Friday, February 27, 2009

Environmental Challenge of the 21st Century

The long shadowImage by Mikko Itälahti via Flickr

Energy Saving Challenge in the 21st Century by Indrani Bhattacherjee

In the 21st century all of us face the big challenge of energy conservation or preservation to deal with our ever increasing need for electricity. Now we are all concerned about climate change, pollution and obviously the future of our children yet the world appears to be walking onwards with little if any real reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Whereas renewable energy sources do seem to be making inroads into the energy segment, it is not keeping pace with our rising need for electricity.

Change of Climate

At the same time as stripping the planet of its natural resources, our energy consumption is also extensively having an effect on its climate patterns. Every time fossil fuel is burned, CO2 is released in this procedure into the atmosphere, changing the Earth's natural climate and weather systems. Certainly as long hot summers and the heat effect change the usual wet weather in the world and flooding, shrinking ice caps, droughts and extreme weather conditions around the world are also serious.

A shocking forecast of what climate change could cause, and how we'll be effected

1. Global sea levels could rise by almost a metre by 21st century.
2. Climate change may drive more of a quarter of land animals and plant species to extinction.
3. Heavy floods may now occur more frequently.
4. Exposure to higher levels of UV light could result in a further 5,000 deaths a year from skin cancer.
5. London and parts of the South East will be at greater risk of flooding.

A Sustainable Energy Prospect

By following the proper techniques of saving energy we should be able to noticeably reduce the amount of fossil fuel that we use and make it possible for the rest of the world to develop without the dependence on fossil fuels that our own industrial revolution required. We have already affected our climate and will have to become accustomed to the estimated changes but by executing a sustainable energy future.

Get more Solar Power details; Find out about the science involved, benefits of different systems, the formation, use and challenges of fossil fuels, kids solar experiments.

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HUD Energy-Efficient Mortgages - How do they Work?

Energy Conservation Building Code 2007Image via Wikipedia

The HUD Energy-Efficient Mortgage or EEM by Jamie Woods

In 1992, Congress mandated a pilot demonstration of Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEMs) in five states. Because of the program's success, in 1995 the pilot was expanded as a national program.

EEMs recognize that reduced utility expenses can permit a homeowner to pay a higher mortgage to cover the cost of the energy improvements on top of the approved mortgage. FHA EEMs provide mortgage insurance for a person to purchase or refinance a principal, owner-occupied residence and incorporate the cost of energy efficient improvements into the mortgage.

The borrower does not have to qualify for the additional money and does not make a down payment on it! The mortgage loan is funded by a lending institution, such as a mortgage company, bank, or savings and loan association, and the mortgage is insured by HUD. FHA insures loans. FHA does not provide loans.


- The approved borrower(s) need 3.5% equity or down payment in an owner-occupied property.

- Eligible properties are one to four unit existing and new construction.

- The cost of the energy efficient improvements that may be eligible for financing into the mortgage is the greater of 5 percent of the property's value (not to exceed $8,000), or $4,000.

- To be eligible for inclusion in this mortgage, the energy efficient improvements must be cost effective, meaning that the total cost of the improvements is less than the total present value of the energy saved over the useful life of the energy improvement.

- The cost of the energy improvements and estimate of the energy savings must be determined by a home energy rating report (or "HERS"), which is done by a home energy rating system or energy consultant. The cost of the energy rating may be financed as part of the cost effective energy package. Normally,an official from your local utility company will conduct the HERS.

- The energy improvements are installed after the loan closes. The lender will place the money in an escrow account. The money will be released to the borrower after an inspection verifies that the improvements are installed and the energy savings will be achieved. This program works very well with the HUD/FHA 203(k) Home Improvement loan as well.

- The maximum mortgage limit for a single family unit depends on its location and it is adjusted annually. The cost of the eligible energy efficient improvements is added to the mortgage amount. The final loan amount can exceed the maximum mortgage limit by the amount of the energy efficient improvements.

In summary, "going green" can be easy as pie and well worth the applications and underwriting, so long as your situation is handled by an adept team of professionals who understand the procedures and guidelines!

For more, visit

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GREEN LIVING: Energy Star Homes - What are They?

Those Crazy Energy Star Liberals! Yay!Image by tom.arthur via Flickr

Building an Energy Star Home by Mac Barlow

Anyone building a home should give serious consideration to building an Energy Star home. There are several reasons why this financially benefits the homeowner.

- Compared with standard homes, Energy Star qualified homes use substantially less energy for heating, cooling, and water heating - delivering $400 to $600 in annual savings. Over the average 7 to 8 years you may live in your home, this adds up to thousands of dollars saved on utility bills.

- Additional savings on maintenance can also be substantial since better quality appliances and equipment is installed.

- Financing your home purchase using an energy efficient mortgage can also lead to savings.

- Some utilities offer a reduction in electricity rates for homes that qualify as Energy Star.

Building an Energy Star home increases its initial cost about 4-8% (depending on materials/equipment installed) compared to a comparable home which adds some to your mortgage payment, however the reduced utility bills usually will offset any increase in your mortgage payment, therefore your total cost of home ownership does not increase. And as energy costs rise, your savings increase and Energy Star homes also have higher resale values.

So the real question is: Can you afford NOT to build an Energy Star home?

Other benefits of an Energy Star home include:

- Increase comfort/temperatures in your home

- Reduced emissions for the environment

- Efficient construction techniques and high-performance, better quality products

- Improved indoor air quality

Features of Energy Star qualified new homes are:

Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling Equipment - More efficient and properly sized heating and cooling systems use less energy, which reduces utility bills. These systems also turn on and off less frequently, removing more humidity and providing better comfort.

Effective Insulation - Properly installed insulation that meets or exceeds national code requirements helps achieve even temperatures throughout the house while using less energy. The result is lower utility costs and a quieter, more comfortable home.

Tight Construction and Tight Ducts - Attention to detail by sealing all holes, cracks, and seams in ducts and construction assemblies helps eliminate drafts, moisture, dust, pests, and pollen. This improves comfort and the quality of indoor air, while lowering maintenance costs.

Efficient Products - Energy Star qualified homes may also be equipped with Energy Star qualified products - lighting fixtures, compact fluorescent bulbs, ventilation fans, and appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines.

High-Performance Windows - Advanced window coatings help keep heat in during winter and out during summer. They also block damaging ultraviolet sunlight that can discolor carpets and furniture.

Third-Party Verification - Utilizing independent Home Energy Raters, Energy builder partners choose the most appropriate energy-saving features for their homes. Additionally, raters conduct onsite testing and inspections to verify the energy efficiency measures, as well as insulation, air tightness, and duct sealing details.

Mac Barlow has remodeled many old homes, been employed in several different construction trades & is a major do-it-yourselfer. He currently owns a home inspection company and has been inspecting homes for many years which is where my experience is most relevant to the proper way to build a home. To learn more about building your dream home, visit my website,

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CASE STUDY: Going Green in Austin, Texas

DSC01210Image by Johny M via Flickr

Will Buyers Go Green in Austin, Texas? by Roselind Hejl

In the city of Austin a new energy ordinance will require that homeowners have an energy efficiency audit done prior to selling their home. The audit report must be disclosed to the buyer of their home. Energy audit and disclosure will become a part of the home purchase process in mid 2009.

In Austin's hot climate, energy performance has a lot to do with how efficiently the central air-conditioning system works. We are more concerned about cooling than heating, but both systems are used throughout the year. The new law aims to upgrade the energy performance of older homes in these critical areas:

Finding leaks and closing gaps in AC ducts (ducts can have 10% - 30% leakage!)

Improving the insulation in the attic to help retain conditioned air

Keeping the hot sun out with solar screens on windows

Reducing the loss of conditioned air through cracks in doorways and windows

After some resistance by homeowners and groups, the law stopped short of making energy upgrades mandatory in order to sell a home. In today's market, it does not make sense to add difficulty or cost to the sale process. So, the law was pared back to just require that sellers have an energy audit, and disclose the results to potential buyers.

Will buyers demand that the home they buy pass muster in terms of energy efficiency? The market will have to sort this out. I think that, over time, they probably will. Sellers will anticipate this by taking steps to correct the wasteful loss of energy in their home. Most sellers would like to have a positive report to show prospective buyers. They will want to have a clean bill of health. And, we must admit, the items required for testing are really fundamental.

They are so fundamental that they are generally not noticed. These are not the green features that are ego satisfying or visually appealing. We don't see them featured in Dwell Magazine. They are not as exciting as wind turbines, or solar panels, or rainwater catchment, or Icestone counters. These are things that most people would rather not think about. Like caulking and duct mastic. And, unglamorous dark screens and dusty old attic insulation. These are not the upgrades that cause buyers to say, "I love it."

So they have never been top of mind concerns. Austin's new energy audit law is going change all that. It will bring these behind-the-scenes basics into the limelight. Old houses will meet new tech. Homeowners will be able to improve the basic energy efficiency of homes. That will mean lower utility bills. And fewer carbon-spewing power plants. And, a greener Austin.

Roselind Hejl is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker United in Austin, Texas. Her website - Austin Texas Real Estate - - offers homes for sale, market trends, buyer and seller guides. Let Roselind help you make your move to Austin, Texas. Austin Real Estate Guide.

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POLLUTION: Farmed Salmon and PCBs - A Health Hazard due to Pollutants?

salmon on the fish stairsImage by .leila via Flickr

The Truth About Farmed Salmon, PCBs and Your Health by Allie Moxley

Many people are concerned about the potential adverse health effects of eating farmed salmon; studies have shown that farmed salmon may contain high amounts of toxic chemicals, which when ingested over a long period of time may be damaging to your health. Here we look at the facts.

Farmed salmon, unlike wild Alaska salmon are grown and raised within a contained space. They contain more fat than wild salmon, meaning their total omega-3 fatty acid content is similar to wild fish; the difference, however, is that the extra fat is contaminated with PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and upwards of 100 other pollutants, including toxic pesticides. Those who ingest farmed salmon on a regular basis may be risking their health, exceeding government limits for these types of pollutants. Potential dangers include fetal brain damage, immune system damage, and cancer.

Farmed salmon comprises around 22% of all retail seafood sales; many consumers eat salmon because of its cardiovascular benefits. What they do not know is that farm raised salmon contains high amounts of PCBs. PCBs are known to cause cancer and they were in fact banned in the United States in 1976. Farmed salmon have been shown to accumulate dangerous amounts of PCBs due to the fishmeal they are fed.

Salmon farms moreover, are breeding grounds for parasitic sea lice, which infect young salmon and feed on their blood and scales. In fish farms a high concentration of fish are kept in a small, confined area, increasing the growth of sea lice to unnaturally high numbers. This puts wild salmon at risk as well, as these sea lice are likely to escape and infect wild fish. Moreover, treatment of sea lice with chemicals may be harmful to other sea creatures and it may not even reduce the levels of lice enough to protect wild Alaska salmon.

Wild Alaska salmon feed on ocean fish, which are lower in pollutants and fat. They are much healthier than their farmed counterparts, which should be eaten only once a month if at all. Wild caught fish are not only healthier for humans, they are also better for the environment. The next time you choose to eat salmon, opt for wild Alaska salmon.

Alaska is home to an abundant variety of seafood, and offers some of the purest marine, freshwater, and upland habitats on the planet.

From the clear crystal waters comes seafood that is delicious and healthy. Alaskan seafood is low in fat but big on flavor and Omega-3 oils. You can study thousands of pages of nutritional research. Or, simply observe the amazing health and longevity of people in countries where seafood is the most important part of their diet. Either way, Alaska seafood is as healthy as it is delicious.

Are you are looking for a meal that is low in saturated fat, filled with nutrients and packed with good heart healthy Omega-3s oils? Then you should start with Alaska Seafood.

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CONSERVATION: Earth-Conscious Seafood

Korean style raw fishImage via Wikipedia

Making a Difference - Being Earth Conscious When it Comes to Your Seafood by Allie Moxley

The sustainable seafood movement is about finding solutions for our oceans; it's about taking responsibility for our actions, and actively participating in the future of marine habitats. The problems that plague our oceans today are numerous. These include, but are not limited to, overfishing, habitat damage and by catch.

Overfishing occurs because we fish on a large scale. Fisheries don't just catch a couple fish, they fish thousands at a time. Not long ago, it seemed like the ocean's supply of fish was endless; but today we are discovering that it's not. There's simply not enough fish in the ocean to make up for what the fisheries take out. Overfishing means catching fish faster than they can reproduce and repopulate the seas. Putting more boats out there, with better gear is not going help us catch more fish, because there simply aren't enough out there for us to catch.

Habitat damage is due to encroachment. As the human population grows exponentially, we take more from the environment. More people mean more space is needed, more pollution is created, and more harm to the environment is inflicted. Some fishing boats catch fish using bottom trawlers, dragging their nets across the seafloor to try to catch more fish to feed the ever growing human population. These nets damage the seabed and it takes literally centuries to grow back. Off the coast of Australia, these bottom trawlers have destroyed six foot tall coral gorgonians which were at the least 700 years old. The seafloor doesn't seem to get a break.

By catch occurs when animals such as turtles, dolphins, seals and whales get caught, unintentionally in fishing nets. According to studies, one in four of these animals die. Moreover, thousands of fish are simply discarded because they have no value or the boat doesn't have room on board. Often by catch takes young fish that could help rebuild depleted populations. Once these fish are caught by accident, however, there's little hope left. Consumers can make a difference. Campaigns against tuna companies which trapped dolphins have made the cause very immediate.

As a consumer you have power; by making smarter choices you can help save the ocean and contribute to sustainable seafood. Whenever you buy fish or go to a restaurant, always ask for sustainable seafood. Encourage local restaurants to serve ocean-friendly seafood. Voting with your wallet works. Spread the word. Write to your congressman. These actions signal that you want industry leaders and governments to take care of our natural resources.

Alaska is home to an abundant variety of seafood, and offers some of the purest marine, freshwater, and upland habitats on the planet.

From the clear crystal waters comes seafood that is delicious and healthy. Alaskan seafood is low in fat but big on flavor and Omega-3 oils. You can study thousands of pages of nutritional research. Or, simply observe the amazing health and longevity of people in countries where seafood is the most important part of their diet. Either way, Alaska seafood is as healthy as it is delicious.

Are you are looking for a meal that is low in saturated fat, filled with nutrients and packed with good heart healthy Omega-3s oils? Then you should start with Alaska Seafood.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY: Using Geothermal Energy in Your Home

Steam vents at Craters of the Moon.Image via Wikipedia

Geothermal Energy For Home Improvement Projects by RJ Current

Geothermal heating is an idea that has been around for a long time. But just what is it and how does it actually work?

Steam created from deep underground heat sources or natural hot springs have been used as a clean energy heating source for years.

If you have a dog, you have probably noticed how they like to dig a hole in the ground to lie in on hot days. Even just that few inches into the ground is cooler than the surrounding air.

They instinctively know what many home renovators are just discovering. Just below the surface, the ground maintains a steady temperature year round. Usually this temperature is cooler than the air temperature on hot days and warmer on cold days.

As energy costs rise, more and more people are tapping into this simple fact to use this renewable energy source to heat and cool their homes. There are numerous advantages.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency

  • Geothermal heating and cooling is the most cost effective, energy efficient and environmentally clean heating and cooling system available in the United States.
  • Replacing a normal HVAC system with a geothermal system results in savings that are the equivalent of planting 750 trees, 3/4 an acre of rain forest or not driving your car 140,000 miles.
  • The average house creates more greenhouse gas emissions than the average car.
  • Currently more than 9% of our countries energy usage in the United States is used for heating and cooling our homes.
  • These alternative energy systems are at least three times more efficient than fossil fuel systems.

This alternative energy source can be used to create significant cost savings for the average homeowner and generate huge benefits for our environment.

So how does it work?

The earth is a vast reservoir of thermal energy from the sun and the molten lava at our planets core. A geothermal system just transfers this heat from the ground into the home in winter and the heat from your home into the ground in the summer.

Because heat is being transferred rather than created, the systems operate at much higher efficiencies than normal fossil fueled systems.

With rising energy costs and growing interest in clean energy using this alternative energy source can not only save you money now and for years to come, it will create added value to your biggest investment, your home.

Learn more about alternative energy at, a website by RJ Current.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

GREEN LIVING: Adobe Houses - Green Living at its Best

All the buildings are southwestern adobe in style.Image via Wikipedia

Green Living in Adobe House - The Benefits of Living in a Green Adobe House by Julian Lange

On a visit to Tucson in 2003, an old high school friend of mine, Daniel Snyder of Westwind Solar Electric, introduced me to the designer and builder Tom Wuelpern. As the award winning owner of Rammed Earth Development, Wuelpern has built many an adobe house in the Tucson area.

Wuelpern lives and works in the Barrio Santa Rosa district of central Tucson and the 800 block of Meyer Avenue has been a principle focus of his creativity. Here he's built homes that complement the vintage adobes of that historic district. When he first arrived there wasn't a single house left on that stretch of Meyer Avenue so Wuelpern had to live out of a trailer while building his first home. He says the neighborhood was "a little rough" and that occasionally he'd sit out in front of the trailer "with a gun over my knees."

Things have changed since those early days when people said that Wuelpern was crazy to build in a "slum." Now the original residents share the Barrio Santa Rosa with, artists, architects, symphony musicians, and many other creative types attracted by the rustic character of the adobe house.

Adobe construction was first brought to the southwest by the early Spanish settlers who were originally introduced to it by the Moors from North Africa.

One old adobe after another crowds the Barrio's dusty avenues, many of them painted in vibrant colors which scintillate in the desert heat. The Barrio Santa Rosa really has the feel of a traditional Mexican town.

I, being a "creative type", was enchanted by all of this and when Wuelpern offered me the opportunity to have some input on the adobe house that he was about to build, I had to say "yes." And it has been a treat to get to know the pleasures of a small Green adobe house.

The walls are 18 inches thick and the floor is poured concrete with a radiant heating system embedded in it. I chose recycled blue jeans insulation which is as effective as fiberglass for temperature but even better for sound, and more green and ecological so that it will never present any hazard to the environment or to anyone's health. I get a snug feeling just thinking about my adobe abode.

The paint on the interior walls is uniquely appropriate because it is a non-toxic clay paint composed of earth pigments sourced from the desert landscape itself. All other interior paints are Non-VOC, so they do not pollute the interior space of the house. I am always struck by the yucky smell of toxic chemicals emanating from the paint, carpeting, and other components of newly built or remodeled conventional buildings. It's the first thing I notice and there is none of that in this Green Living, ecological, adobe house.

In addition to benefiting our health by not out-gassing toxins, the natural paint allows the thick adobe walls to breathe because it doesn't form an impermeable skin between the interior air and the walls. These walls can then act as a temperature and humidity reservoir for the house which stabilizes the in door climate through out the day.

Adobe is not a very efficient insulating material so an adobe house is not the best choice for regions with harsh winters but it is an excellent choice for the desert where it gets very hot during the day and can be very cold at night. This is because adobe has a good "thermal mass," which means that as the suns heat is absorbed by the exterior walls it gradually penetrates through the wall to warm the interior during the night. By the next morning the cold night air has cooled the wall contributing, in turn, to cooler interior temperatures during the day. This allows me to cut back on the air-conditioning and the heating.

Since adobe is essentially an inert material, the "toxic" content of the structure is hugely reduced. This makes adobe construction, when feasible, a very attractive Green Living alternative. Adobe construction is a reasonable way to achieve sustainable living spaces appropriate for us and the environment.

This is a very comfortable Green Living and ecological adobe house. It is a beautiful residence which places no demand or burden upon its occupants; it feels neutral and enriches the spirit with its light and benevolent character.

Julian Lange blogs at and can be found at

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

GREEN LIVING: Eco-Homes - Convert Your House

LAS VEGAS - AUGUST 19:  President and COO of M...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Eco-Homes - How You Can Turn Your House Into One by Curt Roese

The pace of new construction is slowing to a crawl as the recession continues. However, remodeling has not taken a hit, since many people are looking to remodel the homes they have rather than to buy another home or have a new home built. Since there is an increasing level of concern with making homes environmentally friendly, many of those looking to remodel are hoping to convert their homes into eco-homes as part of the remodeling process.

What are eco-homes? If you live in the UK you're probably familiar with the term - this is a rating system used to evaluate environmental standards as they relate to house construction. The idea is to create homes which are comfortable and attractive yet low impact environmentally.

The US has a similar system for rating eco-homes. The US standard is called LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). This certification program sets standards for home design, construction and performance.

You can live in an eco-home without building a new home. A lot of homeowners can simply remodel their existing home to comply with the applicable environmental standards.

Even the garden variety tract home can become an eco-home with some relatively simple steps. A lot of newer homes are actually designed with the environment in mind, since consumers are looking for eco-homes.

Changing your old windows is one of the easiest ways to reduce your energy consumption and make yours a greener home. This will significantly lower your heating bill, keep you warmer in cold weather - and it will also give your home a new look. There is more to eco-homes than merely the design of the home or even the materials which are used in the construction of the home. By replacing your older appliances with newer, more energy-efficient appliances you can reduce your energy consumption a great deal - and also greatly reduce your energy bills; something any homeowner can appreciate.

You can save upwards of 30% of your energy costs just by replacing your old and inefficient appliances - and untold amounts of natural resources over the lives of these energy efficient replacements. The interest in eco-homes reflects an interest in living while having a smaller environmental footprint. You can turn the home you already own into an eco-home for a much lower cost than buying or building a new home and benefit from the savings you'll see - while the planet benefits from your reduced energy usage.

Curt Roese is the author and is a Real Estate Broker holding the EcoBroker and NAR GREEN Designations. Find more information about Eco-Homes and sign up for his informative newsletter at Green Homes.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: Environmental Petitions - An Overview of the Environmental Issue Petition Process

World Environment Day logo for 2008.Image via Wikipedia

An Overview of the Environmental Issue Petition Process by Allison Ryan

If you have an environmental issue that you feel needs to be addressed, there is a petition process that all citizens are required to follow. You do need to do your research about the issue and contact your local government authority to find out more about the project and express your concerns. This will help you decide if this project warrants a review and whether or not you need to start a petition about the issue.

Once you have permission for writing a petition, the next part of the petition process is to actually write the petition. This requires you to write a short and concise opening statement that expresses your concerns. Those who read the petition forms and sign their names in support don't want to spend a lot of time reading before they get to the point. The same thing applies to the agency to which you want to submit the petition. The words and phrases you use should express your concerns without be too long and boring.

Research is an important part of the petition process for environmental issues. There is little use in simply expressing your displeasure with a project or even explaining the reasons for your opposition. In order for your petition to be successful in garnering support by collecting the requisite number of petition signatures you do need to present background information that shows you are correct in having concerns. This means finding examples of studies or petitions against other similar projects that have proven to be successful.

Sometimes projects are not considered large enough to warrant an environmental review. In this case you may have to contact your local government officials and discuss your issues with them to try to change their minds about taking a second look at the project.

Once you have the permission to start the citizen petition and the project that you are concerned about receives approval for an environmental review, your petition needs at least 25 signatures in order for you to file the petition. Once you have this number, as part of the petition process, you do have to write a letter to the person who is proposing this project informing him/her that you have filed a petition against the project.

You may encounter some problem gathering the information you need for the petition if you rely on online sources. However, local projects do have plenty of advertisements, such as billboards, newspaper articles, and leaflets passed out by the project proposers. You can also check the plans with the local zoning and planning commission and get permission to view the plans. As a citizen this is your right.

Such a petition format requires detailed information about how this proposed project will have a negative impact on the environment. You can discuss ways in which it will harm any wetlands, lakes or rivers or animal habitats in the area. With the supporting evidence you present in the petition, this type of petition process requires that you do more than just raise questions in the minds of the readers and those in authority.

You have to prove that this project will definitely be harmful to the environment of allowed to go ahead. The amount of supporting evidence you need depends on the situation, but it could include letters from scientists and other experts, testimonials from others who have been in the same position, site plans and photographs.

Allison Ryan is a freelance marketing writer from San Diego, CA. She specializes in motivation, leadership, and the proper steps to take in filing a citizen petition. For sample petition forms, check out!

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GLOBAL WARMING: Global Warming and Water Quality

The New River flows at 200 cfs as it enters Ca...Image via Wikipedia

Global Warming and Water Quality by Scott Noble

Every day, we are bombarded with news from a variety of sources: from newspapers to Websites to television to friends. With the 24-hour news cycle, it can be difficult for the average person to filter through all this information. This can be even more frustrating when it comes to news that directly impacts you and your family.

With the flood of information on global warming and its effects on the environment, it can seem as if the average consumer is being left out. The news tends to concentrate more on the macro-level and not specifically on how global warming does and can affect individuals and families.

Families throughout the country enjoy the outdoors - boating, swimming, camping, hiking, etc. But with the potential damage that global climate change can have on our outdoor fun, it's essential for us all to understand the extent of the damage that could occur.

What is the impact, if any, of global warming on water quality? Is the impact detrimental or negligible? How is the average family affected by the effects of global climate change?

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the impact of global warming on water quality could be substantial. In a report titled "Environmental Quality and Recreation," some of their findings demonstrate just how important protecting the environment is. Here are some of the study's findings:

If river flows decrease and temperatures continue to rise (as a result of global climate change), water quality in the nation's rivers, bays and lakes could suffer. In rivers where the flows decrease, "pollution concentrations will rise because there will be less water to dilute the pollutants."

  1. This would ultimately require sewerage treatments plants and other water pollution controls to be upgraded in an effort to protect against the quantity of pollutants. The cost for these upgrades would be substantial.
  2. Some argue that global warming will lead to increased severity of storms. In this case, with even more severe rainstorms, chemical runoff from farms, lawns, streets - and into lakes, rivers and bays - would increase. This increase would result in a myriad of additional problems.
  3. If the amount of dissolved oxygen in the nation's water system is reduced, it could effectively suffocate fish, thus impacting a food source for many Americans.
  4. "Climate change could increase the salinity of some water bodies" (same source as above).
These and a host of other problems from global climate change will affect the nation's water quality. With something as vital at the nation's water, it's critical average consumers know as much as possible, thus increasing their ability to protect themselves and their families.

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CASE STUDY: Global Energy Consumption - What Exactly is Happening?

Powerplant in LinfenImage by Bert van Dijk via Flickr

Green Lighting - Whirlwind Tour of Global Energy Consumption by Cinnamon Alvarez

You may have read about solar energy (photovoltaic cells and the three types of solar thermal power plants: parabolic troughs, solar dishes, and solar power towers). But where does solar energy and renewable sources and everything else - where does it all fit in? Where's the Big Picture?

Let's go on a whirlwind journey of renewable energy, showing you views from 100,000 feet, then region by region, then showing you where renewable energy sources fit into the US consumption picture, and compare that to the rest of the world. And we'll wind it up with a picture of the last 400,000 years where we quickly examine the question: Ice Age Coming?

Global Emissions

We know that pollution started cranking up in the 1800s, as the Industrial Revolution went into high-tech growth mode. Back then, the planet could more easily absorb the emissions. The problem isn't that we're not emitting carbon at the same pace as before. It's that, just like a landfill, we're running out of room in the environment.

The pace has slowed somewhat: graphs showing the emissions are nearly vertical for the last 50 years, going from 1500 to 8000 (a 433% increase). In the 125 years from 1850 to 1925, it went from 9 to 1000 (a 10,000% increase).

Regional Emissions

Like many other areas, the USA has led the globe in carbon emissions. But watch out, US: pulling up rapidly from behind are China and India.

U.S. Energy Consumption by Energy Source: 2007

The US produces 8.5 million barrels of petroleum a day, but needs 21 million (imports are 240% of the renewable energy amount). It produces 1.4 million cubic meters of natural gas a day, but needs 3.3 million (imports are about 150% of the renewable energy amount). It produces 3 million tons of coal a day, using all but the 0.14 tons it exports.

Just remember this: renewable energy accounts for 7% of US energy consumption.

Global Renewable Energy: 18% Of Total Consumption

The US uses 25% of all energy, 7% of which is renewable.The globe - without the US - uses the other 75% of all energy, 22% of which is renewable. In other words, the globe uses 3 times as much renewable energy in its energy mix as the US.

Renewable energy is energy generated from natural resources - such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat - which are renewable (naturally replenished). In 2006, about 18% of global final energy consumption came from renewables, with 13% coming from traditional biomass, such as wood-burning. Hydroelectricity was the next largest renewable source, providing 3%, followed by solar hot water/heating, which contributed 1.3%. Modern technologies, such as geothermal energy, wind power, solar power, and ocean energy together provide 0.8% of final energy consumption.

Ice Age Cometh?

We get Ice Ages roughly every 125,000 years. The last one was 124,999 years and 11 months ago. Hmmm ...

NOTE: Carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration has varied in the atmosphere during the last 400,000 years. Throughout most of the record, the largest changes can be related to glacial/interglacial cycles within the current ice age. Although the glacial cycles are most directly caused by changes in the Earth's orbit, these changes also influence the carbon cycle, which in turn feeds back into the glacial system. Since the Industrial Revolution, circa 1800, the burning of fossil fuels has caused a dramatic increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, reaching levels unprecedented in the last 400,000 years. This increase has been implicated as a primary cause of global warming.
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From Cinnamon Alvarez: Founder, A19 -- woman-owned green manufacturer of hand-made ceramic lighting fixtures.

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SOLAR ENERGY: The Early Days of the Solar Energy Industry

A photovoltaic array is a linked assembly of P...Image via Wikipedia

America - Best For Solar Energy by Tina Metcalf

The largest user of photovoltaic cells in the world right now is Germany. That's almost difficult to believe since an American invented photovoltaics - Charles Fritts - and we took this technology to heart when NASA began using it for all of their satellites.

Solar cells were such a terrific idea that President Jimmy Carter, back in 1978, instituted what was called a 'feed in' tariff**, that essentially mandated state power companies to buy consumer generated electricity at a fixed rate, which was generally a very good deal for anyone willing to set up any energy producing sustainable system, like solar cells, that would pump electric current back into the lines.

The trouble was that, Carter left it for the states to approve these measures, and as electricity prices rose, power companies legislated states away from these types of pay outs. In fact, if you recall, there were even huge tax breaks for anyone investing in alternatives of any sort, and solar cell sales reached a high point during the late 70's.

But the feed in tariff wasn't adopted, and the conservative presidency that followed, abandoned tax breaks for alternative energy purchase, and the market began to stagnate because of that.

Enter Germany. They seized upon Carters' idea, and passed a national mandate that power companies MUST allow a feed in tariff to support alternative energy, and solar cell applications have been booming! 5% of all electricity generated is from solar cells and perhaps double that is expected by 2020. ***

Currently there are 11 states that offer some type of feed in tariff for photovoltaic cells. If you live in one of these states, check with power companies and regulations regarding photovoltaic feed in tariffs. Because if you live in a state that offers a tariff, it may be time to go solar, and put up your very own photovoltaic array.

Cooler Planet is a leading solar resource for connecting consumers and commercial entities with local solar Installers. Cooler Planet's solar energy resource page contains articles and tools such as our solar calculator to help with your solar project.

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GREEN LIVING: Green Construction Materials

Sustainable Wood DesignImage by kqedquest via Flickr

Green Buildings by Sapna Kulshrestha

The frantic building activity going on all over to create affordable housing as well as premium residential and commercial spaces could have serious environmental consequences in the form of deforestation, depletion of the water table, and added strain on natural resources. Also the heavy reliance on conventional building materials has aggravated environmental problems as they utilize large amounts of non-renewable natural resources like energy, minerals, top-soil, forest cover, etc, and are generally polluting in nature.

Typically, conventional building technologies like burnt bricks, steel and cement are high in cost too, making construction unaffordable to wider sections of society. Many developers are now adopting building practices like rain harvesting, solar energy, daylight utilization and other measures, to help sustain the environment. The construction industry is increasingly seeking innovative green building materials, to build economical, affordable buildings and minimize the impact of construction activity on the environment.

Green building materials are composed of renewable, rather than nonrenewable resources and their impacts are considered over the entire life cycle of the building.

Here are some examples of environmentally-friendly building materials:

Fly-ash bricks: One of the most commonly used products in construction is fly ash bricks, tiles and hollow blocks. Not only has this product solved the problem of disposal of this by-product of the power industry but is also energy efficient in terms of keeping interiors cooler.

High-performance glass: High performance glazing controls the solar and thermal heat in the interiors and brings abundant natural light without glare resulting in energy savings. The energy savings mean that the initial high cost can be recovered within three to four years.

Recycled wood: This wood made by compressing waste like chips and shavings generated by the logging industry and agricultural wastes like sisal fiber, rice husk, jute stalks, etc, are being utilized in a wide range of applications as substitutes for wood-based products.

Recycled building materials: Much of the building materials used in construction are fabricated with 20% -40% recycled contents including steel, glass and aluminum.

Plastic products: Plastic waste which is non biodegradable is recycled to be useful as building product for flooring, waste containers, fence posts, park benches and as a substitute for other timber and concrete products. Polyester resin from recycled PET can replace the conventional high cost resin for use in construction.

Bamboo products: Bamboo is fast growing and readily available wood which is increasingly being used as ply panels for wall cladding, flooring and other interior purposes.

Low VOC paints and adhesives: Paints and finishes containing Volatile Organic Compounds release low level toxic emissions into the air for years after application. Now available are non-toxic products with low or zero VOC levels which are less harmful to human and environmental health.

Green roofing: Landscaped roofs partially or completely covered with vegetation, reduce winter heat losses and summer cooling loads on buildings thus balancing energy efficiency, rainwater management and climate protection.

Grass pavers: This product can be noticed in parking lots, driveways and open areas that are paved but have tufts of grass coming out between the blocks. These are concrete grid systems filled with soil which not only preserve soil erosion but also regenerate the water table by allowing excess water to seep in.

The concept of sustainable building incorporates a variety of strategies; the use of green building materials and products represents one of these important strategies, offering benefits like reduced maintenance and replacement costs, energy conservation and greater design flexibility in the design of a building.

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ZEITGEIST: FairTrade Fashion - Defining 'Fair'

No Sweat Shop @ The Green Living ShowThe Green...Image by thegreenpages via Flickr

FairTrade Fashion - How Do You Define 'Fair'? by Nicholas Watson

Buy a pair of jeans, and the chances are they'll have travelled further across the globe in their short life than you.

The clothing and apparel industry is a complex one. It is now common for a piece of clothing - let's take that pair of jeans, for example - to be made up of components from five or more countries, often thousands of miles away, before they end up in our high street store where you buy them.

FairTrade fashion aims to create clothing and accessories that take into account their impact on the producers who make the goods at all the different stages of its production. Ethical fashion companies are not engaged in a 'race to the bottom' in pursuit of the very cheapest products at the expense of producers' livelihoods and their environment. Ultimately, this is an international trading system built on equitable relations and fair dealings.

So far, so good. But how do you define the notion of 'fair'?

Although there is no universally accepted benchmark for what a fair price is, it is generally accepted that producers earning a fair wage are able to live relatively comfortable lives within the context of their local area. This means enough money for housing, a generous amount of food, health care, education for children, and some disposable income.

Commodities such as coffee, tea and fruits offer a very simple economic model. They are traded in commodity markets daily, resulting in a global market price. Importers can simply pay a premium above that market price and they are following the rules set down by the major certification schemes.

Manufactured, of 'finished', goods like clothing or jewellery or accessories are much more complicated because components often come from literally dozens of sources. Also, wages, labour laws, and factory conditions are much more difficult to monitor compared to commodity prices. So for example, it becomes very difficult to define what constitutes an ethically-sourced pair of jeans.

That's why FairTrade fashion items are not all certified and stamped yet. It's not that they are trying to con you. It's just that the companies are ahead of the certification bodies.

However, as a consumer you can easily identify some key practices and attributes that a FairTrade fashion company should pursue if it is genuinely working in an ethical way.

Firstly, the very fact that enterprises are working with value-added goods, like jeans or necklaces, is positive. Although the trade in coffee is fantastic, coffee is just a raw material, the real value of which is gained when you use those beans to make a cappuccino. When you buy a FairTrade coffee in London or New York or Paris, the farmer obviously benefits, but the great majority of the price you pay goes to the coffee company, not the coffee farmer in Ethiopia or Colombia. The value-added element, which is a posh way of explaining how some beans and hot water and milk can be sold for £2.50 or $4, goes into the pockets of European or US companies.

With FairTrade fashion, producers are essentially exporting finished products, for which there is a higher added-value, rather than just raw materials. Continuing with the example of the pair of jeans, the producers are exporting a finished pair with pockets, a zipper and button, not just reams of denim in a roll. So they are benefiting by earning more money and gaining more skills. This is a huge benefit to producers in developing countries.

In addition, in the world of FairTrade fashion, companies tend to work with eco-friendly products such as organic cotton, organic wool, recycled fabrics and natural dyes. This has huge environmental benefits.

Ethics in fashion is growing, and with more and more top designers becoming involved in the movement, and sustainability growing in importance, this is an issue that isn't going to disappear. The certification bodies are likely to catch up with the leading companies to introduce some kind of labelling system. And when the storm clouds of the global economy start to move away, this movement will still be there.

Because the bottom line is that the low-cost-at-any-cost global economy just isn't sustainable.

Nicholas Watson is a commentator on FairTrade fashion issues and a regular contributor to international media on fair trade. He is also founder of the online FairTrade store:

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

ZEITGEIST: A New Type of Economy - Will it Happen?

Dominoes lineImage via Wikipedia

Towards Creating a New Economy by Stuart Price

For the purposes of analysis, "the economy" can be simplistically divided into 2 segments: that which creates economic activity of wealth and the opportunity for taxation; and that which is felt to diminish wealth and spend taxation. An example of the former is making luxury cars. Examples of the latter are caring for the elderly, healthcare in general and tackling global warming.

At the root of this division is another concept; that of values. Buying a nice shiny new BMW has high value, bestowing prestige and a sense of being marked out as special. High wages are given to those involved in manufacture, service and sales. High wages (or indebtedness) are needed to buy one and maintain the tax, insurance and fuel duty.

Caring for disadvantaged people on the other hand is felt to have low value, low prestige, low wages. Public services go to great length to avoid paying for it at all, taking and making every opportunity to offload the cost onto someone else; ultimately the poor themselves.

Politicians devise ever more sophisticated reasons to persuade us that they can actually reduce the "burden" of having to pay for this at all. The net result is that those who need social care or work within the sector grow progressively poorer, more oppressed and disadvantaged, while the economic infrastructure surrounding oil-based motor transport grows ever wealthier, or if in recession, deemed more worthy of protection and safeguarding.

When one adds to the equation that of the environmental damage caused by oil-based motor transport, and its association with global warming, the underlying factors become quite clear. While an immediate cessation of current transport practices is the sensible and urgent requirement to protect the planet from long-term catastrophe, the simple issue that continues to prevent this from happening is the financial self-interest of all the economic activity involved; international oil interests, manufacturing, associated infrastructure etc.., not to mention the vast numbers of people who drive to work or the supermarket and the army of individuals and organisations who service the whole thing; insurance, retailers, civil servants etc.. Most importantly, and a sizeable segment of the overall economy, is the entire industry devoted to persuading, and profiting from the belief that to acquire these passports to the good life we need to become indebted.

The underlying assumptions characterising some things as high value that we have to do, and other things as low value that we can't afford to do, are completely arbitrary; the product merely of habit.

Another situation involving a division of values is war (huge sums of money to be made from armaments) vs peace (peace activists are traditionally put down as idealistic lefty loonies, or worse "unpatriotic"). To complete the set of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" to Death and War we could add Famine (there are dire predictions for this) and Pestilence; vast numbers of people, often children, are daily dying for the sake of a few pence to buy needed drugs.

It is no coincidence that the same global institutions are involved; Oil, Armaments, Pharmaceuticals, Agribusiness and their hangers-on. It is also no coincidence that the associated rich are growing richer at an accelerating rate while the poor are growing poorer.

Current policies to tackle these issues concentrate on the symptoms rather than the cause; assuming, and this is debatable, that the will to tackle such issues exists as more than lip service. The cause is the nature of the economy itself and the way that high value is attached to some things and not others.

A recent UK news item discussed the way that a cancer sufferer was denied helpful drugs because they cost too much. The threshold cost for allowed use was put at £30K a year. This sum is an approximate annual average wage. The symbolic significance is clear; a system which contributes to taking life is affordable, saving life is not.

I recall many years ago a poster in my girlfriend's kitchen, reading "Wouldn't it be great if our schools had all the resources they required, while the air force had to hold a jumble sale to buy a new bomber." Such sentiments are not too fanciful, in an insane era which demands that the economy needs a new airport runway, while the consequences are damaging the entire planet. All economic activity is defined by the values we attach to things. The same global infrastructure which employs millions in the service of war, debt, oil, fertilisers and junk food, could equally be based around the core requirements of healing, goodwill, peace, reverence for all life and plenty.

It only needs one thing; our individual agreement. Take a look around you. Just how many things are going on that are damaging people, the world, the natural environment? How many of these are justified in the name of profit and making money? Just supposing we decided that having a rainforest in existence was actually more important and of greater long-term value than the money that could be made from chopping it down and creating a desert?

Recent events have shown just how fragile the economy is, being based at core, on the ludicrous notion of the profitability of being in debt. Recent events have also shown the nature of the establishment response; insisting that the system must be preserved at all costs and using our money to prop the system up; incidentally further indebting us all. The truth is that, from originally being merely a token of exchange, money and the supply of money has become a new route to making money, which in the end enslaves us all. The economy has disappeared up its own back passage and is surprised to find that there is a bad smell there!

The current historical era finds us with 2 linked situations. On the one hand the interlocking systems of the world economy are falling to pieces; a domino effect in which it is quite feasible to envisage that shares in some enterprises, luxury cars for instance, could become literally worthless. In addition, there is a growing awareness that in truth, buying a new car in order to bring happiness and contentment is a doomed enterprise to which we have been brainwashed by the prophets of profit.

Happiness and contentment are states of mind; not dependent on things. If the principle of a successful economy is matching supply and demand, then that demand, based on enduring values, is evident.

We have reached a critical juncture in the life of the planet. Either we will change, or we will destroy the world. Peace, healing the environment, feeding the hungry, healthy renewable energy sources, living as free, conscious ethical beings.. are not just fanciful pipe dreams but urgent requirements. If we attach high value to these, and other issues, then we will have created the basis for a new economic system.

ps. My own view, as far as motor cars go, is that BMWs are cool machines.

Please check out my website, Inspirit Me, for further articles, links and resources:

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

CORPORATE POWER: Is the Media Killing the Green Movement?

Energy conservationImage via Wikipedia

Is the Media Killing the Green Movement? by Bill P. Kelly

As the whole Green movement gains more and more steam we're seeing an increase in the amount of media coverage on the topic. This is a huge boon for the movement, obviously, and is helping a much broader range of people learn about the advantages of conversing energy.

What I've seen happening, and I'm sure you've seen it too, is that the latest and greatest energy conservation gadgets and inventions tend to get the most attention. It makes sense of course as the newest and most efficient 100 mile to the gallon car is going to make a better story than telling folks, yet again, the benefits of proper insulation and the evils of pesticides. I'm calling it all "Green Sex Appeal" (with all due respect to Kermit the Frog of course) and it sells magazines, gets the message out to the masses and creates demand for energy saving products.

You've probably seen and heard some grumbling and griping about the somewhat recent trending towards "green sex appeal" and, to a point, I can understand it. It used to be that living a "green lifestyle" involved small organic gardens in the backyard, rain collection systems, riding a bike rather than driving a car, composting and all the other simple yet effective techniques used to reduce the impact we have on this planet. Those folks that embrace that lifestyle and spread the word may look at the direction of the movement today and feel a bit put off. I was chatting with a buddy of mine and he seems to sum it all up in one shot. He said something along the lines of...

"At what point did a soccer mom, who lives in a 5,000 square foot McMansion with a heated swimming pool and 4 kids get the designation of 'green' because she bought a hybrid SUV?"

There is some anger out there however, even with all the self congratulations and the distortion of the true "green living" message, I see this as a gain. Strip everything emotional away from the scenario and what are the actual positives and negatives to the situation?

The main negative I see is the dilution of the hardcore green living ideal by the mainstream media. There is a fear that to some, making a statement about the environment ("I bought a hybrid!") will not result in implementing other green living practices in their lives. The statement is in danger of being seen as the fix. If we get to a point where "green living" comes to just mean you own a fuel efficient car or you've got a solar panel that powers your 50 inch TV, then we will have a problem. Don't misunderstand here, both of those things are fantastic...every little bit helps! But does it mean someone has embraced green living? I'd argue no.

The positive I see is that, everything being equal, you've got soccer moms out there driving more fuel efficient vehicles and using less gas than they would have when driving Danny and Sally to soccer/football/band practice. Is it the most fuel efficient vehicle out there? Not even close but it's a start. Will the family start their own garden? Reduce or eliminate the amount of chemicals they use in and outside of the home? Will they do without the heated pool? Will they shop for locally grown organic produce? Maybe and maybe never know.

Overall having some people out there buying high efficiency vehicles just because it's cool, or the current trend or it's the new "must have" still gets them behind the wheel of something that uses fewer gallons of gas. And that I've got to see as a gain.

Now, what can we make so trendy for a large chuck of the population that it's super cool to not own a car? Figure that one out and we'll be getting somewhere! Thanks for reading!

Bill maintains a website focused on Green Building and Green Energy. If we can get more people doing the simple things there would be a big impact on the environment! Thanks for reading and be sure to stop by and say hello!

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Global average methane concentrations from mea...Image via Wikipedia

Transforming Cow Effluent Into Electricity by Sy Guth

The world had a good laugh at New Zealand a few years back when the New Zealand government wanted to add a "flatulence" tax on farmers for the amount of methane gas their cows and sheep produce. It was at the time when countries were being asked to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change around 2003.

New Zealand has a large dairy and sheep industry and being a small country, the cow and sheep effluent accounts for more than half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions. The cows seem to be the main offenders in this matter. It is their burping and effluent actions that create a high methane omission problem.

The New Zealand farmers mailed "flatulence" in boxes to their MPs in Parliament House and then drove their tractors to Parliament House in protest. The government backed down on the tax, but out of that cow row, Natural Systems Ltd has developed a system, BioGenCoolTM, to convert cow effluent into energy for use on farms.

The system is environmentally friendly and is a process that extracts methane gas and carbon dioxide from cow effluent to biodigester technology. The after production result is a product that is used as a fuel in a co-generation plant to generate electricity. The electricity is then used to provide for the vacuum pump, hot water and milk chilling requirements. The BioGenCoolTM system has won the EECA Special Award for Energy Efficiency, Conservation and Renewable Energy in the Canterbury Resource Management Awards for 2008.

To read more about the BioGenCoolTM or the Canterbury Environment Awards 2008 visit

For further articles that may be of interest visit

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

ZEITGEIST: FairTrade Fashion - A Great Alternative

fair trade fashionImage by eob via Flickr

FairTrade Fashion - The Ultimate Guide by Nicholas Watson

The days when FairTrade fashion meant tie-dyed pantaloons and ill-fitting ethnic smocks are long gone. Top designers are now working with new ethical fashion labels to create clothes and accessories that are desirable, not just because they're associated with a good cause, but because they're stylish and beautiful.

So what makes FairTrade fashion fair? Here is a quick summary of the 5 things to look out for:

1. There are a number of FairTrade certification bodies that you should look out for when you're browsing for FairTrade products. A good one is the World FairTrade Organisation, while in the UK, the British Association for FairTrade Shops (BAFTS) is another standards organisation. These organisations help customers know that the products they're buying are genuinely ethical.

2. Where are the products made? And under what conditions? Do you really want to buy from companies that outsource their production to sweatshop manufacturers with poor conditions and low wages for their workers? FairTrade or ethical fashion companies will be happy to explain where and how their products are made. Remember: transparency and FairTrade go hand in hand.

3. What materials are being used? FairTrade and environmental sustainability are different concepts, though in practice FairTrade fashion companies will also engage in eco-friendly sourcing practices. So look out for organic cotton, recycled items and other 'green' materials.

4. FairTrade fashion isn't just confined to the margins of the fashion world. Many mainstream shops have FairTrade concessions, and there are now ethical and eco-friendly fashion labels showcased on the catwalk at all the major fashion shows.

5. Price. Ethical fashion is no longer the preserve of the wealthy, with increasingly affordable products available as the movement becomes more mainstream. However, fast fashion goods like T-Shirts for £2.99 are not a realistic price. Someone somewhere will be paying the true cost of that T-Shirt - most likely in a miserable wage and poor conditions. According to the NGO ActionAid, if the retail price of a £6 dress was increased by just 10p it would be enough to double the wages of the factory worker in Sri Lanka who produced it. Ethical fashion can make a real difference.

You might think the global economic downturn could impact on customers' appetites for FairTrade fashion. But according to the Cooperative Bank's Ethical Consumer report, sales of FairTrade and organic clothing grew by 70% to £52m in 2007, and this year is scheduled to see still further growth.

And consider this: in 2007 a survey by TNS Global found that 60% of under-25s said they bought what they wanted, regardless of where or how it had been made. This year that figure had dropped to 36%, suggesting that child labour and sweatshop scandals have made their mark.

The future's great for ethical consumers and suppliers.

Nicholas Watson is a commentator on FairTrade fashion issues and a regular contributor to international media on FairTrade. He is also founder of the online FairTrade outlet Jungle Berry.

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