Each month at the Gate, we set ourselves a monthly Green Gate Challenge. Green Gate is what we call our sustainability policy and we like to embark on monthly challenges.
The challenges are about changing how we think in the long term (and not just for that month), but we’ve found that giving each month a focus helps us keep sustainability and our Green Gate Policy at the forefront of our thinking as an organisation.
This month we decide to think more carefully about where our clothes came from.
It’s not something you always think about in terms of sustainability, focusing as you often do on energy consumption, waste and travel, but here at the Gate, our Marketing and Audience Development Officer was putting in an order for some t-shirts for our Street Team in Edinburgh, and she did some hunting and found a company (Street Shirts) that made t-shirts that were:
100% toxin free
Completely vegan-friendly and our inks contain no animal by-products
Certified as safe for children and babies
This, naturally, inspired our next challenge… to find out where our clothes came from, what they are made of and who was making them. Armed with a map and pin board, we began to mark out where our clothes were being made and began some investigation work.
Here’s what we found!
And, as always, why not begin your own investigations…
An ASOS delivery is very common at the Gate Offices, and so I decided to look up where a few of my many ASOS clothes items were made: China and India. Hardly local. Armed with this, I hunted down the Corporate Responsibility section of the ASOS website. To their credit, their website holds lots of information on their about sustainable sourcing and ethical trading, but perhaps too much. Lots to read: many ‘pledges’, sustainability jargon, and, perhaps, not a lot of cold, hard facts about individual clothing items. This challenge reminded me that clothing really is still mystified in terms of ethical sustainability, in a way that food and drink is moving away from. It made me think, what would happen if you had to list on a price tag: who made your clothes, how much they got paid to make them and where they were made.
That would help us make more conspicuous consumer choices.
Chrissy Angus, General Manager
Ever since the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, I have been really aware that my buying patterns affect lives. In 2016 I made a commitment to only buy ethically traded clothes. I think it’s really important that we ask provenance questions about our clothing just like we do about our food. Where did your jumper come from? Who made it? What were the conditions like in which it was made? Was that person paid appropriately for their work? Were they treated fairly? Are they allowed the same luxuries we are: running water, breaks, weekends, sick pay, pension, compensation if they get hurt? I recently set up a theatre company and this summer we are making a piece for festivals that explores the lives of garment workers in Bangladesh and the hours of research has definitely made me view the big retailers differently.
This month, it was fascinating thinking of the people behind my clothes, even those from Oxfam or ethically responsible companies like Peopletree, but also thinking further about the miles my wardrobe had had to travel to make it to me. Binge clothes shopping and all the packaging and shipping that goes with that isn’t doing the planet any favours! I really hope that I can make my 2016 commitment, to buy in an ethically responsible way, a life commitment.
Fiona English, Development Manager