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”→
Last weekend, I was lucky enough to find myself in one of the very nicest cities in the UK, Brighton. It has pretty much everything I could want in a city – the sea (with accompanying gorgeous views), market stalls, indie shops selling one-of-a-kind vintage items, enough vegetarian cafes to make it seem like a normal lifestyle, and a great approach to life (they elected the only Green Party MP in the UK, which makes them pretty awesome and progressive in my book).
There is a huge range of places to eat – the wonderful Terre à Terre makes some of the most exciting vegetarian food I’ve ever tried, or the excellently-named Wai Kika Moo Kau (say it out loud), but there was somewhere new that I have wanted to try ever since it opened…
Silo is a restaurant with a rather unique and exciting way of doing things – the zero waste way. It oozes out of the room itself, which is furnished with functional second-hand furniture and repurposed items. All food is delivered in refillable or reusable packaging, and any waste that created is compostable, although Silo’s website says they create so little of it that they also offer their composting services to local business and residential neighbours! Continue reading “Restaurant review: Silo”→
As someone who tries to avoid shopping in supermarkets, I love The People’s Supermarket. Mainly because it’s not really a supermarket in the regular supermarket sense (if there was an award for the most number of times you can use the word ‘supermarket’ in a post about a shop that isn’t really a supermarket, I’m pretty sure this would be a contender).
The People’s Supermarket (or TPS as we’ll call it from now on) is a lovely find in the centre of London, being independent, community minded, ethical, and all in all a jolly good egg.
It’s run as a co-op and mostly staffed by volunteers. For just four hours a month, volunteers get 20% off all their food shopping there, and a say in how it’s run.
Sometimes, as you’re correctly separating out the non-recyclable waste from your neighbour’s recycling bin (after dark, so they won’t see you), trying not to overreact as your request to have your coffee in your travel mug instead of a paper cup is met with blank stares or stifled laughter, or attempting to justify to your nearest and dearest that a third jumper, hat and extra slippers are preferable to having the heating on, you can find yourself thinking that being ‘green’ can be a bit of a lonely place.
When this happens I reassure myself that I am not really alone in this – there are surely many people as curious as I – but sometimes the sheer tide of disposable packaging, litter, waste and over-consumption, can leave me feeling a bit downhearted about it all. Why isn’t everyone else angry about this as well!?
September has been a very rubbish sort of month. Happily, I mean a month where rubbish (or the avoidance of it) has been a popular topic, especially amongst us with an interest in all things sustainable.
We kicked off the month with Rachelle Strauss’s Zero Waste Week, looking at the many ways to create less waste on the theme of ‘reuse’. You can see my posts about reducing waste in the bathroom and kitchen here and here.
Some of my favourite blog posts from this week were:
Zoe of Eco Thrifty Living wrote a really inspiring post on her first Zero Waste Week event, where people swapped clothes, books, DVDs and more and made a rather lovely mural from waste materials.
Dawn’s ever-lovely blog, Be a Green Bean, let us have a nosey through her kitchen cupboards as she used up the contents of the cupboards rather than buying more.
In my second post for Zero Waste Week, we’re going into the kitchen! Renting in rather-pricey North London means that our kitchen is on what estate agents optimistically refer to as the ‘cosy’ side. On one hand, this is good for zero waste living as there’s very little space for over-shopping, either in the cupboards or the fridge (not that it’s doesn’t happen sometimes!). On the other, batch cooking is curtailed by a single freezer shelf and buying numerous large items in bulk is out.
Here are some of the good habits I’ve managed to develop on my ongoing zero waste journey:
Loose tea is available to fill my own bags with from the ever-wonderful Earth Natural Foods in Kentish Town, where everything comes in beautiful self-serve glass jars. This week, WestyWrites also mentioned on Twitter that a number of Whittard’s branches have refill options, where she reports that they were happy to refill her own container.
This year’s Zero Waste Week runs from 7th-13th September and the theme is ‘reuse’. Anyone and everyone can get involved, just go along to www.zerowasteweek.co.uk and make your pledge! My pledge is to purchase and use nothing that goes to landfill for the week. Self-promo moment – you’ll also be seeing a post from me on the Zero Waste Week website about some of my antics at work very soon!
Zero Waste Week is the invention of Rachelle Strauss, and you can read more about her journey and how she started this initiative on her website and in this article she wrote for the Guardian last year.
I started going down the zero waste path a couple of years ago, and for me it’s an ongoing journey – there are so many areas of our lives where waste just seems to magically appear! The decision to not use resources, or use resources that don’t create excess packaging, has to be just that – a decision. It doesn’t happen by accident. Our society set up at the moment is based around convenience – coffee to go, sandwiches to grab at lunch, and even if you do have the time to slow down you’re likely to be confronted by supermarket pre-packed vegetables, ready meals and a million special offers on food wrapped in plastic (my personal bugbear being multi-pack crisps – non-recyclable plastic wrapped in extra non-recyclable plastic just to sell us more crisps in one go!). Continue reading “Zero Waste Week: Bathroom Swaps”→
I sauntered into Plastic Free July thinking “It’ll be so easy this year. I’ve had way more practice, and I’m totally prepared for this.” Ha! is what I have to say to me on that; plastic is everywhere and it’s been pursuing me relentlessly like a mosquito on a summer evening.
The picture at the top is the plastic I’ve accidentally acquired this week, and it’ll be living in my hallway until the end of the month when I can survey the shame all together. So, here we go:
My walk to work takes me four and half miles from north London to central London. Unsurprisingly, I see quite a lot of rubbish on my way. And it really, really angers me. Partly I’m angry because in addition to there being lots of rubbish in London, there’s also lots of bins, ideal for putting the rubbish in. But I’m more angry because so much of the rubbish is unnecessary, and exists because it’s more convenient than a version of that product that doesn’t require the generation of waste – water bottles, sandwich packets, plastic bags.To me this represents the root of the reason that we’re a planet rapidly filling up with plastic waste that’s destroying wildlife and polluting the oceans – because as a society, convenience wins. This is the norm, but it isn’t OK and it has to stop.