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Let's Go Green!

Read on for top tips from Jodi Coffman, eco warrier and student.

I am an 18 year old student studying geography at Oxford university. I am part of the NNLS Green Team and write for their green blog. My concern for climate change has led me to become extremely passionate about sustainability and the environment. I enjoy raising awareness of environmental issues and encouraging communities to become more environmentally friendly.

THE NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF COVID ON THE ENVIRONMENT

Most people are aware of some of the benefits that coronavirus has had on the environment but this can be very misleading and distract from the negative impacts that the pandemic has had on the planet.

Firstly, there has been a huge increase in the amount of waste generated. This includes the billions of disposable masks, plastic gloves and PPE that cannot be recycled. Many supermarkets also restricted customers giving their plastic bags back to be recycled so far more plastic bags have been thrown away. Many people have also switched to online shopping as opposed to shopping in local shops who are more likely to sell food without unnecessary packaging. This has a cumulative effect on the amount of waste produced and ends up polluting both land and water and ultimately can cause huge damage to wildlife and ecosystems. It also contributes to global warming as greenhouse gases are released in the burning of all the plastic waste.

One initial positive of lockdown was that there was a decrease in carbon dioxide released from road vehicles. However, as lockdown has eased, people have rapidly gone back to driving but can no longer carshare and are less likely to use public transport. As the weather becomes colder and walking/cycling becomes less convenient, the use of cars will increase even further. However hopefully the decrease in air travel will offset this.

There had also been an increase in illegal logging  and poaching as a result of lockdown. Community rangers and security workers stayed at home, and eco-tourism was halted so poachers were able to easily get away with illegal practices. For example, deforestation in Brazil rose 30% compared to last year and fish stocks in Indonesia are now threatened due to illegal fishing.

The inevitable global recession as a result of the pandemic has meant that governments aren’t prioritising the environment. However, there is hope of a ‘green’ recovery with a focus on supporting low-carbon businesses and aiming for net zero emissions. The aim is to not go back to life before coronavirus, and instead encourage businesses and communities to become more sustainable.

Many key environmental conferences were also postponed such as COP26 which has stalled the collaboration between governments who need to make crucial decisions and laws to prevent even further levels of global warming. Unfortunately the focus on the environment has been lost during the pandemic and it is crucial that momentum is regained over the coming months.

However, there are things we can all do to reduce these negative impacts. For example, making sure to use reusable masks instead of disposable ones and recycling any waste that you can. Instead of relying on driving more, consider getting a secondhand bike or walking to places that are nearby. Although there is a lack of focus on the environment from global governments, we can keep up momentum within our own communities. We can continue educating each other, and sharing resources in order to reduce our own environmental impact and hope that continual pressure on local and National government will lead to more action from governments. 

Where to go to educate yourself on Climate Change, going meat free and reducing plastics

Climate Change

BOOKS:

  • Six degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet (Mark Lynas)- this book summarises the potential impacts on the planet if global warming reaches 2 degrees, 3 degrees and so on
  • This Changes Everything (Naomi Klein) - this book explores the idea that the climate crisis can only be addressed through a fundamental shift away from neo-liberalism and gives suggestions of pragmatic solutions to climate change
  • The Uninhabitable Earth (David Wallace-Wells)- this gives a brutal portrayal of the impact of climate change on our future lives and discusses the tools we already have to avoid these catastrophic events
  • No one is too Small to Make a Difference (Greta Thunberg) - this is a collection of eleven speeches written by climate activist Greta Thunberg that she has presented at high-profile conferences and events

TV/FILM:

  • Seven Worlds, One Planet (available on amazon Prime and BBC iplayer)-David Attenbourgh explores the greatest wildlife across the seven continents whilst highlighting the threat that they face as a result of climate change
  • An Inconvenient Truth (available on Amazon prime, Google Play and Youtube)-this is a documentary hosted by Al Gore which explains the impact humans have had on the planet and what we urgently need to do to save it
  • The Day after Tomorrow (available on Amazon prime, Google Play and Youtube)- this is a fictional film depicting the catastrophic climatic events that occur as a result of climate change; despite being fiction, it is based on potential future scenarios

Plastic waste/recycling

BOOKS:

  • Turning the tide on plastic (Lucy Siegle) - as well as highlighting the true threat of plastic, this book is an effective guide to changing our lifestyles to eliminate single-use plastics
  • How to give up plastic:a guide to changing the world one plastic bottle at a time (Will McCallum) - this book is packed with scientific research and advice about why we should be reducing our plastic use, and also gives success stories from local communities who have worked together to become waste-free
  • Zero Waste Home (Bea Johnson) -this is a guide to simple steps people can take within their own homes to eliminate waste almost completely
  • Save the World:there is no Planet B (Louise Bradford) - another guide with simple steps we can all take to become more eco-friendly that will have a huge positive effect on the planet
  • My Zero-Waste Kitchen (DK) - this book is a guide to using all the food in your kitchen whether it’s past its sell by date, the rinds of fruit or even potato peelings

TV/FILM:

  • War on Plastic (BBC) - this series explores where the plastic problem comes from and what we can do to solve it, including holding large companies accountable
  • Drowning in Plastic (BBC) - this documentary shows the impact of waste on ocean wildlife and delves into cutting edge plastic research
  • The True Cost (Netflix) - fast fashion is damaging the planet at an alarming rate and this documentary explores these environmental and ethical issues

PODCASTS:

  • The Zero Waste Countdown Podcast (Spotify) - this podcast looks at a variety of ways we can reduce our waste such as compostable cutlery, the future of bioengineering,and more eco-friendly cosmetics

 

Cutting out meat

BOOKS:

  • Eat for the planet (Nil Zacharias & Gene Stone) - this book shares research and compelling arguments as to why eating more plant-based meals can have such a positive impact on the planet
  • Food is the solution: What to Eat to Save the World (Matthew Prescott) -  this cookbook is an amazing way to get people to eat more plants given the enormous toll that the meat and dairy industries have on the planet

TV/FILM:

  • Cowspiracy (Netflix)- this documentary explores the impact of the meat industry on the planet, and looks at the environmental policies of different organisations
  • Okja (Netflix) - this is a fictional film about a young girl’s relationship with a pig, but it depicts the horrors of intensive farming and poor treatment of animals by the meat industry  

Think Before you Eat

When most people think of tackling climate change, they immediately think of emissions from planes and cars, or big energy companies. However, there is a lot we can do as individuals and as a community to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions and use resources more sustainably. One way of doing this is to be more conscious about the food products we consume. By making certain choices, we can reduce emissions and decrease the environmental damage that certain food production causes.

Although there is no formal definition for ‘locallly grown food’, buying food that is grown in your local area rather than from across the world is incredibly important. Foods that we have every day such as carrots travel 9000 km to get to British supermarkets which means a huge amount of carbon dioxide is released in transport. Large scale farming businesses also use chemicals and fertilisers to increase yield but this is damaging to local ecosystems, food chains and rivers which can be completely starved of oxygen if fertilisers run into the water. Not only that, but farms in developing countries often exploit their workers, forcing them to work 15 hour days in excruciating heat for very low pay.

Buying local produce such as from farmers markets guarantees that there is less carbon dioxide released from transport. Smaller scale local farmers are also less likely to use damaging chemicals and have to meet much more stringent ethical, and health and safety standards set by the government.

There are many farmers markets in London including in West Hampstead, Parliament Hill, Primrose Hill and Alexandra Park and are mostly open on Sundays so try to buy fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables here rather than supermarkets. However, all produce in supermarkets is required to say where it was grown so have a look on the packaging to see if there are some locally grown options and they often won’t be anymore expensive.

As well as buying locally, buying food that is certified organic will guarantee restricted chemical and fertiliser use, no unhealthy additives, no ionising radiation used and is better for local ecosystems and wildlife. Not only that, but organic food is actually healthier as it has higher levels of key vitamins and minerals. Organic foods can be found in most chain supermarkets and can be identified by this logo.

Another good label to look out for is Fairtrade. This guarantees that farmers in poor countries are paid a fair price for the goods they produce instead of worrying about low and fluctuating prices across the year. Farmers are also given support and advice to help them expand their businesses and be more productive. Some of the money is also added to communal funds for local farmers and communities to spend on development projects such as training or clean water wells to improve their quality of life.

Although it can feel overwhelming looking out for all these labels, much of the food we buy may already fit these categories. Every product consumed doesn’t have to be organic or locally grown, but try to make small steps towards more sustainable food shopping (such as starting with fruit and vegetables)as it makes such a difference especially over a long period of time.

The Truth about Recycling

Many people look to recycling as a solution to reducing the 2.12 million tonnes of waste that go to landfill each year. But the truth is, recycling isn’t as good as people think.

Many businesses choose to make their packaging recycling because it’s much cheaper than making it reusable and they certainly don’t want you to reduce how much you buy from them. Studies have shown that by branding packaging as recyclable, consumers tend to buy more of it because they think its environmental impact is negligible. A huge amount of waste that is supposed to be recycled ends up shipped to countries such as India to be recycled there. The problem is that these countries don’t know what to do with this waste and end up dumping it on landfill instead of recycling it. So we’ve actually made the problem worse than before since not only is waste dumped on landfill; but also there is an increase in the amount of waste as people consume more as they feel less guilty when the item is branded as ‘recyclable’. We also need to consider the large amounts of energy needed to process recycled items which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Another problem is contaminating recyclables with incorrect items that can’t be recycled. They clog machines and slow production lines down and cause an entire bale of items to end up in landfill-even if there is only one rogue item. This includes recyclable bottles with non-recyclable plastic labels left on; or bits of paper with sticky tape; or anything recyclable which has touched food. Furthermore, most recycled items end up down cycled into products only suitable for a handful of uses that then can’t be recycled a second time.

The best things you can do:

  • Prioritise reducing consumption or reusing what you already have.
  • Focus on zero-waste such as reusable coffee cups, beeswax wraps instead of cling-film etc.
  • Check packaging carefully to see whether it can be recycled or not.
  • Don’t contaminate your recycling. If it is covered in food waste, it can only be recycled if you clean it first.
  • Educate yourself on what items are recyclable as many people presume paper is recyclable and plastic isn’t which is often not the case. For example, paper coffee cups often have a plastic coating inside which means they aren’t recyclable whereas plastic milk bottles are recyclable.

Toothbrush collection

The Green Team are very excited to announce the arrival of our TOOTHBRUSH COLLECTION box. Almost anything to do with oral care can be put in the big red box in the cloakroom, including – any brand of toothpaste tube, lid and outer carton, any brand of toothbrush and the outer packaging (plastic and cardboard), and any brand of electric and battery toothbrush head.

A reminder from the Green Team that you can bring your empty crisp packets to our collection box in the cloakroom. Any brand of crisp is welcome, as well as the outer bag from multi-packs – but no popcorn, pretzel, cracker or packaging from any other snack food (even though it may seem to you that it’s made from the same material!) And please make sure the bags are completely empty of crisp crumbs.

Tell your family and friends about these collections, the sooner the boxes are full the sooner we can send them off to TERRACYCLE to be made into benches, picnic tables, watering cans and other outdoor equipment which can then make its way back to the NNLS garden.

The Jewish Chronicle gave FOUR PAGES to covering Green Shabbat, including young NNLS member Jodi Coffman's perspective on the climate crisis and a piece by one of Eco Synagogue's founders (and NNLS member), Dr Laura Miller.

Top Tips

  1. Stop buying bottled water and instead buy a reusable water/coffee cup.(some places even give you money off your coffee!)

  2. Repurpose glass jars in the kitchen such as making pen pots, make-up brush holders or using them to drink from.

  3. Don’t run the tap when brushing your teeth and invest in bamboo toothbrushes which can be found on Amazon for under £10 and lasts just as long as a conventional plastic toothbrush.

  4. Make your gifting more sustainable by reusing gift bags/boxes for future use and consider giving people experiences rather than material gifts which often end up unused in a cupboard.

  5. Make your technology use more sustainable by recycling electronics or donating them to schools/other institutions.

  6. Instead of buying books, consider borrowing from your library or reading on a kindle/online. There are also online newspaper publications.

  7. Stop accepting disposable cutlery. Bring with you reusable cutlery in a plastic bag instead.

  8. Keep a canvas/reusable bag with you at all times-you never know when you’ll need it and it saves using numerous plastic ones especially when you’re grocery shopping.

  9. Consider whether you could try one more meat-free day a week.

  10. Try swapping cow’s milk to soya, almond, coconut or rice milk.

  11. Consider walking or taking public transport where possible to avoid using the car and try to share lifts with people to reduce the number of cars on the road.

  12. Unplug your electronics when you’re not using them. This not only reduces energy use, it will also save you money!

  13. When making a purchase, consider whether you really need it or whether it will sit unused in the back of a cupboard. If possible, buy items second-hand or support fashion brands that are more sustainable such as PACT and thredUP.

  14. Switch to LED lighting/CFL bulbs as they last longer, reducing the need to keep purchasing lights.

  15. Put on an extra layer of clothing instead of turning up the heating. This saves energy and money!

  16. Before switching on your lights open up the blinds and let the natural light in.

  17. Bulk buy things such as coffee in huge bags/jars to minimise packaging.

  18. In the summer, hang wet clothes outside to dry instead of using a powered dryer.

  19. Where possible, hand wash your clothes using soapy water rather than using the washing machine.

  20. Try and limit the number of baths you have and spend as little time in the shower as possible to save water. You can also buy a water-saving shower head and even a shower timer.

  21. Try and grow your own herbs/fruit and veg, even if it’s just a few pots. Or try and go to local farmer’s markets rather than buying imported food that’s travelled thousands of miles.

  22. At night, unplug your electronics and even your wifi box to save electricity.

  23. Check the back of packaging to see whether it can be recycled. Don’t just assume paper is recyclable and plastic isn’t, as a lot of the time this isn’t the case.

  24. Buy food produce at local markets as they have travelled less far and most likely used less energy intensive farming techniques.

  25. Consider travel alternatives. It may be possible to get the train rather than fly.

Sustainable fashion

What is often overlooked, is the damaging effects the fashion industry has on the environment. The fashion industry accounts for 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions which was 1715 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2015. This heavily contributes towards the greenhouse effect and climate change however, the fashion industry is also responsible for the exploitation of water sources. 0.87% of all water consumed comes from the fashion industry, and cotton production as part of agriculture accounts for an astonishing 70% of water consumption. A single pair of jeans can use up to 17,000 litres of water to produce!

On top of this, every time clothes containing polyester or nylon are washed, tiny microfibers are shed which make their way up the food chain and are often consumed by marine animals such as fish. This can be catastrophic, significantly stunting growth and breaking down their digestive system.

Despite all this, the Western world continues to be a heavily consumer-led society with people buying more and more clothes which are worn so few times and washed far too often. 300,000 tonnes of clothes are binned annually of which 60% are sent to landfill, often in developing countries like India who get stuck with the UK’s polluting waste.

Of course the main way to reduce this would be to buy fewer clothes and I heavily encourage you to consider whether the clothes you buy are really necessary. However, if you are going to buy clothes, I would suggest buying from charity shops and making sure to pass your old clothes on instead of binning them.

There are also some sustainable fashion brands who not only seek to try to reduce the environmental effects of their clothes, but also make sure their clothes are made in ethical conditions with well-paid workers in safe conditions. Here are some good brands to consider next time you’re buying clothes: ‘mokeegenes’,’People Tree’,’Everlane’,’armedangels’,’patagonia’,’nudie jeans’ and ‘mud jeans’.

How to Reduce Plastic Waste

Every single day, 3.5 million tonnes of plastic and waste are generated in the world which is an astonishing amount. Not only does this threaten wildlife and deplete crucial resources, it is also entirely unnecessary. In honour of plastic-free July here are my top tips for living a more waste-free life. These are all surprisingly easy so I encourage you to try and adopt at least some of these ideas and start to form new waste-free habits:

1. Buy a reusable water bottle/bring your own coffee cup

For less than £10 you can buy a water bottle to refill rather than constantly buying and throwing away plastic bottles. Not only does this reduce waste, it will also save you money. Chilly's bottles are my favourite brand. A little more expensive but the bottles keep drinks cold or hot for 24 hours. Many coffee shops now charge an additional amount for their paper cups. Bringing your own cup saves money as well as waste.

2. Always keep a spare bag with you

Over the last couple of years, supermarkets have started charging for plastic bags which has been effective in reducing plastic use. Most people do try to take their own bags when they go shopping however I implore you to keep a spare bag in your pocket so you are never caught out. These foldable bags are great as they take up no room at all so there is no excuse!

3. Buy plastic free fruit and veg

If you can, buy from local markets/health stores which often don’t sell fresh fruit/veg in unnecessary plastic. However, larger supermarkets now have a wide choice of non-packaged fruit/veg and offer paper rather than plastic bags.

4. Stop buying clingfilm!

Invest in reusable beeswax food coverings which are long-lasting and work just as well as clingfilm does-without the waste! For a cheaper alternative you can buy reusable plastic coverings such as ‘Plastic Mate’ from most supermarkets.

5. Bulk buy

Items such as coffee, rice and pasta can be bought in large bags so if you are unable to visit stores which allow you to bring your own containers, this is a good alternative as you significantly cut down your plastic waste. Also consider what you can do to reuse this packaging such as by turning it into pencil pots, makeup brush pots and flower pots. You can also use old jars to store leftover food.

6. Bring your own containers/cutlery for lunch

Instead of taking the free plastic cutlery, invest in a reusable set such as this one. An increasing number of cafés/stalls will also let you bring your own reusable container instead of using their plastic containers.

7. Reduce food waste

There is plenty you can do to reduce food waste including freezing leftovers, making leftovers into soups/stews/sauces, feeding it to your pets or composting.

8. Use bar shampoo and soap

These can be bought in most supermarkets and last for months so are economical as well as environmentally friendly.

Sat, 28 November 2020 12 Kislev 5781