Fashion Revolution: Know The Origin

Know The Origin

Ethical fashion movement Fashion Revolution encourages us to ask Who made my clothes? To make us think before we buy, to make us question brands, and to make us appreciate our clothes and the craft that goes into making them.

This week (24-30 April) is Fashion Revolution Week, remembering the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster where over 1,100 people lost their lives as the unsafe clothing factory they worked in collapsed. A campaign aim is for this to never happen again but for this to be a reality we need changes across both fashion production and consumption. We as consumers need to demand ethical clothing and brands need to demand fair working conditions in the factories they use.

It is promising to see brands starting to do things differently by approaching their business in an ethical and transparent way. Big brands are putting pressure on their suppliers and small ones are finding innovative ways to ensure visibility and a more personal approach to craftsmanship and production. New clothing brand Know The Origin has, as you can tell by its name, based its whole business approach around the concept of transparency with its website showing the whole journey of your item, from the farmed cotton to the finished product.

The brand is honest with a genuine passion for the trade as well as the finished product and how this should be cared for with a page on the website dedicated to how we should love our clothes by taking care of them to ensure they last.

I spoke to founder Charlotte to find out more about her approach and thoughts on the industry.

 

How did Know The Origin come about? I think it came out of necessity! I was studying at London College of Fashion when the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh highlighted the profit-over-people mentality of the fashion industry. I knew I had a desire to create awesome clothing after university, but I refused to be a part of the current exploitative system. Know The Origin started as an answer to my stubbornness and desire to support the people and environment involved in garment production!

What makes Know The Origin different to other brands? We are uncompromising! We want people to have access to affordable, stylish clothing that celebrates the people and environment involved in making every garment. We love creating pretty wonderful clothing that recognises and respects the story behind it from seed to garment! Why would we want to do anything less?!

Your approach is focussed around transparency – why is this important? Transparency creates brand-customer accountability. This essentially means there is nowhere for any dark, not-so-green secrets to hide because consumers have all the information about exactly where each part of the garment is made. We love transparency because it’s just another way for us to show off how awesome our producers are!

Changing the fashion industry is a mammoth task, how can you as a small brand make a difference? It’s actually such a strength being a small brand. Big, established brands don’t have the flexibility we do so completely changing the ethical supply chains is much harder. As a small brand we get to start from the bottom up. Find incredible producers and then build our collections. This means as we grow, we already have relationships with our producers so we can ensure ethical practices as well as use our business to support the great work they do in their communities!

Where do you want Know The Origin to be in 10 years? In 10 years we would love to be a mainstream name! Know The Origin is all about bringing ethical fashion into the mainstream by being affordable, fashionable and uncompromising in our values. The dream would be to have high street stores proving other brands and consumers that fashion can be done differently.

Where do you think the fashion industry will be in 10 years? I hope ethical values will be the norm within the industry in 10 years! I think customers will be demanding a lot more from their brands in terms of minimum standards in the treatment of workers and the environment, we can see that happening already, but there will still be a lot of work to do in order to make that happen! It’s exciting to think of how different it will look though!

 

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Sustainable and ethical fashion // Springtime favourites

As it’s now April it’s high time to stop hibernating and head out to enjoy sunshine and blossoming trees. And to change the wardrobe around from being all about layering and keeping warm to embracing lighter colours and potentially even showing a bit of skin.

To celebrate that we’ve passed the Spring Equinox I’ve put together a wish-list of Spring fashion with a quartet of sustainable and ethical pieces.

Top left: I’m currently loving Fashionable’s bags and their business model that provides employment to women in Africa and the US who have overcome extraordinary circumstances, ranging from prostitution to homelessness to addiction to a lack of opportunity. This bag (Alem) is named after one of the women they work with, and it’s handcrafted in Ethiopia (and Mexico) from 100% genuine distressed leather.

Top right: This sweater from Zady is made from wool of Alpacas raised in their natural habitat in the Andes mountains of Peru. The fiber is sorted, washed, combed and spun in nearby Arequipa, Peru, where solar panels provide 80% of the energy the facilities need. The final product is then crafted in New York and is created to last.

Bottom left: In love with this pair of trousers. Made by Study NY that uses sustainable materials and produces its clothing in New York City. Handwoven, made from 100% wool in black/grey tweed.

Bottom right: Handmade in a small shoe factory outside Florence, Italy, this espadrille is made in Italian goat chevreau leather, by Blankens that combines Scandinavian style with European craftsmanship.

 

 

 

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The best sustainable shopping spots in London

The growing interest for sustainable fashion, local produce and handmade crafts has subsequently seen a growing trend of independent boutiques across London with this as their main focus. If you’re looking to avoid the high street with all its fast fashion there are loads of great markets, pop-up shops and established boutiques that offer you a more sustainable alternative.

Here’s a guide to some of my favourite shopping spots in the capital:

Broadway Market and 69b, Hackney. The market on Broadway Market by London Fields in Hackney is open on Saturdays, offering locally produced food as well as vintage clothing and crafts. On the same street, at number 69b, there’s also a shop with the same name, selling sustainable fashion from environmentally and socially conscious brands.

Here Today Here Tomorrow, Dalston. Fashion shop that sells its own brand of Fairtrade products, mainly wool clothing made by artisans in Nepal.

The Third Estate, Camden. Camden boutique selling vegan fashion from Fairtrade UK and international brands.

The Keep Boutique, Brixton. This boutique has, since opening in September 2012, been selling sustainable fashion for women and men who want fashionable clothing that has a story and that will last.

Columbia Road Flower Market, Shoreditch. On Sundays, the flower market on Columbia Road is open between 8am and 2pm – make sure you get there as early as possible as it’s crammed at lunchtime! Get there early, have a coffee in one of the small coffee shops and go for a wander down the street looking at people and beautiful flowers. There are loads of great boutiques and stalls with local arts and crafts as well as vintage bits and bobs (I always find gorgeous glasses and cups there).

Brick Lane, Shoreditch. Sundays are also good days to head to Brick Lane and the many markets around the street and Spitalfields. You’ll also find excellent vintage shops such as Absolute Vintage and Beyond Retro. On Commercial Street, parallel to Brick Lane, there’s also As Nature Intended that sells sustainable and organic groceries as well as beauty products.

Content Beauty & Wellbeing, Marylebone. If you’re in Central London, Marylebone is always a good place to go for a nice stroll, and whilst you’re there, head to Content Beauty & Wellbeing. It’s small but has got an excellent selection of organic and natural beauty products and they also offer treatments following the same principles.

Selfridges, Oxford Street. At the moment, there’s also a focus on sustainability at Selfridges on Oxford Street with their windows showing fashion labels using sustainable materials. They’re running the campaign Material World questioning the effect different materials have on the environment and have got a selection of sustainable labels across the store.

 

This piece was first published in Swedish on sustainable lifestyle site Continuation Magazine.

 

 

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Using our purchasing power to support women

True sisterhood extends past your closest friends and family. It reaches across your professional life where you’re able to support and mentor other women to gain self esteem, do well, get promoted. It should also extend across your way of living and consuming. Today, on International Women’s Day, and on all other days, we should choose to consume media/movies/music/services/products that respect women.

When looking at fashion for example, one can see that the garment industry is one of the most female-dominated industries in the world, with women making up 90% of the workforce in countries like Cambodia. But even though many of these women work for some of the world’s most profitable companies, they work under dreadful conditions for very little pay.

Employment is key to female empowerment but the exploitation of women that is often the case in the industry is not the solution. Instead, we should support brands that truly make a difference to women’s right to make a decent living.

T-shirts with feminist slogans are all the rage at the moment, but if the woman who made it wasn’t paid fairly then that defeats the purpose. Buying any t-shirt, but one that is produced ethically with the (most likely) female garment worker being paid properly for the job, is most definitely a better way to truly support the female movement. Or take a look at brands such as Lawrenson that both use feminist slogans and ethical manufacturing processes.

Here are a few other brands doing great things to support and empower women through their work:

Raven + Lily. Fashion and home accessories designed in Austin, Texas and hand made in countries like Pakistan, India, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Kenya and Peru. Over 1,500 marginalised women are employed at fair trade wages, giving them access to a safe job, sustainable income, health care, and education.

Krochet Kids. Each item is hand made by women in Uganda or Peru, with a note added to each item telling the buyer who made it and what the impact has been for the maker. The women also gets education and mentoring to ensure they can plan for a sustainable future for them and their families.

Sseko. Their slogan is ‘Wear Sseko, send a girl to college’ as they employ high potential women in Uganda to support them achieving their goal of getting a college education. All products are designed and ethically made in East Africa.

FashionABLE. An accessories brand with a strong belief in job creation rather than charity. They work with women in Africa as well as the US who have overcome extraordinary circumstances, ranging from prostitution to homelessness to addiction to a lack of opportunity.

 

 

 

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Minimalism vs Living Lagom

There are trends in all aspects of living – fashion styles; diets; types of classes to take at the gym; types of coffee; places to go for holiday; what social media app to use. Most of these often promote a rather stressful lifestyle where it’s important to always keep up with the latest. But some make us re-evaluate our lifestyles and consider how we can truly make a difference to our lives, as well as the planet and people around us. The trends of minimalism and living ‘lagom’ are two of these.

The minimalist way of living has most recently reached many through The Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (see their documentary Minimalism on Netflix and read their books), encouraging people to live more with less. And the idea of living ‘lagom’ is currently mainly a campaign by IKEA, with a focus on the Swedish word meaning ‘just the right amount’, not too much, not too little.

Neither of these approaches tell you to get rid of all your stuff, but to consider what you need, and what you don’t need. In general, in the Western World, we don’t need all the stuff we surround ourselves with and we don’t need to constantly be buying more stuff. The current ‘normal’ is not sustainable. But following a minimalist lifestyle may be too much hard work for some, and if you’re one of these people then living ‘lagom’ could potentially be the middle ground you’ve been looking for.

Ultimately, living with less stuff should make room for other things in life. Experiences. Love. Freedom.

English designer William Morris once said that you should “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. A great way of thinking as it doesn’t encourage excessive buying but it also allows you to surround yourself with the things you love, whether that’s your book collection, the art on your wall or your favourite cushions on your sofa.

Being more conscious of what we have in our home and our life is key to both these ways of living. Asking yourself the question of whether something adds value to your life. If it does then by all means keep it, but if it doesn’t then it’s probably one you should sell on eBay or give away to someone who can make better use of it. Letting go of stuff is a process and we don’t have to answer to anyone else, only ourselves. But the likes of de-cluttering expert Marie Kondo are there to help you if you get stuck.

 

“A home does not need to be planned down to the smallest detail or contrived; it should be an amalgamation of the things that its owner loves and feels at home with.”

– Josef Frank

 

I’m about to do a big move (more on this at a later stage) and I’m seeing this as a great opportunity to start new. De-clutter. Think about what I really want and need. What is important, and importantly, what isn’t?

I’d like to aspire towards minimalism but think it’s more likely I’ll end up at ‘lagom’. But I’d like to think that as long as your own ‘lagom’ is a healthy middle ground between enjoyable and sustainable you’ve landed somewhere just right.

 

 

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Sustainable and ethical loungewear favourites

This time of the year is definitely the time to be lounging around. Christmas is long gone but it’s still ages until spring will arrive, and it’s freezing outside so you might as well just stay in with hot drinks, blankets and great movies. And of course great loungewear.

There’s so much nice stuff out there in terms of high quality loungewear that makes you feel comfy whilst looking good/stylish/sexy and even though I struggle to throw out old sweats that definitely have seen their best days, making some ethical and sustainable additions wouldn’t hurt.

So I’ve put together a conscious edit with gorgeous loungewear wish list items – hope you like them!

Top left: Gorgeous hand block printed T-shirt and shorts by Eight Hour Studio, made from 100% GOTS certified organic cotton. Their loungewear comes from traditional Indian woodblock printing methods, natural fibres and production based on fair trade labour practices.

Top right: Long ‘drape’ nightie by Noctu, made from 100& organic jersey cotton that’s GOTS and Fairtrade certified.

Bottom left: Perfect for lounging around, not too loose, not too tight. Ethically made from 100% organic cotton by Organic Crew in Melbourne, Australia.

Bottom right: Lounge/sleep shirt by Underprotection, made from bamboo satin so has got that silky feel and is stronger than cotton. It’s made in a New Dehli based factory certified by Fair Wear Foundation.

 

 

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Five steps towards clean and ethical beauty

Many of us are most often very conscious of what we put inside our bodies by eating healthily but also looking at whether our food has been grown/produced locally and whether it’s an organic product free from chemicals. But what we chose to put on our bodies, on our skin, doesn’t alway get the same attention and thought.

When looking at key things I want to change and improve in 2017, it’s definitely to be more conscious of what I put on my skin and how these products are made. I’ve never been one to excessively use beauty products and haven’t spent much time figuring out what I ought to be using. But there was a Body Shop in the town where I grew up in the north of Sweden and my mum often used to take me and my sister so I got introduced to their ethics at an early age. And it has stayed with me to the extent that I’ve never really bought any beauty products from anywhere else. Until L’Oréal bought them. They still do loads of good, but their ethos didn’t feel as genuine anymore and I’ve started looking elsewhere for smaller brands with stronger credentials.

Below are five things I try to look for to be a more conscious beauty shopper.

 

Natural ingredients. Chemicals, fillers and artificial colours can irritate the skin, and since our skin is our largest organ we really should treat it better. Toxic synthetic chemicals are included in most mainstream brands’ products and even though we often don’t know what they’ll do to us longer term or if they actually do us any harm, taking the risk seems unnecessary. Imelda Burke, founder of London natural beauty shop Content Beauty & Wellbeing, includes useful insight and helpful tips on ingredients to look for in her recent book The Nature of Beauty – definitely worth a read.

Earth-friendly. When ingredients are farmed and produced organically, we can be ensured the earth hasn’t suffered as it would from synthetic products. The chemicals from these products end up in the air and in our waters, through the manufacturing process as well as down the drain in our homes after we’ve had a shower using a synthetic shower gel for example. This is particularly a problem when it comes to products using microbeads, small pieces of plastic found in things like scrubs and toothpaste, as they enter the food chain when ending up in the ocean and get eaten by fish, but many countries, such as the UK are now banning these products. To help avoid plastics, steer clear of ingredients such as polythylene, polypropylene and polymethylmethacrylate. Instead, look for products including natural ‘scrub’ ingredients like the cobnut scrub from Mitchell and Peach in the picture above.

Less is more. Beauty ads tell us we need an abundance of products but this obviously isn’t true. What we need are some key products that keep us clean and moisturised, and perhaps a few extra for an added glow, but that’s essentially it. They don’t last forever (check the product’s label to see how many months it’ll last from you opening it) so sticking to a smaller number (of appropriate sizes) means you can finish them in time, rather than having to waste them because you had too many and haven’t had time to use them all before they expired. And, even though it may seem obvious, staying healthy by eating your 5-a-day and going for walks in the fresh air, will keep your natural beauty game on point, which subsequently means you won’t feel as though you need loads of products to stay looking fresh.

Sustainable packaging. Following on from the above point, where less products also mean less waste, when you do need to buy products, look for those in sustainable and recyclable packaging, such as glass bottles and soap wrapped up in paper. To avoid any waste you can also explore creating your own beauty products with things you’ve already got at home such as oils, honey and vinegar (a quick search online will give you loads of recipes and tutorials).

Ethical labour. Where was the product made? Who made it? Have they been paid fairly? What does the supply chain look like? Ask questions to help you make more conscious purchases – knowing where and how a product has been made makes it that much better. My current handwash favourite is from The Soap Co.* where products are produced from natural ingredients and packaged in recycled and recyclable packaging. But their ethics don’t stop there. The Soap Co. is also a social enterprise that provides training and employment for people who are visually impaired, have disabilities or are otherwise disadvantaged.

 

 

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How to be a more conscious consumer in 2017

Even though the ‘new year, new me’ mantra is a bit of a cliché I can’t help but feeling there’s new energy and motivation at the beginning of a new year. Most of us have had a nice relaxing break over Christmas, and you’ve toasted a happy new year with your friends.

I don’t change my life around on the 1st of January and I normally don’t set myself new year’s resolutions but more often than not I will have some sort of idea of what I want to achieve in the new year. In the last few years this idea has mainly reflected the kind of person I want to be, what I want to spend my time doing, and what kind of citizen I want to be in this world. And this has led me to living a more sustainable, conscious and minimalist lifestyle, which in turn has led me to feeling more content as well as more determined of how I want to lead my life. And it led me to start writing this blog – to have an outlet for my research and thoughts, and to hopefully inspire others to make more conscious decisions.

If you’re thinking that 2017 might be the year to start being a bit more conscious with what you buy/eat/do but not sure where to start, then the below may send you in the right direction.

 

Declutter. Start the year with a bit of a stock take and a clear out of things you don’t want anymore or haven’t used in ages. You can donate, recycle or throw away (if they can’t be fixed or re-used), and it might take a while but start by clearing out one thing per day or a few things each week. Eventually you’ll be left with things you love and things that are useful, and you’ll be on the path towards minimalism heaven.

Buy less but better. Once you have decluttered it’ll then be easier to be more conscious of the things you buy. Instead of getting stressed about buying the latest of everything, take a step back and look at what you’ve got already and what you actually need. And when you do buy something, take the time to find things that you really want, that are beautiful, and that will last for a long time. Maybe spend a bit more on each product than you normally would, but buying less and of better quality means you’ll save money in the long run.

Don’t buy new things. Looking after your things, and fixing them when they break is one way of decreasing the amount of new things you need to buy. And even when you do buy things, they don’t always have to be brand new. Vintage shops and local charity shops are good places to start, or you could attend a clothes swapping event, or even organise one yourself with colleagues or friends. Swapping clothes with friends or giving them clothes you don’t want anymore is the best way to clear out your wardrobe as donations sometimes end up wasted and textile recycling isn’t quite as developed as we would like. Essentially we need to buy less as we can’t just rely on recycling.

Ask who made it. Being more conscious of where things are made, and by whom, is key to be able to make more ethical choices. Ask questions. Has it been made locally? Who made it? Were they paid properly? When it comes to fashion, join Fashion Revolution and ask Who Made My Clothes?

Ask what it’s made of. Look for certified organic cotton when buying clothes, or check whether your beauty products have been approved by the Soil Association. In the textile industry there’s loads of exciting new developments with new types of more sustainable fabric, and skincare is going for a more natural look, so check labels and read on the back of bottles to be better informed. This is something I’m excited about for 2017 – learning more about what things are made of, especially the products we put straight on to our skin, so I guess that’s a new year’s resolution for me.

Take little steps. Changing your life and all your habits over night is never going to happen, and it probably shouldn’t. It’s healthy to take your time to adjust and to figure out what kind of lifestyle you want, as you’re then more likely to stick to it for longer. But set yourself some goals/motivational pointers, like, no new clothing purchases for three months, or to only buy ethical birthday presents this year, or to do Meatless Mondays.

 

Take your time. Don’t stress about it and don’t compare yourself to others. And don’t pressure yourself to do things you don’t want or get rid of things you love. Finding your own way of being more conscious is key so do let it take the time it takes. Maybe spend a few cold winter evenings reading up on minimalism, or do some research into ethical brands and start there. The more you know the easier it’ll be and you’ll feel more empowered, even if you’re just taking little steps at a time.

 

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Top conscious travelling tips for long-haul flights

Over the holidays I was lucky enough to visit the beauty that is New Zealand – an incredible destination for anyone wanting to be amazed by natural beauty. To be able to see such greatness, covering anything from beaches to glaciers, from mud pools to turquoise gorges cutting through mountains, was an absolute treat and it truly reaffirmed the beauty of our planet.

Unfortunately, I live on the other side of the world so New Zealand is a far-reached destination that requires an awful lot of flying, which isn’t doing any good for my carbon footprint. And going on such long flights isn’t very good for your body either. You are exposed to loud noises that could damage your hearing, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) risks are higher, and due to low cabin humidity you can easily get dehydrated.

Here’s a conscious edit to keep you a bit more comfortable on your next flight, whilst also sticking to your more sustainable and natural routines.

  • Wearing something comfy is key for me – the seat is uncomfortable as it is so being stuck in non-comfy clothing doesn’t help. On this trip I wore Boody leggings and top. Their comfy and long-lasting clothing is made from bamboo and they work with certified companies ensuring the process is as sustainable and chemical-free as possible.
  • Staying hydrated is important so make sure you bring extra water with you – to avoid having to buy and waste plastic bottles, bring your own reusable bottle and top it up at a drinking water point when you get to the airport (past security). Avoid caffeine and alcohol on the flight as both will dehydrate you further.
  • If there is a vegetarian food option then book this in advance to minimise the meat intake.
  • Pack light as more fuel is needed the heavier the plane is (and having to carry less stuff whilst on holiday is always a positive).
  • As you get dehydrated, so does your skin. Bringing smaller bottles of skincare products in your hand luggage that you can re-apply during the flight will save you. And this is also the perfect time to make use of all those samples you keep forgetting about at the bottom of some drawer. My favourite travel buddy was the Sodashi face mist that I applied whenever I felt dry and tired. Same with the REN lip balm and hand cream. (See full bag in photo above)
  • Offsetting your flight is a way to potentially make you feel less guilty for increasing your carbon footprint by travelling across the globe. Many airlines will have a scheme set up that you can tap into and there are also new initiatives such as carbotax.org that allows you to pay a voluntary ‘carbon tax’ to help offset your climate impact whilst protecting threatened forests.

Because of the fact that I live in a different country to my family and because of my love of travelling and exploring new parts of the world, I do need to fly every now and then. But considering taking the train more often, and going on weekend breaks closer to home, is something we should all be doing more of. And of course, when we do need to catch a flight there are various additional things we should be conscious of, like using public transport when getting to and from the airport, staying in eco-conscious accommodation, sticking to vegetarian and/or local food whilst at our destination etc etc.

What do you do to stay conscious when travelling? And do you have any tips for enduring long-haul flights? I’d love to hear them!

 

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A 5-day consumption journey from Black Friday to Giving Tuesday

chuck

When considering conscious consumption one can easily be overwhelmed by the fact that consumption itself doesn’t always come across neither conscious nor sustainable. The lead up to Christmas makes this even more obvious and the fairly recent introduction of the Black Friday concept kicks this off with a loud and intense bang at the end of November. On the day after Thanksgiving, instead of being thankful for what we’ve got, we’re encouraged to go out and spend our cash and buy buy buy.

After a weekend of shopping we’re then hit by Cyber Monday where, if we haven’t quite spent enough cash, we should head online for further deals and further spending, and it’s hard to see this tradition as anything but a campaign encouraging mindless and excessive buying of things we don’t necessarily need. But as many of us struggle to afford buying new things unless they’re on sale, this could be a good chance to get your hands on those items you’ve had your eyes on. And with the holidays coming up, with some good forward-planning, it’s a great opportunity to buy gifts for friends and family with a reduced budget. There’s also a movement to turn Black Friday into Green Friday, encouraging consumers to look for greener options and in that way make more conscious decisions.

But, essentially, the whole weekend screams SHOPPING. And it’s not easy making conscious Black Friday consumption decisions since a lot of smaller ethical companies can’t compete with the prices, and instead, it’s the big (tax-avoiding) corporates that are able to push the Black Friday/Cyber Monday campaigns.

We’re seeing Black Friday fatigue though with big supermarkets like Asda cancelling campaigns and outdoor retailer REI closing their stores, encouraging customers to go and enjoy the outdoors instead. Patagonia this year announced that all of their Black Friday sales would be donated to organisations working to save our planet – it worked and they’ll be donating $10m following record-breaking sales.

For those that are completely fed up with the phenomenon, there’s the backlash campaign Buy Nothing Day that encourages us to ‘shop less and live more’. But if we feel compelled to grab some bargains, to survive the weekend in an at least semi-conscious fashion, we should start it off by taking stock to avoid making any unnecessary purchases. As suggested by Chuck Palahniuk in the above quote, we should ask ourselves if we definitely need this item, whether we can find a greener version, and if it’ll last.

We will, ultimately, land at Giving Tuesday, giving us an opportunity to reflect/take a stand/give back and I’ve enjoyed seeing, over the last couple of years, how this has developed into a great tradition of charities not just asking for money but for giving thanks and giving time. From the consumers’ perspective, it shouldn’t be used as an offset day to make up for all the bad consumption decisions we’ve made over the weekend but a chance to truly engage in the spirit of giving. There’s potential of making this 5-day consumption rollercoaster into a money-saving weekend of conscious giving and some of the initiatives mentioned here are leading the way. I still see Black Friday as the darkest side of consumption but with brighter and greener initiatives there’s hope and I’m already intrigued to see what the 2017 edition has in store!

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