Nicole Sotelo, who was part of a small feminist group with me at HDS, and now works for Call to Action, published her masters thesis with Paulist Press. Isn’t that just wonderful!? I just found it randomly while doing another search.
On the very day that I read the post by Boy in the Bands on “want[ing] good assurance that the people who make and sell [clothes I buy] receive a fair wage and decent work standard” I went to The Garment District here in Cambridge which is the best second hand store I’ve ever ever been too. BiTB was pointing out Justice Clothing. Do have a look (after you read this).
So I felt a little inspired to write something on ethical clothes shopping, something which, honestly I have always struggled with. 1) Is it ethical to buy things that cost so much? and 2) Is it ethical to buy things made with animal parts (leather, wool, etc.) and 3) Should I boycott all stores that have things made by cheap, sweatshop labor?
The GarmentDistrict has helped to answer some of these questions for me because relatively little gas and energy is used in shipping the clothes (many are local consignments), no new sheep suffer for the wool, no new cows are killed for the leather, and no more workers in poor conditions sweat and toil to make the clothes. By buying second hand, one does not contribute any demand to any of these very sad and harmful things (sheep, cow, worker suffering, and increased energy usage and pollution).
I’ve always loved buying second hand, but it was hard to sort through the clothes at Goodwill to find something wearable, and Poor Little Rich Girl in Davis Square and Second Time Around in Harvard Square can be a little snobby and are quite expensive for second hand stores. Second hand is a great way to spend lots of money on clothes when that money could be put to much better uses (like, say, increasing your pledge to your church or donating to a NGO that helps set up cooperatives in developing countries, etc.). Plus, get this:
At present, The Garment District Inc. processes several million pounds of clothing a year. Much of it purchased from charitable organizations, providing them with sorely needed revenue. As it comes in, the clothing is carefully sorted and categorized. Approximately one piece in thirty is selected, steamed, and tagged for sale in the store. Other useable items are sold through Dollar-A-Pound+. Clothing not stylistically interesting to retail customers is baled and shipped to the developing world for reuse. Items which are unrepairable or soiled are sent to a “shoddy mill” and are ground up for other “post-consumer” uses. Over time The Garment District has also developed a very substantial consignment department, and consignors are always welcome to call. The staff is committed to the mission of being an ethical recycling company which offers “high quality clothing for any taste”.
I don’t know about my regular readers, but I know that if any readers of Beauty Tips for Ministers mosey over here, we are likely to be kindred spirits in that we do like to buy clothes. Both because I like to look sharp in general, and because if I don’t try to look sharp and a little older at my job, I could easily pass for a 17 year old. I know, I know. I will appreciate it when I am older. But when people still ask you what grade you are in when you are an intern minister and a grad student and married, it does wear on you a bit. But back to the point – lots of us like to buy clothes because it is fun to have new stuff to wear and we want a selection. But who can do that with $50 shirts at J. Crew, or, $89 shirts at Ann Taylor? And even if we could, is it ethical to spends so much on clothes when there are such pressing needs that our money could go to? I think we need to ask ourselves about this with our consumption.
Although it does take a little bit more work, you can save tons of money by shopping at a second hand store and do your part for the environment. And, if you try out The Garment District or another place like it (there are also consignment stores specifically for professional clothes), there is enough selection so you don’t get frustrated and decide you must resort to the mall. Even the on-sale stuff at the nicer stores at malls is really quite expensive. And, I’ve really tried to make Old Navy clothes look sharp and professional, but truly they just don’t look as nice. And, again, it contributes more to suffering and exploitation, uses energy getting it from here to there, and helps put more $ in the pockets of big corporations rather than local businesses.
Got other tips for ethical clothes buying? Please share!
p.s. I know some may not be aware of the harm that raising sheep for wool does to the sheep. If you are interested, you can take a look at this. No shocking pictures, just text.
Even though I know such quotes have probably been circulated on bad email forwards for years, I still think they are funny, in many ways because churches that are meant (one would think) to do good things for people can end up doing so much harm on so many different levels.
Also, very cool is this site where you can make your own church sign. They don’t have a UU church sign up, but it is still fun if, for instance, you were putting off doing your German translations or studying for the GRE.
In a short little interview with the Andi Zeisler one of the co-founders of the magazine Bitch (a feminist critique of pop culture), the New York Times person (as is typical for the Times and other mainstream publications) asks her about a character on television who “is a more of a postfeminist who instinctively takes control in a world mismanaged by men.” Awesome Andi responds,
“I don’t believe in postfeminism.” And then she goes on to say a little more, but I love it that she just cuts right to the chase and refuses to except that semi-salivatingly said question about the end of feminism (is it finally over?). Dowd does this in the Times too. I get so sick of hearing that because feminism today doesn’t look like feminism of the 70s, it must not really be feminism. Women must finally be liberated now, ehh? And they can just go back to being normal women instead of those nasty feminists.
This reminds me that I need to post a review of Manifesta. For now, just keep saying it,
“We don’t believe in postfeminism.”
Both of these cookbooks by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer are good for regular folks that just want to make a healthy, compasionate little something to eat for lunch or dinner. So many vegan/vegetarian cookbooks call for essence of this or fresh herb something or other imported from Japan which really makes it hard to cook some regular food for someone who is not a chef. I wasn’t good at cooking food before I became vegetarian so it isn’t like I would magically be great (or committed to spending hours in the kitchen) after I eliminated a whole host of ingredients.
Both books call for easy ingredients and simple directions. I especially love the recipes where they note that they can be frozen and reheated later. I have such a hard time cooking good healthy food while working and going to school, but this book is full of recipes that let you do that especially if you can freeze them and eat them later! Plus, the authors seem to have great laid back personalities. Not too “ooh-la-la” — very down to earth. They may try to be a little too cool sometimes, but it is better than someone who takes themselves oh-so-seriously as a chef.
These recipes are great for anyone who is looking to eat more healthily. Downside of the book is that there aren’t pictures of the food and sometimes I can’t quite tell what it is that the recipe is for (like Jessie’s Cuban Sensation– very nice title, but what is it?). How It All Vegan has more basic recipes and the The Garden of Vegan expands your range of foods. They also have great ideas for parties, make-it-yourself products for the home and a special section for college students trying to be vegan in a dorm.
How it All Vegan also has a helpful section for those who are used to more traditional cooking. It goes over what to stock in a vegan kitchen and helps one learn how to get a feel for vegan cooking. What to use in place of eggs? Soy milk or rice milk? What about cheese replacement?
Speaking of cheese, one thing that lacks in these books, and I really think many vegan cookbooks, is this whole thing where they write “top with vegan parmesan cheese.” Oh really? That easy, is it? As far as I can tell, vegan land still lacks convincing replacement for most cheeses. The vegan cheeses I’ve found here in Cambridge, MA are not edible and my guess is that Cambridge has a relatively good selection of alternative food options. Store bought vegan cheese does not resemble cheese taste or texture to me AT ALL nor to my lovely partner who is much less picky than I am. The best thing I have found for cheese replacement is nutritional yeast. It actually has a cheesy taste and semi-cheese-like texture. But that’s for another post. So enjoy these two books. They helped me move past pasta as my main food.