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Friday, 7 August 2009

A happy accident: 2 books that changed my life

I was sent a couple of books by my brother by accident a couple of years ago. He got confused with Amazon One-Click and hey presto! I was the proud recipient of Leo Hickman's Life Stripped Bare: My Year Trying to Live Ethically
and Felicity Lawrence's Not on the Label: What Really Goes into the Food on Your Plate. I phoned my brother and thanked him for very kind generosity and he cursed his incompetence but did have the good grace not to ask me to send the books back (he had only intended to send me a CD which I had also received-not a CD and 2 books).

Leo Hickman writes for The Guardian and his book recounts in a very amusing and light-hearted fashion his attempts to lead a more green and ethical life. He tells tales of his struggles with a wormery that gets out of hand. He has 3 experts who give his life an ethical audit and despite having no car, he gets a strict dressing-down from the experts. Since reading that book, I have too embraced the ethical way which ends up being a series of compromises. Whilst I try my hardest to lead a life which is both green and ethical, it is difficult to impose these standards on my wife and 4 children. I try to lead by example and we don't do badly. We recycle everything that is recyclable. I often buy books from 2nd hand book shops. When read, I drop the books off to Oxfam. I compose decomposable waste and use it on my garden. I don't have a water barrel -tut! tut! My car is not electric but it is a Renault CO2 low carbon Clio (139kg of CO2 per mile). I use Lush products which are made without animal testing from fresh natural ingredients with hardly any packaging which includes solid shampoos and moisturisers in containers which Lush takes back. I have struggled with solid deodorants which don't work and you start whiffing at about 4pm which is very unpleasant for all concerned! I then got involved in developing the Social Responsibility Policy for my last law firm and this policy is now being rolled out firm-wide so I have left a legacy of good work there. Ultimately, I would like my new firm's offices to be constructed from Lime and Hemp by my client who builds eco-sustainable housing but this is a little way off yet. So all in all this book has had a massive impact on my life but leading an ethical life is a series of compromises. A trade off between one value and another and it leaves you with a constant state of feeling slightly guilty. A strongly recommended thought-provoking read.

Felicity Lawrence also writes for The Guardian and her book lifts the lid on the so-called green credentials of some of the big supermarkets. This uncovers some of the disturbing facts about some of the most frequently purchased food items in supermarkets including chicken, eggs and salad. A lot of this has been covered since by Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall in their Channel 4 TV programmes but there are some truly nightmarish facts in this book which are likely to alter your eating habits very rapidly. It won't make you vegetarian but it may push you further to the organic/free range/local produce range of foodstuffs. Another cracking read.