August 6, 2008 at 12:04 pm (Fair Trade Coffee, Events, Sustainable Food, Portland area)
My husband Steve and I are taking a much-needed date night to stop by Stumptown Coffee Roasters tomorrow night (August 7th) to meet some of their Panamanian coffee roasters. Producers from three of Panama’s best coffee estates will be on hand to share stories and tastes of their java. The event is at the cafe on downtown at 128 SW 3rd Avenue from 6-8pm.
These are organic coffee farmers who sell their coffee directly to Stumptown. The estates that will be on hand tomorrow are Daniel and Rachel Peterson, Hacienda La Esmeralda; Carlos Aguilera, Carmen Estate; and Ricardo Koyner, Duncan Estate.
Come check it out and see where good coffee comes from!
August 5, 2008 at 12:41 pm (In the News, Caring for the Poor, Sweatshops)
Nike recently got caught red-handed, again, by an underground Australian news reporter who discovered horrific sweatshop conditions for apparel workers in Malaysia. This time the story is worse than low pay or bad conditions. It’s pure forced labor and human trafficking.
Mike Duffy, a reporter for Australia’s Channel 7, posed as a fashion buyer and gained access to an otherwise inaccessible Nike factory in Kepong, Malaysia. He found hundreds of workers from Bangladesh, Nepal, Vietnam and Burma living in cramped, squalid conditions, paid a few dollars a day, and, the worst part, with no way of leaving.
Here’s what Duffy found. While still in their home countries the workers are offered a job in the factory for an upfront fee. Of course none can pay this fee since they are poor, so instead they are given a job and their passports confiscated until they can repay the debt they now owe. They also sign 3-year contracts and are literally locked in the factory facility until they can repay their debt, which is just about impossible given their low pay.
This kind of treatment of workers is unacceptable, but I’m left wondering how does this happen? Nike has been on watchdog lists for years since gross human rights violations were first discovered in the 90’s in their factories. Nike has put out statement after statement and policy after policy to avoid this kind of scandal and yet it’s happening again and they seem truly shocked.
And therein lies the problem. Nike has repeatedly treated its human rights violations as public relations problems rather than justice problems with a deeper cause. They continue to demand low prices from their factories while insisting the factories adhere to their list of decent working conditions requirements. If the factories can’t keep costs low, Nike moves on to another factory. Nike seems to put much more weight on the economic success of the factory, and naturally their factories hope they can successfully hide the corners they cut in order to deliver on price. Only one factory was caught in this investigation but the same pressure to keep costs ultra-low remains on all of them. What other atrocities are going on and Nike, what are you going to do to stop them once and for all?
August 4, 2008 at 8:27 am (Caring for the Planet, Sustainable Food, Organic Gardening)
My Oregonian newspaper last week gave me a great idea I’ve already implemented. Apparently my eggshells and coffee grounds are great for my garden as they are, without waiting for them to become compost. That’s a great thing because I haven’t started composting, although buying an Earth bin from Metro is on my summer to-do list and the spot in my yard to put the bin is all ready. In the meantime, I’m taking my french press out every morning and pouring the Stumptown coffee grounds directly at the base of my blueberry bushes. Blueberries, like rhododendrons, azaleas and hydrangeas, all love acid. Coffee grounds add just what they need back to the soil. My eggshells are going at the base of my tomato plants for now. Eggshells add calcium back into the soil, which tomatoes love and apparently they help prevent blossom end rot. Later in the year when the tomatoes are gone I’ll feed eggshells to other plants around the yard. Until I’m fully composting, it’s nice to discover there’s something easy I can do now that keeps a small amount of my food waste out of landfills and makes my plants happy.
August 3, 2008 at 1:00 pm (Caring for the Planet, Portland area)
Last Friday I swung by a new store in Tigard I’d been dying to check out, Cleaning Green and I’m glad I did! Owner John Westerholt met me at the door and showed me around his new spot, located on Main Street in downtown Tigard near its south intersection with 99W (12568 SW Main Street). Cleaning Green features a full selection of eco-friendly cleaning products, from dishsoap to laundry detergent to recycled paper towels from well-known brands like Mrs. Meyers and BioKleen as well as others new to me, such as Dapple baby-friendly cleaning products. The concept, as John explained to me, is to provide a one-stop shopping experience on the west side for everything to clean green. Sometimes I find the “eco-friendly” cleaning choices in stores to be baffling and overwhelming, so it’s nice to find a place where everything has been handpicked by John plus he’s there to give you his helpful, first-hand advice, all at competitive pricing.
John helped me pick out an eco-friendly carpet cleaner by Biokleen. We have a cat-puking problem in our house right now and I’m tired of using a heavy, chemical carpet cleaner that doesn’t even work all that well. I tried the Biokleen Bac-out as soon as I got home and , before I even dabbed at the stains with a cloth, the spray alone had somehow magically removed the stain!
Cleaning Green sells online as well, which is great if you don’t live in the area or just want to scope out their offerings before you stop by. I for one plan to be a regular in their store!
August 1, 2008 at 10:13 am (Caring for the Planet, Green Baby)
Hosting a baby shower doesn’t have to equate with throw-away plates and piles of wasted wrapping paper. At least, that’s what I decided when I hosted a baby shower for my friend Katie last weekend. I set out to host an event (co-host actually, with her sister-in-law) as free of garbage as possible, and we were quite successful without much extra effort. Here’s what we did:
We kept the decorations simple with a few bouquets of fresh cut flowers from my yard (no carbon footprint there) and a dozen helium latex balloons. I realize the balloons would not be considered eco-friendly but we divvied them up at the end so various moms took a few home to their kids to enjoy, at least getting a double use from them.
We steered free of any prepackaged, processed foods in favor of homemade brunch goodies. The food responsibilities were divided between four of us so didn’t create an undue burden for anyone. I baked blueberry muffins, my friend Karin made fruit kebabs on bamboo skewers stuck playfully in a pineapple, my co-host, Zephyr, baked a fabulous cheesy egg breakfast dish, and Katie’s mom Vivian baked some sinfully sweet muffins. Not only did we avoid waste from food packaging, the food was all so delicious there was no food waste to speak of either!
Plates, Cups, etc
Last summer I bought several dozen reusable plastic plates and cups on clearance at Target for less than it would have cost for the same quantity of paper plates and cups. Their bright summer colors (pink, green, blue and yellow) work perfectly for baby showers and have also been perfect for hosting large summer barbecues. The plates and cups are unbreakable so can be used outside and can be thrown in the dishwasher to make cleaning up easy. We used real silverware (why not, since we were running the dishwasher anyway) and broke down with the use of paper napkins. Those that weren’t heavily soiled we were able to recycle.
Art Project Instead of Games
I actually think baby shower games can be fun but a lot of people roll their eyes at them, so for Katie’s shower we replaced games with decorating organic onesies instead. I bought super soft Gerber plain white organic onesies which each guest decorated using fabric markers. This made for a great activity as people were arriving and Katie left with a dozen unique pieces for her baby girl to wear. There were some budding artists in our midst that day!
Baby showers can create a huge pile of ribbons and wrapping paper, some of which can be recycled but it’s always better to reuse first. Literally all the guests used gift bags instead of wrapping paper, owing perhaps more to our lives as busy young moms than our eco-sense, but it’s an example of going green making life easier rather than more complicated, as is sometimes falsely assumed. Katie left with one huge gift bag full of tissue paper she plans to reuse plus a pile of baby girl gift bags she can pass on at other baby showers!
The Happy Mama and Grandma-to-be