There can be an awkward tension between our Social Justice Identity and the flood of consumer goods that we surround ourselves with to stay socially savvy, connected, hip or just relatively functional.
As the children of post-modernism we have a unique ability to simultaneously pledge oaths to the poor and General Pants, ASOS online, and the apocalypse of fashion bloggers. Poverty is poverty, fashion is fashion, and ‘never the twain shall meet.’ Apparel workers in areas of Asia endure long hours in sweatshop-like conditions for an average of less than $3US a day, whilst struggling to feed and clothe their families. There’s something wrong with this picture. It’s an uncomfortable truth that our use of unethically made products actually creates the market for such goods.
The Best Fashion Statement - Shop for Ethical Clothing
In the fashion world, ethical shopping is more than searching for locally-produced clothing and accessories. ‘Made in Australia’ does not equate to ‘ethically-made’; not when sweatshops can be found in Australia in addition to developing countries. Rather the main concerns are fair wages and the use of fair work practices at all stages of the manufacturing process. Workers in developing countries have a pretty raw deal. They’re paid minimal wages and are often forced to work long hours in harsh – often dangerous – conditions. Yet, they’re producing some of the world’s most expensive and coveted brands.
1. Join in with Oxfam's online campaign Sneaky Business, aiming to pressure global sportswear brands to employ better working conditions for their employees- better pay rates, secure employment and safe conditions. Just take a photo of you, your shoe and load it up with hundreds of others!
2. You want to know where your clothes have come from? Then look no further than Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA), which is your one stop Australian Government accreditation and labelling system. Each business under ECA allows transparent and ongoing compliance checks in each stage of the manufacturing process and Award provisions. Shop for brands with ECA accreditation and you will know they have undergone “the most significant and meaningful action” a business can take towards ethical clothing.
3. Want more? Look for retailers that are a signatory to the National Retailers Ethical Clothing Code. Retailers under the code must provide details twice a year proving that they and their suppliers are adhering to relevant Award provisions and laws. Nice.
4. Fairtrade labels provide fair labour rights and wages to producers. This label is easy to find in Australia if you know some places to look. Check out Etiko!
Read about where your clothes have come from with these great 3things blogs:
- Blast of Sandblasted Jeans
- The Coolest Fashion Statement Around
The key to finding amazing 70s and 80s (and other fabulously-sequined eras) vintage clothing as well as a budget-friendly wardrobe is through op-shopping. You’ll be reducing your shopping footprint and contributing to the socially-conscious projects of some great organisations (check out the Salvo’s and Vinnies). Unwanted items can also be donated to certain charities (check their websites for more information). Alternatively you can trawl weekend markets, another home for vintage clothing and second-hand designer goods. In Sydney, try Glebe, Kirribilli, Paddington, and Rozelle markets. Melbourne, try Camberwell, Book Market at Fed Square, Finders’ Market, Lost and Found Market and Fitzroy Market. For those in Melbourne, flaunt your op-shop purchase at The Melbourne Op-Shop Ball, March 31st, 2012. Check out some great markets in your state at Markets Online.
Fashion fun times
Clothes Swaps: 3things has been a big advocator for clothes swaps since partnering with the Clothing Exchange for National Swap Day. Clothes swaps are so easy and a fun way to get rid of something you are over with something you can work in with that vest you bought op-shopping. 3things has a D.I.Y kit which you can use to create your own one in your home, school, university or community
Buy Nothing New Month: October's are all about experimentation in the wardrobe and limiting the consumer craziness. Basically, not buying anything new, except the things that you need like food! This month is a wake up call for shoppers and a way for us to realise the power we have to buy quality over quantity. Get on board here!
Change your food shopping habits
Each year Australians throw away $5.2 billion worth, or 4.5 million tonnes, of food (foodwise.com.au). That’s more than enough to end the entire East African food crisis -twice. Although it is not a solution to collect all this food and ship it overseas, cutting back on food waste would reduce the environmental impact (water use, soil degradation, greenhouse gasses) of creating so much food that is simply thrown out. What to do? Find out by clicking on any of the headings below
- Seasonal: The Seasonal Food Guide is the place to find out delicious food available in your part of Australia during a particular time. Seasonal food is "cheaper, tastes better and has more nutrients." You can reduce your environmental impact when you eat seasonally as fruits and veggies aren't imported from all over the world. It is time to have blueberries in the summer and apples in autumn!
- Local: Where did you get that orange? Um...California? Food miles measures the distance food travels between producers and consumers. The further that orange has to travel, the more emissions that are emitted due to the fuel needed. The more local you eat, the less food miles you create. Shopping locally is sometimes quite easy when you know the best spots for farmers markets. Usually a weekend activity, these markets provide a great source of income for local farmers, while you get fresh, delicious food. Check out Markets Online and find a local market near you.
- Fairtrade: We have mentioned this word fairtrade in fashion, gifts and now again in food. This is because when you choose fairtrade, not only are you getting a good food product, but you are helping someone along the way. The price that you pay for fairtrade is a fair price that is given to farmers and workers in the thrid world. The income generated is also given back to the community, which is able to grow and develop. Fairtrade products are easy to find in local health food stores and even in some aisles in the big supermarket chains. The main thing to look out for is the fairtrade accreditation label and you are on your way to tasting sweeter food with a dash of ethical.
- Sustainable: The Australian Marine Conservation Society has developed Sustainable Seafood Guide Online, which allows you to find out whether that delicious Southern Bluefin Tuna you were planning on turning into a feast tonight is actually overfished and assessed as critically endangered. Sadly, it is. Check it out here.
Palm oil has often come from monoculture production systems, planted after rainforest and native vegetation has been removed. This results in loss of small scale farming land and loss of animal habitats- threatening livelihoods and homes. In Australia, palm oil is labelled as ‘vegetable oil’, offering consumers no way of knowing whether or not their shopping choices are contributing to these issues. Shop for palm oil free products and write to MP's and manufacturers about the alternative - Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO).
Many American products use corn syrup as a sweetener. Corn crop is known for exhausting soil of nutrients and oxygen, thereby requiring a higher use of pesticide and fertiliser. Substitute corn syrup with golden syrup.
Just like Oxfam's Sneaky Business raises awareness about unethical shoes, the Ethical Consumer Guide lets you in on the secrets of food. Check out the brand boycott list and see what some companies are up to in terms of environmental practice and labour rights.
- And get planting: You guessed it, a veggie garden! This is easy to do if there is a patch of grass in your backyard or even an apartment balcony. Check out the best selling recipe book 'The Edible Balcony' by Indira Naidoo.
- And get swapping: Fruit and veggie gardens are wonderful things, and when nurtured can provide an abundance of delicious produce. However, sometimes they can produce more than you can eat, and so good produce eventually spoils and is wasted. One way to reduce this waste is starting or joining a fruit and veggie swap. The idea behind this concept is to meet with other people in your local community and share your excess food from your fruit and veggie garden. You and others buy less food and less food is wasted. See this video for an example of a fruit and veggie swap in Adelaide.
- And get involved in the community: Community gardens are a great way to interact with your local community, where everyone has the same goals – to buy less food, reduce food miles, and to avoid concentrations of chemicals and the market for cheap food. To find a local community garden in SA, visit the Adelaide Botanic Gardens website. Visit the Eat Well Tasmania website for a comprehensive list of community gardens in Tasmania. The Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network lists community gardens in the ACT area here. Or find your local community garden in NSW, QLD, NT and WA.
- And plan to cook your leftovers: Meal plans! Hooray! Plan your shopping week and the meals you will have each night and sure enough you will know what leftovers you have and what to do with them. Oh yum! Check out Love Food Hate Waste and get your own meal planner.
Organise a fundraising event
Here are just 3 left-of-field ideas to get you started/inspire you in your fundraising endeavours!
Utilise the power of the internet: The internet has brought us many a great things. It has given us the ability to gently stalk our crushes via numerous online social networking sites; it has provided us with hours of footage of people’s cats. Even better however, believe it or not, it has also brought us easy and often all too awesome ways of putting the fun back into fundraising. One such way that has popped up in recent times is websites like Indie Go-Go and Kick Starter. Based on the idea of rewarding people for their donations, if you set up a page on one of these sites then you will be able to offer different gifts to your donors, depending on how much money they offer your cause.
Get your DIY on: There is a reason why many a market, nick-knacky crafty magazine and home renovators reality television program have popped up of late, people love all of that stuff! Leverage that love by setting up a stall that allows passers by get up to some crafty mischief for a small donation. Jewellery, cards, badges, even cup-cake decorating, whatever you think the people might want to make, just get the supplies they will need and let them at it.
Sell foliage: Ok, so we have all done it, told ourselves that it’s ok to gobble up yet another chocolate/doughnut/sausage sandwich because it is for charity right? Although there is certainly nothing wrong with raising funds via the sales of sugary and fatty goodness (believe me, I am a strong supporter), think about changing it up by offering the fine members of the public an option that will not only have to send them running off to the gym but will also allow them to channel their inner Captain Planet