Recently I was talking to someone in a pub, and mentioned that I engaged in film photography. They mentioned that they did not personally approve of film photography, as it contains animal products.
This is not something I had previously put much thought into, despite generally agreeing that meat is not a particularly sustainable source of food. Whilst, after a bit of research, I’m mostly at peace with the fact that photographic emulsion uses an extremely small amount of gelatin – primarily as it is making use of a by-product which otherwise would have gone to waste, and in of itself isn’t a driver for meat production. Until meat production is entirely eliminated, I think I’ll be OK with that. I hope by that point, someone will have invented a synthetic replacement for making emulsion – if they’ve not, I’ll happily give up the hobby if it’s what keeping slaughterhouses in business.
However, whilst I’m not going vegan overnight, this caused me to think a bit about whether there is anything else that I’m unwittingly doing that supports broadly unethical practices in a meaningful way …
The first one that came to mind was clothing. My present shoe of choice is Converse. However, as it turns out they’re owned by Nike – a company I’m not too keen on in terms of ethical practices. So I looked into what alternatives were out there, as my current shoes are in need of replacement (another thing I have come to dislike about Converse trainers – they’re not especially long lasting!). I checked out the Ethical Consumer page on Shoes, which lists a few suppliers they’ve deemed to have the best credentials.
The Blackspot Unswoosher sat on top of that list. I generally agree with the anti-corporate message – I mean, I supported buying all of the ad space in Clapham Common tube station for two weeks and replacing them with pictures of cats. However, I’m not a massive fan of the style, which is a shame!
I ended up skipping a few down and having a look into Po-zu, who have a pretty big selection of functionally similar shoes to Converse – including several Star Wars licensed ones…. argh, couldn’t resist!
Whilst I’m annoyed that the Star Wars franchise is now owned by Disney, and I don’t agree with all of their business practices (they are completely enormous, so they’re bound to slip up somewhere), the fact that the item itself uses Fair Rubber, and sustainable materials like coconut husk and organic cotton (which, I hope, is grown somewhere with a plentiful source of water!), I think I can count that as a win.
Turning to tops, I can never have too many t-shirts. Well, I probably can, but it’s kind of my thing. That being the case, I’d like it to be my sustainable thing. So I went in search of companies that made t-shirts ethically.
I really like Rapanui. Their story page tells a tale of a plucky “startup” from the Isle of Wight trying to change the fashion world, by making their clothes traceable and made with sustainable sources and renewable energy. They’ve done so well at applying technology to their production chain that they’re providing it as a service via print on demand. And, even better, when your t-shirt is worn out, they let you send it back to them to be re-manufactured – an initiative I very much agree with. I believe all products should be engineered to have secondary uses after they can no longer perform their primary function. And, to top it all off, their designs are pretty awesome too. They also do a bunch of other clothes too… hoodies, beach towels, underwear… they’ve earned a few spots on my wishlist.
There are quite a few issues around jeans – one of the big ones being sand blasting, a process which literally kills workers. Fortunately, a lot of progress has been made in that area – but it’s not entirely gone. My go-to brand is Levi – which is not the worst fashion brand out there by a long way, and has, in theory, some good policies, but definitely not the best.
Monkee Genes seem to have a particularly good policy of trace-ability and ethical treatments of workers, and animals. Although I don’t really do skinny jeans, they do have some cuts that work for me – so they’re definitely worth considering.
It’s a start
Whilst these bits of everyday life are things that I happened to consider, they’re definitely not the end. Whilst Ethical Fashion is definitely a thing, and even a trendy thing right now (hurrah), but that’s certainly not the only way someone can make a difference.
Limiting consumption is a great way to do this (which is why I’m not about to empty out my entire wardrobe), but when it is necessary I’m going to be much more conscious than I might have been previously.