Sustainability Sunday #40

Slather on the Sustainable Sunscreen this Summer!

It pleases me greatly to be writing this from the garden table at my parents house, nestled in the countryside of Northamptonshire listening to the birds sing, bees whizz by and seeing the washing blowing on the line. And it’s damn hot I tell you. I have myself a SULA (Sweaty Upper Lip Alert), I’m in a bikini top and the shortest shorts I can find to maximise potential tan and I’m squinting like mad to actually see my screen in the sun. But it’s cool, I’m British,  this is normal. I’ve also applied a healthy layer of sunscreen, 50+ of course, which by the way, isn’t normal for the British. As a nation we’d rather get roasted alive and then fidget around all night emanating heat and wishing we’d not been so stupid.

Lately, since my foray into organic beauty products, I have been looking into natural and organic sunscreens. You know those spray sunscreens you buy from Boots, Superdrug or any drugstore really, when they’re a little old and have been taken on multiple holidays they lose that dreamy signature sunscreen smell and start to just reek of chemicals? That’s probably because they are full of chemicals, which whilst it’s not that great to be putting on your skin (after all the skin absorbs what we rub into it), it’s also not great for the environment – here you should envisage streaky shiny slicks of sunscreen on the ocean surface…

So, I hear you ask, what’s the alternative?

1. Suntegrity’s Mineral Suncreen (£30)

Although made in the USA, you can get this on Free People’s website. A little pricier than the bog standard sunscreens but not much more than you’d pay for the likes of a P20. Certified vegan and free from chemicals Suntegrity’s products are made with a bunch of antioxidant-rich ingredients that are all completely natural.

2. Organii’s Anti-Ageing Facial Sun Cream (£9.68)

This contains natural plant oils for protection and skin hydration and is certified by the Italian Organic Certifying Authority ICEA. You can find this one in or online from Planet Organic.

3. Green People’s No Scent Sun Lotion (£22)

Free from parabens, synthetic fragrances, or petrol-based oil, this one is vegetarian certified (it does contain beeswax so isn’t vegan), and is really good for fair complexions. You can find this, amongst others that may take your fancy on the So Organic website.

4. The Organic Pharmacy Cellular Protection Sun Cream (£38.50)

High factor and infused with rosehip, aloe vera, shea butter and marigold to nourish and protect this one is probably my favourite almost just because of it’s smell. You can get it online from The Organic Pharmacy, although you should note that it’s best to reapply this one after swimming.

If you’re just looking for the most effective sunscreen, you may just plump for any lotion that says “natural” or “organic”, but there is more to a good sunscreen than this terminology. Organic labels can be misleading, as I mentioned in my previous organic beauty post, so using these products can still mean chemicals on your skin and in the ocean. Terrifyingly, according to recent research found that even a drop of oxybenzone (a common chemical in sunscreen) in an ocean area the size of six-and-a-half Olympic swimming pools can damage coral, which is a fundamental part of the ocean ecosystem. Therefore, making sure you’re buying mineral sunscreens is far more important than looking for something labelled natural or organic.

So, to be 100% sure your sunscreens don’t include chemicals, why don’t you have a go at making it yourself? 

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The key ingredient for sunscreen is non-nano zinc oxide in some kind of base cream or oil. For those of you feeling the need to Google, non-nano products are those that will not absorb into the skin and subsequently the bloodstream. A nano particle will enter the blood stream but a non-nano will not, thus making non-nano products much better for us.

For making approx 250ml of sunscreen:

Ingredients:

  • 40g non-nano zinc oxide – you can get this from Amazon or more specialised webistes such as Aromantic.
  • 28g Shea Butter (Amazon)
  • 28g Beeswax (Amazon or eBay)
  • 65g Jojoba oil (from Holland & Barrett, Neal’s Yard or Face Theory)
  • 90g Coconut oil (Holland & Barrett, Aldi or eBay)

Method:

  • Place all your ingredients except the zinc oxide into a glass bowl
  • Place this over a shallow pan of water and boil on the hob until all your ingredients are melted and mixed
  • Pop your glass bowl of ingredients on the scales and slowly, I mean slowly, slowly add the zinc oxide. As the zinc settles the weight increases so you want to just add a little at a time until you get to 40g
  • Whisk, either with an electric one or a small hand whisk until it’s all combined
  • Then pour into a Kilner jar or tub and leave to set.
  • Then all you have to do is slap on liberally when the sun comes out, it’ll have the consistency of a thick soft butter so should rub in nicely 🙂

I do know that this can be a bit of a faff, but if you were one of those kids (like me) who was obsessed with making potions, this is a pretty fun activity!

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Sustainability Sunday #37

Reusable hydration is in! 

The weather’s hotting up here in London and the ever-caring TFL have started releasing tannoy notifications on tubes and buses to make sure you always carry a bottle of water in the heat. 

Every year, on average each person in the UK uses 170 disposable plastic bottles. Not only does it take 162g of oil and seven litres of water to manufacture a single one litre disposable PET bottle but the reality of their end of life is very destructive: piled on landfill, littering the environment and floating in our oceans. 

To help you make the switch from single-use to reusable bottles, here’s my guide to the top 5 re-usable,  sustainable and stylish water bottles:

1. Selfridges SIGG bottle:

BPA-free and made from aluminium, Selfridges have their own Project Ocean design of the SIGG bottle to help raise awareness of the issue we have with plastic waste in the oceans. 

2. Yuhme water bottles: 

Eco-friendly, reusable and made from sugarcane. For every bottle purchased Yuhme work with a water access partner to give the equivalent of 6 bottles of water to people in water-scarce areas of Africa.

3. Jerry Bottle: 

Eco-friendly, with a reclaimed bamboo lid, 100% of Jerry Bottle’s profits go to fund water projects around the world to campaign against single-use plastic bottle pollution.

4. Klean Kanteen’s collection

BPA-free, and made of stainless steel, Klean Kanteen support and work with a variety of organisations that tackle plastic pollution, educate young people and conserve the environment. 

5. Chilly’s Green reusable bottle: 

Stylish and sustainable this one is my favourite! Chilly’s have combined the ultimate design with their mission to make reusable the norm to form an aesthetically pleasing but practical bottle.
So remember kids, stay happy, hydrated and sustainable! 💧🍒🌊

Sustainability Sunday #36

International Biodiversity Day 2017 – why we need sustainable tourism to protect biodiversity

Each year the UN tie a theme to the International Day of Biodiversity, falling on 22nd May each year, to help us identify the importance of our impact on the environment. This year’s theme is sustainable tourism.

Tourism notoriously has a negative impact on the environment: mountains are degraded by ski resorts, forests are degraded by tourist explorations and big chain hotels are popping up on remote islands everywhere. As one of the most wasteful industries in the world, tourism consumes huge volumes of energy, water and food and produces an enormous quantity of waste.

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How does this impact biodiversity?

  • Habitat is degraded: species are either ousted from their native habitat or are unable to settle in proximity to tourist activities. This causes a reduction in species numbers from both death and reduced reproduction.
  • Natural cycles are disrupted: planting of year-round flowering plants or trees for aesthetics, watering of landscapes and, particularly in remote areas, the introduction of 24-hour lighting can change species’ natural cycles. Whether this be sleeping hours or feeding and mating seasons their natural cycles are disrupted which can cause negative impacts such as reduced reproduction and over- or under-feeding.
  • Resilience is reduced: increased human contact, either just existing alongside populated areas or being fed or petted by humans reduces animals’ ability to detect danger. Being comfortable around large species, such as humans, makes animals less fearful of their own predators.

How does this impact the tourism industry?

  • Selective booking: many tourists are now much better informed about tourism’s impacts on the environment and are looking for companies and destinations that are more responsible. In fact, a recent Deloitte Consulting study found that as high as 90% of people are looking for “greener holidays”.
  • If environments are not cared for appropriately, they will continue to degrade making some locations undesirable for tourists and eventually closing business.
  • In the end, protecting biodiversity and the environment will induce cost savings (avoiding regulatory fines) and better business (safari wouldn’t be quite the same without the animals).

What can we do?

  • Choose eco-tourism companies such as Responsible Travel, Natural Discovery or Good Travel Company.
  • Travel with more responsible companies such as those under the TUI Group which includes First Choice Holidays and Thomson Holidays who although have previously been criticised for poor sustainability are now vastly improved thanks to overarching TUI policies.
  • Offset our footprint: air travel is a huge polluter and is likely the biggest impact of your holiday so you can use any number of online carbon footprint calculators to offset that footprint and contribute to renewable energy and reforestation projects.
  • Be aware: take care on your travels, don’t litter (obvious, I know), try not to walk through natural landscapes and if you do, stick to marked paths, and make use of your hotel’s environmental initiatives such as refraining from putting your towels out for washing each day.

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To get an idea of whether where you’re going and where you’re staying is suitably sustainable you can find out whether they are featured on Travelife‘s index of locations.

 

Sustainability Sunday #33

Is organic actually organic? 

Are hipsters and tree-huggers actually on to something? Is organic actually everything their unsolicited chit-chat promises? Yes, friends, it is. I’m here to tell you that organic health and beauty products are not just a hipster fad and we gotta get clear on what’s actually organic.

 

Last year, sales of “organic” beauty products went up by 20% in the UK (see the Soil Association‘s 2016 Organic Market Report for full deets), and as consumers we are more health and beauty conscious than before, but with this we’re more sustainability and ethics conscious too. We want high quality products, but we want products that work with nature and deliver natural benefits to our body and skin, rather than products that are compromising nature and the environment and dousing us in chemicals.

 

Why is it important to have organic beauty products?

 

Whilst our bodies can endure long-distance running, 4 days a week boozing and cramped carriages on the tube, they are somewhat delicate. We often also forget that our skin is actually an organ which means a significant amount of what we put onto our skin is absorbed into the bloodstream. Therefore, rather than slathering on a bunch of chemicals to hydrate, bronze, de-wrinkle and barricade pollution we should be looking for products that do these things naturally. For you extra environmentally-concious people, using real organic products will help minimise your impacts on the environment as the brands who produce organic products often care about the impacts of their packaging, transportation and waste too. Choosing organic also helps to future-proof as organic standards stop practices such as GM whose full impact on the environment, and our bodies, is yet to be fully understood. Just like cooking, organic beauty products work better because they contain better ingredients.

 

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How do we know whether products are actually organic?

 

At the moment, there aren’t any legal requirements for labelling products as organic, it’s possible that something labelled as organic might have just one organic ingredient, and in order to label a product as organic brands only need have 1% of the product formula be actually organic. The Soil Association warn that the health and beauty industry is funding marketing campaigns that claim products are “green” rather than putting funding into research and development for products that really are environmentally friendly and toxin-free. Experts, including The Soil Association, have therefore developed some voluntary standards that enable committed brands to communicate their product formulae to customers; The Soil Association commit to “making it simpler for people to choose skin-loving organic formulations that are just as effective as conventional cosmetics but without any of the ugly compromises.” As well as the Soil Association logo you should also look for reputable voluntary logos such as COSMOS and NaTrue.

 

So which are the best brands to buy from?

 

  • Neal’s Yard Remedies – pride themselves on honesty, integrity and transparency.  Making their products with the maximum organic, natural and raw ingredients, and carefully select other functional ingredients with safety and biodegradability in mind. All NYR’s products use high quality organic plant-based ingredients, and they fully disclose ingredient information with customers, both online and, wherever possible, on packaging.
  • Trilogy – go on the belief that you don’t have to sacrifice performance for natural.  Originally a range of five rosehip skincare products, Trilogy now craft over 40 incredibly effective natural alternatives to synthetic skincare, body care and hair care.
  • Nourish Skincare – are a British organic skincare company, offering high quality, ethically sourced, vegan skincare products made in London. Nourish combine the highest quality natural extracts with advanced scientific bio-actives.
  • Antipodes – a New Zealand company built on a combination of the highest quality ingredients from New Zealand nature and raw super-fruit extracts with science and innovation to produce high-tech certified organic products.
  • Burt’s Bees –  who offer truly natural products to maintain their “earth-friendly and natural personal care company” tagline. They believe nature is a laboratory with the perfect ingredients forming in a natural environment by natural means – sun and rain.
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So if you’re looking for organic products, remember to look for the organic certification logos on the packaging, along with the percentages of organic ingredients and anything that’s listed as vegan or vegetarian. Of course, I would love you to share your favourite organic/natural/eco/vegan products with us and every recommendation helps! 🙂

 

Sustainability Sunday #31

Let’s take a leaf from Luxembourg City – one of those green ones, from the dreamy green park, in the middle of the dreamy green city…

Last weekend we took a mini, mini-break to Luxembourg. “Why?” do I hear you ask? Well, get this, it’s 55 minutes on the plane from London, and once you get there it’s 15 minutes on the bus to the centre, and it’s so tiny you can see pretty much all there is to see in one day and at the very most two so it’s the perfect “weekend getaway”.

I think this little weekend is probably one of the most sustainable holidays I’ve been on so naturally I must tell you all about it. It begins with our travel: the £14.99 Ryanair flights from Stansted (0.31 tCO2e) plus the 45 mile drive from Balham (0.01 tCO2e) cost all of £3.20 to offset which makes sure that our irreducible impacts are at least offset to invest in something good.

Waking up the next morning, whilst taking a stroll into town, the most noticeable thing about the city (no doubt helped by the sunny weather), was that it looked so clean! There was no chewing gum on the streets, very minimal litter and despite the building works, the construction activity and waste was confined to within the site fences. Our first pitstop was for pastry and coffee at the Golden Bean cafe – where the coffee is all sustainably and ethically grown and sourced, typically from international cooperatives, and is roasted by the owners themselves. Sustainable breakfast, check!

Next, we took a walk through the city, having pinpointed a few places to see, and came across the Vallée de Pétrusse, a beautful steep-sided valley full of lush greenery and crumbling natural fortresses. Here was a little oasis of trees and flowers, growing wild, city residents taking a morning stroll or run, and winding paths from end to end of the valley, following a tiny rivulet of the Alzette River. Natural beauty for all to see, check!


After a steep climb at the other end of the valley, it was time for our second pitstop in a pretty little courtyard at the bottom of the Montée du Grund (also a recommended spot for city views). The Updown Bar served us a local Bofferding beer which is brewed in Bascharage which means it’s travelled less than 20km to get to us. (Semi-)sustainable beer, check!

Next we hiked up the Montée du Grund and the Chemin de Corniche, to take in views of the Alzette valley and the Casemates du Bock. It’s a beautiful walk and if you make it right round to the Casemates du Bock you should stop by the Chocolate House and indulge in some of the largest cakes and chocolatey ice creamy desserts you’ve ever seen – even better they use no vegetable fats or palm oil, no artificial flavourings and colourings, no flavour enhancers and no preservatives. Sustainable sweet treats, check!

As this city is so small, you can pretty much see all the main things in one day which meant Sunday was a day of total relaxation for us. A French omelette brunch in the square and exploration of the parks around the city which are some of the most beautiful green spaces I have seen: planted carefully with pretty meadow flowers, trickling fountains and ponds and lush green grass to kick back on.

So, whilst many of you may have been thinking, “why on Earth Luxembourg?!” then I hope this might have swayed you to give it a try. It’s a top location for a chilled couple of days, and comparable to many other destinations in Europe, it’s pretty damn sustainable.

 

Sustainability Sunday #29

4 reasons why you should get off your a$$ and walk! 

Walking is the most natural and convenient form of transport and yet one we often forget when planning how to get from one place to another. Living in a city, like me, you often plan which train/tube/bus you need to get yourself to work every day, or the bar on a Friday night but actually the distance from one side of central London to the other is only about 10 miles (Hammersmith to Bow) so it’s not unreasonable to walk even a third of the way if you have the time. TFL actually have a “walking map” which tells you the time/distance equivalent between tube stops. 


This Friday, April 7th, marks the annual “walk to work” day so you should give it a go, and here’s 4 good reasons why:

1. It’s good for you! 

Walking for one mile burns up around 100 calories. Although it’s a gentle form of exercise, doing a little every day keeps your blood pressure low, reduces body fat and enhances your mental wellbeing (that extra half hour outside really helps!). 

2. Reducing your carbon footprint 

Whilst public transport is used by many, reducing the use of cars and taxis, and reducing the demand for buses and trains has the end result of significantly reduced emissions. 

3. It reconnects us with the environment 

Often when travelling to work, or heading to a particular destination our mind is on the day ahead, yesterday, tomorrow, your shopping list or what that one annoying person at work said to you this week. We very rarely actually think about the here and now whilst on our travels but when getting out and walking you can’t help but be more aware of your surroundings which is great for your mental health; taking in a little of the activity and life of your environment helps you appreciate the things you usually miss. 

4. Choosing better food 

Typically, someone who has worked out is more likely to choose something healthier to eat afterwards than bingeing on junk foods. Therefore, choosing healthy fresh produce over packaged up junky foods means that we’ve got less of a food-print too! 


Sustainability Sunday #28

Spring has sprung, but are you feeling like a spring chicken?

There is sun! There is blossom! And there is an elated feeling of summer being just around the corner, it’s dreamy.

But we all know, that with warmer weather comes the inevitable increase in the amount of skin on show and an increase in the number of social events we attend. Since the New Year, I’ve been trying to tackle a series of stress-related mental and physical health issues and I’ve finally found one thing that helps me to relieve both – yoga. I must confess, that the first yoga class I did was amazing, because I fell asleep 5 minutes in and woke up 45 minutes later while everyone was putting their mats away – great nap.  I haven’t actually been to many classes since, but what I do do is try to get up a half hour earlier every weekday morning to do a little “wake up routine”. I’ve found this stretches my office-shaped back, helps me to wake up and feel more energised before I leave the house and clears and calms my mind. It’s brilliant. 

But this is Sustainability Sundays, what has this got to do with sustainability, I hear you ask? Well, yoga and sustainability have been linked since the inception of yoga practice and for those of you that didn’t catch my recent guest blog on The Form Fitness‘ website here’s a quick snapshot of how the two concepts are linked:

“The practice of yoga fosters metta (loving kindness) for ourselves and the earth so it is much more than strengthening your core and finding inner peace. Historically, yoga was developed alongside a close relationship with the earth and cosmos and a deep recognition for animals, plants, soil, water and air. Thus, maintaining the sustainability of these is integral to the practice of yoga in any form. If we are to forge a sustainable future for generations to come we must re-establish a balance with nature and the practice of yoga enables us to create that connection through mind and body by transporting us away from the frenzied lives we lead. Sustainability in yoga practice can lead to a more sustainable life, with a big part of this being the prioritisation of ourselves, without over-indulging of course.”

You can also integrate the environment more literally into your yoga practice by saluting the elements, if you want to have a go, check out that guest post to find out more about it.

As an environmental nerd I’m keen to integrate sustainability into all aspects of my life, including my health so I fully support brands that are bringing sustainability into the things we need in every day life. Equally, as a true sustainability advocate, I don’t feel comfortable promoting products or brands if I’m unsure of their credibility so you can trust me when I tell you that The Form mats are not only the first round (I know right?! Genius!) yoga mats in the UK but are also sustainably designed and made, and are offset to be carbon negative through a fantastic partnership with SolarAid. If you need a new yoga mat for home practice or for going to classes I really recommend bagging yourself one of these, which can be ordered online or through The Good Place boutique in Chelsea, I promise you they are totally dreamy! 😍

Stay tuned on here, and on The Form for more about sustainability & health. 

Happy Sunday folks!