How does one begin their mindful consumerism journey? Don’t freight! Mindful Consumerism Coach, Melanie, joins us on this week's episode of Voices of Freedom to share how she began her journey and shares a few tips to help you start yours! Melanie also shares the correlation between consumerism and labor trafficking.
We'd like to thank MGF Sourcing and the MGF Touch Foundation for their sponsorship of Eat Up Columbus- Freedom a la Cart's annual fundraiser, taking place Saturday, July 30th at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in downtown Columbus. Making Great Fashion Sourcing has historically been a passionate advocate of Freedom a la Cart and our mission to empower survivors of sex trafficking and exploitation to lead new lives of freedom, and we are truly grateful for their partnership. Visit MGF Sourcing's website today at https://www.mgfsourcing.com/, and purchase tickets to attend this year's Eat Up at www.eatupcolumbus.org.
Melanie's email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Melanie's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melanie_lillich_conover/
Labor Trafficking: https://humantraffickinghotline.org/type-trafficking/labor-trafficking
Awaj Foundation: http://awajfoundation.org/
Mandie: Today's guest is Melanie Conover. And most of the people here in our local community know her as the director of people in culture at sanctuary night, a local drop-in center, but she is also a mindful consumerism
coach. What the heck is a mindful consumerism coach?
that's a great question. Um, so what I do, uh, is I get to work with amazing people who wanna learn. To buy more consciously, um, in a way that doesn't harm the planet or people. Um, so that looks like us meeting one on one to kind of talk about, um, how do you start your journey to being a more conscious shopper?
So when you're not being a coach, what are you doing? Who is Melanie outside
of that? Yeah. Um, I loved garden. I love to ride my bike. Um, I have a husband and two cats, nacho and knives. Ooh. Um, yes. I love them very much. Um, I really get a lot of life from my friends. Mm-hmm um, I live next to my best friend and that just brings me so much life. So I love hanging out with, um, the people that are closest to me. You're
so lucky to live next door to your best friend.
I know I'll never go back. It's the best. Yeah. Aw. We share gardens and it's really fun.
Um, have you ever had delicata squash? No. If not, you need to get it and put it in your garden. ASAP DETA. Okay. What, what is that? So. It, um, is kind of sweet. Like people compare it to a butter Nu squash, but I think it's even better than butter.
Nu squash and it's round. And it's white with green stripes on it. You cut it in half, scoop out the inside. And then cut it in half moon shapes, put olive oil and salt and pepper on it and bake it in oven. And it's like eating candy. You just eat it off
the grind, like a watermelon slice
so you can eat the outer part of it.
It's not hard.
yeah. So it's like, when you make an acorn squash, like you can have the outside cuz it can stop. Yeah.
Mm-hmm I'm gonna have to find that. That sounds great. They have. I got at the Beckley farmer's market, cuz I know you live by Bexley. That's why I first
it's not gonna be at the white hall Kroger.
that's where I first had it, but then I did find it in a grocery store at Meyer during like more towards like fallish time when it will be like in season Uhhuh. Um, but yeah. Sorry you said gardening and I was like, yeah, I'm like trying to tell everyone you have to get tele squash.
You have to get it.
Yeah, I'm gonna put it on my. All my seeds are like heirloom seeds this year. And I actually like thought I lost all of my tomatoes to squirrels. Oh no. But now all of the thing, all of the plants that I thought were marigolds are actually tomato plants. Oh, I have like eight or nine. And I'm like, I'm like you take a tomato plant.
Yes. It was a miracle. I cried over them when I. I lost them, but turns
out, I feel like people who garden have like, this love, hate relationship with their garden because they like, like planting this stuff, but then they have so much produce that they can't eat it fast enough before it goes bad. So they're like shoving it on everyone that they know they're like tomatoes for you, peppers for you
actually love that.
I like put them on my front porch and. get everything that you want my garden. Yeah. That's really fun. Do people take it? Yeah. I laid out two tomato plants and people took that's
awesome. So this year you could bring things to
sanctuary night. I know. Yes. Very exciting. That's that's cool. Yeah.
Yeah. So. With all that being said, how did you start your journey of mindful consumerism?
Like what got you interested in and how did you figure all of this out? Mm-hmm
so I kind of think of this in like three parts. So one, I started, um, learning more about human trafficking in high school. And the more that I learned, uh, the more that I was like, I need to figure out what I can do to somehow help in, you know, this effort to end human trafficking.
Mm-hmm um, and I didn't really know what I was doing. I switched my major, like two or three times, and then I transferred . I found social work. And I was like, where has this been? All my life. Um, and I absolutely love social work. Um, so I have my, um, undergrad in my master's degree that I got from, um, Ohio state.
Um, so it was like through my whole education that I really focused on human trafficking and I had a number of internships, um, friendships. Um, one of them, um, was in New York city through inter. The, um, Christian fellowship and it was called NYCU and that was, that was the place that I really started to learn more about how my purchases impact other people.
Okay. I kind of knew a little bit before that, but it's really where I dove deeper. Um, and I, I interned while I was there at an organization called Nomi network. Um, and they work with women. Um, India and Cambodia, um, and they sell their products. So it's kind of like a social enterprise in a way. Mm-hmm cool.
Um, yeah, so I learned about that, uh, more about conscious consumers I'm there. Um, and also how it relates to like my food and farm workers in addition to my clothes and things. Um, and then I just continued, that was in 2015. I just continued to learn more and. But I kind of hit like a point, like a, sort of a plateau, I would say.
Um, I was like being really conscious with my purchases, um, myself. Um, but then when COVID hit, I learned, um, more about what, how corporations were, um, treating garment workers, um, like specifically at the beginning. um, a lot of companies like H and M or Zara, um, and others decided to, um, cancel all of their orders.
They kind of panicked when, um, COVID hit because they're like, oh no, nobody's gonna be buying anything. Cuz nobody's going to the office and mm-hmm . Um, and so what happened was they canceled, you know, their orders to factories abroad. Um, and what happens is that factory owners have to front the cost of all of the PR all of the production costs and including, um, paying garment workers.
Um, but in this case, um, they were not able to pay their garment workers because when orders are canceled, they don't get sent over to the company. And the company, there's a loophole in their contract where the company doesn't have to pay. Oh. Or the order until it like, gets to them. So they weren't getting to them.
And factory owners had to lay off, you know, um, all their employees and or most of their employees, and then they weren't getting paid and it was a whole cycle. And I. I, um, became an ambassador with an organization called remake, um, that advocates for requirement worker, right. Um, abroad and in the us. So I kind of dug deep, um, into that and learned more about advocacy work.
Um, not just how do I, you know, be a more conscious consumer in my personal life. Mm-hmm um, so that has, that was so influential and that's kind of what led. To, um, more research and coaching.
So when you say garment worker, can you describe that population?
Yeah, so it kind of depends on the area. Um, there is a large, there's a large, um, garment production.
Um, how would you say that there's a lot of people in Kimbo. sorry in Bangladesh, um, that make garments. So, um, it's like one of the top countries with, you know, the most amount of garment workers in garment factories. Um, and so that's one big place also. Um, China is of course a big place, um, India, so that, that population looks very different, um, all over mm-hmm and they have different levels.
Protections through the government. Um, and you know, within unions, some places are not able to have unions because they're like illegal or, um, other stipulations like in India, but Bangladesh has a number of unions. Um, and the us. The actually, um, state that has the, the largest amount of factories is LA.
Um, and there are like a certain number of, I don't wanna get the number wrong, but hundreds of, um, garment workers who work there, and most of them are like, uh, young women. Color mm-hmm um, yeah. So,
so you, so you kind of made the correlation, but I want you to go like more in depth. You said that you were focusing on human trafficking and how to help that.
And then you got into mind consumerism, like I'm assuming the bridge was labor trafficking. Can you like speak on that a little bit more?
Yeah. So, um, I started learning then at NYCU more about, you know, how my purchases impact other people. And so that includes labor exploitation and labor trafficking. Um, so those are not like the same thing.
Um, labor exploitation is like, actually it's not a legal term. It's sort of, um, a blanket, I guess. Mm-hmm um, you would say. Um, forced labor is not the same thing as labor trafficking, but like labor trafficking and forced labor are labor exploitation. Hmm. Um, if that makes sense, , it's a little bit confusing.
Um, but I start, so yeah, I started learning about labor trafficking in that way that my purchases are sometimes made by people who are trafficked or exploit. For work. Um, and yeah, I mean, that was really because I knew so much about human trafficking and I worked with human trafficking survivors. It really, um, like hit home, I guess.
Mm-hmm um, because they were just being exploited in a different way. Like garment workers are. Exploited by companies, um, who, you know, use their power to intimidate them and to force them into work, even if it's not how they recognize. Um, even if they can't recognize that that's happening because they don't know their rights, especially in the us.
Um, and then, you know, there's intimidation. um, just like, you know, a sex trafficker or a sex traffick, um, you know, makes that victim dependent on them, you know, just like the corporation makes the worker dependent on them for all of their needs.
Yeah. And I think this is a good time to like, restate that trafficking, labor trafficking, human trafficking, sex trafficking, that all happens here in the.
Like a lot of people have this image from movies that, you know, women are, it's only in like foreign countries. Yeah. And a foreign country are, you know, kidnapped and put into a van. And like, that's what they think of. And that's not how it's happening. It's happening here in the states as well. Um, so as, as much as sex trafficking is happening in labor trafficking is happening here too.
Do do you.
um, any resources or,
places people can go or, or like websites or whatever, to learn more about labor trafficking. Do you have a plug you want to share, like how you maybe learned about that or.
so I actually started learning more about labor trafficking. Um, well, I mean, there are a couple different places, but, um, really through the avenue of garment work.
Um, but I also interned with international justice mission, which is like a global anti-trafficking organization, um, based in DC, but they have like 17, maybe more now. Um, field offices around the world. So they work with people, um, you know, who have all sorts of different, um, who are, you know, exploited in different ways.
So human trafficking, forced labor, um, and police abuse, power, um, specifically in like Ghana. Um, but there are also like, you know, kids who are, um, forced to work in the fishing industry. Um, and so like things that we don't even think about, because we don't think about that kind of industry here in the us.
Um, and so I, I started actually learning a lot more through international justice mission. So I would recommend, um, looking at, you know, what they do. They're incredible. Um, I also started following like clean, close pan, clean, close campaign labor behind the label. Um, those were like really the places that I started to learn more.
And that's like specifically through the garment industry, but you know, there are other organizations that, of course I'm not gonna remember at the top of my head but like, but like related to farm work, Too cause that's huge. And um, so there's a lot of different resources that like I can provide you as well.
Yeah. Awesome. Um, I could put those in the show notes too, for people to look to. That's great. So what are the first steps someone should take to begin their mindful consumerism journey?
Yeah, it's such a big question.
I was gonna say something on. Social media struck me and it would be like a very easy start is how you post that you do clothes swaps.
Yeah. So instead of buying clothes, you find people to swap
clothes with. Yeah. So I love that. I get, I do that like twice a year. Um, But so, yeah, that's a, a huge step. Um, because consumerism drives human trafficking and labor exploitation, because somebody's gotta do the work, right. Mm-hmm and somebody's in power over the people doing the work.
Um, and so the more that we buy, the more that, that feeds into that system, and that doesn't mean that individuals are like solely responsible. It's like, you know, the people who are doing the most exploiting are, are companies. Um, but anyway, I digres. Um, so the first thing that I would say. To, um, I mean, I think it's obvious, but to continue learning more mm-hmm um, and actually, I would say, start with learning more by asking a lot of questions.
So asking, like, where did my shirt come from? You know, what did they look like? Um, what is their family like? Where do they live? Um, I mean, I also like, think about, you know, My furniture made, you know, where is that, that fabric on that chair produced, um, who picked the fibers, you know, who was in the cotton fields, that kind of thing.
Um, because we really don't think that far back mm-hmm off. You know, but there is somebody all along that production line. Um, we don't think about like the fibers that have to be picked on the farm. Um, and then who has to weave that and, um, who has to then make the garment. So I would start at start by asking questions like that.
Um, and then follow organizations like Rema. Um, like, I mean, I think, I think that they're tag they're. Um, oh my gosh. What is that called? Tagline hash tag. Yeah. Social media tag thing. Yeah. Um, is remake.world. Um, but then also, like I said, the clean closed campaign labor behind the label, um, there are like a number that you can follow, um, conscious life and style is a great place to learn more.
um, she has a podcast as well. So really look up those places, listen to those podcasts. Um, you know, read all the articles on remakes website, if you don't follow, um, if you don't have social media. Um, and then I would say, you know, one big step is to learn how to advocate, um, because we can start with our own actions.
Mm-hmm, being a conscious consumer, um, which I would say is the next. um, but really advocacy work is what's going to be the thing that makes the difference. Um, we've had like a number of campaigns with the, with remake and other organizations that I follow, um, where, you know, we've been able to pass legislation to make sure that workers in LA are receiving a living wage, um, or receiving at least the minimum wage.
Um, so there are worker protections that we've advocated for. Have gotten past. And, um, so it's really awesome to be part of a group and an organization, um, that is working so hard to make a difference and, um, improve the lives of pharma workers. Um, so I would, you know, Say, continue to figure out how to advocate by following those, you know, organizations.
Um, and then of course, like be really conscious of what you're buying. And that doesn't mean they have to be a hundred percent perfect. Mm-hmm cause we can't know everything. Um, but you know, do your best. And because that is what. Motivates me to continue advocating by asking those questions and by, um, you know, by being really conscious of my purchases, then I can be like motivated to continue to advocate, um, for, you know, those workers to get what they deserve.
mm-hmm um, and then I would say, well, I'll just do three steps. Okay. There's so many things.
, that's great. So sharing all of that with us and knowing that you're a mindful consumerism coach, if someone was interested in working with you, um, how could they get in touch with you?
Um, yes. So, um, they can email me.
So it's mindful consumer coach, gmail.com. Um, and then they can also follow me on social media. Um, I think it's Melanie underscore, Luk under store Conover. I know that I will link
down the show notes,
Melanie kinda. Yeah, and I really love to post, like, not just education, um, about like where to shop, but honestly, I, I post a lot about advocacy stuff because I'm really passionate about that.
So, um, and then you can just like email me or direct message me. Um, if you wanna learn more, I'm happy to do like, you know, a 20, 30 minute call to talk about, you know, what it could look like. Or, um, if you just. Like a one session or you wanna do like, you know, six sessions or whatever mm-hmm that might look like, then we can talk about that.
I love talking about this kind of
So we had a workshop here where you, um, came in and did like a workshop on mindful consumerism. Would that be something that you would also be interested in doing for other places, if they wanted to like hire you to bring you in for their.
Yeah, I would love to do that.
Okay. I like doing those kind of trainings and also like consultation stuff. I really, um, am passionate about too.
Awesome. So those are our questions that we had for you. Is there anything else that you think like would be really impactful for our audience to know about mindful consumerism? I mean, there's a plethora of things, but like one small thing
, you know, I think the biggest thing that I, I really wanna emphasize to people is like giving yourself.
Because I have to do that all the time. I can't be perfect. In this way, but that also doesn't mean that I have an excuse to turn my back from it. Mm-hmm um, this is something that impacts all of us. We all, it's a universal thing. We all have clothes and, um, we all eat food, you know, when it comes to farm work.
So it's, I mean, it's important to give yourself that, that grace and know that you can't do everything perfectly while also, you know, holding in the other hand. Um, that you also like have to be aware. Um, so I there's a lot of dissonance, uh, that we experience in this. And so I would say like, hold experience the dissonance, right?
Like you can hold both at the same time. Mm-hmm, , don't fight against the dissonance. Like I think lean into it, um, is something that I, you know, tell coaching clients
a lot. Mm-hmm awesome. Awesome. Thank you.