Friday, 13 January 2012

Days 1 & 2

Project Made in China: Days 1 & 2

This is going to be hard. I knew it would be, but I had no idea how unconscious of a consumer I am. Yesterday was playdate-with-grandma day. I went to the nearest big town to pick up a new cell phone; the dog detailed mine for me and I really needed a replacement. I decided to stop at Costco first, where I picked up some groceries. That wasn't so hard; most of my purchases were made right on premises, except the chocolate cookies that were made in France. It did get me thinking, though, that I had no way of knowing where all the ingredients that went in to my food came from. What about the salt in my ciabatta buns? The garlic in my salad dressing? The plastic packaging around my havarti? I quickly realized the limitations of my experiment, for there is absolutely no way I could do this in that much detail. At some point, if I'm going to buy things that have been processed or manufactured in any way, I have to say, good enough. For me, "good enough" was the manufacturing location.
There are deep flaws in this resignment though. I mentioned in an earlier post about the arsenic scare in apple juice. It turns out, a lot of the apples that go into the apple juice sold in the US are imported from China, and are laced with arsenic from the pesticides used there. So, even though my bottle of salad dressing says 'Made in Canada' on it, it would take every second of my waking day to try and decipher the origins of all the ingredients that went in to it.
But, there is an alternative. Buy from the source. Buy apple juice from the farm where the apples grew. Or buy the apples, and make the juice yourself. Go back to the basics and learn to craft things yourself from raw ingredients that can be sourced locally or grown yourself.

After Costco, I went to Michaels to indulge myself. In a matter of minutes I managed to completely forget (no really, I totally forgot) my project, and I was walking the aisles carrying three beautiful rubber stamps in my hands. In the sticker aisle, I spotted a Hello Kitty sticker book, and remembered. Crap! I checked my stamps. The first one I had picked out, a peacock feather, was made in the USA. Awesome. The other two- Made in China. I cringed, pouted, held on to them a bit longer, and then put them back. I consoled myself as I walked to the cash register by thinking that, today at least, Project Made in China was saving me money.

I picked up my new BlackBerry at Futureshop and checked the slick cardboard box it came in: Made in Mexico. I'm not sure if that's much better, but I will look into it. In the spirit of honesty, I also picked up a new phone for Ian that was made in China- but it was his decision which phone to get, not mine, so I'm not counting it. I lucked out with the BlackBerry- I had decided to get it before I knew where it was made- but I did feel good about making a conscious choice to support a Canadian company over the other American phones I looked at.

So that was Day 1- a success. I didn't buy much today, just some Canadian homeopathic ear drops at the vet, and some local produce at the grocery store. I also ordered a book on backyard chicken-keeping from the small local bookstore. It might have been cheaper to order it on Amazon, but I was happy to support Blue Heron Books. I emailed the publisher (Storey Publishing) and asked where their books are manufactured, but I'm fairly certain it's in the US. I also emailed the maker of the two Chinese stamps (Inkadinkado is the brand, which appears to be owned by a company called EK Succcess Brands Ltd.)  to inform them why I didn't buy their product. I received an auto-email back saying that someone would get back to me.

I'm noticing that there are quite a few variations in label language. Made in, Prepared in, Manufactured in...
It's going to take a little investigating (and a lot of common sense) to read what they are really saying and not just what they want you to think. Those words all sound the same on the surface, but I'm sure they have very different meaning in the world of label legislation.

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