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Sustainability?

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  • Sustainability?

    I buy a lot of stuff 2nd hand not only to save money (I spend later for vet consultation) and because I really enjoy the search for nice tack, but to avoid things like child slavery, too much plastic, questionable environmental policy etc. I try in general to shop as aware as possible.
    While this is very increasing when it comes to evade fast fashion or animal tested cosmetics, I found it hard to find horse brands that are transparent about the conditions of their production. Most of the brands are quite small with 'no' marketing and not easy to find. I am wondering, if you find locally and 'fair' produced stuff in the US easily?

  • #2
    The only new saddle I've ever had was the one I got as a teenager. And that was pre-Internet when used saddles weren't easy to find. Nowadays, I buy tack and boots on consignment wherever possible. Both for sustainability and for the fact that I'll never have the money to buy a brand new artisan-quality leather goods. I generally try to buy brands made in Europe, England/Ireland, or the US. If something is outgrown and not in resale condition in our house, it gets contributed to the vast collection the trainer keeps for the times someone forgets their show coat or can't afford one.

    I understand and accept veganism for moral reasons. But having been a farmer focused on sustainable agriculture, I do not find it to be the ecologically superior choice that many feel it is due to the reliance on products shipped from great distances and reliance on petrochemical materials. Therefore, i buy very little plastic anything for the horses. Another trend I haven't jumped on is "natural" fly sprays. They all contain too much cedar oil, which is a neurotoxin and respiratory irritant.

    I'm fairly good at sewing and plan to learn how to make show coats while I have free time over the summer. One of the best bespoke tailors of equestrian clothing in this area was killed in a car accident last year. I doubt I could reach her skill level but it would be nice to be able to make and repair basic garments and sew hunt colors.

    Comment


    • #3
      If its factory made in a first world country then the labor conditions are probably passable. If its made by a small independent artisan like some western saddles, the labor conditions are presumably ok to the artisan.

      If its made in a developing country then all bets are off. You could contact the company directly and see what they have to say.

      Question: if I buy a piece of whatever made in China but second hand at the thrift store does it automatically get a pass for being second hand no matter the original condition of manufacture?

      BTW I don't think it's really "sustainability" you are interested in. Its more fair labor practices.

      We couldn't afford to buy anything in NA if we had to pay living wages to factory workers living in our economy. Thats why medical and education costs are going through the roof, because the service providers have to live here. Meanwhile manufactured stuff gets extremely cheap due to being made in a totally different economy.

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      • Original Poster

        #4
        I do contact companies. 2nd hand to me means, I do not support company XY - as long as people buy their stuff they will not rethink their ethics (babysteps are still steps in my opinion, no claim to perfection). Horses are a luxurious hobby, so personally I am fine with some minimalism (I am not the '20 fancy saddle pads person' as well). In a globalized world producing abroad is an option but does not have to mean disrespecting standards.

        Topic title is not perfect, I know. Focus can be ingredients, pollution, wages, age of employees etc. - what people are ok with is an individual thing.
        Actually I wanted to keep my question quite open, just finding out if there are trends and if companies can score with their politics (whatever their focus is)? Can local manufactories survive? Does anyone produce stuff himself?

        Wanderosa, I am thrilled. I dream of sewing my own saddle pads ... don't know if this is going to happen in this life. I only repair blankets (sewed by hand). I failed with mixing a coat shine spray (idea was to reuse the bottle and use selected ingredients, but my spray did not work as I was hoping. I want to try again).

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        • #5
          I've won a lot of tack, so not too choosy about that. I had my saddle customized for me, and it was made in Texas. I've had my brushes, buckets, etc for many many years. There is not much choice wrt horse specific equipment and supplies. I get what I need and what functions and what lasts a long time.

          I find that there is not a tremendous amount of transparency in production, and I refuse to feel guilty or unethical about buying something.
          "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him."

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          • #6
            If you see your own pads you need to consider where the fabric is made.

            Also whether you are choosing cotton, and if so is it organic, or are you using any polyester components, which are petroleum byproducts?

            Personally when I think about the petroleum footprint of my suburban horse (hay baling, hay delivery, trailering out to ride in my F250 that I bought just for her), any attempts at being environmentally sustainable in tiny ways seem pretty hypocritical in my case.

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            • Original Poster

              #7
              I don't want to think this way. Austria is going to ban plastic bags in 2020. May not change the world, but is one step. As I said, no claim to be perfect, but I am trying to be more aware. I can not quit or avoid everything, but that does not mean, I do not care at all.
              I know about the cotton problem but learned, there seem to be believable seals of approval (have to do more research).

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              • #8
                I tend to think the solution lies in political action and regulation rather than very small scale individual choices. They make the individual feel virtuous but don't change the larger system.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I think the mindset of "it's a drop in the bucket so why bother" is really crappy. It is 2019 y'all.

                  Sure, regulations are going to have the biggest impact. However, I see no reason why that exempts individuals from trying to do their part.

                  Personally, I try to buy secondhand when possible. Facebook marketplace and local consignment stores are great resources.

                  When buying new, I try to purchase very well made items. I am happy to pay a bit more for an ear bonnet or saddle pad that was ethically made. Leather goods are harder. While fair labor is still a concern, I would rather support that process once a decade rather than buy cheaper leather goods that have to be replaced more often.

                  If I am no longer using an item I try not to hoard. If I don't see myself using the item in the next 5 years I move it on. A piece of dry rotted tack or ragged saddle pad sitting in storage for a decade is just another landfill item. Unused items are matched with individuals or local groups who have a need for the item. Items with minimal use like well-worn tack or odd sized bits are advertised for free on facebook or craigslist as an item for DIY projects or home decor.

                  I buy items in bulk when possible to minimize packaging, always recycle when applicable, and work hard to not take a "what's one dropped peppermint wrapper" mindset.

                  In the end it is a drop in the bucket but it is my drop and I am accountable for it.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Scribbler, I know. But I also want to think it the other way around: what I buy or not is a small political decision every day. The more people, the more pressure on the companies to rethink. No fast solutions here at all. But long term maybe, so it feels wrong not to try. I talked to some farmers during a research about slaughtering e.g. and they survive market pressure because customers refuse meat from the supermarket. I'd call this expandable. Austria is a small country, so finding horse tack produced locally is the needle in a haystack. I was just wondering how it works in the US.

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                    • #11
                      All the major English saddle companies are headquartered in Europe with the exception of Schleese in Canada. I don't know where they manufacture. Some saddles still say made in England or Germany.

                      Higher end Western tack and gear is still manufactured in the USA and Canada, but lower end is manufactured overseas.

                      There are high end halter makers in the USA and Canada, like Walsh.

                      All the plastic and poly oddments, buckets and rope and curry brushes, would be China these days.

                      I think England has a more longstanding relationship with India for leather goods (since colonial days) though they need to manufacture in Moslem areas like Pakistan because saddle making won't go over too well in Hindu sections!

                      All my saddles and bridles are high end second hand, saddles restuffed to fit. I did get a Walsh halter new, because no one sells those until they are trashed.

                      North America is a great place to shop second hand, for anything you want. But that's because its such a crazy consumerist society, that you can rely on finding someone offloading an as new saddle, bridle, truck, wedding dress, kayak, sofa, whatever. Also vintage furntire and clothes are very trendy.

                      In other words, buying second hand requires the existence of wasteful consumers offloading or replacing things.

                      NA also tends to have the best factory outlet and discount and bankruptcy sales in the world ( maybe excluding Hong Kong). For many consumer items like clothes and housewares its a better deal to buy new at a discount/ liquidation outlet than at a thrift store.

                      I don't know how the money trail works once something is in the liquidation or discount channel. Stuff has already gone from manufacturer to wholesaler and/or merchant, manufacturer has been paid way back. Liquidator isn't going to restock from manufacturer.

                      Anyhow, the Austrian move of bsnning single use plastic bags is a very good step, though I expect people can still buy kitchen catcher plastic bags for household waste once their grocery bags are gone?

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        GraceLikeRain, old fleece blankets and saddle pads I donate to dog shelters, they use it as doggy beds during winter time.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
                          , though I expect people can still buy kitchen catcher plastic bags for household waste once their grocery bags are gone?
                          Shame on me I don't know details about this yet. Trend is to come with your basket or cotton bag to the store, so hopefully the whole idea will work. Trend is also to offer fruits and vegetables in open shelves instead of plastic packaging and to put it in to wash- and reusable bags. But regarding microplastic we fail. Noodles I can buy in paper packaging - in Hungary I saw big containers made of glass for noodles where people take what they need (hygienic, don't know how to describe) - I find this one of the best solutions I can think of at the moment.

                          Thrift stores here can be quite expensive as well, but flea market is cheap as hell.

                          Biggest 'problem' I see in horse tack is 'fast fashion' like saddle pads, nylon halters. They come in every color and they come 4-6 times a year because the brands sell seasonal/special collections. And the dressage girls buy ... and buy ... and buy.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Salo View Post

                            Shame on me I don't know details about this yet. Trend is to come with your basket or cotton bag to the store, so hopefully the whole idea will work. Trend is also to offer fruits and vegetables in open shelves instead of plastic packaging and to put it in to wash- and reusable bags. But regarding microplastic we fail. Noodles I can buy in paper packaging - in Hungary I saw big containers made of glass for noodles where people take what they need (hygienic, don't know how to describe) - I find this one of the best solutions I can think of at the moment.

                            Thrift stores here can be quite expensive as well, but flea market is cheap as hell.

                            Biggest 'problem' I see in horse tack is 'fast fashion' like saddle pads, nylon halters. They come in every color and they come 4-6 times a year because the brands sell seasonal collections. And the horsey girls buy ... and buy ... and buy.
                            Old school street market vendors never provided plastic bags. I lived in East London for a year in the late 1980s, and we still had an old fashioned veg market twice a week on the next street over. You took your own bag. The potatoes were often rather dirty! If this style of market is still in living memory in Europe it would be easier to get back into the net bag routine.

                            NA is home of the giant supermarket with a giant distribution chain, and food being shipped thousands of miles every direction.

                            Many produce items like lettuce, cauliflower, apples, oranges, potatoes. etc are wrapped in plastic at the farm and shipped that way. And all meat and cheese is wrapped in plastic. So just getting rid of the grocery bags would just be part of it.

                            The plastic wrap is probably necessary given the very long shipping and storage periods and the multiple handling stuff goes through.

                            Needless to say it usually tastes awful.



                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Farm markets are quite popular. Farm markets offer the chance to buy fresh products from local farmers. Supermarkets more and more offer locally produced products but those have to compete with the cheap stuff. Also we forgot to live with the idea that not every kind of fruit has to be available during the whole year. Consumers insist on this. So much food is thrown away every day, this is such a fail.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
                                If you see your own pads you need to consider where the fabric is made.

                                Also whether you are choosing cotton, and if so is it organic, or are you using any polyester components, which are petroleum byproducts?

                                Personally when I think about the petroleum footprint of my suburban horse (hay baling, hay delivery, trailering out to ride in my F250 that I bought just for her), any attempts at being environmentally sustainable in tiny ways seem pretty hypocritical in my case.

                                Oh, of course. We're lucky in that we have a fabric shop that carries closeouts of incredibly expensive fabrics for usually 93% off. Stuff that sells for over $1000+ a yard that is woven in European mills. It's certainly possible to find fabrics that are eco and worker friendly at places like Joannes, too, if you're willing to spend some time poking around.

                                Anyone who knows me in real life will tell you: Don't get me started on organics unless you've got time to sit down over coffee for a few hours! The USDA certification system has more holes than a worn out fly sheet. My most famous personal example - chickens. Most Americans automatically assume organic = free range (free range doesn't actually mean free range either, but I won't get into that!). It doesn't. It just means that the chickens receive feed that is USDA certified organic. Several years ago, we were doing such a booming business in eggs that I needed more hens in a hurry. I managed to find a guy selling "spent" hens from Amish organic egg farms he managed. I paid a $1 each for the 500 new ladies.

                                I knew all of the ins and outs of "organic" eggs and meat because I'd been working hard to educate customers for years. However, many customers were shocked to learn that the new hens had never set foot outside in their lives; had come from a hatchery that sells only to factory farms and had all the natural chicken behaviors bred out of them. They didn't know how to roost or to return to the barn at night (the first night after they went outside I was up until 3:30 carrying sleeping hens from the barn yard into the safety of the barn!) They laid eggs anywhere - you got took all over your shoes from stepping on eggs trying to walk. They had had their beaks clipped in order to stop them from fighting while stuffed into huge chicken houses. It was botched so bad on some that their top beak was an inch shorter than the bottom. While most of them learned how to forage for bugs, etc from my other chickens, the ones with the mangled beaks I fed separately because they had problems picking up food.

                                This is what the USDA has sold to the unsuspecting consumer as "organic". I hope that people would be pissed to know that their $5 a dozen "organic" eggs are business as usual at 3x the price. 10,000+ miserable hens crammed into chicken houses, poisoning the water table with nitrate, and belching tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere with the organic feed trucked in from 1000s of miles away. The rules allow for conventional pest and weed control as long as organic methods have been tried first. The trick? You don't have to prove to anybody that you actually tried.

                                I truly believe that very few certified organic products sold commercially are organic. I spent years producing better than organic meat and produce. There is no way that anyone, no matter how big, can produce organic, grass fed and finished beef to be sold for $6 a pound in Costco. Even locally you have to watch it. I once put an ad on Craigslist to sell extra turkeys before the holisays Someone from a famous, big-money, organic farm in the area quietly bought them all for "personal use" . I suspect they ended up in their farm store selling for $200 each.

                                I look at it as a balancing act. Is it better for the environment and the worker to buy an item made in China secondhand? Probably. Is it better to buy feed that's non-GMO from the producer 50 miles away that sprays judiciously in extreme circumstances and mills on the farm or the certified organic feed at Southern States trucked from Idaho? Probably the former.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  There's an instagram account I follow: @tiny.trash.can. She's Canadian, I believe, so a lot of her awesome options don't apply to me yet in the States, but she is big into zero-waste and it's really interesting and inspiring. You might like to check it out!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I hate the term "sustainable." It's essentially meaningless at this point because it's used so much to mean so many different things. I wish people would just say what, exactly, it is they are concerned about, because the "most sustainable" choice may be different depending on what, exactly, you are trying to accomplish.

                                    For example, depending on what you're most concerned about as an endpoint and how you structure your analysis, I'm pretty sure you can "prove" that plastic bags are "more sustainable" than paper or cloth, or that paper bags are "more sustainable" than plastic or cloth, or that cloth bags are "more sustainable" than paper or plastic.

                                    "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
                                    that's even remotely true."

                                    Homer Simpson

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Wanderosa, I have far less experience than you do, but the points you make are exactly why I don't bother making the effort and spending the money to buy organic. Local, yes...organic, nah.

                                      I approach things like you do, in terms of it being a balancing act. I try to make good choices when purchasing for my horse (and also in the rest of my life), such as secondhand tack, trying to minimize shipping, and making repairs instead of throwing away and buying a replacement.

                                      I'm trying hard to waste less food, which right now actually means buying a lot of our meals from a nearby meal prep place (it's all portioned out and we just have to reheat! But the downside is the plastic trays it comes in. We've been washing them out and either recycling, or saving to use for future food prep). That's not something I want to do long-term, but it really is saving us time, money, and food waste, and the meals are healthy.

                                      I agree with GraceLikeRain in that every little bit counts. I feel like the more we try to enact these practices in our lives, the more we are influencing those around us as well as setting up our communities to shift over to fair trade/sustainable/zero waste/etc. And the more educated we become, the more we can make those educated choices and push for changes on a larger scale.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Other than consumables (feed, hay, fly spray, bedding, etc) I don't buy much for my horse. I have brushes that are 20 years old, and buckets about the same age. I did save $15 by purchasing a used heated water bucket, but I had to drive 40 minutes out and 40 minutes back, and the woman talked my ear off once I got there, so it was 2 hours of my time. So I burned up gas in my truck, and spent 2 hours of time for $15. "Sustainability" sounds good in theory, but in practice it's not always the best route for every situation.
                                        "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him."

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