3 Sustainable and Ethical Clothing Brands to Write Home About

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One of my eco-goals which I mentioned last year when I posted The Ultimate Eco Bucket-List was to only buy clothes from labels with sustainable and ethical practices. A year on and I’m finally making an effort to put this goal into action.

I’ve done a lot of research into clothing brands recently and here I wanted to share with you my favourite 3, which I believe cover 3 very different clothing needs: casual, occasional and outdoor…


People Tree – for casual staples and work wear.

Having not earned a proper salary for 6 months now, I’ve hardly been able to splurge on updating my wardrobe with lots of items – especially as sustainable and ethical clothing is rightfully more expensive. So I recently made one classic purchase from People Tree to see me through work to the weekend. People Tree can be expensive but you should keep an eye out for their sales via their newsletter because they are frequent! I bought these hand-woven, wide-leg trousers when I saw a 20% discount code:

People Tree Side Wrap Trousers

On the website, it tells you exactly where and how the piece was made. For example, my trousers were made by Swallows – a fair trade group working with women in rural Bangladesh – using hand-woven cotton.

When they arrived, I was pleased from the minute I saw the packaging: everything was recyclable and made from recycled materials. The trousers are exactly as advertised and I can tell that the fabric used, and it’s finishes, are of the highest quality. I can’t wait to wear them for the first time on the day of my sister’s Graduate Fashion Week catwalk show!

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Under People Tree’s section entitled ‘Our Story’, the company talks about Sustainability and states the aims of its Eco Policy:

  • to promote natural and organic farming
  • to avoid polluting substances
  • to protect water supplies
  • to use biodegradable substances where possible
  • to recycle materials where possible

 

Mayamiko – for colourful African prints and quirky designs.

Now this brand proves that you don’t need to spend a fortune to be an ethical buyer – with prices from £19 for a top. I love the pieces in the Kukonda Collection, especially this jumpsuit (below left):

Sustainable and ethical clothing Mayamiko

But if you want to go full sustainable the best collection to buy from is the Rebirth Upcycled Collection.

Mayamiko state that they are ‘committed to producing ethically’, and that they ‘adhere to the Ethical Trade Initiative’s principles (ETI)’. Their employment policy includes:

  • No forced labour
  • Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining
  • Safe and hygienic working conditions
  • No child labour
  • Living wages
  • No discrimination
  • No excessive working hours
  • Regular employment to be provided
  • No harsh or inhumane treatment
  • Training and professional development for all employees
  • A nutritious meal every day
  • Life skill sensitization and individual support
  • Support to set up independent businesses and cooperatives when desired
  • Financial education and access to microfinance, loans and grants
  • Pension scheme and gratuity

I also particularly like that the company ‘operates a ‘Zero Waste’ workshop where even the smallest piece of fabric is transformed in value-add items, both for export and for the local community’


 

Páramo – for waterproofs, base-layers, outdoor gear, etc.

My mum is a big fan of Páramo and introduced me to them recently when we were having a mooch around the shops in Betws-Y-Coed.

Páramo was the first company to sign up to the Greenpeace Detox commitment which means that the brand has vowed to exclude hazardous chemicals from their garment production. Unfortunately, most outdoor brands are wedded to PFC-based materials because they are water repellent. But these waterproof fabrics release or break down to form extremely toxic, persistent PFCs (Perfluorinated Compounds) which are now found in even the most pristine environments. Evidence that these chemicals can cause hormone disruption, cancer and immune suppression in children has led Greenpeace to campaign for a ban on PFC use. What is even more scary is that PFCs tend to bioaccumulate and store themselves within the bodies of humans and animals!

Páramo use Nikwax waterproof fabrics and treatments as an alternative, delivering high performance without the use of PFCs.

Paramo Clothing

And if that wasn’t enough to love, this brand also practices fair trade within its factories in Colombia – which make 80% of Páramo’s range – empowering vulnerable women. Colombia has one of the largest numbers of internally displaced people worldwide, with 10% of the population having been forced to flee their homes due to conflict and violence. Displacement makes women and girls vulnerable to violence, prostitution and drug abuse. Having created a partnership with the Miquelina Foundation back in 1992, the brand ensures that 200 women are employed, 400 women are trained, and 200 children attend nursery, each year. The cooperative has also built over 130 houses so far, giving the women an opportunity to buy property at a fair price.

Oh yeah, and they also run a recycling scheme where they take back any item of clothing (except underwear) and either find it a new home or recycle it into new fabric. They offer up to £50 off a new Páramo purchase as a reward too!

Páramo proves the power that clothing brands have to make a difference – if they would just choose to alter their manufacturing processes and their motives.

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I’ve been away…

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You might have noticed that I haven’t posted anything in a long time. I’ve been away on a 6-month sabbatical making the most of this beautiful planet. When it comes to my endeavours towards eco-friendly living, air travel is most definitely my big downfall. It’s one of those tragic dichotomies in life; I’m one of many who care about the future of the planet because they love to travel whether by plane/car/ship, and have seen how amazing the world is – and how vulnerable some ecosystems and civilisations are – and they want to protect it.

So, I spent 4 months of this time doing a ski season in Meribel, French Alps – something that I have wanted to do since I started skiing aged 14. It gave a whole new meaning to the word ‘work hard, play hard’; I worked such long hours and I was physically exhausted about 90% of the time, but being able to ski every day and avoid the miserable winter months in London was SO worth it.

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Spot me and my tattoo!

With the tips that I made, I managed to save most of my actual wages (something I could never have done living in London!) and I booked a 3-week trip to Singapore and Lombok, and a 5-day trip to Copenhagen for the space of time left before starting back at work. I used to live in Singapore; I spent the two years of my A-levels living with my Dad out there and going Tanglin Trust British International School. But that was 6 years ago now, and I was desperate to go back and see what had changed/see all my favourite things about Singapore again.

South Lombok was exactly what we wanted; it was a quiet, surfer’s paradise. We’d been told by friends of ours to forget Bali and go to this less developed island where you’ll find less drunken Aussies and generally less people in the water to compete with for waves. So we chose a place called Gerupuk which had a secluded bay with 4 main breaks and was supposed to be better for intermediate surfers.

Wooden surf boat Lombok

Every morning we woke up at 6am for a sunrise surf. We’d hire one of the colourful wooden boats to take us out to the reef break called Inside. Then we’d hop out, surf for a couple of hours then jump back in the boat and get back in time for an omelette and fresh fruit breakfast. Paradise!

The only thing that concerned me about Lombok was the amount of plastic that I saw floating in the water whilst we sailed through the bay. In Kuta, there was also often a shocking amount of plastic waste dumped at the side of the road. There didn’t seem to be any sort of recycling system put in place by the Indonesian government, and it made me wonder whether this was just the case in Lombok or whether it was Indonesia-wide. I really hope that the government does something to resolve this issue soon, and that Indonesians can see the benefit of sorting their waste properly, for the good of the environment but also for tourism – tourists are expecting a tropical paradise island after all.

The highlight of the trip for James and I was definitely our 2 day trek up the Mount Rinjani volcano. It was probably one of the best things I have ever done, or will ever do. I found this article on The 50 Best Hikes in the World and it’s featured there. We started the hike from 600 metres, camped at the crater rim, and woke up at 2am to reach the summit at 3,726 metres in time to watch the sunrise. There’s nothing like 3 hours of trudging up steep volcanic sand in the pitch black to test your personality. That view though was unlike anything I have ever seen though! You could see the entirety of Lombok and beyond to Bali and the Gili Islands.

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Mount Rinjani is a somma volcano, which means a new active volcano has formed in the caldera.

But now I’m home, Flickthegreen is back from her hibernation and itching to get writing again. I’ve got some article ideas on sustainable clothing, so these should be up on the blog in the next couple of weeks!

People’s Climate March #COP21

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Can you spot Mum? Hint: she's the one on the left looking right at the camera with a beaming smile!

Can you spot Mum? Hint: she’s the one on the left looking right at the camera with a beaming smile!

 

Mum and I took to the streets of Liverpool for the People’s Climate March on Sunday – and we were papped by the Liverpool Echo!

I would have liked to have been a part of the madness in London but I’m proud to have been part of this smaller scale march. I think the fact that lots of peripheral cities worldwide were involved in the demonstration would have made our message to the world leaders at the climate summit in Paris all the stronger.

 

Me at Climate March in Liverpool

Me with my homemade banner!

Eco Interview: Debbie Luffman from Finisterre – cold water surf clothing

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Finisterre's Debbie Luffman

Debbie Luffman, Product Director at Finisterre

 

James and I spent a weekend down in St Agnes, Cornwall, a couple of weeks ago to take advantage of the hefty swell that Storm Abigail was sending our way. We surfed with a seal down at Carbis Bay, sampled the finest in local beer at Driftwood Spars Brewery, and generally had the most relaxing, lovely time despite the grim weather.

After our morning surf on the Saturday, we decided to check out the Wheel Kitty Workshops in St Agnes which we knew were home to the Surfers Against Sewage and Finisterre HQs.

Surfers Against Sewage is an environmental charity which aims to monitor, prevent and clean-up the pollution of British seas and coastline, and Finisterre is a clothing brand focussing on keeping cold water surfers toasty warm – whilst keeping their environmental impact to a minimum.

We had a peek in Finisterre’s workshop and had a chat with some of the team. When I got home, I emailed Debbie Luffman, the Product Director, to ask a few further questions about Finisterre’s product and the environment…

 

Finisterre stands for, and commits to, three things: Product, Environment and People. How do you ensure the brand has minimum impact on the environment?

As a brand in the business of creating product, we know that all our sourcing, design and manufacturing decisions will have an impact on the environment, but what we can do is select fibres, processes and products which have the least impact possible. This is not a simple selection however, but it comes down to three essential design questions:

  • Fit for purpose? A product which is designed to perform to its required needs and built to last will be more durable and last over time and will not need to be replaced by the user. This is the most sustainable design achievable.
  • Is an alternative fibre available? When we develop new fabrics, where possible, we source organic, cellulosic or recycled fibres.
  • Can it be easily repaired/recycled? We design product with components which can be easily broken down and repaired, and we offer a repair service at the Finisterre workshop. We also try to select fabrics which can be recycled.
  • Can it be produced closer to point of manufacture? We are committed to shrinking our supply chain, this sometimes means working closer to home, but also sourcing the best fabrics and components from the same region as the factory assembling our products. This minimises processes, transportation and the overall carbon footprint.

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How do you go about sourcing sustainable and durable materials?

We work with some of the best mills in the world, including Belgium, Italy and Japan. Japan in particular pioneered the business of recycled polyester and nylon, and also carbon-free membranes and water-repellent finishes, through our longterm relationship with our Japanese mills, we are able to improve and control the chemical processes used in our products.


 

Back in August, in accordance with your iSpy transparency programme, you announced that you’ve moved some of your production to China. It caused quite a stir, especially with some of your Facebook fans. Is there anything that you do to try and minimise that carbon footprint?

The move we made was in the assembly of our garments, for some reason the standard and accepted label on all garments ‘made in’ only calls to question where product is assembled – Our fabrics and zips were always sourced from China and Japan and therefore we were shipping these fabrics and components to Europe for garment assembly. There is a larger impact on made up garments, but our products use lightweight insulation and don’t weigh as much as heavy jackets and we minimise this impact by shipping, rather than airing goods. We are also committed where possible to sourcing fabrics and components closer to our China factory to minimise transportation impact within the supply chain.

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Unfortunately we live in a society where ‘fast fashion’ has fostered a love for large wardrobes at low prices. Finisterre clothing may be considered a little pricey, but it’s built to last. What goes into ensuring that Finisterre clothing has that lasting quality?

We don’t believe our products should only last a season, so we avoid prints and fabrics which have a fleeting aesthetic. We work with our suppliers to develop the highest spec fabrics to ensure durability and all fabric is testing against pilling, stretching, fading and shrinking. We don’t believe in washing fabrics to create pre-aged or distressed effects and prefer that our products are delivered new and can be worn-in individually to the wearer.


 

British wool is at the centre of Finisterre’s fabric development. What’s so rad about using wool?

Don’t get me started! It is fair to say we are a little obsessed with wool. It is just the best fibre for building products designed for surfers and suited for the British climate. It handles moisture incredibly, whether from an activity point of view, absorbing and moving away moisture from your skin, as well as externally – holding onto humidity in the atmosphere and converting it into heat. It maintains the perfect body temperature, creating a personal climate system for the wearer. This fibre lends itself perfectly for next-to-the-skin baselayers, weather-resistant chunky knitwear mid-layers, as well as technical warm and waterproof outer layers. Wool is naturally biodegradeable and we work closely with all suppliers to ensure that animal welfare is at the heart of all our wool sourcing and to ensure full traceability.


 

I visited your factory in St Agnes, Cornwall this weekend and was blown away (almost literally, it was so windy) by the beauty of the location you work in. What’s the best thing about working in the Wheel Kitty Workshops and St Agnes in general?

I feel lucky to work and live in St Agnes, Cornwall. It is a special place and the perfect testing ground for our product. We are all very active people from surfing to dog-walking, the team are a bunch of outdoor nuts and our product is designed around constant feedback and improvement. The workshop can be a very buzzing, dynamic and frenetic environment to work in, but at the end of the day when it is time to switch the lights off in the workshop there is always the welcome sight of the beautiful wild coastline and ocean right in front of me.

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You’ve collaborated with some fantastic, innovative brands recently, such as Dritek. Are there any other brands we should be keeping our eyes on?

We have a number of new colabs underway at the moment, but I’m afraid I can’t give away too many details just yet, but keep your eyes peeled for an innovative new umbrella project, an original cap concept, more PVC free luggage and a very exciting longterm shoe colab.


 

And finally, when can we expect the release of the women’s Nieuwland wetsuit? I’m keen to make it my next winter wetty!

We are anticipating women’s tester suits being ready by AW16. We actually approached the design for the women’s suit adjacent to the men’s. But it was important to us that the women’s wetsuit was given dedicated design focussing on fit, testing, and needs specific to the female surfer, rather than rushing the women’s suit designed around the men’s, so the design is taking a little longer. We’ll be looking for female testers, so watch this space.

 

Finisterre wetsuit

 

Photos borrowed from the Finisterre website.

#Howtochangetheworld

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I went to see How to Change the World, the documentary about the history of Greenpeace, on Wednesday 9th September at Brixton Ritzy.

Today seems like a good day to finally get round to writing about it because this morning I woke up to a better and greener world. I woke up, dreading the monday ahead of me, to this piece of news: Shell abandons Alaska Arctic drilling. I’ve been smiling all day.

Here’s a photo of Aurora, I went to visit the majestic beast outside Shell HQ on Friday night…

Greenpeace - Aurora outside Shell HQ

She’ll be heading home tomorrow morning after a sweet victory for the #SaveTheArctic and  #ShellNo campaign.

Although the news seems to highlight that the reason for Shell’s turn-around was economical due to the fact that it’s simply not financially viable to drill in the Arctic having not discovered sufficient amounts of oil and gas (in what Carbon Tracker has called ‘a win for common sense’), The Guardian noted that ‘Shell has made it privately clear that it is taken aback by the public protests against the drilling’. People Power has undoubtedly played a part in this victory. And it’s people power and specifically direct action that Greenpeace was built upon.

Bob Hunter, the founding father of Greenpeace, liked to say: ‘Put your body where your mouth is.’ That’s just what the first members did when first trying to get the movement off the ground. There was no Twitter or change.org to hide behind – they had to get out there and get their hands dirty.

Jerry Rothwell’s How to Change the World is not supposed to be a tribute. In fact, in the Live Q&A that followed, Rothwell mentioned that he’s never been an active supporter of Greenpeace or any sort of environmental activist. It was the internal politics of the movement that interested him over anything else. I think this non-biased approach worked to paint a three-dimensional picture of movement that might have been otherwise lost in a rose-tinted glow if the film had been left to an eco-warrior-at-heart. I had no idea about the friendship breakdowns and conflicting ideas that helped form the Greenpeace we know today and I found it fascinating.

I found the film particularly hard-hitting because it starts off in the thick of Vancouver’s hippy movement, lulling the audience into a false sense of hilarity with psychedelic visuals alluding to the experimental drug-taking which its founding members took a liking to, but then it steadily gets more and more serious and dark.

The bit about the seal campaign really got me blubbing. The film shows some really graphic original footage of seal cub clubbing and some heart-breaking images of mother seals running after their dead babies, as they’re dragged across the ice bleeding, crying in panic and terror. I went out for lunch with my sister this week, and when she asked how the film had been, I described that scene to her and then, unexpectedly and rather embarassingly, I burst into tears all over again. Her eyes welled up too (we’re both such sensitive souls).

Anyway, you should all see the film. I’m going to have a good night’s sleep hopefully full of polar bear and seal cub dreams.

Hey Mr Cameron, if you think this ‘migrant crisis’ is bad… you’ve got another thing comin’

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Climate Change Migrant Crisis

Picture: cjournal.info

 

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to down-play the horrific reality of what Syrian refugees are going through/have been through, and I also don’t mean to down-play the compassion and pure humanity shown by the likes of the Germans cheering in their new habitants as comrades and as equals. But I do mean to highlight that this is only the tip of a very large iceberg. (You’ll see what I did there…)

All this talk about ‘how to accommodate’ these poor people has got me thinking. In many respects, Mr Cameron, I am tempted to call this ‘migrant crisis’ a practice run… or a warm-up exercise (another aptly-chosen description there) for British politics. I say this because, at the rate that climate change is happening, in approximately 30 years time we’ll be facing a refugee crisis on a colossal scale, and unlike any crisis humanity has had to overcome before. In choosing to ignore or put-off what we now know we must do (that is: switch to renewable energy) we are self-destructing. One of the primary and major effects we can expect from the start of this self-destruction is that large areas of our planet will soon become uninhabitable. The soils of Sudan will become too scorched to cultivate crops as the Sahara Desert expands and the low-lying Pacific islands of Tuvalu will disappear altogether. This, in turn, will result in the biggest mass migration the world has ever seen.

As Ellie Mae O’Hagan states in Mass migration is no ‘crisis’: it’s the new normal as the climate changes:

There is only one problem with calling this phenomenon of migration a crisis, and that is that it’s not temporary: it’s permanent. Thanks to global climate change, mass migration could be the new normal.

 

It seems like a good idea, with all the ‘confusion’ (in both the media and parliament) between the terms ‘migrant’ and ‘refugee’, to state the definition of a refugee:

a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

 

Quite categorically, the developed, first-world countries such as the UK and the US are largely to blame for industrialisation, over-consumption, and the speed at which we have heated up our planet, and thus when the time comes, they will need to take responsibility for our many millions of displaced brothers and sisters. There is no dispute here, these will not be ‘migrants’ these will be refugees and the developed world has a moral responsibility to provide this refuge.

Mr Cameron is currently planning how the UK will take up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. Once he’s done with that, I suggest he has the foresight to either start planning the overhaul of the UK’s energy system (that’s if we’re not too late)… or start planning how the UK’s going to meet the real ‘swarm of migrants’.

 

“Britain needs an energy policy for the Big 60 million not the Big 6”: Why JC’s getting my Labour vote

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I went to Jeremy Corbyn’s super-oversubscribed rally on Monday 3rd August (and it has taken me an obscene amount of time to write about it). It made all the news for its mad turn-out. There was a queue all the way round The Camden Centre and down the road past St Pancras. I’d only managed to get an overflow ticket so I didn’t expect to get inside to hear the speakers but we were squeezed in because Jeremy (it seems right to call him by his first name, weirdly. Never felt that about a politician before) wanted to see as many people as possible. In fact, he even addressed the hundreds of people left outside, by standing on the roof of a fire engine.

This man does mean business and he’s eager to prove it – in the face of right-wing media’s failing attempts to frame him as the ‘joke’ vote. But in fact, for JC it seems it’s not the vote that he’s out to get… necessarily. He entered the Labour leadership with the intention of sparking and representing much-needed left-focussed debate, and he’s done a very good job of reinforcing that (whatever the outcome on 12th September) the labour party has a lot of thinking and reparation to do to unite their efforts and gain the trust of supporters.

Votes for Jeremy Corbyn

 

When I joined the University of Nottingham in 2010, I signed up as a member of the Labour Society. I knew nothing about politics and I thought uni would be a good place to start my learning. I knew I shared some values with Labour because of my mum. She’s a teacher and a NASUWT representative so education and the public sector are up there in her list of priorities.

It turned out to be an exciting time to be joining the world of UK politics as there was a huge student backlash against the newly-elected Tory-LibDem coalition, the LibDems having proved themselves spineless and allowing tuition fees to soar. So, 10th of November, I found myself down in London taking part in that mental Demolition march with the rest of Notts Labour Society. See my post on the Anti-Austerity March where I reminisce on the event.

Anyway, politics drifted from my agenda over the course of my university years for two reasons; I was sick and tired of the state of it, and I was too busy juggling essays and fun studenty things. But by the time this year’s (my first) General Election came around, I was pretty sure of my priorities when it came to policies and that is Environment. So, while Ed Miliband was busy fannying about pandering to right-wing bollocks and losing old labour following, he lost me to the Green Party.

But I started hearing about Jeremy Corbyn back in early July, and the more I read about him, the more I liked the sound of him. I was getting that pre-election buzz all over again. JC seems to be giving the labour party that much-needed nudge over to the left and the overall feeling at the rally was one of hope and excitement. It is clear that Corbyn has rallied a huge segment of the British public whose political involvement had stagnated out of either frustration and/or self-preservation. His compassion seems genuine and, if nothing else, it’s refreshing to see him in the leadership line-up looking like they could be your old English teacher. He has this approachable, down-to-earth vibe which makes him a very likeable politician; I can imagine having a pint with him down the pub.

At risk, of making it all sound like a popularity contest… Obviously, it’s the policies that should matter, so I’ve had a good look at those – especially the environmental ones.

In a nutshell, Jezza believes in the following 8 principles:

  • Britain providing international leadership on climate change and the socialisation of our energy supply leading an end to the era of fossil fuels
  • A modern, green, resource-efficient economy – creating 1 million new green climate jobs.
  • Ensuring everyone has access to a decent home that is low-carbon and affordable to keep warm.
  • Putting people and planet first – tackling the cost of living and climate crisis together.
  • Cleaner air – tackling the air pollution crisis in our big cities and committing to full independent public inquiry into levels of air pollution.
  • Protecting our ecosystems, wildlife habitats and a compassionate approach to animal welfare.
  • An international approach – support internationally agreed, universal standards of regulation of emissions and pollution.
  • A healthy, safe, environment, where people and nature thrive together.

… which closely align with what the Green Party pledge.

 

Having read through the Protecting our Planet manifesto, the following points grabbed my attention:

Over the next few decades 8 countries, 55 cities and 60 regions are aiming to have 100% renewable electricity, heating/cooling and/or transport systems. This is what a sustainable future will look like. Britain must be a part of it.

I will examine ways to allow communities to be owners of local energy systems, with the right (as in other parts of Europe) to have first use of the energy they generate themselves.

We must take action now to keep fossil fuels in the ground – end dirty energy
handouts, ban fracking and set a target date to end new fossil fuel extraction, and
begin to phase out high polluting coal power stations with support for workers to
re-train.

Zero carbon homes must become the norm, not the exception. To achieve this requires both higher energy efficiency standards on all new builds, while maintaining planning regulations protecting our greenbelt, as well as a national home insulation programme that would save the average household £250 on their energy bill, and cut carbon emissions.

Investment in public transport will both reduce fares and reduce car use, as well as halting the rise of asthma and other preventable air pollution diseases, potentially saving the NHS £18 billion in treated illness caused by air pollution.

The British bee population is in crisis, and England has the greatest decline of anywhere in Europe. Banning neonicotinoid pesticides that are harmful to bees and pollinators must be a priority as part of a multi-faceted approach to protecting our bee population and ecosystems more broadly.

A sustainable and compassionate approach to protecting our environment must be at the heart of everything we as a Labour party propose the British electorate.

It isn’t too late for Britain to catch up, and even lead, this energy revolution.

 

You might say that the bloke is too ‘idealistic’ but where would we be without ideals?! Wasn’t it ideals that got us the NHS, gay marriage, and many other wonderful things/basic human rights?

Anyway, I’m going to leave you with this great photo of JC riding his bike through London.

Jeremy Corbyn riding bike

Picture: standard.co.uk

 

**Update** I am actually unable to vote in the labour leadership elections – I was rejected because of the Green Party propaganda posted all over my FB from pre-general election… BUT please vote Corbyn if you have been given the opportunity!