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Ethically Made

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I’m giving up retail for a year-who's joining me?

Yesterday, as I sat in church surrounded by three generations of family, I realized something. My life has been dictated and directed by love. I was born to a couple that decided to love each other, their family and most anybody who came along. Their example gave me the nerve to plunge headlong into love at the tender age of 15, marry the guy at 18, and still be passionately in love with this same man 35 years later. My husband’s unconditional love has enabled me to believe in myself and have the courage to love others. In turn, we were enabled by love to bring three little persons into the world. They knew from their first breath they were loved and that they would continue to be loved no matter who they were or what they did. Each one has amazed me in their own way with how they love and care for their world. During yesterday’s service, I watched my son with his new fiance’ and considered the life of love they will one day bestow on their children. I was overwhelmed by the beautiful life love has given me and by the ripples of this love that continue to spread out into the world. How incredibly blessed I am! As soon as that thought passed through my head, however, a voice reminded me,

“To whom much is given, much is required”.

Family Christmas Dinner 2018

Family Christmas Dinner 2018

I know there are many hurting and wounded people around the globe that were not given the advantages of love, nurturing and material abundance I have known. Even now, there are women much like me attempting to save their children from life-threatening situations. They’re living in refugee camps or homeless shelters or maybe even giving their children up to an orphanage. Women much like me are forced to dig through garbage heaps to find things to sell. Some labor in unsafe and unhealthy working conditions for little pay, or even sell their own bodies, because this is the only way they know to feed themselves or their children

Syrian refugee children in a camp in Jordan.

Syrian refugee children in a camp in Jordan.

The world can be a scary and troubled place. It’s easy to get overwhelmed; to feel it’s impossible to bring any help or healing when the need is so great. Still, I know what causes so much of the anguish and what it is that can bring true healing. Wars, hunger, prejudice, violence; these are all the result of an absence of love. Our world needs an ever-increasing response of love from those willing to share it with courage and generosity. We don’t have to wait until we’re able to fix the whole world. We have the capacity to love those within our sphere of influence. Love your family and your immediate community. At the same time, recognize you can also love on a global scale by offering a helping hand to those in need.

I don’t delude myself into thinking I can save the day for these women. I’m not the answer to their troubles. I do, however, want to be part of empowering women so they can help themselves. If I was living in poverty without means to provide for my family, what would I want? I would want an opportunity to work in safety and earn a fair wage for my work so that I could provide for my family’s needs. I want to live by the golden rule of treating others the way I would want to be treated. With that in mind, I will continue to love my global sisters in the best way I have found. Through the efforts of Elevat, I will provide them opportunity to pursue honorable work and earn a fair wage. As of today, that means helping women in the slums of Nairobi, impoverished women in Guatemala, Syrian women fleeing for their lives, Thai women escaping sex trafficking….

Nairobi mother with her child making paper bead necklaces.

Nairobi mother with her child making paper bead necklaces.

Not only do I want to love others by providing safe jobs, I don’t want to be a part of helping enslave them. That’s what happens when we purchase cheap, mass produced clothing and items made by women in Bangladesh or elsewhere who aren’t paid a fair wage or provided safe working conditions. I’ve continued to research the effects our consumer society has on the rest of the world, and I don’t want to be a part of the problem. So, 2019 will be a year without retail for me. I did this several years ago, and it felt so good! I want to commit to it again. What’s more, I’m hoping there will be those who join me. Go ahead, commit yourself to only purchasing fair trade items or other socially responsible products that are handmade and/or manufactured in an ethical manner. There are SO, MANY WONDERFUL opportunities to spend our money with a clear conscience. Of course, we can also find the items we need at thrift stores, garage sales and other outlets that serve to recycle items.

My sister and I shopping at our favorite thrift store last week.

My sister and I shopping at our favorite thrift store last week.

May 2019 be a year of shopping ethically, relieving the burden of others, and giving and receiving much love that will then continue to ripple throughout our world!

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Know Your Maker - Fashion Revolution Week

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Know Your Maker - Fashion Revolution Week

We probably make hundreds of purchases every year. And, if you’re like me, a lot of those purchases are clothes. Often, I find myself drawn into a new collection, an upcoming promotion, or even just a cute scarf in the “perfect” color.

Even with so many options, I still find myself carefully deciding which of all the colors to choose. What fabric will work best for spring? Is it on sale? Can I buy both? Do I have an outfit this will go with? I ask myself all these questions so that I can make the very best decision with my money. But isn’t it strange that not one of my typical questions is “where did this scarf come from?”

Oddly enough, the answer to that question may be harder to find than we think. Many clothing brands do not have a traceable origin, so we actually may never know where our cute scarf comes from. Many clothing brands have moved their production phase oversees, but in doing so, they have not kept a firm track on where the products are actually being made.

Another question we should be asking about our clothes is who is making them. Unfortunately, the clothing industry is one of the largest industries using child or slave labor. After learning this, my cute scarf suddenly became much less cute. Yep, as much as we want to think that our name brand clothes are made honestly, this is not always the case.

While we can’t always be sure that our brand-named clothing companies are making the best production decisions, we can be certain of our decision when we choose to buy fairly traded, ethically made clothing. Plus, buying fairly traded clothes is easier today than I imagined. Here are just a few emerging and established clothing brands that are dedicated to provided ethically and sustainably made products.

For even more great ethical and sustainable brands, check out the full list here!

Just like many of these great brands, Elevāt is helping empower women all across the globe by fairly trading their handmade products. Elevāt is dedicated to cutting out the middleman and working directly with artisans to sell their work. We value relationships with our partners, which is why it is extra special when we can provide a picture and short story about the women who make the products we sell.

Elevāt’s Ecuadorian Tagua necklaces and Kenyan bracelets both come with a name and photo of the woman who made the piece. And with our Haitian Paper Bead bracelets, we get to learn more personally how our purchase impacts the women who make them – each bracelet comes with a story and photo.

This week is Fashion Revolution week – a week to remember the 2013 tragedy in Bangladesh when the Rana Plaza collapsed and killed over 1,000 factory workers. This tragedy sparked the discussion about knowing where exactly our clothes come from. Many people began to question the ethics of massive clothing factories in their treatment and compensation of workers. Fashion Revolution week is an opportunity for clothing brands and businesses to promote their supply-chain transparency and their commitment to make their clothes ethically and responsibly.

When we purchase ethically made, sustainable, and fairly traded clothing we can be confident that our money is not going to a multimillion-dollar brand that underpays its production-line workers. Instead we can know that the individual who made our new scarf is treated fairly and receives fair wages. We may even receive information about them with our purchase. This is what is so neat about buying fairly traded products! With each purchase we make, we deepen connections and trust throughout the world while proudly supporting talented and deserving artisans. I urge us all to, at the very least, think twice before we make our next clothing purchase and to consider where our money is going. We all make hundreds of decisions every year. Let’s be committed to make our next worthwhile.

 

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