#JustFriday #BlackFriday or #Friyay – your choice.

You’ll be fully aware of Black Friday I’m sure. Another ‘tradition’ to come across the Atlantic, Black Friday takes place the day after Thanksgiving, which is the fourth Thursday in November. This year, Black Friday falls on November 27 and kick starts the holiday shopping season with promotions and discounts. On Black Friday last year, British consumers spent £810m on online purchases alone. That works out to a rate of £9,375 every second. That said, some retailers are taking a softer approach this year and spreading their promotions across the week, or even, the entire period between now and Christmas. One such retailer is Asda who will be offering £26 million worth of promotions over November and December in a bid to avoid the media frenzy of 2014 when this video of shoppers scrambling over one another to get their hands on discounted TVs went viral.

Because I’d rather be asleep at midnight tomorrow rather than logged on to Amazon, I’m on board with Traidcraft who want to remind everyone that it’s #JustFriday. Traidcraft have been ‘Fighting poverty through trade’ since 1979 and this month they have put together a fantastic infographic below on the trials and tribulations of Black Friday and how we can all work to make it a little brighter. Black Friday also coincides with Second-hand First Week, an initiative by TRAID to promote second-hand shopping. I for one know my #Friyay shopping will involve little more than a mulled wine with friends at the local Christmas market. What about you?


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Crafty Advent Calendar

I think I’ve only been without an advent calendar for one year, and even then I still had the reusable book style woodland advent calendar given to me as a child that I took into the office to stretch out for all to see. Popular belief links the first advent calendars to 19th Century Germany. Back then you’d only find a picture behind each door but of course nowadays the standard is chocolate, followed by an increasingly assortment of novelty calendars for kids and adults featuring beauty products, Lego, tea, beer and even, beard oil. Traidcraft have some lovely fair trade advent calendars featuring Divine chocolate. I however, have made my own and filled it with Lindt!

wooden advent calendar


I was sent the calendar by Ocean loans who set up the crafty project for lifestyle bloggers to put their creative energies into preparing for Christmas. The calendar came from Hobbycraft, as did the Scandi-print paper I used to cover some of the doors and the advent numbers (although I’m missing a 15!). There’s still time to make your own advent calendar. If you want something easy, cheap and environmentally-friendly, try using small brown envelopes to make a basic wall calendar, or wrap individual parcels in leftover fabrics or brown paper and scatter them over a table.

Yay for Christmas!

advent train

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Each year more than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped in the ocean . . .

How ocean pollution affects humans

How ocean pollution affects humans [Infographic] by the team at DIVE.in

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Balu: The ethical shopping assistant app

woman- laptop online shopping app

Friends often ask me where to go for ethical jeans/workwear/shoes etc and I’ve had my online directory for years signposting consumers to ethical and sustainable brands. Now though, it seems my work here is done because I’ve recently learnt about a great new app that acts as an ethical shopping assistant – meet Balu.

Balu pops up when its user is shopping online and presents ethical alternatives to the products they’re searching for. You can download it on Google Chrome and I’ve been playing with it for a couple of weeks now. For example, if I head to ASOS dresses page, Balu immediately drops down from the Google toolbar with 21 ethical alternatives from the likes of Braintree Clothing, People Tree and Kuyichi (I have in actual fact recently bought two gorgeous new dresses from Nomads!). It’s a brilliant way to learn about the range of ethical options out there and cheeky reminder if you get carried away Christmas shopping. The app is completely free to use and new items are being added every day so it’s only going to get better and better.

I asked the team why they felt the need to create Balu and they said:

“Though many people want to shop in a way that doesn’t harm people or planet, finding sustainable and ethical products still takes extra effort over and above “normal” online shopping. When we are required to look beyond mass marketing and leading high street brands, and cannot rely on the most powerful search engines and online stores that we’re most used to, this acts as a barrier to more ethical habits.

Balu changes this by requiring that you change nothing: while you shop like you always have, using the same tools, shops and searches that you’ve always used, Balu shows you ethical alternatives. It acts as an ethical filter over the sometimes damaging retail industry, taking the best that the internet has to offer and making it better.”

The beta release of Balu for Chrome is now live and the team are working on expanding Balu’s reach to more consumers by releasing Firefox and Safari versions, as well as making it mobile compatible. Why not give it a try?

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Back to Basics Collection by FAUSTINE STEINMETZ Handwoven and Handmade

This season Steinmetz takes her collection “back to basics”, looking at the numerous ways in which a staple item can be reproduced, using illusions to create fabrics which are not what they seem at first glance. For SS16, the designer also acknowledges the artist that made her want to become a designer – Joseph Kosuth. After seeing “One and Three Chairs” in a book at the age of 14, Steinmetz believes her mind was opened to visual arts in a way that she still cannot explain today.

Faustine Steinmetz is the latest recipient of COTTON USA’s highly coveted sponsorship for SS16, an advocacy programme that helps up-and-coming designers to showcase their talent and creativity, bringing the vision for their collection to life through the versatility of U.S cotton.

Steinmetz puts her own twist on iconic pieces, and this includes weaving her own fabric using a traditional handloom in her London studio. This attention to detail to create quality, long-lasting garments is just one of the merits that made Steinmetz a great fit for the COTTON USA sponsorship.

The sponsorship programme has been a valuable platform for budding designers to elevate their work. Previous recipients of the sponsorship include Richard Nicholl, Meadham Kirchhoff, PPQ, Preen, Louise Gray and palmer//harding.

Steinmetz said: “I am thrilled to have been selected to receive the sponsorship for a second season. Support for young designers like myself provides a platform to express our creativity and showcase our vision.” She continued “What I love about U.S. cotton is not only the exceptional quality and versatility, but also knowing that the fibres I am using to hand make my designs have been responsibly produced – this is very important to me when sourcing my materials.”

The Parisian-born designer began her studies at Atelier Chardon Savard in Paris before moving to London to complete her Masters at Central Saint Martins, under the guidance of Professor OBE Louise Wilson. Having worked for the likes of Jeremy Scott and Henrik Vibskov, Faustine set up her label in early 2013 after acquiring her first handloom. All of Steinmetz’s pieces are made in accordance with her belief in craftsmanship over trend, designing staple pieces for the everyday woman.

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Cruelty-Free Bio-D Comes Top for Eco-Friendly Washing

washing-machine eco friendly

What we wash away down the plug hole has become an increasing concern of mine and has slowly but surely changed my cleaning habits considerably, both in terms of washing myself and washing things in my home. I’ve gone from a bleach lover to shamefaced occasional user; I clean my shower screen with vinegar and often bathe in plain hot water. The only time my clothes have smelt freshly fragranced in the last couple of years is when I happily discovered samples of everyday washing detergent in a holiday apartment and thought I may as well use them. And yes, the burst of ylang ylang sea breeze rose petal mountain fresh was LOVELY. But other than that I’ve tried a few environmentally-friendly alternatives – including nothing but water, which does work for the odd freshen-up.

First on the list we have Ecozone Ecoballs. A nice little discovery from a shop in Brighton, I genuinely think these are great. They are tennis-sized balls of eco goodness you can chuck straight into the drum again and again and by some science I don’t understand, your clothes come out clean with no harm done to the environment in the meantime. Because they are soap free you can cut the rinse cycle on your machine (if your machine has that function) thus saving extra water and energy. Although pricey to purchase upfront EcoZone then say that they cost just 8p per wash. After a few months you’re meant to replace the balls (that’s on my to-do list).

After my experimentation with EcoBalls I moved onto Ecover non-bio liquid, probably I should say, in search of something fragranced. Normally I’m a great fan of Ecover, not least because their range of cleaning products is extensive and easily available in the supermarket, but sadly I didn’t get on with their washing detergent. Whilst it did clean my clothes and made them smell clean too, something about it irritated my skin. I don’t have particularly sensitive skin so this was surprising and perhaps said more about my lack of contact with soapy detergents in general. Whatever it was, mum benefited from my cast-offs and I haven’t had any complaints about its effectiveness in dealing with dog blankets and mud-encrusted jeans.

And so we come to Bio-D who recently sent me some washing detergent and fabric conditioner to trial (they must think I’m posh – I can barely be bothered to condition my hair!). Bio-D is an independent, family owned, ethically motivated company producing environmentally responsible detergents that have minimal ecological impact both in their manufacture and use. Where possible ingredients are derived from plant-based, renewable sources. The concentrated laundry liquid is fragrance free and ideal for delicates and fine fabrics. I’ve found it washes my clothes perfectly and causes no irritation with wear. The fabric conditioners come fragranced with essential oils – juniper and seaweed, or lavender – or completely unfragranced.

Bio-D eco friendly washing

A further benefit of Bio-D is their disdain for animal testing. They ensure that none of their raw materials or finished products are tested on animals, and are therefore certified by the ‘Leaping Bunny’ logo. You’d probably recognise the Leaping Bunny logo, even if you’re not sure what the scheme is about. It’s coordinated by Cruelty Free International, the leading worldwide organisation working to end experimentation on animals. 100s of cleaning products, toiletries and beauty products are certified by the Bunny – you can request your own copy of their shopping guide to check yours. Cruelty Free International’s latest campaign asks consumers like you and me to sign the ‘Go Cruelty Free Pledge’ and only buy Leaping Bunny certified products. You can take the pledge here and receive monthly offers from Leaping Bunny brands, Bio-D being one of them.

So there we have it – three environmentally-friendly alternatives for washing your clothes tried and tested. I should say that although I don’t have kids or pets and therefore shouldn’t get particularly mucky – I do make a habit of rolling around the common on a weekday evening (for fitness training) and Bio-D coped fabulously with muddy knees and elbows.

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