Monday, June 29, 2015

Lesson My Impact #5: Wearing Nicaragua, Costa Rica and "Overseas"

Today I am wearing the countries Nicaragua (t-shirt), Costa Rica (shorts) and "Overseas" (flip flops).

I am wearing Frisky flip flops and on their web site they claim:
Our products are manufactured overseas with quality control located in each factory to insure excellence and inspect all production to maintain the utmost in integrity and uniformity. All products are made from high quality and environmentally friendly materials. Products are produced in compliance with all U.S. regulations and labor laws. 
But Frisky never states what "overseas" means. So I sent them an email thanking them for their product and asking which countries. Still waiting to hear back.

I just read the book Where Am I Wearing? A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People that Make Our Clothes by Kelsey Timmerman.

Srsly, y'all.

"What are we to do as consumers? If we buy garments made in some developing country, we are contributing to an industry built on laborers whose wages and quality of life would be unacceptable to us. But if we don't, the laborers might lose their jobs. My conclusion, after visiting the people who made my favorite clothes, is that we should try to be engaged consumers, not mindless pocketbooks throwing dollars at the cheapest possible fashionable clothes we can find."

I added the bold on the above quote. I heard Bono of U2 state once that we vote with every dollar. I love that. And believe it. I worry about being paralyzed by it...and how to teach it to my children. I am disgusted that my children wear clothes made by other children.

"My own conclusion, after visiting Bangladesh, is that we should not be ashamed that our clothes are made by children so much as ashamed that we live in a world where child labor is often necessary for survival.
Child labor or not, the working conditions in Bangladesh's garment and textile industries are the living conditions of the country.
This is the culture of poverty."

Timmerman's work and curiosity aligns with Susan Bissell's lifetime work of advocating and protecting children all over the world.
I met Susan while she was writing her dissertation decades ago and she was the first to widen my perspective about sweatshops, child labor, and all of the thousands of hands my cheap pair of jeans passed through to end up in my closet.
If I buy the jeans, I affect the workers - whatever their ages.
If I remove myself from the consumer market, I affect the workers...and their job security.
I have to figure out how to be an engaged consumer right where I am.

It's summertime in my house, which means the children are home all the time. All. The. Time. It has been a great reminder to me that I am not teaching them enough about the Wear and Care of the Home. I got all fired up for this to be a Teaching Summer, involving the laundry and perhaps the dishwasher.
It did not work. So I quit. I removed myself from the Wear and Care of the Home, thinking that maybe if I stepped down, at least one kid would step up.
Instead, they started a game of naming the roaches.
I am not kidding.
Engaged consumer, engaged Wear and Care.

Timmerman also notes, 
"Hope is in short supply in impoverished nations. Ask kids what they want to do when they grow up and the they'll look at you funny. They know what they are going to do. They are going to do what their moms and dads do - just try to get by."

"'If they pay $45 for jeans,' Ai says, 'it helps us. If people don't buy, I'm unhappy because I wouldn't have a job.' Ai laughs at the simplicity of the logic.
Is it that simple? Does an uneducated, 24-year-old garment worker hold the answer to how I should behave as a consumer?
To buy or not to buy, that is the question."

"There isn't a single worker who makes my clothes who lives a life that I would find acceptable. I'm not sure we can handle knowing how most of the world lives, and corporations understand this."

Why can't we handle knowing how most of the world lives? 
Why can't our daily work involve and include tiny steps towards closing the gaps between how we live, what our children hope for, and what we wear?
I am wide open for this revolution.

It started years ago, was boosted by this book, and now I have this morning to take my first tiny steps.
Join me?


Mollie Erickson said...

Just heard back from Frisky! The are currently only using companies in CHINA.

Pops said...

An app you might like is: BuyPartisan-they have a website at They say:
Spend Consciously is a technology startup based in Washington, DC that aims to be the 21st century reinvention of the nutrition facts label allowing people to spend their money in accordance with their values, beliefs and priorities. We are hard at work developing additional tools like apps and web-based platforms to ensure that consumers are able to spend their money in accordance to their value system.

Don't give up.