Posts Tagged ‘Life & style’

The eco guide to Christmas trees

December 14th, 2017

Powered by article titled “The eco guide to Christmas trees” was written by Lucy Siegle, for The Observer on Sunday 10th December 2017 06.00 UTC

This year I’m going real. Given the plastic pandemic, my goodwill doesn’t extend to manufacturers of oil-based fake trees shipped across the globe.

From an ecological point of view, all cut trees are imperfect. Three-quarters of the trees put up this Christmas in the UK will be grown here (this at least cuts down on tree miles). But these trees are raised on plantations that are as quick growing as possible. They are not carefully calibrated forests for the benefit of the future.

A standard UK forestry guide I came across cheerfully recommended to growers that they apply glyphosate in summer (this is the weedkiller that controversially just had its licence renewed in the EU) and a spritz of another pesticide in the winter.

There are few agronomic studies of Christmas tree growing. But one from US researchers reports that pesticide residues are not found on harvested trees by Christmas. If that offers cold comfort, seek out a certified organic tree.

Christmas trees are grown from seed held in cones and stored in the crown 30m above ground – these are then collected by cone pickers. The seeds for our plantations largely come from Georgia. Here, campaigns on the human cost of the industry have uncovered exploitation and dangerous working conditions. In 2010 a Danish company started to produce fair trade Christmas trees grown by workers paid a fair wage in decent conditions.

Of course, by Boxing Day it is hard to remember that the disco ball in the corner is a forest product at all, let alone that it needs returning to the earth as mulch via a recycling scheme. But this is your chance to claw back some eco advantage. Better still, if you’ve got a good-quality potted tree, shake the tinsel, replant and nurture for the next 12 months.

The big picture: watching Alaska’s whales

Aerial whale-watcher: the non-invasive Parley SnotBot.
Aerial whale-watcher: the non-invasive Parley SnotBot. Photograph: Christian Miller/Courtesy Parley for the Oceans

Advanced drone technology in the form of the Parley SnotBot was recently sent on an expedition to study whales in Alaska. Finds included the identification of a whale from a past expedition and a confirmed pregnancy in another, all discovered without the need to leave the boat and disturb the whales. It has been described as the new frontier of non-invasive marine research.

Well dressed: get a head start with a carbon fibre helmet

Head savers: the gloss cycling helmet from Dashel
Head saver: the gloss cycling helmet from Dashel

To wear or not to wear? As the debate over cycling helmets and whether they should be mandatory rumbles on, the idea of designing better helmets seems to have been eclipsed.

But Catherine Bedford has been quietly getting on with designing a small, lightweight carbon fibre helmet. Bedford, with a background as a designer of accessories for luxury brands, has transferred values around premium craftsmanship into her helmet design.

The carbon fibre shell is hand-finished by a family-owned factory in Cornwall which manufactures helmets for the military and marine industry, and the harness webbing is sourced from Derbyshire.

Already featured as ‘an accessory of the future’ at last year’s Cycle Revolution exhibition at the Design Museum, the Dashel helmet has now arrived.

Gloss cycling helmet, from £170

Email Lucy at or follow her on Twitter @lucysiegle © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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The eco guide to a happier, greener workplace

February 13th, 2017

Powered by article titled “The eco guide to a happier, greener workplace” was written by Lucy Siegle, for The Observer on Sunday 12th February 2017 06.00 UTC

If you’re dreading the start of the working week tomorrow can I just check it’s not the lighting? A 1990s study showed plentiful natural light to be a top determinant of job satisfaction.

If you can’t get near a window at least press for LEDs (they have a life of up to 60,000 hours in comparison to 6,000 hours for a fluorescent tube). They also improve your mood, productivity and energy efficiency.

But for real practical change in the workplace, you need to influence facilities and purchasing staff. This is where the power lies. In Europe, better purchasing has led to 72% of our paper now being recycled.

Get your office in order and you’ll be up for multiple certifications, such as ISO14001, but if you want to aim high I suggest looking to festivals for inspiration of what we can achieve in our own workplace. Shambala, the UK festival held in August, has managed to reduce its carbon footprint by 81%, partly down to its plastic-free initiative; no bottled water sold onsite as part of its “bring your own bottle” campaign.

There’s so much innovation in the green festivals movement and offices can learn from them.

If greening your office – or festival – isn’t enough and you want to get deeper into saving the planet, The Ethical Careers Guide: How to Find Work You Love by Paul Allen is an excellent resource, full of real-world experience. By coincidence the book’s publisher New Internationalist will also be launching a community share offer at the same time.

In the world of green careers, things are moving fast. By 2018 Riverford Farm, the originator of veg boxes in the UK, aims to be employee owned. Start off changing the lighting, and you could end up with a stake in the future.

The big picture: the consequences of climate change

a dried-out patch of land seen from the air.
Drying up: an aerial view of the devastating effect of climate change

If you’re looking for the ultimate take-down of Trump’s flirtation with climate-change denial, Jared P Scott’s new documentary The Age of Consequences should just about do it. This is an investigation into the impact of climate change on increased resource scarcity, migration and conflict. It is frightening, but it also shows some unlikely climate-change allies – namely the US military (

Well dressed: Vivienne Westwood goes to China

the Vivienne Westwood exhibition, Get a Life!, in Shanghai.
Viva Viv: the Vivienne Westwood exhibition, Get a Life!, in Shanghai.

Chinese curator Adrian Cheng is credited with kicking off an art revolution in his native country. When he talked about climate activism with the veteran British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood some time ago, he became fixated on telling that story to Chinese designers and consumers through the medium of fashion. The resulting exhibition, Get a Life! (named after Westwood’s book on her brand of climate activism), has been three years in the making, but is now attracting record audiences to the K11 Art Museum in the Chinese capital, Shanghai. Alongside, China’s top fashion colleges are competing in an eco design competition, based on Westwood’s environmental vision. The work of the two winners will be stocked in K11’s concept store, Kuriosity.

Email Lucy at or follow her on Twitter @lucysiegle © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.