Monday, 1 December 2014

Top 5 ways to shop ethically this Christmas

Christmas shopping. Yep, that time again. And as you make your way through the overwhelming sea of people in the crowded shops you cringe inwardly, wondering why you didn't start earlier and then insistently promise yourself you’ll do better next year.

Well, aside from the crowd weaving you are also faced with that little conundrum of what you are going to buy! If you are a conscious consumer looking for something alternative to the usual material goods found in the stores, then you will hopefully find this useful. There is an array of great gift ideas out there that would not only be great for your friends or family, but will also be making a difference in someone else’s life. Choosing fairtrade and ethically sourced gifts is a great way to use your hard earned money for good, and to give something beautiful and unique to your loved ones.

Here are 5 ways you can shop ethically this year:

1. Free Fair Trade Shopping Guide

The Fair Trade Association has defiantly helped to make ethical shopping easier. They have created a Fair Trade Shopping Guide that you can download from their website. It includes 60 endorsed and fairtrade certified organisations.
2. Buy a useful gift
Instead of buying another material item this year, think about buying a gift that will help support a community aid and development organisation. There are many to choose from, and every gift you buy helps to meet the needs of people and communities experiencing poverty and injustice. Here are some of my favourites:

3. Moral Fairground Market
If you live in Melbourne, then this one is for you. On the 6th and 7th of December Moral Fairground is running the Fair@Square market at Federation Square. It will feature a range of fairtrade and ethical organisations. The market will also have a play tent for kids, cooking demonstrations, talks, and much much more! Bring your friends, take your kids, and enjoy a great day out while getting those Christmas gifts.
Fair@Square 2014 Program

4. Homemade creations

One of the best kinds of gifts you can give is one that you make yourself. If you have the time, why not take a weekend to be creative and make something special for your friends and family this year! From homemade cookies and treats, to painted pots, iron on t-shirt designs, and photographs...homemade gifts are always memorable. If you are short for time and still want to give something uniquely made, why not buy from Etsy - a great website that has a range of vintage and homemade crafts.

5. Online eco and ethical shops

There are a few online stores that sell a range of ethical products. These are useful as they generally have great variety, which means you can shop for many people at the same place! Here are a few to whet your appetite.

Happy Shopping!

Friday, 31 October 2014

2014 Australian Fairtrade Awards have been announced!

The Fairtrade Awards are an exciting opportunity for Australian retailers and brands to be recognised for their contribution and commitment to supporting workers, farmers, their families and wider communities in developing countries.

This year's winners are:

Let's get behind these brands and show them our support so they can continue to make a positive impact to producers and workers around the world.

To find out more visit the Fairtrade Australia website:

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Did a child make your rug?

Join the GoodWeave campaign to stop child labour in the carpet industry.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Reporter goes undercover to find out the truth

Reporter Raveena Aulakh from the Toronto Star went undercover to work in a Bangladesh textile factory. Find out what she discovered:
Download me and add me to your Blog Action Day post. Please make sure you link back to Blog Action Day

Is the world living up to your interests as a conscious consumer? 

The inequality that effects us all.

The oxford dictionary defines the word consumerism as “The protection or promotion of the interests of consumers” and “The preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.” [i] I find it interesting that the word ‘protection’ is used in reference to a consumer’s interests in the first definition. Hold onto this thought for a moment, it’s one I want to come back to as I think we can explore it further.

My first thought when reading this definition was ‘well yes, this makes sense of the reality I see and know.’ I saw the images on the news of hundreds of people camping out in front of the Apple store to get the new i-phone, I've seen and heard the advertisements telling me to buy certain products because they will in someway make my life better, and then there are those few people I know who seem to always be buying and accumulating way more then they actually need. Our society really is preoccupied with acquiring goods and advertising seems happy to promote the so called interests of those who acquire them. I can’t help but feel, however, that it is either a self-interested consumer or the large corporations selling consumer products that have their interests, welfare, comfort, and ‘happiness’ protected. I’m a consumer of products and services, yet when I look at the types of consumer interests being promoted, I can’t help but feel that my interests are, for the most part, somehow forgotten or neglected. Why should advertising or our modern lifestyles in the west dictate what my interests should be? Maybe you can relate? Either my understanding of the term consumerism is incorrect, or our world is not living up to the very definition it has given the word. Either way, I am in no doubt that the reality of the culture and society I live in are at odds with my interests as a consumer. And here’s why:

As a consumer I am concerned about and interested in the following:
- that the product or service I receive or purchase will not cause harm to me or others, be that physical or psychological.
- that the product or service I receive or purchase will deliver on the promise it was advertised to.
- that the products I purchase were made by people who were paid fair wages, and were able to work in comfortable and safe working conditions.
- that the product or service I receive or purchase was sold to me at a realistic and reasonable price.
- that the products I purchase were made by people who had freely chosen to undertake the work required to create the product.
- that no one should have intentionally suffered in the making of the product I purchase.

What makes me certain that these interests are not being protected and promoted? Let’s take an example. I buy a cotton t-shirt from a well known retail store. Seems innocent enough, a lovely new design, nice colour, fits well, no faults that the eye can see, and it was at a bargain price! Perfect purchase! Right?

After reading the company’s website, I discovered that they do not source organically grown cotton. Cotton grown with synthetic pesticides has proven to not only be damaging to the environment but also to the farmers who come into contact with them. Safia Minney, founder of People Tree, an internationally renowned fairtrade fashion label wrote: 
“These pesticides [used on cotton farms] harm the farmers and their families. Many of the chemicals used in cotton farming are acutely toxic. Around 10 per cent of all chemical pesticides are 22 per cent of all insecticides used worldwide are sprayed on cotton crops. Cotton growers typically use many of the most hazardous pesticides on the market, many of which are organophosphates originally developed as toxic nerve agents during World War Two. At least three pesticides used on cotton are in the ‘dirty dozen’ – so dangerous that 120 countries agreed at a UNEP conference in 2001 to ban them, though so far this hasn’t happened.  The World Health Organisation estimates that three million people are poisoned by pesticides every year, most of them in developing countries.”[ii]

Not only are harmful chemicals used in crop production, but also in harvesting and manufacturing. Freelance writer Cathy Sherman writes:

“The chemicals used in cotton production don't end with cultivation. As an aid in harvesting, herbicides are used to defoliate the plants, making picking easier. Producing a textile from the plants involves more chemicals in the process of bleaching, sizing, dying, straightening, shrink reduction, stain and odor resistance...[and more]. ...Some of the softeners and detergents leave a residue that will not totally be removed from the final product. Chemicals often used for finishing include formaldehyde, caustic soda, sulfuric acid, bromines, urea resins, sulfonamides, halogens, and bromines. Some imported clothes are now impregnated with long-lasting disinfectants which are very hard to remove, and whose smell gives them away. These and the other chemical residues affect people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. Also, people have developed allergic reactions, such as hives, to formaldehyde through skin contact with solutions on durable-press clothing.”[iii]

Clearly, my interests as a consumer are not being protected here. Not only have the farmers of the very cotton used to make my t-shirt been exposed to dangers, but also the product itself could have unforseen harmful effects on my health. The protection and promotion of my interest and concern that the product I consume will not cause harm to me or others has in this instance failed to occur.  

The company’s slogan where I bought the t-shirt is ‘offering the latest products at everyday low prices’. This promise seems to live up to expectations, with their clothing range indeed being at very low prices. Normally we wouldn't stop to ask why we are being handed such a good deal, but I couldn't help and pause to wonder how I could be paying something that should probably have cost more then its retail price to actually make. This brings me to the point of my other consumer interests.  

The numerous clothing factory fires and collapses that occurred in Bangladesh between 2012 and 2013 were a stark reminder of the unethical conditions in which many of our consumer goods, particularly textiles, are made. The company where I bought my t-shirt was one of the organisations that sourced its clothing from Rana Plaza, the factory that collapsed killing 1,138 workers, and injuring 2,000[iv]. Little was done to ensure that working conditions were safe. What’s more, workers in these factories are paid around $30 a month and work 12 hour days[v]. Is this why my t-shirt was so cheap? Most of the workers are also girls, and some are as young as 9 years old.

Since the public outcry that followed the devastating factory incidents, some organisations have begun to make changes. The company where I brought my t-shirt was one of many to sign The Accord on the Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, an international union accord that hopes to regulate the safety of Bangladesh factories. This company has also recently developed an Ethical Sourcing Code that details their ethical standards and promises to ensure all their suppliers adhere to the code. This is a great start, but why this 45 year old organisation only now decides to grow a conscious is disappointing. Could they not have had an ethical standard before so many people had to die? But alas, at least they are finally showing some efforts to change, and in a gesture of greater transparency have also listed the names and addresses of each of their manufacturing and production sites around the world.

Before the outcry that followed the devastation in Bangladesh there was little being done to promote or protect my interest as a consumer (let alone the interests of the actual workers!) in this example. And there are many other organisations that have and are continuing to operate in a similar way, promoting their products in ways that protect their interests as high profit-makers and casually ignoring the things that matter to the vast majority of conscious consumers. Advertising plays an ominous role in this story, also ensuring any ‘unwanted’ information about products is covered up or ignored so that we may continue to consume with a supposedly ‘clear’ conscious. Society seems so ‘preoccupied with the acquisition of goods’ that it forgets to take into account the true interests of the consumer. Thankfully, though, change is happening, be it slowly. But more can and should be done to continue to transform our trading world so that the interests of producers in the entire supply chain, as well as consumers are being protected and promoted.  We still want to buy nice things and acquire products that are useful and effective, but we don’t want to do it at the expense of others, and why should we? Instead of all gaining, our current system only allows for few to gain. This is an inequality that can and must be changed. The more voices that speak out, the more people willing to show their support to authentic ethical and fair trading organisations, and the more people willing to ask the bigger supply chains to protect our consumer interests, the greater our chance to make a difference.

If these are issues that matter to you, I urge you, join the conversation. Be part of the movement for change and equality. The momentum for change has started, let’s be the generation that doesn't let it drop but sees it through to the end.

Monday, 1 July 2013

The ABC comes to the show

As some of you would know, the ABC’s Four Corners recently covered a story surrounding the Bangladesh clothing factory collapse and fires.  For those who missed it, it was a confronting episode and definitely worth watching.  You can still see it on ABC iview ( or for those who are time poor you can read the following article published by the ABC.  The article exposes some of Australia’s big brand names whose clothing is made in these Bangladeshi factories, including Kmart, Big W and Rivers:

"Meanwhile, workers are being arrested, 
beaten, tortured, threatened with sexual
harassment, just on and on and on. 
This was a miserable sweatshop"
Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights spokesman Charles Kernaghan

Your chance to make a difference!

In light of the hype surrounding these devastating incidents in Bangladesh, and the ongoing exploitation of workers in their factories, an innovative Swedish learning institute called Hyper Island have partnered with ActionAid Australia to put together an awareness raising website.  The aim of the site is to raise particular awareness of what is going on in Bangladesh and to help raise funds for ActionAid’s human rights work with garment workers worldwide.

This is your chance to help make a difference.  By buying a virtual product on the site your money helps fund ActionAid’s work so they can continue campaigning and pushing forward to help improve the rights of workers making the garments sold in our shops. It’s your choice.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Ignorance is Bliss. Or is it?

Where does our clothing come from?

Recently there has been some devastating news in the media about a clothing factory collapse in Bangladesh.  Through this story, many Australians, for the first time, have come to realise the devastating reality that many of the clothes we buy are made in factories like this one – where there are unrealistic demands placed on workers, no health and safety measures in place, workers being underpaid, and what’s more workers lives being placed at risk everyday for the benefit of company cost cutting. 

What many in the Western world don’t know is that this incident is not the first of its kind to have occurred.  In November of last year more than 100 people were killed from a fire in another Bangladesh garment factory1.  Only six weeks prior to this there was yet another fire at the Ali Enterprises factory in Pakistan that killed nearly 300 workers.  Sadly, only a week ago another fire was reported in a factory in Bangladesh killing 82

These incidents are a stark reminder of the reality of the unjust supply chains producing our consumer goods.  And as consumers of these products, this issue is one that does not just affect the families and workers on the other side of the world, but all of us.  When we purchase these products we become part of this chain.  Ignorance is no longer acceptable.  We are now more aware then ever that people just like you and me are given little choice but to work in these difficult, unnecessary, unreasonable, and arguably corrupt conditions just to provide for their families.  Not only are their chances for a better life being taken away from them, but it is being done for our ‘benefit’.  How can we enjoy our riches knowing it is at the cost of someone’s life?

You may argue that as consumers we can do little to change things - but our actions can make a difference.  As consumers we too have a role to play, and our voices can put pressure on corporations and governments to make the changes they need to ensure a better working life for our garment makers. When we choose to knowingly purchase an item that has been made in these unjust conditions we are endorsing such practices. The more pressure we place on these corporations though petition and the power of our buying dollar the more incentive we give them and the whole apparel industry to move toward lasting change.

So how can we do this?

Firstly, there are two petitions you can give your name to which calls corporations to sign the 'Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement' – a huge first step toward change! 

Secondly, do your research to find out whether the clothes you are buying are made fairly and make the choice to purchase from companies who are ethically sound. There is a website you can go to called Chain Store Reaction where you can search through stores and brands to find out about their ethical practices and standards.  If there is a company you want to learn more about that isn't listed why not write directly to them? You can use the website's template letter or write your own.  Ask the company to be clear about where and how their products are made, what regulations are in place, and whether they are serious about the ethical production of their goods.

Lastly, you can purchase your clothing direct from certified fair-trade companies. Search for these companies online using google, or through the fair trade directories listed on this blog.  Better yet, why not search for organisations that make their clothes right here in Australia!


There is power in the collective, and together our choices can make a difference.  So be part of the movement for change – sign the petitions demanding transformation of the Bangladesh garment industry, and where you can buy products that you know have been ethically made.

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” - Helen Keller

The following articles provide more information about the Bangladesh factory collapse and fires:

Monday, 22 April 2013

Brands, labels and guides - a starting point to shopping ethically.
Okay, so the feedback I have had from the last post has been great, and also very constructive.  For those who did download the Free2Work app you would have realised by now that most of the brands mentioned are from the US market (for obvious reasons - as the app is an American based creation).  

I had thought there was no Australian based equivalent and was going to direct you all to buy the Ethical Shopping Guide - a great little resource that you can carry with you to the supermarket.  Upon visiting their website to collect details, however, I discovered that they now have their own app!!! Ahh, how exciting! So, now I am going to encourage you to buy the Ethical Shopping Guide AND download the app :).  The guide includes a rating and assessment for hundreds of brands and products.  It also includes other snippets of information on certain brands and information about fair-trade labeling (letting you know which brands you can trust).  I cannot recommend it enough! 

Another useful shopping guide is the one produced by the Fair Trade Organisation, which can be downloaded from their website. It provides information about fair-trade businesses. Here is a link direct to the guide:

The last place I am going to direct you to is one of the Fair Trade Association’s website’s where you can search online for fair-trade stores and products.  The search works Australia wide, so to narrow it down to your local city make sure you include the city name in the search - e.g. "Chocolate in Melbourne"

Thanks guys, and I hope the above information will help you to be more informed about the brands you buy and guide you to making ethical choices in your shopping.

Till next time, happy shopping!

Sunday, 7 April 2013


Hello Friends!

Free2Work: End Human Trafficking and Slavery - The Story Behind the BarcodeHave you ever been in the supermarket and stumbled upon a new product or brand that you thought looked interesting? Did you pick up the item and decide it would be worth buying? As you were placing it into your shopping trolley did you at any point wonder where or how this new product was made?

Well, if you have then I recommend you download an innovative phone app produced by the founders of 'Free2Work'.  The app allows you to browse through hundreds of brands from different categories and gives you information about the brands fair working policies and whether the item you are about to buy has been touched by slave labour.  It also has a barcode scanner which allows you to scan and check a product while you are out shopping!  The app was developed in the US so a lot of the brands are US based, yet many of the brands can still be purchased here in Australia.  It is a great starting point for those wanting to know more about the products they are buying!

Check out the 'Free2Work' website for more information and to download the app today!