Resolutions for a greener new year

Sometimes we need an excuse to make changes in our lives, and the new year is the best excuse of all.

I’ve been scouring the net for ideas on how to live a better, greener, more eco-friendly existence in 2016 that will hopefully benefit the environment or, at the very least, do as little harm as possible (which is often the best we can do.)

Below are the five changes I pledge to make in 2016!

  1. No more bottled water!

This should be a simple and easy change to make. Plastic bottles are one of the largest contributors to our plastic pollution problem.

2. Unplug chargers to reduce phantom power use

I’m ashamed to realize that I’ve been wasting energy by leaving plugs in sockets when I have finished charging my phone/watching TV.

3. Limit dairy consumption

I’m already a vegetarian, but I can do better by switching to soya milk, vegan cheese and other non-dairy products.

4. Don’t buy anything that contains palm oil

Around 1000 orangutans are killed every year as forests are cleared to make way for palm oil production. I don’t want that to happen. Palm oil seems to be in everything, so this will be a challenging one.

5. Waste less food

Hugh’s programme about supermarket food waste was profoundly shocking. #wastenot

Will the plastic bag charge in England make any difference?

From 5th October, if you go into a supermarket in England and fill up your trolley with the weekly shop, you better hope you brought your own bags with you. From now on, any shop in England with over 250 employees will have to comply with a new law to charge 5p for every plastic bag used by customers.

The scheme has already been underway in Wales, Scotland and Ireland, and it is hoped that the law will see an 80% reduction in plastic bag purchase in England. The aim is to reduce the use of plastic bags, which are littering our countryside and oceans and harming the animals that often become entangled in them.

Here are some frightening statistics to digest:

The magnitude of the paper bag problem can be better understood when one takes a look at the staggering statistics of how many bags are produced each year, and how few bags are actually recycled. It has been estimated that over one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year and .5% to 3% of all bags winds up recycled. In 2006, the United Nations found that each square mile of the ocean has 46,000 pieces of plastic in it.

But is this small charge enough? Will people still use them? And what can we do about the plastic bags already in existence, which are taking hundreds and hundreds of years to degrade..

While a decrease in production of plastic bags will undoubtedly be beneficial, it doesn’t go far enough in solving the huge problems caused by all plastics in the environment. I’m looking at you, plastic bottles.

Plastic bottle tops are currently not recyclable, and as with plastic bags they often end up at the bottom of the ocean, and in the stomachs of a variety of animal species that mistake them for food. One albatross that was recently found dead on a Hawaiian island had a stomach full of 119 bottle caps.

Next step is to ban plastic bottles. Read the rest of the One Green Planet article to understand the health impacts of plastic bottles.

UK Fracking Threat Resurfaces

Lancashire County Council is set to decide whether to permit fracking tests on several sites on the Fylde coast. If Cuadrilla are successful in their bid and are able to carry out their tests in Lancashire, they may be able to begin a new application for commercial fracking in the UK.

Fracking has been in the news frequently in the last couple of years, but what exactly is it and why could it be disastrous for the environment? Otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, fracking is:

the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.

Why is it controversial?

– Fracking requires a huge amount of water that must be transported to the drilling companies’ remote sites.

– Fracking can cause earthquakes. Several minor tremors in Blackpool in 2011 have been linked to fracking tests.

– Potentially harmful and carcinogenic chemicals could escape around the fracking sites.

– Shale gas is not a renewable or environmentally safe form of energy provision.

The Centre for Biological Diversity have published a more extensive list of some of the observed effects of fracking on wildlife and the environment, based on studies conducted to observe the impact of fracking in 6 US states, where fracking has revolutionized the energy industry.

Fracking has yet to catch on fully in the UK, as generally people don’t want it; the majority of MEPs voted for a moratorium on fracking in a symbolic vote that could see a future ban. The public outcry against fracking is a largely based on the lack of knowledge regarding the environmental impact of shale gas wells, and this report about a study demonstrated that there has been very little investigation into the effects, so there is very little data to draw on when considering the impact. The implication being that if there is no data to condemn fracking, it can be deemed safe. However, the 24/7 traffic, the partitioning of habitats, the leakage of chemicals into the water system, and many other factors, are quite obviously going to have an effect, and it’s probably a bad one.

Protests against fracking sites.

‘Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume With Care.’ – Happy World Environment Day!

Today is the United Nations’ ‘World Environment Day‘ 2015 project:

the WED theme this year is “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.” The well-being of humanity, the environment, and the functioning of the economy, ultimately depend upon the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources. And yet, evidence is building that people are consuming far more natural resources than what the planet can sustainably provide.

Every June 5 environmental activists and organisations get together to promote their shared goals of better environmental management, with the view to limiting the damaging effects of climate change, reducing the pressure on diminishing natural resources, and encouraging the transition to a more sustainable lifestyle.

Big business could generally do with paying close attention to World Environment Day, but the UN’s programme aims to encourage individuals to think about and make changes to the way we eat, shop, consume and travel.

By 2050, it is expected that the human population of the earth will reach a staggering 9.6 billion and, if we continue to consume and produce in the way we have been, we will need three planets to sustain such a population.

According to the WED website,

less than 3% of the world’s water is fresh (drinkable), of which 2.5% is frozen in the Antarctica, Arctic and glaciers. Humanity must therefore rely on 0.5% for all of man’s ecosystem’s and fresh water needs.

If that statistic isn’t shocking, try this one:

1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year while almost 1 billion people go undernourished and another 1 billion hungry.

It is self-evident that the earth has a finite supply of resources, which together we are exploiting at a rate far faster than nature can recycle.

You can find out more about WED’s aims here.