Tag Archives: made in china

Is your new dress funding North Korea’s nuclear program? Find out.

You know, some people think it’s really silly to refuse straws and shop local. They “kind of care” about the environment, and yes, they’ll agree climate change is real, but it’s just not enough for them to change any of their habits.

Keeping our environment safe isn’t enough. Reducing global warming (yes, that ol’ term!) isn’t enough.

So, a Not Made in China challenge is CRAZY right? Why would anyone give up shopping away on Amazon for something like that!??

I recently shared my six reasons for not buying made in China here on the blog, and although one of them has nothing to do with the environment, all six are rooted in sustainability. Sustainable world, sustainable economy.

“Anna, we don’t care about sustainability! We care about cheap stuff!”

I know.

However, here’s something “awesome” that has just been revealed, that some of you might actually care about:

Your made in China clothes could be made in North Korea.

Yes, you read that right.

It’s becoming more and more common for Chinese textile businesses to take advantage of the cheap labor across the border, yet still labeling items “Made in China” according to a recent report from Reuters.

“Textiles were North Korea’s second-biggest export after coal and other minerals in 2016, totaling $752 million, according to data from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).”

The fascinating thing about that is that all of North Korea’s factories are state-owned. Remind me now, how do we all like the state of North Korea?

“In North Korea, factory workers can’t just go to the toilet whenever they feel like, they think it slows down the whole assembly line. They aren’t like Chinese factory workers who just work for the money. North Koreans have a different attitude – they believe they are working for their country, for their leader.”

Would you, as an American, sleep well at night knowing that YOU helped fund North Korea’s nuclear program?

Our purchases matter. EVERY DAMN TIME. For so many reasons.

I may be a tree-hugging, tag checking, straw refusing liberal, but at least I know who and what I am funding with my dollars.

Do you?

[Quotes from the Reuters article, which you can read HERE.]

Six reasons why I’m on a Not Made in China Challenge

Things have changed in this world of ours since I started the Not Made in China Challenge in 2014. Most of these changes are good.

For starters, India and China are investing billions in renewable energy – wind, solar, hydro – more than any other nations. In addition to this, China is shutting down its last coal plant in Beijing in an effort to clear the air (switching to natural gas) for millions of Chinese living in the region. Developing countries all over the world are going from no electricity to solar powered life – skipping the burning of fuels all together. Good news.

Meanwhile Donald (aka the worst president ever) is leaving the Paris Climate Agreement and talking about bringing jobs back in the coal industry as part of his plan to “put America first”. Although coal is never going to happen (sorry Donny boy!), the fact that he’s pro the most polluting technology we have and doesn’t believe in climate change, is bad news.

So, does it still make sense, as a sustainable shopper, to be on a Not Made in China Challenge?

YES!

Of course I would say that – hello blog – but there are great reasons for it too. Here’s why I am on this challenge, and keeping at it in 2017 and beyond.

The President is all talk

We know by now that all the campaign promises made by the Republican candidate were just false. He is not doing anything to bring jobs back here, he is not even ensuring that his beloved pipelines are to be made with American steel. He may have come up with the “Made in America Week” which is a great initiative, but so far, NOTHING has been done to ensure more items are, or remain “made right here”. (Also leaving the Paris Climate Agreement and not investing in renewables would most likely create fewer jobs for Americans down the line.) He talked the talk, but as usual, it’s still up to us consumers to walk the walk. And as far as that goes, no policies have been put in place that would make it easier or more affordable for Americans to choose “Made in USA”.

The core of my Not Made in China Challenge is to support small businesses that use sustainable production practices and eco-friendly materials. That effort supports our local communities; the tax-paying entrepreneurs, makers, builders and artisans living here. (Supporting a small business might mean a family can afford health insurance when/if GOP takes it away!) Basically this challenge is about “Main Street not Wall Street”.

Environmental questions remain

Even though China is switching things up in the energy market, honoring the Paris Climate Agreement and talking about implementing a carbon tax (YES!), small rural factories are still powered by burning coal. Not only by pulling electricity from the coal fired grid, but many actually run their own, tiny furnaces which have no filters, no air cleaning catalyst (NOx being an issue) and low efficiency.

There’s also more to a healthy planet than a low carbon air. China, India and several other countries are still polluting their groundwater and surrounding oceans by uncontrolled wastewater from manufacturing. (So is America, I know, I know, but I find it easier to spot the businesses here who do that, like Georgia Pacific.)

The force is not with the workforce

I have yet to see a certified fair-trade item come out of China. What’s going on with decent wages and healthy workplaces? Not much, I’m afraid.

This is of course also true for many other places; India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, Mexico, neighboring Latin American countries and even, dare I say it, we’ve got some sketchy California sweatshops too. Best to stay away from them all unless we’re talking about certified fair-trade, organic and/or small business/artisan style items we can trust. If it’s too cheap to be true (aka in the West as “A GREAT deal”) – someone suffered to make it.

The trade deficit

Our ginormous trade deficit with China isn’t shrinking. In fact, what we export most to the Chinese is AIR. Yep, empty containers are constantly heading across the ocean to pick up more “stuff” for bored Americans. How much are we talking? The trade deficit with China was almost FOUR BILLION DOLLARS in 2015, and it grows every year.

The issue here is that Chinese business men (and women!) are investing more than ever in the USA, buying land, real estate and factories as we speak. Basically China could soon “own the USA” thanks to you shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Transport hasn’t gone “clean”

There has not been any breakthroughs when it comes to shipping transport. Large container ships are still burning through barrel after barrel of fossil fuel shipping the above mentioned “stuff” and empty containers back and forth. Container ships remain a threat to marine mammals by interruption of sound waves and migration paths as well.

Honestly, it’s the easy way to shop less

Since most everything is imported, reading labels and tags so I can avoid “Made in China” means I can’t buy anything. I feel like this issue is so often forgotten when we talk about Climate Change and the environment. We can elect all the climate friendly politicians for Congress we want, but it won’t matter if we continue down this path of OVER-CONSUMPTION.

I’m not saying that a Not Made in China Challenge fits all, different rules work for different people. This works for me, and I am sure it would work for most suburban Americans with access to Target. 

So I’m staying on the challenge – I am thriving at it actually. Sure as hell doesn’t mean I don’t respect China and their efforts to act on climate change.

Buy less, buy local.

Main Street, not Wall Street.

PS: To find out more about what this challenge means to me, read my entire blog! (it’s fun I promise!) Or maybe start with reading my “About” page :)

 

Mystical cats and mystical printing methods: What I bought this month

I’ve had this nagging feeling lately that I spend way too much time in front of or looking down at a screen. My eyes are tired and honestly, I’m a bit tired of endless updates (and Trump’s ugly mug).

Now, I’m not sure if it’s super nerdy or quite trendy, but I’ve wanted a so called “adult” coloring book ever since they first came out, and now seemed like the perfect time to get one to help me spend more time being creative and less time screen surfing.

“Mystical Cats in Secret Places”. That’s my new coloring book because yes, I love cats. Since I’ve spent many days drawing in the past, I already have lots of colored pencils I can use. (Digging them out at home I was happy to see they are all plastic free, made in Europe and non toxic.)

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Speaking of books, have you ever flipped a book over at Barnes and Noble to see where it was actually printed?

Funny thing, or sad rather, many of them are made in China. You’ll find that being true for the majority of coloring books as well (kids and adult ones). Yes, we import English books written by American authors from China. It’s a mad world!

When it comes to printing, “made in China” is not only concerning due to the long transport and the outsourcing of jobs, the biggest issue is the environmental impact this business has on local eco systems.

See, it’s actually common for Chinese (and Indian) printers to do all their printing offshore. That means the books are made onboard ships that conveniently release all the excess tint and chemicals straight into the open sea*. It’s a great way for them to escape watchful eyes, avoid regulation and stay super competitive on pricing.  In other words an eco disaster. So take a second and check the origin next time you’re book browsing.

Anyway, less screen time and plenty more mystical cats for me! I’m excited.

As far as the 12 months  – 12 items challenge, this coloring book is my one purchase for August. I spent $13.95 and it is made (onshore) in Canada.

*I first found out about Chinese offshore printing thru _Wastelandrebel_’s instagram account.

 

Halloween – The scariest holiday of them all! Boo!

Despite the fact that I love orange, Halloween is my least favorite American holiday. I’m not even sure that, per definition, Halloween can be labeled as such. The reasons for my dislikes are simple.

First reason: The amount of merchandise people buy is an outrage considering the length of time they will enjoy it. Halloween is ONE day. And yes, it’s all imported, low quality China crap. For someone on a shop local mission – this is pure horror.

Made in China at its finest: Happy
Made in China at its finest: Happy “Neewollah” y’all! Thank you Martha Stewart; great call.

Second reason: Sugar overload, with a side of processed, for all little kiddos – need I elaborate?

Third reason: Candy wrapper frenzy. Individually packaged, small pieces of candy – that must be the most wasteful way of using plastics in packaging. These wrappers aren’t being recycled (not sure they can be?) and some of which will get lost outside trick or treating and end up in our lands and waters. Pretty much any zero waster’s worst nightmare.

No, I ain’t joking friends; this rant is dead serious.

I did hear a few of my friends saying they were reinventing old costumes this year; using big brother’s old outfit for little sister, which is definitely a good way to reuse and save money and help the environment! Here’s another idea to save; since you find sustainability and mindfulness so scary, why don’t you dress up as environmentalists? It’s easy. Just wear your normal clothes, hand out fruits and veggies as your treats, and mind your waste.

On a lighter note, we got invited to a pot-luck on Saturday, no costumes necessary, just good ole’ fall fun (yay!). Since I am refusing to buy anything even remotely related to this eco-terrifying “holiday”, a garden pot-luck is the perfect way to celebrate!

I’ll be wearing my favorite orange outfit and I can’t wait to try some pumpkin soup. If the time is right, and the crowd is right, (I’ll be the judge of that, thank you!); I’ll probably rant a bit about my Halloween-dislikes too. Happy Halloween; Anna-style.

Boo!

My scarf is my style – my style is my scarf

A friend of mine once told me, that she gets scarves as gifts all the time. I used to be a little envious, since I love scarves (they’re amazing accessories)! “How lovely” I thought.

But, during the course of like 10 days, I was given two (!) scarves as gifts and frankly they’re just not right for me… Nor are they made right (here)!

Let’s break it down. Here’s how the two (1 & 2) measure up:

Color analysis:

  1. It’s light purple which is ok, but not great for my complexion.
  2. Orange works for me! But, it’s very shiny. And I’m more into scarves with multiple colors and patterns.

scarf blog1Impact of its import:

  1. Made in China and imported by a polluting ship then trucked from the West Coast to the Midwest. Packaged in a plastic box, also imported.
  2. Our friend was going on a plane anyway (from India to USA), and the scarf rode along in his bag, so kind of the lowest possible footprint while still being imported.

How they ended up with me:

  1. Given as a “nice to meet you” gift at a job event by someone who doesn’t know me. I couldn’t say “no thank you” in front of my colleagues and clients. This scarf was most likely pulled from a pile of corporate merchandise (how thoughtful), which the company has lying around. I did my fake happy face (it’s a little awkward).
  2. Given as a hostess gift by a friend who came to stay at our house.

Additional information:

  1. Smells a little of chemicals (?) Need to wash it a few times I think. Boo!
  2. Made in India and sold at a local market where our friend picked it up. This scarf was locally made and sold. Not bad.

Orange is the winner of this scarf battle! But, like I said; far from what I would have picked for myself!

I think I’m going to stop secretly wanting scarves for gifts and just go back to wanting wine. After all, that’s a gift that never triggers the fake happy face (and it’s never made in China ;)).

Is the quality really better?

Last week at article club (yes, writers must also read) while briefly discussing not made in China, I got asked a question; do you find the quality of the things you buy better (than made in China)?

Honestly, not really. Or, yes and no. Let me elaborate.

Do I find clothing made in USA to be of outstanding quality? No. But definitely just as good as what I bought before, j.crew and banana. My favorite pricey (Chinese) sweaters from said companies all developed fuzzies after a few washes. And some broken seams have surely occurred. Do I find leather shoes from Brazil to be better quality than leather shoes from China? Maybe a little actually, but unfortunately not enough to justify the challenge and the extra dollars. brazil

But, then there’s the Harley Davidson my husband owns. An “American made” brand for American riders? Nah. Spend 5 minutes close up and you’ll notice all the parts are imported Chinese crap (it’s breaking down after only 400 miles!) and really what we have here is what people call “Assembled in America” (I just love it when they say that!). When my man added a handmade Roland Sands exhaust system, we could really tell the difference. Outstanding, American craftsmanship and quality. It is, no doubt, the best looking part of the bike. So in that case; the Harley representing China (how sad!), the exhaust representing America, yes, much better made right here.

I think the old saying “Chinese merchandise is bad quality” is just not true anymore. Some of it is cheap and poorly made (bolts, nuts, everything at Walmart, that keychain by the register). Some of it is quite well made, quality-ensured and expensive (Apple, Fossil).

Good thing for me, this challenge has little to do with quality of product and all to do with quality of life, oceans and air. And that, I don’t need to elaborate on, do I?

Stop for a second, be thankful (and pick up that trash)

It’s that time of year when we stop for a second, and remind ourselves of all the wonderful things and people we are thankful for. Today, I am thankful for hiking in a state park, Miss Swift’s 1989 blasting through crystal-clear-sounding headphones on an empty trail where no one can see me dance.

On the other hand, not so thankful for all the people who seem to think it’s ok to throw trash around them. Today I had an especially interesting find; a flower that does not belong in a Texas state park.

IMG_3546So many questions racing through my mind! Did the person who dropped this in nature even notice? Or simply decide to not pick it up? Who takes a plastic flower with them to the park? I couldn’t help but wonder (like Carrie would have said); does this person have any idea about the resources spent manufacturing the raw materials, assembling the decoration and then transporting it here from China?

I decided to pick it up, just like I do with other trash on the trail (eco-maniac, I know). I left it in a common area with hopes that someone would like it (hey, no judging on other people’s taste!) and take it home. If I had thrown it away, it had gone straight to landfill. What a waste of our earth’s resources.

And, a reminder, today is Small Business Saturday (Nov. 29)! A day to get out of the mall and instead support your local economy and neighbors. While you’re at it, shopping small, pick something locally made. Whatever you buy, I hope you don’t lose it in the park.

Muffintops and leather vests

My husband asked me to join him at a motorcycle rally this weekend. He wanted to look at bikes and figured I would enjoy the people watching.

For the longest time I thought Rawlins, Wyoming was where fashion came to die. But now I know it’s at the motorcycle rally. Muffintops, black leather vests, ripped shirts and lots of bling everywhere. My husband rocks a wolverine-just-borrowed-the-old-mans-bike look, which looks so hot, so I was not prepared for this flashback to 1991.

But, what’s that got to do with my made-right-here lifestyle? Well, although riding a cruiser may be a great American past time, most of the merchandise bikers buy is imported. Yes, I was the crazy lady checking tags of things I would never buy (ripped leggings with sparkling crosses anyone?) to see where things were made. Pakistan and China, from what I saw, so no surprise there.

The majority of what bikers seem to buy and wear is leather. Black leather vests, jackets, pants and boots. So let’s talk about leather.

China is the world’s biggest exporter of leather and fur. Even when something is labeled as made here, the raw material is often untraceable for us consumers, thus most likely from China (or India). It is worrisome because there are no laws for animal welfare, or control of implementation of such laws if any. Mislabeling is often used to hide the origin and the type of animal used to make the leather. In India, where it is unlawful to kill cows, the key to get hides for leather is to malnourish and treat cows so badly that they die a slow death on their own. Sound like something we should support?

And you bet that if there is no control of animal welfare, there is little or no control over the chemicals and pollutants that come as a byproduct of processing leather. The list is long. Wastewater pouring out into the nearby lands always contain chromium, sulfides, mercury, dies, oils, arsenic and other solvents.

Studies have shown that leather processing industry workers are in higher risk of getting lung cancer, testicular cancer, soft tissue sarcoma, pancreatic cancer and bladder cancer to name a few.

In the US, though the harsh chemicals are definitely still there – a threat to the factory workers and the environment – it’s better controlled, and some or most (you will never know for sure) of the leather we process come from cows already used for dairy or meat. This is not the case in the Far East.

I googled and tried to find some recent numbers and hard facts about leather exports but it was very hard to get a good hit. Here’s a link to PETA, it’s short and direct on what is going on.

The best thing to do is to minimize the amount of leather goods you buy, in order to not support an industry where severe animal abuse and environmental damage is part of the daily routine. Just for kicks, check the tag of your purse. I bet I know where it’s made.

So thanks bikers for reminding me of this important topic!

What I was wearing for the event? Pink scarf, blue jacket, jeans and pink sneakers. I clearly didn’t get the memo, but this is an event where I am proud to not fit in.

IMG_5158
Someone didn’t get the dress-code memo

 

Seriously J.Crew? Again?

Why do you keep sending me your catalogue? I can’t buy ANYTHING in your stores.

IMG_3500

Before: J.Crew poster girl.

Now: No need to even browse.

I guess I should thank y’all for saving me so much money! I don’t need any more $70 knits, cardigans or shorts. And I sure as hell don’t need more dresses. So thanks!

And I do still wear all my favorites… all the time! Wear and wear out, then sell or give; that’s the plan for my made in China stuff.

Now if only you would stop wasting resources by sending me the catalogue.

You just don’t know how scary it is

IMG_23052222I always see this ad in the flight-magazine when I travel Southwest. “Overseas Manufacturing isn’t as scary as you think”. Really, what do you think, I think?

Here are four reasons as to why it’s actually pretty, darn scary (and why this company should start looking for other expertise since they will be out of business sooner or later)

1. The clothing factory in Bangladesh that collapsed in 2013 and killed over 1,100 uninsured employees. On top of that, over 2,500 were injured.

2. That Pakistan is the most polluted country in the world. Pollution PM 2.5 levels are at 101 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter). Recommended value for not risking premature death or chronic diseases, looking at annual average, is 15 μg/m3 (*)

3.The American Embassy in Beijing reports that PM 2.5 pollution levels often hit over 500 μg/m3 short term. At these conditions, children can’t go to school as it is a threat to their health.

4.Container ships (that bring all the goods over here) are associated with serious environmental threats such as greenhouse emissions, nitrogen- and sulfur oxide emissions (which cause acid rain), disruption of maritime life, and oil spills.

Enough said. Shop local!

(*)Particulates less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM 2.5) are referred to as “fine” particulates and are believed to pose the largest health risks. Read more about pollution and how it is measured here