Yet another topic that could have a course on its own!
It's our last official topic. Each time I get to the end with another group, I can't quite believe it's already the end - this round is absolutely no different.
Once again, here's a reminder - take on the learning, then when we finish up this week (sniff, sniff!) set yourself some time to pick your priorities within the topics that speak to you most and work from there. A little foot in front of the other. Each week or month. It's the beginning in many ways and not the end at all! I suggest strongly being comforted just knowing you will never 'arrive' and you will never be 'done' going low tox - so you might as well relax and make the journey comfortable and inspiring. Your pace, your way. Always.
Course alumni Anna Kellerman shared with us on the course round she was a part of, this wonderful tip. This will possibly assist you with refocusing on the good that's happened, the good that's happening today and the good you're planning for and manifesting for the future that's not as urgent, or a bit more 'big ticket'.
- What have you changed in the past 30 days? Write down every single thing you can think of. It's a list worth celebrating.
- What are you working on today or what is your next step?
- What are you still wanting to change? Short term, mid term and long term? What is the cost? What is the value of what you have that you could sell to put towards it? What 'strategic vouchers' could you ask for this Christmas or birthdays coming up to get you closer to your replacement goals and how can you up-cycle or repurpose items that can't be gifted or sold?
I also want to remind you that if there's one thing I want to achieve through this course, it's making you a discerning person, not a parrot of whatever I might say or copier of what I do. I want you to be a good investigator who knows and is brave enough to ask the tough questions and make your own decisions, rather than just go off a list of 'safe brands'. If you gain the general knowledge and the gift of critical, independent thinking, then you are better and better able to scan brands and products - anywhere in the world! Sometimes with the topics where the science is 'out' and the perfect way is unclear, I can't tell you what to choose - You have to weigh things up for yourself and decide what feels right for you.
On that note, let's look at the world of clothing. There's a lot to feel good about these days when it comes to ethical fashion with more and more fantastic .
Here's what we'll cover today:
- Interview with Dijanna Mulhearn from Wardrobe 101
- How to approach all this info
- Interesting clothing production facts
- What on earth can we do when it comes to clothes?
- Caring for your natural clothes
- Clothing for babies and children
- Ethical clothing for adults
- A little takeaway note
Here's a little interview with awesome fashion expert, Dijanna Mulhearn, from Wardrobe 101. She's not only great at helping us make the most of our wardrobes and learn how to shop, but she's passionate about 'slowing fashion down' and helping women make more ethical, well thought out purchases. She sets a really great, relaxed and comfortable tone for our topic today. If we're busy freaking out then we're not moving forward in a happy relaxed way, and that's crucially important to the overall Low Tox Life as you well know by now. Enjoy!
Also - have you listened to the podcast Show #5 I did with ethical fashion guru Hannah Parris? POP HERE TO LISTEN.
I list all the other textiles-oriented shows at the bottom of this topic.
I'm going to give you a few things to think about today rather than the full blown solution to every ethical fashion question that exists. More and more information is coming out everyday and more and more resources emerge.
If from today you start at least thinking "Do I really need another cheap top" and "Could I seek out a better quality organic replacement for 3 garments, by buying 1 great quality organic one instead" or even could I buy less cheap stuff and replace with fewer but better quality items - organic or not, then I feel we've accomplished something life and planet changing with just those 3 things alone. Truly.
There are plenty of articles to click through to to gain knowledge today, so enjoy (or don't. It's pretty heavy stuff, I must say). You could start with this one, if you've not seen it before.
Today is not about thinking 'I have to throw out all my clothes and start over', so relax. This category is all about gradually shifting buying patterns and behaviour over time.
What I've done over the past couple of years is simple: Buy half as much and twice the quality and then organic basics where I can. It's been a revelation. I LOVE my closet. I feel great in all of it. It's well cut, well made and quality fabrics, organic where possible, fair trade / high rating on the fair workers reports. What's not to love!? I've never had so FEW clothes but felt so GOOD about my wardrobe.
Clothes are another part of our lives where we feel bad 'spending big' on one item, and feel good getting 'lots' for our money. This mentality needs to stop, because it's totally unsustainable.
How about we be proud of our items and care for each of them well, instead of mindlessly staining them, abusing them by washing intensively and tumble drying... how about we see clothes as precious, because they are! Becoming enlightened about clothes is just like becoming enlightened about cosmetics, chemicals, food... More isn't more. Less is more, and better is best.
Those $10 jeans might not have cost you much, but the cost is further down the line - whether it be the sweat shop workers, the chemical dyes and their health impacts... There's a cost for every artificially cheap item - food, clothes, body lotion...
For downsizing Un-Fancy is a wonderful blog to follow to help you feel awesome about the 'less is more' theory when it comes to your wardrobe.
Go Low Tox Clothes Sorting Worksheet
Download this free worksheet to help you organise your clothing and minimise waste.
This is a great chat with Nick Savaidis, founder of Etiko Clothing. Nick's social conscience kicked in at an early age, when he realised the garments his mother was sewing for a big brand were being sold at 100x the price. His brand Etiko is one of the highest standards when it comes to ethical clothing, ensuring that both the farmers and workers are paid a living wage (rather than minimum), as well as the fair trade premium, which goes towards community building initiatives in their local areas.
- Our total water footprint goes WAY further than what type of washing machine we buy or whether we save water by peeing in the shower. Our total water footprint includes our clothes. It can take up to 2,700 litres of water to produce 1 cotton T-shirt.
- Skipping the ironing of your T Shirt, can save up to 1/3 of its carbon footprint. I knew I was an eco warrior by abstaining from ironing at all costs. Anyone else out there super chuffed to read this?
- In 2010, China's textile industry processed 41.3 million tons of fibre and accounted for 52-54 percent of the world's total production. The Chinese textile industry creates about 3 billion tons of soot each year (source. treehugger.com)
- Almost all of the world's dyes are coal or petroleum based, and synthetic. For anyone wanting to venture into the world of DIY natural dyes, have a look at this gorgeous project and this great resource on natural dyes.
- Clothing is often sprayed with formaldehyde for transportation to prevent mildew and wrinkling.
- Clothing that boasts "wrinkle free" attributes, could possibly contain PFCs - used in Teflon technology. It will NEVER break down in the environment. Scary. Wrinkle-free = enemy!
- Nonylthenol Etholytate is another textile chemical used throughout Asia - without restricted quantity! This is, like BPA and parabens, in the 'endocrine disrupting' family. Wash your clothes a couple of times before wearing to minimise exposure.
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and dioxin-producing bleach are used by textile industries, where the materials for clothing are produced. Dioxin is the active ingredient for Agent Orange - the same guys who made Agent Orange are the godfathers of genetic modification believe it or not. See more here on chemicals in clothes. Again, a double pre-wear wash helps.
- Thought leadership emerging, suggests that microfibres from clothes and lint are a massive ocean pollutant and it makes sense. Read more on that here.
- PERC is a chemical known as perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene. It's the solvent used by about 85% of U.S. dry cleaners but is also used as a metal degreaser and in the production of many other chemicals. It is found in the air, in drinking water, and in the soil. It can be detected in most people's blood, as well as in breast milk. What's the risk? In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggested that PERC be classified as a "likely human carcinogen." The EPA found that PERC's most dangerous non-cancer toxicity is brain and nervous system damage -- and set safe exposure levels well below levels that cause such damage. Remember though, that chemicals are cumulative and you don't 'detox' from PERC in between uses fully, so it builds, and builds and builds. If you want to find a perc free dry cleaner, it's actually quite easy thanks to Google. I use Dry Green on the rare occasion I need one. It's not ideal being silicone, but it's most certainly better than perc.
- Australia has one of the most lax chemicals-in-clothes laws on the planet. Have a read of this Choice investigative piece to see what the situation is and how returning a shipment to China, it might not even be accepted, because of the chemical levels. How scary is that?
Peeling back the lid on convenient, fast fashion is actually a bit terrifying - You're not alone in thinking that.
Then there's factory worker exploitation - a huge issue in the developing countries as the west pushes factories to their limits on production and cost price every day.
Check this full list attached HERE to see how your favourite mainstream brands rate.
(Preview only. Loads more listed in the link)
- We can find brands that make clothes locally. Check out this gorgeous Queensland brand, Sinerji. There's also Blessed Earth for PJs and basics, and Boody for underwear basics. And there are a few great kids clothes and adult clothing & accessories on BIOME's site too.
- We can, without fail, wash our clothes twice before wearing them, to remove some of the chemicals... and put them in our waterways instead, then into the fish, then back into us - See why those petitions that come past your desk from 'hippies' are actually mega important to sign? These are big issues and they need us to think BIG to help solve them. Still, as a short term fix, washing twice WILL be a lower tox option at the very least for you and your kiddies.
- We can seek out brands that make 'green' production and materials a part of their story. Supporting the brands who are part of Greenpeace's Detox our future campaign, removing harmful toxins out of their clothes by 2020, is a great start.
- We can try sticking to the pure organic cotton, wool, silk or hemp clothing where possible.
- We can try and avoid rayon, polyester, nylon, acrylic and acetate where possible. There's an interesting piece on MODAL style fabrics HERE.
- If we do buy something synthetic, we can commit to giving it a really long shelf life - sell, swap or gift after you don't like it so it lives on before going back into the land.
- We can stop buying new clothes so often and buy second hand - Embrace the OP shops. Everything you buy second hand exposes you to fewer chemicals AND the world to fewer chemicals. The great thing about buying second hand too, is that you can often upgrade to a better brand, as you're saving on the second-hand factor (is my brain the only one that thinks this way?)
- You can stay away from strange sounding 'antibacterial / anti sweat' registered trademarks on clothes - especially common in exercise gear. These are often hiding nanoparticles of silver or triclosan, both of which wash out after a few washes, anyway, and into our environment. So while a brand is using it as a 'feature', it's a temporary one in terms of effectiveness, that also potentially harms us and then definitely harms the environment. Can't quite put my finger on a positive here. Can you?
- We can look for GOTS certification. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain.
If fashion and clothing is an area you wish to delve further into, then please grab To Die For. It's amazing, confronting and empowering all at the same time.
Something that can happen as you transition back to natural fibres in clothes, is the moths can come munching. Annoying as it is, it's a good sign - Everything is something else's food in the natural world, and when nature 'is about' that means nature is, well, about if you see what I mean. Luckily we can use these Thurlby Botanical Bug Busters to minimise the chance of moths arriving. Pepper, eucalyptus and clove essential oils are great for keeping moths away too. A couple of drops on a tissue and into the wardrobe freshened up weekly.
ONTO OUR RECOMMENDATIONS - You'll have plenty more over time as this is a really exciting time for designers choosing sustainability more and more!
Note on wear and tear and kid's clothes - I've found that these beautiful weighted organic cottons are much more durable. Buy well, buy less. It's the way forward and we have to get used to the TRUE cost of a t shirt - And it ain't $3!
ORGANIC NIGHTS have a great range of PJs for kids. Night-time provides the perfect 12-hour window of opportunity for peace of mind that our children are free of toxins and nourished - after all, when we sleep we grow, we heal, we dream and we replenish. The label carries the strictest GOTS certification (Global Organic Textile Standard) through its entire supply chain, making their children's sleepwear organic, fair trade, sustainable and ethical at every step - from the soil and the cotton seed, to the colour dyes and the care labels.
BAOBAB ORGANIC COTTON - To die for!
LOVE this new business "Numbers and letters" T-Shirts - For the under 5s for birthday parties, or their 'special T' in general as many little peeps end up saying "Can I wear my special 3 T-Shirt?". They are done in a heavy weighted organic cotton with a sizing a little larger than actual - perfect for winter roll necks underneath when it's chilli! You have "lowtoxlife" as a special code with this business, for free shipping with 2 T-Shirts. Yes, they're $35 but they're fully made in Australia, organic cotton and everyone very nicely paid along the production and supply chains. How it should be!
SHOP ORGANIC BABE for more gorgeous bubba things - some lovely baby shower items that feel very much like special gifts from here!
There are a few great kids clothes and adult clothing & accessories on BIOME's site.
PureBABY is a wonderful site for bubs, full of organic cotton cuteness.
BIOME has a wonderful section on their site now for Ethical Fashion! CLICK HERE to check it out.
Nourished Life now stocks a great range of bamboo and high percentage organic cotton clothing basics for little bubs and grown-ups alike. All GOTS certified. How cute are these comfy numbers?
Bhumi Organic Cotton is starting to get a bit fashionable for us on the basics front for men and women - and they're divine!
For exercise gear - this one can be tricky, for the synethic fibres factor, but like I said above, one of the things we can do is seek out brands that make green production and materials a part of their story - Modibodi does just that - with the 7/8 Recycled Active Leggings crafted from 78% recycled material from pre-consumer factory waste for better sustainability - and less landfill.
BRAINTREE in Manly Sydney
- Slowing down consumption and decreasing fashion production to help reduce raw material use and alleviate pressure on natural cycles and what the earth can provide.
- Artisanal-production instead of mass-production - producing long-lasting garments by sourcing high-quality fabrics to create well-fitting, well-made designs with timeless style.
- Being more resourceful in using local materials and resources where possible and support the development of local businesses and skills.
- Encouraging customers to support small local businesses, fair-trade and locally-made clothing.
- Encouraging customers to have better value their garments - learn not to discard or waste, instead to love and mend.
- Educating customers that prices are often higher because they incorporate sustainable resources and proper wages.
- Keeping traditional methods of garment and textile making and dyeing techniques alive - give vibrancy and meaning to what we wear and how it was made.
- Respecting people, supporting local communities and building long-lasting relationships with suppliers and customers to encourage better sustainable practices and create a stronger movement.
- Making better decisions, taking responsibility and recognising that we are all interconnected to the larger environmental and social system.
People Tree UK - Ships worldwide and BEAUTIFUL clothes. My late 2016 to July 2017 "speaking dress" (that's me in the snap below proudly showing off my new purchase) was from here and they're fun, fashionable and great service. Watch for the sales by being on their mailing list, so that you get a good deal too!
Beaumont Organics UK The best sweatshirt I've ever bought in my whole life. Expensive but 2 winters so far, 3 times a week gym and still perfection. This online, worldwide shipping store is a little exxy so if out of budget, move right along... I shop the sales here only for my budget and buy a couple of things in the year. The sweatshirt I got from here is the warmest, coziest, softest thing in the world and was worth every penny for how I feel in it in winter.
RubyMoon UK: a swim and activewear brand with a conscience! A non-profit organisation giving all their profits to help women entrepreneurs in developing countries have a better chance in life. Their products are made from ECONYL nylon which is made from used fishing nets found in the ocean. Partnered with healthy seas they work to reduce the amount of waste in the sea by collecting 'ghost' fishing nets and turning them into high-quality material.
Fabric for Freedom: fair, created for positive change and designed with nature in mind. The clothes are a mix of organic and recycled materials, including ends of rolls. Products are all ethically produced in U.K factories and they have strong links to charities that help empower vulnerable women.
For men's fashion over in the US, check out Garik's website Eco-Stylist. A stylishly curated collection of eco-conscious men's clothing.
Threads for Thought- A favourite USA site with basics and fashion-forward clothes too - They ship worldwide. The basics are available across the US in WHOLEFOODS stores too. Love their simple tees!
Back Beat Rags: to keep in line with the founder's (Isadora Alvarez) vision of using better fabrics and low impact production, the brand manufactures limited runs locally in Los Angeles and only uses premium sustainable fabrics such as hemp, organic or recycled cotton and tencel. All BackBeatRags clothing is made in Los Angeles, they buy locally knitted fabric and work with small, family-owned businesses to support local makers and create jobs at every rung of the supply ladder, while minimising their environmental footprint.
For another US based brand providing a luxurious line of sustainable essentials, check out Saint Haven.
Mana Threads in the US offers lots of great sustainable options.
KOWTOW New Zealand Ethical, organic fashion - Brilliant for basic, minimalist style vibes.
RANT CLOTHING - AUSSIE ONLINE - Great, fashionable ethical brand online.
VEGIETHREADS - Vege Threads is an Australian eco-fashion label that focuses on sustainability & social awareness. Continuing the connection of like-minded businesses, this summer welcomes a VT first of organic cotton x hemp twill woven summer pant. The VT x BG Gaucho. SS16 also sees the sustainable label moves towards fuller Australian production now 100% onshore, made in their local town of Adelaide South Australia. All cotton used in the range is 100% GOTS certified organic cotton and knitted in Australia. All pieces are dyed in Australia using ACO dyes, and all of the luxe collection of modal processed and dyed also here in Australia. The focus on sustainability for Vege Threads is a priority, and the shift towards Australian production is important to the brand, using local processes, dyes and fabrics and smaller freight runs.
KNOWN EFFECTS: an ethical marketplace promoting Australian fashion brands and other home accessories
LOW TOX ALUMNI'S LIST:
A wonderful directory from fashion-forward low tox alumni Suni Sanchez too, if you want to peruse the uber fashionable stuff coming out in the ethical fashion space.
Here's Suni's list:
And then, not so much perhaps an *always* on the 'natural fibres' front, but focusing on locally designed, sourced and made are brands being counted in the mix of overall impact. Ethical Clothing Australia promotes ethical working practices for Australian made garments, where homeworkers are often exploited despite Australian labour laws. Accredited brands include Cue, Anthea Crawford, Carla Zampatti and Ginger&Smart. - See more here. Another great local Sydney brand is Good Day Girl with only marginally more expensive than your Country Roads and Cue's, makes made to measure clothes just for you locally, by a team of Vietnamese women (and accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia). There's good stuff starting to happen. Simple things like Stella McCartney making all her bags' dust bags and shoe bags now organic cotton and materials more ethical, using less water where possible... We're on the up and my daggy, badly cut hemp tops buying experiment will hopefully soon be a distant memory - I'm trying!
Want to know the TOP ETHICAL JEANS brands? CLICK HERE for the 'sexy seven'!
The jeans I now own are called MUD jeans - You rent them then return them so that they can fully recycle them in their closed loop system - A bit funky. Beautiful jeans. Circular economy fashion pioneers!
Nudie Jeans do a great job on the sustainability front, too! PAIGE Jeans made in LA from ethical denim, fair trade and natural dyes are exxy but a firm favourite over the years also. Monkey Genes also fabulous sustainable jeans.
And for shoes?
Do not fear. The best you can do is think 'pure materials, fair trade where possible, 100% leather upper and soles... As with all other categories, it's about developing mindfulness and awareness over time and asking questions when you're not sure.
Gorgeous UK/US shoe brand for walks and out and about. ALLBIRDS.
Ethical sneakers CARIUMA from Brazil, ship wworldwideat a reasonable price.
Birkenstock cork soled options are a great every day'er too if you're a flat and casual shoe kind of person.
Soft Star for kids in the USA and Lil' Aussie Shoe Co in Australia are both fabulous. I have bought a couple of pairs of shoes for my husband from sustainable Industrial Design shoe studio Seer Footwear in Sydney, too and the guy is so passionate about low tox glues, using natural rubber for soles, natural dyes... Truly committed. When I was in Byron Bay I came across Tsonga shoes - fully traceable fair trade shoes, made with hand stitching instead of glues, pure leather and natural dyes. The sandles are ridiculously comfortable and I highly recommend them.
Most ethical sneakers/ trainers? Adidas. They're working towards being made from fully recycled materials and already well on their way!
Ethically Clothed exists to provide a place where you can find and buy clothes from designers who operate an ethical business model. Our ethos is summed up by the phrase "People see what you wear, what would they say if they saw where it came from?". We are based in Brighton in the United Kingdom which is a hub of all things in ethical, eco, green and sustainable fashion. This helps to ensure that we stick to our own morals as well as getting inspiration from the other like minded companies
A FEW MORE INTERESTING DISCOVERIES AND READS
Want to know according to 1 million women what the 5 brands to watch in ethical fashion in AUS / NZ are? GO HERE
Want the Marie Claire round up of the top 15 brands in the world today? GO HERE
Listen to my chat with Carol Miltimore on the Low Tox Life podcast HERE. She talks about the challenges, the true cost of fashion if you want it to be ethical and sustainable, and what drives her artistically and environmentally in her work. If you've been curious about moving towards more sustainable choices it's a great show to understand in great detail what goes on behind the scenes from the farming to the dyes, the environment to the manufacturing and then trying to actually cut a break out there and thrive in the very fast page, noisy fashion world of today while staying true to your design values.
Plus, you might be interested in the podcast episode with fashion activist Clare Press, which you can listen to HERE. We chatted about the fact that our biggest crisis in our wardrobe is overconsumption, as well as how to not feel that we need to give up on fashion altogether. We talk microfibre, organic vs conventional cotton, apps that inspire us to investigate brands before buying and so much more. If you've been interested in the topic of helping your wardrobe go low tox along with the rest of your house, it's a must listen - and a lot of fun along the way!
A little takeaway note
Halve the quantity, Double the quality. Noticing a theme in the course? Less stuff and better stuff equals less attachment to BUYING all the time, greater pride and care for what you do have. Simple.
Clothing is a very precious thing and while it might feel awesome to get that 'crazy deal on the $10 pair of jeans', the cost is being paid down the line elsewhere - by you and your health, by the factory worker, by the land and toxic chemicals. It just isn't worth it. Halving the amount you buy and doubling the quality not only takes huge amounts of pressure off the planet, but also brings us back to appreciating our things more. Mindful, happy appreciation of special things.
Keep applying pressure to the textiles industry however you can. Eventually things will change. We are seeing it now with more and more McDonald's chains closing down. We see it with Coke's 7th consecutive sales quarter decline and their desperate attempt at releasing 'Coke Life' to try and get the health conscious. Problem is, we're smarter now. They didn't get the memo. Choosing better is the most positive and powerful force we possess as 'consumers' (even though I hate that word!).The big guys will stop making what the people stop buying.
Here's to not ignoring textile industry petitions any more. Here's to finding some excellent local clothing brands that promote a more ecological way of doing things. Here's to trading up and stop mistaking an item that's more expensive as something 'snobby'. It's actually something well made and worth caring about - well past that crappy $5 singlet or $10 jeans.
Oh how I love these inspirations. You might like to follow The Minimalists blog.
And I've also interviewed three fabulous guests on the Low Tox Life podcast who talk eloquently about sustainable fashion and its implications:
Final little idea: Next time you think you need to buy clothes, go do something else that's free that you love to do - a favourite walk, a chat with a good friend. Did you really need the clothing, or did you need a feel good hit of "YOU" time, because 'you time' and shopping aren't mutually exclusive. That's a marketer's story, not the story of the human spirit.
Low Tox. Happy Bodies. Happy Planet.