With all these, recent and not, talks on plastic pollution and reducing plastic, some of you dear readers may be convinced to start your zero waste journey.
While i want to assure you that it is a personal journey filled with daily discoveries, and not an overnight switch, I want to share with you part of my journey and a few key ‘ingredients’ of my daily attempts as a zero waster.
For some inspiration you can also find my Pinterest board, albeit not recently updated...
Step 1 - make your own
Whenever you can, make your own. Of what you ask? Of everything! From bringing a pack lunch, to making your own shampoo/deodorant/toothpaste.. basically everything that you would normally buy in a package - you can probably make a diy version
Step 2 - bring your own...
...mug/cup, cutlery, lunchbox, water bottle.. you get the gist!
Step 3 - use it till the end
Let’s say you slipped on point one and two, or maybe are just at the first arm with this zero waste thing, and you have packaged things in your house. Or maybe food that comes in containers. Whatever it is - use it until there is absolutely nothing left. This means opening up containers and rasping up the insides. You will be surprised! Do that with toothpaste for example and you will be surprised but you may get one or even two more days out of it. I do it often for yogurt which I get in big tetrapak containers, and I get a whole extra portion out of it! All left over on the sides and at the bottom..
Step 4 - find it another purpose
Jars can be reused to keep food over and over again, but can also be used for a nice candle or other decoration. Use your fantasy, and if you need inspiration head over to Pinterest or other similar sites and you will get plenty of ideas!
Step 5 - think twice about your scraps
Scrap parts, whether it is bones from your Sunday roast, the head of a fish or maybe that hard part of the cauliflower or the zest of the orange.. you can definitely use it in some alternative recipe! Make some broths, enhance flavour of jam..get creative in the kitchen!
Step 6 - ditch the use by date mentality
Lastly (at least for this post) use your sight and your smell instead of the sell by or use by date of your food. They tend to be way too conservative and more often than not the food will still be good! If you have been buying away from supermarkets and avoided buying in packages chances are your food doesn’t even have one of those dates printed so you will have to use those senses, but if you happen to have a carton of milk - just smell before throwing it away. Still good? Great! Seems a little off? Why not make some yogurt or cottage cheese?
New month, new sport!
This time I'd like to investigate a sport that by no means is one of my favourites, and is actually one I dislike quite a lot. However, it is one of my bf favourites and one in which he partook quite a lot in the past so, seeing some of the locations where he used to do it gave me some inspiration.
I firstly have to say that i don't really consider motorised activities as 'sports' - but some are classified as such so let's go have a deeper look into it.
What is off-road motorcycling?
This is pretty much self-explanatory: the term off-road refers to driving surfaces that are not conventionally paved. These are rough surfaces, often created naturally, such as sand, gravel, a river, mud or snow.
What are the environmental impacts?
The first, most obvious one: fuel consumption! In my head sports should be as carbon neutral as possible and powered by human force, not engines and thus shouldn't require any fuel. Motorcycles, on the other hand, do require fuel... and I believe they may drink quite a lot of it..
Secondly, they are NOISY which means: disruption to wildlife! Not only by frightening the animals and potentially driving them away from their natural habitats, but also potentially disrupting behaviours which are reliant on sounds (e.g. mating via interruption of mating calls, predator protection by disruption of alarm calls etc...).
Other wildlife distruptions will come from ACCIDENTS. Wildlife can end up injured or even killed...
Disturbance to soil and plants: off-road vehicles can churn up soil, leading to ruts, damaged root systems, compacted soil, accelerated erosion. In addition to damaging plants in the process of driving over them, off-road vehicles can spread seeds as they churn up soil and vegetation, aiding in the spread of weeds...
What can be done to reduce these impacts?
So, if the above hasn't convinced you to switch your motorcycle for, say, a mountainbike or even better a walk in the forest, let's see at what can you do to minimise some of these impacts...
For example the use of wet trails is generally more detrimental in terms of erosion because dirt-bike wheels have less traction and spin more on slick trails.
Less throttle is usually better than more throttle, which can cause wheels to spin unnecessarily and results in excessive noise.
Always stay on the trail to avoid damaging the surrounding ecosystem.
If there is a stream crossing on a trail, riding as slowly as possible through the water will cause the least amount of habitat disruption.
Meadows and wetland areas are especially sensitive because they have fragile soil structures and are often nesting sites for animals.
To avoid spreading invasive weeds or disease, always wash your motorcycle/bike between excursions so that soil and mud are not transferred from one area to the next. Finally, ensure that your dirt bike’s engine, exhaust system and spark arrestor are functioning properly. Poorly maintained bikes are louder, run less efficiently and are not as safe as tuned-up bikes.
As Italy welcomes in 2018, it prepares to see a ban on plastic bags for loose fruit and vegetables (abundant in shops and supermarkets as less of them come pre packaged) - sounds great, in theory, however bags will not entirely disappear but will be replaced by bioplastic bags.
Firstly some explanation: What is bioplastic?
Bioplastics are plastics derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, or microbiota. Bioplastics are usually derived from sugar derivatives, including starch, cellulose, lactic acid... Be careful though, as not all 'biodegradable plastic' is actually bioplastic. Some biodegradable plastics are contain additives that cause them to decay more rapidly in the presence of light and oxygen (moisture and heat help too). Unlike bioplastics, biodegradable plastics are made of normal (petrochemical) plastics and don't always break down into harmless substances. So make sure to understand what type are you using before composting etc..
And guess who is one of the biggest producers of bioplastic bags?
If you thought Italy well you thought right! Novamont is one of the biggest bioplastic bags producers and they are an Italian company.. now you may see that the Italian ban may not simply have come out of environmental concerns but out of more intricate hidden interests. Italy already banned plastic shopping bags in favour of biodegradable bags back in 2011, perhaps out of the same hidden interests?
But, you say, motive doesn't matter if it reduces plastic pollution and the plastic ocean problem... and I would agree, if it actually solved it.
But is bioplastic as environmentally friendly as it claims to be?
Now, the problem is that this so called biodegrable plastic might not necessarily biodegrade fast enough in water and may be a threat particularly for seabed habitats such as important sea grass meadows which are not only biodiversity hotspots but also important carbon sinks to help us deal with climate change....More detailed info on bioplastics can be found here
In conclusion, I believe that a deeper understanding of degradation and chemical decomposition is needed to fully understand the effects of bioplastic, and choosing the right materials with the minimal impacts on the long term.
So while a step away from plastic is welcome, we should be careful about its replacement - perhaps is time to think of reusables rather than simply replacing. Let's replace our single uses approaches instead...
And another post inspired by the amazing blue planet 2..
Apart from the amazing footage of the octopus using shells to hide from the shark (pretty impressive, uh?) , this week episode was mostly about the green forests..
Kelp and large seaweeds are very important habitat components, but being 'living habitats' are exposed and at risk the same threats which affect all the rest of marine life: climate change, pollution... you name it! Which means in some cases active protection measures and sometimes restoration are needed to retain these very important features...
Moreover, the presence of these living habitats can change species assemblages, and those changes can reflect back on the forest via feedback loops. Let me explain: if we lose some kelp, we may lose some some species of fish and they may be the same fish species that keep other algae from over-growing and occupy the space so that the kelp cannot come back the following year. Just an example. As David Attenborough showed us, the loss of one species can affect the whole of the system. He used the otter-urchin-kelp trophic cascade, a classic example of how losing the top player can change the game. When otters were hunted, and numbers dropped dramatically, then urchin proliferated and kelp was lost due to urchin overgrazing. This is just an example and similar things happen in other systems.
Did you see how those big spider crabs were afraid of the single ray? Do you know that fear in itself can also change trophic cascades?
When we think of top predators we often think about sharks, however their close relatives, skate and rays, are also at the top of the food chain - well before humans come into play, as we fished out skates from many of our oceans..but recent work , which I was lucky enough to be part of, showed that the presence of skate in itself could help maintainance of bivalve reefs by changing crabs behaviour! This means that if we want to restore bivalve reefs, we have to think more widely about the surrounding ecosystem and take a 'holistic' approach. Restoring reefs, or other systems in general, should include all the components,from top predators to microbes, thus a unification of the many disciplines, and collaborations between ecologists, microbiologists, modellers etc should be encouraged in order to see the full picture!
Spoilers alert: if you have not seen the latest episode of blue planet and you are waiting for it then you may want to skip this. If, on the other hand, you have been touched by the ending then this is for you!
Plastic, it's everywhere. Anything we buy in stores has plastic one way or another, whether the product itself contains it (hey it's found in anything from your toothpaste to your clothes!) or is at least packaged with it. Moreover, it has multiple ways of ending into the environment: from the classic 'thrown on the ground', to more hidden 'windswept'. From transport (apparently 4 containers are lost every day at sea) to its end, plastic creates a problem.
Yes, we can do beach cleans, and yes we can pick up rubbish everytime we are out walking the dog but the problem is a lot bigger than that.
First of all, plastic and ocean plastic in particular is not just what we see washed out on beaches (which can already be a lot depending on where you are!) but it also is a great presence in the higher seas, being trapped in the conveyor belt of currents, and, as we have seen with the bath-ducks in yesterday's episode, can be transported in many directions as well as just remaining trapped in ocean gyres...
more than that, we have the visible plastic, but also invisible (unless you have a good microscope) one known as microplastic which can be as detrimental. And lastly all plastic degrades and leaves pollutants behind. These are persistent organic pollutants, which can act alone or in combination with other pollutants already present in the environment, with disastrous consequences..
These are in fact known to be endocrine disruptors, affecting reproduction and they are also fat soluble, which means they get passed up the food chain and can end up in mammalian milk thus affecting future generations of the ocean giants as we have seen in blue planet. And can you think of another fish-eating mammalian? One that inhabits land? Yes you are right: us! Our plastic will end up back to us...
This has the potential to affect our reproduction, not just causing infertility (in men as well as women!) but also affecting fetal development, and impacting their hormones which will have negative consequences for generations to come...
Surely, we shouldn't stop our good small everyday actions , including trying to go as zero waste as possible and reduce packaging. But we should ask for more from our governments and higher institutions, we should make demands, if not only to keep our planet healthy for the future generations, but to keep them healthy too!
Running.. 'what sport could be more environmentally friendly that something powered solely by your legs (and mind) ?' you may be thinking
Well.. you are right!
Yet there are still some impacts involved that could be reduced by being aware of them to try and reduce them as much as possible.
Running clothes are often made of technical fabrics promising to maintain optimal temperatures, keeping you dry and being breathable. This comes at the cost of being made of plastic and artificial fabrics, which will leach microfibres into the environment.
Solutions: buy natural clothes whenever possible, switch technical for cotton, bamboo, wool - they are very breathable and better for your skin as well!
If you are not ready to make the switch or are in real need of the 'technical' clothes then consider changing the way you are washing them! Read here for some great advice.
As a general rule of thumbs shoes should be changed every 300-500 miles, which may sound like a lot, but serious runners may get to this mileage quite quickly... which means a lot of shoes in the bin!
Solution: recycle them!
some impacts associated with racing events:
racing packs = often a lot of waste of plastic/papers in race intro packs, goodie bags (often full of 'junk' items that end up in bins)
water points = water served in plastic cups that end up on the ground shortly after being used
driving to races
Solutions: Try and choose wisely what events to attend, take everything home with you and sort it in various recycling bins, see if there are things worth keeping or giving away to a friend, try not to throw your empties on the floor, actually try not to leave any traces of you ever being there. Try and car share whenever possible, or maybe take public transport? See if they need volunteers to clean up after, I know, it may be the last thing you want to do but hey - you are doing something for the greater goods!
4) Wild running
Trail and nature - what could be best? I love my dose of trail running. However some risks include disturbing nature.
So: be mindful of where you are running, what are you likely to encounter? Stick to the paths to avoid stepping on potentially important plant species, be quiet (steps aside), be generally aware, read any signs at the trail entrance that may warn you of what and what not to do and most important: leave no traces!
Countless times I have been told that cooking healthy and sustainably is only for the wealthy,
that is too expensive to follow the sustainable life,
that people have family so how can they afford to eat well ?
Today’s recipe is not only yummy and full of goodness, it’s also zero waste and sustainable as well as being very very cheap (about €2.50 everything included for one very large portion or two smaller ones).
Ok, I am telling you in advance is not really suitable for the faint of heart and it’s not super quick
( it does require a little preparation).
Firstly, you will have to go find yourself a local fishmonger – ‘fishmonger?’ I hear you scream ‘but everyone knows that fish is expensive, how can this be a fish-based recipe?’.
Simple! We are using "scraps"
So, here goes the second task: ask them for some scrap parts. I got myself a nice fish head (full of meaty parts as well!) for a whole €0.50!!!
I added to it a couple of crab claws as they are very tasty, but see what takes your fancy. Some molluscs would make a nice addition.
Now, onto the preparation. To divide the meat from the bones I firstly gave the head a quick boil. It stayed intact, and took it out (keep the water though!!) and divided the good meat from the bones.
I kept the bones (more on this in a minute).
Then added the meat and other good parts from the head to the water, together with the crab claws, a can of peeled plum tomatoes, a shallot and a hint of chilli. Back on to cooking and it’s done!
With the bones that I previously kept – they are still full of goodness, so why not make some fish stock for later-on in the week? Just add water and boil for as long as you can (the longer the better but be wary of losing too much water) – then sieve the bones out and done! Freeze or refrigerate and you have some nutrient dense stock to add to your next meal!
As part of my series on the environmental impacts of sports, this month I chose to have a look at a ‘sport’ very close to my hearth. As a marine biologist this is not simply just a sport, but an essential component of my work.
Diving, in my opinion, can have both environmentally-friendly aspects but carry some risks for the environment that needs to be analysed in depth and discussed. As always I will try to provide some solutions and advice as well, to aid you make some informed choices!
Let's look at the positives first:
Firstly, when someone goes diving and immerse him/herself in the wonders of the blue water, he/she becomes aware of the magical hidden world that lives beneath the surface. This, perhaps, makes him/her more prone to taking protective actions towards it, and thus has great conservation potential...
Secondly, recreational diving can be used as a useful tool for 'citizen science' projects, such as temperature data collection or seagrass monitoring! So not only fun but useful...
But now... let's be a bit critical and look at the negative impacts of this sport on the environment:
For example, scuba diving 'mass tourism' brings excessive number of people to dive in delicate ecosystems. More often than not, these divers are not careful and do not follow sensible code of conduct (do not take, do not touch..), perhaps are not even made aware of the actions that they should and shouldn't take whilst in the water.
Another problem with this kind of tourism is that divers are often beginners, just taking their first open water experiences in the tropical destinations - nothing wrong with it per se, but with often limited 'buoyancy control' they risk damaging delicate ecosystems.
Also, boating to the destination can have an impact per se - boat presence, noise, fuel consumption.. can amount to a high carbon footprint if you ask me! Not to talk about equipment, often made out of not so environmentally friendly material...
So here a few simple rules and ideas to follow if you'd like to be a sustainable diver
It has been a while since my last 'fashion' post, and this could not be a better time for it! As finally, after years of battle, I have reached the body size and shape that I always wanted, it arrived the time and the need to get new clothes that fit instead of hide the new figure.
While for all 'top' clothes and skirts I am a strong advocate of vintage and charity shops, I am particular with my jeans. And so I went to my jeans retailer of choice, the big chain GAP. Yes, even I shop at big chains sometimes, mea culpa and hope I can be forgiven by the most strict anti-capitalists who are reading me.
Saying this, gap is also quite involved with sustainability projects - and my new jeans are part of their 'washwell' series aimed at protecting waterways by using sustainable denim wash techniques.
Which brought me to this post - what exactly are the impacts of our clothes on waterways? Let's have a closer look at clothes production (as I am writing this I am also learning this for the first time ! A self teaching blog!)
So far I have learnt that cotton, despite being an amazing natural fabric for you and your skin, actually has quite high environmental impacts (hence the rise of organic and eco cotton labels!)
According to good on you:
So, there you have it - cotton should be sustainable and brands should disclaim their use of chemicals in the making of your favourite tee/denim.
And how are these chemicals washed away/where!
Not just cotton but everything that is coloured with dye is washed and the first few washes will take some of the dye with them so it's very important to do this process as ethically and sustainably as possible!
It's no secret that most of the clothes found on the high street are made in the third world and developing countries (I dare you to look at your labels now!), and don't be fooled, expensive does not automatically mean more ethical! Just means, likely, more money in the producers pockets...
So here my word of advice - if you need to buy on the high street - try and be suspicious, ask questions, be aware, informed and then make your choice!
Happy Saturday shopping :)
Coffee.. as many worldwide I am part of the 'coffee-addicts': without my first morning cup I can barely make sense. But how can we coffee addict ensure that our addiction is as sustainable as possible??
First: choose fair trade
Those beans that give us so much pleasures comes from countries far away where workers can be exploited, so make sure not to contribute to their exploitation by choosing fair trade, look out for the symbol and remember that cheaper isn't always better!
Second: coffee machine
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