The daily pill (with survey)

Plastic bags to double their price in April 2021 in the UK: they will cost 10p.

It has been announced as an additional step to tackle plastic pollution. However, every April with the beginning of the tax year, minimum wage and taxes (therefore prices) go up to keep up with the inflation, so it could simply be a reassessment of the price, in line with the currency, not a tackle on plastic pollution.

What about a £1 per bag? 2 years ago, ITV interviewed shoppers and retailers, when the 10p rule was first discussed to be introduced in shops with more than 250 employers.

Book of the month – How bad are bananas?

Happy September everyone! Our monthly appointment with the “Book of the month” comes back today.
This month the book I would like to propose is How bad are bananas? – The carbon footprint of everything, by Mike Berners-Lee.

Ever since I decided to start this website I always wanted to propose to the readers verified contents and this book has helped a lot. In times when information is accessible to everyone, we must always question and be ready to check every single line. When talking about the environment and more, in particular, carbon footprint, it is always good to back up our stories with peer-reviewed data: this is the best tool we could have, at least in my opinion.

The book is very fast to read and, as the author suggests in the introduction, there is no exact way of reading it: you can just look for particular sections of interest, read it from the beginning to the end, as you wish. The book is divided into sections, each one of them grouping certain activities or goods with similar carbon emissions.

The intriguing part is the goal that Berners-Lee explains at the beginning: he assumes that, in a sustainable future, the indirect emissions of any of us should not exceed 10 tonnes of CO2e per year. And then it starts an endless lists of activities, production systems, goods and their related emissions. In this way, anyone reading the book can have a rough estimate of their yearly emissions and the work out where to improve.

I see reading as the sport of mind: like any other sport, there’s no reason playing it if you are not enjoying it. Think about the words we use for it: we don’t “perform” sports, we play them, so it is important to keep this playful approach. And so it is reading: when reading a book that could reveal some wrong behavoiurs of us it is important not to let yourself down. We read and study for passion and until you don’t get information about a certain topic you will never know what you’re doing wrong.

Do you like asparagus? Is a solar panel the right choice for your house? What’s the environmental impact of a war? Dig into the book and find out!

Get the book on Amazon (but consider buying it locally)

How Bad are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything

Get the book on eBay (but consider buying it locally)

B. Gates: How we’ll move around in a clean, green future

Image ©

The pandemic has also reminded us how much innovation is needed to prevent a climate disaster.

The best numbers I have seen estimate that the economic slowdown due to COVID-19 reduced global emissions by around 8 percent. That’s not nothing, but the austerity that got us there obviously isn’t sustainable.

[…] So, how exactly do we fuel our need to move around without emitting greenhouse gases? The answer is simple, even if making it happen won’t be: use clean electricity to run all the vehicles we can, and get cheap alternative fuels for everything else.

[…] I’m inspired by the progress we’ve made so far, but we have a long road ahead of us (no pun intended). To prevent the worst effects of climate change, we need to get to zero net greenhouse gas emissions in every sector of the economy within 50 years.”

B. Gates, How we’ll move around in a clean, green future, [Online], available at link, published on 27.08.2020

Last week summary

24 – 30 August

The loss of biodiversity could increase the risk of epidemic transmission from animals to human. It is what has been found by a study of biologists that it will go public next month in New York at a UN summit on biodiversity. In our times extremely affected by a pandemic disease the most important thing after preventing and defying this disease is to prevent new ones in the future.

Read the article -> Link.

To meet our target of net zero emissions by 2050, as well as reducing emissions, we should improve our carbon sequestration’s techniques. Rather than investing in complicated, energy-intensive and expensive technologies, what about letting peat do the job for us? The Falkland Islands are an example of a net zero environment, or at least it used to be.

Read the article -> Link.

An unexptected consequences of climate change is that the geography of our climate is changing. And I do not mean the transformation of the natural landscape, rather the artificial landscape. It seems that, as the oceans are getting warmer and so affecting microclimates, the equator is unevenly expanding, both north and south.

Read the article -> Link.

A milestone victory has been ruled in court by a judge in New York against Trump’s administration that has been trying to undermine the the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. After the laws on car emissions and withdrawing for the Paris Climate Agreement, the Tycoon and his entourage of criminals were unable to win a battle in favour of oil company and against our Planet. In your face!

Read the article -> Link.

The future of the music business

The music industry, especially in the form of big live events, accounts for a chunk of the total carbon emissions of our species. Is there a place for music concerts in a sustainable future? Let’s find out, as always, together.

Last fall, frontman of Coldplay Chris Martin announced that the band was going to take a break from performing live to try to make their spectacular shows more sustainable. They were the last of a long list of famous stars of the music industry who openly embraced the cause for a sustainable future, including Adele, Green Day, the legendary rockstar Neil Young, Radiohead and many more.

We could summarize the main emissions of a live concert of big proportion into 3 main groups: emissions of fans travelling to the venue, the energy needed to power all the equipment (band and food stand/merchandise) and material used by the venue to serve food and beverages.

Getting the fans to the venue is an underrated problem that creates a huge environmental impact. Festivals are often organised in the countryside, far from the cities and residential area, to avoid the unavoidable noise and disturbance that such a gathering of people generates. Being far from cities, these places are often hard to reach via public transport, therefore people might decide to drive to the venue. And here’s the double blade: it’s not only about the car emissions of people driving to a concert but also the impact that an open car park with thousands of cars has on the land. This is because these places hardly have any paved car park, and so thousands of car lie for days on the grass, destroying vegetation and seeds (which will prevent newborn plants) and also obstruct with the ecosystem by scaring away for many miles animals, a crucial part of the food chain of the area. If we also consider that these kind of events are recurring each year, we have a perfect combination to completely eradicate or, in the luckiest scenario, to hugely affect vegetation of the countryside where the event is taking part. Last but not least, let’s not forget the number of people who decide to fly from abroad to the venue, increasing the emissions of travelling to a festival.

When it comes to energy, people always underestimate the problem. Speaking about cars, an argument well-spread among people is that “an electric car doesn’t have emissions”. This is partially true: of course, the motion of the vehicle is not produced by an engine burning fossil fuel, and so there are no emissions out of the pipe. However, most of the energy used for producing electricity in power plants around the world is produced by burning fossil fuel: the problem is not which energy we use, but how we produce it. It is important to bear this in mind because in some extreme situations if we consider that to make fuel we only produce emissions during the extraction, refinery and freight (to summarize), in an oil-rich country the emissions of a petrol car could be the same of an electric car, manufactured thousands of miles away in an energy-hungry state. And so many bands are shifting into freighting their musical equipment by boat rather than by plane and also are moving into biofuel-powered buses when touring.

The last is just the easiest of all: do not sell single-use plastic, biodegradable or wooden cutlery are already spreading in fast-food chains. Of course, safety first: it would be risky to sell glass bottles in a concert, and so here is my proposal. What about a deposit scheme: you come for your first drink and deposit £5 for a plastic glass, then get it back at the end of the day and if you lose it, you will have to pay again for another one. I am well aware of the limitation of this proposal and how hard it would be to apply it during events with hundreds of thousands of people attending: it is just a little inspiration for companies that are looking at ideas on how to make people having fun sustainably.

Things are changing though: RedBull has a list of sustainable concerts across Europe and Green Touring Network has produced a wonderful guide for artists and managers filled with tips on how to tour sustainably.

In a sustainable future, I do believe we will still be able to enjoy spectacular live events but if we are serious about reducing our emissions, this is one of the many industries that will need a complete revaluation. If we are not serious and we only like to make big claims, as many people on the internet seem to do nowadays, we can just don’t care as always and carry on, business as usual. I feel sometimes politicians and people with particular media attention just sell us some ideas, to keep polls favourable and social media stats up, and then do nothing. So do not expect them to change the future: it is normal people, like me and you, who can and most certainly will change it.

Last week summary

17 – 23 August

As a result of COVID-19, the Earth’s Overshoot Day was postponed by 3 weeks this year, 22nd of August compared to the 29th of July last year. This is the day where we consume all the resources that our Planet is able to regenerate in a year, an important indicator of sustainability (or UNsustainability).

Read the article -> Link.

There is a direct link between climate change and global hunger. Global crops could suffer in reduction and spreading of disease if our climate was to get warmer than today. Not only, the expected increase in natural disasters, such as drought and flood, will definitely affect our food production and the most vulnerable areas of the planet where we already experience shorts of food supply.

Read the article -> Link.

A study recently published on “Science” has explored the direct interdependence between racism and the natural ecosystem. In the US, wealthier neighbourhoods have access to more green areas and subsequently, they enjoy higher level of biodiversity. On the other hand, degraded areas with a higher concentration of ethnic minority in population experience higher level of air pollution, resulting in something described as “environmental injustice”.

Read the article -> Link.

Environment Land Management (ELM) will play a vital role in assessing the future of UK sustainability. The ELM scheme is an important player for the future of our land and nature, but at the current state of things, it will need to address four major missing criteria, to keep the pace of changes in a post-COVID world.

Read the article -> Link.

We will all end up there, but…

Hello everyone.

Week after week, this unusual summer is slowly coming to an end. Many of you will soon start to plan the next move, whether is work or studies.The future is always uncertain, but nowadays even more. And I don’t say it because of the health emergency, I say it because of the planet crisis.

The ones who are more sensitive towards our planet know what I am talking about. They’ve come to coexist with the daily anxiety, that feeling that makes you think: “what’s the point, it’s not gonna work, we’re doomed already”.

Nobody can say if we’re lost, but we can say we’re survivors. Planning the future is a good start, but bear in mind that even the smallest obstacle could jeopardise your dreams.
On the other hand, the past always gives me that feeling of strength and optimism, very much needed lately. It has been half a year since the radio does not spend a day without updating the number of deaths for covid: sincere condolences to everyone who was and will be affected, but since the beginning of our species, like or not, we’ve always died. And that’s a very important set of data: among the billions of people who walked on this soil, they all died.

In terms of human life expectancy, we could say that the Earth is immortal, even though our dependency by the sun gives in return approximately 5 billion years left. But what is important is what we leave behind.

When our continent shifts, they bring along earthquakes, destruction, coastal erosion. In return, century after century, we forget the troubled and shaking past, and we get to enjoy beauties such as this that I am happy to share with you.

Lulworth Cove, Dorset, UK. Pic by Gianluca Di Marco

We will all die, unfortunately, let’s make sure then we live responsibly, happy and free.

The catastrophe of Mauritius

On the 25th of July 2020, a Japanese bulk carrier, carrying an estimated 4000 tonnes of oil, has run on a coral reef of the coast of Mauritius island. After nearly a month of investigation and responses, it is time we give our say and analyze this threat, as always, together.

The island

Mauritius is a peninsular state in the Indian Ocean, off the east coast of Madagascar. It is an essential hotspot for biodiversity, as it is often the case for remote places that experienced a sort of isolated evolution: in distant lands, different species faced different struggles than their counterparts on the mainland, and so animals and plants surviving there present fascinating and unique traits.

Mauritius island is famous in the Bollywood industry, providing heavenly spots for movies of all kind. Such a remote and beautiful place relies heavily (if not completely) on tourism: breath-taking lagoons, mountains, rain forest are offered to millions that each year decide to step back from city life and enjoy a well-deserved break.

The position of the island makes it logistically useful to the commercial and touristic traffic in the Indian Ocean that, in certain periods of the year, becomes busy. On a normal day of a typical year, when everyone on the island was enjoying the quiet of what they call winter (which is approximately 20 ℃ on average) and the quiet from seasonal storms, occurring between January and March, the worst nightmare suddenly became real: an estimated 4000 tonnes of oil were released in the sea, as a result of a ship accident.

What happened

And from then on, as if a global pandemic was not enough already, a shitstorm has hit everyone involved, curses over curses, lectures over lectures.

This website aims to provide scientific news from an objective point of view: this is because we need to be loyal the main principle of science, which is that you can’t really have an opinion, everything has to be confirmed.

I live many thousands of miles away from Mauritius, and I don’t know anyone living or visiting at the moment, so I had to stay in the loop with the daily news emerging in newspapers and social media. FIltering anger and subjectiveness was not easy at all, but here is the most objective report of what happened and the possible consequences for the ecosystem.

25th  of July 2020: A Japanese bulk carrier ran over a coral reef and got stuck in the Blue Marin Park, a heritage site extremely important for marine life in the are, and started sinking.

A French team, in cooperation with local authorities and a Japanese team, was able to remove the remaining oil in the tank of the sinking ship. There were no casualties as a result of the accident and neither as a result of the extraction of the oil in the tank.

On the 13th of August 2020, the sinking ship broke in two, as expected. The government of the island declared that it will seek compensation from the owner of the ship and the insurer, positive signals are coming from the Japanese firm.

What will happen

It is now time to talk about the environment, which is the main affected part here. What does an oil spillage do to the marine ecosystem? Sadly, we do have the answer because it is not the first time that this happened.

Also, this episode seems to be more threatening to marine life because it happened near the coast on a coral reef, which is a perfect habitat for plankton and a great chunk of fish species (nearly 25% of them). Previous and famous spillage, as bad as this one, happened offshore, and so even though the amount of oil released in some cases was much higher, the net impact on life was lower, simply because there was less life.

If we also consider that, in this period of the year, it seems that currents are favourable for fishes to station in the marine park before embarking on a new voyage across the oceans, we soon realise what a big mess we made.

I say we as if I was part of the accident because I am, we all are. This is not only the result of a human mistake of the captain, this is the result of our society. By principle, we should not allow any ship of that dimension to sail less than 50 miles off the coasts of such fragile ecosystems. If we do, there is no reason to shout out loud once the worst happen. Ocean routes should be revisited, supply chains should reinforce commercial exchange with Madagascar that can be reached via speedboat, not with Australia or any other Asian country west of Mauritius.

I don’t want to make any claim about learning from this catastrophe: it is not the first one and it won’t be the last one, we are still at war for religious purposes after millennia so imagine if we are any closer to learn that we just need to learn to be empathic towards the Earth.

It has been a sad month, for all of us. Like always, I saw many posts, tweets, stories, crowdfunding: admirable, but they all vanished into my home feed, surpassed by the picture of your holidays, football news and some suggestions to buy something that 5 minutes before I didn’t know I wanted.

Last week summary

10 – 16 August

Warm weather, as well as thunderstorms, has brought large groups of jellyfish near the British coasts. There have been many sights all over the country and in Ireland. The reason why this year they seem to be more abundant could be related to the increased number of plankton on which they feed on. Also, it could be that we are getting more reports from people this year because of furlough and local holidays. Different opinions and species are analyzed in The Guardian’s article of this good year for jellyfish.

Read the article -> Link.

It’s almost time: on the 1st of January 2021, the United Kingdom will cease to be part of the European Union, meaning that they will not longer be bound to EU laws and subject to the EU court of Justice, as well as leaving the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy. Brexit was presented and proposed for making the UK better, not worse, and so in 2018 Greener UK has made 4 benchmarks to evaluate a Green Brexit.

Read the article -> Link.

Greenpeace has conducted an investigation and came to the conclusion that in the first six months of 2020 intensive fishing vessels “have spent 5,590 hours fishing in marine protected areas in UK waters”. None of the vessels is UK-owned and Greenpeace is calling on the ban of these 100m long supertrawlers, capable of carrying thousands of tonnes of fish, from protected marine areas.

Read the article -> Link.

I would link to conclude with a controversial article about how plastic could lead to a sustainable future. In another post, we talked about the benefits and potential of Polyethylene over virgin paper. In this article it is explained from a theoretic point of view the advantages of all the polymers, 100% recyclable, and what is the real problem with plastic.

Read the article ->Link.

The importance of butterflies

The 2020 Big Butterfly Count has come to an end on the 9th August. What a better moment to find out the ecological role played by this beautiful insect, if not now? Let’s find out, as always, together.

Photo by Pixabay on

The life cycle

I have always been impressed and fascinated by the life cycle of butterflies. Their growth happens throughout four stages, during which the soon-to-be butterfly will undergo some sort of transformation, scientifically called metamorphosis.

Everything starts with an adult butterfly laying down eggs. Once the egg breaks, what comes out is a caterpillar, an insect very similar to worms. Caterpillars spend most of their time foraging leaves and storing energy needed to undergo the next stage.

Once they’re ready and well-fed, caterpillars look for the perfect spot (a leave or a twig) to hang themselves upside down and cover themselves with a silky layer, entering the phase of the cocoon. It is at this stage that the magic happens. To transform into a butterfly or a moth, caterpillars don’t simply grow wings and antennas: they decompose all their body tissues, resulting in something that resembles a broth in the middle stage. Subsequently, the cells are re-assembled to form the many parts of the adult butterfly (wings, antennas, body, genitals etc). Once this process is over, the butterfly breaks out from the cocoon and fly out as beautiful as they can be. Some studies suggest that butterfly have memories of their caterpillar stage but nothing has been confirmed yet. It is also very hard to observe the broth-stage of caterpillar because if you were to break a cocoon too early, you will literally see a liquid insect pour down from it.

However, even though it is not easy to observe the cocoon stage, we know what happens inside. The caterpillar digests himself, releasing enzymes that decompose his body tissues. Some management cells, known as imaginal discs, survive this process and are in charge of reassembling the body cells into a butterfly. Some studies show that after the digestion phase, only 50 imaginal discs are left alive and functioning: once they complete their task, a fully developed butterfly has more than 50 000 cells!

Illustration of the life cycle of a butterfly: egg, caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly.

After looking at the unbelievable life cycle of butterflies, it is now time to understand what they do and what their presence can tell us.

For some reasons, butterflies play a similar role to bees for ecosystems. They are very efficient pollinators. Considering the dropping numbers in the bee population and that nearly 90% of plants need a pollinator to reproduce, it is clear that the role of these insects is still vital to the ecosystem. Also, butterflies are a very efficient pollinator, contributing to the genetic variation of plants. This happens because rather than staying close to the nest as bees do, butterflies cover a wide area and so they help to spread pollen in plants far from the one they fed on. This process, as well as increasing biodiversity and continuity of the species, also increase the resilience of wildflowers, considering that genetic variation is a good weapon against pest disease. Nonetheless, butterflies act also as pest removal in some area, keeping plant populations healthy.

Moving on, as well as pollination, butterflies have a very important role for being food for other animals. Many species of birds and mice feed on butterflies. If they were to disappear, the effect on the ecosystem could affect even at trophic levels. This is because it has been demonstrated that nearly ⅔ of invertebrates are connected to butterflies in the food chain. The presence of butterflies is an indicator of a healthy and balanced ecosystem, while their disappearance could trigger the so-called “butterfly effect”, mining on other species.

Protecting this insect is a vital target that each one of us should aim to reach: as it is always the case, insects are affected by pesticides and climate change. In our daily life, we should simply make ethical choices. I will never stop stressing on the point of the importance of our grocery: buy organic, do not waste. A very simple binomial that could save species and the environment.

Did you take part in the Big Butterfly Count? Let us know in the comment and don’t forget to Stay Green!