Category Archives: environment

How to be Greener – and Save our Planet

Most of us are working on becoming better people
– more aware environmentally, socially, and consciously.
This post offers ideas on how we can become greener.

How to be Greener – and Save our Planet - The Last Krystallos

I’m currently writing of a future society who’ve suffered from our somewhat unconscious attitude to the environment. They feel passionately about keeping their renewed world environmentally safe. We need to be thinking perhaps not centuries into the future, but rather about making the world better for our children and our grandchildren. Hopefully, from there change will happen and grow. 

It’s a bit-by-bit process. It’s incredibly difficult to change your life completely, so the best thing we can do is change one thing in our life at a time. We must be careful not to judge each other – we all change at different times and at different speeds. Just because I can afford a Stainless Steel water bottle doesn’t mean someone else can yet. The bottle will save me money in the long run, but not everyone can afford the original cost of an environmental bottle in one go. Becoming environmentally aware and active is a process and every single change for the better is a step in the right direction.

Pick one thing to change and keep at it until it’s natural/habit, and then pick another. Bit by bit we can become greener and more environmentally friendly.

So, here are some ways we can preserve the Earth and help save this planet:

Sho Stainless Steel Water Bottle - the last krystallos

SHO Water Bottle – water © Lisa Shambrook

Stop buying so many plastic bottles – I bought a SHO Stainless Steel Bottle because I carry water with me everywhere.

Drink tap water not bottled water – studies have shown there’s not much difference between the two, if any, and bottled water is ridiculously expensive, and companies like Nestle are often unethical in the way they procure water.

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Reusable Cloth Bags – Glass Jars – Homemade Hot Chocolate © Lisa Shambrook

Start using reusable cloth bags instead of plastic bags. Supermarkets are working on reducing plastic bags and the time when they stop providing plastic bags completely is likely not far away. Take bags with you whenever you shop and make it a habit.

Store food in glass jars – this might not eliminate plastic packaging when you buy, but you can buy more or bigger bags in bulk and lessen the waste.

Stop using Cling Film or Food Wrap – new alternatives like soy or beeswax wraps are becoming available, again the more the demand the cheaper they’ll eventually become.

In the UK the government is now phasing out plastic straws and is talking about phasing out wet wipes too. Help this initiative along by reducing your use, or switching to paper straws and environmentally friendly wipes.

Make your own – find online recipes to make your own hot chocolate, or buy loose tea and coffee – so you don’t need to buy these items in plastic tubs, or tea in tea bags – some companies still use plastic in their tea bags.

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Lush Seanik Shampoo Bar – Handmade Bath Bomb – Nivea Lip Butter © Lisa Shambrook

Use shampoo bars kept in a tin or dish – no plastic bottle, no parabens, silicones, and additives. I have thin hair and the Lush sea salt Seanik shampoo bar has given my hair great body and shine.

Try moisturising Bars – instead of hand creams etc in plastic dispenser bottles – try Lush or Etsy or local handmade bars mine is Turkish Delight from Naked Sister.

Lip balms are often packed into tins these days, Nivea Lip Butter is my favourite with Vanilla and Macadamia, and Blueberry Blush, but several other brands also do this.

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Turkish Delight Bar – Naked Sister © Lisa Shambrook

Menstrual cups and washable cloth sanitary pads are a great way to be environmentally friendly at that time of the month – this can wipe out the use of a lot of plastic, and will save money in the long run. It can be difficult to spend out in bulk but perhaps try one or two brands of pad until you find what works for you, but them when you can afford them.

Cloth nappies – as above, a large outlay, but perhaps ask for them as gifts, buy during your pregnancy, spread the cost. I believe the prices are getting lower as more parents use them. We all know the damage disposable nappies do to the environment and if we can, reusables are the way to go.

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Green Grocer – Homegrown Salad leaves – Wormery © Lisa Shambrook

Have a go at growing your own or buy local from green grocers – grow fruit and veg in tubs or in the garden. In the long run it’ll be cheaper than the supermarket. If you can’t grow your own then buy from Green Grocer’s, again cheaper, local, and less plastic packaging. You can’t beat veg from your own garden for convenience and taste!

Compost Bin or set up a Wormery – Most councils do recycle food waste, but even better if you can recycle your own and use the compost to help grow your own.

You can also blend your food waste (veg peelings, fruit, rind etc) and liquidise with water and use it as plant food. Some Wormery’s also have a run off of liquid that works brilliantly to feed your garden.

Eating Vegetarian or Vegan regularly can change up your diet and help the environment. Try it several times a week or commit for life – it saves water and money.

We all get frustrated by the rubbish that gets posted through our front doors… Opt out of Junk Mail – save paper.

Change all incandescent lightbulbs to fluorescent or LED – save energy.

Reduce reliance on paper towels – many people use tea towels, scraps of material, and I even saw someone’s suggestion of a supply of 7” squares of flannel in the bathroom instead of toilet paper – (only for drying wet use) and keeping used pieces in an old antique chamber pot, then washed in a wash net with usual washing. Not sure I’m ready for this one yet…

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Woollies – Wash Low Temperature – Cleaning © Lisa Shambrook

Turn your thermostat down by at least one degree. Cut your timed heating. Wear jumpers and sweaters if you’re cold.

Use your washing machine on the coldest setting for most washes – this will save energy and money.

Clean with baking soda and vinegar – cheaper by miles, and keep mixtures in mason jars – there are plenty of ideas to be found online for homemade cleaning products.

Lastly, don’t buy chewing gum – made from plastic, latex, talc, colours and fillers – go on look it up – used to be made from gum from the sapodilla tree but not for a long time. Almost indestructible and bad for the planet, it’s not a wonder than several cities have banned gum completely!

There are many more ways to save this planet, this is just a set of ideas,
somewhere to start… but please tell me more in the comments.

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Earth - the last krystallos

How do you save the Earth, reduce plastic, and save money?

Perpetual Repercussion – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Perpetual Reprcussion - Photograph - Sarolta Ban

Photograph by Sarolta Ban

Perpetual repercussion – words resonate. Seasons lost – time too late. Arctic perma – wayward lea. Dig for seed – find the key.

I’d not taken the riddle literally, so my surprise at discovering the huge protrusion in the sand is very real.

Tolkien snuffles at its base, his nose flaring and his whine rising amid a low growl, and I tentatively hold my hand to the square and my team remains silent behind me. Only Tolly’s snorts and the thwack of canvas sails flapping in the wind make a sound.

I stare at the metal post, the cold biting through my clothes, and call Tolly back. He barks at it one last time and returns to my side. Through my blurry lenses, the shaft rises at an angel out of the ground with notches protruding like the bit of a key. I rub my goggles, but only smear the dirt and scratch the surface glass even more.

My boots crunch as I move closer, the dry stone and sand giving way beneath my soles. I tug the scarf from my throat, loosening the itchy material away from my beard and chapped lips then lift my goggles. I chuckle. It isn’t a key, not a literal key, but the leaning post does offer answers.

We’d spent months traversing the desert, crossing the ocean, and reaching the island called Spitzbergen, at least we hoped that’s where we were. The world had changed; its continents and islands had altered beyond recognition in many cases. How could we ever be sure where we were?

But Tolly jigs at my side, his muscles taut with pent up excitement, and it’s contagious. I reach up and brush the dust from the broken metal sign. I smile, as I can’t read the words etched into the steel, and Nottson approaches from behind to clean and decipher the runes. Moments later his laughter rings out on the breeze. “Your riddle speaks true.” He beckons the rest of the team. “Perpetual is clear, Repercussion half lost, but the words are true. It is here. We are here.” His arms swing wide and a cheer erupts from the men and women at my rear.

We dig – unearthing the base of the signpost and nothing more. Frustration fills our hearts, our souls, and our exhausted bodies, but Tolly insists and alongside the faithful dog, we keep excavating.

It takes days, weeks, but Tolly has never let us down and finally, as the arctic sun begins to drop in the sky Tolly’s bark echoes and his claws ring out – on glass, or metal, or?

We dig, and clean, and polish, and then we step back with tears in our eyes. Mirrors, steel, and prisms, preserved beneath the sand, gleam beneath our feet. Dyveke Sanne’s ancient work glistens once more, reflecting the Svalbard polar light in tones of green, and blue, and white.

Finally, we have the key within our grasp. Tolly whirls and barks and feeds our anticipation. The world is waiting, tired and weary, and hungry, and we are just moments from the vault, just moments from saving humankind.

Perpetual Repercussion…life can start again.

0000. Divider

I was inspired by the existence of the Global Seed Vault and Dyveke Sanne‘s art Perpetual Repercussion on the roof and entrance to the facility in Svalbard, Norway. In my story the world has suffered great catastrophe and the hunt for the seed bank underway… See more stories at Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Butterfly Flutterby – A Summer of Delicate Fairy Wings

Summer is the season when butterflies flutter by
with painted wings and a breeze of mystery…

Butterfly Flutterby - A Summer of Delicate Fairy Wings - The Last Krystallos

I could spend hours sitting beneath butterfly bushes watching these creatures waft by on glorious wings, landing silently on buddleias’ tiny purple blossom and feeding, then flitting off again for an airborne dance before returning to savour the nectar.

Red-Admiral-Butterfly-Buddleia-The-Last-Krystallos-If nothing ever changed...there would be no butterflies

Red Admiral © Lisa Shambrook

I’m not a fan of hot summers, but I have been butterfly watching and these little wonders have taught me about the beauty of change.

Mullein-Moth-Larvae-Caterpillar -The-Last-Krystallos - caterpillar end of the world a butterfly-Richard Bach

Mullein Moth Larvae © Lisa Shambrook

A couple of months ago I saw a cute caterpillar on the buddleia leaf and later identified it as a Mullein Moth larvae (moth caterpillars are known as larvae). Now, isn’t a caterpillar or larvae an amazing thing? Butterflies go through a magical lifecycle: from an egg a caterpillar is born, the caterpillar feeds voraciously, and then forms a cocoon or pupae, and finally after a long sleep a glorious butterfly emerges.

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Gatekeeper © Lisa Shambrook

I read a story a while ago, about a man who watched a cocoon and felt bad about the struggle the butterfly had trying to emerge, so he carefully helped break open the cocoon and release the creature. He then watched in devastation as the butterfly tried to open its wings but failed. The butterfly was doomed because the process of emergence was interrupted.

No matter how sincere the help butterflies need to go through the process alone. The struggle allows wings to form and for fluid to move from its body into its wings. Without this toil the butterfly is born with a swollen body and shrivelled wings and condemned to die.

Through the struggle of breaking out of its cocoon a butterfly gains strength, without that struggle its wings would never have the power to open and lift it to great heights.

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Ringlet © Lisa Shambrook

Sometimes we go through struggles that no one can help us with, they can cheer from the sidelines and encourage and comfort, but often we go through huge battles that we have to surmount ourselves. Only then can we internalise the strength that we gained and rise and fly to heights we never knew we could.

Embrace your struggle.

Peacock-Butterfly-The-Last-Krystallos - The butterfly counts not months, but moments-Rabindranath Tagore

Peacock © Lisa Shambrook

Most butterflies live for about a month, the smallest butterflies maybe only a week, and for such gorgeous creatures their lives are short. Butterflies don’t waste a moment. They feed, they mate, and they bathe in the sun. They live for the moment because that’s all they have.

Cherish your moments.

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High Brown Fritillary © Lisa Shambrook

Back to caterpillars and butterflies, it’s a bit like the story of the ugly duckling. Sometimes we see ourselves as boring, grey, shy, and don’t see our true beauty. We all have the ability to emerge from our troubles and grow into the beauties we’re supposed to be. Just like butterflies. Even the most basic butterfly is a wonder of nature. And, I adore moths too, dusty brown wings, silvered or matt, but beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Love who you have become.

Comma-Butterfly-The-Last-Krystallos

Comma © Lisa Shambrook (I wish this was a better photograph, taken on my first camera phone way back… but the Comma is too beautiful to leave out!)

And lastly, I have a fascination with the word butterfly. Rumour has it – I don’t think there’s a definitive answer as to why they are butterflies – that they fluttered about milk churns when butter was being made, or that they were so named because the first butterfly appearing in the year was the yellow-coloured male Brimstone, but the most likely reason is it was believed they ate butter and milk, words in Dutch and German translate as Butter-thief, so butterfly it became.

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Large White © Lisa Shambrook

Myself, I like the spoonerism – flutterby, I mean that’s exactly what they are!

So, welcome the flutterbys, after all, they’re not here for very long, and nature has a habit of giving us beauty in small doses, we just have to notice it!

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Small Tortoiseshell © Lisa Shambrook

My pictured butterflies are my locals,
what butterflies are your favourite where you live?

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Red Admiral, High Brown Fritillary, Small Tortoiseshell, Gatekeeper, Peacock Butterflies © Lisa Shambrook

Plastic – Polluting our Oceans

Do we need plastic?
That’s one of the questions I believe we should be asking ourselves,
as the ocean begins to drown in the man-made material…

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - The Last Krystallos

A plastic-free society is a scenario I definitely pose in my current manuscript The Seren Stone Chronicles (unedited excerpt):

‘Will’s eyebrows shot up. “There’s no plastic!”

“Legend has it that all your plastic got swallowed up by mother earth in the lunar apocalypse,” said Ianthe. “It melted in the pit of her belly.”

“Best place for it,” said Rhianna.’

In my future Wales, plastic has become a thing of the past, but how do we know how the phenomenon of this synthetic material created only 110 years ago (though natural polymers have been around for generations) and widely available from the 1940’s after the introduction of Tupperware, will ultimately affect the earth that we live on?

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Earth - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I glance about me at home and plastic is rampant…It forms much of my laptop, television, plug points, plugs, wires, my car outside, pens, kitchen utensils, white goods – fridge, freezer, many appliances, and a huge amount of packaging. It even forms veneers on some of my cheaper bookshelves, plastic bags, and more, but the majority of disposable plastic in my home derives from packaging.

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Plastic Bags - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

How do we replace it? It shouldn’t be that tough, after all, generations only a hundred years ago didn’t have access to the sort of durable, strong plastics we do now, and they managed! We could move back to using metal, wood, and plant-based materials, but in this society that’s not always easy. A few years ago my daughter tried to reduce her plastic usage and go plastic free using bamboo toothbrushes, trying to buy dry food in jars, even taking her own jars to fill, and her own cups to coffee shops, and using canvas bags for shopping. It was so hard, and so unaccepted that it became near impossible to achieve. Some people have and I salute them, but it makes normal life very difficult.

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Glass Jars - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

We live in a society where butchers aren’t used as much as they could be, and meat is packaged in large, thick, sealed plastic boxes. The green grocer is left behind for plastic bags of pre-packed fruit and veg, and the grocer with cardboard boxes and tins and jars has been replaced with plastic bottles, containers, and bags for almost everything.

We are often pushed by governments and local councils to recycle more, fines are imposed when we don’t, and rubbish collection services are cut to force recycling. The fines and restraints should be levied upon the companies using excess packaging, in my opinion, but that’s another story.

Many people are trying their best to be environmentally friendly, after all we didn’t ask for plastic microbeads to be placed in soaps, facial washes, and toothpastes. We don’t need all the packaging that companies force upon us, and we don’t need many of the knick-knacks that are constantly thrown at us. And there are so many organisations trying to show us the way to a more enlightened and environmentally friendly approach to life.

We see how plastic is drowning the sea, how microbeads have devastated oceans and marine life, how plastic wraps have damaged creatures, and how plastic is washing up on beaches across the planet. 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year from bottle tops, to rope, bottles, plastic bags, sanitary products, disposable nappies, and more. Evo News even quoted that:  ‘The number of plastic microbeads in oceans and seas, bigger than the number of stars in our galaxy.’

However, there’s been great news from Greenpeace who reported just last week that by 30 June 2018 all personal care and cosmetic products with microbeads will be off shelves in the UK in a government ban!

Seagull Dreams by Bekah Shambrook Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - the last krystallos

© Bekah Shambrook

We’ve all seen pictures of seabirds with legs and feet caught in plastic bags and debris, turtles deformed with plastic can rings looped about their shells, and fish, seals, dolphins, sharks, and even whales caught up in plastic nets. These are creatures we have the responsibility of caring for. We have the responsibility of caring for the whole earth.

There are several initiatives trying to help clean up our oceans, and make us aware of the pollution of plastic. Von Wong began #MermaidsHatePlastic and borrowed 10,000 plastic bottles to make an art installation that makes a valuable point. Find him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and read his story.

And 4Ocean sells bracelets made from ocean plastic to fund the removal of trash from the sea Find them on Twitter.

My question evolves into a solution when people respond with the continuing need for plastic in our lives, why can’t we use the plastic we recover from the ocean? Hopefully we are, or if we’re not then governments will soon pick up the idea, as they have with home and business recycling.

Plastic - Polluting Our Oceans - Bottles - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

But to counter, maybe we can try to use less plastic, invent things that use less plastic, and we could buy and use more environmentally friendly products to begin the move away from plastic. Plastic isn’t generally good for us. Many of us, myself included, reuse water bottles to drink from, but that plastic gradually breaks down and enters our bloodstream through constant use. It’s better to buy a metal or glass water bottle. As charges for plastic bags have come in, we are using less and reusing and taking our own, every little helps. We need to keep doing our bit, no matter how small it is.

There are alternatives if companies are willing to put the money and research in to develop products that are environmentally friendly – take these plastic bags for example…

I’ve seen plates and tableware made from palm leaves or wheat fibre pulp, bamboo toothbrushes, cotton/canvas shopping bags, water powered clocks, solar power and much more. We can all do our bit by increasing recycling, reusing products, avoiding one-use items, and we can actively reduce, reuse and recycle.

reduce reuse recycleI’ve seen many products that are created/invented using plant based materials, we just need to change our ways, alter our sensibilities, and transform our habits.

Humans don’t like change – but change is what we need to do.

We need to continue the fight to remove unnecessary plastics and packaging,
to help not only our own health, but the health of the planet on which we live.  

What are we doing to Mother Earth?

* Edited to add: 2nd August 2017 is officially #EarthOvershootDaywhich makes this post even more appropriate. Today is the day that we have used up this year’s quota of Earth’s natural resources for one year. We need the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to support humanity’s demands on nature… Just something to think about…