Archive for January, 2010

Why We Don’t Need Eco Towns to Create More Eco Homes

January 19th, 2010

When the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, first announced plans to build over 50 eco towns it was hailed as a way of creating affordable housing and a greener way of living. However, as the practicalities of building these eco towns came to light cynicism grew about whether they’d be eco friendly or just create rural sprawl. Instead, there’s now growing clamour for renovating existing houses to create eco homes rather than building new ones.

What are Eco towns?

Eco towns are designed to be green, sustainable housing developments. Initially, eco towns were supposed to fulfil the following criteria:

  • At least 30% of the eco houses in each eco town must be classified as ‘affordable housing’
  • Roads should be largely car free, with a speed limit of 15 mph
  • The town should generate zero carbon in a year (excluding transport emissions)
  • At least 40% of the eco town should be green space e.g. parks, gardens and playing fields
  • There must be shops and a primary school within walking distance of every home
  • To encourage people to use public transport, bus times will be displayed in eco homes

Since being announced these requirements have been downgraded (largely due to realisation that people can’t be forced from their cars). This has led to accusations that previously rejected housing projects are now being rubber stamped as ‘eco towns’ in order to bypass normal planning controls.

Recently, it was announced that four eco towns are to be built, with another nine planned. Construction is expected to start in 2016, but the number of eco houses built will be far fewer than the 100,000 originally planned.

Why not turn existing houses into eco homes?

Controversy continues to dog the progress of building these eco towns, with serious question marks over their sustainability, transport links, jobs and whether it’s just a gimmick to get more homes built on green belts.

Instead many have questioned why more isn’t done to turn existing houses into eco homes. This can be achieved by making them more energy efficient (as well as decorating them with eco textiles and eco furniture).  Buildings account for almost 50% of the UK’s carbon emissions. So the Government has at least made at start on making homes more eco friendly by announcing plans to insulate all homes by 2015, and vastly reduce the energy wasted on heating.

Celebrate 15 Years of Fairtrade in Your Eco Home

January 19th, 2010

This year Fairtrade celebrated its 15th birthday. Since being founded by Oxfam and Christian Aid, Fairtrade has helped increase the livelihoods of 7 million people in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Initially the only Fairtrade products available were coffee and chocolate. But the range has since grown to include over 4500 products, including eco textiles, eco furniture and many other items you can buy for your eco home.

What is Fairtrade?

Fairtrade is an organised social movement aimed at helping producers in developing countries get a fairer price for their goods and to become more self sufficient. It finds its roots in the anti capitalist radical student groups of the 1960s, which deplored the exploitation of developing countries by Western companies.

In order to offer customers cheap clothes and food it was often the producer’s income that suffered. This meant the people producing the coffee, bananas, honey and many other products were unable to improve the livelihoods for themselves and their families. So the next time you buy a T-shirt for £2.00 think of the mere pence paid to whoever made it.

Consequently, The Fairtrade Foundation was launched to ensure more producers could be paid a fairer price and helped to gain the knowledge, skills and resources they needed to improve their lives.

The impact of Fairtrade on eco furniture

Currently, the aspect of eco furniture most affected by the Fairtrade movement is the use of organic cotton used to make eco textiles and eco furniture. Conventional cotton is very environmentally damaging to manufacture due to the heavy use of pesticides. In fact, it’s blamed for causing up to 20,000 deaths. Organic cotton, on the other hand, is far less damaging to the environment and the people who grow it due to the use of pesticide free farming methods.

Organic cotton was first certified as Fairtrade in 2005. Since then sales of items made from Fairtrade cotton (such as eco upholstery) have grown from £200,000 to £7.79 million.

The growth of Fairtrade products for your eco home

Last year sales of Fairtrade products reached £700 million, and they’re expected to quadruple by 2012. This reflects how more and more people are becoming ethical shoppers and buying products that promote a more sustainable way of living.

The ethos of Fairtrade is intrinsically linked to that of eco design. So you can expect to see much more eco furniture you can buy for your eco home becoming Fairtrade certified in the future.