What’s Brexit got to do with it?

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.)

Autumn is coming! September resolutions, and a competition!

It’s nearly autumn…. aaaaahhhh… I love autumn.

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!

Peace and love

xx

In which we have a little nap

You may have noticed a small hiatus in posts…

Life has slightly been getting in the way over the last week or so – including re-establishing the small one’s naps after camp, which is VERY important to me. I don’t care that much about routine, but he does – and I definitely care about getting some time during the day to do other things (mainly, this).

Also, I’ve got that shiny-new-pencil-case feeling about the beginning of September, I know we are not yet at the “back to school” phase but it always feels a bit like that to me. So I’m just clearing the boring to do list, and brewing some ideas for a bit of a relaunch of the blog.

I’ve got a ton of ideas of things to write about, but I’m also interested to know what people want to read about. Brexit, Trump, this bloody heatwave and the rainforest fires (not necessarily in that order) have made me feel kind of depressed and anxious of late, and I just want this blog to be my little protest in my little corner. Maybe it can become something bigger with a bit of support from you guys (and a bit of research about SEO – this is search engine optimisation, apparently, and you have to know about this stuff to get more people to read your blog), and maybe it can do some good out there in the world. Cos we sure as hell need it right now.

Meanwhile, until next week, let’s go nap naps. Then wake up for snack snacks… oh not, that’s not you… Well, you can have snack snacks if you want. We like rice cakes and peanut butter round here.

Peace and love x

Center Parcs – #MyPlasticFeedback response

You might have read my previous post about our trip to Center Parcs and the concerns I raised to them afterwards about the single use plastic mountain they’re creating with disposable washing up sponges and dish cloths.

I have had a response this week from them on the feedback I sent. They say that “the Center Parcs experience is built around enabling our guests to enjoy the natural environment and, therefore, we appreciate it is vital that we play our part in protecting it.” They are “in the process of phasing out” plastic straws in their Center Parcs owned outlets, which is better than nothing of course – however, there are a load of chain restaurants within the complexes which presumably are not included in this, who may well be doing their own thing (Starbucks, Cafe Rouge, Las Iguanas etc.), but may not. Are Center Parcs putting pressure on their partners too?

A trial is apparently underway at the Elveden village (nothing on the village news page about this though…) to reduce single use toiletry items – so awful I couldn’t even go there in my feedback really, as I couldn’t think of an alternative option if this provision is something that guests really want. It would be interesting to see what other hotels and holiday parks are doing on this – do we really need tiny bottles of rubbish shampoo everywhere we go?  

Onto the dish washing (my obsession, it seems). They do reuse the tea towels – praise the Lord! But the dishcloths are binned as “they haven’t found a dishcloth that can be cleaned adequately to the standards required”. Nothing said at all about the washing up sponges.

So anyway, I’ve replied, encouraging them to keep looking for reusable options, and invited the Sustainability Manager to get in touch with me for a further chat and to feature in the blog… This is of course a massive long shot, but who knows what could happen, this could in fact be my big break! One day I will wake up to 5000 followers and an advertising request from Ecover, I know it.

Meanwhile, I suggest we all nag the tourist venues we visit to try harder on this stuff. The more I think about it all, the more I’m sure it needs organisations to take the lead to make the big changes that are needed. So pester away, people, and let me know how you get on.

Some thoughts about China – part 1

I love Chinese food. So much. When I was growing up, from the age of about 8, going to our local Chinese for the Chef’s Special meal was my birthday treat every year. My Grandma usually used to come with us, and I think she never really could believe, as someone who lived through rationing, quite how much food there was. Crispy duck is my absolute favourite.

But it’s pretty hard to tell whether any of the meat at one’s local Chinese is remotely ethical – I’m pretty sure it’s not – and I can’t even bear to do any research on duck farming, as I know the findings will be grim. So as part of our attempts to eat less meat in general, and more ethically sourced when we do, we decided on Friday night to give vegetarian Chinese takeaway a go.

We had vegetable spring rolls, mushroom rice and vegetable chow mein – all good. And tofu satay – oh dear. Spoungy, soggy tofu, sauce a bit too spicy for me, sad and slightly slimy vegetables. Also we had prawn crackers – I thought they were vegetarian, like prawn cocktail crisps, but a bit of retrospective research showed me that they do in fact contain prawns. So that was a bit of a vegetarian fail.

Overall, it felt like a worthwhile experiment, and there are plenty of other veggie options on the menu to try next time, but I wouldn’t be repeating the tofu experience.

I also encouraged (forced, actually) my long-suffering husband to take some tubs with us that we’ve saved from previous takeaways. I’ve seen people posting on plastic-free groups about taking their own tubs to takeaways and it seems like a great idea – except that I’m too socially awkward to have this conversation myself, so I delegated it to my heroic husband.

The man at the takeaway was initially reluctant to use our own tubs, until he realised they’d originally come from his shop, even though one had “Mum’s mince” written on it in faded Sharpie. Obviously they use the specific sizing of the small and large tubs to measure portion sizes, so he didn’t want to fill up a random Tupperware with chow mein, which is completely fair enough. Once that was cleared up, he was happy with it. But then gave us the spring rolls in a polystyrene carton and the whole lot in a plastic bag. Next time we will take a tub for the rolls and our own bag, but it’s baby steps…

I would have found the whole interaction totally excruciating (although I can probably manage it next time now that the precedent has been set), but my husband chirpily made a little joke to another lady waiting for her food, that he was “saving the world, one takeaway tub at a time”.

And here’s the brilliant bit – she replied (direct quote, credit to random lady on Shooters Hill Road):

“I salute you, really I do. It’s people like you who are going to save the world for my grandchildren”.

So lovely and such a deserved reward for braving the awkward conversation. It gave me some food for thought (see what I did there?) – maybe next time she will bring her own tubs, tell her family about the funny man in the takeaway and give other people the same idea. And maybe the takeaway owner might start to offer a discount if you bring your own tubs back (saves him buying new ones?), or he might think more about packaging and start using compostable or cardboard cartons instead? And the virtuous cycle continues.

But then I saw something else which made me feel a bit deflated:

“Of course I’d like to save the planet from global warming/pollution etc etc & admire extinction rebellion & those protesting, and everyday people who live their lives fully sustainable & carbon neutral etc etc – but even if the whole UK, or even Europe – became BETTER than carbon neutral, vegan & fully sustainable isn’t that a drop in the ocean when you factor in the carbon output & pollution from huge countries like China/Russia/USA/India etc? Of course we individually should do what’s right regardless – I’ve got no problem with that – but isn’t it a bit of a waste of time when there’s some huge bohemoths pumping out gazillions of shiz into the atmosphere elsewhere?”

Anon Facebook post

This post was followed by some really good discussion, including the impact of the military, the impact of “our” (“developed countries” demand on these countries’ goods, the move towards renewable energy in some countries vs. the return towards greater dependency on fossil fuel in others, and the interesting differences when you compare a country’s total emissions and the emissions per capita for its residents.

Anyway, it got me thinking a lot more – which is why this is Part 1 of the post and I will write more about this in a couple of days once I’ve done some more reading on the issues raised. For sure, we’re not going to actually save the world one takeaway tub at a time, so maybe we should just relax and enjoy it, stop worrying, eat the cheese and the unethically-reared meat and chuck the packet in the river? Of course we’re not going to do that – I do believe that every little helps, or at least stops it getting worse. But is there any way we can influence government policies, especially in other countries? Is it too late? It’s complicated, for sure.

What do you think?

More soon.

The story so far – 1 month in

People buy birthday cakes for their baby’s one month birthday – this is actually a thing. The things I discover through Google image search… I’ll say it again, louder for the people at the back – over-consumption is the problem on this planet!

So I started this blog a month ago and I thought I would just do a little stock take of where we’re at so far. 18 posts, 34 followers, 1188 views over 768 visits from 27 countries and 39 comments. Definitely some people who I don’t know IRL reading, which is very exciting – good to know it’s not just my friends humouring me!

Some promised posts I owe you, which will be coming fairly soon: trying to find out what really happens to my recycling in Greenwich, watching people arguing on the internet about paper bags, giving up micro-rice, following up on #smokegate with Greenwich Council, No Buy July and getting over my hatred of eBay. Also the famous singing dumper truck, Ecobricks and my baby clothes stash of shame.

Some really interesting stuff has come up in the comments too, so thanks to everyone who’s engaging. Things I am thinking about and plan to write about in due course:

  • The Government’s 2018 Waste Strategy and what this means for the recycling industry.
  • The efficacy and impact of putting pressure on Councils about recycling, and on supermarkets about packaging. And petitions – are they worth the effort?
  • What’s the carbon footprint of driving stuff to recycling centres and does it negate the benefit of the recycling?
  • What’s the ecological impact of different plant-milks and what would the global implications be if we all became vegan?
  • Someone commented, brilliantly, that plastic is the cover and distraction from dealing with society’s real issue of over-consumption – what can we do about this, and the bad bits of capitalism? (is it all bad?)
  • Is food labelling meaningless? What welfare standards can we trust – not Red Tractor, for sure.
  • Should we give up takeaways?
  • Should I keep some chickens, or get a goat?

Other stuff to follow-up: home-made gift tags and cards (and toddler craft scissors…), chasing Center Parcs about their eco-sins, more research on eco laundry and dishwasher tablet solutions, the mighty Sir David Attenborough’s speech as Glastonbury which I still haven’t watched, and maybe buying a yoghurt-maker.

I also need to do some really boring research on how to use WordPress more effectively – if anyone has any knowledge to share about plugins, layout hacks etc., I would be grateful.

Also after recommendations for: vegan restaurants in South-East or Central London and brands of bamboo toothbrushes and shampoo/conditioner bars.

Should I do a Facebook page? (Nooooooo Intagram or Pinterest.)

If you’re liking what I’m doing, please do share, comment, retweet and all that stuff. I’m enjoying blogging and it’s great to see the audience increasing.

Peace and Love

xx

More balls please, Wimbledon – time to ban plastic bottles?

It’s that time of year when we all sit on our sofas and offer our wise commentary on the best tennis players in the world locking horns at Wimbledon. I haven’t watched much, but enjoyed the Federer-Nadal semi-final and will be watching this afternoon’s men’s final.

Wimbledon have been under pressure for some time though to rid the event of plastic bottles – Glastonbury and Lord’s cricket ground have managed it, so why can’t the All England Lawn Tennis Club follow suit? There’s a petition here, and it seems a pretty straightforward argument.

If there are, say, 967 matches in a Wimbledon tournament (singles, doubles, qualifiers, juniors, wheelchair competitors and seniors/invitation doubles – yes I sat and added them up), and every player gets given 2 bottles per match, this is 4658 plastic bottles for the players, at an absolute minimum. The carbon footprint of a plastic bottle is estimated to be 82.8g of carbon dioxide per 500ml bottle, so this adds up to 385kg, just for the players. An estimated 420,000 bottles are used across the whole tournament, which equates to an enormous 34 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (this totally might be an incorrect calculation – my maths is crap – but it’s loads).

But it’s ok, because they’re recycled, and recyclable.

Evian have been the official water supplier at Wimbledon since 2008 and renewed their sponsorship deal in 2017, to extend until 2022. They’ve promised to make all their bottles from recycled plastic by 2025, and this year at Wimbledon they are piloting bottles made from 100% recycled PET; this is an attempt to move from a linear model to a circular one (another article here on this from the sexily-named Packaging News – don’t tell me I never give you anything). Evian are also working with Loop (remember them from the Terracycle post?) to enable a continuous loop for recycling at high volume.

So I was thinking about this, and whether it does make it all okay, or whether it’s yet another big green wash to make us believe that Evian are super-eco and ethical, while they’re actually just trying to get us to buy more pointless bottles of overpriced water. Of course it’s better that the water bottles are recycled and recyclable, keeping plastic out of landfill and the ocean, but what about the carbon footprint of making them in the first place, and the onward recycling? Wouldn’t it be better if they didn’t exist at all?

What are the alternatives for Wimbledon, and similar sporting events? Provide all the players with Evian-branded reusable water bottles? Lots of them seem to be decanting their own energy drinks into Evian bottles anyway, rather than drinking water on court. But what if a player forget to bring their regulation Evian bottle to a match – do they get given another one? What’s the carbon footprint of making x-00 reusable plastic bottles? (I haven’t got the time to calculate how many players compete in the tournament, sorry!) Or should Wimbledon ditch the Evian sponsorship and ask players and spectators to bring their own bottles? (And sell Wimbledon-branded ones to those who forget?) Would that impact on ticket prices – and should we even care about that? Are they contractually able to divorce themselves from Evian anyway, after extending the sponsorship deal?

Or have we forgotten that plastic is evil, and we should only be using stainless steel? Except you have to reuse a stainless steel bottle 500 times to cancel out the carbon impact of its energy-intensive manufacture. I can’t find many sources for a similar calculation for how many times a plastic reusable water bottle would have to be used, although this article suggests it might be as few as three times.

To be fair, Wimbledon seem to be doing quite a lot of impressive work to improve the sustainability of the event and I’m sure they will respond to the petition in due course, but it’s food for thought on our own water-bottle usage. I’ve got a brilliant pink plastic reusable bottle which I love, but it took me a while to find the right one which didn’t leak. My husband was given a stainless steel bottle at a festival recently, which he didn’t use much as he had brought his plastic one – so does he owe that one 500 uses to justify its existence? Lots of people don’t want to buy expensive reusable bottles for their kids, as they get lost or smashed. Nothing is simple, it seems!

I’ve got no definitive position on this, other than that we should use what we’ve got and look after it, so answers on a (recycled) postcard, please.

Meanwhile, here’s a picture of a beautiful bit of ocean (taken at the Paros Philoxenia hotel, one of my favourite places on this magnificent planet), to remind us what we’re doing all this for.