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For years Merino sheep in Australia have undergone the horrific act of “mulesing” - a procedure whereby the skin around the tail of a sheep is removed without anaesthesia. This is done to reduce “flystrike” whereby flies feed on the sheeps’ tissue in this area. After a long time working to put a stop to this, recently some positive steps have been taken as PETA pressed this home, and Swedish current affairs program Kalla Fakta (Cold Facts) exposed this practice and sought to stop Swedish clothing companies from buying wool from such animals. High street chain H&M is one such store that has boycotted Australian wool.

The program will now be aired in other European countries and the subject has even reached the European Commission where it will be discussed. Sweden’s Minister of Agriculture wants to impose a European-wide ban on importing of Australian wool. 19 clothing companies in Sweden now also support this boycott.

Being vegetarian, I wouldn’t dream of eating meat, and don’t wear leather, but we need to think further about the consumer choices we make, and the facts behind them. A lamb which is mulesed undergoes pain with no painkillers, and no anaesthetic to pay for our cheaper clothes. This is unacceptable and should and must be stopped. Australian wool is not “green consumption”. This practice has been phased out in New Zealand, so the fact is that there is a solution. It may cost more, but what price can be placed on pain to an animal which doesn’t deserve it, or the richest countries in the world saving a few dollars on another sweater? 

Cosmetic companies still test on animals - something I cannot believe still happens today. Animals feel pain just as much as we do, and without choice are caged and tested on resulting in some horrendous results. How can we let this happen? How can we stop it?

Firstly, make sure that you are buying a product which clearly states “not tested on animals”. Soap, for example, can be tested on rabbits. Now this doesn’t sound too bad, until we understand what happens. Rabbits don’t have tear ducts. The soap gets into their eyes and there are no tears to wash it away. We all know the burning sensation of getting soap into our eyes. On rabbits the soap will eat away at the eyeball, and rabbits can struggle so much against this that they break their necks and kill themselves.

The European Union is planning to phase out animal testing by 2009. L’Oreal had pushed to have this ruling quashed. This is the world’s largest cosmetics company. Just because some companies don’t test on animals, it doesn’t mean that their products aren’t tested. Synthetic ingredients can be used, as well as human volunteers in clinical trials. The Body Shop are pioneer of this, having epoused their philosophy on not testing on animals years before it became a debated topic. Strangely The Body Shop chain was acquired by L’Oreal. This means that profits from the sale of The Body Shop products will go to parent company L’Oreal… very strange.

We all have the power to make the change. If we refused to become consumers of the companies who do test on animals they would be forced to sit up and make the change. Clairol, Johnson and Johnson, Cover Girl and Unilever Rexona (as mentioned in a previous entry) all continue to test on animals. Let’s support those who don’t!

Clarins, Dermalogica, Decleor, M.A.C, and Jurlique don’t test on animals, and are among the leading cosmetics brands in the world. This should say that animal testing is NOT necessary.

Some good news! UK supermarket chain will soon introduce a 5 pence levy for plastic bags. Some 13 billion bags are given out in the UK every year alone, leading to landfill, harm to sealife, and birdlife, and not to mention the oil that is used producing the bags. 90% of debris in oceans is plastic. The 5p fee for the bag will go towards charity.

This has sparked some debate in Britain, but at least people find it important enough to talk about. Marks and Spencers will also increase the amount of recyled plastic in their bags from 20 to 100%. Whilst I think we can easily get along without plastic bags at all, this is at least a step in the right direction.

As Mother’s Day soon arrives in the UK, many people are looking to get flowers delivered or buying bunches of flowers. Yes, flowers are a nice gesture. But within a week they will be gone. Many of the flowers that are sold come from Ecuador and other South American countries where child labour is common, illegal chemicals and pesticides are used, and the mass growth wreacks havoc with the environment.

In fact, many workers who are exposed to the low level chemicals for long periods of time have seen effects such as liver and kidney malfuntion, and birth defects. The chemicals used can also reach the water consumed by cattle and thus get further into the food chain.

If you really want to buy flowers then do so by all means, but think about a few things

- carbon miles (again!) flowers from other countries have to be flown over, whereas flowers grown locally will save on this

- buy organic, ask your florist for flowers which have not been chemically treated

- dedicate a tree to someone instead!

In recent years people have taken to drinking bottled water. Now whilst tap water in many countries is drinkable, many go on to buy bottled water. Not only does this lead to huge amounts of plastic ending up in landfill, (two thirds of plastic bottles end up as landfill) but in many cases uses up valuable carbon miles. One plastic bottle will take 450 years to break down.

 If you need to buy bottled water, then make sure that you buy bottled water that is locally sourced. One litre of Volvic water uses 185 grams of carbon to reach the UK, Evian uses 172 grams of carbon, whilst water from the River Thames in London uses just 0.3 grams. So imported water in the UK uses up 600 times more carbon!

Imagine the carbon footprint on drinking a bottle of Fiji bottled water every day. In fact, there are some celebrities today who drink no other water, and demand it be flown in wherever they are.

Taste tests have shown that most people can’t tell the difference anyway. If you insist on continuing with bottled water then look for brands which have not had to travel far to reach you, and biodegradable bottles. And don’t forget to recycle.

I’m not into going to the gym, and being a vegetarian I get lots of jokes about the fact that I do yoga everyday too. But you don’t have to be a hippie to appreciate what yoga can do for you, your life, your body, but since this blog is about the environment….. what it can do for the environment!

Yoga is simple to do, all you need is a yoga mat. There are no machines, no electricity being used, you can do it outside or inside, the list goes on. Hopefully lots of you have already thought about starting yoga, or already practice it. So here is how to make it even greener!

- use energy-saving lightbulbs or natural light

- use an environmentally friendly yoga mat (don’t use a plastic PVC mat which has been treated with lots of chemicals)

- wear organic cotton clothes to practice in

- don’t buy bottled water which wastes plastics, and often uses up huge amounts of carbon miles actually reaching you (think Evian, Fiji, etc)

Namaste.

I am one of those people who think small packages are cute. Mini bottles of products, baby vegetables, they are so adorable! But these days I purchase the biggest bottle of anything that I possibly can. The excess packaging found in supermarkets today is astonishing! So now we are hopefully taking our own bags to the supermarket, and not bothering putting our fruit and veg into mini plastic bags. But what else can we do?

Most products come in large and small sizes, and if it is something that won’t go out of date in a hurry you are better off buying the larger size. I don’t mean buying 10 chocolate bars individually wrapped in their own plastic, and then packaged together in more plastic! I mean things like cleaning products, shampoos, deodorants, etc. Buying this way will not only save you money but cut back on packaging costs as this one bottle/box/jar will replace one, two, or even three bottles that you would be buying in the future anyway.

So if anyone says that they are “against” Valentine’s Day, you usually assume that a) they are single, and bitter, or b) they are anti-American, anti-consumerists. I am neither of these things, but I am not particularly fond of the day myself. It is a nice thought, to remind a loved one that you care for them and do something special, but it would be nice on any day of the year to get this treatment! Especially considering the embarassment that Valentine’s Day causes to me! All those couples wearing red in fancy restaurants…. yuck! It’s not for me, but if you love it, then well done! Here are my tips to have a Green Valentines:

- Make you own cards! Recycled paper can be really beautiful, use this and fold to make a card. Stick a picture from a newspaper or magazine or label on the card for an immediate personal touch, and avoid the chopping down of thousands more trees. Score extra points for originality!

- Buy organic wine, loads of options and minus the chemicals

- Cook a vegetarian meal, and see how much better you feel afterwards, without the bloat, (also handy for what may follow the meal)

- Give a gift which gives for more than a day. Chocolates are commonplace and will be gone the day after. Flowers will die and the floral industry is already harming the environment. How about the simple pleasure of a foot massage to your partner? Buy a goat for a village, sponsor an animal, or make a donation in someone’s name.

- Walk instead of driving. It is lovely to take a walk with your partner, and works well on Valentines Day twofold. First, if you are going out to dinner and are walking to get there, the food will automatically taste better since you will likely be more hungry when you get there. Second, walking home burns off the dessert, and renews you with energy for other activities when you do get home. Plus, don’t forget the carbon footprint!

 Have a green Valentine’s Day!

xx

Hopefully you haven’t seen the episode of Curb your Enthusiasm, where Larry David refuses to use recycled toilet paper! I’m sure it’s just one of those kinds of psychological things, a bit like coke and pepsi, most people can’t actually tell the difference. Because there is actually nothing wrong with recycled toilet paper at all!

Did you know one of the reasons why there aren’t loads of recycled toilet paper brands on the shelves? Lack of demand means that no-one is bothering to produce it, which leads to the cost going up. But it’s a small price to pay, and if we all did this it would make a huge difference. Take the US for example. If every household in the US replaced one roll of 500 sheet non-recycled toilet paper for 100% recycled rolls then this would save 423,900 trees.

 Not only are we now all too aware of the harmful effects of deforestation, and global warming as a result of this, but non-recycled toilet paper is usually bleached and the chemicals used in the bleaching process end up in the air and water, and are highly toxic to animals and fish.

In fact, there does not exist a single lead selling manufacturer of toilet paper who has a recycled version, all opting for the “softness” of their paper to sell. They say that consumers demand does not exist so there is no need to stop cutting down virgin trees for their soft toilet paper as this is what we all want. I don’t. I’m sure many of us don’t. Next time you go to the supermarket, try buying the recycled brand. It might cost a little more, but what cost is this compared to the good we can all do? I can bet your bottom dollar it will be worth it.

Blackle is a search engine that markets itself as being better for the environment by showing up on a black screen versus google, which uses a white background. It is based on the principle that  black background will use less energy than a white one. Nice in theory, but is this really the case?

Experts have tested the energy used on LCD and CRT monitors and found that the claims of blackle were much exaggerated. Furthermore, the LCD monitors in some cases showed increased energy use! Most computers these days are manufactured with LCD monitors, and the energy consumption difference on these screens between using blackle and google are no different.

 The point of this is to say that you need to do your research before jumping on the go-green bandwagon. Whilst it’s great to make an effort, don’t fuel the bizarre and money-hungry marketing campaigns by not looking into them. What will save a lot more energy is simply changing your light bulb where you do have your computer. Put an energy-saving lightbulb in your lamp/light, and you are certain you are making a difference.

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