Going Ape for Fair Trade Electronics

Hello all and happy Memorial Day. I hope you’re feelin’ groovy and not too traumatized by my last post about turtle noses and plastic straws. Got a new topic for you, one that connects many dots for this blog and gives me mucho hope and confidence in a sustainable future for the us and the apes, who are one.

Fair Trade Electronics

So, you’ve heard of fair trade coffee, right?

And perhaps fair trade chocolate?

Yum!

But how ’bout fair trade electronics??

 

According to internet sources, and the lovely Jane Gooddall (see video), some very key components of electronics come from Chimpanzee and Gorilla habitat in the Democratic Repubic of Congo. Thats over in Africa–(great song), see map below, DRC is in red:

drc
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0e/Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo_in_Africa.svg/1084px-Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo_in_Africa.svg.png

 It is in this region that Chimpanzees and Gorillas roam wild and free, and where today, large and small scale (artisinal) mining operations are moving in to extract minerals like Cobalt, Tungsten, and “rare Rarth metals” including Coltan, or Tantalite, which are all used in the making of electronic devices.

People are moving into once uninhabited areas in order to make a living through mining–cant blame ’em for that, baby’s gotta eat. Unfortunately, however, an unintended consequence of this migration is habitat destruction and species loss. People even hunt Chimpanzees and Gorillas for eating or selling on the illegal pet trade and bushmeat markets. Sad. Look, this chimp is pouting about it:

chimpy
https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/chimpanzee

Here are some photos of these materials which are essential to the functioning of our electronics and represent much conflict:

Tungsten4_0616
Tungsten: https://www.fairphone.com/de/2016/06/20/fairphone-2-good-vibrations-with-conflict-free-tungsten-2/
coltan
Coltan, or Tantalite: http://www.thecoli.com/threads/lets-discuss-the-potential-of-what-is-the-democratic-republic-of-congo.402272/
cobalt
Cobalt: http://www.thecoli.com/threads/lets-discuss-the-potential-of-what-is-the-democratic-republic-of-congo.402272/

And a photo of a two different Cobolt mining operations, one industrial and one artisanal:

large scale op
Industrial mining site: https://www.fairphone.com/en/2017/06/07/on-site-visit-to-cobalt-mines-in-congo-april-2017/
small scale op
Artisanal mining site: https://www.fairphone.com/en/2017/06/07/on-site-visit-to-cobalt-mines-in-congo-april-2017/

To clarify, the difference between Industrial and Artisanal mining is the Industrial operations are organized by large, often foreign companies, while the Artisanal operations are conducted by individual miners.

There are issues with both levels of operation. Ultimately, not only is land and habitat being ravaged, or at least altered, through the mining process, but also people, child laborers included, are working under dangerous conditions for less than fair wages to supply us with these materials. Here is a video that explains the extractive/mining industry and the perspective of artisanal miners:

For me, the main takeaway from the clip above is from 1:44 til 3:14, a segment which reveals an artisanal Cobalt mine and a discussion with miners about working conditions and wages.

Because they are not part of a company or union, these miners have no representation on the market and often end up getting ripped off by buyers, most often Chinese companies, who buy at low prices and then make a profit, reselling the materials to electronics manufacturers at a 30% markup (statistic provided in video).

The miners, who often enter a mine and stay in there for 2-3 days at a time, feel they are not receiving fair pay, especially considering the profits other people are making off of their labor, the price of finished electronics, and the rate of electronics consumption worldwide. They would like to be paid fairly. I can dig it.

Fairphone

Now, I’m not sure if “fair trade electronics” is an official term, but the concept is there, and leading the way is a Netherlands based company called Fairphone.

Fairphone, founded in 2013, is pioneering the movement towards fair-trade electronics by changing the industry from the inside, providing an ethical alternative to all other cell phones on the market, the Fairphone.

fariphone
https://shop.fairphone.com/?ref=header

Through painstaking research and partnerships with organizations like the Dragonfly Initiative, who advise businesses in the “extractive industry” on sustainable purchasing, Fariphone has made an effort to purchase from with “Conflict-Free” mining operations that do not use child-labor, who pay their workers fairly, and who strive to reduce their environmental imapct.

Although Fairphone does not boast to have a 100% fair phone, they are working towards that goal and at least provide a “fair-er” alternative to other smart phones on the market, creating a demand for fair electronics. Their goal is to promote “positive social and environmental impact[s] from the beginning to end of a phones life cycle” by incorporating long lasting design, fair materials, good working conditions, and promoting reuse and recycling (Fairphone Goals).

So, thats about all I’ve got to say about that. Fairphone is paving the way for all electronics to bear the Fair-Trade certification. If you are considering a new smartphone, consider Fairphone and help build the movement.

I also wanted to mention the importance of recycling E-waste. According to a video I saw on facebook, only about 15% of electronics are recycled. That is not very much. Considering how much work goes into extracting the materials that go into our electronics, considering that little children and chimpanzee are suffering in order to bring us the latest version of the Iphone, the least we can do is make an effort to discard our electronics correctly, ie make sure they are recycled, not junked in the trash. There is actually gold in our electronics, are we really going to throw gold into the garbage?! Times, they are a changin. Those 49er gold-miners must be rolling in their graves.

Now, I realize electronic waste recycling is not easy or convenient. I don’t know of any city that provides municipal electronic waste collection, so that leaves it to you and me, the consumers, to go the extra mile to bring our electronic waste to an e-waste recycler. That takes effort, I know, its annoying. But its our responsability, and perhaps the price we have to pay for all the work that goes in on the front end to bring us relatively cheap electronics (considering the labor and environmental costs that go into production).

Ok, off the soap box.

Recycle your electronics. Don’t let me find them on the ground or I will make art with them.

Waste
Ground Score E-Waste Art
E-waste Art
More ground-score E-waste art

Cheers to progress, peace, and love, and a happy day to you,

KB

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Organics – What to buy and what you can let slide

Hello readers!

Happy Monday and day after Earth Day, 2018.

I’d like to make a special shout out to all the new people and/or robots who have begun to follow this blog and to acknowledge those who have been following from the get go. Thank you for joining and welcome aboard!

In other news, today I wanted to share some information presented this weekend on The Food Chain Radio Program about grocery shopping and organics. Ultimately, the show provided a list of fruits and veggies that are more and less important to buy organic. Meaning, there are some fruits and veggies we can save money on by buying the non-organic option without worrying too much about ingesting chemicals. Phew and woo hoo!

Here are the lists, courtesy of The Environmental Working Group:

The Dirty Dozen (bakers dozen, that is)

–Produce containing high levels of pesticide residues, even after being rinsed and peeled. Good idea to buy the organic versions of these fruits and veggies.

Notice most of these items have thin skins, aka more permeable to pesticides. And note that the pesticides found on non-organic versions of these are linked to brain damage and cancer, are outlawed in many European countries, and yet are approved by the US Government*. Wonderful.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Grapes
  6. Peaches
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Celery
  11. Potatoes
  12. Sweet bell peppers
  13. Hot peppers

The Clean 15

–Produce containing minimal levels of pesticide residues when grown conventionally. Aka, we can buy these products non-organic without worrying too much.

Notice most of these have thick skins or shells which protect the part you eat from contact with the pesticides.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn**
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Papayas**
  8. Asperagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplants
  11. Honeydews
  12. Kiwis
  13. Cantalopes
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

**Sweet corn, papayas, and summer squash are often genetically modified crops, so if you want to avoid being part of the “greatest global experiment known to mankind” (quote from acupuncturist Jenny Johnston of Santa Cruz), best to go organic with these crops. Note I did acupuncture as a groupon deal just to try it out. It was ok.

Parting Thoughts

All in all, I was very relieved to come across these lists, espeicially the Clean 15, since I’ve been busting my own balls paying pretty much double for organic avocadoes, broccoli, onions, etc. over the years. Recently canned from my latest job, I’m now watching my spending a bit more. Que conundrum:

In general, I like to buy only organic products on principle, to “vote with my dollar” as they say, to support farmers who have gone out of their way to certify themselves and adopt safer and more sustainable growing practices. Yes, its more expensive, but I figure I’d rather feed myself good food and maintain my health than spend money on anything else.

Cool Like Ghandi
https://www.zazzle.com/ghandi_be_the_change_classic_round_sticker-217041640643772530

Anyway, I cant help but wonder: if we all buy non-organic, Clean 15 produce, how will this impact the agricultural market?

Conventional farmers will continue as is, while farmers who grow organic produce will be out of luck, unable to compete with the low prices of non-organic produce.

By selecting non-organic options, we as consumers are telling farmers that we value cheap food and that it is ok to use harmful chemicals on our food. Thats what “voting with your dollar” means to me, by the way. When you buy something, you are supporting someone and encouraging them to keep on keepin’ on.

It is important to note that produce on the Clean 15 list still did test positive for pesticide residues, just not at the high levels of the Dirty Dozen. Pesticides do have environmental and health impacts which someone is going to pay for down the line, either through medical bills or contaminated water or another Dust Bowl, something like that.

By buying organic, we are telling farmers that we value organic farming and the extra efforts they are taking to build a sustainble food system. Buying organic today, even though it is more expensive, will encourage all farmers to adopt safer and more sustainable growing practices and prices will eventually even out. I’m no economist, but I’m pretty sure thats how supply and demand works.

I’ve seen it happen with organic strawberries in Santa Cruz. I was surprised and a bit delighted last year to see the organic and non-organic strawberries pretty much the same price.

All that being said, we can only do what we can do. I’m probably going to start going non-organic for the Clean 15, but definitely going to opt for organics when it comes to the dirty dozen. Our health is all we’ve got, some say.

I hope this post helps you make up your mind as well.

Thank you for reading and wishing you all the best this week and beyond,

Kelly B

Santa Cruz
Try frolicking this week, will ya? Photo taken at Santa Cruz Harbor.

 

Ecosia – Troll the internet, plant trees

Want a super easy way to do something good for the world while you surf the web? Aka effortlessly?

Switch from Google to Ecosia!

Ecosia.org is like Google.com, but instead of supporting who-knows who or what like google, each time you search something though the Ecosia search engine, a tree is planted.

The idea was started by someone in Germany named Joshi, and I think the whole idea is just oh so cool. You can set up the Ecosia search engine on your computer by going to ecosia.org. Check it out! Takes less than 5 minutes and will make a great impact starting the moment you make the switch. So far, Ecosia has planted more than 20 million trees in several different countries facing deforestation problems, all made possible through internet searches. Pretty cool, huh?

Planting trees helps restore ecosystems, helps people make their land productive and grow food, rise out of poverty, send their kids to school…plus, now Ecosia has partnered with my fav, the Jane Gooddall Institute, to plant trees in Chimpanzee habitat in Uganda. This will promote species health and hopefully help the chimpanzee population stabilize into the future. Here is a nice video of Jane Gooddall talking to the founder of Ecosia about their new partnership.

 

And another video to help you understand the impact your searches can have if you decide to switch to Ecosia.

 

Thats all folks, be well!

KB

Apes and Palm Oil: How YOU can save orangutans with your groceries

Hello All,

Back when I was at the goat farm in Tenessee, I took an online class taught by Jane Gooddall through a program called Masterclass. The class was about conservation and chimpanzee behavior and was a-ok. If you’re into chimpanzees and want to learn about conservation through a fireside chat-like series with Jane Gooddall, I’d highly recommend this class.

The main highlight for me was being able to connect with other ape enthusiasts through the class’ forum. I even bought a painting from one of my classmates, a New Zeland based artist named Deborah Moss. The piece I bought is similar to this one:

painting by Deborah Moss
Mixed Media Painting by Deborah Moss https://www.deborahmossart.com/recent-works.html

One really cool thing about Deborah Moss is her business model. In honor of my purchase, Deborah planted a native tree, an act which supports ecological health and gives back to the planet. Oh so nice! For me, you, her, the bees…and everyone!

In case you are curious, Deborah planted a Kowhai tree which is native to New Zeland and produces yellow flowers, which birds and pollinators love. See below:

Kowhai Nat Geo
New Zeland Native Kowhai Tree, courtesy of https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/kowhai/

So lovely. Thank you Deborah!

Now, for my main point:

Apes and Palm Oil: How YOU can save orangutans with your groceries.

Through Masterclass, I was also able to connect with Mandy Lee, an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher from Taiwan who had some interesting knowledge to share about apes and palm oil plantations. I was able to find out a little more through a personal interview.

Reforestation project in Malaysia
Mandy Lee Reforesting with APE Malaysia

Interview with Mandy from Masterclass

First let me start by summarizing the issue surrounding Orangutans and Palm Oil. For a more in depth explaination, please visit The 12 Days of Peatmas.

Here is my brief explanation of the situation at hand:

Orangutans, the gingerest of the Great Apes, are native to Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests. Besides zoos, this is their only home in the whole wide world. See map below:

Indonesia and Malaysia
Indonesia and Malaysia https://forestjustice.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/peatmasday2/indonesiaandmalaysia/

Orangutans spend most of their time up in the trees, which is why deforestation is so threatening to their survival. No trees=no food+no home for orangutans, and no home=no more orangutans. Easy math.

biosprit-subventionen-indonesien
Orangutan Refugee https://theirturn.net/2015/04/02/sustainable-palm-oil/

So, why deforest the only place in the world where Orangutans live?

Two words:

 PALM OIL

dun dun dun…..

Palm Oil comes from Palm Oil Nut Trees, and is an ingredient used in an ever increasing percentage of food and cosmetic products on the market today. Over 50% according to most sources.

Below is a display of some common products containing Palm Oil. For a more comprehensive list, click here. Then, check out this page for a list of sneaky Palm Oil synonmyns that you will also find on food labels (eg. Palmolein, Octyl Palmitate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Elaeis Guineensis).

products containing palm oil
https://rctom.hbs.org/submission/from-chocolate-ice-cream-to-deforestation-in-borneo/

My hope is that you will use this information to make informed decisions when you are grocery shopping and avoid products that contain palm oil for the sake of conservation. I’m saying bye bye to Nutella for this reason**tear**

So, palm oil is in everything, what’s the problem?

Unfortunately for orangutans (and other species), the fertile soil and climate of the rainforest habitat provides excellent growing conditions for palm oil nut trees, which look like this:

Palm Oil Nut Tree
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/295478425525656633/

Coupled with the inexpensive price of land in Indonesia and Malaysia, this makes orangutan habitat an ideal location for palm oil nut tree plantations, see what was once  a dense patch of forest, now cleared, below:

Palm Oil Nut Tree Plantation
Oil palm plantation at the border of intact forest. Jambi – Indonesia, 2011. ©Center For International Forestry Research/Iddy Farmer

Fueled by a desire to make major moo-lah, farmers and large corporations (like Nestlé)* have thus begun to buy up and develop large expanses of orangutan habitat, clear-cutting and burning existing forest to make way for palm oil nut tree plantations without a care in the world for environmental impacts including habitat and species destruction. Bravo industry. Love the short-sighted, linear thinking. Just great.

Luckily, there are some companies taking strides to promote “sustainably harvested palm oil,” partnering with farmers who engage in less destructive growing practices. Unfortunately, according to some sources, the regulations are difficult to enforce and not 100% trustworthy.

Similar to the Organics label, this is a matter of trusting the government and regulatory agencies to do their job…which we all know is like trusting your brother to flush the toilet after #2…sometimes he does it, sometimes he don’t.

Regardless, if you are buying a product containing palm oil, look for these labels, for at least these companies are making an effort to be perceived as sustainable and furthering the movement, one would hope:

Green Palm Certification
Green Palm Certification https://forestjustice.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/peatmasdayseven-2/

 

RSPO
Sustainable Palm Oil Label https://forestjustice.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/peatmasdayseven-2/

*For the record, Nestlé has taken strides towards sustainability after some “bad press” exposed their destructive Palm-oil related practices. You can read all about their newfound sustainability efforts on their website. Keep in mind this is information Nestlé is writing about itself.

And now, a little about Mandy Lee, my Masterclass-mate, the inspiration for this article…

At 30 years old, Mandy, a freelance translator and English teacher in Taiwan, was feeling the push to “do something meaningful” wither her life and decided to pursue a lifelong passion for wildlife by volunteering with APE Malaysia, which she found via online research.

Through the 28 day program called “Orangutan Encounters,” Mandy split her time between working on enrichment activities for rescued Orangutans at Zoo Negara, learning about their incredible intelligence and behaviors, and planting trees at the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Borneo.

During her time at the zoo, Mandy had a bandage on one of her fingers and had an amzing interaction with one of the orangutans, who recognized her finger as being hurt and kissed her own finger while pointing to Mandy’s. If that is not a symbol of empathy, a true sign of intelligence, I dont know what is!

At the Kinabatangan wildlife sanctuary, Mandy’s group helped plant trees to restore land that has been damaged by Palm Oil production, ensuring a home for orangutans and other unique critters now and into the future.

Me and my teamates at the project site
Mandy and fellow volunteers in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Reforesting for Orangutans (photo provided by Mandy)
Organizing Saplings for Tree Planting
Volunteers organizing saplings for tree planting (Photo provided by Mandy Lee)

 

What a wonderful and meaningful way to vacation! Thank you for sharing your story Mandy!

The following are links to more information about Apes and Palm Oil, provided by Mandy:

APE Malaysia Volunteer Program

http://www.apemalaysia.com

Palm Oil Consumer Action

https://www.facebook.com/PalmOilConsumerAction/

Orangutan Project

https://www.facebook.com/projectorangutan/ 

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC)

https://www.facebook.com/sunbear.bsbcc/?ref=br_rs

I also wanted to note that after her volunteer experience, aside from becoming more conscious of palm oil and avoiding products that contain it, Mandy has been inspired to live a more sustainable lifestyle. She has given up plastic straws and switched to re-usable food wrapping products like bees-wrap, replacing the need for single-use products like saran wrap. So cool Mandy, way to go!

Ok, that’s about it for now. Let me know if you have any questions or comments! This is a deep issue and I’d be happy to explore the topic more.

I will leave you with a photo: me, bundled up at the beach in New York in March. Miss you, California!

The Rockaway
Beach attire in New York, Spring 2018