This is going to upset some people. I make no apologies but I hope that it resonates with many more.
Saturday was World Clean Up Day and while marvelling at the cleanliness of the streets of Zurich, I thought about my home city of Glasgow and about how it is the filthiest, dirtiest and most litter strewn city I’ve ever been in.
Glasgow is a disgrace and Glaswegians are responsible.
Forget Glasgow Smiles Better. Glasgow Litters Worst is currently more apt. Collectively, we are responsible for the litter on our streets, the mess in our parks and the debris in our burns and rivers.
Glasgow City Council (GCC) cuts (and that’s what they are) to refuse collections, its removal of and often inability to empty street bins and the introduction of charges for uplifting of bulk household refuse has undoubtedly played its part. However, it’s the citizens of Glasgow who casually discard bus tickets onto the pavement as they disembark the bus, who think nothing of throwing fast food containers from their car windows, fly tipping under bridges and in rivers and who drop litter on the pavements when a bin is only a few feet away.
We can’t gather without making a mess (or causing distress) and while this is also true in many countries, I’ve witnessed partygoers cleaning beaches and litter picking in parks after events overseas. Members of the Tartan Army were recently seen cleaning up after the England – Scotland game in London, but what is it about Glasgow that makes its inhabitants think that it’s ok to drop litter in our dear green place?
And more importantly, what can we do about it? Over the next few blog posts, I’ll be sharing some ideas on what we can do to combat the Glasgow litter problem, improve our well being while reducing our carbon footprint (my jetting abroad and purchasing of NFTs don’t help) and contributing to a more sustainable world.
Today, we start with food waste and littering.
The blame for the Glasgow litter problem has been pinned on the Scottish National Party (SNP) controlled GCC by opposition MPs and Councillors. Arguably, they do need to look at the impact Glasgow’s litter problem has on its reputation, especially with the climate conference, COP26 being held in Glasgow from 1st November,.
Resources will be stretched and finances will be tight, but litter isn’t only unsightly, it also attracts disease carrying vermin. GGC needs to do more.
However, as much as we expect our taxes to be spent on cleaning our streets and parks, there are many competing interests and we need to look at how we, as individuals and communities, can do better and discard our throw away attitudes.
Behaviour change can take generations but we owe it to our future generations to make changes now to how we live our lives.
The increase in litter can be linked to an increase in consumerism with 48% of marine litter comprising household waste so can we limit how much we consume?
This isn’t easy with brands bombarding us with marketing and reasons why we just need to buy their products and when buying can elicit feelings of happiness, even if fleetingly.
There are however things that we can do.
One of the unintended results of Brexit has been a shortage of bags (and actual products) in supermarkets. Despite the 10p (often now 20p) charge for plastic bags, many of us haven’t changed our ways and shoppers can be seen leaving supermarkets cradling shopping in their arms. Buy that “Bag for Life” and remember to bring it to the supermarket when you next return.
We can waste less. My mother encouraged me, as a child to clear my plate and portion sizes did seem smaller but as a parent I have seen how much food was being wasted in my own household. We bought too much food, we cooked too much food and we threw out too much food. We eagerly bought lots of fresh vegetables and fruit for healthy meals and smoothies only to throw half of it out within days.
One solution was to buy more frozen fruit and vegetables. The purist might recoil at this suggestion but nutritionally there is little difference between frozen and fresh fruit and vegetables, with frozen fruit and vegetables occasionally being more vitamin rich.
Frozen peppers have become a staple of our diet and we add them to almost everything while frozen berries are great for smoothies.
Another idea is to shop more frequently. Buy fruit and vegetables daily and locally. In Glasgow, shops like Locavore encourage shoppers to buy unpackaged and locally produced vegetables and to bring their own bottle for milk (from the sustainability focused Mossgiel Organic Farm – the milk genuinely tastes much better). A survey of their customers show that 55% waste less food with 45% saying that they waste none of the food bought from Locavore
This might reduce the scale of the supply chain but you can pay a premium for some of the products at Locavore. If you are driving each day to buy fresh food, you are also potentially negating the benefits, so why not make use of the cycle lanes that are growing in number and popularity in Glasgow? Save money, burn calories and reduce your carbon footprint.
We can also stop food from going to waste while saving some money and enjoying the odd (or frequent, it’s up to you) treat with the Too Good To Go app. Currently a third of the food produced in the world goes to waste when it could go in my belly. The idea behind Too Good To Go is simple. Food that supermarkets, cafes and restaurants are due to throw out is offered to app users at discounted prices with some retailers offering mystery goody bags. This element is quite exciting (sad, I know) although sometimes you do end up being a middleman for the waste bin. A byproduct is that my opinion of the retailers involved has strengthened and I’ve found myself shopping with them more frequently.
And we can look at how and when we eat. How many of you eat on the go? Too busy to have breakfast at home and grabbing something on the way to school, college or work?. With bins overflowing and time precious it can be too tempting to place our litter ON the bin. Invariably this ends up on the streets. Try and make time to eat at home.
We also need to stop thinking that we are in the job creation industry.
It isn’t someone else’s job to pick up your litter; you can and should carry your fast food trays to the bins and most of us do have pockets (sorry girls) or bags to store rubbish until we find a bin.
We can be positive role models to our children and our friends and collectively make an effort to litter less. We can educate others and encourage others while we can contact our local Councillors and demand cleaner streets.
We can also buy more sustainable products and resist the temptation to buy unnecessary goods. And what if there was a way to get rewarded for doing acts of social good like litter picking and beach cleaning? Would extrinsic rewards prompt you to act?
My next blogs will detail ways that you can make a difference, be rewarded for completing acts of social good and buy from sustainability focused sports brands (well, I am a fitness blogger).