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?
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).
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!
In my Year Ahead post, I alluded to the fact that Stephen and I were both looking to change things up a bit in our work lives. I can happily report that this has now happened. A few weeks ago, Stephen stepped up into a much more senior role within Gough Group. It means that he’s much busier and more stressed, but I can see that he’s also really loving the challenge.
And on Friday last week, I said goodbye to my colleagues at Regenerate Christchurch and moved on to a new role at Pegasus Health. There were lots of reasons for wanting to make this change – the main one being that the organisation has significantly shifted its focus since I arrived. Most of the people I was working with on delivering regeneration planning have now left, the work we were doing has wrapped up, and the future work programme for the organisation has not yet landed. It seemed like a good time to exit. Added to this, the Council recently voted to reconsider its funding of RC, with a proposal to cut its financial contribution by 75%. Based on the work we’ve completed and the likely work ahead, this seems entirely reasonable. And lastly, it has become increasingly clear to me that the voluntary work I do in my community with the Dallington Residents Association, coupled with my future plans, are incompatible with my work at RC. I have regularly found myself in potential conflict of interest situations which mean that I am not able to fully contribute to conversations taking place at work and in my community. And if you know me, you’ll know how much that bothers me. I like to have an opinion about everything, and I am always happy to share it!
So my time was up at RC and it was time to move on.
It’s Day 2 in my current role as a Senior Project Manager at Pegasus Health. So far it’s been busy and confusing – to be expected. But the people seem hardworking, and the work looks like it will be really interesting. It’s a new role and still being defined, so there will be scope for me to make it my own, which is just what I like. I’ll report back on how it’s going once I’m less confused!
Sometimes when I’m running around like a mad thing trying to figure out how I can fit in all the meetings and catch ups with people, I pause and wonder what the heck I’m doing. I spend hours each week doing volunteer work for various organisations. Why?
This is why…
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
George Bernard Shaw – A Splendid Torch
Do you think this desire to be useful in service is something that is becoming less valued nowadays?
I’m really rocking a crochet vibe lately. As I mentioned in a recent post, I picked up my knitting needles again recently, and then re-learned crochet – I find it faster and easier to do, and therefore much more satisfying.
I started out with little things just to get into the swing of it – I made two peggy square snuggle rugs, some dish cloths, baby booties, and a hat. Now I’m working on Nana blankets for Arlia, Wyatt and Jaxon.
Arlia is getting this one – in purple rather than pink (pattern here).
Then Wyatt and Jaxon will get this one in a colour of their choosing (pattern here).
Once I’ve finished those, I am keen to tackle some clothing – I’ve picked out this cocoon cardie to make for me and Megan (pattern here). It looks so snugly for winter.
In between, just as a break from the larger project, I want to make more baby things. I have some lovely baby wool that I want to make something with, and am going to make some vests, cardies, hats and booties to give to Pregnancy Help for them to pass on to parents in need.
I glanced down at my desk yesterday, and noticed it was strewn with my most prized positions. No surprise for guessing the brand…
When does a passion become a vice? Never, right? My current Apple lineup includes: Apple Watch Series 4 – my constant companion iPad Pro with pencil – not the latest but I love it so! iPhone X – also not the latest, woah, what’s going on?! MacBook Air – the new love of my life Airpods – these are magical earthings
I’ve never really been interested in clothes or fashion. I tend to go with the flow – I make do with what’s in the shops but usually select the current season’s version of the same stuff I always wear. Over time I’ve developed a better sense of what’s going to work for me and what I am comfortable in. Like most women, I have listened to various “fashion gurus” (remember Trinny and Susannah?!) over the years who scold me for wearing this or not wearing that. I have fought against my own preferences in order to follow along and fit in. The older I get, the less I care about following fashion advice.
Here are some things I’ve recently decided about my own likes and dislikes. My goal for this year (and beyond!) is to follow these and not listen to all the noise about what’s right and wrong:
I like dark colours – mostly black. It’s just easier and I’m lazy. It doesn’t mean I’m boring.
I prefer to wear loose-fitting clothing – I hate the feel of tight waists and restrictive arms and legs.
I prefer long pants / skirts / dresses – I like having my knees covered up. Skirts and dresses are okay as long as they come to mid-calf, or I wear tights underneath. Wearing a dress with pants can be a thing if I want it to be.
I only ever want to wear comfy shoes. High heels are awful and I’m done with them. I like lace-ups.
I like wearing jackets. I’m usually cold when other people are warm, so these help me stave off the cold.
I like wearing scarves – same reason as above. They have the added bonus of bringing in some colour when I’m in the mood for that.
I’ve recently decided I like wearing shirts – I like the androgyny of lace-up shoes / pants / shirt / jacket. The only problem I find is that most shirts are made for flat-chested, flat bellied women. Wear are the shirts made for curves? I’m on the look out.
I don’t care about labels, but I do want to shop ethically. I think it’s stupid that a shirt in a fashion shop costs five times something I can get in a department store. I do care about buying stuff that’s going to last a while, and wasn’t made with sweatshop labour. I like buying New Zealand made clothing. I’d like to have the crafty-confidence to make more of my own clothing.
I recently took up knitting again after a long (20-year) hiatus, but have found it hard on my hands/wrists/shoulders/neck to manage the two needles, so took the bold step of (re)learning to crochet. My Nana taught me both as a kid, but I never really took to the crochet – it seemed overly complicated to me at the time. Then, joining a craft group and watching the ease by which crocheted items slipped off the end of the hook, I was inspired to give it a try.
Much to my delight, crochet is speedy, versatile and so easy! And portable too – I can tuck my project into a small bag and get some crafting done whenever I have some down time. So, in the last few months, I’ve been able to whip up a couple of afghan rugs using Peggy (Granny) squares. It’s so satisfying to build a whole blanket one small square at a time. To sharpen up my skills, I’ve been making use of YouTube. You really can learn anything with a good YouTube tutorial!
The first tutorial I found was by Bella Coco. I find English tutorials easier to follow because they use the same terminology as New Zealand (4/8ply, hook sizes, double/treble crochet etc.). This one taught me the basic double (treble) crochet:
I also really like Bonny Barker – even though she’s American she has a good way of explaining really complex stitches. I whipped this dish cloth up in a couple of hours:
This one’s hard to write, because I am not sure what’s going to happen in 2019! We’ve spent the last couple of years laying the groundwork for our future and I suspect 2019 will be more of the same.
I’ve established some good routines around family, fitness, food, hobbies, sport and voluntary work that I am really happy with. After a few years of struggling with taking on too much, I feel like I have a good balance between doing all the things I want, and taking time to connect with the couch.
But there are also plans afoot to change things up this year – Stephen and I are both working on shifting things around in our careers, so watch this space to see how that pans out. Ooooh, mysterious!
I took the bold step of putting my hat in the ring to be a candidate for Community Board at the end of last year. Because I have opted to stand as a People’s Choice candidate (left-aligned local body political grouping), there is a bit of a process before I can actually say I’m in the running. I can’t say that I love Politics (with a big P) but I love working in my community, and would relish the chance to get more involved. I’ve met a lot of hard-working and dedicated people since I’ve been on the Dallington Residents Association, and if I could do half the job they do, I’d be pretty proud of myself.
I think this is the first year in a really long time that Stephen and I have no (national) travel plans! We have opted not to do our usual Auckland / Wellington / Tekapo / Random trips this year, and save it all for a big trip overseas instead. We haven’t been away on a big trip since 2015, and we actually weren’t planning on going away this year either. But when Rachael and David’s wedding invitation arrived, how could we say no?! Especially since they are getting married in Edinburgh. I can hardly wait! We are planning to go to Iceland and Ireland also – two big bucket list places for me.
I’d like to get some more renovations done this year. There are two main things I’d like to get done – the rest of the windows double-glazed and the butler’s pantry installed. But I’m not sure the budget will stretch that far, so we will see.