Thursday, 27 August 2015

Cruelty Free vs. Vegan

I am happy to say that over the recent years there has been an influx of people converting to solely cruelty-free products. Cruelty-free products are more readily available than ever as the issue of animal testing gains more and more attention. Personally, I have always made the extra effort to use nothing but cruelty-free beauty products and am now taking the step further by going vegan as well. To clarify I am transitioning to vegan products (beauty and otherwise) not the diet and complete lifestyle or at least not at this stage.

What is Cruelty Free or Vegan? Is there a difference? 

Contrary to popular belief these are two exclusive terms and do not overlap in definition. Cruelty-free refers to the items that are not tested on animals whilst Vegan applies to items which contain no animal by-products. Ironically, just because an item is Vegan does not mean that it has not been involved in animal testing. Unfortunately there are no legally standardized definitions of either Vegan or Cruelty-free, which means that companies have some wiggle room when it comes to their advertising. I believed the term 'vegan'  to mean that something neither contains any animal product nor exploits animal's in the development or manufacturing process... But apparently not.  As a result it can be difficult to determine whether or not a product is 'truly' one or the other, let alone both. 

 Why should I?

To me there is no real option, the thought of animal testing makes my stomach turn. Just look at the adorable little faces of my two babies, how anyone could wish them or any other innocent creature on this planet harm is beyond me! 

The torture of animals is something that always upsets me, I have been moved to tears a fair few times in the course of my research into some causes. So don't worry, I won't be adding any triggering photos or sharing too many grotesque facts for my own mental well-being. The thing is there is simply no reason for animal testing in modern industry. 

In the past it was a case of insuring things were safe for us, humans. However, scientific advances have resulted in the ability to produce artificial human 'skin' and 'eyes' which can be used to study the body's natural properties and reactions. It's not just the advances that make these severely unpleasant 'tests' unnecessary, but when over 7'000 ingredients have already been proved as safe for consumers, is there really a need to keep formulating new ones? Either way, whether you're all for the constant quest for the beyond perfect mascara, shampoo or whatever, or not that fused, the fact remains that Animal toxicity tests are still not scientifically meaningful in anyway. Medically or cosmetically humans and animals are genetically different so results are meaningless. Yes that's right, those poor bunnies, guinea pigs, mice and rats are suffering for nothing! There is no 'greater good' to this process what so ever. Although I'm not going into all the shocking and repulsive details of animal testing I have to point out that animal abuse laws do not apply to lab animals - pretty much anything goes.  

Boycotting products that aren't cruelty-free is the easiest way to make a change. Animal testing has already been banned in some countries such as India, Norway and Israel. Although the opposite is true in China, where legally everything must have been tested, sick bastards! Anyway customers dictate the market, which means that every single cruelty free and vegan alternative purchased makes a different. Companies want to sell, so if market research were to show that cruelty free items were performing better there would be more motivation to change their policies.  

Remember that cruelty free only relates to the animal testing aspect of cruelty. Which is where the whole Vegan part comes in. Don't think for a moment you have to follow a vegan diet to shop vegan, I don't! The incentive to shop cruelty free is obviously all about the cute furry little things that populate our planet but you might be happy to know that vegan products come with some extra benefits! The first one being that vegan products are often the safest ones you can use on your skin. Did you know that your skin effectively eats what's on it? Bit gross, eh? Especially when you think about how clueless most of us are about what exactly is in things we smoother all over it; foundations, concealers, moisturizers, primers, bronzers, highlighters the list goes on! We naively trust that companies are using safe ingredients and hold our best interest at heart... Unfortunately that is not the case. It's a cut-throat world! A fact that means competition in the market can have a repercussions on us consumers as ingredients are often based on price in order to increase profit margins.

Parabens are often used to extend shelf life, these can be toxic and harmful to us. (Lab results have shown estrogenic activity.) The scientific jargon can be a little hard to understand and translate into lay terms so I'll let you all conduct your own research to whatever extent you like or just leave a comment/tweet/message if you'd be interested in follow up posts on the topic! For now the long story summed up in short is that harmful toxins are in many makeup products. If you study ingredient labels this is something you'll be able to see for yourself. Kind of worrying, right? Actually it's very worrying. Safe cosmetics use very low risky chemicals and all organic natural sources, and here's the key part, safe and vegan almost always overlap except in the case where animal by-products are used, obviously.

Vegan products are safe for us and the environment, win-win! If you have sensitive skin like I do then I promise you that the pros to using vegan products are immense. So I would definitely recommend making the switch for your own sake, if not to support another fantastic cause.  


How to identify what's what. 

Sometimes it can take a little bit of research to confirm to what extent a product is what. I know that we all live pretty hectic lives but hopefully we can all take that little bit of extra time into learning exactly what we're buying into. The quick fix to telling whether a product is vegan or cruelty-free is to look out for certain logos.

The small print found on the back of packaging can often tell you things about a product. However the words '100% Vegan', 'Suitable for Vegans' don't necessary mean a product is legit, same goes for 'Cruelty-free'. Any company can whack these words on their packaging without any labelling standards or organization actually verifying the claim.  Companies could use animal ingredients in the processing of a product even if they're not 'technically' contained in the final item. Technicalities are the real bitch here, like always I guess, so companies can still have tested raw ingredients on animals or have commissioned a third party to do so while still adding these labels. I would have thought that to be false advertising, but apparently not because of those good ol’ technicalities! This is where doing the research pays off, as I was disgusted to find out that my first few months of going cruelty-free weren't really cruelty at all - I'd been a victim to the farce of it all. 
Image Credit: PETA
The best way to buy with confidence is to look for products which proudly display their cruelty-free or vegan organisations logos, which obviously means their claims have been verified by the relevant party. It’s not as simple as finding one simple logo though, that would be too simple! There are several different logos and each mean a different thing and come with a certain degree of legitimacy. Don’t worry here comes your quick fire-guide starting from the bottom (least trustworthy after simply text) and working up to your new best friends the images that would never dare lie to you, ever cross their heart and hope to die. 

Image Credit: Vegan Society
So firstly we have the cruelty free bunny from PETA, this signifies that the company and their ingredient suppliers do not conduct, commission or pay for any tests on animals for ingredients, formulations or finished products. (If there ‘and vegan’ bit appears then the final product does not contain any animal ingredients. Sounds pretty thorough, but all a company has to do is complete a tiny questionnaire and sign a statement of assurance a process that causes my eyebrow raise into a suspicious expression. I wouldn’t trust those fat cats as far as I could throw them (which considering I can only lift a 20kg two handed isn’t far at all). My suspicions of this I’ll admit rather cutie of a bunny with his innocent-looking adorable heart bunny ears are enough to stop me from trusting in the presence of him (or her) when PETA fails to perform any tests or monitor any of those licensed with their logo. 

Image Credit:
However the same is true of both the Vegan symbols displayed here, who only require similar signed statements by the manufacturer but at least they do insist on documental evidence that their criteria is met… as well as a cheque.. But I’ll try not to be too sceptical, as it seems they all have to pay to license a logo.  Unfortunately at the moment there doesn’t seem to be any other authenticating organisations for vegan things, well not that I currently know of.

Image Credit: CCF
Next up is the CCF’s ickle rabbit and bold statement of what’s what, and when they say ‘not tested on animals’ they mean it, the companies that use it must have never ever ever tested any of their products or ingredients on animals, or had anyone test them on their before, or have suppliers that do AND must not use any ingredients derived from killing an animal or provided as a by-product from killed animals. That’s a tight criteria, which straight up means that all their affiliated companies make exclusively vegetarian products (Not vegan, using animal by-products doesn't always mean killing it, but can still spell cruelty - battery hens and eggs a prime example). The best part is that the CCF will not accredit companies unless all parent and subsidiaries have also been accredited so that you know that you’re not contributing any profit to animal testing at all. The catch is that the CCF don’t go further than paperwork in this process, but there is a legally binding contract on top of the simple Questionnaire and Application. Although there is no auditing system in place, the CCF does regularly monitor the accreditation of companies to ensure they stay up to scratch with their criteria. This is the logo I generally only buy by now in the cases where I haven’t conducted my own research. 

Image Credit: Leaping Bunny
Last but by no means least is the Leaping Bunny’s seal of approval that involves more than simply a bit of paperwork. Not only do companies and their ingredient suppliers have to commit to the Leading Bunny pledge of standards but  the companies also must agree to be audited once every three years by an independent assessor, making it the best logo to judge by for cruelty free products! 

Parents and Subsidiaries

As mentioned before the CCF is the only organisation to investigate parent and subsidiaries when handing out authentication, you may be wondering what this actually means or why I find it so important. Parent companies are just that, parents, imagine a family tree just made up of companies. The papa or mama being the parent while the sons and daughter are the subsidiaries. For instance L’Oreal gave birth to both the Body Shop and Urban Decay, it owns them, the implications of this are that L’Oreal makes/takes money off the top of each of these smaller brands. This is why the CCF is my key label to look for, as when buying either of the two cruelty-free brands, Urban Decay or Body Shop, you are still putting money into L’Oreal’s pocket; a pocket that throws millions towards animal testing other products of its own and other subsidiary brands. A process that defeats the original objective in my opinion.

So if you’re thinking of going cruelty-free, vegan or both I would definitely recommend it, in fact I almost command it of you all! Just be careful what you buy into, do some research and feel free to ask for advice from myself or any other cruelty-free/vegan blogger or anyone at all really! Going through and replacing one thing at a time gives you a chance to try out different brands, find what you like, grow your knowledge and avoid waste so next time you find yourself running low on something or other check out a cruelty-free and vegan alternative.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

App of the Month: UNICEF Tap Project

Since starting this blog, a whole 4 days ago, my brain has been buzzing with ideas for posts. Some of these will take more time and research to make a reality than others, and while I’m yet to sort a routine and have my move back to Cardiff in September looming, I’m afraid I’ll only be sharing the simplest results of my brain storm for the time being. But it can’t be the worst thing in the world starting off small, can it?

This week I’ll be introducing a feature I hope to continue with. You guessed it, ‘App of the month.’ Whatever gave it away!?
IMG_5504I, like many I’m sure, am not the ‘head in my phone’ stereotype that other generations would like to believe me to be. Of course, I’m guilty of my fair share of tweets, follows, reblogs and facebook stalking, however I am certain that I never spend more than an average 2 hours a day on my phone, including the 2 daily half hour phone calls I have with my boyfriend. The point is I miss a great deal of things that go on on social media, and find myself forever behind the ‘times’. (That however might change what with my now being a blogger and all.) Yet despite this I do own an iphone and like to explore the applications available to me as an apple and iphone user. Therefore each month I shall choose, share and review a new application, that I would recommend to any smartphone user.
On the subject of not always being on the phone, this month’s chosen application is the UNICEF tap project app. As many of you may already be aware UNICEF is a charity dedicated to improving the lives of children all over the globe, in any respect. For instance last year (2014) UNICEF helped immunize 40% of the world’s children, working in more than 190 countries. I didn’t even realize there were that many! But as google tells me that the modern world has 196 countries (including Taiwan) that means UNICEF is attempting to protect the children of practically all of them.

Now UNICEF are asking for an ickle bit of help, but not in the form of donations. (Although it is a worthwhile cause and I would always encourage it.) Instead of asking for money UNICEF is simply challenging you to go without your phone.
The UNICEF Tap Project app simply times how long you can go without touching your phone whilst popping up with interesting facts and figures, and for every fifteen minutes you bank one of their sponsors will provide one days worth of clean water. Potentially a huge difference considering that nearly a thousand children are believed to die everyday from disease caused by unsafe water or the lack of effective sanitation facilities.
IMG_5509This app has received some criticism due  to the link between it and Giorgio Armani’s ‘Acqua di Gio’ perfume advertising. Although personally I’m not one to begrudge Armani, as one of the apps main sponsors, for trying to sell me, especially after the amount of this company donated to charity as a result of it’s ‘Acqua for Life’ campaign. At the end of the day the brand has to survive and is going to want to make more money than it’s giving away. If free advertising and a positive image with the help of UNICEF is the way they plan on doing it, while helping thousands of children… Well, that’s fine by me.

While I have no intention of buying Armani’s perfume, I will continue to use the app, not so much to challenge myself to go without my phone, although time away from it can only be beneficial, but rather to do some good for the world and it’s children. For at this moment of time I cannot fund substantial donations of either money or time myself.

To get the app click here or visit the UNICEF website.

Price: FREE
Available on: All Platforms (Android, Apple, Windows etc.)
Genre: Lifestyle/Charity

Please remember to comment, like and follow my blog with BlogLovin.

Peace and Good vibes,


So You're Going to Uni, huh?

Yesterday marked the anniversary of A-level results day, meaning that thousands of you poor teens had to go and meet your doom, in the form of that all-important results slip. What with it being that time of year it seemed appropriate for my first ever blog post ever (big deal, okay?) to be about going to university, including some general advice and a lovely little check list of important things to take with you. Lies, I’ve actually included a MASSIVE list that includes everything you’ll ever need and more for anyone paranoid about forgetting something important because I’m nice like that.
So first of all, congratulations! Whether you got what you wanted/needed or not, well done, A-Levels are bloody tough and you got through it. Unfortunately not everyone gets the grades they deserve as exams and coursework can occur when other things in your life are falling apart or you can be unlucky enough to sit a really shitty paper. So don’t feel bad for not doing as well as you feel you should have because no matter how hard you try, and how much you revise somethings are still left to the luck of the draw, because life’s a bitch and that’s the way things happen. You can still go amazing places and do great things not matter your grades, but at the end of the day there’s always resits if that’s what you want.

Moving onwards, those of you that have chosen to pack up and head near or far to University this post is for you. Whether first choice or insurance, university is a great experience in every which way, so get excited! (You are allowed to be a bit nervous too). For you the work has only just started, however personally I thought it all got a whole lot easier after A-Levels, man they were tough!
So apart from sorting out student finance, accommodation, etc, you have to go out and get everything you’ll need for your new home! So here I am, like superman, ready to save the day!

I dug way back into the past, and found my original list of everything I packed for university way back in 2013, so here it goes.

You’ll have to be incredibly lucky to have anything but a standard single first year at uni, and for the most of you new sheets and duvets etc are a must if you don’t want to have to be carrying one set back and forth every time you visit home. But then again maybe buying new stuff for home and taking the old to uni would be a better choice for those of you who might get home sick pretty easily as familiar bedding and home smells can be very soothing on those first sober nights.

-Bottom sheet, Duvet Cover and Pillow Cases (I would recommend at least 2 sets if not 3, as when exam periods strike you might not be able keep up with regular washing and no one likes stinky sheets)
-Singe Duvet
-Pillow x2
-Warm Blanket/Quilt (This is a must if you want to save on heating bills during the winter!)
Hot Water Bottle (for same reason as above)
-Mattress Protector or ‘Under Blanket’ (Something to help make a potentially horribly old mattress provide a better night’s sleep and protect from leaving or having to sleep on any potential dodgy stains.)
-Sleeping Bag

You want your room to feel like, well YOUR room, so I would definitely recommend taking things to add that personal flourish. This kinda thing will also probably help you feel settled quicker.

-Photos and/or photo frames
-Alarm Clock
-Door Wedge (wedging your door open means you’ll be able to see people arriving and create a more social atmosphere, rather than closing yourself off from all the creepy strangers you’ll be living with for 9 months.. Don’t let them stay creepy strangers for too long!)
-Name Plaque for door
-Desk Lamp
-Candles / Incense / Reed Diffuser (check if allowed with accommodation)
-Towel Set (I would recommend 2 or 3 big towels for showering/bathing and 2 hand towels for your bathroom or en-suite)
Clothes Wash Basket
-Personalized Mug

I would hope clothes, and having something to wear would be an obvious one and that you can decide for yourself what outfits, pajama sets or nighties you want to take with you but here’s some additional things you might forget:

-Dressing Gown (Believe me after 2 months you will not have the effort to get dressed every morning before walking into your shared bathroom/lounge/kitchen so taking something comfortable warm and easy to sling on if you want to dash out your room for 2 minutes is a must, if you want to modest that is. There’s always be someone comfortable walking around naked, and it was not me.)
-Jumpers and Hoodies galore! (That thing I said earlier about saving on heating, yeah same applies here)
-Freshers outfits! (Look up what events are going on over the freshers week/fortnight and plan outfits in advance and take options! You don’t know what you’ll feel comfortable on the night and who you’ll be sitting next to in the taxi to, you don’t want to feel frumpy in comparison to your too hot to trot new flatmate or feel too overdressed. But at the end of the day take things you know you will be comfortable in!)
-Evening dress (Not the same as freshers outfit, this is your posh dress for any Christmas society meals you get invited to and can’t afford something new for because you’ve spent all your loan)
Interview clothes (Once you’re settled you might want to apply for a part time job)
Swim wear
-Gym things or sports clothes and trainers (Societies!!)
Waterproof shoes
-Shoe polish kit (Your mother/father/parent/guardian/maid won’t be there to make your shoes all shiny for you.)

This is self explanatory really, you need copies of everything!

-Copy of Tenancy Agreement
-University Acceptance Letter
-Copies of certificates
-Passport and/or Driving License (Provisional or otherwise you need a form of ID)
-National Insurance Card/Number
-Details of vaccination history (You’ll be registering with a new GP when you get up there)
Medical Documents/Papers
-Insurance Documents
-Passport Photos (take 4, you’ll never know when you’ll need them)
-Relevant Student Finance Information/Documents
-Cheque Book, Paying in Book, Debit/Credit Cards, Bank or Building Society Information
-Travel Discount Cards (for instance a 16-25 Railcard, this will save you so much money and I would suggest buying a 3 year one straight away)
-CV and references

When it comes to all things electrical you will have to check with your university/accommodation in regard to what’s allowed. For my first 2 years chip fryers, grills and lamps were forbidden.
-Extension lead (You will need at least one, as plugs can be in limited supply or in ridiculous unusable places – make sure whatever you buy is surge protected)

-Mobile Phone (as if anyone would forget that)
Headphones (Noise cancelling if you can!)
-All your chargers and spare batteries
-A Small Black and White printer will be your best friend, they’re so handy!! (Don’t forget the ink and paper to go with)
Memory Stick
-Speakers or docking station
-USB lead
-Hair Dryer (You can do better than the 9am Lecture Wet Hair look)

Let’s face it during freshers week you’re going to get the drunker than you have ever been in your life, and accidents are bound to happen. If it’s not a drunken blood spill then it’ll be ‘I’ve cooked before burn’ or just a nasty slip with a knife when trying to get the seed out an avocado. Either way it’s best to have those plasters ready for any potential disasters!

-Any Prescription Medicines (take at least a month’s worth as you’ll be so busy being social you’ll forget all about picking up repeats)
Contraception (Uni is notorious for the drinking and the one night stands so be protected! From STIs, not just pregnancy)
Multi-vitamins (you probably won’t be eating properly for the first week and they’ll help protect you from fresher’s flu!)
Cold and Flu Tablets/Medicine (Fresher’s flu is real, and that bitch is coming for you!)
-Throat Lozenges
-Plasters for disasters!
-Antiseptic cream
-Nail Scissors
-Numbers of local doctors and/or surgeries (Different surgeries and universities have different ways of dealing with students and sometimes it can take a while to find your local or be seen, therefore it’s best not to wait til you feel like you’re on your deathbed to try and find this kind of info)
Remember 111 is the UK number for non-emergency medical advice.

You need to eat, and no student can afford to live off takeaways or beans on toast. Learn to cook, whether it’s from your momma/papa/older sibling or experimenting with a Jamie Oliver cookbook.

-Kettle (one may be provided, or everyone in your flat could turn up with one but be prepared to go without your first-thing cup of tea/coffee in the morning! Same goes for a toaster and toast.)
-Small Casserole Dish
-Small Frying Pan
-Saucepans (one small and one medium)
Tin Opener
-Flat Baking Tray
-Bottle Opener (There’s going to be nothing worse than not being able to pre-drink because you have no way of getting into your beers!)
-Cork Screw
Tin Opener (Because you will be having baked beans or spaghetti hoops at some point)
Potato Peeler-Cheese Grater
-Wooden Spoon
-Mixing Bowl
-Measuring Jug
-Microwavable Bowl and Plate
-Water Jug and/or Filter (Just in case you don’t like the taste of the water and keeping a jug in your room helps remind you to keep hydrated, especially when you don’t want to have to leave your bed because of that hangover)
-Chopping Knives
-Colander (to drain rice, vegetables, pasta – just because so many people don’t seem to know what one is)
Chopping Board
-Tee Towels
-Kitchen Scissors
-Then the obvious cutlery, crockery and glasses
-Tupperware (Great for storing leftovers)
Sandwich Bags
-Plastic Drinks Bottle
-Biscuit Tin
-Tin Foil and/or Cling Film
-Sugar Jar
-Recipe Book! (or a collection of your cookery lesson notes/instructions)
-Lunch Box
-Washing Up Liquid

You have no maid, so the same applies here as it does with the learning to cook. Learn to use a washing machine, and a hoover if you don’t already know.

-Washing Powder
-Fabric Softener
-Laundry Bag
-Drying Rack (the uni may provide one, and even if you have a tumble dryer a drying rack could save you some money in the long run)
Coat Hangers
-Sponges and Scourers
-Small Tub for hand washing

-As many Gift or loyalty cards as you can possibly collect from friends and family
-Extra storage
-Books and Novels
-Pocket Organiser
-Holdall, Weekend Bag or Mini Suitcase
-Permanent Markers (You might want to name your stuff)
-Cards for ring of fire!
-Map of the area
-Local Taxi numbers
I think that’s everything, phew!

The thing to remember is you’re not necessarily going to have a great deal of storage space in your first year, so it’s up to you to prioritize! There will be certain things that you might wish to leave to get once you’re up in your new dwelling and have a better idea of how things are.  I wish you the best of luck for the start of your journey and if you thought this post was helpful in the slightest please let me know, as it’s my first one!