Last week, Seville hosted its first-ever eco-show - Eco Sevilla. It took place at Fibes, the Conference and Exhibition Centre (new wing opening imminently), from Friday to Sunday. Over 80 stands brought a variety of organic and environmentally-friendly products and services to an interested public. The food included all the typical Spanish products you'd expect: jamon, wine, bread and cheese, including an award-winning goat's cheese maker I saw at The flavour of Andalucia, and one whose products I'd been meaning to try ever since seeing them at the regional food show last month. Except, of course, they were all certified organic. In addition to these, there were medicinal herbs from Jaen, and various intriguing tea blends, all with magical-sounding healing properties - against seasonal ills such as sinusitis and bronchitis, hard to imagine a few weeks ago but now that we're in the grip of autumn, highly possible.
Of course when you're talking about "eco", it's not just food grown naturally, without chemicals or pesticides, but also sustainable energy - no emissions, no consumption. We saw bio-heaters, which use wood pellets, an excellent option for those of you who live here in Spain. Yes, shocked northern Europeans and Americans, we in Spain need heating too. Once the cool, damp weather arrives (ie now), one of the commonest complaints I hear from fellow expats is how badly Spanish houses cope with this type of weather. "However much I heat my house, it never feels properly warm and dry," my friends say. Which is especially worrying when you have small children, and more so, babies. That's where these heaters are so excellent (especially if your house is as small as mine) - they pump out heat without consuming any electricity, and the fuel they use is all waste product, so you can't get much greener than that. We also saw thermo-dynamic water-heaters with smaller panels than your average solar heater, and with one model which doesn't even need an exterior panel - ideal for flats with no roof access - it just absorbs heat from the air and condenses it to heat the water (like a fridge backwards, as the man explained to me, rather cryptically). The system, called Thermboil, also works 24 hours a day, whatever the weather - whether or not the sun is shining. The only catch is, you still need electricity (20% of your normal consumption), to turn the atmospheric heat into hot water; however, you can get a subsidy to cover over 25% of the heater's initial cost. Price is always a sticking point when you're going green: the electric bicycles at the show cost 2,500 euros - a high price for an eco-conscience without enough muscle power. All in all, it was an educational experience, and fun for the kids too, with lots of fun activities where they could get their hands dirty and be creative.