2017 is quickly ending and this time of the year brings all sorts of thoughts with it. From summing up achievements and failures obtained in the year just passed, to making resolutions for the year to come. Resolutions that most of us won't keep for longer than a few weeks/months at best (eat healthier, stick to that new diet, work more efficiently, find time for the family, get a boyfriend/girlfriend, start exercise...), and to be honest, resolutions that to me seem a bit selfish/self-indulgent if we are looking at the bigger picture...
the World as we know it is on the verge of collapse: climate change (temperature and general weather patterns shifts, ocean acidification etc...), pollution, plastic, over exploiting of resources are just a few of the threats. These threats are bringing many species to collapse, and bringing devastating changes to our planet. And, thus far we have no planet b...
so my plead to you all is to think a bit larger scale this year with your resolutions, and if you had to make even just one to keep in 2018 is to make one step towards a more susteinable lifestyle
need some ideas ?
happy new year all!!!!
Christmas is fast approaching (2 days!) and we are all getting excited about receiving and giving presents. Personally I cannot wait to give mine and see how they are received, after all this wait and preparation (they are handmade) I am hoping to put a smile on the face of my loved one(s).
But let's take a closer look at the science of giving presents.
This is something I already discussed on a previous blog post from my previous university, the QUBio blog but, as I ended up working on cooperative behaviour this year (using mussels as my model system), I decided to discuss this topic again.
How does giving presents and being “altruistic” fit in with the theory of natural selection? Altruistic behaviours exist in the animal kingdom, however these fit within the “survival of the fittest” and “selfish gene” scenarios, as gifts are given to increase reproductive chance or help is given to related individuals to help carry the genes along. Basically, 'I am helping you because it will help me back' scenario.
So how come humans give each other presents, especially in festive periods such as Christmas?
Professor Novak, a professor in mathematics and biology at the University of Harvard, argues that our acts of ”generosity” can actually be identified as “upstream reciprocity”. So what is upstream reciprocity? When someone is nice to you, you feel good and may be inclined to be nice to somebody else. In their 2007 paper, published in the Proceedings of Royal Society B, the authors showed that upstream reciprocity can increase the level of cooperation. This cooperation will give rise to a “network reciprocity” whereas you donate to people who are likely to donate to someone else who will donate to another and so on until someone will give a gift to you.
I will leave it up to you to decide whether you believe that generosity is after all selfish. Maybe seeing a smile on your loved one faces can be considered as a selfish reward? Maybe in the hope of being forgiven for various other absences over the year? Or hoping that making your loved ones happy will in turn make them more likely to do something good for you (or perhaps just them being in a good mood as opposed to a bad mood is somewhat of a reward?)..
For sure this concept will leave me thinking and hope to have given you some food for thought (in case the turkey isn't filling you up enough this year...)
So.. Christmas (or the winter holidays to be more politically correct) is approaching fast, with all the stress of finding that perfect last minute present, making sure the fridge is stocked, last minute groceries shopping, ordering that turkey, catering for the vegetarians in the family..
the list of stressful things is endless..
And, let's admit it, these holidays tend to make the most of us fall into the consumerism trap.
I, myself, love this time of the year with the presents under the tree, and mostly I love to find the perfect present for my loved ones and that feeling of anticipation for them to open it (honestly I love giving more than receiving). This year will be extra special as I am going away to spend it with my partner's family which I will also meet for the first time, and I will visit a new country and a new city.. lots of new!
So, how can we ensure our holidays are a bit more ethical and sustainable?
Here are a few simple rules I live by:
Hello all! I am back
My conference break was great, I have been quite busy sciencing (= doing science related activities) during the week, but also had the opportunity to do some tourism in Gent!
Gent...what to say - pretty and scenic in parts, and still filled with hordes of people, tourists to be exact. And I was told that Gent was better for that compared to other parts of Belgium, such as Bruges... I don't want to dare to imagine what Bruges is like, then!
However, if you find yourself in Gent and want to get away from the crowd, just take a side road away from all of the fake chocolate shops and you will find yourself immerse in quiet, maybe even too quiet - where are the locals? Where does one find a cup of coffee away from the crowds?
They say tourism is ruining cities, driving away local residents, and this has been demonstrated in the big city destinations such as Venice, Barcellona, Amsterdam (some great articles about it can be found here and here), but what about the smaller destinations? They are affected too! Large city tours get in your way when trying peacefully observing the inside of a church - normally being formed by a group of loud people thinking they have the right to be there and are often inconsiderate to others and ignore their surroundings (and perhaps are a little merry from a cheeky morning beer, because 'we are on holiday')..
So.. How can we be more sustainable tourists?
Firstly, read this guide on the UNESCO site for some interesting insights into tourism and sustainability
And a nice infographic
I will be busy sciencing at this very promising conference, and I am sure there will be plenty of inspiration for future blogs to come!
Particularly interested in one of the lunchtime workshops:
'From Theoretical Ecology to Seafood Markets: Advancing Holistic Marine Conservation through Ecolabeling'
expect something from it upon my return!
Have a good week and don't miss me too much
For more info on the conference here!
Deodorants and perfumes are at the centre of beauty routine for most people (or at least the former I would hope). While they should not replace basic hygiene (ie please don't spray on hoping for a cover up - it won't work!) they can be pretty useful tools to keep you fresh through your crazy work day or amazing adventure.
But these can come with a variety of chemicals, some more harmful than others - from parabens, triclosan, propylen glycol to aluminium. Fragrances by themselves can be toxic, containing a mixture of acetone, benzaldehyde, benzyl acetate,benzyl alcohol, camphor, ethanol, ethyl acetate,limonene, linalool and methylene chloride, and aside from cancer worries these can also cause allergic reactions and severe headaches, to the point that in some work places fragrances have been banned, and I, myself, have happily worked in a university where these types of perfumes were not allowed.
Going back to the deodorant, did you know that your armpits have a great concentration of glands in your body? Which means that chemicals there will go into circulation in the whole body pretty soon - so treat your pits with care and respect! And especially for women, some chemicals found in deodorants have been linked to breast cancer. So hope you think twice and read the labels well next time you are in the deodorant aisle! Perhaps go check now, and throw your chemical one in the bin! Head to your local health food / organic store to find something more suitable - but even there be careful! Organic doesn't always mean healthy, and unfortunately even in these kind of shops you can find chemical-laden products...
So if you want to be even a little more extreme go DIY with the following advice:
As a lover of essential oils I find they are great natural deodorants due to their antibacterial and antifungal properties (most oils will have one or the other or both!!!), however, using them in pure form is usually not recommended, as they can cause skin burns or simply be too powerful!
Another great natural deodorant is sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda or baking powder. It is a great odour absorber, and you could simply rub it under your pits for a fragrance-free deo.
But I wouldn't recommend wearing black or dark coloured items, as the powder tends to leave marks and show..
As always, solutions are on hand! Why not make your own roll-on deo combining the power of the above two? How..you ask?
SIMPLE! Mix 1 tablespoon of baking powder with 1 tablespoon of maizena (cornflour), add enough warm water to make a thin paste consistency and add 15-20 drops of your favourite oil or combination of oils.
I personally love a citrusy smell for myself, so have gone for lemon, sweet orange and grapefruit. I have also added a couple of drops of tea tree oil for extra deodorising properties (it is the antimicrobial oil!). For a more manly smell, you could go for bergamot - another from the citrus family! Then pour into a roll on bottle and VOILA' - done!
Some separation may occur over time, but all you do is give a little shake. I can tell you - it works wonders!!!
Now, do you want to make a matching perfume?
Get a small roll on bottle, and mix your oils of choice with some carrier oil (I used almond). My autumn-winter smell of love includes sweet orange, clove and some vanilla! I apply a little bit behind my ears every morning and gives me uplifting happiness - and best of all no headaches typical of commercial perfumes (possibly due to the alcohol content or other chemicals...). Even better it doesn't change during the course of the day, or goes bad! Just make sure to keep it away from extra warm areas, treat as you would treat your nice cooking oil...
With its freezing temperatures, winter has arrived on many of our doorsteps..
Which means, time to start planning our winter holidays right?
Well, after years of not going to the mountains (but drooling behind great snowboarding videos instead), I decided to go for it this time! So flight and 'mountain view' accommodation booked for the dolomites.. BUT, I wanted to investigate all the way my holiday may not be as sustainable and how to ensure it can be!
So I came out with a list of not-so-environmentally-friendly facts and some ideas on how to ameliorate them when the mountains call..
As promised, after the problems- some ways to avoid them
Firstly, I'd recommend to research your place quite well beforehand. Some resorts have switched to mostly renewable sources of energy, and have found ideas to combine the problem of sewage with the problem of finding water for snow making when snow runs low - which is using treated sewage for making snow! Pretty clever if you ask me (okay, provided is treated properly!).
Also, I'd say to avoid big villages and big companies providing packaged offers, this is one of those small cases in which "go small or stay home" applies :)
Also, if you are not addicted to the downhill, why not enjoy other aspects of the mountains as well/instead? You may find it as appealing and less damaging.. Try a nice walk in the woodlands, maybe horse riding? Or what about some cross-country skiing?
Plenty to explore and plenty to do! Enjoy the mountains and remember to be safe :D
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