Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Australian companies may be using sweat shops off-shore

I went on the Pacific Brands website recently. Pacific Brands is the parent company to many much loved Australian brands. There are too many to list here so here's the link to their website. http://www.pacificbrands.com.au/our-brands.html

I wanted to check them out because I had noticed that they had been part of something called the Ethical Trading Initiative. Under this initiative companies are responsible for reporting on and making public what goes on in their factories. Sadly, Pacific Brands stopped being transparent back in 2008. I sent them an email to ask them if they could vouch for their factories and, as of a week, have had no reply. I guess I won't be buying Bonds undies or Berlei bras anymore.

On a more positive note, there are loads and loads of on-line ethical businesses and some of them have shops or outlets in Adelaide. My husband found a factory/shop today which makes clothing. It's located in Kilkenny. I know it's possible for workers to be badly treated here, however, we have laws against it and companies can get into strife if they do so. Here's the link to the shop my husband found. He ended up buying two jumpers and a polo shirt for $45. Not bad.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Short Footnote on Present Buying

Student free day at Teenage Daughter's school so, as I write, I'm listening to the guitar strums of The Boyfriend.

Teenage Daughter has redeemed herself without even realizing it. She announced out of the blue, after I'd written my last blog, that for her upcoming birthday she only wanted second-hand or homemade gifts. It was a bit spooky coming on the heels of what I'd just written but very cool nonetheless. Now to convince the extended family that she really does only want second-hand or handmade gifts ...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Present buying without dirty footprints.

Once again the weather is smiling down on us, making it very easy to walk, hang washing and keep the heater off. I heard this morning that it's going to be cold, wet and rainy on Friday. :(

Both Fathers' Day and my sister's birthday are approaching very quickly. That's just the beginning. September brings a whole spate of birthdays of various family members. I know that most of my extended family are probably well aware and used to my eccentricities by now. However, that's when it doesn't effect them. I'd really love to say, "This year for your birthday/Fathers' Day/etc you'll be getting a gift that's eco friendly, ethically made or second-hand." Hmmm. I don't think they'd like it. Or maybe they wouldn't really mind but I'm just scared. Because I'm taking a less mainstream path through life these days, I feel the need to apologize for it in some way. Perhaps I need to outgrow that kind of thinking.

Anyway, I'm trying to the best of my ability to give experiential gifts instead. Things such as movie tickets etc.

We'll see how it goes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Young love, the environment, independent cinema and carbon emissions!

When we began Footprints, my teenage daughter was probably the most excited in the house. She participated avidly in the discussions and threw in many great ideas. Teenage Daughter is a passionate greenie and leftie. Or is she???

Teenage Daughter likes to spend every Saturday with her boyfriend. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I had to go into the city for a few hours so she could spend that time with him. I'd drop her on the way and pick her up on the way home. She was upset that it couldn't be longer. I explained that, with our change in lifestyle, it didn't make sense to run the car unnecessarily. Before I knew it, The Boyfriend's mother, had offered to pick up Teenage Daughter. It was a sweet gesture and I relented. Just because it wasn't my car, however, doesn't mean there was less impact on the environment. I mentioned to Teenage Daughter that perhaps she was less interested in the environment than she thought. She insisted that she cared very much for the environment and the planet - just not when it interfered with her plans!!! And need I even write about how much more often the cordless phone and her mobile phone are being charged these days after long romantic phone call? Yes, we were all that way once, I guess ...

While I'm on the subject of carbon emissions, I had an interesting decision to make yesterday. Teenage Daughter and I went to see Jane Eyre. I could have gotten us very cheap tickets at an independent cinema in the city - about 20km's from home. I opted, however, to pay more and go locally to a big national multiplex cinema in order to use less petrol. It was difficult because I really would have prefered to have used the independent cinema (and gotten cheaper tickets). However, the environmental Footprint is a big part of what this is all about while the use of independent providers is more of a bugbear.

Each day presents me with a new challenge, dilemma or question. I find it much less straight forward than I thought I would and that holds a charm I wasn't expecting. :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Australian owned versus ethically produced

I bought the Ausbuy guide yesterday. It's a brochure that gets upgraded every few months and sells for a couple of dollars at the grocery store. It's a guide to which companies are Australian owned and which are now or always have been foreign owned. Upon looking through it I was pleasantly surprised. There are still alot of everyday brands owned here.

Here's a dilemma, however. Many of the non-grocery producing companies have moved their operations off-shore. If I buy a Bonds t-shirt, for example, which are made in China, how can I be sure it hasn't been made in a sweatshop? If I buy an ethically made t-shirt, I CAN be sure BUT the parent company may not be Australian.

That made me return to the original goals of this Footprints project. One of them was to have as big a footprint as possible on humanity in a positive way. It's great that profits stay here if companies are Australian owned. However, it's not great if items are being produced in sweatshops in order to ensure those profits. I simply don't want any part in that - if I can possibly help it.Therefore, my choice is clear. I will always try in the first instance to find a product that's made here, Failing that, however, I will try to find an ethically produced one or one made in a country that has similar labour laws to here. Not always possible, I know, but each time it is possible I'm making a big footprint. :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Getting the shopping right

I went grocery shopping again last Friday. I went to the Central Market this time. Surprisingly, I didn't buy any fruit or veg. I have an on-line supplier who always delivers really fresh, mostly locally sourced produce. I'm way too happy with the quality of the produce to change. http://www.firstfroots.com.au/ If you decide to use them, let them know I sent you! What did I do at the Market? First, I went to Grains and Goodies. I bought four items in bulk there, three of which were Australian. 75% - not bad at all. The couscous was from France and I would hope there wouldn't be any human rights issues regarding workers there. Most of the containers at Grains and Goodies are clearly labelled as to the country of origin of the product. The great thing, too, is that I can bring my own containers, thus reducing the environmental costs of landfill, recycling and container manufacturing. I also went to Skala bakery. The bakery, itself, is in Port Adelaide and they have a stall at the Market where I bought bread.

On the way home I went to Pasadena Foodland. It has more variety than my local Foodland but not necessarily more Australian owned brands.

And in other news: one of my cousins gave me some food for thought in relation to dishwashing habits. I'm now trying to ascertain the lowest setting I can use on my dishwasher that will still be effective. (No, I'm not giving up the dishwasher!) I'm also now rinsing in cold water. I can't bring myself to hand wash the dishes in cold water ... yet. I'm too much of a germ-phobe.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

This and That

There's a blog I've been following for quite some time by Katy Wolk-Stanley entitled, "The Non-Consumer Advocate". Katy and her family try not to be mass consumers and to think about how and where to spend their money wisely. They try not to buy into conspicuous consumerism. Her motto is “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”. I'm mentioning it today because one of the things Katy tries to do is "batch her errands". I've been trying to do the same for awhile but I'm trying harder now. For example, I realized in the late afternoon yesterday that I needed bread so instead of rushing out then and there I waited until I had to drive my daughter to work and bought it at the nearby IGA then. I always buy Thursday's paper for the TV guide. Today I'm going to buy it when I go to pick up my son from school. This morning I had to bring the cat to the vet and scheduled the appointment to coincide with the morning school run.

Sadly, our run of early spring ended last night and winter has returned with a vengeance :( I spent some of today trying to dry my clothes, keep warm and get places without using too many resources. I did use the clothes dryer but I made sure to shut off all the bedrooms and use the heat to warm the lounge instead of turning on the heater. When it was finished I didn't turn on the heater while I was doing the housework but waited until I was seated in front of the computer and getting cold.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

More about grocery shopping

After shopping and writing last week I went trawling through some more websites and found the following: http://www.onlyoz.com.au/index.php It's an on-line grocery shopping business. I doubt I'd actually use it for shopping because of the environmental impact of sending an order from Queensland to South Australia. However, I will certainly be using it as a resource. They have a grading system that works like this:

AAAA = Australian owned, Australian made from Australian materials or ingredients.
AAA = Australian owned, Australian made from local and imported ingredients.
AA = Australian owned, imported product, packaged in Australia.
A = Australian owned, imported product.

I'd add an ethical, fair trade tier to that but I'm not entirely sure where I'd put it yet.

So, I'm quite optimistic about the groceries for now. Other shopping may be more of a hardship.It became evident when we realized that my husband needs a new suitcase that there are going to be some items that just may not fit into any of those tiers. We're wondering, in those cases, if it might be preferable to buy very good quality items so we would be buying them as infrequently as possible thus using fewer resources and exploiting fewer people. Furthermore, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, secondhand is an option which also reduces both use of resources and exploitation of people. It also often raises money for worthwhile causes.

The weather may be changing now but it's been so temperate that I've not had to use the heater, the clothes dryer or the car much at all in the past week.

FA = Foreign owned Australian made.