October 10, 2010

Brian Buying American

I love me some "Family Guy."  Besides being just funny, it has plenty of social commentary and satire, which I feel is generally on-point.  I don't agree with 100% of what Seth McFarlane says with the show...But maybe 99%.  And the fact that he makes equal fun of everyone is a plus.

But episode 2 from the current season (9, by the way) had something that made me a little sad.  Take a look (starting at 16:05, ending with the scene change):

Since when is American stuff this crappy?  I'll admit - I haven't bought a lot of American gadgets because I just don't have the budget, but I've never run into this problem with what products I or others have bought.  I think that the most disappointing thing about it was that it'll only discourage people from buying domestic products, which in the end is worse for the economy, the environment, and human rights.  My hatred of anything made in China is pretty well documented, so I'll admit I'd have found this fair if the scene was about Chinese products, but what was the last time you heard about an American toy manufacturer putting lead in their toys?  Or putting contaminated ingredients in pet food?  Or killing over 6000 infants by contiminating formula in order to make it appear to have a high protein content?

I rest my case.

It's just so frustrating to see American products lambasted unfairly in such a popular medium, and in one of the more popular venues of that medium.  If there is a problem with American products that I haven't noticed, I hope that "Family Guy" will spur a change; but even if it does, it might still hurt the market - it doesn't matter how good your product is if no one's buying it.

Then again, considering how China has proven time and time again that if you build it cheaply, they will come (even if it kills them), maybe I'm worrying over nothing.

September 30, 2010

The Un-COOL-est Place I Know

It's getting to be that time of year again: the time of year where you suddenly realize that a major gift-giving holiday is approaching and you have NO! IDEA! WHAT! TO BUY!  Let alone how in the heck you'll afford it.  In response to this feeling, when Shannon found something that was both cheap and looked like it might make a good present, he grabbed it.  I won't say what it is, or who it's for, but I do bring it up for a reason:

Shannon bought it online - at woot! no less.

And it was made in Poland.

So, point #1: Shannon needs to know that I'm only buying American again.  I know we're separate people and all, but I was kinda hoping we would be doing this together, especially considering as how I spend less than 1% of the money in this house.  (Until tomorrow...Then I get to be in charge of grocery shopping again!)

But point #2 is more interesting.  After I made the mental note to talk to Shannon about buying domestic, I wondered where on earth he would have found out where this particular product was made.  I mean, I found out by looking at the packaging, but he didn't have the packaging right there in front of him when he ordered it.  All he had was the website.

A quick look at the website reveals that they don't include information about country of origin on their products.  Although I'm looking at a different product because they're not selling what Shannon bought anymore, I should imagine that the information they provide is pretty consistent from product to product. So if the website where I'm buying doesn't tell me where the product is made, where could I find it?

Do you really have to ask?

I asked Google.

And Google didn't know!  (How is there something - anything! - that Google doesn't know?  Are the Evil Overloads slipping?  Maybe I shouldn't have said that...)

Okay, so maybe woot! doesn't list country of origin.  But maybe they're weird, right?  So I checked Amazon.


I wanted to check other places, but I guess I'm either totally out of touch, or just too old for the internet, because I couldn't think of any other popular places to buy stuff online.  (*shakes cane* Darn-new-fangled-inter-webs!)  I did think of eBay and etsy, but since their products are sold by users who post their own product descriptions, country of origin information would be inconsistent at best.

But it still seems crazy to me that there's no listing like this on internet storefronts.  The reason we have country of origin labeling is so that we can make more informed choices as consumers, and although it's all well and good for that information to be provided on the packaging, having it on the packing does absolutely nothing for us if we're buying online.  I suppose that I could buy something just to get a look at it and return it if it's foreign; or maybe I could find the same thing in a brick-and-mortar store to check the packaging; or maybe I could research the hell out of it online and maybe Google would eventually be able to show me what I'm looking for.  But all of those seem REALLY HARD, and doesn't that negate the entire point of shopping on the internet?  You're buying online because it's easier and faster to research, find, and buy products online than it is in stores.  But if I can't figure out where my stuff is coming from when it's being ordered online, how is that making my life easier?

Question of the day: what do you think is the best way to handle this situation?  Stop buying online?  Crazy mad online research?  Buy and return?  Brick-and-mortar research?  Or do you have another idea?  Comment, my pretties, comment!

September 22, 2010

My White Powder of Choice

Do you remember when we were kids, and we were always asked what our favorite things were?  Favorite color (green, by the way), favorite food (maguro-don), favorite animal (Ebola virus; unless you point out that viruses aren't strictly "alive," in which case gut flora; unless you point out that bacteria aren't even in the same taxonomic domain as animals, in which case baby ducks, I guess).  But no one ever asked you what your favorite chemical was, did they?  Well, in my quest to Be Prepared For Things That Will Never Happen, I've chosen a favorite chemical: sodium bicarbonate.  That's right, I <3 BAKING SODA.

Although it's closely followed by salt (I mean, seriously, even disregarding it's flavoring qualities, how can you NOT like salt?!), baking soda takes the cake just because it's so useful that I don't quite know what I'd do without it.

Now, understand, I'm a hippie at heart.  I recycle copiously, prefer local organic food, use cloth diapers on my baby, and highly value peace, love, and understanding.  Okay, so that doesn't make me sound so much like a hippie as a yuppie, but the hippie cred really shines through when it comes to personal hygiene.  Enter baking soda.  I wash my hair with baking soda.  I use baking soda as deodorant.  I brush my teeth with baking soda and salt (see - salt!).  And I'm prepping to move to toilet cloth (also know as the "family cloth," which term always makes me puke a little inside), which doesn't so much have to do with baking soda as it does with my hippie cred.


Moving along.

Baking soda is incredible.  It deodorizes.  It cleans.  It polishes.  It's non-toxic and EDIBLE for God's sake.  What more could you want out of any given chemical, let alone those in your house?  Besides being part of my current plans, it's also part of a lot of my future plans: homemade laundry soap, homemade dish soap, homemade carpet deodorizer, homemade facial exfoliant...

And it's made in New Jersey.  Could this stuff possibly be any better?!

September 21, 2010

Huge Surprise

As promised, I've begun to buy American again.  American!  I promise!  Of course, I went shopping again today for some groceries and forgot to look at the labels...but looking at them now, everything was made in America.  Whew!

I realized my mistake while we were making dinner tonight and rushed around checking at labels, when I suddenly remembered that I'd sent Shannon out to get diapers last night.  (Killian actually uses cloth diapers, but we've been running low on the ones that fit him, so we occasionally supplement with disposables when he's been especially prolific.)  I was horrified by the thought that he might have bought something made anywhere else, which would mean that I would have broken my promise only two days after making it.  So I ran to to diaper box, and here's what I found.

Parent's Choice is the brand he selected (he said it was the cheapest), and it happens to be the Wal-Mart brand.  I don't know how many of you were aware, but during at least one part of their history, Wal-Mart sold only American goods - that was the way they chose to do business, and I wish more businesses would think like that.  However, Wal-Mart has also promised the lowest prices, and buying American isn't always the cheapest way to go, being as how even the most poorly paid Americans have pretty high wages compared to workers other parts of the world.  In the end, it came down to keeping the promise to sell only goods made in America, or keeping the promise to sell goods at the lowest price.  Guess which won.  So lately it's been easier to find products made in Indonesia than in America.

Anyway, when I saw that they were the Wal-Mart brand, my heart sank.  Made in China for sure.  Still, I searched the box and I found that the diapers are, in fact, made in the good old USA.  I was flabbergasted, and relieved.  Noticing an old diaper box - Pamper's Snugglers, as a matter of fact - I decided to search it as well.  Surely if a company like Wal-Mart can produce diapers in America, then a diapering giant like Pamper's can.

Nope.  Made in Mexico.

September 17, 2010

Back from the Dead

It's been a crazy couple of months.

My last post was in May.  Since then we moved, had a baby, had our year anniversary, had my twenty-seventh birthday, started a business... Yikes.  I'll admit that (especially after the baby) I fell off the wagon while I was gone.  Who knows where the stuff I've been buying comes from?  But it's time for that lack of knowledge to come to an end.  More specifically, it's time to figure out where it comes from, then start buying only American once again.  I've been told that (especially with the baby) it'll be hard, but this is something I'm passionate about!  So I'm making my vow once again: for a whole year, I'll only buy products made in America.  I'm doing this for the economy; I'm doing it for the environment; I'm doing it for the knowledge that what I'm buying could not have been made in a sweatshop, or with slave labor, or contain substances that are blatantly harmful to human life.  (I'm looking at you China, and your pile of lead-painted toys!)

Wish me luck!

May 05, 2010

Locallectual and Rechargeable Batteries

My friend Patrick just introduced me to a very useful website today: Locallectual.com.  It's a listing of companies that make and sell their products locally or domestically - perfect!  Although it seems that there's not much listed for Salem, I fully intend on filling it up with business I find as I find them.  I think this is a resource with a lot of potential, and we just need to support it to help it fulfill that potential.

Also, my apologies for the lack of posts lately: Shannon and I just moved into a new apartment, and getting everything settled with it has been a pain (like moving is).  Also, my lovely, American-made nieces are in town, and I can't help but go visit them when I have free time, being as how they live in Idaho and I only get to see them once every couple of months.  I'll hopefully have time in the near future to get back to it - we're going to be buying plenty with Spawn on the way!

But to make it up to you now, let me present you with the following:

Question of the day: if the only domestically-produced product option is less environmentally sustainable than product options produced by another country, should one buy the American option anyway?

Story behind the question: Shannon and I are big fans of rechargeable batteries.  Although they're a little more expensive up front, they're cheaper in the long run and help us reduce the waste going out of our home.  Being as how batteries are toxic waste and can't ethically be thrown away, and since reusing is better than recycling, we feel that even if they were more expensive and less convenient they'd still be worth it - so it's even better that they're cheaper and more convenient!  However, we've been looking for rechargeables, and the only ones we can find are made in Japan.  On the other hand, all the batteries made in the US are non-rechargeable.  So which way to do we go?

April 24, 2010

Soap! and other Saturday Market Adventures

Another Saturday, another trip to Saturday Market.

We've been eating the eggs we got last week like crazy, so we had to pick up a few more.  They're from La Terra Vita, if anyone's curious, which has impressive organic credentials that you can read about on their website.  Besides the eggs being yummy, Shannon ans I always look forward to seeing Art at the market, because he has such a gentle nature that it's just easy to interact with him.

Also, we were running low on soap, so we got a bar from the S.L.A.B. stand!

I've been wanting to try out their soap for a long time now, but haven't really had an excuse to go buy any.  (I use soap that people give me for Christmas and birthdays; I do not avoid using soap, because that would be gross.  And it's saved me from buying soap almost my whole life out of my parents house - so there!)  I forgot to ask where they get their oils, but it's fun to think that my soap was just made downtown.  And the smell!  I wish I could transmit it over the internet.  Since the soap's going in Shannon's bathroom, he picked the scent: Plumeria.  It's such a gorgeous scent I'm tempted to swap with the non-anti-bacterial soap from Bath and Body Works that Megan gave me the other day.  It smells great too, but more manly - so Shannon should take it so I can wash with the yummy-smelling Plumeria!

Maybe I'll just start using his bathroom instead.

I was thinking again today about how lucky we are to live in the Valley.  Besides that it's a great place to grow just about anything that CAN grow, the people here have really high standards for the things they buy, and it's easy for us to find things that aren't just domestically produced, but locally grown, raised, or made, and usually from low-impact, recycled, or organic materials.  I mean, I started this venture for the economy, but the more I think about it, I'm probably doing more good to the environment.  My soap probably spent 2 minutes driving to Saturday Market (and if I'd bought from the S.L.A.B. storefront, it wouldn't even have had that), and was made in a location in town, without weird chemicals; the eggs had to come in from Scio (about 25 miles away) but are also from hens that aren't being fed bizarre animal bi-products or being treated with antibiotics; the apples I bought the other day were grown about an hour and a half or two hours away instead of being flown in from New Zealand...  It's a win-win all the way around.

April 22, 2010

Getting the Courage

A big thanks to Jodi, the Bulk Foods Manager at the Lancaster Winco, for making this post possible.

We finally have flour and sugar again!

Shannon and I went shopping just the other day to pick up a couple very basic supplies (really, who runs out of flour and sugar AT THE SAME TIME?) and discovered that if you ask the Winco people where the bulk food comes from.... THEY CAN TELL YOU.

Yes, I realize how idiotic I sound right now.  It should be patently obvious that they'd be able to tell you.  The country of origin has to be marked somewhere on the packaging, right?  (Well, mostly.)  And if the packaging isn't right in your face, it has to be in the back, right?  (One would hope.)  And if the packaging is in the back, who better to read it for you than the people who work at the store and are allowed to go in the back?

Still, I'm a shy person, and it was hard for me to just go up and ask "Hi!  Where's your sugar from?!"

So in the end, I made Shannon do it.  He's much better at these things than me.

Turns out our flour comes from Idaho (thanks, Loren and Mindy!), and our sugar comes from sugar beets from Goergia.  Sweet!

We also went to the veggie store today during lunch to pick up some fruit.  I was excited about getting another pineapple, but the ones they have now are from Costa Rica.

Sad.  Days.

The mangos are also still from Mexico, the and the kiwis, grapes, and just about everything else was from Chile.  Lame!  In the end we grabbed some avocados (yay California!) and went to the checkout.  While we were there I took a deep breath and asked the man where their apples come from.  And you know what he said?  You know what he said?!  "Washington and Hood River!"  And I was super happy, because I wanted something other than avocados to come home with me.  And then he walked out from behind the counter and took us out to the apples and looked at every single kind they had and told me where each one came from, and then did the same thing for the pears, and then cut off a piece of Fuji apple for me to taste, and it was so good I grabbed four and added them to my avocaodos.  And while we were checking out we talked about the different kinds of apples, and where most apples come from, and he mentioned Argentina and New Zealand are starting to ship (so I'll have to watch out), and we packed everything into our little bag and I went away much happier than I would have if he wasn't so awesome.

So this just goes to show, boys and girls - ask and you shall receive! :D

April 16, 2010

Starbucks and Free Coffee!

That's right, yesterday Starbucks was giving away free coffee for anyone that brought in a travel mug.

Question of the day: if I get something for free, does it have to made in America?  Or does free stuff fall under the "Goodwil principle?"

April 14, 2010

The Meat.....

I love WhereIsMyMilkFrom.com so much, I wish that there was a corresponding site for every kind of food product.  I've been trying to track down similar sites, but to no avail.

Finally, I just gave up and decided to do a little research with some of the bigger companies.  I think it's pretty obvious that our local eggs came from down the road, our local pork is from just out of town....But what if it's not Saturday, so I can't get something I know was grown and raised within 20 miles?

I wrote to Foster Farms to see where their farms are.  Although I'm always a little leery about non-organic (or, in the case of fish, non-wild caught) meat, I know it's not always the easiest thing to find or cheapest to buy.  One bonus for Foster Farms: a cursory glance at their FAQ shows that any protein that goes into the feed comes from the US, which is a start.  We'll see what they have to say about everything else.