Thank You & Year-End Roundup

2014 is on its way out the door, so I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has read and participated in the blog this year. We aim to help people understand the impacts of their purchases and promote justice, fairness and prosperity for all. Every comment and like and pageview means a lot to us because it means word is getting out and we’re one step closer to making that fairer world a reality.

We appreciate you and look forward to bringing you more in 2015! If there are any particular topics you’d like see covered or questions you’d like to have answered, please contact us—we want to help!

I can no other answer make but thanks. Shakespeare

Year-End Roundup

Since we haven’t done a roundup post in a while I wanted to end the year with a few thought-provoking links I’ve been saving up.

1. Uzbekistan Cotton Campaign – Forced labor in Uzbekistan continues, pulling over a million children, teachers, public servants and employees of private businesses to harvest cotton in often hazardous conditions. This website summarizes the situation and provides actions for governments, companies and citizens to take to put an end to this state-mandated labor. The Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights also has thorough documentation of the issue, including the Cotton Chronicle, which describes specific incidents in the fields.

2. Pollution from synthetic microfibers – Thousands of microfibers can wear off a synthetic garment in the wash and end up in the environment. This article describes one scientist’s work to research the impact of these fibers and solutions to minimize fiber runoff.

3. The truth about organic cotton – This blog post methodically breaks down the requirements of organic cotton certification and debunks some misconceptions, such as that organic cotton uses less water (it doesn’t). I really appreciated the scientific approach of this article. The author gets beyond the buzzwords so many brands use and shares real data.

We’ve come a long way this year but there’s still more work to do. Thanks for coming along with us!

News Roundup: June 2014

Conestoga wagon with post title

Circle the wagons, it’s roundup time! To be honest, I didn’t spend a ton of time reading this month. I was too busy trying to get outside as much as possible! However, the stuff I did read was top-notch quality. Check out the links below!

You Don’t Have to Feel It —This post blew my face off with truth. It explores our motivations for doing good, and how emotion can’t be the only motivator we have. (Style Wise)

Dov Charney: the man who put the sleaze factor into American Apparel — American Apparel founder and CEO Dov Charney was ousted this month in relation to alleged misconduct (he’s a notorious creeper, to say the least). I love the manufacturing ethics of American Apparel but have always felt weird supporting them because of their over-sexualized photography and Charney’s grossness. Hopefully his removal means the brand can move in a less offensive direction. (The Guardian)

Benefit Corporations Look Beyond The Profit Motive — Basic overview of the concept of “benefit corporations” (commonly known as B Corporations). The quote below addresses what I think is one of the keys for social enterprise to really take off. Profit isn’t everything! (NPR)

There are legal protections when a state signs on: A shareholder can’t sue a benefit corporation for valuing the environment as much as profit.
Benefit Corporations Look Beyond The Profit Motive

Greenpeace Reviews Major Food Retailers for Sustainable Seafood Purchasing — One of the best and easiest-to-understand articles I’ve seen about sustainable seafood. (Triple Pundit)

2014 Trafficking in Persons Report — This annual report ranks countries into tiers based on their efforts toward combating human trafficking. (U.S. State Department)

Reader Request: Ethical Jeans — In my post of pants recommendations for Sarah, I noted that ethical high-end jeans being pretty widely available. And what do you know, Jamillah coincidentally just wrote a post with ethical jeans recommendations! (Made to Travel)

Host a Clothing Swap! — Dominique shares helpful step-by-step instructions for organizing a clothing swap with friends—a great way to give old clothes a new home! (Let’s Be Fair)

Top 3 Resale Sites — Elizabeth reviews her favorite apparel resale sites with helpful notes on return policies and how to sell. (The Note Passer)

Did you read the Style Wise link at the top? Go do that now. Then have a great week!

News Roundup: January 2014

This month I came across a couple of really eye-opening stories, one from a journalist who went undercover at a Bangladesh clothing factory, and one about the relationship between outsourced manufacturing and pollution at home. Read on for some thought-provoking material!

I got hired at a Bangladesh sweatshop. Meet my 9-year-old boss – This article reveals the troubling realities in one Bangladesh factory, including several young girls who do not attend school and envision their only future as moving up from thread-trimmers to sewing machine operators. My heart broke to think about this life being real for who knows how many thousands of girls in Bangladesh. (Toronto Star)

China’s exports linked to western U.S. air pollution – A new study shows that Chinese factories, often producing goods for American consumption, create pollution that blows across the Pacific to the Western U.S. (CNN)

Interview: Carry Somers of Pachacuti on the Fashion Revolution – This interview with Somers, the founder of a leading fair trade brand in the U.K., illuminates the business side of fair trade and the challenges that arise in the course of making ethical production a reality. Fascinating! (Triple Pundit)

Somers is also heading up Fashion Revolution Day (on April 24, 2014, the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh), a movement to “raise awareness of the true cost of fashion, show the world that change is possible, and celebrate all those involved in creating a more sustainable future.” This year’s theme is “Who Made Your Clothes?” Visit the Fashion Revolution site to see ways to get involved. I’m considering doing one of the videos they suggest!

The History of Fabric Dye – Zady occasionally publishes short articles on the history of various aspects of clothing production, which I find fascinating. This article covers the history of fabric dye, from ancient natural dyes to modern synthetic ones. (Zady)

Ghirardelli: Love is in the label. Make it Fair Trade! – An easy way to support fair trade! This petition asks Ghirardelli to use fair trade certified cocoa in their chocolate. (Global Exchange)

And to end on an uplifting note, via Pinterest:

Even the smallest voice can make a difference in a big wayWhat are you reading this month? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!


Make Your Halloween Sweet with Fair Trade Chocolate

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love the costumes, spooky decorations, and a reason to re-watch Hocus Pocus. However, there’s one part of the holiday I wish I could change—Halloween candy, particularly chocolate.

Child labor and forced labor are prevalent in the cocoa industry in West Africa, meaning there’s a good chance that those fun size Hershey bars and other conventional treats were made in part by workers who were enslaved, abused, or unfairly compensated. It especially disturbs me around Halloween when so many kids in the United States are happily eating buckets full of chocolate candy. I can’t help thinking about how children the same age in Africa are mistreated and denied an education to ensure the harvest of that very cocoa.

While most mainstream candy companies make no guarantees about their cocoa coming from ethical sources, there is good news! Fair trade chocolate manufacturers have stepped up to provide ethical options for your Halloween party or trick-or-treat bowl.

Informational card and chocolate display image

Fair Trade Your Halloween kit from Equal Exchange

This year I ordered a Fair Trade Your Halloween kit from Equal Exchange. For only $24, I’ll get 150 bite-sized pieces of tasty fair trade chocolate (I chose milk, but dark is available), plus 150 illustrated informational cards. Cocoa in Equal Exchange chocolate is produced in accordance with International Labor Organization standards on child labor and is sourced from cooperatives of small farmers. Order by Oct. 15 to receive your kit in time for Halloween. (Read more about Equal Exchange’s cocoa practices.)

If you want to share more fair trade information with your friends and family, you can order a Halloween Action Kit from Global Exchange. This kit includes postcards, a sticker, a poster, a DVD copy of the documentary film The Dark Side of Chocolate and more.

Fair trade chocolate is a very important issue to me personally. If you haven’t read much about child labor in the cocoa industry, I encourage you to look into it this year. It’s the kind of knowledge that can turn your view of the world upside-down, but in an ultimately good way, because it enables you to start being part of the solution.

Resources to learn more:

New Fairly Friendly Additions: Better Way Imports and BeadforLife

We recently added two new excellent retailers to our Fairly Friendly list.

Better Way Imports partners with suppliers who provide opportunity for victims of human trafficking. They offer a wide variety of bags and jewelry, plus printed t-shirts, cards, journals, gift bags and more.

Purse, necklace, and t-shirt from Better Way Imports

Everyday Zebra purse, Abolitionist necklace, and Mosaic tee from Better Way Imports

BeadforLife works exclusively in Uganda, where they provide several programs to enhance employment opportunities, education, and health care, particularly for women and girls. They offer fun jewelry made from handmade recycled paper beads, loose beads for your own crafting projects, and personal care products made from Ugandan shea butter.

Bracelets, beads, and shea butter products from BeadforLife

Sunset bracelet set, loose beads, and shea butter spa collection from BeadforLife

Both retailers are members of the Fair Trade Federation. The only principle each company failed to meet was not explicitly stating their practices in regard to child labor. However, as FTF members, they are required to meet standards about the appropriate involvement of children in production, which you can read more about on the Fair Trade Federation website.

Better Way Imports: Fairly Friendly listing | Visit site
BeadforLife: Fairly Friendly listing | Visit site

September News Roundup

There were several labor-rights related news items this month. Check out the stories below and some actions you can take to help combat labor abuses and human trafficking.

Over 280 people die in Pakistan factory fire

Petition supporting compensation for victims of the fire (addressed to the prime minister of Pakistan)

9 Ethical Shopping Apps & Plug-Ins

Stitched Together: a short film about the ethical Alta Gracia factory in the Dominican Republic

Petition asking Whole Foods to speak out against child labor in the cocoa industry 

Ask your Senators to support the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act

World Day Against Child Labor

June 12 was the World Day Against Child Labor, an initiative by the International Labor Organization to draw attention to the global problem of exploitative child labor. The ILO estimates that 215 million children worldwide are involved in child labor. Over half of those children are working in the “worst forms” of child labor, which include prostitution and pornography, drug trafficking, dangerous/harmful work, and work done under the conditions of slavery or debt bondage.

According to the ILO, the international community has adopted a road map that outlines steps for ending the worst forms of child labor by the year 2016. The number of children laboring worldwide has declined, but the rate of decline has slowed in recent years in conjunction with lagging economic conditions. Check out the video below from the ILO about the current state of child labor and progress being made to end it. (The ILO has a series of videos about child labor available on their YouTube channel, ILOTV.)