On Your Marks, Get Set, BAKE

THIS ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS TO GBBO EPISODE 7.

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This week saw The Great British Bake Off’s first foray into veganism and the Green18 team are overjoyed at the progressiveness. However, since the news of this development, I’ve been thinking about the motives behind the decision. According to the Evening Standard, Paul Hollywood explained: "We wanted something different and something to represent what was happening in this country. Veganism is something that seems to be growing. That's why it is in."

Courtesy of  @BritishBakeOff

Courtesy of @BritishBakeOff

This is all very well and good, and I’m in love with the amount of chat that has occurred on the show’s Twitter page to give publicity to the episode and therefore the lifestyle. However, doing some very minor research, I discovered that some responses were not so loving, and I began to think more about the attitudes that society still holds towards veganism.

I was motivated by the part of the preview where Noel Fielding told Kim Joy that she looked like she’d set foot in a few vegan restaurants, a comment undoubtedly provoked by her quirky appearance and behaviour. Harmless. As a disclaimer, by no account do I now hate Noel Fielding. He apparently suggested Vegan Week anyway. But his comment led me to think about the prejudices people hold against vegans – prejudices that cause people to claim that Vegan Week is a ‘load of old bollocks’ (please appreciate the sensible people responding to Stuart on this tweet feed).

It is interesting to me that people still consider ‘vegan’ to be synonymous with ‘weirdo hippy’. My own mother (hi, mum) said as much about me when I told her I’d stopped cooking meat...The prejudices that seem to have formed around veganism have done so, in my opinion, because this is the way that the trend has so often been presented. As with all exaggerated caricatures, there is some truth lurking somewhere. There are vegans out there who shove their views down the throats of whoever will politely listen. There are some who take their views to the extreme. There are some who think the lifestyle, for whatever reason, is the be-all-and-end-all. Presenting your views in this way is not okay regardless of what your lifestyle choice is. Here at Green18, we are firm believers in trying to get people to understand your point of view without presenting it as an all or nothing approach.

In this light, mainstream shows like The Great British Bake Off actively welcoming the idea of vegan alternatives is exponentially helpful to dissolving these prejudices, because they show that not every vegan is the type of person you want to avoid a lecture from while you chow down on a cocktail sausage at a party. It’s about making vegan food accessible instead of exclusive. It’s also about showing the potential that vegan food has. I’m still in shock that a meringue can be made without eggs, and I bet it tasted delicious as well. I had a vegan doughnut this weekend and it was just as amazing as all of the (many) doughnuts that came before it; I just ate a vegan curry without even realising; I bought Deliciously Ella’s plant-based cookbook a few weeks ago and I’m genuinely just excited to have new recipes to base my meals around, without even thinking that they won’t contain animal products. (Incidentally, is plant-based different from vegan, or is it a euphemism to stop people getting annoyed about the rise of veganism?)

I’m going to take a second to point out that I’m not vegan and would find it very hard to be. I just resent any criticism the choice receives when it’s being made with the best possible aims. Starting on the Green18 journey this year has been a massive shock to my meat-eating system but it’s also been a pleasant surprise. I’m now almost completely vegetarian, a statement I never ever thought I’d utter, and I often eat vegan meals without realising, as I did tonight. Green18 is all about taking the steps you think you can manage. It’s about not saying flat out ‘I can’t do that’, a la this lady being interviewed by the BBC 3 seconds in to the video on the right. So if you think you can only manage to cut your meat intake down to four days a week instead of seven, that’s wonderful. It’s better than nothing at all. If you think you can go full vegan, that’s even more wonderful. If you want to eat a cocktail sausage at a party, you do you. As long as we have programmes and documentaries and articles showing us what we can do to change, we can make informed choices. And hopefully, by presenting these choices in the best possible light, we’re working towards a point where people won’t judge you for them.

Maia GentleComment
Our Plastics: An Update
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Last night we experienced another almighty surge of emotion watching Drowning In Plastic (aired on BBC One, 1st October). If you don’t read any further, please at least go and watch it on BBC iPlayer and you’ll understand why we blubbed our way through it.

Following on the path laid by David Attenborough on Blue Planet II, Liz Bonnin presents this new documentary to show the impact of plastic on the natural world without muting the brutal truth of it.

She showed us the vast raft of plastic floating in the Citarum river in Indonesia where an estimated 2,000 tonnes of plastic flows by every day. Yes, this is destroying nature, but it is also ruining the livelihoods of people who rely on the river for an income and food. Maybe when we see the impact on these people and their families we will start taking serious action?

She showed us flesh-footed shearwater chicks being fed dozens of bits of plastic by their parents, leading to their untimely death. Some chicks have enough plastic inside them to match an equivalent of 10kg of plastic in humans.

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She showed us the impact of the fishing industry on marine wildlife, arguably the most harrowing scene in the whole documentary: a seal with a sever laceration to its neck caused by plastic fishing line. It is impossible for seals, whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles, seabirds and all other marine wildlife to free themselves from fishing gear once they have become entangled. They require teams of people to risk their own lives to save them, but this is unsustainable and doesn’t even cover the number of animals being affected by human fishing activity. Over a million tonnes of fishing gear is lost or dumped at sea every year. The way we fish has to change. This is where Drowning in Plastic offered some hope, recounting some brilliant stories of people across the planet with ingenious solutions to the global plastic problem, such as devices to release the rope and buoy of lobster crates when the boat is ready to pick up its catch, instead of leaving the ropes suspending for whales to get caught in.

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These are brilliant, but these solutions tend are focusing on cleaning up the plastic already lost to the waves. However, we now also need to focus on cutting our plastic waste to prevent needing to clean up the oceans for the generations to come, especially when our output is supposed to double by 2050. This year, the Green18 team have been steadily reducing our plastic output, but we are by no means saintly. We all need to work together and talk about what we each do and use to cut out plastic from our lives.

For example, we have cut down our disposable plastic in the bathroom down to only the plastic bottles for our toilet and shower cleaner from Method. The kitchen is a much bigger hurdle, as food packaging is such a difficult issue. We get as much of our fruit and veg plastic free from the major supermarkets or greengrocers as possible and we now actively shop around to get the plastic free option. We bake our own bread to cut out the plastic packaging (and, incidentally, the palm oil). But so much that helps us maintain our vegetarian (verging on vegan), palm-oil-free, locally-sourced diet comes in some sort of plastic. Elsewhere at home we have our deliveries coming in unwanted plastic; there are plastic cables everywhere; we have plastic in appliances, plastic bins, plastic fibres in our clothes, plastic in our instruments & board games; and plastic that I can’t even see, things made of plastic that I take for granted. Some of these can be avoided with suitable alternatives but so much of our plastic, whilst not single-use, is inherent in our lives.

So what can we do? We can focus on our own goals, start small and slowly work things into our way of life. We are no Miss Congeniality; we won’t bring global peace or solve world hunger by ourselves. All we can do is try not to get overwhelmed and make sure we do as much as we can to reduce the plastic we use and dispose of what we do use in the most reasonable way possible. This might mean spending a bit more or using some more time, but many of us can spare that extra pound or that extra minute to do the right thing. Encourage your friends, encourage your family and they will encourage others in return. We are one network of amazing people that can have a drastic impact on the plastic society we live in by making a small change together. It’s the only way we can help. Let’s do this!

If you have plastic free tips share them with us on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter or in the comments below and we can share them with as many people as we can!

Rufus SullivanComment
Your Peelings' Dark Side
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With all of the hoohah about plastic waste in the news over the last few months, you may be forgiven for thinking your food waste isn’t something you should be concerned about. Until relatively recently, I was not aware about the damage that some simple potato peelings can be doing to our planet.

What’s the problem?

When you put your food scraps in the bin, they end up going to landfill, where they don’t get the air that is needed to help them break down properly. This means food waste starts to break down anaerobically (without oxygen) and this causes the creation of methane – yup, the same as those pesky cow farts…

Methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. However, methane doesn’t linger in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide and is much rarer, meaning that, over a certain amount of time, it doesn’t pose as much of a risk.

Sadly, 97.4% of food waste goes to landfill and accounts for over 16% of all human methane emissions. Which leads us to talking about the importance of composting.

 

What can I compost?

There is so much that you can compost – almost all food and garden waste can be included. It is best to remember a few things when composting.

1.     Put things in as small as you can – the smaller everything is the faster it will decompose.

2.     Make sure you keep some things out of your compost bin:

a.     Meat and fish is compostable but it will create a terrible smell when the meat starts to rot and can attract all sorts of animals like rats and foxes.

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b.     Citrus peels and onions need some consideration before putting them in. The chemicals and acidity of them can kill the organisms that we rely on to break down the other food to make the compost. If you are making your own compost at home then find a nifty way to use them without throwing them away. If you are using your council food waste service, just put them in! However, if you are looking for some creative ways to use your waste, you can try candied citrus peels, save them for tea, or our personal favourite, infuse your own alcohol!

c.      Tea bags involve some synthetic fibres or glue (not all do – check your packaging!) and so can’t go in. But you can make sure to buy non-plastic tea bags or loose leaf to keep everyone happy!

d.     Dog and cat poo (as well as poo from other carnivores) contain micro-organisms that you won’t want to be put on your food crops so compost these separately! Horse, cow, rabbit, chicken and goat poo are all fine to go in!

e.     Cooked food is usually fine in your council composting collection but at home be weary because it can cause some unwanted smells and friends to join you in your garden!

3.     Try to keep a nice balance of ‘green’ to ‘brown’ items in your compost for the fastest breakdown. Green items are like food scraps and droppings, brown items are leaves, straw and non-glossy, untreated paper. This isn’t an essential step but it can make your garden greener quicker.

 

What if I don’t have a garden?

Many councils in the UK do provide a food collection service; you can check if yours does here. Please also check what food each council accepts as it may vary.

If your council doesn’t compost, you can get compost containers that are suitable for using in your flat or house without issues with smell or pests. I can’t personally vouch for these, but if anyone has tried one please let us know how you got on in the comments below or with a message!

 Whatever your situation, it seems everyone can cut out sending almost all of their food waste to landfill. It is also important to remember that this issue isn’t just caused by bad composting habits – most of the 7 million tonnes of food thrown away in the UK every year could have been eaten, so we also need to address food planning. By doing this, you will find that the amount of waste you produce is massively reduced before you even start composting!

Rufus SullivanComment
Albatross
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It seems Storm Ali has blown us back on course after our longest break yet… Even our website was informing us of how ‘idle’ we had become - for this we call on your forgiveness, and hope you will join us with our new beginning full of spring in step.

The rush of life comes at you out of the blue, getting in the way of blogging, tweeting, gram-ing, and facebook-ing just when you think everything is under control. A step into self-employed life was supposed to free up some of my time and make Green18 even more achievable, that didn’t happen. Despite giving ourselves a hard time, upon reflection, we didn’t forget our goals, we didn’t relax our targets, and we didn’t stop thinking about all of you amazing eco-warriors out there!

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We welcomed the kick back into action by the inspirational group - Glasgow Over Plastic. They hosted a public screening of ‘Albatross’ by Chris Jordan last night to a sell out crowd. The documentary was perfect for re-inspiring those on the journey towards the ethereal plastic free life, and showed harrowing footage of the hardship young albatross have to endure as a result of marine plastic pollution. Soon we will add this documentary on to our list because it really does show how far away your plastic waste can have an impact on innocent wildlife, we would implore you all to watch it.

The night also featured representation from the Marine Conservation Society and Keep Scotland Beautiful making it the perfect night for those starting on their plastic free journey, or even those like us who needed shaken back to reality. The turn-out to the event showed us that there are so many people like us out there doing our own little bit, and that there are some amazing opportunities to get involved to make an even bigger change. Don’t get disheartened if you have a quiet month (or two!) you will get back in the swing of things before long, and you will continue to be part of the millions of people all making small changes towards the future of our planet. You may even be that person that inspires another eco-warrior back to the fight.

P.S. Kimberley was a raffle winner which may have made the night that much better too…

Peace out Green8eam!

Rufus SullivanComment
Battling With Whaling
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On the 12th of July, there were reports and photos that a whaling company in Iceland had hunted, landed and begun to butcher a blue whale. The blue whale is the largest animal that has ever set foot (or fin) on planet Earth, growing up to 30 metres long and weighing up to 173 tonnes. Whilst it can be found all over the planet in every ocean from pole to pole, it is estimated that there are only between 10,000 to 25,000 and are included as an ‘endangered’ species on the IUCN’s Red List. This number is in sharp relief to the estimated 250,000 to 350,000 that were roaming the oceans in the 1800s before the whaling industry took off.

In the mid-19th century, technology hadn’t advanced quite enough for fishermen to catch the faster species of whale, such as the blue whale or fin whale, and instead more sedate whales such as right whales were targeted. Once explosive harpoons became available, there was little stopping the hunters from targeting whatever whales they wanted. It made the most economical sense to start with the largest whales, so blue whale and fin whale populations dropped dramatically. Fishermen then changed target because the population sizes became too small for them to successfully hunt enough. It wasn’t until 1946 that the first quotas to limit the trade of whale products was introduced, and it then took until 1986 for the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to ban all commercial whaling, over 100 years after the beginning of the trade.

Today, only a handful of countries continue to hunt whales and this has led to the beginnings of a recovery in population sizes of these wonderful creatures. However, countries like Iceland, Japan and Norway have continued to hunt whales. Iceland originally joined the IWC, leaving in 1992 only to return in 2004 with an objection to the moratorium (or prohibition) of whale hunting. In 2006, commercial whaling resumed with the hunting of fin and minke whales. Norway uses a loophole to avoid the whaling moratorium and continues to allow the hunting of up to 1000 minke whales a year (although it must be noted that less than half of this quota is used). Japan, has a ‘scientific’ whaling fleet that allows them to catch 200 minke whales, 50 Bryde’s whales, 100 sei whales and 10 sperm whales every year for ‘research’. Once this research has been carried out, the meat can be sold on to the market, leading to a lot of doubt about the innocence of their intentions.

These hunts are all within the terms of the international agreement, irrelevant of whether we all agree with any hunting at all. The issue arising from Iceland's recent slaughter of a blue whale is not only the death of a whale but the death of a protected whale. The argument from the IWC's side is that the whale is a blue and fin whale hybrid, which does exist although it is rare. DNA tests have since concluded that this was indeed a blue/fin whale hybrid meaning the whalers are unlikely to face any repercussions. However, this hybrid status also means the meat can not be exported to Japan for financial gain - but was it exported and sold before the declaration of hybrid status? I guess we might never know. 

It is time that these countries no longer supported the hunting and trade of some of the world’s most majestic animals. Instead, why not continue to support and develop the tourist industry that whale watching supports? This industry is worth $3 billion to the global economy every year and, in a whale hunting nation like Iceland, around 25% of tourists head out on a whale watching excursion whilst in the country (I did when I was there - see photos). It seems utterly logical for those who spend their time catching whales to instead utilise their boats and skills to make money showing people these beautiful animals in their natural habitat. The whale hunting industry is the minority. To replace it with something that is just as profitable but also educational like whale watching, we would take one final step to eliminating this butchery.

Making this problem worse are the countless other examples of this sort of butchery in other marine mammals like herding of dolphins and porpoises to their untimely death (as seen in The Cove), or hunting sea otters to near extinction for their fur, to poaching of protected blubbery manatees. On top of this you have a multitude of other animals and plants being exploited for quoted medicinal or remedial properties that have never been scientifically proven. Hopefully soon we will learn, as a species, that nature is best when it is flourishing - not when we are making some quick cash from it. 

Rufus SullivanComment
The Jaws Effect

So I am going to start this article by pointing out that I have considered myself to be scared of sharks for a long while. But I added this introduction after I had researched the topic a bit more, because I have realised that I am scared of sharks in the way that anyone can realistically create an argument for being scared of something that could kill you. I believe the fear of animals like sharks is a fear of being killed, not fear of the animal itself.

http://www.keeblecare.co.uk/the-worlds-deadliest-animals/

http://www.keeblecare.co.uk/the-worlds-deadliest-animals/

My research immediately led me to the discovery of the danger sharks actually pose, having seen a chart of the world's deadliest animals - which does include sharks, but as the cause of a tiny fraction of worldwide deaths per year. It led me to think about where this culture of terror came from and how it is being perpetuated. You certainly don't see any horror movies about mosquitoes or the tsetse fly.

I think we can all assume that this culture started with Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg in 1975 and now widely considered to be one of the best films of all time. Film directors of Hollywood have taken the idea of this film and have run with its success, going on to make a plethora of movies for the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st. Now we've got the likes of The Meg, which inspired me to think about this issue. We've got Deep Blue Sea, Deep Blue Sea 2, The Shallows, 47 Meters Down and Sharknado, not to mention all of the Jaws sequels (2, 3D, Jaws: The Revenge). The more I think about it, I realise that these films are obviously scary, because they're imaginary and exaggerative: they're basically science-fiction. Watch the first 20 seconds of the trailer for The Meg below for support of this. The 'animal' they're portraying is a monster, not a shark at all, as are most of the sharks in these films. They might make perfectly entertaining horror movies if you like that sort of thing but they are damaging perception towards the animals on which they are based. I'm not saying go swimming with great whites and have no fear, I'm saying acknowledge that this culture of terror is growing vastly out of proportion to the real danger. For example, if you happen to be on a submersible at any point, I'm fairly certain a 70-foot (?!) monster is not going to try and break into it to eat you.

 

This article is inspired by the forthcoming release of The Meg, the trailer of which you can watch/laugh at above.

 

"Not long after his novel Jaws was published, Peter Benchley acknowledged its 'inadvertent tapping of a profound, subconscious, atavistic fear in the public, fear not only of sharks but of the sea itself'. The raw nerve he touched was not a new phenomenon: sharks have had an image problem since humans first ventured down to the sea. But attitudes have changed over the four decades since Jaws. Research has revealed sharks to be remarkably sophisticated animals, and only a handful of more than 500 known species have the propensity to bite people. Before he died in 2006, Benchley himself remarked that 'the shark in an updated Jaws could not be the villain; it would have to be written as the victim, for, worldwide, sharks are much more the oppressed than the oppressors'." (from Discover Wildlife)

Indeed, according to National Geographic, for every human killed by a shark, humans kill approximately two million sharks. Go to Rufus' shark article to read more about this, but I think it's safe to say we pose more of a risk to sharks than they do to us.

We know that sharks are responsible for fewer than 10 deaths a year worldwide, on average - so much fewer than many other animals that we consider to be deadly such as snakes, crocodiles and big cats. They also cause many fewer deaths than animals we never even consider, like dogs, cows and horses - and other humans, come to think of it. Let's also consider how much less likely it is than we come across sharks as well, particularly those pesky great whites that seem to get all the blame. We have to physically enter a shark's habitat, often for the pursuit of leisure, before we're even at risk. How perverse is it that we're villainising a creature for approaching us in its own environment?

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Many of the attacks result in bites because sharks bite prey to test the taste before they decide to eat, and the result of this is that they then swim away because we do not taste good. If this does happen, it's probably out of defense, curiosity or confusion: we're in their space and they're either defending their territory or they confuse us for their typical prey. Let's also just take a minute to note that it is not necessary for contact to be made between a human and a shark for it to be deemed an attack, 'artificially amplifying the numbers'.

Not only is this a culture of terror, then, but a culture of blame and misplaced responsibility. There are anti-shark protection devices everywhere. I remember hearing last year about a device being developed to be attached to surfboards to deter sharks. Having done some research, I have found that device, which is called Rpela. I also found one called Ocean Guardian, which is powered by 'Shark Shield' technology. Both of these are a kind of rubber mat that can be stuck onto the bottom of the surfboard - but don't worry, they don't cause any inhibition to your surfing! This is the latter's unique selling point:

Sharks have short-range electrical receptors in their snouts used for finding food. Shark Shield’s patented technology creates a powerful three-dimensional electrical field which causes unbearable spasms in these sensitive receptors turning sharks away, including Great Whites.
— https://sharkshield.com/

Watch the effect of ‘unbearable spasms’ at 1.25

I'm just going to highlight 'unbearable spasms' and leave it at that. 

My selfish human brain first thought how clever these developments are, and then I remembered that we're literally forcing animals away from their preferred natural environment for the sake of leisure. Yes, I understand people like to surf and, no, I'm not really sure how to get around the situation when unprotected surfers are at risk of attack, but how many times do we need it proven to us that we have no right to interfere with nature for the sake of our 'betterment'? How's this massive climate-change induced heatwave treating you? I digress.

The more I have read about sharks, the more I have become amazed by them. I have never seen an animal more designed to kill: a sense of smell that can detect a drop of blood from miles away; internal ears that can hear movement from 3000ft away at frequencies below the detection of human hearing, even from inside their heads; and a sense of electroreception that can detect prey even when it's motionless under the sand. The point is that sharks are designed to kill, but they're not designed to kill us. The sooner we realise that, the sooner the villainisation and the pointless slaughter will end. 


Food for thought:

Ocean Ramsey believes she can tell the anti-Jaws story: small blond girl in a bikini, big shark - but somehow, in this situation, everyone ends up just fine. Even enlightened. As a shark researcher, she and Juan Oliphant have been working on the North Shore to redefine the world's perceptions of sharks.

Shark Conservation Society

Shark Trust

Project Aware (sign the petition to stop the uncontrolled fishing of mako sharks here)

Maia GentleComment
Sharks are friends. Not food.
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Every year, over 100 million sharks are being killed. That is the same as the number of people in the UK and Canada combined being needlessly killed for food, killed for medicine, killed by pollution, killed by mistake, killed out of fear.

The all-time classic film, Jaws, is the 9th highest grossing film of all time (once inflation has been accounted for) and is regarded as one of the best films ever made. But one unintentional effect of the film was the instilling of fear and hatred towards one of the ocean’s most glorious animals.

Since 1958, there have been 439 fatal shark attacks on humans, which averages at around 7 people per year. This is fewer than the number of people killed by the hippopotamus every year. It is also fewer than the number killed by horses, which kill around 20 people per year, and cows, which kill 22 people per year in the US alone. In the UK, we have 21 species of shark and millions of individuals, but we have never had a recorded attack on our shores. Despite this, people see footage of a 9ft blue shark that has strayed into coastal Cornish waters and begin to panic. It is sad to say but the animal you should be much more fearful of is us – Homo sapiens. We kill over 475,000 of our own species every year…  

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The fishing industry is a big killer of sharks. As with dolphins, millions of sharks are unintentionally caught every year, either accidentally getting tangled in fishing nets and gear, or being attracted by the struggling fish and suffocating after becoming trapped. The best way to reduce this happening is by reducing the seafood in your diet: less fishing will lead to less demand and fewer consequent shark deaths.

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We must also consider the shark fin trade, which is responsible for up to 75% of all sharks killed. Fishermen catch the sharks, quickly butcher off their fins and then throw the living shark back in to the water to suffocate. These fins are used for shark fin soup, a dish extremely popular in China and the surrounding region which is part of an industry worth up to $1 billion every year. This trade is already banned in many western territories but more needs to be done. In other countries like Thailand, campaigns to raise awareness of the damage this trade is causing have resulted in 25% reductions. Education is key! You may never even consider eating shark fin soup, or you may be ambivalent towards sharks, but it is down to each and every one of us to spread awareness of the devastation that shark finning causes.

A final big killer of sharks is pollution. This is all down to us, shark fin soup or not. Plastic, chemicals and other waste are causing havoc for all species in the ocean. We all know about the plastic problem and are starting to make a change, so I won’t add more to the conversation for now. The important thing is not to become immune to the news and continue working to reduce our consumption and use of plastic products.

Getting involved is the best way to help sharks, so get online and learn about these wonderful creatures, where they live, how little they want to come near your scary human self and then spread the word about them! Download the Shark Trust’s ‘Eggcase Hunt’ app to get involved as a citizen scientist to help save sharks and rays. Stop creating plastic waste. Reduce your fish diet and buy responsibly. Adopt a shark or donate. If we all do that then sharks are saved! Easy, right?

Rufus SullivanComment
Zero Waste, Zero Problem
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Today I would like to tell about one thing which has been on my mind for a very long time. It really makes me think that each of us can have a real impact on helping our environment. This is a zero-waste lifestyle. So many times in my life, I have heard things like: “One person can’t change the world” or “It doesn’t matter if one person recycles or not”. And to these things I always have one response, taking the form of my favorite quotes:

Be the change you want to see in the world
— Mahatma Gandhi

This change was firstly inspired by two TED talks I watched on YouTube, which have completely changed my point of view. I would really recommend you watch them. 

I am so inspired and excited that I can do something so simple for this world and live in alignment with my beliefs. Now I am preparing myself for a zero-waste challenge starting in September. I’ll give you some information below and hopefully you’ll think about joining me.
 

What is the zero-waste lifestyle?

The zero-waste lifestyle is basically not sending anything to the landfill. This is very simple and natural; however, it’s necessary to be prepared. So how am I going to do it in September?

In my opinion, small but systematic steps will be easier, because changing your lifestyle is quite a big thing to achieve. To reduce our waste, we need to understand what it is first. In most cases, the biggest part of our waste is food packaging, product packaging and organic waste. So how do we deal with them?

The zero-waste lifestyle has five basic rules:

1.     Refuse
You refuse all things you don’t need to purchase. Do you really need to take that pen from your company event? Do you really need to get that Lidl weekly magazine? This is also about the junk mail or any free samples we accept. Start saying “no” to unnecessary production.

2.     Reduce
You reduce what you already have. I am sure you are aware that we don’t need 90% of things we have at home. Take peace of mind from the minimalist style! In doing this, it is easier to focus on the quality instead of the quantity of the things we have.

3.     Reuse
Use reusable and sustainable alternatives such as material bags, glass jars, metal bottles and cutlery, and wooden cleaning products. Reusing is also about buying second-hand. You don’t put new products into the waste cycle when you buy in charity shops or eBay. Second-hand is a great money saver as well!

4.     Recycle
Recycle only what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse. The zero-waste lifestyle calls for you to recycle fewer products more often. In addition, using better materials such as glass, metal, cardboard, paper has a lower impact on the environment.

5.     Rot
Learn how to compost fruit, vegetables and floor sweepings correctly.


I am going to take it easy for the first few months and then introduce more rules. Start with small steps - maybe buy a reusable bag? Or maybe if you're creative you could start by making your own cosmetics? I am starting with packaging, and here's my advice:

Food packaging:

a)     Learn how to shop in bulk: all you need is reusable bags and containers for food. You will also need to find zero-waste shops nearby, where you can take your own containers and buy flour, rice, cereal, pasta etc in bulk. It also saves money because you don’t pay for the packaging when you buy in this way!

Products available from: https://wildminimalist.com/collections/market/products/zero-waste-starter-kit

Products available from: https://wildminimalist.com/collections/market/products/zero-waste-starter-kit

b)     Buy package-free. Only choose products that don't come in packaging. There are still lots of fruits and vegetables packaged in plastic, but fortunately this is changing. Recently, Aldi and Lidl introduced packaged-free bananas and Sainsbury does almost half of the vegetables package-free.

c)     Click here to find the best zero-waste stores in the UK, such as New Leaf Co-op in Edinburgh or Locavore in Glasgow. I recommend using it to look for places near you - there could be one right next door and you've never known!
 

Product packaging

Product packaging is a bigger problem because the products we use every day - cosmetics, toothpaste, cleaning products - are all packaged in plastic. The only way to deal with it is to learn how to make your own, which requires our sacrifice and time. However, it also has big benefits for your health and body, because it is purely up to you what you put in these products to make sure they aren't chemical or harmful.
 

Small steps make a big difference. Just go forward and think naturally.

Citizen Science for the Big Butterfly Count
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Most of our #Green18 challenge can be tackled every day in everything you do – but Step 16 is different and can get lost amongst the other 17 steps. Becoming a Citizen Scientist relies on external factors like travel and your proximity to nature, but getting stuck in sounds more difficult than it really is. In this time of constant technology and information overload, it has never been easier to reconcile science with the natural world around us. There are so many apps, websites and people out there that will help you to get involved if you do a little searching. You can hunt mermaids’ purses, watch birds, spot seagrass and, this week, you can count butterflies!

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As President of Butterfly Conservation, Sir David Attenborough has just kicked off this year’s #BigButterflyCount, which aims to beat last year’s record of 60,000 participants joining together for the world’s largest butterfly count. This sort of collaboration between science and the public is so important for collecting lots of useful data from wide areas in a short amount of time. For each of us, it will only take 15 minutes but, for the scientist team that are behind the research, it will save over 15,000 hours of recording (almost 2 years of non-stop butterfly counting!). As well as helping scientists, you are also helping yourself. For one thing, getting out in nature is known to have extremely positive effects on your mental wellbeing, alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety – so there really is no excuse to avoid getting involved.

Our news editor, Kimberley, bonds with a butterfly in Berlin

Our news editor, Kimberley, bonds with a butterfly in Berlin

Why butterflies?

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In the UK, there are 59 species of butterfly, with another five that have become extinct in the last 150 years. But over the last 40 years, 76% of butterfly species have declined in abundance and/or occurrence and this is primarily due to humans. These beautiful insects are vital parts of everyone’s garden ecosystems, both as their fluttering winged selves and also as caterpillars. Just like bees, they are important pollinators, especially of plants with larger flowers. They are also important for supporting predators and parasites (which are sometimes species specific!).


How do I get involved?

  • Download the free smartphone app for the Big Butterfly Count (for iOS and Android)

  • Download your free guide from the Big Butterfly Count website

  • Get outside and get counting!


It is as easy as that! Whilst you are at it, you can also take some photos of the species you spot in your garden, and share it with us and Butterfly Conservation to show us how you are getting on with your contribution to Citizen Science!

Rufus SullivanComment
The Bees' Needs
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This year, more than ever, we have been hearing about our best friends from down in the garden – the bees. We have already had an amazing celebration of these modest superstars with World Bee Day on the 20th May and, this week, it's Bees’ Needs Week, coordinated by the government’s DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). Having these periods of celebration are vital to raising awareness of animals that are integral in allowing us to keep trundling along on this planet, and this week has inspired me to learn more about our most important pollinators.

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In the UK alone, there are more than 250 species of bee buzzing around, which is staggering to think about when almost all of us would picture the generic bumblebee image when we think of bees. In fact, there are even 24 different species of bumble bee on our little island! Some species of bee work together in large colonies but the vast majority live as solitary bees. These bees live without a hive, don’t produce honey and have no queen, but are up to 120 times more active as pollinators than worker honeybees.

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What is pollination?

In order to reproduce many plants require the transfer of pollen (which produce the male sex cells) from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) and a pollen tube grows toward the ovary allowing sperm cells to travel and fertilise the plant. This will then turn into a seed. There are several different methods of pollen transfer from stamen to stigma including using an animal medium – like bees.

Pollination is what makes bees so indispensable. Wildflowers are especially reliant on bees for pollination to allow them to reproduce. Without bees, many species will decline in abundance, further affecting the numbers of bees in a self-perpetuating downwards spiral.

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It is estimated that the global production of food that depends directly on pollination is worth as much as $577 billion every year and is integral to the economies of many countries. This couldn’t be more true in the UK where agriculture accounts for around 70% of the land area and pollination of crops is worth around £1.8 billion. Over the last 50 years, we have seen the number of crops that rely on pollination triple, leading to this economical dependence on bees.

However, almost 10% bees are facing extinction and another 57% has no population data whatsoever. In recent years, bee losses have been seen across the planet; in 2016, an average of 12% of bee colonies perished in Europe whilst, In 2017, bee losses had reached 33% in the USA. This means that, as the need for pollination for crops around the world is on the rise, availability is on the decline, resulting in what has been called the ‘pollinator crisis’. 

Over the next few weeks and months, I want to dig a bit deeper into the causes for all of this decline, which has thus far been attributed to mites, disease, pesticides and chemical use, invasive pests, urbanisation, global trading in low-quality honey and, of course, climate change.

For now, please watch the video above and do some research of your own to see how you can get involved in protecting the #BeesNeeds!

Rufus SullivanComment
Strawberry and Banana Breakfast Bars

Taken from Running with Spoons

Ingredients:

For the jam:

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  • 350g frozen strawberries
  • 30ml maple syrup
  • 14g chia seeds
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the bars:

  • 160g rolled oats (divide into 2 portions)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 medium-sized ripe bananas, mashed (roughly 200g)
  • 60ml maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

Make the jam:

  1. Put the strawberries and the maple syrup into a saucepan and heat until the fruit begins to melt. Once the strawberries are soft, bring the mixture to a boil, and start to break them down with a spoon. Continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes until the mixture thickens. 
  2. Then stir in the chia seeds and vanilla and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Allow the jam to cool - it will thicken the longer it sits.

Make the bars:

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  1. Preheat oven to 190C and line a tray with baking foil.
  2. Place half of the oats in a food processor or blender, and process into a fine flour. Transfer this into a large mixing bowl, and add the remaining rolled oats and baking powder. Mix well.
  3. Add the mashed bananas, maple syrup, and vanilla extract, and mix until everything is well combined and a dough is formed.
  4. Transfer 2/3 of the mixture into your prepared baking pan, using your fingers or a spatula to ensure that it is pressed down tightly and evenly. Spoon chia jam over the surface, and use a spatula or knife to spread it evenly, making sure not to spread it all the way to the edge so the jam doesn't burn in the oven. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture on top, breaking up bigger chunks and pressing down lightly.
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes until the top turns a light golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to fully cool in pan before cutting into squares.

vegan | refined sugar-free | gluten free*

*Be sure to check the oats


Things to note:

You'd think that starting to work full time in an office would coincide with me starting to get my shit together. Nevertheless, in the spirit of getting up at 8.15 and leaving 20 minutes later, I have started eating a snack-type breakfast with a cup of tea once I get to my desk. For the last few weeks, I've been buying cereal bars, but this isn't only against my plastic reduction aims, it's also not the healthiest option.

Cue scouring Pinterest for healthy breakfast bar alternatives, and these were pretty good ones to start with. 

They're not cereal bars as we know them, but how many of these recipes have ended with me saying 'oh my god, this tastes exactly the same as what I'm trying to replace'? The oaty part is quite chewy because of the banana but it means they're very moist (sorry, sometimes there's no avoiding that word). They're not sweet as we know it either, but it's super comforting to think that they don't contain sugar as such, even though there is quite a lot of maple syrup involved.

From a technical perspective, I used two quite large bananas, which is more than the recipe calls for and I therefore had to add more oats to compensate, but I basically just added enough to make the dough drier and it worked fine as far as I can tell. I also used a rectangular tin, which meant all of the dough went to the base with none left to spare for the topping. I used plain oats on top instead. 

All in all, I would definitely recommend these. They're super easy to make, which means it didn't seem like a total chore to make them on a Sunday afternoon, and they're a filling and tasty way to start the morning. 

Maia GentleComment
Trumping the Paris Agreement
http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/328356-businesses-pressure-trump-to-stay-in-paris-climate-deal

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/328356-businesses-pressure-trump-to-stay-in-paris-climate-deal

The Paris Climate agreement was a pretty big victory in our struggle to beat climate change. The UN established the framework in 2016, and it transformed the way we fight for our planet. 

The predecessor to the Paris Climate agreement was the Kyoto protocol, which was a legally binding set of environmental targets. Unfortunately, the sad result of making the protocol legally binding was that countries set targets that were not particularly ambitious. However, this is not to say that the Kyoto protocol didn't achieve anything, it was just not the right approach at the time. 

Kyoto offered very limited support for newly industrialising countries to assist them in reducing their emissions, and adapting to climate change. This became known as ‘climate justice’, and was a significant criticism of Kyoto, because the deal hit emerging industrial economies hardest. It does seem slightly hypocritical to prevent countries from using the same technologies we have been using for the last century to industrialise, because (conveniently) we can now afford to concentrate our efforts elsewhere...

Enter the Paris Agreement. The first of its kind. An astounding unanimous decision made by 195 governments for a better shared future. There is something beautifully optimistic about the Paris Agreement. However, this optimism is perhaps where all its criticism stems from.

It was definitely a necessary change in tone from its predecessor. The aim of the agreement is to work towards the long term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels (it took me a couple of times to get my head around that). This is by no means an easy target to achieve, but it is an achievable target.

The Paris agreement put in place a flexible framework to allow countries to develop their own climate strategies. This means signatories have to take an honest look at their contribution to climate change, and work towards much more ambitious targets than they did in the Kyoto Protocol. It also offers significantly more support to those hit hardest by these changes. 

The Paris Agreement ‘requires all countries to put forward their best efforts through nationally determined contributions (NDCs), and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead’. The idea behind this is a ‘name and shame’ approach to implementation, as all countries are required to inform the other participants of the progress they have made.

The only situation I can compare this to is the moment when exam results are published, and everyone on the group chat starts posting what they have been awarded… except the Paris Agreement has no mute button.

Having drawn that comparison, I should clarify that the agreement is non-binding so there are no consequences for those that don’t meet their targets, impending world doom aside. Progress checks are legally binding, so countries will still have to present the group chat with their sad D3 or ‘Mild Fails’, but there will be no repercussions, only shame. So understandably some do not believe this is enough.  

The US for example. I appreciate Trump likes to make ill-informed irrational decisions, but this one was a doozey. Trump announced in June 2017 that the US was going to pull out of the accord.

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Not only does this question the reliability of the current US administration, it just does not make sense. In doing this, Donald Trump is not only rejecting global goals imposed on the him by the rest of the world, he is rejecting the goals set by the USA, for the USA.

In America he has received a lot of criticism from the administration that was part of the negotiations, and some mayors are trying to band together to implement the Paris Agreement anyway, such as the Mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto.

Mr Trump’s aim is to establish an entirely new deal that “is more fair to the U.S economy”. However, as the strongest economy in the world, most of which was built during the industrial revolution with horrific environmental consequences, his reasoning is simply not good enough. Thankfully, the EU has rejected Trump’s idea of reworking the deal around US industry demands.

The silver lining in the situation is that, following the US decision to leave, both Nicaragua and Syria are now due to sign the agreement, which leaves the US as the only non-signatory in the world. Perhaps more embarrassing than a ‘Mild Fail’ indeed.

I desperately hope that the world continues to be disappointed with the President’s irrational decisions, and his attempts to recreate US environmental policy. There is no doubt his decision will hinder globally set environmental targets, but the rest of us can go on without the US.

The most mind boggling part of Trump’s decision is that renewable energy is one the fastest growing industries in the world. It creates countless jobs, cleaner air, and consequently better public health. What could be better for the US economy?

Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is that there will always be people that believe they are bigger than the cause, but we cannot let them bully us into giving up on our goals. The Paris Agreement is literally just an agreement for a better world. So I remain unsurprised by Trump’s decision. 

 

Vegan Pad-Thai
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Eating pad thai at a restaurant never seemed like the best choice to me: over-priced, bland, and oily. To me, it should be fresh, slightly spicy, and the perfect balance of sweet, salty, and sour. This can easily be 5 of your 5-a-day too (which you'd never find in a restaurant). This interpretation of the traditional dish makes it vegetarian (no fish sauce/prawn) and more of a healthy version (more vegetables). I think of it as a quick and healthy meal I can literally throw together with random vegetables and noodles lying around my cupboard. I actually forget how good this is to make at home because it's so easy and simple. If I have a bit of extra time, I make crispy teriyaki tofu instead of adding it plain, but this recipe is delicious as is.

Tamarind paste is a sweet and sour paste used traditionally in pad thai. Ordinarily, a recipe will call for this paste, which can be tricky and expensive to find. I use dates because I always have them lying around, can be easily found in most supermarkets, and even bought zero-waste too in some places. I am lucky to have a blender for the homemade sauce, but I have noted some alternative methods to getting around it if you don't have a hand blender or something like that.

 

Serves 2  |  Prep time: 15 mins  |  Cook time: 15 mins  |  £2.30 per serving

 

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

4 large dates, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes (substitute: tamarind paste or brown sugar)

1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and diced

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and diced

2 tbsp gluten free tamari (or soy sauce) or to your taste

Red chilli, to taste (I used 1/4 of a chilli) or sriracha

Juice of 1 lime

Lime zest, about half of the lime (optional)

Water
- The amount of water is just to facilitate blending, it will depend on how large your blender is. If you don't have a blender, chop the soaked dates and mash them with a fork to form a paste before adding the other ingredients, or simply use brown sugar in a pinch. If you're not using a blender be sure to finely chop the other ingredients.
 

Everything else:

1 brown onion, thickly sliced

Vegetables of choice (e.g. Chinese cabbage, carrot, red pepper, pak choi, spring onion, broccoli, beansprouts)

Frozen edamame beans (however much you like)

Firm tofu, cubed (Cauldron brand tofu can be found in most refrigerated vegetarian sections)

1 tsp sesame oil (optional)

Instant rice noodles, flat 3-5mm thick ones (2 baskets)

 

Garnish (optional):

Toasted sesame seeds

Chopped coriander

Lime juice

Roasted peanuts or cashews, chopped


Method

1.      Start with the sauce by combining all the ingredients ideally in a blender until a smooth paste or with an immersion (stick) blender in a narrow container. Remember to taste as you go to adjust the flavour to your liking. Set the sauce aside.

2.      Get a bowl or big pot ready with your noodles so they can quickly be covered with boiling water and cooked while you're doing other things. I used ones that take 3 mins to cook. If it's too stressful to multitask, simply cook in hot water first, rinse them under cold water, and toss gently in some oil to stop them sticking together.

3.      Heat a large wok or pan over a high heat. Non-stick is great here as you want to keep the pan quite hot throughout which means things are prone to sticking.

4.      Fry the onions until slightly browned.

5.      Turn the heat down and carefully add the sauce (if your pan is too hot it will sputter everywhere). It needs to be cooked down because of all the raw garlic and ginger, but don't let all the sauce evaporate!

6.      Add the vegetables and tofu to the pan and keep everything moving, covering each ingredient with the sauce.

Tip: try to add the vegetables in order of cooking time, for example, first broccoli, cabbage, carrot and then quicker cooking ones last (e.g. beansprouts, pak choi, red pepper, edamame).

7.      Meanwhile, cook the noodles by following the package instructions.

8.      When the vegetables are cooked, turn the heat off. Add the noodles and the sesame oil (if using) to the pan, using tongs to incorporate the noodles into the sauce, vegetables, and beans.

9.      Garnish as you wish and serve.

Gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, palm oil free, dairy free, nut/seed free.

Molly MillarComment
Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret
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You can’t be an environmentalist and eat animal products. Period!
— Harold Lyman, cattle rancher turned environmental activist

Before I begin, here's an important story about Harold Lyman: in 1996, he was invited on to the Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss the mad cow disease scare. Her conversation with Lyman led Oprah to claim that he had "stopped [her] cold from eating another hamburger!" Beef prices hit a 10-year low within two weeks of this episode airing and, consequently, the two were sued for defamation by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association for over $10 million. Incidentally, they were proven not guilty and Winfrey told reporters outside the court that she still refused to eat burgers, but if this story isn't representative of the problems in our system, I don't know what is.

-----   Source: Time


I have been thinking about Harold Lyman's statement since Wednesday evening, when I finally broke my documentary-watching hiatus and watched Cowspiracy. I had heard that this film in particular would change my attitude towards meat for good and I think part of me was holding off from watching it because I could remain happy in my semi-ignorance. Before the Flood had already forced me into an almost completely vegetarian diet, contrary to all my pre-Green18 beliefs, and I think I have been (foolishly) wary of further change.

I now see how important it is to fight through that head-in-the-sand approach. Cowspiracy is everything a documentary needs to be: informative and well-researched, thought-provoking and shocking. Technically, I perhaps found it a little fact-heavy because, personally, an overload of facts leads to a sieve effect, where I find things very interesting in the moment but forget them shortly afterwards. To remedy this, Cowspiracy has a very informative website where you can revisit the content of the film in all of its shocking glory and, more importantly, find out how you can get involved, from watching more content to discovering meat-free meal plans.

Image source: http://www.cowspiracy.com/infographic

Image source: http://www.cowspiracy.com/infographic

All in all, the film confirms one thing: the agriculture industry is the main cause of climate change. It is responsible for 91% of Amazon rainforest clearance; it produces over half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and almost four times as much as all forms of transport put together; livestock occupies almost half of the earth’s land and uses 1/3 of its water. There is literally no denying these facts and, for some reason, no one seems to be addressing them. The film aims to provoke awareness in its audience; however, it also documents the ignorance of people who should know better. Countless interviews with representatives of charities and governmental organisations lead to 'no comment's' or, worse still, 'what does agriculture have to do with anything?'

As one of the more clued-up interviewees in the film points out, our current global climate situation is like trying to cure lung cancer without addressing the smoking problem, and being killed ourselves through the passive smoke. In practice, we are ignoring agriculture as a factor in our global problem, choosing instead to focus on other contributors like fossil fuels and, increasingly now, plastic pollution. Of course, I am not claiming that these factors aren't important because we should obviously be trying to chip away at every aspect of the problem. But why are we ignoring the main source?

Cowspiracy may be the most important film made to inspire saving the planet.
— Louie Psihoyos, Oscar-Winning Director of "The Cove"

The only reason I can think of is human greed and selfishness. Yet again, we are putting ourselves above everything else. (God, am I tired of realising that.) I understand that behavioural changes are difficult to get people to undertake because they change their way of life. But as Kip Andersen, the maker of the documentary, points out to a member of his government, getting people to conserve water and to recycle were also behavioural changes, and these have now become widely integrated into public consciousness . For some reason, food is a particular hang-up and, believe me, I get it. In fact, for the first few months, as I documented on the food blog, I really struggled to sacrifice all the meals I loved for new vegetarian recipes. But how hard is it, really, when there is this much at stake?

I’m not suggesting everyone in the world goes vegan immediately. I'm not even suggesting they go vegetarian. Just think of the change we could make if we even just ate a half of the meat we did now. It is almost too tempting for me to think of how the statistics would change in our favour if we forgot ourselves for once and did that one simple thing. If we ate half the meat we did now, the meat industry would only produce a quarter of our global emissions - still a lot, but a step towards cleansing our air and allowing our rainforests to grow and our sealife to thrive. Who in their right mind would claim their burger is more important than that?


Important links:

Watch the trailer for the film below:

 
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Told by the man who kicked off the infamous lawsuit between Oprah and the cattlemen, Mad Cowboy is an impassioned account of the highly dangerous practices of the cattle and dairy industries. A fourth-generation Montana rancher, Lyman investigated the use of chemicals in agriculture after developing a spinal tumor that nearly paralyzed him. Now a vegetarian, he blasts through the propaganda of beef and dairy interests--and the government agencies that protect them--to expose an animal-based diet as the primary cause of cancer, heart disease, and obesity. Persuasive, straightforward, and full of the down-home good humor and optimism of a son of the soil, Mad Cowboy is both an inspirational story of personal transformation and a convincing call to action for a plant-based diet--for the good of the planet and the health of us all.

Maia GentleComment
Talk to the Palm
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Recently there has been lots of anti-palm oil promotion in my news feed. Since beginning the Green18 challenge, and probably long before, I have been aware of the destructive consequences of the dreaded palm oil but have known little about it. So I decided to do some digging!

What is palm oil?
Palm oil is made from the fruits of trees called the African oil palms. As the name suggests, these originated in Africa but were introduced to Malaysia and Indonesia in the 19th and 20th centuries, after which these countries became leading producers of the oil.

What is palm oil used for?
Palm oil is said to be found in over half of all supermarket products! This ranges from pizzas to margarine to chocolate to soaps and candles. Sometimes you can catch it because it is labelled as palm oil or palm fat - however, frequently it is hidden by pseudonyms. This isn’t all though! Palm oil can also be used as a biofuel, accounting for 8% of all palm oil produced. Under EU law, the blending of biofuels (i.e. palm oil) is required, putting palm oil in every litre of our diesel...

Why is palm oil so special?
Palm oil plantations produce 4-10 times more oil per hectare than any other alternative crops, making it not only the cheapest vegetable oil on the planet, but also an excellent choice in times where the cultivated land to people ratio is so stretched. As well as this, it requires little to no herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers. As an oil, palm oil has unique properties that also put it ahead of the competition: it maintains its properties under high temperatures; it is smooth and creamy and has no smell; and, it is naturally preserving, which helps to increase the shelf life of the food it is in.

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So why is palm oil so hated?
Palm oil requires a consistently hot and humid climate to grow, making the tropical rainforest the perfect host. This has resulted in extensive deforestation to make way for the palm oil plantations. It is estimated that palm oil plantations led to 8% of the global deforestation between 1990 and 2008, and 90% of the total deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. A by-product of deforestation is a decrease in absorption of greenhouse gases and the release of greenhouse gases that are so successfully stored in the plants. As well as this, biodiverse ecosystems are destroyed leading to the decline and endangerment of hundreds of species such as the orangutan, Sumatran tigers and Bornean rhinos. Environment aside, palm oil is high in saturated fats that lead to high cholesterol, obesity and heart disease as well as containing some dodgy fatty acid esters that are considered carcinogenic (but what isn’t…?!).

But what about sustainable palm oil?
The RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) is a central body set up by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). This certifies sustainable palm oil that adheres to certain legal, economical, environmental and social criteria. On paper, this looks absolutely fantastic; it preserves jobs for the 4.5 million Malaysians and Indonesians that rely on palm oil for their income and it preserves primary forest that is rich in biodiversity or cultural importance, if not both. As well as this, the certification ensures that use of pesticides and clearing by fire are restricted, that workers rights and labour standards are upheld, and that local communities aren’t over-powered by large capitalist corporations. Sounds excellent!

DECISION TIME

I don’t wish to take away from any of the hard work that the WWF, RSPO and many others have put into making a horrifically destructive industry much better.  However, I remain very torn about my preferred path forwards: palm oil, sustainable palm oil or alternative vegetable oil. 

I think we can automatically discount bog-standard palm oil because it can’t compete with it’s sustainable big brother. Then it becomes a much tighter race.

If we were at the starting point of our journey and making the decision about which oil to use, I would recommend going nowhere near palm oil to save the rainforests that have subsequently been cleared for it. But now we are in a state where a dramatic fluctuation in western demand can have devastating effects on the developing countries that cater to our needs. Without palm oil, millions of people will be out of work, without food and we could potentially be on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. My choice, and what I would advise you now, is to cut out any palm oil that isn’t certified as sustainable, to limit sustainable palm oil to a minimum but by no means attack all palm oil products in your cupboards and on your shelves because the alternative answer isn't out there yet. I believe there are greater issues that we can tackle directly at home. For example, in several cases, cutting out plastic will also cut out palm oil, and plastic is much more at the forefront of my environmental mind both because of the constant barrage in the headlines but also because of the sheer challenge to remove it that lies ahead.

This conversation is definitely not over but, once again, for now we are stuck with the decisions of our ancestors. 

 

Let us know what you think the best step forwards is in the comments below and don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more of our daily journey!

Rufus SullivanComment
Banana Bread Cookies
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You might be confused by the title of these sweet treats. This hybrid baked good is unlike anything you've ever tried. Upon first bite, you enjoy the initial crunch and latent soft chew of a cookie, followed by the aromatic and fluffy experience of banana bread. You’re welcome.

Advantages:

(i) palm-oil free (so many supermarket cookies have super unhealthy and environmentally unfriendly ingredients)

(ii) convenient and small portion-controlled cookies, great with tea (try not to eat 5 in a row)

(iii) the dough can be frozen and baked whenever (wow)

(iv) quick to make (banana bread takes literally an hour to bake)

(v) made with somewhat wholesome ingredients (contains fruit)

(vi) easy to transport/smuggle into class or cinema undetected (SNACKS)

(vii) a lot cheaper than Pret and even supermarket cookies (really)

 

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Ingredients:

1 ripe banana (with spots)

120g plain or wholemeal flour (3/4 cup)

50g oats (1/2 cup)

100g brown sugar (1/2 cup)

70g natural peanut butter (1/4 cup) – Meridian natural peanut butter is palm-oil free

½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

Pinch of sea salt 

Optional: orange extract, chopped walnuts, or chocolate chips (do it)


Method:

1.      Place the flour, oats, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2.      In a separate bowl, peel and mash the banana with a fork into the brown sugar.

3.      Add the vanilla and peanut butter and stir until well combined.

4.      Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in any additional ingredients like chopped walnuts or dark chocolate chips.

5.      Cool in the freezer for 20-30 mins while the oven heats up.

6.      Set the oven to 170ᵒC and line a baking tray with a silicone mat (eco-friendly) or baking parchment.

7.      When the cooling time has elapsed, form small balls with your hands (I made 16 using a bit more than a tablespoon per ball).

8.      Flatten slightly with the back of a wet spoon or your fingers (you can freeze at this stage for the future).

9.      Bake in the oven for 9-10 mins (or 12-14 mins if frozen).

10.   Let them cool a bit before transferring to a wire rack.

11.   Eat warm or cool completely before storing them in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

 

Palm-oil free, vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, oil free

100kcal/5p per cookie

Makes 16 small cookies

Molly MillarComment
No Waste. Period.

I have a new obsession. Something that has changed my experience of my period COMPLETELY. Ladies, get yourself a menstrual cup. 

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First of all, let’s get any disgust about periods out of the way. Get over it. It is essential to talk about periods especially so that we can discuss how the products we use during our periods are affecting our bodies and our planet.

Towards the end of last year, I was becoming increasingly aware of the amount of money I was spending each month on tampons. More importantly, after talking to Rufus (king of Green18) about what each of us can do to help the environment, I was horrified to think about how much waste we use during our periods. This is especially true if you’re using applicator tampons, which I was. Because periods are such a big part of our lives, we end up going for the simplest option even if the products we use are incredibly harmful on our environment, and sanitary product companies are not being held accountable for their role in the plastic problem. These companies' advertising has also fed into the idea that periods should be something that should be hidden away and not talked about. By doing this, we are not allowing ourselves to discuss and explore more environmentally friendly products. 

Here are some frankly horrifying facts about your period and the environment:

  • Each of us will use around 11,000 disposable sanitary products in our lifetime
  • It can take hundreds of years for these products to biodegrade
  • During the International Coastal Cleanup in 2013, volunteers collected 27,938 used tampons and applicators from beaches around the world in a single day
  • The average sanitary pad has as much plastic as four carrier bags
  • In the UK every day, 1.4 million pads and 2.5 million tampons get flushed straight down the loo (shame on you)

By buying yourself a cup, you can do your bit to help the increasingly devastating effect that humans are having on our planet. 

I know a lot of women will be nervous about using a menstrual cup and I completely get that. It takes time to get used to it. I’ve just used mine for the third time and I think I’ve finally perfected it. I admit I did use panty liners during the first two periods with the cup because I was paranoid it would leak and that did happen a couple of times. But once you’ve got the hang of inserting it properly, you will never have to feel like you’re wearing an adult nappy with a pad again. 

Don’t get me wrong, my cup and I have had a few low moments… Squatting on the cubicle floor of a public bathroom with my hand all up in there attempting to get it out without a bloody deluge onto the floor/myself was not my finest hour. But thankfully, once you get used to it, they are super easy to use. The cup holds up to three times the amount that a tampon does so I rarely have to empty when I’m out. There are plenty of tutorials and tips online to help you use the cup most effectively. Menstrual cups can last up to 10 years, saving you money and saving the planet a whole lot of waste.

A menstrual cup is kinder to your body than tampons. They’re chemical-free - great if you have sensitive skin - and they save you from shoving a bit of dry cotton up there on a light period day (we’ve all been there…).

I also believe menstrual cups will be hugely beneficial in the fight against period poverty, which is a huge issue for so many women around the world. Many women will be going without sanitary products during their period in order to afford food for their families. Scotland is already making headlines with their attempts to overcome period poverty, with a pilot project in Aberdeen making £12,000 worth of products available to women who need them through Community Food Initiatives North East. This means when women come to the food bank, they can also pick up sanitary products. Equalities Secretary Angela Constance commented that she is particularly happy with how this pilot has encouraged an interest in more sustainable sanitary products. I hope that menstrual cups will be a big part of initiatives such as this in the future.

So I implore any woman reading this, buy yourself a menstrual cup – I would recommend the Mooncup. Save money, be kinder to your body and, most importantly, do your bit to help save our planet. Further to this, talk about periods – discuss with your friends what sanitary products they’re using and tips on how to be more economical and environmentally friendly during that time of the month. And make the occasional man uncomfortable by talking to them about this – the discussion should not be limited to women. It’s an environmental and equality issue that affects us all.

Carrot, Sweet Potato and Feta Fritters
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Taken from Delicious Magazine

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Ingredients (for 4):

800g carrots

2 large potatoes

1 large onion

600g sweet potatoes

5 medium free-range eggs

200g feta, crumbled

6 tbsp wholemeal flour

25g fresh coriander, chopped

2 tbsp cumin seeds

300ml vegetable oil


Method:

Peel and grate the carrots, potatoes, onion and sweet potatoes. Put in a colander over the sink with a big pinch of salt and press down with your hands to squeeze the water out of the vegetables. Leave to drain.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, feta, flour, coriander and cumin seeds, then beat with a fork until mixed.

When the vegetables are relatively dry, add them to the egg mixture. Stir to combine and season well. 

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Shape the mixture into balls and squeeze until no liquid comes out of each. Fry 2 or 3 at a time for 2-3 minutes, then turn over and repeat until golden. 

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Things to note:

I made these fritters to go with rice and peppers cooked in vegetable stock, so I halved the recipe to serve two. However, it still made more than plenty for this, so I would even just make a quarter of the mixture in future.

This time, I also forgot to put in the flour, which made my mixture very wet, so I may have had to squeeze out more liquid than usually. However, I still managed to get a good crisp around the outside of the fritters, but I imagine the flour would add more of a batter-like texture to the end product.

This dish would have definitely been improved with a sauce of some kind. The original recipe serves the fritters with a yoghurt dipping source, but the mango chutney and sweet chili sauce that I used both worked really well with the flavour of the fritters. 

I'm getting used to this vegetarian stuff and starting to discover how inventive you can be with vegetables and how nice the end result can be. Progress!
 

If anyone has any recipes they'd like to see featured on Green18, do get in touch with me. I'd love for some more veggie inspiration.

Maia GentleComment
The Disappearing Lake

The lake is shared by Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger, but is rapidly disappearing and destabilising what it leaves behind.

Map taken from the BBC highlighting the extent of the desertification

Map taken from the BBC highlighting the extent of the desertification

Today Lake Chad is only a fifth of its original size. The desertification of Lake Chad has destroyed the livelihoods of all those who used to rely on the lake for its fishing stocks or for irrigation. The region is now haunted by draught and instability, as the Boko Haram take advantage of this humanitarian crisis. Lake Chad provides us with a tragic example of just how the decimation of our environment will have catastrophic human consequences.

Global warming has been claimed to be a contributing factor in the situation, and we all know who’s the giver of that great gift to the world. However, global warming is not what I’m going to discuss here. In this post I hope to convey that the symptoms of global warming are not just melting ice caps. There is a real human cost to our negligence that we can’t ignore just because it’s ‘not in our back yard.’

Admittedly global warming is not the sole problem; irresponsible irrigation systems, slash and burn farming techniques and the damming of rivers that feed the Lake Chad harbour some of the blame. Hydropower can absolutely be a great way of sourcing environmentally sound energy. However, this situation perhaps highlights some of the restrictions that are necessary when we do intervene in natural water cycles for our own benefit.

Image taken from National Geographic

Image taken from National Geographic

This water crisis is affecting 17 million people across all four countries. The combination of violence and climate change has led to a harrowing situation for millions. The desertification of Lake Chad is now being referred to as 'the most neglected crisis in the world.' Tragically, those that have fled their homes in search of livelihood find themselves trapped between various armies and the Boko Haram. The perilous conflict in the region prevents aid agencies from reaching the people that need support, and stops journalists from being able to report on the tragedy. Perhaps this is why the humanitarian crisis is manifesting so silently, or perhaps its because we have become so numb to the stories of droughts and famine that we no longer recognise their severity.

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Unfortunately, this is an incredibly multifaceted situation, involving numerous countries, armies, rebel groups, and contributing environmental factors. By no means am I saying that the disappearing lake is the sole cause of violent extremism in the region. However, it is certainly not helping the situation. It is a well-known fact that instability can create cracks in communities that allow for extremism to seep in and intensify humanitarian crises.

This is recognised by the Governments in the region. The Lake Chad Basin Commission has eight members, the four countries bordering Lake Chad, and four other countries in close proximity. The aim of the Commission is to regulate and control the use of natural resources  in the basin and to initiate, promote, and coordinate natural resource development projects and research.

At the end of February this year an international conference was held in Abuja on saving Lake Chad. The conference concluded that the Transaqua Project, which will take water from the River Congo and divert it via the Chari River basin to Lake Chad, is the best solution. However, this will be no mean feat, as we all know, saving the environment requires a multilateral approach. Lake Chad requires a Pan-African response. 

People have already criticised the plan, calling it ridiculous. The worrying thing is, with estimates of 10.7 million people currently relying of humanitarian relief to survive, we can’t really afford for it to fail.

The really frustrating part of this story is that these plans were originally proposed in the 80’s but were apparently ‘met with deafening silence.’ However, now that Lake Chad is enveloped in the deepest humanitarian crisis of our time (despite the lack of media coverage) it is finally being taken seriously.

The thing that really gets me, is that it has taken the complete upheaval of the region and millions of displaced people to reach an action point. *Please refer to previous blog post conclusion regarding listening to warning bells.*

Here’s my plea to you: I would soon like to write about a situation where the intervention happened before the crisis. I’m open to suggestions.

 

Kimberley Somerside
What on Earth (Day)?!
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Happy Earth Day! 

All of us at Green18 have had the greatest day watching so many people getting involved throughout this day of celebrations, especially the people we have had involved at all of our cleans across the UK today – we can’t thank all of you in Aberdeen, Dundee, St Andrews, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cambridge and Brighton enough for doing your own bit for the planet!

An extra special thank you has to go to all of those who helped us promote and host each event: Sammy, Grania, Alec, Michelle and Jocelyn as well as those with the University of St Andrews Wildlife and Conservation Society, Transition St Andrews, Glasgow Schools Rowing Club, Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Humane SocietyAberdeen City Council and Fife Council who helped facilitate our events!

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This year, Earth Day, arranged by the Earth Day Network, was used to raise awareness of plastic in our environment, both rural and urban, and the damage that this has caused. Ever since Blue Planet 2 hit our screens last year, there has been a monumental response to reduce plastic usage and plastic pollution in our oceans and natural environments. For decades, plastic has been discarded without thought and now we are starting to reverse our habits. Today, over 100 Green18 volunteers collected over 80 bin bags of waste collecting bottles, packaging, fishing line, fishing rope, shoes, golf clubs, straws and much more! Thankfully governments across the world are starting to tackle the plastic problem and hopefully there will come a time where we aren’t haunted by our abuse of the planet we depend on.

We have hosted several litter picking events now to highlight the extent of the problem. Today was the culmination of our showcasing how much community engagement in litter picking can do for our green and blue spaces and I think we have reached our target for Step 17: #Green18Clean. We can’t thank enough all of those people who helped us today and in previous events and we want to encourage them and everyone else to continue to keep our streets, paths, parks, meadows, forests, rivers, beaches and seas clean and plastic free. We will always support and promote any events going forwards – and if anyone would like to host a clean Green18 will happily promote and organise so get in touch – but now we will be aiming to educate and engage people with new topics and new events. Much more lies in store for the Green18 challenge and there is so much left for us to learn. 

Please tag us in your own journey to a #Green18 life and give us your tips for everything from recipes to shampoos to documentaries! It is all of you who keep me, Maia and Kimberley going on this twisting path to environmental friendliness!

Stay tuned for our next steps!

Rufus SullivanComment