Last year I was asked to be a guest speaker at the launch of a Leicestershire-based charity, Giving World Online, who put businesses in the UK in touch with charities who can take their unwanted business surplus stock or equipment and redistribute it to those in need. The charity has been a fantastic success and the founders Rama and Sujata have just been given the Leicestershire Woman in the Community Award at the Leicestershire Women of Achievement Awards 2009 – well done Rama and Sujata! It was great to meet everyone and I was thrilled to be able to speak there and talk about how businesses can be more ethical in the products they well and how recycling can keep business waste out of landfill. It’s the first time I’ve spoken in front of so many people so I was a bit wobbly at first, but hopefully this video will interest you if you want to know about green business, or recycling!
How to be green – What is a green event? Despite the recession, there are not signs that the ‘green pound’ has dwindled away. According to the Co-operative Bank’s Ethical Consumerism Report of November 2008, the overall ethical market in the UK was worth £35.5 billion in 2007, up 15 per cent from £31 billion in the previous 12 months. “The economic downturn will not halt the growth in ethical consumerism”, the report states. Shoppers are still buying Fair Trade goods, for example, and making ethical decisions when shopping, even though their ethical spend at £35.5 billion is still a small proportion of the total annual consumer spend of more than £600 billion. The government in the UK is also paying more attention to green issues. In an interview with the Guardian in March 2009, Ed Miliband, the Climate Change Secretary, recently announced a new green strategy that could create 400,000 jobs in the UK with the emphasis on keeping Britain in the lead in the race to create a low-carbon economy. This is all good news for the burgeoning ‘green’ events industry, where venues and specialist companies are springing up to meet the demand for ‘green’ events and trade shows. But what exactly makes an event green? It’s an important question, for event planners, exhibitors, and visitors alike, as no one wants to be accused of greenwashing or getting it wrong, and no one wants to pay to attend a green event and feel that it is not taking environmental concerns seriously. Specialist East London-based event planner Seventeen has organised the Observer Ethical Awards for three years and has an environmental and ethical policy which extends to refusing any third party commission from suppliers, for example, and working from an eco friendly office (a building made from recycled shipping containers). I asked their managing director Andrew Williams what a green event meant to him. “It’s still a very difficult area, everyone (venues, organisers, exhibitors) is doing a bit, but I doubt anyone would claim to be fully committed to sustainability. The main focus in the events industry at the moment in terms of sustainability is on BS8901, which is a new British Standard for sustainable
event management. Not everyone loves BS8901, but it is probably the best
chance the industry has to get a bit of momentum behind the idea ofsustainable events.” Seventeen trialled the BS 8901 Standard, and is now fully compliant. According the BSI, “BS 8901 is the new British Standard which has been developed specifically for the events industry with a purpose of helping the industry to operate in a more sustainable manner….It is important that all aspects of an event are sustainable. Event organisers need to consider the social, economic and environmental impacts of organising their event. Every choice, from the venue and travel arrangements, through to the content of the delegate packs should be designed to be as ecologically responsible as possible.” As someone running a small business who attends a lot of these events, either as a visitor or as an exhibitor, I have noticed that not all events seemed to have used ‘joined up thinking’ about sustainability: I went to one last year which had a whole section devoted to eco design but apparently no recycling bins at all. I was impressed, however, by my visit to UK Aware , the UK’s main green consumer event, which had organic food and Fair Trade coffee on offer and recycling bins galore as well as showcasing all the best energy conservation, green consumer and green business ideas out there. Jodie Carnegie of UK Aware has this to say about what a green event should be: “A place where people can see more sustainable alternatives to everyday products and services and get inspiration about changes they can make in their lives to live in a more sustainable way.
What should it provide to the visitors? Maybe recycling facilities, ticket codes as opposed to tickets, links to ways of travelling to the event by public transport.. .As for how visitors can tell an event is truly green, the term green is very vague but some pointers would be if the venue provides recycling facilities and if they bombard every visitor with a bag full of leaflets.” According to Mary DuQuaine, who runs the Linked In Greener Tradeshows group and a blog at www.exprt.com, an US based green events supplier: “There are many new businesses entering the green economy these days. Trade shows are the traditional place to introduce new products. There are trade shows exclusively for green products. And, most trade shows offer a green section of the show specifically for the businesses offering eco-friendly or sustainable products. The trade show industry as a whole is working to clean up its act by encouraging sustainable business practices, reducing waste, and encouraging new ways to network at the show so that people get the most out of face to face marketing. Green strategies include everything from recycling bins and paper cups, eliminating bottled water, alternative power sources, and reducing paper waste at the show. Companies are encouraged to use light-weight trade show displays to reduce the energy costs of shipping and handling.” She also suggests virtual tradeshows (which can take the form of a ‘webinar’, or a moderated chat, for example) as an economical – and green – alternative to the “in person” shows. “Virtual trade shows are a great alternative to traditional shows especially when people want to maintain brand recognition and keep up a presence in their industry. There are limitations to virtual shows, however, because you lose the physical connection to the products, which can be an issue, especially when introducing new products.” So showing your wares at a virtual stand at a Second Life event might be one way forward, despite all that negative publicity last year about a Second Life avatar using more energy per year than a South American! Tabitha Potts is the Director of Mimimyne an eco friendly company specialising in children’s clothes, furnishings and toys. In her next articles for TGF she will be looking at planning a green event, and giving tips for being a green exhibitor.
This article was originally published on thegreenfamilia: the home of green shopping and family life
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Unfortunately Mimimyne won’t be able to go to this as I’m going to be very busy getting ready for Kids.Modern, but the Bristol Twestival looks like it’s going to be a fantastic affair for users of Twitter and social networks generally; the whole bash is in aid of charity:water and some great raffle prizes are on offer including (ahem) two bags made exclusively for Mimimyne by Carry-a-bag. We’re thrilled to be supporting this charitable event! If you’re in the Bristol area you should definitely go – it’s on the 12th of February.
Feelgood Fashion at the British Library was a great event. I attended in order to find out a bit more about ethical fashion and was very interested to hear the talk by Safia Minney of People Tree – the facts and figures about the amount of pollution caused by non-organic cotton as well as the suffering involved to workers in the industry were eye-opening. She is an inspiring speaker. It was particularly revealing to hear her talking about the financial commitment she has made to create People Tree: ten years without paying herself a salary, she remortgaged her house countless times and her UK business took seven years to break even…. Jen Ruppert of Revamp (she produces designs made from recycled clothes and fabrics) also spoke interestingly about whether green products were ‘ghettoised’ in green concession or areas in department stores. ‘I don’t want to be with the mainstream products, because I’m not like them’, she said. Essentially, if you have put in the effort and financial commitment involved in making your products eco-friendly, you want to have that recognised. Safia talked about her successful collaboration with Topshop, and said that she felt in order to change the ethical approach of big brands, you have to work with them. Remaining aloof is not the answer.
Ed Gillespie of Futerra, a communications agency and the founder of the intriguingly titled Swishing site where you can swap clothes, was upbeat about the future for ethical fashion: it wasn’t just a trend, he said, because people were shopping for ‘values not value’ and ethical fashion – that makes you feel good about yourself – is here to stay. Hurrah to that!
The fashion show afterwards was very inspiring. I loved the People Tree clothes, which tended towards the ruffled, dark and dramatic – I love that romantic look. Revamp’s creations were a little more ‘edgy’ to my eye, punky styling (slashes in fabric) married with delicate, pastel colours. There was also an exhibition of some gorgeous costume jewellery made with recycled necklaces, sadly my photo did not come out very well…
The Times announced recently in an article by Alice Thomson thatSuddenly Being Green is no longer cool”. The article quotes Julie Burchill’s latest book as saying that environmentalists are po-faced, unsexy, public school alumni who drivel on about the end of the world because they don’t want the working classes to have any fun, go on foreign holidays or buy cheap clothes. Hmm, not sure that’s exactly what environmentalists are on about: I thought it was more about saving plants, animals, the human race and even Julie Burchill from extinction. Whatevah, as my kids say.
Alice Thomson goes on to comment that despite the fact that the sales of organic vegetables are going down, we’re being more green anyway because of the credit crunch (forced to grown our own vegetables, drive less and shop less). She seems a little confused over whether or not that’s a good thing (it is, Alice, if you need help) and at one Marie-Antoinetteish point says that the working classes are being helped out because they’re rediscovered cheap food: “Meanwhile the demand for takeaway pizzas and McDonald’s has risen as people find the cheapest way to eat”. Uh, excuse me, the cheapest way? I’ve never had change from a £10 note when buying pizza. Cheapest way to eat only if you’ve never learned to use a can-opener, or a saucepan, or an oven.
The Hippyshopper, meanwhile, asks Has the credit crunch made you less green?. Like me, it concludes that a lot of the lifestyle changes you can make will save money and take little or no effort, like growing your own vegetables or having a vegetable box delivered. Some of them will cost a bit more upfront but are worth the investment, like insulating your house or buying energy efficient appliances. And some are probably worth putting off unless you’ve got plenty of cash, like having a solar panel installed.
Sifting through our pile of Sainsbury’s coupons, as one does in these credit crunched times, I discovered that we were entitled to free entry at an intriguing sounding museum, the London Canal Museum and took the slightly mad decision to cycle there with the kids. We live just by Regent’s Canal in Stepney and the Museum claimed to be ‘easily accessibly’ by bike. We piled the kids into our boxbike (a Christania tricycle, popular with Danish drug dealers apparently), my husband got on his bike and we set off. Of course, it started to rain but morale was good until we got to Hackney (it’s a fantastic route, part graffiti-strewn wilderness and part parkland until you get to Victoria Park at which point it gets distinctly posher). I wanted to stop at Broadway Market for a morale-improving lunch but my other half wanted to press on. We were on the point of having a lunch-related argument in Shoreditch when I spotted a restaurant on the waterside with a sign saying Acorn House. I’d read about Acorn House as a fantastic environmentally friendly restaurant with organic food so insisted we try it out: in fact, when we got into the restaurant we realised it wasn’t Acorn House but its new relative, called
The staff didn’t raise an eyebrow as we traipsed muddily in – it’s a lovely, airy space with a great view of the canal. White Ant chairs, Bob and Roberta Smith artworks on the walls: it’s very stylish and presumably environmentally friendly to the nth degree like Acorn House, although it wasn’t obvious – the building just felt very state of the art. The waiter said there was no kids menu but was charming and offered the boys a plate of plain spaghetti with cheese which went down well. Meanwhile, we had some great antipasti (fish rillettes, beetroot salad and some cured ham) followed by bruschetta with mushrooms and mozzarella for me and speck for him. All very delicious, fresh-tasting and beautifully presented without being fussy. This all felt like a very self-indulgent and wonderful way to be eco-friendly, and although it was not cheap was definitely worth every penny.
Feeling a lot better we ventured out into the driving rain and found ourselves quite lost in Islington as we tried to follow the small blue dots that marked the “Regent’s Canal bypass” (basically the towpath becomes inaccessible by bike and you have to plunge back onto the roads). Cycle paths are infuriatingly badly marked in London and this was no exception, but eventually we found ourselves at our destination, the London Canal Museum. This is the only museum devoted to the history of London’s canals and also the only one that is also dedicated to the history of ice-cream, as it is housed in a nineteenth ice-cream factory (including ice wells in the floor). We’d passed lots of prettily painted narrowboats and some barges on our journey and the Museum’s great attraction is its canal boat which the kids were able to scramble about in and explore. I’ve always loved the interior of boats with their little fold down tables and this one had a fold-down cabin bed as well.
There was also a charming old bike which was used to deliver ice-creams before the days of the ubiquitious ice cream van. It’s a great little museum run by volunteers and lots of local community groups use and enjoy the Museum’s working (ie floating!) narrowboats – and it’s also won a Green Tourism London bronze award, so do visit it. All in all, we did a 12 mile round trip and had the weather been better, this would have been a perfect day out. Our son is keen on birds and we saw coot chicks, a heron and a cormorant as well as Canada geese on our journey: not something you can often say in London.
I’ve been rather concerned with this recently so was pleased to find that Google had made a handy app to calculate your carbon footprint. It syncs with your iGoogle home page, if you have one. I was delighted to work out that our household only generates a modest 1.37 tonnes of carbon, as we are too lazy (principled) to fly out of the country. Unfortunately, my husband flies regularly for work, although I am trying to get him to persuade his firm to offset their carbon miles. We have been holidaying in the UK for years, though, which helps, and our mileage on the car is very low.
The Women in Ethical Business Awards was a great event, sponsored by Triodos Bank (an ethical bank if you don’t know them, who support many ethical companies) in association with eve magazine. It was a very inspiring event, it was particularly interesting to see how many women are drawn towards working in ethical business – lots of different ages and backgrounds, what we all had in common was an interest in the environment and trying to make a difference. It was presented very amusingly by journalist Lucy Siegle who complained about greenwash and some of the not very green products that she has had sent to her. Natracare and Brown Cow were among the winners, but everyone nominated had a fantastic company and products and I felt very privileged to be there and have the chance to meet them. We even got a goodie bag afterwards, a reusable canvas one of course. Among the contents were some of the ‘feminine’ variety including an ‘intimate lubricant’ (water-based and non-toxic, naturally) called ‘yes yes yes’ (very Molly Bloom). These days, it seems a girl is able to embrace the green ethos from top to bottom and, er, Down Below.
Hippyshopper: Did you know it's Recycle week? Neither did we… Post about Recycle Week, lamenting that not enough seems to have been done to publicise this event. Personally, I think there is a lack of coordination around national weeks, days and so on. I run a toddlers group once a week and have spent hours scouring the net to find the definitive list of national Days and Weeks so we can add them to our weekly themes. I’ve found one excellent site set up by a school which tries to tie these together but nothing official. Shouldn’t there be a site which coordinates all this information? Surely you have to go through official channels to set up a National Welly-Throwing Week, or whatever?
I just wanted to post a link to Etsy, which I tried out today. You can buy handmade and vintage (what used to be known as second-hand) clothes, cards and jewelery and even commission things from designer makers. I bought a 70’s sundress (floral, tiered, a tiny bit like that beautiful Luella dress only without the dip-dying and Lily Allen) so that I wouldn’t be tempted to buy a knock-off from Matalan instead. Now I’m going to try selling some stuff, too, so as to complete the virtuous circle. Who said recycling is boring?