Plastic-Free Supermarkets Are No Longer Just A Pipe Dream

We all know plastic is clogging up our oceans, it’s being eaten by animals and it’s getting into our food change. The solution seems simple: stop using plastic. But the problem is more complex, plastic is everywhere. If a product isn’t made out of plastic, its most likely wrapped in it. Well, hopefully not for much longer. 
Recently a grocery shop opened up in London called Bulk. There is not a single piece of plastic to be found in the store! It’s brilliant. For now it’s a small pop up on Daslton high street, but hopefully soon it’ll have a new permanent home and larger space in Hackney.
When I visited Bulk, I brought my own egg tray (from the previous ones I’d bought at Tesco), and filled it with organic, free range and the best tasting eggs I’ve had in a long time. I had also brought some Tupperware that I filled with chickpeas (enough to cover me for winter), and I bought a bamboo toothbrush that I had been meaning to try.
Verdict: Bulk is doing some amazing work in helping to reduce the plastic problem. However, being a small independent business it can’t compete with Tesco prices. But as the concept grows and Bulk gets more established, hopefully they will be in a position to come closer to the big supermarket prices. In the meantime I will keep shopping at Bulk occasionally, and at the bigger chains the rest of the time. Brining my own bags and buying loose veg of course.


 

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Frack Off. Why fracking is bad and how to stop it.

The message is clear: fracking is bad. The general public in the UK seems to think so, yet the government isn’t listening.

In blockbuster films, it’s always clear who is the baddie, in real life it doesn’t tend to be so black and white. Unless we’re talking about fracking. Fracking is bad, there is no debate.

Here is why: Fracking is a way of extracting oil or gas from tiny fissures in shale rock underground. It involves drilling deep down and then pumping water, sand and chemicals down at high pressure to push apart the tiny fractures in the rock and release the gas. This is bad news for two main reasons: first of all the process of fracking is dangerous, it can cause seismic activity, contaminate water and is a potential health threat. And secondly we need to move away from a fossil fuel economy, not find new ways to extract it. I’m sure there is still plenty of oil and gas to be found around the world, but if we want to meet climate change targets it is vital that we leave it where it is.

Instead of spending fortunes developing technology for new techniques like fracking, we need to be spending it on developing renewable energies, reducing energy consumption and the storage of energy. Politicians are quick to defend fracking by saying it will boost the economy, yet we can also boost it by investing in green energy and creating green jobs.

So what can we do? We need to be constantly pushing back, letting the government know we don’t want fracking to happen, ever, anywhere. Any petition you can sign, sign it, and if it’s happening near you, look out for groups you can join. You can switch your electricity and gas providers to a 100% renewable energy one (see previous article). If there is no demand for oil and gas they will stop looking for it! And you can spread the word. The more people that know about fracking and understand why it’s bad, the more pressure the government will be under to ban it once and for all.

Switch to a 100% Renewable Energy Supplier

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Sometimes making a small change can significantly help the planet, but it can also save us money. What I found surprising when looking into changing energy providers to one that would be 100% renewable, is that price comparison websites said it would save me up to £300 a year compared to my current provider. Looking into both tariffs, the rates were definitely lower from the green energy company, but I remain skeptical on it saving me that much. I will let you know in a year! Either way, it’s cheaper, and it’s better for the planet, so it’s a no brainer.

I used this website to compare the different renewable energy providers in my area greenelectricity.org . In the end I went for Bulb, and through their website it only took 10 minutes to switch.

Green energy is electricity that comes from renewable sources, that don’t contribute to global warming. It can come from wind farms or solar panels, hydro power, wave power, tidal power and more. And Bulb get most of theirs from UK providers. Energy that travels less is even better. 

And more good news, the government is changing rules over the next few years which will not only help save energy overall, but give people more potential to make money from energy they produce. On BBC news last week they reported “New rules will make it easier for people to generate their own power with solar panels, store it in batteries and sell it to the National Grid.” Wonderful.

 

Glastonbury, A Green Festival?

By some miracle of the internet, this year I got tickets for Glastonbury. I’d seen on their website that they are keen to be a green festival, and that they have taken initiatives to minimise it’s impact on the environment. I was looking forward to seeing for myself if it was greener than other festivals I’d been too.

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I try to only write about positive changes, and not to complain about the environmentally damaging things going on, but I feel I have to say something about Glastonbury. I got there on the Thursday, but a lot of people arrive for open doors on the Wednesday. The first thing we did was walk up the hill to the Glastonbury sign as the sun was starting to come down. The view of the festival was stunning, but sadly it’s the sight of the litter on the floor that has stayed with me. I couldn’t believe it; after only one day where not everyone had arrived yet, you already had to kick litter out of the way to be able to sit down. Maybe my expectations were high as I expected Glasto’s well known hippie vibes to have kept it green over the years, but this is by far the worst state I had even seen a festival in.

I have heard about people leaving their tents behind at the end of a festival. I found this quite strange but assumed it must mainly happen when the weather is awful and tents were beyond repair. I don’t feel that excuses it but it could explain it. On Monday morning as I was crawling out of my tent, (having felt better) I realised people don’t leave their tents because of the weather, and they don’t just leave tents. We had been very lucky, it had been sunny or cloudy all weekend. The tents that were now deserted looked brand new. And I couldn’t count how many there were. There were airbeds all over the place still blow up, and camping chairs all over the place. But even if it wasn’t for all the camping gear, the amount of litter on the ground after four days was incredible. Do people forget how to use a bin bag because it’s a festival or is this how they live?

WTF.jpgIn fairness to the festival organisers, I think they are doing what they can. I don’t think it is the worst festival I have seen for rubbish because of the organisers, it is because of the people that attend. Glastonbury had clear points to drop your bins and recycling bins all over the campsite. There were bin bags at our disposable and stewards even came round handing them out as people were packing up. Throughout the whole festival there were bins that were clearly marked for general waste, cans, bottles and food waste. And best of all there were charity collection points for the camping gear people didn’t want to carry home, and stewards came round and told us about them while we were getting ready to leave. I saw them tell a group that anything folded down and given to the donation point would be given to charity, but anything left in the field would be plowed down and thrown into a landfill. Half an hour later I saw the same group walk away leaving their tents, chairs and airbeds. Seeing the state of the field as we walked away (with all our belonging of course), it’s hard not to be disheartened.

So can Glasto do any more? Perhaps make the message clearer and louder before the festival. Have a tag line? Glastonbury – don’t be a d*ck, everything you bring you have to take back… could be the first line on the website and on any emails. Boomtown last year had a deposit scheme, you got £10 back from your ticket when you brought your bin bag back at the end of the festival. If people don’t care about leaving £20-£100 worth of camping gear behind, I can’t imagine they care much for another tenner, but it might encourage a few people to use bin bags instead of the floor. Burning Man has a strict “leave no trace” policy. Zones are allocated to each camp group, and if yours is left with any mess on it, it gets marked down and your camp group gets pushed further back from the main festival area. Could they have more stewards at the end? No one would want to police people leaving, and having more staff costs more, but naming and shaming people leaving a mess might help to end this strange culture now.

GP.jpgUltimately for me it’s clear. The people at fault for the state we left it in is us, the festival goers. We are all adults and should take responsibility for our own mess. As a steward we talked to put it best, they leave it like this and when they come back next year they will expect a clean green field. It would be tempting to leave it exactly how it is for a year so they can see that the rubbish they left didn’t magic itself away. But two wrongs don’t make a right… The most efficient solution might just be peer pressure though, see a friend leave rubbish and tell them it’s not ok. But it’s a festival, and even I don’t want to be that person. But a lot of people clearly still need waking up to the fact that the planet isn’t going to save it’s self. Even the hippies of Glastonbury it seems.

Eco labels

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Some labels to lookout for 

One easy way to make a difference to the environment is in the choices we make as consumers. I’ve noticed over the past few year that more and more products are certified by eco friendly labels. But it’s not easy to make environmentally conscious decisions when you don’t know what you’re supposed to be looking out for.

Apart from the lack of awareness, I suspect one of the main reasons for people not purchasing products supporting these labels is down to cost. It is true that eco products can be more expensive, but not always. For example Sainsbury’s own tuna which has the MSC label, is cheaper than John West which doesn’t (and to me, tastes the same).

Above are some of the labels worth looking out for, and here is what they mean. If you have other favourites, please share!

An MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) blue tick on fish you buy means that it can be traced all the way back to the MSC certified fishery it came from. So you can eat your fish knowing that you are not endangering that species. You can find MSC fish in most big supermarkets now, and a lot of restaurants and fish and chip shops are getting on board too. Check menus for the blue tick!

The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label will be on certified wood and paper products (like pencils and notebooks). Anything you buy with this label guarantees that the tree cut down for it is being replaced.

Soil Association certifies that the product is organic. It can be found on a variety of products including food, beauty and textiles. I see it most frequently on food (like a loaf of bread or fruit).

EU Ecolabel indicates that what you are buying is environmentally friendly. The whole life cycle of the product is taken into account, from sourcing raw materials to recycling. This label can be found on cleaning products, furniture or even footwear.

The Rainforest Alliance label lets you know that the food or beverage you are consuming comes from farms where the staff work in safe conditions and the wildlife and waterways are protected.

Amazon Reef

Amazon Reef
Greenpeace image of the Amazon Reef

If like me, you missed this massive piece of news from last year, you might be excited to know that in April 2016, scientists discovered a coral reef in the Amazon. Very cool, especially considering how unlikely they were to find anything in the area due to the conditions not being favourable for a reef to thrive. It is a particularly exciting discovery, considering the current state of most of the coral reefs we do know about, to find one that is untouched. The reef is said to be almost 1,000km long, where the Amazon river meets the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, even before it was discovered it was already under threat. Oil companies that are a bit slow on the whole lets-move-away-from-fossil-fuel-before-we-all-die thing, are trying to obtain permission to drill down for oil. So if you’re wondering if there’s anything you can do to help save the planet, right now, without having to do very much, look no further. Greenpeace have a petition going to help protect the area, and you can sign it at the link bellow.

Luckily for this coral reef, it is hard to explore under murky waters and strong currents, so we are unlikely to damage it with tourism and too much human intervention. But oil companies have different sets of priorities, so we need to make sure the area is protected. We don’t need more oil, and we definitely don’t need another oil spill. Sign the petition and pass it on!

https://amazonreefs.org/