Sat, Nov 04, 2006 - Page 9 News List

Do your bit for the climate and avoid these `ungreen' products

By Tim Dowling and Ed Pilkington  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

We may be at a green tipping point -- but not everyone's got the memo yet. Ten British and five American products are so ungreen that they make you see red.

Air Wick diffuse

Air "freshener" is a stupid idea in the first place, and this one, called "Baby after Bath," smells like a box of perfumed diaper sacks. Frankly, if you don't have a baby, it would be weird for you to want your house to smell as if you do. But let's not worry about the perfume, even though (according to the label) it "may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment." The novel thing about this air freshener is that it plugs into a socket, so you can drain electricity while filling the air with chemicals.

One refill (please dispose of "according to local regulation") is said to last 80 days when you have it on 15 hours a day.

Fairtrade one-cup coffee filters

This coffee may "guarantee farmers in developing countries fair terms," but the design means you throw out a plastic filter for every single cup you make, plus two lids per box. If you don't have a more efficient way to make coffee than this, get one.

Garden furniture wipes

The whole wipes industry is based on the idea that there is a separate disposable cloth for every chore: They make hand wipes, face wipes, tooth wipes, wood wipes, makeup remover wipes, dog wipes, window wipes and houseplant leaf wipes -- each impregnated with some mystery compound that makes them very suitable for certain wiping.

If I seem to have singled out garden furniture wipes as exceedingly unnecessary, it's because I have never wiped my garden furniture with anything. If I thought it worthy of any sort of care, I wouldn't have put it in the garden.

The Village Press extra virgin olive oil

I've no doubt that it complements "the strong flavors of vine ripened tomatoes, rubbed garlic and fresh torn basil," as it says on the bottle. My only problem with this oil is where it comes to the UK from: New Zealand. That's much too far away, and at £5.99 (US$11.50) for half a liter my contribution to its air fare amounts to collusion.

In New Zealand a local oil makes sense, but we already have the finest olive oil imaginable available much closer to home. Why bother?

I know you could make the same argument for wine, but this is a fresh crime, and there is no material advantage to shipping olive oil halfway round the world that I can see.

I suppose one might argue that the reversal of the seasons in the southern hemisphere makes it possible to get freshly pressed oil at the wrong time of year, to which I would say -- don't even start. Is there a more needlessly extravagant way to supply people with olive oil?

Health Aid olive oil capsules

Yes, it seems there is: olive oil supplied in gelatin capsules, as if it were some kind of medicine. This bottle cost me £5.99, the same as the bottle above, and it contains 90 500mg capsules of extra virgin olive oil, on the pretext that "the people of the Mediterranean have a diet rich in olive oil, which may contribute to their all-round health." Here's some math I can do -- that's 45g of oil per bottle. At room temperature, olive oil has a specific density of 918g per liter, which means HealthAid is selling olive oil for more than £122 a liter, while engaging in a manufacturing process that has no meaning.

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