Dr Suess Wouldn’t Shop At Walmart

A brand new Walmart Super Centre opened in our area the other day.  We walked around it to see what it was like.  Where else can you buy your broccoli, your fishing gear, your lingerie, and your shampoo all in the same store?  And prices?  Unbelieveable!  You can buy an oscillating fan for $18.88!  Twenty years ago you could never buy an oscillating fan for $18.88.  Who cares what the people making it were paid, what a bargain!  Convenience and thriftiness in one massive cement block. 

That night my 2 year old daughter picked out The Lorax to read for her bedtime story.  Reading it, I began to see some strong similarities.  The Lorax was first published in 1971 but I truly believe Dr. Suess predicted the future.  Walmart goes hand in hand with The Thneeds “which everyone, everyone, EVERYONE needs”. 

“The Lorax said, ‘Sir!  You are crazy with greed.  There is no one on earth who would buy that fool Thneed!’  … I laughed at the Lorax, ‘You poor stupid guy!  You never can tell what some people will buy.’”

The Lorax (Classic Seuss)I like to think that people just don’t know the truth about how Walmart runs, rather than not caring.  I am hoping that people who shop there are unaware of how Walmart controls the Chinese markets and what wages their employees receive.    Or do people really understand what is going on and just choose to ignore it so they can save money and time?  I know I was in the dark about it. I didn’t read much about it, I didn’t try understand it, and I shopped where it was cheapest.  That way, I didn’t need to feel guilty.  That way, I didn’t know I was harming my national economy while at the same time contributing to the monopolization of the Chinese market and the pittance they could afford to pay their employees.  So please take a moment to read this.  At least you will be informed.

Walmart Creates Jobs?

“I rushed ‘cross the room, and in no time at all, built a radio-phone.  I put in a quick call.  I called all my brothers and uncles and aunts and I said, “listen here!  Here’s a wonderful chance for the whole Once-ler Family to get mighty rich!”

Yes, at first, Walmart creates jobs from the construction of this massive building to the employees in the store.  Right at the epicentre, Walmart creates jobs.  But move away from Walmart, and the job loss begins.  People who used to shop at the local grocery store or the local clothing store are now shopping at Walmart.  These businesses lose money and lay off employees.  An article called “The Price Of Walmart Coming To Town” explains:

Wal-Mart sells things people already buy, and typically locally. Things like bread, shampoo and rakes. When Wal-Mart opens, consumers merely shift their dollars; they don’t spend additional money.
“You don’t say, ‘Honey, we can buy our dog food for 20% cheaper at Wal-Mart, let’s get another dog,’” said Charles Fishman, author of “The Wal-Mart Effect.”
Because the prices are so low, less salesmen are needed to sell the products than in other stores, and jobs are lost. 


A study led by David Neumark, an economist at the University of California, Irvine, counted a net loss of 150 jobs after a Wal-Mart opened. Wal-Mart didn’t create jobs; it destroyed them. For every person who got a job at Wal-Mart, 1.4 other retail workers lost theirs.

Walmart Employees Shop Locally?

“So what?”  you say?  At least the people are employed?  Look at it this way.  Which owners are going to profit most and put that money back into our local economy?  Walmart?  I don’t think so.  Forbes magazine places the worth of the family at greater than $100 billion.  They are making literally tons of money and will not be spending it in your town.  The owner of the local grocery store, on the other hand, will.  Shut him down and he won’t.  The majority of the money will leave the country and benefit us not at all.  Sure, the employees will spend their money here.  But they would if they worked anywhere else, too.  They are making a pittance compared to the amount of money leaving Canada. 

Where do you work?  The majority of people in Canada are supported by the local economy.  By shopping at Walmart you are sending your hard-earned money out of the country.  If you shop at stores owned by locals your money will cycle around in the community and be earned back.  You buy from a local business, they buy from your business, or from the business you work for.  If they don’t, then you lose money.  If you don’t, then they lose money.

Walmart Purchases From North American Suppliers?

Walmart is the world’s largest retailer, and the world’s largest company.  They have so much weight, they can tell their manufacturers what price they will pay for their products.  They sell things so cheaply they have to outsource their products to countries such as China because labour is so cheap there.  Countless jobs are lost locally because businesses who once supplied these items to consumers cannot compete with a Chinese market that doesn’t have a minimum wage for its employees.  Charles Fishman, in The Walmart You Don’t Know, says:

Steve Dobbins has been bearing the brunt of that switch. He’s president and CEO of Carolina Mills, a 75-year-old North Carolina company that supplies thread, yarn, and textile finishing to apparel makers–half of which supply Wal-Mart. Carolina Mills grew steadily until 2000. But in the past three years, as its customers have gone either overseas or out of business, it has shrunk from 17 factories to 7, and from 2,600 employees to 1,200. Dobbins’s customers have begun to face imported clothing sold so cheaply to Wal-Mart that they could not compete even if they paid their workers nothing…


Sure, it’s held inflation down, and it’s great to have bargains,” says Dobbins. “But you can’t buy anything if you’re not employed. We are shopping ourselves out of jobs.”

 
Walmart carries brandname items that are created especially for Walmart… at a fraction of the cost.  Levi’s jeans, Huffy Bikes Rubbermaid, and many more make a poorer quality item with their brand name
on it so that Walmart can buy and sell it cheaply.  In order to produce these items cheap enough, these businesses are forced to outsource their labour.  This is how some businesses try and compete in a Walmart-driven market.  The purchaser ends up with a poorer quality item, and the company providing the item sells less of their higher quality items, resulting in losses for everyone.  Huffy Bikes used to be made in the USA.  After they signed a contract with Walmart for a cheaper version of their original product, they were forced to outsource labour on all of their bicycles to be able to survive.

“I meant no harm, I most truly did not.  But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.  I biggered my factory.  I biggered my roads.  I biggered my wagons.  I biggered the loads of the Thneeds I shipped out.  I was shipping them forth to the South!  To the East! To the West! To the North! I went right on biggering … selling more Thneeds.  And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.”

Walmart Provides Jobs to Poor Chinese Labourers?

Walmart is one of China’s largest export markets.  More than 80% of Walmart’s imports are from China. In a nation where there are millions of disposable workers, and a high unemployment rate, employees are forced to work under poor conditions and make a very low income.  Walmart demands a price, and because they are so powerful, Chinese manufacturers are desperate enough to accept the price, or lose out to a competitor.  They then cannot afford to pay their staff much, or provide a decent working environment.  An article in the Washington Post called “Chinese Workers Pay For Walmart’s Low Prices” describes a factory:

SHENZHEN, China — Inside the factory, amid clattering machinery and clouds of sawdust, men without earplugs or protective goggles feed wood into screaming electric saws, making cabinets for stereo speakers. Women hunch over worktables, many hands bandaged and few covered by gloves, pressing transistors into circuit boards.

Most of the 2,100 workers here are poor migrants from the countryside who have come to this industrial hub in southern China for jobs that pay about $120 a month. A sign on the wall reminds them of their expendability in a nation with hundreds of millions of surplus workers: “If you don’t work hard today, tomorrow you’ll have to try hard to look for a job.”

“But business is business and business must grow, regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.”

Consider also the environmental impact Walmart’s massive importation has.  The fuel that is burned bringing us our over-seas goods.  The natural resources that are destroyed or damaged by Chinese companies eager to meet Walmart’s demands in a country where environmental safety is not on par with our own.  The safety of the materials used to make these products, both for the Chinese employees and the North American purchasers.  And even your fuel burned when driving to displaced Walmarts as opposed to local shops.
“And at that very moment, we heard a loud whack!  From outside in the fields came a sickening smack of an axe on a tree.  Then we heard the tree fall.  The very last truffula tree of them all!”

I ask you again, after having read this article, will you still buy from Walmart?  You are no longer in the dark about what happens when you shop at Walmart.  How much do you value a good deal?  What price are you willing to pay in the future for what you save now?  What future are you supplying your child with by purchasing gifts for him today from Walmart?  Think carefully when you weigh convenience and savings over shopping locally.  Think for the next generation.  And act now.

“You’re in charge of the last of the truffula seeds.  And truffula trees are what everyone needs.  Plant a new truffula.  Treat it with care.  Give it clean water.  And feed it fresh air.  Grow a forest.  Protect it from axes that hack.  Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.”

This post has been linked to Common Sense Homesteading: Living Well Blog Hop, and Attainable Sustainable’s Patchwork Living Blog Hop. 

Kick Osteoporosis in the Butt: Non-Dairy Calcium-Rich Food

Milk is for calves, not people.  I’ve heard this often and until recently have always shoved it to the back corner of my brain.  I am a female in my mid 30s, have nursed 3 children, and could potentially be well on my way to osteoporosis.  Now is as good a time as any to start including more calcium-rich food in my diet.   I was raised drinking cows milk for the calcium in it.  There is proof though, that drinking milk is not the best way to get calcium from your diet.  It might, in fact, actually hinder calcium absorption because the protein found in animal products can actually interfere with calcium absorption.  So just what I need… another diet issue to worry over!  Canada’s Food Guide recommends drinking 2 cups of milk a day.  But on the other hand, dairy products may hinder calcium absorption.  So, what to do?   My family drinks organic milk (yes, for the calcium) and only now am I starting to wonder how important milk really is. 

There are lots of ways to get non-dairy calcium from our daily diet.  The national recommendation for daily calcium is 1000 mg/day for someone my age.  Some studies suggest that we need less calcium if we eat less dairy products since we absorb more of the calcium.  Either way, it doesn’t hurt us to boost our intake of non-dairy, calcium-rich food.  Here is a list of non-dairy foods that are high in calcium.  I am including only whole foods, nothing that is enriched with calcium, and no supplements.  The amounts listed below are based on 100g portion, unless otherwise stated. 

 

Nuts

Nuts are a a nutritious and delicious way to get calcium in your diet.  Nut butter is also good.  A handful of almonds for a snack gives you a calcium and a protein boost.
  • almonds (23 nuts=75 mg)
  • brazil nuts (12 nuts=90mg)
Greens
Leafy Greens are known for their high calcium content.  Be careful though, the oxalate that is in, among other things, spinach and chard, binds with the calcium and renders it less absorbable, and anything else eaten at the same time.  The following do not contain oxalate.
 
  • broccoli (1 cup= 74 mg)
  • bok choy (1 cup= 158mg)
  • collard greens (1 cup=357mg)
 
Beans
Beans are high in calcium.  Add them to soup, salads, or serve as a side dish.  Don’t forget that chick peas are beans too!  Mmmm… hummus…
  • white beans (1 cup = 175 mg)
  • chick peas (1 cup = 74 mg)
 
Seeds
Many seeds are very high in calcium.  Sesame seeds are the highest.  Tahini, sesame seed butter, is also a good source. 
 
  • Sesame Seeds (1/4 cup = 245 mg)
  • Hemp hearts (74 mg)
  • Chia seeds (470 mg)  Chia seeds are not as well known but are very high in calcium and have become a new “super food” because of their many health benefits. 
 
Spices and Herbs 
Surprisingly, herbs are very high in calcium, with savoury being the highest.  Sprinkle on your herbs! 
  • savoury (2132 mg)
  • dill, basil, marjoram, thyme, oregano, poppy seed, mint, celery seed, sage, parsley and rosemary.
 
Grains
Quinoa, another “superfood” is also very high in protein.  And check out oatmeal!  Granola with nuts, fruit and seeds sounds like a tasty calcium-rich meal!
  • quinoa (1 cup cooked=60-100 mg)   
  • Oatmeal (1 cup cooked= 100-150 mg)
Fish 
Don’t forget your fish!  Most include the bones though, and so they pretty much have to be canned.  Watch for companies switching over to BPA-free cans.  For more on avoiding BPA-lined cans check out our post: Ways To Reduce BPA Levels In Our Diet
 
  • canned sardines (with bone, 380mg)
  • canned salmon (with bone, 277mg)
  • caviar (275mg)
 
Fruit 
Fruit, especially dried fruit since it is more concentrated, can contain a reasonably high amount of calcium.  Chop them up on your cereal!
  • figs(4= 100g)
  • papaya (73mg)
  • oranges (53mg)
  • dates (64 mg)
  • kiwi (34 mg)
 
Other  
Molasses is very high in calcium.  Use molasses as a partial replacement for sweeteners in cookies, muffins, bread and more. 
 
  • Black strap molasses (1 Tbsp = 172 mg)
So go ahead and forget about the dairy/calcium issue.  We have more important things to worry about than that.  Don’t go overboard with your dairy, and increase some of these calcium-rich foods in your daily diet.  If your child hates milk, focus more on non-dairy, calcium-rich foods.  We don’t have to drink our calcium.  We can eat it!  And watch for upcoming posts on recipes that are naturally loaded with calcium.

Going Green is about giving (and it’s not what you think)

You might be surprised by the actual meaning of my post.  Sure, you are giving back to the environment and to the future generations by going green, but what I mean here, is that by switching to all natural products, you are giving up “perfection” as you may have seen it, and accepting a natural alternative.  Now I know I may get slammed for saying that going green isn’t perfection.  But I will give you an example.
Until about a year and a half ago I used Biolage shampoo, Biotherm moisturizers and cleansers, and any pretty smelling, chemical-laden lotion I could get my hands on.  I admit I liked the “bio” part of the title of the first two, even though the only thing natural about these products were maybe a touch of aloe in them.  They worked very well.  They smelled fantastic.  And they were loaded with chemicals I certainly wouldn’t drink, but was naively slathering on my body.  It’s for sale, isn’t it?  It has green leaves on the packaging.  It must be safe.  And the best part:  it worked wonderfully!  So did my detergents, household cleaners, paper towels, plastic kitchenware and more. 

When I started searching for ALL natural products (and lets stick with my shampoo example) I tried a lot of different ones.  Many didn’t seem to work well.  Some left my hair feeling weighted down.  Some didn’t create any lather.  And to my disappointment, none compared to Biolage.  But that didn’t stop me.  I kept looking around and eventually found the one I am using now, by Green Beaver, a Canadian company that prides themselves in using many organic and local ingredients.  This shampoo works the best for my hair.  It doesn’t keep it as “fresh” for as long though.  But it works the best, and I am “giving” a bit by using it.  I am giving up the chemical-laden products that keep my hair smelling like fake flowers longest.  I am choosing instead, a product that is better for me.    And really, that’s what we do with many things unless we consistently indulge ourselves.  That banana doesn’t look as good as those french fries but I know it’s better for me so I will pass on the fries and eat the banana.  That mini van isn’t as sexy as that Ferrari and it doesn’t get me where I want to go nearly as fast, but the minivan works for me, is safer, holds the kids, and is all I can afford.  Our daily lives are about giving a little. 

I am using corn-based garbage bags because they are completely biodegradable and do so in a short time.  (Sometimes before I get them to the dumpster).  I am giving up the “tougher than tough”, never-leak, easy-tie plastic garbage bag that will be around 100 years from now in the land fill.  I used cloth diapers on my babies because I knew they were better for my babies, the environment and our bank account.  Not because they were easier.  I use cloth napkins and wash them rather than using paper and tossing them.  I grow my own vegetables instead of buying them.  It’s a LOT easier to buy them, believe me.  And so on. 

What I am trying to say is that, when looking for a natural alternative to something you know isn’t healthy, don’t look for something that is going to be equally effective.  It probably won’t be.  There’s a reason these items have been made in the first place.  They WORK.  WELL.  Or they take less time or space.  If natural products worked as well, as cheaply or as quickly no one would ever have invented the synthetic alternatives.  Look for something that pleases you, works well enough for you to be satisfied with, and makes you feel like you are doing something positive towards a safer future for your children.
 

And back to the shampoo… it may not keep my hair as fresh as Biolage did.  But my dry, itchy scalp that has plagued me since I was a teen, is totally gone.  I used to think I had psoriasis and maybe I did.  I used to buy and use tar-based shampoos to help my scalp.  I don’t, any longer.  There are rewards to giving a little and you might not reap the benefits of them until you have completely taken the cross-over step to a more natural alternative.  You might find, also, that when giving up a product you don’t actually even need it, or the others that follow.  Have you ever considered why you wash the oil off your face or hair and then slather it back on again in the form of a moisturizer?   I think you will be pleasantly surprised at what you get in return for what you “give”.  And you might even develop a new sense of “perfection”.  So go ahead!  Give a little!  And in return, get a lot!