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The true story of Christmas

In the run up to Christmas, shoppers will be looking for the best gifts available in the shops for their loved ones. An undercover investigation has revealed the lives of workers in Chinese toy factories and the conditions they work in all for the festive period. Charlotte Reid has the details.

An investigation called Making Toys Without Joy took place last summer at factories in China that make goods for Lego, Marks and Spencer and Disney. It revealed that for people to have an enjoyable present-filled Christmas, workers in factories in Shenzhen and Dongguan have been overworked to cope with the Christmas workload.



In the run up to Christmas, shoppers will be looking for the best gifts available in the shops for their loved ones. An undercover investigation has revealed the lives of workers in Chinese toy factories and the conditions they work in all for the festive period. Charlotte Reid has the details.

An investigation called Making Toys Without Joy took place last summer at factories in China that make goods for Lego, Marks and Spencer and Disney. It revealed that for people to have an enjoyable present-filled Christmas, workers in factories in Shenzhen and Dongguan have been overworked to cope with the Christmas workload.  

Hong Kong human rights group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (Sacom) found out that, in some cases, employees would work 140 hours overtime a month and were paid their wages up to a month late.

Some claimed that they were told to work with dangerous tools without adequate training. Others said they had to work in silence and if they went to the toilet without permission, they were fined the equivalent of £5.

All three companies involved in this revelation say they are taking the claims seriously. Lego, which says some of its books are produced by the Hung Hing printing company, released a statement on their website which said, “The reported investigation into working practices at the factory has raised serious issues. We take this information very seriously and have immediately asked our licensing partner to assess conditions at the factory”.

Unfortunately, stories of workers on the factory floor being exploited aren’t new. In 2010 an undercover investigation into the Taiwan firm Foxconn’s factory revealed the shocking amount of stress for some workers who were turning to suicide.

By the time the story was out in May 2010, 16 workers at the factory had tried to take their own lives, with 12 deaths.

The stresses came from workers not being able to cope with a shortage of staff and with the sheer demand to make new orders. Whilst the employees are working to make high tech products for Apple, Dell and Sony, their monthly wages meant they couldn’t even afford to buy the goods that they were making.

Meanwhile, Disney, which is linked to the Making Toys Without Joy report by Sacom, has been connected to sweatshop claims previously.

In August 2011, it was claimed by Sacom that a factory manufacturing goods for Mattel, which makes toys of Disney’s hit films like Cars 2 and Toy Story, were made using child labour and employees working three times over the legal amount of overtime to meet the demand for the products.

Back in 2005, it was discovered by Sacom and the National Labour Committee that in the Hung Hing factory in Hong Kong, making Disney books for children was a dangerous occupation. Workers were regularly being injured making books as they suffered from crushed and broken fingers, and in some instances, death.

On Disney’s website, it says 17,000 sites currently have licenses to make Disney branded items. However, its website does say “when organisations or individuals bring concerns to our attention, we do investigate and where possible try to work with the organisation to identify a resolution to the situation”.

Sacom’s Making Toys Without Joy report concludes by saying that the factories and the companies involved “must take immediate steps to remedy the problems”.

What is needed is to break the chain? Well, what’s fuelling the poor working conditions in sweatshops is the consumer’s desire for toys, technology and more, as quickly and as cheaply as possible. To avoid this, ask if what you are buying was made in a sweatshop, buy what you can locally, so you know where it came from, and buy fair trade.

If you want to shop sustainably, Blue & Green Tomorrow cannot recommend the Ethical Superstore enough. If you are looking for a guide to have an ethical Christmas, then read our in-depth report.

Picture source: davidd

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How Climate Change Altered this Engineer’s Life



how climate change affect our lives
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Living the life of an engineer likely sounds pretty glamorous: you are educated and highly regarded, typically have high paying gigs, and with the breadth of knowledge and array of fields of specialty, your possibility for jobs is usually immense.  But what if there was something else that needed your attention? Something bigger than just being an engineer, going to work every day and doing the same technical tasks typically associated with the profession?

For Kevin McCroary, that is exactly how it played out.  A successful engineer, gainfully employed in a prosperous job, a simple trip to the Philippines made him see that there was a bigger issue at hand than using his engineer training in a traditional profession.  This bigger issue was that of climate change.  And working as a volunteer for underprivileged children in the Philippines, he saw first-hand the extensive pollution and poverty that existed here and that impacted the livelihood of these kids and their families.

Upon returning home, from his trip to the Philippines he had a new perspective of the impact we as individuals and as humanity have on the earth, and more than that Kevin wanted to know more.  He started to do some research and study these human-environmental interactions, and shortly thereafter ended up in Greenland.  There, he spoke to a man who had lost his home in a tsunami, and, who, through consistent weather tracking could indeed confirm that the current weather trends were “strange:” there was undeniably a general warming tendency happening in the arctic, causing an array of negative effects.

The combination of these observations, as well as his own research, led Kevin to conclude that something had to be done.  With that in mind, he launched his project Legend Bracelet.  The mission is simple: create a reminder of the legacy we are leaving behind.  As individuals and as humanity, we are leaving behind an imprint on the earth, and the magnitude of it is something that needs to be brought to the forefront of public awareness.  The idea is to have a bracelet that can serve as a daily reminder of the impact on the earth that each of us can have every day, regardless of how big or small.  The bracelet has two capsules: the first is filled with sand or earth, and the second is empty.  As the owner, you are to fill the empty one with your own earth, carrying it with you as a reminder and symbol of your connection and commitment to helping look after our environment.

We are all impacted by climate change, and we all have a responsibility to help.  And it can start with something as simple as putting on a bracelet.  Support Kevin on his Kickstarter campaign for Legend Bracelet, tell others about it, or take action in your own way and play your part in slowing down the effects of climate change.  You may think “but I’m just one person!” You are indeed.  But so is he.  Every change starts with one.

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5 Things You Can Do Yourself to Improve the Value of Your House



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Whether you want to own it or list it, every once in a while, a house needs a facelift. This will not only improve quality of your life but will capitalize your home’s value significantly, too.

The best way to improve home value by yourself is to upgrade only what is necessary and nothing more. For instance, why would you buy a new bathroom door when a little retouch and a coat of fresh paint will suffice? By taking this approach, you are allowing yourself to make several small improvements instead of venturing just one or bigger ones. Select projects thoughtfully and know when you should stop.

Pitch in for the kitchen

If you really want a return on investment one day, start in the kitchen. By many, the kitchen still represents the heart and the soul of the house, the central hub of a property and it will all on its own add colossal value to your home. Moreover, the kitchen can be a breaking point in selling the house, so you should not hold on to your wallet in this area.

There are many little things you can do to spruce up the overall image of your kitchen. You may paint the kitchen cabinets, replace old door handles, add additional storage space with a sliding wall or a kitchen island if there is enough room for it. In addition, you may open the living space up by taking a kitchen wall down. Possibilities for do-it-yourself are many.

Add an attic or a basement bedroom

Properties are usually valued by two things: land size and the number of bedrooms. The price range between a three to four-bedroom home is two to four hundred thousand. Since you can’t change the size of your land, you can at least increase the number of bedrooms.

If you are prepared to go full-scale, converting the attic or the basement into the bedroom is another especially favored project that will by far boost up your home’s value once you decide to put it on the market. Until you decide to list it you will enjoy in your own extra space for entertainment, living, sleeping, playing, exercising, or whatever you fancy.

Transformation with paint

If your walls have scrapes and stained paint, a vintage color or shabby wallpaper, several cans of paint can make a striking distinction. In order to increase the value of your home, it is recommended to go with neutral colors that will unify the whole house and make the space visually bigger.

transformation with paint

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Bottom line, nothing can transform a home like a cast of fresh new paint. It is the number one way to beef up a property value of any budget. Additionally, painting the house is still one of the easiest, fastest and highest value drivers.

Secure with style

All of your effort and money would be wasted if you can’t protect the investments you made. A good security door costs as little as a few hundred dollars but if it saves you just once from being robbed it instantly pays itself off. People avoid putting security screens on windows because they mostly do not look stylish enough, but there are other options, such as installing shutters. There are so many elegant and cool shutter options that we found at Independent Blinds & Awnings that it’s really hard not to find something for you.

Basic maintenance for a worry-free mind

A clean house is a healthier house for you and your family. By making a clean house your number one on the list for improving, you accomplish a couple of things at once.

First, you stay on track with maintenance issues and, consequently you are able to recognize future problems before they become costly ones. Secondly, you don’t allow dirt and garbage to pile up over time. Thirdly, smudged, dirty windows can have a bad impact on the overall perception of the house. Same as eyes are windows to the soul, windows are for the home. Therefore, you need to wash them properly.

Spice up the landscaping

Big backyard is an all Australian dream and still, it is more often than not the most ignored area of the house. However, landscaping is really important as it frames a property from every corner.

Simple, low budget cosmetic changes in the front yard including installing garden beds, adding plants, pebbles or mulch, and paving or painting the front walls will positively lift the curb appeal as well as the property value. As for the backyard, you may span a lawn to create more open space for you and your family to move freely, cut and reduce unruly trees and vegetation, and fix the fence if needed.

Adding value to your home through a cosmetic or structural renovation is an actual way to quickly enhance your money invested in a property. In the end, you need to make sure that if you will continue to live in the house and renovate, that your renovations will contribute to a good lifestyle and that it will give the impression of a “ready to move in” property once you decide to list it.

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