Exeter Climate Action Hub

Last month a Climate Action Hub opened in Exeter. Located at 40, Bedford Street, it provides a space for the public and local environmental and social groups and projects to come together to tackle the climate and ecological crisis, as well as the social issues which share the same root causes as climate breakdown. Amongst other activities there will be drop-in Climate Cafes at 10.30am on the first Friday of the month. For further details see https://www.facebook.com/ClimateActionHubExeter; https://climateactionhubexeter.net.

The Climate Book

This book is the perfect introduction to the topic for those who have been largely ignoring the crisis the world is entering, and for those who know much but not about everything! It contains a hundred essays of between two and four pages each, by experts in their field, interspersed with clear articles by Greta Thunberg who edited it. Charts (but not too many!) and photos further enable the text to feel very manageable. For me the
outstanding impression concerns how false the “news” continues to be in suggesting that everything that has been so far done or pledged will prevent the catastrophe we’ve knowingly permitted. As is well known, but quietly hidden in all the talk of net zero targets, we continue to increase our carbon dioxide emissions year on year not least because reduction agreements made allow most of those emissions to be ignored. The book’s plea is that the world starts to treat the crisis as a crisis. But please read it and make your own judgement. You will find plenty also to make you think about how you should be living and responding to the disaster, and how it might still be just possible to find hope. Stephen Mosedale

Making Eco-Friendly Choices

With Christmas approaching, Janice Heath shares some thoughts on Fair Trade, the
environment and ethical shopping.

One of the actions we can take to help with the climate emergency is to be mindful of our spending power. However, I am thinking about how difficult it is these days to make ethical choices as a consumer and Christmas shopper. It feels like there are so many different factors to consider– has the item been fairly traded, are the producers treating their workforce fairly, do the means of production add to the climate crisis or the degradation of the environment, can the item be recycled at the end of its life? These decisions are made more difficult if you are on a tight budget or in a rush……

In seeking help with decisions, maybe a good place to start is with the Fairtrade mark with which we are probably familiar. This is an international certification that confirms the product has met certain standards in its production and that these standards are monitored and supervised by the Fair Trade Foundation. There are 10 different standards, one of which is respect for the environment. This requires maximising the use of renewable energy and raw materials while minimising waste and pollution. Farmers and producers themselves are required to adhere to environmentally friendly farming practices. So this mark is a good indication that some attention has been paid to a product’s environmental impact, and might help us with some of our dilemmas and choices. Organisations such as Oxfam and Traidcraft sell cards, gifts, chocolate and food, many of which bear the Fairtrade mark. Oxfam have a section of ‘planet conscious’ gifts.

Christmas often involves new clothes or accessories, like socks, jumpers, and scarves –– either for ourselves or as presents. However, the clothing industry has come under particular scrutiny in recent years for its environmental impact. According to information on the Ethical Consumer website (see below) 3/5 fast fashion items end up in landfill. The fashion industry produces more carbon emissions than aviation and shipping combined. It is also responsible for chemical pollution, 35% of microplastics in the environment, and it uses huge quantities of water. The production of the raw materials for making fabrics is also fraught with environmental impact — from the monopoly of seed varieties by a small number of companies, through to the chemical manufacture of man–made fabrics such as acrylic and nylon. In addition, the clothing industry has a history of exploitation of workers and unfair trading practices whilst also creating huge personal wealth for the company’s owners. So –– what does this mean for us as discerning shoppers?

There are some very interesting websites that give a lot more information about the environmental impact of the clothing industry (see below). However, even reading for a short time makes you realise that this is a very complex and developing subject. According to the ethical consumer website, some fabrics place less demand on the environment than others, so are recommended choices. For example, organic hemp and linen, and recycled cotton and wool would be good choices; organic cotton or bamboo and Fairtrade cotton would be reasonable choices; but silk, nylon and conventional cotton should be avoided if possible. Cotton producers who merit the Fairtrade mark tend to be small scale and working through cotton co–operatives. They receive a guaranteed Fairtrade premium price, and women farmers have the same rewards as men. The mark includes environmental standards covering sustainability, reducing risks from pollutants and pesticides, and protecting biodiversity. For more details, see ‘cotton–commodity–briefing’ on the Fairtrade website.

So, perhaps we could adopt one or two new ideas to guide our Christmas shopping this year?

  • The on-line ethical superstore lists their products under different topics/tags, so you can look under ‘FairTrade’ or under ‘Eco–Friendly’ to find items that suit your interests.
  • Buy second hand if possible –– a good excuse to have a wander round the charity shops and pick up a bargain.
  • Use ethical clothing brands like Thought or PeopleTree (the Fairtrade site has a list of brands).
  • Join in with The Mint’s Christmas Card initiative –– one card will get a message to all your friends and reduce your personal consumption of paper.
  • Wrap parcels in recycled/recyclable paper –– ie not shiny or glittery.
  • For food items, buy foodstuffs bearing the FairTrade mark, buy what is in season, and buy from local producers in order to reduce the impact of transportation.

Here are some useful websites: have a good festive season!