Sunday, September 29, 2013

There's an App for that?

A few years ago Matt and I had a goal of buying things only made in the United States.  We started off strong; looking at labels and putting things back that weren't made in the USA.  It seemed like a good idea until we realized just how impossible that endeavor was going to be.  While there's quite a lot of goods made in the United States, there's even more made else where.  And a lot of the stuff that's made in the US costs a whole heck of a lot more than things made else where.  At that time we were painfully unaware of just how wretched the conditions in which some people work (safety, child and forced  labor, unjust wages, etc) just to save us a few dollars.

Subsequently our little adventure didn't work well. 

Fast forward a few years and we have learned a lot about fair trade, livable working wages and that the fact where we spend our money effects not only our bank account but the lives, livelihood and future of the people making our clothes and household goods. We've become more aware and had been trying to shop more fair trade, remembering brands that have good working conditions and fair wages and not perpetuating the American idea that cheaper is better.   

But it is hard.  

And then this fall I started doing the Bible study The 7 Experiment: staging your own mutiny against excess by Jen Hatmaker.  I'm not even going to start sharing the ways God is using this Bible study to teach me, to help me re-evaluate the way I think about things and draw me closer to him.  Maybe I'll share that some other time.  Maybe not.  But I will share something Jen Hatmaker shared with us on the video of Week 3.

Week 3 of the Bible study is about clothing.  And how much clothing we American's have, buy and then inevitably store in our closet.  Ha! Because we would be going out of town, I borrowed the DVD from the leader of the Bible study and watched it at home.  The segment was fairly short and most of what she shared wasn't new to me.  

But one topic instantly caught my attention!

Not for Sale has created an app (search Free2Work) for your iPhone (or any other smart phone I suppose) that allows you to scan a UPC label and then it tells you the grade it has been given by Not for Sale in regards to preventing modern day slavery (forced labor, indentured servitude, child labor).  There are a few quirks, and only about 200-300 brands listed so far (according to the website their working on adding more, it's intensive work to thoroughly examine a brand) but it's very interesting, informative and for me, useful.  

You see, we were going on vacation to Houston.  Matt had to go for work so Gabe and I tagged along with him last week.  We spent a few days in Houston seeing friends, going to some of our favorite spots and, as I firmly believe Houston's shopping is much better than Ohio's, we were planning on shopping for fall clothes for Gabe.  And I needed a pair of jeans.  

Prior to leaving I browsed through the Free2Work App.  I was surprised, and not in the wee-it's-a-surprise way.  More in the oh-dear-yikes way.  

Many brands of children's clothing received very low grades.  We decided that we wouldn't shop stores that weren't doing a B or better.  Most of the brands that received an "A" grade I didn't recognize so I'm assuming they are very pricey.  When I saw Oshkosh and Carters (two of the children's clothing stores I planned to shop at) were graded a D I was disheartened.  There is no way my baby was going to wear clothes who's material or manufacturing most likely involved child labor.  Ain't no way.  

So we walked through the Outlet Mall, The Galleria and Memorial Mall looking for fall clothes for Gabe.  With my trusty phone in hand with the Free2Work App ready I browsed, price matched and scanned.  We found quite a few things for Gabe for Fall and avoided buying Gabe any clothes less than a "B."  I was also searching for jeans and came up empty handed at the Outlets.  I found a super cute pair of jeans; good fade, straight legs and fit well.  But when I scanned them, that brand was graded a "D".  Back went the jeans.  Eventually I found a pair a few days later... and score, they were even made in the USA.

I'll be completely transparent with you.  We spent more on individual articles of clothes for Gabe than we normally do.  But we feel good about our purchases.  Gabe will just have a smaller wardrobe and just wear things more often.  We have a washer and dryer so he'll always be clean.  Well most of the time, at least [smile].
I also realize that not everyone is able to (or wants to) make the same decision regarding clothing for their families as we did.  We just know that this is something that has worked (so far) well for our family.  

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