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The Christmas gift guide that gives back

Struggling to pick those last-minute gifts for your loved ones? Well, you’re not the only one.

As we open our advent calendars and pull out those dusty Christmas decs, it’s time to start thinking about presents. But for many this year – as the planet and the people on it is becoming increasingly important to society to protect – you may want to give gifts with meaning. Ones that aren’t full of plastic, or do good in the process.

We’ve put together a list of gifts you can buy for family and friends without the guilt, all while spreading a little Christmas cheer.

THE CHARITY SHOP GIFTCARD.

We no doubt all know someone who would love this gift! For the vintage lovers and secondhand shoppers among us, The Charity Shop Giftcard is a fantastic gift. You purchase and load it up with cash, just like any other giftcard, but the contents are redeemable at a variety of different charity shops across the country.

Participating stores includes places like Shelter, YMCA and TRAID, but the list is growing every single day. This gift does triple the good – you’re making a donation to charities, enabling people to shop secondhand and preventing waste, and you’re bringing a smile to your loved ones faces. What could be better?

CONCERN WORLDWIDE.

Sick of giving the gift of stuff every year? For your loved one who has, well, everything, consider purchasing a Concern Gift, through Concern Worldwide.

On their website, you can choose from a bunch of different gifts, all of which are tailored to improve the lives of families in some of the world’s poorest countries. You can spend as little as £9 on a mosquito net, or as much as £1,180 on a village well – or buy livestock like chickens and cows so that families can eat, and sell produce for money.

Each gift comes with a personalised card you can send to your loved one, so they know where the money is going, and can see the difference it is making in someones life.

SEA CHANGE WINE.

If you have a family member who loves a glass of wine at the end of a long week, then look no further. Sea Change Wine is a wine company dedicated to quality wine, and protecting our oceans.

The wines are eco friendly (meaning minimal packaging), and each 75cl bottle purchased results in a 25 euro cents donation to charity partners like the Olive Ridley Project and Sea-Changers. As an added bonus, all wines are suitable for vegetarians, and most are even vegan friendly.  

TOGETHERBAND ACCESSORIES.

#TOGETHERBAND is a fantastic store that prioritises sustainability above all else – but who says you can’t look good while saving the planet?

For the sustainable fashionista in your life, consider the carbon negative sunglasses made from recycled CDs – for every pair sold £1 is donated to Sightsavers to help prevent blindness. Or maybe take a look at the bracelets made from ocean plastic with clasps made from surrendered firearms.

Whoever you’re buying for, #TOGETHER has a gift they’ll love, that allows you to give back at the same time.

SOCIAL STORIES CLUB.

Have a foodie friend who wants to make an impact? Look no further than the Sustainable Foodie Gift Box, where each and every item has made a difference, in its own special way.

From the apple crisps made from wonky apples that would otherwise go to the landfill, helping reduce food waste to the honey spiced nut mix that helps girls in Africa through the Empowering Girls Education Programme, the Sustainable Foodie Gift Box is a great choice for making a difference. One thing is for sure, this gift box will keep your loved ones happy in their souls, and their stomachs, long after Christmas has been and gone.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Responsible Consumption and Production.

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Planet

It’s time to turn Black Friday green

Once almost a holiday in its own right, the cultural phenomenon that is Black Friday has sunk in people’s estimations in recent years.

From complaints that the deals are not all they are cracked up to be, to accusations of overconsumption being bad for the environment, Black Friday is no longer the saving grace for people late on Christmas gifts.

Still, it’s a day observed in many countries around the world, with even small, independent businesses running some kind of ‘Black Friday’ event. So should we get involved – and if not, what’s the alternative?

What’s wrong with Black Friday?

The main concern people have with Black Friday is that it encourages over consumerism and, because of that, often produces a lot of waste.

80% of products bought at Black Friday end up in landfill, are incinerated, or are recycled poorly, according to stats. Add onto that the 429,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions we’re expected to produce on Black Friday 2022 from deliveries alone, and it becomes obvious that there are a lot of valid environmental concerns.

There’s also the issue that the “deals” aren’t quite as deal-y as we thought. Which.co.uk found in 2020 that 98% of the ‘Black Friday’ deals advertised were available for the same price or cheaper in the six months after the ‘big day’.

So what are the alternatives?

There are plenty of businesses supporting alternatives for Black Friday – and one of those is Teemill, a platform that allows people to start a sustainable clothing brand, based on a circular model.

For Black Friday 2022, they’re encouraging people to give back. They’ve launched #TakeBackFriday to encourage people to think about the environment and consider what they already have that they don’t use, before buying more.

“Black Friday is a symptom of how waste has been woven into the way our world works,” says Teemilll co-founder Mart Drake-Knight. “Products are designed to be thrown away, meaning the only way to create growth is make and sell more products and create more waste.”

This Black Friday, Teemill is giving customers the opportunity to send back clothes they bought from them that they no longer wear, which means the company can recycle what people no longer need.

Using their Remill process, Teemill turns the old cotton clothes into brand new garments, creating less waste from their products.

[Find out more about the Remill process.]

The Ethical Consumer, a publication encouraging people to learn how to use their spending power to help change the world for the better, also suggests supporting alternatives to Black Friday this year.

“We’d say check out Buy Nothing Day and MAKE SMTHNG week,” says Ruth Strange, from the Ethical Consumer. “But you can also take inspiration from what Green Friday suggested: rather than being stuck indoors on our phones and laptops, competing for discounts and buying products we don’t necessarily need… let’s join in with the Green Friday ethos!”

While Black Friday is all about buying new, alternatives such as Green Friday, Buy Nothing Day and MAKE SMTHING week are about moving away from consuming too much. Instead, they encourage you to focus on other aspects of life like going out into nature, putting time into creating something, volunteering with worthwhile causes and spending time with the people you love.

“Don’t forget, there are many other ways to meet your needs, and save money, all without lining the pockets of giant corporations,” reminds Ruth. “Clothes swaps, second-hand shops, growing, making, and even sharing through Libraries of Things!”

So, is Black Friday bad? In a perfect world, no – and if there’s something you need that you’ve had your eye on for a while, Black Friday can be a great day to make that purchase. But if you’re hoping to be a bit more eco-friendly this year, or even if you just want to hold tight to your hard-earned cash, it might be worth looking closer at some of the alternatives.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Responsible Consumption and Production.

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Culture

Make-up that’s committed to mental wellbeing

It’s no secret that more of us are being conscious where we shop – we’re aware of the climate crisis, we’re aware of the hardships many people experience, and we want companies to be aware of this, too.

And many of them are – because more seem to be committing to green climate pledges, supporting charities through their profits, and aligning with the goals that aim to make our world a happier and healthier place to live.

So each week, we highlight the ones doing their bit.

MAYBELLINE.

Cosmetic giant Maybelline (admit it, you sang the jingle, right?) has teamed up with a whole host of mental health experts to create Brave Together. Available 24/7, Brave Together has resources available for people struggling with their mental health including self-help tools, and advice on how to spot mental health struggles in others.

Plus, you can even recycle your Maybelline makeup now at over 1000 stores. A win for us – and for the environment.

TURTLE DOVES.

Turtle Doves uses post-consumer textile waste (that’s old clothes to you and me) to create products like wrist-warmers, fingerless gloves, socks, scarves and more, all in a bid to prevent more waste from being created. Each piece is unique, created from old cashmere jumpers that are often sourced from charity shops, so they know the money is going somewhere good.

Additionally, Turtle Doves endeavours to employ British people, including a number of seamstresses who lost their jobs when they were moved abroad, and does their best to educate their customers on sustainability, and how to ‘make do and mend’ with their Turtle Doves purchases. Plus, look at these adorable booties.

NOUR AND THE MERCHANT.

Pioneering ‘slow fashion’, Nour and the Merchant creates beautiful, fairytale-inspired garments by hand with their small, but passionate, team of four, and everything is made to order to ensure that there is as little waste as possible.

Wherever possible, the fabric used is deadstock, recycled, organic or sustainable, and new garments are created from every piece of leftover material. Everything is shipped through a green initiative, to offset carbon emissions, making it a super green way to add to your wardrobe!

Not only that, but yearly donations are made to different NGOs and charities, particularly those that promote change, protect those in need, and fight injustice. A thoughtful company all around! Find out more.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Responsible Consumption and Production.

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Planet

4 ways you can future-proof fashion

It’s common knowledge now that the fashion industry has huge flaws in it. But it’s hard to break the cycle – especially when you have no idea where to start. 

The fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions, and nearly 20% of wastewater. The UN estimates a single pair of jeans takes one kilogram of cotton to make and, because cotton is often grown in dry areas, that pair of jeans takes 7,500–10,000 litres of water to make. That’s about 10 years’ worth of drinking water for a single person.

But equally, fashion is so incredibly important – for self-expression, for individuality, and figuring out your own identity. That’s why it’s paramount we discover new ways to engage in fashion ethically and sustainably, to make sure we can all enjoy the freedom that fashion brings us for as long as possible. So, how can we do that?

BUY BETTER

At some point, you may have to buy brand-new clothes – a winter coat for when the weather drops, or a pair of jeans that fit you properly. 

When you do, avoid opting for the cheapest and most accessible piece you can get your hands on and instead see your clothes as an investment. Do your research into stores that aren’t just more sustainable, but invest in quality fabrics, and well-made garments that will last a lifetime. (You could check out GoodOnYou’s brand ratings). 

“Don’t assume that to be sustainable it has to cost lots more,” says Cally Russell, CEO and co-founder of sustainable clothing brand Unfolded. “One of our core aims, for example, is to ensure we offer sustainable products at affordable prices – this is the only way you can drive long-term mass change and really help shoppers make the sustainable switch.”

Also, adds Cally, it’s worth knowing that if a business has a fundamentally unsustainable model, then their “sustainable line” isn’t doing much “apart from a little bit of greenwashing”. 

If you’re struggling with where to start, try r/buyitforlife or GoodOnYou’s brand ratings

EDUCATE YOURSELF

Ultimately, the best way to make sustainable decisions is to educate yourself on what sustainability looks like – as well as the dangers of greenwashing. ICYMI: greenwashing is when companies advertise their products as sustainable or eco-friendly, without necessarily putting in the measures to make sure that’s true. 

By educating not just yourself, but your family and friends, and spreading the word about how to make more sustainable choices, you’re moving the world towards a better way of living.

Check out charities like Fashion Takes Action and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for more information on how to make your fashion choices more sustainable.

SWAP DON’T SHOP

Another way to future-proof fashion? Swap your clothes, rather than shop for new ones. Swap with your friends, search for local swap parties, or run your own event. This is a great option if you aren’t interested in renting out clothes for short periods of time. 

Anna Cargan set up My Shared Wardrobe, a clothing swap shop, with her business partner Natalie, partially because of concerns about the environment.

“There are a lot of issues that we can’t solve as individuals and it can be overwhelming when you think about it, but this is something that we can do, just to have our own small impact,” she says. “And it’s that ripple effect, isn’t it? It’s getting people thinking about their choices and fashion and where they buy things from and [to] swap instead of buying new.”

Anna’s advice is if you do have to buy something new, because it’s something you need, take a few minutes to have a look and see if you can get it secondhand first. Her main business, BuildABundle, is an online secondhand clothing shop for kids’ clothes – but there are many options for adults’ clothing too, such as Vinted and Depop. 

“That’s the easiest way to be more sustainable: use something that already exists rather than creating that demand for something new.”

GET CREATIVE

And lastly? Get creative. By cultivating even just some basic sewing skills, you open up a whole new world of possibilities for your clothes – you can make them last longer, adjust them to new sizes, or turn a frumpy charity shop find into a whole new outfit.

Evie Holdcroft (Holdcroft Handmades on TikTok) is a fibre artist with an emphasis on sustainability. She often uses reclaimed materials, such as non-recyclable, single-use plastics. Evie is also an avid fixer of clothing, determined to tease out every bit of life from her clothes. 

“Mending and altering clothes is a way I can keep wearing the clothes I love for longer,” she tells Smiley News. “I also really like the aesthetic of visible mending, I enjoy that when I fix my clothes it adds to the story of the garment. It always reminds me of the Japanese ethos of wabi-sabi – finding beauty in imperfections.”

For Evie, fixing her clothes isn’t just a means to an end; it’s something that improves the garment as a whole. “Keep fixing your clothes – the more you do the more personal to you they become,” she says. “You’ll remember that sense of achievement every time you look at the fix, whether it’s invisible or loud and proud!”

There’s no perfect solution to the environmental issues of fashion – and we can’t be perfect. We’re human, after all. But small changes add up, and by engaging in some of these practices and integrating them into our daily lives, we can be one step closer to saving the planet.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Responsible Consumption and Production.

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Planet

COP27: What you need to know

Climate change: it’s an issue we all want to help combat. Last year, in Glasgow, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference made big commitments about ways to change our world for the better.

So one year on, what can we expect from COP27? And what else do you need to know about it?

Okay, so why are all these countries getting together?

Well, this is the 27th year that the 197 countries that have agreed to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change get together to discuss climate and environmental issues.

This year, it will be at the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt and will last from November 6 to 18.

International leaders like US President Joe Biden will be there and the White House is optimistic about the climate efforts in the US. The White House says President Biden will “build on the significant work the United States has undertaken to advance the global climate fight.”

What can we expect this year?

Like with any COP meeting, this year is important to line up climate action for the future.

Countries are expected to deliver updated plans on how they’re going to lower their greenhouse gas emissions, something they agreed to do at last year’s COP in Glasgow. Also since the event is being held in Africa there’s an expectation that there will be a specific focus on African issues.

How’s the future looking?

While most participants will consider all COP events important next year’s COP28 has particular importance because it’s when countries who signed the 2015 Paris Agreement at COP21 will show the world how they implemented their climate action.

It is being called the Global Stocktake and will be presented at COP28 in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.

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Culture

How to help Puerto Rico

Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 18; weeks later, the island nation is still reeling. 

The storm was a category 1 hurricane, yet it brought widespread flooding dumping half as much rain as some parts of the country gets in a year. Electrical infrastructure was affected across the country and entire neighborhoods were flooded out. More than 100,000 people across the country are still without power. 

President Biden declared an emergency in Puerto Rico, calling on both the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief efforts for residents.

Here are a few ways to help.

GlobalGiving

GlobalGiving is a non-profit that helps connect other non-profits with donors has launched a Hurricane Fiona relief fund with a goal of $1 million. Consider donating.

Funds raised will help first responders “meet survivors’ immediate needs” for food, shelter, fuel, clean water, and hygiene products, according to GlobalGiving.

Hispanic Federation

The non-profit supports Latin American countries and was quickly on the ground in Puerto Rico. They also have a Hurricane Fiona relief fund if you’re interested in donating. 

“Because Puerto Rico is still rebuilding from the damage of Maria, the flooding and power outages caused by Fiona are already far more severe and life-threatening than they should be,” according to the organization.

Red Cross

Cross deploying to Alaska following a monsoon, Puerto Rico, and now Florida, the Red Cross sends volunteers into disaster zones to provide support to the people there. Consider supporting the organization. 

Taller Salud

Taller Salud is a women-led non-profit and is trying to source items such as nonperishable food, adult and baby diapers, gallons of water, toiletries, and more. They also accept monetary donations if that’s more accessible. 

As with any type of donation or monetary support be sure that wherever you’re donating is an attributed and reputable non-profit to avoid scams that pop up around disasters.