Saturday, June 30, 2007

On how to avoid buying products from China

I'm feeling fairly smug that I'm roughly three months ahead of the mainstream news cycle on the No China Diet. We saw a story on not buying from China on NBC news this week (the online version), and GhostGirl just sent me this link to an AP story, Is Made In China avoidable?

Both of these stories start at the point I was at a couple of months ago. This is the moment in which you understand some of China's violations. You go to Target or Ann Taylor or Trader Joe's and wonder what the hell can you buy that's not made in China. It's all made in China. So you feel like giving up entirely.

Unfortunately both news stories stopped there.

There are a lot of good reasons to avoid products from China, but the reason that gets the most attention recently is that some of the products contain poison. But China has an absolutely egregious record on human rights (like forced abortions at nine months), workers' rights, environmental issues, and intellectual property theft. This is the result of completely unchecked capitalism. It hasn't led to democracy; it's led to a very crazy place in which the only thing that matters is how cheaply you can produce a good. You torture and imprison the people who object, you violate your own regulations for safety of workers and the products they produce, and you dump the pollutants into the water supply.

But if we in the United States go to Target or Footlocker and just start picking up items and checking where they're made, you're going to find that most they are made in China. You have to begin with the manufacturer rather than the store. Scott at Boy in the Bands is particularly good at this.

My dollars should support my values. If my values do not agree with Chinese official and unofficial policies, I'm not going to buy their goods. And, yes, I'm one person (in a two-family + one dog household). But I'm not going to do it.

The No China Diet restricts my buying somewhat, but there are many alternatives to buying products from China that we don't hear about daily in the news. For example, here is a list of places to buy clothes that are sweatshop-free and here are some tips on buying pre-owned clothing. You can buy your produce locally. You can grow produce.

For more information, you might want to read my posts on overcoming objections to the No China Diet and my motivations. There are alternatives to buying items made in sweatshops.