Getting to the Green Stuff

Copyright: Terri Cramer/Anna-May Richards

Copyright: Terri Cramer/Anna-May Richards

Down and Out in Bristol with Plastic is a blog set up by Terri Cramer and Anna-May Richards, and it documents their attempts to live plastic-free. Here they talk about their project and why Bristol is European Green Capital next year.

Bristol, our endearingly eccentric and vibrant city with its strong identity and global conscience, has won the title of European Green Capital 2015. This is a well-deserved recognition of the effort Bristol’s residents have made to create a welcoming, eco-friendly place to reside. By reducing our carbon footprint, we’re leading the way for the rest of the UK to transform the way we generate fuel and energy. So what did it take for us to fend off the likes of Ljubljana and Brussels and receive the honour of being the greenest city of 2015?

Residents are using less energy per household…

Residents are using less energy per household than another other major UK city- better for the environment and the wallet! Bristol is also on track to more than double the city’s solar power generation with a £140m energy investment plan. We are making healthy travel decisions, becoming the UK’s first cycling city; a fun and active way to avoid toxic emissions. £400m is being invested to transform our transport systems to encourage us to ditch the solo car journeys.

Bristol takes pride in having an abundance of luscious green spaces for everyone to enjoy, whether it is walking the dog, sunbathing or festivals these are perfect areas for everyone to unwind. As a city we have recognised the importance of preserving them. By not allowing green spaces to be built on when there is so much opportunity for retrofitting existing buildings and brownfield land we look after our own health and the planet’s.

Plastic waste even ends up in our food chain.

Waste is another impressive area that Bristol excelled in to win European Green Capital despite being the South West’s largest city with a bustling calendar throughout the year. It’s impossible to ignore the delights that summer in Bristol brings. The stalls, the music, the giant waterslides – there’s always something to do in the sun. But as we enjoy beautiful food, decorations, and drinks that come with these events, a trail builds up that’s not so great for the rest of the planet. Most plastic waste that ends up in the ocean comes from packaging. Drinks bottles, polystyrene trays, crisp packets and can six-pack rings all contribute to global pollution.

Plastic waste even ends up in our food chain. Small bits of plastic can’t be filtered out by drinking water systems and are often mistaken for a meal by fish and animals. Certain toothpastes, scrubs and other hygiene products we use can contain tiny beads. The beads linger in bodies of water, becoming hotbeds for toxins and chemicals. So much so, that companies like L’Oreal have committed to eliminating them from their products. These tiny bits of  plastic have managed to weasel their way into notoriously pure German beer!

Bioplastics, biodegradable plastics are good alternatives…

Reducing this plastic waste requires a combination of reusing, introducing new legislation, and a better awareness of our throwaway lifestyle. If we want to make sure there’s enough resources to use plastic for all it’s wonderful purposes in medicine, construction, furniture and household items, we have to think about where we can use less and where it ends up once we’re done. Bioplastics, biodegradable plastics are good alternatives but those too can come at a cost to coastlines and food security. They often depend on the right temperature and moisture to break down and landfill does not provide good conditions for this to happen so it’s important to keep an eye on how we dispose of plastic.

Reducing waste production by 29% and increasing recycling from 13% to 50% are just some of the incredible achievements our city has made. With the future in mind  fuel is now generated from 25% of our waste with the vision of increasing this further. Bristol is home to great initiatives like New Earth Solutions, Greenwarehouse and EcoCollect which help in making sure when we throw things away that rubbish goes back into use for products and energy.

Our generation is soon to be responsible for making vital decision for our planets future. Cities are increasingly where the world’s population are choosing to reside. We have to look after our urban environment and think about how we can look after the beautiful city of Bristol that has so much to offer. Green Capital 2015 is our chance to show Europe that we, Bristol, are the greenest, cleanest city.

Find out more about living a plastic-free life here

Do you think Bristol should have been European Green Capital? Should we be trying to have less plastic in our lives? Let us know in the comments below.

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