Friday, October 8, 2010

Ethical Consumption Weekly Updates - Justmeans

Where do donated clothes go? - Akhila Vijayaraghavan

Browsing second-hand thrift stores, vintage shops and charity shops was a favourite pass time when I was a college student. I still love hanging out in back end markets and vintage places finding one-of-a-kind pieces.

Reusing second hand clothing is a great way towards a sustainable life. However, not all  donated clothing is created equal. Second hand clothing forms a significant economy and used clothing has gone global. According to the Council for Textile Recycling, about 61% of donated clothes in the US are exported to other countries.

Shipping these billions of pounds of used clothing each year to places like Africa can have a huge carbon footprint. Additionally, it can also hurt local textile businesses at its destination. To be an ethical consumer, it is essential not to endorse cheaply manufactured, one-season only garments which are designed to be tossed after a short usage span.

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Decline in pollinating insects, antibiotics in Indian honey - what's the connection? - Akhila Vijayaraghavan

This week two articles caught my eye - one about antibiotics in Indian honey in the Down to Earth magazine and the other about decline in pollinating insects in India which is affecting vegetable harvests in the BBC. On the surface they may not seem to be correlate, but environmental awareness is understanding that ecosystems, biodiversity are more interconnected than distinct. All this brings us to main protagonist of this story - the humble honey bee.

Honey is one of those foods which is all-natural, or supposed to be. With the increase in market for commercial honey, a few years ago a very bad decision was made to introduce the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) in India; which although is a prolific honey producer is not well-suited for Indian conditions. Eventually these bees pretty much replaced the native Indian bees which are naturally more resistant to diseases.

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Greening appliances - Akhila Vijayaraghavan

Home appliances account for about 17% of your household's energy consumption, with refrigerators, clothes washers, dishwashers  and clothes dryers at the top. There are several ways to be clever about energy usage in the house and reduce the amount of energy as well as your electricity bill. First, switch to a green power supplier if you haven't already done so. Several states now offer smart meters so make sure you get one if your state offers them. Second, there are several global energy standards that you can adhere to in your purchase of appliances - make sure to check for either an EnergyGuide, GreenSeal or Energy Star label. Although it varies from gadget to gadget, typically Energy Star gadgets save up to 20% to 30% in energy on the average. Third, rethink your gadgets - do you really need so many? Will you ever use that ice-cream maker or waffle maker on a regular basis?  Also consider the size of the appliance - do you really need a refrigerator that big?

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Ethical choices: e-reader or books? - Akhila Vijayaraghavan

Whilst I was in Seattle a few months ago I had the chance to speak to a few independent bookstore owners to ask them what they thought about sustainability, green living and books. What came out of that conversation was very insightful. It is old but still infortunate news that independent bookstores are a dying breed hastened by the arrival of big retailers, Amazon and now the e-reader.

The Cleantech Group reckons that the Kindle is the greener way to read.  According to them a Kindle is responsible for 168 kq of CO2 over its lifetime. Replacing three physical books a month for four years with Kindle books will save 1,074 kg of CO2.

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