Self care, skin care,
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Living life with good intention, loving with soul, and consuming with a conscience

August 15, 2019

Prepping to be a Sustainable, Low Waste Parent

As I'm nearing ever closer to the end of my pregnancy (excited and nervous do not even begin to cover it!), I thought it was high-time I talked about something that y'all know is close to my heart and part of my life ethics - sustainability and trying to be more low waste and eco-friendly in my day to day life. I'm no stranger to these topics here on Northern Blood, but something that I've had to battle through has been preparing to be a parent and still maintaining this lifestyle choice.

Sustainability and being pregnant/preparing to become a parent doesn't necessarily go hand in hand. Something that became obvious very quickly for me was just how many baby products are disposable/throw away items and how it can be difficult to find sustainable options - particularly in a price bracket that's actually affordable for the average person. I'm very lucky in the respect that most of the time, I can live a comfortable life in which I don't need to worry about money between pay cheques. I can absolutely get by. But when I found out I was pregnant and starting working out things such as my maternity pay then wow, suddenly the thought of buying certain sustainable products for baby that I had lusted over needed to take a back seat and I needed to work out exactly how I was going to navigate my lifestyle ethics and also live comfortably without money worries. I've since discovered that it's not impossible to prepare to be a sustainable parent - it can be simple in some ways and it's all down to preference in where you want to invest (if you can) and where you're happy to compromise. So here's some ways in which I have chosen to make low waste or eco-friendly choices in preparation for my babe showing up earthside:

Buy baby clothing secondhand
Okay straight up the first thing that might be obvious but definitely shouldn't be overlooked is buying your baba's clothing secondhand. I have gotten *so* many gems on eBay and Depop especially over the past few months for a fraction of the price the items would have been brand new from a high street store. This is a great option for not only helping you save some money already, but also for reusing clothing because surprise surprise, baby's grow quickly and they can get through a lot of clothing. You can rehome brand new clothing that hasn't been worn or get those all important white vests/bibs etc. essentials and feel good about giving these items a second chance of use.

Don't just stop at clothes - secondhand furniture is great too
Again, it won't be much of a surprise to you all that babies go through things quickly due to growing and developing and it doesn't just stop at clothing. Websites such as Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace as well as your local charity shops are a great place to find furniture you may need for your baby. Pushchairs, strollers, car seats, and Moses baskets always seem to be in the shop windows of my local charity shops and all they need is a good clean and they'll serve their purpose. As I live 300+ miles away from family and use public transport to visit them, they've gotten all sorts of "back up" items from pushchairs to high chairs that can be used when we visit so we haven't got to lug everything with us. If you're on a budget or you want to just try and keep to Reduce Reuse Recycle mantra, you can certainly apply that thinking to the bulky items that you need to purchase for baby.

Reusable and/or eco-friendly items for baby's hygiene
Back in the day, towel nappies and were the norm then the dreaded disposables came along and now they sit in landfill for 200 to 500 years until they fully decompose. That statistic is always so alarming to me when you think on average a newborn can get through 10-12 nappies a day on average! Not only does each one outlive you, your baby, and your baby's potential baby to degrade, but the production of them uses 3.5 times more energy and 8.3 times more non-renewable/90 times more renewable resources than reusable options do. The debate between reusable and disposable options have lots of layers though - convenience, accessibility, price etc. - so it can be difficult to decide what is best for you. For us, we unfortunately have no choice but to go down a disposable route because upon initial purchase, it's more affordable for us. Of course using reusables works out *so much* cheaper when you think of cost per use, but for us, they are an indoor "we're at home" option and disposables are our "we're out and about" option. There's so many great brands out there for both reusables and biodegradable disposables however, so there's something that suits everyone:
Reusable/washable brands: Bambino Mio, Little Lamb Nappies, Bumgenius, Charlie Banana,
Tots Bots, and Babipur
Biodegradable disposable brands: Kit & Kin, Bambo Nature, Mum & You, Naty by Nature, Moltex,
and gNappies - the reusable/disposable hybrid!

Of course the same issues are surrounding wipes. We all know by now the damage baby wipes/face wipes can do; sitting in landfill taking around 100 years to degrade due to things such as polyester and other non-biodegradable plastics being in their make-up, but there's so many great eco-friendly brands out there now that whether you're still wishing to use disposables or reusables, there's a wipe out there to suit every smelly or sticky mishap and the best part? They're all pretty reasonably priced. Some great options that I've looked into or plan to use include: Cheeky Wipes, Mum & You, Aqua Wipes, and Natracare - also make sure to check out your local supermarket as Sainsbury's and the like are stocking some great eco-friendly brands!

Reusable and/or eco-friendly items for your hygiene
Okay let's get real. After labour and giving birth yes, the human body is a wonder and gets through one of the most primal, raw, and magical events, but not without some collateral damage. I'm talking leaks of all kinds and it's something that I wasn't really aware of until later in my pregnancy when I started to research things properly. Some things I've invested in in this area are reusable/washable breast pads, period panties, and also reusable/washable maternity pads/towels. If you're someone who plans to breastfeed, leaks are imminent and buying reusable pads seemed like a no-brainer for me as they're the eco-friendly option and can be donated/passed on after I'm done with them if someone is in need of them and can't afford some. I mentioned how intrigued I am by period underwear a couple of months ago and post-labour is a great opportunity to finally try some out. Post-labour can leave you sore, bleeding, and leaking and thus period underwear seemed like an obvious choice to me. I can use them alone or use them as a back-up extra peace of mind option alongside reusable maternity pads/towels.

Sustainable and ethical brands are out there
If buying new baby clothing is within budget for you, there are so many wonderful brands out there who use organic sustainable materials, have ethical production methods, and who want to have a positive impact on our planet rather than continue to contribute to this throwaway culture that certainly circulates around babies/toddlers. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I couldn't help but research and swoon over so many fab brands who are doing good things but I didn't just stop at clothes, oh no. There's also some fantastic small businesses focusing on making toys for babies and toddlers that are not only ethically made, but that are created using sustainable materials such as wood or recycled material to curb the excessive amounts of plastic that seems to come along with baby entertainment/development. Some of these lovely brands are fairtrade and donate to charities with each purchase, too. Here are some of my favourite brands that I've purchased from or plan to when bambino is old enough:
Clothing: MORI, Little Green Radicals, OYA Goods, Tilly & Jasper, and Piccalilly
Toys: Pebble, Tikiri, Oli & Carol, Cuddle & Kind, and Chunki Chilli

Of course there's enough to worry about when becoming a parent and I'd be a straight-up liar if I said everything that I've done throughout my pregnancy and everything I plan to do throughout transitioning to my title of "parent" is going to be sustainable or completely low waste. However, I'm proud that I've managed to stick to my lifestyle ethics enough that I'm happy and content with my choices. There's more I can do and the more I learn and the more confident I become with the role, the more I hope to adapt and change to continue to make even better choices.

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August 09, 2019

Low Waste Eco-Friendly Transitioning Tips: On the Go

When we're out and about shopping, commuting to and from work/college/uni, we all tend to spend money on some things that we need in the moment but don't keep: bottles of water, food in single-use plastic (you catch my drift). Being more eco-friendly and low waste when you're on the go is actually really simple to do and all it takes is some investment in the start and a reminder or two to yourself to pack what you need before you leave the house. It's all about thought out simple swaps for things you know you will use and need and you can reap the benefits in knowing that you've really limited your waste and saved yourself some money long term too. Remember what I said in the first post in this mini-series about only using what you need? It totally applies here. It's easy to get sucked into this idea that you need to buy lots of eco-friendly items but that is obviously hypocritical of the movement so please bear that in mind with all the following suggestions - if you don't need them, don't buy them!:

Reusable water bottles:
A really obvious pointer but, it's obvious because it's the one thing we can all use: buy a reusable water bottle. Although a lot of brands are reusing and recycling their water bottles and there are options available now such as tinned or carton water, having a reusable bottle will save you *so much* money and of course, you will be having zero impact in terms of waste. Reusable bottles have become so popular that you can get them from pretty much any high-street store, so many places online, and in independent stores so they're not hard to come by. There are some great brands out there too who do schemes where they donate bottles to areas of need based on their sales or help build wells - so you can do some extra good with your purchase too. If you're limited with your funds and want to be resourceful, why not use that 8 R's mantra I talked about in the Breaking Habits post and repurpose an old glass jar and use that for water? You can get some really nice looking glass jars with secure screw top lids so why not just use one and get creative!

Reusable coffee cups:
Another "big one" everyone thinks of when making eco-friendly changes is reusable coffee cups. I've talked about this before on NB, but I cannot stress enough how great it is to invest in a reusable coffee cup if you're someone who frequents cafés on your commute to and from work/college/uni or just like to grab a hot drink whilst you're out shopping or seeing friends. Reusable cups are really affordable considering the quality and longevity of them and will also save you money in the long-run too. Most coffee shops will give you a discount on your drink if you use your own cup and those 25p discounts soon add up after a couple of months. Just like water bottles, there's some great companies out there doing some fab reusable and eco-friendly things so shop around and find a cup that suits your needs. There are also some great brands who sell collapsible options too so they can save space in your bag so no, you don't need to be travelling and commuting around with everything but the kitchen sink!

Cutlery and straw compact kits:
Cutlery or reusable straws may not be something everyone needs but they are of course out there as options for maintaining an eco-friendly lifestyle. Whether it's bamboo, recycled plastics, or stainless steel, there's so many great options out there. Obviously if you never use straws or think you'll never find yourself needing your own cutlery, these are objects you don't need to invest in. If you're ever going out somewhere and you're unsure of whether or not you'll need your own cutlery, simply pack a set from home just in case and at least you're covered and can refuse the plastic throwaway cutlery you might be offered!

Going back to those glass jars...:
I know I mentioned reusing glass jars for water earlier, but they really are a great option for smoothies, homemade juices, and salad containers. If you happen to use ones such as the classic "Ball" range, some of their styles have measurements up the sides of them imprinted in the glass which makes them extra helpful for either bulk shopping (find out more about that here) or ordering cold coffees, smoothies etc. when you're out and about. Carrying a glass jar might seem excessive but it's just the same as carrying a full bottle of juice around; it's just going to be a little heavier.

Pack your lunch:
I know I mentioned how great meal planning can be for not only lowering your food waste but also for your finances in the last Low Waste Tips post, but it totally applies to being on-the-go too. I used to be *so bad* at not preparing my work lunches and I used to regret it as soon as everyone was getting out their yummy homemade meals during the lunch break at work. You can make some really scrummy and nutritional things to sustain your hunger whilst at work and it doesn't have to be ground-breaking if you're not a confident cook. Simply boiling up some pasta, stirring through some pesto, and adding some cherry tomatoes can make a really nice meal and it's saved you a £3 meal deal that would have resulted in yep, lots of single-use plastic. Creating your own lunch at home minimises your plastic and food waste so much as you can have leftovers from the night before and of course, you're popping them in a container that you will take home at the end of the day and wash and reuse. Any sort of Tupperware you have lying around will do the job or investing in a tiffin box for your lunch can be life changing (dramatic, I know, but that's honestly how I would describe mine). Although mine is plastic, I can reuse it for years to come and there are of course metal options out there that tick even more eco-friendly boxes and they can keep your food warmer/cooler for longer too.

Reusable bags:
There's a running theme here so there should be no surprise that there's another reusable item suggestion to keep in your bag. That's right, another bag! We all know by now that plastic bags are so damaging for the planet but if you have a reusable one already, keep it handy in your usual bag in case you buy anything in a store and that way you're not having to pay extra for yet another bag or just ending up with more plastic than you ever wanted! If you don't have a spare bag to pack, investing in a canvas tote bag can be a good option as many are ethically made from natural fibres which keeps you in check for your eco-friendly code or a bag from brands such as baggu are also a great choice as they store a lot in them, they're durable and they have their own little storage pack to fit into so they take up next to no space in your bag. You can use your reusable for anything from groceries to clothing - just think how low the cost per use will accumulate in such a little amount of time and of course, you're creating no additional waste.

Don't be shy to say no:
Lastly, a really simple choice can help you minimise things so much and that is refusing products you don't need. How many times have you been in a bar and they've instantly put a straw in your drink or you've been given plastic sachets of condiments that you don't use then put in the bin, or you've been given plastic cutlery that you don't use for you fish and chips because you're a fellow animal... When you place your order in so many instances, just kindly add to the order that you don't require any of the previously mentioned. It's not rude, snobbish or any other rubbish someone claims it is. It's exactly the same as if you need those items for mobility issues etc. then you have the right to request them and for the service to deliver. If you don't need something, a simple polite decline will cut down your waste surprisingly quickly.

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August 03, 2019

Becoming my own Mother

I've talked about just how much I don't have an "off" switch at times on NB before, but now that I'm in my third trimester of pregnancy, that fact couldn't have caught up with me and my bullshit quicker. I've been in tears on more than one occasion due to exhaustion and yet still I've tried to push myself and not realised how silly this is until it's a bit too late. I tend to be the kind of person who will take on too much (*insert all of those "yeah I don't mind/yeah I can squeeze it in" memes*) who doesn't like to let people down. Having the revelation that no one is going to take care of me except me is something I have frequently but it's really stuck this time around. Don't get me wrong, I have some very supportive family, friends, and partner, but realistically, it's true that only you can dictate and manage your own limits and expectations of yourself. It's only you that can really provide yourself with some true self-care.

I've also talked about that phrase - self-care - a hell of a lot over the years on this ol' blog. In my mind, I always picture self-care as something indulgent that you spend time investing in in some capacity and whilst I preach that that doesn't necessarily need to be the case, I fall short of following my own advice. I've realised I've been in need of some true self-care. The mothering kind of self-care that ensures you're running with enough juice and are nourished, looked after, comfortable... Basically all the things I've been lacking.

I know this feeling of self-care absence has only been amplified by the fact that I'm currently pregnant and not putting myself first always. What I mean by that is that I've already noticed that I'm still trying to keep others happy whether it's family members or in my job whilst also trying to put my unborn baby first (which often results in dreaded afternoon naps instead of a facemask). I guess on the one hand, I'm happy to see that some of my own mam's unselfishness has filtered through to me but, that also terrifies me. My mam is admirably strong, robust, kind and giving yet she very rarely shows herself the same generosity and I don't want to let myself get to that stage. I want to make sure I take care of myself - as I should - otherwise I worry that I'll burn out and won't be able to be the support mam I want to be for my own child.

lingerie set: Organic Basics* gifted, cardigan: secondhand, mug: Waitrose

So, I'm trying to get myself to a place in which I become my own mother. I don't want to replicate my actual mother, but I want to demonstrate to myself that I'm capable and deserving of that title. When I think "mother" I think of someone who has their shit together but who looks out for loved ones - and actually? One of the main "loved ones" she should be looking out for is herself because as the cliché saying goes: you can't pour from an empty cup. So here's the ways in which I'm trying to mother myself to make sure I am fulfilling this self-care to the maximum and how you can too:

Look after your MIND
One thing I keep thinking about already is "how on earth did my mam stay so patient with me when I was younger" (I mean, I still wonder how she does it now), because it's a gift that only parents can muster I swear. But making sure you're in a good headspace is always helpful for self-care. It obviously not only prevents you from feeling low etc. but also can make self-care seem like a nice, enjoyable experience rather than a chore. So many things work for so many different people, but some of the simplest ways to feed a happy mind include:

- Limit your screentime. I used to be pretty good at this and I've slipped off the wagon a bit and need to hitch a ride again. Mothers every where limit iPad and TV time for kids and we should absolutely do it to ourselves as adults too. So many of us stare at a screen all day at work and our eyes and mind need a break. Limiting screentime can stop us wasting time, comparing ourselves to others, and losing sleep. (Don't worry, the irony isn't lost on me that I'm saying all of this on yep, a screen).
- Challenge your mind. Whether it's brain trainer activities and puzzles or a new creative outlet such as writing poetry or painting, stimulating the mind helps us feel accomplished, knowledgeable, more skilled, and simply happy.
- Read read read. Of course after saying that I was going to tell y'all to read. Read books. Read articles. Read blog posts. Whatever it is you're into that gives you an escape or helps you feel a little more relaxed and brings you enjoyment - do it.

Look after your BODY
I've quickly realised how important it is to not burn out. You'd think, after years of repeatedly doing it I would have learned by now but it has taken trying to bend down to pick up a pen during my third trimester to finally understand what it's like when your body is just exhausted and can no longer deliver even the simplest of tasks to fulfilment. So look after that body inside and out by:

- Soak up that vitamin D! Who's parents/grandparents made them play outside no matter what? There's a reason children are usually so happy and this is definitely one of the culprits. Get outside and enjoy nature, the sunshine, and the fresh air. It'll work wonders on your mind too!
- Feed yourself good food and plenty of water. It's a no-brainer. Eat fruit and veggies (and most importantly, a healthy balanced diet - everyone's bodies operate differently and react differently to food groups. Eat what's good for you). Drink plenty of water every day. Feed your gut and digestive system probiotics. Nourish yourself from the inside out and I promise you will see a difference in your energy levels, your skin, hair, mood etc.
- Get a good night's sleep. Every night. Okay so har har, am I actually kidding when I'm currently riddled with insomnia and about to have a baby but, sleep is *so* important and for the longest time, I used to fight it because "I could be doing other things". Forge a good routine and try to stick to it. It'll benefit you in the long run.
- Exercise however you can. Whether it's a walk to the post box, lifting some weights whilst you sit and watch TV, or some simple squats whilst you're brushing your teeth, all physical activity has significant health benefits. I'm not even talking about it from a weight perspective, but more so from other benefit avenues such as keeping your blood sugar levels in check, keeping your heart and lungs healthy, and better yet, releasing those endorphins that make you feel on top of the world.

Look after your SOUL
Your mind and soul are completely different entities in my opinion and both need different nourishment because of this. You can have a calm and content soul with a mind still racing and I feel like if you have the soul in a chilled-out space, other hardships will ease up and things can fall into place more easily and comfortably. Feeding a healthy soul can have a domino-effect on everything else and here's some ways to ensure that can happen (and FYI, they're things that can be easily slotted into day-to-day life and take up next to no extra time):

- Spend time with yourself. One that might be hard to do if you have a baby around, but even just having a couple of completely quiet minutes with yourself can really help you centre yourself. Whether it's a full on "me time" session or a couple of minutes peace in the bathroom, feeling comfortable with yourself isn't always easy to do but it can help you feel oh so content.
- Meditate if you can. Remember being given "time out" from your parents? I like to think of meditation as the adult version of that reflection time as it allows you to reconnect with yourself and most importantly relax. Use an app, do some stretches, or just enjoy the quiet - extend that quiet time with yourself to a meditation session every now and again and it will help you shift those negative thoughts that may have been running circles in your brain for the last few days.
- Make sure you're interacting. I'm certainly not a social butterfly and I've talked about how much I enjoy my own company on NB before, but we are social creatures and having that time to connect with others can lift our moods and help us get out of funks, see new perspectives etc. etc. Parents encourage their children to have "play time" so much as they grow up and it shouldn't really change once you enter adulthood!
- Practice that self-love. Possibly one of the hardest things to do, but if we're going to mother ourselves, surely one of the most obvious things we are going to do is praise ourselves and point out the great things about ourselves to well, our selves and others! As a child, I was completely carefree and didn't have any hang-ups that hindered what I was doing, what I was enjoying, and who i was being. It was much easier to love myself and let my self-esteem blossom. My mam constantly reminded me to treat myself the way I wanted others to treat me and vice versa and as adults, we're really hard on ourselves and forget that that kindness we may show others should stretch to ourselves also (in fact, it should cover us first and foremost). Practicing self-love isn't easy and it can feel incredibly cheesy to do, but with practice, we can empower ourselves and feel truly proud of the people we've become.

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July 30, 2019

Greenwashing: Why Brands Need to Stop & How to Spot it

Over the past week, I've been reading articles about the fast fashion powerhouse Zara's bold claims to use "100% sustainable fabrics" by 2025 and although I already wanted to write a post on this topic, it's fair to say these endless articles was the final kick up the butt I needed to write this and hit publish.

Zara isn't the first brand to make big claims to be more sustainable - it was only last year (2018) that many brands made pledges and agreements to work towards UN sustainable goals - it all seemed very positive and as if major brands were making a conscious effort to make a change for the good. Some brands are making changes but in these times of change, greenwashing is breeding at an alarming rate and frankly? It needs to stop.

What is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing isn't something new, but it seems to be developing amongst brands at an alarming rate. It applies across the board for us as consumers as companies of all sizes and types use it to trick consumers into thinking they are making healthier, more eco-friendly, more sustainable etc. choices when they're not. Think about the food/grocery industries advertising "all natural" or "free range" produce or telling you where it was grown/harvested (this video scrutinising marketing techniques is still a great example of this); the beauty industry with brands such as Garnier selling "vegan" products despite them testing said products on animals; the hotel industries leaving you those little cards asking you to "think about the environment" and to not ask for fresh bed linen/towels each day when in reality, they're doing absolutely nothing to be sustainable outside of that request; even oil giants BP using green as it's primary logo colour y'know, on a logo that's a flower; and my main focus and gripe today: the fashion industry.

Unfortunately, greenwashing isn't illegal but it is incredibly misleading and during a time when we are asking fashion houses and brands to be more accountable and transparent about their processes, ethics, and supplies, it is more prevalent than ever. A poll in 2015 revealed that 66% of global consumers are willing to pay more for environmentally sustainable products (this increases to 72% in the millennial age range) so it's no surprise that brands are seeing dollar signs when they think of the equation:

"Vague Sustainable Promise & Misleading PR + Interested Millennial Consumers = More Money for Us"

The worst thing about greenwashing is that it's all essentially empty promises that acts a little like a wolf in sheep's clothing - it lures us all in as consumers with the best intentions and does absolutely nothing to actually change what needs to be changed. It's just manipulative marketing that makes a brand seem like they have environmentally friendly products and policies when they simply don't.

How the Fashion Industry is Using it
Brands are coming under fire more and more for using terms to describe their products or ethics that aren't 100% true or that don't represent what they're truly doing but greenwashing can even go beyond just the use of the language we all search for. Think beyond words such as sustainable, ethical, conscious etc. and instead think about how a brand chooses to present themselves. Think natural decor in their stores using plants and wood, think new release and collection campaigns being shot in the highlands of Scotland or surrounded by animals... All of it is creating an image that is not reflective of their practices. Brands blur these lines in the hopes that there'll be enough to visually and mentally over stimulate you so you won't ask questions and let's be honest - most of us don't think to when we've walked into a store to look at an item. It's only now that sustainability is under such scrutiny that us as consumers are picking out the red flags of misinformation and wanting straight answers.

The most popular high street and online brands have a range of tricks up their sleeves from recycling schemes to dedicated conscious/eco-friendly/natural lines to promotional projects focusing on those sustainable buzz words we look out for as conscious consumers. Of course I'm not going to sit here and slate a recycling scheme for example, because it's doing good still, right? Well, not exactly. I championed H&M's recycling scheme myself just last year as I felt it was a good way to get your foot in the door when starting to make more sustainable choices in fashion and whilst I still believe that to a degree, I've realised the error of my ways and how much I got suckered into some more pesky green marketing. In 2016, H&M held a Recycling Week and in that week, people donated their unloved items to the store for them to recycle but it meant the brand had enough garments that it would take 12 years to actually recycle it all - now, call me a pessimist, but I don't think all of it got recycled. It's particularly alarming that the amount of garments that were pledged during this time takes H&M just 48 hours to pump out and sell in comparison and with the promise of the vouchers to then go and purchase even more fast fashion, I've realised that "scheme" isn't as nice as it seems.

Another tactic H&M has been criticised for in the past has been their boasting over cotton being their most used fabric. Cotton is biodegradable and has a lighter environmental impact right? Well it does if it's organic, but as the brand's cotton use is only 13.7% organic, it kind of cancels out those eco-friendly boasts. Much like Forever 21 claiming that they were going to have the largest solar power panelled rooftop area in LA yet in the same breath stating they were opening another 18,000 sq ft mega store that would have "even greater discounts" on it's already ridiculously cheap clothing. That's just a couple of examples of ways in which green marketing is just thrown around to attract customers and in the hopes that no questions will be asked, but when brands such as Zara make bold claims to only use 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025, it's easy to see why cynical old gits like myself are eyerolling before they've even finished reading the statements.

Ways to Stay Wise to it
Of course it's a bit of a minefield trying to navigate through all these claims and promises and you're not alone! I'm still finding I get suckered into various schemes and new lines that brands release then I take time reading between the lines and realise it's all a load of bull. It can be hard to do and particularly if you're someone who relies on the high street for the convenience, the price, the accessibility etc., it can make it all the more difficult for you to make more conscious choices when greenwashing is occurring left right and centre.

Some things to look out for when you are shopping to keep your conscious feeling clearer and not feeling guilty after a purchase include:

- just because packaging might be recyclable doesn't mean that a brand is "reducing their waste". Surplus clothing at the production stage is still a major problem. Burberry got into trouble for burning 28 million quid's worth of their unsold products and unfortunately, they're not the only ones who do this.
- fast fashion brands who follow trends are encouraging throwaway culture, even if the trend items are sustainably made. If they're big on saying their pieces are "timeless" and not trend-led, check if the quality is actually there because if it's not and you're getting mass produced low quality clothing still, it's not going to last you and it's going to end up in landfill.
- brands doing pretty much anything but not addressing their supply chain makes their movements a little null and void. There's many out there that will give you immediate delivery (looking at you Zara with your same day delivery in London or Asos with your next day services). 70% of carbon emissions from the fashion industry are a result of production and thus, if a brand want to be truly eco-friendly, they should be looking at their production facilities, transport, and shipping methods. If they're offering a variety of special deliveries, that alone should ring some alarm bells on the carbon footprint front.
- if a brand is sharing targets that are pinned to a date, be sceptical. "we're aiming to reduce our emissions by X% in the next 5 years!" sounds like they're making steps in the right direction, but a lot can happen in 5 years that can mean that impressive sounding number won't actually seem that impressive when the date rolls around. Plus, how many people are going to pencil in the date in their calendars to check up on all these promises?
- greenwashing applies to ethical standards of workers too. Brands shouting about everyone being paid a minimum wage who works in their lines of production seem like they're doing a good thing, but a minimum wage isn't the same in every country. Some factory workers in Bangladesh for example might receive minimum wage but that minimum wage doesn't actually cover their living wage and thus, they're not fairly paid because they can't afford to live and support themselves or others who they may be responsible for. Look out for brands who are completely transparent about where their factories are located etc. and if they're trading under Fair Trade standards then you can rest assured they're doing good things.
- lastly, don't be fooled by those "sustainable/conscious/eco-friendly" lines big-name fast fashion brands are pumping out right now. Take Asos as an example - it's a good move for them to have an eco line or allow consumers to browse their site using tags such as "natural materials" "sustainable", but when those items only make up a tiny proportion of their overall products? It's greenwashing. If they overhauled their business model and at least 50% of it was completely sustainable in the true sense, then yes, they're making improvements but if there's just some organic cotton tees thrown in amongst the thousands of new items they release every month? They're just greenwashing us.

Obviously it's easy for me to sit here and be a misery guts, saying everything brands are trying to do to improve things is just a farce, but in reality, brands are consumer-led. They need us - their loyal customers - in order to make money and so if they can do things we approve of, they will continue to do those things and more. However, if we're being fed false information and being manipulated, all we're really doing is continuing to support unethical practices so they won't ever truly change. Movements such as Fashion Revolution are constantly pushing for consumers to be given all the information needed to make an informed decision. They call out brands to be more transparent and truthful and in their annual reports, they grade 150 major brands for anything from fair wages to valuing diversity and so on. In 2018, the average score was just 21% for a brand. It just goes to show that all the singing and dancing "we're making changes" statements and pages on fashion brand websites that include all those buzz words and promises we seek aren't actually backed up with any evidence or tangible actions.

If fast fashion is only ever going to adhere to what the market wants at any one particular time (for example, sustainable options because it's "hot topic" right now), they're never going to fully commit to that change because it won't serve a purpose in 5 years time if people have forgotten about it or moved on from it. Avoiding greenwashing can be impossible at times, but being more aware and wise to it can help demonstrate to retailers that actually? We want some clarity and honesty from them otherwise we can and will go elsewhere. How else are we going to motivate them to change?

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June 19, 2019

Book Club No. 20

It's time for another Book Club post gang and this time around, it's a total mixed bag in terms of genre and my ratings! Reading has kind of taken a backseat for me recently and I really need to get out of the funk. Myself and some friends were talking about this recently and we all said that we find it *much* easier to read more when we're away from home and therefore away from other distractions such as Netflix, scrolling through our phones for hours at a time... Can some of you relate?! That being said, I did finish these two very different books over the past month and thought I'd share my opinions on them in case you're looking for a new read:

Sons of Cain - A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present | by Peter Vronsky
If you're new around here, you might not know my strong interest in serial killers and true crime. I've blogged about some of my favourite true crime books before but I'm always open to reading many more! This one came to me in the form of a Christmas present from Matt and I was intrigued from the outset. I'm aware of Peter Vronsky and his true crime/serial killer publications but this one seemed so unique as it spans the full extent of serial killing. It explores cases and recorded incidents throughout history that were not deemed as "serial killings" at the time as the phrase and definition had not yet become "a thing", but that could fit the mould now now that we know more about the term and what it defines. As a qualified archaeologist, this instantly peaked my interest as the promise of looking at historical accounts that predate the "well known" killers, as far back as the stone age, just sounded too good.

Sons of Cain does a great job of covering so many historical cases that I otherwise wouldn't have heard of (think "werewolf" reports from the 18th century and more) and also talking about the psychology behind serial killers. It talks in depth about how and why there was such a spike in serial killers in the 70s/80s and it was interesting to learn how other historical events could impact the most famous individuals we think of when we consider this topic. Although I did enjoy this book, it's not receiving a totally a 5/5 star review. A running theme I find very common in true crime writing is the author dropping their other released work all over the place. Vronsky refers to his other works quite regularly throughout the book and whilst that's absolutely fine and makes sense to do, if I find it really noticeable and it distracts me as a reader from the actual content of the book, that's when I just find it frustrating and unnecessary and unfortunately, that's level of name-dropping Vronsky hit for me. Sons of Cain is very well researched with mentions of other books or source materials throughout but I found sometimes that it went almost into too much detail. For example, if Vronsky mentions some magazines from the 60s/70s that were blamed for influencing some serial killers, he literally lists every single magazine - even if there's 30 of them - and thus I totally switched off mid-sentence more than I thought I ever would with any book. He uses quotes and information from these sources he has evidently read which again, is a positive thing but, they're very rarely paraphrased or used just to emphasise a point being made. Instead it almost comes across as if Vronsky had a certain page number to aim for and just bulked out chapters by including a two-page long quote every now and again. The quotes themselves I started to skip over because it just seemed to pull me away from the content more than it added to it so it was a bit lost on me.

One last gripe I had with the writing style was Vronsky's seemingly limited vocabulary, particularly towards the end of the book. I noticed more and more as the chapters went on that he referred to male serial killers as "male reptilian" when discussing their mindset, thought process etc. and I honestly shut the book in frustration and stopped reading for the evening on more than one occasion because of this. When you're writing a book, surely a variety of language and wording is something that you want to strive for to keep the reader engaged, not simply use your most favourite phrase to the point that it pisses off the reader, y'know? All in all, I would recommend this book despite it's few flaws in the way it is written because you are getting that unique insight into serial killers and historical accounts that are not usually mentioned in other works. You're also getting more information about the psychology behind the killers and statistics that show traits and developments in this topic area whereas I find many true crime books I've read focus on particular individual cases rather than producing general information about how those individuals are actually categorised and analysed by the police and other professionals. Sons of Cain is available for around £9.43 here

More Than This | by Patrick Ness
At this point, I wouldn't even be that surprised if a Patrick Ness book makes its way into each Book Club post for the foreseeable future because by now, y'all must know how much I love his writing. More Than This is my most recent read of his and surprise surprise, I thought it was bloody brilliant. It centres around a young teenage boy named Seth who drowns in the ocean and wakes up on an empty, abandoned street in England. He can remember the feeling of drowning, his bones breaking and the injuries he endured, but wakes up absolutely fine with no signs of the injuries he sustained and what's stranger is he drowned in America - how has he ended up in a desolate street in England? A street that seems to have seen no life for a considerable amount of time?

Seth believes that he must have woken up in hell because nothing else makes sense to him at this point. He comes to realise that he's actually back in his childhood street which he lived in with his mum, dad, and younger brother many years ago before they moved to the USA and it raises so many developing questions for him. I feel like if I say anything more at this point, it will completely give the whole plot away so instead, let me say what I liked about this book because yet again, I fell in love with Ness' writing. I read More Than This in three days and struggled to put it down. It's a very easy read (which is a bold statement for me to make as someone who is a very slow reader and who is easily distracted) and I believe Ness' fast-paced but slow revealing writing style was responsible for this. The story creates such a great sense of urgency and action needed with each page turn whilst somehow developing the characters well and giving them and the overall story and world a great level of depth. I enjoyed the fact that we jump from Seth in the present - in the "English hell" that he's woken up in - to past Seth and learn more about his life, why he drowned, his friendships and more. Ness manages to create a world in which you as the reader of Seth's journey can feel the isolation he is experiencing and the freedom of time and not having commitments in this new world he's woken up in but also desperation of needing answers and a sense of familiarity to stay sane.

The book builds so well in my opinion and took on twists and turns that I wasn't expecting and couldn't predict so it kept me on my toes from start to finish. The story escalates in the last third of the book in such a way that I found myself feeling really attached to the characters and wanted the best outcomes for each of them, no matter what was happening. There's an element of almost humour from Ness in the fact that he writes Seth as quite a sarcastic guy who seemingly predicts what's about to happen next which, almost threw me off the scent of what was actually going to happen next because Seth had already suggested that so you assume that's not what will happen but then - bam! Sometimes that's exactly what happens. You feel part of the plot as you read along as the characters are so palpable through the pages and like I said, I found myself wanting them to succeed in each of their individual stories. With the characters in mind, I laughed out loud at times due to their interactions as a group and thought that Ness does an astounding job of discussing difficult themes such as suicide, violence, abuse etc. in a way that is incredibly mature given the book's target audience. It's has incredibly sobering themes running throughout shrouded by the overall sci-fi feel and I honestly think very few authors would be able to pull of something similar.

Although I did love reading this, it's not my favourite book from Ness purely because I had some questions throughout it that aren't answered at any point or they felt a bit like a plot hole. The book ends on *such* a huge cliffhanger as well and is comes swooping so bloody fast that I was almost pissed off that I was finished the book. In an odd way, I don't totally hate that it got that reaction from me, but it does mean I'm now sat in this limbo between wanting a sequel so my many questions are answered whilst also hoping the book is left as a standalone and the mysteries it doesn't answer become the best qualities about it. If you want to read something that's incredibly gripping but easy to lose yourself in for just a few hours or days, definitely grab More Than This for as little as £6.48 here

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June 13, 2019

Low Waste Eco-friendly Transitioning Tips: Groceries & Food Waste

Welcome back to the Low Waste Transitioning Tips mini-series! One of the first things that immediately springs to mind for many of us considering a more low waste/eco-friendly lifestyle is without a doubt our groceries and food waste. Although in my first post in this mini-series I talked about our consumer culture, it's hard to apply that so much to food as it's something we need to sustain ourselves and simply well, live! I'm also a big believer in enjoying food and not feeling remotely guilty about any of it so we will see none of that sort of negative ninniness here. When it comes down to being more low waste with your food and groceries, it's not so much the consumer culture you need to watch out for but more just approaching your decision-making in the supermarket etc. a little differently. So here's some easy tips to think about next time you're out or online doing your big food shop:

Look for products that are in glass or cans:
A nice easy way to immediately cut down on how much packaging waste you consume during your grocery shop is buying items that are in recyclable containers. Tin cans, jars, glass bottles, cardboard boxes etc. can all be locally recycled whereas items in plastic trays, bags etc. aren't so easily disposed of. Of course some items will only ever come in plastic packaging and that makes it unavoidable to have a totally plastic-free shop but, if you are purchasing something such as ketchup for example, opt for the glass bottle alternative compared to the squeezy plastic bottle. Some plastics used for food packaging can actually be recycled but it's worth familiarising yourself with whether or not they can be as it is usually stated on the packaging itself if it isn't recyclable. Another bonus to buying items in glass jars is that you can repurpose those after you've finished the food item. Think drinking jars for on-the-go hydration, storing ingredients like sugar, oats, seeds, using glass bottles as vases - there's so many possibilities!

Use reusable bags in every sense:
We're all aware of the push to use reusable carrier bags when shopping in general, but have you considered the single use produce bags you might run into in the fruit and veg or bakery/deli counter sections? Many items such as loose fruit and veg or even bread don't necessarily need a bag to keep them in but if you do want to use some for things such as deli counter cheeses, cold meats, bakery pastries etc., invest in some reusable bags for those items too! There are many great options available online and anything from net bags to beeswax wraps can be helpful. Most food stores and supermarkets are more than happy for you to use your own containers and bags as long as you ask in advance if items need to be weighed so your choice of container doesn't tip the price over!

Avoid plastic in store and overbuying:
I've already covered this more or less but, if you do not need to buy fruit and veg in plastic packaging, then don't. It's really that simple. Of course this is dependent on need, availability, and whether or not the store you are using actually stock plastic-free fruit and veg (looking at you, Aldi - you tend to have a lot of packaging and not a lot of loose items!). Sometimes loose fruit and veg can be cheaper but other times it can be more expensive. It's all about getting familiar with your local shopping options and making choices that suit your needs and how you want to tackle being more low waste. It's also important to not overbuy produce just because of the price tag or convenience. I used to be *so* guilty of this in the past and would do something like buy a big plastic bag of carrots instead of 3 loose ones because "the big bag was only £1.20 and that's the same price as the 3 loose ones!". That mentality is a fine argument if you actually intend to use all of those carrots, but if you're just going to end up throwing them out, save yourself the trouble and food waste by not even purchasing them in the first place.

Plan your meals:
Oh my goodness, I cannot stress enough how helpful this point can be for minimising your groceries waste. Planning and cooking your own meals instead of using a lot of "instant food" can improve your cookery skills, widen your pallet and knowledge of food, but also stop you from wasting produce. Planning meals ahead of your food shop not only stops you buying unnecessary extra items "just because you fancied it", but it also means you don't overbuy fresh produce that may go out of date in the next few days. Planning meals can prevent you from getting overwhelmed by the amount of produce you have at home and makes it easier visually to know what you have in stock and thus what you can use. If by the end of the week you've planned you have some things left over, you know you can include them in your next meal choice to minimise that produce going in the bin too. I've noticed a considerable difference in how much food waste is in my household since becoming stricter with meal plans. The only times I feel that food gets thrown out is when the devil on my shoulder has convinced me to have a takeaway and thus, fucked my plan up for the week. Which leads me onto my next point...

Do you really need that takeaway?:
Don't worry. I'm not about to suggest that getting a takeaway is the devil incarnate, but something I've thought a lot more about recently is the excessiveness that can come along with it. We all know takeaways can be pretty expensive and therefore many of us see them as a "treat" - including me - but something I've been thinking about more and more is the fact that I often over order due to deals (remember what I said about the supermarket store deals earlier?) and how much effort is involved in getting it to my door. Delivery options such as Deliveroo with bicycles isn't so bad but, when you consider that someone jumps in a car or on a motorbike to bring you a single meal to your door, when you're trying to have a more eco-friendly impact on your environment, it does make you stop and think "what the fuck am I doing?!". Of course everyone gets a takeaway at some point, but if it's local - maybe go and collect it. Don't have them as frequently. Or even go out for dinner instead if it's an option.

Eat less meat and dairy in your diet:
This point is always a common one when promoting a more eco-friendly diet and for good reason. Although I am still a meat-eater myself, over the past year especially I have made a conscious decision to eat a lot more vegetarian and vegan meals in my weekly meals and it's *such* an easy change to make. Meat is expensive for your bank balance but also for the environment. The meat and dairy industries produce 60% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and even the meat and dairy products with the least impact are still more environmentally harmful than the least sustainable vegetable or cereal agricultural growing. Meat and dairy production create greenhouse gasses but also use a lot of water and land resources that of course, could be better used elsewhere. I'm not suggesting that everyone becomes vegan overnight because of course, that's a) hypocritical of me and b) completely unrealistic due to an array of reasons such as dietary requirements, accessibility, financial constraints etc. but choosing to take part in meat-free Mondays for your evening meal or dabbling in plant-based milks or yoghurts? That is something attainable that if everyone participated in, could have a huge positive impact on the environment. It has also totally widened my knowledge of food, recipes, tastes, textures, and health. Even making better, more informed choices when it comes to your meat can help. It was only yesterday that National Geographic published an article suggesting switching beef for chicken can half your dietary carbon footprint which is such a good stepping stone in the right direction to becoming more eco-friendly.

Support stores who make the pledge:
Over the past year or so, supermarkets have come under fire for either their packaging choices, sales of certain products (like items with palm oil as an ingredient), amongst other things. Therefore it's important to support all stores - major chains and independent - who have made a pledge to make low waste changes. These could be changes they have already actioned that you agree with or something that they're working towards. Either way, it's good to acknowledge pledges to show stores that these are changes that we want to see and that they have the support of the general public. Some great recent changes and pledges have been Morrison’s becoming the first supermarket to banish single use plastic on their fresh produce and Waitrose have just opened their first store that has bulk buying sustainable options for anything from grains, fruit and veg, to beer and wine! I always suggest shopping locally for fresh produce if and when you can as it's important to support local suppliers and their trades (it also minimises consuming produce that has clocked up air-miles/pollution/a carbon footprint count due to transport) but of course, if your local supermarket are making positive steps and changes - give them your backing!

Bulk shop if you can:
One last point in terms of shopping - if you can buy bulk, absolutely do it. I'm not talking bulk as in amount (we've already discussed how those "bargains" can actually be pretty wasteful), but more like the zero/low waste store kind of bulk. Unfortunately the "local" low waste bulk store for me is actually a train ride away so I can't really use it, but if you live close by to one or you can plan time to go to one if it's convenient or you have a friend who is happy to help you carry your goods home, you should jump at the chance. Buying from bulk stores means you can buy a range of products - from shampoo to pasta to cereal and more - and not pay for any packaging or labels because you take along your own containers. Bulk stores are of course low waste and eco-friendly due to this fact and you can often save money in the long run as you can buy large amounts of your favourite ingredients and products.

That's it for this instalment of my low waste eco-friendly transitioning tips mini-series! Hopefully these few pointers can make shopping and food prep just that little bit easier and you will hopefully see results in no time. To check out other transition tips, click here

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