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Head to the beach

We’ve reached the benchmark of sanity that is the Halfway Point Of The Summer Holidays, and for those of you that haven’t ventured to the coast, you can’t put it off for much longer. Ah the seaside. That quintessential British holiday experience usually involving 2 hours in the car (mostly standstill and your aircon will choose that day to break), lugging several bags-for-life of seagull-magnet picnic essentials and yet forgetting towels, hopping theatrically over razor-sharp pebbles where you promised everyone sand, inadequately rolling up your thick fleece trousers to have a ‘save-face’ paddle (then spending the rest of the day dogged by sopping fabric), and swearing at toddlers who run carefree (^selfishly^) through your painstakingly constructed sand fortress.

Ahem. Maybe just me with the hours of competitive sand-castling then? Well, suffice it to say, a trip to the seaside carries with it the huge burden of expectation, and so what better topic to focus on as I lick my Friday wounds whilst being bombarded with white sands and turquoise waters on Instagram? Because friends, nestled among the sunblock and sand-ridden water bottles, will most likely be an ancient bucket and spade, possibly cracked or missing a handle. It’s hard to imagine a beach trip without your spade; doubling as a bat, gesticulation aid, prodding stick, flagpole; and your bucket – yes, the trusty litter carrier (ok, I see I’ve lost you) or even as a makeshift She-Wee? I did not advise that.

But clearly there’s an environmental sting here. Of course – it’s our fickle old friend plastic. Fine if it’s robust and indestructible, but hands up if you’ve ever had to console a child with a leaking bucket, or stave bleeding from a severed femoral artery after someone’s been impaled onto a broken spade handle. Thought as much. Luckily though, there are some excellent re-use schemes such as in Blackpool, Lyme Regis, Clacton, Rossall, and Tynemouth where tourists can leave unwanted buckets and spades in a box, and anyone who’s forgotten to BYO can escape being stonewalled on the entire journey home for poor packing skills, by borrowing items from the box and then returning them. Consider your holiday-bacon (or Fakon) saved.

Lately my research team unearthed a solution to this seaside staple, that will outlast being squeezed and crushed and years of use: the flexible bucket. That’s right friends. Hard to believe, but it does exist and I’ve squished it with my own hand. See picture for proper proof! So if you’re looking for a more sustainable version of bucket and spade, check out Scrunch whose silicone products are flexible and durable and can withstand even the most ham-fisted car-packer.

This would also definitely help reduce plastic in the sea. My friends at NHS Ocean will tell you that the effect of plastic fishing nets we put in the ocean is devastating, and yet we are totally dependent on clean water and the animals and plants that get unwittingly trapped in the netting. We also need clean sea for other health benefits: being near water can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Go on, try it! Stand on a quiet beach and inhale deeply. Whether you feel joy, elation or wonder, the feeling of the ‘wide beyond’ is really quite relaxing and inspirational. Plus, beaches are often far from busy polluted roads and the sea breeze carries pollen away, therefore asthma and hayfever sufferers may find some relief here. And cold water swimming, done safely, can be hugely invigorating cardiovascular exercise as well as very sociable. Pollution scum and floating plastic rubbish kinda ruin the serene pictures of healing I've created here, don't they?

Of course to call a spade a spade, reducing your carbon footprint in any way will contribute to the overall positive effort to combat climate change, and therefore reduce the horrendous effects of global warming. These are being seen this very day with droughts and fires across England and beyond, affecting public transport, health, farmland, waterways, and of course the imminent hosepipe ban. And let me tell you, it's nigh on impossible to keep the population healthy without access to water, crops, and transport. And if staff can't get to work due to train lines overheating, that's a whole extra problem.

If you've spotted another beach toy re-use bin on your staycation travels, please post below or on Twitter or Instagram: @GreenLifeGP so that we can all add that beach to our bucket list...

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