This year’s most important new environmentally-focused books

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Climate change is undoubtedly one of the defining issues of our time, and quite possibly the single most important of them all. Politicians the world over have spent decades trying to get to grips with the problem, although it has to be said that their lack of progress is starting to attract ever closer scrutiny from activists and other observers. As you might expect, there have been a raft of books over the last few years debating and scrutinising the issues surrounding climate change and the environment more broadly – and 2013 has already seen a whole host of new environmental books hit the shelves. Here are five titles you might want to consider delving into, which you shouldn’t have much trouble finding at a Book people nature and outdoors section.

1)      Hungry Capital: The Financialization of Food – Luigi Rossi: Published by Zero Books, Hungry Capital sees Luigi Rossi examine the rapid restructuring of the global food chain in recent decades. The financialisation of the global economy more generally has had a significant impact on the way the international food chain operates, with the influence of multinational firms and large retail chains fuelling extensive changes. Hungry Capital looks specifically at the influence of financial experts on the worldwide food economy, and questions whether the edifice can hold for much longer in an increasingly unstable, interconnected global economy.

2)      Climate Myths: The Campaign Against Climate Science – John Berger: According to USA Today, Climate Myths is a study of the global fossil fuel industry’s attempts to obfuscate and undermine the science associated with the processes of climate change. In the book, John Berger compares the modern-day anti-climate change lobbying efforts of fossil fuel firms to the propaganda disseminated by tobacco firms in earlier eras, aimed at downplaying the mounting – and now widely accepted – evidence that cigarettes posed various health hazards to smokers.

3)      Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change – Andrew Guzman: This book looks at the likely consequences of allowing the planet’s temperature to rise by another two degrees centigrade. Andrew Guzman, a law professor in the US, warns that further warming is likely to cause widespread instability – fuelling increased conflict as nations squabble over increasingly scarce resources, destroying island nations and leaving millions of people around the world displaced from their homes.

4)      Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent – Gabrielle Walker: Having visited Antarctica five times, Gabrielle Walker takes the opportunity to show us just what the continent is like in this book. She describes in unflinching detail the minus 60 degree temperatures, the months of darkness and much more besides. She also looks at what the future holds for Antarctica as climate change takes its toll.

5)      High Tide on Main Street: Rising Sea Levels and the Coming Coastal Crisis – John Englander: In High Tide on Main Street, John Englander warns that regardless of what how global temperatures rise over the coming years, higher sea levels are now an inevitability – and he points out that this could endanger coastal communities, driving millions of people further inland.

Why Fashion Shouldn’t Cost The Earth

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The impact a business as huge as fashion can have on the planet and its people is well documented – both anecdotally and in the news. Sweatshop scandals of the 1990s have lest a strong impression. When you buy a new dress, chances are you don’t think twice about where it came from, who made it and what it’s made from.

Earlier this decade, figures from Verdict Research showed that £1 in every £5 spent on fashion in the UK was going to low cost shops. More recently, some of the biggest high street brands have become embroiled in ethical trading scandals.

But the past decade has seen an increase in the globally-conscious shopper – especially in the UK. A chocolate bar, for example, may cost a little bit more when it’s fair trade, yet many will happily pay extra in the knowledge cocoa farmers in the developing world are not being exploited for a desk worker’s sugar fix.

That eco-friendliness also extends into organic fashion. The developed world may not mind suffering for fashion once in a while, but there’s no reason the entire planet should. Organic cotton, for example, should be grown from non-genetically engineered seed and developed without the use of synthetic fertilizers or toxic herbicides and pesticides. It experienced a sales growth of 35 per cent between 2008 and 2009.

The people who make our clothes often work in terrible conditions. Many garments purchased in the ‘Western World’ are imported cheaply from the South, where they are made by sweat shop workers (often children) who work long and hard for very little money.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) was developed with the aim of defining world-wide requirements that ensure the organic status of textiles. It covers everything from harvesting of the raw materials through to environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing. All clothing covered by this must also be labelled in order to provide credible assurance to the consumer.

GOTS requires safe, humane working conditions (including regular employment, fair wages and working hours) and specifies that employees cannot be underage or forced labour.

Eco-fashion clothes are made using organic materials – such as cotton grown without pesticides and silk made by worms fed on organic trees. It can also include recycled and improved second hand clothes. Clothes can even be made from plastic bottles. Post-consumer resin (PCR) can be spun into thin fibres that are then used to make a form of polyester. This becomes the fabric to create any type of clothing including exercise outfits, casual shirts and jackets.

It may not seem obvious when you see a bargain sweater or maxi dress, but the products used to make clothing can cause a great deal of damage to the environment. Pesticides used by farmers can harm wildlife, contaminate other products and even get into the food we eat. This is especially true with the chemicals used to bleach and colour.

Thinking about the environment even extends to the clothes we throw as away – which can take up valuable space in landfill sites.

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint When You Travel

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Awareness of what effect our travel habits have on the environment has increased considerably in recent years, and now most people will understand what’s meant by terms such as carbon footprint and carbon offsetting. There is no getting away from the fact that a plane produces emissions, but there are steps that travellers can take to help negate the impact.

Carbon and flights

Holiday charter flights, business flights, luggage shipping even medical repatriation flights –they all have an impact on the environment. When fossil fuels are burned, by-products known as carbon emissions are produced. These gases, such as CO2, are already present in the atmosphere but as more fuel is burned, their concentration increases. CO2 is believed to be a major factor in global warming, which is why efforts are being made around the globe to limit the amount being released into the earth’s atmosphere.

Average footprint

Research has revealed that the carbon footprint of the average household is about 10 tons per year and much of this comes from transport use. For example, a return flight between London Heathrow and JFK airport in New York will result in 1.16 tons of carbon dioxide being produced per person.

Concerted efforts

It’s not just environmentally-minded travellers that are thinking about the impact that flying has on the atmosphere. Governments around the world are making concerted efforts to cut carbon emissions and reduce pollution. The UK for example has signed up to the Climate Change Act and as a result is committed to cutting all its climate-changing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, based on 1990 levels.

Carbon offsetting

It is possible to limit the impact that taking a flight has on the environment by joining a carbon offsetting scheme. They work by the traveller paying a certain amount of money depending on how much CO2 they expect to produce. This cash is then used to pay for projects elsewhere in the world that will result in CO2 being removed from the atmosphere. An example of a scheme could be a factory in India switching from the use of fossil fuels to solar power, or perhaps the construction of a wind farm instead of a new coal-fired power station. Such schemes have proved to be especially popular with businesses that have a strong social conscience and realise they need to play an active role in helping to combat climate change.

Advances in aviation technology

Cutting back on flights and offsetting the release of carbon dioxide is not the only answer. Tackling the heart of the issue and coming up with more sustainable methods of travel is also key. Boeing for example has come up with a design for a hybrid plane that runs not only on aviation fuel but also on electricity. The result is an aircraft that produces considerably lower emissions when it is in flight. It is these kinds of advances in technology that are set to play a key role in the fight against global warming over the coming years.

Your Guide To Buying With A Conscience

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There is a lot to be said for the personal benefits of buying healthy. A selection of fresh, locally grown fruit and veg can work wonders for your well being but it can also be great for the environment. This, if you think about things in the long run, can also be good for you.

There are the simple and obvious things you can do to help make the world a better place, buying fair trade products is one. But if you’re interested in making your lifestyle greener there are a number of small, almost insignificant changes you may not have thought of.

You can look for ways to reduce and recycle in almost any regular activity, but grocery shopping is one of the easiest. By making small changes and eco-friendly purchasing choices, your shopping routine can be an easy way to reduce your impact on the environment.

Shop local

This can help in a number of different ways. When you jump in the car to nip to the supermarket, you impact the environment in more ways than you might imagine. Often, it can be more convenient to order shopping online while sitting on the rather than heading back out again to the supermarket. New research shows it’s also much more environmentally friendly to leave the car parked and opt for groceries delivered to your doorstep.

“A lot of times people think they have to inconvenience themselves to be greener, and that actually isn’t the case here,” said Anne Goodchild, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington. “From an environmental perspective, grocery delivery services overwhelmingly can provide emissions reductions.”

Shopping local should also include buying produce grown nearby. Many will tell you that local food tastes better, which may or may not be true. It is also up for debate whether or not food that has not had to travel as far has higher nutritional value because of its freshness. But with food from further away, details about pesticides, land use, and working conditions are hard to come by. You will also know that it has not had to travel for miles, cutting down on emissions and you will be supporting a local farmer.

Serve seasonal produce

Items such as strawberries and asparagus have to be transported great distances to reach your table in the winter. Because of this, seasonal foods tend to be cheapest – and, when thinking about your green credentials, reducing air and ground transport for food cuts our use of fossil fuels and alleviates air pollution.

Buy food in recyclable containers

If it’s a toss-up between one or another punnet of grapes – go for the one you know is best for the planet as different materials are easier to recycle than others. For instance, all paper and cardboard can be recycled whereas with certain types of plastic it can be more difficult.

It is very important to make sure you don’t just throw them away along with your regular rubbish. If you have to use plastic, such as bags, make sure you’re recycling them. Take a plastic bag back to the shop with you, save having to buy or take another one.

Also look at buying food that is not individually packaged. Aim for loose items to cut down on unnecessary packaging. A lot of the time a pack of, for instance, onions can seem like they are half empty. In this case, go for the loose onions.

Don’t buy more than you need

Being frugal protects your pocket and the environment. Food waste disposed of incorrectly can be a nightmare when it comes to landfill. Around 40 per cent of food produced in Europe is wasted. Methane, a greenhouse gas estimated to be 20 times worse for the environment that carbon dioxide, is created by rotting food and emitted from landfills as food rots. Avoid this by buying less and disposing of everything you don’t use properly.

Free range animals raised for meat also put less strain on the ground where they’re raised and do not require as much in the way of antibiotics. Animal waste that is free of antibiotics and chemicals is friendlier to groundwater, plants and wildlife.

Tips for making sure that your footprint is as green as possible

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Image via Flickr creative commons from Lauri Vain

As you’ve probably noticed, environmental issues have steadily crept further and further up the political and social agenda over the last quarter of a century or so. This is in large part because of climate change, which has generally come to be regarded as one of the most pressing issues currently facing humanity. Although it’s important to remember that the vast majority of carbon emissions are produced by large industrial concerns rather than households, that’s not to say that there aren’t steps we can take to reduce our impact on the planet. It’s important that we all pull together and do our bit – because if we don’t, the consequences don’t bear thinking about.

One of the most commonly-used environmental buzzwords of recent years is “carbon footprint”. This particular phrase refers to the amount of greenhouse gases each individual, household, business or other organisation is responsible for emitting – so when people talk about reducing their carbon footprint, they’re talking about emitting lower amounts of greenhouse gases. There are a number of steps that each of us can take to reduce our carbon emissions, and it’s worth carrying out a thorough assessment of what pollutants you’re responsible for releasing into the atmosphere as part of your everyday routine. When you have an idea of what your individual carbon footprint is, you’re better placed to work out how you can reduce it.

As an article from eHow.com points out, you can reduce your carbon footprint making relatively small-scale adjustments to your lifestyle. Perhaps the first thing you should consider is whether or not it could be a good idea to buy a more environmentally-friendly car. Many of us have been driving the same old gas guzzlers for years, spewing large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In recent years, a number of more eco-friendly models have come on to the market – such as those produced by Dacia and other manufacturers – and so it’s well worth looking at what these vehicles have to offer. Many eco-friendly cars also happen to be cheaper to run, as they’re more fuel-efficient. At a time when so many of us are facing financial uncertainty, this could turn out to be a wise investment.

You can also reduce your carbon footprint – and save money – by thinking more carefully about when you actually need to use your car. If you can walk instead of driving, then why not do so? Not only does this save on unnecessary fuel consumption, but it’s also good for you as it helps you get some useful exercise. It’s easy for motorists to get used to driving anywhere and everywhere, but there will be times when you simply don’t need to drive.

There are also a number of other things you can do to cut back on your personal carbon emissions. It’s worth keeping a close eye on when you use electrical appliances, for instance. An article from Yahoo suggests that instead of leaving them on standby, you should make sure they’re properly turned off. Likewise, don’t leave lights switched on when you don’t need. Insulating your home can also help you reduce the size of your carbon footprint.

5 Eco-Friendly Ways To Recycle Old Clothes

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There comes a time in every person’s life when they are just fed up of wearing the same old clothes and desperately wish for new ones. However, in order to make room in your wardrobe for all of your brand new threads, you’ll need to get rid of the old ones first. No doubt you’ve heard of the saying, out with the old and in with the new? Well I am going to show you just how you can do that and help the environment with five eco-friendly ways to recycle your old clothes.

1.      Donate to charity

It may sound obvious but one way you could put your old and unwanted clothes to good use is to donate them to a charity shop. By doing so, somebody else will be able to make good use out of your old clothes and you will create sufficient space in your wardrobe and drawers to put your new purchases. The great thing about donating to charity is that you will be helping a good cause and someone else will be able to get their hands on top quality clothing for a fraction of the usual cost. Just make sure your clothes are still in tip-top condition before you bag them up and take them down to the store. Nobody will feel inclined to buy dishevelled clothing that is ripped or stained.

2.      Clothes-swap

Your clothes don’t have to be damaged or necessarily old and worn for you to want new ones. Sometimes you may have been given clothing as a gift and you find that you don’t like it or that it doesn’t fit you. Rather than seem ungrateful, graciously accept the gift in the knowledge that it will come in handy for your next clothes-swapping party. Invite all of your friends round to your house and tell everyone to bring an item of clothing or some accessories that are unwanted but still in great condition. Then take it in turns to pick out an item from the pile. You may find that your best friend has a gorgeous green dress that suits you while she may covet those red beads that you no longer wear.

3.      Fashion your clothes into new pieces

Perhaps your old M&Co blouses have seen better days but you just can’t bring yourself to throw them away? In that case, you will be pleased to know that you can take cuttings from your old clothes and fashion them into fantastic new pieces. That sheer blouse that you love the colour of can be used to make a sheer denim button up tank top. Simply chop the sleeves off your old, non-fitting denim jacket. Next chop your jacket up just below the front jacket pocket flaps and retain the button section but discard the rest of the jacket. Chop off the top section of your sheer blouse from underneath the arm upwards and se to the top of the denim jacket. Finally sew on the button section to complete the top.

4.      Sell your old clothes

Another ingenious way to pass on your clothes, i.e. recycle old clothes, which will make you a bit of money at the same time, is to sell them via an online marketplace. You may not fetch an awful lot of money for your old and unwanted clothes, but you will be doing your bit for the environment and at least someone else will have the opportunity to wear them, rather than having old clothes cluttering up your drawers at home.

5.      Use old clothes for cleaning cloths

On occasion you will have a collection of old clothes that are so worn and tired that they are unsuitable to be sold on or given away to charity. In such circumstances, you can still re-use your old tops as cleaning rags. Simply cut them up into medium sized pieces and you will save money on having to buy expensive and overpriced cleaning cloths.