Thursday, July 30, 2009

Treating Flu the Natural Way

Now swine flu has become a pandemic it is important to know how to aid recovery quickly and naturally. These methods can be used for all types of flu.

Rest, rest and more rest.
Get as much sleep as possible and do not rush back to work. Eat fruits that are high in Vitamin C. These are generally the acidy ones like oranges and lemons.

Try and keep the blood alkaline by taking mineral salts. These are depleted by flu.

Flu Fighting Shopping list:

  • Orange, yellow or red – tomatoes
  • Paprika add this to chicken soup
  • Swedes
  • Pumpkins
  • Squashes
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruits
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Lemons
  • Pineapples
  • Limes
  • Garlic (antiviral & antibacterial)
  • Drink honey, lemon, and fresh ginger in hot water
Flu ToDo List
Try and eat a juice diet to give your digestion a rest and if you eat whole foods go for raw uncooked food to benefit from the nutrients. This type of detoxing will be beneficial for your all round health.

Drink plenty of water and try aim for 2 litres or even more.

Take Echinacea as a herbal tincture, suck zinc lozenges available at Zinc is a powerful immunostimulant that feeds the cells.

Take vitamin c powder.

If you develop a cough choose a homeopathic remedy that best suits the cough.

Use Pine and Lavender essential oils as a chest rub or Olbas oil.

If you get an infection (earache, chesty cough) try colloidal silver.

Once you start feeling better switch to high protein food.

Wash hands regularly with organic soap. Ecosoapia from is the best and most natural one. Regular hand washing could stop you from getting flu in the first place.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Green weddings

And now for some good news...
This weekend I was invited to a wedding. A cause for celebration – especially as Sarah and Trevor are having a ‘green’ wedding.

My friends are part of a growing trend towards swapping the frou-frou dress, the mile-long guest list and the expensive honeymoon for something simpler and more meaningful.

No, they won’t be saying their vows in hemp and Birkenstock sandals, but they will try to scale back a bit, and keep it ethical.
I think their day will be a great way to shows that they care about the world as much as they care about each other.

Sarah’s already got her dress sorted: an heirloom from her mum, so it has perfect green credentials.

For those who haven’t got their mother’s frock to step into, there’s a thriving business of restoring and selling vintage wedding dresses from Grace Kelly 1950s numbers to 1920s silk flapper dresses.

There are also eco-friendly wedding dress designers, some working in organic fabrics, so you know your dress won’t have been made in a distant sweatshop and then clocked up air-miles getting to you.

They are also going to source flowers locally rather than flying in hothoused exotics, while dried rose petals will make the easiest, most eco-friendly confetti around.

The rings are going to be from an ethical jewellers who use gold from ethically run Colombian mines.

As for the honeymoon, no airmiles needed – and they should have a great time in Cornwall if the current weather forecasts for a hot summer hold true.

I'm very happy for them, and I can’t wait to help them celebrate in true green style (with the odd wedding gift from, of course...)
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Friday, April 3, 2009

Better food, less waste

Did you know that in the UK, each household throws away around £420 worth of food a year? Not only is this a terrible waste – of food, resources and energy – but plain immoral when other people are going hungry.
A possible small benefit of these economically tough times is that more of us are thinking twice about waste and throwing away our hard-earned cash.
Here’s EcoHip’s top 5 ways to cut down on food waste.

1 Bulk buy

Stock up on staples and things that can be stored for ages (eg, rice, pasta, tins and cartons of orange juice) and then shop as locally as possible for fresh produce. You’re less likely to end up with uneaten 3-for-2 packs of meat and fish or more mandarins than you can humanly eat if you buy what you need, when you need it.

2 Make friends with your freezer

Frozen food doesn’t have to mean oven chips and ice-cream. Do a big home cook-up and then freeze portions of meals, from soups to pasta sauces. If you can tell you’re not going to get through a loaf of bread before it goes stale, bung half in the freezer – especially if it’s already sliced.

3 Help food last longer

Top and tail carrots as soon as you buy them; keep apples in the fridge and store olive oil somewhere cool and dry. A nifty and cheap way to extend the lifespan of fruit and veg in your fridge is buying an EGG, which stands for Ethylene Gas Guardian.
Many fruits and vegetables give off ethylene gas as they ripen, and if they’re in the fridge this gas gets trapped, so the produce starts to rot. The EGG cuts ethylene levels in your fridge, so produce lasts longer. If you're curious about the EGG, it's that stylish blue eggy thing nestling among some fruity friends in the picture above!
You can buy yours from EcoHip (

4 Make meal plans

Previous generations used to have fish on Friday; roast on Sunday. You don’t have to be rigid, but planning ahead means you won’t have that feeling when you get back from the shops of having lots of ‘stuff’ but nothing that makes a meal. You’re also less prone to distracting offers.

5 Love soups

Even in the spring, a hearty soup can hit the spot. And it’s the perfect way to use up bottom-of-the-fridge veggies or chicken leftovers. Stock up on fresh herbs and spices, or ingredients like coconut milk, to vary flavours. What’s more, making a soup is as quick as waiting for a ready meal to cook. The site has plenty of ‘rescue recipes’ for leftovers.

Got any similar tips? Let us know - we'd love to hear your waste-saving ideas.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Put People First

Saturday saw the biggest public demonstration since Britain hit this current financial mess.

What I found heartening was that groups with very different agendas could find common ground to come together for the Put People First march.

Hardened trade unionists, traditional church groups and a huge variety of charities, from big names like ActionAid to smaller environmental campaigners, all walked together to press the G20 leaders to turn their minds to ‘jobs, justice and climate’.

Less peaceful protests are feared for later this week, but at least for this one day ordinary people had the chance to turn out and show that grassroots action is still alive and well.

We in the UK still have the right to march, shout and protest.

And even if you feel cynical about how much effect waving banners or chanting has, that right isn’t to be taken lightly.
It’s something that people in many countries are denied.

Watching Saturday’s protest, and the daily news headlines, makes us all wonder what’s to come.

It’s a time of confusion, from wondering what hope there is for the global economy and the environment to whether your job will be there tomorrow morning.

Some would say it’s the end of an era, and we are all being dragged into a very necessary world change, that could be the next stage of evolution.

It is possible we are witnessing the birth of a largescale shift in economic and political cultures.
But in such times of change, we all need to hold fast to some things, to reassure ourselves and shore up good feelings for harder times to come.

A good start is doing small things that make our lives more meaningful and positive.
That could mean something as simple as doing a good turn for a neighbour, putting something on Freecycle or teaching your kids about Fairtrade or climate change.

Small steps are all part of building a more positive future for ourselves and others, and what better place to start than with our homes, workplaces and families. Then, we'll be in an even better, more informed position to take to the streets to call for wider change...

Kristian Buus/ActionAid

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Maternal instincts

This Sunday, mothers up and down the country will sit back while someone else washes up the dishes - a popular way to give mum a rest on Mother's Day.

I'm counting on a card or two (plantable
ecohip ones, if they've been listening to my hints).

If only because a few years ago, my husband 'forgot' and the fallout meant that he now has the date hardwired into his brain.

But I've also been thinking about what the concept can stand for.

In many ways, it's easy to dismiss Mothering Sunday as yet another marketing ploy, an opportunity for shops to set up big displays of presents, from chocolates to bubble bath.

I used to be pretty cynical about it, and even more about the American invention of Father's Day.

But is it really such a bad thing?

What is wrong with celebrating the role of nurturing and bringing up a family - in both women and men?

In Europe, Mothering Sunday dates back to Roman times, when the mother goddess Cybele was celebrated in mid-March. The day later became incorporated into the Christian calendar to honour the Virgin Mary and the 'mother church'.

In the 16th century it was a chance for people to return home to see family (it was called 'to go a-mothering') or attend their 'mother' church. In later times it was a rare day off for domestic servants.

Today, many people are more likely to head for a pub lunch than a church pew. But if we hold on to the original impulse rather than give in to rampant consumerism, it's still as valuable as ever.

The impulse to nurture and care is more important than ever, and ties up with being 'green' and aware of our environment.

Just as mothering/parenting isn't easy (and often a million miles away from the idealised image we start out with), caring about the planet gets more complicated the longer you do it and the more you know.

But when it comes to how we to bring up our children and choose to live our lives, thinking things through, sometimes making difficult choices, is what counts.

As any parent who has spent today with a toddler or a teenager knows, life isn't like the movies. And just as mothering can't be summed up by a box of chocolates, caring for the wider world extends beyond re-using the odd carrier bag.

But as long as we keep trying to do the right thing, and learning along the way, that's got to be a good thing - right?


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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Germ warfare

Ever wondered what goes into those antibacterial handwashes?

Those wise people at the Ecologist recently revealed the truth about how harmful they can be.

Their message is: should you wash your hands? Yes. Should you use an antibacterial handwash? No.

Some soaps and handwashes are not just harmful to our skin, but they also contain antibacterial chemicals like Triclosan, benzalkonium chloride or chlorohexidine.

These work in the same way as antibiotics and can contribute to bacterial resistance at home and in the wider environment.

Triclosan, in particular, is bad news because it breaks down into a carcinogenic dioxin compound in our rivers and streams.

When we wash our hands with soap and water, it doesn’t kill ‘germs’ – instead it creates a slippery surface so they ‘slide off’.

However, while antibacterial handwashes do kill bacteria and viruses, within 90 minutes there is generally no difference in the number of bacteria and viruses on your hands.

Many handwashes contain ‘parfum’, made up of dozens of chemicals, which have been linked to asthma, plus the fragrance ingredients citronellol, linalool and limonene – which produce a high rate of allergic reactions.

Not all handwashes contain the dreaded Triclosan, but alternatives like methyldibromo glutaronitrile can cause skin rashes.

Then there’s preservatives such as tetrasodium EDTA, a chemical that binds with heavy metals in lakes and streams.

Sodium Laureth Sulphate, a common ingredient, is a detergent that can cause skin dryness and eye irritation.

If all this sounds offputting, there is an alternative. I’ve used Ecosopia handwash in my home for ages, and both my kids have suffered from dry skin and eczema in the past.

With Ecosopia, there’s never been a problem.

And there’s a reassuringly short list of natural ingredients, including organic oils and plant extracts (plus my daughter’s happy because they are not tested on animals and contain no animal ingredients).

If you’re worried about bacteria, the advice is to use normal soap and wash your hands (or your kids’ hands) ‘properly’ - covering the hands with soap and rubbing them vigorously together for 15 seconds before rinsing.

Job done.


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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fair's fair for everyone

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, if we are feeling the pinch, you can bet someone who grows crops on a smallholding several thousand miles away is being hit far harder.

The next two weeks are set aside as Fairtrade Fortnight, but buying coffee, bananas or tea with the Fairtrade mark isn't just about 'doing your bit' and feeling good about buying 'the right thing'.

There's a bigger picture, too.

The Fairtrade Foundation points out that the smallholders like Conrad James, pictured above, from St Lucia, could actually teach the rest of the world a thing or two about solving the food crisis and tackling poverty.

In villages like Conrad's, smallholders are often at the centre of community action and feeling. It's a very different scenario to bigger farms, where low-quality crops are sold straight from the field to impersonal middlemen and on to the West for a criminally low price.

In smaller-scale Fairtrade cooperatives, from Caribbean banana producers to Rwandan coffee growers, local people have more secure jobs and, if the crop (eg coffee) starts being processed on-site, the chance to learn different skills.

Small-scale cooperatives are also known for being innovative farmers. They want to know how to do things better, make things taste better. They have a vested interest in constantly researching new ways to improve productivity, such as making organic compost, or to add value, such as roasting coffee beans using traditional techniques.

Small organic farms have the power to turn around the economic fortunes of a village or an area, which then slowly spreads to more children going to school and more small businesses and shops springing up.

It's a model of economic revival that, with the right support, could have a worldwide knock-on effect. And these smallholders aren't small fry: some 450 million farming households cultivate two hectares or less, and with their families they make up a third of the world's population.

They count, and what they stand for counts, too.

Buying thoughfully benefits everyone, including ourselves. And it doesn't stop at bananas.

That's why I love the stuff at

Steve and Gabrielle, the couple behind the site, have thought carefully about what they select: everything there, from shampoos to tea, is from small companies that care, too.

They are organic, eco-friendly and as close to nature as you can get.

Shame they don't sell bananas, too...

Photograph: Simon Rawles/Fairtrade
Visit for more on Fairtrade Fortnight

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cut off

It's official: snow has the power to bring the country to its knees.
Last Monday, like many people, I couldn't make it in to the office. No trains, full stop.

The kids headed for the park with sledges; I headed for the computer for some remote working.
A few hours later, a rogue piece of spyware sneaked in and hijacked my screen - which promptly went blank.
And stayed that way for the rest of the week.

The next day, the roads were clearer, but disaster number two struck. For the first time ever, our boringly reliable car wouldn't start.
I felt like I was undergoing a modern-day Luddite experience: no computer, no car, pavements still skiddy and icy so couldn't venture too far too fast.
Everything was being stripped back. After a while I just gave in to fate, and it was oddly comforting. No emails, no urge to Google useless websites, no deadlines to worry about.

It reminded me of powercuts when I was living abroad a few years ago. In the Pacific country where I spent three years as a teacher, 'blackouts' were regular occurance, especially during tropical storms.
Again, you'd suddenly be left with no computer, no lights, no TV, no CDs.

Plenty of candles and books, though. And the Guardian Weekly crossword, which could keep us going for days.
Returning to the West's full-on barrage of multimedia sensory overload, our candlelit crossword sessions seem quaint and a little antiquated. But they served a purpose at the time.
And they were a reminder that, sometimes, less is more. Simple can be good. If you've got less, less can go wrong.

This week, the computer is repaired. The car is fixed. But it's got me thinking about scaling back - not just economically but in terms of what we accumulate, sometimes without even thinking about it.
These days, there's all the more reason for making meaningful, informed choices about what we buy for ourselves and our homes.
That's why I love Ecohip's pages ( it's all good, useful stuff that you can buy with a clear conscience. Some things are fun, but not frivolous. I'd prefer to spend a tenner on something gorgeous and ecologically sound from there than run-of-the mill stuff from Boots.
I guess being back online isn't such a bad thing after all...


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Monday, January 19, 2009

Say it with flowers

On the wooded common a short walk from our place, the first shoots of snowbells are starting to come up, and the ground is dotted with patches of vivid rich green moss.
Come spring, a sheltered bank of the woodland will be covered in a vivid haze of bluebells.
Scenes like this represent British nature at its best: wild flowers growing where they have for generations, for all to admire (without picking them).
But walk for 15 minutes in the other direction and you come to a petrol station. On the concrete forecourt there is a line of buckets containing bunches of luminous pink, yellow and red flowers wrapped in cellophane, looking exotic and out of place.
The West has an insatiable desire for out-of-season cut flowers, and Britain leads the pack. A third of the flowers we import are flown in from Kenya, racking up C02 emissions. Local activists have also reported that large-scale flower growing has damaged the Kenyan environment and village communities.
Human rights groups reported that valuable river water has been diverted from local villages to feed the West’s desire for year-round blooms.
In 2006 and 2007, journalist John Vidal wrote in The Guardian about how flower companies were accused of diverting water from the Ngiro river and lakes. It was conservatively estimated that at least 20,000 cubic metres of water a day were taken for flower farming.
A survey by a Kenyan school found that the maximum depth of one lake was just 3.7 metres - more than three metres below what it was in 1982. Combined with climate change, this was having a serious impact on the lives of local farmers.
Another big flower producer is the Netherlands - but buying Dutch blooms isn't much better from an environmental point of view. A study at Cranfield University compared the energy used in hot-housing Dutch flowers and flying in Kenyan ones. It concluded that, including the altitude effect on CO2, Dutch CO2 emissions were about 5.8 times larger than Kenyan CO2 emissions.
If this hasn't already wilted your desire for a Valentine's Day bunch of roses next month, read more about the nasties of flower farming, like pesticides and slave wages, in The Ecologist(

But if you'd prefer a bit of feel-good relief, the good news is that there is an ethical, eco-friendly way to say it with flowers this Valentine's Day.

Ecohip has a stylish range of cards made from recycled paper that are infused with wildflower seeds - including one especially for Valentine's Day. When your loved one has finished displaying their card, all they have to do is put it in a sunny spot, spread a thin layer of soil on top and water it well. In 6-8 weeks a mini-bed of wildflowers will grow, serving as a lasting reminder of the blossoming love between you.
Brilliant: a Valentine with the kind of message you want to send. And it goes without saying that no flowers were picked or force-grown in the making of this card.
And aside from the eco benefits, sending a plantable card is so much more original and stylish than grabbing a bunch of gaudy flowers from the supermarket or petrol station forecourt... Check them out at

Bluebell picture:
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Monday, January 12, 2009

It's crunch time

You can't turn on the radio or open a newspaper these days without more news of redundancies. For anyone directly feeling the effects of the recession - and we're having to accept it is a recession rather than the rather more sound-bitey, touchy-feely phrase 'credit crunch' - it's a terrifying and potentially devastating prospect.

But without wishing to sound heartless, could the forced mass exodus of people from city centre jobs have a silver lining for the environment?
Of course, no-one forced out of their job or home is going to be rejoicing or, probably, giving a damn about global warming or carbon emissions. That's not their main priority right now. But if we take a more detached, big-picture view, the global recession could be an opportunity for a major rethink about the world of work and its impact on our lives - now and in the future.
Until recently, the message we've all been sold and have willingly bought into is that making money is what it's all about. As Gordon Gekko says in that Eighties classic Wall Street: "Greed is good."
Don't think about your carbon footprint as you drive your air-con pumping, fuel injected, gas guzzling 4x4 into the city centre every day. Don't think about those short-hop flights (after all, time is money) for work or weekends away. Don't even trouble yourself about the fast-disappearing green fields as you shut yourself behind the gates of your executive estate in commuterland.
We were all encouraged to just concentrate on the rewards: the status car, the exotic holidays and the 'dream' home. And if we got a bit stressed out in the process, or never saw our partner or kids, it was a small price to pay.
Except now, we're all living through the proof that greed isn't quite so good.
Either by circumstance or by choice, many of us actually have the opportunity to rethink our life priorities. Whether we like it or not, more of us will be spending more time at home, from those whose hours are cut to freelance home workers. But couldn't this be a chance to think about reintegrating into our communities, rather than dashing between home and office without exchanging words with our neighbours?
Plenty of people will have to cut their two-car-family habit - but might that not mean we'll all benefit from a reduction in carbon emissions and less traffic clogging up our streets?
Slashed incomes will probably rule out overseas holidays for many this year. But couldn't this be a chance to rediscover the wild countryside and culture on our doorsteps? OK, plenty of Britsh B&Bs have a way to go before they will rival hotels abroad, but there's a whole world of low-emission destinations out there, from wild Cornish beaches and Scottish islands to city gems like Canterbury and Edinburgh.
And counting the pennies could even mean that instead of buying air-freighted food from giant supermarkets (and then throwing away a third of it), more of us might support local shops. Heck, some are even planning to grow their own veg this year and councils report that applications for allotments are on the rise.
Suddenly, shopping and 'value' start to take on a different meaning. Buying eco-friendly products that genuinely work from small-scale companies (like the ones you see at makes more sense (and gives a clearer conscience) than scooping up 3 for 2 factory-fodder piled high at the supermarket.
Those with kids who find themselves too stretched to fork out for a Wii or the next must-have gadget could even end up showing their offspring how to get back to basics, too - climbing trees in the woods, making bows and arrows or playing tennis in the real world instead of being wired up to a virtual world while slumped on the sofa.
Maybe this is utopian dreaming. Or maybe it's an opportunity to genuinely rethink our priorities and rewrite the rules. Out with a world that puts its faith in a morally bankrupt economy and in with one that actually gives a damn about people and the world we live in.


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Monday, January 5, 2009

Can fashion have a conscience?

What's the mood on your local high street? Ours is looking a bit the worse for wear after the Christmas binge. For a start, Woolies, that stalwart of the British high street, now stands dark, empty and rather sad. Meanwhile, all the clothes shops scream ‘SALE’ and ‘UP TO 75% OFF!’ from their windows. It’s all a bit desperate.
So far, I’ve steered clear of the clothes sales. It’s not just credit crunch – I’m having a bit of a rethink on the fashion front.

A fashionable friend of mine once made a new year’s resolution not to buy new clothes for a year. She became an expert at spotting charity shop bargains, swapping dresses with her sister and digging deep into the back of her wardrobe for forgotten cast-offs. And I didn’t even notice: for the full 12 months she was as well turned out as ever.
I’m not planning on going completely cold turkey, like her. I will probably succumb to a new pair of boots this January (well, it is snowing as I type this) and treat myself to feel-good beach dress when summer finally comes around. But I’m going to try to stick to ethical and organically produced items - and steer clear of sweat-shop fodder.
I confess, I’ve done the Primark thing: come home with armfuls of fluffy sweaters without really questioning how they sell them so cheaply. Because, even though high street shops and supermarkets have now been forced to look more carefully at their suppliers’ working conditions, there’s no getting around the fact that these days, clothes are valued for being cheap and disposable.
Whether it’s a T-shirt or a pair of bootleg jeans, the high street gives you a fast fix – something to wear once or twice and then consign to the landfill. So much so that the Environment Select Committee tells us that in the last five years, the proportion of textile waste at council tips has risen from 7 per cent to 30 per cent.

But for a good few years now, ethical and organic clothes companies have slowly but surely been telling a different story. Finally, they are making an impact. And if you suspect I’m talking about shapeless hemp shirts rather than on-trend clothes, take a look at the likes of People Tree ( or Howies (right,
These clothes don’t just look good – they are good news for everyone. The suppliers get paid a fair wage for their product and don’t have to work with hazardous dyes, bleaches or production processes. And, even if the clothes cost a bit more than a supermarket bargain, there are good reasons why. Clothes made from quality, fairtrade-certified fabrics will keep their shape and last far longer than one season.
For more and more of us, fashion in 2009 is going to be about buying thoughtfully. About choosing two key investment pieces that will last several years, rather than eight slightly dodgy items that don’t make it into 2010.
That’s my resolution anyway. Even if Primark doesn’t notice I’ve gone (after all, they take up to £600,000 a day at their Marble Arch store alone), change has to start somewhere. And while I might feel the pinch in 2009, you can bet that someone working in a clothes factory in Bangladesh for 7p an hour will be feeling it far more.

For more information, the Guardian has an ethical fashion directory at

Pictures: People Tree and Howies (T-shirt)

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