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Make Your Home an Eco Home & Benefit the Environment!
Make Your Home an Eco Home & Benefit the Environment!

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Recycling drive helps Forest Stewardship Council protect world’s forests. 50% of Brits recycle Christmas cards or wrapping paper after the holidays.

Sainsbury’s has extended the number of Christmas card collection points in its stores this year to help the Forest Stewardship Council UK protect the world’s forests.

 The collection boxes will be in over 1,000 supermarkets and convenience stores throughout the country until the 14 January.

Sainsbury’s online customers can also have their cards collected from their homes when they receive their online shop, making it even easier to recycle and help reduce the amount of household waste going to landfill.

The collected cards will be recycled by Sainsbury’s and it will make a donation to the Forest Stewardship Council UK (FSC) in the New Year based on the volume of cards collected in its stores. Last year it donated almost £9,000 to help the FSC with its work to promote responsible management of the world’s forests.

Meanwhile, it’s estimated that over a billion greeting cards are sold each year in the UK*, many of these in the lead up to Christmas, and latest research for Sainsbury’s** suggests that despite the popularity of technology traditional handwritten cards are still as popular as ever. In fact, of the 2,000 Brits recently surveyed, nine out of ten send traditional Christmas cards and half recycle cards or wrapping paper once the holidays are over.
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UK Gas & Electricity Prices Rising: How To Manage Gas & Electricity Consumption

Residents in the UK have been dismayed in recent months to see significant rises in the cost of gas & electricity.  It’s no major surprise anywhere in the world in recent years for fuel prices to be a burden, but the recent increases across the UK have been particularly troublesome and paint a bleak picture for the future.

In a recent October article, BBC business news online noted some of the ominous numbers related specifically to British Gas. It appears that the fuel company will be raising ordinary gas prices by up to 8.4%, with household electricity prices going up by a whopping 10.4%. These are the most recent numbers to trouble UK residents, but are ultimately only a part of a much longer trend.

The Mirror newspaper recently discussed this trend in a broader context, claiming that the UK’s household gas prices are going up more quickly than those in any other European country – with prices vaulting upward nearly 200% in the past decade.

All of this begs the question: what can UK residents do to escape the financial burden inflicted by these rises in prices?  To some extent, of course, there’s no getting around them.   But, here are a few simple tips that can help you to not only save money on domestic fuel bills but help the environment at the same time.

Stock Up On Heating Devices – Rather than soley using your central heating – which uses more energy and relies upon those high home energy prices – you can often get by pretty well with space heaters and electronic options. MySmartBuy provides tips for when and how to use these sorts of devices to your benefit, and also has a range of options.  Whether it’s a basic electric blanket to keep you cosy or a full on energy efficient space heater, there are plenty of possibilities to choose from.

Seal & Insulate Your Home – One of the easiest ways to spend too much on home heating and electricity is to allow your home to become improperly sealed or insulated.  Over time, old windows and doors start to let more air in, which means your home heating and cooling has to work harder, and wastes more energy.  Have a professional look at your windows, doors and insulation to make sure you’re sealing your home properly against the elements.  An American company, Blindsgalore offer advice on Energy Efficient Shades, Blinds & Window treatments which also applies to the UK market.

Cut Back Consumption – Most of us are naturally wasteful when it comes to two main things: water and electricity. Cut your tap off while you are shaving, shower more quickly, and turn off lights in unoccupied rooms. These are basic tips, but all together can amount to real energy conservation, and lower home energy bills.
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Bring Fairtrade to Your Eco Home

Here in the UK, the Fairtrade Foundation was established in 1992 with the first products to carry the Fair Trade mark, launched in 1994.  Since being founded by Oxfam and Christian Aid, Fairtrade has helped increase the livelihoods of  millions of people in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Initially the only Fairtrade products available were coffee and chocolate. But the range has since grown with the Fairtrade Foundation  licensing over 3000 products for sale through retail and catering outlets in the UK. to include eco textiles, eco furniture and many other items you can buy for your eco home.

What is Fairtrade?

Fairtrade is an organised social movement aimed at helping producers in developing countries get a fairer price for their goods and to become more self sufficient. It finds its roots in the anti capitalist radical student groups of the 1960s, which deplored the exploitation of developing countries by Western companies.

In order to offer customers cheap clothes and food it was often the producer’s income that suffered. This meant the people producing the coffee, bananas, honey and many other products were unable to improve the livelihoods for themselves and their families.

Consequently, The Fairtrade Foundation was launched to ensure more producers could be paid a fairer price and helped to gain the knowledge, skills and resources they needed to improve their lives.

The impact of Fairtrade on eco furniture  

Currently, the aspect of eco furniture most affected by the Fairtrade movement is the use of organic cotton used to make eco textiles and eco furniture. Conventional cotton is very environmentally damaging to manufacture due to the heavy use of pesticides.  Organic cotton, on the other hand, is far less damaging to the environment and to the people who grow it, due to the use of pesticide free farming methods.

Organic cotton was first certified as Fairtrade in 2005. Since then sales of items made from Fairtrade cotton (such as eco upholstery) have been radically increasing each year.

The growth of Fairtrade products for your eco home 

This reflects how more and more people are becoming ethical shoppers and buying products that promote a more sustainable way of living.  The ethos of Fairtrade is intrinsically linked to that of eco design.  So, you can expect to see much more eco furniture you can buy for your eco home becoming Fairtrade certified in the future.
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 *The ethical GoodWeave label for rugs and why more people should demand it*

Some rug producers illegally use children in the production of rugs as a source of cheap labour. “Rug children” are often forced to work seven days a week, up to sixteen hours per day, receive no education or decent living conditions and therefore have a bleak future.

 Here in the UK, consumers unwittingly buy these rugs in the big chain stores and independent high street shops, and in so doing perpetuate the problem.

    The news is much better when it comes to purchasing a luxury ‘designer’ rug in the UK.  GoodWeave labelled rugs are now widely available in this sector from the likes of The Rug Company, Deirdre Dyson, Bazaar Velvet, Jacaranda Carpets, Knots Rugs and WovenGround.  To make shopping for ethically produced rugs easier, GoodWeave UK launched its own online Rug Directory, which informs interior designers and consumers about the latest GoodWeave labelled rug designs and where to buy them.

    Rug manufacturing takes place in some of the poorest regions of the world, and rural poverty and lack of access to education forces families to send their children to work, often hundreds of miles from where they live. It is important to understand the context here – these kids do not bring home any income to their families, they sit for hours on end, working in atrocious conditions in return for a meal and somewhere to sleep, if they are lucky.
  
    If the West did not buy rugs from producers exploiting children, the practice would stop and that is what GoodWeave works towards, but in the UK, high street retailers are slow and reluctant to take on their share of the responsibility.

    GoodWeave is active in India and Nepal with a pilot scheme in Afghanistan. It encourages rug producers to sign up to its labelling scheme, which funds random and independent inspections of the rug producers and educates and financially supports rescued children and those that are vulnerable. In return, these producers can apply the GoodWeave label on their rugs.

  If UK Retailers bought only GoodWeave labelled rugs to sell in their shops, this would deny a market to producers using children and in so doing drastically reduce child exploitation – but many don’t. This lack of effort in the UK is in sharp contrast to the USA and Germany where major retail brands such as Macy’s and Otto make GoodWeave labelled rugs widely available.

    The only way to prevent child labour in the informal manufacturing sector is to have local inspectors, out in the villages carrying out random, unannounced inspections on a regular basis.  It is easy for the large retailers to be duped into believing that their suppliers are not using child labour, as weaving is often subcontracted out to thousands of individual, village based weavers.  Visiting buyers and annual audit teams cannot possibly visit all these places and yet this is where children are often found by our inspectors, making rugs.
 
    Some UK high street retailers make donations to charities in India and Nepal, provide clinics and schools and others make commitments on sustainability, and all these efforts are to be applauded, but tackling child labour in the informal manufacturing sector is crucial.

    So, next time you are in a shop about to buy a rug made in Nepal or India, check it is a GoodWeave labelled rug and buy with a clear conscience. If there is no label, then please do not buy and explain to the shop owner or manager why – only then do we have a chance of educating our high street stores and making a real difference.

For further information visit www.goodweave.org.uk
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How Eco Architects Design Carbon Neutral Eco Homes

When designing eco homes, eco architects consider the environmental impact at every level. This holistic approach helps eco architects towards their goal of creating a carbon neutral eco home.

Harnessing the latest green technology and heating strategies, eco architects are able to design eco homes that can generate their own electricity and minimise the energy that’s wasted, helping to minimise an eco home’s carbon footprint.

Along with using eco furniture, eco textiles and eco materials for the interior, there are many strategies used by eco architects when building eco homes:

Passive solar design through orientation – Eco homes are designed to maximise the heat gained from sunlight. So the majority of windows are positioned on the south-facing side, whilst there are fewer windows on the northern side to minimise the heat that’s lost.

Ventilation – To ensure there is a constant flow of clean air, stale air is ventilated out of the house through a pipe running underground or through rooftop wind-catcher vents. Heat exchange technology is used to transfer heat from the air that’s leaving the eco home to the air coming in.

Insulation – High levels of insulation in the walls and triple glazed windows help eco homes to retain higher levels of heat. For the insulation, eco architects will use environmentally friendly eco materials, like locally manufactured sheep’s wool, recycled cellulose, flax or wood fibre.

Energy generation – Utilising wind turbines and solar panels on the roof, eco architects can design homes able to generate their own electricity. Glass tube solar panels are estimated to provide 65% of hot water requirements.

Eco materials – Eco architects will use reclaimed building materials, recycled materials and wood from FSC regulated sources. They will also source building materials from local suppliers to minimise the carbon footprint involved in transporting materials to the eco home.

Rainwater harvesting – Water collected on the roof is directed to a subterranean rainwater recycling tank. This water can then be used for the toilets, washing machine and for watering the garden.
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Eco furniture is getting more popular. But so is greenwashing

Eco furniture enthusiasts enjoyed a treat at last year’s 100% Design exhibition*, the commercial cornerstone of London’s Design Festival. The event welcomed the addition of the new Eco Design and Build category, which featured innovative ranges of eco furniture ranges that minimised waste and were made from 100% recyclable materials.

Eco Design and Build showcased all the latest developments in energy saving technology, materials and the build methods used to design eco workplaces and homes. What’s more, leading designers, inventors and architects from across the eco furniture industry held discussions and presentations on what’s in store for eco furniture design in the future.

The addition of the Eco Design and Build category to the 100% Design Expo reflects how sustainability and environmental issues are high on the agenda. Eco furniture is slowly evolving from a niche to a mass market trend, which can only be a good thing for our homes, the environment and the world we leave for our children.

However, as with any new trend, there are always those that seek to hijack the popular consciousness for their own gain. Greenwashing, where ‘eco friendly’ labels are slapped onto products that might not deserve it, is on the rise. Unfortunately there aren’t yet any strict regulations on what can be defined as eco furniture. So here’s a rundown of what to look out for when buying eco furniture to ensure you aren’t duped into buying something with a greenwashed tint:

Made from FSC certified wood – The FSC label gives you the reassurance knowing that the eco furniture has been made from wood sourced from sustainably managed forests, where trees are replaced and allowed time to regrow.

Made from other renewable materials – Any furniture made from plastic (unless it’s recycled polyethylene) is unlikely to be genuine eco furniture. Petroleum based plastic is very polluting to manufacture, whereas bamboo or cork can be regrown very quickly.

Decorated with VOC free paints and varnishes – Conventional paints and varnishes can contain toxic chemicals that can emit into the air for years after they are applied. VOC (volatile organic compound) free paints and varnishes, however, are water based and kind to the environment and our lungs.

Locally sourced and built – Buying furniture that is built by hand locally gives you the reassurance knowing it probably has a higher build quality and also hasn’t generated all the carbon emissions of being shipped in from abroad. It’s also a good idea to ask eco furniture
 makers whether they source their building materials locally for that extra green stamp of approval.

*This year’s 100% Design, the U.K.’s largest design trade event, will be held later this year on 18-21 September at London’s Earl’s Court and is expected to attract over 30,000 visitors including interior designers, architects, retailers and designers.
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Will You be Installing Eco Flooring on Earth Day?

With the slogan ‘Mobilize the Earth’, Earth Day (April 22nd)  is a special day for focusing on environmental issues and to pressure businesses and governments to do more to protect the planet. With 1 billion people in 21 countries taking part, it’s a day when sustainability is at the forefront of many people’s minds.

There are many ways you can recognise Earth Day. One of which could be to mark it in your diary as the day you install eco flooring in your eco home.

No longer is there a stark choice between aesthetics and being green, because eco flooring can be just as luxurious as conventional flooring.

For example, Sam Coster, the owner of a 15th century Norfolk Tudor hall, renovated his classically designed eco home with eco flooring materials. This included clay ‘pamment’ tiles on the ground floor, Georgian-era pine floorboards in the bedrooms and renovated oak boards in the loft.

In a home characterised by classical furnishings, Sam obviously had to be picky about the type of eco flooring material he used. However, whether you have a 15th century Georgian mansion or a modern eco home, there are plenty of eco flooring options to choose from:

Bamboo – This eco flooring material is harder and more stable than timber, with a tensile strength comparable to steel. After harvesting, bamboo trees can regenerate themselves in 3-5 years, making bamboo an exceptionally green material for eco flooring.

Cork – Combining the look of a hardwood floor with a softer, warmer feel, cork is great for eco flooring in kitchens, bathrooms and hallways. Cork is also exceptionally environmentally friendly because it can be peeled directly from the bark of the tree without having to chop the trees down.

Wool – Carpet is estimated to account for two percent of the waste in landfill sites. With this in mind, choosing eco flooring made from natural fibres (like wool, jute and coconut) that are 100 percent recyclable can make a significant impact in reducing landfill waste.   

FTC certified wood – A more obvious and readily available option, there’s a wide variety of hardwoods harvested from sustainably managed forests that can be used for eco flooring.

Marmoleum – This is made from 100 percent biodegradable cork, linseed oil, rosin, jute and limestone. Whilst comparable to vinyl in feel, marmoleum doesn’t generate any toxic pollutants when created, making it a green conscious eco flooring choice.


Reclaimed and recycled tiles – There are plenty of places where you can find reclaimed tiles to use as eco flooring in your kitchen or conservatory. There are also all manner of reclaimed materials, such as TV screens, that can be ground down to create unique, environmentally friendly eco flooring in your eco home.  
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Eco Lighting is Good for the World and Your Electricity Bills

At the end of March, millions of eco homes, businesses and famous landmarks will simultaneously switch off their lights at 8.30pm. This is in recognition of the WWF sponsored Earth Hour – an event that has spread to 135 countries worldwide as a symbolic way of showing concern for the environment.

You can participate in Earth Hour by registering on the campaign website and then being ready to flick the light switch to join the global blackout on the 23rd March.

However, if you want to take proactive steps to protect the environment then you don’t have to wait until Earth Hour; you can help reduce to carbon emissions all year round by investing in eco lighting in your eco home.

£1.9 billion is spent on lighting homes every year, accounting for up to 20% of electricity bills. With this in mind, investing in eco lighting can be a great way of saving money as well as reducing carbon emissions from your eco house. Lighting is also a major cost for commercial buildings, accounting for up to 60% of total electricity bills.

The government has set the bold target of reducing the emission of greenhouse gases 60% by 2050. In order to achieve this goal, schemes are available to provide financial assistance to commercial enterprises to become greener, such as the Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) and Carbon Trust 0% Interest Loans. This money can be spent on eco lighting systems, such as sensors and automated lighting controls that reduce or switch off lights when an area is vacant. These eco lighting methods could save businesses up to 80% on their electricity bills.  

The different types of eco lighting to choose from

In 2011, 150 watt incandescent bulbs (which have barely changed in design since they were first invented by Thomas Edison in 1879) were phased out. These bulbs were highly inefficient as 90% of the energy produced was given off as heat and they lasted less than 1000 hours. In their place, there are now a range of eco lighting options for your eco home to choose from:

Halogen bulbs – These consume 25-30% less energy than incandescent bulbs. The name comes from the halogen gas contained within the bulb which slows its deterioration.

Energy saving CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs - Using only 9 watts, these bulbs can last 10,000 hours, which is 10 times longer than an incandescent bulbs. They warm up quickly, have a superior light quality and are not prone to flicker. They can also reduce carbon emissions by 70%, saving eco homes £7 per year per bulb.

LED (light emitting diodes) – These are seen as the future of eco lighting in eco homes. They can last 100,000 hours (literally a lifetime) and use a mere 2 watts. They use 75% less energy and produce 80% less heat. Without containing toxic elements like mercury or lead, they are also 100% recyclable. Although they are more expensive upfront (costing around £25), you can expect to recoup the cost of LED lights in a couple of years.
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How Energy Efficient Eco Appliances Save You Money and the Planet at the Same Time

If you want to make your eco home as environmentally friendly as possible then (along with eco furniture) buying energy efficient eco appliances is a no brainer. Thankfully, you don’t have to spend hours doing complex sums to work out which eco appliances consume the least energy because it’s all been done for you.

Energy efficiency ratings for white goods have been mandatory since 1995. The brightly coloured energy efficiency certificates seen on the front of dish washers, washing machines, fridges and other appliances are now widely recognised and respected by consumers and manufacturers alike.

Graded from A to G, these tell you how much electricity eco appliances use. The higher the grade the more efficient they are, thus simplifying the process when buying eco appliances for your eco home:

Eco Electric Ovens – It might sound like an urban myth, but the test for eco ovens is to bake a brick and see how much energy is used. Improved door insulation is one of the key features of an energy efficient eco oven.

Eco Washing Machines – These are monitored for water consumption, energy use, the cleanliness of the wash and the dryness of spin results.

To minimise your energy consumption, use a longer cycle rather than a quick wash because quick washes force the heating element to work harder overall. Turning down the dial from 60ºC to 40ºC can also cut your running costs in half. When buying an eco washing machine check the drum size because a larger drum can halve the number of loads you need to wash in a week.

The latest hi-tech models can even weigh your laundry and adjust the cycle time and energy usage accordingly. Unfortunately, they have yet to design a machine that irons and folds your clothes as well

Eco Tumble Dryers – You’d think there is nothing eco friendly about tumble dryers, which drain electricity at a frightening rate. However, ‘A’ rated condenser models are available for your eco home which use heat pump technology and consume nearly 50% less than conventional ‘C’ rated models.

Eco Dishwashers – Running dishwashers at a lower temperature can vastly reduce running costs. Quick washes use 15-20% less energy, while an eco wash can save 50% on your dishwasher energy bills.

Eco Fridges and freezers – So much progress has been made in the cooling technology of modern eco fridges that they’ve expanded the energy efficiency ratings to A+++ to make a distinction between the latest eco models.

One tip is to keep your fridge as full as possible to reduce the amount of electricity used to keep it cool. And when going on holiday, when the fridge is bare, turn the temperature up to save some extra cash.

Induction Hobs – Electrically powered hobs are the greener alternative to gas and ceramic hobs. Only the base of the pan is heated, thus saving energy otherwise wasted heating the sides.

Eco appliances with high energy efficiency ratings are the sensible choice for your eco house. They are more energy efficient, create less carbon emissions and they cost less to run, which means more money in your pocket and a greener home.
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Eco homes can be luxurious as well as green

Creating an eco home can seem at odds with luxury. For too long, the eco movement has been associated with the anti-consumerist ‘woolly jumper brigade’, and eco homes seen as ugly prefabricated buildings which put function ahead of aesthetics.

But the perception of the eco home is changing.

For example, the ‘Apple Hayes’ eco house was nominated in both the Best Eco Build and Best Luxury New Build categories at the Northern Design Awards. While at the high end of the scale, ‘Barnsley Hill Farm’, with a £4m valuation, features a 25 seater home cinema, indoor pool and steam room but with the carbon footprint of an average two-bed flat.   

These eco homes show that luxury and being environmentally friendly can go together. And the rise of an educated eco-conscious generation is leading to developers creating luxurious eco house developments all over Europe.

In the UK, ‘The Lakes’ features 160 luxury villas (starting at £870k) built with eco materials (e.g. sustainable timber) and with energy saving features, such as rainwater harvesting, wind turbines and solar panels.

In Switzerland one developer is pouring £1b into transforming the village of Andermatt into a car free community with 500 luxury apartments, which are to receive 50 percent of their energy from geothermal heating.

Eco furniture can be aesthetically pleasing, comfortable and green

As these examples show, eco homes can be aesthetically pleasing and luxurious. This extends to the eco furniture, eco appliances and other environmentally friendly features you furnish your eco house with.

Eco furniture is made from sustainably sourced materials, including textiles as well as timber, which are produced with the minimum environmental impact. The range of eco products available also includes eco wallpaper and non-toxic eco paints.

The growth of an eco conscious generation means there is a growing market for luxurious eco homes, along with eco beds, eco chairs and other items of eco furniture which are attractive, comfortable and environmentally friendly.
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