For obvious reasons, November has been a tough month for much of the country. However, I choose to appreciate all the people, brands, and causes that are striving to set a higher standard for humanity. This helps me focus on positive possibilities that can change an otherwise negative reality.
I was never crazy about tote bags, until I saw this one. In reading the product information online as I was making my purchase, I found out that the bag was made from a project that gave personal and financial development to women of Uganda that were impacted by LRA violence.
Although I usually only stand for products that also consider the environment, I decided to style an outfit around the tote because it seemed like a good chance to talk about the difference between ethical and eco products. Ethical products are made with a special attention to those making the products and the conditions, wages, and in this case education, trauma support, and financial literacy of the people making them.
Sometimes these products are made with sustainable materials and pre-industrial era artisanal manufacturing practices, but not always. In the case of this tote, it isn’t clear if the canvas was recycled or organic, and the use of leather is highly controversial.
On the other end of the spectrum, some products are made with sustainable materials but the conditions of the workers aren’t considered. For example, the Chinese government doesn’t allow international companies to do random audits of their manufacturers, so it’s impossible to know what the real daily conditions are like for the employees.
It’s important to know this difference because helping people and helping the planet aren’t necessarily related, but they should be. Too many brands think it’s okay to focus on one and not the other. I believe we can do better.