Fair Trade and Millennials

I came across this article today, and was intrigued. It quotes this NPR piece from earlier this week, which (full disclosure) discusses the findings of a Hersheys-funded survey.

In essence, millennials (the generation born between 1980 and 1996) don’t practice what they preach when it comes to ethical consumption. This is interesting for many reasons, not least of all because of the social media onslaught we’re responsible for, talking about the importance of buying goods that are handmade, organic, ethical, eco-friendly, recycled, etc etc. As it turns out, we may care more about being seen to talk about it than actually putting all that concern into action.

Let me add here, this isn’t altogether surprising. I care deeply about the story behind the goods I consume, and it bothers me that our electronics still can’t be sourced ethically, without harm to or loss of life. But I can’t afford to put that care into all aspects of my life, either because of practicality – no one makes ethical computers – price, or availability. So I’m typing this on a MacBook, despite the fact Apple has been accused of exploiting child and bonded labour in their Asian factories. They’re working on it, but progress is slow.  

In a survey of participants ages 18 to 35, millennials reported caring about ethical issues like environmental sustainability and social responsibility in chocolate production. But when choosing chocolate privately, these self-proclaimed ethical shoppers were all chocolate bark and no bite. (Sorry.) Most showed little preference for labels advertising ethical sourcing and instead preferred labels with ingredients they recognized — items like “chocolate” and “butter,” rather than “tertiary butylhydroquinone.”

We can’t see the survey itself, so we can’t see the wording, but let’s not presume to think ours is the only generation that’s ever cared about environmental sustainability and social responsibility. If you believe in climate change and know that we are responsible for most of the increases in greenhouse gases in recent decades, and that our thirst for faster and cheaper goods has led to a significant drain on the livelihoods of other humans, it’s only natural you’ll want to turn to goods that try to counteract that.

(Tertiart butylhydroquinone, by the way, is a preservative used with unsaturated vegetable oil and animal fat. Thank you, Wiki.)

Young hypothesized that millennials also set aside ethical concerns when choosing to indulge, despite a reputation in the food industry for caring about responsibly sourced food.

With funding from The Hershey Co., Young set out to test his hunch. First, the researchers conducted eight focus groups, each consisting of eight to 10 millennials. They found that younger millennials ages 18 to 20 expressed little concern about anything other than taste in their chocolate preferences. But older millennials expressed concern about whether chocolate was organic, fair trade, GMO-free and environmentally sustainable.

I’m guessing the older millennials are more likely to be those who absorb global news more often, read more, travel more, and likely also work in the countries producing the goods we consume. Information is the first of many steps to being able to do something about a situation you find oppressive, so this again is no surprise. I’m not discriminating against these high school/university groups either. I remember what I was like at that age. In between essay deadlines, parties, MUN meetings and just enjoying being young, how many of us set aside the time to go into the backstory of all the goods we consumed, how they were produced and the rights of those who made them?

Then the researchers presented another group of 214 millennials with unbranded, unpriced labels varying in traits — such as ingredients used, fat content, and ethical endorsement (for example, a label indicating Rainforest Alliance certification). Each millennial was asked to choose between side-by-side label comparisons of varying chocolate products — roughly 400 times. Most participants consistently paid attention to whether or not they could pronounce the ingredients in a bar, but only a small, socially conscious group — representing 14 percent of participants — showed strong preference for ethical labels.

The findings “confirmed what I thought,” says corporate sustainability specialist Sandra Rousseau from the University of Leuven, Belgium, who was not involved in the research. She cautions that the study disproportionately sampled college students but says the findings make sense. “You interview young people, and they tend to be quite aware of social issues and environmental issues. But if you push a bit harder, it’s a lot of talk, but not always action.”

That’s not to say that millennials are secretly truffle-munching, Nietzsche-reading nihilists.

Young says millennials are likely more concerned about ethics when buying goods that aren’t as indulgent as chocolate. Millennials still care more, he says, about ethical food production than older generations, who grew up before many of these issues were mainstream concerns.

Time to also remind ourselves that these younger groups are less likely to be employed full-time (especially in the samples the survey used, in the US), which makes their disposable income that much smaller than people my age, who are more likely to have a full-time job, and who can afford to implement their philosophy in their everyday lives.

This is by no means a defense of my generation, or a condemnation. I firmly believe that anything anyone does to consider the sources of our consumption, or to even think about why we buy certain things from certain companies or countries, is a step forward and more progress than we were making 30-40 years ago.

We can’t all afford to buy organic coffee, but if yours is drunk at home and not out of a disposable cup, that’s one less plastic-coated paper cup that will end up in the throat of a sea turtle.

Growing your own herbs at home cuts down on the carbon footprint of importing them from distant countries, who may not pay their farmers adequately, transported in climate-controlled freights.

Buying second-hand or vintage clothes can help reduce our dependency on sweat-shop labour.

See what I mean? It’s not all about going to the organic aisle, or being seen to do something. Who knows what these younger millennials do in their non chocolate-eating time to care about other people, or the planet?

There is a very important fact to consider here. The first Fairtrade coffee landed on supermarket shelves over 30 years ago (in the Netherlands via Mexico) – a number that nicely fits in with the millennial generation (defined as people born 1980-1996).

This means that for millennials, the concept of fair trade has been on the radar their entire lives. They came of age with the organic and local movement. Ethical buying is not an add-on, it’s not a marketing ploy, it’s an expectation.  And for many of them, the travails of coffee farmers have been well-documented.

What’s important to note is that this study shows that the millennial generation cares more than others about the social and environmental implications of our consumption. You could argue that caring alone isn’t going to do anything, but I’d say it’s enough.

Young university students who care grow up to become young, informed people who have the power to do something. I’d always rather err on the side of optimism here, rather than dismissiveness. Every generation looks down on the one following, and I’m probably more likely than most my age to do this; but let’s not ignore the potential of awareness and information-sharing to translate into more responsible decisions.

 

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Cork-Board Tutorial

I’ve been collecting corks for a few years and have amassed a pretty impressive collection. Wine is nice, I make no apologies.

I use them to make cork-bards. They’re a great way to recycle corks, which have an unusually large carbon footprint owing to their disposal, rather than production. The tree yields a harvest every nine years, and originates in Portugal – that’s an incredible dependence on one natural source.

There are many alternatives around – from plastic to cork substitutes, as well as wine makers now opting for screw-tops. I have to admit to some snobbery here; I do look down on screw-top wine as inferior and plebby. I know that’s shallow and terrible but there it is.

Since cork is quite absorbent, and those in good bottles of wine have labels, pictures and country of origin stamped onto it, making a cork-board is a great way to reuse your old corks as well as make something functional (and pretty!).

Plus, everyone can see exactly how much wine you consume. Which is both good and bad! It’s also a fun souvenir of a trip – or many trips – you’ve taken and all the booze you’ve enjoyed with friends. I always ask restaurants I go to if I could have the cork from the bottles we drink, since they would otherwise end up in the regular bin, and there goes all that energy generated in making it.

All you need is a sharp craft knife, strong glue, a frame you like and enough corks to fit half the frame.

There are plenty of great antique markets here, and my neighbourhood in Budapest has a lot of art galleries. I’ve got a good selection of pretty frames I could use, and I got this ugly drawing of an ugly Hungarian, but with a frame I liked. It’s roughly A4-sized, and I needed about two handfuls of wine corks. I won’t tell you how long it took me to collect these, because you will judge me.

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The hardest part is cutting the corks, so I find that soaking them in a large bowl of water for at least half an hour makes that a lot easier.
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Once that’s done, use an old chopping board or place-mat to carefully cut the corks in half lengthwise. Slow and precise cuts with the craft knife make sure that the cuts are straight, and also keep your fingers safe.

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Arrange the corks on your board, and figure out how you’d like to place them. This was my initial placement, but as you can see there are too many labelled corks next to each other, so I wanted to space those out – and vary the patters of the labels too. In the middle, I’ve got two columns of sparking  wine corks. These were from my Galentine’s Day brunch.

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The corks will need to dry on order for them to stick, so once you’ve got an arrangement you like, just turn them cut side up and leave them to dry on a windowsill for a bit. Once they’re dry, squeeze the glue in a zigzag pattern along the middle and stick in place.

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Since the corks are different sizes, you’ll have a gap at the top of your columns. I just cut a blank cork widthways so that it would fit these gaps, and stuck them to the tops of these columns. If you want to make it look a little neater, you could of course fill the gaps anywhere you like.

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And that’s it! Leave it to dry overnight then hang it up and enjoy 🙂

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The ‘Betty’ Series by Michelle Holmes

Betty breathes in the sea air

Betty breathes in the sea air

I came across this beautiful series of black-thread embroidery by Michelle Holmes, a crafter based in the UK. Michelle has created a character Betty, who lives in the countryside, by the sea, enjoys gardening and crafts, and keeps chickens.

 

I began posting Betty illustrations a couple of years ago now. They are glimpses of Bett’s day to day ponderings to herself, random little or big thoughts in the moments between stuff.

Betty feeds the chickens

Betty feeds the chickens

The small, everyday details of her life are chronicled in individual pieces of embroidery which Michelle sells on Folksy.

There’s been an incredible wave of individuals returning to crafts to unwind, develop a new hobby and stimulate their creativity. I love discovering new ideas and artists like this.

Michelle’s work reminds me of the rural style of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, or Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea (two of the greatest books ever written about enjoying the simple pleasures of life).

Betty is like an imaginary friend. I draw inspiration for her from my grandma Doris, a childhood neighbour named Millicent and a character from a book named Lady Isabella Bird. Themes for Betty seem to be inspired by my week, but can also be quite random.

Betty feeds the chickens

Betty feeds the chickens

The pieces are also vintage-inspired (just take a look at that kitchen!) and there’s a real early 20th century feel about them, which transports you to a different time and place.

 

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Betty contemplates the day ahead whilst making a cup of tea

Betty looks forward to a stove top coffee

Betty looks forward to a stove top coffee

There’s something wonderful and meditative about documenting the simple, everyday activities like making a cup of tea, or gardening, that I really love. I’m completely mesmerised.

A good crop of Rhubarb, enough to make a pie for friends.

A good crop of rhubarb, enough to make a pie for friends

Michelle prepares landscapes and seascapes inspired by her travels to the British coast, and around Europe.

Betty spots something interesting on the horizon

Betty spots something interesting on the horizon

She also works with natural fabrics – jute, hemp, organic cotton – and in monochrome, adding to the elegant simplicity of her pieces. She adds details using hand-stitching, beading and applique.

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From Michelle’s studio

has a quiet moment

Betty has a quiet moment

Her work has been exhibited at various private collections, and the public collections at the Bankfield Museum, Halifax and the Platt Hall Museum of Costume and Textiles, in Manchester. She has exhibited work in the UK, Germany and the USA.

Betty catches up with friends

Betty catches up with friends

In 1994, she won the Best New Exhibitor Prize at the prestigious Chelsea Craft Fair and the Carroll Foundation Award.

Betty sets off on a journey as the clouds pass

Betty sets off on a journey as the clouds pass

Her work is featured in numerous publications and she has designed a range of cards and a magazine cover for Neiman Marcus, together with bed linen for Habitat. She also has a selection of work permanently on show at The Bluecoat Display Centre, Liverpool and Soma in Bristol.

Betty finds a sheltered spot....and was very pleased to see blue sky today

Betty finds a sheltered spot….and was very pleased to see blue sky today

A new pinafore in the making

A pinafore in the making

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Betty prepares for the arrival of Bees

Betty prepares for the arrival of bees

Needle Book Tutorial

I’ve really been enjoying getting back to my craftwork. I used to sew and knit quite often but lost touch with it, and it’s good to pick up my old craft kits again!

One of the first things I needed to make was a proper needle book, to store all my embroidery and normal hand sewing needles, as well as the thimbles, threaders and random small pieces of string which could be used to patch up a small piece of fabric.

IMG_8182-2I found a few tutorials, but none that were exactly as I wanted them, so I decided to just sketch out my own ideas.

I’ve had this sketchbook for about two years, and this is the first thing I’ve actually made from it. One day I hope to get to all my other ideas!

I began by laying out all my scrap fabric on the table. I’ve collected a lot from my travels and from kind strangers on Etsy who enable my habit indulge my pleas of “can you put all your pretty fabric in a bag and mail it to me please, they’re sooooo beautiful but I don’t have the space for a thousand fat quarters!”

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I bought a sewing kit from Ikea, but didn’t like the zippered box it came in, and I wanted to have separate storage for my different materials. My brother’s girlfriend got me this beautiful wooden box with the leaf carving, which I use for my threads, buttons, chalk, safety pins and pencils. Much more convenient! The smaller one houses my giant collection of embroidery threads.

 
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I wanted it to be quite a large needle book, so it could also take pins if I didn’t want to make a separate pin cushion. So here’s the tutorial!

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As you can see, it folds down the middle and has two inner pages as well as a felt inner cover. I saw a nice tutorial which made the most use of the space inside, so I wanted to do something similar. I changed my idea midway through the project, and didn’t sew a separate strip for the inside cover.

You’ll need three strips of felt measuring 30cm by 20(ish)cm (I used three different colours for these), and four strips for the pages (you can either use two colours like I did, or just one).

I wanted contrasting colour in the pages too, so got two different lighter blues. By adding a second strip of felt to the pages, on either side, I made sure that none of the needles or pins would go through the felt to the other side of the page, so they would all be secure and stay in place.

I started by cutting the black felt for the inside cover, and laying that on top of the fabric for the outside cover.  I wanted to use scrap fabric for the cover, so chose a pretty print pattern I picked up in Zanzibar. The scrap piece fit the size I needed perfectly, which was handy! Since it’s a print, I didn’t need to embellish the cover, but if you want to, do it before sewing the felt inside cover to the fabric. You’d think this was obvious, but I would show you some of my early projects from years ago which would prove otherwise…

I used this black felt as a template to trace the pattern for the other two pages, rather than using a ruler since this was soft felt. If your felt is also soft and pliable, you’ll need to trim them down, since the inner pages will stick out when the book is closed.

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I wanted to add inside pockets to the cover, rather than another strip as per the sketch (I am nothing if not impulsive) so I could store the thimbles, threaders and spare thread. I cut these from pieces of the contrasting felt strips for the inside, stitched these on with a running stitch in a contrasting colour, then stitched the black felt to the fabric cover. If you want to add anything to the inner cover, be sure to do it now before you stitch it to the outer cover!

Adding a chalk line down each page helps you eyeball where they’ll sit and where your spine needs to be.

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Then I sewed the two cover pages together, and secured it with a blanket stitch in a contrasting thread. You can definitely tell I’m relearning how to hand sew!

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I cheated here, I have to admit. I didn’t want to sew four strips of felt to the inner pages because by this point it was getting late, and I was binge-watching Season 2 of ‘Daredevil’ and it was getting intriguing, so I used fabric glue to sew these smaller strips to the pages. I was planning on a simple running stitch to all three layers.

I purposely wanted different colours so they didn’t match, because I liked the colourful look the book would have. Each page had a darker blue front and a turquoise back, so every time you turn the page you see a different colour. Once the strips are glued in place, leave them to dry for a bit – mine needed about ten minutes in total.

When you have both pages ready, lay the entire book out as you would want it, with the outside cover on your table. Pin the bottom page to the cover, and the top page to the bottom.

IMG_8129The spine is a simple backstitch down the middle, securing all three pages together. You could first sew the two inner pages together and then sew it to the cover, but I found this method a lot easier. A special embroidery needle for felt comes in very handy at this point! They’re shorter than most needles, but much thicker and with a larger eye so you can use six-strand embroidery threads – as I did for this entire project – without having to kill yourself threading it properly!

Once everything is sewn together, fold the book in half and you’ll see that the inner pages stick out a little, owing to the bulk of the extra strips of felt inside. I just used a ruler and chalk to measure a straight line down each page, and cut off the excess felt. You could also eyeball it, as I tend to do. This project began with quite specific measurements, but when you’re working with layers of thick fabric, sometimes it’s easier to just go by sight and feel rather than a ruler.

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I wanted to be able to see the eye of each needle, so arranged them in two rows on each page, tips facing the inside (thereby minimising the risk of stabbing myself). The contrast of the darker background of the felt pages helps to identify which needle you’d like to use.

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And that’s it! Took me about an hour and a half, including frequent red wine-fuelled breaks and chunks of gaping and re-watching fight sequences in ‘Daredevil’. The book now houses all my dozens of needles, as well as the bits and bobs I might need for a sewing project. I even have a pair of embroidery scissors stashed in one of the inside pockets!

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you made a needle book, and if so how? Would you make this project? What would you change about it? Let me know 🙂

 

 

 

 

World Recycle Week and H&M

There’s a lot being said about fast fashion and the negative impact of our big clothing brands. With the Fashion Revolution also making headlines this year, H&M’s World Recycle Week comes at an exciting time.

The idea is for people to take in their used and old clothes, accessories, shoes and fabrics to their nearest H&M store, for recycling instead of throwing it away. (The fact that people would throw away clothes rather than donate or recycle is in itself still shocking. Surely there’s enough information available about the impact of all of this waste? But that’s possibly a post for another time.)

The idea is to prevent the huge amount of waste the fashion industry generates. Almost all our clothing, footwear, etc can be recycled into something new, rather than going to a landfill as much of it does.

Recycling just one t shirt saves 2,700 litres of water (the carbon footprint of producing a new one).

Watch this video to see what H&M plans to do with it:

I decided to try out this idea at my local H&M store – all of them are participating, which is great. The timing couldn’t be better for me, since I’m going through a huge spring clean, and also need a few work clothes.

For every bag of clothes you take in, the Hungarian branch gives you a 500 forint (roughly 1.5 Euros) discount voucher.

I have to add here that I haven’t bought new clothes in at least a year and a half. It just so happens that my beliefs in being a conscious consumer align well with my hatred of going into various shops, trying everything on in a small and badly-lit room, and lugging it around a mall. I would much rather pick something out online (in my PJs) or at most, while meandering around a nice vintage or second-hand shop.

So this in itself was an adventure, but an exciting one since it’s not a traditional shopping trip.

Do some preliminary digging into H&M’s ethos and you’ll definitely notice some red flags. We’ve all seen their ad campaigns for their Conscious Collection, and know they try to use organic cotton where possible. This is several steps ahead of many other cheaper brands out there, of course.

Their latest Sustainability Report shows a mixed bag of impact and results. The growth rates of their sustainable cotton use (out of their total cotton use), and the share of sustainably sourced materials (out of all their materials) has shown a strong rate of increase from 2011 and 2012, respectively. However, the rates themselves, when compared with the goal of 100%, is too weak for their impact to be significant enough in terms of their overall carbon footprint.

Source: H&M 2015 Sustainability Report

Source: H&M 2015 Sustainability Report

 

Source: H&M 2015 Sustainability Report

Source: H&M 2015 Sustainability Report

 

H&M’s carbon emissions for 2015 however, when compared to the previous year, show an impressive drop of 56% – and this compares to a tiny fall of 4% in 2014, and increases the two years before.

There’s a push for external certification of these credentials – all of H&M’s denim products are now scored well by Jeanologia’s Environmental Impact Measurement Tool – a software which helps brands increase the sustainability of their supply chain in denim.

On the other hand, various links in their supply chain show that while the group’s intentions may be good, their progress in the past few years (reports go back to 2009) has not been as strong as it could be – or as the group would like.

The progress in factory sustainability globally has risen by only 6% in four years, and the percentage of sustainable raw materials of their total raw materials is very low. Along their value chain, impact is mixed; where they have a low climate impact (12%), the social impact is high – as in the raw materials stage. Their fabric and yarn production, with a high social impact, shows one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome. H&M doesn’t work directly with the producers of their fabric, but through intermediaries such as the Natural Resources Defense Council to help improve performance. However, the environmental impact is still significantly high, with greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution in the production of cotton startlingly high, and largely unchanged (the group has had a 6% impact on their own water usage in 2015).

It’s important to also recognise that not enough high street brands care about their production enough to measure their impact and their value chain’s ethics. There’s certainly great room for progress and the fact that H&M still produce cotton instead of more conscious alternatives like hemp in their clothing, is an example of this. But as a whole, and measured against their competitors, H&M is still doing more to raise awareness of the industry’s carbon footprint. With World Recycling Week as well, buying new clothes at a time like this, from a company that at least tries to counter its harmful impact, is better than choosing other brands.

Reblog: What Happens When Fashion Becomes Fast, Disposable And Cheap?

I came across this article on NPR today and thought I’d share it with you – on the realities of our ‘fast’ and cheap clothing, and the cost behind what we pay for it.

When it comes to clothes these days, maybe you should ask: What’s your waste size?

You know you have those clothes sitting in your closet: That shirt you spent less than $10 on because it looked cool for a second, or that skirt you only wore once before it went out of fashion.

Fashion cycles are moving faster than ever. A Quartz article in December revealed how fashion brands like Zara, Gap and Adidas are churning out new styles more frequently, a trend dubbed “fast fashion” by many in the industry. The clothes that are mass-produced also become more affordable, thus attracting consumers to buy more.

“It used to be four seasons in a year; now it may be up to 11 or 15 or more,” says Tasha Lewis, a professor at Cornell University’s Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design.

The top fast fashion retailers grew 9.7 percent per year over the last five years, topping the 6.8 percent of growth of traditional apparel companies, according to financial holding company CIT.

Fashion is big business. Estimates vary, but one report puts the global industry at $1.2 trillion, with more than $250 million spent in the U.S. alone. In 2014, the average household spent an average $1,786 on apparel and related services.

More styles mean more purchases — and that leads to more waste created. Journalist Elizabeth Cline writes in her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion that disposable clothing is damaging to the environment and the economy. We are more likely to dispose of cheaper, mass-produced fashion garments than pricier ones.

“We don’t necessarily have the ability to handle the disposal,” Lewis says. “The rate of disposal is not keeping up with the availability of places to put everything that we’re getting rid of and that’s the problem.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded.

How To Deal With All This Textile Waste?

One way developed nations get rid of their excess clothing is by donating it to developing nations. According to the United Nations, the United States is thebiggest exporter of used clothes, and the top importing countries of used clothing are India, Russia and Pakistan.

But with the strong dollar and availability of cheap clothing from Asia, some are worried that demand for exports of secondhand clothing will decline — thus forcing developed nations to find new ways to deal with post-consumer textile waste.

Fast fashion and the disposable culture also hurt sorting companies that export second-hand clothing.

Adam Baruchowitz, founder of Wearable Collections in New York City, collects second-hand clothing collector and sells it to sorting companies. The companies then sort through the clothes, separating those that will be made into other low-grade fiber products and those that will be exported.

Baruchowitz says the most valuable part of a sorting company’s business is in selling reusable second-hand clothing. But if the quality is questionable, more of the garments collected might have to head to the shredding bin rather than the second-hand clothes market.

“It’s very damaging to the environment, this fast fashion culture, and it also affects the secondhand market because these clothes aren’t meant to be used for so long,” he says. “I can’t say for sure, but the secondhand H&Ms would probably be in less demand than a garment that was produced with more quality. I’m getting all this stuff from fast fashion and I’m hearing from clients that it’s hurting them.”

Do Retailers’ Recycling Programs Encourage Consumerism?

Several clothing retailers have announced take-back programs that collect used garments from customers to be recycled, sold or remade into other clothing. H&M, for example, has allowed customers to bring unwanted garments — which will be transformed to recycled textile fibers for new products — since 2013. The company aims to have “zero garments going to landfill.” Patagonia also recycles and sells used Patagonia products in its stores.

It plays into the concept of extended producer responsibility, which means the manufacturer has to take into consideration the product’s afterlife.

But does it actually encourage more consumerism? For many stores, customers can get store credit and vouchers for sending in used clothing.

“If you bring it back to the store and you see something new and you’re going to give me a discount, I’m having a buying moment I may not have had before because you’re having me back at your store. It’s very smart in terms of business,” Lewis says.

The concept, however, might encourage a different type of thinking: If manufacturers have to think about how they’re going to get the most out of the product after it has been worn, Lewis says, it might spur them to start designing products that can be taken apart easily, have better quality, or might be biodegradable, for example.

H&M introduced new garments made of recycled textile fibers two year ago.

Grassroots Efforts To Counter Fast Fashion

A year ago, a few users began uploading YouTube videos of themselves exchanging clothes with friends. It was either that, or they were showcasing how they made new styles out of their old, scrappy clothes.

“Today is fashion revolution day and I decided to take part in this movement by making a ‘Haulternative’ video,” says CutiePieMarza, a YouTuber from England, in her video. She was exchanging clothes with grav3yardgirl, a YouTuber from Texas.

“It’s part haul, part swap … she asked me about a month ago if I would be part of this awesome project,” says grav3yardgirl in her video. “I think it’s something mainly going on in the UK.”

“Haulternative” is an alternative to the traditional “haul” videos, where users post videos of themselves parading their latest buys.

It was an activity that was part of the larger Fashion Revolutionmovement started in the United Kingdom that aimed to bring awareness to the source of our garments — as well as the waste created by our consumerist habits.

“It’s an alternative haul. It’s looking at how people can do a different kind of haul, how people can refresh their wardrobe without having to buy new clothes,” says Carry Somers, co-founder of the movement. “It’s encouraging people to be more conscious when they’re shopping.”

Instead of constantly buying new clothes, the movement suggested people buy from vintage stores, make new clothes out of old ones or just swap clothes. Fashion Revolution Week will take place April 18-24 and participants are encouraged to upload their “haulternative” videos this year as well.

Some companies are experimenting with new ideas. Rent The Runway, for example, rents out branded clothes to customers who pay a monthly fee. Those concerned about the mounting waste hopped onto an opposing concept: Instead of buying cheap clothes, invest in slightly costly clothes with good quality that might last you longer. The 30-year-sweatshirt by Tom Cridland is an example.

San Francisco was aware of this problem in 2002 — and pledged a goal of reaching zero waste by 2020 by encouraging the recycling of clothes, shoes and linen.

“I think for clothing, because we’re a consumer culture, it’s hard for me to say don’t buy anything,” Lewis says. “We can probably slow down how much we buy.”

Project Just -the stories behind your clothes

If you’ve ever wondered what the story behind your favourite brand is, and where their material comes from, there’s a new website to help with just that.

I found out about Project Just through The Root Collective, a company which sells handmade Guatemalan shoes.

 

Let’s take one of my favourite brands for home decor and interiors – Anthropologie. The pros are that some of Anthropologie’s collections have a socially or environmentally positive impact. The cons:

URBN discloses very little about its supply chain and its social and environmental impact.

The company does not share any goals regarding how it is working to improve environmental and social conditions in its supply chain.

URBN is not a part of any multi-stakeholder initiatives and does not publicly share information on its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

The company has been embroiled in a number of controversies regarding some of the offensive products it has sold.

Project Just begins with a summary of who owns the company, and there are different sections targetting:

  • the pros and cons of each brand
  • size and business model
  • transparency
  • labour conditions
  • environment
  • intention
  • community
  • management
  • innovation

You can also download a data sheet with research done on each brand, shared via Google Docs.

A separate ‘Voices’ section shares testimonials by industry experts, journalists and advocates for ethical consumption. Anthropologie has been reviewed by the Huffington Post, Ecouterre and change.org.

There’s also the option for the company to comment on its ethical standards, though Anthropologie hasn’t said anything yet.

Interesting, isn’t it? Here’s a video describing how the site works:

It’s not a comprehensive list of brands by any stretch, but it’s a great start.

There’s also the option to request a brand you use often, for Project Just to research and add to their website.

What do we look for?

 

First and foremost, we are really interested to learn what a brand is doing to ‘do no harm’ as part of their business operations; how they are taking care of the people and the environment in their supply chain, how they are innovating in those regards, their knowledge of their own supply chain, and how transparent they are with their information. Secondly, we are interested to learn how they do more good; community and CSR efforts, and multi-stakeholder initiatives.

 

Therefore, we look for publicly available self-reported and third-party reported information for these main categories:

/ Size and Business Model: this category focuses on the size of the business and its operations; how many employees, their annual revenue, the type of business model, etc.

/ Transparency: this category focuses on how open a brand is about communicating about their supply chain, and its social and environmental impact.

/ Labor conditions: this category focuses on understanding how a brand is treating the people in their supply chain.

/ Environment: this category focuses on understanding how a brand is treating the environment.

/ Innovation: this category focuses on highlighting any innovative efforts by the brand to go above and beyond the status quo in any aspect of their operations and supply chain.

/ Intention: this category focuses on highlighting goals and commitments made by the brand to improve the social and environmental aspects of their supply chain.

/ Management: this category highlights the main leadership of the brand, the CEO, their salary and any reported issues or scandals.

/ Community: this category highlights the brand’s community and CSR efforts, as well as multi stakeholder initiatives.

 

We believe these main categories can really help inform the user about the brand’s ethics and sustainability. We divided these categories into detailed questions to help us get a comprehensive picture. You can access the full list here.

 

How do we do the research?

 

First, we dig really deep into their self-reported data: sustainability reports, website, as well as 10-Ks.

 

Second, we relentlessly scour every corner of the web, searching for third-party reported information. We look for investigative reporting on VICE, Ecouterre, The Guardian, Sourcing Journal, Business of Fashion, among others. We also look at industry reports such as Australian Fashion Report, Not for Sale, Labour Behind the Label, and Good Guide.

 

Third, from both the self-reported and third-party reported info, we try to answer our list of questions and we include all of our sources next to the information gathered. The list is meant to help us get a comprehensive picture of what’s available about the brand. Having said that, we are sensitive to the nuances of the industry and understand that some questions might not apply to all brands.

 

Finally, all of that research gets summarized with sources into a research summary document. We highlight some of the facts from that document on the brand page, and make all the remaining information available when you download the data.

 

Who does this work?

 

A team of awesome people, with backgrounds in fashion, business, history, and international development, who all share a huge passion for changing the status quo.

 

For each brand we assign two researchers; one assigned to self-reported information, the other to third-party reported information. Once each is done with their research, they switch roles and verify the research of the other person. All the information is verified one last time by a third person before creating the research notes document.

 

How frequently do we update the information?

 

We set up google alerts for all the brands we publish, so whenever new relevant data emerges we update the page.

 

We will also update the page once we receive additional or new information from the brand themselves.

 

Finally, and most importantly, we update the page in response to contributions from our community. We are humbled by the fact that we don’t have access to all information, and we really want this to be a crowd sourced and owned tool. So we are counting on you to contribute and comment, and we will update the page with those contributions.

With more and more information known and shared about where our products come from and more interest in tracing the supply chain, the room for a website like this to grow and gain interest is huge. I hope it grows and adds more brands from across the globe – it’ll be interesting to see what’s shared!