15-47 Segment 1: Buying Ethically and Sustainably for the Holidays

Synopsis: It’s almost time to head to the mall and check out the holiday decorations and pick up some presents for friends and family. A lot of people will be buying clothing, shoes, accessories and making sweets as gifts, thinking only about the cost and if the recipient will like it. Our guests say that you should also consider where the gift comes from, what it’s made of and how the workers who created it are treated. Our guests discuss the need for sustainable, ethically-made gifts, from clothing to jewelry to chocolate.

Host: Gary Price. Guests: Kate Black, author of the book, Magnifeco: Your head-to-toe guide to ethical fashion and non-toxic beauty. Amy Guittard, director of marketing for Guittard Chocolate Company, author of their new book, Guittard Chocolate Cookbook: Decadent recipes from San Francisco’s premium bean-to-bar chocolate company.

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Buying Ethically and Sustainably for the Holidays

Gary Price: It’s almost time to head to the mall and check out the holiday decorations and pick up some presents for friends and family. A lot of people will be buying clothing, shoes, accessories and making sweets as gifts, thinking only about the cost and if the recipient will like it. Kate Black thinks that people should also consider where the gift was made, how the workers who made it are treated, and if the gift is made up of sustainable and healthy materials. Black is the author of the new book, Magnifeco: Your head-to-toe guide to ethical fashion and non-toxic beauty. She says that clothing and shoes that were once made in the U.S. are now mostly made overseas – many in third-world countries…

Kate Black: NAFTA made a huge change in the manufacturing structure of the company. And bit by bit companies have just found it more affordable and more convenient to off-shore production. So we’re at a stage now where consumers are getting more excited and interested in locally made and made in the U.S. but we just don’t have that infrastructure at the moment. And a lot of it’s being done in developing countries – Bangladesh, Vietnam, China as we know – and then, depending on the product, I think fashion touches almost every single country around the world, so depending on the product it has a relevance of which country it’s being sourced from.

Price: We use a lot of synthetic fibers in our clothing these days because it’s inexpensive and makes pants, blouses and shirts easier to care for. What most people don’t realize Black says, is that cheap clothes can come at a high price…

Black: I’m interested in how much chemicals we’re unknowingly and unassumingly putting close to our skin and our body. So I think consumers are getting used to what we put in our mouth affects our health, but I don’t think they’re having that eye-opening moment with the things that we wear, whether it’s personal care products or clothing. So some of the issues around synthetics is that polyester is a petroleum-based product, so we’re wearing that against our skin and if you want to talk about ironing, some of the finishes that they need to put on garments to make them wrinkle-free are known carcinogens and are toxic. So, I don’t mind getting out my iron so that I can kind of lessen the number of chemicals that are against my skin.

Price: Cotton is grown here in the States and in various warm climates around the globe. Black says that it’s a great fabric, but commercial cotton growing here and overseas does have some hurdles to clear when it comes to health and sustainability. Growers often use a lot of water and insecticides on their crop. But Black says that there are cotton growing regions where these problems are being worked on…

Black: So there are several NGOs (non-governmental organization) that are working on trying to make cotton so water-intensive and definitely no so pesticide- and insecticide-intensive. So there’s an NGO working in Africa on a sustainable cotton called Cotton Made In Africa, the acronym is CMIA, and they’re really trying to find ways that sustenance farmers and cash crop farmers can grow cotton without the need for extra water. So they’re testing different strains of cotton so that they can find cotton that flourishes well with rainwater, and then there’s an entire movement that’s really trying to bring organic cotton back to the forefront so that we can have cotton seeds and cotton blends that are grown without so much insecticide or with no insecticide.

Price: Cotton and synthetic fibers aren’t all that’s out there for clothing. Black says we should expand our horizons and look at other types of materials when we’re in search of clothing and accessories…

Black: There’s a lot of really great, innovative natural fibers. Tencel is a fiber that feels kind of similar to silk or a rayon. It makes great shirts and blouses and it’s made out of eucalyptus or beech trees. It’s good for the environment, it’s produced in a closed-loop cycle where almost all of the chemicals required to change a tree into a shirt are captured and recycled and it’s really good against the skin. So, I think that our choices are not just polyester and cotton, and that if you could find natural fibers, that there’s a wide range to choose from.

Price: Who makes these items is also a consideration. Black says that there are sweatshops around the world where men and women work at sewing machines for long hours in heat and cold for very little money. She says that athletic shoes, for example, can cost more than a hundred dollars to buy, but very little of that goes to the workers who made them…

Black: An NGO interested in kind of sports shoes did a research project that estimated that because of all the sponsorships that training shoes and sports shoes and high-level shoes spend, for example, to sponsor Tiger Woods or LeBron James, that the worker’s actually only making .04 percent on every dollar. So that means a 100-dollar shoe the worker is getting about 40 cents and it takes about 10 hours, mostly of hand work, to make a high-performance trainer.

Price: Black says that we should also consider what goes into mining diamonds and gold when we look for jewelry to give this holiday season. There are bloody conflicts, organized crime and dangerous working conditions that are connected to the mining of precious stones and metals. Since it’s estimated that 157-thousand tons of gold is just sitting in jewelry boxes, why not recycle some of it? Or, if you want something new, try a lab-created diamond instead of a mined one. Despite what you hear about these man-made gems versus mined, Black says even the experts sometimes can’t tell the difference…

Black: The big crux and the challenge with laboratory-made precious stones is a marketing challenge. So the appraisers often can’t tell, but if they know they make, perhaps, a derogatory comment that this is lab-grown and not mined. And so there seems to be a marketing preference for mined gems and it has nothing to do with quality. So I think if we can get the industry as a whole to have more favorable comments about laboratory-produced gems, then it will be a whole different marketplace.

Price: Black says that when it comes to buying ethically, the industries benefit from consumers thinking that nothing can be done; that poor workers will suffer if people don’t buy what they’re making…

Black: Think if they started to just shop more with their own values in mind. Like I really want to buy a good quality piece for myself or somebody in my family and I want it to have some element of good, so it’s made in the U.S. or it’s made from a natural fiber that I know is environmentally sound, and just have a little bit of thought, I think consumers have the power to change and make a huge, significant impact in this industry.

Price: Another big part of the holiday season is candy, and when it comes to sweets, chocolate is probably high on the list of consumers. Amy Guittard is the director of marketing for Guittard Chocolate Company, and author of their new book, Guittard Chocolate Cookbook: Decadent recipes from San Francisco’s premium bean-to-bar chocolate company. What is it about chocolate that makes it so popular around the world?

Amy Guittard: I think it has to do with just the memories that we have eating it. You know, it’s one of those things we oftentimes say that chocolate’s kind of a warm-body experience. You eat it when it’s cold outside in the hot chocolate or you eat it maybe as an ice cream but one of those things that kind of warms your body up. And I think there’s a lot of comfort that goes along with that, and then the memories as well. It’s one of those first sort of pivotal moments, at least in my mind, where you’ve had that sort of taste of sweetness. And, of course, I think there’s the subliminal message that it does come from the earth and that there’s something really connective about that as well.

Price: Cocoa beans from countries about 10 to 15 degrees either side of the equator…a fairly small growing region. Guittard says that finding the right beans is a complex undertaking that depends on many conditions that change from year to year…

Guittard: We source beans from all over the world, really, within that range. Hawaii is actually the northern-most region where cocoa can grow or has been found at this point in time. And we source from there, we source from Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, I was just in Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Madagascar, globally and each bean has a very different sort of flavor based on where it’s grown. A lot of people make a parallel to wine, but it really has to do with the soil, but also the different weather patterns, different humidity as well as the different genetics of where the beans have come from prior to where they are. It’s an agricultural product.

Price: She says that different cocoas are blended to create a unique and consistent taste in the different varieties of chocolate products they make. Guittard says her company is very interested in older types of cocoa beans that many farmers are now growing on their land. They deal with individual small farms as well as trusted supply chain partners they have known for a long time. Guittard also works with coops, which are becoming more popular in some countries…

Guittard: I was just in West Africa and Ivory Coast is now kind of moving toward a more co-op model in which case it’s a lot of small farmers that have, maybe, a small plot of land and then they organize themselves into a co-op model and then sell that to, say, a trader. And then full transparency on where the beans are coming from because of the certifications that are oftentimes involved. All of our products in our Collection Etienne line are certified Fair Trade so, as a result, the farmers are harvesting the trees or harvesting the pods – cocoa grows within the pod – they ferment it in boxes or heaps depending on where that happens — different countries do it differently – and then they dry it and then we get the dried beans once we approve the lot for quality and other components to it.

Price: But what about the fair trade designation? How does that help the consumer buying chocolate this holiday season?

Guittard: The certification is really helpful for consumers to understand. Sustainability, as clichéd as it is, is so multi-faceted and there’s so many different components to it, and so certification is a really easy way for us to tell that story to a consumer who’s looking to make an intelligent purchase.

Price: The Guittard cookbook is full of recipes that the chocolate lover can make for the holidays using quality chocolate in bars, wafers or chips. Amy Guittard says that some of her favorites are among the easiest to bake and the most scrumptious to eat…

Guittard: One of my favorites is (the) Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie, and that, especially now with the holidays coming, there’s cinnamon and nutmeg and pumpkin which really gives that sort of holiday feel to it. It’s almost like the top of a muffin, but it’s really light. I eat about five of them at a time. So that’s a favorite of mine. The Noho Kai Banana Bread is also a favorite of mine. My aunt used to make that for me. She still lives in Kapaa on Kuai and she would make that for me and I have fond memories of eating it after coming back (from) surfing.

Price: You can find a recipe that will become your favorite in the Guittard Chocolate Cookbook, available now. She invites listeners to visit their website at Guittard.com for more recipes and tips on working with chocolate. Kate Black urges consumers who want to know more about how the clothes, shoes, accessories and cosmetics they use are made to pick up her book Magnifeco, and visit her site at Magnifeco.com. To find out more about all of our guests, log onto our site at Veiwpointsonline.net. You can find archives of past programs there and on iTunes and Stitcher. I’m Gary Price.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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