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Issues with going organic and made in the USA and why AA and bad food in Las Vegas and SGIA

Friday, September 29, 2006

I have spent the last year and a half trying to find a way to make a sustainable product in the USA. The difficulty in achieving this goal has been overwhelming to the point where I have been thinking of giving up on some factor (either making it in the US or making it less sustainable but in the US.) If you check out your organic products or products that claim some aspect of sustainability you will find to your surprise, that most of them are compromised in some way. Either the material does not come from the US but is grown produced overseas or it is put together overseas, or both. The reasons I am so against going overseas are many but for me, making a sustainable product overseas sort of negates the entire purpose due to the use of petroleum products to get the products to us. Also, all manufacturing jobs are being moved overseas. Dell, the only computer company left manufacturing in the US, is moving its last facility overseas. What really is left for Americans to do except to work in the service sector in retail shops and restaurants and grocery stores.?What this means is that most Americans CANNOT afford to purchase goods made in their own country and are forced to shop and Walmart and Target. Oh, what a vicious horrible cycle. Plus, with all our factories being shut down locally, are no longer self-reliant. So, yes, I feel it important to stay in the US (besides the fact that a lot of the employment overseas is abusive (hiring children, long hours, lower than a living wage etc.) ).
The only and I stress this, only, major apparel company in the US that manufactures organic clothing here in the US (this means the fabric is milled in the US and it is cut and sewn here…I don’t know their cotton source so don’t know if it is actually grown in the US as the number of farmers who grow organic cotton in the US shrinks daily) is American Apparel. So, the owner may be a pervert AND the workers may not be able to unionize; I have stuck with AA for so long because they actually do not run a sweatshop and their cotton is milled and sewn in the US. It has taken me a year & a half to even find sources in the US that I can purchase organic cotton from that has been grown AND knitted here (most of it isn’t grown here but shipped from overseas.) It has taken me that long to get to a volume where I can afford to purchase the minimum amount. All the other affordable alternative fabrics like hemp, bamboo, soy are all grown and produced overseas. Currently, I am trying to find a cut & sew shop as close to home as possible that runs a shop I am allowed to walk through. Let’s just say that the cost of all this is double what AA charges for their pieces.
But, man, I sure would like to run a label that says made by ladies, perv free!
Anyway, I ended up in Las Vegas to attend a printing conference …hoping to find some new technology that leaves behind a smaller foot print when printing on shirts. I have to stress it needs to be at a commercial level and although I could go out and purchase vegetable dyes I don’t know anyone who uses them commercially. Plus, they lack staying power.
Commercially everyone who has a conscious has selected to dye with low-impact fiber reactive dyes and just to make sure whomever does their dying tries to keep their wastewater out of the city water.
Then, there is the imprinting of the fabric with images. All processes of imprinting cause damage in some way. The water based inks all contain solvents and many houses just wash the stuff down the drain when cleaning their screens. The process of making the screens themselves require solvents. If there is an image on it, there is an impact to the environment. Discharge printing (leaves no han) uses bleach. UV inks all contain such nasty chemicals that if it touches your skin you will get a rash. Any adherence of an image to a substrate takes some sort of adhesive. I came away from this show realizing that no matter what choice I make to print on my shirts, I will be leaving behind some footprint. The transfers I use are phthlalate free and a child could eat the transfer and nothing come of it but it is plastic. Plastic like a plastic sandwich bag. The current only process that is not unkind to the environment is embroidery.
I read Leonard my friend and Leonard said the best place to eat was at The Grand so I decided to try their buffet thinking it would trickle down. I was wrong. It was a horrible buffet. One of the worst. Mandalay Bay’s definitely kicked its ass. The rice was old, everything doused in salt or grease but it could have been due to the fact that I was eating all alone and I love to eat and read at the same time and I was reading The Children's Hospital by Chris Adrian; the section describing the children's ailments and it wasn't pretty. It got worse. When I left, they had a huge crowd gathered around this glass enclosure at the Lion's Den. I walked over and there were 3 Lionesses (sisters) in the cage and two dudes. The one with the large potbelly was just leaning against a rock doing much of nothing. The other guy kept kicking the ball over to the only lioness that would interact with him. Kick. Kick. Kick. Kick. Finally, she pushed him against a wall and growled. The other lion "tamer" (and I say that in quotation marks because all the large cats appeared to be DECLAWED) pulled the lioness off of him and he proceeded to kick the shit out of her. When he was done one of the sisters came over and licked the one that had been punished. I walked away but the mood stuck with me. The Bellagio did have this amazing water show. Sinatra singing and water that shot up 30 stories.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I just interviewed someone who wanted 32K annually from a start up and I wanted to say...I don't even pay myself that much. Heh.
Anyway, we have a really strong group of candidates so I am fairly excited about interviewing. Will let you know if the advice given to me helped at all.
I am off to Las Vegas ALONE next week for a printing tradeshow and I really hope I come back with some good information.
We get the new website designs tomorrow and I am nervous that I may not like them but I am hoping I just fall in love with them.

World Can't Wait October 5th

Thursday, September 14, 2006

So, I have to write about this site because I endorsed it in my newsletter and have already received an e-mail back about it. I debated quite a bit over whether or not to mention this site in my newsletter as it goes out to all my fantastic customers but I felt if I was going to close down the site that I should at least explain why.
I first heard about the site through an email list I belonged to called Coop America. It is a great list with a fantastic group of business owners on it who share resources about how we can become more sustainable. We are all working towards the same goal. Someone new to the list sent out an email asking us to join in shutting down our businesses on Oct 5th. I clicked to the website and went, wow, what a way to alienate A LOT of people. I thought it was way over the top. Topple the Bush Regime. Bloody Coat Hangers. Burning Planets.
But, I wrote back that if there was enough groundswell I would certainly shut down my business. It turned out I was only one of two responses. The author of the original email wrote back wondering if he was in the right place and began talking about what the site was trying to achieve. After much discussion many of us decided that yes, we would support this day (in spite of the bad website.)
That very day I wrote Code Pink, True Majority and my two local weekly papers asking them to spread the word. Code Pink has been the only one to respond back so far.
I decided to support this day because there has been so little I have been able to do or say personally to protest our current administration's domestic policy, the war in Iraq (our behavior internationally.) I have gone to peace marches, I have voted as a Democratic (even though I am not one) I have alienated people through my decision to be obviously partisan on my website. But, in reality, I haven't done much. I haven't hopped a plane to Iraq, I haven't spoken out loud. I am not an activist or a real protestor. So, I suppose, in my mind, this was one way I could really act. I would lose money. I would lose customers but at least, I feel, I would have done something...made a statement that cost me more than my time.
For me personally, it is not about Liberal vs Conservative, Republican vs Democrat but more a protest against the very fiber of our culture; to consume people, animals and resources without any thought for our children. I want things to be a different but I am a much a part of this as anyone else. My daughter cannot swim in our rivers, consume our fish, eat snow, drink water from the sink, eat meat without toxins entering her body.
My best friend is in the Air Force reserves, my neighbor and friend is in the Marines and must leave once a month for reserve duty, my friend's brother is fighting in Iraq as we speak. I have so much respect for these people. This is not a statement against anyone who stands up for our country but more a statement against an administration that would send these people over somewhere to kill other real people for no REAL APPARENT REASON.
Take a moment to contemplate what Daniel Ellsberg, who risked life in prison in 1971 to leak the "pentagon Papers" helping to stop the Vietnam War said to the San Francisco October 5 organizing meeting Thurs.:
What we need at home of course is people who will change their lives, risk their careers and their jobs and their relationships with their families and their bosses and their church groups by taking a stronger stand than most people were ready to take; by saying truths that most people were not ready to hear. Without that courage things like this can't be changed. With it, they may still not be changed, they may fail, but without it, and without mass mobilization there is no chance."

Maybe the appendix does have a function

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I don't know but I have been feeling ill with all sorts of strange things since I had it ripped from my gut. Took me a long time to heal. Then, when I return from Bumbershoot I get this awful head cold that is still with me (I can usually kick these things within 3 days) and yesterday my entire face started burning and got puffy splotches all over it, especially around my eyes. Plus, I just feel tired and weak like a little kitten.
Haven't felt like riding my bike so I head up Going instead of Skidmore at a snail's pace. I am exhausted by the time Ava falls into bed (9 pm) and my appetite is lacking.
I am feeling like shit while trying to keep my business in order. Let's just say that I could use a few days to recuperate.
Last week I missed a second appointment with an artist as I was running around trying to meet with my web guy, plan my wedding anniversary dinner etc etc and I think she finally gave up on me in disgust.
I was late to everything I planned (if I managed to remembered it.) I was in the store and ran into a woman and her child who attends the same preschool as my daughter. She was talking about how cute it was that they walked into school together holding hands. I flipped out because at that instant I knew that I had the car and I was supposed to have picked up my baby half an hour ago. I dropped my groceries and ran out of the store in a panic...and then remembered that we had after school care until 4 pm. When will I have my mind back? I don't know. It makes me realize how very, very important taking care of my body is.
This weekend we get to go up to Seattle again to attend a wedding of a friend who was the 3rd employee of the STG group (my first office job out of college where I learned how to use a computer for more than word processing.) I knew he was marrying the right girl when he told me this story about her. I can't remember the details but someone had written to him something objectional about her. When he told her about it her response was to rub her hands together and exclaim "Juicy." Wow! I knew right then and there that she was the bomb. So, I am extremely excited to see him tie the knot. Plus, we might get to go sailing if we can get our shit together.
My face still burns. I feel like crap. I think I am going to lie prone all day and read some crappy book written by a stripper who traveled across the US hitting all the best spots.

Human Resource Issues

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Our production manager is one of the most amazing ladies I have had the joy to work with and inspires me every day. I will be happy to see her find something that is true to her heart but also incredibly sad when she leaves as she has made BW what it is today. She has been here for almost 2 years. Over the same span of time I have gone through so many people it has given me a serious complex.

LIAR My last employee who was supposed to go through a retail store list of 3000 stores and call to make sure they wanted us to send us a catalog in the mail turned out to not have called or emailed a single store. This was while I was out of town. When I got back she presented me with a completed list and told me she had contacted almost the entire list. I found this hard to believe but...we sent out 300 mailers with 10% of them coming back as businesses that no longer existed. Got the phone bill back and I don't think she even made one call except to her friends.
She also turned out to be one of the most negative persons I have ever met although she is a queen on myspace and managed to get us over 200 friends in a matter of 3 days albeit they are all teen moms...

ABANDONED The employee before that broke up with her boyfriend and moved back home after one month. We loved her though. She was so great. We miss you still Alison.

ANGER MANAGEMENT ISSUES The employee before that was awesome, great, rad, fun and consistently told me this was the best job she had ever had until we started working together on those damn coloring books (which were supposed to be a fun aside for me but for her they were the ticket to increasing her street cred which apparently is everything if you are an aspiring graffiti artist) and she turned into a psycho bitch accusing me of things like being abusive, controlling etc. Made me feel really good. Just ONE example of my wussiness (and I think I was such a L because I really did care about her): e.g. Our production mgr went on vacation and she was to take up the load but didn't train enough to do the job correctly because she was so involved in the coloring books project. She accused me of being verbally abusive when I made corrections and walked out on me but yeah, I was a pussy and hired her back. But, because she couldn't fulfill the orders I felt like I had to cancel our group trip together to a zine conference we were going to attend FOR FUN. That didn't go over well with her as she wanted to take her boyfriend down there while he was visiting. She spent most of her first day back at BW trying to find a way to get to SF. I felt bad having flaked so agreed to pay for the conference if they still wanted to go as her boyfriend was planning on showing some of his work at it. They asked me to rent the car in my name and they would pay me back upon their return. Sure! They asked me to get up early and drive them down to pick up the car for them. Sure! They only ended up showing for half the conference and failed debrief me after dumping all my shit at the front of my house and taking off as they had come to the conclusion (after driving an insane amount, sitting at a table that no one checked out, meeting no one of import, attending an art show that wasn't that cool, driving an insane amount back;) decided that I was the evil person who had somehow tricked them into driving down to SF and working the conference for me (a zine conference?!). I felt bad for them cause they had no $ and I agreed to cover half of their expenses plus the full coverage of the zine conference they attended. It just got worse. I never did get even half of that back. I could go on and on but I will stop now. It still eats at me, what a wuss I was. I got to stop feeling bad about telling people to get the hell away from me when they suck and I shouldn't be so afraid of claiming the right to BE angry when I am.

DESIGNER The employee before that was a fashion designer and drank a lot of rock star. She wasn't into the start up office stuff but wasn't there with pattern making or designing either so I didn't really know what to do with her.

JUST A JOB The employee before that went to Magic with me but we just didn't click. I felt awkward asking her to help me with things.

I SUCK The employee before that I really screwed up with. She made some mistakes one day and I was gun shy from previous experiences and let her go through EMAIL (i want to shoot myself). I will always regret doing that. She eventually forgave me (thanks Angela.)

ROMANTIZED THE POSITION The employee before that thought that she was going to be doing upper level stuff and didn't understand when I said office mgr I actually meant managing an office and doing bookkeeping with some minor marketing thrown in.

STOLEN The employee before that was groovy and we loved him but Adidas stole him from us and then he went and opened his own bar.

DISAPPEARED The employee before that got tired of pressing shirts and opened her own store on Mississippi but never actually quit. She just disappeared on us.

So, naturally I have a complex and haven't really hired anyone to replace the second person because I just don't seem to know how to make it work. So I talked to a small business counselor and she came up with some excellent suggestions. She told me that I needed to 1) BE A LEADER and explain to people why what they are doing is important 2) LEARN HOW TO INTERVIEW and gave me a list of the 10 questions you must ask 3) LOOK FOR WARNING SIGNS (e.g. all my previous bosses were whack) 4)ORIENTATION IS CRITICAL and should not be skipped and 5) NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR ASKING SOMEONE TO DO SOMETHING FOR YOU. She also reassured me that every single business owner deals with these issues and that my experience is not abnormal. In fact, very classic. So, I am going to give it another shot and ask the right questions and orient someone and really give it my best shot one more time. If you know of anyone who needs a job please have them email me their resume.