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Recycled envelopes without recycling

August 5, 2010

I’ve just received my latest issue of La Tierra, the magazine of the Spanish Friends of the Earth group. And it’s arrived in a rather lovely envelope, which caught my interest.

The outside is blank but the inside is part of a map of, apparently, a bit of Germany (Gummersbach, if you’re curious). I wondered how this came to be, so I checked out the company.

Direktrecycling recycles paper into envelopes without the, er, recycling bit. I guess it would be more correct to call it reusing, as scrap paper such as maps, calendars and industrial papers is used to create new stationery.

The company’s logic is that even recycling (while better than using paper from virgin fibres) requires energy and water. By cutting out that middle process, Direktrecycling makes substantial savings and creates fab-looking envelopes.

Check them out (don’t be fooled by the basic website!):


Environment Agency bans short-haul flights

June 9, 2010

Well, following on from my last post, I’ve just read that the UK’s Environment Agency has become the first government-backed body to bar staff from:

…taking flights within England and Wales, or to destinations in Northern Europe served by Eurostar.

It’s trying to encourage employees to plan ahead to book rail tickets or consider teleconferencing instead. Sounds like a great idea; I wonder if other departments and companies will follow suit soon?

Offsetting or putting off?

May 18, 2010

On Twitter this morning, I spotted a comment from one of my friends:

Flight not disrupted – yay. On my way to Gatwick to fly to Edinburgh for today’s DigiFun2010 conference.

I cheekily wrote back, saying that his organisation (a charity) clearly isn’t worried about its carbon footprint, although I know that there are probably time and cost implications.

Friend confirmed this, saying that spending nine hours on the train in one day was a bit much, although he did use the train to get to the same city for a personal holiday. He also said that his footprint concerns him; his organisation have offset the trip but what else could he do?

The flight still happened, even if it’s offset!

I’m not sure there is much else he can do; if you’re flying, you’re flying and there’s not much you can do to compensate. I’m also very sceptical of carbon offsetting; as an interesting 2007 Environmental Research Web post says:

[Carbon offset schemes] are considered as paying someone else for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and, as such, buying your way out of responsibility. And the schemes may distract attention from the real problem of how we reduce our own emissions.

Of course, this is mostly a corporate issue; I have no figures, but I would imagine most offset schemes are funded by companies. From my friend’s comments, when left to make personal choices (with control over his own time), he makes a conscious decision to take the ‘greener’ option.

Organisations must enable the right choice

So, it looks like we’re back to saying that organisations have to enable their employees to take a green choice, rather than choosing to look green – with associated reputational advantages – with much-debated carbon offset schemes (benefits in terms of tangible effects vs. raising awareness).

So, in terms of this trip, what are the real time and cost differences between flying from London to Edinburgh, and getting the train? The event in question is Digifun2010 (2 Rutland Place), where said friend is a speaker – so he needs to be there. (Prices based on travel for tomorrow, i.e. one day’s notice.)

The time and cost breakdown

Train (using

Direct train from London King’s Cross (north London) is about 4.5 hours, right into central Edinburgh. Cost: from about 184 GBP for a return ticket. It’s just under 1 mile from the station to the venue, which Google Maps reckons will take about 18 mins on foot.

So from King’s Cross to the venue (and back), it’s about 10 hours and 184 GBP in total.

Plane (using

Easyjet flight from Gatwick (south London) is about 1.25 hours (plus checking-in and hanging-around time – let’s say 1.5 hours at each end), into Edinburgh airport. Cost: from about 191 GBP for a return ticket.

Of course, you have to get to Gatwick first; from Victoria station, this takes between 30 and 45 minutes each way, and costs from just under 14 GBP for a return ticket.

Once at Edinburgh airport, it’s about 7 miles to the venue, which should take around 20 minutes by taxi (additional cost). This could be 10 GBP each way, so 20 GBP in total.

On top of this, there’s also the cost of carbon offsetting, although I doubt this is excessive (or companies wouldn’t sign up, surely… I said I was sceptical!); let’s say 30 GBP.

So, from Victoria station to the venue (and back), we’re looking at about 7.5 hours and upwards of 254 GBP in total.

Spend the same, reduce emissions and get a lie-in!

Okay, so there are other factors to take into consideration; I’m not sure what part of London he lives in, but both rail stations are pretty central. There are of course timings to think about too. And the train does potentially take 2.5 hours (1.25 each way) more than the plane, which is 30% longer.

But the financial cost of flying comes out at more than 70 GBP than taking the train, plus the emissions on top of that. Perhaps my friend’s charity should have used that money to pay for a B&B the night before, so he could travel comfortably (not getting up at crazy o’clock), have wifi access to work plus save on those emissions, all for the same price?

Not to mention avoiding the risk of not getting there at all thanks to the volcano…!

Finished before it’s even started…

May 18, 2010

I haven’t written for more than a month because I started the previously mentioned distance-learning MSc. After juggling it with my other tasks, I’ve decided it’s not for me. I can’t confine myself to being in the house more than I already am (I work from home)!

The day wasn’t long enough to fit in all the things I needed and wanted to do. Instead, I’m going to look out for some local short courses or opportunities to learn in different ways, where I can be around ‘real’ people.

There’s only so much time one person can (healthily!) spend on the internet and social media…

Adding a sustainable twist…

March 30, 2010

Well, sort of. Couldn’t think of a different word to sum up the fact that I’m going to integrate posts related to my newly-started course in environmental studies and renewable energies.

I’m only a week in (and still not sure how it will work out alongside the day job plus learning Spanish and German) but this would seem like a good place to note any interesting little developments.

So, the first little nugget is that the AECB’s initiative to promote low carbon building, Passivhaus Buildings, is now operating under the name of the Passivhaus Trust. Its key aim is to ‘promote the reduction of energy use and carbon emissions from new and refurbished buildings’.

Visit the AECB’s website for more info.

‘Banana is most wasted food’

March 5, 2010

So says an article this week. It’s hardly a surprise that “fruit, salad and vegetables are the most wasted items in the weekly shopping basket with the banana in top place, closely followed by fresh milk”.

We need to start learning how to make the most of these items once they’re what we deem (but I guess rarely are) ‘off’. Or should that be relearning, because my gran’s generation is certainly pretty handy with older or stale foods. Bread and butter pudding, anyone?

Back to bananas – I like to eat them raw when they’re tinged green. If they’ve got a generous smattering of brown spots, they’re too ripe for me. So, I bake a cake with them. I’ve found a super nice recipe from Waitrose – give it a whirl.

Banana, Chocolate and Oatmeal Tea Bread


  • 1 Large egg
  • 75ml Vegetable oil
  • 125g Caster sugar
  • 3 Bananas, or 2 bananas and a handful dried banana chips
  • 30g Rolled oats
  • 150g Plain flour
  • ½ tsp Baking powder
  • ½ tsp Bicarbonate soda
  • 1 tsp Ground cinnamon
  • 40g Dark chocolate, finely chopped


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Line a 1 litre (15cm x 7.5cm) loaf tin with buttered, non-stick baking parchment or silicone paper. Whisk the egg, oil and sugar together until thick. Slice 2 bananas finely and whisk into the mixture. Set aside 1 tbsp of the oats; fold in the remaining ingredients until the mixture is smooth.

2. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and sprinkle the surface with the reserved oats.

3. Slice the remaining banana and arrange the pieces on top, or use the dried chips.

4. Bake for 40–50 minutes or until golden.

5. The cake is done when a metal skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow the tea bread to cool in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

It’s also delicious with some added chopped nuts, like pecans or walnuts.

Crazy green stunts…

February 19, 2010

I raise my hands in admiration of people willing to go to humiliating extremes to get their message across. I’m a bit too shy and retiring to flash flesh on behalf of the environment (I’m better suited to more subtle approaches like, er, blogging) but I can still applaud their actions.

The Huffington Post has listed more ‘outrageous stunts’ for your viewing delight…