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cereal.jpgCardboard packaging made from recycled newspapers contains toxic chemicals, known as mineral oils, which contaminate food products, Swiss researchers have found. As a result leading food manufacturers are in a rush to chance their packaging amid concerns of health issues.

Well known cereal brand Jordans has already stopped using recycled cardboard and several of its competitors like Kellogg's and Weetabix have said they are taking steps to reduce the amount of mineral oil in their packaging, the BBC reported yesterday.

Is there reason to worry?

According to the study, exposure to mineral oils has been linked to inflammation of internal organs and cancer. The scientists found quantities of mineral oils between 10 and 100 times above the agreed limit in popular foods like cereals, pasta and rice that had cartons made from recycled cardboard.

Should we be ditching our morning ritual of Crunchy Nut and say no to recycled cardboard packaging and demand food manufacturers use only newly harvested trees? Errr... No.

Today though UK food safety watchdog Food Standards Agency (FSA) insists there is no safety risk from recycled cardboard boxes, and the study did conclude that if you eat a balanced and varied diet you won't have much need to worry.

So unless you eat the cardboard as well and have a very limited diet of products that are packaged in recycled cardboard, you can continue to enjoy your bowls of cereal and pasta. Also think about the poor trees; no need to cut down more trees than necessary.

What do you think? Should food manufacturers stop using recycled cardboard packaging, or is it all a bit of an overreaction?

050301_recycle_vmed_7awidec.jpgEarlier this week the BBC reported that a planned recycling plant in Lincolnshire will more than double the UK's ability to re-use PET bottles. A partnership between ECO Plastics and drinks giant Coca-Cola Enterprises Ltd (CCE) will allow the isles to process 75,000 tonnes of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) each year, which is almost double the current volume processed in the UK.

Considering we live on an island with over 60 million people where each person on average goes through 90 drink cans, 70 food cans, 107 bottles and jars and 45kg of plastic each year, perhaps a large scale programme of re-using plastic bottles should have been brought into action years ago?

We've previously written that in other countries, like Norway, recycling schemes for plastic bottles have been around for years. What happens is you pay a small 'fee' for each bottle, which will be returned to you once you bring it back to be recycled. Each bottle will usually be re-used 10-15 times before getting another purpose. If other countries can make it work, then why hasn't Britain done something about it before? If having paid for the bottle - not just its contents - perhaps people would think twice before just throwing it away for others to deal with or worse at the side of the road so that it becomes an unsightly blemish on Mother Nature's green roads...

While it is good that a company like Coca-Cola - whose livelihood (mostly) depends on the use of plastic bottles - is doing something to help the growing plastic bottle issue in the UK, we can't help to think that recycling PET bottles to be "re-used in packaging" doesn't help the cause much unless the 'packacing' in question is actually new bottles. If the recycled bottles are reused in other food packaging, it may just end up on a landfill somewhere to decompose for hundreds of years or join the ever increasing 'plastic island' that is said to be floating around in the Pacific Ocean.

Besides, could this just be another tick on Coca-Cola's check-list to boost its environmental credentials in the run up to the London 2010 Olympics, which the company is sponsoring?

What do you think dear readers? Is it a genuine attempt to address Britain's plastic bottle recycling issue or just another way for a global multi-billion dollar company to gain eco creds?

Image: greencrawler.com

Should Britain move to European time?

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32488earth-clock-01.jpgThe government will this week signal if it could support a proposed strategy to move the clocks forward by an hour, taking it to mainland Europe time.

Campaign group Lighter Later, which is lobbying for the move, claim that darker mornings and lighter evenings will cut energy consumption and save almost 500,000 tonnes of CO2 every winter. Apparently moving 60 minutes ahead will cut carbon emissions and boost UK economy, as the number of visitors to the British Isles could increase. Longer evenings would also increase the opportunity for post-work outdoor pursuits.

Now more overseas visitors would surely mean a surge in air traffic and more cars on UK roads, unless people swim across the channel to reach the British shores? And darker, longer mornings would only make us reach for heaters and indoor lamps to 'lighten up' our day a bit more?

I grew up in an area where summers equals perpetual daylight. Needless to say, we rarely use artificial light during the warmer months as the sky never darkens. But winters are long, cold and dark. What do people do? Reach for artificial light sources of course to ensure it doesn't get too gloomy.

I know it's only talk about one hour, but some voices have raised concern about what it would say for UK farmers. Unlike humans, it's not that easy (I imagine) to re-programme cows to be milked one hour later or for hens to lay eggs later to fit in with the new time.

Perhaps Britain and the rest of the countries adhering to summer- and wintertime should just agree to shift the clocks to permanent summertime?

How many recycling bins do you have?

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colourbox607052.jpgNone.full.jpgI counted the bins outside my house this morning as I left for work: three. One small box for plastic bottles, cans and newspapers; one green for cardboard and garden waste; and one grey for general waste.

Now I won't get into how different London Boroughs have different recycling plans, but let me tell you, after almost two years in the same house I still struggle to figure out what goes where. Apparently I`m not able to recycle envelopes with plastic windows as one and have to mindfully separate the plastic from the paper before disposing...

Coming from Norway, considered as the 5th most environmentally friendly country in the world, I remember also having a tiny red box for things like batteries and broken glass, as well as bottle banks around town for unrecyclable bottles. Oh yeah, in Norway we have a great recycling scheme for bottles - not sure which other countries use it now; when you buy the bottle you pay a small 'fee' that you get back when you bring the bottle back for reuse. You can even count how many times each bottle has been reused by looking at the number of marks on the bottom - usually one bottle can be reused 10-15 times before it goes on to new adventures in the recycling world. Anyway, I do digress. The question was: how many recycling bins do Brits really need?

According to research by The TaxPayers' Alliance some councils are asking householders to sort their rubbish into as many as nine bins, bags and boxes, with the average being four. Is this too many?

Personally, I think as long as you have clear and universal guidelines - UK councils and London Boroughs take note - it doesn't matter if you have to separate your rubbish into three, four or nine sections. And increased recycling will only improve the impact we humans have on the world, but only if the waste is duly kept separate at the other end. It doesn't help if it all ends up in the same landfill after collection...

What is the recycling scheme like where you live, are you happy with it or not?

Image from Forskning.no


Did you know that more than 90 percent of the environmental impact from a disposable plastic bottles happens before the consumer ever opens it? Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council, explains that we often forget that oil is needed for the plastic, the shipping, refrigeration, and even for the recycling process... if they don't end up in the landfill that is.

Worldwide, over 60 billion tons of plastic waste is produced every year, and as it is non-biodegradable and plastic particles eventually become a part of the food chain. For example in some parts of the sea, there is five times more plastic than plankton. On top of the environmental damage, plastic bottles have also been proven to be dangerous to humans. Ever wondered why there are expiry dates on your bottled water? Well all plastic bottles leach synthetic chemicals into water, some more than others. The expiry date is the point in which the unhealthy levels of chemicals are leaching into your water. Even some popular refillable polycarbonate water bottles (for example Nalgene bottles) are known to release BPA (Bisphenol A) a chemical linked to heart disease and diabetes.

So what can you do? Simply stop buying bottled water and buy a glass or aluminum refillable water bottle instead. Brands like Sigg offer durable BPA-free and Phthalate-free reusable bottles in a whole host of sizes and designs. Pick up a smaller one to throw in your bag for everyday use and a larger one for the gym.

Solar Impulse.jpg I really do hope they are. Often when I've caught a plane (which admittedly isn't so much these days, largely because I hate being treated like branded cattle at airports) I've thought surely there must be a way to harness all this sunlight above the clouds, rather than relying on noisy, polluting jet engines. Now it seems we are getting closer to this becoming a reality.

Pilot Andre Borschberg has recently flown a solar panelled plane non stop for 26 hours, completing the longest and highest ever journey for a plane powered by the Sun at an altitude of 8,500m (27,900ft). Called the Solar Impulse, the solar-powered plane has a massive wingspan of nearly 64m (208 ft) and is fitted with 12,000 solar cells which can apparently be recharged so that the plane could fly indefinitely.

"People thought it was not possible but it was important for us to show that it was," said the 56 year old former Swiss airforce pilot. "We enjoyed a gorgeous day in terms of beauty, nature and scenery - it was unbelievable."

Now the challenge is on to go all the way round the world in a solar plane. How much longer before passenger planes could be developed which could harness natural energy from the sun? Will it be in our lifetimes. I would like to think so.

Technical data sheet:
Wingspan: 63.4m
Length: 21.85m
Height: 6.4m
Motor power: 4 x 10 HP electric engines
Solar cells: 11,628 (10,748 on wing, 880 on the horizontal stabiliser)
Average flying speed: 70km/h
Maximum altitude: 8,500m

Computer generated demonstration:

sistersontheplanet.jpg Emily Tan writes: In an effort to channel the burning energy that fueled the women's suffrage movement into saving the planet, Oxfam has launched the Sisters on the Planet. In a series of moving short films, Oxfam argues that while climate change is a problem shouldered by all, it's the women who are hit hardest by it.

The films show the tale of Martina, who with her sisters in Uganda must walk further each day to gather water, and of Sahena in Bangladesh who, along with the women in her village are responsible for the safety of the community during the annual floods. Oxfam's stance is that women should be the ones therefore to spearhead the movement to rescue our environment by lobbying, petitioning and leading the way to "living greener".

ecover-washing-up-liquid.gifAs a committed veggie and animal lover, you might expect me to back the Vegan Society's decision to drop Ecover from its list of certified products after it emerged that the company tests its some of it products on water fleas. But actually it's made me 'hopping' mad...

What concerns me is that in removing its endorsement, the vegan society is failing to recognise that anyone wanting to avoid genuinely animal-tested products will now be in less of a position to distinguish between products tested on minute insects and those whose production really does involve cruel and unnecessary testing on highly sentient mammals. I think this is downright irresponsible.

Would the same society shun a toothpaste that kills off the harmful bacteria in our mouths, or for that matter, disapprove of removing fleas and ticks from our pets? I somehow doubt it. In my opinion, this is the sort of rigid and counterproductive logic that makes if far more difficult than it should be for people to make positive changes, and frankly, gives the green movement a bad name.

abi%201.jpgIn today's Guardian, George Monbiot expressed a view that I've heard countless times since I've been editing Hippyshopper; that nowadays 'going green' is mainly another way for the middle classes to make themselves feel virtuous, while continuing to pollute the planet with long-held habits. And it caused me exactly the same internal conflict as it invariably does...

Largely because a lot of the article is depressingly familiar. How many comfortably-off people do you know who congratulate themselves for their eco-warrior credentials whilst continuing to fly, drive their kids around in people-carriers and buying as many questionable items as before? (Stand up Mr Chris Martin)

nappybig.jpegOutgoing Environment minister Ben Bradshaw has resurrected the old cloth versus disposable debate yet again by using the flawed 2005 Environment Agency report as an excuse to cut funding to real nappy initiatives.

As it was widely pointed out at the time, the comparison was hardly scientific as so many frankly ludicrous assumptions about real nappy usage had been built into the report. As most real nappies users would agree, and < href=“http://environment.guardian.co.uk/waste/story/0,,2117860,00.html”>Joanna Moorhead in the Guardian has wearily pointed out yet again, people don’t usually have more than about 25 real nappies, they don’t boil wash or tumble dry them, let alone iron them, and they use them for two or more children.

lamb.jpgI think the growing trend towards purchasing ethical products and garments is fantastic. I hope it is a lasting change rather than a fad. However, I have to take issue with a couple of things. I have noticed that many ‘ethical’ fashion brands and labels use non-animal friendly products, such as silk and leather. None of these are particularly ‘ethical.’ To be honest, wool’s not great either.

pills1.jpgThe Independent has an article tucked away in its Environment section that I think should have been front-page news. The article covers the news that for the first time rice containing human genes is being grown commercially. The rice in question has been developed to grow two proteins found in human breast milk. The company behind the rice, Ventria Biosciences says it wants to use it to make baby milk and rehydration drinks to help children in the third world. This all sounds very commendable, until you really think about this.

[Via The Independent]

rainbow_lg.jpgScottish cloth nappy company Tots Bots are about launch their first organic nappy. They acknowledge their Bamboozle is still the best washable nappy on the market, but there's no denying the time it takes to dry is still too long for some of us, so they've decided to make their regular cotton nappies organic. Due to the nature of the company, they feel using organic cotton is the next logical step for them, to ensure their products have the least impact on the environment. The new nappies will be available in white, unbleached and the trademark rainbow colours. No prices at the moment, but watch this space...

Related: Woolly Wraps for cloth bums | Plush Pants: a Cloth Nappy Library | Lollipop reusable nappies in cotton and silk

face.jpgI recently did a review of Raw Gaia products and I was pleased to discover that following a recent packaging overhaul, they are taking any mention of de-aging, wrinkles, rejuvenation and such like, off their products, in a stand against the traditional marketing tactics of beauty product manufacturers.

Women are constantly made to feel inadequate about their appearance and advertising regularly reinforces these feelings, by supposing that we are all appearance obsessed. The sad reality is that many women are, because we live in a society that propagates stereotypes. We are exposed to adverts of preposterously unblemished air-brushed models and given the stark message that ageing skin is unsightly. In fact, one natural skin care company actually refers to wrinkles as being unsightly. One famous brand mentions the “fight against wrinkles” in their product blurb. Can we not just grow old gracefully?

farm1.jpgEvery week now we seem to be getting press releases from major corporations and businesses telling us about their new green initiatives and strategies. The latest is Waitrose supermarket’s commitment to the environment. Waitrose has pledged that by 2010 all fruit, vegetables and flowers that are non-organic will be farmed to high environmental standards and will carry the LEAF Marque to certify this. This ensures farmers are working with the environment rather than against it. Good on Waitrose I say.

Whether it’s supermarkets telling us how they are saving the planet, or banks telling us about their eco-friendly credit cards, the list goes on. Does this show a genuine concern for the environment or is this merely a marketing exercise dreamt up by some smug advertising executive? Has big business acquired a conscience? I find that hard to believe, maybe I’m just an old cynic, but I am pretty sure there are very real financial incentives pushing this rush to go green, but I am equally sure there must be some very genuine individuals in many organisations pushing for change because they care about the environment.

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