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5 Dos and Don’ts of Christmas Recycling

It’s easy to get swept up in the joy and indulgence of the holiday season, especially in a year like this one. I’m not here to tell you to hold back – I am diving head-first into Christmas this year. Drinking in the holiday spirit like it’s oxygen. But we all know this time of year is one of excess, leading to large amounts of waste.

I’m sure many of you reading this will make great efforts to minimise your impact at this time of year – and one of those efforts is through militant recycling! Which is great! I would like to ensure you are equipped with with the information you need to be a recycling dynamo this holiday season.

An estimate from 2013 (the most recent I could find) suggests that the UK throws away enough wrapping paper to stretch to the moon or round the world NINE times each year. I like to think we’ve come a long way since then, but knowing the chaos of Christmas and how people would rather shove it in a bin bag and be done with it – one can’t be sure. In addition to this blasé attitude, a major problem with recycling wrapping paper is that not all of it is recyclable. The paper is often adorned with glitter, plastic coatings, and metallic embellishments making them lovely to look at, but sealing their fate in the waste bin.

Similarly festive cards, with an estimated 900 million to 1.7 billion being sent each year in the UK, are also often covered with non-recyclable aspects such as glitter, glue, metallics etc. However, it is estimated as much as 1 billion cards that could be recycled end up in the bin!

Many people don’t try to recycle their Christmas waste, the stress of Christmas Day is enough already, but it isn’t as hard as you think.


5 Dos and Don’ts of Christmas recycling:

DO – The Scrunch test!

If you can scrunch your paper into a ball and it stays there, it is likely that this paper is able to be recycled! If it doesn’t pass the test, it will need to be put to general waste or reused.

DON’T – Assume all your paper-based waste is recyclable

Tis the season of glitter. Which is, unfortunately, not recyclable. To be recyclable, your wrapping paper and cards need to be:

  • Free of glitter. Glitter gets everywhere and could end up contaminating a whole batch of recycling and making unfit for purpose.
  • Not metallic.
  • Not laminated (thick and glossy)
  • Not too thin. If the paper is too thin the fibres will be too short and unfit for recycling.

Anything that has any of the above should be put into general waste or repurposed.

DO – Check with your local recycling authority first!

Many councils will accept appropriate wrapping paper in their collections but some don’t as the paper mills won’t accept it. So to ensure that your paper will get recycled and you aren’t contaminating other recyclable items, check with your local authority first. Most will have a website you can check, or give them a call!

DON’T – Forget to remove any sticky tape!

Sticky tape is non-recyclable plastic and contaminates the paper, making it much harder to recycle. To ensure that your paper can be recycled, check for stray bits of plastic!

DO – Try to reuse or upcycle!

If, like me, you hate when people just rip into the paper from anywhere so you take twice as long as everyone else opening presents carefully along the tape lines. If you’re careful enough, you will probably be able to use this paper again. Everyone’s gotta have a thing, so why not be that person who hoards used wrapping paper? It’s for the planet.

Christmas cards and wrapping paper that is beyond saving can be upcycled into new cards, present tags, a collage, a scrapbook, decoupage, and more I’m sure. Your trash could be your treasure.


Alternatives to traditional wrapping paper:

If you haven’t wrapped your presents yet, consider using something other than traditional wrapping paper.

From: Ministry of Environment Japan
  • Japanese-style fabric wrapping
  • Gift bags/boxes – these can be reused
  • Plain brown wrapping paper (you could draw your own designs!)
  • Newspaper
  • Gum tape – Used by artists and frame-makers, is made of paper and can be recycled with the paper. Britons use over 40 million rolls of sellotape, an average of a roll and a half per household, over the Christmas period – which goes directly in the bin!

I know you have better things to be doing than painstakingly sorting your recycling this Christmas, but many hands make light work. Ten minutes out of your 2020 is nothing, and you know it. Stay safe, wash your hands, and have a happy new year!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Happy Holidays,

Jessica x

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Covid-19 and the Environment

The world is a little topsy-turvy right now. Scary and very uncertain. But this you probably already know. I am writing this from my staycation (self-isolation). While what is happening right now is nothing short of a disaster and showing the true colours of many countries (the UK, for example), the environment seems to be grateful for a little respite.

I have sometimes been guilty of the sentiment that “people are the problem” but I know, and I’m sure you do too, that the real problem is actually capitalism.  If anything, COVID-19 has shown us that people, mostly, are kind and thoughtful. When unbridled by the capitalist system, we turn to art, music, community, and mindfulness. Please keep all notions of “what do you propose instead of capitalism? SOCIALISM?” to yourself. I don’t propose anything, that is a job for someone much more qualified than I.

What prompted me to write this post was mainly the posts of the animals ‘returning’ to the canals of Venice – including the  swans, dolphins, and the fish! But, we now know that this was untrue. We also know that the water in the canals being clear has nothing to do with pollution either, it’s simply because the sediment has settled out from lack of boat traffic. There are countless memes taking the mick out of people for believing this. Even I believed it at first, we all wanted so desperately to believe that nature is just that tenacious and resilient. We wanted it to be true. However, do not fret. There is still some good environmental news.


China has banned the trade of wildlife:

Photo of a tiger lying in the snow.

In the light of the novel coronavirus outbreak, China has banned the trade of wildlife. The virus is thought to have come from animals (a zoonotic disease) and a direct result of the erosion of biodiversity.  This ban is groundbreaking as China, heavily set in its traditional ways, has been a pain in conservationists’ sides for a long time.

There are calls from conservationists to make the ban permanent, so we shall see what happens here. Although, China’s pledge is only to amend the aspects of the law that pertain to consumption of wild meat and not the sections referring to fur, leather, or parts needed for traditional medicines. There are worries that this exemption will lead to legalised trade in the future, in the hopes that regulations will prevent further outbreaks or that the temporary nature of the ban will mean business-as-usual once this is all over. Only time will tell, I suppose.


Air pollution:

Crowded street with cars passing by. Photo by suzukii xingfu.

Here in Kingston, the roads are scarily clear. Usually there are hour-long traffic jams that occur twice a day. Without a reliable public transport system everyone is either driving or in a taxi. But no more. Almost everyone is staying themselves indoors. I live on a busy main road and it has never been so quiet in my apartment.

There has been a noticeable and measurable decrease in air pollution levels in areas, such as Italy and China, that have taken strict countermeasures against the spread of the virus. No vehicles or industry operation = no pollution.


Climate Change:

If you’re social distancing (and unless you’re providing a necessary service i.e. medical or food retail etc., you should be) you are saving more than just lives – you may be saving the planet as well by slowing climate change.

Some game counters in a group and one seperate. Illustrating social distance. Photo by Markus Spiske.

With most flights grounded, and many people working from home – it tracks that the levels of greenhouse gases being produced would be greatly reduced. It is stated that one of the greatest things an individual can do for the environment, is to reduce unnecessary travel. Since we’re all going nowhere, there’s very little necessary travel to be done. There are other factors at play here, such as people using their home climate control because they’re home more and people filling the long hours with some online shopping. Both of which may end up offsetting any climate benefits from reduced travel.


Long term:

I know it might be foolish of me to feel optimistic about any future environmental benefits of this, but we have to find the good where it lives. All these improvements are temporary. It is very likely that as soon as we are all set free again, these levels will quickly return to the way they were and maybe even get worse. People will double down on all the things they have been deprived of. Yes, we will go a bit nuts for a week or so. Hopefully, once we get it all out of our system we can reflect on the lessons learned from this experience and be better for it. Wishful thinking perhaps. I believe that this lil break, this little hiatus gives us the space to understand that maybe we don’t need to be on the go all the time.

Despite what may be negligible overall climate benefits, I think this is a real teaching moment. People are working from home, learning from home, and functioning with some semblance of normalcy. Things that many would have deemed improbable a few weeks ago. Some things do require us to commute, but the majority of the time it is unneeded. I personally have felt that I would benefit from being able to working from home – almost all of my work is doable from my bedroom and I could still come in for meetings or when I needed some social interaction. Unfortunately, it seems my prayers were answered (be careful what you wish for)! I’d like to think we’ll see more people taking the opportunity to work from home in the wake of this pandemic. And, as a result, lessen the impact that our excessive travelling is having on the environment. Here’s hoping the powers that be take some steps to make this a reality.

Hopefully, the inability to travel doesn’t jeopardise the climate negotiations scheduled for this year and cause more harm than good.


I hope you and all your loved ones are keeping well! Wash your hands, stay safe, and stay home!  We all have a role to play, so ensure that you act responsibly.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Lots of love,

Jessica x

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Toilet Trouble

In these uncertain times of toilet-paper-hoarding, having to get resourceful, and disinfectant wipes being used by the truckload, there are worries that our already struggling sewage systems will be unable to cope if people take to flushing all this. Here I am, writing to you live from isolation to remind you NOT to flush any kind of wipe down the toilet. Please, do not flush anything but toilet paper and excrement. That means no kitchen roll, no baby wipes, no surface wipes – this all needs to go in the bin.

The only things that should be flushed down the loo are 3Ps: poo, pee and (toilet) paper“.


No loo roll? No problem!

It’s not the end of the world if you find yourself without toilet paper in the near future. For quite some time, people were dealing with their business without it! Get back to your ancestral roots! Here are a couple of ideas:

Person holding many loose toilet rolls. Photo by Anna Shvets

  • Sluice/have a wash

Groundbreaking, right? But there really is no more effective way to clean up after you go, than to have a good wash! People have been doing it for a long time. If you’re fancy, use your bidet.

  • Use a sponge/cloth.

The Romans cleaned up after a number two using a sponge on a stick. If it’s good enough for the Romans, its good enough for you.

  • Leaves?

If you’re too scared of your own bum to clean it any other way, then nature’s toilet paper may be for you. Do not flush these down the toilet, the compost may be a better shout.


Think of the sewage system:

Sewage systems are fast moving environments, there isn’t a lot of time for anything to biodegrade down there. Not to mention the mostly anaerobic conditions do not benefit degradation. This means that even things that are biodegradable, will NOT breakdown in the sewage system. This includes thick paper products like paper towels. And it means that wipes (yes, even the biodegradable/flushable ones) are out of the question.

A picture of a dark underground tunnel

If we do not treat our sewage system with care and respect, we can cause a lot of problems for ourselves, and for the environment. It can be very easy to adopt the mindset of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ when it comes to the sewage system – as it’s supposed to get rid of stuff. Unfortunately, it is only designed for some stuff (i.e. poop), anything else will cause blockages like the massive fatbergs that cause the whole system to crumble. Blockages like this can cause flooding and pollution. Not ideal. So respect your sewage system and bin it instead.

Only flush the three Ps: poop, pee, and (toilet) paper.


I hope you and all your loved ones are well! Wash your hands, stay safe, and stay home!  We all have a role to play, so ensure that you act responsibly.

Lots of love,

Jessica x

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I Live in Jamaica Now.

Evidently, my favourite thing to do is to just up and move halfway across the world. This time it’s Jamaica! I am currently working as an (unpaid) intern, doing communications and outreach for an environmental NGO. Really living-my-best-life kinda stuff. And it feels like it! I can already see that I am gonna be very sad when I have to leave, and I’ve only been here one month.

A sunset in the blue mountain forest over Kingston, Jamaica.

Environmentally, Jamaica is gorgeous. But for somewhere blessed with a natural beauty only rivalled by other tropical island nations, they don’t seem to be too keen on preserving it. The environmental consciousness is almost non-existent here. And as someone said to me, quite rightly so – where so many people are struggling on the breadline, there are more important things to worry about.

Despite this, a national single-use plastics ban was imposed. This was originally for (big) plastic bags and straws, but was expanded this January to include styrofoam. And yet… since I have been here, I have been offered so many plastic bags. Often when I’m like “I don’t need a bag”, they look at me like I’ve just told them my darkest secret. Par example, I was buying sweet potatoes in the supermarket and the look that came over the cashiers face when she asked if I hadn’t seen the bags available, was that of sheer panic. Followed by confusion, when I assured her my potatoes were bag-less by design, and that I didn’t want one. When I spoke to people about the ban, the problem seems to be that no one was consulted, or even warned that it was going to happen. The ban was just imposed and people had to deal with it. Paper bags and paper straws are now commonplace here but more because they have to be. How do you change a nation’s mindset?

nuh dutty up jamaica

While there is a lot to be desired in terms of environmentalism, there are so many things to be celebrated. There seems to be an increasing environmental awareness occurring. I’m not sure if this is because it’s my job to notice environmental activism, and those who are striving to make improvements. Mostly, I’ve noticed a lot about water preservation. In a drought-prone country, this is essential but it was nice to hear it on the radio  in the morning. They were even discussing the water footprint of meat and encouraging people to eat more vegetables!

The Jamaica Environment Trust has a Campaign ‘Nuh Dutty up Jamaica‘, where they are aiming to instil recycling and other environmentally sensitive ideals onto the Jamaican consciousness. And from what I can tell, they’re doing a pretty good job – by bringing a bag of recyclable plastic to one of their events, you can win a prize!


It’s exciting to see change happen in real-time. Let me know your thoughts on this in the comments!

Jessica x

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

This is a positive post, I promise!

I feel recently like I’ve lost my environmental mojo. But I am making a conscious effort to not let myself fall into apathy. Not to get too tin-foil-hat about it but big business relies on our apathy, our fatigue, and our indifference to maintain their profit margins. In a world where we are continuously scapegoated (especially millennials) for eating avocados or watching Netflix, and supposedly single-handedly destroying the environment, we need to remain vigilant and call bullsh*t what it is.

Nothing you do is without negative consequences. No matter what you do, you’re making things worse some way. I had this realisation in one my lectures recently, where my lecturer was talking about how the maps that ecologists make of forest fragments or rare species etc. are used by logging companies and poachers to achieve their nefarious goals. These scientists are trying understand those aspects of ecology more and potentially conserve them, only to further in it’s destruction. You can apply this idea to anything, really. No matter how eco-friendly you live your life it’s a net-negative impact, unfortunately. Naturally, this is not the fault of the person trying to make things better, but it does inspire a feeling of ‘what is the point then?’ness.

Anywayyyy, you will make yourself sick if you try to understand the environmental consequences of every decision you make. If you’re a The Good Place fan then you’ll relate. The world is painfully complicated now. Everything you do makes things slightly worse in some way, but that’s okay. That’s one of the many unfortunate consequences of being human and having some self-awareness. So, rather than focus on all the things going wrong, for a change I’m going to look at some positive things!


Finally, some good f*cking environmental news:

Sure, we’re probably heading for environmental ruin and some apocalyptic hellscape beyond that. But credit where credit is due, we’re trying our best. Here are some things that have brightened my life recently.

The gordon rmsay meme "delicious. Finally, some good f*cking environemntal news"

Nudes for Australian Wildfire relief:

EOHnYe_U0AAgxt4

One brave girl deserves our respect, raising over $1million for the Aus wildfire relief effort by selling her nudes. We stan a queen. People are getting real mad about it. Her family have disowned her. Honestly, as a woman people are going to sexualise you and try to use you for their own dirty ends no matter what. So, why not raise money to save the world while you’re at it? It’s obviously working and if you have a problem with it, it says more about you than it does her. Save the koalas! You can donate here.

Thailand plastic bag ban:

At the turn of the new decade Thailand introduced a plastic bag ban. Which is pretty great news on its own, but the ingenuity of the locals in carrying their shopping was the real star of this show.

The Ocean clean up – mission 1 complete!

You have probably heard of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is the possibly (no one is sure) the size of Texas. Well, the clean up successfully completed its first mission last month! The plastic will be recycled into new goods for sale and the last remaining kinks in the technology ironed out so that the patch can be cleaned completely!


It’s hard to be green, but at least we’re trying. Green looks different on everybody. Let me know your thoughts on this in the comments!

Jessica x

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I’m An ‘Eco’ Hoarder

I am a few days away from being finished with my degree and just under a week away from having to move (again). I am not someone who travels light, a constant source of stress for myself and those around me. But who am I without all my things?? No one. Anyway, as I am once more sifting through all my clothes and other things that I have accumulated, I realised something. Being environmentally aware has turned me into a hoarder. Some hereditary tendencies come into as well, I’m sure. But I keep things because I don’t really know what to do with them and feel guilty about just chucking them.

This is largely because:

  • I know what will happen to these items if I throw them away.
  • I know what will likely happen to them if I recycle them.
  • I know what will likely happen if I donate them.

They’ll end up in landfill. Or worse.


Take, for example, my old worn out gym trainers. I don’t need them any more, I have new ones that actually support my feet. I can’t donate them because they are worn out and who would want them. It would just mean they’d be thrown out next week and not today. Nike will apparently take any brand of athletic shoe to be recycled at participating stores, so I will have a look into that. Alternatively, you could donate to a charity, that shoes the needy abroad such as Sal’s Shoes or Shoe Aid.

boots

I also have a big bag full of old make up, that I kid myself I will use again. If I’m honest with myself I know I only use max like 5 products so the bag of 50 will go forever unused. I have, in the past, seen the above bins in Boots but I am not sure if they are still hosting them, the website says very little. There are also the TerraCycle schemes which are free to use and set up, if there isn’t a collection point already near you.


Essentially this post serves as a public name and shame for myself. Marie Kondo your life, gal. But also I am lamenting the consumerist society that we are trapped in, and the existential crisis it is forcing me to have as I sit in front of my overflowing wardrobe. Just stop buying clothes, I hear you say. I cannot, unfortunately. I will not.

If you have any thoughts or tips please, leave them below!

Jessica xx

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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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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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