This post comes to you in collaboration with Zenith Homes. Please see my disclosure page for more information.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love a good infographic. This energy saving infographic from Zenith Homes is pretty good if you’re planning on upgrading your boiler or doing any improvements to the exterior of your home. From replacing your windows or doors, to installing solar panels or externally insulating your walls, it’s really handy to see how much you might save on your energy bills just by carrying out these home improvements:
A word on externally insulating your property, as most people aren’t too familiar with it. This is one option if you live in a solid walled home – typically built before 1920 – and involves rendering the outside of your home. As it involves altering the exterior of your home then if you live in a conservation area you generally won’t be able to externally insulate your property. If you do live in in conservation area then instead you can internally insulate your walls, but it is quite pricey to do this and you will have to completely redecorate!
However, if you’re not in a conservation area then in the long term you can save a heap of energy and money externally insulating your home in this way, as solid walls let through twice as much heat as cavity walls do. If you’re in doubt as to whether you have cavity walls (the kind that you insulate by drilling into the wall) or solid walls then here’s a handy diagram from the Energy Saving Trust to help you out.
There’s been a lot of bad press about Amazon lately, more so than ever, from their unethical tax avoidance policies to the shockingly bad robot like conditions their workers operate under, and I think people really are beginning to question where they shop. However it’s not always easy to know where to shop, so I’ve put together a guide on online ethical alternatives to Amazon:
For eBooks try eBooks.com. eBooks has a vast selection of digital books ready for download for just about every range of eReader out there – from Kindles, to iPads, to Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, Android, PC, Mac and more.
For hard copies of books Oxfam Books are a good ethical alternative to Amazon. They have a wide selection of secondhand books online that benefit charity. Up until recently I had no idea that Oxfam sold items via their website, and I think it’s great that they’re opening up to capture bigger markets online. GreenBook.Club is a book swapping service that’s just recently been set up and well worth a look, and Bookdonors is a great secondhand online bookshop.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for secondhand then it’s worth checking if your local independent bookseller offers online shopping. Quite a lot do – my Edinburgh favourites that offer UK wide online shopping include Golden Hare Books, the Fruitmarket Gallery (who have great kids books and specialist art books), and Word Power. All come very highly recommended from me. Others, like Edinburgh Bookshop will order in any book for free for you.
Another ethical alternative to Amazon is to use Hive. Hive is a service where you can order books online and have them delivered to your local bookstore for free for collection. Every time you make a purchase on Hive, your local independent shop on Hive will receive a percentage of the sale. So even though you’re shopping online, your local bookshop will benefit too. There is also the spin off that you might see something else that you fancy whilst in-store. Obviously, it’s best if you can use your local bookshop as your first port of call, but it’s always a good backup option.
Don’t be swayed by the Book Depository – they are owned by Amazon – shop secondhand or shop local instead!
For digital downloads iTunes isn’t really a more ethical alternative to Amazon – Apple have a terrible reputation for human rights in China, where their factories are based. A good alternative is 7Digital, which is fairly ethical, and all songs are DRM (digital rights management free) which means you can play them on unlimited devices.
For physical CD’s/Vinyl
For older releases, as an ethical alternative to Amazon then your first port of call should be one of the myriad of secondhand record stores. Oxfam Music is a good choice, as again, proceeds go back to Oxfam. Alternatively, if you can’t find what you’re looking for then Discogs is a good choice, with loads of sellers selling secondhand items.
For new releases, your local independent might sell online. I’d check with them first before seeking out other alternatives. I’d heartily recommend my local independent – Avalanche Records – who sell online. They specialise in Scottish indie music but have a range of new releases and good stuff too.
EDIT: A reader has also suggested buying CD’s directly from the artists themselves, via their websites, to ensure they gain the highest amount of revenue on their CD sales.
If either option fails Recordstore.co.uk has a wide range of CD’s, vinyl and promotional materials. If it’s something specialist that you’re after then Proper Music is a specialist online retailer concentrating on folk, blues, jazz, country, Americana and world music, however you’ll also find classical music and overstocks, deletions, imports and anything else that they think is of interest to their customers
Without wanting to sound like a broken record, Oxfam sell a vast range of DVDs and box sets. Alternatively MovieMail or the Channel 4 Store are good fairly ethical alternatives to Amazon that are worth checking out.
Computer Games (Video and PC)
For video and PC games, again, try Oxfam (they really do sell everything!). Alternatively, for PC games try instant download services Games Planet or Metaboli. For console games give The Game Collection a go. None of these options are super ethical, but are much better than using Amazon or buying from the supermarkets.
I can’t cover everything that Amazon sells, but I hope I’ve covered some of the main categories. If you’d like me to cover any other areas then do let me know in the comments section below and I’ll dedicate a future post to your requests!