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Thumbnail image for Natural Eco Burial.jpgIt's perhaps not a subject we want to think too much about, but it seems more of us are deciding to reduce our carbon footprint when we die as well as well as during our lifetime.

Natural, or eco, burials are on the increase with over 270 sites having been created in the UK since 1993 (the majority of these in the last 10 years alone). And apparently the UK leads the world when it comes to natural burial, thanks to this country's unregulated funeral industry.

A recent MORI poll found that 70 per cent of us would choose natural burial if they better understood it - the same percentage as those who currently opt for cremation.

Cost effective

Unlike a conventional burial, natural burials are both 'green' and cost effective. Cremation uses fossil fuels and creates toxic fumes while traditional burial, because of the depth of a grave, can cause issues with methane. Likewise, the materials used to build a coffin are often non-biodegradable. Coffins used in natural burial are usually made from wicker or cardboard and can cost as little as £120.

But the popularity of natural burial isn't just about environmental issues, as Rosie Inman-Cook of the Natural Death Centre explains:

"Most people decide on a natural burial having attended such a service. They love the freedom and slow pace - you don't have to have a hearse, for example. Some people have chosen to use a VW Camper van and one family even turned up with their grandmother's coffin in her beloved Renault Clio.

The experience is time rich - there's no sense of urgency and people can stay as long as they like at the graveside. I've visited sites with people who are terminally ill and it's given them a great sense of relief to see their final resting place whether or not they have religious beliefs."

Final resting place

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Landscape architect, Ann Sharrock (pictured below) is hoping her show garden at this year's RHS Malvern Spring Gardening Show will help to raise awareness. Based on a natural burial site she created for multi-millionaire publisher Felix Dennis at his estate in Warwickshire, the garden is the antithesis of manicured cemeteries and contains few hard landscaping features to respect its rural location (see image above). Many such sites are designed to return to their natural state over the course of 50 years.

Whatever type of burial we select, it is clear that there is a shortage of burial space. Within the UK Green Infrastructure typography, cemeteries and graveyards are seen as assets and Ann Sharrock believes urban areas, as well as rural areas, may well reap the advantages.

A natural burial site provides a unique, bio-diverse environment helping to counteract air pollution and contribute to the health and wellbeing of the local community.

Both Ann Sharrock and Rosie Inman-Cook will be at the RHS Spring Show, taking place May 9 to 12 at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern. The Natural Burial Site Garden is Show Garden OS909.

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We'd really like to end the week with some more cheerful news, but it would be wrong not to mention this. According to new research, more than 11,000 elephants have been killed by ivory poachers in Gabon since 2004 and campaigners are saying the situation is 'out of control' and if not changed soon the 'future of the elephant in Africa is doomed'.

The African country is home to over half of the continent's forest elephants (recently featured on BBC excellent 'Africa'). These magnificent creatures have excellent quality tusks which sadly makes them prime targets for poachers hoping to get rich on ivory trade.

Since 2004 between 44-77% of the elephants have been killed as demand for jewellery and other ivory in Asia remains high.

Despite efforts by the government, they are failing to monitor the vast area of Minkeve where the elephants live. It is believed that 50 to 100 elephants were being killed every day in the park in 2011.

You can help by signing WWF's petition to remove loopholes that allow ivory trade to continue.

"Every day in the savannas and forests of Africa, elephants are being gunned down for their ivory tusks. Across the continent, tens of thousands of these majestic animals are being slaughtered each year. In many places the species has already been poached to extinction. If we don't act now there may be no wild elephants left.

Elephant poaching is being driven by demand for ivory carvings and trinkets in Asia where many consumers think "elephant teeth" simply fall out and re-grow without hurting the animal. The truth is that ivory comes from dead elephants."

The new research has been carried out by the Gabonese national parks agency (ANPN) alongside WWF and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

Image via WWF

Vegetarians will live longer, British study finds

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salad-thedeliciouslife.jpgMany of us already know that a vegetarian diet is healthier in the long run, and that we should really keep off the meat as much as we can to keep the old ticker going for more years. But many who have chosen a meat-free (or limited) diet are still consistently exposed to stupid questions from friends who don't understand it. A) Get better friends and B) now you have science on your side and more facts to push in the face of your carnivore friends as you laugh.

Vegetarians are healthier, long live the vegetarians. OK this wasn't the title of the recent report by British scientists, but it could have been. The study found that vegetarians run a 32% lower risk of heart disease than their carnivorous peers. Researchers followed more than 44,500 volunteers for 11 years and found that vegetarians were significantly less prone to cardiac issues.

In the 50-70 age group. 6.8% of people who ate meat went to hospital or died of heart disease; for vegetarians the number was only 4.6%.

Lead researcher Francesca Crowe from the University of Oxford's Cancer Epidemiology Unit said: "We think (it) is due to their lower cholesterol and blood pressure."

The veggie friends also had lower weight-to-height ratios and were less likely to develop diabetes.

So... Britain.. Time we reconsider this meat obsession of ours?

Image: Flickr Creative Commons / This Delicious Life

What great news to take with us into the weekend. From 11 March all sales of cosmetics that have been tested on animals will be banned in the European Union.

This means that anyone who wants to sell cosmetics - from high-end designer make-up to own brand toothpaste - will have to ensure that none of the ingredients have been tested on animals.

What a great victory for animals and those who have fought for them, such as Cruelty Free International and the Body Shop.

Let's all jump for joy like this sheep!

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We could all use some more fun and laughter in our lives from time to time; this year Comic Relief are bringing its Red Nose Day 2013 advertising to life with augmented reality (AR) technology.

Having enlisted the help of AR app Zappar, people will be able to discover bonus features and videos of Comic Relief's The Fun Raisers, a team of celebrities whose mission is clear: to help the nation do something funny for money.

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If you own a smartphone or tablet, simply download the free app and zap the official Red Nose Day advertising and you'll be taken to a Red Nose Day menu where you can access a number of features. Want to see video footage of singer Jessie J, comedians Lenny Henry and Keith Lemon, Mary Berry, Jason Donovan, Helen Skelton and Miss Piggy from The Muppets? Just zap that! But that's not all. You can also take a photo or create a video with any of The Fun Raisers or pose with a Red Nose and share it with friends and family, and play a game where you can flick the Red Nose at Lenny Henry.

But it is really all about fundraising, and you will also find ideas of how to do so and help raise even more money on the app. Money raised will go to help change the lives of poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged people across the UK and Africa. This year, 2013, marks the 25th anniversary of Red Nose Day which has raised over £600m to date.

Available now on iPhone, iPod and iPad and Android.

Red Nose Day 2013 takes place on March 15.

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Today sees the launch of the first mobile network that also helps with conservation, WWF Wildlife Mobile.

The new mobile network will enable people in the UK with a passion for the environment and wildlife to generate funds for conservation projects every time they use their mobile phone - and it won't cost them a penny extra to do so!

The service, in partnership with operator Digital Spring Mobile and Vodafone UK, works on a SIM-only, with cheaper standard Pay As You Go rates than any other major networks and a range of competitive bundles of calls, texts and data. This certainly gives another meaning when talking about 'calls for conservation'.

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How does it work?

Rates are highly competitive; Pay As You Go rates start from 5p minute and customers get double call credit every time they top up. WF Wildlife Mobile also offers great value bundles - Penguin, Aardvark, Hippo or Rhino - giving hundreds of calls and texts and large data allowances starting at just £9.50 per month.

How much will be donated?

Wildlife Mobile will give 10% of the net call revenues for conservation and is open to anyone who has an interest in or a concern for the environment and wants to help. In other words, you don't have to be a WWF member to join the new network and help safeguard the natural world.

How will my calls help with WWF conservation projects?

The hope is that through tapping into something people do every day millions of pounds will be raised for conservation by simply talking to each other. The target is to reach 2 million minutes of call by the end of 2013, all which could make a tangible difference to wildlife:

- A 10 minute call on WWF Wildlife Mobile could pay for six tree seedlings to help restore critical areas of Tiger habitat.

- Just two weeks of regular usage on WWF Wildlife Mobile could cover the costs of a three-person community based anti-poaching patrol in the field for one day, protecting Tigers and Rhinos in Nepal.

WWF's Communications and Fundraising Director, Tobin Aldrich said: "Most people use a mobile phone, so this is an innovative and easy way for people to do their bit for conservation. If you're passionate about the environment and wildlife, it won't cost you anything, to raise vital funds for WWF whilst you use your phone."

To sign up to the new SIM only WWF Wildlife Mobile visit www.wildlifemobile.co.uk.

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Cat lovers in New Zealand - and the good cat obsessed people of the interwebz - joined forces to make fun New Zealander Gareth Morgan's campaign to ban cats on the island. His reason: cats are ruthless killers and an enormous threat to biodiversity. But as it turns out, he was right. Your fluffy companion is a ruthless killer of birds and other small animals and an environmental threat.

As reported by the BBC, cats are one of the major threats to US wildlife, killing up to 3.7 billion birds and 20.7 billion mammals every year. Most of the damage is done by stray and feral cats, but cute domestic cats are also to blame. The scientists pointed out that more animals are dying at the claws of cats than in road accidents, collisions with buildings or poisoning.

It's true, living with a cat can sometimes be like living in a horror movie. I've almost stepped on decapitated mice while getting my morning coffee and woken up with a bird carcass next to my bed many times over the years. But I wouldn't go as far as to ban them - even if they are killing machines.

Perhaps we need better regulations of wild cats and ensure we fit our furry friends with collars and bells to reduce their success when hunting. What do you think?

Image: Flickr Creative Commons / Stefan Tell

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Dubbed 'Switch The Fish', Sainsbury's new CSR initiative launches today 25 January in an attempt to change consumer attitudes towards sustainable fish by offering shoppers a free, sustainable alternative when they try to buy the most popular types of fish.

The sustainability push will see the supermarket give away seven tonnes of sustainable fish including lemon sole, mussels, Cornish sardines and coley fillets as an alternative to cod, haddock, tuna, salmon and prawns.

Justin King, chief executive at Sainsbury's, said: "Sainsbury's is committed to fishing responsibly and helping change UK fish-eating habits. We know our customers care about responsibly sourced food and this is a great opportunity for them to try some alternative British fish for free."

As part of the initiative, Sainsbury's also partnering with the Fishermen's Mission charity, and for three weeks from today 5p from every pack of sustainable fish will be donated to the charity.

So if you fancy a free fish dinner tonight, check out your local Sainsbury's... Just don't pick the mackerel.

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British PM David Cameron might be gearing up to address the question of 'to EU or not to EU' and potentially promise a referendum in 2017. But that's not the only thing on his plate this morning.

Today, Wednesday 23 January, a major new campaign called Enough Food for Everyone IF will call on David Cameron to use his presidency of the forthcoming G8 summit to take a lead on world hunger, which kills two million every year.

IF's research estimates that by 2025, 937 million young people's life chances will be permanently damaged by childhood hunger, and the malnutrition will cost developing countries £78billion each year in lost economic output by 2030. That said, IF also notes that by tackling the four big IFs - on land, aid, tax and good governance - there can easily be enough food for everyone.

100 charities, aid organisations and faith groups, including Unicef, Save the Children, Oxfam, Cafod, Action Aid and Christian Aid, have formed the largest coalition of the aid world since Make Poverty History in 2005, and the campaign is backed by a host of famous faces, such as actors Bill Nighy, Keeley Hawes and Bonnie Wright, musician Baaba Maal, athletes Denise Lewis and Colin Jackson and England rugby legend Matt Dawson.

The IF campaign launches tonight at Somerset House in London and will see its architecture brought to life with a 3D projection on its walls that tells the story behind the campaign: that there is enough food for everyone but not everyone gets enough food. The spectacle will also incorporate live tweets from the public - join the campaign on @EnoughFoodIF - including a message from Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Enough Food for Everyone IF events will be held across the country tonight in London, Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast, Northern Ireland and more than 20 other towns and cities. For details go to www.enoughfoodif.org.

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Not that we should need any more reasons for why these loveable creatures should be saved from going extinct...

Researchers from the Life Sciences College of Nanjing Agricultural University have discovered an antibody in panda blood that is extremely effective at killing fungus and bacteria.

Panda blood has been found to contain a compound known as cathelicin-AM which is capable of quickly killing strains of fungi and microbes, even those that are drug-resistant, writes Gizmodo.

Who needs the like of Tamiflu, let's just ensure we develop panda blood drugs. A synthetic version is already being developed by decoding the animal's genes. But that shouldn't stop us from continue panda preservation efforts. Besides we're sure the pandas would happily donate blood in return for bamboo.

Image: Flickr Creative Commons / George Lu

Vanessa Paradis unveiled as face of H&M Conscious

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French singer and former flame of Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis, has been revealed as the new celebrity face of H&M's environmentally-aware collection, Conscious. In just released photos, a tousled-haired is Vanessa modelling key items from the new collection, which has been made using organic cotton, recycled polyester and Tencel.

Speaking of the new fashion partnership, Vanessa said: 'I like being part of something like the Conscious collection at H&M. I try my best to shop consciously, and vintage is very much part of my wardrobe. I love the style and it works in an eco-friendly way because I like to use and reuse old clothes.'

The full collection will be available in H&M stores world wide and online from March

mackerel-flickr-creative-commons-46137.jpgFor a seafood enthusiast it is sad to wake up to the news that mackerel has now been bumped off the list of fish that are suitable to eat.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has downgraded the mackerel, saying that international arguments about quotas mean it is no longer a sustainable choice. Of course you don't need to cut mackerel out of your diet completely, but only choose it occasionally.

So which type of fish should you eat instead? To ensure you are choosing the sustainable option, make sure you read the labels of where the fish has been caught before ending up in your local supermarket. To help you make a more sustainable choice, here are some of the types of fish that feature on the MCS's 'good list':

- Pollock (Alaska or Walleye) from the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea or Aleutlan Islands

- Anchovies from the Bay of Biscay

- Cod (Atlantic) from the North East Arctic, East Baltic or Iceland - not off the Norwegian coast!

- Haddock from the North East Arctic, North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat.

- Herring or sild from the Bothnian Sea and Iceland

- Monkfish

- Red Mullet

- Salmon from the Pacific (all species, Alaska) and Atlantic that has been farmed and organic certified.

- Sardines from Cornwall

- Sole (Dover/Common) from the North Sea and East Channel, Celtic Sea and West Channel.

For more information about sustainable seafood check out the Good Fish Guide.

Image: Flickr Creative Commons / 46137

vegetables-creative-commons-codyr.jpgGoing vegan can seem extreme, and vegans are often met with blank stares of confusion and disbelief from dedicated carnivores when they explain that they've given up using and consuming animal products. Yep not even eggs or dairy will pass through their lips. And no, fish is not allowed either.

Say what you like about veganism, but it now appears that there might be more benefits from following this type of diet than just taking a stand against animal suffering and living as ethically as possible, it also makes you happier.

According to a study published in Nutrition Journal, vegans score significantly better on mood scales and have lower instances of depression, anxiety and other negative moods than meat-eaters do. The researchers at Harvard also found them to be more optimistic about the future, and suggest that getting omega essential fatty acids from nuts and seeds instead of meat boosts our moods.

"Not consuming the long-chain omega-6 fats, which are abundant in animal flesh and compete with omega-3s in the body, may be a factor", says researcher Bonnie Beezhold, PhD, of Arizona State University.

If you find yourself suffering with low moods, perhaps it's worth adopting a more vegan diet.

Did you experience a change in your mood after switching to veganism?

Image: Flickr Creative Commons / CodyR

After revelations earlier this week that several UK supermarkets have been selling burgers containing horse DNA to ignorant customers for what could be years, people have been expressing their disgust and horror on Twitter and Facebook.

If you're a vegetarian you're of course safe from having unknowingly digested horse DNA. Besides to many of you meat is meat, regardless of animal, and shouldn't be eaten full stop. You're now allowed to laugh in the face of the ignorant that have failed to read the label and are now filled with disgust of having eaten Black Beauty and all her mates. In fact, you can get up on your high horse. We allow it.

We're not all vegetarians here at Hippyshopper. Some of us are selective carnivores, meaning we do read the labels and buy quality meat that actually looks like meat. No Tesco value burgers in sight! So we're not actually so upset about the fact that these burgers contained horse meat, up to 29% in the case of Tesco's value range. What shocks us the most is that people have been and still are buying these ridiculously cheep burgers. In our opinion, if you choose to eat meat you should pay a fair price for it. No once living animal should EVER be sold at such low prices.

But if you've found your way here because you're worried about what you've been eating lately and want to explore the world of organic and vegetarian burgers, we thought we'd help you on your quest. Here are some of our top vegetarian and organic burger choices.

born-free-bloody-ivory-george-logan-2.jpgThe Born Free Foundation, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, has today taken a new stand against the crimes against elephants and is revealing the shocking truth behind the illegal ivory trade.

Through www.bloodyivory.org the organisation hopes to expose the challenges facing elephants throughout their natural range and the depth of the ongoing crisis. Recently, news out of Kenya reported that an insidious criminal cartel had wiped out an entire family of 12 elephants for their ivory in the worst single incident of its kind in the country.

Moreover, on 5 January Hong Kong's customs seized 779 ivory tusks weighing more than a thousand kilos and valued at more than £900,000.

Will Travers OBE, the charity's Chief Executive Officer, acknowledged: "The ivory trade is a brutal business, devastating entire elephant families, causing massive suffering to individuals - and now severely impacting populations in all four regions of Africa. This is putting some of these most vulnerable populations at risk of extinction. Bloodyivory.org shows the world what is really happening to elephants and encourages all compassionate people and 'Elefriends' everywhere to lend their voices to the chorus declaring: NO MORE IVORY TRADE."

The new site includes a petition which calls on the CITES Parties (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) to reject any future proposals for trade in ivory and to support improved protection for elephants. They are meeting in Bangkok this March and elephant ivory trade will be high on the agenda.

Image copyright George Logan / via Born Free Foundation

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