January 20, 2006

ThinkBuying: Boston Globe Slams Corporations Pushing Bad Food on Kids

In keeping with my series on ThinkBuying, I wanted to share with you this excellent post from the Sugar Shock Blog. 

Link: SUGAR SHOCK! Blog: Boston Globe Slams Big Food for Pushing Bad Food on Kids

Here's an excerpt from the Globe Article that will really make you think about the damage junk food and sugar are doing to our health. 

"TYPE 2 DIABETES is sweeping so rapidly through America we need not waste time giving children bicycles. Just roll them a wheelchair. Forget the basketballs and baseballs. Give them Braille flash cards. The next thing you know, iPods, Game Boys and Xboxes will come with glucose meters, beeping 'Sorry to interrupt your song or movie, but it will not continue until you use me.'"

Corporations will eventually have to realize that in addition to making money, they are citizens of this country and world.  As citizens, they must be responsible to a higher value system that just making money.  If they don't start to really get it soon, then social responsibility will have be legislated.  They know very well that the sugar and chemicals in our food is killing us slowly and are  primary factors in chronic inflammation, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and more. But they make so much money on it that they can't seem stop themselves from continuing to sell the junk!  They need external pressure to quit.   Just like the cigarette manufacturers needed it to stop advertising to kids. Heck half the reason I quit smoking was because of all the grief I got for it.  They are as addicted to the money as we are to the sugar & hydrogenated oils in the junk food they sell! 

They can say "parents have the right not to buy it"  "parents have to control their kids" and that's true.  But then, they MUST stop actively and purposefully UNDERMINING  PARENTS through their deceptive and manipulative marketing. Conversely, we need to stop using sugar as a reward for every good thing we do, or to celebrate.  Why must sugary cakes be at every birthday?  I don't know...I suppose sugar is no different from all drugs that make us feel good when we ingest them...and then later we pay the price. 

Anyway, it's great to see a newspaper taking on  big companies even though they put their advertising dollars at risk.  Not many news outlets are prepared to do that. 

Kicking Sugar Update
So, enjoy the column and check out the extensive program on kicking sugar. You can also listen to FREE replays at http://www.fasttrackkicksugar.com/

I haven't totally quit sugar yet - but I have dramatically reduced it.  The hardest part for me is giving up my morning coffee.  I used to use 3-4 sugars in a 15 oz mug.  And sometimes I'd have 2 or 3 mugs!!!  Thanks to Connie & Nancy Appleton's suggestion, this morning I used only one sugar in a much smaller 7 oz cup and it was tolerable.  After a week of 1 tsp, I'm going to go to half tsp for a week then 0.   If I can do that....I can do anything!!!!  I really loved my morning coffee - just like I used to love cigarettes...but I quit them..and I'll quit this, too!

All the best, Ariane

Link: SUGAR SHOCK! Blog: Boston Globe Slams Big Food for Pushing Bad Food on Kids.

January 07, 2006

ThinkBuying - Huh?

What is ThinkBuying? 

(I found this term at http://www.thinkbuying.com/ but I'm giving it my own meaning here.)

Many of us, including me, put a lot of effort in researching products before we buy.  I've always focused on getting the lowest price and the best quality and features for my money.  In the background, I've occasionally given some thought as to whether or not I'm buying from an ethical company, but how could you possibly know? Before the advent of the web, researching who you buy from was an extreme effort.  Not anymore! There are tons of websites to help you think before you buy.  (see the list at the end of this post)

I found these sites after watching a film called  "The Corporation" on Sundance this weekend. I was quite shaken up by how much I didn't know.  It really rocked my world.  It led me to look deeper into corporate ethics and what I could do to make a difference in influencing the impact huge corporations are having on our society, culture, values and even our personal lives. So from time to time, I'll be sharing some of my journey and learnings about the concept of ThinkBuying with you.

ThinkBuying may not seem to directly relate to organizing, but think about it.  Why do so many people today need help organizing?  From personal experience, I can tell you that much of the clutter I help people deal with is a direct result of out-of-control, impulse spending. Much of this spending is spurred on through extremely manipulative marketing designed to make us want things we don't need - purely to make a profit for the companies - not to help us.  They don't want us to really think before we buy.  Part of helping people prevent clutter is helping them learn to take back control of what they spend money on and what they choose to bring into their homes. So that is part of ThinkBuying. 

Another part of ThinkBuying is thinking about how socially responsible the companies we buy from are.  Do they really care if our children are harmed by their products? Or if they are destroying the environment?  I'm not advocating that everyone become a radical.  Corporations have done a lot of good in the world.  But the bigger they grow, and the more they market to children using amazingly devious tactics, and the more we start seeing schools and public art centers being named after corporate sponsors (e.g., the Garden State Arts Center is now the PNC Bank Arts Center), and the more corporations like Coke and McDonalds are fighting tooth and nail with school districts to have the right to take over school cafeterias, the more we have to start wondering: just how far will their desire to manipulate us go?  what will stop them?  What will the limits be?   

Two college students have already become walking billboards to pay for their college tuitions. Including getting tattoos with the name of the companies.   Will the corporations also dictate what they can study?  Others have paid for their weddings by turning them into ads / reality shows.  Babies are used in commercials now, how long before children themselves are leased out to become walking ads just so parents can afford to raise them and give them all the stuff corporations are selling? 

So, what I'm suggesting is not that you become a radical, but that we become more aware of how we are being manipulated and maybe that we take just a few minutes to think before we buy.

Wishing you nothing but the best,



Here's how to see "The Corporation" for yourself:

Related Interesting Material

Cosumer Education Websites

  • The OCA promotes food safety, organic farming and sustainable agriculture Great information to make informed food choices and understand how Genetic engineering, irradiation, hormones, etc. are used in our food supply.
  • The Social-Responsibility Index, or SRI is a rating of business character or citizenship. The higher the index the more likely we would want such a business to thrive within our community. This website is a great source to help you make conscious decisions.
  • If you haven't watched the film / documentary "The Corporation" yet, I strongly recommend investing 2 hours and 25 minutes to learn some stunning facts about the the history of how corporations came to be in the first place.
  • Univ of AZ report:  schools are a prime corporate advertising targets.  Learn what's being marketed to children in schools, what's being done to try to stop it, and the lengths corp's are going to fight parents & schools from banning junk food.
  • National coalition of health care professionals, educators, and parents seeking to limit direct marketing to children.
  • Links to Organizations Concerned about Social Responsibility and the Effects of Rampant Consumerism
  • This is a  "citizens' portal on brands and corporations". You can search for profiles on over 9,500 companies. Profiles list their social & environmental records
  • Features news, analysis and exposes about various corporations with records of environmental, labour, or social injustices.

December 28, 2005

How to Save the World The WalMart Dilemma

As an organizer who tries to help clients save money on organizing products, I face the Walmart dilemma from time to time. 

I personally won't shop at Wal-mart, but if a client chooses to, that's their decision.  I usually can find whatever is needed for the same price, maybe a few cents more, and sometimes even less than what Wal-mart sells it for.  I have tons of LNT 20% coupons, or I can get it used, free (through Freecycle) or at Target. 

I've written my piece on Wal-mart...but wanted to share this Canadian's view.  He has an excellent point about the real blame being on the way the Free Trade laws are structured.  However, It should be noted that Wal-mart expends a HUGE effort to influence Free Trade agreements that make it easier for them to import from China - even though China actually subsidizes businesses there so that they can export cheap goods to us. 

See: How to Save the World - The Wal-mart Dilemma.

All the best,


December 13, 2005

What if you bought NOTHING at Christmas? What Gifts Would You Give?

Have you ever thought Christmas has become way too commercialized? Have you ever wished you could just not participate in the frenzy the holidays have become?  Do you worry you might seem cheap to your friends and family?

Well, thanks to Dawn at www.frugalforlife.com I discovered a site that actually gives you amazing resources to get started decommercializing the holiday! They even have a Kit!  It's called www.buynothingchristmas.org This site is EXTRAORDINARY! They have coupons you print for services you can give. They even have a Buy Nothing Catalogue.

Here are 10 ideas of mine for gifts you can give without buying anything.  I'd love to hear any ideas you have!

1. Create a...

Continue reading "What if you bought NOTHING at Christmas? What Gifts Would You Give?" »

December 02, 2005

Humanitarian Gifts for the Holidays or Any Occasion

A really wonderful trend I'm seeing this year is the practice of giving humanitarian aid gifts this year instead of the usual gifts. Many of us who know people who have experienced great tragedies as a result of Katrina (and the many other disasters that have occured the last few years) are looking for ways to help. Using money that we normally spend on holiday gifts to donate to worthy causes is a great way to contribute and to experience the real joy of giving. Here are some ways you can give  Humanitarian gifts:

Alternative Gift Website (AGI) at www.altgifts.org 

They let you pick specific gifts from a catalog and send beautiful cards to notify your recipients of your gift.  Here are some example alternative gifts:

  • Give job training so impoverished women can earn better wages / USATrain and equip poverty-stricken women for a year-round, income-producing livelihood. More...
  • Rescue victims of forced prostitution / Southeast Asia Millions of trafficked women and girls worldwide are working as prostitutes against their will. Some were kidnapped, others were tricked or sold. Rescue, a safe place and healing aftercare can restore their lives. More... 
  • Give micro-loans for small businesses / Haiti, Ukraine Poor people in undeveloped countries have good loan repayment records. Give hardworking, enterprising people a chance to improve their livelihoods. More...

Habitat for Humanity's Holiday gift page

 Americare's Holiday Gift Site

Save the Children

For just a few dollars each month, you can give a child the gift of being a sponsor of a less fortunate child through "Save the Children." Your sponsorship can help a child eat a warm dinner, see a doctor, or even graduate from school, while also teaching your child the value of helping others.   Sponsor a Hungry Child.


Happy Holidays!



November 17, 2005

Is Wal-Mart Good for America?

Dawn over at www.frugalforlife.com posted an extremely thought-provoking post on Walmart and the new Wal-Mart Movie. Frontline also did a Wonderful show on "Is Wal-mart Good for America?"  Clear facts and figures about Walmarts business practices.  You can watch the full 60 minute program online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/walmart/view/   While you are at it, check some of their other shows like "The persuaders" about the advertising industry, and "The Secret History of Credit Cards"

Here's what I have to say on the subject of Walmart.

I have already seen several documentaries on Wal-Mart and agree with a lot of the points and comments on Dawn's post. I personally stopped shopping at WalMart years ago. And, we are fighting having them come to our town. Being 10 miles from New York City, we are not even close to rural.

Our town, and those surrounding us, have vibrant downtowns filled with unique shops. That's one of the things we love about living here. We aren't a carbon copy filled with chain stores and we want to keep it that way.

Wal-Mart does indeed lie and unethically maneuver the system in the pursuit of profit.  For example, they actually had a written policy that stated they wanted to keep wages within a limit so that people would qualify for medicaid rather than them having to pay for Health benefits.

They also said they would only buy American. Hah! They have killed more American businesses than they have helped. AND they buy a huge percentage of their stuff from Asia. Not only that, they use their buying power to force small businesses here to redesign their products to make them cheaper (and lower quality) or they won't carry their products.  In fact though, their strategy is to provide ridiculously low prices on endcap products to lure you in...and then most of their stuff is the same price you'd find at Kmart or Target.

Let's not even get started on how they use their power to censor artistic products like movies, music and books. I suppose we get what we deserve when we value low prices above all else. It's like when you hire a contractor just because they give you the lowest bid. You usually don't get quality. Or worse, you have to redo it.  The thing is low prices lead to low wages and eventually a lower standard of living.  For example, in ohio, massachusetts and vermont where factories (like Thomson electronics and Rubbermaid) were closed because they couldn't compete with China (Which most of Walmarts goods now come from China) A Walmart opens.  50 and 60 K per year jobs are now replaced with minimum wage jobs and rundown towns.

One last thing, I understand the argument that rural folks don't always have access to the product selection and low prices...but how did they survive before Wal-Mart? They had to be frugal, creative, simple and live with less stuff. Ironically, isn't that what a lot of us are trying to do?

Bringing mass consumerism to rural areas is not the solution. I don't mean to judge or offend individuals who do choose to shop at Wal-Mart. Having grown up on welfare myself, I know what it's like to be really poor.  I only hope to inspire people to think about it.

For really low prices, I think you can do better at Amazon.com or even e-bay.com, where they let everyday people sell their stuff to anyone, anywhere. It's like a big online flea market where you can get amazing deals. - Now that's democratic!

Okay, I'm off my soap box now. Have a great holiday And think about this...

What if you bought NOTHING at Christmas? What Gifts Would You Give? (Click to see 10 gift ideas that cost nothing or next to nothing...)

All the best,