Weekly eco-tips #1: Light an (eco-friendly) candle for christmas

From now on we will post a weekly eco-tips - a small thing we all can do to save the environment. We want to do this every week until Christmas, and if it's a hit we will continue into the new year.As it's definitely darker outside, and cozier inside with a hot cup of tea and lots of candles, our first tip is to buy eco-friendly candles! This will actually save both your health and the environment. Eco-friendly candles mean that they are made from renewable raw materials, as opposed to the cheaper paraffine candles which are made from oil and release a number of chemical toxins into the air such as chromium and musk xylene. In Norway, the more eco-friendly candles are "Svanemerket" which you can read more about here and here. These candles are also made without palm oil and with 90 percent renewable raw material.

If everyone in Norway would change their candles to eco-friendly variants, it would be the same as removing 21.000 cars from the roads, according to sortere.no! Small but significant step.

I tiden fremover vil det komme et øko-livsstil tips en gang i uken, som en liten motivasjon og inspirasjon til alle der ute som ønsker å gjøre små ting for jorda vår.Siden det definitivt har blitt mørkere ute og koseligere inne, med en god kopp te og tente stearinlys, ønsker vi å tipse om at man kan bytte ut de tradisjonelle te- og stearinlysene med mer miljøvennlige versjoner. Dette vil faktisk både være en fin ting å gjøre for miljøet og din egen helse. Øko-vennlige lys betyr at de er produsert ved bruk av fornybare råvarer, i motsetning til parafinlysene som er laget av olje. Disse frigjør en rekke kjemikalier i luften slik som krom og muskxylen. I Norge er de mer miljøvennlige lysene Svanemerket, som du kan lese mer om her og her. De er laget av 90 prosent fornybart materiale. In Norway you can buy eco-friendly candles at Princess, Indiska, Lagerhaus, Clas Ohlsson, Nille, Coop, Meny and Rema 1000, just look for the logo of Svanemerket. In other countries, some specialty stores and online stores usually have candles made from environmentally friendly materials, such as "The Greatest Candle In The World" - made from recycled cooking oil.I Norge kan du kjøpe miljøvennlige lys på Princess, Indiska, Lagerhaus, Clas Ohlsson, Nille, Coop, Meny of Rema 1000 - bare se etter Svanemerket! I andre land finner du slike lys i ulike spesialforretninger eller online, slik som for eksempel "The Greatest Candle In The World", som er laget av resirkulert matolje. 

Going zero waste with Stine Friis

Have you ever heard of the zero waste philosophy? It's a fantastic movement towards a world without waste through simple techniques you can incorporate into your daily life, and a reaction against the consumption society. This means reduce, reuse and send as little as possible to be recycled and to be composted. For some people, the philosophy might relate to the New Yorker Lauren Singer, one of the first famous zero waste role models out there. She makes her own deodorant and toothpaste, and actually managed to keep 2 years worth of trash in a mason jar!Whats exciting is that we have our very own zero waste superwoman right here in Europe - more specifically from a small town in Northern Norway. We had a chat with Stine Friis some days after she guested the national morning TV show God Morgen Norge (check the behind the scenes video here), to understand more about this mysterious subject.Hey Stine! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?Sure! I’m Stine Friis, 24, from a small town in Norway/Nowhere. I’m a copywriter and run a zero waste/sustainability blog.Can you explain briefly what zero waste is, and why is it so important?Zero waste is about reducing your climate impact through reducing consumption and producing as little trash as possible. Zero waste has us use our resources in a more thoughtful way, and lets resources go in a circle – instead of ending up in an incinerator or in a landfill. Everything we make should get reused or remade into something new. Reuse, repurpose or recycle. Don’t throw it away.

THE 5 ZERO WASTE PRINCIPLES: Refuse - say no to what you don't really need, reduce - reduce the consumption of what you need, reuse - use things multiple times, recycle - goes without saying, rot - compost your food.

NORWEGIAN TRASH TALK: On average each person in Norway produced about 433 kg (!) trash in 2016 (1).

How did you get interested in it?I realized that I was becoming vain. Suddenly I was into high-end makeup, and certain labels, with no thought for the person who made it – or what ingredients were in the products I bought. I used to be a politically active teenager and didn't really recognize myself anymore. So I started researching how I could become environmentally friendly, reduce my carbon footprint and consume without other people having to suffer. Slowly, I started to change my habits, decluttered my life – and got into zero waste.How does a meal become zero waste?Buy as many ingredients you can package free, or make stuff yourself. You don’t have to buy those plastic wrapped tortillas, you can totally make them from scratch. Try to choose sustainable brands when possible, skip the meat when you can – and don’t throw out the leftovers. Pop them in the fridge for lunch the next day. Recycle or reuse any packaging.What are your top five zero waste hacks for the daily life?

  1. Buy dry goods like beans, coffee, and popcorn in bulk with a cloth bag.
  2. Always keep a reusable cup in your bag
  3. Keep a spare tote bag in your purse or backpack.
  4. Be nice when you ask to have cheese, bread or whatever put into your food containers. If you’re nice it’s so much easier.
  5. If you find a store with self-checkout counters: use them! It will save you loads of funny looks.

Is it challenging to go zero waste in Norway?Partially. In Oslo, we have a few stores made for zero waste people like myself, but the products can be quite pricey. I go there for dried goods and opt for my local shop or international food store for vegetables and sweets. Our food budget is somewhat limited, as my boyfriend is still in university.In some of the bigger cities, there’s been an increase in zero waste/eco-friendly food stores in the past few years. But try staying zero waste in my hometown... it’s impossible.What are your favorite zero waste products?My coffee cup, cloth bags, menstrual cup and fountain pen. And my backpack.Follow Stine and her exciting story on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and on her blog!Zero waste is a probably a big leap for most of us (authors included) but we really want to strive to follow Stines footsteps, and every small action counts. How about starting with saving your glass jars and use them for smoothies or to store bulk foods in, or bringing your own cup when you buy coffee in the morning? Personally, this is a bit of a barrier, but it will keep your coffee warm longer! Zero waste shopping can, with some planning, be done in many regular shops, but some specialty stores in Europe are worth mentioning for those interested:

If you need even more zero waste inspiration, Pinterest is a great source!

How the heck does plastic end up in the ocean? And how does it affect your health?

It's no secret that the world is facing a huge plastic problem - and we are not talking about that p surgery. Plastic is made of a material that is meant to last forever, yet we tend to through away bottles, straws, and plates after using them only once. What's alarming is that huge amounts of it end up in the ocean. It's not sexy to surf or swim among used plastic bottles, fishnets, and bags. Once you start paying attention to plastic, you see it absolutely everywhere. It's wrapped around food and drinks, it's part of the material of your clothes, shoes, headphones, sports watches and bags, it's in your makeup, toothbrushes, shampoo, and the list goes on. Luckily, it is possible to turn this trend, and a lot of people are already leading the way with zero-waste movements, beach clean-ups, and making really cool sustainable brands.

Why should we care about plastic?

Even though plastic has been hugely practical in many ways due to its eternal lifespan, it has become a major environmental issue for the same reason. According to UNEP, every square kilometer of the world's oceans has 63,320 microplastic particles floating around (1). Toxic chemicals from plastic leach out, and by now almost all people have traces of plastic in their blood (2).

MICROPLASTICS: Plastic particles with the size ranging from 1 nanometer to 5 millimeter (3). When plastic enters the ocean it breaks down due to external forces, for example, water. This in turn makes it harder to see and easier to forget.

Some of the main problems with plastic occur because it never breaks down entirely. The most important issues are:

  1. Fish and other sea animals eat plastic, which in turn can lead to hormonal, reproductive and digestive problems.
  2. Humans are indirectly consuming plastic through eating seafood and fish, which in turn can cause the same problems for humans as for the fish and sea animals at high enough concentrations (4).
  3. Humans are also directly exposed to plastic though plastic bottles, food packaging and chemical additives in cosmetics such as BPA, phthalates, and DEHP which are known to interfere with the human hormonal function (5).
  4. Animals are eating and getting stuck in the plastic litter, fishing line nets, plastic bags, balloons, and straps. Research shows that more than 100 million marine mammals are killed each year due to plastic in the oceans (6).

How does plastic end up on the beaches and in the oceans?About 80% of the plastics come from land-based activities (7) (meaning not from boats and ships). Lots of items have drifted off land from the streets, garbage cans, and landfills and into rivers or directly to the ocean. Ships also lose some cargo when they are out in the sea, or caught in a storm. Ocean currents bring the items far from where they originate.Further, small plastic particles enter the ocean through the drains. Some examples of are microbeads in most kinds of toothpaste, dishwashing powders and synthetic clothing fibers that shed in washing machines (8).

What can we do about it?

The problem and the solution to this start on land. Not only are big manufacturing companies responsible, but every single consumer has the power to change this trend through what we chose to buy and consume. Here are some tips:Five things you can do today

  1. Avoid single-use plastic bottles and buy a BPA-free bottle
  2. Change your tooth-brush from plastic to bamboo
  3. Bring your own bags to the grocery store
  4. #stopsucking on plastic straws
  5. Bring your own cup or box when you are getting take away food or coffee

Five things that need some planning

  1. Choose natural toothpaste and cleaning products
  2. Recycle as much as you can
  3. Try to repair what you already have instead of buying new things
  4. Support environmental friendly clothing brands (such as HallaxHalla)
  5. Check out eco-friendly makeup brands made without chemicals

Photo: @vanhamiesAre you interested in learning more? Check out:We also highly recommend the Netflix Documentary "A Plastic Ocean".Big eco-friendly high five!

3 ways to go green today

As rational beings we tend to look for results of our actions, which in the big picture sometimes are hard to find. Therefore, we looked up three simple actions with a positive effect for your environment.1. Does it matter if I use a plastic straw?It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the water if we continue to consume like we do today, as this previous post points out. #Stopsucking on single use plastic straws when you buy a drink.2. Does it matter if I use plastic bags every time I buy food?5 trillion disposable bags are used each year across the world (1). We use the bags for 12 minutes on average, but they remain in nature for thousands of years. About 10% of the bags end up in the oceans.     The production of plastic bags requires millions of gallons of petroleum. Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for their favorite food (jellyfish) and may choke on them. So maybe this is just a habit which is quite easy to quit or at least consider.San Fransisco was actually the first state to ban plastic bags already in 2007. In 2016 France became the first country to ban plastic bags entirely. In France it was estimated that 17 billion plastic bags were used each year and 8 billion were just discarded in nature. So, yes! It does matter. France also banned the use of plastic cups, plates and cutlery, which comes into effect in 2020 (2).4. Does it matter if I eat meat everyday?Scientists have found that by pursuing a plant based diet, you can cut your carbon footprint by 50%. Animal agriculture accounts for more greenhouse gases than the combined effect from all transportation (3). Having a meat free Monday can be the personal sacrifice with the largest environmental impact of them all - one day per week of replacing red meat and dairy for veggies can cut your annual emissions by the equivalent of a 1900 km car ride. Thats like driving from Oslo to mid France!Every single step matters, no matter how small!(1) http://www.theworldcounts.com/counters/waste_pollution_facts/plastic_bags_used_per_year(2) France: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/france-bans-plastic-cups-plates-cutlery-energy-transition-for-green-growth-a7313076.html(3) https://www.paulmccartney.com/news-blogs/news/meat-free-monday-the-facts