I actually did have a reason for using the French word for ecology. The French are an inherently fashionable and ecologically advanced people, and seem to be able to weave these two qualities together quite efficiently. At least from the stand point of an American.
There are, however, other areas of the huge umbrella topic called GLOBAL SUSTAINABILITY. Wikipedia has a really good definition for global sustainability, suggesting that in terms of ecology,it "describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time," while "for humans it is the potential for long-term maintenance of well being, which in turn depends on the well being of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources."
Basically, global sustainability is the ability for the systems of our world (social, ecological, governmental, etc) to endure over time. And while environmental sustainability tends to get the most attention from the media, I would argue that social sustainability is more important for the overall welfare of our species as a whole.
I attended a conference called the Global Youth Forum this past November, and sustainability was our topic. One of our keynote speakers was Mr. Mathis Wagernackel, creator of the Ecological Footprint Network. So, clearly the Western world has a monopoly on the world's consumption. But here's a few pieces of information from the EFN's website to really hit the imperativeness of this situation home:
Factoid 2: "Since the late 1970s, humanity has been in ecological overshoot with annual demand on resources exceeding what Earth can regenerate each year."
Factoid 3: "Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.4 planets to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth one year and five months to regenerate what we use in a year."
Factoid 4: "Moderate UN scenarios suggest that if current population and consumption trends continue, by the middle of the next decade we will need the equivalent of two Earths to support us."
... That's not good.
However, in little ways, we can help. And that's why I've devised a short but well-rounded list of companies that specialize in fair trade and organic clothing and products. If we can all work a bit harder to lessen our consumption by participating in this global movement in seemingly insignificant ways like recycling newspapers, cutting down on our showers or purchasing only or mostly organic and environmentally friendly cleaning agents, food products and clothing, we can reduce our global footprint significantly.
Ten Thousand Villages is one of my favorite fair trade companies. They helped found the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) and so their connections to fair trade dealers and farmers are extensive. Fair trade "provides under- and unemployed artisans with an opportunity to earn vital income and improve their quality of life by establishing a sustainable market for their handcrafted products," according to the Ten Thousand Villages website.
If you're looking for last minute gifts for the holidays (for example, the gorgeous tan scarf in the collage above) your local Ten Thousand Villages store is a great place to search. They have a great collection of sustainable and socially/environmentally friendly items for reasonable prices.
Best of all, "artisans and Ten Thousand Villages agree on a fair price that covers the cost of labor and materials and enables artisans to earn fair compensation for their work." This is what makes fair trade different from free trade: fairness. It seems obvious, but it's such an essential part of these artisans' lives. It allows these people to feed and provide for their families, their villages and their industries.
The products they sell tend to be more in the natural-looking, crunchy vein of sustainable fashion, although they do have a great deal of really neat Asian and African products that help to add a sophisticated and multicultural edge to their products.
If you prefer more of a quirky, fun approach to sustainability, try Nimli. According to their mission statement, Nimli "is an online marketplace devoted to providing natural, organic, and sustainable lifestyle products while embracing style and aesthetic." This is very important. Aesthetic. Nimli is attempting to enhance their products' overall appeal through their style.
I put a lot of products from Nimli into the collage, but my favorite has to be that adorable owl pillow. So pretty.
Something I found really interesting is that Nimli requires that "all designers to ship their products directly to our customers." This might seem sort of strange, but here's what makes that such a great thing: "by eliminating the unnecessary step of shipping items to a warehouse for future re-shipment," the individual and industrial carbon footprints that normally increase with standard manufacturing processes decrease considerably, thus making Mother Earth a very happy and healthy lady.
Nimli's products are a bit more expensive, though not outrageous; however their products seem to be good quality and worth the price tags. These prices enable them to "embrace a way of life that supports goods that do not cause suffering and damage to the environment" as well as to "animals." (As a vegetarian, that particular part made me quite giddy!)
This site is HUGE! It's got so many independent and eco-friendly designers that it overwhelmed me just a tad. However, while some of the designers aren't spectacular, this site has a great selection of those that are.
From their mission statement: "Greenloop supports sustainable textiles, recycling and re-use, renewable energy, reduction of green house gases, organic farming, sweat-shop free production, and environmental non-profit groups every single day through the products we offer."
Similarly to Nimli, Greenloop has "committed to supporting the development of environmentally responsible, renewable energy and to stopping global warming." They "purchase certified carbon offsets for each order placed making each shopping experience even greener."
The dark blue maxi dress comes from Greenloop. I want it, but I'm poor. Prices are all over the place because some designers charge more than others.
Equita, interestingly enough, is the Italian word for fairness. It "is a design-conscious shop showcasing the finest in green, sweatshop-free and Fair Trade essentials for the body and home."
They seem to go a long way to ensure that their products are the finest green products they can find. "To accomplish this," they have "developed a strict set of criteria that guides [them] through [their] product selection."
They are also extremely investing in the Fair Trade Organization. I found some great bullet points on their website that help describe what Fair Trade exactly hopes to accomplish.
- Paying a fair wage in the local context
- Advancement opportunities for employees
- Providing equal employment opportunities for all people, particularly the most disadvantaged
- Engaging in environmentally sustainable practices
- Being transparent and open to public accountability
- Providing healthy and safe working conditions within the local context
- Providing financial and technical assistance to producers whenever possible
Gaiam is the ultimate yoga company. My mom is a massive yoga aficionado, and she swears by Gaiam for her supplies. But Gaiam is also quite fashionable, and they have great Fair Trade and organic products, like the ready-for-the-office ruffled purple tunic above.
As told by the founder, Jirka Rysavy, Gaiam looks "to create a global community of like-minded people — a force for positive change." To solidify that statement, Gaiam has worked to much success for the environment.
In 2006, the company created the world's first "carbon-neutral product shipping program." They founded Go Zero, an environmental awareness organization, and use 100% recyclable and biodegradable packaging. They have also partnered with the Fair Trade Organization to ensure that their products, both those labeled Gaiam and non-Gaiam, were created by fairly and justly paid labor.
6. Free People
Free People is quite a well known company. The very first store opened by the Philadelphian owners of Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie, FP specializes in products for the "26-year-old girl, smart, creative, confident and comfortable in all aspects of her being, free and adventurous, sweet to tough to tomboy to romantic. A girl who likes to keep busy and push life to its limits, with traveling and hanging out and everything in between. Who loves Donovan as much as she loves The Dears, and can't resist petting any dog that passes her by on the street." Basically, a free spirit.
However, I add FP to my list with reservation: Free People does not sell solely Fair Trade/organic items. Most of their products are organic and some are Fair Trade as well. They are all, however, very WELL made. I believe that the quality of their products outdoes that of Urban's quality.
I love FP, and all of the items I've purchased from them have been Fair Trade. The products I've gotten in the past have been very well made and I still wear them quite often. FP is a bit more expensive, although you do get a sustainable bag with your purchase!
In addition to these stores, you might want to check out your local boutiques for organic clothing, as well as vintage/consignment stores. Wearing vintage is the ultimate in recycling fashion. When you are finished with clothing, they no longer fits, etc., be sure to donate them to Goodwill/Salvation Army/etc. to give others a chance to lessen their ecological footprints.
And did you know, denim can be used to insulate houses?
Images and information courtesy of the Ecological Footprint Network, Ten Thousand Villages, Nimli, Greenloop, Equita, Gaiam and Free People.