Monthly Archives: November 2016

Our addiction to plastic – we need to save our oceans

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Guest Blog by Joe Thomas BSc

Plastic is having a devastating effect on our oceans, our wildlife and ultimately on us as a human species.

The introduction of plastic in the 20th century has led us to become increasingly reliant on its use and now a large percentage of almost everything we buy contains plastic. However, while we are happy to use it we are less adept at recycling it and the sad fact is that less than 10% of the plastic we produce gets recycled. Of the rest 50% makes its way into landfill and the remainder is unaccounted for, more often than not getting washed out to sea, where it inflicts a substantial toll.

While the top five countries which contribute the most to plastic ending up in the oceans are China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, we all need to play a part in reducing our own contribution if we are to bring about change.

What Practical Steps Can Be Taken?

Carrier Bag Tax: One recent government initiative in the UK has been to bring in a 5p charge on all carrier bags. The good news is that since this came into effect in October 2015 the seven main supermarket chains have seen an 85% decrease in the use of plastic bags. This means far fewer plastic bags will end up in landfill or in the oceans.

 

Fundraising and Volunteering: If you want to take part in the clean-up operation and conservation efforts taking place at the coastline closest to you The Marine Conservation Society encourages people to get involved in several ways. You can help by beach cleaning; sea search for experienced divers; or by fundraising so the society can maintain their conservation work. 

Conservation as a Career: Some people might feel called to pursue conservation work as a career. One of the best ways to find out if it is right career path for you is to undertake a marine volunteering  programme where you can collaborate directly with experienced conservations to discover what the work entails.

Being Aware of What We Buy: When we head to the supermarket it’s important to be aware of the packaging our produce comes packed in and to minimise it where possible. Opt for loose fruit and vegetables and then take them home in a biodegradable paper bag, instead of wrapped in three types of plastic. Alternatively shop at farmers’ markets where the food travels a shorter distance from source to plate, and within minimal packaging.

dolphin-203875_1280Recycling: It can sometimes be a hassle to recycle everything we throw away but it can make all the difference to what ends up in landfill. Sort items weekly prior to your rubbish collection and for larger items try to pass them on to someone who needs them using the ‘freecycling’ sites.

 

The Huge Problem of Plastic in the Ocean

The majority of plastic which ends up in the sea, over 80%, comes from land-based sources. One of the major contributors to this ocean pollution is our obsession with drinking bottled water. Over 200 billion bottles of water are consumed each year and over 176 billion empty bottles ultimately end up in landfill or the ocean. Even more seriously the situation worsens year on year with studies showing plastic marine debris is increasing dramatically.

One of the most serious problems with plastic is that it takes thousands of years to degrade. The plastic in the ocean often forms huge floating ‘islands’ where currents meet. One of the largest and most infamous is the Pacific Trash Gyre in the Pacific Ocean which has a larger surface area than Texas.

The action of the sea also breaks down the plastic into smaller pieces and this makes it particularly deadly for wildlife and ultimately for us. As the plastic deteriorates it absorbs other toxins and then enters the food chain, eaten by fish. This seafood can become contaminated with cadmium, mercury and lead and then places humans at risk when eaten. A proven carcinogen, Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) is found in increasing levels in seafood, as is Bisphenol A (BPA) which research has shown interferes with human hormone function.

Plastic is also entering the ocean through the problem of microbeads. These are tiny plastic beads present in many shower gels and toothpastes, and millions of them get washed down the drain and ultimately into the sea every day. These tiny beads can be ingested even by plankton and then move on up through the food chain. There is great pressure on governments to take a stand and ban these deadly plastic additions to our oceans before the situation worsens. The UK government has stated that it will ban all microbeads in cosmetics by the end of 2017 and in the interim some retailers are taking action themselves as seen by Waitrose’s recent announcement they will no longer stock any products containing microbeads.

It’s vital that every person plays their part by refusing to purchase products which contain microbeads and in addition stops adding to the mountain of empty plastic water bottles by drinking tap or filtered water and always taking your own refillable flask or bottle with you. We have been led to believe that plastic is disposable, but that is very far from the truth. Every item we throw away either ends up taking up valuable space in landfill or adding to the plastic pollution of the sea.

 

Other Risks to the Environment

Plastic in our seas is a major risk to the environment but it cannot be considered in isolation. Whilst we are tackling the problem of reducing our plastic waste we must consider other factors which contribute. All factors together cause a devastating effect. These are some other major factors to consider.

 

Water Pollution

Our water is a precious resource and yet we don’t treat it with the respect it deserves. The use of plastic mulch to cover the soil on farmland allows farmers to better control soil moisture and nutrients. However, it also encourages faster runoff and this can allow pesticides to be transported towards rivers and the sea where it enters the food chain.

 

Climate Change

Few people are now unaware that industrialisation and the rise in CO2 have led to drastic climate change. The increase in greenhouse gases has led to a rise in the surface temperature of the planet; increasingly unpredictable weather patterns; and the melting of the ice caps, most notably at Antarctica’s Larsen B ice shelf.

The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest contributor to CO2 emissions, and this has come from heavy industry and the massive increase in transport which has happened around the world. More people than ever own cars and take flights on a regular basis; and this doesn’t even touch on the billions of tons of produce transported around the world daily.

 

Deforestation

Deforestation is another factor in climate change. As forests are destroyed, there are fewer trees to absorb CO2 and thus levels rise still further in the atmosphere. Deforestation is occurring for several reasons: to make room for agriculture and urban areas; to satisfy our ever growing need for palm oil; and to make commercial items such as paper, furniture and building materials for homes.

With our planet at risk it is important that every individual does what they can to use natural resources wisely; to minimise their consumption; and to recycle at every possible opportunity. It’s also vital we all raise our awareness so we can put pressure on retailers and governments to make the changes which matter most.

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Energy Revolution are recruiting a project co-ordinator

energy-revolutionEnergy Revolution is RECRUITING A PROJECT CO-ORDINATOR. Energy Revolution is a pioneering festival industry project that tackles travel-related environmental impacts. Travel and transport are the most significant contributor of emissions attributable to events. Energy Revolution works with festival organisers, audiences and industry suppliers to approach travel more sustainably, and provides an opportunity to balance emissions. Donations are invested into a renewable energy portfolio.

This is an opportunity to join an exciting project at an embryonic stage, to contribute to something significant, and to work alongside an impressive group of trustees and be an instrumental part of taking the project to scale. Please see the ER website for more details about the business strands and approach of the project.

Energy Revolution are looking for a confident, self-determining person with a good understanding of the festival sector, proven confidence to manage a wide variety of relationships, experience of project management and basic book-keeping, and a commitment and enthusiasm for sustainability. In addition, some knowledge of marketing and company and charity administration would be preferable but not essential.

http://www.energy-revolution.org.uk/project-coordinator/

ANOTHER PLANET?

cc-1-300x180The Paris agreement on climate change has now come into force, marking the first time that governments have agreed legally binding limits to global temperature rises. However, the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) said that pledges put forward to cut emissions would see temperatures rise by 3C above pre-industrial levels, far above the the 2C of the Paris climate agreement. As the agreement came into force, a $1bn fund for cutting the climate change impact of oil and gas has been announced by 10 of the world’s biggest oil companies, aimed at keeping the firms in business and cutting the burning of coal.

reefA landmark international agreement to create the world’s largest marine park in the Southern Ocean has been brokered in Australia, after five years of compromises and failed negotiations. More than 1.5m sq km of the Ross Sea around Antarctica will be protected under the deal brokered between 24 countries and the European Union. It means 1.1m sq km of it – an area about the size of France and Spain combined – will be set aside as a no-take “general protection zone”, where no fishing will be allowed. Significantly, the protections are set to expire in 35 years. Evan Bloom from the US state department, the head of the US delegation to the meeting, told the Guardian he was “thrilled”.

The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends. The analysis, the most comprehensive to date, indicates that animal populations plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with losses on track to reach 67% by 2020. Researchers from WWF and the Zoological Society of London compiled the report from scientific data and found that the destruction of wild habitats, hunting and pollution were to blame.

container-ship-560789_960_720The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has agreed to set a cap on the sulphur content of marine fuels, in a move that campaigners predict will save millions of lives in the coming decades. At a meeting of the IMO’s environment protection committee this week shipping officials agreed to cap the sulphur content of marine fuels sold around the world at 0.5% by 2020, finally making good on a 2008 agreement to cap sulphur levels by 2020 or 2025. Sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions have been linked to premature deaths from lung cancer and heart disease. The current limit on sulphur content for marine fuels is 3,500 times higher than for diesel in European road vehicles, and the shipping sector is by far the biggest emitter of SO2. The move is expected to slash SO2 emissions in the shipping industry by 85% compared to today’s levels, and according to one study reduce the number of premature deaths by 200,000 every year.

Drivers of polluting diesel vehicles could soon be charged to enter many city centres across Britain, after the government accepted that its current plans to tackle the nation’s air pollution crisis were so poor they broke the law. The legal defeat in the High Court is the second in 18 months and ends years of inadequate action and delays to tackle the problem which causes 50,000 early deaths every year. Ministers are now bound to implement new measures to cut toxic air quickly and the prime minister, Theresa May, indicated the government would this time respond positively: “There is more to do and we will do it.” More here.

Bryde´s_whaleThe world’s whaling watchdog has voted to conduct stricter reviews of whales killed under an exemption to a 30-year-old moratorium which Japan’s critics say it abuses to hunt for meat. The resolution, opposed by Japan and fellow whalers Norway and Iceland, was adopted by 34 yes votes to 17 against, at the 66th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Submitted by Australia and New Zealand, the resolution seeks to “improve” the review process for scientific whaling programmes – which Japan alone conducts, netting more than 15,000 of the marine mammals since 1986. It is not legally binding on members of the commission, which has no policing or penalty function.

UK water companies are urging a national trading standards body to help stamp out “misleading” labelling on disposable wet wipes that are marketed as flushable but clog up drains and litter oceans at huge environmental cost. They are calling on manufacturers of moist toilet tissues and other non-biodegradable cleaning cloths such as bathroom cleaning wipes – which are routinely flushed away by consumers in their toilets – to ensure that such products are prominently labelled as not flushable and are to be disposed of in a bin.

Greece appears on track to win access to a controversial EU programme that could earmark up to €1.75bn (£1.56bn) in free carbon allowances for the building of two massive coal-fired power plants. The 1100MW coal stations will cost an estimated €2.4bn, and emit around 7m tonnes of CO2 a year, casting doubt on their viability without a cash injection from an exemption under Europe’s carbon trading market. Bonkers? The Guardian explains more here.  The amount of electricity generated from UK coal power stations is on track to fall by two-thirds this year, a decline which analysts said was so steep and fast it was unprecedented globally. Climate change thinktank Sandbag said the drop was due to a doubling in the price of a carbon tax and the lower price of gas. The group has written to the chancellor, Philip Hammond, urging him not to water down the carbon floor price in this month’s autumn statement, which the steel industry has been lobbying the government to do.

african-elephant2The poaching crisis wiping out Africa’s elephants is costing the continent’s economies millions in lost tourism revenue, according to a new study. Researchers looked at visitor and elephant data across 25 countries, and modelled financial losses from fewer visitors in protected areas due to the illegal wildlife trade, which has caused elephant numbers to plummet by more than 100,000 in the last decade. They concluded that Africa was most likely losing $25m in tourism revenue a year. Around $9m of that is lost from tourists’ direct spending, such as staying at hotels and buying crafts, with the rest through indirect value in the economy such as farmers and other suppliers supporting the tourist industry.

Industry Green Survey 2016

Power Ballad YogaPowerful Thinking, with the support of the Association of Independent festivals (AIF) and the Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) have launched the second annual industry survey focused on sustainable practices at UK festivals. A year on from the release of the seminal environmental report, The Show Must Go On, and the launch of Festival Vision: 2025, Powerful Thinking will publish a report in December based on the results from this survey, showing the movements in the industry.

powerfulthinkinglogonewTake a few minutes to complete the Industry Green Survey 2016, help Powerful Thinking to track industry progress and shape support for all festivals to move towards more sustainable practices — and get entered into a raffle to win one of five ‘Smart Power Scans’ from Zap Concepts Consultancy — a completely free audit of your festival energy to identify where you can save fuel and money! Plus, a chance to win a free delegate place for the Green Events & Innovations Conference hosted by A Greener Festival in March 2017 at the ILMC.

FV2025_logo_grungeCLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

Please complete the survey by Nov 30th 2016. Winners will be announced December 2016.

Further information:

The Show Must Go On report, published by Powerful Thinking in November 2015, outlines the environmental impacts of the festival industry and aims to provide a robust basis for an industry-wide action through the Festival Vision: 2025 Pledge — a shared vision for a sustainable future. Over 50 festivals have now committed to Festival Vision: 2025 — you can find out more about the report and take the pledge HERE.

Powerful Thinking is not-for-profit industry think tank working towards an energy efficient, low carbon and cost effective future for festivals. Powerful Thinking’s steering group members include: Julie’s Bicycle, A Greener Festival, The Association of Independent Festivals, The Association of Festival Organisers, The Production Services Association, The National Outdoor Events Association, Firefly Clean Energy, Festival Republic, Shambala Festival, Bestival and Kambe Sustainable Events.

Powerful Thinking website: www.powerful-thinking.org.uk

Festival Vision: 2025 Webpage: www.festivalvision2025.net

Photo by Louise Roberts

Festival Congress Awards 2016

a13Well the 2016 Festival Congress Awards are done and dusted …… and those amazing and talented winners are:

Mind-blowing Spectacle
Brian Eno’s light Installation at Bluedot, Jodrell Bank.

Unique Festival Arena
Deer Shed Festival¹s Film Production Big Top

a8Live Act Of The Year
Spring King

Festival Caterer Most Likely To End Up On Instagram
The Cheese Truck

Festival Journalist Of The Year
David Hillier (Freelancer for The Guardian, Vice etc..)

Best Smart Marketing Campaign Of The Year
End Of The Road’s line-up announcement video

a2The Backstage Award
Artist Liaison at Blissfields

New Festival On The Block
Bluedot

Act Of Independence
MAST drugs testing piloted at Kendal Calling and Secret Garden Party

Unsung Hero
Penny Mellor- our favourite health, safety and welfare expert at festivals