If you’ve followed this blog for a while, or dipped into the archives, you’ll know that I am really interested in ethical fashion. When the book Green Is the New Black came out, I was excited to read it. The blurb suggests that it will “show you how to salve your desire and your conscience, enjoy the good life in style, and look eco-fabulous in high heels (and hemp knickers)”, and I think it pretty much does what that says.
I would describe it as mostly a shopping guide, although there are chapters on DIY, entertaining (yourself & others) and travel. I read a comment on its Amazon forum which complained that it didn’t acknowledge the part that over-consumption plays in the environmental crisis, but I would disagree. It does accept that people need to stop being so wasteful and emphasise that it is always best to thrift, mend or DIY, but it also accepts that it is hard to change old habits and that there are some things that people will need or want to buy. Clothes, accessories and make-up do wear or run out so it is impossible to stop shopping completely, and this book is a non-preachy, useful guide to what to do when you do need a new bra or pair of shoes, for example.
I did find the information on cosmetics to be somewhat lacking. It doesn’t explain what to avoid and what to look out for when buying make-up, hair or skin care products, and I could have made a few more suggestions of recommended brands myself. Perhaps that’s because I am a makeup nerd. Compared to every other section, the cosmetics one was the worst.
This book is pretty gentle. It will not make you feel bad for all the unethical shopping you have done in the past, or shock you into developing a conscience you didn’t have before. It doesn’t talk about why you should be concerned about ethical fashion , it assumes that you are already. Some people may consider this a weakness, but I actually think it is a strength. Global warming is a controversial subject, and there are still many people who don’t believe it exists and so are not concerned about the environment. This seriously annoys me! There are many other reasons why we should be concerned about the environment, besides global warming. Amongst other things, fossil fuels are running out, the natural habitats of many species are being destroyed, and industrial waste is damaging to our health. It would irritate me and alienate some people if the book were to only talk about global warming, the issue du jour. Green Is The New Black also takes social ethics (fair trading, et cetera) into consideration and it would be a much longer book if it were to deal with all these things. I’m happy it skips that bit and gets on to the fashion, I find that more respectful of my intelligence and awareness of current affairs, however, the book does include a list of “Green Reads” for anyone who wants to know more about the science and issues, and provides letter templates to encourage readers to write to clothing companies and demand they be more responsible.
The writer has obviously done a lot of research and tested a lot of products. However, this book is intended primarily for readers in the UK, and people in other countries would probably be doing more harm than good if they were to get products shipped from the companies Blanchard recommends! As I said before, it is very gentle in its approach, so if you are already a hardcore paragon of ethical consumption, this book would probably not be very interesting for you, but for everybody else it is an inspiring read and I would recommend it.
DahlMarch 5, 2008 at 7:24 pm
I’d love to get my hands on this book. Over the past few months I’ve been trying to consume more ethically because it all just gets to me; I made a stirfry earlier and was disgusted at the amount of packaging I chucked out! Does the book give any company specific info? I find it so hard to get a consistent view of companies’ ethical policies sometimes. There’s loads of information out there but some of it is very skewed and different raters have different baselines.
JulianneMarch 14, 2008 at 10:46 pm
It doesn’t really go into the ethical policies of specific companies, it just recommends a lot of more ethical products and companies. It’s not very detailed on that front really, but it is a shopping guide.
I think the problem with the majority of the information out there is that it focuses on the companies that are doing wrong, rather than telling us who we should support instead. I don’t know if there is any index of ethically sound companies, but I’ll have a look and if I find it I’ll blog about it for sure!