One of my favourite things about summer in the UK was the abundance of berries that adorn the paths of Cardiff. When I first arrived in Cardiff last year, I saw some people picking blackberries along the Taff Trail. When I asked them whether it was okay to eat the berries, they looked a bit confused and responded 'of course!'. (In Australia blackberry plants are considered a horrendous nuisance and are sprayed with poison to prevent their spread. Apparently this is not the case in the UK.) For the rest of that summer, and this year too, I have been making the most of the fact that delicious berries grow freely throughout the city in Cardiff.
But blackberries aren't the only edible plant growing around Cardiff. I have now been on two foraging walks with Green City Events, and I have learnt so much about the edible plants in Bute Park. (I was on crutches for the first one and missed a lot of the explanations because I was so slow! The second one was much more enjoyable - both because I could hear all the explanations and also because it was berry season!)
Even after these two walks I am still very much a novice at foraging, but I am a big fan for several reasons:
As wonderful as foraging is, I'm not suggesting that it is possible, or even desirable to entirely live on foraged foods. The foraging walks also taught me about the ethics and etiquette to foraging. Our tutor, Michele from Edible Landscaping, also emphasised the essential etiquette of foraging - leaving enough of any plant for nature to regenerate, and for wildlife to eat (as they don't have the option to go to the local shops if a pesky human has picked all their food!).
I'm planning to make the most of the rapidly disappearing light in the evenings to put what I learnt at the recent Autumn foraging walk into practice. So if you see someone wandering around Bute Park randomly picking berries off trees - come say hi!
Related stories and resources:
I really, really enjoy wearing these sunnies for a couple of reasons.
These reasons are (A) because they are prescription sunglasses. I have no idea why I waited 20 bespectacled years to buy a pair - it is amazing to be able to see and not have sun in my eyes at the same time! But mostly (B) because they are about as sustainable as it gets - they are vintage reused frames and purchased from an awesome UK social enterprise, Retrospecced.
(Also (C) because they make me feel like a movie star. This is mostly because I often wear them indoors because I am too lazy to switch them with my ordinary glasses and I really can't see without prescription lenses.)
I read about Retrospecced earlier this year on Ethical Unicorn, and was gutted because I had literally just ordered a new pair of glasses the week before (my previous glasses were broken in a particularly dramatic game of mixed netball, and I had been wearing my "emergency glasses" for six months). Despite really not needing glasses, I checked out the Retrospecced website and saw that they also do prescription sunglasses. So despite living in the coldest, rainiest, least sunny city I have ever lived in, I decided I would buy a pair.
So what is so sustainable about specs from Retrospecced?
You can read all about it on their about page, but there are three main reasons I think they are wonderful:
I have found a consistent theme since deciding to shop in a more sustainable way - while it takes me a really long time to decide to buy something, when I eventually get around to it I always end up with something really lovely. These sunnies are no different. I have happily used them all summer and now that summer in the UK seems to have abruptly come to an end, I will tuck them away and look forward to using them again next year.
(I never imagined I would write a whole blog post about sunglasses, but there you go! In case you were wondering, I am nowhere near fancy enough to have sponsored posts even if I wanted to do them, I just really like my sunnies!)
Last month I joined millions of people across 150 countries participating in Plastic Free July - an initiative that aims to raise awareness around the issue of plastic pollution and encourage everyone to take steps to consume less single use plastic. I fell down the #zerowaste rabbit hole about three years ago, so participating in Plastic Free July for the first time was an opportunity to do a bit of an audit of where we are at with our plastic consumption.
So here it is...one month worth of plastic waste! This includes all the plastic waste that my partner and I produced in our house, plus pretty much everything that I used outside the house.
I'm not super sure how this compares to everyone else - it's a bit hard to gauge what everyone is squishing into those mason jars sometimes - but perhaps you had one of two reactions. If you are thinking "wow, that's a ridiculously small amount of waste for two people to generate in a month" - then remember that we are two relatively time and money-rich adults who can choose to support local, plastic-free businesses (and enjoy doing so!). If you are thinking "erm, you call that zero waste?!?" - then (a) please be kind and (b) remember that while bulk stores are coming to Cardiff, they weren't open in time for July. We also didn't really prepare for Plastic Free July, so while we had some recently purchased groceries from the Plastic Free Pantry and the Natural Weigh, we were also using up a bunch of other (plastic-packaged) foods.
What's in the box?
For the month of July, we put all our plastic waste into a big cardboard box so we could see how it was building up. Here's a bit of a breakdown of what went into the box over the month, with notes on what we are planning to change, and what we are probably going to keep using for now.
Our plastic-free champions!
We have slowly built up habits over the last few years that meant Plastic Free July was not too much of a shock to the system. There are a bunch of tiny habits that we probably don't even think about any more, but here are some of the big ones that have helped use to avoid plastic during July and generally in life.
Thanks for sticking with me for such a long post! I'm really glad we decided to participate in Plastic Free July this year, as it gave us an opportunity to consolidate our habits, push our limits a bit more, and identify what our areas for improvement could be.
Did you participate in Plastic Free July? I'd love to hear what you learnt and any tips in the comments below or on social media (T: @karabrussen, IG: @wonderfullygreen)!
Attempting to live more sustainably seems to come with a bunch of dilemmas. There are some areas where the evidence points quite convincingly in one direction (for example, riding a bike is better for the environment than driving, a vegetarian diet results in less greenhouse gas emissions than eating lots of red meat). However there are some areas that are a bit more ambiguous than that.
I have been making a proper go of Plastic Free July for the first time ever this year. More than any other area, it seems trickier to work out what the 'right' thing to do is when attempting to avoid and reduce plastic consumption. For example:
There are too many dilemmas there to tackle in one blog post, so I'll just be focussing on the last one. However, one thing to keep in mind which is relevant to all these dilemmas (and others), is that we are making a values-based judgement when we choose to do (or buy or eat) one thing over another.
What does this mean?
As much as we try to quantify and compare environmental and socio-economic impacts of different options, the ultimate decision is largely based on what we choose to value. (Life cycle assessment is one technique for comparing options. This post might be a useful introduction to life cycle assessment indicators and what they mean.) A bunch of numbers on a page is compelling, but it is shocking images of adorable animals with stomachs full of plastic that have driven people all over the world to try to reduce their plastic consumption.
For many environmental issues (like climate change, overconsumption of resources, deforestation), the problems that are caused by our actions are quite disconnected from the actions themselves (i.e. it is difficult to relate driving to the shops right now with the drought that hits the other side of the world next summer). But when we see something like the iconic image below, we make an immediate connection with what we are putting in the bin and the problem it is causing, and then take action to make a change (even if it is just replacing a plastic item with a paper alternative).
So is it worth driving to a bulk food store?
I was super excited to visit the first zero waste shop in Wales recently (you can read about the excitement here). I tacked it on to a family holiday and remember thinking that it took rather a while to drive there. I did some quick maths in my head and thought it would probably take about 8-10 litres of fuel to do the round trip from Cardiff.
The main concern I have around driving and fuel consumption is the contribution it makes to anthropogenic climate change. So naturally I made a spreadsheet to compare the greenhouse gas emissions from driving and those attributable to plastic consumption. (You can check it out here, including background data and assumptions.)
I found that the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from a 120 km round trip from Cardiff to Crickhowell were equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacture and incineration of 8.2 kg of plastic (our non-recyclable plastic waste in Cardiff is incinerated, but the emissions from manufacture are much larger anyway). So in order to make it worth the trip (when considering the contribution to climate change), I would need to avoid 8.2 kg of plastic use each time. Put another way, a pasta packet weighs about 5 g, so it would be equivalent to the plastic of over 1,600 pasta packets. As you can see from the picture at the top of this post, we bought nowhere near that quantity of unpackaged goods!
Of course, we don't buy plastic free goods to reduce the impact on climate change. We do it because plastic pollution is also a massive global environmental issue. We see the litter in our streets and on our beaches, we see pictures of seahorses on social media, we see epic documentaries like Blue Planet II - these all encourage us to shift away from single use plastics.
But it still leaves us with a dilemma when the only options available have different (and not easily comparable) environmental impacts. As I noted above, what we choose to do is based on what we decide to value. It is possible to say that avoiding plastic is the most important consideration and therefore should be prioritised over all others (and I have seen some (unhelpfully mean) social media comments to that effect). Until such a time (hopefully in the very near future!) that a bulk food store opens in Cardiff, I think I am satisfied that shopping locally on my bike is a perfectly valid option - even if it means buying a few things in plastic for now.
It is no secret that I have really missed bulk food stores since coming to Wales. There is something delightfully meditative about bulk food shopping, puddling about filling my own bags and containers is much more fun that rushing around a supermarket. Not to mention the environmental benefits of reduced single-use packaging.
I was pretty excited when I heard that a zero waste shop had opened earlier this year in Wales. The Natural Weigh is the first zero waste shop in Wales (although it is soon to be joined by a couple of others that I know of - Ripple and Viva Organic in Cardiff). It is located in Crickhowell - and being absolutely terrible at UK geography I had to look up where that was when it opened back in March. Turns out it is a three and a half hour bike ride from Cardiff (which after our trip to Brecon, I estimate might actually take me close to double that).
However, last weekend I finally had the opportunity to visit! My sister and her family were visiting us in Wales, so I sneakily navigated our weekend away to the Brecon Beacons via Crickhowell with the sole motivation of visiting the Natural Weigh. The rest of Crickhowell is rather lovely, so no one was complaining (just as well, because I spent far more time than necessary checking out everything they had in the store and chatting to the co-owner, Robin).
Some of my favourite things about the Natural Weigh are:
I have bulk shopped in quite a few places (in Australia, New Zealand and the US), but the barcode system at the Natural Weigh was new to me. Rather than noting down the container tare (weight) and product number, they have a nifty system that prints a barcode and then you scan it to work out the weight (and price!) of your food minus the weight of the container (that isn't a great explanation - I promise it is actually quite simple). It is much easier and saves time at the check out compared to manually entering the tare and product number for each item. On the downside, it does mean some waste is produced.
If you are in the area, I would highly recommend dropping in to the Natural Weigh to check it out, support some local businesses and (of course) avoid creating some plastic pollution.
Recently it was my ten year vegi-versary. Becoming vegetarian was the first lifestyle decision that I consciously made myself to reduce my environmental impact (as an idealistic teenager still living at home I was less concerned with how it might impact my mother, who very obligingly catered for my decision...thanks mum!).
Especially in the early days I got pretty over-excited about telling people why they should become vegetarian too, but over the years I have become a bit more chill about it. The evidence is now pretty irrefutable that a plant-based diet has the least impact on the planet. With all the publicity that recent studies have had, it seems more and more people around me have been either consciously trying to limit the amount of meat they consume or cutting it out altogether (yay!).
But while all my peers are excitedly becoming vegetarian (some for a second or third time), I have recently been reconsidering whether it is best for me. Here are some thoughts on why a plant-based diet is pretty great, why it might be less great, and where to from here.
Why a plant-based diet is pretty great
The evidence is pretty clear that a plant-based diet has the least impact on the planet. I was planning to link to a bunch of sources that show this, but very conveniently a massive meta-analysis of 570 food-related life cycle assessments was published this month in Science.
(You have to pay to access the actual journal article, but if you have the means it is well worth a look! Articles published in Science are really short and accessible compared to other academic journals. If you want to nerd out over their dataset, you can access it here. It is worth a download just to see the amount of time, effort and rigour that goes into such a study.)
The whole article is full of fascinating insights that the authors have drawn from the data, but my main take-aways were:
Moving from current diets to a diet that excludes animal products has transformative potential, reducing food’s land use by 3.1 billion ha (a 76% reduction); food’s GHG emissions by 6.6 billion tons of CO2eq (a 49% reduction); acidification by 50%; eutrophication by 49%; and scarcity-weighted freshwater withdrawals by 19%
(My next post is a follow up that discusses in a bit more detail what these indicators mean. Check it out here.)
Why just 'being vegetarian' is less great for me
For the last ten years, I have used being vegetarian as a bit of an excuse be lazy and not to look further into what the most sustainable and ethical food choices actually are. My one absolute criterion for deciding whether or not to eat something has been "Did an animal die? No. Ok good!" But as you can see in the charts above, the impacts of different individual foods can vary a lot depending on how they are grown, processed, transported and consumed.
I eat a reasonable amount of dairy, because halloumi (and also greek yogurt, and goats cheese, and blue cheese). But there are still impacts from keeping livestock to produce dairy. If you look at the charts above, while not as high as beef and other meats, the impacts of diary and eggs are still higher than most plant-based sources (and fish, which I don't eat). The arbitrary lines that I have drawn around my diet do not necessarily align with the impacts of the foods.
In recent years I have mentally given myself a free pass to eat meat while travelling because (a) I'm no longer a ratty teenager and don't want to put people out, and (b) there are lots of cultural experiences tied up with food and I don't want to miss out on those because of a self-imposed restriction. But! While there have been a couple of times that I have consumed foods with some meat in them for the first reason, I'm yet to really take myself up on the free pass.
This means that there have been times when it really would have made sense to eat meat and I haven't. For example:
In the back of my mind, I am conscious that I should probably do some more thinking about food, sustainability and whether I am really making the best choices. Meat is not the only problematic food source. Last year New Scientist published a list of '7 foods you should avoid to help feed the world', which hits a bunch of my other dietary staples (chocolate!). And since living in the UK, even my adored avocado toast seems like it will be causing issues (although perhaps that is not so tragic, avocados here taste pretty lacklustre compared to in Australia).
However, what has really prompted me to reconsider what I choose to eat was a recent failed attempt to donate blood. For those that haven’t done so before, when you go to donate blood they do a quick test to make sure you have enough haemoglobin. (In Wales the test is super cool - they look at whether a drop of blood floats or not in an iodine solution. In Melbourne the test is a much more boring digital reader.) I was so sure when I went along this time that my iron levels would be fine, because I’m pretty diligent these days at eating a variety of pretty iron rich foods. Since trying to donate a couple of years ago in Australia, I have made much more of an effort to get enough iron by eating lots of leafy greens and even taking supplements for a while. Fast forward a few years later and turns out I’m still iron deficient...boo!
Where to from here?
Well, the first step is going to a doctor and working out the whole iron-deficiency situation. But I have also been talking to lots of people recently about the balance between individual health and well-being, and choosing sustainable options that are better for the planet.
So going forward I am considering becoming less vegetarian but more vegan. That seems a bit odd, what does it mean?
Here are some thoughts:
Related reading and resources:
Since moving to Wales I have been impressed with how much further ahead a lot of things seem in terms of sustainability compared to Australia. I previously posted about how the UK is actually making serious progress towards their decarbonisation goals, whereas Australia is still mucking about and has gone backwards in recent years. Even within the UK, Wales is doing some pretty cool things and this post highlights a few of them - (1) waste management, (2) housing energy performance, and (3) my favourite piece of legislation ever!
1. Household waste to landfill is minimised with very little effort
In a recent report on recycling rates of household waste in different countries, Wales was ranked second worldwide with a reported rate of 63.8% (there were then some adjustments made to the rates, but Wales is still up there in the top performers). Australia was number 21, with a recycling rate of just 41.6% (although I feel like I should point out that if South Australia was its own country, it would totally win with a recycling rate of 81.5%). Wales has also had a 5p charge on plastic checkout bags since 2011, while it doesn't go as far as the bag ban in Kenya, it is still years ahead of Australia where my home state, Victoria, is just getting around to implementing one later this year.
In Cardiff and many other areas, food waste is collected from households. In Cardiff, it feeds an anaerobic digestion plant which supplies energy to a wastewater treatment plant. Residual waste (what might be called 'landfill waste' if it went to landfill) is collected fortnightly instead of weekly, and households are only provided with a limited number of bags to use. (When I first heard about this I imagined a scenario where there would be a black market for bin bags, and we could sell our bags at an outrageous profit because we use one every few months or so. In reality the Council provides households with enough bags to use 3 per collection, which is really quite generous given that food waste is collected separately. I guess that the number of bags provided could be ramped down over time as people got used to it.) Rather than go to landfill, the residual waste feeds an Energy Recovery Facility which generates enough electricity to power 50,000 households while diverting 350,000 tonnes of waste from landfill each year, as I mentioned in a previous post. (Of course, even with all these systems in place, it is best to avoid waste altogether.)
All this makes it much easier as a resident to reduce the impact of my waste - compared to Melbourne where the landfill waste (that did just go to landfill) was collected weekly, recyclable waste was collected fortnightly and I had to take the initiative to collect my own food waste and traipse it down to the local community garden. On the upside, many Councils in Victoria have recently implemented (or are planning to implement) a food waste collection service. Some have also started collecting soft plastics as part of the kerbside collection of recyclable waste.
2. Energy performance of housing is transparent and considered in loans
There are several very cool things tied up in this one! First of all, all homes have an energy performance certificate rating. When you look at renting (and I imagine buying) a home, there is a little information box at the bottom that tells you how efficient the property is in terms of energy consumption (the Energy Efficiency Rating) and greenhouse gas emissions (the Environmental Impact Rating) - see examples below. Of course, the actual energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of the home depends on how the home is used, but it is still a handy indicator.
Understanding home energy ratings in Australia is confusing, even as a sustainability professional! The Victorian Government is starting to roll out a scheme where residents can have an energy assessment completed on their home to understand its performance and how to improve it. This is a great step in the right direction, but I imagine it will be a while before enough homes have completed assessments that they can be fairly used for comparison when people are thinking about renting or buying.
The second (and possibly even cooler part of this point), is that the Welsh Government recently announced that energy efficiency is going to be a consideration in loan affordability calculations for the Help to Buy-Wales shared equity loan scheme. This recognises that people living in a more energy efficient home will be spending less on utility bills, so will be able to afford to spend more on mortgage repayments. This article from the Fifth Estate explains it all very clearly (and yes - I have been reading about how excellent Wales is in an Australian news outlet).
(Side note - when looking into this I became super jealous of all the different options there are to support home buyers in Wales. Sometimes I really think it would be much easier to stay here than eventually go back and face the insane Melbourne housing market.)
3. Public bodies have to consider sustainability in everything they do
The Well-being of Future Generations Act (a.k.a my favourite piece of legislation ever, because I am a nerd like that) is a piece of Welsh legislation that places a duty on public bodies to undertake sustainable development. In addition to the three commonly understood pillars of sustainability (environmental, social and economic) the Act also considers cultural sustainability. It is a very readable piece of legislation, you can check it out here if interested. The Act defines sustainable development and the sustainable development principle as follows...
2 In this Act, “sustainable development” means the process of improving the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales by taking action, in accordance with the sustainable development principle, aimed at achieving the well-being goals.
It has only been around since 2015, so to a certain extent everyone is still working through what such an ambitious piece of legislation means in practice. The Act itself establishes seven well-being goals for Wales as a whole, and five ways of working that will enable public bodies to work in a coordinated way towards achieving the goals (see pictures below). In turn, the public bodies must establish their own well-being objectives, based on their local needs and context. At work I have been grappling with how it applies at a project scale for infrastructure in the built environment, which is particularly challenging when there are numerous public bodies involved (some of which are and aren't subject to the Act).
Naturally, I think it is amazing to have a piece of legislation like this, and there are several really clear benefits that I see from it:
So there we go - three excellent ways that Wales in leading in terms of sustainability (take note, Australia!). Any other favourites? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @karabrussen!
At work recently I have been looking at Thriving Places Wales, an index released last month that integrates 55 different measures to provide an understand of overall well-being in each local area. It is based on the Thriving Places Index, developed by Happy City (what an awesome name for an organisation!) for England. The idea of both of these tools is to shift the focus from traditional metrics like economic output and instead enable local decision-makers to understand and improve well-being.
All very cool stuff! But on a personal level, I was very interested to check out their Happiness Pulse tool. Everyone loves a good quiz - and this one comes with a promise to help you to 'find ways to boost your happiness now and for the long term'. I don't want to spoil it, so if you are interested go and take the quiz, and then we can discuss together.
For me, the area with most room for improvement was the 'Connect' section. I guess not surprising given I have recently moved to literally the opposite side of the world from all my closest family and friends. That's not to say I feel totally isolated here, I have wonderful work colleagues in two cities and I have met lots of people through social netball and other events. The 'Connect' section asks about things like helping out your neighbours and feelings of closeness, which are all very important when something like this happens...
I fell awkwardly during netball and assumed I had sprained my ankle. The next day when I still couldn't put weight on it, I tried to get a physio appointment, but turns out that is quite difficult here without a referral from a GP. I called the GP (thank goodness we had gotten around to registering with one a little while back!) but they said I would have to wait 4 weeks (!) for an appointment. I guess I sounded pretty distressed because they offered for the GP to call me back. Based on what I told her, the GP recommended that I take some paracetamol (umm...but I can't walk?!). The GP also told me they have a limited number of walk-in slots, so I called at 8 am the next morning and nabbed one of those. I called an Uber to take me two minutes down the road (which felt ridiculous, but I had already fallen once that morning hopping and really didn't fancy hopping half a kilometre down the road). I also didn't even have a bandage (so you can see my lovely improvisation with a scarf above).
To cut a long story short, the GP sent me to the hospital Emergency Department where I had an x-ray and turns out I have fractured a bone in my foot (at least that explains why it was so painful!).
So what is the point of this long sad story?
I have felt homesick before, but never felt so isolated and overwhelmed. I cried on the phone to about five different health professionals on that first day, and then again at the GP, and then again at the hospital when getting across the waiting room to the toilet seemed just too hard. They all asked 'is there anyone with you?', 'is there anyone that can help you?', 'is there anyone you can call?'. And that just made it so much worse, because everyone that I could think to call for help (including my boyfriend) were all at least a 24-hour plane ride away.
But! It could have been so much worse!
On the weekend following this debacle, I was lucky enough to head along to the amazing TEDx Canton held at a pub just half a mile from my house (took me an hour to walk there though...). One of the speakers was the amazing Stepheni Kays, who spoke about her experience coming to Wales as an asylum seeker. You can see a short clip of it here (and check out the other speakers too!). I felt very humbled listening to her speak, and also slightly embarrassed at just how overwhelmed I had been in the previous two days when all I had to deal with was a fractured foot. It was something that I had already been thinking about anyway, but her talk really emphasised the importance of community and a strong social network in enabling individuals to thrive.
As it turns out, gadding about for the last few days with crutches and a massive plastic boot has been an excellent way to feel more a part of the community. Luckily we live just around the corner from some shops, so I was able to buy bread from the bakery and some fresh fruit and veg to eat (incidentally, I haven't bothered make it to the supermarket so I have just been eating a lot or fresh produce which is very good from a zero waste perspective). On my little outings everyone is very helpful and friendly, I have had multiple people ask if I need assistance and lots of sympathetic comments.
An old man with a walking stick even asked me if I wanted to have a race. He definitely would have won.
Related interesting links:
I have previously posted about how difficult I have found it to reduce my plastic use in Cardiff (although, the situation is going to improve very soon!). When a friend shared this Plastic Footprint calculator with me, I thought I should take the quiz to see just how dire things had become. I worked my way through the calculator. Straws? No, except when there is a misunderstanding. Packaged fruit and veg? Very rarely. Drinks in plastic bottles? None, except a few months ago when I tried to donate blood. Takeaway cup? Literally can't remember the last time.
So, the calculator told me I'm awesome (that is literally what it said...but the point of the story is that it doesn't really feel that way at the moment). The point is more that it somehow fails to consider all the plastic packaging that I have to use to buy every bit of food apart from fruit and veg. We probably fill a bag like you see above every month or so, which I think would equate to much more plastic than the number of straws I have ever used.
What is the solution then?
To understand the best ways to reduce waste, it helps to have a look at the waste hierarchy, which basically tells us the best order to manage waste. There are so many versions of this around, but the one below is from the European Union Directive 2008/98/EC on waste (so it is pretty official).
Even without referencing the hierarchy, we all know that the best thing to do is to prevent the waste being produced at all. But a girl has got to eat! Although I buy as much as I can find in paper packaging, until a bulk food store opens somewhere in Cardiff, generating some plastic film waste is inevitable. Reuse? This stuff is pretty useless to use a second time, it gets completely ripped and reusing it wouldn't actually reduce the amount that I use anyway (side note - I have come across ecobricking, which doesn't make much sense for me because (a) I don't have any plastic bottles, and (b) I can't imagine any projects that would use them, but a very interesting movement all the same).
Which leads us to...recycling! There are schemes to collect plastic bags and film in both the UK and Australia. Back in Melbourne, way before I started taking zero waste seriously, I used to assuage my plastic-induced guilt by diligently sorting all our waste and taking the soft plastics back to the supermarket to be recycled through the REDcycle program. Even when we started shopping mostly at bulk food stores, some bits of soft plastic would still sneak in so we'd take those to the local recycling depot (a wondrous place that really deserves its own post).
When we arrived in Cardiff and slowly realised that there are no bulk food stores here, I was relieved to find that at least there was a plastic film recycling scheme at supermarkets here too. The Recycle Now website has a wealth of information, including a postcode locator to find a drop-off point near you (I don't think it is entirely accurate because it missed the closest one to me). Packaging in the UK also has very handy labels telling you what can be recycled, so it is pretty straightforward to work out what should be put in there.
For a while I merrily went back to my diligent waste-sorting ways, making dedicated trips to the one supermarket I found nearby with a bin (that is it in the picture above). Until one day a colleague pointed out that in Cardiff, all residual waste goes to a waste to energy plant. The Cardiff Energy Recovery Facility generates enough electricity to power 50,000 households while diverting 350,000 tonnes of waste from landfill each year. So much better than Australia, where there are literally no waste to energy plants and residual waste inevitably ends up in a landfill (sometimes too much space is an issue...).
I felt pretty conflicted, because there are some issues with soft plastic recycling, which I had ignored in Australia because the alternative was landfill and anything seemed better than that. Of course, looking back up at the waste hierarchy, recycling should come before waste recovery but in this case I'm not sure if it is the best option.
So what are the issues?
So, where does that leave us now? I'm still not really sure, and there are at least another few weeks until our current bag of plastic film will be full. In the meantime I am getting very excited at the prospect of bulk food stores opening in Cardiff this summer, so this won't be such a big issue for me for too much longer!
I'd love to hear any thoughts you have on this, please let me know in the comments below or on twitter (@karabrussen)!
I love finding hidden things. Even better if they are adorably tiny pieces of public art. We had been living in Cardiff for about a month already before I thought to take a peek inside one of these bollards on the Hayes. And how exciting to find a tiny story hidden in each one!
So what is my (somewhat tenuous) link to sustainability this time?
I think that public art like this is a really nice way to encourage people to take a moment to discover something about a place that might normally seem mundane. By enabling us to engage with our surroundings in a positive way, we are more likely to care about and therefore take care of public areas. The Living Building Challenge has a beauty petal which recognises the value of public art and design features “intended solely for human delight and the celebration of culture, spirit, and place”. Similarly, one of the principles of the One Planet Living framework is health and happiness - and it certainly made my day a little happier to find these hidden treasures.
(On a less hippy-dippy note, the Greenwich Peninsula piece was actually part of a hoarding around a development under construction. I thought it was a highly effective way of engaging with the passing public and informing them about the development.)
Public art like this provides an excuse and an opportunity to engage with the local environment, and perhaps share the delight it brings with those around you. So next time you are out and about, slow down and keep an eye out for hidden things.
Welcome to Wonderfully Green...
My name is Kara and I created this blog as a way to document all the lovely aspects of sustainability. You can find out more on my About page.
Subscribe by copying the RSS feed link into your favourite RSS reader (click the RSS feed icon above), or follow me on twitter (@karabrussen) for updates.