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Perhaps you grow your organic vegetables, and like myself, have great pride in the fact you can prepare a meal without a visit to the super market, you use biodiesel in your car and re use and repair everything you can.

Go green and make some cash
Go green and make some cash

Or on the other hand you may have a passing interest in eco living, sometimes buy ethical cleaning products, and have a window box of herbs, and although you realise it is important to be ethical, you find it too time consuming or expensive to do the eco thing all the time. Either way, the option of producing your own electricity and selling the surplus back to the grid should be considered a realistic option and a fairly easy to implement idea.

Achieving true independence from the national power grid and actually profiting from it maybe as great as a fisherman catching the elusive Moby Dick, or Hansel and Gretel’s escape from the evil candy giving witch. While this is certainly a most green thing to do and will give you full appreciation of electricity as a commodity, what are the cost implications?

Currently to make a financial profit is a long term venture and is dependent upon many things such as the type of generator you get, natural variables such as wind and sun and your electricity usage. Typically a PV electric solar panel may cost £11,000, until April 2010 there is a £2500 grant from the government if you are lucky enough to get one, which brings the cost down to £8500. This should take around 10 years to pay off and start to make a profit; also it will increase the value of your home, is maintenance free and has around a 30-40 year lifespan. This is suggesting that the price of electricity is similar in 10 years as it is now, however, if the price of electricity goes up substantially you may find the installation of a green generator to be fairly lucrative.

Should you want to go ahead with your own electricity supply, you’ll need to decide what source to go for, wind, water, solar etc. Solar seems to be the easiest as you don’t need planning permission (unless you live in a listed building) and it only takes a few days for installation. Also, unlike a wind turbine there is no negative impact on your view. With any of these, you’ll need a converter to sell back to the grid, but with power companies having to supply 10% of their energy via renewable sources they are more than happy to buy it from you, you will have to sell it to the company you buy it from however.

Your own green power, not only a long term investment, but a great way to have clean energy and gain real independence from the power companies, and given the expected increase in power prices you may be wise to look at getting a grant to help with cost before they are gone in April 2010.

Ethical consumer power is on the up as one in five British consumers now say they will punish socially irresponsible companies through their shopping choices.

Mamouna Keita, cotton farmer, Mali
Mamouna Keita, cotton farmer, Mali

The British public expect fair pay and fair treatment for workers in developing countries, and the vast majority, 86%, feel a personal responsibility to ensure workers are fairly compensated.

The in-depth GlobeScan poll of 1,500 people was commissioned by the Fairtrade Foundation ahead of World Fair Trade Day (8 May), which is the international campaign to improve the lives of small producers, farmers and artisans around the world.

Making a personal difference to sustainable development and fairness makes shoppers feel good, with one in five people saying they want to do their part. Women are slightly more motivated by the feeling of doing good than men. And if companies get it right, over 60% of shoppers are likely to recommend Fairtrade products to friends and colleagues, generating further sales.

The FAIRTRADE Mark came top as the most trusted certification label and the majority of people, (64%) link Fairtrade to fair pay for producers and workers.

Cheryl Sloan, Marketing Director at the Fairtrade Foundation said: ‘It is very encouraging that UK consumers continue to be very receptive to Fairtrade and show high levels of awareness, familiarity and purchasing. Fairtrade is clearly no longer a fringe sector within retail. But companies should also take note that shoppers are prepared to send a very strong message to them about their global accountability.’

The survey showed that Fairtrade clearly adds value to products and strongly impacts on people’s intention to buy. 90% of active ethical consumers say the FAIRTRADE Mark on pack helps the product create a positive impression and many say it makes them more likely to buy a specific brand.

Since its launch in 1994, the Fairtrade mark has become recognized as a trustworthy, independent consumer guarantee for products that help producers in developing countries get a better deal from international trade.

fairtrade_fortnight_2010

For the past three years the Fairtrade Foundation have held an annual campaign called Fairtrade Fortnight, a two week long celebration of everything Fairtrade where they encourage the nation via a series of events, activities and other resources to choose Fairtrade products.

This year I was fortunate enough to attend the launch event for Fairtrade Fortnight 2010 (22 February – 7 March), held at The Royal Institute of British Architects, Portland Place, in London.

On arriving at the venue, which was right in the heart of London, I was taken aback by the luxurious pinkly lit entrance.  Once I’d collected my name badge and visited the cloakroom, I was led up a marble staircase to be greeted by a host of drinks – wine, beer, orange juice, apple juice and water – all of which were Fairtrade and donated by various companies such as Calypso and Fairhills.  In the main hall impeccably dressed waiters waltzed about offering various Fairtrade canapés, which again were donated.

According to the invitation, this reception would be “a unique opportunity to meet and hear from people from across the movement”, and indeed it was.  The first half hour of the evening was spent networking, and on my rounds I met a number of interesting people, one of whom was the Media and PR Manager for the Fairtrade Foundation, Martine Julseph.  When asked what made her decide to get involved with Fairtrade, she replied:

To be honest, even before I knew much about Fairtrade I have always preferred Fairtrade products because of what they stand for.  I think it is important that producers get a fair deal and by buying Fairtrade it makes you feel connected to the producers

Among the many other Fairtrade supporters, retailers, manufacturers, producers and consumers in the room, I also met Claire Hamer and Janine Passley who run a company called ei8ht.  Collectively they have spent 15 years buying for the UK’s leading fashion retailers including Topshop, ASOS.com and River Island.  During this time they implemented sustainable strategies at Topshop, introducing Fairtrade Cotton and collaborating with small communities in Africa on projects such as Global Mamas.  More recently they have been instrumental in launching The Green Room and ASOS Africa on ASOS.com.

Supermodel and TV presenter Lisa Butcher who is spearheading the Fairtrade Foundation’s cotton campaign for Fairtrade Fortnight was also at the launch, having returned from India after visiting the Agrocel Pure & Fair Cotton Growers’ Association.  Commenting on her visit Lisa said: “Now that I have seen for myself the difference Fairtrade can make, I believe that the fashion world should consider using more Fairtrade cotton. I was really struck how people here often forget about the people behind their clothes. Anything new is never easy, and we need to work a little harder to achieve the unknown. But it’s not impossible to change the way we view cotton and the challenge is back to the industry”.

Each year Fairtrade Fortnight has some kind of theme, last year’s being “Go bananas for Fairtrade”, which saw people organising banana eating events (Fairtrade ones of course) and a record was set for simultaneous Fairtrade banana eating over a 24 hour period.

For this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight people in the UK and Ireland are being encouraged to swap everyday shopping basket items such as tea, coffee, chocolate, cotton tee-shirts, pineapples, bananas, cakes, sugar and a host of other products for Fairtrade ones during Fairtrade Fortnight 2010. During the two weeks, the Fairtrade Foundation will be totting up product swaps on a special online swap-o-meter, which can be accessed by going to their website.

The aim is to get people in Britain to make one million and one swaps over the two-week period and change the lives of millions of farmers around the world.

Prior to the launch event we were told to bring our favourite Fairtrade item along with us to swap with someone else at the event.  I took a big bar of Cadbury’s Diary Milk chocolate and swapped with a lady called Kerry Fuller who is from Dorset Cereals.  In exchange for my chocolate bar I received a couple of boxes of Dorset Cereals’ Fairtrade chocolate granola cereal and a box of Fairtrade Clippers teabags.  My breakfasts are sorted for the next month now!  If you would like more information and want to get involved, visit the Fairtrade website above and get swapping!

Christmas is all about giving, caring and sharing. So what could be better than giving a Christmas present to people you care about that is also good for the environment, sort of like giving mother earth a Christmas present as well? Our planet certainly deserves a Christmas gift more than any other person in the world, don’t you think?

ecofair

I was standing outside “Harrods” in London when I realized how Christmas gets to people’s head. In fact when looking closer they all seem to be headless. Maybe they left it at home.

I guess London doesn’t attract the most gentle Christmas-shoppers in the world. It was therefore a delight when I came to check out The Christmas Eco fair 2009 at The Royal geographical Society. I was instantly filled with calmness and at last; the real Christmas spirit. People were friendly and the aggressive behaviour I had seen at one of London’s most exclusive shopping malls was nowhere to be seen here. Thank God!

The Christmas Eco fair had a range of products to offer and I found this Christmas fair to be even more exclusive than “Harrods” or “Selfridges”. I mean, it wasn’t really posh, but it was very cute and charming, plus most of the things were handmade so therefore unique, and to me unique is exclusive.

You could get anything from organic designer-outfits, sweets, make-up, spa-kits, furniture to handbags, jewelleries and nutritional supplements, and I’m sure I haven’t covered it all.

I had a chat with organic baby wear developer Fozia Hill who have since June had huge success with her babybrand “Fozia London”.

“When my daughter was born I felt there was a lack of attractive and ethical babywear on the market. As a mother I of course wants what’s best for my children and I felt I could do better than the market had to offer.”

Fozia then started to look for the perfect factory that matched her green ideals, and after a year of searching she found one in Calcutta, India. Then it was time to find the perfect designer.

Award winning designer, Sarah Hawkins collaborates with Fozia and together they have created stylish babywear with clean lines and simple cuts.

Today you can find “Fozia London” in 8 outlets in London and 10 outside London.

There was so much to see, but something that really caught my eye was the “Onyabag”. Founder of OneGreenEarth.com, GreenSisters.com and co-founder of “Book of Green” Katie Keegan really made me smile when she showed me this neat, little thing that could be transformed into a shopping bag. In fact each of the bags can carry 9 bottles of wine! It is made from strong, parachute material. Because it is this tiny you can fit it on your bag, belt or wherever you like to have it. If you are in to neat and practical gadgets like agent 007, than this is your chance to feel like a green 007.  Watch it here