Review: Hoodlamb Nordic Parka

I’ve been after a vegan winter coat for sometime. Having researched the options out there I opted for the Hoodlamb nordic parka. I’ve posted my video review below. Feel free to like and share.

 

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Product Review: Märss Bags

Walking around London, you’d be easily convinced that there are only a handful of backpack brands (precisely which five would depend on which part of London…). I’m sure it’s the same all over the world. Thing is, I wanted a backpack that didn’t have lots of extra plastic fixings, and certainly didn’t have any leather tags or accessories, and I wanted one that was as stylish as it was practical. I thought all this was a pipe dream, until I came across Märss on Instagram. Märss produce custom bags, always made with vegan leather and upcycled materials. My bag is perfect for carrying everything I need for work, including my laptop and water bottle, and it’s just the right size for a weekend trip to visit family or a day trip out of London.

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Ellie’s Marss bag, c. 60 Euro

The process is really simple and super quick for what you get – a quick email exchange through Instagram, facebook or her online store with the woman behind Märss (Liisi), explaining what you would like, and then she gets to work sourcing the relevant materials and producing your bag to your precise specifications. For example, I wanted a leopard print lining for mine, and gold coloured clasps. Lewis wanted his bag to go with his forest green coat, and have zip pockets on the side. Liisi was even able to make a custom raincover for Lewis’s bag at his request.

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Lewis’s Marss Bag, also c. 60 Euro

A few weeks after receiving my bag, one of the straps broke a little – Liisi was happy to cover the costs of postage and repair, and turned that around for me really quickly. A fantastic product, and really excellent service.

It’s great to be able to support independent vegan businesses, especially when I end up with a product that’s exactly what I was after, and the service is such a high standard too. There’s loads Märss can offer in terms of customization, so if you’re after a new backpack do take a look at the website and get in touch with Liisi!

http://marssbackpack.bigcartel.com/ 

Product Review: Soap Nuts

I have read varying views on the effectiveness of soap nuts ability to clean. Given the uncertainty surrounding them I thought best to try them once and for all. Sapindus, commonly referred to as soap nuts, are a native shrub to India. It is a natural surfactant which can be used to clean ones hair, skin, laundry and as a household cleaner generally. They’re vegan and suitable for those with allergies. If this wasn’t enough it was claimed a 1kg bag – costing £11 could wash 330 loads of laundry. That’s 3.3p a load. Given the mixed reviews I thought best to sit down with a cup of tea and learn how to use them properly. The first test was laundry. 

Within the bag are two small mesh bags where you place the soap nuts for washing clothes. Having read up I noted you need more soap nuts in hard water areas. As London has horrific water I placed 10 soap nuts into the mesh bag and put them into a small jar with tap hot water and shook them up. They formed suds straight away. After watching an episode of South Park I return and placed the mesh bag with soapy water in with the clothes.

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1kg bag of soap nuts

I didn’t use fabric conditioner but the clothes felt far softer than normal. There was not scent and the clothes were really clean. At least as clean if not more than usual. I’ve used them quite a few times now and they’re done the job. The only thing I may do is add some essential oils to add some fragrance. The soap nuts can be used four or fives times. To test them put them in a jar of warm water and shake. If they foam up you’re good to go. I’ve also used them to wash my hair and beard.

The cost of laundry cleaner and conditioner wasn’t too pricy. However, buying organic, vegan and ‘nasty’ free shampoo and conditioner is rather costly. Given I have 1kg of soap nuts I made my own shampoo. I filled an old empty bottle of shampoo with five soap nuts, some organic cold pressed argan and jojoba oil along with tea tree essential oil. Given the softness of the laundry, the addition of the oils negates the need for conditioner. I tend to leave the homemade shampoo on a little longer. My hair is left clean and soft. For my kind of hair this works better than shop bought shampoo.

For household cleaning I’ve used 10 soap nuts and placed them into an old bottle with some lemon essential oil and filtered water. I left the mixture overnight and found it turned brown. This has been used to clean worktops / dishes. It cleans effortlessly on all the household tasks I set it to. I was most surprised by its ability to clean around the house. Having read negative reviews it seems, at least anecdotally, people didn’t first soak the soap nuts.Given its cleaning ability and relative cost I’d like to continue using them. Supports highlight their environmental benefits. I’m unsure on this point. Of course there are environmental / welfare concerns with commonly used laundry products.

The nuts must been transported to the UK. There are also farming impacts to consider too. Given they are not commonly used in the UK – finding information on them have proven challenging it. I will update this post in due course and have posted it in the hope people may have answers to the following; working conditions of those involved in the supply chain, farming techniques  – organic.  environmental impact of growing and in relation to ‘mainstream’ products. Given they are able to carry out general cleaning duties it negates the need to consume multiple products, each produced and shipped in turn. On the face it would suggest the environmental impact would be less. Below is a video documenting the harvesting process in Nepal:

All information on prettygood  is meant for educational and informational purposes only. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulator / EU body. Products and or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with their health care provider. If you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition or are taking any medication, please consult your doctor.

 

Inspirational Women

It’s International Women’s Day on 8th March, and we thought we’d take the opportunity to seek out some inspirational women working to improve the sustainability and ethics of our environment. We’ve tried to feature a broad range here, but there are absolutely gaps and unsung heroes out there, so please please mention your own picks in the comments, or drop us an email at prettygoodldn@gmail.com and we’ll update!

For the most part, we’ve found a video of these women talking about their work – we’re big believers in amplifying the voices of others rather than regurgitating their words as our own. Take a minute, grab a cuppa, and listen to what these inspiring women have to say about the world.

Reni Eddo-Lodge

Reni Eddo-Lodge is a journalist and writer, a black feminist who is extremely articulate on the topic of intersectionality. She has a book coming out in 2017, which arose from a blog post “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race”. Well worth a read. (She’s vegan too, if that’s your flex).

Wangari Maathai

(1940-2011) A trailblazer in many senses of the word, Wangari was the first woman from East and Central Africa to obtain a doctoral degree, and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her commitment to “sustainable development, democracy and peace.” Her work promoted “ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa. She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women’s rights in particular. She thinks globally and acts locally.”

She established the Green Belt Movement, who continue her work today, taking an active role in discussions and advocacy around climate change, tree planting and water conservation, and highlighting the links between human activity and the environment.

Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva focuses primarily on issues surrounding biodiversity and the use of non-renewable seed crops, as well as their impact on global poverty, food production, and agricultural practices.

Majora Carter

Majora Carter is an environmental justice campaigner, working to bring positive environment change to areas in urban environments, challenging the statistical norms around access to green environment along class, race, and income lines. In the impassioned TED talk linked above, she outlines how these schemes generate benefit for the local environment, and its inhabitants, in really diverse ways. A real firebrand – inspirational!

Safia Minney

Safia Minney is the founder of People Tree, successfully bringing organic cotton and slow fashion to the mainstream. Her business launches have typically been guided by her own desires to be an ethical consumer, and she talks about that a little in the video above.

Anna Lappe

 Anna Lappe is a ‘Food Mythbuster’, and the video above she unpicks some of the ideas around industrialised agriculture.

There are also some great grassroots movements and individuals effecting change out there, and these are just a handful of the ones we came across whilst researching this piece. Again, if your favourite is missing, let us know!

Wool: What is it Good For? Not The Environment

Individuals interested in an ethical and sustainable lifestyle come from different perspectives. We all realise that our actions have an impact  on the environment, and based on this, abstain from consuming products that perpetuate climate change. Surprisingly, I have seen a number of progressive shops selling ‘sustainable’ wool. It has been pitched as a renewable product, which fails to understand the reality of global factory farming and the environmental devastation it leaves in its wake.


Environmental Impact

There are over one billion sheep in the world. Australia, China, UK and New Zealand dominate the market. A government reports puts the number of sheep in the UK at around 23 million. Each one produces 20 litres of methane a day simply by burping. The issue with methane is that it is 19 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide, over a five year period. Alarmingly, methane has a Global Warming Potential  (GWP) rating of 86 over a 20 year period.

Each year 90 million tonnes of methane are produced by all ruminant livestock globally. Shockingly, sheep account for 90% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. This is due to the large amount of  burping that ruminants do. The impact of wool needs to be considered within the wider context of the farmed animal industry. There is serious dollar to be made out of exploiting non-human animals. Livestock occupy 26% of the Earth’s ice-free land and account for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Meat, wool and other animal fibres are apart of an interdependent system of environmental devastation. The lamb in your kebab as you make your way home in the wee hours could have once literally been connected to your Uggs.

Polluting rivers near farmland is a concern to local wildlife and people alike. Sheep may be treated for parasites by being dipped in a chemical bath. After dipping these substances may find their way into local waterways. Contamination of rivers by livestock faeces / carcasses pose a health risk to people too. Experts stated that the parasite detected at a water treatment facility Lancashire  over the summer was likely caused by this.

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Ebony and Ivory say  ‘leave our wool alone’. Image from Flickr user Maurice Koop

Merino Wool

The global wool industry is barbaric.There has been sustained coverage regarding the mistreatment of merino sheep in Australia. This is due to 80% of global merino wool being produced there. It is often seen as a high end luxury product. Sheep are not indigenous to the continent, much like the European invaders who brought them to Australia in 1796. Sheep initially used for wool are sent to slaughter, once there is no further economic value in maintaining them.  The industry  employs  a number of efficient practices as illustrated with the merino breed.

The merino has been bred to yield the maximum amount of wool and not to shed their wool. They have been bred to have wrinkly skin. More skin equals more wool.  Sheep may become overloaded with wool and die due to high temperatures. The wrinkles encourage excrement and urine to be trapped in the folds. This attracts blowflies which leads to flystrike whereby flies lay eggs. The maggots hatch and, if untreated will literally eat the sheep alive. To prevent this farmers employ a practice called mulesing. It involves cutting out chunks of skin from the groin area. No anaesthetic is used.

At the point of shearing the sheep are typically handled roughly. They may be deprived of food and water up to a day before shearing, to make them easier to control. The shearer is paid by volume and not hour. Sheep can be left with bloody wounds which are routinely stitched up without anaesthetic. When sheep are no longer economically viable to maintain, they are transported to slaughter. The Merinos from Australia are shipped to the Middle East without food or water. But this cruelty is not confined to far off distant lands. In the UK it has been reported that 15% of lambs die in infancy. Should they not die, they face tail docking and castration, which often takes place without pain relief if done before sheep reach three months of age – which is routine. This is due to the time needed to administer the injections and the cost of medication. The practices of farming in the UK and elsewhere are necessarily cruel.


There have been suggestions that organic wool is the solution to issues of sustainability. The core issues raised above are still present in all forms of non-human farming. Organic methods are to be championed, but no method is justified when a Being who wants to live, is killed. If small scale farms are able to clothe the world then the issue of methane is back on the table. It has been said it may be possible to reduce the levels of methane produced. This reminds me of the story of NASA producing a pen that could be used in space, whereas their Russian counterparts used a pencil. Though the story is an urban legend it does make one think. The answer is simple. Wool / animals’ bodies generally are unsustainable, so we ought to stop using them –  for the benefit of our children, and their children.

The organic wool green-washing machine allows those who don’t want to know, not to know. Sheep are abused in conventional / ‘humane’ slaughter houses as documented by Animal Aid. Abuse has been reported at facilities linked to progressive  bcorps. Workers on Ovsi 21 farms, who supplied wool for Patagonia, skinned sheep alive. The wool from these farms was sold as sustainable and responsibly sourced. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Patagonia has cut ties with this supplier.


Instead of being complicit in the cruelty of wool, you may wish to make a donation to the Fleece Haven sanctuary in Devon. They rescue sheep from the farming industry and allow them to live out their lives in peace.

 

SLS

If you’re starting to take a keen interest in the ingredients in your most regular purchases, you might have noticed some cosmetics boldly proclaiming to be ‘SLS free’. But what is SLS? Should we be concerned about it?

SLS stands for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, and may also refer to Sodium Laureth Sulfate (aka SLES) – ‘SLS’ can be used to refer to either; although they aren’t identical chemicals, they’re pretty similar, and their uses and functions are largely the same. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is one of several ingredients found really commonly in all kinds of cosmetics and cleaning products. It can also be used as a powerful pesticide, though producers were denied an application to recognise SLS as an organic pesticide, because of its poor credentials when it comes to pollution and environmental damage.

It has a couple of functions:

  • It makes loads of foam
  • It disperses grease
  • It is a ‘penetration enhancer’, meaning it helps other chemicals find their way onto your skin (and beyond)
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Image via Flickr user frankieleon

Its ability to make foam and disperse grease means you *feel* clean, even if it makes no real difference when compared to a less-foamy cleanser. This is especially appealing to budget or low-quality brands which aren’t especially functional. If SLS is present in your creams, it’s probably to make them spread out better. None of this sounds so bad, except for the fact that SLS is a known skin irritant. If you struggle with psoriasis or eczema, or very bad dry skin, for example, SLS will probably make that worse. If your shampoo is making your scalp itch or blister, you might want to check whether SLS is an ingredient. If you’re as cynical as me, you’ll suspect that cosmetic companies know this, and know that they can upsell an intensive moisturiser to soothe all that irritation from your nice foamy face wash! A few well-known beauty journalists have started to advise against foaming face washes and SLS, but many of us still reach for well-known brands when we want to feel ‘clean’, without thinking too much about those unpronounceable ingredients listed on the back. There have been rumours that SLS increases cancer-risk, but these are unsubstantiated by any scientific study, and SLS is classified as a non-carcinogen.

If you’re a regular on the blog, you won’t be surprised to hear that the main reason SLS is so widely used is that it is incredibly cheap to produce. SLS can be derived from palm oil (or coconut oil), so if you’re working to buy palm-oil free products, this is worth bearing in mind.

So, SLS is bad news for our skin, but what about the environment?

SLS is toxic to aquatic species including fish, molluscs, and crustaceans and, as a pesticide, finds itself in waterways and groundwater more often than it should – a 2008 review by the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) “strongly advised not to let the chemical enter into the environment”. It isn’t always picked up by water filtration processes, meaning it works its way into our drinking water too.

How easy is it to go SLS-free?

I have pretty sensitive skin, and my scalp is prone to irritation (and my hair is prone to frizz), so I phased SLS out of my routine about 2 years ago. Initially, the hardest thing to get used to was the lack of suds. I have pretty thick (and very long, until recently) hair, so I had to find a new way of distributing shampoo all over without the foam to help me. I also had a few false starts with products which were great for Lewis, but just didn’t quite work for my longer, finer hair. I’m now pretty settled, so these are my absolute favourites, and regular fixtures on my bathroom shelves.

Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 – great as a body wash although wasn’t great on my hair, and can also be used as a laundry detergent and even washing-up liquid!

Washed Out Soap – such a lovely brand, I love a delivery from Washed Out! Their Barista soap is the ideal thing for waking up in the morning, and has done wonders for my combination skin, as it gently exfoliates and isn’t too harsh on the dry bits.

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One Village Soap – one of our early discoveries, and great for handwashing (though not quite right for hair washing, I found). Gets a pretty good foam up too.

Green People Shampoo & Conditioner – the hair products dreams are made of! I have curly hair that’s prone to frizz, and the Green People range means I now have the shiny manageable hair I always envied on TV adverts. Not cheap, but you only need a tiny amount and it works really well. I tend to go 2 or even 3 days between hair washes, so I haven’t noticed a big difference in cost over time.

Green People have a really big range, and are also my favourite for deodorant. I’ve yet to sample their wares, but Pure Nuff Stuff have a really big range of products which are all SLS free, and free of other nasties too. Both worth a look, especially for those in the UK who are keen to find options which don’t come with hefty shipping from the US!

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