I’ve decided that February is my favourite month of the year. It’s because it contains so much promise, finally the days really feel like they are getting longer and there are little signs of spring popping up, snowdrops, crocus, celandine and daffodils all start to show their magnificent colours and cheer. This January was particularly dull and the lighter mornings have been such a joy and mid-month I headed out without a headlamp at all, it was uplifting. The second day I left the headlamp the clouds had returned and it was gloomy again which of course made me grumpy. I should have made the grump wait and be patient as the clouds meant there was a beautiful sunrise. While I was gazing and admiring the pink clouds as they chased away my grumpiness, a barn owl swooped into view, majestic, amazing and totally silent. Wow!
Another advantage to these lighter mornings is the chance to admire the wildlife. I am so incredibly lucky to run along the river in Milton Keynes, yes Milton Keynes! The place famed for its concrete cows and roundabouts but actually has a lot of green spaces as well as the Grand Union Canal and the River Ouzel. The way Milton Keynes was designed was to keep as many green spaces as possible and the parks by the riverside go under the roads so I can run for miles without any contact with traffic. And the wildlife is fab! Many robins bob about and sit in the trees singing their beautiful song, the black birds chirrup at me if they think I am too close and the green woodpeckers cackle from high in the trees. This week alone I have seen the heron, little white egret, tree creeper and the kingfisher. I can hear so many others chirruping away and strain to see them but sometimes they are just too high. This is the best time of year though, as the birds get frisky and before the leaves and other green growth hide them.
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to see three otters in the river. I was still wearing my headlamp and I spied two pairs of eyes swimming along the river. I stopped to have a closer look and it was two young otters playing. On the opposite bank a larger pair of eyes was looking straight at me. It was mother otter who slipped into the water and ushered her young away. Incredible.
I am saddened by the amount of rubbish that is left behind at these beautiful places we have. The Parks Trust do a grand job tidying up but when the river swells as it has done a number of times recently, more rubbish flows downstream. Alongside this there has been a general increase in awareness around what happens to our waste in many news stories and Blue Planet II which recently finished with David Attenborough explaining the danger for our oceans.
As much as 80% of marine waste comes from rivers, so keeping these waterways clear is important. With currents our waste could end up anywhere in the world almost, so now is a good time to change. I’ve always tried to be careful with waste, recycle where possible and always take my own bags when shopping. But as they say, there is always room for improvement and we do produce a large amount of recyclable waste. I started to look at my shopping habits which have got a bit lazy if I’m honest. This is mainly with vegetables where so many are sold in plastic containers with plastic coverings and those that aren’t are placed in plastic bags! Having got into the habit of an online shop at least twice a month, I realised I was bringing far too much waste into the house. I have no control over the online shop, even opting for no bags doesn’t mean they don’t use at least some and loose fruit and veg is always in a bag with a sticker placed in such a way that I can’t re-use the bag or the handles tied so tightly the only way in is to tear it. So my first change is to stop the online delivery and head to the supermarket myself. My second change is to buy only loose fruit and vegetables and put them straight in my hessian bag. The self scan sticker sits nicely on the outside of the bag should it be needed. I have noticed our recycling bin is already not as full! I’m also trading single portion yoghurts for large tubs to try to reduce waste.
The next best thing to not creating the waste in the first place is re-use. I’ve been investigating making things with plastic bags. I’ve not been terribly successful though I have managed the first stage of making ‘plarn’ (yarn from plastic!). Now all I need to do is learn how to crochet or weave it which is easier said than done. A far easier re-use is tidying up our storage. I’ve been using the bottom of milk cartons to tidy up the drawer where I keep spare hand gels, toothpaste and other such items. There is of course only so many cartons I will need for that so will need to come up with other ideas soon.
This is starting small, I know one person’s change isn’t going to change the world. But if one person reads this and they make a change too then it’s worth it, and if that does happen and they share their thoughts and another change is made it’s even better. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop here, I need a little time to think about other changes and differences I can make and you can be sure that I will.
I’ve just taken the photo above of my milk carton storage and all I see is plastic in plastic – where will it end? I will take little steps but there is so far to go, if you’ve read this far please help with the fight against plastic to protect our beautiful precious world.