Awesome Christmas shopping (that you can feel good about)

Oh my goodness tomorrow is December. That means there are 25 days left to do your Christmas shopping! I’ve discussed that Christmas has become a somewhat consumerist nightmare, but I also understand that gift giving at Christmas is a hard tradition to break. It’s more about being smart about your Christmas shopping – and buying sustainable and eco friendly gifts is definitely something to consider.

So, here is a list of great online stores that offer unique gifts that you can feel good about buying:

Eco Toys

http://www.ecotoys.com.au

An awesome website absolutely full of sustainable and eco friendly toys, clothing, furniture – you name it, they’ve got it. There’s nothing more disturbing than a kids room full of plastic toys (that happen to break far too easily). These are the types of toys that become heirlooms!

(featured above: Bajo mini rocking horseDobbin & Drum teepee & Wishbone bike)

Ethikl

http://www.ethikl.com.au/

Ethikl is somewhat of an online marketplace selling eco friendly, ethical and fair trade products direct from the artists themselves. There’s a massive range from beauty to bags to home and garden. A great place for unique products.

(Featured above: Melanie Eagleson vintage spoon bookmarksRecycled polyethylene plastic toiletry bag & Osiris Jewellery recycled silver and copper rose ring)

Blue Caravan

http://www.bluecaravan.net

Another online marketplace for contemporary handmade, fair trade & ethical products by independent designers, artists and artisans.

(Featured above: Vintage black typewriter key necklacePacific Perfumes & Miss Liliput Tuxedo Top)

Recycled Market

http://www.recycled-market.com

A great online marketplace for clever upcycled and recycled goods. You’ll definitely find something unique here!

(Featured above: Recycled Fashion upcycled zipper broochCreative Thinking Recycled Can Light & Origami Paper Gifts paper bowl)

Rather not shop online?

Not everybody likes shopping online – and if you take any more time you may be pushing to have the gifts delivered before Christmas.

Another great place for gift shopping is local markets – there have been a bunch recently and another still to come for Perth is the Christmas Gift Market, which is part of the Subiaco Farmers Market held every Saturday. This particular market will be held on the 10th of December. For more information visit the Subi Farmers Market website.

I hope this gives you some insight into ethical, eco friendly, sustainable shopping for Christmas – it’s certainly a great time to try new places and best of all find new and unique gifts for friends and family!

Goodluck!

Daily Inspiration : The Kind Life

I’ve been very lazy and busy lately, which is never a good combination. Whilst this has meant very little blogging action from me, it certainly has not meant I’ve become lazy with my eco behaviour – in fact I still read many articles from other green bloggers in my spare time. It’s great to be inspired from people all around the world who all have the same cause in mind – saving this planet.

So, from now on, when I hit a bump in the road, rather than stop blogging, I’ll just keep reading and share with you what I find.

Today’s find was rather random – a link on a news website to a People magazine article on Alicia Silverstone (American actress most famous for her role as a shopaholic ditz in the movie ‘Clueless’). What made me click through to this article on an actress? The title “Alicia Silverstone: Secondhand Shopper with a Cause“. I suddenly remembered that Alicia is an avid vegan and animals rights protester, but I didn’t know she was an eco-goddess too! Often veganism and sustainability go hand in hand which is certainly the case for Alicia who discovered if you buy all-natural products that have no toxic chemicals you’re likely to find they’re cruelty free too. And a wealthy actress who still likes to buy furniture and clothes secondhand is a hero in my eyes.

Then came the best part. I found out she has a blog aptly titled The Kind Life! So, adding a new eco blog to my very long list I felt I have achieved something this week. Even more so for sharing it with you!

Ethical shopping – it’s all about reading the label

image from ethical.org.au

I made a pledge via 3things to choose vintage/pre-loved clothes over brand new ‘sweatshop’ cheap clothes. In hindsight it was an odd thing to choose, but I knew that I was going the easy route of shopping at super cheap fashion clothes stores without considering where these clothes came from, who made them, in what conditions and at what cost to the environment.

What I’ve since decided is I’m going to expand this pledge to something bigger – to shop ethically and not just clothes, but everything I consume. So before I can fully become an ethical shopper and fulfil my pledge, I first had to find out what it all meant.

What is ethical shopping (or being an ‘ethical consumer’)?

One of the biggest key words here is “considering” – and consideration is all about respect, concern and thoughtfulness.

  • Considering how the product will affect other people or animals
  • Considering whether the production of the product has been made using sustainable practices
  • Choosing products that are of good quality
  • Choosing products that are themselves sustainable and not harmful to the planet

Ethical shopping is deep rooted and there might be items that don’t or can’t tick every ethical box (eg. leather). According to the Ethical Consumer Guide though, there are four different forms or levels of ethical shopping to consider:

  1. Favouring ethical products (which they refer to as ‘positive buying’)
  2. Disfavouring or avoiding unethical products (which they refer to as ‘negative buying’)
  3. Examining businesses as a whole (which means looking at companies and all subsidiaries – a company or product might appear fine until you discover they’re owned by a much larger unethical organisation)
  4. Taking everything into account (in other words, a combination of all three)

Now the lazy person in all of us is might say “that sounds hard” – well it’s not as easy as remaining naive and buying things without thought, but it’s not hard. All it takes is a bit of foresight and some researching – but most of all an attitude change.

What to do

Step One: Read the label!! Find out where this product has come from, what it’s made from and who the company really is.

Step Two: Check your choices!! Don’t just pick a product because it’s what your Mum always used to buy and you don’t know what else exists – look around for the most ethical choice.

Step Three: Know what to look for!! Educate yourself about ingredients, production practices etc and really know what you should be looking for in a product.

What to look for

These are some key things to look for when choosing an ethical product and why:

  • Local products – less transportation as well as supporting local businesses
  • Fairtrade certified – which ensures non exploitive trade practices (wages and conditions of workers) and sustainable practices
  • Environmentally friendly – having less of an impact on the planet, such as organic (no chemicals or genetically modified ingredients), biodegradable (materials naturally break down in a relatively short amount of time), no harmful ingredients (such as palm oil, SLS) etc
  • Cruelty free – treating animals humanely

But, like I said earlier, it’s all about consideration. Not only should you consider the above items but you also have to consider whether the product you want to buy is the best option for what you need – for example if you were looking to buy disposable plastic cups for a picnic, you might instead consider buying good quality BPA free plastic cups that you keep, wash and reuse for years to come. Think about why you want the product and what you’re hoping to achieve. It shouldn’t always be about convenience.

Where do I start?

Favouring ethical products is the best place to start. The next time you do the food shopping before you reach for your favourite product, stop and look at all your choices.

Don’t overwhelm yourself, just take it one step at a time – start with your weekly food shopping and then look at every item as you need it such as new clothes, shampoo, soap, household cleaning products, car, furniture – you name it. It’s as simple as using Google to search for “Ethical shampoo” and seeing what you find.

When you feel comfortable with the basics then you can really start to delve deeper.

Why?

So you might be asking yourself why, aside from the obvious, should you be making ethical choices when you don’t know anyone else who does.

Firstly, you gotta start somewhere – once you do it, your best friend might do it, then their cousin might do it, then their mother might do it, and so on. Create a chain reaction and don’t be afraid to lead by example.

Secondly, by choosing ethical products you create a demand for them, which means they become more popular, more widely available and soon enough hopefully ‘the norm’. It worked with free range eggs – we created the demand and now the supermarkets have to stock them to meet the demand. This demand has now crept into restaurants who advertise the fact that they serve free range eggs. We win with better quality eggs and chickens win (more than before) because they now get treated more humanely.

Feel good shopping!

At the end of the day, it feels good to know that you can shop guilt free. So, the next time you need to buy something, by choosing the ethical option you will be able to consciously feel good about your decision (just don’t max out the credit card!!).

Just remember:

  • CONSIDERATION
  • CREATE DEMAND FOR ETHICAL PRODUCTS
  • LEAD BY EXAMPLE

A little action creates a chain reaction.

Are you using dangerous chemicals in your home?

Think about the roles that the chemicals in things like cigarettes, drugs and pesticides play in the media. The general message is that they are extremely dangerous for our health and that we should avoid contact wherever possible. This is why it shocks a lot of people to discover that the greatest risk of exposure to synthetic organic chemicals comes from within our own homes.

In Australia, the chemicals used in our homes are the least controlled and regulated. This means most Australian households have hundreds of dangerous compounds lurking in their kitchens, bathrooms and laundries that have not been put through adequate (and sometimes any) testing or certification processes. And not only are these potions harmful to ourselves, but the environment is also suffering. Given the poor standard of chemical regulation in Australia it is a fair assumption that we cannot trust industry with our health. We need to take the power back into our own hands by arming ourselves with a little knowledge and acting accordingly. The only way to limit damage to our environment, animals, friends, families and selves is by reducing our exposure to these chemicals and using natural eco-friendly solutions instead.

Why do we use chemicals in products?

Convenience is our generations’ highest priority which has created overwhelming demand for one-stop-shop solutions. To cater for this, ambitious profit-focused companies are developing products that are reliant upon various combinations of highly toxic chemicals (referred to as Volatile Organic Compounds or VOC’s). Already dangerous chemicals then present a whole new set of issues when combined with other cocktails, whether by conscious decision or not (e.g. glass cleaner plus oven cleaner). Toxic ingredients are found in most household cleaning products including all-purpose cleaners, degreasers, polishes, washing powders, shampoos, cosmetics and disinfectants. These chemicals affect us in a number of ways:

  • Long-Term Exposure is the most common form of ingestion. On a daily basis we absorb chemicals by respiration, consumption or direct skin contact.
  • Acute poisoning (through inhalation or swallowing) is a major issue in Australia and children are at highest risk. The Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia has released data stating that every year in Australia 3,500 children under 5 years of age are admitted to hospitals because of poisoning annually, and 5 to 10 of these children die (Australia, 2007).
  • Environmental damage. Waterways provide the fastest route for household chemicals to reach and then damage our fragile ecosystems. We then must factor in the damage associated with transportation, manufacture and packaging (individually wrapped dish-washing balls anyone?)

What Effects Can These Chemicals Have?

There are many credible studies that detail the serious side-effects linked to exposure to VOC’s. The Australian Governments Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPC) reports data acknowledging these effects explaining that long-term exposure has been linked to cancer, liver damage, kidney damage, central nervous system damage, fertility problems and birth defects. Short-term exposure or Acute poisoning is strongly tied to eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea / vomiting, dizziness and the worsening of asthma symptoms (Department of Sustainability, 2009).

Shockingly, there are currently no environmental guidelines for the use of VOC’s. The DSEWPC notes that,

“VOCs are environmentally significant mainly because of their role in the formation of photochemical smog. VOCs can have serious effects on animals, birds and plants (aka The Food Chain) and secondary effects may also occur due to the impact of smog. In liquid form and solutions, VOCs can also affect water and soil”

- Department of Sustainability, 2009

Solutions

Luckily there are some really easy steps to minimising your part in the chemical industry…

1. Read the label, know the facts

There are no government regulations or legal definitions for words like ‘Non-Toxic’ and ‘Natural’ – so do not blindly trust the label. Companies do not always use full ingredients lists and are legally allowed to disguise chemical names so you need to look for certain keywords. If a label uses any of the following ingredients or terminology avoid the product;

  • Phosphates, Nitrates and Chlorines
  • ‘Maybe Harmful or Fatal’ or other warnings, cautions and dangers
  • If the product is considered hazardous, corrosive or inflammable
  • Irritant

2.     Buy Environmentally Friendly Products

It is important to note that these labels can still be very misleading. Products made of ‘all natural ingredients’ are often still very toxic, as lots of chemicals can be made naturally. For example, terpene is a carbon compound derived from orange peels, but also reacts with ozone to create formaldehyde – a highly toxic carcinogen (Hubert, 2007). Be careful too of labels claiming to be ‘Organic’ – it is not a legally defined word so you must look for a certification stamp to assure you get what you pay for.

In Australia, credible certification processes include NASAA Certified Organic, Australian Certified Organic, OGA Certified Organic – all logos found below.

3.     Buy Cruelty Free

Manufacturers that test on animals use cruel and barbaric methods to decide whether products are safe for human use. It is completely unnecessary however sadly it is still legal.      Always look for the Cruelty Free logo.  Logically, if animals are put into mini-gas chambers to test a products toxicity it is not something I want to soak my clothes or kitchen bench    in anyway

4.     Make Your Own

Making your own products is by far the best solution for you health and the environments too. It is fun, easy and makes me nostalgic for year 8 science class. You can buy in bulk (avoiding lots of packaging), they are non-toxic, effective, save a bucket of money and you can recycle cute old jars and bottles to store them. For recipes for your own cleaners go to our Home and Garden section.

Reference List