Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fluffy Toilet Paper Said to Be Worse for Environment Than Hummers

That super-soft toilet paper you're fond of using? It's an ecological disaster, environmentalists say.
Millions of trees are harvested throughout the Americas – including rare old-growth forests in Canada – to sustain the United States’ obsession with quilted, ultra-soft, multi-ply toilet paper, the New York Times reported.
Although toilet paper manufacturers could produce products from recycled materials at a similar cost, the newspaper reported, the fiber taken from standing trees are necessary to help give the tissue its fluffy feel.
“No forest of any kind should be used to make toilet paper,” said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist and waste expert with the Natural Resource Defense Council told the Times.
The United States is the largest market for toilet paper in the world, the newspaper reported, but tissue from 100 percent recycled fibers makes up less than 2 percent of sales for at-home use among conventional and premium brands. People from other countries throughout Europe and Latin America are far less picky about what they use to wipe.
“This is a product that we use for less than three seconds and the ecological consequences of manufacturing it from trees is enormous,” Hershkowitz told the Guardian newspaper, which cited the chemicals used in pulp manufacturing and process of cutting down forests.
“Future generations are going to look at the way we make toilet paper as one of the greatest excesses of our age," Hershkowitz said. "Making toilet paper from virgin wood is a lot worse than driving Hummers in terms of global warming pollution.”
However, hope is on the horizon, if Hollywood is any indicator. The Times reported the Academy Awards ceremony last weekend used 100 percent recycled toilet paper at the Kodak Theater’s restrooms.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lawsuit Targets Makers of Household Cleaners

A coalition of state and national groups has filed a law suit against some of the biggest brand names in cleaning products in an effort to reveal the chemical ingredients in their products and potential health risks.
Ingredient disclosure requirements are virtually non-existent in the United States.
The exception is a long-forgotten New York state law which requires household and commercial cleaner companies selling their products in New York to file semi-annual reports with the state listing the chemicals contained in their products and describing any company research on these chemicals' health and environmental effects. But since the 1976 law was passed, companies have not filed a single report.
Last fall, environmental and public health advocates sent letters to more than a dozen companies asking them to comply with the law. The law suit has been filed against the companies that ignored or refused the request. They are Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG-W), Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL), Church and Dwight (NYSE: CHD), and Reckitt-Benckiser (RB.L).
The nonprofit public interest law firm Earthjustice filed the lawsuit last week on behalf of: Women's Voices for the Earth, Environmental Advocates of New York, New York Public Interest Research Group, Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, and American Lung Association in New York.
The first-of-its-kind case could have national implications. Independent studies into chemicals contained in cleaning products continue to find health effects ranging from asthma to hormone disruption.
"As the evidence showing the risks posed by chemicals in household cleaners continues to mount, people deserve to know whether the products they use to wash their dishes, launder their clothes, and clean their homes could be harmful," said Earthjustice attorney Keri Powell. "Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as they say. It's time to dust off this important law and take the first step in giving consumers the information they need to protect themselves and their families."
Several companies, including the California-based Sunshine Makers, Inc. (manufacturers of Simple Green products), complied with the request, filing reports with the state for the first time.
"This New York law can protect consumers by allowing a government agency such as the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to review confidential business information," Tom Neltner, co-Chair of Sierra Club's Toxics Committeem said.
Independent research has also documented troubling hormone-disrupting qualities of alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs)--commonly found in detergents, disinfectants, stain removers, and floor cleaners. Some breakdown products of these manmade chemicals can mimic the hormone estrogen and when released into the environment are toxic to aquatic wildlife. In laboratory studies, they cause breast cancer cells to proliferate, alter cells in the placenta, and cause reproductive abnormalities. This raises concerns about whether they may increase the risk of breast cancer, miscarriages, and reproductive damage in humans.
"It's outrageous that there are hidden ingredients in our cleaning products that may cause serious reproductive problems," says Tracy Lakatua, executive director of Women's Voices for the Earth. "In our 2007 report Household Hazards we identified hundreds of cleaning products containing ingredients linked to infertility, birth defects and asthma. Consumers deserve to know if these kinds of chemicals are in their products so they can make healthy choices for themselves and their families."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Turtle Island, Fiji Receives Eco Friendly Award

Turtle Island Resort in Fiji has once again gained praise for their sustainable efforts in the form of a "Blue List" award from Islands Magazine. Just twenty four locations in the world were chosen as recipients of the award, honoring ecologically sound beliefs and practices.

Turtle Island has long been considered a pioneer in the area of sustainable tourism and this award confirms their dedication to safeguarding its' pristine beauty while giving back to the community. All the bures, or cottages, are built by local craftsmen using natural products grown on the island. Owner Richard Evanson takes great pride in the stability and overall health of the island.

When Evanson bought the island in 1972, the landscape had been ravaged by wild goats and was uninhabited. He then made a commitment to restore the island to its' original lush condition because he perceived it as the responsible thing to do. He has planted over 500,000 native trees, restored the rainforest and re-established much of the flora and wildlife.The resort is located on a 500 acre private island and allows just 14 couples at a time. The ultimate in seclusion and privacy, guests enjoy private beach picnics of lobster and champagne or sunset dining on a floating dock in the famous Blue Lagoon. The all-inclusive resort offers gourmet meals, fine wines, champagne and spirits. Also included are all activities such as snorkeling, daily scuba diving, kayaking, deep sea fishing, horseback riding and mountain biking.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Eco friendly furniture fair

Thailand International Furniture Fair 2009 will get under way next month with a focus on eco-friendly furniture and standards.

The fair runs March 11-15 at the Impact Convention Center Muang Thong Thani, Nonthaburi. About 200 manufacturers from countries including Thailand, France, Indonesia and Malaysia plan to exhibit. More than 36,000 visitors are projected to attend.

"TIFF 2009 will be organized under the concept of ‘Imagine Green Living,' with an emphasis on demonstrating the design and production capabilities of Thai furniture makers in creating furniture items that are simple yet practical, refined, clean and nature-friendly," said Rachane Potjanasunthorn, director-general of Thailand's Department of Export Promotion, the show's organizer. "Environmentally friendly furniture made of natural and toxin-free materials is becoming more and more popular and is currently an appealing furniture design and manufacturing trend worldwide."

The show will include an exhibition featuring winners of the Design Excellence Award and the Turn Trash into Gold exhibition showcasing furniture made from raw waste materials.
For more information, visit

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Easter eggs go eco friendly

Nestlé has removed plastic packaging from 20 million of its products in the run-up to Easter in a major move by the Swiss food giant moves to reduce its environmental impact.

Nestlé says the move to replace the plastic casings around Easter eggs with cardboard will eliminate 700 tonnes of waste and bring about a 30% reduction in the weight of packaging for the products affected. The move covers major brands including Kit-Kat and Aero.

Meanwhile, Green & Blacks is aiming for a 60% reduction in waste by eliminating traditional cardboard box packaging in favour of a gift-bag design and more robust eggs.Packaging campaigner Jo Swinson MP told the Daily Mail the news represented "a step in the right direction" but warned: "To have a real impact, this packaging reduction must be part of a broader trend rather than a one-off change."

The news comes after Waitrose was this week surprisingly singled out in a local government report for using more unnecessary packaging than seven supermarket rivals, dealing a blow to its cherished green credentials.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Earth Hour 2009 - Update!!

With eight weeks still to go, citizens, businesses and public authorities in 375 cities across 74 countries have already committed to turning off their lights for Earth Hour at 8.30 p.m. on March 28 in a show of support for action on climate change.

The list of cities confirming their participation in Earth Hour 2009 includes 37 national capitals and some of the great cities of the world, including London, Beijing, Rome, Moscow, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore, Athens, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Mexico City, Istanbul, Copenhagen, Manila, Las Vegas, Brussels, Cape Town and Helsinki.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Earth Hour 2009

This year, Singapore will officially take part in Earth Hour 2009, a global climate change campaign organised by the WWF.

On 28 March 2009 at 8.30pm, Singapore will join cities around the world to turn off their lights for one hour.Earth Hour 2009 has one major aim: to show every one in the society, individuals or businesses that it is possible to take action on global warming. The world can no longer wait; and the first step is as easy as turning off a light.

Here’s what you can do:Sign up for Earth Hour 2009 on off your office and household lights at 8.30pm Saturday March 28Spread the word and tell your friends, colleagues and customers about Earth Hour!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Asian textile producers catch environment bug

Companies in China, India, Bangladesh and Taiwan are cashing in on the global trend toward using more green-friendly textiles....

Green-friendly fabrics may be expensive, but increasing consumer demand for the environmentally correct is now forcing Asia’s textile giants to go the extra mile to produce clean cloth.

In a sign of the times, at Paris’ twice-yearly Texworld textile trade fair this week, around 60 of the 660 firms exhibiting from around the world flew the green flag, a sharp increase on previous sessions, organizers said.In China, Bangladesh and India, the world’s top textile producers, as well as in Pakistan, South Korea and Taiwan, natural fibers, organic yarns, fair trade practices and clean processing are creeping into an industry often chided for polluting soils, wasting water and employing child labor.

“We will be starting organic and fair trade by next year,” said Sajedur Rahman Talukder, a marketing manager for Bangladesh’s biggest textile-maker, Norman Group of Industries, whose thousands of workers supply western firms such as Ikea. “It is a market demand.”South Korean firm Ludia said Eco-friendly fabrics might currently be a niche product around 15 percent more expensive than run-of-the-mill textile, “but in two or three years the consumers will pay the difference.”“Eco-friendly is our key item, the market has changed,” a company manager said.

This year is being branded UN “International Year of Natural Fibers” to give a shot in the arm to the 40 billion euro (US$52 billion) global annual business in cotton, linen, sisal, hemp, alpaca, jute, wool, angora, cashmere and the like ... much of it grown by small farmers in poor nations.“Some 30 million tonnes of natural fibres are produced annually,” 25 million of them cotton, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization said last month. “Since the 1960s, the use of synthetic fibers has increased and natural fibers have lost a lot of their market share.”‘

But 15 years ago, Chinese entrepreneur H.L. Ding (丁洪亮) already had his sights set on homegrown hemp, a 4,000-year-old fiber used in sails for old ships that he describes as the “fabric of the future.”Strong, resistant, in need of little water or care, and no fertilizers, “it is a very special plant, the strongest of the natural fibers, even better than linen,” he said.

Five years ago, said the head of Hemp Fortex — based in Qingdao with a design studio in Seattle — almost nobody had heard of hemp. Now Nike uses the breathable, anti-bacteria, anti-UV fabric for its shoes.“We believe organic cotton and hemp will be the main direction in the future,” said Ding, whose turnover has grown from US$400,000 to US$10 million a year selling to Walmart stores and labels such as Banana Republic.Taiwan’s Chia Her, a 30-year-old textile-maker, said it turned to eco-friendly textiles three years ago “because it was popular in Europe.” Sales of green fabrics since have grown 100-fold.India’s Vardhman Fabrics, which says it is the country’s top yarn producer, also went green four years ago “because everyone’s asking for eco-friendly to save nature from global warming.”

But going green is no easy business. And the first hurdle is winning the right to tag products as being environmentally correct.

A guide to eco-textile labeling published by the organizers of the Texworld fair lists around 30 eco labels variously issued in Japan, Europe and the US, that all set standards for organic textiles and yarns as well as environmental and fair trade certifications.“It’s very expensive and very difficult to get the certifications,” said Syed Adeel Haider, deputy marketing manager for Pakistan firm US Denim Mills.Bringing in consultants, ensuring supplies such as yarns and chemicals met all the right standards and re-adapting the manufacturing process called for sizeable investment, he said.“We don’t want to harm the environment, the soil or the crops, which are a livelihood for our people,” he said. “So being green-friendly is a social attitude, but it’s also business.

Organic materials are in high demand and stores such as Marks and Spencers for example won’t buy anything unless we’re clean from the environmental point of view.”Two years ago, he said, when the firm began offering green-friendly products, there was no interest.“Now we have enquiries every day,” he said.Even in China, world textile leader with a workforce of 20 million and turnover last year of 400 billion euros, green fabrics are gaining a toehold.“China is receiving increasing orders for eco-friendly textiles, with European customers handing you a thick book like a dictionary with standards and certifications, from the raw material to the finished product,” said Yan York, the Chinese representative for Texworld.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Clinton heading to Asia

Hillary Clinton, who heads to Asia next week on her maiden mission, is bowing to an increasingly powerful region in order to tackle the global economic crisis, climate change and nuclear weapons.
The new US secretary of state's choice of travel to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China, reflects the quest for a long-term strategy to deal with the changing dynamic in world economic, political and military power, analysts say.
Her predecessors usually traveled first to Europe or the Middle East.
For Michael Green, a former Asia adviser to president George W. Bush, Clinton is right to now focus the "US government on the challenges and opportunities" in Asia.
Unlike in the Middle East and Europe, where US standing fell after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in Asia President Barack Obama's administration has inherited from his predecessor a strong position on which to build.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs said Clinton will arrive in a region where US soft power -- the use of economic, diplomatic and cultural clout to influence the world rather than brute military force -- still holds sway.
Clinton's travel plans shows "the Obama administration is determined to make use of this strength to address the many challenges in the region," Thomas Wright, an executive at the Chicago Council, said in a statement.
The council based its conclusion on a 2008 survey of 6,000 people in China, the United States, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Green expected the chief US diplomat to focus on defusing the US-induced world financial crisis, fighting climate change, and reviving the six-party negotiations aimed at scrapping North Korea's nuclear weapons.
Japan, South Korea and China are negotiating partners with North Korea, along with the United States and Russia.
US officials said Clinton will travel with Todd Stern, her special envoy for climate change, and Christopher Hill, the Bush administration's negotiator on North Korea who is now a leading candidate to become ambassador to Iraq.
Green said Clinton appears to have chosen Japan for her first Asia stop to smooth feathers she ruffled there when she wrote during her campaign for the US presidency that the US-China relationship will be the most important one.
In Tokyo, CSIS Japan expert Nicholas Szechenyi said Clinton will discuss the financial crisis with Japanese leaders, possibly with a view to coordinating positions before the G20 summit in April in London.
Japan will likely raise its concerns about Japanese nationals whom North Korea abducted to train as spies during the Cold War after complaining the United States has relegated the issue in the nuclear disarmament negotiations.
It is also concerned about reports North Korea is pushing ahead with preparations to launch its longest-range missile despite international appeals for restraint, Szechenyi said.
Clinton, analysts added, will also have to deal with growing alarm in South Korea over Pyongyang's increasingly "bellicose" talk, including its scrapping of peace accords between the two countries.
Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at CSIS, expected Clinton's visit to Beijing to tackle North Korea, the financial crisis and climate change, but tread carefully on human rights.
China, she said, may repeat that it wants the United States to stop arms sales to Taiwan, but may settle for some "face-saving gesture by Washington to resume" high-level military exchanges suspended last year.
In Indonesia, the only stop in Southeast Asia, Green said Clinton may lay the groundwork for a "transformed relationship, new strategic partnership" with the world's largest Muslim-majority country.
In his inauguration speech on January 20, Obama vowed to seek a "new way forward" with the Muslim world "based on mutual interest and respect," after eight rocky years under Bush.
Green said it is "a safe bet" Obama will visit Indonesia -- where he spent part of his childhood and where he is popular -- when he visits Asia later this year.

Clinton is due to visit Japan February 16-18, Indonesia from February 18-19, South Korea February 19-20, and China February 20-22.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The future of work is 'green collar'

Who says two wrongs don't make a right? On the one hand, you have the worst economic climate in living memory; on the other, you have an unprecedented environmental crisis. But what do you get when you mix the two together? "Green-collar" jobs.

Politicians are currently tripping over themselves to talk up this form of modern-day alchemy. We can help to reduce both of the grave threats facing us, they say, by creating a vast army of green-collar workers who will set about doing the hard graft needed to decarbonise our economy.

It's estimated that 800,000 people in the UK are already employed in the "green sector", a figure he said would soon rise to more than one million. Elsewhere, Barack Obama has spoken of creating five million green-collar jobs in the US via his economic stimulus plan.

But what exactly is a green-collar job? And, more importantly, how do people go about getting one during this period of fast-rising unemployment? Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the term is being used to describe a vast range of jobs, some of which could probably be better described as brackish-brown than verdant green.

"It's an extremely big market," says Andy Cartland, managing director of Acre Resources, a recruitment agency based in central London and specialising in "top-end, 60K plus" green jobs. "Typically, green collar describes a role that hopes to have a positive environmental and/or social impact. Many jobs are about lessening the environmental impact of construction and energy projects, such as, reducing the impact of a new car park. It doesn't just describe ecologists looking for newts in a pond, as it did a few years ago."

Cartland lists some of the jobs that have been advertised by his agency in recent weeks - wind engineer, biofuel scientist, climate change lawyer, marine ecologist. All of them, he says, require a high level of experience, training and qualifications - and, furthermore, are predominantly based in London and the south-east.

Recent graduates should not consider this a gold-rush sector, he warns. "Employers we speak to want experience. There are a lot of graduates coming on to the market with an environmental management degree, or an MSc in climate change, but they still need relevant work experience first. Also, there is a suspicion among employers of people who want to be 'deep green'. If they are a Greenpeace-type person it might not wash with a big corporate."

Away from the world of high-salaried, high-spec jobs, the term green-collar typically describes roles in the energy-saving or "clean tech" sectors - tasks such as installing wind turbines, solar panels or loft insulation. Steven Proudfoot, whose company Asset Skills advises the government on the training requirements of sectors such as construction, says that one of the boom areas is facilities management.

"It is one of the fastest-growing and most recession-resistant sectors in the country," he says. "Buildings need maintaining, servicing and managing - catering, window-cleaning, grass cutting, boiler maintenance. Ever-tightening regulations mean that we now have tough energy and waste targets, and staff have to be trained and employed to help companies meet them."

Another key area of green job creation is housing. Two years ago, Mark Lamble retired from the army after serving for 24 years and reaching the rank of company sergeant major. Using his resettlement money, he retrained as a domestic energy assessor and now works in the South Hams area of Devon, issuing energy performance certificates (a compulsory part of the home information pack, or Hips, since 2008 in England and Wales) to homeowners wishing to sell their homes. "I'm not a green, I'm just doing my job," he says. "I rate their home by checking the boiler, cavity walls etc, and then doing a heat-loss test. The higher the score, the less CO2 emissions the home is creating."

Lamble says that the property market downturn is hurting him, but that the new energy regulations placed on landlords last October have helped to compensate: "It's not been easy. I don't make anywhere near the wage I was on in the forces. Energy assessors in my area make about £35,000. But this is a growth industry. I now see vans from domestic insulation firms on the roads all the time."

This looks like a canny observation. Today, the government is expected to announce that one in four homes in the UK will be offered an "eco makeover" to help cut emissions and reduce so-called fuel poverty. The move, the government hopes, will also trigger a huge surge in skills training and create thousands of jobs. But if this sounds appealing, remember that recruitment specialists are also advising clients to "green up" their CVs. Last year, a survey of employers by the recruitment website, found that a third said they would turn down a job applicant for having poor green credentials. Best to strike "enjoy foreign travel/fast cars" from your list of hobbies and interests.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Australia may be getting a glimpse of its globally warmed future

Experts agreed Tuesday that no one drought, flood or wildfire can be attributed to global warming, but they stressed that the eucalyptus forest and farms of southeastern Australia are becoming warmer, drier and more prone to fire as the planet heats up.

Some say rising temperatures are making Australia's climate more extreme at the edges. Snow will disappear from the few mountains that still have it, the cyclones that batter the topical north could get more powerful and the conditions that set the southeast ablaze could become common.
"The terrible events of the past couple of weeks are, without doubt, partly the result of global warming and the greenhouse effect," said Neville Nicholls, an expert on climate change and wildfires at Australia's Monash University.

Global warming cannot be blamed for starting the hundreds of recent fires — tens of thousands of such blazes erupt across Australia every fire season, from October to March — but the effects of climate change exacerbated their ferocity, Nicholls said.

First, a decade of drought has made Australia's wild forests — known as "the bush" — tinder dry. Second, a sustained and record-breaking heat wave settled over the region. Lastly, record-smashing temperatures on Saturday topped 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius) and combined with winds up to 60 mph (100 kph) to whip fires into furnace-like intensity.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Nobel Prize-winning team of scientists responsible for advising the United Nations about global warming, says the rise in the atmosphere's temperature could cause water shortages, crop failures, more deaths from heat waves and more severe storms around the world.

In Australia, it means more droughts in the dry south and more flooding in the tropical north. The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef system rich in sealife and sensitive to small temperature changes, is in trouble.

The Australian government's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization concluded in 2007 that the country's average temperature will rise about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 C) by 2030 and up to 9 degrees F (5 C) by 2070 if greenhouse emissions are not curbed.
An island large enough to be counted as a continent, Australia's climate varies with its landscape. It is home to dry shifting dunes in the desert "red heart," misty Riesling grape-clad hills, and lush monsoonal rain forest and mangrove swamps.

Among the panel's forecasts: Climate change would likely mean less rain, but rainfalls that did occur would be more intense. Drought in the south — the wheat-, sheep- and cattle-growing food belt — would be more frequent and fires more common. Cyclones that are a regular feature of the summer months in the north would hit harder.

Even as southeastern Australia sweltered and the fires raged this week, some 60 percent of northeastern Queensland state was covered by floodwaters after weeks of drenching rain from a dying offshore cyclone. Three thousand homes were damaged. No deaths were reported.
While scientists cautioned against attributing the wildfires themselves to global warming, they said changing conditions from rising temperatures are having an impact.

"Australia — and particularly the southeastern corner of Australia — is fire prone, so a fire-prone environment coupled with a warmer and drier climate in the future is likely to increase the incidence of this kind of event," said Mark Adams, a wildfire expert at the University of Sydney. "But statistically, we won't be able to prove it for many decades."

Adams said Australia's peculiar ecosystems are particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change. An increase of just one or two degrees would cause snow in Australia to disappear, and its Great Barrier Reef and rainforests are particularly sensitive to warming, he said.

"But I don't think that on the whole Australia is more susceptible than many other — or indeed any other — continent," Adams said.

Penny Whetton, leader of the climate change research group at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, also cautioned against tying the fires too closely to global warming.
"Due to changes in the climate, the high risk of fires has increased and will increase," she said. "But that is different than saying climate change caused these fires. It's difficult to relate climate change to an individual weather event."
For conservationists, the dry conditions and the devastating fires bolster their campaign to push the world's governments to move faster on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
"It's a sobering reminder of the need for this nation and the whole world to act and to put at a priority our need to tackle climate change in a way that politicians have simply been unable or refused to do in past decades," said Sen. Bob Brown of the left-leaning Australian Greens party.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bee Gee fathers a child with his live-in housekeeper

With Valentine's day on the way....something a little different for you involving the housekeeper! :)

Robin Gibb, the 59-year-old married Bee Gees star has allegedly been having an eight-year romance with 33-year-old Claire Yang, as part of the open relationship he enjoys with his wife Dwina Gibb.

But Dwina has reportedly kicked the new mother out of their Oxfordshire mansion because she felt "betrayed" by the pregnancy. Claire gave birth to Gibb's daughter, Snow Robin, last November and is now living five miles away from the couple in a house rented by the musician.
Gibb is named as the father on the child's birth certificate and his occupation listed simply as 'musician', while Claire is described as a 'housewife'.

Until the pregnancy the couple - who married in 1985 - have always spoken positively about their unconventional marital arrangement. In 2003, Robin said: "Right from the beginning we negotiated an open relationship. I can share part of my life with other women but it's a case of them having to accept Dwina, too."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Is there an eco perfume for Valentine's Day?

In essence (distilled, of course), you are asking the question: "What does green smell like?" Traditionally the answer has been patchouli (signature fragrance of Brighton, Camden and the Glastonbury festival, partly on account of its efficacy as a dreadlock conditioner). And patchouli oil uses low-tech production, ie steam distillation, to extract essential oil from patchoili leaves. But there are even questions about the sustainability of patchouli (grown en masse in Indonesia), and besides, your paramour may find the smell repugnant.

Navigating the 600 new perfumes launched last year alongside the classics and an eye-watering array of "celebrity fragrances" is not easy. It means negotiating your way through 2,000 manmade chemicals, which suggests today's perfume is about as romantic as hazardous waste. Today 95% of chemicals used in perfume manufacture are derived from petroleum, and perfume "houses" are really laboratories full of scientists bent on discovering the most profitable apple-smelling molecule rather than artisanal "noses" mixing vats of rose petals. As the nose of Hermès, Jean-Claude Ellena, puts it: "One-third of my collection [of materials] consists of natural products and two-thirds of synthetic products."

But should we be so sniffy about synthetic materials? Traditional perfumes, which used the digestive systems of whales and glands from musk deer, hardly score conservation points either. However, when it comes to toxicity, only 20 per cent of synthetic ingredients have been tested for "safety" - perfumes contain solvents, phthalates and/or possible endocrine disrupters. The cosmetics industry-backed Research Institute for Fragrance Materials contends that things have never been safer, yet ingredients are not listed on the bottle. Some research suggests precautionary measures.

In a Swedish study, published in 2008, women with a high use of perfume during pregnancy had elevated concentration of some polycyclic musks, raising concerns over the safety of musk exposure of breast-fed infants (musks are thought to disrupt the body's natural reproductive chemicals).

The other big stink is over harvesting of "natural" materials. There have been major concerns over Indonesian sandalwood (thanks to deforestation) - and some big perfume houses have switched to supplies from Western Australia. Some houses are now investing in "sustainable"-ingredient plantations.

Instead, look at small brands, such as certified organic perfumes ( carrying the Ecocert label, Jo Wood's fragrances and Patyka (both from, and scents from Rich Hippie ( On a local level,, which makes a rare UK-produced eau de toilette, and the wild-crafted, handpicked scents from the Burren Perfumery in Ireland ( have an eco-centric ethos and planet-friendly provenance - you just need the nose for them.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Miley Cyrus the eco pop princess

Pop star Miley Cyrus traded in her sporty Porsche birthday present for an eco-friendly Toyota Prius , because she felt like a hypocrite behind the wheel of a gas guzzler.

The singer/actress was handed the keys to her mother's Porsche when she turned 16 in November, but now her father has bought her a green Prius -- and Cyrus couldn't be more relieved.

Speaking to Los Angeles DJ Ryan Seacrest on his breakfast show, she explained, "First of all, the Porsche is really hard to drive. ... This thing is really huge. "I'm really into the environment; I'm always telling people to get more into it and there are different ways to stay green and then I'm driving, like, this big ol' tank and I'm like, 'That could not be any more hypocritical."

But, after selling the sportscar to a family friend, Cyrus' dad Billy Ray decided to take his daughter car shopping -- and, at first, he wasn't sold on the idea of buying her a Prius.
Miley adds, "He thought it was a chick car, so he didn't like it that much, and it is a chick car."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nemo's finding his nose troubled by climate change

The tiny reef clownfish made famous in the animated movie Finding Nemo is the latest victim of climate change, according to a paper released today.
In the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, marine researcher Dr Philip Munday shows that ocean acidification caused by rising CO2 emissions affects the orange clownfish larvae's sense of smell, which is crucial to it finding a suitable and safe home.

Munday, of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies says clownfish larvae use their sense of smell to guide them to reefs and to distinguish between good and unsuitable homes. "Disruption to this process would have significant consequences for the replenishment of adult populations and could lead to the decline of many coastal species," lead author Munday says.

For the study, the clownfish (Amphiprion percula) were reared in water at the same pH level as current levels in the open ocean and in water at pH levels consistent with 1000 parts per million CO2. Currently, CO2 levels in the ocean are now about 390 parts per million. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that this may rise to as high as 1000 parts per million by 2100. The fish were then placed in specially designed tanks that contained streams of water in which the leaves of the tropical rainforest tree Xanthostemon chrysanthus or swamp tree Melaleuca nervosa had been added. In water at pH levels on par with today's ocean, the clownfish spent 93% of their time in the stream of water in which the rainforest leaves had been soaked. The fish completely avoided the Melaluca stream of water.

However under the 2100 scenario, the clownfish spent more than 80% of their time in the Melaluca stream. The ability to discriminate between water containing the scent of their parents and other adult clownfish was also lost in the more acidic water. He says this is an important quality as it helps stop inbreeding between juvenile clownfish and their parents.

This latest paper builds on a 2008 study that showed larval clownfish can discriminate the smell of water from their birth reef compared with water from other reefs, and that they use olfactory cues to identify suitable settlement sites. Munday says he suspects the clownfish findings will translate to other reef fish species. He says it is unlikely the marine animals will be able to adapt to the rapid increase in ocean acidity.

The human-induced change is causing pH to decline at a rate more than 100 times faster than at any time in the past 650,000 years, Munday says. "It is unlikely that genetic adaption by most marine organisms, perhaps except those with very rapid generation times, will be able to adapt to keep pace with such a rapid rate of change."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Reebok make eco-friendly Super Bowl T-shirts

T-shirts that will be worn by members of the team that wins the upcoming Super Bowl will be made with "eco-friendly, 100 percent organic cotton fabric" for the first time, Reebok International Ltd. said.

Reebok is the Canton-based brand of athletic footwear and apparel that will supply the "locker room Tees" for this year's pigskin extravaganza.

A press release from Reebok, which is now a subsidiary of the Adidas Group, included a statement from John McMahon, director of marketing for Reebok Sports Licensed Division.
"These Championship Tees are produced each year for the Super Bowl and are typically a best-seller," he said. "By incorporating an eco-friendly element to them, the Reebok brand and the NFL are using the global platform of the Super Bowl to raise awareness about environmentally-conscious opportunities."

Good Luck to the Steelers & the Cardinals!!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A pet owners guide to poisons in the home

You know, family pets (and all animals) risk all kinds of poisoning from all kinds of places. There are many poisonous materials that are used around the home by people every day — things like bleach, cleaning sprays, detergents, dish liquid, window cleaners, weed killers, lawn sprays, acids, fertilizers, paints . . . the list is endless.

Here's what you can do if your pet is poisoned:

* Keep the animal warm and quiet

* Try to determine what the poison was, when it was ingested, and the amount swallowed

* Immediately call your veterinarian or your nearest poison control center

* Get rid of the Toxic cleaners and get rid of the potential accident!! Visit our website for a healthier choice

If you decide to take the pet to your veterinarian, bring the container (or the label) with you. Most of the time poisoning is accidental. Keep poisonous materials out of reach, know what your pet is doing at all times, and keep emergency telephone numbers handy.