City Hippy

The diary of our struggle to live a green and fair life.

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CityHippy has posted its last post now (I now work for EMP plc, run At Home magazine online and more and personally blog over at Why? Click here to find out. We might be back. Keep our RSS feeds, keep us bookmarked, sign up for the news alert on the right. You never know...

We are dedicated to exploring how to live a greener and more ethical life. City Hippy is a growing collective of writers bringing you two types of content:

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

WEEKLY Q: Ethical big business?

My good friend Siel at GreenLAGirl has posted a brief note about the Guardian's continued analysis of the L'Oreal / Bodyshop marriage. Turns out that as The Bodyshop owned part of the Day Chocolate company which produce the Divine Fairtrade Chocolate brand & the Dubble brand (the official Comic Relief bar) it now seems that Nestle therefore have partial ownership via L'Oreal.

Hell of a dilemma eh? Some talking points and thoughts for you.

Can a company like Nestle buy an ethical brand and still expect ethical consumers to consider it ethical?

Can we calculate the net result of helping farmers and encouraging ethical practice in global corporations versus the negative and unethical practices normally pursued by the company?

If we all start boycotting acquired ethical brands ie The Bodyshop, Green&Blacks, Divine, Tom's of Maine etc won't that do more harm than good in the long run?

Surely if a boycott occurs then unless the mainstream pick up the slack the farmers benefiting from the Fairtrade arrangement will pay the heaviest relative price?

Why do we support Fairtrade? Ethical consumerism as mainstream reality or to punish unethical companies and reward ethical companies?

Have Nestle cornered us ethical shoppers by giving us the following choice: either we punish Nestle by withdrawing support for its Fairtrade brands ergo also punishing those Fairtrade brands and the Fairtrade farmers where appropriate or we continue to support those brands regardless of who owns them and continue to support the farmers?

What is more important? The effect of Fairtrade i.e. helping farmers or the principle of not supporting unethical companies?

Isn't this actually a victory for ethical consumers? Haven't we actually forced Nestle to change as they have now gained ownership of ethical brands that they cannot manage to profitability (continued or otherwise) without maintaining the ethical standards those brands were built on?

Whose behaviour has changed: Ours or Nestle's?

I support Fairtrade to support Third World Farmers. The end result is the key for me. So Nestle owning these brands, albeit partially, poses no moral problem for me as I do not care who profits from ethical consumerism as long as more farmers benefit.

I might even go as far as to argue that getting mainstream businesses to make money from ethical business is a crucial step to mainstreaming a greener fairer life.

Don't get me wrong though. Given the choice between Nestle and an independent ethical brand I will continue to choose the latter. But the mainstream marketing done on behalf of Fairtrade by mainstream companies helps to further penetrate ethical consumerism into mainstream society. Which is all a good result for the farmers and this is all about them right?

L'Oreal buying The Bodyshop and the subsequent Nestle ripples can only be seen as a victory for ethical consumerism. We are seeing more companies trade ethically and/or acquire ethical brands and in my book that gets us closer to our goal. Which is to protect more Third World farmers from the iniquities of the global economic system. Job done!



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NEWS: City Hippy on BusinessWeek

As mentioned previously I was interviewed for the BusinessWeek Blogspotting podcast on Friday and am delighted to now link to that published podcast. Whilst you are there check out the previous weeks interviewees: Dave Roberts of Gristmill and Graham Hill of Treehugger.

So sit back and relax to the dulcit tones of yours truly.



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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

REVIEW: Willow Trading, Glasgow

Willow Trading, in Glasgow's lovely west end, is the sort of shop that you walk in and wish that someone would give you a very generous voucher for. Part treatment (massage, flotation, reiki etc), part yummy organic/natural beauty shop, it's a place you could spend hours in. And lots of pounds in.

It can be hard to keep track of which shop stocks which brand of organic toiletries (something I hope to try and solve for Edinburgh at least, over the next few months), but Willow Trading stocks a wide range. Green People, Neal's Yard and Living Nature to name a few. Also good to see a range of make-up, green/natural/organic make-up (Bare Escentuals, can't find a website for them I'm afraid!) can be hard to find, and I'm still trying to find some that's affordable that I can buy in a shop rather than online, some things need to be tried!

Willow Trading also have a great baby range, stocking cloth nappies, baby toiletries and some really cute baby hats made out of organic cotton. At only £3.99, they're a real steal.

I highly recommend a trip to Glasgow, and a shopping session around the west end is always fun, especially if you are going to combine maxing the credit card at Willow Trading with a delicious meal at Grass Roots afterwards (more on the Grass Roots shop another day).


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REVIEW: Kingston Green Fair

Jim from London has done a guest review for us of the The Kingston Green Fair. Take it away Jim:
It's the last bank holiday in May here in the UK and it's raining. It has to be that bastion of the South West London green calendar, The Kingston Green Fair.

The Kingston Green Fair has been going for 19 years and takes place in Canbury Gardens in Kingston Upon Thames, a large park bordering the Thames. There is something for everyone here including a Kids Zone with face painting and a cycle-powered music lesson, a healing zone, four sound stages and many stalls and information tents.

Highlights of this year for me where:
  • The Green Home tent which detailed everything from wool home insulation to a competition for the best ideas to get people recycling.
  • A company called Green Endings that do eco-friendly funerals (including a really cool looking motorcycle hearse).
  • The LoveLondon stall who were giving out information on London Sustainability Week which starts this Saturday.
  • And lastly, for the first time this year, a licensed bar selling organic beverages.
However the Kingston Green Fair is not all about green living. There is also some great music including my personal favourite of the day: the 3 Daft Monkeys.

So if you are down South West London way this time next year it is worth popping along to get a bit of the festival spirit. Plus next year it is the 20th anniversary so they are bound to pull out all the stops.

Thanks Jim, gutted not to have been there to be honest. Oh well. Maybe next year.



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Monday, May 29, 2006

NEWS: Carnival of the Green #29

Carnival of the GreenMy weekly quick link to the Carnival of the Green which is located today at Animal Broadcast Network.

My pick of the week is the Hip&Zen Pen Blog post asking how much should we evanglise. Is it enough to 'be the change' as Gandhi advocated or do we need to be seen to be the change and tell people we are an example of the change? Worth a read for sure.

More info about the Carnival of the Green re hosting (2006 now booked up) and posting available here.



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Sunday, May 28, 2006

NEWS: Starbucks Challenge 4.0 Results

I have visited my local (123A Kings Road, London, England SW3 4PL, United Kingdom - store 10731) Starbucks twice in the last month for the fourth phase of the Starbucks Challenge.

Only a few more days to take part in phase 4 of the challenge to help us assess whether Starbucks have listened and improved.

The first time they had Estima on the board but when I asked for it they told me they had none brewing. I was so stunned and distracted by that reply that I found myself mumbling almost unconsciously 'ok venti capuccino to go please' and did not realise what I had done until I was stepping out the door. Doh!

So I resolved to go back and challenge them again soon after...

And guess what happened the next time I visited. Estima on the board and Estima available. So a positive result that time.

Overall in phase 4 they score 1 out of 2 for that store.



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FEATURE: A girl's best friend?

So who is a girl’s best friend when it comes to weddings? According to the marketing it isn’t your chief bridesmaid, it’s that shiny sparkly bit of carbon commonly known as a diamond.

But diamonds inevitably lead to a dilemma for the ethical bride: how do you avoid conflict or ‘blood’ diamonds?

The United Nations definition of conflict diamonds is:

‘…diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.’

For a very emotive account of what this could mean in reality, click here.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, set up in 2002 after 2 years of negotiations, was intended to wipe out the trade in conflict diamonds. According to its website, it is: ‘…an innovative, voluntary system that imposes extensive requirements on Participants to certify that shipments of rough diamonds are free from conflict diamonds. The Kimberley Process is composed of 45 Participants, including the European Community. Kimberley Process Participants account for approximately 99.8% of the global production of rough diamonds.’

However, this is not a complete solution – note the dreaded word ‘voluntary’ for starters. And as one diamond supplier,, say on their website: ‘One of the main faults with the KP is that there are no requirements for individual mines to be monitored by own governments. […] Therefore it will be relatively easy for a determined RUF [Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front] controlled mine to continue to mine conflict diamonds then simply smuggle them into the mine of a non-conflict country. These conflict diamonds would then be certified as coming from the non-conflict area and away they go.’

Two years after the KP had been set up, Amnesty conducted their own investigation and found that: ‘New survey shows diamond shops can't assure customers that stones are not conflict diamonds’. Click here for the summary of their findings.

And of course nothing is ever simple. declare that: ‘‘All the diamonds on our database come from cutters who source their diamonds from De Beers mines only. This way we can guarantee our diamonds are CONFLICT FREE.’

De Beers, however, is currently the target of a high profile boycott by Survival International over the eviction of the Central Kalahari Bushmen to make way for diamond mining.

Director of Survival International, Stephen Corry, believes: ‘It is not OK for people to wear diamonds by De Beers until the Bushmen are allowed back to their ancestral lands.’

Find out more here and the latest news here.

And not forgetting Boycott De Beers!

Despite this doom and gloom, it is possible to find jewellers stocking ethically sourced diamonds.

Here are a few companies who are really passionate about the ethical element of their jewellery. In many ways, this passion is one of the best assurances you can get that your diamond is ethically sourced.

Brilliant Earth (based in the US) introduce their new collection ‘…of the finest quality conflict-free diamond jewellery founded on the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility. All of our diamond jewellery is certified to be conflict-free, environmentally responsible, and untainted by unethical labour practices.’

HK Jewellery, with branches in Weston, Hertfordshire and Cambridge, declare on their website: ‘We have always been passionate about using conflict free diamonds and ethically mined gemstones and together with the British Jewellers' Association and our diamond suppliers put a lot of effort into ensuring that the diamonds that we use are not sourced from areas of Africa controlled by forces rebelling against the legitimate and internationally recognised government of the relevant country.’

Stephen Einhorn, based in London, state on their website that: ‘Our aim is to run an ethically responsible company. All our fine jewellery is handcrafted to the highest standards in our London workshops using ethical labour and materials.

As we are particularly concerned about where our materials come from we only use ethical Diamonds and refuse to use “Conflict Diamonds” which are inexorably linked with human rights abuses and conflict in many parts of Africa.’

Stephen Einhorn also works with wood. See Thames Wood Jewellery below.

Dejoria believe that: ‘… you should always insist that the diamonds used in diamond engagement rings, diamond eternity rings, diamond rings or diamond jewellery be "conflict-free".

‘After all, not only do conflict diamonds wreak untold misery upon innocent and defenceless people (and all ethical diamond jewellers need to make a stand against this) but we recognise that our customers need the assurance that the diamond they are buying - a symbol of their love for another person - is a legitimate, genuine, conflict-free gem.’

Dejoria also ploughs back a percentage of the revenue they generate from sales into worthwhile projects in the countries where the diamonds are mined such as education and health projects.

The Diamond Jeweller assures its customers that: ‘…all the diamonds used in our diamond jewellery are "conflict-free", whether it be in our diamond engagement rings, diamond eternity rings, diamond rings, diamond pendants, diamond earrings, diamond bracelets, diamond necklaces or diamond cufflinks. After all, a diamond is a beautiful symbol of love which must not be tarnished by a dark history.’

Touch Wood Rings. Or forgo the diamonds altogether! Touch Wood Rings (based in Canada) contacted us about their services: ‘We believe that wearing a wooden ring speaks volumes about your commitment to the environment and to the concept of simple living. Give someone you love a Touch Wood Ring as a socially and environmentally responsible alternative to precious metals and gemstones.’ Check out Al's review of his Touch Wood Ring here.

Thames Wood Jewellery features 2000 year old Roman Oak taken from the first port facilities built in London by the Romans around 63AD. Stephen Einhorn state that: “We are the exclusive owners of this unique wood, which is in effect being “recycled” and used in our fine jewellery and is rarer than a Diamond. If you want to skip wearing gold you can also opt for titanium instead.” Click for images.

If you are heading off on a diamond hunt, don’t forget to go primed by your Global Witness / Amnesty buying guide and armed with their handy downloadable 2-page leaflet with the key questions to ask.

Ethical -living Leo Hickman also puts in his 2-carats-worth in this good overview piece for The Guardian.

Join me next week to find out how my husband negotiated this ethical minefield just to put a ring on my finger!

Take care


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Saturday, May 27, 2006

NEWS: 10 more ways to save the planet

In addition to the Ecologist's superb '10 ways to save the planet' ad in thursday's Independent I posted a blog post on the Ecologist (am now an occasional blogger for them by the way) with another 10 ways I feel are worthy of attention. Cannot get the original 10 ways to save the planet for you sadly as it is not an article. Here are my additional 10 though. Enjoy.
  1. Engage with people but do not judge. Seek instead to understand.
  2. Think about who you're giving your money too when shopping. Vote with your money.
  3. Reconnect with your energy, food, waste and water. Where does it come from? Where does it go?
  4. Grow something you can eat, even in a window box. Even just some herbs.
  5. Try and add a new green string to your bow each month.
  6. Be positive regardless of the situation. Nobody likes the negative.
  7. Hug trees. Regularly. Publicly.
  8. Go barefoot next time you are in your garden or local park. Feel the ground beneath your feet. Get muddy.
  9. Take an energy holiday one weekend and live only by candlelight and without a computer, radio and television.
  10. Arm yourself with green information and then evangelise but remember to be nice and understanding.
By the way their ad was promoting the Ecologist mini-magazine you can get free with todays Indy. I recommend grabbing a copy, hell I recommend subscribing to the Ecologist. Great bunch of folks and a great mag. Very thought-provoking.



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Friday, May 26, 2006

NEWS: City Hippy & BusinessWeek

Heather Green of BusinessWeek's Blogspotting emailed me today. She is doing a great podcast series on Green Bloggers as part of BusinessWeek's The Cutting Edge podcast. Recent interviewees include Dave Roberts of Gristmill and Graham Hill of Treehugger.

She was due to interview Alex Steffen of WorldChanging for the next in the series but sadly Alex could not oblige due to illness.

So Heather called me in to pinch hit. How humbled do you think I feel to be in such company? Heather was planning to interview me down the line for a perspective on personal green blogs and invited me to bring that interview forward.

So...I was interviewed today by Heather for the podcast. Topics discussed including green blogging, consumer activism, The Starbucks Challenge and a variety of other topics. I believe it goes live on Wednesday. Will blog the link when it goes live.



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NEWS: It's Renewables & Nuclear

A while ago the BBC launched an Energy Calculator that allowed us all to determine what mix of energy sources we should use and what reduction in demand, if any, was reasonable.

Well the results are in and I am pleasantly surprised. As the above chart shows the average participant wants to cut Fossil Fuel use by approx 60%, increase Nuclear use by approx 50% (grrrr), increase the use of renewables by a whopping 1600% approx, reduce energy imports to more or less zero and reduce demand by 10%.

Fascinating. And 100,000 people is as good a poll or think tank as any one could want. The people have spoken...lets get on with it.



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NEWS: Swansea Show powered by biodiesel

I'm really disappointed that I didn't make it to the Greener Homes and Buildings Show last weekend. I was embarrassingly beaten by the weather; whilst my toddler would have loved to roll around in the rain and mud, I couldn't quite face wrestling with my little piglet trying to listen to a seminar on lime plastering. I will have to satisfy myself with researching the exhibitors list from the cosiness of my computer.

Mud however is not going to deter me from the annual Swansea Show this bank holiday weekend (Sunday May 28th to Monday 29th), especially as I can walk to the venue (Singleton Park). As ever I will head straight for the Eco-Zone. My mate Saskia who works for Res-a-Rec (Resettlement and Recycling) will be promoting their charitable work at the show. The scheme collects donated furniture from the local community, restores it where necessary in its workshop, and passes it on to people who are homeless or on very low income to help them set up home. Res-a-Rec will also be telling show goers about a new shop coming soon to Swansea - "Celfi", where Dragon Arts Centre and Res-a-Rec Workshop are going to sell items, many of which will be 100% recycled products.

This year's show looks to be the best yet, not withstanding the fact that it will be powered by biodiesel. According to this month's 'Green Light', the newsletter produced by the Environment Centre, Swansea:-
"Sustainable Swansea Initiative and the Environment Centre have been working with the organisers to find ways of making the Show more sustainable. For the first time there will be green recycling bins for your plastic bottles and cans on-site and traders and caterers are being asked to help by using the specially provided skip for recycling their cardboard. Plus all the electricity on site will be generated using vegetable oil. Locally produced biodiesel from Sundance Renewables will be used in the electricity generators used throughout the show ground. In the show's Eco-zone Swansea Environmental Education Forum has established a successful tradition of combining the arts and the environment to highlight important messages. A fairtrade café and a host of engaging displays, workshops and stalls covering a wide range of environmental and global themes the Eco-zone will be among the Swansea Show's biggest attractions yet again."
Sounds impressive doesn't it?

Organic Jac

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NEWS: The CityHippy Week

Ladies & Gentleman, it's Friday night! Well it's actually early on Friday but as I am away for the weekend posting might be tricky. Welcome to...

The CityHippy Week!

Tesco has set out 10 challenges (Comment from the Times, Telegraph & the Independent) it wants to tackle and I have to applaud them for coming out and putting it on the record. It is easy to be cynical but that will get us nowhere. Let's hold them to their statements and welcome their public committment. And if they get caught greenwashing then we will call them on it and rightly so. Nothing less than transparent success will do.

If they fulfil all 10 challenges they will:
  1. Halve by 2010 the average energy use in all our buildings against a baseline of 2000.
  2. Double the amount of plastic bags that customers bring back to stores for recycling by 2008. (Why not be more ambitious though and aim to reduce plastic bag use to zero by charging for bags and making durable non-plastic bags available i.e. Jute bags?)
  3. Make all Tesco carrier bags degradable from September 2006.
  4. Put nutrition labelling on all 7000 Tesco own-brand products by Spring 2007. (Why not opt-in to the governments labelling standards though instead of having your own standard?)
  5. Work with the Pre-School Learning Alliance to help inform parents, childcare professionals and children in some of the UK’s most deprived communities to make healthier choices.
  6. Get 2 million people running, cycling or walking in events that we will organise and sponsor in the run up to the London 2012 Olympics.
  7. Design and roll out new store fronts to blend better locally and reduce deliveries to cut congestion.
  8. Consult local communities before building new stores to understand local issues and concerns.
  9. Make it easier for small suppliers to gain access to Tesco by hosting open days in every region for them to come and meet our buyers.
  10. Introduce regional counters in our stores and better on-pack labelling to highlight local produce.
The result will be less plastic bag use, greater use of sustainable energy use, healthier people eating healthier food, local consultation and integration and support for local and smaller suppliers.

It's a great start Tesco, this will raise the bar but you will still have room to further improve even if you achieve all of the above but I really do applaud you for taking these initial steps on a much better road. Although Marks & Spencers and Waitrose are arguably already further down this greener road.

We want and need chain stores to be a part of the community and you will have to go a long way to play that role. Right now I and many others are not sure you are capable of it or that you can even genuinely compete locally. You need to not take money out of the community, support the local economy instead of making it dependent on you, encourage sustainable agriculture and so on. That is what we want. We are the market. We shall have what we want. Please don't forget for one minute that the world will be watching.

What else caught my little green eye?

Morethan offer lower insurance for green cars
Green motoring is going to be a massive growth area for the car industry as petrol prices continue to rise and concern over global warming grows. We want to financially reward drivers who are taking steps to do their bit for the environment.

Blue Peter goes Green

The historical move will see it billed – for one night only – as Green Peter. The alteration, on Wednesday 24 May, will be the first of its kind in the show's 47-year history.
Check out the cool Green Peter game here.

Green Green Tea saves the planet
They have made their new product, Green Green Tea, Carbon Neutral, in association with The Carbon Neutral Company, which makes it twice as green – hence the double name.

Londons food strategy
‘London Food’ is a partnership of food experts and organisations that include central and local government. It was set up by the Mayor of London to help deliver a London Food Strategy that would improve the health of Londoners and look at ways of making London's food sustainable over the next 10 years.
…and that's the way it is folks!



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Thursday, May 25, 2006

NEWS: Solar initiatives in Manchester

Two Manchester solar initiatives were in the local paper today.

The council has fitted solar panels to the roofs of all 60 houses in one of the country's most run down estates. The panels will save around £100 a year and the fact that one resident has cottoned on to his meter running backwards on a sunny day if he turns off all the appliances suggests that it might also get them cutting consumption.

The University is putting 196 solar panels on the roof of one of its new buildings. The fact that it's the School of Sciences and the School of Environment and Development may have something to do with the decision. I have to ask, though, what's the story behind newspapers' obsession with translating units of electricity into their cup of tea equivalent? It would take a lot of students to drink two million cups of tea a year.


How to Save the World for Free

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SPECIAL: Cartoon Call

I have had a great idea for a CityHippy themed cartoon ... I have the concept and the first five episodes ready to go, hell I even have the domain name, but what I need now is a creative partner to work on the design and the cartoon creation itself.

So if you are an illustrator looking for a monthly gig that could bring you lots of positive exposure AND help to save the world at the same time then please get in touch.

And if you are not that person but think you know someone who might be, well hell feel free to let them know.



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I’m not having much luck with my slug problem. First, the slugs mocked my feeble attempt to repel them with eggshells (by eating them no less). They then made light work of clambering over the plastic bottles. Despite burying the base of the bottle a little, they still managed to get in (or over, or under). I haven’t experimented with sawdust, as it’s been raining heavily every day and I figured it would probably just get washed away. Damage so far: 1 entire chilli plant, a lot of bedraggled strawberry plants, and a very annoyed me!

I need to nip this in the bud, so to speak, before the first strawberries and tomatoes appear and the slugs enjoy a berry-fest at my expense.

So, having tried and failed to deter them, I’m going to resort to non-chemical elimination, by trying out something called a SlugX. It’s relatively cheap and reusable (although made from plastic) and there are many similar products of varying sizes available. Basically you fill a reservoir with beer. The slug is attracted to the yeasty smell, ventures inside and promptly falls in. It wasn’t my first choice, as slugs do form part of the food chain, mainly as fodder for birds. However, as there are many other factors preventing birds visiting my garden (in particular the neighbourhood cats), I don’t think eliminating slugs from part of my garden is going to have a detrimental effect. Also, as you place the SlugX close to those plants you want to protect, in theory only the slugs which are greedy enough to venture to the veggie patch will drown. Those that stay in the safety of trees and grass at the back get to carry on munching their little hearts out.

Admittedly this approach does mean I’ll need to pour myself a shandy with the surplus beer, what a chore.

Check back in a while to see if the SlugX lives up to its reputation.

Bye for now


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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

WEEKLY Q: Are we changing Planet Earth?

Time for the weekly question. And this week it's a hybrid combining the usual question with a review of the great new BBC two parter starting tonight and hosted by David Attenborough, Are we changing Planet Earth?

Will be adding my thoughts in here live during the show. Feel free to comment.

In the Independent today Attenborough gives the answer to his own question, Are we changing Planet Earth, with an emphatic and long-awaited resonant and final, yes.

WorldChanging have recently started to draw a line under the debate surrounding Climate Change. Their post The Debate is Over aims to create a single page we can point cynics too that will showcase the overwhelming evidence in one place.

With the kind of stunning cinematography we have come to expect from Mr Attenborough we are shown the on-the-ground realities. Polar Bears in serious jeopardy. And what effects the top of the food chain can only spell trouble for everything else we share the planet with.

Moving away from the oceans we can see massive melting in the Patagonia ice-fields in South America.

Amazing scenery.

Glaciers are not known for moving with speed, yet we see retreats of miles taking place in as little as a hundred years.

Just beautiful scenery.

Moving to Tuvalu. The inhabitants of Tuvalu in the Pacific do not need convincing that climate change is real. Rising sea levels reached the highest levels ever known. And it is getting worse.

Interesting flood prediction tool...really makes you think.

New Orleans last year was, as we all know, subject to the most horrific of hurricanes. Rita. The season was the worst recorded but scientists fear worse is to come. Attenborough wastes no time in drawing the connection between warming oceans and the increasing ferocity of hurricanes.

He touches a bit on the cyclical nature of cooling and heating. Great example of New York existing at a certain point in time in the past being at sea level next to a 2km high ice sheet. A mere 30,000 years later the same city would have been under 5 meters of water. And the mean temperatures did not change by more than a few degrees over that entire period time.

Attenborough then gives a basic greenhouse lesson. He demonstrates how CO2 moves around by showing CO2 as small black squares. Fascinating demo.

Saw something else recently about how the world would look if pollution were purple. Cannot find the link though...sorry.

Scientist now exploring within a glacial crevasse. The colours are just stunning. Can barely tear myself away to write.

Talking now about the parts per million CO measurements and how todays levels are far beyond anything we have seen in the past...and when he says past he is talking in ice-core aons. Not last Tuesday.

On to the Amazon rainforest. Despite years of intensive logging vast areas still survive. But there is a bigger threat emerging, bigger than deforestation. Many of the largest trees are dying. The cause is drought. In the rainforest? 2005 was the worst drought in the region for 60 years and rivers and fish were catastrophically affected. Trees are only now recovering 6 months later and if another drought comes then huge fires could breakout. The cause of these droughts? Oceanic heating.

The marine equivalent of the Rainforests are the Coral reefs. They too are threatened by warming sea temperatures. Coral bleaching is taking place more often and those veritable life hotspots are suffering. Why do they matter? Well Coral reefs tend to be the home of the food at the bottom of the food chain.

Imagine taking bricks out of your home's foundation. Now take some more. And some more. Getting uncomfortable? You should be.

So just to summarise then. Greatest Carbon emissions ever directly from our activities. Forests, Glaciers and Oceans are all being affected as a result of rising temperatures due to those emissions aka the Greenhouse effect.

What does the future hold? Scientists do not claim to predict the future but they do claim to provide accurate scenarios that we can learn from. You can participate. For Free! The more people that take part the more scenarios we can run and the more accurate a picture we can paint.

The Hadley Center in the UK believe they have proof. Incontrovertible proof. Their model shows why we are where we are. Temperature runs in proportion to human activity and our emissions.
Attenborough: Our whole way of life is structured around the burning of fossil fuels. What happens next is up to us.
Are we changing Planet Earth? Sadly yes. So what do we do about it?

In the second part (next Thursday night) Attenborough asks Can we save Planet Earth? Needless to say I will cover that episode in the same way.

Question I am left with is: What motivates people to deny that climate change is happening?

Ignorance? Fear? Change?

Look forward to your thoughts on all of the above.



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NEWS: Green cabbies

Edinburgh's taxi drivers are campaigning to get Edinburgh City Council to allow them to drive Allied Vehicles' E7, instead of the traditional black cab. E7s are less polluting and also easier for wheelchair users to access. They are also cheaper to buy and run.

Currently only black cabs are permitted in the city.


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FEATURE: The Ramsay Home Project (part 7)

Here in part 7 (see part 6 here) of our regular updates from RamsayHome we hear good news about just why the regular updates have tailed off over the past two months. Turns out a bigger construction project got in the way. And as excuses go they do not get better than this one. Trust me I would know.

Return of the Ramsays

The Ramsays are back after a two month hiatus. We are proud to announce the greatest 'construction project' of all – the birth of our son Dexter.

We had begun dreaming and planning the Ramsay House for a future family, and many of our decisions were based on what we would like to teach our children. A small bedroom with a big window is just as good as a large bedroom. The floor plan has a large central space for a kitchen, gathering table and living room, where we can spend time as a family working on homework, web development, and finger-painting.

We wanted to teach our children to honour the energy of the Earth and the Sun, by minimizing our use of fossil fuel and working in passive solar design. Our little fellow loves to gaze out the windows here at the lilac trees and early summer sunlight, and we are overjoyed that soon we'll be bringing him home to a place built just for him.

In the meantime we are sleep deprived zombies. For future reference, it is unwise to embark on a massive construction project, and an atypical one at that, while pregnant, birthing and nursing. More than unwise, it is madness. But we are settling in to a rhythm and life is now more wonderful and full of optimism than ever. We are borrowing this world from our son, and we aim to take the very best care of it that we can as an act of love.

M from the RamsayHome project

Ah the bliss of becoming a parent...well done Ramsays. Enjoy.



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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

NEWS: Breastfeeding rate grows

There's no debate about the fact that breastfeeding is one of the greenest things you can do as a new mother. Recent articles in the Ecologist (April 2006) and The Green Parent (June/July 2006) have highlighted the environmental consequences of bottle feeding. As the Ecologist so eloquently summarises:-

There can be no food more locally produced, more sustainable or more environmentally friendly than a mother’s breastmilk, the only food required by an infant for the first six months of life. It is a naturally renewable resource, which requires no packaging or transport, results in no wastage and is free.”

Early findings from the Department of Health's National Infant Feeding Survey released last week have found a dramatic increase in breastfeeding across the UK. This is great news and I hope this relates to the improved education and support available from health professionals. As someone who breastfed, I know how tough the first month or so can be, even with the right assistance. After the initial period, breastfeeding can be incredibly rewarding and a special experience for mother and baby.

Last week the NHS and various charitable organisations (see links below) were promoting the use of 'mother's milk' or 'llaeth mam' in aid of Breastfeeding Awareness Week. I attended a Welsh National Assembly organised event which launched the National Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme. The scheme encourages local businesses and public buildings to provide a safe and welcoming place for breastfeeding mothers. I was keen to hear how the assembly had employed a PR firm to encourage public perception of breastfeeding in the media. However it has been left for mothers and health professionals themselves to approach establishments and ask them to participate in the scheme and display the welcome sticker (pictured). The scheme states that the mother should be able to breastfeed in all public areas and shouldn't be asked to move or stop feeding. The assembly wants to hear about mother's experiences of promoting the scheme. I would like to think that companies will take this on without the need for coercion!


Breastfeeding Links: Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative (Gill Rapley from Unicef has done some incredible research about baby-led weaning, which involves letting a baby eat family food from six months).
Breastfeeding Network
Baby Milk Action
La Leche League
Association of Breastfeeding Mothers
National Childbirth Trust

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Monday, May 22, 2006

NEWS: Carnival of the Green #28

Carnival of the GreenMy weekly quick link to the Carnival of the Green which is located today at Website Design & Promotion.

This week my fav post is Don's post over at Evangelical Ecologist highlighting a new survey conducted by the National Wildlife Federation. The survey shows that:
78 percent of respondents believe the U.S. should reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases like CO2
Wow! I can feel the religious right rising to tackle the issue folks. Praise Be!

More info about the Carnival of the Green re hosting (2006 now booked up) and posting available here.



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NEWS: Edinburgh food market this Thursday

It's taken me a while to find some information on this, but there will be a fine foods market on Castle Street on Thursday between 4 and 8pm. Due to the lack of details I can't guarantee that all stalls will be local and/or organic, but I do know that there will be a stall from the Slow Food Movement. As the event is run by Edinburgh City Centre Management, who run the farmer's market on Saturday mornings, I would imagine that some of their regulars will be there.


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FEATURE: Box Scheme Brighton

I am very pleased that for my first Brighton & Hove (B&H) post you find me doing something both green and local! For the first time ever, after saying we would do it for ages, my husband and I have signed up to an organic box scheme – and it’s based in East Sussex too.

The company is Real Food Direct. I found out about them through my sister (living here for 3 years, she is my font of all Brighton-based knowledge and will probably crop up in this blog quite a lot) who kindly included their details in our ‘welcome pack’!

We are already much better placed than we were in London for shopping local. During the week we were living in a food desert, with only a Tesco Express for company! At weekends, we joined the rugby scrum at the organic veg stall in Spitalfields market (well, my husband did – I stood back at a safe distance!), which is great (if stressful) – but if we were away at the weekend we missed out.

Now our local supermarket is the Co-op and there is a busy independent grocery as well; our corner shop even has an organic section! So call us greedy, but we want a box too!

Ok, the box has arrived and the nice delivery man has given me a card which says if I make two more orders I get £10 off my third – excellent!

The Real Food Direct site lets you pick and choose what you put in your box (including things like organic shampoo and Ecover cleaning products) or you can let them get on with it and just pick a mixed fruit and veg box – which we did.

There are all sorts of things in here but I think I can identify most of them. Beetroot (do you just boil it? And can you eat the leaves? Help please!), carrots (I’m ok with these thanks), organic eggs (didn’t order those!), cress from Holland (not sure about that – can’t you grow it on your windowsill?) wow, really peppery rocket!

By the time we finish examining the contents it’s getting pretty late so we plump for something simple: pasta salad with tons of veggies. It’s yummy – and I have some left over for my lunch tomorrow!

There is a big local food and drink scene here in B&H (yep, part of the reason we moved down!) and I will no doubt be blogging about many more markets, box schemes, restaurants and cafes in the months to come (if there are any you want me to try, I will be more than happy to do so!) but to give you a taster of what’s out there, check out Brighton & Hove’s markets – there’s a fair trade one, a farmers’ one, a vegetarian one – I’m sure any one of these will be enough to help you resist the lure of the ‘super’ one!

And not forgetting of course the Brighton Food and Drink Festival from 1-30 September. In the interests of investigative journalism, I will be there!

Take care


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Saturday, May 20, 2006

NEWS: 28 Penzance Street, Miles Platting

Manchester council have spent £100,000 converting two terraced houses into an energy saving showcase. The changes have managed to more than halve the fuel bill for the property.

I'm not so happy with the costs though. In real life I don't believe these savings would cost £100k. The figure reinforces the prejudice that energy saving is so much more expensive than the benefits merit, when most of the costs would have been from renovating the empty shells in the first place, fixtures and fittings and tarting the building up because it's a show home.

Still, it's nice to see them showing what's possible.


How to Save the World for Free

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NEWS: Nice day for a green wedding has soft launched with a call for potential suppliers to sign up for 3 months free advertising PLUS they want to invite you all to take part in their interesting questionnaire.

Now I could just be bigging them up because our very own Brighton & Hove editor, Katie Fewings, is behind the site. But I am not. I genuinely love this idea because it takes a major event in people's lives and shows how it can be green(er). Everyday problems with simple green solutions. That's the CityHippy way. We wish them all the best for the future.



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NEWS: Climate Chaos starts this week

'Climate Chaos' is coming our way this week and it looks like fantastic stuff, the tv show that is and not the nightmare sadly becoming reality.

Al recently described the show in the CityHippy bookmarks saying:
David Attenborough's personal journey to discover the state of the planet leads a fortnight of programmes on climate change from the BBC. Climate Chaos season begins on Wednesday 24 May.
Whilst I am delighted to say I will be nowhere near a tv for a week (holiday...hurrah) I will sadly miss the first in the series. I am sure Al and the crew will update me!


Green hugs


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Friday, May 19, 2006

NEWS: The CityHippy Week

Ladies & Gentleman, it's Friday night! Welcome to...

The CityHippy Week!

STORY OF THE WEEK: Scandal at the Guardian's Hay Literary Festival as Al Gore set to speak at the event in a Marquee sponsored by EOS airlines
The former American presidential candidate looks at the "planetary emergency" of global warming, and examines how we can avoid paralysis and take the steps necessary to avoid catastrophe.
OK well perhaps EOS is an eco airline sponsoring the event?
EOS Airlines: With only 48 guests on a plane built for 220 everything changes
Uhm yeah everthing does ineed change. Namely the weather, Al Gore's speaking program at the last minute, the Head of Marketing at EOS. Someone is going soooo home unhappy that day.

What else caught my little green eye?

Greenfleet Fuel Challenge won by 90 mpg Toyota Aygo
Ten laps of a world-famous motor-racing circuit can rarely have yielded a fuel consumption figure of just over 90mpg, but that was the astonishing result produced by a Toyota Aygo 1.4 D-4D diesel hatchback at Silverstone this April.
Amazing what we humans can achieve when we put our minds to it. Well done GreenFleet and the Toyota Aygo team. Although if you think that is efficient...

Three gallons to drive round the entire Planet?
A British inventor claims he has built the world's most fuel-efficient car - which does a staggering 8,000 miles per gallon.
How efficient is that? OK so it is not gonna really drive the planet for 3 gallons but you get the point. The car might be tiny but it works. Gotta be something we can learn from this development.

Garden of Eden discovered in...Chelsea?
Created by award-winning designer David Miller and sponsored chiefly by Defra, the four-part exhibition focuses on how climate change is affecting our gardens and the wider environment.
Sounds like this is worth a visit if you are planning on attending the Chelsea Flower Show this year. The Climate Change: The Global Challenge stand sounds amazing.

Electric commercial vehicle competes with the big boys
The Modec range is possibly the greatest leap forward in commercial vehicles since the internal combustion engine. Quiet, pollution free and with a carrying capacity to put most others in the shade, the Modec range is the future of urban delivery. Developing an impressive 102bhp and 300Nm of torque, Modec vans can carry two tonnes up to one hundred miles at fifty miles an hour with zero emissions... all from a single charge.
Stunning. They deserve loads of success. If you need a van you would be crazy not to consider this as an option, if you can.

Never mind China now the UK plans to build eco-cities, towns and villages
Ministers are planning the first eco-friendly town built from scratch and a string of low-carbon "green villages" to try to prove that big housing developments across southern England can be self-sufficient.
Fantastic news that governments are starting to filter up sustainability issues into national policy. Very excited about this.

…and that's the way it is folks!



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NEWS: Not MAD after all

Sadly The Mad Show has been postponed so no live Green Bloggers panel for now. Am sure they will have only taken such a serious step for only the most serious of reasons. We look forward to the issues being resolved and us green bloggers strutting our funky stuff soon enough. Will keep you posted.



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NEWS: Greener Homes and Buildings Show

Head up to mid Wales this weekend for the Greener Homes and Buildings Show at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Showground, Builth Wells, Powys. The show is part of the wider Small Holder and Garden Festival. There will be demonstrations, seminars and 4000 square feet dedicated to green homes. There's an impressive list of exhibitors, including the founders of the Greener Homes and Buildings Group, the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) and Cylch Ty Mawr Lime. The group was established in 2003 to encourage sustainable building and living. The show starts at 9am and runs until 6pm on Saturday 20th May and Sunday 21st May.

I previously blogged about Cylch Ty Mawr Lime at Hippyshopper and suggested that the 'cement industry is going sour', at least for eco-builders. Consider this: Global carbon dioxide emissions from the cement industry are greater than the entire aviation industry.* Lime mortar and plaster (pictured) are the environmental alternative to cement and their use is growing in ecological new builds. Cylch Ty-Mawr Lime in Brecon, Wales is the Welsh Centre for Traditional and Ecological Building - basically they're experts in the use of lime as a building material. So if you are planning a green build, why not do our planet a favour and consider lime. Incidentally, there will be a demonstration on lime plastering on both days of this weekend's show.

Hopefully see you there!


*Source: Ordinary Portland Cement by Rob Scot McLeod from Building For a Future, Green Building Press. Volume 15, No. 2 Autumn 2005.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

REVIEW: Final Episode - Its Not Easy Being Green

In the seventh and sadly, final episode of this BBC programme the Strawbridge's made some further additions to their self-sufficient lifestyle by building of a compost toilet and new wind turbine. To erect the 'loo', Dick and co built two big concrete holes covered by a bench and toilet seat, all concealed by a shed with a view. Briget was worried that with all the visitors to the farm there would be "too much poo", which takes two year to decompose. Dick was not concerned, especially after he had calculated that there was enough space for 4000 poos! My other half however pointed out that the sawdust, used to absorb the liquid and smells, would also add to the pile. So perhaps Dick may need to recalculate, but I'm sure Briget's got nothing to worry about. The design to ensure that the urine is re-routed down a separate waste pipe was also impressive. Moving swiftly on.....

Briget was busy reaping the rewards of a well stocked organic garden - did you see how many compost bins she had?! Then she set to work hand blending some body butter, before trying it out on Dick and Jim. I think the blokes were more impressed by the hand made chorizo sausage rolled from the leftovers of their dearly departed pigs.

Another star project of Dick and Jim's was the substantial wind turbine, used together with the smaller wind turbine and water wheel, to provide electricity to the farm. The turbine set Dick back about £1500 and will apparently pay for itself in 4 to 5 years. It was designed to be fitted to the side of the house but because their farm is a listed building, this was not possible. Dick was keen to put the wind turbine at the top of a mast on a high, windy point in the garden. His plans paid off and the turbine set off at enormous speed.

Donnachadh McCarthy visited the farm in his capacity as environmental auditor and was "very impressed". The Strawbridge's have achieved more than anyone could imagine in such a short space of time - probably down to all the expert and student helpers! Dick with his go getting attitude was not afraid to embrace alternatives and its really paid off.

Links / Of related interest:
As previously mentioned you can read more about the Strawbridge's journey through their book, at their website or by actually going to the farm and attending a course. If you've missed episodes from the series, you can still see clips at the BBC website, if you're quick. You can also read my recent reviews at CityHippy and earlier reviews at Hippyshopper. Briget will also be appearing at the MAD sustainability show. As will some of the UK's Green Bloggers, including Al, of course.

If you're interested in finding out more about the growing use of small wind turbines across the world, Thomas at ecofusion has sent a link to information from the American Wind Energy Association.

Does the sound of making natural cosmetics like Briget appeal? Michael Van Straten has treatment recipes in his book 'Organic Living'. Or check out the Strawbridge's site for Briget's preferred cosmetic companies.

There's also a new book out, reviewed at Hippyshopper, called 'It's Easy To Be Green' (not linked to the programme) based on the author's (Crissy Trask) website, Greenmatters.


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INTERVIEW: Craig Sams (final)

OK figured I would post the last few questions in one go here is the seventh and final installment ( 1 2 3 4 5 6 ) of our Craig Sams interview series. Find out what inspires Craig, learn about the Craig Sams diet, discover what Craig thinks about Nuclear energy (he gives a great answer), whether he thinks local, organic or fairtrade is more important, some crucial advice for anyone wanting to start a green business and be amazed at what one of the founding fathers of green business is doing next, now that he has become seriously wealthy following the sale of Green & Blacks to Cadbury's. And believe me you would never guess in a thousand years, the time it takes to clean up after our Nuclear selves, maybe, or the time it takes for Tony Blair to find a principle. Which ever comes first. Thousand years it is then ;)

CityHippy: Hi again Craig. I would love to know what inspires you to be green?

Craig Sams: Hi Al, well I have grandchildren. Before that, I just wanted a future for myself, I still do, but now I think 100 years ahead, like any good little patriarch.

CityHippy: I hear that I have a son I know just what you mean. What is the one green thing you do that you wish everyone did?

Craig Sams: Eat less, eat organic. I rarely eat animal products, avoid eating between 8 pm and 1 pm the next day and I’m never starving hungry because I’m in charge of my blood sugar, not dependent on regular ingestion of food. I’ve managed to avoid seeing a doctor for 40 years, am in good health and enjoy food immensely. If everyone ate the way I do there’d be plenty of food for everyone and a lot less of society’s resources being consumed by the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry.

CityHippy: Wow! The Sams diet seems harsh but it obviously works for you. I suspect when it comes to food we consume more based on marketing than need. OK potentially contentious one for you now. What way should the UK go in terms of future energy sources: Nuclear, Alternative Energy or both?

Craig Sams: If there is anything that is truly satanic, it is nuclear energy. These liars and crooks who have foisted this dangerous technology on us should be impaled for their crime against humanity. What if the Romans 2000 years ago had discovered nuclear power and left us with the burden of having to keep an eye on the deadly waste that they left behind so that they could leave the lights on all night and live in buildings that are overheated in winter and overcooled in summer? The legacy of the nuclear industry is going to kill us all and all other life forms on this planet eventually, it’s just a question of when, not whether. If I ruled the world we’d all eat wholefood vegetarian and all our spare resources would go into propelling the waste into outer space and closing down every nuclear plant as a matter of urgency. In other words, I think alternative energy systems are preferable.

CityHippy: Brilliant answer. Wow! Although not keen on the blasting into space option. OK which is most important to you: Organic, local or fairtrade?

Craig Sams: They are all part of the same thing: sustainable.

CityHippy: Fair point. Thought-provoking. I tend to agree but for me the order is: Local, organic then fairtrade. OK something more practical now. What advice do you have for those seeking to start a green business?

Craig Sams: Go for it. Make sure you have twice as much money as the business plan projects that you’ll need. You’ll find that you are competing with likeminded souls – it’s always a bit tricky when you’re all driven by the same ideals but find your heart leaps up when your competitor is struggling. There are times when collaboration is possible – it’s a lot harder to do than competition, because it means sacrificing control, but always look for those possibilities. The wholefood industry was a magnet for all the entrepreneurs that hippiedom created – too many hardworking people chasing too little money – the result was that the industry as a whole suffered because the growth dynamic was undermined by nobody making enough money – when the big guys moved in they all lost out.

CityHippy: Invaluable advice. Makes sense having a sensible approach on top of ethical principles works best in the long run. It is a business after all and needs to grow to survive. Interesting. So after achieving all that you have achieved whats next for Craig Sams?

Craig Sams: Well, we’ve got Judges Bakery, a 100% organic bakery and food store here in Hastings. We do white bread, tea cakes, bakewell tarts, jam tarts, all the usual high street bakery stuff, but all organic. Then we’ve added sourdough wholemeal and rye breads, croissants, brownies and kipper rolls as well as our existing sausage rolls and pasties. We sell local organic vegetables, meat and dairy products and a full range of organic lines. Nothing we sell is not organic, so for the organic customer there is no shop in the country to touch it. We’re looking at how to expand it – people come in from other towns and say “I wish there was a shop like this where I live.”

CityHippy: Great...I can see it now. A chain of devolved but connected permanent farmers market shops in towns. Brilliant. As Farmers Markets become more popular people want to shop in them more regularly. And with Wholefoods landing in the UK in 2007 you seem to be ahead of the curve if you can capitalise on the idea fast. All the best Craig and thanks for the interview.

Craig Sams: Thanks Al. Good luck to you too.

So much goodness in what Craig says...I have a feeling we will be seeing much more of him on our high streets soon. I feel like I have had a conversation with a sort of positive green tornado :)

I would like to thank Craig for his candour over this fascinating interview series. I am honoured to have been able to discuss these issues with him. He remains, along with John Mackey of Whole Foods Market fame, and Dame Anita Roddick (I know I know) an original green business pioneer. We have much to thank him (them) for. Namaste Craig.



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