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Where to buy household goods?

We believe Portland is special because we have so many options to help reduce the footprint we leave on the Earth. We are also very conscientious about how and where our belongings and goods come from. Mardi emails:

I have been reading the comments on earth-friendly/non toxic cleaning supplies and have been really inspired by so many great ideas.

I have yet another thing I'm grappling with. I recently watched "Walmart- the High cost of Low price" and - although I don't shop at Walmart - I feel like I need to rely less on stores like Target and Fred Meyer too, especially since I read a Coop-America rating of companies. While not as much as Walmart, Target still does have a record of sweatshop abuses. Oh and it's confirmed, Sam's Club is owned by Walmart.

I'd like to know what other mamas do to avoid the big retail shops where they can. I'd prefer my money not going to line the pockets of Target or Fred Meyer execs. What do you do when you need everyday household stuff like stationery or garbage bags or socks?

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[For the record, I shop at Target and Fred Meyer all the time but...]

New Seasons has most of the staples -- not clothes, of course, but toilet paper and garbage bags and cat food and the like -- and is commendable for their commitment to buying a huge percentage of their produce & meats locally, and from all I've heard they take excellent care of their employees.

As for socks and t-shirts, I guess there are American Apparel and boutiques.

It's not so hard to buy locally made, non-sweatshop produced goods here in Portland, what's hard is doing it conveniently. The draw for places like Freddy's is the "one stop shopping" opportunity. It's so time consuming to have to go to 10 different stores for 10 different products, and if you've got a child in tow or are driving to get it done then the benefits start looking smaller and smaller.

While I do hit TJ's once or twice per week (it's in walking distance), I do most of my shopping at People's Coop. They have cleaners, toiletries, booze in addition to groceries and produce. N

Oops, continuing on...

Nearby is Mirador, which I can give a shout-out to. They have awesome household supplies, including kitchen and canning supplies, stationary, health care, toys, books, and even rechargable batteries and emergency supplies. And, finally New Seasons is nearby to fill in the gaps. Those three stores have kept my shopping fairly gas free, and certainly guilt free. I think that finding little clusters like that make shopping responsibly easier.

oh! and one more. given that I've been doing lots of research into organic groceries lately for my 'day' job, I've learned that Whole Foods' commitment to the company's employees is amazing and deep, as is the commitment to paying a fair price for their goods. They've recently purchased Wild Oats (which, to my knowledge, didn't have nearly so great a focus on good treatment of employees) and will be converting all the Portland stores to Whole Foods in the next year or two. The company's CEO is, truly, one of the most honest and least concerned about 'lining his pockets' of any I've come across, and it's my job to know the dirt on these people! So that's a good option, too!

[sorry, this topic really interests me, hehe]

I actually checked out both Trader Joe's and Whole Foods on the web site you mentioned and they both got great marks for being a "reliable source for fair-trade" and having a "pioneering spirit." Since I live a few blocks from Trader Joe's, I'm happy to see that!

What do you do if you can't afford to buy your tp and what not at New Seasons? I have heard that Costco is a great employer and good company to buy from... can anymore confirm?

From what I've heard, Costco is a good company to work for, treating their employees with respect and providing good benefits ... and when they give money to political causes, it's usually progressive issues or Democratic candidates. They're like the anti-Sam's Club. We go there about once a month for staples ... we definitely save money there on things like toilet paper and other bulk supplies, plus some bulk frozen food like organic waffles (which my son is addicted to) and vegetarian sausage.

It's not super-convenient to go there, true, and you do have to get a yearly membership. But we calculated that it'd be worth it, financially, and I'd much rather give them my money than Wal-Mart.

Hmm, I think about this a lot, too, and it's never a simple "one-way-or-the-other" kind of issue.

For me, I think one of the biggest ways to fight corporate power is to (as we all know) shop locally. So, Fred Meyer would be a more local option than Costco, although I have also heard that Costco treats their employees well, which means a lot in the corporate world.

And, while Whole Foods and Trader Joes are certainly on the forefront of corporate responsibility in many areas, they are nonetheless giant national corporations that still have to act in the best interest of increased profit, and they aren't "local" businesses (like New Seasons). SIGH...

So it's a constant tradeoff... I'd rather buy expensive organic/eco-friendly stuff at Whole Foods than not buy it at all, but that's just me. Also, while places like American Apparel is a self-declared "sweatshop-free" manufacturer, they still operate in large, crowded factory settings and they have gotten a lot of bad press for not letting their workers unioninze. BUT they do at least pay them a living wage!

Anyway, I'm sure I've said enough....bottom line is shop locally when and if we can! We are so lucky in Portland to have a lot of options. And, if I was going to say that one thing in this debate is black and white, it's that there is really no reason to ever go to Wal-Mart. :)

TJ's has affordable, recycled material TP. It's comparable in price to what I used to get at Winco. (shudder)

Costco is from Seattle... I agree that's a constant trade-off. I will only buy quality foods for my family, which takes me to TJ's and New Season's and Costco. Because we speand a considerable amount of money on food, I need to be more budget minded on supplies. The trade off is necessary and exhausting. For now, I'll keep trapsing around trying to make the healthiest decisions for our fam and the environment while not going broke.

I agree with Monica. Food is my priority as well, since it is the most significant impact on my baby's body.

Also - since someone was asking about socks, you all must check out this local, online sock boutique - www.sock-dreams.com.

soooo much fun stuff. it's not like you'd find a pack of 10 socks for $12 or anything, but they do have their own line of socks that's fairly cheap, and it's just really a cute little business.

(FYI: Fred Meyer used to be run locally -- it was founded in Portland in the '20s -- but now it's owned by Krueger, based in Ohio. So it's not really local, though it sometimes feels like it.)

Mirador was mentioned above - can't say enough good things about them.

Alberta Co-op has garbage bags, other essential non-food items, & a great vibe. Co-ops are near & dear to me: when you're a member, you own a piece of the store. Community-owned rocks.

Another cool thing about New Seasons: Y'all may recall CEO Brian decided to publicly stop carrying that idiotic Rockstar drink... Lest I get too political, I'll stop here.

Whole Paycheck (oops!) is a beautiful place w/ a wild, wide selection, but they don't emphasize selling *locally* grown/made/owned in the same the way New Seasons & the co-ops do. Just an FYI for those interested in the ongoing local v. organic debate... On that subject, I have the link to an exchange between the WF CEO and "Omnivore's Dilemma" author Michael Pollan; email me directly & I'll forward it to you.

I second The Boss's comments. Like most people, I often cringe when I see the total when I'm checking out at New Seasons, but I suck it up because I just don't feel good about buying food elsewhere.

And thanks to Sadie Rose I've got this new SOCK obession to support!

The unfortunate truth is that you'll have to shop at more than one place.

I will second Trader Joe's for toilet paper. That's pretty much what I go there for, with the exception of vitamins and instant hot chocolate (I'm not a milk fan) which is fair trade and I think organic.

Costco is also starting to "get it" on organic products. For example I buy organic chocolate milk boxes for my stepson's school lunches and bread there as well as a few other things.

Then I go to New Seasons to buy food (especially produce) and anything they'll offer in bulk, including dish soap, oils, shampoo, what have you. I've been told that the bulk soaps and shampoo aren't necessarily cheaper than buying in the bottle but I like to think that I am keeping plastic out of the landfills. In fact I have two plastic dishsoap bottles that I have been rotating between for about 5 years. Same with shampoo. When one runs out there is a filled one ready to go under the sink.

The thing about the price tag at New Seasons - I'd like to think that the more people "suck it up and do it" the lower the prices will be. Demand creates supply and fosters competition, driving down the price. At least, that's the Economics 101 theory anyway.

For clothes I tend to go used. Actually I haven't bought new clothes for myself in a long time but for my little one I go to Sweet Peas, a consignment store for children's clothing in my neighborhood (they also have a small selection of adult clothing AND maternity clothes!). I also have a 3 year old niece that just moved to Portland so we've got hand-me-downs galore (and she's a stylish kid - yay!).

I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but my 12 year old stepson is my height and outweighs me by probably 20 pounds (I"m 5'0 and about 100 lbs - yay breastfeeding!) so I'm starting to collect the clothes HE grows out of (the ones that aren't destroyed on the playground). Makes me conscious of the stuff I buy him now. This past Christmas, every time he got an article of clothing I'd pipe up from the corner "I want that when you grow out of it!!".

Good for you for being conscious of your shopping choices!

The way I approach this is to not look at it as an all-or-nothing proposition. I buy most of my groceries at New Seasons, because it's locally owned and the profits are reinvested right in my community. I try to buy those that are grown and/or produced in OR or WA. When given a choice between organic from Maine and non-organic from the Willamette Valley, I'll choose the local option, because I want to support local, cut fossil fuel usage, and the price difference isn't that significant.

But I'm wearing jeans from Target because they fit me well and they were cheap. I still buy from Hanna Andersson (now owned by a San Franscico investment group) because the clothes last forever and hold their resale value.

The way I look at it, the places I save allow me to invest in other ways. Moreover, *every little bet helps.* Imagine the impact we could make if we all increased our local spending by just 10%?

I like to remind myself that we get what we pay for. I certainly know the difficulty of keeping a budget together when I shop at New Seasons, but it's worth it on so many levels. We as a culture aren't used to paying for what things really cost because we have such a cheaper is better mentality and so many businesses willing to thrive on that. Milk at New Seasons isn't more expensive, it just isn't artificially discounted and includes the cost of paying a living wage to employees, providing health insurance, etc. We might think we're paying less at Wal-Mart for that milk, but who's picking up the tab for the folks that work there, because they're certainly aren't working there and staying above poverty levels, and keeping medical care easily accessible. I agree with Kat that it's possible to save in some areas in order make other areas have the larger budget. And as for Whole Foods, just because a place specializes in providing fresh, organic type foods doesn't mean it's any better when you factor in travel costs for getting the food there and the cost of running a large, national chain. It's no better than Freds as far as I can see. Co-ops and New Seasons are the way to go.

I've personally been holding off the temptation to shop at Costco because I'm opposed to the "buy up big" mentality. I mean why buy a standard amount at another store when you can buy up big (and be potentially wasteful) for cheap at Costco? I doubt this chain would ever succeed in, say Europe.

I checked out that Coop America site, which is pretty useful. It said there's a campaign going on against the organic dairy companies Horizon (supplies to New Seasons and Fred Meyer) and Aurora (supplies to Costco, Safeway, Wild Oats). Apparently these companies are buying the majority of their milk from factory farm style feedlot dairies where the cows have little to no access to pasture. It said "These giant dairy feedlots regularly import calves from conventional farms, where animals have been fed slaughterhouse waste and genetically engineered grains, and injected or dosed with antibiotics."

Your comments rock, Mamas!

I think mamaT's general point in on the money. Regretfully, there's already plenty to feel guilty/bad over, I don't want to carry this on my shoulders as well. Our family is purposefully a one income family which requires us to sacrifice all the time. We aren't budget-minded so we can fly our family to Europe, we are budget-minded so we aren't in debt up to our eyeballs by the time I go back to work. While I challenge our family to consume less, recycle more, reuse what we can, pollute as least as possible, we are going to have to make some less savory purchasing decisions for the well-being of our family. I think this is true for lots of families and it's unfortunate.

new seasons sells their own private label of milk, butter and all different meats now, it's called pacific village and it's all local and organic, sustainable AND affordable. a great place to get produce is big city on n. albina, the prices are excellent, lots of it is local and they also have a small organic section.

Just a few additions & thoughts -
First, Costco does have stores in the UK and many other countries including Canada, Taiwan, Japan and Puerto Rico.
Limbo in SE next to Trader Joe's has a great selection of organic produce.
And, this ranking of organic milk products might be of interest: http://cornucopia.org/index.php/dairy_brand_ratings

I agree with many of the comments made here, but I think it's also important to point out what a privilege it is to be having this conversation. Some folks (and there are many in our community) don't have the funds to feed themselves and their families at all, let alone worry about organic versus conventional milk.
I agree that you get what you pay for and that low cost products have hidden costs. However, we need to talk about the root causes of hunger and homelessness too - not just shop locally.

goodwill, value village, any consignment store for clothes, books, dishes, etc. are great places. we keep a running list when we need or want something for our house, to keep an eye out for it at one of these places. value village is great for kids clothes - incredibly well organized, goodwill not as well organized in the kid's section. the goodwill superstore is a great place for kids' books, particularly the classics. i rarely buy new clothes - underwear and socks are a little harder to find. (i do buy these things at fred meyer.)

At least Fred Meyer is union, or at least it was in Oregon last time I checked (Safeway and Albertsons are too, I think). They give employees excellent medical benefits at 20 hours per week and so-so pay. I know it doesn't stave off all evils, but perhaps it is better than some.

Also, they have fair trade coffee.

As for "buying up big," we only buy bulk stuff at Costco if A.) we know we'll use it all eventually, B.) we have space to store it, and C.) it represents a sigificant savings over buying it in smaller quantities. Like, say, toilet paper. There will never be a time when our family won't need it, so it makes sense to get a whole lot at once. Bulk buying doesn't have to be wasteful -- it usually uses less packaging, so you save resources as well as cash, and you don't have to make as many shopping trips. But true, bulk buying doesn't make as much sense for perishibles, if you're not certain you can consume it all before it spoils.

Maybe someday New Seasons will open a "New Seasons Superstore" featuring lots of the same kinds of household things we'd find at Fred Meyer, but with more locally produced and natural options. (But is there a local producer of, say, envelopes, or pillows?) We can only hope!

I would have to agree with comments of Scotti. I personally like to shop at New Seasons and Market of Choice, but I certainly recognize that it is most certainly a privilege. Whole foods is actually too expensive for us, except for the occasional splurge on fish or something of that sort. It may have great benefits for its employees and commitment to fair trade, but it is incredibly expensive. It is not called "Whole Paycheck" for nothing...and it is most certainly going the way of all corporate America...buying up all the smaller, older organic chains creating a monopoly....

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