Blog neglect and being knackered and overwhelmed – another happy post!

Photo by henry perks on Unsplash

Well, I didn’t do a great job at keeping up with Saturday Switch, did I? Is anyone still out there? I thought I should check in, just to make sure you all know I’m still alive…

I’m in this slightly weird place, right now. It’s a freelancer’s dream to have too much work, and I’m kind of waiting for the bubble to burst. And it’s a bit of a dilemma, trying to decide whether to invest time into my own writing, which may never have any financial reward, or just writing stuff for other people. Some of it’s great, some of it feels a bit like churning out re-hashed content into the vortex of the internet, to sell a bunch of stuff that no-one needs.

See, I love this blog and it’s been the springboard of all my current writing adventures. But it’s SO much effort to make any progress with blogging. And I have a new kitchen to fund, and people who want to pay me to write articles about shipping containers… so… it’s a struggle, people.

Plus, I kind of wonder about “sexing up” this blog, making it all SEO friendly with headers and keywords and stuff (I know what all this stuff means now, guys). Like, I don’t really want to do that, but if I wanted a gazillion more views then I would have to. And I definitely don’t want to do affiliate advertising – as one of my main missions in this blog is to try to persuade people to Stop Buying All The Stuff. Maybe I’ll just add a “Buy Me a Coffee” button… but that would involve learning how to use WordPress properly… Hmmm.

Anyway, enough angst. I have a vague content plan, I want to write more here, for myself and for you guys – some of my lovely readers are clamouring for more! Like the amazing Tortoise Happy – check out their blog, it’s ace. After a Twitter chat earlier this week, I feel inspired to write about bamboo soon.

Meanwhile, I wanted to write a bit about knackeredness and overwhelm, actually. I wrote over on Secret Scribbles about this ****ing virus and how it’s not going away but why I don’t want to write about it anymore. But it’s still in my brain, of course, and taking up my energy. And I wake up in the early hours sometimes thinking about climate change and how I’m not doing ENOUGH and all that existential stuff. So much to read, so much to learn, so much to think about. And the content machine never stops so it’s overwhelming. I listen to a brilliant podcast and then there are about nine other podcasts and books recommended in it and there will never, ever be enough time to absorb all this stuff.

I think it’s normal to feel like this – if I still believed in God I would say we are entering the last days, people. The Covid crisis is a fraction of how bad the consequences of climate change are going to be. So, onward Christian (and non-Christian) soldiers. Bamboo post in two days’ time. Promise.

Revamped website! Widgets! (And an update on the email hoarding situation)

Web design and technology is not my strongest skill – I like writing and researching and thinking, mainly. But I’ve had a sneaking suspicion for a while that the Everyday Radical website was looking a bit rubbish. Like all writers, I would love more people to read my work (I think some of it at least is a valuable contribution to the eco issues debate, and people keep telling me it’s quite good). But having a super basic blog home page doesn’t help with that mission. So I am learning VERY SLOWLY how to use WordPress to its full potential. I’ve got a long way to go, and very limited time these days, but in the last couple of weeks I’ve redesigned the blog so it looks a bit sexier. And also, WIDGETS! (These are little WordPress features that you can add to your site to aid navigation, provide links to your social media etc.) I thought they were very complicated, but actually they’re quite straightforward.

New on the blog page, down the right hand side – over here >>>>>>>>

You can click to like my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter. The “follow my blog” button is easier to find and there’s a list of recent posts, and an archive menu by month too. And categories! So if you read a post about washing up, for example, and you want to read some more of my ramblings about kitchen-related eco switches, you can find the category and find all the blog posts. This was pretty fun to put together, sorting through the archive. Weirdly, the dish washing posts are some of the most popular posts I’ve written. My readership must be washing up liquid geeks.

Anyway, I’m pretty excited about the new look, and the new features. Let me know what you think. More to come when I learn how to create pages – not the same thing as posts, it seems!

Briefly too, on the subject of technology. I wrote about my email hoarding tendencies back in January, with a promise to change my ways due to the carbon footprint of storing thousands of emails. Also there was a significant mental load of having 5500 emails in my inbox, it felt like a massive to do list that would never get cleared. I promised you guys I would get it down to less than 100 by the end of March.

So as of today, it’s at 302. Which feels like progress… I also deleted a massive amount of archived work emails form years ago which I will never need. But I also have to confess that I moved a LOT out of my inbox into sub folders. I’m not going to tell you how many but I’ve just counted them up and I’m a bit shocked, as there’s still an enormous bunch of stuff sitting on servers whirring away because I’ve got some odd hoarding disorder and I can’t bring myself to delete them. Most of them I am saving for a reason (quite a lot, for example, are idea leads for this blog), but the reality of how much I still have left is a bit of a wake up call. I am really interested in the psychology of hoarding, so perhaps I need to have a bit of a closer look at myself! (Digital hoarding is a thing, by the way – not much studied, but definitely a thing, which is probably on the increase).

Back to the climate impact point though. Sending and receiving emails and storing files on the cloud all has a carbon footprint, due to the servers that it’s all held on and the power they use, the energy used to run computers themselves and send and receive messages. Sure, per message it’s microscopic, but it all adds up. So I repeat my challenge to you all, folks – use your lockdown downtime (if you have any!) to clear out your mailboxes and your saved files and unsubscribe to mailing lists that you’re not really reading (they just encourage you to buy stuff you don’t need anyway). You will feel mentally cleansed, I promise you, and help to save the planet too. Every little helps, as they say (and I bet you’ve got some emails in your archive from them too!)

Lockdown, day 19 – some reflections

Photo by Regina Calvo on Unsplash

Dear reader, it’s been nearly a month since my last post. And what a month it’s been.

I stopped writing, stopped even thinking about this blog – partly because the cognitive load of making sense of this crisis, plus the mental load of keeping a household fed, entertained and vaguely sane, has been more than sufficient to occupy my thoughts. But also, I kind of thought that no one would want to be reading about recycling and plastic-free switches and all that stuff, when what we are facing is so alien, so scary. And I didn’t want to write anymore about the pandemic itself, because let’s face it, there’s enough column inches/miles being generated every minute of the day to keep us all immersed in news and views 24 hours a day.

But. I woke up a couple of days ago and had this gut-wrenching feeling. What’s going on now is practice for the consequences of the climate crisis and the impact it’s going to have on humanity. Practice, and a warning. Bear with me on this.

We are seeing increasingly alarming numbers of excess deaths every day due to Covid-19 (I’m resisting the urge to get political here and talk about my views on the Government’s response and support to the NHS. Really resisting.) But we know that the climate crisis is already causing excess deaths. By excess deaths, what I mean is the number of deaths over and above those that would have happened anyway, within the normal expected mortality rate for that population. This is also known as mortality displacement. The World Health Organisation estimate that between 2030 and 2050, there will be an additional 250,000 more deaths per year due to climate change – heat stress, malnutrition, malaria and diarrhea among the likely causes.

We’ve had 104,775 deaths so far from Covid-19 (by the time you click that link, it will be more). Let’s let that sink in. Two and half times as many deaths, every year, as we’ve had so far from Covid-19, due to climate change. At the very least.

People are already dying of heat stress in bush fire regions, and of heat stroke during heat waves in cities across the world. 900 people died in England alone due to heat waves in 2019. By 2100, 75% of people around the world will be exposed to heatwaves severe enough to cause death. 2100. Many of our kids will still be alive in 2100. Flooding causes disease to spread more easily, including diarrhea which can be particularly fatal among small children. Rising temperatures will lead to the expansion of mosquito habitat, increasing cases of malaria. Other species will move closer to domestic habitats, increasing the incidence in humans of other diseases such as Q fever which is spread by bats. This is already happening in Australia and the Pacific regions. And guess what, it’s hitting the poor and the vulnerable hardest (or first, maybe).

Maybe this seems scary, and far away, both geographically and chronologically. But there’s other elements of the Covid-19 crisis that should be getting us thinking.

We’ve become accustomed to being able to get whatever food we want, whenever we want. I had a tantrum last week because I wanted a specific Marks and Spencer ready meal as our weekend treat (pancetta carbonara, since you ask). Seriously. Not only is it wrapped in hard-to-recycle plastic, but it’s made of a load of imported or out-of-season ingredients including processed meat and dairy. A problematic “treat” indeed. But I’ve become accustomed to being able to have it whenever I want. Anyone been trying to get flour recently? I haven’t totally fact checked this, but apparently flour mills in the UK are still producing as normal, or on increased output, but can’t get enough packaging from China to meet the demand for package sizes suitable for domestic customers (as opposed to much bigger bags for catering companies, bakeries and other commercial customers). Our food chain is entirely dependent on global transport infrastructure and the enormous carbon footprint that entails.

The shortages have been annoying, anxiety-inducing, catastrophic for some. It’s going to be worse, much worse, in a few decades time. Studies have shown that the impact of climate change could cause a 35% drop in global fruit and vegetable yields and an 18% reduction in US corn production, as well as significantly impacting fisheries and meat production. Coupled with a predicted global population increase of 3.4 billion people by 2050, this spells a massive change in the way we live.

All this, without even going into the economic effects, impact on human rights, increasing gulf between rich and poor and likely social breakdown.

Uplifting stuff. Sorry if I’ve added to your lockdown blues. But I feel like this message is critical. Especially if you’re feeling powerless at the moment. There’s not much we can do about the current crisis – except follow the advice to stay at home as much as possible, practice social distancing when not possible (and think about who you’re going to vote for next time, folks – also how we can exert pressure on to expose this government’s criminal negligence, and maybe what kind of a massive protest we can pull off when it’s all over. Sorry, couldn’t resist after all).

Greta, for course, puts it better than me:

There is a lot of talk about returning to normal after Covid-19. But normal was a crisis.

https://twitter.com/gretathunberg/status/1243579208724557824?lang=en

So, with all this spare time we have (LOLZ – I know some people have loads, and are doing lots of nice jigsaws and yoga, but some are working, looking after children, trying not to starve, etc. Anyhow – there’s opportunity for us all to refocus…)

Let’s get back to the Everyday Radical mission – what can we do to fix this shit? Cos back to normal is not an option for humanity.

I just spent the last week’s nap times categorising 700+ articles, notes and ideas for blog posts. My paid work has disappeared. Let’s DO THIS.

P.S. It’s hot. Don’t forget to turn your central heating off.

Coronavirus – Gaia’s revenge?

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Anyone out there panicking? Eating copious amounts of raw garlic? Fighting in the aisles of the supermarket for the last loo roll? Clearly there is some major panic buying going on – today, Tesco have announced rationing of basic shopping items, Costco are rationing toilet roll and it seems you can’t buy hand sanitiser anywhere. I was going to write “for love nor money” there, but I’ve actually given away some of my substantial (and accidentally accrued) stash for love this week, and it seems that £15 will get you a 60ml travel bottle of hand gel on eBay today… tomorrow, that will probably cost £20…

Honestly I have no idea what level of anxiety and fear is warranted, really. The WHO seem to be taking things pretty seriously; the Director General says this must be “top priority for every country”, with “early, aggressive measures”, to stop transmission and save lives, but expresses concern that “in some countries, the level of political will does not match the level of the threat we face.” Of course Trump is not concerned at all, Boris seems to have disappeared over the last couple of days and our (very) new chancellor says the NHS will get everything it needs (like usual?), so it’s all cool. Plus it’s just like a bad cold, anyway.

I’m not an infectious diseases expert, any more than I’m an expert in climate science, so my opinion on how scary this may or may not actually get is largely irrelevant. But I am an over-thinker of the highest order, so of course this has all got me thinking.

What if the planet has just had enough of all these humans?

I read this excellent blog piece earlier in the week, which outlines how, whilst coronavirus is not directly caused by climate change, there are various factors at play on a warming planet which make infectious diseases more likely to emerge and spread throughout humanity. Covid-19 is a zootonic virus, originating from animals. The impact that humans are having on the planet, for example through deforestation and global heating, is changing animals’ migratory patterns and bringing them into closer contact with humans, thus increasing the risk of transmission of these diseases. This article explains the science better than I can, and this one outlines other elements of climate change which are compounding factors in the spread of infectious diseases.

So it seems that Earth is unprepared for increasing disease pandemics. Which is bad news, because it could get a lot worse, as melting permafrosts could release ancient viruses and bacteria that humans haven’t been exposed to for thousands of years.

And we may well have evolved into a society which is too selfish to contain these diseases. Will people obey instructions to self-isolate or adhere to advice to practice social distancing? Or will people be unwilling to sacrifice their freedoms for the greater good? You and I, dear reader, may be fairly fit and healthy people in our prime (or perhaps not!), but the elderly, infirm and people with compromised immune systems need to be protected.

Probably controversial bit from the above article below, which struck a chord with me:

“Doing whatever is necessary to stop the virus spreading is, much like vaccinating your kids against measles, not just about protecting your own interests but putting the wellbeing of the herd first. The trouble is that we all know what has happened to vaccination levels across the west, as a minority of parents seemingly decided the herd was someone else’s problem.”

Will people stay off work, keep their kids at home (and my god the thought of two weeks housebound with a two year old makes me shudder)? Or have we all had enough of experts?

Is there a silver lining? Is it even appropriate or moral to talk about this, when people are dying? Well. Maybe there is. There’s been a dramatic reduction in emissions over China due to the economic slowdown and travel restrictions put in place to try to control the epidemic. Whether this will be negated by a subsequent increase in production at a later date, as a form of bounce back, is of course unknown. There’s also been huge numbers of flights cancelled – great if you live in the flight path, like us. It may of course go both ways, though – locally, I noticed this week awful traffic jams across Blackheath, even worse than normal, but virtually empty buses – so maybe people are driving rather than risking proximity to others on public transport.

Anyway, back to my original thought for this post, inspiring the title. The Gaia hypothesis is not something I know much about – I have had this book in my “to read” pile for about a decade. Maybe this will spur me on to finally read it. The basic idea is that the planet, Mother Earth, is a synergistic, self-regulating and complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet. So perhaps Gaia has had enough of the parasitic human race and is ready to cull some of us? Perhaps the emergence of these viruses is the planet’s way of protecting herself from the damage being done unto her.

Of course, like climate change itself, these pandemics will disproportionately affect the poor and vulnerable once they take hold. (Lots of memes are going around at the moment saying that the only reason the rich care about coronavirus is because the economic impact will affect them, whereas they don’t care about global poverty, starvation, all the other deaths from cancer, suicide etc. I think this is a bit of a simplistic red herring, personally, but I haven’t fully thought it through).

And the numbers pale into insignificance when we compare them to the number of deaths we KNOW will be caused by global heating in the coming decades. This is a social and global (in)justice issue too, of course.

So could we use this as a warning, and work together as a global community to manage this crisis, learning lessons for the future challenges that face our species? We could look at how the panic surrounding coronavirus is causing people to change their habits, reduce their consumption, stop flying – and examine how to replicate these push factors to bring about behavioural change to reduce the impact of humanity on the planet.

Or we could implode into greed and individualism, get distracted from climate change and make it worse by manufacturing billions of plastic bottles of hand gel, which will end up in the ocean.

Buckle up, folks. Only time will tell.

Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos on Unsplash

Fabulous February

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

Joyless January is over. The bad news, of course, is that Brex-shit happened and the General Election was not in fact a bad dream after all. The good news, though, is that it’s nearly spring, there are crocuses out in the park, and we BROKE EVEN on the household finances in January, and I feel pretty proud about that. Stuff coming up soon on food waste, batch cooking and other things which save money as well as saving the planet. (I also haven’t forgotten about “how to green your cat”, but I’m waiting for some critical information on this first.)

But first. I’m a bit slow off the mark on this, as it’s a New Year’s Resolution sort of thing. I am very bad at New Year’s Resolutions. I usually write myself a massive list of unachieveable things, then don’t manage to achieve any of them and feel like a massive failure. So I haven’t made any this year. But this is an easy one, because I feel like I’m working on my big three every day anyway. (not being a shit parent, trying to save the world, and getting thin, I think in that order. Plus, read more books. Always read more books).

I signed the Friends of the Earth 2020 climate pledge, and I think you should too. If you’re reading this blog, you will most likely know all this stuff, but the climate crisis is happening now – it’s not a distant future thing, or a far, far away thing, it’s affecting communities around the world already. I wrote about the bushfires in Australia a while back, and whilst they’re not in the headlines much now, they are still happening, and 11 million hectares of land have been affected so far.

This is the wording of the pledge:

“I pledge to join millions of people across the world and fight the climate emergency in 2020.”

440,000 people have signed it already, and while that in itself won’t make anything change, it does send out a signal to our government and corporations that the tide is turning and people want to see radical change. It will also get you onto the Friends of the Earth mailing list and they will send you information about local climate groups and Friends of the Earth’s 6 point climate action plan, which is the starting point for their lobbying of MPs and the government. (They’re not like 38 Degrees, they don’t email you every day asking for money, which is a bonus).

Because, fundamentally there’s a limit to what individuals can achieve. We can reduce meat and dairy intake, avoid single use plastics, drive less, stop flying, switch to a green energy supplier. Locally, community groups and councils can take meaningful action on climate breakdown too. But it’s the government who really need to take action to make transformational changes to end the climate emergency. But it’s so, so clear to me that they’re not doing enough.

There’s a link here to contact your MP and ask them to sign the climate pledge. I think this was initially an election thing, but I think it’s still worth doing. I wish I knew more about the most effective ways to lobby governments, and I wish I was more optimistic that the current government will actually take the climate emergency seriously. But I suspect that Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, among other organisations, know exactly what they’re doing and will exert pressure in the right ways, so I encourage you to support them and get involved where you can.

Here ends the lesson.

I wrote to Greenwich Council today about their new wheelie bin proposals to improve recycling rates, so more on that when they reply… #WatchThisSpace.

P.S. I deleted about 1000 emails today, as part of the great email purge. I didn’t really need Pinterest notifications from 2017, did I? If I suddenly get excited about elephant-themed nursery decor, I can look it up again, can’t I? I’m honestly not panicking about this, really I’m not.

Australian bushfires

Ok, no clever title or jokes in this post today. Just a bit of fact checking and sharing of ways to help victims of the Australian bushfires.

This image has been doing the rounds on social media – I haven’t fact checked it in terms of the size it refers to, but it’s pretty telling.

Another source I’ve seen states that it’s 12 million acres on fire, another one says it’s equivalent to the whole of Belgium. Either way (and of course the absolute measurement of space will change every day, every hour, every minute maybe), it’s fucking big. And fucking scary.

24 recorded deaths so far, many more missing, 2000 homes lost. 500 million birds, reptiles and mammals lost in New South Wales alone.

Now, I confess that I’ve only just started reading articles about this crisis today; I’ve literally closed my eyes to it, because it’s just too awful to contemplate. The situation of course has been politicised – I don’t know much about Australian politics other than that the Prime Minister Scott Morrison is leading the country in an increasingly right-wing direction (which sounds depressingly familiar), and has been widely criticised for down-playing the influence of climate change on the risk of wildfires. I haven’t read this article in full, but it looks to be a pretty full account of the Australian government’s response to the bush fires over the last couple of years. There’s also this bonkers idea circulating that the fires are the fault of the Greens (who are not and have never been in government), as they’ve allegedly objected to hazard reduction strategies; this is about forming fire breaks in heavily wooded areas by clearing trees near power lines, for example, and prescribed burning to reduce the fuel load, thus diminishing the intensity of subsequent wildfires. It seems that this blame game has been rolled out before by the right in Australia, and thoroughly debunked – fact check article on this here.

So, are the fires caused by climate change? As y’all know, I’m not a climate science specialist, but it seems pretty obvious to me that there will be a combination of causes and pre-conditions for something of this scale to take hold. Here’s an article from a journalist for The Spectator (centre-right British politics and culture magazine, owned by the same people who own The Daily Telegraph), saying that the bushfires aren’t down to climate change.

Here’s another article by an award-winning Australian climate scientist, Dr Joelle Gergis, which argues that the links between human-caused climate change and the intensification of extreme weather conditions, not just in Australia, but all over the world, are clear. That “what’s unfolding right now is really just a taste of the new normal” and that “the planetary situation is extremely dire”. Gergis speculates that the Earth system may now have breached a tipping point, with so much heat trapped in the system that a domino effect has been triggered : “rapid climate change has the potential to reconfigure life on the planet as we know it”.

I’ll leave it up to you whether you want to believe someone with a pHD in Climatology, or a freelance journalist who writes for The Daily Mail and has published books entitled “How to Label a Goat: the silly Rules and Regulations that are strangling Britain” and “The Great Before“, a novel which satirises the pessimism of the green movement.

So, as always, we look for something practical to do. Here is a brilliant article which lists the various appeals and charitable funds which have been set up to support volunteer firefighters, the families of those who have died, those people displaced by the fires, and the wildlife affected. Honestly I think donating is the most useful thing that can be done; I saw a point made on the Sustainable-ish Facebook page, which was raising concern at the potential carbon footprint generated by well-meaning Europeans shipping or flying knitted joey pouches to Australia to help homeless or orphaned baby kangaroos. It’s tempting to want to physically DO something with your hands, but I think wonga is better in these circumstances.

Plus of course all the other stuff to reduce your carbon footprint and campaign to corporations and governments to take this stuff seriously.

Greta says the world is on fire, and it looks like she’s right.

Be more Greta

So there’s quite a lot of you still out there reading and interacting, which is motivating me to keep writing! I dropped a link to this article in my last post – “Be more Greta: seven ways to help reduce your environmental impact”. So I thought I should actually read it properly and use it as a springboard to maybe relaunch #SaturdaySwitch or at least trigger some thoughts about next steps on the eco journey. I’ve been feeling pretty jaded of late, and I know that reading articles like this, while taking a forensic view of my family’s day-to-day life, does help bring things into focus.

So. How are we doing? (NB this list isn’t Greta’s, it’s from WWF. The “Greta bandwagon” has of course been the subject of a gazillion column inches and maybe I will write about that one day too, and try to fathom why a bunch of white, middle-aged men who made all their money from trashing the planet are so afraid of a teenage girl who gives NO shits whatsover about who she upsets…)

  • Switch to clean energy. Check. We switched to Green Network Energy last year. I don’t fully understand how the National Grid works with power generated from different sources, but this explains reasonably well why no power company can guarantee that every kilowatt of power that enters your home is from a renewable source. We don’t have a smart meter yet but I would like to get one – partly to try to shave more money off the bills. We do have gas heating and hobs, and I know gas is worse for the environment but my understanding of the physics of all this is very limited. So perhaps this is something to research further. I have a new slow cooker I’m keen to try out, and running this on electricity may well be cheaper and better for the environment than prolonged hob cooking.
  • Ethical banking – I’ve just kept my eyes tight shut on this one for a long time. I bank with Barclays mainly, although our joint account is with First Direct. I have no clue what either of their investment policies are, although I expect Barclays to be pretty dire. I also have no idea whether my pension pots are invested ethically. Work to do here.
  • Sustainable food – there’s nothing new to me here really. Less meat and dairy, more seasonal and local food. It often falls into the “too difficult” category to really nail this, especially when trying to budget, but this is true:

[food production is ]“a major driver of climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss. It’s responsible for more than 60% of biodiversity loss worldwide and almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.”

Must try harder on this one.

  • Be a conscious shopper. I’m mainly interpreting this as trying not to be a shopper as much as possible. I’m following a few No Spend/Buy Nothing 2020 challenges on social media at the moment. People have varying motives for wanting to take this on – often financial as well as focusing on sustainability. It’s been a challenge over Christmas, to be sure – I’m still reflecting on this… It’s hard to resist the urge to buy new stuff that you know your very cute two-year-old will absolutely love… But equally I feel sick whenever I think about the kind of planet he’s going to grow up on if we don’t get to grips with this, and fast.
  • Reduce your waste – there’s lots here I’m already doing, especially in terms of reducing food waste, batch cooking, planning meals etc. The article is a bit disjointed here though, as it veers from talking about low level individual decisions, to stressing the importance of product design fitting within circular economies, to enable things to be reused, recycled or repurposed. I feel like we get lost in the individualistic view of saving the world, making heroes out of ourselves and agonising about the best carrier bags to use. But actually, the sweeping changes have to come from governments and big corporations. See the final point…
  • Make space for nature – I am crap at this. We have a garden but it’s bare except for lawn. No time, no knowledge or skills. Come spring/summer I might be able to do something about this, but most likely not, as we will be hopefully mid house build by then. Eeek. Must not think too much about this, or I will lose my mind. Maybe I will grow some herbs indoors. We are also robust supporters of our local parks and woodland. Which also helps prevent the impending madness.
  • Speak up – as above, one person giving up single use carrier bags isn’t enough. I’ve been sceptical about the value of writing to MPs, signing petitions etc., but it certainly can’t do any harm… I’m going to try to be a bit more strategic about this and chat to some friends who are more active in this area than me about what actually has the most traction to make a difference.

So. Overall I think this article is a bit weird and disjointed, and taking a bit of a classic tick-box new year’s resolution approach. No mention of reducing car use, stopping flying, not much about single use plastic.

I wonder what Greta would actually say? No one is too small to make a difference, sure, but some people are big enough to make a huge difference, and putting pressure on them to change is where her energy is being directed, rather than bickering on Facebook zero waste groups about fabric wrapping paper.

Next week – some vegan(ish) meal planning, another visit to the refill shop and maybe I will have done some research about banking. Maybe a #SaturdaySwitch tomorrow too.

Global climate strike

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

How green are you, anyway?

A friend of mine (the great deodorant co-experimenter) told me about this WWF personal carbon footprint calculator, so I thought I would have a go at it and share my thoughts with you.

The methodology section is a bit confusing, but essentially it measures your personal footprint in tonnes of CO2 equivalent carbon emissions. This is based on questions on four categories: Food – diet, food waste and buying habits, Home – energy type and usage in the house and presence of energy-saving measures, Travel – personal and public transport usage for leisure and work, and flights, and Stuff – purchase of consumable items.

It then gives you a percentage score – 100% is the average required for every citizen to meet the UK’s 2020 carbon emissions target. Less than 100%, you’re doing well. More than 100%, you’re contributing more than your fair share and could/should do more.

The “target” is the 2008 Climate Act’s goal to reduce emissions by 80% from the 1990 total by 2050 – to remain on track, we have to be 35% of the way there by 2020. More info here.

So I ran the questionnaire and came out initially with 98%. All good. Then I realised I had probably filled out the question about car travel wrong. We hardly ever use the car – literally one trip to the shops every 7-10 days or so, maybe a less than 50 mile trip once a month and longer trip every few months. So I initially answered the first car question saying “I walk/cycle/use public transport for all journeys”. When I went back and redid it, and answered the questions about the type of car we have (terrible huge diesel estate), even saying that I use it less than 2 hours per week made the answer came back at 112%… 11.2 tonnes. Still less than the UK average of 13.56 tonnes, but above target. Hmm…

Just as an experiment, to see how the weighting works, I ran it again with all the same answers but changed the food answer to “vegan”, and it came out at 109%. So the impact of car use seems to have a very high weighting. It would be really interesting to re-run it a few times playing with the other categories like recycling, flights taken etc. and see how that impacts the score.

The tips the calculator gives me are as follows:

Travel:

  • Cycle more – no, not going to. People would die. Probably me.
  • Use public transport more – I do this for everything except supermarket and visiting family, not sure how we can reduce this as I’m not really up for long train journeys with a toddler.
  • Drive smarter – remove excess weight to maximise petrol efficiency. Hmmm… 10 day camping trip with roof box coming up. Also, it tells me that “having the correct air pressure in your tyres results in better petrol mileage, better handling of the car, cheaper maintenance costs and a smaller environmental impact. This simple step can make a big difference.” This is my husband’s department (sorry, feminists), and I’m pretty sure he’s on it. And finally, my favourite: by slowing your travel speed by 10km/h, you could improve your car’s fuel consumption by 25%. Dear husband, please read this! (Cause of a few tiffs, this one)

Stuff tips – buy one expensive thing rather than lots of fast fashion, buy second hand. On it – see impending eBay post and my thoughts about fast fashion.

Food – eat in season, less meat and dairy.

Home – this was my highest score: switch energy supplier to a renewable energy company, switch to energy efficient bulbs (already doing this) and “embrace new technology” – this seems to be something about using apps to monitor energy use, or maybe installing a smart meter? More research required.

There’s a couple of non-negotiables in here which I’m sure have an impact (e.g. cat food spend, and we would really be sad if we cut down on our takeaways and the odd restaurant date night), but I re-ran it with the following changes:

No flights (won’t be flying anywhere next year anyway), changed meat from “some meals” to rarely, changed food to “a lot locally sourced” rather than just some, 100% renewable energy tariff, house temperature changed from “warm” to “cool” (grrrr….), no new household items (we bought new laptops last year with wedding present money, no plans to make anymore big purchases). I kept clothing spend at £0-£50 rather than zero, as I do have to buy the odd thing new despite my best efforts.

Drumroll please….. this takes me down to 11.4 tonnes, which is 93%. And this is with what I consider to be quite modest changes really, that we are heading towards anyway. More radical stuff could take it lower, and the methodology section says we should be aiming for 1.05 tonnes each by 2050. The global average is 5.28 tonnes and that feels like a good long-term aim.

Interesting stuff. I would love to hear what yours comes out as and whether it triggers any thoughts towards lifestyle changes.