Category Archives: Susan’s Musings

Change Your Shoes

I have become addicted to YouTube.  Second only to The Guardian and The BBC website. How come the internet can become so addictive?  I am reasonably confident that in the future I will not look back, sigh fondly and think “I’m so pleased I looked at the news incessantly”.   However……YouTube is the new thing for me.  We are developing our own channel and while meandering around the eclectic, sprawling, enlightening, frightening, unpleasant, inspiring range of videos,  I came across this one – Change Your Shoes.

There is an app to support it so that I could go on a virtual march to Brussels. At the end of the campaign there will be a petition asking EU policy makers to prioritise regulating the shoe industry. When we purchase clothing, shoes, food, anything really, it is so easy to just not even think about how they were made and who made them. Sometimes we want to close our eyes and shut down our curiosity because the whole world seems such a crazy, barbaric, place and it can feel overwhelming.   Especially if you watch as much news channels as I do – the bad stuff gets all the headlines.

But I can make a difference.  Watching this video made me feel positive.  Because it reminded me – if I ask a few questions when I buy things, is this local produce when I eat in a restaurant? Who made these shoes and what do you know about them? How were these handbags made, who made them?   Its not enough that they look or taste beautiful – who made them, how they were treated, what they are made of, has an influence on how beautiful they really are.

What Daisy Did is a local company who really do know who make their handbags.  I have a bag and a purse and two of my friends following Christmas have bags and my niece a purse.  These bags really are beautiful inside and out – whenever someone says “I love your bag Susan” I immediately launch into the sustainable, ethical, story behind each of them.

Here at Cotton Roots our range of Fairtrade clothing and textiles is also beautiful and fascinating to me. I adore knowing where the cotton came from – Pratima Organic Growers Group in Odisha India, that Sreeranga has organised our order for us, that Armstrong Knitting Mills spun the cotton for us, that Suvastra made the items for us.

Our new delivery of Fairtrade tea towels and Fairtrade shopping bags thrill me.

Sign up for the virtual march to Brussels on the app here

Guiseley Methodist Junior Church – Dye Fairtrade T Shirts

Recently we had an enquiry from a group wanting some of our white, Fairtrade certified t shirts.  Of course we were delighted to supply.  The organiser Sarah Osgerby was very committed to the idea of Fairtrade and nothing else would do!

Fairtrade t shirts dyed using fabric sprays.

I was really pleased when I was sent some photographs showing the finished results. I was also impressed.  I think they are outstanding.  They used fabric spray to create tie dye effects on the t-shirts.

The t shirts are going to be used for next the harvest service display.

Fairtrade t-shirts dyed for Harvest Festival

Guinness Book of Record Attempt – Fairtrade

Well we have a plan.

Quite a big one – or should I say long one?

The Cotton Roots team have applied have applied to the Guinness Book of Records organisation for permission to try and set a record – for the worlds longest washing line filled up with exclusively Fairtrade clothing.  It takes around four to five weeks for us to get a reply and it’s been about two weeks so far.  If we get permission we will start planning and I have some ideas brewing.  As we are based on the beautiful Rose Lane Farm, surrounded by gorgeous open fields it could be the perfect place.

OR……..we could try something more flamboyant like trying to surround ……….?  We are looking for ideas that are especially appropriate.  Please if you have any ideas just add it to the comment section below. It’s a thrilling plan – I am am gleeful – and you may have the final idea for the perfect place.  We hope to work closely with Stony Stratford people – the town has a very active, go get spirit and is also a Fairtrade town. It is very near and we could hopefully involve some of the pupils form local schools we supply.  In addition we also have some well know brands we work with for example Ecover, River Cottage, Dorset cereals, The Holocaust Trust, Christian Aid, Burts Bees the list goes on and on and perhaps we can all get involved together.  It would look absolutely fantastic wouldn’t it?  Their Fairtrade garments on the washing line along with all the others.

Well that’s our plan. We wait for the reply and keep our fingers crossed.

Go on help us with some suggestions!

Frog Rescue on Kilver Beach (or how I was very brave)!

It sounds a bit nerdy but I love hunting for things.  So last weekend when I was told by my B & B host  Lynn at The Old Cider House in Nether Stowey that there were lots of fossils to be found on Kilver beach I was excited.  I know, I know not your average person’s excitement.  It took a little bit of persuading to encourage/bribe Vicky that it was a good idea but a bit of negotiating i.e. she would come for a short walk with Daisie and then read the newspaper in the car off  – we went.

By the way The Old Cider House had scrummy local organic food, wild chickens which might be because they could get in the micro brewery, and a handsome black Labrador called Osborne or Ozy for short.  We now follow @ozythelabrador on twitter. He is quite a good writer really!

A windy chilly perfect Autumn day.  I was in bliss.  Fossils, fossils where are you……. Vicky allocated half an hour on my own to search for fossils.  After five minutes what did I find?  A real live frog in the pebbles.  Not hopping but stretching out those long back legs and walking slowly along the beach.

Big dilemma.  Not keen at all to pick it up, want to look for fossils really but thinking the frog had two very probable outcomes – it would get washed away by the tide or a seagull would have frog legs for tea.  I asked for help in picking it up and was told it was a “sea frog” and to leave  it. Mmmmm.  I was not convinced – a sea frog. Not seen that on Nature Watch or in my guide to British Wildlife.  Asked another person who apologised but not willing to pick it up.

Frog looking at me!

By now the frog had gone on about another three meters across the pebbles and took me to a fossil!  Yes the little blighter helped me out and now I felt morally obliged to rescue it.  In the end with my half hour up and lots of hopping from one foot to the other (me not the frog), I managed to pluck up the courage to pick it up in my scarf.  I clambered over rocks, up a bit off a cliff and along the cliff top to a suitable bit of greenery.  It does not sound very brave now I am writing it down but it was quite a long way and the frog, tweeting all the time and  managed to get out twice.

Today though I feel very proud and pleased with myself.  I found a fossil,  rescued a frog, and confirmed that the UK at least does not have sea frogs.

Isn’t it beautiful?  How the heck did it get there?

Challoner Pupils Lead their School to Fairtrade Status

Students from Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School

I am quite new to “tweeting” but lots of young people are red hot.  I was really pleased today when a tweet came along from a group of pupils from  Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate school (Wow – what a name) about their efforts for Fairtrade and I saw it!

A local charity called the  Otesha Project had worked together with a group of pupils with a passion to fight for Fairtrade within their school.  Together they  presented a proposal to staff and school governors to make their school a recognised Fairtrade school- and it was accepted.  A fabulous committed effort.

Wonderful news and it just shows how individuals and  groups of determined people (human beings) can really make a difference.  When I visited India I met some of the cotton farmers who grow the Fairtrade certified cotton we use.  They showed me first hand the difference Fairtrade can make.

Just like the ripple in the pond theory.  A small stone dropped in a pond causes ever increasing ripples.  The Challoner pupils have dropped quite a large stone and the ripples will be quite a force.  I really love it when students move things along and actually lead their school or university to change.

Our effect on the world – the ripples go on and on………..

Inspirational Women

I meet a lot of wonderful women in my world.  It was good to come across this short video of talented women with a few lines of their wisdom.  Courage seems a bit of a theme.

Running Cotton Roots and Impact Trading  is both exciting and challenging.

Sometimes wonderful, and just lately a little daunting.  Now I know I am not supposed to admit that but I think I will not be alone.

However the team here at Cotton Roots are all moving together with our plans and we are making great progress.  We hit a few little speed but we have rode right over them. Ye ha!  So we adapt and change with the times.  It’s not survival of the fittest but survival of the most adaptable (Darwin I think)!  A dash of courage, a pinch of resilience, a splash of stubbornness and inspiration just saunters on in (when you are shattered and least expect it) – just like that.

So take a LOOK, a MOMENT,  and listen to the video below………

Inspirational Women

Buckingham Palace on a Friday Evening

This is an old story I like to tell. With a bit of an Aesop’s fable about it.

At the end of a long week, very late on Friday afternoon I took a call enquiring about fleece jackets and polo shirts from a “David”.  I was in a very good mood, though I can’t remember why.  Anyway he asked lots of questions and I answered the best I could, in fact thought I do say so myself.  In the end I thought it would be a good idea for him to see some samples of the clothing he was interested in for his staff.  I explained we offer a free sample service, we just ask that the garments are returned within two weeks.

All good happy stuff.  I also explained that we take credit card details although we would not take from the card – unless our goods were not returned. Still happy stuff.

I ask for Davids address to send the samples to and he starts…………….. “The Royal Household!”.  I stopped.  You are going to say Buckingham Palace next aren’t you I said.  The answer was yes and then I explained I would still need his credit card details!  It was a great afternoon and we did go on to supply The Royal Household with some of the uniform for their gardeners.

The lovely thing about this story that I never know who is going to call us next and although all our customers are top of my list I couldn’t help but be excited about supplying The Royal Household, Buckingham Palace.

This was  a while ago but do I still have them down as a customer?- You Bet!

The Desperate Plight of Africa’s Cotton Farmers

I read this article today.  It is a little old now as it was written  in November 2010 by Elizabeth Day for The Observer.  However is is still very much up to date.

It explains the subsides given by USA, EU and the China to their cotton farmers – and then the impact this has on the price cotton farmers get in the very poor nations.  The subsidies really do manipulate the price of cotton and has such a negative impact on the farmers in such places as Mali, West Africa and Gujarat Northern India where we purchase Fairtrade certified cotton for our company Cotton Roots.

Liz outlines the way in which Fairtrade has a positive impact.  The “Premium” from the Fairtrade way of doing business resulting in access to health care, clean water and education.

There is also an interesting video which supports the article – watch it here.

I have recently had an update from the Fairtrade Foundation regarding the fair trade cotton production for the garments we have made for us in India.  The organisation at the start of our Fairtrade chain is an organisation called Delight.  What a great name.

The premium has partly financed water tanks for the groups livestock, as well as a communal stage for meetings and entertainment. They have also spent their premium on helping to finance and construct an English medium school called Swayam Academy through the Mahima Education and Welfare Society trust. The children of the tribal farmers (approx. 110) receive free education, transport, stationary and books at this school.  I have visited this school and some of the cotton farmers.  Once again I am reminded that when I read articles like the one Liz has written and think back to my visit then the inspiration it continues to give me results in our range of Fairtrade t shirts, aprons, school uniform and and Fairtrade polo shirts.

Swayam Academy School Children – India

The real idea is to share.  Although the recession is having an impact on us here in the UK.  Our wealth is beyond the experince of the cotton farmers  I met in India.  If we at Cotton Roots together with our customers share just a little, the effects are magnified in such a important way to those growing the cotton and make a real difference in their lives.

“Bee Lovely” Organic T shirts

I have recently spent a Saturday on a “keeping bees” workshop.  It was riveting. I loved it. Sue Bird ran the workshop and as she has fifty bee hives she certainly knew her stuff.  But it was obviously more than a business for her and she loved her bees.  I came away loving them too and full of admiration for them.

Did you know that the worker bees are all female. That the queen bee makes one mating flight in her life and that the drones all think yipidy do da and race after her, elbows sharpened, in full buzz,  to try and be “the one?”  When the hive gets too full the old queen if slimmed  down again (by feeding her less) so that she can fly again.  She will then leave the hive taking a swarm with her and leaving a young queen in her place.

I wish Sue had a website I could point you in the direction of  – her workshops are so worth going to.

Anyway back to business.  Just at that moment Neal’s Yard Remedies came along and asked us to supply organic yellow t shirts. Printed with their “Bee Lovely to Bees” design.  You see they have a campaign to help the endangered honey bee and have an online petition which you can sign here.  They want to promote banning particular pesticides which directly impact Bees.  SIGN UP!

Supplied “Bee Lovely” Organic T shirt

Jenny worked hard on this order and the final result was certainly very effective. It was great that Cotton Roots organic t shirts were selected for this promotional campaign. We are proud to have supplied Organic and Fairtrade garments to another outstanding company. I was especially rewarding that it was right at the time I was learning all about keeping bees.

Gave us a Buzzzzzz here at Cotton Roots 🙂

Honey Bee in flight with full pollen sacks