Is your bank unethical?

Banking isn’t exactly short of negative press – with the 2008 recession, news of shady investments and excessive pay, people are seeming more and more disillusioned with mainstream banking. But are there alternatives? Are they safe? That’s what I set out to answer.

I had never considered how banks use money until recently, when I found out about an ‘ethical bank’. My first question was ‘if there are ethical banks, what are the rest doing that is so unethical’?

Here’s a little insight into my research, which will hopefully help you make more informed choices about what you want your money to be doing in the future!

All of this information is from talking to people and doing research online. I’m not a professional but have put in references and links for you in case you want to do further reading.

What makes most banks unethical?

Banks are a business like any other. Their primary goal is to make money while providing a service to users. In general, the unethical part of most banks becomes visible when you look at where they invest their money, and there have been a few court cases in the past with banks that have been caught being complicit in illegal activities, such as funding drug cartels (and more recently too). Most of the business they carry out however is totally legal, it just might not be in line with your personal values.

Ethical Consumer magazine released a report in 2018, stating that the UK’s biggest 5 banks ( Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS and Santander) are hindering our efforts to tackle climate change by profiting from some of the world’s most harmful industries, such as fossil fuels.

As if that weren’t bad enough, most mainstream banks also use money from consumers to fund various other industries, such as nuclear weapons, tobacco (full report on why this does harmful than good) and fracking.

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Would we be in a better position to fight climate change if it weren’t for big banks?

Worryingly, there is little incentive for banks to disclose where their money is going, and as such it has been incredibly hard for the average consumer to even begin to figure out which banks might be morally bankrupt, and which might actually be able to benefit the world we live in. Thankfully, Ethical Consumer has done the reports, and these are the banks that came out on top:

Triodos

Triodos is one of the most transparent banks out there, meaning that every investment decision they make can be seen by everyone. It publishes details of every organisation it lends to, and is known for specialising in sustainable energy, organic farming and culture, helping local communities.

“We want people to really think about what their bank is doing with their money. Money doesn’t have to be invested in the arms trade, fossil fuels and tobacco – it can be used to do good things that help build the society we want to live in,” says the bank.

Triodos has 715,000 customers across Europe, lending £6.5bn to projects making a positive impact on the world. The only downside is that it costs £3 per month for a current account. Huw Davies, head of retail banking says that there is ‘no such thing as free banking’, and that someone always pays, e.g. via hidden penalty charges and hidden fees. Triodos is about as transparent as it gets.

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Co-op

Co-op bank is the only highstreet bank with an explicit ethical policy, including (but not limited to) never investing in fossil fuels, companies that test on animals or arms manufacturing.

In 2011 the bank suffered huge losses and was sold off to private shareholders, leaving its ethical policies in doubt. However, as of 2018, the bank proved that it was able to continue running with ethical investments only, and is watched closely by a customer union, to ensure no dodgy investments get made. It seems to be making a comeback, so could still be a good option.

Monzo

If you’re a millennial, there’s a chance you might recognise Monzo’s eye catching ‘hot coral’ banking cards. Launched in 2015, Monzo has been breaking crowdfunding records since, and is a ‘fintech unicorn‘ – one of the rare British startups to be already valued at over £1bn.

Similar to Triodos and Co-op, Monzo is all about transparency. Anyone can read minutes from Monzo meetings, and they have just hired a diversity inclusion leader – 26% of Monzo’s staff identify as non-straight, and 45% of the staff are female.

Whilst no doubt better than the majority of banks, Monzo appears to focus less of sustainability and ethics than the above two options. However, if you’re looking for an intuitive, user-friendly option that has all the functionality to help you save, use money abroad and soon even pay off your mortgage (once you’ve saved enough to get one), Monzo could be for you.

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The easily identifiable online banking card of Monzo (ft. Lily Allen’s hand)

Handelsbanken

This Swedish bank has been operating in the UK since 1982, with over 200 independent branches. As each branch is decentralised, customers belong to a local branch rather than an umbrella bank, meaning that each customer is known by the local bank, leading to better and more ethical lending decisions. Unlike many banks, staff at Handelsbanken are not pushed to sell dubious packages to customers that they don’t want or need – this has led to the highest rating among personal and business bank customers for satisfaction and loyalty.

Charity Bank

Charity Bank is an ethical bank that ‘uses savers money to lend to charities and social enterprises’. They have lent over £278m to these causes since 2002, funding community projects, the arts, education and training, the environment and more.

Similar to Triodos, they are incredibly transparent about their lending, and you can read up about how each penny is spent here. Not only this, but they also provide practical support and free seminars for those working in the charity sector, helping them achieve their goals and help others. If you’re interested in helping out local communities, this could be the bank for you.

 

Summary

Many people don’t want to change banks because of the faff of having to change account number, sort code and PIN, and for good reason. When we get a phone we get to keep the number for life – why is it not the same for banks? Unfortunately, despite the increasing number of ethical options out there, bank switching appears to have remained relatively stable, perhaps because of the complications involved in switching.

I cannot recommend more choosing to switch banks, even if only for some of your money, especially if you are with one of the main banks, e.g. HSBC, Barclays, Nationwide etc.

We choose to spend our money the best we can day to day, and yet fail to realise that the rest of our money, no matter how small, is still being spent on investments that likely don’t align with our values.

Is it not more important that the bulk of our money goes towards projects that have positive impacts? Perhaps this is over simplifying, but I cannot help but think that it is really the least we can do, if we are able.

TL;DR

Mainstream banking is pretty bad for the world. I’ve switched to Triodos Bank and you should too.

Read more here.

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this! I know it’s a huuuuuge topic and I’ve tried to cover what I can in here. Essentially I wanted to share that there are options, so we don’t have to all be stuck in the abusive relationship that is mainstream banking. Please do comment and share, and come and find me on Instagram to let me know what you think!

Hvar & Split, Croatia

I was recently lucky enough to travel to Croatia with one of my closest friends for a beautiful holiday for good food, sunshine and relaxing, and we had SUCH an amazing time!

It seems that this year, Croatia is a very popular destination for tourists, and rightly so, so I thought I’d list the best places we visited both on the island of Hvar and Split, on the mainland.

The food recommendations are primarily places that offer excellent vegan and vegetarian options, but none of them are fully vegan/veggie. I’ve just put them down in the order we visited them 🙂

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Zoe and I had an amazing time in Hvar!

Food

Giaxa – When we first arrived in Hvar we headed to Giaxa for a light lunch, upon recommendation that it does great vegan food! It was certainly not a light lunch (we ended up getting a full three courses!) but the food was delicious. You can get everything from mixed veg to full gnocchi and meat, so there’s something for all tastes. The staff are also lovely, and the chef was a vegan Argentinian, which explains the great variety of food!

Lola bar and street food – For a ‘good night’ we were recommended Lola bar and street food. The staff here are the most energetic and smiley waiters I’ve ever seen! Options were good – both the veggie curry and falafel and hummus were great 🙂 If you’re vegetarian go for the veggie burger and don’t forget sweet potato fries (we got 2 portions). These guys also know how to mix drinks. Not sure what to have? Ask them for a recommendation.

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Veggie burgers are always a winner. I had the falafel!

Fig restaurants – Fig have restaurants in Stari Grad (Hvar), Hvar Town and also in Split, and you can see why it’s so popular! I was told to book in advance and am glad I did – queues were stretching down the street! Zoe recommends the chicken wrap and I would recommend the roast veg. Apparently brunch is great too! Also, get the sweet potato fries (ask for garlic mayo on the side). Fig in Split (yes we went to both of them) is in a beautiful courtyard and one of the only vegan places there. Head inside and see an ancient drain from the original building – it’s cooler than it sounds!

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You can’t go wrong with the food from Fig!

Spice – Final recommendation from Hvar was Spice, a pan asian restaurant situated in the main square. I was worried that it would be over priced, but it wasn’t bad at all. My recommendation would be the veggie pad thai and definitely the spring rolls! If you’re not a fan of Asian cuisine, they also have a ‘western’ menu that you can choose from, so something for all! Excellent service too.

Things to do

Hvar adventure – We were told that one of the best things to do on Hvar was to leave Hvar and visit the nearby islands of Paklinski. Hvar Adventures is a tour company recommended by google and well situated just off the main port. We went on a day tour (9am-3pm) on one of their beautiful yachts (not a massive group party boat!) to visit nearby deserted coves with the most beautiful water you’ll ever see, and go snorkelling and cliff jumping in various places. The day was truly idyllic and if I could repeat it 10 more times I would! They also offer sunset tours and various other adventure options.

Spanish Fortress – If you get the chance, run (or walk) up to the Spanish Fortress. It’s free to go up and you’ll be greeted with amazing views of the whole town and nearby islands. You can go in the Fortress too, but the views are the same out the front. It’s 50kn to get in.

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Not a bad view to hike/run up to!

Hvar Cathedral – You’ll definitely walk past this if you’re staying around Hvar town, but it is worth stopping and taking a good look at! If you eat at Spice restaurant for dinner you’ll see the sun setting on the cathedral and it’s beautiful!

Split old town – Split is home to one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world, the Diocletian Palace. Wander around dodging tourists and taking in everything that the town has to offer. It’s busy but beautiful, so enjoy!

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Look up in Split old town and you’ll see the remnants of the original palace! Spot Zoe!

Marjan Forest Park – If you’re less of a people-person and more of a nature-person (like me), the Marjan Forest Park is perfect.

Drinks

Carpe Diem beach/bar – if you’re into clubbing, head to Carpe Diem nightclub at 12:30am for a night of dancing on the beach. If, like me, you’re more of an evening drinks in the sun kind of a person, take a water taxi over at around 5pm to grab some drinks on the island. Make sure not to leave it too late – the beach shuts at 7pm to turn it into a club for the party-goers later in the evening.

Carpe diem bar is situated on the sea front in Hvar Town. It is picturesque but potentially overpriced for what you get. The island is more unique (although still pricey).

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At the beautiful (but expensive) Carpe Diem nightclub

Beaches

Dobovica – a short bus ride from the centre of town is Dubovica beach, which has a lovely bar (Dubo Beach Bar). Thoroughly recommend for an intimate homemade feeling (not surprising as the owner, Ivek, serves drinks out the front of his house)! This is a really lovely beach which is much less busy than those closer to town. We had an amazing day here! There’s a long, steep path down, so probably not suitable for anyone who may struggle to walk (see pic)

Pokonji Dol – Much closer to the main town is Pokonji Dol, a small beach that is often packed, but still very beautiful. Many people recommended this to us when we went out!

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The rocky part of Pokonji Dol is a lot less busy, but also somewhat less comfortable!

 

Carbon offsetting

We all know flying is bad for the environment – it’s suggested that commercial flights account for just above 2% of global carbon emissions, including the large proportion of the world that don’t fly at all. Whilst shaming people about flying is not the answer, those of us who are able to do something about it probably should. Not flying is not always possible (and let’s be honest, we all love a holiday every now and again), so carbon-offsetting is becoming more and more popular, with new organisations popping up with various solutions to the problem.

Below are some that you suggested, with some honest input about my flying habits, costs and plans for the future. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

 

Hometree.ie at Moy Hill Farm

If you’re looking for a relatable, home-grown feel, Moy Hill Farm tree planting is perfect. My friend knows the owners and frequently visits, seeing her previously planted trees. “By pledging you will be supporting a regenerative eco system” – Moy Hill also works with community to grow food and regenerate woodland to benefit the local community and wildlife. So far the charity has planted 14,000 native trees, such as Oak, Hazel and Birch. It’s difficult to know exactly how much carbon 10 trees (the minimum amount you can pledge) will offset, but knowing you are contributing to an amazing community project to the benefit of the local wildlife and environment is great.

 

Chooose.Today

Chooose uses your donations to fund the best UN-verified COreducing projects in LEDCs. Just £2.50 per month (their ‘climate neutral’ option) offsets approximately 3 flights from Oslo to London per month. Donating different amounts per month allows you to be ‘climate positive’ (£3.99 per month) or a ‘climate champ’ (£7.98 per month), offsetting different amounts of flying. The website is easy to use and offers both subscriptions (donations per month) and one off donations (e.g. 6 month or 1 year options), depending on the amount you’re looking to offset and how much money you’re willing to part with. I love this idea and it’s super easy to use, but also think moving your money to an ethical bank (e.g. Triodos) could have a similar effect without actually costing you any money.

 

My Climate.org

The Swiss not for profit organisation Climate.org works with partners both locally and globally to educate and consult on climate-protection projects. For individuals, it also provides a calculator for you to be able to calculate accurately your emissions, whether flying, driving, or simply living at home. After putting in your details, it provides a cost to offsetting those specific journeys, supporting international projects and sustainable development worldwide. There is some choice as to where your money goes e.g. helping smallhold farmers reforest areas or enable efficient cookers for women in Kenya.

I love this idea because it is very specific as to how you can offset your lifestyle. It also makes you think twice about longhaul flights. If I were to offset all my flights this year, according to this calculator it would cost me £153, the vast majority because of travelling to Tokyo for the marathon. For shorter journeys (e.g. Copenhagen) a payment of £5 was enough (bearing in mind this doesn’t include other travel).

 

Climate Care

Climate Care turns ‘climate responsibilities into positive outcomes’ providing tailored programmes to help organisations and individuals offset carbon emissions. This isn’t their only selling point though – they also work with governments to deliver large-scale emissions reduction projects and work with communities in LEDCs to build sustainable projects, improving the lives of people and benefitting the environment.

They also provide a calculator, which once you’ve calculated how much carbon you want to offset, gives you a cost for doing so. On this calculator it would cost me £53.40 for this year’s flights, compared to the £153 of MyClimate.org, but this could reflect the type of projects they’re funding. If you don’t know how much carbon you need to offset, Climate Care also provides flight, car, energy, event and business to calculate approximate carbon emissions, before allowing you to checkout, funding various projects around the world.

 

Atmosfair.de

Atmosfair is a German non-profit organization that actively contributes to CO₂ mitigation by promoting, developing and financing renewable energies in over 15 countries worldwide. They rely on donations from individuals and businesses, working with both to mitigate emissions, with an emphasis on air travel, as currently there is no technological solution for greener air travel (e.g. electronic planes, although interestingly hybrid planes may soon be a reality). Atmosfair uses donations to fund the creation of renewable energy sources in countries where they hardly exist, but could be successfully utilised (e.g. solar power across the equator). In this way, atmosfair saves COthat would otherwise be released by the use of fossil fuels in these countries. Meanwhile, locals benefit by being able to access clean energy around the clock, often for the first time.
For personal offsetting, Atmosfair provides a calculator which separates out emissions by airline, so is even more personalised than the other calculators. As I travelled to Tokyo with British Airways, I found that I released 60% less COthan the average airline, taking my offsetting cost for this flight down to just £42.20, from £79 via MyClimate.org. The calculator gives an excellent breakdown of emissions, comparisons and costs for each flight taken, which I love.

 

Trees For Life

Slightly different to the above few organisations, Trees For Life focuses specifically on helping the Scottish Caledonian Forest ecosystem, providing a home for wildlife and regenerating old forest. Regenerating forest is a long process, but provides a multitude of environmental benefits. Whilst there is no calculator on the site to offset your specific emissions, donations to their accredited ‘Carbon Offsetting’ location are used to plant trees in their conservation estate, with the capacity to offset over 50,000 tonnes of CO2. Trees for Life also links to this carbon calculator to calculate how many trees you should plant to offset your particular emissions.
If you’re looking for something close to home (and are based in the UK!), this could be the project for you – it’s relatively small scale with measurable impacts, and speaks to my ecology brain!

 

TL;DR

I was interested to see that most of these companies don’t simply plant trees to offset carbon (what I thought might be the easiest and most marketing-friendly way of offsetting carbon). Most fund global projects to reduce future carbon emissions in one way or another, which means you’re not exactly offsetting your own carbon, but rather reducing carbon that might be released in future.

I love the idea of this, because offsetting carbon does nothing to actually change the fact that COwill always be released as long as non-renewables are still being used. Atmosfair, Climate Care and Chooose fund renewables and energy-saving projects in place of projects that would otherwise use non-renewables, thus changing the future potential emissions.

It’s hard to tell which is my favourite – Moy Hill Farm is close to home, easy and cheap, and provides the option to see the impact you’re having first hand, but no calculator or personalised offsetting that I can see. The Chooose Today subscription model is reasonably priced, scalable according to your income and travel plans and incredibly easy to use – I would say perfect for a present for a climate-conscious friend. MyClimate.org is expensive but comprehensive, and I can’t help but think trying to save money whilst offsetting carbon just means that you’ll be offsetting less carbon, but it’s hard to tell. Climate Care might be a favourite, because it costs less than MyClimate.org and seems to do a similar thing. German brand Atmosfair works closely with airlines, which I love – I think it’s time for the worst emitters to take responsibility for the own emissions, and I would feel more comfortable flying with an airline that I know offsets their carbon. It also provides the most comprehensive calculator that I saw, and reasonable costs too.

 

So, what did I do?

I pledged 10 native trees with Moy Hill Farm, because I love supporting small businesses (and to be honest it was the first one I saw and I wanted to do something there and then). This cost €30.

I offset my flights to and from Tokyo using Atmosfair, as it was the only one that allowed me to specify my airline. This cost €47.

The remaining 3.5T of carbon to be offset for this year’s past and upcoming flights, I used Climate Care. This cost £25.

In future I think I’d just use Atmosfair or Climate Care for all the reasons mentioned above and for simplicity. Don’t forget that if you don’t have money to spare like this, simple changes such as which bank you keep your money in can have huge impacts, either funding things such as arms and tobacco or more sustainable and ethical projects, such as renewable energy. The best one I’ve found is Triodos but I’d love to find some more!

Please comment below with your thoughts, questions and recommendations – I’d love to hear them all!

 

A trip to Fes – Riad Fes & Hotel Sahrai

Recently I was lucky enough to be taken on a press trip to Fes, Morocco’s second largest city, to review two sister hotels in the area. Having been to Marrakech twice, I was excited to visit somewhere new in Morocco and with its rich and interesting history, Fes seemed like the perfect choice!

Some background: Fes was founded in the 8th Century and for a while was one of the largest cities in the world. Now, with a population of 1.2 million, Fes is known for its medina, probably the largest pedestrianised site in the world, and its university, the University of Al Quaraouiyine which was founded in 859 and the oldest continuously functioning university in the world.

This trip was gifted but as always all views are my own! We flew directly from Gatwick with Air Arabia. All images by the incredibly talented Tamsin Hurrell. Follow her on Instagram!

 

 

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Riad Fes

We arrived late in the evening to Fes airport, and after a short drive arrived at our first hotel, Riad Fes. Despite being late, after a short walk down a dark alleyway, we found ourselves in the most spectacular courtyard. We later discovered that the Riad had previously been someone’s home, and the original architecture had been painstakingly removed, cleaned and replaced, each tile by hand!

Our room was beautiful and overlooked the pool (a rare feature for hotels within or surrounding the medina). When the hotel had been bought, the surrounding houses were purchased too, making the hotel significantly larger (and maze-like!) than a traditional riad. If you ever visit Riad Fes you will be blown away by the architecture – I know I was!

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Breakfast buffet

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty buffet breakfast, we headed into the medina for a 3h tour of the sights. The first thing I noticed was the number of chickens for sale on every corner – meat eating in Morocco is very much a matter of pointing at the one you want to eat and then taking it home with you. Being vegan this was quite tough to watch, but I also noted that the chickens all seemed in much better shape than any commercially raised chicken I’ve seen in the UK. The reality of eating meat may be tough to witness for some, but the same thing happens here in the UK, only under much more intensive (and often cruel) production methods, out of sight.

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Walking round the medina was incredible – having visited Marrakech’s medina multiple times, I was blown away by the size of Fes. One of our first rules was ‘if you get lost, stay where you are. If you move, you will only get more lost’. Needless to say, I stuck to the group closely! Within the medina are thousands of stalls, run by locals selling all sorts of products, much the same as Marrakech. However, each city has its speciality – a key product to trade between cities (and now around the world). In Fes, it is the tanneries, producing leather that is now exported across the world.

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The tanneries operate in much the same way as they did when they were first built in the early centuries. Stone wells contain liquids designed to strip hides of fur and flesh, before being softened in ammonia (which I am told is bird poo!) and dyed. They’re visually appealing for sure, although perhaps not for everyone.

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You are offered mint to smell as you head up to the tanneries

Hotel Sahrai

Following our tour of the medina, including the oldest continually running university in the world, we headed back to the Riad to be transported to our second hotel, Hotel Sahrai. Both hotels are owned by the same group, but they couldn’t have been more different! Where Riad Fes is traditional and cosy, Hotel Sahrai is expansive and modern. Situated on a hillside outside the medina, the views are also amazing, looking out onto the huge city of Fes.

 

 

We were lucky enough to be able to try their Namaste yoga package, providing yoga sessions morning and evening for hotel guests – the best way to wake up and warm up into the day! I’m not an avid yoga fan but when it’s on the roof terrace of a gorgeous hotel in the early Moroccan sun I can make exceptions!

Here are some pics from around the gorgeous hotel – you can see why I loved it so much 🙂

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The pool overlooks the medina

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Enjoying the second, smaller pool with Tamsin

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Have you ever visited Fes? Comment below or head over to my Instagram!

10 eco-friendly household brands

It occurred to me the other day that whilst I was doing my best to eat green and wear sustainable brands etc., my daily cleaning habits are doing a significant amount of harm to the world. With so many options out there that don’t cost the world, I think it’s high time that changes, so I did some research about the best eco friendly and sustainable cleaning brands for you to use in your home.

Cleaning makes me happy and I want it to make the planet happy too

 

Cleaning products: 

Greenscents

British brand Greenscents is the only cleaning brand to have certification by the Soil Association, meaning it has been certified organic. While ‘organic’ and ‘certified’  don’t necessarily equate to ‘eco friendly’, the brand also has a number of other standard that make it significantly better than a lot of mainstream cleaning brands.

Greenscents was named the most ethical brand of cleaning and laundry products in the UK (Ethical Consumer, 2017). The brand is also vegan, cruelty free, transparent in its sustainability and has a hypoallergenic range for those who require it. Read more about its certifications here.

 

Eco-egg

When I first heard about eco-egg I was amazed the idea isn’t already more popular. The premise is that laundry detergent is wasteful (not to mention harmful to the environment), so an eco-egg (an ‘egg’ filled with mineral pellets to clean clothes) saves huge amounts of plastic, packaging and reduces the amount of harmful chemicals used in washing.  The egg is refillable too, and lasts over 200 washes.

I’m yet to use it on my clothes (and have heard some mixed reviews about efficacy on very stained clothes) but keep an eye on my Instagram to see what I think! They also have a dryer egg that reduced tumble-drying time, thus saving energy, and cleaning products that are better for the environment, such as bamboo towels that are washable, cutting out the need for disposable kitchen towels.

 

Bio-D

Another UK brand, Bio-D is fully transparent about their credentials. Here is what they say about their products: “None of Bio-D raw materials are tested on animals, they are all GM free and wherever animal by-products are used they are at the scrutiny and approval of The Vegan Society, Naturewatch Trust, BUAV and the World Wildlife Foundation. Likewise the bottles that Bio-D use are recyclable and contain optimum levels of recycled material”.

Bio D produces pretty much all products you would want to use around the home at an affordable price, so is a good option if you want to start making a lot of difference sustainablity-wise! Also they provide refill bottles of many of their products, reducing packaging waste.

 

Ecover

One of the best more environmentally friendly household brands, Ecover is a global company committed to providing more eco-friendly options when it comes to cleaning. From reducing single-use plastics to changing ingredients to reduce pollution to waterways, Ecover makes a big point of being more ‘green’. In 1992, Ecover opened the world’s first ecological factory, which provoked much media interest. Despite some controversy about animal-testing in the past, the brand now labels itself as cruelty free, and it looks like all animal testing has stopped (as of 2018).

 

Method

Method was merged with Ecover in 2012, to become the biggest green cleaning company in the world. I am naturally sceptical of big brands when it comes to green credentials (the bigger they become, the more they seem to move away from their original purpose), but both Method and Ecover seem to have some pretty good credentials and positive press. For starters, Method is a B Corp company, meaning that it has withstood rigorous testing into the ethical and eco credentials of the brand. They have seemingly high levels of transparency when it comes to improving their eco credentials, so I would say this is a safe bet if you’r looking for a mainstream/global eco brand!

 

Ecozone

Another UK based brand here (yay!). Ecozone is vegan and certified cruelty free, and make the home toxin free products that are also pet friendly, plant based, palm oil free and safe for aquatic life, which is one of my main concerns about mainstream cleaning products. They have a range of accreditations, so a safe bet whatever you’re looking for!

 

Mangle & Wringler

If you’re UK based and looking to support a local, handmade brand, this is where to look! Handmade in the Cotswolds, each Mangle & Wringer product is non-toxic, free from fragrance and colour and uses only food grade ingredients. All of the products are also biodegradable, from renewable/sustainable sources and not tested on animals. I love the idea that it started in the early 1900s from a home soil recipe and is still going!

 

Bathroom products:

Who Gives A Crap

Not a cleaning brand, but I had to include it after discovering it recently. Who Gives a Crap is a loo paper brand (as its name suggests) that gives back. Not only are the products made from 100% recycled materials, meaning no trees are used to create the loo paper, wrapping or packaging. Not only that, but 50% of profits go to charities working to improve access to hygiene, water and basic sanitation in developing countries. Not only this but the products actually work out a lot cheaper than loo paper from your local shop, especially if you buy their big rolls in bulk online. I have a huge amount of love for this brand.

 

Modibodi

Women – Modibodi is a brand that was recently brought to my attention as part of a collaboration, but looking into it I’d like to share more about it. Modibodi is an alternative to disposable period products. With their different absorbencies, Modibodi can be used as an alternative, or in addition to traditional period products to absorb blood. They also have products to stop butt sweat at the gym and wee for those who suffer from incontinence. Having worn their pants before I can say that not only do they work, but they’re also actually super comfortable and flattering! There’s honestly something for everyone on their site.

 

Freda

If period pants aren’t your thing and moon cups scare you, look no further than Freda, a brand that provides sustainable, organic and bleach free period products. Freda has a subscription service to provide you with a personalised box of products through your letterbox in time for your next period (there is an algorithm to predict exactly when it’s going to be)! In addition, a proportion of the profits are used to support UK-based period poverty initiatives, helping asylum seekers, homeless people and school children have access to period products even if they can’t afford them themselves. Sustainability-wise, although there are small amounts of recycled (and recyclable) plastic wrapping the applicator-free tampons, everything else is biodegradable and made in factories that use renewable energy and have a zero-waste policy.

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Let me entertrain you

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I was recently invited to comment on a new phenomenon, ‘entertrainment’ by the Telegraph, who were writing a piece on the rise of boutique fitness classes and the potential side effects of using these classes as your main source of training. I had first come to understand the concept of entertraining via my friend, personal trainer Lawrence Price, who published this post on the subject. It’s an interesting one to comment on, because there are two very valid sides to the argument.

So I just thought I’d share with you a little of my thoughts on the subject. What is it? Is it bad? Can it be good? Read on:

What is entertrainment?

Entertrainment is the concept of working out in the way you want to workout (often very high intensity, randomly strung-together exercises) for fun rather than function.

Why do we love it so much?

The endorphin hit we get from an intense workout, such as boxing or a Barry’s class, leaves a lot of people feeling incredibly positive. When it’s at the start of a day it can set you up feeling upbeat for your day at work, and when it’s at the end of the day it can be a way to shake off frustrations and get the body moving after sitting down all day.

Why has it increased in popularity and what are some examples?

As the wellness sector has expanded, more and more people are opting to go to fitness classes after work instead of home, the pub or even the gym. The classes provide a pre-planned workout (ideal if you’re not sure what you should be doing at the gym), a motivating trainer and, for many, a chance to catch up with friends. It’s like the gym and a club rolled into one. Many even have the flashing lights, loud music and (post-workout) drinks to match! One Rebel, Barry’s Bootcamp, Kobox, F45 and Boomcycle are just some examples.

Why is entertrainment not necessarily a good thing?

When we workout at 100% intensity, 100% of the time, something has to give. Our bodies are not very good at coping with sitting down all day, handling stressful situations, and then smashing out a day’s activity in one (often very intense) hour. Whilst workouts such as these can FEEL good, they often don’t provide the body with other things it needs, such as mobility work, stretching, and rest.

In addition, the vast majority of boutique fitness classes are done in large groups, often reaching up to 50 people. In these groups it’s impossible for a coach to be able to assess whether everyone is doing the exercises right, with the right form at their particular level. If you’re an experienced gym goer that might not be a problem, but tiredness coupled with bad form and heavy weights is a recipe for disaster.

Whilst many of us are inactive all day, our nervous systems are very much active, thanks to work stresses, juggling tasks and everyday demands. Intense workouts just put these systems under MORE pressure, ramping up our sympathetic nervous system further. Your sympathetic nervous system is also known as your ‘fight or flight’ response, and gears you up to tackle stressful/demanding situations. In the short term, this is incredibly helpful, and can help you think on your feet, run away from danger or handle stress effectively, but an excess of time spend in this state can lead to a range of acute and chronic issues, from hypertension (high blood pressure) to insulin resistance. Therefore it’s not recommended to add more stress to your body if it is in a state of heightened physical or mental stress already. Both types of stress (physical and mental) illicit a physiological response e.g. even if you’re not stressed physically, chronic stress such as that from work can have the same negative effect as extreme physical duress.

For a lot of people therefore, a calming yoga session or meditation would be far more beneficial than a sprint session, switching on the parasympathetic nervous system and calming down the body. Without rest our bodies are far more prone to burnout, injury and illness, so a daily HIIT class might not be what’s best for you, especially at particularly stressful times of the year.

 

TL;DR

  • Basically, not all fitness classes have your best interests at heart, and it is incredibly difficult for a coach/trainer to be able to assess your physical state or form during a workout catering for 30 – 50 people.
  • Since we all lead such stressful lives already, sometimes smashing out an intense HIIT class may not be best for our bodies in the long term, and we may benefit more from yoga or a stretching session at stressful times.
  • However, in general, some form of movement is better than no movement, and it’s up to each and every one of us to check in with ourselves and just be mindful of how our bodies are feeling. Still fancy that Barry’s class? Go for it 🙂

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on the above! Check out my Instagram and YouTube for more.

6 runners you should follow

… On Instagram! (Please not in real life). I know that a lot of you are really enjoying my marathon training content, and with that in mind I thought I’d share with you some of the people who inspire me with my training. Give them all a follow – I promise you won’t regret it!

 

Holly Rush (@rushbynature)

An advocate of trail running here – Holly is one badass woman. I first heard about her whilst watching Asics’ coast to coast Dubai – Oman video as she was one of the 5 Asics frontrunners taking part. Follow for long(ish) captions and thoughts on running and races. She also ran the Tokyo marathon last year so I’ve been pestering her for tips!

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Adrienne Herbert (@adrienne_LDN)

If you’re looking for motivation in all aspects of your life, look no further. The amazing Adrienne practically oozes motivation in every Instagram story. She is the co-founder of ‘Get To Know’ (a community of creative women), host of Power Hour podcast, with guests such as Fearne Cotton, AJ Odudu and Deliciously Ella and a mum! Somehow in between all the other things she does she has time to run, showing us that time doesn’t have to be a barrier to staying healthy.

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Tashi Skervin-Clarke (@tashi_skervinclarke)

I first met Tashi around 3y ago and have followed her running journey since. She is a personal trainer and running coach and writes amazing captions about running and the effect it can have on us. Follow for a balanced approach to running and strength training. Running faster is not just about running more!

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Latoya Shauntay Snell (@Iamlshauntay)

I think I can across Latoya on twitter after someone shared a blog post she wrote on fat shaming. Shauntay doesn’t look like what you’d probably think of when I say ‘badass marathoner’, but marathoner she is, and badass she definitelyis. Her highlight ‘Who’s Latoya’ explains her journey but in all honesty I’m just amazed at anyone who can run as many marathons as she does. An inspiration.

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Max Wilkocks (@maxwilko)

As the co-founder of the Track Life podcast, Max talks a lot about running. In fact there’s very little else he talks about or does. Summers and winters are spent racing around the track and on disgustingly long races (although he insists 10k is his favourite). Follow for beautiful pictures and the sort of complaining about running only a runner could do.

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Rory Southworth (@rorysouthworth)

If you’re more a fan of the mountains than road running, Rory is the man to follow. Epic pictures of scrambles up rocks combined with shoe reviews (he’s sponsored by Salomon) means this account never gets boring. This will make you want to get out of the city and to any one of the locations he travels to!

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For the love of veganism…

Please can we stop getting at people for doing the right thing in the wrong way? I’ve been seeing reports on social media of people getting told that they’re not doing veganism right, not doing sustainability right, not being the right kind of feminist. Quite frankly, it makes me want to hide the fact that I’m plant based, hide that I love trying to be more sustainable and stop talking about feminist issues, and obviously that’s not the way it should be.

Don’t get me wrong, where is a time and place for calling people out on hypocrisy and certainly times when virtue signalling and moral licencing can get irritating. We could all almost certainly do a lot more to be better people, and it’s always good to question our own actions. However, I would argue that over social media is not the right place to do it for a number of reasons:

  • Meaning gets lost over text, and even well intentioned constructive criticism can end up sounding bitchy or self-congratulatory.
  • Social media is so often a one-way conversation, not allowing for nuance and discussion. Since the purpose of calling out someone’s actions is hopefully to discuss with them the best way to rectify the situation or simply have them better understand your point of view, social media really isn’t the best place for this.
  • You (probably) don’t know the person you’re questioning, however much you think you might, and they almost certainly won’t know you. Similar to point number one, that probably means that any good intentions will be lost. Influencers receive hundreds (if not thousands) of comments, remarks and questions each week, and unfortunately it is easy to miss good intentions when being called out every single day for a different assumed wrongdoing. In addition, because you don’t know them personally you don’t know their full story. Often they will be doing much more than they show on their page, and you just have to assume they have a reason for doing what they are doing.
  • Even if they see your comment and understand it, it’s hard to trust people over the internet. ‘Advice’ over the internet is rarely well received, and the way it comes across is ‘you’re not enough, you should be doing more, and I’m going to tell you how you can be perfect just like me’. Almost no matter how it’s phrased, that’s how it’ll read at a glance. Since telling someone they are wrong is almost the worst way of changing someone’s mind, it’s a bit of a token gesture trying to change the way someone lives their life over the internet. Why should they listen to you? Frustrating though that can be, there are plenty of better ways to make the world a better place, and it might be worth spending efforts in those areas instead.

Perhaps I’m being naïve and viewing people as better than they are. Perhaps the majority of people who talk about issues such as veganism, sustainability and feminism are virtue signalling. However it’s in my nature to give people the benefit of the doubt, and from reading a number of articles on the psychology of getting people to change their minds (from politics to veganism), I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how honest your intentions are, telling someone that they should be doing better over the internet is unlikely to get them to be a better person.

So what can we do? There are a number of ways you can spread the message you want to spread without a) insulting anyone and b) your message being badly received and experiencing the backfire effect (i.e. someone doubling down on their beliefs after someone else tries to change them).

  • In my experience, conclusions are best arrived at through a person’s own thought process (e.g. telling them to have a different opinion is not going to get them to change their opinion). Raising important questions with allows them to think through the topic at hand an come to their own conclusions. Whether those conclusions are the same as yours or not, it’s better than being uninformed. E.g the reason I started to eat a vegan diet was because I studied environmental biology at university and was given a bunch of facts (in a non-partisan way) to do with what I liked. I started to eat vegan because of those facts, whereas others didn’t, and that’s OK.
  • Since advice is better received from people we know, instead of advising people over the internet to be better, why not try starting a discussion with your friends about these topics? Even if you disagree, it’s interesting to hear others’ opinions on the subject matter, as well as sharing your own. Even without openly discussing certain topics, simply living your life by certain values can have a positive impact on those around you.
  • Use your own page to spread the message you want. Sure, targeting individuals might have a more forceful effect, but for all the reasons above, it’s probably not the best way to change people’s minds. Instead, educate through your own platform. That way, people can come to their own conclusions from the information you give them, and by actively choosing to read your page the advice you give is not unsolicited.
  • Focus on your own self-improvement. I think sometimes we can spend so long pointing out others’ inadequacies that we forget to look within at the places we could improve. If your desire really is to make the world a better place, this is a good place to start.

It’s frustrating when you truly believe that your way of doing things is the best way to not have everyone immediately see that you are right. It’s annoying because you think that if only everyone lived the way you think they should, the world would be a better place. I get that, and I often think the same (if ONLY everyone in the world stopped eating meat). However, if the goal is make real change (as opposed to just wanting to show everyone that you’re right), then I think we could all do better than to tell people over social media that they’re not good enough. After all, we could probably allbe doing more.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this piece, and if you’d like to read more in a more digestible format, head to my highlights and watch the ‘vegan debate’ and ‘unsolicited advice’ ones. Many thoughts in there (both my own and my followers’). Tell me what you think!

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Being busy – #goals or self sabotage?

NOTHING….is becoming rare and precious. Everything is hype, noise, desire, desperation, speed and greed. We in the modern world are good at ‘doing,’ but anemic at ‘being.’ Entertainment, busy-ness, texting while walking or even driving…’Efficiency’ is an addictive myth based on our fidgety fear of opening up. We can not ‘do’ properly until we can, first, ‘be’ fully. Practice doing nothing – then – we can accomplish…ANYTHING. — Project Happiness

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I have a habit of being deeply aware of my feelings and questioning why I feel a particular way in any given moment. I think it’s a way of processing emotions constructively, although it also inevitably leads to overthinking from time to time, but that’s another blog post. It occurred to me whilst walking down the road the other day that I was feeling guilty for not working. Despite starting work at 6:30am (as I often do), after finishing at 3pm I immediately felt lazy for not going back to work. The problem has always been present – during holiday at school and university, in my gap year, straight after I finished university – I have always felt the need to be busy. And if not actually busy, to the average onlooker I need to appear busy, because I equate busyness (and often stress) with success. And I’m not alone.

“We think that the shift from leisure-as-status to busyness-as-status may be linked to the development of knowledge-intensive economies. In such economies, individuals who possess the human capital characteristics that employers or clients value (e.g., competence and ambition) are expected to be in high demand and short supply on the job market. Thus, by telling others that we are busy and working all the time, we are implicitly suggesting that we are sought after, which enhances our perceived status.” – Harvard Business Review.

As a society we believe that people who are the most busy are also the most important – it’s so ingrained into our psyche that it’s almost inevitable that when you ask a work colleague how they are, the response might be ‘busy, but good’. The ‘busy’ response is a signal – I’m being successful and getting things done. But does busyness equate to success? The research suggests not.

Being busy often instead equates to being stressed, anxious, sleep deprived and less productive, meaning that if that’s your permanent state, you’re unlikely to be as healthy as you could be. The reduction in productivity is because of multiple factors. Being busy often means multitasking, and according to research there is no such thing as a good multitasker.

Since it takes the human brain around 25 minutes to focus on a task at hand, choosing to flit between multiple tasks can mean that we never actually focus properly on anything with a work day or even week. These distractions can come in all sorts of forms, but emails and phones are especially bad, as they disrupt work flow and take up important mental bandwidth. Switching from one task to the next means it takes us around 25% longer to do things i.e. you are not being more productive!

Attempting to pack full your schedule – which, let’s be honest, with work, meetings, work events, social events, workouts and fitting in family time, is not hard – means you are unlikely to be working as efficiently as possible. Back in 1930, the average working week was around 50h, and it was expected that by now, due to technological advances, this would have reduced to around 15h. However, in the UK we work on average around 42.8h per week, which is longer that the averages around Europe, despite the UK being significantly less productive than comparative countries. Is this lack of productivity despite our long hours, or is it because of them?

The issue starts from the top – there is no real limit on the amount of work you are expected to do, and it’s easy to feel like putting in extra hours (and being seen to be doing it) could push you ahead. Since the 2008 financial crisis, UK employees are working longer hours for lower pay, because job security is low and competition is high. Bosses would rather see tired employees sit at their desks and be unproductive than go home, recharge mentally and physically and work harder tomorrow. In the UK (as well as many other countries) there’s no mechanism by which employers start to measure productivity rather than hours, and therein lies the problem. You sit at your desk longer, or rush around looking busy and productive and you’re seen as more important and a better employee, over the person who sticks to their hours and gets more done.

As someone at the beginning of her career, I am concerned by these statistics. I know how to be productive, and the vast majority of the time it doesn’t involve working long hours or sitting at my desk for long periods of time. Being freelance you might think the issue is better and in theory, I do have more freedom to change my hours. However, in the gig economy today, it’s pretty much impossible to stop without feeling like someone else could be taking such needed work that could be yours.

Just remember this: talking about all the things you’re going to do actually makes you less likely to do them. The chat makes you feel good enough about yourself that you actually become less motivated to do what needs to be done. Since so much of being busy is talking about how busy we are, a good step to being productive and taking more time off is to do your work with your head down and stop when you’re done. And stop telling everyone how busy you are, it’s making the problem worse.

When you stop trying to be ‘busy’ all the time, you free up space to become something better than busy. You become more effective, happier, more relaxed and, probably, the envy of all those ‘busy’ people.

Images by Caylee Hankins.

Running essentials – supplements

Supplements are a bit of a contested issue, thanks to the flogging of many, many supplements that have no evidence of improving anything. Because supplements aren’t registered as drugs, they are often allowed to be sold even when they do not have any strong evidence of their effects, and are only removed if deemed unsafe. However, there are a few supplements (especially if you include sports supplements) that have some proven benefits, and others that are strongly recommended for certain groups of people. I try to stick with supplements that have proven benefits, although with sports supplements the evidence is usually a bit mixed, if if you’re looking to take something new make sure you’ve done your research!

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Some supplements are necessary if you live a certain lifestyle. Pic by Caylee Hankins.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is produced in our bodies when our skin is exposed to sunlight, but sometimes in northern latitudes (hello UK) the amount we can get during the day is not sufficient to keep reserves topped up. It is recommended that everyone in the UK (or further north) takes vitamin D to contribute to bone and muscle health. The darker your skin and the less sunlight your country gets, the more likely you are to be deficient in vitamin D. Supplements are not strictly necessary if you have a varied diet, but for me I find vitamin D supplement helpful, especially in winter! I also have a sun lamp that I use to work under in the morning. Don’t fancy supplements? Beanies have produced a coffee with vitamin D in it! Liquid sunshine 🙂

Iron 

Iron supplements have been recommended for people who choose a vegetarian or vegan diet, especially women. It is possible to get all the iron you need from these diets, but a supplement can help, especially if you are prone to anaemia. Foods such as pulses, nuts, left green vegetables, wholegrains and fortified cereals are high in iron. Even though I have a varied diet I find it helpful to take iron supplements to support my very active lifestyle.

B12

Vitamin B12 is a little contentious in the vegan community with some saying it can be found in adequate amounts in foods such as seaweed, and others saying vegans should definitely supplement their diets. Even according to the Vegan Society, “The only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12 (including some plant milks, some soy products and some breakfast cereals) and B12 supplements”. Since the effects of chronic B12 deficiency are so severe (e.g. irreparable nervous system damage), I find it helpful to supplement with B12. Some plant based milks and cereals are fortified, but I’d rather be safe than sorry!

Beta-alanine

Not a vitamin supplement but a sport performance booster. Purported benefits include improving exercise capacity, building lean muscle mass and improving physical functions in the elderly. I swear by beta alanine in my shorter distance races and strength-based exercises, but only take it very infrequently. Read my post on sports supplements and the evidence behind them if you’re looking to try any!

Sleep supplement

After a busy day and late events, I often (always) find it very difficult to switch off and go to sleep. Even knowing I have to get up early doesn’t always deter me from staying up late. I started taking Motion Nutrition’s ‘Unplug’ supplement a couple of months ago and found a marked difference when taking it around 30 – 45 minutes before I wanted to sleep. I go into the ingredients and how they could be helpful in this post if you want to read up on the science behind it.

 

Knowledge is power.