, they may have been blown out of someone’s hands and out of sight before it was possible to catch them. What I can’t understand is the full poo bags I found ties to tree branches, what is the though process there?

I guess my few take-aways from this short semi-rant are this:

  • if you are going to create rubbish when you are out and about, especially when you are out in nature then there is no justification for not holding onto that rubbish until you can safely dispose of it.
  • If you find rubbish whilst you are out and about only pick it up if it is safe to do so. E.g. There are no sharp/broken bits, there are no body fluids (human or otherwhys) on it, and there is no danger involved in reaching it.

Plastic Free Communities

Plastic Free Cheltenham

Two Wednesdays ago I went to a ‘Plastic Free Cheltenham’ open meeting. Plastic Free Communities is a movement created by Surfers against Sewage in the UK and has spread over the country. Currently there are 448 plastic free communities in the UK, with the goal of reducing the sale and distribution of single use plastics in an area. During this meeting we were told that the main focuse of Plastic Free Cheltenham is to reach out to local businesses and get them to pledge to remove at least 3 single use plastics from their shelves. Coffee cups, plastic straws, plastic bags etc. The other focuses are increasing public knowledge through educations, in schools, at festivals etc, and cleaning up your local area.

The Last Straw

During the open meeting we had a speech from a local awareness business called ‘The Last Straw’. Run by two brothers in secondary school, their aim is to offer sustainable, cheap alternatives to plastic straw’s. They currently sell bamboo and wheat straws, and approach businesses across Gloucestershire to try and get them to switch to these reusable alternatives.
After the meeting I approached the brothers and asked them to say a few words about who they are and why they are doing what they are doing and the gave me this response:

‘We started this as a challenge to do something on our behalf to save the environment. This is our mother earth and we need to do something to protect it. On our own we can t make a huge difference but if everybody did something small together we can make a large difference.
What motivates us is our passion for the environment and our love of nature and the need to feel we have to protect it. Our parents guide and support us and we have seen just by making a few changes in our own household we can make such a big difference eg we have now switched to bamboo toothbrushes, we now use beeswax wraps to pack our lunches in instead of foil or clingfilm, we all have refillable water bottles and we try to buy fruit and veg loose as much as we can. If we can do so can you! Replacing your straws with reusable ones is just the start we want to see individuals and businesses making as well. We looked at this and decided not to go for paper straws as they lead to deforestation whereas bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants and does not need to be replanted as it self generates from its own roots. It does not need fertilisers or large amounts of water either and is highly sustainable. Our bamboo straws are 100% degradable and reusable. We also supply wheat straws which are by products of wheat harvest and the stems would normally have been burnt leading to gas emissions so converting them into straws is ideal. They are 100% degradable too.’

Now some of you may be concerned, as I was, that wheat straws would be unusable for people with a wheat intolerance but they assured me that as they are made from wheat by products they can be used by everyone.

The Litter Pick

One of the ways in which Plastic Free Cheltenham are helping in cleaning up our community is by performing organised litter picks. The first of these litters picks happened this Saturday, over 50 individuals turned up to help us clean up our streets. We went in groups of 4 and moved street by street for 2 hours picking up discarded waste and marking down how much of each type of waste we collected. Unsurprisingly the most common form of litter that we found was cigarette butts, what was more surprising though was the sheer amount of them, we couldn’t move two steps without finding a discarded cigarette butt. Some unusual forms of rubbish that we found included, school trousers, a cut up credit card, and a large part of a car door!

Below are some photos of the bags of rubbish that we collected in our 2 hour stint.

Why not check out if there are any plastic free communities near you, and if there isn’t why not become a plastic free ambassador and create your own community.

Switch Off and Do Nothing

Earlier this week I was sent home from work with a severe migraine, an unfortunate side effect of spending 7+ hours a day staring at a computer screen. I initially welcomed the day off as it meant that I wouldn’t have to sit for hours on end inputing pointless data for companies that I really couldn’t care less about. But my mood quickly shifted when I realised that, due to the fact that my brain was currently trying to escape through my eyeballs, my day was going to be just as unproductive and boring as it would have been had I stayed at work.

Usually a sick day can be spent watching TV, reading or possibly catching up on researching/ writing for this blog. However I was forced to spend Wednesday curled up in a dark room, trying to find a position where I wouldn’t feel like my head was about to explode. And it occurred to me as I lay there, in pain and bored out of my mind, that I couldn’t really remember a recent time where I was voluntarily doing nothing. That’s because as a society we’ve been told that we have to be doing something productive 24/7 or else we’re lazy, wasting our lives etc. I felt like a failure, like I was cheating something because I was just lying around, even despite the fact that I couldn’t feel half of my face, of even see out of one of my eyes.

And what’s more we’re so bombarded with stimuli that any time away from that, where we’re just alone with our thoughts, feels totally alien. And this is where i’m going to talk about phones and social media again (cue groans). Because as I was lying there, knowing that any light, especially light from a screen would make my migraine much worse, I kept checking my phone. It was for no reason as well because, like I said before, as soon as I picked it up the light from the screen would send a sharp stab of pain to the back of my eyes and i’d have to put it back down again. You’d think that after the first couple of times of doing this i’d learn and leave the phone checking for another day, but I didn’t. It was like I was having withdrawal symptoms, my brain needed the short-term hit that it gets from checking social media, or playing mindless apps, it was no longer accustomed to just ‘being’.

I’m not going to act like phones or social media are inherently bad, and i’ve talked about this before. My phone allows me to do so many things, I can talk to my friends and family, I have apps that help me with learning new languages, and my social media is where I promote this blog (not very well but you know, I give it a go). But the problem with being able to do anything means that we’re constantly doing everything, and it’s burning us out. How many of you use your phone whilst watching TV? Most of you i’m sure. It’s changing how we interact, or don’t interact, with each other and the world around us. We no longer take in as much because we’re filling our time with other, much less meaningful things.

The take away from this, possibly meandering, post is this. Try doing just one thing. This is something that i’m trying to do better at from now on myself. If you sit down to watch a show or a movie with your family, leave your phone in another room and just focus on what’s happening. If you’re reading, writing, tidying up, don’t have a Youtube video playing in the background distracting you. If you’re having a conversation with friends, leave your phone in your pocket/bag. I can’t tell you how long it sometimes takes me to write one of these things because i’m constantly being distracted by the ‘background noise’ of some show or another that I’ve put on, but I can tell you that due to those distractions i’ve put out work that i’m not really very pleased with because I couldn’t get it any better with everything else that was going on around me.

And every once in a while, do nothing. Allow yourself that time to sit and just be, with no goals or deadlines or guilt. Because you won’t really be doing nothing, you’ll be relaxing, thinking, recharging, escaping.

In the end, my sick day wasn’t really a write off like I thought. I planned this post, I thought of ideas for future posts, I developed more ideas for the novel that i’m writing, and most importantly I got better. I finally listened to my body and gave it the rest of the day free of screens and stimuli, and the next day I woke up with a clear head, ready for the next few months before another tiny creature finds its way inside my brain with a pick-axe to teach me a lesson.

A Look Back at How Far We’ve Come

As 2018 draws to a close it’s important to make plans to improve for next year but it’s just as important to look back at the good things that we’ve done and how far we’ve travelled. Now whilst there has been some alarming news in regards to the state of the environment this year there have also been tremendous leaps made to protect it this year.

Whist 2018 has had it’s downs and in some ways has felt like one of the longest years i’ve ever had there are plenty of things to be proud of. I’ve gathered together some of the uplifting and impressive discoveries, movements and good deeds that have happened this year as motivations and a pick me up for the year to come.

Wildlife and the Environment

  • The hole in the Ozone layer is the smallest it has been since 1988, and it is estimated that it will be fully repaired by 2060.
  • Colombia increased the size of its Serrania de Chiribiquete national park to 17,000 square miles, making it the largest tropical rainforest national park in the world.
  • The EU voted for a total ban on the use of bee-harming insecticides
  • The Belize Great Barrier Reef was removed from the UNESCO list of threatened world heritage sites
  • Pakistan has pledged to plant 10 billion trees over the next 5 years
  • In the UK half of the cheapest energy companies are ‘green tariffs’ generated by renewable sources
  • 70% of the worlds population are reducing their meat consumption which will go a long way in reducing the carbon emissions created by animal agriculture
  • The population of the critically endangered mountain gorilla has risen by 25%
  • The UK has launched the plastic-free ‘trust mark’ to help shoppers more easily find products packaged without plastic
  • The worlds first electrified road opened in Stockholm, Sweden. This road charges electric car and truck batteries as they drive along it
  • Commercial fishing has been banned in the Arctic, this was passed by an international agreement signed in Greenland
  • London fashion week has become the first major global fashion week to prohibit the use of animal fur in its shows
  • Carbon emissions in the UK are at their lowest levels since 1894, and on April 21st the country didn’t burn any coal for the first time in 140 years

In Other News

  • India has decriminalised homosexuality
  • The US midterm elections contained several historic firsts – with Native American, Muslim and LGBT candidates being elected in numerous states.
  • The UK supermarket chain Sainsburys has started labelling foods most requested by food banks which has led to a dramatic rise in donations of said products
  • For the first time in history half of all people on the planet with HIV are receiving treatment and deaths by AIDs have also been halved since 2005
  • Toronto hosted its first ever Indigenous Fashion Week
  • Laverne Cox became the first transgender woman to appear on Cosmo’s front cover
  • Ireland ended its ban on abortion
  • The ban on female drivers in Saudi Arabia was repealed
  • Jordan Peele became the first black screenwriter to win the Oscar for ‘Best original screenplay’ for his movie ‘Get Out’

And there are plenty more that i’m sure i’ve forgotten to mention, including whatever steps you guys have made as individuals to help make the world a better place.

A Peak Inside The Christmas Bee Saver Kit

In my last post ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Wastemas’ I mentioned some charity presents that you could gift to your loved ones and help the world at the same time. One of those gifts is the Friends of the Earth Christmas Bee Saver Kit. I bought myself a kit as an early Christmas present and thought that it would be a good idea to show you guys what you can expect to get if you choose to donate.

A Bee Themed Christmas

When I first opened the pack I was met with a small blank Christmas card that I could send to a friend or family member as well as a matching sheet of bee-themed christmas wrapping paper. Both the wrapping paper and card were beautifully patterned but due to the fact that neither had a shine or glitter they are both fully recyclable and biodegradable.

Protecting the Bees

The main part of the bee saver kit was obviously the tools to help make your garden more bee friendly. The first was a small pack of wildflower seeds, come springtime these are a great way to add some colour to your garden and attract not just bees but butterflies as well. Next we have the handy bee saver guide which contains useful tips and tricks on how to actively help the bees, from building your own bee hotel to which flowers are the best for bees. And finally, one of my favourite parts of the kit was the bee identification poster, most people are unaware of just how many species of bee are actually out there and this is a great visual representation of what to look out for.

Friends of the Earth

Much like Greenpeace I feel like Friends of the Earth are one of those environmental charities that most people have heard of. However I also feel as though most people don’t know exactly what they do or how they can help Friends of the Earth to do what they do. Friends of the Earth are the main reason why the UK now has widespread doorstop recycling, they also have a focus on educating the public about environmental issues. As well as their Bee Saver kit Friends of the Earth also have a shop which include books, clothes and other kits the profits of which go towards helping run their worldwide campaigns.