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yes! P owerful I deas , P ractical A ctions


Laughing With Mandela, Tutu, and the Dalai Lama


Annie Leonard: How to Be More Than a Mindful Consumer

The Human Cost of The Myth of Cheap Stuff Smart Phone? Why It’s Time for a Kind Phone Kenya to Costco: The Real Value of Our Things


The Human Cost of Stuff

25 THE MISSION OF YES! is to support you in building a just and sustainable world. In each issue we focus on a different theme through these lenses: NEW VISIONS Solving today’s big problems will take more than a quick fix. These authors offer clarity about the roots of our problems and visions of a better way.

WORLD & COMMUNITY New models that foster justice and real prosperity, and sustain the Earth’s living systems. How can we bring these models to life and put them to work?

THE POWER OF ONE Stories of people who find their courage, open their hearts, and discover what it means to be human in today’s world.



18 More Than Responsible Consumers The way we make and use stuff is harming the world—and ourselves. To create a system that works, we can’t just use our purchasing power—we must turn it into citizen power. By Annie Leonard



Last Factory Standing

A Sweeter Deal for Cocoa Farmers

Why the latest international trade deal is bad for hometown America. By Natalie Pompilio


Why Kids Really Care About Chocolate

Breaking Free From an L.A. Sweatshop

Kid activists want fairness for children who labor in the cocoa fields. By Katrina Rabeler

Flor Molina takes her story to lawmakers to end modern-day slavery. By Christa Hillstrom

23 7 Ways to Un-Stuff

The Myth of Cheap Stuff

Fixers Collective, 21, Know Your Maker, 25, Toy libraries, 27, Students Against Sweatshops, 32, and more.

Infographic: What do we trade for all of that cheap stuff? By Katrina Rabeler and Doug Pibel

By Shannan Stoll


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Fair trade is good, but it still leaves cocoa growers in poverty. Here’s how to do better. By Kristy Leissle


BREAKING OPEN Humor, storytelling, and the arts— taking you into unexpected spaces where business-as-usual breaks open into new possibilities.





An Uncommon View A photographer shares insights from working with Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and the Dalai Lama. By Valerie Schloredt

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38 We Can End Slavery—Again It took just 20 years to end the British slave trade. What history teaches us about ending exploitation today. Christa Hillstrom interviews Adam Hochschild



A Direct Line to the CEO

About Your Next Cell Phone ...

The future of corporate responsibility means hearing firsthand from factory workers. By Samir Goswami

Our throwaway electronics poison people overseas. “Benign-by-design” aims to change that. By Chris Sweeney



From Kenya to Costco— and Back Again Growing up in a Kenyan slum taught me the real value of things. By Simon Okelo

42 The Mighty Mason Jar Want to unstuff your life? Find the tools that multitask. By Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn

Photographer Lane Hartwell shot “stuff” activist Annie Leonard at Urban Ore Ecopark in Berkeley, Calif., a 3-acre facility of reusable stuff.


60 How One Town Is Saving Its Teens Social service agencies offered no help with a series of teen suicides. This rural community solved the problem on its own. By Jane Braxton Little


FROM THE EDITOR : : We Can Do “Stuff” Differently






COMMENTARY : : Nipun Mehta on Generosity


SIGNS OF LIFE : : Banning Pesticides to Save Bees, Preserving Prairie to Bring Back the Bison


WE LOVE : : Grandmothers


COMMENTARY : : One Thing Alumni Can Do About Climate Change




FROM THE PUBLISHER : : Bright Spots on Main Street


YES! BUT HOW? : : Share the Harvest


IN REVIEW : : Good Morning, Beautiful Business; Gather at the Table; Dandelion Hunter; Beauty in Truth

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Photographer Jane Feldman on laughter, spirituality, and earning the trust of beloved world leaders “I

“It’s a weird time to be a photographer. I love being a photojournalist. But I don’t love that everybody with an iPhone thinks it’s OK to photograph and

m a y n o t h a v e t h e m o s t w o n d e r f u l bank account, but my

spiritual bank account is overflowing,” says Jane Feldman of her career as a social justice photojournalist and author. Working for the Peace and Justice Ministry of New York’s Riverside Church led her to photograph Nelson Mandela. She’s traveled with the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation and met the Dalai Lama. Feldman arrived early on the day of Mandela’s 2005 visit to Riverside. “A Secret Service man took me aside and said ‘You’re not using a flash, right?’” That’s when Feldman learned that Mandela’s vision was damaged by years of breaking glaring white rock in the limestone quarry while he was imprisoned on Robben Island. A camera flash would further damage his eyesight. When Mandela arrived, she was distressed to see that he appeared to be physically very frail. She didn’t want to create misleading images, she says, but “I just could not depict him as frail. To me, he is a lion.” The magical moment photojournalists wait for came as Mandela listened to a performance by the Harlem Boys’ Choir. “He was seated under the podium where Dr. King gave his ‘Beyond Vietnam’ speech. And when the boys came out, he sat up in his chair and just sort of puffed up, and glowed. That’s when I took that amazing shot that I was so grateful for. It showed his vision and strength and love.”

post anything, anytime, anywhere,” says Feldman. “There are boundaries. It’s a recording device. When young people ask me ‘How did you get to photograph these people?’ I say it’s partly earned trust. Knowing when not to shoot is important. Sensitivity with a camera is essential.” Left, Mandela at The Riverside Church, N.Y., 2005. Right, Tutu interviewed for The Shift, Bali 2004.

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The Human Cost of How to Be More Than a Mindful Consumer


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Annie Leonard

ince I released “The Story of Stuff” six years ago, the most frequent snarky remark I get from people trying to take me down a notch is about my own stuff: Don’t you drive a car? What about your computer and your cellphone? What about your books? (To the last one, I answer that the book was printed on paper made from trash, not trees, but that doesn’t stop them from smiling smugly at having exposed me as a materialistic hypocrite. Gotcha!) Let me say it clearly: I’m neither for nor against stuff. I like stuff if it’s well-made, honestly marketed, used for a long time, and at the end of its life recycled in a way that doesn’t trash the planet, poison people, or exploit workers. Our stuff should not be artifacts of indulgence and disposability, like toys that are forgotten 15 minutes after the wrapping comes off, but things that are both practical and meaningful. British philosopher William Morris said it best: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Too many T-shirts


The life cycle of a simple cotton T-shirt—worldwide, 4 billion are made, sold, and discarded each year—knits together a chain of seemingly intractable problems, from the elusive definition of sustainable agriculture to the greed and classism of fashion marketing. The story of a T-shirt not only gives us insight into the complexity of our relationship with even the simplest stuff; it also demonstrates why consumer activism—boycotting or avoiding products that don’t meet our

Stuff activist Annie Leonard: “Consumerism, even when it tries to embrace ‘sustainable’ products, is a set of values that teaches us to define ourselves, communicate our identity, and seek meaning through accumulation of stuff, rather than through our values and activities and our community.”

personal standards for sustainability and fairness—will never be enough to bring about real and lasting change. Like a vast Venn diagram covering the entire planet, the environmental and social impacts of cheap T-shirts overlap and intersect on many layers, making it impossible to fix one without addressing the others. I confess that my T-shirt drawer is so full it’s hard to close. That’s partly because when I speak at colleges or conferences, I’m often given one with a logo of the institution or event. They’re nice souvenirs of my travels, but the simple fact is: I’ve already got more T-shirts than I need. And of all the T-shirts I have accumulated over the years, there are only a few that I honestly care about, mostly because of the stories attached to them. My favorite (no eye-rolling, please) is a green number from the Grateful Dead’s 1982 New Year’s Eve concert. To me this T-shirt, worn for more than 30 years by multiple members of my extended family, is both useful and beautiful, not only because I attended the concert but because a dear friend gave it to me, knowing how much I would treasure it. The label even says “Made in the USA,” which makes me smile because so few things are made in this country anymore, as brands increasingly opt for low-paid workers in poor countries. Who sews those Tees?

And that takes me back to a day in 1990, in the slums of Port-au-Prince. I was in Haiti to meet with women who worked in sweatshops making T-shirts and other clothing for the Walt Disney Company. The women were nervous about speaking freely. We crowded into a tiny room inside a small cinderblock house. In sweltering heat, we had to keep the windows shuttered for fear that someone might see us talking. These women worked six days a week, eight hours a day, sewing clothes that they could never save enough to buy. Those lucky enough to be paid minimum wage earned about yesmagazine . org


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Cheaper Stuff is Better, Right? Research by Katrina Rabeler and Doug Pibel

1 Number of U.S. apparel industry workers: 1.2 million


Offshoring destroyed U.S. manufacturing jobs. Starting in the 1980s and accelerating after NAFTA in 1994, the U.S. lost 90% of its apparel manufacturing jobs.


= NAFTA, 1994

And our clothes got cheaper. In constant dollars, clothes now cost one-third less than they did in 1994.

Yearly pay for sewing machine operator in the U.S.:


Consumer Price Index



All goods

In Honduras:


250 200

In Bangladesh:



150 100






2010 Number of U.S. apparel industry workers: 160,000

And we do it by going into debt.

3 So we buy three times as much.

We have three times as much consumer debt as we did in 1994.

And spend double what we used to. Clothing sales


$230 billion $2,000 $1,500

Consumer debt in billions

$1,000 $500

$120 billion 0 1992



Source citations at

1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 org yesmagazine


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REINVENT A MINDLESS TRADITION WEDDING RING TATTOOS Traditionally, wedding rings are made of gold and engagement rings have diamonds. Diamond engagement rings weren’t that common before De Beers rebranded them in a 1940s campaign featuring Hollywood actresses and the slogan “A diamond is forever.” And the human cost of mining gems and precious metals is high. In a new trend, couples are choosing tattoos instead of diamond and gold jewelry. When Sarah Wilson and Matt Beck (pictured above) married, they had wedding bands tattooed around their ring fingers. “Even though we were doing something nontraditional, we still wanted to echo tradition,” says Wilson. The symbol of the ring indicates that the marriage bond is eternal—even more so when the ring is permanent. Tattoos, after all, really are forever. —S.S.

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1 Jar


12 THINGS Baking ramekin Bake single-serving pot pies, casseroles, and blueberry crumbles in it. Ice pack Freeze ice in it for injuries or portable coolers. Leave at least an inch of space at the top for expansion. Measuring cup Ball jars come with cups, ounces, and milliliters molded into the jar. No need to keep dry and liquid measurers. Drinking glass Perfectly matched, inexpensive, and easy to replace. Put a cloth cozy on it and it becomes a commuter cup for hot coffee.

5 BONUS POINTS Ball and Kerr jars are still made

Shelf-space saver Glue the outer rings to the underside of a shelf, and you have organized storage for buttons and bobbins, screws and nails. Anything.

in the United States. Companies like Classico and Anna’s Honey sell their products in Mason jars to cut down on waste by giving us an easily reusable jar.

Leakproof to-go container Pack a salad in a quart jar: dressing first, heavier things next, lettuce at the top. Shake it at lunch time. Mini-greenhouse Empty jars that held last year’s harvest can give you a head start on this year’s. Invert them over seeds or seedlings as individual cloches.

No plastic chemical worries, microwave friendly, and naturally stainproof. The standardized jar design allows companies to manufacture special lids so your Mason jars do even more. A Portland

Vacuum-sealed storage Pour your warm homemade yogurt into small jars. As they cool in the refrigerator, the air inside contracts, forming a vacuum seal that extends storage life. Miniprep blender The threads on mason jars fit directly onto most standard blender bases.

a quart jar. Another company makes a child’s sippy cup top for half-pint hands. You can write on the glass and

Bulk food container Take it to the store to fill with bulk foods. Tip: half-gallon jars have a tare weight of 1.70 pounds. Soap dispenser, light fixture, alfalfa sprouter, sauerkraut fermenter, oil lamp. All depends on what you do to the inner lids.


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of the Mississippi River, and Kerr west of it. Even though Ball and Kerr actually both part of the same corporation, Jarden. The DIY movement and recession reignited sales in the 125-year-old Ball line. Last year’s sales were up 20% and

lid with a Sharpie pen. Wipes off for next time.

Ball traditionally sold jars east

act like competitors, they’re

company designed a French press coffee maker that uses


And, oh, yeah. You can use it for canning. yesmagazine . org

were the highest in history.

Mighty Multitasker MASON JAR

Want to reduce the amount of stuff you have? Any minimalist can tell you how: multitaskers. These are household items and tools that can, with a little imagination, take the place of entire closetfuls of unitaskers—the Magic Bullet blenders, popcorn poppers, and other one-trick doo-dads. It’s a new way to measure the value of a thing: “How many ways can I use this? How many other things will I not have to buy?” Duct tape and clothespins are classic multitaskers. But the mightiest multitasker may well be the Mason jar. —Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn


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The Real

Simon Okelo

of Things


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Simon Okelo


grew up by the main road through Manyatta, the slum neighborhood of Kisumu, Kenya. My mother and other women from our community struggled to put food on their own tables. But they started a feeding program in our home for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, which was rampant in Kisumu in the 1990s. The program eventually became Young Generation Centre, an orphanage that still serves the community. My mother became a businesswoman to cover the household’s expenses. She built a mud-walled building and rented rooms, dug a well to get water to sell, sold groceries, and supplied milk and bread to shopkeepers. Her many businesses ensured that we were all fed and clothed. There were no extras, but I never felt deprived, because we were surrounded by people who had very few possessions. The municipal water supply to our area had been disconnected during road construction years ago. Most wells had water in the rainy season but dried up completely during droughts. That’s when neighbors holding jerry cans lined up to our well, one of the few local sources of drinking water. Each family was limited to a 20-liter container, but we sometimes had to close the well for hours while it refilled. When that happened, those who had secured water earlier returned to share it with people stuck in line. Seeing people waiting for a well to refill taught me patience. Seeing them carefully sipping water showed me how to enjoy basic necessities as if they were gems. A pair of brown shorts

When I was 13, I transferred to a private school, paying for my tuition by selling milk and other goods around Manyatta. I made two cents for each packet of milk, which meant I had to sell seven crates a day to pay the $300 per term fee. I managed to sell 20 crates each morning, earning more than I needed for my own tuition, so my siblings were able to attend better schools as well. On school assembly days, girls glowed in neat lightbrown dresses, and boys stood at attention in long socks and chocolate-brown shorts. I was the only one who looked out of place, wearing the grey shorts that were the uniform of my previous school. I avoided walking in front of girls, as they giggled at the hole in the back of my shorts that displayed a sliver of my “full moon.” One day my classmate Robert handed me a pair of brown shorts, an extra pair he had. I was so eager to try them on that I ran home, dashing between pedestrians and bicyclists. Drenched in sweat and excited to show off my new clothes, Simon Okelo plays his djembe drums. “It’s really soothing for me. I used to play drums in church. They make me feel at home. I take my breaks on the drum. It makes me ease off of everything.” YES! PHOTO BY BETTY UDESEN

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A CELLPHONE IS BORN Precious metals and other materials come from all over the world.

Forget Smart! 5 Solutions for a Kinder Cellphone

1 Design phones with their end in mind—use fewer toxic materials.

Circuit boards: copper gold lead nickel zinc Case: beryllium crude oil tantalum for plastic, coltan sand and limestone for palladium fiberglass

Rechargeable battery: cobalt zinc copper cadmium nickel lithium metallic oxide Display: synthetic crystalline substances or mercury

2 Require corporations to source materials fairly.

Mining in Africa: Tin, coltan, tungsten, and gold used in mobile phones have been linked to war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


? A BETTER BEGINNING IS ONE ANSWER Chris Sweeney When Ted Smith looks at a smartphone, he doesn’t see a multipurpose gadget. He sees faces. He sees the face of the Indonesian or Ugandan miner who unearthed the raw materials. He sees the face of the factory worker who lives on a corporate campus in China and works long shifts, exposed to hazardous chemicals while assembling miniscule components. He sees the face of the salesperson at Best Buy or Target, and the face of the customer. He sees the faces of those who encounter the product after it’s been jettisoned and shipped halfway around the world to regions awash in electronic waste. Smith, 67, began tracking the electronics industry in the early 1970s. Seemingly


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12–18 MONTHS LATER, A CELLPHONE IS E-WASTE Only 11% of 130 million cell phones that Americans discard each year are recycled.

Hold corporations accountable for how they recycle.

Recycle phones through corporate take-back programs.

Recycled: Phones are shipped overseas for processing, where health and environmental regulations are lax.

Thrown out: Phones in landfills or incinerators put persistent bioaccumulative toxins into the air and groundwater.

3 Keep your phone for as long as you can. Fix it, don’t replace it.

Guiyu, China: One of the largest e-waste disposal sites in the world suffers from black, acidic water and lead poisoning. Source: EPA report 2011, Ecology Center of Ann Arbor 2012 study YES! MAGAZINE GRAPHIC / PHOTOS FROM SHUTTERSTOCK , GREENPEACE

overnight, a swath of California morphed into an epicenter of new technology. As massive semiconductor and consumer electronics manufacturers sprang up and churned out cuttingedge products, Smith rounded up community members to take a stand against the industry’s lack of transparency about the chemicals used along the production line and the threats these substances posed to workers, the environment, and nearby residents. In 1982, Smith founded the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. Twenty years later, he expanded his activist scope and cofounded the International Campaign for Responsible Technology. “We realized early on that this industry was going to be a major engine of the future,” Smith says. “And we had broad-based concerns. It wasn’t just environmental. There were labor-rights issues, health issues, the need to preserve neighborhoods.” Over the past 40 years, Smith’s worries have manifested on a global scale. The consumer electronics industry is

now a multibillion-dollar juggernaut that churns out new products yearround. In 2012, sales of electronics in the United States topped $200 billion, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, an industry group that represents 2,000 companies, including Sony, Samsung, and Apple. The average American household now owns 24 electronic products, many of which will be rendered obsolete within a few years. So it should be no surprise that consumer electronics is the fastestgrowing segment of the U.S. waste stream, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2009, the most recent year for which the EPA has data, 2.37 million tons of electronics were ready for “end-of-life management,” yet only a quarter of them were collected for recycling. It doesn’t just disappear

Every year, heaps of American e-waste, from smartphones to computers to stereo systems, are shipped to India, China, Ghana, Pakistan, Peru,

and other developing countries. By some estimates, 80 percent of the U.S. e-waste collected ends up on foreign shores, where regulations are lax and incentive for risk high. The goods are generally auctioned off in bulk to scrap companies and smelters. These companies pay locals—often including children— meager wages to strip smidgens of gold, copper, and palladium from the discarded devices. Sometimes, this involves concocting a noxious stew of cyanide and nitric acid, then burning the remaining plastic in crude firepits. Throughout the process, workers are exposed to lead, mercury, and cadmium, among other toxic substances. One place our waste ends up is Guiyu, China, a port city of 150,000 on the South China Sea. As documented by the Basel Action Network, Guiyu is home to more than 5,000 small, mostly family-run businesses that trade in e-waste. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives found that children yesmagazine . org


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“YES! Magazine is the most important publication in the United States.” Author and Activist Van Jones

“YES! provides a unique forum in which progressive leaders can share our hopes, dreams, and positive plans for the future. It provided me with my main platform for sharing a new vision of America with those who love justice as much as I do. For those genuinely seeking solutions and inspiration during these troubled times, YES! Magazine is the most important publication in the United States.”


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