By Allison Gardner
Under what conditions were your clothes made? More likely than not, slavery has touched at least part of the outfit you're wearing today.
According to the Global Slavery Index, roughly 40.3 million people were in slavery worldwide as of 2016, and 24.9 million of them were in forced labor. The GSI's latest report, which came out in summer 2018, expanded upon this research, breaking down the data to show the top five products most at risk of modern slavery.
Garments were number two on the list, coming in second only to technology.
Slavery in Fashion
The fashion supply chain is complex and expansive, meaning it provides a number of opportunities for slavery to flourish. It is estimated that roughly "100 pairs of hands touch a garment during its production," but audits are often limited to just first and second tier suppliers, meaning they typically fail to expose issues further down the supply chain. Each stage of production poses a new opportunity for worker exploitation and human rights abuses like slavery.
One example of slavery at the raw material level of the fashion supply chain can be found in the cotton industry. Often, weak protective services or poor governmental oversight leave people vulnerable to forced labor, but in some cases, the government itself is the perpetrator.
For example, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the fifth and seventh largest exporters of cotton worldwide, employ state-led forced labor systems of cotton production, according to The Cotton Campaign. For decades these systems have routinely forced citizens, adults and children alike, to leave their work or school each fall in order to participate in the cotton harvest.
The Uzbek and Turkmen governments have successfully practiced this abuse of their people by threatening, detaining, assaulting, and imprisoning citizens who refuse or who attempt to report the abuse. The profits from both countries' cotton sales remain solely with the governments.
After years of advocacy and political pressure from NGOs, this past year the government of Uzbekistan finally introduced legislation to address the state-sponsored atrocity. However, research has already shown that the 2018 harvest this past fall was still heavily reliant on forced labor.
[With the DoneGood Shop and browser plugin, you can quickly, easily, and affordably support hundreds of ethical and sustainable brands.]
Further down the supply chain, slavery also exists within the mills that spin cotton into useable material. The garment industry in India, for example, is known to have a major issue with forcing young women to work in spinning mills for little or no pay.
A system known as the "Sumangali Scheme" has been employed for years by spinning mills and garment factories in Southern India. Praying on economically disadvantaged young women in the north, factory recruiters offer them two to three year apprenticeship contracts with the promise of a lump sum of payment at the end.
For young women from poor families, this opportunity is often too good to pass up, as many of them hope to one day be married, and their families typically cannot afford a large dowry for them (sumangali in Tamil means "happily married woman"). Thus, this scheme provides factory recruiters with a mechanism to easily staff their facilities at a very low cost and appears to offer young women the opportunity to seek a better future for themselves.
In practice, however, the scheme has been shown to lead to a myriad of human rights abuses, including instances of modern day slavery. The young women are all too often subject to poor or unhygienic working and living conditions, frequently face discrimination and sexual harassment, and very often do not receive that lump sum of payment they were promised.
These are just a couple examples of slavery within the fashion industry, but there are undoubtedly many more.
A Complex Problem
Whether it's the fields where the cotton was grown, the mills where it was spun, or the factories where the garments were sewn, the industry is notorious for providing opportunities for exploitation.
If this upsets you, and it probably should, you might wonder who's responsibility it is to step in and fight slavery within such a complex industry.
Some might point to individual brands, arguing that they choose to work with factories and manufacturers that may or may not treat their employees well. Others may turn to the factory owner or recruiter who is directly imposing the conditions that can either support or exploit other human beings. Governments, particularly those that are uncorrupted, could also be the decision-makers.
In reality, though, there is one other group that shares the power to change this system. And that's us, the consumers.
What We Can Do
Our consumption drives a subset of an industry that relies on exploitation. And because of that, we can also become part of the solution.
This Fashion Revolution Week, we should all ask "Who Made My Clothes?" but perhaps a follow up question is also necessary: "What Am I Doing About It?"
As consumers we have power to change the fashion industry for good, but in order to do so, we must recognize our role and acknowledge our responsibility.
The first step will undoubtedly be educating ourselves, and fortunately organizations like Fashion Revolution provide us with ample resources to do that. But the second step will likely be harder; we will need to take action.
Each person's journey to conscious consumerism is unique, but at the very least, we can provide you with the tools to find brands who share your values. With the DoneGood Shop and browser plugin, you can quickly, easily, and affordably support hundreds of ethical and sustainable brands.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
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By Beth Ann Mayer
Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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