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Friday, 30 July 2010

Fairy Nuff


The Big Greenie shop endeavors to bring you the most environmentally friendly "stuff" available on the planet.

Certified by the Carbon Trust, The Earth Positive "Eco" range is kind to the environment and produced solely by means of renewable energy. Using wind and solar power for production, Continental's Earth Positive line has reduced the carbon emissions by up to 90% compared to conventional t-shirt manufacturing. See: Sustainable low carbon

Continental products are audited by the Fair Wear Foundation, who support Ethical Trade and Justice for Workers, taking care of the Earth by taking care of its people.  See: Social Responsibility   

Not to be forgotten our range is just as kind to your skin.  Our 100% Organic Products are made in accordance with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), produced from Indian Cotton, and certified by the Control Union and Soil Association Certifications.  See: Organic Standard

We have included cuddly hoodies, winter caps and blankets to encourage you to turn down the thermostat and still keep snug.  Every degree lower you turn down the thermostat between 70 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, saves you 5% on heating costs, so you reduce your bill and your carbon footprint at the same time. See: Howdini for tips and information.

It's important to protect yourself from the sun:  Protecting children from the sun. If you choose a hat you like you are much more likely to wear it.  Our baseball caps feature all the characters from The Big Greenie Gang.

It's easy to remember to precycle with our bright and colourful tote bags.  By taking your own bag to the shops you reduce the demand for plastic and paper bags, helping prevent plastic waste in the oceans and trees being cut down.  The simple act of using a reusable bag makes a difference to our environment in countless ways. Precycle

Our products are supplied through Spreadshirt, ensuring our stock is only made to order.  We are always searching for new "green" products to improve our range.  The Big Greenie, recycled T-Shirt, currently only available in Men's, uses cotton from cotton-knit cuttings discarded during fabric production.  It is our intention to combine water-based screen printing with our earth positive and organic range and expand the fabrics used to include: hemp, bamboo and recycled plastic bottles.  You can find our shop at: www.thebiggreenie.com

Friday, 23 July 2010

Be Bright Green and E-Cool.

We can all be Superheroes and help Save the Earth.  Being green is good for your health and well-being and good for the planet too.  How we choose to live our lives makes a big difference.  Do you know how big your carbon footprint is ? This is the mark we leave behind us depending on how much carbon our lifestyle uses.  Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in our atmosphere leading to global warming and climate change. Once you know how much you create you can reduce it. Try this: Carbon Footprint Calculator, to find out more.

What can I do to help ?
Get to know your planet
It's hard to care about something if you don't understand it, or get out there and be a part of it .  You might choose not to know, if all you ever hear about the world is doom and gloom instead of hopeful and bright.  Being bright green is all about having fun.

What you can do outdoors:
Wildlife garden:  The first place to make a difference is in your own backyard and neighborhood.  You can make a back garden nature reserve. A patch of weeds, long grass or wildflowers left in the corner provides a home for beneficial insects and predators.  The stinging nettle alone, supports over 40 species of insect including some of the most colourful butterflies.  Leaving a pile of logs to rot in a damp and shady corner encourages most wildlife. A pile of leaves and twigs makes a perfect home for hedgehogs and they will reward you by eating up the slugs and snails that love to munch your plants as well as being great to watch.

                                                                              SarahMcManiman image

A pile of stones attracts frogs, toads and newts and even slowworms.  Put them in a sunny place if you want to attract lizards. . Even if you havn't got much space you can make a mini wildlife pond in a bucket, you can add some frogspawn to help get it started: Pond in a bucket.  Add soil and less water to make a bog garden.
It's easy to provide bird feeders and a birdbath, a saucer is ideal, it only needs to be a few centimetres deep. You can make bird, bat or insect boxes and provide homes for wildlife: Make your own bird and bat boxes;

                                                                      Insect hotel, IanVisits image

Sow nectar-rich flowers and soon you'll have a host of bees and butterflies to help pollinate the nature around you. You will have have created a mini eco-system.

                                                                                                   seeks2dream image

Grow your own fruit and veg:  If space is a problem you can grow lots of things to eat in containers or just a sunny windowsill. Fruit and veg tastes better if it's home-grown, it's zero packaging, zero air miles and pesticide free.  A deep pot is best, make some holes in the bottom for drainage.  Strawberries or peas are easy to grow...and eat ! There are lots of great websites with handy tips and suggestions to get you started.  Plants in pots need extra water so it's a good idea to have a waterbutt to collect rainwater to use.

                                                                               Magalie L'Abbe image

Compost:  Instead of filling up the landfill even more you can compost most of your food waste to make nutritious soil to feed your plants that will then feed you with scrummier, jucier fruits and veggies.  Avoid adding meat, diary and cooked food.  You can add cardboard, teabags, hair and nail clippings, lint, sawdust, grass clippings, leaves and egg-shells.  Almost anything that was once living can make compost, just make it into a pile on the soil, mix it well, the worms will help, add water if it gets too dry and in a year you'll have compost: Kids make compost.  What happens to the food waste at your school ? You could ask if your school can become an e-cool, eco-school and have a compost bin or wormery ? Make a wormery

Plant a tree:  "Mighty oaks, from little acorns grow."  The earth needs trees.  Trees help the earth to breathe and help the fight against climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide.  They are also great to climb, provide shade and are home to birds and other animals. If you havn't got space you can get involved with a community planting scheme: How to plant a tree.

Walk or cycle:  As well as being good for you, this is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint with harmless footprints.  Car exhausts cause pollution that is toxic to breathe, bad for your health and harmful to the environment. If you have to go a long way maybe you can car-share for fresher air, or ask the driver if they can turn the engine off, when waiting for longer than 30 seconds. If you need a new car, look for alternatives, such as electric cars.

Clean-up:  Litter is waste in the wrong place.  You can organise or participate in a clean-up of a local stream, park or beach.  Remember to wear gloves and sensible footwear. It's best to avoid broken glass and recycle any cans you find.  As well as making the area around you a nicer place to be and enjoy, you can save an animal's life by gathering up litter.

                                                         Pacific Garbage Patch, tarynsantacruz image

Plastic kills more than one million sea creatures a year.  Turtles think plastic bags look like jellyfish, swallow them and then die.  Birds mistake bits of plastic for food and choke on it.  Plastic 6-pack rings can strangle a creature that gets trapped in it.  It's a good idea to snip the rings before disposing of them to prevent this.  Animals get tangled in discarded fishing lines and swallow lead weights, and ciggarette butts can kill fish.  Being a litter picker is a great way to help wildlife.

Take Action:  Spread the word and get involved.  Your voice matters and you can get involved in an environmental campaign or even start your own.  Check out Tree MusketeersKids saving theRainforest and Cool Kids, for ideas to get started, or One Climate Net to find like-minded "greenies". You may even end up getting a Eco Hero Award.  It's also worth writing to, or emailing your local M.P. or elected official.  It's their job to pass the laws and listen to you about your concerns and ideas.  Find out if there's a local zoo or aquarium you could support by volunteering or maybe you could ask to "adopt an animal" for a birthday present, or ask your school to adopt one.  Remember, knowledge is power, so find out as much as you can about our wonderful world and the balance of nature.  There are lots of great websites and books out there to help you become an expert.

At the shops:
Precycle:  This is a way to reduce waste right from the start, before you even need to recycle.  It's about choosing to reduce your carbon footprint by thinking ahead and avoiding the consequences of the throw-away society we now know.

                                                                                           Foldablebags.com image

Buy Green:  Reduce waste by looking for zero-packaging items or toxic-free and biodegradable goods.  Look for long-life products when you need new batteries or lightbulbs or buy rechargeable batteries.  The longer they last the less you have to buy them, which means less packaging and less products dumped on landfill.  Search out products with recycled packaging and buy recycled paper or paper made from sustainable sources.  Look for the FSC label which is a sign of well managed forests. 
  Avoid throw away products.  Styrofoam contains polystyrene which is the most difficult material to breakdown in landfill sites and is considered a hazardous waste.  Take a bag with you when you go to the shop so you don't need to use extra plastic or paper bags.  Look at the labels and try to find natural, chemical free products when buying beauty or cleaning products.  If you put toxins onto you or in your house they can build up, combine and make you ill, so try to keep your environment toxic-free.

 It's worth thinking "Do I really need this ?".  If you buy things only when you need them it can help you to enjoy them more.  Not only will you help save the planet you'll save money too ! 

Inside you:
You are what you eat:   Organic food tastes better, it's better for you and better for the environment.  It has less food additives, is pesticide free and is not genetically modified or full of antibiotics. To find out more you can visit The Soil Association.  If you can't buy organic, look for locally produced food and try to eat things when they are in season.  This helps the earth as it takes less fuel to transport the food and usually requires less packaging and preservatives.  A good example of this is "Pick Your own" strawberries at a local farm.
 Eat brasil nuts ! Not only are they good for you and packed with selenium, a mineral that's a natural feel-good, but it creates protected areas.  Brasil nut trees, don't grow well in plantations, so eating them supports natural forests.
 Eating less meat has a positive effect on the world.  Food production causes a third of all greenhouse gases and meat production is the largest cause of this.  There is the demand for land for the animals to live and graze, land to grow feed for the animals and energy to transport the feed.  Not to mention the methane produced by the livestock themselves.  If you like to eat fish it's important to choose it carefully too.  Your choice of fish can impact the oceans.  Cod is overfished at the moment.  Look for the MSC sign for sustainable seafood and "dolphin-friendly" tuna.

                                                                                                          mjmonty image

Drinking bottled water may seem like a healthy option.  The water is, but the bottle isn't ! The plastic can contain dangerous chemicals and it takes up millions of gallons of oil to create them and transport them, just to throw them away.  It takes energy to deliver the bottles to the shops, when all you need to do is turn on the tap.  Most of us have safe drinking water on tap, and if you don't like the taste you can get a water filter.  Keep it in the fridge and fill up reusable bottles to take with you when you go out.  To make an e-cool packed lunch, take a re-usable lunch box instead of plastic wrap and silver foil.

In the home:
Save Energy:  By turning off lights when they are not in use you save the earth a lot of energy.  Don't leave things on standby and unplug unused electronics and chargers.  A laptop uses less energy than a desktop PC.  All this helps to save the earth.

                                                                                                     cyborgsuzy image

Instead of turning the heating up, get cosy in snuggly jumpers and blankets, or cuddle up with a friend or pet and share body heat, you can always dance and get fit at the same time as saving energy, for a guaranteed feel-good.  Block draughts and close curtains at night to conserve the heat in your house. If you use air conditioning  to cool down in Summer, there are some great and fun alternatives such as ice lollies and water pistol fights !.

Save Water:  Conserve water by looking for leaks and getting them fixed.  Turning the tap off while you're brushing your teeth and taking shorter showers instead of baths saves a lot of water.  This stops unnecessary water needing to be cleaned and recycled which is an energy-thirsty process.

Save paper:  Save trees by using both sides of a piece of paper, and saving scrap paper and envelopes for writing notes on.  You can even set your printer to print on both sides.  Use a hand towel instead of paper towels and cloth napkins.  All this means less trees will need to be cut down, which helps reduce global warming and climate change.

Save clothing:  If you are fed up of your clothes instead of throwing them away and buying more you can arrange a clothes swapping party with your friends.  Earn some extra money by having a carboot or table-top sale, donate them to charity or customise them:  Decorate your jeans.

Save packaging: Learn to cook.  It's great fun and avoids all the extra packaging that comes with processed, takeaway and fast food.  Healthy and tasty too.

Now you have the challenge. Spread the word and.. Save the Earth.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Sloths are Green (Less Haste, More Sloth)

I want to share with you how "scintillating" sloths can be.  Sloths have had an undeserved image of laziness, "Sloth" being one of The Seven Deadly Sins.  In 1772, the French naturalist Georges Buffon, said "These sloth are the lowest form of existence".   In fact their slow movement has many benefits, their graceful movement being compared to a Tai Chi master.  They are the slowest mammals on Earth, and masters at conserving energy ! Truth is, they are one of the better adapted animals on our planet. 


 Sloths are members of a group of mammals that have been around for 60 million years.  There was once a group of giant, marine, amphibious sloths!  The following link may explain why they are such good swimmers: Giant swimming sloth 

There are now, 6 species divided into two families: two-toed sloth and three-toed sloth, named after the number of toes on their front feet.  The Three-toed sloth is smaller and has extra neck bones allowing it to turn it's head almost 360 degrees, further than any other mammal.  Sloths are arboreal, living in trees in the rainforests of Central and South America.  The Maned Three-toed Sloth, is endangered and the ongoing destruction of the rainforests may soon threaten the other species.

                                                                      Praziquantel image

Sloths move at 15-30 cm per minute to conserve energy. When in danger they can move up to 5 metres per minute through the trees, or crawl 1.5 metres per minute on the ground.  One reason for their slow movement is their low metabolism.  A diet of leaves is low in nutrients.  Leaves are digested slowly, taking as long as a month in their specialised stomachs. Their stomachs have multiple compartments housing symbiotic bacteria to break down the tough leaves and account for two thirds of the sloth's weight.  Sloths will lick their fur and absorb bacteria through their skin for extra nutrients.
They get by with half as much muscle mass as a mammal the same size, as maintaining muscle would require large amounts of food energy. This means that they weigh half as much and can climb high to the thin branches in the forest canopy, where it is easier to find food and avoid heavier predators.

A high body temperature takes energy.  Sloths reduce this cost by maintaining a lower than average body temperature than other mammals.  Like reptiles, they sunbathe in the morning, then retreat to the shade during the hottest part of the day.  It used to be thought that they slept up to 20 hours per day to conserve energy but now it is known to be half that time.  BBC News: Sloth's lazy image a myth

Sloth fur contains an entire ecosystem of it's own ! It's fur hosts algae and provides shelter and a good supply of water to many non-parasitic insects.  One study found over 950 beetles on a single sloth.  There is a species of moth that exists only on sloth.  When the sloth descends to the ground to defecate the moth quickly lays it's eggs in the dung and returns to the sloth fur.  120 of these moths have been found on one animal.

The fur has hairs that grow in the opposite direction to other mammals.  Adapted to a life hanging upside down in trees, the hair grows from the stomach to the back and away from the extremeties to facillitate water run-off, and provide protection from the elements.  The algae turn the sloth green in the rainy season and provide camouflage.  As long as the sloth remains quiet and still, it is near invisible and blends with the trees, avoiding jaguars, harpy eagle and humans.  They do blow their cover when they emit a shrill call to attract a mate.

                                                                      henryalien image

Almost all thier lives are spent hanging upside down in trees.  Eating, sleeping and giving birth, hanging from their curved claws.  Even after death they can still be found hanging from the trees, this deters hunters from killing them as they don't fall to the ground.  Scientists are still baffled by why sloths will only urinate and defecate hanging from a tree in the rainy season but make a weekly descent to the ground to defacate when it's dry.  It is thought that despite the danger, it provides fertiliser for the tree the sloth lives on. The long wait means up to 2lbs of stored dung is produced from a 10lb animal !

                                                                               brian.gratwicke image

 A strange mixture of plant and animal and masters of the upside down.  Sloths have the antidote for our fast lives.  Maybe that explains their persistent smiles.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Tarantulas - terrifying or terriffic ?

A big hairy spider can certainly be terrifying but did you know they are also terriffic.  There are 900 species of tarantula and at The Big Greenie we have a Chile Rose tarantula (Grammostola rosea), named Winona.

They originate from Chile, where they live in the driest deserts on earth.  Chile, no longer exports animals and captive bred Chile Rose have become popular pets, due to their large size, hardiness and docile nature. The rose name refers to their coat of reddish-orange to pink hairs. They are a long-term pet.  The females can live for 15-20 years and can have 500 spiderlings at a time.  After breeding the male dies.

                                Watch live video on The Big Greenie

We have set up a webcam in Winona's vivarium so you can share our office pet.  She is mainly active in the evenings and at night time.  Insects, are tarantulas main prey, and Winona eats crickets.  Periodically, she will shed her external skeleton.  They even replace internal organs and re-grow lost body parts !

All tarantulas should be considered dangerous, but they are not deadly.  They bite when provoked but would much rather run away.  When they do bite, their venom is weaker than a honeybee.  The bite is painful but virtually harmless, although some people are allergic. 

The chile rose is a type of tarantula that kicks off hairs on it's abdomen as a defence.  It can send hundreds of irritating hairs flying through the air and into the eyes and nose of a predator.  If handling a tarantula consider it's individual temperament and wear protective goggles.  Be aware, that Chile Rose are fragile and a fall could easily kill them.

Even if you don't like spiders we have much to learn from them.  Spiders have inspired scientists, engineers, artists and designers. Webs have helped engineers to design stronger suspension bridges.  They are even the inspiration for naming the internet the World Wide Web.  They inspired the Marvel comic characters, Spiderman and Tarantula.  Spiderman can shoot webs from his wrists to help him travel with superhuman speed and agility and Tarantula is a supervillian. 

Tarantulas don't make webs but all spiders produce silk that is elastic and powerful.  It has properties that prevent it from drying out and avert bacteria and fungus from growing on it.  A high-tech fabric made from spider silk could be used for soldiers uniforms.  It is lightweight and potentially rip-proof. 

foxypar4 image

A spider doesn't have muscles and bones to bend it's legs and uses a pressurised fluid system.  This has been copied by scientists for the movement of space robots and spider hairs have inspired a design for self-cleaning windows and solar panels.  My favourite spider influence is the  Maman sculpture by Louise Bourgeois.  She produced this work when she was in her eighties.   

LindaH image

So what do you think? Terrifying or terrific ?