Clothes

The True Cost

I’ve just watched the Netflix documentary “The True Cost” and I cried. Very precisely, it sums up everything that is very unpleasant for us consumers to take in - that actual real humans, just like yourself, are making these clothes under the worst imaginable conditions.

The documentary was made in 2015, one year after the Rana Plaza accident, that killed 1138 factory workers in Bangladesh. As Andrew Morgan, one of the director of the movie says in this interview: “It’s something really important in this world that you have not considered, and you are a part of something intrical just by buying clothes, and as simple as just opening our eyes and our hearts to this idea, that it is hands, physical human hands that touch the things we wear, and that these hands are lives, and they matter”.

I will recommend this documentary to everyone I know who wears clothes, because every time we buy something, we make a choice to be part of the current system. Every time we chose to buy used, ethical, fair trade or ecological however, we are saying that we demand another world. That we do not want to be the buying force at the end of this chain that is ruining lives, the environment and eventually our planet.

Here is the trailer, but I am sure you either have Netflix, or know someone who does. So do watch it in full length, not just this short trailer. I am convinced that you can not remain unaffected afterwards. Thank you for caring.

Rana Plaza and Talanoa Dialogue 

Happy May Sunday, dear climateschool readers! I've had a short hiatus due to exam season starting up here at NTNU, but in just 6 weeks time I will have finished the teacher degree. In the meantime; climate-news does not take exam breaks. Therefore, this blog post will be a short summary of two important things that's been happening while I've been away reading pedagogy literature: 

- The 24th of April was the 5 year mark since the clothing factory Rana Plaza collapsed in Bangladesh and 1138 textile workers died that day. Last year, I attended a meeting about the 4 year mark, and it was then announced that what needed to come in place was a binding agreement where the brands we know sign a uniform agreement of openness and transparency, so that an accident and working conditions like Rana Plaza can never happen again. The Future in Our hands has done a great job following the progress of this security agreement. However, they revealed that the giant IKEA has not signed this agreement. This is a huge shame, because the agreement works, and is already making a significant change in the life of the textile workers. To get a visual of how it was like to experience an ordinary day before the collapse of the Rana Plaza, The Future in our Hands has put together this short video.  

If you want to take action after knowing this, like I do, you can go to IKEAs facebook page and ask them to sign the agreement.  For example: (in Norwegian) "Kjære IKEA, skriv under den livreddende sikkerhetsavtalen for tekstilarbeiderne i Bangladesh!" (And you may also link to the Future in our Hands article) 

- There has also been a UNFCCC Climate change meeting in Bonn from the 30th of April - 10th of May. This was the start of the Talanoa Dialogue : "

"Talanoa is a traditional word used in Fiji and across the Pacific to reflect a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue. The purpose of Talanoa is to share stories, build empathy and to make wise decisions for the collective good. The process of Talanoa involves the sharing of ideas, skills and experience through storytelling.

During the process, participants build trust and advance knowledge through empathy and understanding. Blaming others and making critical observations are inconsistent with building mutual trust and respect, and therefore inconsistent with the Talanoa concept. Talanoa fosters stability and inclusiveness in dialogue, by creating a safe space that embraces mutual respect for a platform for decision making for a greater good.". 

A short recap of the outcome of this meeting: 

  • There was progress made in the the Paris "rulebook"
  • The next meeting will be held in Bangkok, so a negotiation text will be made to prepare for this session
  • There is still key factors in the technical and financial negotiations that needs to be worked out

Thanks to ClimateTracker for the infographic

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ShopStop 2017 Evaluation

The year of Shop Stop came to an end. It's exactly a year ago today that I outlined what would be the premises of my Shop Stop 2017. I just reread it, and I can now answer some of my predictions: 

Was the hardest part being tempted all the time? No, in fact that part came very easy. I knew I had clothes for the different seasons, and it was also such a burden being lifted not having to follow the constant white noice of commercials, because I had my auto reply "Sorry, not this year". I did however come up with these guidelines midway in the project in order to limit the time you are putting yourself at risk of being affected by commercials

Did I want to just stroll along in clothing stores out of boredom? No, not the least bit! This part was really liberating as well, because same reply as above. I do think I have spent more time in nature, I have for sure freed up a lot of time that I know I would have spent otherwise. 

What about presents? There were no soft presents this year! Most people knew the project I had undertaken, and even though it was questioned, it was at least respected that this was my wish. 

Did I learn to knit after a pattern? No, I haven't knitted at all, haha. It hasn't been a need or desire in my life the past year. 

However, did I repair a lot of clothing this year? I sure did! That is the thing about not buying any clothing for a year - things break. Specially trousers. In the end, I had 3 out of 4 trousers that were torn, so I've had my repair kit out quite a lot. The same goes for the majority of my clothes, but that is also one of the many great reasons why we should repair our clothes! I had a lot of repair jobs around November, when I wrote this on why we should always repair. 

Did I get any insights to what I actually need? Yes, and this was quite interesting. By tracking what I thought I needed over all the different seasons, without buying anything new, I could really feel the change between just wanting something and actually needing it. When the project was finished for example, I actually needed new trousers. Knowing this difference in once life is actually one of the better outcomes I gained from the project. 

Were there any downsides to it? At one point in the spring, I did become quite bored of using the same two skirts, before I had access to the clothes I would use over summer. This however, was not a major thing. The greater concern was rather would I be able to sew through quite thick denim. It turns out, that is very doable. Its just a matter of really needing it. 

How did I end the year to celebrate? This might sound contradictory, but I actually gathered almost two full black trash bags with old clothes and gave them away at the start of the new year. It was clothes that I had been holding on to for way too long, and as always it felt really liberating to pass them on to someone who needs them more than me.  

Me being quite happy to give away clothes to a charity. 

Me being quite happy to give away clothes to a charity. 

What can others gain from my experiences? If more people question the choices if they should buy something, in stead of just first buying and then thinking, it can have an enormous impact. 

Will I continue to boycott the clothing industry? In fact, I will not. This is not because I suddenly think it is super great how the employees in factories are treated, but because I learnt from a seminar I attended in May (organised by "The future in our hands" - the organisation that helped make the "Sweatshop" series) that the factory workers actually does not want us to boycott their industry. When I first heard this, I felt that this project was counterproductive, but then I did want to have a years "gap" where I could properly read myself up and understand the situation better, and by not contributing felt like the right way to follow that path. However, as I wrote above, clothes fall apart, and sometimes actually beyond repair. This doesn't mean that I won't think twice about where I do get my clothes from. In November, it became public that H&M in fact burn sever amounts of the clothes they can't sell. This really makes you question their "ethical commitment". Luckily there are several other options on how to buy more ethically, and I will follow up with a new blog post on this in the time to come. 

It has been an interesting and fun year in many regards, and a lot of people has asked me about it, which I think is a super positive outcome. If anyone else feel inspired to do it for a month, six months or a full year, I can actually recommend it for the peace of mind if offers. 

 

 

H&M burn your clothes

Recently it was made public that the clothing giant H&M is burning away its fast fashion clothes in massive incinirators, when it is not being sold in stores. Since 2013, it is estimated that they have burned 60 tons of clothes.

When asked about it, H&M said it was due to health risks and injured clothes that they had to burn such vast amounts of fabrics, but when the reported conducted tests on the same clothes that were to be burnt, and comparing it with the clothes hanging in the stores, there could be found no differences in toxic levels. 

H&M have a history of not being transparent in the past, still, it is also considered one of the fast fashion brands that does a lot to set some standards for the textile industry. 

It would be great if H&M turned out to be as clean as they say they are, but regardless of H&Ms own initiatives, we can't deny the fact that the textile industry is still full of loopholes for the big companies and that far too much clothes are being produced by textile workers who's earning far too little in order to make a living. This recent scandal casted a light to the fact that not even all the fast fashion is being sold, so that is has to be burnt. This should be a wakeup call for H&M and also it's customers.

Third quarter of 2017 on shopstop

September is coming to and end, and so is the third quarter of my year on shopstop. For new readers, this is the rational behind it. 

Reviewing what I thought would be challenges, I mentioned the constant consumer pressure that you are exposed to. To be honest, this has been a lot easier than I thought it would be! If you are planning to attempt a project like this I can give a few tip of advice: 

1. Remove yourself from the constant temptation - meaning for example; dont spend significant amounts of time walking in clothing stores or browsing online.

2. Also, it can be a handy tip to unsubscribe to newsletters that are sent to you daily, like H&M does. You probably dont realise, but this way of marketing really gets under your skin, if you dont fight back. 

3. If your presens on social media channels, like Facebook and Instagram, is constantly bombarding you with commercials, because you are in a target audience group, like I must have been - chose to hide or block it. You are allowed to chose who influence you. 

As previously mentioned, it only gets easier the more time that passes. However, I would encourage you to make it easier on yourself by not letting yourself be overexposed to the clothing industries constant commercials. 

We are now moving into early autumn, which means another cold season. I started this project in January, so I already know I will be fully equipped for the coldest part of the year. 3 months remains of the project, and the last review will come towards the end of the year.

 

 

 

Second quarter of 2017 on shopstop

June is nearing its end, and so is the first half of this years non-shopping policy. To be honest, it only gets easier the more time that passes. 

At first, I figured the main challenges could be changes of the seasons, but now that I have 'mastered' ice cold winter, mild spring, and warm summer temperatures, I know it will be easy to last the rest of the year without breaking it. 

The key to any habit building activities, at least to what I have found, is reminding yourself every so often, why you are doing this in the first place. Until the new habit becomes an integrated part of your daily routine, then it can be good to remind yourself why you first set out on this journey. To me, I am luckily beyond that point, which makes it easier to focus on the idea behind this. 

One cool thing that has happened since the last update, is that I have had several really good conversations with friends about how they too has started questioning themselves more about their consumer habits. Which I think is great! A higher awareness of how much we consume is the first step towards decreasing the amount that goes in to what the advertisement industry wants us to think is a 'normal' or 'standard' amount of clothes, shoes etc to consume in a year. 

Another good thing that has come out of this project so far, which was one of my intentions, was to free up spare time, in order to use it how I know I actually would, in stead of ending up in a store. I can definitely say that I have been able to go on hikes both in the weekdays and also in the weekend a lot more frequently (while living in cities) after starting this project. 

If you have a similar idea that you want to test out for a years time, that you think will bring you closer to the kind of life you want to lead; I would say go for it! I am happy about doing shopstop 2017. Maybe you would like to do shopstop for the second half of this year, starting on 1st of July? :) 

 

Is the clothing industry getting any better?

I was recently at a meeting that discussed how the clothing industry is progressing, now 4 years after more than 1110 people died in the collapsing clothing factory Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. 

Status quo today 

The project lead for the Sweatshop (which I encourage you to see, if you haven't) said that the salaries they are making, is still not enough to cover daily costs. On the topic of security, we learned that there is still a lot of uncertainty in the job market. After the Rana Plaza accident, two work agreement was drawn up, the 'Accord on Fire and Building Safety' in Bangladesh and 'The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety'. If the new standards are not met, western companies must end their relationship with the factories. They have until the end of 2018 to meet the targets. However, as per today, the majority of the factories are still far from reaching these targets. There is still a lack in rights at the workplace, wages are low, and the workers are treated badly and without respect, and is sometimes beaten with plastic bottles. 

After the Rana Plaza, the industry wanted an overview of who had produced their clothes there. It turned out that none of the companies that used Rana Plaza had operated with open lists. In order to tell a customer where their garments are made, a company should always operate with an open list. That is why asking for open lists in the clothing industry is one of the ways you can help alter the system. This is because if an accident where to occur, the responsible would be easier to target, to prevent it happening again. 

Still, progress is being made, but a lot remains to be done. The term 'when best is not good enough' was used about the 'best' factories. In the meantime, we as consumers can look at these lists to see what companies operate with open lists. The other thing we can do is to keep paying attention to the working conditions, and keep asking questions. 

First quarter of 2017 on ShopStop

As March is soon coming to an end, so is my first quarter of the shopstop, hence I thought it suitable with an update on how it is going. 

So, these are the ‘lessons’ that I’ve learned so far, and bear in mind that this is highly subjective: 

  1. You don't necessarily need to wear everything you find pretty. 

I know I have an affinity for burgundy as a colour, and I can not remember what it was that I saw in that colour, but I think it was a pair of trousers, and they might have also been corduroy (another favourite of mine), that in combination was tempting. However, this is not something I am lacking, so I simply reminded myself of this fact, and walked away. 

This lesson is also true about other things, for example if you come across a particular pattern you might like, or a colour, it still doesn't mean that you have to wear it. This part of the project is more about changing how one view what you own and not. Say for example, when you look out on a lovely sunset, you can not own it, but you can still carry the feeling of it with you. In that way you do own it, or at least you own the feeling or sensation it created. And in a lot of ways, that is what the fashion and advertising industry wants us to experience, some sort of feeling that we are buying (along with their garment) 

For me, I have had this thing about dark blue lately, but as I am committed to this project, I rather got an outlet for this with painting with dark blue. Also, I found a dark blue sweater that I’ve had for a few years and started wearing that again, in stead of following a quick and easy impulse, which would have been to purchase a new one right ahead. I should probably point out that I am not saying you can paint yourself out of any temptation; if you actually do lack something, then you do lack it. But the case for most of us with easy access to stores like H&M, is that we actually don’t lack items, we are just bored and easily affected by advertises. Therefore I am trying to create a higher awareness in the decision making process regarding what you actually do chose to buy. 

My quick check list would therefore be: 

  1. Do I actually need it? 
  2. Do I have something from before that could do the job? 
  3. Am I buying this piece because I answered ‘yes’ to the two prior questions, or am I trying to fill some gap in another part of my life with this purchase? 

The first of these I have been asking myself for years, the latter two are new, but I will adopt them, as these are some of the things I want to be more conscious about as a consumer. 

It is actually already becoming easier. 

I hope this can inspire some of you who is reading this, because at least to me, this feels like a relief, not like giving something up. 

For further inspiration, I can recommend this series by Australian blogger and youtuber Muchelle B of how to simplify your life, that I was quite inspired by in January.

Thank you for reading, and remember that it's not just the grand efforts that makes a difference <3

ShopStop 2017

It's been a while, its a new year, and a new greener you, if you'd like to. 

I've decided to introduce a new element to this blog, which is more about green living and how you can do lifestyle choices that is helping us taking care of our common earth. 

For me, one of my contributions this year is that I will not buy any new clothing in 2017. This is because of the awareness I have gained over the past few years about how the textile industry works and the enormous effects this has on our climate. For a more in debt about this, see my last blog post: http://theclimateschool.com/news/2016/11/30/black-friday-and-over-consume-of-clothes

I do believe this is going to become a challenge, even thought I do know I have what I need in order to physically manage it. The biggest challenge, the way I see it now, is to overcome the constant offers that the advertising world is constantly imprinting in you that you need. I read somewhere that earlier we used to talk about the four different seasons. Now, clothing advertises the year like every new week is a new season, which is insane. However, these things are effective, and just the other day when I was walking down the street, I saw a long warm looking black skirt, and immediately thought ‘that was nice’, then I remembered the vow I had given myself and thought about alternatives to buying this new skirt, and straight ahead I recalled a long black skirt I had from four years back that could do the job! So solution number one: See what I already have that can be used. 

The second challenge that I think can become a fall mine is that sometimes one buys stuff out of boredom. Although, now that I am aware of this, I will rather used the time and money spent on something more lasting; like spending time in nature! The nature is of course free, but sometimes it can cost a bit to travel to the more remote areas. This is where the saving aspect of not buying any new clothes come in. I went over my online receipts for 2016 and found out how much I used on clothes that year, and it came to the sum of 4480 NOK. From my perspective, who is someone who considers oneself as not that materialistic, I was quite shocked. It is tempting to come with three explanations as to why the number was this high: 

  1. In 2016 I gave away half of the clothes I owned in the first half of the year. If anyone else is getting inspired by a minimalist lifestyle, as I am currently, I will write another blog post on how minimalism can help you to become more green in your choices. However I would also state that if you do decide to get rid of a lot of clothing, do not throw it away in the bin, donate it to somewhere you know the items will be taken care of, as too much textiles in the garbage is another severe environmental problem. 
  2. There was a holiday in 2016 that I was on where I arrived to the final destination, whereas my suitcase did not. This was in January, and it was rather cold, so I had to buy a new outfit from top to bottom. 
  3. After having given away half my wardrobe in the first half of 2016, I came to realise that a few essential things, like trousers, where now currently missing from what I had left, so that needed to be bough in order to cope with the cold winter of Norway. 

After having reflected on the clothes that I did need to buy, I am still thinking that I must have bought things I did not necessarily need. This is one of the insights I am hoping to get this coming year, what you really need. When you limit your purchase of new resources, you become more creative with what is already available to you. At least that’s my theory. On the bright side, the amount of money I spent on clothes in 2016 could buy me a trip I am planning with a good friend travelling from Oslo to Lofoten, even in an environmentally friendly way. If you come to look at your spendings that way, I am sure you would end up with better memories from an experience like that, instead of yet another pair of black jeans. 

A third challenge I have thought of is this - but what about presents? Will I not be able to give gifts that are textiles this year? There will come a Christmas towards the end of this year as well. For the time being, I am thinking no to soft gifts this year. 

Something constructive I have thought of that can come out of this years experiment is that I want to learn how to knit after a pattern. I haven't tried it yet, and when I manage it, I will be able to produce things myself out of wool this year. 

These are the premisses for my shopstop 2017. So far these are the challenges I see as most likely. Other solutions during the year will of course be to for example borrow say, tour equipment should I need that. On the top of my head I rememberer that I don't own a sleeping bag, but I know someone who does. I am exited about this project, and when I have something to report along the way I will, and then when the year is finished give a full review of how it turned out. 

Black Friday and over-consume of clothes

Last Friday was the so called 'Black Friday', the day after Thanksgiving that Americans, and slowly also Norwegians, have come to embrace as a shopping day without any sensible limits. The day encourages you to buy items, just because they are so cheap you can not afford not to. This goes especially for clothes. 

However, there are major reasons to be concerned about the current situation of how our clothes are being produced and the lifecycle of the cheap clothes we buy. I was glad to see that organisations like Greenpeace wrote this excellent piece on the day (in Norwegian) https://www.nrk.no/ytring/buy-nothing-day-1.13243458 because November 25th was also Buy Nothing Day. The equivalent of Black Friday that is so sorely needed. They also published this factsheet (in English) http://www.greenpeace.org/norway/Global/norway/Miljøgifter/Dokumenter/2016/Fact-Sheet-Timeout-for-fast-fashion.pdf which I highly recommend you check out. 

The current way our clothes are being produced are severely bad for the environment. Composting a fabric that is made out of several different types of textiles, which is also coloured can take up to 1000 years to break down. In this process it is also likely that toxic waste will either leak from the compost area into potential drinking water or if burned, turn into the climate warming gass methane. 

Worst of all is still the conditions that the clothes are being produced under. The Norwegian environmental organisation Framtiden i våre hender (The future in our hands) teamed up with the newspapers Aftenposten and sent Norwegian youths to the factories where the clothes we buy are being produced. They made the short series Sweatshop http://sweatshop.no to show a Scandinavian speaking audience how horrible the conditions are for the workers in these literal sweatshops, and how little they earn. I strongly recommend seeing the series. Both seasons are 5 episodes lasting 10 minutes each. When you think more consciously about the cheap clothes we buy; from it is made to when we dispose of it, you start seeing that this is not a sustainable solution.

The best alternatives are to: 

-Buy less

-Buy used

-Buy only what you need

-Buy higher quality when you first buy