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We can all do our bit to protect hedgehogs – here’s why

Today is ‘National Hedgehog Day’ – yep.

Sorry, what?

You heard us! Today is National Hedgehog Day and, while it’s important to celebrate these adorable little critters, it’s also a call to action to make sure that they are protected.

Rural hedgehog numbers have fallen by between 30-75% since 2000 and, while urban populations are beginning to stabilise thanks to human intervention, there’s still a lot that needs to be done to protect these walking pinecones.

Why do we have National Hedgehog Day in the first place?

According to Tommy Wilde from floofmania.com: “The story goes that ‘hedgehog day’ goes as far back as the Roman period where people kept an eye on the hedgehog’s hibernation pattern and used it as an indicator to predict spring.

“The idea was, that if a hedgehog came out of hibernating on February 2nd and didn’t see its own shadow, it would go back into hibernation… on the other hand, if it did see its own shadow, it would come out of hibernation, and it would be a sign that spring would start early!”

Native hedgehog. Credit BHPS

Are hedgehogs really that important?

Grace Johnson, Hedgehog Officer for Hedgehog Street says: “Hedgehogs have been a part of our cultural heritage for centuries (everyone knows and loves Beatrix Potter’s Mrs Tiggy-Winkle!), but they’re also a vital part of our ecosystem. 

How do we help protect hedgehogs?

According to Grace, one of the best ways to help is to make a Hedgehog Highway (a small 13cm square gap in or under a garden boundary), which allows hedgehogs to travel between gardens looking for food, shelter and mates. 

Hedgehog Street is a nationwide campaign run by wildlife charities The British Hedgehog Preservation Society and People’s Trust for Endangered Species. Since 2011 they have been working to reverse the decline in native hedgehogs – one of Britain’s favourite mammals that used to be prevalent in our towns, villages and countryside.

If you’re interested in taking more action to protect these adorable, spiny lil things, there’s lots of free advice at www.hedgehogstreet.org.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Life on Land.

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Planet

New ‘flexible plastic’ scheme kickstarts in England

Over 6,500 homes in Essex will be part of a pilot scheme aimed at reducing plastic waste – but not just any plastic waste, ‘flexible’ plastic.

Tell me more.

The new FlexCollect scheme will enable people to recycle ‘flexible’ plastics as part of their normal recycling collections.

Wait – flexible plastics?

Flexible plastics include things like plastic cups, cheese wrap, film lids, clingfilm, sauce pouches and more.

These plastics are usually really hard to recycle under a normal recycling scheme and often get thrown into landfills instead.

So how does it work?

Maldon District Council is the third local authority, alongside Cheltenham and South Gloucestershire, to implement this FPF FlexCollect scheme. 

So far it’s all just a pilot scheme, but hopefully one day this could be something implemented around the country to help reduce plastic waste.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.

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Planet

California Botanical Garden is preserving native plant life

We might be in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event in the history of the Earth, according to researchers.

To preserve life at risk of extinction, seed banks have begun popping up. The most famous of those vaults is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault outside the Arctic Circle, but another seed vault is doing work trying to guarantee the survival of native California plant life.

The California Botanical Garden in Claremont is working to preserve the over 6,500 native plants in the state. They do this by either growing and propagating the plants in their gardens or by harvesting and then freezing living seeds, essentially preserving them in stasis. 

“We have more kinds of plants than any other state in the United States,” says Naomi Fraga, director of conservation programs at the California Botanic Garden. “We’re incredibly rich and diverse.”

How is it helping?

With the threat of pollution, development, and wildfires, about a third of California’s plants are endangered and that’s one of the main reasons the Botanical Garden started doing the work of preserving and cataloging plant life, something that they’ve been doing since 1927.

One of the best ways that people can help the California Botanical Garden preserve native plant life is by planting and maintaining California plants in individual or community gardens. 

“I dream about that,” says Naomi. “I dream about native plant landscapes across people’s yards, even if you can only do container plants on your balcony. It’s magical to build a garden and see life just sort of arrive.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action among others.

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Planet

Community helps bring green space to Southeast Chicago

The Southeast side of Chicago used to be a bed of industry. Steel mills powered the economy but, like a lot of industrial towns throughout America, once the industry moved elsewhere all it left was pollution. 

Following the exodus, brownfields (or previously developed but currently unused lands) popped up and many of the spaces were too polluted or contaminated to do anything about. 

To address the climate impact the industry has had, people in the community have begun working to create green spaces that educate and feed residents and serve as community hubs.

Organizations like the Urban Growers Collective (UGC) and Advocates for Urban Agriculture have played big parts in bringing agriculture to Southeast Chicago.

The UGC runs the South Chicago Farm, an urban farm in the Southeast. On top of farm-fresh food, they also teach locals about how to farm and work to bring the community closer together.

The farm also sits across the street from a former steel mill showing that they can improve the situation they’re in.

“Green spaces are places for us to gather and build community,” says Bea Fry, AUA’s development and strategic partnership steward.

“It is a place to convene, just chat it up with one another, and discuss community issues.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action among others.

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Planet

‘Positive tipping points’ could halt the climate crisis – so what are they?

Positive tipping points are the way forward for climate action, says new research.

Okay, what?

Think about policy changes like subsidies for renewable energy sources, or how the tax system in Norway makes electric vehicles cheaper than ones powered by fossil fuels.

Initially, they may not look like much – they might seem futile, or like they would only make things better for those who are already committed to climate action, rather than encouraging people who aren’t.

But these are what Professor Tim Lenton from the University of Exeter is calling ‘positive tipping points’.

But what does it really mean?

Positive tipping points are basically smaller actions that spark huge changes within a wider and more complex world.

Professor Lenton gives the example of Greta Thunberg, who burst onto the climate action scene as a young girl and created a feedback loop – encouraging more and more people to take action against climate change.

According to Professor Lenton, these ‘positive tipping points’ often begin in smaller groups and sub-cultures, and then make their way into wider society by influencing new actions.

Think of it like one of those amazing domino designs you see on TikTok – one small action could change everything.

What does this mean for climate action?

Perhaps these small tipping points won’t entirely reverse climate change – but according to Professor Lenton, it could cause a ‘climate stalemate’, helping to make up for some of the things that have gone wrong so far.

For example, as more people buy solar panels, more time is invested in researching the technology because it is a profitable business. From here, the technology has become more refined and easier to produce, making it cheaper – and because they’re more affordable, more people will buy the solar panels.

It might sound complicated at first, but in essence – even small actions can have a huge impact on our planet!

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.

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Planet

A man built water collection systems to combat California’s drought

California has been going through a historic drought for what feels like a decade at this point and to address it people are beginning to get creative. 

Buzz Boettcher didn’t want to see any water go to waste and started planning on how to recycle water.

“I’ve done a lot of offshore sailing and racing over the years, and it didn’t make sense that ten people could live on a boat for 15 days out in the ocean and survive on 200 gallons of water, and you come ashore, and you use 20,000 gallons a month,” Buzz said.

So he started building a device that would collect rainwater and convert it into grey water. That water, which would most likely end up washing down the gutter then could be used to do things like flushing toilets.

After starting his first one at the Santa Monica Pico branch library he’s started opening water collection systems around Southern California even making it to an Eately restaurant.

The systems are expanding outside California as well like one where they’re working out how to recycle truck wash water for much of the same purpose.

“It doesn’t make sense to use nice, clean, potable water to flush toilets,” Buzz said. “Talk about good water going after bad.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action among others.

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Planet

Maya van Rossum: the Delaware Riverkeeper making a difference

In environmental advocacy work, it’s hard to do enough. There are always more proverbial fires to put out than there are hands to put them out. And yet someone like Maya van Rossum seems to do the impossible: make positive change with whatever project she works on. 

Beyond anything, Maya wants to put out positive energy into the world, even signing off her emails “Smiling Maya.” When it comes to her environmental work, she traces everything back to her upbringing. 

“I had a wonderful mother that encouraged and nurtured my love of nature and my desire to stand up for justice whenever I could because that’s what she did,” Maya tells Smiley News. “She was an environmental activist, but when she saw something wrong in the world, she would work to fix it.”

Maya’s efforts have taken her far and wide and it’s hard to overstate the work that she’s done. She’s helped push legislation against fracking efforts, especially through Green Amendments For The Generations, a national nonprofit organization. She has also earned the title, the “Deleware Riverkeeper” for her work with the regional advocacy organization the Delaware Riverkeeper Network going back over 30 years. 

To succeed at much of the work she’s done, she puts her expertise in law to use, where she’s a licensed attorney in three states.

“When I was in college, I was trying to figure out my path, and what to do, and just by happenstance, I took a law course it was about contracts,” she says. “I found it very fascinating and of course, I loved the environment.

“And so I went to a college professor and I said, ‘Is there a way to marry the interests I have in the law with my interest in standing up for the environment’ and he said, ‘yes, there’s a thing called Environmental Law.’”

She didn’t want to be a lawyer though, she wanted to use her education to become a better activist. 

One of her primary focuses has been environmental racism, where there may be more environmental devastation and pollution in poorer areas often populated by people of color and other minorities. 

“The way it plays out is it’s actually easier for communities or for developers to place their operations nearby communities of color indigenous communities, because those people have less political influence and less money to fight back against whatever it is that’s being proposed,” Maya explains.

“And once they start getting all of these industrial operations placed around them, the environment is degraded. The argument that gets set up by the people with more money and affluence says, ‘well, that environments already harmed so just don’t put your industrial operation in this clean, pristine piece of nature. Put it over there where the damage is already happening.’”

Put bluntly, Maya just wanted to make a difference, and has in her decades in the environmental activism realm, fighting for active green legislation in all 50 states.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.

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Planet

‘Bubble barriers’ are helping keep our oceans plastic-free

Bubbles. You love them in the bath, in a bottle, in your flavoured water.

But now, there’s an even better reason to love these fun and whimsical miracles of science.

 The Bubble Barrier at Oude Rijn river at Katwijk in the mid-western Netherlands.

Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in our oceans – and as much as 80% of that plastic is estimated to have arrived there after being dumped into rivers.

A team of Dutch inventors came up with the Great Bubble Barrier back in 2019 and the first one was deployed in the mouth of the Oude Rijn (Old Rhine) river at Katwijk in mid-western Netherlands.

Locals have been upset by the plastic littering nearby beaches for a long time and, finally, there is an invention that will do something about it.

The bubble barrier in Amsterdam

The Great Bubble Barrier works by creating a ‘bubble curtain’ using a perforated tube placed diagonally on the bottom of the waterway. Air is pumped through this tube, creating bubbles!

The bubble curtain prevents plastics from passing through and instead pushes them to the surface of the water and to the edges of the waterway where there is a catchment system. After this, the plastic can be appropriately disposed of, preventing it from polluting oceans and beaches.

An illustration of how the bubble barriers work.

The bubble curtain allows fish and otherwildlife to pass through unhindered, and the whole system works 24/7, 365, regardless of what the water levels are like.

Since the success of the bubble barrier in the Netherlands, another has been deployed in Amsterdam, and two more are planned for Portugal and Germany.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.

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Planet

‘Skip The Tip’ and give your trash another life

A campaign is encouraging people to embrace the circular economy this January – and Skip the Tip!

Skip the Tip?

#SkipTheTip is a new campaign by YoungPlanet, created by parents Jason and Emma Ash. YoungPlanet is a platform and app designed to ‘declutter, give joy, save the planet’, by encouraging people to embrace the circular economy.

So how does it work?

Just like many apps and websites that help you sell your unwanted items, YoungPlanet allows you to create listings of items you no longer need. People can then browse the app, request an item they want, and get it completely for free!

Not only does it mean people are getting items for free, it means we aren’t creating waste in the same way.

YoungPlanet has already helped over 150,000 people save £1 million worth of children’s items from landfill by encouraging families to make cashless exchanges.

If you’re interested in YoungPlanet, take a look at the website here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.

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Planet

Plant a tree with every cuppa with this business

We’re back with your weekly roundup of businesses that are doing their best to be the best – for people, and for the planet.

This week there’s a theme – can you tell? Whatever your morning pick-me-up is, you can be sure to indulge with an extra spoonful of moral superiority after looking at this list.

WAITROSE.

Waitrose has just announced that they will be selling own-brand, home-compostable tea bags.

The ‘Duchy’ teabag range is now accredited with a TUV OK compost HOME certification – this basically means that the teabags can be placed directly into an at-home compost heap or bin. 

Even better, the tags on the teabags have been changed to limit the ink involved in the design – this makes it much easier for the teabags to break down and compost.

According to Waitrose, this could stop 4.5 million tea bags from going to waste in just the first year following the change. Amazing.

BIRD AND BLEND.

Bird and Blend has partnered with the World Preservation Foundation to turn every cuppa into another tree planted.

Every time you buy a drink in a Bird and Blend store and use a takeaway cup, you not only get 50p off your purchase but a tree will be planted with the WPF.

Plus, Bird and Blend uses exclusively plant-based cups for their drinks. So, for any drink you buy, in any cup, in any store, 12p will be donated to WPF – and that 12p will plant a tree. Even more of a reason to try out some fun new tea flavours (and there are so many to choose from!).

GRIND.

Grind is a UK-based coffee company with plenty of cafes, trucks and shops all across London. What makes them really special is their approach to sustainability and the way they are changing what it means to make your morning coffee.

Grind makes Nespresso coffee pods that you can use in a coffee machine, except they are complete, 100% sustainable and compostable. They don’t use plastic or aluminium, which most coffee pods do, and will break down faster than grass in your home compost.

Plus, if for some reason one of their pods were to make it to a landfill or into the ocean – they would still naturally breakdown in this environment. We love it.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.