Rapid urbanisation of cities is becoming more and more apparent. This immediately presents issues in terms of the carbon footprints of buildings. The bigger cities get, the taller buildings get, the more greenhouse gas emissions we produce in their construction. In order for us to make our cities bigger, taller, more environmentally-friendly, cities need to find ways to future-proof themselves.
By 2050, the global population is expected to rise to 10 billion, and around two-thirds of us will live in cities. Of course, the solution to this in terms of space will be high-rise complexes.
The materials we use now to build with, mainly concrete and steel, have a large carbon footprint. The answer may lie in something called cross-laminated timber, or CLT.
We are currently in a somewhat renaissance for timber. Wood, of course, is a renewable resource. Currently, the world’s tallest building at 53m tall is the Brock Commons Tallwood House in Vancouver, which was completed in 2017, just beating the then world’s tallest wooden building, the Treet building, at 52.8m, in Bergen. These however may be left in the proverbial timber dust, with a proposed building in Tokyo known as the W350 Project planned to reach 350m (although this is scheduled for completion in 2041).
In Brummundal, Norway, an 81m high residential building is being constructed from Norwegian timber. Vienna is currently working on an 84m high wooden building. In the Parisian district of Terne, an entire wooden building complex is under construction, and in Germany, an eight-story wooden house was built on an area that used to belong to the United States army in the Bavarian town of Bad Aibling. It is a current showpiece for energy-efficient construction.
Concrete and steel are both costly to produce and heavy to transport, whereas wood can be grown sustainably and is far lighter. Concrete manufacturing is the world’s third largest producer of greenhouse gases, and is also 15 times less thermally efficient as timber.
It has been shown that a timber building can reduce it’s carbon footprint by up to 75% in contrast to a building of the same size made of conventional building materials. American architectural firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrell (SOM) , who designed Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, have designed a 42m tower, which, if built, will have a carbon footprint 60% less than a conventional build.
“Wood environments make people happy”, gleefully asserted the exhibition ‘Timber City‘ at the National Building Museum, which ran from 2016 to 2017. The exhibition included “architectural models, a video about managed forests and a world map that highlights more than 30 notable recent wooden buildings.” There was also a selection of tree stumps, wood manufacturing examples, and different types of lumber waste, nearly all of which can be used commercially and are recyclable in some way or another.
Regular timber unfortunately isn’t malleable like steel or concrete – it cannot be poured and set as those materials can. It is not strong enough to build high. This is where CLT comes in. It is a wood-panel product made by gluing layers of solid-sawn lumber together, with each layer glued perpendicular to one another. By gluing the layers perpendicular, the finished panel achieves better structural rigidity in both directions.
Whole sections can be pre-made and erected quickly on-site. Due to the relative strength and lightness of the wood, it is also suitable for closing gaps, or construction projects on existing buildings.
In April, plans were proposed for an 300m high wooden building, consisting of 80 storeys, which would be integrated with London’s Barbican Centre, a scheme which was developed between Cambridge University’s department of architecture alongside PLP Architecture and the engineers Smith and Wallwork. The project, if realised, could create over 1,000 new residential units.
“If London is going to survive it needs to increasingly densify”, says Dr Micheal Ramage, director of Cambridge’s Centre for Natural Material Innovation. “One way is taller buildings. We believe people have a greater affinity for taller buildings in natural materials rather than steel and concrete towers.”
For those of you whose immediate thought is – are we not forgetting the Great Fire of London? The fires that frequented the city of Edo (The name for 17th century Tokyo)? Fortunately for those afraid of house fires, CLT does not burn like conventional timber, as the above video will testify.
“Every well-trained firefighter knows today that an adequate solid wood construction made from cross-laminated timber will withstand fire long enough for them to rescue the residents,” said architect Tom Kaden.
Using CLT and other wooden materials offers new design potential, and ultimately, space to grow. The transition from concrete and steel to construction using timber may possibly have a wider positive impact on urban environments and build form.
It is possible that these new ideas will allow architects, designers, and engineers to reformulate the aesthetics of architecture, but also the inherent structural methodologies that architecture has generally become accustomed to. New innovations in timber could lead to a greener revolution in architecture for the 21st Century and beyond.
Analysts have stated that an EU deal to phase out coal subsidies within the Paris Climate Agreement is “completely inconsistent”.
Negotiations at COP24 ended on Wednesday. A benchmark CO2 emissions standard of 550 grams per kWh for all European power plants has been set, with limitations set to be in effect by 2025. Unfortunately, a loophole has been secured by Poland, a coal-dependent country, which allows countries another year to negotiate new ‘capacity mechanisms’ that would be exempt from the deadline. This may allow for unprofitable coal plants to keep operating until 2035, which is five years after the projected cut-off for meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
“Continued support for coal as just agreed by the EU is completely inconsistent with meeting the Paris agreement goals and in particular with limiting warming to 1.5C [above pre-industrial levels].” said Bill Hare, the director of the Climate Analytics thinktank. “It appears to be a de facto rejection of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finding that coal needs to exit the power sector rapidly. In the EU this means by 2030.”
After the deal was signed, the EU’s climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, tweeted “A more flexible market will facilitate the integration of more renewables. We also limit capacity mechanisms and #support5050 to move #BeyondCoal. #CleanEnergyEU completed.”
This has not been met with universal support. Environmental campaigners Greenpeace have said that the proposed capacity mechanisms and stay of execution for subsidies levied on the coal industry showed unequivocally that many EU governments were still not fully serious about or dedicated to tackling climate breakdown.
The deal “will help the transformation to cleaner electricity production” said MEP Krišjānis Kariņš. “It will open up more competition in electricity across the EU border – good for the climate and good for the wallet”.
Green MEP Florent Marcellesi said that the delayed introductions of an emissions standard guaranteed “a free licence to go on polluting despite the impact on climate and public health”, meaning that the deal is ‘insufficient’ to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
During the annual badger cull this autumn, more than 32,000 badgers were killed. This was done with the intent to reduce tuberculosis in cattle.
While officials stated that the culls were effective in stemming the prevalence of the disease, independent scientists said the date said officials were quoting was cherry-picked.
In 2017, 33,000 animals that were infected with TB were slaughtered in 2017. Michael Gove, the current environment secretary approved a huge increase in badger culling in September, which could see up to 42,000 animals shot. The data published by the government on Tuesday shows that so far, 32,601 badgers have been killed, a record number.
It seems that this cull is nothing more than an effort to protect capital over biodiversity.
While some badgers will be spreading TB, it is poor biosecurity on farms and the frequent trading of cattle that has more of a negative effect on TB control efforts than badgers themselves. The increasingly high amount of badgers culled in efforts to stop the spread therefore seems meaningless. Around half the culls failed to meet their initial targets.
“The ways that these targets were altered varied between sites in a completely non-standard way,” said Prof Rosie Woodroffe, of the Institute of Zoology, who was part of a 10-year badger-culling trial. “The scientific term for this methodology is ‘making it up as you go along’.”
Woodroffe stated that there was no basis for confidence in the cull, since it was impossible to estimate from the information gathered. “We are all used to politicians making optimistic statements based on unreliable data. For a scientist to do so is deeply worrying,” she said.
“Claims that the culls are reducing cattle TB is based on cherry-picking data from a report produced by government scientists. It states explicitly that ‘these data alone cannot demonstrate whether the badger control policy is effective in reducing bovine TB in cattle’.” said Woodroffe. The government focused on areas where TB seemed to be dropping, yet missed out areas where rates of TB seemed to be rising.
“This is the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory.” Said Dominic Dyer, the chief executive of the Badger Trust. “By the end of 2018, the government will have spent over £50m of public funds killing over 67,000 badgers [since 2013], which could push the species to the verge of local extinction in areas of England where it has lived since the ice age. The badger cull is a cruel, costly and ineffective policy and its continuation is a national disgrace.”
We have to ask; what is the point of this cull? To simply protect assets? It is clear that government officials do not view natural biodiversity as an asset. Other options must be assessed.
A proposed attracting may be coming to Morecambe in autumn 2022, which would be the latest addition to the Eden Project; Eden Project North, an £80m environmental attraction which will purportedly bring in up to 8,000 visitors a day.
Eden Project North will be comprised of a number of indoor and outdoor experiences, all set around or within a series of ‘biomes’, styled around mussels, a species that Morecambe is well known for. These biomes will house a number of different ecosystems.
Dave Harland, chief executive of Eden Project International Limited, said: “We’re incredibly proud to present our vision for Eden Project North and hope that the people of Morecambe and the surrounding area are as excited about it as we are.
“We aim to reimagine what a seaside destination can offer, with a world-class tourist attraction that is completely in tune with its natural surroundings.”
The hope for Eden Project North is that it will connect the local community to the internationally-significant natural environment of Morecambe Bay, creating a better understanding of natural environments and their fragility, and to also hopefull foster a better sense of well-being in the area.
Grimshaw Architects, the organisation responsible for the world-famous Rainforest and Mediterranean Biomes, have designed the Morecambe-based structures with its focus on the marine environment.
The project is also being seen through by its partners the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Lancaster University, Lancashire County Council and Lancaster City Council. Lancaster City Council plan to invest £250,000 in the project.
“Eden Project North meets the criteria in terms of the Eden Project mission” Said Nick Bellamy, head of Eden Project International.
“To have all of this come together with support from Lancaster University, the city and county councils, the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and other bodies is really rare, but very welcome.”
“2019 will be the year that this project really takes off. We’d hope to have full planning permission by 2020, and to be open in the third quarter of 2022.”
The front line of environments affected by climate breakdown will be coastal areas who will be at risk of flooding from rising sea levels. These are also areas where 17% of the UK population lives, and to draw attention to the fragility of those environments will be nothing but good.
“Our project in Cornwall was about the connection between humans and plants, and Eden Project North is about our connection with the marine and aquatic environment.” Said Bellamy.
“It will also be about health and wellbeing and that link to coastal communities, and how we can understand that better.”
“We’ve got an incredible vision for this place, and the question is, are you with us?”
You can find out more information on the projects of Eden Project International here.
Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and Danish geologist Minik Rosing have brought twenty-four blocks of Arctic ice to London.
The work, entitled Ice Watch, has been set up outside of the Tate Modern. The small icebergs were taken from the Nuup Kangerlua fjord in Greenland after becoming separated from the main ice sheet. It has been created to increase awareness of man-made climate breakdown.
More and more icebergs are being produced as the planet warms due to man-made climate change, which in turn contributes to rising sea levels, which poses a threat to wildlife and low-lying coastal human settlements.
The hope is that Ice Watch will help people to conceive of the reality of climate breakdown and global heating. The general public has seen photos and videos of ice breaking from sheets, glaciers receding, animals such as polar bears forced to swim for miles as they have no ice to walk across, and yet in this country we never get the full effect from these pieces of evidence. We rarely have that first-hand experience.
The point of the project is interaction. “Put your hands on the ice, listen to it, smell it, look at it” says Eliasson. “Witness the ecological changes our world is undergoing.”
The Greenland ice sheet took millions of years to form. Now, after a long journey, this ice has entered our human city timescale. What might an ancient block of ice have to say to us? #icewatchlondonpic.twitter.com/T7z4herc0p
The artist is known for large installations employing natural materials such as light, water, and air temperature, which are used to enhance the viewer’s experience.
Increasingly warmer global temperatures causes the Greenland ice sheet to lose around 200-300 billion tonnes of ice each year, which is a number that is expected to increase dramatically in the future.
“I’ve been studying behavioural psychology, and looking into the consequences of experience,” says the Icelandic-Danish artist. “What does it mean to experience something? Does it change you or not change you? It turns out that data alone only promotes a small degree of change. So in order to create the massive behavioural change needed [to tackle climate change] we have to emotionalise that data, make it physically tangible.”
Both Eliasson and Rosing believe that when it comes to making the public more aware of climate breakdown, narratives based on fear or worst-case scenarios are the wrong way to go. “Instead of fear-based narratives, you need a positive narrative to make people change their behaviour,” says Eliasson, “and that’s why I think the culture sector has a strong mandate to take on some leadership here.”
“We have to provide a glimpse of hope,” adds Rosing. “People think the scientists come with the bad news about climate change but actually we come with the good news. We understand what’s happening, we know exactly what needs to be done and we actually have the means to fix it. The only reason we’ve been able to upset the global environment system is because we have enormous power. If we direct that same enormous power to improving the system, we can get it back on track.”
The temporary sculpture of Ice Watch, itself almost an homage to ancient sacred stone circles, allows us to see a fragile and yet powerful reverence that this environment has. As we engage with the ice directly, experience it’s cold, it’s age, it’s melting, we are transported to the areas where this happens unseen.
The artwork coincides with COP24, the meeting of United Nations delegates in Poland to determine how to employ strategies to keep to the climate regulations agreed at the Paris Climate Agreement three years ago.
An unfortunate side effect of this installation is the environmental cost. The estimated energy that it cost to bring one of these blocks to London was equal to one person flying from London to the Arctic and back again.
What this temporary sculpture creates is a sense of time, or, more accurately, the knowledge of a time that is running out. Just as the sculpture is only in London from today to the 20th, giving audiences a small time-frame to experience it, so too is the amount of time we have left to limit the damage to ice sheets and their corresponding environments globally.
Ice Watch will be exhibited from the 11th December to 20th December. Well, they will be there until they melt away.
100 notable figures from around the globe have come together to sign an open letter which calls upon concerned citizens of the globe to rise up and radically organise against current governmental complacency on the ecological and climate emergency we are facing.
The 100 includes Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Chris Packham, Lily Cole, Bill McKibben, Dr Rowan Williams, and Bill Ripple of Scientists Warning amongst others.
The open letter, penned and organised by Dr Alison Green, Dr Richard House, and Dr Rupert Read, who are all representatives of climate advocacy and action group Extinction Rebellion, has been published today simultaneously round the globe, in media including The Guardian (UK), South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Taipei Times (Taiwan), O Pais (Mozambique), Aftenposten (Norway) and Al Wihda (Chad).
The publication of the letter comes at the same time as the COP24 United Nations climate summit in Katowice, Poland, which is the first to be held since the IPCC report on climate breakdown and the proposed global temperature limitation of 1.5C was published in October.
At COP24, renowned environmentalist Sir David Attenborough declared in his speech, “Right now, we’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years: Climate Change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations, and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”
As an organisation, Extinction Rebellion ‘rejects the complacency and denial exhibited by business and political leaders, and insists that the truth about the climate crisis is told.’ It uses non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to bring attention to the apparent ‘criminal activity’ of governments.
The group’s demands are as follows:
The Government must admit the truth about the ecological emergency, reverse all policies inconsistent with addressing climate change, and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens
The Government must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels
A national Citizen’s Assembly must be created, to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.
“We feel we have really struck a chord with this letter. People understand that there is nothing wrong with telling the truth,” commented Dr Alison Green, PVC Academic at Arden University.
“It has been heartening to have the support of so many high-profile people, and amazing that some of the biggest names were also the quickest to respond. Even people who felt unable to sign the letter commented that they supported the action.”
Fellow letter organiser and chartered psychologist Dr Richard House added, “I co-organised the famous press letter on ‘toxic childhood’ that went viral overnight in September 2006, and tellingly, the level of concern shared by our signatories to this letter surpasses even that. The ignoring or sidelining of this issue by corporations and governments is simply no longer an option.”
Read the full letter below.
Climate Emergency: An Open Letter to Concerned Global Citizens
This open letter appears today in major newspapers across the world.
In our complex, interdependent global ecosystem, life is dying, with species extinction accelerating. The climate crisis is worsening much faster than previously predicted. Every single day 200 species are becoming extinct. This desperate situation can’t continue.
Political leaders worldwide are failing to address the environmental crisis. If global corporate capitalism continues to drive the international economy, global catastrophe is inevitable.
Complacency and inaction in Britain, the USA, Australia, Brazil, across Africa and Asia… – all illustrate diverse manifestations of political paralysis, abdicating humankind’s grave responsibility for planetary stewardship.
International political organizations and national governments must foreground the climate-emergency issue immediately, urgently drawing up comprehensive policies to address it. Conventionally privileged nations must voluntarily fund comprehensive environment-protection policies in impoverished nations, to compensate the latter for foregoing unsustainable economic growth, and paying recompense for the planet-plundering imperialism of materially privileged nations.
With extreme weather already hitting food production, we demand that governments act now to avoid any risk of hunger, with emergency investment in agro-ecological extreme-weather-resistant food production. We also call for an urgent summit on saving the Arctic icecap, to slow weather disruption of our harvests.
We further call on concerned global citizens to rise up and organise against current complacency in their particular contexts, including indigenous people’s rights advocacy, decolonization and reparatory justice – so joining the global movement that’s now rebelling against extinction (e.g. “Extinction Rebellion” in the UK).
We must collectively do whatever’s necessary non-violently, to persuade politicians and business leaders to relinquish their complacency and denial. Their “business as usual” is no longer an option. Global citizens will no longer put up with this failure of our planetary duty.
Every one of us, especially in the materially privileged world, must commit to accepting the need to live more lightly, consume far less, and to not only uphold human rights but also our stewardship responsibilities to the planet.
Travel. Everyone’s dream. Seeing parts of the planet you never dreamed of seeing. And yet, with each year roughly 1.2 billion people seeking distant shores, we have to fundamentally rethink the way in which travel is undertaken.
Whether it’s cities, beaches, mountains, or seas that take your fancy, we’ve come up with a few eco-friendly ideas to take into consideration when planning your next sojourn abroad.
Not every destination will champion environmentally-friendly practices. Some will, but may be on the other side of the world from where you reside. Yet there are destinations, that if chosen wisely, demonstrate good-decision making and a commitment to the living planet.
Before setting your sights on a destination, do your research. Selecting destinations that prioritise sustainability, environmental advocacy, using environmentally-friendly business practices, and are actually investing in their own natural heritage is forward thinking. There are countries, like Namibia and Bhutan, that contain within their constitutional doctrines, environmental protection policy. Other countries place their environments in similar high regard and act accordingly,such as Ecuador’s decision to place 97 percent of the Galapagos’s landmass under the watchful gaze of its national park service.
“Selecting a destination that achieves a balance of protecting natural and cultural resources, providing for sustainable livelihoods, and creating a high-quality traveler experience is challenging.” Says the WWF’s Vice President of Travel and Conservation Jim Sano. But all is not hopeless. There are services you can use that help to inform about which destinations are sustainable. A quick Ecosia search provides a whole host of information, with sites such as Ecotourism, Sustainable Tourism, and Green Destinations providing a wealth of advice. Particularly helpful is Green Destinations, who have compiled a list of sustainable destinations against the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Destination Criteria – “A recognised set of criteria to assess a destination’s management policies and practices. Two hundred destinations have been selected to date.” You’re definitely spoilt for choice.
The 2017 Atmosfair Airline Index is a useful tool when comparing flights for energy efficiency, and last named TUI Airways as the most efficient in both medium and long haul flights, due to its efficient aircraft and passenger to flight ratio. The higher the amount of passengers per flights, the less amount of flights that need to be taken. What you may lose in legroom, you make up for in efficiency. You can also look into airlines that try to offset their carbon production, by investing in projects that try and actively reduce or store carbon in our atmosphere. This is probably the closest direct way of carbon neutral flying. For example, you can look into airlines that work with the International Air Transport Association, using their carbon offset and environmental assessment programs. Another good idea is, regardless of the distance of the flight, look into non-stop trips. Takeoffs and landings are the periods that create the most carbon emissions during a flight, and minimising these instances is a good idea.
You could also consider taking a train instead of a plane. “Excellent railway infrastructure makes trains a viable alternative to flights, including most of Europe and East Asia, and some countries in Southeast Asia.” Says Steve Long, co-founder of The Travel Brief. Many European rail services run on electric power or alternative fuels, and are the most efficient per journey when boasting a high occupancy rate.
A brilliant resource to use when deciding which mode of travel to use is the carbon calculater from EcoPassenger. For example, it calculated that a train journey from London to Rome would produce 223.2kg of carbon dioxide less than a flight would. If time is of no consequence, trains should be considered.
If you fancy giving your sea legs a test, we would advice against taking a cruise. Cruise ships are one of the worst polluters of all transport types, with the industry consuming millions of tonnes of fuel and producing almost a billion tonnes of sewage each year. Friends Of The Earth created an annual report card which compares and contrasts the impacts of well-known cruise lines, rating them based on their sewage treatment, air pollution, water quality compliance, and their transparency, which you can find here. If you still want to experience the seas and all their beauty, you can look into chartering a sailboat, which of course will have an infinitely smaller footprint.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotels can actually represent a huge amount of environmental impact when it comes to travel. We suggest that, when looking into the accommodation you choose, decide upon which issues matter to you the most. The most ‘green’ hotels across the board will work in tandem with the three pillars of sustainable tourism – environmental, social, and economic.
Many major hotel chains as well as independents operate green programs (such as IHG, who work by what they call their Green Engage ™ System, or Accor Hotels, who employ their Planet 21 Sustainable Development program). We recommend that you call where you’re staying and ask some questions, as it is their responsibility to try and satisfy you. Inquire about whether they compost, where they source their energy from, whether they reuse their grey water. Do they recycle? Where do they source their food from?
A good way of searching for hotels that are either approved or accredited by programs such as Green Key, a voluntary eco-label awarded to establishments for their work in environmental sustainability. There is also the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, which oversees the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
“Making environmentally friendly choices on your own during your stay can have a long-term impact on the environment and only takes small changes,” said Rhiannon Jacobsen, vice president of strategic relationships at the U.S. Green Building Council.
In satisfying the aforementioned three pillars of sustainable tourism, you could put your money to good use by helping to invest in local communities. For example, Unique Lodges of the World, a 55-strong collection of properties affiliated with National Geographic, has properties that tick all boxes. The Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in South Africa helps to protect native species, invests in community programs that provide education, and employs a sustainable wastewater management system.
There are some immediate ways you can help when you arrive at your accommodation. If staying at a hotel, decline having your towels and linens changed every day. Don’t take from your room’s mini-fridge. Decline housekeeping. Decline any form of disposable plates or utensils. Avoid buffets, which usually result in a vast amount of wasted food. If the hotel doesn’t seem to be recycling, suggest it to them. If bikes are available to be borrowed or rented, do so. Refuse using or taking the complimentary small plastic bottles of shampoo or conditioner, bring your own, and if you do bring them home, donate them to homeless shelters.
WHAT TO PACK
Travel requires eating out, drinking out, and carrying items with you that you wouldn’t normally carry, and sometimes buying items you usually normally buy. To limit your both your physical and environmental impact when travelling, it’s good to carry reusables.
Of course you’re going to pack the usual items, the clothes, possible sun tan lotion, toiletries, but are there ways of making these items sustainable? Clothes are simple and reusable, so already have a better environmental footprint in terms of lifetime than something like a plastic bottle. Second-hand clothes are even better. Are you shopping for new holiday clothes? See what you can get second-hand before you buy new.
In terms of toiletries there is a large community for naked (plastic-free), sustainable products. LUSH do an incredible line of naked products that are travel friendly, such as their lasting shampoo bars and shower gels. They also do travel toothpaste in the form of small chewable pills.
Watch out for where you purchase your sun-tan lotion from, as common sunscreens can contain chemicals that lead to coral reef bleaching. Search for reef-friendly products, such as properly biodegradable or mineral-based sunscreens. Or simply wear protective clothing.
Eating out, dining on street food will probably be on the cards for you, so it’s wise to invest in a good set of reusable cutlery to take with you. The set pictured above is by Bright Zine, but there is a vast amount out there, made by many different companies from many different materials. To go along with your set, it’s also good to invest in some sort of hot drink container for those times when you crave tea or coffee on the go. Pictured above is a glass KeepCup, a cute and fantastic addition to anyone’s eco-friendly travel kit. The cork sleeve is made from sustainably-sourced cork, and 15% of the price of this particular KeepCup went to the Australian branch of Sea Shepherd, the marine conservation organisation. Conventional coffee cups made from cardboard and plastic are over-used and difficult to recycle, so show some love for the living planet by getting yourself a reusable. Most big coffee chains also offer money off for using a reusable cup.
Another thing that we at Deeply Good stress is good to have on you at all times (not just when travelling), is a tote bag. These can come in all shapes and sizes, but are fantastic for carrying anything from fresh produce to clothing, and help to make sure we’re not using the waterway-polluting plastic bags. Totes can be bought virtually anywhere, and are easy to customise. They fold down to virtually nothing so can fit in any coat or bag pocket.
A good minimalist traveller will invest in a rugged and durable backpack that fits any occasion or destination. We’re also enjoying the recent trend in cross-body bags (imagine fanny-packs that sling across your chest), as they provide a convenient and trendy way to store items you already have on you, or items you buy.
Last but not least, remember your reusable water bottle. Not only does it prevent you from buying needless single-use plastic bottles, but it also keeps you hydrated, a bonus if you’re travelling somewhere hot.
Our honourable mentions also include; a microfiber travel towel and a mooncup (or other reusable menstrual cup). Also, if you want to stay protected from the Sun, but dislike buying a plastic lotion bottle, LUSH conveniently do a naked sun-tan lotion bar.
INVEST IN GREEN ACTIVITIES, INVEST IN LOCAL COMMUNITIES
“The green movement has changed from how to preserve and protect to how to use less and do good when you’re there,” said Dawn Head, owner and editor of the online resource Go Green Travel Green. The array of any eco-friendly activity in any place you go will be vast. Sailing, snorkelling, scuba-diving, hiking, running, kayaking, paddleboarding, cycling, swimming, even walking around a museum – all of these cause minimal, if no impact at all. Why not visit craft markets, second-hand shops, or even local events? Giving your money to local companies is bother better for the environment and the economy than giving it all to a multinational.
There is also the possibility to give back to the community you visit in other ways: volunteering. Some hotels and tour operators arrange short term volunteer opportunities, but this is fairly rare and may take a little bit of research to discover which hotels offer schemes such as these.
There are also programs such as Pack for a Purpose set up. With Pack For A Purpose, you can select a destination and bring supplies to said destination, if that destination calls for them. For example, in Jamaica, visitors can donate school equipment through Beaches Negril Resort & Spa to Mount Airy All Age school, which educates 650 children. This means you can actively support a community you travel to, and would even mean you would probably travel home with less than you came with.
Visiting and donating to local amusements such as wildlife reserves, parks, and protected marine areas would mean that tourism money would directly benefit the local community and environment.
When it comes to travelling, we will sometimes want to bring a souvenir back from our trips. This is all well and good as souvenirs serve as lasting reminders of a time well-spent. When we see an item for sale, especially in another country, we can never tell where that item has been procured from, or whether it is even legal to purchase. Some items may be made of protected wood that may be illegal to trade in, import, or export. Even worse is the sale of animal-derived products, that will usually do more harm than good to local communities, and definitely do no good for local environments. Imagine going to Africa and buying something made of Ivory? It would be highly damaging.
Ask yourself, before you purchase, what is this item made of and where did it come from? An informed choice may help you dodge fines at customs and also help reduce the demand for unethical or environmentally-unfriendly products. For a list of items to avoid, check out WWF’s Buyer Beware Guide.
Also, it almost doesn’t need to be said, but avoid all places that deal in any kind of animal exploitation.
Finally, eating locally is a wise choice. Chain restaurants will usually import foods from far away, translating to more carbon emissions, increasing the footprint of your trip. To offset the emissions from your travel, you could even try going vegan for the duration of the trip. Meat and dairy contributes more greenhouse gas emissions globally than all of the transport industry combined. While travelling, eating vegan would not only offset this footprint significantly, it would also be a fun challenge, and would possibly help you contribute to local small businesses, as most cities will have specifically vegan cafes and restaurants that you could enjoy. You would probably be at less risk of catching food poisoning from meat or dairy if you made the easy switch while travelling.
In the last three months, plastic bag use in Australia has dropped by 80%. An estimated 1.5 billion bags have been prevented from use, after two of Australia’s largest supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths banned them from their stores this summer.
Although the decision was initially met with public backlash, it was a decision quickly accepted, with some retailers “reporting reduction rates as high as 90 percent”, according the National Retail Association’s David Stout. The Australian public seemingly haven’t found it to difficult to adjust to the change, which requires them to either bring their own bags to shop with, or to purchase a reusable one for a certain fee.
It is estimated that there is 5.25 trillion pieces of trash in our oceans, the majority of that number being made up of plastics of various sizes, and bans such as these do a little to weaken the environmental blow caused by plastics. That being said, plastics pollution is still a very real problem and will be for a long time to come.
There have been calls for the Australian government to promote a nationwide ban on plastic bags after pressure from environmentalists. The most populous state, New South Wales, is the only state that has no legislation in place currently ensuring it would phase out single-use plastic bags.
“We’re still seeing a lot of small to medium bags being used, especially in the food category, and whilst I get some comfort that the majors have done this voluntarily I think there still needs to be a ban in place,” Said Stout. “For business, for the environment, for the consumer and of course even for councils which have to work to remove these things from landfills, there’s a multitude of benefits on a whole to doing this.”
The United Kingdom currently has a tax on plastic bags which has resulted in more use of stronger, more durable reusable bags. Some parts of the United States also operate either partial bans or taxes, but legislation is not yet countrywide.
The average lifespan of a plastic bag is around 12 minutes, then it is discarded in a variety of ways. When discarded, they inevitably find their ways into green areas, or more likely, are washed into waterways. They are estimated to kill around 100,000 marine mammals every year, and when they do eventually break down, simply become smaller and smaller particles known as microplastics, which circulate the oceans and lie in landfills for anywhere up to 1,000 years.
Some may say that banning plastic bags doesn’t work. There hasn’t been a large amount of studies done on plastic pollution in relation to bans, but progress seems to have been made in some parts of the world. For example in San Jose, California, there has been an 60% reduction in plastic bags found in creeks and rivers since a ban was put in place in 2012. Similarly, in Seattle there has been a 76% decline in plastic bag waste since their banning five years ago.
While things are looking a little brighter in terms of plastic bag use, it is still crucial that each an every country introduces measures to limit all kinds of single-use plastic from being used. Every second, as many as 160,000 plastic bags are used globally, and unfortunately, only 1-3% of them are recycled. Click that link to see the amount of plastic bags being produced, the number currently stands at 4.6 trillion. This is neither sustainable or environmentally-friendly.
Right at this moment delegates from all over the world are meeting in Katowice, Poland, for COP24, the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change conference, to discuss the implementation of plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions so that global heating is restricted to 1.5C.
Of course, this means that delegates need to be fed. You would think that the fare on offer would as eco-friendly as possible. Unfortunately this is not the case. A new study by the Center for Biological Diversity, Brighter Green, and Farm Forward, has discovered that the menu on offer could potentially be responsible for 4,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
The report opens ‘While world leaders gather in Katowice, Poland, for the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference (UNFCCC), or COP24, the main food court serving the conference’s estimated 30,000 visitors is offering twice as many meat-based entrees as plant-based entrees. This means a menu with an unnecessarily high carbon foodprint. If international climate conferences hope to lead the way in addressing the climate crisis, organizers can’t afford to overlook the food offered at their events.’
The study stated that the meat-based options generated around 4.1kg CO2e per serving, while the plant-based options emitted around 4 times less than that, at 0.9kg CO2e per serving. If each of COP24’s 30,000 visitors chose a meat-based dish during the conference, this would contribute the equivalent of ‘burning more than 500,000 gallons of gasoline or the greenhouse gas emissions attributed to 3,000 people flying from New York to Katowice.’
To put the menu into specifics, the least carbon-intensive entrée is cabbage and mushroom dumplings, which in comparison to the most carbon-intensive entrée, beef with smoked bacon, produced 35 times less greenhouse gas emissions. Now it may seem of interest to offer a wide-range of foodstuffs to cater to everyone’s individual tastes and dietary requirements, but when a group of people gather to lead the charge against climate breakdown, shouldn’t their personal actions reflect their lofty ideals?
“The meat-laden menu at COP24 is an insult to the work of the conference,” said Stephanie Feldstein, director of the Population and Sustainability program at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If the world leaders gathering in Poland hope to address the climate crisis, they need to tackle overconsumption of meat and dairy, starting with what’s on their own plates. That means transitioning the food served at international climate conferences to more plant-based options with smaller carbon footprints.”
30% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are made up of emissions directly caused by the global food system, with a large amount of those emissions being caused by animal agriculture.
‘If current trends continue, food production will nearly exhaust the global carbon budget for all sectors by 2050.’
For us to effectively tackle climate breakdown, both the production and consumption of meat and dairy must be reduced significantly. If we want to keep global heating below 1.5C, a drastic shift in our diets needs to occur, especially with the high meat consumption in western countries, and the growing demand for meat in countries like China.
Unfortunately, even though the science of agricultural emissions is sound, the issue is not one that has been covered in international climate negotiations and debates. This lack of attention is shown by the short-sighted menu offered at COP24.
“We know that we cannot meet the Paris Agreement goals, or the 1.5C target, with business as usual,” said Caroline Wimberly of Brighter Green, who will be in Katowice for COP24. “Food is not a matter only of personal choice, but an essential factor in solving the climate crisis. Demand-side policies and efforts, including food waste reductions and shifting diets—prioritizing populations with the highest consumption of animal-based foods—are critical in achieving a climate compatible food system and curtailing emissions.”
Around 200 MPs and former MPs have come together to sign the Divest Parliament Pledge, a pledge calling on the MP’s Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuel companies.
This announcement comes at the same time as global leaders meet for COP24, the climate change summit in Katowice, Poland, to develop plans to actualise on the global heating limitations set out in the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. As the recent IPCC report stated that we only have 12 years to mitigate the worst of greenhouse gas emissions and global heating, this act from MPs is greatly welcomed.
“We’re now a 200 strong cohort of cross-party MPs who believe it is morally indefensible for Parliamentarians to be investing in companies which profit from wrecking our planet.” Said Green Party MP for Brighton Palivion. “MPs have a duty to take action to prevent the worst of climate change. One simple step we can take is ditching our investments in fossil fuels – and instead invest in clean, renewable energy, and low-carbon technologies”.
If this Divest Parliament Pledge is successful, Parliament would join the Irish National Infrastructure Fund, The New York State Pension fun, and two-thirds of UK universities committed to fossil fuel divestment.
Amongst those MPs that have signed the pledge are Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, SNP MP Mhairi Black, Labour MP David Lammy, and former conservative MP Lord Deben. You can find a full list of MPs who have signed the pledge here, and use the site to inform your local MP if they have not already signed.
“Preventing disastrous climate change will be the defining challenge of the next decade for world leaders.” Said Lord Deben. “The UK must show leadership by demonstrating that we are prepared to make the necessary choices. This includes moving investment out of fossil fuels and towards renewables that are already proving that they can be built at the scale needed to power our homes and businesses. Moving quickly towards the Paris goals is the best way to protect our health and our prosperity for many generations to come.”
Since December 2017, the amount of MPs signing the pledge has doubled, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn being the 100th person to sign. 23 out of 25 SNP MPs have signed, alongside 11 out of 12 Liberal Democrat MPs, including party leader Sir Vince Cable.
Of the MPs that have signed the pledge, roughly 59% are Labour. Conservatives make up roughly 7%, Liberal Democrats 8%, SNP members make up 15%, and other parties make up 20%.
The campaign for transforming our current economy into a green economy had been rhetoric for some time, but now is seemingly becoming actualised, however slowly. Carbon-based fossil fuels drove the first industrial revolution, but have no become part of our downfall, as global temperatures rise, extreme weather events becomes more and more often, and refugees are forced from their homes at the hands of climate breakdown. What we need is a new energy revolution. Divestment is the first step towards this.
The current UK government may employ a green rhetoric, but it’s record is far from clean. Only recently did the Conservative government ratify Caudrilla’s bid to frack for shale gas in the northern county of Lancashire, despite the local council’s attempts to block it. Fortunately, more and more conservative party members seem to be turning away from Fracking.
The government’s Clean Growth Strategy admitted that the measures it had recommended to fulfil the fourth and fifth carbon budgets set by the Paris Climate Agreement would not be enough. This is a legally binding contract, limiting by law the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted in a five-year period.
“This campaign is the fastest growing divestment movement of all time, which has seen more than $5tn of assets divested across more than 800 institutions.” writes Rebecca Long-Bailey, MP for Salford & Eccles. “Campaigning for our universities, workplaces, unions, and pension funds to divest is one important way we can help to build a more sustainable society. Parliament must play its part.