Category Archives: Earth-friendly

Do you know where your clothes come from?

It’s becoming really trendy to buy ethically. That coffee you sip each morning? Fair Trade, obvs! The apple you had after lunch? Well, local-grown, pesticide-free just tastes better! That t-shirt you’re sporting? Organic cotton, baby!

On the one hand, I love that society seems to be more concerned with what they consume. But the cynical side of me worries it’s just a trend. Having spent a number of years living in Vancouver, I’m very familiar with the hipster, go-green trend. Don’t get me wrong, some people truly live it and truly mean it. A lot of people. And that really is awesome. But for some, it’s more a case of “green is the new black.” And that’s not sustainable. (Yeah, that was intentional.)

Admittedly, I’ve been trying to “go green” myself for a while now. And, while I really do have the best of intentions, sometimes I’m not as diligent as I perhaps could or should be when it comes to my research. It’s not a trend for me, but sometimes, I embrace the “ignorance is bliss” opportunities for as long as possible. And worse, I’m sure I often allow myself to fall victim to “greenwashing“.

Worse than turning a blind eye where the environment is concerned, however, is turning a blind eye when it comes to the suffering of other people. This is a topic that makes me incredibly uncomfortable, because I know that as a typical consumer, I add to the problem. And I don’t know how to fix it.

Have you seen this video? It’s an awesome campaign. I love that they’re getting people to think, if only for a moment, about who is behind the clothing that we all wear. But it’s not enough. So you’re “aware” of the problem; that’s great. What can you do about it? That seems to be where the momentum stops. And not just slows down. Full-on stops. Period.

I have been trying for a while (and not just half-assed, either) to find ethical clothing brands. Ones who are fair to everyone along the supply chain, even those at the very bottom. Yes, I know, I could (and do!) buy from sites such as Etsy, where you can get handmade, quality items. But that’s not always practical when it comes to clothing. I like to have the opportunity to try the clothing on and make sure I actually feel good in it before I make a purchase. Plus, I live in Norway. I have no problem paying a higher price for quality, ethical clothing, but if it’s coming from outside the country, I’m facing some seriously hefty import taxes and, worse, a ridiculous “processing fee” for someone to send me an invoice about that tax. It gets pricey fast and there have been a couple occasions where I pay more in taxes/fees than I paid for the actual item. Absurdity at its finest. I would happily pay more to ensure the people who make the clothing I purchase make a decent living wage, but I don’t see how paying exorbitant fees here in Norway is helping anyone who actually needs it.

Ironically, buying more expensive clothing doesn’t guarantee the person at the bottom of that ladder is actually making a decent (or even liveable) wage, either. A lot of the top high-end brands source their clothing from the same places as the cheap brands. So while you’re paying top-dollar for a name on a tag, you’re likely getting something that came from the same sweatshop as that $8 tank top from the no-name brand. (Possibly the same quality too…)

I wish I could say I have solutions. So far, I don’t really. For one thing, I don’t think a “perfect brand” exists at this point. But if you’d like to learn more about where your clothing is coming from and start making “mindful” choices about it, here are a few good resources to get you started:

  • The Clean Clothes Campaign gives advice on what to look for when looking into your favourite brands. Their main focus is on workers’ rights.
  • Ethical Consumer is one of my go-to sites for advice on “going green” in Europe (it’s UK-based.) On this page, they address ethical clothing. (If you want to extend your ethical shopping to other areas of your consumer life, I recommend snooping around their site even further!)
  • In North America, there’s an awesome product review site that I generally refer to for info about personal care items such as shampoo, toothpaste, etc. They don’t have anything about adult clothing, but the GoodGuide has some children’s apparel information for a few companies.

And most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask. The more companies are questioned by their customers, the more likely they are to make a change for the better.

If you have tips or advice about shopping ethically, please feel free to share!

The wonders of home cooking

I love a good slow-cooked meal.  Growing up, the slow cooker – or crockpot, as we called it – was a staple of my dad’s (yep, dad was the cook in our household) kitchen.  The main recipe he employed it for was chilli and it was delicious!  I have yet to find a meal better suited to a cold, winter evening than a big bowl of steaming chili.  Yum!

When I first moved out on my own, there was no way I was going to spend my precious few expendable dollars on a slow cooker, so I made do without for a few years.  But when I settled down with my now husband and we started setting up house, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t really claim to have a “real” home without a slow cooker.  (Yes, I know I’m ridiculous.)  Well, slow cookers aren’t particularly commonplace in Norway.  If you were willing to shell out the big bucks – and here, I’m talking around $300 – you could get a pretty basic one, but it was no great shakes and I was NOT dropping that kind of cash on it even if it was.  When hubby and I got married, we had a slow cooker on our wish list and friends of ours were generous enough to actually get it for us.  (Yes, we’re spoiled.)  Unfortunately, the crockpot came from North America.  So, while we were able to get an adaptor for it that was supposed to convert voltage, etc., it was not a fan of Norwegian electricity, apparently.  The first time we used it, smoke came out from behind the control panel.  Yikes!  I get nervous leaving the crockpot (yes, I’m going to use the two terms interchangeably throughout this post, get used to it) on while we’re out of the house at the best of times.  Not gonna happen with one that’s smoking…

We packed the crockpot away with the intention of bringing it to Canada for my brother later (tried that… the lid shattered into a million pieces in my suitcase.  THAT was fun to clean up!)  Eventually, when Norway got a bit more adventuresome in the slow cooker department, we purchased one here.  It was still more expensive than I’d like to pay, but manageable.  And our home was finally filled with the glorious smells of a slowly perfected, home-cooked meals.

You’d think my (thus far kinda boring) story would end there, right?  Nope!  A while back, I stumbled across an interesting post on my Facebook newsfeed.  It was an electricity-free crockpot.  Say whaaat?!?!  This magical device is called a “Wonderbag.”  Basically, it’s a big, insulated bag, topped with a puffy little hat, closing in at the top.  All ingredients are brought to a boil on conventional stovetop.  Boil for about 20 minutes (this varies a bit,depending on the recipe) and then seal the pot into the Wonderbag.  The food continues to slowly cook as the hours pass.

I admit, I was a bit skeptical at first.  But the reviews looked good and I was intrigued.  Plus, I like the history of the company and that for every Wonderbag purchased, another is sent to a family in Africa.  I decided to try it out.  Checking out the various options available on the website, I was stoked to see one of the options not only provided a “sister bag” to a family in Africa, but that it was actually handmade by a woman in Africa (job creation), using recycled materials and part of the proceeds go to the World Wildlife Fund.  Sold!  I went for the purple one, of course.

A short wait later and my package arrived.  It was sent in a clear, plastic wrap, so I got a few questioning looks at the post office.  But this is Norway; they didn’t ask.  I excitedly brought my new kitchen toy home.  My husband snorted, “You know you can get the same result with a duvet, right?”  Hey, no raining on my parade, buddy!  So, what recipe to try first?  Chili, of course!

With help from my mom, visiting from Canada, I got all the ingredients prepped and thrown together and brought it all to a boil.  We let it boil for about 20 minutes, I put everything into a smaller pot (there’s supposed to be as little extra room in the pot as possible) and put it into the Wonderbag, sealing up the top.  Now, to wait.  7 hours later, it was time toeat.  Finally, the moment of truth.  Hubby opened up the bag, skeptical it’d still be warm enough, and out whooshed the scrumptious smelling steam.  Definitely warm enough.  And, oh, was it tasty!

Final verdict?  This one’s a winner.  The food turned out great, I love that it’s electricity-free so it saves energy and there’s no risk of a fire, and I feel good about supporting several great causes.  Yum all around!