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I have read that Apple has little transparency- meaning, they do not publish a list where they manufacture or audit, they have only just developed a team of 8 specifically for establishing social responsibility, and refuses to engage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

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

Here's an article I found on alleged slave labor by Apple: 2006

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 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...


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
Eagle Creek
Chef Designs
John Varvatos
Red Kap

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:

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...)