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‘We’re dreaming of a LOAF Christmas’

AS Christmas gets closer, the Door looks at ways of making the festive season as Locally sourced, Organic, Animal-friendly and Fair Trade (LOAF) as possible. The Revd Canon Glyn Evans, the Diocesan Rural Officer, reflects on why Christians should consider how they source their food.

Kes the Copas Turkey dog looks after a flock at the Copas farm Photo: Copas Traditional Turkeys.

Kes the Copas Turkey dog looks after a flock at the Copas farm Photo: Copas Traditional Turkeys.

Last week we planned our Christmas day menu – for twelve. All the meat and vegetables will be sourced from farmers within 20 miles of where we live and bought through a local butcher, run by young entrepreneurial local farmers. The Christmas cake, the Christmas puddings and the jars of mincemeat already sitting in the larder have been made from ethically sourced ingredients, as Fair Trade as possible, and in support of the local economy of farmer friendly shops. The exercise is very strategic.

Food is a gift of God. Jesus taught us to pray “Give us this day our daily bread.” This is as much about physical bread as it is about spiritual bread. The theologian writing the book of Genesis makes this explicit in the narrative of God’s creation. “Behold,” God says, “I have given you every plant and every tree. You shall have them for food.”
And again in the recreation of the earth after the Flood: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything (Gen. 9:3).”

Humankind’s connection to the land is also made explicit in the second story of creation. In Genesis chapter two God is imagined as fashioning the first human being from the earth itself. The first created being is a creature of the earth (Adamah in Hebrew) from which we get the name Adam. Adam is given what is the primary task of humanity, to till and work and care for the same earth from which the creature was fashioned.

In the first accounts of the harvest festivals that connection with the land is identified as a sacred one (Deuteronomy 26) and the bringing forth of the produce encapsulated that sacredness. The gift of land becomes sacramental, a symbol of God’s love for us; the gift of food the outward expression of that sacrament. The instruction to care for the land is the responsibility endowed by that sacramental relationship: “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” When we buy food we are playing a part in shaping the food system and our connection with it. We can steward the earth by using our buying power and making choices. Buying local food creates the environment for growing food and for shaping the landscape we enjoy just as buying fairly traded products is a way of shaping the productivity and wellbeing of farmers and growers in other parts of the world.

Buying local food makes a statement about the effect that food miles have on the environment, and assist the agricultural industry towards their targets of reducing their environmental impact. Buying food which we may have seen grown in the fields near to where we live provides economic return to the farmers who till the soil on our behalf. This may help us connect to the land of which we are a part and bring the sacrament of food a closer reality.

Join the MK Food Revolution

SOURCING local ingredients will be made easy in Milton Keynes at the third MK Feast which takes place at Bradwell Abbey this month. The event follows the success of the twice-annual FEAST. At the first FEAST in February 2016, crowds of more than 3,000 people visited and far exceeded the expectations of the organiser, Franzi Florack.

Franzi expected 400 to 500 people at the first festival, where music and children’s activities entertained shoppers. So she began organising the Christmas FEAST, which will include a range of street food traders, craft stalls, and a farmers’ market. The festival has grown out of the MK Food Revolution, an initiative kickstarted by Franzi when she moved to the area from Leeds last year.   With funding from Smart MK (an initiative run by the Open University), Franzi printed 100 “independent food passports” which she sold for £5. When passport holders shopped with an independent retailer, the passport was stamped and they were able to win prizes. “The scheme was set up to encourage people to shop locally and independently,” says Franzi. The MK Food Revolution website now includes details of 47 independent producers. These include farmers who produce vegetables or meat that is sold locally, street food traders who produce their own food on site, or restaurants that source their ingredients locally.

“It’s really close to my heart to help Milton Keynes become a more environmentally friendly and sustainable community. Small traders have a rough deal as rates and rents are expensive so it’s important that we support them,” says Franzi, an academic who has just finished a PhD and now runs a micro pub and bottle shop, The MK Biergarten (www.mkbiergarten.co.uk) promotes drinks from local breweries and always has a beer from Franzi’s home country of Germany on draught.

The Christmas FEAST takes place on Sunday 11 December from 11am to 4pm.

More LOAF suppliers

THE photo above shows Kes the dog managing the flocks at Copas Traditional Turkeys in Cookham, Berkshire. The award winning farm was founded when Tom Copas Senior’s father gave the 18-year-old 153 turkeys in 1957. Now a family business producing 38,000 turkeys every year, the farm has won an array of awards and Mr Copas himself gained the Turkey Man of the Year Award at the British Turkey Awards in 2013. For more see www.copasturkeys.co.uk. For more details of where to buy organic food in Berkshire here. 

In Oxford, try buying seasonal vegetables from the organic vegetable van that tours the city, parking in different, easy-to-reach streets on different days. For more see cultivateoxford.org/. Also try the Talking Shop in Sandford-on-Thames for a coffee and the chance to buy local produce and crafts on Saturdays, 9am to noon and Fridays, 9.30am to 4.30pm. Just down the road from Oxford is Millets Farm. Enjoy a family day out as well as a place to shop for fresh produce, meat, fish, and Christmas gifts.

Follow in St Nicholas’ footsteps with Fair Trade gifts

Maranda St John Nicolle on why she’ll be giving Fairtrade gifts this Christmas.

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Fair Trade chocolate coins. Photo by Maranda St John Nicolle.

About 1,700 years ago, the story goes, a young man heard about a family so poor that the three daughters faced a very uncertain future. Concerned about their situation, Nicholas – later known as St Nicholas – put some money in a package and dropped it through the window of their house, where it fell into a stocking that was hung to dry. It was one of his many ways of showing love for neighbours – and is the basis for our tradition of Christmas stockings.

Fast forward, and today the parish of St Nicolas, Earley in Berkshire is helping its parishioners fill Christmas stockings with gifts that enable our neighbours around the world to build a better future. A Fairtrade Church, they link with local Traidcraft Fair Trader Pam Thompson to offer parishioners an easy way to buy a wide range of Fair Trade food, cards and gifts.

A Traidcraft catalogue and order forms are available in the church, and can be dropped off in the parish office. Orders are then gathered together, placed by Pam, and delivered to the church – cutting out delivery fees and saving time and money. They’re not alone: church-based Fair Traders in Milton Keynes, Deddington and many other areas are doing the same.

Buying Fair Trade doesn’t have to cost a lot – and it really can make a difference. I’m planning my shopping now. For my niece, for example, I’ll be buying a Fair Trade finger puppet from Peru. As I choose which of the brightly coloured animals to purchase, I’ll remember meeting Julia, a Peruvian Fair Trade producer who told me how Fair Trade had given her hope when, as the struggling mother of a disabled child, she’d felt completely hopeless, unable to work outside the home because of her child’s needs.

A Fair Trade cooperative provided her with a loom she could use to work at home while tending to her child. She eventually became the president of CIAP, the organisation which includes the people who made the finger puppet I’ll be buying.

Some sweet-toothed friends will get baked goods where local products will be joined with dried fruit from the Eksteenskuil Cooperative in South Africa. Eksteenskuil is a remarkable success story of formerly disenfranchised people turning unwanted land into fruitful and productive vineyards that are a beacon of hope not just within their community but for miles around. Their fruit is sweet in both taste and impact.
And for another person (I’d best not say who, as this comes out before Christmas) there’s a beautiful laptop bag from Creative Handicrafts, which helps disadvantaged communities in Mumbai, allowing them to avoid the exploitation that is often present in the garment industry.

While my purchases alone are small, I know that when a lot of people buy small Fair Trade items, they can make a big difference to the people behind the products. That gives real pleasure – and I’m so grateful to be able to celebrate the coming of Christ by ensuring that the presents I’m giving in His honour are helping others to live with dignity.

Maranda St John Nicolle is the World Development Advisor for the Oxford Diocese. For more places to buy Fairtrade click here. 

Embrace an alternative way of giving

It’s Christmas morning. As you open your presents, you find an attractive card with a magnet attached. It’s a present that shows love for you – but you’re not the only one who benefits. The card represents a donation that was made in your honour – and because of that donation, a refugee family in the Middle East has received a much-needed food parcel.

Photo: Embrace the Middle East

Photo: Embrace the Middle East

The past decade has seen huge growth in the giving of “alternative gifts”. The idea is simple and effective: you donate to a charity as a gift to someone here; the charity uses your donation to assist the people and communities it serves; and you are able to give the recipient here a card or other token explaining the gift and the good that it has enabled. Many charities offer them, large and small, those assisting people internationally and those assisting people in the UK.

The past decade has seen huge growth in the giving of “alternative gifts”. The idea is simple and effective: you donate to a charity as a gift to someone here; the charity uses your donation to assist the people and communities it serves; and you are able to give the recipient here a card or other token explaining the gift and the good that it has enabled. Many charities offer them, large and small, those assisting people internationally and those assisting people in the UK.

Embrace the Middle East’s alternative gift range includes not only food parcels, but care for pregnant refugee mothers, classroom supplies, access to clean water, and literacy classes. Jeremy Moodey, the CEO of Embrace, said: “With the Middle East constantly in the news, alternative gifts are a great way for people to respond to the enormous needs in the region.

“The gifts bring joy to friends and family, especially at Christmas when people reflect on the nativity story, but they also bring comfort to those suffering from poverty or war in one of the most volatile regions in the world. Alternative gifts are a beautiful way to connect the generosity of our supporters with those who desperately need hope in the Middle East today.”

For more call Embrace on 01494 897950. Click here for more alternative gift suggestions.

 

Need some inspiration?

We surveyed some local Fair Traders to find out what’s popular at Christmas.

Foods:
Christmas biscuits
Chocolate coins (above)
Zaytoun dates – support the Middle East by buying these beautifully packaged dates from Traidcraft.

Other gifts:
Socks topped the lists of more than two of our Fair Traders.
Also popular are:
glittery boxes
friendship bracelets
finger puppets (below)

Fairtrade hampers are a popular seller at the Mustard Seed in Faringdon.

 

Christmas gifts that give twice

As lists of Christmas presents for friends and family are being drawn up, churches in the Oxford Diocese are helping people to buy Fair Trade, local and green gifts. The Door explores how.

The jewellery stall in Kidlington. Photo: Margaret Day.

The jewellery stall in Kidlington. Photo: Margaret Day.

 

The Kidlington parish Traidcraft group began its Fair Trade Christmas Fair in 2005. In 2014, it combined with a Kidlington versus Climate Change green fair to become the One World Market.
Margaret Day explains: “We combined so we could bring together issues of fair trade, the environment and supporting local businesses; our strapline is ‘trading as if everybody matters’. This means we can offer not only fairly-traded goods but also locally grown/made, organically produced, energy saving – making it a much more rounded approach to sustainability. We can also promote support for all these issues, with information, videos and more. This is a market with a difference – whatever you buy, whatever money you spend will help to make our world and our own locality more sustainable and fairer for all.”  The market turns Kidlington’s Exeter Hall into a veritable treasure trove, with around 25 exhibitors offering a variety of goods and information.

Milton Keynes’s annual Christmas Fair started about 20 years ago, when the new Christ the Cornerstone Church opened in the city centre.  It’s an offshoot of the Milton Keynes Justice and Peace group’s Fair Trade network, which supplies eight to ten churches in the area and has annual sales worth about £20,000. As with Kidlington’s fair, it’s expanded over the years to include not only a variety of groups offering fairly traded products from international partners but also local producers: indeed, the organisation has rotated amongst Fair Traders, local charities and a local business. There’s a particular focus on foods: Win Kennedy, who runs the Fair Trade network, noted that it’s important to her to support small farmers, whether they’re local or international, and to know that they’ve had a good deal for their products. More broadly, she comments: “If you’re buying something to give somebody pleasure, it’s even more satisfying if you know that the producer of that gift has also benefited, wherever they may be.”

About six years ago, the Deddington Fair Traders, who join with local producers to sell their wares monthly at the Deddington Farmers’ Market, began to hold a special Christmas “Traidcraft” preview day in the parish church. As soon as the new Traidcraft catalogue appears, they order a large selection of items, choose a day, and then from 10am until 6pm have the potential gifts on display for people to inspect. Orders placed on the day get a 10 per cent discount – and the total orders and sales are generally around £1,200. Viviane Hall said: “We put a flyer in the monthly Deddington News, so we do get quite a lot of people in. It’s spreading the word about Fair Trade and Traidcraft; it’s selling more Traidcraft. It’s tiring, but it’s good fun.”

Giving Fair Trade and local gifts

THIS Christmas the Diocese of Oxford is encouraging church-goers to give “gifts that give twice”. There are many ways of doing so: for example, with ‘alternative gift’ schemes, you give a donation to a charity, and they provide a card or magnet  you can give to someone else as a present. The person receiving the card knows you thought about them – and the person receiving from the charity benefits too. Buying from Fair Trade or local producers is another way. When you give a Fair Trade gift,  the recipient gets a lovely, high-quality product – while the  person who produced the gift is paid a fair price for their work and benefits from decent  working conditions. Buying locally produced gifts also helps people build a better life for themselves, their families
and their communities. Supporting the “gifts that give twice” campaign, the Acting  Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, said: “At Christmas time, we remember God’s gift to all people – so it’s particularly fitting to think about how the gifts we give to celebrate the holiday can benefit not only those who receive them, but also people in need and producers locally and around the world.”

Offering hope to Nepali women

Photo: Traidcraft

Photo: Traidcraft

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. The UN estimates that almost 30 per cent of Nepalis live in poverty – and women often get the worst deal. But this Christmas Traidcraft is giving its customers the chance to help Nepalese women and other vulnerable people by choosing Fair Trade.

Nepali girls are far less likely to continue in education than boys because Nepali families believe sons will look after them in their old age. Girls can therefore be seen as a burden with little or no economic value, and are vulnerable to traffickers who offer promises of marriage or work. Up to 15,000 women and children are trafficked out of Nepal every year. It is suggested that the average age of women trafficked is 15 – with some girls as young as seven. Some are forced into manual labour; large numbers into sex work where they are brutally ill treated. Younger sex workers are seen as having a greater value to the brothels and pimps. Virgins are particularly prized since it is rumoured that sex with a virgin will cure HIV/AIDS.

But there are alternatives for people living in poverty. Women are becoming empowered through Fair Trade organisations like Get Paper Industries (GPI). With a largely female workforce, the employees spend their time making products like gift wrap and stationery. GPI donates funds to General Welfare Prathistan (GWP), which has helped one woman, who was gang raped and ostracised by her family, to build a new life.

The felt worker, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: “Literally crying, scared and frightened, I reached the GWP field office and met with Ms Parbati Bartaula [GWP field officer]. She listened to my story and assured me that she would enrol me in felt craft production where I would be employed. Now I am working in the felt craft production and now I am confident and living with self-respect.”

GWP has 10 women employees including Manju Lama, (pictured above) who said: “I have been working here for two and a half years. I had no knowledge of felt before I came here but this is a good job. I like everything about working here. It is good that I am earning and I like the people here. We are a real team! It is important that we sell as many of the products as possible. We want to work. This is a good opportunity for us to earn.”

Products like Traidcraft’s Jolly Felt Star Decorations are among the range of products Manju, Sumitra and their colleagues make. GPI is looking to expand its business to give the women more work, new skills and a better income.

GPI’s products are available through Show You Care or in the Traidcraft catalogue: ring 0191 4973999 to receive one. The catalogue can be used for church or individual orders. 

Fairtrade at Christmas – a perspective from Faringdon

by Sjoerd Vogt

We’ve had a Fair Trade and Christian bookshop called the Mustard Seed in the centre of Faringdon since 1986. Many of us still remember those early days when drinking fair trade coffee was more a punishment than a pleasure! Well, even though the quality of the fantastic range of goods carrying the Fair Trade symbol is no longer in question, we do continually face new challenges in spreading the message; both Fair Trade and Christian.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Christmas is an incredibly important time for the shop, but also a time of moral dilemmas. How can we reconcile the seasonal gluttony and wastefulness with our urgency to sell, sell, sell? How can we ask people to “live simply” but at the same time encourage them to buy?

We do this by trying to constantly focus on the story behind the goods; the all-important message. Fair Trade isn’t about buying something that you need (or don’t need!) – it’s about changing the world; trying to put in place a level playing field; trying to give people the means to earn a living rather than being exploited. And what better Christian message could there be at Christmas?

The Real Advent Calendars from the Meaningful Chocolate Company are all about message. The 32-page activity book is not only a refreshing change from elves, reindeer and snowmen, but the delicious Fair Trade Belgian chocolates allow us a little bit of indulgence as we try to change the world one chocolate at a time.

Special evening opening hours, Fair Trade house parties and the regular church sales all help in the run-up to Christmas. Advent candles, wrapping paper, cards and chocolate-tree biscuits are all very popular items. But probably most popular of all are the special Christmas hampers. Each basket is filled with a selection of delicious Fair Trade foods: chocolates, snacks, nuts, spreads, biscuits, tea/coffee … and then wrapped up to look really festive. The perfect gift for family, friends – the neighbour who looked after your pet python…
In the run-up to Christmas, more than £3,000 of Fair Trade goods are wrapped up and sold as festive hampers (above) and hamper sales are also very effective in generating general awareness in the wide range of fair trade goods available from the Mustard Seed.
We really try to stress that the giving and receiving of fair trade goods will benefit three parties; the producer, the receiver, and the giver. And all will have a more joyful Christmas as a result!

Sjoerd Vogt runs The Mustard Seed.

Fair Trade Shops

The Cornerstone (Grovelands Shopping Centre, Grove)
Tel: 01235 772280. www.cornerstonegrove.org.uk

Cornerstone Trading (Christ the Cornerstone, Milton Keynes)
Email: wkennedy@btinternet.com

Deddington Farmers Market Fair Trade Stall
Tel: 01869 338225 Email: deddingtonfairtrading@gmail.com

Fab and Fair (online only, Amersham)
Tel: 01494 732418 Website: www.fabandfair.co.uk

Fairtrade at St Michael’s (Cornmarket, Oxford)
Tel: 01865 722505 Website: www.fairtradeatstmichaels.co.uk

Just Trading Wallingford (St Mary’s St)
Tel: 01491 826600 www.justtrading.co.uk

Manumit (online only, Newbury)
Tel: 01635 231211 www.manumituk.com

The Mustard Seed (Market Place, Faringdon)
Tel: 01367 244821 www.mustardseed.org.uk

One Village (A44, Woodstock)
Tel: 01993 812866 www.onevillage.com

RISC World Shop (London Road, Reading)
Tel: 0118 958 6692 www.risc.org.uk/worldshop

The Windmill (London Road, Headington)
Tel: 01865 236944 www.headingtonfairtrade.org.uk.

Many of the shops will supply goods on a sale or return basis to churches that want to run stalls before/after services.

 

Brewing up for Faitrade Fortnight

Fairtraders are ready for a Big Brew with Bishop Colin in Yarnton, Oxfordshire. Photo: Maranda St John Nicolle.

Fairtraders are ready for a Big Brew with Bishop Colin in Yarnton, Oxfordshire. Photo: Maranda St John Nicolle.

AROUND the diocese, churches are planning to put the kettle on so that Traidcraft’s Big Brew can mark its 10th year with an “extra strong” celebration.

The Big Brew takes place annually in Fairtrade Fortnight. Churches and other groups are invited to hold an event with Fairtrade refreshments, raising awareness of the range of Fairtrade products available and how Fairtrade helps small producers worldwide.
Churches can also raise money for Traidcraft Exchange, the organisation’s charitable wing, which funds research, supports projects and engages in advocacy that helps some of the world’s most marginalised producers.

Over the past decade churches in the Oxford Diocese have hosted some memorable Big Brews – highlights include events like the “Any Brew Will Do” celebration at Purley, featuring Fairtrade fruit kebabs and a Fairtrade puppets show, and Crowthorne Mothers’ Union’s “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” and Fairtrade film night. In 2010 there was even an episcopal “Big Brew,” gathering together Oxfordshire Fairtrade reps at Bishop Colin’s.

This year is no different: in churches like All Saints, Loughton, in Milton Keynes, which will be holding a Big Brew after the service on 1 March; and Garsington in Oxfordshire, which is planning a soup lunch and Fairtrade stall for the previous Saturday – the creative juices are flowing. There’s an added incentive to make this year special: the UK Government has said that it will double all money raised by Big Brews and sent to Traidcraft by 3 April. The doubled money will enable Traidcraft Exchange to help small farmers around the world to grow crops more efficiently, earn more money for them, and have the resources to feed and raise their families.

Go bananas for Fairtrade Fortnight

Maranda St John Nicolle on the importance of making the banana trade fair as the yellow fruit becomes the theme of the 2014 Fairtrade Fortnight.

Bananas growing in St Lucia. Photo by Simon Rawles.

Bananas growing in St Lucia. Photo by Simon Rawles.

When I visited Dominica in 2010, banana farmer Cato Ferreira commented: “Forty years ago bananas used to be sold in England on the bunch … Someone else would hand it (split up the bunches), treat them, box them, put them into the supermarket. 40 years later we end up doing everything, yet the price does not compensate us for our work.”

Other food prices, he noted, have gone up, but the cost of bananas has gone down and down. “Every housewife is looking to receive cheaper food. But I sometimes think…: ‘Don’t you have a conscience to [wonder] why 40 years ago [you] used to pay much more for a banana in the supermarket?”

It was a good point. For years, most supermarkets have competed with each other in cutting the price of bananas, hoping to attract customers to their stores. But they’ve passed the cuts in prices on to banana farmers around the world, leaving them unable to cover the costs of sustainable production. That’s not right.

This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight campaign aims to change the way things work. It’s called “Stick with Foncho to Make Bananas Fair,” Foncho being a Colombian banana farmer who is the figurehead for the campaign. You can find out more about Foncho, the campaign, and what you can do to help, at foncho.fairtrade.org.uk

One way to help is to buy Fairtrade bananas. And you can do two good things at once by holding a Big Brew tea party in support of Traidcraft, and using Fairtrade bananas as part of your refreshments. Find Big Brew resources at www.traidcraft.co.uk.

 

Making fashion fair

This year 1,131 people died and 2,500 were injured when the eight-storey Rana Plaza factory collapsed. The tragedy brought to light the plight of garment workers across the world. In the run-up to Christmas, as we think about posh new togs for the festive parties and extra layers to keep us warm, the Door looks at how we can support a more ethical fashion and clothing trade.

RANA Plaza bank, apartments and shops were evacuated but garment workers were ordered back to work despite cracks being discovered in the building’s structure. The building collapsed on top of them. The Church of Bangladesh responded by supporting rescue teams, mobilising help for the injured and their families, developing an advocacy programme based on factory workers’ needs and is campaigning for better basic labour conditions.

Amena works on embroidery for a Traidcraft order.

Amena works on embroidery for a Traidcraft order.

A global coalition of churches is now campaigning, lobbying retailers and politicians to improve wages, safety and working condition for over 3,500,000 workers that produce 80 per cent of Bangladeshi exports.

Susan Waters has run a clothing company in Milton Keynes since the early 90s, diversifying into Fairtrade after a visit to an eco-community in Scotland. “I went up there as a business woman fascinated by what they were doing and the people. I decided to start up Cotton Roots with the motto ‘Company Clothing with Moral Fibre’.”

Susan has Fairtrade partners in India and focuses on making school uniforms, organic sweat shirts and polo shirts, T-shirts and hoodies for schools. Most of her orders are bulk for schools. “It’s primary schools that have been most interested. “I have been on a visit to India myself to the cotton farms that grow the cotton we use and that was wonderful.”

Susan, who employs nine people to work from a base on a farm in Hanslope, Milton Keynes, admits that as a small company, dealing in Fairtrade goods is a big investment. “Every time I slightly waver I see something on the television about poverty that keeps me going. A lot of bigger companies don’t tend to touch Fairtrade.”

Cotton Roots and Impact Trading can produce custom made hoodies etc for clubs and organisation and even robies – large fleece robes, used by swimmers when they are getting changed in the open air, for the Henley Swimming Club. See www.cottonroots.co.uk and www.impacttrading.co.uk for more.

In Oxford Judith Condor-Vidal founded Trading for Development in 2004. Catering for the higher end of the market, it has shown its collections at the Ethical Fashion Show in Paris, winning the LA Redoute Ethical Award in 2006-2007.

Traidcraft sells Fair Trade clothing and fashion accessories along with its food, tea and coffee and other well known products. Among their accessories range are floral purses produced by Amena (pictured below) in Bangladesh. Amena has been working as an embroiderer with Swajan, a producer group in Bangladesh, for more than 12 years. She is also now a member of the workers committee at Swajan – representing women and ensuring their concerns and needs have a voice.See www.traidcraft.co.uk for more.

How to dress well ethically without spending a fortune

t’s worth taking a moment to think about the stories of the things we buy and whether they align with our values, writes Elizabeth Laskar. Once we unpack these we start to understand the negative contribution the manufacturing and supply chains have on our environment from CO2 emissions, soil erosion, pesticide poisoning, bio-diversity degradation, water waste to a wide range of humanitarian issues.

Over the last 20 years the fashion and clothing industry has been working to make positive change. Gone are the days of scratching itchy unfashionable designed eco clothing, it is now sophisticated and starting to be adopted by major retailers. Even the British Fashion Council is spearheading the movement at London Fashion Week

We can start with the six key areas in eco fashion.

1. Organic supports farming methods that have followed guidelines of a respected certification body eg. Soil Association

2. Fair Trade is about supporting fair labour practices and environmental care. The Fairtrade Mark on a garment indicates that its cotton was produced on Fairtrade terms. Read the information provided, there may be a story that you want to support.

3. Recycling. It is estimated that over one million tons of textiles and unwanted clothing is put into landfill every year. Visit second hand shops, Charity shops, try clothes swapping, buy seconds on Ebay and share your clothes.

4. Vintage is about celebrating fashion from the past. Vintage is often a little more expensive, however the prospect of wearing a unique design to a party and then selling it for a similar price to what you bought it for could be a good investment.

5. Up-cycling is a new trend of taking something old and unwanted, taking it apart and make something useful or fun. 6. New Technologies is where fashion and science come together to solve tomorrow’s challenges. Look out for new low-impact durable intelligent synthetic fabrics.

Here are a few ideas that will help make a difference with outbreaking the bank.

1. Party dress or suit exchange. Have a tea Invite your friends to bring a party dress or suit that they would like to swap.

2. Wardrobe Detox – Pop-Up Shop

Do you have clothes, gifts, quality objects that need selling? Arrange a pop-up shop in a local community centre or at your home. Display your items with care, write a short description on everything you are selling and keep your prices reasonable. Make sure the clothes are clean and looking good.

3. Durability – Try buying less and look for something that is made well, and will last several seasons.

4. Rent my dress: Do your friends have a fantastic wardrobe? Perhaps you can ask your friends or family if you can rent a dress from them.

Ask your retailer about the clothes you are buying. They should be able to give you information to help you make an informed choice. And remember it’s about keeping a balance and making small positive steps. Why not start with this – for every three pieces of clothing you purchase, conisder buying one that fits into one of the six key areas in eco fashion?

Elizabeth Laskar is an Oxford based eco fashion consultant. To join her mailing list email info@elizabethlaskar.com or visit her website www.elizabethlaskar.com.