Sunday, 16 March 2014

Green Cleaning Power...

I’ve been working my way through Oxfam’s ‘new products’ and have acquired a lovely cheerful mug (Always Half Full, it says on the side), as well as brolly, a tote bag, and a notebook for Big Ideas. But I thought it would be nice to try out something more practical – after all, if we’re selling this stuff we ought to know what it’s like! And, since I hate housework, I thought I would try out some cleaning products. 

Personally, I feel there’s a lot to be said for progress when it comes to washing, ironing, dusting, polishing and so on. Nostalgia is all very well, but when it comes to domestic tasks! Life must have been have been jolly hard for women in days gone by, although I must admit the idea of making your own cleaners always sounds attractive: it’s the thought of all those natural ingredients that is so alluring. After all, things like lemons, salt, vinegar, and baking soda have got to be better than chemicals, and you’re avoiding unnecessary packaging. But when it comes to it, I can’t be bothered to mix them up, and somehow I feel it’s not a proper cleaning product if it doesn’t come in a plastic container or a brightly coloured box.

So the range of cleaning products on sale in some Oxfam shops (including our Main Shop) is a pretty good compromise. They’re made by Bio-D, an independent, family-owned, ethically motivated company, which is based in the UK. It claims on its website that it is ‘dedicated to promoting the use of hypoallergenic, environmentally responsible detergents that have a minimum impact on the ecosystem both in their use and in their manufacturing process’. That’s a posh way of saying it’s eco-friendly and doesn’t cause pollution or allergies. 
On top of all that, wherever possible, raw materials are plant-derived and taken from renewable sources. There are no genetically modified ingredients or animal by-products, and nothing is tested on animals. Inn addition, not only are packaging and containers recyclable, but they are produced (as far as possible) from recycled materials.

I used the non-biological concentrated washing powder on a pile of dirty old towels (including a couple of grubby ones from our Bookshop that looked as if they’d been used to mop the floor) and it got them every bit as clean as my usual brand, so I was pleased with the powder’s performance. And I loved the fact that although the tea towels smelled clean, they didn’t have that cloying, overwhelming perfume found in so many commercial varieties.

The brown paper packaging was brilliant: it looked good, was simple, and kind of minimalistic, using far less materials and taking up less space than conventional cardboard packets. On the downside, although it seemed fairly tough, I’m not sure how well it would stand up to conditions in a kitchen or utility room. I was a bit worried in case the bag broke, or got wet, so I decanted the contents into a largish jar with a screw-top lid (I knew my hoard of jars would come in useful one day!).

I like the concept of the products - the whole thing is ideologically sound, which is to be applauded. And I like the idea of buying from Oxfam, so my money is put to good use. However, to be honest I’m not sure I can afford to stick to my principles as these products do work out quite expensive. The non-biological washing powder is £3.99 a kilo. It is concentrated, so you don’t need a huge amount, and you’re supposed to be able to get up to 17 washes, but I guess that would only be if you have washing that’s not too dirty, so needs less powder, and as I live in a hard water area I always have to use more than the recommended amount (it’s the same with washing up liquid and bubble bath). Sadly, if you’re on a low income, or have a large family, I think Bio-D would be too costly.

*If you want to more about the company and its products, there is an excellent website ( which outlines the dangers of many substances commonly used in all kinds of cleaners, and lists the ingredients. 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Can you Name the Seven Sins...

We’re proud of our work here at Oxfam Lichfield… And we’re proud of the work undertaken by Oxfam staff and volunteers around the globe… So we felt it was only fitting that ‘our’ Sin was Pride! If you remember, we’ve been displaying lovely shiny trousers and jacket in our Bookshop, along with a matching jacket, and a huge ‘Vote for Me’ rosette, like the ones politicians wear when they’re urging people to vote for them.
The Seven Sins: Pride, Envy, Jealousy, Lust, War, Greed
and Sloth, with the young winner of the competition who
received a prize for himself, and another for his school.
 It was one of the costumes from the Lichfield Mysteries, and was loaned to us for a competition organised by the group who run the unique event. We joined seven other city centre businesses to display one of the outfits worn by The Sins in Doomsday, the last play in the cycle. Visitors had to guess which clothes were worn by which Sins, and there were prizes for getting it right.

Greedt, dressed as a
birthday cake!
Customers kept admiring the glittery bronze garments (just as well they weren’t on show in the Main Shop, aka Brenda’s Emporium, or someone might have sold them!). And people kept asking us to give them a clue about the mysterious identity of the character who wore them. But even we had no idea who the outfit belonged to. 

Anyway, the Big Reveal was on Saturday, when volunteers from the Mysteries (which will be staged again next year) donned the costumes and explained who was who. The costumes were all quite wonderful, and very colourful and imaginative, and some were quite difficult to identify – I liked Greed, dressed as an ornate birthday cake, complete with candles! Anyone who’s ever struggled to get a teenager out of bed would recognise Sloth, still clad in his night attire, wrapped around in his bedding, not bothered about doing anything!  And War, which destroys communities around the world, as Oxfam knows only too well, was an impressive golden warrior. Then there was Envy, Lust, and Jealousy, all looking absolutely magnificent, taking time out to chat to passers-by.

War, looking resplendent in his outfit.
But conflict destroys communities
around around the globe.,
People who stopped by were also asked to write brief details about a mystery in their own lives, and in return those who took part received a little container of free seedlings which could grow into anything at all! This is part of ongoing project, and the mysterious secrets (all disclosed anonymously) will be used in writing workshops run by the organisers.

I wrote about The Mysteries in my last post, and there’s masses of information at the website for the spectacular event, so I’m not going to going over it again. But if you want to get in touch the organisers would love to hear from you – they always need actors, ‘backstage’ people to help with the production, which is staged in the Market Square and the Cathedral, andfundraisers.

As the Mysteries is a community event, and Oxfam is very much a part of trhat community, Chris Hancox, our Bookshop Manager, is hoping we can get involved in a couple more ventures to help promote the traditional drama and, obviously, there will be an element of mystery in whatever we do… More than that we cannot say at the moment… It will just have to remain a mystery until the time comes to tell you!