It’s hard knowing the best way we can do our bit to look after the planet. So much of the environmental messaging seems to be asking for us to do quite a lot, often to make compromises – which is brilliant and important when we have the time and means. In a world where we’re busier than ever, stretched and stressed, there’s a real benefit in finding every day things that we can do to help us feel proud, that don’t take ages to achieve on those days when doing the right thing can seem so unachievable.
Reducing our plastic usage is a great example of this – there are loads of great things we can all do that don’t take that much time.
As the Midcounties Co-operative’s Environment Ambassador, (more info here) I’m stoked to have worked on their 1Change campaign with them this year, empowering individuals to reduce their plastic usage by pledging to make One Change. I’m also excited to report that they’re working hard to reduce the amount of plastic used in their operations too, including removing an estimated 3 million plastic bags from their stores next year, and replacing them with compostable alternatives in places where food collections allow the use of these bags in food caddies.
The latest instalment of the 1Change campaign is 1Change in 1Minute:
A recent survey from The Midcounties Co-operative found almost 45% of British adults wished they had more time in the day to be ‘greener’. In response, to help time-poor people who want to make a difference, The Midcounties Co-op has created a digital guide ‘How to help save the world in 60 seconds’ which highlights ten tips to reduce single-use plastic in 60 seconds.
I strongly believe that taking action, small steps, can lead to further action by giving us hope and helping us feel like we CAN play a positive part in protecting our environment. I hope you’re able to take some of the above on board, and continue to make other changes when you do have time.
Please continue to support organisations and businesses that are doing the right thing too, such as the Midcounties Co-op, local shops who have switched away from plastic-lined coffee cups and straws, and charities that are working in your community to run litter clean ups. It all adds up, it helps to inspire and educate others, and together our small changes can have a big impact.
Actions you can take to be a part of the 1 Change movement:
• Members can make their 1Change in 1Minute pledge at the Midcounties Co-op’s website
• Showcase your pledge…
» On social media using #1Change and tagging @midcounties
» Consider completing a video blog carrying out the 1 minute challenge or talking about any changes made to tackle single use plastic and posting these on social media using #1Change and tagging @midcounties
For more info about the Midcounties Co-op and my role with them, see my blog, ‘What is a Coop?’
Why Bother Using less plastic – What can one person really achieve?
It’s a question I get asked a lot, and something I regularly ask myself too when the grocery shopping becomes difficult to do without plastic.
What am I actually going to achieve by refusing to use plastic?
I don’t live a completely single-use plastic-free lifestyle, I think it’s currently incredibly difficult to do, and I strongly believe that the onus should not be solely on the consumer, but shared with the producers too. However I do refuse single use plastic wherever I can, and purposely buy products that are not wrapped in plastic. I think about what I’ll need when I leave the house, and take it with me to avoid having to buy into the throwaway culture we’ve found ourselves in. The effects of this, in my opinion, are further reaching than just a reduction in plastic consumption, and include improving our own wellbeing by living in line with our values, and encouraging others, including companies, to make their changes too. It’s working – there’s plenty evidence to that effect.
I think it’s really important to look at the big picture here, and see it not just as those individual pieces of plastic that are not used, but more of a global movement. There are several important reasons that I think reducing your single use plastic consumption is actually beneficial for not only the planet, but your own health, finances and state of mind. Whether that’s religiously refilling your reusable water bottle, asking for your drinks without straws, or shopping at places where you can get your groceries unwrapped, the benefits of reducing your reliance on single use plastic may be further reaching than originally thought.
Here are ten reasons to reduce your single-use plastic usage
1.Reducing the Plastic in the Environment
The first has to be, quite obviously, that each piece of plastic we say no to can no longer find its way into the environment, into the oceans, and injure an animal. 80 % of plastic in the oceans originates from land-based sources – the less we use on land, the less will find its way there.
2. Inspiring Others
Your refusal of that piece of plastic may also inspire somebody else to take the stand too. One person’s impact may be minimal, but scaled up to the billions of people living on this planet and all of a sudden we’re having an enormous effect.
3. Pressure on Producers
I agree with many people’s beliefs that the onus should not fall solely onto the individual, and that the producers and companies who are profiting from selling their products in plastic, at the expense of our and our planet’s health, should be taking more responsibility than most currently are. However, without the pressure from us as consumers, the ones who keep their businesses alive, it’s unlikely to happen. So taking a stance against unnecessary single-use plastic, refusing it, spending your money in places that are taking this crisis seriously, is sending a very clear message to those companies that this is something that matters to their customers, and something they need to start taking seriously.
4. Save money
With five litres of our lovely, drinkable UK tap water costing less than one pence, why are we paying a pound for a bottle which contains less than one litre?! Most coffee shops offer a 50p discount with your own cup. Over a year, if you had 3 coffees a week, you’d save almost £80 just by taking your own cup! Taking a packed lunch instead of buying pre-packaged food when your out will save you heaps of money, and even taking your own carrier bags will save all those 5p charges.
5. Mindset adjustment
We have to re-learn how to live without plastic, and readdress our reliance on single-use. This isn’t just about plastic, this is about our perceived entitlement to a throwaway culture, where the planet pays for our laziness. All disposable materials carry a footprint, and where that product is unnecessary, we need to be changing our relationship with it. Refusing single use plastic where you can is becoming easier and easier as more shops and companies understand the importance of it, and so this could be the first step in us readdressing our entire mindset around single-use.
6. Vote with your wallet
Where do we as consumers have the most impact? We can vote. In elections, and with our wallet. Recently on a trip to the Maldives, I asked the resorts who were ditching single-use plastic what their motivation behind this was. Yes there was some inherent desire to do the right thing amongst management, but more potently their consumers wanted to see no plastic, they wanted them to take responsibiltiy. Spend your hard earned cash at places that care about this stuff, support the businesses that are doing the right thing, and make it known to them how much this matters to you. This is where, as consumers, our strength lies.
7. Plastic is harmful to our health
We don’t know quite to what extent the plastic in our lives is affecting us, but certain types of plastic have been proven to be carcinogenic, harbour toxins, and are sometimes contain harmful chemicals. Consuming food wrapped in this, drinking water contained in it, could also be harmful to our health. I no longer use plastic tubs or bags to transport food as am concerned about the potential impacts on my health. We are not separate from the planet – we are part of it, and something that is affecting our planet’s health is also going to affect ours.
8. Cognitive Dissonance
This is one of my favourite concepts – the idea that if what we do is not aligned with our values, it harms our psyche, and our sense of wellbeing. It causes unease and sometimes even guilt. I am very keen to discourage guilt and shame – I think these are wholly unhelpful ways to tackle a problem. So I always encourage people to feel proud of the positive impacts they can have, rather than feeling guilty about the plastic they use. Living in alignment with your values will naturally nurture pride, and avoid cognitive dissonance, or the torn feeling you get when your actions and beliefs don’t match up.
9. Change the Status Quo
We spend so much of our lives on auto-pilot, doing the same things we’ve been doing over and over because, well, that’s what we do! It’s time to start thinking about our actions, living more consciously and mindfully, and even just getting curious about the products we’re buying and the plastic we’re using can be a step in the right direction to changing the way it’s always been. Up until people started asking for their drinks without straws, we didn’t even notice them in there. Now it’s a global movement.
10. It feels Awesome
It feels really blooming good to do something positive. We all have our strengths, powers and ability to do something positive in this plastic pollution crisis. For some that’s creating new policy, for some it’s cleaning beaches. For all of us, it can be switching out unnecessary single use plastic where we can. And being proud to do so. It helps convert concern into action. It makes us feel like there IS something we can do. Thanks for doing so.
For more information and tips on reducing your plastic usage, please see my other blogs here.
In October 2018, I was invited to speak at the Midcounties Co-operative’s Young Co-operators’ Conference. This is an annual event which brings together school and college children from across the Midcounties to discuss important topics, and last year’s focus was plastic pollution. I prepared my talk, travelled to the Midlands, but what I discovered that day was very, very eye opening.
I was greeted by the friendliest, most welcoming people, passionate about changing their community for the better through their work with the Midcounties Co-op, and inspiring and empowering the next generation to be a part of that.
Chatting through how important protecting colleagues’ mental health is for the Midcounties Co-op with Chief Values Officer, Pete Westall, had me hooked on the Co-operative way of thinking.
I had heard about the Co-op, but wasn’t quite aware of how it operated, or indeed that there are several large Co-ops all across the UK. The Midcounties Co-op is the UK’s largest independent co-operative society, and its brands include grocery shops, Co-op Energy, Co-op Funeralcare and Travel.
So What is a Co-operative?
A co-operative is a business owned by its members, where people work together to share the profits and benefits.
Giving every member a say in how things are run, co-operatives are a kinder and more inclusive way of doing business, with a focus on giving back. Unlike a PLC, co-operatives exist to create value for their members, customers and the wider community. Decisions are taken democratically. Profits and rewards shared. Progressive and innovative, yet rooted in history, co-operatives stand for equality, opportunity and shared success.
A Co-op doesn’t operate like a ‘normal’ business such as a PLC. It is owned by its members, and those members decide how it is run. It is values-driven, and answerable to the local community it serves. The finances in the business are completely transparent, and the profits are fed back into the local community, and into making positive changes in the business. How amazing is that.
In 2018, 94% of the Midcounties Co-op’s members said that tackling plastic pollution was a high priority for them. And so, the Midcounties Co-op were bound to do something about it. That’s where I came in.
I was invited to a meeting at Co-op House with Pete and CSR Manager, Mike Pickering. We chatted for hours about what it meant to operate as a co-op, the values, and their dedication to tackling single use plastic. I admit, I wasn’t completely clued up on how a co-op worked, and was absolutely blown away that a business could be used to create so much good. I felt determined that more people should know that there is another way to do business, and support co-operatives around the country. There and then I joined the 700,000 other Midcounties Co-operative members, and agreed to be a part of their campaign to tackle plastic pollution.
The campaign is called One Change, and it aims to tackle single use plastic at source through reduction of use in stores and branches, but also by education, helping members to pledge to make their own One Change in their lives. It also involves inspiring and educating young people in the member schools, and community events such as litter picks. I am ridiculously proud to be the Environmental Ambassador for this campaign, and my work with the Midcounties COOP so far has been phenomenally rewarding. Working with passionate people with a genuine interest in doing the right thing, and using business as a force for good.
So what have we done so far, and what is yet to come?
We have had several events already this year, including the Managers’ Conference where the focus of the afternoon, I was very pleased to see, was on mental health, and how to look after each other in the workplace.
The One Change campaign launched, and already we have had some wonderful pledges from individuals regarding their single use plastic usage. We are working hard to remove single use plastic from stores too, starting with offices, plastic bags in supermarkets and tubs at deli counters, among lots of other initiatives. The Midcounties’ own range – Best of Our Counties, which is sourced locally, will be a starting point to address plastics in own brand products.
The AGM saw the return of the schools which attended the Young Co-operators conference, who had created their own campaigns to reduce single use plastic in their schools, create a sculpture out of discarded plastic, and present their ideas and a video they had made to our judging panel. Each student was given a Klean Kanteen water bottle, and one school was awarded £500 to help continue their work in their school! Judging the competition was so tough, as the students were so engaged and passionate, and all the presentations were brilliant.
We’ve been to Chipping Norton Primary school to make Eco-Bricks with the children. The “bricks”, made from plastic bottles filled with non-recyclable plastic, are being collected all over the midcounties, and will be used to make a turkey enclosure at a local animal sanctuary.
For World Environment Day, the Midcounties Co-op organised 20 community litter picks, including a River Avon clean up on SUPs and canoes, which was a lot of fun, and very eye-opening.
After paddling through some of the inland waterways last year on my way up to the North of Scotland, I was horrified by how much waste I was seeing inland. I was determined to help connect the dots between the plastic we’re using in land, and that which is going out to sea through our waterways. I am absolutely loving my work with the Midcounties Co-op, and feel like the One Change campaign is doing just that – helping people to understand the importance of what we use on land, and empower people to make their own difference not just to their local environment, but to the oceans and planet as a whole, regardless of where we live.
I feel like everybody should be made aware of how a Co-operative works, so that you can get involved in your local one. They can shape how your community works, and you have a voice within the society. I want to shout from the rooftops about all the amazing stuff the Midcounties Co-operative is doing, but for now I’ll keep it in my blog!
More about the Midcounties Co-op’s One Change Campaign, and how you can make your pledge to reduce single use plastic, can be found here.
This year I’m stoked to be teaming up with KEEN footwear, on their Better Takes Action Campaign.
I first knew about KEEN when they sponsored an Adventure With A Purpose stream at the Women’s Adventure Expo that I was talking at a few years ago. I loved the shoes I was given, finally finding a comfortable pair of shoes which actually fit my enormous feet, and which I wore non-stop for the rest of the year, but I didn’t realise then just how deep their values ran.
KEEN’s values drive everything they do. Their ‘our purpose’ page on the website covers everything from the way their products are made and the business run, to quality, caring, having fun and promoting a healthy lifestyle. They have donated over $15 million to environmental causes around the world, they run their own projects, to give back and take action, and have a focus on reducing their own impact.
As a brand born for life outside, we feel a responsibility to protect and conserve the places where we live, play, and work.
These are values which closely align with mine, and it is a dream to work with such a like-minded, passionate, kind bunch of people.
So what is the Better Takes Action campaign?
We make shoes to make a difference. Together, let’s take action for a better world.
When KEEN first started talking to me about their big ideas for a Better Takes Action plastic campaign, I must admit I felt in good company – fellow big-thinkers, with outside-the-box actions. The Better Takes Action Boat Tour was born, collecting plastic from canals around Europe to educate and inspire people to reduce their plastic impact, on… wait for it… a boat made from plastic that had been fished from those very canals. How blooming brilliant is that!
They teamed up with Plastic Whale, an amazing NGO in Amsterdam, to create their very own KEEN boat, and with that, we’re going on tour!
The first stop was Amsterdam in April, home of Plastic Whale, and the birthplace of the beautiful boat. After Christening the boat, it was time to take to the water. We had such a fun day, and, as you can imagine, retrieved some rather interesting items from the canals, particularly on our journey through the red light district!
The #BetterTakesAction tour focusses on two main priorities: Getting people outside and active, and reducing the impact of single use plastic. The two are, of course, intrinsically linked. During the month of May, we had several challenges to encourage people to do just this.
So what’s next? The boat tour continues with Hamburg (22-23rd June) and London (13-14th July). You can sign up to be a part of it too! We would love for you to come and be on the boat with us, plastic fishing, taking action to make a positive difference. If you can’t make it to the boat tour, or if plastic fishing isn’t your thing, there are some really simple ways you can also join the movement from home.
1. Get outdoors and get active!
Over 60 % of the European population is not living an active enough, outdoor lifestyle to remain healthy! Being outside in nature is scientifically proven to improve wellbeing, and spending time in these places will also help us want to protect them. Take your friends and family out with you if you can, or perhaps just some quiet alone time in nature is in order.
2. Make one change in your life to reduce your single use plastic consumption
This could be something as simple as committing to using a refillable water bottle, or taking your carrier bags to the shops, (more tips here), or it could be something more unusual. Either way, we want to know what you’re up to, and help inspire others to do so too! Which leads me to:
3. Join the movement
Please Use the #BetterTakesAction hashtag, and following along on the KEEN Facebook and Instagram pages.
4. Do something good while you’re outside
Can you combine the first two by doing something positive while being active outdoors? Perhaps it’s a beach clean or litter pick, getting involved in a local community group, cycling to work or taking the bus to your favourite surf spot instead of driving. Again, we want to know what you’re up to!
WE ARE CREATORS, EXPLORERS, BUILDERS, DREAMERS, HIKERS, TRAVELERS, AND DO-GOODERS. WE ARE ACTIONISTS
Thanks for reading – myself and the lovely KEEN team would love you to be involved, however you feel able.
Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP), is the fastest growing watersport in the world, and for good reason – it’s super accessible, anyone of any age, size and ability can give it a go, and you can use it to explore some pretty cool, otherwise inaccessible places.
There are many sub-disciplines within SUP, including racing, surfing and my favourite, exploring – officially known as touring. I’ll be focussing here on exploring, giving you some top tips to get you started.
1. It’s just like riding a bike… but it takes time! Persevere.
Stand up paddleboarding, like anything, takes time to get used to. At first it’s a bit tricky to get your balance, but once you’ve cracked it, it becomes second nature. I am quite honestly now more stable on the board than on dry land, but it wasn’t always that way! To start with it can be helpful to paddle on your knees, until you get a feel of the board and are ready to get up onto your feet.
2. Look at horizon and bend your knees
If you think you’ll fall off, you’ll fall off. However, if you bend your knees, focus on the horizon and believe, you’re much more likely to stay on! SO many times this has proved true to me – if I think I’ll fall, I invariably do. Get your centre of gravity low, stare at the horizon and firmly tell yourself you’re staying on your board. And if it’s really getting wobbly, drop down to your knees for a bit of extra stability.
3. Find a club
There are loads of SUP clubs all around the country. Finding a club near you will give you people to paddle with, to ask questions of, loan you a board and help you to find one of your own once you’re ready. Check out this UK clubs directory.
4. Buying your first board
There are SO many different styles, lengths, brands and qualities of board available, it can be a little bit intimidating choosing your first board. Generally speaking, the longer and narrower the board, the more glide it has. Narrowness and a pointy nose however make it generally less stable. You can get a hardboard or an inflatable, depending on your storage and transport situation, and what you’re wanting to use it for. It’s worthwhile trying out a few boards first, which is where paddling with a club can be really helpful. Supboardermag has loads of reviews of boards. I’d recommend looking on the second hand boards pages on Facebook too for your first board, to keep costs down. I am an ambassador for Starboard, who make really amazing boards, fun to paddle, durable, and with a very strong environmental stance.
5. Clothing choice
What to wear when paddling?! Everyone has their own preference. When you first start out, it’s worth wearing a wetsuit for the inevitable dips. However once you get your sea legs you can choose to wear anything from shorts and a t-shirt in summer, to full waterproof kit in the winter. Check out the Palm Equipment website for SUP-Specific kit. My favourite paddling kit is a windproof jacket, with either neoprene leggings or fully waterproof trousers, depending on the time of year and the weather. For short paddles it’s really nice to be barefoot in the summer; however I almost always wear booties for long distance paddles, and always in the winter and would recommend booties to start with to protect the tops of your feet if you’re kneeling a lot.
It’s really important to respect the water at all times, even if you consider yourself a competent water user. I would always recommend paddling with a buddy when starting out, and letting someone know where you’re going and how long you’re likely to be out. Safety equipment you should always carry includes a life vest or personal flotation device, always wear a leash to attach yourself to the board, and carry a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch. It’s also worthwhile considering taking a warm layer, food and water if you’re going out for a longer paddle.
7. Where to paddle
This comes down to both personal preference and experience. Generally canals require the least planning to paddle on, as there are no tides to consider, and they’re usually quite sheltered from the wind. Rivers need very careful consideration, as there are often strong currents, hazards in the water, and sometimes tides to think about. I would recommend that your first trip onto a river be with an instructor or experienced paddler who knows the local area well, and can talk you through planning future excursions. The ocean can be an absolutely wonderful place to paddle, my favourite for sure, but conditions here can change at the drop of a hat, even if it looks flat calm. Always make sure to check the tide times, local rips, surf forecast and wind forecast. A good rule of thumb is not to paddle in an offshore wind unless you want to end up out to sea! It’s really worth getting some local knowledge at the beach you intend to paddle at – I’ve always found talking to the RNLI lifeguards at the beach to be really valuable for this, or an experienced local paddler or paddle club. Always respect the water.
8. Doing good while you paddle
Exploring the local environment can bring enormous benefits. For years, stand up paddleboarders have been leading the way in picking up plastic from waterways, and highlighting the damage it does. When a place you love, your playground, is being damaged by human activity, it naturally follows for you to want to do something to protect it. So when you’re out on a paddle, don’t be afraid of picking up a few bits of litter. The positive effects of this are far reaching – highlighting it to people who see you, inspiring others to do the same, and helping connect the dots between the litter that’s damaging our environment and that which we’re using in our everyday life. Check out my blog and video on ‘Why Bother With a beach clean’ here – the ideas can be extrapolated to rivers and canals too!
9. Being a responsible paddler
It’s important not to cause any damage to the environment you’re paddling in, and to make sure you have the appropriate permission. People wishing to paddle on canals and rivers in the UK will benefit from having British Canoeing membership: most canals require you to have it. It’s also important to be mindful of any wildlife that may call the place you paddle home – particularly nesting birds. It always amazes me the amount of wildlife that can be found in our waterways.
10. Green tips
As a stand up paddleboarder, consider yourself a waterways advocate. You will have choices, and where you can, it feels awesome to make the one that benefits the planet best. Firstly you vote with your wallet every time you buy a bit of kit – check out brands like Starboard who have partnered with Parley and Sustainable Surf to make boards with bio-resin, and organise worldwide paddle clean ups. Share lifts where you can to reduce your carbon footprint – or even better, 10 eco points if you can get there on the train with an inflatable SUP! (I know people who do this – shout out to SUP North!) And finally, always, always choose reef friendly sunscreen. Even a drop of oxybenzone in the ocean or down the drain can kill vast amounts of corals.
As adventurers, we are in a privileged position of being able to act as stewards of our environment. We see first hand the problems the natural world faces, and can do something to help protect it.
But first and foremost, our responsibility is in not adding to the destruction of the environments we love.
During my Land’s End to John O’Groat expedition, while looking at the incredible, dedicated individuals and communities the length of the UK tackling plastic pollution at source, I attempted to complete my expedition using as little plastic as possible too. I felt particularly passionate about this when paddling through waterways choked with single use plastic wrappers. Spending time in these places and seeing how affected they are really does make you want to change your ways!
However, in an industry geared towards lightweight equipment, speed and ease of food preparation and preserving rations, plastic is inevitably a very useful, and widely used, material. It wasn’t always easy, and there were still some things I couldn’t seem to find without plastic, but there are lots of things that were really quite easy to do.
So how can we use less single-use plastic when on expedition?
Snacks. I survived on flapjack. My mum and I both made several big batches of this, and by steering clear of butter, the flapjack lasted for ages. Packed with calories, nuts, seeds and dried fruit, I regularly had flapjack for breakfast. We used porridge oats bought in paper bags, and wrapped the flapjack in greaseproof paper and reused packets we found in our kitchens.
Dehydrating fruit. I bought a second hand dehydrator and used it non stop for about a week. I dehydrated everything from banana slices, to apples, kiwis, vegetables, even cooked rice (see below). I absolutely love doing this, as you can make cheap, plastic-free fruit snacks that aren’t going to get squashed or bruised in your bag. The apples are blooming delicious too!
Trail mix. I am fortunate to have a bulk buy COOP near me, where I can buy dried fruit and nuts straight from a container, with no plastic packaging. However if you don’t have one near you, try your local Lidl. They often have big tubs of help-yourself nuts – cashews, almonds and pistachios. You can buy them in massive quantities, without plastic (just remember to take an alternative bag with you. I use Refuse and Reuse bags made from recycled plastic).
Expedition meals. Having a hot, easy and quick to prepare meal at the end of a tough day is a huge relief. However, these are the worst for plastic, as they often come in multilayered bags which are impossible to recycle. I found an amazing company called Outdoor Food, who make ‘Firepots’ (delicious expedition meals), in compostable packets! They last for ages (I just ate my last one a year after it was made), the packaging is really durable, and I’ve even reused the packets. I have also dabbled in making my own expedition meals by dehydrating vegetables and cooked rice, and adding nuts, seeds and seasoning. This was delicious and easy to cook up. I also have uncooked rice and quinoa and dehydrated vegetable mix, which takes a bit longer to cook, but when I have a good water supply and time this works just as well.
Water. I always have a massive Klean Kanteen water bottle with me, that I fill up whenever possible. When there isn’t any tap water, I use a UV water filtration device.
Tea and coffee. Having your own coffee cup with you for takeaway coffee is ideal. But even better is being able to make your tea or coffee in the morning when your stove is out and you’re making your morning brew, and then making enough to last you the day. Particularly for when out on the water, when brewing up isn’t really an option! I always take my Klean Kanteen insulated bottle with me on the water, with either green tea or strong coffee depending on the stage of my expedition. Then I know I at least have something to keep me warm and give me a caffeine hit during the day.
Lunch. It’s difficult to take fresh stuff with you for lunch. I did make some oatcakes, but they fell apart and were difficult to transport. So what I started doing instead was making twice the portion at dinner time, putting one portion into my insulated Klean Kanteen food canister, and that would form my lunch for the next day. These canisters are awesome, they keep your food hot for hours, and it meant no faffing the next morning, I could just get up and go and know that my lunch would be ready and waiting for me when I needed it.
Storing rations. I use a mixture of Klean Kanteen single-walled canisters and bottles to store dried rations. They make a range of sizes and they’re very durable, keeping food fresh for months.
Protein. I used Vivo Life protein powder; they are just setting up a crowdfunder campaign to make it in compostable packaging, which would be so great!
Be careful with what you’re buying. You can often buy chocolate out of plastic (e.g. Green and Black’s), and if you’re buying fresh or takeaway food, please do ask for it out of plastic. I’ve even used one of my food canisters at a fish and chip van before so I didn’t have to use their polystyrene tray. And remember, this isn’t just about the plastic we’re using, it’s about trying to cut back on unnecessary packaging where we can full stop, as all of it has an impact. When reusable alternatives are available, it’s a much better option.
As with any time spent outdoors, never leave anything behind. Take everything away with you, even compostable packaging which often needs specific industrial conditions to decompose quickly. Please leave any tips you have too in the comments below!
Paddling is a really wonderful way to experience the outdoors – the waterways and coastline which form the arteries and beating heart of our country, and indeed our planet.
Your Paddle Against Plastic can be a number of things, but essentially it is paddling with a purpose. It could be:
An expedition, adventure, or paddle where you collect plastic as you go
A paddle where you talk to people about the plastic you’re finding, raising awareness of the problem and its locations, e.g. connecting inland waterways to the oceans
A vehicle with which to discuss the positive things we can do to tackle this
Paddling Against Plastic can be done on any suitable waterway, or even on the sea – although do have a look at my top 10 tips for SUP safety if you’re planning an ocean adventure. It can be as long or short as you like, from an afternoon jaunt to a month-long expedition. It doesn’t just have to be on a SUP either – kayaks, canoes, even waterbikes – whatever takes your fancy!
You can Paddle Against Plastic alone, or as part of a group. If you haven’t already, please join the Facebook Group, a place where you can ask advice, find people to paddle with or join an already organised clean up. Remember that the main objective should always be to enjoy yourself – paddling is such a great sport and having fun will inspire you and those around you to take further action.
Here are some tips for creating your own Paddle Against Plastic:
Decide on somewhere to paddle. Is this going to be the sea, which will make it very weather dependent, or the canals which are suitable in most conditions. To paddle on some canals you’ll need British Canoeing membership, which also provides you with public liability insurance.
What are you going to be doing on the paddle – collecting litter? If so you’ll need a receptacle such as a bucket, and a litter picker is really useful for picking things out of vegetation or at the side of a canal. If you’re going to use the paddle to highlight the issue to people, do you have a waterproof camera or phone that you can use to document it?
Are you going to paddle alone or with a group? A great way to get a group together, or to join a group, is to check out the Surfers Against Sewage beach and river clean ups which run in Spring and Autumn each year. If you’re looking for people to join you, please post on the Paddle Against Plastic Facebook group!
If you are going to be collecting litter, what is your plan for it afterwards? It’s worth having a plan in place, as often you’ll collect more than expected. Is there a local council that can collect the litter from you, or do you have the ability to transport it to a recycling facility nearby? It’s worth making a few phone calls here to ensure you have plans and timings in place so that you’re not left with a car full of litter afterwards.
Where is your nearest pub/cafe for post paddling tea/beer?
Paddling Against Plastic can be really fun, really engaging for those who perhaps haven’t been looking for litter before, and will give you a real sense of having done something positive. Thank you for doing so, and please let us know how you get on in the Facebook Group!
Compostable materials are increasingly popular. From magazine coverings to crisp packets to coffee cups, the promise of a single use item being returned to Mother Earth as organic compost is quite compelling isn’t it?
When compared to oil-based plastic, compostable products are a hands down winner. The bio-plastic PLA used to line coffee cups and formed into cups or containers is made using the same process as oil-based plastic but uses plants not finite fossil fuels.
Crystalise that PLA and you have a heat resistant material used for coffee cup lids and cutlery. The NatureFlex food bags/wrappings increasingly used in retail is made from wood cellulose. Good stuff!
Even better are the bagasse box alternatives to the polystyrene containers so popular with takeaways. Bagasse has a super story! Being made by crushing the sugarcane fibres left over after the sugar extraction process is complete puts bagasse streets ahead of its oil-based plastic counterparts. The same can be said for the mushroom based product packaging replacing Styrofoam or recycled cardboard replacing protective polystyrene blocks.
We even have an official accreditation that meets British standards known as Vincotte. You may know it as OK Compost. Two standards exist, home and commercial. You will see it proudly displayed on the magazine wrappings and increasingly on other products too. But this is where the challenge starts!
Just because a product is compostable, it does not mean that breaks down into compost if littered. It needs to be in a compost heap or composter! Sounds obvious but many assume because a product is compostable it just breaks down into compost regardless of where it ends up.
But it will break down into compost in landfill right? NO.
For the composting process to happen, you need water and oxygen along with carbon (leaves, wood, etc) and nitrogen (vegetables, fruit, plants). If a compostable product finds its beneath the surface of landfill it is highly unlikely that will be subject to the stuff it needs to compost. In 1995, a Chicago municipal dug out a landfill site and found hotdogs still intact from 20 years previously. The assumption that compostable products break down in landfill is just wrong although I will highlight that these products remain inert in landfill not releasing any nasties. How could they, they are made from plants?
So if we accept the scientific advice that our soils are in a poor state, why do we not have formal composting waste streams so we can help Mother Earth? The simple answer is BSE or Mad Cow Disease. Up until 31st July 2018, both Animal Health and the Environment Agency had banned the compostable products from entering green waste streams. The milk residue found on food/drink packaging was deemed a risk to UK health through the possible transmission of BSE. Strange but true! (Did you know that as a British citizen you cannot give blood in many countries for the exact same reason?)
So, with this roadblock removed those promoting composting waste streams are seeing progress. The largest manufacturer of compostable food and drink products, Vegware, launched its Composting Collective which offers a composting waste stream for their products. The service, as of April 2019, covers 38% of all UK postcodes. Quite an achievement in such a short space of time.
But there is greenwash and there are limits to what compostables can do. Because a product is certified compostable, this does not always mean they are made from plants. TIPA make award winning packaging that meets the Vincotte accreditation but is not 100% natural. They do not hide this fact and clearly state the % of non-bio materials used on their web site. Very clear and very honest. Oil- based plastic reducing but not oil-based plastic free.
Compostables made from plants have limitations with their use. For example, the boil in a bag foodstuffs used by our intrepid explorers cannot be produced, yet, in compostable materials. They will disintegrate when boiled so oil-based plastic wins that battle.
So the environmental top trumps played between compostables and oil-based plastic has a clear winner; compostables. Sustainable materials and a potential to end its life as compost. A clear win.
With all this said it must be noted that compostables are only a winner against oil-based plastic. They are not the “silver bullet” to fix all environmental packaging ills.
As guardians of this planet we must reduce our current consumption levels and learn that reuse is better than single use. Mother Earth cannot keep pace with our consumption of her natural resources. We must learn that her resources are beautiful not bountiful. And we must act now.
He is a passionate campaigner and member of the Plastic Free Torridge steering group. He has been instrumental in the success of the Plastic Free Westward Ho! movement, and is a loyal member of the community, speaking up to protect the place he lives.
It’s not just plastic – we need to shift our entire attitude around Single-Use.
Plastic-free campaigns are taking off all around the country. Individuals and communities alike are making amazing positive steps in their local areas, both reducing the amount of single-use plastic used in the community, and organising clean-ups. It’s absolutely wonderful to see, and so reassuring that together we are actually starting to get our teeth into this enormous problem!
The beauty of the plastic pollution crisis, (if you can humour me for a minute by suggesting there is something good about it!) is that people can see it. They can see, touch and even pick up a piece of plastic littering the beach they love, and endangering the wildlife in the place they play or breathe. Beach cleans are so wonderful at helping people to connect the dots between what they’re using and what is ending up on beaches. People are angry at the pictures of it killing marine life, and being able to actually see and feel it is cutting through the apathy that campaigns on some environmental crises seem to come up against.
So people are dutifully switching from single use plastic all around the country, whatever the cost. But perhaps this isn’t the only answer…
Plastic itself is an incredibly clever invention – durable, lightweight and tough. It has enabled us to create cars with a lower carbon footprint, advance medical and research techniques, and fly around the world (controversial!).
However, single-use plastic is a very dangerous product. It’s used once, for a very short period of time, before it is no longer deemed useful, or to have any value. It can usually be recycled, but sometimes not very easily, and only a finite number of times before the polymers are no longer useful for that product.
Plastic is particularly troublesome in that it releases harmful chemicals, endocrine disruptors and even carcinogens. It entangles wildlife, and once ingested can cause animals to starve.
But this it isn’t just about plastic. This is about our throwaway culture. It’s about the way we see the planet as separate to us; an infinite resource to be exploited, rather than our life force to cherish, a part of us and our health. It’s about our perceived entitlement to ease and convenience, and our lack of respect for the materials that we’re using. Whether that’s plastic with its aforementioned draw-backs, metal which has to be mined from the ground, often causing terrible ecological damage, or glass which is heavy to transport, emitting masses of CO2.
In terms of the long term effects of plastic in our environment, materials such as paper, glass, and compostable materials are clearly preferable; they don’t have the toxic by-products, don’t use crude oil to be made, and usually degrade much quicker, causing less harm to wildlife. But there is still an environmental impact of using ANYTHING, whether that’s the energy needed to produce and ship it, or the deforestation that comes with unsustainable forestry for paper. This feels particularly poignant if it’s something we just don’t need.
Perhaps there’s another way. Perhaps instead of just demonising plastic, and thinking that switching to any alternative means we have ticked the box, can we reassess our own attitudes towards our lifestyles, consumption and usage, and consider carefully what the other options might be? Can we just start by reducing the things we don’t need, and finding reusable alternatives to those we do?
Living with less plastic shouldn’t be about having to buy loads of new products to enable you to do so, it should start with using less, and seeing how freeing it is to be pushing back on the unchecked consumption that has led us to where we are.
I do think this is happening to some degree, and truly believe that more conscious consumerism has been a valuable side-effect of the nationwide plastic campaigns. I would encourage you to continue to think carefully and connectedly about the choices you make, and please have conversations about it too!
Plastic pollution is everywhere. It can be very overwhelming, and lead to a sense of feeling like we can’t make a difference as one person. But we can.
Beach cleans, and more recently river, canal and even park clean ups, have become increasingly common and popular over the last few years. And this has had more impact than ‘just’ removing tonnes of plastic from our natural environment.
I recently made a short video entitled “Why Bother With a Beach Clean”. Below it I’ve written out my top 10 reasons for bothering to pick up litter!
It does remove that harmful substance from the environment. Each bit of rope can no longer entangle an animal, each piece of plastic can’t be ingested.
It inspires others to pick it up too, and helps other people to understand there’s an issue that needs addressing when they see you doing it.
Picking up plastic from an environment you love helps connect the dots between what we’re using in our everyday lives and that which ends up on our beaches. This helps create further change, reducing what we use in the first place having seen it damaging the environment we care about.
Plastic pollution is a great starting point for people’s journeys into the world of environmental campaigning. You can see, touch and pick up a piece of plastic. You can see clearly how our actions are affecting the world around us. It might just be the first step to becoming interested in other environmental issues, such as climate change.
It gets people outside, connecting to the natural world around them. This can only be a good thing!
Being able to actually do something positive is very empowering, and helps to maintain forward momentum and a sense of hope. It’s a really easy thing that we CAN do, and we all need that.
It feels good to give something back. Campaigns like the 2 minute beach clean give you something simple you can do to say thank you to the place you love.
Clean-ups bring people and communities together. In North Devon, the Plastic Free North Devon team regularly have 100-200 people for their beach cleans! People get to know each other, have a laugh together, have a cup of tea and eat some biscuits together, and feel less alone in their fight to protect their local environment.
Picking up marine litter has led to innovations through people having to figure out what to do with the stuff they collect, and consequently identifying it as a resource rather than valueless. For example, Rob Thompson created Odyssey Innovations, making kayaks out of recycled marine litter; Waterhaul is a UK company making sunglasses out of ghost nets, and brands like Finisterre and Fourth Element, amongst many others, are making swim suits out of recycled marine litter! This is closing the loop on what was once considered simply a waste product.
It can actually be a lot of fun. I love the beach cleans in North Devon, we have a laugh, I see my mates and I meet new like-minded people. I also love the paddle clean ups I’m involved in. If you can keep environmentalism upbeat, and get people doing something they actually enjoy, that’s a lot less likely to turn them off than paralysing them with negativity.