Phoning home

22nd October 2013 by

It was that time. To upgrade or not to upgrade. That was my predicament.  And I admit this with a heavy heart – I did it. I upgraded.  It’s a pressurised and tricky world out there.  Even before I was eligible for an upgrade, my phone provider was texting (badgering) me everyday telling me what I could ‘get’!  Enough I thought.  And then my existing phone would cut out on me again.  It seemed like a never-ending cycle.

Pausing to reflect on it now, the mobile phone and all its bells and whistles has definitely sucked me in. I knew this deep down, it’s something I grapple with.  A few years ago, I was all about using older non-smart mobile phones to make phone calls.  Remember those days of batteries lasting a week?  Or how about our very own challenge to readers to downgrade your phone?  In my opinion I haven’t fared well with the dilemma between the internet as a tool and how too much choice makes a simple life impossible most of the time.  (See part I and II of our Mobiles, Social Media and Mindbending Technology blogs).

I digress.

So having upgraded thereby locking me into another contract with an unnamed large corporate mobile provider, I’ve got myself a new phone, and a bit of guilt. I’m already hatching a plan to wait it out and switch as soon as I can.  Having searched for alternatives, I’m pleased to report that there are a few options out there.

Most intriguing is The People’s Operator, a seemingly independent mobile operator which directs 10% of what you spend to a cause of your choice – at no cost to you. They also make the commitment to share 25% of their profits to help make things better.

Having done a quick survey around the office, another alternative is Giff Gaff which was built around the single principle of mutuality and is run by its members (ie those who use their service).  Members get rewarded for running parts of the business like answering questions in the community, getting new members or helping spread the word.

Both of the above work with SIM only which assumes you already have a phone.

For those looking for a phone, an intriguing concept is the Fairphone.  The story behind it is to change the way phones are made.  The Fairphone team sell their smart phone based on identifying where every part and mineral comes from so the consumer is aware of where each piece comes from. The phone is currently being sold online at €325.00.  One comment from our team here was that perhaps they could consider also producing a non-smart phone for those who have downgraded their technical lifestyle but we haven’t quite written to them about this yet.

Which leads me into the Apple debate and the constant hype of when the next phone is coming out.  I found this article “Apple offers 21st Century technology – with 19th Century ethics” entertaining.  Needless to say, although I’m a smart phone user I haven’t been sucked into the void just quite yet.

And finally, in my research I was very pleased to see that Friends of the Earth have a Make It Better Campaign all about improving the way our products are made.  They’re calling for tough new rules to make companies come clean about the full impact of their products – whether they are smartphones, chocolates or tea.

All in all, I wonder if the next time your phone breaks or your contract’s up, will you re-think the way you phone home?

Speak out against unfair fare rises

19th December 2012 by

In early December the Chancellor axed a planned 3p fuel duty rise for individuals buying petrol and diesel for their cars. Working on the assumption that people couldn’t afford to pay more for private transport in a difficult economic climate, George Osborne gave up the potential tax revenue from private transport and made cuts elsewhere to fund his generosity to drivers.

So if it’s already too expensive for people to travel to work you’d expect that we’d see a similar freeze in train fares – or even a reduction as public transportation is better for the environment? Nope. Despite the fact that train fares are rising three times faster than wages, this January will see a shocking 4.2% increase in rail prices.

4.2%! I commute from Brighton to London and my weekly train pass costs me £87 – that’ll go up to £91 per week, an extra £208 per year. Honestly it’s getting to the stage where I can barely afford to commute and I work for a Living Wage employer – imagine the extra pressure this exerts upon people on minimum wage or those using their wage to support a family.

So I was pleased to hear that the Alliance for Jobs and Climate are organising ten protests in rail stations around England on Wednesday 2nd January under the banner of the Together for Transport campaign. I’ll be heading down to the Brighton protest and Tamsin will be rocking the London King’s Cross protest. If you fancy joining us (or maybe joining groups in places like Bristol, Newcastle or York?) drop us a line or email

Let’s put pressure on the Government to axe a fares increase which will force people into polluting cars!

Hackonomics – who’s questioning cash?

18th December 2012 by

Our monthly challenge for December has already had some really interesting feedback, so thank you!  Inspired by our visits to Trade School, we asked you to let us know about what other projects out there are trying to hack the system by experimenting with ways to trade that don’t depend entirely – or in some cases at all – on money changing hands.

Your responses have taken us to some really interesting ideas.  Here are some of them:

Means of Exchange

I haven’t quite figured out quite what this is going to do, as they’re at the stage of having “some exciting plans”, but the idea appears to be to mobilise techies to make possible people’s ideas for how to exchange, promote local resource use and build resilience while avoiding the mainstream economy and its conventions – “we’ll build the tools so you can make it happen wherever you are,” they say.

In the meantime, it’s a good place to go if you want to explore some of the thinking being done around these ideas for challenging “our default relationship with money, how most of us understand so little about it, and how we might use new approaches to encourage a more healthy mix of time sharing, swapping, bartering and purchasing between one another”.

The Bristol (and Lewes, and Brixton, and Totnes…) Pound

This system does, in fact, depend on money, but it’s an entirely new kind of currency. Each Bristol (or Lewes, or Brixton, or Totnes…) Pound is worth one pound sterling, but because it is only valid in a very local area, it means that the money only circulates within the community.

Whereas a regular pound spent in the local supermarket will end up in the bank account of Tescbury’s corporate HQ, a local pound will stay in the area, helping to keep the exchange of goods and services flowing.  If it can only be spent locally, then it also means that local suppliers have an advantage over goods that might have been freighted a long way – in the end, hopefully, adding up to a stronger, more diverse and more resilient economy. If that agenda sounds familiar, then yes, you’re right – local currencies in their most recent forms sprang from the transition towns movement.

If it sounds like a cute but naive idea that can’t work in the real world, well consider this: the newly elected mayor of Bristol is being paid entirely in Bristol pounds.

Pay What You Can

This one is based on money changing hands, too, but it is a departure from the convention of ‘We set the price, you pay it’.  You may have come across this idea yourself in any number of settings.  I first heard of it many years ago: Clapham Junction’s Battersea Arts Centre would – and still does – have some productions, or some nights, where they throw caution to the wind and let their audience members stump up what they feel like paying, or what they can afford.  It’s also the principle at the People’s Kitchen, where quality food that was going to go to waste is turned into a regular communal feast – not only putting assessment of the meal’s value under your control but also tackling one of the big environmental ‘externalities’, i.e. food waste, that conventional economics woefully fails to take into account. A related idea is ‘pay what you think it’s worth’ – you can do this for your meals every Wednesday down my local.

The Amazings

This is brilliant.  “The Amazings was born out of a single, simple idea. Society has always learned from its elders. But somewhere along the way we have lost that connection between generations – which means losing rich, valuable, and rare skills. We’re on a mission to fix this.”

Unlike Trade School, this one does mean paying up with cash in return for classes, but it at least taps into a valuable idea that we’ve abandoned too hastily – listening to and learning from the experience, skills and knowledge of those who have been around long enough to know a thing or two.

Which leads me on to…

Men In Sheds

This Age UK brainwave is a win-win.  There are jobs that need doing in every community. There are not always the resources and knowledge to get them done.  But there is an army of retired blokes who have time on their hands, who have spent decades putting up shelves, laying paths, fixing wiring and plumbing and generally banging nails into wood – and who want to be useful, stay active and healthy and have a good natter with others over their workbenches.  And so Men in Sheds was born. Got a community project that needs some practical fixing up?  See if there’s a Men In Sheds group in your area, and make sure you stock up on tea and biscuits for these beezer geezers.

I’ve a feeling we’ve only scratched the surface of the world of hackonomics that is developing out there, creatively filling the cracks in the crumbling mainstream economics – so do use the comments section below to let us know about others, or about ways you get by without the traditional exchange of cold hard cash.

Swap til you drop! December’s monthly challenge

6th December 2012 by

Laura and Gavin have both been to Trade School in the last month – a really interesting idea through which you can sign up for an hour’s tuition, workshopping or general learning in anything from ‘Clowning and dance’ to ‘Growing food in the city’ or ‘Accounts for non-accountants’.

The twist? You don’t pay a fee, you barter with the tutor, who provides a list of things they would accept in return for giving the class – it could be a loaf of bread, advice on decluttering, a surprise or, well, anything.

Inspired by this lovely idea – particularly in this season of wild-eyed hyperconsumerism, our challenge to you this month is to find out how the ‘gift economy’ – barter-based or generosity-fuelled moneyless means of exchange – is emerging in your area. Is there more than just the (admittedly wonderful) Freecycle? What exciting experiments near you are hacking the economic system? We’d love to hear about what you find, so do let us know!

And if you’re disappointed by a dearth of moneyless innovations in your area – why not start your own Trade School?

Knowledge (and getting greasy) is power

6th December 2012 by

It was about 5 years ago that I decided it was time to end the humiliation of having to take my bicycle to the bike shop each time I had a puncture.  It was time to stop being so ignorant – and so fearful – of how to tinker with my beloved steed myself and fix its simpler ailments. So I signed up for a Level 1 maintenance course over a whole weekend, and got myself schooled in the basics of brakes and inner tubes.

In the years since then I’ve probably saved myself a pretty penny, and earned a smidgeon of self-respect, as a result. But working at Otesha, where people bleed bike lube if they cut themselves, I decided recently it was time to go to the next level. That’s, er, Level 2 – keep up!  I was also fresh from reading The Case for Working With Your Hands by Matthew Crawford and was feeling inspired by its call for ordinary bods to exercise the parts of our brains and personalities that get deep satisfaction from understanding how things are put together and being able to repair them ourselves.

So off I went to Bikeworks, the splendid bike repair and bike shop social enterprise, for a full day of getting intimate with brakes and gears, determined that I’d leave being able to look squarely at (and even touch, maybe even fix) my cassette and my gear cables without feeling like a chimp with a spanner let loose on the Large Hadron Collider.

Our tutor was Jelil, who was really clear and approachable, didn’t mind being asked dumb questions (a teacher’s most important quality) and went at a manageable pace, and he was joined by his dependable and knowledgeable wingman, Raj.

We started with the most thorough M-check I’ve ever seen in my life. That’s the basic roadworthiness check you should be able to do to make sure you’re getting on a bike that’s basically safe before you ride off into the Wild West that is our roads. This was no M-check Lite.  No, we went deep. Not content with warning us about how to recognise dodgy-sounding rattly headsets and so forth, Jelil and Raj showed us exploded cross-sectioned bike components to explain the role of ball bearings and how – if you’re bold enough to do this much disassembly – to recognise when they’re in need of replacing.

Then on to the main business of gears – replacing cables, checking for wear, simple maintenance tips, and then – ulp! – fiddling with the barrel adjuster and the rear derailleur screws, which is how we can deal with some instances of slipping or reluctant gear changes. Yes, I can now say that my derailleur is no longer a terrifying alien landscape but rather somewhere I feel confident I could at least have a go at trying to put things right. I can tell you, that feels good.

We also learned a good deal more than I knew before about changing and adjusting brakes, and we even squeezed in time for a go at wheel tuning, using a spoke wrench, which is an oddly satisfying tool and task.

What really made the session, though, was Jelil’s passion for empowering cyclists to take control and save themselves money – rather than taking the word of a bicycle industry he was surprisingly scathing about, accusing it of routinely putting profit before the needs of cyclists.

Even when you’re faced with a problem you may not be able to fix yourself, you can still arm yourself with enough knowledge to judge whether bike shop staff are pressuring you to have work done on your bike that’s not actually necessary. For example, he said, bike mechanics will often claim that your chain is worn out and needs replacing – but by equipping yourself with a simple chain-checker tool you can verify this for yourself, and potentially save yourself a significant amount of money. But better than money-saving, even, is the feeling you get when you can diagnose, twiddle, tweak and fix all on your own-ee-o.

So get yourself down to your local bike class, get equipped, get greasy, get empowered!

Besides the classes of the kind I went on, Bikeworks has a FYOB (fix-your-own-bike) session on Thursdays, last entry 7pm, where you can bring your own bike, hire a bike stand at £8/hr (minimum £5) and get access to the tools you need – and guidance from expert bike mechanics, so that you can ease your way into bike repairing while knowing you’re in good hands. You can also access Bikeworks’ stock of recycled parts.

If you’re in London and want to check out the kind of class I took at Bikeworks, contact or call Jo on 020 8980 7998 – it’s £60 for a six hour session and the co-op has two sites, one in West and one in East London. Upcoming dates are:


Sunday 17th February – Level 1

Sunday 3rd March – Level 2


Sunday 20th January – Level 1

Sunday 3rd February – Level 1

Sunday 17th February – Level 2

Living Wages at Otesha

6th November 2012 by

Living Wage Week is here! This annual celebration and  promotion of employers who pay Living Wage runs from 4-10th November, and as a Living Wage employer Otesha is pleased to take part.

What is a living wage? Unlike the national minimum wage, a Living Wage is calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK. A Living Wage is enough to allow people the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. The Living Wage campaign was launched in 2001 by parents in East London, who were frustrated that working two minimum wage jobs left no time for family life. Over 15,000 families have been lifted out of working poverty as a direct result of the Living Wage.

What’s the financial difference? UK national minimum wage is currently £6.19. The new UK Living Wage is £7.45 – an increase of £1.26 an hour or £10.08 over an 8 hour shift. But in London, the Living Wage is now £8.55 to reflect the significantly higher costs of living in the Capital. This week the Mayor of London launched the new 25p increase in London Living wage, arguing that “It makes economic sense for us as a city”.

So what does Otesha do about it? We put our money where our mouth is! All Otesha internships are paid at London Living Wage. These year-long posts organising our cycle tours and other programmes are learning roles, in which interns are given real responsibility and decision making powers, whilst being supported and offered training to increase their professional skills. A lot of other charities only offer expenses for these sorts of roles, but the expectation that people can or should work without pay goes against what we stand for.

But sadly we can’t employ everyone so we want to spread the word amongst Otesha’s friends about the benefits of paying Living Wage for employee and employer, courtesy of our friends at the Living Wage Foundation – SPOILER: paying people a fair wage for their work is highly motivating!

  • An independent study of the business benefits of implementing a Living Wage policy in London found that more than 80% of employers believe that the Living Wage had enhanced the quality of the work of their staff, while absenteeism had fallen by approximately 25%.
  • Two thirds of employers reported a significant impact on recruitment and retention within their organisation. 70% of employers felt that the Living Wage had increased consumer awareness of their organisation’s commitment to be an ethical employer.
  • Following the adoption of the Living Wage Price Waterhouse Cooper found turnover of contractors fell from 4% to 1%.
  • 50% of employees felt that the Living Wage had made them more willing to implement changes in their working practices; enabled them to require fewer concessions to effect change; and made them more likely to adopt changes more quickly.

If you’d like to learn about how we moved over to London Living Wage and would like to do the same, get in touch!

A very Otesha donations dilemma

12th September 2012 by

If you know Otesha, you’ll know that we believe life is much more fulfilling when you manage to stop measuring how good your life is by how much stuff you own. Not only is it a pretty rubbish way of measuring your worth as a person, but the Earth’s life support systems can’t cope with our incredible appetite. You might also know that we find taking a less-is-more attitude is not only good for the planet and good for people, it can also mean lots of fun, creativity and beauty. So we always say: if you can, don’t go shopping, go upcycling!

So why on earth would we suddenly ask you to raise money for Otesha by going shopping?

All the time the internet is coming up with new ways for people to help raise money for charities they love – which is great, considering how hard times are for charities at the moment.

One of the latest is Give As You Live. This gizmo lets you nominate the charity you want to benefit – then a percentage of the value of your online shopping will go to that good cause – without costing you a penny. Thousands of online businesses take part, and sometimes the percentages are pretty significant. When it all adds up, it could do a lot of good.

Being Otesha, we just had to have a long collective agonising heart-search about this one: if we asked our friends and supporters to go shopping to help us, wouldn’t we be making the problem of overconsumption worse? And wouldn’t it be like accepting money from companies that we might actually think do ethically and environmentally dubious things?

On the other hand, we know the majority of you are shopping online anyway – and we are too, for example when we make our office stationery orders or if we buy train tickets.  If there’s a chance to help Otesha from what you and we are already doing, wouldn’t we be pretty stupid not to?

So here’s where we arrived at:

  • We don’t want you to go shopping just in order to help us!  But if you already shop online (we know you can’t make, grow or upcycle everything you need!), we’d really love it if you could sign up to Give As You Live and nominate the Otesha Project UK as the charity you’re benefiting.
  • We’re still in favour of consuming mindfully: Do I need this thing? Can I do without it? Is it made and transported in a way that minimises harm to (or maybe even benefits) people and nature?
  • We decided to be transparent about our dilemma and decision – that’s how you come to be reading this blog post!
  • We decided to take this opportunity, while talking about consuming mindfully and ethically – to promote our corporate screening policy, which prevents us from taking donations from companies that are exploiting people and planet. By using Give As You Live we’re not quite taking money directly from companies, but it’s close enough to make us a bit uncomfortable that we can’t control which companies participate – so if you think you’re shopping with a company that might not pass our policy, well, please think again!

So, with that all out in the open, here’s how you sign up to help support Otesha:

1. Download the Give As You Live software by clicking here – it’s very fast and doesn’t take up a lot of memory

2. Nominate the Otesha Project UK as your chosen charity

3. When you shop with participating businesses, it will work away in the background and benefit Otesha’s work – taking eco-workshops to schools across the country, supporting young people’s world-changing projects and getting young unemployed people into green, decently paid, meaningful work.

Thank you – and if you have any thoughts on our decision and dilemma, as usual we’d really value hearing what you think.

My Drastic Plastic Fast part 3 – Heroes!

19th June 2012 by

As I write it’s Day 8 of my month-long plastic fast, and as someone who hates shopping I’m surprised to find myself buzzing even two days after my weekend shopping trip.

Following countless recommendations from colleagues and from the brilliantly helpful comments people left at part 1 and part 2 of this blog series, I made my way to Unpackaged - which does what it says on the tin (tin not provided).

Run by Kath Conway (far right, with Michael and Bridget), Unpackaged began as a simple market stall and then, when it became clear that there was a hunger out there for minimum-waste, packaging-free grocery shopping, it graduated four and a half years ago to its cute premises on Amwell Street, north London.

All along the inside of the windows, as well as taking centre stage in the main room of the shop, are great square tubs of dried goods, from pasta to nuts, lentils to risotto. You bring your own containers and scoop as much as you need before the Unpackaged team weigh and price your goods. If you haven’t brought your own containers you can invest in the shop’s selection of jars and swing-top bottles so you’re well-equipped on your next visit.

Along a high shelf sit gleaming metal vats of oils from which you can fill your old empty bottles. Certified ‘anti-mafia’ wine can be decanted from wooden barrels beside the counter.








Refills of eco-friendly Ecover cleaning products were available, but unusually the Unpackaged team will even do toilet cleaner refills – one of the plastic-banishing innovations I thought I’d never find.

And one of the best surprises was that you can even bring your jars to get refills of jam, pickles, chutneys and mustard. Oh, most important of all: Unpackaged has solved the coffee problem too. So anyone who has to spend time with me of a morning will be relieved by that news.

The shop should be upping sticks and moving to Hackney in east London later in the year, with plans for a bigger premises and an on-site cafe. And ultimately? Kath’s clearly passionate about doing her bit to destroy the grubby paradigm of waste, disposability and overpackaging we’re all herded into taking part in, so her ambition is to see Unpackaged branch out into other parts of London, and then possibly still further as a replicable ‘social franchise’. If you know Otesha, you’ll know the idea of replicating socially and environmentally positive ideas gets our juices flowing, so this was great to hear.  Taking this beyond a niche and middle-class market is essential, and that is definitely on Unpackaged’s agenda.

To answer a couple of common questions about Unpackaged: No, the bulk dried goods don’t generally arrive in plastic before being decanted into the tubs – most of them are delivered in large paper sacks. And is it more expensive to buy groceries this way? Kath says it depends on what you buy: the produce is high quality, so of course your organic Unpackaged muesli won’t compete on price with a Tesco Value equivalent – but if you compare like with like, with comparable quality, a lot of it works out cheaper than your overpackaged products elsewhere, she says. And though Unpackaged helps its customers to reduce their waste, what about the shop’s own garbage footprint? Well Kath says they put out perhaps half of one regular refuse sack per week, which is pretty incredible – and compares well with the five left out by a nearby shop.








Next it was on to Lush, inside Liverpool Street Station, to try to solve some more thorny plastic-avoiding conundrums: shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste. How am I going to keep my curls luscious and my pearly whites pearly white without plastic containers?  Lush – and its amazingly well-informed staff – had the answers.  For shampoo and conditioner: solid rather than liquid products, and wrapped in paper. Oh, and deodorant too. And for my teeth? Well, no paste but instead…

… ‘toothy tabs’. Looking, frankly, like something you might be offered in a dodgy nightclub, these round tablets are a solid equivalent to toothpaste, packaged in a matchbox-like cardboard container. The idea is that you give them a bit of a nibble, get brushing – and they should foam up. I got one (Fairtrade) ‘Atomic’, which is clove and ginger flavoured, and one ‘Dirty’ spearmint-flavoured version.  If I’m honest, I’m not looking forward to this – I might be pleasantly surprised, but at this stage I’m not rushing to try them. I’ll definitely report back afterwards – watch this space.  The solid hair products I’m actually looking forward to trying (though I do wish Lush would tone down the scents and offer some unperfumed products). But hats off to Lush for answering a lot of the plastic problems I thought might scupper the plastic fast – and hats off to the staff for their knowledge and passion, which was infectious.

One last hero to namecheck today: Looking for a breakfast snack in Otesha’s neighbourhood, I came across Loves Cafe at 20 Gravel Lane, London E1. This plastic fast means nipping out for an impulse snack is really challenging, but this place wraps at least some of its sandwiches in a plant starch-derived ‘eco-wrapper’. They sit alongside a fair bit of actual plastic, but the owner, Peter, is clearly thinking about what his business can do to tread more lightly than the average caff. Nice one.

So lots of progress, lots of alternatives found.  But can you help with these?

  • Compost – where can I get this without carrying home a plastic sack?
  • Medicine – if we get sick and need a prescription, or want a quick headache cure, now what?
  • Stationery – and, if we’re going to nitpick (and we are, as this experiment is all about nitpicking), what about the plastic cylinders inside even wooden ballpoint pens?

That’s it for now.  Next update might be a confessional, I’m afraid…

Disclaimer: No freebies or any other benefits were received from Unpackaged, Lush or Loves for being mentioned here! Just good vibes, inspiration and really interesting conversations.


Moving My Money

29th February 2012 by

With all this talk around switching up your bank, it brought me back to my experience. I had it in my mind for some time to do it (think: 2 years!) but for some reason never got around to it. Sound familiar?

The story goes, I’ve been living in the UK for almost 5 years and when I landed, the first thing on my to-do list was to open a bank account. “Luckily”, my partner had an existing account with HSBC when he was young so I could tag along with his. It did the job and I never thought twice.

Fast forward to a few years later and I found myself working with Otesha. This was the real push I needed to:

a) ring up the Co-operative Bank and book an appointment with an advisor at their branch (which was open on a Saturday)


b) have a family talk about why we should switch over, what we wanted from a bank, and the pros and cons of the Co-Operative Bank.*

I should point out that my partner was quite nervous about switching over. He’d had his account for over 20 years and was concerned about a couple of issues dealing with his credit rating (does switching affect it?), fees involved in switching (are there any?), and how difficult it would be to switch banks.

The appointment with an advisor at the Co-operative answered all of our questions and put us at ease. We even chatted about his personal finance experience, working at the Co-operative and what he likes to do in his free time.

The switch was super easy. The Co-operative bank took care of it all. I brought any paperwork I thought would help (Eg. Bank statements, credit card details, and info about our living expenses). We had also looked at the Co-operative’s account options on their website but the advisor had all the information with him as well. We signed up for a Current Account Plus, credit cards for each of us, and internet banking. The process took about 4 weeks from start to finish and as promised, was well taken care of by the Co-operative bank. Their customer service on the phone was impeccable and I quite enjoy ringing them up when I have to.

1 year on, it’s been an absolute delight to do our banking – something I never thought I’d say. They’ve just been voted Best Current Account Provider 2011 by MoneySupermarket and there’s a reason for it.

So stop putting it off, it’s much easier than you may think and you’ll walk out with an extra spring in your step because you’re supporting an ethical bank.

* The Co-Operative Bank is only 1 example of ethical banking options. There are several out there to choose from.

What do you see when you look at your bank card?

17th February 2012 by

Julia Koskella, in this guest post, explains why she is helping to launch a new social movement in the UK: Move Your Money.

Imagine your bank card – and the money it represents. What do you see? Whenever I take out my HSBC card I see my role in perpetuating an unequal, unsustainable society.

My big bank stands for all the things I don’t support: investing in arms, dictatorships, environmental destruction, bloated bonuses, financial crises, tax avoidance, staggering inequality of income, clinging on to “business as usual”. Your bank probably does too.

I don’t know why I didn’t move my money to a better bank years ago. I guess the financial system was one of those issues that felt too huge to handle. It seemed immune to citizens’ complaints.

But now I’m putting my money in the hands of an organisation I trust and like: my local credit union. It’s mutually owned, so it distributes its profits fairly and invests in my local community and in me. And there are lots of other thriving banking solutions out there.

I’m not doing it alone. I will be an important piece in a new social movement: Move Your Money. I’m using my consumer power to change the banking system for the better.

Move Your Money started in the USA with Arianna Huffington, and 5.6 million people switched banks in the past months. This month it launched in the UK too, and is already attracting lots of support.

The movement needs you too.  Check out the website, and pledge to move your money.  It’s a great one-stop-shop for clear information on why, how and where to move your money to.  (I for one couldn’t tell my credit unions from my building societies!)

Invite your neighbours round in March to move your money all together. It will be Move Your Money Month, with citizens around the country organising their own community events.

The financial system no longer seems so distant and depressing.  We’re an active part of it and we have a voice in how finance works. I’m joining with you (I hope) and thousands of others to turn our talk into a better banking system that works for people and planet.

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