Environmental Privilege

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about environmental privilege. Privilege is defined asA special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group”. You are probably familiar with the concepts of white privilege or rich privileged, well environmental privilege is a combination and extension of both of these. In the ‘western world’, we have few worries about the consequences of the damage being inflicted on the environment, either directly or indirectly by us, as it’s unlikely that we’ll be affected by it. At least not during our lifetimes. Many of us don’t have to worry where our next meal will come from or if we’ll have clean water. In this post I want to think about the kinds of environmental privilege that many of us experience or are excluded from, daily.

A man holding a sign saying


Social Privilege:

A plate of vegetables - Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

Access to healthier, ‘greener options’ is one form of environmental privilege. The disproportionate access of white, middle class people can be easily seen in the green/zero-waste/etc. tags of any social media site. This is coming from a white woman, the new wave of ‘green’ movements undemocratic figurehead. Living in England, and having some money in the bank, there are so many choices I can make to ease my conscience and hopefully the environmental burden as well. Choices like going vegan, living plastic-free, or avoiding certain brands that contradict my values. But even here, in the UK, there are people living below the poverty line that can’t make these choices, their decisions are made for them through necessity. This is what upsets about the onus of environmental change being paced on the individual rather than the corporations or governments, but that is probably another post.


Systemic Privilege:

Another, and more serious, form of environmental privilege is the systemic disproportionate access to environmental amenities.

Time in nature:

Spending time in nature has been found to have many benefits for both mental and physical health. However, access to nature is a privilege. Lower income communities have fewer green spaces, fewer resources to access them, and less time to do so. Only 56% of children from black, Asian, or minority ethnic (BAME) families visited green spaces at least once a week. This is compared with 74% from white households. People of colour and those on a low-income are disproportionately affected, in some low-income areas children report never having “seen cows before or even stroked dogs.”

A bench in a park with trees - Photo by Will Paterson on Unsplash

The impact of limited access to nature is felt more seriously in children and has negative consequences for a child’s development. Children who spend an adequate time outside are much less likely to develop mental and physical health issues. It is a multifaceted issue with children spending more time indoors, fewer available green spaces, and fears over safety outdoors. The role that advertising and technology aimed at children plays in keeping children indoors is key. Urbanisation has meant fewer people have gardens, and public green spaces are smaller, non-existent, or on the edge of town. As a parent I imagine it’s harder to feel safe letting your child roam freely in the fields (the world is a terrifying place) and if you work, then there is no time to supervise them. The poorer the community, the worse these effects. This sets poorer children up at a disadvantage, contributing further to the cycle of poverty and the continuing injustices faced by poor communities.

In addition to the lack of access to natural areas, air quality is often a lot poorer in low-income communities than their richer, usually whiter counterparts. The most at risk factions of the population are children (born and unborn) and the infirm. This year the theme of the UN’s World Environment Day (June 5th) is air pollution. Worldwide, 90% of people breathe polluted air, and around 7 million people die from air pollution related diseases each year.

This is recognised as a huge problem in urban centres the world over, which seems to gain a fair amount of political interest in abating. Particularly here in the UK, we know about this problem and understand it quite well. But what can be done to alleviate it? The UK government, in it’s recent 25 year environment plan, children’s access to nature was explicitly considered. In this plan £10 million was pledged to help children access nature, primarily through schools. It is important that children of disadvantaged backgrounds are given the same opportunities to succeed as those of privilege.


Water:

Water scarcity is a global fear, crippling areas of the developing world and a gremlin on the back of some of the world’s richest countries. England is a risk of serious water shortages by the year 2050, if steps aren’t taken to change our usage patterns and combat climate change. In England. Cold and rainy England.

Water is a necessity. Without it life as we know it would cease. As such, it is a valuable commodity, which means someone is profiting off of it and someone is paying the price. Those without a piped water connection have to buy water, often low-quality, from water vendors. This is at a cost of between 8 and 15 times what we pay for water here. The poorest people in the world are paying the most for water.

A child carrying a container of water - Photo by Dazzle Jam from Pexels

Big companies get water at a fraction of the cost that the public gets their water. In Canada, Nestle pays just $2.25 for a million litres of water. Coca Cola, in Malta, only pays for 60% of the water it uses – considering water is the main ingredient in their products, that is a lot of free water. Coca Cola are also notorious for over-extracting water the world over (x, x, x), using their wealth and size to steal water from locals.

A glass of clear water

Flint, Michigan is a predominately black community of ~100,000 in America, that was without clean drinking water for 5 years. They have only just, this year, received the rest of money they were promised by the government, following legal action. In this time many have irreparable health impacts – children in particular. Privilege isn’t just international. It happens on a national scale. To contrast Flint, another (much much smaller) town in Michigan called Parchment of just 3100 people. Last year, Parchment’s water supply was found to be contaminated by perfluorocarbon – the water supply was immediately replaced with bottled while the problem was quickly fixed. Parchment is a majority white community. It’s hard to say whether this stark difference comes from forethought of malice, or simply that being white greases the wheels of bureaucracy. Either way, the privilege here is clear.


Food quality:

Poverty is directly related to dietary quality, in countries all over the world. If you’re poor, your diet is likely to be of poor quality. Missing many micro- and macronutrients that are essential to be considered healthy. The comparative price per unit of food or per calorie isn’t much different but the way in which the types of food can be eaten/stored/accessed are.

Okay, let’s imagine for a sec that you aren’t super poor but you aren’t also rich. You’re living somewhere above the bread line, working a minimum wage job with long hours. You’re not time-rich. You don’t have time to nip to the farmers market for fresh veg and prep a super healthy meal. You’ll struggle to work a 12 hour shift without the carb-heavy fulfilment that comes with less ‘healthy’ food groups i.e. bread, rice, pasta (which also happen to be quick and inexpensive).

A beef burger with bacon - Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash

Shopping also takes time, it takes resources to get there, and it’s not something most people can do often. So, packaged/frozen foods are essential, ones that will last – fresh veg doesn’t. These are often foods that are cheap but also foods that aren’t very nutritionally dense.

I wrote a post about how fishing is inherently unsustainable, due to the intense ‘western’ practices and overfishing. My post views the problem through a (my) very privileged, western-centric lens. People all over the world have been fishing for millennia and managing their fish stocks without problem. Many communities continue to do so today. And doing so helps contribute to alleviating malnutrition.


Development:

In order to develop, many moons ago, the global north chopped down all their forests and turned it into farm land. And then, as soon as they were able, set off to do the same to other parts of the world. We are now staring down the barrel of a dire set of circumstances, where we have orchestrated our own demise via climate change and mass species extinction among others.

The capitalist system that colonisation exported to the world has set a precedent for environmental destruction. The irony is that while this destruction is necessary for development and for us too deem countries as equal, we also say that their environment needs to be preserved. Copy us but do it in a completely different way. All while the billionaires that profit off the mines/oil rigs/forestry that occurs are funding the same politicians that make these hollow warnings and promises.

Open cast mining - Photo by Dominik Vanyi on Unsplash

The global north is privileged to have developed, and done so before they had to be held accountable for the environmental destruction the caused. I’m not saying we should be advocating for countries with forests etc. left to destroy them, but I believe that the global north has a lot of reparations to pay. It’s time we put our money where out mouth is. The money is there. In the pockets of the untaxed rich who often have their hands dirty in the environmental issues we face.

Privilege is glaringly evident in how many people in the global north approach their environment. Scientists have been screaming and begging for us to take notice for some time now and so many people (people in power, especially) have wilfully ignored them. Australia is a great example of this. Australia is a very wealthy country that still mines and exports coal. In fact, after the UN 1.5C climate report was released stating the need for immediate action and that coal is one of the worst culprits, the Aussies actually doubled down on their coal mining efforts and are still commissioning new mines. This is one of many examples of environmental disregard. My personal pet peeve is people who refuse to recycle, even though kerbside collection happens every fortnight.


Privilege is not a new problem and there will likely always be those who are more privileged than others. Our current international, and national systems, are designed to have winners and losers. What do we do then? How do you operate in a system predicated on winners and losers? We have to use the little power and privilege you have – vote, protest, and be vocal. If you find yourself in a position of privilege, think how you can help those less privileged than yourself. Privilege can be a tool. In a world where everything is monetised and everyone is out for themselves, kindness is anarchism.

Jessica xx

P.s. I am running 10k in June for Cancer Research UK. If you would like to donate, please do so here or click the banner below! Any contribution is appreciated. Thank you.

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Vote for ME!

I have written on here in a while, I know. Uni has taken up so much of time and brain power that writing a whole other thing seems impossible! But, I promise I will have a juicy new post for you in the next couple of weeks!

 

ANYWAY, in the meantime you can read my entry to my university’s postgraduate scientific communication writing competition here (download). The other entries are available here.

The People’s Choice Award is now open for voting! If you could VOTE FOR ME that would be amazing! Go to Menti.com and use the code 98 44 40 to gain access to the voting!

 

UPDATE: Voting is now closed! Unfortunately, I didn’t win. Thank you to everyone who voted for me. xx

 

Thank you,

Jessica xxx

The header image for Bye 2018 - featues 2018 written in sparkler

Bye 2018

I have been a bit absent of late, I fell briefly out of love with my blog (and I have had a lot of pressure from uni). I have been feeling that I preach too much and, honestly, who am I to tell anyone else what to do. I have since come to the conclusion that I am only human and am trying – so, I’m gonna cut myself some slack. In the spirit of transparency, this post is an honest look back at my attempts at sustainability for 2018. I realise we are well into January now, but you’ll just have to forgive me that.

A lot happened for me in 2018 – I graduated with my bachelors degree, started my masters, visited Africa for the first time, missed my first ever flight, voluntarily put myself up for an ‘election’ (and ‘won’), and started this blog! When you reach New Year, you often find yourself lamenting how quickly the year has gone, but it’s quite likely you’ve achieved more than you think. Either way, I have big plans for 2019!


Sustainable 2018?

Sustainable Periods:

I LOVE my reusable period products. So much so I almost get excited about my period because I’m such a great person for using reusable products (joking, obviously). But seriously, it does make me feel much better about my suffering, knowing that I’ve reduced my impact on the environment.

I talk about periods in this post.

 


Razor:

Safety Razor

Finally shaving like the gentleman I am

Okay, so this is still one of my favourite ‘zero-waste’ swaps. It’s great! I don’t really shave that much currently because I’m lazy and I don’t really leave the house much any more. BUT I still love it, you’re always guaranteed to have a usable razor that isn’t going to fuck your legs up or give you tetanus because you left it in the shower for too long.

I talk about my razor more in this post.

 


Shampoo and Conditioner:

The clay ‘shampoo’ I tried, I used probably twice simply because it was so much effort to wash myself and then do some washing-up after (you have to mix it up). It does clean your hair but also not as clean as a conventional shampoo would. I now use a shampoo bar – so no plastic bottles and much easier.

The apple cider vinegar conditioner, I still use but I use it in addition to a conditioner bar (a solid block of conditioner you rub on your head) to make my hair super shiny!

 


DIY Body Butter:

My finished homemade body butter, in a repurposed body shop tub

smells better than it looks

I made some body butter. It smelled amazing. I haven’t really used it much recently because you have to wait for it to soak into your skin. It does make your skin very soft though (and smell great). I also have a stockpile of moisturiser from Christmases past that I’m trying to work through before I make/buy any more moisturiser.

 


Metal straws:

Metal straws are great, and so fancy! However,  my clumsy self would lose her face if it wasn’t strapped to her head – so these straws are at great risk of never being seen again. I have so far avoided losing my straws by never taking them anywhere with me, they are my house straws. The constant losing and purchasing of reusable straws would likely end up in a much greater footprint that if I just used disposables. Leaving my reusable straws at home is probably a very sensible thing to do for me but it does mean that I end up using (sometimes plastic) straws outside the house. Especially if I’m drunk – straws are never as appealing as they are after a few drinks.

I talk about plastic straws and their reusable alternatives in this post (I got into a pretty heated argument with a Facebook mum over this post – she was mad mad).

 


Deodorant:

My homemade deodorant looking very brown and chocolatey.

This was white and now it’s a chocolate pudding.

You may recall that I tried to make my own roll-on deodorant. Well, it worked for a bit but it ended up just going brown and all solid. So, I decided to make a different one using this recipe – this one was more solid and you had to use your fingers to put it on. I used it for a month or so and it started going brown and smelling weird. On top of that, it gave me a very sore rash under my arms (which makes sense, as the key ingredient is bicarbonate of soda – you live and you learn). After two failed attempts at making my own deodorant, I’ve decided to go back to a conventional roll-on deodorant for now, but will look into some more earth and body friendly alternatives when I have the time.

 


Toothbrush:

Bamboo toothbrush

minimalism

The bamboo toothbrush is something that I love and still use! It’s a toothbrush.

 


Veganism:

A screen cap of fight club with an overlay of text saying "the first rule of vegan club is always talk about vegan club"

A couple of months back wrote a post pledging to try harder at being vegan – unfortunately, I lied. I tried a little bit, but I’m about as close to being vegan as I am to fitting into a size 6 (not close at all). I want to be vegan theoretically and morally but I have the willpower of an untrained puppy. Maybe this year will be the year.

 


Travel mug:

My mum bought me a ceramic My Little Pony takeaway coffee mug (I don’t have a pic, unfortunately), which I  loved and used religiously for months. That was, until I realised I left it in a sink in London about two weeks ago, and was too hungover to go back for it. Hopefully, she won’t read this. I am torn between buying a new one and just leaving it – it’s either the footprint of an additional mug simply because I am an idiot or the guilt of having lost something my mum bought me.

 


There were some other things I changed this year but I’m pretty sure I’ve stuck with most of those – these are just the highlights 😂.

This year is going to be tough for me but I am looking forward to it! But that also means that I will probably be blogging less than I would like to.

 

Let’s chat soon, Jessica xoxo

 

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Bangin’ Beans

If you know me well, you probably know that I frickin love beans (and all other legumes). Like they really are my favourite thing. I will eat a tin of baked beans just on their own (not cold from the tin, I don’t quite go that far). So, yeah, my point is – beans are great!

Beans vs beef

Now, if you look at an image like this you’ll be blown away by just how amazing beans are! Excuse me, while I go eat nothing but beans for the rest of my life. I kid – but I could and would, if it didn’t mean that I’d miss out on all my other food-loves. So in order not to get too carried away by the bean-train, let’s break this down. Beans do have a lot more protein than meat and other animal sources BUT beans are an ‘incomplete’ source of protein. This means that they have fewer essential amino acids than animal sources. All of the proteins in our fragile human vessels are made from chemicals called amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). Some amino acids we can produce ourselves (these are non-essential amino acids, because they’re non-essential) and some we can’t make so have to get them from other sources (these are the essential amino acids). Beans have a lower amount of these essential amino acids – see graph below. However, this isn’t a bad thing, as you (hopefully) aren’t trying to get all of your recommended daily intakes in one meal. It is more than possible to get enough of the right protein from plant sources!

Two web-diagrams to show the amino acid compostition of various different beans and meats, respectively. The web diagrams present similar shapes but the meat diagram has a larger scale and therefore contains a higher amount of amino acids than the beans.

Beans & meat proteins aren’t different in amino acid composition but they are in quantity.  (Healthy Habits Hub)

 

Beans are generally just an all-round better source of things – like fibre and iron! Which are very essential. Also, beans have the added benefit of being lower in saturated fat, cheaper, and much less calorific than a big ol’ hunk of meat. Not to mention the vast difference in environmental impact between beans and meat products – with beef just blazing a trail in levels of how terrible it is for the environment. So, my point is, beans are great and I love them.

 


My Fave Beans Recipe:

I learned this recipe from a girl I lived with in Australia and I haven’t stopped making it since. However, I normally just make it from memory (so it does change slightly every time) but I wrote it down for a friend that loved them when I made them for her. And now I’m sharing it with all of you! It’s a super simple, make-to-taste recipe. It only takes about 10 mins (20, if you include rice cooking time) and costs very little once you have the spices – a perfect student meal!

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 400g/ oz tins of kidney beans (drained)
  • 1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 4 cloves of garlic (you can use pre-chopped garlic if you want to)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 stock cube (veg if you want this to stay veggie friendly, but if not go nuts)
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder/hot sauce (to taste)
  • 1tsp (dried) coriander
  • salt and pepper
  • Veggie Worcestershire sauce (optional)

 

Method:

  1. Put the rice on to cook while you prepare the beans.
  2. Chop onion and finely chop garlic. Heat oil in a saucepan. Fry the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent.
  3. Add in the kidney beans and the chopped tomatoes. Stir.
  4. Add in the stock cube and all other spices. Stir well.
  5. Simmer. Taste and adjust if necessary.
  6. Serve with rice. Also sour cream, gaucamole, and cheese – if desired.
Homemade beans with brown rice and mashed avacado

I used a can of pinto beans as I had those in the cupboard.

This is easily one of my favourite meals and is so great on a budget. I normally skip all the trimmings if they aren’t in the fridge – but they are a nice once-in-a-while treat.


The pinterest pin for 'Bangin beans' - fetures some bean illustrations


If you have any other dope bean recipes to add, leave them in the comments!

Jessica xx

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Recreational Drugs And The Rainforest

*WARNING – this post talks about drugs and touches on drug use. I am in no way encouraging/discouraging the use of drugs, but rather looking to educate myself and others on the overlooked aspects of the world of drugs*

So, you’re probably aware that pretty much everything you do has a negative impact on the planet – whether it’s buying a bottle of water or turning on a light. But have you ever considered the damage done by that line(s) you did at the house party last weekend?

 


Cocaine:

For those that don’t know, cocaine comes as a white powder (usually) and is a powerful stimulant. This is generally snorted for quick passage to the brain. It is known for creating feelings of hyper-alertness, euphoria, confidence, and increased sex-drive. It’s sounds quite benign when described like that, but it is a Class A drug and highly illegal! Cocaine use can lead to heart failure, erosion of your septum, anxiety, and depression.

 

How is cocaine produced?

Cocaine is derived from leaves of the coca plant, which is native to the Amazon Basin. From the leaves, the coca paste is extracted which is then purified into cocaine. This paste extraction happens in one of two ways – both ways involve the use of kerosene (jet fuel) and sulphuric acid! To purify the coca paste, more sulphuric acid is used, it’s filtered, and then neutralised. This produces the iconic and highly sought after white powder – just some leaves and jet fuel!

Environmental Impacts:

The UK is the biggest consumer of cocaine in Europe! Each gram (1g) of cocaine, destroys 4m2 of destroyed rainforest. That’s a scary amount of deforestation. Just imagine how many square meters of rainforest uni students blow through each year (pun intended). The rainforests are one of our last remaining defences against climate change and they are being lost at an astounding rate. Trees act as a carbon store, so the removal of these massive forests accelerates the build up of carbon in the atmosphere and subsequently the changes in climate.

Columbia is the largest producer of cocaine in the world. Columbia is also home to quite a lot of the world’s most ecologically diverse and fragile habitat – rainforest. Due to the clandestine and very illegal nature of cocaine production – the producers are reluctant to do it in areas that are easy to get to. So, coca growers and processors are forced deep into the jungle – often, into areas previously unmolested by humans. Here they cut down vast swathes of the rainforest to plant their coca crops. The most effective and efficient method of forest clearance is ‘slash and burn’. This is exactly what is says on the tin – they slash the forest up a bit and then set it on fire! Often the critters that were going about their day are still present and are frequently killed by the fires. The rainforest soils can only support a few harvests before the soil is too degraded and more rainforest needs to be removed. Not to mention all the other forest that has to be removed to build roads to transport their goods. The cocaine trade was responsible for half of Columbia’s deforestation in the 1990s.

There is a lot of demand for cocaine, across the world – high demand needs a large supply. The coca plants are given a helping hand during growth by the addition of pesticides and fertilisers! The rainforest is a fragile ecosystem, it’s diversity comes from the poor quality of the soil – the plants etc. have to compete for resources, so there is a high diversity of very unique organisms. When fertilisers are added to a system like this, it removes the competition and a few species begin to dominate. This changes the whole structure of the forest and is not a good thing for the creatures that used to live there. Pesticides is pretty self explanatory – they kill insects and do not discriminate (insects are arguably the most important part of any ecosystem). Habitat loss and degradation is the leading causes of species extinction. We are currently losing species at a rate 1000-10000 times faster than the background extinction rate (what you would naturally expect).

No such thing as cruelty-free, organic cocaine (unfortunately).

 


Marijuana:

Marijuana is a Class B drug that is  derived from a plant. These plants are from a family called Cannabacea – different species in the family result in different kinds of  highs when ingested or smoked. Despite teenagers the world over adorning themselves with iconic symbol of the stoner (the weed leaf), the part that is generally smoked is the buds or flowers. The buds (and sometimes, leaves) are dried out ready for use. The buds are used as they have a higher concentration of THC (the stuff that gets you high) than the rest of the plant. The high that you get from THC is a general feeling of well-being and relaxation but that’s not to say it’s without negative effects – some people experience anxiety and paranoia.

The use of THC and all of it’s parent products have been linked (often anecdotally) to relieving, and sometimes curing, all kinds of ailments – including Multiple Sclerosis, Cancer, Chronic pain, and many other health problems!

 

 

 

 

 

How is it produced?

Marijuana is a plant. It grows and is then harvested. But due to it’s illegal nature and high demand, it’s not exactly holistic farming. Cannabis plants require hot and humid conditions with plenty of nutrients in the soil. It is often grown in plantations or intensively in indoor systems both illegally and legally. Either method requires huge amounts of inputs in the form of pesticides, fertilisers, and water to yield a successful crop.

 

Environmental impacts:

Some (legal and illegal) marijuana is grown on plantations. Cannabis plants are very thirsty – growing one plant use 36 litres of water. A large plantation of these can mean disastrous drop in water table levels and have dire consequences for wildlife. Many of the illegal farms use rodenticides to protect the crops and equipment from being nibbled – this has resulted in a huge number of endangered mammals dying in California as a result. The same problems apply here as with illegal coca growing, as it isn’t allowed farmers find places to do it that they won’t be noticed/found. This is often in remote and untouched wilderness or, sometimes, in a protected area. These areas are then cleared for production, roads, and subjected to chemical inputs. Most of the world’s marijuana is grown in South and Central America, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. These are all regions with fragile ecosystems, and often equally (if not more) fragile sociopolitical systems.

A lot of marijuana is grown indoors under artificial conditions – heat and UV lamps are used to create the conditions necessary for peak cannabis plant performance. This requires a whole lot of energy to do.  It is estimated that 1% of the total electricity consumption in the US is used for marijuana growing (illegal and legal). That might not sound like a huge amount but if you think about how much electricity the whole of the US uses, it’s quite a lot.  This, in turn, generates a lot of carbon emissions – growing 1kg of cannabis generates the same emissions as using 2346 litres of petrol. So, for a 1 gram bag of weed, the emissions would be equivalent to leaving a lightbulb on continuously for 20 days. If you’re a regular consumer, this would really add up over a year.

 


Heroin:

Obviously, people who are shooting up are probably not concerned with the environmental impact that their high is having but here it is anyway. Heroin is a Class A opiate, derived from poppies – similar to the bright red flowers that we use to commemorate fallen soldiers. Side effects of heroin use include: a coma, respiratory failure, choking, and death.

A field of red poppies in bloom

How is it produced?

Heroin is produced from the resin of the poppy flower seed pod after the flowers have been pollinated and produce seeds. The seed pods of the poppies are sliced so that the resin can be collected and dried. First the opium resin is processed into morphine. This is done by mixing the resin with boiling water and calcium carbonate, this separates the organic stuff from the good stuff. The morphine pulp is separated and reheated with ammonia, it is then filtered, boiled again and shaped into bricks. To produce heroin, the morphine is heated with acetic anhydride for 6 hours – it then goes through many steps of purification.

 

Environmental impacts:

Poppy crops are usually grown in freshly deforested areas of Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Laos. Much of the erosion, drought, and landslides that have occurred in recent year in these areas can be attributed to these illicit agricultural activities. Much like the other substances covered, poppies are grown with the use of fertilisers and pesticides in ecologically sensitive regions. This is not good. Processing heroin is a pretty nasty business using some pretty serious chemicals. Without regulations and appropriate waste disposal, these chemicals are just discarded into the environment. Why not, eh? But as you can imagine, this is not a good thing for the residents of the forest etc.

A green forest

Afghanistan produces ~90% of the world’s heroin which has it’s own direct environmental impact. But it is also thought that the heroin trade is the primary source of funding for the Taliban rebel group, and that the environmental (and social) impacts of the war are incredibly far-reaching. War in the region has destroyed at least half of the forests there. Now, I’m not very knowledgable about the political instability and war of Afghanistan, but I think I can safely say that a large portion of the fault falls on us in the ‘western’ world for this. Anyway, heroin is an environmental minefield (quite literally).

 


Meth:

If you have seen Breaking Bad then you will be familiar with this substance. For those yet to see it (and also those that have), meth is a Class A drug that can be smoked, swallow, or injected. It is a highly addictive drug giving a feeling of hyper-alertness and exhilaration but can also make the user feelings of paranoia, confusion, and aggression. Methamphetamine use can have a number of side effects including: brain damage, kidney damage, lung damage, gastrointestinal problems, a coma, and death.

How is it produced?

Producing meth is a long process so I’m just going to list some of the ingredients:

  • Acetone (nail polish remover)
  • Anhydrous ammonia (fertiliser)
  • Ephedrine/Pseudoephedrine (cold medicine/diet pills)
  • Hydrochloric acid (very corrosive)
  • Lithium (found in batteries)
  • Red phosphorous (found in explosives)
  • Toluene (found in brake fluid – very corrosive)
  • Sodium hydroxide (for dissolving roadkill – very corrosive)
  • Sulphuric acid (toilet cleaner – very corrosive)

 

Environmental impacts:

Meth production is less of an immediate risk to the rainforest than all of the other drugs I’ve covered here, as it isn’t plant-based. Meth production is a very much lab-based endeavour.  But this doesn’t mean that the environment is safe in this instance – oh, no! Every 1 kg of meth produced, generates 5 kg of toxic waste. This waste is dumped wherever is convenient for the very busy producers, often somewhere that you wouldn’t want to come across some toxic waste, like a stream or a forest. This pollutes waterways and soil, and can be lethal to many organisms. The fumes from an active meth lab have also been known to kill surrounding trees, pretty nasty stuff.

 


Legal = better?

Countries all over the world are beginning to legalise marijuana, following the shift in public opinion and the research stating that it really isn’t that evil after all.  Legalisation won’t solve the problems associated with these substances (just look at alcohol and cigarettes) but when they are legal you can regulate them. It just makes sense really. The amount of abuse generally goes down, people going to prison for holding a small amount stops happening, and the government gets to tax it. It’s a win all round (except for those who deal in drugs). However, just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be any illegal production and sale of it. But this illegal market will be a fraction of what it currently is. The resources and police hours freed up from hunting down drug dealers could be put to a more worthy cause. The possibilities are endless for governments with all the money saved/gained with drug legalisation!

A person holding a joint filled with cannabis.

 

The ‘War on Drugs’

In my opinion, the War on Drug is  just throwing good money after bad, quite literally. The War on Drugs hasn’t actually stopped drugs getting anywhere. Cocaine is still pouring out of South and Central America, and you can get it easily in any country across the world. So, what was the point? It has been said that the War on Drugs is nothing but a thinly veiled excuse to murder and incarcerate people of colour. The War on Drugs achieves nothing than criminalising existence for poor people of colour. I think many states in the US are so reluctant to legalise cannabis as it would men that they would have to stop putting black people in into their privatised jails (modern day slaves).

On top of the clear social depravity of the War on Drugs, it generates it’s own negative environmental impacts. The main method of combatting drug crops is by spraying the area with herbicides. This not only kills the target crops, but also loads of the surrounding natural vegetation. The aggressive crackdown on drug producers has meant that production is pushed into evermore remote and untouched areas, where they cause untold destruction.

 

A better solution?

Portugal decriminalised ALL drugs in 2001 and put the money from their War on Drugs into rehabilitation programs. Getting caught with drugs means a small fine and a referral to a drug treatment program. Drug use has dropped drastically and has only 3 overdose deaths per million (14.3 lower than the EU average).

There needs to be a refocus – from the drugs to the people. Drug abuse is a social issue so, we need to approach it socially.

 

 

 

 

You are never going to be able to stop people taking drugs. Taking mind altering substances is something that humans have done for millennia, and will likely to continue to do regardless of regulations. The War on Drugs is obviously not working, despite whatever victories they may claim. It is time to reassess – is the value of human life and the environment, less than your moral war on drugs?

 


 

The pinterest pin for 'recreational drugs anf the rainforest' - features some lines of a white substance, a rolled-up note, and a razor blade

 

 


If you have any info about drugs (legal or illegal) to add, let me know in the comments!

Jessica xx

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Aidbox

So, this is a really short post about another way for you to give to charity by just living you life (similar to the ones I covered in this post). I’m talking about Aidbox! This is a email add-on that donates money to charity of your choice every time  you send an email!

 


All you need to do is head over to the website and create an account. You then choose the charity you want to be supporting with your emails and they give you the image to paste into your email signature .

A screenshot of the aidbox website where you select your chosen charity.

 

They have six organisations supporting things from Type 1 diabetes to investing in Solar power! They are constantly finding new partners to work with – they are relatively new so there are only a few at the moment! I, of course, chose to support the climate charity. The money is given to the charities by the supporting sponsor who are essentially paying to advertise in your emails. But, I naturally just filter ads anyway when I’m looking at something so it’s money for nothing, in my opinion.

 

A screenshot of an email featuring the Aidbox.

I tried to install in the signature from emails on my phone (which is often where I respond to my emails)  but it, unfortunately,  didn’t work. I checked and Android doesn’t support HTML on their outgoing email! So annoying! I’ll just have to settle for having it on all my desktop log-ins. You can see a list of supported apps here.

 


The pinterest in for 'Aidbox' -features an example email


If you have anything to add, leave it in the comments! Don’t forget to subscribe to my mailing list for a monthly recap of my blog and some environmental articles I found interesting!

Jessica xx

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Remember, Remember The Fifth Of November

*WARNING: Don’t read unless you want fireworks ruined for you forever!*

For those of you unfamiliar with this, the most British of holidays – on November 5th we celebrate a failed terrorist attempt! In the 1600s, a man named Guy Fawkes, with a few of his buddies, tried to blow up the houses of parliament with the then king inside them. He was ratted out by someone and didn’t succeed (he apparently got pretty close though). And now every year, we have a big fire where we burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes and set off fireworks. It’s essentially the British equivalent of July 4th (America), except we are celebrating not being free of a monarchy and not the other way round. It has a lot of basis in religious nonsense (the fight between Catholicism and Protestantism), people like to think that religious terrorism is a new thing but white people invented it.

Bonfire night/Guyfawkes/ whatever is regularly the most polluted night of the year.


Fireworks:

You’re probably familiar with fireworks. They’re those big explodey, pretty things we use to mark big occasions? Well, it turns out that setting off explosives is actually bad for the environment – who would have thought?  You’ve probably noticed the thick smoggy air that hangs about after a fireworks day. This smoke consists of very fine dust (particulate matter) which can wreak havoc for people with asthma or another sensitivity. These smoke particulates include metals – fireworks get their bright opulence from the ignition of various metallic compounds. These are usually some pretty nasty things, things you wouldn’t want all up in and around your face but we end up breathing them in and they also work their way through our environment. The effects of fireworks aren’t just limited to the immediate area of detonation either. Due to their size and the existence of winds, pollutants are spread some distance – so it’s not something you can really escape.

Some red and blue fireworks exploding over a tree Photo by Julie Tupas on Unsplash

Some firework ingredients:

This is used to help the ignition of the firework (and other explosive things such as rocket fuel and flares) . This compound can easily contaminate water supplies when it settles to Earth. This poses a risk for aquatic life but also for humans as percholate can disrupt thyroid hormone production. Thyroid hormones are essential for proper development and help maintain proper conditions within the body. Percholate has a relatively short half-life (it doens’t last that long in the environment) but it is detected year-round in many areas, indicating that percholate contamination is not limited to fireworks.

 

  • Barium salts  (Green colours)

Barium is another naturally occurring metal, obtained through mining. Barium chloride (what is used in fireworks) can be highly toxic. Barium can be bio-accumulated by aquatic animals, meaning it increases in concentration up the food chain. Barium can cause a whole host of health problems including cramps, numbness, and changed in blood pressure. This has a very short half-life in the environment, so does not hang about for long – but in high enough quantities, it can be damaging.

 

  • Copper salts (Blue colours)

Copper Chloride is the compound the creates the blue colours in fireworks. When the copper chloride is burned during firework explosion, this produces dioxins. Dioxins don’t occur naturally and have a number of human health implications. The most common adverse effect of dioxin exposure is cloracne, which is a skin disorder that leads to acne-like marks over the upper body, including the face. dioxins have also been shown to be a carcinogen (cancer-causing), disrupt hormone production, and slow glucose metabolism.

Any unreacted copper chloride that makes it’s way back down to Earth, is likely to not cause health problems to us but can pose a great risk to aquatic life. Copper chloride can be toxic to aquatic life, these creatures bioaccumulate (it builds up in their bodies) copper chloride and have many health problems as a result. Copper is very tough on the gills of aquatic animals, and can prevent them from being able to regulate their body chemistry effectively. Copper also impacts a fishes sense of smell and reduces their ability to be able to locate food.

 

In some countries, fireworks containing lead and mercury are still permitted which have many adverse impacts – these are illegal in Europe. A firework display also produces carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxde, and ozone (it’s bad in the lower atmosphere) which can contribute to climate change, acid rain, and respiratory problems.

 

Wildlife Impact:

A sparrow on a very green tree with pink flowers. Photo by daniyal ghanavati from Pexels

Fireworks are loud. This can cause a lot of stress and panic in wild animals – subsequently causing them to flee. Many animals may get hurt or killed during this panic (i.e. running into a road). The RSPB likened this to the same level of disturbance as a thunderstorm and stated that it poses little notable risk to wildlife. But as, around this time of year, there seems to a steady stream of fireworks from October through to January, it must have some adverse impact. Wildlife may also be affected by any debris from exploded fireworks, consumption of some of the not-so-nice stuff in fireworks will not be good for Mr bunny. The impact of fireworks on wildlife is magnified greatly when they are used improperly (wildfires etc.).

 

What Goes Into Making A Firework?

All of the metallic components of fireworks are naturally occurring which means that they need to mined from the environment. This is mostly done through a highly destructive, open-cast mining technique where the material above the deposits is completely removed. This can vastly alter environments and cause a lot of pollution.

An alpine forest with a lake and mountains. Photo by Sergei Akulich on Unsplash

Fireworks are cased in paper, which comes from trees. I don’t know about you, but checking that your fireworks are made from sustainably sourced paper isn’t high of many peoples agendas. Some fireworks companies are Forest Stewardship Council certified. But, for the most part, you have no way of knowing if that tree you’re about to blow up is from an ancient woodland or was sustainably sourced. And, despite the fact that fireworks are cased in paper, you cannot recycle them due to their dangerous chemical content. This leads to a lot of extra waste each year, as fireworks are used to mark celebrations the world over.

Most of the fireworks (90%) used globally are produced in China. Often, these factories use child labour and have much less stringent safety regulations,which can have disastrous consequences for the workers. In the US alone, 50 million kg are imported from China – that is roughly half of all the fireworks they use annually. Shipping these incredible amounts of fireworks generates a lot of greenhouse gases – for something that is literally going to be blown up when it gets there!

 


Bonfires:

So, not only do we set off fireworks on Guy Fawke’s Night but we traditionally have a bonfire – often where an effigy of Guy himself is burned. This is adding a lot of extra, unnecessary pollution to the environment.

A bonfire in a dark field Photo by Julian Vinci on Unsplash

In the UK 2 billion kg of waste (9% of total) is incinerated annually, this is a process for energy generation. Bonfire night celebrations (including fireworks) have a worse effect on the UK’s air quality than the combined annual emissions of waste incineration. Many people take a bonfire as an opportunity too have a clear out, and just end up burning all kinds of stuff like plastics, furniture, etc. This is not great for the environment – burning these products release noxious chemicals into the environment, which contributes greatly to the amount of pollution caused. More dioxins and carbon from the bonfires in one weekend than two whole months of industrial processes. These are very bad news for people with respiratory issues and any extra carbon in the environment is just bad news at this point!

There is an argument made that, if you are burning just untreated wood, no more carbon is released by burning the wood than if it were to decompose naturally. But most of the carbon from decomposition ends up in the soil, and subsequently back in plants. The decay process is also an important ecological step, providing a home and food for a multitude of organisms! So, basically I’m saying, just let it rot.

 


Solutions:

  • Try to find ‘eco-fireworks’

Eco-fireworks are trickier to find than you average firework but could be worth it, if you are keen to have your cake AND eat it. These fireworks have either no or reduced levels of the harmful percholate and barium. They also come in packaging that is more recyclable! These fireworks don’t mean that there is no environmental impact but they do reduce it slightly. The most ‘eco’ firework is the one that doesn’t exist (which can be said for almost anything really).

 

  • Go to a public display

Traditionally firework dominated events might be a bit boring without them. If this is the case for you, consider going to a public display rather than have one at home. The fireworks will probably be much better than you could do at home! There is also the added benefit of one big display will likely have a smaller environmental impact than a mess of smaller ones.

A public firework display

Some public displays make efforts to be more environmentally friendly. For example, the new ear celebrations in Sydney – the display is 100% carbon neutral (through carbon offsets) and people are encouraged to leave their cars at home! Also, the daily displays at Disney parks use air canons to launch it’s fireworks, which reduces the amount of resources needed and the amount of pollution created.

 

  • Purchase a carbon offset

To ease your conscience about your explosive celebrations (or any part of your life, really), you can purchase carbon offsets. This is basically where you donate some money to an organisation for them to plant trees or fund renewable energy projects. Different amounts of emissions cost different amounts of money – to offset more of your carbon footprint would cost you more money. It can get expensive to have a conscience.

Wind turbines in farmed countryside Photo by Karsten Würth (@inf1783) on Unsplash

If you are going to purchase a carbon offset, do some research on your chosen vendor beforehand to ensure their credibility and see if the projects they are associated with are something you’d be interested in supporting. Groups that are Voluntary Gold Standard or Voluntary Carbon Standard accredited have undergone some more vetting to ensure their projects are meeting the goals they claim.

 

  • Only burn dry untreated wood

If you are going to have a fire, burn only dry, untreated wood to reduce not-so-great chemical emissions. This means finding another ways to dispose of all your miscellaneous waste. You should also try to skip chemical accelerants and fire starters, as these are also pollutants.

 

  • Be mindful of nature

Before you light your fire, ensure there are no creatures that have taken up residence in the nice pile of logs you’ve built for them. Hedgehogs especially, these cute little guys are really struggling at the moment due to lack of habitats and love nothing more than taking a nap in a big pile of leaves. You don’t need a hedgehog life on your conscience.

A cute hedgehog in a firest amongst some dead leaves. Photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash

Also, ensure that you clean up after your firework display and that you don’t host your display near wildlife areas or areas that at risk of wildfires.

 

  • Be safe

Ensure that any fires or firework displays are held at a sufficient distance from wild areas. And that they are properly put out or disposed of. Failure to do so could result in a wildfire, especially if the weather has been dry. The person in charge of these displays should know what they are doing to minimise any health and safety issues.

 

 

  • Keep it small

This applies to firework displays and fires. Bigger is not always better – especially when it comes to the environment! Small, hot fires promote efficient burning and reduce the amount of smoke and pollutants the fire exudes. Small fireworks displays are better as they use less resources, so are less damaging to the environment. Also, having a bonfire AND fireworks is too much, if you’re gonna do it this year – pick one. I, personally, would prefer a fire because it’s warm.

 

Wait 15 minutes after the display has finished to ensure the fireworks are cool and you aren’t hit with any surprises. Clear up the fireworks and submerge them in a bucket of water for a minimum of 24 hours. Come back to check you’ve picked them all up in the daylight, when you can actually see. Once they been soaked, the fireworks can be double-plastic-bagged and placed in your general bin.

 

  • Try something different

Five people standing and talking while drinking wine Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

If all you want to do is celebrate, it doesn’t need to be so destructive. Why don’t you throw a dinner party, have a few drinks, or go on a starlight (firework-light) walk!


The pinterest pin for 'remember remember the fifth of November' - features some fireworks

 


Obviously, people aren’t going to stop setting off fireworks but as an individual, you can make a difference.  Just make good choices and avoiding buying your own fireworks. Remember, remember the fifth of November but please also remember the environment.

 

If you have anything to add, leave it in the comments!

Jessica xx

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DIY Multi-Purpose Cleaner

Most cleaning products are a cocktail of harsh chemicals. And you need so many products to clean different parts of your home. Or you could use one, natural product for everything!

 


Do You Know What’s In Your Cleaning Products?

A person mopping a ktchen floor, they are wearing blue marigold gloves. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Many kitchen and bathroom cleaners are incredibly abrasive and often have warnings on the pack about how they should be handled. You are putting these into your home and they subsequently breathing them in or absorbing into your skin. These chemicals then end up in our environment via our waterways! Frequently using antibacterial cleaners (soaps etc.) can actually promote super-bacteria. As the cleaners usually don’t kill all the bacteria so the ones that remain are stronger and multiply. The products I use to clean my home isn’t something I can say I’ve given a lot of thought in the past but here I am, giving it a good think.

 

 


How To:

White vinegar has been used for cleaning for a long time – very

You don’t need to do this, but this is to make it smell less like vinegar!

Ingredients: – recipe from here.

  • White vinegar (not distilled malt vinegar)
  • Orange/lemon/lime/grapefruit peels
  • A jar
  • Essential oils (optional)

A dish of orange peels, an empty cleaned jar, and a 5 litre jug of spirit vinegar

 

Method:

  1. Fill a jar with orange (or other citrus peels).
  2. Then fill with white vinegar.
  3. Leave to stew for 2 weeks. A jar fille with orang peels and white vinegar
  4. After 2 weeks you can strain the orange vinegar – this can then be used as fabric softener or for cleaning all kinds of things.
My DIY cleaner with orange peels in a jar and the diluted cleaner in this repurposed mr sheen bottle

I use this repurposed Mr Sheen bottle to put my cleaner in (I couldn’t get the label off)!

 

For different messes, use different strengths of cleaner.

  • For stubborn messes – use at full strength!
  • Dilute, at least, by ratio of 1:8 water for everything else.
  • Add a tablespoon to your washing machine for a natural fabric softener!

The pinterest pin for 'DIY multipurpoe cleaner' - features a drawing of a spray can

 


If you have any other uses for white vinegar to add, leave it in the comments!

Jessica xx

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The title '6 benefits of being flex-vegan' over a pic of some assorted vegetables

6 Benefits of Being Flexi-Vegan

You’ve probably heard being of flexitarian or a weekday vegetarian – this is basically the same, but with dairy and eggs instead. I have been a strict vegetarian for 4 years now (no fish or marshmallows).  I’ve also been doing the hokey pokey with veganism for most of that time – in and out of it like nobody’s business. But I am person that believes in new year, new me – but, in my case, the new year is the new school year. I recently moved to start my masters (help) and made myself a promise to be AVAP (as vegan as possible). I do not possess a lot of will power and I will fall into the cheese trap, but I am trying. Even if 4/5 out of 7 days are completely vegan, that’s an achievement in my eyes!

If you need convincing about veganism, a good way to guilt yourself vegan is to watch Earthlings and/or Cowspiracy. Be warned if you are overly emotional and/or hungover/coming down, Earthlings will probably ruin your life and you will spend half your day crying (speaking from experience).

 


Get To Say ‘I’m Vegan’:

You can say that you’re vegan (on some days)! Do so sparingly though, otherwise people will think you’re a twat. Also, so many people make the mistake of being aggressively vegan. Constantly fighting with people who eat meat and desperately trying to guilt them, is not the way to go about your life. Like even when I was fully vegan and I’d see those people on the street doing some weird protest thing wearing masks, I’d give them a wide birth. People don’t like being attacked. Just live your life and people will live theirs. You may change others without even trying.

 


Healthier?

Now, not all vegan diets are created equal – it is entirely possible to be vegan and not eat a single vegetable. If this was how you chose to live your life, that’s perfectly fine but it’s unlikely that you’ll be particularly healthy. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume you’ll (hypothetically) really try to have a balanced diet.

There are a lot of benefits to following a (good) vegan diet including a reduced risk of cancer, coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity, and type-2 diabetes. Vegan diets (that have a lot of fruit and veg) are really high in fibre – which is fantastic for you digestive system but could also reduce the chances of having a stroke. A whole food and plant-based diet has also been found to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis! Dairy products have been associated with an elevated prostate cancer risk.

A tofu stir fry in a glass bowl on a concrete floor. Photo by Vita Marija Murenaite on Unsplash

There is a big worry that vegans are missing out on a lot of important nutrients etc. in their diet – the occasional indulgence in dairy may help fill some of those requirements. Calcium is the most obvious of these – the recommended daily intake of calcium is 1000 milligrams (mg). Calcium is found in a number of products but most notably dairy (most plant milks are calcium fortified). Things such as kale, broccoli, tofu, etc. also contain calcium but in much smaller amounts per serving so a lot more may have to be eaten throughout the day to get the right amount. Although these foods might have less calcium per serving they do have more calcium per calorie than milk!

A group of people sat at a table eating breakfast Photo by Jennifer Kim on Unsplash

Animal proteins are also more accessible than plant proteins. Animal proteins are termed ‘complete proteins‘ this means that they contain high amount of amino acids (building blocks of proteins) that the body cannot make itself. You can get sufficient amounts of these amino acids from plant sources but the occasional animal product may help you get faster!

 


Smaller Environmental Footprint:

A jug of milk on a stripey orange tablecloth nect to a glass of milk in front of some sunflowers,

Cows are bad for the environment. That is a pretty well-known fact – they can’t help it but they are. Cows are very water intensive, require huge amounts of feed, and generate massive amounts of greenhouse gases. Cows eat up to 18,300kg of feed every year, all of which has to be grown somewhere – a lot of cattle feed is made from soybeans. Soybean cultivation (most of which for livestock feed) is one of the leading causes of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. Not consuming dairy could save 227,304 litres of water A YEAR! The global dairy sector contributes 4% to global greenhouse gas emissions – tourism accounts for 8%, so having a glass of milk is almost environmentally the same as going on holiday (kinda). Most of the gases emitted by cows is methane (a greenhouse gas 20-120 times more potent than carbon dioxide) which is not great for climate change. And with the recent news, that climate change requires our immediate action, you need to think of areas of your life where you can be a bit more flexible!

We also get animal products from sources other than cows but I won’t talk about them here. Check my Diet Environmental Impacts post for more!

 


Still Get To Eat Cheese!

An array of cheese wheels on wooden shelves

Not being so strictly vegan does ease some of the pressure of transitioning to veganism. It can be really hard, especially if you’re eating out. Often in restaurants it’s difficult to find something that’s veggie, let alone vegan! Being flexible means you can have your cheesy treat without as much guilt.


Ease Your Conscience:

Animal welfare is probably the main reason for me trying again to go vegan. The way we handle animals for the food industry is shocking and, honestly, nothing short of cruel.

Four small chicks stood on some straw-like bedding. Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Naturally, a chicken would live for up to 6 years but in a commercial egg system they are killed after about 12 months as their productivity declines. Only female chickens lay eggs, so any male chicks that hatch are instantly sent to be gassed and used as reptile food. Some hatcheries just throw the chicks into an electric mincer (mainly in the US). This happens at about one day old. Male chicks are separated out no matter the intensity of the system (free range, caged, etc.) the females are destined for. Over 6 billion male chicks are killed each year. In recent years, there has been a real shift in consumers to choose more free range and ethically reared chicken products but many chickens are still kept in cage situations. This means they are kept in very cramped conditions, in darkness (to save energy/money), and will likely not see outside their whole lives.

A calf poking its head through a fence. Photo by Sophie Dale on Unsplash

Farmers work their cows, literally, to death. If left unmolested, a cow would live up to 20 years but an industrial dairy cow lives about 4-6 years before they can no longer perform and they are sent off to be killed for beef. Cows are milked up to 3 times per day, using often highly mechanised methods. Cows are impregnated roughly once a year to maintain a constant supply of milk. These calves are removed from their mother soon (sometimes immediately) after birth – these are either then raised for veal (killed at 5-8 months), to be dairy cows, or for beef. This isn’t a life I would want to wish on anything, not even those girls that bullied me at school (probably), so I definitely don’t want to be party to it. At least not as much.

 


Money:

An Asian bean market Photo by it's me neosiam from Pexels

Eating vegan can be really cheap. It doesn’t necessarily mean it will be but it can. My staple diet consists of a lot of beans. They are honestly my favourite thing and they’re so cheap. Being vegan on a student budget means it has to be cheap, so it really just depends how luxurious you want your diet to be.

 


The pinterest pin for 'benefits of being flexi-vegan' - features a bowl of purple lettuce


If you are going vegan, check out my Plant Milks post! If you have anything to add about going vegan, leave it in the comments!

Jessica xx

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Safe Sex, Waste Less

*WARNING – this post contains some very mature themes and sexual references*

So, sex – it’s pretty great (obvs, not everyone is of this opinion but this post isn’t really for them). But what is less great are unwanted babies and STDs. That is where the modern miracle of contraception comes in! I am here to tell you that you CAN indulge in all your sexy desires, stay safe, and maintain a low environmental impact!

I will say that NOTHING is more unsustainable than putting another person on the planet (especially unwanted ones) – this should be avoided at all costs!! Luckily, us millennials/Gen Zs are killing every other industry, so the baby industry might as well be next! Babies, you have been warned.

Honestly, the only thing that will keep you safe form children and/or STDs are condoms/femdoms/dental dams. But these are NOT reusable (despite what some may say). Until such a time you find a long-term bae (if ever, who needs ’em?) where you are both tested and on appropriate long-acting reversible contraception, the aforementioned are your best bet. It is impossible to have safe, zero-waste sex without a trusted sex partner!

While some of what I am going to cover mostly applies to everyone (i.e. condoms, etc.), most of what I am going to cover is geared towards penis-in-vagina sex. Enjoy xx

 


A venn diagram of the contraceptives that protect you from stds, babies, and both.

Abstinence is on there to make sure I don’t go straight to hell (NHS)

 


Condoms/Female Condoms/Dental Dams:

Okay, so, in terms of safe sex – condoms are king! This should be pretty much common sense. Don’t be silly, wrap your willy. Condoms come in all shapes (really just one shape), sizes, colours, and flavours – so there shouldn’t be any issues with finding one that works for you. Unfortunately, by virtue of what they’re made of and their single-use purpose, condoms are not ‘zero-waste’ but there are some things you can do to feel better about using them! Remember, using a few condoms is wayyy more sustainable than having to be treated for an STD or putting whole other person on the planet!

A female hand holds a condom in the foreground with a man led in a double bed in the background.

 

Condom choice:

Making good choices makes all the difference, in all areas of your life – from sliding it in, to buying a car. Condoms are always going to come in those little safety foil wrappers (until they come up with something better) which are not recyclable, so there’s no winning on that front. But you can buy more ethically sourced condoms!

These condoms are all-natural rubber latex and vegan finished. The rubber is fairtrade and sourced from a plantation in Southern India. These condoms are produced in Germany.

L. condoms are are fair trade and eco-friendly. For every condom purchased, one is donated to a developing community. Particular attention is paid to women and girls, who are exclusively hired to distribute the condoms in the recipient communities.

These condoms are produced from natural rubber latex sourced from a sustainable FSC organic rubber plantation in Southern India. The condoms are vegan (no animals proteins used in finishing) and are free of carcinogenic nitrosamines. The plantation workers are paid a living wage and no child labour is used.

These condoms are vegan, fair trade, and ethically made. The rubber is sourced from sustainably run plantations with efforts to reduce carbon footprints. The packaging is recycled and uses vegetable inks for printing. The company also donates millions of condoms to HIV/AIDS prevention.

Sir Richard’s condoms are vegan, chemical-free, and made from natural rubber latex. For every condom sold, they donate one to the developing world.

Half of the rubber produced every year is synthetic, the other half is naturally occurring latex. Rubber (what latex is made from) production originated in the Amazon basin and is produced from the sap of the native Pará rubber tree. Amazonian have been producing latex products long before the white people came and stole that too. Now, most of the natural rubber latex is produced on plantations in Asia.

A lush green forest with a waterfall over a cliff - a blue sky with some white clouds. Photo by Renan Bomtempo from Pexels

Natex is a company, in partnership with Wild Rubber, that produces condoms from independent rubber tappers and wild trees in the Amazon rainforest. These types of rainforest products are incredibly valuable as they help locals earn money from the forest without deforesting! The Brazilian government purchases these condoms for free distribution in the fight against AIDS. Nine million of these froest-friendly condoms were given away at the Rio Olympics in 2016! Unfortunately, they do not currently sell them internationally, but perhaps they will in the future!

More Natex condoms = Less deforestation

 

Most of the eco/ethical condom companies I could find were based in America. You can still buy them online but all that shipping probably negates any environmental good the condom itself does. If you are lucky enough to live near a zero-waste or whole foods type of shop, see if they carry some ethical condoms! I do know, however, most people my age get their condoms from the clinic because free – condoms are not factored into a student budget, unfortunately.

 

Compost:

I bet you didn’t know that condoms are compostable! Well, now you do. You can throw a condom in your compost heap and it will biodegrade (albeit quite slowly). This only applies to the natural rubber latex condoms – do not throw synthetic latex condoms in the compost, as they  do not degrade and will stay there forever. The Pasante ones you get from clinics on the NHS are made from natural rubber latex! If you plan to compost your condoms, stick to water-based lubricants. Also, I wouldn’t suggest composting your condoms if you don’t have a private compost bin at home. It might not be ideal for others to be finding your used condoms in their communual compost bin!

A sign pointing in the direction of the toilets in front of some greenery. Photo by Hafidz Alifuddin from Pexels

Whatever you do with your condoms, never flush them down the toilet!!! No matter what they are made of. Theses will clog our sewers and could end up in the ocean. Not even natural latex condoms biodegrade in water. A giant fatberg that formed and blocked a sewer in London was comprised mainly of flushed condoms.

 

Synthetic condoms:

Synthetic condoms are made from petrochemicals, which is not great for a number of reasons. Not least being oil extraction methods. So, where possible try to stick to natural latex ones. I know some people are allergic to latex so they should definitely continue to use whatever condoms they want (except lambskin ones, that’s gross and don’t protect from STIs). Here are some of the condoms that are made from synthetic materials.

 

Condom wrappers:

Each condoms comes in its own individual safety foil wrapper – this is plastic-covered aluminum foil. This is not recyclable, which isn’t great. With such a big push at the moment to reduce the amount of waste we produce (especially plastic) this unavoidable waste stings a bit. So, you could try having less sex (ew) or you could save up your condom wrappers and have a go at making an Ecobrick!

An Ecobrick is a plastic bottle filled with non-recyalable plastics – like crisp packets and condom wrappers! The bottle is tightly packed with plastics so that it becomes rock solid (it would take a lot of condom wrappers – so get busy). These ‘bricks’ can then be used to make all kinds of things. They have become especially useful in emerging economies where they have a lot of rubbish and a lack of infrastructure to properly deal with it. It kills two birds with one stone! In countries such as the UK, it is more of a novelty thing but can still be amazingly useful – you could build some furniture or flower beds, using rubbish!

 


Intrauterine Device (IUD):

The IUDs are small, t-shaped pieces of plastic that are inserted into your womb by a trained medical professional. They prevent pregnancy by releasing copper and making the womb uninhabitable by both sperm and the egg – the womb becomes no mans land. This an example of Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) as once the device is removed, fertility returns to normal. The IUD can remain in place for 5-10 years, depending on the type. Periods can become heavier, longer, and more painful but it really depends on the person. I have the copper IUD – so, no babies for me. I love it! I am fortunate enough to have minimal period discomfort (some of my friends can’t move from their bed when bleeding, because it hurts so much) and this foreign object only makes the cramps mildly worse. There is also an Intraunterine System (IUS) which is a hormonal version working to thicken the cervical mucus and thin the womb lining to prevent pregnancy.

 

 

 

 

 

There is an increased risk of developing Bacterial Vaginosis or BV (is NOT an STI) with the IUD/IUS, which I have become far too familiar with since getting mine put in. I am very reluctant to get rid of my coil as its so easy – there’s nothing to remember and no hormones (so no contraceptive depression!). I’m not yet at the point where I want it out, but unless I can figure out the trigger for the BV, I may have to reconsider my contraceptive options.

This method will stay with you for a long time so that means less resources and a lower environmental impact! Unfortunately it does not protect against STIs, only babies, so you’ll still need to use a condom if you’re at risk of catching one. Also, if you continue to get BV, you’ll continue to need to treat BV – this is not so great for the environment (or your body, if using antibiotics). The nurse at the clinic told me that it will go away on it’s own, eventually, but that’s a lot longer than I would like to have it.

 


Hormonal Contraceptives:

Hormonal contraceptive How often it needs a re-up.
The Pill(s) Everyday
The Patch Once a week
Vaginal Ring Once a month
Injection Every 8-13 weeks
Implant Every 3 years
Intraunterine System (IUS) Every 3-5 years

Hormonal contraceptives either work by preventing the release of an egg each month or by thickening the cervical mucus and thinning the uterine lining to prevent sperm reaching the egg and the egg implanting. I was on the pill for the best part of a year and I liked the freedom of worry-free sex. But it really came at cost – I was depressed, gained loads of weight, and generally wasn’t myself. I would find myself snapping really easily at the guy I was seeing and generally being kind of a bitch. So, at that point I decided I’d rather just use condoms than put myself through all that. But everyone reacts differently to hormones and there are so many different types of pills to choose from.

 

Unfortunately, they all have side-effects (having a vagina van be so tough). Symptoms include increased risk of blood clots, increased risk of cancer, increased risk of depression, and mood swings. But they can be invaluable, many women suffer from excruciating period pain or have endometriosis – the combined pill can help reduce pain levels greatly.

Environmentally wise, the less often something needs replacing or topping up, the better. The pill hormonal comes in plastic blister packs, which are recyclable, but it is better to avoid plastic water where possible.  And as you have to constantly take the pills it can add up to a lot of plastic! Hormonal birth control also contributes (along with many other sources) to the estrogen pollution of our environment – this has a negative impact on the reproductive capabilities of fish. Again, hormonal birth controls do not protect from STIs, so condoms will still be needed.


Vasalgel:

This is a Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptive for men! A polymer gel is injected into the sperm-carrying tubes in the scrotum. The gel carries a positive charge which damages the negatively charged sperm cells, rendering them infertile. This method of contraception is 98% effective and is as permanent as you want it to be. The gel is dissolved by a second injection and fertility returns to normal! Your performance is not affected.

This is a great development in contraception as it finally relieves some of the burden on women! It will vastly reduce waste but, as with all the other contraceptives, it should still be used with condoms if you are with a new partner (or if you or your partner have been in contact with an STI).

 


Sterilisation:

If you are certain that you’ll never wanna produce a mini-me, then sterilisation could be the answer for you! Your reproductive organs are permanently closed off (it is possible to have it reversed but not guaranteed, so it’s best to be sure) to prevent a baby invasion. Both penis-having and vagina-having people can be surgically sterilised (it’s one of the few ways men can contribute to contraception 🙄). Obviously, sterilisation doesn’t mean you can never have kids – you could have your stuff frozen, you could foster or adopt, or you could just get a pet.

An operating theatre - two female medical practitioners are looking at something on the other side of a sheet

Sterisation is one of the more sustainable /zero-waste options as it’s done once and you’re done forever. But, of course, if you have sex with people you don’t know that well etc. you should 100% use a condom because being sterile does not protect you from STIs.

 


‘Natural’ Family Planning:

Natural Family Planning is possible, but you really have to be committed to the cause. Like really committed. Which I suppose you would be, if you didn’t want a baby! This method of contraception involves a woman keeping track of a number of indicators everyday and keep a log of them. These factors include recording your basal body temperature, changes to your cervical secretions, and the length of your menstrual cycle. Small changes in your life can change how accurate the readings are – things such as illness, stress, travel, or other lifestyle factors.

This method, when used perfectly, can be up to 99% effective – that’s the same as condoms! But when you are ‘fertile’ you have to either avoid sex or use a condom. There are apps you can get to help you to remember to measure your indicators and to keep track of them. These apps are not a substitute for getting advice from a trained specialist! I am skeptical of methods like this, it just seems like such a big gamble. People forget stuff. And, who has the time (or energy) to be taking their temperature and measuring their mucus everyday?

How ‘eco’ this method of contraception is really depends on how much sex you’re having. If you are having little to no sex then this is great for that as it would almost be a waste to use another kind of contraception. But if you are having a lot of sex

 


Diaphragm/Cap:

The diaphragm is a a soft, circular piece of silicone that is inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix and prevent sperm from entering the uterus. The diaphragm is covered in spermcidal jelly before insertion, to kill the sperm. The cap needs to be left in place for 6 hours after sex and more spermicide is needed if it has been in place for more than 3 hours before use. This method of contraception is 92-96% effective. You cannot use it during your period as there is a risk of getting Toxic Shock Syndrome, so alternative contraception will need to be used or sex should be avoided. A diaphragm will last up to a year, if cared for properly.

In my opinion, a diaphragm seems like a lot of work. But in terms of waste and environmentalism is it better for the environment than using a load of condoms. Obviously, if you have a new partner or are on your period you should use condoms anyway – so it doesn’t completely eliminate the need for condoms. Also, silicone is a plastic and therefore a derivative of crude oil – which is generally not great.


The pinterest pin for the 'Safe sex, waste less' post - features a banana dipped in cream


Long-acting reversible contraceptives are the most sustainable in terms of waste generation and baby prevention, But the only sure-fire way to prevent STIs is to use condoms and dental dams. Sex should be fun so you need to be comfortable with the contraceptive you are using. You obviously can use any information you like to make a decision on contraceptives but ensure it is YOUR decision and that you are happy with it. You might have noticed that I did not list the ‘pull-out’ method above – this is because it is not a method of contraception and should not be done.

If you want to read some more about my vagina, check out my Sustainable Period post!

 

I’ve overshared about my sex life, why don’t you – let’s chat in the comments!

Jessica xx

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