Clothing industry

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. 

 

 

Buy nothing - repair something

This week's Black Friday frenzy has luckily also brought out the Green Friday/Buy Nothing Day movement. My Facebook feed has been full of articles advocating that you rather go out in nature instead of to shopping mals, as this initiative that American national parks made to make their parks free this day.  

However, as I have become quite well aware of, seeing as my year of 2017 - ShopStop is soon coming to an end; materials break - and sometimes beyond repair. Massive sales as Black Friday is only constructive if you buy something you truly need, that can not be bought used or otherwise obtained. Most of the time, this is the case; that you are able to find the item you "need" somewhere else than in a shiny wrapping showcased with good lighting, and even better advertising. 

When you start asking questions to why you need to continue to follow this commercial order of things, you come to realise there are so many alternatives of how to save money, free up your own time and save the environment all at once. Did you for example know that it takes 10.000 litres of water to produce one single pair of jeans? Knowing this, in addition to some other water facts: Only 2.5% of the Earth’s water is freshwater and only 0.3% is accessible to humans. 

Underneath is a picture from the site Good On You that shows how the Aral Sea in Central Asia dried up due to the unsustainable cotton industry in the area. You dont want to be part of this. 

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That is why I chose to repair rather than buying a new pair of blue jeans when my current pair broke last week. These jeans are under 2 years old, so I am not ready to give them up. It only took a few stitches and then their life span was prolonged again. Another pair, some brown chinos type of trousers, that are actually 10 years old also broke this week (a bad week for trousers in my household). These however were worn thin by the fabric, but I went to a tailor and asked for some extra fabric to repair them. I brought with me my the trouser to show the tailor, and he ended up giving my the fabric I needed to mend it for free! It didnt take much fabric for him, but it was enough for me to be able to give my garment a longer life, and hence reducing my need to replace it. 

I hope this inspired you to repair something you have, that you know needs mending. It is not hard, and you feel better afterwards because you've done the sensible thing for yourself, your economy and the environment. 

 

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. 

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