Ignorance is bliss. And then I start reading about the long reach of corporations across the globe and their history of abusive labor practices. Without the watching eye of labor laws and unions which we take for granted in this country, workers in so-called developing nations work and live in inhumane conditions. Now I wonder how many of my clothes and shoes are made in sweatshops. Probably most of them.
And then there is the question of food. We now enjoy the availability of most fruits and vegetables regardless of whether they are in season because they come from all over the world. Do we know where our food comes from and the labor practices of the companies that produce them?
For example, Bananas are not grown in the United States and come primarily from Central America. For most of the 20th century, the banana business was vertically controlled by two giants: United Fruit Company and National Fruit Company, which later became Chiquita and Dole respectively. At one time United Fruit Company owned most of the land and transportation infrastructure in Central America.
To quote one source, United Fruit Company had a deep and long-lasting impact on the economic and political development of several Latin American countries. Critics often accused it of exploitative neocolonialism and described it as the archetypal example of the influence of a multinational corporation on the internal politics of the banana republics (a term coined by O. Henry).
I have heard many times over the years about how buying bananas from companies like Chiquita or Dole rewards those companies that exploit workers, not that that had ever stopped me from buying bananas. But the more I learn, the more conscientious I am trying to be about buying “green”. So I got excited when I saw some bananas at our local natural food chain, PCC. Here I can buy some bananas guilt-free. And I felt obliged to blog about it.
But before I could congratulate myself on finally going “green” on bananas, I decided to do some investigation before writing this post. It turns out that Chiquita is now highly regarded for its fair trade and labor practices. But there is also debate on this. How can we know the truth?
All of this has raised my consciousness about the source of all items that I consume. Do I consume responsibly? How do I know what brands to buy? Or at the very least, do I know which brands to avoid due to their persistence in exploitive practices? (Nike comes to mind.)
So I am now on the hunt for good resources to know who is naughty and who is nice. I still need to eat and clothe myself but I can make a difference to the health of our planet by the purchase choices I make. By refusing to buy products from companies that exploit workers and trash the environment, they will either be forced to change their practices or go out of business. (If only we could do this when it comes to buying gas.)
A step in the right direction is to stop making price the primary criteria for which brand I buy, but rather how “green” the supply chain is.
Here are some links:
Information is power. Since I desperately wish to educate myself further so I can make good choices, I encourage readers to comment back with additional resource suggestions.