Before the Flood: 5 Easy Changes to Make a Big Difference

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As you may well know, Leonardo DiCaprio’s (*swoon*) highly-anticipated climate change documentary – Before the Flood – was released last week and is available to watch for free on the National Geographic’s YouTube channel until midnight tonight… I realise that if this is the first you’ve heard about it, then it is very short notice but DROP ALL YOUR PLANS. This is THE most important film you will watch this year. In fact, it’s possibly THE most important film you will have watched in your life so far.

I believe that anyone who really cares about our planet and the natural environment will feel a pivotal ‘tipping point’ at the end of a film. A realisation that…

Your ignorance means your contribution to the destruction of our planet.

I had that very feeling, that ‘no turning back’ feeling, after I watched 350.org’s Do the Math in July last year. I reached the end of the film, had a gentle sob and a hard think, then I decided to finally make some life changes.

So, if you have just watched Before the Flood and are feeling overwhelmed as to how you can help reverse Climate Change (and trust me, I have felt that feeling of hopelessness many a time!), then have a read of these 5 Easy Changes to Make a Big Difference:

  1. Switch your energy supplier to a renewable one, such as Ecotricity. This might sound like a big palaver but I’ve been through it recently and Ecotricity do all the leg work for you. This is also one of the easiest ways to pull your money away from fossil fuel companies, and you won’t find the bills to be much more expensive.
  2. Do some research into where your money is invested, and make sure it’s invested in green projects. Have you ever thought about where your pension is being spent? It could be being invested in fossil fuels…
  3. Check where your bank invests its money, and take action if need be. Did you know that Barclay’s are funding fracking projects? Well, to be fair, it’s not something they’re going to be shouting about. Move Your Money is a fantastic website, campaigning to stop banks from investing in dodgy dealings. The top 5 worst banks for investment in fossil fuels are HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds Bank, RBS and Santander. Move Your Money makes it easy for you to email the bank directly, threatening to switch banks if they don’t divest.
  4. Reduce your meat consumption. As Before the Flood highlights, around about 10-12% of total US greenhouse gas emissions come from the production of meat. We’re not America, true, but we can help offset their damages. Research led by Oxford Martin School finds widespread adoption of vegetarian diet would cut food-related emissions by 63% and make people healthier too. (The Guardian)
  5. Get active! Join an activist/volunteer group with organisations such as Greenpreace, BP or not BP, or Friends of the Earth. There are all sorts of fun campaigns to get involved with, to suit everyone, all over the country.

 

I do all 5 of the above (practice what you preach and all that) and it makes me feel a lot more positive about the future, and I hope that I’ve inspired some people along the way…

3 Sustainable and Ethical Clothing Brands to Write Home About

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One of my eco-goals which I mentioned last year when I posted The Ultimate Eco Bucket-List was to only buy clothes from labels with sustainable and ethical practices. A year on and I’m finally making an effort to put this goal into action.

I’ve done a lot of research into clothing brands recently and here I wanted to share with you my favourite 3, which I believe cover 3 very different clothing needs: casual, occasional and outdoor…


People Tree – for casual staples and work wear.

Having not earned a proper salary for 6 months now, I’ve hardly been able to splurge on updating my wardrobe with lots of items – especially as sustainable and ethical clothing is rightfully more expensive. So I recently made one classic purchase from People Tree to see me through work to the weekend. People Tree can be expensive but you should keep an eye out for their sales via their newsletter because they are frequent! I bought these hand-woven, wide-leg trousers when I saw a 20% discount code:

People Tree Side Wrap Trousers

On the website, it tells you exactly where and how the piece was made. For example, my trousers were made by Swallows – a fair trade group working with women in rural Bangladesh – using hand-woven cotton.

When they arrived, I was pleased from the minute I saw the packaging: everything was recyclable and made from recycled materials. The trousers are exactly as advertised and I can tell that the fabric used, and it’s finishes, are of the highest quality. I can’t wait to wear them for the first time on the day of my sister’s Graduate Fashion Week catwalk show!

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Under People Tree’s section entitled ‘Our Story’, the company talks about Sustainability and states the aims of its Eco Policy:

  • to promote natural and organic farming
  • to avoid polluting substances
  • to protect water supplies
  • to use biodegradable substances where possible
  • to recycle materials where possible

 

Mayamiko – for colourful African prints and quirky designs.

Now this brand proves that you don’t need to spend a fortune to be an ethical buyer – with prices from £19 for a top. I love the pieces in the Kukonda Collection, especially this jumpsuit (below left):

Sustainable and ethical clothing Mayamiko

But if you want to go full sustainable the best collection to buy from is the Rebirth Upcycled Collection.

Mayamiko state that they are ‘committed to producing ethically’, and that they ‘adhere to the Ethical Trade Initiative’s principles (ETI)’. Their employment policy includes:

  • No forced labour
  • Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining
  • Safe and hygienic working conditions
  • No child labour
  • Living wages
  • No discrimination
  • No excessive working hours
  • Regular employment to be provided
  • No harsh or inhumane treatment
  • Training and professional development for all employees
  • A nutritious meal every day
  • Life skill sensitization and individual support
  • Support to set up independent businesses and cooperatives when desired
  • Financial education and access to microfinance, loans and grants
  • Pension scheme and gratuity

I also particularly like that the company ‘operates a ‘Zero Waste’ workshop where even the smallest piece of fabric is transformed in value-add items, both for export and for the local community’


 

Páramo – for waterproofs, base-layers, outdoor gear, etc.

My mum is a big fan of Páramo and introduced me to them recently when we were having a mooch around the shops in Betws-Y-Coed.

Páramo was the first company to sign up to the Greenpeace Detox commitment which means that the brand has vowed to exclude hazardous chemicals from their garment production. Unfortunately, most outdoor brands are wedded to PFC-based materials because they are water repellent. But these waterproof fabrics release or break down to form extremely toxic, persistent PFCs (Perfluorinated Compounds) which are now found in even the most pristine environments. Evidence that these chemicals can cause hormone disruption, cancer and immune suppression in children has led Greenpeace to campaign for a ban on PFC use. What is even more scary is that PFCs tend to bioaccumulate and store themselves within the bodies of humans and animals!

Páramo use Nikwax waterproof fabrics and treatments as an alternative, delivering high performance without the use of PFCs.

Paramo Clothing

And if that wasn’t enough to love, this brand also practices fair trade within its factories in Colombia – which make 80% of Páramo’s range – empowering vulnerable women. Colombia has one of the largest numbers of internally displaced people worldwide, with 10% of the population having been forced to flee their homes due to conflict and violence. Displacement makes women and girls vulnerable to violence, prostitution and drug abuse. Having created a partnership with the Miquelina Foundation back in 1992, the brand ensures that 200 women are employed, 400 women are trained, and 200 children attend nursery, each year. The cooperative has also built over 130 houses so far, giving the women an opportunity to buy property at a fair price.

Oh yeah, and they also run a recycling scheme where they take back any item of clothing (except underwear) and either find it a new home or recycle it into new fabric. They offer up to £50 off a new Páramo purchase as a reward too!

Páramo proves the power that clothing brands have to make a difference – if they would just choose to alter their manufacturing processes and their motives.

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People’s Climate March #COP21

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Can you spot Mum? Hint: she's the one on the left looking right at the camera with a beaming smile!

Can you spot Mum? Hint: she’s the one on the left looking right at the camera with a beaming smile!

 

Mum and I took to the streets of Liverpool for the People’s Climate March on Sunday – and we were papped by the Liverpool Echo!

I would have liked to have been a part of the madness in London but I’m proud to have been part of this smaller scale march. I think the fact that lots of peripheral cities worldwide were involved in the demonstration would have made our message to the world leaders at the climate summit in Paris all the stronger.

 

Me at Climate March in Liverpool

Me with my homemade banner!

Living in London and feeling disconnected from nature? Get yourself an allotment.

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allotment in London

Happy as larry.

 

Living in London – or any city for that matter – can make you feel very disconnected from the natural world, which in turn can make you feel a bit off-balance or perhaps a little stressed. But my aunty Felicity (Fliddy), myself and many other green-fingered fellows have found the perfect cure. Getting yourself an allotment. Or in my case, helping somebody else with theirs. Gardening is renowned for being therapeutic, but there’s something about growing your own produce which is relaxing, but also rewarding and extremely grounding. Not to mention, a great way to make sure you get out of the house and breath the air from an area of London that’s slightly less polluted.

Last Sunday James and I went back to Fliddy’s apartment and helped her with some weeding, and some digging up of the potatoes that we planted together about 6 weeks ago…

 

Potatoes from the allotment in London

My babies!

 

Potato that looks like a bum

Cheeky little potato bum!

 

Tending to an allotment is a great way to get away from it all, without actually leaving the city. When I’m at Aunty Fliddy’s plot, it feels like I’m no longer in London, and having grown up in rural North Wales, that’s an important feeling to feel for me – at least once in a while.

If you’re considering getting an allotment in the next year or so, it’s best to look into it now because some of waiting lists for plots are pretty long in London. Take a look at this website if you’re interested.

Glasto gets a big green thumbs up

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Greenpeace area Glastonbury 2015

Kate and I exploring the Greenpeace area on our first day.

 

I’ve just got back from an eventful and very special Glastonbury Music Festival.

The reason I say ‘eventful’ is because I split my shin open on a piece of sharp scaffolding on the Friday and had to have 5 stitches and a Tetanus jab. I say ‘special’ because I witnessed Florence Welch sing a secret session at NYC Downlow surrounded by drag-queens, on Sunday I heard the Dalai Lama’s speech at the Stone Circle, and then I heard Justin Vernon from Bon Iver sing with The Staves. Cloud nine.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been to Glastonbury, I went when I was 8 years old. Mum took Alice and I along when our aunty Felicity (great name) was at the festival with Eco-Trip. I remember very little… but I do remember seeing Blondie, the helter-skelter in the children’s zone, and cycling until 1am on the electricity-generating bicycles in the Eco-Trip tent.

So my first experience of Glasto was as a wee eco-warrior. This year, as I’m now earning my own money, I thought I’d treat myself and go as a regular punter — rather than with Oxfam, Greenpeace or WaterAid as I have done in the past.

I was really impressed by the greenness of Glasto, especially compared to other UK music festivals – an aspect I wouldn’t have remembered from when I was 8 years old. Obviously any event that’s going to involve over 170,000 people is going to generate a lot of waste, but Glasto is committed to minimising this waste and recycling like mad. In 2014, half of all waste generated by the Festival was recycled, and they’re hoping that they reached 60% this year. All the plates, cups, cutlery, and straws need to be bio-degradable, not merely recyclable. There were clean-ups daily (usually in the mornings) to ensure the festival grounds didn’t become engulfed in waste. Solar panels are used extensively throughout the festival to power various stages, such as the Theatre & Circus and Shangri-La areas. 

1,500 square metres of solar panels sit on top of the cattle shed that is home to the 350 Worthy Farm cows. On a clear, sunny day, the panels  generate around 250kW of power – around the same amount of power used annually by 40 homes. Any power that isn’t used on the farm is exported to the National Grid.

Read Glastonbury’s Green Policies for more information.

Many brands set up stalls at Glasto selling recycled and eco-friendly products, such as Festival Reboot, who make bracelets, notebooks and even waterproof beanbags out of leftover festival wellies. Last year, they collected over 15,000 wellies from the Glastonbury grounds.

The Eavis’ also encourage punters not to shower for the duration of the festival to save on water usage. I was planning on not showering anyway, but this gave me a legit excuse to get proper gross.

Unfortunately, the “Leave No Trace” tag line seems not to resonate with all its guests… as we found at Penard Hill campsite, where huge piles of broken (and perfectly functional) tents and chairs were left, along with obscene amounts of rubbish; a depressingly wasteful dumping phenomenon which has undoubtedly gotten worse over the past decade as we have descended into a more and more disposable society. It’s clear that there is still a lot that can be done to make Glastonbury the green music machine that it strives to be. But the issue lies in the enormity of its capacity and the fact that it’s exceptionally hard to regulate the environmental mindset of its campers.

So, it’s been a week since I got back from Glastonbury and I’m still finding myself day-dreaming about it at the office. I’d never have normally been so pleased with an injury that will leave me with a big ass scar, but this one is always going to remind me of an incredible five days so I kinda like it. I’m still going to try and claim a free ticket for next year as compensation 😉

My shark bite.

My shark bite.

 

Here are some snaps from the festival:

Accident at Glastonbury

Me, getting carried off to the Medical Centre by two handsome medics.

 

Glastonbury nightscape

Taking in the Glasto nightscape on our first eve.

 

Glastonbury 2015

On top of the world.

 

Glastonbury fashion

Day 1 – Glasto galdem looking fresh…

 

Glastonbury 2015

George “I’ve been holding this empty can of Stella since 5am” Gangar

 

hula-hooping at Glastonbury

Annie, hula-hooper extraordinaire, in the Healing Fields

 

Glastonbury fashion

Hannah and I – soothed by James Bay on the Pyramid Stage.

 

Glastonbury group photo

The gang.

 

Post-Glastonbury come down

Got that post-Glasto vibe.

The Ultimate Eco Bucket List

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There’s a lot of depressing climate news floating about at the moment. The Guardian’s Keep It In The Ground campaign has uncovered that Shell’s company documents reveal a business plan that would mean a catastrophic 4°C rise in global temperature (twice the level that’s considered safe for the planet) and meanwhile China’s coal boom is choking its population and causing environmental refugees. The health of our planet is looking pretty bleak…

So, I thought I’d make a list to cheer myself up (I love making lists). This is my very-slightly-ambitious Ultimate Eco Bucket List to keep me on track to becoming a healthier, more sustainable and ethical, me. I’ll cross off the ones I manage to achieve…

 

1. Sign up with WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) – help an organic farmer in exchange for food, accommodation and learning.

2. Actually do some WWOOFing. 

wwoofing

Picture: gapyear.com

 

3. Get an allotment. Easier said than done, waiting lists in London are lengthy…

4. Grow my own herbs.

5. Grow my own fruit and vegetables.

6. Only eat the fruit and vegetables I have grown myself. This one is going to be damn near impossible. But I’m putting it down anyway because I was introduced to an inspirational lady recently, she owns an allotment a few plots down from my auntie’s, whose diet consists only of what she has grown in her allotment (so that means no grains, only potatoes for carbs) and organic, free range meat which she has sourced from local farms.

7. Eat less meat.

8. Become a vegetarian. This one will be hard, as I am living with a carnivore boyfriend.

Chicken at Notting Hill Carnival

We ate a lot of jerk chicken at Notting Hill Carnival…

 

9. Buy a beehive, keep my own bees, and jar-up their honey. This one I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. James has been suffering BIG time with hayfever as the pollen count is currently at its highest level, and I read that if you eat the honey from your local area it can help you become tolerant to some of the local pollens. I suppose it’s a bit like introducing peanut oil in small doses to children with peanut allergies. Besides hayfever, bees keep the world going round and are endangered, so they need as many new homes as they can get.

Beekeeping

Picture: John Lawrence 07850 429934

 

10. Keep chickens for eggs (and fertile compost). I’ve realised a lot of these points involve having a garden… so I better find a place with a garden.

11. Either recycle my existing clothing, or only buy from ethical and sustainable clothing brands. Ethical clothing is expensive, true. But all clothing would be that expensive if there wasn’t some sort of human or environmental injustice going on somewhere. I just hope that with the rise of environmental-awareness, some slightly more young and trendy brands will pop in the clothing industry because I’m not too keen on dressing like a mother-of-three a la People Tree and Bibico. I’m relying on my sister Alice to fill this gap in the market! She studies fashion design at Birmingham City at the moment, but she’s been thinking more about ethics and sustainability since joining Greenpeace with me. Here’s her delightful blog, Al a Mode

12. Sign up with Ecotricity. Apparently conventional electricity is responsible for 30% of Britain’s carbon emissions – it’s our biggest single source as a nation. So one of the biggest ways in which I can help personally help the planet is by switching to a greener energy provider.

13. Get solar panels. Note: will need house first.

14. Only use natural washing detergents, toiletries and cosmetics.

 

I seem to have run out of ideas for now…

What would you add to this list?

World Oceans Day 2015

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Wow, it’s been 2 weeks since I last blogged, sorry for the radio silence but you know how it is…

Surfing Putsborough Beach

Heavy lines at Putsborough on a NUSurf trip

Watergate Bay

An almost-tropical day down at Watergate Bay

 

Today is the UN’s World Oceans Day, and this year the theme is ‘Healthy oceans, healthy planet.’

Which reminds me, I went to the Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea exhibition at the Natural History Museum a couple of months ago, and haven’t mentioned anything about it yet. It was a really interesting and eye-opening exhibition – I had no idea just how much our planet’s ecosystem relies on the conservation of the coral reefs. For example, if the coral reefs were destroyed there would be no barrier to absorb the energy of powerful waves before they hit our shores and, in turn, coastline settlements would be uninhabitable. These populations would then be forced to move inland, putting further pressure on our planet’s already over-stretched resources… you can see how a domino effect would ensue.

Recently there’s been a lot of talk about the dredging which threatens The Great Barrier Reef. The Australian Government is allowing tens of millions of tonnes of seabed to be dredged in World Heritage waters, to make way for 4 mega ports, serviced by up to 7,000 industrial ships crossing the Reef every year. I’ve always wanted to dive The Great Barrier Reef but soon there may not be anything to see. If you think this as upsetting as I do, please sign this petition.

Another thing explained in the exhibition is Microplastics, which have been a hot topic within the environmental debate over the past couple of years. Microplastics formed from the break up of larger plastics is one thing, but we’re increasingly using primary microplastics which are purposefully created on a microscopic size. In the cosmetic industry some companies have replaced natural exfoliating ingredients with microplastics, usually in the form of “microbeads” or “micro-exfoliates.” Facewashes and toothpastes often contain these microbeads which make their way into the water systems, to the seas, and are then digested by sea creatures. This poses a threat to fish, the human beings whose diet is dependent on fish, and therefore, the entire food chain. Scientists are currently uncertain of the effects microplastics could cause… but it’s not looking good.

As a surfer, one of the most important environmental battles for me is the protection of the world’s oceans. Already we are seeing that pollution is making some surf breaks inaccessible and dangerous, such as in the case of Uluwatu in Bali.

At this rate, the reality that I may not be able to surf without fear of catching a water-bourne disease is not far on the horizon…

In fact, I read a BBC article today which made me squirm a little. Scientists are launching an investigation into antibiotic-resistant bacteria, known as “superbugs”, by gathering data from surfers’ rectums. Surfers are being asked to volunteer to provide rectal swabs to help scientists to find out the effects of marine pollution on human health. Maybe I should offer my services… 😛

There are plenty of ways to help the fight for healthy oceans if you want to get involved; I am a member of Surfer’s Against Sewage and my mum is a member of the Marine Conservation Society. Both of which hold regular beach cleans, which are a fun way to make a difference and a great way to meet new, like-minded people.

Still, the ocean is there to enjoy, and it’s going to take some seriously slimy seas to stop me from getting out there in the waves. So, in celebration of our wonderful oceans, here are some of my favourite seaside photos…

BUCS student surf competition

BUCS Student Surf Competition in Newquay ’13

 

Broken surfboard

She’s a cruel mistress…

 

surfing Ilfracombe

The sun setting over Woolacombe

 

surf couple

I love to be by the seaside with this goon…

 

At the end of the day, oceans are the life-blood of the planet. They must be treated with the respect they deserve.