Ethical living

Wrapping paper, toilet roll and Rocks

Consuming better is definitely easier than consuming less.

This week’s top new buys are:

A collection of old maps (20p each from a charity shop) which I’m intending to use instead of wrapping paper along with biodegradable string rather than sellotape.


WragWrap This is another – more expensive – wrapping paper substitute but one I hope to use for a long time and that will become a family tradition.


Who Gives a Crap toilet roll: it’s 100% recycled, has no plastic packaging and they give half of their profits to Water Aid. As they say on their website:

More people in the world have a mobile phone than access to a toilet. Think about that next time you’re texting on the loo.  


I’ve ordered 48 so Small Boy and Little Miss are currently having a lot of fun building towers (Small Boy) and knocking them over (Little Miss). Little Miss is enjoying putting the rolls back into the big box.


We may have problems when Small Boy starts phonics at school!

One of my vices is blackcurrant squash. I’ve started buying Rocks which comes in a glass bottle and Squash’d which is super concentrated (therefore less plastic) as part of our zero waste journey.


I’m certainly enjoying consuming better: consuming less isn’t as fun or interesting. One area in which I have succeeded is reducing my use of shampoo and conditioner. Having washed my hair daily for years, I have now cut down to every other day thereby halving my use of hair products.

I’m already thinking about Christmas and how to celebrate in ways which are in line with seeking to live justly. It’s certainly going to be a challenge.

Ethical living · Social justice

Handbags out of Fire Hoses

Consume better and consume less was one of my ‘takeaways’ from the Sustainability in a Consumer Age event on 18 September organised by Tearfund and LICC.

The event featured Ruth Valerio, author of Just Living, as well as:

  • Bill Skeates, Senior Compliance and Supply Chain Manager at Sky
  • Yolanda Ibbett, Director and Co-Owner of The Bedfordia Group
  • Andy Street, Director of Waste & Resource Management at SLR Consulting Limited and Chair for FareShare South West
  • Kresse Wesling, Environmental Entrepreneur and co-founder of Elvis & Kresse, a fashion brand which turns industrial waste into innovative lifestyle products

I was impressed and encouraged by the sustainability work that is going on in mainstream businesses, such as Sky, amazed at how food waste can be used to power homes, and excited by the fierce passion, creativity and values of Kresse Wesling and her handbags made out of London Fire Brigade’s unusable hoses. Maybe one day I’ll get one!


They’re very expensive but they are truly a bag for life as Kresse offers free repairs. Would that be a better option that buying a new handbag every couple of years?

I picked up a report from Tearfund: Virtuous Circle – How the circular economy can create jobs and save lives in low and middle-income countries and am going to read Closing the Loop, Tearfund’s research report on the benefits of the circular economy for low and middle-income countries. I’m intrigued by the circular economy concept and can’t wait to find out more.

Ruth Valerio spoke about how we are the first group of people to be called ‘consumers’ – and this is particularly relevant for those born in the 1980s and later. We are trained by society to be consumers. We consume. How often do we produce, create and repair? Do we buy what we need or what we want? Is our identity in the labels we wear and the brands we own?


As I left the LICC building and walked down Oxford Street: ‘Buy, shop, consume!’ shouted at me from every shop window.

Material items are not intrinsically negative: we need food and clothes. Yet, even though we benefit in many ways from the culture of consumerism, it is hurting our world: I am damaged, my relationships are damaged and the natural world is damaged.

More and more I recognise I am a consumer and how I turn to consumption when I experience negative emotions. Yet, ‘consumer’ is not my primary identity. Neither is ‘zero waster’, ‘meat reductionist’ or ‘ethical shopper’: my identity comes from my relationship with God and all that I do flows from that.

But how easy it is to forget that.

So what am I going to do next?

  • I’ve just started an ecology course with the OU through Future Learn. It’s completely not what I am good at but I’m enjoying it and I’ve resolved to keep studying. 
  • Read the Tearfund reports on the circular economy

Ecology and economics! [insert scared face emoji]


So then Mr Pilgrim read this post and said he was worried about my focus on doing and achieving. He reminded me my identity is not in my achievements and activities. Sometimes all we have to do is rest.


So maybe I’ll do that.

Charity sector · Ethical living · Social justice

The Millennium Falcon and an Armani dress

A Lego Millennium Falcon, a red Armani dress and a family organiser are all items I’ve bought recently in charity shops.


Charity shops are a British thing; the first modern-style charity shop was set up by Oxfam in 1948 to raise money for the organisation’s relief work in post-war Greece and is still trading at 17 Broad Street, Oxford (in fact, I’ve been there!). Charity shops in the UK raise £270m each year for charitable causes: my recent purchases have funded:

  • palliative care
  • support for people who are homeless
  • services for people with a learning disability
  • emergency and development work for some of the world’s poorest communities
  • animal welfare
  • support for pregnancy-related challenges, including post-natal depression.

I sought advice from the Journey to Zero Waste UK Facebook group about how to buy clothes in charity shops. The hive’s tips included:

  • shop without Small Boy and Little Miss – ha!
  • go frequently
  • check the material labels
  • try on
  • choose a base colour and then look for items in that colour or that co-ordinate well

I also asked my mum, who is always picking up great items, for her charity shop tips. She asks herself the following questions:

  • Does it appeal to me?
  • Is it a good fit?
  • Is it a good name?
  • Do I need it?
  • Is it under £10? (I have set myself a limit of £5 for clothes)

I’ve had some successes: 

  • An apron for Little Miss (which both Small Boy and I thought would be good for when she is a little bit bigger and able to join in with our baking).
  • Tops from Phrase Eight and John Lewis, and some dresses from Next for work.
  • A kite – every family needs a kite!
  • A Lego Millennium Falcon and Lego race car (Small Boy is getting into Lego and had previously said he wanted a spaceship).
  • Little Red Train books which were on my wishlist for Small Boy.
  • There have been several times when I’ve chosen not to buy something and I’ve not regretted this.

I’ve purchased some new items (bought in goods sold for profit), such as birthday cards and a 2018 family organiser – items I would have bought anyway.


And some mistakes:

  • A wool cardigan that is too itchy to wear.
  • A £3.25 Armani dress which is too small but I’m optimistically keeping it.
  • A race car – Small Boy said he wanted it and I said yes in a moment of weakness and stress but in reality it’s just a large piece of ugly plastic junk.

What have I learnt?

  • It’s so much easier when I can go on my own. It also means I can buy items for Small Boy which can be given as bribes presents.
  • It’s really hard not being a consumer. I like buying and having new things!
  • If I don’t have time to try something on, then stick with sizes and brands that I know.
  • Most shops take cards (and some even do contactless) but there are still one or two which only take cash.
  • Shopping in charity shops is a lot of fun!

Further reading – Caroline Jones wore a different pre-loved outfit (all from Cancer Research shops) for an entire year proving you can be frugal and fashionable.

Ethical living · mental health

The times are a-changing

I once heard someone say that the only people who like change are wet babies but I’m not sure this is true. Little Miss certainly doesn’t enjoy having her nappy changed. She wriggles, rolls over and speedily crawls away.

I have a similar approach to change. I like it but only when I am in control. When I’m not, then I too, twist and turn and try to make my escape!

I’m using reusable nappies more and more now. I tried the ones my friend gave me and grew in confidence. I then discovered my local council (Hertfordshire) run a scheme where they give parents FREE reusable nappies – I love our Totsbots ‘bumbrella’ nappy.


I was shocked to discover that 4% of UK landfill is nappies and so I’m keen to reduce our use of disposables, and the ones we do have are Naty – an ‘eco nappy’. We’re also using Naty wipes and biodegradable nappy bags.

I much prefer Cheeky Wipes reusable wipes which are not only kinder to our beautiful world but they are more efficient!

September is a month of change for Family Pilgrim as new routines, relationships and responsibilities begin. For all four of us, there will be change to our days. My year of maternity leave ends and I am returning to my paid employment with a mixture of emotions: excitement, apprehension, guilt and sadness. Small Boy starts nursery at our local primary school and both Small Boy and Little Miss will be looked after by a childminder for some of the week.

I hope I am returning to work with increased skills, wisdom and maturity and I am confident that Small Boy and Little Miss will thrive in their childcare settings but I know there are going to be challenges along the way for all of us. For me, I need to manage my different responsibilities and time wisely.

I found this image on the Mind and Soul Facebook page this week with the heading ‘Getting ready to go back to school? What are your best MH (mental health) tips for the new term?‘ It’s good advice for us as a family as we navigate the newness of the month – rest, exercise, good food and fun activities will help us adjust well.

From Mind and Soul Facebook Page

One of the things I have discovered in the past 12 months is the power of small changes. Last September started with one big change as Little Miss joined Family Pilgrim but as we have sought to live more justly, we have made many small changes, including:

The small changes I have made give me hope and confidence that I can continue to adapt and grow. Things don’t have to be the same!

So – because I like lists and actions – here are three mini challenges for the autumn:

  1. Hit the pause button regularly throughout the day – stop, listen, look, breathe and pray
  2. Create not consume when feeling sad or stressed
  3. Love: the apostle Paul wrote: ‘If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.’ If I buy fair trade, avoid single-use plastics, lobby my MP, eat organic meat but do not have love, I gain nothing.

And what is love? Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.