The Best of a bad lot: Where to shop if you can’t afford fairtrade.

Cotton On

When I speak to people about why they don’t buy fairtrade and Australian made brands the responses can be varied.

Some say it’s because they don’t really believe that conditions are that bad in sweatshops; some say that people in sweatshops are lucky to even have jobs; but by far and away the most common answers come down to cost and convenience.

It’s true that it is still relatively difficult to shop fairtrade. Particularly if you are looking for cheap and non-flower-child options. So if this is a barrier for you, perhaps consider making these simple brand swaps instead. This allows you to do a little something for human rights, without doing too much to your hip pocket!!

Valleygirl ——–> Cotton On

Love cheap and fast fashion? Well do I have some good news for you! Cotton On received an A grade in the Ethical Fashion Report 2015.  Only 2 of the 59 brands reviewed were scored higher – and both of these were fairtrade brands!! Valley girl on the other hand received an F. As did other fast fashion label Ally.

Best & Less ——–> Kmart

Best & less was given a D- in the Ethical Fashion Report 2015, and has the added disgrace of being one of the companies that declined to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord. Kmart is a signatory and also scored a B, outranking a bunch of other department brands including Big W and Target (B-) and Myer and David Jones (C-).

Just Jeans ——–> Jeans West

The Just Group (which includes Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Peter Alexander, Portmans, Dotti and Jacqui E) has also declined to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord but gets a slightly higher grade than Best & Less – coming in at a solid D. Jeans West has an offering so similar to that of Just Jeans that I have always struggled to tell them apart. But Jeans West was awarded a B – so which one you choose can make a big difference to human rights.

There are plenty more brands named and shamed or celebrated in the Ethical Fashion Report 2015. If you want to pick up your game in the support of fair work around the world, or are simply curious, it’s well worth the read.



Washing your hands [with] responsibilty

…not of responsibility.

There are all sorts of conflicting reports about how long it takes various plastic articles to break down but essentially, without very specific conditions and poisoning the environment around it – it does’t. Highlight Kids provides a short explanaition as to why (pitched at exactly my level of scientific understanding) – click here if you are interested.

The thought that my bottle of moisturiser may still be poisoning the earth long after my body has returned to it is horrifying, and made so much worse when I think of all the wildlife it might kill on the way out. According to the Queensland Government Department of Environmental and Heritage Protection an estimated 100 000 marine mammals and turtles are killed by plastic litter every year around the world. And I haven’t even started on the damage done to the environment and wildlife during the manufacturing of this bottle!!

So with all this weighing heavily on my heart I have been trying to come up with new ways to cut more and more plastic out of my daily life, and my most recent adjustment has been in the hygiene department. Don’t worry, I’m still washing, but I have discovered that the simple act of swapping one soap for another has made a huge difference to the plastic consumption in my house.

First I got rid of liquid soap in the bathroom. If you buy liquid soap because you like the anti-bacterial stuff read this article about its potential impacts on your health and the environment and stop!!! If you buy it because you have a snazzy pump dispenser that goes perfectly with your bathroom decor, perhaps you could consider treating yourself to the snazziest soap dish you can find to ease its passing.

I must admit that we are still using liquid soap (not the anti-bacterial kind) in the kitchen. I just find it so much neater in this already explosively chaotic corner of the house. And hey, if it really suits your life style to keep buying a truckload of pump packs, go ahead. Just remember to recycle.

But if you are planning to switch to good old fashioned bar soap like I have then here are my suggestions for four fantastic brands that are packaged in good old fashioned cardboard. Even less plastic!!

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Cheap and cheerful with a classic scent, Country Life Original is the perfect everyday soap.

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Velvet Beauty Bars are the perfect alternative for Dove users. Still has the moisturising benefits and not only is it made in Australia instead of Thailand, but its bulk packs aren’t wrapped in plastic film either!


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People with sensitive skin and a bit of extra cash to burn may like to try Natures Commonscents, which ironically has no scent, marketing itself as fragrance free.

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This soap’s fresh scent is perfect for washing off a hard day at work. It is also literally the gift that keeps giving, with funds raised from the sale of Thankyou products going into development projects in poorer countries.

To warm your heart and sole – why you should wear Australian made socks.

Tuff Mongrel Socks

Last week I talked about using the BHP to warm up with less. Moving through the LLUF mantra (less, local, used, fair) – this week I want to talk about why you should add some pairs of locally-made socks to your shopping list this winter:

They are a practical, low energy way to deal with cold feet. My feet get ridiculously cold, as my partner is always keen to point out when they find him under the doona. We had a housemate who would tell us that he knew that winter had arrived when he heard Mr LLUFs pained pleas for me not to touch him with those feet through the wall. Good times.

My favourite supplier of Australian-made socks is my best mates Nana who unravels knits she bought at the op-shop and turns them into the chunkiest, warmest socks you have ever seen. Wearing these socks to bed has all but saved our relationship. Unfortunately for you, Nana-socks aren’t for sale. But I have an awesome alternative recommendation for sourcing your own winter woollies. Read on.

Surprisingly they are also a practical way to deal with hot, sweaty feet. That’s right. A pair of socks made from the right material can help keep your feet cool and dry by protecting them from the non-breathable, non-absorbent materials your shoes are likely made from. Sweaty feet are the gateway to a range of nasty infections, so if this is an issue for you I would definitely recommend a new pair of socks.

I recently bought Mr LLUF some Tuff Mongrel Socks. To avoid any confusion this is a brand, not an adjective. At 60% merino wool these fall into the ‘right material’ category, while having just enough synthetic fibre to make them easy care. And he says they are super comfortable.

Mongrel Socks are available in a range of different blends depending on your needs – pure wool, possum merino blends, 94% mercerised cotton – most of their socks are made in Tasmania, so you know they’ll be the perfect addition to your winter wardrobe. After all, Tasmanians know cold. Hell, that place is near freezing in the height of summer.

There are studies to suggest that wearing socks has some other surprising benefits including a better nights sleep and increasing your chances of orgasm!!

With this in mind, why wouldn’t you rush out and buy yourself as many pairs of Mongrel Socks as your budget and drawers will allow?

No sweat

Family of Taygra

Sweatshop free workout gear.

Since moving to a colder climate I have found myself stacking on the kilos. Wintery comfort food, red wine, and a genuinely heartfelt desire to stay under the doona have all taken their toll. I’d love to tell you that nothing has been hurt but my vanity, and I assure you it is sorely wounded, but I have found my increasingly sedentary lifestyle has also compounded some other health problems and I just feel gross.

So after treating myself with a new gym membership (the third I have bought in my life, let’s hope I use it more than six times this round), I have decided to treat myself to some sweatshop-free work out gear, including:

Taygra shoes

I’ve actually had a pair of these for a while, a few of them in fact. And I’ve recently bought some for my partner too. I love the funky colours they are available in, and although not supportive enough for hitting the pavement at a run, I find them perfect for treadmill action or a brisk walk around the block. Vegan leather and made under ethical standards in Brazil, these puppies are also very affordable at as little as $69.00 for an adult shoe. Oh, and the service is excellent. Mens, womens and kids sizes available.

American Apparel athletic pants

So comfy, and with a huge range of colours and styles for men and women, you are bound to find something to suit any kind of athletic activity. American Apparel products are made in downtown LA by workers who are paid fairly and work in safe conditions. They believe that by keeping all their processes (design, manufacturing, business services etc.) in one place they can keep their prices low, while also reducing their carbon footprint and bolstering their local community and economy.

Daksha Singlets

A cheap $15 each and available in 19 different colours these super cute singlets are available online from fair-trade and eco sustainable label Daksha. In women’s styles only (sorry guys), they are made out of a lovely soft cotton that is woven by women in northern Thailand. This cotton is also used in Daksha other clothing. I plan on going back for some of the other tops, but with a heavy hippish flavour to most of their products, the dresses, skirts and pants categories are unlikely to be frequented by me.

And although I am currently observing the ‘less’ philosophy and using a green bag to transport my gym gear (classy, I know), I am considering a fair trade gym bag made out of recycled cement and rice bags in Cambodia. Such a cool idea.


I am Tuffetts Underwear

tuffets underwear

Shoes and underwear have been the two products where I have most compromised my ethical shopping principles in the past. You can’t really buy second-hand underwear, and last time I went looking there weren’t a lot of practical or affordable options in the local/fair markets. First I tried sweatshop-free American Apparel, and although ‘I looked so perfect standing there’ (pardon the ridiculous pop-culture reference, I had to do it), they don’t have underwire bras and are pretty expensive. Given how miserably poor I was at the time this was enough to send me crying back to Big W multi-packs.

A few years later armed with a full-time job and a whole 2GB of internet – allowing me more freedom to e-window shop than ever before – I stumbled across European lingerie. Hoping that whoever made it would be sufficiently protected by European labour laws, I ordered Italian-made underwire bras that were cheapest when shipped from the States. Ridiculous. And what’s more – none of it lasted very long. Flimsy, pretty things that offered no support, and fell apart after a few goes on the delicates cycle (and yes, I used a wash bag). So to Myer I went, buying the most supportive thing I could find without stooping to the truly hideous.

And so I had grown to avoid underwear shopping wherever possible. But then I got this:


an invitation to a bridal shower where everyone brings a lingerie gift for the bride that somehow reflects who they are. She then has to guess what came from whom and I was surprised to see just how accurate our bride was!!

I rate this as a bridal shower game, but in the lead up I was in a total spiral. How would I compromise this time?

Luckily the increase in access to internet shopping and the fact that it is very cool to buy ethical, and eco, and so on these days has meant that I haven’t had to compromise. Cue Tuffetts. Not really the pink/red sparkly number I am sure the bride was expecting to trace back to me, but I can justify how Tuffetts reflects me in four ways:

1. They are cheap – an adjective which the bride has been using to describe me since high school, where granted, it was probably deserved.

2. They come in my favourite cuts – boyshorts and pushups. And a whole range of other styles. And I’m sorry for the overshare.

3. The logo is a little crown – also a hangover from high school where Princess was a popular pet name for me.

4. They are Australian made – which is obviously a major theme with me these days.

In the end it was the crown (and the pink sparkly stuff I wrapped it in) that tipped the bride off. And her review of the underwear?

“Very comfy and butt-hugging, with the perfect amount of elastic – not too tight but still very supportive”