Seven Worlds, One Planet – what can we do to help?

The latest episode of BBC’s Seven Worlds, One Planet left viewers devastated and reeling, after the true impact of poaching was seen so starkly on screen. Mountains of confiscated tusks were piled up, representing just half of the elephants killed in Africa in just one year.

“Elephants have used their great intelligence to help them survive Africa’s driest times for millennia, but today they face an even greater threat,” said David Attenborough, before appearing next to the two last remaining Northern White rhinos in the world, destined for extinction.

This series has been one of the first BBC-Attenborough collaborations to lay out, from the very beginning, the plight of the many incredible animals shown, thanks to climate change. They even showed the filming process, where the effects of anthropogenic climate change are evident to each and every film maker. Viewers’ hearts were in their mouths when the team were able to finally capture some footage of elephants in a clearing, before being shot at by nearby poachers. The result of the shooting was an elephant’s death, showing all too clearly how stricter regulations and more anti-poaching patrols are needed to make an impact on the incessant desire for elephant tusk, rhino horn and numerous other animal body parts, especially in the East.

So what can we do from here? Other than never buying products originating from the wildlife trade (furs, many traditional medicines, ivory jewellery etc) there are many charities doing great things to make an impact, and with a little more funding from each of us, real change could be made.

 

The best conservation charities around the world

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

I applied to volunteer at DSWT in my final year of school, for my year off before university after seeing them in a programme about elephant conservation. Unlike many ‘rescue’ centres, DSWT is guided by real biologists and works with locals to find what is really needed on the ground. Despite the fact they never responded (I don’t think they work with gap year students, probably for good reason), I’ve been a massive fan since.

The DSWT doesn’t only work to protect elephants. Understanding that species don’t exist in isolation is key to conservation efforts, and DSTW work to safeguard habitats known to house many animals, not just umbrella species like elephants and rhinos.
Donate now. 

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International Rhino Foundation

The International Rhino foundation has been working to protect rhinos for around 25 years to ensure the survival of this impressive yet heavily persecuted animal. They work across Africa and Asia where the primary conservation efforts are needed. The charity works with local anti-poaching efforts, who personally protect each remaining population of rhinos. Here the problem is multi-fold – not only are the rhinos being hunted, they are also unable to regrow their population due to increasingly fragmented habitats and tiny population sizes. Just a few weeks ago, the last remaining Sumatran rhino in Malaysia died out. These conservation efforts are sorely needed.
Donate now.

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Recognise this lonely Sumatran rhino from episode 2? Its species has since become extinct in its native Malaysia.

WWF

The World Wildlife Fund is one of the oldest and most popular conservation charities out there. They work across the world and across species, aiming to maintain species diversity (more important than any one species) and habitats, from preserving the health of waterways to protecting forests globally. Their impact is extensive and thorough – a good choice if you want to make a difference wherever scientists decide it is needed most.
Donate now.

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WWF works with political parties globally to tackle wildlife loss

Marine Conservation Institute

While the plains of Africa and rainforests of South America do require significant help when it comes to conservation, marine wildlife is also severely threatened by climate change. Previously thought of as untouchably vast, people are now realising that our oceans are not only incredibly vulnerable, but also key to ecosystems on land and the survival of life on Earth. The Marine Conservation Institute uses science to catalyse international conservation efforts, and aim to have protected at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 (currently the level is under 5%).
In December, Patagonia is matching every donation made to the MCI, so now is the time to donate!

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Currently, only 5% of the world’s oceans are protected. MCI suggests over 30% is required to have significant positive impacts on biodiversity.

Jane Goodall Foundation

Jane Goodall is a conservationist and biologist who ventured into Africa in the 1960s to learn more about great apes. In 1900 there were more than 1 million chimps living in the wild. Nowadays there are fewer than 340,000, and that number is rapidly declining. Using the vast amount of data collected by the Jane Goodall institute, the charity is able to inform conservation efforts and restore important habitats for our close cousins. I am a fan of the JGF because it is evidence-based, and uses chimpanzees – our closest living relatives – to protect areas that may otherwise be exploited, thus protecting countless other species at the same time.
Donate now.

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A graph taken from Jane Goodall Foundation, showing how conservation efforts have helped increase Chimp habitat.

RSPB

Conservation is not only required for large, fluffy animals half way across the world. Here in the UK, many birds, both endemic and migratory, require all the help they can get to survive and thrive. With the loss of almost all forest cover in the UK, as well as an increase in extreme weather events, the RSPB works to conserve rare species and lead on policy change. Donating to this charity closer to home could have noticeable impacts in your own back garden or local park.
Donate now. 

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Nature documentaries have the power to be a huge force for good. Past documentaries have been criticised for glossing over the human impacts on nature, and showing solely the most beautiful, untouched parts of each ecosystem. However, watching documentaries such as these can increase willingness of viewers to make lifestyle changes for the better and increase public awareness of the issues, even encouraging policy change and charitable donations.

People in the UK can watch Seven Worlds, One Planet here.

If you’d like to make more of an impact, why not consider learning more about fishing, ethical banking and green energy?

What is green energy and can it save the planet?

There are lots of ways we can reduce our impact on the environment, from cutting out meat and fish to moving our money to an ethical bank to using less fossil fuel. However, when it comes to changing energy provider to live a little greener, the whole industry can be a minefield!

A Which? survey in early 2014 found that energy tariffs are too confusing, despite the reforms brought in earlier that year. For me, changing energy company appeared complicated, not least because of the myriad of tariffs and providers available (known to confuse the consumer into paying more than they have to), and the fact that some providers don’t provide to certain locations. However, I recently switched from Shell to Bulb and it took me all of 2 minutes (via a short online form, since they only have one tariff) – it’s not as complicated as it seems if you choose the right provider!

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I plan to help with each of these aspects! (From 2000+ respondents to a MoneySuperMarket survey)

As most Brits turn their heating on around this time of year, it’s the perfect time to look for a cheaper way to get your energy – and there’s no reason you can’t make it friendlier on the planet, as well as your pocket.

 

What makes energy green?

Traditional energy suppliers rely primarily on non-renewable resources, such as oil, coal and gas, which are major contributors to climate change through the release of CO2. Ninety-seven percent (or more) of scientists are certain the climate has been warming over the past century and that the pace of warming is accelerating due to human activities — particularly the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels. As such, the reduction in our use of fossil fuels is of utmost importance.

Green energy uses renewable resources (e.g. wind power (big in the UK), wave, solar (esp US), hydroelectric, etc.). The amount of renewable electricity used by UK households has increased to overtake fossil fuels this year for the first time, partially because of growing concerns over fossil fuels, and partially because green energy has become much more efficient to produce. In addition to slowing climate change, switching to a green energy provider can help fight harmful levels of pollution, meaning we can all live longer (and healthier). However, we still have a long way to go to make a significant change.

“Renewables are already the world’s second-largest source of electricity, but their deployment still needs to accelerate if we are to achieve long-term climate, air quality and energy access goals,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.

“As costs continue to fall, we have a growing incentive to ramp up the deployment of solar PV.”

It is important to remember that when you switch to a green energy company, a certain amount of energy sourced from non-renewables is used to fill gaps in supply of renewable energy. However, a proportion of what you pay will be matched by the equivalent amount of energy being fed into the national grid from renewable sources, with the result being a much cleaner way to get energy.

Conversely, whilst many major energy companies can sell ‘green’ energy tariffs, these are not necessarily helping the problem. Big companies are able to buy green energy from smaller companies and sell it on to the customer, without actually having any renewable sources of their own. This article explains it much better than I can – just don’t be fooled when a big company tries to sell you ‘100% renewable energy’.

It is clear that we all need to be making a switch to cleaner, greener energy companies – companies that care about the environment at least as much as their own profits.

To make it easier for you to change over, I’ve compiled some of the most popular providers on the market. All of these companies supply 100% renewable electricity, so you can rest assured that whichever you choose, you’ll be doing plenty of good!

 

The suppliers

Bulb

Bulb energy was one of the most popular energy providers with my followers when I was doing research for this piece. It’s a fast-growing company that promises to make energy ‘simpler, cheaper and greener’. It rates higher than any of the Big 6 energy companies and 95% of customers have joined in the last 2 years, showing its increasing popularity. It’s also a B Corp (a very highly-regarded certification of sustainability)!

Best for: All round customer satisfaction, referral credit (mine is www.bulb.me/florab5433 if you’d like to use it!).

Octopus

The only company that fared better than Bulb on customer complaints was Octopus. This innovative company invests in sustainable tech, including tariffs that allow customers to run their homes off their electric car’s power during peak energy times, removing some pressure off the national grid. Unlike Bulb, Octopus offers a variety of tariffs, which are some of the cheapest in the UK.

Best for: Innovation and cheap tariffs

Ovo energy

OVO energy has recently published its first sustainability strategy, including plans to reach net-zero by 2030 (10 years ahead of the government deadline). This, partnered with the ambition to halve customers’ total carbon footprint by 2030 make it an appealing option for anyone interested in the environment.

OVO currently has 1.5 million consumers across the UK and is looking to expand (in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory, of course). However, OVO has recently come under fire for not producing its own green energy, and instead purchasing it from other providers.

Best for: Making a political statement

Good Energy

Good energy was the first dedicated 100% renewable electricity supplier, with all of its energy being sourced from solar, wind, hydro power and biofuel from British energy generators. Reviews online appear to be middling, although still better than the Big 6 energy providers. All the above companies provide renewable electricity, but Good Energy was the first to also supply carbon neutral gas, and also owns its own sources of renewable energy.

Best for: Clean gas and ethics

TL;DR

As fossil fuels become more and more scarce, we will have to find new, more efficient ways of getting energy. Already however, the excessive use of fossil fuels is harming the planet and our health. Divesting in your own home as much as possible will help reduce your impact.

Hopefully this shortlist will help you find a way to lower your environmental impact, and your bills too! It is clear that there need to be more transparency about companies’ energy sources, but switching to any of the above companies will be beneficial to the environment.

If you enjoyed this article please do share and tag me on Instagram or Twitter.

This article is an edited version of one I wrote for Eco-Age

 

Sustainability in the running community

There’s no reason that running should be an unsustainable sport – powered by your own legs to places that no car could go, running should be about being at one with nature. However, with the increasing popularity of large races and the rise of trail races across national parks and remote locations, it’s hard to see how the increased footfall could not affect the environment.

Here are some of my top tips of how to train and race more sustainably. I would love to hear yours too! Come and find me over on Instagram, YouTube or Twitter.

Prioritise races in your country

One of the perks of running is that you can do it anywhere, which makes it tempting to travel to other countries to explore and attend races. However, frequently flying can have a huge impact on your carbon footprint and isn’t necessary to find some awesome races. I say this as someone who has flown twice this year for races, but I would love to use the excellent rail system more here in the UK – there will be plenty of races in your own country, and these are a great way of discovering new towns, cities and national parks closer to home! If you do travel for races, consider offsetting your carbon from the flight.

Use a hydration pack

One of the major problems in road races (also trail races but less so), is the significant use of plastic at water station. In the London marathon alone, 47,000 plastic bottles were collected from the streets in 2018, many of which cannot be recycled as they are not empty. Using a hydration pack or belt is a simple measure that means you do not have to pick up as much single use plastic during your race. The added weight can be frustrating for some runners, but I always use one for longer races and rarely struggle.

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Hydration packs are a game changer on longer runs! And no plastic bottles in sight

Avoid discarding clothes at the start of a race

Carrying waterproof or warm clothes during a race can be frustrating, but with the right gear shouldn’t be a massive hindrance. Throwing out clothes, even where they are recycled, is a huge waste of the resources used to make them. Thankfully many of these clothes are donated to local charities, but where possible, hold onto the clothes you have.

Buy sustainable activewear

When you must buy new gear, ensure it is from a more sustainable activewear brand. There is no longer a compromise between sustainability and performance – check out this article for some of my favourite brands. But remember – the most sustainable option is to wear the clothes you already have!

Use a guppy bag

Much high-performance activewear is made from synthetic fibres that may shed into waterways during washing. Using a guppy bag reduces the impact your clothes have, freeing your water from microfibres and helping the ecosystem along the way.

Use your commute

One of the great things about being able to run is to use it to travel. If you live within running distance of work, use this as some of your training runs. It doesn’t have to be everyday – even just 2 days a week can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Alternatively, run to your nearest carpool or train station if you live further away – avoid driving alone at all costs!

Don’t chuck gels/wrappers

If you can’t make your own energy supplies (gels, bars etc), pre-packaged food is sometimes necessary on a long run. However, avoid throwing packaging, even in races – it’s lazy, harmful and bad-form.

Recycle your shoes

If you’re a runner, you’re probably no stranger to having to chuck out old shoes. If they’re good enough to reuse, consider donating to refugees, charities or give to a friend. If they’re totally broken, there are several ways you can recycle. Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe programme down-cycles shoes into athletic surfaces and, until the 24th November, Runner’s Need stores are accepting old trainers in return for a £20 voucher for use in-store.

Buy powdered sports drinks

You may be tempted to invest in energy, protein and/or electrolyte drinks regularly, but each of these come with disposable (usually plastic) packaging that is harmful to the environment. Instead, purchase glucose, electrolyte and protein powders or tablets. Not only are these better for the environment, they are also far cheaper and take up less space!

 

I hope you found this helpful! What are some of your favourite tips for reducing your environmental impact when running? 

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Seasonal produce – worth the hype?

There’s been a lot of talk in the last few years about the best diet for the planet – is flexitarian better than vegan? Can you eat meat sustainably? Is fish OK? – but within each of these diets is so much variability that it’s hard to determine one diet that could save the day whilst keeping people happy. Eating seasonally is another ‘lifestyle choice’ that has been touted as potentially being the answer to our sustainability questions, with people singing its virtues and even willing to pay more for it, but does it stand up to scrutiny?

Seasonal eating is not a new idea – in fact, before we had well established trade connections across the world, it was the only way people ate. Foods were restricted to certain times of year, and were almost always locally produced. Nowadays, there’s always something in season somewhere, so it’s hard to know what’s available in the UK (or wherever you live) at the time of purchase.

In fact, a survey by the BBC suggested that whilst 78% of Brits claim to shop seasonally, only 5% could name when blackberries ripen in the UK. In addition, it seems not all of us are even aware what ‘seasonal’ and ‘local’ means anymore, so where do we begin?

Seasonal produce tends to be foods grown ‘locally’ at the time of year that they have traditionally been abundant, without the aid of poly tunnels or artificial heating etc. Typically, there is a glut of this produce at a certain time of year when it is ‘seasonal’, thus driving prices down in that area.

So, is it important that we eat seasonally? There are a number of arguments, not all of which stand up to scrutiny, but let’s take a look at them all.

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Local/seasonal veg boxes are now very much the mainstream

It tastes better. One of the main arguments for seasonal, locally produced foods is that it tastes better, since it is growing in conditions that it has evolved to grow optimally in. Local food should, in theory, also be fresher, as it has less far to travel to get to our plates. It’s hard to determine whether on a blind taste test any of us could truly tell the difference between a local and foreign tomato, for example, especially when cooked into a meal, but when in salads or eaten without too much flavouring, local/seasonal produce may well have more depth of flavour.

It is more nutritious.It is thought that locally produced foods have more nutrients in them, since there is a shorter time between them being picked and arriving on your table. Locally produced foods are also given more time to ripen, increasing nutrient levels further. However, this is not the case with all produce – anything that is frozen tends to preserve more nutrients than fresh counterparts, as they are frozen immediately after being picked. Similarly, more ‘hearty’foods such as apples, oranges, grapefruit and carrots are able to retain their nutrients even if they travel long distances.

Purchasing locally produced food helps support the local economy. Since much seasonal produce is also grown locally, buying seasonal helps support local farmers and aids the local economy. If you are also buying from small farms, you’re likely to get a variety of produce you might not find at your local supermarket. Buying from local farms may help boost the economy in the area.

It’s more sustainable. Or is it? It is true that if you were to grow your own vegetables in season, they would be about as sustainable as you could get (growing veg at home is historically very important too!). Thankfully, the energy demand for UK grown vegetables is generally lower than their imported equivalents, aside from a few notable exceptions. Aubergines, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes in the UK are often grown in heated greenhouses, which are extremely energy intensive. In these cases, transporting the produce from Europe over long distances consumes less primary energy than cultivating them in the UK, provided they are sourced from Europe and transported by road and sea, not air. Cabbage, celery and Brussel sprouts are environmentally the most sustainable veg we can eat in the UK, and asparagus the least.

It’s cheaper. Whilst ‘locally produced’ produce doesn’t have the same ‘premium’ price point of organic produce, people are still willing to pay more for it, despite the fact that intuitively it should be cheaper. Because of this, although intuitively it should cost less this is not always the case.

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Historically, local produce has been very important!

So when is it best to eat seasonally?

When eating raw/fresh produce, local and seasonal vegetables may taste noticeably better and may even be more nutritious. Foods that are able to be picked when fully ripened (as opposed to harvested early so they can be transported further) may be higher in nutrients, and thus have a better flavour. If you are eating a lot of foods raw or unflavoured, this difference in flavour may mean it is worth picking up local produce over imports.

Cabbage, celery and Brussel sprouts are the most sustainable UK produce you can eat, and should always be consumed in season if possible. Aside from that, importing vegetables grown in unheated greenhouses in Europe has a lower impact than UK vegetables cultivated in heated greenhouses (e.g. aubergines, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes), despite the transportation.

Air freighted vegetables have around a five times higher impact than domestic produce, so in the case of a choice between locally produced vegetables and those air freighted, always choose local produce.

It is important to bear in mind that despite all this information, eating vegetables is always more environmentally friendly than eating red meat, and the confusing nature of food labels should not put you off eating a plant-based or plant-heavy diet. Despite any complications, plant-based diets are the best suited to fight climate change.

In addition, food waste is one of the worst culprits for increasing food impact on our environment. Reducing food waste overall, rather than focussing on purely buying local produce, may have more of a beneficial impact on our environment. 4.2 million tonnes of avoidable food and drink is wasted each year in UK households, worth £12.5 billion.

Wasting food and drink hits our wallets and is a financial drain on local authorities who have to pay for food waste collection and treatment. It has a detrimental impact on the environment, wasting the materials, water and energy used in its production. Rather than spending more on local produce, try wasting less of the produce you already have.

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How various vegetables impact the environment looking at different factors 

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The overall energy consumption of various vegetables (PED MJ/kg)

TL;DR

  • Local/seasonal produce is generally seen as superior in multiple ways, from taste to sustainability to economically.
  • When choosing produce, buy British except in the case where heated greenhouses are used.
  • Avoid air-freighted vegetables always. Opt for sea and land-freighted vegetables when imported.
  • Plants are generally better than meat, especially red meat.
  • Reduce food waste. If you do one thing to eat more sustainably, stop throwing out so much food.
  • Want to know the best seasonal veg boxes to get in more greens? Check out this article I wrote for Bustle.

 

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any thoughts on locally/seasonally produced foods. It’s not nearly as simple as I was expecting! 

8 environmental influencers you should follow

Sustainability is the zeitgeist of social media today, with people left and right dropping ‘eco’, ‘green’, ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ into every other sentence. I’m excited about more and more people talking about saving our planet – when I was younger people thought I was crazy for wanting to save water and electricity – but now brands as big as H&M and Primark are jumping on the sustainability bandwagon.

It may appear that everyone on Instagram is an expert on the matter, but there are several true experts we should all be listening to, whether on Instagram, Twitter or long-form blogs. With the rise of misinformation and ill-researched facts thrown about online, it’s important to know where to go for the real facts and figures. Here are some of my favourites!

Give them a follow, share their posts and show your support – we can all do our bit.

Clare Press

Clare Press aka ‘Mrs Press’ is Australian Vogue’s editor-at-large, and host of the ‘Wardrobe Crisis‘ podcast. In 2018, she was made Global Ambassador for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative.

She talks extensively about circular fashion and how modern fashion needs to catch up with the way the world is changing, especially in regards to supply chain ethics and legislation around clothing production. She is a journalist and author of three books, her latest of which, ‘Rise & Resist, How to change the world‘, was published in 2018.

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Just strolling down the @econylbrand carpet with @hassanpierre from @maisondemode 💚 So… for everyone who asked about my dress. It’s made from many metres of hand-loomed Kota Doria muslin by wonderful @benjamingarg . The cloth was woven in Kethun, India, then pigment-dyed in Melbourne. This colouring process requires less water and lower temperatures. Benjamin made this dress especially for me, moving house & getting flu in the middle of the process. He ended up posting it because it wasn’t quite finished by my last trip to Melbourne – & it got lost! Cue several days of fraught post-office hunting. Can you believe they found the package the day before I flew?! The #slowfashion gods were smiling on us. So pleased & proud to wear this magic dress. Kota Doria is an Indian handloom tradition of translucent muslins once supported by royal patronage and produced in towns and villages in and around Kota city [south eastern Rajasthan]. Kota saris are the lightest cotton saris, and the weaves vary according to yarn gauges, while the different fine check patterns are known as Khats. "These handicrafts are made with blossomed heart and peace of mind, which is equivalent to meditation," says Benjamin. The designer, who hails from a village called Mudki in the Indian state of Punjab, studied fashion in Melbourne and was a standout graduate from RMIT’s fashion Masters program last year. Thank you Ben for dressing me for the @greencarpetfashionawards 💚💚

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Aja Barber

Journalist and fashion consultant Aja Barber writes about intersectionality in feminism and ethical fashion, both of which are closely connected. Follow her on Instagram for knowledgable and honest stories and posts about sustainability and intersectionality.

My only critique would be that she doesn’t have a blog or podcast, but her captions could be described as ‘micro-blogging’ – if you want to learn and want to think, Aja is for you.

Venetia Falconer

A name that keeps appearing on my ‘to follow’ lists, Venetia is a very vocal advocate of slow fashion, sharing hints and tips to reduce waste and live more sustainably. Venetia pulls no punches when taking about the ‘sustainable collections’ of fast fashion brands, so if you’re looking for an honest voice that cuts through a lot of noise, Venetia is your woman.

If you prefer to listen rather than scroll, Venetia also hosts the ‘Talking Tastebuds‘ podcast, in which she interviews various guests about their relationship with food, sustainability, mental health and well-being.

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THE TIME IS NOW | 🌎🌍🌏 ⁣ My heart is full and my body is charged after being in the company of so many outraged, courageous and passionate students striking against our climate breakdown.⁣ ⁣ It’s my 30th birthday tomorrow and I feel so grateful to have experienced planet Earth at a time which frankly, future generations won’t have the opportunity to do so. It is a matter of URGENCY that communities, governments, organisations and businesses take DRASTIC measures to prevent global heating. ⁣ ⁣ Ice caps are melting, forests are burning, entire species are dying and millions of people are being displaced by climate disasters. ⁣ ⁣ We need faith, we need courage and we need to make a stand. ⁣ ⁣ WHO’S WITH ME? ⁣✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽✊🏼✊🏻

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Natural Resources Defense Council

Not a person but an organisation committed to safeguarding the Earth. The NRDC works on a broad range of issues, from race to gender equality to sustainability projects. Follow them on Instagram to see what they’re up to and show your support.

My favourite thing about this account is that it shares a huge amount of easily digestible information, that if you so wish, you can visit their ‘like shop’ page and read up on. It’s a clever way of linking pages, petitions, blog posts and charities in one place.

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NEW: Our latest report confirms that race bears the strongest relationship to slow and ineffective enforcement of the federal drinking water law in communities across the nation. We analyzed EPA data that confirms there is unequal access to safe drinking water, based most strongly on race, a scientific conclusion that mirrors the lived experience of people of color and low-income residents in the U.S. Drinking water systems that constantly violated the law for years were 40% more likely to occur in places with higher percentages of residents who were people of color, according to EPA data from 2016-2019 analyzed in the report. Kristi Pullen Fedinick, PhD, Director of Science and Data at NRDC: “As a scientist, I was surprised to find that race had the strongest relationship to the length of time people had to live with drinking water violations. But as a black woman, I was not surprised at all.” Visit the link in our bio to read the full report. #environmentaljustice #race #drinkingwater #water #discrimination #segregation #racism #safedrinkingwater

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Greta Thunberg

The girl of the moment, 16 year old Greta Thunberg shot to fame last August, when she began protesting outside Swedish Parliament during school hours with a sign painted with the words, “Skolstrejk for Klimatet” (“School Strike for Climate”).

Follow Greta on Instagram to keep up to date with her powerful speeches and activism. Following Greta is truly humbling – this 16 year old does more than the vast majority of us and can act as an inspiration to all. Read more about #ChildrenVsClimateCrisis here, and if you’d like to strike too, follow Fridays for Future, the page for international weekly  climate strikes.

Blue Ollis

Blue is a low-waste vegan who shared advice on how we can all cut plastic, eat better and reduce our environmental impact. Whether you’re into Instagram, YouTube or would prefer to read a blog, Blue has it all.

If you’re looking for inspiration of vegan recipes, she has also launched a range of ebooks, perfect for anyone looking to reduce the environmental impact of their diet, or just incorporate some more veggies!

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Social media can be a very serious place. With topics like climate change, animal rights and human freedom raised it can be a vortex of downbeat communication. As a dyslexic I am hyper aware of the intricacies of language and have been brought up in a household and culture that appreciates playing with the boundaries of words and upturning the rules for comic relief. Tongue and cheek humour, satire, sarcasm and puns are an innate part of my communication style that I often mute on social platforms for fear of being misunderstood or in case they invalidate the conversation at hand. But where would we be without humour? Without comical rhetoric or creative wordplay? Comedy adds a much needed balance to society and especially in times of fear and depression it brings fresh air to an otherwise serious world. It’s a form of expression that is too often sidelined, ignored or reprimanded as a means of silencing a creative perspective. Our history shows that in dictator-led countries creative expression is first to go. Stand ups provide political perspectives that help form our societal debates because humour is a way to convey serious topics and harsh realities that cannot be addressed in other ways. It pushes boundaries and conventions and creates an open space for free speech. It also allows for moments of relief from a congested and stifled reality littered with global violence and stale journalism. As a dyslexic my expression has often been silenced as my mind naturally explodes with comical repartee, hyperbole, surreal imagery, irony and quick quips. This is something dangerous to the ego of others. They might smite you for your wit through lack of understanding, which can often lead to fear, for breaking social norms, which can lead to feelings of vulnerability, or for shining a light on something they wish to keep hidden. This is why comics have lead a brave and important role in our histories and continue to break the status quo and remould our evolving future. Dyslexic comedy geniuses include Eddie Izzard, Whoopi Goldberg, Ruby Wax and Robin Williams. Don’t let a world where solemnity is prevalent steal your humour.

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Bea Johnson 

Described as the “Mother of the Zero Waste lifestyle movement”, Bea has been waste-free since 2008 – long before zero-waste was known to the average consumer! Her book, Zero Waste Home provides ways of reducing household waste and shared how she transformed her family’s home to the zero-waste lifestyle, with an amazing one litre of rubbish put out per year!

Read her 100 top tips here, or follow her on Instagram to keep up to date with what she’s up to – recently she has packed up and will be touring the US and Canada to share her message.

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Pantry stocked for my boys✔ Carry-on packed✔ Zizou tucked in✔ Am on my way to Vietnam 🇻🇳 for talks, interviews, the launch of #zerowastehome translated to Vietnamese -and hopefully the beginning of something bigger! I've been wanting to bring my message to this country since I visited it a couple of years ago. So much litter and yet so many available waste-free alternatives everywhere -so much potential for zero waste where people already know how to live simply… Which part of the world🌏 has surprised you for having lots of litter but at the same time lots of unpackaged options? (Link to the events in the profile) #zerowaste #zerodechet #unpackaged #bulk #ZWHtour #zerowastehomebook #zerowastelifestyle #refill #ZWH

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James Whitlow Delano

Photographer and climate activist James founded Everyday Climate Change, a collective of photographers who are capturing the everyday effects of climate change. His page acts as a quasi-photo journal, each picture with a short story behind it.

Both pages share information from experts about a particular topic, from racism in India to receding glaciers, accompanied by a beautiful (and often concerning) photo. Follow James on Instagram or check out his website.

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Climate Change in the Italian Alps: Simone "Simun" Laurent, an ethnic-Walser dairy farmer in the valley outside Gressoney Saint-Jean, leads his dairy cow outside his barn past his son. Climate change in Gressoney means a shorter snow season. More precipitation will arrive as rain. The Alps are the "water tower" of Europe. Glacial ice and winter snow store water, slowly releasing it, feeding rivers upon which European nations have depended upon in the warmer months, since before Roman times. Receding glaciers mean less water stored up to feed rivers, especially in times of summer drought. Also, rain water drains away more quickly and is not stored in the Alps' glaciers. Farmers and livestock pastoralists, like Simone, will find less grass in high meadows in summer to fatten up his cows to produce milk he uses to make Toma cheese. Outside Gressoney Saint-Jean, Val D'Aosta, ItalyIronically, climate change brought the Walser, who speak a dialect of German, to the Gressoney Valley in the first place. During the 12th and 13th centuries Walser clans crossed the high Alpine passes from Switzerland, searching for virgin land, when there was less mountain ice than there is today, during the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) c. 950 CE – 1250 CE. While this is clear evidence of naturally-occurring cycles of climate change, the temperatures are actually higher now, and now the pace of warming is turbocharged by carbon levels that are much higher today because of human activity. So, climate equilibrium is a long way off but one thing is for sure, it will be much warmer than during the MWP. Funded by @spacenomore Published by @washingtonpost #climatechange #globalwarming #italy #dairy #foodsecurity #alps #spacenomore #washingtonpost

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Thank you for reading! Who are some of your favourite people to follow on this subject?

Sustainable fishing – what’s the catch?

Whilst not everyone who follows me may be plant-based, I think the vast majority of people who choose to follow my life are at least aware of the fact that we should all be cutting down red meat in our lives in a bid to save the planet. I was pescatarian for 18 years before I chose to move to a plant based diet, which I did for a number of reasons, not least because I studied marine Biology at university and it put me right off.

Before we get started, let me emphasise that I think whatever you are doing to help the environment is a good thing. Whether that means starting with meat-free Mondays or going cold turkey on meat (pun intended), you’re doing what you can and that’s great. My view is that education is always good though, so if I can teach you something new in this post that might encourage you to look at your food in a different way, that’s also worthwhile.

If everyone in the UK switched just one more red meat meal to a plant-based meal per week, it would cut the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50 million tonnes – the equivalent of taking 16 million cars off the road. Every step you make is worthwhile.

Why eat fish?

Fish is generally assumed to be good for you – it’s even recommended in the dietary guidelines that we eat 1-2 portions of oily fish a week to lower risk of various diseases, such as heart disease and dementia, thanks in part to the high levels of omega 3s. Fish consumption could also replace meat consumption, which could have positive environmental impacts, especially if it is red meat that is being replaced. White fish is high in protein and low in fat, so what’s the catch?

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Is fish as healthy for the world as it is for us?

The state of our oceans

It’s no secret that our oceans are struggling. From ocean acidification to over-fishing, we are all to quickly becoming aware that our actions on land do affect even the vast expanses of the ocean. Our oceans are struggling, and the delicate ecosystem is struggling with it.

Fishers remove 77 billion kilos of fish from the seas each year – continuing at this rate will lead to a point of no return for many species, and perhaps our entire ocean ecosystem. Whilst fishing quotas have been implemented in in many areas of the world, these have issues of their own, due to many fish already being dead at the time of being thrown back into the sea. So are there ways to enjoy fish sustainably, or is it an industry that has already taken things too far?

What about Sustainable Fishing?

Fisheries rely on a set turnover of fish per year. Each species of fish has a particular time it takes to breed, number of estimated young and total (estimated) population size. With these figures it should be possible to estimate the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) – the maximum number of fish that can be removed from the ocean without negatively impacting stocks and causing a collapse in any one species. Unfortunately, there are a number of issues with this method, which was calculated in the mid-20th century.

  1. MSY ignores food webs. If we have X number of fish we can remove rom the sea each year, this is removing X amount of prey for a number of predators. Unfortunately (for us and for the fish), a lot of fish we catch also rely on other fish we catch (e.g. tuna eats herring, both of which we eat). Removing too much herring means tuna can’t feed as much, which in turn means less tuna.
  2. MSY is under pressure from governments. If there is a 20% margin of error, fisheries will be inclined to take the maximum amount they can (because this is their livelihood, and profit is important). However, this could mean taking 20% more than the ecosystem can sustain. A continual 20% loss doesn’t leave much room for stock replenishment. Governments want to give their people more jobs, so there is little inclination to ‘play cautious’ when it comes to MSY.
  3. MSY doesn’t take into account the age of a fish. Older fish are more productive breeders, and yet as the largest fish, they are also the ones fished out first. This means that whilst healthy fish stocks may be able to produce X number of young per year, a heavily fished population may only produce half that, meaning stocks can never be replenished.
  4. Unknown and lesser known fish have not enough known about their biology. The orange roughy, a popular and hugely abundant deep-sea fish in the late 70s and 80s, was thought to breed at a rate equal to fish of a similar size. Unfortunately, only after stocks collapsed thanks to trawling almost entirely did scientists realise that the orange roughy can live up to 150 years, and don’t produce any young until around 20 years old.

Pressures from governments for more fishing jobs, high prices for rare meats and inaccurate methods of measuring fish populations, MSY is no longer a reliable indicator of how many fish we can remove from the oceans. The fate of the Orange roughy and, more recently salmon, tuna and cod are all examples of this.

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Cod stocks (along with many other popular fish stocks) are taking a nose-dive

Farmed fish are marketed as a more environmentally friendly way to eat fish, because they do not plunder wild stocks – the fish are bred specifically for eating, in a similar way to farm animals. However, due to the high density of fish (leading to disease and thus open water antibiotic use), high levels of waste escaping into the surrounding water and lack of regulation, fish farming using our current methods has a high number of issues too. See below for a summary, and watch this BBC Panorama documentary for more information on the UK salmon farming industry.

Atlantic, sockeye and pink wild salmon populations crashed in the late 2000s (and for multiple subsequent years), thanks primarily to local fish farms. These farms had over 80% prevalence of parasitic sea-lice, a common infection in farmed fish, which infect local wild populations, leading to a 99% reduction in susceptible fish. In addition, due to the release, or escape, of some farmed fish, native populations are interbreeding or being outcompeted, reducing genetic diversity (and thus resilience to threats such as climate change and disease) of native wild salmon populations. The exact same things has happened this year on our own coastline, in Scotland, in part due to sea lice from fish farms.

Essentially, the growth of fish farms to protect wild salmon populations may end up leading to their extinction. 

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So what seafood can I eat?

It took me 18 years to become vegan after turning pescatarian – I realise that changing to veganism or even vegetarianism immediately is not feasible for everyone, for a number of reasons, but it is possible to always be conscious about what we eat. Here are my top tips for eating seafood as sustainably as possible, but it is important to bear in mind that eating less fish is always better for the ecosystem, especially where it is currently so vulnerable.

  • The Good Fish Guide tracks stocks of fish globally, and gives advice for fish to avoid, down to the location it is caught and the catching method. Use this to check whether certain fish are abundant or struggling.
  • Avoid any fish without the ‘sustainably sourced’ blue tick on their packaging (see image below). Currently Anchovies, Seabass (farmed and wild), Bream, Cod, Eel, Lobster, Marlin, Mullet, Plaice, Pollock, any rays and skates, Salmon (esp wild caught), Swordfish and Sardines (baby pilchards) should all be avoided.

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  • Avoid anything that has been caught by trawling, drift nets or purse-seine and instead go for hook-lining (not long-lining) or spear caught. Trawling (especially bottom trawling) is incredibly damaging to the ecosystem and catches large amounts of ‘bycatch’ – animals that are not intended to be caught, but often end up dying before being thrown back in the sea. This includes turtles, sharks, dolphins, seals and other fish species.
  • If you are able, avoid unnamed ‘white fish‘, any smoked fish and fish fingers. On average, 30% of fish is mis-labelled, increasing to 82.4% for smoked fish, meaning making sustainable choices becomes considerably more difficult. Terms such as ‘rock salmon’ hide the fact that you are, in fact, eating shark (this is another name for the endangered dogfish, a type of shark), and ‘white fish’ could be any number of endangered species. Buy whole fishes where possible to avoid this.

“People should know where their fish was caught, how and when, and what species it is. If you don’t know those things, you can’t make informed choices on whether you can eat a fish with a clear conscience”.

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2196872-a-third-of-fish-sold-is-mislabelled-heres-how-to-avoid-being-duped/#ixzz5x9grD14g

  • Save fish consumption to times when you are by the sea and can see the fish you are eating whole at a restaurant, or consume fish you’ve caught yourself. The chances are it’ll be local, potentially sustainably caught (although this is not a definite) and you are supporting local fishers, who struggle to compete with the huge commercial trawlers.

 

Summary

Fishing is not intrinsically bad for the environment, especially where fish consumption can replace/reduce red meat consumption, which ultimately has the most negative impact on the environment. Ethics notwithstanding, fishing is an industry that supplies over 3 billion people with a major source of protein, and over 90% of fisheries are small scale, with around 50% of workers being women.

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However, the methods in which we fish on an industrial scale are undoubtedly failing in their job to preserve the world’s largest ecosystem. There are ways in which we can help, primarily by avoiding all fish that are unsustainably sourced, and cutting down on our overall fish consumption. Avoid smoked fish, processed fish and unspecified ‘white fish’. Buy whole fish where possible and know where it has come from.

To be clear, the majority of people in the West are eating too many animal products and I believe that the best way to counteract that is to go vegetarian or vegan. It is possible, I believe, to fish and farm sustainably, but as it stands we are so far from this becoming a reality. It doesn’t seem fair that some people should have to go vegan to make up for the people who won’t make small changes, but this is the world we live in, and I think that’s the way it has to be.

“So long as we largely consume protein from animal sources, our obsession with protein is also likely to be bad for the planet.”

To find out other ways in which you can reduce your environmental impact, watch this vlog – ‘Top Tips to Save the World‘.

 

Further reading:

If you’re looking to learn more about the issues of the illegal shark fin trade and by-catch, the documentary Sharkwater Extinction is both excellently filmed and eye opening.

If you’re interested in learning more about fish farming, and why it perhaps isn’t the ‘eco friendly’ version of fishing it purports to be, watch this BBC Panorama documentary (UK only I believe).

 

Come and find me on Instagram and YouTube, where I talk more about these things. Thanks so much for reading! 

Royal Lancaster Hotel, London

I’m a massive fan of doing cute things with a partner or friend just because. No need for an anniversary or birthday – flowers/dinner/a cute homemade card can be shared any day. It’s even better when it’s unexpected! When The Royal Lancaster invited me to review their hotel bordering Hyde Park I jumped at the chance – it was the perfect opportunity for a little date night, just because.

The stay was kindly gifted but as usual, all views are my own.

 

Check-in is from 2pm at the hotel, and we arrived at 4pm to have some time to take a look at the facilities before dinner. The hotel is huge and beautifully furnished – minimalist luxury. We were shown up to our room (we were upgraded to the Park Suite) and given a little tour. The first thing that I noticed were the amazing views of Hyde Park – many of the hotel rooms give a breathtaking view of the park, and you can see various London landmarks out of the expansive windows.

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The views are SPECTACULAR

The room was beautifully decorated with minimalist (but cosy) décor – I have taken notes for my future house! Amenities include a bath, walk-in shower, fast WiFi, hairdryer and a TV with extras such as iPlayer and YouTube (through which we played music) etc. The room was perfect and I have no complaints!

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Park-Suite

Tempting to steal decor notes for my future house!

Before dinner we headed to the gym. There is no spa at the hotel, but they do suggest visiting Hyde Park for a dip in the Serpentine, which could be nice at certain times of year. The gym is described as being ‘well equipped’ which I wouldn’t argue, so long as you have only basic equipment needs. Consistently I feedback to hotels with gyms that more and more people require more than solely cardio machines and light weights. I have seen this changing slowly, but there was room for improvement at The Royal Lancaster. The gym was not busy (only one extra person) and is open 24h a day, 7 days a week, which is great. It could have benefitted from some extra weights-setups, e.g. chest press and squat rack (I think of these being basic in a gym). Water and towels are provided.

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Making the most of the hotel gym

We booked dinner at The Island Grill, one of the hotel’s two evening restaurants, for 7:30pm. The hotel is open to non hotel-guests and was pleasingly busy – a sign of a good restaurant! We were told that the chef previously worked at The Shangri-La at The Shard, and this certainly came across in the cooking. Even without knowing much about the restaurant in advance of our dinner, it was immediately obvious that the restaurant places huge emphasis on sustainability by prioritising seasonal and local ingredients, and offering a wide range of vegetarian and vegan options. The restaurant earned 2 AA Rosettes and won the Sustainable Restaurant Award in 2015. Of course, as a vegan I would have loved a couple more vegan options (e.g. a veggie buger and some grilled options), but what we ate (pea soup, wild mushrooms on sourdough, heirloom tomato and mushroom filo) was delicious. We ended the meal with a ginger cake, which was very heavy but still delicious. If you’re a keen wine drinker, the alcohol selection is extemsive but not overwhelming, and labels all the vegan options available, which was great! We had an amazing Rosé from France, which was £32 per bottle and went down very easily.

 

I have not slept as well as I slept in our hotel room is a very long time. The bed is huge and extremely comfortable, and the room has aircon – vital for a good sleep on warmer days. Any noise from the road 16 floors down was blocked out by the thick windows, and I slept like a baby. Would thoroughly recommend for a good night’s sleep.

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The spacious (and air conned) bedroom was very much appreciated!

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at the Park Restaurant overlooking Hyde Park. There were options from both a buffet bar and a la carte. After the amazing vegan dinner I was disappointed to only see one vegan option on the menu. I ended up ordering the ‘crushed avocado’ without the poached egg. It could have done with more toast and more avocado (having got rid of the eggs), but it was delicious! The buffet bar was extensive and very pleasing – we ate a lot of really great food. Unlike many buffets where quality is compromised for quantity, everything we ate was great. As with most hotels, the buffet could have benefitted from vegetarian, gluten free and vegan signs on each of the food items for ease of choosing – it was not always obvious.

 

TL;DR

  • The Royal Lancaster Hotel hosted us for an AMAZING night in their Park Suite.
  • The rooms are beautifully decorated and spacious, and the beds are incredibly comfortable.
  • The gym was decent but could have done with much more equipment.
  • I was very impressed by Island Grill, one of the hotel’s restaurants, with a focus on sustainability.
  • I slept incredibly well and we weren’t disturbed by any noise from adjacent rooms or the street throughout our stay
  • The breakfast bar was great, but both the menu and bar could have done with more vegan options.
  • Would thoroughly recommend if you’re looking to stay somewhere very ‘London’ – you will not be disappointed!

 

The Amazon Is Burning

What on earth can we do to help?

It shocked and saddened me to the core when I heard a few days ago about the huge fires raging in the Amazon rainforest. Not only had I heard nothing about it on the news, I was also totally at a loss as to what was causing it and what I could do.

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The extent of the fires is so great you can see them from space. Source: NASA, Aug 13

 

I know I’m not alone in this – as more and more people have been sharing the news across social media, I have seen the same comments time and time again. ‘This is so tragic, but what can I do to stop it?’. Whilst Notre Dame had to be saved by private billionaire donors, we’re lucky that each and every one of us can have a part to play in the preservation of the lungs of our world.

 

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Some facts

  • The Amazon rainforest is key to fighting climate change on our planet. It produces much of the world’s oxygen and acts as a carbon sink, and without it there is no way we can expect to fight climate change.
  • The fires are often started intentionally, in order to clear land for the growing of crops and grazing of cattle. Weaker enforcement by authorities mean that farmers have been able to organise ‘fire days‘ without legal consequence.

Cattle ranching is the largest driver of deforestation in every Amazon country, accounting for 80% of current deforestation rates (Nepstad et al. 2008). Amazon Brazil is home to approximately 200 million head of cattle, and is the largest exporter in the world, supplying about one quarter of the global market.

  • Brazil has had more than 72,000 fires this year, an increase of 84% on this time last year. Brazil houses 60% of the Amazon rainforest.
  • The fires release both Carbon Dioxide (228 megatons so far this year) and Carbon Monoxide, a toxic gas, which is being carried beyond South America’s coastlines.
  • The deforestation rate in the Amazon has increased markedly since July, with areas the size of Manhattan being cleared daily, partially due to encouragement by the new far-right president, Bolsonaro.
  • If deforestation continues at its current rate, the trees will not be able to regrow, and much of what was forest will become savannah, with devastating effects on biodiversity and the future of the planet.

Carlos Nobre, a senior researcher with the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of São Paulo, said the surge in deforestation was taking the rainforest closer to a tipping point at which swaths of the usually humid forest would become a dry savannah, with dire consequences for the climate, wildlife and forest dwellers.

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That’s depressing. So what can we do? 

Human-made fires are especially hard to stop, but there are some things we can do to help, both immediately and moving forward.

1. Donate to one of the below charities, all of which aim to raise awareness and actively protect the Amazon rainforest (edited list courtesy of cnet, which has more information, and CBS News).

The highlighted bullet points are charities that receive the highest ratings on Charity Navigator, a non-profit that evaluates financial health, transparency and accountability in charities – if you can only donate to one, make it one of these.

  • Donate to the Rainforest Foundation, which is committed to making sure donations made reaches projects such as supporting environmental defenders, indigenous advocacy organisations and deforestation monitoring.
  • Donate to Rainforest Action Network to protect an acre of the Amazonian rainforest.
  • Amazon Conservation Association accepts donations and lists exactly what your money goes toward –– whether it’s planting trees, sponsoring education, buying a solar panel and preserving indigenous lands.
  • Donate to the Rainforest Trust to help buy land in the rainforest. Since 1988, the organization has saved over 23 million acres. 
  • The World Wide Fund for Nature (known as the World Wildlife Fund in the US and Canada) works to protect the  species in the Amazon and around the world.
  • Donate to Amazon Watch, an organization that protects the rainforest, defends Indigenous rights and works to address climate change.
  • Donate to the Amazon Conservation Team, which works to fight climate change, protect the Amazon and empower Indigenous peoples. 
  • Amazon Conservation accepts donations and lists exactly what your money goes toward. You can help plant trees, sponsor education, protect habitats, buy a solar panel, preserve Indigenous lands and more.
  • Donate to One Tree Planted, which works to stop deforestation around the world and in the Amazon Rainforest. One Tree Planted will keep you updated on the Peru Project and the impact your trees are having on the community.

2. Cut your beef consumption. Much of our processed meat, e.g. burger meat, is sourced from the Amazon, and Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef. Although many people argue that soy is a leading cause of deforestation, as much as 80% of this production is to feed farm animals, requiring 10x the amount of land than if we were to eat the soy directly. Avoiding soy from the rainforest still might not be a bad idea either, but giving up beef (at least non UK-raised beef) is your best course of action.

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Livestock farming is an important driver of deforestation, and not just in the Amazon

3. Use Ecosia instead of google as your preferred search engine

4. Sign petitions such as the below:

5. To ensure responsible logging, only buy wood products with the FSC logo, or buy second-hand. Much of the world’s trade in wood is from illegal logging.

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A deforested plot of the Amazon near Porto Velho on Aug. 21. Image: Reuters

 

Please do share this far and wide if you can – we are not helpless, even where we are unable to douse the fires ourselves. Collective action is powerful – find me on Instagram and let me know what you’re doing to help!

EDIT: My friend Sophie Hellyer, who recently spent some time in the Amazon, mentioned two further organisations helping out on the ground, Instituto Socioambiental and Peoples of the ForestLocals that she worked with suggested these, but I have not vetted them. Woth checking out regardless!

 

Is your bank unethical?

Banking isn’t exactly short of negative press – with the 2008 recession, news of shady investments and excessive pay, people are seeming more and more disillusioned with mainstream banking. But are there alternatives? Are they safe? That’s what I set out to answer.

I had never considered how banks use money until recently, when I found out about an ‘ethical bank’. My first question was ‘if there are ethical banks, what are the rest doing that is so unethical’?

Here’s a little insight into my research, which will hopefully help you make more informed choices about what you want your money to be doing in the future!

All of this information is from talking to people and doing research online. I’m not a professional but have put in references and links for you in case you want to do further reading.

What makes most banks unethical?

Banks are a business like any other. Their primary goal is to make money while providing a service to users. In general, the unethical part of most banks becomes visible when you look at where they invest their money, and there have been a few court cases in the past with banks that have been caught being complicit in illegal activities, such as funding drug cartels (and more recently too). Most of the business they carry out however is totally legal, it just might not be in line with your personal values.

Ethical Consumer magazine released a report in 2018, stating that the UK’s biggest 5 banks ( Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS and Santander) are hindering our efforts to tackle climate change by profiting from some of the world’s most harmful industries, such as fossil fuels.

As if that weren’t bad enough, most mainstream banks also use money from consumers to fund various other industries, such as nuclear weapons, tobacco (full report on why this does harmful than good) and fracking.

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Would we be in a better position to fight climate change if it weren’t for big banks?

Worryingly, there is little incentive for banks to disclose where their money is going, and as such it has been incredibly hard for the average consumer to even begin to figure out which banks might be morally bankrupt, and which might actually be able to benefit the world we live in. Thankfully, Ethical Consumer has done the reports, and these are the banks that came out on top:

Triodos

Triodos is one of the most transparent banks out there, meaning that every investment decision they make can be seen by everyone. It publishes details of every organisation it lends to, and is known for specialising in sustainable energy, organic farming and culture, helping local communities.

“We want people to really think about what their bank is doing with their money. Money doesn’t have to be invested in the arms trade, fossil fuels and tobacco – it can be used to do good things that help build the society we want to live in,” says the bank.

Triodos has 715,000 customers across Europe, lending £6.5bn to projects making a positive impact on the world. The only downside is that it costs £3 per month for a current account. Huw Davies, head of retail banking says that there is ‘no such thing as free banking’, and that someone always pays, e.g. via hidden penalty charges and hidden fees. Triodos is about as transparent as it gets.

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Co-op

Co-op bank is the only highstreet bank with an explicit ethical policy, including (but not limited to) never investing in fossil fuels, companies that test on animals or arms manufacturing.

In 2011 the bank suffered huge losses and was sold off to private shareholders, leaving its ethical policies in doubt. However, as of 2018, the bank proved that it was able to continue running with ethical investments only, and is watched closely by a customer union, to ensure no dodgy investments get made. It seems to be making a comeback, so could still be a good option.

Monzo

If you’re a millennial, there’s a chance you might recognise Monzo’s eye catching ‘hot coral’ banking cards. Launched in 2015, Monzo has been breaking crowdfunding records since, and is a ‘fintech unicorn‘ – one of the rare British startups to be already valued at over £1bn.

Similar to Triodos and Co-op, Monzo is all about transparency. Anyone can read minutes from Monzo meetings, and they have just hired a diversity inclusion leader – 26% of Monzo’s staff identify as non-straight, and 45% of the staff are female.

Whilst no doubt better than the majority of banks, Monzo appears to focus less of sustainability and ethics than the above two options. However, if you’re looking for an intuitive, user-friendly option that has all the functionality to help you save, use money abroad and soon even pay off your mortgage (once you’ve saved enough to get one), Monzo could be for you.

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The easily identifiable online banking card of Monzo (ft. Lily Allen’s hand)

Handelsbanken

This Swedish bank has been operating in the UK since 1982, with over 200 independent branches. As each branch is decentralised, customers belong to a local branch rather than an umbrella bank, meaning that each customer is known by the local bank, leading to better and more ethical lending decisions. Unlike many banks, staff at Handelsbanken are not pushed to sell dubious packages to customers that they don’t want or need – this has led to the highest rating among personal and business bank customers for satisfaction and loyalty.

Charity Bank

Charity Bank is an ethical bank that ‘uses savers money to lend to charities and social enterprises’. They have lent over £278m to these causes since 2002, funding community projects, the arts, education and training, the environment and more.

Similar to Triodos, they are incredibly transparent about their lending, and you can read up about how each penny is spent here. Not only this, but they also provide practical support and free seminars for those working in the charity sector, helping them achieve their goals and help others. If you’re interested in helping out local communities, this could be the bank for you.

 

Summary

Many people don’t want to change banks because of the faff of having to change account number, sort code and PIN, and for good reason. When we get a phone we get to keep the number for life – why is it not the same for banks? Unfortunately, despite the increasing number of ethical options out there, bank switching appears to have remained relatively stable, perhaps because of the complications involved in switching.

I cannot recommend more choosing to switch banks, even if only for some of your money, especially if you are with one of the main banks, e.g. HSBC, Barclays, Nationwide etc.

We choose to spend our money the best we can day to day, and yet fail to realise that the rest of our money, no matter how small, is still being spent on investments that likely don’t align with our values.

Is it not more important that the bulk of our money goes towards projects that have positive impacts? Perhaps this is over simplifying, but I cannot help but think that it is really the least we can do, if we are able.

TL;DR

Mainstream banking is pretty bad for the world. I’ve switched to Triodos Bank and you should too.

Read more here.

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this! I know it’s a huuuuuge topic and I’ve tried to cover what I can in here. Essentially I wanted to share that there are options, so we don’t have to all be stuck in the abusive relationship that is mainstream banking. Please do comment and share, and come and find me on Instagram to let me know what you think!

Carbon offsetting

We all know flying is bad for the environment – it’s suggested that commercial flights account for just above 2% of global carbon emissions, including the large proportion of the world that don’t fly at all. Whilst shaming people about flying is not the answer, those of us who are able to do something about it probably should. Not flying is not always possible (and let’s be honest, we all love a holiday every now and again), so carbon-offsetting is becoming more and more popular, with new organisations popping up with various solutions to the problem.

Below are some that you suggested, with some honest input about my flying habits, costs and plans for the future. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

 

Hometree.ie at Moy Hill Farm

If you’re looking for a relatable, home-grown feel, Moy Hill Farm tree planting is perfect. My friend knows the owners and frequently visits, seeing her previously planted trees. “By pledging you will be supporting a regenerative eco system” – Moy Hill also works with community to grow food and regenerate woodland to benefit the local community and wildlife. So far the charity has planted 14,000 native trees, such as Oak, Hazel and Birch. It’s difficult to know exactly how much carbon 10 trees (the minimum amount you can pledge) will offset, but knowing you are contributing to an amazing community project to the benefit of the local wildlife and environment is great.

 

Chooose.Today

Chooose uses your donations to fund the best UN-verified COreducing projects in LEDCs. Just £2.50 per month (their ‘climate neutral’ option) offsets approximately 3 flights from Oslo to London per month. Donating different amounts per month allows you to be ‘climate positive’ (£3.99 per month) or a ‘climate champ’ (£7.98 per month), offsetting different amounts of flying. The website is easy to use and offers both subscriptions (donations per month) and one off donations (e.g. 6 month or 1 year options), depending on the amount you’re looking to offset and how much money you’re willing to part with. I love this idea and it’s super easy to use, but also think moving your money to an ethical bank (e.g. Triodos) could have a similar effect without actually costing you any money.

 

My Climate.org

The Swiss not for profit organisation Climate.org works with partners both locally and globally to educate and consult on climate-protection projects. For individuals, it also provides a calculator for you to be able to calculate accurately your emissions, whether flying, driving, or simply living at home. After putting in your details, it provides a cost to offsetting those specific journeys, supporting international projects and sustainable development worldwide. There is some choice as to where your money goes e.g. helping smallhold farmers reforest areas or enable efficient cookers for women in Kenya.

I love this idea because it is very specific as to how you can offset your lifestyle. It also makes you think twice about longhaul flights. If I were to offset all my flights this year, according to this calculator it would cost me £153, the vast majority because of travelling to Tokyo for the marathon. For shorter journeys (e.g. Copenhagen) a payment of £5 was enough (bearing in mind this doesn’t include other travel).

 

Climate Care

Climate Care turns ‘climate responsibilities into positive outcomes’ providing tailored programmes to help organisations and individuals offset carbon emissions. This isn’t their only selling point though – they also work with governments to deliver large-scale emissions reduction projects and work with communities in LEDCs to build sustainable projects, improving the lives of people and benefitting the environment.

They also provide a calculator, which once you’ve calculated how much carbon you want to offset, gives you a cost for doing so. On this calculator it would cost me £53.40 for this year’s flights, compared to the £153 of MyClimate.org, but this could reflect the type of projects they’re funding. If you don’t know how much carbon you need to offset, Climate Care also provides flight, car, energy, event and business to calculate approximate carbon emissions, before allowing you to checkout, funding various projects around the world.

 

Atmosfair.de

Atmosfair is a German non-profit organization that actively contributes to CO₂ mitigation by promoting, developing and financing renewable energies in over 15 countries worldwide. They rely on donations from individuals and businesses, working with both to mitigate emissions, with an emphasis on air travel, as currently there is no technological solution for greener air travel (e.g. electronic planes, although interestingly hybrid planes may soon be a reality). Atmosfair uses donations to fund the creation of renewable energy sources in countries where they hardly exist, but could be successfully utilised (e.g. solar power across the equator). In this way, atmosfair saves COthat would otherwise be released by the use of fossil fuels in these countries. Meanwhile, locals benefit by being able to access clean energy around the clock, often for the first time.
For personal offsetting, Atmosfair provides a calculator which separates out emissions by airline, so is even more personalised than the other calculators. As I travelled to Tokyo with British Airways, I found that I released 60% less COthan the average airline, taking my offsetting cost for this flight down to just £42.20, from £79 via MyClimate.org. The calculator gives an excellent breakdown of emissions, comparisons and costs for each flight taken, which I love.

 

Trees For Life

Slightly different to the above few organisations, Trees For Life focuses specifically on helping the Scottish Caledonian Forest ecosystem, providing a home for wildlife and regenerating old forest. Regenerating forest is a long process, but provides a multitude of environmental benefits. Whilst there is no calculator on the site to offset your specific emissions, donations to their accredited ‘Carbon Offsetting’ location are used to plant trees in their conservation estate, with the capacity to offset over 50,000 tonnes of CO2. Trees for Life also links to this carbon calculator to calculate how many trees you should plant to offset your particular emissions.
If you’re looking for something close to home (and are based in the UK!), this could be the project for you – it’s relatively small scale with measurable impacts, and speaks to my ecology brain!

 

TL;DR

I was interested to see that most of these companies don’t simply plant trees to offset carbon (what I thought might be the easiest and most marketing-friendly way of offsetting carbon). Most fund global projects to reduce future carbon emissions in one way or another, which means you’re not exactly offsetting your own carbon, but rather reducing carbon that might be released in future.

I love the idea of this, because offsetting carbon does nothing to actually change the fact that COwill always be released as long as non-renewables are still being used. Atmosfair, Climate Care and Chooose fund renewables and energy-saving projects in place of projects that would otherwise use non-renewables, thus changing the future potential emissions.

It’s hard to tell which is my favourite – Moy Hill Farm is close to home, easy and cheap, and provides the option to see the impact you’re having first hand, but no calculator or personalised offsetting that I can see. The Chooose Today subscription model is reasonably priced, scalable according to your income and travel plans and incredibly easy to use – I would say perfect for a present for a climate-conscious friend. MyClimate.org is expensive but comprehensive, and I can’t help but think trying to save money whilst offsetting carbon just means that you’ll be offsetting less carbon, but it’s hard to tell. Climate Care might be a favourite, because it costs less than MyClimate.org and seems to do a similar thing. German brand Atmosfair works closely with airlines, which I love – I think it’s time for the worst emitters to take responsibility for the own emissions, and I would feel more comfortable flying with an airline that I know offsets their carbon. It also provides the most comprehensive calculator that I saw, and reasonable costs too.

 

So, what did I do?

I pledged 10 native trees with Moy Hill Farm, because I love supporting small businesses (and to be honest it was the first one I saw and I wanted to do something there and then). This cost €30.

I offset my flights to and from Tokyo using Atmosfair, as it was the only one that allowed me to specify my airline. This cost €47.

The remaining 3.5T of carbon to be offset for this year’s past and upcoming flights, I used Climate Care. This cost £25.

In future I think I’d just use Atmosfair or Climate Care for all the reasons mentioned above and for simplicity. Don’t forget that if you don’t have money to spare like this, simple changes such as which bank you keep your money in can have huge impacts, either funding things such as arms and tobacco or more sustainable and ethical projects, such as renewable energy. The best one I’ve found is Triodos but I’d love to find some more!

Please comment below with your thoughts, questions and recommendations – I’d love to hear them all!