Saturday, 31 December 2011

Environmentally Reckless Marketing Ploys

It is no secret that in order to create products in an industrial world, we have to commit some harm to the environment. While major corporations receive backlash for their treatment of the land we live on, they also make attempts to disguise their actions in the form of “green” marketing. Some companies have been exposed for their false messages while others have blatantly disregarded the sanctity of Mother Earth. Here are 5 of the most devious displays of reckless abandonment ever seen in the marketing world:

Every Mobile Product Commercial

The mobile companies run intensive advertising campaigns that make their products look clean, crisp, and current. If you see any marketing venture for Apple, you are going to get an onslaught of white mixed with slick black and chrome features.

While the advertising is designed to throw you off guard, the truth is that these companies employ millions of workers in foreign countries in sweatshop conditions. Every new release promises the fastest connection ever, but it is really slowing the earth down with billions of tons of waste going directly into landfills and the ocean.

10,000 Red Balloons

In what seems to be an homage to the German singer Nena's 1980's hit “99 Red Balloons,” a San Francisco video game company called TrashTalkFCM released 10,000 red balloons over the entire bay area. While it was no doubt a spectacle, the marketing stunt is wreaking havoc on the birds and marine life which calls the bay home. According to the SF Weekly, the city is fining the company $7,000 and is expecting payment within 30 days.


McDonald's is one of the most egregious exploiters of the environment in the history of industry. They generate billions of tons of waste, create unhealthy food sources for impoverished urban citizens, and release unnecessary amounts of methane into the atmosphere with their factory farmed cattle. Back in the 1980's, before people got into the entire “green” movement, McDonald's introduced a product known as the McDLT.

As evidenced by this extremely dated commercial featuring Jason Alexander, the McDLT was served in a Styrofoam container which kept your burger hot and your veggies crisp. Instead of actually preparing food fresh, the fast food giant decided it was a good idea to make consumers do all of the work themselves and add waste to landfills across America.

GE's Green Week

When GE owned the NBC network, they promoted an annual “Green Week” once or twice throughout the year. While this was a nod to the entire environmental movement, the fact is that GE is a pillar of industry and creates more waste than most developed nations. This bi-annual PR stunt was a clever way into deceiving the public about the inner-workings of the company.


The corn producers of America have the government in their pocket. Not only do these farmers get to control what most of what the entire world eats on a daily basis, they also want to change how we power our vehicles and buildings. A few years back, ethanol became a buzz word for reducing carbon emissions and decreasing our dependence on foreign oil.

In reality, ethanol and other biofuels emit even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and take more energy to cultivate. This is an example of how an extensive lobbying budget and the control of Congress can create just as effective of a marketing campaign than any money spent of television advertising.

Before falling for advertisements claiming the purported convenience or green capabilities of certain products, use your head and analyze what is really going on. Companies need to unload products in order to make profits and will do so at virtually any means necessary. Become a smarter and more informed consumer by visiting sites like The Education Update and Consumer Reports.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Hydrogen cars - the future?

The opening of the UK's first public refuelling station for hydrogen vehicles in Swindon is part of efforts to create a "hydrogen highway" along the M4 motorway. It is also seen as an important step in a UK-wide scheme to make hydrogen vehicles a viable alternative to petrol-driven cars. "A hydrogen car is much cleaner than a conventional car," says Professor Kevin Kendall, a hydrogen and fuel cell expert from Birmingham University. "This will clean up our cities enormously," he says in an interview with BBC News. "No emissions whatsoever." For more information on green cars and green insurance visit the Green Insurance Directory.

Plastic debris 'killing Adriatic loggerhead turtles'

One in three loggerhead turtles in the Adriatic Sea has plastic in its intestine, according to research in the Marine Pollution Bulletin. The Adriatic sea floor is one of the most polluted in Europe and the shallow waters of the Adriatic are important feeding grounds for the turtles.

Hundreds of millions of tonnes of plastic litter the world's oceans

Scientists are investigating ways of dealing with the millions of tonnes of floating plastic rubbish that litters our oceans. One of the largest areas of plastic litter is in the North Pacific and covers an area twice the size of France. As well as damaging coasts and killing marine life who mistake the plastic for food, contaminants in the water, which attach to the plastic debris, are distributing waste chemicals across the world's oceans. This dire situation emphasises the need for sustainable goods being used in preference to (arguably) cheaper but ecologically damaging alternatives. The plastic debris now strewn across our oceans is a sad indictment of our collective failure and a burdensome mess for future generations to clean up.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Survey reveals environmental damage of car washing

It's a typical Sunday morning chore, but over half of British motorists are unaware of the environmental harm of regularly hand washing their cars.

Whilst nearly three quarters (74%) of Britons understand that their individual actions have an effect on the environment, they appear to be unaware that washing a car on streets and driveways causes dirty water to run into the nearest rivers and streams, where it affects water quality and harms wildlife.

Survey organisers Total UK and say if half of the 43 million British motorists decided to hand wash their car, 14 billion litres of untreated water would flow into local waterways .

Green cars

Hybrid cars use a conventional petrol engine as well as an electric battery that charges as you drive and automatically switches on when the car slows down, making city driving more eco-friendly. These cars cost around two-thirds less to run than a petrol car, have reduced road tax and are exempt from the London congestion charge [read more]

What is carbon neutral?

When insurance companies talk about being carbon neutral, they mean balancing a measured amount of carbon emissions with an equivalent amount that is captured through one process or another. With net emissions being zero it becomes ‘carbon neutral’.

The most environmentally aware insurance companies will always seek to firstly reduce their own emissions and those of their customers. This will include making their buildings more eco-friendly and cutting energy use. Customers will be encouraged to drive more fuel efficient cars and given advice and incentives to reduce their carbon footprint. Only after this will unavoidable emissions be offset.

Carbon emissions can be offset in a number of ways. For example, carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels can be balanced against renewable energy that creates a similar amount of useful energy, so that the carbon emissions are compensated. More dubiously, insurance companies can pay others to remove carbon emissions by planting trees or by funding 'carbon projects' that lead to the prevention of future greenhouse gas emissions, or by buying carbon credits to remove them through carbon trading.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Dangerously radioactive sites in UK revealed

New disclosures from the Ministry of Defence reveal that at least 15 sites across the UK have been contaminated with radiation from military equipment used in World War 2. The extent of the contamination is largely unknown yet the sites are still accessible by the public and are even being considered for the development of home and businesses [read more]

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Good news! Cairn Energy's Arctic drilling misadventures are over

After spending more than a billion dollars and risking ecological disaster in the biggest oil exploration campaign ever in the Arctic, Cairn has found no commercially extractable oil at all, putting its entire Arctic drilling project in doubt.

The astronomical costs (and the company's plummeting share price) mean that there will be no further exploratory drilling off Greenland for the foreseeable future.

Not by Cairn, anyway.

Other oil companies - including Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Statoil - all hold licenses to drill in an untouched area off the north-east coast of Greenland. Elsewhere in the Arctic, Shell plans to start drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas of Alaska next year, and Gazprom in the Pechora Sea north of Siberia.

Cairn's demise is good news for the environment but we must remain vigilant.

Monday, 5 December 2011

The great River Taff cleanup project

A few short decades ago, the River Taff drained some of the largest coal mines in South Wales. Tributaries ran black with coal dust, and there were plenty of other contaminants flowing into the Taff and on into Cardiff Bay and the Bristol Channel. Along with large reaches of the Ebbw, the Rhymney, the Ely, and the Rhondda, the lower waters of the Taff were too toxic to support much life. It's estimated that the river once received about 100,000 tonnes of mining waste per year.
30 years ago the Taff was considered unfishable below the industrial works around Merthyr Tydfil. It now plays host to international fly fishing championships. Salmon can be seen leaping the weirs just a mile from Cardiff city centre, and waterbirds, insects, and amphibians have all returned to the lower reaches. It made a recent Environment Agency list of the 10 most improved rivers in the UK.
While the cleanup began with the closure of the mines it would be a mistake to assume that the Taff returned to a healthy state on its own. Huge efforts have gone into restoring it, including everything from small tributaries like the Taff Bargoed, which flows past the site of Merthyr Vale Colliery, to the artificial banks put in place to protect Cardiff suburbs from flooding. Sewerage treatment works have been improved and the remaining industrial outflow points more tightly controlled. The weirs have been modified to allow salmon to pass more easily and wetlands re-established to provide vital habitat for other species.
The efforts to clean up South Wales rivers have delivered immense benefits to the local community as well as the environment. A 55 mile cycle path winds down the Taff valley now, and country parks have been built on the Taff Bargoed and the Rhondda. The rivers are now used for fishing, birdwatching, kayaking, and rowing rather than draining industrial waste.
Volunteers, angling and watersports clubs, environmental campaigners, and local and national authorities all played a part in the tremendous recovery of the Taff and other South Wales rivers, and they should all have a share of the credit. However, the work is far from over. Out the 6114 rivers in England and Wales only five are pristine. Just over a quarter are considered to be in good condition.
Under EU regulations that figure ought to be 95%. Cleaning up Britain's rivers is a formidable task, but it can be done. All it takes is a short walk by the Taff so see that it's not only possible to return heavily polluted rivers to sound condition but also get some idea of the potential benefits. The clean Taff now has a tremendous value to local people as well as flora and fauna.

Jess Spate lives less than a mile from the River Taff and has been lucky enough to see the salmon running there. She has cycled beside it, enjoyed the wading birds in the wetlands, and kayaked reaches that were toxic not so long ago.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Forget oil. Population growth and water supply, the Arab worlds real challenge

Rapid population growth, spreading water shortages and growing food insecurity are already plaguing many Arab nations. For example, grain production has started to fall as aquifers (underground water-bearing rocks) have become depleted. Saudi Arabia used to be self-sufficient in wheat production but has now phased this out as its aquifers have been bled dry. As a result it will become totally dependent on imported grain to feed its growing population. Realising that its population cannot eat oil, the Saudis have started to buy or lease land countries such as Ethiopia and Sudan. The problem is that these countries often have real problems feeding their own people, let alone trying to support the food needs of other countries [read more]

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Is carbon capture feasible? The race to bury carbon dioxide under ocean

Often touted as the solution to halting climate change, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) for electricity generation has not yet been carried out commercially anywhere across the globe. Early efforts in the UK and around the world have so far produced little in terms of practical and workable models... [read more]

Kenya’s forests and the legacy of Wangari Maathai

Over the last 30 years, vast swathes of Kenya’s forests have been ruthlessly felled for fuel wood, building materials and other uses. Abusing nature in this way always results in a payback. In Kenya’s case it has been rising temperatures, increased droughts and persistent water crises...[read more]

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Smaller families reduce carbon emissions

As the human population nears the 7 billion mark, questions have once again been raised about the ability of our planet to support this vast increase. Will there be enough food and water? How long will the population carry on growing? What will happen to already threatened eco systems and endangered species as they compete with humans for space?

According to the Guardian, more than 200 million sexually active women who do not wish to become pregnant do not have access to modern contraception. A quarter of all births worldwide are unplanned and 42 million abortions are performed each year, half of them clandestinely, killing 68,000 women. The human toll of denying women the fundamental right to plan their families is extraordinarily high and also a significant source of population growth.

The report goes on to state that if family planning was provided to all women who wanted it, then the reduction in carbon emissions by virtue of there being less people consuming more resources, would be the equivalent to stopping all deforestation or increasing the global use of wind power by forty fold.

These figures are truly staggering. Both in terms of the suffering caused to women worldwide and also with respect to unnecessary damage being caused to the environment.

These sentiments are echoed in a statement signed by 1600 senior scientists from 70 countries, including 102 Nobel Prize laureates - Pressures resulting from unrestrained population growth put demands on the natural world that can overwhelm any efforts to achieve a sustainable future. If we are to halt the destruction of our environment, we must accept limits to that growth.

Does Fair Trade really make a difference?

Fair trade has come under criticism from some quarters as marketing hype. The Adam Smith Institute has even claimed that fair trade is actually unfair because if offers only a small number of farmers a higher, fixed priced for their produce at the expense of a majority of farmers, who can be left worse off. So does fair trade really make a difference? Read more

Monday, 3 October 2011

Money saving tips and ideas

Piggy Bank is a free site dedicated to helping you find ways of saving money and cutting costs. You'll find the site packed full of useful ideas, tips and suggestions on how to save money on a vast range of everyday goods and services including books, clothing, fuel bills, water bills, driving and mobile phones.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

More wool rugs and jute rugs at the Natural Rug Store

The Natural Rug Store, the online seller of rugs made from natural materials, has added more wool rugs and jute rugs to its product range. Since buyers have the option to build rugs to their own specification, the additional styles make the product range effectively limitless.

Among the vibrant new wool rug patterns at The Natural Rug Store are a wide range of stripes including Audrey, Mississippi, and Chicago. Stripes give rug-buyers a chance to design their own striking conversation piece rugs. By blending lighter or darker stripes with matching or contrasting borders, they can create a rug that's entirely unique.

The new jute rug patterns include herringbone – a look that is at once classic and modern.

"The popularity of wool and jute rugs is increasing," says James Hughes, marketing director at The Natural Rug Store. "These are natural materials that rug-buyers are already familiar with. People know what wool and jute are capable of – what we've been able to do is give them more choice and more scope for creativity."

Rug designers choose jute when they want to add a touch of luxury in sitting rooms and bedrooms. Jute has a soft natural sheen that the weavers at The Natural Rug Store exploit to the full. The effect is calming and luxurious.

The Natural Rug Store team go to the fertile Ganges delta for their jute. Here the climate is hot and humid – perfect for growing top quality jute. To keep the fibres intact, the plants are harvested by hand, then soaked for up to 20 days. By this time, the fibres can be separated with ease, ready for drying in the sun.

Wool is by far the most familiar natural rug material. It feels soft underfoot and gentle on the eye. It's an easy material to work with, which is why The Natural Rug Store is able to offer such a wide range of colours and weaves. By choosing breeds of sheep that produce soft yet hard-wearing wool, the designers at The Natural Rug Store have created a range that will take the pounding of feet without losing any of the warm and welcoming softness that rug-buyers expect.

To see the full range of natural wool and jute rugs, visit The Natural Rug Store

Monday, 26 September 2011

Plastic debris in the ocean

A study has measured the amount of plastic debris found in a region of the Atlantic Ocean over a 22-year period. US researchers, writing in Science, suggest the volume of plastic appeared to have peaked in recent years perhaps due to tighter marine pollution rules that prevent vessels dumping their waste at sea.

The team found plastic, most pieces measuring no more than a few millimetres, in more than 60% of 6,136 samples collected by dragging fine-meshed nets along the ocean's surface.

The researchers - from the US-based Sea Education Association (Sea), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of Hawaii - described plastic as a "major contaminant".

Friday, 23 September 2011

Green cars

Hybrid cars Hybrid cars use a conventional petrol engine as well as an electric battery that charges as you drive and automatically switches on when the car slows down, making city driving more eco-friendly. These cars cost around two-thirds less to run than a petrol car, have reduced road tax and are exempt from the London congestion charge.

Electric cars With no exhaust emissions, electric cars are currently the most eco-friendly way to drive (assuming your electricity supply comes from a renewable source of course!). Plug them in, charge up for a few pence and away you go. Electric cars are really only suitable for local driving as they have a typical range of about 40-50 miles and a top speed of about 50 mph. However, technology is fast improving.

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) Adapting your car to run on LPG typically costs £1000 - £2000, but it is more efficient than petrol and produces less pollutants than diesel. A full tank will cost around half the cost of petrol, although the cost of new LPG cars will be higher - typically £1200 - £2000 more than for non-LPG versions.

Petrol versus diesel? Diesel cars are more fuel-efficient than petrol-driven ones - burning a litre of diesel creates more CO2 than burning a litre of petrol, but the engine efficiency just about makes up for that. However, diesel will create more dirty emissions such as nitrogen oxides and particulates that can affect health. If you are considering buying a diesel car, choose one with a diesel particulate filter (DPF), as this will reduce these emissions. That said, if you live in an urban area and drive a petrol engine that uses the latest low-sulphur fuel, it will be greener than diesel (source: Friends of the Earth).

The largest carbon-neutral settlement on the planet

Samsø island in Denmark is the largest carbon-neutral settlement on the planet, with a population of 4200, based on wind-generated electricity and biomass-based district heating. They currently generate extra wind power and export the electricity to compensate for petro-fuelled vehicles. There are future hopes of using electric or biofuel vehicles.

Green car insurance. What is carbon neutral?

When insurance companies talk about being carbon neutral, they mean balancing a measured amount of carbon emissions with an equivalent amount that is captured through one process or another. With net emissions being zero it becomes ‘carbon neutral’.

The most environmentally aware insurance companies will always seek to firstly reduce their own emissions and those of their customers. This will include making their buildings more eco-friendly and cutting energy use. Customers will be encouraged to drive more fuel efficient cars and given advice and incentives to reduce their carbon footprint. Only after this will unavoidable emissions be offset.

Carbon emissions can be offset in a number of ways. For example, carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels can be balanced against renewable energy that creates a similar amount of useful energy, so that the carbon emissions are compensated. More dubiously, insurance companies can pay others to remove carbon emissions by planting trees or by funding 'carbon projects' that lead to the prevention of future greenhouse gas emissions, or by buying carbon credits to remove them through carbon trading.

Always be wary of companies who claim to be carbon neutral by simply paying for their emissions to be offset!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Supermarkets, which are the greenest?

The number of supermarkets in the UK has risen dramatically over the last few decades. Its not just the numbers that have risen - supermarkets have aggressively expanded into a wide range of non-food markets including clothing, electrical goods, books, CDs, DVDs, financial services, pharmacy products. The list keeps on growing.

At the same time, the number of independent shops, grocers, butchers, florists and corner shops has been in gradual decline as they struggle to compete with the sheer size and prices offered by the large supermarkets.

The current picture is one of a rapidly expanding supermarket sector coupled with the demise of local and small shops.

Whereas it was the small food retailers that were previously threatened by supermarket expansion, a plethora of smaller shops are now facing increased competition as the supermarkets diversify their product range.

The dominance of the supermarkets is also centred around four main companies; Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons. Most people in the UK now shop at one of these big four supermarkets. According to the Independent (6th June 2011), Tesco has a 31% market share, Morrisons 12%, Sainsbury's 16% and Asda 17%.

Supermarket dominance is important not just from a local economy perspective but also from an ecological standpoint. That is because the big four supermarkets often pursue business models which are inherently unsustainable and damaging to the environment. Whilst they try to mask this with pseudo-green marketing campaigns, underneath the facade it is apparent that their true motive is profit.

For example, cheap food is often flown in from around the globe clocking up a huge carbon footprint whilst cutting out local producers. Palm oil in many of the supermarket products such as biscuits, sweets, confectionaries, margarines, breads, crisps and bars of soap often comes from rainforest areas that have been cleared for palm oil plantations. Cheap labour and sweatshops in third world countries are used to produce bargain clothes. Landfill sites, streets and the countryside are littered with plastic bags given away free. These are just a few examples of the long list of ecologically damaging and unfair practices that the supermarkets pursue.

The problem, however, is that in the real world profit-driven monopolies seldom change their policies in the face of a largely apathetic or uninformed general public who are seeking to reduce their outgoings in response to the economic downturn. That is why it is important to expose unsustainable and unfair practices amongst the largest supermarkets and publicise them widely, so that consumers can make more informed choices and see exactly what they are buying.

So, which are the greenest supermarkets? And how do you measure green? There is no single measure that can be used to establish green credentials but typically a range of measures would include its stated ethical policy, commitment to protecting the environment, its policies and procedure for reducing carbon emissions and pollution, labelling of products, treatment of employees including those in other countries, the way it deals with its suppliers, packaging and use of plastic bags, and its contributions towards charities and local causes. In combination, these provide an indication of how green a supermarket is.

Ethical Consumer conducted one such exercise in 2011, measuring 19 supermarkets against a range of environmental and social indicators. It found that the Co-operative was the greenest supermarket followed by Marks and Spencer. From their fishing policies to palm oil use to renewable energy, both companies scored well with a genuine commitment to protecting the environment.

Languishing at the bottom of the table was Britains biggest supermarket Tesco. Its policies and lack of concern for the environment were illustrated in a Guardian article about the Tesco 'flights for lights' promotion, offering air miles in exchange for low-energy light bulbs, which it said was like giving away a pack of Benson and Hedges with every Nicorette patch.

Tesco, every little hurts.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Celebrity environmental quotes. How celebrities influence public opinion on environmental issues.

All too often, people concerned about the environment and trying to make a difference are parodied by cynical celebrities as tree huggers, eco warriors and cranks. TV programmes caricature the hippy eco warrior with long pleated hair, silly looking hat and cardigan stood in front of some symbol of corporate excess and refer to them as protestors from the environmental movement.

In reality, I suspect that very few people would claim to have no concern about the environment and the world that our children will inherit. And it is not just about the now tiresome debate over whether global warming is true or not. It is also about protecting the rainforests and endangered species from extinction, working out how we will feed and support a rapidly increasing human population, where we will get our energy from as fossil fuels run out and much more. Then there are issues of fair trade. How many people are truly comfortable knowing that the cheap shirt they bought was produced by young children working in sweatshop conditions? These are very real and pressing concerns for all of us and not just the preserve of a small group of so-called eco warriors.

Whether we like it or not, opinions and perceptions about the environment are heavily influenced by the media and celebrities, what they say, what they do and how they behave. A stark contrast in environmental quotes from a range of well known celebrities and public figures is shown below.

Does anyone really imagine for a moment that my wife gives two stuffs about global warming? She certainly did not appear to be all that bothered on Thursday evening when, during the great carbon-saving switch-off, I ran round the house furiously turning on every light, hair dryer, dishwasher and toaster. Jeremy Clarkson, TV Presenter and Journalist

It is not just global warming, it is not just a loss of biodiversity, it is not just the pollution of our oceans and the clearing of our rainforests and all these complicated systems, The [11th Hour] movie talks about the world economy, it talks about politics, it talks about personal transformation and environmental consciousness that we need to have in this generation to implement a lot of these changes that need to occur. Leonardo DiCaprio, Actor

I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defence of our resources is just as important as defence abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend? Robert Redford, Actor

Cows eat grass and silage. This is melting the ice caps and killing us all. So they need a new foodstuff: something that is rich in iron, calcium and natural goodness. Plainly they cannot eat meat so here is an idea to chew on. Why not feed them vegetarians? Jeremy Clarkson, TV Presenter and Journalist

In the absence of sound oversight, responsible businesses are forced to compete against unscrupulous and underhanded businesses, who are unencumbered by any restrictions on activities that might harm the environment, or take advantage of middle-class families, or threaten to bring down the entire financial system. Barack Obama, US President

A lot of lies and misinformation has been put about by eco nuts on the back of a report by an idiot economist [Sir Nicholas Stern]. Environmental head bangers are talking nonsense when they claim that aviation is the fastest-growing source of carbon emissions. Coal-fired and oil-fired power stations are the biggest contributor of carbon but I have yet to hear any fearless eco warriors advocating nuclear power as they drive around in their SUVs to their next protest meeting. Michael OLeary, Ryanair

Our generation has inherited an incredibly beautiful world from our parents and they from their parents. It is in our hands whether our children and their children inherit the same world. Richard Branson, Tycoon

We want to annoy the ******* whenever we can. The best thing we can do with environmentalists is shoot them. Michael OLeary, Ryanair

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Shoot the messenger – the scandal of the rainforest killings

In 2005, a 73-year-old US-born Catholic nun and activist named Dorothy Stang was murdered in Brazil. Dorothy had been campaigning to protect the Amazonian rainforest for four decades. The murderers were killers hired by local landowners. Those responsible for clearing the rainforests can’t win the moral argument as their actions are based on greed and personal gain at any cost. So, instead, they resort to killing those who try to stop them.

The killing of Dorothy Stang was high profile but it certainly wasn’t an isolated incident. In May 2011, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espírito Santo, a husband and wife team of activists who dedicated many years fighting against illegal deforestation, paid the ultimate price when they were shot dead following numerous death threats.

This situation is not recent either. As far back as April 1996 there was the "massacre of Eldorado de Carajás", in which 19 rural protesters were killed when Brazilian police opened fire on a crowd of peasant farmers who were holding a peaceful demonstration against illegal logging.

The Catholic Church's Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), which has documented rural violence in Brazil since the 1980s, has counted hundreds of such killings. There is a long history of intimidation, kidnappings and death threats against people trying to protect the rainforests. Many are murdered without anyone ever hearing about it.

Little is heard of these killings in the mass media and larger corporations who are indirectly linked to rainforest destruction are conspicuously quiet on the subject. Such is media apathy that campaigners are often derided as ‘tree huggers’ with headlines instead dedicated to footballers’ affairs, ‘reality’ TV shows and celebrity gossip.

The latest candidate for execution is Raimundo Francisco Belmiro dos Santos, a campaigner for protecting the Amazonian rainforest. His only crime is speaking out against the illegal loggers and those trying to destroy the rainforests. Apparently, landowners in the northern state of Pará have offered a 50,000 dollar contract for his death. He has already received numerous death threats against him and his family.

Clearly, large corporations are not directly involved in violence and intimidation of this nature. However, the lead up to deforestation often begins with groups of illegal ‘land grabbers’ known as ‘grileiros’ who invade and seize land belonging to others often with forged documents. This is backed up with intimidation and violence. This illegally obtained land is then sold to large landowners. And that is how much of the large-scale deforestation occurs.

Environmentalists have stressed the need to draw attention to the dreadful situation occurring in the Amazon and to highlight the plight of both campaigners and innocent people caught up in the violence and intimidation. For this to happen there needs to be much greater global awareness through the media of what is really going on, genuine commitment from the large corporations to disassociate themselves from rainforest destruction coupled with concerted efforts by Brazilian and international governments to tackle the problem. Those responsible for the threats, shootings and killings need to be brought to justice. The price of failure is no less than the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

Major success in protecting Amazon rainforest

Brazil’s second largest beef exporter, Bertin, has agreed to review its entire supply chain to ensure that none of its sources are involved with deforestation, slave labour or land grabbing. The move follows intensive campaigning by Greenpeace through its ‘Slaughtering the Amazon’ report. Other successes include Marfig, one of the largest beef producers and further pledges from Clarks, Nike, Timberland, Geox and Adidas.

"Bertin's decision should pave the way for the modernisation of the Brazilian cattle industry", said Sarah Shoraka, Greenpeace Forests campaigner. "Given the sheer size of both Bertin and Marfrig's operations, this commitment will have real impact on driving down Amazon deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. Greenpeace will closely monitor the moratorium's implementation to ensure its success.”

Whilst there is no room for complacency it’s heartening to hear of Greenpeace’s success and it is to be hoped that other major brands follow suit. The task won’t be easy as deforestation continues apace with the criminal network behind the killings of rainforest campaigners still at large. Clearly, greater transparency in tracking supply sources coupled with exposure of those brands still involved in deforestation are major factors in protecting the Amazon and its inhabitants.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

The Price of Fairness?

There is a common misconception that businesses which act fairly, ethically and with a moral code of conduct and who pursue policies that protect the environment and workers rights do so at the risk of comprising their competitiveness in the real world. Such pursuits are a distraction and misuse of resources and may have an impact on overall profitability so the argument goes. Then there are many other businesses who cynically exploit consumer concerns about the environment by adopting pseudo-green policies as evidenced most commonly by some supermarkets. Green on the outside profit driven on the inside. Read more about ethical banking

Monday, 9 May 2011


Tree2mydoor is a unique gift company that specialises in sending personalised trees as gifts to people all over the UK and Ireland. They have created special tree gift packs for newborn baby gifts, green wedding gifts and 4th, 5th and 25th wedding anniversary gifts. Tree gifts range from native UK tree species to garden fruit trees and indoor citrus trees.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Bamboo Textiles

Bamboo Textiles have launched another new product following on from their success in bamboo cot sheets and bedlinen which are made in their mill in Lancashire. Childrens pyjamas made from a blend of bamboo and cotton, 70% and 30% respectively, are now for sale on their website available for ages 1 to 9. Bamboo Textiles are aware that many children suffer from skin problems so have made the pyjamas with elasticated ankles and cuffs. These make it more difficult for little fingers and nails to scratch effected parts of the child's body.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Whale mass strandings linked to hearing loss

In November 2010 "one of the biggest mass deaths of cetaceans in Irish history" occurred in which at least 33 whales beached themselves on the north-west coast of County Donegal. The whales' deaths coincide with recent research into cetacean strandings, which suggests that stranded whales and dolphins often suffer from hearing loss. There is an ongoing debate over whether undersea noise pollution is harming whales.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

A resurgence in wool

When Naturewarm started selling wool-filled bedding in 2005, people were sceptical about the idea that wool could be used to fill duvets. Six years down the line, the company has seen a significant revival of interest in using this material from a sustainable source, manufactured in the UK. More people are now waking up to wool in their duvets, pillows and bedtoppers and, reassuring to Naturewarm, is the fact that many customers keep coming back for more. Wool is the ideal material for temperature regulation during sleep, and is hypoallergenic. Although wool-filled duvets are light, they are warm. During the winter months, their warmth can be supplemented by using a bedtopper which rests on top of the mattress, underneath the sheet.

Naturewarm also manufactures Cosy Lambs cot duvets for use by children over the age of 12 months.

Naturewarm is a Licensee of the British Wool Marketing Board and is proud to support British sheep farmers.
Tel: 01572 767258

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

African conservationists resort to 'shoot to kill’ to stop poaching

Rhino horns command a very high price in some parts of Asia where they are used in dubious medicines, which fuels poaching and puts already endangered species at further risk. Some poachers are heavily armed professionals, who will shoot people as well as animals in their quest for money.

In contrast, the development of nature tourism has generated a great deal of international pressure to save high-profile species. This has been to such an extent that some conservation groups regard the protection of the gorilla, rhino and other endangered species as more important than human life.

Professor Rosaleen Duffy has conducted research in this field and discovered that private security firms and mercenaries are now being used to train game rangers.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Sea eagle numbers increasing in Scotland

The RSPB has reported that pairs of white-tailed sea eagles in Scotland produced more young during 2010 than in any other year since they were reintroduced 35 years ago. The UK's largest bird of prey was hunted to extinction over the 19th and 20th Centuries and new birds had to be taken from countries such as Norway for re-introduction back to Scotland. Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham has said that the record increase in numbers is ‘fantastic’.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Jonathan Leech

Jonathan Leech is an artistic woodturner, producing bowls, dishes and platters. All his wood is locally-sourced and is obtained sustainably, for example from fallen or storm-damaged trees. It’s then air and kiln dried before being shaped by hand. The final stages include fine sanding and finishing with lemon oil, to give a perfectly smooth finish. Each piece is truly unique, making the perfect wedding or anniversary gift. His work can be purchased through a number of Cumbrian galleries, National Trust shops or via the website. Viewings are welcome by appointment.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Otters back from the brink of extinction

Pesticide polluted rivers three decades ago almost wiped out England’s otter population. However, now that many of these pesticides have been banned the otter has made a remarkable comeback according to the Environment Agency. In fact, in many watercourses in the south-west and along the River Wye otter numbers are at maximum capacity.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

“You Are Pure Potential” - Martin de Maat Magnet

YES, that’s US - all of us. We have the potential* to change things - loads of things. The thing we’re talking about here is changing behaviour and challenging our seemingly out-of-control disposable culture.

There was a time, long ago when people bought things to last and then reused them. But then a myth arrived on the scene, which made us all believe that reusing is somehow bad for us or out-of-date, and that it is better to buy new each time.

Reuse in the broadest sense means any activity that lengthens the life of an item.

Reuse is nothing new. What is new is the need to reuse.
Reuse can often be more effective than recycling. Once an item has been made at great cost to the pocket and the earth – doesn’t it make sense that it is used until it is rendered useless?

You might think that a reusable bottle or bag can’t make that much difference in the grand scheme of things. BUT... remember that we have the potential to change things - it is part of us.

*POTENTIAL existing in possibility: capable of development into actuality

Onya Bags

Reusable Bottle

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Does Fair Trade help us?

UK consumers are now familiar and well aware of the Fair trade movement. Countless supermarket products come with the fair trade stamp of quality, almost to the point that its presence is diluted. Greedy westerners putting another selling point on their commodities – does this compromise the ethos of the Fair Trade Foundation?

The Fairtrade organisation’s core values remain intact. The movement is aimed at aiding both producers and consumers – encouraging clearer communication with a transparent set of standards.

The Fairtrade mark is a certification for products sourced from companies based in developing countries, with a goal of helping poverty and improving long term development. This is an internationally recognised logo and is in many terms a household brand in the consumer’s eyes.

The Fairtrade standards for generic producers are set high and provide detail in their requirements. This drives businesses such as commercial farms into improving their processes and operations but also supports financially and managerially.

Ethical products have seen a rise in sales volumes over the past four years. Organic food has seen a recent decrease which is attributable to the economical downturn. Contrastingly RSPCA backed Freedom Food products have seen considerable increases in the past two years showing the level of support in the UK economy for ethical consumerism.

The question is does the average consumer knows what the ‘ethically produced’ means? Large organisations such as Sainsburys and Starbucks openly support Fairtrade and there is high amounts of information and retailers backing fair trade products. Therefore, part of the increase of ethical product sales has to be down to genuine demand.

Experienced ethical product wholesaler Premcrest penned a great ‘what is fairtrade’ article giving more information on the Fairtrade and its impact to us in economical terms – visit Premcrest

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Solar panels on the White House

US President Barack Obama is to install solar panels on the White House roof, in a move which will please climate activists and send out a strong message about the nation's energy future. The panels will heat water and provide electric power. "Solar panels on one house, even this house, won't save the climate, of course," global warming activists wrote on their website. "But they're a powerful symbol to the whole nation about where the future lies."

HSBC Insurance

HSBC Insurance has switched all of its marketing material in the UK, including direct mail, to FSC certified virgin/recycled paper, affecting the 4000 tonnes of paper destined for customers' letterboxes. Over the next few years, as more FSC certified paper grades become available, this policy will be extended to all of the paper the HSBC Group uses around the world.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Con-fused Arts

Con-fused Arts aim to provide you and others across the UK with contemporary high quality Fair Trade jewellery that easily competes with high street and fashion brands. All their products are sourced from business and social projects that follow Fair Trade Practices ensuring fair payment to disadvantaged craftspeople and artisans alike. They also endeavour to ensure only natural and sustainable materials are used minimising the impact on the environment.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Cold winter in a world of warming?

At a New Year’s Eve party I was approached by someone with a cynical grin, “Looks like your global warming theory thingy has gone badly wrong, it’s the coldest winter on record – how do you explain that?” It wasn’t the first time I’d heard such comments. My son recently came home from school and told me that his friend’s dad had said global warming was a myth, and that the recent cold snap ‘proved’ it.

The two very cold winters we’ve had in the UK have been seized upon by sceptics as evidence that global warming is a lie. Unusually cold winters may make some people think that scientists have got it all wrong. However, the truth is far deeper than this. There are now strong findings that suggest that the unusually cold winters of the last two years in the UK are in fact the result of heating elsewhere.

Record high temperatures were experienced in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Burma and Pakistan, causing heatwaves and devastating harvests throughout 2010. In fact, record high temperatures were set in 17 countries. Two leading groups of scientists say it was the warmest since records began in 1850; another suggests it was the second-warmest. This decade also proved to be the hottest on record, with temperatures averaging 0.46C above the 1961-90 average.

Last June, during the International Polar Year conference, James Overland suggested that there are more cold and snowy winters to come in the UK as the rest of the world heats up. The reason? The exceptionally cold snowy 2009-2010 winter in Europe is connected with the loss of sea-ice in the Arctic, which results in a persistent ‘blocking event’ bringing in cold air over Europe from the north and the east.

The UK has experienced very cold temperatures recently. But that doesn’t ‘prove’ that global warming is wrong. Quite the opposite. The world is warming and record temperatures are being seen across huge swathes of the globe. The UK’s lower temperatures follow from loss of sea ice in the Arctic caused by global warming.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The largest windfarm in the world?

Construction will begin next year on one of the largest offshore windfarms in the world, led by RWE Innogy, and is expected to be completed in 2014.

The £2 billion Gwynt y Mor windfarm will consist of 160 wind turbines around 10 miles off the north Wales coast near to Colwyn Bay and Llandudno. It is claimed that around 1,000 jobs will be created by the project.

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said: "This is excellent news. Gwynt y Mor will be one of the single biggest private investment projects ever seen in Wales, creating up to 1,000 quality jobs and contributing many millions of pounds to the regional economy of north Wales.

"It will also become one of the largest offshore windfarm projects in Europe, able to provide enough clean, green electricity to power the equivalent of around 400,000 homes.”

"Surrounded by wind, wave and tidal resources, we are in a prime position to be able to benefit from investment in the green economy whilst making a significant contribution to the UK government's carbon reduction targets through safe, clean renewable means."

The project has, however, been opposed by some people in Llandudno who claimed it would destroy the resort's views out to sea and that wind energy was unreliable. Which brings us back to our often cited counterargument – where would the protestors like their electricity to come from? Imported foreign oil from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran? Nuclear power stations (presumably not on their own doorstep)? Or from burning dirty coal? Finally, what happens when fossil fuels run out? (Yes, fossil fuels are finite unlike wind).

UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said: "This is the first of what I hope will be many examples of how we can make the most of our island's huge renewable energy potential. I want to make sure we grab all the opportunities the rapidly expanding renewables industry has to offer, and that wind power can come of age under this government."