Do you ever wonder what your jeans have got to do with ethics? Your shirt with water levels? How your pants may be affecting social rights on the other side of the world? Probably not, if you are like the majority of people, despite the exponential growth of a concern for ethical fashion.
However, the recent events in Bangladesh have cast a more critical eye on clothing and its path to the consumer, as it seems that what we wear on the outside may be wearing out our world in many ways.
After the collapse of the Rana Plaza building and the death of 1,127 people, ignorance can no longer be used as the blissful excuse that it often affords.
Like the food we put into our bodies, the clothes we put on them are our own choices, and those choices reflect our personalities. During the Lords’ second debate on ethics and sustainability in March, Lady Young of Hornsey raised an important point about fashion that is often used to justify its aspirational and addictive nature.
Rather than just being garments to adorn ourselves in, they are “an expression of our professional and personal identities, an expression of where and how we see ourselves”, she said.
We know that jumpers that cost roughly the same price as your morning coffee cannot possibly be produced in an ethical manner, yet still we keep purchasing
When taken in the context of ethical fashion, what does that say about most people? That we just don’t care?
The current demand for speedy conversion of catwalk styles to high street garments means that there simply isn’t time for sustainable and fair manufacturing processes. Short turnarounds and instantaneous celeb copying would not be possible if social impact, the use of pesticides, labour resources and fair wages, minimising water usage, eco-friendly fabrics, recycling and fair use of resources were all addressed.
Is this enough of an excuse – simply because we don’t have time?
As ever, the question is one of taking responsibility. It is one of those strange quirks of citizens of any society that whilst they may cite themselves to be free and capable of thinking for themselves, direction from governments and corporations is often needed.
A lack of direction from above serves as an excuse for not taking action. We need someone to not only suggest that we pull our heads from the sand, but to literally drag them out for us.
Most consumers are aware of the basic laws of economics, and so education can’t be used as an excuse. Despite the fact that overall retail sales were down 0.7% in the first quarter of 2013, Primark sales rose by 24%.
And I’m not picking on Primark – tags for Wal-Mart, Sears Holdings Inc, Walt Disney Company and other big brand retailers were all found amongst the debris of another Bangladesh factory destroyed by fire back in November. Meanwhile, George at Asda, Matalan and River Island also all failed to sign up to a legally binding initiative to offer financial support for fire safety and building improvements in the wake of most the recent big factory collapse.
We know that jumpers that cost roughly the same price as your morning coffee cannot possibly be produced in an ethical manner, yet still we keep purchasing.
The end price of a garment reflects the investment that has been made in the people and product throughout the whole supply chain, and when something is on the market for pittance a similar proportion of care has been put into its creation. This fact is easy to ignore when not displayed directly in front of you, and this disconnection does wonders for appeasing our conscience and lining corporate pockets.
Of the $2 billion worth of exports leaving Bangladesh each year, 78% are clothes – the vast majority making their way to the UK and US. In this country alone there are over 8,000 garment factories, employing 3.6 million workers, of which 80% are women.
As well as not being practical, it would be not be ethical to suddenly stop sourcing clothing from these countries, as this would lead to the economy and infrastructure to plummet. Bound up in what we wear are therefore issues of a whole economy, social norms, gender equality and ecological impact.
No simple solution shouts out. What is necessary is for a sustainable and ethical economy and infrastructure throughout the whole chain – Bangladesh to Britain.
One way that this has been expressed is in terms of the triple bottom line – social, environmental and commercial. Experience has proven that without a robust financial business model, long-term change is not feasible, but unless the social and environmental impact is considered meaningful, business practice is impossible.
Responding to market needs and expectations can however mean more than pleasing stakeholders. If consumers and business people expect that the groups they interact with will maximise benefits to people and communities whilst minimising impact on the environment, this will have to be something that companies respond to.
More government intervention is cited as an important driver of change – but we haven’t seen this work for recycling. Local laws will always have some kind of impact. Traffic lighting of clothes has also been suggested, but the vast number of definitions of ‘ethical’ means that this would be difficult to quantify. So perhaps the answer really is to take grassroots action.
As well as profits, corporate reputation means a lot to companies, and thus consumers do have the power to make changes. However it is not easy. People Tree, probably the leader in the ethical fashion industry has been trading for 20 years, and is yet to break even in the UK.
But as the path consumables take to reach the consumer becomes even more important, and it is clear what affect your £3 t-shirt is having, consider taking your money to some of these retailers.
Gossypium – fair trade organic cotton clothing
Beyond Skin – this company have been making vegan shoes since 2001 – and there is not a moccasin in site
Charlie Boots – womenswear and accessories made in the UK from ethically sourced materials such as organic, sustainable, fair trade and vintage fabrics
Love Me Again – an independent fashion label that uses entirely recycled textiles unique and affordable clothes
Fashion Conscience – a hub for all things stylish and sustainable
Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk.
How Going Green Can Save A Company Money
What is going green?
Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.
The first step in going green
There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.
Making needed changes within the company
After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.
Reducing the common paper waste
Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.
Make money by spreading the word
Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.
5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable
Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.
1. Weather stripping
If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.
Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.
Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.
2. Programmable thermostats
Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.
Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!
3. Low-flow water hardware
With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.
Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.
Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.
4. Energy efficient light bulbs
An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.
New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.
5. Installing solar panels
Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.
Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.
From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!
These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.
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