Monday, June 07, 2010

Eat Local, Wear - ?

Increasingly I am coming to the view that buying local food is more important than buying organic or Fairtrade food. But what about clothing? I live in Britain which is not exactly famous for its fields of cotton or its mulberry plantations producing silk. We produce wool, but it's difficult to wear all year round (and I have a horrible tendency to shrink it in the wash).

A surf clothing company called Rapanui contacted me a couple of weeks ago to publicise their products (full disclosure - they have not offered me any incentive except a link exchange. Loads of businesses offer link exchanges with Bean Sprouts but I ignore 99% of them as irrelevant to my readers). I checked out their website and I was impressed at the thoroughness of their eco credentials. Rapanui is not a clothing company that makes a token effort to claim the "eco" label as a marketing ploy. They truly seem to have built their business on sustainable and ethical principles that extend to everything they do.

I liked the traceability maps which show a product-specific supply chain traceability map for every product they sell. I liked the detailed description of the ethical standards for workers they apply in the (wind powered) factories and farms. I was very impressed by the in-depth carbon footprint calculations they make available for all their products.

I'm not exactly a surf chick so I'm unlikely to buy any Rapanui products, although the pashminas are rather nice, and so are the socks. The men's range is much more "fleshed out" than the women's range so far, and there are no children's products yet. The company is young, though, and they may already have plans to extend these ranges. But I really liked their approach to business. I wish many more companies would be as thoughtful about their environmental and ethical values.


Anonymous said...

very cool

Anonymous said...

It looks great... but (like a fair few of your readers, I suspect) I can't afford to spend twenty quid on a vest top. (Believe me, if I could I'd get the I luv Wight T-shirt, being a fond Overner in exile!) Back to the charity shop for me, then! ;-)

Melanie Rimmer said...

I know what you mean about the prices. Vest tops are two pounds in Primark. But what sort of pay and working conditions do you need to make a two pound vest top? Charity shops are a good answer from the consumer point of view, but in the long run a refusal (or inability) to pay more for ethical goods must result in ethical businesses failing while unscrupulous businesses thrive.

KClowlife said...

True enough. Many of us are becoming addicted to having things cheap and neglecting to think of the slave labor used to manufacture it while we decry slavery from 200 years ago.

That said, I don't have a good solution to the buy local clothes yet either. I am in an area where I'm closer to cotton growing but that comes with it's own complexities. I don't know if you've looked into it yet, but since cotton isn't a food there is no restriction from using all sorts of horrible chemicals on the product while it's growing. I'm not an expert on those chemicals, so I don't know just how dangerous they are. But I know some people are proposing the sale of organic cotton clothing that haven't been subjected to the herbicides, fungicides and pesticides.

Really, if we paid for a well produced product that lasted 5 or 10 years then we'd be paying something similar to what we currently pay for clothes that tear seams or dye fades unevenly in just one or two seasons.

Nome said...

I'm not sure 'ethical businesses' are doing things right if they have to charge £20 for a vest top. I've been looking a lot at hemp clothing recently. Hemp can be grown in this country in a quarter of the time it takes cotton to grow, with no chemicals and very little care. I see no reason why it should cost four or more times as much as high street clothing - surely it should be cheaper! I get the impression a lot of 'ethical' clothing - and many other green products too - are aimed at the wealthy. I think there are two types of green people - those that live within modest means, reduce their consumption and get their hands dirty, and those that splash out on designer green products to give themselves a little glow while they enjoy their big houses and fast cars.

At thegreenstoreonline you can spend £13 on a clock made out of a squashed beer bottle with a bogstandard clock mechanism attached. No one needs a clock like that, and there can't be enough demand to repurpose any significant number of bottles. It's pure novelty that encourages the buying of more things we can do without. At nigelsecostore you can buy furniture made from recycled cardboard - a great idea! Check out the eco-friendly sofa; "the height of eco cool" - there's no fancy engineering - it's just some thick cardboard slotted together (and it doesn't even come with the pictured cushions). For £550! Or how about the coffee table made from the drum of an old washing machine, with a glass top. That washing machine drum costs nothing, yet it sells for £270!

Okay, rant over. No offence to anyone intended. But I think a truly ethical company will aim to sell its goods to as many people as possible - not just to the upper classes.

Yellow said...

Nome, you make some great points there. I do like to shop and treat myself, so I often pop into local charity shops to pick up videos, scarfs, odd toys and, of course, books. But I went to Camden Market in London last week and the two tshirts I bought were imported from goodness knows where. But they inspired me to get more tshirts and embellish them. Sainsburys do a great range of organic cotton clothes, about £12 for a tshirts with nice detailing and I doubt they're made in sweat shops. Also m&s clothes are ethical. I avoid Primark because I don't believe in 'disposable' clothes.