The benefits of ‘Made in America’

by Dani Vanderboegh

When I first started researching this past week’s story on Hudson’s Hill, I couldn’t help but think about my sister-in-law. Having grown up in a suburb of St. Louis, Mo., a union town with a somewhat conservative outlook, some interesting ideas and views have popped up in my family. My mom and brother are both in unions, and my dad is a veteran who fights hard for Fair Tax; need less to say my parents don’t always talk about who they are voting for with us, or each other necessarily, and almost all of us drive cars made by General Motors. But the shining example of sticking to principles in our family is my sister-in-law, Jennie. She dons many beliefs, usually showcasing them on Facebook. Many of these beliefs started when she began thinking about becoming a mother.

Attachment parenting, anti-circumcision and anti-chemicals are just a few, but the Hudson’s Hill story got me thinking about her baby shower. She had very specific ideas of what she wanted. The invites were to be emailed to reduce paper consumption. No diapers or diaper cake would be necessary because she was going to be infant-potty training or using cloth diapers. Gifts were welcome, but only if they were non-plastic and made in the U.S.

Do you know how hard it is to find wooden toys made in the U.S. in St. Charles, Mo.?

I thought I had a winner with Melissa and Doug‘s wooden toys. As it turns out, despite its U.S. address, most of its toys are reportedly now made in China.

Why did she have such difficult demands for baby shower gifts? Well, it turns out plastic isn’t exactly biodegradable. I know that sounds a little obvious, but consider that these little plastic kitchens and playgrounds that we buy for our kids are nearly the same as the ones we played with, just a newer version. Because those older versions are sold at resale shops all over the country, it seems wasteful to buy new ones and contribute more plastic to the landfills. Plus, they are usually made in China.

The plastic issue is just another one of those things my sister-in-law says that initially gets under my skin, but once I think about it, I totally agree. Much like Styrofoam. She takes her own plastic containers to restaurants, and if they have Styrofoam to go containers, she will refuse it and go out to her car to grab her Tupperware.

Styrofoam is actually made from petroleum-based plastic, polystyrene. I know, again with the plastic. But polystyrene is resistant to photolysis, or the breaking down by photons originating from a light source. Because it floats, it collects on shorelines everywhere, which makes it seem like it never goes away. If you’re anything like me, you will now take notice of all the Styrofoam containers, cups and otherwise that restaurants and gas stations deal in, and consider carrying your own plastic wear because the thought of that much waste is sickening.

She got me in the same way with recycling. I grew up recycling cans, bottles and paper, but after she got a hold of me, I felt guilt if I didn’t recycle literally every material possible. I’ve even passed that influence on to other friends.

I’ve come to realize that she’s generally right when it comes to consumer awareness. After researching “made in the U.S. products,” it turns out she’s right about that, too, though I think part of her principle comes from my brother’s nearly 20-year affair with his union.

According to the Made in America Movement, the average American will spend about $700 on gifts this year. If the average consumer spent half of that figure on American-made goods, up to a million American jobs would be created.

That’s just gifts. The Buy American Movement website estimates that American adults spent about $950 per month in 2013 on imported goods.

Much like the owners of Hudson’s Hill, William Clayton and Evan Morrison, see the vision and promise of American-made goods, other companies are seeing it, too.

Last year, according to the Made in America Movement, Redman, a company that makes ride-on batterypowered toys, sold 1.1 million toys that were all made in China. By 2016, the company plans to make 600,000 of those toys domestically in a new company-owned and operated plant. Imagine what the unemployment rate would look like if all companies that produce goods internationally moved just one plant back home.

As far as the baby shower went, we ended up making vast compromises between the traditional values of our parent’s generation and Jennie’s desire to leave a smaller carbon footprint. I sent out paper invitations, but she did email thank you notes. I got her a photo album (that she actually used) but made sure the other gifts were recycled or reused. And the theme of the shower ended up being “Earth Mother” because it was so fitting.

When it was all said and done, the real gift was the one that she gave me “” awareness. No matter how annoying it might be, I can’t close my eyes and look away from the effects we have on a world that we will eventually leave behind. Some of them are environmental and some are economical. After all, buying American-made products assures a quality of goods, and a quality of life. !