Sunday, March 7, 2010

China, China, Everywhere

About four years ago, I learned of Sara Bongiorni's book A Year Without "Made in China" completely by accident, while sitting at my desk attempting to work, overhearing my boss and my boss's boss chat on their extended lunch break, loudly, on the other side of my cubicle wall. It was impossible to block out the sounds of my boss's boss's harsh voice as she bellowed her opinions about Bongiorni's decision to boycott Chinese products for a year as an experiment to see if it was possible.

At the time, I was more annoyed by the rude intrusion upon my concentration and my work environment than I was interested in the book. But the idea of boycotting products made in China took root in my subconscious and has festered there for the last four years.

About six months ago, when I learned of China's horrific propensity to manipulate the weather, my subconscious split open around the memory of this book. I began to notice "Made in China" tags everywhere in my household. On my towels, my plates, my knives, and the majority of the clothes hanging in my closet. I began to look at the tags of items in stores. All the holiday decorations for Thanksgiving and Christmas were made in China. All the calendars but two in Borders in December where made in China. I can't find a dress that isn't made in China, or shoes. There doesn't seem to be a single plastic item left in the world not produced in China.

I subtly began to shift my buying: If there were two similar items that I liked, I would buy the one not made in China. I began to feel guilty when I did purchase something made in China. I wasn't making a conscious decision to boycott China, but it was there in the back of my head, idealized. I thought, I've managed to boycott Walmart for the last five or more years, how hard could it be to boycott China?

The answer: ridiculously difficult. In registering for our upcoming wedding, I noticed that nearly every kitchen item I wanted was made in China. The one time I had the choice between made in China and not was when selecting a colander. The one made in the United States was a Martha Stewart colander. I chose it. How sad is it that the better choice (in my mind) between China and Martha Stewart was to support the ex-con multimillionaire!

As I scanned the colander to add it to my registry, I decided that I needed to finally read Bongiorni's book. I needed to see for myself what she went through to live without China for a year. I also need to do more research on China. If I'm going to boycott an entire nation, I'm going to boycott it for a more platform-worthy reason than Bongiorni's.


TikiBird said...

Try checking out the labels at REI, especially...
* Prana (where they're manufactured varies with the garment, but I love Prana!)
* Mission Playground (
* Patagonia

Here are some sites that might be fun browsing for clothes and home items for you:

* Boden. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Boden. You've got to check labels, though. However, they do seem concerned about the ethical issues of where their clothing is made:

It seems that most companies concerned with the environment are also concerned with ethics in general for their products, so some eco-friendly sites might be helpful for you, too:

* Under the Canopy ( for clothing and home goods ( used to be one of my favorite eco-home stores, but now the site's not loading...I hope it's still in business!).
* Nubius Organics (
* Gaiam (
* The Green Life (

* Accessories from Matt & Nat (I love them. Sale prices are good, and products are vegan to boot!):

* Form & Fauna ( Made all in the US.

* American Apparel shirts are used for lots of beautiful T-shirts on Etsy.( and

* She-Bible ( They're made in San Francisco.

* Underpants:

* And swimwear: retro swimsuits, made in Oregon:

Then again, I'm not so sure that just because something is not made in China, that means the workers are treated fairly. So I guess the best bet might be to find some brands you know you can trust, and reward them with your shopping dollars.

Good luck!

TikiBird said...

Me again. I've just been checking labels on clothes I have, and I'm pleased with most of them, with only a few unpleasant surprises (like one of my favorite dresses--also one of my most expensive--by BCBG Max Azria--is made in China! Hmph. All of my Prana clothing is made in the USA, though, which is nice.

Also, here are some more links--the "Special Occasion" dress section might help you out, if you're still searching for a dress or three. :)

Here's a quick search on Zappos for "made in USA" products:

Thank goodness for the internet.

Now, I only wish that the great companies that make so many of Henry's clothes and toys would expand to the grownups, too!

Actually, I also really wish that the Disney company would use their heft for good by making everything with fair conditions. The Disney stuff is the hardest for me to resist. I'm working on it.

TikiBird said...

In my excitement over links, I forgot to say that I think it's great you're looking into this kind of thing.

OK, just a few more links. :)

Check out the Preserve site. I am so into their BPA-free, made in the USA plastics! I want them all! (Currently very happy with my toothbrush from them.) The Preserve site says they even carry products at Target! (

I was actually thinking about the "made in China" and otherwise crap items for Easter celebrations last week, and am pleased that the Easter Bunny is going to be making his yearly deliveries for Henry with a beautiful Peterboro basket (handmade in the USA) starting this year: (The Easter Bunny might also someday bring a gorgeous American-made basket from Longaberger for Henry's mom sometime!)

At least when you shell out a bunch of money for this stuff, you can feel good about it. :)