As we are all well too aware of, having kids these days seems to be synonymous with having stuff. Especially when we are new, impressionable parents, easily bamboozled by marketing messages telling us we need everything — from wipe warmers to the developmental toy du jour — or our kids will be destined for failure. But let’s forget about our kids for a minute. How is our culture of overconsumption playing out on the global field? How can we make sure we are purchasing from the right companies and staying on the right side of things? (Besides forgoing the iPotty all together, of course. iPotties!) Here to help us along is guest-poster Christine Bader, author of the much-touted The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil and an expert in corporate responsibility. Welcome!
I work in corporate responsibility, which means working with companies on sustainable practices that are good for people and the environment. But I often have trouble practicing what I preach, and I know others who do this work do too. We push companies to offer sustainable products, but balk if there’s a price premium when doing our own shopping. We advocate for consumers to learn and demand more, but succumb to what’s easiest to get with one-click. Take my recent experience purchasing a rug for my 18-month-old twins. Child labor is a problem in the carpet industry, so I started on the Goodweave website for brands certified child-labor-free. Once I pinpointed those brands, I looked for online retailers that sold them, then within that search, looked for options made from with natural fibers like cotton and wool. It wasn’t easy — and I do this for a living.
So how do we cut through all the information and shop responsibly? Is local better than organic? Is “fair trade” truly fair? Does a company getting a “sustainable” or “ethical trading initiative” seal mean it’s all good? There are no easy answers — apart from consuming less, which we all could probably do — but that shouldn’t stop us from asking the questions. Once in awhile I take stock of all the stuff I’m surrounded by at that moment, ask myself what I know about each item, where it puts me on the responsible-to-over-consumption spectrum, and give myself a grade. Here’s my latest report card:
Source: MUU, started by a college friend, made in the USA with safe and sustainable materials. Postscript? The challenges of manufacturing domestically proved too great, and the company has since gone out of business. I’d welcome any advice on an alternative source here.
From: Pampers Disposables.
With twins we didn’t think we could handle cloth diapers — parents of twins: should we reconsider? — and let’s just say that the more eco-friendly disposables were less effective at handling my kids’ “output.”
I’ve bought some stuff used from thredup.com, but almost all our childrens’ clothes are hand-me-downs from other DITTs. (Double Income Toddler Twins — apparently now a thing!)
Thankfully for all of us, my husband loves to cook (and lets me do so once in awhile), so my kids are full of home-cooked meals, much of it from our CSA.
As for the rest of the stuff, my kids are 18 months old, so we have a little time before they start begging us for Yummy Keychains and PlayStations. Want a sense of how you’re doing? Check out resources like GoodGuide and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, where you can look up specific companies to see if they’re behaving, and support them if they are.
Click here for more advice on navigating the baby market responsibly; For more about The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist, visit Christine’s blog or listen to her interview with Leonard Lopate on WNYC. Thanks, Christine!
Related: How to Read a Food Label, by Michael Moss.
Toys Photo credit: LivingUndone