Please excuse the silence here on the blog while we are dealing with and following along with Tropical Storm Harvey and the devastating flooding situation in Houston. My family is doing great. We are dry, safe, and without a drop of water inside.
I have friends who’s houses have flooded, are completely stranded in their homes or have been separated from family. So yes, we’re doing great.
Caitlin, who lives in Lafayette, LA, and writes the great blog EcoCajun, put together a great list of how you can help the people of Houston and surrounding areas, affected by Hurricane Harvey.
“Being so close to Texas, and with Louisiana potentially in Harvey’s crosshairs this week, the devastation is all I can think about. After the historic flooding in Lafayette and Baton Rouge last August, it’s even more heartbreaking to watch Texas go through the same thing. The emotions are still so raw for so many in South Louisiana who have recovered and are still recovering from last year.”
You know, some people think it’s really silly to refuse straws and shop local. They “kind of care” about the environment, and yes, they’ll agree climate change is real, but it’s just not enough for them to change any of their habits.
Keeping our environment safe isn’t enough. Reducing global warming (yes, that ol’ term!) isn’t enough.
So, a Not Made in China challenge is CRAZY right? Why would anyone give up shopping away on Amazon for something like that!??
“Anna, we don’t care about sustainability! We care about cheap stuff!”
However, here’s something “awesome” that has just been revealed, that some of you might actually care about:
Your made in China clothes could be made in North Korea.
Yes, you read that right.
It’s becoming more and more common for Chinese textile businesses to take advantage of the cheap labor across the border, yet still labeling items “Made in China” according to a recent report from Reuters.
“Textiles were North Korea’s second-biggest export after coal and other minerals in 2016, totaling $752 million, according to data from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).”
The fascinating thing about that is that all of North Korea’s factories are state-owned. Remind me now, how do we all like the state of North Korea?
“In North Korea, factory workers can’t just go to the toilet whenever they feel like, they think it slows down the whole assembly line. They aren’t like Chinese factory workers who just work for the money. North Koreans have a different attitude – they believe they are working for their country, for their leader.”
Would you, as an American, sleep well at night knowing that YOU helped fund North Korea’s nuclear program?
Our purchases matter. EVERY DAMN TIME. For so many reasons.
I may be a tree-hugging, tag checking, straw refusing liberal, but at least I know who and what I am funding with my dollars.
Do you know what makes shopping local so wonderful and extra awesome?
It’s that behind almost every brand committed to fair and local manufacturing stands a woman or man with a vision to make the world better. No bullshit. This is what I find over and over with made right (here) brands.
Some are motivated by sustainability, some by employing their neighbors , some want to bring craftsmanship back. Some, like the founders of Sweedie Kids, found that with their scarf-like bibs, they could make a big impact on the life of bigger kids with disabilities.
“We care about giving, and we do that through “Sweedie Dreams”. When you purchase a Big Kid Bib, you are contributing to Sweedie Dreams because it’s not just a product, it represents our passion for serving those with special needs. For each Big Kid Bib we sell, we give $1 to an organization tied to serving those with different abilities.”
Nowadays it’s not that hard to find cute, made in USA bibs for babies, but what makes Sweedie Kids the most ethical choice is that they’re also making bibs for a market that is so often forgotten. For children who are so often forgotten.
Super absorbent, cool designs and made from Oeko-Tex certified fabrics (i.e. certified safe, sustainable, ethical materials), these bibs get the job done no matter the age of the wearer.
August has been modeling these bibs since he was about three months old. I wouldn’t go as far as saying they make drooling cool, but maybe just a tad bit more fashionable. (They’re also pretty great for when we practice drinking out of a glass. Let’s just say that not all the water ends up in baby’s tummy just yet!)
I once got into a fight with the CEO of the company where I work over the question if the industry or the consumers are responsible for the current environmental destruction in this world. He said consumers like me (and I quote) are and I told him he was dead wrong; industry leaders like him are. (No, didn’t get fired, though some colleagues feared for my survival, and I’m pretty sure I’m on the black list.)
If I had to put a number on it I’d say the industry carries 75% of the responsibility and we only 25. At best, I’d accept a 50/50. Here’s why.
Heading home from work, super late and hungry, I might stop at a coffee shop or gas station for human fuel. Pretty fast, I will discover that there is 1. No tasty vegan food (and no, kale chips don’t count) and 2. Everything is wrapped in or packed in plastic. Not minimalistic style plastic either – huge boxes, double wrap. Should conscious consumers skip the snack because the industry only provides us with bad eco-choices?
There are countless situations like this, where consumers “have no choice” but to swallow the plastic wrap. Like, for example, when
The grocery store automatically prints a BPA-coated receipt and hands it to you like you want it.
The airline serves you and millions of other travelers factory farmed beef on a one-time-use plastic plate. (I’m pretty sure that what isn’t consumed on the flight is thrown out, so there’s no point in “zero wasting” this one, unless you emailed before and told them not to make a meal for you.)
The municipality where you live decide not to invest in safe bike lanes, side walks and public transport so you can safely skip the car.
The oil companies work full time to make legislation that prevents solar power and electrical vehicles from taking off.
There are no organic strawberries at the store, but you promised to make strawberry cake so you have to buy conventional ones (in a plastic container).
Tell me CEO, how are these eco-disasters my responsibility?
A few years ago we didn’t know we wanted tablets. Apple invented the I-pad, and suddenly consumers decided they needed one. Industry took the lead, consumers blindly followed suddenly not even remembering how life was before there were I-pads.
If only the industry would be as inventive when it comes to environmentally sustainable practices as it is when it comes to launching new products, the world would look quite different (excluding you Elon Musk!). Consumers all over would automatically buy the eco-friendly choice that was presented to them.
Since I doubt that the industry will start acting all “eco” on their own (I just saw that Snapple now comes in a plastic bottle instead of glass! Snapple!!!) we, the conscious consumers, must again act and invest our enthusiasm and energy. This time into generating emails, tweets, posts and making calls. We must
Urge our favorite brands to manufacture HERE.
Tell our local grocer that we need more bulk bins.
Convince clothing stores that receipts and printed coupons are so 1990.
Ask our local eateries to ditch the straws and disposable kids’ cups.
Go to the town hall meeting, demand better infrastructure.
Etcetera, etcetera. AND, of course, we must continue to vote with our dollars, by buying everything made right (here). Our 25% (or 50, whatever) does make a difference – I’ve blogged about us taking charge and changing the market, the industry (and the world) for three years.
It’s time for the industry to wake up, take responsibility and act.
But, then came the question; If we are to buy fewer leather bags – are there any durable, good-looking, made in USA, vegan handbags out there we can buy instead?
When it comes to “pleather”, a plastic, leather-looking material, often found at H&M and Forever 21, I have one thing to say: no thanks. It breaks, it doesn’t look as good, and we don’t like plastic anyway, now do we? There is a new material in town though, Piñatex, which looks a lot like leather, is durable and also eco-friendly. Piñatex fibres are the by-product of the pineapple harvest so no extra land, water, fertilizers or pesticides are required to produce them. However, shops are not exactly overflowing with this material yet, and why if we don’t want leather would we have bags that look like leather?
I say screw that! Instead why not venture out and pick one of these five nothing-to-do-with-leather materials:
Cork is super sustainable and as it turns out, super stylish.
Did you know that a cork tree that has its bark removed every nine years will absorb up to five times as much CO2 as a tree that doesn’t? In other words using the cork is good for the tree, good for the environment and good for, mainly, Spain’s and Portugal’s economies.
One brand to keep in mind if you’re into the look and durability of cork, is Nest Pure. Handcrafted, high quality bags and accessories, made right here in Minnesota. In addition to the main material, cork, the bags come with various colors of organic cotton.
2. Recycled Sails
It may sound like a bit of a stretch but old, no longer usable sails from boats become the most awesome tote bags up in Maine. You may have read my blog post a few weeks ago about Seabags of Maine and my new turtle tote? If not, check it out here for more details about this cool brand.
PS. The fabrics are not really recycled, they’re “reused” :)
What’s wrong with the look of cotton? Actually, nothing as far as I’m concerned! I’ve been sporting my cotton tote bag quite a bit on the blog actually.
Canvas is made from either linen, hemp or cotton – all natural materials – and make for durable fabrics when waxed. What about the wax you say? Well, yes, using beeswax means this fabric is not vegan, so I’m cheating a little, but it is still far from the eco-nightmare of leather. In my opinion, using beeswax makes much more sense than using a poly-based (fossil fuel) wax. But that’s just me.
Newton Supply Co. out of Austin, Texas, makes the cutest waxed canvas bags. (Some do come with natural color, veg-tanned leather details so look out for that.) This company is extra awesome because they’re partnered with Open Arms, a division of the Austin-based Multicultural Refugee Coalition which empowers refugee women by providing living wage employment. Cool.
5. Seat Belts
It may be unusual, but yes, Harvey’s makes bags out of seat belts, in sunny California. There are endless styles, colors and sizes to chose from. My good friend has a backpack, which is lightweight, well made and sized “just right”.
The company started out using actual old seat belts, salvaged from broken cars, which was super sustainable! I’m pretty sure the current handbags are made from newly woven “seat belts” though. Still, this unusual “fabric” makes for a fun, vegan handbag.
6. Bonus Tip: If all else fails, go second hand
Here’s what, if you can’t stand carrying a purse that doesn’t look like leather or in fact IS made of leather, yet you’re not keen on another cow dying and more pollutants being released; second hand will be your saving grace. Mom’s or grandma’s closet is normally a great place to start browsing! It’s made, it’s there, give that leather bag a new home.
(And yes, I do know that a vegan would never go for option number 4 or 6, but not all leather-skipping readers are. It’s all about inspiration to shop differently ;))
Anyone still in the mood for a leather bag made in China??!