We treasure our magnificent surroundings here in Wales and strive to give our children and grandchildren a bright, optimistic future.
Always Trying But Not Sure If We Are Succeeding
It can be a challenge trying to live a greener life in a world based on greed. Governments aren't doing enough to combat climate change. We are still so reliant on fossil fuels when the alternatives are there. There is a huge gap between the poorest and the richest in society with food banks now the norm. In a way, it seems we have to turn back the clock and live a simpler life or at least capture some of the aspects of those days while taking advantage of the positive aspects of present day.
We are hoping this article will give you some valuable information on how to live a simpler and greener life.
'One Green Change'
'One Green Change' is the motto our small group in Tywyn in Mid-Wales chose a few years ago. We realised that it can be too overwhelming for an individual to make several big changes to their lifestyle all at once, but we can all cope with one change that benefits ourselves and the environment. Of course, the more positive changes we are able to make all the better.
Recently, I realised that I have been wasting far too much water, so I have been trying to take shorter showers, running less water if I decide to have a bath and not letting the water run freely as I clean my teeth. We can all wash our cars with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge rather than a hose or pressure washer. Water is precious and should not be taken for granted, as we have all come to realise during times of drought.
The Problem Is Too Big—What Can One Person Do?
I agree that the governments of the world need to take a lead in halting and reversing our path down this slippery slope and it does look like many have made this commitment. However, like one raindrop that combines with another and another to create a deluge, so like-minded individuals can come together to make massive changes. Ordinary individuals working together have convinced their governments to declare a climate emergency and are holding them to account to keep their promises.
Our group, 'Greener Tywyn Gwyrdd', formed by eight like-minded individuals, encouraged our council to declare a climate emergency by gathering names on a petition and presenting our position at one of their Council meetings. Soon after, the County of Gwynedd and then Wales declared a climate crisis. A group in Powys was able to do the same and this has been repeated in most countries throughout the world.
One teenager in Sweden, Greta Thunberg, who felt changes had to be made to secure a future for herself and other young people, decided to protest outside her school every Friday. She defied all the naysayers and persevered, leading to world-wide peaceful school protests making politicians sit up and take note.
A Dutch teenager called Boyan Slat, frustrated at the lack of action being taken to remove the abundance of plastic in the oceans, decided to organise a group called 'Ocean Cleanup', which developed a machine which acts like a giant vacuum cleaner that is friendly to marine life. He has recently turned his attention to river cleanup in order to intercept the pollution flowing into the sea.
Of course, David Attenborough, more than anyone, has opened our eyes to the serious problem of climate change through his nature programs, his writings and the media. He has galvanised many to take action as a group and as individuals.
Tywyn Council Acknowledges There Is a Climate Emergency
Simple Changes That Can Make a Big Difference
There are many simple ways to make simple changes that don’t really impact your lifestyle but can make a big difference in the long run:
- Buy only what you really need or share the excess with others. Also buy clothes from charity shops or second-hand shops and donate your unloved clothes to them.
- Buy cotton-rich clothing rather than synthetic which contain plastic fibres and wash your clothes at 30 degrees C when possible.
- Line dry clothes rather than using a tumble dryer.
- Buy products in season and buy locally as much as you can especially from local markets selling local produce.
- Visit a pick-your-own farm. There is nothing like freshly harvested vegetables and fruit.
- Buy loose produce, shunning products wrapped in plastic. Bring your own reusable bags or use a cardboard box.
- Plant a vegetable/fruit garden or, if space is limited, plant in pots, even if you only have room for herbs.
- Save your vegetable scraps and bones for soup stock instead of buying stock cubes.
- Make meat a luxury rather than an everyday staple.
- Compost in your own compost bin/heap or in a bin provided by your local Council.
- Find a shop that refills your containers of toilet bowl cleaner, surface cleaner, laundry detergent, washing up liquid, shampoo etc. There are also many websites that show you how to make your own cleaners which usually contain white vinegar, baking soda/borax. I wash my windows with a mixture of vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
- Use shampoo and conditioner bar soap, a recyclable bamboo toothbrush and a toothpaste powder. (I have supplied a recipe to make your own tooth powder which you will find below.) However, good news: I just heard that Colgate has come out with a recyclable toothpaste tube if you prefer a name brand.
- Join a community town/beach clean.
- Turn off lights and electrical devices when they are not needed.
- Buy milk and juice in glass bottles.
- Buy teabags without plastic or buy loose tea. Yes, most brands of our favourite teabag use a plastic strip to seal their bags. The only teabags that do not contain plastic, at this point in time, are Teapigs, Clipper, Coop brad 99, Abel and Cole, Twinings pyramid range, Pukka Herbs, and Waitrose Duchy range.
- Use your car less or car share, and start thinking of alternative modes of transportation like the bus, train or bicycle.
- Fly only when it is necessary. Look into other alternatives like the train if travelling within the U.K. and Europe. You may find that you save money, as two family members did when they travelled to Italy and France last year, while seeing more of the countryside. I have close family in Canada so I know flying is necessary. I used to travel to Canada twice a year now I only go once a year.
DIY Tooth Powder Recipe
- 1 cup sodium bicarbonate
- 1tsp pink Himalayan rock salt
- 50 to 60 drops peppermint oil
- Put bicarb in a jar, add salt, add 50 to 60 drops of peppermint oil (according to taste).
- Shake thoroughly until mixed.
Plant a Tree and Sow Wildflowers
Possibly the simplest thing we can do as individuals is to plant a tree/trees and create a wildflower garden. Increasing the number of trees, that have sadly been felled to make room for urban sprawl over the years, may be our answer to reducing the rising temperature of the earth which is having a devastating effect on our planet.
Trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere and release oxygen. It has been estimated that a mature tree can absorb around 48 lbs. of carbon dioxide per year. They also absorb rainwater which prevents flooding, inhibits erosion and provides shade and a habitat for insects and wildlife. Not to mention, they add beauty to our world and provide us with a feeling of calm, coolness and well-being.
Wildflowers attract pollinators providing food and habitat for our bees and insects and, like trees, have medicinal properties. The beauty of wildflowers is that they can be grown in the poorest soils and survive. Just clear a patch of your garden of stones and debris, rake over, scatter your wildflower seeds and water. Many Councils are now only sparsely mowing the road verges to encourage wildflower growth and roundabouts are being beautified with trees and flowers. Less work for them and beneficial to nature.
Our group has been fortunate enough to be given three unused areas in our town. Our project is to plant several varieties of trees, create a forest garden and vegetable garden and plant wildflowers. It is encouraging to see reports of beautiful community gardens being created in places like inner-city New York and London and many other big cities. Gardening is known to be beneficial to our health and these projects are bringing together people of all ages, ethnicities and religious backgrounds.
For more information, see the links for Friends Of The Earth, The Woodland Trust and Plantlife at the end of this article.
The Bigger Changes That Make an Impact
Change Your Energy Provider
Changing your energy provider is a big change but an easy one to make. It may prove to be a cheaper alternative and one that also benefits the environment.
Have a look at the link below for 'Big Clean Switch'.
Make Sure Energy Use in Your Home Is Efficient
Another important change which will definitely reduce your energy bill is to get an evaluation of the areas in your home that are losing heat and then to invest in better insulation. It is surprising how much heat is lost through windows, skirting boards etc.
Also look into the efficiency of your boiler.
Heat pumps are probably the best way to heat and cool your home but they are very expensive and require planning permission In most countries. Certainly, if buying a new home, look for one that is heated by a heat pump. It is estimated they can last up to 50 years if maintained well.
Get Solar Panels
Solar panels have been around for quite a long time now and I have noticed them on many homes in our area. Our wonderful Talyllyn Railway recently installed solar panels on their west facing roof. They are still rather expensive but the demand will eventually bring down the price. It is also worth looking into government incentives that help with the cost.
Very shortly, I am going to switch my bank account to one that doesn't invest in unethical practices and projects damaging to the environment. Many of the major banks have vested interests in projects that we may find abhorrent but haven't been aware. Scrutinise your bank's practices and, if it isn't meeting your standards, switch.
I have provided a link below to a website at ethicalconsumer.org which you may find interesting.
Say a Big 'No!' to Polystyrene
Polystyrene or styrofoam was developed as a revolutionary lightweight packaging product and there is no denying that it has been useful but how much thought was put into the environmental effects of the manufacture of this material; the health hazards posed in its disposal; and the health risks to anyone consuming food and drink from these containers.
These containers are petroleum-based and contain toxic substances that easily break down when exposed to hot food, oils and fats, hot drinks, alcohol, fruit juices and especially red wine. With this information, think about all the hot takeaway meals and hot drinks that are consumed throughout the world. Takeaway food is usually hot and, very often, greasy. The substances styrene and benzene that are released are believed to be carcinogens. The Environmental Protection Agency has been aware of this for many years.
Polystyrene, for the most part, can not be recycled and ends up in landfill. It takes at least 500 years to break down and as it does it releases harmful toxins into the environment. To put it into perspective, if polystyrene had been used at Henry Vlll’s dinner table, it would still be in existence today. In the meantime, if it doesn’t make it to landfill, it is so light that it is easily picked up by the wind and deposited in our oceans, waterways and in the countryside to be consumed by animals and marine creatures.
I have approached several takeaway establishments and the reason given for using polystyrene is that it is cheaper to use than other products and people ask for it because it keeps their food warmer. I think if the public is made aware of the dangers posed they might change their minds. It is heartening to see that many restaurants and takeaways now offer plant-based or cardboard takeaway containers but we have to change the focus of these other establishments that value profit over health.
Bring your own cups to coffee shops (you often get a discount) and remember to bring your own takeaway containers when transporting food.
I am still not convinced that creating ecobricks is a solution to keeping non-recyclable items out of landfill but, for now, I am persevering stuffing plastic bottles with cellophane, floss, etc. (see the photo below). The answer, obviously, is for manufacturers to stop producing non-recyclable materials and for us to stop buying them. However, in many places in the world with a severe plastic pollution problem, they have been successfully using them to construct buildings. There are many such projects throughout the world, some small, and some large.
If this is something that may interest you have a look into making your own ecobrick.
TerraCycle is a global organisation which turns those difficult to recycle products into something useful and donates to your chosen charity. Billions of pieces of waste have been collected and over 4 million dollars has been raised for charities all over the world. We have a dedicated fellow who collects all our crisp packets, biscuit and sweet wrappers. These are made into backpacks, pencil cases etc. and he has raised close to £300 through his efforts. Recently, our local co-op has come on board to provide a drop-off point.
See the link at the bottom of the page for more information.
The Co-op Supports TerraCycle
Terracycle for the Difficult to Recycle Materials
TerraCycle is an innovative recycling company that has become a global leader in recycling hard-to-recycle materials. They offer a range of free programmes, as well as recycling solutions available for purchase for almost every form of waste.
Switching Bank Accounts and Ethical Investing
- Ethical Consumer: the alternative consumer organisation
Your personal ethical consumer guide. Independent product guides, research, information and analysis since 1989.
Big Clean Switch
- Switch to a green tariff in minutes from UK's most trusted suppliers.
Compare green energy tariffs and switch in minutes, confident in our Big Clean Switch Guarantee. You could save hundreds on your energy bills.
- Plantlife :: uk
Plantlife is a wild plant conservation charity. Its aim is to create 120,000 hectares of species-rich grassland within the U.K.
The Woodland Trust
- UK's Largest Woodland Conservation Charity - Woodland Trust
We want to see a UK rich in native woods and trees. For wildlife. For people. Help us plant trees, protect woods and inspire people.
Friends Of The Earth
- Friends of the Earth | Home
Friends of the Earth is an environmental campaigning community dedicated to the wellbeing and protection of the natural world and everyone in it.
- Home - Friends of the Earth International
Friends Of The Earth is an organisation dedicated to making our planet a place where we want to live
The Refill App: Find a Refill Location Near You
- Home | Refill | Free Refill Stations on a street near you.
Find thousands of Refill Stations across the UK to refill your water bottle for free. Save money, stay hydrated and prevent plastic pollution.
Look For Products With The Roundtable Of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Certification
- RSPO - Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) aims to transform markets to make sustainable palm oil the norm.
Buying Fairtrade Products Makes A Difference To People’s Lives
- Home | Fairtrade Foundation
Fairtrade changes the way trade works through better prices, decent working conditions and a fairer deal for farmers and workers in developing countries.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on January 27, 2020:
I didn't know about ecobricks. Thank you for an informative and well-written article.