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5 ways to boost your mood during lockdown

I think it’s fair to say that life’s a bit of a rollercoaster for many of us at the moment. Full of ups and downs and the accompanying highs and lows in our mood that come with navigating our way through the uncertainty of a global pandemic.

Many of us are spending most of our time at home now, without the usual social interactions that come with our normal workplace (and even if we can go to work, it’s with huge restrictions and socially distanced), or going about our daily routines of school drop-offs, shopping and visits to the gym / coffee shop / pub / parks etc. And with all of this isolation and separation can come a knock to our mood.

So here are a few simple ideas to help lift your mood if you’re feeling a little low:

  • Turn up those tunes! Music is a well-known mood-booster, so find a favourite upbeat song to listen to, crank up the volume and just take some time to let those feel-good vibes nourish your soul! Music has always been a main go-to for me to lift my spirits and it really does work!
  • Have a laugh – there’s a lot of research to back this one up and apparently, laughter really is the best medicine for when we’re feeling low. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural feel-good chemicals and promote an overall sense of wellbeing. So why not put on your favourite comedy show and let those endorphins work their magic.
  • Get moving! A favourite for me and my family is to get dancing! If I can see we need a little pick-me-up, I’ll turn the radio on and we’ll just dance around the kitchen together – it works wonders! Another idea is to find a short video online, I’ve found some great dance HIIT and Zumba workouts on YouTube that I can easily fit in when I have 20 minutes to myself. Without doubt I come away feeling so much better than when I started.
  • It’s good to talk – communication is so important in getting through these strange times and a phone call / video call with your best mate or a loved one can really help you to feel connected. If you need to, vent your frustrations and get them off your chest, or talk through how you’re feeling and get some support from family and friends – we really are all in this together!
  • Look at old photos – whether that’s looking through photos on your phone or laptop, or flicking through an old photo album from years ago that’s gathering dust in the back of a cupboard, take a few minutes out to look back at happy times you’ve had. Focus on those good times and happy memories and feel gratitude for those times for a dose of feel-good vibes.

Let us know if you’ve got any other mood-boosting ideas to share with us! Look after yourselves.

5 ways to look after you mental health while at home

Our daily lives are almost unrecognisable in comparison with a couple of months ago. If you’re lucky enough to be working, it’s likely you’re  now working from home and  finding new ways to do your job, as well as interact with colleagues and loved ones. Spending most of your time indoors can bring its own challenges though, so we’ve put together our top five tips to help you look after your mental health.

Keep active
Exercising can have great benefits for your mental health because the release of endorphins during physical activity can help lift your mood. The latest Government guidance says we can go outside to exercise, so you can use this opportunity to stretch your legs and breathe in some fresh air. Don’t feel the pressure to run, cycle or do anything too strenuous if you don’t feel up to it though – do what’s right for you. The NHS recommends 150 minutes exercise per week, which can be done by walking. But if you’re looking for some inspiration for home workouts, we’ve got a whole blog about them here. Also make sure you get up from where you’re working and move around regularly – at least once an hour!

Communication is key
Working from home can leave you feeling quite isolated, so it’s important to stay connected with other people. Regular chats and reassurance from others can help calm feelings of anxiety, so use video calls where possible. Apps like Skype, Zoom, FaceTime and WhatsApp all allow you to see your colleagues and friends face to face. And it might sound obvious, but just because you can’t see your colleagues and loved ones, doesn’t mean they’re not there.

Create a good working environment
It can be hard to replicate your office set-up at home, but our top tip is to try to create a space where you want to work. Natural light and fresh air, as well as a good desk chair and correctly set-up screen will help you feel more comfortable. Try to personalise your space with photos and desk plants. Bringing nature into your life can benefit your mental wellbeing by improving your mood, reducing feelings of stress or anger, and help you feel more relaxed. And if you can, try to have separate work and living spaces – this will help you distinguish between the two in your mind so you can ‘leave’ the office at the end of the day.

Keep your mind occupied with the right stuff
Find ways to relax, be creative and keep your mind stimulated with positive things. Whether it’s crafting, trying new recipes, writing or just putting some music on to sing and dance to, research has shown these activities can help boost your mental health. Arrange calls, catch-ups, and quizzes with your friends and family. Also, if the news worries you – try to limit how much you watch and read, and only from sources you trust.

Eat well and stay hydrated!
You might find your appetite changes slightly as your routine changes, but it’s still really important to eat regularly and stay hydrated. As well as the physical health benefits of a healthy diet, mental health charity Mind tell us eating healthily can improve your mood, give you more energy, and help you think more clearly. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals and plan in healthy snacks throughout the day that’ll stop you reaching for the biscuit tin. The same goes for staying hydrated – if you don’t drink enough fluid, you might find it difficult to concentrate or think clearly.

There’s lots of help and support available, so make the most of it! As well as the care network of your family, friends, and colleagues there are loads of free resources out there to help. Most companies have Employee Assistance Programmes to support their employees and there are also loads of great apps to help with mindfulness, meditation and relaxation techniques.

And finally, remember – we’re in lockdown. Just getting through this is an achievement in itself. So give yourself some well-deserved credit. Find what works for you and do that. Take care and stay safe.

The ultimate guide to working out at home

With so many resources available for home workouts, finding something that fits around your current work or family commitments during this uncertain time shouldn’t be a workout in itself. Exercise is one of our only saviours at the moment and structuring your new home workout routine to include exercise can be hugely beneficial for both your physical and mental health.

I’m the first to admit to being gym-obsessed and my pre-coronavirus week would be centred around 6-7 sessions. Naturally I was filled with panic at the thought of not being able to go to my regular classes and training sessions. Luckily the digital world in which we exist has made it really easy and dare I say fun, to adapt my training based on my limited space and equipment.

Now in week 4 of working from home, self-isolation and social distancing, here is my ultimate guide to home workouts and some of my favourite apps and resources to help you design your own home workout style:

STRUCTURE: Plan home workouts into your daily routine and stick to it. Think about what’s going to work for you. There isn’t a right or wrong time to workout, just whenever is easy for you to commit to on a daily basis. Consistency is key to nurturing a new routine.

NO EQUIPMENT NECESSARY: Having no equipment doesn’t mean you can’t do a home workout. In fact, your own bodyweight is the only thing you need to get a sweat on and your heart pumping. From short bursts of High Intensity or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) to Yoga, Pilates and body weight challenges. Don’t underestimate the power of bodyweight training as an effective way to maximise your workout in a short space of time.

TRY SOMETHING NEW: Try to incorporate something new each week rather than doing the same thing each day. This could be as simple as a single exercise variation or a completely different style of workout. Use this time to change up your workout styles.

HAVE A WORKOUT BUDDY: Find yourself a workout buddy to make you more accountable and to help keep you motivated. Whether a friend, family member or colleague, schedule your times to work out together over Zoom, Skype or FaceTime. Why video? Because when you see others working out and they can see you, you’ll definitely put in more effort.

CREATE A DEDICATED ‘WORKOUT SPOT’: Now this all depends on your available space and it may require you to move some furniture around, but a dedicated workout spot will help you focus and get in the mindset. If you can, try and keep this space visible and set up so there’s no excuse to not workout!

Recommended apps and resources

For Everyone: Youtube
There are millions of FREE home workout videos and channels on Youtube. Some of my favourites include:

MADFIT
FitnessBlender
XHIT Daily

For the Runners & Cyclists: Strava
Many people are hitting the streets for their daily outside exercise allowance. Track your run, walk or cycle route with the free Strava app and each day compare your distance and pace.

For Livestreams:
Following a livestream workout is the closest experience to actually being in a gym class with fellow members. Greater atmosphere, sense of community and nowhere to hide! Lots of gyms are offering their regular classes as livestream editions – many are free for their members but much like classpass, you can also pay to join a single livestream class.

For Dance: Seen on Screen
SoS offers dancers of all levels the chance to learn routines inspired by stars including Beyoncé, Rihanna and Britney Spears. The dance studio is providing its followers with the opportunity to learn the routines at home by following live-streamed tutorials on its School of SOS Instagram page and on video chat platform Zoom. 

For the Kids:
Home workouts for kids don’t get much better than PE with Joe by The Body Coach Joe Wicks. Streamed live everyday on his Youtube Channel, you and the kids can take part live and make this fun energetic workout part of your daily routine.

For the Soul:
Anyone just want to dance around their kitchen or living room like you’re partying the night away? Why not set up a dance party with your friends over Zoom or Facebook Messenger and take it in turns being DJ. Dancing is food for the soul!

An Easter to remember! Some fun ideas for a lockdown family Easter

For many of us, Easter is usually a time to unwind with family, catch up with loved ones and enjoy some quality time together. But Easter 2020 is no ordinary Easter. We’ve been in ‘lockdown’ for three weeks and for some, holiday plans won’t be as hoped and the kids (and for that matter, parents too!) are ready for a break!

But Easter gives us a great opportunity to focus on something a little different, with loads of resources out there to help us entertain the kids and make this time together special and memorable. Here’s a few suggestions for things to do this Easter:

Get baking! Don the aprons and raid the cupboards – there’s so many things you can make together no matter what your level of culinary expertise is (pretty low here!), from colourful Easter biscuits and chocolate nests to hot cross buns and Easter simnel cake if you’re feeling adventurous! There are lots of great recipes available at www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/easter-baking to suit everybody’s needs.

No Easter would be complete without an Easter egg hunt! Without doubt my daughters’ favourite Easter tradition (I wonder why!) and it’s easy to set up – but you can make it as easy or as complicated as you like depending on the age of your kids (or how much energy you want to put into it!), what space you have available give current restrictions (and the weather!), and how much chocolate you want them to consume! There are some great options to help you which are available in the supermarkets and also online at www.dayoutwiththekids.co.uk/blog/10-easter-egg-hunt-ideas-free-easter-egg-hunt-kit, www.madeformums.com/school-and-family/easter-egg-hunt-clues/ and www.thepurplepumpkinblog.co.uk/easter-egg-hunt-kit-free-printables/

Feeling creative? There’s so many ways to get crafty and creative at Easter and it’s one of my favourite times of the year for this because there’s so much inspiration around – whether you want to make an Easter bonnet, create colourful Easter pictures or get interactive online, you’ll be able to keep the kids happy for hours! Some of our favourites are www.thepurplepumpkinblog.co.uk/free-easter-printables/ and www.wiseoceans.com/dive-into-the-classroom/eggcellent-easter-activities/ for something a bit different.

Games for all the family – why not play some games, especially if the weather’s nice and we can get outside in the garden! You could have a family egg and spoon race (with real, decorated eggs, if you dare!), create an obstacle course or head back indoors and play some family board games.

Whatever you’re doing this Easter, we hope you have a relaxing and fun time together (even if some of it is via video call!) – and stay safe. We’d love to see your pictures – share what you got up to in the comments.

Finding a new ‘normal’

What a very surreal few days/weeks it’s been! Adapting to a new normal, with restricted movements and trying to ensure that we and our loved ones, and wider community, stay safe and well.

We’re all learning quickly, finding what works for us, and how to stay sane and look after our wellbeing during this worrying and difficult time.

After a week of us all being at home together, I feel like we’re getting a handle on it (most of the time!) and these are some things I’ve learnt so far (it’s been a rollercoaster!):

  • Everybody’s ‘normal’ will be different. It took us a few days to suss out what we all need from our day to make it work so everyone’s kept reasonably happy (two of us working from home with two young daughters about – had to lower my expectations, too!), and that will look different for all of us depending on our circumstances. Think about the key things you need in your day to make it positive and productive, both for your working life and home life (food/fresh air/to-do lists/chatting with friends, family and colleagues/wine etc!). Accept that there will be good days and bad days through this!

  • If you’re working from home, make sure you get your set-up as right for you as you can, and ideally somewhere you can walk away from/close the door on! I’m used to working from home, but I’ve invested in some new equipment to make it much more comfortable and a nicer experience. Remember to switch off from work – our working and home lives are now very intertwined, but we need down time now as much as ever. It’s easy to keep nipping back to the laptop (guilty!) so set boundaries and stick to them.

  • Take regular breaks and stay connected – at work you’d have a chat with colleagues that would naturally break up your day and you’d take a lunch break, or you’d see your friends at the school gate, meet up for dinner or head to the pub for drinks. So make sure you add breaks into your day to take a breather, move around if you’ve been sat at a desk, and arrange those virtual catch-ups with friends and family.

  • Do something for you! For me it’s going for a run or taking my daughters and dog out for a walk/run and I strongly believe that for as long as we’re allowed, this is one of the best things we can do for our mental and physical wellbeing – I will certainly be a better Mum/person for it and better able to deal with this bizarre situation. Social distancing rules applied at all times, obviously!

  • Home learning with the kids – we’re not a school! I’ve very quickly realised I have to take the pressure off. Both of us trying to work and keep two daughters happy is way more challenging than I’d expected! So we’ve now got a daily schedule for the whole family, factoring in any work calls/commitments, and then we split our day up to take it in shifts with our daughters (traditional working hours have gone out of the window!) that is a mixture of ‘learning’ activities and play time, and making sure we can still do our jobs as best we can. The kids need structure, as do we, and this has helped massively. But our schedule is simple and flexible. We’re not a school (although my husband is a teacher – but as someone pointed out the other day, that’s not the relationship they have, he’s their Dad!) and this is our home, so we have to find a happy medium that suits us all.

  • Focus on the positives! A slower pace of life, no commute, more time at home, saving money – at the most unsettling of times, we’ve been given the opportunity to slow down and to focus on the important stuff. There’s so many amazing acts of kindness and people really pulling together as a community – it’s heart-warming!

Have you got any other tips to share to help others through this challenging time?

It’s me time

Life is busy. Whether it’s juggling a job and family or just trying to fit in some sort of social life around everything else you have on – things can get hectic.

And at this time of year when many of us have set ourselves resolutions along with a whole host of other goals and ambitions to strive for, it can sometimes feel like any time we’re not doing something is time wasted.

But this 100 miles-per-hour lifestyle could actually be detrimental to achieving those targets we set ourselves. Research suggests doing too much and not taking time for yourself can lead to burnout and being less productive than you’d like.

Why should I take some time for myself?
A number of experts recommend slowing down and setting aside some quiet time on your own. It can help you switch off and even improve your social skills, as you’re less likely to be tired, strained or stretched.

Taking some time for yourself can also help you reset and focus on what you want. Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, believes time spent alone can improve your concentration, productivity, as well as sparking creativity. And studies have shown the ability to spend time in your own company is linked to increased happiness and improved stress management.

So what can I do?
The idea of putting some time aside purely for yourself can seem daunting and maybe even a bit selfish. But self-care really isn’t something to feel guilty about!

There are loads of things you can do to take some time for yourself, but what’s most important is that it’s something you feel happy doing in an environment you’re comfortable in. Some of our favourite activities to help switch off include:

  • reading
  • practicing mindfulness
  • going for a walk
  • yoga
  • self-care and pampering yourself

So next time you have a spare few minutes, why not use them to focus on you. It might just help you in more ways than you think.

Tis the season to be sustainable

Christmas is a time for giving, but it shouldn’t cost the earth. So here are our top five tips on having a sustainable Christmas and saving the planet while you spread some Christmas cheer.

The gifts
Lists aren’t just for Santa. Choose who you’re buying gifts for and make a list (and check it twice). That way you’ll know exactly what you need to buy and it should also help you avoid last minute panic buying, which can lead to unused and wasted presents.

Gifts don’t have to be bought, and they don’t even need to be material things! Pledges for your time or an activity are a thoughtful alternative and handmade gifts such as food, arts or crafts show a really personal touch. Did someone say “let’s bake gingerbread men…?”

If you do buy a gift, choose to buy local from sustainable companies to reduce the environmental impact of your shopping. It can help support your local community too, as the cash spent and taxes paid stay in your local economy. It’s also more sustainable to stick to one big gift rather than giving lots of little ones – it can reduce waste and as an added bonus you’ll only need to come up with one thoughtful gift idea.

If you’re feeling really charitable (and you think the gift receiver would like it) you could even make a donation to charity on the person’s behalf.

Wrapping paper
And what to wrap your lovely thoughtful gifts in? Eco-friendly wrapping paper of course! Recyclable wrapping paper is better for the environment than many normal rolls, as a lot of them contain non-recyclable elements like foil, glitter or plastic. Equally, brown paper packages tied-up with string can make a beautiful present. Finish off with twigs of eucalyptus tucked under the string and your sustainable pressie is complete!

Pro tip: want to know if your wrapping paper can be recycled or not? Use the scrunch test. Scrunch up the paper in your hand then let it go. If the paper stays scrunched up it can be recycled. But if it unfolds on its own, then it probably contains non-recyclable elements. Boo!

The tree
Up to 8 million Christmas trees are bought every year in this country alone. That’s a lot of trees. Although plastic tress are a good alternative and should last for years, they take a lot of energy to produce and will have to be disposed of in the future.

A sustainable alternative is to rent a tree. Yeah, that’s right – rent your Christmas tree! Loads of garden centres offer a tree-hire service for the festive period and they’ll even pick it up and drop it off to save you the hassle.

Of course, if you want to go one step further, you could use or grow your own. A tree with roots will grow outside and you can use it again next year, reducing the environmental impact and costing you less. Holly, apple, pear, and Japanese maple trees are all good options, although they do take a bit more looking after.

If you do go for a real tree though, just make sure it’s sustainably grown – trees should have either the FSC or Soil Association logo on them. And remember to recycle it when you’re finished. Most local councils have set up recycling points specifically for Christmas trees, or alternatively you can take yours to your nearest recycling centre.

The food
Oh the food! We all love a bit of Christmas dinner. Whether it’s the mouth-watering main or those sumptuous sides, we just can’t get enough. If you’re going down the traditional turkey or meaty route – try to buy organic and free-range, and support your local small-scale farms if possible too.

The Soil Association tell us, “food is the single most important, everyday way for people to reduce their environmental impact.” So we can really make a difference by making sustainable choices, even down to the packaging of the foods we buy. Opt for loose items or those that have little or no plastic packaging to help save the planet.

Plumping for a full-on veggie Christmas dinner is even better for the environment. Vegan nut roasts and brandy butter are delish, and definitely won’t leave you feeling like you’ve missed out.

…and the drink!
Like the food, go organic and locally-sourced with your drinks if you can. Haven’t tried organic wine yet? Well Christmas is as good an excuse as any to give it a go. There are loads of UK vineyards producing tasty tipples, just look out for their organic credentials on the label. Or if you prefer something a little stronger, the UK’s first organic distillery in south-west Wales, Dà Mhìle, has a selection of organic whiskey, brandy and gin. Just remember to enjoy responsibly!

Last but not least
Always find yourself searching the cupboards for enough matching glasses when you’re entertaining at Christmas? Fear not – you can rent some for free from Waitrose! What a time to be alive!

More than just moustaches

“Our fathers, partners, brothers and friends are facing a health crisis, yet it’s rarely talked about. Men are dying too young. We can’t afford to stay silent,” reads the homepage of Movember’s website.

Movember is trying to change the face of men’s health, and has grown from self-professed ‘humble beginnings’ to become one of the most recognisable movements in the world. You’d be hard-pushed to find someone who isn’t aware of Movember, especially as moustaches start to appear on men’s top lips across the globe in November each year. But what is Movember? What’s it working towards? And why is it so important?

A bit of history
As with all good ideas, the Movember movement began in the pub. In 2003 two friends in Melbourne, Australia, had the idea to try to bring back the moustache. Inspired by the mo’s ability to generate conversation, the mates saw their idea develop over the next few years from a conversation-starter to an annual fundraising event, and eventually into the leading charity it is today.

The charity is changing the face of men’s health – helping men live happier, healthier, longer lives. They’re working to help fight and prevent prostate and testicular cancers, as well as working to improve men’s mental health and prevent suicide.

With prostate cancer rates set to double over the next 15 years and testicular cancer rates already having doubled in the last 50, it’s not hard to see why Movember feels men’s health is in crisis. Add to this the fact that one man dies by suicide every minute of every day, it’s clear to see that action needs to be taken.

So what are they doing?
Movember has funded over 1,250 men’s health projects across the world to help tackle preventable deaths and improve men’s health. They’ve backed education initiatives to help men spot the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer, and also sponsored organisations providing support services to men fighting cancer. Movember has championed projects to help men stay healthy mentally and build strong connections so they can take action early when times are tough.

Movember fund various projects, all with the aim of reducing the number of men dying prematurely by 25% by 2030.

How can I get involved?
You can join the more than 5.5million Mo Bros and Mo Sistas by getting involved with a fundraising initiative:

  • Grow a Mo, save a bro – the tried and tested moustache growing. You can inspire donations, conversations and real change.
  • Host a Mo-ment – raise the roof with a get-together and raise much-needed funds for men’s health.
  • Make your Mo-ve – run or walk 60km over the month for the 60 men we lose to suicide each hour.

If all of this has inspired you to get involved, or you’d just like to find out more, check out Movember’s website.

Using nature to nurture wellbeing

Having recently moved to a big city, I’ve been really aware of the lack of green space compared to where I used to live. It’s the same in many cities across the UK, as horizons are dominated by skyscrapers and offices, while parks and wildlife are scarce in comparison.

I’ve always been quite active and enjoyed being outdoors, but I didn’t realise the direct impact a lack of green space or nature can have on your mental health. German research, quoted in the UK press, said people who live in the countryside are happier, while an American study found those living in urban areas are 21% more likely to have anxiety.

There could be for a number of reasons for this. The pace of life is likely to be faster in a city and there’s generally more pollution too. And if you’re anything like me, the thought of exercising – which is heavily linked to wellbeing – outside in the city isn’t as appealing as the thought of doing the same in the countryside. Running along a busy main road just doesn’t seem as enjoyable as going for a forest walk.

So what role can nature play and how can we get a bit more of it in our lives?

How can nature help?
The mental health charity Mind says spending time in green space or bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. Doing things like growing food or flowers, exercising outdoors, or being around animals can have lots of positive effects, helping you feel more relaxed and improving your mood.

And a report by Natural England published on the Government website shows taking part in nature-based activities helps people who are suffering from mental health issues by reducing levels of anxiety, stress, and depression.

What can we do?
You don’t have to escape to the country for a long weekend to feel the benefits of nature. A walk at lunchtime in your local park or even creating a space to grow vegetables or herbs can help.

So whether it’s a bit of gardening, putting out bird feeders, or even just reading or eating outdoors, bringing a little bit of nature into your life can have a great effect on your mental wellbeing.

If you’re not sure where to start there are loads of local community groups who are happy to help. So why not have a look and see what’s happening in your area?

Sustainable living – small steps to make a big difference

Sustainability. It’s a bit of a buzz word right now, but for very good reason!

I don’t know about you, but I find it all a bit overwhelming. I wholeheartedly want to do my bit – we all have to if we’re to find a better, more sustainable way of living and reduce the impact we’re having on the planet. But sometimes it all feels like too much effort.

For me, sometimes it feels like I’m fighting a losing battle when I’m sifting through the tonne of packaging I’ve accumulated trying to work out if it can be recycled or not! And I hate that we have all this plastic that can’t be recycled that will go to landfill or might end up poisoning some marine-life thousands of miles away. Can’t we just banish the plastic?!

So I’m determined to up my game!

We all know we need to tackle this together, but what is ‘sustainable living’? The World Wildlife Foundation says that it’s a lifestyle that attempts to reduce the use of the Earth’s natural resources by reducing your carbon footprint through changing your methods of transport, energy consumption, and diet.

I’ve given this quite a bit of thought recently and I’ve joined various groups on social media to help with some inspiration. I’ve found local groups can be a fantastic way of learning more and understanding what we can do as a community to be more sustainable. For one, I learnt that we can recycle a lot more in our green bin than I thought, as the rules have changed! So double check your local recycling rules to make sure you’re up to speed!

There are lots of things we can do to make a difference, so here are my top tips:

  • Compost – make your own at home or see if there’s a local scheme.
  • Buy second-hand – clothes, books, toys… anything really! It’s amazing what you can find and with lots of selling sites now available, it’s never been easier. And you can grab a bargain too!
  • Eat less meat – the environmental impact of meat production is well documented, so consider having at least one vegetarian meal a week instead.
  • Use less paper – mop up spills with a re-usable cloth instead of kitchen paper and cancel that unwanted mail through your letterbox.
  • Walk/bike more – as well as the physical and mental wellbeing benefits, by not jumping in the car you’re reducing your carbon footprint and saving money on fuel too! Public transport is also a more sustainable option.
  • Use less water – take a shorter shower or turn the shower off when you’re lathering up! Only do the washing with full loads.
  • Turn off electrical items when not in use – lots of electrics still use energy when not in use, so try unplugging your hairdryer, microwave and phone charger etc. – it’ll also save you money on your electricity bill!
  • Re-usable containers and bags – use a re-fillable water bottle and take a re-usable coffee cup for your morning caffeine fix. Find a zero waste shop and take your own containers along for stocking up on food. And always take re-usable bags with you on shopping trips!
  • Change your lightbulbs – switch to energy-saving LEDs.

It’s that simple! We can all easily make some of these changes and do our bit, so let’s get started!

Less plastic: more life

Every single piece of plastic ever thrown away is still on this Earth.

It’s a shocking fact, but plastic is simply unable to decompose fully. That one plastic bottle of water you bought earlier will take up to 450 years to only mostly decompose – it’ll never fully decompose! And it will most likely turn into microscopic plastic pieces, of which there are 51 trillion (269,000 tons) on our planet – that’s over 500 times the number of stars in our galaxy!

What would you prefer to see?

What plastic means to you and the environment
If we carry on using plastic at our current rate, it’ll out-weigh the number of fish in our seas by 2050. The need to take action is clear, and reducing our plastic use right now really could make a difference.

As well as killing 100,000 marine mammals and turtles, and over 1 million sea birds every year, plastic pollution also affects marine plant life. And we rely on these marine plants to produce 70% of the oxygen we breathe. The marine life that does survive often eats the plastic that ends up in our seas. It stays inside them forever, and worryingly a third of all fish now contain traces of plastic. Therefore, there’s a high chance that if you eat fish, you’ve also eaten microscopic pieces of plastic. Maybe some of the same plastic you threw away!

So reducing plastic will be beneficial not only for the planet and the marine life, but also for us, our friends, and our families.

Reducing our plastic waste

  • If you have to use a straw buy a metal or bamboo one.
  • When shopping take re-useable bags with you.
  • Spread the word about the impact plastic is having and encourage others to reduce their plastic usage.
  • If you live near a beach why not head down and do a litter pick. Check out the Marine Conservation Society or Surfers Against Sewage for details of clean ups close to you.
  • Don’t live near the beach? You can still head down to your local park and help pick up rubbish. There are loads of organised litter picks.
  • Join campaigns to help reduce the production of plastic products such as Friends of the Earth or the WWF.
  • Recycle all the plastic you do end up using so it doesn’t stay wasting away on the planet.

The future
As part of the younger generation being told “you don’t know enough to understand our plastic consumption or climate change”, I feel it’s my duty to prove people wrong and help others understand the level of catastrophe we’re facing.

People are often told not to worry, as it’s something for future generations to deal with. But it shouldn’t be like that! It might not affect you in your lifetime, but you can make a significant, immediate difference to help your children, grandchildren or any younger generation to live in a safe, environmentally friendly world.

Life without plastic?

My desire to go plastic-free in July was inspired by reading into the wider issue of single-use plastics. They’re having a devastating impact on our environment and wildlife, particularly marine life – it shocked me to discover that it’s now estimated 90% of all seabirds have some form of plastic in their stomachs.

I’ve shared my experiences of going plastic-free in my previous blogs, so here are the lessons I’ve learned in going plastic-free in July.

Drowning in plastic
At the beginning of the month the scale of the challenge seemed overwhelming and everywhere I looked, plastic was all around. It was eye-opening to see how much I had in my house and I didn’t really know where to begin, so I decided to take small steps first. I started taking my lunch into work every day and took a re-usable bottle everywhere I went, as well as a bamboo cutlery set. This immediately cut my plastic waste and felt like an easy swap.  

Plastic-free heroes
Once I’d started with the small swaps, I looked into plastic-free alternatives to my everyday essentials and came across some amazing plastic-free companies, like Plastic Freedom and The Kind Store. I was pleased to discover the cosmetics company Lush has a great range of packaging-free cosmetics and toiletries.

I swapped out my kitchen sponge, teabags, makeup remover wipes, body wash, face wash, shampoo and conditioner to plastic-free alternatives. The initial cost was expensive, but as most of these products came in bar form or are re-usable, there should be significant long-term savings.

Food for thought
The first time I went food shopping during plastic-free July was so frustrating. Pretty much all of the fruit and veg is wrapped in some form of plastic. Finding plastic-free alternatives was time-consuming and the whole experience took about half an hour longer than usual. I looked at my trolley and felt like I’d failed!

From the second week onwards it was much easier, I was able to avoid the plastic traps and switched my fruit and veg shopping to our local farm shop – 90% of their fruit and veg is plastic free. The produce is cheaper and tastier too!

The plastic problem
Because plastic is so cheap and easy to manufacture, it’s everywhere you look. I learnt that it’s ok not to be perfect all the time – there are times when you’ll have no choice but to purchase something wrapped in plastic. Don’t be too hard on yourself, making small changes elsewhere all adds up!

Plastic-free for the future
Although plastic-free July is over, I intend to continue with my journey. Going plastic-free has been eye-opening and the amount of waste, as well as plastic we produce as a household has reduced dramatically. This challenge has made me realise that even if we all make small swaps such as switching to a re-usable coffee cup and refusing plastic straws, the impact we can make as a collective is huge.