Fair Trade and Organic Cotton: Always in Style!

untitled-10As consumers, we’re inundated with endless clothing options. Unfortunately, we live in a world of fast fashion, in which the price of most brand-name clothing is so low that we’re enticed to continually purchase more. The low prices on sale tags, however, are not indicative of the full costs—both social and environmental—of the items that we purchase. Rather, the full costs are paid every day by the planet’s ecosystems and workers around the world, many of whom grow and pick pesticide-laden cotton under deplorable conditions.

As Adria Vasil writes in the 2008 national bestseller, Ecoholic, cotton production uses 10% of the world’s pesticides and 25% of its insecticides. Many of these chemicals are carcinogens, and all of them pose serious risks to ecosystems and human health. Chemical residues also remain on cotton during clothing manufacturing, meaning that factory workers and, ultimately, consumers, are exposed.

In addition to the problems caused by chemicals, the cotton industry also uses massive amounts of water, and is guilty of human rights abuses, including child labour.

So, what’s a socially and environmentally conscious fashionista to do? Don’t despair! Fair Trade and organic cotton options abound. Although uncommon in most popular retail stores, several businesses in Ottawa sell socially and environmentally responsible clothing, including clothing made with organic or Fair Trade cotton.

While it remains difficult to find clothing that is produced with cotton that is both Fair Trade and organic, remember that certified organic cotton remains your assurance that workers and the environment have not been exposed to harmful pesticides and insecticides.

The following Ottawa stores sell clothing made with Fair Trade and/or organic cotton:

Mountain Equipment Co-op, 366 Richmond Road

Green Tree Eco Fashion, 358 Richmond Road

Adorit Boutique, 153 York Street

Terra20, 2685 Iris Street

And, if you prefer to shop online, here are two great websites with numerous organic and Fair Trade options:

www.ethicalocean.com

www.mightynest.com (This site carries a wide selection of organic bed and bathroom linens!)

Although these products are typically more expensive than what consumers are used to paying for pants, sweaters, and the like, their higher prices reflect the high ethical and environmental standards to which they are produced. Ultimately, by purchasing Fair Trade and organic cotton clothing, we choose to participate in a socially and environmentally responsible mode of consumerism. Although fashion trends change by the season, sustainable consumerism will always be in style!

Wake Up and Smell the Roses

Michael Creighton with Councillor Katherine Hobbs (Kitchissippi)

Summer is officially here, and with it the presence of fragrant flowers and greenery. This time of year, consumers may want to add some colour to their homes or gardens, or perhaps surprise a significant other with a bouquet of red roses. Whatever the occasion, the steps to producing these beautifully cut flowers are not questioned often enough. Like the title suggests, perhaps it’s time to change that.

Today, most flowers imported to Canada come from Latin America. The working conditions for those producing flowers are far from what one might imagine. Unlike the images of a cozy greenhouse or an endless garden full of blossoms, workers in many flower-growing operations are unfortunately exposed to a number of highly toxic pesticides and fertilizers. There are also more female workers than male in this industry, but women’s wages are less than men. Low wages, no benefits, and short-term contracts complete the job description.

In comparison, certified Fair Trade growers champion the equality of salaries for both sexes, which must be minimum wage or higher. Fair Trade also ensures health and safety measures are followed to avoid injuries related to the production of flowers. These safety regulations also limit the use of pesticides for a more secure working environment. If you’re considering purchasing imported flowers, keep these facts in mind, and you’ll realize that Fair Trade flowers are the way to go!

Alternatively, purchasing flowers grown in Canada is a great way to support local businesses and to take comfort in the fact that they were grown in good, safe working conditions. Tivoli Florist is a great example of an Ottawa-based business supporting such a cause. Their website reads, “We insist that all of our flowers and plants be sourced from growers who are certified ‘Fair Trade’ and who treat their employees and the environment respectfully.” This kind of attitude makes change possible…one flower at a time.

July 2013 newsletter

headerlogo_600July 2013

What a WestFest!

FTOÉ joined the fun in Ottawa’s Westboro neighbourhood on June 8 and 9. While thousands swarmed the streets and took in the concerns and festivities, our team set up shop in front of the Ten Thousand Villages on Richmond Road to spread the news about Fair Trade. Armed with FT chocolates, fruit and iced tea, we entertained many passers-by while dressed as bananas, but the most popular attraction was the Fair Trade banana cut-out — seemed like everyone wanted to emulate us and even have their pictures taken as a banana!. Those who dared to go in front of our camera had the chance to enter to win a TTV gift basket worth $50 — congratulations to our winner, Jack Kardaras. Thanks to everyone for a great time!

A Vision for the Future (it’s closer than you think!)

Where is Fair Trade headed in Ottawa? Ask some of FTOÉ’s devoted volunteers, who met on June 23 to come up with a vision of our plans for the coming weeks and months. Along with working toward Fair Trade status for Ottawa, we are preparing for greater involvement of the community, becoming a hub of information on Fair Trade for the city and, in the longer term, creating a culture of ethical consumption in Ottawa. We have some ambitious goals — and if you feel like you’re up to the task to help us fulfill them, we’d love for you to join us as a volunteer (see below)!

Community on the Pitch

On June 30, FTOÉ joined some of the city’s most enthusiastic recreational soccer fans at Brewer Park for the Community Cup. This event is in part a celebration of Ottawa’s diversity and is a way of welcoming newcomers to Canada, as part of Canada Day weekend. Along with the soccer games, children’s activities and dance demonstrations, we were at the community tables to explain to visitors why Fair Trade status would be another reason to feel welcome to Ottawa! We also gave away two Fair Trade soccer balls from Play Fair — the winners’ names will be announced in the next issue.

A Fair Trade Night at the Movies!

Miss the days of the drive-in movie? You don’t even need a set of wheels (except human-powered ones) to come out to Dundonald Park and enjoy what the Boston Globe calls an “inspirational thriller.” FTOÉ is partnering with Engineers without Borders and Centretown Movies to present The People and the Olive on Friday, July 26 (show starts at sundown). The film documents the suspenseful trek of American ultra-marathoners along the West Bank as they support Palestinian Fair Trade olive farmers, plant olive trees and bridge cultures. FTOÉ will be giving away Fair Trade coffee from Bridgehead, and Fair Trade and organic chocolate from Cocoa Camino. You can also sample Fair Trade olive oil, provided by Ten Thousand Villages, and pick up a $2 coupon for olive oil from TTV stores in Ottawa. The park is at Somerset Street West between Bay and Lyon streets. Donations accepted.
The People and the Olive.
Centretown Movies.

Spotlight on: Adorit Boutique

As FTOÉ starts ramping up to applying for Fair Trade status for Ottawa, we’d like to highlight some of the businesses that have offered letters of support to FTOÉ on our quest.
Adorit Boutique houses a fabulous collection of Canadian-made and Fair Trade clothing and accessories, as well as good for the home from around the world, all made in a Fair Trade manner. All clothing and accessories are made with recycled and reclaimed fabrics, guaranteeing that each and every piece is a unique one-of-a-kind treasure.

Join our Fabulous Team!

FTOE is looking for Fair Trade enthusiasts to help us out with outreach, communications (including social media) and other activities such as fundraising. Join the FTOE family by donating a few hours a week or month. For more info, see our getting involved page.