Solutions

This is our attempt at the beginnings of an A-Z compendium of things we can all do to make human society more sustainable.

But remember – it’s more important to understand that our economic system (debt-based money, shareholder value, economic growth and fossil fuels) is the fundamental cause of the problem, than it is to refuse plastic bags in shops.

And addressing our addiction to high impact consumption (longer distances, faster speeds, bigger sensations, more stuff), and the denialism surrounding it, is more important than recycling yoghurt pots.

A is for Arctic

A personal reflection by Alexis. I started to take climate change seriously when I concluded that the sea ice at the North Pole was melting so fast that the Arctic would be completely ice-free during the summer months in my lifetime. (1) “Ice doesn’t vote. Ice doesn’t…

A is for Asteroid

Could a large asteroid hit Earth and wipe out mankind in the not too distant future? You might think so if you read the tabloids or watch certain Hollywood films…

B is for Bees

More than 50% of the bees in the world have disappeared in the last fifteen years. This epidemic, known as Colony Collapse Disorder, is spreading from hive to hive all over the planet. Everywhere it’s the same scenario: by their billions, bees are leaving their hives…

B is for Bec Hellouin

Bec Hellouin in Normandy is France’s top permaculture farm. Alexis did a micro farm course there in May 2017 and has a forest garden course lined up for November. Owners, Charles and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer, have just written a new book, Miraculous Abundance, which we…

B is for Bioturbation

Bioturbation is the reworking of soils and sediments by animals or plants, which is great news for permaculturists using no-dig techniques. Its effects include changing the texture of sediments (diagenesis), bioirrigation, and displacement of microorganisms and…

B is for Bottle

Try to carry a travel mug or a metal water bottle with you rather than using disposable cups or buying water bottles.

C is for Climate Change

Climate change scientists agree that the planet is heating up because of human activities. There has been cataclysmic climate change before – caused by volcanoes or meteorites – but temperatures have never risen so fast over such a short timeframe. Greenhouse gas…

C is for Car

If you live in a city, sell your car and join a car club. If there’s no car club operating in your area, then join Blablacar and share a ride. Better still get a bicycle or, at the very least, an electric bike! If you really need a car, and, honestly, very few people…

C is for Campaigning

Join a group campaigning for action on climate change like Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace. Find out whether there’s a Transition Towns group working towards a society without cheap oil in your area and join it. If there isn’t one, then considering starting one.…

D is for Design

The most important thing in permaculture is to design your space or project in advance. Spend 12 months watching your land. Spend two years designing your project. This is unlikely to be time wasted. The more effort you put into the design, the more iterations of your…

D is for Deodorant

There’s conflicting evidence on the danger that industrial deodorants and anti-perspirants pose to humans. Some studies suggest there is an increased risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s and allergies; others find little or no evidence that the numerous chemicals (aluminum…

D is for Doughnut (Economics)

Kate Raworth, author of Doughnut Economics — seven ways to think like a 21st century economist, says: “I sat down and tried to draw a picture of human well-being in the 21st-century. What are the necessary fundamentals of well-being? And it came out looking like a…

E is for E-Waste

Every year, up to 50 million tons of electronic waste — computers, television sets, mobile phones, household appliances — are discarded in the developed world. 75% of this waste disappears from the legal recycling circuits, with much of it being shipped illegally to…

E is for Electricity

Switch your electricity supply to a renewable energy provider like Good Energy or Ecotricity. The electricity these companies supply comes from wind turbines, solar panels, hydro, and gas from organic waste or sewage. They also offer an option to sign up for green gas…

E is for Energy Efficiency

Install draught exclusion measures around doors and windows, lag your hot water tank if you have one, and put in cavity wall and loft insulation wherever possible. Best of all install internal or external wall insulation, under floor insulation and double glazing. The…

F is for Fairphone

Fairphone is a Dutch company which, since 2013, have made smartphones which can be repaired by their owners and which can be entirely recycled at the end of their life. They also contain no conflict metals, that is metals which are mined in conflict zones. They also…

F is for Fermentation

Fermenting food is so easy, so nutritious and such fun that it’s no wonder industrial food companies don’t do it or encourage it! We ferment cabbage (to make sauerkraut), flour and water (to make wild yeast and thence sour dough bread), black tea (to make kombucha),…

F is for Food Waste

Use a compost bin for your garden and kitchen waste. If you have a balcony or some outside hard space, then consider buying a wormery from Wiggler Wigglers or Green Gardener. A wormery can take dairy products and cooked food; a compost heap can only take garden waste…

G is for Geology (and Giant!)

An astonishing transformation over the last 20,000 years has seen our planet flip from a frigid wasteland into the temperate world upon which our civilisation has grown and thrived. This most dynamic episode in Earth history saw the crust bouncing and bending in…

J is for Jet Stream

The jet stream — a powerful river of wind high in the atmosphere — shapes the Northern Hemisphere’s weather, including bitter cold snaps. Because it plays a key role in weather extremes, climate scientists are striving to understand its changing dynamics. Here’s a closer…

M is for Mooncup

After a slow start, Blanche has become a big fan of her Mooncup. For those who don’t know, the Mooncup is reusuable silicon cup that you put in your vagina to collect the blood from your period. Using a Mooncup means not having to use tampons, which end up in…

M is for Mitigation

Mitigation, in climate change terms, means what we do about preventing anthropogenic or manmade climate chaos. All international mitigation strategies include Negative Emissions Technologies, ways to remove CO2 and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere using…

M is for Meat

Reducing our carbon footprint will mean eating less meat and dairy. That’s a hard message for many to swallow, but we have to face the facts. In 2006 the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations estimated the carbon emissions associated with the…

N is for Not Nuclear

It’s hardly a surprise that building nuclear power stations on seismic fault lines, as Japan has done, turns out to be a foolish thing. In the pause for reflection about the safety of nuclear power that the Fukushima disaster is bound to create, here are ten reasons…

P is for Permaeconomy

Emmanuel Delannoy has written a book called La Permaéconomie (Wildproject Editions), all about the need for man to reconnect with nature and for the economy to be circular. Sadly it hasn’t yet been translated into English but it surely will be soon. If your French is…

P is for Peak Oil

The global economy runs on cheap oil. There is virtually nothing you own today that doesn’t require oil either to produce or transport. And we’re using more and more of it all the time. Clearly if oil start to run out, then we’re in trouble. Peak Oil is technically…

P is for Passivhaus

The Passivhaus standard is designed to create buildings that are both comfortable and energy efficient. The combination of an air-tight, super-insulated building fabric and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery reduces energy requirements by up to 85% and provides…

R is for Resilience

Resilience is the ability of a person, community or system to withstand external shocks. On the whole, despite Man, nature is extremely resilient. Human society, by and large, is not. See below for the introductory chapter of an important new book, The Community…

R is for Remake or Reuse

Learn to mend clothes rather than throw them away when they develop holes. You could even redesign old clothes to make new ones. Ecoalf aim to make fashionable clothing from recycled items like discarded fishing nets! Bottletop make bags and other accessories out of…

S is for Sleep

If you want a longer, happier, healthier life, and if you want to be slimmer, more attractive and more intelligent, then you need to sleep more. The evidence is overwhelming and it’s all in Matthew Walker’s book, Why We Sleep. Matthew is a neuroscientist who’s been…

S is for Sepp Holzer

Sepp Holzer is one of Europe’s leading permaculturists and his book, Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture, is a must for any aspiring maker-farmer. Here are a few of his quotes: Sepp on wind… “Before you start building a raised bed system, you should find out what direction…

T is for Toothpaste

We started making our own kitchen and bathroom products as a way to cut down on waste, but it’s also a way to cut your shopping bill and, in the case of toothpaste, to be sure of what you’re putting in your mouth. Making your own toothpaste is incredibly easy. All you…

T is for Transport

Try to take your holidays by train (or bicycle!) rather than plane because jet engines cause more problems in terms of the greenhouse effect than anything else we do on a personal level. The water vapour trails are even worse than the gases emitted. If you do fly,…

T is for Tradable Energy Quotas

Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) are a way of using the market to reduce fossil fuel energy consumption.(1) Every adult is given an equal free entitlement of TEQs units each week. Other energy users (government, industry etc.) bid for their units at a weekly auction. If…

V is for Vipassana (Meditation)

A personal reflection by Alexis At the end of 2016, I was profoundly depressed. The climate numbers were off the map. The reality was worse than every prediction. It looked to me like the window of opportunity for doing something about manmade climate change was…

V is for Vegetarian and Vegan

There are many reasons for reducing our consumption of meat. The livestock industry is estimated to produce 20% of global carbon emissions. Eating a lot of meat, especially poor quality meat, has been linked with cancer and other diseases. Cruelty towards animals is a…

W is for Water

Don’t run the tap when brushing your teeth. Take showers rather than baths. Stop the shower when you’re soaping up or rubbing in shampoo. Put a brick in your toilet cistern to reduce water use. You can also install a grey water diverter to channel waste water from…

Z is for Zero Waste

During the course of 2016 we — Blanche and Alexis — tried to reduce our waste to as close to zero as possible. Every Sunday morning we weighed our non-recyclable waste, our recyclables and our food waste, and tried to work out how we could do better the following…

Z is for Zoe (Renault Zoe)

To get to The Big Raise, we sometimes rent Europe’s top-selling electric car, a Renault Zoe, which has a range of over 300km. It only costs us €71 to rent a Zoe from Renault if we pick it up on Friday after 2pm and return it on Monday before midday. Travelling to the…

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