Tag Archives: consumerism

Be Anti-Racist with Your Purchasing Power

I’ve posted here and there about racism in the past on this blog, venturing the thought that we need to be intentionally anti-racist if we are to keep from supporting the racist structures that exist within our society. Zach and I went to an MLK Rally last Monday and heard a speech from the new TN NAACP President. Her brief speech was about a Report Card the NAACP put together on a number of companies consumers frequent.

After a decade of tracking and observing how some of the nation’s largest companies and industries treat consumers of color, the NAACP reports that while positive change is occurring, companies across all industries need to commit to continuous improvements in order to break through to the next level of performance.

“African Americans pump roughly $650 billion into the American economy annually,” said NAACP President & CEO Bruce S. Gordon. “We should spend wisely and have readily available information to be assured that those we do business with are reinvesting in our community, employing a diverse work force, utilizing minority vendors and supporting our causes. Those not practicing such measures should not benefit from the economic power we provide. There continues to be opportunities for major corporations to improve their performance.”

I definitly think this report should have authority and validity beyond the African American community. In order to move from our racist structures, people of all races need to be concerned about the well-being of others. Therefore, this report should influence my purchasing power as well as yours. Here’s a glimpse at the section on lodging:

Download the PDF of the Report Card Here.

Christmas is Not Your Birthday

Every year the holiday season comes around and I quietly cry to myself about how terribly consumeristic and self-centered it all seems to be. I’ll post something here and there, but mostly I worry about ruining people’s mood and being a pessimist.

Well, this holiday season I’m going to try and talk about some of this and point out some alternative options for the Holiday’s that you might want to consider.

Today, I thought you should check out CoolPeopleCare and their new “Christmas is Not Your Birthday” Campaign. Sign up for their email and take the five minutes a day it takes to read it and respond.

Newsflash: Ariah Praises Walmart (it’s about light-bulbs)

News Flash
No, that is not my idea that Walmart is bad being shattered on the right, but it does make a decent illustration. When you invest your energy in being a critic of someone or something, it is important to acknowledge it’s strengths and positive steps as well.

I’m a big fan of being environmentally conscious, and one area we could all make a huge step in is our light bulb purchasing (I’ll post about the Biblical backing later). The “swirl” bulbs on your left are a no brainer when it comes to taking a step in the good steward direction. Now if only we could convince the rest of the USA of this… in steps Walmart.

Here’s some of the details from a Fast Company article about Walmart’s initiative:

In the next 12 months, starting with a major push this month, Wal-Mart wants to sell every one of its regular customers–100 million in all–one swirl bulb. In the process, Wal-Mart wants to change energy consumption in the United States, and energy consciousness, too. It also aims to change its own reputation, to use swirls to make clear how seriously Wal-Mart takes its new positioning as an environmental activist.

It’s a bold goal, a remarkable declaration of Wal-Mart’s intention to modernize and green up a whole line of business using market oomph. Teaming up with General Electric, which owns about 60% of the residential lightbulb market in the United States, Wal-Mart wants to single-handedly double U.S. sales for CFLs in a year, and it wants demand to surge forward after that.

I think this is well worthy of praise for Walmart’s efforts. I think they have a long way to come before they have any position as environmental activist in my book, but it’s a good step.

I’m not sure yet, but I might consider stepping into a Walmart to purchase one of these bulbs. No decisions made, but I’m pondering it.

What does denying yourself look like?

Today I was talking with a friend about some of the word’s of Jesus and it became so clear to me why I think the church should care about justice, should care about others, and shouldn’t just look like another club that people can join (as long as you look, act, and enjoy the same things as the majority of the people in the club). Jesus messes with people’s heads and says these words:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

The cross was a method of gruesome punishment, like the electric chair, or lynching. It’s equated with pain, struggle, hurt, and many other harmful and negative images; and Christ tells us to take that up. And then he get’s us even more backwards “lose” our life? What is that supposed to mean?
I’m not hear to do a theological exegesis of the passage, I’d rather just address the fact that THIS is the Jesus that we in the Church profess. There it is as plain as day for any passerby to read. Followers of Jesus should be denying themselves.
So why do those looking on see Christians drive in on Sunday in their fancy cars, pull up to their nice and decked out churches, listen to their health and wealth gospel, sing some feel-good songs, get back in their cars and go out to eat (where they don’t tip well), and head back to their house full of the same gadgets and gizmos everyone else has, ready to start another week?

Where’s the “deny” and “lose” in that? About the only “cross” it seems like most Christian folks are taking up is their house payment. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Fair Trade Interview with Eric Odier-Fink of The Justice Clothing Company

I had the wonderful opportunity this morning of interviewing Eric Odier-Fink of The Justice Clothing Company. Eric graciously gave me a bit of his time to answer some questions about Justice Clothing, Sweatshops, Unions and Fair Trade.

or Download the Podcast Here.

Show Notes:

00:24 Why did you start The Justice Clothing Company?

  • “It really started out of Frustration.”
  • The idea for the Justice Clothing Company was born around 1996 when we met and, among other things, began shopping together. (from the website)

  • “The US is predominately sweatshop in it’s apperal production.”
  • 1998- Received Catalogs from Union companies (King Louie clothing, Nemisis and Windjammers)
  • “Is there Anywhere in the United States for me to buy your gear?”
  • “These where companies that where absolutely clean.”

03:15 Working with Union Companies

  • “We only work with Union Companies”
  • Tried to work with Non-Union (ended well before they began selling their gear).
  • Ben and Jerry’s as a Non-Union example
  • Non-Union companies weren’t willing to meet their conditions

06:30 Talking about American Apparel

  • Discussed working with American-Apparel (It didn’t work out, and it was clearly for the best)
  • American-Apperal’s Ugly Union busting Article
  • AA’s Sexist ads and Sexual Harrasment
  • American Apparel makes clothes, Justice Clothing sells clothes (that union companies make).

11:00 The importance of Unions

  • “Unions are the only thing responsible for prosperity in the United States.”
  • “Unions bring together workers who, individually, don’t really have any power.”
  • “The only power a worker has, is to stop the work that they do.”
  • Eric tells the story of his grandfather being almost “worked to death.”
  • Why Unions improve companies and the quality of products.

14:45 Justice Clothing becoming a Cooperative

  • No longer “Employer, employees.”
  • Expanding to others outside the business
  • A few “not really for the radio” details about the Co-op.

18:15 Dealing with your overwhelming closet full of sweatshop clothing

22:45 What’s your take on Thrift Stores

  • Usually fronts for organizations that feed and cloth people
  • It’s Recycling!
  • It’s not contributing to the sweatshop industry
  • The Balance is that people need to work and somethings will need to be bought new, That’s where Justice Clothing comes in.

26:00 Why pay more Money for fair trade clothing?

  • Sustainable economies
  • Why Not to Contribute to Walmart (articles 1, 2)

29:45 An appeal to people of Faith

  • “Buying sweatshop stuff is against my religion”
  • “You know your buying stuff that is moral”

* Want to Read some more about this? Eric Suggests:

one I will point out is a magazine-size booklet published by the Progressive Jewish Alliance called “No Schvitz”– it’s a great primer on the history and current situation with sweatshops, with a focus on Jewish involvement (on all sides).

Documentary of Labor in a China Factory

Unfortunately, I feel it is necessary to start with a disclaimer about the video I am about to show you. This is not a video that will suddenly convince you to care about where what you buy is made. If your hoping to argue and be defensive about your purchases and consumerism, then you’ll probably have a fine time with this video. You’ll say the workers in the video complain too much, you’ll point out that it’s not much worse then plenty of USA working conditions, you’ll say at least they have a job and food, etc. And you’ll be right.
But, you’ll also find a time or two in this video that you’ll think to yourself about how frustrating it would be to be in their position. You’ll think for a moment about how some of that is not fair. I challenge you to hold on to those thoughts, and just ponder them for a little bit.

Please post your responses and thoughts below. And please refrain from arguementative words about what the video shows.

Is “Socially Responsible” catching on?

When you see the term on a McDonalds brochure you know something is up. I don’t frequent the golden arches much, but I was in there a couple weeks ago and I saw this brochure.
“We Share One Community: Socially Responsible Neighbors”
Brochure from McDonalds- We Share One Community

I’m not posting to bash on McD’s (that’s what you’d expect from me though isn’t it?). I think it’s great to see a company like this and others (Walmart, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, etc) put out Press Release and make statements in the direction of Social Responsibility. I applaud those efforts, but I want to caution us as well. I think we’ve seen countless times (look into statements from companies about stopping sweatshops) that just because they make a statement or give their word does not mean a change has happened. There are times when all we can do is take their word for it, but let’s also be all the more aware when the news reveals that they have not been keeping their commitments.
When Social Responsibility becomes the buzz word everyone will jump on board, at least in word, not necessarily in deed. You see being Social Responsibility cost your company money. Paying garment workers more cost more. Treating animals humanely cost more. All these things our money lost from the company and any good economist knows that money is the bottom line. Let’s just be aware.

On that note here is an exciting company, Maggie’s Organic that looks like they are doing things right. Watch the Video.

No sweat

After writing my post about shopping I realized it was important to promote to folks an alternative to the Walmart’s and other companies with inhumane practices that we learn about.

I present:

No Sweat Apparel.com

I’ve talked with the owner and he seems pretty cool.  I’m actually going to email him again and see if he would be interested in doing an interview with me that I could podcast.  Is there an interest in that?

I think I’m going to start a seperate page on the iamnotashamed.net site to serve as a store front for Fair Trade items, specifically clothing and other necessities.