How far would you go to save our planet?

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Is violence justified in saving our planet? How far would you go or would allow someone else to go to protect our environment?

I had just finished watching a documentary titled ‘If a tree falls’. To summarise, this documentary looks at the earth liberation front, an environmental organisation that moved from more passive and non violent protest towards an approach of more direct and violent action. This doco follows a few of the former members of the ELF (earth liberation front) whilst they are being sentenced under what was eventually defined as eco-terroism. The ELF became involved in the destruction through arson of several business’s and organisations that they felt were damaging the environment , for example companies that were involved in logging of old growth forests. Now the documentary itself was good (however i have seen better) and it got me thinking if we can justify these acts of sabotage which caused millions of dollars worth of damage to these businesses which may or may not be acting legally. Can individuals or organisations take it upon themselves to engage in illegal activities for the sake of environmental conservation and which inevitably brings these issues to the forefront of the media and potentially politics. If you agree with these actions, do you have any limitations or rules that you feel need to be respected? I also feel i need to make it clear that no person was harmed during these acts of so called eco-terroism, and the damage was done to property.

For me there are two issues that are different and therefore require a slightly different answer:
If the organisation which was attacked was engaging in illegal activity such as illegal dumping of waste, or poaching of animals i feel that acts of sabotage against these groups (without harming anyone) would be justified. Unfortunately other way to deal with it i.e legally can take significant time, and have been known to impose minimal penalties to organisations that have done irreversible damage to the environment. For me thats a no brainer- the organisation deserves what it gets.

However the other issue is if an organisation are acting within the law, yet are having a negative impact on wild life, is it justifiable to engage in sabotage, direct action, eco-terroism, or whatever you like to call it. Unfortunately here i can not make a sweeping statement to agree or disagree. One of the problems is that change takes time, and time is not what a lot of critically endangered species have. While protests go on, and peaceful activism goes on, and don’t get me wrong it is positive, sometimes the change it brings about is far too slow. We are in a period of existence when the rate of species extinction is greater than in any previous point in our history- we are killing more things off in at a faster rate than ever before, and at a faster rate than laws can be made to protect them. It must also be noted that obviously different countries place different value on their eco-system, and may never put protective measures in place to protect their environment… for me it is justifiable if the normal process is not keeping them safe. In my view its a last resort but an effective one, although i also believe that there needs to be boundaries and rules. An example of a rule could be no human casualties, although this may be impossible to ensure with violent acts which then create the grey areas. I would need to feel that i could undertake this action without harming anyone, that the normal legal process or lobbying would not quick enough, and that the species is at immediate risk.

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An example of a group that i admire, and have been effective in their direct action is the Sea Sheperd. This group seek to protect whales and cetaceans through direct actions which involve attempting to sabotage Japanese Whaling ships to make them ineffective, as well as generally getting in their way and hampering their ability to hunt. I agree with what they are doing even though they have been labelled as terroists by some countries. Sea Sheperds efforts have not only saved countless whales lives, the pressure and publicity they applied to their cause has contributed to the international courts ruling that the Japanese ‘research’ hunts were not legal- how many of these majestic creatures would have died whilst waiting for this ruling had Sea Shepard not become involved? Too many.

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I think its important to also remember that just because its the law, it doesn’t make it right. I have a friend who has been involved in Animal Rights Activism, and has at times been involved in activities that result in breaking into farms and freeing caged animals such as chickens. These farmers are not breaking the law by keeping these animals under horrible conditions (the treatment of change animals is a whole other discussion but do some research and you will see), but that doesn’t make it acceptable for an animal to suffer like that. Was his actions justified- in my opinion yes (and hopefully that farmer will move away from caged farming towards free range)

Im currently reading Dian Fosseys book, Gorillas in the mist (which I’m finding fascinating by the way). If you don’t know her, she lived in Rwanda, and the Congo where she lived in the mountains amongst the mountain Gorillas whee she studied them and eventually interacted with them for. She became a passionate advocate for the Gorillas at a time when little was know, and even less was done to protect the national reserve they lived in and there was almost no protection for the Gorillas. Dian undertook her own forms of direct action to protect the mountain gorillas and other animals within her study range. She harassed the poachers and destroyed their traps and camps, she held cattle hostage from grazers, and established unit poacher patrols. She did those things because no one else was doing it. Could she have lobbied the Rwandan government to legally enforce the national park rules? yes she could.. but in the meantime the mountain Gorillas numbers would have likely become further decimated beyond recovery. She took action which i felt was justified.

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What i do not agree with however is using fear of harm to acquire this change. Making threats against someone i ABSOLUTELY do not agree with. Yes there may be fear associated with all acts of violence, but it crosses the line when people fear that they are targeted. Can you protect and engage in potentially violent activism against an activity without people doing the activity living in fear, i hope so and i believe so.

For me the people engage in activism of all sorts are special, and those that engage in direct actions also. They often risk a lot for little personal gain, other than the knowledge that a whale, or gorilla, or an old growth first that is home to millions of species can survive another day. They defend the defenceless.

It must be noted that i support the idea that other avenues be explore prior to any violent direct action and it be used as a last resort after careful consideration, and that not all are appropriate and justifiable in my opinion.

Peace

Peace

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Palm Oil: Its in most things we eat and why we should avoid it.

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So Palm Oil…. some of you may have heard all the issues related to palm oil, and other may not. Lets have a look at whats its all about. Essentially palm oil is a very prized ingredient in loads of products, from chocolates to shampoos. With the demand on the rise and production set to double forests are being cleared and replaced by palm plantations (another example of monoculture).

So whats wrong with Palm oil?
The main issue of palm oil is the land required to cultivate it. Palm oil has been linked to huge amounts of deforestation which leads to land degradation, and loss of habitat for many species and a reduction in biodiversity. It was estimated that due to Palm oil 1/3 of all mammals are now critically endangered in Indonesia. The clearing of the rainforests which are considered biodiversity hotspots leads to the displacement of many endemic species with the highly publicised victims of this habitat destruction being orang-utans and the sumatran tiger.
The loss of rainforest also contributes to climate change as well as the process of clearing which involves burning the land lead to greenhouse gas emissions (Indonesia being the 3rd largest contributor to greenhouse gases)

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So where is this happening?
this is mainly occurring in south east Asia, particularly in Malaysia and Indonesia, although production does occur in Africa and South America.

Why is Palm Oil so popular?
Palm oil is versatile ingredient and used in a wide array of products: chocolate, ice cream, pizza, cosmetics, soap, margarine to name a few. In the UK palm oil is required to be named on the ingredients label of any product, however in many countries palm oil is described as vegetable oil, ands it has been estimated that in 1/3 of all vegetable oil is palm oil. The borneo Orang-utan survival website advises on palm oil in Australian and New Zealand products:

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand allows palm oil to be labelled simply as “vegetable oil” and indeed its presence can be even less visible as many of the more minor components of a product – colourings, flavourings, emulsifiers and humectants – are commonly palm oil derived. A quick test – if the saturated fat content is around 50% the likelihood of the vegetable oil being palm is high.
In cosmetics, palm oil is labelled Elaeis guineensis but as with the food industry, its presence is often less obvious. Any ingredient which includes the word “palm” (palmitate, palmitoyl or simply palm) will include palm oil. Other ingredients which commonly but not always use palm oil include cetyl alcohol, isopropyl, sodium lauryl sulphate, steareths, fatty alcohol sulphates, glycerine, cocoa butter equivalent and cocoa butter substitute.

So what can be done?

Well essentially when we make choices we have three choices:
Choose not to change our patterns of product choose which will inadvertently lead to products that include palm oil.
Choose products that use sustainable palm oil. Look for CSPO (certified sustainable palm oil) as well as organisations signing up to the RSPO with the aim of producing sustainable Palm oil. However it must be noted that there is heavy criticism of the RSPO as many feel it does not do enough to prevent deforestation, with many members continuing to engage in highly destructive practises.
Choose products that have not palm oil.

The key is making an informed choice and being aware of what ingredients are in your product.

I have attached an information sheet which will given you some CSPO and palm oil free brands and products, and although many of these products are found in Australia, there are some that are found internationally-palm oil free list_130115

Also the WWF has read retailers and manufactures on their palm oil use and this should definitely be looked at (especially if your a McDonalds fan!)- check out pages 15 and 17 on their report.- po_scorecard_2013_latest

please have a look and make a change!

Peace and palm oil free eating:)

Looking for the green shoe- one step at a time

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With estimations that shoe sales are around 20 billion annually, and that most of us will buy at least one pair of shoes this year ( i know i know- very conservative estimate, as i have many friends that would give Elton John a run for his money) we can all use this opportunity to demand that this industry better their methods and create a more environmentally friendly shoe.

My current casual shoes are on their last legs, and with the inside heel material having worn through, i thought it was time that i bought a new pair. Now i would probably in the past just go for aesthetic appearance as the main criteria for any new pair of shoes- and no doubt this is the main deciding factor in 99% of all our shoe choices. But this time i wanted to do something differently. I want to make a conscious effort to choose a shoe/brand (or pair thereof) that attempts to address their environmental impact. A shoe thats doing things different. A shoe thats walking in the right direction (plenty more puns where that came from).
I understand many of us do not wish to make massive changes to our lives and suddenly start wearing hemp footwear may be a too big a stride (get it..stride) for the urban dweller to make, i definitely wont be wearing potato sacks on my feet thats for sure. By knowing what to look out for we can make a more informed decision about what we wear and what compromises we are making when we wear it.

In London if you walk along oxford street and regent street the big brands are well represented, nike, adidas, new balance (the shoes i was going to buy pre eco research), pumas, and reebok to name a few. So have these brands addressed their environmental impact? and if so what are they doing?

The environmental impact of shoes:

Ok, so when we look at shoes and their environmental impact, what is it that we are looking at?
Essentially there are several areas such as; research and development, Manufacturing, transportation, storage, and disposal. Each with their own level of environmental impact. But as a consumer the information that we are most likely going to be able to access is the material of the shoe- and choosing the right materials and avoiding certain materials will make a significant impact on the environment.

What materials the shoe is made of plays a big role in its impact.
Firstly there are the cotton products that are used: You can have conventional cotton, organic cotton, or a cotton and nylon mix. Now the environmental impacts of convention cotton is the high water requirements plus massive pesticide and insecticide use. Cotton is a pesticide-heavy crop, accounting for approximately 25% of the world’s insecticide use and 10% of the world’s pesticide use. Organic cotton is without the use of insecticides/pesticides requires more land due to lower yields (although definitely a better choice than conventional cotton.), while the cotton and Nylon mix requires the use of energy and waste byproducts in the production.

Then we have our other natural products: Jute, Bamboo, Hemp, cork and leather. this is a funny group with no doubt the best materials to use and considered sustainable (natural and sustainable) except of course leather which almost deserves its own blog due to the huge environmental impact it has in all levels of its production. Jute, hemp and bamboo come from plants and require the separation of the fibres from the stalk. This can be done with chemicals, but can also be done naturally- of course naturally is better. Cork again is from certain trees and can be harvested without killing the tree and without the use of chemicals and is done by hand. Now we come to leather ( can see you all guiltily looking over to you leather jackets, bags and shoes- i know i did). The energy required to produce leather is 20 times that of any synthetic material and devotees the environment during the raising of the cow (land destruction, degradation, water usage, and mono cultured feed). The tanning process is also highly toxic and uses chromium a know carcinogen- literal poison for the earth. Although there are vegetable tanning methods.. these are used in less than 10% of leather products- what can i say…stay away from leather!

Don’t forget the rubber- rubber is derived naturally as sap and can be harvested sustainable, however it should be noted that in the process of turning it into a solid- chemicals are uses. The other options is synthetic rubber, which s derived form a whole range of chemicals and petrochemicals. The byproducts are co2 and volatile organic compounds. So the better of these two appears to be the natural one- although recycled rubber is also a good options and this of often derived from old tyres.

Now we come to the synthetics-
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET): Used for the production of polyester fibre and derived from hydrocarbons, with the environmental impacts, energy use, water usage, and chemical use.
Polyurethane Foam (PU Foam): Its the foam thats used in shoes. Although highly toxic by products- it is highly recyclable and can used in other products.
Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA): Used as the cushioning for the sole. Emissions to air, water and intense energy consumption are the main environmental impacts associated with the production.
Nylon: Derived from hydrocarbons and petrochemicals nylon is unsustainable – the production of which results in nitrous oxide and harmful chemicals, needless to say not great for our planet.

What this says is that choosing natural, organic, and recycled materials is a good way to limited and reduce your environmental impact.

Now unfortunately with my limited access to the materials and manufacturing process for all the big brands, i am unable to definitively state which ones are the most environmentally friendly. They all appear to address the issues of sustainability in some way or another. To be honest, i get the impression that although there are some positive actions taking place i.e Nikes reuse a shoe program which re-uses shoes and turns them into new products, and pumas reduction of the shoe packaging, the majority of these actions are a practice in good PR. There doesn’t seem to be revolutionary changes in their shoe production or material use across the board, rather on specific ‘experimental’ sustainable shoes which gives the impression the brand is sustainable, yet in reality is only assigned to very specific products. It appears that synthetic material use is widespread and wastage relatively high. So when you decide to buy your shoes look at what that shoe is offering, and check the materials used for your shoe. Don’t be convinced by the green credentials of the brand especially if the shoe you are actually buying does not have any of those touted green credentials. If your interested in checking out what the big brands say- have a look:

Nike: http://about.nike.com/pages/sustainability
nikeresponsibility.com

New Balance:http://www.newbalance.com/inside-nb-environment.html

Puma:http://about.puma.com/en/sustainability/environment/zero-discharge-of-hazardous-chemicals

Adidas: http://www.adidas-group.com/en/sustainability/products/materials/#/sustainable-better-cotton/pvc-and-phthalates/

What have i decided?

After attempting to find the perfect shoe, i feel i have failed miserably. I expected (or rather hoped) to find this perfect zero impact shoe. There are many shoes out there online that are much better environmental wise than the big brands, that use natural products, and made locally (therefore require less transport), but there is no shoe that i could find that was perfect. Many of the so called eco shoes use leather products (wtf?) so its a case of investigating yourself what each shoe is made of. I guess in the end its up to you what your choose. Me.. well I’ve decided to hold off buying a new pair of shoes, I’m not confident i have enough knowledge to make the choice i want to you.

While searching the web i came across this brand ‘patagonia’ who promote this interesting program as part of their environmental corporate responsibility. They have this program called ‘worn-wear’ which promotes keeping your clothing and shoes longer through making basic repairs and patching your belongings up. Yvon Chouinard from patagonia states:
“This program first asks customers to not buy something if they don’t need it. If they do need it, we ask that they buy what will last a long time – and to repair what breaks, reuse or resell whatever they don’t wear any more. And, finally, recycle whatever’s truly worn out,”. This makes a lot of sense to me. I mean its great to buy products that are environmentally sustainable, but as no product has zero impact, its much more effective to not buy a new product. Why do i need a new pair of shoes when i can mend the ones I’ve got… if i don’t buy a new pair of shoes i dont buy a product thats impacted on the environment, so in a way i guess i found the zero impact shoe, the ones i already have.

Peace and happy shoe shopping.

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The green roof: Saving energy and producing energy!

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Check out this article from the ABC in Australia-

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bydesign/img6008-editjpg/5452406

I have seen this ‘Green Roof’ used several times on the UKs greatest show ‘Grand Designs’ (starring Kevin Mccloud-the UKs greatest export! in my opinion anyway- what a rockstar 🙂 ) so when i read about this guy incorporating it into his design in Australia i thought i would share it. It appears that a roof like like has many positive attributes. The use of this roof reduces energy input into the house which not only lowers the cost of bills but also the impact on the environment. The roof would also support native animals and in some small way increase possible habitat for birds, bees etc. and most of all, lets face it, it looks pretty cool:)

But perhaps the coolest develop of late is the fact that they can now PRODUCE electricity from your green roof. A Dutch start up company called ‘Plant-e’  have developed the technology to harness electricity from plants.How does it work…. well what it does is uses the process of photosynthesis and the eventual release of neutron and protons as by products to create the electricity (don’t ask me how). In urban areas they have plans to create this system along side the green roof and estimate that help the households energy requirements could be met through the use of ‘Plant-e’ electricity. I would recommend checking out the below video for an overview of how it works.

So for all you possible builders, architects and and home renovators- keep your mind open, challenge the norms, and incorporate greener ways to build. Build a green roof that actually saves and makes your electricity-

peace and happy building!

Benefits of worm farming & Building your own recycled worm farm.

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In the UK 7 million tonnes of food is thrown away each year. This contributes to land fill and and the production of methane gases which contributes significantly to greenhouse gases. Landfills produce a toxic liquid, called leachate. Leachate is a mixture of organic acids, battery acids, dissolved chemicals and rainwater. It can contaminate surrounding land and waterways which can be reduced if we recycle our food waste. United Nations environmental programme estimates on a world wide scale we waste 1.6 billion tonnes of food, and that if we composted our home waste, we could potentially divert up to 150kg of waste from land fill per household. Considering that owning a worm farm or compost is so easy and easily maintained, its a wonder most households do not already have one.

What I’m going to look at in this blog is worm farms. I love worm farms- i don’t know what it is about them but I’ve had several store bought worm farms in the past whilst living in Melbourne, and enjoyed establishing and growing the farm and producing castings (worm poo) for my garden. It was also a great way of reducing my organic waste in a purely natural and environmentally friendly way. Its a great system…. you give them your old food and they give you castings, and best of all it doesn’t require a whole lot of ongoing maintenance once established.

Ive decided that the likely hood of me moving again in London is high and i don’t want to spend the money or the energy input into buying another worm farm, therefore what i have decided to do is to build a recycled worm farm. I managed to find many different models online using both styrofoam boxes or plastic buckets. I opted for the styrofoam boxes as it was the first material i was able to track down, and to be honest i didn’t have to go very far as i found what i needed within my local area.

For the materials of the box I’m using recycled styrofoam- its important that you used recycled styrofoam, as this material is not great for the environment and it doesn’t break down, requires high amounts of energy and creates greenhouse gases for production as well as ending up in the oceans putting our wildlife at risk- so use what is there, do not contribute to the production of more. I got my styrofoam boxes from the local deli/fresh food shop. I just went in and asked if they had any styrofoam boxes available and although slight apprehensive, they found some and gave them to me. They advised that they generally crush their boxes and throw them away, so its good that these boxes will be getting a second life. The boxes that you will get may be all different shapes and sizes, and it will depend on how big your space is as to how big you may want your worm farm. In my case the size of my worm farm is determined by the size of the boxes that they had available. The best way to start is to get three boxes of the same size if possible. In my case i managed to get two the same and the third one slight larger, although not ideal aesthetically, it will still work fine. The reason we want the boxes the same size is that you want the boxes to create a seal when placed on top of each other. Regarding the worms- you can buy these form your local hardware store, or alternatively you can buy them online. I recently purchased mine from a site called worms direct and they were a mix of tiger worms and Dendrobaena. The worms were delivered the next day and cost 11 pounds for 250 grams (which incidentally was the total cost of this project).

You will need to decide which box out of the three you will use for the bottom level of the farm- this box will be used to collect the worm juice. This box will always remain the worm juice collector and will not require and modification. The other two boxes will require holes put in the bottom- you want the holes to be plentiful and spread evenly out, however you do not want them to big as too prevent the castings coming through, but big enough to allow the worms to travel through.

Place some bedding (straw, soil wet newspaper) in one of the boxes with the holes in the bottom and on that place your worms. Cover with some soaked newspaper. Slowly add the food scraps and as your box fills with castings you will place the empty box on top and and start filling it with food scraps. This will bring the worms from the full box up into the top box. When you feel the box in the middle is full and the worms have composted everything, move that box and empty the castings. This box will now be used when the other box fills up. Always keep a lid on the box with the worms to prevent exposure to the weather (worms do not like sunlight or cold temperatures), while also prevent other animals to eat the worms or the food scraps.

Watch my video (first attempt- be kind) which shows me building my worm farm.

Its easy to make and a great way to reduce your wast impact on the environment, whilst also creating rich castings that your garden or vege patch will love.

cleanup.org suggests uses for your worm castings which include:

Mixing it with potting soil and used for houseplants and patio containers.
• Used as mulch (spread in a layer on top of the soil) for potted plants.
• Finely sprinkled on lawns as a conditioner.
• Used directly in the garden around existing plants or dug into the soil.
• Made into liquid fertiliser by being mixed with water until it is the colour of weak tea.
Moisture drained from the worm farm’s bottom crate is also a good liquid fertiliser, once diluted.
Voila..here you have it, a simple worm farm!

Note: Do not put meat or dairy products into the worm farm. They will eat most organic waste including vegetables, fruits, tea bags, newspapers (soak them first) and garden clippings. lawn clippings. However the do not like fruits that are acidic (citrus fruits) and anything from the onion family.

Peace and happy worm farming!

Say No To Plastic Bags!

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Plastic Bags..my pet hate.If you use a plastic bag in a supermarket to carry your shopping and particularly if you use it to carry one or two items, you will definitely be seeing me wishing for some karmic intervention. I honestly find plastic bag use pretty hard to take sometimes…and yes i have at times in the past used plastic bags when an impromptu shopping trip may occur and i have an armful of shopping. Generally (95% of the time) i will either use a reusable shopping bag, or if i happen to go to the shops under prepared and forget my bag, i will carry my shopping sans bag, which often means filling all my pockets to the max, and juggling the remainder like some amateur circus performer, but i get the job done. So it pains me when i see someone use a plastic bag just because they can, and only to carry one or two items….carry it in your hand!! its not that difficult! or at best either put it in your hand bag or backpack. I mean seriously is it that difficult to carry your carton of milk or block of cheese in your hand. I promised a shout out to a mate of mine, the T-Man, who literally yesterday used a plastic bag for one bottle of wine…

Me: “ Dude why do you need a plastic bag for that… you can carry that bottle or put it into your bag”

Him: “but he gave me a bag” – that was his whole explanation and justification..

so i guess its ok then, as long as he gave it to you…….WTF?! ‘he gave me a bag’ lets kill the world one passive gesture at a time (ok ok maybe slightly dramatic). Although i can imagine the comfort of that sea turtle as it gasps for its last breath ‘my life was sacrificed for the comfort of the T-man- lets hope he never has to carry anything without a bag again or ever be put into the uncomfortable position of saying he doesn’t want to plastic bag’.

To be honest that is generally how it goes.. its probably easier to accept a bag than tell the server “hey no bag please”. And although I’m picking on the T-man (which i promised him was his punishment for his indiscretion yesterday) its directed at the many (including myself at times).

So lets have a look at why plastic bags are so bad for the environment?

It is estimated that the European union alone throws away 4 billion plastic bags per year. That number is huge and imagine what that total would be if the rest of the world was also included in that figure!

Plastic bags are eaten by animals and can lead to illness and death. This is of particular concern to marine animals which can become trapped and end up choking or being strangled by plastic bags. Plastic bags are not biodegradable, and at best will break down into tiny plastic particles which are further digested by animals which will lead to poisoning at a primary level or further up the food chain.
There is also the trash vortex the size of Texas in the north pacific ocean with is also a concern. This is a collection of ocean rubbish, much of which is made up of plastics and particularly plastic bags. It has become a real threat to marine life and ecosystems due to its large size and toxicity.

The health of the oceans are particularly important as they are currently overfished and being exploited on a serious level due to the insatiable human desire for seafood, and thus it is imperative for us to think about the way we shop, and choose less packaged items and use less plastic bags.

It needs to be noted that the reusable bags one can buy are either made of plastic or fabric and can per unit have a larger carbon footprint then a single plastic bag, and will thus will need to be reused many times to justify its manufacture (on an energy per unit / carbon per unit scale)

What can we do?

Well we can start by using less plastic bags, and hopefully move on to using no plastic bags. It is also no use continuously buying fabric or plastic reusable shopping bags, unless you use them consistently, as the energy and carbon input is high to manufacture them. If you use them consistently, then that is a great way to reduce the use of plastic bags. Similarly use backpacks or baskets when you go shopping that many of us usually have sitting at home, we don’t need to buy a specific shopping bag (remember its not a fashion accessory but a practical accessory) , an already existent bag is perfect. If you do happen to use a plastic bag for whatever reason, reuse them again for shopping, or for bin liners or any other use, don’t just throw them away!

Here are some awesome uses for the collection of plastic bags that you may already have:

Making a basket out of plastic bags http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-basket-out-of-plastic-bags/

making a shopping bag out of plastic bags: http://www.instructables.com/id/Shopping-bag-from-plastic-shopping-bags/
Peace and sustainable shopping!

Eating in an environmentally conscious way

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We can all make environmental decisions about the food we eat, and lets face it, this may be the simplest way in which someone living in an urban landscape can make positive environmental decisions on a day to day basis. It does not require any specialised equipment, or technical knowledge, but rather some patience- and maybe a little sacrifice- in order to understand and research how our food choices impact on the environment.

So what can we do? Easy… Eat less Beef (or meat in general but especially beef). I myself have stopped eating beef (and pork..but for a different reason) for several years now for this exact reason… do i miss it? no not all, however it must be said that i do eat meat in the form of chicken and lamb which i do acknowledge does hold its own issues for the environment, so i am hardly the environmental poster boy, but my reasoning is that these small changes are better than none, and any reduction in eating beef would be positive, and may spark bigger changes and bigger commitments to positive environmental lifestyle choices in the future.

So now let me explain it it simply….The worlds cattle industry contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than the worlds combined transportation, and is second only to the energy industry. There are several ways in which cattle are a poor choice for the environment..

The methane (otherwise know as cow farts) they produce is 20 more times more powerful than carbon dioxide which contributes to climate change and the acidification of the oceans as well as a plethora of other side effects. It is estimated that 18% of greenhouse gases are attributed to livestock production with a large majority from cattle.

As the demand for beef increases the amount of grazing land required also increases with estimates putting the current livestock agricultural use at 30% of the earths land with this expected to double in the near future. This leads to increased land clearing, destruction of forests and general land degradation. The destruction of forests contributes an astronomical amount of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. It also decreases and impacts biodiversity, as the home of certain organisms are destroyed at the expense of more grazing land. There is also the noted occurrence of desertification which happens when cattle over graze the land and prevent grasses and other plants from growing, and essentially the land turns into a desert and can be difficult to recover from.

Feeding these animals then becomes another problem as often he land is unable to support the large numbers of livestock which are raised on it. As such livestock is fed by corn, which creates large numbers of farms dedicated to maize. This type of monoculture (the production of one type of product from a farm) drains the earth of nutrients and leads to petrochemical fertilisers which are themselves bad for the environment ( i will definitely have to do another blog on this particular issue). This destroys the local ecosystems as the local organisms of animals often require more than one type to plant to survive for example bees. Cattle also requires large amounts of water and is regarded as highly water intensive. This can cause environmental proves as water is diverted to the production of cattle at the expense of local plants and animals and their ecosystems which rely on this water to survive.

So we can see how the livestock/cattle industry impacts on the environment. So now what are our options?

As mentioned above- either stop eating beef or meat or cut down on your consumption. For most people this is unrealistic and somewhat unnecessary if you make conscious meat eating decisions. Cut down on meat and especially beef consumption. Not only will these reduce the impact on the environment, but also likely to increase health benefits (as humans consumption of beef is on average above the suggested weekly intake).

Choose local meat from local farmers where you can. This reduces the transportation of meat and reduces greenhouse gases further. This can be done by buying at local farmers markets. From experience i know this can be done no matter where you live. Farmers markets were easily accessible in Sydney, Melbourne, and in London. I have a farmers market literally 5 minute walk from my place and i live in zone 2 (close to central London). Yes, the cost is more than a bulk buy steak in either coles or tescos, but if you cut down your consumption i am sure you make the costs even out. Don’t be scared to ask questions about the meat your buying if you are unsure where it comes from- your a paying customer, you deserve to know.

Choose organic meat when possible. Although the phenomena of intensive feed lots (form of intensive cattle production which is a highly destructive form of farming) are not common place in the UK or Australia as they are in the USA, it is still important to be aware of the quality of the meat you are eating, particularly if you are purchasing frozen meat where the meat may have come from overseas.

Eat sustainable meats- sustainable meats are those that have minimal impacts on the environment and do not require large amounts of human input. In Australia it is possible to eat kangaroo. kangaroo is not farmed and is often culled due to the high numbers. It is also a native animal which means that it lives in harmony with the environment and its existence is not detrimental to the local environment. Obviously care is needed as you do not want to put any animals existence at risk through overconsumption, however in Australia this is a good alternative to farmed beef. Similarly eating wild invasive species is also a good alternative. Again in Australia there are several introduced species that are causing havoc with our environments and local ecosystems. These include camels, buffalo, wild pigs and rabbits. Make an effort to source butchers that kill invasive species, this way you are assisting the eradication of these animals from the local environment, however ensure that they are wild and not farmed as this would defeat the purpose. Research the areas where you live to determine what invasive species are around and if it is possible to utilise them in a culinary way. I strongly believe that this is the future of addressing rising food demands and the problem of invasive species.
So if you want to be more environmentally friend in your day to day living, addressing this aspect of your life is a good start. Cutting down on the amount of meat you eat on a daily or weekly basis will hardly change your life that much and will probably benefit your overall health at the same time. There’re several other ways in which you can reduce your impact on the environment, and in the case of eating invasive species-can also assist the environment. Any little change is positive and you can start to do his immediately.

If you have an questions or comments please feel free to leave them here.
Peace and happy eating:)

The Enviro Lifestyle begins

So this if officially the first post of The enviro lifestyle.
So what is this blog all about?

Well, essentially its about me trying to learn and share. The topics and issues that i am hoping to learn and share about are of an environmental nature. I guess i have always had an interest that is slowly developing into a passion for the environment and how we can live in a modern world and make positive environmental decisions that don’t necessarily require massive changes to our day to day life.

My belief is that too often we view ourselves as separate from the environment we live in, and that an ‘us vs them’ mentality exists, and this leads to destructive behaviours or even just becoming passive observers of the environment. I believe that we are part of this environment and that in a way we need to live more harmoniously with nature, and that preserving environments, landscapes and ecosystems will ultimately benefit us al in the long term.

I am currently an Aussie living in the UK. I have lived most of my life in big cities (Sydney, Melbourne, London), and can often feel that living in this urban setting has limited my capacity to be more environmentally conscious. I mean how can i build a composting toilet or rely completely on self generated solar panels, when i am renting, don’t have the money, and don’t have the technical skills. And so maybe i cant make these big changes, but i can make smaller changes, and so its about adapting some this knowledge to our own setting, and making a small effort to do something a little bit better.

So what will this blog achieve- well hopefully it gives me a forum to post things about the environment that interest me, and ways that we may be able to alter our behaviours which will bring us closer to that harmonious relationship.

If there is anything that interests you please feel free to let me know and ill see what i can do to explore it and bring it here.