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Mata Traders Summer Fashion
Mata Traders Summer Fashion

Be sure to check out our special offers in our April newsletter:  Green Box Boutique April 2015 News

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!

Wines to discover and share with friends: Ryan Patrick Vineyards

Jeremy Santo, winemaker, Ryan Patrick Vineyards
Jeremy Santo, winemaker, Ryan Patrick Vineyards

For two weeks in a row, the last Saturday in March and the first in April, Green Box Boutique offers free wine tastings. We bring you wines to discover and share with your friends. Here’s a little about one of our new, incoming wine labels:

Family-run wineries seem like an artifact in the U.S., where all of agriculture seems on the stampede toward factory-style operations. And “batch tinkering”? Unheard of. When you have a winning formula for food or beverages, you stick with it, working by the recipe.

Not so at Ryan Patrick Vineyards, where the touch of the winemaker counts: “Intuitive winemaking is the art of letting the fruit speak for itself. It’s minimalist intervention combined with consistency of style. That’s the heart of the Ryan Patrick promise: artisanal winemaking where the grape is at the center.”

Named for the grape-growing family founders’ two sons, Ryan and Patrick, Ryan Patrick Wineries is known for its Naked Chardonnay, Redhead Red and Rock Island Red labels and for its Reserve wines, consistently out-performing its price-point. The wineries source fruit from local single vineyards in Wahluke Slope and Sagemoor Farms in Washington State.

In 1951 Sid Flanagan began farming native land near Quincy, Washington as part of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project. Forty years later, in 1996, Sid’s son Terry, with wife Vivian, founded Ryan Patrick Vineyards. They were pioneer wine growers in what is now “Washington State’s newest American Viticultural Area (AVA), Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley. The state’s thirteenth AVA runs along a stretch of steep cliffs above the Columbia River and surrounds the town of Quincy, Washington. A combination of unique growing conditions including a cooler climate, a thin soil layer and vineyard elevations of 1,200 – 1,400 feet contribute to the area’s unique character”.  Ryan Patrick Vineyards is on the Leavenworth-Cashmere Wine Trail.

Their estate wines use fruit grown in two family-owned vineyards: The Bishop’s Vineyard, containing 20 acres of chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc; and The Homestead Vineyard, with its 25 acres of exquisite chardonnay. Low yields in the vineyard, combined with prime locations for heat and sunlight, produce concentrated fruit.

Of winemaker Jeremy Santo’s Naked Chardonnay, Wine Press Northwest says, “This vintage marks his second as head winemaker for Ryan Patrick Vineyards, and he’s created a marvelous stainless steel Chardonnay with fruit from Sagemoor, Wautoma Winds and Sundance vineyards. Aromas of fresh-cut pineapple, guava, There’s complexity to the structure that opens with a pleasing mouth feel from stirring on the lees as flavors of Asian pear and dried apricot transition to a crisp finish with Gala apple. Rated “Outstanding!” by Great Northwest Wine. (13.5% alc.)

Jeremy Santo “does daily fermentations with different yeast or temperatures to achieve a specific effect. A true craftsman, Jeremy pulls from his scientific education and training at Snoqualmie and Canoe Ridge wineries to create consistently great wines that people love to discover and share with their friends.

“His batch-tinkering approach has resulted in varietals and blends that have justifiably become famous for how they out-perform their price point. Ryan Patrick is known for its Naked Chardonnay, Redhead Red and Rock Island Red labels, and for its Reserve wines, which source fruit from single vineyards in Wahluke Slope and Sagemoor Farms.”

A 2012 move toward a larger operation maintained all the positives of a family-owned and operated, award-winning winery while adding potential: “The Flanagans were looking for a way to produce more wine and wanted to add other varietals to their line. At the same time, all that success in the marketplace drew the attention of the Wahluke Wine Company. Interested in adding a small quality winery to the company, they approached the Flanagans and offered to buy the winery. It would be kept as Ryan Patrick Vineyards, with both Terry and Vivian involved in daily operations. This would give them more wine and more varietals to offer their fans.

Ryan Patrick wines are from sustainably grown grapes. For specifics about the meaning of labels on wines, check out our post, Does the Emperor Have Too Many Clothes? The Confusing World of Wine Labels.

Pottery: An ancient art with modern meaning – Bryan Becker Clay Werks

Bryan Becker Clay Werks

Nostalgia for the old days won’t solve our current environmental and social problems, but recognizing things we value from our history can help.

A quick survey of American history reveals a few things Americans value about themselves: our “rugged individualism”, our pride in craftsmanship, our resourcefulness. We are proud of the beautiful land that makes up this country and memorialize it in “America the Beautiful”. We value the idea that so many came to this Land of Opportunity with nothing, worked hard and built a life for themselves and their families. We value the idea of community, the idea that a group of people can work together toward a common goal.

Some of these values and images are tarnished in recent years, but we can dust them off to address the issues that face us and to shape our future. Often returning to the images we hold of ourselves as Americans returns us to practices and ways of living that didn’t do the kind of damage to the environment that today’s lifestyle does.

Pottery is one of those practices. Pottery is the oldest synthetic material. Made from clay, it comes from the earth and returns to it. No wonder that ancient civilizations, including Greece and the Israelite civilization of biblical fame, envisioned human beings coming from the same substance: from earth to earth. Clay is relatively inexpensive and widely available. People around the world have perfected their skill to produce durable, beautiful vessels, both for aesthetic pleasure and for use in important tasks. No early American home was complete with its pottery, bowls, mugs, butter churns, pickle barrels and more.

There is something reassuring about pottery in its beauty, its practicality and usefulness, the fact that it lives so harmoniously with the natural world from which it comes. It is a thoughtful, resourceful, aesthetic use of material the earth provides in abundance. Each piece, no matter how small, is an individual expression of molding the raw materials of our world into something not just beautiful but useful.

That beautiful, comforting practicality is what Bryan Becker Clay Werks pottery represents. Handmade in Hartland, Wisconsin, this pottery is for those with a taste for handmade and custom-crafted works “that captivate and inspire”. From mugs to wine goblets to a beautiful series of bowls with thoughtful sayings (or to personalize), Bryan Becker adds to a rich tradition of American craftsmanship and encourages our appreciation for our earth in the pieces he creates from it.

The Wisconsin location hosts the work of more than 100 other artists from around the country who specialize in works of clay, metal, glass, wood, silver, mixed media and unique jewelry. Bryan Becker Clay Werks Inc. was established in 1983. It is a full service pottery studio and Gallery, housed in a 1928 dairy barn, adding to the sense of earthiness, practicality and traditional craftsmanship one gets from the work itself.

Bryan Becker Clay Werks
Bryan Becker Clay Werks

Bryan Becker Clay Werks site describes the process of creation this way: “Each bowl is hand thrown on the potter’s wheel by ceramic artist Bryan Becker. The clay used is called “high fire” stoneware. After a slight drying time, a special tool is used to inscribed the message around the rim of the bowl. Because every bowl is handcrafted, one at a time, names and dates can be added. The bowl is later trimmed of excess clay and signed by the artist. After its initial firing (bisque), the bowl is glazed with one of six custom colors, and fired to 2354 degrees F. This “high fire” process gives each piece its lasting durability, ready for food, dishwashers, microwaves and home ovens. It can also be enjoyed for years as a decorative keepsake.”

Perhaps your piece will last for centuries, even, as pottery so often does, telling its story to many future generations.

We are fortunate to carry a number of Bryan Becker’s pieces at the Green Box Boutique. Stop in to view beautiful bowls and other pottery pieces. And when you’re in Hartland, Wisconsin, stop in and say “hi” to Bryan Becker for us!

We’re all about #LovingLeoinWoodstock

#Loving Leo in Woodstock#

Leo will visit 14 locations in Woodstock over the next 2 weeks!

Stop in and take a selfie with Leo, and enter to win a gift certificate.

Having Some Fun…Little Bars of Soap


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:


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,

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

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,

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

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


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.

Coming soon to a Green Box Boutique near you…organic onesies!


Babies: Gotta love’em!

Babies. We all love them. That soft, beautiful skin. The fresh smell when you hold a baby close. The sweet smiles. Moms are very familiar with that urge they feel to nurture and protect this tiny, beautiful person, their new baby.

When some of us had babies so many years ago in the 70s, we had just started to become suspicious about our food supply and how it might affect our babies: the pesticides, the additives, the artificial ingredients, the allergens and sugar even making their way into formulas and the baby food in little jars that were such a ubiquitous part of baby-nurturing at that time.

There was a movement toward organic and homemade baby food and a resurgence of interest in breast feeding. Moms of prior generations who raised their kids on commercial baby foods and formula with the understanding it was more healthy than homemade, natural products could possibly be, were bemused and concerned. Today we know there were good reasons in the 70s for new moms (and dads) to be suspicious of those commercial products, and we have many more options.

The case for organic textiles for babies

We have been slower to understand that what we surround our babies with, what touches their skin, is as almost as important as what we feed our babies. Yes, babies have just as many organs inside their bodies with lots of surface area and the capacity to absorb toxins, affecting development and growth and causing disease. But our skin is the largest single organ in our bodies, and it, too, can absorb toxins and allergens.

We are remarkably resilient as human beings, and our health direction, as any chiropractor will say, is toward stasis. We want to be healthy, and so do our babies! So we have an amazing capacity to sluff off the toxins in our food and environment that threaten to overwhelm us. But as moms, we want to hold off that inevitable assault as long as we can for our babies.

And now we know, thanks to the great work of so many committed activists and entrepreneurs, that we need to be as diligent with regard to the materials that touch our babies’ skin as we try to be with what we put in their little bodies.

A new investigation by Greenpeace has found a broad range of hazardous chemicals in children’s clothing and footwear across a number of major clothing brands, including fast fashion, sportswear and luxury brands.

“The study follows several previous investigations published by Greenpeace as part of its Detox campaign, which identified that hazardous chemicals are present in textile and leather products as a result of their use during manufacture. It confirms that the use of hazardous chemicals is still widespread – even during the manufacture of clothes for children and infants.” Greenpeace purchased 82 children’s textile products from 25 countries, tested them and found toxic chemicals above the technical limits of detection used in their study.

So what to do? Today there are great products available at a reasonable cost for your baby so you can keep him or her safe from the onslaught of toxic chemicals a little longer. These products are made from traditional fibers, used for millennia, without toxic dyes. They are likely to be produced sustainably.

Natural Baby Mama provides a very useful synopsis of what goes into conventional clothing and, alternatively, the natural fibers and processes used to produce healthy baby clothing. Her recommendation for the best, safest baby clothing is GOTS certified (Global Organic Textile Standard) cotton or wool.

More information

So in addition to feeding your beautiful little baby the best, healthiest natural food items you can find, if you want to put the best, healthiest fabrics against their skin, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the informative material in these two links:

Natural Baby Mama

And one more thing…don’t forget the crib mattress and sheets! Your baby spends a lot of sleeping on them.