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My phone contract is due for renewal – What do I do?

March 3, 2015


When I needed a new phone at the start of the year I was torn between going with my old provider and plunging into the dark with a Fairphone. This post first appeared on Tearfund Rhythms

As the new year began I was pondering a bunch of questions. I had choices to make. Do I start my long overdue diet plan? How can I get more exercise and get fit in 2015? How can I better balance my work, family and community life? Can I try and get to more gigs to see the musicians I love?

These are all good questions; ones that I would like to spend more time working out and putting into action this year. While these questions were on my mind, it was actually this one that I was able to act on first. My phone contract is due for renewal – What do I do? Do I play it safe and go back to my usual provider? Do I look for the best deal? Or, is this for me a question of how I might be able to explore how I can live my values through the phone I purchase and use?

It got me looking at the Fairphone (something that I had been aware of for months and admired but in all honesty I had chosen to ignore) and its potential to take a small but significant step in re-imagining how products are made in ways that are ethical and sustainable for both people and the planet. This emerging idea is called Circular Economy and Fairphone are working on this themselves.

If I am honest, when I first looked at it, I wondered if the phone might be a bit clunky and chunky, and just not as appealing at a new iphone or top of the range android. But I kept exploring and came to the conclusion that it looked like a great purchase in terms of usage as well as ethics. So I went for it. I’ve had my phone a month now and I am loving it. It’s great to use and they have made a really great product.

Just over 20 years ago the  Fairtrade movement took a big step forward with the launch of the Fairtrade mark and the Fairtrade Foundation. The movement has grown so significantly that we now take for granted that we can buy quality Fairtrade produce in a wide range of retail outlets. I wonder if the technology we use and consume will also embrace that revolution? Could the Fairphone be one of the pioneers that sees a movement in how we make and consume products?

It may not be your phone that has got you thinking, but are there other things you could do to explore ways to live out the values that you hold? What could you do? We may think that we don’t have much in terms of wealth or power, but as consumers we do have the power to make decisions that have a direct impact on our global neighbours. How we consume matters and is a part of our expression of our worship to the God we love. We need to embrace the gift of grace but we also need to embrace the power that has been given to us to make consumption decisions that are good for God’s planet and his creation.

The food that we eat, The clothes that we wear and the electronic products that we use each day are all examples of ways in which we can consume well. These are things that we should be liberated to enjoy and cherish, perhaps all the more so if we know they have been good purchases.

I do intend to address some of those other questions that I started with. I’m going to start by getting back into cycling to work in the spring and I am also going to see Ben Howard live, both of which will be life giving and good for my soul, and the first is also much better for the planet.

We have the power to make good choices. It is our collective actions that can bring about the change that we want to see. Let do it!

Fairtrade Fortnight: What matters to you?

February 25, 2015

It’s Fairtrade Fortnight and the Fairtrade Foundation have made this stunning film to highlight why it’s so important to make good shopping choices. How will you choose to shop differently this fortnight?

The growth and development of the Fair Trade Movement is a huge story of success. Not only in terms of the growth in the range, quality and sales of products but also in terms of how it has raised the issue of Trade Justice in the context of tackling poverty and unjust structures. 

I remember the days (showing my age now) of the rather shabby looking ‘fair trade’ stand that would get set up at the back of church once a month on a Sunday, where people would often buy tea or coffee and some naff biscuits out of guilt rather than genuine desire. Years later when I came to write my Undergrad dissertation on the growth and future of fair trade (1998 so really showing my age now) it was amazing to think how far the movement had come with the setting up of the fair trade mark and a growing range and quality of products. And now we have a really significant range of products and impact on trade. It is an incredible story of hope and transformation.

The news this week has highlighted that for the first time in 20 years there has been a drop in overall sales of Fair Trade produce. Ruth Valerio of A Rocha UK was quoted in a response piece in which she said. “With the changing shape of supermarket shopping and the squeeze that is on the grocery sector, it highlights even more how important it is for everyone to choose products that change people’s lives,”

“So I would urge people to look for the Fair Trade label on products and to make a conscious effort to buy them whenever that option is available – and to ask your supermarket to stock more Fair Trade lines.”

It’s good to be honest and to acknowledge that in the current context saving money, and also buying locally sourced produce is a good and vital thing. However when it comes to the products we love like Coffee, Chocolate, Tea, Bananas and other such things, the choice of fair trade is I believe still a vital and compelling one.

Also in the news this past week, we have seen Mars declare that from the Autumn of 2015 the Cocoa in all of their UK produced Mars Bars will be fair trade. This follows other high profile chocolate going fair trade such as Kit Kat, Dairy Milk and Malteasers.

As consumers we have the power to make good choices in the way that we shop. Let’s be encouraged by the story of the fair trade movement and lets continue to shop in a way that brings hope, life and justice in the world.

A Beginner’s Guide to Making Lent Work

February 19, 2015


A Really helpful blog on Lent from the brilliant Ruth Valerio

Originally posted on Ruth Valerio:

LentWho would have thought that Lent would become such a crowded place? There has been an explosion of interest in it over the last few years, with Christians from all sorts of church backgrounds observing the season – including those who wouldn’t normally do such a thing (and outside Church circles they’re even talking about it on Radio One!).

For those who aren’t sure, Lent is the period of time that leads up to the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is traditionally a time for concentrated reflection, prayer and self-examination in preparation for the commemoration and celebration of those events. Fasting is central to this season, as a means of focusing oneself on God and a reminder that there is something particular about this time. Forty days is the normal length of time because it links us back to Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness and to the forty…

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#showthelove For the Love of God’s Earth

February 12, 2015

This week The Climate Coalition are running a Valentines themed campaign called #showthelove as part of their ongoing #fortheloveof campaign initiative. The issue of ‘climate change’ is a big one, and it is often hard for us to comprehend and connect with. I wrote this article for Tearfund’s Rhythms community to express that.

We all have things that we love and these things are at risk from the impacts of a changing climate.

Can you take some time over Valentines to #showthelove 


Climate change at the wellhead and the tailpipe

February 12, 2015
Featured Image -- 1832

Originally posted on Make Wealth History:

Climate change is caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, but our policies to deal with it always begin with reducing CO2. It becomes about the end product, about the gas – not the source of the gas.

It’s an observation George Marshall explores in his book Don’t Even Think About It, which I reviewed last week. He refers to the ‘wellhead’ and the ‘tailpipe’. The wellhead is the exploration and production of fossil fuels. The tailpipe is the point at which they are burned and released into the atmosphere. Marshall suggests that “the focus on tailpipe gas and disregard for wellhead fuels has been the single most important factor in all government and policy framings.”

I agree, and I suspect that prising apart emissions from their source is one of the main reasons why climate negotiations haven’t got anywhere. The scientists meet and make their plans…

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Compassion for the poor – what a blessing!

February 4, 2015

A Guest Post by Sarah Wiggins who works for Tearfund in the Advocacy Team

Last week Stuart Broad, the cricketer who earns a basic salary of £700,000 a year posted this on twitter:

‘I’ve heard if you earn minimum wage in England you’re in the top 10% earners in the World. #stay #humble.’

Who knows what motivated him to put that out – he’s been slammed in popular media for being incredibly tactless. But if you take it at face value he could just be saying that there is an awful lot of poverty in the world. Perhaps he’s noticed the horrors of slums in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India when he’s been on tour?

Factually, people earning the minimum wage in England are in literal monetary terms in the top 10% earners in the world. Of course, most of us know that if you take costs of living into account they would be far from being amongst the 10% wealthiest.


On Friday I went to see the play Behind the Beautiful Forevers at the National Theatre. It is based on a book by journalist Katherine Boo, who was motivated to communicate a deeper understanding of poverty by spending time in a slum next to Mumbai airport. She said in an interview that ‘It seemed to me that … some of the experts most ready to describe how lower-income people are faring weren’t spending much time with those people.’

Proverbs 14:21 says ‘It’s criminal to ignore a neighbour in need, but compassion for the poor – what a blessing!’ (The Message).

Watching the play touched me again with a sense of indignation and injustice for the massive inequality that exists between people living in absolute poverty and many of us who live in richer countries (and that doesn’t just include international sports people). These verses in Matthew 25:34-36 have been running over and over in my mind in recent weeks:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,

I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,

I was homeless and you gave me a room,

I was shivering and you gave me clothes,

I was sick and you stopped to visit,

I was in prison and you came to me.’ (The Message)

I have been asking myself – where am I helping the hungry, homeless or those in prison – where like Katherine Boo am I spending time with people who are poor? There are already some ways that I respond to this – I work for Tearfund and I sometimes remember to go out of my way to talk to people who are on the margins of society. But it’s been a couple of years since I had one of those friends back for a cuppa, and it’s been a while since I’ve taken a deep breath and crossed my road to approach a neighbour with severe mental health issues. Life, kids and work have a habit of taking over. What will the King say to me – am I someone that just notices the poor on occasion and feels a spot of compassion, perhaps like Stuart Broad did, or am I living in the blessing of not only having compassion for people in need, but actually doing something practical in response?

Because we only have one planet

January 25, 2015

Ponder this question for a moment. What is more important – praying or reading your Bible? Of course, it’s a really silly question. Both of these are vital parts of what it means to have a thriving relationship with our loving creator God. We would not want one without the other.

It’s the same when we ask the question about what is more important, loving God or loving our neighbour? Both are clear and interconnected commandments (Mark 12:28-34).

We share the planet with our neighbours, and not just the ones who live next door to us. If we damage the environment, it’s our global neighbours who suffer. So, if we want to fully love our neighbours we must care for creation too.

Concern for future generations

I’m convinced that regardless of who we are, or what we own, we all have things that we love and that we cherish. The Bible states that the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (Psalm 24). However, if we all carry on living the way we are, will our future generations be able to cherish the wonders of God’s creation?

Extreme poverty has continued to decrease and while that trend may be set to continue in the short term, the reality is we are more unequal and the planet is more damaged. In the UK we are currently living as if we had three planet earths.

Living beyond our means

In our progressive, high-tech society, we are living beyond our means. Put simply we only have one planet and we are destroying it. And it is the global poor who are feeling and will increasingly feel the impacts of climate change the most. However recent flooding in the UK also highlights this is a problem that is close to home too.

Is this really the future that we desire? It really doesn’t have to be this way. Are we also called by God to care for his planet and the people who depend on it? What can we do to play a part in making a difference?

Four simple things we can do, today

We can pray – The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (Psalm 24). We need to pray that we, and our leaders, come to realise this afresh and to care better for all that God has created.

We can campaignwith the 2015 General Election only months away, you could write to your MP to discuss these issues. We are partnering with an initiative called Hope for the Future which is an ecumenical, nationwide campaign to encourage and equip individuals, churches and groups to lobby their MP on climate change. 

We can live differentlyour actions and lifestyle are an important part of our discipleship. What one thing could you do to make a change? Could you fly less, eat less meat, switch to renewable energy or aim to waste less food.

We can share more and consume lessStreetbank is a great initiative that encourages us to share more and buy less. Do we all really need to keep buying into the consumer dream?

Maybe you could make a choice to do just one of those things today and encourage someone else to do the same. Together we can live lives that are both simpler and fuller, pointing towards a better future for all of creation.

The original that inspired this post first appeared in an article in Tearfund’s Tear Times Magazine and also on the Rhythms website.


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