Emmafoster’s Weblog

Map of Eco-Businesses in the UK

Posted in Uncategorized by emmafoster on June 13, 2008

I have been working on mapping some environmental businesses in the UK. They range from supplers of green gadgets and office supplies to energy conservation equipment and industrial cleaners. All of the mapped businesses provide products that are organic/fairtrade or non-harmful to the enviroment!

This is just the beginning of a growing map, feel free to add businesses you feel deserve to be recognised. If it gets too busy later I’m sure we can modify into specific categories.

View Larger Map


On your Bike..

Posted in Uncategorized by emmafoster on June 12, 2008


Events to promote greener lifestyles are getting ever more common in the year 2008 and the overhanging guilt of our carbon footprint may push us to participate. The latest comes in the form of Bike Week.


National Bike Week runs in the UK from 14-22 June 2008. The event is sponsored by Nokia and aims to promote cycling as a family pastime, source of fitness and a way to reduce your carbon footprint all rolled into one.


All over the UK local events are taking place. To get involved and to find your nearest event just type your postcode http://www.bikeweek.org.uk/event_search.php


In preparation, celebrities such as Fearne Cotton and Jon Snow have been mapping and describing their favourite cycle routes throughout the UK http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jun/12/ethicalliving.healthandwellbeing


Guardian blogger Peter Walker is also in on the movement and has published his favourite routes ranging from the Lake District to the coasts of Costa Rica. Read his ethical living blog at http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/ethicalliving/2008/06/what_makes_a_great_bike_ride.html


So what will we do with this ready made event based campaign? It will certainly be interesting to monitor the interest in Bike Week and whether or not it generates many participants. Hopefully it will do and we will see more cyclists in the area, even if just for the week.


Rising Revenue of Fairtrade Goods – Will it stop?

Posted in Uncategorized by emmafoster on June 12, 2008

A recent press release from the Fairtrade Labelling organisation (FLO) has indicated that there has been a massive 47% rise in sales of fairtrade products from 2006-2007, the largest annual rise yet.

They say that this is due to the expansion of existing markets for fairtrade in the US and UK and the new markets across Europe like Switzerland and Norway.

They also say that their average of 40% annual rise in sales over the last six years, there is still room for further expansion of the fairtrade label and will be further demand for products.

The 3 products with the most impressive increase in sales are

  1. Juices (400%)
  2. Sugar (200%)
  3. Bannannas (72%)


So with the statistics in place, is this proof for green and ethical consumerism?

Is it due to marketing and advertising that we now opt for  more moral choice of goods?

Are businesses cashing in on this new trend and offering more choice of fairtrade/organic/environmentally friendly products? http://environmentalnewsonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=47&Itemid=40

Or are we merely becoming more intelligent and recognising that a small choice can make a difference if we all play the same game?

The debate goes on but what do you think?

 An interesting read from The Economist http://www.economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8380592

Birmingham’s Climate Change Festival

Posted in Uncategorized by emmafoster on June 12, 2008


Living in a city can sometimes become dull and grey with the day to day hustle and bustle of busy workers, commuters and shoppers. So it was a pleasant surprise when coloured installations began to crop up all over the city centre a couple of weeks ago although it was a bit of mystery at first what they stood for.


The installations were an abstract component of Birmingham’s Climate Change Festival which ran from May 31 to June 8. The colourful festival was made up of many parts all of which covering different green issues to raise the profile of global warming. Some of these included mass recycling, fair trade events, short films, school programmes and street entertainment.


These were large brightly coloured blocks which acted as a window to emphasise a certain area of the city. The orange and pink structures were designed by Mark Garside and Violetta Boxill, and the phrases by Mike Reed. Mike Reed is a freelance copywriter and creative director who states, “I’m happiest coming up with powerful creative concepts backed up with engaging compelling words.” Mike Reed talks more about his contribution to the festival on his personal website http://www.reedwords.co.uk/reedwordsblog/reedlatest/latest.html


The festival also brought celebrity support to Birmingham including Dame Ellen MacArthur who showed her appreciation for the event. More can be viewed and read here from Birmingham based blogger Podnosh…. http://www.podnosh.com/blog/2008/06/10/localstrategicpartnerhsipyoutubeellenmacarthur/


Dame Ellen states on her blog, “It was fantastic to speak to so many different groups of people – schools, community leaders, the University, the Housing Association amongst others – who were so passionate about doing their bit to reduce their carbon footprint and it was really good to see how Birmingham City Council were proactively supporting this.” – http://blog.ellenmacarthur.com/




 Centre Piece of the Festival in Victoria Square Birmingham


Did anyone attend any events of the festival and what were thoughts on the installations?


Thoughts on Community Meeting Organised by The Green Party

Posted in Uncategorized by emmafoster on June 11, 2008

It’s been a while since I attended the local community meeting which discussed plans for a Tesco supermarket in the Stirchley of Birmingham but here are my thoughts and the latest developments.

The background on the plans of this particular Tesco development can be read here by anti major supermarket campaigners (http://www.tescopoly.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=902&Itemid=113)

Or here from local Labour MP Lynne Jones (http://www.lynnejones.org.uk/stirchle.htm)

I was originally drawn to the meeting as it was hosted by the local Green Party, however was somewhat disappointed when the whole thing turned into a political struggle. The high profile issue in the community of Stirchley, in my opinion, was a chance to convey manifestos and stances from local political parties a week before election day, rather than provide a pro-active solution to a problem.

Having saying that, and aside from the tennis match of comments from local MP’s, the meeting did provide some sort of platform of debate for the community, although the actual plan of action came from a local woman and not from a suggestion from any of the hosts.

The main arguments and reasons for opposing the Tesco development that arose are outlined here by Mary Horesh of Birmingham Friends of the Earth (http://www.birminghamfoe.org.uk/local-shops/local-shops-news/tesco-development-stirchley.html)

·        Traffic – Residents of Stirchley will not appreciate the influx of traffic that a major supermarket would bring to such a small town

·        Noise – This would damage the quaint atmosphere of Stirchley and disadvantage the area around Cannon Hill Park where families enjoy the break from the busy city.

·        Unnecessary – A Co-operative supermarket and a small high street already exists in the area and has done for years. A major supermarket is not needed.

However, there was some argument for the Tesco development from a few locals and the local Conservative MP, who saw the development as better than any other offered as the land has already been sold for re-development. Conservative councillors held the opinion that everyone is striving for “a better Stirchley” and that this regeneration would tick these boxes.

To conclude the meeting, residents decided to put in place their own plan of action without the help of any political party. Lead by a strong voice, a number of the participants in the meeting left contact details to express their interest in taking the opposition higher.

My thoughts on the meeting – Good on the members of the community to be pro-active without the leadership of a political figure!

 Community members sign anti-Tesco petition

 Signing of the anti-Tesco petition at Stirchley Community Centre

Local Community Meeting lead by The Green Party

Posted in Uncategorized by emmafoster on April 24, 2008

Numerous takeaway menus, taxi cards, letters addressed to people you have never actually heard of and endless peices of paper which have no real meaning to you. We all experience junk mail, a lot of which we consider rubbish but in the run up to local elections in Birmingham I have been starting to take notice of manifesto’s and other newsletters from local party leaders, especially the Green Party.

A couple of weeks ago my eye was caught by details of a local community meeting, the topic ….”Tesco:the fight starts here!”  The meeting was due to be lead by the local Green Party and I immediately thought that topics that would be covered would be very relevant to my area of interest within the website I write for, www.environmentalnewsonline.com 

The rest of the newsletter went on to explain that plans to build a Tesco superstore in the Stirchley area of Birmingham are not yet finalised and urged people to oppose the idea due to the negative effects it would have on the local community. 

Through further research I found an article in The Birmingham Post dated May 2006 http://www.birminghampost.net/news/west-midlands-news/tm_objectid=17151666&method=full&siteid=50002-name_page.html The article states that the plans for a retail park including a Tesco superstore had failed to be secured for three years prior to the date the story.

The meeting starts at 7:15 this evening and I plan to gain a lot of insight into the effects such large scale developments have on existing local businesses and the environment in the community. I think this is also a great opportunity to get some original quotes and ideas from an expert in the field. I will report the main points of interest in my next blog post.

Alistair Darling’s “Green” budget

Posted in Uncategorized by emmafoster on March 13, 2008

Alistair Darling, Lord Chancellor

There has been much reaction to the Lord Chancellors budget plans for 2008.  Eagerly anticipating a strong focus on environmental issues, environmentalists at Greenpeace UK accuse Alistair Darling’s announcements on March 12 as a “dirty brown”.

Reaction from a member of Greenpeace came as we were promised the greenest budget yet and highlights their disappointment in the plans which include delaying the increase on fuel prices for six months until October. http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/climate/green-budget-dirty-brown-more-like-20080312

The crux of the argument seems to be that noone seems to know where the green taxation money wil be going to. The blogger states, “If the public are to support green taxation, they have to know that the money is going to a good cause. By claiming that his measures are green, he simply undermines support for the measures we need if we are going to change behaviour.”

I think it would be fair to say that it is unclear where the green taxation money will be spent exactly however in defence of the Labour party it was stated in the speech that money charges for single use carrier bags will be donated to environmental charities. But then again that is only a tiny aspect on the grand scale of things stabilising the future.

The treasury website offers a breakdown of the expected changes as well as the fully formatted speech also available on mp3. The shortened version of environmental aspects of the budget states these changes (http://budget2008.treasury.gov.uk/the_environment.htm)

  • Laying the ground work for the introduction of five year carbon budgets, and that the first carbon budgets will be set alongside Budget 2009
  • Pre-announcing that fuel duty rates will rise by 0.5 pence per litre above indexation on 1 April 2010, in order to reduce polluting emissions and fund public services. However, the Government will postpone the 2 pence per litre fuel duty increase expected on 1 April 2008 until 1 October 2008
  • Significant reform to car vehicle excise duty (VED) rates to encourage the development and purchase of lower carbon emitting cars, with the introduction of new bands from 2009 to reward drivers of the cleanest cars and higher first year rates in 2010-11 to influence purchasing choices.
  • Supporting the most sustainable biofuels
  • Increasing the climate change levy in line with inflation
  • Announcing that the Government will introduce legislation and impose a charge on single-use carrier bags if retailers do not take voluntary action.
  • Building on the announcement in the Pre-Budget Report 2007, that air passenger duty will be replaced by a duty payable per plane, environmental signals will be further enhanced by increasing the per plane duty by 10 per cent in its second year of operation.
  • Auctioning 100% of allowances to large electricity producers in Phase III of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

The budget has also been heavily critisied by Caroline Lucas, the Green Party’s principal speaker. She said, “This Budget isn’t Green, it’s Brown. After spinning extensively that we were going to see the most environmental budget ever, the government have given us more of the same.” http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/3349

Dr Lucas also accuses Darling of being under pressure from road lobbyists and describes his postponement of fuel increase as timid.

Other comments made about the Chancellors debut speech came from body language experts. Adam Eason describes Darling in the Metro newspaper today as a puppet with Prime Minister Gordon Brown as his master. He said, “They are very much in rapport and harmony but Brown is extremely dominant.”

With much information in the news at the minute, it can be difficult to absorb all of the budget plans for 2008. But through research and reaction I think it is fair to say that perhaps the speech could have been more promising where environmental issues are concerned. The speech promises to create a stable future and economy for the UK but with disagreement we will just have to hold tight and push for these matters of concern to be dealt with.

Water Footprinting

Posted in Uncategorized by emmafoster on March 9, 2008

Water Reservation

After coming across a recent press release by The Consumer Council for Water (http://www.gnn.gov.uk/Content/Detail.asp?ReleaseID=358584&NewsAreaID=2) I undertook some research into water consumption.

The press release basically outlines some money saving tips since the water industry regulator Ofwat have increased water bills by an average of 5.8% per year. It is all well and good that we should save money but I personally feel that some emphasis should be on energy saving too. It seems to me that the whole industry is using cost as a deterrent from consuming so much water and the press release clearly has a certain discourse that focuses on money saving rather than energy saving.

I am assuming that most consumers are aware of the importance of water reservation and that using it unnessecarily should be avoided but I am slightly concerned that the focus of water efficiency campaigns are cash based.

Continuing the research I found statistics that provided evidence of the efficiency of water meters. http://www.sustainable-development.gov.uk/regional/summaries/16.htm The two graphs here clearly outline the difference between households with meters and households without meters, those with using less water. This provided me with a good viable basis for an article about the advantages of metered households and I had some good quotes from the press release. The article can be found at www.environmentalnewsonline.com

However, linking back to earlier in the post, I still did some research into water footprinting and the virtual water concept. This is what I found out:

  • The use of water extends far beyond cooking, cleaning and drinking as it is used far more for producing things like food, paper, clothes etc
  • Definition of the Water Footprint from www.waterfootprinting.orgThe water footprint of an individual, business or nation is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual, business or nation.
  • The water footprint concept was introduced in 2002 by Arjen Hoekstra (Netherlands) and is strongly connected to the virtual water concept which was introduced by Tony Allen (UK) in 1993.
  • Definiton of Virtual Water from http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/Concept_VirtualWater – The virtual water content of a product (a commodity, good or service) is the volume of freshwater used to produce the product, measured at the place where the product was actually produced (production-site definition).
  • The water footprint for one pint of beer is 75 liters and the water footprint for 1kg of chicken meat is a staggering 3,900 liters

I definately think that the concepts of water footprinting and virtual water are significant in the quest for water reservation. The calculations demonstrate just how much water we actually use in all processes of our daily lives even when it is not apparant.

I’m not sayin that money saving isn’t the correct way to market water efficiency because we all like to save a penny or two, I’m simply pointing out that maybe we should also be made more aware concepts such as water footprinting in these campaigns.

Green Consumerism

Posted in Uncategorized by emmafoster on February 28, 2008

Some environmentally friendly products by Proctor and Gamble

I have recently been looking at the concept of green consumers and the debate of what came first: the green consumer or the green business?

The debate tackles the question Is green advertising  response to the growth of the green consumer audience? Or is the audience growing because of government/businesses advice and campaigns to go green?

Some research I particularly found interesting and useful in this area was carried out by The Robert Gordon University in Scotland.  http://www2.rgu.ac.uk/abs/sustainabletechnologies/typology.htm The main finding was that there was no such thing as a completely green or ethical consumer and identified three types:

  1. Translators – Their concern is at the level of products rather than business and industry. They are prepared to make sacrifices and are open to change. Information seeking is largely passive and they are often uncritical of information sources.
  2. Exceptors- They have a high level of understanding and sustainability is a priority. They actively seek information and are change-seeking. However, exceptors can also make a purchase that goes completely against their green lifestyle and can make ‘small’ exceptions.
  3. Selectors – They are green/ethical in one area of sustainability only. Information seeking is selective and this group is often a starting point for other groups. This is the most common group.

By concentrating and looking at green consumerism it is easy to recognise which mainstream businesses target these types of audience (http://www.bsdglobal.com/markets/green_who.asp provides evidence of the characteristics of green consumers so businesses can target them) For example Proctor and Gamble currently have a number of campaigns for their household products which have a green tagline.

P&G’s common green campaigns are Ariel washing powder/tablets and the switch to 30 degrees campaign www.ariel.co.uk/energy_difference, Lenor concentrated fabric conditioner with the concept that smaller packaging ultimatley equals less traffic pollution and energy waste from lorries www.lenor.com/goconcentrate/hompage.htm  alongside the Fairy washing up liquid with a similar tag that concentrated is better for the environment www.fairy-dish.com/default.aspx. But how much do consumers really buy into these green labels and is it just a way for businesses to make cash?

 Other places where green advertising is visible is the vehicle market. Such government legislations like congestion charges and higher road tax for certain vehicles may be part of the reason why going green is more focused in this market.

 All of these points raise questions about us as consumers and do we really buy into these new green tags that existing products have been newly labelled?

Freeganism and my growing interest…

Posted in Uncategorized by emmafoster on February 26, 2008

Freegan beliefs in brief as found from www.freegan.info

  • Disagree with Capitalism 
  • Limited participation in conventional economy as the whole strategy is unethical
  • ‘Free’ + ‘Vegan’ (A person who chooses not to eat animals or use their produce in any way)
  • Disagree with sweatshop labour, rainforrest destruction, global warming, pollution, oppression, slaughtering animals, child slavery etc
  • Agree with waste reclaimation (including ‘dumpster diving’), waste reduction, eco-friendly transportation, rent free housing, going green, working less or working voluntarily.

I have become very ineterested in the beliefs of Freegans and their lifestyle. I found a blog earlier in the week written by a group of freegans traveling across Canada (www.emoware.org/dumpster-diving) and found this quote really interesting, “It’s true though, dumpster diving becomes addictive very quickly. Right now there is food out there waiting forr you to take it. It could be yours for nothing.” This sparked curiosity in my mind to the extent that I have taken to doing a bit of first hand research myself.

The article about supermarket waste which I mentioned in the earlier post shocked me when it stated that, “Retailers generate 1.6 million tonnes of food waste each year. ” Through researching freeganism and looking at blogs by people with these beliefs, it becomes clear that not all of this food is actually waste and that much more could be done to make use of it. Ideas such as donating it to homeless shelters seem so easy yet I wonder what reasoning is their for this action not to be taken. 

This said, last night I went along to my local supermarket at 11pm hoping to catch a glimpse of what was actually inside the bins and how useful it could be. However, I was disappointed to find that the area was walled and locked. I came to the conclusion that I will not give up and I plan to try other supermarkets around my local area, even if just to see whether the area is accessible or not. This also raised questions about how difficult it may be to live life in this way.

The story continues….

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