Philosophy behind the change...

A few years ago I decided that eco friendly would become my focus, and I've been thinking for years about how to explain why to people.  There's really no short answer, so I thought I'd share the philosophy behind my change from conventional cotton fabrics, to eco friendly ones.

These days it's easy to think the manufacture of our items happens in a far off land, that we have no influence on.  More than anything I want you to know both of these are not true.  

There are two things I firmly believe in:

1) Thoughtful Manufacturing 

2) Our Choice is our Power

Sometimes it's hard to know where our values come from, but with eco friendly, sustainable, ethical practices I can pinpoint it down to three really clear influences.  I thought I'd share those with you, maybe you have your own, I'd love to hear them.

 

Influence #1: Small production / manufacturing can harm too

My Mamma was a professional seamstress for her career, here in New Zealand.  She worked for a local sewing business making curtains, duvets, sleeping bags, cushion covers and the like.  

I used to visit her at work sometimes, cramped up in a small workshop with no air flow, working with the heaviest items (curtains and duvets).  I can still feel the stuffiness of the place, I was always glad to leave and breathe fresh air.   

At one point she started coming home with sore hands, then over time her skin started cracking and it got so bad at one point that she couldn't cook dinner for us.  It was debilitating.  I felt so badly for her, and it used to make me mad... why would her job do this to her!?

GOTS Certified Organic Cotton

This was the 80's, no-one was thinking about sustainability or the impact of fibres on the world.  It turned out it was the fabric she handled day in day out that caused the issue.  She ended up wearing gloves, but that still didn't change the other physical affects of that environment, constantly breathing air filled with fabric dust, and lifting heavy objects to sew them.  And what about the workers who made the fabric, or the homes they're going into... 

As if the emotional strain of leaving her kids early in the morning, and getting home on dinner time wasn't enough, I'm sure her working conditions has affected her health even now (when she's retired).  

Handmade, locally produced is awesome, but it pays to look a little closer at how the workers are treated and what they're making.  

I'm a firm believer in paying fair living wages (not minimum wage), ensuring workers are feeling good at work and have a healthy environment to work in, and that they're happy.  I just feels more humane.  If I'm ever blessed enough for my business to grow to employ a team of people, my aim is to keep it local; continue to pay a living wage (even if that means my products cost more to purchase) and to give people a chance to be better humans, not being worse off. 

 

Influence #2: Smog?  WTF?

I'm from New Zealand, it's where I had lived all my life, although I'd traveled when I was younger, my first big adventure was to Canada - where I ended up staying for 9 years! Eco living in New Zealand

New Zealand is a windswept island, so naturally nothing really hangs around in the air. The light is known as being clean and crisp.


When I moved to Canada in 2001, I saw smog for the first time.  Industrial smog.  But the thing is we were in the middle of this otherwise beautiful rural setting.  

Rural living

We'd just driven from Manitoba to Central Ontario, and it started looming up on us. There was probably a combination of wide eyed naivety and the overwhelming thoughts of living in Ontario for as long as I could image... but I was really baffled with the colour of the sky! In asking.... "Oh that's smog, we get that every summer" was the response.  I was shocked, and that first memory really stuck with me.   

"What, but from where?" I ask, totally confused.

"From Detroit/Chicago/Toronto..."  Toronto was 1.5 hours drive away, Chicago and Detroit were at least a days drive.  I honestly couldn't believe how far Smog enveloped the landscape! 

Naive, maybe.. but it still got me thinking about how easily we can influence our environment.

So when I finally got my residency and a job, we started exploring how our money can really influence the local economy. 

The thought kept going on in my head:
What you buy really counts!  

What if more people were changing, then change would have to happen.

So we started to change our spending.  We got our organic veges box from a local farmer, started avoiding the big box stores, and when my first son was born we were living a year of only buying products from North America. 

I wasn't a hippy, or a new age lifestyler.  I was just a regular person who wanted more from the things I purchased. 

GOTS Certified Organic Cotton

We purchased from eco suppliers as much as possible.  It was not easy, but being in North America there was an incredible population of other like minded people.  As with any counter culture, there was a lot of pretty ugly stuff out there, and I found myself seeking more styled ethical options.  It go easier, I found my suppliers, found some great stores in Toronto that offered a full range of beautifully styled objects. 

Once I moved back to New Zealand in 2009, I was shocked to see NO ethical homeware options in my beautiful "clean and green" country.  For all it's eco friendly reputation, it's pretty sad.  As I began to work with wholesale suppliers for my growing business they thought I was crazy, saying "no one is interested in that", "there's no way people would buy that", "your business isnt' going to work".  But I have been determined that there is a way to make it work!  There has to be.  People shouldn't suffer because of what we choose to spend.  Surely we're smart enough to create better alternatives for our planet.

 

Influence #3: Our choices can inspire others

At my Baby Shower it was requested that all items were only made in North America, that was the first time I'd seen that my values had an impact on others and caused awareness.  So many people came up to me and told me they'd heard about how manufacturing had changed, but they didn't realise how difficult it was. They thanked me for bringing it to their attention.  That's wasn't my intent, but it was so gratifying.

 

GOTS Certified Organic Cotton

 

Choose Wisely and encourage others to do the same.  

There are two things I firmly believe in:

1) Thoughtful Manufacturing

Manufacturing of our items needs to be more thoughtful, everywhere in the world.

2) Our Choice is our Power

We have so much power, if we choose to use it...it's in our wallet!

 

So my aim is to say that from Seed to Making to You my process is as eco friendly as I can make it. 

As time goes on, I'll be able to review my fabrics, packaging and more!  I'd love to hear your feedback, and if you have any awesome sources for great eco fabrics please share the love!

 

 

Graphics by www.cottonedon.org.

For an indepth look at GOTS Fibre Certification visit: http://www.cottonedon.org/Portals/1/Briefing.pdf

 

 


1 comment

  • Wonderful blog Pip! Fascinating to hear about your time in Canada and its impact on you. Love your beliefs, determination and beautiful creations. Thanks for sharing.

    Deborah

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