Next time you are in a crowded place (city, shop, train. Whatever counts as crowded for you) please take a look around with the aim to observe. Do you also see what I see? Not only we are becoming fatter and child obesity has become a big problem, but people don’t seem to care about each other and surroundings anymore either. We have sedentary jobs, we eat overly processed things and we are generally out of touch with our environment. Some of us follow diets (which then become lifestyles) that are meant to bring us back to our prehistoric selves ( think of the paleo diet or raw food trends), then kill themselves st the gym because that is what our bodies are meant to do.
I do somewhat agree that eating natural and unprocessed as much as feasibly possible (sorry I cannot give up cheese...), but I also think that we should change our general lifestyle little by littleto get closer to nature, understand it again, and find our sync.
While not all of us can yet afford to give up our jobs to get into full time agriculture and country life (a world entirely without cities would be weird and utopic right now), small changes can be done to fit our current way of life. How about skipping the gym to grow your own veg instead ( depending on the size of the land you get you will get to move your body how it was meant to move for sure!). Go on a fishing trip, or if you are s fun, go hunting ( responsibly). You can even find some local farms where you can go picking your own fruit and veg.
What are the benefits of this? Not just a return to what our bodies are designed to eat and do, gaining general well-being, but also could bring societal benefits too. Firstly you might get a good feeling, having ‘caught’ (or grown) something for yourself, and we all know that happy people are general better people! The fresh air might also help you want to be outside more, making you healthier and removing pressures on health systems, also being outside makes us less stressed which also makes us less prone to chronic illnesses. Further, you may start to notice nature rhythms, seasonality, notice the insects or plant timing, notice what the rain does and what are the consequences of extreme temperatures. So we may start to care more, which may lead to better choices in other areas of our lifestyles. Overall a win-win situation...
Let's be honest: it has happened to even the most advanced zero wasters to have to shop at a supermarket at some point or another.
Whatever the reason: busy week, finished too late for the organic or farm store opening times, away during the weekly farmers market, emergency shop..
If this is you, whether just once in a while or more often, firstly take a deep breath and forgive yourself. These things happen!
Then you can consider making your shop the more zero waste friendly as possible following some simple steps, and if you have more I would love to hear them
Environmentalists who take actions are often either viewed as violent protesters or ‘all talk and no action’.
And this should not be the case. Apart from the fact that boxing people and ideas is rarely useful,I know many environmentalists who don’t fall into these categories.
But there is some truth in it, perhaps. Some scientists love to talk and talk, and do experiments, then more experiments. But nature is complex, models seldom model reality, experiments often raise more questions and scientists are somewhat afraid to make too bold statements that might affect their career and future (the academic system is to blame in my opinion here)... so we go to meetings, we present gloom and doom scenarios amongst other scientists, we are a bit afraid that the news will pick it up the wrong way so we choose our words carefully when speaking to journalists, and here we stop. Hoping someone will translate our papers into some actions..
Bloggers, and I will include myself, also have a bit of this no action attitude. Yes I believe that I am trying to educate, hopefully reaching a wide audience and show them easy steps to be more sustainable in an easy lifestyle way. But am I? Sometimes I believe that maybe with all of these social media filtering I am just getting to the usual people who already are plenty aware of the problems...
On the other end of the spectrum there are many activists that feel like they have to take a more active approach and end up taking disruptive actions. And here I would also like to include some big organisations and conservation societies. So I don’t blame the public which thinks ‘oh no, other tree huggers’.
But here comes some positive: you can make your voice be heard without being violent. But we can only do that by collective actions. Start writing to companies: you don’t like that a certain place doesn’t have recycling? Write to them. You don’t like that a certain shop doesn’t sell local options? Write to them! Too much packaging in that brand? Stop buying, and write to them. Perhaps one message won’t make them do anything, but if we all collectively start complaining actively but peacefully (and always respectfully) something will go through! At least I hope.
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!
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