Archive for the 'Ethical Consumerism' Category

Pause to support a cause

Paying consumers for their opinions is not a new tactic, but market researchers are now proposing to give money to causes instead.

The ‘Pause to Support a Cause’ initiative will pledge money to a not-for-profit of your choice when you fill out a market research survey.

In essence, you get to feel like you’re making a contribution without doing much, NFPs get a more regular source of income and researchers can get opinions from people who otherwise wouldn’t bother.

This seems to be the next step up from programs like Ripple, where ad revenue goes to a cause for each click, and FreeRice, where users play a word game and view ads for rice donations.

However, the hope behind ‘Pause to Support a Cause’ seems to be that consumers will look at ways to contribute to their favourite NFPs beyond giving their opinion.

The advisory team has a few big names, with members from Ashoka, SIFE, Hershey’s and P&G.

The program is still in Beta with only selected organisations being allowed to participate. However, you can submit your contact details to get involved or keep updated.

What do you think? Would you take the time to do surveys for donations?

Choice: Eco Phones

Green Phones

Their low cost and our (well, some of us) constant need to have the latest and greatest cell phone has seen them piling up in landfills at an alarming rate. This is even more worrying as toxic metals in these devices pose serious health threats should they find their way back into our immediate environment (e.g. Mercury seeping into waterways where it eventually ends up in food, causing brain damage).

Enter, the Eco Phones.

Major phone manufacturers, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Samsung have all recently released phones touting Green Credentials as a key feature.


Earlier this month, Sony Ericsson unveiled its 2 new phones which pioneer a feature they’ve named ‘Greenheart‘, the C901 and the Naite (which comes with a “Carbon Footprint Calculator“?). ‘Greenheart‘, it seems, is the company’s new label for products which use:

  • Reduced Packaging
  • Recycled Plastics (min 50%)
  • Waterborne Paints
  • Electronic Manuals instead of Paper

The most impressive feature here has to be the use of recycled plastics with ‘reduced packaging’ and the use of electronics manuals sounding feeble. The company however hopes to expand these features through the entire product portfolio, which could collectively make a significant impact on the environment.

One thing to note here though is that the C901 actually has a pretty impressive feature set which includes a 5 megapixel camera with xenon flash and smile detector (because of course, knowing that you’re doing your part to protect the environment, why wouldn’t you be smiling), something which is in stark contrast to the other phones introduced here which are disappointingly lacking in ‘real’ features and seem to be targeted at very basic phone users.


The Motorola W233 Renew for example, announced in January, attracted this less than flattering comment from technology site Engadget:

“We hear this thing is made out of water bottles… and lameness”

The former is a fact, this phone IS made out plastic recycled from discarded water bottles, which I think is interesting because of its ‘single-source’ nature (think Green & Black’s Chocolate) but otherwise, do we really care what our recycled plastic used to be?

In addition to using recycled plastics, the phone also comes with a postage paid ‘recycling envelope’ to make it easy for purchasers to return their previous phone for recycling. Neat, but with the W233’s limited feature set, you might want to hang on to your older phone for just a little bit longer before mailing it away.

The press release that accompanied the launch announcement made it abundantly clear that the product’s designers had “people who put making phone calls as their number one priority in a mobile phone” in mind. Something which tremendously limits the appeal of the product, since a large population of us, I am sure, use our phones for so much more than just phone calls.

Motorola also reminds us that the phone is the world’s 1st Carbon Neutral Phone (much like Fiji Water is the world’s 1st Carbon Negative Water) through the purchase of carbon credits from (the same people who awarded the product a CarbonFree Certification).


Finally, in September 2008, Samsung launched an Eco version of their basic E200 phone, which meant that the phone now used:

– Bio-Plastics (from Corn) for its case

– Recycled Paper for its box

That can’t be it can it? Yes it is. The amount of carbon you would save by buying this version over the regular phone (as calculated by mobilegazette) is equivalent to the carbon generated by driving all of 382m in a Ford Focus.


It seems that life is still tough for the mobile phone buyer who wants to minimize her environmental footprint.

The good news though is that despite how the credentials of the current generation of Eco Phones seem lacking, they do seem to be improving with each successive product launch.

I do hope that next year will see mobile phone companies move beyond the gimmicks like ‘Carbon Footprint Calculators’, introduce measures to reduce their manufacturing process’ carbon footprint (real reductions, not ones achieved by carbon credit purchases) and take steps to eliminate (or at least reduce) the levels of toxic chemicals in their products.

What kind of Green Features would YOU like to see in your next Mobile Phone?

Military surplus reborn as Couture

Christopher Raeburn

Parachutes remade into Fashion? 

Christopher Raeburn is one designer who does not source his fabrics from the garment factories of China, Bangladesh nor Vietnam, instead.. his suppliers are the militaries of the United Kingdom, Germany and even the Czech Republic!

Freshly graduated from the Royal College of Arts in 2006, winning the Ethical Fashion Forum’s INNOVATION competition in 2008 and now working on collaborations with the likes of Tim Soar (a collection that includes jackets stuffed with recycled duck feathers from used duvets) and even Virgin Airlines (transforming their uniforms into bags), Christopher is definitely an ethical designer to watch.

Christopher gladly admits that the ethical awareness of his designs was a ‘happy accident‘ coming out his desire to use these particular fabrics (which he stresses are well made and will last). Into the future, we are sure that Christopher is taking his designs in an ethical direction more ethically, a sign of this is the dropping of fur (which popped up in in his 2008 womenswear collection) in all his 2009 collections.

We will be keeping a close eye on Christopher and are incredibly excited to hear who wins this year’s INNOVATION prize (Press Release in July).

Interviews with Christopher Raeburn: The Guardian, GreenMyStyle

Other Articles: London Fashion Week, The Discerning Brute

Wooden Bicycles Galore

Wooden Bicycles

So you’ve gone from Prius to Bicycle, how more Sustainable can your transport be? 

How about a Bicycle made out of a Sustainable material, like Wood maybe?

At last month’s Milan Design Week, designer Ross Lovegrove, with Danish Bicycle Company Biomega, unveiled a Bicycle handmade in Denmark out of Bamboo, a material abundant in China and the fastest growing woody plant on the planet.

Think you can out-do Ross? Bamboo Bike Studio, still fresh from its launch 3 days ago, will give you (at least) the tools to do so (BYO Talent) with their $1,000 2-day course teaching you to make your own bamboo 2-wheeled transport. (Did I mention that the proceeds go to a venture with Columbia University’s Earth Institute to build the world’s 1st Bamboo Bike Factory in Ghana?)

Someone the Studio would love to have as a guest instructor would be Berliner, Arndt Menke, who for his diploma thesis created the ‘Holzweg‘ bicycle frame made entirely out of wood, beautiful, and with the potential for serious performance weighing in at an impressive 2.3kg.

Need something not only from nature but designed to perform IN nature? Waldmeister (translation: Forest Master), also based in Germany, handcrafts its bicycles’ wooden frames and outfits them with top notch components providing comfort and control in and out of the woods.

Source: Fast Company

Boxed Water is Better for the Earth?

Boxed Water is Better for the Earth

Boxed Water is Better for the Earth

90% of Container made from Trees sourced from Renewable, Ethically Managed Forests.

20% of Profits to Water Relief & Reforestation Foundations. 

Recyclable in Most Areas.

Launched this year, Boxed Water is set to make a splash with its claim that is ‘better for the earth’.

Currently only available in the US, well, only in Michigan really, will boxed water take over the world?

It sure has the Aesthetic draw and is a definite conversation starter.

For now, it seems that most comments have been split into 2 camps.

Critics are up in arms over how its ‘Blatant False Green Marketing‘ and often insist the only true ‘better’ way to consume water on the go is to pick up a SIGG bottle and install a Quality Water Filter on your home tap. (They have also been thorough and point out that as a start-up, the company will probably not be able to makes its “20% of Profits” donation for a while)

Window Display at Lamb

Supporters gush over its design, bold typography, the fact that it is a step in the right direction and how it raises awareness about sustainability just by being, well, in your fridge or in your hand.

I personally love the idea of the product and am a big fan of how unlike plastic (unless its BioPVC) it is actually biodegradable. Can’t wait for it to arrive in Europe!

(Afterthought: These cartons could encourage Reusing among consumers who have been shying away from refilling their bottled water containers for fear of releasing Carcinogens)

More at: Ambrose, Swiss Miss, The Die Line, Lovely Package

Other EvolvingChoice Posts on Bottled Water: Fiji Water: Food Miles Greenwash?, Fiji Water: World’s 1st Carbon Negative Water

Cadbury & Mars Battle to do more for Cocoa Farmers

Dairy Milk will be Fair Trade - what about these?

There’s two big  names in confectionery: Cadbury and Mars.

Usually they just compete in how ridiculous their ads can get, but over the last year they’ve started to compete in who is helping the humble cocoa farmer more.

The latest is the announcement that Cadbury will be applying for Fair Trade certification for Dairy Milk blocks supplied to the UK & Ireland.

This is under the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership, where the company has pledged £45 million to securing the future of cocoa farmers across the world.

With such huge buying power, a Fair Trade commitment by Cadbury is expected to have the most effect in Ghana – the company estimates that Fair Trade cocoa sales for the country will be tripled.

But Mars claims that getting a fair price isn’t the biggest threat for cocoa farmers at the moment – disease is.

It’s not the easiest of plants to grow in the first place, requiring warmth, shade and lots of water. But currently with a lack of research and education, farmers are strugglingto keep productivity up.

Enter Mars and IBM:

The company has also contributed to charities to preserve the sustainability of the cocoa industry, like this one by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Cadbury wants to give farmers better prices for their product; Mars wants to improve their productivity.

Which do you think will be better for cocoa farmers?

Source: Environmental Leader

[For more information on issues within the cocoa industry, have a look at the World Cocoa Foundation.]



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