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Fairtrade Fortnight and the environment: fair is the new green

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The Fairtrade system doesn’t just protect farmers and communities; it also ensures that food production is sustainable for the whole ecosystem, as this is the only way to achieve long-term prosperity.

The latest Fairtrade Fortnight launched on Monday, focusing on bananas, one of Britain’s favourite fruit that is consistently and incredibly underpriced.

British consumers pay almost half the price for a banana today than they did 10 years ago. This is despite farmers facing increasing production costs. However, those engaged with the Fairtrade circuit have a minimum price guarantee and a premium for each box sold that can be reinvested in improving their business.

However, Fairtrade does not only concern social sustainability but environmental care as well. Bananas are usually farmed in large plantations as monoculture, meaning that they need a vast amount of pesticides and fertilisers. The massive use of chemicals affects water and air supplies, but also the workers and communities who are forced to breathe in the substances that are often sprayed from planes.

The Fairtrade system wants to avoid all of this. It has environmental protection standards as part of its certification, meaning that certified farmers need to promote biodiversity and use clean energy where they can. The premium they receive is often invested in environmental management projects, for example waste facilities or tree planting.

This is also because developing countries are the ones at the highest risks from climate extremes; therefore farmers know they have to work sustainably if they want to thrive in the long-term.

Supporting small-scale farmers who cultivate other crops together with bananas, using shade trees for instance, could be a very important thing to do to prevent diseases that comes from mono crops and make the entire food chain more sustainable in the long-term”, Barbara Crowther, director of policy and public affairs at the Fairtrade Foundation told Blue & Green Tomorrow.

Last year, British retailer Asda announced it would be switching to bananas sourced from the Canary Islands in an effort to reduce its carbon footprint. This prompted a debate on whether buying local was better than buying Fairtrade.

The foundation’s position is that both are valuable choices – although there are products that have to be supplied from countries far away.

If we are interested in social sustainability as well as environmental sustainability, we shouldn’t assume that something local is always holistically more sustainable”, Crowther said.

“If you take tea and coffee, for instance, much of their carbon load comes from how much water you put in the kettle and the electricity you use rather than the carbon used in the production process elsewhere.”

She used an example of how bananas from the Americas are usually shipped in enormous containers, making the transportation impact comparatively small, while those grown in Europe might be transported on smaller lorries.

Crowther added, “I don’t think that any farmers can afford not to care about sustainability. In Fairtrade, many farmers said they achieved huge benefits in terms of environmental sustainability. One farmer told me that since he went Fairtrade, butterflies had returned to his farm, because he was doing more natural weed management.”

She added, “A female farmer said to me she had respiratory problems and she improved since she started to wear protective equipment.”

Foncho, a banana farmer from Colombia invited to the UK by the Fairtrade Foundation to promote the Fairtrade Fortnight campaign, spoke of his own experience.

Before going Fairtrade we did not have protective gear; we just used any chemicals without any forms of protection”, he explained to Blue & Green Tomorrow, adding that the Fairtrade premium was often used to improve sustainability on farms.

Speaking about the Fairtrade mark, he said, “When people see this in our region, they associate it with caring for nature and the environment. They know that we do not use chemicals that can harm the environment and that [we] care about the social part as well.

“It’s making us realise the value of our environment and the need not to harm it.”

Further reading:

Fairtrade Fortnight: sales of Fairtrade goods hits new £1.78bn record

Fairtrade Fortnight: the great banana ‘price war’ uncovered

Fairtade Fortnight calls on UK to pay a sustainable price for bananas

The banana dilemma: local or Fairtrade?

The Guide to Sustainable Spending 2013

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Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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How Climate Change Altered this Engineer’s Life

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how climate change affect our lives
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Rawpixel.com -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/rawpixel

Living the life of an engineer likely sounds pretty glamorous: you are educated and highly regarded, typically have high paying gigs, and with the breadth of knowledge and array of fields of specialty, your possibility for jobs is usually immense.  But what if there was something else that needed your attention? Something bigger than just being an engineer, going to work every day and doing the same technical tasks typically associated with the profession?

For Kevin McCroary, that is exactly how it played out.  A successful engineer, gainfully employed in a prosperous job, a simple trip to the Philippines made him see that there was a bigger issue at hand than using his engineer training in a traditional profession.  This bigger issue was that of climate change.  And working as a volunteer for underprivileged children in the Philippines, he saw first-hand the extensive pollution and poverty that existed here and that impacted the livelihood of these kids and their families.

Upon returning home, from his trip to the Philippines he had a new perspective of the impact we as individuals and as humanity have on the earth, and more than that Kevin wanted to know more.  He started to do some research and study these human-environmental interactions, and shortly thereafter ended up in Greenland.  There, he spoke to a man who had lost his home in a tsunami, and, who, through consistent weather tracking could indeed confirm that the current weather trends were “strange:” there was undeniably a general warming tendency happening in the arctic, causing an array of negative effects.

The combination of these observations, as well as his own research, led Kevin to conclude that something had to be done.  With that in mind, he launched his project Legend Bracelet.  The mission is simple: create a reminder of the legacy we are leaving behind.  As individuals and as humanity, we are leaving behind an imprint on the earth, and the magnitude of it is something that needs to be brought to the forefront of public awareness.  The idea is to have a bracelet that can serve as a daily reminder of the impact on the earth that each of us can have every day, regardless of how big or small.  The bracelet has two capsules: the first is filled with sand or earth, and the second is empty.  As the owner, you are to fill the empty one with your own earth, carrying it with you as a reminder and symbol of your connection and commitment to helping look after our environment.

We are all impacted by climate change, and we all have a responsibility to help.  And it can start with something as simple as putting on a bracelet.  Support Kevin on his Kickstarter campaign for Legend Bracelet, tell others about it, or take action in your own way and play your part in slowing down the effects of climate change.  You may think “but I’m just one person!” You are indeed.  But so is he.  Every change starts with one.

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