Fast Fashion

I’m not much for fancy clothes. I wear stuff I like that makes me feel comfortable. And I don’t tend to go shopping unless I need something. For example: my black ballet flat shoes I’ve had for like six years finally wore out when the toe had a hole in it. I noticed it when I walked through a puddle and water came gushing in. If you look at my clothes, it’s a lot of the stuff I’ve had for years. I wear things until they fall apart.

Maybe it’s because we didn’t grow up with much. Maybe I’m just low maintenance. But I know it has something to do with my awareness of how fashion works and the industry that manufactures it. Thanks to the internet and to the owners of small, local clothing businesses, there are things I can’t unknow.

It started out with my attempts to find items that were made in America. Several years ago all I could find was clothing from American Apparel. American Apparel was based in California and I bought shirts from them for years. But when the head of the company turned out to be kind of a skeezeball, I stopped buying.

I would ask the question when I was in stores. “Do you have anything made in America?” It was nearly impossible to find anything in any large commercial chain. Just blank faces and shrugs from the staff.

Why was I asking? Because goods made in America meant I was supporting people here, in my country and community. I associated it, too, with quality. I’d had stuff made in far-flung countries that fell apart too quickly. I was content with keeping my dollars at home.

What made my quest nearly impossible was the fact that manufacturing had been largely outsourced to cheap labor overseas.

Not long ago, we made clothing here. Check out this old commercial from the 70s that celebrated American made clothing:

 

Somewhere along the way that changed. We shipped it all overseas and these nice ladies and men lost their jobs. And yes, sure, now some other human being is being paid to make that article of clothing. I think I’d be okay with it if I knew they were being paid fairly and in good working conditions. But a majority of them aren’t. News stories in years past have documented how large manufacturing shops have collapsed or had fires break out that left workers injured or dead. The wages these people receive are meager at best. By buying these clothes, we perpetuate a system that is exploitative and unfair.

When you’re at the mall and you see shirts for dirt cheap or giant sales, realize the manufacturer planned for that. So to make any profit at all, the amount they must pay for labor and materials has got to be impossibly low. Some people might say, “hey, that’s capitalism” but paying someone just enough so they’re not technically a slave doesn’t sit right with me.

Now, I’m not saying I’m an expert. I’m not saying I have the answers. And I’m also not saying I’m 100% perfect. I don’t make a lot of money and sometimes the shoes or purse or whatever I own were made overseas. I’m not preaching perfection. I’m saying we should try to be more knowledgeable. We should care. We should adjust our habits where we can.

I have seen a resurgence in made in America goods. Fair trade clothing items are becoming more common too. Again, with the internet, you can find more information and shop clothing that is more in line with healthier manufacturing practices. There is a potential to fill your closet with clothing that is not to the detriment of others.

I’m sorry if this is soapbox-y. I just care about this. I think we can all be a little better with some extra consideration.

If you want more information about fast fashion and common manufacturing practices, check out the documentary “The Real Cost”. It’s on Netflix streaming. For more information about ethical fashion (or eco-friendly fashion, another thing I try to incorporate into my buying habits) check out ecouterre.com.

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It’s not easy being green. But it’s not hard, either.

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Wednesday was Earth Day; a day I make note of and try to celebrate each year. I’ve often proclaimed myself as a big, dumb hippy. I recycle everything I can, try to get ecofriendly goods, and live in a way where I leave as little of a footprint on this floating space rock as possible.

I’m not the perfect hippy. Red meat is pretty hard on the environment, and I still mow down a cheeseburger on occasion. I drive a car, but at least it gets decent gas milage. I use paper towels. Let he without eco-sin cast the first organically sourced stone. Or something.

A friend and I once debated the most ecofriendly way to die. If you are embalmed and put in a casket, that’s a whole host of chemicals being put into a concrete cell in the earth. (Yes, graves are lined with concrete.) To be cremated releases gases and uses energy to burn you up. He suggested just wandering out into the woods to die alone and be eaten by a bear or just decompose back into the earth. Too bad they’ll send out search crews and vehicles to go looking for you, increasing your carbon footprint. Even if you leave a note.

My point is that you can nickle and dime yourself to death with being green. Instead of doing these solo grand gestures for Mother Gaia, I think it would make more of an impact getting other people to just be a little more green.

So I’m advocating that people give being green a shot. Just a little! Nothing crazy like composting your own poop. It’s easier than ever to make socially conscious choices about what we use and buy. A classmate once marveled at my use of my own coffee mug at the school cafeteria. It’s nothing against her, she was just unaware that a little change like that is worth making. Sure, I’m saving one cup. But what if we all brought our own cup or bag every time? We make those choices all the time without even realizing there might be a more ecofriendly option.

A super easy way I’ve found to do it is to use a free app called PaperKarma. PaperKarma helps you eliminate junk mail. When we moved to our house, we were just bombarded with junk mail to the old owner. I think she’d signed up for every mail catalog there was. At first I’d call in and sit on hold and eventually talk to someone to get my address removed. PaperKarma streamlines the whole process for you so it’s faster.

You take a picture of the offending junk mail showing their address/logo and your name and address. PaperKarma identifies the company mailing you junk and submits a removal request on your behalf. It’ll even let you know when they’ve successfully done it. I’ve been very happy with the app. Give it a shot! And in the meantime recycle that junk mail – it’s made of paper!

If anyone has any questions or ideas about getting your green on, just ask me. I’m happy to share my knowledge. As dumb as this sounds, everyday should be Earth Day. Why not start today?

I know it’s fall when the sunflowers come in.

In Dearborn, in front of Ford Motor Company World Headquarters, there is a spectacular sight every fall. An ocean of bright, beautiful sunflowers.

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I discovered them one day when driving around. I’ve come back to them every fall since. Sometimes they get planted early. These photos are from about a month ago when they were in their prime. They’re starting to yellow a bit now. I have a picture from last year at about this time where the heads hadn’t even opened up yet. So it varies. But they always come when the air is starting to get chilly in the mornings and the dark comes sooner in the evenings and I know soon I’ll be immersed in apples and scarfs and leaves and everything that is fall.

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I decided to research the field for a class project. There are several other fields around, but they’re all wildflowers and grasses. They also have ‘no trespassing’ signs posted. This sunflower field doesn’t. In fact, a sidewalk winds along the edge of the field, so anyone passing by can enjoy them. The field is at Michigan Avenue and Mercury Drive.

Going out there, you can hear hundreds of birds. Standing next to the flowers you can observe bees happily hovering from face to face of the giant blooms. It’s nice to commune with nature this way.

But why? Why have this sea of sunflowers?

After poking at Ford’s website, it seems that the answer is that they are pretty and provide food for local wildlife. Okay. Cool! Ford goes on to explain that the fields are part of an effort to improve biodiversity, provide a habitat for animals, and since it’s not a giant grass field they need to mow, they don’t use as much fuel. I try to be as ecofriendly as I reasonably can be, so I was pretty excited to uncover these as the reasons Ford has the field.

I’m still waiting for a call back from the company that maintains the sunflowers. I have a few more questions about how this came to be. There was an article online that attributed the idea to an employee that was like, “Hey, you know what would be awesome? NOT ANOTHER GRASS FIELD.” (not a direct quote) (good thing this is for my blog and not my news writing class) (but wouldn’t it be great if they had?) Maybe I’ll share an update with you guys here later.

Whatever their origin, I’m just happy they exist.

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Happy Friday, everyone.