Happy first day of spring! It’s the time of year when my thoughts turn to adventures outside and shedding layers to wear my favorite spring styles. This year I’m trying to be more conscious with what I consume. I recently chatted with my friend Ashira who is the founder of a social enterprise that helps victims of human trafficking and a sustainable marketplace for ethically made products. She is a bit of a guru when it comes to being a more conscious consumer and shared some great tips on how you can start being one too.
Laura: What is Salila Rising?
Ashira: “Salila Rising:Threads for Freedom is an ethical fashion line and social enterprise that works with young girls who are survivors of human trafficking in Delhi, India. The girls study and are trained in fashion design and sewing. Salila Rising offers them an opportunity to have a sustainable, creative and safe livelihood”.
Ashira is the head fashion designer and helps to source the recycled saris and fabrics from all over India. The girls use their new skills to cut, sew, and finish the orders! They use recycled saris and block-printed fabrics with vegetable dye because they are more sustainable and are better for the environment.
Salia Rising was created after Ashira saw many of the girls struggle to have good lives after being rescued.
Ashira: “I started Salila Rising after working with the NGO STOP for 7 years (STOP stands for Stop Trafficking and Oppression of People). STOP provides a safe home for girls who have been victims of human trafficking and other abusive situations. During my first visit, she met and fell in love with the founder, Roma and many of the girls.
I felt a deep calling to support the girls in their paths of healing from trauma and finding freedom, a journey I was also on. For a few years I taught yoga, meditation and self healing practices to the girls at the STOP family home. I watched two girls go on to get married and sadly not have a happy ending. Women do not have equal rights in India and when women want to leave abusive relationships it can be very hard. Both girls died within two years after their wedding day, one of them dying from being set on fire by her husband’s family for “not being a good wife”.
After seeing many of the girls have a hard time transitioning into adulthood and finding sustainable work, I was inspired to start Salila Rising”.
In addition to Salia Rising, Ashira is also the co-founder of Jewel and Lotus, an online global community and ethical marketplace.
Ashira: “My husband Andy and I started Jewel and Lotus because we wanted to make it easier for people to shop ethically and in alignment with their values. Most products do not say who and where they are made and people usually don’t have time to research every aspect of the products that they buy. We wanted to create a place where people can easily know that the products being sold are made by people who are being treated with respect and are not causing harm to the environment. Jewel and Lotus has been called “An Ethical Etsy” and has vendors from all over the world. The products that are sold on the Jewel and Lotus site are labeled as organic, fair trade, indigenous made, sustainable livelihood, vegan, recycled, zero waste, and so on. In total, we have 16 ethical labels that businesses chose when listing their products and customers can easily sort through when shopping with their values".
Laura: What are your current favorite ethically made and sustainable products?
Laura: How can people be more conscious consumers?
Ashira: Find your values and shop with them. It’s important to know what you value. If you don’t like slavery, you can choose to not buy products that are made by people who are enslaved. If you care about the environment, buy organic and sustainable products. Don't go to crazy with this... but aware and do your best.
Ask questions like who made my clothes and products? Start by looking at the tag to see where an item is made and what type of materials are used. Additional questions and research are often required. But the truth is that if a product is made in fair conditions or with organic materials, a brand will usually use that in their marketing.
Watch "The True Cost". This movie is available on Netflix and is an eye opening look at the global garment industry.
Buy less and choose better quality. If what you are buying is cheap, it’s probably because someone or something was exploited to make it. I would rather spend more money on a good quality piece of clothing knowing that it hasn’t harmed someone or the environment to make it rather than having ten shirts that have harmed people and the environment”.
Laura: What is your favorite place that you have traveled to?
Ashira: My favorite recent adventure was to Bali! It was an extra special trip because it’s where Andy and I got engaged. I loved the waterfalls, the kindness of the locals and the spirituality that runs through the people and the land. I also loved the amazing spa and beauty treatments available, using the indigenous healing herbs and flowers.
Ashira and I are giving away a Salila Rising kaftan. For information on how to enter head over to my Instagram.