Happy Holy Week

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“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:11

We’re now in the week leading up to Easter, the greatest celebration of the year for followers of Christ. Yesterday was Palm Sunday and our local paper ran an interesting article about fair trade palm branches. I had no idea unfair palm branches were an issue but, like so much that we use and buy without thinking twice, something joyous to us can be painful to others. Knowing the truth is a good thing.

Many of the palm branches churches order for Palm Sunday are harvested using unsustainable farming practices and workers are paid less than living wages. The Presbyterian Church has launched the Eco-Palms project to work with famers in Guatemala and Mexico. Farmers are paid 5-6x what they were previously getting, and the focus is on quality rather than quantity (typical  harvest of palm fronds can result in up to 50% being discarded because of trying to get the greatest volume possible).  The project also ensures the palms are harvested sustainably, meaning that the trees are not killed in the process.

This project seems like a wonderful idea and they are definitely getting the word out. This year over 600,000 palm fronds were sold to US churches through the project, up from 5000 palm fronds just 4 years ago when the project launched.  My church was even more creative. We didn’t use any palms at all, but instead used sword ferns harvested from members’ yards. Sword ferns are a native plant in Oregon so not only are we celebrating with our local version of palm fronds, no fossil fuels were burned to get them to us from far away.  Consider one of these options for your congregation next year!

While we’re thinking about integrating justice into Holy Week, don’t forget to look for fair trade chocolate goodies for any Easter baskets you get to fill. Why support child labor, slave labor, or ecological damage in the sweet treats you buy?  Check your local natural foods store for their selections of fair trade Easter chocolates. Yum!

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Oregonian Reports: Fair Trade And Green Go Hand In Hand

oregonian_articlePortland’s daily newspaper, The Oregonian, featured Bambootique today as an example of a “green company” that supports the planet and people.  I love that columnist Shelby Wood, who reports regularly on environmental sustainability issues, is on to the reality that we have to protect people as much as we protect the earth. When she interviewed me I told Shelby how it bugs me to see products labeled as “green” or “sustainable” that were likely made in a sweatshop. For example, just because organic cotton is used in a pair of kids pajamas does not mean the people who picked the cotton or who sew the pajamas in China were paid a fair price. Looking for the fair trade label is the only way to be sure.

True sustainability requires conscious consumers to look for ethically traded and responsibly made products. Shelby points out some great resources to do just that, including next weekend’s Fair Trade Federation Conference and Expo to be held right here in Portland.  The Expo is free and open to the public, and will feature more than 40 fair trade vendors from around the country, including Bambootique of course.

Expo Details:

Fair Trade Federation Expo
Saturday March 28, 3:30-6pm
Doubletree Hotel, Lloyd Center, Portland, Oregon

Cadbury Creme Eggs Go Fair Trade, But Not In The USA

Once again Europe is paving the ethical way for the world to follow, showing that profit and fair trade can coexist even cadbury_eggs_whitein the biggest of companies.

It won’t be in time for this Easter, but by the end of this summer 100% of all Cadbury chocolate products will use fair trade cocoa only. At least, if you live in the UK or Ireland. Those cute little chocolate eggs filled with that sugary, creamy center will only be sweeter when the chocolate shell comes from cocoa beans raised on fair trade cooperative farms in Ghana, West Africa. But not yet for us in the States.

In the US, Cadbury branded products are made by chocolate giant Hershey’s. Hershey’s is not exactly known for ethical cocoa trading practices. In fact, they have been criticized by Co-op America for buying cocoa from farms using child or slave labor.

Still Cadbury’s move in Europe is huge for a few very important reasons:

  • It shows fair trade practices can still result in profit.
  • The move demonstrates that consumer pressure on big corporations to act ethically works.
  • Fair trade cocoa exports from Ghana will triple as a result of this switch.
  • Cocoa from Ghana is considered some of the best in the world, so flavor and quality will only improve.

Cadbury is the largest chocolate company in the UK so their example will certainly be watched closely by our biggest chocolate manufacturers, Hershey’s and MandM/Mars. In the meantime, I’ll be continuing to enjoy my favorite fair trade chocolates like Theo, Divine, Dagoba and Equal Exchange. Anyone know where I can get my hands on Cadbury creme eggs made in England?

New York, You Are Soooo Lucky. Stumptown Is On Its Way!

Portland’s iconic coffee roaster, Stumptown, is opening a roastery this month in Brooklyn, NY and, eventually, they will be adding a cafe as well. Having a Stumptown enter your neighborhood is akin to having a fine wine store move in when all you’ve had available is 2-buck Chuck.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters is so much more than a morning drink. Stumptown buys their coffee far and above fair trade prices, and owner Duane Sorenson personally knows many of the farmers he buys from. He even flies them up to Portland from time to time and hosts events in Stumptown’s coffee shops for customers to meet the farmers. Steve and I attended one such event last year, where we heard from coffee farmers from Panama and Costa Rica. Some of the coffee Stumptown imports is so fine and rare it sells for hundreds of dollars per pound (think $20 per cup!).

But don’t think Stumptown is pretentious. Oh no, not at all. Their coffee shops are gritty and loud. Most of their varieties are perfectly affordable and their individual coffee drink prices are competitive with Starbucks, but taste so much better.  What I love is that Duane doesn’t just care about his coffee farmers or the quality of his beans, he cares enough for his baristas that they all have health insurance. Not many small businesses guarantee that any more and it surely cuts into his profit margin, and yet he does it.

I’ve been hearing about Starbucks closing shop right and left in New York City. Now there’s just one more reason for them to do so. Stumptown is moving in and New York coffee will never be the same.

My Guilty Pleasure: The Newspaper

My morning ritual involves three things: coffee, snuggles with my daughter Grace, and the newspaper. I’d fight pretty hard to keep any one of those addictions, so all this talk lately about newspapers moving online has me worried. You may ask, how can I justify getting a newspaper 7 days a week? That’s a lot of paper which amounts, over years, to a lot of trees. I know, that’s why I call it a guilty pleasure! But living a “just” life is never black and white, so here’s my rationale.

Justification #1: Reading a “paper” newspaper creates a calm morning breakfast atmosphere. A computer does not.

Reading the paper instead of whipping out my laptop at 7am keeps me unplugged in the morning. The minute the laptop comes out I launch into “work” mode. Emails pop up, my mind starts racing and my quiet morning is gone. My attention goes away from my daughter and husband and onto the work of the day. Keeping my focus on our quiet family ritual of breakfast together, even if it does involve reading the news, is important to us.

Justification #2: Can I trade gas for a newspaper please?

When I worked full-time outside the home I got most of my news from NPR on the radio. Now I work from home, therefore drive much less, therefore save on fossil fuels. Surely there’s some kind of trade off between the gas I’m no longer using and the trees I am consuming through my paper? And of course I recycle every single newspaper.

Justification #3: I hate the Oregonian’s website.

Our local paper’s website, to be frank, stinks. It’s hard to navigate, visually unappealing and full of busy, flashing advertisements. One more aspect not conducive to a relaxing morning breakfast time. On the other hand the print version of The Oregonian is easy to find your way around and gives a good balance of local, national and international news (OK, the international could be better, I’ll admit).

Justification #4: I stay up to date.

I am generally well-versed in current events, both local/ national and global, thanks to our newspaper. I’ll continue to resist reading online for the reasons above and I no longer spend enough time in the car to get my news from the radio that way. As theologian Karl Barth advised, Christians should have the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other. It’s important to me to stay up to date and the print paper works best for me to meet this goal.

So what do you think? Is the newspaper important to you or do you find you can get your news online just as well?  In our home the newspaper is staying put for now, but in the near future we may not have that option if and when everything moves online. I dread that sad, sad day.

Bambootique Featured in Oregonian’s Local Gifts Guide

for_pmiThe Oregonian chose Bambootique as Day 9 in their 12 Days of Local Gifts Guide!  Here’s an excerpt:

Almost all of us are watching our wallets closely this gift-giving season. We’re focusing on shopping local & keeping the money here at home. But here’s a way that you can shop local AND support women in developing countries all at the same time.  Read more…

Thanks Oregonian, and thanks Marlynn Schotland of Mamapreneurs Inc who wrote the guide.

World Pulse Magazine Is Coming Back

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A few years ago I discovered a print magazine that made me want to cry it was so good.  The first few issues of World Pulse magazine were so inspiring I read them from cover to cover in one sitting. The magazine focused completely on women’s issues and stories from around the globe, unlike any other women’s magazine I had ever seen. There were stories about orphans in Africa and global midwives.  Other articles discussed women’s roles in the global fight on terror and drug wars, and women’s involvement in shaping the political landscape of South America.  Everything I read was very grassroots and looking at the lives of everyday women around the world, especially although not exclusively in the developing world. I was thrilled that founder Jensine Larsen had stepped out to produce such a publication and filled a glaring void in our news media.

From their website,

World Pulse is a global media organization dedicated to broadcasting the untapped voices and innovative solutions of women worldwide.

After just two issues of this fabulous publication, my subscription stopped arriving. I learned sadly the magazine was doing restructuring and was taking things online, at least for the short-term. This month though, the print magazine comes back and I can’t wait!

World Pulse is offering free issues of their next debut edition. You can request yours on their website.  Features include:

  • How women are transforming global communication using new media and cell phones
  • Women leaders on the future of microfinance
  • Women shaping the face of the coffee industry
  • Articles will link to the World Pulse community site: PulseWire.net, so readers can jump into the story and directly connect with featured leaders

Women Helping Women May Mean Not Choosing A Woman

I’ve built my business Bambootique on the foundation that when women help other women, the whole world changes for the better. So when my blogging buddy Cheryl Janis alerted me to Sarah Palin’s misquote of Madeline Albright and its rampage through cyberspace a few days ago, my ears perked up.

Palin’s miquote of Albright, which she discovered on a Starbucks’ cup, was:

There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.

Albright’s actual quote on the cup reads:

There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.

Now I believe wholeheartedly in women helping other women. The power of women banding together to do good is incredible. However I don’t appreciate being hit over the head with the implication that I (or the majority of America’s women, if the polls are correct) are intrisically evil if we don’t support Palin because we share her gender. The agenda she brings to the table will do far more to harm women than her breaking Washington’s glass ceiling would do to benefit us. I have seen little in her agenda that would empower me or other women to be better wives, mothers, daughters, community activists or career women.  As Madeline Albright, an Obama supporter, responded to Palin’s misquote: “this election is not about gender.”  Governor Palin, my support for women everywhere will be demonstrated wholeheartedly by my choice for president. Manipulation and guilt will not be a factor.

Healthcare Is A Human Right And Our Nation Is Violating It

Watching last night’s presidential debate with our good friends, Jeff and Becky, sparked many interesting discussions. Although it was not the central topic of the debate, of particular interest was our conversation about universal healthcare. Is it a right or a privilege?

I believe it’s a basic right and our nation violates it every single day. The Declaration of Independence starts with:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalieanble rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

We have declared since the foundation of our nation that all our citizens have the right to life, and yet everyday someone goes bankrupt who can’t pay his healthcare bills or somebody dies because she couldn’t pay for her prescription medicine.  Our market-based system has allowed costs to sky-rocket to the point that we are all just one illness away from catastrophe, regardless of our coverage. My husband is a physician and we have excellent health insurance but even it has limits on what it will cover for us.

We universally cover everyone in our country with police and fire protection. The fire department would never put out a fire at someone’s house and then a few days later send them a bill so astronomical they had to sell what was left of that house to pay for it. We would be shocked and outraged if that happened. But that happens all the time to people who go to the hospital in our country without health insurance. They are treated in the emergency room or even admitted for care. They go home once they are stable and then the bills start trickling in, bills that can take everything they have.

No other developed nation does this! From Taiwan (see clip above) to Canada to Switzerland to Germany and Japan, every other developed nations and even some developing, like Thailand, have figured out ways to make sure everyone has healthcare.

And it’s not all “socialized,” that is, it’s not all government delivered. Ten years Switzerland had a privatized healthcare system similar to ours. Their citizens decided they were sick (literally) of some people slipping through the cracks. They kept their private insurance companies but made sure no one could be denied by an insurance company and put a few rules in place to make sure everyone could afford it as well.

It’s also a false rumor that if you have universal healthcare, the quality slips.  PBS created an excellent documentary, Frontline’s Sick Around The World (see clips above), which you can watch in full online in addition to the clips I’ve posted here.  In it the witty host, T.R. Reid, visits multiple developed nations and asks them how they do healthcare. He finds that not only does nobody in any of those nations ever go bankrupt from healthcare bills, he finds that in general people are satisfied with their care and it’s still high-quality.

Healthcare outcomes tracked by organizations like the World Health Organization back up the quality of care in other developed nations. The U.S. falls embarrassingly low in health measures compared to other countries of equal or even lesser wealth, even though we spend more per capita than any other nation in the world! For infant mortality rates, we rank 32nd among the world’s nations, on par with countries like Poland and Slovakia. More than 5 of every 1000 babies born die in our country. In Japan that number is under 2 per 1000.

Our two presidential candidates both have plans of some sort. McCain’s plan will cause just as many people to lose health insurance as will gain it. His plan is a wash. Obama’s plan will leave our private system in place but adjust it so it works for us, adding a government buy-in plan for people whose employers do not offer healthcare, among many facets. His plan is not perfect by any stretch but it’s a huge leap in the right direction.

Obama has a decent plan. McCain essentially has no plan. For me, the choice is clear.

See my previous post about healthcare, including a link to a table comparing the two candidate’s plans.

Photos From Haiti

I just received these photos this morning from Linda Markee, a trusted friend and one of the founders of Haiti Foundation of Hope. They show just how inundated the Haitian city of Gonaives has been. This same city had still not recovered from hurricanes from 2004, so the devastation of this additional flooding is beyond belief.

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