Good News and Bad News

I bought the most beautiful Ariat Plymouth boots yesterday. They were cute and comfortable. They also looked to be very well-made. Unfortunately, once I got home, I found that they were made in China. China has such a miserable record in terms of worker’s rights. They are known for both sweatshops and for using child labor. As much as I loved these boots, I cringe when I think about supporting these practices. I just can’t.

I bought them from a little independent shoe store in my neighborhood. Fortunately, the woman who owns the store was very nice about returning them. I’ve visited all my usual thrift stores at least three times each trying to find used boots. At this point, one of the best choices that I can make is to buy boots made in the US. The reason is that boots made in the US are less likely to be made using sweat shop labor. Or Fluevog (thanks for the recommendation, Beverly!)- they seem to be conscientiously made. But, they’re also spendy.

So, I’m still at it. But, this experience has me asking a bigger question. Why is it so hard to buy ethically made products? It seems like you have to spend a good bit of money in order to buy goods that aren’t made in sweatshops. So, it almost seems as if ethical buying is for the elite. This just seems so fundamentally wrong to me. But, it also rings true. Big box stores are filled with goods made in sweat shops. Try buying a “clean” computer. It’s virtually impossible. Soccer equipment? Sporting goods seem to be really tough. I know that we’re addicted to cheap goods. But, even those of us who are trying to slow down our consumption and buy ethically are left with egg on our faces.

So, what will it take to stop this? What will it take for people to truly be more important than money or things? What will it take in order for us not to have to try so hard to find shoes that weren’t made using child labor?

This has been difficult for me, and I’m educated with resources. How is someone who has neither resources nor education supposed buy ethically? It shouldn’t be so hard.

I’m not suggesting that we throw up our hands and give up. I think that there’s value in buying higher quality goods and taking care of them. I think that there’s value in increasing the amount of time between buying computers. I think it’s worth considering buying refurbished electronic equipment. You can read here about Apple’s use of child labor. But, I’m praying that we catch a vision of a more just, fair system that doesn’t reward the use of sweatshop labor. I’m praying that we’re able to slow down enough to be mindful about our purchases. I’m praying that as we demand more from those from whom we buy, that hopefully, over time, we’ll have the option to buy well-manufactured goods- including shoes, which is where I started, isn’t it? Honestly, if you think I’m intense in this blog, try sitting down at a table with me. I’d love to hear your thoughts about ethical purchasing. What challenges have you faced in trying to buy ethically? How have you changed your buying habits due to ethical concerns?


8 Comments on “Good News and Bad News”

  1. Clara says:

    I’ve written several of my own blog posts about my own struggles with the best way to buy something made ethically, so I totally understand where you are coming from. On the search for boots — have you tried Ebay? or Etsy (lots of vintage on here- I just scored a vintage pair of leather boots for $20, that are in EXCELLENT condition!)? Just another thought if you are seeking second-hand options. Best of luck in your search.

    • Robin Johnson Simpson says:

      It’s funny, Clara- I didn’t even think of Etsy (and it’s one of my favorite resources!). I’ve bought hand-made items on Etsy. Items made from recycled materials, but I don’t think about Etsy when it comes to vintage items. I’ll definitely give Etsy a look. And E-bay is a great suggestion. I’ve bought used clothing off E-bay before, and I’ve been pleased with it. I’m glad to hear that you’ve grappled with this issue, too.

  2. This week I discovered a uk website called Who Made Your Pants?

    Pants, in the uk are what you in the USA would call panties or underwear, not trousers!

    This is a teeny tiny company based in the south of England which uses offcuts and fabric over-runs from the major lingerie manufacturers as up-cycled fabric and trim to make underwear.
    They sell their seconds too, where a seam is not quite straight or the item has some other small flaw.

    Read the “about us” page here.

    It’s an awesome project, a worker co-op employing women who are refugees or who have incomplete education due to abuse. Every garment bears a label with the name of the person who sewed the item.

    I am planning my first order with them!

  3. Rebecca B. A. R. says:

    You might also try Freecycle–ask for what you are looking for and Craigslist for the boots

  4. Rebecca B. A. R. says:

    You should check out MooShoes, too.

  5. […] a dog with a bone, I keep chewing on the issue with my boots. My husband and I are in the process of selecting a legal structure for our new business. One of […]

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