How the Purchase of Cotton Pants and Panties Can Change the World

By Susan Lutz

When shopping, the world sits on my shoulder. I feel it. Products scream at me: buy me! I’m a deal! Good for your pocketbook! Just what you want – what your kids need – stylish! I slide shirts down the rack, wondering who made it, what chemicals were used in the fields, and if the product is GMO. Food tops the list when we think of buying organic and fair trade. However, cotton must be added to our list and be a part of our consciousness as it’s an important crop to choose organic and fair trade.

The Organic Consumer’s Association highlighted aspects of a report by The Institute of Science in Society. It called cotton a “triple-threat…because it produces fiber, food, and feed….Monsanto Corporation has been a major source of genetically modified (GM) cotton lines.”

Cotton ranks as one of the highest producer of GMOs, falling in line with soy, canola, and corn. The Environmental Justice Foundation put out a report siting the commodity of cotton and the dangers it poses to workers, which include children, in the fields.

Pants, shoes, shirts, yoga clothes, and even panties, can be produced with organic cotton and fair trade certification. So much bedding, pillows, shoes, and of course clothes contain cotton. The cotton crop is estimated at $32 billion yearly.

With children, and especially with teenagers, grabbing the latest styles is tempting so many brands sell at cheaper prices due to the above-named factors. By dusting the crops with chemicals and using non-fair trade labor tactics, the price point goes down. I look to several practical solutions to introduce the use of organic cotton into our lives. I won’t be able to buy everything fair trade or organic. So, I work on choosing one area I can commit to and get as much out of my dollar while also supporting environmentally friendly products.

  • Going to the thrift store can stretch an item’s use – no one had to work in the fields a second time to put it up for sale. The second use recycles and produces less of an environmental impact all-around.
  • Decide on choosing a few items that will last – a great t-shirt made from organic cotton or a pair of organic cotton fair trade jeans – probably love them more, appreciate them more, and enjoy them more, too!
  • Pick one item and buy only fair trade and/or organic within that department. Green panties are a good start. Just like food, I can’t swing buying all organic; however, I commit to a few items and stick with it.

Never underestimate the power of our voice through out purchases

 

The Fight for Food: Who’s Got the Right?

By Susan Lutz

We change all the time. We adapt and learn to survive in new ways. When it comes to food, we fight for the right to know what’s in it, eat organic, and buy local. Often these steps all seem logical. We must continue to move forward and build a better food-making machine.

Enter the GMO. Are they good for us? Bad for us? Huge corporations say they are not only fine but needed. How can GMOs be good for us? While sipping my organic, fair trade coffee one morning I saw a report on CBS Sunday Morning about GMOs, examining both sides. I have to admit, after seeing the papaya grower’s woes about a bug that wiped out all of their crops, I could understand why the farmer chose to use GMO seeds to grow a new papaya that was bug-resistant. Both sides gave logical reasons as to why we should allow or ban GMOs.

It’s easy to say something is “all bad”. McDonald’s, for example, encompasses many things I deplore. Yet, I’ve eaten there. I took my kids to the indoor play areas when I lived in a country that either didn’t have parks for kids or had parks that were too dangerous to play in. Did I understand that I was being “sold” a brand in hopes that not only I but also my children would remember those golden arches for a lifetime? Yes. (My son still points to any McDonald’s we pass and asks to play there years after he’s been in one.)

Both sides have a point. The organizations that are against the corporations developing GMOs are passionate about stopping their use. To date, about 19 European countries have banned GMOs. But what about that farmer and those dead papaya trees? He’s now farming again, profitable again. Would that happen with non-GMO techniques? Perhaps that’s the bigger question. Much research and development goes into the creation of GMOs, helping to solve difficult problems for farmers. But could there be another way?

The world moves so fast. Rather than understand all of the ramifications of choice, we sometimes move in a direction that can be narrow-minded, one that doesn’t look at the big picture. What if we had found ways to destroy bugs with other bugs? I see reports of farmers finding ways to tend crops with organic solutions. Climate change is a response to our decisions and the impact those choices place on the environment. The decision to buy fair trade coffee or not impacts the people who pick it and the communities they live in. Our decisions- the paths we choose in our oil drilling, animal breeding, crop growing, and automobile design, to name a few, lead us to where we are today.

GMOs are creeping into our crops, in such a way that soon it will be hard to find foods, especially processed foods, that are GMO-free. I know that we eat some GMO foods, even though I read my labels religiously, and when we do, I let it go because I know that we are in a process, one that will teach us to make it back to middle ground.

 

 

Organic Humor: Videos to Check Out, Share, and Enjoy

By Susan Lutz

The food wars rage on. Good things are happening. We as consumers are getting savvy about what’s in our food and the path it takes to get to our table. Here is a quick look at some of the funny, poignant, and entertaining clips I love. Humor gets the point across like no other. As Mark Twain said, “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”

The more we share these clever ideas, the more it will reach an audience, open a door, and perhaps, start a conversation and a new way of thinking.

Cuke Vador? Ham Solo? My kids love this video and it makes me chuckle every time I see it. The Grocery Store Wars is perfectly timed to circulate again with the new (and old) audiences o Star Wars. The props are funny; the lines are cheeky and clever.

This video captures the ridiculous concept of marketing and the power of the written word. Every time I shop, I laugh and gasp at corporations’ claims that their product is “all natural.” After reading the ingredient list, there’s nothing natural about the preservatives, the dyes, and unpronounceable things that start with “p.” I giggle at the amazing pull of advertising and marketing to make us all feel better about paying for close-enough to organic products. Great script. Hilarious.

This video is clever. The satire is on the mark. Simply and with razor-sharp wit, it questions why we had to mess with nature at all. Guess the job just wasn’t up to Monsanto’s standard.

Genetic Scientists Develop Sheep With Brain Of A Goat – The Onion published this short clip showing the overall ridiculous world of altering life on the planet. I realized that I smiled from beginning to end.

Climate Change Deniers Anthem: Beau Bridges plays the Koch brothers; the singers gather to offer up an anthem, We are the World style, that we’re just fine. The climate’s not changing – polar bears are fine; Al Gore’s a liar; and the earth’s temperatures are not rising. We’re fine!

When something’s funny, it hits a chord. The power of video can spread consciousness in a way that isn’t so preachy. Humor may save us all, as nothing can stand against the wave of its assault. Watch and see.

 

 

 

 

Actions Around the World – Issues to Keep Up with and Watch for the Coming Year

By Susan Lutz

Over the past weeks and months, ideas that began at the grassroots movements finally found movement forward in actions by governments and organizations. As consumers who are opening our eyes, becoming more aware, and utilizing our voices to take action, let’s take a moment to absorb the success and change that has happened so far. Here are a few of the big ones:

1. Microbeads Banned – Those tiny microbeads clogging up the waterways and reeking havoc on the ecosystem were finally banned by the U.S. government. The President signed the bill in late December:

“H.R. 1321, the “Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015,” which prohibits the manufacture and introduction into interstate commerce of rinse-off cosmetics containing intentionally-added plastic microbeads…”

2. FDA Issues New Safety Rules: Strides were made with the new FDA standards for farmers. Some farms will be able to coordinate efforts – a victory seen for small farmers and the reality of modern day food growers. Food safety plans must be implemented, and again, smaller farmers will be given the ability to provide smaller plans, a much more realistic goal.

3. France Bars Big Supermarkets from Throwing Out Food: Legislation in France is banning large supermarket chains from throwing out food and is instead enforcing food donations to local charities. Though not the answer to the seed level issue, the act provides some relief to the problem of food shortages and food waste in the country – something to watch and learn from and a good model for other countries.

4. United States Fish and Wildlife Reclassifies Hunting: The USFW put out a report in December 2015 concerning the classification of animals as endangered. Lions in West and Central Africa will now be considered “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. Lions from other parts of Africa, such as in the south and east, will be regarded as threatened. What does this mean for trophy hunters? For one thing, importing lion body parts will be prohibited. And this is a huge part of the bragging rights of a trophy hunter. The effects these changes have on the population and treatment of lions will need to be monitored. Yet, perhaps it’s a step in awareness plus…

As we roll into 2016, what more can we do? Banning microbeads is important, but yet again, at the seed level how was this allowed in the first place? Without question, there will be so much to watch for in the coming year.

 

 

 

 

What the Climate Accord Means at Home

By Susan Lutz

treaty-paris-UN
Photo by UN.org

With the agreement of a landmark accord reached between 196 nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and commit to truly working towards change, the planet has a chance to survive. We have a shot at making it.

Something happened when I heard the news of the accord. I didn’t rush to look up all the details of the agreement. Instead of wondering about the facts, I felt a sense of peace. It was as if what we do on the local level and in our homes really does matter. When nations all over the globe decided to finally get to work on these issues, get our priorities straightened out, and look the problem in the eye, it made the daily tasks I do in my home actually feel like they make a difference.

If the nations had fought to no avail, looked the other way, or ignored the problem, and gone home without an agreement, I think all of us would have felt a little differently. Perhaps in a subtle way, we might have stopped working so hard. We might have lost hope. It is hard to fight such a large battle without the unity of nations and without leadership at the highest levels.

Now, I can look again at my habits that help curb waste, lower greenhouse gases, and bring stability and life into our existence. Sorting out trash and recycling, and using that glass bottle over and over again, doesn’t seem like wasted effort. Taking the bus or carpooling feels like a good choice. Buying less stuff finally feels like it adds up to a real solution.

With acknowledgement at the highest levels, we can now look optimistically towards our future. It’s time to look into new ways to lower my impact on the planet. None of this change is easy, but we’ve spent too much time taking the easy way out. There’s something we can do every day to change things for the better.

Now that the big players are part of the game, we have a chance at winning.

We’re Melting

By Susan Lutz

Forests are dying. Polar bears starving, ice caps shrinking. The list grows. We’ve spent a lifetime stomping on the planet and now world leaders gather in the hopes of finding a solution before we hit the tipping point. Can we pull back? Can we save ourselves?

I read positive stories: a community garden in Haiti becomes a center of growth and revitalization; the price of solar power is dropping fast and becoming an extremely viable alternative energy source; climate adapted strategies are manifesting and working to stabilize wildlife. Around towns, I see trees being planted, youth conversing about important issues. This is great. And there are many more examples of success and ideas which are moving us forward.

Yet, I read bad news, too: the UK starts to cut millions of dollars from its renewable resources; the threat of disease increases due to insects gaining the ability to live longer and travel farther; the sea level is rising; and of course, we’ve all seen the pictures of the polar bears starving. Some days, it’s hard to read the news. Some days it does seem like we’re just going to tip over and sink.

I recently heard a lecture on the cause and effect of our actions and the impact our choices have on climate change. The most interesting, and most powerful, I thought, was this: What are we willing to give up? In this country, the majority of cars during rush hour consist of single drivers. Bottled water and soda fill our vending machines, and we don’t give a second thought to the short pleasure we get versus the amount of toxins in each bottle. We like our stuff. We like our creams, cars, deals online, new phones, and processed, over-packaged foods.

The summit on climate change brings together world leaders. The model of coming together to talk; understanding our differences; taking note of those suffering the most; and, moving forward with dialogue. Regardless of how difficult the task is, it is one we must implement from the highest of offices to the grass-roots level.

We wait too long to act. We wait to change gun laws until terror steps into our cafes (if even then). We wait to ban trophy hunting and poaching and watch as species become threatened and face habitat loss and even become extinct. We’re slowly melting under the take-the-money-and-run philosophy of getting what we need, now, and forgetting how it will hurt us in the future.

When my son picked up an acorn the other day, he thought it was the grandest of discoveries. I held it up and told him it was amazing. We carried it with us as if it were a piece of gold. Our food supply, our land, our water – they truly are gold. We must realize this now, or we will watch as the world melts and slowly slips away.

 

When Communities Come Together, Certain Things Happen

By Susan Lutz

Hope seems lost. So often headlines tumble us backwards, forgetting that hope exists. But all is not lost. I found hope, and more, in these stories, these people, and these communities – each bringing rejuvenation to our environment and its communities. Moreover, it’s not just hope that these stories project. Within the actions and hearts of the people in these stories, a deep certainty resides in their power to change not only life for themselves but for others.

  • Taking Back Detroit Neighborhoods with the Power of Organic and Community – Urban depression runs through many areas of large cities. Abandoned homes often represent a dark picture of an impossible task: how to bring life back to once vital areas. This Detroit neighborhood is taking back its homes and its community by using YouTube, gardening, and the support of each other to revitalize and reclaim a neighborhood.
  • Planting Trees as a Mission – This 103-year-old woman Karnataka has planted not just one, two, or even 100 trees. Saalumarada Thimmakka, from India, has for the last 50 years planted over 400 banyan trees. But that’s not all. She also fights to get a hospital in her community.
  • Urban Garden in the Heart of NYC – In a place least expected, the Urban Garden Center sprouted, providing fresh natural food and serving the community through gatherings and education. The Urban Garden Center has forged on, despite many obstacles. Their location houses a two-block stretch of city concrete under part of the railway system. What they do inspires others to bring the beauty and revitalization of greens into city living.
  • Empowerment through Fair Trade – The success of companies will no longer be measured in dollars only. Perhaps that never was true success. Some companies achieve empowerment for their community and themselves by giving back. Alaffia is a company in Togo, Africa with a mission to invest in the community. They state that their goal is to end poverty and foster gender equality. They work on things such as educational projects, maternal health, and reforestation, to name a few.

Connecting with the community, demonstrating an organic lifestyle, and helping others through cooperation with the environment, brings forth prosperity, perhaps slowly, but surely. As the large corporations struggle with profits, they now look to the little – though giants in heart – as models for the future. The power of their certainty plants seeds of true change that will benefit all.