A jolly good idea

Socks. One of those traditional stocking fillers so unimaginative and uncool you can’t justifiably buy them for anyone, ever. Well, you can now! Socks have been given a funky, ethical makeover by a company called Jollie Goods. Check out these beauties and the four other equally colourful designs on their website.

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I love practical gifts and I’ve recently become a convert to socks that don’t feature the colours black or grey, so I’m putting the pink, blue and yellow ‘Joker’ pair on my Christmas list. Mind you, I wouldn’t normally dream of owning socks that cost £15. But these are no ordinary socks. For every pair bought, another is donated to somebody who is homeless, through a local partner charity, such as Southampton based Society of St James. Founder Ed Vickers explained in this interview how the best part of running the company is

explaining to the homeless folks that the people of their own town had bothered to buy socks for them. Considering that many people look through them and walk past them everyday; to be told that there are people who do care is something special.

So if you’re looking for a great Christmas present this year, I reckon you’ll be onto a winner with some Jollie Good socks. I’m excited about getting getting my hands (er, feet!) on a pair!

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Community clothes swap

This post is a slight deviation from my usual food themed blogging, but not completely unrelated. Like food, clothes can needlessly end up in landfill. The Leeds Community Clothes Swap helps prevent this by giving people the opportunity to come together and exchange their unwanted items of clothing for different ones. This video explains how the monthly clothes swapping event works.

As I found out in a Guardian article today, visitors to the clothes swap can also

donate spare credits into a pot for charities supporting vulnerable people such as a woman’s refuge or a centre for refugees

which is exactly like the idea behind suspended coffee.

A significant number of people who come to Southampton City Mission’s food bank are also given a voucher for our clothing bank, which operates in a different location. I had a long chat with a very sweet lady this week who said she was going there to look for a coat and shoes suitable for Winter, before it got too cold. She mentioned she’d recently taken some blouses that didn’t fit her anymore to a charity shop; a local clothes swap could potentially be a lifeline for people who can’t afford new clothes on their income.

There must already be many clothes swaps taking place in the UK, (including this one, at the university where I work) and I’m sure they will continue to grow in popularity with people from all walks of life. It’s one of those no brainer, win-win ideas that I love!

Solutions to food waste

Food waste. A huge problem that’s thankfully starting to give rise to many creative solutions. Two of my favourites come in the form of organisations who focus on using up surplus fruit and vegetables. What they do is similar and I think part of their appeal is that their ideas are actually pretty simple.

The first company is Rubies in the Rubble, who turn excess fruit and veg from London markets into chutneys and jams. Their business is loosely based around the following concepts:

Make use of what you have. Care about your resources. Embrace oddity.

I just love that part about embracing oddity. I like to think they’re not only referring to misshapen produce! I’ve watched the Rubies in the Rubble video half a dozen times now and I still feel a surge of positivity when I get to the end of it.

Newer on the scene than Rubies in the Rubble are Snact, who caught my eye while I was trying to find out about crowd funding the other day. Snact make snacts! Snacts are pieces of fruit jerky (er, strips of dried fruit, in case you weren’t sure), made out of surplus produce. You can see what snacts look like in this video:

It’s shocking that in the UK tonnes of food is thrown away before it even makes it anywhere near a supermarket. While Rubies in the Rubble and Snact are both trying to address the inadequacies of our food system, they must only be scratching the surface of the mountains of perfectly edible food that gets sent to landfill. But organisations like these should undoubtedly be celebrated. The publicity they attract alone will raise awareness of the massive flaws in the way we currently eat, which I believe is the start of tackling any major issue like food waste. As Van Gogh said,

Great things are done by a series of smaller things brought together

so who knows what jams and jerky might one day achieve?

Suspended coffee

If there’s one thing you can guarantee about university toilets, it’s that more often than not there will be a poster stuck on the back of the cubicle door. (Bear with me; I promise this is going somewhere). Usually the posters have titles like ‘Housemate Wanted!’ and advertise vacant rooms in six bedroom houses of students who profess to ‘enjoying nights out but also nights in’. I’m oddly grateful for something to peruse when in public toilets – regardless of how banal it is – but that’s probably just the compulsive reader in me. Whilst in a loo in a café in Oxford last year, however, I came across a poster that genuinely excited me.

The poster I’d seen explained that the café ran a suspended coffee scheme. I was vaguely aware of the concept as something that happened in France, but had never encountered it in England before. What’s a suspended coffee? This video sums it all up nicely.

Its sheer simplicity aside, two aspects of suspended coffees appeal to me. Firstly, I love that it’s a way of helping somebody who might live down the road from you. A person you could have walked past in the Tesco Express last week. Suspended coffees must generate a strong sense of belonging to a community, both for those donating coffees and those receiving them. I also like the anonymity of suspended coffee. Bar the people in the queue behind you, nobody really knows if you’ve bought an extra drink and nobody really knows if you’ve claimed one. Spending a few pounds on a stranger you’re never likely to meet has got to be altruism in its purest form.