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”

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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”

Finding a new swimming home

First off, a quick apology to the blog for having neglected it for so long! So many things have popped up – we’re turning a back wasteland into a proper garden, I’ve started a new job after eight years of working at the same place, there has been honey to harvest from our bees, and I took up running (and then subsequently got an ankle injury).

But where I’ve idled away the most time, when I could have been writing, is at this beautiful spot above – the Great Ouse river in Olney, Buckinghamshire. It’s different from my former swim spot, the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond in Hampstead, London. Kenwood has its own character, through a sense of bohemian ideas, and a strong identity through the women who swim there. It’s unashamedly London – alternative, feisty and bold. When I moved away from London in May 2016, I didn’t know what I’d do without it. Luckily, a tip from the Open Water Swimming Society  pointed me to a bend in the river, behind a rugby club, 10 miles up the road from my new home.

Olney is striking in one particular way, which is the diversity of people who go to swim there. Next to the ‘swimming is not recommended’ sign (hey, that means it’s legal, right?) and specially carved out steps leading to the water’s edge, are groups of teenagers daring each other to jump into the deep drop near the riverbank, small children paddling on the bottom step where the water just about reaches, families in blow-up boats with swimming dogs in tow, elderly couples reading on the benches under the willow trees… In short, everyone is here. It’s a spot that belongs to the whole village and is intertwined with their everyday lives. Until I found it, I didn’t know that still existed, and it makes me so happy.

The water here is great to swim in, clean and full of little fish. You get in at the steps, and swim up a narrow section through a gentle current. On turning the corner, the river widens out, with banks gently sloping up one side, and a huge sky of swifts gliding a across a huge open expanse to the other. If you’re lucky, you might see the kingfisher hiding amongst the tree cover.

So I’m sure you can understand my neglect of the blog, but as the nights start to draw in, hopefully we can start spending some more time together again. Although…winter swimming has its appeal too… 

My Terracycle Zero Waste Box: four months on

In January, I wrote about my purchase of a rather fancy cardboard box. What possessed me to purchase mid-sized piece of cardboard for £117.62 you ask? Well, this box is pretty special – it allows all sorts of things that would normally end up in landfill to go for recycling instead. This is done courtesy of a company called Terracycle.

Terracycle, through a mixture of free collection points and boxes you can purchase for your home or business, pride themselves on recycling the unrecyclable – cigarette butts, flipflops, cassette tapes – and more other things than I could have possibly imagined.

Over the past few years, I’ve been on a mission to reduce the amount of waste our household produces. What I’ve learned in that time is that a lot of waste is avoidable, based on strategies of:

  1. trying to purchase only what I actually need,
  2. shopping second hand for clothes and household goods when I do purchase things, keeping them maintained and fixing them if they break,
  3. taking time to create some avoidance strategies for the seemingly endless amount of packaging our food comes in, and composting the leftovers.

Continue reading “My Terracycle Zero Waste Box: four months on”

The psychological problem with plastic

I had a bit of a revelation the other day. I can’t imagine I’m the first person to think of it, but it struck me as significant at the time.

I was at work, and we had some leftover birthday cake in the office. Some people wanted to take a few slices home, but didn’t have any containers with them. “I’ve got a spare container you can borrow” I said, offering a colleague my metal lunchbox (pictured above, minus the lunch). “I can’t take that” they replied, “it’s far too nice to borrow!”

Searching further in my desk drawer I found a plastic box, the type that takeaway food comes in. “That’s perfect”, my colleague said, “I’ll bring it back tomorrow.”

And that’s when it hit me – the problem with plastic isn’t just that it’s disposable, but that it somehow intrinsically embodies the quality of ‘disposable’-ness as well. Plastic represents something that doesn’t require care or preservation – it looks as though it was made to be discarded. Continue reading “The psychological problem with plastic”

Eco audit: the bathroom

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“The littlest room in the house” is an apt expression in our home

Sometimes it’s easy to get swept up in the big picture of wanting a lovely eco, pared-down life, and feel a bit overwhelmed with the task at hand. When there’s just too much of everything, it often ends up with nothing getting done.

To that end, I’m taking on a room-by-room approach to my house, seeing what’s been ‘greenified’ as much as possible, what could be better, and what needs a complete rethink. I’m starting with the bathroom because it’s a room with a lot of potentially disposable items, and with the expertise of the lovely zero waste community I’m sure that some of the easier wins here will help me with some of the trickier rooms.

Our bathroom is on the small side of what estate agents would call ‘compact’. In the picture of our bathroom at the top of this article, the toilet is behind the wall on the left. Essentially, if you want more than one person in the bathroom at once, one person has to stand either in the bath or on the toilet. It’s friendly. So where items can be minimised or multipurposed, all the better. Continue reading “Eco audit: the bathroom”

Plastic free and on TV

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A slightly wonky snap of me from my TV!

This was definitely not a post I was expecting to write, but on Saturday I was interviewed about shopping plastic free for Sky News! One of their reporters got in touch with me via Twitter on Saturday morning following a referral from the lovely Kate at Plastic is Rubbish, and a few hours later, I found myself in one of my favourite places, Earth Natural Foods, being mic-ed up and ready to film.

In all honesty, when I was first asked, my first reaction was to refuse. I feel incredibly awkward and shy at public appearances, and didn’t want to make a fool of myself. But my lovely partner gently persuaded me that it was a good idea Continue reading “Plastic free and on TV”

The most worthwhile cardboard box I’ve ever bought

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Behold my beautiful cardboard box. What a treat, eh?
As you can guess from the title of this post, I purchased a cardboard box this week. £117.62 worth of cardboard box to be exact. There it is in the picture above, in all its glory. Isn’t she lovely?

Have I gone completely off the rails you ask? No, I have not. For this isn’t just any old cardboard box, it’s a Terracycle No Separation Zero Waste Box. What this box will enable me to do is to recycle almost all of the final few bits of landfill waste I’m still creating. The stuff that is just too difficult for me to give up, at least right now.

Terracycle are a company who pride themselves on recycling the bits and bobs which aren’t easily recyclable elsewhere. The range of things you can recycle with them is huge: items such as tennis balls, sponges, crayons, backpacks, cassette tapes, safety goggles, flip flops and about a million other things. Continue reading “The most worthwhile cardboard box I’ve ever bought”

Compassion is still our currency

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It’s very easy to become disillusioned when you care a lot about the environment. The earth, and our fragile place on it, can feel very precarious at times. 2017 seems set to be a year that will test our resilience to its very maximum; most notably an incoming US president who doesn’t accept the clear, established science of climate change. He is depressingly accompanied by our own UK government who appear to see environmental protections as ‘red tape’ to be swept aside along with investment in renewable technologies, as it goes on a mission to alienate itself from its neighbours on the continent. Also in attendance is a shocking resurgence across large swathes of the Western world of a far-right ideology that sees compassion for the planet, and indeed other humans, as a weakness to be mocked and exploited. Continue reading “Compassion is still our currency”

What price happiness?

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Definitely no magic land at the back of this wardrobe…

Over the last few years there has been a growing backlash against the rise of a culture based on hyper consumption. The movement towards buying and having less has grown as people have begun to realise that a. more stuff doesn’t necessarily mean more happiness, and b. that our planet doesn’t have the resources to sustain our growing levels of consumption.

There is a level of affluence and technical innovation that greatly increases our happiness and ability to lead full, productive lives – from a warm, safe home, access to food, clean water, healthcare, through to education, and access to freedom of ideas and time to discuss them with others. Continue reading “What price happiness?”