You may have read my New Year post last year where I stated my aims to go reduce my waste and have toxic free home. As most of you may find, some resolutions work better than others.
Going completely zero waste was not my aim, but putting waste foremost in your mind can really help to change your habits. I will be honest, at times it wasn't easy. Sometimes I forgot my own produce bags or reusable cup and often I just couldn't get what I needed without all the pointless packaging. It’s not easy on a very limited budget too so I had done what I can. However, it has made a real difference and I’m really happy about that.
When I first went to the supermarkets with my reusable produce bags proudly in hand, I was genuinely surprised (and disappointed) at how little fruit and veg was available without all the plastic. Not only that, but the unpackaged produce was more expensive. This has to change to encourage people to make the switch, so I welcome the government’s plans to make the retailers rethink packaging. However, although things are changing (mainly due consumer pressure) any legislation will likely be a while in coming so we could all do with rethinking our shopping.
Frustration at the lack of unpackaged produce led me to my local green grocers. Again, this has been a slightly more expensive option, but it does mean I am supporting local small business and helping to keep our high street alive as well. They now know me well in there as I always untie their plastic bags of fruit to put into my own reusable bags. In fact, this has spurred them on to remove all their plastic bags from inside their shop, which shows that even my small actions have had an effect.
I have noticed from becoming more aware of my waste that there is a lot more you can recycle than you think. Always check on the back of any plastic packaging as it should tell you. Some plastic packaging can be recycled along with shopping bags at larger supermarkets. Try to avoid black plastic though (these are often food trays) as these cannot be recycled at all.
I also did a waste bin audit which helped me find areas I could improve on. This involved tipping out my rubbish bin on the lawn and rifling through it (washing up gloves are advised!) Luckily, as I compost all food waste, my bin only contains dry rubbish - which also means I don't use a bin bag either. This exercise made my snacking more apparent, as was my use of microwave rice, both of which I have reduced to bring my waste down further. Becoming fully vegan also had to added benefit of adding more whole food items in my diet which have no or less packaging.
I spent some time unsubscribing from unwanted catalogues, phonebooks and direct mail campaigns (junk mail) and switching to paperless billing. There are several ways you can stop receiving unsolicited post, but I have to say this has not be successful. Even sticking a sign on my front door has not stopped the deluge of charity bags, flyers and menus from coming through the letterbox.
Reducing consumption of ‘stuff’ in general and buying second-hand has a real impact not just on waste produced but on saving the earth’s dwindling resources. Not to mention the money it saves. I am even looking at getting parts to fix my old hoover myself rather than getting a new one. I have invested in a some new, reusable products such as a silicone mat to replace tin foil, washable cloth sandwich bags & make-up pads and kishu charcoal stick instead of water filter cartridges. I have put together a useful list of swaps and changes here and there are lots of ideas on my Pinterest board here.
Overall, my efforts have meant that I have gone from putting out my household waste bin every month (there is only two of us, admittedly) to only twice this year and my recycling has gone from every fortnight to once a month or every six weeks. I aim to reduce this down further next year by purchasing some goods from a bulk buy merchant and by making more of my own food, including bread!
My aim to make my own cleaning products however, was not such a success story. I found that the recipes I tried for various things, including bathroom & toilet cleaners, shower gel and hand wash did not work at all well. I guess that If I had more time I could try out different recipes and would find ones that do work well. I ended up using more of the product with worse results and it took a longer to research, make them and clean with than I had thought. Maybe this is something I will come back to now I have all the staple ingredients, but in the meantime I shall use non-toxic brands such as Ecover and Method instead.
Going forward into the New Year I plan to grow some of our own food and make my own bread but mostly to build on what I have done so far and further reduce our overall consumption of goods. From what friends and family have told me I have already influenced some of them to adopt new habits so hopefully you can too and help bring about a less wasteful 2019! Let me know what your plans are to reduce your waste too.
Happy New Year to you all x
#zerowaste #newyear #pointlessplastic
Since I have started blogging and setting up the brand various people have asked me where is best place to shop for clothes? They are not asking about expensive ethical and eco brands but the shops that we can all find on the British high street. I always add to these conversations that it's better to buy second-hand or save up for an investment ethical piece than shop on the high street, but I do know that sometimes that's not possible. So, I have spent a long time researching and compiling a database to be able to provide the answer to this question for them and you; my lovely readers.
There are various consumer information sites that provide ethical and sustainability ratings on fashion brands. These include Ethical Consumer Magazine, the Good Shopping Guide and Rankabrand (who I have mentioned in a previous blog). They investigate brands and give them a score for different categories from how transparent they are through to whether they use renewable energy. The Ethical Consumer Magazine appears to be more well-established, with years of research behind them and seems more thorough in their critical appraisals. Rankabrand is mainly focused on German and Dutch brands but does feature some of the larger British companies. However, they all suggest quite different brands as being the best and all have a slightly focus.
These can be useful to look at simply to find out more information about your favourite brands but they all seem to have certain bizarre anomalies. I suspect this come from different ways of measuring and applying data but these anomalies make me feel slightly unsure about them. For instance the Good Shopping Guide rates River Island at 73, which is the same rating they give to Patagonia (one of the most environmentally conscious brands there are) and rates Fat Face even higher at 81, which from my research over the years I cannot agree with. There are also many reports by groups such as the Clean Clothes Campaign, Fashion Revolution and Greenpeace investigating whether brands actually live up to their commitments. These help to build a bigger picture to inform my decisions.
I used the comparison sites to help me create my own methodology with which to judge them by. I used many different markers to establish ranking, including being signatories to the Bangladesh Fire & Safety Accord, pledging to ZDHC (zero discharge of hazardous chemicals) and 'take back' schemes such as M&S's shwopping. There are far too many separate factors and areas I looked at to mention in full here, so I will simply give an overall summary on my findings. In this comparison I have focused solely on British fashion retailers and not included supermarkets. This amounted to 15 different brands, including 3 department stores, and one online-only retailer. For the sake of drama and suspense I shall count down from number 5!
No. 5 - Debenhams (Rating of 17.5)
Please note that Debenhams sells other brands alongside it's own. This scoring of them refers to the company itself and it's own products and practices. Debenhams uses 100% renewable energy to power it's stores[i] and are joint founders of Fast Forward auditing (see below). They also partner with the Salvation Army[ii] to divert waste from landfill. By collecting and donating unwanted clothing, textiles and shoes they also help raise funds for those in need. Debenhams also scored highly in the Good Shopping Guide.
No. 4 - Arcadia Group (Rating of 20.5)
In fourth place this large retail group includes Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins and others. Topshop have a strong animal welfare policy and got shortlisted in 2008 for the RSPCA good business awards[iii] and worked with PETA to campaign against the use of exotic animal skins[iv]. They have also sold limited edition collections of garments made from upcycled fabrics[v]. However, having a 'fast fashion' business model works against them, which is why the Good on You site gives them a rating of 3 out of 5 saying 'it's a start'[vi].
No. 3 - New Look (Rating of 22)
Even with cheap price points , New Look is still managing to score highly on ethics. (I wonder if this may be my anomaly, as low prices don't lend themselves to fair wages) They publish a list of their factories and rank midway in the Fashion Transparency Index[vii]. As they have stated recently that they are going to slash prices further[viii], I am not sure how they will maintain this. They also have a good animal welfare policy[ix].
No. 2 - ASOS (Rating of 29)
Second place goes to this online only site which is not strictly a high street brand, but it deserves a place in our list. Many of their garments are made in the UK and most of them at the ethically audited factory where our launch collection will be made. In fact they helped to set up, along with Debenhams, a stricter audit system called Fast Forward[x] whose need became arose from the Leicester sweatshop problems noted in the press a few years ago. Not only do they have their own eco edit[xi] they also sell second hand garments[xii] through the site too, thereby encouraging circularity. The sheer volume of their production however, does categorise them as a 'fast fashion' brand which does lower their score.
Drumroll please....and the winner is.....
No. 1 - Marks & Spencers (Rating of 32)
M&S's commitment to sustainability is evident in Plan A[xiii] which has been underway since 2007, years before many others started using the word 'sustainability'. They tick nearly every box for ethical and environmental commitment including having their own sustainable cotton ranges which use BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) cotton ensuring various ethical and environmental guarantees. They are also certified as carbon neutral and have even become a green energy provider[xiv] as well as giving away money to fund renewable energy projects[xv]. Ethical consumer magazine also put M&S in their top 5 ethical high street shops[xvi] and the Fashion Transparency Index rated them at 51%, the highest being 58%. These top two brands are head and shoulders above the rest and will hopefully convince others to follow their lead.
There were 5 brands that came in the middle of the rankings whose scores were less than half of those at the top. Although they are doing some things right, they could do a lot more in my opinion. These were Next, John Lewis, Monsoon, White Stuff and Oasis.
And the losers?
The bottom five brands in my research in consecutive order were Fat Face, River Island and Matalan with French Connection and Peacocks coming joint last place. Come on guys, you can do better than this!
If you do need to buy from the high street always remember that as consumers we can change things for the better with what we buy. Go for the brands 'eco' ranges and do ask questions. Do the garment workers get a fair wage? Does it really need plastic packaging? I hope this helps you to be more informed and conscious shoppers and to help those British brands that deserve our patronage.
And lastly, what do you think? Do you agree with my rankings? Are there any surprises there? I would love to hear your thoughts x
#ethicalfashion #sustainablefashion #britishhighstreet
Christmas is a time of giving, which mostly means mass consumption and masses of waste. It’s also a time of charity and thinking of others so why not think of the planet this year? You can save money, waste and the planet all at the same time with some of our handy tips.
CARDS & GIFTWRAP
“The amount of wrapping paper used for presents is enough to wrap around the equator 9 times”[i]
Try to avoid shiny or glittery wrapping paper as this is not recyclable and the glitter contributes to micro plastic pollution. Sustainable alternatives are recycled gift wrap, or re-usable options like wrag wrap or make your own out of scrap fabrics instead.
1 billion cards ended up in the bin in 2016 rather than being recycled.[ii] Why not consider E-cards this year which saves a lot of time and effort and could include a charitable donation? Or otherwise look for charity cards on recycled stock or labelled with the FSC mark. After the festive season remember to recycle them at Sainsbury’s for the Woodland Trust or cut them up to make gift tags for next year.
Why not try making your own decorations? Foraging for holly, pine cones and evergreen leaves is free and if you combine them with candles, oven-dried fruit slices and a little creativity it’s amazing what you can come up with. Check out some ideas here.
Reusable crackers can be bought online, but you could also make these yourself with some cardboard tubes, fancy paper and ribbons. Fill them with your own jokes and a few treat and they will be a real surprise on the Christmas table.
There are various alternative to the disposable advent calendar. You could invest in a beautiful drawer calendar which you fill with treats every year. (This would even work for more than one child) Or make your own calendar with numbered socks or envelopes with fun family activities for each day instead of chocolate. Another ethical alternative is a reverse advent calendar, whereby you put a small gift of food or toiletries into a box which is then donated to a charity or foodbank.
“6 million or 250 tonnes of Christmas trees are discarded every year”[iii]
A potted Christmas tree can be reused again and again. But if that’s too expensive then why not do what the Scandinavians do and find some nice branches to put in a pot and decorate instead? If you have a cut tree then you can take to your local waste site for it to be composted. If you can’t get to a site then chop it up and put it in your garden waste bin for collection.
And don’t forget the lights… “Approximately 500 tonnes of old Christmas tree lights are thrown away each year, yet many people do not realise that they can be recycled”[iv]
Rather than more 'stuff' consider experiences instead like; theatre tickets, cinema passes and spa vouchers. Or, if you are short of money why not offer your time or skills instead? An offer of a tasty home-cooked dinner or a promise to walk the dog for a month would be appreciated by many family members.
A secret Santa arrangement might work for your family, choosing one person to buy for rather than lots of stuff for lots of people! This can save on money, time and waste too. Make sure to look out for items that have minimal or recyclable packaging. Lush do some great gift sets.
If you want to give something back then there are lots of great sites like Good Gifts and Oxfam unwrapped where you can buy a goat for someone in Afghanistan for instance.
Buying second hand items at charity shops also means giving back and creating less waste at the same time. We have adopted the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod where we gift second-hand books to the family which are traditionally read in bed on Christmas Eve with some chocolate.
If you have the time then everybody loves a hand-made gift. Yummy baked goods always go down a treat and the kids can get involved too. Find some inspiring ideas here.
“Within three months, 41 per cent of the toys children receive will be broken. Most will go to the tip.”[v]
There are many ethical and green gift options around these days so you don't have to opt for the mountains of plastic on the high street, I have put together a Pinterest board of some of the best gifts for kids here.
FOOD & DRINK
Try not to use disposable items such as straws, plastic cups and paper napkins. If you are having a party why not invest in some special cloth napkins or make your own from old shirts? Guests could be asked to bring their own glasses or you can borrow them for free them most supermarkets.
“Recycling all glass instead of disposing it to landfill would save the CO2 equivalent of taking 1,300 cars off the road for a year.”[vi]
Avoid food & drinks in plastic bottles or pots and choose easier to recycle materials such as glass or tins instead. Produce from local greengrocers, farmers markets, veg box schemes or butchers will help to avoid all that excess packaging.
Making your own mince pies, xmas cake & pudding also avoid packaging and will always taste so much better or even make great gifts. Remember to use silicone baking sheets and eco wraps for cooking & left overs rather than tin foil and cling film.
“Over 2 million turkeys, 74 million mince pies and 17.2 million Brussel sprouts are thrown away every Christmas”[vii]
We all over-indulge at Christmas so freeze left-overs and re-use turkey for sandwiches and curries that will see you right through until the New Year.
Lastly, try to buy only what you need and not get seduced by all the offers and marketing in the shops. This is easier said than done, I know, but having a list of what you need often helps. Find more zero waste ideas on my Pinterest board here. Let me know if you have any other ideas x
Happy New You!
How to have a green Halloween
How to have a Green Easter
#zerowaste #ethicalchristmas #greenchristmas
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