"If you can't afford a $40 T-shirt then of course you are going to pay $10 for a cheeper brand. However in the wider context how much does that $10 T-shirt really cost us? " ` Corina Hazlett Design
I am so lucky in my role as a designer to have been able to align myself with sustainable and ethical companies. Even though I am a small business my background working as an art therapist has meant that I have seen first hand the effects of modern day slavery when visiting and working in Vietnam and Cambodia. So I am passionate about making a product that can give back.
Most of my products either help factory workers not only financially but also at a social impact level with @shopvida factory workers in places like India , getting literacy programs implemented. My Gorilla Tees go to supporting an organisation in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda who work with conservation through public health and they are also printed onto ASCOLOUR shirts. ASCOLOUR have a comprehensive responsible sourcing strategy that you can find at this link here https://www.ascolour.co.nz/responsible-sourcing
BUT creating these ethical and sustainable products does however make the cost of the product more expensive . @Dr JaneGoodall said that we need to reduce poverty to make ethically and sustainably made items such a food and clothing affordable to everyone. And I think that this is a valuable point.
If you can't afford a $40 T-shirt then of course you are going to pay $10 for a cheeper brand. However what damage does that $10 do in the bigger picture?
The $10 t-shirt may mean its factory workers are working in unsafe factories . (A court in Bangladesh formally charged 38 people with murder in connection with the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building which housed 5 garment factories supplying global brands . The collapsed factory killed 1,135 people in the country's worst industrial disaster.)
It may have been made by exploiting women and children compromising human rights with long hours and minimal or no pay. (Global Slavery index showed 40.3 million people in 2016 were in modern day slavery.)
It may also mean that the product has been made with harmful chemicals such as pesticides , heavy metals, and formaldehyde to name a few. Ethical clothing companies are now part of the OEKO-TEX - Standard 100 which ensures that products are free from dangerous substances. This certification is designed to ensure the effects of dyeing industry has minimal impact on the environment and that products are safe for consumers to wear.
Commodities such as beef, soy, palm oil and wood products drive the majority of tropical deforestation but also cotton over the years has depleted soils in many areas and so more and more new land is being cleared to plant more cotton. Why does this matter ? Forrests especially tropical forests store enormous amounts of carbon. When forests are destroyed, that carbon is released into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming.
These substances and destructive ways of producing on mass the cheaper low end brands can be bad not only for your health but also for the workers who make the products and for the environment and the animals that feed off these habitats. The $10, T-shirt in the wider context then comes at a horrendous cost. What cost are we prepared to put on these products . I am only using the T-shirt here as a metaphor.. these products can be anything we purchase, Clothing, food, furniture...
So my questions are, and they are possibly old questions. How do we make these products affordable?
How do we change peoples spending habits and ideas on what and HOW MUCH we are purchasing?
Do we hold companies more accountable as France is doing, with regards to unsold products. Rather than dumping and shredding unsold items, should their be regulations in place to make companies donate them to charity or recycle/repurpose items for resale? Statistics show that Americans throw away 13 million tons of textiles each year, which is either dumped or shredded.