Recently I (Tamara) have been struggling to manage my depression. It has risen up and engulfed me and my outlook, which usually presents outwardly as positive and energetic, has been bleak, joyless, and stationary.
In the last few days, I have reluctantly dragged myself out of the murky treacle that I have been residing horizontally in. Some of the things I needed to do before this depressive episode hit still need to be done. This blog post is one of those things.
Now, Emma and I are a team and she has occasionally in the past filled in for me when I have been unwell. But this time, I didn’t ask her as I know she is swamped with work (it’s why there was no blog post earlier this month) and anyway, I want to write my post.
But my brain interferes, telling me that I am a terrible Green who is not doing enough and the world is burning. Not very conducive to writing a cheery post about eco bathroom tips and tricks. Not conducive at all!
A tool I keep in my mental health toolkit is counting the small achievements. Usually, brushing my teeth and taking a shower are daily actions that don’t require much thought. During a depressive episode, these can take an inordinate amount of energy and are a major achievement. Recognising this helps me change my thinking, which then helps lift me out of depression’s grip. (Together with therapy, antidepressants, love and support from friends and family, getting exercise, trying not to face plant into potato (crisps and chips are my go-to depression food), occasionally leaving the house, and lots of light-TV binging).
So this post contains no tips on how to green up your bathroom, instead, it is a list of the green minutiae, the daily eco tasks I have accomplished that all add up. It is celebrating the drops of water that make up the ocean. Cheesy, yes. True, also yes!
And if you have that voice telling you that you are not doing enough, saying this is all pointless and how are these small actions changing anything? – I hope you will list all your small accomplishments and see that each and every action is helping to create a culture of change.
Ok pep talk over, let us celebrate the joy of the tiny green action! Here’s my top 10!
I trotted down to Herbies, the independent health food shop on Albert Road to refill my cleaning liquids (laundry, washing up, and hand soap). At the time, this was on a Wednesday and they were closed. This is not their fault. My brain was depressed goo. The real win was that I returned when they were open! (Alert: Herbies have recently changed their opening hours and are now open on a Wednesday!)
Supported Local Independents
My hubby (The Dutchman) and I celebrated an anniversary by gifting each other a book. We had a lovely, safe, and socially-distanced look round Pigeon Books, our local independent book store on Albert Road and left two books richer. What is not to like? Say I love you with a book!
This is a two-part win as I made soup from the broccoli and cauliflower stalks and leaves which I used to compost. When I am low, I do not want to cook or eat nutritious food. This made so much I froze some, so Future-Depressed-Me can eat better. She won’t be happy about it, but I know she’ll be glad in the end.
Composted Food Waste
I do not currently have a compost bin in my garden (it is on my list… Actually, hold on, I am going to post a Wanted ad on a local group right now…. Ok done! Hopefully, I will get a flood of replies!)
So while I am compost bin-less, some friends of mine are kindly letting me use their Food Waste bin as they are one of the lucky few who were part of the council’s food waste collection trial. I walked over to their place and deposited my offerings into their box. (Hahah, I love how dodgy that sounds!)
Hung Laundry Outside
That’s basically it. Chores tend not to get done when I am depressed so doing laundry meant I was winning at life! And with a 20°C wash cycle and hanging the clothes outside, I was also winning at my green life!
Connected with the Green Community
Prior to Covid-19, Portsmouth Green Drinks gathered once a month at The Southsea Village – an informal meet-up for people interested in environmental issues. During the lockdown, these monthly meet-ups moved online and there were quizzes and various themed talks.
I attended a recent talk given by local Passivhaus designer, Rachel Mitchell of GreenBox Associates. It was nice to see smiling, familiar faces, listen to an interesting talk by a passionate, inspiring local entrepreneur and environmentalist and also immediately use some information on insulation gained from her talk in my next win.
Chose the Greener Product
Sometimes, living a green life and making choices based on eco-values can be cheaper than the norm. But sometimes, and to be honest, I find a lot of the time, it isn’t cheaper. Case and point – my attic insulation.
Insulating our very draughty and dusty attic in our new house is a project The Dutchman has recently tackled while I have been languishing horizontally. I have not been involved in it at all apart from as a cheerleader and giving the odd opinion. When presented with the choice of cheaper insulation or ethically sourced and more expensive wool insulation, I winced at the extra cost, but, as we could afford it, decided it was worth installing the eco insulation. Not everyone can spend out on more environmentally friendly products, but I was able to and so I did.
Bought Ethical Fish
Though still a vegetarian in my head, I am not an actual official vegetarian any more and haven’t been for a while. My secret shame made public! (Bonus: Emma still is very much a vegetarian though and will be writing about it next month!)
I have Type-2 diabetes and have been controlling it for the last year with a low-ish-carbohydrate diet, so I have been eating MSC certified sustainable fish. Except, when it comes to sashimi. I bloody love local restaurants’ Sakura’s and Rakuzen’s sashimi and it has been a delightful guilty treat over the lockdown months. So to counterbalance this, I recently made a purchase of frozen ethical sashimi for me to chow down on at home.
Wrote a Blog Post About Celebrating the Small Green Wins
So meta. But this blog post is a massive achievement. I love writing it and look forward to it every month. This month was harder than usual and thank you for reading. It makes it worth the times when it is a struggle.
And here is the moment you have been waiting for. I present to you for her Shades of Green debut – my last-man-standing, my precious, my honeywort!
As of writing, the British government has begun easing the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown restrictions and will continue so as long as the infection rate keeps decreasing. (Fingers crossed.) Even non-essential shops are open now.
But I (Emma) am still mostly inside. There are many reasons; starting with the fact that I live with immunocompromised people and ending with the fact that the current easing still requires you to stay six foot apart from the people outside your household that you’re allowed to meet with. I don’t see how I’m supposed to have a conversation with my friends from that far apart.
I know the idea is that people can get back to playing tennis with their friends, but do I look like a tennis person to you? (I realise you can’t see me. Tamara will tell you.) Or that you take your own drinks to someone’s back garden, but how many people do you know that have separate entrances to their back garden?
So, what am I doing now that I’m stuck inside until… probably the end of summer? Well, I’m writing a- [Edited out by Tamara because she can’t bear to listen to Emma talk about her novel anymore].
I’ve also been watching a lot of eco content on streaming services, which I wanted to share with you today, so read on for some eco streaming recommendations that should tide you over for the rest of the lockdown.
Climate Change: The Facts
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that climate change is real and caused by humans. But in case, you’d like to have the facts ready so you can drop some knowledge on your Daily Mail reading Aunt, who’s spent too much time in Facebook groups during the quarantine, check out this David Attenborough documentary.
Also, there’s a whole host of Attenborough docs on there, including Plant Earth, Blue Planet I & II, Seven Worlds; One Planet, Life on Earth, Frozen Planet, Life, and Africa.
Apocalypse Cow: How Meat Killed the Planet
I’ll admit that as a vegetarian, I’m very happy with any documentary that exposes the environmental impact of eating animals, particularly through the use of factory farming. (I did put the Earthlings documentary on every computer in my media classroom after my lesson finished so that every single person in the next class would be subjected to it. I was insufferable at 19.)
This programme also does some research on creating more fake meats to replace all those dead animals on our plates. (I said what I said.)
Also watch: Australia on Fire: Climate Emergency
Pollution, plastic, and people are causing massive damage to oceans. Here experts will tell you what needs to be done to clean the seas and save the planet. And don’t worry, it’s not just about what the individual needs to do, but also what international governments need to do because it’s not just
Also see: Blackfish, Attenborough’s Our Planet, A Plastic Ocean, and the uplifting Born to be Free.
Paris to Pittsburgh
What seems like a million years ago now, that sentient confederate flag in the White House pulled out of the already far- too-lax Paris Climate Agreement. (For no reason, considering there was no way to legislate whether countries met the 2% goal. I guess, some people don’t just want to be thought of as an asshole; they want to prove it.)
… Oh yeah, back to the blurb.
This documentary covers the efforts of people, action groups, and local governments are taking to counteract the horrific decision to just basically abandon all efforts to combat climate change. It shows us, if we need the reminder, that people are not their governments. (I wouldn’t want anyone to mistake the Tory’s government’s policies for mine.)
Also watch: Before the Flood and Jane.
Alright, this short and liht-hearted article is done. Leave extra recommendations in the comments. (Not Prime shows though, Tamara’s husband cancelled his account.)
This is a response from Portsmouth Green Party representative, Tamara Groen, on the racist social media posts by Councillor Linda Symes, the Conservative councillor for Eastney and Craneswater, as reported in The News, Portsmouth on June 3rd 2020.
Though Cllr Symes has been suspended from the national Conservative Party; to date, the councillor has not apologized for her actions, while the local Portsmouth Conservative party and their Leader Cllr Donna Jones have remained silent. After waiting a week for a local acknowledgement, Tamara writes directly to Cllr Symes.
Dear Cllr Symes,
I am sure you feel under attack right now. I’m sure you feel abandoned by your party, as your local conservative peers fall silent, wondering why there is such a furore about a few shared Facebook posts. After all, this was to your private Facebook profile and you did nothing wrong. You are not a racist.
Racists are bad people who bay for the blood of people with darker skin than theirs. That is not you. You care about British soldiers, British children, and British values. After all, that is why you are a councillor. Because you care enough to stand up and represent your community. How is it racist to say, ‘All Lives Matter’? Because surely, all lives do matter. And anyway, racism is an American problem, it’s not even relevant to us in the UK.
I was going to explain to you that having white privilege does not mean that your life is not hard, but it does mean that the colour of your skin is one less obstacle you experience. I was going to talk about the problematic nature of the phrase ‘All Lives Matter’ and how it misses the point entirely – how you are missing the point entirely. I was going to share resources that will help you educate yourself on the systemic racism in British society* and hopefully teach you how to be actively anti-racist because it is no longer enough to be just ‘not racist’, if it ever was.
But Cllr Symes, I am tired. I am so so tired of white people shouting us down, of refusing to see how slavery and colonisation directly impact how society is formed and how we live today. I am so tired of explaining when it is not my job to teach people why they should see value in the lives of others who are different from them.
Oh, and by the way, I am a brown woman (Indo-Caribbean to be precise) – I am not black. Most of the time, I am the only person of colour in the room but the Black Lives Matter story is not my story. I try to be an ally – I am flawed but I try – and even I am tired. I cannot imagine how it feels for black people right now.
I do feel sorry for you Cllr Symes. You must be feeling bewildered and upset and probably angry. It is uncomfortable to come face to face with your privilege and prejudices in such a public way. You have a lot of unlearning to do.
Unfortunately, when corrected about your behaviour, you were defensive and unapologetic. You had an opportunity to stop and really listen. And you chose not to.
Sure, do diversity training or social media training. But that is only useful if you open your mind and heart to experiences that are not your own.
I want you to listen.
I want you to learn.
I want you to apologise for your actions and demonstrate that you understand why what you shared was wrong.
I also want you to stand down as a councillor because this is learning that will take time and dedication. It would not be appropriate for you to continue to represent all the people of Portsmouth until you have learned this. Or rather, unlearned the systemic nature of white supremacy that benefits all white people, no matter how not-racist (or even anti-racist) they are. Words become actions.
Show the black people of Portsmouth that you are not just another privileged white person in power throwing untruths into the ether. I hope you are better than you appear.
Portsmouth Green Party
* I particularly recommend Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’, which you can order from local independent booksellers Pigeon Books for £8.99 or can borrow from the library in e-book form for free.
For enquiries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Reader, I, me, Tamara of this same Shades of Green, admit it. I am not a gardener.I do not have green thumbs. I confess it! I do not enjoy pottering or growing or nurturing.
I enjoy reclining in the sunlounger like a middle-class Victorian lady, wrapped in a blanket, reading my book and taking selfies.
This time spent in the garden and not gardening is occasionally broken up by doing photoshoots of my hateful, beloved cat.
and so on. I am sooooo tempted to do another reel of cat photos. Keep reading and I may put some bonus photos at the end! Hah, I know how to keep ’em keen!
Given my leisurely garden pastimes, what was I thinking by attempting some actual growing of some actual plants? Perhaps it was jealous-inspo of my Bristol friend who has made a pond in her garden from scratch.
Or perhaps the blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of my delightful and more local-than-Bristol-aka-Pompey friend and fellow Green Partier, Tracey.
Tracey, henceforth and hereby declared She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, had the absolute gall to drop by some seedlings because she had too many. This intrusion into my peaceful domicile included rocket, lettuce and honeywort.
For context – this is the current status of the siblings of my seedlings, belonging to She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named’s
I diligently watered them. Even added homemade cloches, on the advice of She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
Then this happened.
An entire pot of lettuce seedlings disappeared overnight. What happened? Were they eaten? Went to visit their aunt? Did I overwater them? I don’t know. It is forever a mystery. But it’s okay. I still have more lettuce and rocket.
Until I didn’t.
My last batch of lettuce also disappeared into the night. No worries! I still have my rocket. I even planted them out in fresh compost. There is hope.
Dear Reader, I present to you – my pièce de résistance
Wait for it…..
I present to you white spider-web like mould.
Ewww and Shudder.
I wailed in disgust. How is this possible that even under the safe confines of cloches, the rocket rotted away? I bemoaned my failure for a full week straight.
Weirdly, the wildflowers are growing. But as they reside in the mouldy graveyard and I am still grossed out by that, I can take no joy in their shadowy existence.
So now, I have one man standing. My honeywort. My precious. Living in the relative safety of my window-sill, I check it twice a day, water it with filtered water and tenderly stroke it’s wonky baby leaves.
I await its imminent demise.
Congratulations! You have reached the end of this epic, cautionary tale, and so you shall be rewarded with a collage of photos of a cat you do not know.
Yes, the title is a little silly. (And when I (Emma) ran it past my first proof reader, can be misinterpreted as something NSFW!) But I think that, right now, it would be nice to have a little escape from the harsh realities of the world and get a little levity into our lives.
And this article actually tackles an area of all our homes that we perhaps do not think about as being particularly wasteful, but that may produce the most trash outside of the kitchen and bathroom. So, let’s delve right into making your letterbox a greener place.
Limiting what you get in
Obviously, the biggest way to make your letterbox more sustainable is to limit what you bring in. The more things that you bring into your house, the more things that will ultimately have to be composted, recycled, or put into the council rubbish bins for incineration. But how to do that?
Put a ‘No Junk Mail” sign on your mailbox
It won’t work all the time, but it will make the leaflet delivery person out think twice about shoving another pizza menu or double glazing advert through your door.
Some of the bigger companies use Royal Mail to deliver their leaflets, but you can opt-out by downloading and filling in this form and posting it back at the address listed. (Can’t print? No problem. You can ring on 03457 740 740 and ask for a form to be posted to you.)
Full disclosure, this shouldn’t stop you getting political leaflets or important messages from the government (i.e. the coronavirus leaflets) because they are designed to keep you politically informed. If you do already know who you’re voting for in the next election, i.e. The Green Party, you can put up a sign saying “no political leaflets”.
Opt for text or email alerts from companies
Whether it’s your bank statement, electricity bill, or even your dental practice, most companies will be happy to change how they contact you as mailing things by post costs them money. Some will even reward you for going paperless with better deals.
Take this one step at a time. As you receive the latest communication from each company, read it closely to see if there is an online option. If its not in the letter, check their website.
Lowering the eco-impact of what you do get in
We all have stuff posted to us and none of us can say, especially now, that we actually get all our shopping done at physical stores. So if how can we lower the impact of what is posted to us?
Ask for no new packaging
If you are buying something online (or even getting something sent to you by a friend or relative), ask the person posting to use some of their old packaging, rather than buying something new. After all, most packaging items can be used far more than once and it doesn’t really matter if the top you bought comes in a bubble envelope that someone else had a book arrive in, does it?
Request recyclable or compostable packaging
If the person shipping can’t provide used packaging, which can happen if you’re buying new items from a big business, then ask for your items to be shipped in cardboard and paper, rather than plastic, which will be harder to recycle.
It’ll probably just take one email to customer services with your username, order number, and a request that a note is made on your account.
Side note: If you’re getting something sent to you, request the slowest possible shipping. This means that, in the case of international deliveries, the item is sent by ship, rather than by air, or, for UK-deliveries, that the car/van/truck it is driven in is more likely to be full, than if you’d selected next-day delivery.
Resuse what you have
On a related note, if you do get any boxes or bubble envelopes or other packaging through the door, consider reusing it when you have to send something. Your friends are unlikely to care if their birthday present arrives in an old Lush box and cushioned by Styrofoam from the last time you bought electronics. Just make sure everything is clean and dry before storing and sending.
Not every piece of packaging or post can be recycled, but these are the post and packaging items you can recycle in Portsmouth’s green kerbside bins:
Cardboard boxes *
Corrugated cardboard *
Sheets of cardboard (perhaps used to keep items flat in envelopes) *
Cardboard envelopes (like the kind that DVDs or CDs are occasionally posted in) *
Paper envelopes * (including the kind with a window)
(The ones with stars next to them can be composted in your home compost bin.) (Not window envelopes!)
Bubblewrap and the stretchy plastic bags that magazines, for example, are posted in, can be recycled with carrier bags at larger supermarkets.
Well, that’s it from me today. Mainly because I’ve run out of things to say about letterboxes and partially because the spacebar has only worked 75% of the time and I need to go sit somewhere away from my laptop for a long while.
Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips for making your post box green again. Or…
This is a post free from Covid-19 mentions! Enjoy the breather as you ponder the ethicalness of mobile phones. :)
To buy new, or not to buy new?
That is the question that Emma and Tamara are tackling in today’s post, specifically in relation to mobile smartphones.
Should one buy new, or refurbish and repair? Or simply do without? (Spoiler alert, the last option isn’t a choice we explore!)
EMMA SAYS: DON’T BUY NEW. BUY REFURBISHED.
We begin with Emma, the queen of the refurbished phone.
Emma got all the phones, she got all the phones.
I have had eight phones in my short little life. (I’m still a Young Green for nine more months!) The first two – a Motorola Brick and a Nokia 3310i – were third hand. My uncle would give my mum his old phone when he got a new one and I would get it after she was done with it.
Then, I turned 16 and I asked for a camera phone for my birthday. And that was where things started to go wrong. When I went to college (and started going out later with friends), my parents and I agreed that I would get a cheap contract, so that I couldn’t claim that I didn’t have the credit to tell them the gig overran or I missed my bus. That came with a new phone, barely a year after the last. (I assume the provider didn’t have a sim-only contract then.)
When I moved to uni, my phone didn’t get signal and, after too many nights only able to phone people while standing outside the IT centre, I switched providers, which came with a new phone. This time a slider phone, which broke just a year later, and resulted in me buying my last-ever new phone.
I should, for context, tell you that I got another phone second-hand from my mum and discovered sim-only contracts at some point between 2011 and 2019. (Also, that all of my past phones have been recycled or sold on if they were working.)
Reader, she cheap.
As mentioned before, I’m cheap. (If this feels like a recurring theme to you dear reader, try being one of my friends who I refuse to pay the £4 to sit next to on a plane or who have to smile at the bartender as I order tap water at their birthday night out.)
The phones that I had bought, as opposed to getting through a contract or from a family member, only ever cost about £60, which meant that they were off-brand with lower-res cameras and would result in people going, “Is that an- oh no”, whenever I got my phone out.
So I didn’t want to buy a new phone when my old one was no longer able to support any of the social media apps that I used. But I was tired of taking terrible photos.
And yes, I know that sounds shallow, but as a writer and the co-runner of the Portsmouth Green PartyInstagram account, it was my own personal hell to continuously borrow my mum’s phone to upload pictures about your local Green Party or promote my articles on Twitter. (For 10 glorious minutes in November 2017, a picture of a cake my mum made was visible on the PGP Instagram because I forgot to log out.)
Emma discovers refurbished phones and doesn’t look back, ok bye.
So last February, I knew I needed a new-to-me phone. I was practically bullied into it by a dear friend and my mum. I opted for a refurbished one through my network provider and got a 2018 model, which supported all the apps I needed and had a great camera, for just £60.
(It came with a £10 sim card that I gave away to one of the local homeless shelters to allow the people there to call their families.) (Full disclosure, I don’t remember which one, but The Lifehouse said they would appreciate it when I asked in preparation for the post.)
So why would I buy refurbished?
More attractive and can get a cute case (although beauty is in the eye on the phone holder)
Compatible with wireless chargers (all of my USB cords are dangerously frayed)
Buying second-hand is better for the planet than buying new, even if the item you’re buying new is sustainable and eco-friendly
No matter how simple it is to repair the Fairphone (see below), I would still put it off. It’s pretty simple to clean my laptop keyboard, but I’m pretty sure there’s mould growing under there from the third year of uni.
But now, let’s hear from Tamara about the Fairphone. (She can totally trash my Huawei phone. A good place to start is, “aren’t the Chinese government using that to spy on people?”)
TAMARA SAYS: DON’T BUY BAD NEW. BUY FAIRPHONE.
Tamara argues against second-hand…wait, say what now?
Uh oh Emma, are you going all 5G conspiracy theory on me? Seriously though, she makes a compelling argument. Buying second-hand should be the default. So why even as I agree that if a phone can be reused, it absolutely should, am I arguing against? Dear Reader, let me take you down an alternative path.
Like Emma, I have always taken pride in not being a brand follower or a tech upgrader. Sim-only contract, that’s me! Why get a new phone every two years when my current one is perfectly fine-ish? Again like Emma with her third-hand-me-downs, my mobile phones were always donated by my partner, the Dutchman when his work upgraded their mobile phone contracts. He always had a better, faster, shiner phone than me, with more storage space and a fancier camera. He was always the more tech-aware one in our household. I am the one who goes running with my trusty old iPod. I was the one who carried around a mobile power bank because my old iPhone’s battery would drain to 10% if I even thought about making a call. I couldn’t afford to repair these phones and most couldn’t be repaired anyway, cause they are not designed to be easily accessed.
I am now the trend-setter with a phone that I treat more reverently than a new-born baby.
‘Hah!’, I hear you thinking, ‘Call yourself a greenie? What a hypocrite. Bought yourself a new, expensive phone at the expense of the planet and those who reside on her?’
And to that, I say: New? Yes. Expensive? Definitely yes.
Planet and people destroying? Absolutely NOT!
Dear Reader, I present to you the FairPhone – a mobile phone designed to be repaired and ethically produced.
I have reached ethical nirvana.
This is not a sponsored post. Tamara is just a massive fangirl.
Tamara learns to trust again, this time by doing actual research
For many years, I trusted brands. I trusted banks. I trusted supermarkets. I didn’t question why I trusted them, I just did. I thought for a long time that Apple was an ethical green brand because it was called Apple.
Luckily a good friend of mine (the same one who I mentioned in a previous post I share a subscription to The Ethical Consumer with) introduced me to the Fairphone about 5 years ago, opening my eyes in the process to the conflict mining and child labour that go into the manufacture of the typical smartphone.
Let’s get real for a moment. Smartphones are a*mazing. But the way they are produced is definitely NOT amazing. I won’t go into it all here, it bums me out too much and I get all fatalistic and depressive. But I will try to quickly summarise, so you know where I am coming from. But as usual, I strongly encourage you to educate and inform yourself as this is just my limited understanding.
~ A Sad Smartphone Summary~
Ok, so, basically, smartphones are made up of thousands of different components and on average around 60 different metals. These metals that go into a phone are mined.
If it is mined by people, by hand, from the earth, it is called artisanal mining. Artisinal mining sounds all fancy and lovely doesn’t it, like yummy sourdough bread. Hah, the absolute literal bloody irony as many of these metals are mined in areas of conflict, such as cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The unethical mining of these metals which go into our phones fund brutal conflicts. Child and forced labour is a huge problem. Artisinal mining my arse.
That is just one part of the supply chain. Then we have the manufacturing process, mostly done in China and Vietnam. I am talking poor and unsafe working and living conditions, inadequate health and safety and low pay. The usual fun stuff.
And finally, the disposal of the mobile phone. Even if recycled, many smartphones end up in e-waste dumps which leach pollutants into the soil, waterways and the workers who are extracting the metal components for recycling. (But we still encourage you to recycle your phone with us – we have absolute trust in Recycling for Good Causes.)
~End of sad summary~
Ooof. As I said, it is a bummer. And that is why, when my second-hand iPhone kaptutted, I bought a Fairphone 3.
Tamara pitches why your next new smartphone should be a Fairphone
The Fairphone is ethical but it does not claim to be perfect. It is not 100% fair or completely recyclable. But it is the only ethical smartphone that exists in today’s current market. They have traceable supply chains for all four internationally recognized conflict minerals: tungsten, tin, tantalum and gold. The gold is also fairtrade.
The supply and production chain of the Fairphone is completely transparent and they actively support workers rights and a fair living wage. My Fairphone 3 cost £400. From that, only 1.50 euro per phone was needed to ensure a living wage bonus to all the factory workers on the Fairphone production line in Suzhou, China. Fairphone points out that they are not the factory’s only customer and probably account for less than 10% of the total production in the factory. If all the factory customers followed suit, all the factory workers would have a fair living wage. *looks pointedly over to the big phone manufacturers*
And finally, the Fairphone is designed to be repaired. By the consumer! By me! It is a modular, repairable phone.
Yep, it cost me £400. That is a shite-load of money. I have never spent that kind of money on a phone before. Remember, I am a hand-me-down kinda gal. But I saved for a long time and bit the bullet and put my money where my ethics claim to be. Not everyone is able to do that, but I am happy I could.
Demand the right to repair
I am grateful the Fairphone option exists. But why is it the only truly repairable smartphone brand available?
It is my personal opinion -not backed up by any research cause I am at the end of the article and I am getting hungry – that manufacturers do not design their phones to last. They definitely don’t design them to be easily repaired.
This is why I encourage you to support and sign this Right to Repair petition urging the European Union to require manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei and Apple to design repairable smartphones and provide spare parts and repair information to all repairers and consumers.
After signing the petition, I am off to wrap my Fairphone in bubble wrap leftover from my recent move and sing it to sleep! My precious!
My Mother loves her birthday. She has been known to celebrate for over a month. When she turned 60, she demanded sixty presents and Reader, her best friend did it by cleverly wrapping up sixty one-pound coins! So, you can imagine – given her indignation at being considered elderly and therefore told to stay inside for 12 weeks – how impressed she was at having a coronavirus birthday. Not impressed at all. Not at all. Trust me.
Having only moved here from Devon at the end of last year to live with her favourite son-in-law and me, she was resigned to her first birthday in Pompey being a bust.
Let me tell you how I (Tamara) attempted to give my sulky mother the 74th Birthday of her isolation dreams whilst trying to keep it green (ish).
A loose schedule
One of the biggest lessons my depression has taught me is that a day can be a very long time. I made a loose plan for the day and informed the household Official Birthday Celebrations would begin at 1300 hours. They were instructed to be washed, dressed and hungry.
A Surprise Birthday Sign
I wanted to make it feel festive without resorting to plastic balloons. A huge roll of paper that I randomly acquired many moons ago, and knew would one day come in handy, formed the basis of a homemade ‘Happy Birthday’ sign. I might be child-free but I can draw hearts and flowers that a 5-year old could be proud of.
My mother is a woman who likes to take her birthday phone calls whilst reclining in bed with a sweet coffee in hand. I presented to her, again with the pride of a 5-year old, a birthday breakfast consisting of filter coffee bought from Wild Thyme, a glass of Prosecco, a birthday cookie and snowdrops picked from the garden. (I totally acknowledge here our extreme privilege in both living together and with a garden.)
A Treasure Hunt with Booze
At 1300 hours, Official Birthday Celebrations kicked off with me kicking Mother out of the house… with a glass of bubbles… and instructions to maintain 2m from any passer-bys. This was to allow me to rush around hiding clues and prizes for her birthday treasure hunt.
Clues were stolen from the internet and prizes were books and small bottles of booze wrapped in cloth. Clues were solved and prizes located and it set up a playful and fun energy for the rest of the day.
I made cucumber sandwiches and devilled eggs y’all! It was simple but tasty and went down nicely with bubbles. We sat in the garden and I put a tablecloth on to make it feel fancy.
I was aiming for a zero waste meal but that wasn’t possible and I didn’t stress about it. The fact I even found the main ingredients of bread, eggs and cucumbers was a huge win! The bread bag and cream cheese pot can be recycled after the lockdown is lifted. The cucumbers came in a mix of recyclable and non-recyclable plastic but I made sure we ate it all – no squishy cucumbers in the back of the fridge this time, thank you very much! I even made sure the crusts that were cut off to make the sandwiches posh were eaten by the Dutchman later.
The afternoon was spent in a lovely drunken haze playing scrabble. This is the only game my mother will play and she is convinced that the drunker she gets, the better she plays.
She has owned this scrabble set since 1982. I don’t think you can get much more eco than that!
A very talented friend and local artist Sarah Sayers Creative designed a digital portrait of Mum in her writing nook. She emailed it to me and I was able to print it and gift it to Mum, with the promise of it being properly printed and framed after the lock-down.
I won’t mention the fact that Mum considers it a gift from her favourite son-in-law, because he gave her his card at the same time as the portrait. It was my idea but I’m not bothered he got all the credit. Not bothered at all.
Dinner and a show
Following two games of scrabble and an alcohol-induced nap, the best Indian food was delivered for further birthday delight. My Mum was gutted not be able to go out for dinner and so Blue Cobra brought dinner to her. We are lucky to have the funds to be able to order this and to support local business during the lockdown. I was pleased to be able to order directly from them as then I know they get all the money, but if that isn’t possible ordering from a delivery service is the next best option.
Finally, we went to the theatre! The National Theatre is making selected performances available on Youtube and we thoroughly enjoyed the performance of One Man, Two Guvnors. It is bloody hilarious and I hope you got a chance to see it. With the ‘National Theatre at Home‘, shows are being released on a Thursday evening and are available for one week and other theatres and cultural venues are also releasing bodies of work.
Surprisingly, there were still queues for the toilets!
The next day, it was back to coronavirus-life-as-usual. We stayed in our own rooms and barely spoke to each other. There is only so much togetherness you can handle in a lock-down. But I overheard her talking to a friend and as she listed the many moments and laughed over finding a book in the washing machine, I felt pleased that I managed to make her Covid-19 birthday one to remember.
And what of you, Dear Reader, have you any tips on how to celebrate and mark those special moments in the current lockdown? We always love to hear from you. Stay safe.
This is not a Covid-19 article for your eyeballs to panic scroll through.
This is not a list of educational resources.
This is most definitely not an article exploring the very serious impact of C-19 is having on the NHS, care and medical workers, retail and restaurant workers, vulnerable people, people with disabilities, children, the elderly, people with mental health issues and underlying health problems, gig-workers, the self-employed, freelancers, small businesses…
This is not an article giving medical advice.
This is a light-hearted post on how Emma and Tamara are trying to survive the lockdown whilst still trying to be green.
This post is not a good idea.
When Emma suggested an article on how to survive the lockdown, Tamara’s reaction was to hide under the duvet. For Covid-19 is serious stuff. Here at Shades of Green, we discuss how to live green in Portsmouth. We can be serious at times, yes, but not global pandemic serious!!
Covid-19 is impacting on all aspects of life- how we eat, how we shop, how we work, how we play, how we exercise, how we parent, how we socialise, how we date, how we sleep. Like literally, everything!
And writing about it, even for you Dear Reader, is scary. It makes it real. And that is why Emma coaxed Tamara from out under the duvet and together, we are writing this.
For many in Portsmouth, their lockdown began last week on Friday evening when the UK Government instructed all clubs, pubs restaurants, bars and gyms etc to close. This is also true for people with kids and for those who are self-isolating. For the rest, this week has been the start of Covid-19 forcing us to change how we carry out our daily routines.
How the bloody hell will we survive the lockdown? Together. (Except, you know, apart.)
With the possibility of social-distancing and self-isolating lasting months rather than weeks, we (Emma and Tamara) wanted to share our small perspective on how we are attempting to maintain our equilibrium in these strange and worrying times.
3. And finally, remember that we are writing from our own individual perspectives as child-free people with relatively few physical health issues and fairly secure finances. (Even if Emma is self-employed!) Hopefully, elements of this will be relevant to you, whatever your personal situation may be, and do take everything we say with a pinch…nay…a handful of salt!
Keep to a loose schedule
Think back to the last time you didn’t have a fixed schedule (i.e. having to be somewhere most days for a particular time and duration). This might be during the summer holidays at school, during parental leave, or it might be during a period of unemployment in your adult life. For Emma, it was way back when in 2012, before she got an adult job. (In an office, ya’ll!) (She just realised that’s not a massive deal for most people.)
When you don’t have a loose schedule it can mean that you are getting up later than you normally would, not having regular meals, and perhaps not practising the self-care that you need to. The last time Emma wasn’t in employment, she woke up at about 11 am most days but she guarantees it was after lunch on some days. That doesn’t do you any favours at all and the readjustment will be hard after a few weeks.
Get up a little later than you normally would but not so late that it messes up your sleep schedule. Try to strike a balance between doing fun things, like binge-watching a show you’ve been meaning to catch up on or reading that book, with stuff that you need to do but generally don’t get the chance. (Emma’s neighbour is probably really looking forward to her tidying the garden.)
A lot of people online are saying that you shouldn’t be advising people to be productive during this time. The way Emma sees it, if she gets the curtains washed now and all of those other fun chores on her to-do list, then once the lockdown is lifted, she can make the most of the time with her friends and family.
Limit your exposure to the news and social media
Be selective. As a journalist, Emma is not telling you to not be informed. She’s saying that there is so much information out there that it can be overwhelming and depressing. It’s not going to do your mental health any favours to be watching the news constantly or scrolling incessantly on your phone and seeing the myriad of stories (fake and true) being shared on social media.
Where possible try to schedule a specific time to look at the news and seek out unbiased sources. Did you know that UK TV news is legally not allowed to have bias whereas newspapers are? So opt for ITV, the BBC, Channel 4 News etc.
And only watch once a day.
Emma’s chosen to watch the evening news, so it’s not so early that it will depress her during the day and not so late that it’ll make her anxious at bedtime. She’s also deleted all social media apps from her phone, so is keeping in touch with friends via text and WhatsApp only. Tamara followed her example, deleted Facebook from her phone and felt an instant relief.
Stick to your routine wherever possible
If, prior to the lockdown, you got up early to go for a run every morning, try to do that still (while maintaining a healthy distance). Prior to the crisis, Tamara was working on controlling her diabetes through exercise and was love-hate-running through the free NHS Couch to 5K plan. She has continued this safely during the lockdown as current government guidance allows for once-a-day-exercise outside.
If you and your bestie go to the movies every Tuesday, you can have a watch party and check out something on any of the multitude of streaming services. (you can even share a streaming service to save money.) Tamara and Emma are both huge fans of Canadian comedian Mae Martin and had a digital mate date night with wine and whiskey and watched the first episode of Martin’s excellent new show Feel Good.
If you usually get drinks with friends on Friday nights, try to Skype/Zoom/Facetime/HouseParty and digitally connect with them and learn to make yourself a cocktail. (Or just Whiskey and Coke.)
If you normally go out for dinner as a family on Sundays, order in from that restaurant. (Many local businesses are now offering takeout options and it’s great to support them.)
Covid-19 has forced us inside and to physically distance ourselves from our loved ones and frenemies. Luckily, we are in a digital age and the internet offers us a myriad of opportunities to connect.
Tamara is having group video chats with friends and also spending time with her godson, who lives abroad, by doing a weekly Whatsapp reading session together. She’s also started doing PE with Joe with her friend J, who is also doing it with her nephews. She has also discovered the joy of playing online games with friends and has been playing the game Ticket to Ride almost every night with one friend or another. (She has yet to win a game.)
She is also enjoying a week-daily ‘Coping with Covid-19 conversations’ live Instagram stream by her favourite self-help guru and podcaster Gretchen Rubin and has plans to try a local online pub quiz with Dan Churchley. Joining an online book club is also an idea, and local independent bookseller Pigeon Books are considering setting up one with Sam’s Place (if you are interested, let Pigeon Books know via their FB page or Instagram).
Though we are in a digital age, remember not all of us are online. Tamara’s mother is phoning all her friends and family old school style – using her landline. Classic! (Also, a great way to reduce the strain on mobile networks, which are seeing spikes right now. Not overwhelming spikes, but still.)
The UK Government also says there is no evidence that the virus can be passed via post and no extra precautions are needed when handling, so you can still send letters, gifts, and cards; particularly if it’s someone’s birthday.
Put on your (metaphorical) oxygen mask
Like those airplane safety videos, first put on your own oxygen mask.
If you are a parent with children at home, keeping them safe, happy and entertained and yourself sane is more than enough to be getting on with. Perhaps you are overwhelmed and scared, or a key-worker dealing with a lack of safety equipment, experiencing financial difficulties, living with mental health issues, supporting a relative or friend who is self-isolating – only you know your situation and circumstances.
Whatever your situation, don’t beat yourself up for not doing more or worrying you are not doing enough. We understand the impulse. Tamara has a lot of guilt from feeling she should be doing more. But she will do what she can, when she can. For now, to keep her mental health on an even keel, she is being mindful to put her own (metaphorical) oxygen mask on first before offering out her help. Just trying to cook a meal a day, be kind to family, connect with friends, do a bit of exercise, do something useful or productive no matter how small and not face plant into a bag of crisps is enough for her at the moment. Soon she will look outwards, but she can’t yet. And that is okay.
Portsmouth is a fantastic place to live and Covid-19 highlights this. Neighbours and strangers are reaching out to those who are vulnerable, self-isolating or alone. People care.
Check on your neighbours
Check on your immediate neighbours. Assuming you are not self-isolating, pop a note through their door letting them know that you are there and you care. Click here or download from below for a free printable template ‘Viral Kindness’ that you can use.
Last night, Clap for our Carers brought a tear to many an eye. We have seen this kindness and community spirit strongly in the online communities that have popped up, like the Portsmouth Coronavirus Support Group on Facebook, which is where Tamara first heard of the Clap for our Carers idea. The group aims to be a space “where those who are affected can share what support or supplies they need, so for those of us who have been unaffected so far, can offer help. This includes everything from dropping off food, hot meals or supplies to those who are isolated – as well as emotional and peer-to-peer support.” It is a fantastic local way of connecting people in a scary time. When Tamara finds it overwhelming, she steps back but knows it is there when needed.
Volunteer with hive
People are so kind in offering their support and if you have the headspace and capacity to look further than your immediate family and circle of loved ones, you can sign up to volunteer through Hive who is coordinating a community city response. You can donate time, food or money or all three!
Volunteer with the NHS
The NHS are also looking for volunteer responders and you can still volunteer even if you are in a higher-risk group (including those over 70, those who are pregnant or with underlying medical conditions) as you will be able to offer support by telephone.
Give Blood. You can still give blood! (obvs restrictions apply.) The NHS and vulnerable patients still need blood and there is no evidence of any type of coronavirus being transmitted through blood donation. Check the Give Blood website for more information. Emma is keeping her appointment to give blood in July, although she does hope this will be over by then anyway.
Eat what you have
Yes, that means all the tins at the back of the cupboard and the random frozen meals that you have no idea what they are because you didn’t label them. Hey, it will be a lovely surprise. Looking to Tamara’s friend E. as inspiration who ate a random homemade frozen meal that past-her had lovingly cooked but omitted to label. She had no idea what it was – curry maybe, or possibly stew? But it was delicious. Seriously, E. is winning at life.
Buy only what you need
Tamara has no dependents and so only needs to worry about feeding herself and her partner, and sometimes her mother who lives with her. (She realised that makes her sound like she is starving her elderly mother. Be reassured, she’s not, her mother prefers to cook for herself and also hates it when Tamara calls her elderly!) Tamara is trying to continue to shop as low waste as possible and this means seriously thinking about if she truly needs something.
Emma also has only adults living in her house, but due to advice that people with certain health conditions shouldn’t really be going to the shops and there being no online delivery slots for the next three weeks, Emma is slightly worried about running out of food. (Don’t worry, Tamara and one of Emma’s neighbours have picked up bread and milk for them, but please keep in mind that there are people much worse off than Emma, who will either run out of food or risk going to the stores and catching coronavirus.)
Minimise food waste
Tamara’s partner (The Dutchman) has been making bread using back-of-the-cupboard-and-out-of-date yeast and Tamara made soup from cauliflower leaves and broccoli stalk. The bits she normally put in the compost are edible! Who knew? Probably most people, but not her!
Emma’s mum has been making soups out of “out-of-date” fresh veg, cooking fresh and wilted spinach as a veg for dinner, and they have actually started using the lasagna sheets in the cupboard. Don’t want lasagna, but the sheets are the only pasta that’s available? Break them up and boil in water.
We’re not suggesting that you eat gone-off food. Use your noggin. But with panic buying and supermarket restrictions, we are trying to eat the food we already have in the house.
(Also, regarding cat food, which Emma is finding harder to find on delivery. If someone has selfishly bought enough cat food to last them until the end of time, you can order from specialist pet food stores, but if you run out before then, you can make your cats a special meal of boiled chicken and rice. (Note: Cats require taurine in their diet and the internet informs us that you should only make your cat this basic meal infrequently.))
Try reusable toilet cloth
With toilet roll becoming a black market commodity, perhaps now is the time to give reusable, washable toilet cloth a try. Emma wrote an informative post a while back, which you can read here, with her advice on using cloth instead of disposable toilet paper.
Emma suggested this to her parents, who grimaced.
Embrace other reusables
If you have a period or live with incontinence, you might be finding it hard to get the products you need.
In addition to milk, Emma is finding it hard to get cat litter, which is particularly hard as Tiny Tim is an indoor cat (and Rooney is not allowed out after dark, but still needs to use the little cat’s room). She has enough at the moment, but if that runs out before she can get some in, she will look at tearing up newspaper for their trays. (If the poop is scooped into the bin, she thinks this might even be compostable..? The internet is very divided on whether this is safe.)
Store your recycling and donations
In Portsmouth, collections from textile and clothing banks have been suspended. Many charity shops and direct donation places have closed their doors. We are sure many of us are using our enforced time at home to do some sorting out and decluttering. (We know because Emma is and contacted two direct action groups, who said they couldn’t collect now.)
Keep your donations at home until the lockdown is lifted and normality has resumed. Charities will need your help more than ever in the months to come.
At the time of writing, kerbside rubbish and recycling collections in Pompey are unaffected however we wouldn’t be surprised if collections of kerbside recycling and that of cartons and mixed plastics banks is also limited/ suspended. If that happens, wash your food packaging and store them at home, if you are able. (You can probably store this in boxes in your car if you’re not using it right now.)
Don’t forget that the council makes money off recycling and will need this money in the next year.
Make sure to crush tins, cans, plastic bottles, and cardboard boxes to get more stuff in your green bin. If your green bin gets full, it will be safer and easier to store paper and card in your house, while keeping your green bin for cans and plastic bottles.
Emma also suggests that if you have a compost bin, you can compost paper and card, especially stuff that is perhaps ‘contaminated’ with a small amount of food waste and can’t go in the recycling.
A number of Tamara’s friends with children reminded her that the more difficult items to recycle (i.e. yoghurt pots) can also be used in crafts and in the windowsill/ garden.
Support local small businesses
If you can, please support our local small business in Portsmouth, especially those who have been forced to close. This is invaluable to the traders in keeping their business alive. Many local restaurants and retail shops have switched to offering home deliveries, which is perfect for customers who are self-isolating.
Tamara treated her partner to the final book in a trilogy he is reading from Pigeon Books and bought some shampoo bars from Southsea Bathing Hut. Emma bought her niece and nephews their birthday presents from Pigeon Books, who gave her a contact-free delivery. (This is not a sponsored post by Pigeon Books – we just adore them.)
With handwashing going up by a gazillion percent, why not buy some soap bars from the aforementioned Southsea Bathing Hut, or Wild Thyme who Tamara regularly buys naked Faith in Nature soap bars from or Herbies health store (the new-old Southsea Health Food shop). Shop local and still be green!
Read for pleasure
As mentioned above, Pigeon Books are doing contact-free delivering! (We promise, not a sponsored post. Just buy their books!)
Though libraries are sadly closed for now, you can find a great selection of books and audible books on the free library app Borrow Box.
This together with Pigeon Books means Tamara is not tempted to buy e-books for her Kindle e-reader (She’s boycotting Amazon, which is why the betrayal of The Dutchman subscribing to Prime to watch the new Picard is just…..divorce!!!.) (Emma asked if she could borrow their Prime login to watch the new season of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel and Tamara locked her out of the blog.)
At this time, government guidance allows for an outdoor once-a-day exercise and as mentioned earlier, Tamara has been doing a daily-ish run. She tries to go very early in the morning and is stringent about maintaining social distance from others. In anticipation of this becoming restricted, she has been adding in indoor Yoga with Adrienne and PE with Joe Wicks. She may have to join The Dutchman in the burpee-ing. Ergh.
A lovely friend of Tamara’s dropped off some rocket seedlings for her to ultimately kill. That’s ok, fun will be had in trying to grow them.
Try window-sill gardening for those of us who do not have access to outdoor space. Tamara also intends to sow some wild flower seeds and will let you know how it goes!
Move your body
We have already mentioned exercise throughout this article so far. But the most fun Tamara had was when she put on some music and had a boogie in her kitchen. Obvious advice, we know. But it really helped boost her mood when she was feeling overwhelmed and anxious about life, the universe and covid-19.
Friends with kids have been playing classic games like the Floor is Lava and trying ballet with The Ballet Coach There are so many free exercises and dance videos available online like this to pick from. Whatever floats your boat, give it a go.
Do something creative
You can draw, colour, paint, cross-stitch, write, or anything else you want to. Creativity is calming and gives you something else to focus on. (Emma is writing a book, something she shoehorns into every conversation now.)
See if any local hobby shops, like The Stash By The Sea, are open for online orders and deliveries. You can even get creative with your trash, i.e making necklaces out of sweet wrappers.
And finally, be kind – to yourself, your loved ones, neighbours and strangers. It is an understatement to say that these are tough, strange times.
Be kind, wash your hands and stay at home.
And that is it from us folks. Let us know in the Comments section what you are doing to keep your head in this crisis and bonus points if you have parental, green or eco-tips to share!
As some of
you may know, I (Emma) work from home. (Normally in my pyjamas, as part of a
quest to fulfil the stereotype!) I love it because I have no commute, no dress
code, and no ‘suggestions’ about me wearing make-up.
This article will be about how I make my home office (read: corner of my bedroom with a desk) a little more eco-friendly. Although, a couple of the biggest contributors to your typical carbon footprint at work (commute, on-the-go food) are already taken out of the equation because I work 10 seconds from my bed.
some of these tips will inspire you to cut your carbon footprint, whether you
work at home or not.
writer, I spend about 7 hours a day typing on my laptop. As my laptop is from
2012 and the battery is dead, I’m sure this uses a lot of electricity, so I try
to cut my usage elsewhere.
comment, I did buy a new battery in 2016, but it died within a year and I’m not
keen on doing it again.)
Unplug items when you’re not using them
As you can see from this photo, I don’t have electronics plugged in when I’m not using them because even when the item is switched off, it still uses electricity. My printer, phone, coffee maker, and lamp only get plugged in when I need them, which is maybe one item once a day.
Also, the coffee maker is one of those horrible capsule ones. I got it from my nan’s house and I’m just using the capsules up before I sell it. To dispose of the used capsules in an eco-friendly way, I’m:
removing the lid and placing it in the bin
putting the coffee grounds into a jar and either using it as a body scrub or putting it straight in the compost
putting the plastic bottom into the Sainsbury’s Mixed Plastic bin
Work with natural light
I work directly under a window (I live in the attic like Cinderella), so I rarely have to turn either the ceiling light or my lamp on. Except when I work before 7 am or after 5 pm, which doesn’t happen often anymore because I’m getting better at this whole work-life balance thing.
Minimise heater and fan
As I live in the attic, it boils in the summer and freezes in the winter, but I try to cope with this without using the heater or the fan. (I mean, the radiator’s in the wrong place and I never feel like the ceiling fan works, but I’m still going to count this.)
During the summer, I open the window and, sometimes, soak a t-shirt in cold water at several points during the day. In winter, I wrap myself in hoodies and, occasionally a blanket.
I recently learned that emails have a carbon footprint because the internet is held up by huge data-processing sites. Therefore, I’m trying to send fewer emails (i.e. one email with all of the work from the project rather than several), clear up my inbox, and unsubscribe from all of those mailing lists I find myself on.
This is harder than I thought. The Inbox Zero struggle is real.
Of course, a neat way to offset this is with search engine Ecosia, which plants trees when you search for something.
As mentioned in a previous article, I’m exceptionally cheap. Thus, it won’t surprise you to know that I’ve kept every workbook and gel pen from my school days so I don’t waste products that could be used for writing or that I hoard used A4 paper in case I need to print anything and small bits to write my daily to-do lists.
Another way that I prevent waste is:
Putting all smaller pieces of used paper into an envelope to be recycled so that they don’t gum up the machinery at the recycling plant
Refilling printer inks at the Ink Store and, when needed, recycling them with Portsmouth Green Party
Borrowing or buying used anything that I need for work, like the tilted platform my laptop rests on
Making my own pen holder from a Primark bag and an empty washing powder tub
Composting pencils when they’re down to the last little nubs (don’t worry about the graphite, a small amount won’t harm the soil)
For my last
point in this article, I was once told that having plants in your office makes
you focus more and work harder. I don’t know if that’s exactly true, but I do
now have two cacti on my desk. (Normally, placed out of the way of the cat.)
Even if I’m not incredibly focused, I do like that it’s helping to take some CO2 out of the air. (Even if Tamara’s husband recently told me that it works the opposite way at night, so my bedroom is essentially filling with CO2 after the sun goes down.)
Okay, well that’s it from me. If you have any ways to eco-hack your office, let me know in the comments.
But first, a HUGE proviso! Though very wise, clever, smart and beautiful; I am not a financial guru or advisor. I am simply writing from my own personal experiences. This is not about me making or saving money but about me trying to be ethical in how I organise my finances and store my money.
Level 1: subscribe to the Ethical Consumer (Difficulty Rating: easy)
I share a subscription to The Ethical Consumer with a friend and it has been the number one most useful and informative resource in researching and deciding how to spend my money ethically. (This is not a sponsored post or any of that!). The Ethical Consumer does Shopping Guides, Company Profiles and basically it is where I go for clear answers when I am overwhelmed by choice. It has influenced all my choices which I will discuss below. If you can afford it, at £30 a year, get it!
Level 2: choose a bank with values (Difficulty rating: Intermediate)
Did you know that the big commercial banks are the worst? Main banking providers like Natwest, Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC etc are not the safe havens they appear in the ads. I was devastated to realise that the banks I was loyal to since I opened my first account at age 13 to save my Saturday job earnings in are funders of arms manufacturing and investors in the fossil fuel industry (to name but a few). These are powerful institutions focused on profits and not people.
I felt rather smug, many years ago now, when I decided to move away from terrible banking and opened a current account with Smile, then the best (in my opinion) ethical banking choice in a very limited pool. But the times have moved on and Smile, which is part of The Cooperative Bank, is no longer the top or only choice.
Triodos: a unicorn in the banking world
Triodos is the best. I do not mean it is the best of a bad bunch. Oh no no! Triodos is simply the best…dun… dun… better than all the rest! (channelling my inner Tina Turner!).
You see, Triodos doesn’t only choose not to invest in the bad aka unethical and unsavoury industries, Triodos actively invests in the good aka sustainable, ethical and planet & people protecting industries and projects.
Even their debit card is eco-conscious as it is made from PLA which is a plastic substitute made from renewable sources such as plant leaves and corn. But to be honest, it is their ethical policies and transparency that really give me a hard-on, though the small things are important too. (haha, that’s what she said! Sorry. #notsorry.)
I’ve had a saving account with Triodos for about ten years and will soon be opening a current account with them when I get my ID sorted. (Off-topic rant – can you believe that both my passport and my driving licence expired in the same month. Adulting is hard.)
By this, I mean member-owned banking institutions like Building Societies and Credit Unions. Unlike commercial banks which are run for the profit of shareholders, here each customer is a member and has a say in how the organisation is run.
a) Nationwide Building Society
Nationwide is my compromise joint bank account with my husband, the Dutchman. After The Co-operative bank became 70% investor-owned and seeing that the Ethical Consumer rated them fairly well, he decided to move his accounts from Smile to Nationwide Building Society.
We have a shared account with Nationwide and the rest remain with Smile because as well as not being good with change, I still felt a loyalty to Smile and I was holding out for a Triodos current account. We compromised by initially keeping some accounts with Smile and transitioning one to Nationwide with ultimately all our shared accounts eventually being moved to Nationwide.
b) Wessex Community Bank
Whenever I cycle down Fratton Road, I notice the Wessex Community Bank nestled between The Bridge Shopping Centre and Garnier Street. Each time, I add it to my mental list of things to check out and immediately forget once I have cycled past.
Writing this article meant I finally researched it and I was thrilled to discover it is a not-for-profit community bank (a credit union) that invests solely in the Hampshire and Isle of Wight region. It is a proper local bank!
I plan on joining their Christmas Club saving scheme as I am tired of always being overdrawn come January. 2020 is my year of taking control of my finances!
Level 3: CHOOSE AN ETHICAL MORTGAGE (Difficulty rating: Advanced)
I rate this as Hard/ Advanced as for me this was the most difficult decision to make in terms of prioritising ethics over finances.
It is a privilege to be in a position to hold a mortgage. It is also my largest financial burden and my biggest monthly expense. I want that money to be invested positively by my mortgage provider. I have previously held a mortgage with The Co-operative Bank but wanted to up my game in ethical finances.
The Ethical Consumer was a key tool in helping us research and ultimately decide to apply to Coventry Building Society for a mortgage. A huge bonus is that the mortgage interest with them was as good a deal as the ones offered by the usual big banks. So it was a win-win, both financially and ethically. I consider this my biggest success in walking the walk and not just talking the talk.
Level 4: CHOOSE AN ETHICAL pension (Difficulty rating: expert)
This is where my laziness really shows. I don’t really get pensions and I think the fact I even have a pension is me Adulting at the highest level.
I want a safe, secure and ethical pension that doesn’t just not invest in fossil fuels, fracking, arms trade and all that fun stuff but also invests positively in sustainable, ethical, people and planet-friendly funds. I basically want the Triodos of pensions.
Quite by chance, I hold a pension with Royal London who is currently ranked the top pension provider by The Ethical Consumer. And the Dutchman has a workplace pension with Aviva, who is rated second. But unlike Triodos, for example, these are the best of a bad bunch.
I feel my only option is to learn more about pensions (ergh) and start lobbying my pension provider to do better.
But ideally, I’d have a pension provider that is making actively positive ethical investments and so far, I haven’t found that.
And what of you, Dear Reader? What are your experiences of ethical banking? Do you have an answer to my pension quandary? Let us know in the Comments section.
Promoted by T Sheerman-Chase, 99 Pretoria Road, PO4 9BD on behalf of Portsmouth Green Party. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other party, agency, organization, employer or company.