Share The Love - September 2017

Are you fed up of hearing that autumn is finally here yet? Ok, I won’t say it – but I’m definitely thinking it and I’m really excited about it.

September was our first full month living in Edinburgh, and it’s been a great month. We’re getting our bearings, are loving living here, work is good, and my masters is equal parts fascinating and horrifying. NB: we’re fudging the planet big time and need to stop being dicks to it.

In September, I decided to give being fully vegan another go and it’s going really well so far. We’ve made some delicious vegan food, like soup and butternut squash “mac n cheese”. 

 

Blog – What Is Maria

I found Maria’s blog towards the end of September and it fast became a favourite. Maria covers a range of topics, such as vegan food and recipes, anxiety, and overcoming exercise addiction to name a few.

What drew me to her blog was how absolutely honest it feels. It feels like you’re talking to her in person. She isn’t trying to be someone else at all. My favourite blog post from September was her top 10 vegan pantry essentials.

 

Links

 

Listening

September was an amazing month for new music.

 

Watching

Our TV signal is rubbish where we live, so Daz and I have been watching a lot of Friends re-runs and documentaries on Netflix / iPlayer. We really enjoyed BBC’s Life at the Extreme, Chasing Coral (it’s a hard watch), and being the Canadaphiles we are, we chuckled hard at Being Canadian.

Like most of the UK, we are pretty undecided on our feelings towards Channel 4’s Great British Bake Off. On one hand, it’s a baking show; what isn’t to love. On the other hand, it belongs on BBC and WHERE’S IS MARY BERRY?! At least it isn’t as bad as the reboot of Top Gear.

 

Popular posts on Girl In Awe

 

What did you enjoy in September?

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Fruit and veg stall - zero waste

Over the past few months, I’ve been trying hard to reduce my waste significantly and move towards zero waste.

I have always strived to recycle and thought I was pretty good at living fairly sustainably. The more I learn about zero waste and being sustainable, the more I realise there’s still a lot more I can do. Daz and I certainly don’t have a zero waste household, we are slowly reducing the amount of rubbish we send to landfill though. Moving house created a whole load of rubbish and we did donate or sell whatever we could, and only send to landfill what we had to.

Rubbish and waste is something we all have in our homes and trying to reduce it can seem really daunting. We’ve been trying to move towards zero waste for a few months now, so I wanted to share some of the biggest things we’ve learned.

 

What is zero waste?

If this is the first time you’ve heard of zero waste, here’s a brief introduction for you. The basic idea is that you produce no waste. Nothing in your refuse bin. Nothing. Nada. Zero waste is bigger than not producing waste though, it’s about buying products and food with less packaging, reducing the amount of plastic and waste you bring into your home, buying more thoughtfully and so much more.

 

What our zero waste journey has taught us so far

Over the past few months we have noticed a decrease in how full our refuse bin is come collection day. Up here in Edinburgh, in addition to a general waste bin and recycling bin, they also have food waste caddys and a glass recycling box. That means our recycling bin is pretty much plastic, paper, and cans. And boy, is there a lot of plastic. Too much plastic. 

 

Packaging – y u no use eco-friendly packaging?

My biggest recycling peeve is packaging. I think Daz kind of dreads going shopping with me because I go off on a rant every time I see “not currently recyclable” on packaging. There are so many recyclable and biodegradable packaging options that I cannot comprehend why a manufacturer would choose to use something that isn’t recyclable. Actually, I can; I suspect it’s to do with money.

When it comes to skincare, cosmetics, and vegan / dairy free food items, it’s really easy to find products in minimalist and recyclable packaging. The brand is well aware of their impact on the environment and usually uses packaging which is environmentally friendly.

It’s when you come to other items or food products that aren’t associated with the environment or special dietary needs that it gets trickier. It’s not impossible, but it does mean you might have to do some research and maybe stop buying a product you loved. If that’s the case though, I would definitely recommend emailing them and asking why they’re using non-recyclable packaging. You might think that one email might not make a difference, but if enough people tell a company they aren’t buying their products because of their packaging choices they will make a change.

A Plastic Planet are running a really interesting campaign and are trying to encourage supermarkets to offer a plastic free aisle. How wonderful would that be?

 

Plastic bags – learn to juggle or forward plan

By this point, I think we can all agree that plastic bags are bad. I’m slowly getting better at remembering to take reusable bags to the supermarket with me. Daz is much better than me, and remembers to keep some in the car.

 

Chemicals & microbeads

I stopped buying products with microbeads in last year when I read about how rubbish (excuse the pun) they are for the environment and marine life. Microbeads are used in a lot of exfoliating cosmetics and are small plastic balls that are absolutely pointless because there are so many natural exfoliants, like; rice, charcoal, coffee, sugar, oats, bamboo, walnut shells, the list is very long.

Being a science student I have always enjoyed reading the ingredients list on products, and it always scares me when I see something and think “hmmm, I feel like I used that in the lab and needed to wear gloves…” The long and short of it is that harmful and unnecessary products are causing damage in two ways.

  1. Your body is absorbing all those nasties, and they’re not good for you.
  2. All those nasties are ending up in the water supply when they get washed down the drain.

I’m sure they’re also causing damage in other ways as well, such as the manufacturing process. I’ve not really had to buy many skincare products recently but when I do I’m going for natural and sustainable products. It is my goal to now only buy natural and sustainable products; which means saying “bye bye” to some LUSH stuff. Le sigh. Since the start of the year, I think the only places I’ve purchased skin / hair care and beauty products from are Holland & Barrett , 100% Pure, and Antipodes

If you want to learn more about being eco-friendly in your bathroom, check out my updated 8 tips for being more eco-friendly in the bathroom

 

Don’t just throw stuff out

While we were relocating, we noticed there are a load of things we didn’t use or need. Some of it we sold on eBay, a load of it was donated or given to friends, and what was of no use went to the tip. 

 

Forward planning

The biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that I need to plan. Living in Edinburgh means we have access to a couple of stores that have bulk options – something we definitely didn’t have before. We haven’t needed to use them yet because we have so much flour, sugar, and oats, it’s ridiculous. At some point soon we’ll get through them all and I’m looking forward to bulk buying – that’s kind of sad, isn’t it?

  • By forward planning, we reduce our food waste by buying what we need and using things up.
  • I remember to take some suitable bags for putting loose produce in.
  • I can go a little out of my way to get something without packaging or with packaging that’s actually recyclable.  

 

We have a long way to go on our quest for zero waste, and maybe we won’t ever truly reach zero. We’re really happy with where we’re at so far. It was bin day a couple of days ago and our waste bin was less than half full.

If you want to cut down on your waste to landfill, here are a few blog posts that I found helpful:

 

If you’ve got any tips or want to share a useful blog post / blog, please do 🙂

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Avalanche at Plain of Six Glaciers

Lake Louise from Plain of Six Glaciers

The plain of the six glaciers trail has everything you want in a hike; adorable wildlife, mountains, snow, an azure lake, glaciers, avalanches, and vegetarian chilli. 

The 14km trail (return) begins at the edge of Lake Louise, outside the Fairmont hotel. While the lake looks absolutely packed in that spot, the crowds thin out quickly. A good chunk of visitors are there just to see the lake and have a little wander. We have been to Lake Louise in September and June, so neither are full-on peak times but we didn't find the trails to be jam-packed or unbearable. As soon as you begin walking down the side of the lake, you notice a huge difference. The further you get from the hotel, the quieter it is.  

If you do want to avoid the crowds and feel like you truly have the place to yourself then aim to arrive well before 9am. Save

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Lake Louise to the Victoria Glacier

View towards the Victoria Glacier

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I first heard about the plain of the six glaciers trail on Brittany's Adventures. We saw it last autumn when we were beginning to plan our summer trip to Canada and it was high up our list of things to do in the Banff / Lake Louise area. We did the Lake Agnes teahouse trail the first time and enjoyed it (though we felt super unfit) and wanted to see the tea house at the top of the plain of the six glaciers trail. Plus, the views from the top of the trail looked incredible.

Overall, the hike took us about five hours, though maybe a little bit longer because we had a delicious chilli at the teahouse - which I will fangirl about more later.

Beach at the end of Lake Louise

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise from the end of Lake Louise

The trail follows Lake Louise right to the other end, where you will find a pretty sandy looking beach. I was quite surprised to see it to be honest, a beach was perhaps the last thing I was expecting to see. You're also going to see a lot of adorable ground squirrels who are pretty good at posing / begging for food.

Once you've passed the end of the lake, the real work begins. It is not the steepest hike I've ever done, but it is going to leave you a little out of breath. Especially if there's patches of snow and remnants of avalanches about which you need to navigate without falling over. We didn't take any hiking poles, but if you have any and you're visiting when there might be snow about, they're probably going to be useful.

Avalanche remains on the Plain of Six Glaciers trail

Mount Lefroy Plain of Six Glaciers

As you get closer to the teahouse, the Victoria Glacier comes into view and it is worth feeling out of breath and sweaty for. At the top of this part of the trail, there's an information board which names the peaks and glaciers you can see. One area is aptly called Death Trap due to avalanches.

From here you can head to the teahouse and toilets or carry on another 1.2km (I think, I can't fact check it anywhere now - it's definitely not more than 2km anyway) to the very end of the trail. However, there are signs up warning that that section of the trail isn't maintained and you'll see why if you decide to reach the end. For the most part, the last bit is absolutely fine. It's the last little bit where you're on very fine kinda gravel on a steep slope.

Victoria Glacier and Death Trap from Plain of Six Glaciers trail

The Victoria Glacier

I am not a person with excellent balance. Especially when it comes to getting down things. Daz calls me a "shit cat" because if I were a cat, I would forever be stuck in trees. My owners would have a loyalty card for the Fire Brigade (I'm not sure what that would mean, though.) I can get up anything. Getting down? It's horrendous. Again, walking poles would be useful here but if you have rubbish balance, like me, you aren't really missing out on much by not doing the last few metres. I promise. It is literally the last few metres, so you can get the same view by staying on the raised little path.

After taking in views of the Victoria Glacier, listening to the ice crack, and feeling proud of our efforts, we headed to the tea house. We had the most delicious chilli there; it was unbelievable. I'm still thinking about that chilli three months later. I would go back for that chilli. I mean, I'd go back because I'm obsessed with Canada and the place is beautiful, but that chilli!

The teahouse itself is really interesting because all the supplies have to be flown in or hiked in with the staff. The staff there do five days on, and two days off, and have to hike in and out on the same trail. If you want to visit the teahouse, note that they only take cash and it is only open between mid-June to mid-October, depending on weather.

Avalanche at Plain of Six Glacier

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As we headed back down from the teahouse, we heard a huge cracking noise and turned around to see an avalanche. Neither of us had ever seen one with our own eyes and what struck us the most was the sheer noise of it. We all know avalanches are powerful and not to be taken lightly, but the noise really conveys that. For a moment, everyone on the trail stopped in their tracks and fell silent as we watched in awe.

The sound on the video didn't do the sound of the avalanche justice at all. And I wasn't very on the ball with whipping my phone out because I was stood there staring, completely captivated, so what you're seeing is the end of the avalanche. That said, I still find it pretty cool to rewatch it.

The return was pretty smooth, just a few bits of ice and snow to navigate that had been compacted further by people walking on it all day. Before we knew it we were back at the shore of Lake Louise, where people were everywhere. It was quite a contrast from being up at the glacier, where the lake looked tiny. Being back down there, surrounded by crowds was a bit of a shock.

Before we went, we read reviews of treks to the plain of the six glaciers and most people said it was quite hard. I'm gonna be honest, Daz and I are not the fittest people at all but we didn't find it incredibly hard. Though, we had done Johnston Canyon & the Inkpots the day before and that was steep as, so I think anything was going to feel easier than that.

Don't be put off by seeing people say a hike is hard because it's worth it. You're climbing up a mountain - that ain't easy. That said, you know your own body; if you feel unsafe or out of your comfort zone then turn around.

If you're planning to do the plain of six glaciers trail it's probably going to be the main thing you do that day; what do you do with the rest of the day then? Luckily, there is loads you can do in Lake Louise and Banff:

  • Visit Moraine Lake, aka the best lake in the world. It's really close by and there are a couple of shorter hiking trails around the lake if you fancy some more walking. I recommend the walk to Consolation Lakes. Or you could go kayaking on the lake.
  • You could visit the Fairmont Lake Louise to be nosy at a fancy hotel and have afternoon tea.
  • If you're feeling very fit, you could veer off the plain of the six glaciers trail on the way back and visit the Lake Agnes teahouse.
  • Go paddle boarding or kayaking on Lake Louise.
  • Wander around the town of Lake Louise
  • Take the Lake Louise gondola for more stunning views

What's the best hike you've ever done?

Hiking plain of the six glaciers

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Antipodes Rejoice Moisturiser, Reincarnation Exfoliator, Divine Facial Oil & Dragon Fruit Lipstick

I have known about Antipodes for years; I think I remember seeing some of their products pop up in one of Estee Lalonde’s empties videos (I love those). I was always so tempted but the price put me off.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not rolling around on a bed of cash or recreating the bath scene from the Look What You Made Me Do video with all my jewels. Since beginning to learn more about ethical and toxin-free products, I am happy to pay more for high quality, organic, ethically sourced ingredients and products.

 

Why did I buy from Antipodes?

I thought it would be interesting to include a section on why I think Antipodes meet my ethical and sustainable requirements.

 

Antipodes Reincarnation Facial Exfoliator

£20.99 for 75ml on LoveLula

I’m about to rattle on a fair bit about how good Antipodes products smell throughout this blog post but this exfoliator smells the best. It has a lovely orange scent which reminds me of those gummy Vitamin C “sweets” I used to have as a kid; it’s kinda making me crave them.

Reincarnation uses jojoba beads for exfoliation which makes it quite a gentle exfoliator; I saw another blogger refer to it more as a polish and I think that’s a pretty good comparison. I use it every morning and use a harsher scrub or exfoliating mask once a week and it’s kept my dry skin at bay pretty well. Combined with having a good moisturiser for the first time in a while and my skin is looking better than it ever has.

You really don’t need to use a lot; the old “pea sized amount” is appropriate here. I’ve had this tube for a little over a month now and have used it almost every day and there’s loads left. I think this will easily last me five or six months.

 

Antipodes Vanilla Pod Hydrating Day Cream & Divine Face Oil

£12.00 for mini versions of both on LoveLula

I’ve heard great things about the Vanilla Pod Hydrating Day Cream so it was nice to be able to test a mini version because my skin can be so fussy when it comes to heavier moisturisers.

This smells delicious and is definitely a heavier moisturiser than Rejoice. It’s not too heavy at all, sinks in quickly, and doesn’t leave any kind of greasy feeling on your skin. I’ve been enjoying using it as a night cream and have found that it is really helping to hydrate my skin. Personally, I don’t think I will repurchase the Vanilla Pod cream because I am on a serious ‘try to be as vegan as I can be’ campaign at the moment, and I just don’t need to rub things with animal products on my face. When I’m out of this I think I’m going to try out their Immortal moisturiser with SPF 15.

The Divine Face Oil was the biggest surprise of this little lot for me. I know that oil absorbs oil, which is great, but I have really struggled to find a face oil that I like. And by that I mean one that sinks in quickly and doesn’t make you look like someone cooked a full English breakfast on your face. To my surprise, the face oil did just that and I’ve already repurchased a full size bottle.

 

Antipodes Rejoice Light Day Cream

Free on an offer, usually £25.99 on LoveLula

I could barely believe my timing when I saw LoveLula were offering a full size day cream as a freebie when you purchased two or more Antipodes products. Again, I can’t justify buying a full price item only for my skin to be angry with it, so it was nice to get to try out two Antipodes moisturisers for a fraction of the full size price.

The Rejoice day cream is, as the name suggests, very light (lighter than Vanilla Pod) but it doesn’t skimp on hydration at all. It sinks in quickly without leaving any kind of greasy or tacky feeling, and smells delicious. If you’re concerned about the price, a little bit goes a very long way. You just need the old “pea sized amount” and you should find that is plenty to leave your face feeling all kinds of fresh and moisturised.

 

Swatch of Antipodes Dragon Fruit Pink Lipstick

Antipodes Lipstick Dragon Fruit Pink

£19.99 for 4g on LoveLula

Since going cruelty free, I have been on the hunt for a dupe for my much loved Chatter Box by Mac, and I hadn’t really spotted anything which came close until I stumbled across Dragon Fruit Pink. Not only is Dragon Fruit cruelty free but it’s also toxin free, so I guess you could eat it if you really wanted.

The bullet is a slightly different shape to most lipsticks and I think this lends itself to easier application. It isn’t a creme kinda formula, like Mac’s Chatterbox, it’s a little bit drier but it does go on easily and doesn’t feel thick or drying on my lips. I’ve also being eyeing up this lipstick in shade Piha Beach Tangerine too.

In terms of lasting power, it does a pretty good job of lasting through eating and drinking. Like most lipsticks, and to my dismay, it won’t last all day long. That said, it’s really not going to disappear after a couple of hours of wearing it. I’ve found that it wears and fades evenly as well so it looks nice and it doesn’t look like it’s fading.

Applied as it is, straight onto your lips, it’s a lovely vibrant pink colour. I’ve been toning it down for work by applying some lip balm first to give a bit of colour that I can get away with.


I think it’s fairly clear to see from my fangirling that I do think Antipodes are worth the hype. I’m also very happy because I discovered a RealFoods store near us and it sells Antipodes; I don’t even need to order it online.

Have you ever tried Antipodes before? What did you think?

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Path leading to the Athabasca Glacier, where it once stood

You don’t have to look far during extreme weather, or when a damning report is published, to find people who truly believe climate change is fake. As a scientist, that point of view seems unfathomable to me. I am more curious than a cat and I wanted to understand why people think climate change is fake.

This post was inspired by a number of commenters on Twitter talking about how the recent horrendous hurricanes were not caused by climate change. That, I absolutely do not disagree with because we simply cannot prove it either way. It’s a whole other topic, but The Week has a really interesting article on this topic and how climate change could impact hurricanes. What I was so intrigued by was people adding that climate change is fake anyway, so it definitely couldn’t have caused them. 

People have been arguing against the existence of climate change for years and years and years and years; it’s nothing new. It’s easy to dismiss views that seem so unrelatable to us, which is why I wanted to try and understand why some people think climate change is fake. After researching for this blog post it became pretty clear to me that there are issues with the way science is communicated to the public, and a lack of trust.

Why some people think climate change is fake

“There have been many ice ages, so ice melting is natural”

This is perhaps the argument for climate change being fake that I see most often. It’s factually correct and is an easy way to dismiss climate change. I think that is a really easy argument to make to dismiss it and not have to think about it. Combating climate change is going to result in changes to our lifestyles and dealing with some big issues which are overwhelming. Saying it’s natural is a good way to not have to deal with those issues.

Our planet has been through many ice ages in it’s history. So yes, that’s right. However, that argument dismisses the rate at which ice is melting. Us kicking out more greenhouse gases than would naturally occur is warming the planet up and causing glaciers and ice sheets to melt faster.

 

“This study says it’s not true”

People pick and choose data that fits their ideals and beliefs and discount those that don’t, this is called cognitive bias. Every single one of us has done it at some point in our lives. We want to find evidence to support our ideas, and sometimes that means we dismiss the truth.

However, cognitive bias is a problem in science too. While scientists are supposed to be unbiased, not all of them are. They might carry out their research in a way that could subtly (or not so subtly) change the results to fit their beliefs or what they want to see from the study. As we’re about to see, that can cause big problems because it can lead to the public being fed lies.

One of the key things in science is to be able to reproduce data. That means that anyone who understands the theory should be able to carry out exactly the same test, under the same conditions, and receive the same results. 

A review of all journal articles covering global climate change and global warming between 1991 and 2011 found that 97.1% of them agreed that humans are causing global warming (Cook et al., 2013). That means 2.9% of papers covering the same topics were either uncertain or did not agree that humans were causing global warming. Benestad et al., (2016) were curious about why those 2.9% disagreed with 97.1% of papers. In their study, they reviewed 38 journal articles that disputed global warming to try and replicate their results. The study found that flaws in the method, ignoring data that didn’t fit their expectations, and a lack of contextual information.

“Shouldn’t there be something to stop biased papers being published?” you may ask. Yes. It’s called a peer review process. That should stop biased papers being published However, the Benestad et al., (2016) paper discovered that some of the papers they looked at were submitted to journals which were not specialists in the area of the paper. It highlighted that this might mean the journals did not have reviewers who were experts in the area who could have picked up on those issues.

That isn’t something the general public would probably even consider. If you read an article about research that had been carried out, would you question it’s validity? In the past, I know I wouldn’t have. It’s only through studying science that I’ve learned to be so critical. This is not a problem that should affect the general public. Journals should only be publishing properly reviewed unbiased papers. Additionally, the media have a responsibility to report correctly, which we’ll discuss in a minute.

While the next three sections link together, I’m going to address them in three sections to explore each area in detail without it being a wall of text.

Snow on the Icefields Parkway

Some people just don’t believe it

Some people simply do not believe or understand the facts. This is nothing to do with a lack of education. Psychologists call it the “anti-enlightenment movement“, which explores some of the things we’ve spoken about in this blog post.

We probably all know people flat out don’t believe some things we believe in. Maybe you’ve even tried to show them facts and had a debate to no avail. It doesn’t matter how many facts or studies they are presented with, they won’t believe it.

Katherine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist who worked on the Benestad et al, (2016) paper I mentioned earlier on. She recently reshared the results on her Facebook page in a post that went viral. The comments section makes for a truly interesting read because she’s been very active in replying and sharing further research papers and facts.

Some of the commenters are purely looking for reasons to disprove the results she and her team found. While that is part of science, and should be, it’s happening in an unconstructive and damaging way. Some of the commenters simply did not read the article or don’t believe it. This causes problems though if other people see the post pop up, don’t read the article, and then believe what those commenters have said.

 

A lack of trust

For one reason or another, some people do not trust scientists. Maybe it’s to do with their personal beliefs, religion, the media, or something else.

Going back to the post on Katherine Hayhoe’s page, one comment really stood out to me:

“I get that the climate has changed on earth over the years. But here is the thing scientists get paid to prove said hypothesis either side that person is getting paid to prove their point. So unless we take the money out of this then why should anyone believe these papers?”

This is a false view of how research works. Research is not where the money is in science and technology. Getting funding is hard work, and I’m not exactly sure how we’re supposed to “take the money out of this”. If there was no money, no research would be carried out.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that no scientist has ever tried to sway his or her data to ‘prove’ something. Just look at the Benestad et al., (2013) paper. Bias exists in science. I understand why that might lead some people to distrust scientists.

 

Media & political spin / “fake news”

On a related note, the media and politicians use facts and studies as weapons against the ‘opposition’. The problem here is that it potentially lessens the impact and urgency of legitimate studies and facts. Think about how frustrated and sick of politics and arguing we all get during election campaigns. In the end, you tune it out and write off what politicians are saying.

Additionally, it doesn’t help when people in power dismiss climate change issues due to misinformation. Let’s look at America. In 2012, Mr Trump famously tweeted:

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S manufacturing non-competitive.”

In 2014, he tweeted:

“Snowing in Texas and Louisiana, record setting freezing temperatures throughout the country and beyond. Global warming is an expensive hoax.”

At the start of this year, he appointed Scott Pruitt to head up the Environmental Protection Agency. Problem? Mr Pruitt isn’t entirely convinced about climate change either.

When you have people in positions of power who dismiss climate change so easily, I completely understand why people think they’re right. While a lot of people know Trump spreads fake news, there are still a lot of people who believe him and I can understand why.

The majority of people don’t have the time, or interest, to read a journal article. Some of them can be incredibly boring and overwhelming for someone who is as scientist, let alone those who aren’t. The media play a huge part in disseminating the results of research to the general public. If it’s done the wrong way people perceive it as being overhyped and blown out of proportion.

Similarly, the rise of “fake news” seriously discredits legitimate news that is published along side it. In addition to that, how is the public to know what is fake news? The purpose of a media outlet is not to share fake news, yet some of them do; how do the public distinguish what’s fact or fake? How do we get around that?

There are media outlets who report in a non-biased and non-sensationalist way. Unfortunately there will always be newspapers and websites who thrive off trying to cause hysteria and publishing fake news. I don’t really know how we fix that kind of problem.

 

The retreating Athabasca Glacier

They’re not affected in their every day lives

Out of sight, out of mind. A good chunk of us don’t see, or aren’t inconvenienced, by climate change on a daily basis. Sure, there are huge climate related issues going on all over the world but it can be hard to truly grasp it until you see it yourself. One of the first times I was really hit by the reality of climate change was when I visited the Athabasca Glacier. When I saw for myself how fast the glacier had retreated in recent years I was shocked. Before that, I had never really seen the impact of global warming for myself.

I can completely understand why people don’t believe it, or simply push it to the back of their minds, when they aren’t affected by it every day. We all have a million and one things going on in our lives, dealing with something that doesn’t impact us day in day out is not always top of our list.


Seeing something from another person’s perspective has always interested me, so this was a fun post to write. It is wrong to dismiss those who believe climate change is fake as “stupid” because it isn’t true. We all believe what we believe for a reason. Name-calling and treating people like idiots never works because it isn’t any kind of educational tool.

It’s clear that people’s beliefs and the way science is relayed to the public are two of the biggest reasons why some believe climate change is fake. I don’t know how we get around that. Maybe it’s schooling and teaching people to question what they’re told. Maybe it is more eye-opening documentaries or films. I do think that our governments have a responsibility to step up as well and encourage everyone (businesses included) to make changes in our lives. Maybe it’s punishment for news outlets who publish fake news.

What do you think?

Why do some people think climate change is fake?

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The view over the Bow Valley and Rundle Forebay from Grassi Lakes trail

Grassi Lakes is everything you’re looking for in a hike; two beautiful turquoise coloured lakes and panoramic views across Canmore and the mini Mount Rundle range.

The two lakes, called Upper and Lower Grassi Lakes, were named after Lawrence Grassi; an Italian-born climbing guide and trail blazer. He sounds like a fascinating person and was responsible for building many trails in the Canadian Rockies. Could you imagine having that job? I bet he had some amazing stories. 

Grassi Lakes trail more difficult or easy trails

There are two trails up to Grassi Lakes; the “more difficult” route and the “easy” route. Of course, we took the “more difficult” route, because why wouldn’t we? Turns out we ended up making it “even more difficult” because we channeled our inner Lawrence Grassi and blazed our own trail.

View over Canmore and Bow Valley from Grassi Lakes

View over Bow Valley from Grassi Lakes trail

The Bow Valley and Rundle Forebay from Grassi Lakes Trail

It all started well. We followed the trail and were floored by the beautiful views over Canmore and the Bow Valley. And then we came across the waterfall. We took in the views and then tried to figure out where the trail went. It wasn’t immediately obvious but we eventually spotted what we thought was the trail; it was a kind of worn path, in our defence.

After a couple of minutes of pulling ourselves up a bank we realised there was a solid chance we were not on the trail at all. Thankfully, Daz had looked at the trail map at the trail head and knew that if we kept going up we would reach the easier route.

He was right. We did reach the service road, but not after some serious climbing up a very muddy bank, and grabbing onto trees. At some point on the way up, I managed to lose my sunglasses as well.

The view from the top was absolutely worth it, and the colour of the lakes in these photos do not do them justice at all.

Grassi Lakes

Upper Grassi Lakes

Thankfully we found the trail to head back down on and discovered where we’d gone wrong. From the waterfall, the trail went up some steps which blended in to the trees and foliage. While they were a little camouflaged, I have no idea how we missed the steps.

At 3.8km there and back, the trip up to Grassi Lakes can easily be done in a couple of hours. And the harder route really isn’t that hard at all – unless you decide to blaze your own trail.

Have you ever got lost on a trail?

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View over the Bow Valley from Grassi Lakes

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Glass of water - are you drinking plastic right now?

Got a cuppa in your hand right now? There’s a good chance you might be drinking plastic as it’s estimated that 83% of the world’s tap water is contaminated by plastic fibres.

You have probably seen heart-breaking stories on Facebook about the dangers of plastic to marine wildlife. It doesn’t stop with them and our oceans; plastic is so polluting and invasive that studies have found it in our tap water.

A study by Orb Media and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health tested tap water around the globe and found the following contamination levels:

  • Worldwide: 83%
  • USA: 94%
  • Europe: 72%
  • Jakarta, Indonesia: 76%
  • New Delhi, India: 82%
  • Lebanon, Beirut: 94%
  • Kampala, Uganda: 81%
  • Quito, Ecuador: 75%

Those are some startling figures; 83% of the world’s tap water is contaminated with plastic.

The figures are worrying, so I wanted to do a bit of research into why drinking plastic is bad for us (aside from the ew factor), how it gets there, and if there’s anything we can do about it. To my surprise, I found that this wasn’t new news at all; we’ve been drinking plastic for years.

Before we get started I want make it clear that plastic pollution is a complex problem that extends beyond our drinking water. This blog post is to introduce and give an overview of the issues surrounding plastic in our tap water. If you want to learn more, I’ve included journal articles and news stories throughout the post. (Note that unless you are a university student or have subscriptions to journals you may not be able to access all the journal articles – that’s why I’m including news stories where I can too.)

 

Why are we drinking plastic? / What is microplastic?

Before we can look at the problems associated with microplastics in our tap water and how we can stop it, we need to address what they are and how they end up in our glasses.

Microplastics are small pieces of plastic. While there is some debate over size, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration classify microplastics as being small than 5mm. This means microbeads are also considered microplastics.

There are two types of microplastic:

  • Primary microplastics; these are plastics which have been manufactured to be microplastics. Think microbeands in facial scrubs and toothpaste, and clothing made from plastic.
  • Secondary microplastics; plastic is not biodegradable, it breaks down into smaller pieces of itself, called secondary microplastics. This is why reducing our reliance on plastics is so important.

Fibres from our clothes are also a big contributor to the problem. A few examples of plastic-based fabrics include PVC, acrylic, polyester, and polycotton; you’re probably wearing some of those now. The problem with these types of clothing is that microfibres can be released into the environment via your washing machine. A study by Browne et al., (2011) suggested that one garment could release more than 1,900 fibres per wash. Napper and Thompson (2016) estimated that on a typical 6kg load of washing acrylic garments could release over 700,000 fibres, polyester 496,030, and poly-cotton 137,951 fibres. All of that, from everyone’s house, results in a lot of plastic fibres in our water. (Here’s a link to a news story about these figures if you can’t read the journal articles.)

So do how they get from our washing machine, sinks, and showers into our tap water? Waste water leaves our houses and travels to waste water treatment plants. After the water is treated, it is discharged BUT treatment does not remove microfibres. Currently, there is no filtration in our drinking water systems that will remove all plastic microfibres.

Due to the size of microfibres, they could also be transported by the wind and blown into our water supplies. Dan Morrison, the leader of the Orb Media investigation, told Sky news, “it could be that they are fibres from synthetic clothes and that the friction of daily life sends them into the air and they are then deposited into reservoirs, lakes and streams that feed cities as tap water.”

Here we come across another issue, which is just as important. Plastic end that ends up in lakes and oceans is eaten by fish and other marine life, which introduces it into our food chain. Not only are we drinking plastic, we’re eating plastic too.

 

What’s the problem with drinking plastic?

That heading right there probably sparked a reaction in you that sounded something like, “why would anyone want to drink plastic?” Exactly. Water is something most of us associate with being pure, having bits of plastic floating around in it sounds anything but.

Currently, there are no published “safe” levels of plastic microfibres in drinking water. Unfortunately, research is a long way off fully understanding the impact these fibres have on humans. Though, we can probably all safely say that given the choice we would rather not drink plastic.

Plastics have been found to leach a number of toxic chemicals and carcinogens (this is another post for another day). One of the most talked about examples, which you may have heard of, is bisphenol-A (BPA). It is found in food containers, the linings of tin cans, water bottles, and more. The problem? It’s been found to leach into food, and has been linked to a number of health issues, including increased blood pressure and an increased risk of cancer. Before you replace all your plastic with BPA free plastic be aware that BPA-free versions are not necessarily safer. Consider metal drinks and food containers and avoiding tinned food if you can.

In marine research, numerous studies have found that bacteria can colonise microplastics (Harrison et al., 2014). In addition to that, microplastics absorb and release chemicals into marine life (Koelmans, 2015). The obvious way this affects humans is that when we eat seafood, we also ingest those chemicals. This is called bioaccumulation, and means that those at the top of the food chain (humans, wolves, bears, tigers, sharks, etc.) have the most concentrated levels of toxins. Delicious.

I have spent some time trying to find out if there are any published studies on bacteria colonising on microplastics in our tap water but haven’t found anything yet. I don’t fully understand if that’s because it’s very unlikely to happen so is low priority or if it’s a work in progress and hasn’t been published yet. In theory, our tap water should be clean and free of bacteria. But what about parts of the world where it isn’t as clean? Is it possible that microplastics are contributing to bacterial growth? I’m not sure, it’s just a thought. If anyone has seen research about this or can weigh in, please do in the comments.

 

How can we stop drinking plastic?

Plastic pollution is a blight on our entire planet, not just our tap water. It’s not about ensuring we can drink a glass of water or a cup of coffee that’s free of plastic; this is about tidying up the mess we made of our planet (that isn’t purely ours to fudge up).

It is easy to say “ban all plastic now” but that’s more complex than trying to explain Game of Thrones to a friend whose never seen it. To clean up the mess we made we are going to have to compromise and make sacrifices. To live our lives the way we do currently, we require something like plastic; that’s how it’s become so darned intrusive. I am not a material scientist, so I’m not going to say “there are alternatives to every type of plastic we use.” However, it’s clear that looking into alternatives is useful.

 

Governments

One issue with the prevalence of plastic is to do with consumerism and capitalism. Capitalism does not lend itself well to caring about the environment. It’s all about sell, sell, sell, and we buy, buy, buy. This is a whole other blog post for another time when I’ve learned a bit more about it. You get the gist though; we need a huge societal shift that puts pressure on companies and politicians to act responsibly. That sounds unlikely right? Governments aren’t exactly renowned for listening to the people. If we want to quit drinking plastic and clear up the oceans, we all need to make changes and do our bit, however small or large.

This means putting pressure on companies we buy from and our politicians to spur change. If you are up for it, take time to write to companies you like and ask them to make a change. Write to your MP and / or local Green Party Councillor. Where I used to live, my local Green MP was always interested so you’re likely to hear back positively from them. 

 

Reducing our use of plastic

Since plastic doesn’t biodegrade, one of the best things we can do is to significantly reduce our use of plastics. Yes, it is daunting when you first begin considering how to stop using plastic. Especially as pretty much everything seems to come wrapped up in it.

Your efforts are personal to you and your circumstances. Which means you don’t have to go in straight at the deep end and quit plastic 100% right now. Any effort and progress you make is worth it. Here are a few things you can do review & reduce your use of plastic:

  • Seriously take note of the plastic you’re recycling (or can’t recycle): what is the plastic from? Can you buy the same item without plastic? If it’s not recyclable, consider writing to the company and asking them why they’re using non-recyclable packaging. Is there any clearly unnecessary plastic in your recycling bin?
  • Quit using one-use plastics, such as cutlery, straws, cups or plastic bags. Get yourself a water bottle, reusable mug, and metal / wooden cutlery for eating on the go.
  • Switch to wooden toothbrushes.
  • Only wash your clothes when they need to be washed. No one likes doing laundry anyway.
  • Avoid using cosmetics with microbeads in them – if you like a particular product, try emailing the company and asking them to remove microbeads in favour of natural alternatives.
  • Start reading the Going Zero Waste blogThis blog has been a bit of a bible for me since starting my zero waste journey earlier this year. Kathryn has covered so many topics you’ll have questions about and in a way that doesn’t feel daunting. I am far from zero waste but I’m making progress and it feels doable when I read her advice.

This is a topic I want to cover in more detail so keep an eye out for a more detailed guide on reducing our use of plastic.

 

Bottled or filtered water

Bottled water is not a solution to the problem. Firstly, the study by Orb found some microfibres in some samples of bottled water in the US. Secondly, bottled water comes in plastic bottles which perpetuates the problem.

You might consider getting a filtration system for your kitchen, though remember that as mentioned earlier there isn’t a filtration system that will remove all microplastics and nanoparticles.

 

Fabric & clothing

More research needs to be carried out into microfibre shed from our clothing. Once we fully understand the parameters that cause more or less shedding, we can begin to manufacture clothing which sheds as little as possible, and washing machines that cause as little shedding as possible. Washing machine filters are also being developed to prevent microfibres ending up in the environment.

In terms of what you can do now, consider buying clothes made from entirely natural material.

 

Packaging materials

As consumers we have power to encourage companies using non-recyclable packaging to change. If you come across plastic packaging which is non-recyclable, write to the company and ask them why they aren’t using a recyclable option. Additionally, if you order online consider asking the seller to use non-plastic packaging. I have read about bloggers doing this and they’ve found that most of the time the sellers will try their hardest and avoid plastics.

 

You might have finished this article feeling a bit overwhelmed; that’s how I felt when I started researching it. Drinking plastic sounds pretty horrible and unfortunately it isn’t going to disappear from our water supply overnight. The most useful things you can do is educating yourself on reducing the amount of plastic you bring into your home and send out to the kerb, and writing to companies and politicians.

What are your thoughts on drinking plastic? (And did you enjoy this kind of post?)

(Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash)

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