The pace of Peace on Earth is CRAZY!

So it has been several weeks of busyness and craziness since the last posting. I have felt a bit of conviction in that time. The conviction has been that in trying hard to be motivated and spark change, I have found myself gobbled up in the effort to just keep up with this time of year. To be fair, and make myself feel a little bit better, it is, as mentioned, a CRAZY time of year. And to push that fairness on a little more it is CRAZY trying to fight the CRAZINESS! So in the midst of all the crazy fighting and trying I stumbled onto, with the help of a friend, a website many have already found. In the course of finding this "new" thing, I have been reminded of several "old" things about which I have sort of lost sight in the whirlwind.

Jenni and I spent almost 15 years involved in the lives of teenagers. A recurring theme of encouragement to those young folks was that in the effort to do what is right, it's a group effort. If I do my part and you do your part, and we encourage each other to do our parts, everything will work out. The interesting thing about individual responsibility is that it really invokes a social contract one with another to create truly functional community. And from community it leap frogs to a bigger stage. In the presence of a world that's not working that well, it's a deal to make a better world! We are what we do is a cool and simple effort to activate a different way of being in a profoundly simple and holistic way to achieve a peaceful and equitable existence.

My plan for the next few weeks is to slow down as much as possible without getting run over or getting in the way anymore than I should. I will be focusing on the Peace on Earth part of this time of year a little more. In that effort I will spend a little more time looking at which has been a good reminder of what we have tried so hard to keep people from forgetting. CRAZY! So I vow to do my part, and Jenni hers as we lead our children to do theirs. We'll encourage you to do yours, as we'll all encourage each other to do ours.

Peace, no really, PEACE to you all.


The "Hap-Hap Happiest Time of the Year" is pretty rough on "those" people

The National Retail Federation released its preliminary numbers today for sales this 2009 "Black Friday" weekend. At an average of $343 a piece, weekend shoppers forked out $41.2 billion. Holiday cheer has officially begun now that the first round of festive feeding that is Thanksgiving dinner has concluded, and the biggest shopping days of the year are upon us.

But amid the shopping there is always a chance for some perspective by those of us concerned about equity and justice in the textile and garment world. Clothing was the big seller of the weekend, with 90% of shoppers surveyed reporting buying clothes, making it the largest category of bought goods. The locations of the surveyed were predominantly malls or other large strip centers with big box anchors. While any of you who might read this are probably inclined to the same opinion as us, an extrapolation of the facts is worth the effort for reminding us why we seek change.

If those bargain hunters who reported buying clothes in their frenzied shopping spent just 10% of their $343 on clothing, that's $5.4 billion in two and half days! Given the locations of the respondents at the time polled, the clothing purchased was most likely not of the fair trade, ethical variety. So in one weekend Americans have unwittingly added tremendous weight and increased traction to the sustained marginalization and impoverishment of some of the planet's most vulnerable people.

"Those people" are some of the ones who in the last several months have been working 20 hour shifts for weeks on end to keep up with the volume of goods Western consumers will demand in bringing cheer to their family and friends. Those are the people who have seen their wages cut, overtime lost and working conditions deteriorate as Western consumers demand lower prices, and in turn manufacturers and retailers start passing the cost down the supply chain to those people who have no choice but to absorb it. Those people are the ones who will be laid off right about now, because the demand is over until next year when we'll do it all again. How many of those people will starve, or seek employment in some other degrading, devaluing, dangerous or evil scenario as they enter the "hardest part of the year" while we prepare for our "happiest time of year" and our second round of holiday feasting in a month's time?

Pursuing truly Happy Holidays must be a communal and corporate effort with a vision that sees the exploited poor and destitute behind our products. We can't rest until there is truly Peace on Earth and Good Will is extended to and practiced by All, but we can truly enjoy our families and friends with integrity and compassion. God Bless you all that are seeking change and justice.


These T-shirts are making me THIRSTY!

Digging into complex issues reveals multiple and increasing layers of conviction. In learning about the cotton industry I came across an academically respected and scientifically reliable website, It's the face of an organization that digs deeply into what is described as the "virtual water" content of a whole host of common items. It takes into account all the water consumed in bringing something like, say a t-shirt, from seed to shelf. The shocking total water consumption connected to the t-shirt I'm wearing right now is right around 700 gallons. The milk that I drank with a cookie this afternoon that I poured out of the gallon container took 1000 gallons of water to hit the cooler at the store. A holistic perspective on water sees that everything we eat, wash, wear and just live with takes huge volumes of water. Given that clean water is an issue of life and death around the developing world and literally 50 trillion gallons of potentially drinkable water a year is consumed or polluted beyond usability for largely "luxury" or "duplicate" items via cotton textile manufacturing is troubling. It's beyond troubling, it's staggeringly disturbing and confusing.

Is it overly dramatic to ask how many people have died, children even, from lack of clean water while you and I have added yet another shirt to the closet that may have been just an impulse buy?  Are those impulse buys that sit in drawers and hang in closets virtually unused linkable to life and death struggles?  Are my decisions of whimsy responsible for misery, am I that callous?  It sure seems so.   In a very real, and very horrific sort of butterfly effect Western consumers are deciding the fate of millions.  I have to rethink my whole view on water.  But this isn't just a slam on cotton textiles, because comparatively cotton isn't any worse than lots of crops, its the impact of the whole system that's bad.  And the realization that the whole just doesn't have to be this way, and that we as consumers hold the power, really makes the buying of yet another thing seem extremely selfish.  Reducing consumption isn't just about saving the planet, it's about saving lives today.  I will be strongly encouraging folks I know to go to and look around.  Hopefully it will really mess you up!


The Factory Man

I had a very interesting conversation several days ago with a man who has spent 15 of the last 20 years in the garment manufacturing world. He has managed factories in at least five different Southeast Asian countries. He has experience and a perspective that I may never be able to gain, yet we we have arrived at very a similar place. We agreed that the heart of the problem is this: Western consumers are more concerned about themselves than the people and consequences linked to the production of their desired consumables. Therefore there is complete imbalance in the relationship between cost and value. Meaning, the value is what the West has decided it will spend regardless of the true cost of the item consumed.

The Story of Stuff does a great job introducing this general idea, and the greater issue of how we have arrived at the place we now find ourselves. If you're not one of the 7 million people who have watched it, WATCH IT! But then let's go you other 7 million folks and change some stuff!

While business mandates that value must out weigh cost, if business is to exist with equity and integrity there must be informed efforts pursuing the right balance at all times. Alas the West has forgotten its part of bargain, or may have never agreed to it in the first place. So the Western consumer has decided, consciously or not makes no difference, that THEY are of more value than THOSE who make the stuff we want to consume. This is not equity with integrity, it is ignorant and arrogant predation on those incapable of defense. It is time for the West to be taught and learn to behave itself and love its neighbors.


Explaining Upcycling

While the idea of recycling is thankfully a common household word, the term "upcycling" is still relatively new. Usually attributed to William McDonough's book, Cradle to Cradle, from 2002, "upcycling" is not simply taking a disposable material and reusing it in a similar fashion, but actually increasing its value in its second life. This trend has certainly taken off in the area of clothing, with designers, stay-at-home moms, and every seamster/seamstress in between using unwanted clothing as a resource for one-of-a-kind creations. Some of our local favorites are featured in etsy stores, transforming men's dress shirts into cute pinafores (lillipops), extending the life of vintage t-shirts (little overcoat) and turning strips of clothing into twirly skirts (madrone berries). Tackling textile industry reform is a huge undertaking, but for now, upcycling is one reasonable (and creative) solution.


Clean Clothing Campaign in the Netherlands...come on America get your head in the GAME!

Yet again here are cool and active happenings in places other than the States.   Check out the CCC folks, they are doing some cool stuff, and I will be scraping from them regularly to post here.  To be fair we are connecting with some great things here (a la looptworks nosweat etc...) but the unified front is still a ways off.  Please spread the word and lets get some inertia happening.  We are knocking around some ideas for maybe trying to organize a big event...?  I don't really have any idea what that means, but the ideas are flying.


video video

So only two videos as opposed to three books (I know there are more than three books in the previous posting, but catchy titles aren't my strong suit). That's because all I have been able to find is two videos that are truly informative on the topic of secondhand clothing and its global impact. The first is PEPE which traces the flow of cast-offs to Haiti and the ensuing impact on local culture, commerce and the environment in general. Contact the film makers and buy a copy, it helps promote the cause and fund the solution!

The second is T-shirt Travels, there is a link to snag-films for free viewing right at the left of this page under the title banner. T-shirt travels follows the issue in Zambia. These are great additions to any one's arsenal in acquiring knowledge and perspective. Happy viewing.

If you know of other videos or documentaries on this topic PLEASE let me know!


books books books

We have had a number of folks that we are chatting with that have asked for a list of books that we would recommend to gain greater understanding on the clothing and textile issue. So here is a list that covers a bit of a broad range, but together give a very well rounded and well informed perspective.

Clothing Specific:
  1. Fugitive Denim- Rachel Louise Snyder. Denim industry specific but fairly in-depth in a cursory way for people not having industry knowledge. It digs into some personal interest qualities too, so it's very readable.
  2. Salaula- Karen Tranberg Hansen. Salaula is the Zambian word for secondhand clothing. It's written like a textbook by a cultural anthropologist, but very very informative. It was written 10 years ago though, so it's not exactly cutting edge. That said she lays 200 years of Zambian history into the mix. For 300 pages it feels like 1000, but it's worth the energy.
General Perspective "shifters":
  1. Cradle to Cradle- William McDonough.
  2. Ecological Intelligence- Daniel Goleman. Both of these are just good "big picture" books to get a little overwhelmed in a good way. They do turn the corner into response and solution, but they are very eye opening in general. I think they give a good platform for specific concerns and passions to emerge for the reader.
Solution oriented books aimed at micro-finance and personal response:
  1. The Life You Can Save- Peter Singer. Sort of a call of personal responsibility to do what you can as an individual
  2. GIve a Little- Wendy Smith. A brand new book that also approaches ending world poverty one person at a time
  3. Banker to the Poor- Muhammad Yunnus. Exploring sort of the nexus of micro-finance with the very interesting story of the author and the growth of his awareness and convictions back in the 70s.
Happy reading, and if you want to chat about stuff let us know!


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T H E _ E T H I C A L _ C L O T H I N G _ P L E D G E
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I pledge to only wear clothing that is one or more of the following:
1. Pre-loved
2. Handmade (preferably by me)
3. Reconstructed
4. Made with ethical / environmentally friendly materials
5. Made by a company with strong ethical policy & workers' rights

* Companies with environmentally friendly practices (such as cutting down on waste/energy/water) get brownie points
* If I get one little inkling of sweatshop labour, I'm outta there!
* Above all though, I think the most important thing
is reducing the amount of things we use in the first place. Not purchasing ANOTHER piece of clothing just for the sake of it is the biggest statement we can make.

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this is a cool statement of affiliation from isismade in Tasmania. We're on your team and looking for more recruits!


A big challenge takes a bigger solution

I had a very encouraging conversation with Scott Hamlin of looptworks this afternoon. Looptworks is a very cool company out of Portland that is making very high quality clothes out of excess fabric, or industrial waste. Take the time to snoop around their website and see what they do, and how they are tackling the challenges of consumption and waste. For me it was an affirmation of the breadth of the challenge, but also the depth of the possibilities to end injustice and see a better future. The solution is challenging and it will come with a great variety of passions harmonized together into a great effort. We are hoping to help coalesce that energy here. Please spread the word, we need to combine our energies! Check out their Secret Agent Program under about and jobs. It's a cool idea and a great opportunity to engage the solution.

Consistency is hard when you don't know what you're doing

We are trying to figure out ways to consistently bring awareness and options for response to folks around the issues of clothing. With that in mind we are hosting our second Swap-o-rama-rama this Saturday. These are community based upcycling events where cast off textiles find new owners through being reborn into new articles of clothing. We will be hosting these swaps quarterly, and we're slowly going to start including some educational components to the mix...stop by the O space this Saturday if you're on Vashon.

In the mean time we need a magical blog-fairy to show up and keep this updated with good information, quirky tag-lines and snappy images...Trevor?


a tough but good weekend

This last Thursday Friday and Saturday were collectively very very tough but also very good. I was at a Seattle representation of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. The weekend was obviously filled with tough images, thoughts and dialogue. The good part is both embedded in the tough part but also in what emerges from the tough stuff. There was for me, and I would think for lots of others, a good part of seeing the face of injustice and suffering in a wide array that is fairly raw and uncensored. The other part, of the good part, was a few connections that I made with folks that will be significant voices in shaping and guiding as I move forward to what might be the starting of an organization. I very well may be launching one of those NGOs that are always being talked about...YEESH

I have caved and joined the blogger world

My wife Jenni and I are diving in fully to the issues surrounding the international textile trade. If you are aware of these issues please please find this and email me what you know or who you know that we can connect with. In trying to connect with anyone who also feels they MUST respond thoughtfully to the atrocious world of international textiles I am coming up short. I am aware of TRAID in the UK, and individual companies in the States that are doing good things, but I want the equivalent of TRAID in the U.S. If it doesn't exist we WILL start it! But, if we don't have to I really don't want to.

PLEASE contact me and help start the process of making a difference. I have no need to be the lead on this, so if you or someone you know is already charging ahead on this, just put us in their path so we can charge together.