Our Clothing Addiction Leads to Cycle of Poverty in Developing World


September 1st, 2017

Revised 9/1/2017.

Our tendency to buy inexpensive clothing when it is barely worn or when “it’s out of style” leads us to support an industry & system that contributes to poverty in many ways…

  • New clothing is sewn predominantly in sweatshops around the world, often by women that are permanently enslaved to pay off a “debt” for the “privilege” of a “well paying” job (NOT).
  • The used clothing business has effectively destroyed native garment industries in much of Africa and other developing countries. American cotton is so highly subsidized that our used clothing can be purchased more cheaply by them than those made with native fabrics and sewn by native seamstresses.
  • Cheap clothing from that is made in the US is, many instances,  made by factories  that hire undocumented immigrants and are not following US law for wages or conditions. http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-fi-forever-21-factory-workers/

“T-Shirt Travels”is a documentary that should make us think twice about the easy fix. If you don’t have time to read the entire article or want to explain it easily to students here is a quick visual. Over time many of the links are disappearing; here is one for the book The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” The movie Life and Debt tells of the Free Trade Zone in Jamaica where workers who sew for American corporations earn the legal minimum wage of $30 U.S./week. Sweatshops, with the approval of their governments, offer incentives to foreign clothing designers which are allowed to bring in shiploads of material tax-free and are immediately transported out after sewing. Over 10,000 women currently work under sub-standard work conditions. In order to ensure the employment offered, Jamaica agreed to the stipulation that no unionization is permitted in the Free Trade Zones. When the women attempt to organize they are fired and blacklisted to prevent them from working again. The jobs move on to next developing country desperate for work.

The book Fugitive Denim: a Human and Sensible Approach of Global Textile Trade by Rachel Louise Snyder shares the complex story of the textile trade, now & historically. She traveled around the world speaking with workers and professionals in the trade. United Students Against Sweatshops at 25 universities are now boycotting or severing ties with Russell Athletics/Jerzees until the company re-opens the Jerzees de Honduras facility at full capacity, re-hires all union workers and complete the collective bargaining process. Also, individual initiatives such as Ethix Merch attempt to link small manufacturers with buyers.

A recent problem is the sale of ethnic goods and designs on such sites as Etsy, Amazon and Google. There is both theft of design and underpayment of the workers. Fortunately, some Guatemalan Artisans, with the help of Ethical Fashion Guatemala, are taking them on legally:

“Dillon notes that knowledge of the unique features of Guatemalan craftsmanship — like the fact that genuine weavings don’t contain the color black, as all the dyes are natural and a dark black isn’t achievable — helps identify possible fakes. Knowledge of the artisans’ preferences, like the fact that many have asked that they not be displayed in pictures that show them sitting on the ground weaving on e-commerce sites, helps him identify retailers that may be selling genuine products without maintaining an ethical relationship with the weavers. “

“Using bots to scan for keywords and specific types of images, Dillon locates products on Etsy, Google and Shopify that seem suspect and then reaches out to individual sellers to ask what percentage of profits are passed back to the artisans, what their transparency policies are and more. Sellers who can’t prove that they have legitimate relationships with Guatemalan artisans are then reported to their hosting sites to be removed.”

Make inquiries when native made pieces seem overpriced

Americans consider ourselves to be generous people as we assuage our guilt about buying new clothing by giving away our slightly worn or out of date cast offs to charity but the net effect is a global economy turned upside down. What to do?

  • Worn thin? Goodwill or Salvation Army will turn into rags.
  • Stained? Sew or iron a patch, applique. Tie die the garment – stains get lost in the patterns. Missing buttons, open seams, broken zippers? Fix yourself, or take it to your dry cleaners or find a local seamstress/tailor. Keeps Americans employed at decent wages. If you’re crafty, here are ideas for recycling old Tees .
  • Gained/lost weight? Style dated?  A good tailor can take in or let out seams and can even re-fashion professional clothing to reflect current fashion trends
  • Just itching for a change or something different? Look for clothing swaps online or plan an event with friends

If you must buy new, search out  items made of organic or sustainably harvested fabrics by fairly paid and treated workers.  Green America has links to many online ethically traded clothing items and much more. Be willing to pay more for both American /union/Fair Trade made goods.

The fashion industry itself is just discovering Zero Waste and trying to apply it to the cutting room floor. Parsons New School for design will offer a course in zero waste.

Ethical doesn’t have to mean giving up style. Ethical In Style will send you the latest trends daily via FB or Twitter.

San Mateo County Faith-Based Housing Summit – Redwood City Table


February 6th, 2016

San Mateo County Multifaith Housing Summit 
Summary of Redwood City Discussion –
February 5, 2016

Challenges
Rental evictions (910 Clinton and more) as buildings are purchased & redeveloped, not returning at affordable rates.
Competition for purchased housing is so great.
RUMOR: One company owns 30% of RWC rentals – need verification
Children are impacted by unstable housing (equivalent stress to losing a parent). Communities are also affected as schools lose teachers and parent support groups.
100 homeless students at Sequoia High, many due to families being split up among houses.
Problems at school districts hiring teachers, clerical, bus drivers because no affordable housing.
Long-term homeless have higher bars to jump getting back on their feet.
St. Pius recently had 50 parishioners show up at a meeting on affordable housing, most Hispanic – racial dimensions to housing shortage.

Challenges in other Cities, Statewide, Nationally (these are only the items shared with the large group,  I’m sure each group had more to say):
EPA – Facebook buying up land
HMB – folks living in shipping containers
San Mateo – decrease in economic diversity of residents
Belmont/San Carlos – NIMBYism, opposition to change
Burlingame – very dense, neighbors leaving area so communities disintegrating, schools full.’
Statewide  – 85% Fed restriction on how much RE lending can be done by Credit Unions
Loss of Redevelopment Agencies
No state policies on affordable housing

Successes in RWC (& beyond):
Property on Franklin St. currently up for bid for non-profit development
New Accessory Dwelling Unit law (permanent buildings)
New Developer Housing Impact Fees into fund for affordable housing.
Habitat for Humanity still has some ongoing projects
Match up with individual landlords (rather than multifamily buildings) (Abode Services, through San Mateo Housing Partnership Program).
New $328M State affordable/sustainable housing fund we may be able to access.

Suggested Actions & Opportunities:
Legislative:
Guidelines to allow garage conversions
Guidelines to allow tiny houses
Eliminate Prop 13 for commercial buildings
Extend time frame for evictions
Support SFO PIA ballot measure on Rent Stabilization
Moratorium on rent increases
Shipboard housing
Tax credits or other benefits to landlords for maintaining affordable housing stock

Community:
Adjust psychological  barriers to change
Many churches (schools, colleges) are land rich/cash poor – how to leverage land for housing (Barbara Christensen is Community College contact with much experience)
Reach out to landlords to voluntarily be part of solution
Clergy education of congregation at the pulpit of housing as moral issue.

Regulatory & Existing Programs:
Form group to talk to banks about Federal Community Investment Act regulations on affordable housing loans and how/if they are meeting them (Rhonda Coffman). Banks are supposedly rated on this criteria.
Community colleges using land for housing (see Barbara Christensen, above)

There was an awesome Redwood City turnout at this event especially our elected officials (current & former): Ian Bain, John Seybert, Shelly Masur, Barbara Pierce, Diane Howard.
Clergy members: Mother Anna Lange-Soto (El Buen Pastor) and Rev. Katie Goetz (Woodside Rd Methodist)
Government, non-profit and community members at-large: Evie Dwyer (St. Matthias), Jessica Stanfill Mullin (San Mateo County), Joaquin Sanchez (Bay Area Industrial Areas Foundation, St. Pius), Julie Sanchez & Gina Zari (San Mateo County Assn of Realtors), Diane Dittmar (Abode Services), Rhonda Coffman (City of Redwood City), Steven Rozzi (Peninsula Covenant Church), Steven Grabianowski.

Respectfully Submitted,
Claire Felong

Natural Pesticides, Cleaners & Detergents


April 6th, 2015

If you are reading this you probably don’t need to be convinced that natural pesticides are preferable to toxic ones. Herewith are a variety of solutions:

Ants:

Homemade boric acid ant stations.  The formula is 1/4 tsp boric acid and 1 tbs sugar to 3 tbs

hot water.  You need to leave this stuff out in jar lids, etc along their trails (but away from  pets).  This will draw them in for awhile, so it will seem worse, but in about 5 days the workers will have taken it home and destroyed the colony.

Wikipedia  cautions that it’s important to avoid spraying them, because that can stimulate increased egg production in the colony, or worse, can cause the production of secondary colonies in your walls, etc..

 

Weeds:

1     Gal Vinegar
2    C Epsom Salt
1/4 C Dish Soap(Original blue Dawn, recommended)

Mix in your sprayer (add dish detergent last to avoid bubble-over)
Write the recipe on the sprayer or on paper and cover with clear mailing tape so anyone using it know the ingredients. It will kill any plant you spray it on so use carefully.

Spray in the morning after dew has evaporated.

Dishwasher Detergent:

1 1/2 cups food grade  powdered citric acid (available in bulk online or at restaurant supply , home brewing & some natural food stores)
1 1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup sea salt (but kosher salt works fine)

Combine and mix in a large air right jar (quart Mason-type jar works well)

Use 1 tablespoon per dishwasher load.

 

Disposal Cleaner

Pour used coffee grounds down the sink or bathtub drain, followed by 3 drops of dish soap and a pot of boiling water. This will clean and clear the drain of clogs and built up grease.

 

Air Freshener

Easy to make. Thanks to Grist for the recipe

2 ounces of vodka ( cheap stuff works just fine)

  • 20-40 drops of essential oils
  • 6 ounces water
  • an 8-ounce spray bottle

 

Mix all of the ingredients in the spray bottle and give it a good shake for about 30 seconds … and you’re done! If you want to get extra fancy, you can make a cute label to stick it on the bottle.

 

Mosquitos

Combine in a 16 oz bottle:
15 drops lavender oil
3-4 Tbsp of vanilla extract
1/4 Cup lemon juice.
Fill bottle with water. Shake.Ready to use.

 

 

 

Sew and Sew: Where to Buy Ethically Made Fabrics


February 14th, 2014

As a sewer, quilter and fabric consumer I’ve always paid close attention to waste and using up scraps is part of why I like quilting. Lately I’ve been choosing many organic fabrics because of the many toxic chemicals that go into the farming and production of cotton that affect not only the consumer but the farmers and manufacturers. Likewise, reading about the slavelike conditions & wages in many low wage overseas factories, I’m reluctant to buy a lot of new fabric and am paying attention to where they are made.

Though, not generally a JoAnns fabric shopper, I happily learned that they have just introduced a new MadeInAmerica fabric line from FabricTraditions. Online chatter indicates they have always carried some Made in USA fabrics but you have had to search for them.

Most of Liberty of London fabric is still woven in England as seen in this video.

By my research Japanese prints are indeed made in Japan, they are even milling high quality denim!

FabricWorm carries a large selection of organics and I just discovered Organic Cotton Plus.

Of course there is always repurposing fabric, buying at thrift shops & yard sales and, of course fabric swaps!

ASK WALMART TO INCREASE THE PAY FOR EMPLOYEES THAT ARE COLLECTING SNAP BENEFITS.


November 2nd, 2013


Friends,

 
Many Walmart part-time and low-wage employees are eligible for SNAP food benefits are losing, on average $36/month beginning this month (November 2013) because of SNAP benefit cuts by Congress. By raising their wages to the equivalent of $40/month these employees will have approximately the same amount of spendable income. $40 less $3.10 Social Security, $.72 Medicare Taxes, $.50 SDI is approximately $36.

I just added the petition: “Ask Walmart to increase the pay for employees that are collecting SNAP benefits.”

It would mean a lot to me if you took a moment to add your name because:
Many Walmart part-time and low-wage employees are eligible for SNAP food benefits are losing, on average $36/month beginning this month (November 2013) because of SNAP benefit cuts by Congress. By raising their wages to the equivalent of $40/month these employees will have approximately the same amount of spendable income.  $40 less $3.10 Social Security, $.72 Medicare Taxes, $.50 SDI is approximately $36.

The businesses in communities that sell to the employees are directly affected by the decrease in disposable income, as well. By not paying it’s employees enough, WalMart is undercutting it’s own customer base. SNAP food subsidy cut are coming at the cruelest time of year as low wage employees try to celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

To sign this petition go to:
http://www.credomobilize.com/petitions/ask-walmart-to-increase-the-pay-for-employees-that-are-collecting-snap-benefits

Real change happens when everyday people like you and me come together and stand up for what we believe in.  Together, we can reach tons of people and help create change around this important issue.

After you’ve signed the petition please also take a moment to share it with others.  It’s super easy – all you need to do is forward this email.

Thank you!

Sustaining our Food Chain & Our Sanity


January 8th, 2013

A furtive meandering email forward about Chinese vegetables, Pacific Rim seafood, poop as nutrients & American jobs going overseas  got me to doing  a lot of research on food chains, food safety, sustainability & food ethics. A lot of territory, and this does not presume to be complete, but here goes.

It’s a lot of work but basically, caveat emptor, read the labels on every food product you buy, their sourcing may change from month to month. Consider writing  an email to companies when you decide not to buy a product because the the origin or production values of the product. Buy foods in season. Off season foods come from far away places. Maybe you should  be eating pomegranetes not strawberries in December.  Processed foods are always a sourcing, and disclosure, nightmare, an example:

In the NutriGrain bar, the list of sources and ingredients is as follows:
•    USA: high fructose corn syrup, sugar, wheat flour (produced and milled), whole grain oats, sunflower oil, strawberry puree, cellulose, red dye #40;
•    China: vitamin and mineral supplements (B1, B2, iron, folic acid), honey;
•    Philippines: carrageenan;
•    India: guar gum;
•    Europe: citric acid;
•    Denmark: lecithin (soy);
•    Italy: malic acid; and
•    Scotland: sodium alginate.

 “The 2002 Farm Bill and the 2008 Farm Bill amended the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require that retailers inform consumers of the country of origin of all perishable agricultural commodities beginning September 30, 2008…” per this excellent full article.

What this really means is re-thinking your budget putting a priority on paying for organic, sustainably raised foods and making as much of your food from scratch as possible. They are better for both your body and the planet’s health.  Are you willing to buy fewer clothes (or movie tickets, or tech gadgets) to have more quality & control in your foods?

When choosing imported foods consider the carbon impact from shipping. East Coasters are actually using less carbon when you choose European (wine, olive oil, fruits, seafood ) over California grown because sea shipping is more energy efficient than trucking) , Mexico (even we Californians now get most of our tomatoes from Mexico, the big farms are pretty attuned to US standards), Canada.  West Coast folks cause less transportation CO2 by buying from the Pacific Rim countries if we can’t get it from Mexico or western Canada. Though I enjoy the European and South American Wines, I generally buy California wines. If I’m traveling I always look for local fare & wines.

Just as we cannot categorize all US food as good or bad, we must make the same distinctions within other countries. There are honest and unethical people around the world. QVD Aqualculture out of Bellevue WA provides farmed fish from the US, Vietnam & Singapore and you will be impressed by their standards & certifications  .

FDA  has a lot of seafood inspections but can’t possibly inspect everything. China is the only entire county on their seafood watchlist.

A great seafood guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium includes guides for different regions of the US see:   Print a copy and keep it in your purse or with your coupons.

There is a HUGE difference between Chinese veggies for the US/Canada frozen market & Chinese seafood, meat & products grown for their internal markets.

“ Farmland is communally owned, so a foreign business, often working with a Chinese agent, will approach a village council and propose a farming arrangement. After a community vote, the entire village contracts with the company to supply the agricultural product. The farmers agree to use the seeds and other inputs the foreign company provides… export crops are part of a separate food system. .. vegetables headed abroad are monitored along the food chain: farmers grow the organic vegetables on plots of land that are often less than an acre, then bring the harvest, usually by hand-pulled cart, to a company processing plant, where it is inspected. Plant employees.. wash and prepare the vegetables—all by hand. Before leaving the factory, the vegetables are put through a double metal detector. …“The Chinese are super careful,” echoed Rozelle. The vegetables destined for foreign supermarkets are inspected by government employees before they leave the country. “They know if they get to the port and find residues, it will be rejected.”   

Overseas trade is a huge balancing act. Depending on US markets for the wellbeing of the Chinese population certainly keeps them from extreme military measures; slowly their population is becoming consumers who will begin to be their own best customers.

The Cinnamon Challenge – How Much is Healthy, How Much is Safe?


June 21st, 2012

Looking for sustainably & ethically harvested Ceylon cinnamon? Enjoy the photos and stories of  La Cannelle plantation.

 

Cinnamon has several health benefits, a  source of manganese, fiber, iron and calcium. It’s believed to help with anti-clotting abilities, help stabilize sugar levels for those with Type 2 diabetes, lower bad cholesterol, and fight infections.

 

There are two kinds of cinnamon, but product labels do not usually identify the type. Cassia, “common” cinnamon, usually from China, is redder, stronger in flavor, and cheaper. Ceylon (from Sri Lanka, Vietnam) or “true” cinnamon is a pale tan color; it is milder, sweeter, and more expensive than cassia.

 

Ceylon cinnamon sticks are tight rolls of thin layers; cassia sticks are hollow tubes of thicker, rougher, bark. They are generally ground into powders.

 

Not sure which type of cinnamon to use for your food? Penzeys offers a helpful guide.

 

CINNAMON AS ALLERGEN

Cinnamon also contains as essential oil called cinnamal, which can act as an allergen in a fair amount of people. Those who are allergic to cinnamon can suffer from contact dermatitis. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, cinnamon can also cause a severe allergic reaction that can lead to anaphylactic shock. We can only hope that someone who knows they are allergic to cinnamon would politely decline the challenge; but for someone who wasn’t aware of the existence or severity of an allergy, the results could be … challenging.”

 

CINNAMON AS NATURAL TOXIN & PESTICIDE.

On the plus side, cinnamon can be used as a natural pesticide known to be unkind to mosquito larvae, moths and ants … and most famously, rats.

Cinnamaldehyde is the organic compound that gives the spice its flavor but,  used in concentration,  is a pesticide and fungicide that causes internal hemorrhage & death.  EPA warns of acute dermal toxicity; acute oral toxicity; eye irritation; dermal irritation and dermal sensitization. When cooking, use recommended portions.

 

CINNAMON AS MEDICATION.

Cinnamon contain substantial amounts of coumarin (also present in the tonka bean, from which it’s name came, and other plants).  Coumarin is better known by its trademarked name, Coumadin, an anti-coagulant used to keep blood from clotting. Although coumarin itself has no anticoagulant properties, it is transformed into the natural anticoagulant dicoumarol by a number of species of fungi. Eating cinnamon, by itself, will not help your heart disease.

 

Coumarin is a possibly carcinogenic substance that can cause liver inflammation and can affect blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. In people who are sensitive, coumarin might cause or worsen liver disease.

Ground cinnamon can lead to a bronchial constriction that can be life threatening. For anyone suffering from asthma or COPD, this can be very serious.

 

Cassia cinnamon contains .5% coumarin. Due to concerns about the possible effects of coumarin, several years ago the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment warned against consuming large amounts of Cassia cinnamon. One teaspoon of cinnamon powder contains may be above the Tolerable Daily Intake for smaller individuals.

 

Ceylon contains only .0004% coumarin and is unlikely to be problematic. If you enjoy cinnamon but are at risk, consider cooking with Ceylon.


Organic Food for Thought


December 27th, 2011

My daughter sent me an image of a factory spouting smoke with the tagline ” Explain to future generations that it was good for the economy when they can’t farm the land, breathe the air and drink the water”

“Americans from coast to coast are living with the human health and environmental costs of factory farms that cram together thousands of animals in filth conditions… producing huge quantities of manure that taint local water supplies and air quality. Consumers…end up eating meat, poultry and dairy products loaded with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and artificial hormones”  – Food and Water Watch. See the online map of farm factories near your water supply.

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is Everywhere, including your toilet paper


December 21st, 2011

That nice shiny paper that most receipts are printed on? BPA (or BPF) is likely-as-not an ingredient. We slip those recieipts in next to our currency in our wallets, slide our hands over them countless times as we rummage through our purses, pick them up to enter them in Quicken, then one more time to file, trash or shred them.

“When people talk about polycarbonate bottles, they talk about nanogram quantities of BPA [leaching out],” John C. Warner of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry observes observed about carbonless copy papers when he worked at Polaroid. “The average cash register receipt that’s out there and uses the BPA technology will have 60 to 100 milligrams of free BPA.” By free, he explains, it’s not bound into a polymer, like the BPA in polycarbonates. It’s just the individual molecules loose and ready for uptake.”

But thats not the end. Those duplicate check records? Carbonless credit card receipts? What if you’re a cashier handling them all day? Touched some food after handling the receipt? Ouch! Of course, many of us recycle those receipts, cool huh? Maybe not, it may be ending up in our recycled toilet paper. Is shredded thermal paper part of your composted fertilizer? Ooops.

Bill Van Den Brandt of Appleton papers point out that his company’s receipt paper (manufactured for NCR) is now BPA-free. This after after a lawsuit (NCR also named) for cleaning up PCB’s from the Fox River in Wisconsin) and subsequent change of ownership to employees.

“Attempts have been made to develop a thermal ink which reduces the problems associated with thermal papers by obviating the need to provide a thermal coating over the whole surface of the paper.” but this technology has not been perfected. I’ve got some receipts I can no longer read (though I really have no idea which technology was actually used).

Another option, the companies, TransactionTree, and AllEtronic emails a receipt to you (instantly) and you have 24 hour access to your receipts through their website. TransactionTree might also email you a retailer discount coupons & AllEtronic will soon have an iPhone app.

As worrisome as thermal printing paper is, the use of BPA in the packaging of many microwaveable convenience food products and canned  foods, is even more so.

The sticking point is actually figuring out which manufacturers still use the BPA method and which stores buy paper from which mfg; data still outstanding. In the meantime, be aware. Don’t put thermal receipts in your paper recycling (or compost). Consider the electronic options, if available. Educate the stores you frequent. Decrease your use of microwaved convenience foods.

BPA, BPF Thermographic Printing in EU

Shop Locally First


December 5th, 2011

As an investor I look for companies that return a part of the profits to me by means of dividends. I’m wise enough to know, though, that before I get my share, the top executives and board members have taken a cut of the action. I try to vet my investments for companies that compensate their top management well but not outrageously and that treat their employees fairly.

I  direct my purchases to those companies I invest in but only if there exists no local alternative. I invest in Proctor & Gamble (P&G) yet I purchase my bath soaps at farmers markets and craft fairs.  Why?

LocalFirst found that for every $100 spent, local businesses put $73 back into the local economy, while other businesses put back $43. Keeping money in the community keeps jobs in the community.”

P&G makes plenty of products I can’t find locally but I keep looking for more. I try and make the biggest impact by finding products I buy regularly: foods & toiletries. In the San Francisco Bay Area I can find many local olive oils, a variety of dried beans, and tasty cheeses in addition to our renowned wines; specialty grocers are good at finding local specialties.

When on vacation I’ve found local wines in New York, Pennsylvania & Texas;  every region seems to have its favorite BBQ sauce or marinade; and produce. We try to eat at local hangouts with regional dishes rather than at a chain.

Check out ShopLocalSF or my link for the Bay Area. If you live elsewhere, do a search on “shop local [your city or area name].

If you’d rather shop online, etsy.com/local is one portal for finding handmade goods from local people.

Start now!