Fashion and Ethics: Why Should I Care and What Can I Do? by Katie Metzger

Look at the clothes you are wearing right now….Would you believe that 80-90% of what you are wearing was made in inhumane, unsustainable conditions? Well, the sad fact is, this is most often the case. Sweatshops are not a thing of the past. Buying high-end, well made clothing does not mean that it is made in different conditions than Old Navy or Walmart clothing. This is hard to swallow, and as someone who loves fashion it can seem too overwhelming to even think about. However, information and acknowledgement is where change begins. So why should you care and what can you, practically, do?

Ethical Clothing Brand: Same Thread

Ethical Clothing Brand: Same Thread

When discussing the issue of ethicality in the clothing industry, one may have images of sweatshops and child laborers in developing nations toiling all day in inhumane conditions. Although this image may seem extreme, it is a very real aspect of our current garment and fashion industries worldwide. Sweatshops from Bangladesh to Cambodia routinely pay their workers around $1.20 per day for their work. This is not a living wage, even in poverty stricken communities. The chronic underpayment of garment industry workers creates a cycle of poverty in already struggling communities, in turn contributing to other social issues resulting from poverty. Sweatshops are not only present in developing nations but are also a growing problem in the United States.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in recent years up to 11,000 U.S. based factories were cited as violating workers rights and not paying laborers a minimum wage. This shows the problem of human rights violations in textile and garment factories is not only an international problem but a domestic problem as well. Additionally, many companies touted as being ethically made have had numerous sweatshop scandals. When it comes to clothing ethicality we must learn to be active, not passive, consumers of information.

In 2006, a study was done by the American Sociological Association regarding the marketability of fair trade products; this study found that an overwhelming majority of consumers would pay $1-$5 more for items they know are made in an ethical way. Although large strides towards ethical production have been made in the coffee, chocolate and food industry, the clothing industry remains hugely underserved.

Ethical Clothing Brand: Same Thread

Ethical Clothing Brand: Same Thread

I am someone who loves fashion and clothing. The thrill of a new dress or pair of shoes is not lost on me. But I also recognize that, as a person who believes that each human bears the image and likeness of God, I am required to evaluate and educate myself about the impact of my purchases. As I’ve become more interested in ethicality and the fashion industry I keep asking myself, “What can I, practically, do?”. Not all of us can afford to shop exclusively from fair trade clothing brands, and more often the fashion in fair trade clothing is extremely lacking. So what small changes can we make to have an impact on the clothing industry?

1. Realize that someone is paying the price for your clothing…is it you or the garment worker? Jeans should cost more than $9.99. When you come across clothing that is extremely cheap ask yourself, “what kind of production practices lend itself to producing a $3 tank top”? The answer is usually pretty obvious.

2. Inform yourself about your favorite brands. It is well-known that companies such as Forever 21, H&M, Victoria’s Secret, and Walmart have unethical supply chains. However, information is severely lacking for many brands. Do some digging online and if nothing is available, request information.

3. If you are unsure, shop local and second-hand. Finding local markets and boutiques supports your local economy and makes it easier to engage in conversation and get information. Also, second-hand and vintage shopping can be a cost-effective and fun way to go! Most of my favorite pieces in my wardrobe were found at great vintage stores. I love that shopping locally and second-hand gives me a unique wardrobe and personal style.

4. Start exploring and support fair trade fashion companies. As I stated earlier, finding fair trade clothing that is actually fashionable can be a struggle. Many fair trade clothing companies are either insanely expensive or produce clothing you wouldn’t want to wear. However, lately there has been a surge of new fashionable clothing companies that are competitively priced. Myself and my business partner are actually in the process of launching a fair  clothing brand, Same Thread, that produces fashion forward, ethical clothing that also provides economic opportunity to women in Thailand. I hope to be a part of the change towards ethically and reconciliation that I know will take place in the fashion industry. Join me!

katie
Katie is the Co-founder and Creative Director of Same Thread, an ethical clothing brand for women, and is also on staff at Mustard Seed Associates and The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. She is also a native Pacific Northwesterner with a passion for social justice and bringing fair trade business practices into the mainstream. In 2014 she completed her MA in International Development at Northwest University, where she focused on social enterprise and it’s capacity to economically empower women. She has a background in event planning, marketing, design and retail production. On a typical Saturday she can be found cooking, sewing, drawing, listening to records, vintage shopping, sipping whiskey and playing with her puppies.

Are All Christians Hedonists?

Art by Emmanuel Garibay Used with permission

Art by Emmanuel Garibay Used with permission

Last week I shared this quote from Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks:

It is as though the materialism that has a death grip on this culture has taken our spirituality as well. Most of what’s called spiritual is actually humanistic if you think about it. People don’t want the adventure of God on his own terms or for his own sake. They want a better world, a happier life, better relationships and all the trimmings that go along with it….. We’re urged to seek God because this human good will come of it. People don’t realize “because” implies that the end is the human good and Truth (God) merely the means” (19)

It keeps coming back to my mind. How often do I pray because I want something from God, rather than because my heart aches for deeper intimacy with God? How often do I use God as the excuse for my own self centred agendas?

Some prayers are so obviously hedonistic they make us squirm when we hear others talk about them – praying for a parking place, or going on a Jesus spending spree where we expect Jesus to guide us to great bargains. But others are more subtle. Even desiring healing of loved ones can have a self centred purpose, after all illness and death disrupt our lives physically, emotionally and sometimes spiritually. If God healed more frequently life would be so much easier.

Or perhaps we want to see people in Africa fed and freed from starvation. We hate those images of starving children, their pain and suffering disrupts our lives. Yes, some of our response comes from the compassion of God welling up from within, but for many the uppermost emotion is: If God would just do something I would not have to respond and I could get rid of my guilt and once more feel at easy in my comfortable materialistic lifestyle. Sometimes these emotions reside in our subconscious rather than conscious minds, and as long as we are too busy to reflect on why we want something to change we are never aware of our self centred motives.

One of the commonest excuses I use and that I hear others use for not taking adequate time for God or with others is: but I enjoy what I am doing. I love my work. Unconsciously what we are saying is – My personal need for satisfaction in my work takes priority over my need to spend time with God.

Sometimes we even rope God into the equation – there is so much need God must intend me to burn myself out by responding to that need. The underlying subconscious thought – without me God cannot answer this need. 

And then there is the excuse – But I have to feed and house my family. Again a very true statement and one that has many of us up at night consumed with anxiety. This believe it or not is one of those legitimate prayers. In the Lord’s prayer we regularly say Give us this day our daily bread. The problem is that we don’t expect God to provide bread for today we expect provision for the next 10, 15 or 20 years and we want to see where it is coming from NOW.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we don’t save for the future, though that is a way of life that some are called to, but sitting in the place of discernment, trusting that God will show us what we need to know now in order to provide, does not come easily to us. And we get uncomfortable because God might make it very clear that some of what we want for the future – like second homes, bigger cars and expensive vacations – may not be in God’s best plan for us. Even our desire for a bigger church, better paying job or higher profile ministry may not be in God’s plan – especially not if it takes time away from our number one priority – seeking God not for what we want but for what God wants – intimacy with us in every moment of the day.

What would our lives look like if we spent more time seeking God for God’s sake alone? How would it change our priorities, our time management, our use of resources? How would it affect our friendships? These are some of the questions I continue to grapple with. I hope you will take time to grapple with them too.

The Message of Permaculture – Care and Share

Pumpkin in the compost

Last night was my final class at St Andrew’s Episcopal church here in Seattle. Much of our discussion was around the principles and tenets of Permaculture. This method of agriculture, sometimes referred to as “do nothing gardening”  is modelled observation of natural ecosystems. Out of that are developed self maintained horticultural systems.

I love the three tenets of Permaculture which could easily come out of the Bible and wanted to reflect a little more on these, incorporating some of the principles of Permaculture (and of the Bible) in the process.

  • Take care of the earth – especially the soil. No life flourishes without healthy soil.

Taking care of the earth is not just about conservation however. The words that come to me are:  Look back with gratitude & forward with anticipation. We need to look back to legacy of past stewards, learn from their techniques, preserve the heritage seeds they developed and cultivate native and other plants that are well developed for our climates.  We als nee to look forward so those that follow us will reap the benefits. Our concern should not be for short term gain but for long term stable systems that therefore depend on long living perennials and trees that provide food for many years rather than short lived annuals.

Permaculture is not a quick fix garden technique. We need to take time to let the land speak, observing and interacting with it in all seasons, learn the patterns of rain, wind, sun, and noise, taking the animals into account and framing the vistas and views the land opens up. The idea is to work with nature and not try to control it.

Another basic principle of permaculture is to catch and store energy. We can catch solar energy in sun spaces, and greenhouses. We can use it in solar cookers, dryers and lights.  We can also store water  through the use of rain barrels and greywater (not allowed in many cities). And we can store the rain that falls on the earth with deep layers of compost and mulch.  We can also store energy by storing the harvest in root cellars, or by preserving, drying and freezing.

Another important principle is the use of renewable resources. The idea is to produce no waste at all. Leftovers can be composted, dead trees cut down for new garden beds or firewood. Nature is an incredible waste free design that we could do well to emulate.

Mimicking the ways of nature, which has been refined in the science of bio-mimicry is something that has always intrigued me. God has created some amazing designs that we could emulate to save the planet.

  • Take care of the people 

For number one priority here is the need to form community & grow friendship by gardening together, preserving the harvest together and partying together.  The idea is to integrate rather than segregate, cooperate rather than not compete. We learn to value diversity in our garden community as well as our produce. Community gardens and shared backyards can foster this.

One principle of permaculture is to use every available space. We use the edges  by espaliering trees on walls, growing vines and hanging baskets. We use dark spaces by growing mushrooms. But perhaps (and here is my radical Christian perspective here, right out of the Old Testament.) – maybe we should leave the edge crops for others to glean

  • Share the surplus:

Unless we share we do not really care for others, but as the author comments in The Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Permaculture, to share we must recognize that we have more than enough for ourselves. We live in a culture that teaches us there is never enough. We must hold onto everything. No wonder storage for excess household goods has become such big business. And sharing in a garden should go beyond the harvest. We should generously share techniques, seeds, recipes, skills and information. And above all we should share the beauty of our gardens, inviting others into our space whenever possible.

 

Wading Pool Gardens

Job Ebenezer - container gardening

Job Ebenezer – container gardening

This evening I have been sitting in Newberg Oregon talking to Randy Woodley about possible ways that urban areas can become more self sustaining which reminded me of one of my favourite urban gardeners Job Ebenezer. It made me realize that I have never blogged about the work of this remarkable man.

Job believes that with inexpensive containers and suitable soil mix, you can create an urban garden virtually anywhere – on roof tops, vacant city lots, brown fields, and unused portion of parking lots. And he uses children’s wading pools to create them.

The president (Dr. Job Ebenezer) of the organization, Technology for the Poor, explains his vision for the spread of urban agriculture.

In 1993, Dr. Job Ebenezer, former Director of Environmental Stewardship and Hunger Education at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) established a container garden on the roof of the parking garage of the ELCA offices in Chicago. The hope was that the roof top garden would serve as a role model for creative use of urban space throughout the country. Dr. Ebenezer proved the feasibility of growing vegetables in plastic wading pools, used tires and feed sacks.

Cooking with Quinoa

Quinoa - a versatile grain

Quinoa – a versatile grain

For our time on Camano on Monday I made a delicious quinoa salad and thought that you might appreciate the recipe. Quinoa has the most protein of any grain,and the highest fat content. It’s a great source of vitamins & minerals, and is considered a complete protein so if you are not familiar with this grain then you need to be. I particularly love a mix of red, black and white quinoa if you can find it. (available here at Trader Joes or as separate grains at PCC).

Quinoa originated in the Andean region of Bolivia, Peru, Equador and Columbia where it has been cultivated for 3-4,000 years. It seems to grow well here in the Pacific NW though I do not grow it because of lack of space. – maybe when we get the garden at the Mustard Seed Village going.

I enjoy it both as a hot vegetable – great for adding stir fry vegetables from the garden – or as a salad. It is really great for a picnic as it stays fresh without refrigeration. This recipe is like Tabbouleh but with quinoa instead of bulgar wheat. You can in fact use any vegetables in the salad – the one I made on Monday had mainly greens, peas and onions from the garden.

Quinoa Salad

INGREDIENTS:

– 2 cups Quinoa
– 2 cups Parsley,Coarsely Chopped
– 1/2 cup Fresh Mint,Coarsely Chopped
– 2 lbs. Tomatoes,Chopped
– 1 lg Cucumber,Chopped
– 2 md Sweet Onion,Chopped
– 3/4 cups Olive Oil
– 3/4 cups Lemon Juice
– 2 sm Yellow Zucchini,Chopped
– 1 each Garlic,Crushed

METHOD:

1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add quinoa and cook covered for 15 minutes. Turn off and let stand. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool. Add tomatoes, cucumber, squash, onion, parsley, and mint. Mix well Add remaining ingredients and miz again. Let stand for at least an hour before serving.

Quinoa stir fry

INGREDIENTS:

– 4 cups cooked quinoa
– 1 stalks celery
– 1 sweet bell pepper, chopped in small pieces
– 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
– 1 large onion, chopped in small pieces
– 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
– 1 green zucchini , sliced
– 1 yellow zucchini , sliced
– 2 cups swiss chard or spinach, chopped
– 1/2 cup dried tomatoes
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
– 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
– 1 bay leaf
– 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
– 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
– 1/2 teaspoon cumin
– 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
METHOD:

1. Heat olive oil on medium low in a 3 – 4 qt saucepan or sauté pan. Saute onions until translucent add garlic & ginger, sauté with mustard seeds for 5 minutes

2. Chop celery, zucchini, mushrooms and red pepper, add to pan and sauté another five minutes.

3. Mix in the bay leaf, turmeric, coriander &; cumin

4. Add the quinoa and stir until mixed.

5. Stir in the optional greens, and fresh ground pepper

6. Cover and cook 5 more minutes, then serve – or refrigerate and serve chilled as a salad.

What Does a Person Need?

MSA intern Chris Holcomb

MSA intern Chris Holcomb

MSA intern Chris Holcomb is starting a series of posts at the MSA blog on experiments in simplicity.

One of the questions that I’ve been grappling with over the last several years is this: what do people need? No, I’m not trying to think of a product to sell, or an innovation to change the world; I’m thinking in much more basic terms than those. What does a person need to survive, and what do they need to live a happy, fulfilling life?

Check out the first post here

The Call To True Freedom

Grievance wall at Wild Goose Festival

Grievance wall at Wild Goose Festival

This morning I posted this prayer on facebook

God you have called us into freedom,
May we use it to follow you with our whole hearts,
May we use it to serve one another in love,
May we use it to grow your kingdom of peace and wholeness.

It came out of my struggle with the whole concept of Independence Day and our assumption that because we live in America that we are free. To be honest I struggle with the very word Independence because God calls us to interdependence and not independence. Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t see anything wrong in a nation celebrating its independence. It is when Christians celebrate with the same fervour as though independence is a part of our faith that I struggle.

I also struggle with what we mean by freedom. Even in America there are many who have very little freedom.

Yesterday I signed up for International Justice Mission’s Recipe for Change  initiative which highlights the plight of tomato pickers in Florida. I talked about this last year in a post The Price of Tomatoes – Keeping Slavery Alive in Florida.  Then I read this article by Greg Valerio who together with his wife Ruth is a great advocate for fair trade – especially jewelry. Purity of Fair Trade Gold at Risk

Then I read Chris Smith’s article Let’s Celebrate Interdependence Day

And I rounded it up with watching this video by Micha Bournes – When America Dies

watch?v=3ctXPDwLlwk&feature=player_embedded

These issues make me very aware of the fact that our freedoms are so often dependent on the enslavement or exploitation of others. It made me more than ever aware of the fact that none of us are truly free until all God’s children are free and also that the only true freedom is what we find in our relationship to God. What do you think?

What Gift Do We Leave to Our Children – A Message from Archbishop Rowan Williams

I was just sent the link to this video which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, recorded in advance of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in which he asks “What kind of world do we want to leave to our children?” I thought that many of you would appreciate it.

“All religious people see the world as a gift from God.  And all religious people are therefore bound to ask: if that’s the gift we’ve been given, how do we make it a gift to others, to the next generation?”

In the video, the Archbishop says that this question poses “a challenge that I think will resonate for absolutely everybody across the world.”

Viewing our environmental and social legacy as a ‘gift’ to be passed to the next generation, the Archbishop suggests that one such gift is “the wisdom of how to inhabit a world, how to inhabit a limited environment with grace, with freedom, with confidence.”

“Are we handing on a gift, both material and spiritual, that really will make them live well, live happily, so that their future will be secure and they too will have a gift to give to their children and grandchildren in turn?”

He highlights the key role that both governments and faith communities play in achieving this vision of justice for future generations, working collaboratively for an equitable and inclusive green economy:

“Governments can, of course, and must, play their part in all this.  Governments need to give fiscal incentives to green development.  They need to promote programmes that encourage us all to reduce our waste.  They need to ‘green’ our economy, both at home and worldwide.  And we, all of us, not least the faith communities, need to collaborate in that and support governments in that vision.”

“Big changes come because small changes happen”

A transcript of the Archbishop’s message follows.

The big question that faces Rio+20 is: what kind of world do we want to leave to our children? And that’s not just a question about what kind of material environment we want to leave – the answers to that, in a way, are quite simple: we want a world that’s free of pollution, a world where everyone has access to clean water, a world where food supplies are secure, a world where people have learned sustainable methods of agriculture and development.

But just as importantly, it’s a question of what kind of habits and what kind of lifestyle we want to leave to our children – what sort of skills we want to see them developing in living sustainably in this world.

That means, as in so many areas, we have to start small and we have to start local. Big changes come because small changes happen. And in the work I do, I have the privilege of seeing quite a lot of small change going on. Last year in Kenya I was able to see the work done by the Anglican Church there in developing the Umoja agricultural methods, methods that lift people out of subsistence agriculture to real sustainable production of food for themselves, and training also in nutritional information so that agricultural development, food security, and healthcare go together. There are many other such local projects, and I have also been deeply impressed by the way in which people locally across the world have challenged and resisted some of the depredations of the extractive industry, in many areas one of the greatest threats to a sustainable future.

Governments can, of course, and must, play their part in all this. Governments need to give fiscal incentives to green development. They need to promote programmes that encourage us all to reduce our waste. They need to ‘green’ our economy, both at home and worldwide. And we, all of us, not least the faith communities, need to collaborate in that and support governments in that vision.

But at root, the question remains the same: what kind of world do we want to hand on? Imagine that you have a child’s or a grandchild’s birthday coming up. You want to give them a present. You want to give them something that will genuinely mean something to them, that will enrich their lives, that will be part of lasting growth and well-being. And that’s what we’re challenged to do here. It’s a challenge that I think will resonate for absolutely everybody across the world. Simply enough: what’s the gift we want to give? The gift of a world that’s more free from pollution, a world whose future is more secure, a world where more people have access to food and clean water and healthcare? Yes. But also a world in which we’re transmitting the wisdom of how to inhabit a world, how to inhabit a limited environment with grace, with freedom, with confidence.

All religious people see the world as a gift from God. And all religious people are therefore bound to ask: if that’s the gift we’ve been given, how do we make it a gift to others, to the next generation? How do we do justice by our children and grandchildren? How do we act fairly by them? Are we handing on a gift, both material and spiritual, that really will make them live well, live happily, so that their future will be secure and they too will have a gift to give to their children and grandchildren in turn?

More Insights from My Parish Collective Friends

Toward an architecture of place

Toward an architecture of place – via project for public spaces

It is easy for me to get distracted and I must confess that since the Inhabit conference I have found it even easier. My friends at the Parish Collective keep posting such interesting articles, examples of what creative ordinary people are doing in their communities. It is both inspiring and energizing so I thought I would share some more of what I have learned this week.

Continuing the Conversation: Toward an Architecture of Place and Toward an Architecture of Place are two articles well worth reading.

We believe that the  iconic design movement, which defines our architectural era, must integrate a sense of place into its work. When the bold idea of place takes hold in modern design, cities will become more livable, sustainable and authentic.

Now it is time to watch Paul Spark’s video on Land and the Baptized. produced by Work of the People. Paul is always an inspiration to me and his insights are well worth reflecting on.

OK now download this great resource from the New American Dream.

New American Dream Guide to Sharing

And finally this is a very inspirational video to watch too. I love the comments she starts with: There is no failure – creativity comes out of chaos. Gratitude trumps fear.

And Paul Spark’s comments:

The only stories of heroes most people have in common are the ones they watch on TV. But in our neighborhood a lot of us have stuck around long enough to see the characters who deserve to be called “hero” because of the way they live their lives, and what they’ve overcome. In our town stories are told about their lives, about their character, about their courage, and about how their acts of imagination bring power to the people. My friend Patricia Lecy-Davis is one of those kind of heroes.

Snapshot Inhabit 2012 – Andrew Wade

Inhabit is over. Great fun, great fellowship with friends old and new and much to think about. Here is a snapshot from MSA team member Andrew Wade. A great event to be a part of. Will let you know as soon as we have the dates for next year.