Editor's blog: Eco goes big - and chic

Monday 20 November, 2006

oil firePerhaps it's partly down to the recent Stern report, with its dire warnings on the fate of Planet Earth if we don't act now; or the ripple effect of Al Gore's dark but engaging film on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth. Or perhaps it's a just an explosion of awareness after a slow awakening. Whatever the reason, there's little doubt that the environment is now Big News, and fashionably so. And it's not before time.


National newspapers are producing eco-supplements faster than you can say "sack George Bush" - and from clothes to travel, electricity to shopping, our awareness the environment, and our impact on it, is everywhere.

Evidence of this sea-change is not difficult to find, but one story illustrated it pretty well. Ben Bradshaw, the Environment Minister, last week advised shoppers to make a stand against excessive packaging by dumping it at the check-out tills before it can be carted to landfill.

Shoppers are being "bombarded" with packaging, said Bradshaw - citing the common example of four apples wrapped in polythene and plonked on a polystyrene tray - and it's time the consumer took the law into his own hands. Only a year ago, this kind of plea, and from a Minister, would have been unimaginable.

From other angles, too, and hardly before time, supermarkets are having a rough ride. For the first time, organic box schemes are stealing market share and the fact that some (M&S, Sainsbury's and Tesco) are - misguidedly, I think - beginning to launch their own box schemes testifies to the threat they are facing.

It's not just the supermarket scene that's changing. On the high street, and online, retailers are going eco-mad. Sales at People Tree, Gossypium and Howies, all of whom are building impressive businesses on fair trade and organic fashion, are booming. In the last year alone, Howies' turnover has doubled.

Next year, we're told, eco-fashion goes mainstream. No less than 14 high street retailers are set to launch fair trade-certified cotton clothing ranges next year - Gap, Monsoon, Marks & Spencer, Next, Oasis, H&M and Topshop are all jumping on the bandwagon at different speeds (source: Drapers magazine).

In 2005, the market for organic and fair trade clothing, made without the use of pesticides and with a fair percentage of profit going back to the producer, grew at 40%. Sales of organic cotton are expected to more than triple over the next two years.

Travel and transport aren't immune. After years or runaway growth, the low cost airlines are threatened with (justifiably) punitive environmental taxes and the days of a £1.50 flight to Rome are looking numbered.

Train travel stands to gain hugely from our growing concience; Eurostar's profits are on the rise and Mark Smith's new website dedicated to train travel - www.seat61.com - has already amassed a huge following.

New books such as Alistair Sawday's Green Places to Stay and The Ethical Travel Guide, together with a host of dedicated green travel newsletters and award schemes, reflect the fact that eco-travel is Big News, and getting bigger.

Even the sports world isn't immune. So-called "green gyms" - outdoor breaks first set up by the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) - have been touted as the greener, cheaper alternative to energy-guzzling gymns, while participants plant trees or try their hand at dry stone walling.

A blatant case of jumping on the eco bandwagon? I'd say so - but who cares, if the message gets out.

Yoga, with its ability to be performed anywhere, at any time, is in many ways naturally green, and, with the popularity of eco-friendly mats, increasingly so.

On the political spectrum, politicians finally seem to be finally waking up. The government has announced that a commitment to reduce the UK's carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by 2050 will be made legally binding.

In a recent poll, the environment ranked as voters' number one concern - over and above education, crime, unemployment. Would this have happened even a year ago?

I doubt it: as well as becoming a huge, real concern, the environment, and all-things eco, is suddenly seriously chic. Let's hope it's come in the nick of time.


Do you think we're doing enough for the environment? I'd love to hear your thoughts - please leave a comment below.

Lucia Cockcroft, editor


Picture source: Friends of the Earth




Great article!! If eco

Great article!! If eco becoming chic makes us all consider the enviroment and the impact that we have on it then I don't think that is such a bad thing!

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