You've heard it. You believe it. But do you really know why?
We live in a world that has prioritized cheap goods made quickly since the introduction of "Creative Waste" to the American Dream in the 1950's. Corporations learned quickly that intentionally designing goods to be replaced every 1-3 years would add to their bottom line.
They supported this idea with the message that "planned obsolescence would foster a strong economy," by making use of our nation's "enormous natural resources" and increasing manufacturing jobs. This concept took root in post-WWII society, breeding a culture that continues to associate consumerism with increased happiness and social status (Egmont & Arens, Creative Waste, 1932).
Their plan worked. The United States was able to overcome economic depression and millions of citizens were gainfully employed in manufacturing jobs as the average household buying power increased to enable more and more families to join the middle-class. The newly middle-class prized acquiring (and disposing of) ever-more-modern appliances, automobiles, and household goods.
As time went on, globalization removed trade barriers and companies discovered they could decrease labor costs by 75%-95% if they moved manufacturing offshore. Additional savings came in the form of lower taxation and reduced environmental regulations.
The result is that corporations were able to increase their bottom line by externalizing costs at the expense of people and planet.
You see, the true cost of producing a consumable good, no matter where you manufacture, is the same. Sure, the dollars and cents may go up or down depending on local economy, but the actual amount of labor and raw materials remains the same regardless of how they are procured. If the manufacturer is not the one paying, you will find that either the environment, the laborers, or both, are bearing the cost.
For example, if a slave makes a brick out of mud and straw in Pakistan, the true cost of that brick is the same as if a union worker created it on U.S. soil. The only difference is whether the cost is externalized or not. In the first example, it is the slave who pays for the brick. In the second, it is the brick union.
PC: John O'Connel
When we externalize costs, we are asking for both the earth and an overseas labor force to satisfy our demand for cheap goods made quickly. When we pay $8 for a T-Shirt that should cost $30, someone or something else is paying the $22 we "saved."
The result of unrestrained consumerism has increased demand, which has increased supply, which has increased manufacturing, which has increased deforestation, plastics use, air and water pollution, greenhouse gases, fossil fuel consumption, and dumping, to name a few.
Meanwhile, we are experiencing the largest migration in human history as men, women, and children move to larger cities in search of factory work. This has created enormous risk and vulnerability, contributing to the estimated 24.9 million slaves trapped in forced labor according to the International Labor Organization.
Yobel wants to participate in a world where costs are no longer externalized.
The way we do this is by ensuring that the people employed to manufacture our ethical goods are valued fairly, and the planet is not only protected, but improved by the goods we sell.
This means you will find fair-trade, handmade, upcycled, and recycled gifts stocking our shelves, as well as products that intentionally give back to charitable and environmental causes, like this sustainably made Yobel Tumbler supporting Charity Water.
Instead of selling cheaply-made fast-fashion trends designed for the dump, you will find slow-fashion, functional art designed to last a decade or more. We want to foster a generation that understands the impact of their purchases and inspire our community to learn to consume in a way that prioritizes people and the planet, because when we do this, we ALL profit!
Authored by: Sarah Ray, all rights reserved, 2019