Ethical fashion

I posted a summary of a Tearfund’s third annual ethical fashion report on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and got some interesting responses. Some people were understandably defensive about their favourite F-scoring brands.

It’s hard to be an aware and ethical consumer – there is so much to consider, so much information to take in. You almost need to be a specialist in supply chain management as well as an expert in global politics. And that’s not even considering the environmental aspects of fashion. For each item I purchase, I need to consider the materials it’s made from, where the individual parts have come from, where and how it was assembled, how it got here. It’s impossibly overwhelming!

When I first started teaching global sociology in the early 00s, it seemed as simple as avoiding products from China and buying New Zealand made. Now I know it’s not as simple as this – it is possible to buy ethically-made products from China (setting aside the issue of purchasing items that have come from an undemocratic nation), and not all New Zealand brands are ethical in their practices.

Recently, I’ve made a concerted effort to consume LESS fashion. Every time I look at an item of clothing I think I need, I take the time to consider this more carefully – do I already have one? Can I get by without it? Is it replacing something that is perfectly fine? My main strategy is to wait – I usually find that after 2-3 weeks of considering a purchase, I decide I don’t need it after all. Another strategy is to avoid poorly/cheaply made items in favour of buying better quality stuff that will last longer. This works best in conjunction with the first strategy … no point in buying things that will last years and then replacing them anyway next season!

Here’s the thing … if you know me, you know I like buying stuff – I love gadgets! And shoes! And nice knitwear! Let’s not pretend that I don’t love to buy new season Lululemon every year (luckily they score an overall A- from Tearfund). I’m not even close to being a perfect, ethical consumer. But I like to think that I can try to be better, so that the people who make my Lulu yoga tights get to have a better life.

I don’t want to give up and I think that small things I can do will make a difference, so here’s what I am committing to:
* Consuming less
* Buying better quality items so they last longer
* Worrying less about fashion and more about what will keep me warm / cool / dry / comfortable
* Keeping what I have for longer
* Being aware of ethical clothing producers, and choosing them ahead of the easy / cheaper options
* Avoiding single-use plastics
* Recycling as much as I can
* Not consuming anything from the dairy or beef industry

Do you think it’s enough for each of us to pick a few things that they can do differently and stick with that? Or are we just wasting our time?

The depressing truth of living between the fault line and the deep blue sea

I attended the Tuesday Club this week to hear Melissa Heath talk about the current state of insurance and re-insurance in New Zealand. She had some sobering facts and figures for us about the impact of the earthquakes and on our ability to obtain and retain insurance. According to Melissa, we are living in an incredibly high-risk environment – the Alpine fault could crack at any time, we are at constant risk of major weather events, sea-level rise, and Tsunamis. I’m not sure how she gets through the day with all this in her head!

I’ve posted the video of Melissa’s talk below. It’s depressing, but in my view, essential information for anyone who lives near a fault line or coastline (i.e. everyone in New Zealand).

You can read more about Melissa at her company website Residential Risk Assessment.

One month in…

I’ve survived my first month at Pegasus Health – four weeks and four days to be precise.

I’m finally starting to understand what people around me are on about, and am able to be helpful here and there. It’s a really challenging role and I am loving it. I’m not one to live life in the slow lane – the work is a good mix of busy-ness, but with some time to think and absorb what’s going on.

One thing I have reflected on is how much more pleasant my work environment is from my last role. I don’t mean the view out the window – the people and the culture of the place is just vastly different. I am starting to see the nuances of the relationships between my workmates, and while they don’t always get along, there is a good-natured camaraderie amongst them.

This is in stark contrast to the previous place – the last few months at RC feel like being in the middle of a vipers nest. Some of us who have left recently (and some that are still there) have been on the receiving end of the consequences of speaking out against decisions made by higher ups – usually a stern talking to or in some cases, a strongly worded letter of warning. When I left RC, I pointed out (and it was acknowledged) that staff morale was extremely low. Smart and capable people were not to get anything done because the bosses didn’t trust them to talk to anyone outside the organisation or to make decisions for themselves. The justification for this is that they were “keeping us safe”. Safe from what I am not sure. It was extremely frustrating.

To be honest, I hadn’t realised how hard it was to work at RC until I left. The first year was really great, and then as the best and brightest walked away, it became really unpleasant.

So I am delighted to find myself working somewhere that allows people to get on with the job – each person is trusted to do their job well and, amazingly [sarcasm], they do! People work hard, they have a laugh, they stop for lunch, and actually talk to each other. It’s a vibrant place. I love that there are hot savouries to celebrate something most weeks and a constant supply of lollies and coffee to keep everyone going. Each of the last 24 days has flown by. Long may it continue!