First published January 2021
As some of you might remember, we're running a series of monthly challenges designed to enable us all to take tangible steps to fight the climate and ecological emergency.
This month, the challenge is all about being local. Just as charity begins at home, climate and ecological action begins in your local area. The challengers have suggested a few actions you could take… here’s a look at some of my favourites.
Can you set yourself the challenge of avoiding Amazon for a month? As well as their dodgy tax practices, Amazon ship and drive products all around the world and often use far more packaging than is needed.
Try looking for the items you would normally buy from Amazon from local shops or sellers instead. My fella loves Facebook Marketplace, where you can pick up second-hand items from people who live nearby, killing two environmental birds with one stone. (Hmm, maybe that metaphor needs a little bit of work. Don’t kill any birds, planet-fans!)
Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash
You might also want to try writing down every single thing you buy in a week. Have a look at what you bought locally and what came from further afield. Are there any habits you could change?
I tried this challenge and found that I had a mixed bag. While I bought a card and some cakes for a friend from a UK seller and supported a Bristol-based yoga teacher by booking an online workshop, I also bought wine from Italy and Argentina, vegan feta from Greece and vegan ice cream from Sweden - a reminder that just because something is vegan, it doesn’t mean it’s carbon neutral.
deally, it would be great to buy wine and beer from the UK, such as Quoins wine or the Bristol-based Butcombe Beer (which we’re fans of in this house).
However, if home-grown booze is a little out of your budget or you can’t find any in your local shop, it’s best to at least avoid wine from regions suffering from drought, such as South Africa, Australia or California.
There are also lots of great gins made here in Bristol, including Bristol Dry Gin, Psychopomp and 6 O'Clock Gin.
Can you try to buy more locally produced food this month? We get a fortnightly veg box from Plowright Organic, full of fruit and veg grown and packed in Somerset, which I can recommend.
Their apples, kale and broccoli are all especially delicious. There are many more local and organic food sellers - see those listed on our page about Better Food Options.
Another option is to go foraging in your local area. You might think that January and February are not the most fruitful months in our freezing climate, but in fact, if you head outside, you might be able to find beech nuts, blackberries, sloes, pine nuts, nettles and wild garlic. Of course, you can’t entirely feed yourself by foraging, but it might be quite fun and is certainly a better bet for your health than watching yet another episode of the Crown!
As Grant from West Bristol Climate Action says, some of the benefits of foraging include:
✅Minimum of food miles
✅Zero packaging or manufacture
✅Fresh (though do wash)
✅Organically grown if wild
✅Connection to nature
✅Self reliance / independence
Check these Woodland Trust blogs on foraging in January and February for some great tips and recipe ideas.
Many of us are doing more walking in these strange and troubled times. Something we could all commit to doing is picking up rubbish as we walk. This will not only make your local area prettier for the next walker, but could also save some wildlife from getting hurt or even killed by the plastic and tin cans that litter our streets. I often take a pair of sturdy gloves and a roll of bin bags with me when I go out walking, and it is satisfying in the extreme to do the same route a few days later and notice the difference.
Are you close to any of your neighbours? If so, could you consider food swapping with them? Even with all the planning and best intentions of the world, we sometimes realise that the food we have might go off if it’s not cooked quickly - and, for whatever reason, we don’t have time to do that cooking.
For example, did you know that 20 million slices of bread are wasted in the UK every day, creating greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 140,000 cars? Therefore, anything we can do to avoid food waste is a must.
If you have some bread or veg you don’t think you’re going to get round to eating, why not message a neighbour and see if they want to take it off your hands?
Play your cards right and they might even
bring you round a portion of whatever they make! Everyone’s a winner.
If you want to join in our monthly challenges, check out our great Instagram feed, which has a plethora of pictures and tips for each challenge.
Do you have any ideas for better local living we can all take part in? If so, do comment below.
First published January 2021
Happy new year eco-warriors! There are plenty of challenges out there at the moment… it’s cold, corona continues and we can’t go outside… but I am hoping you all had a nice break and are feeling as well as you can despite all these factors.
Given that it is chilly and there isn’t much to do, I’ve finally found the time to teach myself to do something I’ve been meaning to do for years - namely, darning socks. I am a self-confessed sock lover. After all, nothing is worse than unhappy feet. (Apart from the continuing ecological and climate emergency of course!) I particularly favour long socks which I can pull up under my thick trousers, for that extra layer of warmth. However, I’m also happy with short, colourful socks, or even a trainer sock when summer comes round again.
Photo by Nick Page on Unsplash
Whichever socks one prefers, all are vulnerable to holes. Holes which means your toes poke out the ends in an uncomfortable fashion. Holes which mean your feet are that much colder. Holes which, all too often, mean the entire pair get chucked in the bin; and thus all that unbroken material goes to waste. This is a particular shame for knee socks, which contain quite a lot of fabric.
Back when I was a nipper, darning socks was a fairly common activity. However, in our single-use world, it’s something which has sadly fallen out of fashion. So I decided to re-teach myself how to darn socks so that I could save several pairs of particularly fetching socks from the rubbish.
As it turns out, there are already lots of handy articles out there which show you all the steps for darning socks, so I won’t go through all the steps again.
This piece is a great starting point; this one has handy pictures for each step; this page demonstrates how to fix a really big sock-hole; this link includes a handy video. Finally, if you’re clever enough to be knitting your socks in the first place, this is the darning blog for you.
Some general tips…
* You don’t need a darning mushroom - a tennis ball, a lightbulb, or the end of a baseball bat or rolling pin will do the job.
* You also don’t need a darning needle - just a long needle will do.
* Ensure your thread matches the thickness and colour of your socks; thicker thread for thicker socks and so on.
Having read the above blogs and bought myself a needle and thread, I sat down the sorry looking sock specimen you can see to the right.
I was a little unsure about how well I'd do, but it turns out that mending small toe holes like this one is fairly simple.
I used a round massage ball as a darning mushroom, which worked just fine. A few stitches later, and the sock was returned to its former glory.
Where to recycle socks
Of course, some socks are beyond repair. If you’re darning upon darning upon darning, or if the elastic has gone and they keep falling down, you can recycle your socks at one of Bristol’s Reuse and Recycling Centres (although note there are new restrictions about when you can visit these centres due to Covid-19). The St Peter’s Hospice shop on Bond Street in Bristol also takes rags and unsellable clothes.
You could consider using your beyond-saving socks to stuff draught excluders - which, as we learnt in a previous blog - can help keep your house warm without having to turn up the heating.
Note that you can also recycle usable or wearable fabrics (so NOT your holey old socks) in your black recycling box in Bristol, although you will need to put these fabrics into a plastic bag and label them, as wet fabrics won’t be accepted.
Where to buy eco-friendly socks
If you’ve darned all the socks you can darn and recycled all the ones that are broken and you still genuinely need some new socks, consider buying a pair or two from Stand4Socks who provide a pair of socks for a homeless person for every pair bought. In addition, their fabrics are sustainably sourced, free from harmful chemicals and made according to ethical work conditions. They also ship their socks out in 100% home compostable mailing bags. Sock on!
First published December 2020
December can be a great month: Christmas, time off work, delicious food, friends and family. But it also means being cold… and here in the UK, we can expect to be cold for another three to four months after the festive fun is done.
Keeping our houses warm by turning up the gas central heating alone can feel tempting, but this method of guarding against the cold is not good for the planet.
Did you know that 14% of our greenhouse gasses here in the UK come from our homes? This is a similar figure to the emissions produced by cars, which we all know are bad environmental news.
Photo by Georg Eierman on Unsplash
As such, unless we rethink home heating, we won’t meet the climate change targets that we need to achieve in the next few years. Think tank Policy Connect says that more than 20,000 homes a week must switch to low-carbon heating between 2025 and 2050 to meet UK climate goals.
It has been recommended that no new homes are connected to gas by 2025 , but of course many of us live in older homes which have gas boilers and so would need expensive retrofitting to get rid of the gas connection. Plus it’s never a good idea to throw out old items or tools which are working well to replace them with new bits and bobs, even if the new things are ‘eco’ - that wastes embodied energy, and is also bad for the environment.
So what can we do to make our homes warmer? Here are four solutions you might be able to try in your home.
You need to ensure that your home is well insulated in order to reap the benefits of any greener sources of heat you decide to use. Insulate your loft and use draft excluders or thick curtains over draughty doors and windows.
One friend of mine uses blankets as curtains, which seals the heat inside her house beautifully. Not only does efficient insulation make our houses warmer in the winter, it can keep heat out in summer.
One Home list eight simple measures you can take to insulate your home which include installing loft insulation which is at least 27cm thick, investing in a smart thermostat to set the temperature you want your rooms to be, and either getting double glazing or temporary secondary glazing film.
2. CHEESE survey
If you live in Bristol or the surrounding areas, you might want to invest in a Cold Homes Energy Efficiency Survey Experts (CHEESE) survey. One of their experts will come to your house and use thermal-imaging to identify where your home is losing heat. They will also suggest solutions to keep the heat inside. The surveys start at £100 and are free for people in poor housing conditions or who are living in fuel poverty.
Our committee member Tim had one of these scans. He says:
“I live in a 1930s terraced house. When we first moved in 10 years ago - having come from a draughty, high ceilinged Victorian semi in Scotland – I thought it was going to be warm and draught-free. This was the first place we’d had with double glazing throughout!
"I gradually realised that this was not quite the case. The house was colder than I expected at the front with the prevailing west wind; plenty of draughts were coming through skirting boards and the like. So when I heard about the CHEESE thermal video energy surveys I decided to go for one, partly because I was just curious what it was about. It didn't take long to do the survey despite the need to set up a fan and screen at one front door to create a pressure differential - to activate draughts I think. The tour round the house with an expert surveyor yielded a number of simple little draught proofing DIY jobs I had missed. The thermal imaging of the house and the resultant DVD record was an interesting souvenir as well.”
3. Green homes grant (NB: Unfortunately, this grant was discontinued in 2021)
If you’re a home owner, you can apply for up to £5,000 from the government to insulate your house. You will use this money to make at least one ‘primary’ improvement to your home (such as insulating solid or cavity walls or investing in an air source heat pump) as well as helping to cover the cost of ‘secondary’ measures such as double glazing or heating controls. You can read more about the scheme here.
My partner and I have qualified for this grant and are going to use the money to clad the outside of our incredibly cold, single-skin 1930s house.
We’re currently waiting for a slot to free up so that the work can be done, and I personally can’t wait to be able to stop typing these blogs while wearing scarves, gloves and my electric blanket!
Photo by Mark Adriane on Unsplash
4. 100% renewable energy
One thing we can all do is switch who supplies our energy. Over the past decade or so, many seemingly eco-power companies such as Ecotricity and Bulb have popped up. These companies appear to be better than companies like NPower, who are not trying to appeal to eco-warriors.
However, did you know that energy companies will tend to buy whatever energy is cheapest at the time? During summer, this is often renewable energy.
Energy companies whose client base don't care where their energy comes from will then sell certificates known as REGOs to companies whose clients DO care - but those 'caring' companies use the certificates to hide the fact that they are, at times, not using renewable energy.
Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash
There are only three companies in the UK who offer 100% genuinely renewable electricity and trying their best to do similarly with gas (which is harder). These are Good Energy, Green Energy UK and the Co-Op. Previously, Bristol Energy was on this list, but they have been bought out by Together Energy, who do use REGOs; although they tell me they are trying to move away from them.
If you are with a ‘green’ energy provider and don’t feel sure about whether they are using REGOs or not (companies don’t boast about this, unsurprisingly), get in touch to ask them. If they do, perhaps consider moving to one of the genuinely renewable providers - or at least letting your providers know that you would prefer it if they stopped this greenwashing practice,
Do you have any tips for how to heat your house without harming the planet? If so, comment below and let us know.
Did you know: Some 85% of British households use fossil-fuel based natural gas to heat their homes?
First published November 2020
As we’ve seen in a recent blog, fast fashion is extremely bad for the planet. It can also be bad for your wallet, and for the available space in your house.
With this in mind, myself and three of my friends (Dawn, Jenni and Zoe) pledged to avoid buying any new clothes in 2020. As the year came to an end, I had a chat with those friends to find out how the challenge had gone for them, and whether they had any tips for how readers of this blog might do the same in 2021.
I started off by asking how everyone had found the year so far.
Perhaps predictably, we agreed that coronavirus had made it easier not to buy new clothes; we weren’t going out, so didn’t need to get dressed up… plus the shops were shut for a lot of the year!
However, the virus also made it harder. Zoe spent the beginning of lockdown at home with not much to do, so was tempted to look at online shops. Jenni also spent more time at home on her laptop, and so was seeing a lot of adverts for clothes on social media.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Both Jen and Dawn talked about needing comfier clothes for working or working out at home due to Covid-19. Dawn bought a top and Jenni some trousers for those scenarios, and neither regret those choices as they were carefully chosen purchases, rather than impulses which would end up languishing at the back of the wardrobe.
As the year went on, it got easier for all of us to eschew new clothes.
Zoe said, “I’ve found a rhythm, and I hope to carry on.”
Zoe and I both bought some second-hand clothes; I found a dress in a charity shop at the start of the year which I couldn’t say no to, while Zoe (right) used some of the money she had saved by rejecting fast fashion to buy a jack from Beyond Retro.
“I spent more than usually would because this was a retro item and a good brand,” she said.
Photo by Scoundrel Eye Photography
We talked about the rules we had set for ourselves and how easy it was to stick to those rules.
Zoe and I were happy to buy second hand clothes from charity shops, eBay or Depop, Jenni was trying not to buy any clothes at all, and Dawn was trying to cut down her consumption of everything as her house was getting too full. As she said, “My brain tells a story about how this particular item would be perfect in this particular scenario” - and then it’s in her house.
I *almost* managed to stick to my simple ‘No new clothes in 2020’ rule… the only new items I’ve bought in 11 months are some new undies as my extra lockdown pounds meant the old ones weren’t fitting any more. I’ve decided I can live with that slip up! Dawn’s rule of not buying anything new until she had had a clear-out of the clothes she wasn’t wearing motivated her, while Jenni said that she had to set herself the very strict rule of no new clothes at all (new or second hand) as she knows herself well enough to know that if the rules were more flexible, she would have broken them too often.
Will this challenge have an impact on our behaviour next year? Zoe was clear that she never wants to shop at places like ASOS again (see the issues with them here) - and she feels confident that this is a habit she has broken.
When Zoe does buy clothes in the future, she knows they will make her feel good as they will have been ethically and/or locally made and will have had a guilt-free journey to get to her.
Dawn agreed. “While I didn’t start this for environmental reasons, I know that fast fashion is really bad for both the environment and workers.” Therefore, she’s going to stick to clothing companies like Lucy and Yak or buy second hand from now on. One exception might be clothing stalls at festivals, although she plans to ask friends for their honest opinions about whether she really needs certain items, rather than listening to the friends who tell her she looks great in everything!
Jenni said that she worries it will be difficult to carry on, but that she’s going to remind herself that she wants to put money towards exciting holidays or a new place to live, rather than clothes she doesn’t need.
I personally have an addiction to unusual flares, so I know I will find it hard to say no to them, but I’m going to try to stick to second hand or ethically-made trousers from now on.
Finally, I asked my buddies what one tip they would have for readers of this blog who want to rise to the challenge and attempt No New Clothes in 2021.
Jenni said, “Unsubscribe from all clothing company emails telling you about tempting sales, and use the settings to try to convince Facebook that you don’t want to see clothing ads - if it’s not in your face, it’s much easier.”
Zoe’s top tip was to get into the backs of all your drawers and wardrobes to fish out the clothes you haven’t worn in a while. You might find some gems you’ve forgotten about.
Dawn suggested finding another way to get that dopamine hit that shopping can bring. She’s now finding herself addicted to saving her money instead, but suggested you could try going for a run or doing some knitting or cross-stitch instead, so that you can feel good about not buying clothes.
My own suggestion might seem obvious - and again, this is easier this year than it might be next year - but I’d suggest just not going into clothes shops, even if you think you’re just looking. If you don’t look, you can’t find that one item that you never knew you needed.
Meanwhile, as I mentioned in last month’s blog, West Bristol Climate Action are setting a series of eco-challenges for the next 12 months. As luck would have it, this month’s challenge is about clothing. I asked committee members Grant and Julie to tell us about how they’re finding the challenge so far.
Julie said: "I'm doing the 'repair' aspect of the clothing challenge this month, inspired by a massive success some years ago when I fixed 17 items of clothing in a single day - hemming, repairing holes, sewing buttons on, taking things in, getting shoes resoled, the works - bringing back an estimated £500-worth of clothing back into action. This month I'll be patching my two favourite sweaters, both of which I've worn so often that I've worn holes in them. At least 400 wears and counting, each!"
Grant watched the documentary The True Cost, which is available on Amazon Prime. He says, “The True Cost makes clear the consequences of Western clothing supply chains seeking out the world’s cheapest labour. It focuses on women, their working conditions and the social and health implications inflicted upon communities from appalling working conditions and a lack of environmental and health protections. The juxtaposition between these women’s experience working with clothes vs. the Black Friday madness in the West, vlogging about shopping sprees and general over consumption was sobering, important viewing.”
Have you tried to go without new clothes? How have you found it? Let us know in the box below.
First published October 2020
All around the world, trees are being cut down to feed beef cattle; climate change and pollution are making it harder for plants and animals to flourish; fisheries are emptying our oceans. Here in Bristol, we declared an ecological emergency in February 2020. The hope is that our city will come together to take positive action to combat the loss of wildlife in the area.
You will probably have heard that wildlife is in trouble - but you may not realise quite how bad things are, or what impact this loss has on our way of life.
Since 1970, there has been a 50% decline in marine populations, a 68% decline in wild vertebrates and an 83% decline in freshwater wildlife globally. Closer to home, in the Avon area, birds are on the decline. There are 80% fewer linnets in our skies than there were in 1994, and we’ve lost a horrific 96% of starlings and swifts. UK butterflies are also dying out.
If you have ever seen an XR rebellion, you might have seen banners stating that we are in the ’sixth mass extinction’. This isn’t alarmist rhetoric - unfortunately, it is reality. Species are going extinct 100 to 1,000 times faster than the background rate, meaning that 20-30% animals on earth are at the very real risk of extinction.
These numbers are horrifying for anyone who loves animals - but how will these losses impact our daily lives if they continue?
Photo by Karina Vorozheeva on Unsplash
Approximately three-quarters of the crop types that we grow and consume need pollination to succeed, so without bees and insects, we are facing severe food shortages.
A loss of trees will impact on climate regulation, air quality and soil formation.
IPBES Chair Sir Robert Watson says: “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
Photo by John Mark Arnold on Unsplash
It’s clear that if we want to keep breathing air, eating food and enjoying nature, we need to tackle the ecological emergency as well as fighting climate change.
The good news is that there are things we can all do to fight biodiversity loss.
Being a forward-thinking kinda city, Bristol has a plan for tackling the ecological emergency. The One City Environment Board has an implementation plan which includes developing more space for nature, reducing pesticide use, tackling pollution in Bristol’s waterways and addressing our global carbon footprint.
It’s great that these changes are happening at a systemic level - but what can you do to help?
If you have a garden, can you use it to create habitats for nature? You could pledge to go ‘no-mow’ - if you only mow your lawn once or twice a year, wildlife will flourish. Could you build a pond to encourage wildlife? If you don’t have a garden, you could write to the council and ask them to stop mowing the verges so often, or engage in some guerrilla gardening to get more wildflowers and plants growing in common areas.
Something we can all do to help combat biodiversity loss and climate change is to consume less and consume better. Cutting down your red meat consumption will mean fewer trees are cut down to feed cows. Buying plastic-free Christmas presents will mean less plastic ends up in the ocean. Buying local reduces pollution.
Finally, please tell your friends about the ecological emergency that we’re all facing. Share this blog. Share the Strategy. Watch the David Attenborough A Life on Our Planet documentary and shout about it. Issues like these can be hard to talk about as many people either don’t want to hear it or feel it’s too late - we’re all doomed and nothing can be done. This isn’t true, so do your bit to tell others that their actions really do make a difference.
Photo by Alexandra Mirgheș on Unsplash
Many thanks to Ian Barrett of Avon Wildlife Trust for his talk to BCR and CCA, which inspired this blog post.
On another note, readers of this blog might be interested to hear that we are starting a series of monthly eco-challenges - a new initiative to get us all making those changes to our daily lives that will really add up and help in the climate and ecological emergencies.
Each month, we'll provide you with a menu of challenges on a theme and you can pick one or more, or come up with one of your own, and we can all do them together. Our first theme is clothing and you can find the challenges here. Be sure to let us know on our social media how you get on!
Easier Than You Think will be blogging about these challenges, so watch this space for more updates.
Did you know: With over 500,000 different species of animals and plants, Costa Rica houses at least 5% of the world's biodiversity?
First published October 2020
As discussed in the previous blog, Ethical Consumer week is coming up at the end of October. Last time, we looked at some of the national and online shops where you can buy clothes which are kinder to the planet.
However, Bristol itself, which has been a FairTrade City since 2005, is a great place for shopping with both the environment and ethics in mind. Plus of course buying local means you can pop down to the shops on your bike, rather than paying for lorries to move goods around the country.
Here are some of my top picks for ethical shopping in Bristol.
Arts and crafts: Room 212
Independent art and gallery shop Room 212 on Gloucester Road sells arts and crafts made by local people, including its owner Sarah Thorp. This shop features a gallery space at the back where artists have their own areas to display their work. The shop offers a range of Bristol-related prints, jewellery and gifts, meaning it’s the perfect place to buy birthday or Christmas presents for your loved ones.
You can also order the prints online and either have them dropped round to you or go and pick them up. The shop is described as ‘fiercely independent’ and is partially run by the local artists who sell their work there.
I strongly believe in encouraging people to shop local within their community, think about the products they buy and reduce waste and packaging.
Zero waste shops
There are a host of zero waste shops in Bristol. My favourite is Nom Wholefoods, who are a delivery service rather than a physical shop. Nom currently deliver to BS4, BS5, BS7, BS15, BS16, BS30, BS31 and BS36. However, they are looking to expand this catchment area, so get in touch with them if you live elsewhere and want to use their services. Nom sell beans, pulses, coffee, herbs and spices, nuts and seeds, bathroom products and face masks. They will deliver in either paper bags or glass jars, which they will then refill. They will also refill your laundry detergent for you, meaning you can reuse those pesky plastic bottles.
Photo by Tim Hüfner on Unsplash
Other zero waste shops in Bristol include Smaller Footprints, Preserve, Scoopaway and Zero Green.
Brothers We Stand is a shop that sells men's clothes made ethically and created to last. Each item of clothing sold in store has a label which details its social and environmental impact, offering you a transparent window on what it is you’re buying. You can read more about their vision here. You can order their clothes online, but they also have a physical store in Whapping Wharf. In a world that can be dominated by clothes for women, it’s great to see something for the men out there as well. Brothers We Stand sells funky, colourful shirts, cosy looking hoodies and even has a range of vegan belts and wallets.
Buying your clothes second hand is always going to be more ethical than buying new as it avoids landfill and means fabric is reused. Fortunately, there is a dizzying array of second hand shops in Bristol.
My personal recommendation is to get down to Cotham Road in Clifton, where there are multiple options. You can also pick up books, records, DVDs and games in these shops, as well as clothes.
Food: Owwee Vegan, Old Market Assembly, Root
Bristol has been crowned as the World’s number one city for vegans three years in a row, meaning it’s super easy to eat delicious food which hasn’t harmed the planet or any animals in almost any area of the city.
As a vegan and lover of dinner myself, I would personally recommend the vegan options at Dangun, the burgers at Quay Street Diner and the wraps at Baba Ganoush.
Additionally the Old Market Assembly offer delicious food from a seasonal and sustainable flexitarian menu. These guys say they are ‘passionate about showcasing local supplier produce with creative, flavourful dishes we create everything fresh in house’. They offer veggie, vegan and meat dishes, meaning you don’t have to go entirely plant-based to eat here.
First published September 2020
You may well have heard about the damage that fast fashion is doing to the planet. The West’s appetite for new clothes is harmful to people, animals and the planet. Indeed, it has been claimed that the fashion industry emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined. The fashion industry accounts for 10% of humanity’s carbon outputs, uses more than its fair share of water and damages the oceans by releasing plastic when clothes are washed.
With the advent of shops like Primark, clothes have less and less value, meaning a huge percentage of formerly fawned over outfits end up in landfill. Plus there is the human cost of poorly treated workers who slave to make these clothes, sometimes losing their lives to do so, as highlighted by the horrific events of 2013, when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed, killing at least 1,132 people and injuring thousands more.
Ethical Consumer Magazine are holding their annual Ethical Consumer Week later this month, from October 24th-30th. This is a week of panels and workshops designed to help businesses and individuals make more ethical choices in the future.
So what can you do if you need some new clothes and want to avoid contributing to the climate emergency? Firstly, ask yourself if you really do need anything new. Is there something in the back of your wardrobe you forgot about? Can you put a belt round that dress so that it looks like something new? Has your flatmate got something you can borrow?
Photo by Md Salman on Unsplash
Sometimes, the answer to all those things is no. And that’s OK - you still have ethical options ahead of you.
Buying second hand is a great option. Bristol is chocca with fantastic charity shops, particularly in Clifton. Additionally, you tick the ‘used’ option on eBay, you can find great second-hand outfits for any occasion.
Mending or repairing clothes you’d given up on is another option. Can you sew or patch some old favourites? back to life?
If you’re not a dab hand with the machine, you could contact one of the local sewing geniuses on our website, such as Victoria Dry Cleaners in central Bristol, Sew Much More in Easton or Direct Dry Cleaners, Brunel Tailoring or Daddy Alterations, all on Gloucester Road.
If you’ve tried all of those options and still can’t find the right dress for that special wedding or shirt for that important interview, there are some high-quality, eco-options for buying new clothes. Ethical Consumer have a great resource which goes into detail here, but let’s have a look at some of my favourites.
Lucy and Yak are my favourites from the Ethical Consumer list. Lots of my mates own dungarees (see image to the left) made by this company, and I’ve felt very envious of their comfy yet stylish lounge-ability. The dungarees are unisex, but the rest of the collection, which includes fabulously colourful trousers, pinafore dresses and polka dot socks, is for women only.
As another plus point, while ethical clothes are always going to be more expensive than fast fashion, the prices here are not too eye-watering. If you avoid Primark for a couple of months, you might find you have enough left over for a £54 pair of dungarees without having to smash too many piggy banks.
Thought Clothing have collections for men and women, as well as sale section so tempting I nearly broke my own pledge of buying no new clothes in 2020. They set out to protect people and the environment with their clothes, which are simple, stylish and made to last.
Finally, Greenfibre Organic deserve a mention as they sell sustainable items for your kitchen, bathroom and bedroom as well as having clothes for men, women and children. Some of the pyjamas on this site look especially snuggly and delicious.
If you do decide to buy new, look out for clothing that uses organic cotton and is fair trade, and avoid vicose clothing, which is hugely damaging to the planet.
Good luck out there - let us know how you get on with your forays into slower fashion!
Did you know: It takes 2000 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to make a pair of jeans.
First published August 2020
Easier Than You Think is about the individual actions we can take to help fight climate change. However, as we all know, individual actions are not enough to change the world. If they were, trust me, I’d have a lot more ponies and a lot less rain in my life!
There is a perfect opportunity to do just that this week – you can write to your MP about the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) bill. This is a bill that’s been created by activists, scientists and policy experts. If it passes, the bill will force the UK government to create an enact a serious plan to deal with all of our emissions - those we keep at home and those we palm off overseas.
Photo by Fabian Burghardt on Unsplash
We can't hope for technology to be invented that will save the day. We're running out of time and need to act now; the crazy extremes of weather we've seen in Bristol in the past few weeks are evidence of that. I believe that one of the best ways to enforce real change is through a citizen's assembly (which the CEE calls for) since some of the decisions that will need to be taken could be political suicide for any party. Although of course others may well prove hugely popular – who didn’t enjoy the cleaner air and quiet streets in the first few weeks of lockdown?
The bill is supported by Caroline Lucas, environmental writer Rob Hopkins and environmental academic Bill McKibben. And by me!
There are several ways you could contact your MP to ask them to support the CEE. You could write a letter, send an email or give them a ring.
If you’re unsure, this handy website will tell you who your MP is.
When writing to your MP, it’s best to pen something yourself rather than copying and pasting an email, as this means it’s more likely that your concerns will be read. However, it can be hard to know what to say. Here’s the email I wrote my lovely MP Kerry McCarthy, to give you an example of how this can be done.
Start off by telling your MP who you are and, if possible, making it clear that you know a bit about who they are. If they are doing good work to help fight climate change, thank them. If they’re not, don’t be rude or aggro; it won’t help the cause. If you don’t know where your MP stands on climate change, have a look at how they have voted about the issue previously on this website.
I am one of your constituents, and I'm writing to you to ask you to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (the CEE). We've emailed before about several issues, including the frequent flyer tax, so I know you're dedicated to fighting climate change. Thank you for all you are doing for the planet.
Talk a bit about why you care about this issue. Are you worried about your family, friends abroad, animals, the developing world? Tell your MP about this.
I am terrified by climate change. In the past months, we've seen some of the highest temperatures on record in the UK, followed by devastating winds and rain. We can't hide from the truth anymore - climate change is coming. It's going to make our lives difficult, and the lives of our children unthinkable. Of course, it’s already wreaking havoc in the developing world, as a result of the consumption habits of the West, which is so shameful.
Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash
Tell them why you’re emailing – and again, make it personal if you can.
I'm going to guess that you already know about and support the CEE bill - but just in case, I'll tell you a bit about it.
The bill is a call for the UK to make and (crucially!) stick to an urgent and serious plan for dealing with our emissions; ALL of our emissions, both those at home and those we palm off overseas. The bill also calls for the protection and conservation of nature and a recognition of the damage we do through our consumption habits.
End your email with a call to action and more thanks; either for their hard work, or just for reading your letter.
Please do all you can to get this bill passed - the planet needs us to act.
Thank you again for all the hard work you do,
And then sign your name.
If you would prefer to call your MP, that’s great – apparently that has more impact. Personally, I get a bit flustered on the phone – written words are way more my thing than spoken ones – but the few times I have gathered up my courage and called an MP, they’ve always been polite and open to listening to what I have to say.
Good luck, and let us know how you get on in the comment box below!
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Did you know: The Extinction Rebellion protests of 2019 had a direct impact on the UK’s announcement that we are in a climate emergency. Protesting can work!
First published August 2020
Thanks to dear old David Attenborough, we all know that single-use plastics are the work of the devil. Some single use plastics are pretty easy to ditch - we can all saw no to straws down the pub or pick up loose apples instead of those wrapped in plastic in the supermarket.
Others are rather harder to replace - including those in the bathroom. Shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, razors - all of these thing tend to come in plastic.
Of course, one option is just to give up washing entirely, but for the sake of your friends and family, it might be a good idea try to think outside of that particular box.
I decided to aim for a plastic-free bathroom about a year ago. I’m not all the way there yet, but I have made some good discoveries which I shall share with you in this blog.
Switching shower gel for soap is a super-easy first step. You might need to shop around to find a soap that lathers up in the way you want it to, but there are lots out there to choose from. Lots of options are even made right here in Bristol, including Margaret May and Made in Fishponds soaps.
There’s also a wide range of shampoo bars out there these days. I personally love Lush’s Jason and the Argan Oil bar, which lathers up really well and leaves my hair feeling clean and fresh. There’s a Lush shop in Broadmead, so you can cycle down there and browse their range of zero-waste products, many of which are also vegan.
Conditioner is a bit tougher - I’ve tried various conditioner bars which have left my hair pretty crunchy, as if we’re back in the 80s and I’ve piled on the mousse in an attempt to look like Cyndi Lauper - never a bad thing in itself, but not great for clean hair! The two conditioner bars which I’ve found to work fairly well are the Big pressed conditioner from Lush and the Tilly Oak shea butter conditioner bar.
Zero Green, a zero waste shop on North Street (BS3) has several reasonably priced refill options for conditioner. I haven’t tried these yet, but they’re worth checking out if you live nearby. I'm leaning towards this as even the better conditioner bars aren't that satisfying to use.
If you’re going to opt for using bars to wash your hair, you also might find you have to wash it a bit more often.
Razors are tougher still. Despite being an ardent feminist, I have grown up in a world which teaches us that women should be smooth and hairless from the neck down at all times - and it must be said, the fancy-pants, triple-bladed, disposable razors that are readily available in the supermarket make it simple for this dream to become a reality. I tried using an old safety razor that belongs to my partner, but I found it pretty tricky to use. In the end, I took a deep breath and settled for just being hairy for a few months. If this sounds like your idea of hell, check out these zero waste shaving packages, which look pretty good, although I’ve yet to try them: Wearth London; Peace With the Wild; and Mutiny shaving.
There’s lots of choices from Plastic Freedom, who apparently plant a tree for every order made
Photo by Lubomirkin on Unsplash
Finally, if you switch your plastic pouffy scrubber for an organic cotton flannel and try to only have a shower when you really need one, you’ll have made some great steps towards that greener shower. Let us know if you have any more tips in the comments below.
Did you know: Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastics enter our oceans on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that are already there?
First published July 2020
It seems impossible to believe that in 2012, just eight years ago – the year of the Olympics, the year of the smoking ban, the year that BoJo became London mayor – most of us didn’t yet have a smartphone. How did we muddle through without Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at our fingertips? How did we ever find our way anywhere without Google Maps to tell us which way was up? How did we cope without emails constantly barraging our consciousness?
Well, probably a lot better in many ways, but that’s a whole different blog for a whole different day. Smartphones are here now, and the chances are, they’re here to stay.
While smartphones might make us more connected and more able to cheat at pub quizzes whenever we like, they are not without their environmental costs. Mining the precious metals and rare materials that make the chip and motherboard for smartphones is pretty carbon-heavy; and if we’re changing phone every two years, this is a process that is repeated again and again.
Given that most of us have – and feel we need – smartphones, how can we try to neutralise some of the damage they do? Here are three simple steps we can all take to be greener smartphone owners.
• Upgrade less often
Keeping your smartphone for even three years instead of two makes a big difference as it means no-one has to mine for those new materials. I've done this a few times now - it tends to mean deleting some of those photos (honestly, are you ever going to look at them again?) and getting rid of the apps you don't use, but if you do those things, you should be able to get a bit more use of out your handset than the typical two years.
• Buy second hand when you do upgrade
There are plenty of good sellers offering refurbished second-hand phones on eBay; just check the seller’s reviews before you buy. Or visit your local branch of CEX, where you will always find a selection of second hand phones for sale. As with all ‘stuff’, second hand is better as it means fewer resources are used and less once treasured items are thrown into landfill. I bought my most recent handset from eBay and it's working like a dream.
• Get an Ecotalk SIM card
Ecotalk are a company who offer well-priced mobile phone deals with a green outcome. They use the money they make from their customers to buy land and give it back to nature. In this way, they are providing urgently needed homes for bees, meaning that you are giving something back to nature as you make calls and texts. Getting an Ecotalk SIM is a simple process which only takes a few days. I've had my Ecotalk contract for nearly a year now. They don't yet support Wi-Fi calling, so if you live in a poor reception area and rely on Wi-Fi, that is something to bear in mind. However, aside from that, I've had no problems with them at all. Their customer service is excellent and the deals are good value.
Have you got any more tips for how to be a (slightly more!) responsible smartphone owner? If so, post them in the comment box below.
Did you know: Smartphones are more damaging to the environment than computers, laptops, monitors and servers, as demonstrated by the fact that that ICT (Information and Communication Technology) represented just 1% of the carbon footprint in 2007 and, according to the researchers, will top 14% by 2040.