Counting on … day 26

9th December 2021

Pens can be recycled at Ryman stores who participate in the Terra Cycle scheme. This includes all writing instruments (except for wooden pencils and chalk) are accepted : Any brand of pen, felt tip, highlighter, marker, correction fluid pot, correction tape, mechanical pencil and eraser pen regardless of their composition.

Counting On … day 22

Reduce reuse and recycle are the three “R”s for the well being of the environment. In the run up to Christmas use the three “R”s as often as possible. Take wrapping paper, for example:-

Reduce = buy less: it is easy to think I’ll just buy an extra roll in case we run out, only  to find three half  used rolls from last year.

Reuse = make a habit of keeping wrapping paper after unwrapping your gifts. Flatten and fold it neatly ready to be reused. You can ease the future re usability of paper by using string or ribbon or elastic bands rather than sticky tape. You can also reuse things like paper bags or sheets of newspaper as wrapping – the Guardian’s middle page is often a full spread picture which can make an ideal gift wrapper.

Recycle = when the paper is beyond reusability, recycle it. NB plastic coated paper cannot be recycled – if after scrunching the paper it springs back, it most likely has plastic in it.

Counting on … day 19

2nd December 2021

Updating an earlier Count Down action, more supermarkets are now collecting soft plastics for recycling. Soft plastics are best described as  scrunchable plastics – plastics you can scrunch up without them cracking or shattering – such as plastic pouches for coffee beans, wrappers from packets of biscuits, the film from the top of a plastic tray, crisp packets, and plastic bags for rice and pasta. Most Coop stores collect soft plastics including those in Putney and Twickenham.; and some Tesco stores including Tesco Metro in Richmond. A trial is being operated by some Waitrose stores but not as yet here in London.

NB compostable packing even if it looks and feels like plastic can’t be recycled as plastic. Instead it should go in your compost bin or food waste bin.

Green Tau: issue 24

E-waste 

29th November 2021

Material Focus estimates that as a result of Black Friday and Cyber Monday 5 million electrical items will either be thrown away or will simply be hoarded unused in a drawer or at the back of the cupboard.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/26/e-waste-black-friday-uk-shoppers-donated-recycled-material-focus-campaign

What makes us so wasteful? 

Is it the power of advertising? Is it the ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’? Can we not create an alternative fashion message that says sustainability is best, that longevity is beautiful, that minimalism is key?

Is it the lure of cheap bargains? 

But perhaps they’re only cheap for those who buy now, with purchasers during the rest of the year making up the shortfall via higher prices? Perhaps only cheap when we don’t take into account the cost arising from damage to the environment? Perhaps only cheap because large numbers of the workforce have received pitifully low wages?

Is it the built in obsolescence of the items we buy? Phones whose batteries die after a few years? Software that can’t be updated? Things that cannot be repaired?

All this electrical and electronic waste is termed e-waste*, waste that ends up in landfill sites. There it can be a cause of pollution as poisonous chemicals leak out into the soil and water systems. And at the same time, it throws away valuable metals such as gold and silver, platinum, copper and cobalt,  necessitating the mining of such metals in parts of the world where the safety of the workers and the environment receive little attention. (Maybe in years to come we shall be excavating land fill sites to recover valuable re sources.)

Globally the UK is one of the biggest producers of e-waste, second only to

Norway. Each of us on average generates some 23kg of e-waste whilst the European average is just 16kg. We might think e-waste is dominated by  last year’s iPhone but surprisingly it is items like kettles and irons that contribute most. Perhaps these are items are not designed to have a long life, or maybe because they’re are relatively cheap we don’t bother repairing them. 

How can we reduce e-waste?

  1. We can continue to use the items we already rather than being swayed into upgrading to the next model.
  2. We can seek to repair items when they break. We can find a professional repairer to do this or we can carry out our own repair (but don’t fiddle with the electrical wires and connections etc unless you are qualified: in correctly wired appliances can kill). The Restart project based in London has both a directory of repairers –https://therestartproject.org/repairdirectory/ – and offers Repair Parties where people can be guided to carry out simple repairs – https://therestartproject.org/
  3. We can also make sure that we maintain what we own: descaling kettles and irons, cleaning touch screens, removing fluff from washing machines etc.
  4. If we have items that work but which we no longer need, we can pass them on to someone who will use them, either through free cycle web sites, eBay, or by donating them to charities. This particularly applies to smart phones, tablets, laptops plus cables and chargers. Again Restart can direct you accordingly – https://therestartproject.org/where-to-donate-your-computer/
  5. When items become un-useable they should not go into landfill but be recycled. This is becoming increasingly easy –  https://www.recycleyourelectricals.org.uk/electrical-recycling-near-me/ Here in the Borough of Richmond, small electrical items can be recycled at local libraries whilst bigger items can be taken to the Townmead Recycling Centre.  Electrical items large and small can also be recycled at Curry’s PC World store in Twickenham. 
  6. We can campaign, asking manufacturers to produce items that are durable and repairable – check out this web site – https://10yearphone.com/
  7. We can also continue to press the government to legislate for a circular economy. This YouTube clip shows that progress is being made – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90k2Tk-BUIA

*(I feel there should be another e-waste descriptor for electronic junk mail, all those unwanted adverts, the photos we store in the cloud and never look at, films and books we download but don’t watch or read, the unnecessary emails we send – especially those long chains of emails that don’t need to re-forward the previous messages, or the send-all emails when only a few people need the message! These all have their own – albeit small – carbon footprint). 

0.3g CO2e: A spam email
4g CO2e: A proper email
50g CO2e: An email with long and tiresome attachment

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200305-why-your-internet-habits-are-not-as-clean-as-you-think

Counting On …. Day 15

28th November 2021

Even though it is late November there are still plenty of autumn leaves around – on the ground if not so many on the trees. And what amazing shapes and colours there are!

Why not collect some?  And then press them between the  pages of a heavy book to stop them curling up.  Leaves and dried seed pods can be threaded onto embroidery silks to make beautiful and ecological decorations. 

The Green Tau: issue 25

14th November 2021

Governments and world leaders have not take action that matches up to the structures of the scientists. Now it is up to us as the people. We are not insignificant. We have money to spend – albeit not as much as governments and the top “5 percenters” – and we have voices with which to speak out. 

Consumer power saved dolphins from tuna nets, saved puffins by ending the use of sand eel oil in biscuits, saved veal calves and hens from cages, saved whales by ending the use of whale oil in cosmetics, saved minks from becoming fur coats …  Consumer power has swung behind campaigns to wear seat belts, to give up smoking, to end drink driving. Now consumer power is seeing the end of single use plastic straws and plastic bags. Consumer power is feeding the growth of organic and vegan foods, and the popularity of vintage clothing. Consumer power is even increasing the number of cycles on the roads.  

We can continue to use our money strategically to shape the world we want to live in. We can band together for greater effect. We can boycott products and service – even entire lifestyles – than damage our future. 

We can be influencers and game changers. We can set the example, we can be there trail blazers. We can show others – individuals like ourselves, small businesses and big businesses, schools, civic groups and faith centres, local councils and governments – that this is the way we want to live. 

We can write letters and petition. We can make posters and banners. We can write articles, we can blog and vlog. We can hold coffee mornings and parties. We can sing and we can be theatrical. We can inform and enthuse. We can demonstrate. We can speak out and we can speak up.

We can also be game changers by not spending money! Not everything we do, not everything we enjoy has to cost money. And things that are free seldom have a carbon footprint! A walk in the park. A chat with a friend. A wave to a neighbour. Giving presence not presents. Sharing and lending. Swopping and exchanging. Upcycling and cycling. Swishing and re fashioning. Repairing and recycling. So telling and singing. DIY and home baking. Growing and preserving. 

We may feel that as one individual we can’t make a difference. We may be unsure what is the best action we can take. We may fear that we might fall under the bewitchment of green wash. We may fear that our best intentions may prove to be unwittingly destructive. We may be overwhelmed by choices before us, the flood of information that is out there, that we don’t even know where to start. 

That is why we need to come together, to find like minded companions. To learn from one another, to encourage and support each other. To know that together we can make positive change a reality. 

Next week’s Eco Tips will list some of the many organisations and groups that can help you find answers and/ or provide a framework for eco living. 

Eco Tips

Green Money

How we use, spend or save our money, makes a difference.

  • Protect peat bogs: don’t buy composts that contain peat, instead buy peat-free varieties or make your own.
  • Buy bee friendly (and insect/ butterfly friendly) seeds and flowers to promote local biodiversity.
  • If you have space, buy and plant fruit bushes/ trees and enjoy fresh fruit. 
  • Even if you only have a windowsill buy seeds so that you can grow your own herbs and salads.
  • Use local shops and local suppliers so that your money supports jobs for local people and the local economy.
  • Buy locally produced food so as to reduce supply lines and their associated carbon footprint. Avoid foods bought in by air freight.
  • Buy organic food to prevent more soils and waterways from being polluted by nitrates and pesticides.
  • Buy organic foods to prevent insects, birds and small mammals being poisoned by pesticides.
  • Buy organic foods to prevent wild plants being killed off by herbicides.
  • Buy plant-based foods from sustainable sources in preference to meat and dairy products which have a larger carbon footprint.
  • Avoid products that come with excess packaging – even if it is recyclable, the whole process is unnecessarily using up time and resources!
  • Swop/ buy second hand items to cut back on waste and conserve scarce resources. 
  • Maintain and/ or repair things to make them last longer or find a professional to do this for you. NB Anything electrical should only be mended by a professional; ditto boilers etc. 
  • Buy gas and/or electricity from a green supplier and support the transfer to renewable energy.
  • Buy a cycle and good wet weather clothes and be an active traveller. Fewer cars on the roads reduces CO2 levels and air pollution and creates quieter, less congested neighbourhoods.
  • Where you go by rail rather than air, buy a train ticket. Where you can go by bus rather than drive, buy a bus ticket. Opt for the greenest travel option.
  • Avoid companies that don’t pay a living wage to their employees, who don’t pay their taxes, and offer minimal support for a greener world. Instead spend your money supporting  companies that treat people and the environment with respect.
  • Do buy wonky and misshapen fruit and vegetables and limit what goes to waste.
  • Do buy insulation for your home, thermal linings for your curtains, and low energy light bulbs.
  • Do consider a heat pump over a boiler. The former is more energy efficient and has a much smaller carbon footprint.
  • Don’t buy food you won’t eat, clothes your won’t wear or appliances that just take up space.
  • Don’t buy new when a good second hand option is available. 
  • Don’t use banks/ insurers/ pension fund providers that invest funds in the fossil fuel industries.
  • Do seek out companies that actively invest to support a green economy.
  • Do support wild life funds, re-wilding and habitat conservation projects. 
  • Do enjoy the outdoors and green spaces – often access is free!

Eco Tips

Stewardship of Things

‘A dog is for life, not just Christmas.’ A message created 40 years ago by the Dogs Trust and still valid today. The Trust encourages people to think carefully before buying a puppy, to thoroughly research the implications of being a dog owner, understanding the needs and demands a dog will make and assessing whether these are compatible with the family’s own lifestyle. And remembering that ability to,love and care for the dog needs to be there for the whole of its life span. 

Each year scientists calculate how much resources are being used globally and the rate at which those resources are being renewed. Are we using more resources than the planet can sustain or less? In 1987 the first recorded Earth Overshoot Day was 23rd October. This year it was 29th July. We are consuming way more resources than the earth can sustain. In such a world we need to give the same consideration when we buy and use things, as we do when we buy a new pet.

  • Only buy what you need and want. Do feel forced into buying something you won’t feel happy with.
  • Consider the life of the thing: will you use it to its full life span? If not, can you see an obvious way in which you could pass it on so that it can continue to be used? Books can readily be passed on to another reader, children’s clothes to another family.
  • Be willing to buy second hand/ pre-loved items.
  • Be willing to rent, borrow or share things. 
  • Research before you buy. Is the item ethically produced? Is it durable? Is it easy to repair? What is its carbon footprint?can it be recycled when its life ends?
  • A well designed item may cost more: can you be a patron of good design and workmanship?
  • An item made with long lasting materials may cost more, but balanced out over its life time, it may be more economic too.
  • Extend the life of what you buy by ensuring you use it properly and keep it well maintained. Eg keep shoes clean and well polished. Regularly clean and service cycles. Don’t over wash woollen goods.
  • Repair things that break. Some things you will be able to repair yourself. Others may need to help of an expert. There is growing trend for repair cafes where even fiddly electronic items can be mended. 
  • Think about the end life of what you are buying. Can you recycle it once its life has come to an end? If not is there something else that is recyclable that you could buy instead?
  • Is what you are buying made for a sustainable or recycled material?
  • Single purpose items may be ideal, but might you get more value from something that serves  a multiple of purposes?
  • Can we repurpose things when their initial use has come to an end?
  • Do all gifts need to be things? Could you gift experiences or services instead? Do we always need to give things to show our love or thanks?