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Green city – Bristol

This week’s green city is Bristol as one of the greenest cities in UK and home of many green enterprises, festivals and BBC Nature. I chose Bristol as I lived there during my postgraduate studies and did lot of walking and cycling during my time as a student. Our campus next to Ashton Court park was in a very leafy setting with deer park next to it and my student house in Southville in walking distance from everywhere. πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ

Bristol’s green mentality is in fact so strong that it was awarded the European Green Capital award in 2015 as first city in UK. As a walkable/cyclable city with healthy air, strong green economy and further goals to change the city transport and energy more sustainable, Bristol scored all the boxes to win the green city award. Since then there has been even a stronger focus on green development and the city offers many green activities.

According to Visit Bristol the city has proportionally more parks and green spaces than any other city (over 400) and nature is never very far away. Bristol also has over 1100 hectares of Nature Reserve sites, some of them such as Avon Gorge is nationally important site with 30 rare plant species and several rare wildlife species that only exist in this site. With such rare habitat it has a Special Area of Conservation status.

Before Bristol became the Green Capital it was the first cycling city back in 2008. It’s the birthplace of the National Cycle Network and Sustrans – UK walking and cycling charity. Now Bristol has 300 bike parking spaces and getting around on bike is popular for both Bristolians and visitors (despite the many Bristol hills). You can even take a bike trail to Bath or practise mountain biking on Ashton Court park tracks.

River Avon is the main landmark in Bristol and closeness of the sea has strong influence on the city’s maritime culture. This is apparent near the Harbourside, especially around the M Shed and on the riverside walk to Brunel’s SS Great Britain. Bristol has altogether 100 miles of waterways – interconnected rivers and canals to walk, cycle or explore on a boat or passenger ferry.

Making the infographic definitely inspired me to revisit Bristol and I think this green city will always remain close to my heart. πŸ’š

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Have an Earthy Christmas!

Did you know an average UK family spends 800 Β£ extra during Christmas and buys an average 17 gifts from Amazon? The wonderful Guardian article Dreaming of a green Christmas? Here’s how to make it come true from Rebecca Smithers highlights the vast environmental impact of the season, advising to switch from plastic goods and glittery decorations to organic or homemade alternatives and other ethical presents. Amongst other common sense suggestions she also gives hints how to keep an eye out for non-plastic packaging, recycle and avoid food waste.

The picture is not much different elsewhere in Europe, although the overall expenditure is less – in Central Europe maybe half of what Britons spend and in Eastern Europe even one fourth. But whatever the budget, what really matters is what it is spent for and how. Amazon gift may only be a click away, but sending millions of packages across the world will have huge impact on this season. Goods put together from cheap materials in China may be eye catching, but almost always contain plastic and breakable parts, and most Christmas decorations look hazardous (and probably are).

I think one of the issues with having sustainable Christmas is many people think eco friendly also means ‘dull’. The wooden toys do not bling or sound like electronic ones, the books are not as exciting as video games, the artisan gift may not have the novelty of new gadget. But in time the value of ‘boring’ gifts will definitely grow. The plastic toy will break in few months, but the wooden one may last a lifetime, video game gets outdated, but a good book will be on a shelf for years, mobile device is good for couple of years, whereas craftwork will stay valuable forever.

It does feel that even if you can avoid plastic by choosing eco friendly gifts the excess food packaging is inevitable and there is no way around it. However with some planning you can at least reduce the impact to the environment by baking your own bread and pastries, avoiding ready meals and cooking root vegetables instead and even making your own sweets. Most vegetables and fruit can be bought without packaging and oranges and apples look great on Christmas table. Nuts and berries are very seasonal too and some shops sell them without packaging (bring your own container).

Spoilt in our expectations for the season it takes time to revert back to appreciating simple consumer choices again, but if we are not cutting back from Christmas extravaganza, we are going to face many problems ahead. Having more each year is definitely worse for the planet and it’s doubtful, if it even brings us more joy. Can you remember when you last got something you really valued and cherished? Only those knowing you best can make gifts that matter. Why don’t we then only give gifts to closest around us and do something seasonal with others instead?

My independent illustrator budget for Christmas this year is small and definitely not going to feed the giant Amazon machine. Instead I am getting few gifts from Christmas fairs and supporting local makers, having a go making my own decorations and browsing some of my favourite book shops… Even if the Christmas is on budget, the gifts will last.

Have a very good, down to earth Christmas everyone!

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Concept for a game of sustainable energy

My friend Totebo asked me to come up with a concept for a mindful Zen game and I thought it’s a fun little side project to do aside to all the maps and infographics I have been doing recently. So I had a little think about it and came up with an idea for an alternative sustainable energy game. It’s still early days and I don’t yet know, if the project is going ahead, but I hope it will spark some fresh ideas and directions on 2020! πŸ’«

The working title of the game is Zenergi and it’s about an alternative universe where energy efficient Greener Bot has a difficult task of greening the planet. Working from her self-sufficient allotment GB sets out to plant and care for the plants she is growing herself. But running the allotment and planting on her own is not an easy task and she faces many challenges such as energy deficiency, draught and destructive plant eating vermin.

GB working in her self-sufficient allotment garden

Self-sufficiency, independent energy and mass planting is also the key to re-green this planet and people from anywhere in the world can empathise with GB as she struggles to keep her allotment running. Either you live in UK, Sweden or Brazil, the challenges of living sustainably and doing good for the environment are the same everywhere – there’s plenty of grey space to be greened all around the planet.

Fingers crossed the concept will attract some funding and this little project will take flight next year!