Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Green Day Out?

The Guardian has published its top ten green days out, of which I've been to 6 - The Eden Project (great but only green-ish), A Farmers Market, Nature's World Middlesbrough, Brighton Earthship, BTCV Tasks (many... I used to lead some), and best of them all, The Centre for Alternative Technology or CAT in Wales.

To me CAT is amazing, both in location, its content, and its longevity, having been established in the 70s. Compared to the slighty empty flashiness of the now defunct Doncaster Earth Centre, CAT has honed its message to eradicate preachiness and made everything fun, fun, fun. When I was there about four years ago it was swarming with kids running riot (in a good way). It has been revamped recently and I'm keen to back for another look.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Patio Heaters, Grrrr!

You may have seen in the press that the Energy Savings Trust estimates that sales of patio heaters are likely to double in the next year. Just after hearing this on the BBC, I got a call from a local radio station looking for my views. I usually try and give a balanced view on any environmental issue when talking to the meedja, but when it comes to patio heaters I have to be scathing. From a green point of view they are evil incarnate and I told them that straight.

I suspect, like with 4x4s, public opinion will start to turn against such heaters and trying to heat the atmosphere just so you can finish your bottle of rosé will become unfashionable again.

BTW, the best solution to living an outdoor lifestyle in a cool climate I have seen was in Copenhagen where pavement cafes provide you with a big fleecy blanket to wrap yourself in while you enjoy your Carlsberg. Fantastic.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Carpet Bombing the Green Message

Have you noticed that most radio DJs now can't tell any sort of witty anecdote without saying "Not doing my carbon footprint much good, but..." somewhere in their spiel? So is the eco-message going truly mainstream?

Well, this might sound like the start of a joke, but on Monday we walked into a carpet shop in Ashington, Northumberland (you can't get much more northern England, either in geography or attitude - they have ferret races there, I kid you not) to ask about, you guessed it, carpets. We mentioned we wanted something eco-friendly and were completely blown away by the response. Bob the friendly carpet salesman took us through every carpet option, describing the various materials used, where they were sourced from and the energy and recyclability issues relating to each. It was a bravura performance - exhaustive and somewhat exhausting - and pretty much on the button in terms of technical content.

Unfortunately we couldn't afford the most green option, but are getting a British Wool carpet with a non-PVC but synthetic backing. The underlay is made of recycled tyre rubber and natural fibres.

But I was most impressed with Bob - an unheralded green hero!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Less Is More?

Writing in today's Guardian (but unfortunately nowhere to be seen on-line), our old friend George Monbiot rips into "Green Consumerism" saying that it never suggests you consume 'less' and only focusses on consuming 'better'. His saves his particular disdain for the well off telling us how to live our lives from the comfort of their country piles (where they have space for their own cow).

As usual I half agree with him. While I agree that most of the 'ethical living' press is promoting the "keep on buying and save the planet" message, there are several ways that you can spend as much as you like and be eco-friendly:

1. Buy second hand. Most of the novels I read have been sullied by other eyes. I have no qualms about walking out of a second hand bookshop with bulging bags of paper diverted from landfill. My partner indulges her clothes buying urges by trawling charity shops and simply returning what doesn't work out in practice.

2. Buy services rather than products. Pamper yourself with posh haircuts, massages (not that kind, cheeky), yoga, keep fit etc, etc. If you're filthy rich, employ a cleaner, gardener etc. Rent DVDs or watch pay per view movies rather than buying lumps of plastic.

3. Buy very low footprint products such as MP3s, ringtones, eBooks.

BTW: my favourite part of the Monbiot article is his reference to the mountain of 'ethical' shopping bags by his front door. We have got at least 4 - 3 more that we need really...

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Friday, July 20, 2007

What's the beef?

I love meat. There, I've said it. Most people expect me to be vegetarian on ethical grounds, but, while I do have serious reservations about the mainstream meat industry in this country, I have no problem with turning a cow into a whole range of prime cuts (or mashing up what's left for sausages either).

But I do know that meat has a massive carbon footprint/ecological footprint/biodiversity impact. The Guardian is today quoting research that producing 1kg of beef results in more CO2 emissions than going for a three-hour drive while leaving all the lights on at home. Blimey.

Note that, despite this massive environmental impact, food is not included in the UK Government's "definitive" carbon calculator. So that's a huge lifestyle choice left out of the reckoning.

Whether Whitehall gives me credit for it or not, I think I'd better get that vegetarian cookbook out again...

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Porritt tells it how it is...

For a simple TV programme Great Global Warming Swindle has certainly had an impact. But a recent review of the science of solar radiation has smashed its central premise - that the sun is causing global warming (well it is, but you know what I mean).

Anyway this led top Green Jonathan Porritt to launch an on-line tirade against the producer, or, "the lying, bullying, over-rated little git that is Martin Durkin" as Jonathan called him.

You'll never find language like that in this blog. Oh. You just have.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

AWC Again...

The Guardian is claiming that UK MPs have "rubbished" Alternative Weekly Collection of residual waste (the big battlefield in this year's local elections). Actually they didn't - they said that because councils who brought in AWC did lots of other good stuff to boost their recycling rate, it was impossible to say whether it was AWC that was making the difference. They also acknowledged that there was no health risk, but said the Govt should do more to reassure the public on this (maybe by stopping their party colleagues sticking pictures of rats and maggots through our doors?).

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Is Betsy Reid the UK's best recycler?

Check this out. Can anyone beat Betsy?


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ross Nobbled

The Telegraph has reported that Live Earth presenter Jonathan Ross was forced to play down the consensus on climate change as I thought. He was told to mention uncertainties in the science. It would also explain the appearance of David Baddiel to make smart alec "I'm cleverer than the IPCC" comments about oceanic warming.

I assume the next time the BBC mention smoking they'll have to have some geezer come on and say "My nan smoked 40 a day all her life and only got cancer once."

Harrumph etc...


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Live Earth - Eh?

Last night I sat down and watched a bit of Al Gore's Live Earth concerts and, when not distracted by the Pussycat Doll's gyrations, was left a bit baffled about the whole thing.

Lot's have people have said "Why should we listen to what all these rich rock stars jetting their way around the world, burning masses of energy in huge concerts have to say about climate change?". Well we didn't ask the same about rich rock stars and Live Aid/Live 8, so why are we so cynical about this one?

I suppose the problem came down to "what are they trying to do?". Raise money? Raise "awareness"? Lecture the audience? But none of these actually happened - just a big gig.

The BBC seemed to have the same problem - Jonathan Ross looked very uncomfortable presenting and no-one seemed to know whether it was a celebration or a protest (the PCDs didn't seem to know anything at all, bless their little hotpants). I switched off after Madonna shouted "If you want to save the planet, make some NOOOOOIZE" which I could have accepted from Spinal Tap, but not from some supposedly being serious.

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