Category

Environment

Category

James Cameron’s new epic is one of the most hyped epics in recent years, it explodes with breathtaking scenery, effects and stunning new 3D technology, while expertly addressing major environmental themes.

Looking out at the beautiful and unspoilt world of Pandora
Looking out at the beautiful and unspoilt world of Pandora

While a few articles out there are titled “Avatars hidden Environmental message”,  I’ve chosen the word “theme” , as to suggest the message that was hidden is quite ludicrous, with the plot being an army led mining expedition in a natural paradise, I confidently say this is no hermetic code.

Avatar sets up the ultimate battle, pitting Mother Nature with her spellbinding complexity and beauty against the profit hungry, trigger happy humans.  Although it deals with other issues such as getting lost in virtual reality, the internet, exploitation of under developed countries and globalization, Cameron’s passion to save our challenged natural world shines throughout:

 We are destroying species faster than we can classify them. We are destroying the food chain faster than we can understand it. The politicians are over in Copenhagen talking about climate change now – but there are other issues as well

The blue populous of the alien world Pandora, are a tribal race living in harmony with nature and depend on the forest for their survival. They fly on dinosaur like creatures, have an information storage system built within the network of tree routes, can mentally link to animals and all the while are tall, athletic and dance around the forest like the most agile of squirrels. A human soldier is given the opportunity to experience this world as one of the alien tribe, very soon his loyalty towards his own race is becomes compromised as he discovers how the non materialistic tribe, seem to have more contentment and purpose in life.

Avatar is a cry out to main stream culture to question if there is more to life than a high bank balance, good job and big car, reminding you that some things just can’t be bought. And never forget; when flying through the jungle on a dragon that you control with your thoughts, alongside the girl of your dreams, questioning your chosen route in life is always going be inevitable.

As a child I remember my mother making all sorts of puddings with suet.  Most of these were sweet and served with custard.  However, this recipe is for a savoury pudding to serve with steak and kidney stew or mince.  It is a type of dumpling.

Tasty Leek Pudding
Tasty Leek Pudding

Ingredients

  • 225gms SR flour
  • 100gms suet (I use vegetable low fat suet)
  • 50grams butter
  • Salt and Black Pepper
  • 2 leeks finely chopped

Method

Put flour into a bowl, rub in butter and mix in the suet.

Add the finely chopped, raw leeks.

Slowly add water and mix together to form a light dough that just holds together.

Traditionally this is then placed in a pudding basin and covered with grease proof paper.  A muslin cloth is then placed over the basin and tied firmly with string around under the lip of the basin.  The basin is then placed in a saucepan filled with water, bring to the boil, then simmer for 2 hours.  Ensure that the water when boiling, does not overflow into the basin.  Keep checking the level of the water, topping up when necessary.

An alternative to mixing the leeks into the pudding is to make the suet pastry without the leeks, use the pastry to line the basin, place the leeks in the centre and place more suet pastry on top to form a lid.

Some families did not cook their pudding in a basin but wrapped the whole pudding in a muslin cloth, allowing space for expansion and cooked it in a pan of water.

A modern alternative is to make individual leek puddings.  The mixture will make 4 to 6.  Use ramekins or mini-pudding basins.  These only take about 30 minutes to cook.

Why not invite friends round for supper and produce a traditional Northumbrian meal with individual puddings.

In my quest to become a super eco-consumer I’ve run into the problem of eco-friendly fashion. Ever since green became the new black, a slew of labels have come out boasting organics, recyclable, re-used, biodegradable, chemical-free fashion products. Reading the labels I can do, but making sense of them proved to be a challenge.

After doing some vital research to sooth my mind, I put together some textile puzzle pieces and busted a few advertising tricks.

Confusing label #1– “100% organic wool”

Wait a minute: Wool is already all natural. It’s a natural material sheered from an animal.

Answer: Yes. But, a label advertising organic wool is referring to the animal itself. When an animal eats organic substances like grain or grass and is not injected with any hormones, then their wool is considered organic. These farmers are also usually “organic farmers” and are more conscious of the animal crop size, ensuring they have enough freedom and natural substance for growth and success.

Confusing label #2- “Eco- friendly polyester”

Wait a minute: Polyester is a synthetic fiber, so how can it be eco friendly?

Answer: Correct, sort of. Synthetic fibers are processed through a series of highly toxic chemicals and will not decompose naturally. A label that boasts eco friendly polyester (or any other synthetic fiber) is often recycled polyester which is either re-used polyester or made from discarded products such as plastic bottles. But it is important to note that it isn’t biodegradable.

Confusing label #3– “100% biodegradable silk”

Wait a minute: Isn’t all silk biodegradable?

Answer: Yes. Don’t be fooled by this label. Silk comes from silk worms which are boiled alive to preserve their cocoon fiber. Processing the silk takes several steps including chemical baths, bleaching and degumming process. More eco-friendly alternatives are ahimsa or peace silk. This technique allows the silk worms to transform into moths before the cocoon is used. Peace silk is still processed using degumming and bleaching, but companies usually take more responsibility for the chemicals they use. All silk is biodegradable. The more important thing to look for in a silk product is how it was manufactured.

With so many variables relating to this topic, you’d think there should be a standard that had to be met before a product claims to be green. There isn’t one tell all label to let shoppers know that the product they are purchasing was made ethically with good intentions and little waste. But Earth Pledge, which launched a Fashion Forward movement back in 2005,  did release a list of labels that meet different standards.  Some of the world wide labels are:

  • “GOTS” ensures the standard of organic status from harvesting to manufacturing to garment labeling.
  • “WRAP” is a non-profit organization dedicated to the certification of lawful, humane and ethical manufacturing throughout the world.
  • “Ecocert” label means the textile must contain 95% natural fibers and a maximum of 5% synthetic fiber.

I caught up with Leslie Hoffman, director of Earth Pledge (US) to ask some advice;

When looking to purchase fashion items it is wise to understand where it came from, what it is made of, what resources it took to create, and who made it. The more you know, the better choices you can make about its environmental and other impacts. Knowledge is power. Labels are but one way to become informed, but they help a lot if you are browsing in a store.

Ethical choices aren’t easy as Orsola de Castro, owner of the ethical label ‘from somewhere’ and co-curator of estethica (UK) stopped to give some jargon busting advice;

A little common sense goes a long way: pre-bleached, fake-wrinkled Denim? Very polluting. A piece of clothing without a country of origin? That too is dodgy. A dress under a tenner that isn’t on sale? Odd. Look for UK made, fairtrade and organic. Rememeber that Ethical labels will want you to know that they produce ethically.

As consumers like myself turn to those ethical choices and are demanding in knowing how and where are clothes are made, creative directors must keep up with demand.

Angie Kraft, Creative Director at Gecco Interiors also spared some time to give us some valuable consumer advice that can go a long way.

We are seeing the beginning of a move towards ethical fabrics but it is just the beginning. It is encouraging that large textile names such as Malabar, Camira Fabrics and Ian Mankin are investing in the development of sustainable fabrics, but many other well known companies are yet to be convinced and want to be shown that the market is there before they invest. Luckily, there are enough brave smaller textile mills who have accepted the fact that we cannot continue to produce fabrics as we have in the past and that all production will eventually have to go this way.

If we look at the growth of the organic food and fashion industries it shows that the ethical consumer is a growing group and one that needs to be catered for.

The allotment – a small parcel of land rented to individuals usually for the purpose of growing food crops. This was the reason that I decided to follow thousands of other before me, dating back to Saxon times in fact, and put myself on the local allotment waiting list. Almost a year ago my time came and I began the adventure, and shall we say learning curve of being an allotment owner.

The old patch
The old patch

Let me start by introducing myself. I’m Chris, I’m 25 years old and I live in the market town of Morpeth in Northumberland. Hobbies include running, tennis and watching the ‘mighty Sunderland’. Certainly no history of green fingers in the family.

So, I had my plot. Ahead of me was months of fresh fruit and vegetables, and most importantly, huge savings on my weekly food bill. So I thought. In fact, there were a number of hidden benefits waiting to be discovered.

The first is the obvious one, fresh organic vegetables on tap. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to grow vegetables, and how successful my debut year would be. I’ve spent the last few months trying to find things to do with swarms of leeks, potatoes and spinach. Never again will you have ‘nothing to eat’. A quick trip to the allotment and you have a veritable feast at your finger tips.

Now for the less obvious benefits that I can share with you. Birds, they love allotments. Well, that’s obvious you may think. A multitude of worms and bugs just waiting to be eaten. No no, I’m not talking pigeons and tits. I’m talking about birds, the non-feathered variety.

I became single shortly after gaining my membership to Morpeth’s Allotment Association. I was back on the market, and needed to get out there and tell the female population of North-East England what a great catch I was. No problem I thought. I own my own house, nice car, good job. Surely I’d be batting them off with a stick. Well, I’m not one to kiss and tell, but it’s safe to say today’s lady is a little harder to impress. On a particularly bad first date on a grey Tuesday evening in Newcastle I searched for anything, absolutely anything to fill the classic awkward silence. I mentioned my allotment and watched her ears prick up, and eyes open wide. Bingo. It seems for some reason that the ladies of today like a man with a big plot. Maybe it’s the hunter gatherer image, or the thought of a summers’ supply of strawberries. Maybe it’s just because it sets you apart from the other people on ‘the market’. Whatever it is, they love it. A reason in itself to get yourself on a waiting list.

Now the health benefits. An obvious one you may say. Indeed, the vegetables you grow will contain many vital nutrients and vitamins to keep your body ticking over, but there’s more. You’ll be able to cancel that expensive gym membership. A weekend of digging, forking and weeding will leave you as stiff as any workout. And don’t forget all the fresh air you’ll get when working on your patch. In particular, the vitamin D that your skin produces when exposed to the sun will keep your bones healthy and increase your protection against a number of cancers.

So, have I convinced you? Your new allotment won’t only improve your diet, but also your lifestyle. You’ll be healthy, tanned, fit, with a girl on each arm. What are you waiting for? And if you can’t find a local allotment association then why not dig over some of the garden? After all, what use is grass?