Adventures in Ethical Consumerism

Monday, November 29, 2004

Fairtrade footballs

The Fairtrade stuff just keeps on coming! I think this is great, because the Fairtrade mark guarantees the consumer (you and me) that high standards of ethical and environmental practice have been adhered to in the manufacture of the product.

Fairtrade certified footballs have just hit the market. From the Observer Magazine: "In Pakistan, an estimated 15,000 child workers hand-stitch footballs - each ball has 32 panels, and each panel needs 690 stitches. Adults working in the industry, many in factories lacking basic safety standards, earn less than 30p per day."

Fair Deal Trading are offering the footballs (which start at only £9.80), and they also have a nifty line in Fairtrade sneakers from No Sweat.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Who is the fairest of them all?

With the rapid expansion of the Fairtrade market share, more conventional coffee companies have been looking to get in on the ethical act.

The Guardian has excellent coverage of the developments with these two articles:

Forget Maxwell House. Would you like a cup of Kenco Sustainable?
Who is the fairest of them all?

And a couple of letters here.

Friday, November 26, 2004

More online, ethical shopping

A new website, Kids International Net Donations, is offering a way to help raise money for charities while shopping online. You use the site as an intermediary while shopping at other major online stores, and a percentage of what you spend gets donated to the charity of your choice. The percentage varies depending on the supplier of the goods, but it's usually around 5%. And because Kids International is staffed by volunteers, 100% of income goes to the charities. Other, similar websites tend to take a cut of the income for their own expenses.

Clean, cool clothes is an excellent site offering a cool-looking range of environmentally friendly & ethical clothing. I haven't tried it myself, so let me know if you have any feedback to share...

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ethical media?

An interesting article from Dan Gillmor about the rise of blogging in China, and its implications for freedom of speech.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Excess packaging

Click here for a long and detailed article from The Independent Online Edition about the packaging of consumer products in the UK. The article has a strong focus on plastic packaging - why there is so much of it, how we feel about it and what happens to it once we're done with it.

If you're wondering what you can do to reduce the amount of food packaging you are wasting, I would recommend trying an organic box scheme. Many parts of Britain now have at least one local farm that will deliver fresh, organic fruit and vegetables regularly to your door. You should find there is less packaging on your food (especially plastic), and also less fuel is needed to supply you with it. Locally grown food also has the advantage of being very fresh - practically straight out of the ground - and this, combined with the organic farming method, means a tastier and healthier product for you.

Farmers' Markets are another good way of getting food that is fresh, local and not excessively packaged. Find a Farmers' Market near you.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

More good news for impoverished farmers

According to the Fairtrade Foundation...

"In 200 London stores and other selected stores across the UK, Greggs Bakers will now be selling JP Juices Fairtrade Orange Juice cartons. This is great news, particularly given that Greggs is probably the best known bakery chain and is on most high streets. Keep up the pressure and they may extend this nationwide!"

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Boycotting America

This story from the Organic Consumers Association shows how the recent boycotting of American products is having an effect. Whether you're taking part, or you're one of the people who thinks boycotts are pointless because you'll never get everyone to participate, this article is for you.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Winter warmers

With winter fast approaching it's appropriate that Ethical Consumer magazine have recently published a report on fleece jumpers and jackets.

The Patagonia brand emerged as the best buy on the market, with Polaris, Rab and Mountain Equipment all coming a close second. Berghaus, Helly Hansen, Lowe Alpine and The North Face did not rate so well in their ethical and environmental performance.

We all know about Nike's poor record in sweatshop labour, and the report also mentioned that they have been criticised for the use of "perfluoropropane (a chemical with global warming potential 8,600 times greater than carbon dioxide) in cushioned souls in its trainers. Competitors use compressed air instead."

None of the companies surveyed achieved the top rating for environmental reporting, though Patagonia was commended for having some products in its range made from 90% recycled materials.

Simultaneous Policy

Many of the world's ethical and environmental problems cannot be properly tackled because of competition. If Coca-cola suddenly decides to become 100% ethical, Pepsi will almost certainly murder them in the marketplace. The same can be said of nations. If Britain suddenly decided to impose strict regulations on environmental performance in industry, she would be hurting her own economical standing in the world.

The Simultaneous Policy (SP) is a very clever method for overcoming this little problem:

"As a policy, SP can include any desirable measure that no nation nor group of nations can implement unilaterally for fear of putting itself at a competitive disadvantage. SP could therefore include measures such as the re-regulation of global capital markets, the taxation of transnational corporations, the cancellation of Third World debt, the establishment of higher world environmental standards and measures to promote local economies. SP would thus consist of very many of the changes the Global Justice Movement is presently calling for - but with the key condition that they are each to be implemented by all, or virtually all, nations simultaneously.


"SP is also a process by which ISPO[International Simultaneous Policy Organisation]'s members use their right to vote to bring politicians and political parties around the world to make the " SP Pledge"; a pledge to implement SP simultaneously, when all or sufficient other nations have also made the pledge.

"To make this happen, you and all other citizens around the world are invited to "adopt" SP . Adopting SP means that we each make a personal commitment to vote in future elections, not for a specific politician or party, but for ANY political party or politician – within reason – that makes the SP pledge. Or if you still have a strong party-political preference, adopting SP signifies your desire for your party to adopt it.


"Since SP is only to be implemented simultaneously, there's absolutely no political risk to politicians who make the SP pledge. Indeed, they can make the pledge while still continuing to pursue their existing competition-based policy programmes until such time as sufficient nations have made the SP pledge and implementation can proceed.

"But failing to make the SP pledge could cost them dearly, especially if they're fighting closely contested elections, for they'll likely lose to rivals who have made the SP pledge to attract the SP voting bloc. So SP's growing number of citizen adopters – even if relatively few - could make the vital difference between politicians winning or losing their seats, or even an entire election. With SP, citizens around the world thus have a powerful tool for making it politicians' self-interest to co-operate transnationally to solve global problems."

Signing up is simple and non-invasive.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Meatrix

The Meatrix is great!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Too Good To Waste

I've just been browsing the latest edition of Too Good To Waste, the Edinburgh & East Lothian guide to not trashing the Earth when you're disposing of stuff. A couple of interesting points:

Household batteries are still not being recycled in the UK, though there are some options for recycling nickel cadmiums (NiCd), which are found in items such as cordless power tools and laptops. These are apparently the ones that are most harmful to the environment due to their heavy metals content. Meanwhile, the British Battery Manufacturers Association is claiming that there is no pressing need to start recycling the ordinary domestic kind. I can't help wondering if that's because it would involve some financial commitment on the part of their members.

Anyway, you should know by now that it's more economical for you - and better for the environment - to buy rechargable batteries. If you buy Energizer or Panasonic rechargables, you can mail them back to the manufacturers for recycling once they've reached the end of their life. I just bought a load of Uniross ones. D'oh! However, they did come with a charger that switches itself off when the batteries are full.


According to Too Good To Waste, Oxfam, Red Cross, Comet and Tesco are currently active in recycling old mobile phones. I'm sure there are others doing this as well.


Women's sanitary items are causing major environmental pollution. "DON'T MESS WITH OUR BIOLOGICAL SYSTEMS," I hear you shout, but here are some things that will help you and the environment: Too Good To Waste recommends the Women's Environmental Network, and I would suggest you check out the Mooncup which, I am reliably informed, is a most exceptional product. For women.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Printer cartridge & mobile phone recycling

I've been making some enquiries about printer cartridge recycling.

Empty Cartridge seem to be pretty good and they even offer to pay you money in exchange for certain valuable types of cartridge.

You might also want to try Recycling Appeal, who collect cartridges and mobile phones to raise money for charity.

Almost all printer manufacturers now make an effort to help reduce waste by recycling old printer cartridges. The people at Empty Cartridge have told me that the one exception is Epson, who seem to think it's better for them to just keep producing new ones all the time. Maybe that's something to bear in mind next time you're shopping around for a new printer.