When people hear the term “ethical clothing”, they’re not really sure what it means. And really, there isn’t a tried-and-true definition of what ethical clothing is. My take on ethical clothing is that it means a lot of things, and it’s a concept I wanted to explore a bit today.
The problem with most of our fabric and clothing today is most of us don’t have a real sense where it comes from, or what’s involved in making it. Learning the truth, however, can be a shock.
For instance, take a seemingly benign plant like cotton. Pretty harmless right? Well, cotton farming puts billions of dollars worth of pesticides into the air and groundwater each and ever year. These chemicals have been proven to sicken and even kill farmers, especially in less-developed countries.
What about wool? Up until I became a vegetarian I thought wool was completely fine. After all, the sheep are sheared and the hair grows back.
Well, what we don’t hear about is that most of the sheep are sheared multiple times per year (so the factory farms get more wool). The wool is the sheep’s coat. In colder regions many, many sheep die of exposure because they’re left without a coat to fend off the cold.
These are just two of the issues that stay under most people’s radar.
Here at Earth Divas we have tried to lesson our impact on these issues whenever we can. For instance, the wool we use in our bags comes from New Zealand. The Nepalese government buys wool in bulk from New Zealand, and then our artisans buy the wool from the government.
We’ve tried to track where the wool actually comes from in New Zealand. We wanted to see if the animals were being raised ethically and humanely. But it wasn’t possible to find out where our specific wool was coming from. My comfort is that it doesn’t get that cold in New Zealand, so the sheep are probably ok.
My point here is that it isn’t always possible to buy 100% ethical clothing and accessories. Our goal at Earth Divas is to be as ethical and transparent as we can about what we’re doing. Even then, because of issues like wool sourcing, we can’t get there all the time.
But, we, and other retailers and consumers, can get close. For instance, buying fair trade is a huge step in the right direction. Using recycled wool and cotton, like we do in many of our bags, is another step. Making bags and clothing out of bamboo and hemp is yet another.
All of these tiny steps take us in the right direction towards a more ethical, sustainable future.
Here are some other ideas:
- Avoid plastics whenever you can.
- Buy organic whenever possible.
- Recycled or “upcycled” materials lesson the impact.
- Look for fair trade clothing and accessories.
- Go with sustainable fabrics like bamboo and hemp.
It’s near impossible to wear 100% ethical clothing and accessories all the time. Trust me, I’ve tried, and I nearly drove myself crazy. Finally I realized that we can only do the best we can.
So, that’s what we do here at Earth Divas. We use sustainable fabrics like hemp. We use upcycled fabrics like cotton and silk. We provide our artisans with fair trade, livable wages. And we plan to do more in the future.
It’s all about doing the best we can!
Filed under: Eco Fashion on March 24th, 2010