Church on the Corner

Church on the Corner is an Anglican church in an old pub in Islington, London


With all our talk about Justice and the kingdom of God over the last few months, I have had a number of conversations with you guys about what we do about it. We talked at church about the impact of Uzbekistani Cotton – which is just the sort of things which seems too obscure to care about – however its buying it supports massive environmental damage, devastated communities and slave labour. Hard to imagine that your choice of T-Shirt could involve you in that level of wrongdoing.

So while we will think more about what we should be doing as individuals and as a community let us not understimate the significance of how we spend our money, and where we encourage others to spend theirs.

Often the problem is that shops just don’t know where their cotton comes from, so refusing to buy stuff because it may come from somewhere like Uzbekistan (which 14% does) seems appropriate.

So where do you suggest we choose to spend our money? My top tip is Howies – who have a new shop on Carnaby Street. I love this company – thoughful, organic, ethically sourced or recycled cotton products – even the buttons are natural, and they are funky with it – check out the ethics page on the website – a real feel good brand.

What other organisations would you recommend?

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20 thoughts on “Ethical Living

  1. Ruth says:

    Well I don’t mind charity shop shopping, but I’m also pretty fond of bagging a bargain from a high street shop. Whilst I’m aware often my “bargains” may not always be “bargains” for the producers, the simple facts are a)Ethical clothes shopping (eg from places like the tuggle site someone posted) is too expensive and b)its not always very attractive. Sometimes I do quite well out of charity shops. I take the view that once I take it home and put it on noone knows whether I bought it in next or whether someone else did. Some items it doesn’t work for, and if I can’t find what I want, and I happen to find it two doors down in New Look at a reasonable price, I’m going to get it.

    Certainly as it says on the clean up fashion site, it might be more useful to become more active as consumers and to pester the companies about what they’re doing. But then I kind of feel like… there’s only so many band waggons you can be on at once… and I have a lot of issues I try to support already: and only so much time. I do what I can… there are certain stores I avoid because I know of a bad record there, and I recycle things and I buy fair trade where I can.

    I guess I’d rather campaign on levels of trade regulation in this area. Where on the one hand, you don’t want to put too much red tape around business to stifle the economy, and you want to ensure economic freedom in one sense is maintained… the other issue here is personal liberty, and the fact that our consumer behaviour can impact the freedom of others, particularly in relation to freedom from poverty. Susan Kramer in her chapter of the Orange Book talks about changing behaviour through economic means (she relates it to the environment & green taxes). I’d love to see and campaign for some kind of tax benefit for companies behaving more ethically… though of course that would cost a lot of money to regulate. The whole “buying and selling carbon allowances” thing seems to work pretty well. Maybe there’s a way to put a price on ethical/unethical behaviour too.

  2. Mr O says:

    Hello ethical people,

    There’s an excellent flash presentation on packaging with some real challenges at:

    http://www.thenag.net/lunch/facts

  3. simon says:

    probably a bit late to respond 2months later but whatever.
    what i ask myself in response to the having less stuff is – do people want my second hand shit ? like pedro i cant bring myself to go into charity shops. i went to school in the early 80’s and came from a working class family with my old man on the rock and roll. being called a pikey for years has a lasting affect. also like pedro i find that washed out colours and baggy hemp trousers dont fit my style.
    i personally try to buy little; and when i do spend I spend a lot, a pair of shoes that cost over a £100 last years and by their nature dont come from a third world country but normally england ,which means i support home grown tradesmen and my shoes have a smaller carbon footprint.
    is thinking about the world we live in wearing a straw vest? i wear levis ,drink coke and dont like getting ripped off at the farmers market. i buy fair trade where there is a choice, i only drink coke in the pub and i reduce the impact of my car and home.
    i aint gonna beat myself up for my lack of effort but make good choices where i can.

    ‘him over there’, mate you sound like a ben elton rant from friday night live which did make me chuckle. nice.

  4. angela says:

    In response to a few, the big one for me is having less. Stuff is a burden and if it’s not used it’s just collecting dust and someone else could be making use of it anyway.

    ‘Him over there’, you are tiresome but i agree with you that buying because we are in a buying culture even if it’s ethical isn’t good enough!

    Oh for a simpler life!

  5. Jimmy Smooth says:

    Mmm… That’s me well out of my depth… Great to learn all this stuff though, cheers Phil

  6. Phil says:

    Consumption is a funny one! The economic climate of the World as it stands is so entangled that, as a result, we all need to be so much more educated on every topic. Fair trade coffee for example – a widely accepted ‘ethical’ alternative – is subsidising poor farmers in the ‘3rd’ world. as a result more farmers are now entering the already overcrowded coffee market, driving the price of non-fairtrade coffee down.

    It is also now cheaper to buy american wheat in most african countries than it is to buy african wheat thanks to farming subsidies in the developed world.

    My point is this, things like fairtrade is a good method of ethically patting ourselves on the back, however it doesn’t address the initial problem, that of overproduction and overconsumption.

    PS. great forum guys! Nice to see you all again!

  7. Rachel says:

    Below is a link to ‘Labour behind the Label’ who work together with War on Want, Tearfund and the like… They’ve done a report on high street companies and how ethical they are. Makes an interesting read.

    http://www.cleanupfashion.co.uk/lets-clean-up-fashion.php

    This is a quote from someone on the website!!

    ‘This report isn’t an ‘ethical shopping guide’. The way to help workers is not to boycott one company in favour of another, it’s to shift from being a passive consumer to an active one. Each time you buy clothes, get in touch with the company you bought them from, ask them what they are doing about the recommendations in this report. Together, we can – and we will – clean up fashion’.

  8. Tom Preston says:

    hmmm, interesting.

    so, looking around the website, you can see that really it’s a site that tell you about church on the corner (cotc) and various things that cotc does – like football, little ark etc.

    THIS bit of the site, tho, is like a discussionny forum type thing, sometimes in response to a sermon, or theme we’re exploring at church, or random thought that concerns us as christians in the 21st century – like ethical living, showcased here. feel free to get involved in the debate – you can see we don’t all follow the ‘cult of fletcher’, with ‘him over there’ having a slightly divisive take on the subject. but that’s ok, we are a mature anough church to disagree and discuss the issues that matter to us most, while still loving each other (i hear him over there and ejw made up after)

    why don’t you come to a service and check it out yourself, meet some people (mark’s quite an average bloke really) and enjoy some fellowship? we’d love to have you – 10.30am or 7pm sundays.

  9. chuyueling@yahoo.co.uk says:

    Mark, would love to know how you back up your personal ideas about ethical buying (although I support such a thing) with the teachings of Christ! Isn’t this a website for people who think they are following Jesus, not the cult of Fletcher? I have never met you personally by the way so this is not a vendetta. I’m genuinely curious. This website appears to be a forum for vaguely moralistic ideas. What you said up there makes me think of how Jesus berates the pharisees and lawyers for heaping burdens upon people. Why don’t you tell everyone to wear a straw vest while you’re at it?

  10. cheryl says:

    Try chezzle (cheryl hird) @ http://www.tuggle.co.uk for garments & accessories using recycled materials i make them all by hand so they are ethical in that sense! Also i try & keep prices in line with the high street so things are accessible to all.

    Also People Tree are the best they have everything covered & are truly ethical, I’m slightly biased as i designed all next autumns knitwear & accessories but they are expanding which is great. I’m glad that the high street is slowly catching on I just hope its not just a token gesture as a fashionable thing to be part of.

    chezzle

  11. Pedro says:

    I would have to admit I hadn’t thought about cotton from Uzbekistan. I defo wouldn’t buy second hand stuff unless it was for fancy dress, had enough hand me downs as a kid as it was. The problem I have with the ethical stuff is it mostly suits hippies and isn’t really geared for the masses….generally very unfashionable.

    My suggestion is we all shop at Sainsbury’s after all they are the only supermarket to sell 100% fair trade banana’s, source their cod ethically and to start their own Fair Trade think tank!

    Also their whole Grad Scheme this year is based totally on ethical principles, ensuring their managers follow the companies ethical values. I wonder who made that decision????

    Oh and just because I work for them doesn’t make me biased!

    Pedro

  12. Jimmy Smooth says:

    Howies looks great! Can’t believe they do a 38Looooooooong, how is it possible that this establishment with it’s long leg lengths could possibly have got beneath my “long leg length radar”?! It surely must be that there clothes look like garmets of poo. Seriousness aside, if this works out I seriously think this could be one of the most important finds in archaeological history! (Always wanted to say that)

    Diggin’ all the ethical vibe guys. Cheers 4 that list Gar. Definitely not gonna get that Rolls Royce now.

    Luckily we can always rely on our anonymous commenter’s to keep us in line with the worlds level of cynicism…

    Big up all you spiritual lights!

    James

  13. ejw says:

    dear ‘him over there’ = if you’re going to attempt to post a scathing attack on what people on this site have written in genuine good faith, then I would appreciate it if you’d make your attack slightly less HACKNEYED and OBVIOUS. People who live in Islington are middle class simpletons who fall for the faux ethical? What a brilliantly constructed and well considered critique. Next you’ll be telling me that everyone in Islington drinks frappucinos, eats foccacia and shops at Waitrose too. Amazing.

  14. Jeremy says:

    Thanks ‘over there’, very constructive…

    Yes, buying less should be our first thought – and remembering John the B’s words from sunday night: the one who has two coats should share with him who has none.

    I recommend http://www.cleanupfashion.co.uk/ as a resource for reading up on clothing brands. American Apparel is a model clothing company if you can get away with their stuff, and Timberland is making good strides at the moment. M+S aim to have everything kosher in 5 years time, but are currently atrocious. They have a small but growing fairtrade cotton range.

    My brother and I have been trying to educate ourselves on these kinds of issues. We’ve been blogging what we find on http://www.makewealthhistory.org

  15. him over there says:

    yeah! let’s spend more money on things we don’t need but it’s ok because it’s ‘ethical’ and ‘organic’ and that’s GREAT because this is ISLINGTON and my shoes are made of grass that died a natural death after a life of peace and happiness. Thankfully, there are scrupulous people who share my moral values and kindly charge me MORE but that’s because it’s holy. Wow, my moral compass has been reset and I thank thee ethicalcapitalism.org for [continues in same vein…]

  16. Mark Fletcher says:

    Nice. I think sonya is right about buying less, and buying second hand. And when we do need to buy chosing something better quality that will last longer. I also like the idea of telling companies why we are not buying from them. Could we organise postcards at the back of church to send to companies who we are avoiding?

  17. Garmon says:

    A very topical place to begin might be not to shop at the places listed here:

    http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/dirty_list/dirty_list_details.html

    Rather than just not buying their products, an artilce I read by George Monbiot today suggested calling these companies to ask why they are still trading with Burma.

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/10/02/the-juntas-accomplices/

  18. Anna says:

    Ethical Superstore is a great online source of ethical gifts, clothing, household products, organic fair trade food etc. I have to admit I’ve never actually bought anything there myself but it’s a good place to see what’s available if nothing else. They stock ‘No Sweat’ trainers as well, a nice alternative to Nike-owned Converses.

  19. Sonya says:

    People tree http://www.ptree.co.uk/ ? Problem is I find they are a bit pricey. Also you can’t beat Oxfam and other charity shops like TRAID (maybe not the one on Holloway road though).

    Also get right away from cotton and use hemp 😉 eg http://www.sativabags.com/

    Sometimes wonder if part of the answer isn’t just to buy less?

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