So unless you’ve been living under a rock this week, you’ll already know it’s the Global Climate Strike today.
As usual I feel a bit torn about my reluctance to hit the streets – primarily because I would have to drag along a very crowd and noise-averse toddler and it doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. I have friends with less sensitive and slightly bigger small ones who are joining the marches in London, and lots of friends in other parts of the country joining various events too.
Millions of people all over the world are out today, increasing global awareness of the climate emergency which we are facing and demanding that our governments take immediate action on climate change. This comes ahead of the UN climate action summit taking place in New York on 23rd September, when world leaders will discuss how to reduce carbon emissions, with the aim of preventing global temperature rise from exceeding 1.5°C under the Paris agreement.
The Guardian coverage is pretty good on this, as usual, with some good FAQs to remind us how dire the situation is, if we didn’t already know.
It’s quite hard to feel empowered at the moment, I think. Even if you are striking, how do we know that the government will listen? How do we know that big corporations will listen? How do we know that the changes that are being made in the supermarkets and by big consumer companies aren’t just green washing to persuade us to keep buying their products, which we don’t really need?
And is individual action pointless? We all know that you going vegan and me stopping driving and Sally stopping buying plastic bottles of Coke isn’t enough. So should we just give up, get drunk and forget about it all? ( We are going to a wedding this weekend so I suspect this this is, briefly, exactly what we are going to do).
This is a good long read about why the answer to the above question is NO. Maybe we’re at a tipping point of individual action. Maybe my actions influence yours, and yours influence your Aunty Doris, and she influences Uncle Bob, and there’s a trickle of change which becomes a flood. And maybe it’s just immoral to look the other way.
It’s stressful caring about this stuff.
So here’s a nice picture of a tree to remind us what the bloody point of it all is.
Proactive, positive change stuff coming next week, rather than middle-class first world angst. Promise. xx
So… the big news was that I was invited to be in the audience of the live filming of The Martin Lewis Money Show Live, on Tuesday evening in Wapping. I had a plus 1 and everything, and Mr EverydayRadical and I were excited about going for pizza afterwards. Almost as excited about the pizza as about the whole TV thing, to be perfectly honest.
BUT – we couldn’t go, for various dull reasons that I’m not going to bore you with. I wrote half this post before that decision though, so I’ve adapted it to hopefully be somehow interesting reading anyway.
I thought that the programme was going to be a Brexit special, discussing how Brexit is likely to impact various aspects of people’s household finances. Having watched it, the programme actually had a much broader brush than that, but anyhow… I think it’s an open process to apply for tickets or submit questions to be in the audience, but I was put onto it by a cat sitting client who’s read the blog, specifically my Brexit post, and thought I might be interested (I know! It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!). So I got in touch with the researcher and discussed potential questions to put to Martin.
He’s written a really interesting article about some of the possible financial ramifications of Brexit. But I was wondering about the cross-over between the financial impact and the environmental impact. So I started to think about two things – energy costs and overseas travel. I’m going to share my thoughts about renewable energy in this post.
We’re being told that we are likely to see increased energy bills after we leave the EU, especially if it’s a no deal Brexit. This is because we import increasing amounts of electricity from Europe (currently 7%, on track to increase to 20% by 2025), and the falling pound is making our bills higher already. There were pre-referendum warnings about the impact of leaving the EU Internal Energy market, but, y’know, boring experts, yadayadayada. According to this article, there’s also a possibility that in the event of a no deal Brexit, the UK could face third-party costs to use the power lines which connect Britain to European power markets, which would raise the overall cost of the energy. So far, so predictable.
What I didn’t quite understand is the impact on renewable energy – somewhere in my memory I have this belief that the EU subsidises renewable energy, so Brexit could impact on the cost and availability of this. I am particularly interested in this as we have just switched to a 100% renewable tariff with the Green Energy Network – this is quite an interesting thing in itself, as the supplier can’t guarantee that the power that goes into your house via the National Grid is actually from a renewable source, as this is dependent on demand and supply at any given time. But the Green Energy Network guarantees that for every unit your household uses, they will buy the equivalent amount in renewable energy. Here’s some good stuff about how the energy market works.
So anyway. It’s all quite depressing really. I don’t think the current government are taking climate crisis seriously enough and I think the Brexit show is distracting everyone from the most important stuff.
So I may not have been to the Money Show, but my top tip for this week is – get onto uSwitch and look for a fixed term renewable energy tariff, now, to lock in a price before the recession hits and prices start to increase. Our switch should save us £15 a month and we’re voting with our feet in favour of renewable energy. It sometimes feels to me that our only real power is as consumers. The other power is being well-informed – this is a good long read about the current and future state of the UK power industry, some of it quite uplifting.
Anyway, back to BBC Parliament… posts coming soon about how we’ve done in September on the No Buy strategy, my new plan for meat eating (or not) and yet another post about dishwashing. I also kind of want to write a rant about health visitors, but maybe I need to start another blog for that.
In all honesty, I don’t really like driving anymore. There was a period of time in my life when I did enjoy it, but that was before I moved to London. It was quite pleasant cruising around the Devon countryside in the sunshine in my little Fiesta, listening to music and being free to come and go as I liked, stopping by at the beach on the way home from work. But I lived in the middle of nowhere, with very little public transport infrastructure – I think there was a bus through the village twice a week – so I hadn’t really got much option but to drive, if I ever wanted to go anywhere at all. On the other hand, I find driving around London really stressful and difficult, and try to avoid it wherever possible.
We’ve had a bit of a nail-biting time this week, waiting to find out if the replacement of some broken bit of complicated and staggeringly expensive engine part in our car is going to be covered by the warranty – it is, thankfully. But it did get me thinking about driving again. We use our car very little – the last annual mileage calculation for our insurance renewal was 4000 miles. Of course it’s not always been like this – I probably did 30,000 miles a year when I lived in Devon, with an hour long commute, and various friends to visit in Cornwall and Wales, and family nearer to London. My husband used to work for an auto company, so had a discounted car purchase option and drove to work from our part of London into Essex. Now he cycles to work and I use the bus or my feet for most daily outings with the small one. So the 4000 miles per year is made up of a trip to the supermarket maybe once a week, and the odd weekend day trip or visit to family, and infrequent UK holidays.
I kind of thought that everyone thought like me, that it’s basically completely bonkers to drive short journeys in London, where the traffic is so awful, the roads are so hideous and the public transport infrastructure is so good. But I had dinner with a friend recently in central London who drove into town – Rachelle, you’re a nutter. And I was gobsmacked to see the car park in Greenwich park completely full a couple of weekends ago – just why would you do that, when you can get there by bus/DLR/train? Unless there are mobility reasons to use a car, I just find it baffling.
I read this spoof piece a couple of weeks ago about middle-class mums saving the environment by driving to Waitrose to buy loose cereal – all very funny, but far-fetched, right? Anyone on a mission to reduce their plastic waste would realise that driving for short, frequent and/or unnecessary journeys in incompatible with saving the planet? Then I saw a post on the Facebook page of my local “zero waste” shop of someone saying how they love the shop so much, they don’t mind the 25 minute drive… *facepalm*. It’s on about 19 different bus routes. Sure, you’d need a rucksack if you were stocking up on bulky stuff, and again I’m probably being ablist here, but I think a lot of people could manage it.
I don’t understand all the science, as always, but I understand that 15% of global emissions are caused by transportation, and driving plays a huge part in that. Not to mention the issues driving causes with regard to air pollution. And yet, we have this ridiculous, money draining diesel estate car in our drive which we hardly ever use…. Is it time to do something different? We’ve had this conversation multiple times (usually when something expensive is broken), and always decide that we need to keep the car for holidays, trips to family and big shops. But I am consciously trying to change my way of thinking about it, and not feeling entitled to drive everywhere. We visited a nursery school for the small one yesterday – and very lovely it was too. But it is quite far away – 45 minute walk or 20 minutes on the bus. It would probably be quicker to drive, but I’m refusing to entertain this as an option. I absolutely refuse to become a London mum who drops their kid(s) off to places by car out of convenience – we have to say NO to this way of life, when there’s a very reasonable alternative.
You use less petrol if you’re carrying a lighter load, so if you’ve got a ton of stuff in your boot that you don’t need to be driving around, take it out (I used to leave my winter survival kit, including a spade and all sorts of boy scout gear, in the boot all year round – I did eventually thin it out over the summer months).
I’m wondering if online shopping is a greener option in terms of economies of scale of delivery driving, but I’m not sure it’s the best option for us right now, as we rely quite heavily on the cheapness of Aldi and they don’t deliver. In less leaner times, I would love to get delivery boxes of fruit and veg and maybe meat… but not right now.
Planning ahead and combining journeys is a good strategy – multiple stops in one trip is better than going out several times. Maybe the “25 minutes drive from the zero waste shop” lady was doing that… hope so. But, judge not lest ye be judged and all that.
It’s easy to preach about this stuff, isn’t it? I would have laughed at anyone who told me to reduce my driving when I lived in the middle of Dartmoor on my own. Hmmm. We all have our own circumstances and our own battles. One of these days, we might even buy a hybrid or an electric. (But what’s the environmental impact of electric cars? Fossil fuel for the electricity? Rare minerals being mined to make the batteries? Oh my goodness it’s all so difficult…)
On a more positive note, and a final bit of exciting, cliff-hanger news – The Everyday Radical is going to be on TV on Tuesday! Eeeep. More tomorrow.
Brilliant ideas often come while drinking wine with my friends, and this one is no exception. Thanks B, you know who you are and you’re a total legend.
Welcome to “Green your kitchen”. Not cleaning, but “greening”. The Organised Mum‘s method of cleaning involves starting in one corner of the room, and moving clockwise around it, to retain focus and make sure everything gets done. (I know, I’m namedropping this a lot at the moment but I honestly think it’s brilliant, and it gives you all a rest from me bashing on about my other hero, Jack Monroe.) So I thought, let’s do it with “greening” instead of cleaning. Over a series of posts (probably quite a lot), I’m going to work my way around my kitchen and assess what progress I’ve made in terms of becoming more eco-friendly, and what next steps there are to take. You may wish to join me on this method and think about your own kitchen… If it feels like a useful approach, we’ll follow this with greening your bathroom, bedroom, etc… The possibilities are endless.
Here’s a couple of photos of my kitchen (it does NOT always look like this, I just cleaned it while the small one is snoozing. We can have a chat about the copious amounts of plastic garden toys which I’ve edited out another time… under “greening your garden”, maybe).
My personal premise as always with this stuff is that it’s a gradual process to having a more sustainably eco-friendly home and lifestyle – some people have been working through this stuff for years, others are just getting started. I’m not sure where I “fit” on that continuum, but the one thing I firmly believe is that the “rid your house of all plastic, immediately” ideology is utter bollocks. I stand firmly by the principle that if you have it, you should use it up. There was a very suspicious element of the War on Plastic documentary where a couple had got rid of all the plastic in their bathroom very quickly and spent lots of money on Pinterest-worthy “zero waste” bathroom stuff. Did they just chuck it all away, unused? My view is that unless is’s obviously super evil stuff that shouldn’t be going down the drain – like cosmetics with microbeads in – it should be used up before disposing of the packaging as best we can. I think we should be respecting the virgin materials that this stuff is made from and make more eco-friendly decisions on an item-by-item basis, as things run out.
So here are some riveting pictures of my cleaning cupboards under the sink (big gap is where the compost caddy lives). These used to be be pretty full, but I’m making a conscious effort to use stuff up and replace with a reduced stock of more eco-friendly options.
There’s a few things I will absolutely not use up, that I’m in the process of giving away, via the Buy Nothing group and Olio. Fabric softener I no longer use – I don’t like the artificial smell and personally view it as unnecessary chemicals. I’ve given away some stainless steel cleaner which I bought when I lived somewhere with a stainless steel hob. Still going begging is some “fabric freshener” from Waitrose, I have no idea why I’ve got this, and some Febreze – anyone want them?
I’ve still got some super evil ant killer (I know, but they were in the cupboards… I couldn’t bear it!) and drain cleaner, and some weird stuff that’s supposed to neutralise the smell of cat poo and wee from when the Fluffbeast had some bladder problems and was peeing behind the TV. Some carpet cleaner which is necessary for cat and toddler puke. Plus mould and mildew remover. I’m sure there are alternative eco versions of all of these, but I haven’t looked into it yet. The small plastic water bottles have got distilled water in for my steam mop – I think if I just used our super-hard tap water, my steam mop would scale up and die. My amazing mum brings the water form their tumble-drier for me and we reuse the bottles. I’ve still got some evil plastic washing up sponges left, since swapping to Euroscrubbys we are using these up for fun jobs like scrubbing the barbecue and the highchair every now and again. They’re destined for incineration via our general waste anyway, so they might as well be used first (although they probably also leach microplastics when rinsed? It’s a minefield).
I’ve dumped my trusty Mr Sheen – this was a long-term relationship and I’m still grieving, but it was for the best. Replacing chemical spray from a hard-to-recycle can with damp dusting is a pretty easy switch really, and damp dusting is better for allergy sufferers too, as it traps all the dust into the cloth rather than wafting it around the room (thanks for this one, Gem).
I’m getting into the habit of keeping used dishcloths and tea towels separate, to add to hotter washes. In due course I’m going to look into getting a guppy bag to wash non-cotton stuff – to reduce microplastics leaching into the water course. I’m slightly on the fence about this, as I’m not sure what to do with the residue – so more research required.
Now the exciting bit… I’ve got a stash of empty spray bottles that I’ve saved up to take to my local zero waste shop and fill up with vegan, biodegradable, plastic free cleaning materials. (I will have a rant some time about the phrase “zero waste” and how misleading it is, but not now, as this is a good newsstory.)
Thus far, I’ve got window and glass cleaner and the multi-surface cleaner made by Sesi, the latter of which can be quite significantly diluted so will last a long time. It was nowhere near as expensive as I expected it to be, and it’s an easy bus ride form home, or about a mile walk away from somewhere I go every week, so I won’t be driving there and undoing my otherwise good work (maybe I’m going to rant about this some time too).
I’m also getting hold of a bulk-sized bottle of white vinegar soon (again via the Buy Nothing gang, it’s a quite remarkable project really), so I will have a crack at making my own cleaning stuff in due course.
I’m a fair bit away from a plastic and chemical-free cleaning arsenal, but I feel like progress has been made since I started really actively thinking about this stuff – around April, I think.
So, I hope that wasn’t too boring. This is the journey, folks. It’s not always glamorous or sexy but it can be radical to rethink every purchase decision you make, every item in your home, and choose to do it better.
Anyone thinking about Christmas yet…? I realise that talking about Christmas in September may be almost as controversial as Brexit, but as far as I’m concerned, once the Quality Street tins are in the shops, all bets are off. Anyway, I’m following The Organised Christmas plan this year, in an attempt to get into good habits for future years, when there’s more child-related madness, and possibly more children. The idea is that you get everything done by December 1st, then just concentrate on having a nice time. Super Mum stuff, really. We’ll see…
But the problem I have here is that I sort of hate a lot of what Christmas has become. I love the eating and drinking, watching films, going for wintry walks and being with family (mostly!). I just bloody hate the consumerist crap and all the useless, pointless s**t that we are encouraged to buy that we don’t need. Back in the days when I was more spiritually invested in Christmas, it used to really upset me that all this consumption was a far cry from the “real” meaning of Christmas. Now I’m less attached to the religious aspect, but even more bothered by the environmental impact. All that extra food wrapped in plastic, all those plastic toys which might be played with for a few minutes and then discarded, destined for landfill or incineration. (Funnily enough I feel less guilt-ridden about the empty wine bottles, but we can talk about glass recycling another time. And please, God, can someone find me a plastic free cheeseboard selection? Because that’s one sacrifice too many for me right now).
So I’m searching for good news stories about what companies are doing to mitigate the impact of Christmas and I came across this – Marks and Spencer are banning glitter from their cards, crackers, wrapping paper and calendars this Christmas, in a bid to reduce the volume of microplastics ending up in the ocean. They’re following in the footsteps of Tesco, who’ve switched to plastic-free glitter for their Christmas range of plants, trees and flowers, and Aldi, who’ve banned glitter from their Halloween range this year. Hobbycraft have launched biodegradable glitter and promised to be totally plastic glitter free by 2021, and Waitrose have made a similar pledge to Mark and Spencer, but by 2020. Even Strictly Come Dancing have banned glitter. So it’s great that companies are paying attention to consumer pressure on the plastic issue and taking action.
So why can’t we just, well, ban it completely? It’s not like straws where there’s a credible need for some people to use them (interesting stuff on this here). Does anyone need plastic glitter? I don’t think so. There’s a petition here calling for a total ban – please consider signing it, cos we all know how much notice this Government takes of petitions…
I’m thinking that, like so many aspects of the Christmas consumption-fest, we’ve been conditioned to think that we need sparkly stuff to make it “Christmassy”. But we just don’t. We need family and community and love, and ideally a bit of feasting. I want to read some more stuff about the history of Christmas, how we got to where we are now and how far away now we are from the original mid-winter Saturnalia festival. One thing I’m sure of is that we need to radically think our ideas of “magic and sparkles” if we want to celebrate our festivals in a way that’s respectful to Mother Earth.
Sorry, I know everyone is sick to death of the B word. But I just can’t not write about it. I said the other day that the wider planetary climate crisis we are facing is more important than Brexit – I don’t think that’s in any doubt. But what’s happening at the moment – in Parliament today and over the weekend – is so unprecedented that if you have any interest whatsoever in current affairs or politics, you can’t help but be absorbed by it.
I’ve got to admit, I voted quite intuitively. I don’t have a degree in European politics (although Mr Everdayradical does), and there is a lot about the mechanics of the EU that I don’t understand. But I felt that the claims of unelected bureaucrats wielding too much power over us were not valid – not only are EU politicians elected in a more representative way than our own parliament (proportional representation rather than first past the post), but there’s also a ton of unelected people who have a lot of power in the UK – the House of Lords, the permanent staff in various ministries and government departments, and the civil service. So should we get rid of them too, in the name of “taking back control?” Also, I’ve got lots of European friends and I couldn’t ally myself with the frankly odious narrative of Farage and co. and the dodgy dealings of the Leave campaign.
Moreover, the world wars aren’t really that distant a memory – the “European project” has been successful in that we haven’t had another pan-European war, and I feel strongly that we are stronger together than we are apart. Anyway, I’m digressing from the point here and I’m sure some readers will feel I’m boring you with my own Remoaner views (actually, I’m a revoker, but it’s semantics really.)
I haven’t researched this super widely, but here’s my thoughts on the impact of Brexit on the environment and the climate crisis.
While our politicians are exclusively focussed on Brexit, they’re not doing anything about climate change, not tackling plastic pollution, not promoting renewable energy or alternative modes of transport. No deal planning is costing billions, which could be spent on much more useful issues. The UK has become the world’s biggest buyer of fridges, to stockpile medicines – this is according to the Health Minister, so it’s not Project Fear. And I’m pretty sure they’re not buying fridges on eBay or from car boot sales… Lorry queues from Dover could reach as far as Maidstone. All the traffic jams will increase air pollution – remember how much criticism Extinction Rebellion came under in London in the spring for their blockades causing congestion and increased pollution? (Sorry, it’s the Daily Express, don’t click it if you don’t want to read their particular brand of wisdom). This is going to be a whole different level.
There are some clearer-cut environmental reasons to be concerned about Brexit too. 80% of our environmental laws come from the EU – these could be lost, weakened or harder to enforce after Brexit. A no deal Brexit won’t allow time to update our environmental protection laws to function properly after exit day. Friends of the Earth outline on their Brexit campaign page the UK government’s poor track record on things like air pollution, and how the EU has intervened and enforced improvement. There’s also serious concerns about food safety and farming after Brexit. Chlorinated chicken aside, if EU migrant workers leave the UK in droves after Brexit, farmers will struggle to fill seasonal low-paid and insecure farming jobs, meaning that less produce can be grown and harvested in the UK. So more food will have to be imported, with an increased carbon footprint, whilst making a balanced and healthy diet more expensive and less accessible to all.
There’s another measured article from The Ecologist here. Personally, unlike Michael Gove, I quite like experts, and a lot of them are worried. The only silver lining I can see – and I’m scrabbling about here, really I am – is that a major economic crisis and recession, which many economists are predicting, might make us think twice about consumerism. What happens if loads of manufacturers go bust? Will we discover that we didn’t really need the stuff that they made anyway? I know it’s more complex than that, as people’s livelihoods are at stake, but I’m searching for a positive spin and this is the best I can manage.
So what can we do? Take to the streets to #StopTheCoup, if you’re braver than me. Sign this. Educate yourself on the potential environmental impact of Brexit. Think really deeply about who you’d vote for in a General Election. Stock up on beans. Watch BBC Parliament obsessively. Hope for the best.
(I’m going to try and write something slightly less depressing later in the week about businesses who are actually doing positive stuff to tackle plastic pollution. Hang on in there, kids.)
And you don’t need to be going back to school with a shiny new pencil case to make some September resolutions.
This blog is all about making small, sustainable lifestyle changes to help the environment. Some of the switches I’ve made so far include:
ditching shower gel and going back to the bar with The Good Soap.
I’ve also switched to refillable Faith in Nature shampoo and conditioner from the Shop Without Packaging, which is an amazing shop that I feel very fortunate enough to live within a bus journey of.
I’ve ditched furniture polish and swapped to damp dusting, and started using refills of cleaning products.
I’ve ditched clingfilm and embraced my Tupperware collection.
I’m making much more effort towards plastic-free food shopping.
I’m having a serious stab at Buy Nothing as a lifestyle change – this is my September/”rest of year” resolution.
There’s SO much more I could be doing, so much more we could all be doing. The choices seem overwhelming, and there are opposing views on so many things – are paper bags really better than plastic? Are compostable bags actually compostable? Do you need a degree in biochemistry to understand this stuff? Should we all go vegan, or is it enough just to boycott South American meat and buy local and organic? Should we all stop flying and using petrol/diesel cars? The challenges and the decisions are huge.
Can we as individuals really do anything to turn the tide on plastic pollution and climate change? Personally, I believe that we must put the pressure on our governments and corporations to lead the change, through voting, petitions, protests, and withdrawing our custom from environmental offenders. And by joining XR protests and being prepared to get arrested? Maybe.
So after the hiatus over the summer, I’m refocusing my attention on these thoughts and decisions and relaunching the blog. I have an absolutely HUGE list of things to research and write about, and I hope I can help people to think these decisions through, maybe make some changes in their own lives, and contribute to the voices already calling out for change.
SO. Competition time. Like and share the newly launched Everyday Radical Facebook page, or like and retweet this post and follow @TheEverydayRad1 on Twitter, for a change to win a £25 gift voucher from The Good Soap – bonus prize draw for new followers of the blog via WordPress too. Help me spread the word, and tell my your September eco resolutions!