Car Seat Ethics

I firmly believe that my spending habits do more to influence the way my country is run than my vote does (that said, I still vote, even in the little local elections). I have no illusions about democracy. Money talks, and even my little bit of money talks louder than my marker in the voting booth. This means that, before I buy something, I try to examine how it is made, where it comes from, how the workers are treated, and what a corporation’s political activity is like (are they giving large donations to politicians I can’t stand? NOT SHOPPING THERE, THANK YOU).

I wish I could get super obsessive about every single thing I buy, but seriously, who has the time? I try to focus on the following things:

  • Not buying stuff I don’t need (and really thinking and researching what I think I need, and talking myself out of it a lot of the time)
  • Trying to buy things second-hand when possible, or begging for them on freecycle.
  • Researching all cosmetics and body care products on the Skin Deep database.
  • Buying “happy” meat and eggs from local farms, and local and organic veggies as much as I can (my friend Jack says, “But you should eat the unhappy animals–put them out of their misery!”).
  • Making my home more efficient so that we use less fuel to heat it (we have a propane furnace).
  • etc.

I feel overwhelmed and like my best efforts aren’t enough. Do I know if my toilet paper comes from sustainably-harvested trees? NO. Should I? Well, probably, but seriously, who has the time? I’ve just downloaded the Buycott app for my phone, and maybe that will help…or maybe I’ll end up feeling like I can’t buy anything!

Despite my best efforts, I seem to miss major things. Literally weeks after I bought my iPod, the Foxconn suicides hit the news. I felt personally implicated, listening to the Mike Daisy story (which may or may not be true, depending on your definition of “true”). on said iPod.

Last week, a young woman who had spent two years doing service work in Columbia spoke at my church. She mentioned in passing that Chiquita Banana had been involved with terrorists. All I could think was, “Seriously? Bananas??” Because I buy them every week. It’s not like there’s much brand competition, either. Apparently everyone knew this but me. Now I have to make a separate trip to the one store in town where I can get organic bananas…and I don’t actually know if they are fair-trade (is there such a thing?).

I’ve tried to make a commitment to buying responsibly especially when it’s something I buy frequently (like coffee) or something that will cost $100 or more.

And that brings me to today’s question. Silas is almost to the height limit on his carseat. I’d like to get him a new one that will ultimately convert into a booster for when he’s bigger. I have it narrowed down, based on the NTHSA ease-of-use charts  and various reviewers, to three seats by two manufacturers.

The seats are the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 and the Evenflo SecureKid 300 or 400. I have been trying to find information on these companies, but am coming up blank. Both of them, rather charmingly, state on their Amazon pages that the seats are “Made in the USA or Imported.” As I understand it, those are the two options (yes, I know this means that some components are probably imported, but I still think it’s a funny way of putting it). I can’t find any information about whether they treat their workers fairly or try to use environmentally friendly practices. If I buy one of these seats and then someone tells me, like it’s common knowledge, that it’s made by child slaves in Cambodia, I’m going to feel terrible. I don’t want my kid kept safe by something that endangers other children.

So I’m putting it out there–we still have at least a month, maybe two, before Silas is too big for his seat. If you know anything one way or another about Graco or Evenflo, let me know. Corporate ethics are the deciding factor in my purchase decision.

Editing to add:

A friend who is in law school used her student access to some legal databases to turn up the following:

Evenflo has recently been (at least) paying good lip service to assembling its products in the USA and bringing more jobs to North America. I wasn’t able to find any labor litigation they were involved in that would give insight into shady practices. The only other thing I could find was where they had requested tariff clarifications that indicate that various product components are made in Asia.
Graco is owned by Newell-Rubbermaid. Lots of information about Newell-Rubbermaid online. From what it appears, Newell-Rubbermaid has been purchasing various companies, closing factories, and sending them to China. Also, Newell-Rubbermaid seems to be responsible for a couple of Superfund sites. And they’re in the middle of heated litigation to avoid paying for the toxic waste cleanup. And may be purchasing enough properties in small but key (think equipment foam coating and similar) industries so much that they’re starting to get FTC orders to avoid antitrust type violations.

Another friend found an old article in Mother Jones (not a totally unbiased source) indicating that Graco gives lots of money to right-wing politicians.


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  1. Sarah Beachy
    August 17, 2013

    Sorry to say I have no help on car seats, but the FCFC has organic fairly traded bananas. Red Front usually has organic and sometimes they have the fair trade sticker.

  2. Andrea
    August 17, 2013

    Huh. I don’t know. Your post made me stop and look up our two seats: Diono and Britax. I found nothing helpful on the Diono site, but on Britax I found this: But I think it is more to follow California law than anything. Hmm.

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