Small acts of sustainability

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

Sorry for the silence.  The past couple of months have been a bit tough. I was ill for a couple of weeks and I think the covid lockdown in the UK is getting to me more than I had realised. I’m so introvert that I didn’t think that staying at home would impact me much, given that I’m able to work and all my family and friends are doing well now. There’s so much you can do virtually and I’ve really enjoyed many online performances and webinars – the latest one I saw was the Guardian interview of the amazing Naomi Klein (a Canadian author known for her political analyses). I’ve also given a go to new hobbies I never thought I’d try, like knitting1 and painting by numbers. (The wonky sleeves of the cardigan I’m still trying to save, and the canvas that has little resemblance to the sales illustration make me think these will remain lockdown-only experiments, but it’s been fun to try nonetheless.)

To get going again, I decided to write this blog about small but important acts we can do for the environment. I had been looking into future energy solutions as that is an area where major changes will be needed, but I needed a little break from that topic. If I’m honest, despite their importance, I cannot get very excited about insulation materials and heat networks. And that, I think, is one reason why those little acts of sustainability are important. They alone don’t save the world, but they keep us motivated and can gear us up for doing something bigger.

So, without further ado, here are five perfect quick wins for a little bit of extra inspiration: 

Idea 1 – Beat the Microbead  app

There are more than 60 different microplastic ingredients currently used in cosmetics. They are found in e.g. shower gels, sunscreens, exfoliating face and body scrubs, glittery make-up, toothpaste, lipstick and eyeliners.

I’ve been experimenting the Beat the Microbead  app, and found that it is really easy to use. You take a photo of the list of ingredients, and in a matter of ten seconds or so, you’ll know if that product contains any microplastics. I’ve tried this with the products I have at home and by taking a photo of online products from my laptop screen, and it worked really well.  

Idea 2 – Guppyfriend

Another good way to reduce microplastic pollution is the Guppyfriend washing bag for plastics based clothes (polyester, acrylic, nylon). It is a patented solution that filters out microfibers released from textiles during washing. The bags are widely available, online and e.g. in Waitrose. I’ve been using one for a while and it’s just like a normal washing bag. (Note that you won’t see microplastics in the bag after every wash – the particles are tiny.)

Why does this matter?

Microbeads are too small to be filtered out by sewer systems, so they end up into the waterways. The exact impact to people and the ecosystem is not well understood, but recent research shows that microplastic pollution in the oceans is likely to have been vastly underestimated.

Idea 3 – Build an insect hotel

Photo by Tania Malrechauffe on Unsplash

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered (Feb 2019), and it is urgent to create more living spaces for them. You can buy one, but how about building it with the kids? The first step is to collect the materials – see the rest of the instructions e.g. here.

(By the way, NatureForAll website has resources for adults and children alike. The website appears to malfunction at times, so you may need a little patience when using it. Or, perhaps this list has a suggestion that your children would enjoy?)

Idea 4 – Stop car idling – the 10 second rule

This one is really easy.  An idling car produces enough emissions to fill 150 balloons a minute. I haven’t found research about how much of the air pollution is due to idling but overall, The Royal College of Physicians estimate that 40,000 deaths a year in the UK are linked to air pollution. The guideline is that you should shut down the engine if you are stopping for more than 10 seconds (unless your car is “very old”).

Idea 5 – An easy way to reduce red meat consumption (?)

Photo by Ella Olson on Unsplash

If you like red meat, this one might sound less fun but a friend of mine has been raving about how delicious vegetarian dishes he’s been able to do with his slow cooker, and how easy it is to cook with it. Reducing red meat consumption is one of the most impactful way to influence biodiversity loss and climate change.

There is absolutely no scenario for preventing catastrophic climate change without a vast reduction in the scale of animal agriculture

United Nations #ActNow

I know that some people think that talking about these kinds of small acts distract attention from where it is needed. They see that it is important to keep the focus on the big picture; things that really have potential to make a difference. The articles about climate crisis and biodiversity talk about future of humanity, biological annihilation and how “everything can collapse”, so insect hotels and slow cookers seem rather inadequate as a response. But, as they say, small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.  If you have ideas you could  share, I’d love to hear from you. I might need some more boost to finish that future energy article …


1 I came across Wool And the Gang who are trying to make their products sustainable and have e.g. upcycled yarn in their selection. Also, they have beginner kits that include everything you need, which was handy, because I really didn’t have a clue. Well, I still don’t, it seems.

9 thoughts on “Small acts of sustainability”

  1. Hi Nana. Thanks so much for the blog on environmentally friendly masks. This is very timely and so helpful- and the masks are actually stylish too!😃

  2. Hi Nana, again a lovely blog and thanks for sharing. It sounds like you’re being more productive during COVID than most of us so don’t feel bad. Ready for another Wimpole walk when you are 🙂
    Mark

    1. Hi Nana, thank you for this fantastic blog….sounds that we have another problem to sort out together…Silvy

  3. Hei,

    Pienistä puroista ne suuretkin joet lähetevät. Kaikki toimenpiteet tosiaan vaikuttavat omalta osaltaan. Mun on pitänyt tehdä hyönteishotelli, mutta en ole vain saanut aikaiseksi. Täytyy ryhdistäytyä 🙂

    Start/stop-systeemin EU-määrityksissä omalta kohdaltani ne kääntyvät itseään vastaan. Systeemi toiminee ruuhkaisemmassa paikassa mutta täällä maalla sillä ei oikein ole käyttöä. Koska auto on tyypitetty systeemin kanssa niin silloin määräykset vaativat että systeemi on aina käynnistyksen jälkeen toiminnassa. Sen jälkeen sen voi tarvittaessa ottaa napista pois päältä. Mulla ei ole juurikaan tarvetta sille, joten mulle toimisi paremmin se että sen voisi tarvittaessa ottaa käyttöön silloin kun esimerkiksi näkee että joutuu pysähtymään liikennevaloihin. Elikkä nyt pitäisi toimia niin että käynnistyksen jälkeen ottaa sen aina pois, ja silloin harvoin kun sitä tarvtsee niin sittten laittaa se päälle. Turhan hankalaa. Siksi mä olen ottanut sen kokonaan pois käytöstä. Sen joutuu tekemään ohjausväylän kautta mutta tässä vuosimallissa se vielä onnistuu. Syynä on se että mun käytössä siitä on enemmän haittaa kuin hyötyä

    1. Laitathan kuvan siita hyönteishotellista, jos teet sen! 🙂

      Itse en ole viela tehnyt, mutta mulla on takapihalla yksi siistimaton nurkkaus, jossa uskoisin hyonteisten viihtyvan. Koitin myos laittaa niittykukkia kasvamaan siemenista; sellaisia, joista hyonteisten pitaisi tykata, mutta niista siemenista ei kasvanut yhtaan mitaan. Taisin kastella alussa liian vahan.

    1. I’m glad to hear, Doogie.

      Yes, Unsplash is great 😀 . This time I thought about using own photos but getting a good photo of a bee with the phone camera turned out to be more difficult than I thought…

  4. Hi,

    If you’ve not come across the book Save the World for £5 (I think that’s what it’s called, if not there’s this https://www.amazon.co.uk/1001-Ways-You-Save-Planet/dp/1844833763) it’s got a lot of these types of ideas in it.

    And I think it’s important that people do them as it makes them feel they have a purpose and contribution to make in dealing with the challenges we face, rather than adopting a give up and go to hell approach. Yes we need large scale system change, but if people make small steps they are much more likely to accept congruent big changes (see Cialdini on consistency here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFdCzN7RYbw).

    Sad to read that lockdown has been hard – but good of you to share since I think many people have found that to be the case, even us Introverts.

    1. Thanks for sharing these ideas! Amazon UK has those books as second hand versions, so I just added one in the basket to be included in my next order :).

      That Cialdini video about science of persuasion is excellent, was good to watch that again and be reminded of these principles.

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