The Health Hazards Lurking in Sanitary Products

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I need to talk about tampons. Not the prettiest subject but that’s probably why we don’t talk about them very much. And why I haven’t thought about them very much.

Sanitary products have been around since the 1930s and women everywhere are forever grateful, but the materials they are made of have barely changed in that time. Conventional products are made of Rayon – the man-made fibre created from cellulose wood pulp (cue the slaying of many trees), non-organic cotton (bad for farmers, waterways and wildlife) and synthetic materials like polypropylene (non-biodegradable). That’s not to mention the widespread use of plastic tampon applicators that take 25 years to biodegrade, littering our seas in the meantime.

So I think it’s safe to say sanitary products are bad for the environment, but that’s not all. Conventional products are also treated with a whole host of nasties. These can include chlorine to increase absorbency and make the products white and chemical fragrance. Rayon and viscose fibres can shed in use, leaving behind dioxins that cling to the vaginal wall. Not something I want in my intimate parts. The World Health Organisation claims that dioxins are highly toxic, interfering with the immune system and hormonal balance. The crazy thing is there is no in-depth scientific research on the impact of using these sanitary products (or is it that surprising really?) but for those of us who like to avoid toxic chemicals wherever possible there are alternatives.

TOTM make organic tampons and sanitary towels, 100% free from pesticides, chemical fertilisers, perfume and bleach. They only use cardboard applicators and their products are 95% biodegradable. Healthier for the planet and the women using them, they offer a subscription service so you can have supplies sent straight to your door (or you can submit one-off orders). A box of 10 regular applicator tampons cost £2.80 – more expensive than cardboard applicator Tampax but about the same as their fanciest pearl compak.

I’m converted.

Go to www.totm.com

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Win a Scarf from Sancho’s Dress New Collection

Sancho's Dress Scarves

Sancho’s Dress is an ethical fashion and gift store in the beautiful city of Exeter. Earlier this year, the store’s owners Kalkidan Legesse and Vidmantas Markevicius, launched a Kickstarter campaign to set up a loom workshop in Northern Ethiopia in order to produce their own range of scarves and shawls. They wanted to create training opportunities and jobs for local women using back-to-basic wooden looms that require no electricity, fossil fuels, excessive water or heavy machinery, and have a minimal carbon footprint.

Happily, the Kickstarter was a success and they have just launched their winter collection! The organically-grown cotton is hand-picked and hand-spun to ensure it is made of the softest and most sustainable fabric. Each scarf is uniquely made with care and consideration. The colours are soft and perfect for autumn, with hints of burnt orange, sky blue and moss green. Each scarf takes three hours to make and in a transparency lost in most textile enterprises, both of the founders know exactly which seamster or seamstress made each piece. A range of ponchos (bang on trend right now) are new for AW15 and come in the same hand-woven cotton.

Sanchos - Blue Shawl

Speaking about the collection, Kalkidan said:

“We set out to create a line of scarves that are stylish and contemporary, while also being cosy and comfortable for the winter months”. We believe business creates systems of empowerment, education and ownership. We will fight hard to work with marginalised women to show them their capacity to success.”

Sancho’s Dress won Sublime Magazine’s Best Social Enterprise Award 2015. They are offering one lucky reader the chance to have their own scarf from the award-winning workshop in an exclusive giveaway. Just email emma@ethicalhighstreet.co.uk by 30th September 2015 with the subject ‘SANCHOCOMP’ to be in with a chance to win! If you’re on twitter, tweet @Sanchosdresses to get a second entry into the prize draw!

Sanchos - Green and White Scarf

For more of the range see www.sanchosdress.com

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Brand Watch: Nomads Clothing Fairtrade Since 1989

Nomads Clothing began with a beautiful story. Founded by a pair who met whilst backpacking around India in the 1980s, they snapped up £200 worth of ethnic clothing and headed back to sell it in the UK. Returning to India with the profits they made they decided to start Nomads Clothing, inspired by the Indian culture and gorgeous fabrics and artisan crafts they came across. Nomads continue to travel to India several times a year to develop their collections, which make use of print and detail to create contemporary, covetable pieces.

There is plenty of information online about Nomads fair trade policies. Supporting handicraft artisan skills, you will find traditional methods such as patchwork and block printing in their collections. Equality of pay for male and female workers is guaranteed, as is no child labour. Keen to protect the environment too, Nomads continue to increase their use of organic cotton.

You can pick up a wide range of womenswear from Nomads – dresses, tunics, trousers, coats, tops and blouses. Pictured here you can see me in the Jasmine Print Cowl Neck Dress (now on sale at £42 from £60) which I absolutely love! Made from organic cotton with an easy side zip fastening and just the right amount of stretch, it’s the perfect go-to dress for any occasion. The print is quite Christmassy too!

Nomads fair trade organic dress

Alongside all the great prints they have plain basics including quality long-sleeved t-shirts and shirts. Jewellery, bags, scarves and gloves can be found in their accessories collection including cashmere fingerless gloves for just £20. You can find a stockist list online and head to your local fair trade retailer, or else, now is the time to check out their collections online where they have 30% off many products www.nomadsclothing.com.

Nomads have been trading for 15 years and have refined a business model to support workers, protect the environment wherever possible and offer lovely, and affordable clothing for conscious consumers. They should be a staple in any women’s wardrobe.
Nomads fair trade ethical clothing

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COSSAC Cool: Ethical Fashion

COSSAC ethical fashion yoga

I get approached by new ethical fashion brands quite regularly but COSSAC is different because COSSAC is a fashion label that just so happens to be consciously ethical in approach. This means that rather than relying on ethics alone to make a brand profile, COSSAC is a trend-led label for the youthful woman who loves life, loves fashion and wants to make a stand for what she believes in.

COSSAC launched yesterday, 24th October 2014, and currently has two small women’s collections. Utilising conscious design with low environmental impact, the label was founded by the lovely Agata Natalia Kozak who says:

“The reason for starting COSSAC is the desire to make something good, something I believe in and love doing that additionally will have a positive impact on fashion, society and environment. It’s not about making money, it’s about starting a positive change, a little fashion revolution.”

Agata uses fabric suppliers in the UK, India, Germany and Turkey and currently bases production in the UK and India. At present 80% of the fabrics are fair trade, organic, recycled and/or sustainable with Agata working towards 100%.

For the Eye’ is a fashion-forward collection of trendy separates. The look is minimalist, pieces for going out in the evening or heading to parties. This top (£75) for example, is made from organic cotton velvet and recycled fur with a sheer organza panel at the hem. The organic cotton top I’m wearing above (£25) is part of the ‘For the Soul’ collection, a range of lounge/casual/yoga gear featuring my favourite – slogan tees. I will definitely wear mine for yoga, but right now I’m wearing it with a long grey jersey skirt. I can’t wait to see what COSSAC have in store for future collections!

To view the full collection visit: www.COSSAC.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/COSSACfashion

Twitter: www.twitter.com/COSSACfashion

Instagram: www.instagram.com/COSSACfashion
Watch COSSAC Behind The Scenes. A/W14 photo-shoot on You Tube: http://youtu.be/U98OZ7Mnd-c

You can support COSSAC through their Kickstarter campaign and get your own piece of Eco-Hot fashion here https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1393449163/cossac-ss15-eco-hot-fashion

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In Search of Sustainable School Uniform

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A few weeks ago I was in the FAIR shop, Brighton, chatting to owner Siobhan about the perils of kid’s school uniforms. Manufactured in their masses and worn five days a week by children in the UK they are a significant part of the clothes economy. Parents also have little control over what they must buy as most schools have designated suppliers, and certainly regulations on colour and style. Most suppliers focus on price and practicality, resulting in cheap synthetic materials which might wash well but could be uncomfortable and unhealthy to wear, and manufactured with little ethical regard for people and planet.

Just days after this chat I heard from Ecooutfitters, the first independent school uniform brand. Ecooutfitters school uniforms are made of ethically sourced, 100% organic cotton certified by the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS), ensuring that production meets rigorous environmental and social standards. Thus an Ecooutfitter uniform cares for every individual in the chain not least the children that wear them. The entrepreneurs behind the brand, Marina and Irina, are both mothers themselves and were inspired by the desire to dress their young boys in natural, healthy fibres every single day, not just at the weekends. They said ““When you consider that our children are forced to wear these harmful fabrics for some 36.5 hours a week, running around all day, getting hot, sweaty and agitated, at a vital stage of their development, we knew something had to be done and Ecooutfitters was born.”

The British Skin Foundation has reported a dramatic rise in the number of children in the UK suffering from irritable skin conditions, with at least 10% of children suspected to suffer from eczema during their childhood. Many items of children’s clothing is Teflon coated to repel stains but such chemicals can irritate delicate skin and detrimental long term effects on health aren’t really known. Whilst Marina and Irina were motivated by the desire to banish such chemicals from their children’s wardrobes, they quickly learnt about the hugely devastating effects of the non-organic cotton industry on the communities and the environment around the world.

ecooutfitters shorts

Production of a single cotton T-shirt requires a third of a pound of dangerously toxic pesticides, the effects of which result in 77 million cases of poisoning recorded every year, 20,000 of which result in death. These revelations put ethical production at the heart of the Ecooutfitters mission and since organic cotton doesn’t use dangerous pesticides, protecting farmers’ lives and the environment, it became an obvious choice. “Our uniforms are not only healthier, comfortable and ethical, but competitively priced, durable and practical, disproving the widely held belief that cotton uniform cannot withstand the playground test.”

For more information, to buy or to nominate your school to offer the Ecooutfitters uniform, go to www.ecooutfitters.co.uk

For more information on the concerns about chemicals found in children’s wear, take a look at Greenpeace’s Little Monster campaign

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Win a Carbon Neutral Tee & Screen Printed Tote Bag from Meva Clothing

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Meva Clothing have achieved a lot in a short space of time. The Cornish based brand launched their first clothing collection just this year. Meva Clothing proudly hails from Mevagissey, an old British fishing harbour and a heritage which inspires their product designs and underlying Earth-loving ethos. They sell men’s, women’s and children’s casual clothes as well as home items. Meva Clothing products are organic, fair trade, carbon neutral, ethically sourced AND hand printed but what I really love about them is their bricks-and-mortar presence in the town. Unlike many ethical brands where you can only buy products online, if you happen to be in Mevagissey (it sounds rather lovely so I don’t see why you wouldn’t) you can pop into their shop seven days a week. Plus, you can see the crafting in action at the print shop. All of their products are hand printed on site with silk screens and non-toxic water-based inks.

For summer Meva Clothing stocked polo shirts, vests and hoodies, plus very cute children’s clothes. Colours were inspired from around the harbour; navy, white and grey. Their Autumn/Winter range is set to be released by mid-October. Customers can look forward to an expanded range including shirts, trousers, skirts and some fantastic Cable Knit and Aran woolly jumpers.

I’ve teamed up with Meva Clothing for a fantastic giveaway. You could win a grey polo shirt and hand-printed tote bag. The ladies polo*, worth £32.99 is 100% certified organic cotton, carbon neutral and produced under fair working practices. Carbon neutral means that the industrial greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced to pre-industrial levels through low-impact organic agriculture and carbon neutral industrial manufacturing, achieved by using renewable energy from wind turbines and solar power. This reduces the carbon footprint of the T-shirt by up to 90% compared with your average t-shirt.

All you have to do to win is follow @Meva_Clothing and my all-new singing and dancing enterprise @EthicalHighSt on Twitter or Facebook (it doesn’t actually sing and dance although I have personally been known to have my moments) and click to enter the e-raffle below. It sounds faffy, but it will only take a moment I promise.

*size large – suits UK 10-14 depending on preferred fit.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

mevatop

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