Now, I have a pretty good idea of where, how and by what kind of employee my (recently bought) clothes were made. I know this because I read tags like a maniac and spend the money necessary to only add small batch, made in USA fashion and Fair Trade styles to my closet. Not exactly news to anyone perhaps.
What might come as news to some, is that 80% of the world’s garment workers are women. This means that the majority of people who died or were injured in the factory collapse were women. Underpaid, overworked women, without benefits or sufficient needs to take care of their families. See, fast fashion is indeed a women’s issue.
Yes, because of that 80% statistic, but also because women in general tend to shop a lot more than men do. H&M, Zara, Gap, Banana, Macy’s, Michael Kors, Coach, Fossil and all stores like them, appeal mostly to women. The majority of fashion bloggers are women too. “Style of the week here we come!”
Many privileged women in the west go on marches, speak up for equality and some wear pussy hats. And that’s great, since, frankly, women still don’t have what men have. But what the privileged woman often forget is that her clothes were made by a woman across the ocean who can never take the time off to worry about knitting a pussy hat.
Marching for equality in an Old Navy top anyone?
Women’s rights are human rights, yes. It shouldn’t be a trendy (all of a sudden!) issue because massive amounts of (privileged) dimwits voted for an orange man (who says women have the “potential” to do great things according to his daughter) but a world issue, no matter who is president. What women do here, will always affect a woman there.
Thus, if you consider yourself a feminist, you cannot wear fast fashion.
When you shop fair, on the other hand, you are taking a stand and making an impact, demanding fair treatment of all the sisters (and brothers!) you’ll never know.
Take the pledge and ask “who made this garment?” next time you’re shopping. Only buy if and when you like the answer.
Despite all the negativity surrounding us lately, a joyous season is upon us. I don’t know about you, but if we are to fiercely fight for what’s right in the coming four years, I think we need a nice break and to sit back and relax this Christmas, knowing that Obama and Biden are still in office.
Last week I shared an important post about where to donate your dollars this Holiday Season to make an impact and spread some eco-love. This week, I’d like to focus on promoting some ethical, eco-friendly brands, who just like us, openly supported a Hillary Clinton presidency and stand against hate and racism. These brands will help you give excellent, sustainable, made right (here) gifts to yourself or others worthy of a treat.
1. Bead & Reel
Bead & Reel is an ethical online boutique offering eco-friendly, cruelty free (vegan), sweatshop free fashion. Fair trade, organic, recycled material, female run brands – whatever you feel strongly about, they’ve got it. They’re good at listing where everything is made, so you can shop local if you want to too.
2. National Geographic
Can I just give a shout out to National Geographic? With their fantastic (yet frightening) environmental series Years of Living Dangerously and the new Leo movie Before the Flood, they sent a clear message about voting for the climate this election. A magazine subscription might not be the most zero waste gift, but one I’d sure like anyway! (Or go ahead an purchase Years of Living Dangerously on I-tunes!)
3. Rackk and Ruin
Rackk and Ruin is a Berlington, VT (Bernie’s home base) jewelry maker focusing on using natural materials like leather, feathers and metal in her handmade pieces. She’s offering safety pin gold earrings right now as well, so you can show off your anti-Trump feelings.
4. Skin Deep Naturals
You might remember Skin Deep Naturals from when I got my reusable, organic cotton make-up remover rounds earlier this year. However, there’s more to the brand than that. It’s a natural skin care line using safe ingredients straight from nature, without any synthetic ingredients or preservatives. Most ingredients are organic and fair trade certified and all are hate-free.
5. Seltzer Goods
Seltzer Goods are so much fun! They’re definitely on the “nice to have” scale of things, but one deserves a fun and colorful treat now and then. Tote bags, magnets, pens and more, with most everything being made right here. I bought myself a striped cat tote from them earlier this year, which is made in USA, 100% cotton and so cute.
6. Tabii Just
This zero waste, feminist designer just launched her fall collection, and it’s looking classy. Tabii Just is based and made in New York. I scored a gorgeous scarf made from scrap fabric this fall and I couldn’t be happier with it (maybe it’s the cute ball hem!?)
7. The Little Market
The Little Market is an online shop where customers can purchase handmade, fair trade products made by (female) artisans around the world. Every purchase, whether it be a blanket, accessory, candle, baby beanie or little apron, generates meaningful income for the artisans and their families. Lauren Conrad is one of the founders.
I just modeled my new shirt from Tradlands in my last post here on the blog! They’re all about perfectly crafted women’s shirts, keeping it small business and always made in USA with love (not hate). Check out their soft flannels or business button-ups.
Please readers, if you know of any great eco-brands, who openly and proudly voted against hate and bigotry, please share them with me in the comments! I sure can’t keep track of them all by myself ;)
In addition to voting with your dollars and buying what’s right, you should also avoid shopping at places that did support a Trump presidency (it’s a search away). Funny enough, the sustainable community is very unlikely to have done so, whereas, places like Hobby Lobby (Chinese junk store) and Chick-file (mass produced chicken) probably did.
If you’re more into zero waste gifts, check out my other posts on gifting and donating.
I believe most of you reading this blog are in agreement with me that buying locally made products supports and maintains a strong local economy. I also believe that price is the only reason an American would buy a made in China product over a made in USA one.
Imagine that you have a choice between two identical sweaters, one made here, one made in China. The price is the same, the quality is the same and they’re sitting next to each other on the same shelf at the store. I bet you would pick the one made in USA.
Now, let’s say the imported sweater is ten dollars cheaper. Some of you would now switch, some would not, claiming that ten dollars off of an 80 dollar sweater doesn’t matter. But what if the made in China sweater was free? Yes, completely FREE of charge! Now, which one would you pick?
Hold that thought for a second and let’s turn our heads toward developing countries, applying the same logic. What do you think happens when companies like TOMS overflow a developing market with free shoes? What do you think happens when your donated clothes arrive in a less fortunate country? Do the people there still go shopping for locally and sustainably made?
Let’s talk about TOMS a bit, just because they’re probably the most famous of all “social entrepreneurs”. You think you’re doing a great thing, buying one overpriced pair, while TOMS donates another to a child in need.
Unfortunately, the reality looks a bit different. Instead of helping, you’re actually:
Buying a pair of shoes you don’t need i.e. wasting resources (come on, admit it).
Making the American CEO of TOMS richer.
Importing a pair of shoes from China. (Go ahead, check the tag. Pretty much all pairs are made in Chinese non-fair-trade-certified factories and shipped across the ocean disrupting marine life.)
Helping destroy local shoe making businesses in developing countries.
Oops. Not so great.
Now, I don’t think TOMS was started with some evil intention to keep third world countries poor, nor do I think you wanted to help them do that, when you bought your shoes. I simply think TOMS misunderstood their own efforts and lots of people believed (or believe) in their concept.
For generations “we” have tried giving aid to poor countries in order to “help” them out of poverty. And obviously, it’s not helping. I haven’t heard any sunshine stories about how riches ever came from aid (talking about all that free stuff).
And it makes sense. No one would invest in a local rice plantation if there were bags of free imported rice available. No one would want to start a local manufacturing plant if everything people needed (and wanted) was already available for free.
The cool thing is that we can make better choices in our everyday lives to make sure we don’t contribute to the broken aid system! Here are some ideas on what you can do to make a positive impact:
Stop randomly donating money. Make sure you know what your money is used for, and who profits the most from it. If you are unsure, you’re better off keeping your dollars away from any organization or church meddling in another country’s business. This does not include properly handled emergency aid.
Stop over-shopping. By limiting your shopping, especially of clothes and shoes, you can avoid “donations” that contribute to the mountains of items overflowing developing countries. Quality over quantity, you know. If you need to donate, give it to a local homeless shelter or a resale shop.
Shop second hand. Keep other people’s bad choices from ending up as donations!
Shop fair. The only way to HELP developing countries grow strong economies is to purchase their fairly made (non-sweat-shop) products (i.e them creating jobs). I’m talking about fair trade clothing from Kenya, organic chocolate from Peru, unique jewelry made by artisans in Haiti* or something as simple as choosing the local beer and hotel chain when you travel. You know; doing it fair, shopping it small and keeping it real.
Without local manufacturing and thriving businesses, a community, no matter which country it’s in, can never rise above poverty.
If you were tempted (or secretly picked) the “free” made in China sweater instead of the 80 dollar American one in the scenario at the beginning of this post – you know this is true.
* To me, the optimal “fair” shopping is when you shop items made close to where you live, minimizing shipments. So if you’re in Europe, support African Fair Trade, if you’re in the States go for Central American goods etc.
I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, not knowing how to “report” on the topic of underwear I’ve bought. Not to mention how or if to include a picture of them on the blog. I do enjoy a fun shoot and a good selfie, but I have to draw the line somewhere. Modeling undies? No thanks from me and, probably, a no thanks from you!
I still have to blog about this brand though that my husband and I both love: PACT.
Anyone who gets to wear (or model for that matter) their stuff will be happy. PACT is super soft, organic, non-GMO, fair trade cotton undergarments in a variation of prints and colors. All fabrics are free from toxic dyes and pesticides.
Just because a garment is labeled as green, sustainable, or eco-friendly does not make it so. In order to certify the organic content in their apparel and to ensure that all their clothing is made ethically and sustainably, PACT is partnered with OCS (Organic Content Standard), GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), and Fair Trade USA.
As they’re committed to making only organic clothing, it makes economic and environmental sense for PACT to manufacture where the organic cotton they use is harvested; that means India and Turkey.
You all know that I am all about shopping local, and I love supporting US manufacturing but as you can see, in this case, I’m promoting a product not made in USA! So, what’s up with that?
Well, since the clothing they make is always sweat-shop-free and child-labor-free and the work they provide, in less fortunate areas of the world, actually betters the communities and makes a positive impact on lives, I am all about it – locally made or not. True and honest fair trade is an awesome thing!
Underwear is a “need to have” not a “want to have” in my opinion, and it is one of those items that has to be unnoticeable too; “Am I wearing undies or not?” type deal. So finding a comfy, cute AND ethically made pair is quite the score. And an important one!
This is the forth post in a five piece made in USA style series, featuring pictures of my beautiful friend Mary Beth. This week jewelry is on the agenda.
It is interesting because jewelry is both a sustainability hero and a sustainability zero if you ask me.
The cool (hero) part about the bling we own and wear is that it rarely goes out of style, and if it does, it is likely to come back in a few years, allowing us to wear it with confidence again. Jewelry lasts forever and no one can tell if a piece is old or brand new, making it a very sustainable and eco-friendly accessory to be worn over and over again, and passed down thru generations. Buying second hand clothing can be very intimidating, but thrifting for jewelry, I find is much easier. It is by far my favorite way to add new pieces to my accessories wardrobe. Not only is it the best eco-choice, but there are endless bargains to be made!
Jewelry is such a great way to complete an outfit, to make it feel more festive and put together. For the Made in USA style series, Mary Beth has been wearing artisan pieces she loves, in timeless designs.
Supporting small vendors, local artisans and craftsmen is definitely the next best option to buying second-hand jewelry in my opinion. The Purple Toadstool earrings ($20) we introduced in the first post are crafted in Texas, and the Gleeful Peacock necklace ($32) from the second post is handmade in Oklahoma. Two great quality, made in USA options with incredibly cheerful brand names!
Moving on to the not so great (zero) list of jewelry; at the top spot are diamonds (they’re not this girl’s best friends).
Roughly 49% of diamonds originate from Central and Southern Africa. Some of the politically unstable countries there are dealing with revolutionary groups who have taken control of the diamond mines, using proceeds from diamond sales to finance their operations. This is what is referred to as “blood diamonds” or “conflict diamonds”, which I am sure you’ve heard about (and maybe you’ve seen the movie with my eco-hero Leo DiCaprio).
According to what I have read, blood diamonds only constitute as low as 1% of all diamonds traded (2014 numbers), so buying a blood diamond by mistake is unlikely to happen. The problem still remains though, as it is of relative ease to smuggle diamonds across African borders and there are always buyers.
Diamonds are also considered clean when mined in nations that are not in a state of war or conflict, but whose diamonds have been mined using violent, unethical methods. Every day, more than a million diamond diggers in Africa endure dangerous and unfair working conditions, earning less than $1 a day, which is not enough to feed their families or sustain a healthy lifestyle. That sounds like “conflict diamonds” to me!
With 49% of diamonds being from Africa, it is safe to assume that about half of the diamonds we see at the jewelers in the west are “clean”, but nonetheless unethical, slave labor stones. (Canada is a big producer as well, where I am sure better employment standards are used for diamond mining.)
With the help of Fairtrade International, a fair trade diamond standard is in the early stages of development, but not in place yet. (A Fair Trade (US), or Fairtrade (Europe) Certification ensures that the producers in developing countries get a fair price for their products. The goal of fair trade is to reduce poverty, provide for the ethical treatment of workers and farmers, and promote environmentally sustainable practices.)
Most of the silver in the world is produced in Mexico, and China ranks third largest supplier, after Peru. When it comes to gold, China is the biggest consumer AND the biggest producer in the world. Which brings us to the next zero on this list: gold.
According to Fairtrade International, ninety percent of the labor force involved in gold mining is made up of artisanal and small-scale miners who produce between 200-300 tons of gold each year. Around 70% of this is used to make jewelry, which consumers across the globe spend a whopping $135 billion a year on buying! (Don’t get me started on our overconsumption issues now! Jewelry will NEVER be a “need to have”.)
I do worry about the miners, in terms of fair wages and working conditions, but also about the environmental impact of gold mining. According to Brilliant Earth, by the use of dirty practices such as open pit mining and cyanide heap leaching, gold mining companies generate about 20 tons of toxic waste for every gold ring made (0.333 ounce of gold). And of course, there are also serious health risks associated with improper handling of toxic mercury and cyanide.
Small-scale miners and artisans, are at the end of a long and complex supply chain and for those working in remote locations, it can be difficult to sell their gold at a fair price. Fairtrade Certified Gold is the world’s first independent ethical certification system for gold. The Standards include strict requirements on working conditions, health and safety, handling chemicals, women’s rights, child labor and protection of the environment.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t run into Fair Trade gold very often. And, most of the time, it is impossible to tell by the tag, how and where the raw materials of a piece of jewelry were made. Facts such as these are important to know, and should be kept in mind when one shops for jewelry. Maybe you don’t need another 20 tons of toxic waste on your finger, huh? Everything has an environmental footprint.
Do you have a favorite handmade, artisan, eco-friendly, locally produced jewelry brand? Please leave a comment with a link to it, so we all can get inspired!
There’ll be a necklace again in next week’s post, I assure you, but mostly we’ll be talking shopping and smart outfits for busy moms. Come back and see us!