conservation · Plastic Free Living

Plastic Free Camping

We’ve just come back from camping in Cornwall and it was awesome! I just love it, especially in this beautiful weather we’re having. I really need to move there; the call to the sea seems to get stronger in me each year.

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Have you ever seen a more beautiful view?!

We camp on the Camel Estuary every year and so far we’ve not had to replace any of our camping gear. Looking at it all with critical eyes I realised how much of it is plastic, although our actual tent is second-hand and our tables, most of the rest of it was bought new and much of it has plastic elements to it. It doesn’t make sense to chuck your plastic stuff out though. The key is to use it, fix it and use it again and when the time comes to re-buy the item, dispose of it properly and then research non-plastic alternatives and buy better next time around.

Tents:

Modern tents are made almost entirely from man-made fibres most typically nylon or polyester which are thermo plastic polymers. Modern carbon fibre tent poles are a composite of plastic, and guy ropes are nylon. Often the only non-plastic part of the tent is the metal tent pegs. If you still prefer a modern tent you can get some great modern tents made from 100% recycled materials or you could buy second-hand.

The other obvious eco-friendly answer if you’re buying a new tent is to purchase canvas. You can get all sorts, such as tipi’s or bell tents, which may be heavier than your plastic tent but I’m told they have loads of great advantages too. They are often pretty easy to put up, they keep cooler inside in hot weather than nylon or polyester and they have a ‘glamping’ feel; an added touch of luxury to your camping experience!

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Dawn view from Mum’s bell tent = tent and pitch envy!

Sleeping:

For mattresses we have airbeds, which are definitely plastic but they are perfect for my bad back. Sometimes if you feel you have no alternative but to buy plastic I would suggest buying the best you can afford because at least you will get years of use out of it. You can get cheap airbeds for a fiver but they don’t last long, whereas my Colemans air bed for 25 quid has lasted 5 years and counting. As it happens 3 out of 4 of our airbeds finally bit the dust this year so I will be looking at what plastic free or longer lasting mattresses there are out there.  I do have one excellent self-inflating mattress that I’ve had since I went travelling over 20 years ago. I would struggle to sleep on that now, but it could be ideal for L&T.

If money’s not an issue or you are prepared to save for an eco-friendly option, try the ‘naturalmat’ from Camping with Soul. You can use these brilliant roll up mattresses on their own or in combination with a metal framed camp bed.

As for sleeping bags, for a little bit more of an investment you can buy one made from up to 100% recycled materials.

Cooking:

Most camping stores will have a good range of stainless steel/aluminium cooking pots, bowls and cups and with a quick online search you can easily find bamboo/corn cutlery and kitchenware ideal for camping. I found this site useful for thinking about the options.

There are loads of great eco camp stoves out there giving you freedom from fossil fuels. Here’s the Biolite  which has the added bonus of also being able to charge up your phone if you like to stay connected while camping.

Personally I like being able to switch off completely so for something similar but a bit cheaper and without phone charging ability, you could go for the classic Kelly Kettle. Again Camping with Soul do lots more eco stove options giving a variety of outdoor eating options to suit all needs.

Bring your plastic free bathroom bits with you!

I’m going to write a bathroom post for home or away all of it’s own, but the basics to take camping with you might be your bamboo toothbrush, some paper wrapped soap and a shampoo bar.

 Swimwear:

Here are two amazing companies using recycled plastic to make swimwear. Firstly Batoko who make swimwear from recycled plastic bottles, fishing nets and post consumer waste such as carpets and other fabrics. Their costumes are really fun and they also support the Marine Conservation Society by giving them a proportion of their profits every year. Finisterre also make recycled plastic swimwear as well as a range of outer clothing too, all using materials form sustainable sources. They give 10% of their profits to Surfers Against Sewage and I think their products are really well designed, if a tad expensive. If you wait for a shop sale you can snap up a really beautiful eco costume for a reasonable price.

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Some surfer dudes no-where near the sea!

Plan ahead!

Camp sites always have drinking water taps so make sure to pack your re-usable bottles, there is really no need to buy plastic bottles of water if you are organised. If you are a big tea drinker like me, you will also save lots of disposable cups out and about if you take your own travel mug. Most travel cafes on the coast are really used to people giving them their own cup and they even wash it out for you if you ask nicely!

We found on our camping trip last week that our biggest watch out is buying food on the go. If you’re not organised you can end up consuming a lot of single-use plastic in the shape of the dreaded meal deal. In ‘How To Live Plastic Free‘ written by The Marine Conservation Society (which I highly recommend if you want an easy and practical guide to going plastic free) they say:

Three pounds. That’s all it takes to kill the sea. Forget for a moment everything you’re read about beauty products, pollution, climate change and so on. If you want to find the true source of plastic excess you must venture to the shiny temple of our times: the supermarket. This ‘meal deal’ might look a ‘deal’ to you, but it is a true environmental disaster. All for under 3 pounds.’

A better option would be to find a deli where you can create your own sandwich wrapped in paper or grab a delicious pasty from a bakery or if you must use the supermarket (we did, it was just too convenient) then be prepared with your own Tupperware and buy from the fresh counters. Worst case scenario just make the best decision you can in the moment and resolve to be more prepared next time. We all get caught out, and personally I think this is our family’s biggest area to improve on as we are not brilliant at being organised!

2 Minute Beach clean:

Lots of us camp near a beach or visit one whilst camping. Make a new habit of doing a 2 minute beach clean every time you go. In 2017 #2minutebeachclean launched an APP that will help you to record your beach clean finds easily and quickly. It will also enable you to post directly to Instagram or Twitter and will tell you where your nearest beach clean station is.

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L skipping along a perfectly clean beach!

O’h and don’t forget your cloth bag for purchases and your bamboo straws! I don’t go anywhere without my bamboo straws, they are lovely to use and L will not drink out without one. We get ours from The Pure Blue and we love them.

If you have any amazing plastic free camping tips please let me know in the comments.

Happy Plastic Free Camping!

Plastic Free Living

It’s Plastic Free July!

I am joining in #GOplasticfree again this year with The Marine Conservation Society. All details for signing up are here.

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Last year I made a few changes which have become permanent, so I think the trick is to tackle plastic habits one at a time. I am going to be writing 4 blog posts over July with tips on reducing plastic in your bathroom, kitchen, for those with pets and for big events like festivals or camping.

In my posts I am going to focus on plastic free ideas that are cheap and practical. There are a lot of plastic free alternatives and swaps on the market that require you to spend more money, but I really want the ideas I include here to be accessible to everyone.

L&T will hopefully be making a film during the month of July of their favourite plastic free life hacks. So watch this space!

Plastic is choking, starving and poisoning our oceans. Let’s unite in our effort to prevent an environmental disaster by each doing our bit to make simple changes to our plastic-overloaded lifestyle.

Here’s a poem I like by Hollie McNish taken from her book, ‘Plum’ which I thought you might enjoy because it illustrates so well how pointless a lot of plastic is.

PLASTIC BOTTLES

The production of water bottles uses 17 million barrels of oil a year and it takes three times the water to make the bottle as it does to fill it’ – a business insider

there’s not much

i find as pointless

as plastic bottles

filling shores

 

there’s not much

for me that sums up

why less

is often more

 

than fresh water

wrapped in plastic

making money

sold and branded

 

there’s not much

i find as pointless

as plastic bottles

filling shores

 

water packaged

then sold back to us

now polluting

its own source

 

By Hollie McNish

 

Home Education

Wild but busy!

I had planned to write every week this month about our 30 Days Wild activities, but everything went a bit crazy for a couple of weeks. We were all hit by a horrid virus and I personally had a lot of other deadlines and also ran my first (and possibly my last!) plastic campaign stall for The Marine Conservation Society.

As much as I have enjoyed the other ways to volunteer, I didn’t find running a stall really played to my strengths. Anyway, I did it, and it did give me a chance to spend lots of time talking to the guy running the Wildlife Trust stall next to me. He gave me lots of 30 Days Wild ideas, and I’m sure we will try them over the summer, even if we don’t manage to squeeze them into the June challenge.

Despite being busy we have still managed to get outdoors a lot: walking the dog; making woodland characters from clay; discovering fairy homes; riding; learning about birds of prey; spending time with cousins; being buried in sand by friends!

 

We still have so many plans for 30 Days Wild, which will probably run into the rest of the summer now. They both want to try windsurfing and T wants to try kayaking; we want to do our first ‘wild swim’ by the end of June; L&T would like to find the right location for the bat boxes they made and we have lots of new walks planned. O’h and I made a local contact who does a lot of conservation work with hedgehogs, which T is interested in following up this summer.

I’m writing the list here to encourage me to make it all happen!

conservation · Home Education · Plastic Free Living

30 Days Wild!

Yesterday was Day 1 of our 30 Days Wild challenge organised by The Wildlife Trust. It’s not too late to sign up online and download a pack if you want to get involved. We’ve been doing this for a few years now, although I’m not sure the kids think it’s that different to normal because by this time of year we tend to be outdoors a lot anyway.

This year we thought it would be fun to sprinkle in a few acts of random wildness that would make the challenge a little more memorable. During the course of this month I will be documenting our wild days here on the blog in weekly updates.

So yesterday, the 1st of June, L spent all day at her riding stables from 9-5pm, which is fast becoming a real passion for her, leaving myself and T to mark Day 1 together. We decided on one of our favourite walks with Legend around some nearby lakes; we call it our ‘cake walk’ because we start with a visit to the on-site café to refill my travel cup with tea (provoking the usual conversation about their disposable take-away cups) and for T to find the biggest, most chocolaty piece of cake to fuel our walk.

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We don’t rush so the walk around the lake takes us about 1.5 hours and the views are beautiful all the way around. Mostly we love this walk though because we get to have a good old chat, with lots of little stop-offs to sit and let time pass, whilst eating cake of course!

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Hmmm looks quite inviting!

We always meet lots of interesting people on our walks and yesterday was no exception. We met this lovely lady with her two rescue Lurchers whom we chatted to for a long while. T was asked the usual school question to which he quite happily stated that he’s home educated. At this point we usually face a rather strained conversation, which has most people politely moving on.

This lady was like a breath of fresh air! Her reply, after the tiniest pause, was: ‘Well of course not everything can be learned from a book, in fact I do believe nature is the greatest teacher of all’. I could see T kind of straighten himself up, tall and proud and I inwardly thanked the lady for understanding rather than subjecting my son to an awkward silence or questions about how he would ever get any GCSE’s (he’s 10………but incase you’re wondering yourself, home educators can still take any qualification they want, it’s just they have choice and freedom about what, when, how and even if they need them for what they want to pursue).

And so our conversation continued about nature and conservation. We talked about plastic and it’s use by big supermarket chains; we talked about getting involved in beach cleans. This lady said two things that struck me: she wondered whether my being involved in beach cleans really had any genuine impact; and she said, at age 71, she was too old to change the world. Aren’t these exactly the kind of negative things we all tell ourselves? That we cannot make a difference on our own? That we are too young, too old, too busy, too unknowledgeable, too unfit, too broke to make a difference? I know I have used many of those exact excuses myself.

I told her that her time was right now. That she wasn’t too old to save the world. That her actions alone could make a difference. ‘Do you know what?’ she stated boldly. ‘I am going to talk to Sainsbury’s today about how they wrap single vegetables in plastic, it’s been bugging me for ages!’

One person, whoever you are, can make all the difference.

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I’ll just pretend I didn’t see that No Swimming sign.
conservation

3 Family Friendly Marine Conservation Projects

Marine Conservation Graphic

Here are 3 easy marine conservation projects to get involved in this summer, which require no previous training and are easy for children of any age to engage with:
1) Beach Babies Survey – Lots of animals are changing the time of year that they breed in response to warmer or cooler waters. ‘Capturing Our Coast’ are interested in how this varies around the UK. They have put together an activity pack that will help you spot a number of species and their signs of reproduction. You can find all the details here.
2) The Great Eggcase Hunt – With over 600 species of skate and ray worldwide, at least 16 species have been regularly recorded in UK coastal waters; most of these species reproduce by laying tough leathery eggcases on the seabed. Of more than 30 species of British sharks, only two species lay eggcases that are commonly found on our beaches; the Smallspotted Catshark and the Nursehound.
Each eggcase contains one embryo which will develop over several months into a miniature shark, skate or ray. Once empty, the eggcases often wash ashore and can be found among the strandline on beaches.
The Great Eggcase Hunt aims to get as many people as possible hunting for eggcases that have either been washed ashore, or are found by divers and snorkelers underwater. In recent decades, several species of shark, skate and ray around the British coast have dramatically declined in numbers. The empty eggcases (or mermaid’s purses) are an easily accessible source of information on the whereabouts of potential nursery grounds and will provide the Trust with a better understanding of species abundance and distribution.
3) Great British Beach Clean – The Great British Beach Clean is the Marine Conservation Society’s annual event on the 3rd weekend of September. It’s the biggest beach clean and survey in the UK and provides a valuable insight into the litter problems our seas and oceans are facing
MCSUK have been recording this information for over 25 years and lobbying governments to stop items getting there in the first place. With the publics help they’ve made great progress in helping to bring in a plastic bag charge, stopping microplastics in cosmetics being washed down the plug hole and getting the message out that wetwipes shouldn’t be flushed or contain plastic. Find out how to get involved in an existing beach clean, or how to organise your own, here.

Home Education

A Trip to Portsmouth

Marine conservation has become a real passion of mine, and like any passion, it’s hard not to share it with others. My kids share their passions with me, and I share mine with them. I feel this is how learning really works. It’s just natural.
So whilst I have learnt all kinds of things recently about Fortnite, Dan TDM, Musical:ly, how to do various dance moves, how to increase my ‘dude’ rating and so forth (I’m on the bottom level incase you’re wondering!) It is equally natural for me to engage L & T in the kinds of things I love to do and learn about.
Last September I became involved with the Marine Conservation UK’s ‘Sea Champions’ volunteer program. It basically involves championing our seas in a variety of ways. MCSUK work alongside various other ocean charities and through them I began my volunteer journey training how to survey rocky shore species for ‘Capturing Our Coast’. I love doing it, and although we don’t live near the sea, we visit enough times in the year to feel like I can make a difference.

I have surveyed on my own a few times, but recently I took L&T along, and both of them took an interest. We took a 2 night trip to Portsmouth with the plan to carry out marine surveys and also visit the Historic Docks.

On day 1 we visited Eastney beach near Portsmouth University’s Institute of Marine Sciences. It isn’t a great beach for hanging out on, but is perfect for discovering rocky shore species. T got involved in the entire surveying process which involves many skills: researching tide times; measuring out a section of low tidal beach; using a quadrant; identifying environmental habitats; estimating and calculating seaweed/rock/species in percentages; identifying a variety of marine species.

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I was very impressed with how fast he picked everything up and how much better he was than me at identifying marine animals. He was a genuine asset and has since expressed a wish to carry out further surveys another time.
L was also really interested in the marine animals we found. She would dip in and out of the survey, practising her Irish dancing further up the beach and intermittently coming to find out what we had discovered. Later, when we were reflecting on our day, she showed me all the photos she had taken of the beach. It seems the trip had been fruitful for all of us in different ways.

If you would like to get involved with marine conservation, here are three easy family friendly projects to try.

On day two we focused on the Historic Docks, which L&T have never seen. The tickets for everything were expensive and so we had to pick and choose a bit. We chose the 11 attraction ticket (book online for a big discount) which includes HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, action stations, boat trips and museums. It does not however include the Mary Rose, but we decided to do that another time.

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Both L&T were interested in the history of both the HMS Victory and HMS Warrior. I was surprised by how much L already knew; though I shouldn’t have been since her ability to just absorb knowledge by osmosis has always been impressive!

The ‘Action Stations’ were a great physical release after all the history; they both loved the ‘Ninja Warrior’ course best, and found the revolving climbing wall fun but exhausting.

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After a day at the docks, we went back to our budget hotel room and ordered pizza and chatted solidly from 6:30pm till 11:30pm when I fell asleep!

These trips are so special and they are my favourite part of home ed. We do quite a few day trips, and then one longer trip like this one each year. As L&T are getting older and they are becoming more independent, these trips are a great opportunity for solid quality time together with no other distractions. I love how a trip like this reminds me what fantastic learners they both are. They are so different in their learning styles, but both pretty amazing.

Learning is just human nature.