What can individuals do to make a difference to our world?A friend recently asked me if I ever feel overwhelmed by all the doom and gloom of the current state of the world - so much litter, plastic, extinction of species, poaching, greenbelt and forest destruction, fracking, pollution etc. etc. etc.
'Yes,' I replied, 'sometimes several times a day'.
It can be really hard and it feels as if there's so little one person can do. If I recycle everything, avoid plastic and never litter that's great, but sometimes it seems so insignificant in the scheme of things.
Luckily I'm an optimist and I do believe that small changes and gestures can make a difference. I get some super feedback from readers and my zero waste talks too and this does help to keep me motivated - it's mutual support. Things are changing and it feels as though we're on the edge of a revolution. Scattering and sharing ideas gathers momentum and collectively we can make positive changes.
Just altering a few habits can be notable. Think about supporting local businesses, eg. your local Farmers' Market. Yes, produce can sometimes be more expensive, but you don't need to do all your shopping there, if we all bought just one thing it would be brilliantly supportive for the sellers and would encourage the market to grow which in turn would create more choice. The same applies to our independent shops.
Ways to get involved and make positive differences
Another friend said that she was inspired by my non hair washing, but couldn't go as far as that. Instead of washing her hair daily though, she now does it every other day which for her is a whopping 50% less shampoo, electricity for any drying and water usage as well as the time saving.
#Pointless Plastic Photos
Greenpeace have recently asked individuals to take photos of excessive supermarket packaging, then tweet them using the hashtag #Pointless Plastic (plus the supermarket name). You can also post them on Facebook or if you don't use social media, you can email Greenpeace directly and they will send them on your behalf.
#PointlessPlastic 'leave the leeks loose' @AldiUK
The supermarkets may reply saying something about protecting the product, but actually studies show that because plastic packaging requires specific sizes and shapes, much fruit and veg gets rejected. I've argued that their product protection does the exact opposite for the environment and also that they could just design better packaging such as reusable 'egg box style' inserts to cradle and protect produce.
#PointlessPlastic 'choked carrots' @Morrison's
It is infuriating when supermarkets talk about products getting damaged without their plastic wrapping when they also sell some of them loose! Such as erm, leeks, carrots and potatoes.
#PointlessPlastic 'poor potatoes' @AldiUK
One person sharing photos doesn't make much difference, but if thousands of us do it, the supermarkets may start to listen. The other major thing you can do of course is to leave the plastic covered fruit and veg on the shelves. There are some options to buy loose and you get to pick the size and shape that you actually want. Any sweaty, or 'bad' bits aren't hidden in the plastic either. Greengrocers and veg box schemes are often much better than supermarkets both in terms of packaging and where your money ends up. Read more about this in a previous blog plastic-free shopping.
#PointlessPlastic 'not much room for the mushrooms' @AldiUK
This is quite possibly my most astonishing POINTLESS plastic picture:
#PointlessPlastic 'suffocating swede is so stupid' @Morrison's
I really struggle to see how these not over-delicate 'neeps' need any protection from shrink wrapped plastic. Lawdy.
If you post some photos yourself, do feel free to use any of my alliterations if you like and if these have whet your appetite and you'd like to see my full collection (twenty so far) have a look at my Twitter account CateCodyEco.
Could slowing down make us greener?One thing we may need to bear in mind is that it takes a few extra seconds to distinguish and weigh loose products. 'We' have become quickly used to the culture of instant gratification - of grab it and go - of impatience. This is especially evident in supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi which are famous for scanning items through the checkouts at lightening speed and then encouraging their customers to pack after they've paid. If you're able, it may be worth a 'note to self' moment next time the person in front of you is taking their time. Perhaps it's the only conversation they will have in the day, or maybe they don't want to feel like a plastic product on a conveyor belt themselves.
Years ago there simply wasn't the scale of choice, but items were grown more locally, seasonally and organically.
Is there any point signing e-petitions?As above with the photo protests one signature may not seem to make much difference, but thousands can and Parliament have to consider any petition presented to them that has reached 100, 000 signatures. Yours may even be the one hundred thousandth signature. Companies and retailers are starting to take notice of consumers and together we can be a force for change. Sometimes spokespeople from pressure groups such as Greenpeace or Friends of the earth physically present these petitions to the badly behaving companies and obviously the higher number of signatures, the more significant the impact. A positive example was the statue of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, situated in Parliament square. It was going to be removed to a private college, but after 180,000 of us signed a petition saying that the statue should be in a prominent position where lots of people can be inspired by it, the former MP behind the idea said that opposition was so huge, it would be impossible for the plans for removal to go ahead!
Getting in touch with your MPOften contacting your MP can feel like a waste of time, especially if you're unfortunate enough not to have the MP of your choice - after all, we can't all live in the Brighton Pavilion constituency ;) However, it is for exactly this reason that it's important to bombard them, otherwise MPs will say 'none (or few) of my constituents raised the issue'.
It can be annoying to receive so many petitions, but they only take seconds to participate in and remember the collaborative effect.
How can we best help wildlife?There are some excellent organisations to get involved with which can include everything from membership and attending events and activities to volunteering or helping document locations and numbers of various species.
Hedgehog awareness week is usually in May, find out more on the British Hedgehogs website. If you have a garden fence, do make sure that you cut thirteen centimetre square hole in the bottom to allow hedgehogs to access gardens more easily, (unless your neighbours have a dog which is small enough to squeeze through and disturb your hedgehogs). Build or buy a Hogitat (hedgehog house) to encourage them in your garden like this one:
Consider planting bee friendly flowers - this is our small patch of front garden. Sign up to join in with the Bee count.
If you fancy an immediate bee count game, if you look carefully, you'll find at least five on the picture below:
Here is the information to join in with the annual Butterfly count which is a lovely occupation for any age and to find out more about butterfly conservation click on the link.
The pom pom 'buddleia weyeriana' (sungold) is a particularly brilliant butterfly magnet.
Here's a very rare, award winning caterpillar that I managed to catch on camera a few years ago :)
Birdwatch is earlier in the year, but keep a look out for next year's.
To see how you can be greener with your own pets, read the previous blog 'green' pets and to help wildlife by clearing away dangerous obstacles, here's a Litter picking blog.
Find out about local conservation groups, activities and volunteering sessions in your area and try to support events when you can.
Encourage wildlife into your own garden or allotment, ideals are insect friendly plants, a pond, areas that can be left wild with log piles and insect houses and of course 100% organic management. Hmm, I feel a green gardening blog coming on...