April Round Up

April has been a month of celebrations – big ones, like birthdays and a wedding, and small ones, like the first warm, sunny day and tiny new shoots from planted seeds.

Both my partner and I had our birthdays in April. But we face the same problem – what to buy people who don’t want more ‘stuff’? No plastic tat, no joke presents, nothing just for the sake of it?

Well, we did ourselves proud. I bought N a voucher for a ‘learn to sail day‘, and well… just one little beautiful item for the house, this air plant.

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He loved them! I was equally thrilled with this beautiful cork yoga mat. I’ve recently rediscovered my love for yoga through the wonderful Ange Cooper’s classes, and having a really good mat has actually made me want to practice more often.

Between birthday dinners, cosy gatherings, late nights chatting and drinking wine in the garden, and a big fancy wedding, I’ve felt very grateful for the lovely group of friends I get to share it all with. So this month’s update is less angry environmentalism, and more happiness in the simple pleasures. Continue reading “April Round Up”

February Round Up

I’m often coming across news items, recipes, environmental stories and things that give me pause for thought, but aren’t enough for a whole blog post on their own. So I thought it would be nice to collect them together and share them with you each month. It would been more satisfyingly ‘neat’ to have started this in January, but never mind!

February has been an exciting month because SPRING IS COMING! Just when I was starting to think that it really was going to be muddy, cold and miserable forever, the first flowers are finally peeking their heads up. Here are the celandine and snowdrops on my way to work:

The river where we go swimming is still a chilly three to four degrees Celsius (around 38 Fahrenheit) so I know ‘proper’ spring is still a way off, but it turns out it isn’t going to be winter forever.

Reading

I’ve just finished How To Read Water: Clues & Patterns from Puddles to the Sea
by Tristan Gooley. The perfect resource for anyone looking for an opportunity to have a quick dip when you’re out and about, but also great for anyone interested in understanding natural signs better, so I would also recommend it for walkers, campers and explorers of all kinds!

Next up is The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. I’ve already learned how trees are naturally social and that they talk to each other, and have started sympathising with the lone hawthorn in our front garden.

Cooking

My neighbour gifted me a pumpkin, which I used to adapt this Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Spinach Coconut Curry recipe from thevegan8.com. I swapped the sweet potato for pumpkin, spinach for some purple sprouting broccoli, and added a bit of garam masala at the end. Delicious with short grain brown rice, flaked almonds and a handful of fresh coriander. The pic here is my version, but I’d recommend visiting the link above to see how beautiful it looks when being photographed properly, and not by a hungry person with a camera phone.

coconut curry

We finished off January with an entirely vegan Burns Night, with veggie haggis, neeps and tatties made using olive oil and mustard rather than butter, and a surprisingly delicious vegan cranachan, made with whipped coconut cream.

Articles

I’ve discovered Anthropocene Magazine, who have some thought provoking articles, my favourites of the moment being:

  • The unforeseen consequences of killing ‘prize’ animals – I cannot get my head round the idea of hunting as a pleasurable activity personally, but this article explains how shooting the the ‘best’ animals is weakening the gene pool and is an interesting counter-argument to the ‘hunting as conservation’ idea.
  • Reusable or Disposable: Which coffee cup has a smaller footprint? – It turns out that it can take as many as a thousand uses for a reusable cup to have less of an environmental impact than a disposable one. I don’t think this is an argument for disposables, more of a case for buying once, making it last, and being frugal with the washing up liquid and hot water when keeping it clean. But a powerful reminder that reusable really needs to mean reusable.
The most shocking news story I’ve seen this month is, as unbelievable as it may seem, that Cape Town is preparing to run out of water. On what is being called the apocalyptic-sounding ‘Day Zero’, the city will turn off its water supply, leaving citizens to visit water ration points to collect their daily allowance of just 25 litres of water. A stark warning to us all that seemingly infinite natural resources are anything but. Could you live on 25 litres of water a day?

Blog posts

Sarah’s post Zero Waste Myths: Are sustainable lifestyles only for middle class people? is a great read, and something I worry about myself. I think those of us promoting ZW and environmentally-friendly activities do need to keep trying to check our privilege – if we’re creating most of the waste, we need to make sure we’re addressing that.

I always love Lindsay’s posts, and got some good ideas from 5 Ideas for Donating Stuff You Don’t Need (But Is Still Useful).

 

I’d love to know what you’ve been up to, and your eco reading/watching/listening/doing recommendations, please leave a comment and let me know! 

 

The ‘no new clothes for a year’ challenge

In December 2016, I watched a film called The True Cost. It’s about the ‘fast fashion’ industry, showing the awful working conditions endured and the environmental devastation caused by our throwaway attitude to clothes.

In particular, the film looks at the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh in 2013. If you haven’t heard of Rana Plaza, you will almost certainly own items bought from a brand who had some of their clothes made there – J.C. Penney, Matalan, Benetton, Primark, Zara – to name a few.

In total, 1,134 people died and 2500 were injured when the factory collapsed on 24th April 2013. The incident shone a light into the dreadful conditions that people working in the garment industry were subject to, and the huge cost people paid with their lives so that those of us in richer countries can buy clothes at such a cheap price.

I watched the film with tears in my eyes as the credits rolled, and messaged the friend who had recommended it to me. “I’m not buying any new clothes for a year”, she said to me, and I decided to join her.

I know I could have just said “I’m only shopping for ethically-made clothes from now on”, but it didn’t get to the heart of the problem, which is the addiction we have to consuming without thinking, for always assuming more is better, for never considering where each item comes from. It is frankly obscene that UK households are throwing away 300,000 tonnes of clothes in a single year. Donating to charity, whilst better than simply landfilling used clothes, carries a lot of problems with it as well, not least the disruption of local clothing economies in the less economically affluent countries that our clothes are shipped to. In fact, this is such an issue that some countries are now considering a ban on second-hand imports.

dresses2 Continue reading “The ‘no new clothes for a year’ challenge”

Green on screen: 10 must-see environmental films

There’s few things I love more as a treat than to snuggle under a blanket on the sofa and watch a great documentary. Films are a great way to learn without really trying when you’re having a lazy day, or introduce friends or family to new concepts without feeling like you’re lecturing them. These are some of my favourites, covering plastic pollution, simple living, waste, the ocean, climate change and fast fashion. All of them are beautifully made, by passionate, interesting people who will (hopefully) leave you feeling inspired and ready to take action.

The freebies – films freely available online (legally!)

A Plastic Whale: This is part of the series of short films made by Sky. It is the story of the body of a whale that washes up on the coast of Norway, found to have died as a result of consuming so much plastic. The documentary follows a team of scientists and interested members of the public as they look to use the tragedy to highlight the growing effects of plastic on ocean creatures. Continue reading “Green on screen: 10 must-see environmental films”

Why small actions matter

A common criticism of environmentalists by other environmentalists is the focus on  ‘small wins’ – things like energy efficient light bulbs, swapping to canvas shopping bags, saying no to plastic straws. The criticism is usually that this is a ‘rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ approach – something akin to “for god’s sake, sea levels are rising, the planet is warming, the oceans are acidifying, and your signature on an online petition, or using a reusable coffee cup isn’t going to fix this! We need huge, systematic change.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m under no illusion here, I know swapping to eco-friendly bathroom cleaner is not going to prevent the sixth mass extinction event that is currently underway. We cannot beach clean ourselves to a maximum 1.5C degree rise in global temperatures.

But it IS important. It’s important because of what it says about our collective mindset.

What started me thinking about this was watching a screening of Before the Flood, an environmental documentary presented by Leonardo Di Caprio. A particular quote in the film struck me:

Politicians are not elected leaders, they are elected followers. They will do what consensus wants.

Politicians represent their constituents. Extrapolating to wider society, businesses make or procure objects and services for consumers to buy. Politicians who don’t do what the electorate want get voted out, and companies that make products that no one buys go out of business. Continue reading “Why small actions matter”

A Plastic Ocean (and how you can start doing something about it): Part 1

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Plastic, plastic everywhere. Everywhere it shouldn’t be.

Earlier this year, I went to see A Plastic Ocean as part of the Raindance Film Festival in London. Directed by Craig Leeson and starring world-record breaking freediver Tanya Streeter, it’s a film about how plastics get into the ocean, the devastating effects they have, and what can be done about it. I thought my trip to see it would end up being a one-person event, as whilst many of my friends politely humour me about my enthusiastic commitment to avoiding plastic,  I appreciate that for many people it’s a bit of niche subject and perhaps not what you go to the cinema to see.

To my surprise, four friends agreed to come along.  Continue reading “A Plastic Ocean (and how you can start doing something about it): Part 1”

Countdown to book launch: Zero Waster’s Travel Companion!

So I’m counting down the hours, because Friday, 14th October is the day that the Zero Waster’s Travel Companion goes on sale! A helpful guide to take you round the world whilst looking after it 🙂

This project was the idea of the lovely Inge, who blogs over at www.gruenish.com and is the brains behind the Zero Waste Bloggers Network. She has worked her socks off, and lots of us have been helping, each contributing a chapter on where you can eat, shop and live zero waste in a whole host of cities across the world!

The book will be available as an ebook, and you’ll be able to purchase and download it from http://zerowastebloggersnetwork.com/products/

I am very proud to be able to have written the chapter on London, covering all the way from Bloomsbury, through Camden, Kentish Town and up to Highgate. Continue reading “Countdown to book launch: Zero Waster’s Travel Companion!”

Sustainable Book Club: This Changes Everything

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Sustainable Book Club is a great initiative from Zoe Morrison of Eco Thrifty Living, where environmentally-minded people can come together on Twitter and Facebook to chat over our chosen reading material. My suggestion was This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein (non-Amazon shopping link – no affiliation). I chose this book because rarely have I experienced a non-fiction book that brought me so close to tears, that made me so angry, and so inspired me into action.

Lots of us take personal action on a daily basis against environmental destruction by consuming less, making better and more local food choices, rejecting excess packaging, reusing, mending and so on. All great things, but this book isn’t really about that. Instead, this book starts at the very top of society, looking at the destruction and selling off of our environment by governments and corporations. It calls for a complete overhaul of how countries and businesses conduct themselves, treat their citizens and looks at reinventing the entire global capitalist society. It is quite simply, huge. Continue reading “Sustainable Book Club: This Changes Everything”

Sustainable Book Club: Stuffocation

I recently joined Sustainable Book Club, run by Zoe Morrison of one of my favourite blogs, EcoThriftyLiving. We have just read and discussed Stuffocation by James Wallman.

Stuffocation is about the idea that materialism and our materialist culture is bad for our health and wellbeing, our society and the environment and suggests that the way forward is ‘experientialism’ – a way of living and creating a social order based on what we do, not what we have.

I loved parts of the book, but others I found frustrating in equal measure. The chapter ‘The Original Mad Men and the job of Creating Desire’ was a fascinating interpretation of history looking at the decision of advertisers and manufacturers moving towards trying to guide people into a lifestyle of wanting more, rather than making the decision to manufacture less. I found myself imagining a life where we had moved to a society with less stuff and more leisure time, and felt really rather sad at where we have ended up instead!

Some of the other parts of the book grated on me a little. Continue reading “Sustainable Book Club: Stuffocation”