Sustainable ideas for homes

Making your home more sustainable can be achieved in various ways and can introduce some interesting and exciting new ideas. Below are some practical ideas as well as some experimental prototypes.

Sustainable heating systems: Switching from a gas boiler can improve the sustainability of your home and in some cases save you money. If you would like more detailed information then check the hyperlink above. Three alternative heating systems I found from the website were the electrical resistance heating, biomass boilers and ground source heat pumps.

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Sustainable water systems: Again, for more in-depth information follow the hyperlink in the title. One important point I found from the website was that two central branches for sustainable water involve introducing water-efficient devices and/or using alternative water sources to supply the household.

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Tesla solar panel roofing: This involves replacing typical roof tiles with roof tiles that are also solar panels. Efficient as they maximise the space a roof can capture solar energy whilst demonstrating a modern style.

Solar panel windows: A new innovative design that replaces normal windows with clear solar panel windows. This idea is still in its infancy and being tested but could prove to be a valuable investment. Given time for transition, with enough buildings installing solar windows this could alleviate our dependence on fossil fuels for energy usage.

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Growing your own food: This is a fun and relatively easy way to reduce your dependence on supermarkets, all it takes is a little patience and saves a little money. Plastic used by supermarkets creates a lot of waste and vegetables tend to always be packaged in plastic wrapping. If you’re growing food indoors, growing near a window seal is beneficial or using artificial lights. Regardless of where you decide to grow your plants, there are sustainable techniques to growing food that are universal. Different techniques involve composting green waste, saving seeds from vegetables and mulching. Growing your own food whether in little pots by your window or in big planters in the garden is a simple solution toward being more sustainable.

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Hopefully this post offers some insight on how to make your home more sustainable, given you an activity to do during lockdown or at the very least been an interesting read.



Psychology and climate change

The psychological impacts experienced from the consequences of climate change are often subjective to each individual. Psychologically, climate change often creates anxiety or feelings of helplessness when one considers the future state of the world. This feeling has been labelled differently by various researchers but often mean the same thing.

One label for this type of feeling when considering climate change has been labelled Eco-anxiety, which is defined as:

Eco-anxiety refers to a fear of environmental damage or ecological disaster. This sense of anxiety is largely based on the current and predicted future state of the environment and human-induced climate change

Whereas, others have addressed it as climate anxiety, stating that:

‘Although climate anxiety appears to be a real phenomenon that deserves clinical attention, it is important to distinguish between adaptive and maladaptive levels of anxiety’

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Others have researched into whether taking action locally has a positive impact on the individual in relation to stress and anxiety surrounding climate change. They concluded that it can often lead to three separate outcomes depending on the individual and theoretical perspective one adopts:

proximizing can bring about the intended positive effects, can have no (visible) effect or can even backfire

Suggesting that finding remedies for climate anxiety appears to be more complex than first assumed, possibly due to the international effort needed to help reduce the rapidly changing climate and the little an individual can do without being in a position of influence.

Clayton et al. has recognised the importance of human behaviour in responding and adapting to climate change, as it is human behaviour which has caused the climate to become so unstable.

They state that human well-being can be affected by climate change in numerous ways:

Abrupt environmental events, experienced as natural disasters, will have direct impacts on mental health and quality of life; in addition, indirect impacts will result from gradually evolving and often cumulative environmental stresses on livlihoods, economic opportunity and sociocultural conditions

They also recognise that to successfully communicate the risks of climate change and to change human behaviours, it is necessary to:

consider individual capabilities, cognitive processes, biases, values, beliefs, norms, identities and social relationships, and to integrate understanding at this level into broader understanding of human intercations with a changing climate’

Similarly, others recognise the three different ways people can be affected by climate change (direct, indirect & psychosocial) but they also provide responses as well. They suggest that the responses for dealing with these impacts include psychological interventions for those impacted directly, promoting emotional resilience and empowerment for those indirectly feeling helpless and acting at system and policy levels to address psychosocial impacts.

This helps identify the different ways someone can be psychology impacted by climate change and suggests appropriate responses in dealing with these issues. Additionally, other researchers have specified more by looking at the psychological impact climate change has on children.

Researchers examining the impact on children (those aged between 12 -25) have identified severe outcomes for children and their mental health but also recognise that this age group are simultaneously impacted by economic and employment concerns.

Burke et al. states:

climate change place children at risk of mental health consequences including PTSD, depression, anxiety, phobias, sleep disorders, attachment disorders, and substance abuse. These in turn can lead to problems with emotion regulation, cognition, learning, behavior, language development, and academic performance. Together, these create predispositions to adverse adult mental health outcomes. Children also exhibit high levels of concern over climate change

They also recognise that children in developing countries are impacted the most, unfortunately this is also the case with climate change in general where those contributing the least to climate change often suffer the most from it.

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The appearance of climate anxiety and an increasingly worried youth demonstrates the seriousness of climate change even at this early stage, although some are still in denial. Solutions to this worry can be solved to help both the individual and the planet. As a previous study suggested, taking climate action can result in reduced stress and anxiety. However, treatment to an individual’s psychology is subjective to that person as is the case with the mental state of an individual. Therapists have recognised that more patients are seeking treatment for climate anxiety, one way this can be treated is with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Simply, this is a way of talking to help manage problems by changing the way you feel, think and act. Therefore, climate change does not only impact our planet but also our mental health, fortunately there are ways to managed both as long as these issues are considered integral to the progression of our societies.


Eating meat can no longer sustain human life on Earth

Looking back at human history, we have all been meat eaters for thousands of years and it is something that is linked closely with our ancestry. However, as the planet now holds an unprecedented amount of us, approximately 8 billion, it does not have the capacity to hold that many daily meat eaters as David Attenborough made clear in his recent documentary ‘A life on Our Planet‘.

Current statistics show that globally we consume around 350 million tons of meat a year, this number is continuously increasing with meat consumption since the 1980s doubling in 30 years. Providing space and resources for all the animals that we eat also has major damaging impacts on the environment. Additionally, one of the issues with meat consumption in developed countries is the desensitisation of killing and eating animals that we all have become comfortable with, automated factories which process dozens of animals each day take away the moral aspect which is an important factor as to why consumption is so high. Therefore, switching to a more vegetarian diet needs to become the new norm if we are going to give our planet the respite from all the damage we have caused it up to this point.

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A report published by 37 scientists last year concluded that our current food systems are currently threating human health and environmental sustainability. They assessed that more than 820 million people have insufficient food and low-quality diets, urging that global transformation of the food system is needed now more than ever. Another report published in the same journal stated that we can no longer feed our population a healthy diet whilst balancing planetary resources for the first time in 200,000 years.

Another study found that the animals we use for food take up 83% of the world’s farmland, whilst only contributing to 18% of our calorie consumption. Also, contributing up to 58% of food’s emissions. Whereas, a vegetarian diet can help reduce the green house gas emissions produced by meat production, use less land to cultivate crops and provide healthier alternatives to many poor diet choices. Demonstrating that eating meat is somewhat an inefficient food source and with so many of us understandably eating meat due to our ancestry here the problem can start to become apparent.

Not only is eating meat inefficient as a food source but it also contributes to a host of other problems. For example, an conservation website found problems with meat consumption ranging from deforestation and loss of biodiversity to eutrophication and desertification.

Due to the large amount of space it takes to raise livestock for meat production and the lack of space we have left, natural areas which we rely on are beginning to suffer. For example, the Amazon rainforest is currently being destroyed, mostly illegally, for meat production, timber and minerals. The rate at which it is being destroyed is also alarming as it is one of the largest rainforests on our planet which we rely on for species diversity, minimising carbon emissions and protects indigenous communities. The image below demonstrates the extent of the clearing taking place for farmland.

© Paulo Pereira / Greenpeace

Desertification is the process where fertile areas of soil become increasingly arid. Too much grazing livestock in one area can prohibit the land from replenishing and thus, cause the process of desertification. The IPCC report ‘Climate Change and Land‘ states that: ‘Asia and Africa are projected to have the highest number of people vulnerable to increased desertification‘. The report also states: ‘Projected increases in population and income, combined with changes in consumption patterns, result in increased demand for food, feed, and water in 2050‘. Reinforcing the need for a change toward a more vegetarian diet, as the population increases, so does the demand for lifestyles which are not sustainable at such as scale on a planet with finite capacity and resources.

However, scientists also recognise that changing people’s diets on a mass scale is a major challenge. As a 2018 publication in Science states:

Although meat is a concentrated source of nutrients for low-income families, it also enhances the risks of chronic ill health, such as from colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease. Changing meat consumption habits is a challenge that requires identifying the complex social factors associated with meat eating and developing policies for effective interventions‘.

It also suggests that governments need to shape food systems around environmental health and animal welfare and not just for contamination and economical priorities.

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Referring back to the report ‘Climate Change and Land‘ – this report does offer some solutions to these issues:

A number of land management options, such as improved management of cropland and grazing lands, improved and sustainable forest management, and increased soil organic carbon content, do not require land use change and do not create demand for more land conversion

A wide range of adaptation and mitigation responses, e.g., preserving and restoring natural ecosystems such as peatland, coastal lands and forests, biodiversity conservation, reducing competition for land, fire management, soil management, and most risk management options (e.g., use of local seeds, disaster risk management, risk sharing instruments) have the potential to make positive contributions to sustainable development, enhancement of ecosystem functions and services and other societal goals

As you can see, these responses focus not just on meat production and agriculture but other issues as well. As is the nature of climate change, a problem is not exclusive to itself but often interlinks with a set of problems which all react collaterally with each other. Due to our rapid population expansion since the previous century, we are at a crucial point in human history where we not only need to make a renewable energy transformation but also a dietary transformation in order to continue to sustain human life on Earth and prevent a sixth mass extinction event from happening.


The forefront of climate change research

Disclaimer: I am in no way sponsored or endorsed by any of these organisations, I am just trying to spread the awareness of information on climate change.

Recent research on climate change taken from credible sources outline what current research is focused on. Some studies I have already written about in my previous posts so they will not be included within this thread. The aim of this is to give people an idea of what direction climate change research is currently heading:

Side note: an interesting podcast mini-series from the University of Oxford on climate change and its research models, economic consequences and the issues surrounding the solutions. A great listen if you do not have the time to read.

Hopefully this helps broaden the awareness on current climate change issues and at the very least provides informative sources for you to refer to when needed.

Community involvement – Grassroot Communities

Helping to improve the environment and improve upon the current climate crisis can often be felt as a daunting task. However, sometimes the small acts of kindness and commitment taken by others can be enough to make a large change in the right direction.

Locally, there are many different organisations and events which aim to aid the environment in some way. In my case, I recently got in contact with an old friend Ben Carpenter, who has started a non-profit organisation called Grassroot Communities. This is an organisation tailored toward the youth in Bristol, England. Its main goal centres around providing a platform for young people to grow their confidence, social skills and learn more about the importance of nature.

Grassroot Communities helps young people from different areas of Bristol by allowing them to break down barriers and bond with one another to form healthy relationships which inspire confidence. Additionally, teaching the youth valuable skills such as cooking, leading activities and growing their own food. Organisations such as these are important as they raise awareness of environmental issues whilst encouraging young people to get more involved. Finally, with the drawbacks of social media and globalisation making communities more isolated, organisations like Grassroot help to provide a community for people to express themselves and connect with the people around them to build long-term relationships.

Organisations such as Grassroot Communities are likely to be found in most of the UK’s major cities such as Bristol, so if you would like to make a difference do not be afraid to reach out to the people near you. However, if you find there is not an organisation anywhere like this near you, it may be a good idea to create your own organisation and make a difference in your community today. So please feel free to contact myself or Grassroot Communities on Facebook for more information and guidance on the following topic.


10 alternatives to everyday plastic

One of the most environmentally friendly ways to reduce the use of plastic is through biodegradable or compostable products. The distinguishing factor being that biodegradability consists of natural materials breaking down, whereas compostable items are a form of biodegradability that transforms organic waste which is more beneficial for the environment. In an effort to spread awareness, here are ten items that can help you avoid the use of plastic. (Disclaimer: I am not sponsored by any of these companies to endorse these products).

  1. Sandals made from algae

Scientists in California have manipulated natural organisms such as algae to create environmentally friendly footwear. Items such as sandals often wash up on coastlines and are mostly made of plastic and rubber which can damage the environment. This new alternative is one small step to helping the planet.

2. Banana leaf packaging

Supermarkets in Asia have started using banana leaves for packaging. This helps reduce plastic packaging and minimise the chances of plastic waste.

3. Plastic made from cactus

Mexican researcher, Sandra Pascoe Ortiz, has figured out a way to create plastic made from material extracted from cactus. Serving to be much more biodegradable than everyday plastic, it can degrade in just one month and only takes several days in water. Therefore, some useful items can retain the same durability as plastic without the negative consequences of damaging the environment.

4. Paper straws

Some businesses already use these and they are a great way to prevent using plastic by switching to a more biodegradable alternative.

5. Sea sponge

A shower sponge made from natural materials, making it biodegradable and environmentally friendly. A great alternative than sponges which use synthetic fibres and create more waste which damages the environment.

6. Ayate washcloth

A multi-purpose washcloth made from the agave plant which are easy drying. Another great alternative to washcloths made from synthetic fibres.

7. Compostable food packaging and cutlery

As people are slowly realising the harmful products which most people use everyday, a transition is emerging where more and more items are becoming biodegradable or compostable. Online you will find many items such as food packaging, cutlery and cups which are compostable and thus a healthy alternative to regular plastic items.

8. Compostable clear gloves

Clear gloves useful for many messy situations such as cooking or for those working in health care. Again, a healthy alternative to plastic gloves which are frequently used but damage the environment.

9. Biodegradable tampons

Specifically for the women (or men that want to buy their significant other a slightly weird gift) biodegradable tampons can be purchased online to help reduce the amount of plastic waste produced.

10. Bamboo products

Products made from bamboo such as sunglasses, toothbrushes and clothes can be found either online or in the shopping mall. This is a great way to avoid synthetic plastics and harmful waste by switching to a more environmentally friendly solution.


10 ways to minimise climate change on a personal level

Many people today know that the climate changing so drastically is a bad thing but many still do not know why. As scientific research has shown, global warming is causing sea levels to rise, as a result increasing the chances of flooding. Another result of climate change is the unpredictable weather patterns which causes storms to occur more frequent or long droughts which result in a loss of crops for communities that solely rely on those crops. These problems may seem beyond capable to solve for one individual but there are little changes people can make which collective make a big difference.

Factory Farming Is Sweeping the U.K. | Civil Eats

1. Eat less meat: Reports have found that the facilitation of livestock accounts for around 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, this is mainly due to the amount of transportation required. Furthermore, the amount of space it requires to keep livestock has reached an immense scale and continues to rise. For example, many ranchers in Southern America often turn to violence when in competition with indigenous communities for the use of land their livestock require. Therefore, by reducing the consumption of meat, this can help by reducing emissions and alternatively prohibit these animals from living quite depressing lives for the most part.

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2. Cycle or use public transport: In 2017 transport was responsible for 21% of all greenhouse gases in Europe alone. Today with everyone deciding to own a personal vehicle it is difficult to want to change your lifestyle and be seen as abnormal. However, deciding to use public transport or cycle is more cost effective and can actually help keep you more active. On top of this, by choosing to share transport or cycle you are actively preventing more environmental harm.

3. Buy less plastic items: Trying to purchase less plastic is understandably quite difficult due to the modern everyday use of plastic everywhere, however there are some alternative s which one can practice such as: buying products made from more biodegradable material, buying products which can be compostable or buying items like fruit and veg from a local market to avoid plastic packaging.

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4. Volunteer at a local forestry or nature reserve: Maintaining the few naturally bio-diverse environments in your country can help to repair the damage to the environment. This is done by preserving a natural habitat for various species of life and various species of trees which may be critically endangered. Upon helping to combat the levels of Co2 in the atmosphere, it can also help maintain a natural balance against the constant growth of modern life.

5. Donate to a charity or volunteer to help spread awareness: Donating to a charity which is involved in a big project, perhaps overseas, is a great way to help in ways that you may not be able to. Also, volunteering the raise awareness will help gather more of a support network to tackle the problems which some may not realise are an issue.

6. Use renewable energy: Using renewable energy such as solar panels is a great way to save money on electricity in the long run and also help minimise your carbon footprint. Another way you can do this is buying a hybrid or electric car. Understandably due to the recent production of electric cars they are still quite expensive. However, hybrid cars can be a cheaper alternative and tend not to rely on its petrol alternative as much as one might believe.

7. Using the internet in an environmentally friendly way: Most people today are connected to the internet in some way, for example Google get a round 3.5 billion searches per day on average. Using search engines like Ecosia, which plants a tree every time you search something and it only takes two clicks to install it as a chrome extension.

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8. Grow your own vegetables: Growing your own food is something relatively anyone can start to do and helps by relying less on global supermarkets which are transporting goods constantly. It also helps reduce the amount of plastic waste resulting from packaging.

9. Recycle more: Not only can you recycle more by opting to apply for different bins to separate your recycling but you can also recycle in creative ways as well. For instants, the internet is full of interesting ideas people have created out of plastic or tin cans, whether that be for artistic reasons or practical reasons which can be beneficially utilised.

10. Being conscious about population growth: Today there are more people on the planet than ever before, each of us contributing in some way whether big or small to the climate change problem. By ensuring women are properly provided with birth control and reproductive health options as well as providing education can help minimise any unfortunate situations. Whereas, limiting the amount of children allowed would be a somewhat crude and misguided solution to the growing population.