A Quick Guide To Eco Symbols

It can be confusing knowing which symbol means what when you are out shopping for green goods. As legislation is constantly changing, you need to make sure your product knowledge is up to date when it comes to knowing which symbol does what.

With a number of things to think about when you shop, including buying Fairtrade products, knowing what you can recycle and understanding what your goods are made of, we’ve decided to make things easy for you by providing a one-stop-shop guide to all the current eco symbols available on the market, and what they mean to you when you go out shopping for products…

Eco symbols guide

Knowing what your symbols and signs mean can lead you to a savvy shopping experience without being concerned about the impact your spending may be having on the environment around you. Print off the table and use it next time you step out for a spree, knowing that you are completely up to date with the latest rules and regulations surrounding your green shopping and eco awareness!


Soapnuts – The Way Forward For Green Cleaning

Cleaning may not be the most popular activity which we can do at home, but it’s a fact of life and can’t be avoided. Take a wander through any local superstore and it’s obvious that housework is big business. Every aisle in the store is crammed full of cleaning products promising to make your surfaces shiny, take out the work involved with getting things looking sparkly again, and reducing the time and effort spent indoors scrubbing sinks and bathrooms to get the restored to their former glory.

The issue with cleaning from a green perspective is that, the tougher a product is on grease, limescale or general dirt, the more likely it is to be packed with harmful chemicals which have a detrimental effect on the environment. More and more people are shying away from using conventional cleaning products such as bleach, understanding that they carry an associated tax upon the environment.


Enter a great product for cleaning – soapnuts. These natural, environmentally friendly and economical little nuts can be used for a myriad different cleaning tasks, and are wholly natural. Made from the dried fruit of Rittha tree (found in India and the lower forests of Nepal), the nuts are used for everything from washing clothes, making shampoo, and the creation of a number of cleaning products including detergent.

Soapnuts work because the shell of the nut contains saponin, which is released when the nut comes in to contact with water. They are already used extensively in a number of areas as a primary cleaning agent, and the trend is now extending to Western areas as people realise the benefits of these all-purpose natural cleaning superstars.

Soapnuts can be used for the following cleaning tasks:
• Laundry: Soapnuts can be used in the washing machine – just ass a handful to yoru wash in a sock, and let them do the job of your usual detergent (check out our review of soapnuts here)

• Liquid Soap: Boil up some soapnuts and use the water as a conventional detergent

• Pet shampoo: Wash your pets with a mild solution of soapnut liquid to prevent parasites and keep them clean

• Household cleaning: use for window cleaning, bathrooms and kitchens – a soapnut solution can be used as a replacement for expensive and harmful bleaches and limescale removers

• Washing the car: Add some nuts to a bucket of warm water, and you’re ready to go

• Brightening jewellery: Soak items in the soapnut water solution and rub dry to a high sparkle

• Insect repellant: Use soapnut solution to repel insects, and protect plants and bushes from insects by spraying them with a weak soapnut solution.

As a completely renewable and biodegradable product, soapnuts can be composted once they have reached the end of their life in your cleaning cupboard. They are allergy-free, and great for cleaning around babies and small children, and for people with sensitive skin.

Just 1kg of soapnuts can be used for up to 100 loads of laundry, saving around fifty percent from your regular laundry bill. Using these innovative little nuts supports people growing them in regions who depend upon the income to survive, meaning that you have no real excuse for not letting these little miracles in to your home! You can purchase soapnuts for around £7.00 ($14.00) in most home and garden retail outlets. Find out more, here.

Re-light My (Eco-friendly) Fire

As the winter nights draw in, there’s nothing more appealing that curling up with a glass of wine by a roaring log fire. Except of course for the fact that log or coal fires use up valuable natural resources and fossil fuels and damage our environment. But if the idea of cuddling up next to your loved one opposite a piping hot radiator dampens your enthusiasm somewhat, fear not.

Thankfully, recent developments in the bio-fuels market have enabled fireplace manufacturers to develop credible ‘real-flame’ solutions to meet all your romantic log fire needs. Using a pure plant derivative (bio-ethanol), designers can now offer flame-effect fires which will warm the eco-homes of the future.

Flaming hot
Bio-fires offer an interesting green alternative to natural coal, peat, log or gel fires. The denatured ethanol which is used to fuel the fire is smokeless and odourless, making it ideal for a wide range of homes and outdoor spaces. The smokeless quality of bio-fuel also means that no chimney is required, thus making installation quick and easy.

Most bio-fuelled fires allow the ethanol to be sprayed onto a porous block at the centre of the fire. When lit, the ethanol produces a stable flame, with the porous block delivering a steady release of ethanol fuel. The flames are usually extinguished through a remote sliding system on the side of the unit, to maximise user safety.

These environmentally friendly eco-fires also provide up to six hours of burn time, leading a number of manufacturers to claim that bio-fuelled fires are more economical and deliver better overall heat performance than the earlier brands of gel fires. The fireplaces themselves are largely indistinguishable from gas fires, and leave no residue. Bio-fires also emit about the same amount of heat as ordinary electric fires – and yet they’re fuelled entirely by renewable resources.

Style and substance
Manufacturers have not compromised on the design front either. Many suppliers offer a wide range of bio-fire styles and sizes to suit homes and gardens of all shapes and sizes. From contemporary free-standing fires to more traditional fireplace inserts, alongside bespoke or custom made bio-fires for more unusual spaces – including, wait for it, swimming pools – there really is a bio-fire for everyone.

Bio-fires are clearly an innovative eco-solution for 21st century living, providing a fantastic alternative to the traditional log fire. And with average prices ranging from $800-2000 they’re competitively priced. The bio-fire is clearly a great investment for both the environmentally conscious and the hopeless romantics among us! Time to uncork that bottle…

We Are What We Do – Something To Inspire Us All

Every now and then, we come across an organization or product that really inspires us. One such organization is the simple, engaging and environmentally-friendly We are what we do. Rather aptly titled, the UK-based charity describes itself as ‘a global movement that inspires people to use their everyday behaviour to affect big environmental and social issues.’ It’s a pretty ambitious aim, but when you check out their credentials, they certainly pack a punch.

Remember the wonderful bag, designed by Anya Hindmarch, with the strapline ‘I’m NOT a plastic bag.’? A limited edition run, the bag became synonymous with the move away from plastic bags, and towards an altogether more sustainable way to carry groceries and other shopping. And the idea for the bag? It came from this great little charity that seems to be brimming with good green ideas.

I am not a plastic bag

Simple actions
If you check out the We are what we do website, you’ll find ideas for 132 actions that you can do right now, to help make life a little bit better for everyone. From saving energy to recycling, donating money to improving the area that you live in, there’s something for everyone. The website includes a live counter, which allows you to ‘report’ when you’ve completed an action – and with almost 5 million actions taken by site visitors, they’re definitely on to something! Examples of individual actions include:

#094 Make coffee for someone busier than you
#025 Use a mug, not a plastic cup
#101 Make someone smile
#013 Recycle your mobile phone
And my personal favorite…..#123 Don’t start a war.

The site demonstrates that small, simple actions have the power to change lives and improve our planet.

From humble beginnings
Founded by David Robinson, a community worker, and Eugenie Harvey, a communications and marketing specialist, the charity has attracted creative thinkers from business, government and the voluntary sector with the aim of finding new and innovative ways to change society for the better. The charity has published two books – including their bestselling Change the world for a fiver which included ideas contributed by people around the world which would make the world a better place. This was closely followed by Change the world 9–5 which focused on encouraging positive behaviour change in the workplace.

The organization is also committed to inspiring young people, and now runs a Young Speakers Program, training young volunteers to give talks and run assemblies in schools across the UK, which encourage their peers to take action on the issues that matter most to them. Their latest campaign, ‘Teach your granny to text’, is designed to encourage intergenerational bonding – helping young and old people to spend time together and learn from each other. So, there’s no shortage of great ideas, and site visitors are invited to contribute their own ideas too. So, if you’ve got a wonderful idea for improving life as we know it, why not email info@wearewhatwedo.org …if anyone can make it happen, they can!

The Eco Gift Guide

The weather has turned colder, the nights are drawing in, and many people are turning to thoughts of Christmas and Thanksgiving, and buying gifts for friends and family. As soon as the TV adverts commercials start to feature Santa, you know it’s time to write your Christmas list and work out what you are going to buy for people to open on the big day.

A great way of helping the environment and supporting the people around you to do the same is to buy green gifts for everyone. This helps to highlight awareness of the environment, and also makes sure you can buy ethical products which bring added value to the people who sell them, as well as supporting your friends and family to be environmentally friendly.

The good thing about buying in this way is, that people are cottoning on to the huge market out there for green gifts, and this means there is a huge range of beautiful products out there that will suit your budget and needs without compromising on quality or the pleasure your recipients will get from your gift.

Choosing the right green gifts for those you care about
There are a huge number of green traders available to browse online. Start with Miki, a cool and green site designed to help you find the latest organic, recycled or innovative eco gifts. Your next port of call could be Good Green Gifts which features some beautiful gifts including recycled glass products, and a range of lovely items ordered by which room in the house they are designed for.

If there is someone you know who is a gadget enthusiast, look no further than www.gadgets.co.uk/category/green-gifts, which features every imaginable kind of green gadget from solar chargers right through to power meters. If you are looking for something a little unique, why not head over to Project Concern, where you can purchase a gift of life – supporting people to live well, and be healthy, through green sponsorship and support.

Other gift ideas include supporting people and the environment by sponsoring a family in a third-world country, adopting an endangered animal or simply donating to great causes on behalf of your friends and family.

The best things come in green packaging
There are a number of ways you can counter the environmental impact of the festive season when it comes to wrapping your gifts. Try using recycled paper to wrap your gifts, with some organic ribbon for an original and visually-appealing twist on a traditional gift wrap. Instead of using cards which have been made from unsustainable sources, check out the recycled options available, or consider donating to your favorite green charity instead of sending out expensive, and environmentally-harmful, options.

When all this is done, you can feel proud of your contribution to the environment without letting your friends and family down – a thought that will make you feel smug as you head off to recycle your Christmas cards!

Green From The Inside Out: Greening Your Undergarments

Lingerie is big business, with financial forecasters predicting that by 2016, the retail market will sell 1.64bn bras and 4.74bn briefs worldwide. However, behind all the lace and frills, many retailers have dubious manufacturing credentials, which fail to adequately consider the sustainability of their fabrics or the ethics of their production lines.

Enter Green Knickers, a lingerie business which was the brainchild of Sarah Lucy Smith, a young entrepreneur with a flair for design and firm commitment to ethically sourced, Fair Trade products. Sarah attended a degree course in Eco Design at Goldsmiths College (part of the University of London), where she was inspired to create a special line of ‘green’ knickers, using environmentally-friendly fabrics including silk, hemp and organic cotton, to create a truly unique lingerie business which puts the Fair Trade back into fashion.

Fair Trade fashion
Green Knickers is committed to creating a commercially viable business built on ethical principles – giving customers greater choice, and ensuring that global and local suppliers get a fair deal. Sarah, with her business partner (and old school friend), Rose Cleary, are also keen to challenge the eco-warrior stereotype, reflecting a fun and playful sense of humour in all their products. Green Knickers are stitched with quirky messages like ‘Stop deforestation’ and ‘Cycle more’ which aim to convey serious messages in a fun and accessible way.

Green Knickers

Explaining their approach, Sarah says: “There are a variety of styles, but there’s humour in all of them. That was my aim: to add a cheeky excitement and much needed humour to green politics. I want people to be excited about changing their lifestyles – not bullied into it. Otherwise you can get demoralised – people who care, often end up feeling guilty all the

It’s certainly a sound proposition, which combines stylish, sexy designs with ethical production values.

Just a fad?
We all know how fickle the fashion world can be, so it’s easy to assume that the focus on ethical fashion could be a passing fad. And with Green Knickers at £25 a pair, there are significant affordability issues which the average consumer might find difficult to swallow. However, while cost is perhaps a barrier for now, it’s clear that fair trade fashion is growing
in popularity. Charity shops have reported significant increases in sales, with Oxfam and others capitalising on the vintage fashion potential of clothing donations to their stores. Indeed, with fashionistas like Sarah Jessica Parker regularly sporting the vintage look, it’s clear that recycled fashion offers consumers a chance to develop a unique and individual look that high street store chains simply can’t deliver.

So whether you’re looking for a vintage collectable, or shopping with a conscience, it’s clear that ethical fashion is on the rise. Green is definitely the new black, and it seems that at least some high street retailers are starting to…ahem…cotton on. Consumer demand for ethically produced clothing is also likely to increase pressure on big name designers to adopt fairer trade and production values, encouraging the rest of the industry to follow suit. And with Green Knickers proving that you don’t have to substitute style for substance, let’s hope the trend is here to stay.

Organic And Ethical Lingerie

Organic and ethical retailer By Nature has started selling a range of lingerie by Enamore. The clothes are made from fabrics such as organic cotton, bamboo, hemp and natural silk.

Enamore’s clothes are produced within the UK and also donates old fabrics to schools and community groups. The range seems to be a mixture of the modern and the retro. Check out the Bunny Camisole (below left) made from 57% soybean, 37% organic cotton and 6% Spandex which costs £60, or the Bedrock Bamboo Camisole (below right) which as the names suggests, is made from bamboo and costs £62.

Enamore camisoles