ethical consumer

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cherrypicka showcases TOMS ethical shoes

Submitted by turbosprout on Fri, 2007-03-02 15:28

Things are hotting up at urban sprout central, there is just so much news out there today. This just in: I've been tracking the launch of cherrypicka, an innovative "spanking-new, brand showcasing site that transforms you into a cash test dummy" which went live yesterday.

Read the brief synopsis here. Anyway, I was showing the site to my wife last night and we were enthusing about how cool it would be if there were ethical products up for grabs.

And now viola, it's magically appeared on my feed radar: fashion for a cause

You get to wear comfy shoes (at the moment only if you're a girl), a needy person (somewhere in argentina?) also gets to wear comfey shoes AND you also get to feel like Bono or Angelina. Thanks to cherripicka and TOMS shoes.

Now where's my solar-powered corkscrew so I can enjoy a couple of BLANKbottles?

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design indaba: ethical design

Submitted by turbosprout on Tue, 2007-02-27 10:15

What really impressed me about Design Indaba was the number of designers, artists and crafters that are involved in social upliftment, job creation, social justice and environmental issues. Where else but SA will you find such a melting pot of conscience and profit?

It inspires me that there are small businesses out there that are pouring much of themselves into helping others. There are some sussed caring companies out that are aligning themselves with the ethical shopping trend by promoting charitable and green causes. And those that are supporting NGO's directly with a percentage of their sales.

aloeafrica is one such endeavour. They produce handcrafted ceramic pots, clearly inspired by the shape and form of the aloe. Sue Symonds and Nandipha Qamarana aim to raise public awareness of NGO's out there that are making a difference to peoples lives through plants. To this end they support Abalimi Bezekhaya, a Cape Town greening organisation, by donating a percentage of their turnover.

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design indaba: more recycled design

Submitted by turbosprout on Mon, 2007-02-26 17:24

I mean that in a nice way. Heath Nash was not alone in the inspiring use of discarded objects otherwise destined to be trash. This is what else I tracked down in the recycle-me design dept at last weeks Design Indaba.

As mentioned before, there were the carry-bags made from previously functional billboards. I didn't realise billboards were printed on a type of plasticized canvas. The material is obviously vast and before the Tswelopele Project came along it would end up in landfill. Phanuel, one of the Tswelopele project workers was at the expo and he went to great lengths to inform me all about the project. Each item is unique, handmade and pretty cool. There was also a couch covered in billboard fabric and bags of different designs.

Noko Designs by Bethuel Mapheto continued the recycled bottle tops theme with his funky bottle cap clocks, fridge magnets, broches and wall hangings. He did let on, though, that he now buys his bottle tops new (20c each) instead of saving old ones from the trash as his customers demand pristine looking objects. Kind of defeats the whole purpose, don't ya think?

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socially responsible drinking

Submitted by turbosprout on Mon, 2007-02-26 15:29

As an ethical consumer there are still very few options available when visiting your local wine shop (not to mention bottle store). Ask for an organic wine, one that is sulphite free, or a guarantee that no chameleons were harmed in the production of your tipple and you'll most likely be met with a blank stare.

Is your "Wine of the month" club not offering any environmentally friendly wines? Do you know any wine cellars that are BEE or wines where the workers own a share of the cellar? Never thought that your wine drinking habits could make a difference?

Well that's about to change with socially responsible drinking of a different kind. I've stumbled across two cool ventures that allow you to vote for a better world with your spending power.

One is the Biodiversity in Wine Initiative, which encourages growers and wine producers to set aside a portion of their land for conservation (currently 40513 ha, some 40% of the vineyard footprint is being conserved). There are over 60 producers who you can now look out for when selecting your next bottle if you want to be more biodiverse in your drinking habits.

design indaba: heath nash

Submitted by turbosprout on Sat, 2007-02-24 15:44

heath nash lightheath nash lightThe canvas of this year's Design Indaba was not green, but if you looked carefully you would make out a subtle green pattern woven into the fabric. From the Toyota Prius displayed at the ticket sales queue to the rubbish bins that proclaimed "this waste will be recycled for you, Design Indaba Expo cares for the planet" there were underlying green and caring themes to pick up on.

I really enjoyed my visit yesterday. I was there for just over three hours with a mission to identify designs that fit with the urban sprout ethos.

I'd read about Heath Nash, winner of SA Elle Decoration's Designer of the Year Award for 2006, and knew about his light fittings from plastic containers, but to see them in the flesh was awesome. If you think you've seen cool recycled functional items for the home think again. This tops what you've seen before and for the intricate design, I think they're very reasonably priced at R250+ for a white, organic, leafy light fitting. I had a chat with Richard Madongwe, one of the 5 workers in the studio in Woodstock. He was a proud ambassador for the brand and was enthusiastic about elaborating on the designs.

should BIG business be going green?

Submitted by sproutingforth on Tue, 2007-02-20 13:51

pic: gdrc.orgpic: gdrc.orgCan we simply switch to earth-friendly products, but continue over consuming? Is it a victory that major super markets are the top suppliers of organic milk and organic vegetables? Should we applaud when someone like Ford, renowned for the gas-guzzlers, designs a hybrid car?

This poses a real dilemma for those of us who have long advocated a cleaner, more humane way of doing business. Of course, it's a tangible benefit to reduce the amount of toxic substances in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the homes that surround us. But are mega-corporations - the same companies that sold us the toxics in the first place -- really the best vehicles for lasting reform?

A recent article looks at big business’s takeover of the local, green economy movement and debates the issues, [Alternet]

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leasing clothes: an alternative to cheap, non-eco-friendly clothing?

Submitted by sproutingforth on Tue, 2007-02-06 10:58

The rising trend for discount retailers to offer cheap clothes, and encourage continual buying in response to fashion trends means that clothes are discarded before wearing out.

This is an environmental problem, compounded by the difficulty in recycling. Most consumers are unaware of the true costs of the clothing they buy. They look at the purchase price and not the ongoing costs to themselves or the environment.

Part of the problem is that neither manufacturers nor customers understand much about how the clothing industry degrades the environment. Significant environmental impact occurs from the harvesting of cotton or the manufacturing of synthetic fibres; the production, packaging and transportation of the clothes; clothes washing; and drying by the consumer, and disposal.

In their efforts to "buy green," customers tend to focus on packaging and chemicals, issues that do not factor in with clothing. Likewise, they purchase "natural" fibres like cotton, believing they are good for the environment.

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a green christmas

Submitted by sproutingforth on Tue, 2006-12-05 10:56

It's that time of the year again - and I can't believe how fast it seems to come around – when shopping malls start playing ‘white christmas’ and various renditions of christmas carols (thank goodness they’ve finally shelved Boney M) and, if you’re me, you just want to give the whole thing a miss, really!

But then that funny bug gets hold of you, and you’ve got a couple of nephews and a child to please, and they’re all starting to believe this bosh about Santa, and the looks on their faces when there are presents under the tree… And then there’s all that food and the various diets that manage to find their way to the shelves in their droves come January!

A number of the ‘green’ sites are calling for a ‘green Christmas’ and we've put together a green christmas guide based on the Friends of the Earth environmental campaign group's guide – apparently 3 million tonnes of waste is dumped over Christmas in the UK (we don’t even have those stats for SA!)

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global electronics companies rated on their 'green' credentials

Submitted by turbosprout on Thu, 2006-09-14 15:37

Greenpeace recently ranked top electronics manufacturers on their use of toxic chemicals and their e-waste policies in their quarterly Green Electronics Guide.

The ranking criteria reflect the Toxic Tech campaign's two demands of electronics companies.

    clean up products by eliminating hazardous substances;
    takeback and recycle products responsibly once they become obsolete.

I was not too surprised that European company, Nokia was ranked at the top of the log. Albeit they still have some way to go in order to impress Greenpeace, clocking in at a rating of 7 on a nominal scale of 10.

Innovation and design leaders Apple failed to make the grade scoring a measely 2.7 and coming 11th out of 14 companies rated. So maybe owning an iPod is not so cool after all?

Admittedly the Guide does not take into account labour practices, energy use or other environmental issue

consumer activism at

Submitted by turbosprout on Fri, 2006-08-25 12:40 is a great site to check out for lodging your complaints (or compliments) where the rest of the world can see them.

You would think that most companies would be interested in seeing what actual customers think about them. And maybe even respond to complaints. Or at least show in a superficial way that they cared. Or at least manage the risk to their reputations and brands by responding and repudiating your claims. Or explaining their side of the story, right?

Wrong. Some of SA's biggest companies don't give a damn. We don't care what you think. We're megaprofitable and our shareholders like us... so $%^&@ off! That's the message I get when someone doesn't care to respond.

In order of the most complaints logged against them, here are the top ten who couldn't care less:

TELKOM (626 complaints on - why am I not suprised!
South African Airways (293) - another state owned company in second place, surprise, surprise.
BIG Concerts (192) - lots of allegations of not managing concerts responsibly
Standard Chartered/20twenty (168) - "where's my money?"
Nokia (140)
SABC (106)
Ster-Kinekor (105)

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