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Category: Festivities

How to eco hack your festival experience

It’s summertime and for some of us, that means seeing our favourite bands perform live at our local and not-so-local festivals. If you live in Portsmouth, you could well be heading to Victorious or the IOW Festival in the coming weeks and we at Shades of Green hope you have an amazing time. However, we do also recognise that sometimes festivals are less green than we’d hoped.

That’s why I (Emma) want to show you how to make your festival experience as green as it can be.

Getting there

When travelling to the festival, try to use public transport where possible. Often the roads will be crowded anyway and car parks will really jack up the price around major events. Plus, all rock stars travel on tour buses!

Most festival websites will tell you how to get to the venue from the local train station or (in the case of the IOW) ferry port. If friends are heading to Victorious from outside of the city and they live nowhere near a train or bus route, then direct them to our Park and Ride, which has a stop about 15-minutes away from the Common.

Eco-Festival outfit

Biodegradable Glitter

We all know the dangers that microplastics can cause to our ecosystem and what is glitter but thousands of pieces of plastic that we stick to our skin at festivals? Never fear, my sparkly friends, because biodegradable glitter is now a thing.

Sustainable Swimwear

Even if you’re not planning on going for a dip, many people will choose to wear bikini tops/ board shorts to festivals. If this describes you, then you might be interested to know that you can actually buy swimwear made from reclaimed fabrics. This reduces the amount of fabric going to landfill and the energy costs of creating something from new.

Green Festival Packing List

When packing for your festival, my best advice is to bring only what you need. Not only will you not be weighed down, but you’ll be less likely to forget/abandon an item on your return. Still, there are a few green things that I recommend bringing with you.

Reusable Bottle

It’s important to stay hydrated during hot weather, but we all know that single-use plastic bottles are an ecological nightmare! Opt for a reusable bottle, which is durable and lightweight. It’ll keep your drink cool and it could save tons of £££ from vendors. Also, best to get some reusable cutlery if you’re going to eat there and a reusable straw if you need a straw for your drink.

Important: Check what you are allowed to bring before you set off. For safety reasons, many festivals will stop you from bringing in knives or glass. You may also be asked to empty a water bottle before entering (in case you were trying to smuggle in booze!), so be prepared to refill once inside.

Biodegradable Reef-Safe Sunscreen

I’m a massive fan of summer sunshine, but I’m not crazy about sunburn or any of the other scary side effects, so I use SPF 30 (Yeah, I’m very white!). The problem is the common chemical ingredients used in sunscreen products worldwide (i.e. oxybenzone) can cause fatal damage to coral and other marine plant life. Yikes! Luckily, there are all-natural alternatives available, which can protect your skin without harming the planet.

Solar-powered Mobile Charger

Whether you’re filming your favourite band’s set or trying to find your friend in the crowd, you’ll need your phone to work, but trying to find a free charging point will be challenging. Skip the queue and save on electricity by using the sun to charge your phone while you enjoy the music.

 

That’s it from me and now I want to hear from you. Are you headed to a festival this summer? Do you have any eco tips to share? Let me know in the comments section.

How to eco hack your travels

I (Emma) love travelling but I also recognise that my (occasional) jet-setting lifestyle can be harmful to the world around me. I’m certainly not advocating that everyone stop travelling as that’d be really hypocritical but I, as a card-carrying member of the Green Party, have some really cool susty hacks for eco-travelling so I’ll be sharing my tips on how you can make your travels more earth-kind.

Take it Slow

SOURCE: PIXABAY

One of the biggest contributors to our carbon footprint is the actual method of transport. It shouldn’t be surprising that the plane is often a very un-eco form of transport; especially if you’re only travelling short distances. So if you’re not going very far- like around Western Europe – consider using slower methods of transport like the train, bus, or boat. To check the best method for a specific journey, head to the WWF’s Travel Helper.

Choose Alternative Holiday Spots

SOURCE: PIXABAY

Travelling is about exploring the unknown but there’s no reason that why that has to be halfway across the world. There will be places in your own country, state, and even hometown, that you have yet to explore and they can still be as exciting as a place much further afield. You may even find yourself somewhere that tourists never see. Plus it’s a lot easier to use slow travel methods to get to those places.

Pack it Right

SOURCE: PIXABAY

Transport, or lack thereof, is the biggest environmental hurdle for all eco-travellers but there are tons of other ways to cut your damaging impact on the globe. A lot of travelling can involve other unsustainable practices, like eating take-out food, drinking bottled water, and even abandoning your usual recycling efforts. That’s why I have a susty travel kit in my suitcase to help me stay green while getting a tan.

  • Reusable water bottle

    If you’re going somewhere hot, it’s worth investing in a reusable bottle which will keep your tap water cool all day without producing condensation on the outside of the bottle. If you’re travelling to somewhere where the tap water is questionable at best, consider using a Steripen which sanitises water using LED light and can be charged via USB or the LifeStraw water bottle, which filters water through its straw.

  • Lunch Box (or cooler bag) with picnic cutlery and crockery

    The benefits of this are two-fold; not only will you be more eco-friendly but it will save you money on food. Even if you are grabbing something while out and about, using reusable cutlery, straws etc will cut your waste.

  • Washcloth

    This cuts down on your paper napkin usage by allowing you to wipe your face after meals or mop up after a drink spill.

  • Reusable bags

    These are the easiest way to make a green difference while travelling, load them up with souvenirs (ec0 choices are discussed below) or lunch.

  • Period Panties/ Menstrual Cup/ Reusable Pads

    For those of us with a uterus, one of the biggest ways we can be greener is by cutting out the pads and tampons. Even if you don’t think that you’ll be ‘on’ while you’re away, make sure you’ve packed them.

  • Eco Cosmetics

    Those miniature bottles of toiletries- which some people think are cute?- are actually terrible for the environment. Some companies, like Lush, are embracing reduced packaging and offering packaging-free body lotion, facial moisturiser, shampoo, conditioner, and soap. Even their toothpaste comes in recyclable packaging.

Buy Fewer Souvenirs

While we’re on the subject of what to take, let’s discuss what not to bring home.

Cheap trinkets from touristy shops are often poorly made and will break within months (or even weeks) of purchase, meaning they’ll end up in a landfill.

Try to find locally made products or edible gifts, rather than the Made in China products. Not only is it better for the environment, it also reduces the chances that your souvenir was produced in a sweatshop.

 

So, those are my main eco-hacks for your travels but what are some of yours? Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? Share in the comments below.

How to eco hack your wedding

Couple in wedding outfits

 

Your dress may be white, you might have borrowed something blue, but here’s how you can make your wedding greener.

NOTE: This article, written by Emma, was originally published on Blue and Green Tomorrow and has been reprinted with permission.

Big events, like weddings, always have the potential to be unkind to the environment. As such, many eco-friendly people (myself included) can’t help but feel a little nervous about planning such an occasion.

There are so many decisions to make, and it can be more stressful when you’re also worried about how those decisions will affect the world around you.

Luckily, this eco-friendly guide will help you plan a wedding that your inner (or outer) hippie will be proud of.

Vendors

In any wedding, vendors will be in control of the majority of decisions that could negatively impact the environment (such as using disposable cutlery/crockery at your reception or blasting the heat/aircon in every room, as opposed to just the ones you are using).

This means that it’s a good idea to look for vendors that share your values. A quick look using your internet search engine of choice should bring up a wealth of results for “eco + florist/caterer/venue + your town”.

If it doesn’t, then turn to Plan B. Create a small list of vendors that you’d like to pick and contact them individually to explain that although you’d like to hire them, they’d need to agree to certain eco requirements on your big day. After all, there’s one type of green that all businesses care about — and they’ll work hard to earn it from you.

In that case, what sort of requirements should you consider? Well, it’s naturally all up to you, but here are some things that eco-friendly people want from the vendors at their wedding.

Venue

venue - Eco Hack Wedding
While many eco-friendly people would enjoy having their wedding outside to cut down on energy usage, there can be various local laws or adverse weather conditions that make this impractical.

As such, for this article, we will focus on what should you look for in a venue for an indoors wedding.

Recycling Bins

Your guests will need somewhere to dispose of empty drinks bottles and cans during the reception and most guests will find something in their bag or their pockets (invites, receipts) that needs recycling.

Low-energy bulbs

While your venue is unlikely to replace every light bulb with the earth kind alternative, they may be convinced to change out the bulbs in the ceremony and reception rooms for you. After that, they might even choose to keep them installed.

Alternative heating/cooling methods

Rather than switching on the AC/ electric heaters at the first sign of a change in temperature, have your venue open the windows, set up a log fire, or provide blankets to keep your guest comfortable.

Caterers

Wedding Cake - Eco Hack Wedding

Animal Products

Depending on your own version of being green, you might be okay with giving your guests the choice of eating hand-reared meat, line-caught fish, or small-farm dairy. However, you should ask the caterers where their animal products came from so that you can ensure any animal products were sourced through humane and sustainable methods.

Locally-sourced, organic ingredients

One of the biggest environmental challenges when it comes to food is how it is grown/reared, and how far it travels to get to your plate. In order to make your food greener, have your caterers use only produce from a local farm that uses organic growing practices.

Pro Tip: If you’re having your cake created by a separate baker, ask for them to use only local and organic ingredients.

No disposable cutlery/crockery/napkins

If you’re having a sit-down formal dinner, it’s unlikely that the caterer will serve it on paper plates with plastic forks and red cups for your champagne toast. If you’re having a less formal dinner, say from a food truck, then the caterer might just serve the dinner on the dreaded Styrofoam products.

If china plates would be a problem, or the caterer is a small vendor that doesn’t use real plates, consider buying reusable plastic picnic sets for everyone to use. They can always be used by the guests for future picnics, or donated to a good cause after the wedding.

Florist

Woman in Wedding Dress holding flowers - eco hack wedding

Dried Bouquets

The beauty of dried flowers is that they do not have to be discarded after the wedding and can be used in home décor or placed in your wedding memory box.

Limited Floral arrangements

Cut flowers are never going to be good news for the planet, so if you’re going for fresh over dried, you’ll likely want to limit the amount you have to just the bridal bouquet.

Potted Plants

You might consider having potted plants make up the floral decorations in the ceremony/reception.

Pro tip: The plants will also make nice gifts for the wedding party.

Choose naturally-grown, locally-sourced plants

As with your food, you’ll want to make sure that your plants are locally-grown without pesticides. As a result, you may have to compromise on the type of flowers you select depending on what’s in season and native to your area.

Couple’s Choice

So we’ve discussed what you should consider from your main wedding vendors but what can you- the happy couple- do as individuals? Well luckily, there are still many ways for you to eco-hack your wedding on your own.

Outfits

women in wedding dresses - eco hack wedding

No animal by-products

When choosing your wedding outfit, you probably want to avoid items that contain animal by-products (i.e. leather shoes, fur stoles, silk gloves), but you may also wish to avoid items that have been dyed or treated with casein (a protein found in milk and used to make some plastic buttons) or lanolin (a wax produced by wool-bearing animals).

Secondhand

Many thrift stores and vintage shops have wedding dresses/suits that have been donated/sold after only over being worn once, and that is a waste of resources. The prices will be reasonable and you might even find a gem from a long-gone era.

Alternatively, take a look through the family closet to find the items that a beloved relative wore at their own wedding, from grandma’s dress to your brother’s cufflinks. After all, as the old saying goes, you will need “something borrowed” for your wedding.

Buy a reusable outfit

If you want to buy new, consider something that you will wear again and again as the years go by. You can always have your outfit altered slightly to be worn as a cocktail dress or a business suit.

All of these tips can, of course, be applied to the whole of the wedding party- not just those getting married.

Invites

wedding invites - eco hack wedding

Evites

If you think paper invites are a waste of a tree, send e-vites instead. Not only is it a lot more eco-friendly, but you’ll save a ton of money on stamps.

Recycled Paper Invites

If you do want to send paper invites, use recycled paper in order to lower your environmental impact.

Postcards

Alternatively, send postcards without an envelope to cut down on paper. Perfect for a kitsch wedding.

Gifts

wedding presents - eco hack wedding

Set up a wish list

If you and your partner have been living together for a while, you likely have everything that is traditionally bought as a wedding present (i.e. dinner sets, bedding). To avoid receiving duplicate gifts, set up a wish list. That way you can ensure that you get something that you really want, and prevent wastefulness.

Charity donations

Ask for donations to your favourite eco-charity, like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, or Earthjustice, (or even the Green Party) as opposed to gifts.

 

Hopefully, this guide has shown you that it’s relatively easy to eco hack your wedding. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

 

How to eco-hack your Christmas

Christmas is my favourite time of year- it’s one long party for me (Emma) from December 21st until January 5th- but I think everyone can agree that it’s not the most eco-friendly of holidays. Food waste, excess packaging and single-use items all add up to a pretty bad time for the environment.

So what should we do to tackle this?

Decorations

Adorable cat under playing under the Christmas Tree

In almost every shop, you’ll find cheap Christmas decorations (in too much hard-to-recycle packaging) that are made to be put up in December and binned in January. This is not good enough.

  • Buy a real tree: As Tamara told you at the beginning of the month, she has an actual tree from a sustainable source and that’s much better than plastic trees.
  • Invest in long-lasting decorations: If you don’t think you have the money to invest in decorations that will stand the test of time, take a look around charity shops and fetes for second-hand decorations that are a lot cheaper.
  • Take care of your decorations: Keep decorations out of reach of little hands and curious animals, wrap delicate items in tissue paper and pack them in hard boxes when storing.
  • Create a theme: Resist the urge to buy trendy decorations (like an ornament featuring a Dabbin’ Santa) and create a theme that won’t go out of style.

Presents

Gift decorated with a pinecone and conifer needles

There’s nothing wrong with presents at Christmas but there are some inherent problems with how we give presents.

  • Second-hand items: While many people would only ever dream of buying presents from a store or online retailer, you can get some really rare goods by shopping second-hand. (Side note: If any of my friends are reading – click here)
  • Make your own: If you’re a crafty person, you’ll find it’s a lot more ethical to make your own presents because you can control the whole process, i.e. eliminate all animal byproducts from your baked goods or use eco-safe dyes on your scarves.
  • Charity Gifts: Everyone has one person that refuses presents during the holiday period (and on their birthdays) because they have all they need- they don’t want another keying with their initials or another mug with their favourite animal on it and they especially don’t want a book that they’ll never have time to read. Make a donation in their name to their favourite cause.
  • Don’t use wrapping paper: I know it’s cute and Beyoncé’s even got her own range now but wrapping paper is expensive and a blight on the environment (because many contain plastic or foil and are not recyclable). Try newspapers, outdated maps or plain brown paper instead.

Food

A food feast fit for a queen

My favourite thing about this time of year is eating all the food but there’s a lot of waste involved with the Christmas dinner.

  • Cut out excess packaging: Look for sweets and cookies that aren’t individually wrapped to seriously cut down on your packaging waste or better yet make your own.
  • Cook for yourself: Channel your inner Nigella by making your own nut roast (non-veggie options are available), sauce, and even Yorkshire Puddings from scratch rather than buying ready-made items which come with a ton of packaging.
  • Don’t buy food you don’t like: There are some foods that are traditionally associated with Christmas (Sprouts, Clementines, Quality Street) but some are bought, cooked, and abandoned without going anywhere near your mouth. Please don’t buy food that will just go to waste.
  • Use leftovers: What meat-eating person (so, not me) doesn’t love using up turkey in the days after Christmas? Sandwiches, curries, pasta, and more. Make sure to use up the veg too- even sprouts taste nice when hidden in a curry!

So that’s my top tips for making Christmas more eco-friendly, but I want to hear about yours. Let me know in the comments below.

If you celebrate a different holiday and would like to write a guest post for Shades of Green about making it more eco, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at blog@portsmouth.greenparty.org.uk or comment below.

Volunteering in Portsmouth this holiday season

It is December in Pompey. The days are crisp, mornings are frosty, the heating is on and I bought my Secret Santa gift at the Love Southsea Christmas Market on Palmerston Road. So for me (Tamara), the festive season is here!

 

I generally enjoy the activities and hubbub around Christmas but I definitely struggle with the consumerism that surrounds it. A gremlin who lives in my brain is awakened around mid-November who really wants me to buy the things, buy all the beautiful things!  Over the last few years, my husband and I have tried to create our own traditions that isn’t about ‘stuff’. We make homemade cranberry vodka, Guyanese-style black rum cake and he makes a very alcoholic knock-your-socks-off Dutch-style advocat. But our traditions don’t revolve solely around booze: we get a real, sustainable Forestry Commision Christmas tree from Queen Elizabeth’s Country Park which thrills my Trinidadian heart and we also go to the truly magical Cathedral Christmas Carol Service which soothes my soul.

As the years have passed and we have celebrated more Christmases as fully-fledged real-life adults, I started to become more socially aware and wanted to do something at Christmas that didn’t focus primarily on gift giving and stuff. There is very little I need and with my friends and family scattered across the country, I would rather see them and spend time together drinking some of that home-made cranberry vodka and advocat (but not mixed together…I tried that one year…and just – no!).

 

So for the last few years, my hubby and I have spent Christmas Day in Fareham, volunteering as a Christmas Day Lunch Helper. It is a wonderful initiative which hosts 100 guests who would otherwise find themselves alone at Christmas. I absolutely love helping out – the best thing is being able to chat, chat and chat a bit more with the guests. A traditional Christmas lunch is served, carols are sung and raffles are won. For me, this makes it a day that fills me with hope and joy and all the smushy stuff. Last year, fellow Pompey Green Party members Tracey and Mac also volunteered closer to home on Christmas Day at a joint event with Portsmouth Cathedral and FoodCycle. Tracey enjoyed it so much she is on the look-out for any Christmas Day volunteering opportunities this year.

 

I also participate in the the Rucksack Event which every November collects rucksacks full of useful everyday items for homeless people in the city. I have fun scouring the charity shops all year round collecting socks, sleeping bags etc. This year I wasn’t organised enough to get my rucksack together for their collection date in November but luckily I can still take the stuff I gathered to Hope House Hostel direct.

 

Of course, not everyone wants or is able to volunteer on Christmas Day or during the festive season. If you can, donate your time, money, food or skills to one of the many fantastic local projects and charities that help vulnerable, homeless and isolated people both in the winter and all year round. The projects I mention are ones that I have directly been involved in but there are many more that you can find through good ‘ol google or Facebook or however you find stuff out!

 

Have you volunteered on Christmas Day or during the festive season? Do you know of any Christmas Day volunteering events in or around Portsmouth that Tracey can get involved in? Tell us about it in the Comments section below.

How to Eco-Hack your Halloween

Hey everyone and welcome to this special Halloween edition of Shades of Green, where you too can learn how to be spooky and sustainable from someone who dresses up like a witch all year long (Emma).

As with all big holidays, there is a lot of waste created over the Halloween period; from far too many candy wrappers to cheap costumes that are made to be worn only once to perfectly edible pumpkin pulp, which is far too often thrown in the bin when carving Jack O’ Lanterns.

With that in mind, here’s how you can susty-hack your Halloween.

 

Costumes

halloween costume

Many store-bought costumes are mass produced and designed to be worn just the once (that’s how big business stays big) but that’s an incredible waste of materials and money.

Here are some alternatives:

  • Create your own costume using items you already have to hand i.e. a black dress, stripy socks, some temporary hair dye, and a cat necklace makes you a modern-day
  • Swap costumes with your friends so that you can save your costume from landfill without being the person who has dressed as a pirate for four years running.
  • Buy a costume from a charity shop to save money and do some good.

 

Trick or Treat

Unfortunately, the time when you could give handmade sweets out on Halloween is long gone. Parents will assume, no matter how nice you are, that something has been done to it and will throw it out. But does this mean that you’re stuck with giving out individually wrapped sweets?

No, there are plenty of other options.

If you have kids, ask them if they’d like to throw a Halloween party, complete with spooky homemade treats, rather than trick or treat. They can invite their friends and you’ll save a mountain of candy wrapper from landfill.

If you don’t have kids, consider only allowing children you know to trick or treat at your house, like a friend’s child or younger relatives, so that you can give out unwrapped sweets. Alternatively, you could give out fruit or sweets with eco-friendly wrapping or small toys.

If you have let your children go trick or treating (or your own trick or treaters never arrived and you ate all the mini chocolate bars) and you’re stuck with a tonne of wrappers, you could always recycle them via TerraCycle (fees apply) or upcycle them into a craft project (perhaps even next year’s  Halloween costume).

Decorations

pumpkin

As someone whose house is perpetually Halloween-ready (by which I mean, there are always cobwebs), I love creating Halloween decorations rather than buying them.

One of the key things here is pumpkin carving which I adore, even though I’m not that good at it. In order to keep my Jack O’ Lantern susty and scary, I make Pumpkin Gut Soup but you could make pumpkin spice latte, sweet pies, or even a body scrub with the leftovers.

Other ghoulish Halloween decorations include:

  • Making tombstones from painted cardboard boxes
  • Cut up laddered tights to create spiders
  • Make ghosts out of old sheets

 

One last thing, remember that our animal friends don’t enjoy Halloween as much as we do. Keep all pets (especially black cats) inside this weekend and on Halloween; away from fireworks, chocolate, and people who may cause harm to them.

 

So what are your tips for a green Halloween? Share them in the comments below.