Friday, 24 February 2012

The true costs of cigarettes

Cigarettes carry with them some serious health warnings, often plastered on the boxes in which they are held. But is it just our health we should be concerned about, or are there additional aspects we should consider when thinking of lighting up? Even though a pack of cigarettes may cost a couple of Pounds, the true cost of these tobacco products is much higher when you include the environmental price tag.

The major environmental concerns come down to the following impacts:

Monoculture - Forests and other indigenous vegetation types are cleared to make room for high-intensity tobacco plantations

Fertilising - Potassium used to feed the tobacco crops messes with the soil, and causes algal blooms in neighbouring water sources.

Pesticides - As many as 16 applications of pesticides are needed in a three-month period to keep diseases and pests at bay.

Chemicals - Toxic substances released from cigarettes leads to smog and acid rain.

Petroleum - Large amounts of fossil fuels are used in the production of cigarettes, ranging from farming machinery, to plastic production.

Mining - The aluminium foil used to line the inside of a cigarette box is often strip mined, which is a highly destructive process.

Trees - Millions of trees are chopped down every year to create enough paper to roll the tobacco in.

So, the next time you light up, think past the health concerns and start being cognisant of how the environment is being impacted too. Because even though a pack of 20 will not break the bank, it may well cost humanity a heck of a lot more!

Friday, 17 February 2012

The take-away message

Eating out has become a culture for many people around the world. Whether you are out to celebrate a birthday, or at a business luncheon, or even ordering a cheeky takeaway, you will at some point hit the restaurant scene.
As part of living a greener lifestyle, you can make healthy and eco-conscious decisions when ordering off the menu.
When choosing an eating establishment, look for one that puts eco-friendly values first. Ask yourself the following questions beforehand:
1. Are the ingredients fresh, free-range, organic and sourced locally?
2. Do they use seasonal produce?
3. Are fish and meat bought from sustainable sources?
When ordering food, avoid the temptation of choosing something that is too large, as food wastage is one of the leading contributors to landfills. If you can’t finish the dish, take it home and eat it the next day, instead of getting the eatery to toss it out.

When at restaurants, especially take-away outlets, there a number of actions we can take to make our meal times a little more eco-friendly. The most important of these relate to waste management, and include:

1. Skip the single servings
Individual sachets of condiments produce massive waste issues, as small quantities of the contents get wrapped up in large amounts of paper, plastic and other materials. So, instead of asking for small sachets, use bulk dispensers that are available at most takeaway eateries. This can also be extended to restaurants, which can decant a small amount of the condiments of your choice from larger, bulk containers.
2. Skip the bottles
If getting water with your meal, why not opt for plain old tap water as opposed to a bottle of sparkling or still? Not only is tap water the more economical option, but it is also considerably greener, as plastic bottles are clogging up landfills and contributing to environmental pollution.
3. Skip the disposables
When eating at a takeaway there is very little need for a plastic knife, fork and spoon. Finger foods are best enjoyed when eaten with one's hands, so dig into those burgers, pizzas and other tasty treats. This rule may not apply to an upmarket restaurant, but generally these establishments will have reusable cutlery.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Turning the day of love green

February 14th is just around the corner, so start planning the most romantic day of the year to make it as eco-friendly an event as possible. Now before you sigh and complain that this day of love is already too much of a mission, know that by giving some attention to your loved one, as well as to the earth, you can make the day seem less trivial, and more about being sensitive.

Valentine’s traditions generally include four key areas. Have a look at what you can do to make these components more eco-savvy.
Cards - Ideally send an e-card as no paper is used. If you do want to hand over a love letter, look for one printed on recycled paper.

Flowers and gifts - Look for fair trade chocolate, locally-grown, indigenous flowers, and vintage, pre-owned jewellery.

Setting the mood - Light up some soy or beeswax candles, as these are petroleum-product-free. Natural essences and oils in a bath will definitely warm the cockles of your heart.

Fine dining - Opt for organic and free-range meat or sustainable seafood options and serve with seasonal vegetables. Accompany the meal with an eco-friendly wine.

Whether you plan on going all-out on the 14th of February, make sure that your romantic rendezvous are as eco-friendly as possible. This way, you show affection to both the love of your life and the earth too.