Saturday, 30 October 2010

Dr Martin Blake as Non Executive Director for Amida

Amida and I have some very exciting news to share. Dr Martin Blake, former Head of Sustainability for the Royal Mail and Chairman of Carbon Zero Solutions, has agreed to be Amida’s Non-Executive Director. Martin has been a close support and partner to Amida over the past year and will now play an integral part in the business development.

This partnership will be highly beneficial to Amida as a sustainable development search and recruitment business for a number of reasons. The vision of Amida is to move sustainability forward globally through people, and more particularly, through facilitating talent into organisations who see the imperative of driving sustainability through their business. Martin is an influential and inspirational achievement-driven sustainability expert and visionary leader, with over 25 years practical experience, having recently deployed one of the most successful carbon management programmes in the world. His extensive knowledge of the built environment, infrastructure, transport, social and low carbon strategy is invaluable to driving this change and realising Amida’s potential.

For seven years, up until October 2010, Dr Blake led the Social Responsibility and Sustainability Teams at Royal Mail as well as designing and deploying an international award winning Carbon Management Programme to combat climate change. The Royal Mail is the largest private employer in the UK, with 175,000+ employees, 14,000 retail outlets, a fleet of 35,000 vehicles and over 30 Boeing 737’s transporting 85 million pieces of mail every day to 27 million addresses. Martin operationalised the Marginal Abatement Cost Curve, which was conceptualised by McKinsey, to produce a carbon management programme that saves £30m annually at zero net cost to the business. He defined and set measurements for carbon footprinting protocol that was recognised as a best practice model, winning the World Mail and London Liveable City awards for climate change innovation. Royal Mail has now won over 75 national and international awards for CSR since 2004 including World Mail Awards for carbon management and the Carbon Trust Standard.

One of his most notable achievements at Royal Mail was his significant contribution to the commercialisation of hydrogen fuel cell technology for use in vehicles and buildings in the postal sector including performing a competitive analysis, technological research, and designing hydrogen strategy to gain competitive advantage as market leader. This step has been influential on the vehicle industry and Martin has become recognised as an expert in hydrogen. Martin is a prolific keynote speaker on sustainability and carbon reduction at national and international conferences, events and academic institutions, which have included (this year alone): the Asia Pacific Academy for Business In Society (APABIS) in Japan, the Australian and Asia Pacific Mining Conference and the Low Carbon Fuel and Sustainability conference for Scottish Government in Edinburgh. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Sustainable Business Development at both Griffith University and the University of Southern Queensland.

Prior to joining Royal Mail, after a Bachelors degree in Public Health and Preventative Medicine, Martin worked for 6 years as the Chief for Preventative Medicine for the Ministry of Health in Abu Dhabi, UAE, where he successfully designed and formulated a comprehensive, regional and integrated preventive medicine programme serving a population of approximately 250,000 people, controlling a budget of $5 million and significantly reducing death and sickness rates. Martin then spent 12 years directing community infrastructure development in Saudi Arabia for oil company KSA. He strategically planned, constructed and managed multiple state-of-the-art community infrastructure projects including hospitals, roads and universities, for a population of 30 million people, controlling a 5-year capital development budget in excess of $5 billion.

He has diverse skills in organisational change management, stakeholder engagement, and risk management with a focus on large-scale CSR initiatives. Through his incredible network and aptitude to link people and organisations, Martin has an innate ability to see trends in business and actualise solutions. He will work with the four Amida Directors on business strategy and will work closely with myself in my Sustainability Manager capacity, to ensure that Amida is as sustainable as possible.

We welcome Martin to our business and very much look forward to working with him. Cheers to a successful business partnership and a positive, sustainable future for Amida!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Soap nut shells

One of the things that I learnt during my research for the swish was that 60% of the carbon produced from one garment is emitted after you have purchased it, due to washing. There are also lots of chemicals, perfumes and artificial detergents used in our laundry wash and fabric softener.

I have always washed at 30 degrees using Ecover. However I have come across a new natural detergent in my eco travels, which is harnessed from soap nut shells. It sounds like 3 different things, but it is one thing! Soap nut shells (I quite like to say it) are the dried husks of the soap berry tree (I also like to say that), native to Southern Asia. I probably unknowingly walked passed a few during my jungle trek in Borneo earlier this year.

In terms of sustainability, I cannot really fault them. They grow uncultivated in poor quality ground and help fight soil erosion. Local farmers harvest the fruit and the seed can be replanted. They are 100% natural, organic, biodegradeable and 5 shells can be used for 3-4 washes, at 9p a wash as opposed to 25-30p per wash for chemical detergents. Soap nut shells have a natural chemical called Saponin, which acts as a detergent when it comes into contact with water and they have natural hypoallergenic, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal actions. They preserve cloth fibres and protect colours, in turn increasing the life of clothes. The end waste detergent has antimicrobial properties that cleans the drainage system and is eco-friendly.

Apparently, in South East Asia, soap nut shells are also used as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, kitchen cleaner and to help cure dandruff and eczema!

They leave your clothes smelling neutral, so the advice is to add a few drops of essential oil to the washing machine drawer if you like that ‘clean, fresh’ scent. I have been using soap nut shells for the past 5 washes and my clothes come out lovely!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A SWISHING success!

Dear all swish attendees,

thank you for coming along and making it a truly fabulous swish this afternoon! There were around 50 people who attended, lovely cups of tea, delicious cakes and most importantly lots of amazing clothes swaps!
I for one, love my 'new' clothes and am truly grateful to those who brought them in to swap for ones that they would want. There was a wonderful trench coat, lots of glitzy tops, funky jackets and dresses, smart trousers, belts and necklaces and a rather fetching flowery swimming cap in the bargain bin (you could just take from the bargain bin rather than swap it for something).
It worked like this: ladies brought in their unwanted items of clothing and depending on how many they brought in, got a token with that number on, so if they brought in 5, their token would enable them to take 5 different items home with them. Us, the organisers, arranged the clothes on tables and displayed them on clothing rails while the clothing owners mingled and ate cake. At 3.45pm there was 30 minutes of browsing where ladies could take a look at clothes, touch them and try them on, but not take them. There were no cat fights to speak of, but it was definitely quite hectic in an exciting way, as people raced against time to try on as many things as they could in the cramped changing room and grabbed and tugged and oohed and ahhhed at the beautful garments so temptingly on offer. Then at 4.15pm, the swish was open and you could scramble for whatever you wanted!

I made some posters for the walls, which showed facts about the perils of fast fashion, for example 500,000 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill each year and 1 cupfull of pesticides and fertilizers is used for every t-shirt made, on average. This is not to mention the carbon emissions from the animals used to make wool like sheep, llamas and alpacas, from the farm machinery used in growing crops used for fibres and in the transportation of clothing around the world. I am appalled at the intensive water usage in growing cotton. Plus a sad little fact that in the making of conventional silk, cocoons are boiled, which kills the moth inside.

Also donning the walls were the posters I made called 'Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: 10 Little things to think about':

1. Investment buying: to reduce the amount of clothes we buy, purchase good quality items that will last through many many fashion seasons and wear-and-tear.
2. When you do need to buy, buy ethically: Fair Trade, organic, for example People Tree.
3. Upcycle old clothes: adding an assortment of buttons or a strategically placed bow can refresh your wardrobe!
4. Take unwanted clothes to a charity shop, sell on ebay or give away on freecycle. If clothes are unmendable- take them to your nearest textile recycling facility.
5. Shop second hand or vintage- it makes old clothes feel like new!
6. Make do and mend: a stitch in time saves nine, as they say. Often you can easily fix it and revamp it rather than replace it.
7. Join, network, participate, lobby: Estethica, Ethical Fashion Forum, Environmental Justice Foundation.
9. Borrow and hire: for example with an easy way to instantly update your wardrobe.
10. Go to a swishing party!

Oh my goddness, it's such a rush and I think I'm addicted! Thanks to my pals at Transition Highbury for all your hard work and to Luis and Julien of Café Photo fame, who took model-style fashion shoot photos. Transition Highbury will most likely do it again in the near future as it was such a success so keep your eyes peeled...

Thursday, 21 October 2010

What does the Comprehensive Spending Review mean for sustainability?

Yesterday, on 20/10/10, the hotly anticipated Spending Review took place behind closed doors and now the verdict is in. Although intimate details are still not confirmed, the outcome for sustainability was a mixed bag and it gives a sense of the government’s priorities for the future. Here is a quick low down:

Green Investment Bank
· £1bn will be used to invest in low carbon research and infrastructure projects
· £200m for renewable energy: mainly offshore wind and port infrastructure adjustments to enable wind turbines to more easily be handled.
· The Green Investment Bank is delayed and will be operational 2013-14.

· £860m to promote use of low carbon energy for heating buildings.
· Feed In Tariff: Currently at around 43p per Kwh, there were rumours it would be cut by 10-20%, but this time the FIT was spared. They are likely to be cut 2013-14.
· £1bn has been set aside for a project demonstrating carbon capture and storage technology
· Renewable Heat Incentive: It has been a long time coming and £860mn will be spent on it over the next 4 years.
· The Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) has been further changed: several thousand retailers and commercial companies will pay for their greenhouse gas emissions and the money will go into public spending, rather than being recycled within the same scheme, as originally intended.

· The Cross Rail project for London has the go ahead, but will be delayed by a year after cuts of more than £1bn. The central section will now be complete by 2018.
· Improvements to tube service in London will go ahead.
· Public transport fares to increase with inflation plus 3%.

· Dept for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) 5% fall average in yearly budget.
· and the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) to cut jobs.
· The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and its agencies will shed 5000-8000 jobs from their 30,000 strong work force, with an 8% yearly fall in budget.

Further reading
· The Green Deal
· Guardian Environment Blog

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

'Green' Festivals

It is getting slightly chilly so I would like to take a moment to reflect on my summer 2010, which although it feels like a long time ago now, still lives on in my heart and my mind. This year I went to the Edinburgh festival for the first time and had a thoroughly enjoyable time listening to gospel singers empty the contents of their lungs across the largest auditorium I have ever been in, marvelling at the raunchy rock and roll scenes in Spring Awakening, watching dancers and prancers leap across the stage like new lambs in spring and building up my stomach muscles with belly-crippling laughter at the comedians.

One thing I was not impressed with was all the paper. I was never a fan of leafleting during the Union Election period at Bristol University, for the obvious reason of several trees going into a promotion effort that will probably be ignored and instead end up being trampled on the floor or wasted in the bin when the message could have been done in some more eco-friendly poster/chalk on the pavement/ word of mouth based way much more effectively.

Edinburgh, however, was another kettle of fish entirely. Or rather, less like a kettle of fish and more like leafleting gone crazy, creating a slimy sea-floor of paper machĂ© where leaflets and half-tickets go to die. The newly-printed leaflets and pieces of paper feel shiny and new-born only momentarily before the sad realisation that they too will end up in that muddy mush hits them like a haggis round the chops. Resistance is futile as the new leaflets just keep on a comin’. Walking down the Royal Mile during Edinburgh Festival gives you a chance to experience leafleting on crack. I don’t mean you have to be on crack to experience it, nor on crack at all, I just mean...oh never mind. Basically there was a lot of paper usage and wastage over about a month in the Scottish capital and I would like them to at least try and improve on that for next year. Rant over, thank you.

Moving onto Bestival on the Isle of White. Getting to Edinburgh festival involved a 4 ½ hour train journey from London, wheras getting to Bestival involved walking, 2 tubes to Waterloo, a 1 ½ hour train to Portsmouth, a taxi to the harbour, a 5 hour wait for the hovercraft, a 10-minute hover craft journey, a ½ hour bus to the festival site and finally, a 1 hour walk to find a decent spot to pitch our home for the week end. Surprisingly, the journey to Bestival was more fun, which might be something to do with the fact that the 5 hour queue also comprised best friends, sunshine and a certain amount of Southern Comfort mixed with ginger beer. All the ingredients to start off a decent week end dans les champs.

Despite being painted blue (all 6 of us were dressed genies) for most of the week end, my beedy green eyes were forever watchful. I understand that any music festival is going to have quite a large carbon footprint what with thousands of people travelling hundreds of miles for the privilege, not to mention the huge light and sound systems involved in projecting our favourite lights and sounds across large open spaces.

I did however, spot a few things which pleased me. Composting toilets was one. A sign saying ‘Bestival is a 10:10 festival’ was another. And finally, a whole field dedicated to the future of the planet and where we might get our energy from made me grin from ear to ear. Other festivals around the world take note. Festivals originated from peace, love, unity and an enjoyment of the arts and music. Although now over-commercialised and over-priced, I think in order to continue enjoying these ‘in-tents’ week ends (te he he), it is high time we went back to the roots of all this and made reducing the damage to the environment a priority.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Fabulous Islington Swishing party

Just one week to go and plans are well under way to make it the best swish ever!

Looking forward to seeing you all next Sunday 24th October 3-5pm at The Community Space, The Chesnuts, Highbury Barn, N5 2QE.

We are very excited to announce our first SWISH event. Brought to you by a few fans, some of which were lucky enough to be involved in the V&A Museum Conscious Style event in 2008, SWISHING is a new and fun way to have fashion without wrecking the planet!

Here is a little article I wrote about swishing for that explains it a bit better.

What do you do? Well, first have a look in your wardrobe, chest of drawers for clothes, accessories, headwear and shoes that you like but never wear. Whether it was a panic buy, a not quite right gift or something that used to fit, as long as it is clean and in good condition then it's right for the SWISH. Just one item is great but if you have three or four then that's even better! The best things for a SWISH are those you like, which perhaps tell a story but for some reason, you just don't wear them enough to keep in the closet.

Then what? Ok, so drop off your swish stuff between 3pm and 3.30pm when we will collect everything and also give you a token for the number of items you brought. At 4pm, the SWISH will open for browsing only before the event officially begins at 4.15pm. Feel free to try on and take what you like although remember, no fighting, scratching or tugging!

So what? Everyone gets to go home with some lovely new things without spending a penny plus, it also reduces the amount of unwanted clothes going to landfill!

We will have tea, cakes, films and even some crafty tips on how to upcycle your new finds so there's no reason why you wouldn't want to take part in our SWISH! Remember, just one good, clean item is all you need!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Ethical Fashion Forum

As a nice follow-on from my visit to London Fashion Weekend, on Wednesday 13th October 2010 I met with Tamsin Lejeune, Head of the Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF), to speak about her crucial work. I actually heard Tamsin talk at an industry event at RichMix last year while I was completing my dissertation in Environmentalism in Fashion. This time, I was very lucky to catch her at all; the whirlwind of London Fashion Week 2010 has subsided, yet life has not slowed for this ethical fashionista.

I will let the EFF missions speak for itself:

The mission of the Ethical Fashion Forum is to SUPPORT and PROMOTE sustainable practices, facilitate COLLABORATION, raise AWARENESS and provide the TOOLS AND RESOURCES needed to reduce poverty, reduce environmental damage and raise standards in the fashion industry.

…and that takes a lot of time and effort! EFF began in 2004 and within a decade has become the official industry body for ethical fashion. Here are just some of the things that Tamsin and the EFF gang have been doing: at the policy level, the ethos behind the Refashion Awards is now taking shape as a manifesto promoting key ‘helping hands’ like tax breaks for sustainable fashion. This manifesto will set out agreed goals and targets for fashion businesses to work towards related to sustainability- and will create a platform for the launch of a consumer campaign.

At the business level, design houses and retailers who subscribe to the Ethical Fashion Forum are taking a step towards their supply chain becoming a shade greener. The annual Source Expo, the industry trade show for ethical sourcing, was held in London on the 6th October and was a great success.

EFF is a not-for-profit organisation, with a consultancy arm whose profits go back into EFF. The EFF consultancy is run by a board of executives and runs training in communication, motivation, sourcing and many other topics related to helping the fashion industry become more ethical. I was reminded that ethical practices involve taking consideration of both social and environmental issues as the consultancy has undertaken much project work with the Bangladesh-British Chamber of Commerce, collaborations with the International Trade Centre to open doors to market for African-based businesses and community initiatives, as well as providing an advisory service for the Ecologist’s fashion pages. Lest not forget that EFF does fantastic work in the UK as well, for example with the Make Your Mark campaign, helping young people develop the confidence and skills to be entrepreneurial within the beautiful, complex and exciting world of ethical fashion.

In summary, from field to factory to finished product, Tamsin is making waves in the fashion industry. There is more and more work to be done, but more and more are taking notice of the inclusive and progressive EFF.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Sausage dogs and really long and thin polar bears

Today before football practice I went to Dalston Eastern Curve Gardens in aid of 10:10:10- a day of promoting and DOING low carbon activities. The place was buzzing with organic locally sourced food, a bring and take stall (a bit like swishing but for books and things) and of course the Transition Highbury draft-proofing stall!

I brought along a laddered pair of tights and stuffed one leg with rags and some gravel. Then I hand-stiched some blue fabric into a tube, put my stuffed tight leg inside the fabric tube and sewed up the end. Hey presto- a fancy draft excluder! Others cut up stuffed animals, which sounds terrible, but then they made it even better because they gave the animals even longer, bigger and prettier bodies. There was a dalmation (pictured- aww he looks like he’s sleeping) and a polar bear and then there was a snowman, the latter of which a young boy and girl decided to have a screaming match over. At that point I decided it was time for me to depart, safe in the knowledge that I can place my blue sausage at the bottom of my front door, keeping the heat in an the cold out- one small but practical action to tackle energy efficiency.


On Thursday 7th October I had a delicious lunch with a colleague at The Innocent Pop-up Cafe, which popped up 2 minutes away from my office on Rivington Street. The idea is that you get 5 of your 5 vegetables and fruit for the day, for £5! We shared a starter of Vietnamese Spring Roles, I had Korean Kimchi Pancakes for mains, then finally we shared a delightful dessert of Meringues with Greek yoghurt and autumnal compot.

The long wooden tables gave a great feeling of community spirit and the winter vegetables and lettuce decorating the walls and tables provided a sense of earthiness. Innocent ain’t perfect, but they are trying to leave things better than they found them, with 100% natural ingredients 100% of the time, sustainable packaging, tackling their supply chain and giving back to the communities they work in. Their transparency is refreshing and so are their smoothies.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The Carbon Show 2010

I spent Monday this week chinwagging with the sustainability stars at The Carbon Show, held at the Business Design Centre in Islington.

The welcoming ceremony was interesting; a speech from Rt. Hon. Lord Michael Heseltine rather reminded me of my winter scarf (really rather woolly and a bit too long). It also transported me back to the 90s: ‘all evidence points towards climate change being a major issue, too large for the body politic to ignore’ and ‘what we need is a global policy framework’, cue me banging my head against the wall.

This was followed closely by a slightly more informative speech by Chris Huhne, MP and Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, DECC who is pictured above (I had quite a good view). Perhaps this was to be expected as Heseltine appears to be a (somewhat outdated) spectator whereas Huhne is immersed in it and is obviously going to have is finger on the Carbon pulse. In classic politician style, he emphasised the three principles of his approach to carbon emission reduction:

1. Action on efficiency: promoting energy saving in the home and public/private sector estates alike. The Green Deal later this year will see many houses qualifying for efficiency schemes and there is to be one visit to every home by 2050.
2. Action on energy supply: at least attempting to dampen our oil addiction by cleaning up our energy supply with less carbon intensive alternatives.
3. Action on policy: take credible steps along the path towards a global emissions deal.

He spoke of how it is important to show that investments in Europe are tied to a low carbon economy as ‘green growth is the best for our future prosperity’. With The Green Deal imminent, the establishment of the green investment bank, a whole new multi billion pound retrofitting industry will develop creating thousands of jobs.

I admit to thinking ‘I wonder how many times a day he makes this speech and how much is actually happening’; we are, afterall, 25th out of 27 EU states in terms of renewable energy installations. I cannot fault his enthusiasm though and I believe this is what we need, as well as realistic targets with feasible means of reaching them. I particularly enjoyed statements like ‘where are future jobs going to come from? The answer lies here, in this room, today’.
His claims that the next global growth sector is green are not overly pie-in-the-sky either as the carbon market is actually proving highly successful. According to Huhne, carbon trading is an ‘economic curiosity’ and at only 12 months old is the fastest growing market in the UK with $91bn carbon traded in the first three quarters of this year.

Unfortunately Lord Browne could not make his speech as was caught up in the tube strike chaos so I roamed around the conference stalls meeting everyone there was to meet. Showcasing possible pathways to our low carbon future were solar companies including Beech Solar and SOL20, a few carbon management organisations such as Carbon Guerrilla (apparently corporations need to move away from using Excel spreadsheets for their carbon monitoring and onto these computer software packages) and reforestation projects.

Ironically, there were a lot of brochures and business cards flying around the place. In fact, I was highly disappointed when a certain unnamed smart metering company handed me a plastic backpack continuing not only lots of paper but also a mini smart meter key ring and even a squeezy mini-van toy with their logo on it. I took their business cards and promptly handed this rubbish back to them, whilst being surprised that they were surprised at this! We are at a CARBON SHOW aimed primarily at showcasing low carbon solutions to our society’s needs and reducing the pressure on the earth’s resources so do not hand me stupid pointless squeezy mini-vans!

Anyway, Green-Ex was offering a high tech alternative to brochures and paper business cards where you scan your business card in at a stand or choose which of their electronic brochures you would like put on a USB or emailed to you. I did feel like I was living in the future when a lot of the stands merely scanned the bar code on my lanyard and would then have my contact details and company with one bleep instead of a business card.

In a later plenary debate that I joined, entitled ‘Apathy and Indecision- Strengthening the carbon Markets’, Pierre Ducret, Chairman and CEO of CDC Climat, stated that it is the emerging countries that ‘hold the hope’ as they are going to lead the carbon trading game whilst Henry Derwent, President and CEO of the International Emission Trading Association made the point that offsets are essential in trading.
The after party happened to be at The Hoxton Pony, conveniently in the same building as my office. After a few glasses of free wine, most people were no longer talking about carbon and instead conversations turned to who can do the best moonwalk. Unfortunately, Chris Huhne had left by that point.