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Green Dragon: Andy Redfern

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Andy Redfern talks about how his own blue and green dreams led to the founding of Ethical Superstore

Instead of shopping by brand or store, how about shopping by ethics? This might sound crazy and complicated but Ethical Superstore makes it easy. Whatever your ethical stance, it’s highly likely you’ll find something to suit. You don’t have to declare your values, you just search for what you need – washing-up liquid, disposable nappies, solar device chargers, whatever – and you know if it’s carried it satisfies a number of ethical criteria. Its disposable nappies, for example, are made from bamboo fibres that are easily cultivated, need no fertilisers or pesticides, and are 70 percent more absorbent than cotton. Ethical Superstore is a great idea and it owes half of its existence to co-founder and CEO Andy Redfern.

In the beginning

After eight years as international director of Traidcraft, Britain’s leading fair trade organisation, Redfern decided to start a new business putting ethically-minded consumers in touch with tens of thousands of products reflecting their values.

A mutual friend pointed out his shared aspirations with co-founder Vic Morgan, who’d formerly helped Traidcraft establish a candle supply chain. Morgan, a Harvard MBA, had worked at a major consulting firm and, most importantly, had created a wholesale fair trade business in the USA, now owned by a subsidiary of National Geographic. Redfern, as well as establishing Traidcraft, was a closet techie with an electronic engineering degree and eight years’ experience writing for and editing computer magazines.

In 2004, exploiting their complementary backgrounds, Redfern and Morgan created a web consulting and marketing company to generate the funds needed to launch their “big idea”. With enough money for six months, they brought in ethical products magazine New Consumer to act as the marketing arm of their fledgling Ethical Superstore.

Realising they needed external funding they wrote their first business plan in October 2005. The first funding round closed in June 2006, followed by new funding rounds every year since. The business doubled in size for three consecutive years. Redfern says, “It’s like starting a new business every year. What worked last year won’t work this year. Last year’s logic becomes this year’s folly. It’s always interesting, never boring.”

The man

So how does someone with an electronic engineering degree come to be running a business like this? The answer lies partly in his techie background – when the company needed an “online marketplace” for other companies’ products Redfern wrote it in three weeks – but also in his introduction to the thinking of EF Schumacher through his 1973 book, Small is Beautiful. Redfern says, “My life has been at its most frustrating when I’ve moved away from the values expressed in that book.” He was 18 when he encountered Schumacher’s work as part of an ecology course at Warwick University and a subsequent “engineering and appropriate design” course module. (It was also the book that changed my life – Ed.) That’s only part of the story, though; the church and its values are important to him too.

Redfern’s Traidcraft work took him to places like Bangladesh, Malawi, India, the Philippines, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa and Pakistan. He says, “It opened my head up in terms of issues.” Eager to share his new understanding with his family, he encouraged his wife and two of their children (they have five, three of them adopted) to visit Malawi to experience life out there, including 24 hours in a village with no electricity or water. They discovered that “things” don’t make you happy. About the Malawians he recalls, “These people enjoy life and local celebrations despite the absence of things that we call ‘necessities’.”

Redfern is reluctant to speak of dislikes. When pushed, however, he settles for “bad drivers” and “me culture”. The first relates to his having been knocked off his bike twice and side-swiped by a lorry while driving. As for the second, he can’t abide people who are “long on ‘rights’ but short on ‘responsibilities’”.

About what he likes he’s much more forthcoming. He lists his family, sport, the church and green politics. At weekends it’s football, rugby, skateboarding, dance and ballet; and he likes to be around for a couple of hours in the evenings too. This means that his working day starts at 5 a.m. On losing his deposit as Green Party candidate in Gateshead, he reflects, “at least I gave the disaffected something to vote for”.

The future

When asked to look forwards, Redfern notes, “Changing consumption patterns can make a difference. Organic, fair trade, cutting down on meat can all change our impact on the world.” He likes the idea of people coming together to meet local goals, as with the Settle electricity generation project in the Yorkshire Dales. He’s confident about the future for companies with sustainability and ethics at their core.

But he’s equally concerned about “green fatigue”, worrying that, “People are becoming immune and weary.” Just like Blue & Green Tomorrow, Redfern believes in making it easy and leading by example. He says, “So much of the green message has been people-bashing; we won’t bash people into doing the right thing. Recycling should be as obvious and instinctive as putting on seat belts when we get in the car; unlike 30 years ago, when we had to be told to ‘belt up’.”

And finally

Having spent years thinking and acting differently from the mainstream, Redfern tells us, “Bucking the trend is both easy and hard. It’s easy to say you’re different, but much harder to actually live it.”

Luckily, his life is evidence that it’s worth the effort.

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What Kitchen Suits Your Style? Modern, Classic or Shaker?

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shaker kitchen designs

A kitchen is the centre of the home. Your kitchen ranges between where friends and family gather, talk about their day, cook meals, have drinks, to somewhere you can just enjoy each other’s company. The kitchen is the heart of the home. But, everyone’s lifestyle is different. Everyone’s taste is different. So, you need a kitchen that not only mirrors your lifestyle but matches your taste too. Whilst some prefer a more traditional design, others want a modern feel or flair – and it’s all down to personal taste.

When it comes to redesigning your kitchen, what style would you go for? It’s a difficult one isn’t it. With so many different styles to go for, how can you know exactly what you want until you’ve seen it in action? Leading kitchen designer, Roman Kitchens, based in Essex, have provided three examples of bespoke kitchens and styles they specialise in, accompanied with beautiful images. This design guide will get you one step closer to picking your dream kitchen for your home.

1. Modern

New home in the city centre? Or even a sleek new modern build? You want a trendy and modern kitchen to reflect your city lifestyle. In modern kitchen design, colours are bolder and fresher, with sleek design and utilities that are distinctive and vibrant.

modern kitchen designs

This modern kitchen is sleek and smooth with flawless design and beauty. Minimalism doesn’t stop this kitchen standing out. Featured walls of wood and vibrant mint green draw the eye, whilst the white surfaces reflect the light, illuminating every nook and cranny of this kitchen. This kitchen features products from Rotpunkt, innovators of modern kitchen design. Made with German engineering, a Rotpunkt Kitchen is the ultimate modern addition to your home. Rotpunkt Kitchens have timeless design and amazing functionality, they work for every purpose and are eco-friendly. Sourced from natural materials, a Rotpunkt kitchen uses 37% less timber, conserving natural forests and being more environmentally conscious.

2. Classic

Prefer a homely and traditional feel? Classic kitchens are warm, welcoming and filled with wood. Wood flooring, wood fixtures, wood furniture – you name it! You can bring a rustic feel to your urban home with a classic kitchen. Subtle colours and beautiful finishes, Classic kitchens are for taking it back to the basics with a definitive look and feel.

classic kitchen designs

With stated handles for cupboards, Classic kitchens are effortlessly timeless. They convey an elegant but relaxing nature. Giving off countryside vibes, natural elements convey a British countryside feel. The wood featured in a classic kitchen can range between oaks and walnut, creating a warmth and original feel to your home. Soft English heritage colours add a certain mood to your home, softening the light making it cosier.

3. Shaker

Any kitchen planner will tell you that the meeting point between traditional and modern design, is a Shaker kitchen. They have a distinctive style and innovative feel. Shakers are fresh, mixing different colour tones with stylish wood and vinyl. The most important feature of a Shaker kitchen is functionality – every feature needs to serve a purpose in the kitchen. Paired with stylish and unique furniture, a Shaker kitchen is an ideal addition to any home.

shaker kitchen designs

The ultimate marriage between Classic and Modern kitchens, this Shaker kitchen has deep colour tones with copper emphasis features. All the fittings and fixtures blur the line of modern and tradition, with a Classic look but modern colour vibe. Unique furniture and design make Shaker Kitchens perfect for the middle ground in kitchen design. Minimal but beautifully dressed. Traditional but bold and modern at the same time. Storage solutions are part of the functionality of Shaker kitchens, but don’t detour from conveying yours as a luxury kitchen.

Whatever you choose for your new kitchen, be it Modern, Classic or Shaker – pick whatever suits you. Taste is, and always will be, subjective – it’s down to you.

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Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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