Friday, January 2, 2009

It's Been a Year!

It's been a year on The Compact and a year of blogging about it today! Whoo! We mostly made it.

Early on, I had wanted to be so pure and not get anything new. Well, except for underwear and shoes. I thought we should search for shoelaces and my husband just went out to Walgreens and bought some. He thought it was ridiculous to take such a rigid stance and thought a shoelace purchase at Walgreens was perfectly acceptable.

The whole point of The Compact, for us, was to try to live lightly and simply and realize that what we need and what we want are very seldom the same. We wanted to see if we could rise to the challenge and remove ourselves from the typical societal pressures when it comes to things in our lives. We have always felt comfortable going our own way and hearing our own drums that we march to, and this time we applied it to our purchases for a year.

We didn't buy any CDs or DVDs or new clothing--even though I've blown holes in the butts of two pairs of jeans and now am wearing ill fitting jeans that I got from Goodwill. All of the kids' clothes we got from Goodwill, except dance wear and some shoes. All of my husband's clothes we got from Goodwill. No new kitchen equipment, no new knitting needles, or yarn even. No new dishes, or houseplants (although that would probably be OK), or candles or patio furniture or gardening equipment (although that would certainly be OK--food production)

We did get a new water heater (decadent) and a vacuum (also extremely self indulgent).

So my husband bought shoelaces and lumber for making things and didn't feel any sense of failure or guilt for not being pure. I, on the other hand, tried to be more stringent about it and still ended up buying the kids NEW stuff for Christmas. Yes, I did. I blew it. I didn't plan well at all and realize that if I had looked at e-bay weeks earlier, I'm sure I could have gotten them nice things that they would like and that were well made. As it was, I bought them things from a great toy catalog and they appreciated their gifts. My husband got me a new used camera, on the compact there!, and I got my husband slippers and boots and a cool fern fossil. I consider all of that compact compatible too--shoes are OK and a fossil is life--that's OK. It's certainly not new...

My husband's take on the whole compact thing is that it is merely a reminder to not get anything that you don't need. It's perfectly OK, good even, to make things and if you need to buy new materials to do that that's OK. The point is to not be frivolous and silly about purchases and to be mindful about how and where things fit into your life. Do they serve you or do you serve them? Is your house more and more cluttered and are your closets exploding with the trendiest clothes only to be thrown away 6 months later? Do you find that you have to update all of your electronic equipment, even if it's working just fine, because there is a slightly faster, shinier, more colorful version? If you didn't get the latest stuff, what would that say about you? What would that mean? Would you somehow be less? Would you have less value as a person? Does the latest mean the greatest until the next latest comes along? What is improved? Why do you need that improvement?

Is self denial a punishment? How?

I had hoped that others would join us in this adventure and no one, that I know of, has really adopted it as a lifestyle. My friend E. though, decided she wouldn't replace something in her home and decided to repair it instead because she thought of me and what I was trying to do here. Thanks E.

In light of the recent economic collapse, I thought about the ramifications of what I was asking people to do. People are being laid off because of less buying. That's what I am espousing though, isn't it? But, perhaps it's not the act of buying rather the type of buying that ultimately is significant. One of the reasons for us going on The Compact was that there is an unbelievably huge garbage stream caused by our purchases and then throwing away so quickly. The materialism and commercialism of our culture is polluting the earth. We thought that was unconscionable and unnecessary.

What if people had more connections through their purchases? When we get the milk, meat, eggs and honey from our co-op farmers, we know who managed the animals and how and we are more aware of our food that way. If we bought hand made things, instead of mass produced manufactured objects from big box stores, we would be supporting small companies and families and co-ops and helping them have a livelihood. Purchasing new things in itself isn't bad, it's how and when and why that becomes so convoluted.

Which brings me to my blog. I've thoroughly enjoyed all of the visitors and commentors who've stopped off here. You are an interesting bunch, and I know I'm not alone in my thinking--that's extremely gratifying. We are not alone.

I've thoroughly enjoyed writing about our year here. Lots of political stuff got in there--well, how couldn't it in this election year?! And I've written about how we've lived our day to day lives as a way of showing what you can do when you're not purchasing anything. If We Don't Buy It, what do we do? I don't have great tips about how to resist buying crap. Perhaps people really need that. I just thought it would be good to share our experiences and hope to inspire others to think about their own purchases. And then I started becoming disheartened and thought that inspiration isn't enough.

That's where I am now. I'm trying to think how this blog can become a more active place and be much more about acting out these principles in a bigger way. I just think we're all fooling ourselves if we think that making cloth napkins is going to save the earth--it's not. It's a nice step, but there are factories and corporations that are spewing out toxins and pressuring people to buy more and throw out more and they are the ones that are messing it up. We are all complicit in that if we buy into their commercialism and continue to purchase, purchase, purchase. There needs to be huge groundswell of people refusing to accept these old ways of operating.

So, this year, I'm going to try to be more of an activist and I will share that with you here. What can we do? Who can we talk to? How can we bring pressure to bear? It's not enough, although it is helpful, to pat ourselves on the back because we are foregoing the newest i-pod. Collectively, if we stopped being so materialistic and stopped purchasing new stuff all of the time, I think it could make a huge difference. But, the companies that are in business have to change as well. Stop making junk! Stop exploiting workers around the world! Stop polluting! We have to force them to stop business practices that move us all down this destructive path. Some of that will come through political activism.

Laws force corporations to behave. They don't do it on their own. Ever. Some laws are better than other laws. So, this brings me to HR 4040 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which just passed in August and will go into effect on February 10th. This law is to protect children from dangerous toys. Remember the lead filled toys from China last year? Pthalates? This bill requires third party testing on every toy being sold in the U.S. That sounds reasonable, except what about the mom making beautiful Waldorf dolls in her house with organic materials? She will have to comply with this law too. She will have to have testing done on her toys even though they're obviously safe. No more Waldorf dolls from her probably. So, even more mass produced plastic toys that will get thrown out. Aggggh!

Here's commentary on the bill:

H.R. 4040- the CPSIA, truth and fiction

  • December 5, 2008 at 2:07 PM by LuminousMom
  • 33 Comment(s)
  • 4654 Total Views
I know this is long, but it is important. There is a lot of panic in the handmade nation right now.. because this law directly affects us in an unfair way. We are doing everything we can to have it modified to include us, to be fair to us.. but at this point, we are being treated the same as big industry.. and while this will not affect them substantially, it WILL affect us. Hundreds, if not thousands, of crafters across our country will be put out of business. Those crafters are not only an integral part of not only the local economy but they supply quality handmade goods as an alternative to mass produced and wasteful big box store goods. They will not be able to do what they do anymore if this law does not add an amendment for us.

So as a crafter this has hit home for me, last night my DH and I, and my mom on the phone.. sat down and read the 68 pages line by line, to see where I and my business fit into this. This affects anyone who sells goods to children under the age of 12, anyone who HAS children under the age of 12, anyone who MAKES goods for children under the age of 12, and anyone who buys things for children under the age of 12.

For those who don't know, the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008) is an act designed to protect our children from unsafe toys, aka.. lead at excessive levels.. and that's a noble cause, HOWEVER, this act requires ANY item designed, marketed to, intended for use by, or looks like it could be designed FOR any child under the age of 12 must be tested. Sounds like a good idea, but you have to consider that the cost for these tests (estimates on different websites vary) have ranged from $100.00 to $4000.00. Even if we assume its $100.00, the average crafter cannot afford to have every "batch" of their craft tested. This act is poorly written and doesn't address the REAL problem... it forces testing on products manufactured in the US, when our products weren't the problem to begin with. We should be forcing testing on every product IMPORTED to the US, but a witch hunt on good American companies making good healthy products is not helping. In this economy, do we really need to put more of a burden on our businesses?

THIS AFFECTS EVERYONE! This affects at home care-takers, daycares, and schools... as your cribs and any toy items must be tested for lead. This affects crafters, of course. This affects Re-sellers, such as Salvation army and others, as THEIR apparel and toys must be tested. This affects GARAGE SALES. According to this act, you CANNOT sell any item for children under the age of 12 which has not been certified to meet the legal levels of lead. I am NOT joking, that is in the act. It is breaking the law to do so, and the fines are high.

Here's an example... if a bib maker makes 10 different styles of bib, with two fabrics on each bib, Velcro, and heavy weight sew in.. she must have all10 of those bibs tested, at the $100 a pop (or more) and if she sews a different style, even using the same fabrics, THAT must be tested. EVERY time she makes a new batch, they must be tested.. even if they use the same supplies. She must also PERMANENTLY label her items with the batch number, so consumers can know when it was made and what batch it came from.

If a dress maker who makes children's dresses sews 20 different dresses, in 3 sizes each, she must have ALL sizes of all 20 dresses tested, even if they are made of the same fabric. That's 60 tests. And don't think this doesn't affect ADULT apparel makers too, because it does... how many of you have 12 year olds who wear "adult" clothing? Not all 12 year olds shop in the junior section.. so adult clothing manufacturers will have to take extra precaution to ensure their products are never marketed to anyone under the age of 12, it goes so far as to say they cannot APPEAL to children under the age of 12. The law STATES that.. how can a dress maker ensure their product doesnt appeal to a child under the age of 12?

Small businesses CANNOT absorb the costs of this, they will either close their doors or raise their prices.. or stop selling items for children under the age of 12. We all buy our products (materials) from retailers here in the US... surely if those products (materials) were tested that would be good enough, right? No. The finished product must be tested, regardless of the materials being safe.

Here are some TRUE-VS-FALSE things we managed to find, in regards to this Act, and how it will affect CRAFTERS specifically, of any item for children under the age of 12. Do your own research and read the law.. and of course, all of this is subject to change because there are amendments to this Act, and there are people fighting to change it. This isn't the "final word" this is a.. right now we think.. kind of deal.

Statement - certain things will be exempt for testing, like apparel, because fabric doesnt have lead in it.
FALSE- all items marketed to, designed for, advertised as, or for use by a child under the age of 12 must be tested for lead, even if it does not contain any.

In 180 days, must test less than 600 parts per million. In 365 days, must test less than 300 parts per million. in 3 years from date of enactment, must test less than 100 parts per million. WHAT the item is does not matter. It MUST test if it is to be used by a child under the age of 12.

Statement - on Feb 10th the store shelves will be empty, everything not tested must be disposed of.
UNDETERMINED-I am getting conflicting information. I cant say yes or no on this, to be honest I don't trust anyone's "opinion" on this, including mine. I have contacted my states governor, and my senator. Both of their "offices" have replied that my concerns will be addressed. I don't know how long that will take.

Statement - on Feb 10th you must stop selling anything which has not been tested
UNDETERMINED-I am getting conflicting information. I cant say yes or no on this. I have contacted my states governor, and my senator. Both of their "offices" have replied that my concerns will be addressed. I don't know how long that will take.

From what I read.. I gathered that all items are subject to an up to 10 month grace period for testing.. you have to have certificates for every item to prove you had them tested. BUT, I could have read it wrong. I will wait to see what the governor or senator says.

THIS IS ACCORDING TO SECTION 102 of the ACT, view the PDF at, search H.R. 4040

Statement - All cribs must be tested if they are to be used in a daycare, home care facility, or to be re-sold (such as a hand-me down store, or consignment shop)
TRUE - unless amended (and it SHOULD be.) - It shall be a violation of section 19(a)(1) of the Consumer Product Safety Act for any person to which this applies to manufacture (make), sell (store or otherwise), contract to sell or resell (consignment store), lease, sublet, offer, provide for use (give away!!) or otherwise place in the stream of commerce a crib which is not in compliance with a standard promulgated under subsection (b). (meaning it must meet the lead levels I mentioned above... 600 parts per million, then 300.. maybe 100 eventually).

This applies to any person that -
(a) MANUFACTURES, DISTRIBUTES, OR CONTRACTS TO SELL CRIBS; (Salvation army, Consignment stores, Goodwill, Garage sales, Deseret Industries, Baby stores, Walmart.. it affects ANYONE who wants to SELL a crib.)
(B) BASED ON THE PERSON OCCUPATION, HOLDS ITSELF OUT AS HAVING KNOWLEDGE OR SKILL PECULIAT TO CRIBS, INCLUDING CHILD CARE FACILITIES AND FAMILY CARE HOMES; (Daycares, at home care facilities, babysitters, ANYONE who has children in their home and receive pay for it.)

BASICALLY - THIS AFFECTS ALL OF YOU! According to the way this law is written, it could be ILLEGALfor your sister to give you her crib without having it tested. It could be illegal to sell a crib which has not been tested, even illegal to give it away. Cribs should be tested, but there should be an exemption or "grandfather" clause for ones already in circulation! I cant afford to have my kids crib tested so I can donate it after she doesn't need it anymore.. I KNOW Goodwill cant afford to have all kids cribs tested before they can sell or donate them. This is RIDICULOUS.

All "Durable infant or toddler products" must be tested... those are defined as:
(A) Full size cribs and non full-size cribs; (B) toddler beds; (C) high chairs, booster chairs, and hook-on chairs; (D) bath seats; (E) gates and other enclosures for confining a child; (F) play yards; (G) stationary activity centers; (H) infant carriers; (I) strollers; (J) walkers; (K) swings; and (L) bassinets and cradles.
ALL of those items are included in the law I posted above, ALL are illegal to sell or give away, even by you, without a lead test certification.

If you planned to donate your children's old items, you can't. If you planned to give them to a friend, you can't. If you planned to sell them, you definitely can't. According to this law, as it is written right now, you CAN'T. its ILLEGAL. (to find out what you can do, keep reading)

1) DEFINED TERMS- As used in this section

(A) The term `phthalate alternative' means any common substitute to a phthalate, alternative material to a phthalate, or alternative plasticizers

(B) The term `children's toy' means a consumer product designed or intended by the manufacturer for a child 12 years of age or younger for use by the child when the child plays

(C) The term `child care article' means a consumer product designed or intended by the manufacturer to facilitate sleep or the feeding of children age 3 and younger, or to help such children with sucking or teething. (PAJAMAS, BEDDING, BLANKETS, BIBS, PACIFIERS, TEETHERS, BOWLS, SPOONS, FORKS, CUPS, HIGHCHAIRS, ANYTHING TO HELP A CHILD SLEEP, EAT, SUCK, OR TEETH)

(D) The term `consumer product' has the meaning given such term in section 3(a)(1) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 2052(a)(1)).

(A) AGE- In determining whether products described in paragraph (1) are designed or intended for use by a child of the ages specified, the following factors shall be considered:

(i) A statement by a manufacturer about the intended use of such product, including a label on such product if such statement is reasonable.

(ii) Whether the product is represented in its packaging, display, promotion, or advertising as appropriate for use by children of the ages specified.

(iii) Whether the product is commonly recognized by consumers as being intended for use by a child of the ages specified.

(iv) The Age Determination guidelines issued by the Commission staff in September 2002 and any successor to such guidelines.

(B) TOY THAT CAN BE PLACED IN A CHILD'S MOUTH- For purposes of this section a toy can be placed in a child's mouth if any part of the toy can actually be brought to the mouth and kept in the mouth by a child so that it can be sucked and chewed. If the children's product can only be licked, it is not regarded as able to be placed in the mouth. If a toy or part of a toy in one dimension is smaller than 5 centimeters, it can be placed in the mouth.

Statement - well how will they know we are not complying? They wont worry about us, we're small potatoes.
TRUTH -Maybe, maybe not. Is it a risk you are willing to take? I listed the fines below. Just be aware, in the UK they have had tougher toy laws for a long time.. as a result, their toys are safer.. but also as a result, crafters are subject to having their product confiscated, even at craft shows, if they do not comply with the law and regulations. YES, they can find you. Will they? Maybe not.. but I am not willing to risk a $100,000 fine to find out.

(1) CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY ACT- Section 20(a)(1) (15 U.S.C. 2069(a)(1)) is amended--

        (A) by striking `$5,000' and inserting `$100,000';

        (B) by striking `$1,250,000' both places it appears and inserting `$15,000,000'; and

        (C) by striking `December 1, 1994,' in paragraph (3)(B) and inserting `December 1, 2011,'.

I'm not sure if LuminousMom is right in all of her concerns, but this bill does seem very poorly written and makes it even more difficult for people who craft handmade toys for children to bring them to market.

That's the last thing we need as a culture. We don't need less well made, quality things, we need more--at least as far as they can start replacing junky, cheap things that will be thrown out in 6 months. What if everyone started buying good things, even if they were a bit expensive, and only bought what they really needed? How would that work in our consumerist culture? Less frequent spending. Longer lasting things. Less push, drive, pressure to buy the latest great thing. How would that change our relationship to our things?

I'm going to find out how we can ammend this, and make it more suited to the problem it's trying to address.

So, We Don't Buy It is still about not buying, but it's also now about less bitching and more action. It doesn't do a whit of good if we all know this stuff and then everyone still behaves in the same ways. It doesn't matter that some of us are buying less if overall the big box stores are still churning out the junk day after day after day.

The ice caps are melting!! That is huge and it means a lot that we are all a part of that happening. It's not enough to shake our heads and tsk and then throw up our hands and say, "We know it's awful, but what can we do?"

Well, I don't what we can do, but damnit I'm going to find out.

You know how Obama got elected? He was elected by a groundswell of grassroots energy that gave and e-mailed and gave again. Bit by bit by bit. And, it worked. And, the inspiring thing, is that it has always worked. People who come together with a common concern around a common cause can and do affect change. Change happens when people care and get active.


So, gosh darn it, this year is about getting things going. It's not just not purchasing new things, which we will continue to try and do, it's also about acting on the things we all now know. Somehow.

Welcome to the second year of We Don't Buy It.

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