How Eco-friendly Are You?

With recent developments in our climate illustrating just how problematic global warming is becoming, I thought it would be good to stop and think a bit about our own environmental awareness. An incredible heatwave struck parts of Canada this week, leading to destructive wild fires burning down villages. As well as this, Lapland hit its hottest temperature for more than a century, with a staggering 33.6 degrees C.

Can we get our ecosystems back on track?

In this article, I have posed some questions which will help us to contemplate how well we engage with climate change and whether or not we can do more to get involved. Small changes can help us to be more eco-friendly and ensure that we all play a part in digging the world out of this mess. As usual, my own answers are found under each question and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Do you think about food miles when you shop?

Lately this has become something that I really concentrate on. I often use a local farm shop for vegetables and when I don’t do this I look carefully at the produce available in the supermarket and hand pick things that come from within the UK. Replacing bananas with pears is one example of how I have made small, but noticeable changes. I also have cut down on the amount of meat that I eat. Although I love meat, I have now become used to cooking vegetarian meals several times a week. For example I now have vegetable pasta where I might have previously had chicken in it.

How do you get around?

I made a conscious decision, after flying back from a crazy holiday in Vegas back in 2014, that I would no longer fly on holiday, using planes. Having read that planes pump noxious gases directly into the upper atmosphere, contributing more directly to global warming, I made an effort to plan trips that involved going by train or cruise ship. Here is a blog article that I wrote about this:

I have also reduced the amount of times that I use my car each week. Unfortunately, work still requires me to drive as it is in a different town, but the journey is only seven miles. If I travel further I consistently use the railway or car share (though since Covid came along I have hardly had reason to travel anywhere further than twenty miles away).

Have you taken interest in climate change media?

By this I mean have you read articles about the problems associated with global warming, or perhaps watched a documentary? I know plenty of people who immediately switch off when you mention this subject and refuse to even consider the possibility. Others simply talk about it being inevitable and suggest that they can have very little impact on such a big problem, so they may as well leave it to someone else.

I admit that while governments are much more proactive in this area since Biden took over and the G7 countries started pushing for more electrics cars and less pollution, there is still much to be done. Pleasantly, this week the UK government announced funding for some car companies to create more electric cars in future. Hopefully we will eventually catch up with Norway where 53% of new cars are fully electric.

Lately I have been researching this topic and joined an informative forum called, “We Don’t Have Time.’ I also found the recent BBC ‘A Year To Change The World’ documentary by Greta Thunberg incredibly helpful. Her social media is full of evidence and research which is usually bang up to date and often quite alarming.

‘Can’t see the wood for the trees?’

What sort of waste do you create?

Although many of us use the recycling bin and food waste depository, some of us are still very wasteful when it comes to home decor and clothing. How many of us like buying new clothes just for the sake of it or to follow a trend, instead of because the old ones are actually worn out?

I rarely buy new clothes until I can see signs of wear and tear. When I get rid of them I mostly use a local recycling company who sends old clothes to poorer communities. Of course they don’t accept everything, especially if there are small stains on items, which for me often stem from spilt pasta sauce.

There are so many things that I could talk about here but perhaps these have already got you thinking just a little bit about how much consideration you give to climate change. So many people say that they are worried about it and like posts about the topic but do very little to actually impact upon the problem and reduce its spiral of destruction.

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Travel without Planes (Part 1)

One of the things that I care most strongly about is the environment. I always have been a worrier and remember the first time I heard about global warming thirty years ago, at secondary school. I started to campaign then for a better understanding but knowledge of this subject was still very limited as the press seemed relatively ignorant to the matter.

Having done a geography degree which focused on landscapes and changes in the environment, my mind was opened to ways in which the devastating effects of global warming could potentially be reduced or even reversed to some extent. One really obvious way included using aeroplanes less. Planes pump huge amounts of carbon and other pollutants right into the part of the atmosphere which can influence the climate.

On that note, I have decided to reflect upon my own travels and share with you some brilliant places to go on holiday which are affordable and reachable by land or sea, rather than using air transport.

Luxembourg by Train

When I was looking for a lovely destination to visit by rail, Luxembourg grabbed me as it was really intriguing, nestled between Germany, France and Belgium. It was an easy ride via Paris (taking two hours to Gare Du Nord and then a further two to the centre of Luxembourg City).

Beautifully nestled on hillsides. Luxembourg.

I found a quaint and affordable hotel just opposite the main train station where I positioned myself for a five day stay. As far as city breaks go, this was perfect for me as just staying for a weekend would have been rushing things and I also wanted to visit some countryside locations and take in some historic sites.

Vianden Castle. Well worth a visit.

One such visit took me to Vianden Castle which overlooked a beautiful little town which was gently parted in two by a scenic river. With a nice little coffee shop that provided great lunches and some in-tact rooms packed with cannon balls, furniture and photos showing when the castle was used as a film set (including ‘George and the Dragon’ 2004), this attraction definitely didn’t disappoint. Just be prepared for a steep walk up to the castle or catch a ride to the top of the hill.

The river through Vianden.

As for the fascinating city itself, it was full of life, with a vibrant area of restaurants and bars not far from the heart of politics. The Duchy of Luxembourg has a Duke and also a Prime Minister. Visiting the parliament (known as the Chamber of Deputies) and PM’s residence alongside a historic Cathedral is easy to do as they are very close to each other.

Chamber of Deputies

I was also lucky enough to spend time at the very modern and architectural wonder that is the Philharmonie du Luxembourg. In here we heard some incredible live music played by a talented full orchestra at what was a mesmerising event. The building itself was stunning and it felt very cosy inside. The dress code was smart and the snacks were great (not even particularly pricey).

Philharmonie du Luxembourg

Overall, in bars and restaurants prices were typically on a level with those in London. So do make sure you have some Euros with you or some available funds in your bank account. Luxembourg is a busy, independent state which hosts some EU buildings including the European Commission. It is friendly and clean on the whole, with plenty of fashionable stores as well as some appetising menu choices.

I would recommend taking the Eurostar to Gare Du Nord and enjoying the double decker train to Luxembourg city, then exploring the city itself for a few days. Luxembourg is modern, stylish and full of energy. Follow this up with a visit to one of the beautiful surrounding towns, situated within half an hour from the centre. A daily train fare is very cheap (a 1 day ticket to anywhere in the duchy is just €6) as Luxembourg actively encourages using public transport.

Next Time…

I will be continuing my series of blogs about travelling into Europe by land or sea with a review of my trip to Belgium.

Moving on… cautiously.

Let’s look after our world.

I haven’t written a blog post about what’s going on in the world recently and updated my writing journey. So, today I thought I would start by reflecting on life right now and my feelings about this peculiar moment in time.

What’s peculiar about it? We are in a state of obvious limbo. As Covid resurges around the world, Britain is beginning to feel like it’s on the edge of the precipice, about to return to total normality. At least that’s how it comes across on social media. People are getting their hopes up about an end to a year of illness and disruption.

I suppose the first question I have is, ‘Do we really need to return to the old normality?’ Or can we create a better, more environmentally conscious ‘norm’? Have we learned lessons during this pandemic which could benefit us as human animals, trying to regain a natural balance within the world? A world where we are a competitive animal, but share our planet with millions of other species. Who can say for sure?

Greta Thunberg continually reminds us that global warming hasn’t gone anywhere. During lockdown we have begun to work differently, with international meetings replaced by Zoom conferences, saving thousands of air miles and the related pollution. Can we keep this up?

Do we need to think more carefully about flying around the planet? Is it the only way to travel? How much of this travel is avoidable? Certainly I hope that staycations become more popular and work travel becomes obsolete. But Greta also warns that so much more needs to be done if we are going to reduce overall warming and prevent further ice melt, flooding and loss of species.

Where’s Covid gone, anyway?

The real answer is…. It hasn’t gone anywhere. Any scientist will tell you that it is a virus which mutates. Sadly it will continue to do so and pose a challenge for our society for the foreseeable future. I love the optimism of many people in the UK but we have to keep our guards up.

I think if we keep cautious then we can start to have fun again. But massive parties and large gatherings may be a bit premature, especially with the Indian variant lurking in clusters within British towns and already casting shade over the imminent unlocking stage proposed by the government.

So what now?

Let’s read and write and be creative. Let’s find new ways to live and love and have incredible lives, whilst having a consideration for the environment and some awareness of the fact that Covid hasn’t quite dissolved away. It is still causing grief around the world and as global citizens we need to consider that.

I for one, cannot wait to see a theatre show (safely) and watch a movie in an actual cinema. More importantly I, like many of you, am gasping for a holiday. We just need to make sure we look after ecosystems and preserve the beautiful wildlife that co-inhabits this stunning planet.

I wish you all a safe and exciting summer and hope that you go for your goals.