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Your Slavery Footprint

Posted Nov 11 2011 11:14am
If you are into being any kind of green consumer, you are probably familiar with free trade and cruelty-free products.  You also know about buying products without toxins. Another serious issue to consider when shopping is “how many slaves are in the supply chain of the products you buy”.  Modern slaves include forced laborers and bonded laborers.  There are about 27 million slaves worldwide producing many of the everyday products that we love.

No one would willingly buy a product that is produced by a slave, but more than likely there are slaves in the supply chain of most of our modern products.  The corporations that make the products may not even be aware of this.

To bring shoppers’ attention to this issue, Made in a Free World , the slavery footprint website  asks you to take a survey that calculates your slavery footprint (sort of like a carbon footprint).  In the survey, you will answer questions about your house, your electronics, which sports you play, the size of your wardrobe.  When you finish the survey, it will tell you how many slaves are working for you to supply the products you buy. The survey results include a breakdown of your score and what products contributed most to your score.

I was shocked that my slavery footprint is higher than the average of others who have taken the survey.  Thirty nine slaves support my lifestyle while the average is 25. The areas in my life that contributed most to my high footprint are my home and my food.  There are suggested actions that one can take to mitigate their footprint, like sending a letter to manufacturers asking them to self investigate their supply chain looking for slave labor.

Two areas that surprised me were cosmetics and jewelry.  Rubies are worse that blood diamonds because rubies are usually mined in Burma with forced labor. 

Cotton, a fabric that I prefer and look for in clothes, can involve slave labor - organic or not. Children (1.4 million) are forced to work in Uzbek cotton fields.

So what can we do? Encourage manufacturers to police their own supply chain by sending the letter from the survey.  Talk to your friends and family to raise awareness of this serious issue. 
If you have an iphone or an Android, you can download an app called “Made in a Free World”. Using this app, you can share your concerns about slavery on Facebook and Twitter.  You can also automatically send notes to your favorite brands asking them to investigate their own supply  chain.
The main purpose of this website is to raise awareness with consumers.  If enough consumers contact manufacturers about slavery, this problem will be eliminated. This is a big step toward greening your shopping habits.  With Black Friday coming soon, consider the other great ideas suggested by Green Moms Carnival which is hosted by Eco-novice  this month.
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