Monday, 30 June 2008
Last year, funky bag designers, Bags of Change came up with a great motivational concept to get people to shop locally. By carrying one of their durable cotton shopping bags you are guaranteed a discount in certain independent shops. In London this scheme is supported by twenty four outlets offering up to 10% off your shopping, and numbers of participating stores are growing in the rest of the country. Last week they announced the launch of their coolest design yet - a leather look bag made from treetap rubber, available for £38. If you spend £25 every week at the health food store, it would take 16 weeks to pay for itself and start saving you over £10 a month!
We also love the concept of social guerilla bagging - each bag made, from an old bedsheet or curtain, avoids the production of 80 plastic bags. Get some friends round and get creative.
US strategist, Jeff Rubin predicts that there will be 10 million fewer cars on the highways of America within the next four years. Chief economist at CIBC Markets, Rubin estimates that oil will soar to over $7 a gallon within this time and that many of the 57 million Americans who have access to public transport will start to use it more, in favour of their beloved automobiles. Apparently the change is already starting - car sales have trailed off in the US in recent years and drivers are taking measures to reduce fuel consumption.
We have come up with a list of six plain and simple things that you can do in the face of rising fuel prices:
1. Get a bike for individual journeys - check out your local freecycle network for potential freebies. Electric bikes are a good alternative for longer journeys.
2. Look for a people powered method for family journeys. We like the look of this child carrier from London Recumbents.
3. Drive fewer miles. Make a list of all the journeys that you make in a week and see if two or more can be combined or perhaps you could organise a liftshare with other parents?
4. When choosing a new car, look for the smallest low-emission vehicle that will meet your needs.
5. Join a car club - a great alternative to personal car ownership, costing under £5 per hour. City Car Club runs schemes in seven cities in the UK. If there isn't one near you, perhaps you could set up an informal arrangement with neighbours?
6. Use public transport as much as possible and if your local area is not well served by buses or trams, campaign to your local council's Transport Office.
Well, it's Monday morning and the sun is shining and I have had a great relaxing weekend. My sister and brother in law treated us to a luxurious weekend of surprises and they had the kids to stay - what angels! So I had a haircut (first professional one in about 15 years!) we went out to a comedy club and had dinner at Terre a terre on Saturday night - this is my favourite restaurant in the world ever. We bought home some sumptuous vegan truffles and ate them in bed with the papers on Sunday morning - mmm!
So this morning I am just completing some research on whether green parenting can actually save you money and if so, how much? It's a really interesting exercise, not least because most people I speak to seem to think that being green is a lifestyle choice and requires a high level of disposable income. It's great to debunk those myths and prove that you can save money and the planet at the same time.
Also just finishing off the next edition of Green Kids, which I love working on. We have had a wonderful selection of pictures and poems sent into us from children around the country - their work is so passionate and funny and it is a real delight to receive. We publish a selection in the magazine and its always tricky deciding which ones will go in.
Better press on ...
Saturday, 28 June 2008
Gordon Brown yesterday unveiled the Renewable Energy Strategy to a general fanfare of approval from many environmentalists. It proposes that 15% of energy needs will be met by renewables by 2020. Plans include thousands of wind turbines, both on and off shore, solar panels on millions of buildings and a surge in electric car ownership. Greenpeace calls the plans 'visionary', Friends of the Earth (FoE) are pleased to see the Government slide out of the slow lane and show willing to 'shift up a gear'. But there is some concern over the costs of implementing this energy strategy; it is suggested that homeowners will have to foot the bill with rising fuel costs, and FoE still feel that the targets are 'un-ambitious'. The proposals also rely heavily on biomass energy from crops and biofuels for transport and conservationists fear that swathes of our remaining green and pleasant land will be razed to make way for giant wind turbines and crops, that will be burnt to keep us in the manner we have grown accustomed to. I feel frustrated by the 'business as usual' approach to green energy plans - why isn't the Government making big noises about the ways in which we can dramatically cut our energy usage? More on this later...
Friday, 27 June 2008
I get zillions of emails every day from people who are doing exciting green things. Today I received a press release about these new natural paints. They look really interesting - a new range of natural paints, available in nearly 100 colours, that come in powdered form in paper packaging - how cool. Free from petrochemicals, phthalates and formadehyde, they are made from natural extracts and minerals with non-toxic pigments. You simply mix the dry powder with water and then apply, and apparently they are quick drying and easy to use. Naturepaint founder Ross Harling says, "Even the clean up process it easier [compared with regular paints], as it rinses out with water and any leftovers biodegrade with garden compost - and no tins means nothing is added to landfill sites." Prices start at £10.66 for a 400g bag, which makes a litre of paint. Ooh, there's even a YouTube video on how to mix up the paint - reminds me of those poster paints you get at playschool!
If your children are fascinated by all things creepy crawly it might be worth checking out one of hundreds of events taking place this weekend to celebrate National Insect Week. There's insect trails, beekeeping demos, story sessions and craft workshops available at venues around the UK. Also lots of outdoor activities such as pond dipping sessions and bug walks and hunts. I like the sound of the free talk about the secret life of ladybirds at the Natural History Museum tomorrow afternoon, where visitors can learn about the cannibalistic and other dark tendencies behind the ladybird's pretty facade.
Well, no sun tea today due to rain and grey skies. So still using behemoth of a kettle to make the many cups of tea we drink. I spent some time today making strawberry ice cream for the kids because we went to a fruit farm earlier in the week and had about five punnets of strawberries and raspberries that needed action. I am trying to avoid sugar in our diet at the moment, as I feel it is an empty food stuff so I made ice cream using agave syrup. Its v simple and tastes pretty sublime (if I say so myself). 1 punnet strawberries, 90g cashews or macadamias, 40g agave syrup (the quantities are fairly approximate and you might want to mess around with them until you find what suits you in terms of sweetness and creaminess). Whizz in a food processor until smooth and then put it in the freezer. Take it out every two hours or so and give it a stir, otherwise it goes rock solid and is difficult to eat. I also stir some raspberry syrup through it (made with pureed raspberries and agave syrup) to make a homemade raspberry ripple type effect. As I said it's really yummy and fairly nutritious too. Picked some mammoth courgettes and salad leaves from the garden and made courgette bread for the kids. Got recipe from this magic new book How it all Vegan, which popped through our letterbox last week. Have already sampled quite a few of the recipes and they are really innovative and exciting. Has made me come over all bake-a-lot mum, which has to be a good thing! Jez and I had to finish off the proofing of the magazine today - it looks very fine indeed and am very pleased with the final look of it. Just three weeks to go now and it'll be dropping onto doormats around the world, hopefully bringing a little cheer and green inspiration to all our subscribers. Customers who get it from their local shop will have to wait a little longer - it's out on 24th July but we just heard that ALL WH Smith stores will be stocking The Green Parent from next issue so that's very exciting and means it will be easier to find. Hurrah!
Polar scientists predict an ice-free North Pole this year. It seems unthinkable but in one of the gravest environmental news stories this year, it was reported in the Independent today that the Arctic ice is melting at such a rate that it could be open water at the North Pole this summer. Polar regions are experiencing dramatic temperature rises caused by global warming and scientists are concerned that increasing ice melts mean that the ocean will absorb more heat and raise temperatures still higher. Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University said, "Last year we saw huge areas of the ocean open up, which has never been experienced before. People are expecting this to continue this year and it is likely to extend over the North Pole. It is quite likely that the North Pole will be exposed this summer." Witness reports from Inuit people living near Boffin Bay between Canada and Greenland say that the sea ice is disappearing earlier this year and that unusual wide cracks are appearing in the ice. We can only hope that this news spurs governments and individuals to take green issues even more seriously. Although the time has passed for us being able to turn the tide of climate change, we need to think big and take some decisive action if we are to lessen the impact of global warming on our planet.
Thursday, 26 June 2008
Well we have just finished another edition of The Green Parent, which will be published next month. It's a green homes special issue and we have featured some really fabulous eco houses and natural decorating tips. It was great fun to work on, though the subject matter gave me itchy feet, which I tend to get in the summer months anyhow. So, now the office is relatively quiet and the computers will be getting some rest at night. We recently got an Efergy Energy Monitor that shows how much electricity you are consuming and it's quite addictive. When we first got it, I rushed around turning plugs off at the wall and have now worked out a few tricks to keep energy consumption down. The kettle uses a surprising amount of power so I am going to try making sun tea while the weather is so gorgeous. I'll let you know how I get on. The coffee machine that we were given by a friend in an exchange for a subscription to the magazine, is actually more energy efficient than the kettle, probably because it's quicker and only boils a small amount of water. There are some interesting looking eco kettles available now but I don't think buying an entirely new product is really the most green of solutions. Let's hope that sun tea tastes good...