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.

Supporting Those Supporting The Earth

A few weeks ago I went to a christmas fair, mostly it was filled with stalls of handmade gifts, food and experience days. Overall it was a refreshing change from the commercialisation of modern day christmas.

Two stalls that I was particularly pleased to see were Bamboo Clothing and The Woodland Trust.

Bamboo Clothing do exactly as their names suggest, they create warm, outdoor and workout clothes out of bamboo. This includes socks, yoga clothes, shirts, trousers you name it. The great thing about bamboo is that it’s eco-friendly, easy to grow and durable. Bamboo clothing have their own blog page attached to their store which explains more fully the advantages of bamboo.

 

The Woodland Trust is a British charity that helps to protect our woodlands and has made tremendous bounds in getting ancient trees listed, which gives them the same rights as

listed buildings. In a nutshell it helps to prevent more of our forests from being cut down. The woodland trust also run a blog which is full of informative posts from facts about red squirrels to in depth descriptions of their current campaigns.

I signed up as a member of The Woodland Trust, and as such I was sent a welcome pack which included a leaf identification pack, a copy of their monthly magazine and a booklet containing all of the locations of current Woodland Trust protected areas. Every part of the welcome pack was recyclable and is a great way to inspire people to get back into nature.

Don’t Use It As An Excuse

A few of my recent posts, namely ‘‘Never Fear Failure’ and ‘We All Have a Part to Play’, have unintentionally softened the message that this blog is trying to send. Which is that we must all do our best and try our hardest to reduce our impact on the environment. I don’t want to put you off, or come across a bitter and angry (which I totally am so it might happen anyway) I only bring this up as I have been seeing a lot of posts on various social media platforms about how the framing of climate change as a personal failure is wrong because companies are the biggest polluters. But whilst it is true that big companies and multimillionaires are to blame for the vast majority of environmental degradation and climate change (around 70%) I fear that people are using this as an excuse to stop trying.

Just because others have a bigger impact doesn’t mean that you get to stop trying to reduce your own. We don’t live in a vacuum, that one plastic bottle that you bought because you couldn’t be bothered to fill up a reusable one and bring it with you isn’t really just one plastic bottle. It’s millions, because there are millions of others out there that are doing exactly what you are doing and we need to stop.

And conversely, those of you who are saying that your actions don’t matter because large companies are doing more damage than one person can repair, what are you doing to hold these people accountable? I haven’t seen petitions or marches for harsher restrictions on companies so much as i’ve seen people using these facts as a scape goat to stop looking at their own behaviours. You can bitch and moan that the fashion industry is ruining our water supply, or that animal agriculture is causing more greenhouse gas emissions than cars but as long as you keep buying and consuming their shit they’re going to keep doing it.

So yes, it’s true that eating the owner of one fortune 100 company would do more to help the environment that becoming a vegan ever could (and i’ll talk about some of the drawbacks of veganism on environmental protection another time) but I don’t see anyone killing Jeff Bezos anytime soon so until then do something to reduce your own damaging impact!

There will be things that you can’t give up, there will be mistakes that you make because hey! nobodies perfect. But you have to try. Refuse that plastic straw the next time you order a drink, so that someone who actually needs a straw can still use one. Take public transport, or ride a bike to work so that someone who can’t physically do those things and has to rely on cars to get places still can. Push yourself to do better, if you forget to take your reusable coffee cup out with you then you don’t get a coffee, don’t reward yourself for failing because then you won’t get better. And for those of you out there (once again mostly rich people)  who think that your own personal enjoyment of something somehow negates the damage and is somehow more important the the protection of our planet then maybe take a hard look at yourself.

And if you are the owner of a multinational corporation or a fortune 100 company (although I doubt there are any of those reading this) stop fucking destroying our planet for your own profits and take some goddamn responsibility.

We All Have a Part to Play (But Some Need to Play a Bigger Part)

Whilst researching ideas for this blog I find myself coming up against the same blocks again and again. Mainly the ‘how is me making small changes going to help the environment’ and ‘how much of an impact am I really having on the environment in the first place’. How many of you have bought something wasteful and justified it to yourself with ‘oh it’s just this one time how bad could it be’. I know that i’ve done that on multiple occasions. Sometimes it’s the only way, for me at least because I am incredibly hard on myself, to temper the guilt. Even when i’ve had no other choice, for example if I can’t afford the eco-friendly, organic version of something that I need and therefore have to buy the cheaper, more wasteful version.

Now i’m not saying that you should take this as an out, yes you should go easy on yourself if you make a small slip up, but you should keep trying (I went into more detail in my ‘Never Fear Failure’ post). My main point in this is that sometimes there are things that we have to do that may be wasteful. For example there are many disabled people that have to use plastic straws, and they should not be made to feel guilty about that. What we as a community need to do is allow them to do this, and to help them by not using plastic straws ourselves.

The main point I’m trying to make is that there are some people out there who have a much bigger impact that others, these are also the people who have the ability to reduce that impact. A billionaire who has a private jet, multiple sports cars and a huge multinational corporation are the main causes of pollution, not that one coffee that you bought on a whim the other day. Unfortunately these are also the people who profit the most off of this pollution and waste, they are the ones who create these pointless products, who market what should be long lasting items (phones, clothes etc) as disposable junk that needs to be replaced on a regular basis.

So how can we make any meaningful impact if out actions are just a drop in the ocean? We try to influence others to add their drop too, and if enough of us work together then the people who can contribute more than a drop will have to start paying attention. Now if there’s one thing that I have learnt it’s that word alone won’t be enough, especially in this capitalist society that we currently find ourselves in. So if they won’t listen to our words then what will they listen to? Our wallets.

In today’s society buying power is what will change the consciousness. So use that buying power to support small local businesses, use it and refuse to support those massive polluting companies. Boycott, protest and petition. I myself have been boycotting both Coke and Amazon for a variety of reasons, and not only has it saved me money because it’s forced me to think about my purchases, but it has also helped me to find smaller businesses that I wouldn’t have found other whys.

So the take away of this post is: You alone cannot save the world but you need to do your part to improve it anyway.

Low Waste Learning

One of the last things you may be thinking about as you prepare to go to university, whether you are going back or heading off for the first time, is reducing your waste. But i’m here to tell you that not only can it be relatively simple but can save you money as well, which as a student is something that will definitely be on your mind. These few tips that I learnt from my uni days should definitely come in handy for those first few weeks of settling down.

1. Don’t take everything

One of the mistakes I made when I first headed off to uni and moved into my shared flat was bringing everything that I could think of. Not only did this cost me more money than I needed, multiple trips to pick up crockery, cooking equipment etc. but it was also unnecessary. Most of my new flat-mates had done the exact same thing which meant that we had every cupboard in our kitchen crammed full with more pots, pans and plates than any of us needed to use.

Most university’s will have a day within freshers week where you can buy the things that you need at rock bottom prices, things that have been donated by students the previous year. When I went off to do my Masters and moved back into student accommodation with a new set of flat-mates, we did just this. I already had most of the things that I needed but my flat-mates didn’t, and we managed to get all of it for around £20 per person.

If you do go this route then please remember to donate anything that isn’t broken back to the university to help the next set of students when you leave again.

2. Freshers fair

You may think that the freshers fair is just where you go to pick up free pizza and sign up for societies but it is also a great place to stock up on free stuff. Most stalls will offer free stationary such as pens, pencils, rulers etc. (seriously I don’t think I used anything other than my student finance and Arriva travel pens that I got from the fair the entire time I was at uni). You can also stock up on tote bags which are great to use when shopping because they don’t incur the 5p charge that plastic bags do and you can reuse them for years.

A few other gems that I have picked up during freshers include: A thermos, a money bank, calendars, and so many money off vouchers that I think I lived off of free pizza for about a month.

Also don’t be afraid to go each year, yeah it’s called freshers fair but you don’t have to be a fresher to get free stuff.

3. Textbooks

Now this one depends on which subject you’re taking. For me textbooks were a waste of money as scientific books are basically out of date as soon as they’re published, and I used online journals for all of my papers anyway. My main tip though is that regardless of which subject your taking don’t buy your textbook right away, wait until you know whether or not you actually need to use them more than once. Until then the uni library often has copies or you can share with friends.

If it comes down to it and you have to buy a copy for yourself try abebooks.co.uk. This website is a godsend, it has a massive list of textbooks for incredibly reasonable prices. I’ve already said that I didn’t buy textbooks for my course, but I did have to buy some animal identification books for a field course module that I did, the book that I bought cost me £6 from abebooks, whereas everywhere else it was a minimum of £25.

Also if, like I said earlier, you find yourself using journals more than physical books you may run into the issue of the ‘paywall’. Most universities have access keys to the larger online journals but if there is a specific paper that you need for an assignment then email the author of that paper. The authors are often more than willing to send you the whole paper for free as they don’t get paid by the journals for access. Literally all of the money that you will spend getting past the paywall goes to the journal and not to the academics themselves.

4. Low waste supplies

If you really want to go all out and live as a low waste student then here are a few options for low waste alternatives to common products:

Lunch boxes – when you have a full day of classes you need something to keep you going. Investing in a stainless steel lunch box or linen lunch bag will both save you money and help reduce waste. By bringing food from home instead of eating out you reduce the chances of impulse buying expensive food or food that is wrapped in unnecessary plastic.

Drinks bottles – you may be lucky enough to get a free drinks bottle at the freshers fair but if not then invest in a sturdy metal bottle. I bought a Smash bottle for £12 from Sainsbury’s that can not only keep things cold for up to 24 hours but also keep hot drinks warm for up to 12 hours. I’ve actually taken to leaving the lid off for about half an hour so that I can actually drink my tea without burning my mouth.

Stationary – if you’re not sold on stocking up on free plastic pens at the freshers fair and want a more eco friendly option then try companies such as ‘Ecoverte’ for your eco friendly supplies. There are also many companies that make biodegradable highlighters but I find that underlining or colouring in with coloured pencils works just as well.

Earbuds – now this one isn’t necessarily an essential (although to some people it might be) but I thought it was quite cool. ‘Organic Sound’ are a company that make biodegradable earbuds so you can study and listen to music waste free.