As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the launch day events for Plastic-Free St Albans is a Plastic-Free Picnic at Highfield Park. This is also an awesome way to celebrate Earth Day too. So whether you are planning a picnic for this reason, or having one on any other day, here are my top tips for a plastic-free picnic…
Firstly, choose items that are sold loose or in recyclable packaging. Avoid plastic packaging as much as you can! It is hard to do, which is why there are several campaigns focused on holding shops and supermarkets more accountable for this too. If you are feeling abit rebellious, you could unpackage everything after you pay, before you leave and give the rubbish back to them… maybe it will help them to take the hint!
Better yet, head on down to your local eco store, if you have one, with your refill jars and avoid the supermarkets with all their unnecessary packaging full stop!
(Oh, and wherever you shop, don’t forget to take your reusable bags, obviously….)
Packing Your Picnic
Use an old style wicker basket to carry your picnic! Or choose from one of the many reusable bag options available. This one is easy; just don’t use a plastic bag! Moving on…
Tuppaware containers are ok as they aren’t single- use plastic. However, there are even better alternatives! Stainless steel containers are more environmentally- friendly and will most likely last you longer too.
Taking your own cutlery that you use at home is a good choice. You don’t actually need different cutlery just because you are eating outdoors! But if you do prefer to use something else, invest in a reusable bamboo cutlery set if possible.
For disposable cutlery options, as well as bowls and plates too, choose eco- friendly items such as from The Blue Speck. They are 100% biodegradable and sourced directly from plants.
Take a flask along with a reusable cup for hot drinks. For cold drinks, take along a reusable drinks bottle. If you need a straw, invest in a reusable one made from metal or bamboo, or buy disposable alternatives to plastic, such as paper straws.
Other Useful Info
Low Tox Box also has a fab zero waste starter kit. It contains several reusable bags, spork, cup and straw for £30 plus P&P. They also plant a tree for every box sold and send a certificate too.
There are only a few days to go now until Sustainable St Albans Week 2018, so I want to share with you some of the fab things that will be going on! If you are local, then pop along to some of the events to learn more about eco living and show your support. And if you aren’t local, maybe these ideas will inspire you to host your own event in your local town!
The week will be kicking off with an afternoon of talks to launch the event, as well as over a dozen activities on just the first day alone. Over the course of the week there is a massive range of fun, educational and inspiring activities for all ages.
Some of the highlights include the grand opening of our first ‘Little Free Library’ – where you can take a book and donate another, several guided walks and cycle rides, organised wildlife watch, vegan cooking demo and tasting (yum!), plenty of talks and workshops on various topics, eco tours, growing activities, seed swaps, clothes swaps, litter picks, poetry recitals and film screenings. The list goes on and on…! It is a jam packed week full of brilliant options to choose from.
Children can also meet Munch the recycling lorry and discover more about recycling, do creative activities using old items, take part in interactive storytelling, attend woodcraft taster sessions, and swap books, amongst other things. Lots of the other activities are very family- friendly and suitable for all ages too of course!
There is also a one day Know- How Festival, which sounds brilliant! I thought this was worth a specific mention as it has so much going on for the whole family. Here is further information…
As part of Sustainable St Abans Week, on Sunday 22nd April, which very aptly is also Earth Day, marks the official launch of Plastic Free St Albans. I am so excited about this, so let me tell you more about it!
Plastic Free St Albans is inspired by Surfers Against Sewage – an environmental charity who are leading a national campaign called Plastic Free Coastlines, to encourage communities to drastically reduce single use plastics – and is an alliance of several local activists. It was founded by Emma Tyers, who previously ran the hugely successful St Albans Refuse the Straw campaign and also has members from our fantastic local groups, Sustainable St Albans and St Albans Friends of the Earth, too. What a team! The group aims to hopefully achieve S.A.S Plastic Free status eventually.
The main goal is to work with local businesses, schools, and other organisations to remove, as far as possible, plastic straws and stirrers, water bottles and balloons from St Albans. These particular items are being targetted because they are so rarely recycled, and therefore form such a large part of our plastic waste and litter.
They are also working on St Albans Refill scheme, which asks businesses to provide free water bottle refills to anyone who asks, free of charge. Look out for other upcoming projects in future too!
Last but not least, check out their excellent interactive map of all things plastic free, so you can see how the campaign is developing and, more importantly, know where to head to avoid the plastic! Awesome initiative, looking forward to seeing the map grow!
To launch this fantastic new campaign, there will be a plastic-free picnic at Highfield park on Sunday afternoon, followed by a screening of A Plastic Ocean in the evening, along with a panel of guest speakers, hosted at the beautiful Odyssey cinema. There are only a few tickets left, so grab yours now!
Enjoy what promises to be an inspirational and exciting week!
To help celebrate and support both Sustainable St Albans Week and Plastic Free St Albans, the lovely Sally from Leonard of London has offered us a stunning piece of jewellery to giveaway to one lucky campaign supporter! This gorgeous handmade ring is made from recycled sterling silver and has a beautiful labradorite stone.
The ring will be resized for the winner as per the measurements given before sending it to them.
It need not be said that water is an essential resource for all of us. We can live without a day of electricity, and there are many undeveloped places in the world that make do without its convenience; but everyone in the world, regardless of where they are, needs water. It is a necessity to all life.
Some of us are privileged to have instant and convenient access to water anytime we want. But not all of us appreciate this privilege; in fact, a lot of us take it for granted. We think all the water that we have at our fingertips -literally – is unlimited. But it’s not. Already, certain parts of the world are experiencing drought, and if we remain heedless about how we consume our water supply, this drought will become a global problem.
It becomes crucial then that we find ways on how to save on our water usage. For one thing, we should fix leaks around the house, as leaks are one of the top causes of wastefulness in the home. You might think all those drips don’t amount to anything, but over time, they accumulate to a sizable quantity of water. How sizable? Approximately ten thousand gallons per year. So get in touch with a professional plumber and stop those leaks before they give you problems.
Another thing you can do is to upgrade the faucets and showerheads in your household to more modern and more efficient ones. For instance, when brushing your teeth, do you really need a faucet with a really strong, pressurized flow? You are much better off with a low-pressure flow for these activities.
Finally, the practice of harvesting rainwater can help to cut down your monthly water consumption as well as your bills. Rainwater harvesting is the habit of making use of one of nature’s free resources – rain – and harnessing it for our own various household uses. This practice can bring about several advantages for your home and garden…
It reduces the risks of soil erosion and flooding.
This sustainable habit can benefit the environment in a lot of ways. For one, it can help to prevent erosion around your property as well as reduce storm water runoff. It can also decrease incidences of flooding in your area. In incidents of a torrential downpour, there’s a lot of excess rainwater that doesn’t get soaked into the ground and only ends up flooding your area. It would be much better if you made use of this water instead.
It reduces your water bills.
Harvesting rainwater can also help you reduce your monthly water consumption. Imagine if you were to use rainwater for your various household needs and tasks like doing the laundry and washing your car. You would not need to consume that much water from your tap like you normally do. Ultimately, you get to save on your water bills each month.
It can give you a backup supply.
There may come a time when your water supply gets cut off due to various reasons, like when the water company is doing major repairs or when there is simply a drought in your area and your community needs to ration their water use. In these instances, the rainwater you harvested can serve as a useful and necessary backup supply.
It eases the demand for ground water.
Although the Earth is covered with water for about 71 percent of its surface, more than 96 percent of that water is ocean-based and thus is unusable. Disregarding inaccesible fresh water found in icecaps and glaciers, we thus only have access to 1 percent ground water. Consider the fact that entire Earth population relies on this 1 percent and you can realize the extreme demand that is continually put on our limited supply. Once we start harnessing the power of rain, we can greatly reduce the demand that our population exacts on ground water.
Rainwater can be used for a variety of purposes.
We use water in our household for a variety of purposes, such as doing the laundry, washing the dishes, bathing and showering, flushing the toilets, washing the car, watering our plants, among many. All these tasks require a large amount of water in total every single day. While rainwater is the softest kind of water there is, it is also versatile in that you can use it for all these different purposes. Because it has no chemicals, it is better for your hair and skin and your plants and it also requires lesser amounts of detergents when washing clothes and dishes.
Now that you know all about the advantages that rainwater harvesting can bring about for your home and garden, you might want to invest in quality containers that a reputable company like Rain Water Tanks provides. Just a little cost upfront will help you save a lot on your water consumption and bills in the future.
Fantastic range of ethical and sustainable clothing designs. Including custom made t- shirts using child’s own drawing to create a unique peesonalised gift. All clothing is made from 100% organic cotton in a wind powered factory and printed using low waste cutting edge technology. Fully traceable from start to finish. Adult and kids t-shirts, hoodies and bags available. Stylish and sustainable, look great while protecting our planet! Chari-tees collection also supports various causes and charities by donating a set amount per sale. Look good, feel good, do good. Shop for our ethical, sustainable fashion eco clothing.
Squiggle loves designing her own clothes and has several tops that she has hand drawn herself using fabric pens. Being the mini entrepreneur she is, toward the end of last year, she asked if she could sell her clothing designs to other people too. However, we both agreed that we would need to ensure that our items would be eco- friendly and so our mission began to turn our ideas into reality…
And now our goal has finally been realised! We have successfully sourced a manufacturer who almost perfectly aligns with our values – and we are so happy and excited to have found such an ideal match! All of our clothing is made from 100% organic cotton, in a wind powered factory. Designs are printed using low waste, cutting edge technology. Furthermore, everything is ethically made and fully traceable from start to finish. Sustainable, ethical and good quality too, we couldn’t be happier!
Inspired by Squiggle’s creativity and drive, and my desire to support causes I feel passionate about, I have designed a couple of products with particular charity campaigns in mind. For each of these sold, a set amount will be donated. Details are on the website under the item description. I intend to keep expanding this collection to help raise money for more fab charities!
I have also created some general designs too. I often find myself getting creative as a way to relieve stress, so either when Squiggle is having a tough time with her complex needs, and/ or if there has been something major happen around the globe.
For example, my ‘Spread Love‘ design was inspired by an instagram post asking people to share photos of love in response to the Las Vegas tragedy. I try to focus on the love and kindness in the world, especially during difficult times, and my design is a reflection of that.
Another love of mine is music, and I find live music very therapeutic. It is an important part of my life. Hence my ‘Live Music‘ hoodie design. Perfect for wearing to gigs!
To celebrate the launch of our clothing range, I have an awesome adult or child t- shirt to giveaway! Enter via rafflecopter below. Open worldwide. Ends 1st November 2017. Winner can choose from any design. Other T&Cs apply.
When people hear the concept of zero waste, it can seem somewhat overwhelming. How can someone not create any rubbish?! But the truth is, for the vast majority of people who try to practice a zero waste lifestyle, it is more like zero waste is something to aim towards by taking a slow step by step journey in the right direction. And that’s ok. It is really about doing your bit to protect our planet. Plus each action you take tends to become a gateway to the next. So it really isn’t as hard as it first sounds!
This post covers alot of different areas, but the point is just for me to share tips and alternative products with you all. I intend for you, my readers, to pick somewhere to begin, and to find new ideas to continue from whatever stage you are already at; the idea is not for anyone to try to take it all on at once! Gradual change is the key to making it feel sustainable and not too overwhelming. This is also by no means a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination! There are many, many people far further along the journey than I am, but we can all learn from one another, so I am just sharing what I know!
Here are my ideas for developing a zero waste lifestyle, divided into sections for ease of reference (because I like to be organised!)…
This is the area that I have been working on myself most recently, so I figure it makes sense to start here!
Earth Conscious sell a zero waste natural deoderant that now comes in both tin or stick format. I have only just got mine so too early to comment personally, but reviews on it are great!
Shampoo bars are the obvious choice for zero waste hair washing. Alternatively, powder is another option. However, if you cannot get on with shampoo bars or powder, I recommend that you buy a huge bulk size container of shampoo and conditioner so that it needs replacing far less often. You can purchase a smaller reusable pump bottle to make it more practical.
For example, Faith in Nature sell huge 5 litre refills for around £50. If you feel put off by the price for a product you haven’t tried, it is well worth ordering the smaller size versions first then investing in your favourite. They also offer free samples for a small limited number of their products, so you can try before you buy that way too. I realise this may sound like it defeats the point of choosing zero waste items somewhat, but it is really about looking at the bigger picture and thinking ahead. Other brands probably have bulk size versions too, if you look into it and find any others, do let me know in comments.
As for conditioner, I have written before about natural hair conditioners. Although these are not actually zero waste ideas as such, they are items that can be used for a range of purposes and again can usually be purchased in much larger sizes so this helps to drastically reduce waste.
There are a wide range of beautiful, often handmade, natural soaps available that are sold without packaging (or minimal, recycled packaging) so produce little to no waste. If you prefer liquid handwash, again I recommend buying in bulk to reduce waste.
I totally recommend you make your own! There are some fab DIY recipes around if you google. I made a great coffee scrub last year. Alternatively, there are various eco conscious independents and other brands who ensure their packaging is minimal and environmentally- friendly. (And remember to check for no microbeads too!)
Go for a bamboo toothbrush. Most come in fully recyclable minimal packaging and the toothbrush is biodegradable. I have one from Save Some Green.
Alot of people buy many different types of cleaning products for all different purposes, which immediately creates far more waste. So my first bit of advice is try to simplify!
Cloths/ Wipes/ Scrub pads
Opt for resuable versions made from sustainable natural materials, such as bamboo, hemp or organic cotton cloths and wipes, and coconut hair scrub pads for example.
Multi – Purpose Cleaner
I recommend making your own DIY version if possible. We tend to use vinegar solution. Otherwise choose an eco-friendly brand in the largest size possible that covers a range of uses.
Washing up Liquid
Again my best advice is to select one that lasts longer so less waste!
I was sent this fab soapnut starter pack from Living Naturally, which I have used for my most recent washes (probably about 4 loads now of various items). I am really impressed at how effective they are; in my opinion, they leave clothes just as clean and fresh as regular detergent! Not only are they natural and zero waste but they also work out much cheaper too, so this is a very cost effective way to do laundry as well as protecting the environment. Do give them a try and tell me what you think!
Ok, so granted this isn’t relevant to everyone but menstruation products can cause alot of waste so this is an important one! There are various reusable products, so you will most likey find that there is something to suit everyone that needs them. Earthwise Girls are my go to site for this, since they stock a good range of items to choose from. Personally, I mainly use a cup but also have reusable tampons, period pants and cloth pads too so that I can go with the flow. (Get it?! Sorry, excuse the pun!!!)
This is a huge area. There are so many different aspects and I doubt very much that I have covered even the majority of them in this post, but here goes…
First things first; take your reusable bags along! Or use cardboard crates instead, which is what we do as we find that easier.
Choose items with minimal and recyclable packaging wherever possible. Aiming for a fresh raw food diet, rather than buying convenience goods, is not only good for your health, but better for the environment too. Fruit and veg, for example, do not need plastic wrappers! Of course, I totally understand this might be ideal but is not always realistic for many – but it is, at the very least, just something to consider when doing your shop. Buying bigger versions of long lasting cupboard food also saves on some packaging too.
Try not to buy more than you will eat, freeze if applicable so it lasts longer and my favourite for fruit and veg – make it into a smoothie and drink it up!
Storage/ Lunchboxes/ Picnics
There are lots of durable, practical ways to store food without causing waste. Mason jars, glass or metal containers, resuable sandwich bags and washable beeswax wraps (to replace clingfilm) are all good options. For snacks on the go, carry around reusable cutlery, made from bamboo or similar. Plus carry washable cloths rather than wipes in your bag too.
St Albans #refusethestraw campaign is inspired by Plastic Free July and has one simple aim; to drastically reduce the use of plastic straws in bars, pubs, cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, schools and everywhere else across St Albans. After watching A Plastic Ocean as part of the St Albans Film Festival, Emma (founder) felt even more motivated to push forward with this movement to rid St Albans of these harmful, and unnecessary, single- use plastics from our community.
A plastic straw has a useful life of around 20 minutes, and most places don’t bother separating them out for recycling. Many end up in our oceans. A great example of human wastefulness! Local businesses can take part in the following ways:
Provide a straw only when requested by a customer
Provide compostable paper straws instead (not those with a polyethylene lining) or other eco-friendly straws
Get rid of straws completely*
*Note: In the interest of considering customers with disabilities, ideally sustainable alternatives to plastic straws would still be available, at least on request.
Furthermore, individuals can help by spreading the word, speaking to people who work in local businesses about changes they can make, and simply by refusing a straw when buying a drink.
The campaign has got off to a roaring start and is gaining momentum fast! So far 16 businesses (and counting!) have pledged their support and are taking action, with more being added to the list daily. This is great news for our environment!
At the time of writing, the following are all phasing out (or already have removed) plastic straws:
I am so excited about this fantastic step forward and can’t wait for further developments! To keep up with the latest campaign news and progress, make sure you follow @starefusestraw on twitter and St Albans #refusethestraw over on facebook. Neighbouring town of Harpenden also has its own #refusethestraw campaign, which you can find on facebook or twitter too.
And don’t forget to tag us in your local strawless or eco straw photos and/ or share them with us using the #refusethestraw hashtag to help spread the word even further!
Small changes make a big impact… and together we can clean up our planet.
If you would like to set up a campaign in your local area, here are some top tips:
You can get started just by setting up an email address, Twitter and Facebook page.
Approach businesses initially with a polite email, following up with an update if no response.
Keep it light – we all know this is a serious thing, but a big green rant might put people off.
Start with green and community minded businesses who are more likely to switch to get the ball rolling and build momentum. Other people are more likely to switch if they see others doing so!
Take it at your own pace. Even just 1 or 2 emails / calls / visits a day makes a huge impact!
Be prepared with information to be able to widen the conversation if the business would like further details e.g. disposable cups, food waste etc…
Don’t be afraid to try the big chains. Ask them to use your local branch as a pilot.
Spread the word about your campaign on local Facebook groups etc…
Regular updates on social media keeps momentum. Post successes, and regularly publicise a list of everyone who has switched.
People like to share photos, encourage use of the hashtag to help spread the word further.
Approach local media and bloggers to get coverage.
Work with local groups e.g. WI, Transition, Scouts.
Plastic Straw Alternatives
There are various sustainable straw options. I have tested out a couple of different ones at home; including steel and bamboo reusables, plus disposable paper and wheat ones too. I recommend the best thing to do is try some out for yourself and decide which is best for you. But here are some of my personal opinions:
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!
“We have to keep the momentum going so that we can come together and protect our ocean. Why? Because our ocean is absolutely essential for life itself – not just the food, but the oxygen and weather cycles of the planet all depend on the ocean. ” – Secretary of State John Kerry
“ No water, no life. No blue, no green. ” – Sylvia Earle
The health of our oceans is crucial to all life; there is no denying that oceans hold huge importance. Ocean health matters. And right now the statistics are both depressing and worrying. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea (5gyres) and humans have managed to wipe out 90% of the ocean’s top predators in the past 55 years (Oceana).
If we all work together, scientists believe ocean health can be restored. Many of our world leaders are starting to recognise this and are taking action to protect and restore our oceans. For example, France has just declared a ban on single-use plates, cups and utensils from 2020, UK are following USA in banning microbeads and 100+ commitments totaling over $4.8 billion were made at Our Ocean conference in Washington DC, including the creation of 40 new or expanded marine protected areas. That is exciting news for ocean health!
But there is so much more to do.
Here are some practical ways we can all help to protect and restore our oceans in everyday life…
1. Reduce, refuse and reuse.
Reduce your use of single-use plastics. Bags, cutlery, straws, cups, water bottles and containers all massively contribute to ocean pollution and harm ocean life. Plastic is meant to last, so using it for throw-away items is simply poor product design. Recycling helps of course, but even that has plenty of pitfalls, so is better as a back-up when using plastic can’t be avoided. Making more sustainable choices, such as refusing single-use plastic items and investing in reusable alternatives is an excellent high impact way of helping our oceans.
Choosing sustainable seafood is important because much of the world’s fish supply is under threat from over fishing. When you add in the issue of climate change and pollution, that is a huge problem for the future of fish on the menu.
Check out Seafood Watch by Monterey Bay aquarium for more about sustainable seafood.
Choose products that do not contain microbeads. Microbeads are tiny bits of plastic found in some personal and beauty care products, such as toothpaste, scrubs, sunscreens and make-up. They wash off down the drain, then end up in oceans, where they become extremely toxic. They are eaten by fish and other marine life, which causes harm to other life and damages our own food supply too. There are movements to ban microbeads in UK and USA but this has not yet come into force and other countries are yet to follow suit. Removing microbeads from your home could save literally thousands of microbeads from entering our waterways PER DAY.
Switching from fossil fuels to a green energy supplier is not only good for the environment but could also save you money too!
“ Climate-changing gases from offshore oil and other fossil fuels are changing ocean chemistry, saturating the oceans with carbon dioxide and making them increasingly acidic.
Acidification is already leading to the degradation of coral reef habitats and negatively impacting some commercially important fisheries, like shellfish.” – Oceana
I personally switched to Good Energy but there are various clean energy companies to choose from. Making the switch is usually quick and easy but makes a massive difference.
Monetary donations are one thing, but donating can come in many other forms too. One of the most powerful things anyone can donate- for free- is your voice. Sign petitions, share campaigns and start conversations.
Ocean Unite has a list of actions, as do many other charities and organisations.
Time is another resource that can be donated, such as helping to clean up our beaches. See SAS (UK) and Ocean Conservancy for more information on organised beach clean ups.
Or you could even donate your art! Visit Lonely Whale for further details or to donate.
Last but not least, share how you #MakeASplash to protect our oceans!
This article was written in dedication to #MakeASplash campaign. Thank you to the organisations and charities mentioned for inspiring and teaching me about our oceans.