Category Archives: buying green

Collaborative consumption in France

Goat rental at 10 euros/day in the French Alps for natural lawn care from E-loue

One step removed from barter (but getting closer every day), and a hot new trend documented by two new business books in 2010 – “What’s Mine is Yours” and “The Mesh” – the mode for sharing and renting our physical assets is being driven by the economic recession and a wider societal backlash against wasteful and mindless consumption. If you’re ready to jump in, here are some resources for France:

Zilok, the French version. Rent anything from a car to a lawnmower or power drill. A Citroen C1 rents for 40 euros a day.

E-loue Goat rentals for lawn mowing etc. for toys (4 toys for 6 months at a monthly rate of 15.9 euros)

Supermarmite – Buy and sell home-cooked food in your neighbourhood. They call themselves the first social network for sharing home-cooked meals. Car sharing platform.

Louerunetudiant Outsource your business needs to a student: market research, telemarketing, design, animation, translation etc.


What’s behind the Sustainable Palm Oil label

Understanding what is behind certification for concepts like fair trade, organic agriculture, organic cosmetics and more broadly anything which claims to be “responsible” or “sustainable” is at the heart of the ongoing dialogue among consumers, retailers and manufacturers. Yet what goes on in the supply chain is only dimly understood by even the most well-informed consumers. Unless some brave soul starts developing “supply chain tourism”, it is unlikely that we will ever get a firm grasp on exactly what we are paying for beyond the feel good concepts of saving an orangutan or two somewhere in Borneo.

So palm oil has experienced a big shift in consumer perception this year due to successful lobbying efforts of Greenpeace and a fall-out in the European Union over the health risk contained in high levels of saturated fat contained in Nutella, which has been abruptly de-throned from its place as a symbol and repository of happy childhood memories throughout Europe.

Industries which rely heavily on palm oil as a cheap input for their products – mostly food and consumer items – are responding to consumer pressure to “clean up” their palm oil supply chains, and a number of solutions are available today.

Here’s a short primer on currently available certification which should help to de-mystify what you are getting when you buy a product which says “sustainable palm oil”.

Sustainable palm oil producers are grouped together in a body called Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)  which was set up in 2003 and brings together growers, processors, food companies, investors and NGOs. The members represent around 40% of palm oil producers., so they can’t be said to represent critical mass in the industry.

The RSPO defined the principles and criteria of sustainable palm oil in 2005:
•    No more replacement of ‘High Conservation Value Areas’ for new plantations
•    Respect for the righs of local people
•    Respect labour laws

RSPO has approved 3 supply chain models for RSPO Certified Sustainable Palm Oil:

1.    Segregated  – Most stringent option: sustainable palm oil is kept segregated through the chain. Mixing is possible only with other RSPO Certified Palm Oil. This is the only certification that allows retailers to claim that the product “contains” sustainable palm oil.
2.    Mass Balance – Sustainable palm oil is followed through the chain. Mixing with conventional palm oil is possible provided this is administratively possible. Retailers can claim that the product “supports” the production of RSPO sustainable palm oil.
3.    Book and Claim – Chain is not followed. End-users buy certificiates directly from the producer via web-based trading platform (premium for sustainable palm oil is currently valued at $13 per tonne). Allows buyers to claim that their product “supports” the production of RSPO sustainable palm oil.

So basically when you buy a product that carries either of those claims: ie “contains” or “supports the production of sustainable palm oil”, you will be getting one of the above three options.

Cheap, cheerful and green holiday gift ideas

It’s that time of the year again. Here’s a selection of low-cost, guilt-free ideas for stocking fillers if you still can’t quite face doing the “No Impact Christmas”.

1. Global green garbage bags vy Kenjiro Sano, made from polyethylene, sporting a deep blue map of the globe to remind us all that, yes, we are connected. Earth Garbage Bag, 8 euros for 10 45-litre bags, available only from concept store Colette.

2. Fight the dross that fills up newsmagazines in doctors’ waiting rooms by donating money or your old digital cameras and laptops to International Reporting Project, which provides opportunities to U.S. journalists to cover international issues that have been neglected in the media. I stumbled upon this recently while reading an article in Business Week about the land grab in Africa, and thought to myself, hmm this doesn’t seem like the usual Businessweek fare.

3. Anything from this list of online shops which were part of the Noel Ethique operation last year.

4. Organic champagne from Fleury

5. Natural makeup from the new line called UNE by Bourjois

Natural mosquito repellents for summer

Summer is here at last, with the promise of leisurely evenings spent outdoors under the stars, eating grilled meats and catching up with friends. The yearly mosquito scourge hasn’t arrived in France as the weather has been unseasonally cool, but it’s time to start thinking about natural remedies and protection that do not involve DEET.

DEET (N,N-diéthyl-3-méthylbenzamide) is a registered pesticide classified in the US as “slightly toxic”. It is a member of the toluene chemical family, an organic solvent used in rubber and paint removers. Between 9 % and 56 % of DEET is absorbed through the skin, mostly within two hours following application. Neurological problems have been linked to DEET exposure and research in rats has revealed that high levels of DEET can kill neurons in areas of the brain that control muscle movement, learning, memory and concentration .

Here’s a list of alternatives available in France. Most can be purchased online:

Anti-Pique by Abiessence.

In this unpressurized atomizer, a blend of essential oils of lavender, citronella, eucalyptus, peppermint, geranium, lemongrass, sage and cinnamon provides lasting protection from mosquitoes. Spray generously at 20 cm from the skin and massage lightly. Re-apply several times a day.

Abiessence, La Source. 33-4-77646488

Mousticare from Végébom.

Composed of purified geraniol extracted from citronella, this spray can be used both on clothing and curtains, tents, strollers and cars. The manufacturer says it is effective for six weeks, and requires re-application after each wash.

MoustiCare, Végébom. 33-1-45004629

Outdoor lotion with citronella, from Druide.

Certified by Ecocert, this citronella-based lotion from Quebec’-based natural cosemetics firm Druide is safe to use on children from two years and upwards. It contains citronella, terpenes, aloes, betacarotene and tea tree oil.

Lait Hyrdatant Citronelle by Druide. Available at biocosmeo.

Répulsif insectes volantes from Gravier.

At night, try putting this mixture of lavender and cloves and geranium and citronelle into a diffuser for some bug-free beauty rest.

Répulsif insectes volantes, Gravier. 33-4-72443868

via Quelle santé magazine

Safety in cookware: PTFE vs nano-ceramic coatings?

Belgian cookware manufacturer Beka has come out with a handsome line of products called Beka Eco-Logic which replaces the traditional Teflon anti-stick coatings containing PTFE chemicals with a ceramic coating which they call Bekadur Ceramica.

Like many of the more recent PTFE-free offerings, such as Green Pan, these pans are covered with a durable nano-coating in ceramic. These ceramic coatings are water-based and can resist much higher temperatures than traditional coatings. Debate over the potential health risks of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) – best known by the DuPont brand name Teflon – has raged for years, so at first glance this seems like a no-brainer for any green-minded kitchen.

According to the most conservative scenario, PTFE starts to deteriorate after the temperature of cookware reaches about 260 °C (500 °F), and decomposes above 350 °C (660 °F). This can cause flu-like symptoms in humans.

But the debate on potential health risks of nano-technologies is only just beginning.
The main issue, as stated by ETC in “A Tiny Primer on Nano-Scale Technologies” is “Governments, industry and scientific institutions have allowed nanotech products to come to market in the absence of public debate and regulatory oversight.”

There are very few toxicological studies on engineered nanoparticles “but it appears that nanoparticles as a class are more toxic than larger versions of the same compound because of their mobility and increased reactivity.” This is important because nanoparticles can move easily into the body and slip past the body’s immune system. At 70 nanometres, nanoparticles can burrow deep into lung tissue; a 50 nm particle can slip into cells. Particles as small as 30 nm can cross the blood-brain barrier.

The bottom line is: we just don’t know. And how reassuring is that?

Buy an electric scooter in Paris and get 400 euros

Paris Town Hall authorities are offering to give away up to 400 euros (not exceeding 25 % of the retail price) for every purchase of a new electric scooter. The offer, which begins on March 21, applies to anyone or any business resident in the French capital. All you have to do is fill out a form available online at the Mairie de Paris website. The aim of the program is to encourage a shift towards quiet and clean two-wheeled transportation. The offer applies only to vehicles with a maximum speed capacity of 45 km/hour.

Best organic mascaras

I’ve always had minor allergies associated with mascara, and have tended to blame the problems on inefficient eye makeup remover, but once you look at the mascara ingredients it makes more sense to blame the mascara. There are some decent choices of organic mascara out there now; the only problem is that none of them can be kept for longer than six months

Invented in the 19th century, mascara was originally a mixture of coal dust and vaseline. Today’s waterproof mascaras have a composition based on a volatile solvent (isododecane), animal-derived waxes, mineral origin wax (ozokerite, paraffin), pigments (iron oxide, ultramarine) and filmifying polymers. They are basically similar in composition to oil-based or solvent-based paints.

Organic mascara is made from hydrolates – by-products of the process of making essential oils – such as camomille or linden; vegetable oils such as jojoba, sesame and macadamia and beeswax. To increase the viscosity of the product, some manufacturers add xanthan gum. To nourish and protect lashes, some add extracts of thyme, rose and lavender. Grapefruit seed extracts are used for conservation

Here’s the pick of the pack:

Terre D’Oc, available from Natures et Decouvertes. Only keeps for 6 months. Certified Ecocert and Cosmebio


Dr Hauschka, certified BDIH (German certification).

Phyt’s, certified Ecocert and Cosmebio. Only keeps for 3 months.


Logona, BDIH certification. available at Cosma Terra.