Category Archives: Fair Trade

It’s Summer Fashion Time & Cotton Is In!!

Mata Traders Summer Fashion
Mata Traders Summer Fashion

Yes, we know, you’re still looking at snow from time to time out your window, and contrary to that trending feeling, you’re “feelin’ the chill” more often than not. But trust us, the time isn’t far off when you’ll feel the burn of the summer heat.

It’s summer fashion time, and cotton is in like never before! Green Box Boutique is ready to make you the coolest, freshest and most stylishly dressed woman (or child) in the neighborhood. We feature wonderful dresses from Mata Traders and our new line of Global Mamas girls’ and boys’ items.

We want to get you as excited about these cotton items as we are. Here’s some information about cotton, how it helps our economy, helps the environment, and most of all, what it does for your body.

Cotton Helps the Economy

Cotton comes in all kinds of textures and looks: broadcloth, calico, chino, denim, duck, gingham and seersucker, to name a few. 17 Seventeen states across the U.S. grow cotton, from Virginia to California, with 12 million acres planted to cotton or about 19,000 square miles. The cotton industry brings in $100 billion in business revenues each year and invests a lot of that back into the economy in seed, fertilizer, tractors and other heavy equipment, transportation and for employees.

75% of the cotton grown is used in apparel. The remainder of the plants are also put to good use in meal for cattle, cottonseed oil and more. We sell $7 billion worth of cotton, or 12 million bales, overseas, 30% of the world export market. Asia, Mexico and Turkey are our biggest customers. We also sell 3.5 million bale equivalents of textile products overseas annually.

Cotton Producers Taking Steps to Help the Environment

“Cotton is the most widespread profitable non-food crop in the world. Its production provides income for more than 250 million people worldwide and employs almost 7% of all labor in developing countries. Approximately half of all textiles are made of cotton.” (WWF)

Unfortunately, current practices are often unsustainable.  WWF is one organization that works with a coalition of global partners to promote the sustainable production and use of cotton. “Cotton’s most prominent environmental impacts result from the use of agrochemicals (especially pesticides), the consumption of water, and the conversion of habitat to agricultural use.”

Organizations like WWF work with farmers all over the world to minimize the impact of harmful crop protection practices, encourage more efficient water usage and preserve available water resources, care for the health of the soil, conserve natural habitats, preserve the quality of the fiber and promote decent work.

Not only do better management practices preserve the environment, they increase production! More and more cotton growers are able to make the claim that their cotton is sustainably grown.

In addition, organic cotton agriculture is growing in popularity.  Green Box Boutique garments are hand-made, Fair Trade, often organic and always sustainably produced. Adult and children’s items use non-toxic, natural dyes.

Now for the Great News: Cotton on Your Body

Picture yourself sitting on your porch on a hot afternoon sipping your sustainable wine and feeling nice and cool in your beautiful cotton dress. Why does it feel so good?

Cotton is natural and light in weight. It breathes, it absorbs and wicks away body moisture, it discourages the growth of mildew and yeast that happens in dark, moist places, and it maintains its fresh smell even when you’re really hot.

Cotton is hypoallergenic. Unlike synthetics, it doesn’t cause rashes or skin allergies. It doesn’t irritate the skin or cause static.

Cotton is soft and is good to have close to your skin. That’s why so many doctors recommend it for you and your baby.

In short, it feels wonderful on your body in the heat of summer!

Caring for Your Cotton

First the fit: cotton does have poor elasticity, not much give. Be sure the clothing fits you properly when you purchase it.

Did we mention that cotton is durable? That means you can launder it, even using hot water. Stains clean off it easily.

But most manufacturers of beautiful cotton clothing, especially handmade, recommend hand washing to maintain clothing longer, or at least turning the clothing inside out and washing in 100% cold water on delicate.

Pilling happens when the short fibers in clothing form lint. Cotton can pill, but the good news is that it whisks away. When synthetics pill, it never goes away.

Most shrinkage occurs during drying and only to a certain extent (it won’t shrink until it disappears), so you can account for that when you choose your clothes if you know you want to wash and dry on no heat or delicate for the shortest time possible.

You can also hang clothing outside to dry, taking advantage of the summer weather to get a bit of sun and do your part for the environment — but preserve colors by turning the clothing inside out.

Cotton wrinkles, a function of natural fiber coming in contact with moisture. You might need to run an iron over your cotton clothing to keep it great looking…on the other hand, the wrinkled look is in these days, and many items are made to show it off.

You in Your Cotton Dress

So…now that you know how wonderful cotton is, and you’re imagining yourself in that wonderfully cool, fresh cotton dress in the warm weather, it’s time to come on in to Green Box Boutique to find the dress that’s made for you.

Social goodness: climbing the ladder of social goodness

Maimonides, a twelfth century scholar, defines eight levels of what we today call “social goodness”.  The top rung on the ladder is to support a person with a gift or loan or by entering into a partnership or finding employment for a person in order to give them the assist they need to become independent.

Global Mamas is a company whose work operates at that top level each and every day. If you want to understand what social goodness is all about, what Fair Trade is about, how worldwide gender inequality depresses economic advancement for all of us and how focusing efforts like Global Mamas on women can benefit us all, or the tremendous power of cooperation, visit their excellent and informative website.

One set of statements that grabbed my attention was the following: “Gender inequality contributes to a cycle of discrimination in both the private and public sphere. Inside the home, women may lack voice in household decision-making and girls are often the first to be denied access to education and good nutrition if the household budget is insufficient to cover expenses. Outside the home, women experience diminished options for work, most often limited to low-paying, low-skill jobs with little opportunity for advancement. In fact, while women’s work represents 66% of the world’s working hours and produces half of the world’s food, women earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property. Thus, women bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty, a phenomenon termed the “feminization of poverty”. According to some estimates, females represent 70% of the world’s poor….

“Research has shown that men are more likely to spend disposable income on consumables, while women tend to make investments for the longer-term well being of their family. The World Bank found that extra income controlled by women correlates with increased probability that children go to school and maintain good health than if income had been controlled by fathers. Thus, financial resources put into the hands of women can be seen as an investment into the overall nutritional, health and educational status of the family unit.”

The thoughtfulness and expertise behind Global Mamas is impressive on every page of their website, where we are introduced to eight founders, six women producers from Ghana and two consulting on business and management from North America. We learn of their clearly defined mission and how each step they take furthers that mission. We can track the success of the organization, measured both in numbers and in “dreams realized”. That 2003 founding group of eight women is today more than 550 Ghanian producers in eight Ghanian locations and one additional office in the U.S.

Each Ghanian producer earns on average 75% more than the minimum wage. Each of the 116 Mama business owners employs an average of 2 more women. Each woman cares for several family members and purchases goods and services on their behalf in the community. Many women work from home or go into production facilities owned by Global Mamas.

All of this came from the efforts of six strong and enterprising but struggling women in Ghana and two young women who came to their country through the Peace Corps and fell in love with it and with them. This business model demonstrates not only the strength and clarity of purpose of these women of vision but the tremendous power of cooperation.

We congratulate Ghanian founders, Alise Korsah, Elizabeth Ampiah, Emma Myers, Esther Gyiepi Garbrah, Florence Thompson, Hannah Dodor, and American founders, Renae Adam and Kristin Johnson on creating a business that is contributing in such positive ways to the world, one woman at a time.

We are proud to carry Global Mamas products at Green Box Boutique and hope to have more soon. Stop in to check out these delightful boys and girls clothing items and accessories. There’s lots more room up there on the eighth rung of the ladder!

Having Some Fun…Little Bars of Soap

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Our monthly newsletter will soon arrive in your email boxes telling you about our St. Pat’s Day give-aways, Green Soap Samples, coming just in time for the bathin’ ‘o’ the green.

In the meantime, we thought you might enjoy this delightfully fun (yet imaginary) correspondence between a hotel guest and management, a story that circulated the internet in 1995:

LITTLE BARS OF SOAP

Dear Maid,

Please do not leave any more of those little bars of soap in my bathroom since I have brought my own bath-sized Dial. Please remove the six unopened little bars from the shelf under the medicine chest and another three in the shower soap dish. They are in my way.

Thank you,
S. Berman


Dear Room 635,

I am not your regular maid. She will be back tomorrow, Thursday, from her day off. I took the 3 hotel soaps out of the shower soap dish as you requested. The 6 bars on your shelf I took out of your way and put on top of your Kleenex dispenser in case you should change your mind. This leaves only the 3 bars I left today which my instructions from the management is to leave 3 soapsdaily.
I hope this is satisfactory.

Kathy, Relief Maid


Dear Maid — I hope you are my regular maid.

Apparently Kathy did not tell you about my note to her concerning the little bars of soap. When I got back to my room this evening I found you had added 3 little Camays to the shelf under my medicine cabinet. I am going to be here in the hotel for two weeks and have brought my own bath-size Dial so I won’t need those 6 little Camays which are on the shelf. They are in my way when shaving, brushing teeth, etc.

Please remove them.

S. Berman


Dear Mr. Berman,

My day off was last Wed. so the relief maid left 3 hotel soaps which we are instructed by the management. I took the 6 soaps which were in your way on the shelf and put them in the soap dish where your Dial was. I put the Dial in the medicine cabinet for your convenience. I didn’t remove the 3 complimentary soaps which are always placed inside the medicine cabinet for all new check-ins and which you did not object to when you checked in last Monday. Please let me know if I can of further assistance.

Your regular maid,
Dotty


Dear Mr. Berman,

The assistant manager, Mr. Kensedder, informed me this A.M. that you called him last evening and said you were unhappy with your maid service. I have assigned a new girl to your room. I hope you will accept my apologies for any past inconvenience. If you have any future complaints please contact me so I can give it my personal attention. Call extension 1108 between 8AM and 5PM. Thank you.

Elaine Carmen
Housekeeper


Dear Miss Carmen,

It is impossible to contact you by phone since I leave the hotel for business at 745 AM and don’t get back before 530 or 6PM. That’s the reason I called Mr. Kensedder last night. You were already off duty. I only asked Mr. Kensedder if he could do anything about those little bars of soap. The new maid you assigned me must have thought I was a new check-in today, since she left another 3 bars of hotel soap in my medicine cabinet along with her regular delivery of 3 bars on the bath-room shelf. In just 5 days here I have accumulated 24 little bars of soap. Why are you doing this to me?

S. Berman


Dear Mr. Berman,

Your maid, Kathy, has been instructed to stop delivering soap to your room and remove the extra soaps. If I can be of further assistance, please call extension 1108 between 8AM and 5PM. Thank you,

Elaine Carmen,
Housekeeper


Dear Mr. Kensedder,

My bath-size Dial is missing. Every bar of soap was taken from my room including my own bath-size Dial. I came in late last night and had to call the bellhop to bring me 4 little Cashmere Bouquets.

S. Berman


Dear Mr. Berman,

I have informed our housekeeper, Elaine Carmen, of your soap problem. I cannot understand why there was no soap in your room since our maids are instructed to leave 3 bars of soap each time they service a room. The situation will be rectified immediately. Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience.

Martin L. Kensedder
Assistant Manager


Dear Mrs. Carmen,

Who the hell left 54 little bars of Camay in my room? I came in last night and found 54 little bars of soap. I don’t want 54 little bars of Camay. I want my one damn bar of bath-size Dial. Do you realize I have 54 bars of soap in here. All I want is my bath size Dial. Please give me back my bath-size Dial.

S. Berman


Dear Mr. Berman,

You complained of too much soap in your room so I had them removed. Then you complained toMr. Kensedder that all your soap was missing so I personally returned them. The 24 Camays which had been taken and the 3 Camays you are supposed to receive daily (sic). I don’t know anything about the 4 Cashmere Bouquets. Obviously your maid, Kathy, did not know I had returned your soaps so she also brought 24 Camays plus the 3 daily Camays. I don’t know where you got the idea this hotel issues bath-size Dial. I was able to locate some bath-size Ivory which I left in your room.

Elaine Carmen
Housekeeper


Dear Mrs. Carmen,

Just a short note to bring you up-to-date on my latest soap inventory. As of today I possess:

  • On shelf under medicine cabinet – 18 Camay in 4 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.
  • On Kleenex dispenser – 11 Camay in 2 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 3.
  • On bedroom dresser – 1 stack of 3 Cashmere Bouquet, 1 stack of 4 hotel-size Ivory, and8 Camay in 2 stacks of 4.
  • Inside medicine cabinet – 14 Camay in 3 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.
  • In shower soap dish – 6 Camay, very moist.
  • On northeast corner of tub – 1 Cashmere Bouquet, slightly used.
  • On northwest corner of tub – 6 Camays in 2 stacks of 3.

Please ask Kathy when she services my room to make sure the stacks are neatly piled and dusted. Also, please advise her that stacks of more than 4 have a tendency to tip. May I suggest that my bedroom window sill is not in use and will make an excellent spot for future soap deliveries. One more item, I have purchased another bar of bath-sized Dial which I am keeping in the hotel vault in order to avoid further misunderstandings.

S. Berman

Tea is for serving with love: Try some from Green Box Boutique

Good tea, like good chocolate, is a meditative experience, a focal point for conscious choices.

A Japanese tea ceremony “is a choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Japanese green tea, called Matcha, together with traditional Japanese sweets to balance with the bitter taste of the tea. Preparing tea in this ceremony means pouring all one’s attention into the predefined movements. The whole process is not about drinking tea, but is about aesthetics, preparing a bowl of tea from one’s heart. The host of the ceremony always considers the guests with every movement and gesture.”

A simple set of ritual movements focused on serving others from the heart, and tea is at the center of that ceremony. What is it about tea that makes it worthy of this premium position?

Tea production begins in faraway fields in China, India, Sri Lanka, Japan, and Indonesia, where 85-90 percent of our tea originates. Generally, the U.S. doesn’t offer the right climate for tea production, but there are tea plantations in two states, South Carolina and Hawaii. The world produces 3 million tons of tea each year in 3000 varieties — yet all tea comes from just one plant: “All true tea comes from the leaves of an evergreen shrub, Camellia sinensis, a relative of the ornamental camellia plant (Camellia japonica) that is grown for its beautiful flowers. There are two main species: One variety, called Thea sinensis, is native to China, while the other, Thea assamica, hails from India.”

Picking the tea leaves is a painstaking process. Many growers believe that machine picking lets too many older and less desirable leaves into the mix, which produce a lesser quality of tea. Instead workers move through the fields picking the top two tiers of young leaves and the unopened buds, passing through the fields every 7-10 days as new leaves continue to grow in at the top of the plant.

Leaves are first “withered”, or wilted, by drying on racks for 10-24 hours so they become soft and pliable. Tea is black, green, oolong or white depending on when the leaves are crushed after withering and how long the crushed leaves are exposed to the air (oxidizing or fermenting). Black tea ferments the longest (3-4 hours), then oolong (1-2 hours), then green tea (oxidation is prevented by heating the leaves immediately after withering). White tea is from the unopened buds of the tea plant.

Teas are graded. “Generally, the smaller the leaf size, the faster the tea brews, giving the final product a darker shade and a more intense flavor. The larger, whole leaves offer a smoother flavor and a lighter-colored brew.”

Finally, manufacturers blend teas to keep the taste consistent and the price stable. They send specialized buyers to hundreds of tea estates to sample the teas and select those tea leaves that will work best with their brand.

Why buy organic tea?

There is one very important reason to buy organic teas: tea leaves are never rinsed after picking! This means if there are chemical fertilizer or pesticide residues on the plant, they end up in your tea. To avoid drinking a toxic brew, and to truly serve others with love, stick to organic teas.

Yes, most tea comes from outside the U.S., but that doesn’t mean it’s not up to the same standard you would expect from an organic label in the U.S.: “USDA certified tea is held to the same standards regardless of where it is grown around the world. In order for a farm to become certified organic (whether in the United States or abroad), the farm must undergo a strict certification process that includes ensuring farming methods meet USDA’s organic standards, documenting soil and water tests, and providing a production plan.”

Why buy Fair Trade tea?

The organic label signifies the purity of the ingredients, the soil in which plants were grown, the water, and an absence of toxic fertilizers and pesticides. The Fair Trade label applies to the workers and their communities. It assures that workers are paid fair wages and treated well and that the communities from which they come receive benefits from the operation.

Products can be both organic and Fair Trade.

The bag…

One more thing to consider, and that’s the bag. A tea bag may not seem like so much to add to the waste in the world, but consider this: there’s also a label that more often than not has colorful (and toxic) ink applied to it — and while your one little tea bag may not be such a huge contribution to waste, if the 7.2 million other people in the world each added their share of little bags, well, you can see where that would go. So get some loose leaf tea and a re-useable tea ball.

Service with love

Plan your own Japanese-style tea ceremony, serving yourself or someone you love a cup of tea, a cup of pure, organic tea grown with love, picked with love and attention, and sold in a locations like Green Box Boutique, where you can be sure we pay attention to the sources and quality of every product sold.

Chocolate: Not always a simple pleasure

cocoa

Chocolatl, Aztec for “warm liquid”, takes us back to the origins of a treat that today is a worldwide favorite. The Aztecs learned cultivation of cacao from the Mayans who preceded them. Cacao trees originated in the rainforests of Central America, and chocolate has a 2000 year history with human beings.

The Aztecs maintained huge cacao bean warehouses. The Aztec warrior and ruler, Montezuma, drank 50 cups a day of the “warm liquid” from a golden goblet. When Hernando Cortez, the Spanish general and explorer, arrived in Central America, Montezuma feted him and his troops, introducing them to the Aztecs’ favorite beverage.

Cortez wrote enthusiastically to the Spanish King that “One cup of this precious beverage allows one to walk an entire day without further nourishment”. In this statement are the beginnings of our latter day fascination with the health properties of chocolate. Also thanks to Cortez and the Spanish, we acquired an addictive taste for chocolate combined with sugar, not part of the original Aztec power beverage.

By the late 19th century, the center of cacao bean production moved to the west coast of Africa, which today produces 72% of the beans sold worldwide. By 1980, Côte d’Ivoire/The Ivory Coast took over the lead role in cacao bean production from Ghana. Today the two nations provide 35% and 21% respectively of the world’s supply.

The troubled history and economies of this area, colonized by Europeans, exploited for slaves for the developing United States, and with weak independent states struggling with ethnic diversity, complicate the issues that surround cacao bean production. Corrupt governments tax family farm operations heavily that are already below subsistence level. These governments provide few or no benefits for those tax dollars.

Starving children are lured into or forced into slave labor situations. In some cases, it is simply a reality of the harsh life on family farms in the interior regions of cacao-producing countries that children must work, often tasked with unsafe jobs including handling pesticides and machetes.

Large chocolate companies responding to a worldwide demand for cheap chocolate tended to overlook labor issues until 2002 when public outcry demanded attention to them. In that year, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture investigated the prevalence of child labor in the cocoa industry and found 284,000 children working in hazardous conditions in West Africa. 64% of the children were younger than 14 and 40% of the children were girls. They often began working at 6 AM, worked 12-hour days and were beaten regularly.

An effort Congress initiated in response to that study to apply “slave-free” labels to chocolate that qualified was blocked by lobbyists. Under the Harkin-Engel Protocol, the industry finally agreed to a self-regulating mechanism to reduce or remove the most egregious practices from their supply chain by 2005 and to educate local citizens to the problems inherent in child labor. Some tiny steps resulted, including creation of the ICI, International Chocolate Initiative in 2010, which institutes local social improvement projects. Currently, however, full compliance deadlines are reset (again) for the future, this time, 2020. The bigger problem is that the entire effort is voluntary, and there are no sanctions for non-compliance.

The countries involved with child labor and slavery are:

  • Côte d’Ivoire/The Ivory Coast
  • Ghana
  • Cameroon
  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Nigeria
  • Togo

US State Department figures today estimate that 10,000 children in the Ivory Coast are victims of slavery or human trafficking. The numbers for children that are subject to “the worst kinds of child labour” reach up to 109,000 (International Labour Rights Forum).

In the last ten years, the Chocolate industry spent $75 million on “activities related to” the reduction of child labour (Responsible Cocoa). The revenue for the chocolate industry in 2010 was $83.2 billion. This means that the industry has invested a mere 1/1000th of its profit in improving working conditions in the countries on which it relies.

The child labor and slavery issues resist resolution due to ongoing war and corruption in the countries at issue and the terrible poverty in which so many live. Often the owners of family farms that use their own children for labor fear that changes in the status quo like sanctions against cacao bean producing countries will only make their situation worse. Lobbyists for the chocolate industry used a similar argument, that legislation in the industry with teeth in it would hurt not help the labor situation in those countries.

Still, it does seem as though the chocolate industry must be held more accountable by external regulation and enforcement. At the very least, much more of the huge industry profit should bypass corrupt local governments and go directly to improving the living conditions of those who produce it.

In the meantime, we do have Fair Trade labels, and what this means is that you can purchase and enjoy chocolate knowing that it was produced sustainably without using child and slave labor. One of our favorite labels is Wei of Chocolate.

Business is beautiful: thanks social entrepreneurs!

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We live in exciting times. How do we know? Big data tells us!

Sometimes the numbers and tools that seem so mundane and unexciting are just the things that reveal what is so exciting and beautiful. Love is good business — great phrase, stirring and inspirational words, but it’s numbers that make us aware of the power of those words.

As it does everything else in our contemporary world, data not only tracks but drives social entrepreneurship, a phenomenon which is here to stay.

Data, for example, signalled the need for more education, training and programming to prepare young entrepreneurs to enter this rapidly growing sector of the economy. In 2015, 4 million students earned degrees. Of those 4 million, 55% report that a concern for social causes will influence their job decisions. Some describe “an explosion” in social entrepreneurship programming with 148 program centers across 350 countries. Top business schools offer twice as many classes in not-for-profit management as in 2013.

So what is social entrepreneurship, and how does it differ from traditional not-for-profit service organizations and conventional business models? Social entrepreneurship is about producing a good or service to solve social challenges and issues. Conventional businesses measure success based on profit and returns, but social entrepreneurial businesses also consider their social impact. On the other hand, the financial structure of a business directed toward the social good is at least partially based on the business’ own revenues.

Social entrepreneurship, like crowd funding, evolved in an environment of decreased government funding. In The Power of Unreasonable People, John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan describe three types of social entrepreneurs’ business structures:

  1. Closest to the not-for-profit service organization model, this structure relies on available funds like tax dollars, loans and grants, although it tends to use its resources in more innovative ways, developing more innovative solutions.
  2. This hybrid incorporates profit to sustain its activity along with traditional not-for-profit sources of funding and as a result is better able to withstand market downturns and government cutbacks.
  3. The business model generates its own operating funds through profit but has broader goals than a conventional business.

Data provides lots of information about a social need or issue and the number and location of people affected by that issue. It also allows detailed measurements of how a business impacts the identified issue. Analyzing and determining what to do with data, however, isn’t always so easy. DataKind is one of many institutions and initiatives developing around the world to help businesses drive social change through data harvesting and analysis.

The Social Enterprise Alliance in its Tool Belt section identifies thirty sectors with social entrepreneurial enterprises, from microenterprise development to poverty alleviation and income generation to employment creation, to children and youth education and welfare, to health and nutrition, and many more.

The Great Social Enterprise Census provides us with these fascinating statistics:

  • 90% of these businesses work on domestic issues
    *there is an even mix between profit and not-for-profit businesses
  • Social entrepreneurism is a $300 million per year sector employing 14,000 people in 28 states (analysts point out that survey results are incomplete, and the number is closer to $500 billion, employing 10 million people and making up 3.5% of the GDP)
  • 40% of these businesses have fewer than 5 employees and 8% more than 100 employees
  • 20% impact U.S. economic development, 16% workforce development, 12% energy and environment, 11% education, and 7% work internationally

The most interesting data shows that 60% of these businesses were created in 2006 or later and 29%, almost 1/3, in the last five years since 2011. Social entrepreneurship is a recent and very rapidly growing phenomenon. It is a phenomenon which proves that necessity is the mother of invention with its rapid growth paralleling the Great Recession and significant changes in the U.S. economic climate. And it is a phenomenon that demonstrates what Anne Frank declared, that “people are basically good at heart.”

So data drives this powerful phenomenon, one which harnesses the idealism of young people who want to improve their world. It provides them with the hard information they require for their enterprises. It informs concerned consumers where they can shop. It helps investors understand what kind of capital will help the sector in which they are interested grow. Finally, it helps policymakers determine how to harness and support this energy to accomplish the greatest good.

Manufacturing Clothing in a Global Community

Mata Traders in action.
Mata Traders in action.

Some of us are old enough to remember a time when clothing was made in this country and featured “Union Made in the U.S.A.” tags, when it was durable, with things like invisible hems and additional fabric in the seams to allow alterations.

In the 1960s, “mod” designers introduced disposable clothing. It was also a time when the big discount retailers, like Walmart and Target, proliferated around the country.

In the 1970s, massive textile mills began opening around the world so that retailers could relocate or outsource their manufacturing operations, saving millions of dollars.

As of 2011, only 2% of clothing was made in the U.S.A. We probably also remember the campaign to purchase clothing and other items made in the U.S.A. It’s a push that hasn’t worked, and of course, it would take work away from deeply disadvantaged populations in places around the world if we returned the entire industry to the U.S. and closed down all those mills.

Yet every day we are more aware of factories that are really sweatshops, where pay is unlivable, where there are no benefits, where children work alongside adults, where the hours are long and the environment unsafe. “From 1990 to 2012, there were at least 33 major fire incidents at garment facilities in Bangladesh.”

These stories parallel our own history in the garment industry. In the Manhattan Triangle Shirt Factory fire of 1911, one of the deadliest industrial disasters in U.S. history, 146 garment workers died, many by falling or jumping to their deaths. Most of the victims were Italian and Jewish immigrants, aged 16-23. The youngest victims were 14 years old. The doors to the stairwells and exits had been locked to prevent unauthorized breaks and reduce theft.

In that case, the two owners were prosecuted for manslaughter. Although they were acquitted, they were later sued in a civil suit and forced to pay the families of those who died $75 per person. The owners’ insurance compensation amounted to about $400 per person. New York City’s Fire Chief, John Kenlon, told investigators that his department had identified more than 200 factories where conditions made a fire like what occurred at the Triangle Shirt Factory a possibility.

The fire led to legislation that improved factory safety standards and stimulated the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU).

In recent years, social entrepreneurs have taken another approach than trying to persuade everyone to purchase US made clothing. Through the mechanism of their businesses, they address particular problems in the global social environment, particularly working conditions in disadvantaged areas. We featured several of these businesses in our blog, businesses whose clothing lines we proudly carry:

We’ve taken important steps in this country to ensure the safety of workers, to eliminate child labor and to provide adequate compensation for work. We need to do much more. But it’s also important to see ourselves as part of a global community, not only benefiting from its pool of laborers, but helping to improve their work situations. It’s called fair trade, and that’s what we support at Green Box Boutique.

Green Box Boutique: 5 Reasons to Visit Us Today

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Of course you want to stop into Green Box Boutique for a visit because you like us. But there’s more: of course you also want to stop in because we are in the heart of Woodstock On the Square that we all love.

Perhaps most importantly, though, we are at the heart of Woodstock’s sustainability movement, and that’s a big issue in our little town.

Did you know that Woodstock has its own sustainability plan, called the Woodstock Environmental Plan? In its opening paragraphs, the plan’s authors say, “The concept of sustainability holds the promise of long-term economic security, social equity and environmental integrity. It suggests that through increased self-sufficiency and responsibility, the production and consumption of goods and services can be maintained without harming the natural environment. ”

The Plan deals with all the environmental issues we expect in an agricultural area, but it also deals with issues like Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP), “the purchase of products and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared to competing products that serve the same purpose.”

The McHenry County Green Guide, published yearly, provides a glimpse of the range of services available to assist those who want to live greener lives. You’ll find Green Box Boutique listed on page 32 of the 2015 edition, by the way, under clothes and accessories. We are proud to join the Woodstock Farmers Market, Environmental Defenders Green Spot and Expressly Leslie Vegetarian Specialties, also on the Square, Habitat for Humanity ReStore Woodstock, the Foodshed Coop, location yet to be announced, the Land Conservancy of McHenry County, and so many other organizations and businesses on and off the Square who are doing their part for sustainability.

And nearby in Crystal Lake, Duke’s Alehouse sponsors a Green Drinks monthly local environmental social networking event with speakers on eco-topics.

Our local community college, McHenry County College, features a Green Campus:

  • Green Campus including physical campus and campus operations
  • Green Education that includes curriculum development for a green economy and training for employees and students about sustainable practices
  • Green Community including how MCC shares with the community resources that improve quality of life

So many ways you can get help and information, and so many ways you can participate in making McHenry County and Woodstock in particular front and center in the movement toward sustainability in the 21st century.

Here are five reasons to stop into the Green Box Boutique today as part of your sustainability commitment in 2016:

  1. We do the research for you. We thoroughly vet all the products we carry to be certain they are part of the solution, not the problem.
  2. We carry products from many local vendors.
  3. We seek out vendors who produce clothing that is not only made with sustainable raw materials and non-toxic dyes but is crafted by workers who do their work in a safe, dignified environment and are pair fairly.
  4. Our products are beautiful and fun, and they grace your home with products that are good for you, good for the environment, and good for the workers who make them.
  5. You can enjoy your Green Box Boutique purchase at home while sipping on that delightful organic wine you picked up from us at the same time or savoring a bite of Wei of Chocolate.

If you’re not already part of the sustainability movement in Woodstock, why not join us today? Feel good inside and out, and help build a world where those who follow can do the same.

We wish you all a sharing, caring Christmas!

Adult and Child Therapy Services Holiday Giving Tree
Adult and Child Therapy Services Holiday Giving Tree

This year we’d like to wish everyone a sharing, caring Christmas and thank you, our customers, and our vendors for partnering with us to build a better world.

As our customers, you care about the people with whom we share our world and care about the environment.  You show your caring in your shopping choices. Every purchase you make at Green Box Boutique is one that shares with others by helping disadvantaged workers all over the world and by saving our beautiful world so future generations can enjoy it as well. We thank you so much for supporting this effort.

And we’d also like to thank our vendors, each of whom cares and shares in such amazing ways. We invite you to read about them in our blog and learn about their contributions, efforts you also support with your purchases at the Green Box Boutique:

And so many more that we haven’t had a chance to write about yet.

Thank you all, and have a wonderful, caring and sharing Christmas.

Deck the halls (and your body with the perfect holiday dress)

Synergy Little Black Dress for the Holidays and Special Moments All Year 'Round
Synergy Little Black Dress for the Holidays and Special Moments All Year ‘Round

Are you looking for the perfect dress to wear through the holiday season? A dress that makes you look and feel good? A gift for yourself and a gift to the world?

At Green Box Boutique, we specialize in items that give in so many directions. Let’s look at two dresses we have for you to help you feel beautiful inside and out during this holiday season.

From Synergy, we have the beautiful Little Black Dress pictured above. Accessorized here with an Angelica Rustici necklace and an Ili World purse, the dress evidences the Synergy style, softly draping, body-hugging fabrics. It shares these other features with Synergy clothing:

  • 95% GOTS certified organic cotton melange fabric, 5% Spandex
  • Dyed with low-impact dyes
  • Cap sleeves
  • Decorative pleating on front
  • Fitted silhouette
  • Hem falls just above the knees
  • Hand wash, line dry
  • Made in Nepal

Stop in soon to pick up this beauty, because as of this writing, we have only three left. Oh, and don’t forget the Oka-b shoes!

Read more about Synergy and the great work they do as social entrepreneurs in our earlier post.

Poetry in Motion from Mata, a perfectly fun but classy and stylish dress for the holidays.
Poetry in Motion from Mata, a perfectly fun but classy and stylish dress for the holidays.

Or imagine yourself in this delightful Poetry in Motion Purple dress from Mata Traders. Mata describes it this way:

A peplum dress in gorgeous prints…be still our hearts! It’s extra fun styled with loafers, but you can also wear it with heels for work or play. Don’t be scared to pile on the jewelry, too!

  • 100% cotton
  • Hand screen printed
  • Deep scoop at back
  • Length of size M is 35″
  • Made at a fair trade women’s cooperative in Nepal

With characteristic Mata handwork, the dress is sure to shine as brightly as any holiday lights when you’re out celebrating. And as they say, don’t be scared to pile on the jewelry! We have so much from which you can choose at Green Box Boutique.

We have just five left of this special creation, Poetry in Motion. Stop in today to check it out.  And if you’d like to know more about this wonderful company and how you’re giving to others while you give to yourself, read our post, Mata Traders: Beautiful on Both Sides.

We love our vendors, their products and their commitment to social goodness. We’d like you to know as much about them as possible.  And we’d like to see you decking out the holiday season in these beautiful clothes!