Bianca's Eco Blog

Coca-Cola have launched an online app to trace where in the UK your can or bottle of Coke has come from.

It highlights the benefits of sourcing local ingredients and recycling the packaging. In a breakdown of the carbon footprint contributors it transpires that 5% is caused by sourcing the ingredients, 5% by distribution, 9% by manufacturing, 10% by cooling and refrigeration, and 40% by packaging. I’m not sure where the other 31% comes from, but apparently we could be reducing the carbon footprint by 40% just by recycling the empty bottles and cans.

This app seems to do a good job in making consumers aware of the benefits in recycling and the life cycle of a bottle or can of Coca-Cola but it strikes me that, had I not been actively searching for content on environmental issues for Birmingham Recycled, I would not have come across this and therefore wonder how many people are really going to bother to find out where their drink came from at all.


{June 3, 2010}   Asda Bag for Life

Follwing a previous blog post I decided to take myself, my iPhone and a camera down to the One Stop Shopping Centre in Perry Barr to see what the locals think of the Bag for Life scheme. In some cases it was like getting a free bag from a stoney-faced Asda cashier, so I did have to lead the conversations quite a lot but on the whole people seemed to agree with me.

The scheme seems good on the surface, and no one can doubt the good intentions behind it, however not everyone manages to remember to re-use the bags each time and therefore people are having to pay 5p per bag every time they shop, and end up with far more than they need.

For the full responses see the audio slide show and let me know what you think.

{June 3, 2010}   Going Green at V Festival

This year I’ve got my ticket booked for V festival and I’m on the look-out for some camping equipment and other festival essentials (hats, wellies, sunglasses, etc).

On my search for the perfect festival gear I came across The Green Tent Company. These guys specialise in providing tents which can be easily recycled.

According to their website, most tents are made up of so many different types of material that it is not economically viable to separate them out for recycling, therefore the whole lot usually goes to landfill. At The Green Tent Company tents are made using one type of material and can therefore be recycled all together.

I personally have never had to throw away a tent, but perhaps I just don’t party hard enough. It is true that a lot of people leave their tents behind at festivals, either because they’re too hung over and tired to take them down, or because they’ve managed to wear them out, but then how will the people who clear up after a festival know which ones can be recycled and which ones can’t? It seems like a good idea in theory but I’m not sure how successful it will be in saving the environment.

However, it did get me thinking about what else there is out there for a greener festival…

The Big Green Coach gets people to and from their festivals, helping to reduce carbon emissions. According to the website, festival goers’ travel is the biggest contributor to the music industry’s carbon emissions, accounting for 45% of the music events’ carbon footprint! This means that by using a company such as this we can help in a big way.

Both the companies mentioned also support Trees for Cities, a scheme whereby new trees are planted to bring a bit of green back to major cities and to help in filtering pollutants. So for every full Big Green Coach and for every Green Tent Company tent purchased, a donation is made for a new tree to be planted.

Despite the bashing that festivals get for not being environmentally friendly, there are a number of ways that each individual can reduce their own carbon footprint and give the whole industry a brighter future!

I spent a lovely weekend in York a couple of weeks ago, enjoying the beautiful architecture, idyllic natural scenery and fresh air – perfection. I returned to Birmingham to be faced with the over-crowded, over-polluted New Street train station, the bizarre architecture (to which I mainly refer to Birmingham’s crowning glory – the Selfridges ‘bubble wrap’ building), and that unattractive bit of waste-land in front of Millenium Point – what a difference.

Don’t get me wrong, I love living in Birmingham and I think there are aspects of it which are fantastic, however the differences in environmental factors between the two cities are shocking. You can even feel a difference in the air, I felt like I was finally breathing comfortably in York, without industrial fumes blocking up my nose and lungs. The York city centre has little to no traffic, whereas buses and taxis thunder up and down Birmingham’s Corporation Street at all hours.

Then there is the litter; the streets of York are kept clean and tidy, whereas the plastic bags, crisp packets and drinks cans are unavoidable on the streets of Birmingham. I asked my York-residing friend about this and she suggested that perhaps the fact that York is such a pretty city helps. People who live there feel proud of the aesthetic features of the city and therefore don’t want to ruin it by leaving their rubbish lying around. In contrast, there isn’t an awful lot to feel proud of about the way an industrial city like Birmingham looks, so what difference will a bit more ugliness make?

I understand that Birmingham is a much bigger city than York and that is probably what really makes the difference, London is just as bad, but the industrial side of Birmingham seems to dominate the city and I think it’s time to find some beauty here and be proud enough in our environment to want to look after it properly.

{March 4, 2010}   Victim Support

The recycling system where I live is pretty good. Each home is provided with a plastic box for paper and another for miscellaneous items, such as plastic bottles and tin cans, both loads are then collected on a fortnightly basis. Not bad at all, that is unless these magical boxes happen to disappear.

The crime occurred when, on one refuse collection day, these elusive boxes failed to return home. I can only conclude that someone with an intense recycling fetish is holding our little green boxes hostage in a shed or garage somewhere. This being the case I decided to turn to the local powers that be; Birmingham City Council.

I called them at the beginning of February to report our missing boxes and beg for a couple of replacements, which, I was assured, would arrive within the next 8-10 working days. Unfortunately, 23 working days later, I was forced to put in another call. The woman I spoke to informed me that they had been experiencing some ‘system failures’ but that she would put in a request regardless. She has now told me that the boxes will be here by 12th March but I can’t help but feel a little dubious.

Unfortunately the longer it takes for this to be sorted out, the less eco-friendly our student house becomes. We do not have easy access to a public recycling outlet and with no car and very little free time we have failed to recycle anything over the past month. So come on Birmingham City Council, give me the chance to ease my conscience and reduce the carbon footprint of my lazy student household.

Writing for Birmingham Recycled has me constantly on the look-out for environmental issues which occur during my day-to-day life and I recently realised that I have been facing one on a weekly basis for the last few months!

I am referring to Asda’s bag for life scheme. The superstore is no longer providing the regular carrier bags but, instead, forces shoppers to spend 5 pence a pop on a bag which is supposedly more lasting and reusable. This would be a great way of encouraging customers to look after the environment if Asda provided some, misleadingly named, ‘bags for life’ which actually lasted longer than my 25 minute walk home.

The bottom of each bag sags worryingly for most of my journey and when I reach my destination without having lost any of my shopping to a bag casualty I am always relieved. However the weakness of the bags leaves me far too nervous to reuse them and I always end up buying at least another two bags every time I shop.

If Asda could offer a sturdier option this would solve the problem as I feel a pang of guilt both for my bank account and for the environment every time I purchase yet another one of these bags. For now, the pile of bags in the corner of my room is set to grow and grow until Asda comes up with decent way to cut down on their, and my, carbon footprint.

This week I have really got stuck into investigative journalism, making the most of my leads and following them up in person, which has gone down really well.

I visited the Revolver World stall at the Fair and Ethical Market in Victoria Square as part of Fairtrade Fortnight and got a glimpse of the work they do to preserve the Fairtrade clothing industry for myself. The article about their contribution to Fairtrade clothing is available on the Birmingham Recycled website. They mentioned a potentially interesting but controversial expose on the way that Sainsbury’s and Topman tend to use Fairtrade supplies but send them to be manufactured in terrible sweatshop conditions, this is something I am going to research in much more detail before reporting it as fact, I need to give the brands the chance to tell me their stories and will update you on that as it goes.

I also popped into Palvika’s fascinating shop in the Piccadilly Arcade. She uses recycled materials to create her clothes and accessories and I see this as being a very interesting story to report on, the only problem is getting a ‘newsworthy’ angle out of it. She recently launched her menswear range so this is something I could report on and the fact that the public come down to her store in order to contribute bits and bobs which she can use in her designs is an interesting social angle which I might also mention.

Meeting my contacts in person has been a vital part of getting the stories I want. Although I am struggling for a ‘groundbreaking’ angle on Palvika’s shop, the fact that I went in for a friendly chat means that she is much more likely to help me out if I need some more information. Furthermore, the fact that she was so helpful to me means that I am more likely to cover the great work she does in detail on the website, so it really is a win-win situation!

{February 24, 2010}   Recycled News

Searching for a new angle on an old story is the hardest thing I’m facing as an online journalist – RRS feeds, Delicious bookmarks and re-tweets are all very well but aren’t we just sifting through old news? I put this question to Paul Bradshaw (, lecturer, blogger and all round online guru. He told me that what I need to be doing is questioning the news that’s already there, asking ‘what’s next’ and digging deeper.

With this is mind I have today emailed some contacts related to a few different stories in order to get the news straight from the sources. I eagerly await replies and look forward to finding my own angles which may not yet have been explored.

It seems to me that online journalism has many uses and purposes. These include networking and the ability to pass information and leads around to professional and social peers. It is about asking questions and constantly challenging the traditional ways of reporting on a story. It is also about opinion sharing and building a ‘community’ around a common interest. This field has got me really excited about the new ways of communicating which are constantly opening up to us through the internet and I am rapidly feeling a part of this phenomenon in a way I never have before.

{February 22, 2010}   Birmingham Recycled

As a journalist for Birmingham Recycled I have started this blog for a more personal view on the issues discussed on the website – get ahead by having a look at the site to contextualise some of my posts. I will also be blogging on the stories and leads I chase and the thoughts I have along the way. Lots more to follow!

et cetera