In 2010 I made a commitment for one year to buy only products that were locally produced, second hand (charity NOT pawn broker) or Fair Trade.
When I published commitment this on Facebook I was actually quite surprised by the backlash I received.
Being the stubborn person I am this only made me more determined. Fortunately because I didn’t have to buy anything electronic that year I managed the year quite easily. Despite this most of the people I spoke to about it, while thinking it admirable, still thought it was too hard for them.
It certainly did take some additional research on my part and more planning ahead of time- which was actually also great for my budget because it made me think – do I REALLY need this?
At the time I also sought to make my research available to other people who might not have the time to do the research but who might be willing to make some changes if the information was available.
Thank you to those who gave me encouragement in this.
The recent tragedy in a sweatshop in Bangladesh has brought this issue to the attention of many more people. It is such a pity that it takes a something terrible like this to shine light on such an important issue but it is great to see so many more people now responding. If nothing else it makes me feel like less of a crazy hippie!
So what can we do to ensure that we are NOT supporting horrible human rights abuses like sweatshops?
1. Buy second-hand/ recycled/ free-cycled
Actually No.1 should probably be “Don’t Buy: Where possible reuse.” We have too much stuff already and we can’t just keep pulling new stuff out of the earth and dumping the used stuff forever!
If you must purchase then buying second hand from a charity shop has double benefit of recycling AND supporting the good work of the charity and the volunteers who run it. As someone who works with people at risk of poverty in Australia I would caution against supporting pawn brokers and those shops who are thinly disguised versions (i.e. Cash Converters) because I have seen the negative impact of these shops first hand.
Why not also join a local Freecycle network? I haven’t collected anything from Freecycle but I have given a whole bunch of stuff away that may have otherwise ended up in the hard rubbish.
2. Buy local
Where you cant (or won’t) buy second-hand (second hand tomatoes don’t sound great!) then where possible local is always best. In addition to our good labour laws this also has a positive environmental impact because your product hasn’t had to travel hundreds of kms to reach you with all the carbon cost associated with that travel. HOWEVER (why is there always a however) I personally cannot support locally grown sugar, cotton, rice or leather.
2. Buy Fair Trade
If you can’t recycle, up-cycle or buy local then buy Fair Trade Certified.
There are many companies that will claim ethical standards but for me it matters a lot if they are the ones who audit the “strict standards” or if they are getting independently audited. One of my colleagues lived for many years in China and said factories there were very good at cleaning up practises when sales reps came for a scheduled visit. Fair Trade certified products on the other hand can be audited without notice.
Also Fair Trade checks not just the factories but the whole supply chain! Many “ethical” factories get their cotton from farms which force workers into bonded labor (ie. slavery). And that’s what so good about Fair Trade because the WHOLE supply chain is checked from raw product the point of sale.
So how can you find this stuff?
And for a list of your current favourite clothing brands that are sweatshop free: www.ethicalclothingaustralia.org.au
I know, there are SO few!
I also do a bit of ethical “pinning” that you can follow on Pinterest
So for those of you who are interested in supporting Fair Trade with more than just a change of coffee brand let me suggest that you take a look at the following sites. This list is in no way exclusive, I trawled through hundreds but what I was looking for in a site was basic stuff and easy to navigate sites. Product wise I looked for practical items that were not too “hippie” and sites that didn’t sell a whole lot of junk. So here it is:
- www.bboheme.com (shoes)
- www.commonthreadz.org (check out the t-shirts with children’s drawings on them)
- www.edunonline.com (high end fashion)
- www.ethicalwares.com (shoes)
- www.ecochiccollection.co.uk (jewellery)
- www.tompkinspoint.com (for the boys)
- www.piccalilly.co.uk (for the bubs)
- www.revivestore.com (while there is a lot of average they do stock this brand: http://www.ethosparis.us)
And for those of you seeking Australian prices:
- www.moochies.com.au (pjs)
Please feel free to comment below if any of these links aren’t working or if you know of/ have found cool new ways to support recycling, fair trade, local etc.
Ps. I encourage you to watch this video: www.storyofstuff.org if you want to understand HOW sweatshops and slavery can even exist in the 21st century… it isn’t big bad guys out there who are responsible. It is you and I (www.slaveryfootprint.org)