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I don’t usually post on Thursdays but I just had to today because I recently just reached 1000 followers and I am really so thankful for each and every one of them. All of you have incredible blogs and I thought that it would be an awesome way to celebrate if everyone shared a link to their blog and a little excerpt of what their blog is about. This way we can all communicate with each other, promote your own blog and you may find blogs you really like too!

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How to green your kitchen part 2 – in which we finally write about Ecobricks

So I’ve been threatening to write about ecobricks for a while, and a discussion on a Facebook group last night prompted me to get on with it, once and for all. I’ve been feeling conflicted about the ecobrick concept for a while, and I’m hoping that writing about it will bring me nearer to a conclusive decision.

Here’s a summary article about the whole ecobrick concept. Essentially, you take all your non-recyclable plastic, chop it up small and shove it into an empty plastic bottle (which has to be clean and scrupulously dry to prevent mould forming), to a specified density. It can then be used as a building block. The idea is that this prevents this plastic from entering landfill, being incinerated (creating CO2 emissions) or ending up in the ocean; effectively, it locks the plastic away from the ecosystem and transforms it into a useful material which is beneficial to the community, and maximises plastic’s durable nature. As I keep on coming back to, I think that plastic itself is not the enemy; the overuse of single use plastic and the disposal thereof is problematic, but long-term durable plastic, looked after and used sensibly, is actually pretty useful. (Remember how much I love tuppaware, for example).

Critical to the ecobrick mission is the idea that the very time-consuming process of washing and drying your plastic is a meditation on your use of single-use plastic, and should prompt you to consider how you can reduce and refuse, rather than using the ecobrick as a form of appeasing your conscience for your plastic use.

Here’s a picture of our plastic management system – it’s a sock drier I think, hanging up in our kitchen at the moment (conveniently next to the cleaning cupboard, in a clockwise direction in the spirit of How to green your kitchen part 1). When it’s sunny we hang it outside on the washing line – our neighbours must think we’re pretty mad to be drying our salad bags in the sunshine. Some of the stuff hanging on here at the moment is actually for Terracycle (I’ll come back to Terracycle another time, as I’m having continuing qualms about it since my original post), and the big freezer bag I will reuse until it disintegrates. The process has really helped us to review what we’re using and make different choices, such as almost completly stopping using microrice and switching to bigger pots of yoghurt and washing powder in a box rather than tablets in plastic casing.

BUT I’ve got some problems with the concept.

Firstly, it’s really, really hard to find a project to take your bricks. Theoretically, there’s a network called GoBrik which exists to help you find where you can drop off your bricks to become part of a community project to build garden furniture or playground equipment for example. But a lot of the projects listed seem to be defunct, and people don’t reply to messages of inquiry, or there’s nothing local available. However, the official Ecobrick stance encourages people to take responsibility for their own plastic and retain their bricks themselves by making something for their own home or garden. The idea is that the “throwaway” idea of giving away your waste to someone else reduces your sense of responsibility and is the same as simply putting everything in the recycling bin without thinking about what really happens to it. Do we believe our local authorities are actually processing everything for recycling, or do we suspect that hard-to-recycle plastic is being sent overseas and ending up in the ocean? Equally, do we know that the project where we drop off our ecobrick is going to use it responsibly, to the end of its life?

But what if you haven’t got the time or the skills to build something yourself? If you actively seek a project to drop your bricks off to on the Facebook network, the response can be quite aggressive, with lots of people telling you to make something yourself rather than outsourcing the problem. In fact, the aggressive nature of the Ecobrick Facebook community is pretty off-putting in itself. So you end up with a bunch of bricks in your shed and no idea what to do with them.

Say you do find a project, or build a planter out of your bricks for your own garden. What happens in 500 years? Will they explode and spread tiny particles of plastic everywhere? Is it a time bomb? Would it have been better for it to be incinerated after all? Similarly worryingly, I know of some projects in schools which have been run by volunteers who aren’t properly clued up about the density requirements, so they may well be making structures for children to use which aren’t safely load-bearing, or using bricks that will go mouldy and degrade because people haven’t been instructed clearly enough on how rigorous the cleaning process has to be.

I also see scarily frequent posts on social media talking about how ecobricks can be “sent to developing countries for building projects” – I’m assuming that this has become mythologised because the concept originated in Indonesia, but I feel that this perpetuates the post-colonial approach to waste disposal, when we’ve seen the consequences of western/developed countries sending their unwanted waste to developing countries that haven’t got the infrastructure to deal with it properly, and the environmental carnage this is causing. (Sorry if I’m using the wrong words, it’s difficult to know what the least patronising phraseology is).

So I don’t feel too great about Ecobricks at the moment. I’m still trying to find a project, either in London or near to where other family members live to enable drop-off, while being mindful of the need to avoid complacency and a “giving away the problem” mentality. I may end up making a crap plant pot out of ours in the end (I am notoriously shit at artistic endeavors), then bequeathing it through the next 25 generations of my family… Unless we can start breeding plastic-eating worms to deal with the problem for us. But I do think it’s a useful process in monitoring your single-use plastic use, so for now we will carry on doing it. And suffering the very unbeautiful plastic sock sculpture in our kitchen as penance for our plastic sins.

This is a contentious topic and I would love to know other people’s thoughts on this. So press the comment button and argue with me please! (in a respectful way, of course – unless I’ve inadvertently said something really daft).

Peace and love xx

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

In which we don’t go on TV after all – but have some interesting thoughts anyway

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 I’ve done a bit of research and I can’t find anything to say that the EU directly subsidises renewable energy generation. However, while in the EU we would have been bound by EU target to increase from just over 20% of our total energy production to 30% by 2020. My guess would be that after Brexit we won’t be bound by that target. My guess is right. Meanwhile, the UK has the biggest fossil fuel subsidies out of all the countries in the EU, according to the stats from 2016 at least, mentioned in this article.

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.

It’s driving me crazy

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.

There’s some useful thoughts here about how to manage without a car and how to reduce the carbon footprint of your car. Some other stuff I’ve thought about:

  • 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.

How to green your kitchen, part 1

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 news story.)

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.

Magic and Sparkles?

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.

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

Back to school – no shiny new pencil cases here #BuyNothing

I remember the back to school feeling SO well. I actually was a huge geek and loved school, so I never had that sense of dread some people talk about. I also love autumn and the air becoming nice and crisp and cool again (I am not a fan of heatwaves – so, y’know, let’s try and fix climate change, people). Even in the *many* years since leaving education, I get a bit of a “turning over a new leaf” feeling at the beginning of the new academic year, and September resolutions have been made (and broken) over several years.

Anyway… I’m basically reminiscing here about stationery and how much I love it (thanks to my old friend @momorgan for pointing out my mortifying series of spelling mistakes in this post, now edited). The new school year was ALL about stationery. We got new exercise books for each subject at school, even if last year’s weren’t full. I always used to have a new pencil case, and sometimes a new fountain pen. Also often a new rucksack at the start of each school year – mainly because the previous year’s one had been poor quality and the strap had broken under the groaning weight of library books, cookery ingredients and maths homework.

But I’ve still got my Miffy pencil case from 1993. Which makes me think… I probably didn’t need a new one every year, did I? But the consumer machine teaches us that we Need All The New Stuff Every Year. The kids deserve a treat, their friends will all have new stuff, they don’t like Paw Patrol anymore. And the Back to School concept can also be used to sell stuff to adults – there’s a whole marketing strategy here. Buy a gym membership or get a new hairdo to celebrate the kids having gone back to school, buy a new laptop to get that “shiny pencil case feeling”, even though you’re 48 and you don’t like Paw Patrol either.

I keep coming back, over and over again, to the realisation that one of the only ways to turn the tide on climate change and plastic pollution is to stop buying stuff, to stop generating demand for the production of new things and the carbon footprint generated by their manufacture, and the pollution caused by their eventual disposal. So I have launched, with a new local friend of mine, a South East London branch of the Buy Nothing Project (it’s originally an American concept – we do not use their acronym!) Have a read – it’s an interesting concept – a hyper-local gift economy enabling people to give, share and ask for things they need, where members of the community can get to know each other and commit “myriad random acts of kindness”. Sounds great, yes? It is. It’s also a bit of a mind shift for people used to a “first come first served” model like that used in Freecycle and most Facebook selling groups. We are building momentum though and it’s amazing seeing gifts being given, needs being met and friendships developing.

We’ve done a “Back to school” event over the weekend and seen people sharing uniform, stationery, rucksacks and of course pencil cases. All of this is preventing us from having to buy new, reducing our environmental impact and building relationships in our community.

So… to finish off. I’m feeling bloody depressed about Brexit right now, and the state of democracy in this country – it feels like all I see is division everywhere. I’m oscillating from feeling powerless and trying not to think about it, to wanting to go and chain myself to something and finding ways to rage against the machine. But actually the EU is less important than planet as a whole, and we mustn’t lose sight of that. And I think there are ways we can radically shift our mindset about consumption and possessions, while also increasing social cohesion and a sense of belonging in our communities, which we clearly sorely need at the moment.

If you are interested in setting up a Buy Nothing group, give me a shout and I will send you the info. At the very least, check out Freecyle and second hand sites before you hit the shops, next time you need to buy something. Even a pencil case. I’m not giving you my Miffy one though.