Quality of Life in a CommunityPhoto Credit: Generosity Water

A good quality of life affords people basic human dignity through access to adequate shelter, quality food, safe drinking water, proper sanitation, decent education, and sufficient health care. But this is not the norm for most people on the planet. Billions of humans lack the basics required to achieve a good quality of life.

The Hard Truth: Quality of Life is Determined by Wealth

Quality of life is impacted by many factors. Factors like affordable shelter, healthy food, safe water, sanitation, education and health.  When our lives are abundant with these things, we have a great quality of life.

But quality of life often ultimately depends on financial well-being. Without the ability to afford clean water or safe shelter for instance, one focuses merely on surviving. It is no surprise then, that those living in poverty inevitably have the poorest quality of life.

Consider this: The World Bank defines extreme poverty as an average daily consumption of $1.25 or less.[i] Billions of people live at this level of poverty every day:

  • An estimated 44.4% of all people live on less than $2 per day.[ii]
  • More than 50% of Sub-Saharan Africans and 35% of South Asians live on less than $1.25 per day.[iii]

How can one possibly achieve a high quality of life on $1.25 a day?

Fast Fashion’s Connection

Everything in this world is connected. Pull on one thread, and you unravel stitches in some other system.  Poverty and standard of living are no different.

What do you find at the other end of the thread that leads to low quality of life?   A corrupt and unjust consumption system. And world consumers are driving this unethical commerce system through our buying habits.

When we spend money in the developed world, we have a huge impact on the quality of life of impoverished people on the other side of the globe. Here are just some of the ways that the fast fashion industry contributes to the cycle of poverty:

  • Offshoring toxic industry:
    1. Companies move their toxic practices to countries with less stringent environmental laws.
    2. The toxic chemicals used to create plastics, mine minerals, tan leather, and treat textiles leak into the water and soil of these impoverished nations.
    3. People develop higher rates of cancer and other illnesses, which prevents them from working.
    4. They cannot afford medical care due to their financial circumstances.
  • Unfair labor practices:
    • Many factories and industries work in developing countries where labor is cheap.
    • People are forced to work long hours, 7 days a week.
    • They receive wages that are barely more than $1.25 a day (sometimes less).

The consumption-based economy reinforces the poverty cycle and diminishes quality of life for much of humanity. Conventional industry practices are focused more on the bottom line than on the lives of those producing products.

As environmental justice advocate Majora Carter put it so eloquently “economic degradation begets environmental degradation which begets social degradation. Lower income communities are often exploited for profit.”

Ethical Fashion Can Create Transformation

Thankfully, there are alternatives to the consumption economy. At Hearts, we focus on a people-centered economy to create a better world where all people and the environment are supported through conscious commerce.

Instead of focusing on profit, Hearts’ people-focused approach centers on communities and the environment.  What’s best for humanity? What’s best for the planet? We ask ourselves these questions for every one of our products. We work to build an ethical economic system founded on principles that foster quality of life throughout the value chain.

Hearts is stimulating this ethical economy using a variety of tools:

  • Microloans: One of the most effective ways to achieve economic empowerment, microloans give people the tools they need to create their own revenue stream. These small financial loans provide small businesses with the capital they need to succeed.  
  • Cooperatives: Groups of artisans and farmers team up to achieve big things. They negotiate for better prices, stand together to protect themselves against corporate greed, build their communities by establishing schools and clinics and foster cultural awareness.

Economically empowered communities can solve many of their own quality of life problems. In an ethical economy, people can overcome environmental, social, health, and educational challenges. And that’s good for them, good for you and good for this beautiful planet we call home.

The beauty of a people-focused commerce system is that we have the power to positively impact people on the other side of the globe with how we spend our money. Conscious shoppers use the power of interconnectedness to make life better for others.

Quality of life for all is possible. You can help transform the system by using your purchasing power for good. With Hearts, you can choose ethical fashion that’s made for change.

To look at the global issue of quality of life, dive deeper.

World Issue - Quality of Life - hearts.com.pdf

[i] Extreme poverty rates continue to fall. (2010, June 2). Retrieved April 18, 2012, from The World Bank: http://data.worldbank.org/news/extreme-poverty-rates-continue-to-fall

[ii] Pogge, T. W. (2003, March). Severe Poverty as a Human Rights Violation. Retrieved April 18, 2012, from UNESCO Poverty Project: http://portal.unesco.org/shs/en/files/4363/10980840881Pogge_29_August.pdf/Pogge+29+August.pdf

[iii] The Millennium Development Goals Report 2011. (2011). Retrieved April 18, 2012, from United Nations: http://mdgs.un.org/unsd/mdg/Resources/Static/Data/2011%20Stat%20Annex.pdf