Product of Mexico

Picture Source: Los Angeles Times

Last week, the Los Angeles Times posted a four part series titled “Products of Mexico.” Traveling across nine Mexican states, reporter Richard Marosi and photojournalist Don Bartletti observed and interviewed workers from various mega-farms.

They found that many farm laborers are trapped until the season harvest ends in rat-infested camps without beds or clean water. Many bathe in irrigation canals outside camps because water often runs out in the camp facilities.

The camp bosses illegally withhold their daily/weekly wages to prevent any of them from escaping. Some try but are caught and are forcefully brought back.

Farm workers become ill due to breathing in and interacting with harsh pesticides used to treat the produce causing them to uncontrollably cough and break out with rashes. The people who are too ill to work are put on a no-pay list and are not fed.

Product prices in the camps grocery stores are so high many of the farm workers end up in deep debt, some just days after arriving. All the products sold in the small grocery stores in the camps are not priced making it troublesome for the workers, 2 eggs can range from $1 to $2. Laborers who cannot read nor do math are unknowingly charged more for products.

With false promises, these farm workers are brought to the mega-farms and remain there for months working 6 days a week and earn up to $8 to $12 a day.


Video Source: Los Angeles Times

Why do we value the produce more than the human caring for it?

It should be our social responsibility to change how this system has oppressed the farm workers, not only in Mexico, but throughout the world. Our commodity should not come at the expense of someone else’s life.

If you buy tomatoes, chili peppers, cucumbers or any product with the “Product of Mexico” sticker than you are a part of this. We must demand for big corporations to enforce or change their policies and help improve the lives the indigenous farm workers.

Los Angeles Times- Product of Mexico

Picture Source: Los Angeles Times

Part 1: Farm exports to the U.S. from Mexico have tripled to $7.6 billion in the last decade, enriching agribusinesses, distributors and retailers. But for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship.

Part 2: A raid exposes brutal conditions at Bioparques, one of Mexico’s biggest tomato exporters, which was a Wal-Mart supplier. But the effort to hold the grower accountable is looking more like a tale of impunity.

Part 3: The company store is supposed to be a lifeline for migrant farm laborers. But inflated prices drive people deep into debt. Many go home penniless, obliged to work off their debts at the next harvest.

Part 4: About 100,000 children under 14 pick crops for pay at small- and mid-size farms across Mexico, where child labor is illegal. Some of the produce they harvest reaches American consumers, helping to power an export boom.

Share

Beware the Dirty Dozen

salon

Personal care products have become a necessity in our daily lives. On average, people can use up to 15-20 cosmetic products a day; shampoo, conditioner, lotion, mouthwash, makeup, etc.

U.S. researchers have reported that one eighth (10,250) of the 82,000 ingredients used in our personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins and hormone disruptors. These ingredients and chemicals can be easily consumed or absorbed into our bodies.

On average, a women who uses lipstick every day can ingest from 4 to 7 pounds of lipstick in her lifetime.

The Story of Cosmetics- The Story of Cosmetics, released on July 21st, 2010, examines the pervasive use of toxic chemicals in our everyday personal care products, from lipstick to baby shampoo.

Here we have gathered the Dirty Dozen toxic chemicals that you should know and avoid. (When talking about cosmetics, we are not just talking about makeup. Cosmetics refer to all personal products you put on your body.)

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are related to synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives in lipsticks, moisturizers, etc.

They can induce allergic reactions in the skin and have been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a possible human carcinogen.

Although BHT has been listed as safe for humans, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic has listed BHA as a chemical of potential concern with its toxicity to aquatic organisms and potential to bioaccumulate.

hair-shampooCoal Tar dyes are recognized as a human carcinogen and can be found in dandruff shampoos, anti-itch creams, toothpaste, mouthwash, hair dyes and other products.

They are listed as “FD&C Blue No. 1” or “Blue 1”. (FD&C indicates the color has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in foods, drugs and cosmetics and “D&C” colors indicate they have not been approved for use in food.)

DEA (diethanolamine) can affect hormones; deplete the body of choline needed for fetal brain development. They can be found in soaps, cleansers and shampoos to make cosmetics more creamy or sudsy.

Exposure to high doses of DEA-related ingredients has been shown to cause liver cancer and precancerous changes in skin and thyroids. They can also cause mild to moderate skin and eye irritation.

nail-polish-fumesDBP (Dibutyl phthalate) can be found in nail products as a solvent for dyes and as a plasticizer that prevents nail polishes from becoming brittle.

It is absorbed through the skin and can enhance the capacity of other chemicals to cause genetic mutations. DBP can cause developmental defects, change in the testes and prostate and reduced sperm counts.

The European Union classifies this chemical to be very toxic to aquatic organisms; it is listed as a Chemical for Priority Action.

Formaldehyde can be found in baby bath soap, nail polish, eyelash adhesive and hair dyes as a contaminant or breakdown product of diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium compounds.

It has been classified, by the International Agency of Research on Cancer, as a known human carcinogen. Small amounts of formaldehyde may off-gas from cosmetics and cause skin and eye irritation and trigger allergic reactions.

Parabens (methylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben) are common preservatives found in toiletries and cosmetics, an estimated 75%-90% of cosmetics contain parabens.

They can penetrate the skin and are suspected of interfering with hormone function. Methylparaben applied on our skin reacts with UVB leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage. It has been estimated that women are exposed to 50mg per day of parabens from cosmetics.

1110-green-perfumeParfum (fragrance) in cosmetics usually represents a complex mixture of chemicals, over 3000 of the chemicals used are manufactured synthetic fragrances.

Parfum can be found in nearly every personal care product out there in the market, from cosmetics to toilet paper. It can trigger allergies, migraines and asthma symptoms.

Even fragrance-free or unscented products contain parfum ingredients as a form of masking agents that prevent the brain from perceiving the odor.

PEGs (polyethylene glycols) are used as thickeners, solvents, softeners and moisture carriers in cosmetics.

PEGS may be contaminated with measurable amounts of 1,4-dioxane, which is classified as a possible human carcinogen. Although 1,4-dioxane can be removed from cosmetics during the manufacturing process by vacuum stripping there is no way for consumers to know if the product containing PEGS have actually undergone this process.

Petrolatum is mineral oil jelly or petroleum jelly and is used as moisturizer and in hair shine products.

Petroleum products can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs can be associated with cancer, skin irritation and allergies.

Siloxanes (cyclotetrasiloxane, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane and cyclomethicone) are silicone-based compounds used in cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten. They make products like deodorant creams slide on easily and dry quickly.

Cyclotetrasiloxane and cylcopentasiloxane also known as D4 and D5 are toxic endocrine disruptors, interfere with human hormone function and possible reproductive toxicants that may impair human fertility, cause uterine tumors and harm the reproductive and immune systems.

Cyclohexasiloxane (D6) is persistent and has the potential to bioaccumulate.

Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) is used as a cleansing agent in cosmetics and a foaming agent or detergent found in shampoos, bubble bath products, household and utensil cleaning detergents.

SLES is a possible human carcinogen and can even cause harm to the nervous system, It can also irritate the skin and eyes.

child-applying-hand-sanitizerTriclosan is mainly used in antiperspirants, cleansers and hand sanitizers as a preservative and an anti-bacterial agent.

It can pass through skin and is suspected of interfering with hormone function, it may also contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Triclosan doesn’t easily degrade and can build up in our environment after being rinsed down the drain.

You can learn a lot by reading the labels on the products you buy. We should arm ourselves with knowledge not just for our well-being but for the well-being of our families and our environment.

Don’t depend on the tempting ads given to you, depend on yourself and look for alternative organic and natural methods for your personal care.

The Suzuki Foundation has a great guide on how to avoid the Dirty Dozen from your everyday cosmetics.whats-inside-shoppers-guideDownload pdf here: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/publications/downloads/2010/whats-inside-shoppers-guide.pdf

Share

Ecofriendly Holiday Decorating Tips

It’s easy to go overboard buying new decorations when the excitement and anticipation of Christmas sets in. Instead of purchasing new decorations that may be thrown out after Santa returns to the North Pole, check out our eco-friendly holiday decorating guide for simple tips to make the season extra green.

Keep It Real
When it comes to your Christmas tree, just say “no” to artificial firs. Artificial trees can’t be recycled, are often made of harmful chemicals, and take up a lot of unnecessary space in landfills. Try a pine tree from your local tree farm instead. These trees are replanted every year so you’re not negatively impacting the forest. And many counties offer tree recycling locations where your retired tree can be turned into mulch or wood chips for gardens and hiking paths.

Living trees are another great option for the eco-conscious decorator. Many local nurseries keep a variety of evergreens on hand to be kept in a pot during the holidays and then planted in the yard afterwards.

Let LED Light the Way
Switch out your old strands of incandescent bulbs for energy efficient LED lights! LED lights can last up to 25 times as long as incandescent bulbs! They’re also extremely durable and don’t emit any heat, thus eliminating the holiday fire hazard. Although LEDs have been expensive in years past, prices have decreased and many styles of LEDs are now available from most local hardware stores and retailers.

Don’t forget about LED candles to add that special touch to kid and pet friendly holiday centrepieces. Lightweight and reusable LED candles are made from wax just like a real candle. Some even flicker without the flame and can last up to 1,000 hours.

Homemade is the Best Adjective
Instead of buying a wreath that might get tossed in trash later, create your own with old fabric by following this simple DIY guide. You can also make your mantle look fabulous with a homemade stocking! Check out these cute DIY Christmas stocking projects using recycled materials. But don’t stop there! Why not create your own ecofriendly ornament? Browse these creative, ecofriendly ornaments for inspiration and start crafting your own.

Look Local
Ditch the typical big box retail stores and opt to buy your holiday decorations from a local source. Check out a local craft show or swap meet. Browse your classified listings for holiday decorations or check esty.com for nearby artists.

If you want to keep it local and save a lot of money, take a walk outside. Pine cones, cinnamon sticks, pumpkins, gourds, fallen branches, pomegranates, cranberries and citrus fruits are all beautiful, seasonal items that you can use to decorate your home with.

Let us know what your favorite ecofriendly holiday decorations are and keep making green waves!

Share

Infographic Friday: Buy American, Create Jobs

It’s a mathematical fact. If we all buy just 5% more US made products we will create a MILLION new jobs. Click here to read an important message from Dolphin Blue Founder and CEO, Tom Kemper, then click here to learn about the Million Jobs Project and start making a change today!

Share

Greenest Schools in America

What are a few things that come to mind when thinking of the “college experience?” Eating pizza six days a week? Writing papers the night they’re due? Those may be the more popularized experiences, but a college at its most basic is designed it to help its students learn and grow.  Some universities take this more literally than others.

Take Green Mountain College for example, #6 on Sierra Club’s 2013 list of Cool Schools. Its students were one of the first to help their college achieve climate neutrality, a truly impressive feat considering that climate neutrality means a carbon footprint of zero. This requires balancing any carbon output with an equivalent offset. It might seem simple at first, but what would this take? This would mean planting trees, reusing or recycling all trash, eating homemade produce, burning fossil fuels, and using wind or solar energy.  For Green Mountain College, they found 1.2 million kilowatt-hours in an unlikely source: cows.  Dickinson College, #2 on Sierra Club’s list, collects grease from local restaurants to turn it into biodiesel.  These colleges are taking advantage of the opportunity to craft and mold these creative young minds to tackle energy issues with their challenging and stringent sustainability courses.

However, not every sustainable solution is completely unique to each school, there are several practices that many universities share. For instance, many schools have campus-wide composting to reduce waste, enforce keeping paper and water waste low, and maintain cafeterias that serve student grown produce and utilize trayless dining. Also, many schools only build LEED Certified buildings, a certification that distinguishes a high performance green building. LEED takes many variables into account (sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, etc.) and provides a status level of Silver, Gold, or Platinum. Dickinson College only builds to LEED Gold standards.

Not only are these colleges making a positive impact on the environment, they are teaching responsible and accountable living as well as fostering a strong sense of community and teamwork. These are healthy, functional habits that a student can take and use for the rest of his or her life.  What are some of the ways you could practices what they preach? Take a look at our products to get a few ideas on how to take the first baby steps.

Share

Reduce Paper Plate Waste

According to Greenyour.com, offices consume disposable plates, cups, and cutlery for meetings and conferences and every day lunch breaks. The average 2,500-person conference will produce waste to the tune of 75,000 disposable cups, 87,500 paper napkins, and 90,000 cans or bottles. In an average year, most office workers throw out 500 disposable cups!

How many paper cups and plates from your home make it to the recycling bin? Most waste is needless given all used paper cups and plates can be recycled if cleaned. Dirty paper bowls and plates that are uncoated are approved for composting. Also, choosing reusable dishes and flatware can go a long way to cutting overall trash. Even a small change like using pitchers instead of water bottles could make a huge difference over time.

Try these helpful tips to start reducing your home or office kitchen waste today:

  • Serve guests drinks in pitchers instead of using wasteful plastic bottles
  • Choose dishes and cutlery made from recycled content
  • Use a reusable mug for coffee and take reusable dishes when you have to eat on-the-go
  • Recycle as many paper products as you can from fast food and takeout

For a quick and easy guide on recycling and composting, see this brochure from University of Berkeley. For a relatable story of how one woman stopped an addiction to paper plates, read “Guilt on a Paper Plate” by Larissa Kosmos, guest blogger for the NYTimes. Browse Dolphin Blue’s selection of recycled tableware and kitchenware for the office.

Share

Stop Trashing Your Pantry

According to a new report published by The Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, 9 out of 10 Americans throw away perfectly edible food because of inconsistent labeling of expiration dates and sell-by dates. The report explains the confusion consumers feel over the dates stamped on food packaging and they propose improvements to current policies to help curve the problem.

Many consumers do not understand what the dates on their food products actually mean. Many think the dates designate food safety when in reality they are indicating freshness, not spoilage. Evidence shows that consumers rely too heavily on label dates resulting in food being thrown out over unfounded safety concerns. Experts suggest that consumers focus on more relevant risk factors regarding their food, such as time and temperature control.

The researchers found that inconsistency of terms and dates on packages complicate the matter for consumers. They are calling for national standardization of the words used on packages and clarification to clearly distinguish between safety-based dates and quality-based dates. This would eliminate the commonly found and confusing “sell by” label on consumer packaging as it only pertains to retailers.

When it comes to food safety, common sense is the best defense. “Use-by” dates are only estimates and if your food shows no sign of spoilage then it is most likely still edible. It is always better to err on the side of caution if you feel your food has expired, but do not rely solely on the date stamped on the package until measures are taken to standardize dates and labels on food packaging.

Share