Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Nike True Confessions, Part 3: Where I reach acceptance of my deed and move on

Okay, so I have to stop beating myself up about buying a pair of Nikes. They are SO DARN COMFORTABLE. And, as has been ranted on before, none of the sources for non sweatshop apparel carry athletic shoes. When I say "athletic shoes," I'm not talking about the NoSweat sneaker or the Blackspot sneaker. Those are Chuck rip-offs and about the only thing they're good for athletically (as reported by the old man) is weightlifting. In addition, from experience, the Blackspots I own are pretty damn uncomfortable. And that aforementioned, venerable old staple of the counter cultural wardrobe, the Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, are also made by Nike now, by the way. You cannot win.

Wait, I'm wrong--you CAN buy non sweatshop athletic shoes from Traditions Cafe and World Folk Art. And they're pretty cheap, too. Like the Chucks and their imitations, however, they look more like casual sneakers. I'm NOT justifying buying the Nikes! Okay, maybe a little bit.

DG and I have a running conversation about sources for things like athletic shoes and underwear. One of the sites I like to visit often is Sweatshop Watch, and they have a "Shop with a Conscience: 2007 Shopping Guide" that has a lot of resources for buying non-sweatshop clothing. While looking at the guide I found Union House, an online resource for all union-made clothing items. For men. So, if DG wants to get non-sweatshop undies she might have to opt for this:

Not Victoria's Secret; more like, Your Crossdressing Great Grandmother's Victorian Secret. I've really got to make some more underwears very soon.

Anyway, so I'm kind of moving beyond the whole Nike thing. I just want good shoes that will let me run without getting shinsplints.

Photo of the athletic shoes from Traditions Cafe and World Folk Art
Photo of really ill-fitting underwear (at least on a mannequin) from Union House

Nike True Confessions, Part 2: Unheard No More Blog

Whew. I'm glad I got that off my chest, about buying the Nikes. It really was inhibiting my ability to blog properly. I'm such a total poseur. Last year, I posted about how I would never shop at the Gap again because they were caught (for the second time) using child labor. I haven't shopped there, by gum, since I made that announcement, but then here I am buying from another notorious user of sweatshop labor.

I became aware of the Unheard No More! Blogspot blog in the middle of April when I read about how representatives from our government are in cahoots with the clothing manufacturers that abuse guest workers to the Commonwealth of the North Mariana Islands (CNMI). This blog focuses mostly on abuses of the guest workers and the women who get sold into sex trafficking within the CNMI, and works to help these people gain U.S. citizenship.

I emailed the author of the blog and asked, "is the CNMI the place where companies can make clothing there and claim that it's 'Made in USA' because it's connected to the United States?" The author emailed me back in the affirmative. Here's a pullout from the Wikipedia article on the CNMI:
Some extreme labor practices, not common elsewhere in the United States, have occurred. Some of these labor practices include forcing workers to have abortions, as exposed in the March 18, 1998, episode of ABC News' 20/20, and enslaving women and forcing them into prostitution, as in the U.S. Department of Justice conviction of several CNMI traffickers in 1999 attests. In 2005 and 2006, the issue of these regulatory exemptions in the CNMI was brought up during the American political scandals of Congressman Tom DeLay and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
So what does this all mean to you? Well, from my vantage point, I read Unheard No More! and just think that CNMI is a cesspool of corruption and I just don't want to be involved in that level of skulduggery. I am certain that most of the people of the CNMI are kind, generous folks but the people in power are perhaps not so much.

Reading things that talk about corrupt commonwealths that abuse their guest workers makes me sleepy (I think it's some sort of stress reaction). It also makes me want to avoid buying new clothes ever again. Better yet, it makes me want to make all my own clothes. Because, you especially can't count on the "Made in USA" label to be any kind of indicator of working conditions.

In Which I Confess to Buying a Pair of Nike Running Shoes

Maybe the 5 people who read the AE on a regular basis have noticed that I have not posted anything in about a week. That comes from the summer conundrum of having a life or just blogging about having one. Going to the pool with your child, or trolling the blogosphere for blogging fodder. It also comes from doing something I thought I would never, ever, catch myself doing: Buying a pair of Nike running shoes. New.

I debated about whether or not to post about this and decided it was right and ethical to do so. It might also assuage the immense guilt I feel right now.

See, I've been running pretty regularly (ran my first 5k at the beginning of this month) but have been using gym trainers, so went to Lloyd Clark's for my first pair of actual running shoes. This place is great because it's probably one of the last places where you can get actual salespeople to help you and not run away when you advance with a questioning look on your face. The salesman (I think he was the owner) was so nice and helpful -- I must have gone through almost 15 pairs of shoes. I really wanted these shoes to be the perfect fit.

We're getting down to the last 5 pairs, and he pulls out a pair of Nikes. I don't want to seem like a pinko hippie by refusing to try them on, so I do. And they're really comfortable. "No, no," I think to myself, "I cannot like the Nikes. No Nikes." And then try on three other pairs of sneakers. Then I try on the Nikes, again. Damn. They're like little angels on my feet.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Need-a-Bag? project update, 05.17.08 and 05.24.08

Note: The Need-a-Bag? project was created to promote sustainable bagging at the Hwy 441 Alachua County Farmer's Market each Saturday morning. We supply reusable tote bags reclaimed from thrift stores and garage sales. The Need-a-Bag? project also utilizes old tank tops as tote bags by sewing up the bottoms (these are called t-totes). We invite you to read the other posts on the project by clicking the "Need-a-Bag? Project" label at the bottom of this post.

Here's the update for 05.17: We put out 12 new bags and Virgo has been adopted! A "thank you" to the kind soul who found it in their hearts to make a place for little Virgo.

My brain must be still damaged from all the information I stuffed into it over the last semester, because I am still not hitting a summer stride. I have a 6-week lag, I've decided, where it takes me that long to settle into any new routines.

Anyway, the farmer's market is hopping right now! Last week they opened up a second aisle of tables but they were sparse; this weekend it was packed with farmers and shoppers. There is a tendency to get all hopped up and in a "me-first" mindset at these things. I have to remind myself that it is all good food, there is no "perfect 10" eggplant (unless you live in Japan where they are all about the Chisan Chisou). I bought a bunch of corn and, to be honest, this is my first experience with farmer's market corn. No one told me there would be worms. Or big fat caterpillars. I had to find this out on my own, to my consternation and chagrin. Is this what life will be like in a peak oil world? Being reduced to buying farmer's market corn and fighting off the pestilence that afflicts those lovely ears of delicious, farm-fresh deliciousness? Is this the trade-off? Or am I just an idiot and do not know how to choose un-wormy/caterpillary corn? Perhaps a little bit of both.

Pictured above: Tote bag offerings for next week's market day.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sierra Club Quizzes

Brought into right relationships with the wilderness, man would see that his appropriation of Earth's resources beyond his personal needs would only bring imbalance and begat ultimate loss and poverty by all.
--John Muir

So this is why I like the Sierra Club website: They have the John Muir online exhibit, which features a "John Muir Quote of the Day," as the one above.

Here's a letter I just wrote to the general information address for Sierra Club:

Hi, I like the Sierra Club quizzes that you post on the website every so often -- they really keep me on my toes! I especially like the one about bicycles. Is there any way you could put them all together on one page, like a sort of "environmental university" sort of thing? People could take the quizzes and get green points for what they answer right -- then they get some kind of accolades after they complete all of the quizzes -- they graduate with a green degree!

Thanks, that's my suggestion!


I just so totally lied. I hate the quizzes on the Sierra Club website. I looked for the bicycle one, because, you know, I really, really hate that one especially. I found it -- it's on a separate page called "How Green is My..." I could come up with a few choice bad words to put next to that, but I won't because that's not how I roll. Or, maybe it is. I haven't quite decided that, yet.

Anyway, so going to HGIM... will put you into contact with some of the most annoying "green" quizzes ever. Try them! That's probably where the poor person at Sierra Club who answers stupid emails like the above will probably direct me. Here's the link for the "How Green is My Bike Ride?" one. They give you an "out" where you can go directly to the answers but I think it should be mandatory to do the quizzes, because the annoyance factor just skyrockets when you get the answers wrong. "Somebody didn't do so well on the 'How Green is My Bike Ride' quiz," you might be saying. And you would be right.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Need-a-Bag? Project update on the update

I totally forget to mention that we're now keeping "statistics." So, for this last weekend (05.10.08) we brought 39 bags to the market.

Bags, bags, and more bags

Friend of Need-a-Bag? project (FoN), Stacey, read that we were going through a dry spell with baggage and came forth with linkages of hope:
Pinktentacle has a blog post about the Japanese-produced brassiere that folds out into a shopping bag. Has some good statistics about how much our friends from the Land of the Rising Sun use plastic grocery bags--they apparently love them as much as we Yanks do!

Chrisjob at Curbly links to a zillion sites where you can find free grocery bag patterns. Just wanted to highlight these, though:

Morsbags is a cool website that offers a free, oh-so-simple pattern in either Word or .pdf -- I like how they encourage getting a bunch of friends together to make these -- "hey, gang want to come over for a margarita and make a reusable grocery bag?" "You bet!"

And click here for the Flickr pool of all the bags people have made through the Morsbags project. It goes on an on for pages and pages, but you can obsessively click through them at your leisure.

Wisdom of the Moon is going to get some "link love" from me (and thanks to Tracy Glomski for that groovy phrase), not only because she has the quintessential simple pattern for making these (with gusseted bottoms, no less) but because this is cool-ass DIY blog.

Mind you, this is not a hint to people that they should start making their own bags or anything -- heavens, no! DG and I are still on the case; I think that eventually we'll make some of the bags we give away, like with the t-totes (the tank tops with the bottoms sewn up). Awesome -- thanks, Stacey!

Got the photo of the bra/grocery bag from Pinktentacle.com

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Need-a-Bag? project update 05.10.08

Note: The Need-a-Bag? project was created to promote sustainable bagging at the Hwy 441 Alachua County Farmer's Market each Saturday morning. We supply reusable tote bags reclaimed from thrift stores and garage sales. The Need-a-Bag? project also utilizes old tank tops as tote bags by sewing up the bottoms (these are called t-totes). We invite you to read the other posts on the project by clicking the "Need-a-Bag? Project" label at the bottom of this post.

Well, the old man ended up helping out at a Strong Man competition so I stayed home with DJ while DG went to the market on her own. Exciting things happened!

The tomato lady come over while DG was hanging bags and told her that the extension agent from Live Oak came by and really liked the idea of Need-a-Bag? and I think Need-a-Bag? project associate Erika is supposed to get DG her information or something like that so they can converse on the project. Our friend of record, Hil, has also been working to feel the public library system out about whether the project would be a good fit, in lieu of the expensive, wasteful plastic bags in use at the libraries at present. I've got the Need-a-Bag? project presentation for the branch libraries all planned out -- it's going to use Skype and Google Docs and it's going to be AWESOME.

Update #2: Virgo still waits to be adopted -- will you take pity on poor Virgo?
Update #3: Need-a-Bag? project associate Erika can only get together on Sundays to do Totey construction so that's what we're shooting for right now -- a Sunday in the near future.
Update #4: The Eat Local Challenge from Hogtown Homegrown is in full swing -- DG is in it to win it, folks, so get to your local produce/meat/dairy supplier soon!

Sierra Club and Chlorox Green Works

I've been a member of Sierra Club for a couple of years, now. I keep telling them I do not want the national SC magazine but it's apparently compulsory. I also keep telling them I'm a member when they send the guilt letters and emails telling me it's time to renew. But I digress.

I also get the Suwannee-St. Johns Group SC Newsletter, which comes out monthly. This I like to read because it's way more relevant to my little corner of the world, but occasionally some national-chapter type stuff sneaks in. Like this curious article I read in the May issue, entitled, "Sierra Partners With Chlorox Company." Apparently, Sierra Club is endorsing the new Green Works line introduced by Chlorox earlier this year. You know Chlorox, they make bleach and other similarly harmful (albeit useful) products that we overuse a lot.

Anyway, the article says that the Green Works products will sport the Sierra Club logo on the label, and "Sierra Club will receive a significant financial commitment from the Green Works brand in 2008."

I've used the Green Works brand of toilet bowl cleaner -- it's apparently derived from natural ingredients. If you let it sit in your toilet bowl for awhile it does actually clean it pretty well without a lot of elbow grease -- most of my elbow grease issues stem from a need to drain the bowl and apply some Lime-Away...or Naval Jelly.

The article intimated that this revelation has caused a bit of controversy among members and with good reason. The press release about the partnership (try it here, and if you can't reach it there, try from here, go to "Conservation" and go through a really annoying login process), said that the products are derived from coconut and lemon oils, but nothing about whether or not they contain petroleum products.

That was my first question; my second question was, "why doesn't Sierra Club just endorse Seventh Generation, instead?" Well, someone named Siel pre-read my mind and blogged about it for the LA Times, asking the exact same questions. She's pre-psychic, obviously -- anyway, she says that the Green Works products do have petroleum products. Read the post, it is very informative, and one of the commenters states that, lest we forget, there are no guarantees about the products being cruelty-free, something Seventh Generation can make a claim to.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Need-a-Bag? project update 04.03.08

Note: The Need-a-Bag? project was created to promote sustainable bagging at the Hwy 441 Alachua County Farmer's Market each Saturday morning. We supply reusable tote bags reclaimed from thrift stores and garage sales. The Need-a-Bag? project also utilizes old tank tops as tote bags by sewing up the bottoms (these are called t-totes). We invite you to read the other posts on the project by clicking the "Need-a-Bag? Project" label at the bottom of this post.

It felt like coming back to the farmer's market for the first time in weeks, only because this was the first week I could actually buy any produce and not have it rot in my fridge. School, for all intents and purposes, is over for the summer and Need-a-Bag? was quite an eye-opener today. For one thing, we were down to less than 10 bags. I was tempted to start hanging plastic grocery bags. I know.

So, after doing our shopping DG and I started going around to the local thrifts looking for cheap totes. We have a couple of criteria -- the bags cannot be purchased new and they cannot cost more than a dollar. It is surprising how many thrifts stores think they will get 2.99 for a crappy tote bag. My theory is that since I've been scooping up all the cheap totes at the area thrift stores, the people who price the bags think that they're suddenly really popular and then price them higher. And forget about haggling.

Gainesville Community Ministries was definitely cheaper so we were able to scoop up more bags, along with a magic 8-ball that told us we would find cheap tote bags at one of the thrift stores on Main Street. And it was right! We found over 20 bags at this one place and the lady was really nice and gave them each to us for 1-dollar apiece. What a relief! We are now flush with totes once again.

Need-a-Bag? has definitely taken a backseat for me the past semester, but I am now able to devote more time to it. So, without even consulting the other N-a-B? associates, I am going to come right out with the three things I think we need to concentrate on this summer:
  • Totey the Tote Bag construction
  • New, updated literature
  • Tote bag drives at our respective workplaces
Item #1 is crucial, of course.