Category Archives: Living

Pocket money reinforces culture of consumption

A recent study by Hibernian Life in Ireland shows that children are given substantial amounts of pocket money – € 10 per week on average at primary and € 20 per week on average at secondary.  More than half of the children spend all of their pocket money.  This indicator, coupled with the continuous stream of reports on poor childhood health, it is clear that children are just spending the cash on sweets, junk food, and probably cigarettes and alcohol.

Parents are doing their children a disservice by failing to educate them as to money matters and worse, encouraging them to believe that there are no bad consequences to profligate behaviour.

Costly payback for clerical abuse

The Catholic diocese of San Diego recently agreed to pay $198.1 million to settle 144 claims of sexual abuse by clergy, the second-largest payment by any diocese and over $ 1 million per claimant.  The diocese had sought to shield its assets by declaring bankruptcy, but the judge threatened to dismiss the diocese’s case if an agreement with sex abuse plaintiffs was not struck.

While this payout seems extravagant, this story in the saga of clerical abuse is another sign that religion is far from the panacea it makes itself out to be.

US cosmetics fast turning eco-natural

A new report from Organic Monitor, UK-based organic industry analysts, shows that the natural and organic sector is the fastest growing in the North American cosmetics and toiletries industry, with sales increasing by 20% a year and strong growth projected with its share of the total US  personal care products market doubling to 15% in the coming years.

Organic Monitor notes that the North American market is evolving into a two-tier market. The first-tier comprises companies that have received a capital injection in recent years which supports large marketing budgets, and they show a large rise in market share as they expand distribution and strengthen their product portfolios. The second-tier comprises smaller companies that continue to focus on traditional markets. The gap between first and second tier companies is widening as the market evolves.  This is disappointing because larger players can sway consumers with hype, even green-wash, whereas the smaller producers are often built on core ethical principles and have underpinned this market for 20 years.

Ingredient and formulation issues are becoming increasingly important in the North American market. The growing number of pseudo-natural products is leading consumers to scrutinise the composition of natural and organic personal care products. Manufacturers are responding by launching products with high levels of natural extracts, ethical and certified organic ingredients. Organic Monitor expects to see more certified fair trade and organic products as companies move away from ‘natural marketing’. Indeed, major new entrants like Yves Saint Laurent (Care by Stella McCartney) and Origins Natural Resources are launching Ecocert-certified products. Intelligent Nutrients is expected to have a major impact in 2008 with its novel range of nutritional cosmetics that are made from certified organic food ingredients.

The report is available here.

Stop working (and living) in a chemical fog

I’ve always taken issue with closed environments like office buildings, airports, hotels and conference arenas.  Invariably the first noticeable thing on entering them is teh whiff of chemistry.  Its either materials used, cleaning agents or just stagnant, fetid air.  It slows down life and in some cases can cause more sever ailments.  BusinessWeek offers a primer on the problems and solutions for turning a sick office in to a healthy one.  Perhaps it will help you improve your lifestyle.

The banana – a modern agricultural scandal

This report by The Ecologist is an eye opener, even for the eco-aware.  It describes the banana industry today through the supply chain from plantations, with virtual slavery and toxic chemical use, through the monopolistic supply chain to the supermarket.  The author points out “As the pursuit of competitive production has fuelled the race for minimal social and environmental standards, it is inevitable that those at the very bottom of the supply chain will ultimately pay for ‘economy’ foods, through their health and the environment”.

In the UK, bananas are now the single biggest profit-making item sold by supermarkets, with Tesco generating an average £800,000 profit every week from banana sales alone!  Just four retailers – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – currently account for 70% of all banana sales in the UK. This represents over one million individual sales every week, which should be used as a vote for Fairtrade alternatives.  Next time you buy your breakfast banana please make it fairtrade, or diet.