Month: June 2013

Blog posts I loved this week! 6/2/13

Hey lovelies! I want to try to do this little roundup of favorite posts on a weekly basis, so I don’t get too overwhelmed. Here’s what I loved this week:

Beauty Redefined By Pang reviewed two awesome red lippies from NYX, which has me itching to add to my red lip collection. On a DIY note, Totally Tutorials shared this homemade soap recipe which has me thinking about ways to make natural, chemical-free soaps instead of buying expensive brands from the health food store. I’ll see what I dig up!

How cheerful are these shots of a rainy Shanghai day from Wendy’s Lookbook? Beauty & Truth shared a chilled out menswear look, while The Chiffon Diary kept it casual in patterned shorts.

Need a laugh? Blair’s Head Band is getting GIF-y about her pet peeves, and Sara’s Organized Chaos recounts a tale of home repair horror that makes me glad I rent!

I’d be lying if I said these pictures of a luxe bohemian wedding (via Bohemian Treehouse) didn’t make me just a wee bit jealous.

Finally: feeling lucky? Little Chief Honeybee is giving away $400 worth of gift cards to Sephora, ASOS, ModCloth, and Urban Outfitters–so go enter here!

Ethical consumerism: calculating your “slavery footprint”

Have you ever calculated your “slavery footprint”? When we use the term “slavery”, most Americans tend to think of something from a school textbook about the Civil War era. Sadly, slavery is alive and well in the modern world, and it’s lurking in places you might not think to look for it.

Take, for example, the clothes you wear. Do you know where they came from and how they were made? There’s a very good chance they were manufactured in a third-world sweatshop from cotton or leather harvested by workers who are paid a ridiculously low wage for their work (and may even be children pulled out of school to go to work). Or how about your food: that cup of coffee you enjoy each morning may be the result of slave labor to pick and process the beans on a farm in Brazil.

While slavery is technically illegal across the globe, that doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent; the SumAll Foundation, which analyzes data and create reports for charities and social justice, estimated this year that there are over 27 million slaves in the world today. (In other words, there are more slaves in the world today than there were in 1860, when the estimated slave count stood at 25 million.) As profiled by The New York Times in March, a snappy infographic breaks down the numbers of the modern slave trade, pointing out that first-world consumerism is a driving force behind much of the modern slave trade.

Calculating your “slavery footprint”

While the numbers are troubling, it’s been hard to grasp the impact of modern slavery on the average American household until now. Made In A Free World, which works to engage consumers with an end goal of eliminating slavery, launched an interactive website called My Slavery Footprint, which offers users a way to input personal data and find out just how large their “slavery footprint” is in connection to what they buy, eat, wear, and use on a daily basis. The questionnaire covers topics like food, clothing, consumer electronics, and sporting goods.

The goal of the site isn’t to make you feel bad, but it probably will. After clicking through the questionnaire, the site calculated that a total of 53 slaves from countries like Brazil, China and Pakistan contributed to my daily lifestyle. 53? I’m not sure I interact with a total of 53 people on a daily basis. That’s a staggering number, and one that elicits a little pitter-patter of shame when I realize how terrible my consumer spending habits truly are.

Or are they?

Here’s the trouble with these types of questionnaires: while they’re a great place to start, they rarely capture the whole picture. There are a few reasons why I take issue with the My Slavery Footprint stats. For starters, some of the data presented on the site seems faulty. In a piece for Forbes.com published in January, Tim Worstall argues that the site doesn’t have all of their technical facts straight regarding the reserves and mining of coltan, an ore from which tantalum is extracted to make capacitors for electronics.

While it’s true that coltan mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo contributes heavily to world supply and that human rights abuses there are off the charts, it’s also true that a huge chunk of the world’s mined tantalum production in 2009 came from Australia (12.1%), Brazil (26.9%) and parts of Africa excluding the DRC (44.3%)–a fact My Slavery Footprint neglects to mention. Once you start stretching the stats, it hurts your overall cause. (To be completely fair, Worstall also cites Canada as a leading producer ahead of the DRC, but in 2009 that country produced just 3.7% of the earth’s mined tantalum, compared to the DRC’s 13%.) (Numbers courtesy of the 2009 minerals yearbook from the United States Geological Survey)

Second, there’s the rather vague way My Slavery Footprint actually collects your data. For example, when the site asks about your wardrobe, it asks only for the number of items of clothing you own broke down by tops, pants, jackets, shoes, and so forth. Since the site doesn’t ask for further information, such as the country of origin or the materials used, a large wardrobe results in a larger slavery footprint. Basically, the site doesn’t differentiate between a pair of Nikes and a pair of Toms, so someone who buys ethically crafted clothing made from organic fair trade cotton gets the same score as someone who buys leather goods or lots of mass-produced items from factories in China. 

Third, upcycling is left completely out of the loop, so if you’re getting your clothes, electronics or sporting goods second-hand (which many of us do, particularly in this economy), there’s no way to calculate a reduced footprint based on secondhand purchases versus new consumer goods. And if owning a bike contributes to a higher score via owning a piece of sporting equipment, there’s also no reduction in score for using said bike in place of a car to run daily errands, which theoretically would use higher amounts of items like rubber, certain metals and petroleum.

The site sort of kind of admits that your results are largely based on “assumptions”, when it shows you the five responses that most affected your overall footprint. But it’s still pretty vague. For example, my result shows that marking “body wash” as an item in my medicine cabinet contributed to a higher slavery score. But there’s nothing to say what brands I’m buying, how they were sourced, or where they were produced–all crucial pieces of information for a more well-rounded score.

How to put those numbers to good use

An essential part of data collection and processing involves making sense of the numbers. While I don’t think that My Slavery Footprint necessarily does a very good job of calculating your score, and I wish that the site employed more specific questions, it’s a great start to understanding the connection between consumerism and modern slavery. And if you’re willing to dig a little deeper into the factoids behind the numbers, you can find some really easy ways to shrink your footprint.

For example, if you’re a fashionista, consider upcycling new fashions from thrift stores and shopping through retailers who are making strides toward a more ethical supply chain. (I’m going to be posting more about both of those topics later in the month.)

If food contributes highly to your score, look for more fair-trade and ethically sourced items. For example, if you’re a hard-core chocolate addict, purchase bars made from fair-trade cocoa beans. My husband just bought me a big stack of bars from Theo Chocolate for our anniversary, and on top of using fair trade cocoa I saw that one of the bars helps support World Bicycle Relief, an organization that supplies locally assembled bicycles to students, entrepreneurs and health care workers in rural Africa. Talk about a cool way to multitask your ethical impact, huh?

I’m going to have more detailed posts throughout the month of June about ethical fashion, upcycling, and how you can alter your shopping habits for a greener (and more socially conscious) footprint. So be sure to check back later to see those posts!

More resources

Ten things you will never hear me say

Katrin from Land of Candy Canes posted this fun list of “ten things you will never hear me say”, so I thought I’d steal it and write ten of my own!

  1. No thanks, I don’t need a refill on my coffee.
  2. Ugh, animals. So dirty.
  3. Your children are adorable! They make me want a troupe of my own.
  4. I don’t need to go shoe-shopping today.
  5. Let’s listen to country music!
  6. Who’s up for a reality TV marathon?
  7. This book is so boring. Let’s go clubbing.
  8. I’m craving a burger.
  9. I love this cold weather.
  10. I need to get a tan.

What are ten things you would never say? If you post your own list let me know so I can read it!

Product review: Montagne Jeunesse Chocolate Masque

Can you believe June is here already?! I used up a few products recently that I’m going to be featuring in my April/May empties video, so I wanted to get reviews of those items posted up here this week, starting with this masque. I know I haven’t posted any beauty reviews in quite a while, so it will be good to get back in the habit!

The product: Montagne Jeunesse Chocolate Masque, $2/0.7 ounces; at drugstores

The claims: For normal, dry and t-zone skin; offers deep pore cleansing while also moisturizing with cocoa and shea butter.

I tried it: To me, there are few things more relaxing than curling up with a book, some tea, and a good face masque to deep clean and soothe my skin. I feel like regular masques are an absolute must for keeping my skin in top shape and I love these inexpensive packets as a way to try out a new formula without splurging on a whole bottle.

FYI, while this is sold as a single-use packet, if you squeeze out the packet into an airtight container–there’s actually enough product for 2-5 masques–you just have to use it up within a couple of weeks or it will dry out.

The usage directions are pretty simple: gently wash your face and apply the masque, then kick back until it dries (about 15 minutes). This masque didn’t seem to flake badly while drying, which made me pretty happy–you can’t relax and sip your tea if your face is flaking like crazy!

The cocoa smell is just like a candy bar. This masque did a great job of cleaning out my pores without leaving my skin feeling tight or overdry. I think it was a great masque for my combination skin, since I have a fairly oily t-zone and drier patches on my cheeks and jawline.

My verdict: I loved the scent and how soft and clean my skin felt afterward. I will definitely repurchase this!