Archive for the ‘Conscious Consumerism’ Category

Trying to navigate through the sea of eco-labels

Ecolabel Index | Who’s deciding what’s green?.


I consider myself to be fairly informed at the point of sale, but I am someone who makes it a point to stay up to date with what labels mean what.  But I know that I am in a small majority who has the time and stamina to constantly do the research.  That said, I still find myself getting confused at the grocery store when I am bombarded at the egg section with seemingly conflicting messages: USDA Organic? Cage free? Antibiotic free? Hormone free? Free range? Certified humane? AHHH!! And those are just a few of the labels I can think of off hand for ONE category in the 40,000 square foot Whole Foods.

As our world inches towards the beginnings of a healthy and  sustainable food system, companies are jumping on the wagon, but with no universal standards or labeling (and more popping up all the time!), consumers can be overwhelmed.  Enter: The Ecolabel Index.  This agency out of Vancouver, BC “is the largest global database of ecolabels, currently tracking 327 ecolabels in 207 countries, and 40 industry sectors.”

So next time you have a big purchase to make (car, appliance, machinery etc), or just want to get some clarity for your next trip to the grocery store (food, cosmetics, household cleaners etc), first go to Ecolabel Index.  Even better, get your school or business to subscribe for more detailed information, but at the very least follow them on Twitter to keep up to date: @ecolabels

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Marigold Fair Trade Clothing: Facilitating the conversation between social and environmental business

Through the Fabric of Life World Fair Trade Day I helped put on last month, I had the pleasure of meeting a fantastic lady: Beth Provo.  She found her passion and followed that dream to develop her own social business: Marigold Fair Trade Clothing.  Not only is she helping to promote fair trade business practices through high fashion in North America, she is also working to bridge the gap between organic fabrics and fair trade.  Today’s media and business seems to be so focused on the environment through it’s nebulous messages of “going green,” that we all seem to be forgetting about the social component of our buying decisions. But it doesn’t have to be one way or the other….if consumers tell corporations that we want a product to be BOTH organic AND fair trade, they will deliver, but we have to demand it.

This is where businesses like Marigold are playing such a crucial role: in the education of consumers.  We must give ourselves some credit and realize that if have the courage to listen and learn, and start a conversation about who made our T-shirt, with what materials, under what conditions and where…then consumers will start to ask the tough questions and be a little more conscious of their purchases.

At World Fair Trade Day at Fabric of Life, residents of Edmonds came into the store and saw the beautiful hand-block printed dresses, skirts and blouses that Beth had on display at the boutique.  But Beth was there to tell them that not only was that hand-stitched dress gorgeous, but it was made by a woman in a slum of Mumbai, India.  But then she was also able to tell them that the woman was paid a fair wage, is a member of cooperative that helps to make her economically self-sufficient, and is not working in a sweat shop. When the customer asked about the fabric, Beth was able to tell her that yes it is cotton, but cotton that is chemical-free and therefore did not harm the farmer, the worker or the environment and community around it. Interactions like these get the average consumer to start to think twice about exactly why that tank top at Old Navy is only $5.00, and whether or not we are OK with punishing the workers down the supply chain in order to have new, cheap, expendable clothing every week.

Kudos to the good work that Beth is doing to promote the use of organic cotton in the production of fair trade clothing!  Interested in learning more about the great organizations that Marigold Fair Trade Clothing works with? Check out these links:

Fair Trade Federation

Green America

SweatFree Communities

South Sound Clean Clothes Campaign

Fair Trade Your Supermarket

This past Saturday May 8th was World Fair Trade Day, and in honor of this I helped an organization I volunteer with, Fabric of Life, put on a big celebration.  I have spent the last couple of months entering contests, securing vendors, using social media to promote my event, and over all I think it went very well! For a small boutique in downtown Edmonds, WA we did pretty darn well and had about 225 visitors….OK so the FREE Fair Trade Ben and Jerry’s ice cream didn’t hurt my cause =)

At the event, I mostly worked the oh-so-popular “education” table- I tried to win over guests with my smile and kind words and get them to “step* away * from * the * ice * cream” to talk to me.  I wanted to spread the word of Fair Trade to as many people as I could, and did my best to explain what the concept meant, how to identify products with the labels, and showed them examples of products I pulled out of my kitchen cabinet.  Not surprisingly, many times when I asked if someone if knew what Fair Trade was, and then after they said “Yes”, I followed up with “do you know how to identify Fair Trade products”, most of the time they said “NO.” And this was OK, because that’s my job to tell them!

More info:

Fair Trade Resource Network

Transfair USA

Fair Trade Federation

…..Now that everyone is an expert on Fair Trade, it’s time to make sure you can find the Fair Trade products you crave in YOUR supermarket. Click here to find out how!

All About Organics

It’s a new year, and a perfect time to be a little more conscious about what food you put in your mouth and give to your family.  While I consider myself to be pretty food-savvy, I always like brushing up on the basics and learning just alittle bit more about the current broken state of the US food system.  Here’s a mini-preview:

Why We Should All Eat More Organic Food:

-It’s more nutritious

-It’s pure food, free of chemical additives

-It’s safer

etc…………………….

All About Organics- OCA’s Organic Resource Center.

Some last minute gift advice

OK yes I know it’s been a while since my last post… but I am back! And I am here to offer some advice and ideas as the holiday gift giving comes to a head this weekend!

Want to give sustainable gifts? 2009 Gift Guide : TreeHugger.

Why not offer a micr0-loan on behalf of someone else? Kiva

Like fair trade gifts? Global Exchange

Did you know ebay has another site with items that make you feel “good?” World of Good

Plastic bags blow and don’t you need more totes? Resuable Bags

Want to know about Green Wrap and Gift Bags? Just say no paper wrapping

I would love to hear your thoughts on how you are trying to make your holidays more sustainable and spread the good work to your friends and family…. Happy Holidays!

Developments in the Fairtrade market

The fairtrade movement is definitely picking up steam, but most people only think they can buy ethically sourced coffee and tea- that’s no longer the case!  Chocolate is becoming more available, especially now that Cadbury UK has committed to fair trade practices in their supply chain.  But did you know that you can also buy fairtrade spices? Fruit? Sugar? And even wine?

For more info check out: SpecialtyFood.com.

Watch out consumers: A staggering 98% is just greenwashing!

Watch out consumers, a recent study found that 98% of the 4,000 products tested had false claims of being “eco-friendly”, organic, etc.  That is an alarming figure considering we are all trained to read labels.  The issue is a lack of oversight and standardization which leads to very overwhelmed and confused consumers who are unable to make informed, values-based decisions.  Come on Obama…..

http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2009/06/study-98-percent-eco-friendly-products-make-misleading-claims