Respect in the wake of Summer

As we move further into the summer and people are starting to spend more time outside among nature I thought I’d impart a few tips and tricks on how you can help improve your local environment.

1. Feed the Bees

As the weather turns warmer, we should start seeing more of our cute buzzy friends floating about, however the mornings are still cool and a suddenly cold day can badly effect the health and stamina of bumblebees. Keep an eye out for any little ladies that seem sluggish or who are wandering around on the floor, it could be that they’re hungry and tired. Even if you find what looks like a dead bee give her a gentle push to see if she’s simply exhausted, if you can find a leaf and pop her on a flower. The best flowers for a tired bee are tube/cup shaped ones which give them an easy place to sit and rest whilst they fill up on pollen. If you’re near home or can’t find a flower then try to give them a small piece of fruit or a teaspoon of sugar water, this should give them enough energy to get on their way.

Top tip: Sugar water should be given as a last resort as it is the human equivalent of junk food. It will give a bee enough energy to get home but its highly addictive and honey made from sugar water has little to no nutritional value for larvae.

2. Don’t feed the ducks (at least don’t feed them bread)

Going to feed the ducks was always a childhood favourite of mine, it also served as a good way to get rid of stale bread. Unfortunately, this is one of the worse things to feed birds, not just ducks. Bread has almost no nutritional benefit and instead fills a birds stomach, reducing the space for beneficial food. This is especially dangerous during the winter when other food is scarce and birds need to bulk up to keep warm, another dangerous time period is in he spring when ducks and other water birds have young with them. Feeding young ducklings bread can actually lead to them starving to death, because they feel full and therefore don’t eat food with actually nutritional benefit.

Top tip: Try taking some baby carrots, seeds, sweetcorn and other vegetables that give a nice crunch the next time that you want to feed the ducks. These are much healthier and a lot more fun for young ducklings to eat.

3. Take nothing but photos leave nothing but footprints

Many of you will have heard this adage and as we hear more and more about the amount of plastic and rubbish that has made its way into the environment I feel as though its more important than ever.

What this saying means is if you take something into an environment that doesn’t belong there, food, packaging etc. it is your job to take them back out again. In the simplest terms, don’t litter.

The take nothing but photos part of this saying is slightly more of a grey area, this part really means don’t take anything that will disturb then environment that you’ve visited or harm the environment that you are taking it to. A pretty autumn leaf, a nice pebble from the beach, these things are not going to cause any negative impact. Taking seeds from a plant into a non-native environment, uprooting a whole plant, taking a pretty birds egg, these things can cause quite a bit of damage to the delicate ecosystems where they naturally exist. This is one of the main reasons why customs are so strict on bringing biological material into different countries, a quick google on invasive species will show you how quickly foreign plants and animals can destroy a well-balanced ecosystem.

Final Thoughts

The biggest take home for this post is respect. When you are out and about in nature, respect it. Take time to look out for wildlife that may need your help and keep your distance from other things that shouldn’t be disturbed. Remember that you are a guest in these places that you visit, so give it the same level of respect that you would a loved ones house.

A Week of New Beginnings

Well just as I was beginning to once again get swamped with feelings of existential dread and that constant panic-making knowledge that we are on the precipice of ecological disaster I was greeted by this week’s events. A mixture of good and bad this week seems, fingers crossed, to be the beginning of not just a global awakening but a global movement towards more concrete climate action. So, what happened this week to make me think this you may ask, well sit back and let me tell you.

Greta Thunberg was invited to address the European Parliament

ENVI Committee – Exchange of views with Greta Thunberg, climate activist

That’s right, my girl Greta is still at it and doesn’t seem to be willing to stop any time soon. The teenage activist who has been sitting outside of Swedish Parliament every Friday in an attempt to kick start a climate revolution appeared before the European Parliament this week to remind everyone that they have a responsibility to safeguard the planet for future generations. She brought up many great points about the need to vote not just for our own interests but for the interests of those who cannot vote but will be affected by what we do now in the years to come. Is it any wonder that she’s been nominated for a Nobel peace prize?

Sir David Attenborough presented another ground shaking documentary, and he’s no longer mincing words.

Straight off the back of his ‘Our Planet’ series, the deceiving beautiful show that exposes the crumbling nature of our current existence and our soon to be future should we continue as we are. Climate change: The Facts does not hold back in its message. Sir David is no longer sugar coating for us with his honey smooth voice (yes like everyone I could listen to this man all fricking day) and has instead moved to a much more sombre note. With the move to Netflix he has jumped in with both feet in an attempt to spark the same kind of passion for climate change as Blue Planet II has done for single use plastics.

Climate change: The Facts is a call to arms to face, in Attenborough’s words ‘our greatest threat in thousands of years’. Chock full of experts stating in clear terms the consequences of our current lifestyles, possibly the most hard-hitting moments come not from the professionals but from the amateurs, as we watch in real time the disastrous effects of climate change on individuals through shaky phone footage. But as harrowing and stark as the statistics in this film are it is refreshing to se the blame placed where it really belongs, not just on the shoulders of the everyday individual but on the conglomerates and corporations who are profiting off of this impending disaster. Fossil fuel companies who have known for over 40 years what their products are doing to the environment, and have used the same tactics that the tobacco companies used to spread misinformation and confusion in an attempt to safeguard their profits over the lives of everyone else.

Extinction Rebellion has taken over and continues to hold large parts of London in a massive protest for movement against climate change

Unfortunately almost all of the coverage that I have seen on this protest has not focused on what they are protesting about but are instead focusing on the disruption of commuters. As though civil disobedience is about making as little disruption as possible. However, most of the police interviewed have stated that the protesters are overwhelmingly peaceful and many commuters are under the impression that as long as it helps to change the general opinion on climate change and gets things done then their disruption is a minimal price to pay. A great video by Jonathan Pie has covered the protest in a refreshing way that focused on the real issues being brought up by the protest. One delivery driver who was stopped by the disruption was interviewed saying it ‘slows everything down, which is good in some ways because if you slow the work down they take notice don’t they? The government with lose money that way. The government are doing nothing about it and our kids are going to grow up into what? They’ve got to grow up with something, if we don’t do anything now, it will never happen’. Civil disobedience works, and the tactics of the press to focus on the disruption being caused are the same ones they used during the fight for womens rights, gay rights and any other large scale protest in history.

Notre Dame caught fire and the response of the worlds rich shows the hypocrisy of our current society.

On the 15th of this month the historical Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire causing much of the world to watch with bated breath to see how much of it could be saved. Now whilst the iconic spire fell two of Frances wealthiest families pledged 300 million euro to help with the restoration project. As of now over $700 million has been raised to help fix this iconic landmark. Which is great, I understand the mourning of such a beautiful piece of architecture and history, however the speed at which these billionaires handed over their money to help rebuild this cathedral got me, and judging from the reactions a lot of people, thinking. Where’s this urgency to when it comes to helping the living? Why are these people so willing to put their hands in their pockets for one building that is already owned by an organisation worth over $170 billion in the US alone (yep the catholic church could easily fund the restorations themselves but if you’ve ever been to a fundraiser for a local church you know that they won’t be shelling out any time soon) but not to help fund renewable energy research, or donate to help end world hunger and poverty, or even help to rebuild and rehouse those made homeless in other disasters such as the Grenfell fire last year?

If you want a perspective of how much money has been thrown at this disaster let’s compare it to Grenfell shall we:

How many people died in the Notre Dame fire? Zero.

How many people died in the Grenfell fire? 72.

How much money has been raised for Notre dame so far? $1 billion dollars.

How much money has been raised for Grenfell? 26.5 million, and it’s been found that only around 3 million of that has gone to the survivors so far.

And whilst the world watched transfixed by the burning of Paris, the last female Yangtze softshell turtle died, making this species functionally extinct and yet I think I only saw maybe one news article about that. But hey maybe we’re just becoming numb to the rampant loss of species as we’re currently seeing an extinction rate of 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate. In fact, maybe I’m being a bit of a downer, we did have a good year in 2018 with only 3 bird species disappearing from our skies, with 5 more being classified as ‘extinct in the wild’, we also lost 2 snail species and several plant species. I wish I was being glib about that being a good year but compared with previous years those numbers are actually pretty low.

So movement is being made, people are waking up, both to the reality of our current and future climate and to the lack of help from those who could help the most. If you are one of the many who have only recently been made aware of how precariously close to ecological disaster we are then you may be asking, what can I do? If so then please feel free to go through my previous posts which have more detail about various ways that you can change to reduce your environmental impact but for now here are a few quick tips:

– If you can’t join in with physical protests then sign a petition urging you’re government to take a stronger stance on climate change – here’s one by Friends of the Earth to get you started

– donate to help the people on the ground, there are many non-profit groups that are fighting to protect our planet

– make one or two small changes to reduce your individual impact on the environment – try reducing your meat consumption, use a reusable coffee cup, walk or cycle to places that you would normally drive to

– Boycott large companies that are actively harming our planet – Exxon and Shell have both admitted to hushing up evidence of the impact of fossil fuels on climate change. The fast fashion industry uses thousands of gallons of water to make cheap clothes and dumps waste products back into the environment.

– Reduce your participation in consumer culture – if you must shop, shop in second hand stores.

– And finally, give yourself a break. If you’re like me then the continued coverage of our impending catastrophe can feel a bit like we’ve been given a terminal diagnosis. It can get overwhelming, to the point where eco-anxiety has now become a scientifically recognised disorder. It’s nearly impossible to live wholly ethically in our current capitalist society, activist guilt is real but if you let it consume you then you can become paralyzed and that’s no help to anyone.

Ecobricks – A Review

What are Ecobricks:

Ecobricks are a way of safely disposing of/ reusing waste plastic and other non-biological products that cannot be recycled. Ecobricks are made by packing these waste items into plastic bottles until you reach a set density. These ecobricks can them be used to make lego-like modular structures such as furniture, walls and even buildings. These cheap and resistant building materials allow for the building of durable and affordable items whilst simultaneously helping to reduce waste.

Pros:

I believe many of the pros of this product speak for themselves. It’s a great way to find a use for something that was originally useless e.g. waste packaging. It helps us to keep plastic and other harmful materials out of the environment, and it allows for the building of affordable homes all across the world. Plastic is non-biodegradable which means that once made it will never break down in the way that organic material such as wood will, there are pros and cons to this. The Pros are that plastic items last for a really long time, but one the item become obsolete or not longer wanted then this pro turns into a con. Ecobricks is a solution to this as it puts the utility of long-lasting durability back into waste plastic. Ecobricks keeps plastic out of our environment and helps to protect vulnerable flora and fauna. The very process of creating an ecobrick also helps to raise individual consciousness of the environmental problem that plastic creates, by taking the time to collect the waste that you have created and pack it into an ecobrick you can see how much you actually produce and take steps to minimise this.

Cons:

The final point in my pro list also leads onto my first and really only con. The possibility of this becoming an easy out for people. By making ecobricks I am concerned that people will make no further steps to change their behaviour, people may start to think, ‘well my waste plastic is now going somewhere useful so why should I stop buying it?’ What we really should be aiming for is a culture and a lifestyle where ecobricks are not needed, where we are not producing such high levels of environmentally harmful, pointless plastic. Whilst individuals may make changes once ecobricks has caused them to think more critically about their consumption, the large corporations that produce these plastics may very well use ecobricks and solutions like them as a way of justifying their continued existence.

Would I recommend:

As the pros of Ecobricks far outweigh the cons (which are also currently just conjecture on my part, I have no data to prove that Ecobricks will not cause a drop in the production of useless plastic) I would highly recommend checking out the Ecobricks website and look into creating some yourself.

If you liked this review style post and would like to see more focusing on specific products and movements then please drop a comment below or on our facebook page.

The 11th Hour

Yesterday over 1 million young people around the world skipped school and took to the streets to strike for climate action. According to organizers there were more than 2,000 protests in 125 countries. This global movement has been inspired by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old who has sat outside of Swedish parliament every Friday since August.

Greta Thunberg, as well as many young people, is angry at the lack of action taken by governments and companies to put in place more concrete action plans to help put a stop to catastrophic climate change.

This increase in rage, fear and disappointment in students and many people in their mid-late 20s has come after the UNs warning that we only have 12 years to keep global temperatures to a maximum of 1.5C higher than now. If significant changes are not made and global temperatures go past this 1.5 degree maximum, climate scientists have said that the world will become increasingly inhospitable.

We will see an increase in extreme weather conditions, such as droughts, floods and storms. It should come as no surprise that if this continues, the poorest people and nations will be the most harshly affected, with an increase in food shortages and more chances of flooding. Sea level rises will affect more than 10 million people by 2100 with continued land-ice melt.

These statistics should be shocking enough to inspire action from anyone, however most large companies have done very little to reduce their climatic impact as it will reduce their short-term profits. And many governments have also been very lax in their action plans, giving conservative goals that don’t come close to reducing emissions and pollution to the extent that we need.

Students and young people are rightly angry and indignant about this lack of action as they will be the ones that have to live with the consequences of whatever global governments decide to do, or not do. And as an extra slap in the face many of these students are too young to have a say in what happens, vote whys. Thankfully, as we have seen with the student strikes for gun control after Parkland, the massive turnouts for the womens marches etc, this new generation are ready to fight for what this world needs.

Now for those of us who have a vote, it is vital that we use it to appoint people who will take responsibility for this planet and its people. We also need to start supporting our young people in their crusade, change your lifestyles to reduce your individual impact, sign petitions for concrete action, and join any future marches that may come about. We truly are at the 11th hour and our plant needs us, we have failed her. We have set our house on fire and left our children to put it out, it’s time to take responsibility and rebuild a world that we can be proud to pass on to the next generation.

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.