How to recycle properly

One of the suggestions I received in my reader survey was a post about how to recycle properly; your wish is my command!

For me, recycling is like riding a bike. I have some vague memories of my Mum teaching me how to recycle when I was a kid, and it’s something I’ve done since then. Ok, so that’s not like riding a bike because I haven’t actually ridden a bike in….a very, very long time.

I’ve never known anything different and tend to think everyone else knows how to recycle, too. I recently learned that one of my oldest friends had to be given a recycling masterclass by another friend – I can’t believe I hadn’t lectured her already! I’m actually a little saddened by that missed opportunity. 

If there’s ever anything I talk about and don’t explain, please ask me in the comments, email me, or get in touch on social media. I am a sustainable living fangirl and would be more than happy to bombard you with information.

Recycling can feel daunting when you start out because trying to remember what can and can’t go in specific boxes and bins can easily get confusing. I promise, it will become second nature in no time at all and you will soon be telling off your family and friends for putting something recyclable in the general waste bin. Yep, I’m sorry, you’re gonna become known as “that person”, or “Rosie vs. the world”. It’s kinda fun, but it doesn’t come with a cape – it should, though.

 

Why do we recycle?

Why don’t we all just put everything in one bin? We recycle to help things be reused, to reduce the amount of non-renewable resources (like oil, natural gas, metals, etc) we’re taking from the planet, to reduce our impact on the environment, to get the most out of materials, and to make our lifestyles more sustainable.

All of that helps us to work towards a more circular economy – I am planning to write a blog post about what this is, but for now, WRAP has a really short and sweet guide on circular economies and the benefits

It all boils down to us putting as little as possible in our general waste bin. It’s actually quite a fun challenge to have with yourself – that sounds really sad, but you will feel joy for seeing a slightly emptier general waste bin. It’s the small things in life. 

 

Check your council / local government website

The best thing you can do is look at your local council website. In the UK, our local councils provide us with all the information we need about what each bin/box is for, what can and can’t go in it, and when it’s collected.

I can’t speak for every single country on the planet, but I imagine your local council or government should provide you with that information online, or perhaps in a leaflet you could request.

Because of the differences in the UK alone (let alone in other countries) there is no point me writing a blog post saying “you can put this type of waste in this bin” because we have different coloured recycling bins in different councils in the UK (DON’T ASK, IT MAKES NO SENSE), and some councils won’t take things in some bins that others will take. Again, IT MAKES NO SENSE!

The easiest thing for you to do is head over to your council website. print pages out telling you what goes in what bin, and stick them near your bins so you can see it easily.

It’s also really handy if you’ve been recycling for years (especially if you move into new council areas or a new country) to have a little refresher every now and then. For years, I thought you could put wet cat food pouches in the recycling bin because it’s made from metal – turns out you can’t. Oops. It’s easy to develop those kinds of associations about a type of material, so refresh your memory if it’s been a while since you looked at the lists. And if you’re not sure about an item, pull the website up quickly and check.

 

Wash it out

I would like to apologise for all the tins and jars I threw in the recycling bin without washing out. I’m very sorry; I was lazy, there really is no other excuse for it.

Leftover food in your recycling can contaminate other items and make it unrecyclable. For example, if you throw out an empty tin of soup and a bit of leftover soup leaks onto paper or cardboard, that paper or cardboard may no longer be recyclable.

Get into the habit of washing tins and jars out as soon as you’re finished with them, instead of throwing them straight into the bin.

Not only does this mean you are preventing contamination, but it stops your bin being really gross. And let’s be honest, the less time we have to spend cleaning out bins the better.

 

Separate those lids

If, like us, you have a glass bottle and glass jar bin, make sure you remove the lids and put them in the right recycling bin.

The same goes for things like ready meals or meats; remove the film because the film probably isn’t recyclable.

(Don’t worry for you eagle-eyed readers, I did spot and remove the lid on one of the glass bottles in this photo ;).) 

 

Read the packaging

I really wish this wasn’t even something I have to talk about, but I do. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know how angry I’m about to get about “not currently recycled” packaging.

It is easy to assume that all plastic is recyclable. I did it up until a couple of years ago; anything plastic I put straight in our recycling box, because it’s plastic and you can recycle plastic, right?

Turns out, no. Not all plastic is recyclable and unfortunately, a large amount of plastic packaging in the UK (I can’t speak for elsewhere) bears the awful label “not currently recycled”.

Not only do I encourage you to look at packaging as you’re stood in your kitchen about to throw something away; I encourage you to begin reading packaging in supermarkets and trying to buy less “not currently recycled” packaging if you can. I fully understand that’s not always possible, and let’s move off this topic before I start ranting about Tesco and their organic oats again. 

I also fully encourage you to angrily tweet companies asking what their wishy washy “not currently recycled” rubbish is about, and tag the Not Currently Recycled Twitter account, also.

 

What do I do with things I can’t recycle at home?

You can’t recycle everything at the kerbside, and this is where you’ll have to do some research.

For example, I can’t put clothes or textiles in my recycling bin. Instead, I can donate things that are still usable to local charities, or in clothing/textile bins at supermarkets or refuse centres. Batteries are not recyclable kerbside, but again you can recycle them at refuse centres.

In the UK, the Recycle Now and Recycle For Scotland websites are incredibly helpful. Again, your council website will probably also tell you where to recycle things you can’t put in your normal bins.

 

Before we go and you start wielding your new recycling powers I want to say one more thing.

There is a lot of pressure put on you and me (as consumers) to “do more”. We can only buy what manufacturers and shops make available to us, and sometimes that means buying something in non-recyclable packaging. Don’t feel bad about that; instead, ask companies why they’re making these choices and ask them to do better. And if they won’t do better, vote with your money.

For example, I’m not buying Quorn sausages until they make their packaging recyclable – instead, Linda McCartney has my money. (We’ll ignore the fact I can’t even eat Quorn snosages now because I’m vegan and they aren’t – but you catch my drift.) In fact, I’m not buying a thing Quorn sell until they fix their packaging because I have other choices in better packaging.

So far in 2018, I have seen a lot more people calling for better packaging options and that warms my soul like a nice toasty campfire. This is what we need more of. We need to hold companies accountable, ask for change, and vote with our money.

If you have any more questions about how to recycle, or want me to cover another topic, please let me know and I’ll get right on it.

 

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What to do when you've got no motivation

I know, I know, it's the start of a new year and we're all supposed to be really hyped up and excited about it. What about when you're not, though? What about when you have all these goals and things you want to achieve but your inspiration and motivation well is looking pretty dry?

 

When I was younger, I used to think the whole New Year's resolution thing was daft because if you want to make a change, you should make it whenever. I still think that's true to an extent but the fact that a lot of people get a few solid days off over Christmas and New Year means they head into the new year rested and ready to tackle a new challenge. And for some people, the feel of a clean slate inspires them and gives them an extra boost.

 

Part of the reason I'm motivationally flagging is because I was working all over Christmas and New Year (January is our kind of holiday because no one wants to go out or spend money, yes!). I had Boxing Day off (we were shut anyway) and the 27th, and then I got battered by the flu for over a week, so there was no chance to rest.

 

If you're nodding along and wondering where your motivation went, this one is for you.

1. Rest

I think it's easy to feel like we're not trying hard enough when we lose our motivation or inspiration, and more often than not I'll bet that we're actually trying too hard.

You're too busy, you're too caught up in everything, you're convinced you can't possibly stop because you'll only make more work for yourself but what you need more than anything is look after yourself.

There's this bizarre and toxic perception that self-care is selfish. It couldn't be further from the truth, though. If we're not looking after ourselves, how can we ever expect to show up and give anything our best shot?

Set aside some time each day or week (depending on your schedule) to rest and do what you need to do to recharge.

When we're busy, self-care is usually the first thing that suffers, so make looking after yourself a priority. If your job is causing you problems, please speak to your manager and/or start looking for another job because no job is worth your health or happiness.

And please, if you ever say "that's just how it is in this industry", stop yourself right there. I'm sorry that's the way it is (and I know some industries have awful 'standards' that employees are just supposed to accept as part of that trade) but it sure as hell doesn't mean you have to put up with it. We're not here to be worked into unhappiness while others profit from it.

If you're not looking after yourself, how can you expect to show up and give it your best shot?

2. Identify when you're being lazy / procrastinating

I'm not going to lie to you, I can be pretty lazy. Do you want to know what I did today?  Ok. It's 18:00 now as I'm writing this and I woke up about 09:00. I got up, did some washing up, tidied the kitchen, bunged some washing in, ate breakfast, and then played on The Sims until about 17:00. Then I started watching YouTube videos instead of doing yoga, which I keep telling myself I need to get back into. I decided that if I wasn't going to do yoga, I had to get off YouTube and do something productive, so now I'm writing this blog post.

There is a difference between being tired and worn down, and being lazy. I am pretty well rested, my cold is almost gone, I'm just being a lazy barstool right now/have a Sims addiction problem.

Learn to recognise when you're being lazy, the kind of things you do when you're being lazy, how you procrastinate, and then kick your ass hard!

 

3. Plan the steps you need to take

If you're a planner or researcher, like me, this can often get the inspiration and excitement flowing again.

Write down your goals and then begin looking into what you need to do to achieve them. From there, you'll probably find something that gets you feeling fired up again.

  • If your goal is to exercise more than maybe researching new classes you could go to, or workout gear will get you excited
  • If you want to save up to travel, looking at destinations or starting to plan your trip might get you giddy and swearing off unnecessary purchases.
  • Maybe you want to go back to university or take night classes, so looking at courses or places you could study will get you hyped up.

Whatever your goal is, there will be something that ignites a fire under your ass and helps you start moving in the right direction.

4. Accept the possibility of failure

This is probably the hardest thing for most of us when it comes to trying to reach our goals. The fear of failure can be so paralysing that we don't even try, or give it our all if we do. We have all heard the phrase "you miss 100% of the shots you never take," and we like to remind ourselves of it occasionally, but actually meaning it can be hard.

One of the best things we can do is accept that we might fail. Failing doesn't necessarily mean it's the end of the road; it means there's another route we have to take. As someone who loves planning, I like to research the other options so I don't feel the fear so much because I know there are other routes.

Talking about it seems to help me as well. Sometimes saying it out loud (to yourself or another person) or writing it down can help unpack it and make it feel a little less overwhelming.

This year I want to apply for a PhD. And me being me, I have a specific university and department in mind and I am terrified that I might not get in because I WANT that university and that department. The acceptance rate is about a third, I believe, so I have to do every damn thing I can and I think that understanding that I might fail is driving me, too.

 

5. Find someone to keep you in check; your 'accountability partner'

I first heard about accountability partners on the Earth To Us podcast (all of their episodes are well worth a listen). The idea is you find someone who you know will be honest with you and will keep checking in on you and your goals, help you out, and motivate you.

The episode is well worth a listen because Hannah and Evan talk about why they picked the people they did and why they didn't pick certain members of their family.  One of them said they wouldn't pick their Mum because they know they'd get their back up and instantly get defensive, so you do need to be smart about it. Just listen to the episode, it explains everything.

Find someone who's happy to keep checking in with you about your goals and keep you on track.

For me, Daz is a fantastic accountability partner because he knows when I'm being lazy and can guide me back on track. He's also just as curious as me so he keeps asking questions (so I can't really lie to him, and I'd only forget what I told him anyway) which gets me excited to get things done so we can talk about it and work through any issues I've got.

Vegan Doc Martens on frozen grass and leaves

6. Get out a pen and paper

Though I do most of my writing on a laptop, I find planning on paper a lot more helpful than using calendars on my phone or laptop. If I can write something down it clears my mind and allows me to focus much easier.

 

I think of my brain as a forest with a lot of over-excitable forest critters, aka my ideas and thoughts. They're all running around, climbing trees, playing, and breeding, and sometimes it's just too much with them all competing for attention. If I can remove one or two mind-squirrels and put them on paper, the forest is much quieter and I can focus without tripping over that pesky "wash uniform" squirrel that's always causing trouble. Making daily lists is really helpful for that because it groups things together and makes them easier to tackle. And then I'm left with a calmer forest full of well-behaved squirrels.

 

7. Create your optimum motivational conditions

Think about the last few times you felt ready to take on the world; what did they have in common? The place? What time of day was it? Was there music, or do you like complete silence? Were you warm and cosy?

 

Notice the things that make you feel most motivated and create those conditions. I feel most motivated when I wake up before 10 am (otherwise I tend to 'write the day off' - daft, I know), have a shower in the morning, get through some housework, know I don't have to go to work or leave the house for more than half an hour, and the house feels like a fresh winter morning. 

These few tips have really helped me get back on top of things and I think that by far the most important one is to rest. You can accept failure and create the best motivational conditions all you want, but if your mind and body aren't showing up on form, there's no point.

 

What makes you feel motivated? 

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Sustainable food shopping; how to reduce your food miles, waste less food, and take less plastic packaging home

One of the hardest things about sustainable living is food shopping, so today we’re going to talk about sustainable food shopping and how we can reduce food miles, and the amount of plastic packaging we take home.

I’m so happy to see so many people aiming to live more sustainably and to buy things with less plastic packaging in 2018. It truly stokes the fire in my soul. If you’re a complete beginner to sustainable living, you might find this handy post about how to start living more sustainably useful.

Quick note before we start; I live in the UK, so some of these things might seem odd if you’re from the US or Canada, where bulk buying is so much more common. Hopefully, there are at least a couple of tips you can take away no matter where you’re living.

A couple of years ago, the UK government introduced a 5p charge on plastic carrier bags to encourage people to use reusable bags, or learn to juggle. The charge worked pretty well because us Brits hate paying 5p for things and loved the challenge of juggling a week’s worth of shopping down the carpark because we forgot our bags for life.

The scheme has been pretty successful, and in the first few months, 6 billion fewer plastic bags were used in comparison to before the scheme was introduced. The irony is that we take our reusable bags and stuff them with delicious food wrapped in single-use crappy plastic. I would argue that as the definition of irony. How supermarkets and the government failed to see and act on that one that is beyond me. 

So, what can we do to reduce the amount of packaging, waste, and food miles when we shop? 

 

Get some produce bags

My sister got me produce bags for Christmas thinking it was a joke gift because of how much I moan about plastic packaging, but they are so not joke gifts. They are actually the most useful Christmas gift I received this year, and I love them.

Produce bags are mesh/fabric bags that replace those horrible single-use plastic bags in the fruit and veg section. You simply put your loose veg in them and carry on with your shopping. It is that easy.

I am not aware of a high street store, or even a supermarket (seems like a missed opportunity), that you can buy them from. You can get them online very easily though; a swift Google will throw up loads of suggestions (and I’ve even done that for you). Make sure you get a few in different sizes to cover everything you might buy. I think these are the ones my sister got me; there are 12 in total in three different sizes, so I’m well covered.

 

Support local growers

If you can get to a local farmers market or have a greengrocer in town who sells local produce, support the crap out of them. I know it’s not always possible though, so don’t stress; for me, living more sustainably is about us all doing the best we can.

By buying locally as much as possible, you’re supporting your local economy and reducing your food miles. Food miles are how far your food has been transported to you. The further food travels, the more carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (NOx), and particulate matter are given out as a result of transport, and all of these things contribute to global warming and air pollution that harms our health.

 

Plan to avoid over purchasing

Knowing how much food you’re going to use between shops is so helpful because it stops you buying things that will go to waste, which saves you money. I highly recommend making a meal plan (even a rough idea of what kind of thing you might eat throughout the week) and then figuring out how much you need to buy. This can stop you getting caught up by 3 for 2 or BOGOF offers if you know it won’t get used.

My Nan goes to the shop pretty much every day and I remember being slightly horrified by the amount of salad and veg that was thrown away because she would keep buying too much. She seemed to think that if she kept buying it, it would get eaten but we couldn’t eat it fast enough. I think my Mum has reigned her in a little bit now, thankfully.

If you’re struggling to understand or track how much food you’re throwing away, separate food waste from your general waste for a couple of weeks and that should give you a good idea. If you can, compost any food waste, or make sure it goes in your food waste bin if you have one.

 

Learn to look at labels

For me, checking labels when I’m food shopping is second nature now. It is very difficult to do a food shop that is entirely plastic packaging free so get used to figuring out what you can and can’t recycle. You will be surprised by how much you can’t recycle.

The organic oats I buy (because the supermarket doesn’t sell any other organic oats) come in non-recyclable packaging. I mean, that seems like a bit of a slap in the face to me, don’t you think? These oats have been lovingly grown without any toxins to be healthier for the soil, the environment, and the eater, and then you wrap them in something that cannot be recycled? What? Why? I don’t want you to save the soil, the air, me, but kill sea creatures. Why would you even think I would want that? WHAT’S WRONG WITH PAPER?! Someone has to get angry about these things, and it’s always me.

It’s inevitable you will have to buy things in plastic so make sure you’re buying recyclable plastic as much as you can. It’s not the solution but it’s boatloads better than non-recyclable.

 

Research bulk options in your area

There aren’t a huge number of places you can buy bulk food, like oats, flour, coffee, etc in the UK. I know there are a few Whole Foods in London, Edinburgh has Real Foods, and there are probably a few places with bulk food options scattered around the country.

If you don’t know what that is, it essentially means you walk into a place and they have huge bins or containers of things. You take your own jar, box, or bag, load them up and then pay by weight. They seem like an amazing idea, and I was so excited when I saw bog standard grocery stores in Canada with bulk oats and coffee. Hopefully, they will become more popular in the UK.

But, what if you don’t live near somewhere that has a bulk option? I have seen zero waste bloggers recommend buying as big a package of that thing as you can as it often works out cheaper and uses less packaging than buying smaller packages. However, huge packages of things aren’t that common in the UK either, so it’s a difficult one. All you can do is your best here.

 

Buy seasonal produce

Seasonal produce is a huge work in progress for me because I struggle to remember and keep on top of what’s seasonal. We’re so used to walking into a shop and buying and eating whatever we want all year round that we don’t even think about how far something travelled to us. As we mentioned further up, the further food travels, the more pollutants are given off, so we want to keep those miles as low as possible.

This can seem quite limiting, especially if you love avocados as much as me. I’m not saying restrict yourself to only what’s in season in your country. When you feel restricted, living sustainably becomes hard and unenjoyable and it’s then that you give up.

It’s about striking a balance and compromise. So, enjoy something exotic in your shopping basket but try to make more and more of your shop seasonal.

You should be able to easily find out what’s seasonal to the country you live by searching for it. Since we’re in January and I read this yesterday, here’s Rhyme & Ribbons guide to seasonal eating in the UK in January. I believe her monthly newsletter usually contains a list of seasonal food and recipes (I’ve only just signed up myself) so that sounds like a really easy way to keep on top of it.

One of the ways I’ve been trying to make this really interesting for myself is to look at what’s seasonal and find new recipes. I really, really want to make artichoke soup because I had some at work a few weeks ago and it was honestly one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

 

Hold shops accountable

I’m pretty sure I bang on about this in every single blog post about living more sustainably, but it’s true. If there’s something you’re not happy with about where you shop, let them know.

Supermarkets and food producers/manufacturers are beginning to come under more pressure from us to package things in a more sensible and sustainable way, so it is working. I mean, Tesco have stopped responding to me now but I’m hoping that’s because they’re so busy listening to me…I live in hope. And Tesco live in hope I don’t moan at them on Twitter again.

 

Grow your own

I’m pretty sure most of us would love to have the space to live off the land and grown all our own produce. Unfortunately, that isn’t really possible for the majority of us, but growing a couple of things can make all the difference.

If you don’t have a garden, why not grow your own herbs? If you’ve got a garden with space, do a little research and give growing something a go. When I was a kid, my Dad used to grow potatoes and it was so exciting seeing them being dug up and then turned into Sunday dinner.

 

If you have any tips for shopping less wastefully and buying less food wrapped in plastic, let us all know in the comments. And, as always, if I’ve mentioned something in passing without explaining it, pull me up on it and I’ll explain it and do better next time!

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The Inkpots, Johnston Canyon, Banff

By far, the hardest hike of our Canadian adventure was from Upper Johnston Canyon to the Inkpots. It was a punishingly steep hike, but the beauty of the inkpots and the alpine meadow they're in more than made up for it.

Johnston Canyon is one of the busiest places in Banff, and it's evident by how quickly the carpark fills up in the morning. The first time we visited Banff, we thought we'd rock up to Johnston Canyon about 1 pm - ha, no. While we did find parking spaces at an overflow carpark, the place was so busy there'd have been no point trying. 

This time, we turned up nice and early and enjoyed the lower and upper falls while it was relatively quiet. If you want to avoid the crowds, arrive for 9 am - especially during the summer. Very few people actually go further to the Inkpots, so that trail being busy isn't really an issue.

Johnston Canyon, Banff

Rainbow at Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon, Banff

It quickly becomes apparent why Johnston Canyon is so popular. The falls and the canyon are stunning, and walkways allow the whole family to get up close to them, and a little soggy. It's impressive walking through a canyon and trying to comprehend how water created something so incredible. I mean, we all get how erosion works but standing in somewhere like that and trying to comprehend it frazzles my brain.

 

Most visitors don't bother hiking the extra 3km/1.9 miles to the Inkpots, which is simultaneously ridiculous (it's so beautiful) and understandable (it's steeeeep). While Johnston Canyon is definitely something special, the Inkpots are even better.

 

That said, I can understand why so many people don't go; it's not a particularly family friendly trail (though we did see a couple of kids on the trail). We both found it the hardest hike of our trip; it was bloody steep, it was definitely leg day, and there isn't a huge amount to look at because the forest is so thick you only get the occasional glimpse of the mountains around you.

Alpine meadow, Johnston canyon and the inkpots

The inkpots, Banff

The inkpots, Johnston Canyon

It took us just over an hour to reach the inkpots , and my complaining and leg burn went away as soon as I saw the alpine meadow coming into view. (Don't let my complaining put you off, plenty of people seemed to storm past us so perhaps I'm just unfit?)

 

When you reach the meadow, you're rewarded with a stunning view of a few vibrant-coloured ponds you associate with Canada nestled inside an awe-inspiring alpine meadow. A couple of trails take you around the inkpots and there are a few benches too, making it the perfect place for a picnic.

Alpine meadow - Johnston Canyon and the Inkpots

The inkpots, Banff

Alpine meadow at the inkpots

The inkpots

Alpine meadow, johnston canyon and the inkpots

I don't think I'd ever been in an alpine meadow before this hike, and it was everything I wanted it to be - it reminded me of Heidi. It was so serene and neither of us wanted to leave and head back down the trail.

If you do fancy further hiking in this area, there are a couple of overnight trails into the backcountry along Mystic Pass, and Johnston Creek. If you're thinking about doing any backcountry trails, make sure you know your safety stuff; we read plenty of information saying bears use both of those trails regularly to get to drinking spots.

Tips for hiking Johnston Canyon & the Inkpots

• Give yourself at least four hours to enjoy the trip there and back
• Return distance: 10.8km/6.7miles
• Be there at 9 am if you want to see Johnston Canyon in relative silence
• Wear good, supportive footwear
• Take layers - you might be hot hiking but it'll be cool when you stop 
• Take plenty of water and snacks
• There are no toilets after the car park
• Enjoy a picnic when you reach the Inkpots
• Know how to behave responsibly in an area that's home to wild animals; make noise, keep dogs on a leash, never leave any food or food packaging, and keep your distance.

The inkpots, Banff, Johnston Canyon.

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rosie_baillie Instagram top 9

I don’t know about you but I love finding out about the stories behind people’s Instagram Top 9; I kinda feel like they’re nice, heartwarming, fuzzy, reads. So, I bring you the stories behind my Instagram top 9. 

It’s also interesting to note that not one of these photos was posted to my account (@rosie_baillie if you’re not already following) in the past three months, showing how damn stupid the latest algorithm updates are. 

From first glance, we can definitely see my top 9 are all about blues, greens, water, and mountains. Oh, and Canada, duh. Because do I talk about anything else? No. At least it’s nice that I know I’m a broken record.

 

The first photo was taken when I saw the northern lights (obviously) in Iceland with my Mum. It was a dream come true, ticking it off the bucketlist, moment, and I seriously recommend it. If you want to know more, I did write a blog post about seeing the northern lights and the company I went with. 

 

This next photo is actually at least two years old, maybe three now. It was taken the first time I visited Edinburgh, and had a trip out to Loch Awe. Early last year, my sister planned a trip to Scotland and started asking me questions about it, so I started fangirling to her and just had to repost this. 

The third photo is one of my favourite photos of all time; Daz and I at Moraine Lake, our happy place. I love it because it shows off how darn stunning Moraine Lake is, how grand the peaks are, the shade of blue of the lake, the reflection, and it makes me feel something. We’ve got a print of it in our living room, which I can see right now, and every time I look at it I feel fuzzy inside and have to fight off the urge to head over to SkyScanner and book a flight for tomorrow. 

 

As I said in the caption, it just isn’t possible to have too many photos of Moraine Lake in an Instagram feed. Moraine Lake is a funny ol’ place because the weather is very changeable. On the same day this photo was taken, we also had blazing sunshine and snow (at the same time). 

 

Every time I see a photo of Peyto Lake looking beautifully clear and sunny I wonder if those people visited a Peyto Lake in a parallel universe, because this is what I saw. And it’s what happened each of the four times Daz and I tried to visit the lake. Nevertheless, it’s still beautiful, and moodier than me circa 2007. 

 

This is a quaint looking hostel just off the main road through Glen Coe in Scotland. It was one of the first outings Daz and I had since moving up here. I’ve loved Glen Coe since the moment I first set my eyes on it and it was SO nice to be able to show Daz it. 

This is another solid fave of mine from 2017, and it also features Moraine Lake in the background, so it has all the qualities of the best photo ever. I don’t even know what to say about this photo other than it was a perfect day, one of my favourite moments of my life, and there better be a photo appearing in a future ‘Instagram top 9’ of our wedding at the edge of that lake. 

 

I’m actually surprised this photo appeared in my top 9 because I really feel like I’ve taken photos that are a lot better. But, it was posted at the start of 2017, again, the algorithm. This was taken back in September 2016 when we attempted to kayak on a very windy Maligne Lake. I do not recommend it to kayaking noobs, and you can read more about that horror story here

 

I’m so happy that Vancouver made an appearance in my top 9, because that beautiful city worked hard to make us fall in love with it. And we really did. This was taken at the edge of Stanley Park and is a shot looking across the Lionsgate Bridge towards North Vancouver with the mountains in the background. I think it’s a pretty great summary of why we fell in love with Vancouver; all of those things in one view, perfect. 

And, to make it even better we saw our first raccoon a few minutes before we took this photo. Now, that might seem like a bizarre thing to get excited over but we don’t have racoons in the UK! They look so adorable and remind us of the kids cartoon, The Raccoons. 

If you shared the stories behind your Instagram top 9, link me because I wanna see them! 

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Sustainable living 2018 goals

I don't usually post yearly goals, but when I was writing out my sustainable living goals for 2018 I realised there's an opportunity for us to help each other here.

Yesterday, I posted seven tips to begin living more sustainably and I thought sharing our sustainable living goals would be a perfect way to set our intentions. I have found blogs and online friends so helpful for guiding me into a more sustainable lifestyle and I think we've got a good opportunity here to support each other. AND, we can collectively annoy supermarkets and brands until they put the planet before profit and make our lives a little easier. Sound good? Awesome.

For me, the key is to set SMART goals (if you need help with that, here's a handy guide). I just can't write down something vague because I try to shake it off or interpret it a different way if I'm feeling lazy. If I know what I want to do and how to achieve it, I'm pretty good at doing it.

 

Reduce food waste to peelings

Edinburgh have food waste bins, something we've never had before, so it was interesting to start separating that out. I don't think we do too bad a job in general, but occasionally we forget about leftovers and I'm pretty bad for letting fruit go gross.

This year, I want our food waste caddy to only contain peelings, the odd tea bag if a tea drinker visits, and cat food - because the cat much prefers it when Daz feeds him and eats less when I feed him the exact same food. 

 

Buy ethical and sustainable shoes

You know what? I was pretty afraid to include this one because I'm fairly certain I will fail at it at least once this year. Then I realised, the point isn't to perfectly achieve your goals from the outset; it's to try and achieve something new.

Ethical and sustainable shoes are expensive (and I get why). In general, I don't buy shoes often at all. In fact, I think the only shoes I bought in 2017 were for work. I work in a restaurant so my shoes take a battering and the thought of spending a lot of money on something that I worry will wear out quickly makes my stomach knot a little. If anyone has recommendations for black, comfy, ethically and sustainable made shoes that won't wear out, I need to hear them.

 

Clothes; use it or lose it

My wardrobe is a lot smaller than it used to be; ask my Mum. I did a good job of minimising my wardrobe in 2017, though there are a handful of things I want to make an effort to wear more, or donate.

Less choice in my wardrobe is fine by me. To be honest, I'm fed up of putting all my clothes away. Less clothes = less clothes to put away = happy me.

 

Quit buying anything in non-recyclable plastic packaging

Recycling is not the magic answer to plastic pollution, but buying non-recyclable packaging directly contributes to the problem. On the face of it, this seems pretty easy, but it's not. The bread we like (and the majority of bread, actually) is in non-recyclable film - great, thanks, nothing says good morning like 'enjoy your toast that's contributing to the destruction of the planet.'

It's definitely going to take some time to get this one nailed.

 

Buy loose fruit and veg

Again, this seems like a really easy thing to do, and it should be. Until your supermarket tries to make it impossible for you. My local supermarket decided to do away with paper mushroom bags and replace them with those crappy plastic ones. And the packaged ones have non-recyclable film. I need to get some produce bags and start shopping for produce somewhere else. 

 

Those are my five sustainable living goals for 2018. There will definitely be other things I'll achieve this year in terms of living a more sustainable life, but I think these are the bigger goals that will take more time achieve 100%. Oh man, if this blog post was a drinking game every time I said 'sustainable living' in that post, we'd have been smashed before we made it to the end. 

Tell me about your sustainable living goals, and let's help each other out. We got this; let's make David Attenborough proud. 

 

 

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7 tips for sustainable living; how to start living more sustainably

The New Year is almost upon us and we're starting to consider what we want to kick ass at in 2018; fancy living more sustainably? Awesome. Then I've got a few super easy tips here to arm you with before 2018 kicks off.

 

Ok, so I think I know why you're all here; Blue Planet 2 made you despair at the choices humans have made. Am I right?

 

This time last year I decided to start living more sustainably and ethically and boy is it a rollercoaster and a whole load of shouting "WHY ARE YOU MAKING THIS SO HARD FOR ME?!" in the middle of your supermarket. Trying to live sustainably can feel very overwhelming, which is why I started blogging about it and sharing my frustrations and difficulties. We live in a world of convenience and convenience is not very eco-friendly at all.

 

In fact, our convenience culture is not very convenient because it'll be damn inconvenient when:

  • Sea levels rise and flood islands, cities and towns causing massive numbers of climate refugees
  • Thousands of species become extinct
  • The oceans are dead
  • We can't grow any food in our soil
  • We're drowning in plastic and all of our mistakes

That got dark quickly, didn't it? Sorry. Don't mean to bring you down over the festive period; MERRY CHRISTMAS, THE PLANET IS SCREWED - that wasn't what I wanted but, I mean, it's true.

 

Before we get into it, I want to point out that the idea isn't to be perfect from the get-go. And maybe it isn't the point at all. I've been at this for a year now and I'm far from perfect but my efforts are valid. For me, the point is to make the best with your life and your circumstances. You're not gonna see any shaming around here because you forgot your drinks bottle and needed a drink.

 

Ok, so, grab a cuppa because over the course of this blog post we're going to talk about:

  • What sustainable living is?
  • Why would you want to live more sustainably?
  • Cover a few seriously easy ways you can start living more sustainably without spending a fortune

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What is sustainable living?

Sustainable living is about reducing your impact on the Earth and its resources. The definition of sustainable is maintaining something at a certain rate. So it means, we're not taking out more than we're putting back in or that can repopulate/regrow over a certain period of time. For me, sustainable living covers more than that, it is also about protecting our planet and it's ecosystems by keeping them healthy and sustaining THAT. 

 

We live in a world of capitalism, consumerism, and convenience; the three horsemen of the apocalypse if you will. Talk to your grandparents and you'll soon discover that life just 60 years ago was very different. Since then, we have created a whole load of, frankly, unnecessary crap and waste all in the name of convenience. I'm not ok with it; and, since you're here, I guess you're not either.

 

Why would you want to live more sustainably?

What brought you here? What made you decide to live a more sustainable lifestyle? Maybe it was one reason, maybe it was a few reasons:

  • Reducing the amount of waste you produce - we produce a lot of unnecessary waste which impacts the environment in a number of ways. I go into this in more detail in 8 reasons to produce less waste.
  • We're sick of crying while watching Blue Planet - the devastating impacts plastic pollution has on the environment are, well, devastating.
  • Saving money - I have definitely found that since living more sustainably my shopping habits have changed, which have saved me money

 

How can I start living more sustainably?

This will not be a complete guide to how to live more sustainably. By the end of this blog post you'll be armed with a few simple changes you can make to start living more sustainably.

 

I don't want to throw everything at you right now - because I find that kind of paralyses me. When I have a few things I can do, I feel empowered and like I can do it and make a positive change right now. I will be going into more depth in future posts, you can check out my sustainable and ethical living section, and ask me anything you want in the comments or Twitter.

 

1. Stop. Pay attention to your shopping habits and what's in your house

This is absolutely the first step to living more sustainably. Before you can start making a change, you need to know what you want to be more sustainable than

Take a look through your waste and recycling bins;

  • Are you throwing away a lot of non-recyclable plastic?
  • Why? What products are packaged in non-recyclables?
  • Can you get the same product packaging-free, or in recyclable plastic? (Arguably, plastic recycling isn't super great but it's better than non-recycled plastic, and let's take this one step at a time because I haven't got zero plastic down either.) I wrote a handy blog post here about why plastic is so bad if you want some more info on it.
  • Are you throwing a lot of food away? I guess it's not so bad if you have a food waste scheme where that food is turned into energy but it's a waste of your money all the same.

Are your wardrobes full of clothes you don't wear? Do you tend to buy things, wear them once and never again? Why? Is it the style? The quality? Did you pick it up because it was a good deal?

Take a look around your whole house and assess why you purchased the things you did.

This is something that's great to keep in mind every time you go shopping for anything:

  • Why am I buying this?
  • What purpose does the object need to fulfil?
  • Will it fulfil that purpose?

2. Make some goals

Ok, so now we have an idea about how we're buying, what we're throwing away, and any clutter in our house, we can set some goals.

 

Jot down a couple of goals; make sure they're specific and measurable. Here are a couple of examples:

  • I don't want to buy any clothes this month. Instead, I'm going to clear out my closet and find new ways to wear what I already have.
  • I want to reduce the amount of food waste I'm producing by half. Instead, I'm going to make an effort to eat/freeze leftovers, or learn to only cook what I will eat in that day/meal.
  • I am going to stop buying fruit and vegetables in non-recyclable packaging. Instead, I'm going to only buy loose produce.

 

Write them down somewhere you're going to see them regularly and let's get cracking.

3. Have a clear out

You may not need to do this; it really depends on what your goals are, though it never hurts to have a good clear out. I mean, it does at the time when you're surrounded by a pile of things and wondering why you started, but it feels so good afterwards. 

If your wardrobe is overflowing, you have loads of CDs/DVDs/games you don't use, if you have a cupboard or drawer 'of doom', or are concerned there might be a monster living under your bed, get clearing out. 

One of the benefits of living more sustainably for me is a slow transition into only having things in my house that provide us with some kind of benefit/that we use. I think that if you're able to have a tidy out and get rid of things that represent your old, more wasteful, way of living it helps keep you on track. Plus, who doesn't like slightly emptier cupboards, wardrobes, drawers, and shelves?

Take anything you no longer need that's in good condition to local charity shops, offer them to your friends and family, or stick 'em on eBay. But do it now. Do not put them in a pile to deal with later. 

4. Cut out those single-use items

One of the biggest and easiest ways we can start living more sustainably is to stop using single-use items. I'm talking about; plastic straws, napkins, plastic cutlery, coffee cups, and disposable razors to name a few things.

You will be glad to know there are reusable and long-lasting versions of all of those things:

  • Straws = stainless steel straws, bamboo straws, glass straws
  • Paper napkins = cloth napkins
  • Plastic cutlery = pop a set of cutlery out your kitchen in your bag, or there's bamboo cutlery
  • Coffee cups = not all takeaway coffee cups are recyclable but that's not a problem if you have a reusable mug
  • Disposable razors = these tacky looking things can be replaced with safety razors, or good quality, long-lasting electric razors. I've just got round to getting a safety razor (a super extra rose gold one, idc, it's pretty) and they're just as easy to use as a disposable one, you just need to be a tad more careful.
  • Sanitary products = yes, you can get reusable tampons and towels AND menstrual cups. It's not as gross as you think either, so you can find something that works for you.
  • Toothbrushes = every toothbrush ever created still exists in landfill, that shit has not broken down. Get yourself a bamboo toothbrush instead.

 

5. Start buying loose fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables wrapped in non-recyclable packaging are by far one of my biggest frustrations. It is so unnecessary and it seriously gets on my nerves that loose peppers are more expensive than peppers wrapped in plastic packaging; wtf is that about?

Ok, so what do you do put your loose fruit and vegetables in then?

  • Some items can be put straight into your trolley/basket/bag without packaging, like bananas
  • Produce bags; got any cloth bags at home you could use? Or you could turn old t-shirts into produce bags? Or buy some produce bags online.
  • Or you could do what I do sometimes and use a load of those paper mushroom bags for everything…
  • Complain to your supermarket about them selling things in non-recyclables - please, because I think Tesco are getting sick of me moaning at them, so if we all do it, they might give in

 

6. Get angry, in a polite way

Let's channel the frustration we feel when we're trying to buy something in a more sustainable way but we can only get it in 'not currently recyclable' packaging. (That, by the way, is the biggest cop-out ever - not currently? So when are you going to use recyclable packaging and quit being non-committal?)

Begin emailing or writing to companies and asking them about their plans for recyclable packaging, or something else they're doing which isn't sustainable. Such as why your local Tesco has replaced paper mushroom bags with plastic ones? WHY TESCO, WHY? I know it looks like I hate Tesco sometimes but it's where I shop all the time and yeah, sometimes they make hateful decisions.

If anyone wants to see a sample/draft email or message to send, let me know and I'll put one up. 

 

7. Educate yourself

One of the best things I have done this year is to learn more about how harmful our current culture is. You can never know enough and I'm constantly learning about things that reinforce my enthusiasm to live more sustainably even though it can be hard sometimes.

A few things I found really insightful:

  • Chasing Ice
  • Chasing Coral - this is utterly heartbreaking, especially towards the end
  • Kiss the Ground: How the Food You Eat Can Reverse Climate Change, Heal Your Body, and Ultimately Save the World - Josh Tickell - this is a seriously fascinating read about soil and agriculture. I know that probably sounds boring to most people but I'm a soil geek; still, I definitely think it's something people should know about. 
  • Feral - George Monbiot
  • I uhmed & ahed about whether or not to include Cowspiracy. It's very popular and it is definitely very shocking if you don't know anything about the environmental damage agriculture causes but I'm aware some of the studies quoted weren't quite right. This is discussed in Kiss The Ground and I think that's perhaps a more unbiased approach. Nevertheless, I think Cowspiracy is an important watch. 
  • The True Cost - this looks at the human and environmental impacts of the majority of clothes we wear 
  • Blood & Earth by Kevin Bales - Blood & Earth is one of the hardest books I've ever read. Did you know that slavery and environmental destruction often go hand in hand? Like True Cost, it documents the environmental and human impacts of modern life and looks at things like where our food comes from, minerals to make smartphones and laptops & more. 
  • IPCC summary - If you're interested in the science and figures, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) summary for policymakers is perhaps the best place to start. I have used it loads on my masters course already because this summary has all the key bits in one place. 

If anyone has any more recommendations for books, films, or documentaries, leave them below.

 

Please leave me a comment below with the tips you're going to try out. If you have any questions, or want me to cover a specific topic, let me know and your wish is my command.

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