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Tuesday, 15 January 2013
Thursday, 7 June 2012
With 50 days until the start of the Olympics, War on Want are asking that one of the event's major sponsors and the maker of the Team GB kit, cleans up its act.
The campaign focuses on workers' rights, with the slogan; Exploitation. It’s not ok here. It’s not ok anywhere.
Visit War on Want's website to get involved.
Meanwhile, Labour Behind the Label are also pursuing the sporting giant for its refusal to pay Indonesian workers left jobless after their factory owner fled.
Sign the petition here.
Friday, 10 February 2012
|Image source: http://australianmuseum.net.au|
I've spent a fair bit of time looking into the minutiae of whether organic cotton is actually any more environmentally-friendly a fabric than recycled polyester.
When recycled, polyester is pretty much closed-loop, meaning you don't really need to put much else in besides an old polyester garment to make a new one. Even when produced organically, cotton has environmental impacts - needing land space and lots of water.
But when I read this story, it became clear that this whole polyester/cotton debate is null and void. Tiny filaments of synthetic fibres from our clothes are being washed into waterways and building up there. It's obvious when you think about it, although I never really have until now. During the laundry process fibres are going to get damaged and bits of them break off - that's where washing machine and tumble dryer (shame on you!) fluff comes from. But when your clothes are made from non-biodegradable plastic, those little fibres ain't going anywhere, ever.
The fact that pieces (however small) of our clothes have been found in the bellies of fish, and then accumulating in their cells, is really quite dark. Darker still, there wasn't a single sample from this study (carried out around the world) which didn't contain microplastic - mostly fibrous remnants of polyester, nylon or acrylic.
On making this discovery, tests were carried out on the wastewater from washing machines, which found that a single polyester garment can shed 1,900 fibres per wash. Times that by all the polyester garms in the world, and all the washes they're put through in their lifetime and we could be in massive trouble.
Polyester is OFF the menu.
Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Q: I keep seeing bamboo promoted as a sustainable fabric. I don't know anything about how it's produced – am I paying over the odds for something that's not what it seems?
|Image source: greenlifestylemagazine.net|
A: Many natural clothing companies sell bamboo items. As a crop it is incredibly fast-growing – in fact the fastest-growing woody plant in the world - and unlike cotton can produce extremely high yields without the use of pesticides. It is harvestable after 3-5 years and after cutting the shoots spring up again from the base of the plant so it doesn't need re-planting. This is where bamboo's sustainability claims come in, which are based on the original material being renewable, unlike oil-based man-made fibres such as nylon, acrylic and polyester.
Rayon is made from the cellulose of plants, which is dissolved in a chemical solvent and then extruded though holes in a 'spinneret', creating fine threads that solidify and are processed then spun into yarn.7 Most bamboo fabric is really rayon, which according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “typically is made using environmentally toxic chemicals in a process – known as the viscose process - that emits hazardous pollutants into the air. While different plants, including bamboo, can be used as a source material to create rayon, there’s no trace of the original plant in the finished rayon product.”6
True bamboo uses what are known as bast fibres – the fibres from the plant itself, which have not been regenerated using a chemical process like rayon and viscose. Bast fibres can be extracted either mechanically or chemically. However, other plants such as hemp produce higher yields of fibres than bamboo.3 In the U.S the FTC has ruled that viscose and rayon made from bamboo can't be described as 'bamboo', but in the UK the practice is still allowed, so there's no way for consumers to tell the difference.
Oeko-tex, which restricts levels of certain chemicals, certifies bamboo fabrics. Neither Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) nor the Soil Association certify the fabric itself due to the fact that almost all of it is actually rayon. Although the bamboo crops themselves can be certified organic, in actuality very little is.3 The Soil Association is currently asking Trading Standards to review the accepted descriptions of bamboo products. Currently, a t-shirt made from bamboo rayon can be described as 'organic', even if it's just the bamboo crop itself which was certified. This seems incredibly misleading to consumers looking for a genuinely environmentally-friendly product.8
Although not made from bamboo, Tencel, a trade name for lyocell, is made using the first virtually closed-loop system for a manufactured fibre process and is the only fibre to be awarded the EU eco-label. It's possible to use cellulose from bamboo or other plants, but again it isn't the best option. Outdoor gear company Patagonia say eucalyptus yields the best quality fibre with the least amount of waste, making it the most environmentally-friendly option and therefore the company doesn't use bamboo.3
The recent rise in popularity of bamboo is a cause for concern for some campaigners, who warn that the large-scale production of any one crop can have negative consequences. There have been reports of land-grabbing and the clearing of natural forest to make way for bamboo plantations.1 The lack of international laws governing bamboo plantations leaves their management to the individual companies involved.
And what about workers' rights? According to Source4Style, a sourcing portal for sustainable fabrics, “fair labour standards and practices while harvesting the plant are largely undisclosed or at least not entirely transparent. Much of the bamboo currently used is harvested by those living at or below subsistence level and mainly by women and children.”Bamboo is mostly grown in countries with poor track records on working conditions, such as China which is by far the largest producer of bamboo. However, its status as a cash crop also has potentially positive benefits. “Bamboo is the single most important forest product used by the rural communities in several countries of the Asia-Pacific region. It is also an important source of cash income for the rural poor. Bamboo is a labour-intensive, multi-purpose commodity. This in particular is why bamboo-based development can lead to the creation of new jobs and income generation, especially for women in rural communities.”4
7 Eco-chic, Sandy Black
8. Conversation with Soil Association representative, 07/11/11
Friday, 25 November 2011
|Photo by Trevor Leighton|
Traidcraft, People Tree and the World Fair Trade Organisation are calling for an end to cotton subsidies which keep African cotton farmers in poverty.
The US government gives its cotton farmers billions of dollars in subsidies each year – amounting to over $31 billion in the last 10 years alone.
These subsidies distort the world price of cotton, meaning that millions of African cotton farmers are unable to get a fair price for their crop and struggle to make a living.
79 countries label the subsidies as ‘deplorable’ and some of them have even been ruled as illegal by the WTO.
Removing US subsidies could mean an extra $250 million for African producers who depend on cotton for their survival.
Click here to sign the petition, which will be submitted to the US Ambassador ahead of the WTO meeting this December.
Read the position paper on cotton and the WTO, prepared by Traidcraft and People Tree, and approved by World Fair Trade Organisation.
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
These beautiful images published by Labour Behind the Label and taken by photo journalist Will Baxter show the women workers in Cambodia sewing adidas' 2012 Olympics range.
Beautiful but sad - Labour Behind the Label say these women regularly work 11-hour days and their wages don't cover the costs of living. Read the full article here:
Sunday, 20 November 2011
Find out how many slaves you have 'working for you' by answering some questions about your lifestyle and possessions on this beautifully designed website. Some interesting facts along the way too.
My score = a shocking 51 - double the average score, apparently.
This is due mainly to my wardrobe - the website doesn't give the option to choose second-hand or ethically-produced clothing, I hasten to add!