Happy new year eco-warriors. There are plenty of challenges out there at the moment… it’s cold, corona continues and we can’t go outside… but I am hoping you all had a nice break and are feeling as well as you can despite all these factors.
Given that it is chilly and there isn’t much to do, I’ve finally found the time to teach myself to do something I’ve been meaning to do for years - namely, darning socks. I am a self-confessed sock lover. After all, nothing is worse than unhappy feet. (Apart from the continuing ecological and climate emergency of course!) I particularly favour long socks which I can pull up under my thick trousers, for that extra layer of warmth. However, I’m also happy with short socks that have cheerful messages on them, or even a trainer sock when summer comes round again.
Photo by Nick Page on Unsplash
Whichever socks one prefers, all are vulnerable to holes. Holes which means your toes poke out in an uncomfortable fashion. Holes which mean your feet are that much colder. Holes which, let’s face it, don’t look that dapper. Holes which, all too often, mean the entire pair of socks get chucked in the bin; and thus all that unbroken material goes to waste. This is a particular shame for knee socks, which contain a lot of fabric. Given that 17 million tonnes of fabric ended up in landfill in 2018, this really isn't good.
Back when I was a nipper, darning socks was a fairly common activity. However, in our single-use world, it’s something which has sadly fallen out of fashion. So I decided to re-teach myself how to darn socks so that I could save several pairs of particularly fetching socks from the rubbish.
As it turns out, there are already lots of handy articles out there which show you all the steps for darning socks, so I won’t go through all the steps again. This piece is a great starting point; this one has handy pictures for each step; this page demonstrates how to fix a really big sock-hole; this link includes a handy video. Finally, if you’re clever enough to be knitting your socks in the first place, this is the darning blog for you.
Some general tips…
* You don’t need a darning mushroom - a tennis ball, a lightbulb, or the end of a baseball bat or rolling pin will do the job. I used a smooth massage ball, which worked well.
* You also don’t need a darning needle - a long needle will do.
* Ensure your thread matches the thickness and colour of your socks; thicker thread for thicker socks and so on.
While I used to be quite the seamstress, I hadn't sewn anything in years, so was a bit nervous I'd mess it up. However, I followed the instructions I found online and,
only a few short minutes later (and while watching
the old Googlebox at the same time, no less), my sock was restored to its former glory.
Some of my socks were too knackered to be fixed as the elastic had gone in them; but instead of chucking them out, I stuffed one sock with all the other socks and ended up with a fetching draught excluder to keep the cold out. Double sustainable win!
If you don't fancy following suit with any of your terribly tired socks, you could instead recycle them at one of Bristol’s Reuse and Recycling Centres (although note there are new restrictions about when you can visit these centres due to Covid-19). The St Peter’s Hospice shop on Bond Street also takes rags and unsellable clothes.
Note that you can also recycle usable or wearable fabrics (so NOT your holey old socks) in your black recycling box in Bristol, although you will need to put these fabrics into a plastic bag and label them, as wet fabrics won’t be accepted.
If you’ve darned all the socks you can darn and recycled all the ones that are broken and you still genuinely need some new socks, consider buying a pair or two from Stand4Socks, who provide a pair of socks for a homeless person for every pair bought. In addition, their fabrics are sustainably sourced, free from harmful chemicals and made according to ethical work conditions. They also ship their socks out in 100% home compostable mailing bags.
If you have any ideas about recycling sad socks, post them in the comments box below.
December can be a great month: Christmas, time off work, delicious food, friends and family. But it also means being cold… and here in the UK, we can expect to be cold for another three to four months after the festive fun is done.
Keeping our houses warm by turning up the gas central heating alone can feel tempting, but this method of guarding against the cold is not good for the planet. Did you know that 14% of our greenhouse gasses here in the UK come from our homes? Surprisingly, this is a similar figure to the emissions produced by cars.
It has been recommended that no new homes are connected to gas by 2025, but of course many of us live in older homes which have gas boilers and so would need expensive retrofitting to get rid of the gas connection. Plus it’s never a good idea to throw out old items or tools which are working well to replace them with new bits and bobs, even if the new things are ‘eco’.
So what can we do to make our homes warmer? Here are four solutions you might be able to try in your home.
You need to ensure that your home is well insulated to reap the benefits of any greener sources of heat you decide to use. Insulate your loft and use excluders or thick curtains over draughty doors and windows. One friend of mine uses blankets as curtains, which helps to seal the heat inside her house beautifully. Not only does efficient insulation make our houses warmer in the winter, it can keep heat out during summer.
One Home list eight simple measures you can take to insulate your home. These include installing loft insulation of at least 27cm, investing in a smart thermostat to set the temperature of your rooms, and investing in some double glazing. If you can't afford double glazing or don't own your home, temporary secondary glazing film can also be effective. One of our members covered her windows with cling film and has found that be good at keeping the cold out.
Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash
2. Booking a CHEESE survey
If you live in Bristol or the surrounding areas, you might want to invest in a Cold Homes Energy Efficiency Survey Experts (CHEESE) survey. After your booking, one of their experts will come to your house and use thermal-imaging to identify where its losing heat. They will also suggest solutions to keep the heat inside. The surveys start at £100 but are free for people in poor housing conditions or who are living in fuel poverty.
Our committee member Tim had one of these scans at his home. He says:
“I live in a 1930s terraced house. When we first moved in 10 years ago - having come from a draughty, high ceilinged Victorian semi in Scotland – I thought it was going to be warm and draught-free. This was the first place we’d had with double glazing throughout!
"I gradually realised that this was not quite the case. The house was colder than I expected at the front with the prevailing west wind; plenty of draughts were coming through skirting boards and the like. So when I heard about the CHEESE thermal video energy surveys I decided to go for one, partly because I was just curious what it was about. It didn't take long to do the survey despite the need to set up a fan and screen at one front door to create a pressure differential - to activate draughts I think. The tour round the house with an expert surveyor yielded a number of simple little draught proofing DIY jobs I had missed. The thermal imaging of the house and the resultant DVD record was an interesting souvenir as well.”
3. Green homes grant
If you’re a home owner, you can apply for up to £5,000 from the government to make at least one ‘primary’ improvement to your home (such as insulating solid or cavity walls or investing in an air source heat pump) and help cover the cost of ‘secondary’ measures such as double glazing. You can read more about the scheme here.
My partner and I have qualified for this grant and are going to use the money to clad the outside of our incredibly cold 1930s house. We’re currently waiting for a slot to free up so that the work can be done. I can’t wait to be able to stop typing these blogs while wearing scarves, gloves and my electric blanket!
4. 100% renewable energy
One thing we can all do is switch who supplies our energy. Over the past decade or so, many seemingly eco-power companies such as Ecotricity and Bulb have popped up. These companies appear to be better than companies like NPower, who are not trying to appeal to eco-warriors.
However, did you know that energy companies will tend to buy whatever energy is cheapest at the time? During summer, this is often renewable energy.
Energy companies who have bought cheap renewable energy, but whose clients don't care where their energy comes from, will then sell certificates known as REGOs to companies whose clients DO care. Those 'caring' companies use the certificates to hide the fact that they are, at times, not using renewable energy.
Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash
There are only three companies in the UK who offer 100% genuinely renewable electricity and are trying their best to do similarly with gas (which is harder). These are Good Energy, Green Energy UK and the Co-Op. Previously, Bristol Energy was on this list, but they have been bought out by Together Energy, who do use REGOs; although they tell me they are trying to move away from them.
If you are with a ‘green’ energy provider and don’t feel sure about whether they are using REGOs or not (companies don’t boast about this, unsurprisingly), get in touch to ask them. If they do, perhaps consider moving to one of the genuinely renewable providers - or at least letting your providers know that you would prefer it if they stopped this greenwashing practice.
Did you know: Some 85% of British households use fossil-fuel based natural gas to heat their homes?
Do you have any tips for how to heat your house without harming the planet? If so, comment below and let us know.
Christmas is coming and there’s even more reason than usual to get excited about it - for many of us, it will be the first time we've seen our loved ones in months.
However, while Christmas can mean family, friends, food and all things festive, it can also mean waste, carbon and excess. Think of all those plastic cracker toys that get thrown in the bin, all the air-miles which go into shipping presents from overseas, or all the wrapping paper which can’t be recycled.
Getting green at Christmas might sound like it means forgoing all the fun, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some great ideas for local, greener gifts you can buy for mums, mates, nieces and nephews while still enjoying yourself and spoiling the people you love.
Beebombs are a great way to get some wild flowers which attract bees into your garden. I was given a beebomb by a friend of mine last year. I'm not particularly green-fingered, so I was unsure how well it would do, but I followed the instructions, scattered the pellets in a pot in my garden last year and it quickly bloomed. If I can have success with one of these, anyone can! They might make great stocking fillers or cracker replacements.
Gofarging.co.uk offer three hour walks in the Bristol and Bath area where you will be taught how to identify, pick and eat the various edible delights you pass. These tours have been described as ‘excellent’ by one of our members; I might get one for my partner, as we've enjoyed making soups and pesto from wild garlic we've foraged near our house. If so, I'll report back in a blog next year!
Avon Needs Trees is a registered charity whose aim is to buy and rewild land throughout Bristol and Avon. If you have any eco-warrior friends, they might appreciate donation card in their name. They also offer a foraging calendar with different recipes for each month.
Photo by Veronica Reverse on Unsplash
Food and kitchen gifts
Square Food is a community kitchen in Bristol which offers cookery classes for adults and children. Barny Haughton, who runs the school, was recently awarded an MBE for his work. BCR secretary Dorian Wainwright has done a cooking class with Square Food, and he says:
"My mum got the two of us cookery lessons at Square Food one year for Christmas. I'm a pretty rubbish cook, but I really enjoyed it. I learned some useful veg cutting techniques and how to truly appreciate tofu, plus my mum and I had a really enjoyable evening together!"
Sarah at Kitchen Titbits offers courses on meal planning, avoiding food waste and clever ideas about how to get kids to eat better, making this a great present for any families you know whose children find food tricky.
If you're after a drink, check out the offerings from Quoins, an organic vineyard near bath. They sell a selection of local wines and will deliver. The Bristol Beer Factory and Bristol Gin are two more local ways to get merry this festive season. I gave a friend of mine some Bristol Gin earlier this year and he loved it. I haven't tried Quoins wine yet, but I'm prepared to get tipsy in the name of fighting climate change!
Who doesn't love chocolate? Chocbox are some Bristol-based beauties who make vegan chocolate which looks delicious. You can buy their goodies online or at one of Bristol's zero waste shops. The dark-chocolate with festive berries looks particularly good to me.
As we discussed in a previous blog, switching from shower gel to soap is a great way to reduce your consumption of single-use plastics. There are several great Bristol-based soap makers selling great gifts. These include Margaret May Soaps, Wildgrove Felted soap and my favourites, Made in Fishponds. I bought MiF soaps for lots of my friends for Christmas last year. The Give Me Soap, Joanna is my personal recommendation (I like to pretend it's named after me), although lots of lovely new products have been added to their offerings this year.
Cards, gift wrap and decorations
Jezaya Mitchell of Sew Much More has some lovely reusable wrapping fabric and festive bunting for sale on her Etsy page - grab some before they sell out.
Don't Send Me a Card is a great organisation which allows you to send e-cards to your friends and family, the profits of which go to a charity of your choice; charities on offer include Avon Needs Trees. Save paper, support eco-charities AND make your mates smile - that has to be a winner.
For a more traditional approach, WH Smiths are selling recycable wrapping paper - or you could get creative and use old maps or newspapers. One of our members saved Christmas papers from 2019 to use as wrapping in 2020 - what a fab idea!
Second hand or home-made gifts
As with everything else you might be thinking about buying in the future, second hand is always better. If the charity shops open again before Christmas, check those out for unusual clothes, books and games. If not, there's always eBay, Facebook Marketplace or Freecycle - all great places for snapping up kids' toys, kitchen bits or gadgets which might otherwise be ending up in landfill. And all for bargain prices as well.
Another option is to make presents yourself. What skills do you have? Can you whip up a delicious jam, build a beautiful bookshelf, write a moving poem for a pal? I've given home-made presents in the past and people always appreciate them.
If you have any ideas for green gifts or home-made presents, put them in the comments below. We're always happy to hear from you. And have a very happy Christmas!
As we’ve seen in a recent blog, fast fashion is extremely bad for the planet. It can also be bad for your wallet, and for the available space in your house.
With this in mind, three of my friends (Dawn, Jenni and Zoe) and I pledged to avoid buying any new clothes in 2020. As the year came to an end, I had a chat with those friends to find out how the challenge had gone, and whether they had any tips for how readers of this blog might do the same in 2021.
Perhaps predictably, we agreed that coronavirus had made it easier not to buy new clothes; we weren’t going out, so didn’t need to get dressed up… plus the shops were shut for a lot of the year!
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
However, the virus also made the challenge harder. Zoe spent the beginning of lockdown with not much to do, so was tempted to look at online shops. Jenni agreed that she was spending a lot more time at home on her laptop, and so was seeing a lot of adverts for clothes on social media.
Both Jen and Dawn talked about needing comfier clothes for working or exercising at home due to Covid-19. Dawn bought a top and Jenni some trousers for those scenarios. However, these were carefully chosen purchases, rather than impulse buys which would end up languishing at the back of the wardrobe.
Zoe and I both bought some second-hand clothes; I found a dress in a charity shop at the start of the year which I couldn’t resist, while Zoe used some of the money she had saved by rejecting fast fashion to buy a jacket from Beyond Retro.
“I spent more than usually would because this was a retro item and a good brand,” she said.
Photo by Scoundrel Eye Photography
We talked how easy it was to stick to the rules we had set for ourselves.
Zoe and I were happy to buy second hand clothes from charity shops, eBay or Depop, Jenni was trying not to buy any clothes at all, and Dawn was trying to cut down her consumption of everything, as her house was getting cluttered. As she said, “my brain tells a story about how this particular item would be perfect in this particular scenario” - and then that item was in her house.
I almost managed to stick to my simple ‘No new clothes in 2020’ rule… the only new items I’ve bought in 11 months are some new undies as my extra lockdown pounds meant the old ones weren’t fitting any more. I’ve decided I can live with that slip up! Dawn’s rule of not buying anything new until she had had a clear-out of what she wasn’t wearing motivated her, while Jenni said that she had to set herself the very strict rule of no new clothes at all (new or second hand) as she knows herself well enough to know that if the rules were more flexible, she would have broken them too often.
Will this challenge have an impact on our behaviour next year? Zoe was clear that she never again
wants to shop at places like ASOS, which
have a terrible environmental record. She feels confident that this is a habit she has broken. When Zoe does buy clothes in the future, she knows they will make her feel good as they will have been ethically and/or locally made and will have had a guilt-free journey to get to her.
Photo by Shanna Camilleri on Unsplash
Dawn agreed. “While I didn’t start this for environmental reasons, I know that fast fashion is bad for both the environment and workers.” Therefore, she’s going to stick to ethical clothing companies like Lucy and Yak or buy second hand from now on. One exception might be clothing stalls at festivals... although Dawn plans to ask friends for their honest opinions, rather than listening to the pals who tell her she needs everything she tries on!
Jenni worries that it will be difficult to keep avoiding the shops, but she’s going to remind herself that she wants to put money towards exciting holidays or a new place to live, rather than clothes she doesn’t need.
I personally have an addiction to unusual flares which will be hard to resist, but I’m going to try to stick to second hand or ethically-made trousers from now on.
Photo by Maude Frédérique Lavoie on Unsplash
Finally, I asked my buddies what one tip they would have for readers of this blog who want to rise to the challenge and attempt No New Clothes in 2021.
Jenni said, “Unsubscribe from all clothing company emails telling you about sales, and use the settings to try to convince Facebook that you don’t want to see clothing ads - if it’s not in your face, it’s much easier.”
Zoe’s top tip was to get into the backs of all your drawers and wardrobes to fish out the clothes you haven’t worn in a while. You might find some gems you’ve forgotten about.
Dawn suggested finding another way to get that dopamine hit that shopping can bring. She’s now addicted to saving her money instead of shopping, but suggested you could try going for a run or doing some knitting or cross-stitch instead, so that you can feel good about not buying clothes.
My own suggestion might seem obvious... but I’d suggest just not going into clothes shops, even if you think you’re just looking. If you don’t look, you can’t find that one item that you never knew you needed.
Meanwhile, as I mentioned in last month’s blog, our sister group Clifton Climate Action are setting a series of eco-challenges for the next 12 months. As luck would have it, this month’s challenge is about clothing. I asked Grant and Julie from CCA to tell us about how they’re finding the challenge so far.
Julie said: I'm doing the 'repair' aspect of the clothing challenge this month, inspired by a massive success some years ago when I fixed 17 items of clothing in a single day - hemming, repairing holes, sewing buttons on, taking things in, getting shoes resoled, the works - bringing back an estimated £500-worth of clothing back into action. This month I'll be patching my two favourite sweaters, both of which I've worn so often that they have holes in them. At least 400 wears and counting, each!
Grant watched the documentary The True Cost.
He said: This documentary reveals the consequences of seeking out the world’s cheapest labour, listening to women who are working hard to graft a better life for their kids. Women who were beaten when they tried to unionise and improve their conditions, and effects even worse than that. The film contrasts this real and current suffering with people in the west, whose cultures have led them to You-Tubing about their shopping sprees and giggling that they “probably won’t even wear this one".
Could you take the challenge and buy no new clothes for a month - or even a year? Comment below to tell us your tips or what you might find difficult about avoiding clothes shopping.
All around the world, trees are being cut down produce the grain that feeds beef cattle; climate change and pollution are making it harder for plants and animals to flourish; fisheries are emptying our oceans. Here in Bristol, we declared an ecological emergency in February 2020. The hope is that our city will come together to take positive action to combat the loss of wildlife in the area.
You will probably have heard that wildlife is in trouble - but you may not realise quite how bad things are, or what impact this loss has on our way of life.
Since 1970, there has been a 50% decline in marine populations, a 68% decline in wild vertebrates and an 83% decline in freshwater wildlife globally.
Closer to home, in the Avon area, birds are on the decline. There are 80% fewer linnets in our skies than there were in 1994, and we’ve lost a horrific 96% of starlings and swifts. UK butterflies are also dying out.
If you have ever witnessed an XR rebellion, you might have seen banners stating that we are in the ’sixth mass extinction’. This isn’t alarmist rhetoric - unfortunately, it is reality. Species are going extinct 100 to 1,000 times faster than the background rate, meaning that 20-30% animals on earth are at the
very real risk of extinction.
Photo by Karina Vorozheeva on Unsplash
These numbers are horrifying for anyone who loves animals - but how will these losses impact our daily lives if they continue?
Approximately three-quarters of the crop types that we grow and consume need pollination to succeed, so without bees and insects, we are facing severe food shortages.
A loss of trees will impact on climate regulation, air quality and soil formation.
IPBES Chair Sir Robert Watson says: “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
It’s clear that if we want to keep breathing air, eating food and enjoying nature, we need to tackle the ecological emergency as well as fighting climate change.
The good news is that there are things we can all
do to fight biodiversity loss.
Photo by John Mark Arnold on Unsplash
Being a forward-thinking kinda city, Bristol has a plan for tackling the ecological emergency. The One City Environment Board has an implementation strategy which includes developing more space for nature, reducing pesticide use, tackling pollution in Bristol’s waterways and addressing our global carbon footprint.
It’s great that these changes are happening at a systemic level - but what can you do to help?
If you have a garden, can you use it to create habitats for nature? You could pledge to go ‘no-mow’ - if you only mow your lawn once or twice a year, wildlife will flourish. Could you build a pond to encourage wildlife? If you don’t have a garden, you could write to the council and ask them to stop cutting the verges so often, or you could engage in some guerrilla gardening to get more wildflowers growing in common areas.
If you use pesticides in your garden - stop it! I personally have been guilty of using Round Up to nix those pesky weeds that appear between the paving stones, but I’m going to stop doing that. Try growing plants closely together, to reduce the threat of weeds and pests, or staying on top of weeding by hand. If you feed and water the plants you do want to grow regularly, that will make them healthier and more able to fight off the diseases you might otherwise have to combat with pesticides.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Microplastics and microfibres are damaging our waterways. Can you cut down how often you wash your clothes? This will mean fewer of these harmful substances are released into the water. You might also want to buy organic cotton clothes, which are kinder to the planet from the start.
Something we can all do to help combat biodiversity loss and climate change is to consume less and consume better. Cutting down your red meat intake will mean fewer trees are cut down to feed those cows. Buying plastic free Christmas presents will mean less plastic ends up in the ocean. Buying local reduces pollution arising from overseas delivery, so always tick 'UK only' on eBay and Etsy.
Also - please tell your friends about the ecological emergency we’re all facing. Share this blog. Share the Strategy. Watch David Attenborough's A Life on Earth documentary and shout about it. Issues like these can be hard to talk about as many people either don’t want to hear it or feel it’s too late - we’re all doomed and nothing can be done. This isn’t true, so do your bit to tell others that their actions really do make a difference.
Many thanks to Ian Barrett of Avon Wildlife Trust for his talk to BCR and CCA, which inspired this blog post. Avon Wildlife Trust is committed to enabling wildlife to survive and thrive across the region. Joining the trust is another great action you can take to fight the Ecological Emergency.
On another note, readers of this blog might be interested to hear that our sister group, Clifton Climate Action are starting a series of monthly eco-challenges. Here’s what CCA member Julie has to say about the challenges:
From 1 November, we're starting a new initiative to get us all making those changes to our daily lives that will really add up and help in the climate and ecological emergencies.
Each month, we'll provide you with a menu of challenges on a theme and you can pick one or more, or come up with one of your own, and we can all do them together. Our first theme is clothing and you can find the challenges here. Be sure to let us know on our social media how you get on!
Easier Than You Think will be blogging about these challenges, so watch this space for more updates.
Did you know: With more than 500,000 different species of animals and plants, Costa Rica houses at least 5% of the world's biodiversity?
As discussed our previous blog, Ethical Consumer Week is coming up at the end of October. Last time, we looked at some of the national and online shops where you can buy clothes which are kinder to the planet.
However, Bristol itself, which has been a Fair Trade City since 2005, is a great place for shopping with both the environment and ethics in mind. Plus of course buying local means you can pop down to the shops on your bike, rather than paying for lorries to move goods around the country.
Here are some of my top picks for ethical shopping in Bristol.
Arts and crafts
Independent art and gallery shop Room 212 on Gloucester Road sells arts and crafts made by local people, including owner Sarah Thorp. The shop offers a range of Bristol-related prints, jewellery and gifts, meaning it’s the perfect place to buy birthday or Christmas presents for your loved ones. The shop is described as ‘fiercely independent’ and is partially run by the local artists who sell their work there. Sarah says:
"I believe in encouraging people to shop local within their community, think about the products they buy, reduce waste and packaging."
Zero waste shops
There are a host of zero waste shops in Bristol. My favourite is Nom Wholefoods, who are a delivery service rather than a physical shop. Nom currently deliver to BS4, BS5, BS7, BS15, BS16, BS30, BS31 and BS36. However, they say they are looking to expand this catchment area, so get in touch with them if you live outside of those areas and want to use their services. Nom sell beans, pulses, coffee, herbs and spices, nuts and seeds, bathroom products and face masks. They will deliver in either paper bags or glass jars, which they will then refill. They will also refill your laundry detergent for you, meaning you can reuse those pesky plastic bottles that are cluttering up our oceans.
Photo by Tim Hüfner on Unsplash
Other zero waste shops in Bristol include Smaller Footprints (Clifton), Preserve, Scoopaway (both Gloucester Road) and Zero Green (Bedminster).
Brothers We Stand sells men's clothes which are made ethically and created to last. Each item of clothing sold has a label which details its social and environmental impact, offering you a transparent window on what it is you’re buying. You can read more about their vision here. As well as an online shop, they also have a physical store in Whapping Wharf. Brothers We Stand sells colourful shirts, cosy hoodies and even has a range of vegan belts and wallets.
Buying your clothes second hand is always going to be more ethical than buying anything new. Fortunately, there is a dizzying array of charity shops in Bristol. My recommendation is to get down to Cotham Hill in Clifton, where there are multiple options. You can also pick up books, records, DVDs, knick knacks and games in these shops, as well as clothes.
Bristol has been crowned as the world’s number one city for vegans three years in a row, meaning it’s super easy to eat delicious food which hasn’t harmed the planet or any animals in almost any area of the city. As a vegan and great dinner enthusiast myself, I would personally recommend the plant-based options at Dangun (St Nick's), the burgers at Quay Street Diner (Harbourside) and the wraps at Baba Ganoush (St Paul's).
Additionally, the Old Market Assembly offers delicious food from a seasonal and sustainable flexitarian menu. These guys say they are ‘passionate about showcasing local supplier produce with creative, flavourful dishes we create everything fresh in house’. They offer veggie, vegan and meat dishes, meaning you don’t have to go entirely plant-based to eat here.
You may well have heard about the damage that fast fashion is doing to the planet. The West’s appetite for new clothes is harmful to people, animals and the planet itself. Indeed, it has been claimed that the fashion industry emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined. The fashion industry accounts for 10% of our carbon outputs, uses more than its fair share of water, and damages the oceans by releasing micro-plastics when clothes are washed.
Ethical Consumer Magazine are holding their annual Ethical Consumer Week later this month, from October 24th-30th. This is a week of panels and workshops designed to help businesses and individuals make more ethical choices in the future. With this in mind, our October blogs are going to be all about how you can become a more ethical consumer.
So what can you do if you need some new clothes and want to avoid contributing to the climate emergency? Firstly, ask yourself if you really do need something new. Is there a pair of trousers in the back of your wardrobe you forgot about? Can you put a belt round that dress so that it looks like something new? Has your flatmate got a fancy hat you can borrow?
Sometimes, the answer to all those things is no. And that’s OK - you still have ethical options ahead of you.
Buying second hand is a great option. Bristol is chocca with fantastic charity shops, particularly in Clifton. If you tick the ‘used’ option on eBay, you can find great second-hand outfits for any occasion there too.
Mending or repairing clothes you’d given up on is another option. If you’re not a dab hand with a machine yourself, you could contact one of the local sewing geniuses we list on the BCR website such as Victoria Dry Cleaners in central Bristol, Sew Much More in Easton or Daddy Alterations on Gloucester Road.
Photo by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash
If you’ve tried all of those options and still can’t find the right dress for that special wedding or shirt for that important interview, you might want to turn to some of the high-quality, eco-options for buying new clothes that are out there. Ethical Consumer have a great page which lists a multitude of ethical shops. Let’s have a look at my top picks from that page.
Lucy and Yak are my favourites from the Ethical Consumer list. Lots of my mates own dungarees made by this company and, frankly, I am longing to try out their comfy yet stylish lounge-ability. The dungarees are unisex, but the rest of the range is for women only. Items include fabulously colourful trousers, pinafore dresses and polka dot socks. While ethical clothes are always going to be more expensive than fast fashion, the prices here are not too eye-watering. If you avoid Primark for a couple of months, you might find you have enough for a £54 pair of dungarees without having to smash too many piggy banks.
Thought Clothing have collections for men and women, as well as sale section so tempting I nearly broke my own pledge of buying no new clothes in 2020. They set out to protect people and the environment with their clothes, which are simple, stylish and made to last.
Finally, Greenfibre Organic sell sustainable items for your kitchen, bathroom and bedroom as well as clothes for men, women and children. Some of the pyjamas on this site look especially delicious.
If you do decide to buy new, look out for clothing that uses organic cotton and is fair trade, and always avoid vicose clothing, which is hugely damaging to the planet.
Good luck out there - let us know how you get on with your forays into slower fashion!
Did you know: it takes 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to make a pair of jeans?
Easier Than You Think is about the individual actions we can take to help fight climate change. However, as we all know, individuals can't fix the world by working alone. Trust me, if I had the power to do that, I'd also have a lot more ponies and lot less rain in my life!
Sometimes, the best thing we can do as individuals is to try to effect systemic change. That means getting together with other people to put pressure on policy makers, companies and governments so that we can ask them to stop acting like the bad guys in an action movie and start doing the right thing.
Photo by Fabian Burghardt on Unsplash
There is a perfect opportunity to do just that this week – you can write to your MP about the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) bill. This is a bill that’s been created by activists, scientists and policy experts. If it passes, the bill will force the UK government to create an enact a serious plan to deal with all of our emissions - those we keep at home and those we palm off overseas.
We can't hope for technology to be invented that will save the day. We're running out of time and need to act now; the crazy extremes of weather we've seen in Bristol in the past few month or so are evidence of that. I believe that the best way to enforce real change is through a citizen's assembly (which the CEE calls for) since some of the decisions that will need to be taken could be political suicide for any party. Although of course other decisions may prove hugely popular – who didn’t enjoy the cleaner air and quieter streets in the first few weeks of lockdown?
The bill is supported by Caroline Lucas, environmental writer Rob Hopkins and environmental academic Bill McKibben. And by Easier Than You Think!
There are several ways you could contact your MP to ask them to support the CEE. You could write a letter, send an email or give them a ring.
If you’re unsure about who your MP is, this handy website will help you out. Another useful resource for researching your MP is this website, which tells you how they have previously voted on various matters including climate change. Just type in your postcode to find your MP, and click on their full voting record to see where they stand.
When writing to your MP, it’s best to pen something yourself rather than copying and pasting an email, as this means it’s more likely that your concerns will be read. However, it can be hard to know what to say. Here’s the email I wrote my lovely MP Kerry McCarthy, to give you a template you can adapt for writing to your MP about this issue - or any other climate change concern.
Start off by telling your MP who you are and, if possible, making it clear that you know a bit about who they are. If they are doing good work to help fight climate change, thank them. If they’re not, don’t be rude or aggro; it won’t help the cause.
Dear MP (insert your MP name here),
I am one of your constituents, and I'm writing to you to ask you to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (the CEE). We've emailed before about several issues, including the frequent flyer tax, so I know you're dedicated to fighting climate change. Thank you for all you are doing for the planet.
Talk a bit about why you care about this issue. Are you worried about your family, friends abroad, animals, the developing world? Tell your MP about this.
I am terrified by climate change. In the past months, we've seen some of the highest temperatures on record in the UK, followed by devastating winds and rain. We can't hide from the truth anymore - climate change is coming. It's going to make our lives difficult, and the lives of our children unthinkable. Of course, it’s already wreaking havoc in the developing world, as a result of the consumption habits of the West, which is so shameful.
Tell them why you’re emailing – and again, make it personal if you can.
I'm going to guess that you already know about the CEE bill - but just in case, I'll tell you about it. The bill is a call for the UK to make and stick to an urgent and serious plan for dealing with our emissions; ALL of our emissions, both those at home and those we palm off overseas.
End your email with a call to action and more thanks; either for their hard work, or just for reading your letter.
Please do all you can to get this bill passed - the planet needs us to act.
Thank you again for all the hard work you do,
If you would prefer to call your MP, that’s great, as it apparently has more impact. Personally, I get a bit flustered on the phone – written words are way more my thing than spoken ones – but the few times I have gathered up my courage and called an MP, they’ve always been polite and open to listening to what I have to say. You can find your MP's phone number on this website.
Good luck, and let us know how you get on in the comment box below!
Did you know: The Extinction Rebellion protests of 2019 had a direct impact on the UK’s announcement that we are in a climate emergency. Protesting can work!
Thanks to dear old David Attenborough, we all know that single-use plastics are the work of the devil. Some single use plastics are pretty easy to ditch - we can all say no to straws at the pub or pick up loose apples instead of those wrapped in plastic in the supermarket.
Other single use plastics are rather harder to replace - including those in the bathroom. Shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, razors - all of these thing tend to come in plastic.
Of course, one option is just to give up washing entirely, but for the sake of your friends and family, it might be a good idea try to think outside of that particular box.
I decided to aim for a plastic-free bathroom about a year ago. I’m not all the way there yet, but I have made some good discoveries which I shall share with you in this blog.
Photo by Amauri Mejía on Unsplash
Switching shower gel for soap is a super-easy first step. You might need to shop around to find a soap that lathers up in the way you want it to, but there are lots out there to choose from - including lots of soaps made right here in Bristol.
A selection of these include Margaret May, Wild Grove Felted and Made in Fishponds soaps.
There’s also a wide range of shampoo bars out there. I personally love Lush’s Jason and the Argan Oil bar, which lathers up really well and leaves my hair feeling clean and fresh. There’s a Lush shop in Broadmead, so you can cycle there and browse their range of zero-waste products, many of which are also vegan.
Conditioner is a bit tougher - I’ve tried various conditioner bars which have left my hair pretty crunchy, as if we’re back in the 80s and I’ve piled on the mousse in an attempt to look like Cyndi Lauper - never a bad thing in itself, but not great for clean hair! The two conditioner bars which I’ve found to work fairly well are the Big pressed conditioner from Lush and the Tilly Oak shea butter conditioner bar.
Various zero waste shops in Bristol including Preserve (on Gloucester Road), Smaller Footprints (Clifton) and Zero Green (North Street, BS3) have reasonably priced refill options for liquid shampoo and conditioner. I haven’t tried these yet, but they’re worth checking out if you live nearby.
Razors are tougher still. Despite being an ardent feminist, I have grown up in a world which teaches us that women should be smooth and hairless from the neck down at all times - and it must be said, the fancy-pants, triple-bladed, disposable razors available in the supermarket make it all too easy to abide by this rule. I tried switching to an old safety razor that belongs to my partner, but I found it pretty tricky to use.
In the end, I took a deep breath and settled for just being a bit hairy for a few months. If this sounds like your idea of hell, there are various zero waste shaving packages on the market, although I’ve yet to try them. These include kits from Wearth London, Peace with the Wild, Mutiny Shaving and Plastic Freedom, who apparently plant a tree for every order.
Finally, if you switch your plastic pouffy scrubber for an organic cotton flannel and try to only have a shower when you really need one, you’ll have made some great steps towards getting greener when you get cleaner. Let us know if you have any more tips in the comments below.
Did you know: Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastics enter our oceans on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that are already there?
Photo by Lubomirkin on Unsplash
It seems impossible to believe that in 2012, just eight years ago – the year of the Olympics, the year of the smoking ban, the year of that BoJo became London mayor – most of us didn’t have a smartphone.
How did we muddle through without Facebook and Twitter and Instagram just a fingernail away? How did we ever work out where we were going without Google Maps to tell us which way was up? How did we cope without emails constantly barraging our consciousness?
Well, probably a lot better in many ways, but that’s a whole different blog for a whole different day. Smartphones are here now, and the chances are, they’re here to stay.
While smartphones might make us more connected and more able to cheat at pub quizzes, they are not without their environmental costs.
Mining the precious metals and rare materials that make the chip and motherboard for smartphones is pretty carbon-heavy; and if we’re changing phone every two years, this is a process that is repeated again and again.
Photo by Gian Cescon on Unsplash
Given that most of us have – and feel we need – smartphones, how can we try to neutralise some of the damage they do? Here are three simple steps we can all take.
1. Upgrade less often
Keeping your smartphone for even three years instead of two makes a big difference as it means no-one has to mine for those new materials. Have a look at this blog for some tips on how to extend your phone's battery life, which will help you hang onto your phone beyond the two years that our contracts suggest we should have them for. The tips include ideas such as deleting the power-hungry Facebook app and turning the brightness down on your screen. Since reading that advice, I've been aiming to charge my phone little and often rather than all the way up to 100% - it's not always possible, but can be done.
2. Buy second-hand when you do upgrade
There are plenty of reputable sellers offering refurbished second-hand phones on eBay. Make sure you check the seller’s reviews before you buy. Or you could go to your local branch of CEX, where you will always find a selection of second-hand phones for sale. As with all ‘stuff’, second-hand is better for the planet as it means fewer resources are used and fewer once treasured items are thrown into landfill.
BCR Energy Group secretary Dorian Wainwright has been buying second-hand phones for a while now. He says...
"When my last phone broke beyond repair, I decided to buy a second-hand one from CEX in Broadmead. This was actually the third or fourth phone I've bought there for me or someone else. I'm always impressed by the range they have on sale, and if you don't mind the occasional little scuff or scratch, or having an odd colour phone (mine's gold, but I've hidden it inside a black case!), then there are some real bargains to be had. I highly recommend second-hand phones to anyone who knows what they're looking for."
Have a look at our page on Sharing, Repairing and Buying Second Hand, which includes links to where to buy second-hand phones in Bristol.
Photo by Darwin Vegher on Unsplash
3. Get an Ecotalk SIM card
Ecotalk are a company who offer well-priced mobile phone deals with a green outcome. They use the money they make from their customers to buy land and give it back to nature. In this way, they are providing urgently needed homes for bees, meaning that you are giving something back to nature as you make calls and texts.
I recently made the switch to Ecotalk myself, and found that getting one of their SIM cards was simple. Since I was on a SIM-only deal with another company, all I needed to do was send a text to my providers asking for a PAC code. Once I had that, I paid for a deal on Ecotalk which was a similar price to my previous deal, with exactly the same amount of minutes and data. They then sent me a SIM, which I put into my phone. Even for someone like me who is nervous about new tech, this process couldn't have been easier.
Edited on 5/10/202: Please note that Ecotalk SIM cards don't currently support WiFi calling, which can be a problem if you rely on this at home. They hope to address this issue soon. I'll update the blog when they do so!
Have you got any more tips for how to be a (slightly more!) responsible smartphone owner? If so, post them in the comment box below.
Photo by Jenna Lee on Unsplash
Did you know: Smartphones are worse for the planet than computers, laptops, monitors and servers, as demonstrated by the fact that that information and communication technology represented just 1% of the carbon footprint in 2007 and, according to researchers, will climb up to a whopping 14% by 2040.