Friday, 21 December 2007

Green Christmas by Ruth

I'm dreaming of a Green Christmas season
When all fairy lights are LED for a reason
So that in future we may still have some snow
And the world's sea levels are kept safely low

Celebrate locally, don't travel too far
Visit by train, please don't take a car
To all those around you, giv'em a kiss and a hug
Or low carbon gifts that will make you feel smug

If you want to eat, drink and be merry
Order some local organically grown berries
Don't be haunted by Christmas animal ghosts
Spare the turkey and instead make a healthy nut roast

When it comes to gift-wrapping, do like your gran
Keep all your ribbons and use them again
Use recycled paper or re-use a box
Give naked gifts that create a shock

Re-usable bags are this year's must
Take them with you don't let them gather dust
Gift re-giving is no longer frowned upon
If it's something you don't need
Please pass it on

After the jolly good times have come and gone
Act swiftly at the crack of the dawn
When the kids are all tired and sound asleep
Chop the old tree into your compost heap

Put your decorations somewhere far from the trash
Come next year, swap for you neighbour's old stash
Send all your cards to be recycled and reborn
They will return as loo roll or maybe soft porn

Be good to the planet, buy less and think more
May you have lots of love and what you ask for!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Happy Solstice and Merry Christmas

Now it’s a good time for us to remember that Christmas is not just about buying too much, eating too much and drinking too much. Quite the contrary, now it’s the right time to reflect about what impact our consuming has on the world and all the billions of creatures sharing this little planet. So before parting with more money, stop think about how those pounds will contribute to life on Earth.

Green Gifts
For your last minute gifts, buy something that will not cost the Earth. At Lush, you can find some lovely products, full of natural and fresh ingredients. For the shops that are in the South up till Birmingham, products are delivered in lorries running on bio-diesel from waste oil. You can also buy a virtual gift, a charity donation, a tree, write someone a poem, buy art, buy services (massage, for example), etc.

Gift Wrapping
Make your own! Smoothie tetrabricks make fantastic gift-boxes. Re-use wrapping from other gifts your received, put them in a re-usable bag, wrap with magazines, unwanted posters or wrap them in a scarp or a piece of fabric. If you want to avoid the hassle of wrapping your own gifts, Lush wraps our gifts in 100% recycled paper, printed with vegetable inks. Choose the ones with a paper ribbon and buy a It’s a Wrap instead. There’s also Supersized Lush Pud - the box is a giant bath ballistic and the wrapping is compostable.

Christmas Cards
I’d say, send everyone an e-card. But because in the UK, there’s such a huge tradition of card giving, make sure someone benefited from your purchase (charity cards, recycled cards) and in January, recycle them through the Woodland Trust scheme. Also, this has nothing to do with being green, but it’s lovely to actually express your feelings for someone and write something meaningful from the heart instead of just “Merry Christmas”!

Fairy Lights
Gotta be LEDs. Also, always turn them off when you go to bed. Use a timer if needed. In these times of Climate Change, with renewable energy in the UK not being able to meet demand, wasting electricity on fairy lights almost feels criminal.

Christmas Tree
Natural trees from certified sources (FSC) are always better. If you’ve bought a natural tree, then make sure it gets composted after Christmas. Check with your local authority for special post-Christmas collection schemes. If you’ve bought an artificial tree, pack it safely, protected from moisture, label it and store it somewhere you will remember, so you can use it again next year!

Green Decorations
Do it like Lush, make your Christmas decorations out of waste. We even have a lovely Christmas Tree called the The Joy Tree, made out of plastic bottles (see picture above - stolen from the artist's blog). They were made by Inga Hamilton, a fabulous artists that can turn any spent material into beautiful art. Check her website and learn how to make the tree. Go into a Lush shop, just to check our decorations out, they're great.
Use the popcorn from a Lush Gift, cinnamon sticks, dried oranges, natural holly, etc. Make a pomander!

Peaceful Food
Buy local and organic! Christmas is a time to celebrate life, so have lots of living and natural food on your table. There’s still time to get an organic box! Choose Fairtrade items that will ensure someone on the other side of the world can also have a bountiful Christmas. Choose spare a turkey this Christmas and make some lovely nut roast, if you must, get a free range and organic one, even if that means spending a little bit less on presents.

So that’s it… (excuse me, I’ll be bit hippy here, if you can’t take it, please stop reading now).

Have a lovely Christmas, full of happiness and compassion. Celebrate the Solstice, nature and life. I wish we all take the time this Christmas to develop a sense of community, of peace and of urgency in tackling the problems that are causing pain and distress to our fellow beings. May we be wise to recognise that happiness cannot exist here while there’s suffering elsewhere and that our planet’s resources may be limited, but they are enough if we only take our fair share.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Green Helpers - The apples of my eyes

Last post I wrote how wonderful it would be to have a set of strong governmental policies coupled with strong individual will. Well, the Green Helpers project is Lush’s way of tapping that potential, passion and drive to make small (and big) changes at local level.
These days, every corner one looks, there will be scores of people concerned about the environment and feeling frustrated about not being able to do enough. If you give these green warriors the incentive (and a badge) to let all of their green passion loose, then you can sit and watch marvellous things unfold.
Every Lush shop (or nearly every shop) has a strong-willed, committed Green Helper. They are responsible for maintaining a good environmental standard in the shop, nagging fellow members of staff and driving change towards a sustainable future.
This project started this year and has been very fruitful. I hope to be able to feature some Green Helpers and what they’ve been involved with in this space.
In October we had four lovely days out and we visited different eco projects around the country. The idea was to get together and exchange information, learn loads and feel very inspired.

We visited the following places (click on names to see pictures)

York Environmental Centre
An environment centre in the city in the middle of a nature reserve that grew where there used to be a landfill site. We looked at some eco-houses near-by, saw the biggest strawbale building in Europe, visited composting toilets, saw solar panels and small wind turbines. We also spent lots of time coming up with new ideas and a green training session. Green Helpers told me everything they've been doing and I was very impressed. From sending questionnaires to all shops in their shopping district to getting everyone recycling, doing small campaigns in their shops, buying lunch in bulk to avoid packaging, etc.

Earthship Brighton

This is a stunning off-grid building that has rainwater collection, is naturally thermally-controlled (walls made out tyres guarantee the heat is absorbed by the thermal mass when it's hot and released when it's cold). We also saw organic and permaculture gardens, a massive array of solar panels and eco building techniques. We also spent time discussing evironmental best practice and an environmental standard for the shops.

Findhorn Eco Village
The Scottish Green Helpers and I went to Findhorn village near Inverness to look at one of the oldest eco-villages in the world. The first family settled there in 1959. The most amazing thing we saw there was something called "Living Machine". There are only twelve of those in the world, so it was a real privilege to be taken on a tour of one. Living Machines are used to treat sewage. The one we saw can handle human waste from 330 people. The water at the end of the process comes out completely clear and safe to European bathing standard levels. They use a variety of plants, bacteria and all sorts of organisms to digest and filter the sewage.

Center for Alternative Technology in Wales

In Wales, we had a look around CAT. They focus on energy, so we had a chance to see wind turbines, hydroelectric power, whole roofs cladded in solar panels. We also learned how wave and tidal power work and saw a super energy efficient house. The site is on an old quarry and it has a rail lift that is powered solely by water. We also had time to do a bit of training, discuss ideas and find out what everyone has been up to. One Green Helper has been making bags out of old aprons for staff to use when going shopping at lunch time!

Monday, 3 December 2007

Is This the First Day of Our Last Days?

This is the first day of the Bali talks, where delegates from 180 countries will meet to pretty much discuss the future of humanity.
It's incredible to think that the lives of billions will depend on the foundations laid in Indonesia for consensus to be reached on a pact to follow the Kyoto protocol. I believe this is probably one of the most crucial moments in our History. If courage, compassion and discernment fail our leaders, then there will be difficult times ahead of us.
The agreements need to strongly bind countries to strict targets, equitable allocation of emissions and a realistic price for carbon. If any of these are watered down or left aside, we're in trouble.
But what if policies and governmental leadership are not enough to take us to a safe level of temperature rise? Can individuals step up and create the necessary change?
I would like to think we can, if only so that there's still the light of hope to guide us through.
If Climate Change has had one positive effect, it is that of exposing our interconnectedness. It has become apparent, more than ever, that whatever we do where we are almost immediately affects the lives of people on the other side of the planet. Our cravings for dirty energy, polluting meat and cheap goods cost the lives of many, the extinction of some and the absolution of none.
Connections that were never made before have become crystal clear. We now know that the palm oil in our food, soaps and fuel will cause the destruction of Southeast Asia's forests and the extinction of the Orang-utan. Most of us have learned that the Amazon is being chopped down so beef cattle can graze and soya can be produced. Then there are all the floods, typhoons and other weather catastrophes filling our papers with human tragedies at an increasing pace only compared to the increased pace of consumption of 4x4s, cheap flights and plasma TVs.
Now what if we can achieve both? Imagine those in power having the wisdom and the vision to create a strong legally-binding base upon which we can exercise all our human values like compassion and respect for life. Am I being too idealistic here? Perhaps.
Here's what I would love to see discussed and agreed on for a future pact:
- strong renewable energy targets;
- incentives for developing countries to stop rainforest destruction;
- equal allocation of emissions, so developed countries will have to use the money and technology they have, while poorer nations can continue to develop and improve life standards;
- a fair and strict carbon trading scheme and personal carbon quotas;
- a ban on new coal power stations that can't capture and store carbon;
- strategies for adaption and for supporting climate refugees.
So, while they talk, instead of waiting, let's act! About 45% of emissions in the UK come from individuals, rather than businesses. I'm sure we have all seen lots of lists of what we can do so I don't think it's necessary for me to mention them here. If you're still not sure what you can do or would like to calculate your carbon footprint:
This Saturday there will be Climate March in London. Make yourself heard!
And let's keep an eye on what goes on in Bali, as it's our future they're talking about.