Monday, May 2, 2011

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Starting around the new year Patrick and I really started taking a closer look at where things we buy come from and how they're made. We have always been mindful of trying not to be wasteful, but that eventually turned into focusing on unfair labor practices and sweatshops. Let me tell you, to say that trying to be sweatshop free is overwhelming is a HUGE understatement... it started to cause me to be unsure of how to apply that to this little old blog. I am by no means saying "if you aren't sweatshop free then you are dead to me, you dummy!", but I do think the way to stop all of this madness and tragedy is people like us doing even little things, people like us saying that we've had enough.

There are lots of good places to learn about the issue, like here and especially here. Do I have all of the answers after our almost 5 months of getting into this issue? Heck no, in fact..if you have some answers I would love to hear them! I have heard the reasoning before that areas are benefited economically from sweatshops, but I completely disagree. I, by no means, think we should only buy Made in the U.S. of A. products. Supporting other countries economies is wonderful, but we need to demand standards. No child needs to work, no people need to be abused or taken advantage of, or be slave laborers just so we can get a cheaper "insert whatever product here". Modern day slave labor and human trafficking run absolutely rampant all over the place. I have been really debating how to go about this topic and write about it on here, but I have decided just to speak from my heart. I do completely understand that right now it's not 100% possible to 100% of the time avoid unfairly made products or food. When my running shoes need replaced I'm not sure yet where I'll get new ones, or when we need a replacement toothbrush head I'm not just going to throw the whole thing away. I am in no way saying you need to live in a hut in the mountains, grow all of your own food, and wear burlap sacks, and that you are a bad person if you don't. There are some things we can realistically do right now though!

What can we do?
  • Ask questions! Call or write your favorite company and ask about their labor practices, ask where and how they make things. Ask your barista if the coffee being served is fair trade.
  • Buy handmade or local (thank HEAVENS for Etsy!)
  • Buy vintage items..scour your thrift stores (this can also help your wallet)
  • Research, research, research!
  • Start this discussion with other people you know, there is most definitely strength in numbers.
The more questions the more people ask, then maybe the more answers/solutions that we will be given. As cheesy as this sounds, knowledge is power. It is going to take gals (and guys!) like us to say "STOP" and we all completely have the power and voice to say just that.

I recently met a wonderful lady who runs an extremely helpful and informative website, Shop to Stop Slavery. She is as sweet as can be and I know would love to answer any questions you might come up with. I hope this all was coherent and didn't involve too much rambling. I will probably be giving random little updates about this topic every once in awhile. I just figured part of having this blog is to share what's going on in my life, and thank you so very much for taking the time to read all of this. I appreciate each and every one of you a WHOLE LOT.

22 comments:

  1. Vanessa,

    I adore this post, and it's inspiring to see all the work, effort, thought that you've put into it.

    Sadly, things like this, important things, are overlooked so frequently. I'm going to share this post with my friends as you've inspired me so! I'm very proud of you darling! xoxo

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  2. This is so great and inspiring!

    There must be a way to live in balance with nature and the people on earth - and also wear beautiful clothes.

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  3. Love!
    I'm behind you 100%!
    You're such an amazing gal. I'm so glad that I met you at a Showbread concert and found out that you have such an inspiring blog!
    xoxo
    Kayla

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  4. I really appreciate you writing about this. It has been on my mind a lot lately, but it is pretty overwhelming. I try my hardest, though!

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  5. Hi Vanessa!

    I've read your blog here and there for a while but I feel now is the best time for me to come out and comment with a big "RIGHT ON"!

    When it comes to sweatshop and cruelty-free goods, I think that it is impossible for even the most smug of us to be perfect. And you are so, so right that it is a difficult and overwhelming task to mend past behaviors.

    Last year, I tried to purchase as many American-made clothes/goods as possible. It was so difficult that I almost stopped shopping in anywhere but thrift stores! I even was able to count up the actual retail clothing purchases that I made:
    http://royalnonesuch.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/good-intentions-1/

    I like to look at fashion and style blogs but I end up feeling bad-funny when they veer more into a discussion of new stuff or "wish lists" or "look at what XX Company sent me!" Not hating on those ladies, but that style of blog has become kind of a force to be reckoned with. So yeah, it takes some big old guts to stand in opposition to that sort of thing. I commend you, Miss!

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  6. This is such a wonderful post. I'm glad someone is making the time and effort to do something in support of standing against said issues. You're truly an inspiration. I suppose we all just need that extra push and knowledge to make a difference. I would love to start working to do the same as you have. Thank you for making a point to get this message out there! ♥

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  7. i try really really hard to buy new zealand made products the bulk of the time but gosh darn it there are some things that this TINY country doesn't offer in my price range.

    Bras are a big one.

    When I first started out wanting to buy fair trade goods I went braless when my old ones fell apart haha but i have some chest (not boob) issues that mean wearing a bra will eventually lead to me taking way to many pain killers.

    I'm pretty successful in buying only second hand and new zeland made, of course sometimes it slips through my finger but the last two bras a bought were vintage! So I'm getting places.

    I love that you posted about this.

    So good x

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  8. well I do mostly buy second hand at least clothes. but yesterday listening to npr, I just found out that shrimp that comes from thailand, involves slave labor, they literally force people to work 20 hours a day and keep them trapped on the shrimp boats and beat them if they refuse to work. Now I can't even eat shrimp from thailand, most everything the usa is made in China, its hard because we don't have a choice I'd rather buy good quality item that cost more and support americans then cheap stuff in china but like I said not much choice its hard, but thanks forthe inspiring post its not enough just to care.. we actually have to take action!

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  9. well done, i completely agree - we need to all start talking about these issues a lot more so that we can make a change together. it's easy to slip into feeling disillusioned, hopeless, or lazy when you feel you don't make a difference on your own, so talking and discussing with others is a wonderful way to stay motivated! thanks for the post xx

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  10. Thank you so much for sharing. I grapple with similar questions and concerns, and it's encouraging to read I am not alone.

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  11. yey!! This is something i've said so many times to people over the past few years (because I have boycotted MANY clothing companies because of slave labor). It is sad when people don't want to believe me. I have read 30 books on human trafficking now and a lot of them talk about the clothing that is made by people who are left in awful living conditions receiving little to no pay at all working sometimes 16 hours a day. A lot of it is bonded labor too where families have to stay in slavery for decades and decades even if they are born into it. It makes me sick so that's why the majority of what I buy is vintage! However, some made in the US products are also slave labor. They are made in the countries that aren't officially states but are considered U.S. residencies.

    I agree with you completely and my heart is in unison with you on this issue and have spoken about it as well often. Companies that I've sent letters and signed petitions against are for Carters baby, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria's Secret, Kohls, Walmart, Nike, and Forever 21

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  12. I completely agree with you!

    This topic has been really crossing my mind lately. I find most of my clothes while thrifting, but sometimes I buy a few dresses here and there from modcloth or UO (which I'm trying to limit!)

    I'm really glad you did this post. . . hopefully I will get around to doing one soon! :)

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  13. Great post, thanks for all the links/resources, it's definitely something I want (and need) to learn much more about xxx

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  14. The worst part about Forever 21 is that it owned by Christians. How can they put John 3:16 on their bags and treat their workers like garbage? They seem to adhere to the prosperity gospel which is so poisonous. It's a bummer because it's a fun, affordable place to shop at, but we vote with the almighty dollar, so we should probably boycott them until they publicly repent and clean up their act.

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  15. Sweet post! A few years ago I challenged myself to only buy things that were secondhand or fairly made. I can't say that it's been difficult, but it certainly hasn't been convenient, particularly when gadgets are involved (toasters, printers, etc.). I also had to buy some new clothes at Target when I started a new job (with a nicer dress code and only 48 hours notice before my first day of training) and couldn't find a single pair of jeans that was either made in the U.S. or certified fair trade! :[ CRAPitalism.

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  16. Thanks for the thoughtful post. Having worked at a labor union as a labor representative for 3 years, this issue strikes super close to home. The Union tradition emphasis not only buying US made, but also buying US Union made, which becomes even more difficult. There's so much debate in that community about union-made (often in Europe) vs. US Made (not always unionized!). Definitely something one could debate for hours.

    Most recently I've struggled with where to buy my groceries. While I like to support co-ops because they have food from local manufacturers and farmers, co-ops have been known to be quite anti-worker. In the Twin Cities, many of the co-ops were known for union-busting activities when their workers tried to organize. So, I'd go to the local chain groceries, where the workers are unionized, but the fruit can come from all over the world. Such a conundrum!

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  17. Thanks for this wonderful post! It's so nice to know what other people think about what they are buying before they become just another consumer.

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  18. Great that you're promoting this view, it's so important to support local artists and try not to ruin some poorly employed people somewhere far away from you...

    When I realised that second hand shopping the most environmentally friendly way of buying clothes, I enjoyed it even more. :)

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  19. I struggle with this a lot, especially as someone who enjoys fashion. I tend to buy second hand but you're right there are some things that are very hard or nearly impossible to get that way. I think it's up to us as consumers to demand higher standards and be willing to pay higher costs if that's what it takes to have slavery free, environmentally sound goods. Thanks for bringing this topic up!

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  20. Hey, this is something I've been thinking about too for a while... thanks for your honesty & the links, off to check 'em out x

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  21. oh my gosh, thank you for posting this! people's eyes need to be opened. i will actually be in Thailand in a few years, counseling girls that come out of human trafficking. this is my heartbeat, the thing that keeps me up at night... so. you definitely just gained a new follower! :)
    thanks again!

    amos 5:24

    -Rylie.

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