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.

One thought on “Handbags out of Fire Hoses

  1. And sometimes all God wants us to do is simply to be….
    To be who he made us….
    To be before him and only him…..
    To be still in the presence of the Lord …..warts and all so to speak!😇

    Liked by 1 person

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