So I know this blog is meant to be all about living life plastic-free, however I want to take a small detour into my recent experience with anaphylaxis: an allergic reaction to bee stings.
Now you might find this quite strange, however one of my inspirations to start living without waste was from studying and working with honey bees. I was in awe at how they could build whole colonies out of natural substances, and when they swarm away, the remnants of their old home swiftly decays, leaving no waste. What’s more, all of their products (such as honey and beeswax) are incredibly useful to other animals, including humans, and so whatever is produced by bees can be reused.
Perhaps I shall write more about my bee influence in another post, but today I shall focus on anaphylaxis, as on August 1st 2016, I was stung by one of the workers from my hive, and the experience was pretty awful. Here I just want to record the day’s events, and then give some safety suggestions, not only to those working with bees, but also for those that are outside in the sun, where many different pollinators like honey bees may be flying around.
We are over halfway through Plastic-Free July. Think of all the plastic you haven’t used which is not ending up in the oceans! However the fight against waste pollution isn’t over yet, and there are always more things you can do to try and reduce the effects of plastic around the world.
So, what can you do this July to help cut down plastic consumption?
1. Take the Plastic-free July challenge… duh!
Join me and many across the globe who are cutting down their plastic waste for the whole of July. The aim of this challenge is to stop using “one-use plastic” objects, for example: food packaging, water bottles, plastic bags, cellophane wrapping… the list goes on! Instead look for alternatives, or even better, cut out the unnecessary waste completely. Change what you buy, try things you may not have considered before, and see how much waste you can reduce. What’s more, for the plastic waste you do end up using, don’t throw it away! Many people do not realise how much rubbish they produce because they never actually see it- the plastic just gets chucked in the bin. If you keep the waste you produce this month, you can see how much you produce and identify what changes you need to make to reduce it!
July for many is the month of holidays. But in Australia, it is also the environmentally-conscious month of Plastic Free July. Organised by the PFJ group based in Western Australia, the movement encourages people across the country to stop using single-use plastic items for a month, and see how much of their plastic waste they can cut out.
This is an excellent campaign that gets normal people who may not take note of their rubbish to think about the effects that they are having on their environments. Individuals, schools, companies and corporations can sign up and participate, going plastic-free for a day, week, month or even longer if desired! The plastic rubbish you do produce is not thrown away but collected in a “dilemma box”, and at the end of the month can be assessed as to how necessary it was and how it could be avoided. If you need any tips, they have a great toolbox of ideas on their website!
So why should you take part? Because according to their website, all the plastic that has ever been produced in this world is still here, as it doesn’t biodegrade for hundreds of years. Tonnes of plastic is dumped across the world in landfills and oceans, yet governments and manufacturers tend to turn a blind eye, because they don’t want the responsibility of cleaning it up or changing how their products are packaged or made. So we, the public, need to demonstrate that we do not want to have our products covered in plastic, and that we shall not support businesses or corporations that are not actively making their products greener and packaging-free. By joining the hundreds of other people who participating in Plastic Free July, you can not only reduce your plastic impact on the environment, educate others about the problem, encourage others to join in with you, and make a stand for a plastic-free world.
To register for Plastic Free July, go to their website: http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/register.html
And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook for plastic-reducing tips throughout the month! https://www.facebook.com/nowastebee
This weekend I went home to visit my parents in England, and found myself watching “Kevin McCloud’s Escape to the Wild” on Channel 4 (good old English TV!). This week focused on a family that had moved to Tonga. The family, consisting of Boris and Karyn and their three children moved the South Pacific island in 2007 with five suitcases, where they camped for about a year in the forest whilst they built a log cabin to live in.
.Now they have a beautiful house built entirely from natural resources from the island, along with imported cement. It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a large living area with a sea view. The family aim to live entirely sustainably: they get electricity and warmth from solar panels and a wind turbine, and running clean water from collecting rain water in big tanks. They even have a bunker at the back of the house for protection from hurricanes and tsunamis.
At the beginning of this year, shockwaves spread across the public with the news that by 2050, there would be more plastic than fish in the oceans. To someone like me who is very conscious about the waste I am producing, this was hardly surprising, though still incredibly depressing. However what was more unexpected was how everyone else reacted to it, amazed that there was even a plastic problem in the first place. Not enough people are aware of the fact that we are drowning in plastic, and choose to ignore the signs, such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, that have shown us for years we are choking the oceans. And if the oceans are ruined, that means huge swathes of ecosystems will be destroyed,containing all of our fish and seafood, essential energy producers in food chains, and kelps and seagrasses that act as natural erosion barriers, to name a few.
So are we as a species doomed because of this unhealthy plastic addiction? Or are we able to change our ways, and find some way to clean up our beautiful seas?
The Seabin Project aims to do exactly that. Founded by Andrew Turton and Peter Ceglinski, the Seabin Project produces rubbish bins that can be hung in the water and suck in any plastic, paper, oils, detergents and other general debris in the surrounding ocean. They use an electric pump which attracts all of the rubbish, and filter it out, returning the clean water to the sea. Even when the bags are full, they can still attract rubbish, drawing it in to float around the Seabin.
There is no better way to be inspired to go waste-free than by meeting the people who have done it already. This week I got to interview Susan Roßner, an employee at the University of Konstanz who also runs the website monomeer, an online shop that focuses on selling plastic-free and reduced packaging products. She has lived a plastic-free life herself for years, and with her website is educating and inspiring many others around Germany and beyond to do the same!
Below are the questions I asked about her plastic-free life and business:
First of all, apologies for the long break! I’ve been on holiday and caught up with moving house and dealing with work etc. But now I am back and hitting the ground running!
So on the recommendation of a friend, I read This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein, a Canadian author and environmental activist. After reading the excellent but rather dated book Biomimicry by Janine Benyus last year, I was looking forward to reading something that followed on from this, explaining the various ways being implored to tackle climate change, usually those which relied on science and engineering, and telling us that everything will probably be ok in the end as long as we start acting in the next decade or so.
However Klein’s story offered a much starker truth. The earth is dying because of our reckless, deluded lifestyles, and we have no more than a year to change radically the attitudes and actions of the entire world. And this isn’t because not enough people aren’t turning off their light switches or are driving to work, but the problem resides at a much greater scale, in particular, western governments. Now I have never really been into politics, but This Changes Everything opened up the world of governments based on neoliberal capitalism and how they are devastating this planet to a point of no return, due to arrogance and purposeful ignorance of the fact that climate change exists, and it is their responsibility to do something about it.
Last week I got to meet Susan Rößner, a woman who has been living plastic-free for several years, and who manages the wonderful website “Monomeer”, an online business that sells loads of daily essentials in plastic-free packaging (an interview will appear later on I hope!). As we discussed over a coffee at the university café how she started on her journey to a waste-free lifestyle, she said something that really caught my attention. Looking through the windows of the shop, she lamented at how, even though most of the people around us have a fairly high IQ (being at university and all), they are still making the foolish, uninformed choice to pick up plastic coffee cups, plastic lids and plastic spoons, gulping down their chai lattes in five minutes and then tossing it all in the bin.
This week, I caved. I bought butter and cheese and oranges, all wrapped in plastic. And my excuse was pretty poor: I was tired from work, a little hungover and I just didn’t have the energy to go to farmers’ markets that morning. And yes, I feel terrible, I feel guilty whenever I open my fridge, I feel weak for giving in.
But that doesn’t mean I am giving up. We all have our moments when we fail or when we lose sight of our goals. However these are the critical moments when we have to get back up again and get back on track to what we want to achieve, no matter how far away it seems. The reason that I am writing this post is to show people that everyone falls, everyone fails, everyone has that moment. And that is ok, as long as you don’t give up, otherwise everything else you have already achieved would have been for nothing.
Living waste-free is not just a fad or a trend that will come and go, it is a lifestyle that you have to embrace fully. Of course it is difficult, but I was brought up understanding that if something is too easy to achieve, you are not aiming high enough. I enjoy trying to produce zero waste, not only because I know it is so much healthier for our planet that is already strained under us, but because it is also a challenge. It is a physical challenge to find food and products you can use, and a mental challenge that forces you to come up with innovative solutions to everyday life issues. It gets people talking about important global problems that we need to start tackling right now, and it encourages the massive-scale change that is required to make the planet and people greener and healthier. And it is for these reasons that I don’t give up.
So this is going to be a very short post about one of the most essential pieces of equipment for a waste-free life: mason jars.
I first came across using mason jars from Lauren Singer, the woman who created Trash is for Tossers and has been living a zero waste lifestyle for the past two years. At first I thought, “oh that’s quirky and kinda cool”, but not much more than that. It was just another one of those trends which everyone was jumping on along with serving cocktails in jam jars and using biscuit jars for lampshades… It was only when I started using them that I realised how incredibly versatile they are! I now use them for almost everything, from storing all sorts of food (cooked meals and leftovers, dried beans or rice, flour and sugar), to keeping body lotions and toothpastes in to carrying them to work every day with my lunch in.