Saturday, July 11, 2015

Say No to Made in China Challenge...

Hello again. just a little pre-warning that this is going to be one of my ranty posts. If you don't like ranty posts, look away. If you do, strap yourself in as its going to be a wild ride.

A few years ago I started my research for a project for my professional practice in communication. It centered around mass produced goods and their effect on how we consume and communicate. Needless to say, after a a month or so of putting the project together - 'Buy one Less', it effectively did my head in. The more I researched about the effects of cheap mass produced goods coming out of China the more scared it made me, but the more conscious it made me as well.

There are so many factors and angles to take into account with the act of purchasing a cheap mass produced product from China. Environmental, Human Rights, Political, Ethical and the list goes on.

I will try to tackle a few points here, but it is essentially only a summary.

At the moment here in Australia a news story has emerged. Our government tried to keep it under the radar, but the fact that its has been approved for a Chinese owned Coal mine the size of greater Sydney to be dug in one of our most productive food farming regions is criminal. The track record for Chinese owned enterprises is not a good one. Look at all the destruction in their own country, what they are doing in regions of South America and now they are being given a green light to do it here. Now, before you think, oh, it will be ok, they need to abide by our laws and regulations, think again. They don't. It will be a closed unit Chinese owned and run enterprise with very little involvement from Australia or our governing body. You know that 'free trade agreement' Tony Abbot signed, we have essentially signed away our rights on this one for cheap $2 t-shirts. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Currently we are facing a very scary prospect. The more allowed so called 'investment' from China is putting us in a very precarious position as we are a small country population wise but we are rich resources wise. But with that, they are resources that are damaging to the environment in the wrong hands. Mining coal and the subsequent burning of it for energy is not a long term viable energy option. We all know why, so I don't need to outline it here.

We are also a country that can produce good clean food. We should not be selling that off shore and importing cheap tainted food from other countries in return. I can not get my head around why we are shipping in tonnes of Chinese grown frozen veg to sell here when we are shipping tonnes of our own stuff over there....its 'cheap' If I hear 'Cheap Cheap' one more time I swear I will punch something.
I do not want to eat food that has come from environments with lesser checks, balances and safety standards that the ones here. I just can't see how its allowed. I do not want to eat food with high levels of heavy metals that is grown in contaminated ground water. I don't want to eat food that will give me scary illnesses like Hepatitis. So why is all of this allowed.

I can rant like this for ages and scratch my head and feel helpless and confused, but I'm not.
A while ago I started to check where things were coming from. One time when I was in the USA a few years back there was a movement in towns to get rid of all the Chinese made product in the residents homes. The USA has been pushing back on China for a few years now, Hillary Clinton said it well last week in one of her addresses - “Make no mistake – they know they’re in a competition, and they’re going to do everything they can to win it...”.As I have ranted about before, how you can now get Made In The USA products easily now that are affordable.

So, I started to look at where things were coming from in my home and how I could minimise giving my hard earned money to companies that manufacture on the cheap in China and to stop giving support to Chinese enterprises and to do a better job of buying local. I did a bit of an audit and realized that we were already doing pretty well. All our furniture is either vintage or made here in Australia by small businesses. Our stove, range hood, dishwasher, washing machine and vac are European made, all bought on sale. Where we fall down is the TV, Computer, Microwave and coffee machine. So, our plan is to use them til they die. We have no need to upgrade, they work and do their job.
Our heating and cooling is Australia made, we have a wood fired combustion heater that heats our whole house and our air con unit that came with the house when we bought it is made here.

So the big things in our home are pretty much sorted. The smaller things have been looked at too. Linens is a big one where you can get caught out. My towels were given to me on my 21st birthday by my mum and they are the good old Sheridan ones made in Australia. And because she gave me so many I still have and use them today, and they are great. I also have some Turkish made cotton towels that are lovely too, again bought on sale. Sheets etc, all the Chinese made stuff has been given to the op-shop. I now only have European or Indian made cotton bedding or vintage, love my op shop found Actil Aussie cotton sheets. Our doona is an Australian made wool one. We use cotton blankets from Turkey in summer. Turkish made linen is great. They are specialists in manchester production and supply most of Europe.  Our mattress is from a local factory that makes here. Pillows are from them too. Made locally, but can't be sure where the materials are made.

So after going through the linen press and bathroom, there is the kitchen. I emptied a load of stuff out that had accumulated over the years from living in many places. We now have what we need. Some is made in China, but it is used everyday. When it breaks, I will replace it with something that is a better choice.

Clothes. This was a bit easier than I thought. I don't own a lot of clothes. I am such a one trick pony when it comes to dressing. I wear what suits and i'm not really that into whats in fashion. I wear what I like. And when you break it down I have a load of striped t-shirts, denim shirts, jeans and nice tailoring. I also make a lot of my own clothes and buy when I travel. I don't go shopping anymore. It has been a long time since I went to a shopping center.
I wear one brand of jeans and have done for years as they fit. I'm short so finding jeans I can buy off the shelf in the right length are a godsend. They manufacture in Italy and India. Tick, no China. They are considered a bit pricey and have been criticized at times for wearing expensive jeans but I buy one pair every 2 years or so as they wear really well and are very good quality. My $200 pair of jeans will out last 4 pairs of cheaper ones. So in the end, I am ahead. I also pick up second hand ones too. My other trick is to dye my faded dark denim jeans black then I have my black jeans.

I have a few tailored jackets and nice coats that I have saved up for and 'invested' in. I know, investment clothing is a bit of a misnomer, but if you buy the right things they serve you really well. Origin, Italy and the USA. I remember my first big clothes purchase, It was when I was at uni and I waited tables for survival. I bought a Katherine Hamnett denim jacket. It was a great fit and cut and I always felt a million dollars when I wore it. It was a dark dyed navy blue with a short back and long front. I said to myself at the time I bought it, If I give myself a dollar every time I wear this I'll pay myself back in no-time. And it did. That amazing smart jacket took me every where. And I stupidly left it behind at a cafe in Paris and it was lost forever.

I think I have that type of wardrobe that editors tout, the 12 things every wardrobe needs. I have my black tailored smart jacket, a leather jacket, a trench coat, a few nice shirts, jeans that fit well in dark denim, striped tees, a hat, a pair of black stillettoes, cobbled boots and a go to black dress.  I think I could easily do the 30/30 challenge. Only 30 items of clothing for 30 days.

I have passed on all my clothing company freebies and samples to the op shop and things that no longer fit. I listed on e-bay all the other things and sold them. What I have now is a great functional array of clothes that I like, they fit and except for one or two things I have gotten rid of made in China out of my wardrobe. And those things are worn and used and are of good quality. And I saved money too. Why, I don't buy things unless I actually need them. And you really don't need much. I also say to myself, can I make it, and that is usually a yes.

The hounds. Their beds are from a cut up queen size futon that was made in Melbourne in the 90s that we used as a spare bed. I made their blankies from left over yarn I had. I make their coats. Snacks and food are from Aussie made and owned companies. Black Hawk and Savour Life. Leads, made in Australia. They are sorted.

General items, shampoo, soaps, cleaning products, laundry products, again, locally made and Australian owned. And not expensive either.

I have gotten to the point now where I check labels. If its not Aussie or from a supply chain outside of China it does not get bought unless its my only option. It is really easy to do now. And, its saved us money. So when people say oh its more expensive etc in the end its not. Better quality things last longer so you are not replacing them as often. More quality and costly things your look after them better as you have a different connection to them. If its cheap you tend to shrug your shoulders and go, oh well it was cheap. If you actually consiously buy something thats more expensive you will have it for longer and you will look after it more, or make and effort to sell it when you no longer have a need for it.

Clothing companies that sell the cheap stuff bank on this mentality that you won't return a cheap item if its faulty or losses shape etc after one wash as the average consumer will just go, who cares it was cheap. So they engineer into their product a 3 wash use by on the garments. So when it is saggy you go and buy another $15 dollar garment that you will wear a few times then chuck. Don't get suckered in.
So in that time of say 4 cheap $15 t-shirts you could have had one really nice one that lasts made from a nicer fabric with a better cut and fit for $60. Less resources, less waste. Lasts longer, washes and keeps color and shape for longer. I just hope we can educate our next generation that cheap is not good. Because cheap has hidden catches. And one of them is a future that is loaded with environmental destruction, carcionegenic chemicals in food and clothing and untenable deals with countries that are globally irresponsible.

So, i've become that annoying consumer that will ask - do you have anything that's not made in China? when I have to go to one of the Mass Mega warehouse type places as I feel I have been not given any other option these days. And the answer is usually no. So I walk and I try to find some other alternative. Or I will try and find an independent retailer, it doesn't hurt as much to give them my money. But it sucks. Even buying something simple like sticky tape is a challenge. So I ask, can you please find me a product that's not made in China? If we don't ask or don't try for change its never going to happen.

We need to send a message to the companies that manufacture in China that we no longer want this stuff and can you offer alternatives, we need to say, hey Australian government, we don't want Chinese investment and Chinese government owned enterprises operating in our back yard. We also don't think the Free Trade Agreement was really in our best interests for the long term as it will strip even more industries from our market place as competition against even cheaper product will kill off any or all small enterprises and give even less choice, and the only choices being from large corporations.

So, can you do the 'Say No to Made in China Challenge'?
Can you swap, sell, gumtree the things you on longer want or need. Can you divert decisions to buy things to better options?

Need any tips to get started? Got a tip to share?

Lets all have a crack.
Lets discuss.


I'm not saying don't buy it, but if you do, make sure you use it. If its clothing go for a quality option. There are plenty of things made in China that are of good quality, just avoid the cheap cheap stuff. If its the options available go for the best you can. Check the seams, are they stitched well, is the fabric a good weight is it a quality fabric. If you go for the better option that will last longer, it will slow down consumption. If you are going to buy, make sure you use it and wear it. And wear and use it more than once. Buy good quality basics, they might be a few dollars more each, but they will last longer and you will use them. 'Buy one less' ask your self do you need it? Will I wear it? Will I use it? Can I dispose of it in a way that's environmentally friendly? I have a made in China feather puffer vest. I wear it in winter nearly every day. Its my goto on a cold day and when walking the dogs. I could not find one that was not made in China so I bought the best one I could find, purchased on sale from a store that is Australian business and I will wear it till it dies. Its good quality and should last me many years of solid wear.

Crap is crap.
You don't need crap in your life.

Supply. At times if you can get around direct supply thats a good thing. What do I mean by direct and indirect supply. Direct supply is where an order is placed and goods are made and shipped out, a request for manufacturing. Indirect is where there are goods left over or remainders. If you can purchase from remainder you are not adding to another order for goods to be made and shipped as you are purchasing from left overs or surplus over orders. It slows down things a bit as no new stock is made. Try builders surplus yards, overstock centers, auctions, Job lotters, Second hand goods etc.

Supply Chain...have a look where things go, come from etc. Often if might be made here, but does the money stay here? It could be an Australian made item but is it an Australian company? Look for Australian made and owned if possible first. A lot of household products/grocery items are made here but are not Australian owned companies but large multinationals. Try IGA supermarkets for a wider selection of Australian made and owned options, Local grocers and local markets.

Is the product assembled here from imported items or just packaged here from imported items. This occurs with a lot of frozen goods. Check your labels. Imported frozen veg is usually from China.

Made in Australia clothing can still be made from Chinese fabrics. Companies that make here ethically can be found via Ethical Clothing Australia

Or better yet, make it yourself. Plenty of amazing patterns available these days for home sewing. Try for a list of pattern companies for mens, womens and kids patterns.

Fabrics - go to job lotters - These are the fabric stores that sell the left over fabrics or surplus from manufacturing. They are not placing orders to manufacture so it's a slightly better option. There are many very good independent fabric stores that sell top quality fabrics that are not from China. Try online for independent designers and printers. Buy vintage from businesses like mine, or get lucky at a market or auction or via de-stash sites. Only buy what you need, use what you buy. Gift and trade. Fabric is amazing how it has so many lives. There is plenty out there that you don't need to feed the manufacturing machine in China. If you are after new, opt for Japanese, Korean or American made craft and quilt fabrics. They are better quality too and use less nasty chemicals as their industries are regulated.

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