Archive for the ‘ethical’ Category

It’s a basic requirement for self-reliance that everyone should be able to sustain themselves. A community will rely on its own people to pool their resources and trade among themselves to ensure their survival. They will scrape every little resource they have so they can use it for their basic needs; of course, they would replenish them for future requirement. Managing wastes by recycling or re-using some of them will leave minimal real waste and be less harmful to the community’s own environment. The innovation of every individual would be a great resource for the community so they can continually support themselves and future generations.

Only when you don’t have the necessary resources to sustain your needs, that you’d start looking for trade partners outside your local area. This is where macro economics will come in: every community (state, nation, region) will compliment each other by sharing resources abundant to other communities. Trading fairly among communities and not exploiting other’s ignorance.

If we rely only from multinational companies to supply us with cheaper products (with poor quality) coming from other countries, then we’d be killing our own self-reliance. Surely, local suppliers would have already priced their products fairly to sustain their own survival and be competitive (with better quality you can scrutinise). We’re not even sure if cheaper products from other countries were traded fairly, though multinational companies claim them to be. One such sample is the world’s reliance to oil: supply is controlled only by few countries belonging to a cartel; we’re all at their mercy. It would be beneficial if supply of money is retained within the community, paid/circulated among its own people; a big disadvantage if paid to multinational companies belonging outside the community.

For this reason we have to consume local products when possible. Reducing our reliance on foreign products by transporting only the minimum necessities will also minimise carbon emission that affect all communities as a whole, wherever we are.

There’s always a need to trade outside our own community, we can’t be totally independent, as each land has its own limited resources. (The truth be said.)

(What is life?)


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A lot of kids (and kids at heart) love the Halloween and go through great lengths decorating their homes and making costumes for trick or treating. We hope you’d enjoy all the festivities that goes with it, but spare a thought for the environment and heed some of the tips we’ve gathered around the net:

The daily green has posted lots of ways to green up your halloween:

  • reuse costumes instead of buying new.
  • trick and treat kids to organic lollipops, organic/fairtrade chocolates, money, recycled paper and pencils in loot bags.
  • reverse trick and treat. This is something new to us. Global exchange encourages kids to educate adults by handing out Fairtrade chocolates with cards attached explaining what Fairtrade is. This is happening across the pond.
  • have a party. celebrate at home instead of trick or treating. send electronic invites and trat kids to cupcake decorating and pumpkin carving.
  • decorate with nature. instead of buying plastic decors.
  • light up the night. use LEDs. non-toxic window paints. use candles made from beeswax or soy.
  • turn it over to the kids. instead of buying decors from shops, have the kids make decorations. try to recycle stuff.
  • try a new bag. use reusable bags to hold the loots, we sell organic, fairtade bags here at guui.
  • save for next year.  pack up costumes and decors, and save for next year.

and a few more:

  • make sure to not waste the pumpkins by making soups and pies out of them.
  • walk the kids around instead of driving them to go trick or treating.
  • teach your kids to make sure they dispose of candy wrappers properly and that using flour and eggs is a bad trick.
  • learn more about your halloween candies from the treehugger.

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I first came accross them being used for flooring. I thought they looked nice. And they’re sustainable. They grow in large volumes and are harvested every 5-6 years. Now there are clothing made from bamboo also marketed as eco -friendly.

Most of the eco-credentials of bamboo floors and bamboo clothing is because it takes only a few years for bamboo trees to grow. But a lot of people had already begun to question the process – chemicals used, the questionable labour practices, the cutting down of forests to make way for bamboo plantations, the durability of bamboo floors. Which, in the end, makes bamboo a not-so-green alternative.

We’ve brought you a collage of articles on the bamboo issue to help you make up your mind.

Bamboo flooring

source: Sustainable Floors 

Bamboo stalks are normally cut into strips and then boiled to remove sugars and any insects, followed frequently by drying in a kiln. The strips are then glued together to form a solid surface and in most cases, bamboo is available as a type of engineered flooring, i.e. the strips of bamboo are formed into 3 layers which help to provide additional stability and also compensate for the natural expansion properties of bamboo. This enables the flooring to be stable enough to be nailed down or glued down.

Be aware, however, that manufacturing quality can vary so always check the finish and in particular, the adhesives used to glue the bamboo strips together. Some manufacturers will actually use adhesives that contain toxic urea-formaldehyde, which totally destroys its eco-friendly flooring credentials. Generally, cheaper bamboo products are more suspect. Always check with the manufacturer or supplier to see which kind of adhesive is used and that they are complying with Europe’s E1 standard. This limits formaldehyde concentrations in materials to 0.1 parts per million (ppm).

source: Hardwoord Installer

In most cases the next step is the darkening process that brings out the color of carbonized bamboo. Strips are often steamed under pressure (shown right). Natural colored bamboo keeps it’s original appearance after being boiled to eliminate sugars and insects. The carbonization process reduces the overall hardness of the bamboo; one reason why we don’t advocate the darker bamboos in high traffic areas. They will show more damage given the right amount of punishment or use.

In most cases? Yea, we know it’s a broad generalization. Unfortunately with bamboo there are no governing organizations such as what we have in the states with hardwood flooring. This is one reason we see very cheap priced bamboo being sold. Whether or not they follow practices to insure a quality product is in doubt. It’s a real wild card when appealing low priced bamboo floors look attractive.

Are bamboo floors durable?

source: Article Alley

Bamboo Flooring has become a very popular flooring material in the last few years because it is a very environmentally friendly, sustainable building material. Unfortunately, because of this popularity, a large number of fly-by-night companies have started to import and sell bamboo flooring of poor quality. These companies oversell the durability and performance characteristics of bamboo floors and under-deliver on quality product. The result can be unhappy customers.

Bamboo Flooring is relative dimensionally stable. For installations in the US, especially the western US, look for a company like Fair Pacific (http://www.fairpacific.com) that kiln dries their bamboo to 8%-10% moisture. Most companies do not do this, and the result can be splitting or cracking. In addition, nearly all bamboo flooring sold in the US is semi-gloss, and when this scratches it can be very evident, especially on darker planks. So look for a satin finish, which shows scratches much less readily. Finally hardness has to do with how a plank will stand up to things like high heels or dog claws.

Bamboo grown in the eastern regions of China is best for flooring. The species here is nearly all Moso (also known as Mao) bamboo, and is at its peak when harvested at around 6 years. As I mentioned earlier, the natural bamboo planks are pretty hard, slightly harder than maple. Carbonized planks are softer, around the same hardness as walnut flooring. This is because the carbonization process involves “cooking” the bamboo, which weakens the fibers somewhat. there are more information in the site that would help you determine a quality plank.

source: ReNest

Now we are finding that the floors are not as desirable as we thought. There are often complaints about how easily it scratches, and now there is even doubt as to whether or not the quick growing grass is in fact as super-eco as everyone once said.

source: TreeHugger

The popular carbonized darker bamboos are comparable to Black Walnut, considered a soft hardwood, and the lighter natural colours test comparable to maple. (colour is achieved not by staining but by heating, and the longer it heats the softer it gets) It is like any wood floor- it is damaged by dents, scratches and the killer of all wood floors, high heels. Jazzy aluminum oxide finish or not, it is a natural material that should not be marketed as being harder or more durable than conventional wood flooring. …but it isn’t as green as it could be.

However it is clear that bamboo is not necessarily being managed in a sustainable fashion. It is true that it naturally regenerates, but forests are being cleared to grow it and it is becoming a monoculture. Although it is claimed that fertilizers are not necessary, in fact they are being used to increase yield. Research quoted in the report: “Recently, bamboo expansion has come at the expense of natural forests, shrubs, and low-yield mixed plantations . . . It is common practice to cut down existing trees and replace them with bamboo.”

Bamboo Flooring Lacks Credible Certification, For Now Dr Bowyer points out that there is nothing comparable to FSC Certification, ensuring that the forest has been harvested in a sustainable fashion. (We note that FSC looked at this last year but have not seen any certifed bamboo yet)

There is no Fair Trade certification, ensuring that the workers have appropriate working conditions and wages. Considering that it grows like a weed and is being manufactured by rural Chinese workers, and yet sells at prices comparable to local hardwoods, someone is making huge margins on its current trendiness. We think it should be the workers.

Bamboo Clothing

source: Organic Clothing Blog

The processing of bamboo plants into textile fibers is relatively harmless because caustic soda is the “main chemical used.” Caustic soda, aka sodium hydroxide – NaOH, is one of the ingredients used to reduce bamboo plants to pulpy goo in a process known as hydrolysis alkalization. Caustic soda is a harsh alkaline chemical that must be handled carefully, especially at high levels and under the high temperature and pressure needed for hydrolysis alkalization. As the old saying goes “The poison is in the size of the dose.”

Another toxic chemical in the processing of bamboo rayon is carbon disulfide which has been linked to serious health problems. Breathing low levels of carbon disulfide can cause tiredness, headache and nerve damage. Carbon disulfide has been shown to cause neural disorders in workers at rayon manufacturers.

source: LA Times

Aside from the small amount of mechanically processed bamboo clothing (which feels like linen) on the market , most bamboo clothes are made through chemical processing. This processing makes the bamboo cloth feel like soft cotton — but also requires some un-eco chemical use. As Lee points out at Organic Clothing, most bamboo fiber is “chemically manufactured by “cooking” the bamboo leaves and woody shoots in strong chemical solvents such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH – also known as caustic soda or lye) and carbon disulfide in a process also known as hydrolysis alkalization combined with multi-phase bleaching.” Both of those chemicals are linked to health problems for the workers creating the stuff.

To address both environmental and health concerns about this chemical use, many factories that produce bamboo clothing get certifications regarding both their practices and their products. For example, many factories get the ISO 14001 certification, which shows the factory has put in place some environmental guidelines to green its practices (For an informative closer look at the benefits and limits of ISO 14001 certification, read “Costs, Benefits, and Motivations for ISO 14001 Adoption in China” [PDF]).

Many bamboo products also get the Oeko Tex Standard 100 certification (right), which shows that there are no harmful chemicals in the finished fiber (even if chemicals were used in the processing of that fiber).

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Get your credit cards and start buying! Our website is now up and running after a temporary blip. Get the guui organic, fairtade cotton carrier bag now for your shopping!

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We were at the Museum of London over the weekend and were browsing at the shops. I’ve always loved those die cast toys – the London bus, the post box, the telephone box. Things I’d hoard if I were a tourist.

But doesn’t you heart sink a bit when you look a bit more closely and see the words ‘Made in China’ at the bottom?

It just makes it less special. That here I am in a museum that’s supposed to uphold things British, is selling wares that doesn’t support the local economy.

But maybe they don’t make them here anymore?

I would hate to generalize. And I am not against globalisation. But I like the products I buy to last – clothes, appliances, furniture. And I don’t want to worry about safety when I buy them here, in the UK. But these news did scare me.

A number of people shun ‘Made in China’ products as a protest against their policies. My opinion is based on my personal observation – on things I buy for myself. Clothes bought on the cheap don’t last. A few washes, maybe at most one season, and they’re making their way towards the waste site. I have a few gadgets as well that doesn’t really stand well against normal usage.

No I am not blaming China. As this blog has educated me, it seems the blame is still on us the consumers who clamour for cheap goods and the retailers, keen to supply us with what we ‘need’.

And it isn’t just China that worries me as a manufacturer. Though I know it’s one of the first things we’ll point out as eveything we use seems to be coming from there. Primark’s ‘Made in India’ could mean your clothes were made by companies employing child labour. (Note that Primark have dropped the firm as soon as they found out and have been pushing their ethical stance since.)

I do have a point – don’t let the price dictate what you buy. Aim to find out more about the retailers you support. Cheap, most often, means some shortcut was taken. You will pay – on the good’s quality, on the good’s safety, or worse, it could mean another person’s welfare was compromised. If you buy fakes, you could even be funding drug lords and terrorists.

Buy because you love it, need it, will last until you’ve given it away and will get your money’s worth on the product. Spare a thought as to where and how it was manufactured.

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There is no holiday mode to being green.

No, we don’t mean that you settle for staycations or cycle all the way to your destinations or stay in an eco-lodge or calculate your flight emissions and purchase carbon offsets (Though you can do all these too).

We’re suggesting simple things. Really more like the ones you do at home. We’ve put together some things we have started practicing ourselves. So have a look at the list we’ve put together:

  • Turn off the lights, air conditioning, electrical appliances when leaving the room. You don’t leave the lights on at home, do you? Just because you don’t see the electric bill, doesn’t mean that you can waste electricity.
  • Do the same when it comes to using water. Turn the taps off whilst brushing your teeth. For a lot of countries, having running water is a luxury and most homes are on water rationing. So, use water with care.
  • Planning to shop abroad? Bring your reusable bags with you so you don’t take home extra plastics.
  • Getting souvenirs? Please don’t buy corals, anything (jewelry or traditional medicines) made of ivory, or from wild animals, plants that are endangered (orchid, cacti and the likes)
  • Support the local shops. Buy local produce, locally-made merchandise (check the labels), eat at independently-owned restaurants.
  • Find green ways to get around. Ok you flew there. But if you can get around using the public transports, walking or cycling, do so. Still need a car? Check if there are hybrid options or pick the most fuel-efficient car.
  • Travel with your own water bottle. In places where only bottled water are the safe options, buy big bottles and refill your reusable bottles.
  • Re-use towels and bed linens. Put on the ‘Do not disturb’ sign if your hotel doesn’t give you options to reuse (look out for signs that says hang the towels if you don’t want them replaced).
  • Bring your own toiletries. Those small bottles they give you at hotels add up to a lot of wastes.
  • Use a digital camera, if you don’t already. No need to print.
  • Don’t take the free maps or brochures unless you really need them. Have a notebook handy to write if you just need a few details. Or use your phone’s notes applications. I carry an e-book reader to view itineraries and maps I download before travelling.
  • If you need equipments, rent or borrow instead of buying new. Especially if you’re not sure if you’ll be using them again.
  • Travel light. Saves you a lot of back troubles and will make you more flexible on your itinerary. Get over yourself and mix and match outfits. Pack in those clothes that don’t need ironing.
  • Read up on the local cultural, economic, environmental issues of the place you’re visiting so you know that you’re not adding to their problems.

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fishy tales

Marks and Spencer is phasing out net-caught tuna. Pret a Manger has stopped using bluefin and yellowfin tuna after its founder watched a documentary on intensive fishing, The End of the Line. Waitrose and Tesco does not sell bluefin tuna. And the likes of Elle Macpherson, Sting, Stephen Fry and Sienna Miller have threatened to boycott Nobu after it refused to back down from selling bluefin. Heck, celebrities are now posing naked with dead fish to highlight the problem.

Seafood has always been a sensitive topic to me. Because I LOVE eating seafood. It is healthy and it is yummy. Very rarely do you find that combination.

I always had a problem finding a good fishmonger. And I have always relied on what’s available at the fish counter at the local supermarket or the rare visits to the Borough. Some friends even make an almost monthly trek to Billingsgate.

In trips to Italy, I would never tire of risotto ai frutti di mare, calamares, seafood pasta…ok I need to stop lest I start drooling over my keyboard.

Years ago, I have visited a fishing village. Looking back now, maybe I was too young to understand their plight. The locals complained of fishermen from elsewhere using dynamites and fine nets to catch aquarium fishes. There was a period where they can’t catch any fish, this in an area quite well known for its marine biodiversity, and the locals relying on that for both food and their livelihood. The locals knew about sustainable fishing long before the world got wind of the sea’s dwindling stocks. They learned by experience. You fish indiscriminately, you start to suffer the consequences quite quickly. Get rich quick, get poorer sooner.

So, on fish and ethics…

Truth is, I rarely buy tuna. When I do, I buy the bottled variety at Sainsbury’s with the Marine Stewardship Council logo. I look at those labelled line-caught or sustainable, and steer clear of cod (there’s a lot more tastier white fish than cod). But it does get harder when you’re in a fish monger. Or looking at frozen exotic fish in the Chinese grocery.

So what is sustainable seafood? Greenpeace defines it as this:
In simple terms, a particular seafood is sustainable if it comes from a fishery with practices that can be maintained indefinitely without reducing the target species’ ability to maintain its population and without adversely impacting on other species within the ecosystem by removing their food source, accidentally killing them, or damaging their physical environment.
Identifying which fish come from sustainable sources is extremely difficult. Because of the difficulties in accurately assessing fish populations and because it is very difficult to trace the supply of fish from the ocean to the shop there is no one, truly effective ‘green label” that consumers can look for on fish products, as there is with wood products for example (the FSC logo).
Always ask the person you buy fish from where and how their fish is caught – if they can’t tell you or if you are not completely satisfied with their answer, don’t buy the fish!

Get the list of seafood to avoid here. But, really, they’ve listed all my favourites in there!

The Marine Stewardship Council lists on their site the places where you can buy MSC-certified fish.

In the news:
The Telegraph: Supermarket scraps unsustainable tuna
Guardian: Film prompts Pret a Manger to change its tuna
Times Online: Pret A Manger will no longer be selling tuna

And what your local supermarket says:
There’s a tiny section in the Tesco website
Marks and Spencer.

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