Monthly Archives: March 2014

Burr, it’s cold in here (Camping gear part 3)

We finally got to try all the camping gear!

Like I’ve blogged about previously, we had been shopping a bit for our 10-day road trip in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. My main goal was to buy good quality, American made products, and I was excited to try them all, finally, in real camping-life.

Spending the night in a tent in Arches National Park, Utah, in March was maybe not the best idea. It got quite cold for this “glamper”. Burr. It was 32F outside, we were backcountry camping on a rock (literally), and woke up in the middle of the night freezing. Ice cold.

That said, my Western Mountaineering sleeping bag did do a good job. Rated at 35F I couldn’t expect it to be super warm at 32, right? Bonus points for being super lightweight and easy to carry in its very small stuffing bag. One could argue I should have worn more clothes, but I don’t think it would have helped.

The Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads were ok for both me and my husband, but the rock (again) was just too damn hard. The sleeping pads didn’t stand a chance making us believe we were in our Tempurpedic. At least they were easy to fill (blowup), lightweight and did block the cold quite well.

The saviors of the night were the toe warmers. Love those. Also our camping light was Taiwan/USA made and did a good job, with an adjustable lamp you can use standing or clip onto your tent. Luckily we didn’t need the Montana made bear-pepper-spray at any point.

IMG_2299    IMG_2249

The platypus foldable water containers did get a little smelly from time to time. The lid closes really tight and I assume dirty hands made it smell. I would probably stick with classic Nalgene (made right here of course) for water, unless weight and storage space are key factors (like they are when backcountry camping).

For documents we had waterproof (US made) Loksak folders and they sure did the job keeping wallets, maps and tickets dry. Not that it was very wet in the desert.

IMG_0252
Arches National Park. Survived a night of rock-sleeping.

America the beautiful – it sure is. We spent most nights in hotels which I must tell you all about. I will share it next week so check back in!

 

My (carbon) footprint (Camping gear part 2)

Wanted: Me

Why: I committed my first felony. Online shopping of course.

My recollection of what happened: We bought a MSR hubba hubba tent for the trip a few weeks ago, I checked the label, it was Taiwan. We had also picked up an MSR cooking set (whisper light) which was made in USA. As we are heading to colder climates we needed to buy the footprint for the tent.

I swear I read made in USA somewhere while I was browsing online… Really! So I ordered it and when it arrived, the label was screaming MADE IN CHINA. Damn. My whole afternoon turned to shit. Only two months in and already beat at my own game.

Husbands verdict: When someone commits a crime they have to pay, so shouldn’t I pay for my crime? Yes. He came up with the brilliant idea (because he is brilliant) that for any money I spend on made in China products, I have to donate the same amount to charity (environmental or humanitarian)

I spent $48 on the footprint including shipping and have donated $48 to WWF (World Wildlife Foundation). I’m a member and like them a lot. I don’t buy anything in the gift shop anymore though as I suspect that it’s all made “you know where”.

Summary: my first felony – a stupid mistake. It’s made it to the felonies page. Even though I messed up by not investigating better, there were NO other options if we wanted a footprint for this specific tent. Sad.

China 1- Anna 0.

Shopping for the outdoors (Camping gear part 1)

We decided to go to one of those we-sell-anything-even-remotely-related-to-camping type stores, to buy camping gear for our upcoming trip to the Grand Circle.

We needed a lot of things, since we hadn’t been out camping together before. We spent quite a while in the store and I must say we did pretty well. We bought Platypus water containers (folds up) and Therm-a-Rest mattresses and pillows – all made in USA. I also picked up a new US-made yoga headband from PrAnato keep my ears warm. See how remotely related to camping that item is?

The big problem was the sleeping bags. They were all made in China. North Face, Sea to Summit, Marmot, you name it. Prices varied a lot between brands, from $150 to over $300, but the funny thing was that the tags inside that said “Made in China” and described the item looked exactly the same. So all brands make their sleeping bags in the same place? A super-size sweat-shop factory for sleeping bags!? Probably! No sale. Irritated hubby.

When we got home I decided to search the web a bit. It didn’t take me long to find the cool site of Western Mountaineering, makers of down sleeping bags in California.

img_8800

The next day we hurried over to Whole Earth Provision (Western Mountaineering lists retailers on their webpage) and I chose a $360 blue, shiny, fluffy sleeping bag made in the golden state. I had to take some money from my savings account but it was worth it. Oh the joy!

I tried it out on the bedroom floor when we got home. It’s mummy style so it made me very warm, very fast. Let’s just hope it works during the upcoming cold nights in Utah too. We’re hoping to do some back -country camping. We shall see and I’ll let you know.

Image

*PrAna’s webpage is hard to navigate in terms of which products are US made. I picked up my headband at REI. PrAna seem to be focused on organic, fair-trade products and stand by their goods. Overall I think it’s a good company, though I doubt many items are US made.

Oh, the choices we make (go ahead, ask questions!)

People sometimes ask me if I have thrown away everything I own from China. Of course not. That would be even worse for the environment and contribute even more to the American over-consumption (which makes me sad when I think about it) as I would have to buy new lamps, shirts, sneakers, pillows, kitchen stuff, crafts…..

No – my already purchased “made in China” will be worn and worn out! My favorite shirt in the world is made in China. I didn’t check the label as I bought it last year. Today, I would have checked and passed. Could I have lived without it? Yes. Do I love it still? Yes. Hey it’s never too late to make better, more enlightened choices. The past never decides the future.

Dying to know more about the shirt? It’s from China-central also known as J.Crew. It’s a fine knit in off white with tiny orangey fruits on it. Vintage and adorable.

J.crew shirt

Scrap! (Crap!)

The world of scrapbooking is a slippery slope. Since I can’t find the charm in digital scrapbooking, I need to make my hobby work somehow without paper crafts from China.

Only thing I’ve needed so far was those 12×12 plastic folders that hold the finished pages in the albums. Started at Jo-Anne’s. China. Went to Michael’s. China.  “How much gas are you going to waste driving around looking?” asked my love. Good question.

(Well it so happens that those two stores are very close to each other and we had hardly started looking in my opinion. But I figured Google would help me)

Came across this great store in New Jersey, Dalee Book Company, that make albums, scrapbooks, binders, desk accessories and more. They even pledge to use only American raw materials whenever available. They had the folders I needed! Check them out!

It’s so juicy! (when it’s made in USA)

It’s been almost two months since I started this challenge and I’ve just now decided to blog about it. It started at the mall (like so many great things do!)

IMG_5712I needed a new pair of sweat pants. I say needed because mine had paint stains on them! I love the Juicy Couture sweats and I remembered from before (2006 when I bought a blingy pair) that it said “made in the glamorous USA” on the tag. Left my friend at Sephora and headed over to Juicy. They had a sale, got a pair for like 35 dollars. Insane!

Before this, I had been looking at some (a lot) of that cute stuff at Anthropologie. I found my self picking things up, reading the label, and putting them back down. Really, 15 dollars for a porcelain bowl made in China? For that price, couldn’t it be made in USA or South America even? So all this got me thinking. Is this the new lifestyle for me? My new thing? Could I do a year of this? And so it started.

Oh, I love my light grey sweat pants made in America. I’d wear them to work if I could. (You know when you buy something and plan to only wear it at the house? House turns into Target… To the local restaurants… To your friend’s house… Yes that’s what happened with these) And they started this whole project, this commitment to (for me) the environment. Feel good by doing good.

Keep in mind, most of Juicy’s other garments and accessories are not made in America. Check before you swipe.

[Pants featured in Look Book]

Let’s begin the challenge!

The challenge: one year without buying anything made in China. American-made whenever possible.

Start date: January 4, 2014

Why: because I say “go America down with China”? No. Knowing where my products come from and understanding how they were made and what resources were put into making them; that’s what this challenge is going to be about.

That said, here are my top reasons for ending my relationship with Chinese goods:

1. The longer something transports the worse for the environment. Ships pollute like crazy and harm life in our oceans. Google it. We need to reduce the amount of goods we import from far away. Period.

2. China’s big pollution issue: Uncontrolled exhausts from factories, energy/power plants and transports. Uncontrolled wastewater and outlets; chemicals, dyes and additives ending up in rivers and lands.

3. China’s (and other countries in the east) laws for employee rights are not ok; people breathing, working and living in the pollution mentioned above. And do I want children making my clothes and gadgets? No. I don’t want to contribute to people suffering in Sweat Shops in order to make me a new shirt. There are exceptions, of course, but in general we just don’t know.

4. It can’t be right that one single country gets to make almost everything I buy and own! I want to support my local economy – not theirs. The poor people aren’t getting richer over there – the rich are.

examples
Just a fraction of what we own – Made in China

Me: I’m not a researcher, politician or professional activist. I am a 9-5 woman on a mission. If you want to change the world, live greener, become more aware – start with yourself!

You may not realize how HARD of a challenge this is. Take a look around a department store or toy store.  Find many options not made in China? Find many options made ethically or made in the USA? Didn’t think so. Take a look in your own home too, and discover that most everything is Asian.

Try a month of joining me in the challenge and post your comments! This is hard work people and a task bound to drive some poor husbands, wives, partners and friends crazy.

I’m ready to do this!

I hope you all will enjoy following my blog!