Share the love – July 2017

Share The Love July 2017 collage

I really missed not writing a Share The Love post at the end of June, but I was jetlagged and unhappy about being back in England so, I’m sure you can forgive me.

July seems to have whizzed by and at times I’m left wondering whether it was only last month that we were chilling by lakes in Canada. I got confirmation that I am now the proud owner of a BSc (Hons) first class in Forensic Science, *does a little happy dance*. I’m pretty proud of myself for that one. A couple of weeks after we got back from Canada, we spent a few days in Edinburgh, searching for places to live and Daz got himself a job!

Last Monday, my friends from work threw me a surprise leaving party, which was so sweet and I really didn’t know what to say. I was lost for words. We had a brilliant night, played Cards Against Humanity, and ate some delicious brownies one of my friends made, and it was wonderful. I truly am going to miss them so much; I think I might leak from the eyes on my last shift, which will be terribly undignified because I ugly cry.

I’ve also finally plucked up the courage to begin editing our photos from Canada and I immediately realised I was not strong enough because I WANNA GO BACK RIGHT NOW. I’m not going to lie, I fall in love with a lot of places I visit (for a while I was seriously going to Sweden to do a masters, but money) but Canada is like nothing else; it felt like home straight away and England doesn’t entirely feel like home now.

 

BLOG – Hopscotch The Globe

This is one of my favourite travel blogs and YouTube channels. Kristen and Siya are an adventuring couple who produce some of the best travel videos and blogs I’ve seen, and what I think makes them even better is how friendly and chilled out they come across. It feels like you’re listening to friends when you watch their videos. 

Last year, they brought an Airstream and started renovating it. I’ve been eagerly following their progress videos and they finally revealed their incredibly beautiful and spacious looking Airstream in July. I challenge you to watch it and tell me you don’t want to live in an Airstream right away, because I do. I want to move to Canada, renovate an Airstream and explore Canada, and wake up to new forests and mountain views whenever I fancy it.

 

LINKS

 

LISTENING TO

July was an amazing month for new music. While Daz is slowly being subjected to a little less Paramore than in June, it’s still popping up in my playlist a lot. Also popping up is new music from:

  • Kesha; damn, can we talk about how amazing Rainbow is going to be? She has released three singles off her upcoming album and they are all incredible. Take a listen to them here: Praying | Woman | Learn To Let Go
  • LIGHTS; Skydiving is so darn catchy.
  • While we’re talking about eagerly anticipating, I couldn’t not mention that SHANIA TWAIN IS RELEASING A NEW ALBUM IN SEPTEMBER. I cannot wait. I grew up on her music and I cannot wait to hear Now.

I also got into two podcasts this month:

  • Estee Lalonde released the pilot episode of her podcast, The Heart Of It. In the pilot, Estee spoke about protests and I absolutely loved it. I’ve watched her videos for years and her tone of voice is really similar to how she is in her blog and videos, only she gets into important topics.
  • I finally got around to watching Anna and Lily’s podcast, At Home With and it was just so easy to sit down and relax to.

 

WATCHING

All I need to say here is that Game of Thrones is back.

 

POPULAR POSTS ON GIRL IN AWE

 

Now I want to hear about your favourite things from July; send me all the links!

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Earth Overshoot Day; changing the way we travel

Driving down the Icefields Parkway
 

Today is Earth Overshoot Day; the point in the calendar whereby we have used more natural resources than the planet can renew throughout the whole of the year. That’s a pretty sobering thought when there are almost five months left of 2017.

The Earth Overshoot Day website goes into more detail about what August 2nd represents and some of the things we can do to push that date back. It even allows you to calculate your global footprint. While it isn’t 100% perfect as it doesn’t include many countries on it, you can pick the one closest to you and it gives you some indication of what you could do to reduce your global footprint. According to my results, we would need 4.9 planets to support a world living the same way I do. That was a pretty surprising result as I thought I lived fairly greenly.

A couple of days ago, the UK government announced that it plans to cease sale of petrol and diesel cars (though not hybrid cars) by 2040. In comparison, India wants the same by 2030, and Norway only wants zero emission cars on their roads by 2025. Last month, Volvo announced that they will only introduce electric or hybrid vehicles after 2019. While it requires more work and money for a country to support that kind of change than for a company to stop producing a specific type of car, why is our government planning to fall 21 years behind Volvo, 15 years behind Norway, and 10 years behind India?

No, it’s not as simple as us replacing petrol and diesel cars with electric or hybrid versions, it will require culture shifts and a lot of investment in energy and public transport, but why are we aiming to fall behind?

The government estimate that air pollution is linked to 40,000 premature deaths per year, though it is hard to verify that figure. We know that air quality in some areas is poor, it can make existing conditions worse, and no one really wants to breath in dirty air, period. We know something needs to be done, but are our government doing enough, fast enough? These are just some of the issues that need to be tackled to change the way we think about travel.

Green energy

It’s all well and good harping on about how green electric cars are, but how green are the energy sources charging that car? If an electric car is charged using electric from fossil fuels, it isn’t truly emission free; albeit, the emissions are being emitted from a power station, not the car directly.The UK government is woefully behind other European countries in terms of green energy. A few times a year, stories pop up about the likes of Germany or Sweden generating enough green energy to power the entire country for a day or two. It’s not perfect, but they’re on the right path and we need to follow suit.

The problems with UK public transport

If you’ve traveled to Europe, you will know how inadequate and expensive the British public transport system is in comparison. The UK rail networks are in need of upgrading but that isn’t a priority for the government, who recently scrapped plans to electrify key lines. It seems the only public transport system the government are interested in is HS2, which will tear up parts of the British countryside, will cost £55.7 billion (way above the £32.7bn originally estimated), and will probably be the rail equivalent of the M6 toll; that is, barely used.

We are moving to Edinburgh soon and our friends and family have been doing some research into the easiest and cheapest way to get to Edinburgh, which is about 270 miles from where we currently live. In my car (a 0.9l Renault Clio), it costs less than £30 in fuel one way. The train? Costs over £100. Where is the incentive for people to take public transport instead of their cars when it is so expensive? What’s worse is you could fit five people in the average car, which would drop the cost to £6 each in fuel, but everyone would still be paying £100 on the train.

On top of that, our networks need to expand their reach to encourage more people to take public transport. It takes me just under 20 minutes to drive 7.5 miles to work, but what if I wanted to take public transport? I can’t, safely. I would have to walk a couple of miles down an unlit country lane with no footpath, and it’s doubtful buses would be running when I finish at 1am.

That leads us nicely to cycling. To a lot of motorists, cyclists are considered to be a pain because UK roads aren’t quite wide enough to safely pass. This is even more problematic in rural areas. The Netherlands is a country we really need to learn from because it has been estimated that up to 70% of journeys in Amsterdam and The Hague are made on cycles.

Changing how we travel

Helping our environment does not just require a change in how our government thinks and our infrastructure works, it requires us to change our mindsets. We need to change the way we think about travel. While that does go hand in hand with improved public transport, we need to start walking or cycling more.

I include myself in that category. When we’re living outside Edinburgh, we probably won’t need the car much at all but it seems hard to give up that sense of freedom that comes with owning a car. Conversely, if public transport was better and cheaper, it wouldn’t be as hard.

It isn’t going to be completely pain free and easy, but we haven’t done our fair share in terms of protecting the world we live in for long enough and it’s time we step up and take responsibility.

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The greatest adventures are with the greatest people

Watching the sun set at Moraine Lake, Alberta

In the past 12 months, Daz and I have had our fair share of adventures; we’ve been to Wales, Canada, Edinburgh, and Canada again. Though all of those places are beautiful, it’s the people you’re with that make it the best adventure.

I booked my first trip to Canada before I really knew Daz; I might have known him as “the grumpy pastry chef”. After a few weeks of being together, it became pretty clear to me that I would be moping around Canada on my own, missing him like hell if he didn’t come. In fact, I actually told him that if he didn’t come to Canada, he would ruin my trip to Canada because I would miss him too much. (Soppy, awh.) It’s kinda funny because this time last year he was moping on holiday in Ibiza with his family, and I was being a serious grouch at work.

The fates aligned because he was able to get it off work too, and we found the perfect flight for him which landed just before my flight into Calgary from San Francisco.

During our first trip to Alberta, we felt so at home. We got so much done in seven days (here’s our 7-day Banff & Jasper itinerary), and we were planning our return trip before we’d got to the airport to go home.

We spent months thinking about and planning the trip; whenever one of us was annoyed or stressed, we would remind each other of being back there together. And boy, did that thought get us through a lot of frustrating times.

Our trip was incredible. Even better than we thought it would be, not least because Daz proposed to me at Moraine Lake, our favourite spot (more on that soon). And it definitely sucked more when we had to fly home, though we are now definitely determined to call Canada home one day. 

If either of us had experienced the hammering rain, the chilled out vibes of Tofino, the sounds of Vancouver Island’s rainforests, Vancouver at night, the beauty of the Rockies, or seeing an avalanche on our own, it would have been pretty cool. But to do, see, and experience all of that next to your best friend, is the best feeling in the world.

Sure, travelling with someone isn’t always 100% rainbows, unicorns, and butterflies (I’m really not gonna pretend it is). I’m a miserable moose when I’m tired at the best of times, tired and annoyed at road closures is not a great combination and unfortunate for anyone around me. I’m also always convinced I know the right way (spoiler alert: I almost never do) and am a frustrating co-pilot because I say right when I mean left, and left when I mean right. But then again, nothing is ever 100% rainbows, butterflies, it’s compromise that moves us along (shout out to anyone who gets the Maroon 5 reference – from when they were good).

Daz is my favourite adventure buddy and I’m looking forward to so many more adventures with him and giving him the wrong directions, forever.

Happy birthday, Dazzle.

Who is your favourite adventure buddy?

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Turns out, relocating is hard

Edinburgh Princes Street Gardens

Captain Obvious Award of the year goes to me for that title; I’d like to thank myself for being so oblivious to the hassle involved in moving over 270 miles away. 

When we got the news that I’d been accepted into the University of Edinburgh, we found ourselves stressing about this huge list of things we needed to do. We made a start on a good chunk of them and began putting things into place. After we got back from Canada, we headed up to Edinburgh for a few days; Daz got a job and we tried to look at a few flats.

Tried is the key word in that sentence because despite wanting to look at around 10 places, we only saw one. Now, a lot of that is down to our naivety; places go in Edinburgh fast and we thought the best thing to do was to try and book viewings when we were up there, rather than a week or so in advance. The one place we did see, we fell in love with and we’re waiting on references to come back, so hopefully we have somewhere to live!

We’re trying to get things organised but without knowing 100% whether or not we have this place, we can’t change details or do super important stuff like telling Sky to sort our internet out so we can watch Game of Thrones the day it comes out. (You know, important first world stuff.) It feels like living in limbo a little bit.

The biggest surprise by far is how little time we have. Like most people, we get two days off a week (which clearly is not enough time to ever get things done – I want to adopt the Netherlands’ 29-hour work week.) but damn they are flying by. On top of that, we’re trying to organise seeing people before we move, which leaves so little time to get things done, especially as we both work weekends. 

Stress aside, we are very lucky because we have family and friends who offered to help us immediately, which has relieved some of the hassle. These are some of the people we’re going to miss the most and will happily accept into our spare room whenever they can get up to Scotland. 

When we are settled in Edinburgh I might do a blog post on “x dumb things you shouldn’t do when you’re relocating”. I don’t know about anyone else, but as I’ve lived in the same town for almost 25 years, I had no idea what to expect about moving to the other side of town, let alone another country.

Anyway, that’s just a little update on how the Edinburgh situation is going. I will be joyous when I attend my first day of my masters and will breath a huge sigh of relief because things will pretty much all be sorted. (Apart from my degree certificate because the University of Wolverhampton are incapable of doing anything that actually makes any sense to the rest of the educational world.)

Have you ever moved far? How did you find it?

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Dilemma; buying food from companies with unethical parent companies

Marmite on toast - buying from companies with unethical parent companies

I am a label reader; when I’m in the shower, in the bath, waiting for something to cook, I’ll be reading the labels on whatever I’m using at the time. A few weeks back, I was reading the label on the back of my beloved Marmite, when I noticed they are owned by Unilever.

According to their website, Unilever own 255 brands globally across the food and drink, home care, and personal care sectors. Some of these brands include: Ben & Jerry’s (who are bringing vegan ice cream to the UK ‘soon’), Marmite, Simple, Dove, Lynx, Vaseline and a whole boat load of brands you might use / eat every day. I don’t buy any hygiene or cosmetic products sold by Unilever because I disagree with animal testing, but seeing ‘Unilever’ on the back of a jar of Marmite stopped me in my tracks.

How do I feel about buying food a company whose parent company test on animals, or I consider to be unethical?

Surprisingly, animal testing is not just limited to cosmetics and cleaning products. I would never associate food products with animal testing (perhaps that is naive on my part) but while I was doing some research for this blog post I discovered that some food products are not cruelty free. In 2013, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) called out Unilever, Nestle, Yakult and Danone for testing food products on animals to allow them to promote health claims.

That absolutely baffled me. Why? Why is that even necessary?

Let’s take a look at the Ben & Jerry’s example too. I love that they have created vegan ice cream and are planning to bring it over to the UK; I want to support companies who are making being vegan easier, because hell knows I find it very hard. I also really want a vegan version of Phish food.

If I choose not to support companies who test cosmetics on animals, doesn’t that mean I should boycott food brands which are tested on animals? Doesn’t it mean it should boycott food brands which might be cruelty free themselves, but are owned by a company who test other food brands or hygiene brands on animals?

On the other hand, I could support cruelty free and vegan companies for doing good, fighting animal testing, and creating tasty vegan food. Some people choose to do this with cosmetics brands, let’s take Urban Decay as an example. Urban Decay are cruelty free but they are owned by L’Oreal who do test on animals. The argument is that it’s good to support companies like Urban Decay because they are cruelty free and maybe, eventually, in some kinda movie-like way, L’Oreal will go “wow, a lot of people support these cruelty free brands we own, so maybe we should quit being dicks to animals.” That would be amazing, but it doesn’t quite sit well with me. I hate the idea that my money might indirectly end up supporting animal testing or supporting companies with unethical practices.

To counter that again, if you try to avoid food, hygiene, or cleaning products with unethical parent companies your weekly shop is about to get a lot harder, involve ordering from goodness knows how many websites and probably more expensive.

I am between a rock and a hard place with this one and would love to hear your thoughts about buying from companies with unethical parent companies.

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There’s Lead in Your Lipstick – Gillian Deacon | REVIEW

There's Lead In Your Lipstick by Gillian Deacon

While I am an avid label reader and science nerd, trying to understand the confusing words on packaging is hard. Enter There’s Lead in Your Lipstick, which serves as a perfect entrance into figuring out what is actually in the products your using and how to avoid the toxins.

Would you ever imagine that there are harmful chemicals in the products you rub on your face every day, the things you wash with, what you brush your teeth with, or fix your hair with? I think the majority of people, including myself, probably wouldn’t. You would assume that there is some kind of governing body somewhere ensuring harmful toxins are not put in things we use. Unfortunately, it isn’t really the case (while there are bodies, they’re not as protective as you would hope) and the biggest lesson you will learn from There’s Lead in Your Lipstick is that you have to be your own advocate.

Of course, there are some chemicals banned for use in cosmetics but that doesn’t mean that what’s allowed in cosmetics is perfectly safe. Far from it. Luckily for those living in the EU, we appear to have stricter regulations that those in the US and Canada, but again it still doesn’t mean we are actually being protected from things that can cause us harm. (And with the whole Brexit debacle, who knows what kind of laws products will or won’t have to comply with.)

We have no way to measure the impact of an ingredient combined with every other chemical you encounter day after dayAdditionally, the ease of internet shopping might mean that by buying from abroad you’re exposing yourself to ingredients which are banned in your own country. Coal tar is one example. The known carcinogen is banned in the EU but is still allowed in products in the US, where it might be found in anti-dandruff shampoo, hair dye, and soaps.

I have found switching to a toxin-free lifestyle quite overwhelming, but Deacon’s book is the ideal accomplice. She explains the issues with each toxin and what it might also be referred to as on the label, in a really easy to understand way. I was half expecting There’s Lead in Your Lipstick to be a bit of a dry, textbook-style, read but it was far from it; it was equal parts interesting and horrifying. Her writing style is quite conversational, and I finished it off on my flight home because I just could not put it down.

As well as explaining some of the key ingredients to avoid (and giving a handy list of 20 things you really need to avoid), Deacon explains how to avoid them by including DIY recipes and lists of companies and products which are toxin free. Knowing what to do instead definitely takes away from some of the feeling of being overwhelmed because you feel like you’re armed with solutions and starting points. (And believe me, you will feel a little overwhelmed and want to throw away a large chunk of the stuff in your bathroom.) Note that this book does not detail every single ingredient you shouldn’t avoid, though I’d kinda like that book.

The book is split up into sections dealing with different kinds of products, such as hair, face, hands and feet. Two of the best sections are definitely the ones which teach you how to understand labels and deals with the issues with companies being able to use the words “natural” or “organic” pretty liberally without very strict guidelines.

It is sad that it’s surprisingly difficult to buy toxin free products in on the high street (how did the world come to this?). I have a few recipes or products saved on Pinterest but it can be tricky to keep going back to different pages and trying to remember where I saved something, so I like knowing I can pick up this book and flick to the section I need easily.

I wish books like this didn’t need to exist, but with the plethora of chemicals we’re exposed to every day without really realising it, and no one knowing the accumulative and combined issues they can cause over time, books like this are important. If you read one non-fiction book this summer, heck even this year, let it be There’s Lead in Your Lipstick.

I would like to point out that the products in the main photograph are not all toxin free, and NARS are no longer cruelty free either.

If you’ve read this, what did you think of it? Do you have any recommendations?

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I did it, I got my first!

Dissertation hand in

Last Friday, I got the news I’d been impatiently refreshing my emails for; I have finished my forensic science degree with a first. 

I’m not going to lie, I am pretty proud of myself. I started university about six years ago now and dropped out after a year and a half because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted. After three years out I realised I loved science and applied to go back pretty much exactly two years ago.

It was nerve-wracking taking a pay cut and starting a part-time job but that hasn’t been as hard as I feared. My part-time job introduced me to a group of people who feel like family to me now; I have made friends for life and I hate to think what my life would be like without them.

I have worked hard and I’ve had amazing support from Daz, my friends and family. University is not something you can do on your own, you need a little bit of help, whether it’s someone making dinner when you’re furiously typing away, asking a friend to quiz you for an exam, or trying to explain your ideas or thoughts to someone who doesn’t really know what you’re on about – a different perspective can so often pick up something obvious that you’ve missed. (I tell you, I could have cried when Daz pointed something really obvious out about my dissertation project that I had completely missed.)

By far, the dissertation was the biggest challenge but it taught me so much. That said, I had no idea how I’d done by the time I handed it in and was convinced that because it was a double module I’d sabotaged my shot at a first. You know what it’s like when you spend so long on something and you have no idea if it’s good or a load of rubbish anymore. I am over the moon with a first, and I had no intention of getting anything less than a first when I decided to go back.

Annoyingly, my university doesn’t do graduation until September (I have no idea why) so I won’t actually get to go to graduation. The idea of a graduation ceremony did make me feel pretty nervous but it also felt like a chance to celebrate hard work.

I guess the moral of this story is don’t let yourself hold yourself back; if you want something, go out there and get it. I think there might be a second moral which is; you don’t have to go to university right after 6th form or college, and it might not even be for you anyway – don’t listen to lecturers or teachers who tell you you have to or should go, it’s your life.

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