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The question to kickstart a fashion revolution: who made your clothes?



Consumers are being challenged to ask and think about who made their clothes and the impact their purchasing decisions have around the world. The first Fashion Revolution Day, on Thursday April 24, also marks the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. It calls for a more sustainable fashion industry.

The campaign seeks to highlight the many issues within the sector, from exploitation to pollution and demand greater transparency.

Carry Somers, co-founder of the event and pioneer in fairtrade and ethical fashion, said, “Fashion Revolution Day is a global movement. We have created a worldwide platform, which we can all use to ask questions, raise standards and set an industry-wide example of what better looks like. By celebrating best practice, we can change lives.”

The event aims to showcase “realistic sustainable solutions”. In order to do this, the movement is made up of designers, brands, retailers, producers, academics, organisations and charities that know the“pressures and complexities” of the fashion industry.

Each year it will focus on a one of the fashion industry’s most pressing issues, with the first year looking at where our clothes are made and the impact this has. It aims to challenge brands and retailers to take responsibility for the individuals and communities that make their clothing and urges shoppers to put pressure on the industry.

Somers said, “This year we are asking the questions ‘who made your clothes?’ This should be a simple question, but a recent Australian fashion report found that 61% of brands didn’t know where their garments were made and 93% didn’t know where the raw materials come from.

“We need to re-establish the broken connection in the supply chain because greater transparency is a prerequisite to improving conditions.”

The lack of knowledge around where clothing for the western world is made means that many in the developing world are left in poverty and at risk. Whilst shoppers know of the poor conditions there is often a disconnect between their values and their purchasing habits. Fashion Revolution Day is designed to change this by rising awareness and making people look at their decisions.

“We don’t know the true cost of the things we buy. The fashion industry supply chain is fractured and producers have become faceless. This is costing lives. All over the world, people are suffering and our environment is at risk as a result of the fashion supply chain,” Somers explained.

War on Want, a group campaigning against poverty in developing countries argues that garment workers pay a high price to produce cheap clothes for the UK high street. A 2011 report from the group found that a garment factory helper’s wage in Bangladesh starts at just £25 a month, with sewing operators earning £32 a month – far below a living wage.

In addition, 80% of workers work until 8pm or 10pm, after starting at 8am – in excess of the legal limit on working hours. Three-quarters of the female workers the group spoke to also state they have been verbally abused at work while half had been beaten.

In Bangladesh, over three million people, 85% of whom are women, work in the garment industry. The figure demonstrates the size of the problem and shows how whole communities can be affected by poor working conditions.

A separate study, produced by War on Want in 2010, focuses on the garment industry in India, highlighting how widespread the problem is. Indian factories were found to be deeply reliant on the sweatshop model of production, with more than half of workers unable to meet production targets. The report added that in one factory the target was to produce 20 ladies’ shirts every hour.

The group acknowledges that initiatives for improving the rights of overseas workers are being implemented but argues not enough has been done within these mechanisms. The organisation has called on the UK government to regulate the operations of its companies, both in the UK and overseas.

It added, “Retailers cannot continue to pay lip service to corporate social responsibility whilst engaging in buying practices that systematically undermine the principles of decent work.”

Exactly a year ago, the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Bangladesh, killing 1,129 factory workers. The tragedy hit headlines around the world and highlighted the poor working conditions many of those in the developing world face.

The factory manufactured apparel for a number of western brands including Primark, Matalan, Mango, Bonmarche and Walmart, providing a clear link between western shopping habits and the conditions of overseas workers. The tragedy led to intense criticism and offered an opportunity for consumers to voice their concerns, challenge retailers and demand change.

Somers added, “Rana Plaza has opened up a policy window for significant change in the sector. Whilst this is a symptom of the problem, it gives us an opportunity to set a new agenda and overcome the causes.”

In response to the accident a new Accord on Factory and Building Safety in Bangladesh was created, which 38 companies signed. The five-year legally binding agreement means that signatories must maintain minimum safety standards in the textile industry in Bangladesh.

As of October 2013, 1,600 factories were covered by the Accord, representing around a third of the textile industry in the country.

Speaking to Ethical Consumer for its fashion industry guide, Jyrki Raina, general secretary of the international trade union IndusriALL, said, “There’s no doubt, it’s a gamechanger. Never before has such an agreement been signed, with co-operation between so many stakeholders, with such stringent enforceability.”

He added that the first reports are now available online, including photographs of the factories, and that a “leap forward” has been made in terms of transparency as well, with brands now disclosing their suppliers.

Supporting Fashion Revolution Day can raise awareness and bring about further change that is much needed in order to create a sustainable and fair clothing sector.

Somers said, “Our vision is simple – we believe in a fashion industry that values people, the environment, profit and creativity in equal measure, and it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that happens.”

Photo: Kristen Taylor via Flickr

Further reading:

Fashion Revolution Day to promote supply chain issues on Rana Plaza anniversary

A manifesto for fashion that truly challenges the status quo

The True Cost: the future of fashion is on sale

We are a long way from achieving stability in supply chains

Raising for Rana: marking the anniversary of Rana Plaza


How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

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

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

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.

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5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable




sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

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

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

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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