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The inspiration for this particular blog post was born out of the research of a planned piece about sustainable pet care. We quickly saw just how often a lot of ethical terminology is used interchangeably, despite the meanings being quite different in practice. As such, we felt that a broader post that takes a look at ethical consumerism might be beneficial. Below, we will try our best to shine some light on the basics, before sharing some of the things we’ve learned so far on our journey through the minefield of becoming [more] ethical consumers.
Ethical Consumerism: This phrase might sound like something from an economy textbook, but all it means is choosing to limit the negative social or environmental impacts of your lifestyle by buying certain goods or services, and avoiding others. Choice and limitation are the two key concepts. The consumer world is NOT currently geared towards ethical consumerism, so it is up to us to make those positive choices. Similarly, unless you live off grid and are meticulous about your entire lifestyle, the things you consume will ALWAYS have some element of negative impact. The goal therefore is to reduce this wherever possible, which is perfectly achievable. We feel it is fair then to say that ethical consumerism can be flexible, and allows consumers to choose what level of negative impact they are prepared to accept as a cost of their lifestyle. However, there are also certainties with ethical consumerism.
Ethical consumerism is becoming more important every single day
“Expenditure on ethical goods and services in the UK increased almost threefold in the ten years between 1999 and 2008”
All of the other terms discussed in this post describe elements of ethical consumerism. If you’d like more information on what ethical consumerism means, or why it’s important to you as a consumer or a business, retail education charity IGD have a helpful website.
Vegetarian: A dietary choice (although some illnesses make a vegetarian diet necessary), defined by the Vegetarian Society as
“Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish* or by-products of slaughter.”
There are various subgroups within vegetarianism, but generally speaking only food and drink can be defined as vegetarian. Being vegetarian therefore tends to have less impact on ethical consumerism outside of the food industry.
Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: A fancy way of labeling ‘traditional’ vegetarianism – eats dairy and eggs but avoids meat.
Lacto-vegetarian: Avoids meat and eggs, but consumes dairy.
Ovo-vegetarian: Avoids meat and dairy, but consumes eggs.
Pescetarian: Often not regarded as vegetarian by other types of vegetarian, pescetarians avoid meat except for fish.
Vegan: A lifestyle choice rather than a purely dietary one, vegans avoid any animal product, including leather and honey. Degrees of veganism vary greatly, as there are many complicated factors that they can consider when buying goods.
Fair-trade: Generally accepted as trade between companies and producers with secured minimum prices that protect the producer. Usually occurs between developing producers and western companies. In practice, there are in fact different regulators and standards of fair trade. Two major factions are the Fairtrade Foundation and the World Fair Trade Organisation.
Sustainable: The basic concept of a sustainable process or product is that it can continue in the future without being changed eg. a sustainable method of farming rice crops will mean that the same rice crops can be farmed in the same way in twenty years time.
Now we’ve had a quick (read: brief, and basic) look at some of the most important terminology for ethical consumers, you might be forgiven for thinking everything else is easy – simply buy the products that advertise these logos, and you’re all set, right? WRONG.
In an ideal world it might be true, but unfortunately these labels are barely the beginning. For the most part, it’s true that relying on these labels WILL improve your ethics as a consumer. However, it’s also true that they are the source of controversy and often don’t represent exactly what you might expect. Let’s take a look at just a few of the issues.
Vegan/Vegetarian: For the purpose of this blog, we are choosing to trust branded products that advertise their product as suitable for vegans/vegetarians. The problem we have, is that not all brands choose to seek accreditation, or advertise their product as vegan/vegetarian, even if it is. To our minds, this indicates a deeper issue that we find more problematic than the simple confusion. Either, brands are scared to advertise as vegan or vegetarian friendly, for fear of losing ‘regular’ (read: omnivorous) customers as a result of the negative opinions much of the general market hold about meat free consumers, or else the brand has no commitment to meat-free produce that extends beyond their desire to create a ‘better’/’cheaper’ product. It’s a sad situation we think needs more attention, but in the meantime, we recommend checking manufacturer websites, or sites like Vegan Wiki.
A similar problem crops up from brands desire to cash in on a label with positive perceptions: all natural colours and flavourings. Carmine, or E120 in Europe is sometimes used as red dye. And it’s made from bugs. Squished, crushed bugs, farmed in their millions. But it doesn’t say that anywhere on any labels, so if you wish to avoid eating animal products, it’s down to the consumer to check for the dye. This livescience article has some more detail.
Fair-trade: That’s right, sadly a fair-trade badge isn’t a safe bet, either. Frankly, we were shocked at the amount of criticism and question marks our research actually revealed. There’s certainly enough for a whole individual blog post, so if people show an interest we might make that happen. For now, we hope a bullet list will help.
At it’s worst therefore, the fair-trade organisation can be seen as nothing more than a profit making middle man, who facilitates increased profits for big corporations at the cost of the very workers the scheme claims to exist to protect. Of course, this isn’t true in every case, but on the facts there is every chance it could be true for some.
Above are a few big issues we wanted to draw attention to, but that isn’t where the story ends. Depending on how strongly you want to embrace an ethical lifestyle, there can be potentially no end to the factors you need to consider in order to make the best ethical choice to meet your needs.
So we’ve had a look at some of the obstacles that we face in our pursuit of becoming more ethical consumers. Here are some tips we hope will help you steer the course.
Of course, these are just some of the things to watch out for and steps to consider. We hope you enjoyed reading, and encourage you to share any of the difficulties you have encountered, or your suggestions for becoming a more ethical consumer, in the comments section below.
Thank you so much for your time!
Our first reblog. We applaud Natural Nomad for their clear, analytical, and unaggressive evaluation of some of the reasons for choosing a vegan lifestyle.
However, it’s far from all plain sailing. There are lots of vegans out there who are the only Vegan in their home, in their class, or at their work. And it’s hard. The internet is peppered with guides and tips for coping as the sole Vegan. Many also refer to strategies for defending your vegan beliefs, or even trying to convert the non-Vegans.
As a result of these guides, and a response to the difficulties, we here at Paw the Love of Earth have a proposition to put forward, and a pledge to make.
There are many only Vegans out there, we feel it is vital to show them that they are not ‘only’ Vegans, and that Veganism is a fantastic, healthy, and ethical lifestyle choice.
There are many lone Vegans out there, but we are ultimately united in our beliefs, and our commitment to the planet.
There are many sole Vegans standing their ground with passion and conviction.
We would dearly love it if any of you, all of you, would honour us by taking the same pledge.
You can do so in private and in public, in your actions and on any social media you have. You can do so by always having time for another Vegan who needs your help and support, or has questions that you can answer.
And once per week (or more often) you can do so by tweeting/speaking/recording/videoing your support, with the #solevegan. We propose that meat-free Mondays represent a perfect opportunity for us to show our support.
We would also love to see Vegans showing their support with #solevegan photos. These can be selfies, pets, creations or anything you are comfortable sharing. Our only request is that somewhere the image contains a ‘V’ shape, to represent our solidarity. Paw the Love of Earth hope to reach a stage where we can choose our favourites each week and reward them in some way.
So please, join our campaign. We urge you to consider taking the Sole Vegan pledge. We ask you to share this page and its message. We encourage you to show the strength of our soul, and encourage all sole Vegans on their difficult journeys.
Sincerely, thank you.
The Paws of PtLoE
Easter Weekend is practically upon us. Whether your reasons for celebrating Easter are religious, cultural, spiritual or otherwise, the occasion represents a fantastic opportunity to get together with family and friends. Read on for our best eco-friendly and vegan suggestions to make your weekend an eggscellent success!
The Paws number one rule for celebrating Easter is to make the preparation part of the festivities. Whatever the scale of your Easter, we thoroughly recommend getting everyone involved and making a spectacle out of the preparation. Our favourite events include:
Our ‘egg’ prep is all hands on deck and is never complete without at least two crates full of materials, which we do our best to source from recycling or nature. We have a table covered with unwanted newspapers and only one rule – nobody leaves the table without a grin plastered to their face like a papier mache decoration.
At Paw the Love of Earth, we choose to celebrate a Vegan Easter for environmental, animal welfare, and economic reasons. Lots of regular commercial chocolate eggs are readily available out there, but we choose to leave commentary on non-vegan eggs to other writers 🙂
The big question for us though, is eggs, or ‘eggs’. We tend to have edible ‘eggs’ in some form as part of our Easter meal (either chocolate, or other vegan food styled into egg shapes, often hollow), which are always different to the ‘eggs’ we hunt.
When we don’t hunt for eggs, we search for other objects instead. We think non-eggs have greater potential for symbolism, which might be particularly useful for religious families.
As mentioned above, we love maps! They really help bring an extra element of interactivity and fun to Easter. We have two favourite types of map, which frequently crop up whenever we do scavenger-style hunts.
And there we have it, the Paws top Easter tips for a top Easter Weekend. We wish you all a wonderfully happy Easter!
Feature image credit: Photo by hadkhanong. Published on 30 March 2015, from freedigitalphotos.net
Welcome to the very first official Paw the Love of Earth blog post! We spent a lot of time deliberating what we should share first. In the end, the coming of the new season seemed too symbolic to pass up on.
As you may know, the first official day of Spring is now just one week away. With the nights becoming lighter and a little warmer, now is the perfect time to finish clearing away the remnants of winter and preparing your garden for the year to come. But please be careful and think reuse before refuse – a lot of what you might be tempted to throw away can give some fantastic benefits to your plot with a little repurposing and elbow grease. Below are some eco-friendly, animal (wild and pet) safe suggestions to help you prepare for your very own blooming good garden!
Exactly as simple as it sounds. Start the season as you mean to go on, by having a good spring clean. Sweep any patios, collect any foliage, and clear up any debris or leftover fruit fall. For ultimate satisfaction, save all compostables as well as anything timber, or interesting, for later use. We found the promise of a hot cocoa afterwards to be a great incentive for hard workers, so no reason not to get everyone involved.
2015 was particularly bad for rough winds and unpleasant weather. Welcome Spring to its own sanctuary in your garden by repairing any damage fence panels or posts, making sure any damaged trees and plants are safely and correctly taken care of. Next, it makes sense to follow all good generals and draw up your plan for 2016. Design and mark out any new borders and flowerbeds you wish to develop, making sure to leave space for any sustainable projects (more on these to come). Finally, take the time to reset all of your existing features, but bear in mind that nature’s little critters will be grateful for a few extra weeks of dead growth cover.
Yup, you heard us. But of course we mean water butts, a wonderfully thoughtful and environmentally friendly solution to your garden’s water needs. These can be readily purchased from gardening centres, or constructed at home from repurposed materials. We recommend plastic bins, as they are more robust, and the plastic is much better repurposed than sent to landfill or a recycling centre. If you don’t have one, lined and sealed wooden units or old barrels can also make great solutions. If plastic is too ugly, or unnatural for the garden look you want, then get creative and consider cladding your plastic bin with some fallen branches. Similarly, if you prefer a modern or unique look, customise your plastic bin with whatever works for you!
We suggest that butts with lids are safest for gardens with pets, children, or regular visitors, and find that taps are a convenience that more than make up for the small hassle of installation. Making your own agree, and also recommend steam cleaning your butt before use, and obviously avoiding any plastics that have had heavy contact with chemicals.
Again, it’s your garden and your rules, so if you prefer to go lidless, or tapless, then get creative, and feel free to share your photos here. Near empty butts can be difficult to use without a tap, but a well-style bucket lift would certainly bring some ingenuity and original character to your build.
Though we don’t mean this literally, unless you are confident and have thoroughly researched how to do this safely. Much of your natural garden, and vegetable food waste however, can be paid back to the earth, for your garden to reap the benefits throughout the year. Yes, we are talking about the gardeners equivalent of a magic elixir; compost!
Compost bins can be purchased as kits or complete units, but its oftentimes more fun and environmentally pleasing to build your own. This is also a great opportunity to take care of the leftovers from your cleanup. The scale of your leftovers – and your compost project – will of course be determined by the size of your plot, but any materials from large rocks, bricks and sleepers, through to branches and old pallets can all be useful in construction.
As a general rule of thumb, any non-toxic plant life and vegetable waste is suitable for recycling in a compost bin. Equally, without special treatment, most pet waste should be considered NOT suitable for composting. Research is still being conducted on pet waste safety, and in any case, special chemicals and additives are needed to add to the bin to create a usable compost. The biggest exception we are aware of is chicken or other domestic poultry waste. Too toxic and harsh to be applied straight to plant or vegetable beds, poultry litter is actually a wonderful natural activator and works well when added to your other organic composting waste. If ever in doubt, consult a legitimate expert or authority, such as the Royal Horticultural Society, and remember to use compost you are unsure about solely on plant beds rather than your vegetables.
There are all manner of critters and crawlers that can be unwelcome in your plant life. Here at PtLoE we respect your right to a beautiful garden, but we also respect the balance of nature, and all creatures’ right to life. As a result, all of our solutions are non-harmful to your garden or your slugs, snails, and minibeasts. We heartily implore you to at least give them a try before your resort to anything more drastic. Our favourite solutions include:
Please let us urge you away from salt, beer, and nematodes. Not only are these a lethal solution that are literally overkill to the problem, but these substances are so strong that they present a danger to your plants and can damage the soil.
Spring is a great time to start planning and creating houses for desirable critters. We find the best source for helpful tips and support to be the RSPB, who’s ‘make a home for wildlife’ campaign is brilliant and deserves more support. With a little information on what you’d like to build a home for (bugs, bees, birds, insects oh my) the most basic of waste becomes a fantastic asset, limited only by your imagination.
Our particular favourite project is the bee hotel. Poor bees are cute, full of energy with their buzzing, and come equipped with stylish and cuddly little fuzzy jackets. Unfortunately, they are also vital to our ecosystem, overworked and in decline. We recommend leftover wood from delivery pallets, or old birdhouses and drawers, and a mix of bamboo and drilled wood.
And there it is, our first blog post has come to an end. All comments are deeply appreciated; any photos or stories of your own projects are eagerly anticipated. As always, if you would like to request any further information or get in touch with the paws behind this blog directly, we can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope this article helps you to take a positive step towards a happier planet.
Thank you for your time!