Monday, June 30, 2008

Weekly Tip #20: Take a hike

It bothers me sometimes that too many of our pastimes involve copious consumption of resources. There's a whole range of (almost) zero impact hobbies such as walking, bird/nature watching, running, gardening (if you propagate your own plants), even (dare I say it) trainspotting. If there's more I haven't thought of, add them in the comments.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

When Good Trains Go Bad

Am currently heading back up North on the East Coast Mainline 13 hours later than I should be. Signal problems brought the whole line to a grinding halt - much as I love trains, they can't just skirt around a problem. We sat at King's Cross for a hour with no indication of when we might get going so I bailed out and went out to dinner with some old friends - a silver lining to every cloud and all that!


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

High fuel prices are having an effect

It has long been a matter of debate about whether increased energy costs actually make us change our behaviour or just put up the cost of living. Obviously if you are on the breadline then fuel costs will influence whether you put the heating on or not - this is known as fuel poverty and is thought to be responsible for the premature deaths of thousads of old and frail people every year.

But there is increasing evidence that the soaring oil prices are affecting the rest of us, with the Times reporting that two thirds of respondents to a survey saying that they had cut car trips. 47% of them said this was due to the cost, 13% due to the environment and a mystery 30% reporting 'change in lifestyle'.

This last category intrigues me - are people just getting fed up with the daily grind of commuting and changing their home/job to suit? Or do some of the 33% who haven't cut their car use balance this out? We may never know.

The Times article also suggests that the proportion of people showing 'ethical' choices in their shopping has dropped from 63% to 56% since January because of economic worries. Take that one with a pinch of salt - the 'ethical' market is tiny compared with the mainstream.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Weekly Tip #19: Get an organic veg box

Organic veg (and meat!) box schemes have come a long way in the last year or so. We've just swapped to a scheme where we get doorstep delivery (rather than to a volunteer pick up point which can be a real pain) and internet orders the night before. Look around and find a scheme that suits you.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Is bottled water always evil?

I was at Newcastle Green Festival the weekend before last with the family. I wanted a break from the jazz-funk that is still prevalent at such events and went to get an ice cream from the park kiosk. "Can you get me a drink, I'm parched?" asked Kaz "but nothing fizzy, please." Of course when I got to the front of the queue, they only had Coke/Sprite/Fanta or bottled water, so I ended up, red faced, buying bottled water at an environmental festival.

"Hold on a minute," I thought to myself as I walked back to the family, trying to shield the offending bottle from imaginary critics, "if I bought a soft drink, I wouldn't think twice about it, yet the environmental impact of a carbonated drink with all that processed sugar in it (and just as much water), will be many times that of the water. Given that I'm here and buying a drink, I've taken the more eco-friendly option." I relaxed, relieved at the victory of logic over dogmatism.

This is the kind of mental cul-de-sac the environmental debate can get stuck in. Plastic carrier bags, bottled water and 4x4s are labelled eco-nasties, yet there are almost always worse options that you can take without raising an eyebrow. I think a sprinkling of common sense is needed so we don't end up bouncing between simplistic knee jerk positions.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Weekly Tip #18: Don't Go Window Shopping...

About ten years ago, I was in the habit of walking into the local town centre every Saturday, 'window' shopping, having lunch, walking home and depositing the bulging carrier bags from my 'window' shopping on the floor. Now, I rarely go into the town centre for no reason - I buy less stuff I don't want, using fewer resources, creating less waste and I don't miss it.

If you look, you will buy...

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Orange Green Babies

No, I'm not dipping a toe into the cauldron that is Norn Iron politics (I was brought up there, I know better).

Rather, with organic baby food hitting a whopping 70% of the whole market, you may have noticed a wee side effect. Tomato based meals often have carrot added to keep them a nice rosy red colour while avoiding the evil E numbers. If your little pixie eats too much, they start to take on a distinct, but harmless, orange tinge. Apparently GPs have been besieged by worried parents and their glowing Munchkins. The solution is simple - switch from pasta bolognese to macaroni cheese for a while.

BTW I've found that having a little'un saves on food waste from our main meals - any leftovers are bagged, labelled and in the freezer in the blink of an eye. No orange glow either.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Weekly Tip #17: Buy holes, not drills

Slightly obscure title*, but it refers to the fact that when you buy a drill, what you are actually after is the holes it will produce, not the drill itself.

So, instead of buying a DVD, rent it instead or watch it on pay-per-view. Likewise with music and iTunes (or equivalent) or the radio**. Join a carclub rather than buying a car, use a nappy service rather than buying nappies and join your local library. All of these examples will give you the end result to desire without all the physical gubbins to go with it.

* I vaguely remember having a Ken Dodd annual as a kid where the Diddymen were selling holes in the ground. Surreal thing to throw at a young child's developing mind.

** Ever since I was given a DAB radio and got into BBC 6Music, I've stopped buying so much music in any form as that channel seems to fit my tastes down to a tee.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

BTW, it's World Environment Day!

What are you doing to celebrate?

More info here.


Co-op, Body Shop and M&S Top Ethical Poll

Readers of my Sustainable Business Blog will have seen this before, but I thought it was very relevant to Eco-living as well.

In a recent survey green/ethical brands, this time of 3000 UK adults by GfK NOP, the Co-op, Body Shop and M&S held onto the top three spots, but Sainsbury's lost out to Tesco at the foot of the table.

Rank 2008 Rank 2007

1 Co-op 1 Co-op

2 Body Shop 2 Body Shop

3 M&S 3 M&S

4 Green & Blacks 4 Traidcraft

5 Ecover 5 Cafédirect

6 Traidcraft 6 Ecover

7 Cafédirect 7= Green & Blacks & Tesco

8 Innocent

9 Divine 9 Oxfam

10 Tesco 10 Sainsbury’s

The surprises for me are:

1. The Body Shop's brand has survived the loss of founder Anita Roddick, who, even though she had sold the organisation to l'Oreal, was still associated with it in the press.

2. The position of Tesco on the table given the recent controversies over landbanking, competition and treatment of suppliers by the Big Four supermarkets. I wonder how much their position relates to their huge market share of the retail sector - does anyone want to admit they shop at an unethical store?

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A million petrolheads weep!

The Hummer is dead!

A million tree huggers cheer!

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Weekly Tip #16: Say "Bog Off" to BOGOFs

To avoid waste, never take the freebie in a Buy One Get One Free if the product is perishable. You won't feel as obliged to use it in time as it is free so it is more likely to end up in the bin.

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