books · Ecological concern · Ethical living · mental health

I love libraries

Is there an ‘I love books’ gene? When my auntie researched my grandma’s family, she discovered generations of cat-loving bibliophiles. Little Miss, my three-year-old daughter, is the latest in this long line of book-loving feline-fans. Not yet able to read, she often falls asleep with a pile of books on the floor next to her bed and our cat curled up at the other end of her bed. Very cute.

Image by Karen Arnold from Pixabay

I’m avoiding buying new books this year. Instead I am reading books I already have, buying second hand (I’ve added World of Books to my Consume Better list) and borrowing from the library. Inspired by reading suggestions on The Earthbound Report blog (which I recommend you follow as it’s so interesting and informative), I was delighted to discover that I could request to borrow both There is No Planet-B by Mike Berners-Lee and From What Is to What If by Rob Hopkins from the library service. The books are similar in adopting an anti-fatalistic approach to the climate crisis but look at solutions from different angles. Both encouraged me to keep going on my journey of living justly when it’s easy to succumb to either consumerism and individualism on one hand or anxiety and fear on the other. It’s good to have a reminder of the importance of living simply and investing in creativity, play, rest and relationships.

Disappointed that Bird Therapy, a book about bird watching and mental health, wasn’t available from the library service, I submitted a request for them to purchase it. I can’t quite believe that I (me!!!) have the power to effect change but (just a few days later!) the book is now on order for five libraries in the county and I am on the reservation list!

Our Saturday morning library trips are becoming a regular occurrence and we return with a bag full of books and often a DVD for the children too! Renting a film reminds me of standing in front of rows of videos in the local Blockbuster in the 1990s – is anyone else out there still borrowing films?!

Christian · Ethical living

Bake, write, give, play, pray

I like shopping. I like buying new things. I like having stuff. But I know I consume too much and I want to live more simply. But this is not something that comes naturally to me.


So I’ve written a list of five activities for Black Friday (by the way it’s also Buy Nothing Day!) to position myself away from the pull of purchasing and possessing.


1) Bake a cake – did you know that bananas are the UK’s most wasted food? I’ve used our squidgy bananas to make (hopefully!) delicious banana bread. Creativity – even if it’s a simple cake – is a fantastic antidote to consumerism. 


2) Write a letter – I’m going to write a letter (with a pen not a keyboard!) to a friend to thank her for her decades of friendship.


3) Give – I’ve found some books to share with the Community Book Swap and will take some clothes to a local charity shop.

4) Play – Small Boy and Little Miss are full of creativity, imagination and enthusiasm. They don’t seem to want or need that many toys for their games of ‘pretend’. I’m going to enter their worlds joyfully and with a grateful heart. 


5) Pray – I will spend some time praying for my family, my local community and the work of Tearfund

Ethical living · Social justice

Black Friday

Today is Black Friday. I really like this article from Positive News listing alternative activities to shopping. I’ve added some of my thoughts…

Revamp your wardrobe

My new hobby of buying items in charity shops is fun and addictive! I’ve not spent a great deal of money and have purchased some gorgeous items – some of which are not quite my usual style. I’m wondering how long I can go before I actually need to buy a new item of clothing!

I’d encourage you to get to know your local charity shops. Declutter your wardrobe and search for your own bargains!

Read a book in peace

Read. Read on your own. Read to a child. Visit your local library. Buy a second-hand book from your local charity shop or from Better World Books. Buy someone else a pre-loved book. Give away one of your own books. Buy a book for a child in care this Christmas through The Book Trust. Read.

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Get outside

Go for a walk where you live. Look up. Look around. Go down a street you’ve not been along before. What do you see? Who do you see? Where’s the life?

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Support ethical businesses

Consume better (a list I’m compiling of how and where to do this). Make one change the next time you do your supermarket shop.

Buy second-hand 

Clothes, books, toys, a bike, a trailer tent and a bread machine – all items Family Pilgrim have purchased second-hand this year.

(And we’ve borrowed toys, clothes, books, tools and cloth nappies)

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Give items away to people in need. Be patient when you want something. Try and find it second-hand.

Buy gifts for refugees in need 

If you can’t get to the pop-up shop mentioned in the Positive News article, then donate to your local charity helping people seeking sanctuary.

Volunteer

Give your time willingly with no strings attached.

Support independent designers and artists 

Appreciate creativity. Be generous.

Buy Nothing

Give something away. Find out about Buy Nothing Day.

Support companies that are doing their bit. 

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From 1 Million Women

Have a look at Traidcraft’s thoughts on Black Friday (including some scary stats on how much money is spent over this weekend and how many people around the world celebrate Black Friday).

Enjoy today and this weekend: be generous, be kind, be loving, be creative, be you. 

mental health

Little Miss Busy

Every day, week or month seems to be associated with a cause: this week we’ve had World Homeless Day, World Mental Health Day and International Day of the Girl. Three issues I care deeply about and would have liked to have written about here. I just haven’t had time.

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We gave our Little Miss the complete set of Little Miss books for her first birthday last month (a charity shop purchase from earlier this year) and I discovered a kindred spirit in Little Miss Busy. Little Miss Busy is only happy when she is occupied on some task and finds it very difficult to rest!

Last month in The times are a-changing, I wrote about the challenge of managing my time and responsibilities wisely. This hasn’t been easy and I’m still struggling to find a sustainable and sensible solution.

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As well as tracking my spending for October, I am trying to be accountable with my diary. What am I saying yes to? Is it because I want to be needed or am I genuinely required? Am I saying yes because I am scared of letting people down and I don’t want people to think badly of me? How can I prioritise the people who mean the most to me and often seem to get the worst of me?

I’ve been reading Consumer Detox (purchased for 50p from a charity shop!) which underlines the importance of relationship, rest and rhythm. I’m a long way from where I’d like to be.

I downloaded the Headspace app last night to help learn to meditate and to be mindful. It’s only ten minutes a day but it’s a start!

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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]


Postscript

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.

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So maybe I’ll do that.