Category Archives: Green Living

Sustainable, revolutionary gifting

Midwinter, season of over-commercialisation looms. Here are some tips for making your gifts more sustainable.

  • Ask people what they want. Surprises may seem attractive, but unwanted gifts can end up in landfill.
  • Listen to what people tell you they want, especially if you think it’s boring. For the person who can’t afford new socks, new socks are brilliant.
  • Start conversations about budgets. Don’t risk anyone feeling pressured to spend on gifts when they can’t afford to.
  • For the person who has everything – give them gifts that will make their gardens more wildlife friendly. Plant a tree in their name. Donate to a charity on their behalf.
  • Ask people not to use wrapping paper. Tell people that more than anything else, you’d like a waste-free Christmas. Start early on this.
  • Give re-usable things. This is especially powerful for people who have no choice normally but to by the cheaper, throwaway options. You’ll save them money and help the planet.
  • Give less. A few really well chosen gifts that will be loved and valued are far better than a sack full of plastic tat.
  • If there are children in your life, talk to them about consumption and waste ahead of Christmas. Many of them are very aware of the climate crisis and may feel happier doing the festive season in a more sustainable way.
  • Consider debunking Santa. The story of the big sack of toys is part of the commercialmass agenda. It’s not ‘the magic of Christmas’ it’s a tool to emotionally blackmail parents into buying excessive gifts. Consider talking about this with your family if that’s relevant to you.

How to Save the Planet – a review

How to save the Planet is a small book by Luke Eastwood. Luke is an established Druid author, and while the content here is unequivocally suitable for Druids and Pagans, the book is not written specifically for us. It’s written for people who want to do something and don’t know where to start or what would be best.

This is a no-nonsense, no punches pulled ten step guide to living in a way that is viable for the planet. It’s full of interesting bits of information about what kinds of impact different activities have, their history, their place in our culture and how the alternatives work. It’s all very readable and digestible.

Given the subject matter, this is surprisingly comfortable reading. There’s no blaming or shaming for your average, ordinary person, just clarity about where we are and what has to change. The lifestyle changes Luke calls for are reasonable and realistic. They aren’t going to be easy or comfortable for everyone, but, we are long past time for people who have more than they need taking more than the planet can afford. If you are one of those people and this message makes you feel uncomfortable… get over yourself. That’s all there is.

I think the best way to use this book is as follows – buy a copy for someone who needs to make lifestyle changes. It’s not an expensive book and it is raising money for Greenpeace. It may be the ideal Yule/Christmas gift for the annoying uncle who won’t stop flying places, or the sibling who sees fuel guzzling cars as a status symbol, and so on and so forth.

If you’re feeling weary and overwhelmed and are not coping with the emotional impact of the climate emergency, this book may also be for you. It has a clear message about what you can most usefully be doing. Reading it and finding you’re well ahead on that ten point list is, I can promise you, an affirming and encouraging experience. It’s so easy to end up feeling like your personal action isn’t enough – when so much of this does boil down to personal action and how we shape the culture we are part of.  So, buy a copy, read it, give yourself the opportunity to feel like you’re doing ok with this stuff, and then pass the book along. Author Luke Eastwood is actively encouraging people to share copies and hand them on, so do that. Put it in the hands of someone who needs it – either to affirm what they’re already doing, or to encourage them to get stuck in!

This book is widely available from places that sell books, so check out your online seller of preference or see if your local bookstore will get it in for you. Here’s the Book Depository link https://www.bookdepository.com/How-How-Save-Planet-Luke-Eastwood/9781527245983


A Little Light Viewing

Here’s a charming thing – the creature in this video is a Spoonwalker from Hopeless Maine. The graphic novel project is full of strange flora and fauna. A very nice chap had a go at getting a spoonwalker moving, and this is the consequence…

 

And this one is a clothes upcycling video sharing some of my projects. I make a video most months for Patreon, and they get to see what I’ve done before anyone else does – available at all levels of support. The Patreon support helps me with the video making because i feel like I can justify the time.

 

My Patreon is over here – there is a levels for people interested in the Druidry, and one for the fiction https://www.patreon.com/NimueB


Car child, or calm child

We walked to playgroup and back, every day, in all weathers. Then we walked to the first primary school and back, every day, in all weathers. Then we had to cycle to the second primary school. Every day. In all weathers. Now, he cycles alone, every day, in all weathers.

During many of those trips I saw parents taking children the same way, only with cars. So, I can tell you with confidence that by the time you have got a child into and out of a car, and dealt with the parking, it may have been quicker to walk. The idea that driving is quicker and less trouble may not be true. It is always worth questioning it.

We had a good time with those walks. We saw wild things, and dogs and cats, which he always enjoyed. He had time to wake up in the morning on the way in to school, arriving brighter, fresher and more alert as a consequence of the journey in. On the way home, he had time to decompress, to share his day with me and to let off steam. I have no doubt that this has improved my son’s mental health at every stage of his life.

Our young people are suffering. Exam pressure, overcrowded classrooms, lack of opportunity to move around, and fear for the future puts a massive strain on them. Bundling them in to cars doesn’t help with this. When I walked home from school as a teenager it was a social activity and that time with friends was a good spot in my day. Kids in cars are denied those social opportunities. Bodily movement is good for all of us. Children need to move, and the journey to and from school used to give people that.

Of course the roads aren’t as safe as they used to be, and a major contributor to how unsafe the roads are is all the people driving their kids to and from school. Each car journey contributes to the air pollution that is killing people on a shocking scale. Not driving your kid to school will do more to keep them well. Most of them do not melt in the rain.

I’ve watched schools try to encourage confidence, physical health and feelings of independence in young humans. And then you drive them home. The young person who has to be resilient enough to get to and from school in any weather, develops self-confidence, self-reliance and a sense of capability and resilience. The young person who knows that their body can get them places, and who learns to take responsibility for that is learning good life lessons. Even at the age when they need accompanying, it is still teaching them good stuff.

Most adults could do with more fresh air and chilled time as well. Walking to school and back creates little pockets of good family time if you use it that way. Stressing your way through heavy traffic doesn’t do that.

What we grow up with is what we find most normal. For the kid in a car, walking and cycling may always seem a bit alien. The kid who walks or cycles is advantaged for the future. We cannot carry on with car use at the same level. One way or another, it’s going to be unfeasible. Might as well be ready for that!

Being green does not mean being miserable. I have no doubt that walking and cycling to school has improved my quality of life, and improved my son’s quality of life. It’s saved us a lot of money and given us a lot of good experiences.


Radical change is necessary and you do not get a free pass

It will not be enough to change policies, or get new technology in place. We cannot, as a species, continue as we are. We cannot keeping flying in the way that we do. We cannot keep driving in the way that we do – electric cars are not a magic solution, they require too many resources and we have to scale back. Renewable energy might be good, but energy and resources still go into producing it. We have to use less energy.

I’m tired of the ways in which people let themselves off the hook. There’s the ‘you aren’t perfect so why should I bother’ model in which someone identifies that a protestor used a car, or does not hand spin wool for their own clothes and decides this invalidates the whole message and that they don’t have to bother making any changes at all. Not good enough! Most of us aren’t perfect. The failure of activists to manage to live carbon neutral does not excuse anyone else from trying.

I’m tired of the way that the people who have the most justify continuing to take so much more than is fair or sustainable. The feelings of entitlement that underpin the flying, the long car journeys, the over-consumption. I’m honestly tired of watching people I know and like do this and not having the energy to say ‘really?’ when I know I probably should. The Pagans who fly frequently bother me a great deal.

What cheers me, is the people who are fair and realistic. A fine case in point was listening to a talk from Molly Scott Cato recently. She’s an MEP who does not fly. She has no qualms about flagging up where people are priced out of participation in Green movements, and I’m deeply grateful for that. I’ve got very tired of hearing people being blamed for having very few choices open to them, while those who have most might buy their organic veg from the farmer’s market, yes, but still drive cars and are flying places. Not being able to be green because of financial restrictions is very, very different from choosing activities that aren’t sustainable because you can afford them and feel entitled to them.

And yes, honestly, I wish Extinction Rebellion was doing better on this. It’s high profile right now and an opportunity to show radical action. It’s a chance to live your values, and express them in your actions in any way you can think of. We need examples, and we need creativity, and we need people to be willing to make radical changes in their own lives. We aren’t going to solve the impact that transport has unless a lot of people are willing to make different transport choices. The same goes for energy use, throwaway consumerism, food waste, the fashion industry…

If you can afford to make changes in your life, you have a duty to the Earth to make changes towards more sustainable ways of living. I’ve been doing this for a long time, I have a small carbon footprint and I’m still working on shrinking it. I get very tired of people telling me that what I do is too difficult for them. Unless you are more disabled than me, in more pain than me, in more poverty than me… it’s not too difficult. It’s just more difficult than you’re willing to take on and that’s not actually the same thing.

Do I sound cross? It may be because I am. It may be because every time I have to walk past the lines of poison-exuding cars, most with only one occupant, a kind of rage fills me. An absolute rage at the complacency of people, the lack of effort and imagination, and the lack of feeling responsible. Because if you can afford to put a car on the road in the UK, you can afford to do differently at least some of the time. If you want to hang on to aspects of life that put out carbon, please be a bit creative and at least find some ways to reduce the impact.

Try harder!


Matching sets – making greener choices

My guess is that the idea of matching sets goes with the industrial revolution and mass production. For most of history, most of our ancestors would not have replaced anything that wasn’t broken. Most people would have put up with broken things, or fixed them, or only replaced what was broken. The idea of matching crockery is a pretty weird one when you think about it in terms of how we use resources. Matching kitchen furniture. Matching bathroom stuff – these things are bulky and costly to replace, but so often if one goes, the lot has to go.

Of course, this whole approach serves capitalism very well. If we feel tatty and shameful with mismatched items and are persuaded to throw everything away and get new ones any time a single thing breaks, we spend more.

I recently went round this with the kitchen floor. A number of the vinyl floor tiles were breaking up and not fit for purpose. Doing the whole floor was clearly going to take a lot of time and effort, so neither of us got round to it. Eventually it dawned on me that there was no need to do the whole floor. No need to take up perfectly serviceable tiles in order to replace them. We bought a single pack of tiles, removed the damaged ones, inserted the new ones – a job that didn’t take Tom very long at all in the end. A small amount of unusable material went to landfill.

We now have mismatched floor tiles in the kitchen. It’s perfectly functional. It looks like what it is.

So much of it comes down to what we think is desirable, acceptable, good enough, versus what we think will get us judged critically. If looking overtly green was considered your sexiest option, it would be persuasive. If you thought people would look on you favourably for waste-avoiding choices, then chucking a whole bunch of things away because one thing was damaged, would not be even slightly attractive.


Upcycled Steampunk against waste

There are certainly steampunks who spend a lot of money on new clothes and for whom it works a lot like any other kind of fashion. Often though, that’s not what happens. I think Steampunk clothing has a lot of potential for up-cycling and keeping garments out of landfill. The focus on creativity and individuality gives a framework in which a person can play about, and re-use and re-imagine things.

For many steampunks, vintage clothing is a key part of the mix. This means second hand – however upmarket or un-chic your shopping options are. Second hand is good for the planet. Repurposing clothing, and tinkering with it to make it work is also very much a thing. When you value innovation, clever methods for re-use become appealing.

For example, I’ve recently dealt with worn, shiny patches on a second hand jacket by embroidering over them –

I’m not sure how fashion came to mean trying to look like everyone else. I’m not sure how we’ve decided who to follow as fashionable, and who is just weird. I’m not sure why we’re so collectively persuaded about what’s an acceptable way to dress and what isn’t. I’m also not sure why most of the clothing most people wear seems so dreadfully bland. Supermarkets tell us to express ourselves with their clothing ranges that are about as tedious and un-expressive as clothing can get.

When you’re tinkering with clothes, it becomes unique. When you make your own, amend what you have, re-think and re-jig you can have a varied wardrobe and as much novelty as you want. Our pre-mass production ancestors used to be good at this, changing the trimmings to give a garment a fresh look, cutting down old adult clothes for kids to wear, and all that kind of thing.

There are, apparently, trend setters and trend followers. Perhaps it’s validating to have people copy you – that seems weird to me, but maybe it works for some people. Perhaps there’s some emotional reward for being a bad copy of a celebrity by wearing the look they’ve already moved on from. Certainly, it makes a lot of money for some people. It’s almost like we’ve been persuaded that what we put on our bodies is better decided for us by the people who want to make money out of us.


Young Climate Activists

At the moment sixteen child petitioners are using the UN’s conventions on the rights of children to challenge over climate change. Greta Thunberg is the only name being reliably mentioned, but there are fifteen other young people in this amazing project.

Here’s one of the other named petitioners – Alexandria Villaseñor.

 

I have a great deal of respect for Greta Thunberg and a great deal of unease about how she’s represented in the media. She’s not a lone voice, she’s one among many – and if we draw attention to the many other young activists, we strengthen their position. One lone girl is easier for old white trolls to attack. The more visible activists there are, the more names we know, the harder a time the trolls will have attacking them.

There’s also a thing going on where white people with power in the media are getting interested because there’s a white person they can point at. One of the things I’ve learned from Twitter is that there are many young POC activists who have been working for years and who deserve just as much attention. People of Colour are already disproportionately affected by climate change and we need to help amplify their stories and resist media whitewashing.

If you love what Greta is doing, if you are inspired and excited by her, then don’t make it all about her. Find out who your local activists are and what they’re working on. Find out what the local issues are. Find other young activists and give them your support. One girl is not a movement. There is a whole movement out there around the world, and we can all help make it more visible.

 

Little Miss Flint (now 11) Mari Copeny has been campaigning about the Flint Water Crisis since she was 8.

Here she is getting an activism award this year.

 

Isra Hirsi is the co-founder of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike.

 

Autumn Peltier, 13-year-old water advocate, addresses the UN

 

If you’re already supporting a young activist please do add to the comments.


Trains and trees – action needed

Generally speaking I think trains are a good idea and I’m broadly in favour of developing more train infrastructure.  What I’m not in favour of is the HS2 project which is going to cost a fortune and will trash irreplaceable ancient woodland.

I’ve run into this before – where apparently green solutions aren’t properly green because it’s not been thought through properly. Yes, tidal energy is clean, but getting it by ruining the unique habitat that is The River Severn is not the right answer. Yes, wind power is good, but not if you stick massive turbines in the paths of migrating birds, or destroy a unique habitat with them.

The living environment is not some kind of luxury bonus when we’re thinking about green projects. One of the problems with reducing things to their carbon impact is that we lose the more complex, nuanced truth of the real value in our landscape. Yes, in carbon terms you can just plant more trees, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that harm has been offset. Ancient woodland cannot be replaced.

We’ve played fast and loose with our ecosystems for too long. Anything that we can’t see an immediate use for, we treat as having little or no value.  As we become more carbon aware, this may not improve things. How do you value an ancient oak, an owl or a curlew if you’re just calculating the carbon implications? It leads us to poor choices and to continue failing to understand that ecosystems are complex, delicate things. We treat a species as irrelevant at our peril.

A sustainable future means preserving as much wildness as we can. Sacrificing unique habitats for the sake of projects that claim to be green isn’t going to save us. Offsetting is often nonsense, and proposed offsetting plans seldom get close to recognising the harm done, much less mitigating successfully against it.

Find out more about HS2’s ancient woodland impact here – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/our-campaigns/hs2-rail-link/

Take action here – https://campaigns.woodlandtrust.org.uk/page/46290/action/1


Climate Strike

Today, a great many people are striking for the sake of the climate. I won’t be out there – as a self employed person my striking would be almost invisible and I’m not very good at crowds. I am however writing in solidarity and encourage everyone else who can’t join in physically to do the same.

We need radical change, and we need it now.

We need to be willing to make radical changes in our own lives. There’ s a fair amount that we can do individually right now, but the biggest thing will be our collective willingness to adopt massive changes when we’re enabled to do so.

We need clean, green energy. We need a farming industry that doesn’t harm the environment and that provides everyone with affordable food while paying farmers a viable living. We need to radically change how we do work and transport, to eliminate commuting and get cars off our roads. We can’t simply replace fossil fuel driven cars with electric ones because there are too many resources needed to make them. We have to radically cut back on flying and we have to entirely change the fashion industry. We have to largely eliminate single use plastics.

It won’t be easy, but it’s that or go extinct, taking a lot of innocent life forms with us. This year, people seem to be waking up to the climate emergency and becoming more willing to make changes and demand changes.