Following on from my recent post about buying Palm Oil free products, I was thinking about the choices we make as consumers, and the irresponsible actions of businesses.
Why do we need plastic straws in our drinks when there are sustainable alternatives?
Why do we need Christmas Crackers? These invariably go into the bin on the same day!
Why do we need little plastic “toys” or suchlike in cereal packets (or indeed Christmas Crackers)? It seems absurd that these add any value to anyone.
Why do some food items come packaged in both a box AND a bag?
In the digital age, do we really need to send paper birthday (and other occasion) cards around the world?
When was the last time you refused free plastic bags? We don’t need them most of the time, nor should we want them.
As a consumer, I feel underinformed at times about what the most sustainable option is for my purchase (often you don’t even get a choice)…as a business, I suspect they just want to make as much money as possible by hooking people in, but maybe we can alter the behaviour of businesses if we begin to shift away from cheap wasteful gimmicks and analyse “traditions”.
I recently stayed in an hotel which provided a little bag encouraging you to take any toiletries away with you. The sentiment is great as opposed to leaving partially used items in the room that must often just go in a bin, so I applaud it in that regard, but why is a bag required? Why not just a small sign or a note in a guestbook? As a concept it seems up there with humans producing a paper leaflet about saving trees. Scenic Hotels – this is not an ECO bag…it is a bag that did not need to be made at all…you have wasted resources in an effort not to waste resources. THINK!
I was at Auckland Zoo recently and noticed a sign regarding the desire to try to eliminate the containing of palm oil in the products we buy on a day-to-day basis. The intention of this is to help mitigate against the clearance of native forest in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and more – simply to allow space for the farming of palm oil. This forest clearance is removing habitat for many species such as the well-known Orangutan.
Some people may say “Why should I care?”, to that I would suggest that if we continue to rape the natural world without a second thought then our surroundings will be particularly desolate, dull and colourless one day in the future – and who knows if we might just need one of these species one day? Don’t other species have as much right to their little corner of the Earth as we do? A more selfish angle might be to think about how bacteria are fighting back against antibiotics…who knows where the next magic drug will come from.
Of course, often the countries supplying such products and the people living there are in want of the money that rich western companies and countries will provide, so the most important thing is to try to strike the right balance to give everyone and every species a fair go. Sustainability is everything.
So how do you eliminate palm oil from your shopping? Please look at the photo below and do some research for your own country’s labelling. To start with, try to buy alternatives where any ingredients show something relating to “palm” in them. I guess that is the end of my palmolive soap purchasing for a start…and Bisto gravy granules too (a sad day indeed).
Together we might all make a difference for our and for future generations to enjoy.
I was contemplating recently those moments in life when you feel a sense of total peace, perhaps some people would relate it as a spiritual experience. For me, I think those moments are generally involving communing with the natural world – other species who have total freedom of whether they are near you or not, or interact with you or not, especially in a world where humans predate or deliberately trample on so many of those species without a second thought…considering ourselves superior…for food or sport or otherwise.
It is unusual for me to feel those kind of things with people, but occasionally that can happen too. I guess hugs with loved ones or close friends can achieve a similar feeling. Those moments tend to be quiet also, words having no part in it, fuelling that peace.
In New Zealand, it is notable that a number of the native species (the diurnal ones at least!) are quite trusting and will not be quite so fearful of humanity as the UK. Even introduced species somehow seem more “friendly” as a rule…while keeping their distance. Whether this is because of a later arrival of mankind and differing attitudes or the fact that mankind is proactively working to save so many species in NZ, who knows! Perhaps we should just put it down as a superb outcome and enjoy the mystery and inner peace it can bring.
Subtitled – Spot the Real Gannet!
Part of the Auckland Zoo conservation work on Rotoroa Island is involving the establishing of a gannet colony. Gannets already live around the coast of New Zealand so you may wonder how on earth do you persuade gannets that you have you desirable real estate for them to settle in?
The answer is with ‘realistically’ painted artificial gannets and by playing gannet noises over a loudspeaker to attract them in to land.
At the time of the photograph below, only one gannet had made home there, and had made friends with the artificial ones. Sad in one way, a possibly joyous start to a new colony in another way. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Can you spot the real gannet?
I wanted to just focus on one volunteer activity that has been incredibly eye-opening for me while helping out on Rotoroa island. That activity is picking up litter which has arrived on the beaches.
Casual visitors to any tourist location are often blissfully unaware of the work that goes on to keeping them looking pristine. That little piece of paradise requires a lot of work to maintain it. I have been amazed for all of the wrong reasons about what sorts of items appear on beaches.
There are those items which, of course, are deliberately left by people (not everyone follows the request to take rubbish home with them), and some which may have accidentally ended up in our seas and then on the island, but I have found the following things on a regular basis:
- Plastic bags
- Plastic clothes pegs
- Plastic bottles and bottle tops
- Fishing line and floats
- Bits of balloons (often including ribbon attached)
I even found a hat once! Sadly, I also found a dead penguin after a big storm.
My message is simple, first consider if you really need to buy and use such objects (surely we are past needing huge volumes of plastic bags now?). If you do need them, consider whether you can use biodegradable versions or re-use those items before you get rid of them. Finally, if you have to throw them away, first check if you can recycle before you dispose of the item in the safest place possible – and thus give the wildlife in our seas a chance to avoid the huge number of contaminants that arrive there every single day.
Humanity is an abomination where preservation of our earth is concerned. If we all take small steps, we can one day hopefully give future generations something to be truly proud of before it is too late.
Back in January 2016 I posted the first part about my visits and voluntary involvement on Rotoroa Island in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland (link here if you’d like to re-read). During the most recent summer, I had the pleasure and indeed privilege of returning to Rotoroa on a regular basis to help out the Trust in the day-to-day running of the island.
Volunteer jobs are never going to be glamorous of course, but helping tourists have a more special visit to this little slice of paradise, as well as doing my bit in assisting in the conservation of native species is an absolute joy. I realised that from when I set foot on the boat in the morning until returning to land in the evening, nothing else matters in the world except being part of this wonderful conservation island with a unique human history.
Apologies for the slightly lesser quality of one or two of these pictures, which were taken on an iPhone.
I think I have alluded over time about my dislike of New Zealand housing. I suppose that across the world houses have evolved to best try and meet the climate challenges of that area. I am not sure that New Zealand housing has evolved that much.
A “typical” house here is made of wood and has a steel roof (I use the quote marks because so many houses are quite individual due to a culture of self-building, not like the UK identikit properties). It is lovely to hear the rain hitting a steel roof. An example house is just below…
New Zealand’s climate varies massively from the far north to the far south and yet you would think that solar panels had only just been invented, that no-one can count to two given the amount of single glazing, that wall and ceiling insulation doesn’t exist and that air conditioning, electric blankets and dehumidifiers were the way of the future. Use of firewood seems quite common.
I am of course being quite sarcastic above, but houses that are far too hot in summer and far too cold (and indeed damp) in winter clearly have a problem. The phrase “rug up” is coined here for those times when you just have to wrap up warm while indoors in colder weather.
Finally, houses that are not fit for purpose are also probably not healthy to live in, especially in the colder months. There is almost a stubborn attitude that says “I can put up with a few cold months because I don’t need this stuff for the rest of the year”. The sad thing is that people continue to build these low quality houses. It is pathetic.
I would say this, if you fit double glazing, your house will be warmer in winter AND cooler in summer. If you fit insulation, you probably won’t need any electric heating at all. If you fit solar panels, you will probably have hot water provided for a lot of the year.
New Zealand has a reputation for being a “green” country, but the housing is about as poor as it gets, hopelessly energy-inefficient…and yet it carries a hefty price tag to buy it. Go figure. This country is incredibly short-sighted and wasteful and needs to get itself into a much greener gear. Give us greener houses and not greenhouses please!