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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Friday, December 30, 2005

NEWS: 7 things

My good pal Siel at tagged me with this meme and so what the hell...figured it might be nice for y'all to know a bit about me.

7 things to do before I die:
Get healthy, camp with my wife and son, learn basic bushcraft skills a la Ray Mears with my family, go off-grid, grow my own food, explore the UK thoroughly & finally read everything on my reading list.

7 things I can’t do:
Speak another language, fly without wings, be a pessimist, play pro Soccer or American Football, tolerate evil, read everything on my reading list & finally sit still for more than 5 minutes.

7 things that attract me to blogging:
writing, evangelising, the web, freedom, working for myself, community & finally making a positive contribution to our world.

7 things I say most often:
..., namaste, bugger, grrr, sorry, thanks & finally, sure, why not.

7 books I love:
Sheesh...tough one, this is by no means final, ask me again tomorrow and it would be a different list but these are the most influential books on my life so far - that is the only way I could pick books I love - what a question: Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, Stark by Ben Elton, Childhoods End by Arthur C Clarke, The Development Dictionary : A Guide to Knowledge as Power by Wolfgang Sachs The Sea Around Us by Rachel L. Carson, The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield & finally A Rulebook for Arguments by Anthony Weston.

7 movies I watch again and again:
ARGH!!! The Matrix Trilogy, Contact, The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

7 people I want to join in, too:
Hmmm, not sure they will but here goes: Jeff @ Sustainablog, Deb @ Outonthelimb, Ian @ Spinneyhead, Marigolds @ Thebluevoice, Don @ EvanEco, George @ DirtyGreek & finally Jerome @ BlackBearSpeaks

So now you know...thanks Siel!



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Thursday, December 29, 2005

NEWS: Our reply to Starbucks

Just wanted to flag up the next installment of the Starbucks Challenge conversation.

Starbucks have accepted that they are not perfect and that their policies are not translating into reality as much as they could and should.

Starbucks claim that they are determined to engage and improve. We believe in that determination and are seeing some signs of positive movement within the company. We will continue to encourage people to perform challenges so measure the effect. Keep on challenging!

We believe that Starbucks needs clearer internal communication between management and baristas about the differences between Fairtrade and their own in-house Fairly Traded certification. Too much confusion on this issue.

We also believe that if people do not know they can get Fairtrade coffee in Starbucks then how will they know to ask for it? And ultimately how will Starbucks judge consumer demand accurately?

If Starbucks want to supply more Fairtrade coffee only when they see demand rise, as previously stated by them, then in order to accurately assess consumer demand for Fairtrade coffee they need to promote it at least as actively as regular blends in their stores.

What I still find odd is why would Starbucks NOT want to sing about their Fairtrade credentials? Beats me.

Starbucks are not perfect (is any company?) but I believe that condemnation does not a reformed soul make. For now ;)

Talking with them seems to be working and so we will continue to talk with them. Stick with it folks! And keep up the challenges!

Read our reply over at



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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

NEWS: More parents going organic with kids' food

Since last year, sales of organic baby food have jumped nearly 18 percent, double the overall growth of organic food sales, according to ACNielsen.

The concern about children is that they are more vulnerable to toxins. As children grow rapidly, their brains and organs are forming, and they eat more for their size than adults. New government-funded research adds to the concern.

A study of children whose diets were changed from regular to organic found their pesticide levels plunged almost immediately. The amount of pesticide detected in the children remained imperceptible until their diets were switched back.

Uncertainty over pesticides is leading parents, especially new or expecting mothers, to switch to organic food. Eating organic is definitely not cheap, but there are fruits and vegetables known to have lower pesticide residues. The Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based advocacy group, has produced a guide to the pesticide levels in fruits and vegetables. The guide says the lowest pesticide levels are found in asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapples and sweet peas. Highest levels are in apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach and strawberries.

You can download the Environmental Working Groups "Handy Wallet Guide to Pesticides in Produce" at

Click here to find books about Organic Gardening

This article was originally posted at: BlackBearSpeaks - Picture above is Isabelle - Hi Isabelle!!!

City Hippy's thoughts? Well we do the best we can when it comes to Organic food...not always easy and sometimes it does cost more but hardly much more...I figured it out at less than an extra £500 per year for a couple. Now we have a baby though we are much more organic than ever before and certainly baby will only be fed organic produce. Good job Black Bear!



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Sunday, December 25, 2005

SPECIAL: Christmas message

This is my Christmas message, have kept it very focused and short. Trust was much longer. Enjoy.

  • We must reconnect action with effect
  • We must reconnect rights with responsibilities
  • We must reconnect with our food
  • We must reconnect with our garbage/trash/rubbish
  • We must reconnect progress with people and planet
  • We must reconnect to our spiritual sides
We can do all of the above.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and a happy holiday season to everybody else.



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REVIEW: Christmas shots

And so to the second review of our Vintage Roots Christmas Hamper Case.

The bottle of Utkins UK5 Organic Vodka might look small but it sure does pack a punch. Apparently this vodka won a commendation at the Soil Association Organic Food Awards 2004 and took the Gold Medal at the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2004.

We squeezed out two christmas shots (vodka and freshly cooked cranberries) out of the bottle and our thoughts on the vodka are fairly limited but helpful nonetheless.

The vodka seemed quite mild but is equal in strength to normal vodka. The taste is, well, vodka, although was clearly the purest we had ever had. It went down nice and smooth and certainly did the job of jolting us out of our christmas slumbers. Was nice and cold as had been in the freezer then fridge. Mmmmmmm.

The producers of UK5 have this to say about their vodka: The purer a vodka, the better it is. That is why UK5 Organic Vodka uses only the worlds purest water and the world's finest organic grain which has a denser cell structure perfect for making premium vodka.

Conventional vodka is made from grain sprayed on average at least 7 times with chemicals; these chemicals which are found in our water supply and food chain, are feared to cause human cancers, interfere with our hormones and our human nervous system.

We could not agree more. Although booze is hardly saintly. Then again at least this is the cleanest booze you will ever drink.

Next up: the port and maybe the blonde beer. Hopefully. HURRAH! [Hic!]

And remember to stay tuned for our special City Hippy Christmas message later on.

Ho [Hic] Ho [Hic] Ho [Hic]!



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REVIEW: Tis the season to be jolly

Tis the season to be jolly and thanks to someone special (you know who you are) we should have no trouble being jolly this season as they very kindly bought us a Christmas Hamper Case from those lovely people at Vintage Roots.

The case features one of each of the following wonderful bottles:
  • DO Cava Brut 21
  • Casablanca Valley Novas Chardonnay
  • Colchagua Valley Novas Carmenère / Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Finest Reserve Port (Half Bottle)
  • Cool Blonde Lager
  • Duchy Originals Organic Ale
  • Liostagma Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Biona Organic Cranberry Fruit Drink
  • Utkins UK5 Organic Vodka (Mini Bottles)
  • PLUS a packet of Montezuma's Uno Drinking Chocolate

Needless to say we will review each bottle as we work our way through them all. Not neccessarily today of course. Tis the season to be jolly not absolutely bloody slaughtered fa la la la la, la la la la!

So the first bottle to be opened was the Duchy Originals Organic Ale. Duchy Originals is the organic label owned and managed by Prince Charles.

All five of us thought it was a great British ale. The colour of the ale was autumnal: lots of golden brown and orange, which makes it gorgeous to pour and look at. The taste was smooth, pure and premium with no bite. Overall the flavour made me mindful of earthiness and the harvesting of grains. You could taste the love. Not bitter. Not sweet. Just a lovely ale. Am not normally an ale drinker but would drink barrels of this stuff without hesitation.

This afternoon...two of us are doing christmas shots (vodka and freshly cooked cranberries) with the watch out for that review...if I can still type of course.

Ho Ho [Hic] Ho!



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Saturday, December 24, 2005

NEWS: Twas the night before Christmas

And all through the house...

...people were panicking with the realisation that they still had gifts to buy but did not want to buy any old unethical crap made of chemical-leaking plastic that had flown millions of miles adding lots of CO2 to our precious atmosphere before being thrown away after less than 12 seconds of someone's attention and spending the rest of it's decomposing days wasting space in landfill.

Aaaaand relax...

For those of you who need last minute green gift salvation help is at hand.

Here are my top last minute ideas for some instant great green gifts that you can give without needing to wrap a present.

Plus at the end I have put together a collection of green gift guides for those who need, sorry, like, to buy and give late and even as a reference for next year.

And as a post-script I give notice that City Hippy has a Christmas message for you all tomorrow.


It is nice and easy to give the gift of a magazine subscription. I love doing this. Part gift and part ideological warfare. Nice. Here are some I would be happy to give and receive:

National Geographic
The Ecologist
Spirit & Destiny
Organic Life
New Consumer
The Green Guide
Utne Reader
Green Parent
Ethical Consumer

2006 will be City Hippy's Year of the Green Gift as far as I am concerned. I will promise here and now to buy Oxfam Unwrapped gifts for ALL 2006 gifts, regardless of what and who they are for. This will cause serious waves I am sure. Just has to be done though.

Oxfam Unwrapped allows you to buy goats, train farmers and give kids school meals. Not much use in the middle of London or New York I grant you but this sort of assistance to the global poor ensure that they can stand just a little bit taller on their own two feet and that means that one more corner of our planet is just a little bit brighter and ever so slightly more self-sufficient.

For those of you with serious last minute physical gift needs here is our collection of green gift guides to help you choose. All these sites have done the hard work for you and each one has lots of ways for you to give green. The gifts will arrive late for sure but they will be green for sure.

Treehugger, North Carolina Conservation Network, Joel Makower, Buy Blue, National Resources Defence Council, Grist (my favourite), Co-op America, Planet Friendly.

Namaste & Ho Ho Ho


p.s. In the UK we have a traditional Christmas message from our dearly beloved Queen (ahem) and we also get a different celebrity offering up an alternative Christmas message. In the past this alternative christmas speech has been given by Rev Jesse Jackson, Brigitte Bardot, Marge Simpson, Ali G and even Sharon Osbourne.

This year it is apparently the turn of Jamie Oliver, the celebrity chef who has championed the quality of lunches we feed our kids in schools in the superb series 'School Dinners'. Should be fun and full of green, local, fresh food messages.

But City Hippy has a speech to give and by jove he will give it. Watch out for my very own alternative Christmas message tomorrow. Part-rant, part-wishlist, part-drunken-and-turkey-coma-induced but 100% grade A City Hippy.

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NEWS: Starbucks responds, again

So GreenLAGirl & I have been working hard to get answers from Starbucks and in the Starbucks Challenge 3.0 we posed a set of questions to Starbucks in a letter. Incidentally I have also posted UK specific questions to Starbucks UK and am waiting for a reply...will get back on that after Christmas.

Starbucks have now replied and you can read the unedited reply over at

Makes for an interesting read. We need to digest it fully and figure out how to proceed.


Namaste & Ho Ho Ho


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Thursday, December 22, 2005

NEWS: A menu for hope - UPDATE

Wow! My pal Pim over at Chez Pim has raised over $11,000 in her Menu for Hope II. They are asking for one last push to see if they can break $15,000 so if you do not have a $5 ticket yet then pop on over and sign on up. - The raffle closes at 12am PST on Dec. 24th and you gotta be in it to win it.

All the money raised will be going to support the victims of the devastating earthquake in the Kashmir region of India and Pakistan.

The prizes on offer in the raffle are staggering - there are so many and they are all awesome! You can see them all here.



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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

NEWS: 100km for under a dollar

Wow! Just heard (via UK Channel 5 News) about an amazing new (been around for a few months at least from what I can tell) electric car called the Eliica (website is Flash and in Japanese - anyone care to translate?)

Managed to find out some info at The Eliica:
  • has 8 wheels
  • looks like the Ghostbusters car he he he
  • does 370km/h for sure but apparently can go upto 400km/h
  • uses lithium batteries
  • accelerates with a velocity of 0.8G
  • is able to run 100 km on just 100 yen (approx 85 US cents or 50 UK pence) of electric fuel

No idea how much it costs...but Electric cars are so close now I can almost taste them! Very excited!



ps just discovered it costs US$315,000 (via Treehugger) - hmmm...think I'll wait to see if the price comes down in the Jan sales! ;)

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REVIEW: What's Really in Your Christmas Dinner

OK just a quick report about tonight's What's Really in Your Christmas Dinner tv show on Channel 4.

After watching this show I am really really glad that I dug deep and paid £70 for a top organic and free range turkey from Clevely Park Organics.

The show covered the whole meal but the main course was, well, the main course. If people knew about the crappy conditions and breeding practices behind the meat we eat I think, no I know, they would think twice.

It might not happen over night...but a seed has been sown in their minds and when they are munching their cheap turkey they will remember that show if they saw it.

For all the reasons originally mentioned in our report on Supermarket Secrets including the underdeveloped bone structure, exposure to faeces, disease and a terribly poor existence in general, Raymond Blanc, the world renowned Chef, shows exactly what is physically wrong with a cheap turkey. He clearly demonstrates that whilst we may save cash we pay in terms of lower food quality and a cheapened gastronomic experience. Just to add to all of that the facts of the suffering of the bird and the unsustainable farming methods although meat in general is totally unsustainable to be honest.

The show also interviewed a pig farmer who made the interesting point that the UK is only about 45% self-sustainable, in terms of meat I guess, and that we have to rely on imports from locations with either lower regulation and/or less effective policing of any regulations that may exist. Be afraid. Be very afraid!

Why should you be afraid? Well the UK has higher meat farming standards and/or better standards policing than most of our EU neighbours apparently. A survey called PORK WATCH (cannot find website link) has been set up by a group of British Pig Farmers Wives to monitor where allegedly British pork comes from. It may say British on the front but it often says EU on the back which to me is plain scandalous.

Knowing where your food comes from is becoming more and more important.



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Monday, December 19, 2005

TV ALERT: What's Really in Your Christmas Dinner

Tonight at 2100 on the UK's Channel 4 the people who brought us Supermarket Secrets (read our review) bring us a one-off special look at the Christmas gut-busting feed fest.

What's Really in Your Christmas Dinner is a Dispatches special where Supermarket Secrets journalist Jane Moore turns the spotlight on to Christmas dinner: what does it cost, is it good for us and more importantly how is it produced, reared, processed and treated before it reaches our mouths.

One to watch for sure and I will do so (if baby duties allow) and report back. If anyone else watches feel free to post a review.



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NEWS: Carnival of the Green #7

Carnival of the Green

Well here we are near the end of 2005 and we have our last Carnival of the Green for this year hosted by this week's guest carny, Dee's Dotes.

As usual it is well organised and full of great green goodness. Nice one Dee. OK, favourite post time. Hmmm...

Well the thing that most excites me this week is the Agroblogger contribution which calls for Open Source Appropriate Technology. Interesting...and I want to know much more about this. Sounds like it could be really be the start of a BIG idea! Click here for the article.

Have a Happy Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah.



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Saturday, December 17, 2005

NEWS: Starbucks Challenge 3.0 Awards!

After reading through 193 participating blogs, with 258 challenges taken in 14 countries (welcome, Japan!), 29 states and Washington DC, City Hippy and green LA girl have picked a winner for Starbucks Challenge 3.0.

faboo of faboo mama, whose threat that "If I lose, I'll be so depressed that I won't post any more pictures of my children and none of you will be able to see them until they graduate from college," really galvanized her readers into clicking over and signing on the letter to Starbucks! She also took it upon herself to visit 4+ stores AND to get some inside scoop from her friends who work at Starbucks. Thanks faboo!

Award: A 12 oz bag of Monkey & Son fair trade organic coffee.

What did YOU help accomplish through the Starbucks Challenge?
Starbucks has promised to respond to the questions in our letter about how the mermaid plans to fix its "break down in customer service." We should have answers before xmas.

We also met with Starbucks managers in the Los Angeles area, who said we can expect challengers to be able to get fair trade certified coffee at all LA-area stores within 3 months -- although challengers may have to push to get their cup. The managers also said that within 9 months, it should get easier for challengers -- By that point, challengers should be immediately offered a cup of French-pressed Cafe Estima when they ask for a fair trade coffee. The managers said they're optimistic that the same will happen across the US.

The challenge will take a lil break over the holidays, but will be back full force the first week of January! Stay tuned -- And if you find yourself at a Starbucks between now and then, always ask for fair trade coffee :)

Have a fair trade day :)

City Hippy and green LA girl

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

NEWS: Recycling gets easier

Before we started recycling we probably sent an average of 6 bags of rubbish/trash a week to landfill.

Some folks think recycling is a waste of time...we think it is a great way to reconnect with our planet's ever so finite resources. Why bother recycling? Read this article.

We send about one bag a week to landfill - actually it has gone up to two bags due to our baby but the nappies/diapers are biodegradable at least - more on green nappies/diapers and reusables in later posts.

We also just got a kitchen composter for food which reduces landfill waste even more and produces great compost for the garden - again we will be posting something on that eventually.

So overall pretty much the only thing we do not recycle is plastic packaging.

However, what about people that live in apartment blocks? They have no driveway ergo no kerbside pickup. They have to separate their recycling and take it to the nearest facility. I guess they are less likely to have cars and clearly walking with bags of recycling presents one hell of a barrier that would turn a lot of people off of recycling.

Well if you live in the London Borough of Islington it seems that recycling is getting easier even for apartment-dwelling folks. Whatever works to get more people thinking about the resources they use in their everyday lives is cool with me.

For those who live in apartments in Islington the local council now offer a simple scheme where you fill a blue plastic recycling bag with all the stuff you can recycle, leave it for collection and they then take it away AND sort it for you.

More info is available here.

I spoke to the Islington Council Communications team and apparently this service, known as co-mingling, is one of many measures employed by the council that have seen their recycling rates double in 2 years to 18%.

Islington seem to be very keen to engage on key resource issues such as recycling and the three R's: reduce, reuse & recycle are very close to their hearts.

The spokesman explained that recycling is only part of the story for them and that they are also looking at ways to combat other issues such as packaging waste and so on.

He continued that they were also really proud to spotlight Islington's new Household Waste & Recycling Center, the iRecycle Center on Caledonian Road.

This center, which has a full-time Education Manager, provides a learning space designed in association with the UK's Science Museum. It features various games and interactive opportunities to get students understanding the various materials involved in Recycling. Additionally visitors can watch recycled waste arriving in the Tipping Hall thus reconnecting with waste.

When we throw stuff away we tend to assume it stops being a problem - with initiatives like this that disconnect is being addressed.

Very commendable use of public funds if you ask me.



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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

NEWS: Talking Turkey

My efforts to be vegetarian have been ticking along nicely. Have not kicked the habit entirely and am still a meat eater but I am eating less meat than ever so that is a good thing. (For anyone that thinks vegetarianism is unnatural or even bad for you - read this.) I will kick the habit eventually. Hopefully.

On the subject of Cold Turkey I have decided to buy an Organic Free range Turkey for Christmas this year. Tis the season of goodwill so I figure that the least I can do if I am going to slaughter an animal for food is to give it as much respect as possible. Mrs Hippy baulked at the cost a bit...but toys flew out of my pram and she relented. I am sure when she reads this post she will agree with my thinking.

So off I went searching for the perfect bird to grace our table.

I ended up at the website of Clevely Park Organics, which has only been going since Jan 2005.

Richard, the chap who runs the company, essentially finds the good stuff (various meats, fish and other foods) and brings it all under one website for your convenience. Am sure there are others out there but do not have hours to spend on the virtual hunt.

David & Goliath
We all know it is hard for small suppliers and shops to compete with supermarkets for a convenient cheap bargain but I get the sense, and I suspect Richard does too, that when it comes to quality small suppliers win hands-down. And customers are realising it in their droves.

If you want your chicken etc to have burns (aka hock burns) on their knees from sitting in their own urine because they are given growth hormones that forces their bodies to grow disproportionately to their legs which then buckle under their increasing weight then by all means get your poultry at a supermarket.

The sad truth is that most consumers don't care much about the quality of their food and prefer to save money than fuel themselves with quality. The grim truth is hidden from them to maintain this status quo.

We worry more about the quality of fuel we put in our cars than we put in our bodies.

Perhaps a less healthy diet is connected to the rise in obesity and poor health in Western Society? Hmmmm...

We prefer convenience and a bargain - indeed that is how we judge value. But surely value is about the quality of the product and it's effects both in the short and long-term. Even cheapness has a lower limit right?


I do not want a bird that suffered whilst alive.
I do not want a bird pumped full of chemicals.
I do not want a bird that has been frozen for months.

If you feel the same then I strongly recommend reconsidering where you get your Christmas bird from.

Richard also gave me a great tip: Order early (an extra week or so, so now I guess) and do not be afraid to freeze the turkey. Some even think it does the flavour good. Pros and cons are minimal to be honest it seems. Plus it means less nightmare for all concerned in the last few days before Christmas and you have less chance of your turkey getting lost in transit.

Sure this turkey (all 6kg of it) will set me back a whopping £70 instead of about £25 but I know what I am getting: 2 meals for 6 people of a freshly slain & cleaned, non-frozen, organic free range turkey from Wales. Incidentally I have asked Richard how I can be sure it comes from Wales and that it is indeed organic and free range. Am waiting for a reply.

My turkey will have lived the life of a free turkey and not the life of a prisoner in some Turkey Camp X-ray. Sure my turkey will have died so I & others may eat...the guilt is terrrible but I have a meat addiction that is harder to overcome than the guilt (although overcome I eventually will).

Tune in on Boxing Day for a review of my hopefully extra delicious organic and free range turkey.

Gobble Gobble!



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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

NEWS: A menu for hope

I really like the Chez Pim blog. It is a food blog, not a green blog, but occasionally it crosses into green territory. Overall has awesome content, great food pictures (mmmmmm) and a sumptuous design. Recommed you check it out.

Occasionally something appears on Chez Pim that crosses my little green radar and I just think: I have to spotlight that.

Remember the Hungry Planet book post we did - heard about it from Chez Pim.

And now there is another post I feel compelled to support.

Chez Pim started something a year ago called the Menu for Hope where she and other food bloggers raise money at Christmas time for a good cause and in return every donation above $5 gets a ticket in the raffle.

And boy, what a raffle! The raffle has loads of great food prizes, seriously, never seen anything like it. You gotta see it to believe it. There must be 40 prizes there. City Hippy is hoping to donate a box of Clipper Organic tea bags, a Packet of Clipper Organic Fairtrade Ground Coffee and a jar of Clipper Organic Hot Chocolate. What fun!

This year the money raised will be going to support the victims of the devastating earthquake in the Kashmir region of India and Pakistan.

This is so worth your time so please do go and check it out @ A Menu For Hope

PLUS: Chez Pim has been shortlisted for World's Best Urban Food Blog in The Urbs aka The 2005 Urban Blogging Awards - She got my vote. Wanna vote for her? Click here.

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NEWS: Why Nuclear is nuts

Tonight on the UK news, I forget which channel, maybe it was BBC's Newsnight, they mentioned a startling fact:

The Depot fire in Hertfordshire, if it burns all the fuel there, will spew 100,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. That is the equivalent of 1/4 of the UK's entire emissions for a whole day.

(Taken by Envisat)

Look at that picture. That is a lot of smoke...looks about 200 miles by 100 miles, although hard to tell. Thank god it has not landed yet...although it is now sinking to ground level. Over much of the south. Uh oh!

So, tangentially, what this all tells me is that the UK emissions would look 4 times as large. A cloud like that but 800 miles by 200 miles???!!!Almost the size of the UK itself??? Every day???!!! Sheesh!

The threat to the breathable atmosphere and groundwater is unknowable at this point.

And that is just a fuel fire.

Now imagine a plane has been crashed into a Nuclear power plant.

No explosion to speak of but imagine all that airline fuel forcing radioactive material up and out into the atmosphere. A dirty bomb.

Nuclear! No thanks! Would rather have energy rationing at say 30% less than I use right now than face the potential of a Nuclear disaster.

Oh sure, fans of Nuclear will say that the chances of the above happening are slim.

But that means there is a chance. And that sounds like suicide to me.



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Image taken without permission, sorry, from BBC and courtesy of Dundee University. Thanks Dundee!

Monday, December 12, 2005

NEWS: Carnival of the Green #6

Carnival of the Green
Carnival hosts are really developing their own styles, I so love the way this works and the way people organise and host differently. This week it is the turn of Green Jenni to host the Carnival of the Green and I think this is so well structured, it is so easy to read and full of green goodness.

OK, OK, gotta pick my fav tough...ARGH! Can't choose from two so here they both are:

Lee at Exuberant Pantaphobia raises the prospect of planes fuelled by hydrogen which is so important as planes spit out soooo much evil for the planet - that is one nut we need to crack fast.

My good pal at Dirty Greek nobly asks: "to recycle or not to recycle?". That is the go check out his answer. There are cynics and DG takes them all on beautifully.




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Friday, December 09, 2005

NEWS: Starbucks success but...

Got my fairtrade coffee at this store (#95679, 6-7 Market Place, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England SG5 1DR). Was one of two brewing...the other was Christmas blend I think.

As a result of starting the Starbucks Challenge with I have been in touch with Scott Keiller, Head of CSR and Communication UK, prior to this Hitchin challenge I might add. One of the questions I recently asked was:
With FairTrade quite widely known in the UK is Starbucks planning on promoting it more proactively in its UK stores i.e. Explaining what FairTrade is, why you sell it (quite the trumpet to blow I think) and how to order it etc?
Scott replied that:
We communicate our Fairtrade proposition to customers all year round through its availability in-store.
Well, before buying my coffee at the Hitchin store, I figured I could put Scott's answer to the test and so I asked the Barista if she could tell me about the blends, so I could decide which one to have.

She said the Christmas was a spicy blend and that the Fairtrade was 'something to do with Fairly Traded African coffee'.

Wrong on two counts:

1) Her reply didn't explain the concept of Fairtrade (which guarantees farmers a fair pay for the coffee they grow, among other benefits).

2) She made the cardinal sin of confusing Fairtrade with "fairly traded" - Starbucks own in-house alternative ethical standard. Sadly I, and I am sure other challengers, have had similar confusing answers from Barista's in the past.

Despite Scott's confidence I don't think the Barista's reply to my question says much for Starbucks' communication about Fairtrade to their own staff, let alone to customers. Clearly Starbucks need to address these issues.

Some Baristas clearly do not know what Fairtrade is - a shortcoming of Starbucks' training, not the Baristas' of course. Others get Fairtrade and "fairly traded" confused.

If Baristas do not know what Fairtrade is, and what the difference between Fairtrade and "fairly traded" is, how can they be expected to communicate properly to customers?

Starbucks, why not sing about the fact you sell Fairtrade coffee? Why not have the official Fairtrade logo stickered on your windows saying: Fairtrade coffee available inside.

The craziest thing is that there are leaflets (in the leaflet racks) explaining what Fairtrade is, sometimes located near the counter, other times near the milk and sugar area. Why not have them at the ordering station for customers so if a Barista is unsure about how to answer a Fairtrade question they can hand the customer a leaflet? A great information tool but hardly a marketing device.

Starbucks in Singapore have moved to train all their Baristas due to the Starbucks Challenge to know and respond to customer questions about what Fairtrade means. They succeeded as the Starbucks Challenge takers who went into the store's, post-training program, found out. It can be done.

Starbucks could, at least, ensure that as part of Barista training all Barista's are given the leaflet explaining Fairtrade so they know about the product they sell. It is very short and easy to read. Took me 90 seconds. Not rocket science. Great leaflet.

Starbucks could, at best, proudly inform their staff why they sell Fairtrade, what it is and how it differs from Starbucks own "fairly traded" coffee.

Why "fairly traded"?
In Siel's discussions with Starbucks they invariably claim that if people ask for Fairtrade they will supply it. But if customers don't know Fairtrade coffee is there, and get a response similar to the one I got above when they ask what Fairtrade is, then that is hardly going to promote Fairtrade, is it?

As Siel, says:
I get the feeling that often, Starbucks really doesn’t want us to ask.
I am starting to think she might be onto something here. But why would that be? Why would Starbucks not really want to push Fairtrade? I suspect that there might be a conflict of interest.

Starbucks say they pay above the odds for their non Fairtrade certified coffee, all of which is "fairly traded." But "fairly traded" cannot be relied upon in the same way as Fairtrade as it is a program controlled by Starbucks. Siel at has written extensively on this topic here and here.

Does Starbucks care about Fairtrade or would it suit them to just not really push Fairtrade whilst claiming credibility for selling it and instead talk up their own in-house "fairly traded" credentials?

I wrote back to Scott with follow-up questions and have explained about the Hitchin challenge above and await his response. Will keep you posted on that and the other questions I have asked him.

Sign our letter to Starbucks, take the challenge and win a prize.

But most importantly spread the word.



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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

NEWS: DeSmogBlog

I just received an email about a new blog called I checked it out and have not only added it to our links and to our list of green blogs (see the right hand side - keep scrolling until you find it) but I also felt compelled to post what they have to say in their press release. This guy is really putting his money where his mouth is - he may lose clients. I just love their opening line...really sums up the absurdity of it all. As John Lennon said: Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.


Kill a whale for conservation. Smoke a cigarette for respiratory health. Drive a Hummer into the pristine wilderness.

These messages are stupid and thinks it’s high time somebody said so. DeSmogBlog is the brainchild of James Hoggan, one of Canada’s leading corporate public relations consultants, who says he’s mad as hell at the hucksters who are attacking the global consensus on
climate change.

“There have been lots of times in the past 20 years when talented PR people have shilled for shady clients, but no case has been more outrageous than the complex, expensive and frighteningly high-quality effort to confuse the public about climate change,” Hoggan says. “I think it’s time somebody outed the PR industry. It’s time someone spelled out exactly what’s being done and by whom. This issue is much too important to leave to scoundrels.”

If you care about the planet; if you care about ethical public discourse; or if you just like a good bun fight:

Sounds good eh? Check them out...I know I will be watching them with interest.



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Monday, December 05, 2005

NEWS: Carnival of the Green #5

Carnival of the Green
This week it is the turn of The Greenerside to host the Carnival of the Green and a damn fine job they have done too. With updates to come throughout the day.

Here we are 5 Carnival's in and all is looking mighty fine. Do tell any other green bloggers you know. We are booked up through May 06 more or less but the more the merrier eh?

As usual I find it hard to pick a fav...but this week my personal choice is my good pal Nick from TriplePundit's intelligent dissection of the rabid anti-green rant from Francois. Recommend you read both posts. Know thy enemy, the enemy in this case is ignorance and Nick provides the antidotes. Nice one Nick!



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Sunday, December 04, 2005

NEWS: Ecologist Essay Contest

My favourite green magazine, the Ecologist, is running an interesting essay contest with a prize of £2,500 and publication in the magazine for the lucky winner.

Billed as the Ecologist Annual Essay Competition, In association with the Coady International Institute the goal is to generate intelligent debate about our world and the issues we face. I suspect it will do that and more especially as they have selected a provocative question for the contest:

What is humanity’s worst invention?

Hmmm, can think of a few myself. But this question is not just progress-bashing. 2,000 words requires more than that in my mind and seeing how most inventions can be both good AND bad the essay will have to delve deeper into the issues that one might first suspect. Interesting.

The deadline for entries is 15 March 2006 so get your thinking caps on folks...and spread the word...this contest has the potential to generate a lot of fascinating debate across various media across the world.

NOTE: The Coady International Institute was established by St Francis Xavier University (where I did my undergrad funnily enough) in 1959, the Coady International Institute is world-renowned as a centre of excellence in community-based development.



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REVIEW: Hungry Planet

Just wanna flag up a review I just read of a new book called Hungry Planet.

I so want this book and have added it to my Amazon wishlist. If anyone has it and wants to a review for City Hippy then get in touch: cityhippy [at] gmail [dot] com.

Seeing how other people live and survive is the best way to understand how interconnected we all are.



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Saturday, December 03, 2005

NEWS: Starbucks Challenge 3.0 Demand an answer!

So Starbucks admitted it hasn't lived up to its own highly trumpeted fair-trade-friendly policy to French press a cup of fair trade coffee for anyone who asks for it. It's a "break down in customer service," Starbucks said, and sent out some emails to its stores.

But two months into the challenge, things STILL haven't improved much. And the mermaid STILL hasn't answered our questions -- How does Starbucks plan to fix the problem? When?

Regardless of politics, most of us agree on one thing: If a company makes a promise, it should stick to it.

Demand an answer from Starbucks! Sign our letter here!

Win a prize!
On Dec. 16, on the day of our LA-based meeting with Starbucks, City Hippy and green LA girl will award a prize to 2 people who galvanized the most people into signing the letter.

The prizes? Some Monkey & Son Krakatoa fair trade organic coffee, and fair trade yummies from

And keep taking the challenge:

1) Simply visit your local Starbucks and ask: "Could I get a cup of fair trade coffee?"

2) Tell us what happens next. Was it hard or easy to get a cup?

BLOGGERS: simply blog about what happened and tag it with "starbuckschallenge" (all one word) on (put the Starbucks location in the "extended" description). We'll pull all articles into a feed and run that on our site - you can run the feed too, of course, if you'd like. ALSO help us get feedback by telling people about this challenge on your blogs.

NON-BLOGGERS: tell us what happened by emailing City Hippy or green LA girl, and we'll do the rest.
Challenge results
We'll be in frequent contact with Starbucks, but on Dec. 16, City Hippy and green LA girl will go to Starbucks with the letter and demand some concrete details as to what the company plans to do, if anything.

Keep taking challenges, and please feel free to let us know what YOU think our next step should be as activists, and what you think Starbucks' next step should be as a company that says it wants to be a leader in corporate social responsibility.

Have a fair trade day.

City Hippy and green LA girl

Useful posts:
The Launch, 2.0, 3.0, Activism 2.0 (analysis of new wave of consumer activism), FAQ, challenges ( and finally the ever developing Google Map.


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Friday, December 02, 2005

NEWS: By Nature Discount

Now for those of you already signed up to the City Hippy Email Alert newsletter (see top right) you would have already had a month to take full advantage of this great 20% discount at By Nature (

For those of you not yet signed up...well read on but let me just tell you that you missed another great 15% discount offer for superb organic cosmetics in last night's newsletter. All you have to do is sign up...not asking you to gnaw your own arm off. Sometimes the discounts will be newsletter only and sometimes they will also run on the site. Only one way to be sure you hear about them get exclusive City Hippy content and previews. Anyhoo...

In the spirit of Christmas we want to let the rest of you benefit in the final run-up to the holidays. Trust me, it is so worth having a good mooch round the By Nature ( site...they really do have some great stuff. They are UK based but do deliver to the rest of the world.

By Nature ( offers clothing, homeware, skincare, bedding and fine foods along with a very useful lifestyle section with ethical shopping info, an eco-calendar, ecotips and a forum as well.

This special discount only lasts until December 26th. It's free to look! Go on...have a wander! By Nature (

Simply enter: 'w457x' just before checking out in the "Redeem Coupon" box.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

NEWS: Starbucks Challenge 2.0 Awards

After reading through 176 participating blogs, with 230 challenges taken in 13 countries, 29 states (welcome Tennessee!), and Washington DC, City Hippy and green LA girl have picked winners for the second month of the Starbucks Challenge.

LA County Winner: Roger, gone green.
Roger, a stay-at-home -- or should I say stay-at-Starbucks -- dad, took a bunch of challenges, and even started an entire blog dedicated to Starbucks Challenges!

Award: A 12 oz bag of Monkey & Son Velvet Hammer fair trade organic coffee.

US Winner: Kristin in Boise, Idaho.
Although she's not a blogger, Kristin took a few challenges herself -- and even roped her hubby into taking a few during his business trips! Kristin's also a fair trade chocolate advocate, and pointed green LA girl to this interesting chocolate site.

Award: A 12 oz bag of Monkey & Son Velvet Hammer fair trade organic coffee.

International Winner: Declan of Dec's Rambling.
Dec took a bunch of challenges, including two at brand spankin' new Starbucks that just opened up in Dublin. He also wrote about the challenge quite regularly, sometimes despite himself: "Another Starbucks posting, I should just rename this blog Dec's Starbucks Rambling."

Award: Fair trade yummies from

What did YOU help accomplish through the Starbucks Challenge? The bad news: Starbucks sent out another email to its stores, which, again, was rather ineffective. The Challenge success percentage has actually GONE DOWN since the first month.

Now, the good news: The mermaid also set up a meeting for Dec. 16 in the LA area, which'll bring bloggers together with Starbucks baristas, managers, and CSR reps. Starbucks also said it'll include a lil video tutorial about the French-press-on-demand policy for its "store partners," beginning May 2006.

Clearly, Starbucks has overpromised and underdelivered on its fair trade claims -- and admitted it. Where do we go from here? Stay tuned: A new annoucement to come in the next couple days!

Have a fair trade day :)

City Hippy and green LA girl

PS Can I just add how grateful I am for all the hard work that green LA girl has done especially recently with the birth on mini-hippy soaking up most of my time. She is a star...take a bow Siel! [Wild Applause]

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