We've finally got round to launching our newsletter, the Aerende Almanac, an edit of good things for the conscious consumer. This one features a stylish social enterprise café in London, a sustainable British skincare brand, thoughts on stereotyping (and how to avoid it) an uplifting playlist and a discount on our handmade bedlinen. We’d love to know what you think.
March 04, 2017
January 30, 2017
Like most of the country I’ve watched the news over the weekend with a strange horror. It’s so hard seeing years of work being undone and a new world order unfold, one that seems at odds with all received principles of morality and humanity. But now the immediate despair, anger and incredulity has dissipated it’s time to get practical. To actually do something to counter the hatred that has taken hold and get involved in making a difference. No matter who you are, where you are, there is something you can do. Here are my suggestions.
1. Get involved. You don’t like what Trump is saying and doing? Don’t just talk about how mad/crazy/awful it is. This may sound obvious but the resistance isn’t going to happen just via social media (though it can be a powerful platform). Write to your MP. Join a march. Go to Downing Street tonight. Sign a petition. Spend some time thinking about what you want your voice to be and how you’d like to be judged by the history students of the future.
2. Live with intention. Make sure you’re not guilty of the discrimination Trump and his supporters are being accused of. Time and time again in our everyday lives, people are ignored/diminished/ridiculed for their views or life choices. It’s not always as obvious has someone being marginalised because of their race/sexual orientation but may be to do with class or not falling into line with a majority view on how things are done in your neighbourhood. It’s not OK and we need to recognise it in ourselves and stand up to it when we see it in others. If people want to label you ranty/bolshy/opinionated for speaking out so be it. If you don’t know what to say, this is a good starting point (it’s on race but can be applied to many other forms of bigotry).
3. Try and find people who don’t share your views. They are all out there and its important to occasionally remove yourself from the echo chamber of your social media/immediate circle. I’ve been surprised at the erudition and articulation of some Trump supporters. But why? Because liberal/social narrative has branded them all evil/stupid racists? Because I’m guilty of the same judgment and fear that they are? Ditto Brexit.
4. Fund a real news outlet. The Guardian, The New York Times, numerous blogs. Take your pick. These are the publications holding the Trump administration to account. If you’re reading them and not paying anything you need to consider what worth you put on real reporting as opposed to fake news.
5. Be open minded and get informed. There are two sides to every story. Remember that wall? It’s already part built so someone started it without inciting global protest. That policy not to let immigrants in? Australia has been at it for years without much of an international outcry. Wondering where that list of countries on the travel ban came from. Oh yes, it was Obama’s Terrorist Travel Prevention Act. Perspective is important if we want true justice.
6. Become a conscious consumer. Your spending decisions have an impact. Regardless of your political persuasion, living with intention in all areas is an excellent way to make a difference. Where you spend your money does count. The CEO of Uber is on Trump’s Business Advisory Group. The chief executive of Boden is one of the Conservative party’s most generous funders as is the Founder of Gail’s bakery. I comment on these not to question their ethics but to illustrate the importance of knowing exactly what your money is being spent on.
7. Appreciate your own contribution, whatever it may be. Parenting is political. Food is political. There is so much we can do to make an impact and improve the world, from how we teach our kids to stand up to bullies, to the lifestyle choices that result in the suffering of people we claim to support. Start thinking and remember the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” Small actions can have a big ripple effect.
8. Avoid giving public figures you don’t like the publicity they crave. I’ve been watching Donald Trump’s Twitter following steadily creeping up over the last few weeks. While the followers may not all be supporters, the numbers do help validate his views, at least to himself.
9. Respect the views and ideas of others especially when it comes to addressing the problems. I struggle with this a lot, in relation to changing ideologies about causes of social injustice, but also in the face of solutions that may seem hypocritical, facile or ineffective. Trying to do something is better than nothing. We don’t always get to the right solution straight away but the process is important. And we should applaud anyone brave enough to put their head above the parapet.
10. Don’t give up. You can change the world. Your choices are your power. Use them well.
November 23, 2016
Black Friday – the day that many consumers look forward to all year. The day when your social media feeds fill up with offer upon offer encouraging you to buy more by spending less. The day we see images of people trampling over each other to get the latest flatscreen TV. The day last year when 1.4 million people went into debt just so they could buy something, anything.
While I’m only human and experience desire just like everyone else, there’s something about Black Friday that seems so sad – people shopping just for the sake of it, buying things they don’t need just because they are cheap. Turning a blind eye to what ‘cheap’ really means for the world and the people at the beginning of the chain of production. Acquiring more stuff that is poorly made, doesn’t last or function properly and quickly ends up as landfill.
Here at Aerende, we care about consequences and we don’t want to feel sad. We’re in the business of spreading happiness. So we’ve come up with the BEST BLACK FRIDAY DEAL EVER.
For every order made, Aerende is offering:
- Beautiful, original products with provenance and style
- Stylish compostable packaging
- Materials that are long-lasting and pesticide free
- Lovely working conditions for all employees
- A living wage for all of our paid makers*
- A feel good glow from shopping independent and supporting marginalised craftspeople from around the UK
And the best thing about this amazing deal? We’re offering it ALL YEAR ROUND.
We won’t be offering money off this weekend because the value of our collection doesn’t suddenly go down on Friday. We don’t want our makers to feel that people value their work more if it comes with a discount tag attached. Aerende operates with tiny margins and is a non-profit, which means all the money we make goes back in to the business, to our makers and the charities and social enterprises that support them. We think the Thanksgiving weekend should be about giving back, not taking. So, while we’d love to see you on the store, buying just the things you need (or the gift that will last a lifetime), we’re going to be taking a break. Eating pecan pie. And giving thanks that we get to do it all.
*Some of our makers are volunteers at their charities (please ask if you want to know more about this. Good brands are never afraid of their customers asking questions)
** The notebook in the picture is made by our friends at Bound By Veterans, a craft-based training and employment charity for wounded, injured and sick Veterans. They’re taking a little break right now but we hope to stock their products in the new year.
November 13, 2016
As the festive season draws closer and thoughts turn to presents (both what to give and what to ask for), it can be hard to know how to make sure your gift giving will have a positive impact on the world around you.
We all know about the problems of high street shopping. Yet Christmas can be an odd time for conscious retailers because we know that the conflation of a spiritual/religious festival with consumerism is counter to the real meaning of the season, yet we still want to sell our goods. In fact, this time of year is crucial for online independent retailers because for many of us, up to 75% of our annual custom will happen in the next six weeks.
Short of buying nothing, the main way consumers can make a difference is, of course, by embracing the potential of second-hand and local shops. Though the products themselves might not always tick every ethical box, heading away from the high street provides a chance to buy really individual gifts often with a great back story. The community and economic benefits of supporting local have been well documented, plus you get the added bonus of a really personal experience from someone who really cares. For those trying to rid themselves of stuff, there are lots of schemes in which you can donate to local projects and campaigns that will bring pleasure for years to come. In my case, this is asking for contributions to a new museum for my city (St Albans) designed by the architects behind Kings Cross, a truly inspiring London spot.
Yet even those committed to supporting independent business and buying hand-made, can find it hard to know exactly where to start looking. That’s why we love (and support) the #GiveGoodGifts campaign, recently initiated by one of our suppliers, The Soap Co. The premise is to showcase the stories and sentiments behind companies that are doing good things via The Soap Co blog. Entries range from heritage present suggestions to guest posts from sustainability bloggers and the brands themselves. One of the best things about the #givegoodgifts idea is that it’s not just about creating a practical tick list of things to buy (though it does help with that). It’s also a movement towards making the world a little more beautiful, sustainable and kind, a little at a time, by helping consumers realise the power their spending decisions can have. So, we’re starting the beginning of the festive season with this collaborative celebration of ethical business to make sure that the goodwill and love we feel at this time of year spreads far and wide, and lasts well beyond Christmas day.
October 12, 2016
Watching Lily Allen’s broadcast from the refugee camp at Calais today has got me thinking. Not just about the tragedy of people being forced into even further uncertainty and poverty by the French government's destruction agenda, but about how we speak out about social inequality. Is there ever a right way of doing it? A way that can have an impact without inviting accusations of self-righteousness, self-promotion or ingenuity?
Of course there is an uncomfortable dichotomy in watching a celebrity being trailed by a film crew through the midst of humanitarian crises. But, having seen and heard first-hand stories from the Jungle, I can’t imagine that anyone would choose to go there if they didn’t care. Allen showed huge compassion as she apologised on behalf of her country for the numerous incidences that have led so many children to becoming trapped in the camp. And what she got in return was a shedload of abuse for daring to express her opinion.
Many of the most vocal responders seemed to advocate, at best (you can imagine the worst), doing nothing; that children, stuck without clean water, proper food or shelter are not our responsibility. But how does that help? At some point, our individual ability to turn a blind eye becomes complicity in the death and destruction that so many people are facing. So I'll posit that we should always applaud those who choose to use their voice to try and affect change. Allen’s words may have lacked finesse, she could have chosen them with more care, but acknowledging (and feeling terrible about) the problem is surely the start of doing something about trying to fix it.
When we see inequality or cruelty or outrageously unfair lack of opportunity, it’s a natural response to feel impotent. To think there’s nothing we can do. That we don’t understand the issues enough to be able to do the ‘right thing’. To push those things to the back of our minds with a justification that individuals really can’t make a difference anyway. But what if we all did do something? And what if that something started with saying what we think? Of asking some difficult questions? Of expecting our politicians to engage with issues of social justice in a meaningful way? Putting your head above the parapet can feel scary, not least because there will always be someone who tries to knock you down. But surely doing nothing is never the answer. By beginning the conversation about difficult issues, we move towards knowledge and understanding, and then, hopefully, towards action and positive impact.
We might not always get it right. We might not always have the solution to these complex situations. But we do all have a voice. We have to do something. Let's not criticise people for saying the 'wrong' thing. Let's not hide from the problem. Let's keep talking until the noise is too loud to ignore.
October 10, 2016
Bed linen is not an item that probably elicits much thought, unless you’re looking for a new set. But for Aerende, every product on sale is the result of careful consideration – of style, of practicality and of material sustainability. We’ve chosen linen because it’s made from the hardy flax, a plant that has minimal water requirements and requires few or no chemicals to thrive (compared with cotton which uses 10% of the world’s pesticides and 22% of the world’s insecticides). Its is said to aid temperature regulation at night and is naturally anti-bacterial as well as looking fantastic when you don’t bother to iron it.Our buttons are made from wood because although we want our linens to last for as long as you want to keep them for, we don’t think they should mark this earth forever. If the first small test batch sells well, we’re looking at alternative button options, including wool, for the next order.Most importantly, the duvet cover and pillow cases made by hand, not machine. They truly express the skill and personalities of their makers – finished with care and attention but with natural variation that means no two are exactly the same. Imagine just two hands dealing with all the metres of fabric required to make a duvet cover. Imagine how long it takes to line up the stripes perfectly so that the set looks perfect when you make your bed. Imagine someone caring enough about what they make to create a unique fold-over flap so you can hide your buttons and to sew those buttons on so thoroughly they won’t get lost in the washing machine. Those are all the things that our wonderful makers Fatheha and Malika at FabricWorks have thought about so you don’t have to. All you have to do is dream (hopefully about the new bed linen that you’re going to buy as soon as you wake up).