‘We need to focus on what’s really important now’ Julia Bradbury on how we can make a difference when it comes to looking after the planet

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  • Presenter Julia Bradbury talks to Jack White about what we can all do to help the planet and how her children helped her cope with lockdown

    We’re only eight months into 2020, but the planet has already been through a lot this year. After the Covid-19 virus brought the world to a stop, Julia Bradbury is now – like many of us – trying to find the silver lining. ‘It has given us all an opportunity to stop and just breathe,’ she says.

    From Countryfile to Britain’s Best Walks, Julia has been a regular on our screens now for over two decades, presenting must-watch TV about nature and the planet while encouraging us to take better care of the environment.

    Julia, 50, lives in west London with her partner Gerard Cunningham and their three children, Zephyrus, eight, and twins Xanthe and Zena, five, and she reveals it was spending time with her kids that got her through lockdown.

    But coronavirus wasn’t the only thing Julia had to worry about – while filming in Costa Rica earlier this year, she found a lump in her breast and, although thankfully she is fine, it taught her to never take anything for granted.

    One positive that has come out of this is the drop in both noise and physical pollution. Living in London it’s very noticeable and it’s much easier to breathe! It would be unrealistic to think the world is going to change completely now, but it has certainly refocused minds – both corporate and personal – to look at what’s really important. We need wildlife and habitats that, up until now, we have been destroying. David Attenborough and Dr Jane Goodall, who I call the priests of Mother Earth, have said that in many ways we brought this pandemic upon ourselves because of the way we have mistreated the planet and animals. I think that is true. We need to rethink how we do everything now – farm, shop, produce and travel – because the virus was born out of human misbehaviour.

    There have been some very worrying statistics about the rise in single-use plastics since the start of the pandemic – some experts have said we’re running the risk of having more face masks than jellyfish in the Mediterranean. We often hear that by 2050, if we continue along the same route of single use, there will be more plastics in the oceans than marine species, which is quite terrifying.

    It’s important I teach my kids to be aware of plastic. When we’re on a beach together we’re doing plastic pick-up, and if we’re walking down the street and they notice cigarette butts and straws, if it’s safe, we pick them up and put them in the bin.

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    Sometimes my partner and I have lively debates about certain subjects. But when you’re talking about climate change and plastic pollution, it’s all about spreading the facts that as the climate gets hotter, the world will suffer.

    But there are lots of practical things we can all do. There are lots of household products that are very easily replaced. Cling film is the devil’s work so we use alternatives, one of which is a wax wrap. I’ve seen lots of people on social media saying they’re using plastic bags throughout the pandemic because they think they’re clean. Do we really need to be talking about plastic shopping bags? Science says that coronavirus lives on plastic so unless you clean plastic bags thoroughly with antibacterial products, you may as well use a fabric bag and wash it.

    Julia is co-founder of the website The Outdoor Guide, which details hundreds of walks around the UK and champions nature and the outdoors. A Little Bit of Positive – with Julia and Giles Paley-Phillips – is a weekly podcast about happiness, full of good stories and inspiring guests

    For our full interview with Julia, pick up the September issue of woman&home on sale from 30 July

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