Friday 30 November 2012

Client Spotlight: Pais Project

As part of our expanding remit on the blog, I'm trying to set one day a week aside to spotlight some of our lovely clients. After all, without them we wouldn't be here. Today, let's talk about the Pais Project.

Founded in 1992, The Pais Project is a Christian youth and schools work organisation. It offers apprenticeships and training for young people, helping them to become more confident and fully-rounded members of both their churches and their communities.

Those apprenticeships are free, remarkably, and cover food and accommodation. They're funded entirely through donations, and successful applicants who pass the courses are in high demand in the Christian community as youth pastors and leaders.

Here's a couple of pics of the kids from Pais, teaching in a local school, and on the streets with a pirate. I'm not sure if he's part of the crew or just along for the ride. Note the t-shirts and hoodies, as supplied by Pier32!


To find out more about The Pais Project, check out the website:

They're heavily involved in an inter-church conference early next year, SWAP. For more on that, have a look at

(thanks to Louise Ball from the Pais Project for the photos.)


Thursday 29 November 2012

Ke$ha: Keeping It Real With Fake Fur

I can't pretend that I'm much of a fan of rave-pop songstress Ke$ha or her musical stylings, which come across to me as having the appeal of the business end of a dentist's drill. Sorry, old fart roots showing.

But I'm more prone to think kindly of the girl knowing that she's the Global Ambassador for Humane Society International. Even more so, that she's starting up her own line of clothes that will heavily feature faux fur.

Now, I'll admit to wearing the odd bit of leather, on my feet mostly. I'm agnostic about animal products in general, and downright enthusiastic when they're in a pie in front of me at dinner time. But fur coats have always had an element of squick, and I applaud any attempt by public figures to make the point that actually, there are perfectly good alternatives to chopping the tail off a raccoon to make your jacket look a bit more fancy. Lady Gaga sadly feels somewhat differently, and is as carnivorous in her fashion taste as ever, as anyone who's seen her raw meat coat will testify.

Yes, sure, Ke$ha has a new album out next week, which makes it very easy for critics and cynics to claim publicity stunt. I prefer to think she's using her status to push issues that she cares about, and hey, why not. I say keep animals off the backs of celebrities, and on a plate with some chips and salad where they belong.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

The True Cost Of Fast Fashion In Bangladesh

Terrible news has emerged from Bangladesh, as over 100 workers are killed in a fire in a clothing factory.

The fire, which claimed the lives of 110 workers at the Tazreen Fashion plant, 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of Dhaka, had trapped the full 1000-strong workforce in the burning building. Many were forced to jump from upper floors to escape the blaze. The blaze led to huge street protests, and calls for the prosecution of the factory owners for criminal negligence. A national day of mourning has been announced as the bodies of 59 workers, burnt beyond recognition, are being prepared for burial at a government mass grave in the southern suburbs of the city.

Disturbingly, a second fire at a factory on the outskirts of Dhaka broke out on Monday, trapping workers on the roof of the 12-storey building as firefighters fought to tame the blaze.

The garment industry is the mainstay of the Bangladeshi economy, with overseas exports topping $19billion. That's 80% of national exports. Clearly, Bangladesh will continue to welcome foreign garment manufacturers into the country. But the cost in human suffering at the factories that produce these goods has set that financial windfall into stark relief this week. It's clear that hard questions will need to be asked. The problem is that it's unlikely they will be asked of the multinationals who demand the cheapest possible price for their goods. Until the focus changes, tragedies like the fires in Bangladesh are sadly unlikely to be rare occurrences.


A statement was released last night from WRAP, following rumours that the Tazreen Fashion plant and its parent company had been WRAP-certified.

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, USA - This weekend's deadly fire at the Tazreen Fashions Limited factory in Bangladesh was a tragedy of the highest magnitude. All of us at WRAP extend our deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones in the fire and pray for a speedy recovery to those who were injured.
WRAP continues to see itself as a stakeholder in the Bangladesh garment industry and we are committed to being a responsive and effective supply chain management partner that helps factories independently verify that they are doing their work in a safe, ethical and socially responsible manner. In the furtherance of that mission, we also aim to be an education resource for factories, especially in the arena of safety. Our comprehensive Factory Fire Safety Training Program, offered regularly in Bangladesh, is leading the way in this field by providing training not only on fire response but fire prevention.
As media coverage of this tragedy has unfolded, we have come across occasional references suggesting that Tazreen Fashion may have been WRAP certified. We would like to clarify that this is completely untrue. The Tazreen Fashions Limited factory is not, and has never been, certified by WRAP, nor has WRAP ever even conducted an audit in that facility. We have also come across information suggesting that the factory's parent company - the Tuba Group - is WRAP certified. That, too, is untrue; WRAP certifications can only be given to individual production units, and not to groups or parent organizations. At present, there are no factories from the Tuba Group that are WRAP certified. As such, any claims by or about the ownership group or any individual factory within it with regards to being WRAP certified are false.
This tragic fire at Tazreen is a disastrous reminder of how vitally important this issue is. No loss of life is ever acceptable within the garment industry. Through certification and education, WRAP remains dedicated to its mission of promoting safe, lawful, humane, and ethical manufacturing around the world.

Monday 26 November 2012

The Source Awards: Support our chums!

Exciting news, as it seems that a few of our ethical fashion friends are shortlisted as finalists at the 2012 Source Awards!

The Global Awards for Sustainable Fashion, run by the Ethical Fashion Forum highlights the best and most innovative in the eco and sustainable fashion field across 12 categories.

Ms. Wanda's Wardrobe, to my mind one of the snappiest and most incisive reads in the field, is up for a gong in the Best Awareness category. They're sharp, righteously angry when needs be at calling out the big brands for their ethical fubars, and clued up on the best way to approach the high street with a sustainable eye. If you're not reading it... why not?

Similarly, Pamela Ravasio's Shirahime blog gets a well-deserved nod. Pamela's beat is truly global, and her work is brilliantly researched and always on the ball. A must-read if you have any interest on the planetary impact of fast fashion, and innovative ways to find another track.

I'm especially chuffed to see Nancy Dee in the running for Brand Leader, as one of the sisters that run the show, Tamsin, was an old work colleague of mine back in the day. But their smart, vintage-savvy approach to sustainable clothing have made them a big noise in the field.

Long time Pier Twitter buddy Katcha Bilek has been nominated in the Innovation: Accessories field. Katcha and her team repurpose innertubes, bike tyres and seat belts into unique and stylish bags, belts and accessories. They even do a way-cool collar for your dog, in a choice of slick or chunky tread. They're running a Facebook compo to win swag with a click of the Like button, but I recommend spending a little cash on some of their bold, innovative gear.

Pants To Poverty, Mantis World and Rapanui, who have both been featured on the blog, are finalists in the Street/Casualwear category. Pachacuti's fabulous panamas get a nod in Accessories. And it would be sorely remiss of me not to mention Pier Crush Vivienne Westwood, up for the award as Design Leader. She'll always be the leader in our hearts.

The winners will be announced in early December: rest assured, we'll keep you up to date with the latest news as it breaks.

Friday 23 November 2012

Streetlytes: Bringing A Little Light To The Needy

I appreciate it's been a somewhat dark week here at the Pier, as we cast a bleak eye on fast fashion shenanigans and the increasingly tough times faced by charities. So let's finish the week on a brighter note, as we highlight one of our new clients, who are doing the right thing by the most vulnerable of Londoners.

Streetlytes run drop-in centres and workshops, reaching out to the poor and homeless in central and west London. They provide hot food, amenity packs including toiletries and warm and waterproof clothing for those most in need. The ultimate aim is to open a 300-bed mission facility open all year round, providing a shower, a hot meal, bad and breakfast for those that find themselves for whatever reason out on the streets.

Streetlytes were part of last week's Mitzvah Day, which is how we heard of them. They were doing outreach work in Bayswater, but the guys at Streetlytes are there to help whenever there's need. We're proud and happy to help support this good cause, and I urge you to check out their website to find out more about their good works.

Find out more about Streetlytes.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Zara: An Increasingly Toxic Brand

Yesterday, we looked at Zara and how their fast fashion thinking is percolating into the way we treat clothing; as disposable landfill fodder. Now, they have the starring role in another fashion faux pas. They've been tagged by Greenpeace as serial polluters.

The latest instalment of the Detox campaign, that has successfully persuaded brands like Adidas and Nike to clean up their act in dumping toxins into water supplies near their factories, looks at nasties in the clothes themselves. It's not a pretty picture. Of 141 garments purchased worldwide from global brands like Armani and Levi's, 89 were shown to have high levels of NPE, a known irritant that is highly toxic to aquatic life.

Worse, two garments were shown to use azo dyes that contained high levels of cancer-causing amines. Both these items came from Zara, who scored highly on the list throughout.

It's an eye-opening read, with some real and nasty surprises. I recommend a flip through the report, which is available in full at Greenpeace's Toxic Threads page.

As an aside, we should also note that it's tougher than you'd think to successfully audit a global fashion supply chain. For example, you can't actually buy a Greenpeace t-shirt at the moment. That's because, as a by-product of the Toxic Threads study, Greenpeace found that their clothing contained some of the same chemicals they were campaigning against. As a result, they've pulled all their textile merchandising from sale "until suppliers are able to provide us with transparent information proving that they are able to produce clothing using zero hazardous chemicals throughout their supply chains."

It could be a PR nightmare, but by being transparent and sticking to their principles, Greenpeace have not just averted a crisis--they've shown how serious they are about the campaign. If only Zara, who have so far only issued a boilerplate assertion of ill-defined best practice documentation, could show the same level of commitment.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Zara Is Accelerating Fast Fashion To Dangerous Speeds

A fascinating article in The New York Times on the inexorable rise of Spanish fast fashion chain Zara shows some disturbing trends for the way we consume clothing in the 21st century.

Consume is a word I use deliberately. The Zara fashion model is about responding to trends with lightning speed, and under-stocking their stores. The end result: if you spot something you like in a Zara, Bershka, Massimo Dutti or Pull and Bear, you'd better get it there and then. The chances are if you go back the following week, it'll be gone, and it won't be coming back. Some Zara lines last for as little as a month.

Because they're so cheap, you can afford to impulse-buy. The clothes are priced to move. Zara's business model isn't keyed to having old stock sitting on racks taking up space that could be taken up by new lines.

The worry is that because the clothes are so cheap (and I'm talking here about the price point rather than the quality; Zara's clothes aren't poorly made at all) consumers are starting to view them as disposable. They're applying the same rules that Zara uses on the shop floor to their own wardrobes. Rather than use 'em up and wear 'em out, they're wearing 'em once and chucking 'em away. And that, as we're all agreed, is something of a problem. Masoud Golsorkhi, the editor of Tank, a London-based culture and fashion mag, puts it best when he says:

“The reality is: a T-shirt is a T-shirt is a T-shirt. It costs the planet the same thing whether you have paid £200 for it or £1 for it. It does the same amount of damage. A T-shirt is equivalent to 700 gallons of water, gallons of chemical waste, so much human labor. But it used to be that we could do with three T-shirts a year. Now we need 30. Sometimes it’s actually cheaper to throw away clothes than to wash them. That has got to be wrong.”
The problem is not one that's going away, despite our eco-fashionista shrilling. The Zara group is set to expand massively into Asia, opening 400 stores in China alone next year. America, up to now the best guide to the fast fashion market, buys 20 billion garments a year. That's 64 items of clothing per person. With the Asian market in play, we can expect to see that figure spike by a factor of four. If we think the amount of clothing going into landfill is a problem now, just wait until the average fast fashion consumer is buying and binning, at a conservative estimate, 200 garments a year.

Monday 19 November 2012

Britain: Not So Charitable

Some worrying news from the Third Sector. A survey by the Charitable Aid Foundation has shown that charitable donations dropped by 20% in real term in 2011.

It's double trouble for charities. People are giving less, and fewer people are giving. The numbers make for depressing reading. The total sum given to UK charities fell from £11bn to £9.3bn during 2011-12, the largest cash drop in the survey's eight-year history. The proportion of people donating to charitable causes in a typical month fell from 58% to 55%. The median amount donated was £10 in 2011-12, down from £11 the previous year and £12 in 2009-10. It's a steep downward drop with no sign of relief for cash-strapped charities.

The reasons for the steep cut in donations are pretty obvious. The double-dip recession has everyone looking carefully at the bank balance, and charities are usually one of the first things to go when you're tightening your belt. But there's a troublesome Catch-22 at the heart of all this. Government cut-backs are provably aimed at the least-able to cope. The help they need is coming from charities who are increasingly being instructed to stop up the shortfall--at the same time as their funding is being brutally cut, and the vital revenue that donations provide is quickly ebbing away.

It's a little to early to tell if the figures constitute a trend. We can only hope not, because the consequences of a donation line falling inexorably towards zero are frankly too horrible to contemplate.

Friday 16 November 2012

Pushing On With Pier 32

You may have noticed a few changes to the site over the past couple of weeks. For one thing, Ian and Gerry have changed the logo. It's a bit of a mixture now, with elements of the original Pier32 logo from the early 90s with the new text that Ian launched this year. We kinda like it, and hope you do too.

I hope you've also noticed the increased frequency of posts on the site. This is deliberate, too. Gerry, Ian and I had a highly beer-fuelled productive meeting at the Riverside Meeting Rooms last week, and we came to one conclusion--we need to be everywhere. At the Riverside Meeting Rooms, megalomania is served with the peanuts.

We're trying to be a lot more social. I mean, we're a sociable bunch anyway, but it's good to show your face around. The blog now has its own dedicated Twitter account, @Pier32Blog. If you're in the Twittersphere, come and say hello and give us a follow. We also have a Facebook page because let's face it, everyone has a Facebook page. My dad has a Facebook page, which is a thought that genuinely gives me the shudders.

We're also working on getting some video online through our YouTube channel, Pier32TV--early days on that yet, but I'll update as and when we get rolling. I have a few fun ideas to share...

And well, gosh, whatever else we can think of. Pinterest, Google+, Moshi Monsters... All of this is my responsibility as Pier32's new Communications Director. Yes, I came up with that one myself. Shut up, stop laughing.

As part of the deal, I insisted on a sweetener, something to bump up my productivity to help clear all this extra work. It needed to be light, fast and portable. After all, inspiration for bloggage can come out of nowhere, and I need to be ready when the muse baps me upside the head with her baseball bat studded with idea-spikes. So, if you'll forgive me for getting my geek on, allow me to present Pier32's Mobile Blogging Solution.

That's right, a picture of the very post I'm writing. Down the rabbit hole we go...
That's right. It's an iPad with a keyboard. To be precise, a new 4th gen. iPad with Retina Display, fed by a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard. The software of choice is Blogsy, which I can use for both this blog and my personal one, Excuses And Half Truths. The headphones are Sennheiser CX300s, perfect for cranking up the Norwegian death metal I listen to while in Rob's Happy Writing Space. This won't disturb the yummy mummys in the local cafes in whose dark corners I lurk, drinking too much coffee and laughing that little bit too loudly at my own jokes. The unhinged cackling is the bit that disturbs them.

The cowboy coffee mug is by Cath Kidston. Shut up.

Anyway. The general inference is that I'm getting paid for this now, so I'd better put some pants on, man up and crank out some content for youse guys. I hope to hit 100 posts in 2012, which would more than double what we did last year. I've never shied away from a writing challenge, and I hope to rise to this one in robust fashion.

Check out our links in the sidebar for more Pier32 shenanigans, and remember: here at the Pier, we've got you covered.

Thursday 15 November 2012

Checking The Market For Organic Cotton

There's worrying news from the organic cotton sector, with word arriving of a nearly 40% drop in production in the last year.

The latest report from sustainability thinktank Textile Exchange shows 2011 was a rollercoaster ride for organic cotton. Production was down 37%, particularly in India which is the heaviest producer of the fabric. This drop in available product came at the same time as some of the heaviest users of organic cotton, particularly H&M, C&A and Nike, had all indicated that they intended to use more of it in their clothing.

The reasons for the sharp drop in production are interweaved into each other, a snarled web of circumstance. Premiums for organic cotton have been squeezed over the last couple of years, and farmers have been given annual instead of long-term contracts--all of which have led to the growers moving away from cotton and towards crops that could actually earn them a profit.

In short, the manufacturers that claim they want to use more organic cotton are not giving the incentives to the people who actually grow the stuff that they need. The report calls this a "supply and demand disconnect". I call it the obvious byproduct of both ends squeezing the middle too hard.

It's not all bad news, though. The report also outlines the way in which conventional cotton farming is improving in environmental, social and sustainable ways, and the growth in markets outside India. West Africa and Central Asia are all areas that could see significant growth in organic cotton production in the years ahead.

The report makes for fascinating, if dense reading. It's available for free download from Textile Exchange.

The 2011 Organic Cotton Market Report from Textile Exchange. 

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Mitzvah Day

What's a mitzvah? Yeah, I know, it sounds like the setup to some convoluted shaggy-dog tale. But Mitzvah Day International, which happens this Sunday, is no joke. It's a faith-based initiative that could be described as a day of good deeds. To put it simply, people of all faiths sign up to take part in hands-on projects, volunteering their time and energy to help communities grow stronger.

The organisers put it like this:

Our mission is to reduce hardship and poverty, to help our environment and to bring a little joy - hands on – no fundraising. It is a way for all of us to make our mark regardless of our affiliation, wealth, age, sex or nationality.
Mitzvah Day is based on the Jewish values of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedek (righteousness) and gemilut chassadim (acts of loving kindness).
Can't really say fairer than that, can you? Pier32 have been supplying t-shirts and beanies to Mitzvah Day on a long-term basis, and we're delighted to be helping them out again in 2012. This marks the start of a new era, as they become part of A Year Of Service, a new idea that encourages people to take time and volunteer 12 times a year. A small step that collectively could make a massive difference.

Find out more, and if you fancy helping out, there's still time to volunteer for this Sunday! There's a ton of different projects to choose from, like Mitzvah Mummies and Give Up Your Lunch.

For more, visit The Mitzvah Day Website.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

The Clock Is Ticking For Dirty White Gold

Back in September I wrote about Dirty White Gold, a crowd-funded documentary about the cotton industry and how it abuses both the farmers that grow the crop and the land on which it grows. The film is into its final week of funding, and it still needs your help to get made.

At the time of writing, DWG has raised 85% of its target £18,000. This money is being used to match cash that's already been raised in a previous fund-raising round, which will attract other investors. Film-making is a tough, expensive business, even in the low-budget documentary field in which director Leah Borromeo moves.

This is a worthwhile enterprise, that shows just how broken the current model of cotton production is becoming. As you'll see in tomorrow's post, Indian farmers are turning away from organic cotton altogether, and farmers across the sub-continent are suffering as the notoriously tough to grow crop sucks away their resources, strips their fields of nutrients and ultimately leaves them with a debt that they can't pay. Suicides in the farming community have spiked over the past few years because of the shame associated with it.

Leah and her team need to raise a puny £2,750 in the next few days to meet their target and keep Dirty White Gold on the tracks. The Pier have already contributed. If this is a film you'd like to see, go ahead and drop them some cash.

Here's the trailer.

The Cotton Film : Dirty White Gold | Crowdfunding trailer from Leah Borromeo on Vimeo.

While we're at it, Leah has done a decently extensive interview with Ecouterre on the film and her reasons for making it. Well worth a read, but let me just quote her final statement, that I think goes to the heart of why Dirty White Gold is so important. She says:

I want to go into a store, buy a coat, and not have to think about whether anyone’s killed themselves in the making of it because a human morality is in every stitch.
Can't really say fairer than that, can you?

You can help to fund Dirty White Gold on their Sponsume page.


Monday 12 November 2012

Rankabrand and a Paradigm Shift.

A paradigm shift is an event that changes the way that you thought about something. It can be quite a shocking thing to happen, as your preconceptions and prejudices lose their solid footing.

Last night, I came across a link posted by our old friends at Ethletic, the ethical shoe manufacturer. They had come close to the top in the rankings for footwear in the Rankabrand listings, a pretty solid judge of a brand's sustainability. The ranking is based on issues like child labour, fair wages for workers, environmentally friendly leather tanning, eco-friendly materials, banning hazardous and toxic chemicals and the reduction of carbon emissions.

Ethletic's great showing in the lists wasn't such a surprise--nor was the fact that number one was Veja, award-winning Dutch innovators of eco-shoe-wear. No, the big surprise was at number 4, a slot taken by Nike-owned rock-n-roll shoe icon Converse.

I had been under the impression that Converse had a dreadful record on sustainability. Not the case, apparently. Which means that I have been wandering around shoe shops for the last year sneering at the display of Chuck Taylor's fine shoes for no good reason.

Worse still, fine English brands like Clark's and Dr. Martens are waaaay down the lists. This is, to put it mildly, discombobulating. Which just goes to show, you should never rest on your preconceptions. You could be in for a nasty shock.

The Rankabrand site is well worth a browse, just to see how your favourite brands stack up on sustainability.

Friday 9 November 2012

The Future Of Upcycling

As we all know, recycling and upcycling are by far the greenest of eco-fashion options open to us as consumers. Why put new stress on landfill sites when you can simply reuse the cool old clothing you've already got? If it's looking a bit too worn or tatty, then use bits of it to make new products! Easy lemon peasy puddings, right?

If only. That works quite nicely for a personal or small-scale enterprise, but it's tricky to ramp up the model to retail level. There are problems with erratic supply (old clothes have a way of running out or simply not being available) and with the material itself. Cotton, for example, is not something that you can simply roll into a cradle-to-cradle loop to create the ever-lasting jumper. Over time, the fibres shorten, and will eventually wear out.

Consider also the complexity of the modern garment. A breathable outdoor jacket with membrane, zips, buttons, rivets, drawstrings and bonded seams is not something that you can build with bits from other clothes. The best you can do in that case is to roll in as much material as you can from materials like PET that are based on recycled sources, like plastic drinks bottles.

The best approach is to rethink the whole process from top to bottom. Not the cheapest of options, but the one that will reap the greatest rewards in the long run. The front runner here is outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, who have run recycling programmes since 2005 and have Ebay shops for discounted preloved clothing, putting the clothes and the people that want them together. It helps that they're a cult and collectible name, of course, but Patagonia have been ahead of the curve in terms of thinking about extending the lifestyle of their products for years.

Meanwhile, Puma's Creative Sustainability Lab is going back to the design stage for future ranges of recyclable and compostable products. This is already showing dividends--the rethink of their packaging led to the introduction of the iconic Little Red Bag. This is made from recycled cardboard and can go straight onto the compost heap. it's also half the size of their old packaging, which has dropped their carbon emissions by millions of tons a year. If the big hitters are thinking like this, then you can be sure others will follow.

Innovations like smart RFID tags in clothing could have a big impact on making large-scale recycling much simpler. Data held on the tags can give a full breakdown of exactly what materials went into each item of clothing. Team this with software that can tell you what can be made from this raw material, and you have an upcycler's dream. A Swiss company called I:CO has already developed this chip, and they claim to be working with major names including yes, Puma, to further develop it.

Automation of the sorting process is also important, and a European Union initiative, the Textiles4textiles plant, is up, running, and looking for backing. This plant identifies and sorts materials like wool, cotton and polyester speedily and efficiently. A big step forward for getting raw materials back into the production cycle.

It's an exciting time for the re-and-upcycling industry, as cradle-to-cradle concepts start to percolate out from the realm of the theoretical, and into real-world applications and solutions. It's an old way of thinking, with a very 21st century spin on it.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Profit and Loss for M&S

A bumpy couple of weeks for M&S. Possibly our most eco-friendly high street store made headlines by signing up to Greenpeace's Detox challenge, and pledging to remove all toxic chemicals from its clothes manufacturing by 2020. This is a big step, but one that's completely in tune with the chain's Plan A initiative to green up their supply chain.

However, the news isn't all good. Their first-half financial report, just released, shows a sharp drop in profits, down 6%. The blame for this seems to point at that pesky supply chain--specifically, failure to get the clothes that they were TV-advertising into the shops in sufficient quantity.

This compares dismally with Primark, whose first-half profits have bounced up by 15% in the same period. Which just goes to show the harsh rule of retail. You can be as virtuous as you like in your company philosophy. You can recycle and shwop all the clothes you like. But if you can't get your products to your customers, then that's a major problem. There's a reason it's called fast fashion. Primark succeed by responding quickly and in volume to rapidly changing trends. Sadly, until M&S learn that lesson, they're not going to make inroads into that market and perhaps persuade the fickle British consumer to change their ways.

Monday 5 November 2012

The Life Of A T-Shirt

If you need a quick, sharp lesson in the damage that fast fashion is doing to the planet, then you really should check out the brilliant infographic that's just gone up at Urban Times. The work of Harley Barron, in association with Textsure, it lays out the huge impact that a single T-shirt has on the environment in bold, clear text and pics.

It's a shame it's such a big pic, because the post-modern effect of printing it on a t-shirt would be truly epic.  I've embedded the infographic below, but for the full effect, click on it or the link above to go to the full size version at Urban Times.

Friday 2 November 2012

A Greener Way To Shop?

Grumble about it with all your might, but there's no getting away from the awful truth; we're rapidly approaching the season of consumption. Most retailers will expect to see 40-50% of their sales in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Imagine it. The queues. The parking nightmares. The stores full of screaming, arguing families...
Is it any wonder that more and more of us are doing our Christmas shopping online? Make a cuppa, get yourself comfy on the sofa, fire up the laptop and there you go, shopping done. And, by moving away from the centralised shipping and big-box store energy impacts, you can be smug in the knowledge that you're conspicuous consumption is being done in a far greener way. Right?

Well, yeah, kinda, but. Let's not forget that the big online heavy lifters have their own environmental and ethical questions to be answered. Amazon, to pluck an example out of the air, have faced accusations of worker exploitation and an extremely poor record on paying their corporation tax--a figure that adds up to billions for the cash-strapped British economy. And of course, they have to ship everything they sell to your door using a vast network of trucks and distribution centres--your new pair of Converse or that Christmas party dress doesn't pop through your letterbox by magic.

There are ways round the dilemma, which the savvy green shopper should already know all about. Shopping locally using smaller retailers saves a lot of the grief of slogging round big, isolated warehouses. They too, if they're on the ball, will have their own internet shopping hub, meaning that you can support a small business and cut transportation costs.

Bear in mind that the internet is as useful a research tool as it is a shopping basket. It's worth spending a bit of time that you'd using prowling the big sites to see what's available in your local area. Even if it does mean cracking the airlock and actually going into town, at least you'll be focussed on one or two shops, rather then having to face a painful, aimless meander looking out for the perfect pair of socks for Uncle Jim.

And who knows, this year you might find the whole process to be that little bit less painful. That's my Christmas wish, anyway...