Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Let's make a documentary..."

How often do you think to yourself "I should make a documentary?
For me, it's not too often. For my wonderful husband, it's probably at least once to twice a day.
As you can tell from the premise of my blog to the topics I've been discussing lately, being an ethical consumer and using your purchasing power to make a difference in the world has been on my mind a lot. Combine these factors into one, and you have the idea of a documentary with the premise of ethical living at the forefront of our ideas.

The idea was simple-- live a slave free life for one month.

It's amazing how it's so simple to speak a sentence, or write it, or share it with someone, but it's the meaning behind the sentence that really packs the punch and the weight of the impossible. 

Live a slave free life for one month.
Upon thinking of the logistics we came across some interesting points that would have to be addressed:
- Would we live where we currently live, or would we scout out an ethical place to live for the month? It's a dream to think that our houses aren't hoarded with slavery-- from light switches, pipes, couch cushions to cupboards.
- Would we wait until late summer when the world is ready to deliver it's local deliciousness to us? Living in Canada, doing it any other time of year may prove us to be left starving.
- Would we re-buy our wardrobes, or would we keep the basics and anything else we would buy would be ethically sourced?
- What kind of rating system would we use? Would we stick with Free2Work's grading system as our base or would we be doing insane amounts of research, travelling, etc to find out for ourselves that is really happening where our consumables are being made?

While at a local drive-in finally open for the summer months, eating grilled burgers and sharing french fries, we came to one startling point. A point that literally stopped me in my tracks and thought process on how to execute the entire idea...

Where would we get the camera? 

While all other aspects of the process seemed exciting to me-- like what would be the hardest yet most immensely rewarding challenge-- this one, small fact really threw me off.

I've done research on clothing, chocolate and food. Free2Work provides information on clothing companies that are doing the best in their industry to provide transparency, research their supply chains, remediate any problems that arise and are putting wonderful policies in place to be graded a mark that would make even your mom happy on a report card. Food starts to get a little tricky but if we were to grow our own in the summer, get free range meat (or just go vegan for the month) it is possible-- and would be quite the diet! I'm sure we would see lovely results in our physiques!

When it came to housing options, well, I didn't think too much of it. Logistically I wasn't ready to commit to figuring that process out.

But the camera, the use of technology, the means of communication-- these are all things that become non-existent to us. 

I hadn't done too much research on conflict minerals, or the dramatically titled Death Metal, as one article referred to Tin. I knew conflict minerals existed but hadn't taken the time to educate myself. Insert me on my first "second day off" in over two months. I am sitting at my husbands lovely coffee shop, using my MacBook Pro to research the very thing I am actively contributing to-- conflict minerals.

This is an uncommon term to anyone who isn't actively involved in going above and beyond the basic information provided when being a conscious consumer. 

Let's have a little 101 lesson!

Conflict Minerals:
Conflict minerals are minerals mined in conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses. They come from mines controlled by armed groups, who then sell the resources to purchase weapons and other supplies—or luxuries. It's a cycle that essentially keeps the war going (no funds = no weapons = less violence), and is often also affiliated with spikes in sexual violence. The most common area to find conflict minerals are the Dominican Republic of Congo.

The minerals we are referring to when speaking of Conflict Minerals are most commonly the "T3G" minerals; tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold. Most of these minerals are extracted from the technical name of what is exactly being mined. 

My first thought is, "ok, this stuff is in the electronic stuff I use. What parts?" 

I'm apparently a curious person who is going to share this information to burst your virtual bubble:
Tantalum is used particularly for applications requiring high performance in a small compact format that is highly reliable aka- welcome to the entire world of cell phones, tablets and laptops. Not to mention the use in airbags, GPS, hearing aids, pacemakers, video games and the cameras to name a few.

Tin is part of solder-- the connecting substance on the circuit boards of electronic equipment.
Tungsten is a very dense mental is possesses hardness and wear resistance properties. It's used minimally in electronic devices but, speaking of phones, it is used in their vibration mechanism.
We all know what Gold is... Gold is used in jewellery, dental products and our electronics. 

While doing this research I found out the United States is trying to do something about this. The Dodd-Frank Act seems promising-- if businesses comply. But isn't that always the issue? Laws are in place, governments are set up to hopefully keep the best interest of the people in mind, but that's not what happens. 

This act has it on businesses to assess their supply chains and report publicly if their supply chains contain these 3TG minerals from conflict areas. If a business says their product doesn't contain, they must provide the information on where their minerals are coming from. This information and research companies must now provide has a time line to start in 2013 and be completed by May 2014. One article I found that best explained in a way I am able to understand the act states the following:

How wonderful this statement is. 
I love the admittance to the fact it is tough, but that it is also, potentially, the most rewarding. 

Aren't all aspects of life often filled with challenges? Aren't it those exact challenges-- overcoming them and learning from them-- that make it rewarding? 

That statement makes me think that one day, as businesses come to realize how the pro's can easily outweigh the con's of stretching their comfort zones, wallets, and ethics to encompass compassion and justice for those making the items market to us as consumers, we will be able to dream with freedom. We won't have an idea out of reach due to our individual figurative "video camera made with conflict minerals". 

What has been your figurative "video camera"? How have you overcome feeling helpless in the situation to overcome and find success?

References aka, where I obtained my new knowledge from:

Conflict Minerals 101: Coltan, the Congo Act, and How You Can Help

Dodd-Frank and the Conflict Minerals Rule