Welcome to Glasstown

As we take time for family and the Holidays, we know we are under the shadow of something that could permanently change our town.

I hope this will not come to pass, and I think we need to consider the root cause of this threat. It’s not a mayor with political aspirations, and it’s not a weak and easily bullied council. It’s not even a predatory and reckless provincial government who will sell anything to be open for business.

No. The real cause, the root cause of the whole thing, is the lack of a local news infrastructure. No one saw this coming. No one understood the issues. No one was prepared.

How else could there be two years of negotiations on an environmentally dirty deal while Council watched our youth organize and ultimately succeed in their demand for a municipal declaration of climate emergency? Only when people are able to avoid uncomfortable questions can such a thing happen.

This is not new. We saw it when the RNG treatment plant was approved, despite the protests of hundreds of angry citizens, many of whom, I might add, were treated very poorly by the City. Here’s how it works:

Keep them in the dark.
Surprise them.
Tell them it’s a “done deal.”
Shame them for not acting earlier.

Fair and functioning municipal government requires an informed citizenry. One local newspaper, owned by an American media conglomerate and with a skeleton staff stretched to cover a wide variety of issues, cannot provide this.

Democracy really begins here at the local level. Local passivity fuels provincial rapacity, and the double-dealing works its way up to the top. We need to be vigilant, proactive, and we need to be informed.

But for now, it’s the holidays, and I hope everyone has a peaceful and restful time. I hope everyone is near someone they love. Let’s forget about it for just a little while. In New Year, let’s work to find out everything we can about this “done deal,” and make sure that our information is correct and well resourced. Then, let’s share what we know as widely as we can, because it looks like we’re going to have to be our own news infrastructure.

An unfortunate series of events

Stratfordians may be isolated in this time of Covid, but we’re sure hearing from each other. If you don’t know about the protests over the Ford Government’s imposition of a Minister’s Zoning Order on our city, you must have superhuman social distancing powers.

Everyone I know has been writing letters and calling their councillors. If you’d like to join in, there’s a list of addresses and telephone numbers at the end of this post. There are lots of other ways to show your opposition, as well.

There is a socially-distanced rally set for Monday, November 30, at noon. This rally will precede a meeting at 3:45 between Mayor Dan Mathieson and representatives of the group Get Concerned Stratford, Melissa Verspeeten and Mike Sullivan. Only 100 may attend this socially-distanced rally , and to attend you must get tickets through Eventbrite. If you can’t get a ticket, you can listen from your car. More information at the Eventbrite link.

Get Concerned Stratford is also organizing an online meeting for December 8 at 7 pm. There will be speakers, and a chance to learn more about the issues. Find more information here.

I’m hearing that some people are holding protests in front of City Hall, from noon – 2pm, Monday to Friday. If this group has an organizer, please let me know, and I will post your information here.

There may be a socially-distanced march coming as well, I’m not sure. If you know more, please pass it on to me, and I will also post it here.

Dan Mathieson – DMathieson@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5234
Bonnie Henderson – BHenderson@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5420
Brad Beatty – BBeatty@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5425
Cody Sebben – CSebben@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5426
Danielle Ingram – DIngram@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5424
Dave Gaffney – DGaffney@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5427
Graham Bunting – GBunting@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5363
Jo-Dee Burbach – JBurbach@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5428
Kathy Vassilakos – KVassilakos@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5423
Martin Ritsma – MRitsma@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5422
Tom Clifford – TClifford@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5421
City Clerk’s Office – clerks@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 237

Mailing addresses for all councillors:
City Hall, P.O. Box 818, Stratford, On N5A 6W1
City Office fax: 519-271-2783

Ethical Threads

In clothing, as in everything else, I believe in shopping locally, and it’s not just because when you shop locally you are helping everybody out, including yourself. Nope. I shop locally because I want to look that clerk in the eye. I want to see what she does when I ask the touchstone question: “Does my ass look big in these pants?” When you find a store you can trust, you stick with them.

On the other hand, if I want to become a Greener and Completely Better Person I need to identify  clothing that does the least harm to the environment and to people. My visit to Kinna Sohna was just the first trip out, and that one was easy, because Sartaj, the owner, has a face-to-face relationship with her suppliers. Not all Stratford retailers can say that. It’s not their fault, it’s just the nature of retail these days.

goodonyou

Good on You: https://goodonyou.eco/app/

I want to set up a list of local merchants who stock ethical merchandise, but I need a tool to help me be sure a label is really what it represents itself to be. So I looked around for something portable and reasonably comprehensive. I chose Good on You, an app for iOS and Android. There are others, but I like the philosophy of this app; it applauds companies that are doing well, and encourages others to do better. Really, there’s no point in being nasty about it. We’re all in this together.

 

Jennifer Fukushima Fashion

https://www.jenniferfukushima.com/

 

The app, as the name implies, is from Australia, established by the nonprofit Ethical Consumers Australia.  It rates labels for their treatment of their workers, for their attention to the environment, and for their transparency. They seem to be expanding fast, and although they don’t have some of the Canadian suppliers I looked for, they do have Canadian content, like this article on Canadian designer Jennifer Fukushima (You can find Fukushima clothing and accessories at Resonance, 23 Downie Street).

So that’s it for a start. I’ll be trying out my ideas next week with a shopping trip to downtown Stratford. There are a lot of labels, and a lot of research to do. If you use the Good on You app, let me know how it’s working for you. If you know of a better one, let me know that too. Happy shopping!

 

 

 

 

Healthy clothing, happy customer

I’ve been doing the research for the clothing part of this blog, and it’s making my head hurt. There are so many variables in finding sustainably made clothing! Seems to me that the only way I can be ethically dressed is if I  go around naked, but that’s frowned upon here in Stratford. I’ll just have to do the best I can; I need to set up a list of criteria that will help me find clothing that is the least harmful to the environment as well as to the humans who make and wear it.

I decided to start out at Kinna Sohna, the new international clothing store on the corner of York and Erie. I chose Kinna Sohna because the owner, Sartaj Kaur, stocks clothing in natural organic fabrics, coloured with organic dyes. I’ve been reading a lot about the environmental damage caused by clothing dyes and the dangers of chemicals in clothing, and I want something different.

Sartaj

Sartaj Kaur, Kinna Sohna

Sartaj has been working with naturally dyed fabric for 17 years now; she had a well-known store in Toronto before moving here. Her supply of organics varies; she  told me she would love to stock only organics, but people take time getting used to the different look and drape of the fabric, and as a small shop, there’s only so much she can do.

Some of her things are just wonderful, like this hand-stitched quilt. It’s a museum-quality piece; I can’t imagine the hours of work that went into making it. The colours are deep and vibrant, and the patterns absorbing and intricate.  She also has scarves, tunics, and dresses in colours like this, and handcrafted bags that are works of art.

Kinna Sohna is dedicated to ethical sourcing. Sartaj works with master craftspeople, cooperatives, tailors, and family businesses in places like India, Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, Mexico and South East Asia.  She understands her suppliers, she knows the regional styles, and she can tell you all about the textile, the stitching techniques, and the kind of dye used. That’s important to know when you are buying quality clothing.

Kinna Sohna

Fabric by the yard at Kinna Sohna

Working directly with producers has allowed Sartaj to build a varied inventory. Kinna Sohna sells hand printed fabric by the yard, and no fabric is wasted; scraps are made into hairbands, jewelry bags, and other small items. Craftspeople from the Stratford area also sell through Kinna Sohna, and she is looking  for more suppliers.

I had a really good time at this store. Not only was I completely entertained by Sartaj’s descriptions of her sourcing trips, I just fell in love with her inventory. Sartaj reminded me that carefully crafted articles are more expensive than polyester knock-offs, but if you choose well, an article of clothing can last you for years. Believe it or not, she still has shawls her mother wore when she was a baby!

I am really trying to think carefully before I buy another article of clothing. I want to push back against our throwaway philosophy of dress. A heavy wool, conservatively cut, can last a lifetime. Cotton fabric may wear, but with every use it gets softer and more interesting to look at, and you can mend it. A good silk can be really versatile, and it will glow with age. Silk is also light, so it’s easily hand washed, and you don’t need to send it to the cleaners.

Kinna 1The thing I liked the most about Kinna Sohna is that I saw things there that you will find nowhere else. I saw some wonderful rugs and wall hangings, beautiful jewelry, and many one-of-a-kind articles in really satisfying earth colours. I also saw upcycled articles, like the exquisitely embroidered scarves made from old saris. When she gets in more of her popular upcycled silk jackets, I’m going back. I think it’s time I made a splash on the Stratford scene.

What is the half life of a Red Rose tea bag?

What is the half life of a Red Rose tea bag?

Rose_OsakaI turned my compost today, and there, right at the bottom, just as I suspected, is a massive clump of Red Rose tea bags. Again. Everything else has rotted away, but these little bags are completely unfazed by the workings of Nature. They just don’t seem to decompose. After a year in the compost! What are these things made of?

Now, I love Red Rose tea, and up until now I believed it to be an environmentally sound product, but enough is enough. I have dragged out my brown betty teapot, and I’m doing it the old fashioned way, and not with Red Rose. I don’t want to wind up like Jacob Marley, dragging long chains of tea bags after me as I wail my way into eternity.

In the meantime, I have written  to the Red Rose people (see below), to find out if their bags are part of a plan to carpet the world in Canadian tea. I’ll let you know what develops.

To Red Rose Customer Service
https://www.redrosetea.ca/contact-us

I am writing to ask why your tea bags do not decompose. Mine have been in the compost for nearly two years. I am beginning to suspect that I am drinking tea from bags made of plastic, so I am switching brands, and that’s a pity, because I love Red Rose tea.

I would be very happy to learn that Red Rose is an ecologically sound product, and that your company is concerned about our environment. Please contact me at the above address.

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