Friday, 21 March 2014

Aberystwyth University - environmental credentials

Aberystwyth University plans to build a new campus on Mauritius. It's an island that has suffered environmental degradation at the hands of Europe in the past (indigenous lifeforms like the dodo were made extinct by sailors) and you can safely assume that the campus will be built on, and therefore destroy, a greenfield site. If that wasn't the case you can be assured it would have been mentioned as a positive feature in the university's press release.

This isn't a new thing. See previous posts that cover developments at Aberystwyth University. Only this July the university announced a new "Aberystwyth Innovation and Diffusion Campus" at Gogerddan, funded by biotechnology interests (you know, the nasty industries responsible for GM foods, patenting life forms, terminator crops and so on). And the construction of their massive new halls on a greenfield site continues (which wouldn't have been necessary if they hadn't knocked down and closed other halls, where students would have been nearer to their lecture locations - the new greenfield site will irresponsibly encourage car use).

Aberystwyth University building on a greenfield site

Massive scale of the barn-like halls

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Say no to palm oil

Our demand for palm oil is responsible for massive deforestation and the destruction of the wildlife that inhabits those areas. And the demand is doubling every few years. It's a topic we should all know about and act on. Further information:
Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that sustainable palm oil is a perfect answer - the RSPO has been criticised for being ineffective or a sop to companies like Nestle and Unilever, aimed more at fobbing off consumer pressure than fixing the problems (e.g. see here, here, and here). Even with certification the chances are the land was still rainforest originally.

Read the ingredients, boycott products with palm oil in, and tell the companies why you've done that. Many companies that use palm oil try to disguise it as "vegetable oil" in an attempt to trick ethical consumers into buying their products - let them know that you aren't happy with these attempts at deception. Consumer pressure works. Share the information. Get involved with campaigns (e.g. some of the links above). Do we really need to destroy rainforests just so we can have a different ingredient in Morrison's crackers? See this other advice about what to do. Also remember that when you make your own food, rather than buying overly-processed products from supermarkets, you know exactly what goes into it! You also have more control then over where the ingredients come from, and can use local ones more easily.

Also: this petition.

At the end of the day the western nations are creating an unsustainable demand because we have too many people consuming too many products with too-high an environmental impact. Let's make an effort to improve things.

PS: You can even make your own palm-oil-free spreads! (Recipe 1; recipe 2). If we can do it then big companies have no excuse.
PPS: The excellent Unicorn Grocery's wrote to all companies asking them to reduce or replace (often unnecessary) palm oil in their products. In the interim they will stock products that have organic and RSPO palm oil e.g. from Columbia. Their policy is available online (bottom right corner).

Friday, 7 March 2014

Supermarket swamp

Apparently Tesco have already applied for a second site within Aberystwyth town centre (19-21 North Parade).

That's what happens when weak councils encourage supermarkets into a town - it gets swamped as each supermarket vies for domination. Choice is destroyed, and you end up with big out-of-town developments which increase car journeys, or smaller in-town developments that destroy the business of local independent shops. Aberystwyth already has 3 Spars, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, CKs, Morrisons, and others being built (at the expense of homes)... Welcome to generic identikit town 24.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Save Mellowcroft

Save the Mellowcroft holistic eco-retreat from demolition by Powys County Council. You can sign the petition here. It seems that supermarkets can get away with awful developments, and dodgy developers can be let off the hook, but eco-friendly independent developments in tune with nature are targeted by planning departments.

Saturday, 1 March 2014


Did you know that most teabags are not biodegradable?

"Why's that? Tealeaves and paper are fine for my compost!"

True, those things are, but the major tea companies add plastic to their teabags. When you pour hot water on your teabag you're also steeping polypropylene (plastic) in your cuppa; and it isn't biodegradable. If you grow organic then bear in mind that the teabags will be adding plastic into your compost.

Most tea companies try to hide this unsavoury fact: they don't want you to know about it, and when you do raise your concerns they tell you "it's an industry-wide practice". Oh, so that's alright then - they're saying that if most companies do something you don't agree with, you shouldn't be concerned! Poppycock. The reason more people haven’t complained is because tea companies keep it quiet, and let people think tea bags are just paper. You can learn more about the issue here and here (Which?); a roundup on a recycling blog was done in 2011.

We'll break down the companies based on their use (or not) of plastic. If we know the Ethical Consumer score (out of 20) we'll include it in square brackets after the name.