Step Up

For regular readers you will know that I am currently raising money for Labour Behind the Label who are a charity that campaigns to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry. This month they launched a campaign for shoe brands to Step Up and tell us where our shoes are made.

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In 2014 24 billion pairs of shoes were produced, 87% of those shoes were made in Asia. Workers in the shoe industry face many issues from poverty pay, long working hours and denial of union rights to health and environmental risks.

 

Naga-Bai-65-years-homeworker-–-sewer-2Meet Naga Bai, a 65 year old home shoe worker from Ambur in India. For every pair of shoes she stitches, she earns just 10p. She can sew a maximum of 10 pairs per day, meaning her daily income is about £1. This is far too little to live on, a kilogram of rice costs up to 43p. As a home worker, Naga Bai is not eligible to receive any employment benefits, such as a pension or medical insurance.

 

Many shoes are made of leather that use toxic chemicals and dyes which can be dangerous to workers. Chromium 6, used in leather tanning, can cause asthma, eczema, blindness and cancer. When it transfers to the waste water it causes harmful pollution to the environment and to communities nearby.

cys2Here is Jahaj and his brother, aged 8 and 7, working in a factory where animal hides are tanned in Hazaribagh, Bangladesh. They process the raw hides into the first stage of leather. Their job is to get inside the tannery pit, which is full of hazardous chemicals and pull out the hides. They both suffer from rashes and itches. Asked why they perform such dangerous tasks, they said: “When we are hungry, acid doesn’t matter. We have to eat.”

Labour Behind the Label are calling on us to ask ‘who made our shoes’. If brands are transparent about where their shoes are being made it helps workers to claim their rights.

For example…

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Compensation – When the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh collapsed in 2013, more than 1,100 garment workers were killed. But before their families could seek compensation from the brands, the brands’ labels had to be picked out of the rubble. This is because information about which brands were making clothes at those factories wasn’t publicly available. In the horrific event of another catastrophe like Rana Plaza, transparency will allow compensation to be paid for workers and their families much more quickly.

Wages and employment conditions – Knowing the average wages of workers on different grades within a factory and across similar factories would allow for a union to scrutinise whether wages are fair and enough to live on. Women homeworkers play an essential role stitching leather uppers for shoes. But they are often invisible, their rights ignored and they are at the mercy of their employer. Brands must identify and recognise homeworkers and give them the same rights as any other workers.

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What can we do?

You can sign Labour Behind the Label’s petition to call for leading UK shoe brands and retailers Schuh, Office, Faith, Debenhams, Dr Martens, Primark, Asda, Very.co.uk, Bohoo.com, Boden, Harvey Nichols and Sports Direct along with leading global shoe brands Deichmann, Camper, Prada, Birkenstock, CCC and Leder to:

  • Publish the names and addresses of all their suppliers
  • Report on progress in moving away from dangerous chemicals
  • Show that they are respecting the human rights of the people who make their shoes, ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions.

You could reduce the number of shoes you buy. An increase in fast fashion has                   drove brands to resort to using unethical practices in making shoes. Buying less                 and better quality will help to combat this.

Or you could buy from ethical shoe brands such as:

Responsible Running

I used to hate running. Back at school I was half decent so always got picked for cross country and athletics. Then once I left school and tried to go running on my own I’d just give up after 15 minutes as I’d get bored. However recently I have taken it up again and have grown to love it. I’ve found listening to podcasts and playlists a way to push through the boredom. Another big driver has been training for the Gateshead 10km that I’ll be running in July to raise money for Labour Behind the Label (you can donate here if you so wish!).

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To run I wear old Adidas trainers. People have advised me to invest in a new pair, but mine are still functional and super comfy. Living by my ‘conscious consumer’ ways I’ve decided to use what I already have. I did however need to invest in some decent leggings and after some research of ethical activewear (majority of which just do yoga clothing) I was over the moon to find Sundried.

Sundried is a British brand based on low carbon, employee wellbeing, fair wages in the supply chain and charitable values. This year  they will be launching a sustainable technology that turns used coffee grounds and plastic into fabric. Coffee has a natural ability to block odour which of course is ideal for activewear.

Their capris leggings are made in Portugal (fully traceable) from 60% Polyester, 35% Polyamide and 5% Elastane. They are very comfy, breathable and give great support. Now that I know Sundried can deliver on quality as well as their great ethics I’ll be buying one of their sports bras (which I have previously struggled to find as most ethical brands just do yoga crop tops… not great support for running).

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For those of you that want to run, but like me get bored and give up, try the Guilty Feminist podcast or the Big Little Lies Soundtrack playlist. With Guilty Feminist I get so engrossed and laugh that I forget my lungs are burning and legs are aching. With Big Little Lies the beat just keeps me going. I use wireless headphones and a running belt (from Etsy) to make sure I always have some running entertainment.

Seriously, just give it a go. Let me know how you get on! x

Super Sunday Swap Shop

People now buy four times more clothes than they did in the 80’s. To meet these increasing demands fashion brands are cutting corners in regards to worker rights, pay and safety. It also has huge consequences for the environment, on average UK consumers send 30kg of clothing to landfill each year.

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Labour Behind the Label are a charity that are dedicated to changing this. Throughout the year I’m doing a couple of challenges to raise money for them and today I held a Swap Shop to encourage the reuse of clothes and raise awareness of the issue.

A Swap Shop is simple, people bring any unwanted clothes, jewellery, books, toiletries etc. to swap. Anything that takes your fancy you can take and any left over bits will be donated to charity. One man/woman’s trash is another man/woman’s treasure.

With support from my amazing friends and family on the day we managed to raise a whopping £123!!!! It was great fun and we took away some cool pieces. My personal favourite is a demin jacket my mate Niamh brought. She had bought it from Dawn O’Porter who sold it on instagram for charity. And now it has been swapped, again for charity! A jacket that just keeps on giving.

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Thank you so much to everyone who has supported this so far. You’re all absolute legends. Especially my Mam, Alison, who today was a superstar! If you would like to donate click here.  Also, keep your ears to the ground as I’ll be hosting another Swap Shop soon!

Hope you’ve all had a great weekend, I know I certainly have. Good night x

 

Super Simple Vegan Flapjack

On Sunday I’m hosting a Swap Shop to raise money for Labour Behind the Label (details of the event can be found here) and for the occasion I’m baking a whole load of sweet stuff. One of the easiest pieces, which I’ve just made, is a vegan flapjack.

Here is the recipe!

INGREDIENTS:

METHOD:

  • Preheat oven to 180°C/gas mark 4 and grease a 28cmx18cm baking tray, lining with baking paper
  • Put the spread, brown sugar and golden syrup into a pan on medium heat and mix until the spread and sugar dissolves
  • Remove the pan from the heat, add the porridge oats and sultanas and mix until they are fully coated
  • Press the mixture into the baking tray
  • Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown
  • Let the flapjack cool in the tray for 5 minutes then turn it out from the tray and let it cool on a cooling rack
  • Cut into squares, and voila! Done.

Cheap, easy and super simple to make. The flapjacks can also last for up to a week in a container. Perfect for my Swap Shop. And the crumbly bits off the side, I can enjoy now!

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30 Wears (✓)

“Take two very simple actions that we perform every single day: getting dressed and eating. Now start a journey backwards – to where your food and your clothes come from. At the other end, you will rarely find happy people, treated with dignity and respect.” – Livia Firth

In this post I’m focusing on the first action, getting dressed. Fast fashion is forcing people to buy more and waste more. The high demand of ‘needing’ the latest trends has forced retailers to use unethical ways to produce their clothes.

One way to contribute in making a positive change against this is by asking yourself when buying new clothes, “Can I wear this a minimum of 30 times?” If the answer is no… then don’t buy it. By using this rule not only are you helping the fast fashion crisis, but you are ensuring that the clothes you do buy are clothes you truly love.

Here I am sharing with you some of my favourite clothes that I’ve had for many years and have experienced many things. * I apologise that most pictures contain booze and for some of the hair cuts and pouts…

This item I bought in Oxfam Leeds for £4 in 2010 on a whim when visiting my sister at Uni for a night out. Since then it has seen many a bottle of beer and dance floor. 30 wears (✓).

This item is a Topshop coat I got as a birthday present from my parents in 2012. It now has holes in the armpit lining, but from the outside looks fine. 30 wears (✓).

This Fred P item I found in a vintage shop in 2011. It’s since been worn with scarves, shirts, dresses, skirts. 30 wears (✓).

This dress I nicked from my sister in 2014, I believe she wore it at least 30 times before I stole it. It’s been on loads of nights out and now I use it as a work dress. 30 wears (✓).

This item is a pair of dungarees I managed to get for £10 in a Zara sale in 2014. Whenever I feel stuck on what to wear, this is my go-to as it goes well with all sorts. 30 wears (✓).

If you have any fave clothes that you have worn a minimum of 30 times let me know or use the #30wears to create awareness.

Enjoy your clothes xxx

 

p.s I am raising money for Labour Behind the Label who work to fight fast fashion. If you can, donate here.

Books

 

I love books. Always have. As soon as I could read I was onto Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, Dick King-Smith. I then progressed onto Jacqueline Wilson, Meg Cabot and my favourite, J.K Rowling.

I would do my sister’s head in, especially in the summer holidays, “Anna dya wanna play footie?” and I’d always be too busy racing to the end of the latest Harry Potter.

Where possible I buy books from second hand shops or Hive. Hive gives independent bookshops a chance to be seen online and stay on our high streets. You can order online with Hive and choose which bookshop you want to support, or search for your local bookshop and physically pay them a visit. Their prices match or are sometimes better than Amazon, and their deliveries are super quick! My latest Hive purchase was HRH The Prince of Wale’s ‘Climate Change’ Ladybird book. Great pictures and a great message.

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So, as you can imagine, over the years I’ve created some collection. About a month ago I decided my bookshelves were too full and to donate those I knew I’d never read again to charity and get myself a Kindle.

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For years I had toyed with the idea of getting a Kindle. Even just for the ease of going on holiday, some trips I’ve taken I’ve ended up carrying back 4 books all dog eared and crispy from getting wet and then drying in the sun. But to me there was always nothing like a proper paperback book. Reading it, then placing it on the shelf, like some sort of trophy.

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Finally last month I caved. And it has to be said, I do not regret it. Since getting my Kindle I’ve started using Good Reads, joined online book clubs, found out what my friends are reading and set myself a 2017 reading challenge. So far I’ve polished off 4 books, and the battery is still half full.

I am sold. Having finished Shappi Khorsandi’s ‘Nina is Not OK’ yesterday on the train back from Manchester (I kinda shed a tear in public at the ending), I’m now looking for my next read. If you have any recommendations I’d love to hear from you!

Labour Behind the Label – Fundraiser

This year I will be doing a number of things to raise money for Labour Behind the Label.

  • Hadrian’s Wall Trek – 8th September – 25 miles over 2 days with my good friend Antoinette.
  • Swap Shop event – venue and date to be confirmed but keep your eyes peeled for an invite!
  • Great North 10k – 9th July – 10k run in Gateshead.

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Labour Behind the Label, based in Bristol, campaign worldwide for garment worker’s rights, supporting workers in their struggle to live in dignity and work in safety. They focus on relief of poverty, promotion of human rights and compliance with the law and ethical standards… not an easy task! They are only a small charity, with a very big job at hand, so every £ raised really does help. Click here to donate.

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“Made in Turkey. Wash at 40 degrees. 100% cotton.” Garment labels give us some information, but tell us nothing about who made our clothes and the conditions they were working in. Even if we look beyond the labels and scour brands’ websites, it’s hard to find out much more.  Believe me, I have tried.

“No-one should live in poverty for the price of a cheap t-shirt.”

When a label says “Made in Europe” should we breathe a sigh of relief? Unfortunately, no. Labour Behind the Label study ‘Labour on a Shoe String’ shows how garment workers in Eastern Europe and the Balkans face severe wage poverty, it was found that shoes labelled “made in Italy” or “made in Germany” are often part-produced in Eastern Europe and the Balkan states, the shoes are then shipped back to the country of origin for labelling and retail.

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But imagine if every item you wore, you knew exactly which factory it was made in and whether the workers had secure contracts, whether they worked in safe conditions, and whether they earned a living wage. This level of transparency is a long way off, but Labour Behind the Label is pushing for it. That is why I am supporting them. With knowledge like this we could really start to challenge the brands, make conscious decisions when buying, boycott those that do not treat workers ethically and push for change within the industry.

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The garment industry turns over almost $3 Trillion a year. Yet garment workers, 80% of them women, work for poverty pay, earning as little as $21 a month. Poverty wages, long hours, forced overtime, unsafe working conditions, sexual, physical and verbal abuse, repression of trade union rights and short term contracts are all commonplace in the clothing industry. It is an industry under huge demands due to fast fashion that is built on exploitation and growing under a lack of transparency that makes holding brands accountable difficult. Labour Behind the Label are dedicated to changing this. I am dedicated to change this.

Thanks to all of you that have donated! It really means a lot. Be sure that I will keep you posted on my challenges.