The recent Bangladesh garment factory tragedy reminded me once again how much our lives impact the lives of others thousands of miles away. In our daily lives, we simply walk in a store and purchase items at low cost without any thought to the cost imposed on others.
While the owner’s of this facility were aware that cracks were forming, they used fear tactics, threatening job loss, if employees didn’t come to work that fateful day. Greed caused, as of a report today (NPR, 05/13/13), more than 1,127 people to lose their lives. At least charges were brought against the owner but that isn’t any condolence to the families who lost love one’s.
We, as in the collective Western World ‘WE’ can’t continue to distance ourselves and plead ignorance. The companies that manufacture products under poor conditions can’t say “we didn’t know what was taking place in these factories”. I’m sorry, but if your products are manufactured somewhere you need to know the circumstances under which it is produced, you are ultimately responsible. Corporations need to stop treating people as expendable.
However, as consumers we are ultimately responsible. We can refuse to spend our money on items that cause undue suffering anywhere along the supply chain. We can demand that others are treated fairly and provided fair wages and standards of working conditions. We need to be willing to pay a little more for items that are produced under more just conditions. We can seek out locally produced and sourced items to our best ability and we can voice our desire for information about the conditions that our fellow humans exist. Some of these work circumstances are essentially slavery. In fact, we all have any number of slaves working for us depending on how extravagantly we live. You can calculate your own number of slaves at http://slaveryfootprint.org/. I have 29.
Admittedly, even when you try, it is difficult. I have tried not to buy anything new, choosing to purchase from used clothing stores. Around the Tri-valley I frequent any number of thrift stores for various causes as well as Picket Fences in Livermore and Savvy Seconds in Pleasanton. Sometimes though I would like to purchase new items made in a responsible and sustainable manner. From what I’m finding though, well, it’s hard to find!
I’ve started trying to search out shops with clothing made local or made by collectives internationally who benefit directly from the clothing, and if at all possible also sustainably produced. One I like for children’s clothes is Tomat. They are made in the US with organic cotton and it’s a business operated by a mom. Certainly this route is a fair bit more costly than buying from your local big box retailer, but you can purchase them in good conscience and that to me is priceless.
Have been trying to find other potential places to purchase items for myself. Searching Etsy I found a few clothes designers who sew special order sizes. I’ve also found a few potential on-line companies with some interesting finds:
If you have any retailers to add, please don’t hesitate to let me know about them, I am always on the lookout.