Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A New Year, A New Blog

So I've decided to start blogging again. Some of my friends have renewed or refreshed their blogs and posted links on their Facebook page. And seeing their blog has made me want to write again. It's been a while since I've blogged, probably over a year, so I thought it be best to just start over with a fresh one.

I've made a few resolutions with the New Year but I have found that for me, changing habits is not an all or nothing activity, but rather a gradual process. One thing I want to work on this year is my weight, eating and exercise habits. I've gained a little more weight than I'd like over the last few years, my cholesterol is high and I have borderline hypothyroidism. My doctor encouraged me to try exercise before drugs to jump start my metabolism but have I exercised this past year? Mmmm, no.

I jumped ahead a bit to the lack of exercise because I"m rusty at the writing and changing my eating habits also ties in a bit with my next New Year's Resolution.

For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to somehow make a difference in the world. Time and life experiences has helped me refine my definition of making a difference and I've learned that doing the "little things" may not be as small as they seem and do add up, especially when they become a part of your lifestyle.

I acquired The Better World Shopping Guide a few months ago and have used it on a regular basis. It's a small book providing the reader with information on products and companies that are socially and environmentally responsible (or irresponsible). The book is neatly organized into categories ranging from Banks and Dairy Products to Paper and Supermarkets. Each company is graded A - F on their commitment to environmental and social responsibilities.

Most people know that I'm a "hippy" so to speak. I recycle, volunteer with the Conservation Department and Bird Sanctuary, educate the public on ecology and conservation. Over the last few months, I have been gradually changing my buying habits. While I don't' think I'll ever be able to go hardcore organic or buy only from those companies who are socially responsible due to costs, time and availability, I think I will be able to manage to make at least half my purchases costs less to the environment.

So back to my eating habits and how this ties in with my purchasing lifestyle. I eat a LOT of candy. I love my chocolate. I do not like to share my chocolate. If I've had a bad day, chocolate comforts me. If I'm raiding on WoW, or tabletop gaming with my friends, chocolate is always nearby. But as we all know, chocolate is not always good for you. Excess chocolate can *gasp* make you gain weight. If I am to lose weight, I need to give it up, or at the very least cut back on it... a lot.

Back when I got my little Better World book, I looked at the Candy and Chocolate categories and was dismayed to find M&Ms and Nestle with the grades D and F. I will freely admit I've been in the dark about the human rights issue in the cocoa industry. Evidently this is a very big issue.

According to the Global Exchange website, "The six largest cocoa producing countries are the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Brazil, and Cameroon. Cocoa has especially significant effects on the economy and the population in these countries. The Ivory Coast is the world's largest cocoa producer, providing 43% of the world's cocoa. And in a US State Dept report (2000) approximately 15,000 children aged 9 to 12 have been sold into forced labor on cotton, coffee and cocoa plantations in the north of the country. An estimated 284,000 children are working on cocoa farms in hazardous tasks such as using machetes and applying pesticides and insecticides without the necessary protective equipment. Many of these children work on family farms, the children of cocoa farmers who are so trapped in poverty they have to make the hard choice to keep their children out of school to work...about 12,500 children working on cocoa farms had no relatives in the area, a warning sign for trafficking."

According to my handy little book, M&Ms suppliers use child slave labor. This fact broke my heart.
M&Ms are my absolute favorite candy. I LOVE LOVE LOVE M&Ms. I've devoured those little candies since I was kid. But this is unacceptable. I do not want to contribute my money to another party who is responsible for the hardship of some child taken away from his family and who is forced to work 12 hour days. Not to mention this child does not have the opportunity to go to school, play, be creative and well...just be a kid.

Giving up the candy will be hard, but in doing so, I will be shedding pounds and feel a little better about myself, knowing I'm not supporting some large corporation trying to save a few extra bucks in supporting their suppliers who do not adequately pay cocoa farmers and use child labor.

Anyways, the book is awesome and is a good beginner's guide for those people (like me) who are interested in buying socially and environmentally responsible products. This book's website and the links in the book have been my gateway into this new world. I will continue to read on this matter and pass on the tidbits I learn.

And for those of you who also want to lose weight, eat better and exercise, let's make a support group of sorts here on my blog. We can chat through email or via the comments. I know I'm going to need encouragement and a good shove every now and then. How about you?


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  2. Great New Year's post! I will support you in every way I can...cutting back on chocolate...or at least in eating healthier chocolate...healthier for you and the planet. Keep it up!