This site provides information for consumers about how their spending habits affect human rights, animal rights and welfare, and the environment.
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2015 July 16 Yahoo News: "Brad Pitt, Bill Maher slam Costco, speak up for caged hens"
Pitt wrote that " birds producing eggs for your shelves are crammed five or more into cages that are not large enough for even one hen to spread her wings". Maher, in a New York Times editorial, wrote "Multiple investigations into battery cages document animals with deteriorated spinal cords, some who have become paralyzed and then mummified in their cages....Imagine cramming five cats or dogs into tiny cages, hundreds of thousands in each shed, for their entire lives. That would warrant cruelty charges, of course. But when the egg industry does it to hens, it's considered business as usual."
2015 July 15 Environmental Health News: Mickey Mouse marketing asbestos fibers?
Asbestos fibers were found in some Chinese-made crayons and fingerprint kits. The fibers can cause cancer and damage lungs. "Experts say there is no 'safe' level of asbestos exposure."
"The current report found asbestos in Amscan Crayons, Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse crayons, Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Crayons, Saban's Power Rangers Super Megaforce crayons, EduScience Deluve Forensics Lab Kit (black fingerprint powder), and Inside Intelligence Secret Spy kit (white fingerprint powder)." The tests were conducted at the Scientific Analytical Institute in Greensboro, North Carolina.
"While the fingerprint powder could easily be inhaled, for crayons the concern is children eating them."
2015 July 14 BBC Canada: Horses still die in annual Calgary Stampede
"While officials have implemented changes to make the race safer, animal rights activists argue the popular horse and wagon sprint is still cruel and dangerous."
"A 2012 New York Times investigation found about three horses die every day on US race tracks, but the number of horses in chuckwagon races is far smaller than those in thoroughbred racing."
2015 July 1 BBC report: "Apple conspired with publishers to fix the prices of electronic books, a US federal appeals court has ruled", following an appeal to a 2013 decision that the conspiracy eliminated retail competition and caused prices to rise.
A dissenting opinion maintained that by challenging Amazon, which then "controlled about 90% of the sector", Apple opened up the market to competition.
"People can use Prescriber Checkup, a tool created by ProPublica, to look up doctors and see how their prescribing patterns compare to peers in the same specialty and state."
2015 June 19 Ben & Jerry's targeted by Migrant Justice's Milk with Dignity campaign for discriminating against Latinos in dairy industry.
Ben & Jerry's claims the Caring Dairy program can handle complaints about worker rights, wage theft, and squalid housing. Migrant Justice representative Victor Diaz claimes "there are no teeth, there's no monitoring, there's no worker participation" with Caring Dairy.
2015 June 12 npr article: Organic farmers say Whole Foods new "Responsibly Grown" rating system degrades organic label
Some nonorganic produce was rated better than organic produce under this system. The new Whole Foods system includes some measures organic certfication does not, but unlike organic certification, is based on producers' own answers to a survey and requires no third party verification, according to the article.
2015 June 2: New Delhi bans Nestle India's Maggi instant noodles for 15 days due to high lead levels. The ban will allow "time to recall and replace tens of thousands of the packets sold in stores throughout the city". Excessive levels of lead can damage kidneys and the nervous system. Nestle India has said its own tests showed all samples were safe.
The indigenous woman, Choc, sued Hudbay Minerals of Toronto, Canada and two of its subsidiaries for violent behavior by their security forces. "'Part of our objective is to make [people outside the country] see how foreign companies act in our country,' said Isabel Solís, a member of Communities in Resistance of El Estor, who has worked alongside Choc on her case. 'It is important for the people of countries such as the United States and Canada to see that the products that they own and that they consume have depended on the death of many people and the violations of human rights. There are great costs within the concept of economic development.'"
2015 May 22: Donuts, palm oil, and deforestation
What a bummer! Palm oil instead of trans fats is good for our health but when sourced from clear-cut forests, bad for the forests. Some of the companies that have child slaves in their supply chains, such as Mars and Hershey, have better records with palm oil. "...A new report, "Deforestation Doughnuts," by a rain forest protection coalition called Forest Heroes, concludes that leading doughnut companies are sourcing some of their palm oil from suppliers who are clear-cutting rain forests and destroying wildlife habitat and carbon-rich peatlands.
2015 May 22: Npr: Trans fats will gradually become illegal
Trans fats cause an array of health problems: they "raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol", "raise inflammation and worsen the health of blood vessels."
"Tumbleweed passed inspection for all criteria, including: resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water efficiency and indoor air quality."
2015 April 29: Truthoutreport: Rana Plaza Factory update: "Activists Announce Major Victory for Victims".
The Children's Place, one of the companies that sells garments manufactured in the Rana Plaza Factory and which had refused to pay more than a small fraction of the claims by victims against it, has agreed after "hundreds of actions" to "pay $2 million into the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund to compensate the victims of the collapse."
2015 April 24: Truthoutreport: "Two Years After Rana Plaza Tragedy, Rights Abuses Still Rampant in Bangladesh's Garment Sector"
Despite some improvements, a Human Rights Watch "report found that safety standards are still low, workplace abuse is common, and union busting - as well as violent attacks and intimidation of union organisers - is the norm." Factory owners maintain that retailers do not compensate them for compliance with new regulations regarding wages, benefits, and safety for workers. Although fire prevention measures have improved, numerous factory fires still inflict death or injury on many workers.
2015 March 27: Pacific Gas and Electric "is connecting about 4,000 new solar customers per month across Northern and Central California, more than any other energy company in the nation, the utility claims." The utility offers a fast, efficient application process.
2015 March 27: Consumer Reports compares pesticide risks in conventional vs. organic fruits and vegetables. Foods they recommend you always buy organic are peaches, tangerines, nectarines, strawberries, cranberries, green beans, sweet bell peppers, hot peppers, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
2015 March 26:Mexican farmworkers in Baja California, Mexico on strike
"The strike, which has crippled this regions exports to the U.S., shows no signs of ending after growers' offer of a 10% raise was dismissed by workers who earn on average $10 a day. They have dropped their demand from 300 pesos ($20) per day to 280 ($18.50)."
2015 March 25 Associated Press Investigation: Slavery taints global supply of seafood
"Tainted fish can wind up in the supply chains of some of America's major grocery stores, such as Kroger, Albertsons and Safeway; the nation's largest retailer, Wal-Mart; and the biggest food distributor, Sysco. It can find its way into the supply chains of some of the most popular brands of canned pet food, including Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams. It can turn up as calamari at fine dining restaurants, as imitation crab in a California sushi roll or as packages of frozen snapper relabeled with store brands that land on our dinner tables."
The AP tracked a ship carrying slaves who were mostly from Myanmar (Burma) by satellite. The slaves and fish were brought through Thailand to Benjina, Indonesia. The fish are mixed in with fish in other shipments and sent to various parts of the world.
Some 2015 March 23 articles from Green American Magazine Spring 2015 issue
Investors for Bangladeshi Worker Rights
In the aftermath of neglect of fire and safety hazards that caused a fire that killed 112 people and the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed over 1000 people and injured 2500, "investors are pressuring companies to commit to improving conditions for garment workers by signing on to the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety (bangladeshaccord.org).
Cinese toy factories
"Hundreds of thousands of young Chinese migrant workers toil away in factories making toys for major international brands. A recent report by China Labor Watch (CLW) exposed dozens of violations in four factories that make toys for Mattel, Fischer-Price, Disney, Crayola, and others." Article links to alternative green toys and petition to Mattel.
More articles available Green America members
The subject of reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuels is not as simple as divesting from all fossil fuels, because fossil fuel companies can help in the effort. Encouraging them to do so may in some cases be as effective as divesting. Stay tuned for more from the May conference.
2015 March 17: Correction of AP March 13-14 Blue Bell-Listeriosis story
"5 sickened by ice cream-related illness at Wichita, Kansas, hospital; 3 die" from listeria bacteria. "The deaths...linked to some Blue Bell ice cream products have prompted the Texas icon's first product recall in its 108-year history."
2015 March 16: Activists challenge the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) to improve its monitoring and use of chemicals that they have linked to cancer and respiratory illness in workers, according to the website GoodElectronics. Industry representatives say their audits have not found such links.GoodElectronics compares 20 brands on environmental and labor rights issues.
"WA scientists have helped re-affirm that curcumin, a chemical compound found in turmeric, is a safe and promising treatment for most cancers and other inflammation-driven diseases."
2015 March 11: Antibiotics used to fight infection in humans but to promote rapid growth and fattening in animals raised for food endanger humans, including vegans.
Article in eater.com explains it is not the antibiotics themselves, but the unintended side-effect of introducing new antibiotic-resistant bacteria into the environment that present the danger. "Antibiotic resistance is a global crisis, responsible for 700,000 deaths per year worldwide."Many major purveyors of chicken, such as McDonald's and Costco, have decided to phase out serving chicken--but not beef, pork, or dairy--raised with human antibiotics in American restaurants. Such use has been banned in many European countries, but so far is only a policy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, where participation is voluntary.
2015 March 1: from Working In These Times, Jury Awards Guestworkers Over $14 Million in Landmark Human Trafficking, Forced Labor Case. The suit, brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, was " the first of a series of lawsuits that together constitute one of the largest human trafficking and forced labor cases in U.S. history."
Signal International, a marine construction company based in Mobile, Alabama, must pay damages to workers from India who were falsely promised permanent visas to work in the U.S. The visas were in reality only for temporary work following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The workers went deeply into debt to obtain the visas. The workers paid over $1000 a month for food and housing in unsanitary, overcrowded, noisy trailers ("man camps").
On a weekend in March 2007, local organizers contacted the Southern Poverty Law Center about the workers' plight. "...In the dawn hours of March 9, Signal seized the men it suspected of organizing, locked them in a trailer under guard, terminated their employment and told them they would be deported."
2015 February 19: from Truthout, Despite Claims of Progress, Labor and Environmental Violations Continue to Plague Apple.
Problems in 2013 that continued in 2014 included "violations of Chinese labor law and Apple's supplier code of conduct". Workers suffered from extreme--and illegal--forced overtime hours, underpayment of wages and benefits, extreme heat, safety hazards such as blocked fire exits, and "no opportunity for collective bargaining and meaningful address of worker concerns".
Contrary to Apple's claim that its suppliers are to blame for poor worker conditions, Apple has punished suppliers that have tried to improve conditions, such as Foxconn with a meager pay raise, by taking away substantial amounts of their business and giving it instead to suppliers such as Pegatron that minimize costs while breaking Chinese labor laws.
"2014 also saw continued problems in the mining operations that feed into Apple products. Apple celebrates its involvement in the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI), run by the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), but the EICC is an industry-operated body of only corporate members biased toward its clients." Environmental degredation, numerous mining accidents, and forced evictions are problems which Julian Kirby of London-based Friends of the Earth feels are not adequately addressed by the EICC and CFSI.
"Tmall.com, the B2C Internet shopping subsidiary of Alibaba Group, announced that it will cooperate with Danone and Nestle to launch direct sales and delivery of milk powder under six brands of the two groups, allowing Chinese consumers to enjoy the safe importation of milk powder products."
"Milk powder and milk supplies in China are a touchy subject, and currently it is illegal to bring more than a small amount of milk powder into mainland China via Hong Kong. Chinese consumers are also wary of buying domestic milk powder because of a rash of reports in recent years of tainted milk-based products from companies such as Mengniu and Yili." Other companies alleged to have problem milk products in recent years are Wyeth, Shandong Zibi Lvsan'er Dairy Company, Liaoning Tieling Wuzhou Food Company, Hebei Tangshan Leting County Kaida Cold Storage Plant, and Beingmate.
Fair Trade News: Fair World Project works to protect the strength and integrity of the term fair trade.
Special Report: Chocolate
2013: How to make sure your chocolate purchases do not support child slavery.
Special Report: Torture
There is hope!Please see the post on a January 2012 anti-torture resolution by the city of Chicago, and how other municipalities can do the same. If you do not see it at first, refresh the page by clicking the refresh button on your browser bar or pressing the f5 key.
Special Report: Fair Trade
2013 updatesummarizes changes in standards and controversy over increasing availability of products with the certification by making it easier to get certified vs. maintaining more rigorous standards. Fair World Project offers suggestions for resolving the conflict by making product labels more transparent about percentage of ingredients that are certified.