my howies catalogue arrived a couple of weeks ago. i can't remember if i have blogged about howies before. but they are one of the most inspiring companies i have come across. it sounds weird to say but their catalogue is always wonderful. they have an ethos/commitment to tread lightly on the earth and their clothing products are all designed to be durable and made from fabrics and dyes that treat the earth with respect. scattered through the catalogue are a series of reflections such as on food | environment | life .
when i was in the US on the last visit jen and i had a fascinating conversation with some friends there about christianity and the environment. this was provoked by the creation project proost are publishing with group in june. the gist of the conversation was that these friends had never heard a sermon suggesting that looking after the creation was part of what it meant to be a christian. it simply wasn't on the map, and in fact anyone suggesting it ought to be was likely to be perceived as a 'tree hugger', at least in that part of america (colorado). this catalogue reminded me of that conversation. no doubt howies then would be perceived as tree huggers but in my view this sort of business models the kinds of instincts and concerns christians should share. how we treat the creation entrusted to our care may just be the single most important issue facing us right now...
Just in time:
The New York Times
April 3, 2005
QUESTIONS FOR RICHARD CIZIK
Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON
Q As a leader of the National Association of Evangelicals, you are going up against tradition by trying to persuade your 30 million members to care about pollution, global warming and environmentalism in general.
The Scriptures themselves, right in Genesis 2:15, say watch over creation and care for it. The air, the water, the resources -- all have been given to us by God to protect.
Yet evangelical Christians are famously suspicious of science, which has long been a synonym for atheism. Isn't that why they reject both evolution and environmentalism?
A lot of conservative evangelicals have a problem with the environmental movement. I don't call myself an environmentalist. I say I'm an advocate of ''creation care.''
''Creation care'' sounds like a division of Medicare.
It's still better than environmentalism.
What is wrong with that term?
It's not the term. It's the environmentalists themselves. I was recently speaking with the leadership of the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation, and I told them, ''Gentlemen, I respect you, but at this point don't plan on any formal collaborations.''
Why? Because they lean to the left?
Environmentalists have a bad reputation among evangelical Christians for four reasons. One, they rely on big-government solutions. Two, their alliance with population-control movements. Three, they keep kooky religious company.
What is your idea of a kooky religion?
Some environmentalists are pantheists who believe creation itself is holy, not the Creator.
And what's No. 4?
There's a certain gloom and doom about environmentalists. They tend to prophecies of doom that don't happen. Look at the movie ''The Day After Tomorrow,'' in which New York City freezes over.
Talk about gloom and doom! What about evangelicals like Tim LaHaye, who discourage Christians from worrying about the environment because the earth will just be destroyed in the Second Coming?
I don't agree with that.
Do you believe in the Rapture?
Yes. I believe that there will be a Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and the believers in Christ will rise to meet him in the air. The dead first, and then those who are still living.
Do you think you will see it in your lifetime?
If I do, that will be wonderful. But I'm not going to count on it.
Have you met President Bush?
On two informal occasions.
Do you feel that you have good access to the White House?
I have been in meetings at the White House where the president spoke and meetings outside of the White House at which Karl Rove was a speaker multiple times. As recently as a week ago, I had a phone call from a White House staffer, who said, ''Richard, about your environmentalism, do you have a disagreement with the administration?''
I would think you do, since the president is under constant pressure from big business to roll back environmental protections.
If the evangelicals can't convince the president, then no one can.
Why would President Bush give evangelicals more say than he gives the business community?
Look, the big corporate interests have an undue say in party policy. And into this reality come the evangelical Christians. And when confronted with making a choice, this administration will compromise. Because about 40 percent of the Republican Party is represented by evangelicals. They wouldn't want the two major constituencies of the Republican Party at war with each other.
Posted by: Bob C | April 07, 2005 at 10:14 PM
How do you or ,e or anyone justify spending so much money on clothes that are for sale in howies. I used to get their catalogue, I can't now. There has to be a cheaper plcae that does the same stuff as howies, does anyone know one of these?
Posted by: Timothy Wright | April 07, 2005 at 11:10 PM
great post jonny. in my experience of living in the US, the most startling culture-shock for me has been the whole environmental issue. our community is trying to engage a radical environmental group about issues of spirituality and the planet. we are finding such wonderful companionship with them and yet such is the cultural climate here that they are still shocked anyone who would call themsleves a christian would not think "it's all gonna burn!" they have asked us to be allies in caring for God's earth and help them understand orthodox christian spirituality as it relates to the planet....and we have asked them to help us learn practical ways of "treading lightly on the earth" it's a match made in heaven (and earth).
Posted by: geoff | April 08, 2005 at 10:37 AM
Tim, it doesn't have to be expensive all the time. Howies have an end of season sale twice a year where you can pick up cheaper clothes from the website. Another (slightly) cheaper company is people tree (www.peopletree.co.uk).
However, I think its a bit of a fallacy that good stewardship = buying things cheaply. A lot of the time the clothes we buy are artificually cheap because the people making them have been exploited or the processes involved in making them leave a big footprint in the ground. In my thinking I'm happier paying more for the product if I can be sure that the way its been produced is less harmful to the world.
That said I know its hard to do that on a tight budget, it just means I don't get new clothes all that often.
Posted by: Ben | April 08, 2005 at 11:15 AM
Good point Ben. There was a great article in the Guardian a while ago about the true cost of Tesco's £3 jeans http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1448686,00.html
Posted by: Jenny | April 08, 2005 at 02:58 PM
Good thoughts and article about Tesco's. Gets me thinking.
Posted by: Timothy Wright | April 08, 2005 at 04:49 PM
Howies are fantastic. Great ethos. Great clothes. Great catalogue's! I can also endorse Ben’s recommendation for People Tree clothing and also suggest people take a look at Equop (www.equop.com) and Sussex-based Gossypium (at www.gossypium.co.uk).
Posted by: barky | April 08, 2005 at 07:53 PM
From another Howies fan, re. the cost of their clothes. One of the most refreshing things about them as a business is that they often tell you that if you can't afford their stuff just now, except on credit, don't buy it till you can. It's excellent quality stuff and with an ethos well worth supporting, I've found it's worth saving up for.
Posted by: John Davies | April 09, 2005 at 12:29 AM
Recently down here in Australia we had Clean Up Australia Day-a pretty self explanatory title! Which we decided as a church we would do, as church one night. We met at church to catch those who had missed the announcement, and to give some sense of normality to church for those a little more traditional.
We then just went out and cleaned up Australia! It was awesome! My reflections are here http://hotdiggityblog.blogspot.com/2005/03/flexible-church.html#comments
I was in part inspired by Brian McLarens book-A Generous Orthodoxy. he has some great stuff to say about why we as Christians should care for the enviroment.
Posted by: Digger | April 09, 2005 at 10:41 AM
What has helped me so much on this topic, besides the readings that mention and all the conversations where environmentalism comes up, are the following observations that we ought to see in reading the Bible:
First, God chose to make human beings his special "Eikons" (image of God) so they would reflect his glory and love to the entire world. Because God did the work of making "images" (Eikons), he commands his people to not to make Eikons. Second-hand or third-hand Eikons are ugly, and do not reflect God's glory properly.
Second, in choosing to make us Eikons, God is saying that the world is capable of revealing and bringing Him God's own glory and love and power. The PHYSICAL and the EARTHLY are not only capable but called to display this glory.
Third, the entire universe (Ps 19) displays God's glory.
Fourth, and here's the biggie: whenever we distort our Eikonic nature or whenever we deface God's creation we deface the Glory of God.
May God be patient with us as we learn this most valuable calling of ours.
Scot McKnight, North Park University
Posted by: Scot McKnight | April 09, 2005 at 04:05 PM
"What has happened in consumer society is that dissatisfaction and satisfaction have ceased to be opposites. Pleasure resides not in having but in wanting. Insofar as an item obtained brings a temporary halt to desire, it becomes undesirable. This is why shopping, not buying, captures the spirit of consumerism..." (read the rest here : http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine.article&mode=printer_friendly&issue=soj0505&article=050510 )
Although Howies' anti-american "would you like some fries with that?" advertising campaign may be very funny and great for selling expensive t-shirts in the UK, it's probably not the most effective means to influence Americans toward a more sustainable, simpler way of life. Then again, I'm not entirely dissatisfied when I wear my high-quality Howies "I'm not an American" t-shirt in the streets of Paris. >8-0
Posted by: Jonathan | April 14, 2005 at 12:07 PM
Great to see Howies being raved about here - they are very inspiring - cost can be prohibitive, - theory goes that you buy more expensive and it should last so it works out cheaper in the long run.
Also, the whole consumer expectation of what a product costs is totally distorted - especially when we think about food and also clothes.
However, cost is a real issue for many - check out www.wiggle.co.uk - they're a cycling website that sells Howies - they offer a great service and good prices - I've just picked up my 'short sleeved Wynford organic cotton shirt' for almost half price, also Howies cords - made in the UK with organic cotton are £40, can't argue with that!
Posted by: Richard Bull | April 18, 2005 at 12:24 PM
American youth pastor here. :) Any suggestions for companies to buy from here? Seems like the choices are limited on ethical threads. Thanks for the thoughts!
Posted by: Tom C | April 19, 2005 at 09:08 PM
OK. So I got my hands on this Howies catalogue. At first I was taken back by the look, part A&F, part Camper, but with a weird dose of Lands' End. Getting into the content a little, it seemed like all the right things were being said, but it just felt a little obvious and forced.
Posted by: Fernando Gros | May 04, 2005 at 06:44 PM
wow - lots of passion...started by an 'article' on a clothing company from Wales!
so I guess Howies is doing the job - instigating debate and inspiring change!
they have definitely inspired me - we have followed in their footsteps and started an eco-urban clothing range (100% organic cotton T-shirts)(also based in wales)(www.glo4life.com).
basicaly we are 2 designers, disillusioned by the built-in-obsolesence of most products and the dis-regard for the consequences of how they were manufactured - and it was these products we were helping to market through our design! so what could we do?
we started our own company, wanting to change the world in the only way we knew - through creativity and design.
trying to create a legacy of worth for our son!
we're not up there with Howies in terms of brand awareness, but we are making ripples in this big pond - we've been featured as a 'brand to watch' by a fashion/business magazine (Drapers weekly)...so who knows where we'll end up?
but for now, we're trying to make the right decisions and enjoy the journey!
with regards cost - we also sell at the same price as Howies (we do currently have a sale on!) - that is mainly because of economies of scale - we're a small start-up, can't afford to order huge amounts of stocks and therefore are working to the minimums which costs us more!
also there is a premium price paid to the farmers for organic cotton and to the factory who employ responsible working conditions!
but saying all this, you end up paying the same for non-organic and sweatshop t-shirts - so we think it's a good deal and we're doing the right thing!?
like to hear your feedback
Posted by: damian | September 27, 2005 at 03:18 PM
I don't know if anyone is still reading this or not but howies make environmentally cool stuff at a high price. My family are an average working class family with little money yet I saved up and bought some howies stuff and I fully expect it to last 5 times as long. They say themselves they use more expensive twine (9 times) in their jeans to make them last longer everyone else is pretty awful in this niche market. So my reckonung is you get what you pay for. And me and my mates were inspired by howies so we are going to make our own organic/recycled t-shirt company. Good luck to glo4life.com but I prefer howies.
Posted by: Richard Bunce | November 20, 2005 at 09:49 PM
As a resident of the USA, i'm always blown away by the size of the vehicles people drive as compared to cars in Europe. I feel embarrassed that the SUV's look like they could kill you instantly if they hit your car and wonder why anyone would want such a thing (Hummmer, etc)Doesn't it seem perfectly obvious that these things will disappear in the next ten years as we will probably not have a choice about using less fuel. I think we all want to deny reality and it will be to our detriment.
Posted by: stevey | February 14, 2006 at 04:49 AM