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How to Cope with the Covid-19 Lockdown in (Green-ish) Style

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.


But first, an even bigger disclaimer than usual: 

1. Keep yourself informed on up-to-date UK Government advice as well as local Portsmouth City Council advice.

2. Ask for help. If you need assistance, please contact the Hive helpline: 

☏ Hive Helpline: 023 9261 6709

Hive are leading a coordinated local community response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Portsmouth and are working with Solent NHS, Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group and Portsmouth City Council.

You can also call the Portsmouth City Council dedicated helpline if you are in need of support during the coronavirus outbreak and can’t find help online:

☏ PCC Helpline: 023 9268 8004

For more informal help and support, join the online Facebook group “Portsmouth Coronavirus Support Group. This group was set up and is run by local people and members ask for and offer informal, ad hoc support. 

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! 


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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. 

Photo Credit: The Gender Spectrum Collection 

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.

Photo by Prateek Katyal from Pexels

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.) 

Keep connected

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.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Help others 

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.

Many thanks to Becky Wass who designed the Viral Kindness template and made it available and free to print, share and download online.

Offer your support

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

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.

Image by monicore from Pixabay

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.

Photo by Designecologist from Pexels

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.)

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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.

You can read a past post of ours on reusable menstruation products here and get reusable products from various small businesses. In the past, Emma has bought from Thinx, Ngozi Sews, Cloth Mama, and Age UK

cat figurine on toilet

Skip cat litter

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.)

Image by bluebudgie from Pixabay

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.  

A. + S. planting seeds in the lockdown using toilet rolls inserts.
Photo used with permission from their mum E.
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

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!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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.)

You can also access newspapers and magazines with another free library app Pressreader.

And finally (though, Amazon) we thought you might like to know that Audible is offering free selected stories for all ages. Take the free stuff and run! Run I say!

eBooks is an Ethical Consumer Best Buy e-book alternative to Amazon so why not give them a try instead?

Go outside (safely and if you can)

Tamara moved house just before Christmas (read about it here) and is super privileged to have a garden. After a good tidy-up, she has been chillaxing on a sunlounger that Emma kindly lent her.

The Dutchman’s regular exercise class with Portsmouth Outdoor Fitness has started live-streaming exercise sessions on Facebook and this morning he was burpee-ing away. Tamara drank coffee. 

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.

The Dutchman burpees
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Plant something

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!

Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

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.

Photo by Magdaline Nicole from Pexels

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. 

Be Kind

Image by reneebigelow from Pixabay

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.


Photo by Kelly Lacy from Pexels

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!


Written by Emma (l) and Tamara (r)
I’m Queer. I’m Brown.
And we’re both Feminists.

Reducing Food Waste: Eggs

A couple of months ago, my mum bought a couple of dozen eggs meaning to make cakes for her clients, but then caught a virus before she could do any baking. Soon, the virus was passed onto every member of the household, myself (Emma) included.

The smart thing to do at this point would have been to give the eggs away on an app designed to prevent food waste (i.e. Olio) or to a friend or family member, or frozen the eggs which apparently you can do if you separate the whites and the yolks. I could even have fed some eggs to my cat. But alas, you never know how long a virus will last. By the time anyone had recovered, it was well past the Best Before date on the carton.

A safety warning about eggs

Unlike most foods, eggs can be very dangerous if you eat them when they’re out of date and you should use your best judgement about consuming them yourself or allowing immunocompromised people to eat them. But, as with most foods, the Best Before date is only a guide. This means that you can often use them a little bit after the date and suffer no ill-effects, but my mum didn’t want to use them in her cakes in case it did make anyone ill – can you say lawsuit?

So our choices were to pretty much eat the eggs asap! As Oscar Wilde once said: “Eating an egg is always an adventure!”

via GIPHY

The trouble is that my dad doesn’t eat eggs – although he does like to complain about food waste – and my mother is out at least three nights every week. So here I am, eating roughly 45 ‘expired’ eggs on my own in a month. When I told Tamara this, she literally made a retching sound and said: “eww, eww, eww please shut up”.

At this point, I was more egg than person. I made a big batch of peanut butter cookies and ate some sort of egg dish every other day. It all came to a head about three weeks in, when I burnt two eggs and the yolks went mouldy in the frying pan – yes it happens! Before you ask, I did crack the eggs into a cup first and saw no problems.

I threw these out because… of course, I did. But there were still 5 eggs left in the box.

 

My mum suggested throwing those out, but I resisted, determined to find some way of using eggs without eating them. So, I turned to the internet. Some people joked that you could use rotten eggs to egg someone’s house – I hope that was a joke. Others were more helpful.

 

You can use apparently use a gone-off egg to help your tomatoes or eggplants grow – the shell will deter insects and provide calcium to the soil, while the egg will provide the nitrates needed for growth.

Egg whites can also be used as a proto glue, for craft projects. Another use is to provide a shiny coating for smaller ornaments.

For those of you who own leather products, you may also be interested to know that you can clean using egg whites. And for those of you with silver jewellery, you can use the yolks to oxidise your silver jewellery. I won’t bore you with the details, it’s a chemical reaction involving sulphur and… Hey, don’t click away, I’ll stop. If you do want to know more, just click here.

 

You can also use also use them as a strengthening and conditioning treatment for your hair because of the protein in eggs. Add a couple of drops of essential oils if you’re worried about the smell. Another beauty hack is using egg whites as an anti-ageing cleanser, which should also reduce puffiness, and egg yolks as a rinse-off moisturiser. Although, I should tell you that the idea of putting gone-off eggs on my face irked me out too much to try.

 

I hope this has helped those of you who find yourselves throwing away eggs to reduce your food waste. Let me know if you have any other tips for reducing food waste in the comments.

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.

Keeping Southsea Beach Clean

Most of the blog posts at Shades of Green are focused on the small changes that Tamara and I (Emma) are making to create a greener world (i.e. buying organic food or cutting down on water usage), but this month, we are highlighting the work of local community activists.

This time we are focusing on the efforts of Lara Skingsley, the organiser of the Southsea Beachwatch since 2015, who is helping to keep our beachfront free of litter through monthly clean ups with large groups of volunteers (sometimes up to 400!).

These cleanups, which take place on the first Saturday of each month, are part of an initiative by the Marine Conservation Society to keep all human-made rubbish (and recycling) out of our oceans while leaving natural materials in place to support wildlife.

Lara sat down with me in late February (via Twitter) to explain why she organises these cleans, what we can do as individuals to keep our seaside litter free, and what Portsmouth City Council should be doing to reduce the amount of rubbish on Southsea seafront.

Keeping Southsea Clean

Beach clean volunteers ❤️

A post shared by Southsea Beachwatch (@southsea_beach) on

Lara, a former student of Marine Environmental Science, explains that she’s always loved nature, particularly coastal wildlife, and wanted to do something practical to target marine pollution, which is why she got involved with the cleans.

She said: “Beach cleans ‘do good’ instantly, and help to raise awareness of environmental issues… As well as keeping Southsea looking beautiful, cleaning the beach of litter makes it safe for people, pets, and wildlife.”

Throughout the course of the beach cleans, Lara and her team have collected tens of thousands of items of rubbish – including a catheter and colostomy bag, a bovine skull, and an intact light bulb as large as a child’s head – but the vast majority of the waste is plastic, as evidenced in the 2017 Great British Beach Clean Survey.

Pie chart of today's beach clean and survey results!

A post shared by Southsea Beachwatch (@southsea_beach) on

Lara advises that there are many ways to reduce the amount of rubbish that ends up on the beach, but the most important would probably be cutting our dependence of single-use plastic, which is why she’s made the decision not to use any plastic straws, takeaway cups, or single-use plastic bottles in 2018.

The role of Portsmouth City Council

https://www.instagram.com/p/BSRyr5_Dr3d/

Another issue of key importance to Lara is what Portsmouth City Council can do to keep Southsea clean, from improving the designs of bins on the seafront (so that rubbish can’t blow out and wildlife can’t get in) to strengthening regulations on local businesses and construction projects with regards to waste disposal and secure storage of materials.

Lara said: “PCC should ensure that local construction and businesses keep their waste and materials appropriately secured. For example, recently an open skip next to South Parade Pier was left uncovered for weeks and despite people reporting it to PCC, nothing was done to cover it, so the material littered the beach. We also find a lot of disposable and novelty items, like take-out coffee cups, lids, straws, and balloons. Seafront business should be encouraged to be more responsible for the products they buy, sell, and throw away.”

Want to get involved?

https://www.instagram.com/p/BdnDwCWD64H/

Southsea Beach Watch is always looking for new people to join their ranks. If you’d like to get involved in one of the upcoming beach cleans, then check Southsea Beachwatch’s Facebook and other social media pages for upcoming dates (next one is 10am-noon on April 7th!), locations, and any cancellations/amendments due to inclement weather.

Yours truly tried to attend the March event, but it was unfortunately cancelled due to the Beast from the East. Good thing, I checked their Insta!

If you’re planning to attend and can bring your own thick gloves (the sort used in gardening) and/or litter pickers then please do, as Lara has limited supplies of both. She does provide bin bags for collection though.

Lara said of the volunteers: “I’m always inspired by the thoughtful and positive local people who join these cleans and who enthusiastically care about our shoreline and wider environment.”

What about if I can’t do those Saturday beach cleans?

Some of us will have other commitments on Saturdays (work, sporting events, etc) which make it near impossible to make Southsea Beachwatch’s events – I once couldn’t get a Saturday off to go to Pride, so I don’t think my boss would have let me take the morning off for this.

That’s why Lara recommends the Two-Minute Beach Clean; an initiative where you do what you can in the time that you have.

Waiting on the beach for a friend to meet you? Pick up some litter and pop it in a bin.

Walking home via the beach? Pick up any litter you spot as you walk.

Going to the beach? Volunteer to take the rubbish to the bin for your friends/family so that none of it gets dropped en route.

 

Now, dear reader, I turn the floor to you. Have you gotten involved in one of the beach cleans? What do you think we can do to reduce rubbish on our seafronts? And what should PCC do to combat the problem? Let us know in the comments section.

18 Green Resolutions for 2018

Every January, social media feeds are full of people pledging to run more often, learn a new language, or how to sculpt their eyebrows perfectly. I (Emma) can help you with none of those resolutions but if you want to learn how to be more green in 2018, then I have a few ideas of where to start.

Beauty

1. Bypass toiletries with microbeads: The UK Government has recently banned the use of microbeads (tiny plastics) in cosmetics/toiletries because they’re a big contributor to plastic pollution in our oceans. However, the ones that were already produced are still on the market. Don’t buy them! Need a good scrub? Look for products with salt or sand instead.

2. Save your bathwater: If you have a bathtub- even if you use the shower all the time- try leaving the bath plug in and save the water. You can use it to water the plants, clean your sports equipment, or even flush your toilet.

3. Turn off the tap: You’ve heard it before, but don’t leave the tap running while brushing your teeth, shaving your face, or removing your makeup.

FOOD AND DRINK

4. Meat-Free Mondays: If you’re not already vegetarian/vegan, consider cutting out the meat for just one day a week. Not only is it kinder to the animals but it’s also better for the environment because producing meat uses more energy and creates more greenhouse gases than a plant-based life.

5. Avoid clingfilm: Instead of keeping your food fresh with clingfilm, use reusable sandwich boxes or even put one plate on top of another.

6. Refuse straws: Many people don’t use straws at home but it’s a little hard to escape them when you’re out and about. Ask your server not to use a straw when you order a drink- you could even put a note in your purse to remind you.

7. Make it reusable: Not all plastics are created equally. A reusable bottle to fill up with tap water is going to be 100% better than disposable bottles. The same is true of reusable coffee cups because takeaway cups are hard to recycle and most end up in landfill.

Shopping

8. Refuse plastic bags: I know, I know. They already have the 5p charge on plastic bags so you’ve definitely got your reusable one on you at all times. The thing is that the plastic bag charge doesn’t go far enough. Smaller shops and takeaways are exempt from the charge, which means that the cashiers there often bag your purchases without asking. Produce your reusable bag before they start packing and let them know that you have it.

9. Cut down on packaging: When you’re shopping, look around for items with less packaging or packaging that is easily recyclable like buying loose fruit or snacks sold in cardboard boxes rather than plastic/foil wrappers.

House and Home

10. Print double sided: Many printers are still not set up to print double-sided automatically but very few documents will need to be printed on just one side.

11. Switch energy suppliers: If you want your energy supplier to use renewable energy and oppose fracking, then make the change to Ecotricity or Good Energy. Bonus: You can even get them to donate to the Green Party on your behalf at no added expense.

12. Use less energy: Whether its remembering to turn off lights when you leave a room, drying clothes on the line rather than in the dryer, or putting on a jumper rather than turning on the heating, everyone can do something to cut down on their energy usage. Find out what your energy Achilles’ heel is.

13. Go paperless: Sign up for online banking and get your statements delivered via the internet (remember to check them) and use your mobile devices to store your tickets (you can’t lose them if they’re in your email account).

14. Recycle more: There’s no doubt that Tamara and I love recycling and that we dream of living a zero waste lifestyle, which is why we’ll continue to show you how to recycle more on both the PGP blog and Instagram. If there’s anything that you don’t know how to recycle, ask us and we’ll let you know.

15. Use your dishwasher: If you have an energy-efficient dishwasher, then running a full load is actually less wasteful than washing by hand in terms of both water usage and heating.

Community

16. Cut down on car usage: A lot of public transport is overpriced (#RenationaliseTheRailways), but getting the train or the bus may actually work out cheaper than the parking prices in some parts and it’s much kinder to the planet. Try buying season/annual passes if travelling for work (ask your company if they offer loans to cover the initial cost) or buying in advance, using discount sites for one-off trips, and walking/cycling wherever possible.

17. Do a beach clean: When rubbish gets into the ocean, it gets into the sea life and into the human food chain. If you live near a beach, volunteer a few hours a month to help remove trash from the area. Pro tip: Take separate rubbish and recycling bags.

18. Join the Green Party: One thing that we can all agree on is that while individual green acts are important, the real change needs to come from government. By joining the Green Party, you can help fund the election campaigns for the next round of Green councillors and MPs to pressure the government into making Green choices that will make your eco-friendly life a little easier.

Now I want to hear from you. Are you going to adopt any of these resolutions? Do you have more to add? Let me know in the comments.

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.

How to Eco-Hack Your Bathroom

Do you know that the bathroom is often one of the least eco-friendly places in the house? With the average toilet flush using 8 litres of water and even the keenest of recyclers failing to properly dispose of their cardboard toilet rolls, it’s easy to see why.

With that in mind, let Emma tell you about some of the ways that we can make our bathroom greener without resorting to an avocado-coloured suite.

Recycling

Most people- even those who love recycling- only have one bin in their bathroom and everything goes in there; from tissues to shower gel bottles to cardboard toilet tubes. No one wants to go through the bathroom bin to sort the recyclables from the snotty tissues. That’s why I’d propose getting a small bin for recyclable items in your bathroom. For a quick reminder on recyclable items in Portsmouth, check out Tamara’s earlier post.

Waste

There are some who would advocate that the only waste in your bathroom should be… well… your waste (sorry). Although I’m not quite there yet, I wanted to share some nifty little tips for reducing your bathroom’s landfill contributions.

  • Install a bidet: The idea of a bidet is that you cut down intensely on toilet roll usage and there are now many companies who sell bidet attachments for your toilet. For those of you who are concerned about this upping your water usage, it actually takes far more water to create toilet rolls.
  • Cut down on disposables for cleaning: It is far better to use reusable cloths and toilet brushes with eco-friendly cleaning products than single-use items. All you need to do is wash them afterwards.

Water

 

Water usage is a huge problem in the family bathroom! The average shower uses 35 litres of water, while baths use around 80, and toilets use a third of all water in the home.

How can we tackle this?

  • Reusing water: Greywater is the term for water that is reused instead of going down the drain. Next time you have a bath, save the water and use it to water your plants, wash your car, wash any items that need hand washing, or even flush your loo (I’m not kidding).
  • Turn off the taps: This should be obvious but don’t leave your taps running while you’re brushing your teeth- it wastes 6 litres of water per minute.
  • Flush less: I’m not advocating that you take on the ‘if it’s brown, flush it down; if it’s yellow, let it mellow’ mantra (although I’d support you). However, we can cut down on our water usage for the toilet by installing a dual-flush toilet or converting your existing one into a low-flush toilet using one plastic bottle.

 

So those are some of my favourite eco hacks for the bathroom. What did you think about them? Do you have any more that you can share?

Let me know in the comments 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.

Why Pride is still Vital in 2017?

Welcome guys, gals, and nonbinary pals to a special edition of Shades of Green focusing on the LGBTIQA+ community, written by your friendly neighbourhood queer (Emma).

If you live in or around the Portsmouth area, you may be aware that Pride is happening tomorrow and the Portsmouth Green Party will be marching in the parade (for photos, check out our Instagram), so what better opportunity to explore why Pride is still important for the  LGBTIQA+ community and explore the Green Party policy on LGBTIQA+ rights?

What’s the point in Pride?

Pride gathers our community and our allies together in a show of solidarity, whether we’re fighting to change the law or the hearts and minds of the people. It can give closeted people the confidence to come out sooner or straight people the push to support our rights.

Pride is about standing up for your rights, the rights of your friends and family and the rights of the LGBTIQA+ community as a whole, because human rights are non-negotiable, no matter where in the world you live.

Some people, even those within the community, question the relevance of Pride in 2017 in the UK because being LGBTIQA+ is legal and acceptable now, isn’t it?

Well, I hate to burst your bubble but  LGBTIQA+ people do not enjoy full equality in the UK or anywhere in the world, according to Equaldex.

Photo by Christian Sterk on Unsplash

As of September 2017 in the UK:

  • Equal Marriage is still only partially implemented and is banned in Northern Ireland, Jersey, and seven overseas territories.
  • It is illegal to conduct a civil partnership in any place of worship.
  • Conversion Therapy, where a charlatan attempts to make an LGBTIQA+ person straight, is not yet banned.
  • Men who have sex with men are still effectively banned from donating blood because no one is abstaining from sex for a year in order to donate blood.
  • Married trans people require the written permission of their spouse to continue a marriage before applying for a gender recognition certificate.
  • There is no legal recognition for non-binary people.
  • There is no legal recognition for trans people under the age of 18.
  • There is no provision for the alteration of birth certificates for intersex people.
  • There are few protections for trans people to access services and gendered spaces (such as toilets, sporting facilities or hospitals) that match their affirmed gender.
  • A trans person’s birth certificate does not have the same legal standing as a cis person’s.

Even if, legally, we enjoyed the same rights as heterosexual and cisgender people, there is still the matter of implementation of such laws and discrimination.

  • 18% of UK people surveyed by Pew Research Center in 2013 said that society should not accept homosexuality.
  • Trans people are often forced to conform to stereotypical gender roles before being able to transition.
  • Trans athletes are often outed, subjected to humiliating treatment, or forced to endure medical exams in order to compete.

So what would the Green Party do?

The Green Party recognises that discrimination against LGBTIQA+ people is as bad as racism and sexism and must be challenged. We are determined to offer that challenge by strengthening anti-discrimination legislation to include LGBTIQA+ people and refusing any legal opt-out from discrimination laws, offering a better education about LGBTIQA+ issues, and providing more help to the LGBTIQA+community.

The Green Party know that LGBTIQA+ rights are human rights and they will support these rights. If you would like to know more about Green Party policy, visit their policy page.

3 Common Green Goofs and How to Fix Them

This series of blogs is entitled, “It’s easy being green” but sometimes it’s just as easy to mess up. Everyone makes mistakes and we can either beat ourselves up over it or we can work to reduce the problem.

In this blog, I (Emma) will explain how we can turn these trip-ups into triumphs.

1. Accidently Taking a Plastic Bag

While I’m sure that everyone reading keeps a stockpile of reusable bags in their car and has at least one in their purse/backpack, there are always times when we trip up.

Sometimes you’ll already be on your way to a barbeque or a dinner party when the host texts and ask you to pick something up at the last minute and you don’t have a canvas bag or you’ve been to Subway and you were so caught up choosing which cookie to have that you forgot to say “I don’t need a bag, thanks”.

So what can you do?
· Reuse the bag but if you’re already overflowing with reusable bags you probably don’t want to
· Donate it to a friend that doesn’t have an outstanding reusable bag collection
· Donate it to your local charity shop, as smaller causes don’t have the money to create their own
· You can also recycle used and broken carrier bags at most supermarkets

2. You bought bottled water

 

I know, I know.

You were in a rush when you left the house and your reusable bottle is still on the table. If you go back, you’ll be late for work but you can’t go without water until you get back. You’ll just have to stop into a shop on the way and grab a bottle.

Now you could reuse it but you already have a metal bottle and you’ve been scared by some of the unsubstantiated cancer claims on the internet. Regardless, you don’t want to just recycle it. What can you do?

DIY Water Filter

A Stiff Broom

Scooper

3. You ordered take-out and you’re worried about how to recycle the containers

 

I am as lazy as you and I love take-out; all kinds. But the packaging, oh no.

I’m eternally grateful that Portsmouth City Council will take chip-shop paper and pizza boxes as long as you don’t leave any food remnants on the packing (I have never left remnants of take-out in my entire life).

If you are a little worried about melted cheese on your paper and cardboard, then you can compost the -tear it up first or it will take ages to degrade; you can even soak it in a little water to speed up the process.

 

No compost bin? Not even at your local dump? You could offer it to local gardeners on Facebook. It helps to keep weeds down.

If all else fails, tear the top of the box off; it’s usually less greasy and can still be recycled. It at least cuts down on the waste.

If you have plastic boxes from your Chinese take-out, then they unfortunately cannot be recycled at the kerbside. Once you’ve washed them out, you can reuse them as lunchboxes and craft storage or if you order Chinese food as much as I do, you can recycle them at your local Sainsburys.

I hope that this has solved some of your common sustainability slip ups Have you got any other eco mistakes that you’d like help solving? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll try to answer your problems in a future blog.

This post was inspired by a post on my personal blog.