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Living life with good intention, loving with soul, searching for pure happiness & joy

March 18, 2018

Sustainable Sundays: My Favourite Sustainable Fashion Brands

Welcome back to Sustainable Sunday this week gang! The last instalment of this series talked about how you can find more sustainable or eco-friendly brands or products on the high street and if you're on a budget because y'all, we know that sustainable fashion isn't the cheapest. When it comes to fashion, I used to be such a big consumer of high street brands and retailers and whilst there's nothing wrong with enjoying that, I realised that I was trying to make myself happy with these constant purchases and that actually? I didn't find it at all fulfilling and I didn't like to know the impact fast fashion is having on the planet and those responsible for making items at their source. So I made the jump to slow fashion in 2O17 and whilst I still find my impulse to buy fast fashion I see that I love difficult to fight sometimes, overall I have majorly curbed my spending and also managed to restrict the spending that I do do to second hand pieces.

With that being said though, sometimes I just want to buy myself something brand spanking new and whilst there's definitely plenty of ways and reasons to shop second hand and thrift fashion items, it can be difficult to find exactly what you want (particularly if it's out of season) and sometimes you just really want to treat yourself, y'know? But all is not lost as the realm of conscious fashion is growing bigger and bigger with more and more independent and even high street retailers making a conscious effort to provide sustainable fashion items which are made from organically grown sustainable fibres and materials, ethically created and made, and often sold with some sort of profit going to the right people to help local communities. So what's there not to love right? Therefore I'm going to share with you some of my favourite sustainable brands, why I love what they're doing, why I like their products, and why you should buy from them in future:

1. Positive Outlook Clothing - Positive Outlook Clothing are so sleek, you'd want to buy from them regardless, but their organic fabric and natural, sustainable materials are what makes them a great brand to buy from. Catering in both men and women's wear as well as backpacks, camping mugs, wallets, and underwear, Positive Outlook are doing just that - putting a positive spin on the fashion industry.

2. Lucy & Yak - If you're relatively new around these parts, you might not know this girl's obsession with a) denim and b) dungarees/overalls/pinafores. Give me an outfit that makes me look about five years old and I will be overjoyed. So in steps the wonderful Lucy & Yak. They create some of *the* comfiest dungarees in a range of great colours, patterns, cuts, and fabrics not to mention some pretty ace trousers too! They are consciously trying to lower their business' environmental impact and make sure they work fairly with their employees. Lucy & Yak are very transparent about their ethics and their manufacturing etc. which is refreshing to see in the contemporary fashion industry.

3. Mud Jeans - Next up is a brand I simply would love to buy from in the future but just haven't had the chance to yet. Mud Jeans specialise in yep, you guessed it - jeans. The great bit about it though? Each pair are made completely from recycled jeans which have had their old jean fibres harvested to repurpose to create a new pair. If you're not completely sold on buying a pair, the company also have a lease scheme so you can pay a monthly member fee, rent a pair, wear them as much as you want, and then simply decide to keep them, swap them for another pair to try, or return them and get a voucher to spend online in their store. Anything returned is simply recycled. Now if that's not sustainable, I don't know what is.

4. Bibico - When it comes to sustainable fashion brand which are truly doing some good in the world, Bibico are paving the way for many other brands and companies to follow. Working with natural organic materials and ensuring a fair trade work ethic does not falter, Bibico work with women's cooperatives in India which help their workers receive thorough training, education, and fair work to help empower those women and help them and their children move up and out of the world of poverty. Is there any greater cause for your money to go towards? Also, if you're a fan of well-made items, like denim and simple pieces that are perfect for a capsule wardrobe then you will love this brand.

5. Seasalt - Based in Cornwall, UK, Seasalt are one of those sustainable brands that many people have actually heard of. They focus on making clothing that is locally manufactured and resourced to try and minimise environmental impact during production. Something I particularly like about this brand is their Breton striped tops and their range of ridiculously comfy and colourful boots and shoes. Seasalt are the first company to get Soil Association certification back in 2Oo5 which they dedicate to organic cotton growing. They're an all-round great brand as they do a lot of fundraising and also help local communities with bursaries for a variety of things which just makes me want to throw all my money at them (not to mention their sales are great).

6. Antiform - If you're into more vintage thrift shop vibes and tend to shop by themes or prints/textures etc. then Antiform are the ones for you. They are locally sourced and manufactured in the UK as often as possible and to quote their site, they "mix fashion forward shapes with heritage craft" and that's the best fitting description I've ever seen a brand have. They reclaim materials to maintain a sustainable stance on fashion production and they're ethically sound as they are a small team who work in their own studio to design and create their pieces. The staff are also readily available to share their knowledge in the form of lectures, installations, and more! Spreading that good message of sustainability is never a bad thing.

7. Mayamiko - Hold on to your hats gang because this brand is about to blow almost every other out of the water. Tackling excessive packaging problems our consumerist society has by ensuring all their packaging is recyclable, zero waste, and using solar power for their manufacturing, Mayamiko are taking sustainability to the next level. Not only that, but Mayamiko are partnered up with a fantastic non-profit organisation called One Tree Planted so every time you place an order with Mayamiko, they will pay a donation to the organisation your behalf without it costing you any extra. This brand have thought of so many ways to either protect or give back to the planet and their items are pretty darn nice too. One potential downside to sustainable fashion is that it can sometimes have *middle-aged geography or RE teacher vibes* in the choice of cut, print, or styling (I'm allowed to say this as an RE teacher who has already started to dress like that in her mid-2Os) of the items, but Mayamiko go against that grain completely. Their items are great if you're looking for "on trend" inspired pieces and unusual prints that are fashion-forward.

8. People Tree - Describing themselves as "pioneers" in ethical and sustainable fashion, People Tree are certainly one of *the* brands that pop into most people's minds when they think of sustainable clothing. They have been a fair trade company for over 25 years and work exclusively with organic materials such as cotton and wool. They work also vow to only ever work with certified producers which means working environments for those who produce the clothing we buy are clean, comfortable, and socially and environmentally meeting strict standards. People Tree work with marginalised producers too so those in the worst-off corners of the globe really benefit from the wages and money People Tree pay to them for the creation of their garments. If there was a daddy/mother brand out there that all other sustainable brands look to for guidance, People Tree are without a doubt *that* brand.

I feel that sustainable brands are making big waves in the fashion industry and more and more are either becoming popular or popping up and starting up and either way, I think it's all brilliant. I often think that people shy away from sustainable fashion because it's not necessarily the first or even the tenth thing you think of when you want to purchase something, but it's something I've become more and more aware of in my spending habits. Sustainable clothing is good for the planet, the people who make the items, and often local communities but of course, there can be things that stop people from buying from them. It can be simply not knowing where to start, which brands are sustainable, or even the price point as sustainable fashion tends to be more costly.

Although I certainly agree with the latter and sometimes that has stopped me from purchasing an item I like, I think it actually helps you to adopt the mindset of only purchasing what you really want/need and also helping me maintain a more "capsule" wardrobe. Of course I'm not for one minute taking the "suck it up buttercup" approach and acting like everyone can afford to buy sustainable fashion because that would be unrealistic, but if you've got your eye on something specific you want, and you really want to give sustainable items a go because their fibres/materials etc. or usually naturally & organic and therefore tend to last that little bit longer, definitely take the plunge with even just one item and feel happy knowing that you're helping the planet and it's people along the way.

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March 12, 2018

Me & My Other Interests: Serial Killers I'd Have a Cuppa With (Part 2)

Hey folks and welcome back for the second instalment of the serial killers I'd have a cuppa with. If you missed Part 1, I basically explained about my interest in true crime, particularly serial killers and the psychology/pathology behind their motives, and wanted to share that interest here on NB. I don't have any certain rhyme or reason to these posts other than just sharing with you some of the cases and individuals I find most fascinating and if I could have the impossible opportunity, which individuals I would like to speak to about their crimes to try and gain some insight into their drives and why they did what they did. I mentioned it in the last post but I'll reaffirm the message here - these posts are not designed to romanticise serial killers and it's certainly not to advocate them. These posts are merely a way to express my interest in criminal psychology and the history of psychopathy.

Part 1 and 2 of this mini-series here on NB is not some sort of distasteful top trumps of murderers but is instead hopefully an insight into some serial killers you recognise and want to know more about, or even possibly some that might have went under your radar as there are many out there in criminal history. As a huge aficionado of crime documentaries and books, writing these posts have been enjoyable as it has given me the opportunity to further research these particular individuals and educate myself more in the process. If you enjoy these posts then please do let me know as I'd like to write more true crime themed content in the future! Before I inevitably start waffling again, here are the second group of criminals that I would like to be able to analyse and just try to gain more understanding of:

Kenneth Bianchi - The Hillside Strangler
So, I can't help but start this post with Ken Bianchi - one part of the "Hillside Strangler" duo that went on a kidnapping, raping, and killing spree in the late seventies. Bianchi and his cousin Angelo Buono were responsible for the death of 1O women aged 12-28 over a span of just 2 years and Bianchi was also responsible for a further 2 deaths in 1979 when he acted alone and killed 2 female students. They were dubbed "The Hillside Strangler" as they would drive around LA in a fake unmarked police car, pull over or stop women with their fake police badges, order those women to get into the car and then take the victim bank to Buono's house to torture, rape, strangle, and kill. They would then usually dump their victims' bodies on the hillside of the Glendale Highland Park area thus, gaining their combined nickname. Although they worked together, I find Bianchi particularly interesting not because of his murders per say, but the rings he ran around psychologists after his arrest.

Bianchi seemingly had an issue with women since a young age. Dubbed a compulsive liar by his mother from the tender age of 5 and prone to violent outbursts, Bianchi had a lot of issues and upon his arrest, he seemed to play on these and use them as excuses to suspend and alter his sentencing. After his arrest, Bianchi claimed that it was not him who had murdered these women but in fact "Steve/Stevie Walker". Bianchi stressed to authorities and later psychiatrists and doctors that he couldn't remember the details of any of the murders because it wasn't actually him, Ken, who had committed them but instead was Steve's fault. Bianchi pleaded this so strongly that the judge in charge of the case demanded he be scrutinised, questioned, and even hypnotised by several professionals as if he did indeed have a multiple personality disorder, this could alter his sentencing and change things from him being a cold-blooded killer to being someone with extreme mental health issues who could plead insanity. Bianchi kept up this whole charade by acting like two completely different people - making Ken seem quite the kind, caring gentleman and portraying Steve as a woman-hating, chauvinistic pig who would talk about women (especially the victims) like they were something gross he had trodden in. This act had several psychiatrists convinced he did indeed have this split personality and some linked this split with him trying to deal with a turbulent relationship with his mother when he was a child. Bianchi was known whilst in prison to crawl under his bed during the night, whimpering, asking Steve to "go away" and reportedly told doctors that he in fact "met" Steve when he had crawled under his bed as a child when his mum was shouting at him.

As the judge was sceptic about all of Bianchi's claims, he brought in one final professional (Martin Orne) to analyse Bianchi to see if his statements held any truth. Orne set up another hypnosis situation in which Ken happily took part in, acting along as he had previously with other professionals. Prior to this however, Orne purposefully said within earshot of Ken that he couldn't possibly have MPD (multiple personality disorder) as those who do tend to have 3 different personalities. With that information, and under the "hypnosis", Ken suddenly changed into "Billy" rather than Steve and thus a third personality no one knew about was born. Whilst pretending to be Billy, Ken was asked to shake his lawyer's hand and happily obliged; leaning over to shake an invisible hand of a man that didn't exist. When his lawyer did walk into the room moments later, "Billy" exclaimed "how can I see two of you?" and Ken reportedly said afterwards that once his lawyer had walked through the door, he knew he was up shit creek without a paddle and the charade was bust. His acting teamed with the fact that Steve Walker was actually the name of student he had used in fraudulent activity, and the fact that Bianchi had a lot of psychology books in his possession which discussed MPD, the judge ruled that he was once again lying and did not accept his plead of insanity. As Bianchi ran rings around psychologists and some of the psychologists involved still to this day believe that he did indeed have a mental disorder, it would be fascinating to talk with Bianchi and try to work out what was truth and what was fabrication.

Ahmad Suradji - The Sorcerer
Although we always seem to think of serial killers as a western phenomenon, there are of course serial killers from all corners of the globe and Ahmad Suradji is certainly one I would want to speak to if I could. The Indonesian cattle breeder admitted to killing 42 women and girls (aged 11-30) over a period of 11 years from 1986-1997 and was eventually arrested in 1997 to later be executed via a firing squad in 2Oo8. Suradji is of particular interest to me due to the superstitions and religious connotations to his killings. Dubbed "The Sorcerer" or "Black Magic Killer" particularly in western media, Suradji was known for his ritualistic killings and burials of his victims. Although Indonesian government only recognises the 6 major religions, many Indonesian people believe in Shamanism and spiritual healers commonly called "Dutaks" or "Dukuns". Suradji promoted himself as one of these Dutaks/Dukuns and claimed that he could help women become more beautiful or find true love etc. with his magic. The majority of the 42 victims Suradji claimed actually came to him willingly as they were seeking his spiritual healing help but unfortunately, did not know their true fate.

Suradji began his killing spree after he claimed that his deceased father visited him in a dream and said he would kill 7O women to boost his spiritual powers. He therefore set out with a goal in mind and when women didn't seek him out themselves, it is thought that Suradji visited town to pick up prostitutes to keep his kill-count on the increase. The 42 women and girls he murdered were buried upright, to waist-height, in the sugar cane fields surrounding his home and were buried to all be facing his home as he thought this would help him draw on his power. He strangled his victims with a cable once they had been buried like this as they would be immobilised and he convinced his victims that this burial procedure was part of a ritual for whatever need they were hoping Suradji could help them with. His victims unknowingly all dug their own graves and voluntarily climbed into them because of this. He then proceeded to drink the saliva of his victims as the ghost of his father had also told him that this would make him a mystic healer. Once he was arrested and imprisoned, he stopped being a Shaman and became a devout Muslim, becoming a very popular inmate with other prisoners and often giving them guidance and advice. As these crimes are steeped in superstition and beliefs, both in the victims' and the killers minds, I think it would be fascinating to hear what Suradji truly believed and if he had any remorse for his actions.

Andrei Chikatilo - The Rostov Ripper
The last killer I'm going to mention in this post is Andrei Chikatilo - a man responsible for at least 52 deaths who was also a cannibal and paedophile. Chikatilo was born in a rural village in Ukraine in 1936 - a time when Stalin's policies on agricultural collectivisation caused widespread deprivation, poverty, and famine. There was lots of rumours circulating that because of this time of hardship, the people who felt it worst were prone to cannibalism in order to survive and apparently even Chikatilo's mother told him that his brother had been eaten by starving neighbours (it's not even confirmed that Chikatilo had a brother - but I digress). Chikatilo was born with hydrocephalus (water on the brain,) which meant he was prone to bed-wetting and an inability to sustain an erection in his late adolescent years; which is important to note in reference to his killings. After overpowering a girl when he was 15 in order to gain a sexual experience during his adolescent years and ejaculating almost immediately in the process, this resulted in ridicule for Chikatilo from peers at school but most significantly, it gave him a link between sexual pleasure/relief and violence.

Chikatilo married, had a couple of children despite his impotence, and he also became a teacher - a job he managed to hold down for almost ten years despite often being accused of child molestation. On December 21st 1978, after moving to Shakhty (a town near Rostov), Chikatilo committed his first known murder. Moving to Shakhty was a result of the child molestation accusations piling up but once he moved here, his paedophilic fantasies worsened and he would hide in a hut on a street to watch local children. His first victim was a nine year old girl who he abducted and stabbed to death in the woods. He ejaculated in the process of the killing and thus further cemented the link between sexual relief and violence. Over the next 12 years, Chikatilo committed over 5O known murders but unfortunately walked free on the couple of occasions he was suspected due to other individuals confessing to the crimes. The lack of punishment is also believed to be the result of a clerical error when semen was tested from crime scenes as it was not linked to his blood type (when it should have been). In the Soviet Union, serial killers were some sort of unknown phenomenon as the state-controlled media often played down or suppressed incidents of murders and child abuse in order to retain public order so, the increasing number of murders were even believed by result of werewolf attacks by local people.

The reason I would like to talk to Andrei Chikatilo has a lot to do with his actual trial to decide his fate. He spent the trial in a large iron cage, designed to keep him safe and separate from his many victims' angry families. Throughout the trial, his behaviour was bizarre. He would swing from seemingly angry and agitated to looking completely bored with the whole affair. He reportedly talked gibberish at times, broke into song so loudly when the prosecutor was talking that he needed to be removed from the court room, and also dropped his trousers and waved his genitalia at the surrounding court room too. This behaviour - and his hard upbringing - has given many the belief that Chikatilo was dealing with some severe mental health issues. An appeal was made after he was sentenced to death for each of the 52 murders there was evidence for, which claimed that the psychiatric analysis of Chikatilo that said he was sane of mind and suitable to stand in court was biased. I would be inclined to say there was definitely issues with Chikatilo's state of mind, but that can never excuse his actions. Police only originally accused Chikatilo of 36 murders and after he confessed to 56, he later retracted some of his confessions, further adding to the belief that he was not fit for trial. On February 14th 1994, he was executed with a single shot to the back of the head and his final words were reportedly, "Don't blow my brains out! The Japanese want to buy them!".

Keep your eyes peeled for Part 3 of this mini-series which will be coming soon!

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March 08, 2018

2O18 Birthday Wishlist

Happy Hump Day folks - it's that time of year again: it's almost my birthday! At the end of March (29th to be exact) I will be turning a sour-sounding 27 and I'm clinging to youth with all my might. I'm never a big celebrator of my birthday, but over the last couple of years I've made sure to actually enjoy turning another year older and making sure I do something I enjoy for the day. This year, I'm planning to go to Oxford for the day to have a snoop or the museums or I will be getting my new tattoo - I haven't quite decided yet!

As it's almost that fabulous *another year older another year wiser* time, I thought I'd share with you all what I'm lusting over right now, what's been hanging around in my Amazon wishlist for yonks, and just generally what I might purchase for myself for my birthday (if friends and family members don't take the hint first, ahem).

1. Seasalt Original Seafolly Jacket | £89.95 - I've realised this past winter that I'm turning into a "proper adult" after buying a proper winter coat and I absolutely bloody love it. The only problem is, it's like wearing a quilt out and about and whilst that's been great for winter and when we had snomageddon last week, I've realised I need a good waterproof jacket for those rainy days that spring usually brings along with it. Seasalt are one of my favourite sustainable fashion brands and their clothes are always top quality. So naturally, I've been lusting after one of their classic waterproof/wind proof jackets for a long long time. Everything about the cut of this jacket and it's details (like the toggles and flap pockets) are right up my street - the hardest thing decision to make is which colour to choose but I think I'd pick red (although the bottle green and then the yellow - of course - are pulling my heartstrings).

2. How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh | £4.28 - I've been wanting to read work by the Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh for a long time now. He specialises in talking about mindfulness, effective meditation practices and more. Over the past few months due to various different reasons, I've been trying my best to practice mindfulness and I'm always looking for inspiration so I want to read Hanh's wise words even more than ever, now. "How to Love" is one of his many works but it's one of the ones I want to read the most as Hanh discusses how in order to love ourselves and our loved ones effectively, we need to become more connected to the world and love *it* before we can love anything else. He breaks down the act of love into 4 "categories": "you can only love another when you feel true love for yourself; love is understanding; understanding brings compassion; and deep listening and loving speech are key ways of showing our love" and if that doesn't make you want to read this lovely humble book I don't know what else.

3. Happy Little Accidents: The Wit & Wisdom of Bob Ross | £9.99 - If you know me at all, you will know that Bob Ross is everything to me. I never get bored of watching The Joy of Painting and will audibly laugh and cry each and every time I watch the whole show. He was such a beautiful soul and such a happy, positive, inspirational man who had some pretty darn good hair and jean/shirt combos not to mention an insane talent for painting. This book is something I just *need* because it captures the very essence of Bob Ross and all his joyfulness. I've always criticised "coffee table books" because I feel they're just there for show and don't really serve a purpose, but this would definitely be a coffee table I would lovingly situate in pride of place and want everyone to see it.

4. Nobrow Comics | £5.2O - £6.5O - I've gotten ridiculously behind on reading my pile of "to-read" comics and graphic novels, but there's still many more I want to add to that never diminishing list and that's where these ones come in. Nobrow is a publisher I haven't read from before but I've been lusting after quite a few from this publishing house over the last few months due to their gorgeous cover art and the great synopsis' I've scanned. Although there really are quite a few from Nobrow I want to read, these three in particular are the ones I'm desperate to get my hands on first:
Obsolete has me hook, line & sinker because it has rave reviews for the artwork by Danish artist, Mikkel Sommer, and the storyline covers a typically "robbery gone wrong" crime genre but apparently with a twist.
New Ghost is another comic from Nobrow that has great reviews relating to the art and the fact that the story centres around an observatory worker and the supernatural/whether or not there is life elsewhere threads of fiction means I *have* to pick this guy up.
Vacancy is the one out of the bunch that I really want to read the most. Centred around a dog named Simon who has been forgotten and abandoned by his owners in his backyard, he befriends a racoon and a deer who take him into the woods which he doesn't feel he's quite ready for as he's never lived in the wild. The story takes a turn when the destroyed and abandoned parts of the local town seem to have weird things happening in them. If that little snippet doesn't make you want to read this asap, I don't know what will.

5. Monstera/Swiss Cheese Potted Plant | £15 - I, like many other people my age, am obsessed with houseplants. I am growing quite a collection but I have postponed buying larger leafier plants until I'm settled into my new home. The first one I will be making sure to get my hands on is without a doubt a bit ol' monstera plant. These plants are gorgeous to look at, grow to monstrous sizes (see what I did there?), and are surprisingly easy to look after. What a beauty.

6. Craftamo Watercolour Brush Pens | £12.95 - As a girl who loves painting but doesn't quite have the time nor the motivation to set up all the prep painting can take, I've be desperate to get a pack of these watercolour-style pens due to their convenience and some of the lush work I've seen some people create with them.

7. Rock n' Rose Truly Miraculous Medal Pendant Necklace | £29.Oo - I've always had a soft-spot for religious artwork and jewellery (maybe I was destined to become a qualified RE teacher) so it's no surprise that I really love this necklace from Rock n' Rose which I think is just stunning. I don't wear a lot of jewellery but when I do, I always gravitate towards gold and if it's a necklace, I like a fuss-free large-ish pendant so this just ticks all the boxes.

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March 04, 2018

Sustainable Sundays: Sustainability on the High Street & on a Budget

Happy Sunday folks! It's been a wee while since I posted my last Sustainable Sundays post so I thought it was high-time I got back into the sustainability rhythm. So, sustainable homeware and fashion is great right but sometimes the price can be terrifying. Buying sustainable items can be a shock to the system as you tend to pay a lot more money for even basic pieces because of the effort that has gone into the growing, harvesting, and manufacturing of the items. They're not jacked out at rapid pace from an underpaid and ethically-deprived sweatshop and that means that the lack of mass production can reflect a rise in price and the materials are produced with a mindful eye on the pollution production can cause etc.

This is often something that can be off-putting for many and I'd certainly include myself in that group as it took me a long time to want to invest in clothing (in particular) that I was buying as throwaway fashion's convenience, change of pace, and ability to satisfy any and all of my tastes was more appealing. Nowadays I'd much rather buy second hand or buy from a brand that I can see are doing good for the planet and it's inhabitants, but I'm well aware that buying sustainable fashion is often a luxury that many can't invest in no matter how much they want to. That's why today I'd share some potentially hidden gems on the physical and virtual high streets that you may not immediately think of when you think of sustainable shopping but boy oh boy, do they do their bit to help look after Mother Nature.

H&M Conscious Line & Recycle Scheme
First up, let's talk about one of my favourite high street brands back from when I shopped fast fashion readily. H&M are a global brand who are taking steps in the right direction to be mindful of fashion ending up in landfill, the effect fast fashion production is having on the environment and on climate change. There's two great aspects to H&M that you can utilise when shopping in an attempt to be more sustainable with your choices and that is their Conscious concept/line and their recycling scheme. Whether it's homeware or fashion you're shopping for, the Conscious line at H&M is across the board. Conscious focuses on using natural/organic material in its products and is available in both men and women's lines as well as children's! They are labelled with a green "Conscious" label in stores and have their own searchable category online on H&M's site so you can easily find what products and items are sustainable and which ones aren't.

Another great thing about H&M is that they have a recycle scheme that I feel not many people know about. If you ever have a clear out of your clothing and for whatever reason you don't eBay it or take it to your local charity shop/shelter etc., take it along to your local H&M store instead. The store actively accept bags of no-longer wanted textiles (no matter what brand or condition the items are in), which will then be recycled to produce new items of clothing. By recycling clothing, less natural resources are needed to create new pieces and it stops clothing end up in landfill which is extremely harmful for the environment. Not only is it a good scheme to take part in just because of the benefits it has on the environment, but H&M also hand out vouchers when you donate textiles to this scheme so it's a win/win for you.

Oxfam x Marks & Spencer Clothes Exchange
This next one isn't about buying sustainable but more like just getting involved in sustainable fashion and reaping the benefits. If you take any clothing donations into Oxfam and at least one item is from M&S, you will be given a £5 voucher to spend in M&S. You must use this voucher in the same calendar month as you received it and it can only be used on a minimum spend of £35 on clothing, home, or beauty, but it's a fab little incentive that encourages donations and recycling clothes via charity shops which helps you save a little on future spending.

Nobody's Child
Next up is a brand I really love. Nobody's Child are a great brand who are available on Asos and Topshop as well as their own site and they always have their tagline "fast fashion with a conscience" at the forefront of the publicity. Although Nobody's Child does identify as a fast fashion brand, they are a brand who also work hard to minimise waste by keeping the whole production process of their clothing contained to their own factories which makes them a much more environmentally-friendly brand than most. If you're a fan of this brand, you will notice that their items tend to sell out or go out of stock quite quickly (particularly on their own site) and this has a lot to do with not creating a ridiculous amount of items for the consumer market that is then not consumed. They are taking a conscious approach and taking steps to improve fast fashion and attitudes towards it.

ASOS Eco Edit & Recycled Items
Next up, I need to mention the fashion giant that is ASOS. As an old ASOS VIP member, I used to buy something from the site almost on a weekly basis and I know I'm not the only one. ASOS is extremely popular not only for it's own brand items, but the wide selection of other brands, the convenient postage and returns, and it's reward schemes for being a regular buyer. But ASOS are not all bad and actually have a few things which help this fast fashion heavyweight be more sustainable. Firstly is their Eco Edit. The ASOS Eco Edit is a collection of all the items available on the site that are eco-friendly and/or made with organic materials/resources. It not only included clothing but also beauty products that meet the criteria too.

Since 2O16, ASOS have worked with Doddle and TRAID to recycle clothing for good too. TRAID are a charity which tries to prevent clothing going to landfill and aim to repurpose or redirect clothing to charity shops nationwide. Working with ASOS and Doddle, TRAID will take your unwanted but wearable clothes and footwear and redistribute them to charity shops and all you have to do is drop them off at your local Doddle store and Doddle will make sure they take care of the rest! Not only that, but over the next two years, ASOS have agreed to increase the amount of post-consumer recycled materials that are used to make their clothes and they are also committed to eliminating any clothes which cannot be recycled from their supply chain. They have also signed up to a commitment alongside 1Oos of other brands to be more consumer-conscious and have vowed to introduce a garment collection recycle scheme like H&M and M&S already practice.

Bohemia are a brand I've featured in my fashion posts before (see here, here, here - phew - and here!) and since purchasing my first straw tote from them, I have purchased all sorts from their site from Moroccan slippers to homeware embroidered pots. Bohemia are a great independent brand who work closely with their suppliers and are proud to be 1Oo% artisan and are strong believers in maintaining positive human relationships despite being a business. I'm mentioning these guys here because they are a Scottish-based brand but are very on-trend without the true suppliers missing out. The ever-popular straw bag trend of last summer seems to be having a revamp for spring 2O18, but rather than buying from Topshop or ASOS where the item has been mass-produced, potentially in an underpaid and overworked sweatshop factory, why not spend the same money on a brand who bring genuine items from genuine craftspeople who have ethically produced the items in comfortable and fair conditions.

Overall Thoughts on Sustainability on the High Street
Think about how much we all love the sales when it comes to fashion - we can get some absolute bargains but next time you're celebrating your spoils, try thinking about why so many items ended up in that sale. It's usually because they weren't popular when they were full price - they weren't worth your money when they were full price. A cut in the price can convince all of us to then purchase something but just think *how* many garments may have been created to meet the consumer market. If a product or garment has been popular thanks to bloggers and influencers for example then that's fine - a brand will make their money on sales when every size goes out of stock and the consumerist ways has worked like magic, but when items haven't had the desired "sell out" effect, that's when they get plopped into the sales in a last ditch attempt to get rid of them. Think about what happens to those things that can be shifted even in the sales and that's why any opportunity to shop more sustainably is welcomed in my opinion! Again, this isn't me suggesting anyone feels bad for purchasing or enjoying what they do, but shopping more sustainable - particularly when it comes to fashion - will have a small but undoubtedly positive effect on the planet in many different ways and your items should last you longer due to the good materials and resources that have gone into them. Sustainable items are out there, it's just a matter of trying your best to seek them out.

Although we all get sucked into various high street stores because they're ultimately convenient and at our disposal, with the internet at our finger tips, searching for sustainable fashion can be easier than you think. Somewhere that is great to effectively search for sustainable fashion is Etsy. Simply searching "sustainable clothing" will present you with hundreds of hits that you can then browse through and filter to just the UK or a particular kind of item. Shopping for sustainable fashion can be a little extra effort, but it's more than do-able and certainly has it's benefits.

142 brands recently signed to be part of the 2O2O Circular Fashion System Commitment which promises to make the processes of their production more sustainable in the next two years. Brands such as ASOS, M&S, Pull & Bear, and Zara are all taking part and it's fab to see the fast fashion industry taking some responsibility for their waste and impact on our planet by helping cut down fashion waste and putting more garment collection options for recycling clothing in place. A full report of this 2O2O Circular Fashion System Commitment is due to be released in May which details what each brand has promised to do and each brand's individual movement to more sustainability and less fashion waste. I'm excited to see what this Commitment brings and so happy to see so many brands joining it from the fast fashion realm.

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February 26, 2018

5 Daily Self-Care Tips

When it comes to looking after myself I've got to be real honest here, I don't do a good job. I often do so much I run myself into the ground (particularly when it comes to my health and fatigue), can forget to take care of my skin and appearance, can eat bad, and also make decisions that are not good for my mental health. This can be quite a regular occurrence for me so it got me thinking: what can I do, on the daily, to try and counteract that? I know we all have days, weeks, and sometimes months like this when we almost purposefully punish and neglect ourselves but having a few things that take minimal effort can help. That way, if you want to do nothing but sit in your gross PJs, unwashed, watching back to back episodes of Netflix shows and not deal with reality, you can at least take some comfort in the fact that a couple of things you're doing are kind of keeping you on the straight and narrow road of self care.

- Create an "auto-pilot" morning routine. One thing I've definitely got going on most mornings is some sort of routine. Having a routine that you stick to can be really beneficial because even if you're feeling down and low on yourself and feeling neglectful, having that routine already in place means it's easy to follow without much thought. Back in June I posted about how you can love your Monday mornings and a lot of the ideas I shared there I put into practice - especially for my weekdays. Working throughout the week means sometimes I have no choice to want to get up and go otherwise I'll be late for work etc. and that will put me in an even worse mood than I may have been previously. My routine lets me navigate on auto-pilot as it's the same every morning, in the same order, at the same times and that means no matter how tired I am or down, it's become learned behaviour and second nature so I just automatically do it. When the weekend rolls around, this routine tends to go out of the window unless I have plans and I can totally see the difference in my mood and productivity. I will feel sluggish all day and not really want to even motivate myself, nevermind the motivation not even flowing naturally - I seem to actively drive it away. Routines are hard to follow if you just want to lie in bed, but having a simple one, one you can stick to, will always give you a push in the right direction from the get-go.

- Drink a big ol' glass of water every morning. I also mentioned this in my "How to love Monday Morning" post but I still stand by it. Drinking a big glass of water - whether it's a pint or actually just a couple of gulps - can be a small self care step that we can all take. As I said earlier, often my skincare routine is the first to suffer when I'm feeling down and unmotivated, but by making sure I stay hydrated, I know I'm still putting a little effort in from the inside out and I'm also keeping my body as a whole, happy. I relatively recently started using a water tracker app to ensure I'm having my eight glasses a day and it's been a game changer. Having regular alerts to encourage me to drink has helped me keep on top of it and ultimately makes me feel more alert, healthy, awake, and refreshed!

- Read before bed & get that better bedtime routine sorted. When I was younger, I used to stay up really late and wake up early and used to squeeze in around 3-4 hours sleep. I could run totally fine on this amount of sleep but as soon as I hit my twenties, I realised doing that was detrimental to so many aspects of my life - particularly my mood. I used to pressure myself into having little sleep as I almost felt guilty for sleeping and felt that I was missing out. Now, I make sure I try to get a good few hours of sleep each night and more or less go to bed at the same time each night, using the bedtime option on iPhone to prompt me to go to bed half an hour before I want to try and be asleep. Having a bedtime routine when you're not looking after yourself properly is a bit like having that morning auto-pilot for the evening. It's easy to follow, commonplace, and will generally make you feel like you've got your shit together a little bit more. I'm a big believer in your bed being somewhere to only sleep and have sex so if you wake up and want to spend all day in it, if you've got the option to move yourself to a sofa, do that instead. Keeping the bedroom as a room that is only used for mostly sleep is a great routine to get into. Another thing that ties in with bedtime is reading before bed. Often when we're feeling low and neglectful of ourselves, we don't want to do anything like exercise or sometimes even do anything like playing a video game as it's too much effort. Reading or listening to an audio book can help you escape how you're feeling for a little bit and can ensure you feel relaxed so you sleep well.

- Plan and prep food. Planning and making set meals when you're in a good head space can help ensure you're eating well when you're in a bad head space. I go through good and bad stages with this myself and it's not always a rule you can follow if you're not in a good place, but trying your best to plan meals when you're feeling positive can help minimise you eating shit food when you're down as you'll have easy to cook meals ready to just pop in the oven or microwave. Don't get me wrong, sometimes binge snacking and eating junk feels *so good* when you're not feeling yourself, but even if you prepare comfort foods that aren't totally bad for you (for me it would 1Oo% be a pasta-based dish), you can stop yourself from reaching for the takeaway apps or just eating every crisp/chocolate based thing in your home.

- Just take 5 minutes alone and breathe. Meditation isn't something I regularly practice I have to admit. Even being home alone, I find myself feeling awkward more than anything else whenever I have attempted to meditate in the past. I enjoy it being part of the process when I'm doing yoga but doing any sort of exercise when I'm neglecting myself is not something I'm aiming to do. Whilst I struggle to traditionally meditate, I do find it incredibly therapeutic and beneficial to just take 5 minutes stock with myself. If I'm feeling down and in particular, if I'm also feeling anxious, I will sit for just 5 minutes, maybe close my eyes, and focus on my breathing. I will take deep inhales and exhales and make sure my breathing is steady and managed (the inhales and exhales taking the same amount of time to complete). This is like the start of meditation if you like, but it really helps me focus my mind and even give it a reshuffle. I find this action almost acts a reset button and can help me snap out of a downward spiral emotionally. It's not something that will always work and it's certainly not going to work for everyone, but taking that time with yourself in quiet with no other distractions can help you just familiarise yourself with yourself and hopefully get you back on track.

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February 21, 2018

Cruelty Free SOS Hair Care

As a girl who washes her hair daily, dyes it with permanent box dye at home (and dyes it black no less), and who uses two form of heat on it on a daily basis too (blow drying and straighteners), you can imagine my hair is not always in the best condition. I haven't even mentioned the amount of daily backcombing and hairspraying I do too as my hair is thin, flyaway, and lacking volume, but it always surprises me that my hair isn't way worse than it is when it comes to its condition and I think it's down to a few saviour products. Although I want to work on looking after my hair and making sure it's healthy and soft, there are a few products that I currently stand by that I've been using for the last 5/6 months that I really truly believe have made a world of difference to the texture and look of my hair so I thought I'd share them with you!

My Pre-Shower Treatment
I'm not a stranger to hair masks, but after switching to cruelty-free beauty last year, I realised pretty much all of my hair care - from my shampoo to my hair masks to my hairspray - was non-cruelty free so I needed to do a complete overall. So the brands I previously loved when it came to hair masks or intensive treatments had to go and new discoveries needed to be made. When I was a teen, I never really cared for my hair. My hair is fine and very thin and gets incredibly oily very quickly if it basically moves at all so from around the age of 13, I hairsprayed the life out of it to hold it in place and have stripped it with every sort of oil-stripping shampoo (and glued in hundreds of gross cheap hair extensions... but I digress). Therefore a product I've really gotten into in my 2Os has been hair masks/intensive treatments. One I've been loving is this Superdrug Argan Hair Therapy Pre-Shampoo Hair Treament (2Ooml | £3.99) which I simply can't believe costs only £3.99.

This hair treatment is my current "Saturday saviour" as I pop it on at the start of my shower routine. I simply apply it to wet hair (concentrating it mostly on the ends of my hair) and leave it whilst I do things like my body scrub, shave my legs etc etc. Ideally you need to leave this product on for around 2O minutes and then rinse it out and shampoo/condition your hair as normal. I really enjoy using this despite being scared initially of using argan oil on my super fine hair as it doesn't actually weigh my hair down or make it greasier - instead, it gives my hair a lovely shine, smoother texture, and gives it some elasticity and strength which is exactly what the tub claims to do!

In-Shower Treatment
As you can imagine from daily use, product build-up is always something I worry about and especially as my scalp is oily, I like to try to keep my scalp happy and healthy so in steps this Fuji Green Tea Purifying Cleansing Hair Scrub (24Oml) from The Body Shop. This scrub retails for £15.Oo for a rather large tub of it and you guys it smells amazing. I really like the whole Fuji Green Tea range for both the hair and the body, but this product is one of those TLC products that you don't really need, but you totally should purchase as a treat. I like to use this whenever I think there's any product build-up or after I have used the previously mentioned argan oil treatment as this helps re-balance my scalp so it's not too oily from the argan oil. Not only does the scrub smell amazing but with the chunky gritty salt clusters in the sticky product, it really buffs away at the roots of your hair and gives your scalp that zingy refreshing lift that shampoo doesn't really ever provide. I use this product both before shampooing and conditioning like normal or I just simply use it as my shampooing step if I'm really wanting just a refreshing feeling. The smell really lasts on the hair and it keeps it in great condition from the most important part (the root) so it's worth the investment to me.

Post-Shower Treatment
As my hair can be quite limp - particularly if I've used any sort of masks/treatments in the shower due to my thinness - giving my roots a boost can be really beneficial to my hair style and save my tresses from a whole lot of backcombing and thus, a lot of damage. Over the years I've tried lots of different mousses, sprays, and powders to try and achieve that volume, but since going cruelty free, I've struggled to find something I truly like that a) works and b) doesn't cost the earth. A product I do enjoy using is the Superdrug Style Expertise Root Boost Spray which costs a mere £2.99 for 15Oml of product. The whole Style Expertise range is cruelty free and purse-friendly but this spray is definitely a highlight in the range. A little goes a long way but I typically tip my head upside down and spray around 4-5 times into the roots (paying particular attention to the top of my head) after I've towel dried my hair and it's still a little wet and damp. I find this spray does a great job at creating volume without the hair feeling crispy or greasy and doesn't damage the hair. As it's a spray in treatment that can be used on wet hair, you can really work it in to the roots and see it perform as soon as you're finished blow drying your locks into place.

The final product I have to mention is something I severely overlooked in my younger years. As I mentioned earlier, I use a lot of heat on my hair and also dye it and wash it regularly so it does go through a lot of strain and as a teen, I never really added any nutrients back into it or used any sort of protection on it (I rarely even conditioned it but let's pretend I never said that). As I put so much stress on my tresses and as it's so thin and prone to snapping and breaking, a heat protecting spray has become a necessity in my daily hair care routine. Going cruelty free and switching my hair care products was one thing, but trying to find a replacement heat spray for my once-beloved Tresemmé seemed to be an almost impossible task. So they Superdrug Style Expertise range saved the day once again and their 3Ooml Heat Spray for £2.99 does the job. I typically spray it sparingly over my whole head whilst my hair is still wet then blow dry it. I won't sit here and say this is a holy grail product as it's not - the scent is way too strong and I find using too much of it can make the hair crisp up - but it helps provide a barrier between my hair and the heat I apply to it so it does what it promises on the tin! Although this might not be my most favourite heat spray I've ever used, I will never choose to not use a heat spray at all as an alternative as it such a crucial last step in my hair care routine to ensure I'm really looking after my locks and keeping them as strong and as healthy as possible.

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