Be The Change You Wish To See
Coffee. It’s the best way to start the day. Team it with a fresh new dress, and you know you’re about to head out and slay the day. But before you bolt out the door to change the world, what if you found out that you were already making a global difference before you even left home.
Roll the tape back. You wake up, yawn, stretch…(okay, fast forward past all that)…grab your coffee. Stop there. Coffee. That’s the first interaction with changing the world. Play tape…have a shower, slip on that cute dress you just bought. And pause. Second interaction, clothes.
The things we choose eat, drink, and wear have a much greater global impact than we think.
The History Of Ethical Consumerism
Ethical living has been making headlines over the last few decades - treatment of the environment, animal welfare or sustainable resources. All of these issues have created conversation.
But recently, we have seen another global discussion arise, one centered around ethical clothing and food. Global movements like the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, which is tailored around bringing global fashion brands into moral and ethical accountability. Technology has also played a significant role in this discussion. As consumers, we now have an influential voice towards business decisions. Social media has created space for transparency and open conversation about some of the unethical business practises.
And that voice has only become louder since disasters like Rana Plaza.
What Was The Rana Plaza Tragedy?
On the 24th of April 2013 an 8-story factory, known as the Rana Plaza, collapsed. It was one of the many factories in Bangladesh used to make clothing for various Westernised fashion labels. On that day 1,134 people were killed, with thousands left injured. The media flocked to cover the action, and what we saw was far more horrifying than we could’ve imagined. The very question on each of our lips “how could this happen” was quickly answered with a harsh reality. Rana Plaza revealed the realities behind the very clothes we wear, and the true cost to fast fashion
How could this have happened?
To answer this, requires us to dig a bit deeper. It’s easy to look at the issue at surface level (“the owners weren’t upholding ethical working standards!” or “Big corporations putting pressure on small businesses.”) It’s only when we look beyond that, when we discover the true complexities of slave labour and sweatshops. These complexities involve layers of economic instability and economic injustices that are only exacerbated by the materialistic lifestyle celebrated in modern western culture.
Be The Change
‘Fast Fashion’ trends come and go. When we purchase clothes that are at ridiculously low prices it sends a message to companies and businesses that we, as buyers, are happy to get the best deals at the lowest price. Think of it like patting them on the back and saying “Thank you very much, please DO keep doing more of what you’re doing.”
If we want to see real change, it’s about stopping and looking at how we are fulfilling our own needs. Our shopping habits are not just frivolous decisions. They are often birthed out of our very own need to be good enough.
Where To Start
Making a change doesn’t have to be a dramatic shift, it’s recognising the role we each play to bring justice, into places where the conditions don’t reflect that. Looking at change on a global scale, can seem daunting, but let’s take a page out of Mother Teresa’s book: “I alone cannot change the world. But I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
- Watch documentaries like The True Cost, Half the Sky, Nefarious, Food Inc.
- Read books like Naked Fashion: The New Sustainable Fashion Revolution, Overdressed: the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion, The Sustainable Fashion Handbook, Fashion & Sustainability: Design for change, ReFashioned: Cutting Edge Clothing from Upcycling Materials.
Buy Locally & Responsibly
- Buy local produce. Get your fruit and veggies from your local Famers market and support local business.
- Only buy clothes that you need. When you need to buy new clothes try to buy ethical & fairtrade.
- Ask your local coffee shop where they get their coffee beans from. If they're not fair trade, suggest brands which are fair trade. Buy fair trade coffee and other food products for your home.
- Make recycling your new best friend. If you can't ditch the coffee paper cups, be sure to recycle it afterwards. Take your own bags for when you go grocery shopping.
Use Your Voice
- Perhaps most powerfully, use your own voice.
- Use social media platforms to celebrate hope. Retweet articles about businesses making the shift to better their work conditions, share stories about freedom from trafficking and slave labour, get connected in with online communities that are proactively involved with promoting change through empowerment