The ethical world online
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Date: 19 March, 2004


 

'Don't worry, you're not going to come away with yet another beautiful jute wall hanging unless you really, really want one.'

Suzanne Elvidge types in the word ethical into some search engines and presents a guide to ethical living on the web. Additional reporting by Steve Tomkins and Andy Jackson

Ethics. Not only is it a word that tempts lesser writers to make cheap jokes about counties to the East of London. It's also a big deal when it comes to living out the kind of 'global village' principles held by Christian Aid and its supporters.

But what do we mean by 'ethical'? The answer is that there's no simple answer. Sometimes there's no such thing as 'the ethical choice'. Take air travel, for example. Aeroplanes guzzle fuel and pollute, and that's that: there's no comparable alternative. But in many cases we do have a choice, which is why we've compiled an easy-to-read guide covering just about every aspect of modern life.

It isn't our aim to tell you what you can and can't do, we simply want to give you the facts you need to make informed choices that can help to protect the environment and the rights of poor and oppressed people around the world. So don't worry, you're not going to come away with yet another beautiful jute wall hanging unless you really, really want one.

Judgement

While you're browsing, bear in mind that not everything on offer from the shops we feature is 'ethical'. But that doesn't mean it's automatically 'unethical' either. In some cases you'll need to rely on your own judgement.

As we hope you'll see, ethical living is possible in almost all areas of life, at work as well as at home, and outdoors as well as in. Changing things at the office can make a big difference, particularly in areas like recycling and energy efficiency. And in the garden, find pointers on how to go organic. So if you don't have a garden, you'd better get an allotment right away. Or, if your garden is on the really small side, not to worry, you'll find some perfect patio ideas too.

And when you're all shopped out, if there's just a little energy to spare, you might want to consider joining some of the campaigns featured in this section. That way if your credit card company demands the shirt off your back, at least you'll know it was sewn together ethically. Which, in the absence of your shirt, should give you a lovely warm glow.

So, fill-up with unleaded, fit a catalytic converter, and start the engine. We're off. Enjoy the ride.

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Ethical health and beauty

Five portions a day, a bit of exercise and less of the deep-fried Mars bars. That's what we all know about health and fitness.

At least that's about as much as I know, which probably explains the shape I'm in - or out of, to be precise.

So - getting in shape. Let's start this gently. All at once, exhale forcefully, open your mouth wide, stick your tongue out as far as it will go, say 'Aghhhhhhh,' open your eyes wide and look up. Congratulations - you've just given yourself a Yoga Facial, exercising lots of muscles and relieving stress.

For six more facials, postures, retreats and, erm, yoga poetry, the Yoga Site is the place. If you prefer your exercise directing imaginary traffic in the park, suspend the head. Keep a calm mind. Move like a cat about to pounce. For more advice like this, along with articles by tai chi teachers and handy listings of local classes, move your pointer gracefully over Tai Chi Finder - breathe - and click.

Sickness

For advice in sickness and in health, go to Auntie. The BBC has a useful and extensive health site, with sections for women, men, kids, over-50s, parents etc. There are disease directories, relationship info, healthy living advice, emailing the doctor... everything really.

NHS Direct has also got a site for your ailment needs. More specifically, ethical trader Mothercare has useful information for new parents, and Student Health has some advice from university GPs for those who have newly escaped their parents.

Makes you grateful, doesn't it, to live in a time and place where healthcare and advice are virtually on tap? So what can we do to help those who aren't so lucky? Why not check out some organisations that are working for better healthcare in the developing world.

The Christian Aid site has an extensive section on HIV/AIDS, letting you know how you can help.

MMA HealthServe is a Christian organisation dedicated to supporting healthcare in the developing world. The Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network is developing just and sustainable healthcare there.

And if you fancy getting deep into the new bioethics, there is the Centre for Bioethics and Public Policy and Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. You can figure out which one's British and which American.

Ethical alternative health and beauty

But if you would prefer an alternative to mainstream healthcare, or just want to look and feel better naturally, the internet has a wealth to offer (but do take care, check out the credentials of all health and medical websites carefully, and seek the advice of a doctor for any serious or long-term problems).

How about starting gently with an adventure into herb teas? Not only are they caffeine-free but they also come in a huge variety of scents and flavours as well as claiming a number of health-giving properties. For example, peppermint tea is a traditional aid to digestion, camomile is great for relaxing, and lemon verbena sounds and tastes wonderful. It's best not to spoil the flavour by adding milk, but if you want sweetness you could always go for a teaspoon of fair trade forest honey or similar. Order online from Simply Organic.

Teeth

For people worried about the effects of high fluoride consumption, try fluoride-free herbal toothpastes, like those made by Kingfisher. Available from Green Shop. If you want the low-down on the fluoride debate, visit the online Fluoride Journal (though it gets a bit scientific in places) or the Fluoride Action Network.

Once your teeth are clean, a quick visit to Think Natural will have you creating happy herbal hair with a range of shampoos from aloe vera to tea tree. Or try spicing up your shower with lemongrass soap. Or bathe in chocolate.

At Green People there's even something for eczema and psoriasis sufferers, in the form of shea butter, aloe vera, calendula and lavender hand and body cream.

As well as being really good for your skin, herbal products have lots of other benefits. You might want to investigate St John's Wort for low mood (though consult your GP first, especially if you are taking other medications), raspberry leaf for period pains and echinacea (pronounced: 'ek-in-aysha'), which is believed to help boost the immune system and fight off colds and flu. You'll find all this and the proverbial more (which in this case includes anti-stress face masks) at Bursting With Health.

Smellies

Aromatherapy is just one of a range of alternatives for helping you to relax, de-stress or revive, depending on your mood and needs. A number of companies produce or sell specially created aromatherapy massage oils, allowing you to experiment with a partner or on your own (which is possible without too much contortion, but, as Piglet said to Winnie-the-Pooh, 'It's so much friendlier with two').

Lavender oil is good for relaxation and bergamot is refreshing. Always dilute the essential oil in a 'carrier' massage oil such as grapeseed or soybean oil. Try visiting The Body Shop for supplies; they don't sell online, but hey, a quick walk to the high street will be the ideal pre-massage muscle warm-up.

The Body Shop (alongside cosmetics specialists Beauty Without Cruelty) is well-known for opposing animal testing. What you might not know is that they also operate a Community Trade programme, which guarantees a fair deal to small-scale producers of their ingredients and offers long-term trading relationships.

There, that's enough to start you off. Mark my words, a few clicks and you'll be exfoliating with poppy seed body scrub in no time.

Ethical travel

It's a funny thing, the gap between what we think should be done, and what we actually do. We all know about the disastrous effects that car exhausts have on our world, but the car is a hard habit to break.

The facts are simple. Carbon dioxide from road vehicles is warming up the earth at an unprecedented rate causing, ironically, both drought and flooding in the places that can least cope with it. And if that seems a bit far away there's also the congestion and pollution of our own streets. 40% of those emissions come from private cars in cities. So we ordinary car drivers are the ones who need to take the Peugeot by the horns.

85% of town dwellers believe that the amount of car traffic is a problem in their town, according to a 2002 UK government survey, but we still keep adding to it.

It's probably unrealistic for most of us to become full-time pedestrians, but there are lots of small steps that we can take in between those long drives, that will can all make a difference.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1) Use your feet, a bike and public transport
To start with the obvious one. Even if it's only every so often, each time you leave the car at home is one better than never. And you're not only keeping your car off the road, but also getting some exercise, supporting public transport, and/or getting a chance to read the paper. Try doing that at the wheel. If you've got children, buses and trains can be an activity in themselves.

2) No car days
Get involved with initiatives like European Mobility Week, In town without my car!, Car Free Sunday or Bike to Work Week.

3) Get organised
How often do you take the car because you could have walked etc. but in the end there wasn't time? A little bit of forward planning makes all the difference.

4) Drive nicely
Even when you drive, you can still take care of your environment. Keep your car properly tuned and maintained, and avoid Esso.

Travelling abroad

What about travelling further afield? Tourism Concern has a host of ways to ensure your holiday doesn't harm someone else's human rights, with listings of local tours from Australia to Zimbabwe, helping you meet local people and avoid the pre-packaged 'native culture' offered by the usual corporate suspects. Worth it for the Community Tourism Guide alone.

Another source for information on sustainable travelling is the US-based group The International Eco-Tourism Society - 'A Site for Discovery of the Ecotourism Path.' Yea, verily. But don't be put off by their very Zen-sounding tagline. The site includes an international listing of eco-operators and a bookstore. Surefish partner Responsible Travel also offers ethical trips at home and abroad.

Once you have decided your eco-friendly destination, there are a whole bunch of sites to help you get around. World of Travel includes every travel service you can think of - brochures, books, travel guides, maps, a currency converter, and webcams at the most popular tourist destinations from Niagara to Coventry. Tips4Trips is packed with top tips on how to pack your bags, have a holiday, and avoid cultural gaffes, from people who've been there and lived to tell the tale. And finally, Multimaps, your virtual backseat driver, will direct you through every turning of the route, taking things like one way roads into account. Clever, isn't it? Useful too, but experience says don't go without a map as well - which you can print out here along with aerial photos if that helps. And it will also tell you what the pubs are like for when you get there.

Ethical technology

Our lives were already dominated quite enough by technology before computers appeared on our desks, and now mobile phones mean that we spend our lives surrounded my machines. The only question is what will it be next?

So how can we be more ethical technoslaves?

1) Use the 'off' button
The more technology in our lives, the more energy we guzzle, so the more important it is turn off whatever we're not using.

'Standby' is not your friend. Deceptively, TVs etc. use almost as much money on standby as they do for A Touch of Frost, so get up off your sofa and turn it off. The exercise will do you good.

2) Recycle
TV schedules aren't the only things that survive on repeats. Computer Aid takes computers for developing countries.

This charity has a collection service, so giving your last year's technology a new lease of life is hardly any more hassle than sticking it in the bin.

Ethical work

Whether it's coffee time or keyboard time there are plenty of ways to make your office a greener place to be, without resorting to Laurence Llewellyn Bowen or Astroturf.

Paper is an obvious place to start. Most offices are awash with it, but not all of them use it wisely. A good place to begin is with a DIY recycling check-up. Find out if the loo roll is recycled. Ask your stationery officer to order recycled pads and papers too: take a look at Recycled Paper Supplies.

Paper technology has radically improved in recent years, so there's no need to settle for dodgy grey newsprint where a humble biro cuts through three sheets with every word you write. Many recycled papers are so good that you wouldn't know them from 'virgin' fibre. Try looking at the small print at the bottom of letters and household bills and you'll be surprised how many of them are already enviro-friendly.

And if you want to be really groovy, how about tree-free paper? Honestly, it's true. Find out more about making paper from hemp, wheat grass, kenaf (no, it's not a spelling error), rags and denim from ReThink Paper in the US, where it's really big news, with many large corporations already using it, including Levi Strauss and Post-It note inventors, 3M. Find out more than you'll ever remember with the ReThink Paper site from the planet-savers at US-based Earth Island Institute. Best-suited to the economically- and technically-minded paper buff. You've been warned.

Copying

Another good idea is to cut down on how much paper you use in the first place, by printing or photocopying documents onto both sides of the paper. This change alone could cut your paper use in half. Alternatively, stick to email for memos and other screen-friendly information.

Next, make sure there's somewhere in your office where all those mysteriously unclaimed sheets from the laser printer can go. Using them as jotting paper for brainstorms will also cut down on bare stationery-cupboard syndrome.

When you really do have to throw paper away, don't put it in the bin. It'll end up in landfill sites that are already far too full of things that could easily be re-used. Get your department (or ideally your whole company) to arrange recycling points around the office.

All major towns and cities have companies specialising in office recycling. Find the nearest one to you from Waste Online. And if what you wrote was top secret they'll even shred it for you too. The same goes for glass and cans: the recycling that is, best not to try shredding them.

Printing supplies

But enough of paper. There's more to office life. Like laser toner and chocolate. And before you ask, yes, they can both be 'greened up'. Laser printer cartridges are pretty bulky, complex things. They take a lot of energy and time to produce, so it would be churlish to throw them away once they've been used. Lots of charities recycle them, for example cartridges4charity.co.uk or Action Aid Recycling.

Chocolate, tea, coffee

And now chocolate (and tea and coffee). You might have heard about fair trade. If not, you can read more in other sections of this site. In simple terms, fair trade is a way of ensuring small-scale producers are paid a fair price for things like cocoa and coffee beans, rather than being ripped off by profit-hungry multinational companies. Charity shops and many supermarkets now sell fairly-traded goods so why not try them at work as well as at home? Look out for brands like Divine chocolate, Clipper teas and Cafédirect, which carry the Fairtrade Foundation logo.

And even if you can't get your colleagues into fair trade you might want to think about which 'mainstream' brands you buy. For example, Nestlé, makers of Nescafé coffee, have frequently been criticised for irresponsibly marketing powdered baby-milk to mothers in developing countries. This discourages mothers from breast-feeding, which, as well as costing nothing, also helps build up a baby's natural immunities to disease. Find out more from Baby Milk Action.

Water

Water, water everywhere, so why not stop and think? Even your office water cooler can be ethical if you want. (I was to going to talk about 'green water' but that didn't sound too good). If you contact AquaAid you'll get excellent service, plus an added feel-good factor from knowing that the company donates 40p from every large bottle of water to Christian Aid. The money raised funds work in poor countries to make access to safe, clean water a reality for everyone.

At the end of the day, when you're tired, you probably want to save your energy. While you're doing that, why not make sure the same is true in your office? Computers, monitors and printers left on standby use lots of electricity to do nothing. Switch them off and you might even see a rare smile flicker across the face of the company accountant.

There. That's it. And all done without mentioning Changing Rooms once.

Ethical dressing

When it's Blue Cross Day at Debenhams, the hunt for a bargain can often eclipse thoughts of where garments come from, who made them and their rates of pay. But if we're honest, none of us wants to be wearing 'exploitation chic', however nice it might look to the casual observer.

As labour rights have improved in the UK and across Europe, some retailers have begun to source clothes from developing countries, where labour costs are lower.

And that's not because of exchange rates. It's often because factory workers are paid a pittance and treated badly. The employment rights that most of us take for granted are nothing but a daydream for thousands of people who work in sweatshop conditions in poorer parts of the world.

Sometimes the workers aren't even adults. Campaigning organisations have discovered factories using child labour - exposing young children to appalling conditions, denying them a childhood and an education.

Fortunately we're not powerless as consumers. The much-publicised Nike and Gap scandals, featured by the BBC in October 2000, concerned low wages and child labour in some overseas factories.

When the stories broke, we saw powerful proof of how, when their brand-image is on the line, multi-nationals begin to worry. Both companies immediately pulled out from the featured factory. This isn't ideal, however, as it could lead to complete loss of workers' livelihoods. The better solution is for retailers to work with problem factories, to improve conditions.

Sweatshop Watch includes ways to take action and practical answers to commonly asked questions like 'Is there such a thing as an 'ethical shoe'?'.

Clothing

A more sure way of buying ethical clothes is to shop with organisations like Traidcraft, or Gossypium, where you'll find modern nightwear and casual clothing in natural fabrics like organic cotton and hemp. Realistically though, your wardrobe will be a bit limited if you only shop with avowed ethical suppliers. For example, business suits aren't available, and there's also a distinct absence of formal trousers.

If dressing ethical isn't enough for you, you'll want to think about getting ethically active. Campaigning means putting pressure on high street retailers to make sure they check all the sources of the clothes they sell, to ensure good working conditions in the factories that produce them.

We know they can do it, because, as Panorama revealed, many of them already operate locally-based quality control checks in factories where their garments are made. If you want to support an established campaign, consider the Clean Clothes Campaign. Guaranteed to leave your conscience whiter than white. Hand wash only. Do not tumble dry.

Trading

Some good news is that several leading companies - including Sainsbury's, Levi Strauss, Marks & Spencer, Monsoon and Tesco - have joined together in the Ethical Trading Initiative. Their aim is to work towards ensuring that all clothes they sell are made by workers who enjoy fair working conditions as laid down in a Code of Practice.

The ETI's 'Base Code' calls for safe hygienic factories, collective bargaining, fair pay, a ban on child labour, living wages, reasonable working hours and regular employment.
Ethical food

All's fair in love and shopping. Or is it? The never-ending world take-over by multi-national companies has left many poor people behind. Global trading often increases their poverty through unfair trading rules and sharp practices, and little attention is paid to the way that this affects the environment.

Additives

Food additives are also a big issue. For example, it's widely believed that artificial hormones in meat are playing a part in speeding up the onset of puberty in young girls, particularly in the United States. It's also thought that such hormones may have carcinogenic effects. So what can we do, as consumers, to make things better?

Put simply: choose GM-free, fairly traded, free-range, organic food; buy from farmers' markets; use enviro-friendly household products; say 'no' to over-packaged goods. On the whole it's as easy as it sounds. Here are some pointers to help.

Organic

Organic food is grown without the use of pesticides or artificial fertilisers, both of which are responsible for water pollution and harm to wildlife. The system is monitored by the Soil Association, which enforces strict standards for organic producers. Look for their distinctive logo on produce in your local supermarket - you'll find it on their website.

In the case of meat, 'organic' also means not giving the animals things like artificial growth hormones, or excessive doses of antibiotics that aren't genuinely needed for health reasons. For environmental reasons, the Soil Association also opposes the use of genetically modified (GM) crops in food production. Christian Aid shares these concerns. Find out more from our International Policy Briefing paper on GMOs.

One popular way of going organic is to join a box scheme. Schemes are run in local areas, and for a fixed fee a selection of organic produce can be delivered to your home every week. Find out more from Organics Direct or the enticing Organic Shop.

If you're a meat-eater who's concerned about animal welfare, you could make sure you buy free-range eggs (battery farm conditions are close to barbaric), and look out for the RSPCA's Freedom Foods symbol on packaging, to guarantee minimum welfare standards for rearing, transporting and slaughtering. Their website has the details.

Vegetarians

Or if things like the BSE scandal have left you wary of meat altogether, you might consider becoming vegetarian; there are many health benefits, which you can find out about from the Vegetarian Society.

Fair trade is another good way to put your ethics where your money is. Large companies have enormous bargaining power and often use it to force poor farmers in developing countries to accept very low sums for their crops.

Since the farmers have no other outlets and are reliant on farming income to feed their families and educate their children, they've had no choice but to accept. Until the invention of fair trade, that is. Now, the list of fair trade goods is ever increasing.

It already includes rice, beans, coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar and dried fruits, and is worth around £23.2 million pounds per year in sales.

The beauty of the fair trade system is that small-scale producers are guaranteed a fair price for their goods, and long-term trading relationships (instead of ruthless market forces) allow them to plan for the future and invest in their communities. This means, for example, that they can build schools or provide safe, clean water supplies.

Symbol

A large proportion of fair trade foods are monitored and certified by the Fairtrade Foundation, whose symbol is your guarantee of a fair deal for farmers. Other fair trade suppliers include Oxfam, who sell a range of fair trade foods in their network of shops and online. And if you're a campaigning type of person, remember to keep up the pressure on supermarkets to stock and broaden the range of fairly traded goods on their shelves. Take a look at the Fairtrade Foundation's 'Get involved' section.

Don't forget sea-life when you're shopping, either. By buying dolphin-friendly tuna you can be sure that no drift nets have been used to catch it. Drift nets can stretch for miles and are extremely dangerous for dolphins, turtles and seals, all of which can get tangled up in them and drown.

Bananas

And if thinking of dolphins in supermarkets sends you bananas, what about thinking of bananas themselves? By choosing small sweet bananas from the Windward Islands (Jamaica, St Lucia etc.) you will be supporting small-scale farmers rather than the giant American corporations who own huge plantations (often with very poor labour conditions) in places like Costa Rica.

If you've heard the slogan 'Think Global, Act Local' you've probably wondered how to live it. One way to 'act local' is to 'shop local', at farmers' markets. The produce won't all be organic, but it will be from your local area. When you remember that sometimes we're eating apples from New Zealand rather than from Somerset, you can imagine how much energy and aeroplane pollution you'll be saving. More details are available from Big Barn.

Within many communities, the local shops are disappearing. The Village Retail Services Association is campaigning to help 'Save Our Shop' and 'Save Our Post Office' across the UK.

Ethical homes and gardens

With so many ways to make your home and your garden more ethical, it's hard to know where to begin.

We'll start outside in the garden while the weather's nice (we can go inside later on). Now, if you thought you could detect a faint smell of something, you're right. That's because a great way to make your garden more eco-friendly is to go organic, and that means giving up on chemical fertilisers like artificial nitrates and choosing natural sources such as well-rotted manure and compost.

Fertilisers

The beauty of organic fertilisers is that they're cheap to buy - many farms and stables sell manure for as little as £1 per bag - they're a form of recycling (think about it) and they release their goodness slowly rather than all at once. It also means there's much less chance of nitrates finding their way into our water supply, where they pose a health risk. If you're a fan of blood, fish and bone meal, but you're a veggie too, you could try animal-free fertiliser in the form of calcified seaweed, available from The Organic Catalogue. And recycle your garden waste by composting too with instructions from the Centre for Alternative Technology, Europe's leading eco-centre, based in Machynlleth, Wales. The Centre also provides information on haybox cookery (but why would you want to cook hayboxes?!) and roofing your home with turf. Now you can't get greener than that.

Another garden tip is to create your own fertiliser and compost from organic kitchen waste. If you want to do it in style, get hold of a wormery where carefully chosen worms process waste into rich nutritious compost that will be a hit with your cabbages and just about everything else you're growing. And yes, this does mean you can even buy worms online at the gloriously-named Wiggly Wigglers, which will also sell you worm compost if you can't stand the thought of making it yourself, and all kinds of ways of keeping the birds in your garden happy (and yes, that includes worms too…).

Pests

Unfortunately pests won't greet your change to organic gardening by disappearing. But there are things you can do. First of all practise crop rotation to reduce susceptibility to common diseases, and use smart methods like biological control, where you purchase nice insects (like ladybirds) to eat the pesky insects (like aphids). You can also use physical barriers like Enviromesh, which prevents carrot root fly and other nasty bugs from getting to your prize parsnips (and carrots). Once again, The Organic Catalogue has all you'll need. And if you must resort to pesticides, use products with natural plant extracts rather than lab-produced chemicals. Look out for sprays based on extract of neem, a traditional Indian pest-control plant.

If you've used peat in your garden in the past, stop right now. Peat is extracted from peat bogs, which are delicate natural environments and which take a very long time to form. The mass destruction of these bogs is a serious threat to certain species of plants and animals. An excellent peat substitute is coir (pronounced 'coy-ya'), which is derived from coconut fibre. Pester your garden centre to stock it.

Plants

Now you've got your garden fertilised, what are you going to plant in it? Through the Henry Doubleday Research Association, 'Adopt-a-Veg' and save endangered vegetable varieties, as well as getting heaps of hints on organic gardening from people who really know their stuff (they're professional researchers).

And if the flowers and lawn are making you sneeze, the British Allergy Foundation will give you help and support for all kinds of allergies, from the common to the downright strange. A site not to be sneezed at (sorry).

Since it's getting dark now, let's move indoors, pausing briefly to point out that for lovely summer evenings in the garden, you might like to try solar-powered lights which charge in the daylight, then create mood lighting at night. Solar works, even in the UK (we have solar power-lit bus stops to prove it) - Solar Century has all the techie details on photovoltaic (PV) technology, and has a very enviable environmental policy and standards. Solar lights are available from Just Natural Stuff.

Energy

As you step through the door and switch the lights on, consider where you are getting your power. UNIT[E] is the only power supplier to offer 100 per cent renewable energy and weird square brackets in the company name. The Energy Saving Trust will help you to save energy, save money and save the planet, all in one place.

A groovy site that can help you choose energy-saving products, point you towards government grants, and show you how to save £462 million on your electricity bill (between the lot of you). The only thing it doesn't do is lag the loft for you (although some local councils will at a fraction of the cost. Visit your local council's website to see if they run such a scheme).

Recycling

Indoors, recycling is one of the obvious ways to make your lifestyle more sustainable. Buy yourself some sturdy plastic crates and collect glass, tins, aluminium foil, paper and plastics. Most supermarkets have recycling points, and in cities local authorities often provide roadside facilities in local areas.

To find out if your local council runs a kerbside scheme, where recycling boxes are collected from your home (or to lobby them to start one), visit The Green Directory where you can search for the contact details of people to talk to.

Another form of recycling is to think twice before throwing away household objects that you don't want any more. Your old TV, computer or sofa might not be what you want any more but chances are that someone out there would be delighted to have it.

Give your favourite charity shop a call and ask if they'll sell the things you no longer need. That way you avoid sending more waste to landfill sites and you help to raise money for causes you care about, so everybody's a winner. The Association of Charity Shops' website has a search engine for local charity shops.

While you're at the charity shop, have a look around. You might find that elusive something you've spent months looking for, and this way you won't be adding momentum to our voracious consumer society.

Cleaning

Nobody likes household chores but you can make them easier, on your conscience at least, by carefully choosing the cleaning products you use. You'll want to avoid companies that still test on animals - for a list, list visit People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), who will tell you how to be nice to bunnies, get chummy with chickens and will explain how cows are cool but milk sucks. PeTA are the reasonable face of animal rights, keeping watch on circuses and all manner of corporate shenanigans. Related sites include the intriguing JesusVeg.com, discussing why Christians should be vegetarians. Strange but true.

Another important issue with cleaning products is what's in them. Chlorine bleach is highly toxic and a bad thing to be flushing into the sewage system, and not all detergents break down into harmless substances when we wash them down the sink. By choosing a range like Ecover, available from many supermarkets and health food shops, or online from Green Shop, you can be sure that you're not adding to pollution while you're adding sparkle round the rim of the loo or doing the washing up.

Nappies

If you care for young children who are still in nappies think hard about whether you use disposable nappies or 'old-fashioned' washable ones. Disposable nappies use enormous amounts of paper, take lots of energy to produce, and can take over 100 years to biodegrade properly in already-packed landfill sites. Why not become a convert to the original and the best? Find out how at RealNappy.com.

Paint

When decorating your home, remember to choose lead-free paints which have low-levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It'll save you from breathing nasty fumes and it's kinder to the atmosphere too. And, when the paint's dry, all you need to add are a few fair trade crafts for a finishing touch, and you'll have the ultimate green home, whatever your favourite colour. And for furnishsings, try One Village.

So - you've put everything you earn into the mortgage payments for your green, fairly traded, low environmental impact home, and it's left you skint. Join the 40,000 people who're already decorating their homes and buying bread without it costing a penny. Use LETSLink UK to find your local scheme, or start your own with help from their online guides. Learn how LETS (Local Exchange Trading System) units aren't like money and spot the difference between debt and commitment.

But if you want to leave the rat race entirely, Global Eco-Village Network gives you an incredibly diverse assortment of international eco-villages, along with a calendar of right-on festivals and events from John O'Groats to the Lizard, and you can even branch out and join a live web-chat.

And finally… ethical ethics

In many ways ethical living and shopping are all about questioning the ways we do things to see if they're right for us, or if there's a better, more satisfying path to follow. And the same goes for leisure time too.

How about exploring the way people express their faith in different parts of the world? Or taking some time out to imagine what life would be like living day-to-day in a developing country? A book you'll want to consider is Wake Up World! It's available from Oxfam and follows a day in the life of a group of children from around the world, from the moment they wake until bedtime. The book is aimed mainly at children and young people, but you're guaranteed to find there are plenty new discoveries in its pages for the big kid in all of us.

Groups

If you want to get involved with campaigning for the environment, the internet is a good place to start. Greenpeace is a group of activists that have literally put their lives on the line for the ethical issues they believe in. their website has lots of fascinating, downloadable info. And yes, they really do have a Save the Whales section. Another environmental campaigning group, Friends of the Earth, provides all kinds of eco-campaigning resources, local, national and international. More locally, Common Ground is a bunch of artists-cum-environmentalists championing causes like local distinctiveness, fields and orchards.

Sources

More general sources of information include:
Get Ethical - online source for ethical products and Ethical Matters, the magazine for the socially aware reader
Ethical Junction - makes ethical choices easy, with a directory, search facility (including ethical entertainment, searchable by region) and shopping centre
Women's Environmental Network - WEN does not just tackle women's issues - campaigns have included waste prevention (a crucial complement to recycling), GM foods, and sourcing food locally

Magazines

Websites are all very well, but you can't read them in the bath (unless you have a waterproof laptop). Ethical Consumer magazine and New Internationalist are well-established sources for ethical information, and their webpages provide teaching resources, ethical shopping, ways to take action and more. You can get a discounted subscription to New Internationalist by clicking here.








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