What’s changed?

On April 24, 2013, a five-story garment factory called Rana Plaza in the Dhaka district of Bangladesh collapsed, killing over 1,100 workers and injuring 2,500 more – the worst garment industry accident of all time. Though the sheer scale of that horrific day kept it in the headlines for longer than usual, it largely receded from the mainstream media’s consciousness, except for the occasional anniversary look-back, like several that are out today.

rana-plaza-memorial

I remember shortly after the accident, some of the knee-jerk reactions I heard from industry insiders and even some well-meaning consumers. “Made in Bangladesh” had become toxic, just like “Made in China” had been a decade and a half earlier when the Kathy Lee Gifford clothing scandal erupted.

A well-intentioned consumer may reason that if she or he stops buying things made in Bangladesh, it will punish the exploiters and force them to change their ways.

But that is absolutely the wrong approach. People in Bangladesh (and China and everywhere) need jobs and fair pay and safe working conditions. Boycotts, as good as they may feel to join on Twitter or Facebook, are mostly destructive in cases like this. All they really do is incentivize companies to move their production to a country that’s not in the headlines, leaving the exploited workers now jobless too. This is exactly what happened. 150,000 workers lost their jobs in the months after Rana Plaza. Victims of companies choosing the less painful option (leaving) instead of the right option (staying and fixing).

Some progress has been made in Bangladesh. But not enough. This PBS Newshour clip does a pretty good job of summarizing where we are five years later.

We can’t be naive enough to believe all of our clothing is going to be made in small family-owned workshops and cooperatives like Fair Indigo’s fair trade clothing is. In a world of seven billion people, there needs to be scale. There needs to be large companies and big production facilities in addition to the small ones that may capture our hearts, but can’t come close to clothing the world.

Fashion Revolution is a great one stop shop for all things related to improving the garment industry. There is no easy solution. It’s going to take thousands and millions of us asking our favorite brands what they are doing to improve working conditions in Bangladesh and elsewhere. Brands do listen to their customers on matters of style and trends. They’ll listen on conscience too if enough of us demand it.

Social Fabric 2018.04.22

HAPPY EARTH DAY

backlit-bright-clouds-414578

LIFE IN PLASTIC, IT’S NOT FANTASTIC

Earth Day 2018 will “focus on fundamentally changing human attitude and behavior about plastics and catalyzing a significant reduction in plastic pollution” according to organizers at earthday.org. The Guardian recently documented plastic devastation on the Australian coast in their photo series “Plastic Tsunami” – it’s hard to look at.

SO TRASHY

How many of you didn’t realize the global waste trade was a thing? It is, and it’s huge. At its peak, China alone imported 9 million metric tons of waste from the US, Europe, and Japan. But starting this year, China started banning imports of 24 types of waste, causing a major backlog in the trash-exporting countries. I suspect this will not end well until we permanently figure out a way to reduce our demand for (and supply of) cheap trashy stuff. From CNBC.

IF IT’S BROKE, FIX IT

There are countless articles and blogs with tips on how to reduce your plastic usage. Here’s a nice condensed list for busy people who want to make a difference without feeling guilty that you don’t make your own ketchup. From Green Education Foundation.

I can vouch for #15.  It’s so easy to clean your whole house using little more than simple soap, vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda. Wellness Mama has a nice comprehensive guide on how to ditch plastic containers by switching to home remedy cleaning products.

A HAPPY MISTAKE

Not since Alexander Fleming noticed that a bit of mold had “contaminated” his petri dish and was killing the Staphylococcus bacteria he was growing has there been such a potential game changer discovered by accident. Fleming’s mistake ended up creating penicillin, but now scientists unintentionally created a “mutant enzyme” that literally devours plastic waste. While this appears to be great news and you can count me among the hopeful, a mutant enzyme seems like something you’d want to proceed with caution on before rolling out in a big way. From Business Insider.

 

Small Business Saturday

Many people are surprised to learn Fair Indigo has fewer than 10 employees.

We are a tiny handful of people who are privileged to share a daunting, humbling, but uplifting purpose. We comb the globe from Burlington, North Carolina to Chiang Mai, Thailand in search of uniquely beautiful clothing and gifts – all made with immense care by people whose lives have been changed by the availability of safe, clean work and living wages. We’re a small business by anyone’s definition, but with a hopeful eye on the big world we all call home.

When you call us, you’re not calling contracted employees at a mega call center. Our phones ring right here in Madison, Wisconsin. Go ahead. Give us a call at 800.520.1806 and see for yourself. You will likely to reach Mary, Carol, Ellen, or Stacy. If they’re all busy on the phone, you might even get our president Rob on the line. (He loves those days!).

Shopping at Fair Indigo not only supports our small business, but dozens of others – our small scale suppliers and cooperative partners – all over the country and the world. It’s like a Feel Good Double Coupon!

This year, be a better gift giver!
Thank you for supporting small business.
Your friends at Fair Indigo

No Black Friday Here

No sale announcement.
No asking employees to report to work at midnight.
No dancing reindeer on our website.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we’d like to suggest
there are more meaningful things to do on Black Friday than lining up at 4am for the latest gadget or firing up the credit card online.

On the day that has come to symbolize over indulgence, how about donating to a food bank on  Black Friday? Take a child with you. Gather a group of friends to join you. End the day with your heart feeling full. A few other ideas…

Unexpectedly call a distant relative or friend and thank them for a past kindness.

Thank the clerks you come across for working on the holiday weekend.

Write (don’t email) a thank you note to someone who doesn’t expect it. A crossing guard, a paramedic, a trash collector.

Without being asked, buy a homeless person a cup of coffee or a hot sandwich. Give thanks that you are not in his or her shoes.

In the very least, reflect on the bounty in your life. However modest or grand.

Do you have another idea or tradition? Post them on our Facebook page or email us at service@fairindigo.com. We’ll share all of them in a future email.

Finally we’d like to thank you. You have benefited workers around the corner and around the world with your support.

Happy Thanksgiving

Your friends at Fair Indigo