I know I’ve been on a kick lately talking about Fair Trade, but I really feel that opportunity is the key to poverty and hunger alleviation. And I think that there is something we can do about it. During the month of October, I will be posting daily on the Food Shelf Friday Facebook page about different resources to help you with your holiday shopping. I’ll be showcasing fair trade companies and ways that your spending can do good. Follow Food Shelf Friday on Facebook (be sure you turn on notifications!), or search hashtag #FSFShoptober.
In addition to that new resource, I also have a quick book review for you – Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan.
Greta Eagan is a fashion insider. But the more she learned about the industry, the more she became alarmed at what a broken system the fashion industry has become. In the past, most people owned just a handful of outfits, and cared for them to get as much out of their clothing as possible. Clothes were handed down, altered, and fabrics were repurposed. Today, we own tons of clothing items, and we freely toss them when they get worn, or when we just get bored of them. Clothes used to be made by artisans, from quality materials (especially designer clothes). Today they’re made of cheap materials, artificial dyes, and toxic synthetic fibers by underpaid workers in unsafe conditions. Even high-cost designer clothes are made this way. Manufacturers’ standards have fallen in order to keep profits high.
It’s more than just fair trade labor practices. Our wasteful fashion choices use tons of water, fill landfills with waste, and pollute the environment with burning fossil fuels and toxic dyes. Wear No Evil identifies sixteen factors we should look for in our clothing choices:
– Natural/Low Impact Dyes – Dyes that are not toxic to the environment
– Natural Fibers – Synthetic fibers don’t biodegrade
– Organic – Fibers grown without using chemicals like pesticides and synthetic fertilizers
– Fair Trade – The growers and workers were paid a fair wage at every stage of the production process
– Recycled/Upcycled – An item made from recycled fibers or repurposed parts of an old item
– Secondhand – An item that has belonged to someone else
– Local – Produced in the United States or sold by a local small business
– Social – A portion of the proceeds benefits a social cause
– Zero Waste – The production process is efficient so there is no waste
– Convertible – The item can be used in more than one way or for more than one occasion so you get more use out of it
– Vegan – There were no animal parts involved in the production of the item
– Low Water Footprint – Water-saving measures were used to minimize the amount of water required to grow the fibers or produce the item
– Transparent – The company is upfront about their process/supply chain/etc.
– Cradle to Cradle – The company has a plan for the item from production to recycling/repurposing
– Slow Fashion – The company values artistry and a well-thought out process
– Style – Do you like it? Does it fit your life?
That’s a lot. I know. You won’t find a single item that hits every goal, and quite frankly you probably don’t care about all of them anyway. Eagan suggests you start every purchase with the style questions: Do I love this? Does it suit my lifestyle? Then she suggests you pick three other goals that are important to you. When you consider a purchase that passes your style question, you can then consider if it meets your other top goals.
My top considerations, after style, are fair trade, second hand, and social. When I find an item I love, it has to be either fair trade, secondhand, or raise money for a cause I believe in. The more goals an item hits, the more likely I am to purchase. For example, I recently needed to buy some socks. I’m not getting socks secondhand, so I went looking for the style and size I needed from a company that uses fair trade practices. I found them at Pact, and in addition to being fair trade, they’re organic, natural cotton fibers, and my purchase supported the company’s social giving as well. Bonus!
The book gives you a really positive way to consider ethical shopping without getting overwhelmed. Eagan suggests that you keep the items you have and love, and care for them as well as possible. She recommends doing less shopping. And she recommends that you shop your priorities rather than getting hung up on the impossible search for the socially, environmentally, and economically perfect item.
The downside of this book is that the first half, talking about the goals and the importance of each one, is timeless, but the second half, a look at current fashion and designers, won’t be up to date for long (it came out in 2014). There are lots of great designers and websites suggested all throughout, but that info will get outdated. If you’re looking to make some changes to your buying habits, it’s a great starting point. But it’s going to show its age in just a couple years.
What are your favorite ethical retailers? Share in the comments!