Made In–Bangladesh

IMG_2525According to news reports, millions of items of clothing were manufactured in a single building in the city of Savar, in the heart of Bangladesh. When that building collapsed on April 24, 2013, more than 350 workers died as a result of that collapse; almost all women between the ages of 18-20. More than 1000 were injured. Over three thousand workers labored in that building, purportedly working for wages of 26 cents per hour or less. Before 2010, when the minimum wage was increased in Bangladesh from $21 per month to $38 per month, their wages would have been less.

This is not an isolated tragedy. Five months earlier, on November 24, 2012, more than 100 workers were killed when a fire engulfed another garment factory in Savar. The clothing manufactured in those buildings was shipped from the factories for sale in Europe, Canada and the United States.

The highly reputable international charity, Oxfam, has stated that:
“We can make choices that will make a difference. So too can retailers. The easiest thing is to choose not to see the story behind the brands, but we can also choose to buy clothes that are the products of transparent and non-abusive supply chains. Retailers can choose to do the same, and can hold their suppliers to account–not least by ensuring they respect standard safety measures that protect their workers lives.”

This is not the first time our blog has written about the challenges of buying U.S. made products and products made in other countries by businesses that agree to comply with international treaties designed to protect workers. These treaties include the United Nations Global Compact and SA8000.

 See our post on “Made in the USA: The importance of buying local” from Jan. 12, 2012 here.

These treaties were designed to set standards for global companies involving human rights, the environment, anti-corruption and ethical labor standards. It is a challenge, however, to identify consumer products that are made by companies that have agreed to these principles: provide humane working conditions, treat their employees with dignity, provide safe working conditions and pay reasonable wages.

See our post on “Made in the USA: Clothing. What to do when this is no ‘Made in the USA’ Choice? ” from Feb.4, 2012 here.

If the two of us have clothing in our closets that are made in factories like those where workers have been killed, it is not because we turn a blind eye. It is a sad circumstance that it remains difficult to find products made in the U.S. and even more difficult to identify products made abroad according to international treaties.

Perhaps our blog can focus more of our attention to the challenges we face as consumers to support businesses where workers are treated humanely.
The opinions expressed in this post are not the opinions of our families, our friends or our employers.


East side beauty

Sunrise on the east side

There are many differences, both cultural and aesthetic, between the east and west sides of Petaluma. This is one of the things I love about the east side. A five-minute walk from my front door and I’m enjoying a beautiful sunrise in the country.

Mum on walk

Glad Mum was here to enjoy this beautiful view with me this weekend. We went for an early morning walk to take pictures of the sunrise. With such an amazing walking path along the edge of the east side of Petaluma, it’s hard not to want to get out and enjoy the views!

Lessons I Learned At Mayo Clinic

For years Terry has encouraged me to go to Mayo Clinic for annual health checks. I have laughingly refused. I love my health care providers and I am generally healthy. But this year, aware that it is the last year I would be eligible to enter the program, I agreed.  “Okay” I said, “Lets go.”

We made appointments for April, filled out mountains of paperwork and carried our medical records with us.  It was to be a two-day visit packed with physical exams and tests covering me pretty much from the top of my head to the tips of my toes.  I had consultations with an ophthalmologist, an ear, nose and throat doctor, a gastroenterologist and a cardiologist.

Mayo Clinic is a complex of buildings.  Hotels ring the complex. While financially beneficial to the hotels, it is extremely beneficial to visitors to the clinic.  For Terry and me it meant that we didn’t have to walk or drive through snow and ice before our 6:30 a.m. start time.  It also meant we could walk through the underground tunnel to get from our hotel to the clinic.  It was only seven minutes at the most from our hotel room to our first appointment in the Hilton Building.

With our schedules in hand, we quickly became familiar with the layout.  We moved from the Hilton Bldg to the Mayo Bldg. to the Gondo Bldg and from the lower level to the 17th floor.  We found the cafeteria, which serves employees, visitors and patients–at least those whose tests didn’t require fasting.

By 9:15 a.m. on Thursday I had given my blood, sacrificed my urine, and had an electrocardiogram and a chest x-ray.  Other tests were to follow. My general physical exam was scheduled for 10:45.  Due to the weather, the patient immediately before me cancelled.  My appointment began 30 minutes early and continued through almost the end of my scheduled hour.

I just had to take this photograph of myself in one of many hospital gowns. Unattractive, but very functional.

I just had to take this photograph of myself in one of many hospital gowns. Unattractive, but very functional.

Like all of the professional and paraprofessional staff with whom I interacted, my doctor was caring and informative.  He talked about my blood tests, explained what each of the results meant.  He cancelled one scheduled test to make room for another test he considered more important.  He encouraged me to email him if I had any questions about my test results that had not been answered by the end of the day Friday.

Each doctor described in detail the meaning of the test results pertinent to his/her specialty.  While much of the advice was applicable to every patient, there was also discussion concerning specific foods and vitamins that might be deficient in my diet: (zinc, vitamin E, AREDS) and books that I should read. [1]  The attentiveness to me as a person, and as a patient, suggests to me that the medical staff are hired, and retained, based not only on the quality of their medical skills, but also for their caring natures.

Mayo is not just about diagnosing and treating disease, it is also about wellness. While I was given one new prescription during my visit, much of the discussion was about prevention: diet, exercise and sleep. And of course, about the importance of eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables.  Not surprisingly, there was encouragement to exercise regularly and not to smoke.

I do not want to forget the patient services that surround the clinic.  There are hospital shops and national retail chain stores.  Clothing stores give patients what they call “shopping therapy” while they await appointments or test results.  But there were also wig shops and bra shops, IMG_2474shops that sold sleep apnea products and other medical equipment for those whose illnesses required/or benefitted by those products.  There is a library that provides patients, free of charge, information on virtually any disease that might have brought them to Mayo.  The Mayo Store also sold information about healthy diets.[2]

Seminars are held in the auditorium, live music is performed outside the cafeteria and the physical environment of the campus encourages optimism.

Terry and I consider ourselves very fortunate that we are generally quite healthy despite challenges that remind us that we are advancing in age.  But many visitors to the clinic are fighting serious, often terminal, diseases.  The environment throughout Mayo instills confidence in the quality of care available as well as a belief that the health care staff care about the people who come to them for healing and relief of pain.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend two days giving myself the gift of knowledge. Knowledge about my body’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as an understanding of how I can protect my own health to the extent that it is within my power to do so.


[1] Including “No More Sleepless Nights” by Dr. Peter J. Hauri, PhD, former director of the Mayo Clinic Insomnia Program, and Shirley Linde, a well-known medical author.    Did you know 100 million people in the U.S., including most of my friends, have trouble sleeping?

[2]  When I saw this display in the Mayo Store, focused on the Mayo Diet, I could not help but reflect on our friend’s blog, “Livliga” that focuses on healthy  meals, recipes, heart healthy activities, inspirational poems and activities and even dinnerware designed to encourage us to eat healthy, low calorie (right sized) meals.

Kauffman Memorial Gardens’ Winter Beauty

As the season finally begins to change, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to visit Kauffman’s winter beauty one more time.  From November through March, the main event at Kauffman is in the arboretum. Tropical plants and flowers are in abundance.  A visit there is truly soothing to the soul.


And summer plantings are just around the corner!

The Lion Roars

Sunday is a perfect day for a visit to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.  It is always a treat. The Funerary Lion that sits in the Gallery Sculpture Hall on the main level of the gallery is one of my favorite works of art in Kansas City.

Sculpted from marble in Athens Greece, it dates from about 325 BCE [1].  The lion epitomizes the power and grace of Greek culture.


Before the weather outside is too beautiful to ignore, check out the Nelson or a museum or gallery near you.

[1]  BCE–Before Common Era

More Fun With Wall Art

Just North of Crown Center, in a parking lot on Broadway, I found a treasure trove of wall art.  Whether we label it graffiti or wall art, it is just as fun to explore Kansas City’s alternative art.  I know I have seen the artist before, but, as always, I do not know how to identify the artists.  I hope you enjoy the great images, both prehistoric and modern.




Note the signature of the artist.  If you can read it, let me know.


Why you should consider building a Living Roof

When visiting the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco last weekend, we learned about something called the “Heat Island Effect.” This refers to the rise in temperature in densely populated areas, typically cities with lots of buildings and little green space. According to the U.S. EPA, the annual mean air temperature in cities with 1+ million people can be anywhere from 1.8-5.4°F warmer than its surroundings. In the sun of summer, roof and pavement surfaces can be 50-90°F hotter than the air temperatures. Imagine how miserable this temperature increase can feel if you are stuck in the middle of a concrete jungle, with no trees or grass to cool you down.

Placard at the California Academy of Sciences rooftop observation deck describing the "Heat Island Effect"

Placard at the California Academy of Sciences rooftop deck describing the “Heat Island Effect”

Some problems associated with the Heat Island Effect:

Increased Energy Consumption — According to a placard atop the living roof at the California Academy of Sciences, one sixth of all electricity used in the U.S. goes to cooling buildings. As rooftop temperatures increase in urban areas, the buildings inside require additional air conditioning to keep the inside temperatures comfortable. ONE SIXTH….that’s a lot of energy!

Impaired Water Quality — Hotter surfaces in the city increased the temperature of stormwater runoff. According to the EPA, tests have shown that pavements reaching 100°F can increase the temperature of 70° rainwater into 95° runoff as it drains into the sewers, raising sewer water temperatures in the process. This then increases the temperatures of streams, rivers, etc. as runoff works its way back into our groundwater supply. As we’ve seen through many studies around global warming, increased water temperature around the globe can lead to sea level rise and a disruption in the aquatic ecosystems around the planet.

I’m sure there are many more problems, but I like focusing on solutions. How about building a Living Roof!

Living Roof at California Academy of Sciences

Living Roof at California Academy of Sciences

At the Academy of Sciences, we visited the Living Roof on top of the building. This roof is covered in grass, plants, rain filtration systems….you name it. According to another placard at the Academy, living roofs absorb most of their rainfall. In fact, the building at the Academy retains 98% of its rainwater, which saves over 13 million liters from flowing into the city’s stormwater/sewer system.  Living roofs also keep buildings cooler, reducing the need for air conditioning, and thus, reducing the release of resulting air pollutants.

Living Roof at California Academy of Sciences

Living Roof at California Academy of Sciences

I also think the incorporation of rooftop gardens or living roofs can provide a little green paradise in the middle of the big city, all without giving up valuable real estate. It’s basically like taking a backyard garden, and simply building it on the roof! Whether a residential or commercial building, a green space on the roof can provide tenants a little oasis, while reducing the building’s energy consumption and resulting pollution, all at the same time.


The information in this post was gathered through the following sources: U.S. EPA website,, and a visit to the California Academy of Sciences rooftop observation terrace. You can learn more about the Academy’s Living Roof at