If you want to light up your New Year’s Eve Party, why not try these solar powered coasters? These fun coasters are silver but change colour when you place your drink or bottle on them, going through a series of colours thanks to its integral solar panel which uses energy-efficient LED lights. These solar powered coasters come with replaceable, rechargeable batteries so cost nothing to run and don’t need any wiring, so you can use them anywhere. The coasters are available in packs of two, so why not stock up for the party season – they make a great talking point for any table! When fully charged they give you up to six hours light, so long enough to see you well into the New Year! The coasters are produced by Smart Solar, a company which specialises in using the power of solar energy to create innovative products. These include lights and water decorations for the home and garden, all of which you can enjoy without using energy – so you can drink with a clear conscience – so if being green is one of your New Year’s resolutions, here is a great way to start. Just make sure you are drinking organic champagne or wine so that you know your celebrations are completely environmentally friendly – that way the planet gets a happy New Year too!
If you’re a coffee addict who also likes to be on the move, this Handpresso portable espresso maker is perfect for you. Stylish and environmentally friendly, the Handpresso allows you to have premium quality coffee on the go – whether it’s on holiday, hiking, day trips or even in the garden or house! It’s simple to use and doesn’t need any electricity – you simply pump up the handle, insert an Easy Serving Espresso pod, fill the reservoir with hot water and press the release button to have the perfect coffee every time. Lightweight and chic, this sleek piece of equipment is made from environmentally friendly materials and, as it doesn’t need electricity to run like standard espresso machines, it is eco friendly and saves energy. It’s also ideal for those kitchens where space is at a premium, as it can easily be packed away and stored, unlike than bulky and expensive machines. Or, if you are the outdoors type, but can’t face the wilderness (or even the bottom of the garden) without a decent cup of coffee, it’s worth investing in the Handpresso Wild outdoor kit – this comes with everything you need for great coffee on the go, including four unbreakable cups, napkins, and a 300ml thermo-insulated stainless steel flask – for that all important hot water. It also comes in a stylish bag, so it is easy to transport and looks as chic as you’d expect. The Handpresso portable coffee maker really does make the ideal Christmas gift for the coffee lover in your life.
Christmas might be one of the best times of the year for us, but it can be a nightmare for the planet. Year on year people buy more food than they need (do you really need three different types of trifle?) so a huge amount of organic waste is binned, and that’s before you even start on the presents. Every Boxing Day, vast piles of discarded packaging and gift wrap are thrown away – much of it non-recyclable – and, when it comes down to it, many of us are left with a big stash of presents that, if we’re honest, we don’t really need. So why not do something different this year and buy someone an experience instead? It’s easy to do: you simply pay in advance for a voucher they can redeem at a time that suits them. It’s fast and straightforward (no trailing around the shops!) and as you are buying experiences, not things, you are cutting down on wasteful packaging (although most vouchers do come in a presentation box, so it’s not entirely waste free) and it means your gift doesn’t end up stuck in a cupboard unused or, even worse, dumped in landfil. Sample gifts include restaurant experiences for two, or wine tastings, or a meal and a trip on the London Eye. Gourmets might enjoy the chocolate making workshop, while braver souls will thrill to the ‘Go Ape’ high wire experience. Each gift makes a big impact on the recipient, but a small impact on the planet.
With Christmas fast approaching, many people are wondering how they can celebrate the holidays without damaging their green credentials. Traditionally Christmas is a season that creates huge amounts of waste, much of it going straight to landfill. One way to avoid buying heavily packaged, gimmicky gifts that people don’t need (does anyone really ever use a foot spa?), is to buy a gift hamper. An ideal Christmas present or, if you’re visiting the relatives over the festive season, a perfect hospitality gift, a basket of foodie goodies will be enjoyed over the holiday. Buying practical gifts such as food cuts down on waste and, in these money-conscious days, is particularly welcome. The Fair Trade Hamper from Natural Collection is sure to put anyone in the Christmas spirit. Filled with tasty treats from Traidcraft and Divine, the hamper includes a selection of cake, puddings and chocolate (including chocolate coins, Christmas pudding and Christmas cake). The whole package comes in a Fair Trade woven basket that can be reused afterwards. It even includes a Christmas card! And because it is completely Fair Trade, you can be sure that your generosity won’t only be appreciated by the recipients, but also by the producers, who are guaranteed a fair wage for their crafts and produce. This enables them to support and help educate their own families, creating a stable livelihood and a better standard of living for them and their communities. And that, surely, sums up the spirit of Christmas?
Britain has become a nation of coffee drinkers, but that habit has a high ecological cost as every day millions of disposable cups end up thrown away, destined for landfill. It is estimated that in the US alone, around 25 billion disposable cups are thrown away, and while the UK isn’t quite that bad, it does have an increasing problem. Most of the cups you use when buying takeaway coffee are coated in plastic resin, which means they cannot be recycled, so simply end up as more waste. To make matters worse, very few cups are made of recycled material – they tend to be made from virgin paper. But you can still have your morning coffee without adding to the landfill problem: use the I Am Not A Paper Cup porcelain mug. This double walled porcelain cup is especially designed for takeaway coffee, coming with a removable silicone lid. And, as many vendors now offer a small discount when you bring your own mug for refilling, it can even save you money in the long run! There are other ways you can make your morning coffee eco-friendly. Choose a coffee shop that uses Fair-trade coffee and organic milk, and you help coffee producers get a fairer price for their goods, and encourage eco-friendly farming practices. Or, of course, you can get into the habit of making your coffee at the office: take in a cafetiere and a pack of Fair-trade coffee and you will very quickly save yourself a considerable amount of money, as well as helping reduce waste. You might even be able to persuade your boss to switch to one of the new range of eco-kettles, which save energy and money by boiling as little water as is needed every time. All these small steps add up to significant eco-savings – and you still get to enjoy your morning cuppa!
It’s easy to be greener in the kitchen thanks to the range of eco-friendly cookware from Green Pan. These high quality, stylish pans are made of recycled aluminium with handles made of recycled stainless steel. Each pan is coated in Thermalon, which gives an effective and eco-friendly non-stick finish, as Thermalon releases 50% fewer greenhouse gasses during production than traditional non-stick coatings, and doesn’t release any toxic substances. Green Pan uses environmentally friendly and sustainable production, resulting in lower CO2 emissions and a lower carbon footprint. The range includes a wok, casserole pan, and small and large frying pans, all of which have the quality features of traditional non-stick cookware, but with the satisfaction of knowing you are being eco-friendly. Green Pans also come in recycled packaging.
As well as using Green Pans, there are other easy ways to be greener in the kitchen. Don’t overfill pans with water – use only as much as you need to cover the food. Putting a lid on a pan while you’re cooking significantly reduces the amount of heat used to cook food. Another trick is to switch the heat off a few minutes before food is cooked and allow existing heat to finish the cooking process. These are minor changes, but over time they can add up to big reductions in energy use – and your energy bills.
Many people these days are concerned about food miles, so try to reduce the amount of air-freighted food they consume. But few people consider the impact of ‘wine-miles’. This is partly due to the popularity of New World wines, but partly because, while the UK is well-known for the quality of its beers and ciders, it is not traditionally seen as a wine-producing country. Now a number of producers are trying to change this, and raise awareness of the quality wines available in our own back yard. One such producer is Davenport Wines, based in Sussex and Kent. Started by Will Davenport in 1991, the vineyards stopped using herbicides in 1996 and were registered with the Soil Association in 2000. Covering 20 acres of land, they now produce a range of award-winning organic wines – including sparkling – that give any imported wines a run for their money. These are not only the eco-friendly option because of their organic production methods, but also because, by drinking these wines, consumers are helping cut ‘wine miles’ and supporting a growing British trade. If, however, you love your New World wines too much to switch, there are still ethical alternatives. For instance, Friarwood wine merchants in the UK sell a selection of Fair Trade wines from Ormer Bay, including a range of vegan wines, which ensure their South African producers get a fair wage for their work. There are also now a selection of organic champagnes and cavas available. So whatever your tipple, you can always make a greener choice.
Without an appropriate education of the masses, steps to curb global warming would fail. Indeed, individual households are responsible for a significant proportion of the greenhouse gases that are pumped into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, as most people are already aware, these gases have caused a hole to be ripped through the Earth’s protective ozone layer, which is basically essential for life on the planet. Sadly, global efforts to reduce or even reverse the so-called greenhouse effect have proved entirely unsuccessful thus far. In fact, current data shows that the hole in the ozone layer has widened from 130,000 Sq km in 1979 to around 25,000,000 Sq km today, which is approximately the size of North America.
Although there are many possible explanations for the depletion of the ozone layer, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are considered to be among the chief culprits. As such, for the past couple of decades or so, the public has been taught the hazards of releasing CFCs into the atmosphere. Nowadays, the public is educated on larger issues relating to carbon emissions. However, is current awareness enough to overturn climate change? Unfortunately, the answer is probably a “no”.
Therefore, those people who are concerned about the rapidly developing problem of global warming, which no longer affects only future generations, would most likely be interested in reading up on the subject in more depth. Furthermore, doing so might also enable them to educate others on the matter. ‘Silent Spring’ by Rachel Carson, ‘So Shall We Reap’ by Colin Tudge, and ‘Six Degrees’ by Mark Lynas are useful materials for getting started on the subject, whilst ‘Grow Your Own Vegetables’ by Joy Larkham and ‘How Many Lightbulbs does it take to Change a Planet’ by Tony Juniper are designed for those who want to get their hands dirty. Or green.
Most consumers are aware that organic produce represents a greener alternative to everyday foodstuffs. Unfortunately, the true benefits of organic produce appear to be lost on the vast majority of shoppers. Indeed, organic foods imply sustainability and safety in so far as they are neither genetically modified nor treated with pesticides. In turn, this promotes the growth of natural ecosystems that are required in order to successfully produce organic food. Clearly, the benefit of eating natural produce that has not been chemically treated ought to appeal to consumers ‘en masse’. Organic food sales, however, have fallen some £34.1m in the year up to September 2009.
The most obvious and simple explanation for such a drop is that this period coincided with the recession, in which many shoppers were forced to tighten their belts. Indeed, as it costs more money to bring organic food items to supermarket shelves, it is necessary that they must be sold for a higher figure than their chemically treated cousins. In this respect, it would appear that many consumers have elected price over value.
Nevertheless, rather than throw in the towel and concede that organic produce has no future in the mass market, a number of leading organic food companies, such as Green & Blacks and Yeo Valley, have decided to push their offerings more aggressively. Indeed, the Organic Trade Board wants to boost sales by some £1bn, which would require reaching out to customers caught between price and value. However, it is argued that the success of such a campaign would hinge as much on reduced organic food prices as it would educating consumers. On-line retailers such as The Ethical Superstore and Natural Collection are addressing this issue by offering a range of promotions, including multi-buys and seasonal offers, (the Ethical Superstore’s Organic Fortnight ends next week), which make the organic option more affordable. It remains to see whether, in the midst of a recession, such efforts pay off.
The Soil Association’s Organic Fortnight finishes this weekend, but there is still time to scoop up a bargain at the Ethical Superstore. This eco-retailer is holding an Organic Fortnight promotion, offering up to 20% off selected groceries. Many of these are also available in good value multi-buy offers also – and there’s free delivery on all orders over £60. The Soil Association is keen to show that not only is buying organic better for the planet, it doesn’t have to be expensive – with smart shopping, you can still bag a bargain, and the Ethical Superstore’s range starts from under £1! But organic isn’t only about food – cotton production is one of the most chemical intensive processes in the world, so buying organic cotton can make a huge difference. From bedlinen to dresses, underwear, t-shirts and children’s clothes, there’s now a huge range of organic products available – you can even now buy organic cotton mattresses! And don’t forget beauty products – the humble cotton wool pad or baby wipe – as buying organic versions of these will also help reduce the amount of chemicals that are used. And it’s not just specialist eco-retailers like Ethical Superstore who are promoting organic goods – big high street names like Marks and Spencer are getting in on the act. They now sell a range of organic clothing and household goods (including curtains). Plus, you can buy a stylish organic shopper to carry it all home in…