Article - Muka Kids: clothes that don’t harm people or the planet

Muka Kids: clothes that don’t harm people or the planet

Jess Berentson-Shaw lives on a windswept Wellington hill. She has two kids, is a part-time scientist and manages a social enterprise called Muka Kids. Muka Kids is part of Jess’s plan to create a sustainability revolution in kids’ clothing production. She has also been known to hide under the bed from her kids during ‘nutty hour’.

Why Muka Kids?

The idea for Muka kids came about when I was buying clothes for my kids. I knew there were significant environmental and social problems associated with the production of kids clothes and I decided I didn’t want to be part of the problem any more, I wanted to be part of a positive solution that could also help others.

What’s the problem with the way our kids’ clothes are made?

This is something I’ve been researching for a while and here are just a few of the alarming numbers I’ve found:

  • Children as young as 5 years old are found working in cotton farms.
  • There are 5 main groups of toxic chemicals used and found in most children’s clothing and 29 million annual cases of poisoning from pesticide use in cotton production workers from developing countries.
  • There are 2.5 billion tonnes of wastewater pumped into waterways by the textile industry per year.
  • Cotton farmers in the US receive 4.2 billion dollars in annual subsidies - equivalent to the value of their entire crop.
  • 75% of the US cotton crop is dumped on the international market which is priced at below the cost of production in developing countries.
  • During peak production, garment workers must work 90 hours per week.
  • An average Indian garment worker is paid 51 euros per month (the legislated minimum wage), while 195 euros per month is needed to cover basic living costs in India.
  • 80% of garment workers are women although most of the higher skilled and paid jobs are given to men.
  • Only 0.2-0.5% of the total retail cost goes to average production workers’ wages.
  • The number of garment workers who are outsourced (work from home) is unknown but it’s thought to be in the millions, and is a totally unmeasured and unregulated industry.
  • 41% percent of garment home workers earn less than the legislated minimum wage.
  • Meanwhile in developed countries an average family’s annual clothing requirements are responsible for releasing 1.5 tonnes of carbon emissions.
  • The average family produces 70 kilos of clothing waste each year and 30% of the clothes that are bought are never worn.

Muka Kids social enterprise

Muka Kids is a social enterprise seedling

Starting a social enterprise in this space is certainly a challenge and at 3am in the morning I asks myself some pretty serious questions. Then I remember that making a stand and working to change things for the better has no guarantees and is a lot of hard work, and I feel proud to be stretching up to be part of a group of kiwi business people trying to do a little bit of good in the world.

It is a pride I hopes others will share as Muka Kids moves towards crowd funding our first line of clothes and ask people to join us and become ‘re-gooders’!

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