Saturday, 28 March 2015

Ethical clothing

by Rose @ greening the rose

When I was a child in the 1960s most of Australia's clothing was made in Australia. As of my 60th birthday Australia produces about 5 percent of its clothing. As a kid my wardrobe consisted of  a school uniform, a couple of outfits for play, a good outfit for Sundays and not a whole lot else; my parents wardrobes were similarly lean. Warm clothes were hand knitted, a good dress or skirt was made by hand, clothing was passed down from one child to the next, my father's one suit lasted many years.

In 2015 many of us have more clothing than ever, more to wear, more to hang in already overstuffed wardrobes and even more to wash. Since we outsourced the making of our clothing and the sourcing of our textiles we are buying more at a cheaper price, using more resources and paying less for clothing than we ever had throughout human history.

This increased consumption is a global phenomenon. We seem to have gone from a four season a year clothing cycle to changes that are monthly, even weekly. Does anyone pay full price anymore? Sales appear to be ubiquitous, 50 percent or more off at the beginning of a season is not uncommon and 70 percent or more occurs often enough to be noticeable.



Shoes for $10, a pair of jeans for $15, a dress for $14 it's as if the 1970s never went away. Or is it?

Why is the price of clothing so cheap?

Outsourcing of the developed world's textile industry has placed a huge labour intensive industry in the developing world where many of the world's poorest workers live. More than 80 percent of these workers are women and children, who are paid less than a living wage, who work in unsafe often-times  unsanitary conditions, who are in some cases deprived of human rights.

In many cases western clothing houses contract to the lowest bidding group who may perform the work themselves or further sub-contract it to another group (at a lower price).This "devolves" responsibility (ahem) from the clothing house as the supply chain becomes less transparent and more fractured so is harder to trace.

The demand of western tastes prepared to pay limited dollars encourages the growth of questionable practices and techniques.

Perhaps the distressed jeans you are wearing caused silicosis in the person who made them? Garment workers can contract silicosis when small particles of silica dust from the sand used to distress jeans embed themselves within the lungs. This causes shortness of breath, coughing, weakness and weight loss. It's incurable and can be fatal.

The waste from textiles amounts to millions of tons of environmental damage per year in the country of making, in the country of consumption the problem is dumping into landfill of cheap non-biodegradable clothing.

All is not lost, there are ways to have an ethical wardrobe:
  • Know what you need, make a list and buy from it.
  • Consider used clothing that offers so many benefits, it's cheap(er), it recycles and you can upcycle it, it doesn't require the use of precious resources.
  • Buy from accredited clothing companies (see below)*.
  • Choose the best quality you can afford so that your garments last as long as possible.
  • Make your own clothing. Yes, quality fabric and yarn aren't cheap, but the garment you make will be customised to your size, style, taste and requirements. I have handknitted jumpers (sweaters) that are decades old.
  • Buy/source from the most ecologically ethical brands you can.
Ethical Clothing Australia is an independent body which studies the supply chain of Australian clothing companies to determine if they should be accredited for ethical production. You can check on your favourite brands to see if they have received accreditation.

Oxfam is asking questions of some of our well known clothing stores, especially those who still won't sign industry-endorsed workers' rights agreements. Check out more from Oxfam here.

Similar organisations include

Valuable reading and viewing on this issue includes

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

How to Enlarge a T-Shirt

by Nanna Chel of Going Grey and Slightly Green

 

Do you have some favourite T-shirts that have shrunk or that you have grown out of and you would really love to be able to get some more wear out of them? Why not enlarge them?

A few years ago I saw a really easy tutorial on a blog which showed how to enlarge a T-shirt by inserting panels of fabric into the side seams and when I was looking on Pinterest the other day, I came across that tutorial again and thought I would enlarge a few of my old T-shirts which had shrunk over the years :-) I had a look in my wardrobe but then remembered that I had de-cluttered it and had sent all my too-tight T-shirts off to have another life at the Op Shop. Blow!
 
 Then when I was de-cluttering the linen cupboard, I found all my old gym T-shirts in a bag as I had saved them for future use in case I wanted to make a rag rug out of them. I had plenty of them as I did 900 workouts over the years when I went to the gym. The one I decided to use wasn't pretty pink one like the one in the tutorial from Crafterhours. No problem, it was just a trial run anyway.


So...armed with cotton fabric for the insert and my trusty Singer scissors I cut right through the side seam and sleeve of the T-shirt. I was a bit confused by the instructions in the tutorial and thought I should just cut to the hem of the sleeve but decided that wasn't right so cut right through.
 

Then I measured the length I needed to cut for the insert. In the tutorial the insert in the sleeve is cut separately and joined to the side seam insert so I did the same.


Then the inserts are pinned to the right sides of the T-shirt and sewn...


...and VOILA! You end up with this.


 Sure it's not as figure-hugging as the one in the tutorial but seeing as I'm not 21 anymore I don't like clingy T-shirts and prefer to feel comfortable. I'm quite pleased with the result and might enlarge a few more T-shirts to make them wearable again.

What do you think? Isn't it a great idea?



Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Dressed simply = simply dressed


As we relaunch the Co-op we thought we'd discuss the everyday matter of clothing, how it fits into our simple living journey, how to be more mindful of reusing, recycling and purchasing our garments.

Have you noticed that when you have too much of something it clouds your mind in the same way as eating too big a meal clouds your digestion? In the pursuit of our simple living goals we may be quick to declutter an unworkable kitchen cupboard, a bathroom cabinet or a pile of paper gathering on the kitchen bench, but what about that area that you face every morning as you begin your day?

A simple wardrobe of clothes that fit you, that suit the tasks and activities you undertake each day, that will stand up to regular washing and the work you do can take you one more step in achieving your goals.


A simple wardrobe will hold clean, folded or hung items that serve you well. For some simple lifers this will include some form of a suit, for others it will be three pairs of jeans and accompanying t-shirts, for others it will be a blend of items across the formality spectrum.

A simple wardrobe won’t include an overstuffed underwear drawer of garments in various stages of dilapidation. It will include a drawer of socks/stockings/tights/long johns suitable for the climate you live in and the work you do each day.

A simple wardrobe will reduce your carbon footprint if it:
  • includes only items that you wear (so they fit and are appropriate) even if some of those items include only the “occasional wear” category; 
  • is planned to curb unnecessary shopping (or making); 
  • is tailored and edited for you thereby reducing the size of the pile to be laundered.
So how do we attain this simple wardrobe? By moving in and decluttering the surplus-to-requirements items, donating those in good condition to your charity of choice and composting those which are too far gone if made of natural fibres. Dress the body that you have today, not the one you are aspiring to in twelve months, dress for the climate that you live in and the work/activities you do. And don’t forget your feet!

Once you have edited your clothing you may be left with a neat rack of clothes on hangers or folded on shelves and in drawers. But what if you find you haven’t made much of a dent? 

There is a wealth of ideas online which suggest practical means for developing an appropriate yet simple wardrobe. Courtney Carver’s popular Project 333 challenges you to live with 33 items for 3 months (a season for many of us). Courtney’s challenge suggests packing away the items not included in your selected 33 which gives you the option to put them back later if you choose.

Capsule wardrobes can, on first glance, look suitable only for the fashion conscious such as the one for women here and the one for men here until you look more closely. A capsule wardrobe is designed to mix and match so a few items will provide you with a range of outfits.

Finally, evaluate what you like to wear. Are comfort, colour, cut priorities? Think a little deeper -- what makes a garment comfortable for you, what colours do you like, what cut (say of jeans) satisfies you the most?

Then, just as you would after clearing out-of-date items from your pantry, make a shopping list to carry with you. It may read something like:
  • pair of jeans (straight cut, navy) 
  • pairs of cotton socks (dark) 
  • pair of cotton pyjamas
This list is your shopping guide, resist buying anything else and/or substituting unless there is a very good reason that meshes with your goals. If it takes three months to save for these or find them so be it. Getting dressed in the morning is about quality over quantity, clothes that fit and maintaining your own look or work uniform. Such a clothing collection would fit in your great grandmother’s bedroom cupboard.

Monday, 23 March 2015

We're open again, please come and say hello

by Rhonda Hetzel @ Down to Earth blog

Hello again my friends. After a couple of years rest I think there are many good reasons to open this blog again. We had a unique take here on simple living and many great ideas. My co-writers this time will start off with several of the moderators at the Down to Earth Forums and I'll probably add a few other writers as the weeks flow by. I'll start the ball rolling with a post I wrote and published a few years ago on my blog. I hope you enjoy it, I hope you're pleased the co-op is back and I hope you'll return again soon.

- - -  ♥︎  - - -

If you decide to take the big leap of faith and turn your back on this consumerist society we live in, often you'll produce some of your own food, move towards a local community based economy, or you'll have a combination of the two. If you decide to make a less drastic change and simplify at home while earning a wage at work, your change will probably be governed, to a certain extent, by the amount of time you have when you're at home. Either way, there will be changes, and change is sometimes unsettling. It seems like such a big step at first but as you get used to it, and move into your change, a feeling of calm takes over as you begin to take charge of your life. When you think about it, the consumerist model that we all know so well, takes much more than it gives. It takes away our ability to look after ourselves, unless we have access to money and a shop; it removes us from our traditional skill set - the skills our great grandparents held close and passed on; and it takes away confidence, a sense of purpose and pride in our own productivity.



I created this little sampler many years ago. If you want to stitch it yourself, there is a pattern you can print out here.

When I first made my change it felt right almost straight away. As the days grew into weeks, then months, I realised that this feeling of calm and comfort came about because the work of simple life and self-reliance is nurturing work. I felt empowered by it. All that organisation, cleaning, fluffing nests, repairing, recycling, cooking, knitting, sewing and gardening - this work brings us together, it supports us and develops our spirit. When I put on my apron in the morning, I think of the work my change has brought me and I smile at the thought of it. This work has helped make me what I am today.


Living as we do is a gift and a privilege. To outsiders, what I do might just look like housework, but to me it's a daily decision and ever-evolving process to make the life I want and to create a home I feel comfortable and settled in. This is not passive cleaning and organising. It's a proactive and conscious process. I have taken charge of my home and worked out what I need to do to give us the life we want. It always involves work, if you're lazy, or expect things to be done for you, this is not the life for you. This life requires involvement, intelligence, dedication, patience, generosity and work - lots of hard work.


As I work through my day, I think about what I gave up and what I gained because of it. My change shifted my focus from things and money to people and feelings. I went from thinking about making money to looking for ways to save money. If you keep your eye on the prize - the prize being a good relationship with your family and that feeling of constant contentment, this life will give you someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to. You can't go far wrong with that.


Our days are fleeting and even if you're in the middle of raising a brood of small children and you wonder when you'll ever get a break, most of what we do lasts such a short time. Slowing down enough to enjoy each day - whether it is spent working in your home, in the garden, with your friends and family or away from home at a paid job. Embrace your work, it will make you stronger. Whether it is home-based or commercial, or a combination of the two, the work you do will equip you for life and enrich you. It might not seem so at the time, but with the benefit of hindsight, you'll see that those hard working days turned you away from some things and towards others, making you a different person in the process.


If you're new to all this, step up to it with enthusiasm. Rely on traditional ways but modify them when you have to and do your work your own way. If you have a good day, build on it tomorrow. If you have a bad day, go to bed early, have a good sleep and get up ready to get stuck in again. Every so often, think about all the changes you've made and be mindful of how far you've come. It may not always feel like it but you're building a new life and going against the tide to do it. That not only takes strength and resilience it also builds character and confidence. And if you build your life with all new those values, there will be no stopping you.


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Time to say goodbye - the last post

There comes a time when some blogs run their course and close down. Such is the case with the co-op. So after 997 posts and almost 1.7 million visitors, it's time to say goodbye and move on.

I started this blog way back in 2008 when accurate information about sustainable living, written by people who were actually doing it, was not commonly available. I'm happy to say we were one of the leaders in this type of blogging and now there are many fine blogs written by permaculturalists, biodynamic farmers and people living sustainably in their own homes. There is more information now and many more people living this way.

I want to thank the people who kept this co-op going - all the writers we've had over the years, Sharon, who did up a writers' roster and kept us all in line and on track, and you, the readers. Without you there would have been no reason to write. The current group of writers are listed on the side bar with a link to their blogs. I thank them all sincerely for the time and effort they put in here.

One of the writers, Amanda, asked to say her own goodbye:
“My time writing for the co-op blog has only been brief but the experience has been an honour. It has been lovely to meet new readers, write alongside some inspiring voices in the simple living movement and share snippets from my own life. I am saddened that I will no longer be participating here, but I am pleased that the community can continue to use this blog as a wonderful reference for living simply. Thank you dear Rhonda, for inviting me to share in this inspirational space and I wish everyone a wonderful life filled with simple pleasures.”

I wish you the best in your own journey towards a more sustainable future. Even though there will be no more posts here, the blog will remain accessible so you can continue to read here and take as much as possible from the practical and inspiring information here.

Thank you all for your support and for being part of an incredible community.

Rhonda Hetzel.