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:

ARTICLES: Enjoy real content by real people trying really hard to live a greener and fairer life. Generally in-depth with weekly updates at least. Located in main body below.Subscribe:
BOOKMARKS: Follow our web travels & explore our 1400+ links to a greener life across various categories i.e. baby, cosmetics, DIY, furniture, garden & shopping. Short, sharp and frequent updates. Located down to the right. Click here to see our latest three bookmarks.Subscribe:


Saturday, July 30, 2005

NEWS: Green home examples

Just came across some superb UK-based green eco homes both of which are shining examples of the many things you can do to convert your home into an eco-paradise.

The Yellow House (see pic) in Oxford looks divine...I suspect I will be checking out the things they did and applying them to my house as far as possible in the future.

The Ecohome is another superb example, not sure where it is, with tons of really eco-friendly conversion ideas and tips.

Of course the ultimate US urban eco home example is our friends at

Either way if you want a greener home then these three great examples prove that no matter where you live, what kind of house you have and how much money is available anyone can make their home more eco-friendly.

Know of any other eco homes on the web? Let us know.



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Friday, July 29, 2005

RANT: I'm with Albert!

Now don't get me wrong...I really appreciate and applaud the fact that Dubya finally accepts that there is a Climate Change problem. Maybe it was the Tornadoes in Birmingham, UK that shook him out of his oil-soaked slumber or was it the unheard of snowfall in Somalia that finally did it? Who knows.

His plan seems to hinge on slowing climate change not by reducing emissions, because emissions will continue to rise regardless due to our unassailable lifestyle, but by producing energy more cleanly in the first place. It all revolves around making the energy business more efficient around the world.

Sounds like a business opportunity to me.

We saw this with recycling. Recycle more and use less resources we were told. But the reality is that whilst we recycle more than ever before we also use more resources than ever before and still the Amazon rainforest shrinks!

Dubya is going to get very green all of a sudden and start evangelising that we need to do something about the climate change issue. He will claim that he has always cared about the issue but that the science was never quite right. He will ask many to support his new plan to reduce emissions by making the energy business more efficient. The oil lobby will jump right in behind him. A bad omen if ever there was one. He will say you are either with him or against him, naturally!

But don't be misled. As long as we stay addicted to oil the world is going to have more problems than it can handle and I don't just mean pollution and war (peak oil, plastics impacting on human chemistry etc).

As Einstein said: You can't solve problems with the same mindset that created them.

The only thing that Dubya cares about is staying at the top of the tree...which is the best place to be when the water levels rise.

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

NEWS: Supermarket secrets promised I watched the Dispatches show tonight called Supermarket Secrets on Channel 4.

I have never felt so sick in my life. We all suspect these sorts of things but figure if we ignore it then we can still eat this stuff and not be grossed out. Well no more for this man. I no longer trust the government to oversee the safe production of my food. Period! I am sure Mark Purdy would agree with me!

We already avoid ready meals and are trying to eat mostly unprocessed food as much as possible. Of course some times exceptions will be made...but the less the better!

OK where to begin? Some highlights of the show for you:

When buying a Chicken at a supermarket or anywhere for that matter check out the lower legs...if you see anything resembling the brown spots on the legs in the above image which is called a Hock Burn then put the Chicken down and leave the store. This is a clear sign that they do not care about the Chickens health or about your health.

The Hock burns may be less obvious...the above looks like an extreme example to me...sometimes they even remove the Hock burns before the chicken gets packaged so watch out for that.

A Hock Burn is caused because Chickens are grown so fast nowadays that their leg bones and tissue do not grow quickly enough and cannot support their weight.

The result is that the poor chicken ends up spending its final days (of its 6 week lifespan - which 30 years ago was double that I think they said) on the floor amongst all the Chicken poo which is full of Ammonia...which burns its skin...creating Hock Burns! Bleuch! Approximately 25,000 chickens to a barn equals a lot of poo to sit in!

This was a superbly done piece of investigative TV...basically some initial facts and images were offered but then the ultimate test. One of the worlds greatest chefs, Raymond Blanc was invited to examine a ready meal. He prepared and tasted it. His comments? 'A crime against Humanity! A crime against food! It's chemical!' Nuff said.

Too many to list them all but basically:

1) Processed food is not good for you.
2) Intensive farming is producing fatter chickens than ever before.
3) The food production industry is exploiting the knowledge gap between food producers and consumers.

And that was just part one! Part two is next week on Monday at 8pm...make sure you do not miss it. For those of you not lucky enough to be able to catch this show check out the accompanying DISPATCHES: SUPERMARKET SECRETS micro-site at the Channel 4 website.

And check back next week for our take on part two of the report.


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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

FEATURE: A beacon in the fog

Have been chatting via email with a City Hippy collective member based in Northern England...we are truly everywhere! ;)

This is his story...his is a sadly all to familiar tale of personal mental and physical pain, of inner city life, of anguish and unfulfillment in modern materialist society but ultimately of a triumphant greener path being traveled to a happier place.

This just demonstrates that we can all make positive changes regardless of who we are, where we are or what we do or do not have.

Well done mate...keep blazing that trail for the rest of us to follow!

And as for the City Hippy mention in his story...well it is always nice to know we are appreciated.

Incidentally...talking about mentions...we were recently featured on the AOL LIVE WEB BLOG - very chuffed about that.

So without further is Jim's (name changed) extremely inspiring and touching tale:

Having just missed the original 'hippy' summer of '66 and coming from a family with a military heritage I joined the Army...22 years later I left!

I became involved in running my own light transport business and as you can imagine this left little time for anything else in my life. Eventually ill health forced a major rethink and in 2003 a book given by a friend was to change my life for the good.

The book was the late John Seymours' 'New Complete Self-Sufficiency : The Classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers'!

Reading the book and discovering Path to caused me to look at my core values and more importantly to re-evaluate what I was doing with my life and where I wanted to go.

Having been married twice (both ended in sadness) I had only myself to answer to and so with plenty of inspiration and working at a slow pace I began to alter 'my footprint'.

Another site, this time based in the UK, also gave me ideas applicable to our ever changing climate, A country along with Path to has given and continues to give me 'workable inspiration' on a daily basis.

City Hippy was/is the icing on my personal cake. I bought energy saving light bulbs, did away with the central heating and installed a wood burner, planted veggies in raised beds and practiced the three R's: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.

I now have 6 black rock rescue hens, about to take delivery of 2 rescue ducks, been given a modest greenhouse, the possibilities are endless!

With regard to my illness, I have M.E., some days are ok, some good and some not good, but learning to live at a slower pace and 'think' green about everything is a better life than I had before I became ill.

Permaculture has helped me a great deal as to maximum yield from the space you already have without using chemicals, working with the earth, not against it.

Another small book with BIG ideas is

'The Edible Container Garden : Growing Fresh Food in Small Spaces' by Michael Guerra. I also subscribe to Permaculture Magazine.

There is a long way ahead on my path left to travel, what enthuses me is the fact that I am not 'alone'...

Living in the city is every excuse to make a difference in your life today!

Namaste Jim...good luck for the future and thanks so much for sharing your story with us...we are sure it will help inspire others to tread a similar path.


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By the way the above image is borrowed from the John T. Lyle Center For Regenerative Studies website - we hope they do not mind - looks like such a nice garden

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

FEATURE: Downshift adrift?

PART ONE: Letter to Miranda Ingram, c/o The Evening Standard

Dear Miranda

Today's Evening Standard published an article by you on downshifting titled 'Sod all the peace and quiet. I long for London'. I would link to it but the ES has not published that article online (crazy eh?)

'Forget it. downshifting is a disaster - all mud and no money'
you proclaim going on to say that
'The point is, no one who's uprooted to the countryside dares admit how grim it is, so we keep quiet and watch more and more of you wistful urbanites fall into the same trap.'

As you point out in your article you still accept credit-card offers, gravitate towards fellow downshifters because you equate (and you even accept this is snobbish) interesting conversation with fellow downshifters as opposed to real country folks, identify fellow downshifters by the fact that their kids wear upmarket clothing and still book exotic weekend breaks.

All of the above surely supports my belief that you never quite got the gist of downshifting in the first place.

Downshifting is not about WHERE you live it is about HOW you live. Downshifting is about a fundamental shift in one's values. Downshifting is about an evolution to a simpler lifestyle. No point downshifting if you are taking your upshifted mentality with you.

Extreme downshifting, ie moving to rural anywhere, which is what you chose to do, means living a more connected, simplistic where reducing your ecological footprint, having more time and less stress are your primary concerns. The irony is that you can start to live that life anywhere and did not need to flee to Wales/France to do it.

Miranda, you are obviously still living an upshifted upshifted life merely transplanted to a downshifted location. Clearly that was never going to work.

I firmly believe that you can still make your downshift work though if you can ditch your upshifted mentality and I look forward to seeing what you do next! Whether that is in France or Fulham!

Good luck and Namaste

City Hippy

PART TWO: City life loses its appeal

As we move further away from 7/7 it is clear that the London Bombings will trigger a new wave of downshifters. But those seeking a simpler life must proceed with careful planning and caution or risk facing the same negative situation as Miranda Ingram clearly has.

On September 11th 2001, in a busy London office, datacomms engineer Ray Smith sat chatting to colleague Mike in New York as they tested a new line. With calm, clear vocabulary, Mike said, "What's the noise out there? There's a, a low plane's just hit the Tower". The line went dead.

Ray watched the myriad of TV and data screens around him, numbed, searching for confirmation of the news, as he told his co-workers of the bizarre conversation. Within minutes, the newsflashes arrived and soon after, his offices were evacuated, as were many others in the square mile.

On their journey home, commuter conversations took on all forms. Many were defiant, angry and confused but others took on a different tone, saying this was their wake up call; their downshift out of the City was about to become a reality.

On July 7th 2005, as another group of innocent souls lost their lives to terrorism, many more downshifting plans were cast in stone. Amongst them, Joe and his pregnant wife. "This has just brought all our plans forward", he explained to me. "I want to work from home so I can see and be with my family, not simply support them."

Downshifting is definitely on the increase. In recent years, in the UK alone, it's reported that some 3 million have made a move towards a simpler life and Tracey Smith, downshifting writer and broadcaster explains that "the motivations to downshift must be built on solid foundations. Fear alone is simply not a good enough foundation. In the case of an extreme downshift where you move home, there should be much careful planning, with great consideration given to how you will support yourself financially."

She advises those looking to take such drastic action to seriously think through their entrepreneurial plans, cut back on all spending and to take the necessary time during the early planning stages to ensure they start off on the right foot.

Without doubt, the viewing figures for TV shows on how to renovate your house, sell all your worldly goods and move out will increase dramatically following the recent atrocities, however, for those already on their way towards a simpler life, it will perhaps be made a little easier.

Growing your own vegetables, charity shopping and taking a greener approach to living are fundamental for the committed 'Good Lifers'. They are also the essential elements needed to survive a move to a life with limited funds.

The chances of success are most certainly heightened if you are doing it because you want to embrace a less material way of life, as opposed to being chased into an emotional corner.

Ultimately that is why City Hippy believes Miranda Ingram has not yet succeeded in her attempted downshift. Miranda can still make it work...she just has to approach it with more realistic planning and the right mental attitude.

PART THREE: More information?

Tracey Smith runs National Downshifting Week and she has some great suggestions for individuals, companies and children/schools seeking to explore and encourage a simpler way of living life.

It can be as slow or fast a process as you wish it to be.

To find out more ways to downshift visit National Downshifting Week



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Saturday, July 16, 2005

FEATURE: Gotta feel the love!

Recently Sustainablog had a blog-around-the-clock to celebrate its 2nd birthday and to raise money for a great cause.

City Hippy donated a post to Sustainablog...and now we want to share it with you:

We are buying a house and need appliances and furniture.

Keyword: Cheap! Result? Ikea!

ARGH! so uninspired by Ikea...nice ethical ethos but your products are the furniture equivalents of Volvo's from the 80's!

Sadly cheap appliances often means less ethical and energy efficient and cheap furniture generally equals uninspiring and forest murder.

Of course the perfect thing to do would be to get second-hand stuff! But the choice seems limited and poor. We figured that for a couple of hundred pounds more and with research here or here we could have our cake and eat it too.

As luck would have it we were checking out the area we are moving to and stumbled across a shop called GIFT (Goods Imported & Fairly Traded). Their website is under construction @ but you can call them on +44 (0) 1462 483370 (tell Fiona that City Hippy sent you).

They have lovely furniture, gifts, ornaments and clothing...and it all seems to be fairly-traded and sustainably produced. Hurrah!

It means spending more money than we budgeted for (thanks VISA) but we can really feel the love from those bed-side tables and our food will taste sweeter served at our new gorgeous green and fair table!

We can feel the love! We hope you can too!



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Sunday, July 10, 2005

FEATURE: After Live 8's been a week since Live 8 - what a week!

The concerts were great and the G8 saw and heard the people...ish. They said they understand and they commit to doing what they can to address our concerns.

We got more aid to the poorest countries on the brink of, if not all the way in, total collapse. How charitable of them to forgive debts that could never be paid.

We also got a promise to give more aid to slightly better off countries, the ones with just enough of a market left to tap into. They will only get aid IF they open up their markets and let us flood their economies with subsidized cheaper goods. So more poverty for them in the long run then as we destroy what little local economies they have got left. Genius!

We got a commitment to free and fair trade without unfair subsidy at some point in the next million years. Hurrah!

We got the mildest wink from the US that global warming even exists. SUV anyone?

But all of the above is nothing new that we did not know before the G8. Their finance ministers met and announced the increased aid before the actual main event.

So that's it for another 20 years can put your white bands away until a 71 year old Bob Geldof zimmers his way onto our TV's in 2025 to rouse the masses once more.

But wait...just because Live 8 has happened does not mean it is over. Now that the blisters are gone and the hangovers have been slept off...there is much real work to be done. Now you can support its goals without feeling alone. You know that millions of people agree with you. That was the start of a movement not just a one-night-stand with 'Making Poverty History'.

Whilst the governments figure out ways to shift our economies to become less oil-dependent and consumerist it is upto us to change our ways. And the best thing we can do is to be as ethical consumers as possible. The way you spend your money is much more meaningful in the long term than the way you cast your vote every few years. We have two choices:

1) Keep driving down prices all over the world and tearing apart growing economies. Then when the cost of manufacturing something in the UK or US is 100 times more expensive than in China or India because they have less worker or environmental protection than us AND they have workers who work harder for less and you lose your job because foreign workers will work for less/your company relocates (delete as appropriate) at least you will have got that plasma TV for a great price. Then what?

2) Buy fair trade NOW - don't wait for Tony Blair to tell you to do it. Give your money directly to the people that need it. Reward them for their hard work. Demand more from all your suppliers in terms of care for the planet and all it's peoples. Don't force costs have more money than most people have ever had so don't get so greedy that you 'choke the fire and put it out'. Be a responsible consumer when you can. You will be amazed at the change that happens...and in fact if you just take a look around you will see that change is already happening.




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Friday, July 08, 2005


Many of you have written to ask if we are ok after yesterdays bombings...

Well, as far as I can tell and as far as I know, all of the collective in the UK are ok.

My pregnant wife and I normally take the train out of Kings Cross on the Piccadilly line between 8:45am and 9:05am so there is every chance we could have been caught up in that blast but for a strange serendipitous turn of events which kept us safe.

Sadly my granmother passed away last week and her funeral was we were both off work for the day. Thanks Gran! Providence or what eh?

But some were not so lucky and many have needlessly lost their lives, limbs and loved ones.

To those less lucky than my wife and I there is little I can say to ease your pain but know that you do not stand alone and you will not be forgotten. Namaste.

To those that perpertrated these acts: You have achieved nothing positive in the name of whatever twisted belief you act. In fact you have sowed the seeds of your own inevitable demise.

Amongst us, the peaceful, the lovers of life, you have only strengthened our resolve to fight your anger with love, your hatred with peace and your evil with good. We follow the paths of those before us like Mahatma Ghandi & Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. et al and they died AT PEACE with themselves and had no regrets I am sure.

They continue to inspire me and others and I will not allow you to shape the world into what you have become. I would rather be a dead peacenik than a living murderer. I pity your soul. Namaste even to you!

And Namaste to you all...

Got some good stuff coming up and am just pleased to still be here.

Speak soon


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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

FOUND: Recycling greeting cards

City Hippy is delighted to be adding a new feature to the site.

If you scroll down the page you will see the HELP section on the right hand side.

We have called it the HELP section and to be honest it is meant to do just that. We aim to HELP you all HELP each other find the products, services and solutions you seek to enable you to live a greener and fairer life.

Note that we currently have four entries in the HELP section:

FOUND: Recycling greeting cards
SEEKING: perfume
SEEKING: picture frames
SEEKING: Cheap bedding

SEEKING means someone is looking for a green and/or fair solution.

FOUND means we have at least one green and/or fair solution.

When an item changes from SEEKING to FOUND it becomes a link to the article outlining the solution(s). For example if you click the first entry about greeting cards you will arrive at this article. Please see below for the solutions about recycling greeting cards.

If you have other solutions to add for that FOUND item then simply goto that article and leave a comment outlining your solution thus adding your wisdom to the collective.

Hurrah! Multiple heads are always better than one!

Feel free to email us with additions to the HELP section. As usual you can email us at: Image hosted by

To kick things off this first article is also the first solution:

FOUND: Recycling greeting cards

We have a few answers for this topic gathered so far. You can:

1) recycle the cards normally
2) create a montage of cards and frame it
3) make gift boxes out of the cards
4) cut a detail out of the card and use it as a gift tag
5) use them as bookmarks OR postcards

You could be really radical and avoid paper cards at all by sending e-greetings over the net but if you must send paper cards at least send some that are made from alternatives to trees or send cards made from recycled materials.

This is not an exhaustive list of solutions...there are tons more out any good ones? Add your comments below!



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Saturday, July 02, 2005

ADVICE: Green my ride (part two)

An Oxfam Volunteer has got in touch to point out that you can also buy trees through the Oxfam Unwrapped scheme.

An interesting observation: you can use any of the carbon emission calculators mentioned in the first part of this article to find out how many trees you need to plant and can then plant your trees with anyone you like.

Back to the Oxfam Unwrapped scheme. For £16 you can plant 50 trees! And you can plant trees such as juniper, guava and papaya which help people's livelihoods in a very real way.

Fruit trees give people a crop which they can eat or sell.

Other types of tree help stop soil erosion, provide timber for building, provide firewood and give shade.

How does this gift help people in the poverty trap? Well, this is what Juan Manuel Serrano of Chalatenango, El Salvador thinks:

“We grow and sell ornamental plants as well as fruit trees and trees for wood.

We have grown 20,000 trees for reforesting the local area.

We can sell the trees and plants we grow in the nursery and that gives us employment and an income for the co-operative.”

Sounds almost perfect to us! Offset Carbon emissions PLUS help people trapped in poverty take care of themselves.

Go to Oxfam Unwrapped to find out more.

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