Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Look At 2011

Here are some highlights of 2011, idea taken from SortaCrunchy:

Favorite reads: This year I enjoyed reading all of John Greens books (I'm in love!) including "Looking for Alaska", "Paper Towns", "An Abundance of Katherine's" and "Will Grayson, Will Grayson"

Favorite album: This year has been all about Mumford and Sons and Ingrid Michaelson! Love their albums as a whole!

Favorite music discoveries: Beach House and Fleet Foxes :)

Netflix fun: LOST and Dexter. I CANNOT GET ENOUGH! We finished LOST this year and we loved it! Amazing! And Dexter (We're up to season 5 now) AHH I can't get over the writing and characters of that show! (But be fair warned it is a bit (ok A LOT) graphic in all areas).

Most fun with currently running TV: I enjoy Jersey Shore and I do not even care that you are judging me right now. Snookie is just hilarious!!!! I also love "big bang theory" and "how I met your mother"

Biggest TV disappointment: Man of Interest. I really wanted it to be good. I really did. I mean IT'S BENJAMIN LINUS!! :(

Technology love: The iphone 4s my husband got me for Christmas takes the cake!

Best use of our home: Looking at this question makes me realize we haven't used our home very well! (Even tough it is only 400 sq ft so not that many can fit) but I'd say dinner and a bonfire with our dear friends Wes and Marla was a highlight :)

Most enjoyable travel: We went to Hawaii this past year and it was incredible!!! We got to spend a week with my in laws and my adorable nephews! It was great bonding time. I also parasailed for the first time!

Most rewarding project: My quest to buy only fair trade for Christmas. It really opened my eyes to not only how easy it is to start changing my shopping habits, but also how shopping fair trade with the prices being a tiny bit higher, made me really think about the person and if they would appreciate it, and made the gift giving much more precious.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: How much I love my niece Emma. I remember visiting her in the hospital when she was born and it was a "ok she's cute" moment but no real emotional bond...but now that I get to spend every weekday with her, I am smitten! She's so sweet and smart and funny! Which brings me to the next surprise, which is how much I love my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. They have proved to be the most generous and loving people I know, and getting to spend time with them is something I will cherish forever. They are truly family. And no, I'm not just sucking up cause they pay my bills. I really mean it. :)

Favorite snapshots taken by me:

My Husband on our whale watching date. I love him.

We're really cool

My sweet niece Emma. This picture kills me!

The youngest of 4 nephews, Kai. He is so caring and funny!

My cat Moshe scrounging for food!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Facts About Fair trade

As we come to the second week of advent and prepare for Christmas I want to talk about the facts of fair trade. This year I have made a commitment to buy only fair trade items for friends and family and sometimes it can be hard to know where to start and how to identify what products are fair trade. If you are new to fair trade there are probably even more questions floating through your head, so here are a few general facts about fair trade. If anyone has other information to add or correct please leave a comment! I want to make sure I am accurate and up to date. So here we go...

So what is fair trade?

I took this straight off of the world fair trade organizations website, because I think they sum it up so nicely.

"Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers"

A company then, that is committed to fair trade practices, will either buy ingredients from workers in other countries (or the U.S.) and make their own products (ensuring adequate pay and working conditions) , or they will sell handmade products from organizations already established. (ie: buy coconut oil in bulk to make their own shampoo and conditioner, or take handmade jewelry and sell it to consumers on behalf of the developing community, ensuring that the money goes directly back to that community.)

Why is it important to buy fair trade?

For me, it all comes down to this: we are seeing worse working conditions, outrageously low pay, unsafe environments, child labor, and slavery. And this is all because foreign companies and large U.S. corrperations need the cheapest labor, so they can sell it to the consumer at the cheapest price. (Walmarts "low price guarantee", anyone?)

Fair trade towns USA says this about fair trades importance:

"When you choose to purchase Fair Trade products, you are endorsing an economic system that provides opportunities for producers to lift themselves out of poverty. Fair Trade provides assurances to consumers that producers are paid fair prices for their products and labor. It gives them more direct market access which removes many of the “middle-men” who traditionally have absorbed the majority of the profits. In addition, Fair Trade provides a set of requirements that assure consumers that strict standards have been met to protect the environment, build economic sustainability, empower women, and allow opportunities for education, poverty alleviation, and health care."

So why is it so important? Because when you realize how drastically your purchases impact the lives of others, you can't help but want that impact to be a positive one. And all you have to do is shop! And we can start by shopping for things we all need, like bath and beauty products, recycled paper towels, etc. :)

Terms you should know:

Fair trade: A system of exchange that honors producers, communities, consumers, and the environment. It is a model for the global economy rooted in people-to-people connections, justice, and sustainability.

Cruelty-free: This sounds like a fair trade term, but it's not. Cruelty free is a term used when a product has not been tested on an animal.

Co-op: A co-op is when Fair trade organizations work primarily with small businesses and democratically run cooperatives that agree to reinvest a portion of profits in community projects like health care clinics and childcare programs. These cooperatives are trying to cut out any middle men, and buy only and directly through the producers to ensure fair wadges and to see community and social change. Sometimes you will see pictures and stories of the particular producer on a fair trade website.

Sustainable: This ties into the cooperatives and means that the company selling the fair trade items create opportunities for social and sustainable economic development to the producer.

USDA Organic: A product claiming to be organic using the USDA organic label means that the product is 90-95 percent organic. And although many fair trade products are organic, a product carrying this label may not be fair trade. This doesn't mean not to shop organic though! I'm a big fan of organic.

How can you tell if it's really fair trade?

This one can be tricky, as many companies are noting the recent trend in conscious shopping and can slap the fair trade name on a product, but one of the best ways to identify a fair trade item is by its label. There are two very important symbols to watch out for, So you know it is certified fair trade. Remember, just because it says it is fair trade, doesn't mean it is. Do some research first.

I am still learning about fair trade everyday and am so honored to be a part of this movement to care so deeply for the hands that make the products I use. For more information on fair trade certification and fair trade in general, visit the fair trade USA website here.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Fight To Be Fair

Just about a year ago I wrote a blog post reflecting on how my obsession with my image had caused me to neglect my heart for fair trade. I became more interested in a shampoo that was "curl inhancing" to go along with my new haircut than with how my products were made and who they were made by. I quickly re-evaluated myself and felt like I was back on track....

Well....things have gotten bad again. This time though, it isn't about the's about the money - coupons to be exact. You see, I've become a bit crazy about saving myself some money. I'm not a crazy coupon lady by any means but I have become more interested in cutting out coupons...and to be honest, buying things I don't really need just because they are on sale.

I knew it was really bad when a few weeks ago I was buying 4 different 2-in-1 shampoos because I had $1 off coupons. Which is just exsessive, but that's not the worst part of it. The really bad part is when my husband walked down the isle to see me carrying all these shampoos and very casually and politely said "what happened to trying to buy fair trade bath products?". I instantly got defensive and chewed him out right there in the grocery store. "I'm trying to save this family some money!!!" (funny...I almost wrote save this money some family!) and "Why don't I see YOU buying anything fair trade? Why is it always on me? " which isn't even true at husband tries to be conscious as well.

This incident really hit me. Money makes me cranky. When I shop fair trade, it may cost me a bit more...but I'm happier. And so are many other people whose lives are changed because I spent a few extra dollars. Now, advent started today, and I think advent and fair trade go quite nicely together. Advent is the period of preparation leading up to Christmas. And what better time than Christmas to talk about money and consumerism. So this advent season, all my posts will be about the coming Christ and the continual fight for fair trade. May we, this advent season, find hope in Christ, and may we find ways to share that hope with others.