Going Green

​​I read somewhere that plastic pollution will be reduced by 80 percent in 2040, is it as good news as it sounds? ​There’s no short and sweet yes or no to this question unfortunately as it’s slightly more complicated than the fab headline suggests.
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) looking for food in the trashCattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) looking for food in the trash
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) looking for food in the trash

The United Nations Environment program released a report in May suggesting plastic pollution could be cut by 80 percent in just 17 years.

But – and it’s a big ‘but,’ the caveat is that countries need to sign up to the roadmap, which essentially suggests countries reuse, recycle and look to use alternative materials.

All of which we already know.

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It's easy to dismiss headlines like this as wishful thinking – we could pretty much end fossil fuel dependence if Governments decided to, but we know it’s not that simple.

What this headline does show though, is that it’s entirely possible to reach this incredible figure which is something to be delighted about.

The UNEP report suggests businesses and countries use those three main strategies and if they do, brilliant things can happen.

Their research suggests that simply incentivising people to reuse refillable bottles could reduce plastic pollution by 30 percent of the total figure.

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They state it’d be a “powerful market shift” and it would be. Imagine heading to your local supermarket and, where there are aisles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel bottles, instead there are huge vats of the lotions you simply refill with the bottles you bought with you. It’s not a huge change for the consumer but it’d make a massive difference.

The report also suggests if we scale up recycling plants – making them bigger or building more, we could reduce plastic pollution by a further 20 percent.

What I find both brilliant and a bit disheartening about the report is that none of it is rocket science.

We know we should be doing more, we’ve known that for decades. We’ve seen the heart breaking images of wildlife trapped in plastic pollution.

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The report recommends discontinuing fossil fuel subsidies – again a brilliant recommendation that can’t happen soon enough.

If we switch single use plastic wrapping for items like sachets and wrappers for a sustainable biodegradable alternative we could reduce plastic pollution by 17 percent.

We need reports like this to highlight how easy it could be for us to reach these goals but there’s nothing brand new in them, so we and particularly Governments need to sit up, listen, take notice, and implement the recommendations.

This is a hopeful headline, but it depends entirely on the actions of each and every one of us whether it’s consigned to wishful thinking or whether it becomes fact by 2040.

Celebrity spot

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He spends most of his working life outside, helping gardeners across the country. But as well as working daily in the natural environment, gardener Monty Don believes it’s up to gardeners to protect it. "'We cannot stop climate change, but we can, and must, all do our bit to slow it down.

Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something - and if we all do something, however modest, then we gardeners, can make a real difference."

Green swap

Swap packaged vegetables for loose produce. Rather than opting for the bag of three peppers or the wrapped broccoli in the supermarket opt for the loose version straight into your trolley to help reduce plastic usage.

King Charles cares deeply about climate change

Before he stopped updating his @clarencehouse Instagram in favour of the official Royal Family one recently, the then Prince Charles feed was full of pictures and videos leaning into his eco credentials.

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Amid the official engagements, there are pictures of blossoms in his Highgrove garden, images of His Royal Highness planting trees to celebrate the jubilee, and clips talking to The One Show about the importance of hedges for biodiversity corridors across the UK.

Like his father Prince Philip before him, King Charles has long championed the British countryside and cared deeply about the environment we live in and the impact of climate change.

When Britain hosted COP26 in Scotland last year, he gave the opening speech urging world leaders as "Time has quite literally run out." His support is emphatic and it’s at the core of the issues he cares deeply about.

His Highgrove garden is fully organic and his brand ‘Duchy Organic’ sells produce to Waitrose, but he hasn’t just opted for some of the easier environmental choices either.

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Around 90 percent of the energy for his office and domestic use when he was Prince Charles came from renewable sources, with around half that generated on-site from sources including solar panels, heat pumps and biomass boilers. The remaining ten percent was purchased from renewable sources.

He’s owned the same Aston Martin for five decades, but had it converted to run on surplus whey from the cheesemaking process. He’s also patron of charities including the The Royal Parks, The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. In the weeks before the Coronation, a poll asking “Do you think the British public sees King Charles as a trusted messenger on climate change”? revealed two thirds of people said no and just one third said yes but 2021 research found he’s actually one of the top five most trusted messengers on climate change alongside David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg.

There’s the expectation that the monarch remains neutral and yet his ideals and environmental passion were reflected fully in his coronation; the invitations were printed on recycled cards and included an image of the Green Man – a British folklore symbol of spring and rebirth.

Considering he gave his first speech on the environment in 1970, over 53 years later, the environment, climate change and our natural world around us are still issues he holds dear, and practices rather than just preaches. He’s the first monarch to release details of his annual carbon footprint too. Is he the greenest Monarch ever? Probably – his miles might be a lot more than some of his predecessors but he’s setting an example all future monarchs will hopefully follow, as Prince William is doing through the Earthshot Prize and that’s to take care of the environment.

Fact or fiction

​It takes 1500 litres of water on average to produce a person’s daily food.

Fiction

It takes between 2000 and 5000 litres.