There’s no doubt that we’re rapidly approaching a time where it will soon be too late to do anything about the environmental crisis we’re currently experiencing. But you – yes, you there, sitting at your office desk, in a waiting room, or lounging on the sofa reading this very article – can change this.
Together with members of Facebook group Sustainable Gibraltar, we’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts, as well as some eco-conscious swaps you can make to your day-to-day products.
One of the ways we can help our environment is by doing something everybody probably has a little experience of – recycling. One of the most common reasons for not recycling is lack of understanding as to what goes where, and what counts as ‘recyclable’ material. Luckily, all this information is just a click away at thininggreen.gov.gi.
Plastic items such as bottles of water, yoghurt pots, Tetra Brik packaging and plastic bags as well as all types of metal items, including tins, cans, aluminum foil and foil trays.
Paper and cardboard.
Small Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). This includes items such as toasters, hairdryers, watches, electrical toys, etc.*
All types of glass containers and items. Remove any metal lids, which should go in the yellow bins.
Household batteries, of all shapes and sizes.*
Any waste cooking oil in sealed plastic bottles.
*In addition, our Civic Amenities Site on Europa Advance Road is equipped to receive all types of WEEE, including washing machines, fridges and boilers, from the public free of charge.
- Walk, cycle, skate, use public transport, or carpool where possible.
- Carry a reusable coffee cup/metal water bottle everywhere, and eco-bags.
- Take fewer flights.
Most sanitary pads are made with polyethylene plastic (the adhesive that sticks the pad to your underwear), an environmentally harmful pollutant. Tampons have plastic in them too – even the string.
When you take into consideration that the average person will use between 11,000-16,000 disposable period products in their lifetime, it sure adds up.
Joelle Montegriffo, a local dance teacher, is educating her students on the topic: “I changed to the menstrual cup myself, and I try my best through social media and as a dance teacher who deals with a lot of female teens to try and encourage them to make the change. It’s amazing to hear their feedback as they sometimes don’t even realise that their tampons and pads add to the single use waste problem. We get stuck in our ways and forget to look at the bigger picture.”
Entrepreneur Caroline Howard makes reusable sanitary pads, panty liners and breast pads locally, and so far, they’ve been a hit. She tells us: “Because I make them locally there is no packaging, transport or environmental impact on my products, which are made with lots of love!”. These hypoallergenic products can simply be popped into the washing machine after use.
“We get stuck in our ways and forget to look at the bigger picture.”
- Avoid buying synthetic clothing or blankets, especially fleeces due to the unbiodegradable synthetic fibres. (Be aware that cotton may have massive impact due to water required for production, though.)
- Buy from charity shops or acquire second hand where possible. Use buy/sell/swap sites more instead of buying from new.
- Mend clothes (and other items) instead of replacing them.
- Just buy fewer new clothes!
KITCHEN & FOOD STORAGE
- Avoid cling film. Use repurposed glass jars, Tupperware, cereal bags, pasta bags.
- Use oven liners to reduce foil paper waste. These can be washed and resused AND the food doesn’t stick to it like it does with tin foil!
- Use loose tea leaves instead of tea bags, as they contain plastic, plus it’s unnecessary waste. Not to mention the white teabags are bleached to be that way – not good for you!
- Coffee pods go to landfill. Try to source compostable capsules.
- Boycott all products with palm oil as an ingredient.
- Some veggie frozen food like the Linda McCartney sausages and sausage rolls come in a cardboard box with no plastic.
- Try to meal plan and freeze leftovers to avoid food waste.
- Buy the wonky fruit and veg at shop, and don’t use bags for ones that come with their own natural casings, like bananas.
- Take your own containers to market or supermarket.
- Eat less meat and less dairy, especially cheese which has a significantly higher carbon footprint than milk. To make a real difference, go plant-based.
- Buy yoghurt/oil in glass containers instead of plastic, or make your own!
- Get someone who can sew to make you some veg and fruit bags from an old sheet, pillow case, net curtain or similar.
Alex Caruana pleads: “Quit it already with the plastic EVERYWHERE! On a food shop is when I notice it the most. I take my own reusable bags to avoid having to use any plastic ones. Invest in a couple of good cotton tote bags which you can fold up and keep in your car/handbag. Boycott the plastic in the fruit and vegetable section by ensuring you pick the uncovered stuff and popping in your tote bag. Oh, and at the till when they go to wrap your already wrapped chicken or fish products in another plastic bag, politely refuse. Little things like this will make a huge difference in reducing your personal plastic consumption.”
- Buy washing powder in a large cardboard box instead of plastic bottles.
- Don’t use softener. Instead use white vinegar; a natural fabric softener that leaves no residue, and comes in a glass bottle!
- Seek out plastic-free dishwasher tablets.
- Create your own household cleaning products using baking soda, lemon, vinegar, oils etc., replace harmful toxins in the home which is then released into the sea.
- Cut up muslin cloths, face cloths, or old towels to replace kitchen sponges/baby wipes. Avoid microfibre cloths as it releases synthetic fibres into the sewer system and subsequently, the environment, binding with harmful chemical pollutants.
- Use a bamboo paper towels from Bamboo Detective.
- Buy toothpaste in glass or metal jar (most don’t contain fluoride which is probably not a good idea – more options are needed on the market).
- Invest in a proper metal razor that will last for years.
- Use coconut oil and rose water as make up remover and toner. Buy both in glass.
- Use coconut oil as moisturiser, hair softener and teeth whitener (Google ‘oil pulling’).
- Use shampoo, conditioner and hand soap bars.
- Stick a bucket under the shower while you’re waiting for it to warm up, and use it for household cleaning.
Little things like this will make a huge difference.
It’s lovely to receive a gift, but even lovelier to receive one with some thought of the environment behind it. Children won’t enjoy a toy any less just because it isn’t made of plastic. Ann-Marie contributes: “Gifts are normally not something appreciated by a child for very long, more often than not it’s a plastic toy or clothing. One solution is doing a secret Santa. Surely the best gift we can give people is a brighter, healthier future in the long term?”
Here are some sustainable snippets from some of our local eco-warriors:
“I have made one big change in my life at home. It was simple and inexpensive. We are a family of 4 and we all drink at the very least 3ltr of water a day. I decided last year to invest in a tap for my sink that has two outlets for water, and I installed a drinking water filter underneath, that only needs changing every 6months. Now i do not need to purchase any more water and in turn we have reduced the plastic waste by the hundreds. Another bonus is I do not need to carry them home or remember to buy!”
“Often people feel helpless and hopeless when it comes to navigating the ways we can help our environment. Especially in cities. But there are many things to consider that help alleviate environmental anxiety, starting in the home.
“What with more people eating a plant-based diet, growing plants, flowers and veg on their patios and rooftops, it’s great to consider an indoor compost bin (odourless). You can turn your kitchen scraps (organic matter) into nutrient rich compost/fertiliser that can then be applied to your plants. It’s even an idea to ask the government for space for compost containers that would then encourage the community to grow more and connect more with local produce. Take a Permaculture Design Course (it will teach you everything you need to know and give you a firm sense of encouragement and hope in the many ways we can live more ethically and sustainably).”
Visit wildsenses.org/resources for more info.
“Go to protests and support environmental NGOs. There are a lot of people doing great things who need our support. Small actions add up; we need to show people in power that there are a lot of us who disagree with the situation we’re in.”
“Here are a few of the products I use to lower my plastic waste. I use a natural loofah in the shower; it’s made from a plant so no plastic involved. I use natural bath soaps for my hands and body. For makeup brushes I use EcoTools, made with renewable bamboo and plant-based materials. My hydro flask goes with me everywhere, keeps water cold for over 12 hours and no harmful chemicals in the metal either. To wash my clothes, I use a brand called Ecover, they’re plant based and don’t harm the environment. And my newest friend, the metal razor!”
For more information on how you can be part of the movement, join Facebook groups Sustainable Gibraltar and Verdemar Ecologistas en Acción (Campo de Gibraltar).
Many thanks to these lovely people for their insightful contributions: Jess Leaper, Ann Marie Azopardi, Joelle Montegriffo, Caroline Howard, Vikki Borda, Carla Byrne, Jen Fernandez, Zuzanna Marecka, Aimie Desoisa, Melissa Bosano, Niki Tacon, Michelle Rugeroni, Lizanne Figueras, Claire Louise Foster, Claire Trinidad, Louise-Ann Fernandez, Nicky Lintern Crawford, Kayley Linares, Jenny Brown, Stacey Federico, and Alex Caruana.