Divestment Discussion

On Sunday 22nd April, we held an intimate but very engaged discussion around divestment. We were joined by Dr James Smith from Fossil Free Cambridgeshire, who brought us all up to date on what divestment is, how the campaign developed and where we currently are in our progress.

We ended the discussion on what we can all do now, going forwards. It was clear there is a strong need to get out into our communities and talk to our family, colleagues, neighbours and anyone else that may be interested, to help spread the word on divestment.

We will be in Cambridge on Monday next week (8th May 17), engaging with local council workers, and then in Peterborough on Friday (12th May 17) doing the same. If you want to get involved, or have any questions, please do get in touch.

Useful Resources

https://gofossilfree.org/uk/ is the UK campaign group website, full of facts, figures and resources.

The following page lists all the current groups around the country, so if you are not in Cambridgeshire and would like to join your local group, you can search and make contact: https://gofossilfree.org/uk/local-government/

We shared a councillor briefing document that you can send to your councillor, which can be found here: https://gofossilfree.org/uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2016/09/Fossil-Fuel-Divestment_v2-1.pdf

Spring Cleaning

Spring is a time for new beginnings; out with the old and in with the new. And it’s the ideal time to open the windows and give everything a good airing! The origins of spring cleaning – the ancient art of doing a thorough clean at the beginning of the season – are not known for sure, but the tradition is still practised widely. However, with today’s modern cleaning products, are we just refilling that fresh spring air with nasty, harmful chemicals? Many shop-bought products are full of artificial chemicals that claim to be harder on dirt and grime. But does this come at a cost to our health?

Scientists have, for a number of years, been warning that man-made chemicals affect human health, having been linked with reduced immunity, low sperm count, cancers and decreased intelligence. One of the biggest offenders is the cleaning products industry. In addition to scientific research, various organisations have been campaigning to tighten regulations and get the harmful chemicals removed from the market. They have had some limited success, but it is still down to us as consumers to be more vigilant in our buying habits.

When it comes to cleaning, you need to be aware that whatever you put in the water to clean the floors or the oven releases toxins that you will breathe in as you clean. Then, when they get poured down the drain, they contaminate our water supply, jeopardising the health of our ecosystems. Yes, this water will be cleaned and treated, but not before all those chemicals have already damaged the environment.

Here are some key chemicals to avoid:

Artificial musks are used in all kinds of products. If it has a fragrance, chances are it is artificial. Look for products with natural oils in the ingredients list that match the fragrance on the bottle, or buy non-scented and add your own. Artificial musks can disrupt the body’s hormone system; they have a long chemical life and can build up in the body. Due to these factors they have been found in the natural environment and even in breast milk.

The term parfum usually refers to the fragrance’s smell, and is used to cover a multitude of different chemicals that should be avoided. They cause allergies for millions of people and they can be found in most household cleaners.

Parabens are preservatives that are used in cosmetics and bathroom products to stop them growing mould. They mimic oestrogen in a way which is believed to interfere with the hormone system and increase the risk of breast cancer for women. Some parabens have been banned, but others still exist in everyday products.

Phthalates are industrial pollutants that leak from the products containing them. These products include PVC, toys, clothing, flooring, wallpaper, cosmetics and fragrances. They are ingested, inhaled or absorbed into our bodies and they have been linked to fertility problems, foetal and birth defects, altered hormone levels and genital deformities. Unfortunately, manufacturers whose products contain them are not obliged to disclose them on the label, so it is hard to avoid them.

Solvents can cause irritation when absorbed through the skin and nails, or when inhaled. They are used in all types of detergents.

Triclosan is found in most dishwashing detergents and antibacterial hand washes. It can alter hormones, especially thyroid hormones, and affect normal breast development. It also helps build up the resistance of harmful bacteria to antimicrobial agents such as antibiotics.

There are a host of man-made chemicals that should be avoided by all. However, it has been found that women and children in particular are most at risk. Women’s reproductive systems can be put in danger, with many of these products using hormone-disrupting chemicals. There have also been numerous links found between some of these chemicals and breast cancer, which typically affects more women than men. Children (and foetuses) are at a higher risk as their bodies are still developing and their organs and immune systems are not yet strong enough to combat the effects that some chemicals have. Small children are at further risk as they come into contact more frequently with their environment. They are constantly putting their fingers into their mouths and eating food from just-wiped surfaces. And, due to being so small, they are exposed to higher concentration levels.

So, what to do? A simple rule to follow would be: if you need to put on rubber gloves, a face mask or protective clothing to use a product, maybe it shouldn’t be brought into your home in the first place. A few initial ways to tackle this issue are to buy brands that use more plant-based substances, avoid the above types of chemicals, and only buy products that are clear about the ingredients that they use. A second option is to make your own. Although many people feel they do not have the time or know-how to make their own, home-made cleaning products are often quick and simple to make, and they can save you money too. You can search for recipes online, get a book, or start by switching to some of the products mentioned below.

Here are a few of the best natural cleaning agents:

Bicarbonate of soda (sodium bicarbonate) can be used to deodorise and clean fabrics. Mix with water or sprinkle on dry. It makes a very effective carpet cleaner – just sprinkle it on, leave for half an hour and then vacuum.

Lemon juice can be used to clean surfaces and remove stains and limescale. For tough limescale, just leave it for half an hour before wiping clean. If left in the fridge, a cut lemon will also absorb all the nasty smells. Mix lemon juice with water to whiten whites and brighten colours, either as a pre-soak or by adding lemon juice to the wash like you would a softener.

Vinegar can be used as a surface cleaner, stain remover, de-scaler, deodoriser and disinfectant. It can also work wonders on windows – just mix with water, wash on, and polish off with screwed up newspaper. (Malt works just as well as white wine varieties, but is obviously a bit more pungent.)

Olive oil or beeswax can be used as furniture polish (use sparingly).

Tea tree oil can be used as an antiseptic and a disinfectant. It is also effective on mould and mildew.

So, this spring may be the time to upgrade your green cleaning credentials! If you’d like to find out more, or have some tips of your own to add, why not come along to one of our socials (‘Coffee with PinT’ on the second Sunday of the month, or ‘Pint with PinT’ on the fourth Thursday of the month) and carry the conversation on with us there?

 

Resources

Washing up liquid: http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=286469

Various: http://www.keeperofthehome.org/homemade-all-natural-cleaning-recipes

Various: http://eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_solutions.htm

 

Supporting articles / more information

https://www.aromatherapynaturals.com/pages/ewg-hall-of-shame

http://www.womensvoices.org/safe-cleaning-products/basic/

http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/ethicalreports/householdcleaningproductsreport/toxicchemicals.aspx

http://www.greencleancertified.com/green-cleaning-facts/HOUSEHOLD-CLEANING-PRODUCTS-MAY-DO-MORE-HARM-THAN-GOOD

https://experiencelife.com/article/8-hidden-toxins-whats-lurking-in-your-cleaning-products/

https://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/chemicals_house_products.pdf  (Jan 2002)

http://www.foeeurope.org/search/foee/safer+chemicals

GBY Christmas Fair

To celebrate the festive season, we attended The Green Backyard Christmas fair yesterday. Our main focus at the event was gathering Eco Christmas Tips and decorating our Christmas tree. There were some great ideas:

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Buy all your Christmas presents from charity shops
Wrap presents in pretty material and ribbon to save waste and refuse
Make homemade decorations (popcorn tinsel, dried fruit tree decs, paper chains)
Use Christmas cards for next years gift tags
Buy an artificial Christmas tree rather than a real one and take good care of it to make it last
Collect people’s Christmas trees and reclaim the wood
Make turkey stock from the bones (freeze in portion size if not all needed at once)
Cook meals from scratch rather than buying ready meals (can do the same for sweets and cakes)
Make homemade presents
Buy a present for someone that has nothing
Give the gift of time (an event or simply time spent together)
Buy christmas cards from recycled paper
Give money to a charity as a present, instead of buying a present
Reuse your wrapping paper for next year

What’s your favourite tip? Do you have any more? Feel free to share below.

In addition to this, we were also joined by Fossil Free Cambridgeshire, gaining more momentum for the divestment campaign, gathering signatures for the petition (https://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/fossil-free-cambridgeshire-divest-now) and sharing information regarding the project and Transition as a whole.

Finally, we wish you all a very happy festive season!

Discussions

We have held a number of talks across the the past few months starting with our fringe event as part of the PECT Green Festival, a discussion titled ‘Consumerism: What we buy and the alternatives’. It was a very healthy turnout and a very healthy discussion, with lots of input from the attendees and lots to take away and think about. We covered the topic from the angle of the individual consumer, looking at buying habits when it comes to food. Do we shop locally in the market and the butchers or do we go to the supermarket? Do we buy organic? Do we buy in season? We also looked briefly at the fashion industry, both in terms of clothing and in terms of buying for the home. Is it really a taboo to buy second-hand? In the second half we changed tactics, and looked at consumerism as a societal model. Are we just pawns on a chess board? Do we really have a voice? Sadly we had to bring it to an end for the day, but as the enthusiasm and passion was clear, we have decided to run other discussions like this in the future; looking at specific situations like consumerism of the new parent, and revisiting topics which we just scratched the surface of like social structures. If you have any ideas on topics you would like to discuss, please get in touch and we can add them into the mix.

In September 2016, as part of the International Picnic held at The Green Backyard, we held a discussion on Food and Globalisation. Again, it was a very healthy turnout with a really active discussion. We looked at what different cultures across the world would typically eat and how much it would cost. Generally the west were eating the processed packaged diet with the highest price tags and the developing countries eating food in much more natural states, with fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses and grains, which were also the cheaper options, although we did discuss if this was due to choices and availability. Those in attendance mostly commented that they have a fairly natural diet, however were aware they had processed and packaged food too, and aware on their privilege to have this. We also touched on the topic of where our food was coming from, local independent stores or supermarkets, whether to buy organic or not and so much more.

In October, we partnered with Metal for the Lucy + Jorge Orta: Food exhibition for the Waste Not Want Not discussion. This saw people from inspiring grassroot movements from across the country give presentations of their projects and raise awareness about the amount of food that is wasted and what we can do about it. From asking our supermarkets to only bake the bread they know they can sell, to being more accepting of oddly shaped fruit and vegetables. In addition, they spoke about the differences between best before and use by dates and the fact that what is most important is to use our senses to be our own judge about what we eat.

We do plan on holding some more discussions in future, and if you would like to hold a discussion, you do not need to be an expert, just an interest in talking about an issue, please do get in touch.

Forward Planning – April 2016

At our April meeting we decided we needed a main project to focus our energy with a clear objective. We started with thoughts around the main purpose of the transition movement, which is to be environmentally sustainable and to reduce CO2 emissions. And so we took up a new project to get the council to divest their pension fund from fossil fuels. After discovering that the pension fund does not sit with the city council, but the county council, we contacted 350.org, an organisation who help with community divestment campaigns. They put us in touch with Fossil Free Cambridgeshire (FFC), who had been running since early 2015 and we now collaborate with FFC on this campaign/project.

Our plan is 2 fold:

  • We would like to see Peterborough City Council sign up to divestment.
  • Work with FFC to get Cambridgeshire County Council Pension Fund Committee to agree to divest from fossil fuels

If you would like to join in with this project, or simply would like to find out more about it, please just come along to our next meeting.