Friday, December 19, 2008

7 Quick Takes

In imitation of Jen....

1. American Apparel -- All the generic items you could want, no obnoxious logos, all made in the USA, in Downtown LA. Avoid if you are offended by immigration reform or primary colors. Nice quality. I bought some shirts as a gift, there.

2. Papyrus -- I have previously been underwhelmed by the fact that 100% of their gift bags are made in China. However, not all their wrapping paper is made their. About 60% of the their wrapping paper is unlabeled, the rest is made in Switzerland, India, China, or the USA. I went for Switzerland.

3. Crate and Barrel -- More positive news from this store. Much more of their Glassware is made elsewhere since the last time I went there! The vast majority was made in Eastern Europe, with some Italian, and american pieces, with the occasional chinese martini glass. I'm warming up to them again. They are very good about labeling in store, too.

4. I found a perfect shampoo for problem scalps like mine at Lush. A++ to Rehab. Sadly, it is very pricey, compared to the rest of their shampoos. I still bought two bottles, it was that good. Don't be fooled by what they say that it is for "dry, damaged hair". Works fine for oily hair with damaged scalp. But given everything else irritates my hair, I deal. (some of their solid shampoo is good, too, but my favorite, Reincarnate, is discontinued).

5. My Red Oxx Amethyst Flying BoxCar came in the mail! It is built to survive the apocalypse, and is super roomy. It has metal latches instead of velcro, molded plastic zippers, a sturdy id tag, a comfy shoulder strap, and is a very nice color. I can fly carry-on only from now on, I think. It is also very light.

6.  Phaidon Wallpaper City guides are Made in China. Why are travel guides so ubiquitously printed in China? Am Sad.

7. Looking for ribbon, I found that most cloth or metallic ribbon was not made in china (usually Taiwan, but it varies). However, most curling ribbon is made in china. It might be one of those things like fake leather for shoes and books that just gets manufactured there (and seemingly nowhere else?). 

Monday, December 8, 2008

Bookshelves and Ikea

I purchased bookshelves on Saturday. From Rodney's in Central Square. They sell real pine bookshelves for not much more than say... Billy Bookshelves from Ikea, that are particle board and, although I cannot confirm this, I highly suspect they are made in China. I still have to go to ikea to investigate. 

Anyway, as a sort of price comparison, a Billy half-tall half-wide shelf costs 49$. Mine cost 65$. The half-tall, full-width one costs 69$ at ikea, but 79$ at Rodneys. No assembly required, too. And real wood. Considering the Billy shelves are flat-packed, they are basically slabs of wood cut to the right dimensions and some holes drilled in. If you like the assembly process, go to Home Depot, get some 2x10's and some screws (They cut wood for you there!) and a piece of plywood, and you get the same "materials" as a ikea shelf for a quarter of the price. And you save the gas all the way to Ikea (but you will lack swedish meatballs and lingonberry sauce). 

Before I slander Ikea too much, though, I'd like to note that Ikea does have some fine not made in china things. This bunk bed, made of pine, is one of the few bunk beds in the market not made in China--it is made in Finland. Also, these glasses  are not made in china, either, as I found out at a party this weekend (the glass contained wine, so my recollection of where they were made is a bit fuzzy).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Brand Post: Red Oxx Bags

Everything Made in The USA! Hurray! I think I'm buying my next bag from here instead of a Zuca Bag. Yes, It has no wheels, which I'm sad about. But the bags seem very light and spacious, and have a no questions asked lifetime guarantee. And most importantly, look good and come in a variety of colors. I love colors. Also, I'm not sure they are censoring themselves or not, but I did not see anything reviewed with less than 5/5 stars. That is amazing to me.  I'm thinking of getting a messenger bag to replace my dying purse and a carry-on week bag for traveling. We'll see. I'd like to see one in person first, but I don't know what stores carry it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Store Post: Petco

I have a cat. So I have to buy kitty litter, at least until I figure out how to do this. I wanted to switch to crystal only litter this week... I used to use it, but my cat was not *as* partial to it as clumping litter, so when he lived with other cats, it meant his litter box remained unused. However, since he is alone now, I figure I could switch back. However, every crystal-only litter in the store was made in china. Happily, all tidy cats clumping litter of all sorts of additives seemed to be made in the USA. I picked the small spaces one. Hooray! Cat has litter. But I might seriously consider this toilet training thing, at least once I fix the downstairs toilet...

Also, A lot of the "boxed" petco carpet covered cat jungle gyms were made in china. The unboxed ones tended to be made in the USA. Not sure why. 

All the electric water fountains I saw were made in China. Especially Drinkwell, but a few others, too. The Le Bistro Waterers and some other "inverted jug" waterers were not made in China, so that was a win. I did not buy an automatic feeder because of the fatness of my cat. 

I almost bought some sort of miracle shedding tool, but it was made in china. I think it was called the "furminator" or something.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Store Post: CVS

No, I'm not going to analyze every last thing in CVS. Just a couple of things. Like Oral-B satin tape floss is made in Ireland. Colgate total Advanced Paste is not made in china (but I can't find the box, don't know where it is made). Magic Erasers both original and Extra Strength are made in Germany. Woolite Dry Cleaner's Secret are made in the Usa. As is Tide powder original formula. Clear blue Fertility Monitor Test sticks (Useful for the Marquette Model) are made in the UK (for now). Instead Softcups Menstrual Cups are made in Canada (I had to call, though). Gillette Venus Blade Cartridges are made in the USA, but the razor handles  are made in China (so your refills are ok, not the handles). 

Living Without Made in China tells me Febreeze is made in the USA.

Swiffer Duster Refills are made in China.

So you can find good things at CVS, if you are willing to look at labels. 


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Store Post: Lush

I love Lush. Toiletries can be a tricky thing to get not made in China. I like this store for other reasons, too, though. I first bought their soap when I was in Berlin in January 2004, and their only stores in the US were in California. They screwed up ringing up my credit card and gave me two sample soaps, it was great.  I've loved them ever since. The soap I bought lasted me a long, long time, and I don't think I've ever been truly disappointed with something I bought there. I've even converted some people to the store. 

Many of their products are made in store, with the name of the person who made it. Some of their more complicated products are made in their main facility in Vancouver, Canada. And many of their products are amazing. They had a product -- sadly currently discontinued -- that did wonders for my chronic dandruff. Got rid of it like nothing else. Since that product was discontinued, I changed to another shampoo of theirs, Rehab, that also did wonders for my scalp and I have healthy hair again -- within two washes. Their soaps all smell wonderful. They also have lots of "packaging free" products, like bar shampoos, bar body butters, deodorants, etc. 

Their products are a bit on the pricey side, especially for soap. However, although their shampoo is more pricey, I found it nicer for my hair, and I really only need to use a tiny bit to do the same task. Very efficient. Same with body butter bars and solid shampoos. 

Brand Post: Zuca Bags

This is a lesson on not getting attached to products before checking where they are made. Or that expensive things, nice things, well made products are also made in China. Customer service tells me their products are made by a "friend" they have in China. Well then. Here is to money saved. 

I still love the Zuca bags. They have many technical innovations which seem awesome. Sadly, I will not be purchasing one for an upcoming trip. 

I promise to have more cheerful posts one of these days, posting things that are *not* actually made in China. 

Brand Post: SimpleHuman

Simplehuman is a great company -- they make the prettiest trash cans and recycling cans ever. Sadly, a random assortment of their products is made in China. Which half? Who knows? Nothing is labeled or indicated anywhere on their website to indicate where their products are made. 

Customer Service reveals half their products are made in China and half in Taiwan. Toss-up as to which half is which. You need to ask for products individually -- by color.  This gorgeous trash can is made in Taiwan. I got myself one of those! Sadly, this pretty thing is made in China. Lose!

Travel guides

I love traveling. Sometimes alone and preferably without a tour guide. Which means I need tour books or travel guides. Now, there is this problem with travel guides. You cannot return them. So you need to look like a crazy person at the bookstore flipping through them. 

Here are things I know for sure:

Lonely Planet Kyoto, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Bahamas are printed in China. I was going to make the educated guess that *all* lonely planet guides were printed in China, but my Lonely Planet London was printed in Singapore. Now, That is the only volume I bought outside of the US. The publishing house might vary by country. So, check the inside cover?

Rough Guide Montreal and Japan are made in China. I have seen other Rough guides that were not, however. Rough guide buyers beware! The printing information is in an awkward location: between the end of the book and the maps and index. It took me a couple of tries to discover this.

Knopf Montreal Mapguide is not made in China. Hooray!

The Berlin InsideOut compass guide -- this most awesome thing, comes with a compass and a pen -- is produced in China. But it only says so in the price sticker. Everything else would indicate it was made in the UK. But no. Sad. A mapbook with a compass is pretty much the most useful thing ever made. 

If I travel more, I'll keep you updated. I seem to be out of luck in travel guides. 

On gifts

Being that the holiday season is coming up, I figured I'd say something on gifts. Gifts are great things! It allows us to get stuff from China guilt-free (just as long as you don't compile a wish list). Yay! Until your potential gift-givers find out you don't buy things from China. Then they stop buying you things made there. If you explain your reasoning to them, you might even *gasp* convert them to your way of thinking. There goes those great plans for getting nice things from China. See what happens when people agree with you?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Store Post: Crate and Barrel

So, Crate and Barrel has long been one of my favorite stores. Upscale, but not too upscale, found in every mall, very simple stylings and fantastic cookware implements. I have these sliding measuring spoon things from them which I adore to pieces. 

Sadly, I need to be very careful when buying from there from now on, since a good deal of their inventory is made in China. Be specially wary of their glassware. 

However, it is not all a loss. Their sheets, for example. They have Marimekko sheets. They are designed in Finland, and at least some of the designs are made in Pakistan. I bought some of those after asking customer service about it. Their labeling online is not good (the dratted imported tag), but their customer service will have an answer (within a couple of days), and their products in the physical store are well labeled. 

So this is a mixed review of Crate and Barrel. I'll keep patronizing there for now, with cautious optimism. 

A note when talking to customer service. I try not to be confrontational. I never ask: is this made in China? I ask: where is this made? I feel that is more neutral. 

Good things and Bad things

I always assumed that not buying things from China would make me spend more money. In fact, this is not quite true. In general, it has been a positive experiment, but it has its positives and negatives.

For example, I buy less things. I'm an impulsive shopper. But it is a lot harder to be impulsive as a shopper if you have a restriction on what you can buy. I check labels now, and if it is made in china, it is as if it is not for sale. So it cuts down a lot on impulsive purchases. Normally, if it is not something I need, I don't go searching for an alternate version of the product that is made outside of China. So in many respects I save money even if some of the things I buy are more expensive.

That said, just because it is expensive, doesn't mean it is not made in China. Lots of nice things are made in China. So you save in buying luxury items sometimes, too. Chronic offenders are Crate and Barrel and BCBG Max Azria. Sometimes you are better off going to Target or H&M

It also makes me less shy. When shopping in person, it is easy(ier) to check labels. Online, no so much. You start dreading the "imported" tag on online purchases. Imported from where? It never says. You email customer service. They take a while to reply. You call customer service. You need to ask for each product individually. It makes you eager to patronize your local stores and buy locally -- which is good for the environment to boot. 

There is a trick to getting things you want that are of dubious origin--buy used or refurbished. Someone else bought it from China, it outlived its usefulness, and now, you can rescue it from going to a landfill with all those other things made from China and buy it yourself. Refurbished products are a bit trickier, since sometimes they are sent back to the factory in China to be refurbished. Sometimes they are not. I'm still unclear how I feel about this, but it has been my only avenue for getting electronics at this point.

It is not without bad things, though. There are things you really, really want. Sometimes you do cave in, and you feel bad about it. Sometimes you don't, and you still feel bad about it. Sometimes things are labeled in such a way that there is no way to find out until you open the product, remove price stickers, or otherwise make you liable for the product. These things happen. Don't beat yourself up over it.

A difficult thing is books. Publishers are not consistent, travel guides are not returnable, the labeling is often on page 34 and sometimes books are covered in vinyl wrap. And I love books. This is a new problem I'm starting to tackle for myself. 

Start.

I've been haphazardly boycotting Chinese (PRC) products since January 2008, with mixed success. I'm getting better. My reasons are miscellaneous, and at some point I might elaborate on them, but not right now. The purpose of this blog is not to elaborate on the reasons one might want to boycott China in particular, but to provide a resource for those who do want to--what to look for, what products and stores are safe, and how to deal with unusual situations.  It is also meant to discuss the pitfalls and joys one encounters in trying to live around a personal boycott. 

I'm a firm believer in capitalism, and as such, I register that my dollar is my vote, and I'm trying to live in a way consistent to that. If nothing else, it is an interesting exercise.