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.

 

 

The Fab 5: The best posts of the past year

 28 April marks the one year anniversary of All You Need is LLUF.

It’s been a year of little triumphs, terrible disorganisation and great support from my loved ones. 44 posts and over 700 visits later, I have chosen 5 of my favourites to share:

Number

The first post I published, detailing the four part philosphy designed ‘to minimise the impact that my love of pretty things has on people and planet‘, that All You Need is LLUF was born from.

about

Number

The most popular post about our delightful stay in Hepburn Springs, Daylesford – a beautiful little town in wine country Victoria which I highly recommend for couples looking for romance, families looking for fun, and just about anyone looking for the perfect spot to relax.

Fair Grotto - HSMR

Number

The first to go ‘viral’ … ok, so the term ‘viral’ might be a bit of an overstatement. This is the first to be shared on Facebook by someone else. In particular the lovely people at Taygra Shoes Australia who were excited to be mentioned in the post.

Family of Taygra

Number

 My Mum’s favourite post. And there is no higher seal of approval.

paper binders 2

Number

The one that won…or at the very least was a favourite of the blog Living Well Spending Less who allows other blogs to post their best spend thrifting ideas to their Thrifty Thursday page.

BeetrootThrifty ThursdaySpring onions

So there you have it. Five of the best. A big thankyou for sticking with me so far, and a toast to the year ahead Champagne

Aussie products to get you through the Aussie summer!!

Bagara beach

Things are heating up here in Australia!! And it couldn’t come soon enough as far as I am concerned. Looking forward to wading in the ocean, long lazy days reading a book under a tree, a dip at the local pool… ah summer bliss.

But summer isn’t always bliss. Skin damage, heatstroke, and the blinding glare of the afternoon sun can leave you feeling a little ravaged. And who better to know how to help with this issue than some dinkie-die Aussies themselves?

So let me share with you some great Australian made products that can help you through the summer months:

Cool Cossies

Rival Swimwear is Australian made and has swimwear for everyone – from tiny tots having their first splash in the paddling pool, to Iron men looking for that perfect pair of budgy smugglers. Women who want to train seriously, or women who just want to look nice while they make a fool of themselves pretending to swim can both find something that works for them with this brand. In the interests of full disclosure, let me confirm that I fit squarely into the later category.

Sunscreen

Super Sun Protection

I love Hamilton Sunscreens Everyday Face Sunscreen. Provides you with high protection, and a sweet little tint to help you look your best. But they also have toddler sunscreen, and normal sunscreen, and spray sunscreen. Who new you could have so many types of sunscreen. They have recently upgraded their entire range to 50+, which seems crazy to someone who remembers her mother talking about how ridiculous it was that sunscreens were going up to 15+. But we got used to that, and now I always use 30+. I guess it’s just a matter of time before 50+ becomes normal too.

Gaia

A bit of pocket relief

In the height of summer I will have a face spray bottle by the bed, one in my handbag, and one in the fridge. It’s so nice when you are hot and flusted to cool down with a quick, sweet smelling spray. One of my favourites is GAIA Rose Otto and Lavendar Refreshing Toner, pictured below.

Good Quality Glasses

I have two pairs of sunnies that are about a million years old, and still going strong. So I am not in the market for a pair of Australian made sunnies myself right now. But if I were, the first three brands I’d hit up are:

  • Spotters for sports style sunnies
  • Glarce for high end fashion sunnies
  • Topheads for something cool and biodegradeable

 

Happy summer people!!

 

DIY dinosaur – stencils and directions for cooling up girls (and boys) clothing.

We know quite a lot of babies that are due in January. Some are little sisters to girls that were born in March last year, so they will be inundated with hand-me-downs; but others are first babies, making clothes a very appropriate gift. After hours of trawling through baby clothing sites (local and fairtrade, of course) I finally lost it.

Why – in the name of all that is civilised –  if baby clothes must be sold on line through seperate ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ pages, do the boys pages have to contain all the cool stuff?

Boys get trains, firetrucks, dinosaurs, spaceships. Do you know what little girls get?

%$#@ing butterflies.

Now I am not saying that girls should never be allowed to wear butterflies, and I think ruffled diaper covers are as cute as the next person does. But wouldn’t it be nice if our girls were encouraged from the day they are born to believe that being feminine is not all about lacey pants and fostering a love of quiet, safe, pretty things?

A simple way around this would have been to buy some ‘boys’ clothes for the anticipated girls – leaving it to their parents to team them with pink leggings or little headbands if they were concerned about having to explain to every new person they meet that “no, she’s a girl”.

But like I said – I lost it.

So instead I bought pink and purple organic cotton onsies from Willy Wagtail (an Australian made kids clothing line) and a jar of Permaset textile paint (also Australian made) and set to work to make some very cool onsies of my own.

Dinosaur_cut

First I drew a rocket, a pirate hat, and a dinosaur – frankly, 3 of the coolest things on earth – and cut them out to create a stencil.

After I had my little stencils, I placed an old diary inside the onsie to stop any paint seeping through, held the stencil over the front of the onsie and got to painting.

Dinosaur_paint

Now you might like to do something fancy – screen print, or whatever – but I just used a paintbrush I’ve had since highschool to brush the paint around. Can’t say I’m too disappointed with the results.

Onsies

Just in case you wanted to make your own onsies I have included an image of my stencils for you. Feel free to copy them, cut them up, and paint them onto the clothing of any child who likes cool things. Regardless of their gender.

Stencils

Daylesford and region (ethical holiday extrordinaire – Pt 2)

Oh, delightful Daylesford. Such a wonderful holiday destination I couldn’t fit two days of exploring and ethical shopping into one post.

Last week I spoke about our stay in the lovely Hepburn Springs, a sleepy little village just outside which is perfect for an uber-relaxing getaway. If you are looking for a little more buzz thoug, Daylesford itself has a fantastic blend of shops, galleries and cafes to keep you stimulated.

Good cafes are, I believe, are close to the most important part of any holiday. Specifically cafes that serve brunch. Luckily the Daylesford streets are packed with such cafes – although many don’t open til 10am – and most of them serve ‘Istra bacon’, from a local producer of small goods. A close friend of mine recommends The Book Barn, down by the lake, which also sells second-hand books (I am in heaven), but unfortunately this was temporarily closed during our stay, so I cannot comment further.

Convent 1

The Convent Gallery is probably the best known of Daylesford institutions and is well worth a visit. This beautiful old building has rooms filled with canvases, jewellry and sculpture by local and international artists and boasts an equally beautiful garden. There is plenty to explore, including an old stair case which winds up to the bell-tower, or down to the small Convent museum, held in the basement. Once you grow tired of wandering through, you can sit and reflect under the stained glass windows of the chapel, or sit and revive in the modern cafe at the entry to the gallery.

Convent 2

Daylesford itself wasn’t quite enough excitement for us so we travelled further afield to Creswick, which has a woollen mill. You can choose to do a tour of the mill, or like I did, spend hours wandering through their factory outlet instead. They have a huge range of locally made mens and womens clothing along with bedding. Although the kids section is actually quite small, they have some great products including these little jackets which are so cute I almost bought one even though I have no idea who I would give it to.

Creswick

We also drove the 40(ish) minutes into Sovereign Hill, Ballarat. Both self-confessed history nerds, Mr LLUF and I ran about this replica of an 1850’s gold rush town desperately trying to see and experience everything – the pouring of a $140,000 gold ignot, learning how to pan for gold, sharing a devonshire tea served by a woman in maids cap and apron. Incredibly Sovereign Hill has a number of artisans who work on site, hand crafting souvenirs using traditional methods.

Lollies - Sovereign Hill

We watched the making of the boiled lollies which you could buy at the1850’s Grocer store along with hand made jams and sauces. In a somewhat modern twist these can also be bought online if you don’t want to go all the way to Ballarat to try them.

Grocer - Sovereign Hill

You can also watch and even assist in the making of candles. We saw four girls working with the artisan to create some rainbow candles to take home with them and they looked to be having a really good time of it. Perhaps most incredibly, you can watch heavier industries at work such as wheelrights, blacksmiths, and the foundry where you can watch an artisan spin a lump of metal into a saucepan, a toothpick holder, a bell, and more, which you can then buy for what I thought was a suprisingly reasonable price.

Foundry - Sovereign Hill

I must admit, between all these vendors I went a little nuts stocking up on locally made goodies. And so it was with a heavy heart, and a heavy back seat, we drove away from the Daylesford region.

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:

invite

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”

 

Writing from The Rock – a series of surprises at Uluru

 Desert flowerBraceletsRedbacks

This is my first time in the Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, and I have to say that it has been an incredible experience. My Australian made Redback boots have set foot in the outback a number of times, and I am quite sentimental about the layer of seemingly immovable red dust that they have accumulated over time, so I jumped at the opportunity to head out to the Red Centre with two of my wonderful friends. Not only do I consider standing at the foot of Uluru something of a pilgrimige, but this is a sight I have been whistfully watching on postcards my entire life. So you can imagine my suprise when Uluru turned out to look nothing like the picture I had in my mind!!

As one of my travel buddies so succinctly put it, I had always believed that Uluru rose out of the ground like a giant bunt-cake, all smooth with a scalloped edge, and although it does look like that from a distance, as I got closer I was amazed to see that its surface is dotted with caves carved into the rock face, that its base is surrounded by jagged pieces of rock that have fallen away maybe thousands of years ago, and there are deep pools that cascade down it’s side, creating multi-layered waterfalls on those rare occassions when it rains. I was also amazed that despite the infrequency of rain, that the park is so green. There is even a beautiful waterhole tucked into the base of Uluru that acts as a perfect mirror to the cliff face above it.

I  didn’t expect Uluru to tower quite so far above me as I stood gazing in wonder from its base. It astounds me that anyone would want to climb it, as not only is it disrespectful to the Anangu, but given it’s immense height, and the fact that the climb is virtually at a 45 degree angle it seems like a very unsound safety decision to me. And what was even more suprising yet, was that Kata Tjuta, otherwise known as the Olgas, stands some 198 metres higher than Uluru just 50 metres away*, but I had barely heard it mentioned until I started to review tour options.

Naturally I hoped to take home souvenirs of this incredible experience, and I was pleased to discover a sizeable range of lluf-approved purchases available from the souvenir shops around Ayers Rock Resort, the parks Cultural Centre, and the airport. This included soaps, bush pot purri, and various spice mixes, sauces and jams incorporating native Australian ingredients. Yum. But what was really amazing was the availibility of non-perishable items made in Australia or in fair trade arrangements, as opposed to being mass produced in more ‘affordable’ manufacturing regions. I could only make small purchases, given that my 7kg of carry-on already included a pair of boots that weigh nearly a kilo on their own and four days worth of clothing, however I have been very happy to purchase:

A t-shirt: Australian made clothing is always hard to find, so imagine my suprise to stumble across a relatively tasteful souvenir t-shirt. Samsousan, as it turns out, has a wide range of Australian made promotional and souvenir apparel, and also incidentally do a mens tuxedo t-shirt which I am very excited about – that one never gets old. You can see the complete range at: http://www.samsousan.com.au/

Bracelets: I am madly in love with the above pictured bracelets from Better World Arts. Accompanied by the story of the design, they are beautiful and functional pieces of genuine aboriginal art. Better World Arts sells some amazing handicrafts with a business model that empowers the aboriginal artists and the artisans in Peru, Kashmir, West Bengal and Nepal who bring the designs to life on cushions, rugs, bags and jewellry. These can be viewed and purchased from: http://www.betterworldarts.com.au/products

Magnets: I actually bought heaps of Australian made magnets. Some that had aboriginal symbols for beautiful sentiments such as togetherness, happiness, and friendship from a brand called Wijikura, and some that featured classic postcard shots of the National Park from a brand called Visit. A quick internet search revealed that Visit sells lots of Australiana items- some Australian made, including some lovely scenic calendars, and some not. But all its Australian made products are well signed, so you don’t have to look too hard to find them. Many of these can be seen on their website: http://www.visit.com.au/

So next time you are shopping for souvenirs, I encourage you to put in the extra effort to find out where they came from. There are genuine Australian souvenirs out there and I have found them worth the effort to find.

 

 

* See the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Visitors Guide: http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/visitor-guide-uluru-kata-tjuta-national-park

N.B. photos above were not taken inside the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. You may be suprised to learn that for the purposes of safeguarging the traditions and sacred places of Anangu publishing images taken within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta national park requires a permit and is subject to strict guidelines.