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Be green and mean
Plan to use, where possible, recycled and salvaged building materials. See www.salvo.co.uk, www.wantsandoffers.com, www.freecycle.org or do some skip hunting.
Avoid materials that ‘off-gas’
Standard building and renovation materials such as MDF, carpeting, adhesives, paints and particleboard release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Your freshly painted ‘new home smell’ is the mark of off-gassing chemicals; and now homes are less drafty these chemical nasties hang around even longer. MDF deserves a special mention as the devil’s own work, containing urea formaldehyde that continually ‘off-gasses’, together with highly hazardous fibrous dust.
Recycled plastic lumber may sound horrible but it has come a long way since taking pride of place in Ye Olde English Pub as oh-so-real ‘oak beams’. It can make an attractive low maintenance alternative to cutting down more precious trees.
Only use sourced wood supplies. The Forestry Stewardship Council has a database of companies selling wood from well-managed forests. See www.fsc-uk.org
Buy salvaged and reclaimed wood. See www.demolitions.co.uk
Install water-efficient toilets and showers, such as ‘low flow’ units, to reduce water usage. With hosepipe bans and rising water costs, rainwater collection systems should be all the rage – fit yours now. See www.rainharvesting.co.uk
Forget about carpets and vinyl floor tiles. Invest in cork, bamboo and recycled glass floors to make a big difference to your footprint (metaphorically speaking). Don’t think Cathy Come Home but trendy eco alternative when you next see real linoleum. Durable, easy to recycle and low maintenance, it now comes in some great designs. See www.forboflooring.co.uk
Most standard paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that off-gas at room temperature. There are up to 300 carcinogens and 150 mutagens in a can. Non-toxic paints allow the material underneath, such as plaster and wood, to breathe and absorb moisture, as does unsealed timber.
When buying from your local store, check the paint’s VOC rating on the tin to ensure it has no, minimal or low VOC content. But beware: VOC-free may not mean free from formaldehyde, acetone or ammonia.
Insulation is the key to any ecologically-sound home, especially in the UK. Heat loss through walls and roofs can account for as much as 80 per cent of heating costs. However, it can take more energy to manufacture insulation than you will ever save.
Standard polystyrene insulation contains chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs/HCFCs) that are destructive to the ozone layer, while mineral and glass fibre insulation may be carcinogenic. Instead, invest in composite insulation made from recycled newspapers or wool. Wool, especially, has many benefits. As well as reducing condensation, it’s sound absorbent, insect resistant and absorbs toxins such as nitrogen oxide. See www.secondnatureuk.com
Try Termex for carbon-neutral insulation for your walls. It is made from waste newsprint and uses only one tenth of the energy used to make polyurethene and polystyrene-based insulation materials.
Warmcel DIY roof insulation made from newsprint is cheap and easy to fit. I can only think of one better way to use the Sun and Daily Mail while closing the recycling loop.
Avoid PVC window frames.
PVC is high in toxins and dioxins, such as lead, cadmium and phthalates (linked to DNA damage). Find recycled wood window frames or Forest Stewardship approved durable hardwood such as sweet chestnut.
Choose ‘Low e’ (low emission) glass for windows. It has an invisible coating to reflect heat back into the room. Placing a shelf above radiators or backing with kitchen foil has a similar effect.
Plant trees towards the west and south of your home to keep the temperature down in summer and shrubs on the north side to combat the cold winter wind.
Don’t use particleboard (aka chipboard)
Particleboard, used in cheap furniture, fittings and even flooring, uses a formaldehyde binding. In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency has classified formaldehyde as a ‘probable human carcinogen’, meaning it can cause cancer in animals and possibly humans too. Formaldehyde chipboard and MDF are now available but only for large volume orders. Try wheatboard or sunflower board instead.
The police spend little of their time making arrests, and most crimes are not solved, writes Alex Vitale – their real purpose is social control
Many important things happened on conference floor, reports Alex Nunns – but you wouldn’t know it from reading the newspapers
Radhika Desai says Capital by Karl Marx is still an essential read on the 150th anniversary of its publication
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain.’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition.
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes
Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference
Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it