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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 February 2006, 12:15 GMT
Ethical advice
Re-use everything, have only two baths a week, save a pound a day for charity and, of course, use a compost toilet - just some of your advice for Ethical Man...


Energy: I live in a council house and can't afford a windmill or solar panels, so my electric comes from Good Energy, which comes from wind and hydro power. My gas is Equigas which charges the same to all, not cheaper to those who can afford direct debits.

Wear a thermal vest and turn the heating down. Put the thermostat lower. Use low energy light bulbs. Use rechargeable batteries and rechargeable solar wind-up radio. I have a great wind up torch and also a solar battery charger. My boyfriend has a torch you charge by shaking it up and down.

You can get clocks and calculators which run on water - I got one for my son.

Do NOT fly, its the worst thing you can do to the planet. Last time I went to Europe on a coach it was about 70 return to the Czech Republic; then we travelled by train and bus to Hungary and stayed in hostels.

Only wash clothes when you have a full load. I have these balls which I got from the Centre for Alternative technology and I use them instead of soap powder - they should last me about 15 years.

Other ways to save energy are to use a pressure cooker, steamers so you cook two things at once, and cook lots at once in the oven.

Also save energy by buying things in glass bottles rather than plastic. I get that Ibcol disinfectant which is very concentrated and in a tiny glass bottle. I clean the loo with white vinegar which comes in a glass bottle.

Buy local food always in preference to those beans from Kenya - global warming caused by flying beans will cause more drought in Africa. If you're concerned about the way trade is unfair on the rest of the world, join World Development Movement - they are excellent. Only buy from abroad what can't be grown here, like fairtrade tea, coffee, chocolate.

I buy wholefoods and fairtrade and organic stuff in bulk with friends where I can. If you cant grow your own veg, markets are best and seasonal is best. The organic box is great. If you can grow veg its great - you feed it with compost you make yourself and if you get non hybrid seed you can save the seeds from one year's veg to grow more the next year, so you don't have to buy seed any more! I belong to HDRA seed savers.

Don't have things on stand by that uses up energy. Use less water. I am on a water meter. I should have showers but I have two baths a week. To make up for this I use the bath water to flush the loo - it is stupid to waste energy making drinking quality water to flush down the loo. I also soak dirty clothes in the bathwater. I put bricks in the cistern. I empty the washing machine water on the garden in the summer with a hose from its hose. I also have three rainwater butts. I have various watering devices from recycled containers which water my plants when I go away. If you put big unglazed flowerpots with the hole sealed, buried in the earth by plants and fill with water and put a lid on it slowly waters them.

REUSE EVERYTHING. You can grow seedlings in the marge containers and yogurt pots you would throw away. Little plastic bottles that you get stuff in can be washed and used for travel for shower gel etc. Try to get toiletries that are not tested on animals and don't contain bad chemicals. Use recycled unbleached toilet paper. Use local shops and USE THE POST OFFICE.

Buy second hand books, clothes, furniture. Look in skips, go to jumble sales and charity shops. Reuse envelopes again and again or use them for lists or cut big ones up and use as paper to wrap parcels.

Cut Christmas cards up with pinking shears for next years present labels. Using less, reusing and recycling, means that less energy is wasted making more STUFF that we don't need.

Go to libraries for books and toys. You can recycle plastic bags at Tesco - you can take them in and you don't have to buy anything. Better, use cotton shopping bags. Don't eat meat if you can help it, it uses too much land and energy and is cruel. Use an ethical bank like Triodos, or the Coop. I have my telephone calls with the Phone Coop which is an ethical firm and they give money to various ethical and green causes.

Ethical Consumer is a useful tool to guide you - it is a magazine that does lots of research. You can recycle those plastic things magazines come in the post in - I save them, then I wrap them up and send them, but the address is downstairs, bother...

Last but not least, be active in trying to save the beautiful planet. Love other people, give food and money and toiletries to the refugee council. Help asylum seekers; welcome them. Join Amnesty International and protect human rights. Give some of your money away every week, you won't miss it. We are all here together and we are all special, even spiders, so we must work to make the world better and to save it. ETHICAL MAN, I am trying to do all these things and I only have 92.50 a week. You can afford to have one of those windmills you plug in to the mains, or at least solar water heating. It is very satisfying trying to live an ethical lifestyle, I think you will find it makes you happy in the long run. Good luck!
Loppy Garrard, Swansea


Living an ethical life is certainly to be applauded. Nevertheless I think that a more ethical life could be lived by scrapping most of your plans for "ethical" living. While organic, locally sourced food and such practises have some positive effects - predominantly on the environment - they are likely to be marginally more expensive than buying one's normal goods, which are themselves likely to be more expensive than are actually necessary.

It is an absolute certainty that cutting back on luxury goods and instead utilising the vast majority of your disposable income in an ethical manner would be far more beneficial. Saving less than one pound a day, (either through foregoing items which aren't necessary for your own welfare or through buying cheaper, non-organic goods) would afford you an extra 20 pounds a month which, donated for example to Oxfam, would be sufficient to feed a child orphaned by AIDS for over three months.

Over the course of a year even this small increase in charitable giving would considerably improve quality of life for many, likely even save a life. Even if, for any number of possible doubts about the efficiency of charitable giving, it is quite certain that each unnecessary expense foregone over the course of a year would stand a very high chance of making a significant (life-altering, or life-saving difference) through charitable donation. Thus, in instances where the environmentally friendly change to your lifestyle presents no extra cost, there is no reason not to pursue it; but otherwise, it would be considerably more ethical to simply maximise your charitable giving. This course of action will certainly provide tangible relief from suffering to many, and thus even taking account of the considerable environmental problems facing the world, be the most ethical use of your limited resources - considerably more ethical, I would posit, than alternative expenditure.
David Moss, Canterbury


Hello, ethical man - I too am an ethical man, choosing to live a low-impact lifestyle.

Our family of four (me, 39; Gill my wife, 51; Toby and Howard, six and eight) have no car and enjoy cycling, walking, buses and trains. We are veggie and grow some of our own food.

Our 1930s semi is heated by two British-built smoke-free woodstoves, and we also cook on them and heat bathwater. I am a keen composter and have started York Rotters, a partnership between the council and an environment centre. Rotters teach householders to home compost (we got a DEFRA grant to employ a worker).

At home I have a simple home-made compost toilet, there's nothing more satisfying then NOT s**tting in drinking water, but recycling the material to grow food in! Check out a great book called The Humanure Handbook, by Joseph Jenkins... it changed my life.

I collect about 500kg waste veg and fruit from several local greengrocers every month with my cycle trailer, ostensibly for composting. However, much is still edible although not saleable, and I fish out some items and create dried fruit on top of the stoves, using a natty fan which converts heat to electricity and powers a little motor attached to blades. As this spins, it blows air over the fruit and stops it charring. We all munch apple rings, pear slices and dried bananas instead of sweets.

I have built a simple greywater recycling cistern, which contains a "straw trap" most of the year to stop solids (peelings, hair, skin cells etc) going into the sewer. Every month or so I change the straw filter and compost it. In hot summers, when the water butts are empty, I can replace the straw with a brewing bucket and haul greywater up into a dedicated greywater butt.

We buy our electricity from Good Energy which only buys and sells renewables, and our combined gas and electricity bills are about 220 per year. We only have low energy lightbulbs and an 'A' rated fridge and freezer.

We do not go in for lots of electronic gizmos and gadgets and we switch things off, which are other reasons our bills are so low.

We also run a food co-op to help us and some friends get access to good quality food more cheaply.

I earn my living as a children's entertainer and therefore have time during the week to do voluntary work and other interesting things.

All the best with your year.
John Cossham, York

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