As thoughtful consumers we have the power to change everything - and January is the time to do this!

This rough guide isn’t meant to preach or proselytise but to put some concrete ideas on the page. The Sidmouth Fair Trade Steering Group hopes a light bulb will come on from time to time: “I can do that!”

Your daily life

All the products we buy from overseas have an important historic dimension and using your purchasing power and curiosity to ensure there’s fair deal behind the label or brand is vital. Fairtrade is part of building a fairer world and ‘baking it into’ some of our most commonly consumed day to day products: tea, coffee, cocoa and chocolate, and so many more. As we think about the environmental and social challenges of our day, we need to consider our colonial history and how we have benefited. Buying Fairtrade products is essential and easy!

The last year has been particularly hard on small businesses – so try and avoid Amazon and shop small. There’s an ethical option for most purchases. You can even find ethical car insurance now so when the moment of renewal comes take a look on the Ethical Consumer website.

Avoid plastic

We are now fortunate to have two shops in Sidmouth where you can refill and recycle, buying as much or as little of what you want in a container of your own. Thinking hard about plastic can take you in amazing directions - a reader of Ethical Consumer Magazine noted that the 'chilled' products we buy often contain plastic trays, but the frozen versions often do not.

We don’t need to buy vegetables in plastic. We are fortunate to still have some ‘classic’ local grocery and whole food shops, and real bakeries in and around Sidmouth. You can also support local organic farmers with a veg box scheme.

Sidmouth Herald: Sign outside Becketts Coffee House, SidmouthSign outside Becketts Coffee House, Sidmouth (Image: Fairtrade Steering Group)

Buying presents

If you are shopping online for gifts try Etsy! Etsy features plenty of vintage and handmade products – this can take some pressure off the environment. You can even contact the producer-seller and ask them not to package your gift in plastic.

The V word

V is for vegan! Veganism is beginning to resonate very widely for its central aspiration that food production - especially factory farming - should not decimate forests, pollute rivers and oceans, exacerbate climate change and drive wild animal populations to extinction. January is the time to try with a very well-established campaign Veganuary. There’s tonnes of information to read and embrace on the Veganuary website. Eating less meat for your health and for the planet is part but not the whole story. There are many surprising and delicious Fairtrade and vegan products. Take Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream for starters (or should that be dessert?). Their Non-Dairy Range is made with almond milk and is certified vegan. All of the cocoa, sugar, bananas and vanilla used in the range are Fairtrade certified. Available in most supermarkets. Lidl in Sidmouth has a full non-dairy range of ice-cream on sale this month! Yum.

The Fairtrade website has more ideas for products you didn't know were vegan.

Your house and home

Energy companies are in the news! Prices are rising so there are both economic and planetary reasons for looking at how much carbon your home energy creates. Some providers give you very clear details on your consumption and its carbon footprint. As business guru Peter Drucker once said: “If you can't measure it, you can't manage it.” Getting the information is the first step! If your provider doesn’t already do this, ask, look around or SWITCH!

Your garden

The RHS has a winter price freeze on membership this month – you will also get 25 per cent off your first year as a member with a direct debit registration. The monthly magazine is full of tips and advice on your garden and their work to make the UK a greener and more beautiful place. They aim to train the next generation of gardeners to find solutions to environmental issues!

If you want to explore more, our other sources include RHS, Methodist Church and The Ethical Consumer Magazine.