“If you ever think you’re too small to be effective, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito!”
— Wendy Lesko, Youth Activism Project
Our individual decisions impact the health of our communities, our climate and our environment. The longevity of our planet will rely on leaders who not only understand the impact their individual choices have on those they lead, but the powerful role of collective choices in overcoming social, economic and environmental challenges.
If you don’t believe our day-to-day choices can make a difference, then here is the hard data.
- 1 million disposable cups end up in landfill every minute. Since 2009, switching to reusable cups has diverted 3.5 billion of disposable cups from landfill. (KeepCup)
- As a nation we waste 1 out of every 5 shopping bags of food (OzHarvest). If the food wasted around the world was reduced by just 25%, there would be enough food to feed all the malnourished people on this planet. (Think.Eat.Save)
- In one week we go through 10 million plastic bags worldwide. Many of these end up polluting our oceans. By 2050 it is estimated there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. (Plastic Free July)
- In order to give us the latest trends at the lowest cost, clothing production is outsourced overseas and often manufactured by children. More than 7 times the population of Australia are in child labour. (More in The high cost of cheap clothing TEDx talk)
- If every person in the world consumed like we do in Australia, we would need 4.8 Earths to sustain us. (BBC News)
Where we invest our time and money matters.
Take your t-shirt; the choice you made in buying that brand impacted the person who made it, who delivered it and who sold it to you. The choice of material, the t-shirt’s packaging, whether you chose to take it in a plastic bag, how many times you choose to wash and dry it and what you decide to do with it once you no longer want it all have a social and environmental impact.
When you think about it like this, it is important to ask, ‘where do my clothes come from?’
Not sure? Luckily, there is help out there to make sure we make more informed, ethical consumer choices.
Earlier this year, the GLP team volunteered for Good on You, a social business that rates brands on how they perform on labour rights, the environment and animal welfare. They’ve done the hard work for you and put these ratings into an app, making it easy for you, as a consumer, to support the brands doing good and use your purchasing power to tell the not so ethical brands to do better.
Good on You currently rates fashion, footwear and accessory brands but is hoping to expand into the cosmetics industry. The GLP team helped with the extensive research Good on You undertakes to set up a rating scheme and assess brands. We researched cosmetic certification schemes, which Good on You builds into their rating system, and the specific issues associated with cosmetic production. Here’s just a couple of the things we discovered:
- Child labour is a significant issue in the cosmetics industry. Child labour is endemic to the mining of mica, a mineral that is extracted to create the ‘shine’ in cosmetics. Children in the mines risk scorpion and snake bites, mine collapses and respiratory illnesses.
- Palm oil, which is used in soap, moisturisers and washing powder, has been linked to deforestation, climate change, animal cruelty and human rights violations.
- Microbeads, tiny plastic beads found in many cosmetics, predominantly exfoliating products, are not biodegradable and pollute oceans with a detrimental impact on fish, coral and reefs.
These issues sound insurmountable. But, think of the mosquito. Think of the power of consumer choice in driving businesses to be more sustainable, ethical and fair.
You can contribute to the prosperity of our planet every time you make a choice.
Do you want to support the work of Good on You?
Start by making more informed purchases and download the Good on You app.
Follow the Good on You Facebook page and The Good Edit blog to keep up to date on environmental and labour issues in the fashion industry, ethical brands, material guides and sustainable gift ideas (just in time for Christmas!).
Volunteer for Good on You. Good on You is looking for Ethical Detectives and Verifiers. As an Ethical Detective you will sort the good guys from the baddies to rate brands and products against specified criteria. You can work anywhere you have a laptop and Internet access. Verifiers are more senior researchers who review and add to the work of Ethical Detectives.
Volunteering for Good on You is applicable for GLP credit. Please get in touch with your GLP Advisor for more details.