22 May 2013

Garment Factory Safety

I just unsubscribed from Banana Republic's email list.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that this was hard to do.  A significant percentage of the clothing I wear comes from them, because their tall sizes fit me really well.  But I won't be shopping there again until they commit to improving conditions in the factories that supply them.

Most of the huge US retailers have refused to sign the agreement, though it has been signed by a number of European retailers.  In the US, Walmart is a predictable hold-out, along with JC Penney and Gap, Sears and LL Bean.

The exceptions are Abercrombie and Fitch, of "we don't want your business if you're fat" fame, along with Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.

So where will I be shopping, in the future?  H&M, based in Sweden, has signed.  Patagonia and REI are committed to social justice and have created their own procedures to make sure factories are safe and don't employ children, but without oversight, you have to trust their internal mechanisms.  American Apparel manufactures all of their clothing in the USA.

Thrift shopping takes you a step away from the conditions in which the clothing was made.  Do people justify shopping for more clothing because they assuage their guilt by giving castoffs to Goodwill? I have no idea, but the "one in, one out" school of clutter control points in that direction.

I'm also always trying to commit to not shopping at all.  Do I really need another new item of clothing?  Probably not for a long time. Shoes, however, are another matter: with all the walking I do in NYC, I do go through them.

Next up: figuring out where to find responsibly manufactured running shoes.

20 May 2013

Ten of Tens: Fail

The plan for the year was to try on a new ecologically sound habit during each of ten months, giving myself a pass for November and December because they're so dark and dismal and it's difficult to do anything new.  I'm almost halfway through the ten months and I can't say I'm impressed with myself.

In January, I tried to eat more local food.  That's not such a major challenge in the summer, when we participate in Community-Supported Agriculture (pay up front, get a share of whatever grows) and the farmers' markets are full of fresh produce, and biking to them is a nice outing.  In January, when biking requires ten minutes to put on outerwear and the markets' offerings are thin anyway, it's not so easy.  So maybe that wasn't the best challenge for the month.  Fail.

I did, however, cut way back on take-out, avoiding all the single-use packaging.  In February, I tried again to go more local, again with the most limited of results, but I kept away from take-out food.

I also started doing yoga for a few minutes every day.  That habit has stuck -- I've missed only a handful of days in the past very busy month, and have paid for every one of them.  It's not specifically ecological in nature, but who knows where it might lead me.

In March, I set the bar really, really low and tried to take shorter showers and use less water while washing dishes.  I managed.  I continue to do a little better in that area.  Like I said... low bar.

The plan for April was to get serious about reducing clutter, going through all the closets in the apartment, pruning excess, recycling and donating to thrift shops.  I made one trip to the textile recycling booth at Tompkins Square; I gathered up some toys that The Offspring is finished with, but didn't manage to get to the Salvation Army to drop them off.

May?  I didn't even set an intention.  And I backslid wildly on not eating take-out, stopping at least weekly for Chinese take-out before getting the train home and even ordering in from the office.

I did, though, have the wild idea of starting a Facebook group for medievalists interested in ecocriticism.  It wasn't on the original list, but that list was intended as a way to try out a few environmentally sound habits in the hopes that some of them would stick, rather than as a rigid road-map. 

Eating at home, or packing meals, has been the only one with any traction, and despite the recent fall off the wagon, I'm energized to plan better and recommit to that.

So... I'm officially giving up on May. And for June?  I'm having minor surgery on May 30 so I'll plan to spend the recovery time reading Ecological Economics to educate myself better on both economics and ecology.

16 May 2013

Bike To Work Day

Tomorrow is Bike To Work Day, the middle of Bike Month, and I'm going to walk the walk, or roll the roll, and do it -- though it means leaving home at 6:15 a.m. to get to a 9:00 meeting by way of my crazy bike-train-bike commute.

It means I have to set the alarm for 5:30 a.m.

I'm not a morning person.

Setting an alarm for earlier than 6 a.m. makes me feel like it's barely worth going to bed in the first place.

However, by the time I'm out on wheels ahead of rush hour, I know I'll be happy.  And I'll be even happier when I'm on my way home via bike/train/bike and the roads into New York City are clogged with traffic.

How about you? Can you swing a bike ride to work tomorrow?

09 May 2013

Bike Question

No time for blogging, so just a quick question about how you keep your pant legs away from your bike chain:

stuff them in your socks?
roll them up?
use a strap or other doodad to corral them?