Fair-trade, Plastic and Compromises

So it has been a while since I last blogged. Partly because I have been doing other things like having a birthday, partly because some weeks just get busy and partly because stopping and reflecting is sometimes most useful and best done before continuing your thought process with all who may read this.

Since I last blogged I have also written an article for my church on trying to live a plastic free life  that will be shared via a British wide newsletter which in time will arrive on here: http://www.moravian.org.uk . I have done a couple of bits for Christian Aid and have chatted with my tutor group in college about it.

From this last place came the most intriguing ideas. We talked about what we could do (we are all trainee ministers/ vicars), what the church could do and how we make this not just a middle class issue. The latter is a very challenging question – how can plastic free living not just be for the middle class?

Some changes which are financially cheaper include: veg/meat/fish shopping locally and finding grains in local shops but with the rise of the plastic filled things such as the 99p store, even saying switching toothbrushes is not necessarily cheaper when you can get a pack of ten for 99p.

Should it be a lifestyle choice just for those who can afford it – definitely not. If we consider the number of people who are concerned for the planet and/or concerned about what goes into their bodies (if you recognise plastic does leach out hormones) then clearly not. Plastic is being used as a cheap material but at potentially at the cost to our health, the seas including fish and animals within the sea, as well as the wider world.

One story that was shared in my tutor group talked of how plastic is now being used as a source of fuel all over the world (this story was shared in the context of Africa). Yet, burning plastic releases toxins into the air and the melted ball left if eaten by an animal is likely to cause the animal to die.

It worries me as the side effects of plastic affect us all – but the problem is that it is being produced so cheaply which is hard to compete against.

We are currently in the midst of Fair-trade Fortnight (29 Feb-13 March) and in our house that is always a reason to buy in chocolate !

Both of us love Fair-trade products – we like them because we know they are well sourced and that fair wages are given out. But we also know that this fairness means a slight price hike which is O.K. for us but maybe isn’t so easy a compromise for someone living off JSA. I also celebrated by buying a water bottle from Oxfam) because I haven’t currently got one  that is metal, only ones that hold tea (I am slowly phasing out my completely plastic ones which are years old) . My compromise was that it was Fair-trade and largely metal (see lid is plastic). It cost me £4.99

This bottle to me symbolizes how hard it is to live ethically. I compromised in buying this bottle because I prefer to support charities and business like Oxfam that support Fair-trade.  Yet it does still contain a bit of plastic. To buy a non plastic water bottle though is around 6 times more expensive and isn’t money I have spare. My ethical non plastic living is guided by income for better or worse.

However, I want to finish with an encouragement. Sometimes living plastic free is cheaper – Aldi does a lot of paper based products (which includes chocolate for those who can’t afford the Fairtrade prices), Lush products will last you much longer than most plastic filled ones and are overtime cheaper and borrowing books from a library as opposed to buying them is always cheaper. As I keep saying to folks making one switch is better than non – or writing to one company is better than none.

Plastic is an issue that does affect us all. I hope we can each find a way of reducing our plastic that is manageable and in accordance with our time and finances and that we don’t feel guilty living in ways we can each manage. 



  1. Do library books still have plastic covers in uk to make them last longer / keep clean.
    They don’t do that in Finland … And books seem to last a long time inspire if libraries being very heavily used here (best frequented in Europe)


    • Not all do no. However, all books (unless otherwise specified) tend to have a v thin layer of plastic on their book cover. The idea is, I guess, if you spill a drop of anything on it you are less likely to ruin your book. But sadly books contain some plastic.


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