Updated: Mar 6
With climate change and the environment on everyone’s minds these days, isn’t it time to start making some lifestyle changes? According to National Geographic, a whopping 91% of plastic never gets recycled. Our parks are becoming filled with rubbish and we’re running out of places to throw things away. A report released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) revealed that British households create over 26m tonnes of waste each year, the weight of about 260 large cruise ships.
Perhaps part of the problem is that there is a lack of imagination about how to reuse everyday things. Not only that, but all our newest items seem to be of the use it once and throw it away variety. Fewer people know how to repair anything and planned obsolescence has become a way of life. Consider how often we replace our mobile devices. It’s enough to make a person give up and decide to do nothing. Yet there are some small gestures we can make that will pay off dividends down the road.
Fewer Big Plastic Containers
Consider the large impenetrable detergent containers that take years and years to break down? I will never buy one again. The reports and coverage of plastics in the oceans, we had no idea back in the day what we were getting ourselves into. If everyone made one decision to change behaviours ... it would go a long way to healing the environment, maybe not a lot in our lifetime but hopefully for my nieces and nephew. When we first saw those big plastic containers, we thought they could be recycled. However, many of them end up in the landfill, not only in the U.K., but all over the world.
Instead of those huge laundry detergent containers, it’s now possible to buy detergent in a small recyclable cardboard box instead of those big plastic containers. Even some of the bigger grocery stores now carry detergent in cardboard boxes rather than plastic. And if you’re concerned about going to the store, you can order online and have your detergent delivered.
Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, so most of it still exists in some form. Only 12 percent has been incinerated - source: National Geographic.
Wash with Cold Water
No, not with a washboard! Use a cold setting on your machine, something I've just discovered. Washing your clothes in cold water is a win for two reasons. For one, 90% of the energy used to wash clothes is for heating the water. The second reason is that your clothes will be in better shape and last longer when washed on a cold setting.
Air Dry Clothes and Dishes
Another small gesture is to air-dry clothes and dishes when possible. If your dishwasher has an air-dry setting, you can turn off the dishwasher before the air dry begins, then let the dishes sit - something else I've just learned to do. For clothes, letting them dry outside has the added benefit of giving them a wonderful scent.
Bamboo and Recycled Paper
Bamboo has been touted for use in everything from flooring to towels, to bed sheets, to toilet paper - read the story behind this recyclable toilet paper brand, it's a good one.
Why bamboo? Bamboo is fast growing, reduces deforestation, and it’s safe and strong. And if you can find bamboo products without the plastic wrapping, that’s even better. Another option is recycled paper, especially if it’s labeled “processed chlorine free.”
Speaking of paper, why not do more reading online? You can also quit subscriptions or share them with others. I cancelled The Tate Gallery glossy magazine, TATE ETC., I used to get every month because I can read it online.
Revolution Plastics – University of Portsmouth
Our local university is working on a transformation project focused on sustainability and the environment called Revolution Plastics. It wants Portsmouth University to be one of the world’s leading universities to drive change in the plastics sector and is working with the city’s authorities to drive Portsmouth as a sustainable city. Referring back to the theme of small gestures helping to contribute towards environmental change, individuals can help by using the Jetsam app to photograph any plastic waste that we see lying around in the city. The app will capture the photo location to build a heatmap of Portsmouth showing current plastic hotspots. Researchers will then use this data to better understand the patterns and movement of plastic waste in Portsmouth and develop solutions to reduce plastic entering the environment.
As an island city with an active community, Portsmouth is the ideal laboratory for a project like this. Thank you to Southsea Lifestyle magazine for sharing this information.
A very simple way to help the environment is to trade or reuse products. On Facebook, there are groups for people who want to Buy Nothing. We all have too many things, and all that unneeded stuff is hurting the planet. My sister organises a clothes and accessories’ swappage event every year for MacMillan Cancer Support and I can honestly say that what I buy there every year keeps me, and all the other ladies, going for a long time. What’s left over is donated to local charity shops.
When we buy clothes it would so good to have transparency about the provenance of the clothing, to know that its supply chain and working conditions for the people involved in the making of the garments is ethically responsible. Fledgling brand Eric&Erica tells the story behind their business, it makes me smile. Knowing the stories makes a big difference to my buying decisions. I always love to see the people involved with a business and why they thought it a good idea to launch it.
Those are some of the smaller gestures. For some larger gestures that you might consider in the future, I can heartily recommend Tom Raftery's podcast about the coming Green Revolution. Tom discusses solar energy, electric vehicles, and vertical farming. The podcast is available on Apple, Spotify, and Google Podcasts, too. I learned so much from this podcast and it gives hope that the national grid here in the UK has plans for all cars to run on electric by 2030.
In Iceland, there is a technology to reverse climate change. climeworks says that in order to remove carbon from the atmosphere, we need to have two things:
1. a machine that filters CO2 out of the air
2. a safe and permanent storage space to capture CO2
This is happening, see how
Funny story I heard the other day. A friend's colleague is trialling a Smart car, an EV. She parked it beside her office window and plugged it in to her laptop to charge - I have asked for a photo. The fee to the lease firm is only £130\month - such a pity the Smart car is too small for my golf clubs.
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