Saturday, December 29, 2007

Presents & Time

This year we decided to go cold turkey and not spend Christmas day with my larger family. It was strange. No uncomfortable conversations, no wondering if anyone would drink too much, no need to see the goblins go crazy with too much stuff under the tree, yet experience some strange sense of lack--not in that sense of "gifts don't fulfill me, I just want quality time with my family" but in the sense of "I know there was one more present I wanted." Actually, my family is not all that bad. The kids really appreciate their gifts, and the food is always enjoyable. But, it was refreshing and simple to stay home.

So, this Christmas morning, I woke knowing that I would be spending the day with my beautiful baby Ezra and my incredible husband. I know, I know. So many sappy adjectives! But, I really do love these two more than I knew possible--and I got to spend the whole day with them! We only had stocking gifts for each other. AJ bought me a beautiful fair trade purse made in Thailand. I gave him organic socks, elephant shaped hot mitts and a bar of fair trade chocolate. Ezra received a little wooden train painted with vegetable dyes.

Indulgent friends Lauren and Nico sent Ezra awesome gifts--also from a fair trade store online.
An elephant on wheels, an abc block set in beautiful bright colors in a wooden cart, and a shape sorter in primary colors.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is we are doing it and it feels good! Friends are tuning in, and only getting us things they made or that are by craftspersons, or are second hand. We're not changing the world, but we are changing our consumer impact.

You may wonder if this is just a rambling to consumerism. I know buying is not the answer, even though our president tells us to go out and buy. But, if you must buy, then why not buy used, or sustainable, socially humane gifts?

It far time to log off and go hang with the dudes.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fair Trade Shopping during a Recession & the Story of Stuff

Like the rest of you, I had a run of holiday parties this past weekend. Thursday, The Sustainability Project holiday party. A lovely evening at Living Green, a store in Santa Barbara behind the Spearmint Rhino (hmmm . . . what's with all the shades of green?). The TSP party featured 100 mile diet foods--a delicious spread of vegetables, soft cheeses, fruits--a much easier diet to keep when you live in Southern California. Great conversations and further inspiration to do good. Check out Living Green when you have a chance! You can purchase many healthy items for your home if you have the dinero.

Friday night was the famous HH near-Christmas party hosted by George and Amy. Their house is always so festive. Great people, clever decorations and insightful conversations. Did I mention great wine and beer? Baby Ezra was passed around, beaming his smile and lighting up the evening. Adorable children abounded at this event, including Sophia, Nathan and baby George, the latter within a few days of Ezra. Cookie Jill and I got into a lengthy conversation about how to really help people. It seems the answer, as always, is to get involved and educate. I suggested she run for public office, as she has a lot of knowledge and a passion for justice. That should be the basis for public office, don't you think?

Oh, back to the recession. Despite the pending recession, we went out and purchased a hideous white elephant gift for the White Elephant Cocktail Party at Charles and Matty's swinging household. I must say that my man has exquisite taste when it comes to intentionally picking out hidea (that must be a word!). He found the epitome of the white elephant gift; a ceramic musical piggy bank made in China. This creatura had black beady eyes and a series of flowers painted over its fat, pink, glossy torso. We weren't the only ones to appreciate its horror. It was one of the top picks of the evening and was greeted by applause and screams at the party! Oh, at the same party, I spoke with Linda C, and she has a very smart brother who is in finance who is "annoyingly mostly right most of the time" with his opinions, and HE says we're going into a recession and that the housing market is going down for another few years.

So I'm spouting second hand information here, but what gives? Are we really at a point where we have to face our consumer cycle of debt, spending, overworking, spending and more debt? Could it be that the high cost of low prices is finally catching up with us in more ways than one? I hope so. I say this as I hope a recession will help America to shift its unsustainable practices and become more responsible and accountable as a nation. I would never wish for a recession, and I realize it could shift us out of the comfort zone that keeps us all afloart. I KNOW its not that simple.

That brings me to the story of stuff.I have to say I'm very impressed with an amazingly straight forward, humorous and inspiring video I saw online as of recent forwarded via Dutch friend Tessa Lippman:

It really makes you want to NOT BUY anything. Then again, what about the fair trade items out there? Wouldn't that be a true example of voting with your dollars? for example has items that are beautiful, medium priced, fair trade and made of recycled materials. Am I fooling myself by continuing to think about shopping? I'm still a consumer at heart. How ingrained is the habit and how hard is it to break? Does anyone know? I know its all based on personal experience, but I KNOW people have opinions.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fair Indigo at the Shed

Here is the link to the white shirt I plan to purchase in January once the 2008 monthly budgeting for fair trade clothing is underway.

I'd love a collection of links from others who have found fair trade, sustainable, classic clothing that isn't more than twice what we'd pay at a department store.

I'm going to temporarily try "Google Ads" to see if they will advertise fair trade, sustainable items that are good for the environment or help people. The first ad seems to be on the right track. What do others think of ads? Is it selling out, or does it make sense?

What Would Jesus Buy?

We fear that many of the items we purchase at department stores are made in sweat shops, and I have yet to meet a sales clerk who can definitively tell me which products are made under humane circumstances and which are not. As one XBOX 360 seeking adolescent in "What Would Jesus Buy?" said, its "mind boggling" to try to figure out where these products come from . . . he went on to say he didn't really care, but given a chance to fully understand the issue--I mean, if he met a kid his age working under harsh conditions for just pennies an hour to make him a shirt--he would most likely feel bad and want that person to have a better working situation.

That same 'mind boggling' question has allowed me to float in a sense of consumer helplessness, buying what I need when I need it despite the potential economic contribution to child labor, because the rat's nest of globalization goods and bads is just too hard to sort out. Or is it? After watching "What Would Jesus Buy?", I had a major break through. I know in my conscience what is right to do, and yet I've been letting confusion and a sense of helplessness lead to contradictory actions. This activist documentary humorously ended the debate for me. I no longer want to purchase ANYTHING that leads to children suffering or adult suffering for that matter.

So how do I make the transition? There are more factors than buying habits at stake. I associate fair trade wears with funky designs not plausible for the office unless you are going for a 'cultural' look that contradicts your basic style sense. After the movie, I went online to COOP America and searched for a basic white dress shirt that is sustainably made and fair trade.I found one for $49, with a picture of the cooperative my purchase supports. Yeah, I can get a button down white shirt at Macy's for half the price, but what am I supporting? If plan ahead I can budget for my purchases, buy less, pay more, and put my money, limited though it may be, where my mouth is! Whew hew!!! That sounds like a New Year's Resolution in the making!

Fair Trade involves the following principles:
Producers receive a fair price - a living wage
Forced labor and exploitative child labor are not allowed
Buyers and producers trade under direct long-term relationships
Producers have access to financial and technical assistance
Sustainable production techniques are encouraged
Working conditions are healthy and safe
Equal employment opportunities are provided for all
All aspects of trade and production are open to public accountability

Let's share links with one another for cool clothes that follow these principles--of course the closer to home the better!