Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Gradual changes and ethical decisions

(scary mashed potato monster with avocado)

Since Saturday I've been fully occupied making white food with a faint hint of of banana yellow, rice pudding brown and avocado green.

It might sound like I've been conjuring up baby food, but I've actually been busy using up 12 pints of milk and concocting banana milkshakes (which the kids hate), bread & butter pudding, toad-in-the-hole, rice pudding, mashed potato and hot chocolates (which the kids love). Even Mr A has been busy with his frother making a couple of cappuccinos.

So by today, we were left with just one and a half pints before our next milk delivery arrived on the doorstep. Now that's a remarkable result because just over a year ago I would have allowed any spare milk to go off and would have just poured it down the drain.

Glug, glug, glug, glug.

With no further thought.

Just gone!

And with no consideration of the wasted money as I'd pour it away, or indeed the energy needed to milk the cow, bottle the contents and transport it to my home, not to mention the organic food needed to feed the cow in the first place.

But these days I am beginning to get bothered about all that and more. I now wonder how it's possible to do all that for just 73p. That's right, 73p for a pint of organic milk delivered to my door. And I also wonder how supermarkets can sell it cheaper.

It's strange how you start off simply worrying about the amount of rubbish that goes in your bin and then find yourself being concerned with all manner of waste as well a whole range of aspects surrounding your purchasing decisions.

But it gradually happens and almost creeps up on you like a monster crawling out from behind the sofa and before you know it you find yourself wondering whether it's better to get the bus to your local market or drive a few miles to the nearest farmer's market and whether it's more ethical to purchase jam made at your local farm or buy a fairtrade product shipped from Africa.

It only gets easy when you have the choice between like-for-like products, e.g. choosing fairtrade bananas at the supermarket or fairtrade coffee in the cafe.

I admit that I am still a bit of a toddler when it comes to such decisions. I feel I do my best when I remember but if I'm in a hurry my best intentions go out of the window. However shopping with Tracey Smith last week really brought home the issue and everywhere we went from tearooms, jewellers to chocolatiers she questioned their ethical and fairtrade policies. It was interesting how few shops had such a policy and we were both amazed and shocked at the lack of retail assistants who even knew what we were talking about.

Anyway if like me, you find yourself floundering when it comes to ethical decisions, I can recommend a fantastic book called A Good Life: A Guide to Ethical Living, by Leo Hickman, which was published last year. It's a great book which covers issues such as whether it is better to buy an organic apple from New Zealand, a fairtrade apple from South Africa or a locally grown apple that's non-organic and really gets you pondering the effects of your purchasing decisions.

And there's no better time to put the ideas into practice because yesterday was the official start of Fairtrade Fortnight, organised by the Fairtrade Foundation. The foundation works hard to promote fairtrade products through retail outlets, ensuring that workers in developing countries get a good price for their products and enjoy fair working conditions.

And finding such products is easy. There are over 3,000 licensed products in the UK and it's not just about bananas and coffee. A browse around the supermarket shelves will also find honey, nuts, juices, rice and even wine. To see the whole range and to find out where you can buy such items, just pop over to the Fairtrade website and browse the list of retail products.

I've had a good look myself and am now looking forward to my trip to the supermarket and cooking up something a lot more colourful than white. After all, my weekend has resembled something akin to a 1980s Dulux palette so I really think some Fairtrade chocolate is in order. Well that's my excuse anyway and I might just pick up a nice bottle of wine while I'm at it.

It'll make a nice change from scary monster mash don't you think?



Karin said...

Thank you for reminding me it's Fairtrade Fortnight. I'll have to look out for any new products in our local shops.

I know what you mean by wondering how the cost of milk, and especially organic milk, is kept so low, but keeping a cow in the back garden wouldn't really work.

On the other hand, I'm pretty taken with chickens, so hope you locate some soon.

Anonymous said...

Well I am sorry but I would buy from New Zealand, not just cos I come from there, but because I have seen how they grow and run there farms and how they have fort hard to recover from most of the world stoping trade on us when we went nucler free. It has taken many years decades even. besides there is nothing like New Zealand lamb.
Most of our other things, we try to buy Britsh made or from local people from carboots etc.

Anonymous said...

well done on using up all that milk Mrs A - I thought of you when I was making pancakes for breakfast!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mrs A,

Well done for dealing with the excess milk. I would probably drinks some and put the rest in my espresso-made coffee.

The bin issue has so many links and you can see how big the trend has become. The bigger the better.

Fair Trade and Organic produce are worthy causes. I would buy loose because a lot has waste packaging.

Maisie said...

I will second the book as I have read it.

Bought some Fairtrade cotton buds today which have a paper stick not plastic so should be able to go on the compost heap. (M&S).

I always buy fairtrade cocoa and teabags.

And if I can't get britsh sugar beet sugar then fairtrade cane sugar.

Karin said...

Oh yes, I'll second the book, too, or should that be third it now? I found that very helpful.

Thanks for the tip about M&S cotton buds Maisie. I just manage to track some down in my mum's Co-op only to be told they are closing down soon, so now I have somewhere else to look, although there are other Co-ops around here.

Katy said...

Some really useful links there! I'm on a university campus where the shops are run by the Student Union, so things like Fairtrade and the Nestle boycott get a lot of coverage in my local (working day) shops. As well as exotic foods there are some good buys and Co-op branded things too. I can get tissues made out of waste from cotton manufacturing, not to mention own brand Fairtrade dark chocolate for just 45p! I believe they also sell Fairtrade wine (I don't buy much wine at work so am not sure ;)

Anonymous said...

You'll be pleased to know that some hospital coffee shops are supporting Fairtrade fortnight by promoting / selling products and even adjusting their menu choices to use fairtrade ingredients! I was very impressed! Well done on the milk crisis XX

Marie Reed said...

I saw your comment at Vodka Mom! I rushed over to be number 44!

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

That tears it, I'm jumping on a plane and coming over to your house for dinner. Somehow the universe has decided that I can't have rice pudding or bread pudding because every time I order it in a restaurant they are out of it. Of course I could make it but where's the fun in that?

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Karin - the chickens....only 10 more days to go...10 more days to go. And as for a cow in the garden, I think you're right. I'll stop at the chickens :-D

Hi Fiona - no need to apologise over the New Zealand apples. In fact the advice of Leo Hickmann, is to weigh things up according to your priorities and after all it's all about balance :-D

Hi Mrs G - I thought about you too when I was making my pancakes last night...I've just blogged about them...perhaps I should have called your hotline for help :-D x

Hi John - it is interesting how awareness grows to encompass wider things. I am lucky because we can recycle a lot of the packaging, but it does make you stop and weigh up the choices a lot more. :-D

Hi Maisie - thanks for the tip about the cotton buds, I'll add them to my links when I track them down. Living in BSE we have a sugar factory, which used locally grown sugar beet so yep I'm up for the British variety too :-D

Wow Katy - what fab supplies to have on hand. That's one thing about living life outside of such a campus, there are not so many options. However we do have a Fair Traid centre in Bury St Edmunds which is brilliant. :-D

Hi Baba - that's even better news. Good on the hospitals! That's real progress :-D x

LOL - Welcome Marie and so glad you popped over. I love your site. If anyone likes vintage postcards, please link over through Marie's blogger profile and have a browse. It's fab :-D

LOL Lisa - as long as you're not expecting pancakes...you will be most welcome. The pancakes are another story :-D

Karin said...

You've ordered your chickens? That's great. I'll look forward to seeing what they are like.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with how other issues creep in when you start thinking about waste. i have definitely been buying more local and organic food this year than ever before. I think a lot about driving cars and how my hobbies like skiing impact the environment. Sometimes it's hard not to get absorbed in how many issues there are! I'm often torn between human rights (fair trade) and the environment (organic and local), and I wish it didn't have to be that way.

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Karin - Haven't ordered them yet but have made arrangements to go to a local farm a week on Saturday...I am sooooooo excited :-D

Hi Jen - I know what you mean about being torn between things, it really is difficult choosing what is best. If manufacturers could help make it easier I would kiss them...well that might be going a bit far, but I'd definitely shake their hand. :-D

Karin said...

Less than a week to go now. Very exciting. I had no idea chickens could be so interesting and amusing. They can be so funny. Either the blog or the housework will suffer as you're bound to want to keep stopping to watch what they're up to.

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