Eco News

Eco News

Ten Things – 9th June 2019

Hello! How’s your week been? Over on Instagram this week, for fun, I shared the story of how I got into environmentalism (spoiler: I don’t come from an environmentally progressive family).

Also, thanks so much for your response to my post on why plastic-free isn’t always the best for the environment. It’s an incredibly complex world we live in, isn’t it?

1. The absolute best thing I read this week was this: “I work in the environmental movement – I don’t care if you recycle” by one of my favourite people I follow on Twitter – Mary Annaïse Hegler.

When people come to me and confess their green sins, as if I were some sort of eco-nun, I want to tell them they are carrying the guilt of the oil and gas industry’s crimes. That the weight of our sickly planet is too much for any one person to shoulder. And that that blame paves the road to apathy, which can really seal our doom.

But that doesn’t mean we do nothing. Climate change is a vast and complicated problem, and that means the answer is complicated too. We need to let go of the idea that it’s all of our individual faults, then take on the collective responsibility of holding the true culprits accountable. In other words, we need to become many Davids against one big, bad Goliath.

2. There was bad news aplenty this week, with a report being issued on the likely outcomes if we take no action. It’s quite grim reading, so, bearing in mind what Mary Annaïse Hegler wrote, let’s become those Davids against the Goliath. Not sure where to start? This article is a useful guide on what we should be lobbying the Government on. Here are the contact details for your local MP. Roll your sleeves up and let’s get on with it!

3. India is experiencing a severe heatwave, and a delayed monsoon season, which has seen clashes among locals over access to scarce water supplies and caused monkeys to kill each other. The vet who performed the autopsies said herbivores don’t normally indulge in such conflicts, but in the face of dwindling water and rising temperatures, it seems they acted out of desperation.

4. The irony of zero-waste products.

5. Waitrose has launched a bulk refill service in it’s Oxford store, as a trial. Undoubtedly this is great, but I would love to see a supermarket that caters to a wider demographic of shoppers taking this up.

Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s is changing how it sells its loose fruit, vegetables, and bakery items. Plastic bags will no longer be available for these items – customers must bring their own bags or buy a re-usable bag made from recycled materials.

6. Hats off to Ethiopia, who are planting 4 billion trees before August. That’s August 2019. The hugely ambitious project aims to transform degraded environments, and in doing so foster healthy lives and functional ecosystems, e.g. by helping tackle mudslides and soil erosion, At the same time, work will be done to remove invasive water-hungry species such as eucalyptus. Western countries should take note.

7. Do we really need any more sustainable fashion brands?

Being overly prescriptive about how others ought to respond to the current ecological breakdown is dangerous when not everyone is cut out for the same kind of work, and to say that no one should ever start a new sustainable brand again is probably too reductive. But what is clear is that with a timeline this short to combat the climate crisis, in a world that already contains more than enough apparel to clothe every human alive, would-be brand founders need to make sure they’re starting with the right set of questions.

8. I learned something new this week – only white or clear plastic is in demand from recyclers. Apparently, the cosmetics industry manufactures plastic bottles in bright and dark colours, knowing full well they will never be recycled simply because of the colour, all in the name of branding.

“It all comes down to economics,” says Sarah Teeter, global project manager of recycling company TerraCycle. Recyclers can only sustain themselves by recovering and recycling the things that are profitable.” That means that, ultimately, recycling is a business and, as of now, only clear and white plastic sells“.

This is the heart of greenwashing: Cleverly disguising the real eco-footprint of a product to sell to consumers who are interested in being more environmental, but are not yet educated on the ins and outs.

9. Wild bees are building their nests from plastic and nobody knows why. Scientists can only speculate if this is beneficial – e.g. by forming a barrier against common nest issues like mold and parasites – or harmful to the bees.

10. Finally, a powerful reminder.


ps: Catch the last Ten Things from 2nd June here.

Eco News

Ten Things – 2nd June 2019

Hello! Having a good weekend? I’ve had a busy one at work – evening and weekends this week – so I’m just going to jump straight in if you don’t mind me:

1. New Zealand has just abandoned economic growth or other growth indicators as a political priority, in favour of well-being. Billions of pounds will be spent on mental health services, child poverty, homelessness and domestic violence.

This is absolutely huge news. In the UK we are pursuing economic growth at all cost – economic growth is used as a justification for everything, from additional runways to increased road building. Meanwhile the Government are pushing wellbeing further and further down the agenda. Neither of these aspects are in any way sustainable, and we could learn a huge amount from New Zealand’s lead on this.

2. What do the plastics and climate crises have in common? The same someone profiting from the status quo.

Whether it be the fossil fuel industry or the broader petrochemical industry, the corporations profiting from the problem have been reluctant to envision a future where they could profit, instead, from the solutions to the problem.

While governments, various private-sector actors and private citizens have joined forces in an effort to find alternatives to single-use, plastics manufacturers have been largely AWOL. In fact, they’re increasing production“.

3. That status quo is clearly hurting poorer communities. This week it has been reported that Malaysia is to return 3,000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste to the countries that sent it there, including the UK, after being deluged with so much waste that their recycling systems have been overwhelmed. Rubbish has often been dumped or discarded, only to end up as marine litter.

The environment minister, Yeo Bee Yin, said that “garbage is traded under the pretext of recycling [and] Malaysians are forced to suffer poor air quality due to open burning of plastics which leads to health hazard, polluted rivers, illegal landfills and a host of other related problems.”

4. Every protest shifts the world’s balance. An eloquent reminder on why our actions matter.

People taking such stands have changed the world over and over, toppled regimes, won rights, terrified tyrants, stopped pipelines and deforestation and dams. They go far further back… to the great revolutions of France and then of Haiti against France and back before that to peasant uprisings and indigenous resistance in Africa and the Americas to colonisation and enslavement and to countless acts of resistance on all scales that were never recorded“.

5. Britain has now gone two weeks without coal.

6. Mexico has a new environment minister, and I like the cut of his jib.

“Human beings are not responsible for global warming, as superficial environmentalism and uncritical science would like to tell us… The responsible are a parasitic and predatory minority, and that minority has a name: neoliberalism.”

7. After last week’s radical plan to save the planet by working less, here’s a further case for working fewer hours: each bank holiday saves at least 100,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.

8. Supporting this campaign from Which? on Freedom to Pay, which highlights the many people and industries that are affected by a society moving away from cash payments. 

9. The Indian school that accepts plastic waste instead of school fees.

10. Finally, new podcast alert – Big Closets, Small Planet is a new podcast series that seeks to explore what it will take to transform the fashion industry so that it contributes positively to the lives of people and the health of the planet.

Have a great Sunday!


ps: catch up on the previous Ten Things post here.