In our times, public awareness about responsible consumption is fortunately increasing. And whether one is looking at the travel – (that I write a lot about), textile -, or food industry, similar points become clear:
In order to combat unethical production practices, it is essential that consumers get aware of the issues and understand their potential to change things for the better by using their purchase power. In this lays the notion that it is essential that consumers don’t expect that private sectors (corporations) and governments alone to take responsibility. The latter factor relates to a common reason for why irresponsible practices continue to thrive: the lack of an all-industry-stakeholders responsible approach.
Thus if consumers understood themselves as a crucially important stakeholder group, perhaps they’d be less passive and more aware of their power to positively impact on the production circle by taking a few aware actions.
Here are 10 good advices for responsible consumption:
1. Like I wrote about in the previous post, the first action is simply gaining awareness. Get to know a little more about why the system we live in today is like it is. If you really care and wish it would be fairer for all of us, decide to engage somehow. Don’t avoid engaging due to a belief that your small actions won’t count. This is a common misconception that too many of us have, that ironically only benefits the system to continue being unfair.The more awareness you gain, the more you engage one way or another and the more others do too. It’s a lovely good circle to discover.
2. When you start engaging, let the world know it. Social media platforms are wonderful channels for this purpose.
3. Strongly linked to the above: Discuss and debate the purpose of your engagement. Of course you can be a total fashion slave AND engaged in how the textile producers’ worker conditions. In fact it makes more sense to show that you care about ethical production the more interested you are in a product. This way you show the world that you reflect and understand how things are interrelated.
4. Find out what further engagement you can afford to take. For instance, if you have some favorite designers or tour operators you purchase from, or food chains you love, check out their CSR schemes, and google their names + topics like location of fabrics, production place, social responsibility, transparency etc. If you cant find enough information, email them about your concerns. Trust that your voice has a real impact!
5. Yes, I know. It may be both time-consuming and overwhelming to search for ethical and responsible companies. Therefore the good news are that many organisations and individuals have done a big part of the work for you already. Find out more about civil society organisations and initiatives within the sector you are interested in approaching more responsibly. Despite of being critised as slactivism in the media, believe me on this: It is better to sign online petitions than doing nothing. There are several proofs this has increased improved corporate & government action.
6. Buy ethical. Many (e.g. travel, clothing, food and technology) companies now a days have a well designed CSR scheme or show ethical credentials regarding the environment and local communities they affect. However, when you are now entering the ‘awareness world’ don’t believe everything you read at first glance. Take some time to browse various sources; jointly look at websites, NGO sites and media articles (or blogs) about products/ companies you’re interested in in order to avoid trusting the many wolves in sheep’s clothing out there.
7. Support companies that are ‘ethical’ based on more than a few environmental credentials. Whatever industry you are purchasing products from, they are produced by human beings, and the sad truth is that most of these workers have few or none worker rights compared to our own. So, think about the environment yes, but look for companies that support workers rights and actively tell you what they assure of goods for their most vulnerable workers.
8. Whenever tragedies like the recent one in Bangladesh happens, get informed by, engage with and support organisations that work hard to teach us about this. Due to some of them and a long time pressure from the media and consumers, H&M, Tesco, Helly Hansen +++ actually just signed new agreements to OPENLY tell where all their production takes place. This means a tremendously lot for many poor workers in the ‘Global South’ and wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for social media and consumers’ engagement on top of civil society’s work. You can learn more about a very active and good organisation called Clean Clothes here
9. Get familiar with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and opinions about fair labour standards, which is the very core of the question of this blog post: Why become a responsible consumer? You can read about ILO here.
10. Lastly. Beware of the manipulative consumption industry and try to purchase less crap in general! 🙂
The story I told about the two days Luciano was in Cape Town and Johannesburg with us is being rewritten, so please bare with me (I had a terrible cold at the time and wrote about it in a stressed situation ending up focusing on a bunch of irrelevant details).
For now, enjoy this video (created October 2013) from the small tour Luciano did in Cape Town with Bridges for Music was recently uploaded on their homepage
Good times, and I wanna go back so badly!! South Africa in my H E A R T!
and Luciano too. Such a cutie!
Today, after some intense days ‘on tour’ we decided to go to the famous Lions park in Pretoria, just outside of Johannesburg. As much as it is an eco-tourism destination – neither a game reserve or a Zoo, but rather a breeding ground and sanctuary for important species – that focuses on the well-being and regeneration of the various species, in particular the endangered Wild Dog, the rare White Lion and Cheetah, and this in itself deserves a long post about the much needed role such a park has in the fucked up world we are living in where people kill endangered species, I’m much more excited right now about the fact that they had GIRAFFES there!
When we thought we were going to see lions, THIS lady was in fact the first to welcome us upon arrival:
That doesn’t mean we didn’t get to see lions, cause we did. And plenty too, including adorable and naughty cubs (one of them bit me in the tit – true story, and one to be told). But on our way between the safari lion sightseeing we bumped into this gorgeous and peaceful (aren’t they all?) giraffe and as the pictures can tell: Yes, we instantly bonded the way creatures of the same specie do.
First I could not believe her..
Then we posted together for the photographer, working hard on getting her face in the picture too. Sooo tall!
Then she allowed me to touch her skin and we stood like this for a good while.
I completely forgot about the lions around and only desired to get to know this mysterious graceful lady.
Don’t worry however. A post about the lions and the tit bit will come.
I’ve loved London since I first visited the city in my late teens and particularly by discovering the creativity and edginess of its East side. As most tourists I was astonished by the Spitalfields market and the joined density of Curry restaurants and second hand clothing shops in Brick Lane – in a time when we had neither in my own hometown.
Throughout the years I’ve learned there’s a lot more to East London than that, and by currently residing here I’ve decided to create a gems guide to celebrate my love for this part of the city.
I’ve tried to make the guide visitor-friendly for the newbies, but still hope it portrays the way locals see East London. I highly recommend that you follow the guide by foot* or by bike as those are the best ways to get around from A to H on the route I’ve set up below.
*Walking all the way from A to H would be too far, so if you don’t have a bike, make sure to take the overground from F (Dalston Junction) to Shoreditch (G).
The destinations are subjects of change depending on your time schedule and location, but these eight spots and their surroundings connect the essential attractions of East London.
This part of the city is historically known as an industrial labour-class area, but has gone through an extreme makeover the last few years. However, it still offers plenty of rather worn out looking streets and buildings, but more than anything it represents the most vibrant part of one of the world’s biggest cities.
Everywhere you go you’ll find authentic British brown breakfast places next to “exotic” food stalls and stylish healthy farmer cafes or vintage shops, quirky galleries and old & new street art. It’s not a secret I’m a fan of all of that, thus constantly find myself going back to these gems of East London.
In this post I’ll share them with you!
Please note: I’ve deliberately chosen a somewhat backward route chronology, leaving Shoreditch and Brick Lane till the end, because those areas are more frequently visited by tourists. They’ve had a popular reputation for years and due to that as well as their centrality I assume that most people that have been to London know them already. Anyway, you can obviously choose to do the route (or parts of it) the other way round.
So. Let’s say you start this tour in the morning. You’ll need a breakfast or early lunch.
A) On Bethnal Green road and by the underground station there are many typical British breakfast places where you can get veggie and non-veggie options for between 3 and 10 pounds. Including an Earl Grey tea, of course. Find a decent looking one, suck in the local atmosphere, and get warm and full before you walk towards Vyner street.
The way from A to B takes you by some vintage stores and other random quirky shops that can be worth checking out. I’d also recommend a stop by Town Hall hotel on the way (google its location). It’s an old & beautiful building, renovated into a chic design hotel. If you would prefer your breakfast of lunch here, beware their kitchen has a Michelin star (book in advance).
Whatever you choose to do, just make sure you’re not hungry when on Vyner street, cause here you’ll easily spend some time gawking at fascinating art.
B) Vyner Street has for many years played a big part in the emerging art scene. This vibrant street has showcased up and coming artists in the many warehouse galleries around for over 40 years. Depending on what day of the week it is (and on the managers’ mood), most galleries are open to visitors. Be aware that the galleries are quite hidden, or even off track (in backyards) and commonly identified by small letters next to a door and not necessarily by crowds coming out of them. Ring on door bells when galleries seem closed. Also search online for what’s going on when you’re around.
When you’re perfectly cultivated, head towards Broadway market (C).
C) As most other markets Broadway market is at its best on weekends. However, this is a street that hosts many random and interesting shops, cafes and bars, and personally I love spending any day of the week here. There are plenty of bars and fun small cafes and independent shops (+vintage!!!) to choose between according to your mood. The market itself has become very hipstery (or perhaps it always was), so this is a good spot for fashion addicts (or people that like observing them). Check what’s on in terms of the market, sales and shows whenever you’re around.
Depending on the season and temperature of the day, walk over to the relaxed park London Fields (D).
(D) If you’re lucky it’s sunny and warm the day you’re visiting, which will mean the park is full of happy people flashing their pale bodies. Or maybe you’re lucky and there is a secret cinema event on… Grab some beers from a super store nearby and celebrate the spring or summer here.
If the weather allows it when you’re on your way to Hackney Central (E), you should do a small detour alongside the canal next to the Victoria park (check the map). Here you’ll get a glimpse of what – to me – living the dream in a hectic city like London is like. The idyllic canal side houses with their small gardens tuck away from traffic and rush hours.
…Not to mention the colorful, authentic canal boats (most of which happen to be houseboats) attractive to people that see a good lifestyle by combining their home with pleasure, the closeness to nature and the escape from day-to-day pressures of life ashore (yes, please).
When I walk along some of the London canals I like having a chat with the people living in/working on the boats. It always strikes me they don’t remind you of typical Londoners, but have an attitude as if they just came from a meditation retreat in India.
E) Regardless of the canal walk, when you’re around Hackney Central, you should walk through various residential streets checking out the contrasting architecture according to era of construction and social classes. Here are plenty of barber shops, Asian food stores, second hand shops (look out for the charity shops, they’re often full of random vintage gems!), brown pubs and hipster coffee shops. Get a bite at an amazing North African cafe called Bohemia (on Bohemia Place, just of the major Amhurst road), and look out for random events outside the local church next door where street preachers and youth choirs often hang.
If you’ve been following this guide by foot, your feet are probably sore by now and you could be better of taking the public transport between Hackney and Dalston (F) (see the map).
F) Dalston was a hub for 1970s and 1980s rock and punk venues, and still represents a music hub for the young, though the genres have expanded. The area is currently undergoing a rapid habitation growth partly because of the redevelopment of the railway station at Dalston Junction and large parts of east London in the build-up to the 2012 Olympics. Hence contemporary Dalston is an ever changing vibrant neighbourhood with an ethnically varied population.
Architecturally it’s similar to Hackney with a mixture of 18th, 19th century and 20th century council states, including the iconic Art Deco cinema:
Also, be ready for some street art out of another world, with the famous Peace mural on Lane street being a key point.
There’s also plenty of Banksy around (just like in Hackney) and if you’re interested in such, I recommend you stroll the streets searching for them on all kinds of buildings, not forgetting the back yards.
Part from architecture and art what you do in Dalston is to gawk at the hipsters, get a bit of shopping, attend a food or record sales market, followed by dinner at one of the many restaurants in the area. And early night time (which is likely your time now if you’ve followed this guide) some of the coolest East side kids in London come out to play, giving the area the vibe it’s now famous for. If you get sucked in to Dalston and end the day there, I don’t blame you. It happens to the best! In Dalston by night you can take in some of the funkiest jazz in the city, see new plays, discover an unsigned band and dance the night away.
Dalston superstore for instance, blows away most people with its cocktail happy hours, disco nights, people in fancy dresses (on any day of the week), random but great DJ sets, gay friendly atmosphere and dark basement.
If you’re not in a partymood yet and still got time for a visit to Shoreditch and Brick Lane (or perhaps went straight there) get ready for another great (and crowded) part of East London.
G) Shoreditch is known as the hipster area that expanded from neighbouring Brick Lane back in the days, where tons of (South East) Asian restaurants, yoga centers, funky shops and art galleries have been popping up recently. Depending on your schedule and needs, I highly recommend you go for a dinner here or in Brick Lane.
If you’ve planned the route the other way around, there are fortunately still many awesome (and independent) jointed coffee/book/clothing/ interior shops around. The reason I’m not focusing too much on this area, however is due to its obvious popularity. Also, you’ll find plenty of blogs/magazines with their say on this neighbourhood by googling.
H) Then, finally, ladies and gentlemen. Time has come for Brick Lane!
One of the most interesting areas of London what immigration history concerns, with its nick name Banglatown stemming from being considered the heart of London’s Bangladeshi-Sylheti community for decades. Over the 90s and 2000s Brick Lane developed into a Mecca for young and arty people where night clubs, street art and increasingly popular second hand shops kept popping up in between all the Curries (Sri Lankan/ Indian/ Bangladeshi/ Pakistani/ restaurants) and Asian fashion shops.
Recently Brick Lane is considered by many locals as overly touristy, which mirrors the increasing amount of fancy bars and more commercialised – and occasionally overpriced– shops. Fortunately the authentic and delicious Curries keep it up competing with (and benefiting from) a popular three day long food (and clothing) weekend market and new coming funky restaurants and bars along the 2,5 km long lane (and its side streets).
Indeed. I love Brick Lane, and I love a good Curry meal.
Some of my Londoner friends find it funny I keep insisting to have my curries here where it’s common that doormen throw you in to the restaurants, offering a meal for less than 10 pounds. To me that’s Brick Lane though, and besides; I love the creative, chill and young vibe in this area. Not to mention the random club nights at Cafe 1001, or drinking on the streets during summer or any fortunate warm evening.
That’s all for now folks.
Enjoy East London!
We arrived home from London couple of days ago, didn’t plan to stay for a whole week, but then my man saw good opportunities to do some important meetings for next years bookings of artist at the club, AND as I dont have any job to go home (wherever THAT is) to, I thought I could as well just stay and spend all my money in the worlds coolest city!!
Plus being with Mark is one of my favorite things on earth ♥♥
First of all I have to thank my friends Kaija (Norwegian old friend living and studying in London this year) and Mark (a true London boy (he is very proud of that) -guy i know from the time i lived in Buenos Aires) for making our stay fantastic.
Day 1 we went to a crazily good Vietnamese place, so cheap and so good (Thai food is my fave), -drank hundreds of bottles of wine and ended up in a random club near Hoxton square (not planned!)
who do you think was the intruder?
a hilarious moment
Another thing we did was to walk by the river close to the Olympic park and what did I see: HOUSE BOATS!!
And most IMPORTANT:
on my B-day we def threw a PARTEEEEY
Ah good times.
Anyway more pics of my birthday party -forget it!
I rest my case
Besides all that we went shopping, sat in cafes working, ate sushi MMMmmm
and yes of curse! We went to a dj award thing at Ministry of Sound,
Gotta say he’s a wee bit changed, but im still a superfan
ACTUALLY I LOOOVE HIM!
Show me your pics!
Just before leaving the famous Cafe Leopold on Coloba Causeway (known from the novel Shantaram, as well as one of the first sites attacked during the 2008 Mumbai attacks), a short man in his twenties approached me on the busy sidewalk. While waving his business card in front of me with one hand, he pulled my arm with the other. At that time, I was already quite used to having short local people pulling my arms on the crowded streets of Mumbai, so I looked another way while trying to get loose.
Then I heard something like “Bollywood production”, “need Europeans,” “serious production”. Quickly I remembered what I had read before heading to Mumbai: That it’s not unusual that tourists are being head hunted on the streets by Bollywood production scouters. I looked at him and excused my ignorant behavior with a smile, before saying things like: “Seriously? Filming for a REAL Bollywood?”, and the scouter started to explain eagerly.
Although I found him very young looking, and had some stories regarding scout scams in the back of my head too (apparently false agents are fooling tourists to pay for an experience with Bollywood movie maker), my intuition told me that what he said about the next day’s production was true. We made an appointment for pick up at that very spot the following day at 7am, and he assured me I wouldn’t be the only tourist meeting him then.
As I walked down Coloba Causeway the next morning the most beautiful pink light of sunrise painted the streets and shabby buildings. Sun rays hit the many sleeping faces that slowly appeared behind ragged blankets too, and for a while I seemed to be the only one awake on that street. Until I spotted the rats. Suddenly there were rats everywhere: Crossing the empty streets around me, crawling around litter cans and under cars looking for leftovers.
Before I reached my destination, I spent some time reflecting over who was more miserable: The countless rats or the countless homeless people who shared their habitat with rats. It’s hard to say, but one thing´s clear: They were all totally careless about my presence that morning.
Soon my own memory of their presence faded too, as my first day in a Bollywood production started.
At the pick up point in Coloba Causeway, I met a good looking Austrian couple that also was booked for the Bollywood shoot. After being picked up by a nice van in which a British couple were sitting already, we sped through the city – that now was fully awake – while giggling and chatting, obviously excited for what the day would bring. Halfway, the cheerful tone in the car took an end as the driver had 1) crashed with another big van, and 2) jumped out of the car only to yell at a poor biker laying on his back in the middle of a busy conjunction because he had ran into us. It was a complete madness, now that I think about it.
When passing the Dharavi slum we got to see people doing their morning necessities next to the traffic jam, and minutes before entering the spot in which the production crew had rigged for the day, we passed by extremely skinny people washing the dishes in the middle of a muddy road.
Needless to say, I was full of contradicting feelings and rather bizarre impressions when arriving to the site of the Bollywood production, which looked like this:
What to do? I guess we all decided to just suck it in. This is India, right?
And honestly, approaching the film scene by car really took my breath away. Up a gravel road alongside a green park, through a huge golden gate and up a beautiful road towards this Disney looking castle of a building. The pink pretend-to-be-curtains were blowing in the wind and at least fifty workers were moving around yelling at each others. We got out of the cars with our cameras close, but were instantly told there were no time for that.
A stressed lady came out and presented herself, before dividing us into different roles of the upcoming act. Turned out we had arrived late (the accidents on the way!), and they needed us to get dressed and styled NOW.
I’ll let some pictures speak for themselves:
At least the British couple were happy about their dresses.
Ah.. Show bizz life.
What we hadn’t been told the day before, was that we were going to be many more foreigners on the set. We were: 1 couple from England. One couple from Austria. 3 guys from Argentina and 3 persons from Australia (two of which were on their honey moon and one girl dated one of the Argentinians after having met backpacking in India (edit January 2015: They are married today, yeaaah!). And myself from Norway.
And the happy campers from Austria:
The gorgeous Australian (who later married the Argentinian in the middle above):
After some mingling, the lead director (an Indian expat living in London) came over and briefed us about the plot of the upcoming commercial. We had been styled to look like guests in a fashionable wedding, as if the Indian couple whose wedding we were in, had white friends over from Europe. It’s common that middle class Indians either would have come from England or London, he said, or at least have white friends in their wedding. Well, we live in 2009, I thought.
As long as I remember I’ve dreamed of attending an Indian wedding, so I was pretty thrilled to attend my first one. Never mind it being fake.
Before beginning we had to wait for the real Bollywood stars to come, so while waiting I walked around in the venue and photographed other people who were waiting. These boys are from Mumbai and didn’t act as excitedly as the rest of us did. But they had found the best spot.
Meanwhile, as an enormous crew of around fifty people was fixing the last bits in the room we were going to shoot the add, the place filled up with young and old local actors. Many of which apparently take assignments as extras in a movie or commercial production while some – I’m sure – dream of one day nailing a major role.
Whether they’ve taken part in a Bollywood production before or not, I don’t know, but they definitely must have had the starstruck-day of their lives, because as the proper Bollywood stars came in, they starred and giggled non stop.
The two stars – that I can’t say I know as I watch too few Bollywood movies – where young, glossy, pretty and both taller and lighter than the others. The girl that was getting married in the commercial, was rather shy looking and silent all the time, whereas the main acting boy (drum roll please…..) looked confident and happy. Just like one see from pictures of Indian wedding.
The add was for a Ponds face creme (Ponds is the biggest cosmetics brand in Asia, due to their whitening cremes (!)), and the plot was that the groom’s best friend, responsible of filming the wedding, got distracted when spotting the most beautiful girl he had ever seen among the guests. The girl obviously uses Ponds creme every day (thus her remarkable lighter skin), and the groom’s best friend starts filming her instead of the newly weds.
The rest of us “normal wedding guests” doing what people do in a wedding:
As tend to occur, we had to shoot each scene numerous times. Thus, the above flower scene which is key to any wedding, had to be shot over and over. So we threw flowers over the newly weds, wooed and laughed over and over.
After each “cut!” we had to stop to wait for light fixes, new make-up and that these poor men swept the flowers of the floor. This, as well as somehow serving the rest of us, seemed like their only task on set that day. As much as I tried, I really never caught their eye contact, or saw them smile.
The Indian caste system still seems prevalent to me.
Later on we were told to just wait. Like in any other commercial production with fixes, extras and models, things take much longer than what’s planned to begin with. So. while the film crew were busy filming the main stars, including a make-up break every 10 minute (it was mad!), us normal wedding guests sat in a corner of the beautiful building waiting.
Soon bored and ready to leave, we were instead finally given some delicious food. We counted six hours since arrival at this time, and a few of us started acting a bit tired of it all. Food helped on everyone’s mood though, and this way the film crew managed to convince us to work a few hours more.
In the end however, it turned out this was NOTHING like an eight hour day of work… In fact we were done eleven hours after arrival. And the payment? Well, it started with all of us having been promised up front a payment of 10 $ for the whole day, but it ended with no one of the crew even commenting on salaries as we were wrapping up. As much as found the promised salary symbolic anyway and agreed to just be happy for the unique experience, one of the Argentinian guys still confronted the crew with the salary promise, and so our contact person – the earlier mentioned scouter – came over and started counting some bills to pay us. He even took advantage of the situation to ask everyone to please be quiet about getting paid as the other extras (the locals) were not paid for their roles.
Thus we also got a good glimpse into the exploitative movie industry practices in India. I couldn’t help but to tell the guy I found this hideous and argued how they locals probably needed those 10$ more than the rest of us do. To be totally frank with you, their working morals were a lot higher than ours too. We were just spoiled travelers looking for an adventure.
Not that he cared.
Oh well. India.
Still though. I’ll never forget this day and the people with whom I shared it. From the very early morning stroll through the grim reality of people’s lives on what’s probably Mumbai’s busiest street, to the end of the glamorous shoot, I’ve felt oddly grateful for just being. Traveling tends to do that to me: Reminding me how grateful I am to even be walking on a random street.
But, let it be said. Not once has the rats on Coloba Causeway’s destiny crossed my mind since that stroll. As for the naked kids sleeping together with their families I feel completely powerless. Not to mention speechless over the absurd contrasting lives, after hours spent in a meaningless whitening creme’s commercial shoot up the street.
Part from being blessed as a privileged traveler with yet more random, bizarre and fun experiences in a city, I’m mostly pondering about what was behind the on-the-ground hard working men’s faces that day. They were constantly yelled at regarding constructions, camera equipment, lights, curtains, cooking table and the flower decoration, and I really wonder what they are paid on days like these.
Anyway. Thanks for an interesting day, Bollywood.
Now, back to reality.