Monday, May 19, 2008

People are always asking me, what does ethical mean? What’s the difference between fair trade and eco clothing? Also, how do I shop ethically? We are all confused, why should we buy an organic T-Shirt and who will benefit.

So this month F4D gets down to nitty-gritty to give you some facts and shopping tips.


Firstly there is the human element and the effect clothing production has on underpaid, mistreated workers. Then the environmental impact that comes in multiple forms, such as the use of chemicals. At least 8,000 chemicals are used to turn raw materials into clothes, many
of these are toxic and pollute the environment, local water and also cause lasting harm to workers. Polyester is mass produced cheaply, however it is not biodegradable. Cotton has become the focus of media debate as it makes up 40 percent of world fiber consumption yet has to be treated heavily with damaging toxic chemicals.

According to UNESCO, growing enough cotton for one pair of jeans requires 2,867 gallons of water and a dose of some of the
world's most hazardous pesticides.

That’s the same volume of water carried in a C-130 firefighting
plane. A simple T-shirt requires 719 gallons (the water in one small fire truck) and a cotton bud requires 1 gallon! Growing cotton accounts for 24 per cent of global insecticide use and is believed to account for one million cases of poisoning and as many as 20,000 deaths a year.


Eco – the most “woolly of all terms. It takes into account the environment, health of consumers and working conditions of the producers. It is not necessarily organic or fair trade.
Ethical – companies that follow the “Ethical Trading Standards” and subscribe to the following, no child labour, living wages to be paid and no discrimination of excessive working hours. However members are not obliged to meet these standards.
Fair trade – pays fair prices to producers reflecting true cost of production, promotes gender equality commits to long relationships to provide stability and invests in social and environmental projects.
Organic – not sprayed with pesticides, fungicides herbicides or chemical fertilizers, which is better for the environment and workers


Know before you go – get online and do your own research before you leave the house
Buy less cheap fashion – if someone is charging $10 for a top, think about where it was made, who made it and under what conditions
Ask about provenance of a garment – how, where, when was the product made?
Ask yourself whether a product is organic, renewable or recycled?
Recycle all the clothes you own already or organize a clothes swap with your friends

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