Monday, November 29, 2010

snow in Gorey, Co. Wexford

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ethical Shopping - building up a feel good list for Christmas

IMF bailout, prebudget gloom, crisis and all can't hide the fact that we are only a month away from Christmas (yay!). We might be about the enter the most austere four years in the recent history of the country but Christmas is still on, right?

If you haven't done your shopping or even given it a thought yet, here's a thought: why not turn your gifts into something special and meaningful that could touch more than just those you are giving them to?

I have been meaning to build an ethicla guide to Christmas (and general) gift shopping for a while and here's what I've found so far. I'll keep adding to it in the coming days, feel free to add and suggest ideas:


-Irish Horse Welfare Trust

The Irish Horse Welfare Trust (IHWT) does an amazing job rescuing and retraining abandoned horses and ex-race horses from across Ireland.

The charity, which is based in a farm in Woodenbridge, Co. Wicklow, has launched a gift brochure which includes clothing (fleeces, t-shirts), Christmas cards, a designer bag (Hazel bag by Louloubelle), stock fillers such as pens and key rings, as well as presents for your horse (if you have one). The gifts are available to purchase online from the IHWT website.

-Irish Seal Sanctuary in Courtown, Gorey, Co. Wexford, sells cuddly toys of all sizes, as well as other merchandise such as t-shirts, hoodies and caps and hats. As far as I know the charity doesn't have an online shop yet but it might come soon. In the meantime, if you happen to visit their rescue centre in Courtown, have a look at their shop.


-Oxfam Fair Trade shop (also online at

The Oxfaf Fair Trade shop in South King Street (Dublin) - also in Galway, Belfast and Cork- is always a good source of original gift ideas with the fair trade stamp. It is particularly useful when buying for home (decoration items and all sorts of nice things, such as tea sets, photo frames, cushions...) and also friends with new babies (fairly priced organic cotton clothes and toys), but they also have music, bags and some selection of edible treats.


Good source of knitwear, jewellery and other general gift ideas such as purses and bags for the ladies. A few items made of recycled materials too (tick the green credentials box too!)


Go to the Gift Guide section and click By Department. Select Best sellers and you'll find a pretty interesting mix of green trinkets and gadgets (the solar powered ipod dock is a pretty cool one). The option to search by price is very handy. There is also a clothes section and fair trade.

Science Gallery

The Science Gallery in Pearse Street has some cool eco gadgets for sale at their gallery shop (online store at , including the super useful sports bottle with water filter. The solar powered disco ball could make some people very happy this Christmas...


The Cultivate Centre in Temple Bar usually has a good selection of gift ideas, although its site only has a very limited online store which is not representative of the fantastic stuff you might find at the actual shop.


So charity shops used to be in but after years of struggling to find decent clothes suitable to my age! I have almost given up (at least on the small town ones)- swap shops and vintage specialists are a much better alternative.

For brand new stuff, here are some links to ethical fashion shops and brands (thanks Claire for most of the names!).

A very comprehensive list of retailers selling some ethical ranges or focusing entirely on sustainable fashion can be found at Irish alternative clothing online shop. has nice organic cotton clothing and facilities to buy online (it is also stocked by Contra Clothing in Gorey, Co. Wexford, if you are ever around this neck of the woods). and and Irish for designer-y clothes (stocked at Arnotts in Dublin) (they have a store at Opera lane in Cork city)

Monday, November 15, 2010

10 tips for a greener Christmas

Irish carbon consultancy Emission Zero has issued Top 10 useful tips for punters looking to reduce our carbon footprint (and possibly save a few euro) this coming Christmas. If, like me, unfortunately Christmas means flying and a black mark on your green credentials, at least there are some other smaller things you can do to compensate for your air travel carbon footprint.

They are very simple tips we can all keep in mind to reduce the amount of useless waste we generate at Christmas to a minimum and go easy on the planet. Most of them could actually be easily followed the rest of the year.

Top 10 tips:

1-The Christmas Tree.
Make the eco-friendly choice this Christmas and go for a real Christmas Tree. Although artificial trees will last longer they are made from plastic, transported huge distances to market and are not recyclable. Real trees absorb CO2 emissions during their life time and can also be recycled. Go to your local council’s website after Christmas for details on tree recycling and collection.

2-LED lights.
These lights consume only one sixtieth of the energy required by conventional lights and you can use them year after year. There is no filament in the bulbs of these lights to burn out saving all the hassle of figuring out which bulb to replace when the whole set goes out!

3-Christmas cards.
The amount of Christmas cards sent every year places a huge demand on natural resources not to mention the transport emissions from moving these cards through the post! Alternatives: send an e-card instead of a paper card; send cards made from recycled material or charity cards. If you receive cards this year, don’t forget to recycle them or better yet, cut them up to make gift tags for next year!

Use recycled paper wrapping and tie them up with string. Avoid using foil or plastic wrapping, plastic ribbons and sellotape. And again, remember to recycle the wrapping paper from any presents you receive or try to reuse it!

5-Energy efficient gifts.
If you’re buying electrical equipment this Christmas be sure to check the energy label and only buy A rated appliances. Also be sure to recycle any old electrical appliances. Visit to find out how…

6-Avoid battery-operated toys or go for rechargeable batteries.
Batteries contain toxic chemicals and are very hard to recycle so this Christmas chose rechargeable batteries; these will save on waste and also save you money in the long run.

7-Food: local or organic - or both!
Source vegetables from your local farm or market and visit the local butcher for a locally sourced and organic turkey. Buying local reduces the emissions from transporting food and will boost the local economy….don’t forget your re-usable shopping bags!

8-Public Transport.
This will save on fuel, CO2 emissions and also means you can enjoy a mulled wine after a hard day’s shopping!

9-Christmas is a time of excess and we often find ourselves clearing out old clothes and toys at this time of year. Make sure to donate any unwanted clothes and toys to your local charity.

10-Finally, when all the celebrations are over and it comes to doing the clear up remember to recycle! Compost food waste and bring empty bottles to the bottle bank!

To estimate your carbon footprint, Emission Zero has a Carbon Calculator on their site: and lots of tips on how to lead a low carbon life, both at home, abroad, on the road and at work at:

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gillian has the Chef Factor

My friend Gillian, from Dungarvan, is entering Cully & Sully's Chef Factor.

The idea is that wannabe chefs and foodies enter their recipes and photos (posing with one of their dishes) to become one of the two lucky winners of a 12-week cookery course at Ballymaloe

Country House - home of food extraordinaires Darina and Rachel Allen.

The competition also tries to raise awareness and donations to Cork's Simon community, helping homeless people.

So, if you wouldn't mind giving Gillian a hand and 'like' her Garden Inspired Ravioli... I've tried them and they are gorgeous. They are pink in colour because she has used some of her home-grown beetroot for the homemade ravioli pasta. Now, we can always arrange for a taste session if she wins thanks to your votes...

Only 19 days to vote: