Wendy Graham

weekend links

Ten Things

Hello! How’s it going?

For any new readers, every Sunday morning I do a bitesize unbiased link roundup of the week’s environmental news and good reads. Over the hot beverage of your choice, you can get up to speed and read all of the good stuff in one place. It’s been another busy week, so let’s cut the chit chat and jump straight in.

This week’s links:

1. The UK has just gone a full week without using any coal-generated electricity for the first time since the industrial revolution. As recently as six years ago, burning coal provided 40% of the UK’s electricity needs, so we’ve made massive leaps and bounds in a short space of time.

Before we all jump for joy, this doesn’t mean that we’re fully renewable – natural gas, a fossil fuel, is filling in the gaps. However natural gas emits about half as much carbon as coal per kWh of electricity it generates, so it is a greener option until we can be fully renewable (potentially by 2025).

2. Ireland has become the second country in the world to declare a climate emergency.

The Irish Climate Action Minister, Richard Bruton, said climate change has been “rightly” described as the greatest challenge facing humanity. “We’re reaching a tipping point in respect of climate deterioration,” he said. “Things will deteriorate very rapidly unless we move very swiftly and the window of opportunity to do that is fast closing.” He added that urgency had been injected into the debate by the protests by school students calling for action from parliaments around the world.

3. Scotland has unveiled a new deposit-return scheme, whereby consumers in Scotland will have to pay a 20p deposit on every bottle or drinks can they buy from shops.

Small shops have criticised the measures, but the Scottish government has stayed strong saying “There is a global climate emergency and people across Scotland have been calling, rightly, for more ambition to tackle it and safeguard our planet for future generations”.

4. “Stop saying we have 12 years left to address climate change

Climate change is not so much an emergency as a festering injustice. Your ancestors did not end slavery by declaring an emergency and dreaming up artificial boundaries on “tolerable” slave numbers. They called it out for what it was: a spectacularly profitable industry, the basis of much prosperity at the time, something founded on a fundamental injustice. It’s time to do the same on climate change. prominently in that party’s manifesto“.

5. Why change if no-one else will?

Change trickles from the bottom up—from the grassroots. Plastic pollution awareness has led people around the world to reject excessively packaged products, to design better products and to demand change from industry and government. All of this has begun to lead to change, slowly at first but lately, the movement has picked up steam… Grassroots activism works. Keep this in mind when you think your changes don’t matter. They do. They add up. Together, we change the world“.

6. Most people waste more food than they think – here’s how to fix it.

7. “You can’t be an environmentalist if…“. Some great lessons here.

it seems so strange to me that people who are so devoted to it might choose to pick a fight with someone who is ten feet to their left, or ten feet to their right, rather than saying ‘all hands on deck’.

8. Related – how as individuals we can’t do everything, but together we can.

9. How to make sustainable fashion people will actually buy.

10. Finally, the top five issues in the upcoming EU elections (23rd May).

Before I go, a few people have been asking me about plastic-free hair conditioner lately. I have tried a few solid conditioner bars and been sorely disappointed with the results, so last year I did some research into zero-waste solid conditioner bar alternatives. You can find that post here with different options for different hair types. Currently, I am using this product* (affiliate link), which comes in a glass bottle, and I can’t rate it highly enough.

The initial price point is high (£16), but once I’ve washed my hair I use 3 small drops on my damp hair, so I reckon at this rate one bottle is going to last about a year, which is considerably less than what I would spend on conditioner over the course of a year.

Using oil on your hair sounds counterproductive, and I was worried it would leave my hair greasy, but it hasn’t been the case at all. My hair is soft, smooth and shiny and it’s been a huge step up from the conditioner bars I tried which left my hair feeling like straw. The fact that it smells of chocolate is an added bonus!

Finally, palm-oil free peanut butter in Aldi of all places, and a plastic-free giveaway (ends today – Sunday 12th May – so get in quick)!


Overnight Breaks, Travel

Why We Need to Stop Saying “It’ll Go Without Me” When It Comes to Air Travel

“It’ll go without me” is a common excuse about air travel that needs to stop if we want to be part of the solution to our climate emergency.

I was in a cafe the other day, the kind of cafe where the tables are squashed together just a little too close to one another for comfort. I had come for peace and quiet, and as I took my seat at the only free table, I immediately regretted my choice of cafe. Two women were sat at the table next to me chatting quite loudly, and as I drank my cup of tea and scribbled some notes, I tried to tune out their chatter.

My ears pricked, however, when their conversation turned to holidays. One woman revealed to the other that she and her husband had booked a family holiday abroad, and whilst she was excited about the holiday, she had recently watched David Attenborough’s Climate Change: The Facts. and felt terrible guilt over the flights it would entail and the impact on the environment. Her friend, being the good friend, told her not to worry because that flight would go anyway, whether she was on the flight or not, and the act of her flying on this particular flight wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference to the environment.

I bit my tongue because I’m not the kind of person that would butt into the conversation of strangers (though it seems I’m the type of person that would recount the conversation of strangers on the internet!), but I couldn’t help but wish we could stop spreading the false notion of “it’ll go without me” when it comes to transport, particularly air travel.

Profits, Not a Public Service

When it comes to air travel, you have to remember that flight operators are businesses – they don’t just exist to perform a public service – so money is everything. Flights and routes need to be profitable otherwise services get cut. So yes, in the short term that one flight probably will go without you, but in the long term the fewer people that choose to fly, the fewer flights and fewer runways are required, and the less profitable aviation becomes, meaning the “it’ll go without me” notion becomes a hollow excuse.

Of course, some air travel can be unavoidable. Work trips, trips to see family and friends abroad, or living on a small island with little alternative, can mean few alternatives to flying. However, 47% of Britons are willing to fly less because of climate change (ignore the doom and gloom right wing headline, 47% of Britons is HUGE). If almost half the country stopped flying for avoidable trips – e.g. to go on holiday abroad – the numbers of flights would be cut back drastically to reflect the downturn in demand.

Of course, it’s not just Brits that need to stop flying to be able to reduce flights, but no-fly campaigns are growing in Europe, and I would imagine will catch on more and more as interest and awareness in our climate emergency gathers momentum – particularly when one transatlantic flight can add as much to your carbon footprint as a typical year’s worth of driving (and that’s just one way).

Be Part of the Solution

So the “it’ll go without me” excuse doesn’t hold weight: like most environmental actions, while you won’t save the world on your own by not flying, you will certainly be part of the solution by not flying when you don’t need to.

If you want to really be part of the solution when it comes to air travel then consider the value of social proof. This survey on fast fashion, for example, showed that a staggering 90% of respondents would shop secondhand if their friends or family did so first. Therefore, it would hold if more of us holiday in the UK and talk to our friends and family about our holiday,s then the more people that will consider the value of holidaying without flying anywhere.

One of my Scottish friends took a holiday in the north of Scotland over Easter and shared the photos on Facebook. Two Scottish people commented that the photos of the trip had inspired them to holiday in Scotland, which on a micro-scale highlights the value of social proof:

And living in the UK, we really are spoiled for choice when it comes to beautiful spots to holiday in – there’s no shortage of places to go. From city breaks to beach holidays, to forests to mountains, we really do have it all.

It’ll Go Without Me Applies to Public Transport Too

The same “it’ll go without me” mentality when it comes to public transport is another one that needs to stop, because, like with airlines, if people don’t use their local bus and rail networks, they will cease to run too.

Whilst many bus routes are subsidised by local authorities, these routes still have to be profitable. When bus routes get cut, these cuts hit the poorest the most. The more we use public transport, the better for the environment and the better for those on lower incomes too, which is true sustainability.

Over to you: do you holiday in the UK? Have you cut back on your flying because of climate change? Would you cut back on your flying because of climate change? I’d love to hear!