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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.

Every Polluted Breath You Take

Air, oxygen, breathing – I admit these are not topics I tend to ponder as I go about my daily life. When in my car, I (Tamara) tend to be more concerned with evading Pompey traffic than about the effect I am having on the air quality. When I cycle around town trying to get past the self-same bumper-to-bumper traffic, I am not thinking about the fumes I am breathing in so much as trying to survive aggressive drivers.

But as with most things in life, it is all interconnected. Air quality in Portsmouth is at illegal and unsafe level. I first became aware of these issues when my local Portsmouth Green Party activists initiated the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign.

let pompey breathe

As a lazy environmentalist,  I prefer to have issues explained to me in simple, easy-to-understand terms. Here to do just that, in this special Thursday edition of Shades of Green, is Portsmouth Green Party activist and #LetPompeyBreathe spokesperson Tim Sheerman-Chase.

Me: Hihi Tim! Thanks for joining me via email to talk about the air quality issue in Portsmouth. As some of our readers may not be aware of the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign, what it is all about and what is your role in this?

Tim: #LetPompeyBreathe is a campaign group aiming to get Portsmouth’s air pollution within safe and legal limits. It is affiliated with Portsmouth Green Party, Friends of the Earth, local neighbourhood forums and other concerned groups.

My role is as spokesperson, blogger and researcher of government published reports. These tend to be fairly large and impenetrable, but I am assisted by my science background. I am the lead petitioner on the petition currently before Portsmouth City Council.

 

In a nutshell, what is the problem with our air quality?

Portsmouth is one of the worst cities in the UK for air quality, with pollution levels in continuous breach of both legal limits specified in the EU Air Quality Directive, English law, and World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

 

Is the air pollution a problem across the whole city or is it localised to certain areas?

Pollution levels greatly vary around the city. Some particularly bad areas include:

  • Hampshire Terrace/Queens Street
  • The top of Commercial Road
  • London Road/Fratton Road/Kingston Road
  • Eastern Way/Milton Road

The residential areas of Southsea, Milton and Tipner have relatively better air quality.

Traffic is the largest factor in local air pollution. Diesel engines are particularly bad, particularly from diesel cars, buses and heavy goods vehicles. This is probably the easiest area to make improvements and bring pollution to within safe limits.

 

Gulp…I used to have a diesel car as I thought it was better for the environment than petrol cars! Luckily, it broke down on me and was replaced with a petrol-electric hybrid. What other individual actions can we take?

It is difficult to avoid air pollution completely for an individual person, apart from moving away from cities! However, you can reduce exposure by avoiding busy roads at peak times. Pollution is far worse inside vehicles than outside, so you can help yourself (while helping your community) by reducing car usage. Try to use public transport, cycling and walking instead, even if only for one day a week extra.

 

What is it specifically about our air quality that is unsafe?

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bj72L-0HpmR/?taken-by=pompeygreens

There are various types of pollution – Portsmouth has a particular issue with the levels of small particulate pollution (PM2.5) exceeding WHO safe limits. We also breach the annual NO2 limits in several locations.

 

Particulate pollution?

Particulate pollution (also known as particulate matter), is the general term for the solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Small particulate pollution is fine microscopic inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometres and smaller.

 

How is air pollution measured and who regulates it?

Regulations have been put in place to address the problem. Among the most significant is the UK law Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010. This specifies legally binding limits on the UK government for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate pollution.

 

That is a great start but it’s one thing to know there’s a problem and set national regulations and another to actually take positive action on a local level- what is actually being done about it?  Why are the council and government not being held to account?

As you said, government bodies often ignore their responsibilities and 278 of the 391 local authorities missed the legal targets in 2017.

These legal limits are gradually being enforced. The European court of justice is threatening the UK and five other countries with multi-million Euro fines if they do not comply with legal limits.  Three successive High Court victories have been won by ClientEarth over the UK government, with the government’s plans being found to be inadequate.

Responsibility has largely been given to local government, which have taken some steps to deal with it but far stronger measures need to be taken. Part of the ClientEarth ruling found that central government does not have a sufficient enforcement for local authorities to meet these legal limits. Being underfunded, local government is having difficulty in taking suitable measures. Also, in many councils, the political will to address the problem is lacking.

 

How does the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign hold Portsmouth City Council to account?

#LetPompeyBreathe has two main goals: to raise public awareness and to encourage Portsmouth City Council to take further action.

At a local level, there are two documents that the council are required to produce: an air quality strategy and an action plan. Currently, #LetPompeyBreathe are petitioning the council to urgently publish its Air Quality Action Plan for consultation. In the two months since the petition went live, we have gathered the required 1000 signatures for the issue to be discussed at the next Full Council meeting which is in July (and handed them in on Clean Air Day – which is today).

 

As for the effectiveness of petitioning, politicians respond to public pressure particularly when well organized. If they see there is a clear demand for something to be done, we are in a much better position. The petition is only one step in the campaign.

 

What specific actions could the council take to rectify the air pollution problem?

There are many things, including:

  • improve walking and cycling routes
  • make the urban environment safer and more pleasant
  • make public transport easier to use, more integrated, cheaper and cleaner
  • reduce car use through careful city planning

MPs from different parties have been calling for a new Clean Air Act which will greatly strengthen monitoring and control of pollutants. We also need to shift the cost of pollution on to the polluter, particularly in egregious cases like Dieselgate and the car manufacturers.

Most large cities will require a charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) to bring air pollution to within safe limits within a reasonable time.

 

Tim, thank you for taking the time to inform us about the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign and petition. Dear Reader, please sign the petition, if you haven’t already and share it with your friends, family, acquaintances and frenemies.

A Guide To Socially Conscious Sex

Sex. It’s something that a lot of us spend a lot of time thinking about, from daydreaming about our favourite celebrity to worrying if we’re doing it right to listening to your more adventurous friend brag about their exploits. But I bet that you’ve never thought about whether your sex life is ethical.

Now, I (Emma) know this seems like it’s going to an article where I lecture you about what you are doing ‘wrong’ in your sex lives. It’s not, I promise. I’m just going to look at some ways to make our sex lives more ethical – and possibly even better! After all, we’re always looking to make other areas of their lives more ethical (i.e. going flexitarian or recycling more), why not the bedroom as well?

Sex Toys

SOURCE: WIKIPEDIA

I’ll be honest, this whole article was pitched after I tried to find a more eco-friendly way to clean my vibrator. I’m trying to cut down on the amount of trash that I create, so I wanted to stop buying the special wipes. Then I ended up down an internet rabbit (pun intended) hole and found out that cleaning might be the least of my sex toys’ eco problems…

It turns out that the average sex toy is made in China (as with most consumer products) to cut down on labour costs, so it could have a large carbon footprint by the time it reaches you. It may even contain some nasty chemicals or animal products, which you probably don’t want near your private parts. Then, there’s the issue of disposing of your sex toy. You can’t exactly chuck it in with the kerbside recycling, can you?

 

via GIPHY

What should you do?

  1. Keep your sex toys for as long as possible, as ditching older ones before their time will only exacerbate your environmental impact. But when you are ready to retire them don’t throw them into a landfill; there are some recycling schemes available, like Love Honey.
  2. Clean your sex toys with warm water and white vinegar or, in the case of non-electric toys, simply boil them
  3. When looking for a new sex toy, look for ones that are made in your country (to decrease your carbon footprint) and choose ones made from medical-grade silicone, glass, metal or wood. If you do opt for a plastic one, stay away from any that contain phthalates, a  potentially carcinogenic chemical. You could even find a solar powered sex toy to cut down on battery and electrical use. I swear that you won’t have to leave the whole thing out in plain view; just the battery.

via GIPHY

Porn

SOURCE: PIXABAY

What porn you consume – and how – can make a big difference to how ethical your sex life is, mainly because of how the industry treats its actors. And as the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have taught us, big, powerful companies – and the (mostly) men at the heads of them – generally suck at controlling themselves.

Most mainstream porn has problems with:

– unsafe sex, which some actors report being forced into

– pressuring actors into sex acts that they are uncomfortable with

– a lack of rights for workers, including unfair wages

– the fetishisation of its actors, particularly POC, LGBTQ+ people, plus size people, and mature people

All of that is appalling and it doesn’t even cover the fact that in most mainstream porn the female actors are forced to fake their orgasm, which creates an unrealistic view of sex for the consumer.

via GIPHY

If the person making my veggie burger was working under unsafe conditions, I’d be furious, so why should I care less about the people making my porn? Now, this isn’t to say you should stop watching porn. I didn’t stop eating eggs when I found out about battery hens, I switched to free-range.

Instead, look into a more ethical type of porn that treats workers fairly and promotes intersectionality. Also, it could do wonders for your sex life by showing real sex acts that actually get women off and that you could try at home- mainstream porn seems awfully scared of a genuine female orgasm, doesn’t it?

So how can we make sure that the porn we’re watching is ethical?

via GIPHY

There are no consumer reports on how ethical porn is, so it’s mostly up to you to decide for yourself, but here is my advice.

Pay: I know that we’re so used to getting our porn for free that it seems absurd to suggest you start paying for it again, but I swear there’s a good reason. When you don’t pay for porn, the industry can cut corners, which can hurt the performers.

Play favourites: Find a porn star that you like. Do your research on them, listen to what they say about their work, and find out if they have more control over what they do with whom. Some performers may even have a website (perhaps with free clips and photos!) and those actors are more likely to have control over their content.

Trust your instincts: The next time you’re watching porn, ask yourself if you think the actors are enjoying themselves and if the scene seems safe. You can still explore fantasies that may not look safe on the surface (i.e. BDSM), but it’s important that the performers are safe and happy to be in the scene.

I know this can seem like a lot, but considering how exploitative some porn can be to its actors, isn’t it worth it to support the performers who have done so much for you?

via GIPHY

 

Lube And Barrier Contraceptives

Source: Wikipedia

Did you know that your lubes and contraceptives could contain animal by-products? Or that they may have been tested on animals? It’s something that I naively assumed was only true in contraceptives from the distant past, but unfortunately, it’s something that is just as true in the 21st century.

What can you do?

Simply, it’s a case of being a more informed consumer.

Organizations like PETA and the Leaping Bunny keep track of vegan and cruelty-free brands, but you should know that obtaining these certifications isn’t exactly common among the makers of lubes and contraceptives.  Otherwise, you can always check the ingredients list on your lube for ingredients like glycerin and your barrier contraceptives for casein (or ask the manufacturer).

Now, I know that some of you are waiting for me to talk about how barrier contraceptives contribute to our landfills and that no one knows how long they take to biodegrade. However, I’m not going to tell anyone to ditch barrier contraceptives as they’re the only things that protect against STDs.

via GIPHY

The only thing I’ll say is – DON’T FLUSH THEM DOWN THE TOILET! They’re really hazardous to marine life.

Okay, so this is how I’m pursuing a more ethical sex life, but now I’d like to hear from you. Are you trying to get a more socially conscious sex-life? How’s it going? Let me know in the comments section below.

 

This article, written by Emma, was originally published on LOTL and has been reprinted with permission. It contains some amendments for a UK audience.

How to recycle in Portsmouth Part 3: Recycling the unrecyclable again

Here at Shades of Green, we receive messages on an almost daily basis about how to recycle certain items and we really love it. You’re keeping us on our toes and getting our green brains to work that much faster, so thank you for that.

So far, Tamara has shown you how to recycle all that you can through kerbside recycling or at the various recycling banks across Portsmouth and she’s even improved on that in a blog about items that take a little more effort to recycle.

This month I (Emma) am jumping on her recycling bandwagon and showing you how to recycle some of the most unrecyclable items that I’ve found in my home.

 

Elastic Bands

Pile of rubber bands

Dear Posties of Portsmouth, why you gotta keep dropping elastic bands on the pavement? Uncool.

If you want to get rid of a surplus of elastic bands, you could donate them to your local library (as my dad does), schools, or any other underfunded community group that needs to do admin work. It’s not recycling, but it is reusing and that’s much better.

Bonus points awarded for picking up elastic bands you find on the street or asking your postie not to drop them on the floor.

 

Pringles Cans (other brands are available)

Four pringles tubes

Picture by Like_The_Grand_Canyon on Flickr

I definitely eat waaaaaay more Pringles than the average person. This used to make me feel bad because the cans can’t be recycled… Or can they?!

Shocker! The majority of the Pringles can is recyclable if you’re prepared to do a little work. Want to learn how? Check out this video!

The only thing that I would add is that you need to just use your fingernails to pull the non-recyclable inner lining of the Pringles tube away from the cardboard. It’s a bit like finding the end on a roll of tape.

The metal bottom and the cardboard goes in your kerbside recycling, the plastic top goes in the plastic recycling skip at Sainsbury’s,  and the only thing to go into the bin in the silvery plastic-paper-foil covering inside the can.

 

Pens

Picture of pens that can be recycled

Milton Cross School has recently launched a pen recycling scheme in conjunction with TerraCycle, a recycling company that we’ve spoken about a few times on this blog.
Milton Cross will be collecting all kinds of writing implements for recycling, except for pencils and crayons. This includes:

  • Any brand of pen
  • Felt tips
  • Highlighters
  • Tippex Pots
  • Mechanical Pencils
  • Eraser Pens

Deborah Mason at Milton Cross said that it’s part of the school’s drive to be more environmentally friendly. She said the school sees a lot of waste and they wanted to reduce this while also teaching the students how to be greener. The money raised will be donated to the Lord Mayor’s Charity.
If you want to recycle your pens with Milton Cross, you can drop the recycling off in their secure lobby and they are looking into getting collection points in other parts of the city.

 

Now, I’d like to hear from you. How do you feel about being able to recycle these items? Are there any other items that you would like to see Shade of Green attempt to recycle? Let us know in the comments and we may feature it in our next blog.

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 Vote

Today is the final article of our three-part ‘Adulting Mondays’ series where I (Tamara) attempt to demystify the upcoming local elections in Pompey.

In the last three weeks, we have discussed registering to vote and the role of the council and local councillors.  Perhaps you were inspired to email them a few questions or attended a hustings. Hopefully, you have an idea of who you are going to vote for this Thursday 3rd May 2018.

So let’s take a gander at the final part of the process – actually voting. The voting process is short and sweet – a bit like this blog post! Just follow these instructions:

(I am assuming you are eligible to vote and have registered to vote, as instructed two weeks ago. )

The Final Countdown

1. Locate your nearest Polling Station. To do this, check your Poll Card which has those details on it. Mislaid your poll card? Don’t panic Janet! Look it up on https://wheredoivote.co.uk

2. Rock up to your local polling station any time between 7am – 10pm on election day.

  • You do not need identification or your poll card to vote. I repeat you do NOT need ID or your poll card to vote!

Congratulations and celebrations! You made it to the polling station on the correct day and in time! And probably in the *rain/snow/sleet/sun (*delete as appropriate).

3. As you enter, you may see a few political party members with party rosettes waiting just inside the polling station. They may ask you for your polling number. They are not election officials and you are not obliged to give them these details. But please be nice, as they are activists and volunteers who are supporting their local candidates and political party.

4. Once inside the polling station, the election officials will ask you for your name and address. They will find you on the list and give you your ballot paper. If you are not sure of what to do, just ask them.

5. Go hide in the booth and mark an X in the box of your chosen candidate using the pen provided.

6. Do not take a selfie of your marked ballot paper. This is frowned upon, secrecy of the voting process and all that.

7. Put your ballot paper in the designated ballot box.

8. Congratulations, you have just voted!

9. Stride out safe in the knowledge you have exercised your democratic rights.

10. Feel smug for the rest of the day.

 

 

May the best candidate win and may the odds be ever in your favour! 😉

If you have any questions about the voting process, just ask in the Comments Section.

Ask Your Greens

Inspired by Portsmouth News’ ‘Letter of the Day’ encouraging voters to ask questions of their local council candidates, today’s blog post takes those same questions on air pollution, plastic recycling, rough sleeping and proportional representation and puts them to the Pompey Green Party local council candidates. 

Q: Where do you stand on pollution of the air, and what are your views on how to make our area clean air areas?

 

Mike Wines,
Fratton candidate:

Air pollution is the invisible killer in our city. If you walk down Kingston Road and Fratton Road or, indeed most of the all-too-many congested areas of Portsmouth and you can taste it and feel it in your nose and eyes.

In a recent article in The News, the current City Council leader announced plans to make Portsmouth “the Greenest City in the country”. This is interesting as they have yet to even produce their Air Quality Control Plan promised for last year Christmas 2017, let alone launch the e-petition Portsmouth Green Party along with other concerned groups under #LetPompeyBreathe submitted 2 weeks ago calling for the urgent production of said Air Quality Control Plan.

The introduction of “Boris bikes” is a welcome step but until the city has a clear network of safe and inviting cycleways cross the city it is but a gimmick.

At the same time as the Council want to turn us into the Greenest City, they are also working on plans for the Hard area to be a “little Manhattan” with the M275 entrance into the city inviting more and more cars. Does the word oxymoron come to mind?

For Portsmouth to truly be a green city we need:

  • A reduction in vehicles entering the city
  • A reduction/ban on diesel
  • A safe and clear cycle network and people to be encouraged to use it
  • More trees being planted and NOT cut down as at St James Hospital.
  • Our depleted green areas to be preserved.
  • An integrated public transport system using clean, green energy.

 

Ken Hawkins,
Copnor candidate:

Air pollution is one of the biggest health risks in the UK and nearly 100 people die prematurely every year because of small particulate pollution. Copnor Road is one of Portsmouth’s most congested roads, so I am a strong supporter of the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign to monitor and improve the city’s air quality.

Portsmouth City Council needs to urgently publish a draft Air Quality Action Plan for consultation. It has to give details on how air quality will be improved to safe levels and set specific targets and timeline.

I support the introduction of Clean Air Zones as they offer the fastest and most effective way to improve air quality across the city.

Tim Sheerman-Chase,
Central Southsea candidate:

Air pollution is a public health emergency and has been linked to a range of diseases, as well as shortened life expectancy. I’ve been involved with the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign which has focused on raising public awareness and holding the council to account. Portsmouth City Council needs to plan and implement effective solutions, which the current council has been reluctant to do.

One of the best ways to ensure air quality improves is a city-wide charging clean air zone, which levies a fee at the most polluting vehicles driving in the city. The money raised can go towards improving the walking and cycling routes, as well as better public transport. We also need to change our priorities in planning applications, moving away from car-centric housing and shopping developments, and towards a human-friendly urban environment. For more information, please visit the #LetPompeyBreathe blog and facebook pages.

Q: Regarding plastic – a very useful product but one that is being abused. Do you support the idea of the councils having a department in which this plastic could be recycled by using machinery that can grind the plastic into granules and then sold back to manufacturers?

Emma Murphy,
Hilsea candidate:

I heavily support the idea of the council having a department to recycle plastic and sell the material back to manufacturers as it would increase our recycling rate, provide jobs for the people of Portsmouth, and increase money for the council without raising taxes. Win-Win-Win.

Plastic waste is a blight on our beautiful landscape and something needs to be done, but I would also say that PCC needs to increase our recycling rate overall –Portsmouth has one of the lowest in the South East – by doing things like increasing what we can recycle at kerbside and put recycling bins in public spaces.

 

Duncan Robinson,
Nelson candidate:

I believe recycling in Portsmouth should be massively increased, to include food waste and carton collection.

In regards to the collected plastic, this should be recycled by using machinery that can grind the plastic into granules and then sold back to manufacturers, where there isn’t a more efficient recycling option. I also think that the use of single-use plastics should be stopped wherever possible.

 

bekkie KINGSLEY-SMITH,
st tHOMAS candidate:

It has become increasingly obvious in recent times how problematic plastic can be, with both mainstream and social media apparently recognising the issues it presents and the devastating damage it has on the planet, why has Portsmouth City Council not woken up to it yet? Ecologists have estimated that there will be no fish in the sea in a short 30 years, as sealife struggles to exist amongst overfishing and the tonnes of plastic that we empty into the oceans each year.

Increasingly frustrated by the perfectly recyclable contents of my green bin being rejected, I emailed PCC to query why I am still having to throw away roughly three-quarters of my recyclable plastic. I received no response. This is shockingly below par in comparison to other cities in the U.K. and needs to be addressed immediately.

As a seaside city, we should consider the ocean as an absolute priority. The idea of machinery that can grind up plastic and resell it to the manufacturers sounds like an efficient answer, this should both curb the number of plastics being produced from scratch and lessen the amount that would usually end up in landfill or wrapped around a defenceless creature’s throat.

Q: We have a problem with homeless sleeping rough in all our local areas. Should the councils be operating shelters and day centres to help these unfortunate people?

Stock Photo

Sarah Gilbert,
Charles Dickens candidate:

I am horrified by the increase in rough sleeping in the Portsmouth area.

I believe we need to ensure that not only are there sufficient hostel places in the short term but also that we look at long-term solutions to help people move into more settled accommodation with the necessary support. I do not believe that anyone should be left with nowhere to sleep.

 

Chris Jolley,
St Judes candidate:

Currently, it seems as though it is private organisations, individuals and charities that are making the real effort in trying to help those in dire need, with the current councils’ efforts lagging woefully behind.

Unfortunately, this seems to go all the way up to a Government level, but whilst we need an overall change in policy, we also need action much closer to the issues and this should undoubtedly be council led.

Tamara Groen,
Milton candidate:

Rough sleeping in Portsmouth has increased consistently over the past few years in a direct correlation to changes to the benefits system and cuts to essential local services such as mental health and domestic abuse support. In 2016, Portsmouth was one of the top 10 local authorities with the largest increase in the number of rough sleepers. This is unacceptable.

The council needs a proactive, person-centred approach to addressing the complex needs of those both experiencing and at risk of homelessness. The Green Party takes a “Housing First” approach which provides people experiencing homelessness with accommodation as quickly as possible – and then provides the services they need such as treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues.

To do this, we need an increase in council housing and to provide year-round shelter schemes, not just in the winter-time. Local charities and community groups have stepped in to assist rough sleepers in areas where the council is failing as those forced to sleep rough on the streets are often not considered a ‘priority’ according to the council criteria. Housing is a basic human right and I would push for an increase in council spending in this area.

Q: Would you support a form of proportional voting using any system that is fair but not the alternative vote which was soundly rejected during the Cameron-Clegg administration?

 

Bob Simmonds,
Baffins candidate:

There can be wisdom in crowds. Ask enough people with a wide experience of life and you may get a wiser decision.

Life is more complicated than Right vs Left. Politics needs to reflect this.

The First past the post system is simple and well established. For most of the past 100 years, it has ensured alternating Conservative and Labour governments. All other parties and political ideas are crowded out.

Proportional Representation (PR) along the lines of the Scottish and other regional elections would challenge this. It would give voice to a wider range of ideas and encourage representatives to work with each other and find a compromise rather than conflict. PR would also encourage more participation in politics and elections.
There should be no such thing as a ‘safe seat in Parliament’. There are too many of those at present, where it matters not who you vote for or whether you vote at all.

Every vote should count. Who could possibly be against that?

Menno Groen,
Eastney candidate:

The voting system we mostly use in the UK, first-past-the-post, often results in many of the votes being wasted, as well as complacent MPs in safe seats and disillusioned voters. Proportional representation would not only produce fairer and more balanced results, it also tends to produce higher turnouts.

The Green Party has long supported introducing proportional representation. As I’m originally from The Netherlands I’m very familiar with the Party List PR system, but I would support any fair and proportional system, such as the Single Transferable Vote (as used in Scotland’s local elections and Northern Ireland) or the Additional Member System (as used in Scotland’s parliamentary elections, Wales and the London Assembly).

First-past-the-post may have worked for the UK in the past, but fewer and fewer people are voting for the two largest parties and it is not fit for purpose anymore. Proportional representation, whichever system is ultimately selected, is the best way forward.

 

 

To find out more about the individual Green Party candidates, go to the Candidates page on the Portsmouth Green Party website.  And yes, for those eagle-eyed regular readers, candidates Emma and Tamara are also us, Emma and Tamara the Shades of Green blog writers. Busted! We decided to put ourselves out there.

And remember to tune in next week for the final instalment of Adulting Mondays, the election special where Tamara explains how to actually vote. Where is my local polling station? Do I need ID? Never fear, Tamara is here…on Monday!

Have you got any questions for the Green Party candidates? Or perhaps you have an experience of standing in an election. Let us know in the Comments section.

Local Government Demystified

Welcome to Part Two of a three-part series of Adulting Mondays where I (Tamara) attempt to demystify the upcoming May 3rd local election in Pompey. Today, I am exploring local council and councillors and what the flippin’ monkeys it is all about. So, prepare to be skooled, yo!

 Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin…

Welcome to Portsmouth…City Council

Portsmouth is a unitary authority which means Portsmouth City Council (PCC) is responsible for all local government services in Pompey. It basically does the jobs of-of a county council and a district council combined and is responsible for public services that affect our daily lives. Southampton is also another nearby example of a unitary authority.

Yes, Portsmouth is geographically in Hampshire but being a unitary authority is the reason you can’t use a Hampshire County Council library card in Pompey and vice versa. I’m looking at you Mr Rude Dude who aggressively shouted at a Central Library librarian because you couldn’t use your Hampshire library card to access the computers. Pssstt and boooo to you!

The different local services Portsmouth City Council deal with are numerous and include housing, recycling, waste collection and disposal, council tax billing and collection, environmental health, education, libraries and social services, to name but a few.

For example, do you have have a dodgy landlord? Rubbish not collected? Want more recycling facilities? Have a noisy neighbour? Tired of potholes on your route to work? Contact Portsmouth City Council and your three local ward councillors.

Here Be Wards (and Councillors)

‘What be wards?’, I hear you cry. Ok, lemme bruk bruk bruk it down for you:

The geographical area PCC cover is divided into two parliamentary constituencies: Portsmouth North (currently Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt) and Portsmouth South (currently Labour MP Stephen Morgan).

So, these two constituencies are each made up of seven electoral divisions known as wards. Nowt to do with hospitals! It is the role of local councillors to represent their ward and the interests of the people who live and work in that area.

To clarify – on a national government level, we vote for a local Members of Parliament (MP) who represent us and the constituency in Parliament. On a local government level, we vote for city councillors who represent us and our ward at the local council. It is this local level that I am focusing on in this series. (Shout out to all the League of Gentlemen fans who are now reading this in a creepy Tubbs voice.)

Anywho, in Pompey, we have 14 wards with three councillors representing each ward, with a total of 42 councillors (3 councillors in each of the 14 wards = 42. See – I can do smart!). Councillors can be independent or affiliated with a political party – totally up to them.

 

The Portsmouth North wards are Baffins, Copnor, Cosham, Drayton & Farlington, Hilsea, Nelson and Paulsgrove. The Portsmouth South wards are St Thomas, St Jude, Central Southsea, Eastney & Craneswater, Milton, Fratton and Charles Dickens.

 

The ward boundaries can seem pretty arbitrary, for example, I live in the Eastney and Craneswater ward but I live literally two steps from Milton market which is in the Milton ward. Therefore, I feel invested in both areas.

You can find out what ward you live in here and who your current councillors are here .

The four C’s… Council, Cabinet, Councillors and Candidates

Councillors are elected for a four-year term. The cycle of elections can seem a bit confusing but basically here in Portsmouth, a third of the councillors are elected every year over a four year cycle – with no elections in the fourth year.

At the moment PCC is a Conservative-run council as there are 20 Conservative councillors, 15 Liberal Democrat councillors, 2 Labour councillors, 2 UKIP councillors, 2 Independent councillors and one vacant seat. For the Conservatives to run this minority council, both the UKIP and Independent councillors lend them their votes. This effectively puts the Liberal Democrats in the Opposition.

The Full Council (all 42 councillors) elect the Leader of the Council (currently Conservative Donna Jones), and the Leader appoints the other members of the Cabinet – known as Executive councillors. Each cabinet member holds a separate portfolio or responsibility for a particular part of the council’s services, such as housing or education and is the spokesperson for that policy area or ‘portfolio’ they are responsible for. The Cabinet tends to be made up of the ruling political party – so for us in Portsmouth the Cabinet is currently made up of 9 Conservatives councillors. Scrutiny Committees are there to hold the Cabinet and Executive councillors to account and usually tend to be more politically-balanced and made up of non-executive backbench councillors.

Being a councillor is a pretty full-on commitment with tasks ranging from handling local constituents issues and concerns, dealing with casework and council business, developing council policy, working with council officers, scrutinising cabinet decisions and engaging with the community. Councillors are not paid a salary as such and many also have a regular day job, families and responsibilities outside of their role of councillor. They are paid a basic allowance of just over £10,000, travel and accommodation expenses and then extra for additional duties and special responsibilities such as being Leader of the Council, the Mayor or an Executive Cabinet member.

To find out who your local council candidates are for the upcoming election on May 3rd and to read their candidate statements: visit All About My Area. 

So, why not take five minutes to find out:

  • What ward you live in
  • Who your current local councillors are
  • Who your local councillor candidates are

And in considering who to vote for, why not contact your local councillor candidates to find out their opinions on issues that matter to you.  You can use this Portsmouth News  Letter of the Day ‘Ask candidates pertinent questions before you vote’ as inspiration.

Let us know in the Comments section if you have any questions about the local elections and council, and I will do my best!

Tune in next week for the final part of this series – How to Vote, yo!

Public Service Reminder – Register to Vote

As you may be aware, local elections in Portsmouth are coming up on May 3rd. This is the first in a three-part series of  Adulting Mondays where I (Tamara) pretend to be a grown-up and de-mystify local elections, starting with registering to vote.

So consider this your Public Service Reminder to register to vote!  To vote in the local elections in Portsmouth on 3 May, you need to register by midnight tomorrow Tuesday 17 April.

Don’t know how to register to vote? Too busy enjoying the sunshine (woop woop!) to Google it. Never fear, Tamara is here!

 

Tamara’s Guide to Registering to Vote

  • Register Online: With the registering deadline just over 24 hours away,  the easiest way to register to vote is to do it online: gov.uk/register-to-vote.
  • Personal Details: You will need to provide some personal information such as your name and address (obvs!), your nationality, your date of birth and your National Insurance number. Once you are registered to vote at your current address, you don’t need to do it again, unless you change address, name or nationality.
  • Congratulations, you have adulted on a Monday!

‘yeah, but….’

You say…I’m not from Portsmouth, Can I even vote?

Tamara says …To vote in a local government election you must:

be resident at an address in the area you wish to vote in
be registered to vote – well, duh!
be 18 or over on the day of the election (‘polling day’)
be a British, Commonwealth or EU citizen
not be legally excluded from voting

You say…I might be already registered to vote. Who knows?

Tamara says…If you are not sure if you are registered to vote at your current address, call the Portsmouth City Council Election Services on 023 9283 4074 and they can check for you.

You say…I’ve just moved house.

Tamara says…If you have recently moved, yes – you will need to re-register to vote at your new address. There is no magical updating system, a shame I know! But the registering system is pretty quick and easy, so don’t give me that crud excuse!

You say…I’m a uni student, where can I vote?

Tamara says…If you are a student, perhaps at the University of Portsmouth, did you know you can vote twice?!

Basically, if your home address is in a different local authority area to where you live in term time e.g. you are living in Pompey in the term time and your home address is in Southampton, you can vote in the local elections in both areas. This is my tip of the day, as I had no idea of this fact when I was at university. I always thought that was illegal. In local elections it’s fine! Who knew?! Not me!

 

‘But Tamara’, I hear you say, ‘it’s only the local elections so who cares? I don’t get local politics anyway. What do local authorities actually do? What do local councillors do? Are they the same as my MP? It’s all so confusing!! Ain’t nobody got time for that!’

Chillax, dear reader. Tune in next week when I attempt to break down the local council and upcoming local elections into tasty bite-sized chunks.

Prepare yourself for a series of me pretending to adult! Huaazh!

 

An Ode to Slugs and Snails

Today I found my first snail of the season. Nooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tracey and I (Tamara) were at Southsea Green, the community garden at Canoe Lake, where Pompey Green Party have a veg plot.  I was attempting to rescue some very sad-looking broad beans and enjoying pottering around in the sunshine contemplating my navel, while Tracey, infected with the spring season, cleared up winter detritus.

And there it was, slithering all over the broad beans, waving its tentacles in slimy delight…mocking me, daring me. I refuse to be intimidated by this threat that, quite literally, lacks a backbone. I did the only thing possible in the face of such defiance. I eyeballed it, plucked it from its unauthorised brunch and lobbed it over the fence. As it sailed majestically through the air, I could hear it calling, ‘I’ll be baaaaccckkkkkkk.’

https://www.instagram.com/p/Be01MfVDV8W/?taken-by=pompeygreens

 

Disclaimer: I am not a gardener or a scientist.  At least once a year, I desperately turn to the internet hive-mind for earth-friendly, chemical-free, organic solutions that ideally don’t involve snail murder. These are a handful of recommendations that stick in my mind which may or may not be urban (gardener) myths  – haha, did you see what I did there?!

So, here are my lazy-girl suggestions for eco-friendly slug and snail repellants that may or may not be effective!

Crushed Egg Shells:

I scatter crushed eggshells on the veg plot and in my garden and that my friends, is basically it! The idea is that it acts as a barrier deterrent and as a bonus, the eggshells add nutrients to the soil. Bonus – as I eat a lot of eggs, it is free!

Coffee Grounds:

When I am at Palmerston Road, I always collect a (free) bag of used coffee grounds from Coffee #1. My hubby also loves ‘proper’ coffee on weekends, so there is never a shortage in my household. As with the eggshells, I scatter the used coffee grounds around like environmental confetti and let it do its thing. It also doubles as a fertilizer and can also go in the compost.

Nematodes:

I invested in a 24 week-course of Nemaslug (nematodes) last summer. The application process is more involved than chucking coffee grounds onto the soil but apparently, it is more likely to actually work.  Nematodes are microscopic worms and a slugs worst nightmare and an organic gardeners dream. Lazy girl bonus – they post the nematodes to you. Lazy girl fail – I still have 2 of the four packs in my fridge from last summer.

Beer Traps:

I have tried laying out beer traps a few times and am just too grossed out by having to dispose of stinky slug corpses. Unrelated to the beer traps, last year I plucked a load of slugs and put them in a plastic bag to dispose of.  I promptly forgot about it and when I found it….it turns my stomach just thinking about it. If I were more on the ball, I think I could dispose of the dead slugs in my compost bin, but I don’t even like touching them. Sigh, I guess I just need to (wo)man up!

Copper Tape:

When I first started growing veg for my local slug and snails enjoyment, I tried copper tape around pots as a barrier deterrent. I was a complete beginner and I didn’t have much luck with gardening in general (some things never change!), so my lack of success was probably more to do with this than a failure of the copper tape.

Wool Pellets:

Around the same time as my foray into copper tape, I also tried using wool pellets. The fibres act as a deterrent as they are supposed to be uncomfortable for the snails and slugs to crawl over. The wool also doubles up as mulch and a weed suppressant. I dunno if it was effective, but I didn’t like the smell. Recently, I had some food delivered and it was insulated with wool liners. As my cat turned her nose up at her pure wool mat,  I’m gonna try using it in the garden instead.

Moonlit Hunt:

Forget going on a bear hunt, instead, why not grab your torch and head outside to hunt slugs and snails by moonlight. Ahhhh, how romantic!

 

Sling-Shot Sid:

And finally, just to be safe, I suggest you practice your sling-shot aim for the new Olympic sport ‘Snail Shot-Put’! The homing instinct is strong with this one, they need to travel at least 20 metres from their home patch, otherwise, they will be ‘baaaaccckkkkkkk.’

 

So dear reader, have you waged and won the war against these slimy soldiers? Let us know your hints and tips in the Comments section.

Please, I beg you….my sanity and summer depends on it!

 

 

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