Tuesday, September 30, 2014

iPhone? Ethics in Electronics

Generic mirror selfie with my new iPhone 5c
Almost as bad as jean shopping and swimsuit shopping, shopping for a new cell phone can be quite the daunting experience.

They’re expensive, they tend to always break (perhaps from dropping them one too many times without a fancy case), they don’t do water well (unless a really fancy case exists around it), and yet they are so necessary to the life I lead. Currently my phone provides me with the resources to check my class schedule and see where all my classes are, find out when the bus is coming so I can get to Toronto and back to Hamilton, I can read the Bible, snap fun photos, edit them, then post them to share with friends and family as a little peek into my life since a majority of them live at least 2,000 kilometers away.

While the pros definitely outweigh the cons of owning a cellular device—especially one of the ‘smart phone’ variety, the idea of buying a new one always comes with the added thought of ‘how can I purchase one of these things ethically?’

A while back I had found online the FairPhone. My heart leaped for joy when I discovered there was an ethically sourced phone actually available for the world to use! Unfortunately, the phone is currently only available in Europe and doesn’t ship to Canada. Even if it did, the capabilities are slightly less, as it wasn’t designed for use here.

Does this make me sad?
Of course! The opportunity to buy a phone created by using conflict-free minerals from the DRC that support families, factories that support safe conditions, a company who gives fair wages and worker representation, who finds smart ways to use, reuse and recycle phones… This is a company who lives out the ideals I so desperately want to be part of my every day life—that we need to make informed decisions about the products we purchase so we can part of bringing people up and not dragging them down.

Let’s be honest, I bought an iPhone. The 5c, to be exact. I got an epic deal (free, thanks Rogers) and it is compatible with my MacBook Pro, my husbands phone (yay for FaceTime, since we both travel somewhat often and not always together) and good ol’ iMessenger. In terms of usefulness, the iPhone wins in my books. So here I am, sitting at my laptop while my iPhone 5c sits beside me notifying me of a recent text message while I long for it to the FairPhone (with all the capabilities of my iPhone that make it so darn convenient). I can’t help but think of all the people in the massive lineups just last week who, without a second thought, purchased the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus. People don’t even flinch when it comes to dropping large sums of cash to purchase the latest phones and other tech products—especially those from the world’s beloved Apple.

But what if people did consider what they were supporting with their money before they spent it? According to the Canadian Apple store, the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus range in price from $749 to $1079. As shockingly large these numbers are to me (the idea of paying even $129 for an iPhone 5s was too much for me to handle), I know there are enough people in the world who look at those prices and don’t even flinch or think about if that’s where their money should be going. But the question is, what if they did? What if they did take a moment, and before swiping their credit card they thought, ‘who actually makes this thing?’

I was the most pumped, as someone who knows there isn’t a lot of information out there on ethics on the electronics world, to find that my treasured Free2Work has recently released an Electronics Industry Trends 2014 report. What I love about these reports is, if you take the time to actually read through them, you are presented with so much information on slavery in the different parts of makeup of electronics from mining the minerals to putting together the final pieces in factories. Information like this had previously been unknown to most people and now, the information is readily available at the click of mouse.

Click the image to enlarge!
As a society whose basic functions are interwoven with the electronics we can’t imagine being parted from, it is important and vital to our ever-deepening relationship with them to be educated on how they are produced. The worlds cherished Apple has an overall score of B+ and does not provide a living wage to those who make their products. Society will pay $749 for a phone whose makers don’t even make a living wage. If that statement doesn’t make you question the phone sitting beside you or the phone you are reading this on, perhaps read it again and really think about what that looks like. Do you think the individuals working in the Foxconn Factory in China realize it would take over 3 months of their salary* to purchase the least expensive version of the latest released phone? While I’m not trying to bash Apple (honestly, their B+ grade is one of the better ones by an electronics company, comparatively), for myself, it’s hard to set these facts aside, especially when I was looking for a new phone to purchase.

I want to continually live a lifestyle where I practice what I preach. When people question me about what I own, I want to be able to stand up for my decision in the company I have chosen to support. Knowing options like the FairPhone exist is exciting based on my expectancy that if one company can do it and is doing it, others will follow suit. What we need now is for individuals like you and I to say to Apple 'we care and want an option, like the Fair Phone, to purchase with our hard earned dollars!' It’s not just Apple we need to approach, so many other companies are doing worse than Apple and to them we need to say the same thing. If one company is doing it, they all can. Perhaps I’ll find the $749 worth it for a phone that is ethically produced and save my money to purchase a phone I can use with confidence knowing the impact of the product is positive and not destructive to all those involved.

My challenge to you: Take just 5 minutes of your time and take a look at Free2Works Electronics Industry Trends report and see where the company of your mobile phone and computer sit.  Share this information with someone and start a conversation on how you can use your purchasing power to change the way companies produce their products.

* $238 monthly salary found here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Guest Post: Why I Stopped Trying to Save the World

As I've mentioned before, I simply love the idea of collaboration. There are people everywhere equipped with amazing skills which, when joined together with your own skill set, can create some amazing things. 

Christal is an absolutely amazing lady! Her bio reads as follows:
Christal Earle is an author, speaker, life coach and social entrepreneur. You can find her at www.yourbrillianceunlimited.com and for a limited time, she is offering a free 30 Day E-course called 30 Days to Change Your Ways.

This little blurb just doesn't do her justice! We've shared life changing experiences, been side by side on extremely long flights with limited water, and we've had to figure out wifi in foreign airports where we painted with quills near a babbling, fogging pond. Needless to say, our history is quite random, full of adventure, and many moments sharing stories and encouragement. I was honoured when she approached me with the idea of sharing blogs with our various audiences and I am SO looking forward to you lovely folks being able to experience Christal's writing! She is an amazing lady and I know you'll love what she has to say! Be sure to sign up for the FREE e-course! I know I am!

I once had a friend give me a t-shirt that said, "Little Miss Save the World". I wish I still had it. I donated it to the Salvation Army so it's probably on a 12 year old boy riding a bike somewhere in the mountains of Ecuador right now. I hope it gets him as many compliments as I got from it. He will probably be taken just as seriously as me in that shirt and because it's in another language, probably just as many people will take it's message to heart. 

When I first woke up to what was going on in the world around me, I was like a tornado of altruism. I wanted to change the world, I wanted to save everything and I wanted to have the deep down, feel good warmth that came from knowing I was doing the right thing.
Fifteen years later, after starting a successful youth empowerment charity focused on humanitarianism, I still do. I am not involved with that charity on a day to day level anymore, but I still believe in the power of the message that it carries and the people that give their passion and energy to make it happen. Live Different, you are my first born and I will always love you with a mother's heart.

However, along the way, something finally woke up inside of me that I had successfully managed to put back to sleep many times over the years. After a roller coaster of loss and relationship failures and a five year monkey wrench into my plans of moving on with my life, I had nothing left to sacrifice. Literally. I had no money, no time, no resources, and no emotional strength left to keep on frantically giving 101% while laying myself on the alter for the sake of changing the world and keeping up with the world's most unrealistic person: me.

It was a painful, humbling realization to face, let alone embrace. I had thought I was being backed into a corner by other people's expectations of who I should be, what I should do, and how relentlessly altruistic my head space should be. But here's the underlying irony of it all: the only expectations that were there were the ones I had heaped upon myself, time and again. 
That's it. I had created this idea of what it meant to truly make a difference and to make my life count. But those ideas never answered one burning question that was continually poking and prodding at my heart:

Was I ever going to feel 'enough'? 

Was I ever going to feel like I was doing enough or that I was being enough? If everything was stripped away, would there even be anything left of Christal that the world wanted and that I was ok with?
At first I couldn't answer those questions; they were too big, too scary. Too real.
But courage had to start with the first step of remembering why answering those questions is important to me: because I am important.  I have to be ok with embracing that foundational truth in everything I do. I am here to fulfill a greater purpose and to bring my passion for hope and change to the world, but not at the cost of me. 
And in the end, that is the most unselfish choice I can bring to a world that welcomes what I bring: the best version of me possible.

Do you struggle with the emotional pull between wanting to feel like you are making a difference in the world and still able to live your life without guilt or regret? Me too. I think that to acknowledge the struggle is to acknowledge the depth of our passion for hope and love and is proof to each of us that we are on the right path. But just because the struggle might always be there doesn't mean we are left powerless in light of it. 
On the contrary, we hold the power to make the decision about who we are going to be. 

Here's what I found out that changed everything for me:

1. Being a voice for hope and change is not a competition. There is no shiny cup waiting at the end, nor is there any reason that there should be. We make our decisions based on honouring ourselves because we are worth making the right choices and adding dignity to the world around us. The competitor nemesis inside of us will try from time to time to tell us that we are now in the lead or better pick up our pace so that we can look good. Don't listen. Do what is within your power and conviction to do. 

2. There is nothing to prove. Do nothing out of obligation, do everything out of love. Love wins every time. Obligation is looking for a loser to beat up.

3. Do it because it is congruent with who you are, never for any other reason. 

4. Honour your word once you decide you are going to do something. Honour it because you are worth keeping the commitment to -- and if you can keep your commitments to yourself than you will have clarity to see where your time, energy and love is best directed.

5. Never, ever forget that no matter what happens, no matter where you go or how much you accomplish in this life, your worth will never, ever be attached to it. Because you added value to this world the moment you took your first breath. The rest is just icing for us to appreciate about you. 

You are enough and that enough-ness doesn't need to be proven or can't ever be taken from you. 

We need you to be best version of you that is possible, and the only way we will get that from you is if you allow yourself to accept that you are enough. From that place is where the inspiration and ideas can flow and we will all reap the benefits.

Thanks for being enough.

And if you ever see that kid wearing my shirt when you are out there in the world….tell him I miss it :)