Firstly, yes this is still a family blog! So, what am I talking about? The answer is the environment and our oceans of course! More to the point, this post is about all the single-use plastics that get dumped into the environment every single day – polluting our oceans and harming our wildlife – and what we can do about it.
Lonely Whale Foundation recently launched their Strawless Ocean campaign asking everyone to pledge to #StopSucking by refusing plastic straws and either go straw-free or use more sustainable alternatives. Between Brits and the US, we use 550 million plastic straws every single day. Each single-use plastic straw takes 200 years to break down into tiny toxic particles. Alot end up in the ocean. That is a huge amount of plastic pollution.
Share the video and pledge to ditch plastic straws!
Another great charity, 5Gyres, have also launched a campaign to address the use of disposable cups. Ideally the best thing to do is to take a reusable cup with you to cafes and coffee shops. However, if you don’t have a reusable cup available (and why not? There is no excuse – lots of places sell them!) then at least go topless, so that is one less piece of waste!
Did you know in the UK only one in 400 coffee cups are recycled? It is too difficult to separate their plastic coating and cardboard to recycle the card. Yet, as reported by Telegraph, half of people believe their disposable coffee cups are being recycled all or most of the time. As many as 2.5 billion paper coffee cups are thrown away in the UK each year – again, that is ALOT of waste. Invest in a resuable cup and remember to take it with you as a small commitment to protecting our oceans, and our planet.
If you would also like other ideas about actions you can take, check out Clean Seas to see what others are up to and join in with their existing campaigns – or start one of your own!
I admit that many of past travel adventures have not been organised with sustainability in mind. In my younger years, I was far less environmentally minded than I am now, so if I had ever used an eco- friendly company or visited a ‘green’ city it would have been nothing more than a happy accident to be honest!
However, I do remember with fond memories one trip along the west coast of USA, which included a stay in San Francisco. Whilst I didn’t realise it back then, I know now that this consistently ranks high up in the greenest places within USA. This doesn’t surprise me with its sustainable food choices, a clear emphasis on the environment and clean transport system. Having reflected on the many places I have travelled, I think this is probably the one that was most eco- friendly. I would definitely love to visit again and see how it has progressed even further in the last decade!
Of course times change and these days I am far more mindful of how my actions impact the environment. For future travel, it would definitely be a major factor in our plans. I would love to explore the world in the most eco-friendly way possible, maybe driving around in an electric camper, visiting beautiful scenic spots off the beaten track, as well as lovely environmentally-conscious towns and cities too. I have a long bucketlist of places I would love to visit all over the world, with Galapagos Islands (closely followed by Alaska) at the top of that list. Closer to home though, there are two places within Europe that are also high on my bucket list; Amsterdam (Holland) and Reykjavik (Iceland), both of which are very eco-friendly.
I have heard all about Reykjavik from various friends who have have visited this gorgeous place recently, and I admit that I have spent hours pouring over their stunning photos. As Green Tourist explains, a major source of the city’s power is from the geothermic activity in this area, which makes it very energy-efficient. Cycling and walking are the most popular forms of transportation, plus hydrogen buses are used rather than vehicles that rely on fossil fuels too.
The geography of Iceland is interesting and makes it a wonderfully unique and breathtaking place to explore, with the geysers and beautiful waterfalls, as well as the point where you can walk between two tectonic plates. I would love to stay in one of their glass domes and hopefully maybe even get to see the Northern Lights if we are lucky. That would be incredible!
The second on my European bucketlist is Amsterdam, Holland. I know a couple of people who have lived here and they have shared many stories about what a brilliant place it is! Most people either walk or cycle around the city, there are very few cars, making it a clean place to visit or live in that sense. Apparently most residential homes and businesses also use, and often generate their own, clean energy too.
There are lots of unusual places to visit in Amsterdam, such as the KattenKabinet (cat art gallery) and the Bloemenmarkt (flower market), as well as lovely quaint little cafes and eateries. I am sure visiting Anne Frank’s house would be a truly memorable experience too. Apparently there are also many wonderful outdoor walks to explore, taking in the pretty sites. And I personally would love to stay in one of the fantastic houseboats on the canal, that I have seen in many photos. They look amazing!
Of course there are many other European destinations on my bucketlist, as well as travelling the rest of the world too, but these are two places that particularly capture my attention – and my heart! Happy travels everyone!
Where is top of your travel bucketlist? Or have you been to an absolute dream place? Tell me your story in the comments!
*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Thank you to the friends who have contributed their wonderful stories and lovely pictures, fuelling my wanderlust further!
Global Guardian Project is an inspirational digital multimedia resource – called a learning capsule- designed to educate children (and adults!) about caring for our planet, and to empower children of any age to take action and be change-makers.
“Our mission is to create learning tools that support the entire family in making simple, daily changes that will become positive habits.”
Each learning capsule is delivered monthly to your inbox. Subscription costs $14.99 per month and can be cancelled anytime. You will only ever pay for what you receive. You can also buy one-off capsules for $16.99.
The capsules are beautifully presented, and contain a wealth of information and activities. They include things such as endangered species, interviews and spotlights, DIY and art projects, recipes, and guided meditations. Each one focuses on a different country. The current one is about Sweden and coming next, on 15th April, it will be Israel. Here are some page samples from this month’s Sweden learning capsule…
I cannot express how much I love the aim and approach of this fabulous initiative. As home educators, we are always excited to find awesome new resources. But this one is an absolute dream because it matches our own values so perfectly. So I am genuinely SO delighted to have teamed up with them to offer 10% discounton subscriptions using my code LIVINGLIFEOURWAY To subscribe, click here and enter the code at checkout. Remember you can cancel anytime.
If you are not sure if you want to commit and would like to try it out first, you can get a free India capsule, worth $14.99, simply by signing up to the newsletter here. They send out useful emails once or twice per month. No junk. Promise.
You can also download the free Oceans capsule here. This is a mini capsule, about 50% of the content of the full size subscription version. But it gives you a great idea of what the capsules are all about. And I am so happy that this one is dedicated to the ocean!
Remember, if you decide to subscribe, my code is LIVINGLIFEOURWAY for your 10% off discount! I hope you love it as much as I do!!!
*Disclosure: I am an affiliate. This means I get paid a referral fee for each person who subscribes using my discount code. You save money, I receive a fee, Global Guardian Project gets subscribers and our planet gains a tribe of protectors. Everyone wins!
Last week I posted about energy waste and how to save money on your bills. I mentioned briefly how to reduce energy waste within the home. However, I think these tips definitely deserve their own post!
So here are some simple ways to reduce energy consumption in your home…
Leaving technology on standby or plugged in when not in use consumes small amounts of unnecessary energy that quickly adds up over time. Set technology to fully shut down automatically and/ or remember to turn it off properly at the socket. Unplug phones, tablets etc… as soon as they are fully charged then unplug the charger itself too.
Unplug small appliances at the socket when not in use to ensure they are not sneakily wasting energy. At the very least, ensure they are turned off properly at the socket.
Smart Power Strips
Alternatively, a smart power strip is an affordable way to combat energy waste in your home. These clever strips cut the power supply to technology automatically when it goes into standby mode. Very smart indeed!
The Lighting Superstore have created this useful infographic showing why LED bulbs are the way to go as part of their #LEDeasy campaign. In summary, LED lights use up to 90% less energy compared to incandescent bulbs. They also have a longer lifespan, are more environmentally friendly, are versatile in both style and placement, plus offer a wide range of lighting options in terms of brightness and colour too.
Using your existing heating thermostat/ timer correctly to make sure your heating only comes on when you need it, as high as you need it and for as long as you need it, ensures you heat your home efficiently and only use the energy you really need.
Take a few moments to sort out any drippy taps in your home. Also switching your showerhead to an eco-friendly design is a fairly inexpensive way of saving water and energy consumption.
My top 5 personal energy-saving actions for my own home:
TV, console and freeview box are all on the same strip anyway; so easy to turn it off at the socket!
Ensure other technology is also turned off at the socket or unplugged when not in use. This includes unplugging mobiles as soon as they are fully charged!
Unplug kettle, nutribullet and microwave (and any other small appliances) when not in use.
Use LED lightbulbs.
Use heating thermostat effectively.
What are your top home energy-saving tips or eco-friendly actions you will take in your own home from now on? Tell me in the comments!
Energy waste is a huge problem – for everyone. It not only impacts our environment but it also costs money too. This infographic by Underfloor Heating Trade Supplies shows how much energy the UK wastes and how this compares to other countries. Perhaps more importantly, it also explains the ways we can save energy (and how much money this can save).
Did you know that the UK wastes a shocking 54% of its energy? Furthermore, the average UK household wastes a massive £250 per year just by not being energy efficient? EEK! Overall, in 2010 the UK used almost 330 billion kWh. For comparison, Africa uses approximately 19004 kWh annually.
Worse still, the amount of energy wasted in 2012 by the US economy could power the whole of the UK for 7 years. Now that really is shocking! The average American household also uses 2.7 times more electricity and 1.3 times more natural gas than the UK too.
So what can we do to reduce energy waste, and therefore also save money? Well, quite a few things actually! Simple changes can make a big difference; turn off technology properly (not just leave on standby!) and/or set them to auto shut down, unplug small appliances when not in use, use smart power strips, use LED lightbulbs and change air filters regularly.
To reduce energy consumption in your home you can make investments that will save you money in the longer run. For example, buy the highest star energy efficient appliances, invest in smart blinds and ceiling fans, install a dual flush toilet and water-saving shower head, and use light dimmer switches.
Underfloor heating is very energy efficiency. To maximise this, make sure your home is properly insulated. Also, use a heating pump. Last but certainly not least, use a smart thermostat to further save energy and therefore heating costs. Ideally this would be in conjunction with underfloor heating but either way it is well worth investing in.
Increased energy efficiency and saving money go hand-in-hand. The better insulated and efficient your home is at hanging onto heat, the more money you will save. But why does the installation of high quality underfloor heating kits make such a big difference? Are the savings after installation costs worth it?
Installation Costs Vs. Savings
Take a moment to research underfloor heating, including its pros and cons, and you will see various articles that examine installation costs versus savings. Estimates of installation costs and savings fluctuate, depending on the source of the article. Some say that the savings are out of this world. Others suggest that the saving are too low to make the installation of the underfloor heating systems a viable solution.
Then there are running costs to consider too. For example, wet underfloor heating kits are more expensive to install but deliver better savings. Dry or electric mats are simpler, easier and cheaper to install but are more expensive to run.
So, what is the answer? Like any heating system, there are pros and cons. But the facts are a little simpler to decipher; a new heating system, underfloor or otherwise, is a long-term investment, offering longer-term savings.However, in most cases, and certainly when it comes to underfloor heating that is water based, savings are immediate. You will notice a difference in your energy bills, but the savings may not be the thousands of pounds every year – there is no heating system that can deliver this!
Use with alternative sources of energy
There is some suggestion that by using underfloor heating with alternative sources of energy you could save even more. This is a possibility, in the long term.
Ground source heat– this is where a series of pipes are buried deep in the ground. They use the heat in the earth to heat water running through your wet underfloor heating system. Clearly, as well as installation costs of the underfloor heating system, there is the additional expense of sinking pipes into the ground. Not suitable for all properties but has the potential to produce minimal heating bills.
Solar power – with a line of efficient solar panels on your south facing roof, you could generate enough electricity to heat an electric underfloor heating system. Again, there are double installation costs. However, if you generate too much solar power, you can use it elsewhere in your home, or sell it onto the National Grid and benefit from the Government pay-in tariff scheme.
Use with combi-boilers
There are various schemes around that help to pay for old, inefficient boilers to be replaced. A combi-boiler is possibly one of the most efficient pieces of kit to heat your home, using less energy to produce the same level of heat as an older boiler would. A combi-boiler can be used with a wet underfloor heating kit and produces some great savings. This is because the system runs at a lower temperature, over a longer period of time.
You can liken this to driving a car. If you drive a car at full speed, with heavy braking and poor cornering, a tank of fuel will not last as long as if you drive at an optimum speed, with gentle braking and careful cornering. The same is true of combi-boilers and wet underfloor heating system. The energy used is lower and constant, as opposed to the system being asked to crank up from a low level to a high level, and in the least amount of time possible.
High Insulation Levels
Finally, a reputable underfloor heating supplier and installation company will tell you one thing; if you are serious about having a warm, cosy home and minimal heating bills, you need to invest in insulating your home. This is not about fitting draught excluders, but investing in super-insulation measures, such as;
Wall insulation – using cavity wall insulation or solid wall systems will make a big difference to the insulation properties of your home. An additional cost but an insulation tool that will have an immediate effect on decreasing your energy consumption to heat your home.
Double glazed windows – A+ rated double glazed windows and doors will also improve the energy efficiency of your property.
Loft insulation – when was the last time you updated your loft insulation? If it has a depth of less than 270mm, you are losing heat through the roof.
Floor insulation – all reputable underfloor heating installers will ensure that the kit sits on high-quality insulation boards so that no heat is lost to the ground.
Underfloor heating will make a difference to both room temperature and your heating bills. Why not start saving money and be cosy warm with underfloor heating?
Underfloor Heating Trade Supplies have a range of high-quality underfloor heating kits and components, perfect for both professional and DIY installation.
Are you still looking for last minute gift ideas? Do you want to find a gift with a difference? Then why not choose something that gives back to our planet! Here is a list of great eco-friendly items to fill your (bamboo) stockings with…
This awesome 400 ml reusable bamboo coffee cup is dishwasher-safe, easy to carry around and lasts for years. It can be disposed of by crushing, soaking in hot water and burying with organic compost. The silicone lid and sleeve can be recycled.
These homemade soaps are made using natural ingredients sourced locally wherever possible, and use biodegradeable recyclable packaging. Or have a go at making your own DIY handmade soaps to give as beautiful gifts!
More Stocking Fillers:
Do you have sustainable gift ideas? Please share them with me! I’d love to hear them.
We love it when it’s time to decorate for Christmas and turn our home into a festive wonderland! For us, it’s all about getting into the spirit and having fun together. But one thing that is also important to me is finding ways that we can make our Christmas decor abit more eco-friendly. We always try to be mindful of the materials we buy or choose to use, and the amount of waste we create, but Christmas can be an extra tough time for the environment. So on that note, here are some wonderful creative festive ideas that won’t cost the earth…
If you are looking for an alternative to a traditional Christmas tree then take a look at these great DIY versions by Inhabitots. We have a cardboard tree from IKEA (sadly no longer in stock) which we love because it can be reused – ours is on it’s third year – and can be easily recycled once finished with. The design could easily be recreated at home if you are feeling creative!
The Forestry Commission have some beautiful suggestions for natural homemade decorations on Pinterest. Squiggle has been asking to make our own wreath, and there is a lovely design for us to try out.
I also love these ‘reuse and recycle’ ideas from Festive Lights. I didn’t know that gingerbread cookies can be varnished to make longer lasting decorations; I’m very keen to try that out, such a simple but effective idea, and a fun family activity! I also particularly love the snowman fridge too, so cute!
Salt dough Christmas tree ornaments are natural and fully biodegradeable, yet are easy to make and look great! There is an excellent detailed step-by-step guide by MommyPotamus here. Squiggle had fun making some recently!
Do you have any eco-friendly decoration ideas? I would love to hear about them!
Sustainable St Albans Week kicked off this weekend with a variety of activities throughout the city. There are over 100 events happening throughout the week, that focus on green living and sustainability, to educate and inspire our local community. There is a wide range of activities, for both adults and children, such as; litter picking, talks, films, exhibitions, storytelling, junk modelling, food waste workshops and many more. Just a few of the highlights are:
These are just a few examples of some of the wonderful selection of activities available during this week. Many of the events, including the ones above, are FREE. However, please note that there is a charge for some of the other activities. A full schedule of events can be found on Sustainable St Albans Week website.
Last but not least, I would like to challenge St Albans pubs, bars, cafes, restaurants and clubs; will you go straw-free to celebrate Sustainable St Albans Week? Either ditch disposable plastic straws completely or provide them on request only. Sign up here…
Individuals can also join in too, simply request no plastic straws when you order. Pledge your commitment to refuse plastic straws by signing the One Less Straw campaign pledge. You can also use #1LessStraw #strawless and/ or #strawfree hashtags to share your commitment on social media, and don’t forget to ask your friends and family to take the pledge too!