This month I’m highlighting the reality behind one of the most iconic brands in the world. The majority of us possess something with that glorious tick on it, including myself.
Because of this, it is crucial that we understand the cost that comes with these branded products, and the suffering that comes with it.
This is exactly why we need to be aware, why we need to call out Nike, and why we need to keep the voices of workers loud and clear. As Nike continues to shroud their voices with a glamorous mask consisting of million dollar ads, embarrassing attempts to pander to certain demographics to show they care (yes I’m @’ing their Nike hijab #cringe), and using A list stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Bella Hadid to promote their goods, they are attempting to make us forget our humanity, our basic morals, our belief in basic human rights, and to ‘Just Do It.’
Another month, another insight into the criminal activities relentlessly conducted by our most-loved companies! This Month we might break a few hearts with this one, so I apologise in advance for this.
At the same time, it is crucial that we know what the companies that we love are complicit in, and should feel evermore compelled to make ourselves, and others, aware of what is happening.
If you don’t know already, Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for muslims as it’s the month that the Quran was revealed. One of the pillars of Islam is fasting and this is what we do for the whole month of Ramadan, from dawn to sunset. Fasting makes us understand the physical pain of hunger, it encourages us to carry out more good deeds, it improves our will power by abstaining from our physical wants and it is a month that helps us to attain Taqwa.
If you are muslim you will know that familiar feeling in Ramadan when you think about how you are hungry but realise that is how millions of people in poverty feel. Or when you are about to get super angry but don’t want that to jeopardise your fast being accepted. This is because we are very aware of our actions during Ramadan.
Last year I went to the light upon light conference just before Ramadan and I really enjoyed one particular lecture about how the purpose of Ramadan is to attain Taqwa.
“O You who believe! Fasting is prescribed upon you as it was prescribed on those before you so that you may attain Taqwa” Quran – [2:183]
Taqwa means to become closer to Allah and being constantly aware of the presence of Allah.
“Taqwa is not about performing religious obligations such as prayer and fasting: it is about living a pious life. A person possessing taqwa …chooses to live a moral life.“
“It strengthens a Muslim’s belief and enables him to become a better human being and an even better follower of the Islamic faith.”
This lecture particularly interested me because the focus was on our actions as consumers and how we need to be more aware of the presence of Allah in everything we do.
The speaker was Ustadh Asim Khan who discussed how in the UK we waste 200k tons of food per year and we waste a whole load of clothes too (we’ve had a blog post on this before). The next speaker Zahir Mahmoud lectured about the the Prophet (peace be upon him) and how he hardly had any possessions or money and his home was very modest. This shows the contrast between the lifestyle we’re all so used to and the one we know would be should live as close as possible to.
I think there is a very strong connection between remembering our faith in everything we do and consumerism. Because consumerism and capitalism does not encourage us to think about other people. It encourages us to think about ourselves and what we need. “The love of this world, greed, hatred or enmity towards a fellow human, pride, etc. are all examples of such traits that hurt a believer’s Taqwa.”
One of my favourite quotes from the Prophet (PBUH) is:
“The best of people are those who are most beneficial to people”
We can be beneficial to others in many ways. But we can accidentally be detrimental to people in many ways too. By remembering our faith in everything we do we know we should consider how our choices affect the planet and everything in it. Hopefully this weekly blog helps to consider the bad impact some of the most seemingly harmless things have on our environment and other people.
I hope we all attain the fruits of Ramadan and attain taqwa. Not just by doing the things we are obviously obligated to do like praying, paying zakat, being good to our family and friends etc but being honest in everything that we do. More importantly being more honest with ourselves that we are doing the best we can because that’s all we can do, the best that we can do as individuals.
O mankind, indeed We have…made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.(49:13)
SO I will leave you with a very Oh So Ethical quote from the Quran.
“…Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves…” (Qur’an, 13:11)
BE THE CHANGE. Attain that taqwa people.
So since we break our fast everyday with dates we should definitely get dates that are the most ethical they can be!
The world is in love with plastics for many reasons. Not the Mean Girls plastics, everyone hates them.
But the water bottles, shavers, cutlery, toothbrushes etc. It’s lightweight, flexible, durable and versatile. It’s advanced medicine, transport, electronics – and food packaging. It’s great right!
But did you know that the demand for these disposable items mean that plastic is produced at 350m tonnes per years and it’s continuously increasing.
The trouble with this is that plastic never breaks down and every piece of plastic ever made is still living somewhere on our planet. Some of these plastics can be recycled and continue living on earth as a new product. Margarine and ice cream tubs, yogurt pots, fruit punnets and ready meal trays, drink, shampoo and detergent bottles could be reincarnated if you like.
However, there are many different types of plastic and the sorting process is very labor intensive.
“Only 14 per cent of plastic packaging is recycled, with the remainder, worth £60-90 billion worldwide lost as waste.”
There are plastics that can’t be recycled including plastic wrap, cling film, bubble wrap (I know it hurts, I’m sorry), plastic bags, crisp packets, sweet wrappers, polystyrene, soft plastic/metallic packaging, plastic bottle caps TO NAME BUT A FEW.
Simon Ellin the Chief of the Recycling Association singled out Pringles, Lucozade, supermarket black plastic meat trays and cleaning spray bottles to be themes difficult/impossible to recycle.
So one major problem is that we keep producing tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of plastic and were just leaving it around the world. But there are other negative impacts.
Look at this little guy. He shouldn’t be eating plastic. He should be eating plants and insects! But the poor thing and 100,000 other marine creatures like him are eating plastic and 10% of marine life have died from being entangled in plastic bags that we are manufacturing and not taking responsibility for. It’s said that by 2050 there could be more plastic in the sea that fish!
It also pollutes the air, land and water as well as exposing worker to toxic chemicals when it’s being manufactured and incinerated. “Serious accidents have included explosions, chemical fires, chemical spills, and clouds of toxic vapor. These kinds of occurrences have caused deaths, injuries, evacuations and major property damage.”
Plastics used in cooking and food storage is also affecting our health. Chemicals that are typically hormone-mimicking and endocrine disrupters are evidenced to be coming from plastics.
There is a link between these chemicals and health problems “chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy. Exposure to BPA at a young age can cause genetic damage, and BPA has been linked to recurrent miscarriage in women. The health risks of plastic are significantly amplified in children, whose immune and organ systems are developing and are more vulnerable. The evidence of health risks from certain plastics is increasingly appearing in established, peer-reviewed scientific journals.”
We can tackle plastic pollution and we should as soon as possible. In fact there is a prize of £1.5million prize for environmentally friendly packaging design, backed by the conservation charity the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize.
Chris Grantham from the London branch of the global design consultancy Ideo said, designers would need to produce items that could be used again and again as pressure on materials increases from a growing population.
Mr Grantham’s ideas about how to tackle the issue include; if products are bought online products do not need branding and complex designs; supermarkets can fit a mini projector to project branding onto blank containers.
Here’s a short list of ways to reduce plastic pollution with your own bare hands from the Natural Resources Defences Council:
1. Wean yourself off disposable plastics.
Ninety percent of the plastic items in our daily lives are used once and then chucked: grocery bags, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, straws, coffee-cup lids. Take note of how often you rely on these products and replace them with reusable versions. It only takes a few times of bringing your own bags to the store, silverware to the office, or travel mug to Starbucks before it becomes habit.
2. Stop buying water.
Each year, close to 20 billion plastic bottles are tossed in the trash. Carry a reusable bottle in your bag, and you’ll never be caught having to resort to a Poland Spring or Evian again. If you’re nervous about the quality of your local tap water, look for a model with a built-in filter.
3. Boycott microbeads.
Those little plastic scrubbers found in so many beauty products—facial scrubs, toothpaste, body washes—might look harmless, but their tiny size allows them to slip through water-treatment plants. Unfortunately, they also look just like food to some marine animals. Opt for products with natural exfoliants, like oatmeal or salt, instead.
4. Cook more.
Not only is it healthier, but making your own meals doesn’t involve takeout containers or doggy bags. For those times when you do order in or eat out, tell the establishment you don’t need any plastic cutlery or, for some serious extra credit, bring your own food-storage containers to restaurants for leftovers.
5. Purchase items secondhand.
New toys and electronic gadgets, especially, come with all kinds of plastic packaging—from those frustrating hard-to-crack shells to twisty ties. Search the shelves of thrift stores, neighborhood garage sales, or online postings for items that are just as good when previously used. You’ll save yourself a few bucks, too.
6. Recycle (duh).
It seems obvious, but we’re not doing a great job of it. For example, less than 14 percent of plastic packaging is recycled. Confused about what can and can’t go in the bin? Check out the number on the bottom of the container. Most beverage and liquid cleaner bottles will be #1 (PET), which is commonly accepted by most curbside recycling companies. Containers marked #2 (HDPE; typically slightly heavier-duty bottles for milk, juice, and laundry detergent) and #5 (PP; plastic cutlery, yogurt and margarine tubs, ketchup bottles) are also recyclable in some areas. For the specifics on your area, check out Earth911.org’s recycling directory.
7. Support a bag tax or ban.
Urge your elected officials to follow the lead of those in San Francisco, Chicago, and close to 150 other cities and counties by introducing or supporting legislation that would make plastic-bag use less desirable.
8. Buy in bulk.
Single-serving yogurts, travel-size toiletries, tiny packages of nuts—consider the product-to-packaging ratio of items you tend to buy often and select the bigger container instead of buying several smaller ones over time.
9. Bring your own garment bag to the dry cleaner.
Invest in a zippered fabric bag and request that your cleaned items be returned in it instead of sheathed in plastic. (And while you’re at it, make sure you’re frequenting a dry cleaner that skips the perc, a toxic chemical found in some cleaning solvents.)
10. Put pressure on manufacturers.
Though we can make a difference through our own habits, corporations obviously have a much bigger footprint. If you believe a company could be smarter about its packaging, make your voice heard. Write a letter, send a tweet, or hit them where it really hurts: Give your money to a more sustainable competitor.
So you know what to do. Go do it. Please.
Mean It fashion- it was hard to stop choosing things I like from here. What a great selection!
“Our mission is to source ethical fashion around the world and offer well-designed, desirable and luxurious pieces in one marketplace. Clothing and accessories designed and produced in a sustainable way, using environment-friendly materials. Vegan pieces. Fair trade and upcycled items. All made by teams that have control over the production process, making sure there is no wrongdoing in any sense. Brands we are very proud to sell.”
Workers in a factory supplying companies such as M&S have created a video in a bid to show the world how hard life has been since their factory suddenly closed, leaving them jobless without any notice or compensation.
“The video talks about the workers who were evicted from their rental homes, who owe people money, those who had to take to the streets to demand their wages, as well as some of the older people who haven’t been able to get new jobs.”
I’ve already highlighted some of the issues that are connected with the chocolate industry in previous blog posts including child labour, milk production and palm oil.
I suppose this is a post to highlight the issues we face with this product which is a staple and an addiction for many of us.
It isn’t a surprise considering the state of the industry that child labour and unfair treatment of workers is prevalent in cocoa farming. Cocoa is mainly grown in Ivory Coast, Ghana and Latin America where farmers are paid $2 per day. You don’t need a huge imagination to think what workers get paid. In fact research suggests children are imprisoned on farms after thy look for work or their relatives sell them to farm owners.
These farms supply the biggest chocolate companies including Mars, Hershey and Nestle. These three companies are in the top 10 leading confectioners in the world. I just will never understand capitalism and the concept of being mega rich but not paying your workers enough to live, if anything. If we buy a bar of chocolate which is now around 60p we’ve already used almost half of a farmers daily wage.
The confectioners hide behind the layers of industry, the government, chocolate dealers and farmers, in their bid to stay ignorant. Food Empower Project have written a lot about the issues in the chocolate industry and you can read it here. They have highlighted that although some confectioners certify that they are fair trade and do not allow child labour undercover investigation has found this to be greenwashing. Companies are slow to make changes to ensure that workers are treated with dignity.
If you want to make sure that your money is going to people who deserve it here’s a list that the Food Empowerment Project put together based on companies they recommend to least recommend. The list is extensive and it includes the following that I can recommend in taste. I am REALLY fussy about chocolate because I sadly am a chocoholic.
Vego- My favourite
The good shopping guide also made a list based on environmental impact, animal welfare, political donations and many other factors. Read it here. The only company to get a score of 100 is the seed and bean company which I have yet to try, but I will make sure to!
FAIR FAVOURITES- FOUNDLING
“For something to be truly beautiful, it has to be beautiful inside & out..so we set about finding a team of ethical manufacturing partners around the globe. With children & families of our own…ethical production was the only way to go! Our clothing range is made by a sedex accredited, government regulated business in India – an assurance that people are not being taken advantage of & that they are entitled to the working conditions which most of us just take for granted.”
“Without our voice, without our fight, nothing will change. Even a half
day work abstention, where we all come together and refuse to give our
labour across the world as part of this year’s global campaign, will
show the corporations, the governments, the wealthy, something they want
us to forget: We are the powerful ones. They are not powerful.”