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.

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.

What went well? Even better if…? #SaturdaySwitch feedback

Image result for to do list clip art

“What went well, even better if” is a bloody brilliant feedback tool, in my opinion. We used it in the marvellous Specialist Services Division at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, where I spent the happiest two years of my career to date. It’s really useful to focus on positives already achieved, and identify further opportunities for change and improvement – and helps steer pessimists like me away from catastrophising if things haven’t gone exactly to plan.

So since I don’t have a new Saturday Switch for today, as we haven’t run out of anything else lately, I thought I’d just do a review of switches made so far, in case anyone is dying for an update.

Switching to reusable washing up scourers instead of disposable plastic ones was the first switch I blogged about. This has been super easy, I love the ones we are using. Our brilliant cat-sitter mentioned how great they are last week (she’s brilliant because, among many other brilliant things, she washes up the Fluff’s bowls properly every day) and I know a few friends have invested in some too. Even better if they hadn’t been packaged in plastic – I have finally got round to tweeting EuroScrubby about this today, so will keep you posted on any response. Also even better if they were any good on fine glass e.g. champagne glasses. However, we use these so rarely, it’s not a big deal. And I have half a pack of plastic ones left which we may as well use up, so I will save them up for this and they will last a long time.

Part 2 of #SaturdaySwitch was about ditching multi-pack yoghurts to reduce plastic waste and save dosh. What went well is that I really like the Yeo Valley strawberry yoghurt that comes in big tubs. Even better if the small one did too… he’s gone on yoghurt strike since being forced to give up Little Yeos, so I need to experiment with some other flavours. I am also intending to check out the feasibility of making my own yoghurt with a second hand yoghurt maker, if eBay can come up with one for me.

And last week I posted about switching to a cardboard box of laundry powder instead of tablets individually wrapped in plastic. Again, no drama here – I’ve got my cool little scoop thing and it’s just as quick as unwrapping the packet (and quicker and much less annoying than washing it and putting it in the Ecobrick), and washes clothes just as effectively. Even better if I had time to research properly all the zillions of eco laundry solutions out there (ideally cruelty-free and ocean-safe). By the time the box has run out, I will have got my head around this.

Other changes that I’ve talked about, not specific to Saturdays, are moving to organic eggs (straightforward but more expensive) and switching to natural deodorant – this is on hiatus at the moment, as we’re going camping for 10 days soon (with a toddler – I know, I’m a lunatic) and there’s a real risk that the new natural one might melt – the packaging advises keeping it in the fridge during hot weather. So I will start using it when we get back, in parallel with my co-experimenter.

The really difficult change has been the baby wipes. Not actually because I have any real love for the wipes, but because of the practical issues for me of using the floor in the bathroom due to my knackered post-natal knees. I’ve got myself fixated on this as a reason not to make the switch – someone could probably write a good thesis on nudge theory about this sort of thing – as I’m convinced I’ve got to be next to the toilet to be able to chuck the loo roll down the loo after cleaning up the worst of the poo. Which is probably a nonsense excuse. So anyway I’m biting the bullet and buying some Cheeky Wipes, as I think this will be the motivator to make this change properly and I can set up a changing station upstairs with the clean and mucky boxes. Not even going to attempt this while we’re camping though, I’m afraid that’s definitely more than I can cope with.

I’m wondering if any of my readers have done any research on the “biodegradable” wipes that are being hyped up now and if there’s any truth in the claims made? Or is this more green-washing vibes?

So there we are, that’s the #SaturdaySwitch updates. Riveting stuff, as always.

Terracycle – terribly good, or terribly bad?

Who is this creature with terrible claws, and terrible teeth in its terrible jaws? Oh help, oh no…. it’s a Facebook eco group sniping at people for trying their best. Scherioushly…

So I’ve mentioned this before, but I think the current #WarOnPlastic agenda becoming so popular has caused some long-term environmentalists to be a bit annoyed that they’re not quite so alternative anymore, and to use the anonymity of the internet to shoot people down in flames who are new to the mission and maybe don’t fully understand the complexity of it all. Some of this is valid but just maybe ill-phrased (e.g. do you really know what’s happening to your recycling?), but some of it is just plain unnecessary. For example, a recent post I saw of someone celebrating the introduction of paper straws in Tesco was met with a bunch of people asking the poster why they needed straws in the first place (maybe a fair point, but also potentially disablist), then criticising the plastic bottles of fizzy drinks behind the straws in the photograph – which the original poster may or may not have been buying anyway. Blah. It’s pretty boring really and gets in the way of useful information sharing and mutual encouragement for people making changes to help the planet.

Anyway…. back to the point. Terracycle. I discovered this quite recently, as a new drop-off point has been set up very near our house. This article is a really useful summary of what it’s all about – essentially, Terracycle partner with big brands to set up recycling programmes for waste which isn’t accepted by most kerbside recycling services. There are local drop-off points at churches, schools, community centres etc. and the recyclers can earn points which turn into charitable donations. Brilliant.

We were excited to find that out local drop-off point takes pet food pouches. Our (non-vegan) cat has the most expensive cat food in the world, special medicated stuff for his troublesome bladder and kidneys. I can’t give him cheaper canned stuff, with more easily recycled packaging, as it would make him ill and cost us a huge amount of money to keep him alive, again. So these pouches are non-negotiable plastic use for us while he’s still shuffling across this mortal coil. Additionally, they collect crisp and snack packets, bread bags and various other things. There’s also a national contact lens recycling scheme, with collection points at opticians. Again, this is non-negotiable plastic use for me (blind as a bat, crap peripheral vision in glasses, plus, you know, vanity) and I’ve felt guilty about it for years, so hooray.

Terracylcle say that they recycle 97% of the waste they receive, and promise that nothing goes to landfill (some is reused or composted). This is how they do it. I tweeted them directly about the contact lens scheme and they said that the plastic is used to make products such as benches, and “mostly” recycled in the UK, “rarely” in Europe.

So far so good. Then I stepped down the internet rabbit hole. Terracycle is perpetuating the problem, getting into bed with big corporations (Nestle, PepsiCo, Walkers) to keep us consuming – Walkers want you to keep eating crisps, Terracycle want you to keep eating crisps, you want to keep eating crisps – so if a guilt-free solution to your crisp eating can be found, everyone’s a winner. Except we keep making more and more plastic, downcycling it into products that will end up in landfill in the end, and there’s no pressure on manufacturers to develop better packaging, and no pressure on us to change our ways. This article explains a bit more about the business model, and says that Terracycle is a profiteering middle-man (they don’t actually own any processing plants themselves). Even Wikipedia contains some accusations of green-washing, and a fellow blogger is particularly scathing here.

So I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week, as I’ve been sorting through our stash of stuff for drop-off, and trying to balance out the conflicting views I’ve seen on this. My conclusions, for what they’re worth, are as follows:

Yes, Terracycle is a business, trying to make money. We live in a capitalist society, like it or fight it. They are guaranteeing to recycle stuff, though, in comparison with our own local authorities, who have no audit trail of what has happened to huge amounts of exported waste. Yes, it’s a lot of green-washing from big corporates, but they are funding the recycling and preventing this stuff going to landfill or being incinerated, and it does benefit local charities and schools. Also the soon-to-be-launched Loop programme, described in this interview with Terracycle founder Tom Szaky, looks really interesting. I think he’s right when he says that consumers want to live a waste-free life but won’t sacrifice on affordability and convenience. We’re all clamouring for big business to do something to make the change, so maybe this is the beginning of progress?

Maybe I’m hugely naive or poorly-informed about capitalism and consumerism, and I should be more radical, but I am going to carry on collecting for our local drop-off point and saving up my contact lenses.

I agree we have to focus on reducing consumption and analysing what we really do need in our lives; the faff of separating out the waste does make you more mindful of this, and about what could be reduced or reused before being recycled. For example bread bags – could I take these to the supermarket and use for loose veg? Could I use them instead of freezer bags? (which I use about 897 times before throwing away anyway). Does my husband REALLY need to eat a bag of crisps and a bar of chocolate every day with his packed lunch? Yes, yes he does. Unless I do more baking, of course. Which would correlate directly with more CBeebies (causing brain-rot, of course), and/or less naptime blogging – which would make you lot sad, and interfere with my plans to become the next Jack Monroe (she’s ace, by the way) and change the world, one rambling post at a time.

#PlasticBandWagon part 3 – get rid of all your Tupperware?

Please note – this is NOT my Tupperware drawer. This is a borrowed image from this very funny article after a Google image search of “messy Tupperware drawer”, because all my Tupperware is stored very neatly with (almost) no missing lids.

So I’m seeing lots of stuff in my social media echo chamber about how to “rid your house of plastic”, “go plastic free” and lots of “plastic is rubbish!” posts. Like I’ve said in my previous post about plastic toys, I don’t think that plastic itself is rubbish, I think it’s pretty useful. Disposal of single-use plastic is a massive problem, of course, but I think that the plastic that we already have – whether given to us, bought in former times when we didn’t think about this stuff, or just durable, useful stuff which will last a long time – should be looked after, used and reused until it’s no longer usable, then disposed of as responsibly as possible. We should respect it for the energy and virgin materials we took from the planet to create it. I find the whole “plastic is evil” mantra to be very simplistic and usually a bit smug – but hey, I love your hand-knitted hemp and bamboo hammock, well done, you’re a much better human than me.

Plus, I bloody love Tupperware. Tidy, useful, stackable Tupperware. So imagine my horror when my good friend and blog follower Anne sent me a link to this: “Save your money and save the planet! I absolutely need to replace my entire Tupperware cabinet with these!”

Further quotation from the product page:

“Made with 100% Platinum silicone. Because you’re worth it. Traditional plastic containers are petroleum based and can contain harmful chemicals. These toxins can leach into your food especially when heating or microwaving. That’s why pure silicone is best for your health. No BPA, no lead, no PVC, no Phthalates.”

Surprise, surprise, 60% off at the moment #WarOnPlastic #PlasticFreeJuly. Wonder if L’Oréal know that they’ve nicked their slogan…?

Silicone seems to be the anti-plastic material being advertised most aggressively at the moment – not biodegradable, but recyclable “where facilities exist”. RecycleNow has no information on silicone recycling, and a fairly thorough Google of “silicone recycling in London” reaped no rewards… so these will probably last forever too.

So, is Tupperware (or any other brand of plastic food storage system) actually dangerous and should we all be going out a replacing it with other materials?

There are plenty of articles out there like this one, which could very feasibly terrify us all into chucking out our plastic boxes and replacing with silicone/bamboo/glass/whatever, anything to prevent “structural damage to your brain” and “changes in gender-specific behaviour and abnormal sexual behaviour” – NB no definition of these given. There’s also a helpful reference to a Daily Mail article. And who is Dr Mercola exactly – does he have some sort of doctoral qualification in chemical engineering or toxicology? No.

Alternatively, there’s some nice evidence-based science from actual scientists at Cancer Research UK and Harvard Health Publishing – my summary take from these articles is that microwave-safe plastic containers are safe, but heating food in lots of other kinds of plastic probably isn’t a great idea. This is also a really useful , although maybe slightly alarmist article on the different types of plastic and the ones to avoid. All my food boxes are plastic #5, so I’m certainly not worried about using them for storage.

Am I convinced about the heat issue from microwaving or dish washing? There’s so much out there, but the science-based stuff (more here and here) suggests it’s probably ok if you avoid BPA and stick to microwave-safe containers – but then there’s doubt cast on cans! It’s endless… This article is also really good and warrants further reading, as there’s a lot I don’t understand in it about plastic science.

Anyway, there is endless reading to be done and it’s very difficult to analyse the research unless you’re a chemical engineer. So my conclusions are:

  • I’m going to keep using my Tupperware for storage, but try to avoid microwaving in it (I don’t do this much anyway) or using in the dishwasher.
  • I’m not going to buy some dubious silicone cling-film replacement, which by many reports and reviews isn’t that good anyway, made by companies who are cashing in on the #WarOnPlastic like it’s some kind of fad. And I’m going to keep on exposing and getting cross about green-washing bullsh*t like this, because it distracts us from the real issues at stake. Buying yet more stuff will not save the planet.
  • I’m going to keep encouraging people to reuse and respect their existing plastic possessions, rather than succumbing to this weird demonisation of useful, durable stuff which we already possess.
  • I’m going to keep working on eliminating single-use plastic from our lives, but with an understanding that I can’t do it all at once.
  • Here endeth the lesson.

Back soon with updates from the Council about #smokegate, arguing with strangers on the internet about paper bags, and overcoming my eBay antipathy.

Everyday activism – does pester power work? #MyCenterParcsFeedback

Magnificent giant redwoods at Center Parcs, Longleat

Pester power is a thing, right? Children are manipulated by the media and advertising into wanting something, then pressurise their parents endlessly to get it, and they eventually give in. I seem to remember this being the reason you often can’t buy chocolate at supermarket tills anymore. I can’t imagine many toddlers tantrumming over batteries and ibuprofen these days.

The last episode of the BBC documentary War on Plastic invited viewers to “pester” retailers by returning unwanted plastic packaging to the supermarkets, and post on social media with the #OurPlasticFeedback tag. I’ve seen a lot of this shared on Twitter in the last week, with mainly the same generic responses from the supermarkets about what they’re doing to reduce plastic waste. Most worryingly is all the promises to make more of it recyclable – when we know that the UK recycling system is overwhelmed and dysfunctional, with large amounts of waste being sent to landfill anyway due to contamination or inappropriate items being put in the recycling, or sent overseas with no audit trail of whether it is actually recycled, burnt or put in landfill.

There’s a real feeling for me that none of the actions needed are happening fast enough, and we as consumers can’t do much about it – the sheer scale of the problem requires corporations to make the high-impact changes.

But a bit of pestering feels quite good, so I think we should keep at it, and highlight things as we come across them to put pressure on companies to get better at this stuff and be accountable for their environmental impact.

So anyway, we went to Center Parcs at Longleat last week with the small one and some members of the grandparental team. It was brilliant, we all had an amazing time – lovely site with some awesome trees, a lot of “splish splash” and we even managed a couple of date nights, with free babysitting. Thanks Grandad and Granny!

But this upset me a lot, especially as you all know I am obsessed with dishwashing.

One disposable washing up sponge per lodge for each stay x approx 800 lodges x 6 Center Parcs villages in the UK (not even thinking about the villages in Europe) x 97% occupancy over 52 weeks = something like 242,112 sponges used per year, ending up in landfill or incinerated. Not to mention the horrible thought that each dishcloth (made of grim microfibre polyester stuff) and tea towel might also be thrown away after each stay. So I’ve written to them and tweeted them to see if they have any plans to switch to reusable options. (Also heaped a ton of praise on the staff members we encountered, all of whom, without exception, were excellent).

I’ve also been hassling Greenwich Council about a local air pollution issue and their lack of action to address it, in writing and copied to my local MP and councillors. What has particularly irritated me is the Council’s declaration of a climate emergency and requests on Twitter for people to pledge to have a bonfire free summer for Clean Air Day, while ignoring local issues which flout air quality laws.

#greenwashing

Essentially, this whole climate situation is making me feel quite anxious and a bit angry that it’s so hard to make the right choices in the face of companies who won’t make changes quickly enough, for fear of impacting their bottom line. And it’s made me feel a bit better and a bit more in control to start complaining about stuff. I highly recommend it. I’m not convinced it will make any difference, but it’s got to be worth a try, right?

#SaturdaySwitch part 3 – the magical bottomless laundry basket

There is a German fairy tale I remember reading at school about a family with a magic porridge pot which produces endless porridge. One day, the mother (of course…) forgets to tell it to stop cooking, and it overflows endlessly until the whole town is full of porridge. I can’t remember what happens at the end but the it’s probably a happy ending involving an elf or fairy of some sort. And hopefully someone gives the mother some wine and helps her clean the house up.

So I think in most households with small people, the laundry basket feels a bit like this – if you blink, it’s overflowing again and you lose any semblance of control. I can’t imagine how people cope once multiple school uniforms, football kits and all that are in the mix. Although by then the food-related mess may have reduced a bit, I hope…?

We’ve been using these laundry tablets from Aldi for absolutely ages, because they’re cheap, basically, and they get the job done. The blurb says to use 2 tablets per wash, which I actually didn’t realise and have always used only one, so the cost per wash is 4.9p.

BUT the tablets come wrapped in these little bastards:

Possibly the most annoying bits of plastic known to man, and very hard to clean and dry for the ecobrick. So I have just switched to a big 2.6kg carton, which eliminates 18 of these plastic sachets. Or reduces the demand for them, at least, by me not buying them. I think works out cheaper if you don’t use the advised dosage of 85ml or 65g (which based on previous experience with tablets is more than you need). So by using 50ml or 42g (I totally don’t understand this conversion rate – I thought it was like for like with liquid and solids but apparently not!), I make it 4.8p per wash. So not dramatically cheaper, but a lot less annoying plastic rubbish.

I bought a four pack of these snazzy measuring scoops in different sizes too (NB I bought these before the beginning of “no buy July” – more on this tomorrow). My husband is using one for his porridge at work, and has stopped using the expensive sachets of oats with the little measuring line for milk. I will work out the plastic and money saving on this in my copious spare time – but the magnificent Jack Monroe has done her own version here at 3p per portion, vs. Asda’s own brand at 7.9p per portion.

So the washing powder seemed like a nice straightforward Saturday Switch. But then I read something which suggested that the packaging of laundry boxes isn’t recylable, as it’s coated in plastic to protect the powder from moisture and humidity. So is that true, or is this true?

I am going to tweet Aldi to see if they can offer some reassurance on this… will keep you posted.

Then there are the many various “eco” brands of laundry out there on the market, some of which come in plastic packaging. What constitutes cruelty-free, or even vegan? What causes the least pollution? Is there any way to make a further switch that’s still cost-effective, as well as also being effective on stubborn pesto stains?

I feel like each question I ask generates about another 100 questions and this is going to be a LONG journey. I know you’re all rooting for me – say hi in the comments or on Twitter, especially if I don’t know you in real life! Who are my mystery readers in Finland, Sweden, South Korea, Kenya and Qatar? I would love to know!

P.S. Sorry for the hiatus in posting this week, been on holiday to Center Parcs. Watch this space this week for Center Parcs’ plastic sins, my everyday activism ideas, “No Buy July” and maybe some other things, depending on the length of a certain small person’s naps…

#plasticbandwagon cont. – Motherhood, Consumption and Guilt

The minute you have a baby, or even considerably beforehand in some cases (NCT “newsletter”, I’m looking at YOU), people start trying to sell you stuff. Bounty reps come into your room when you’ve barely finished giving birth to pressure you into buying their newborn photo bundle, meanwhile harvesting your contact information to begin an email campaign convincing you of all the essential stuff you have to buy to keep your child alive. They are subcontracted by HMRC to distribute the Child Benefit form, so you end up giving them your details without really realising what’s going on (it’s possible to manage this differently, apparently, but honestly, when you’ve just given birth, are you going to argue?)

I could write a LOT about motherhood and guilt, and the way societal pressures and judgments push us into polarising mothers by their parenting choices (breast/bottle, puree/baby-led weaning, go back to work or stay at home etc. etc. etc.) You’re a bad mother if you don’t have the right pushchair and snazzy changing bag, you absolutely NEED all this stuff to give your child the best start in life. But you’re also now a bad mother if you buy too much stuff – in fact, it’s probably ALL your fault, especially if the stuff is plastic. Because plastic is in fact evil. As are most mothers.

So I wanted to talk about plastic toys. Here’s an actual plastic bandwagon.

It’s noisy and annoying and my son loves it. Fortunately, it lives at Grandma and Grandad’s house. And it also came from a car boot sale and cost 50p (thanks Grandad for “sourcing”).

There’s a fair amount of snobbery about children’s toys – articles like this would make most ordinary parents feel pretty guilty, judged and lazy, to be honest. Or just confused. (“Why buy plastic tea sets when they can play with real freebies?” Uh, because they will break them and the bits will be sharp and I won’t have a mug to drink my coffee out of and then I will die?) I asked for advice about toys for my son on Facebook once, and received the helpful comment – “whatever you do, don’t fill your house with plastic”.

Personally, I don’t believe there’s anything intrinsically wrong with plastic toys – I don’t think they’re actually toxic if made in the EU (shock, horror), and I don’t think they create gormless kids with no imagination. I do think too many toys causes overwhelm and lack of focus, but that could be toys of any material.

I read something on Twitter a few days ago which struck gold :

Plastic is, admittedly, a perfect material for sturdy, easily cleaned toys. I think the key thing with toys is to buy good quality ones, pass them around your friends and/or use charities. Are toy libraries still a thing?

Tweeted by @curlyheather28 on 24th June, retweeted by my new blogger pal @happy_tortoise

Beautiful sanded-down Scandi wooden toys are of course lovely, but they’re pretty expensive and also made of trees. Surely the best toy out there in terms of the environment is one that already exists.

So I did a quick toy audit at home – not including random household items which have become toys – a milk pan, an old remote control, a tea strainer and some old bangles of mine, among other things – because my son has an imagination all of his own, thanks, the breakdown goes like this:

21% wooden toys, bought new. 8% wooden toys, given as gifts. 8% wooden toys, second hand.

21% plastic toys, bought new. 13 % plastic toys, given as gifts. 29% plastic toys, second hand.

So 37% second hand – car boot sales, hand-me-downs and Facebook marketplace mainly. I would be aiming to increase that ratio as time goes on and reduce what we’re buying new, but I’m not going to lose any more sleep about plastic.

So enough on the guilt about plastic toys, folks. Obviously crap disposable Happy Meal toys that end up discarded very quickly are bad news (petition made famous by the War on Plastic TV programme is here). But durable toys passed on between families or shared within a brilliant community resource like the Charlton Toy Library should be celebrated as pre-loved, not demonised as bad parenting.

Here endeth the rant.

(Just wait until I post about the singing plastic dumper truck. Really)

No Glasto FOMO

Glastonbury 2019 is coming to a close today, and I’ve got no FOMO at all. Seriously, none. Maybe a tiny bit for the amazing food and the Green Fields vibes – but the crowds and the chaos and the long drops, no thanks.

I’ve been twice, in 2015 and 2016, performing with Shakti Sings choir, directed at that time by my amazing friend Susie Ro Prater (clip of our singing from 2015 here). The first year was great – sunny weather, hardly any mud and I was in the first flushes of blossoming love with my now husband. The second year was SO awful in comparison. Terrible weather and horrendous mud. We arrived on the Tuesday night and honestly by Thursday I’d had enough. Then the EU referendum happened. I will never forget sitting in the Greenpeace cafe at 7am watching Glastonbury slowly waking up to the news, a result which most people at the festival were shocked and saddened by.

So now, with a toddler in tow, I don’t think anything could persuade me to go. I know some people take small babies and tots to big festivals – they must be a lot cooler and more relaxed as parents than me, I can’t imagine anything less fun.

I always found the litter hugely depressing too, so I was interested to read about the pledge from Emily Eavis towards a greener festival. The true spirit of Glastonbury to me has always been radical, and the drive towards sustainability and living in harmony with the environment should indeed remain central to the Glastonbury ethos. Two thirds of the 23,500 tons of waste generated by UK festivals annually is estimated to end up in landfill and clearly this needs to change.

So the Glastonbury team have banned the sale of single use plastic bottles on the site, and installed taps for water bottle refills instead. The jury seems to be out so far on the actual impact of this though – I’ve seen a lot of photos like this one, showing loads of rubbish littering the site as it has done in previous years.

Photo credit to Stephen Roberts, via Glasto Goers Facebook group.

A lot of this litter seems to be food packaging and drinks cups, all of which is supposed to be compostable at this year’s festival, but I wonder if there’s some mileage in introducing reusable cups and crockery, as other festivals plan have already done or plan to introduce. Kendall Calling has a scheme where festival-goers get a small amount of money back when they return their coffee cup for reuse and Greenbelt introduced reusable cups at their bars in 2016. In all honesty I think mandating it is probably the only answer, to change behaviours consistently.

The other big festival waste problem is people leaving tents behind – this petition addresses this issue with tent manufacturers, asking them to stop selling “festival tents”, which implies single use, and to brand these differently to encourage care and reuse.

So I think my Glastonbury days are over, and our future lies at smaller, more family-friendly festivals such as Beautiful Days and Fire in the Mountain. Maybe I will feel a small pang watching my all-time favourine band The Cure on TV tonight when they’re headlining the Pyramid stage. But when I go to the fridge to get some lovely cold wine, use my nice clean toilet and finally go to sleep in my nice comfy bed, the feeling will be pure JOMO (JOY of missing out).