Weather Problems and Climate Change Relations

For the past few weeks the news has literally been inundated with updates on the bad weather we’ve had here in the UK and also the storms that have been hitting the US.

Apparently it was the unusually bad storm in Indonesia that started it all off, as a chain reaction that affected so many people and even caused fatalities, 3 people died because of it in the UK alone.

This brief BBC video, from 13th February 2014, gives a good summary of what has been happening: UK storms: “Global chain reaction” behind bad weather.

One comment is particularly interesting to me: “Met Office scientists cannot give a definitive answer about climate change, but they ask about all the recent extremes”.

Another BBC article, published on 9th February so 4 days before the video, is titled “Met Office: Evidence “suggests climate change link to storms“.

I guess the way the media is reporting scientists’ opinions can be a little confusing sometimes, I initially thought these two statements from the same source, the BBC, were clashing.

However a few paragraphs into the article the concept becomes somewhat clearer, as Dame Julia Slingo states : “There is no evidence to counter the basic premise that a warmer world will lead to more intense daily and hourly rain events.”

Which to me means “We cannot prove that the bad weather we’ve had and climate change are not linked”.

With this, we can understand that scientists may not be necessarily trying to prove that climate change and the extreme weather we have been witnessing are interlinked, but rather they are trying to see if this hypothesis can be proved and become a theory.

It’s almost as if they are trying to find evidence to prove that they are not linked, in the meantime it is probable that the devastating weather and climate are, in fact, linked.

I find this is important to understand.

I have been thinking about writing this post for the past 2 weeks and it has changed a lot in the process, while I tried to understand more of what’s been going on.

At first all the articles I was reading seemed to make it clear: climate change is causing extraordinary weather, this weather is causing innumerable problems for thousands of people…

If climate change itself is mainly caused by humans’ emissions then we simply have to act more sustainably to produce less emissions, prevent and solve this problem.

I’d love to be able to know for a fact that change and adverse weather connection are linked.

But the fact that this cannot be proved as 100% true does not mean it is not, or at least in part.

I am just trying to understand how things are connected, why and what I can do in order to slow these hostile phenomenons down.

 

Sunny Day in London

Meanwhile, the Sun shines cheekily in London

 

Another great article, this time the Guardian’s “World begins 2014 with unusual number of extreme weather events” quotes: “”We are living in a time where the climate is changing quite rapidly. There is reason to expect that the changes in the sea ice will have large local effects. Further investigation will improve our knowledge of whether or not the effects of sea ice decline and broader changes in the Arctic have global effects,” said leading US meteorologist Jeff Masters.”

I guess it’s an ongoing quest.

In the meantime, I will continue to look for more ways to lead a more sustainable life, together with eating less or no energy-hungry food such as meat, recycling more, buying less but better quality and from sustainable sources…

I have posted a petition to ask for better flood defenses on the blog’s Facebook page.

 

Do you feel confused by the way the media shapes the news?

 

What is your opinion on the relation between climate change and the planet’s weather?

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Teapigs, Raw Nibbles and Topics for 2014

Hey everyone, a very Happy New Year to you!

I didn’t have much time off at Christmas but this time next week I will be in Italy seeing my mum, sister, nephew and friends for a week, I can’t complain! I will experiment eating vegan food in Italy, interesting!

How was Christmas for you?

In case you still have some Christmas cards around and you’d like to give them a new life, you could simply recycle them (many supermarkets have big bins especially for this) or even cut them into tags for next year – no waste needed 🙂

Christmas Tags Needn't Be Wasted

Christmas cards needn’t be wasted, turn them into tags for presents!

I haven’t really thought of any particular “resolution” this year, but I just want to make sure I am productive with things I care about, such as this blog 🙂

I tried to start off well this weekend: today I made vegetable stone soup stock with vegetable bits and bobs I had stored in the freezer, I made peanut butter and cinnamon granola inspired by Jack Monroe’s version and an organic vegan bean chilli. Oh and I made a body scrub too (I simply added sugar and almond oil to a jar – voilà!

Regarding the blog, I would like to talk more about tea, it is “Green Trail&Teapot Tales” after all! I just love tea so much 😀

The other day I tasted a delicious tea – teapigs jasmine pearls tea.

Teapigs jasmine Pearls

Teapigs jasmine Pearls

 

Have you heard of this brand? I love the teapigs website as you can select a funny face according to what sort of mood you are in, how you’re feeling… and they will recommend the best tea for you! Feeling grumpy? Chocolate flake tea may make you feel better! A very cute idea 🙂

Their tea comes in really posh biodegradable bags that they call “temples” and the jasmine pearls Fujian province tea is amazingly fragrant, I think it would go particularly well with an oriental feast.

I know it may sound like I am advertising them, but actually I just wanted to share my discovery as it seems like a really good modern brand and their green credentials are good too.  Their temples feel like silk but they are actually made of corn starch, their packaging is made from sustainable sources and is recyclable and more…

As part of my good intentions to eat more sustainable, whole food I have been enjoying Raw Nibbles brownies, from the raw vegan treats company I wrote about in my previous post that my mum got me a voucher for.

These are raw and certainly taste less cakey than ordinary cooked brownies with flour, but they are filling and delectably butter thanks to the cacao butter. YUMMMMMMY.

Raw Nibbles Brownie

Raw Nibbles Brownie

If by any chance you do have new year’s resolutions and they include being healthier maybe you’d like to try some Raw Nibbles goodies!

Take the brownie for example: it’s made with dates, cacao butter, almonds, cacao powder, agave nectar, hazelnuts, coconut sugar and vanilla oil. Nothing else! No additives, chemicals, E numbers, fats, preservatives…just lovely goodness 🙂

Most of these ingredients are organic and all great quality, so you’re having a sustainable, tasty, nutritional treat! And supporting a small producer too.    😀

More Raw Nibbles Goodies

More Raw Nibbles Goodies

And I have more to enjoy 😀

~

Yesterday I found out about this article via Twitter: Sustainable living: What should we write about in 2014?

You can write back to the Guardian and say what you’d like to see. So as the article says, what are you most interested in: articles regarding the usual issues such as pollution and eating less meat or more about human behaviour and its effects?

I though it was pretty cool for them to ask us what we think they should write about, I haven’t seen than anywhere else before.

Have a great week!

 

Do you have any projects and plans for this year?

Have you come across any interesting brands or companies lately?

Back to the Future

After we got back from our trip to Normandy, we went to our local supermarket to stock up on fresh food, but that’s not the only fresh things we got.

Maybe we unconsciously wanted to keep being surrounded by plants like we were on holiday…

We bought fresh basil and parsley pots and a new flower plant that was reduced to clear to 29p as it was looking past its prime, (the previous week I had bought another orchid for 39p!) and a cyclamen.

Fresh Basil and Parsley Plants

Fresh Basil and Parsley Plants

Out window sill is now fuller than ever with pretty flowers!

Flowers!

Flowers 🙂

During the journey back I also caught up reading a Stylist magazine issue from the end of July called “The Good Life?“. It was full of information on how to take steps to lead a healthier, more sustainable life.

Stylist is a free magazine distributed in London on Tuesday evenings/Wednesday mornings that is always full of well-written, interesting articles and I found this one particularly inspiring. It was about Stylist staff slowing down and staying in Launceston Farm in Dorset for a few days and I felt I could partly relate to their experiences, having just left our nature-filled break.

These Stylist editors, the junior writer and the photography director had some rules while staying at this farm:

  • No mobile phones, smartphones or any other electronic equipment
  • No internet or e-mail access
  • No sat navs or GPS equipment
  • No credit or debit cards, just simple cash
  • Only eat food they could pick or kill themselves or source from an independent retailer within a 15-mile radius
  • No contact whatsoever with their office
Stylist "The Good Life?" Issue from 24th July 2013

Stylist “The Good Life?” Issue from 24th July 2013

I think it sounded like a great challenge / experiment, especially for people who rely on constant updates and news via social media platforms, internet and e-mails as part of their jobs and lives.

I did something similar:  -I didn’t use my phone on holiday except to briefly check my e-mails a few times to let my mum know we had got there safely and what we were up to, -we didn’t have a sat nav and ended up driving around maize crops in the pitch black a bit longer than planned; -I only used cash; -most of the vegan food I had was local, including organic vegetables from the neighbour and I didn’t have any contact with my office.

The “I’m a journalist…get me out of here!” article tells about how everyone got on with “no phones, laptop, TV or radio”.

It’s actually quite funny, as the author describes the panic they all felt when prompted to hand over their phones, knowing they wouldn’t be able to whizz them out at any moment to Tweet, post on Instagram, or check the news.

It goes on to describe how they sourced their food. They were all brought up to eat meat but none of them had ever shot a living creature. In the evening they had rabbit pie, as for the farmer rabbits are crop-ruining vermin.

Being away from all sorts of devices helped them sleep really well, they picked their own vegetables from a nearby farm, foraged for elderflower and told each other ghost stories after their made-from-scratch, locally sourced dinner.

One thing I notice a lot at my office is that people are always tired…no matter who it is, even after the weekend or a holiday people are generally tired! Could it really be linked to our super-stimulated world where we just can’t relax properly?

By the end of it all some realised they normally find it hard to relax in our tech-filled world, or that they spend their free time on the phone. Some enjoyed it but would have loved to document some of their experiences by posting photos and messages about them and others noticed they didn’t get their daily headaches.

 

The next article I enjoyed reading in this issue was “Where does your garden grow?

"Where does your garden grow?"

“Where does your garden grow?”

It starts off by saying that after they spent a little while in the countryside it was really easy to feel like start growing their own vegetables, making lovely meals from scratch (I do too, even more after going to Normandy)…then it snaps to the reality that makes up many of the readers’ lives: we work long hours and things like these take a lot longer than grabbing convenient pre-packed food.

Convenience shop numbers in the UK confirm this, we’re never too far from somewhere that offers packaged, ready-to-eat products that take a few minutes to be ready in the microwave.

However, after issues such as the horsemeat scandal  and news of processed meat being linked with early death earlier on this year, fortunately people are starting to be more careful with what they purchase and consume.

According to the article, more and more people are “flexitarians”, that is, people who mainly have a vegetarian diet but occasionally eat meat and fish.

The meat available for us to buy comes in glamorous, clean packaging making it easy for us to forget where it comes from. I agree with the author when she says that “if we are prepared to eat something, we should know how the animal has been killed to get it”.

She writes about going to an abattoir, describing something similar to what the French farmer explained to me last week as animals are checked, inspected and treated with respect, but adding that unfortunately other abattoirs operate cruelly, with a member of the team telling her we should get meat from a local butcher to know animals have been treated with such respect.

Another interesting point: what’s the cost of our demand to have fruit and vegetables all year-round, out of season? Have you noticed that asparagus, one of the most sensitive vegetables, are imported from Peru and only come from the U.K. in May-June?

Our quest for cheap food also means that we often bring down the economy of our own country (and not just for the U.K.). One of the well-known examples are of New Zealand lamb being a fraction of the price of British lamb, despite travelling so far to reach us.

If we bought higher welfare meat and dairy, we would support British farmers. Have a look at the Red Tractor Logo website to know more about the benefits that come with choosing products that bear it. It’s actually Red Tractor Week from 16th to 22nd September.

Finally, the article ends showing what we can do to directly make “a big difference to the environment, your health and your friendly local farmer”.

  • Buy British lamb (better if from a local butcher or the farmers’ market)
  • Cut down on your meat intake maybe start by not having meat a couple of days a week
  • Buy fruit and vegetables in season 
  • Avoid chicken that just says “fresh” if it’s not organic of free-range it was factory farmed 😦
  • Check the label carefully such as the Freedom Food label
  • Buy British (or your own country’s) dairy
  • Choose free-range eggs (or organic)free-range eggs are actually healthier and less likely to harbour salmonella”
Red Tractor Logo

Red Tractor Logo

Freedom Food Logo

Freedom Food Logo

Useful links:

How do you think you’d feel with no electronic equipment for a few days?

What can we learn from the past to improve our future?

Which steps would you consider taking to lead a healthier and more sustainable life?

Meet Sam from Fair Marquit Value – Eco Tourism

Just hours before hopping on an enormous metal bird to the land where orange juice is the official national beverage (how cool is that? And by the way I hope I will be offsetting my trip’s carbon footprint by eating vegan, as a start!) I would like to post another article.

It is written by Sam Marquit, an independent green contractor and co-author of Fair Marquit Value from New York who focuses on sustainable building by using ecological materials and new eco-friendly technology.

If I had the chance to have a new home built as I wished or if I could purchase a property I know I would love it to be as sustainable and as energy-efficient as possible.

Go to Sam’s Fair Marquit Value page to learn more about him and what he does. I found the articles about the LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification and creating energy while having a shower particularly interesting.

~

Silver Linings: Greening Our Way to Prosperity

The economic downturn hit the construction and contracting industries pretty hard. As a contractor, I’ll be the first to say that it can be hard to find a lot of positives in the situation. I’ll also say that if there is a silver lining, it is in the recent upswing of eco-friendly projects that have started to see the light of day.

Across the globe, a number of public and private initiatives have begun to incentivize companies and organizations to make positive environmental choices. Designed to connect the advances being made in research with the market, Eco-Innovation-Europe is one of these programs. Through Eco-Innovation, “green” ideas ranging from production to products, services, and processes are given the opportunity to be commercially viable. The five-strand initiative includes various aspects of recycling, sustainable building products, water treatment and distribution, and a focus on the food and drink sector. In addition, the greening of pre-existing businesses is a major part of Eco-Innovation, and one that may help the EU meet its environmental objectives while boosting economic growth.

One of the largest hotel chains in the world, The Marriott is an example of a major established business taking the lead on the green-front. Taking advantage of a new corn-by-product made room key, The Marriott purchased 24 million “green” keys to replace the more common plastic cards. Biodegradable and recyclable, these new key cards are expected to prevent as much as 66 tons of plastic from being dumped into landfills every year.

For the most part, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Luckily for the rest of us, one of the most popular hotels on the Strip isn’t trying to keep its green practices a secret. Recently named the “Most Eco Friendly Hotel in America,” the Palazzo Hotel and Resort is pioneering multiple green initiatives ranging from the ability to reuse its own waste to solar paneled heating and a state-of-the-art water recycling system. With the amount of travel the city sees each year, it’s encouraging to see new green Las Vegas hotels going up each year.

The green initiatives and building projects that have accompanied the slow economic recovery have proven a definite boon. Yet the embrace and support of green initiatives by organizations are just as important. Perhaps eco-friendly building and sustainability practices are not just the secret to saving the planet, but the key to reinvigorating the economy as well.

~

How eco is your holiday?

How eco is your holiday?

What do you think about eco-friendly hotels?

Do you focus on sustainability when travelling or going on holiday?

 

~

I was also in contact with Rob from destiny USA regarding the benefits of the LEED certification for larger businesses.

Have a look at their link: is LEED Certification Effective: a Case study of Destiny USA in order to find out more about Destiny USA and the rating system which focuses on sustainable builds.

Sustainable locations, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, material and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovations in design…these features are all considered in order to obtain a high rating.

And look at the advantages:

Destiny USA

Destiny USA

I think rating systems like these are very helpful to ensure that new buildings are sustainable and consider the effects that their construction and energy requirements have on the environment.

This way water, energy and materials can be used unwastefully, reducing a negative effect on the building’s surroundings.

 

What do you think of using certifications such as LEED to set a high sustainability standard for constructions and businesses?

Do you think they should be promoted to raise people’s awareness on objective sustainability levels?

Insects, food and insects as food

As you may have noticed, there has been a lot of bee-related coverage lately.

I wrote about bees twice last year, once about the Bee Cause and the other about saving the bees with useful petitions on the subject, and there was a FOE stall at last year’s London Green Fair to spread the word about them too.

This continuous “bee talk” is due to the fact that further evidence has been found on the sharp decline in bee numbers.

According to an extract from Friends of the Earth’s report on the UK’s bee decline “Professor Simon Potts, said:

“The way we farm and use land across the UK has pushed many rare bees into serious decline. I’m calling on the Government to act swiftly to save these iconic creatures which are essential to a thriving environment and our food supply”.

How could let this happen? If bees are essential, how can we use farming methods that put them in danger?

Sandra Bell, Friends of the Earth, said:

“These bee species are in real trouble. But people across the UK can help change all that with simple practical actions and by urging their MPs to play their part. We need a Bee Action Plan now.””

Another article on the Guardian, US honeybees threatened as 31% of colonies died out in 2012 really highlights the direct effects that bees’ numbers decline is having on farmers right now:

“The heavy losses of pollinators also threatens the country’s food supply, researchers said. The US Department of Agriculture has estimated that honeybees contribute some $20bn to the economy every year.

$20bn is a huge amount of money, so surely someone is doing something to stop bees’ decline…right?

“In a report last week, the federal government blamed a combination of factors for the rapid decline of honeybees, including a parasitic mite, viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition and genetics, as well as the effects of pesticides. But scientists and campaign groups have singled out the use of a widely used class of pesticides, which scramble the honeybees’ sense of navigation.”

Great, let’s ban these bee-killing pesticides then!

“The European Union has imposed a two-year ban on such pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, to study their effects on bee populations. However, the US authorities say there is no clear evidence pointing to pesticides as the main culprit for honeybees’ decline.”

So what can we do?

Fortunately we can get straight to the point: there are many petitions to help bees, such as ones that focus on banning these above mentioned harmful pesticides that contribute to the bees’ decline, neonicotinoids. Simply go on Change.org to do your bit with a quick online signature to help.

Otherwise, on the FOE (friends of the Earth) website you can donate to have your bee kit with seeds to grow flowers loved by bees, a bee guide, a garden planner or just sign a petition to ask David Cameron to make 2013 the year of the bee.

There are some upcoming Bee-friendly events and you can check them on this Friends of the Earth link.

Have you noticed the decline in bees lately? I hardly see any at all 😦

Bee saver Kit

Bee saver Kit – foe.co.uk

Talking about insects… I read another interesting article: “UN urges people to eat insects to fight world hunger

According to this UN report, eating insects would increase nutrition thanks to insects’ high protein, fat and mineral content (caterpillars have more protein than minced beef).

In addition to that, they are more sustainable: “Insects are also “extremely efficient” in converting feed into edible meat. Crickets, for example, need 12 times less feed than cattle to produce the same amount of protein, according to the report.”

The only time I tried eating insects of any kind was in Beijing in Wángfǔjǐng, famous for having just about anything on a stick.

Wangfujing's Delicacies

Wangfujing’s Delicacies – Chubby bugs and scorpions – Jul ’07

Insects are a common ingredient in many countries, so if you aren’t used to eating them, would you consider trying them? And if you already eat them, what do you think of people who find it odd or even repulsive to eat insects?

Wangfujing's Delicacies

Wangfujing’s Delicacies – Feb ’09

Eating scorpions in Wangfujing - July '07

Eating scorpions in Wangfujing – July ’07

I tried scorpions, deep-fried, and they’re actually pleasant and tasty!

~

On another meat-free note, tomorrow is the start of National Vegetarian Week! A great opportunity to try new, more sustainable meat-free meals.

Most of my posts are about vegetarian or vegan recipes but there are many other great websites I can recommend:

Vegetarian = Sustainably Tasty

Vegetarian = Sustainably Tasty

Are you planning to try some meat-free dishes during National Vegetarian Week?

Where do you get your food inspiration from?

Climate Change: The Truth

On Friday I got to read an article via Twitter: Climate change: the truth will out, from the Guardian sustainable business.

I read it a few times and I can’t really get it out of my head. It’s something that may interest some but concerns all.

Please click on the title to read the article and let me know your thoughts.

The author, Jo Confino, writes about the news on sustainability he acquired during his recent trips.

Here are a few of his key thought-provoking paragraphs:

“I spoke to climate scientists, business leaders and activists, and the challenges we face appear even more gargantuan then I had thought and, by comparison, progress on addressing them infinitesimal. And that’s before superstorm Sandy struck the eastern board of the US.”

This paragraph didn’t surprise me, after all we live on a planet where there are still millions of polluting vehicles going around even though there are sustainable alternatives, such as electric cars, already available.

“Mann told me that the speed of ice melt is so great that vulnerable low-lying island states may have to be evacuated within a decade – far quicker than anyone had imagined.”

This paragraph definitely made me pay a lot more attention. A decade? Just think of all the coast cities in the world: can you imagine them being evacuated within a decade? That is such short amount of time…Good bye Venice…

 

Venice under water – picture from the Telegraph

“Montgomery raised the spectre of people starving in this country within 20 years as climate change disrupts global food supplies. Did I hear him right? In the UK?”

And did I read that properly? In the UK? People starving in a place where most moan about being so overweight?

My mind is used to being selfish – millions of people are already starving around the world…however reading about this happening so soon where I am makes it real, I can no longer pretend it’s not something that would affect me.

My head started filling with endless thoughts, going from one extreme to another: While all this is going on what am I doing? Is it helping or is it useless?

I went to my cousin’s 1st birthday the past weekend: so by the time he’s ready to celebrate his 21st birthday he won’t have anything to celebrate about? It’s my birthday tomorrow: I will be a quarter of a century old, but by the time I’m in my mid 40s we’ll all be starving, so why would I ever want to have children?

I know this all sounds very dramatic, but these were the thoughts that whizzed around my mind.

Fortunately the author also said: “Face up to the truth but also have an action plan.”

In the article he continues explaining that we should have a goal,  as fear of what may happen is only going to increase the distance between us and the issue.

 

What does this article make you think?

Does it make you see things that a part of your daily life in a different light?

Reading&Tweeting Green – Saving Paper and Fish Fight

Paper. We use it everyday.

Our mail, free morning papers to pick up before jumping on the train, leaflets, packaging…There is so much paper everywhere!

It is mostly made from cellulose pulp derived from wood, so it’s best only use it when necessary and recycle as much as possible to avoid fuelling further deforestation projects.

Many people read newspapers and magazines and then recycle them, but it would be even better to pass them on to someone else to read so you could give them to your friends, family, colleagues, or even take them to charity shops… Some sell them on for a few pence so all their lovely articles and pictures can be used by even more people!

Glossy Magazines: so easy to accumulate!

But if you want to use less paper and save money, then the easiest thing is to get used reading them, or related blogs, online.

It’s almost always free, articles are updated to the minute, you can get newsletters directly in your inbox and many websites are just as good as the paper ones!

Some of the best ones I found were:

Fashion and Beauty Magazines:

Fitness magazines:

As recommended by an amazing blog that I found called Keeping Healthy Getting Stylish:

Environment, Photography:

News:

And

* * * * * *

This morning I received an urgent e-mail from Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall about a meeting taking place in Brussels on Monday regarding the Fish Fight against the immense and unnecessary waste of discards.

If you click on this link: fishfight.net/emergency and tweet the ministers about why you think all this waste should be put to an end you will help make this change happen!

If you don’t know much about the Fish Fight, take a look at what this campaign is all about, where you can all also find links to the past episodes of the Fish Fight on 4od.

The main point is, half the fish caught in the North Sea are being thrown back in the sea, dead, because of EU laws that must change!

Many celebrities, including Stephen Fry and Coldplay, have joined the Fish Fight!

Have you joined the fight? Will you?

Do you read websites or blogs so you don’t have to buy magazines or papers?