photo by Lotte Lohr

 

You know when you’re feeling pretty good about something then all of a sudden the rug is pulled out and you feel crappy?  That happened when I was innocently rabbit trailing on Instagram.  Or Facebook, I can’t even remember now.  I found this website called Slavery Footprint which asks right when you get there,

 

How many slaves work for you??

 

 What?  Slaves work for me?  is what I asked but then they anticipated that and had an arrow to click to find out more.

 

You scroll through some pretty disturbing facts, like–There are at least 27 million slaves worldwide.
But buying, selling, and trafficking human beings?
If that’s happening it must just be in wildly different cultures
far from my influence.
Actually, no. That smart phone. That t-shirt, computer, cup of coffee…
That’s stuff we buy, and that’s stuff that comes from slaves.
 If this is true wouldn’t Oprah have talked about this on Soul Sunday??

 

I am starting to feel a little woozy. But the animated graphics are really cool so I keep reading.
The bottom line is: Slavery still exists and slaves are making the things I buy.

 

When I was done with that piece of education,  I could take my own personal survey to see how many slaves, gulp, work for me.

 

I was curious and since I help spread the word about Fair Trade, Fair Wage and ethical products, I thought I might end up not too bad.

 

You start out easy…name, age, kids.  Then you get to build the house you live in with your number of bedrooms, bathrooms and cars.  It’s beginning to get uncomfortable.  But its also fun because the interactive graphics are amazing!  Like no other survey I’ve seen before! So I keep going…

 

They ask you what percentage do you eat of fruits, veggies, meat, fish….Is this a nutrition survey or what??

 

photo by Paul Morris

On the sideboard are extra questions.  Each set starts with ‘What percentage of this category are ethically sourced?’ I choose local, organic produce (mostly), buy fair trade coffee and stay away from fish on…that… that… list.  (What’s the name of that list??) I feel pretty good that no slaves are in my food chain.

 

 In subsequent categories of household items, personal hygiene items, jewelry and electronic gear you are asked which items you consume are ethically sourced……  I quickly clue in that if its on the list, a slave is making it.  It pained me to put I have 16 pillows.  Wait!  That’s just bed pillows. What about couch pillows, and outdoor furniture pillows?!?!  Oh, I need a Tums!

 

But this is what made me cry.  On the page, “Let’s see whats in your medicine cabinet”, it wanted you to click on the pictured item that you DON’T have.  Hmmm…comb, contacts, dental floss….have all that.  Foundation, concealer,  nail polish…uh, yeah.  Shampoo, soap, sunscreen…Doggone it I HAVE IT ALL!

 

Every day tens of thousands of Indian children mine mica, which is the little sparkles in makeup.

Oh, my…slave children are giving my face that dewy glow!.  I could feel the tears coming.

 

There was nothing I could check that I didn’t consume!  Wait!  Mouthwash.. We technically have mouthwash, but it’s under Gregg’s sink and I don’t use it. I have to check off SOMEthing.  I checked it off.

 

I lied.  I just lied.  On a website promoting ethical products, I was unethical and lied.

 

On to the family jewels…gold, silver, platinum, precious stones.   Did you know rubies are mined using forced labor?  It’s not just diamonds.  The tears started to swell…even though I don’t own any rubies.

 

They ask you to count up your electronics.  We are very well connected.  TV, game consuls, smart phones, computers—we have it all…in multiples.

photo by Jeff Sheldon

Needing Pepto Bismo right now.

 

Time to count Sporting Goods.  Really?  Who knew?  Then clothing.  You move the bar to tally the number of shirts, pants, skirts, dresses, shoes, hats, scarves and even lingerie.  Getting a little personal aren’t we? I was worried the counter wouldn’t go up that high.  Oh, why didn’t I clean out my closet LAST week!!  Do I count the shoes I WANT to give away?

 

The next page had a bomb. “ How many times have you paid for sex”  with a zipper to pull down to answer.  The graphical impact wasn’t lost on me.  But of course they had to ask that question.  Sex slaves, many of them children, are being forced all over the world.  Even right here in Sunny California.

 

How many slaves work for me?  The next page revealed my total.  58.  My number was 58!  My heart broke and I lost my appetite.   How do I free the children? How do I make this right?

 

I’m going to find out where EVERY item I buy comes from and see if its made with slave labor!
I’m going to not purchase from ANY company that uses slave labor in its supply line!
I’m going to…wait??  How do I find out if my products are dependent on slavery in the first place??

 

I can buy Fair Trade products because I can easily see the Fair Trade label.  But what about everything else I buy?  This is a daunting task.

 

And I know me…I’m fired up right now with compassion, but next week?  When I need want crave chocolate but no Fair Trade chocolate is in my pantry?  Will I succumb to the sweetness of slave-made chocolate?  Or how about when I see the most cutest pair of sandals that I’ve been hunting for?  On sale, no less.  Will I care how  they were made?  Or when I need a dress for that wedding coming up and because I procrastinated I just run to my nearest fav store and purchase what I like and what fits and call it a day not remembering that

 

photo by Crew

1.4 million children have been forced to work in Uzbek cotton fields. There are fewer children in the entire New York City public school system.

This is my honest, sad  truth.  I want it to be different.  I want to care. And I know you do too.

 

That’s part of my mission. To figure out how to eat and buy and wear ethically.  I won’t have it figured out today, tomorrow or even next month.  It’s a journey.  It’s going to take some time.  And work.  But its some effort I’m willing to put in.

 

Will you journey with me?  Share your discoveries and I’ll share mine?

 

Next post I’ll share with you what I’ve found out about how to find out about companies we buy from.  Then we can begin to understand how to reduce the number of slaves working for us.

 

In the meantime, Check out your own footprint at Slavery Footprint   If you dare.  Keep the tissues and the Tums handy.

 

Note:  Firefox works best in order to see all the animated graphics.