Seafood: Fraud, Mis-labeling and Laundering.

Do you know what seafood you are eating?
http://www.ecowatch.org

Many of us eat seafood, because we like the taste, for religious or cultural reasons, and or for health related reasons; high in omega fatty acids, healthier than red meat etc. I particularly enjoy good seafood paella, a platter of sashimi or a plate of fish and chips. However, in order to ensure that the seafood that I eat is sustainable and healthy, I always try to ensure that the fish I eat is local and caught or farmed in a sustainable and ethical manner. In this way I also try to minimize the chance that the fish I eat is not full of pollutants and heavy metals.

I am often “that” person who while at a meal or while out shopping quizzes the wait staff or manager about the origin of the fish on offer. Sometimes the discussion is informative and helpful but very often I get blank looks and end up having to explain the importance of eating local, ethical and sustainable, to someone who is generally looking at me like I am a crazy person and thinking to themselves that I should just “get on with it and make a decision!”

Fortunately, in the last few years the various stakeholders within the biodiversity and seafood sector have tried to educate the public about sustainable seafood consumption and how to choose seafood that is healthy without becoming a contributor to fishery collapse and loss of biodiversity.

These education measures have taken the form of outreach programs, licensing and quota systems, DNA testing, cell phone apps, pocket guides, websites aimed at preventing  the consumption of seafood that is unsafe for consumption or the consumption of species that are  on their way to becoming extinct or endangered. This has made my dining and seafood shopping experience a bit easier and calmer.

However, I recently came across an article that mentioned seafood fraud and seafood laundering, that sent me into a bit of a panic. I had never actually though of seafood fraud and seafood laundering ever having anything to do with each other let alone having anything to do with me.

“Regardless of the reason, seafood fraud is illegal and can have serious consequences for fish, fishermen, fishmongers, and fish-eaters.” (www.fishwatch.gov).

http://www.forbes.com/sites/oshadavidson/2011/05/26/dna-tests-show-fraud-in-seafood-labeling-is-widespread/

Popular fish and their frauds (from “Bait and Switch,” Oceana). Correct answers are : 1. Fish on the left is Nile perch. 2. Right is mako shark. 3. Right is rockfish. 4. Left is farmed Atlantic salmon.

Seafood laundering occurs when seafood and seafood products are laundered through a third-party to avoid duties and licenses and increase catches and profits. Such laundered seafood enters the market illegally and results in mislabeled seafood, seafood fraud, and ecosystem collapse and resource depletion. Seafood fraud also occurs when farmed, important or endangered seafood is labeled as sustainably sourced and or wild seafood. Seafood fraud can happen at each step of the supply chain – the restaurant, the distributor, or the processing and packaging phase. Seafood fraud occurs “for a variety of reasons, from simple misunderstandings or lack of information to blatantly deceiving consumers in order to increase profits, or even worse, laundering illegally harvested seafood (http://oceana.org).

Seafood fraud not only causes the collapse of fisheries which would in turn affect our dietary choices and make dining out or grocery shopping  that much more stressful, but, seafood fraud also has significant impacts such as;

  • Impacts on natural systems: The loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services due to the fact that consumers may be misled about the nature and status of fish stocks and the condition of the marine environment due to mis-labeling, which maintains the appearance of a steady supply of popular fish species despite severe overfishing. This result in the general public is being unaware that the species that they are consuming is being rapidly depleted or threatened.

The oceans provide food, medicine, energy and serve as a recreational resource, but they are not as once commonly believed, an inexhaustible resource. (http://oceana.org)

  • Undermining of conservation efforts as a result of mis-labeling. Mis-labeling of seafood makes it difficult for consumers to make eco-friendly choices despite the will to do so.
  • Negative health impacts: Consumers may end up consuming seafood that contains high levels of contaminants and toxins such as mercury. This could be hazardous to the health and wellbeing of women trying to conceive, pregnant woman, nursing mothers and young children.
  • Negative impacts the livelihoods of communities that depend on the seafood harvesting and processing industry.
  • The creation of a market for illegal fishing by making it easy to launder illegally      caught seafood products through legitimate markets. This results in the      undermining of conservation efforts to prevent overfishing and accidental      capture of at-risk species and hurts honest fishermen. (www.oceana.org)

Despite the fact that you may be trying to consume only sustainably caught and healthy seafood (two points for trying) that is not full of toxins and or about to go extinct there is quite a high possibility that you have consumed illegal and fraudulent seafood.

I thought I would be able to provide a tip on how to ensure that your seafood is legal, non-toxic and sustainable. However, I find myself stumped …..  Clearly, the seafood labeling and conservation initiatives are not fool-proof. I guess once again the message is the same; don’t blindly accept the packaging, advertising, greenwash and the hype and try to ensure that your individual consumption of seafood is in fact what it is labeled as being.

References and additional reading for the super keen;

Fishwatch

Seafood advice

Complete List of Seafood Eco-Ratings

State of World Fisheries

Fishwatch facts

Oceana

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Fur, Fashion and Ecocred

www.cbc.ca

A significant increase in fur use within the fashion industry over the last two or so years indicates a departure from the anti-fur and animal rights sentiment and campaigns that characterized much of the green and ethical consumption discussions between the 60’s and 90s. I find this quite interesting given the increasing attention of the world on sustainability and green issues that has been brought about by a greater awareness of environmental degradation, equity, resource scarcity and climate change.

Fur use has a long history spanning from ancient use of fur to current fur use. A (very) brief history would be something like;

  • Necessity where our ancestors killed an animal for necessity i.e. for sustenance (meat) and used the rest of the animal in a sustainable manner such as using the inedible parts of the animal for clothing, tools etc
  • Status symbol: the association of fur and royalty (specifically ermine, mink)
  • This in turn resulted in fur being farmed (1800’s) and becoming a costly luxury item.
  • The development of cheaper options such as dyed and fake fur
  • Anti-fur campaignscommencing in -+ 1960’s (onwards), that resulted in reduced fur use. e.g.
    • PETA was established in 1976 and Lynx in 1980
    • Naomi Campbell and other super models in PETA campaigns
    • Lynx “it takes up 40 dumb animals to make this and only one to wear it” campaign

Fur sales have seen an increase of approximately 70% between 2000- 2010, and fur seems to be de riguer in most winter fashion collections and those in the fashion forward and trend setting scene. In many of instances the fur used is real and not fake, and there seems to be a growing acceptance of fur as a sustainable and natural choice. Considering the speed at which trends spread, especially in the fashion industry, this trend does not bode very well if you happen to be a creature with a beautiful and silky pelt.

In light of the above, given rise in sustainability, environment, green wash,ethical consumption and the fact that fur is a natural “resource” that is being positioned as a benign natural product by the fur industry, I thought it wise to look into the ecocred of fur. Is fur sustainable,green, ethical, equitable and good for us?

These are the issues that I think one should consider;

  • History shows that the fur trade has negative impacts on biodiversity and has resulted in species decline and biodiversity loss. As we know we need to maintain our biodiversity to ensure the provision of ecological services etc
  • Fur and leather are natural, recyclable and reusable.
  • The impact of fur farming includes pollution, waste, habitat loss, loss of biodiversity unethical treatment of animals and is hardly sustainable and or ethical, just like large-scale cattle or sheep farming.

“Compared with textiles, farmed fur has a higher impact on 17 of the 18 environmental themes, including climate change, eutrophication and toxic emissions. In many cases fur scores markedly worse than textiles, with impacts a factor 2 to 28 higher, even when lower-bound values are taken for various links in the production chain. The exception is water depletion: on this impact cotton scores highest.” (Bijleveld et al, 2011)

  • According to the International Fur Trade Federation (IfTF) “Both scientists and governments agree that after more than 100 generations, farmed fur animals are effectively domesticated. In a statement to the Dutch Government in 1999, the Danish Justice Ministry noted that “The farmed mink’s temperament, for instance, has changed from being a nervous, agitated animal fleeing to its nesting cage upon approach of human beings, to now often reacting curious and examining.” Not really sure I like where this train of thought is going…!?
  • A lot of us eat meat, (though hopefully you try to eat free range, local and organic etc to try to reduce the ecological footprint of your meat consumption and be more sustainable), so technically you are involved with the killing of animals as well as habitat loss and loss of biodiversity already. Does this make wearing fur more acceptable, sustainable or ethical?

“ The climate change impact of 1 kg of mink fur is five times higher than that of wool which was the highest-scoring textile” in a study on the textile industry and climate change impacts. (Bijleveld et al, 2011)

  • Even if you are vegetarian or vegan you are to some degree involved in habitat loss, loss of biodiversity, killing of living things etc unless you are able to grow your own food and verify that there has been no negative ethical or environmental impact arising from your source of food.
  • International Fur Trade Federation (IfTF) also states that “the majority of wild species used by the fur trade are not taken specifically for their fur, but as part of wildlife management programmes. These are necessary for the maintenance of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, population and disease control and the protection of public lands and private property. The international fur trade does not handle any endangered species and to this end supports the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
  • There is also a great deal of evidence of inhumane treatment of animals as part of the fur manufacturing process.

I haven’t covered all the impacts or aspects of fur and I could go on and on and on about the ethics and environmental impacts, some positive, most negative.

My aim is to highlight the fact that it is up to each of us to ensure that we recognize the real impacts of our fashion choices. Personally it’s about necessity, demand and not falling for the green wash that fur is green and sustainable within our current context.

I would rather not add to the demand for something that is not a necessity and also has a significant environmental impact, despite the fact that I love fashion and would love to wear something awesome, soft, warm and beautiful. If I have to keep warm I would prefer to do so with something that has the lowest impact and not something that adds unnecessarily to environmental degradation even if it’s is the height of fashion. If you have to up/ recycle an old, over 20 or 30 years) fur item but don’t add to the needless demand for fur.

Reference and additional readings for the super keen:

History of Fur: http://www.furgifts.com/?p=90

http://www.historytoday.com/carol-dyhouse/skin-deep-fall-fur

IfTF: The Socio-Economic Impact of International Fur Farming www.iftf.com

Marijn Bijleveld, Marisa Korteland, Maartje Sevenster The environmental impact of mink fur production. Delft, CE Delft, January 2011

http://www.oikeuttaelaimille.net/materiaali/esitteet/information%20about%20fur%20farming.pdf

My Latest Green Fail….

…. another post about green that isn’t really green and how we all need to change our thinking and consumption patterns…and yes I am not perfect …..

My previous post on rare earth minerals got me thinking about the fact that transitioning towards a greener and more sustainable economy by focusing on technology, resource and innovation may not necessarily be the best option, especially when:

  • The new and innovative technologies end up increasing our dependence on resources, albeit, new or different ones.
  • The new and innovative technologies result in dependence or impact that is merely dressed up in different possibly green-washed and even organic new swag.
  • The new and innovative technologies result in an increase in unnecessary consumption often due to green wash and unsustainable trends.

Keep in mind that not all new and greener technologies are unsustainable. What is important is the manner in which we make the change to newer technologies, and the quantity and quality of the new technologies that we buy. Merely buying the newest and greenest technology will not make you greener and in fact may make you guilty of unsustainable and unethical consumption patterns.

It is very important that when we make our “green” choices we consider the entire impact and not merely the superficial impact that we would like to see?  Unfortunately, and much to my dismay I am guilty of this in many respects. So I thought as my good deed for the day…..I would share some of my green fails with the hope that I could prevent someone else from going down the same route.

My most recent “goody two-shoes green delusion fails” are;

  • Falling for a new high-tech gadget and upgrading my iPad to the latest version, that isn’t really that different from my previous one? From a functionality perspective I use the new one for exactly the same purpose as the previous one.  The question is did I really need the new one? and was the overall cost of the upgrade really worth it?

Green Pros:

  1. Less paper use and waste by reading eBooks, magazines and online news,
  2. Note taking, report editing and emails on the tablet = less printing of emails and reports and having an easily transportable and accessible library of documents that I need during the day.

Green Cons:

  1. Unnecessary use of resources and rare earth metals used to produce, package and transport my new tablet: think ecological footprint etc
  2. The iPad 3 has a higher carbon footprint that the iPad 2. (http://ecolibris.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-green-is-new-ipad-part-6-comparing.html#)
  3. Waste: landfill / recycling and disposal costs associated with the previous tablet. (though, I did try to offset this cost by up-cycling  the old tablet)

  • Green Retail Therapy: I recently bought a whole new batch of solar fairy lights and garden lights. The new solar fairy and garden lights were marketed as being greener than the previous generation of solar lights etc.  … so despite that fact that I already have a few pretty solar fairy lights twinkling away in my little garden and the fact that I don’t need more lights in my garden, I bought some more.

Green Pros:

  1. At least I didn’t buy conventional fairy lights that would increase my use of electricity generated from coal.

Green Cons:

  1. Unnecessary use and waste of resources that were used to produce, package and transport my new ”green” lighting.

Ultimately, these two examples are a large-scale green fail on my part that has sent my ecocred plummeting, despite the fact that I didn’t send the old iPad or fairy lights to a landfill.

I didn’t really need a new tablet to do exactly the same things that my previous tablet did. Neither did I need additional fairy lights., …even if they were solar-powered and therefore greener than conventional lights.

I was just a greedy little wannabe wanting to have the newest and shiniest gadgets. Gadgets, that are being marketed as green, that maybe a bit faster, prettier etc , yet barely have enough new features to outweigh the environmental and social costs of the new gadget or technology.

Not everything that is green is sustainable!

Additional reading to up your ecocred!

Five things you should know before buying apples iPad.

How green is the new iPad?

Another How To Green Your Valentines Day Post!

You either: love Valentine ’s Day, hate it or are completely ambivalent about it! Which ever it is you clearly think something about it if you ended up here reading this post! *smirk*

I have already seen articles and blog posts about “how to green” your Valentines Day blah blah… so being the dutiful or not so dutiful green-band-wagon-blogger that I am, I contemplated doing a similar article. The thing is that I don’t actually believe in Valentines Day, well at least not in the manner in which we tend to celebrate it anyway….. No, I am not an alien or some weird species of mad tree hugging anti joy and happiness type of person! I actually love the thought of champers, prezzies, and chocolates and being spoilt etc… I just think that picking one day in a year to do so an absolute waste of time, effort, emotion, money and natural resources. I think everyday should be Valentines Day and we should always show our loved ones and Valentines that we love and appreciate them (without being a stalker though… )
Here are a few reasons that Valentines Day needs a bit of a rethink, other than the inherent cheesiness. You should think about:

  • Trees grown in unsustainable monoculture plantations cut down to make cheesy cards. Imagine the waste of resources….
  • Flowers are grown in monoculture plantations, where farmers in all likelihood using GM seeds, too much water in water poor areas of the world and are shipped around the world in refrigerated planes and trucks emitting GHG emissions etc… (see the article on greening tips and flowers)
  • Flowers wrapped in plastic that will be grossly overpriced for the day… what’s the point?
  • Cheesy yucky tasting chocolates and sweets that will be molded into heart and cupid etc shapes that will be sold all over the place and will most probably be thrown away by recipients who don’t like said yucky chocolate which will in any event be on sale two days after Valentines Day …. Rather save the worlds chocolate resources and buy good quality sustainably produced chocolate that actually tastes nice and is good for the planet.
  • Think of all the waste when the valentine hued cards, wrapping and uneaten chocolates, flowers etc that will have to disposed of…
  • Underwear that is supposed to be made from sustainably grown/sourced cotton that is not really that good for the environment or the communities that it was meant to benefit. (see the article on Victoria’s Secret for more info)
  • The stress caused by all the build up to Valentines Day and the possibility of being rejected by the person you choose to be your valentine…. this can be particularly unsustainable to humans….
  • The list just goes on and on ….

So instead my message is celebrate Valentines Day… just don’t be a cheesy eco-douche and fall for all the green wash! You don’t have to spend mad cash on overpriced “pretend” sustainable flowers, organic champers or not so sustainable Victoria’s Secret underwear or whatever it is that you do on Valentines Day. Rather make a Valentines gesture that is sustainable and has a more sustainable impact on the environment:

Some options for those of you trying to be a bit nicer to the planet this Valentines Day are:

  • Do nothing (and risk being ostracized, broken up with etc. This is a good option for those wanting to end a relationship on Valentines Day!) (-1000 points)
  • Make a homemade Valentines Day card … preferably using organic, sustainable sourced paper and ink etc (+20 points) for your loved one.
  • Cook your Valentine an organic home cooked meal. Ideally you would have grown the veggies at home using the worm juice/tea from your wormery, but if not, at east try and source the food from a reliable non-green wash supermarket chain (see article on supermarket refrigeration and GHG emissions) or local farmers market. (+ 50 points if you swopped some organic veggies and worm tea with the vineyard down the road for organic wine or champers to accompany the meal.) Additional information on more sustainable food consumption can be found in this article.)
  • Adopt an endangered species/ donate to worthy cause in the name of your Valentine! Please note that adoption of an orangutan, rhino, gorilla or panda does not mean you are to bring the animal home for your valentine. The aim here is to contribute to helping out the conservation of the species not facilitate increased poaching or removal of species from their natural environments. (Extra points directly linked to the more endangered the species and the larger the donation!) I am not going to tell you what to adopt or which cause to donate to. You should know what the worthy causes in your area are.
  • Plant an indigenous tree/ plant/ flower with your Valentine to symbolize your love …. (be sure to water and look after it ….. don’t let it die as that could be taken as an bad omen for your relationship)… cheesy I know but at least you will hopefully help with carbon reduction and the prevention of biodiversity loss.
  • Pick a flower from your/ a garden and give it to your Valentine. Preferably, an indigenous flower (+10 points) grown in a safe non-pesticide using garden.
  • Spend quality time with you Valentine/ loved one etc. This has particularly low resource consumption, though if you have to travel halfway around the world to do so your carbon miles may actually make this option unsustainable for you, so maybe you should try something else… or public transport.
  • These are just a few options, if you can’t find anything that suits your here do an internet search and you should find a good green Valentines Day option to suit you!

The point is that there are tons of things you can do, to have a greener and more sustainable Valentines Day so please try and stay away from the unnecessary consumption, and resource depleting type of Valentines Day and don’t be an eco-douche!

(Not So) Good Intentions: Climate Change Adaption & Mitigation Projects

I am pretty certain that we are all aware that everything we do has an impact as does everything we don’t do! This is particularly important as we all do our bit for the planet, nature, our environment, a sustainable future, our families, our next pair of shoes, or outfit, meal, or our next chocolate fix …… or whatever the reason is that you do the things you do.

Often we assume that our actions have no impact and that our positive and “good” actions are just that… perfectly wonderful and good for the world. We especially fall prey to thinking we have achieved great wondrous goodness when we do something that we perceive as good for the planet, nature or society. In addition green washing and misinformation by organisations simply adds to the fake feeling of ”goodness”. It is for this reason that we often end up doing things that we think are very good and that have possible negative impacts that we do not consider or that we blindly ignore.  An example is a recent presentation that I attended on energy efficiency, certified emissions reductions and climate change adaptation technology. Considering all the energy that COP 17 generated about the pros and cons of the climate change response and adaptation, I was quite hopeful that the first presentation that the first post COP 17 presentation I attended  relating to the climate change and technology issue would actually provide some new and amazing information or solution or way forward.

The presentation related to the use of agricultural wastes as an energy source, (nothing new here I thought….) specifically, palm oil processing wastes which are used to generate methane gas which is then used to generate power. Shock horror…..palm oil!

Palm oil, a major component of many processed food products has the dubious honour of being a major contributing factor to green house gas emissions, deforestation, landless-ness, relocation of marginalized communities etc

Surely, these people aren’t trying to sell a climate change adaptation solution (and we all agree that we definitely need solutions to climate change) that involves deforestation, habitat and species loss, and general negativity based on the creation of a few emissions reductions?

So the issue is, do we really need to cause more degradation and negative impacts by adopting solutions that actually take us backward in the journey towards sustainability?

When I raised the issue with the team that was presenting they had no idea about the linkage between palm oil production, species and habitat loss and deforestation etc. I am not sure whether the projects negative impacts will be mitigated or reduced but I did realize that before we blindly follow the solutions presented to us by we need to ensure that the so-called solution is in fact a solution. The other sad fact is that most people should by now know about the impacts of the palm oil industry and we should all be trying to reduce our use of palm oil and not creating opportunities for palm oil production to be increased or overlooked under the guise of sustainability and climate change adaptation.

I do note that the project uses the waste from palm oil processing and in so doing is trying to make the system more efficient. However, at the same time the use of palm oil in this project provides it (in my opinion) with a layer of green wash aimed at making it more acceptable and sustainable.

However, given the palm oil industry’s not so good record as far as habitat and species loss is concerned I think we should avoid climate change adaptation projects that may actually contribute to climate change and increased green house gas emissions in the long run.

In case you did not know here are some facts on the impact of palm oil cultivation:

  • Deforestation, mainly in tropical areas, accounts for up to one-third of total anthropogenic CO2 emissions, and is a driver toward dangerous climate change.
  • Greenpeace has concluded that “first generation” biodiesel extracted from new palm oil plantations may not on balance reduce emissions. If wood from forests cleared for palm plantations is burned instead of used for biodiesel, leaving forests untouched may keep more carbon out of the air.
  • Habitat destruction, leading to the demise of critically endangered species (e.g. the Sumatran tiger, the Asian rhinoceros, and the Sumatran Orangutan.)
  • Reduced biodiversity including damage to biodiversity hotspots.
  • Destruction of cash crops, such as fruit and rubber trees in Sarawak, Sabah and Kalimantan and Borneo, that belong to indigenous peoples (the Dayak), despite their frequent objections.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_palm_oil#cite_note-30)

Additional information on Palm Oil:

FAQ PALM OIL

Palm oil in your shopping

Borneo orangutan survival

CSPINET Palm Oil report

Mongabay Article on Palm Oil 

Supermarket Refrigeration, Carbon Emissions, Climate Change & A Poll!

How often do you walk into the fresh food section of your favourite (or not) supermarket and wish you had brought along a snowsuit or at least a jersey… More often than not my entrance to the refrigerated product section while grocery shopping makes me want to turn around and run. The refrigerated product section tends to be rather chilly…. maybe too chilly sometimes. I understand the need to ensure constant low temperatures in the food chain/ management process etc etc, however, one needs to consider the costs involved with maintaining low temperatures for such large open areas. This is particularly the case when the entire refrigerated food section of a shop is cooled and the fridges are door less. Surely the simple action of installing doors on supermarket fridges would reduce the need to cool entire sections of supermarkets while also reducing cooling costs and associated emissions?

Some interesting facts about supermarket refrigeration and emissions are;

  • Chemicals released by fridges account for 30% of British supermarkets’ direct emissions (www.gaurdian.co.uk)
  • There is concern about the use of damaging HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) gases as coolants which were introduced in the 1990s as a safer alternative to ozone-depleting chemicals such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). (www.chillingfacts.uk.org)
  • Supermarkets are the biggest industrial emitters of HFCs, which do not damage the ozone layer but have a high global warming potential.
  • One tonne of the widely used gas called R404a has a warming effect equal to 3,900 tonnes of CO2 over a 100-year period. (www.gaurdian.co.uk)

Issues such as financial costs, emissions and environmental costs all need to be considered and mitigated particularly now, due to the need to respond to the effects and impacts of resource scarcity, climate change and environmental degradation. Many supermarkets and refrigeration companies are working towards reducing the use of technology and substances that emit green house gasses. However, the move towards efficient, sustainable and climate friendly refrigeration solutions for supermarkets seems to be quite slow and I have been wondering why it is that most supermarkets still have open, door less fridges? I do realize that some supermarkets are actively (or in certain instances slowly) working towards using less harmful refrigeration systems is it not easier to simply place glass/ transparent doors on fridges in the interim? That way shoppers can see what is inside the fridge’s while the supermarket maintains appropriate temperatures and reduces cooling costs and emission. There is also the option of motion sensitive automatic doors on fridges? Are door less fridges not being used because:

  • Manufactures don’t make large fridges with doors?
  • Cost involved with doors on fridges?
  • Supermarkets are scared that consumers will buy less if they have to open a door? Or if there is a glass door between the food and the consumer? Supermarkets therefore opt to provide lazy shoppers with the easiest option?
  • Shoppers are perceived as being too lazy to open a door?
  • Germ transfer from door handles are seen as a problem?

So I thought it would be a good idea to see how many people think doors on supermarket fridges are a viable interim measure for supermarkets to adopt until we are able to have more efficient and sustainable cooling systems in all our supermarkets.

Please humor me and take this poll so that we are able to determine whether or not asking supermarkets to install doors on their fridges is a viable option!!

  

 

References and additional reading for the super enthusiastic: 

Woolworths SA

The Gaurdian UK (article)

EPEE Global

Chilling Facts UK

http://www.umweltbundesamt.de/produkte-e/fckw/massnahmen.htm

http://www.agreenerfestival.com/2010/02/chilling-facts-%e2%80%93-supermarkets-fridges-more-damaging-than-plastic-bags/

http://www.developmentchannel.org/environment/energy/973-supermarket-fridges-hazardous-to-environment-study http://www.eia-international.org/ http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=grocery.sb_grocery

Victoria’s (Green Wash) Secret Highlights Why If You Want To Be An Angel You Need To Act Like One!

In the latest we didn’t know but we will be looking in to it story the Victoria’s Secret “Pesticide-free, 100% rain-fed cotton. Good for women. Good for the children that depend on them.” range has been exposed for using cotton that is not so good to children and not really Fair Trade. (For more information on this please click on the links at the bottom of this post!)

Victoria’s Secret LTD thought they were sourcing fair trade cotton… and so they thought they were being good global citizens…. As did the Victoria’s Secret die-hards (and a few not so die-hards) who thought that by wearing the Victoria’s Secret undies (and other little bits of lace and stuff) they would not only transformed into looking like a Victoria Secret Angel… but also be doing quite an angelic deed.

So where does the blame lie? Does the blame lie solely with Victoria’s Secret LTD? Or with the fair trade certifying body? Or the consumer? Things to consider when buying / consuming …

  • Paying premiums for organic and fair-trade cotton has — perversely — created fresh incentives for exploitation (www.bloomberg.com). This applies to most areas where there has been a realization that there are profits to be made in the next big thing…greening, green wash… etc
  • A consumer cannot abdicate ethical, moral, green decision-making by leaving the “big, green, ethical” issues for fair trade certifying bodies, multinational organizations, politicians etc.
  • Just as not all that glitters is gold… not all that is labeled green/ good/ ethical etc is green, good or ethical.
  • Don’t be a gullible consumer.

The same principle applies to carbon credits, the green economy and the climate change COP17 discussions etc Just because the politicians, leaders etc fly around the world and meet to discuss things like emissions reductions, sustainable development and the green economy transition it does not mean that they are in fact guiding us towards a more equitable and sustainable future. We each have a role to play and leaving the big decisions to the worlds “leaders” is not going to get us any closer to an equitable and sustainable future.

Additional reading:

What Is Victoria’s Secret? Actually, It’s Child Labor

Victoria’s Secret to probe child labor claims

Victoria’s Secret Revealed in Child Picking

Climate Change, COP17 & Champagne Environmentalists

Pop the Champers for COP17!

Days away from COP 17 and the media is abuzz with which celebs will be making an appearance in support of COP17. Apparently  Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie, Bono, Arnold Schwarzenegger and probably a score of others are scheduled to attend COP 17 in Durban.  This got me thinking…

  1. Is the celeb support helping fight climate change
  2. Is the support worth the GHG emissions
  3. Do the celebs make a difference to the people most affected by climate change and environmental degradation?
  4. Is celeb support of climate and environmental issues simply perpetuating the consumerist model (the you can have it all mentality) that has helped to get us to this position of ecological debt, climate change and environmental degradation that we are tying to solve…. think greenwash, the eco-fashion bandwagon, environment as advertising and publicity stunts, inequality in resource use etc….
  5. Will the celebs be flying economy class (first class=more emissions)? will they (and their entourage) be using public transport? will they walk to all their public appearances? or maybe they will offset their emissions by planting a tree or two… or three (hopefully indigenous to the environment that they plant it in….)

Please do not for a minute think that am totally against celebrities helping out with a “good cause”. I do however believe that quite a few celebs are rather involved with greenwash and publicity as opposed to actually making a difference…… they need to really look at the impact of their lifestyles, the cause that they are promoting and the actual message that they are communicating. Some reading about the contradictions in celeb champagne lifestyles and their environmental messages….

Hypocrisy of champagne environmentalists is deceitful and distracting

Enviro-celebs attending COP17

Luxury brands must wake up to ethical and environmental responsibilities

This also brings us back to the question of whether COP17 is worth all the carbon miles?… could we not have the same or a better result through just agreeing on what needs to be done and doing it instead to flying around the world year after year and going through the same arguments again and again….

Extras, Ethical Consumption & My Paul Smith Handbag Crush

I think it particularly important that the extras, luxuries and nice to “haves” that one buys are the ones that need to go that extra mile not just to show value for money but also value for the environment and ethics.

The BAG! (www.paulsmith.co.uk)

(This post should have been or could have been entitled “I am no greenie saint….but I try in my own little way… now please can I have that bag!”)

Being a “greenie” and wanting make the greenest, most ethical and earth-friendly decisions is not always easy. In fact green decision-making and consumption is fraught with speed-bumps and pot-holes in the form of green wash, the misrepresentation of products as green, ethical, sustainable and or ecological friendly. Green, sustainability and environmental issues have been hijacked and often products are labeled as green/organic etc when in my opinion they are pretty far from green or good for the environment or the consumers. In many instances i try to buy green, ethical or sustainable products but end up buying products that don’t quite fit your/ or my idea of ethical, green or sustainable. A few examples are;

  • Organic produce that ends up having the most awful carbon miles, having been shipped/flown in from a far off continent.
  • Buying a natural, recyclable etc product but it has been made in a sweatshop with GM cotton or some other nasty type of raw material.
  • Using a natural face cream (that doesn’t harm animals) but has resulted in the monoculture and deforestation (resource inputs such as palm oil, shea butter etc) of large tracts if land which has negatively affected the biodiversity of an area.
  • Installing solar panels in your home in an attempt to reduce your carbon footprint only to find out that the panels are produced in a far off country that doesn’t really mind if you the solar panel factory is polluting the catchment within which it is located causing the ill-health and loss of livelihoods to entire villages etc….

And there I was thinking that I was making ethical consumption choices that would help the planet …. ??

So what is one to do….??  I guess in order to retain ones sanity and not over think each and every thing you end up consuming, the most logical thing make a difference where you can. The approach I take in trying to be a green consumer entails not blindly buying into advertising, green wash and misinformation etc by reading labels and using some logic. For me this implies (among other things)… trying to restrict my consumption patterns to;

  • Needs as opposed to wants.
  • Buying local, organic and ethical and making sure where possible that the claims about the product are not simply green wash.
  • Being logical about labeling and checking labels
  • Staying away from overly processed and packed products
  • Staying away from GM… though this can be very difficultly considering that GM produce is not always labeled etc
  • etc…

Sometimes my wants become needs… (often this relates to fashion items… which surprisingly have quite poor green/ethical track records…given that fashion is often regarded a luxury etc ) and then I try to find a “good green thing“ about the lust-have product that is hopefully not negated by a long list of really bad things about the product/lust have that is occupying my every waking moment.

My latest lust have is a handbag. More specifically, a Paul Smith handbag. Not being a brand hag but really liking nice things…. I was initially quite confused by my need for this specific bag….. however, it seems that I have fallen hopelessly in love with the handbag.

It is a multi-colour, leather bag that would work with almost all of my clothes… in other words it is almost perfect. I would be able to wear it for a good few seasons ..(I don’t believe in blindly following the glossies or what the fashion gurus say is the it item etc so I don’t mind wearing stuff that is considered as being “ohh so five seasons ago)… so I think the bag would be a good buy. I could probably use it until it falls apart, and / or is recycled into something else or used by someone else. I could see myself being a little old lady and still using the bag…in other words I would be willing to commit to the bag….

It would seem that I have already justified the addition of the bag to my world…. But when I tried to research Paul Smith and their environmental/ sustainability policy, to try to shut up my conscience and make me feel better about wanting something that I don’t really need… I didn’t find any information!? Is this even possible? In this day and age surely I am not the only person wondering what this particular brand thinks/ does etc about being more ethical, sustainable and green?

Maybe they are taking the highroad and not green washing their products until they can stand by all their green and ethical claims…?  … or maybe the brand is just not interested in ethical or green consumption?

Please can someone tell me that I am wrong? I really would like to be able to find something positive, ethical or green about Paul Smith?  And I really would like to buy the bag…..