10 lessons I’ve learned from 10 years of cycling to work 

To celebrate Cycle to Work Day, Kent Sustainability Champion, Emily Collins, shares the lessons she’s learned from 10 years of cycling to work. 

I am incredibly lucky to be able to cycle to work. My cycle commute is often the highlight of my day and it’s something I’d go to great lengths to avoid giving up. I’m also aware that there are a whole lot of physical and mental barriers to making it work. So as it’s Cycle to Work Day, I thought I’d share some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years to help you stay safe and get the most joy out of your next two-wheeled journey. 

Get to know Kent’s cycle network! 

We’re lucky that everywhere in Canterbury is within cycling distance and with so many cycle paths tucked away throughout the city, cycling is often the fastest way to get from A to B. Kent also boasts a fantastic network of Sustrans cycle routes which link most of the region’s larger towns on low traffic or traffic-free routes. Whether you’re cycling along the Crab and Winkle to Whistable, the Viking Coastal Trail or the Route 18 to the Designer Outlet in Ashford, Kent’s rail networks mean that you always have the option of taking your bike on the train back to home base. 

Budget for bike maintenance 

You wouldn’t think twice about spending money on making sure your car is safe for the road, so why should your bike be any different? Give your bike the love and tender care it needs and make sure you replace parts when they begin to give up. This doesn’t need to cost the Earth – The Cycle Hub located next to The Pavilion on the Canterbury campus offer very reasonable maintenance services.  

Wear whatever is most comfortable (as long as it’s safe!)… 

Up until a few weeks ago, I would have vouched for wearing anything on a bike. But then I had a long-skirt-induced tumble and realised that sometimes, practicality has to come first. So whether you choose to wear lycra, jeans, or even your birthday suit, make sure you prioritise safety overlooking glam. I recommend investing in a pair of waterproof trousers for winter months, a high vis vest (£5 from Halfords) and some anti-chafing cream for longer rides. 

… but dress for the weather! 

This needs no explaining. Keep an eye on the forecast and always be prepared to add or remove layers. Sunglasses will keep bugs out of your eyes as well as the sun, and don’t forget to pack gloves for colder days. 

Think before you act 

As a cyclist in the UK, you have a legal right to filter through busy traffic and Cyclescheme offer some solid advice on how to do so safely. That doesn’t mean you have to though. Consider the drivers’ perspective; not whether the driver *should* be using their mirrors, but whether the driver *will* be using their mirrors. Then ask, “how much time am I really going to save and how much danger will this put me in?” You always have the option to get off your bike and walk. 

Always expect the unexpected 

Having cycled to work in Buxton, York, London and now in Canterbury, I’ve been amazed at the differences in cycling experience across them all. One thing that has struck me though, is that it’s not just cars you need to pay close attention to, but pedestrians and other cyclists. In York I learned to cycle in the middle of the road to avoid having tourists step out right in front of me, and on my commute from Ealing to South Kensington, learned to give other cyclists a wide berth for fear that they would send me flying into the canal. 

Follow the highway code, signal your intent and be courteous on the roads – but always expect everyone else to do the opposite! 

Protect your bike (and yourself!) 

You wouldn’t leave your phone, wallet or handbag unattended, so don’t think you can do the same with your bike. And from my experience, this goes not just for your bike frame, but the accessories that come with it. Consider getting bike lights which you can take with you when you leave your bike. Invest in a D-lock with a key (I’ve had combination locks jam up in the past), plus consider carrying around an additional lock for situations where adequate cycle parking isn’t guaranteed. 

Take advantage of the Cycle to Work scheme 

If you’re thinking about buying a new bike, take advantage of the Cycle to Work scheme which operates as a ‘salary sacrifice’ employee benefit, reducing the Income Tax and National Insurance you pay and saving you 25-39% on the cost of a new bike. And if you’re not sure if cycling is really for you, consider trialling it with The Cycle Hub’s affordable termly bike hire. 

Learn to give your bike some TLC 

The first time I participated in Cycle to Work Day,  I actually lived 5 minutes down the road from the office but was so keen to get involved, I cycled to meet my colleagues in the nearest town – only for them to point out that I had a flat tyre when I arrived! That day I learned how to change an inner tube, a skill that unfortunately, I’ve had to put to use many times since.  

As well as learning how to check the health of your tyres, brakes and chain, make sure your seat is at a height where you can touch the ground on tiptoes and your bike tyres are pumped to the recommended level (the PSI number can be found on your tyre). This will make such a difference to your efficiency and help you speed up Elliot hill! 

Most importantly, have fun! 

Is marketing the enemy of sustainability?

For National Marketing Day (11 January), Emily Collins, Sustainability Champion and External Relations and Events Co-ordinator in Research and Innovation Services, shares her thoughts on why this doesn’t need to be the case.


When I was young, I always thought that marketing was about selling people too much of what they don’t want or need. Even now, having started a Marketing Manager apprenticeship with Cambridge Marketing College, my inner morality compass has been squirming at the conflict between this traditional view of marketing and my desire to live more sustainably.

Over time, however, I’ve come to realise that good marketing should, as defined by my College, ‘identify and satisfy customer needs and building systems around this principle’. With 65% of consumers wanting to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability (Harvard Business Review, 2019), a customer-focussed approach creates opportunities for companies to boost sustainable activity, both in terms of how they deliver services and products to customers, and influence people’s purchasing behaviour.

Take smol, for example, a business which provides ‘planet-friendly’ cleaning products. I’d never even considered switching from traditional laundry tablets until ads popped up on Facebook offering me a free trial of their plastic-free version. Tell me, who doesn’t need laundry tablets? So I ordered a pack and two years later, I’m still receiving them in the post every month, content that I’m not polluting the planet nor likely to run out of laundry tablets again.

smol’s success hasn’t gone unnoticed; Ariel have recently followed suit by developing their own sustainable ECOCLIC box. I think it’s safe to assume that Ariel’s marketing teams will be carefully analysing how many people purchase this product. If successful, it will give them fuel to influence internal decision-making in favour of widening their sustainable packaging range – putting the power with the consumer!

Despite sustainable products becoming more widespread in response to customer and legislative demands, you only need to look around to realise that they aren’t always at the top of our to-buy list. In fact, whilst 65% of consumers want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, just 26% of consumers actually do (Harvard Business Review, 2019). The reasons for this are numerous, but by gathering and analysing data on customer behaviour, marketers can better understand this ‘intention-action gap’ and identify the most effective ways to close it.

Of course, this needs to be achieved without falling into the ‘greenwashing’ trap – i.e. making people believe your company is doing more to protect the environment than it actually is. In 2021, the European Commission published a report suggesting that 42% of green online claims are exaggerated, false or deceptive. Large and small companies have fallen foul of this trend in the hopes of capturing the interest of eco-conscious consumers with their marketing campaigns – only to be called out and lose customer loyalty and trust in the process.

One reason organisations can get away with this is a lack of climate literacy globally. In a study of German, French, Italian, UK, and U.S citizens, only 14.2% of respondents proved to be truly climate literate. Yet it’s been shown that 94% of consumers are more likely to be loyal to a brand that’s completely transparent, so it is in marketers’ interests to use their position of influence to educate consumers (and internal staff) on the right terminology so that consumers can understand the evidence and credentials for themselves. That is, of course, if their sustainability strategy is anything to shout about!

An example of marketing packaging which promotes climate literacy: a tag from a REGATTA product which explains what their product certifications mean.

Marketing also provides an opportunity for companies to change our traditional view of consumption. We’re already seeing examples of this, from the Vinted ad campaigns for sustainable fashion app, to Octopus Energy’s Saving Sessions, which reward customers for using less power. The same data, creativity and tools used by marketers to drive consumption could prove vital to changing customer and shareholder perceptions of value and help us on our way to adopting a circular economy.

If you’d like to learn more about marketing and how it is being used to inform and drive sustainable action, I recommend you listen to the “Can Marketing Save the Planet?” podcast, founded by Michelle Carvill and Gemma Butler, which hosts guests from a range of industries to discuss the successes, opportunities and challenges faced by the marketing industry. It provides an insight into an industry which is still learning how to be good – and in which I believe being good at your job shouldn’t always mean encouraging people to consume more.

Welcoming Jess to the team!

Hi everyone! My name is Jess, I’m a student here at Kent studying Environmental Social Science, and I have just begun my work placement year with the University Sustainability Team, as Sustainability Projects Officer. I have always loved nature, and been passionate about conservation and sustainability, so I knew this role was a perfect opportunity for me. I admire the team’s hard work and all they have achieved and can’t wait to get involved and contribute my ideas. Through my placement I hope to gain valuable experience of environmental sector work, and the challenges and rewards this can present. I’m excited to practice skills I have learnt throughout my degree so far, and to be able to develop my abilities in other areas, for example biodiversity monitoring and surveying wildlife on campus.  

Reflecting on my first week in the role, I honestly feel so welcomed, and already feel that I am helping to make a difference by engaging other students with the various environmental initiatives and projects currently taking place at Kent, such as the creation of a Diamond Jubilee Orchard- where 300 fruit trees will be planted to celebrate 60 years of the university and the class of 2025. After a couple of days of training and settling in, I attended the Welcome Fair with the team, where we had stalls promoting the orchard and introducing new students to the Kent Community Oasis Garden (KentCOG)- explaining the work we do, opportunities for volunteering, and helping them plant herb seeds to take home, encouraging a passion for gardening and homegrown produce. We also had a guess the weight of the pumpkin competition– harder than it looks! 

Going forward this term, I expect to be spending lots of time at KentCOG volunteering and coordinating other volunteers, as well as organising events and helping to run social media accounts and campaigns for the team- something I really enjoy. I’m so passionate about raising awareness of issues such as the climate crisis and biodiversity loss and the actions that need to be taken, but I am also very mindful of the negative effects of eco-anxiety. I feel that projects like KentCOG can be so beneficial in helping to alleviate that stress, by allowing people to regain a sense of connection with nature and work together as a community to make a positive impact. 

As well as helping with events, social media and KentCOG, I hope to use my year to liaise with various student societies within the sustainability network, with the hopes of helping each other with shared goals and working together to make the biggest impact that we can. I aim to work with the SAC Sustainability Working Group to support their initiatives for wellbeing, greenspaces, food and curriculum, and also engage with and recruit more staff sustainability champions, as they are vital in implementing any organisation-wide change.  

So, I have lots of goals for this year! But a little bit about me- I absolutely love animals of every kind, being outside in nature, spending time with friends and family, travelling, cooking veggie and vegan food, and art. I also love chatting to people, and especially about anything environment or sustainability related, so please reach out if you want to talk about anything or suggest any ideas that I could help to implement this year! Email me at sustainability@kent.ac.uk. 

Celebrating the people who make Sustainability happen – a year of FutureProof

On June 1st we held a celebration BBQ at the Kent Community Oasis Garden in celebration of our staff Sustainability Champions Network and sustainability volunteers that are making sustainability happen across the University as part of the FutureProof project.

The June 1st Celebration

The BBQ was an opportunity to say thank you to everyone for their continued engagement in sustainability projects in what has been a year of having to adapt to a new normal. FutureProof relies on the continued commitment of our staff volunteers who are delivering sustainability projects within their teams and departments.

We had some continuing projects from previous years including the annual lecture on Computing and Climate Change; KBS’ Stage 2 Market Research Project; Anthropology and Conservation’s Sustainability Working Groups including the annual BioBlitz; embedding sustainability into the Global Officers Programme; and the Medway Green Spaces Project which saw new accessible pathways, beds and green gym equipment installed.

New features at the Medway campus.

We held three formal online workshops for champions this academic year. In autumn term we marked COP26 with a special addition to our SDG and a Cup of Tea series: The Road to Net Zero: The Role of Staff. In Spring Term we welcomed our new champions into FutureProof with a two part guide to the project and a focus on the six Sustainable Development Goals that feature in our new Sustainability Strategy.

Workshops of 2021/2022.

We also had new projects and some exciting collaborations:

  • Our first external champion, Debi Adams, who runs the Kent Community Oasis Garden (a partnership project between the University and East Kent Mind) is collaborating with Silvio Caputo, our KSAP champion on a Horizon Research Proposal looking at the delivery of ecotherapy in our garden
  • New champion Lori Fisher from Biosciences will be collaborating with champions from across catering on delivering Love Food Hate Waste engagement materials
  • New champion Margarita Prieto-Acosta has been on a mission to reduce waste and ensure the proper segregation of waste at Kent Law School during office moves
  • Champions from the Division of Human and Social Sciences Operations; Knowledge Exchange and Innovation; and Internationalisation have been collaborating on a Sustainable Events guide to support staff in making easy sustainable decisions when planning and delivering events across campus. The website for this will be launching soon
  • Champions from College and Community Life have been collaborating with the Kent Community Oasis Garden and Landscape and Grounds Champions Chris Wright to deliver Plant a Seed sessions, mindfulness session and bushcraft workshops
CCL activities.

And finally, our monthly newsletter was relaunched featuring campus sustainability updates; positive national and international news; Champion book reviews and blogs; and the much loved sustainability wordsearch.

It has been a difficult year as we navigate living with covid; adapt to hybrid working; and seek to build back the sustainability momentum we had pre-pandemic. However, it has been wonderful to get FutureProof going again and see staff reengage and build upon their projects or start new ventures despite a challenging backdrop.

A massive thank you to everyone that has been involved from the Sustainability Team. We could not do it without you!

Telling Stories about Sustainability #KentGlobalOfficers

This year the Sustainability team is working with the International Partnerships team and their amazing Global Officers program as part of the GOLD Project. We are collaborating to embed sustainability throughout the program due to the overlaps and linkages between Internationalisation and Sustainability.

As part of this, we delivered a session recently to the Global Officers about the sustainability challenges we are currently facing and how storytelling can be an important advocacy role in sustainability campaigning bridging the gap between abstract problems and real life human impacts.

Global Officer Sara Said, 1st year, BSc Biomedical Science with a Sandwich Year, shared the following story:

This is about my experiences I thought would be interesting to share.

Back in school in Kenya while I was doing my A-levels, I was the president of the Interact charity club where we would help underprivileged communities in Kenya by implementing both short-term but mostly focusing on long term solutions. There was this one school we visited within a village with over 1000 students who did not have access to clean water, where the parents would have to walk a long way with buckets just to be able to get water.

There was just something about seeing it in-person how happy they were during the opening of the solar-powered borehole we built on their school grounds that made me appreciate how lucky some of us are to be able to have access to clean water and not worry about getting sick from the water we drink.

There was also a public primary school we visited to donate some desks, chairs and food items which opened my eyes to the inequalities within the education system including the conditions and environment in which some students are forced to learn in due to it being the only one the parents can afford to send their children to. The classrooms were cramped up with more children in a class than they were desks, and the classrooms not having sufficient light or enough resources for all the children. I have included a few pictures I managed to take during the event I hope will be helpful for you to be able to envision it.

 

All these experiences during the charity events and public schools I was lucky to have visited heavily influenced me to take such a great importance in bridging such inequalities and taking an interest in sustainability.  It inspired me to do one last event before moving to university which would help to solve an existing problem. My team and I partnered with another charity organisation and initiated the “pad a girl” initiative solely because we had heard from many public schools that most of their girls could not afford sanitation products and had to stay home and miss school when they were on their periods because of this. We were saddened by this and did our absolute best to help them by providing each girl with 3 months supply sanitary products in 3 schools and also providing empowering and motivating talks to the girls.

This initiative is still ongoing and being developed further by the new members who took over. We found a way to help communities by also combining the projects with tackling the Sustainable Development Goals.


If you would like to share your sustainability story please just email it to sustainability@kent.ac.uk

 

Celebrating Black Environmentalists #BlackHistoryMonth

Sustainability has always been based off of equity. Equity for the planet and people. Without social equality and justice we cannot have environmental sustainability.

The sustainability/environmental movement must be more vocal against systemic racial violence, injustice and inequalities, committing to listen, learn and take action. It is also a time to reflect on issues within the sustainability community.

We know that those most affected by climate change are the poorest and tend to be from the Global South and black and minority ethnic communities, so why does the environmentalist movement lack diversity?

These conversations can be uncomfortable, but we should feel uncomfortable about the current situation. As people who care about the world we live in, we should be actively engaging with this issues and seeking to dismantle the systems that have led to such injustice and inequality for our fellow humans and the environment we rely on.

To mark Black History Month we wanted to share the voices of black environmentalists and celebrate their work. In all the work we do we will continue to seek out more representative voices and sources to provide a fuller picture of delivering sustainability globally.

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson – marine biologist and conservation strategists, founder of Ocean Collectiv and is an adjunct professor at New York University


“Here is an incomplete list of things I left unfinished last week because America’s boiling racism and militarization are deadly for black people: a policy memo to members of Congress on accelerating offshore wind energy development in U.S. waters; the introduction to my book on climate solutions; a presentation for a powerful corporation on how technology can advance ocean-climate solutions; a grant proposal to fund a network of women climate leaders; a fact check of a big-budget film script about ocean-climate themes, planting vegetables with my mother in our climate victory garden.”
Read Ayana’s piece for the Washington Post on how racism is derailing environmental action here – https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/06/03/im-black-climate-scientist-racism-derails-our-efforts-save-planet/

Dr Robert Bullard – described as the father of environmental justice, he is a Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environment Policy at Texas Southern University.


“America is segregated and so is pollution. Race and class still matter and map closely with pollution, unequal protection, and vulnerability.  Today, zip code is still the most potent predictor of an individual’s health and well-being.  Individuals who physically live on the “wrong side of the tracks” are subjected to elevated environmental health threats and more than their fair share of preventable diseases. Still, too many people and communities have the “wrong complexion for protection.” Reducing environmental, health, economic and racial disparities is a major priority of the Environmental Justice Movement.”

Read more about Robert and his work at https://drrobertbullard.com/

Leah Namugerwa – 15 year old climate change activist and Fridays for Future striker

“Today I was moving door to door distributing food I found these children very tired with jerrycans full of water on their heads. They walk two kms to fetch water. They barely have food. I followed them to their home and donated 15kgs of maize flour. They were happy.”
Read more about Leah here https://therising.co/2020/01/02/leah-namugerwa-climate-activism/ and follow her on twitter @NamugerwaLeah

Wangari Maathai  (1940 – 2011) – author of “Unbowed” Professor Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contributions to sustainable development and peace. She founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya.


“Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instill in them even more respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us should do what we can to protect it. As I told the foresters, and the women, you don’t need a diploma to plant a tree.”
Find out more about Wangari’s work and legacy here: https://www.greenbeltmovement.org/wangari-maathai

Zakiya McKenzie – PhD candidate with the Leverhulme Trust-supported Caribbean Literary Heritage project at the University of Exeter researching Black British journalism in the post-war period. Zakiya is a writer and storyteller and was the 2019 writer-in-residence for Forestry England during its centenary year. In Bristol, she was 2017 Black and Green Ambassador

By choosing me for the role, Forestry England have explicitly shown that they are committed to hearing and sharing marginalised voicesBy extending the pen and platform to me they have actively validated my voice to the nature and nature writing public. It’s easy for people to think I’ve got here just because I’m black, that’s fine for now but, holla at me when you’ve actually read what I produce and say that with a straight face. The ‘sharing’ is really important here; Forestry England have a huge operation and are an authority on British nature.”
Read her beautiful poems for the Forestry Commission here: https://www.forestryengland.uk/zakiya-mckenzie

Oladosu Adenike – Ecofeminist and leading Nigerian Climate Activist who heads the “ILeadClimate” movement for peace, security and equality in Africa

“In Africa, climate change is no longer a threat but a reality. Invariably climate change is now a global reality. I’m not only worried about the future but the present because any action we take will bind us all. The hope therein is that the climate movement has the face of young people because the youth are tomorrow’s adults. Remarkably, women and girls are at the forefront of the fight for climate justice.”

Read more from her speech during Ecocide, a performance art event in Stuttgart, Germany here: https://www.environewsnigeria.com/climate-change-nowhere-is-safe-if-africa-isnt-adenike-oladosu-warns/

Food & Fashion? Improving sustainable consciousness – my realisations, experiences, and what I’ve learnt incorporating sustainable practices into my lifestyle.

I’m Bilal Hussain, a Politics & International Relations graduate and Global Officer at the University of Kent. I’m passionate about sharing what I’ve learned from my experiences so far and working together with students and staff at the University of Kent to build a greener future for all!

For many like myself, trying to incorporate sustainable lifestyles is a notion that is met with complaints about the difficulty and impracticality that has long been associated with greener life choices. Prior to the UN setting out the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 there was arguably a level of ignorance and dismissal towards sustainable alternatives in our daily lives, something that I personally am accountable for as well. Fast forward to 2021, we now have more variety and accessibility to greener technologies, transport, and diets but more importantly a stronger awareness within our societies of the real-world impact climate change has had. My own journey to improving my sustainable consciousness was filled with realisations that it was in fact not as hard as I thought, and that making a small adjustment to my daily lifestyle choices would help make big changes to achieving a greener future. The two big ways I saw this unfold in front of me was in my food and fashion choices.

A problem that I often encountered was trying to incorporate a greener, more sustainable diet. As a fairly active person, one of the things that put me off sustainable options was the lack of meat-free protein alternatives that were actually enjoyable. However, as time as gone on and the meat-free industry has started to revolutionise and innovate further I discovered a greater and more affordable variety of options that not only tasted great but, in some cases, better than the meat versions! Some of my favourites include the Vivera Vegan Shawarma and Richmond’s Meat-free sausages. My adventure into the world of sustainable eating on the recommendation of a friend quietly started to become part of my regular food shop and I even found myself trying more sustainable foods at restaurants compared to my usual orders. As a Muslim this was extra encouraging for me because I had to often choose the vegetarian options because there was a lack of halal choices. So, for me and I’m sure many Muslims, the greater availability of vegetarian alternatives has made the realm of food much more exciting in the UK than ever before! This gradual adjustment to incorporating an environmentally friendly diet occurred unconsciously simply because I found myself actually enjoying the alternatives, which is perhaps a testament to the improvements of meat-free products in recent times. I started to become more conscious of making more sustainable choices in my diet, seeking out plant-based recipes and trying them with friends. I will say that not all the alternatives are the best sometimes, banana peel pulled pork being an interesting experiment to say the least! I’ll be honest I haven’t totally committed to a meat-free lifestyle just yet and I still enjoy the foods I liked before, but I have faith in the growing variety and quality of sustainable alternatives that will allow me to enjoy and incorporate more into my diet. The main thing is, to make a growing conscious effort to transition to a more sustainable lifestyle helped me to realise that it wasn’t as hard as I thought!

Another example where I realised how sustainable practice was right in front of me was when it came to fashion. I, like many my age these days, enjoy wearing reworked clothes and clothes made using sustainable materials. I was already buying clothes from independent businesses that were committed to giving part of their profits towards greener causes. As someone who also sells clothes, I was naturally recycling old packaging, something that I didn’t even consciously realise was a sustainable practice in daily life. Personally I had shopped sporadically at so-called ‘fast fashion’ stores, and as I realised the environmental damage that was caused from over-shopping at these places I couldn’t help but naturally move towards buying more sustainable clothing, whether that was materials, reworked, or just second hand. All of a sudden alongside the wave of greater awareness of sustainable fashion I realised that I had subconsciously been practicing sustainability in my fashion as well, which like my journey with food made me realise that sustainable practice isn’t as difficult as I once thought.

Of course, it is worth noting that these actions are of small significance in the greater process – I am not claiming to have saved the planet because I had vegan food one time! Instead, the point I want to make is that sustainable practice in our daily lives is very much doable, and that every person that consciously makes an effort no matter how small keeps us all going in the right direction in reducing the damage we do to our environment. The ever-growing variety and quality of sustainable lifestyle options around us thanks to innovations in technology are helping make everyday activities more sustainable. The move towards electric vehicles for example is gradually becoming a norm for us (I don’t know about you, but I am seeing a lot more Tesla’s and charging ports nowadays!). I have also found that becoming more conscious in behaving sustainably can help others also realise that these small actions can collectively make a huge difference, particularly those who perhaps do not see the point as I was in a similar mindset not so long ago. Regularly reminding yourself for doing a small sustainable behaviour as doing a favour to the environment sounds odd, but you actually feel a lot better about yourself and the world around you! Consciously making sustainable choices and realising that it isn’t as difficult as we thought will help us all gradually transition to a greener future for us and generations to come, and this is particularly encouraging with the developments and innovations in the products that are available to us. As we have greater varieties, quality, and importantly accessibility to just as good if not better alternatives for our daily lives hopefully we can naturally incorporate sustainable practice into how we live our lives. The small mindset adjustment of “how can I help the environment” when making our lifestyle choices can make a powerful change to achieving a more sustainable society without us even realising.

Plastic Free July Inspired Films for Families

Cross posted from The Gulbenkian’s original blog

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Kick start environmental conversations with your family this Plastic Free July with our family film screenings of Moana and Ponyo!

In Moana, the daughter of a Polynesian Chief undertakes an oceanic odyssey to save her endangered isle from environmental devastation enlisting the aid of the legendary demigod Maui along the way. Moana and Maui’s quest to restore ecological balance and preserve traditional culture highlights how indigenous peoples are among those most impacted by global warming.

Talking Points: Protecting our land and indigenous tribes, climate change, and natural resources.

Book Tickets for Moana – Sun 18 July, 3pm

Fantastic for younger children, Ponyo is a colourful story of a little boy who befriends a magical fish, who evolves into a young girl.  An environmentalist twist on the little mermaid tale from Studio Ghibli, touching on themes of pollution, global warming, personal responsibility and rising sea levels.

Talking Points: Rising sea levels, climate change and pollution.

Book Tickets for Ponyo – Sun 25 July, 3pm

Find out more about Plastic Free July and how you can join the global movement to reduce plastic pollution so we can have cleaner streets, oceans and communities.

Also as we look ahead to the Tokyo Olympics, check out the new release Japanese animation Earwig and the Witch from the creators of Studio Ghibli favourites Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro.
Tickets for family film screenings are £3.50 / Baby on laps(0-18months) +£1

How Technology Can Support Environmental Activism

Guest post: Jane is the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she shares practical tips on how to live a greener life. 


Technology drives the modern age. Since the pandemic, we spend more time staring at screens than ever before. Laptops now help us access education safely from anywhere in the world.

The benefits of technology are evident, and individuals wonder how they may expand. When developing or supporting a social movement, many citizens turn to the web. Though this may present conflict, it also promotes community and action.

Slacktivism to Activism

Society once viewed social media-driven activism as “slacktivism.” The term derives from two words — activist and slacker. Individuals believed social media campaigns were lazy, supporting a cause through simple measures rather than true devotion.

The past few years proved a different use for social media in activism. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more exposed society to the harsh reality of the world.

Technology and Environmental Activism

The online environmental movement has significant effects. In the early years, corporations capitalized on eco-conscious development, spreading misinformation for profit. Cooperatives offer alternatives to proprietor-owned companies.

Rather than working to please investors, environmental cooperatives focus on their mission. They may work with individuals to generate beneficial change. Online spaces provide everyone with a place to speak, regardless of their financial background.

Social Media

Before social media, movements remained local. Today, they can become international overnight. A few tweets and posts generated a significant turnout at Standing Rock.

In 2016, the U.S. government announced plans to install a pipeline crossing the Missouri River. Officials mapped the pipeline route, allowing it to run beneath Lake Oahe. The lake is the Sioux Reservation’s primary water source, and an oil stream could pollute it, causing adverse environmental and health effects.

Individuals on and around the reservation used internet posts to gain the attention of environmental activists. They used #NoDAPL to signify the movement. People from all around the U.S. saw #NoDAPL tweets and posts, making the trip to the reservation with food, medical supplies and other aid.

Social media also provides a supportive space for individuals to connect and get help. At times protesting, researching and connecting can feel defeating. Online communities allow mental stress and isolation to dissipate.

Many environmental activists used social media to distribute a message in lockdown. Greta Thunberg planned a school strike on Earth Day in 2020, and, due to the pandemic, she asked individuals to remain inside. Rather than leaving school to protest, Greta took the day off virtual classes and raised environmental awareness online.

Various activists utilize education, exposing society to ecological degradation. Many people use Facebook live and IGTV to share their values and goals, influencing others to volunteer in local protests. This technique displayed success through the recent Black Lives Matter protests.

Film

Video technology exposes individuals everywhere to environmental degradation. Film experts developed the documentary “Chasing Coral” to expose marine damage caused by climate change. The video shows footage of global coral bleaching.

When coral experiences stress from temperature, light or nutrient changes, it expels algae and turns white. The degression leaves it susceptible to disease and death. “Chasing Coral” offers suggestions for lowering society’s contribution to the issue.

Another documentary, “RiverBlue,” breaks the Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) wall between fashion consumption and production. The fast fashion industry contaminates 70% of freshwater sources in China. “RiverBlue” explores various regions of Asia, exposing the harm our blind purchases cause.

Another river in Bangladesh located near textile mills and leather tanneries holds the record for most localized pollution. Tanneries utilize harsh chemicals, disrupting the nervous systems and hormones of workers. Few individuals know of these environmental harms when they go shopping. Filmmakers use powerful footage to expose society and promote a response.

Online Voting

The pandemic generated the e-ballot era. Some people preferred to vote from their laptops or phones rather than in person. Though online petitions may lack government legitimacy, they gain success in other realms.

Online petitions successfully raise environmental awareness. Coupling this activism method with community outreach programs, protests, phone calls, organized media campaigns and more can create change. It also helps those without voting rights have a say.

Small Actions, Big Impacts

We are past the days of slacktivism, finding various uses for technology in environmental activism. Though some of the online efforts appear small, together, they generate a significant impact. Like Bernie Sanders and Greta Thunberg, many individuals successfully increase climate awareness and reach voters using technology.

National Gardening Week: Cultivating a green space at home or in your office

Whether you are working from home, studying remotely or back on campus, there is a simple way of improving your space and creating a routine that is good for you and good for your plants, without the requirement of a garden.

The benefits of having plants indoors are numerous. They do not just look good, there are proven benefits for your health by having house plants around your working environment.

Plants can reduce stress and anxiety and data from scientists, including NASA, has confirmed that many houseplants can purify the air around us. Just the sight of greenery or the sense that you are surrounded by natural things can foster calmness, improved memory and a reduction in stress.

However, some people find the thought of caring for houseplants a bit stressful in itself, and some have seen many former houseplants make their way to the compost heap after struggling to survive in their homes or offices.

Below are some of the easiest plants to keep alive no matter what your office/desk space is like. Hopefully, these will convert even the most hesitant of would-be plant keepers!

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

Can survive very well in low light and will tell you when it needs water by drooping its leaves – perfect for people who tend to over water their plants. Peace lilies just need some food during the summer and deadheading of flowers that have faded – chop those brown flowers off!

Peace lilies are great at removing ammonia, benzene and formaldehyde from the air but careful if you have pets about. Lilies are incredibly poisonous!

Snake Plant (Sanseveieria)

Will survive happily in barely any light but will also flourish in bright indirect sunlight. They thrive on neglect so if that is your style of plant parenting, then this is the plant for you! Snake plants tend to grow slowly so are not going to suddenly take up a lot of space and will actively remove benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene from the air.

Devil’s Ivy (Pothos)

Pothos plants are dramatic, fast growing and virtually indestructible! They are great for people that want an instant lift to their space and can be brought back from the dead by creating cuttings from the plant and starting again. Pothos’ like some humidity, so get a cheap mister or spray bottle and she will appreciate a light mist a couple of times a week.

There are some wonderful youtube channels and other resources that will help you find the right plant for your space and give you advice on how to help the plant flourish. Some of my favourites include:

  • Crazy Plant Guy
  • Planterina
  • And Christopher Griffin (aka Plant Kween) who if you search for, is in lots of other videos and also has a great Skillshare class that includes cultivating a routine

Cultivating a routine

Once you have a plant, or many plants, in your space it is important to create a stress free plant care routine that works for you and your plant. Your plant will need watering as well as occasional feeding, checking for pests and problems, misting where needed and pruning and repotting when the time is right.

By creating a routine to care for your plants, not only are you giving them the care they need, but I find, the time I spend weekly carrying out their basic maintenance is a great time for my own mindfulness and relaxation. At last count I have 37 houseplants and so it takes me about 45mins a week to get round them all, checking their soil, watering them and making sure they are happy. That is 45 minutes where I am completely focused on a simple task that brings me joy for the whole week being surrounded by healthy plants. 45 minutes where I am completely in the moment and not worrying about anything else.

Your routine could be as simple as Monday morning, when you make that first cup of tea, spending 5 minutes whilst you wait for your tea to cool, checking how your snake plant is getting on and giving it a drink.

Best place to find house plants

If you have a friend or colleagues that loves houseplants, chances are they are cultivating new plants from cuttings/propagation. You may be able to get some starter plants for free or a small charge. There are lots of great websites for plants but these can be quite pricey so I would recommend some smaller independent shops. Two that I like in East Kent are Marmarmargate and the Plantlet Shop. If you have any other recommendations, please do let me know, especially if you know of any places in the Medway area.

I would suggest avoiding some of the larger garden centres/DIY stores for houseplants as often they are root bound and where they have been allowed to sit water are often suffering the beginnings of root rot which is setting you up for failure if you are not confident in dealing with this.

I hope that this National Gardening Week gives you the inspiration and motivation to start creating your own cultivated green corner, even if it is on your desk.