I have a confession…I’m kind of a juxtaposition. I love the idea of being simple, of having nothing unnecessary, casting aside want and desire as the root of suffering. I try VERY hard to eat local, and try to make sure the animals I consume are treated and processed ethically. I know my farmer and support his family and their amazing philosophy as much as I can afford. I make my own soap, kombucha, and sauerkraut (recipe coming soon!). Pretty much every product I use in the house or on my body has been run through the EWG or is homemade with non-toxic ingredients. I have an organic garden and a compost pile and I shop at farmers markets. And yet…
I love putting on well made clothes that make me feel good about my body and let the world know that they need to treat me with respect. I love adorning myself with a good statement piece of jewelry. I love a little girly sparkle, and a little bad ass edge. Bad as they may be for my feet, knees, hips, and back….I occasionally love a strut in a good pair of high heels, or at least a great comfortable pair of fashionable flats. I don’t like bare walls or empty tables. I have fake (yep, FAKE) flowers in several places in my home. I’ve got cute furry throw blankets from Costco. I just got new cheapo natural reed curtains to “brighten up the living room” I go gaga over cutesy artwork and pillows from Kirklands, Pier 1 and Home Goods. I salivate over the regular sales at Cost Plus World Market. Don’t even get me started on how I freaked out when the Pier 1 by my house had a 50% off EVERYTHING moving sale! Very rarely do I shop second hand or “vintage”. I look for great sales on already good deals, stretching a dollar as much as I can. I buy gifts for friends and family with little thought beyond “oh this is cute” or “this is something so-and-so would totally enjoy” (with a big fat egotistical pat on my back for my thoughtfulness). And oh boy, I can AmazonPrime with the best of them!
But a social confusion is happening inside of me. I would never put “bargain” food into my body or buy cheap body products made with toxic chemicals. But I’ll strut right to the sales rack at a store that most certainly uses GMO cotton and synthetics, questionable dyes, and employs (ahem, takes advantage of) children and underpaid, marginalized peoples around the globe with little to no regard for our environment or support for people who are actively trying to change the world. In short, I’ve got a lot of blinders up in my life.
I think it’s easy for me to fall into this trap because it’s such a slow bleed. One or two items here or there, a little decoration, a post holiday sale on stuff I can use next year, a cute shirt on the discount rack, a new dish towel to brighten up the kitchen, one new swimsuit to add into the rotation, a new cocktail ring that just went on discount (halla!), end of season ski equipment for that annual trip (how much do you really want to spend on something you wear once a year, good grief that shit is expensive!) or god forbid, good long lasting (and attractive) underwear! It’s not like I’m going out on thousand dollar shopping sprees or completely redecorating the house every season, and it’s not as obvious as my weekly food budget which is getting focused on and consumed DAILY.
As I look around my house and in my closet, there are honestly so many things that I have bought with no clue where they came from (China’s always a good guess), the conditions they were made in or how the workers were treated, what is IN them/what am I bringing into my home to breathe/ingest/absorb, how much of my money actually gets to the people who did the work (am I investing in slavery?) or what the global impact is of me wanting a cute pair of yoga pants.
It’s one thing to struggle over the sad tale of how our smartphones are even possible, it’s another to look at myself in the mirror and say “well shit, you could have paid a few dollars more to make sure your clothes actually paid a living wage and aren’t toxic to you or the earth’s air and water supply”.
I feel like this mental spring cleaning has peeled back the scales on my eyes to an area of my life that is covered in LAYERS of filth and its time to take out the trash!
So as my own social experiment, I’m pledging to myself (and to you, awesome readers) that whenever possible this year, if I need something I’ll do my best to engage with local merchants supporting themselves through their art and craft, and companies that have committed to better quality, social responsibility, paying it forward and protecting our earth. Here’s what I’ve compiled so far*. I’m just getting started and I’ll let you know what I find from these companies (and more) as I go. If you know of any companies that you think should make the list, PLEASE let us know and share the love! Stay tuned for updates on my adventures.
http://www.bodenusa.com (men, women, kids, baby, shoes)
http://www.fairindigo.com(women, men, kids, babies, home deco)
http://www.serrv.org/category/womens-gifts/2 (women, men, kids, babies, home deco)
http://cometogethertrading.com/collections/best-sellers (women, men, kids, babies, home deco)
http://www.sevenly.org/collections/womens (men + women tshirts)–>I’ve just ordered 2 shirts from them, stay tuned for a review!
http://www.ravenandlily.com/collections (women’s jewelry, clothes, accessories and gifts)
http://www.prana.com(men and women clothes, workout, swim)
http://www.solerebels.com/pages/solerebels-101 (men and women shoes)
http://www.therootcollective.com (womens shoes)
http://shop.mercyhousekenya.org (Shirts, jewelry, home goods, and “fair trade Friday” boxes (variety of goods for $35, fun if you need some gifts, or if you are obsessed with services like stitch fix that give you surprises))
http://wildlyco.com/blogs/wildly-co (kids clothes)
http://31bits.com/about/ (women in Uganda make jewelry from recycled paper)
http://www.purposejewelry.org/ (gorgeous looking jewelry made by Indian women saved from sex trade; they also do trunk shows!)
http://www.thegivingkeys.com/pages/employed-for-change (they employ people who are trying to fight their way out of homelessness to make unique recycled key jewelry with motivational sayings etched into them. You are meant to give your key away to someone one day who needs the message as much as you did.)–>I just ordered a bracelet from them. Stay tuned for a review!
*I have no affiliation or financial incentive to any of these companies. At the posting of this article I have only researched what these companies claim on their websites and have not independently investigated their claims of quality or social involvement. This is simply a resource of companies I’ve found with ideals I’d like to support, and I will be giving each one a try in the near future. Stay tuned for my unbiased opinions on these companies as I give them a try!
Photo credit: timparkinson / Foter / CC BY
Lots to think about in this article……Keep on researching…..we need to know more of this.
The problem is, America manufactures so little now that it is hard to find things that are totally, locally made. I am a seamstress. I sew all kinds of things. Did you know there are virtually no fabrics made in America anymore? The cotton comes from America, but the fabric is woven in other countries, many with questionable labor laws. So, no matter what I make locally to sell, some portion of it will not be “American-made”. We can only do our best to make sure what we create is as local as possible, but there has to be some forgiveness when some of the ingredients simply cannot be locally sourced.
Merry, thanks so much for your insight! Also, I’m always in awe of a good seamstress. I can sew a straight line but that’s about it:) Yes it’s such a struggle as I take a look at it. There are so many buzz words, just like with food (natural, pure, etc) that may or may not mean anything significant. I find myself asking is it organic, are the dyes harmful, what’s the impact of the entire process on the environment, what’s the social impact and how are the workers treated, does the company pay it forward. At this point I doubt I’ll hit some motherload of places that embody ALL of these constructs, but hopefully by voting with my wallet where and when I find something that inspires me, that will encourage other companies to follow suit. If you have any recommendations for shops you recommend, I’d love to hear about them!
A quick update on the Sevenly tshirts, just a heads up that the women’s white tshirts are a VERY thin/see-through material. If you’re not a fan of that look, I’d suggest looking at their other colors and styles.