Sustainable Living

As some one who is passionate about environmental conservation and nature I try to do all I can to live more sustainably, but I also appreciate how difficult it can be. Isn’t it tough, you just want to grab some veg from the supermarket, but it’s wrapped in plastic and has hundreds of air miles to go with it; you want a new dress but picking up from the high street comes with an impact on the environment. I have written about the environmental impact of the clothing industry on one of my previous posts and I have also written about biodiversity loss elsewhere. So this post will focus on some simple steps to live more sustainably.

10 Simple steps:

1) car free life

But isn’t this tough? I know I need to do better, I have a long daily commute to and from work and need a car to get there. How can I do better? I have condensed my hours into 4 working days which takes away two journeys. I also avoid using my car on weekends and walk where I can. In the future I would like to look into alternatives, for example an electric car.

2) Have one less child

Now this is a contentious one. Have you heard about the population campaign Attenborough is heading? Read more here

3) Eat a plant based diet

I have been a vegetarian from the age of 10, both my Nan and my Mum were vegetarian so moving into this way of life was easy. I have recently started to focus on a more plant based diet, for example I no longer eat as much dairy. This however is a tricky one for me as vegan milks have air miles and often come with a number of unnatural additives. I therefore, have chosen to occasionally consume dairy from local, organic farms.

4) An organic diet

Organic food is easy to come by now, but it can be more expensive. I opt to buy organic where I can, including fruit and veg, cosmetics and organic cotton clothing.

5) Recycle

This is so easy with waste collection from your front door, there’s no excuse.

6) Reduce consumption

I don’t often buy clothes, when I do I try to buy from sustainably produced clothing companies. I am also on a mission to craft and make more, I love crafting and reusing and giving something new life is a great way to consume less.

7) Conserve energy

Wear that extra jumper, leave the heating off, turn the lights off. These things are so easy but it can involve a behavioural shift. I try to leave the heating and lights off unless really necessary.

8) Avoid air travel 

I rarely travel abroad but I know many of us have a desire to see the world. I would say, as long as you are aware of how much you travel, you are taking a step in the right direction.

9) Compost

Like recycling, this is so easy in the UK with council collections from our doorstep. Alternatively create a compost heap in your garden, its great for wildlife too.

10) Spread awareness

Talk about this, talk about sustainable living, talk about our impact and raise awareness.

Some of the above points may be more of less achievable for some of us. I think if you’re achieving some of them, you’re doing well. Reflect on your impact on the environment, connect with it and make simple changes where you can. ūüĖ§


Bugs, Butterflies and Beautiful Flowers

Chalk grassland is one of the richest habitats in Western Europe. Now, thanks to agricultural intensification, fertiliser and chemical application, fragmentation and unsuitable management we have lost much of what once was. The UK holds 50% of the worlds remaining chalk grassland, now isn’t that a reason for us to stand up and manage it well?

On average chalk grassland is home to 40 species per m2, astounding! Many of these species are rare plants and animals that can’t live elsewhere. For example, the Small blue butterfly which needs Kidney vetch to lay its eggs on or the Adonis blue which needs Horseshoe vetch. Not only butterflies but reptiles, skylarks, grasses and wildflowers all call chalk grassland their home.

Some of the wonderful plant species found on chalk grassland include: quaking grass, betony, marjoram, harebell, wild basil, eyebright, Deptford pink and milkworts. Not mentioning the wonderful orchids such as the Pyramidal (left) and Bee orchid (right).


One of my favourite things about chalk grassland is the closer you look, the more you see.

Chalk grassland is a managed habitat, without human input eventually scrub would take a hold and the area would transition to woodland. So, good management requires some form of grazing (at the correct level), scrub management and rotational mowing at certain times of year to create a mosaic of micro habitats and variation in sward height.

The flowers pictured are two of the more common species of orchid, but there are lots of really diverse and magnificent specimens to look for.

Get out there! Enjoy, admire and protect.



Killer Clothing!

We all wear clothes, well most of us do most of the time. Many of us buy clothes on a regular basis as fashion changes but fashion has a dark secret, it’s killing our planet.

‘Fast fashion’ has become the norm; many of us don’t think twice about buying more clothes and throwing clothes away. Delve a little deeper and you may wish it wasn’t.

The clothing industry impacts the environment throughout every stage of the garment life cycle:

  • Growing the raw material often uses vast amounts of water, pesticides, leads to soil degradation, reduction in habitat cover in favour of farming, water pollution
  • Fiber production: requires energy and chemicals
  • Packaging and distribution: emits greenhouse gasses, requires energy and creates pollution
  • Retail: uses energy and resources
  • Use: washing garments leads to water pollution and pollution by microfibres
  • End of life: the garment is eventually thrown away, in 2009 1 million tonnes of textiles ended up in landfill in the UK


The raw materials used in the clothing industry can have a significant environmental impact. Many UK retailers are taking steps to increase the amount of organic and sustainable cotton they use in their products and step away from conventionally grown cotton. This will facilitate a reduction in water use, pesticide, chemical and fertiliser use. One example of the detrimental impacts of conventional cotton farming comes from the Aral Sea in Central Asia. The Aral Sea is a RAMSAR site with over 103,000 overwintering wildfowl, the freshwater also provides drinking water for local human populations. There is a long history of cotton agriculture in the area, to enable this, vast areas of land have been irrigated over a number of years this has resulted in the freshwater lake almost entirely drying up leading to the virtual destruction of this valuable ecosystem and its associated services. Deltas, steppe, fertile river valleys associated with the water body have all been lost. This example clearly demonstrates the impacts conventional cotton farming can have on the environment because of water usage. 80% of organic cotton is rain fed, UK retailers choosing to use organic cotton would help to reduce water abstraction and pressure on aquatic ecosystems so preventing devastation of valuable wetland habitats.

Clothing production involves chemical application at the production and manufacturing stage (Muthu, 2014). 22.5 % of insecticide used globally is applied to cotton, a quarter of all pesticides used in the US are applied to cotton. Dyeing and treatment of fabrics is responsible for up to 20% of global water pollution. If corporations can work towards a reduction in chemical use across the entire lifecycle of the garment a positive impact will be seen in a variety of ecosystems; not only water bodies but soil functioning and food chains where the negative impacts will be reduced.

The WWF have a really great page on some of the environmental impacts, if you’d like to find out more.

So, how difficult is it to buy sustainably produced clothes that aren’t responsible for damaging the environment? It is tricky, but if you are taking the time to look into the company’s corporate environmental responsibility before you buy, you can make an informed decision about where to purchase your clothes.

There are a couple of UK based companies trying to do their bit, here are some of my favourites:


People Tree

Shop responsibly and help our beautiful planet.


Biodiversity loss

Healthy and beautiful environments provide me with such a  sense of wonder, it is so special to see a wildlife thrive.But the global trend is one of severe decline; scientists estimate that 10,000 species go extinct every year. These rates are believed to be 1,000-10,000 times larger than the natural extinction rate. Far greater than any other time in the geological record, and unlike any other time, it is caused almost entirely by one species- ours.

In the last 35 years, biodiversity has declined by more than a quarter. Population growth and consumption are the main causes for this loss; creating habitat loss, pollution, climate change and species exploitation.

The Living Planet Report


Two examples of species currently facing threats are the pangolin and orangutang.

There are 8 species of pangolin found on 2 continents. They range from vulnerable to critically endangered on the ICUN red list. Pangolins are one of the most heavily trafficked animals in the world. Their meat is a delicacy in China and Vietnam and their scales are used in traditional medicines. Over 230,000 animals were seized between 2011-2013, experts believe this figure represents only 10% of the total number of pangolin being illegally traded.

Pangolin Pit  This photo was part of last year’s Wildlife Photographer of the year Exhibition in London. It captivated me; telling such a horrific story.

Orangutang are the largest tree climbing mammal. They are facing threats thanks to ongoing deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia. Both species of orang are now classified as endangered (Bornean) or critically endangered (Sumatran).One of the main drivers of habitat loss is demand for palm oil; this crop has many different uses and is used in many of the foods we eat, in food packaging and cosmetics. In Sumatra 10.8 million hectares of rainforest have been converted into palm plantation; destroying the natural habitat of special rainforest species. I have tried to stop buying food with palm oil in it in the hope that I am not supporting this industry.

The State of Nature report was released in the UK last year. The report suggested that between 1970 and 2013, 56% of species in the UK faced population declines. Of the 8000 species assessed, 15% were extinct or threatened with extinction. Agriculture and climate change are the main drivers of biodiversity loss in the UK.

There are a number of UK species that are really suffering.


Natterjack toads are now confined to coastal dune areas and sandy heaths. Only found on about 60 sites in the UK. It used to be quite common in Surrey and Hampshire heaths but is now almost entirely gone.

In just the last 10 years, the numbers of hedgehogs has fallen by 30%. This is thanks to habitat loss and intensification of agricultural practices. They are disappearing from our countryside as quickly as tigers are worldwide.

Watervoles have undergone one of the most serious declines of any native mammal in the 20th century.  Intensification of agriculture, loss and degradation of habitat, degradation of rivers and waterways and the introduction of the American Mink (1990s spread). Between 1989 and 1998 the population fell by almost 90%.


As someone who cares greatly about the habitats and species around us, I am really saddened to learn about the impact we are having on nature. I am sure together we can do more to reduce species loss.