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Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Eve

In my family, Christmas Eve was rarely nothing more than appetizers, heavy egg nog and if we whined long enough, the opening of one present. But today, Im excited for more.

Today will be a long run in the sunshine, local seafood from Mayport, a talent show and even the experience of a first Christmas for our new friends from China. All of this is beautiful. I cant believe how blessed I am. Its been a rough year for my family financially and often this season Ive been reminded of the line from the carol, "what can I bring you, poor as I am? I give to you my heart." We arent poor, we are eating crab legs today, for Christs sake (literally), but its been hard. But we arent poor. We have jobs, we have paid lunch breaks, we have unemployment, we have our freedom, we have. We have. Maybe for the first time Im getting it...
And most definitely, for the first time, I can look under the tree and offer gifts made by those who also have. Have paid holidays, have a chance to go to school, have respect from their employer. What a joy to celebrate the birth of Christ with them together. Because of fair trade, they have the privelege of talent shows and local seafood with their families too.

Wishing you a very, Merry Eve.
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Time is Here...

It's the week before finals so while Ted is putting the finishing touches on his wind tunnel, I'm spending the night with Sarah McLaughlin (the best ever Christmas album) and minervois (a French variety. This particular winery Chateau Coupe- Roses uses eco-friendly and is family-based and fair.And. Damn. Good. Oak and raspberries. Ask your local wine shop for it. Pairs perfect with wild salmon)

I pounded out 5 miles on the treadmill after work today for sanity's sake. (Anyone who runs outside in this frigid state is a hero. Or maybe stupid. A stupid hero. Unless they are wearing those freakish looking toe shoes, then just awkward, which come on, really in this city? You best be watching for dog poo and cigarettes every other step. Put on some sneakers!) (New Balance is so close to being fair. They have had a few accounts of slave labor in China, but have resourced to other factories and audit often. Also check out Hersey shoes.
They are expensive, but custom made)

So MIT has nice treadmills, but an even nicer pool, am I right or am I right Sanaa/Elizabeth? (They don't use chlorine, but some type of magical natural stuff) The best part of the gym though is a full length glass window that overlooks the divers. 6 special treadmills face that window and today I got to be special. As I watched the young women
twist and flip their bodies in ways that my husband only wishes I could, I thought back to my commute home from work the other day. The secret part of me that has in some ways enjoyed becoming cynical, more critical and less compassionate surrendered itself that afternoon...

A brief story if I may: (written a few days ago)
My commute to and from work is 4.3 miles. That .3 is most definitely the longest, bumper to bumper part of my drive so it's very necessary to include. And during the .3 today, as I tried my best to speak prayers of blessings instead of prayers of death over the oh so many Massholes on the road, I saw this older man on the sidewalk, wearing a long, khaki trench coat and a hat that you've seen pictures of your grandpa wearing-- He was making his way through all of these hipster, Berklee kids- and just then on my radio station, "I'll Be Home for Christmas" began to play and I thought with an overwhelming sense of certainty, 'I bet that man is going home to decorate his Christmas tree.' And then I thought, 'I want to go home and decorate my Christmas tree.' Right there is when the cynicism came back and I remembered,
oh yeah, we aren't allowed to have Christmas trees in our apartment because they are fire hazards. Little does Westgate know that I burn candles and lots of them. It helps my husband get over the lack of twisting. You get the point.

ANYWAY, the point is: I thought about the Grandpa decorating his tree and wondered how he would do it. Was he a fan of tinsel? Colored or white lights? Would he decorate it with his family? Did he go all out and string cranberries and popcorn? And what does Grandpa put under the tree? Where does he shop?

Well Grandpa could start by buying new ornaments at Fair Indigo, Ten Thousand Villages or online from One World Projects who sell hand blown ornaments from Guatamela, lovely corn husk nativities from Colombia and intricate straw stars from Haiti . (And let's be real here, they aren't Pottery Barn quality, but they are lovely and so much more unique and interesting.)
They also sell rugs from Afghanistan. (Turkmen Women Actives Rights Association Afghanistan (TWARA) was established in 2005 to provide training and life skills to Turkmen minority groups living in the very remote areas of Afghanistan, mostly in the northern areas on the bank of the Amo River.) One World Projects are affordable and they are member of the Fair Trade Federation. http://www.oneworldprojects.com/

I am certain that Santa would bring all of Grandpa's little ones this awesome truck, which Santa will also bring to my nephew Memphis this year. (He doesn't read yet, so he's not reading this blog) I will most definitely post pics of this kid with his truck. http://www.greentoys.com/. They are recycled from milk jugs, made in San Fran and freakin awesome! Maybe it will be pics of me and this truck, I can't wait to take it out of the box. They also sell little foods and sand toys too. Which I want too.
Grandpa may also have a special box for his sugar lips under the tree. Maybe it's from Night Light. Never to be forgotten, Night Light should be at the top of your list for all the ladies in your life. Pearls, high fashion beads and simply lovely jewelry- all made by women rescued from sex trafficking in Bangkok. http://store.nightlightinternational.com Get your orders in now for Christmas. (that means the black onyx and gold necklace and white pearl earrings, darling.)

Well, the second.5 glass of minervois is settling in and suddenly my apartment doesn't feel as cold. I think it's time for Jen Lancaster (Bitter is the New Black, Such a Pretty Fat and my current read, Bright Lights, Big Ass) to have a few moments together. She would be a perfect gift for all of the sexy, smart asses in your life this year.
Because there's no excuse for un-fair cookies!...Baking Basics coming soon..

And many thanks to all of my new followers. I love you too. This is about us together. For them. For Him.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What Are Your Overheads?

It was a hell of a day at work, so I thought I'd lighten it up a bit tonight and talk about the issues. And since this blog deals with issues, I think you will really appreciate the Flight of Conchords as they talk about the issues. Think about it, think, think about it.

This video is necessary to be in your life. I guarantee you will watch it at least 3 times.
Comments please.

video

It's December 1st folks. Does anyone else feel like they can't believe this year is almost over? What the heck, I swear I just started getting 'twenty-ten' down.

But December 1st means that Christmas time has already been here for almost a week.
Fair Trade Christmas coming Monday! (If you are going to decorate your tree this week, check out Fair Indigo first for their ornament selection. It rocks!)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Shift


I was completely oblivious to the treasure I would find when I stumbled into Shift last Saturday. Exhaustion doesn't quite explain the intensity of how much energy I didn't have as I drove to Hyannis, Cape Cod. I was already working in Plymouth for most of the day with my paying job, so I figured I'd just stop in at Shift.

But stopping in is not what you do at Shift. You stay. You stay so long you think about booking a night at the local b n b so you can sleep for a few hours and wait outside in the morning on their porch until Amy comes to put out the open sign again. I could have pitched a tent that night. And I hate camping. But shopping doesn't get any better than this, I'm telling you.

If there is a word for when exhaustion meets exhilaration, this is what happened to me. That overwhelming rush of adrenaline which floods every one of your extremities. Of course this leads to a hard core crash within a few hours and ask Ted, he'll tell you. I showed him my awesome, new top from Shift and almost immediately broke into 'why the hell am I crying' tears. Within minutes, the man had a Thai curry in my lap and a glass of Pinot Noir. Thank you Jesus for Thomas Edward.

Shift is a Mecca for designers who care about people and the planet. Most of their products are BOTH fair and eco-friendly. Each designer is doing their own thing, with their individual ways of keeping on top of the factories and fabric constructors. Shift does as much research as they can, and as Amy said, if they are iffy about a designer, they stop carrying it. Shift recently put out a survey, asking specific questions like "how often do you audit your producers" etc. (Maybe I could get a copy of the questions from her and post them on here, I'll look into this)

And their clothes are sooo hott! I tried on Good Society jeans (more on that to come), a few tops and some accessories. I'll post a pic up here soon of my fabulous top by Popomono. Shift lists all of their designers with a ditty on each of them on their website at: http://www.shiftboutique.com. You can order online too! And their prices are like shopping at BCBG or Anthropologie. You save and buy things piece by piece. Or perhaps after MIT, you go nuts. Here's the scoop on POPOMOMO:

POPOMOMO uses organic and sustainable fabrics for their entire line, design, sample and produce Popomomo locally in LA , use low impact dyes, ship using recycled materials and power their car by recycling waste veggie oil.

Shift also educates the public on why fair and eco-friendly are so important as we choose what to wear. Next Saturday night they are hosting a night to talk about different types of sustainable fabrics and giving space for Gretchen, the most recent winner of Project Runway, to share about her reasoning for using eco-friendly techniques in her designs (which is something that was completely omitted from the show)

I could have spent a weekend in Shift, which is why I'm going back for next Saturday! I didnt' ask enough questions, which may be shocking to Amy, who so patiently answered several dozen. Ted and I will make a day trip to the Cape of it and I'll be sure by then to have found the charger to my better camera...hmm...and by the way, I hate my voice on camera, I sound like a frazzled, teenage boy. So please know, all 13 of you, that I'm laying aside my insecurities in order to bring you the scoop on HOT

fabulous

Fair

threads.

(if you can't see the video below, here's the link on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nxv73pWNFGY


video

Monday, October 18, 2010

Get Your Cameras Rolling...



Pam got me thinking.. The answer to Pam's question is YES. Let's go to Gainesville over Christmas. Let's intentionally visit.

In my last entry, I wrote about Good Society Jeans.. Has anyone tried them on yet? Pam also listed several other brands that I've heard of and am about to break down for you. But first, this is exactly what I'm going to do over the soon to come gray, gray, dark days, which
will turn into about 6 months of black, icy days...
I'm going to start making road trips to the local shops that carry Fair Trade options. I've already visited a few in Portsmouth, NH, a few in Boston and of course checked out the one, token item in several stores. I always ask the managers a thousand questions and come back to write it out all out. Bump that. Let's get the cameras rolling.

So here's what I'm proposing: YOU TOO. You start doing this. With all of our fancy cell phones or digital something or other, we can take short clips of Fair products we find. Try them on. Smell them. Rate them. Get the cost and the facts. Email me at americanslavemaster@gmail.com and we can start posting our findings up here. This blog is not about Julie and her rants. Its about us, standing for people who can not afford to stand for themselves.
Here's the breakdown on some of the brands Pam mentioned.

Ethletic: Calling all Chuck Taylor fans: These are the fair versio
n. They cost about $62 for the high tops
and $47 for the low rise. Not really too much more than Chuck Taylors. I've only seen them in black, but they are sturdy. You can order them online at www.shoebuy.com and many Fair Trade stores are carrying them now. Be on the look out.


ROSA LOVES;
was started by one of my dearest friends brothers, Mike Fretto, right in my Florida hometown of Saint Augustine. They are freaking awesome.
http://rosaloves.com/. They take local stories of need in local communities, create beautiful graphics and put the stories on t-shirts. The t-shirts are sweatshop free and 60% of the profits go to t
he individual or group in need.

Jedidiah: http://www.jedidiahusa.com/. Similar to Rosa Loves, but they print and make sweatshop free t-shirts based on larger scale charities and their stories in order to bring awareness to social justice issues. Their Hope Collection features tees for Invisible Children, World Vision, Compassion International, Not For Sale and others. They also have sweaters, a few pretty hip shoe options and some skinny pants. Their prices are about the same as Urban Outfitters.

TOMS Shoes: I'm assuming you've heard. Tom has made his mark. Whole Foods carries TOMS now. I was blown away when I saw that. And, they have come a long way. Much sturdier now than in the past. My first pair took me all over Argentina and South America as a matter of fact. (Eric Snow, if you're reading this, you my man, were right.) You buy one. Kids in Argentina
get one. Not the exact shoe you buy, but a nice sturdy one that fits into the culture. www.toms.com

I can't tell if OBEY is Fair or not. Although they seem pretty rad, there's no info I'm finding on where their apparel is made. They don't mention it, so I'm assuming not, until I look further into it.

Listen, next time you see me, there will be some footage. And hopefully I'll be hearing from you soon too.

Also, coming soon is a featured posting of my neighbor/friend Yao. She's got great insight into the way Western capitalism has enslaved China. And the potential negative impact that Fair Trade factories may have in China.

See you soon.















Thursday, October 7, 2010

Back and Blogging

The best news yet:

Check out http://www.goodsociety.org/ -- for FAIR TRADE JEANS!!!!!!!!!!!

Sold in stores all over US. I haven't checked into price yet, but they are made in India are fully sustainable and HOT!....

I know. I disappeared. So, it was summer. We were in Florida. I never sat behind the computer. Vitality came back to me and for 4 months, we detoxed. From Massachusetts. From term papers. From shitty jobs. We went home with family, took a crazy trip to Costa Rica with Chris and Pam and spent almost every single day floating in the waves (well, Thomas tried to float!)


But I'm back. I never stopped researching or pressing on with supporting only the fairest of companies, but I have by no means been perfect in this journey. It's nearly impossible. And completely exhausting. But we are keeping on, doing the best we can.

For all of you year round beach bums, the options for bikinis and swimming trousers are limited. I did find one designer who hand makes bikinis, but for a high price. The cheapest was $200. So...I completely compromised and bought 2 new ones at.... please don't hate me.....Target.... I was desperate. Desperate to rip off my clothes and do sand angels at St. Aug Beach and body surfing at Sebastian Inlet, I gave in.. (why didn't we just go to the nude beaches? oh yeah, that 14 year old shadow of mine..)


I was torn inside at doing this. I hate this. I hate that the options are limited. I hate that people are suffering for the sake of our ward robes. I hate that I love clothing so much and that with a closet full of clothing, I like none of it. Sometimes I wish I could throw on my torn jeans and be respected at my job. Sometimes I wish I could meet with CEO of Banana Republic and all the rest of them to ask them if they can sleep at night. Ask him if they dream about all of the Jose's and Cecilia's who eat 1x a day so he can drive his Lexus. It's bullshit.
SO- I've come to 2 conclusions:
1. This journey won't stop at the end of this year. It's a decison I want to press into for as long as I live.

2. I'm opening up shop. The research to open a business or start a Fair Trade label has begun. I don't know exactly how it will look yet or when it will all come together, but we are doing this. Any feedback you have is highly desired.



Saturday, May 15, 2010

Proctor and Gamble

Publish Post

I've been brushing my teeth recently with Crest. It's a tube we've had since before I made this commitment and just recently I thought, "I bet it's P and G." The next day, after my husband had eaten one too many bowls of free chili on campus and I was rummaging around for that pink chalky stuff that I've been using as a kid I discovered that Pepto is also owned by P and G. And this type of Proctor and Gamble discovery continued to happen. I knew they were the Wal-Mart of the brand industry, but I didn't know how much their presence existed in my own household... Then, I couldn't stop thinking about them. Are the fluffy squares which really do make my toilette transactions so much more humane owned by this non -transparent company? Yep. Boston city water sucks so I'm changing our filter on the tap, and yet again, their damn logo stares up at me. The last straw came when I opened the the kitchen cupboard with a tad too much zealousness and Ted's mega bottle of fiber fell right off the top shelf and rolled under the stove. I'm reaching for it, I grab and ok, P and G, I get it. You've invaded mankind with your stupid logo and it's like you've been following me as if you want me to find you out. Well I'm gonna. It's time to pull out the big guns and get the effing DL on Proctor and Gamble, America. They already get on my nerves and I have big suspicions that they do not practice fairly. I'll get to that in a second, but here's the list of some, just some of who they own:

Herbal Essences
Crest
Aussie
Venus
Safeguard
Old Spice
Olay
Secret
Pantene
Cover Girl
Head and Shoulders
Zest
Tampax
PUR
Pepto Bismol
Pringles
Vicks
Iams
Oral B
Charmin
Swiffer
Cheer
Duracell
Pampers
Metamucil
Puffs
Bounty
Cascade
Febreeze
Downy
Tide and those are just the most popular. They also own a slew of international companies, a few of which look familiar too me such as: Fairy, Lenor, Rindex. Pretty sure those are in the UK.

Here's what I read from Zumer. http://www.zumer.com/companies/show/20
(Zumer is a new discovery of mine. They have the largest online, corporate responsibility database, kinda like the Wikipedia of Business Ratings. Consumers, students, whole universities who care about corporate responsiblity are researching and posting info. I think Zumer does check it all though to be sure its legitimate. More info on Zumer to come.

In their words: "Zumer is a business that provides information on corporate responsibility to companies and consumers. We are a small business that has spent the past three years working with universities to collect and analyze the corporate responsibility initiatives of companies. Zumer was founded to empower consumers by providing data on how everyday brands are performing in social and environmental aspects. By providing this information to the consumer in a meaningful way it will influence people's purchasing habits, which will in turn encourage companies to invest in their environmental and social initiatives.Ultimately it is our community of users who research, rate, and drive the content in Zumer. Also unique to Zumer is the personalized filter that delivers customized rankings reflecting what is important to each individual user. ")

According to China Labour Watch, (another great resource, their own entry is coming soon!) employees are almost always classified as “temporary workers” in the Guangzhou Procter & Gamble factory which gives them no rights. They are forced to work 12 hour shifts six days a week, with just four days off per month. The P&G facility does not permit paid holiday for weddings or funerals. The workers in question do not receive any “social insurance,” which refers to the health, unemployment and pension insurance guaranteed under Chinese law. After working a 12 hour shift workers are forced to go to a separate distribution center to perform additional labor. Noncompliance will result in suspension. Chinese law mandates that workers are to have the benefits of social insurance and forced overtime is strictly forbidden.

P and G is completely breaking the Chinese law!! Where is the accountability???

From Green America we read that Proctor and Gamble lobbied against China's Draft Labor Contract Law. This law would secure minimum wages, enforce contracts and severance pay and give the employee leverage power over workplace procedures and policies. It would not perfect the system, but greatly help it. P and G doesn't want it and just so you know, neither does Wal-mart (big surprise!), Nike, Google and GE. Well, that sucks. You all suck.
Here's a link to the full document:
http://laborstrategies.blogs.com/global_labor_strategies/files/behind_the_great_wall_of_china.pdf

Not to mention that when I looked up the court cases, they have been involved in 167 law suits in the last 5 years, over half of which are civil rights, labor rights and/or injury related. http://dockets.justia.com/search?query=Procter+%26+Gamble+Company&page=9
This doesn't even include international law suits. I'm still looking for those.

And just as a tidbit of info, they were also caught spying on Unilever, spying on their plan for new shampoos. Sounds like a movie starring Cameron Diaz. So who can trust them?

Needless to say, my suspicions were right. God Almighty, this means I'm now buying $10 boxes of tampons and $12 bottles of shampoo. But it's worth it. I hate that they are getting away with this bs.



Monday, March 29, 2010

I Scream, You Scream...





We all Scream
for......
ICE CREAM!



Ben and Jerry's Ice cream is going 100% Fair Trade!!

Yes, by 2013 (2011 in Europe) every/any ingredient that is fair will be used to create every flavor, from the chocolate to the nuts to the fruit. They started this process back in '05 and their chocolate, vanilla and coffee flavors are Fair Trade certified. All of the chunks, swirls, the phish food and the chunky monkeys. All of it going fair. Business researchers say this move will force other companies to jump on board with Fair Trade because it has proved to be profitable for B and Js. Isn't this interesting? One company decides they don't want to exploit people and other companies are then forced to do the same..hmm, I think I like where this is going..

Here's an excerpt from Inc. com about Ben and Jerry!
http://www.inc.com/news/articles/2010/02/ben-and-jerrys-goes-fully-fairtrade.html#

"The effort will involve converting to Fair Trade ingredients for 121 different chunks and swirls and 11 ingredients including cocoa, banana, vanilla, fruits and nuts. The switch will happen in Europe by 2011, and in the U.S. by 2013. (The company also avoids milk from cows who have been injected with the growth hormone rBGH, and will convert to certified humane cage-free farm eggs by the end of 2010.) Managers in the U.S. were particularly resistant to going fully Fair Trade because the certification, which also comes with a promise for the producers of ingredients to get a fairer share of the profits, isn't as widely-recognized (and rewarded) as it is in the rest of the world. Less than a third of U.S. shoppers understand the term, according to TransFair USA , the nonprofit group that certifies ingredients as Fair Trade. That's compared to 50 percent of consumers worldwide, according to the group's recent poll.
The company -- an Inc. 500 alumnus -- first d ipped into Fair Trade in 2005. Observers predict the pioneering ice-cream brand's move will scoop more consumers into the still-fuzzy Fair Trade fold. Some experts say the ice-cream maker's move will force other brands to follow.

"It's the first 100 percent commitment from such a mainstream brand," said TransFair USA spokeswoman Stacy Geagan Wagner. (Green & Black, Cadbury's niche organic chocolate brand, promised a complete conversion to Fair Trade last month.) "I see it as the rise of the social consumer. We have the ability to choose product A, which tastes great, or Product B, which also tastes great, but doesn't exploit anybody."

Greenfield said in a statement: “Fair Trade is about making sure people get their fair share of the pie. The whole concept of Fair Trade goes to the heart of our values and sense of right and wrong. Nobody wants to buy something that was made by exploiting somebody else.”

Another interesting point is that Ben and Jerry's is no longer a small, private company. In fact Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield sold the company to Unilever , one of the world's leading food companies. They own many, many labels including Hellmans, Wishbone, Lipton, Country Crock, Slim Fast and Knorr. Not to mention their personal care labels: Dove, Axe, Vaseline and Lux and many more. Unilever seems to have overall sustainable and eco-friendly goals: "We have set targets to source all of our palm oil and all of our tea from certified sustainable sources by 2015." http://www.unilever.com/sustainability/environment/agriculture/index.aspx. They use 12% of the worlds source of tea and it doesn't say anywhere on the site that Lipton is going fair trade, but they do seem to have sustainable goals. They say:
"We work with smallholder farmers to implement sustainable agricultural methods and improve both their crop yields and business profits." They claim to source raw products from thousands of small farmers. They have also established training programs for teaching tea farmers about more sustainable practices. It doesn't mention labor rights for workers though. Again is this the disconnect between fair and green? Read here for more info about Unilever's practices. http://www.unilever.com/sustainability/environment/agriculture/farmers/?WT.LHNAV=Supporting_smallholder_farmers

I'm proud of Unilever for taking this step. I think it's a big deal for a company this big to leap into Fair Trade. It must be profitable for them somehow. One of my missions is to meet the folks who pushed them go 100% fair.

I can't tell you how deliciously awesome this is too. I was dreading the thought of my homemade berry cobbler without its sidekick the vanilla ice cream this summer.

On that note, I think I better get to the freezer to finish off the rest of the Chunky Monkey before Ted does...




Monday, March 22, 2010

Boozing Fairly


Maybe boozing is the wrong word. I don't think of myself of a boozer necessarily, but in the last few years Ted and I have certainly found ourselves google mapping dozens of wineries on our road trips and our world travels. It's just fun. I love the smell of a Merlot that has aged in an old oak barrel and there is nothing like a glass of chilled pinot grigio paired with fresh mahi mahi straight off the grill; especially while celebrating the joy of being a Floridian on the back pool deck as the sun goes down. Ted and I have found ourselves to be a 'red' couple, although our first kiss was over a bottle (or two) of chardonnay. We spent much time our first year of marriage hanging at our favorite wine bar, The Cork and Keg, and have drug even the dryest of friends into spontaneous tastings and wine fairs.

This particular experience happened just this past weekend as my dearest Sanaa (who is also searching and digging to live as fairly as she can and who leaves the great comments) and her way cool husband Andrew traveled up for their first visit to our room, I mean apartment. It was the suniest it has been since we've moved here to Boston, the perfect weekend for the two of them to come. We walked the famous Freedom Trail and wandered into Bottles, a wine shop close to Little Italy, where we first tasted some great beers, but then.............. sitting on the bottom shelf:

FAIR TRADE BEER! (WE FREAKED OUT!) In fact, this beer is the first ever to be certified as Fair Trade. The company Peak Organic Brewing Company, operates out of Portland Maine and has created a beautiful combination of ale and coffee, deemed the 'espresso amber ale.' The Bolvian grown beans turned espresso are Fair Trade ceritified. And this beer is not just fair, but rich and tasty, pairing beautifully with chocolate cake as the website reccomends. http://http://www.peakbrewing.com/category/our-brews/

Ted and I have also recently found out about Fairhills. South African Fair Trade wine. Way cool. Some Whole Foods carry them, others don't, but simply tell the manager you would like to buy this product and he can put a request in for you. (that's a tidbit of info on any fair product you'd like to see you in your grocery store. More often than not, Whole Foods will work with you.) We have not tasted Fairhills yet, but it's on the list. http://www.fairhills.co.za/
Also, I've heard about Etica winery whose slogan is "Drink Like You Give A Damn." Pretty damn clever. From their site: http://www.eticawines.com/ourwines.php
"Etica works with wine producers from South Africa, Chile and Argentina—the only Fair Trade certified wine producing countries in the world. As an importer, Etica pays a premium on the grapes, which in turn is used by producers to develop community initiatives—from education and housing, to healthcare and professional development."

Again, we've yet to taste these fair wines, but are making the effort to get them ordered! Ted and I plan to host a tasting of these wines for all of you winos out there. And for all of you who drink b/c it's the classy thing to do. Or for those of you who sip on the grapes only on special occasions, like when you make it home from another day of work, or when you've decided to take exercising to the next level and really use those muscles as you uncork 5 or 6 bottles. Or for all of you who perhaps you don't drink at all, but find yourself being drug into wineries with those you love (thanks Andrew. thanks Chris. thanks Larry.) You are all invited.

And in the spirit of the drink, I propose a closing toast of sorts: To a fabulous weekend with my Sanaa (and now my Andrew too.) It was so very special to me. Thank you for putting up with my craziness for over 13 years, for loving me just as I am today and for letting me need you. I love standing up for fairness and justness with you Sanaa. I love doing this together. And may we never forget the dog in the vintage boutique, Wowsas, cause "I won't judge you."
Here's to 13 more years of life together Sanaa, you and me and our brainy husbands. I love you Sister.

And here's to Boozing. And boozing fairly.

I'll keep you posted.







Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Green does not mean Fair



Emily may just be my saving grace.

We met tonight for coffee at Clear Conscience Cafe in Central Square on Mass Ave. (for all you Bostonians, check it out, they serve only fair trade coffees and teas)
Originally we met at a talk by Polaris Project at the Kennedy School at Harvard. This was like 6 months ago. (And this is why I still have no friends in this busy city because it typically takes an average of 3 months to hang out with people. I'm irritatedly becoming accustomed.) Nonetheless, Emily and I connected quickly because she is also a former IJMer. (International Justice Mission www.ijm.org. You need them in your life.)

We shared about our lives, our nerdy husbands who solve calculus problems for fun and at one point she mentioned she liked the blog... I told her I had just come back from a 3 week trip to Florida (sorry for my absence blog) and that a frustration was building in me because of well, a rug. During a visit with my dear friends, Pam and I took the afternoon to window shop and soak up the sun. In a downtown shop of Winter Park, Orlando, there was this white rug made from bamboo that would be perfect in my bathroom. This was one of those eco-friendly stores where they sell handbags made of recycled plastic bags and the best yet, paper made from elephant poo. So Pam and I meander through this store, I find the clearance rack and this awesome white rug that simply belongs in my lime green apartment. I read the tags. Good news, its 100% bamboo. I care about the environment and bamboo is the most sustainable resource out there, right? Bad news: Made In China. I ask for the manager. He gives me some fluff about how they are careful when they buy products, but it seems he has no idea what I'm saying when I mention the words "fair trade" and his reaction to the word "slavery" implied he was clueless about the strong bond between rugs and child labour. Pam and I even googled the company on her phone to which brought no further information. I left that green store rugless and sad.

Green my friends does not imply Fair. Let us not assume this. There are some awesome eco-friendly websites like Pristine Planet where you can buy organic wedding gowns and Green Home that provides a variety of great stuff for the house. BUT! BUT!!!! Many many times these green sites give little or no info on the people who made the products.
How ridiculous that I need to choose between helping the environment and supporting just labor standards? Why the hell can't the eco folks and fair trade folks join up?!

Emily agrees. There needs to be a label, an association similar to the Fair Trade one that certifies for clothing, for furniture, for the stuff in life. This way the Gap can say you know what, just like we started making organic t-shirts and baby clothes because it was a fad, we are going to make one line of Fair Trade jeans. All of us advocates buy 2 pairs of those jeans, Gap finds these pants are surviving the market and even bringing in profit and they decide to do a slave free sweater for next season. And then Gap gets an even more ingenious idea (which they will read from this blog I'm sure) to sell the first ever organic/fair trade khaki pants someone can buy from a mall.

All of a sudden, you've got entire slave-free or rather FAIR LABOR, Organic run way shows. Heidi Klum is turning down photo shoots unless its Fair Labor lingerie, Victoria. Yeah yeah! Hook me up on that homies! This is what needs to happen. And we aren't sacrificing green for fair.

So basically I'm tired of choosing. I'll let you know of any sites I find that do both. (My dearest Sanaa mentioned www.greenamerica.org which rates companies based on green and fair. They are a great resource!) Other than that, I'm still searching. It seems I find food products who do both, but very little when it comes to household goods, clothing, etc.

Maybe Emily will start a Fair Labor certification process for big companies. Maybe we'll do it together. But for now, let's not wait until Fair is a fad to start buying that way.

Monday, February 15, 2010

an Ode to Valentimes.




Not sure if you're aware, but the proper spelling/pronunciation of our beloved 14th of February is ValenTIME's Day. Yes, since the 7th grade me and my bff Line have deemed it the day of Valentime. Its time for valen. Which means chocolate in the language of carojulish.
Now typically I'm not a roses gal, nor a chocolates on Valentimes Day gal, but this year something in me wanted. My Teddie was tuned in and picked up on those hints!
Here's the DL of my Valentimes Day.

It started with fair trade English breakfast tea (Equal Exchange) and orange cranberry, heart-shaped scones, using fair trade sugar (which can be found at whole foods). As the scones baked, my Teddie greeted me with one dozen fair trade roses! Yes, they do exist. (Again, to be found at Whole Foods.) Later in the day he presented me with Fair Trade chocolate hearts (the only ones I've ever seen, made by Divine in milk chocolate). And last but not least, I was given a pair of fair trade earrings from 10,000 villages. For those of you unfamiliar with them, they carry an awesome variety of home accessories, a bit of clothing, a bit of foods, a bit of everything. It's a beautiful place. www.tenthousandvillages.com We ended the day with homemade chocolate fondue this time using a bit of Theo Fair Trade and Equal Exchange Fair Trade chocolates.

All in all it was a beautiful day full of fair trade lovin.
Hope you too had a lovely Valentimes Day.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Apples to Apples: The Mac


Such interesting timing- my 6 year old Dell has finally called it quits. In the midst of applying for law school, in the midst of starting up this blog-- the timing sucks. A couple in our building, Danielle and Johnathan, have been so kind to let us borrow one of theirs until we can get a new one... but
How in the hell am I supposed to find a computer that isn't linked to injustice?

We spent an hour in the Apple store yesterday trying to get the low down on Apples. Word to the sane: Never visit an Apple store on a Saturday in a mall. It will make you tired.
So knowing almost nothing about Macs I fired my 103 questions at our Apple helper, Derwin yesterday. Later last night I realized three things:
1. I want one.
2. I want one today.
3. It's unlikely my want will become a have.

Except that Apples are made in China (and from trees in Washington, Pennsylvania and many other orchard states) neither Derwin nor his manager knew much about Apple's codes or history. Surprising, surprising. (This is getting on my darn nerves, people not knowing anything about the manufacturing; hence one of the many reasons slavery continues on, I suppose.) I've also been unable to find anything on the Apple website that even resembles a code of conduct.

But Derwin did tell me that there was a particular incident he knew of where a factory that Apple did business with was found to paying their workers very little and forcing overtime. Derwin said Apple discontinued their relationship with this business and said this has set a standard for other factories they work with. I'm not so sure about this.....

I have read that Apple has little transparency- meaning, they do not publish a list where they manufacture or audit, they have only just developed a team of 8 specifically for establishing social responsibility, and refuses to engage in conversation about their social responsibility or have cooperative relationships with NGOs.

A lot of the information I've found has come from SACOM (Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior) based out of Hong Kong. They did a study last year on the high tech computer industry in China. They conducted studies in 7 factories in the cities of Shenzhen, Dongguan, and Zhongshan in Guangdong Province, southern China. These factories belong to FSP Group, Primax Electronics, Lite-On Group, Tyco Electronics and Volex Group. The research team also asked the concerned brand companies (Hewlett Packard, Dell, Apple, Fujitsu Siemens and Acer) to respond to a questionnaire about social responsibility measures implemented in China between January 2007 and March 2008. The aim was to see how premium brands have ensured workers’ rights in their supplier factories.

Here's the link to the rest of the study: http://sacom.hk/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/executive-summary-report-may-2008.pdf

Here's SACOM's link: More info on them soon! What they are doing is awesome.
http://sacom.hk/

Here's an article I found on alleged slave labor by Apple: 2006
http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2006/06/71176

How about dem' apples? I'm disappointed with the findings.

More info to come on the computer industry soon.





Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fair Trade Soda!!!




This weekend.....in Rockport Mass...with our bags packed full of flip flops, frisbees and beach gear, we sadly drove away from the locked down, ice covered, snow packed beach... (they lock down the beaches here from November until April!!!!! WHAT?? How ridiculous! Who can possibly live that long without the ocean?! New Englanders seriously have no idea how to fully embrace the beach lifestyle)




eventually that day, our grief was somewhat relieved as we stumbled upon...




FAIR TRADE SODA!!

Yes, we tried the root beer and the blueberry. One word- Delicious.
No joke.

Now Ted and I don't drink much of the carbonated beverage, but shoot, I might start drinking it now. Not only do they use only Fair Trade sweetner, but it is completely %100 all natural and organic!!- There is no hfc (high fructose corn syrup) and it tastes so much better than coke, even better than my all time favorite, cherry coke..

They sell it in all 50 states.
This is an easy switch over for sure.
The beach bums are truly bummed about the frozen, neglected New England beaches, but happy to be drinking Maine Root during the NFL play offs. (Well Ted's watching the play offs, I'm pretending.."oh yes honey, that was a great turnover" I've learned the lingo. Thats about it.)










Friday, January 22, 2010

Estee Lauder Companies- Origins




So, Estee Lauder is the proud owner of my favorite beauty supplier, Origins. I've known this for a couple of years and to be quite honest, was never too proud of using Estee Lauder products (who also owns 29 other lines as well including Coach, Tommy Hilfigger and Michael Kors) but the quality of Origins lines are incomparable. We are talking all natural ingredients from all over the world: mushroom serum from Dr. Andrew Weils creation, a certified organic line and let's not forget the best- not going-to-tear-your-face-to-shreds best facial scrub of my lifetime, Modern Friction. If you check out their ratings, almost every product reaches at least a %90 approval. Yes, yes I will be a lifelong consumer of Origins products.

Well, I was going to be a lifelong consumer. I hope I still will be. I spoke with their Customer Care Center. The woman on the line had no idea. I am finding this to be quite common. But, their code of conduct is promising:

"The Company requires all such suppliers to operate in compliance with all applicable laws, including, but not limited to, employment laws pertaining to child labor, minimum wages, overtime compensation, hiring and occupational safety. Under no
circumstances shall Company suppliers use child labor (under the
age of 16), prisoners, or slave labor."
(pg. 14, E L Companies Code of Conduct)

AND the products are only manufactured in the US, Canada, the UK , Belguim and Switzerland. This also is good news. The West has stricter factory regulations and more audits.

Here's my question: Origins prides itself on using rare products from remote places around the world. e discovered age-defying, free-radical neutralizing Silver-needle White Tea for our A Perfect World™ skincare collection in the mist-covered hills of Fujian in China...

We found skin-firming Rhodiola rosea, the heart of Youthtopia™ anti-aging treatments, in the remote mountains of Siberia...

How do I or anyone at the Customer Care Center know if the people harvesting these ingredients in China and Siberia are being paid fairly? Being paid at all? Just because a code of conduct is posted on a some random website that the common person, me, has to make a few phone calls to find, does this mean that these codes are being enforced on the hills of China? And how in the freaking world do I find this out?

So, I was given a gift card for Christmas. I really am dying to get in there and use it.....choices, choices.....

Monday, January 18, 2010

Northface, Flip Flops and Blue Jeans- The World's Largest Apparel Company



VF Corporation- The worlds largest apparel company
According to them "integrity never goes out of style"

Although we've now been living in this cold, dark place for 5 months, my husband has just now requested that we look into some winter boots for his cold toes. Now I've been saying since we've moved here, "Honey, really those sneakers you've had for 5 years have holes in them. You'll get snow in your shoes." But despite the several snowfalls we've trudged through this winter already, the need for winter boots has only now been his own idea.

So the hunt began a few weeks ago and sadly, Ted still has cold toes. When we went to Florida in December Ted picked up a pair of Reef flip flops as well. Interestingly enough, they are owned by the same company, VF.

The VF Corporation is the parent company (they own) of Northface and Reef as well as:

Lees Jeans
Riders Jeans
Wrangler Jeans
Eastpak
Vans
Jansport
Nautica
Majestic
Eagle Creek
Majestic
Rustler
Lucy
Kipling
Chef Designs
John Varvatos
Rustling
Red Kap
Napijri

Ultimately I'm still unsure if they are practicing fairly or not, but it seems hopeful!! What I do know is that they have published four or five different sets of guidelines stating they do not use child labor, forced labor and that according to the laws of each country, every worker will be paid no less than the minimum wage with benefits etc. (6 principles are posted below). Also that the factories they own (which does not include all) are subject to inspection by an awesome non profit called the :Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP), an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to ethical manufacturing throughout the world. (More info to come on them soon! They do awesome work. )
Also VF factories must comply with the 'Terms of Engagement' which states they will only do business with companies who abide by the laws in which they operate and who abide by their guidelines. This is good news.

VF states on their website under their 'corporate responsibility link' that ALL facilities that produce goods for VF including ALL of the factories, subsidaries, and affliliates whether they own them or not must comply with their Global Compliance Principles.
They state:

"While VF recognizes that there are different legal and cultural environments in which factories operate throughout the world, these Compliance Principles set forth the basic requirements all factories must meet in order to do business with VF."

"VF strongly encourages contractors, agents, and suppliers to exceed these Compliance Principles and to promote best practices and continuous improvement throughout all of their factories. These Global Compliance Principles or their equivalent must be posted in all major workplaces, translated into the language(s) of the employees."

Here are a few of their requirements stated from the Global Compliance Principles:
(the link:http://www.vfc.com/corporate-responsibility/global-compliance/terms-of-engagement)

Principle 1 - Legal and Ethical Business Practices: VF Authorized Facilities must fully comply with all applicable laws of the countries in which they are located including all laws, regulations and rules relating to wages, hours, employment, labor, health and safety, the environment, immigration, and the apparel industry. Employers must be ethical in their business practices.

Principle 2 - Child Labor: No person shall be employed at an age younger than 15 (or 14 where consistent with International Labor Organization guidelines) or younger than the age for completing compulsory education in the country of manufacture where such age is higher than 15. All VF Authorized Facilities must observe all legal requirements for work of employees under 18 years of age, particularly those pertaining to hours of work and working conditions.

Principle 3 - Forced Labor: VF Authorized Facilities will not use involuntary or forced labor - indentured, bonded or otherwise.

Principle 4 - Wages and Benefits: VF recognizes that compensation packages vary by country. All VF Authorized Facilities must compensate their employees fairly by providing compensation packages comprising wages and benefits that, at the very least, comply with legally mandated minimum standards or the prevailing industry wage, whichever is higher, and shall provide legally mandated benefits. Employees must be fully compensated for overtime according to local law and each employee must be provided with a clear, written accounting for each pay period.

Principle 5 - Hours of Work: VF Authorized Facilities must ensure employees' hours worked shall not, on a regularly scheduled basis, exceed the lesser of (a) the legal limitations on regular and overtime hours in the jurisdiction in which they manufacture or (b) 60 hours per week including overtime (except in extraordinary business circumstances). Employees must be informed at the time of hiring if mandatory overtime is a condition of employment. All employees will be entitled to at least one day off in every seven-day period.

Principle 6 - Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining: VF Authorized Facilities shall obtain and comply with current information on local and national laws and regulations regarding Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining. No employee shall be subject to harassment, intimidation or retaliation in their efforts to freely associate or bargain collectively.

So, I'm NOT saying yes VF is 100% free of using slave labor. Again, perhaps they are trying to be. Or perhaps some of the factories are and others are not. But we can tell that they have made awesome efforts to set high standards and only do business with other businesses who operate under high standards. I will do more research this week to see what else I can find about their history, any law suits, etc.

Nail Salons




I've been a bit out of touch recently with this dear blog, but with good reason. My law school apps are due March 1st and I'm freaking the heck out. I really hope all this effort pays off and I at the least, get into a school. Any school. BU was the first pick, but the realistic side of me knows I'm better off to put my money on Suffolk or Northeastern, which both have fabulous programs.... Anyways, if I'm a bit distant, dear blog, do not take it personally.

Well, I wanted to make you aware of a project I've just begun. This is a project within a project. I first visited a particular beauty salon on Charles street in Boston in October because my Florida toes were looking Massachusetts pale. I stumbled upon this salon in the Back Bay area which is a high class part of town with cobble streets, fancy chocolatiers and French cafes. The salon is run by an older South Asian woman and all of the beauticians are young and also South Asian, primarily Vietnamese. My first time I was manicured by a girl named Mimi and just this Friday by a girl named Tina. Mimi hardly spoke to me mainly because she her English was quite broken. Tina on the other hand filled me in on a lot. She informed me on Friday that she works 60-70 hours a week and only gets one day off per week. She also said she came to the States as an International Student but only completed 2 months of the schooling. I had heard this same story from another girl in salon back in October. Tina also told me she has a 10th month daughter and a husband and she wanted me to know that she loves American food, especially a tuna sub from Subway. We chatted almost the entire time and Ted asked her a few questions about her family, which we found is still in Vietnam and has never visited her in the States. When I tipped Tina at the end she very awkwardly received the money..

The craziest part is this notebook the girls kept scribbling in. Both Ted and I noticed this. Every time one of them started or completed a service to a customer they wrote down the time and their initials. How odd, I kept thinking. But then I realized that the girls without customers were fiddling on cell phones, eating or talking. Perhaps they were only getting paid for the time they serviced their customers??? So does Tina work 12 hours but only get paid for 6?

I'm skeptical, very skeptical. I want to assume nothing, but my spirit senses a few,big, red flags. What also makes me wary are the reviews for this salon. I checked it out on Yelp or Yahoo, one of those, and in several reviews women state that they went back for the same manicurist, but she was gone. I read this probably 3 times. This is huge to me.....these women could be bound in slavery..

For now my plan is to visit this salon 1x a week or so for a month, keep talking to Tina, talk with some of the other girls and maybe report it. I need to learn how to best report it. When i do blogger, you'll be the first to know.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

This weekend.

Origins skin care and beauty products.....

Mobile Phones.....

Hoover vaccums....

Let the research begin....

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Guidelines

OK, so it's only been what 13 days into this and already- WOWSAS- been quite a challenge to live 'slave free.' I think it might be impossible as of today. Unless I lived on an island, pranced around in bikinis made from palm branches and managed my own one-man pina colada hut. Hmm, yes, that sounds like a nice, fair, life. Teddie, after MIT, let's buy our first blended drinks hut. In Kauai. Shoot, after MIT, let's buy Kauai. (but would that be a fair purchase?)

Here are my "I want slavery to end- purchasing" guidelines:
First, this will be difficult. I'm certain of it. I won't always know where to draw the line between slavery and immigrant work. I may never be certain that slavery is not involved in the production of products that I buy. But I'm giving it my best shot.

1. During the year of 2010, I will research, research, research. I'm a big fan of Origins beauty products and Reeses peanut butter cups and I want to learn how to surf this year, which means I'll need a wet suit and a surf board. I really don't want to give up the things I love forever. So I commit to thorough research of the companies I enjoy.

2. I commit my consumer powers to being a slave free as possible. I also will not pick up free candies, or coffee samples or super discounted shoes. But BY NO MEANS, will I reject a meal or gift someone has made or given to me. (I was once a Nazi vegetarian. I've hurt too many carnivores along the way by rejecting their veggie burgers they specially made me for, because they made on the same pan as the beef burgers-- All the while thinking I was some sort of God's woman, a woman of no-compromise. Well really I was a woman of no class and no gratefulness..... and no iron. Boy, I be grouchy without that iron. It's all about the fishes today, hallelujah!

3. I will purchase only Fair Trade coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas, sugar, vanilla, mangoes, molasses, soaps, flowers, rugs, clothing,jewelry and anything else I find out about with a definite, for sure, 100% fair trade label.

4. Ths point is not to become thrifty, but at times second hand will be necessary. Second hand shopping will include appliances, clothing, shoes, books (including our text books),furniture, automobiles (if needed),car tires and sporting goods. There may be a few exceptions to this rule, but this seems like a comprehensive list.

5. For the most part, I will research products before I purchase them. I will not assume a company does or does not use slave labor. For example, If I want GAP jeans, I need to know if GAP's factories pay fair wages, give PTO, don't use child labor, etc etc.

6. Some items where I know slavery is linked to them I will still purchase. This includes gasoline, plane tickets, some foods, restaurants, school supplies, make up, perhaps a few others.

These are my guidelines for the year. It's good for me to have them posted for potentially the whole world to see. Keep me to them world.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I'm Responsible

In 2002 I found out about the 27 million people enslaved in our world today. In 2009I realized I was responsible. In 2009, it became clear to me that I was funding slavery. My chocolate addiction, my Starbucks obsession. Yep, me. Buying stuff that funds big corporations who exploit the poor in order to make a big profit...wowsers.

All of my life I have been consumed by desire for constant consumption. The newest techno gear, the hottest jeans, my never ending urge for chocolate, chocolate cake, mocha-choco lata ya ya. So when I first found out about slavery in college for awhile I went out all out hippie: thrift stores, garbage dumps, wearing 8th grade apparel, wearing nothing at all, even stealing stuff from friend's closets. I went from freegan to veegan to frustrated. 8 years later I'm still my hippie, thriftin' self, but now (without anyone asking me if it was ok) I've turned into an adult and I've been forced to buy grown up stuff. (to all you young hippies out there: the day you realize buying new underwear is the healthiest choice you can make for yourself is not the day you become a hypocrite)
Now I've got to buy things like a vacuum, business suits and mufflers. So yeah I could hit up the thrift store, but being the 6'1" giant that I am it's important to find trousers that not only hit my ankles, but don't ride up to my knees when I sit down. This is a challenge at the thrift store. And quite frankly, I really like the 'skinny pant.' It makes me feel, well, skinny. And I don't always like to dig through the junk yard looking for that muffler that fits my make and model. I don't have time for that nonsense.

This is my constant dilemma. I live in a fast-paced world where I need stuff to keep my world going round. How can I live my busy life and still ensure that the hard working people making the 'fabric of our lives' are being paid? Are being given days off? Are not children? Are not being raped? Are not bound against their will? I care about them. So that's what I'm doing this year. Trying to live a lifestyle free of slavery.

Maybe this seems like an extreme measure to take. Maybe its the responsible measure to take for the insane wealth I've been given. Can I really look God in the face one day, today even and say, "oh yeah, I know about those 27 million people who were forced to work. Forced to labor with little or no pay, with torture and harassment, with little sight of hope of any way out. I knew about them God. But man, didn't you see how hot I looked in those skinny jeans? Come on God, if you had this body, you know you'd be strutting your stuff too."

And I'm not gonna lie, yeah part of me feels like this. Well, not necessarily the hot bod part, but wanting to look good in the newest threads. Or just wanting to have nice stuff and not think about it. And listen, in my opinion there's nothing wrong with shopping, furnishing a home or being fashionable. I enjoy and do all of the above. What I am saying is: I know I am accountable. My bliss is over, I'm no longer ignorant. I grew up hearing, "to whom much is given, much is required." Yeah well I'm among the richest in the world, so there must be something required of me. There is.
I'm responsible.
(Slavery 101 coming soon...)