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.
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.
I moved to Bristol four years ago, from London, via Hull. I’ve driven since I was 18, a terrifying 25 years ago. I didn’t drive that much in London, because of public transport, or in Hull, because it’s tiny and you just don’t have to. But when I moved to the top of the hill in East Dundry, I was suddenly driving to work, to yoga, to the supermarket - everywhere.
I was dimly aware that all the traffic jams I was part of were bad for more reasons than just my blood pressure, but with miles rolling away beneath me, the sun coming in through the windows and pop music pounding on the stereo, I kept telling myself that this was my only option. My brave neighbour cycled to work every day, but given that I hadn’t been on a bike in 15 years and even my Renault Clio could barely make it up Broadoak Hill, I quickly dismissed that option as madness and kept on truckin’, despite the guilt about my emissions creeping up.
When I moved to Fishponds in 2019 and became properly engaged with just how bad the climate
crisis really is, I knew I couldn’t put off the evil moment anymore. So, filled with a certainty that I’d be smashed to smithereens under a truck before
the week was out – or, more likely, die of a stitch by the end of the day – I got myself down to
Bool’s Bikes on Staple Hill and, after being helped
by some truly lovely staff members, bought myself a purple hydrid. I named her Greta. Because why not?
Rather than being the trial I feared, I fell in love with cycling pretty damn quickly. Zipping past the traffic, flying down hills, taking in the ever-changing graffiti – it’s all pretty awesome. Living right near the Bristol and Bath Railway Path helped. You do have to contend with all those terribly important men wearing Lycra who are in a Very Big Rush to get past you at the speed of sound. That can be a bit unnerving at first, but you soon get used to it. And the certainty of knowing that you will arrive at your destination at the right time, rather than having to allow an extra half an hour ‘just in case’ makes it all worth it.
The hills are hard, I’m not gonna lie. But the warm glow of knowing you’re doing good for the planet while also earning yourself some extra cake-calories for when you get home make it easier. And if the hills are too much for you, you could always get an electric bike for that bit of extra help.
If you live in Bristol and are nervous about making that all important switch from car to bike, you might be interested to know that Life Cycle UK does lessons for adults who are new to cycling, making it that bit easier get started. If you live in the South West, have a look at this map to find a bike shop near you.
All of this information and so much more about cycling is available on the Better Transport Options page of this website.
Let us know how you get on in the comment box below.
Did you know… Bikes aren’t entirely carbon-footprint-free as they do need to be made. However, riding a bike contributes 10 times LESS carbon to the atmosphere than driving.