books · Ethical living · Social justice

Amazon-free for one whole year!

My last purchase from Amazon was 10 April 2017 (a secondhand copy of BoCo the Diesel for Small Boy). I decided to go Amazon-free because they don’t pay a fair rate of tax and because of the way they treat their employees. Read more about the Amazon boycott on the Ethical Consumer website as well as this article from last year by an undercover journalist.

Timed toilet breaks, impossible targets and exhausting, “intolerable” working conditions are frequent complaints. Staff have been paid less than the living wage, and it even emerged drivers had faced fines for ‘early’ deliveries.’

In the last year, I’ve discovered a shelfload of Amazon alternatives – some of which I’ve mentioned before:

Better World Books – this is my first port of call – books are cheap and secondhand. Better World Books donate to literacy projects and I can offset the carbon associated with the postage.

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Photo by Eli Francis on Unsplash

But they don’t always have the book I’m looking for so then I turn to:

Hive which is also good for DVDs and CDs and they support local independent bookshops. I choose to support the Hellenic Bookshop in north London – my name is Dido after all! I also use Wordery and Eden.

On one occasion, I asked my mum to order an obscure book Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling and Community from the independent bookshop in my hometown as it wasn’t available online. This took a while to arrive – they needed to print it! – but it was worth it.

I’ve discovered I can search online for books stored in libraries across the county, request them (this costs 70p for adults but is free for children) and then collect from our local library. I may have to wait a while for popular books but that’s no bad thing.

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Amazon is not just books, CDs and DVDs. My mum asked me to buy some antimacassars for a relative. After Googling antimacassars to first establish what I needed to purchase(!), I tried to find a place to buy them that wasn’t Amazon. Eventually, I found a firm in Wales and ordered directly from there. If you ever need to order arm chair covers online, I can recommend Aidan Sweeney!

Being Amazon-free does involve some investigative skills!

I don’t think my boycott of Amazon has made much difference to them but I think it does make a difference to the library, to Better World Books and to Aidan Sweeney!


If you do choose to use Amazon, have you looked at Amazon Smile – a great way of supporting charities through your shopping?

Ecological concern · Ethical living

Meat, feet and retreat

Meat

Since we’ve started living more sustainably, Family Pilgrim has made some changes to what we eat and drink. Mr P and I have become much more aware of both the provenance of our food and the impact on climate change of eating meat, particularly red meat.

I‘ve realised that animal welfare is something that matters: I know that sounds obvious but how often do we think about who made our clothes or where the components of our smart phones came from or how the animals we eat were treated?

I need to ask questions about where the food on my plate comes from.

We’ve been buying vegetables, meat and fruit from Church Farm for about six months now. I’ve recently stopped purchasing all meat products from the supermarket and bought Quorn for the first time. If it’s good enough for Mo Farah, it’s good enough for Family Pilgrim! 

I’m becoming more intentional about choosing vegetarian options when eating out. Tonight I had chestnut roast at my work Christmas dinner.

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Currently, I’m not planning to become vegetarian but I do want to continue reducing our meat-intake. 


Feet

My Charity Shop Purchase of 2017 has to be these £15 green DMs from my local HomeStart shop.

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I’d been chatting to someone about how I’d like to get some Doc Martens and how I had loved them as a teenager. And then three days later when Small Boy and I were shopping, we spotted these. I was fairly sure they wouldn’t be in my size, but they were! 

They’re definitely an ice-breaker and Small Boy and Little Miss love delighting in fighting taking turns in putting them on!

The large purple hippo (a Christmas present for Little Miss) was runner-up in my Charity Shop Purchase of 2017 Award!

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Retreat

I’ve been feeling emotionally and mentally tired recently and my mind has been racing. A conversation with a friend prompted me to have a break from my phone and computer for 24 hours. I told a few people so they’d know to contact Mr P if there was an urgent problem and then put my phone on airplane mode from sunset to sunset. I think I might make this a regular thing as it definitely helped me switch off.

I’m also aiming to leave my phone downstairs at night-time and relying on an old alarm clock to wake me up in the mornings.

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Although to be fair most mornings Small Boy is a very effective alarm clock! 

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. 

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.

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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.

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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

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/knickers-models-own – Caroline Jones wore a different pre-loved outfit (all from Cancer Research shops) for an entire year proving you can be frugal and fashionable.