Do you ever stop to think about where your fabric comes from?
One of the reasons I started to make clothes was because I wanted to reduce my environmental impact and stop propping up awful sweatshop conditions for garment workers. In short I wanted to stop being a hypocrite given my day job.
I’ve been in Ethiopia with my day job for the last week. My job is to conduct monitoring and evaluation of aid projects funded by the UK Government under a scheme called the Darwin Initiative. This Initiative funds projects that support both biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation. My job is to assess the evidence of the impacts projects like these have on reducing poverty in these developing countries and supporting biodiversity conservation.
So back to Ethiopia or more specifically Arba Minch. An area that is not only beautiful and chock full of important biodiversity (it’s one of the most important flyway for birds in the Rift Valley) but it’s also home to many Ethiopian people whose primary source of income is agriculture particularly cotton.
Pesticide use is rife in Ethiopia. Part of the problem is when it was first introduced in the 1960s is the word given for it in Amarhic was ‘medicine’. Farmers were taught that this stuff was magical and it could cure practically anything. The pesticides used up until very recently ranged from the nasty to down right scary pesticides like endosulfan and DDT. They applied it by hand with no protective clothing – they even used the left over containers for storing food. The worst story I heard was it was applied directly to the skin or clothes to treat ectoparasites.
Thankfully there is this great project being funded that is demonstrating to farmers that pesticides are harmful to people, to biodiversity and, through excellent systematic research, to yields. Because you see bizarrely pesticides are causing famers to grow less cotton than no treatment at all!
The project is also supporting these farmers to establish cotton farming cooperatives with the intention that they achieve organic cotton certification and sell their cotton on the international market. A triple win that will mean more money for the farmers, better health for the farmers and a stronger more biodiverse environment.
They are in talks to sell their cotton to H&M and C&A once they achieve certification. Which is great isn’t it?
Except I started making clothes because I wanted to stop propping up this unsustainable clothing industry.
So what to do? Welcome the changes in operations in the garment industry and support this by buying clothes again?
I’d much rather buy organic cotton but find it very hard to buy from the fabric shops.
What about you? Do you ever think about where your fabric comes from? Is sewing your way of reducing your footprint on this world? Is there more I can do to support sustainable development through my hobby?