Eco-living is the art of living your dreams while minimising your impact on the environment. Topics will include waste, energy, recycling, green building, transport, food, product reviews, book reviews and anything else to help readers live within ecological limits.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Are you a campaigner? Do you know one?
Thursday, July 23, 2009
One flu over the piggy's sty...
I had a quick panic on Monday when I started snivelling and coughing - I've got a toddler and a pregnant woman in the house and didn't want to kill either. I'm always surprised at how irrational I can get when something affects me - and at how hard it is to find a thermometer when you really need one. And like the 'cocktail effect' you get with certain combinations of pesticides, the more frustrated I got with the errant device, the more convinced I was that something really bad was going to happen.
But anyway, I found the bloody thing and I now know I've got a bad head cold rather than a mild flu with a scary name. Calm.
Two thoughts are uppermost in my mind:
1. How dare the press accuse the medical establishment of not handling the panic well when it is the press creating the panic. As we speak the Guardian website is both predicting it will peak in the next couple of weeks and cause bedlam in Fresher's week. OK, the official advice for pregnant women is crap too - plan your pregnancy carefully, but don't put off conception. What?
2. Ever since the flu took off (pun not intended) in this country, we've stopped discussing why it came about in the first place - bad animal husbandry on a grand scale in third world countries to meet the demand for dirt cheap food in the first world. Prevention better than a cure and all that? Factory farming is messing with nature and when you mess with nature...
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Book Review: Do Humans Dream of Electric Cars?
This booklet, full title "Do Humans Dream of Electric Cars?: Your Journey to Sustainable Travel" has been published by Sustrans - the UK's leading sustainable transport charity who are most famous for the National Cycle Network which criss-crosses the country. I should confess now that I'm a member of Sustrans and was until recently a Volunteer Ranger for a couple of miles of that network.
The booklet is laid out in what I call a Purple Ronnie style - informal cartoons, handwritten comments and a deliberate mish-mash of text fonts. I'm not a big fan of this sort of thing personally, but on a climate change communication programme I worked on, it came out as the favoured style with the general public, so what do I know?!
The whole book is obviously designed to be accessible, lightweight, thought provoking - something to dip into in the dentist's waiting room - and it works. There are no real surprises in terms of content - walking, cycling, lift sharing, public transport, car clubs - but the polemic against offsetting seemed slightly out of place (I think a charity should be more even handed). While the booklet does encourage the reader to campaign for low-transport planning like local shops and services, I saw nothing about more distributed work practices. Working from home will not only cut commuting, but support those local services - the evaporation of local shops has as much to do with consumer preference as it does your local planning department.
So, in summary, fresh and light, something to stimulate the uninitiated rather than inform the hardened eco-liver.
Monday, July 13, 2009
What's the most ecologically daft thing you have ever done?
On our last night in Bruges, I found myself using a hair dryer to dry a teddy. 1.2 kW of energy pointed at a toy. Probably the nadir of my attempts at eco-living.
My excuse is: we had 10 hours of travelling with small child the next day and he decided to chuck teddy in the bath. The thought of risking a sleepness night for all of us if teddy wasn't safely in bed with the boy was too terrifying to contemplate. Didn't stop me feeling pretty stupid all said and done.
So what have you done recently that's made you stop and think "What the hell am I doing?".
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
I've just got back from Bruges/Brugge/whatever in Belgium, and it was fabulous - sun, canals, quaint buildings, beer, chocolate - what more do you need?
Anyway from a green point of view, the amazing thing was the sheer nmber of solar PV installations. I took quite a few train trips as I had a number of work appointments and it was rare to see a village or a suburb without at least one house with panels. The photo is a bit rubbish as it was taken from a moving train with a camera phone. I saw dozens of these in each one hour trip. As a comparison I saw a miserly two solar hot water systems on the trip back from London to Newcastle. They have a feed in tariff, we don't. Go figure.
As with most Northern European cities the cycling facilities brilliant despite the limitations of the medieval streets.
One way for cars, two way for cycles and scooters.
Cycle paths on narrow streets - we saw really young kids using these.
The mother of all cycle parks, Bruges station.
As a keen cyclist, I was very jealous!