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Green is good! Visiting a bottle bank once a month is no longer enough - it's time to do more for the environment. So Sharon Gethings asked the experts for their advice on how we can all be more eco-efficient: whether at home using fluorescent lightbulbs, helping out on a green holiday in the rice fields of Japan or joining a lobbying group. There is still time to save the world...



"Every year, hundreds of wildlife sites are threatened through the over- use of water," says Charles Secrett, executive director of Friends of the Earth. To conserve water, shower rather than bathe - though avoid power showers. A bath uses, on average, 80 litres of water compared with 30 litres for a shower. When you flush your toilet, you use 9.5 litres of water: install a low-flush toilet or ask about "water hippos", which reduce the amount of water used in a flush.



Genetic engineering involves the transplantation of genes from one organism to another. Certain scientists believe this is an excellent way of developing plants and crops that are resistant to herbicides, pests and pesticides; others believe it is an imprecise and unpredictable science that could have catastrophic effects on natural food chains and plant, animal and wildlife. Friends of the Earth is calling for a moratorium on the growing of GM crops and the importation of GM foods until the implications have been fully evaluated. To support its campaign, call 0171-490 1555.



In these days of e-mail, voice mail and the like, it's amazing that the paperless office seems even further away than ever. Print in-house matter such as memos, proposals and schedules double-sided, use the reverse side of old documents for filed copies and reuse envelopes where possible. Also, newspaper and magazine subscriptions can be shared by more than one person.



Leaving the car behind in the garage and walking really can make a difference to the amount of pollution emitted by vehicles. "Nearly one third of all journeys are under a mile and ideal for walking," says Lynn Sloman, assistant director of lobbying group Transport 2000. "We're walking far less than we used to and it's the perfect way to rediscover your local area."



Don't take items on holiday that have unnecessary packaging, as some locations have limited disposal methods: some beaches in the Caribbean are becoming dumping grounds for waste now that American-style plastic- wrapped groceries are flooding the market. Water is precious in hot countries, so tell your hotel you don't need a pile of fresh towels each day, take short showers and don't let the tap run when cleaning teeth. "A woman with a pot of water balanced on her hip, walking back from a well, can make a good subject for an `ethnic' holiday postcard," says Tourism Concern. "But why should she have to do this, when your hotel has a 24-hour supply of piped water and lush green lawns?"



"Wasting energy isn't just costing pounds, it's costing the planet," says Charles Secrett. "By reducing the amount of energy we all use, we can help fight global climate change, save valuable resources and save money." When buying your fridge/freezer, ask about the most efficient models. Install it away from heat sources, such as the oven and direct sunlight, and make sure it's level, with any vents and the cooling grill clean and clear. Full appliances work more efficiently as the cold food inside helps keep down the temperature, so fill empty spaces with screwed- up paper or water-filled jugs or bottles. Keep seals clean and free of tears.



Recent supermarket sales figures show that demand for organic food has reached record levels over the last three years, with sales of organic food at Sainsbury's increasing 125 times in that period and at Tesco by 20 times. Both chains are said to be looking for more organic farmers to meet the demand; a clear illustration of consumer power. The more organic food we buy, the fewer chemicals deposited in our soil. If you can't get to a supermarket to buy organic produce, ask about box schemes where organic foods are delivered to your door. The Soil Association (0117-929 0661, has a list of useful numbers.



Use recycling bins for paper at work - if they're not available, organise their introduction and make them at least as accessible as the wastepaper bin. But remove sticky labels from paper before disposal as they can spoil a recycling load. If yours is a small business, find out if neighbouring offices or companies are interested in grouping together to have recycling bundles picked up by an organisation such as the National Recycling Collector Network (0181-749 3692) or check with your local council to see what services they provide.



We all like to moan about public transport, but the fact is that if more of us used it and left our cars at home, this would ease traffic congestion and reduce dangerous emissions, particularly in cities. A double- decker bus carries the same number of people as 20 fully occupied cars, but takes up one seventh of the space. "Buses and trains are better than many people remember and services are improving all the time," says Lynn Sloman. "The new low-floor buses, for example, make it easier for people with pushchairs and shopping trolleys, the elderly and the disabled."



Scuba diving has been getting a bad press for its damaging effect on fragile underwater eco-systems. Don't remove items on dives and don't step on coral, break it or anchor boats to it; it takes centuries to grow and only a second to destroy. Once back on land, don't pick plants or take cuttings, and don't buy souvenirs made from animal or marine products, as they might come from endangered species and are probably contraband. Most people these days would think twice before bringing back gifts made from fur, skins or ivory, but give feathers, butterflies, coral and turtle shell a miss as well. 11


Keeping a home well-lit and comfortable is a major expense, both financially and in ecological terms. The main thing is to prevent heat escaping: lag hot-water pipes and tanks, draught-proof doors and windows, use loft and wall insulation and make good use of your central-heating thermostat. There are also a number of products powered by renewable sources, such as solar calculators and solar and wind-up radios, as well as fluorescent lightbulbs which use a quarter of the electricity, and last longer than, ordinary bulbs.



With consumer demand so high, the price of organic food in our shops should soon begin to decrease, but why wait when it's even cheaper to grow your own organic produce? The Henry Doubleday Research Association (01203 308215) offers plenty of helpful advice on how to get going. When you're up and running and stoking your compost heap, check out the Wiggly Wigglers company (01981 500391) which sells the Can-O'-Worms worm composter to compost all your organic kitchen waste.



Instead of using cover sheets for faxes wherever possible include info, such as date, origin, etc, on the first page proper (most of this information will be at the head of each sheet anyway). Flip faxes over and use both sides. Use plain paper as opposed to "thermal" - the latter can't be reused or recycled. Old cartridges for fax machines, photocopiers or printers should be carefully disposed of according to the manufacturer's instructions. Or join a scheme such as London's Scope Toner Donor scheme (0171-619 7239) which will arrange to have them recycled.



Even Colonel Gaddafi's designing cars these days, but it will be some time before solar-powered or electric cars rule the roads. In the meantime, if you must have one, choose your car carefully, ensuring that it has a catalytic converter to limit harmful exhaust emissions and that it uses lead-free petrol at the very least. Choose the smallest car you need. "If you buy a car under 1100cc, you get a discount on road tax as a reflection of the fact that you're having a less harmful effect on the environment," says Lynn Sloman.



Estimates suggest as little as 10p in every tourist pound reaches the local community; stay in locally owned hotels rather than big chains, and use locally produced drinks and foods rather than imports. "If you were to ask any Third World government, they'd say that tourism is a major foreign exchange earner," states Adama Bah, director of Gambia Tourism Concern. "But the sad thing is that they haven't appreciated how much money goes out in order to import food and luxury facilities. The hotels import jam, yet we grow oranges, mangoes and all sorts of fruits."



Extend your environmental concerns into your garden. Keep a water butt instead of using a hose from the tap to irrigate the lawn: some 40,000 litres of rainwater fall on the roof each year. Don't buy peat: peat bogs are precious wildlife sites which are being increasingly eroded. Build a compost heap instead and investigate gardening organically. "A lot of products aimed at the garden damage the environment," says Charles Secrett. "Gardeners should be green-minded as well as green-fingered."



If you're concerned about the quality of the produce entering your body, you'll probably want to know exactly what's in the unctions you slap on your skin as well. Green cosmetic companies are multiplying in number and recent EU legislation means that they have to list the ingredients of their products in minute detail. The logical extension of this is organic cosmetics; whether or not they give you a gorgeous glow, at least their ingredients are produced in ways sympathetic to the planet's welfare. Brands to try include Living Nature (0906 680 0007), Dr Hauschka (01386 792622) and Jurlique (0181-841 6644).



We all know how annoying it is when pens and notepads disappear, but when we see reams of paper in the store cupboard and boxes of pencils it's easy to assume the supply is endless. It's a cheap psychological trick but limiting what is visually available might just make us keep our red biros under lock and key, and make that paper go a little bit further. And when the ink runs dry, think reusing rather than binning - the Green Stationery Company (01225 480 556) sells refills for such things as highlighter pens and board markers.



Not only do cars pollute the environment with their emissions, but the disposal of by-products also poses problems. Batteries, oil, brake fluids, anti-freeze, tyres... they all have to go somewhere. Obviously, simply pouring fluids down a household drain is inadvisable - find out if your garage is sympathetic to environmental issues and ask their advice or that of your local council, who may offer recycling services.



Don't just laze on a beach - explore the area and help wildlife at the same time by choosing an ecologically themed holiday. Money from your trip with Earthwatch (01865 311600, goes towards the organisations involved, plus you can assist researchers in their work - for example, when you visit the Pacific Whale Foundation at one of their sites in Australia or Hawaii. You could go to Borneo with Animal Watch (01732 811838) and raise funds for the Orangutan Foundation. Coral Cay Conservation (0171-498 6248) organises expeditions to Asian-Pacific and Caribbean areas where volunteers help collect data on tropical and coral forests which is used in protection plans.



We should all be following the waste mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle. "Our society is a very wasteful one," says Charles Secrett. "The UK has an appalling recycling record: we only recycle about eight per cent of domestic waste. Too many valuable resources are thrown away which could be reused or recycled." Avoid over-packaged goods; buy milk in glass bottles and return bottles; take glass, cans, clothes, shoes and paper to charity shops or recycling bins (there's really no excuse now they're everywhere); buy recycled toilet paper and reuse carrier bags.



It's a real shame that Cannabis sativa - or hemp - skulks under the media shadow thrown by its naughty by-product, marijuana, because this amazing plant has myriad uses and is a strong, fast-growing, sustainable crop. The actor Woody Harrelson mounted a one-man campaign in its favour by only wearing clothes made from hemp fibre and companies such as the Body Shop (Call 01903 731500 for your nearest branch) have recognised its benefits, selling a number of skin-softening products containing hemp oil. Find out more about the Cannabis Hemp Information Club's hemp campaign by writing to them at CHIC, PO Box 2223, Glastonbury BA6 9YU. 23


More than half of all car journeys to work are by car, yet 71 per cent of road trips by motor vehicles are under five miles and 46 per cent are less than two miles. If you live near work colleagues, why not car-pool and take it in turns to drive to work? If you're an employer, make sure you can offer secure storage for cycles so that your employees have the option to cycle in. Some people now use foldaway bikes that they carry into the office for stowing.



It's not just what you drive, how you drive also matters - and many tips for helping the environment will also save you money by preserving the life of your vehicle. Quick stops and starts will wear out your brakes and engine more quickly; on average, fuel efficiency plunges after about 45 miles per hour, so speeding will eat up your cash. Check with your vehicle's handbook for the manufacturer's recommended fuel-efficiency speeds. Also, if your vehicle is fitted with air conditioning, it is more economical to use this than to open windows as the increased drag caused by the latter burns more fuel.



Choose your destination wisely, armed with the facts: ask your travel agent if it can assure you that the tourism developments it is offering have not deprived people of their homes or livelihoods. For instance, in Hawaii, hotels have been built on culturally significant sites and ancient burial grounds have been bulldozed. "Local communities are frequently denied access to parks or beaches where they once made a living, because tourism is more important," says Tourism Concern. "They're our holidays, but they're others' homes."



Most of us hate housework, but there are lots of little changes we can make to save energy. For example - if you can face it - do one big ironing session instead of lots of little ones to avoid switching the iron on and off and leaving it standing for less time; use pump-action sprays in place of aerosols and use cooler washes and fuller loads in washing machines. If you have a garden, hang the washing out to dry rather than using the electricity-guzzling tumble-dryer.



You can still help the planet even when you're indulging in a treat. Once upon a time, before shoppers were stampeding to the organic food aisles of supermarkets, your average consumer had to be coerced into buying organic - so green companies went to some trouble to develop delicious ice creams, chocolates, preserves, cakes and much more. These days brands to look out for include Green & Black's, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Kettle Foods and Whole Earth. As well as health food shops, check out the shelves of charity shops as they sometimes stock "fair trade" organic coffee beans and grains produced by community co-operatives abroad.



If you send the kids off to school with a packed lunch, invest in a reusable lunch box - you're bound to find one bearing their favourite TV or film character. Exercise the same awareness of packaging waste when you buy your lunch at work: judging by the amount of plastic and paper they wrap around your sandwich, many companies seem to expect an SAS raid on it before you reach so much as a crust. Buy a mug or glass for the office so that you're not continually throwing away those flimsy water or coffee cups throughout the day.



It would be difficult to stop people wanting to fly now that this form of travel is so commonplace, but aircraft emissions are playing a major part in global warming - and air traffic is the fastest growing source of atmosphere-damaging emissions. The only way to reduce the damage is for aircraft to burn less fuel, which means fewer flights, an optimum number of passengers on aircraft, or technological changes. Environmentalists believe the only way to force the issue is to introduce a fuel tax for airlines; Friends of the Earth has mounted a Right Price for Air Travel campaign. For more information, call 0171-490 1555.



"The more destinations you visit in the Third World, the more examples you will see of how we have prostituted our cultures for the tourism industry," says Cecil Rajendra, human rights activist and lawyer from Malaysia. "Native dances, for example, which once had their time and place in our cultures, have been uprooted, distorted and abbreviated for the tourist palate." But tourism can help communities to preserve their traditions, if developed in the right way. Check Tourism Concern's community tourism directory at, for holidays that are controlled and managed by local people, so they can choose how tourism interacts with their societies and cultures.



"All across the world, forests are being destroyed to satisfy the need for timber," says Charles Secrett. "This destruction is causing huge problems for people, wildlife and the environment. By demanding timber bearing the Forest Stewardship Council logo, you're also demanding that forests are sustainably managed." Don't buy endangered woods, eg tropical hardwoods such as mahogany, iroko or meranti. Use reclaimed products such as doors and furniture - architectural salvage outlets are a good source of this sort of thing.



Now we know that a little tipple a day can be positively good for us, why not go two steps further: avoid unnecessary additives and help promote healthy farming practices by making sure your booze is organic. Organic wines are cropping up in supermarkets as well as at high-street wine suppliers. Vintage Roots (0181-255 6141) and Bonterra Vineyards (0171-323 9332) were just two of the companies represented at this year's extremely successful Organic Food & Wine Festival, which is set to become an annual event.



In a recent Mori poll, 86 per cent of people stated they would prefer to use electricity from renewable sources - and 24 per cent were willing to pay more for it. Think about switching your business over to a more environmentally friendly energy supplier, such as the Renewable Energy Company (01453 756 111) which, as its name suggests, sells electricity from renewable sources. Other companies run a kind of green quid pro quo system, such as Amerada Gas (0500 001 100) which plants trees to counterbalance the carbon dioxide its product emits.



When you travel, think carefully before hiring a car. Many city destinations, such as New York or San Francisco, are extremely foot-friendly and driving can prove more of a chore than a joy. Also, choose a hotel shuttle from the airport - even jumping into a taxi cab will keep an extra hire car off the road. If you want to tour, find out if there's a Budget office (0800 181181) at your destination: the company has won an award for its environmentally friendly practices. These include offering gas-powered cars (the Ford Mondeo 1.8), electric cars (the non-polluting Renault Clio and Citroen AX) and foldaway "boot" bikes. 35


Think twice before you pack your clubs for that turn around the links at an exotic location: the boom in golf tourism is costing people their health. Around 350 new golf courses are built each year and those pristine greens have to be maintained with pesticides, fertilisers and lots and lots of water. In Thailand, the chemicals in these treatments have permeated local rivers and reservoirs contaminating drinking water and fish consumed by people living nearby.



Use mains electricity and not batteries. The latter are expensive to manufacture - using 50 times more energy to make than they produce - and they are difficult to dispose of. The Eco-trade catalogue (01225 442288) features products powered by renewable sources. "If the public support these products, it will encourage companies to invest more in similar developments," says Charles Secrett.



Some people believe a number of modern illnesses can be blamed on toxic overload - and that manufactured drugs not only harbour dangerous side effects but are also gradually polluting our eco-system. As a result, therapies using natural products, such as herbs, and holistic healing, where the "whole person" is treated with a method such as acupuncture, have become enormously popular. Anyone seeking treatment should always see a registered, fully qualified practitioner, whatever the therapy. A good starting point is the Institute of Complementary Medicine (0171- 237 5165) which can provide information on practices and practitioners in your area.



A dripping tap can mean 90 litres of water a day dribbling down the drain - that's about an extra pounds 20 a year added to your business's bill. Make sure there are plugs for every basin in the office washroom and encourage people to use them so that taps aren't left running: nine litres of water can gush out in just one minute. And if your premises has a water meter, your business or school will be saving money if you cut down on the amount of water you're using.



A well-maintained car will run more efficiently and therefore save fuel. Basic maintenance can make parts last a lot longer: check tyres for pressure and rotate them as required to save on wear and tear; get a regular service and oil change; wash off salt and dirt (using a bucket of water as opposed to a hose) and make sure the heating and cooling systems are working properly as their inefficient operation can waste fuel.



Oil spills from boats are a problem - make sure the craft is seaworthy before setting out. Rubbish should never be dumped at sea and it is illegal to do so within three miles of land. Craft without engines, such as canoes, kayaks and sailboats are the most environmentally friendly. In the countryside, powered craft in restricted waters cause noise, pollution and a damaging wash affecting banks and wildlife. And marinas and slipways are destroying coastal habitats. For further information on these matters contact the Marine Conservation Society on tel: 01989 566017.



Just moved house? Stop and think before you redecorate. In as much time as it takes to consider using lead-free paint for your child's sake, you can opt for environmentally friendly decor. Companies such as Natural Collection (call 01225 442288 for a catalogue) make it easy to choose attractive natural materials such as cotton, sisal matting or lino for your home. If you install a wooden floor, ensure it comes from sustainable sources and use non-toxic polishes and stains to maintain it. Nowadays, you can even buy organic paint.



Those of you old enough to remember David Byrne of the pop group Talking Heads bouncing around the stage in a suit of what looked like Premiership- quality Astroturf might be a little nervous at the thought of organic clothes, but the reality is more down-to-earth. Greenfibres (01803 868 001, offers "eco goods and garments... made from environmentally responsible materials under fair and safe working conditions". The range includes organic wool baby jumpers at pounds 29, hemp skirts at pounds 62 and an organic cotton duvet with merino wool filling at pounds 340.



Heating and lighting can be a minefield in an office: one person's Siberia can be another's Sahara. But reducing a room's thermostat by just one degree will cut your fuel bill by 10 per cent. Even if you don't wish to replace all your lightbulbs, consider using the longlasting compact fluorescent bulbs in places where lights are needed for long periods, such as in exit signs. And remember to turn off all non-essential electrical equipment after work hours.



Get on your bike. The more people who cycle and lobby local councils for cycle-friendly conditions - such as traffic calming schemes to slow down road vehicles - the easier it will be to cycle. "Only two per cent of journeys in Britain are by cycle, compared with 11 per cent in Germany and 18 per cent in Denmark," says Lynn Sloman, "yet almost three-quarters of journeys in the UK are short enough to be cycled."



Skiing is increasingly popular and ever more remote locations are being developed. Deforestation due to development has been linked to an increasing avalanche problem and skiing off-piste can damage low-level plants and frighten nesting birds. Stick to advised routes and consider cross-country skiing, which has less impact on the environment and will give you a terrific workout.



Write letters to companies, politicians and newspapers about particular concerns and join campaigning organisations. Campaign Express is a new service run by Friends of the Earth. Subscribers receive three campaign packs each year featuring current issues, such as GM foods or wildlife protection, and a few easy actions that are carefully planned to put pressure on the right people at the right time. Call 0171-490 1555 for details.



Even before the BSE scandal, many people were giving up or cutting down on meat because they disapproved of the conditions in which many animals were reared. Both inhumane farming methods and concerns about the effect of drugs given to animals on our own health have prompted a strong interest in alternative approaches to animal husbandry. The Soil Association campaigns to stop unacceptable practices on farms, including overcrowding and the misuse of antibiotics, alongside promoting organic farming methods. For details of how to join, visit or call 0117 914 2447.



Ask the experts for help with greening your premises. Many councils and private companies will be happy to advise on changes - for example, Thames Water Waterwise (0645 030405), the government's Environment & Energy Helpline (0800 585794), the Energy Efficiency Hotline (0345 277200) and the Waste Line (0870 243 0136). Penny Walker, a trainer, facilitator and consultant specialising in the environment, has published a book called Doing Well by Doing Good - Sustainability Strategies for Businesses; for a free copy, call 0171-254 3500.



Join a lobbying group such as Transport 2000 (0171-613 0743) and help it campaign for safe streets with less traffic, cities free of fumes, reliable, affordable buses and trains, space for pedestrians and cyclists and a peaceful countryside. For tips and advice on environmentally friendly vehicle maintenance, contact the Environmental Transport Association (01932 828882), who also offer a green breakdown service.



Why not choose a holiday that actually contributes to helping the environment? They are usually low-cost and great fun if you're the sort of person who hates sitting still all day. You can rebuild eroded footpaths and dry stone walls, dredge ponds and plant trees. And these holidays are usually in the midst of beautiful countryside. The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (01491 839766, doesn't just run holidays in the UK - you could track wolves in Russia or restore paddy fields in Japan. THE EXPERTS Charles Secrett is the executive director of Friends of the Earth. Lynn Sloman is the assistant director of Transport 2000. Penny Walker is a consultant specialising in environmental issues. Tourism Concern campaigns to promote awareness of the impact of tourism on people and their environments.