Eco friendly holidays
By Abby Trow

The desire to travel is innate in us so how to do it more responsibly?

If you live in Europe and you're travelling in Europe for holidays, then take the train if possible - this could well be viable option for the two-week summer vacation. But eco travel isn't just about transport, it's also very much about the places we choose to stay in. Are they sustainable, do they have renewable energy, do they use organic cotton bedlinen and towels and source their food locally, etc etc?

A green travel business Deco loves is Germany's Green Pearls, which is full of recommendations of green hotels/lodges/spas, as well as tips of being a more eco traveller. Take a look... we certainly like the look of the hotel above, the Hubertus Alpin Lodge & Spa in the German region of Bavaria. Actually, that was what the place looked like a few decades back. It's bigger now with lots of mod cons, but it meets PassivHaus standards and waste isn't a word the owners are familiar with...

Environment and ecology, Lifestyle, eco friendly
The carbon cost of our internet addiction
By Hari Alexander

Web hosting service Kualo has an eyeopening infographic showing how all those hours we spend surfing the net are leaving one giant carbon footprint. See it here:

Green hosting for charities

And if you're a charity, and an environmental one in particular, you may be interested in a green offer from Kualo: it's offering charities free web hosting using its servers that are powered by renewable energy - find out about the offer on Kualo's charity hosting page.

Why is green hosting Important and how does it work?  
The internet is a carbon-emitting machine - and it’s growing. It produces as much carbon annually as Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangladesh, The Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Mongolia combined. Green webhosting represents the first steps towards reducing its impact. By powering its operations with emissions-free renewable energy, hosting services reduce the impact of their energy use – and therefore the energy use of all the websites it hosts. Electricity generated from renewable sources creates less environmental waste and pollution and displaces other non-renewable sources from the electric grid.
*Kualo says its hosting infrastructure is also designed to be as energy efficient and eco-friendly as possible, featuring free cooling technology, hot-aisle containment, water based chillers and virtualisation technology that makes better use of its infrastructure capacity.


Environment and ecology, eco friendly, eco home
The psychology of colour
By Gerard McGuickin for LZF wood veneer lighting
Our world is ablaze with colour and colours provide the bedrock and building blocks of our emotions: think about ‘seeing red’ (angry), ‘feeling blue’ (sad), and being ‘in the pink’ (healthy). Both consciously and unconsciously colour is integral to how we feel and how we view the world.
When we're very young we're taught about the rules and foundations of colour: how mixing equal amounts of the three primary colours—red, blue and yellow—will produce three secondary colours—orange, purple and green. We learn about warm colours, cold colours and colour combinations, depicted on a colour wheel.
As we grow we identify colours that please us and those we want to avoid. We start to understand the many nuances of colour and how colour affects us. We recognise the perceived meaning of colour in clothing: the authority of black, the steadfastness of brown, the discipline of blue and the power of red. We see the influence of colours in action: we stop at a red traffic light; environmental groups are termed green; and for lots of us yellow doesn't just mean daffodils...the ‘yellow (golden) arches’ of a certain fast food behemoth lure us in.

When unpicking the psychological aspects of colours, we tend to find dissimilar traits. For example:

Red is a physical and visceral colour: one whose properties include strength and stimulation, fire and passion, energy and warmth. But too much red can be too bold and overbearing. Red is the colour we see first and it's used to convey caution and danger.
Blue is a strong and emotive colour. Regarded as an intellectual colour, blue tends to affect us mentally as opposed to physically. A serene and calming colour, blue tones can stimulate thought and promote concentration. But blue is also used to convey coolness and aloofness as well as to distinguish boys from girls.
Yellow is an emotional colour that buoys mood and temperament; it is optimistic, outgoing, friendly and creative. A strong colour, yellow should be used sparingly: too much yellow can give rise to fear and anxiety.
Green is a mix of blue (intellectual) and yellow (emotional), and represents balance. A restful colour, green is easy on the eye, it's the colour we associate with nature and it promotes a sense of harmony and reassurance.
Pink has positive virtues, from feeling rosy to reaching the pink of condition. But of course while pink is often used to define femininity, it was once seen as a masculine colour. Pink may stink to those who rail against gender stereotypes but pink is embraced as a neutral hue and is associated with balance. 
Grey is another neutral colour that's come back into fashion, having previously been seen as a dull miserable colour best left for school trousers. But there are many shades of grey and greys that tend towards the green and blue provide a sense of calm, of restrained elegance with a solid grounding. And as fans of Farrow & Ball paint will concur, a warm grey can alleviate tension and anxiety.
Decoration, Garden, Lifestyle, painting and decorating, eco home, art
What makes you buy new furniture?
By Coco Piras

How often do you think about buying new furniture or decorative accessories? and how often do you actually change things like sofas, beds, blinds - or even cushions?

New research from an online furniture company suggests loads of us go for well over 15 years with the same mattress and sofa while things like carpet stay with us for decades...even when worn or very grubby.

Obviously big ticket items can be very expensive and we don't want to rush into a purchase. And of course it's not remotely eco friendly to keep replacing old with new - although if we recycle items by selling or giving them away that lessens the impact of the new puchase deed.

But some general pointers seem fairly universal, so which of these resonates with you?

More than 2,000 UK adults were asked what motivated them to change their soft furnishings:
It looks worn or tired – 65 per cent
It is broken – 53 per cent
I was redecorating and it no longer fit with the style/colour/look of the room – 39 per cent
It is no longer comfortable – 36 per cent
I was bored of its appearance and wanted something new – 30 per cent
It is unhygienic – 19 per cent
I saw a new piece of furniture that I liked more – 14 per cent
I got a bargain on a new item that I liked more – 14 per cent
The Deco verdict is that seems fairly encouraging - we're not a nation of rabid neophiles who buy new because we're bored and surprisingly few of us are tempted by bargain marketing. 
Decoration, Furniture, Hygiene, painting and decorating, eco home
How clean is your bathroom?
By Adam Moore

Do you find yourself drawn by a certain prurience into watching those hilarious programmes about people who either clean obsessively or live in filth thanks to their hoarding problem? If you so probably find that you involuntarily shriek either 'how could anyone be that weird about cleaning' or 'how can anyone be so disgusting'. And then congratulate yourself on living in clean and tidy conditions that make you a normal civilised person.

Ah, but your may think because it's a room where water's always flowing..from taps, showerheads and loos..that it's a kind of self cleaning place and everything in it is sort of inherently clean. How wrong you are because an organisation called the National Sanitation Foundation (no, we'd never heard of it either..) does research and testing that would suggest many of us take our lives into our own hands each time we visit the bathroom...

This is another of those survey stories but this one's quite fun. An online seller of showers questioned 1,200 Brits recently and found..shock horror...that:

48 per cent of respondents HAD NEVER CLEANED THEIR SHOWER HEAD (that's me)

12 per cent USE THE SAME TOOTHBRUSH FOR A YEAR (er..that's me)


Just 36 per cent wash their towels after 3-5 uses (that's not me..I go for months withouth washing my bathtowel)

And apparently, 65 per cent of us are not cleaning our bathrooms with sufficient vigour or to a sufficiently high standard!

So, we may be leaving our bathrooms dirtier than before we went in and that's because the bathroom is regularly filled with moisture, hosting a variety of potentially harmful bacteria. 
Change your toothbrush!
Only a quarter of those surveyed replace their toothbrush the recommended (by dentists?) every three months, and 12 per cent use the same toothbrush for a year. Your toothbrush can host up to 10 million bacteria, including e-coli and Staphylococci, and some research has even found fecal germs on the toothbrush from when we flush the loo – yuck!

Toothbrush holders are the third most germ-ridden household item, says the National Sanitation Foundation, behind dish sponges and kitchen sinks. Of those tested, 27 per cent had coliforms, 64 per cent had mould, and 14 per cent had Staphylococcus.
Clean your shower head (with hot water and vinegar)
No less than 29 varieties of microbes live on your shower head, we're told. The fact they are moist, warm and dark means they are the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria to thrive and when water passes through, they blast out the bugs onto your face and body (keep your mouth closed next time you shower..)
The bath mat is also a breeding ground for bacteria, as once it is damp, it comes into contact with bacteria from the floor. Many do not give their bath mats enough time to dry thoroughly, leaving bacteria to linger. This survey found that almost under half of respondents wash their bath mat on a weekly basis, with 32 per cent of respondents saying they wash theirs only once a month.  
The survey also points out that our towels are full of dead skin cells and bacteria and health guidelines say it's advisable to wash towels after every 3-5 uses – something done by just 36 per cent of those survey respondents.
Over 50 per cent of people questioned say they don't clean much in the bathroom and only when it 'seems dirty'. 
The moral of the tale - be a bit more like those obsessive compulsive cleaners. But if you want to be eco friendly, don't use chemical cleaning fluids...use a good steam cleaner instead.


Bathroom, Cleaning, Health, Hygiene, eco friendly, eco home
Garden spaces: how UK gardens have changed
Hari Alexander
Pictured above: Trex composite decking is made from waste plastic bags and wood scraps. Decking remains a popular way to achieve that outdoor room feel - and extra living space for when the weather's good.
Britain’s homes are shrinking and with it our green spaces. Homes today have halved in size compared to those built in 1920, and the average British garden has shrunk from 168 m2 to just 163.2 m2 between 1983 and 2013.
On top of this, more than two million UK homes don’t have any garden space at all and planning experts predict that by 2020 10.5 per cent of homes will be garden-less. Which isn't good news on many counts, not least research that suggests children who live in homes without a garden are far more likely to become obese compared to those who do have gardens to play in.
However, it’s not just size or lack of access to garden space that's changed. Indeed Britons' entire approach to gardening has shifted as new synthetic materials have become available – from decking to gardening products such as fertilisers.
Plant pots: originally made from clay, pots and containers widely on sale are are plastic while some are now made from biodegradable materials.
Fertiliser: Once, fertiliser was entirely organic. However, chemicals have now been developed to serve as fertiliser – although many gardeners do prefer organic or peat-free fertiliser. 
Lawn mowers: We used to use shears or scythes..cutting grass was a manual job. But machinery was developed in the 1900s saw the development of the push mower and now of course we have electrically-powered lawnmovers which do make it so much easier to maintain a lawn.
Change of purpose
And while gardens are still full of soil, clay, timber and stone, lots of us have added plastic and stainless steel in the form of furniture and railings, and concrete for hard landscaping.
The actual way we see our gardens has changed too. During WW2, gardens were areas for growing food to supplement rationing, and also an area of refuge for those who’d build their own bomb shelters! But by the early 1950s gardeners had shrugged off this sensibility and shifted their focus towards ornamentation and decoration, placing more emphasis on how things look - so manicured lawns and trimmed shrubs.
The late '50s and early '60s saw the arrival of the garden centre, (the first one to open was in Ferndown, Dorset in 1955) – forever changing the way British gardeners cultivated plants. Widespread availability of plants meant heathers, conifers and bedding plants became popular. 
However, the 1970s' counterculture movement also changed the way we garden, reverting attention back on the idea of self-sufficiency and growing your own. And the advent of colour television saw gardening programmes arrive on our screens and interest in gardening as a hobby took off.
The 1980s saw gardens become places to entertain with conservatories and barbecues and by the 1990s we were all getting in to garden makeovers. Which meant putting in decking as a fast affordable way to make a living space in the garden.
The rise of the internet in the 2000s has changed gardening again. Information about growing and cultivating your own plants is everywhere, via your desktop, tablet computer or mobile phone. The renewed focus on climate change and healthy eating also means more of us
want to create sustainable gardens with minimal harm to the environment, using recycled materials in everything from plant pots to composite decking
However, returning to the point that British homes have ever smaller gardens, we need to think carefully about how we can make the most of the new materials and products available and use them to enhance our lives. If you have only a small backyard, fill it with pot plants and remember you can grow fruit and veg in containers too. Or if you're interior space is limited, it might be worth turning your outside space into living space too. You can do this with good decking, some large outdoor umbrellas to shield you from sun and rain and some weatherproof furniture. 
Environment and ecology, Garden, Gardening, Gardens, Lifestyle, Outdoor space, Wildlife protection, recycling, eco friendly
London's cultural offer to the world at risk from development
By Coco Piras

The reason cited by millions of visitors to London as to what brings them to the capital is its culture - theatres and galleries large and small, music venues, clubs, arts communities and studios and let's not forget the graffiti and other street art. 

But as planning permission is granted for ever more large scale development - usually for 'luxury' apartment blocks and offices - so the arts are squeezed because high rents means there's nowhere to relocate to. (Teacup chandelier maker Madeleine Boulesteix is a case in point: the arts venue in south London where she and many other artists had lived and worked for decades was closed and the site sold to a developer. She's now based in Devon.)

So the London Assembly's Regeneration Committee has produced a report highlighting the threat posed to the capital's still vibrant art scene by developers which urges the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, to take action now. Recommendations include:

·         Developing a bold programme to create and promote sustainable culture in the capital.
·         Ensuring that the new London Plan includes an affordable cultural workspace policy that means there's affordable cultural workspace in every large new planning development.
·         Carrying out research to better understand ‘affordability’ for the cultural and creative sectors. Better quality data on culture in London is essential.
·         Urgently piloting a Creative Enterprise Zone in London, which includes both affordable housing and workspace co-located together.
·         Protecting not just the famous iconic venues in London, but also smaller grassroots venues.
London is home to a staggering 857 galleries, 215 museums, 320 live music venues and 241 theatres and 80 per cent of visitors to London cite ‘culture and heritage’ as the reason for their visit. And don't forget the creative industries account for one in six jobs in London (16.2 per cent), with almost a third of the UK's creative jobs being based in the capital. 
However regeneration programmes, which now cover large areas of London, are putting the capital’s cultural offer at risk. Between 2007 and 2015, the city lost 35 per cent of its grassroots music venues, a decline from 136 venues to just 88. And some 3,500 artists are likely to lose their places of work by 2019.
The Mayor of London has made the promotion of London’s as the best city in the world for culture one of his priorities, and the Regeneration Committee says that means taking action to curb rising property prices which are forcing artists out of their areas.


Culture, Development, Environment and ecology, art
Calling all couch potatoes..get a standing desk!
By Hari Alexander
Here's something that should get you up on your pins - Britons will spend more than 18 years of their adult lifetime sitting down. And sitting down all the time is not good for us, as we all know.
Despite all the gyms and fitness boot camps and home exercise equipment on sale, most of us continue to lead very sedentary lifestyles – spending 51 hours and 44 minutes seated during a typical week, according to recent research. That amounts to more than seven hours a day in their chairs – 4.5  of those hours being at work. The study also found lots of us spend 13.5 hours a week sitting down watching television.
Paul Chamberlain at Solgar UK, which commissioned the research, says inactivity is a real problem with the modern lifestyle: 'Our study of 2000 adults found people exercise only for a fraction of the amount of time they spend sitting down, which can lead to joint and muscle problems. We forget that we weren't built to sit still all the time but designed to move.'
Forty-five per cent of those questioned say they have no idea how much exercise they should do each week, and three quarters say their workplace does nothing to encourage more movement. (The World Health Organisation recommends adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, or 30 minutes on at least five days.) And over half of respondents say they sometimes sit still for so long they get a sore back.
Fifty per cent of respondents say they’re glued to their desk chairs because they’re too busy to move, and while one in ten of respondents say they worry that colleagues will think they’re not working hard enough if they take a standing break.
So good to hear that more than a quarter of respondents say they would welcome a 'standing desk' and this should act as a spur to companies to invest in these pieces of furniture, while we can also use them at home.
Standing desk makers include Ai Box, which offers very inexpensive cardboard standing desks, and Ikea, which has a good range.
Ironically inactivity is one of the major causes of joint pain because sitting for long period places pressure on the spine and joints.
For some people years of inactivity can lead to weight gain, which increases stress on the joints, along with increasing inflammation which again can impact on joint health.
Furniture, Health, Lifestyle, recycling, eco friendly
California: slower shipping speeds help protect the whale
By Bea Grbic
Shipping company Evergreen Line has been recognised for its outstanding work in voluntary environmental and ecological protection.
From July to November it took part in a protection programme focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vessels and avoiding whale collisions by encouraging slow sailing speeds in California’s Santa Barbara Channel region.
Vessels in the programme were required to reduce speeds to 12 knots or less within 95 nautical miles of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. This helps minimize greenhouse gas emissions and so improve air quality in port communities; and during the five-month period the result was a reduction of more than 1,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases and 27 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx), the smog-forming air pollutant.
The July to November period sees an increase in whale population in the Santa Barbara Channel region - these include blue, humpback and fin whales. With thousands of vessels sailing through the Channel each year, ship strikes are a major threat to the endangered whale population. Slowing ship speeds has been proven to reduce the risk of such fatal strikes.
Kristi Birney, marine conservation analyst for the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center, says shipping companies need to be aware that speed can result in fatal strikes: 'Slower moving ships down provide whale conservation -  as well as cleaner air for us to breathe here on the shore.'
Environment and ecology, Wildlife protection
Ideas for decorating your Christmas dining table
By Jo Littlefair of interior designers Goddard Littlefair
Jo Littlefair is a leading designer and she shares her ideas for achieving a beautifully dressed Christmas table. 
'I love to see the outdoors coming indoors at Christmas, via a beautifully-laid table that really reflects the best the season can bring.
'Along with clusters of berries or cones to serve as table decorations, you can find really beautiful seed heads – poppies are particularly good  – which look great arranged over individual linen napkins, loosely tied round with a thick silk ribbon.
'I think a really elegant table should avoid reds and greens and employ subtler autumn colours such as plum or burnt orange. The sparing use of gold will always add some requisite seasonal glitz. Gold leaf, which is less expensive than you might imagine, can be broken up and applied with Gilding Size (a special adhesive) to apples or pears to make great-looking table decorations.
'Candlelight is a must, and a central display of pillar candles of varying heights can’t be beaten, with grosgrain ribbon wrapped generously around the base and tied into artful knots.
'It’s great to make the extra effort too to personalise place settings for your guests, using rubber stamps for each guest’s name or embossed paper to wrap an individual gift. 
'To keep the children and young people happy there has to be an element of fun. Strips of plain brown wrapping paper can be laid across the table in each direction to serve as a cheap-as-chips table runner. Between courses guests could be asked to write down the answers to a quiz or to make their own Christmas joke, with a prize for the best. And why not get more artistic guests to draw a winter animal or bird – foxes and robins, reindeer or owls.'
The pictures above are of the table Jo dressed for an apartment at Southbank Place, a major new development project on London's South Bank.
Christmas, Decoration, upcycling, eco friendly, eco home, art