O Say Can You Buy? – Trying to live on 100% made in USA goods

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O Say Can You Buy? – Trying to live on 100% made in USA goods

The challenge of trying to buy everything that is only made in the USA… by Nicole McClellan @ Mother Jones

i had been cursing up and down the aisles at the grocery store for half an hour when I finally found a can of black beans claiming to be “100% usa family farm organically grown.” I was on a weeklong mission to buy only American-made goods, and my very first shopping trip had turned into a debacle. I’d been forced to put back the bananas, cherries, coconut, and chipotle peppers, and I was about to blow $15 on a tiny bottle of US-made olive oil. I was hoisting the beans triumphantly above my head when my roommate approached. “What about the packaging?” she asked. I scowled at her. More of the world’s aluminum comes from China than from anywhere else; the only way to know the origins of this particular can was to call the company–and it was Saturday. “Buying American is such a pain in the a**!” I wailed.

I try my best to get made in USA goods and services, but my friends think it’s silly and impossible. Post up your experiences and attempts in the comments…

34 thoughts on “O Say Can You Buy? – Trying to live on 100% made in USA goods

  1. jdawg says:

    the can them beans were in was steel with a tin coating, and probably USA-made from Koreran or Mexican material

  2. Anonymous says:

    We didn’t buy anything made in China for a whole year. REALLY hard to find shoes!

  3. Math Campbell says:

    We try not to buy anything not made in Scotland, or if that’s not possible, not made in the UK. Not oun of patriotism or anything, just trying to do our bit to cut down on food miles etc.

    Very hard. Even shopping at a trade butcher and a farmers market doesn’t always work.

    And anything that’s not food? Forget it, made in China or India.

  4. Tim says:

    Really, buying only American-made is a stupid idea; I’m not sure why some people are so about it. Trade with other countries is what makes every country better—allows us to compete, innovate and provide lower prices. I think some people are alarmed because it seems like everything we own is foreign-made, but that’s not really true, although mostly true. Really, though, is that so bad?

  5. Bob Alexander says:

    I think it’s silly to try to buy American. International trade is the foundation for peaceful relations between countries and the only way poor people in other countries – who in are far worse shape than the poor here – can improve their lives.

    Do we really want a world where we’re rich and everyone else is poor?

    As for the supposed efficiency of buying local: I can buy 1 lb. of oranges from South Africa for $1.50. I can’t even ship a 1 lb. package across the country that cheaply! Think about that a moment. It’s truly phenomenal.

  6. Rob says:

    Hey Phil – How about you post a link or at least credit the article to the original author/website? And they’re probably not too excited with an O’Reilly magazine ripping off their art. It’s Nicole McClellan with Mother Jones by the way. http://www.motherjones.com/commentary/columns/2008/11/practical-values-o-say-can-you-buy.html

  7. Phillip Torrone says:

    @Rob – first off we credit everyone, all the time – always. if you saw a post without a link i may have been editing it – that happens from time to time and moveable type the blogging takes a few minutes to publish. in this case the HTML formatting was messed up and the link was there, just not visible, it was fixed before you commented.

    i know it’s just web comments and by their nature – mean-ish, but don’t assume the worst about things, we always do right and if something slips we correct it immediately.

  8. UrbanDesign says:

    Does reused goods count as American made? For instance, if someone remakes a bag out of Capri Sun juice packets that were undoubtedly made in China, does that constitute American Made?

  9. Judi says:

    We have tried for close to a year to not buy Made in China. Our reasons are related to China’s poor environmental record and to the energy costs/carbon footprint of goods shipped long distances. We are generally reducing our consumption of plastic stuff and items that have little meaning. We also do not own a car (and we live in a southern california suburb) and do the majority of our travel by bicycle or transit. I agree with other posters that trade is important. The question is what are we trading and who benefits and who is harmed and what is the carbon cost of a trade. I believe that we need to calculate our consumption in a more accurate manner and include all variables realting to pollution and global warming.


  10. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been buying as much food as possible that is produced in my home state, Colorado. The taste is far better than food frozen and shipped halfway around the world, and as a result I’ve been making an effort to buy other things made in Colorado or at least from Colorado based companies.

    Perhaps it’s proximity and freshness, or just state pride, but so far I’ve found we make the best(IMO):



  11. Maus says:

    I buy a lot of Apple Juice for my toddler, so that’s one thing that’s always a task, finding juice that’s not from China. There’s one brand, that if I pull enough bottles off the shelf I might find one that says “Made in Argentina” instead of China. Otherwise I just bite the bullet and pay 3x to 4x more for the only American sourced brand at my local store ($8.50/gal vs $2-$3/gal). Apples being one of the foods that absorbs pesticides the most, I like to pretend that maybe American apples get sprayed with possibly less harmful chemicals. :-P

    On a vaguely related note, I was happily surprised to find that the Cornucopia Institute rated what I always thought was the generic store brand organic milk very highly. Much higher than the other “big name” brand organic milks the store carries. My wife wrote them a letter to say how impressed she was by the rating and they sent her a thank you note with a $10 grocery gift card. :-D

  12. Math Campbell says:

    To the poster talking about why buying overseas produce is good; it goes to a degree, but the overriding factor when I buy something is the environmental cost, not the economic one.

    For instance, I live in Scotland. I’m a big fan of Italian food, I make pizza’s ad ciabatta all the time, my own pasta etc. Now’ for some reason I find it pretty hard to get Scottish olive oil. Maybe one day when my secret underground lair is complete I’ll have a hydroponics bay, but till then I buy spanish, cause it’s about the same distance to me as Italy and the quality is a little higher, the cost a little less.
    But I don’t buy Italian or spanish flour as some gourmet chefs would advise. I buy scottish and english flour, in bulk to save. It’s closer and damages the environment less.
    I won’t buy apple juice from Germany if I can get Scottish. I won’t buy Argentinan tomatoes because we can grow them here. Ditto NZ lamb rather than Scottish lamb.
    Trade between nations is good. But if we buy all of Argentina’s tomatoes, who buys ours? Argentina? Why not try and source all your produce from the closest supplier. If you live somewhere that doesn’t make olive oil, find the closest place that can. It’s not a hard concept….

  13. haberb says:

    I always try to buy from countries that have good worker rights track records. It becomes tough to keep track of who’s who, but it’s still important to vote with your dollars.

  14. sab says:

    it’s not american made but trader joe’s doesn’t stock any food produced in china

  15. TD says:

    regardless of where it comes from. I feel it is important to reward companies that produce well designed products. Very few of the best items come from China right now. Give them a few years…

  16. Apis says:

    So the post is about buying locally produced, not necessarily American then?

    Although I’m a big believer in buying locally produced products to reduce the impact on the environment (from transportation etc) I’m not particularly fond of protectionism.

    We are all “earthlings” in my mind at least. Trade and cooperation across borders are generally a good thing. Minimizing the environmental impact caused by transports is a world-wide problem. If you live close to Mexico, even if it’s in the US, it makes no sense not to buy buy chili from Mexico? or am I missing something?

  17. Jonathan says:

    First, aside from theoretical economics (your neoliberalism), i can point out another environmental issue of importing products from other countries. Pests and diseases, which may come riding along on pallets or cargo. My area specifically has had recent sightings of the Asian Longhorn Beetle. Foreign species may have few or no predators and can cause harm to its new ecosystem. The asian longhorns like to burrow around in hardwoods, esp. maple trees eventually killing them.

    second, “free” unrestricted trade is not generally good for developing nations. There is a lot of research out there that shows that neoliberalism (read evil) has greatly widened the gap between the poor and the rich withing developing nations. It has, and does exacerbate political and ethnic tensions, undermined national sovereignty and democracy, drive environmental damage. It takes away people’s self sustainability, destroys cultures, etc. etc.

    There is so much for you neoliberals to read.

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