let's take my hunt for sweaters, for example. the main help for me in simplifying and being fair trade-minded has been embracing the simple wardrobe. over a couple years, i was able to decrease the size of my wardrobe more and more in the pursuit of finding my working number of items in each category, be it sweaters, pants, tops, whatever. i definitely believe in a happiness arc, for myself. i believe that there is a certain point at which more goes from making me happier and making life better…to the point at which more begins to make me feel more unhappy, stressed and heavy. one sweater might have me wanting one more, but 10 is definitely too many. over time, i've found 4-5 sweaters to be the number with which i am most happy. i wear a sweater every day for at least 6 months of the year.
i started the season by taking out my five sweaters. most fair trade of all is reusing what we have. i've been wearing the same sweaters year after year…and mostly they have been just what i need and like to wear. this year, i felt it was time to replace a couple of my beloved, but bedraggled looking sweaters. a few stains hadn't come out of one cardigan and the cuffs were dingy looking. i wore that sweater so much and enjoyed it very much for years. i really like the other sweater, but it doesn't go with my tops and i hadn't worn it more than a couple times per year for a while. i think both sweaters were about 10 years old. they have been donated.
i looked through all the knitting patterns i could find. becoming the producer of your own clothing and using fairly made materials is fair trade. i love this yarn, made from american sheep in america. my payment for making a sweater is wearing it! i do like to knit, but as i've written before, i don't always love the outcome. i just never know if the sweater is going to turn out 3 inches too wide or too narrow. i didn't feel like that was the right choice either.
here's the thing: somewhere along the line, i found a couple sweaters i liked from one of my favorite (who knows how fair trade it is) stores. they have a social responsibility statement... that i have read. i struggle with how to read it, however…with trust or suspicion. i don't know for certain how appropriate "the minimum wage" is in these countries, or what "inappropriate deductions" from a workers salary might be qualified as. i don't know what "extraordinary business circumstances" would qualify as allowing workers to work over 60 hours per week or how this would be enforced. i don't know if monitoring is sufficient or if appropriate action is taken when infractions are uncovered. i feel a twisting in my chest. i am struggling.
what i keep coming back to is the simple wardrobe. the less i need, the less i buy. the more i love the item, the longer it lives in my closet. i have to believe that these are some of the best fair trade principles. when it comes to purchasing, i need to keep my values at the forefront of my mind. for right now, my three remaining sweaters will suffice. one is off having a hole repaired at the moment, but it is supposed to be 84 degrees today…so i think i'll be alright. :)
any struggles or triumphs for you fair trade-wise lately? we'd love to hear about them!