Archive for April 2016 | Monthly archive page
By Amy Loder
It’s official. Every time I shop for clothes, I suffer from fashion overwhelm.
It means that I am buying less these days. Even though I am buried in options, I feel paralyzed from trying to unclothe the production practices of the different fashion brands. I want brand transparency, and I want to know more about the people who cut the fabric and stitch my garments.
As a former fashion industry professional, I pay close attention to fashion-related headlines. Recently, there have been more headlines about the negative environmental and human rights impacts of ‘fast fashion.’ While it is sad to read about factory fires, deaths, rising cancer levels and alarming water pollution levels, it is also necessary to pay attention if we want to see the fashion industry change for good.
The event that placed a permanent spotlight on the fashion industry happened at Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza garment factory. On April 24, 2013 an eight-story building collapsed, killing 1,100 garment factory employees. While Rana Plaza wasn’t fashion’s first garment factory tragedy, it was the largest and provided tangible evidence that the fashion industry has a systemic problem.
Rana Plaza catalyzed an international conversation about the fashion industry’s impact on human rights and our environment. Three years later, terms like worker rights, living wage, fair-trade, supply chain, transparency and sustainability are at the forefront of conversations in the fashion industry, and they are very familiar to clothing consumers like you and me.
Dig in and discover more
If you’re interested to learn more about ethical, sustainable fashion, April is a great month to get started!
Begin with a few websites
- World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO)
A global network of organizations representing the Fair Trade supply chain
- The Truth Behind the Barcode
A comprehensive annual report that grades major fashion brands on their production transparency and traceability, policies, worker rights, wages and use of child labor.
- The Clean Clothes Campaign
Dedicated to improving working conditions and supporting the empowerment of workers in the global garment and sportswear industries.
- DC EcoWomen’s Eco-fashion Pinterest Board
Reflect on the outside what you value on the inside!
If you’re looking to dig deeper here are some other ways to up your fashion industry knowledge and clothing shopping skills:
- Safia Minney. Slow Fashion: Aesthetics Meets Ethics
- Lucy Siegle. To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?”
- Elisabeth Cline. Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
- The True Cost | A Documentary Film
At 92 minutes, it’s a quick watch. This is the best introduction to the fashion industry and its current production practices that I’ve ever seen. It’s informative, moving and downright accurate.
- NPR | The World Behind a Simple Shirt in 5 Chapters
Alex Bloomberg of Planet Money tells the story of how an average t-shirt is made. He takes you on a global journey – detailing each step of the design and production process.
- Changing the world through fashion| Eva Kruse at TEDxCopenhagen
Eva Kruse is CEO and President of Danish Fashion Institute and Copenhagen Fashion Week. Her talk is about what every one of us can do to improve our personal footprint and the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry.
Get even more involved
Learn about Fashion Revolution Day
It is on April 24th. Visit http://fashionrevolution.org/ to see what others are doing to celebrate the day.
Show your label and hashtag it on social media with #whomademyclothes. Rock your clothing turned #insideout with the label showing. Take a selfie and post it on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with hashtag #whomademyclothes.
Ask questions, lots of them
When shopping online or in-store, ask questions about brands and garments. Where is it made? What is it made of? How is it made? Why is the price so low? You can also learn a lot about brands and their production practices online.
Get App Savvy
Install the aVOID browser extension from ‘Active against child labour’ to enable fair shopping online. It’s really easy to use: When you’re buying clothes online, aVOID works in the background by hiding all manufacturers that have been negatively associated with child labor.
Amy Loder is a DC-based personal stylist and has extensive experience in fashion production, product development and business development. She is passionate about women creating their most authentic personal style and using human and environmentally friendly clothing and products.
By Jessica Wilmer
For the past 63 years, April has been celebrated as Keep America Beautiful month. The campaign began in 1953 with a simple goal: To engage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community environments.
They have successfully launched and promoted dozens of campaigns including The Great American Clean-Up, America Recycles Day and they were even the inspiration behind Earth Day which launched in 1970.
All of KAB’s programs focus on their three goals: End Littering, Improve Recycling, and Beautify Communities.
Unfortunately, over the years Keep America Beautiful has drawn some strong criticism.
KAB was established in coordination with “a group of corporate and civic leaders… to bring the public and private sectors together to develop and promote national cleanliness ethic.”
This is all well and good, but they left out that many of the corporate leaders were also notorious polluters. Because of this, some argue that KAB was created to deflect blame from the beverage and packaging companies to the wider American public. It’s coincidental that the organization’s message targets individuals without mentioning the corporate offenders.
This, my eco-friends, is greenwashing. The companies involved don’t want anyone looking into their practices, so they spend the big bucks to point the finger elsewhere.
And it is further enforced by the decades’ long relationship between KAB and the Ad Council. Together, they produced dozens of PSA’s condemning the actions of the public. By coining the term “litterbug,” they made it immediately horrifying to be seen throwing garbage on the ground.
Remember the offensive “Crying Indian” PSA? The voice-over firmly states, “People Start Pollution. People can stop it.”
We can all agree that KAB’s goals are commendable. The problem lies in their message– they take a band-aid approach instead of focusing on preventative maintenance.
Where did they go wrong?
1. Ethical consumerism
As consumers, we need to take our responsibility extremely seriously. We are represented in the dollars we spend. So if you spend the majority of your money at big box stores, what message does that send? Now if you spend your money at a company that pays a living wage and works on improving their environmental footprint, is that more of the message you want to send? I’m looking at you, Patagonia.
Ethical consumerism is both our offense and defense. We have the choice to purchase products that don’t have a negative social or environmental impact and to dutifully patron the companies that produce those goods.
2. Product stewardship
Essentially this is the core of corporate responsibility and the missing piece with Keep America Beautiful. Companies should focus on the environmental, health, and safety effects of their products from creation to disposal.
The product stewardship doesn’t end with companies. Consumers must be product stewards as well. After we consciously purchase our goods, we must take it upon ourselves to reduce their environmental, health, and safety impacts as well.
What can we do?
- Don’t litter- It pollutes and poisons the waterways.
- Recycle all items that can be and speak up when other people don’t.
- Plant trees and flowers not only to make your community beautiful, but to return to the earth what we’ve taken away.
Once you’ve done that, figure out how you can take it a step further.
- Can you donate, consign or re-purpose your old clothes instead of throwing them out?
- Can you purchase glass instead of plastic as glass can be recycled infinitely?
- Can you make the switch to eco-conscious beauty products?
- Can you make your own natural home cleaners?
I’m guessing is the answer is yes.
Consumers and companies share a combined responsibility and accountability for waste, excess, and pollution.
So this Keep America Beautiful Month, let’s focus on being ethical consumers and let’s think before we purchase. Let’s strive to become better product stewards and let’s hold all companies to higher standards.
And if it’s not too much trouble, maybe plant a tree or two.
Jessica Wilmer is an aspiring blogger, vlogger, photographer, and activist. She currently works in finance and lives with her boyfriend on Capitol Hill. You can usually find them at the farmers market in their matching Patagonia sweaters looking for new veggies to include in their repertoire of vegetarian dishes.
By Alix Kashdan
One day after work, I entered the Portrait Gallery in Chinatown, headed downstairs to the museum’s theater space, and settled in to watch a film: “E.O. Wilson – Of Ants and Men.” Beautiful shots of the Alabama wilderness floated across the screen, while the biologist Edward Osborne Wilson described his career in biology, his passion for the natural world, and the early experiences that influenced his life and career.
This was one of dozens of screenings, receptions, and events that are part of the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital (also known as the D.C. Environmental Film Festival, or DCEFF).
The festival began in 1993 and is the nation’s largest environmental film festival, showing more than 100 films at locations across the city over the course of a week and a half each March. DCEFF includes a ton of events including screenings, premiers, local documentaries and international films, shorts and feature-length movies, and discussions with filmmakers, to name a few.
“E.O. Wilson – Of Ants and Men” is one of many films that were screened at this year’s DCEFF. It tells the story of biologist and Harvard professor Edward Osborne Wilson.
The film touches on many themes, including Wilson’s adolescence in Alabama, moving beyond his study of ants to sociobiology and the negative response from many in the scientific community, and finishes with a look at his work with conservation efforts in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park.
Both the film’s story and style are captivating. The entire movie has a sense of lightness and calm while simultaneously delving deeply into complex ideas.
The cinematography is breathtaking, with lingering close-ups and wide-pan shots of forests, tree branches, marshes, and ferns. Even the close-up photography of ants is mesmerizing – even for someone who wouldn’t normally enjoy pictures of insects on a large screen.
The story and its themes are just as compelling as the film’s look and feel. One fascinating idea the film explores is the rise of sociobiology. It describes how Wilson has studied the cooperation, altruism, and complex social behavior exhibited by ants.
The film goes on to review the limited number of species that exhibit this type of behavior, called eusocial species, and reviews how Wilson expanded on this idea through writing about sociobiology in the 1970s. While today the evolution of social behavior is an accepted idea, at the time it caused a lot of controversy. The film depicts the backlash Wilson faced from scientists who disliked the idea of applying sociobiology to humans and our evolution.
The film “E.O. Wilson – Of Ants and Men” explores the intersection of biology, environmentalism, anthropology, psychology, and conservation science in an interesting and effective way. I highly recommend this movie, which can be watched online from PBS here: www.pbs.org/program/eo-wilson. I would also recommend checking out dceff.org, which includes an archive of festival films from the past few years, plus more information about this year’s festival.
Alix Kashdan works in digital media and communications at a non-profit. She’s passionate about climate policy, international relations, and digital media, including blogging, photography, and mapping. She grew up in the D.C. area and currently lives on Capitol Hill.