Xanga continues to be uncooperative with me. I am able to post on a sort of alternate page, but it will not let me show you pictures or books or anything like that. I cannot read your comments, either. I do not know what I have done to offend xanga.
No matter. In our last thrilling installment, we had determined that Nestle was among the bad guys in the child labor issue. Chez Fibermom, we care a lot about these things. I try to buy locally as much as possible, and otherwise to make sure that the companies I support financially are also companies I can support philosophically. But my children are hot chocolate fans and I, like my mother before me, have always bought those cartons of Carnation instant hot chocolate. It is one of the few convenience foods to be found in my kitchen. And it is made by Nestle. Fortunately, my kids have bravely agreed to try other brands of hot chocolate.
So we began our search for a chocolate company with clean hands. This is not as easy as you might think. Nestle has plants in Cote d’Ivoire, and observers saw bags of beans labeled to be sent to them, at plantations with child labor. They are a clear case. Yet there are plenty of ambiguities.
For example, Lindt (Ghirardelli’s parent company) is the source of the occasional eating chocolate around here. They say that they are committed to human rights and working with other European chocolatiers to end the problem in Cote d’Ivoire. They also say that the chain from cacoa bean to chocolatier is so long that they cannot guarantee that they have no tainted chocolate. Observers did not find direct evidence of a connection between Lindt and child labor, so this company may be okay.
There are companies — Cadbury and Rapunzel, for example — which buy their cacao only from growers known to them. There are others which buy only South American cacao. Fair Trade certification for chocolate exists, just as it does for coffee (another industry with serious child labor problems) and tea. These seem like solutions to the problem. Some people have simply given up chocolate entirely.
But the chocolate industry points out that result of an overall chocolate boycott, or a boycott of chocolate from the Ivory Coast, would also be to take away the livelihood of the people who are not using child labor or slave labor, in a region of desperate poverty.
Even the plantations that use child labor are in a bit of a cleft stick. In a fairy tale, they would free the children, reunite them with their families, and perhaps build a nice school for them all to attend. In real life, Nestle could do that, but small growers are stuck with the children. They cannot send them away with no source of support. They cannot adopt them all. They cannot, in many cases, return them to the families that sold them, because they have been bought by middlemen and do not know where they came from. And of course their families sold them, and may not want them back. We are a long way, here, from the happy M&Ms on the TV.
We are starting with the small step of removing Nestle from our house. Blind taste tests are planned. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
On a lighter note, but still within the category of consumer information, here is a review of Booksfree.
I have been with Booksfree (find them at Booksfree.com) for two months. Their service is simple. They send you books in the mail. You read them and send them back and they send you some more. If you are familiar with Netflix, then you understand Booksfree. The service is simple and works well. The selection is large, and the site is easy to navigate. The books are obviously used, but not in bad condition. Each package contains an envelope to return the books in, and you must not lose that envelope while you read the books, but most of us can handle that.
I have the “four books at a time” plan. Ideally, I send them a package of books each Friday and receive a package from them each Friday, so I will have two books a week. I will pause for a moment so you can work that out. A calendar and a couple of toy trucks will make it clearer. Because of the vagaries of the mails, however, it doesn’t always work that way. In two months I have actually received 14 books, which works out to 1.6 books per week. However, you can have as many as 12 books at a time.
Is it a good deal? At $12.99 per month, it works out to $1.86 per title. Your results would probably be better if you live East of the Mississippi, and worse if you are a slow reader. But with new paperbacks going for $6.99 to $14.95, this is clearly not a bad deal. Even used books are going to run you more than $1.86. For books that you would buy, read once, and then throw out or sell at a garage sale, this is a vast improvement. The only cheaper way to read would be the library (obviously your best bet if you are looking mostly at cost).
Now, I read about three books a week, I think, so Booksfree is not providing all my reading material. There are books I want to own, books that Booksfree does not stock, books I reread, books I borrow from other readers or from the library, and books that I want to be able to read at the lake without worrying about spoiling them. In combination with these, Booksfree works perfectly for me. A steady supply of books appearing in the mailbox with no great effort on my part is certainly worth the subscription fee.
As with Netflix, the only real drawback seems to be that you cannot choose a particular book at a particular time. I cannot, for example, use it confidently for book club. You could not decide that you were in the mood for P.G. Wodehouse and just have some right then. These services are for those of us who are flexible about what we read or watch.
On the fiber front, I have begun another prayer shawl and am working on the T-shirt and the quilt, but xanga will not let me show you these things, so it will just have to wait.