7 Unforgettable Childhood Summer Memories

7 Unforgettable Childhood Summer Memories

Take me back to the days when the only worry was getting a sunburn
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With summer quickly approaching, I figured it was time for a little throwback. During our childhood, we couldn't wait for the words "last day of school" which would lead us into the long three months of summer break. We would spend our days basking in the sun and just having fun with our friends without a worry in sight. Summer was always my favorite time of the year -- not only because my birthday happens to fall in the heart of summer, but also because it was a time when everyone just seemed happier and more carefree. I could probably name an endless amount of summer memories that I have, but here are just a few that have really stuck with me through the years.

1. The sound of the ice cream truck.

Every child could hear this truck from miles away. We would all run into our rooms and pull out the few coins we had out of our piggy banks and get our favorite frozen treat. If you happened to miss the truck, you knew that summer day had just turned into the worst day ever and you would have to wait a whole 24 hours until you could try again.

2. Melted popsicles and ice cream.

Along with the enjoyment of ice cream, comes the melted mess. Sure a popsicle sounds like the perfect thing for a hot and humid 90 degree day, until you step outside it then becomes a moisturizer for your hand. We have all had those sticky red hands from our melted popsicles, where Mom would be scolding us for making such a mess and for not eating it fast enough.

3. Baseball games.

Baseball games are one of the very definitions of summer. We all had the parent that sign us up to play little league even though we didn't want to be standing out on a dirt field in the 80 degree sun. Or maybe you were fortunate enough and got to bake in the sun while sitting on the bleachers, cheering on your friends and siblings. Either way, baseball games were one of the many enjoyments of summer, since who doesn't love sitting bleacher side with a soda and hot dog.

4. Getting that tomato red sunburn.

No matter how many times mom told us to put on that SPF 50, we would say, "It's not that sunny" or "But, Mom, I don't ever burn." A few hours later, we would then come back for lunch and be glowing like fire. We would get the, I told you so look, from Mom and then a speech on how important it is to protect your skin from the sun's rays. It's not till now that I truly am grateful for the sunscreen fights my mom and I would have.

5. Poolside fun (for those without the enjoyment of beaches).

Summer equals poolside days. Enough said.

6. Summer foods.

You knew every night when it wasn't rainy was going to be a cookout. Hamburgers, hot dogs, brauts, mac and cheese, corn on the cob, and watermelon always made the perfect meal and you couldn't ever seem to get tired of it. I mean you have to enjoy the food while it is fresh and in season since we all know the December blues when you just want a slice of ripe, juicy watermelon.

7. Fireworks.

As a child, I loved nothing more than when the 4th of July would come around and the whole town would come together and watch fireworks at a local college stadium. It would then return to having a few neighbors that would put on a light show of their own, just for our entertainment. I loved seeing the night sky light up in the blues and reds of the American spirit and for once, it would feel like the peace on Earth was possible since everyone coming to celebrate the one thing that we are all truly thankful for.

Sometimes, looking back on our childhood may make us feel old and miss the good times, while others it makes us smile and realize just how well we had it. For those of you who are reading this and still have some years of your youth left, enjoy it. Once you graduate high school and make it to college, summers just aren't the same. Cherish this time you have of no worries and the free-ness to create as many memories as possible because trust me, one day you will enjoy looking back at them.

Cover Image Credit: cappersfarmer.com

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5 Companies That Still Use Slave Labor

Let's talk about the modern slave trade.
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Growing up in a country where freedom is always a right and expectation — whether you live in the United States or one of the other 86 "free" countries — it is easy to believe that, compared to the well-known 1800s slave trade, we are doing pretty well when it comes to civil liberties, freedom, and overall social welfare. Documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) have been approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations, meaning that the vast majority of nations have agreed that every individual has the right to basic human dignity.

Despite this significant progress, however, there are 45.8 million people enslaved today, more than any other time in world history. The United States Department of Homeland Security has launched the Blue Campaign in light of this growing industry, hoping to raise awareness of the human trafficking that persists in local communities. Additionally, you can watch this video for a summary on the Global Slavery pandemic. I will write about the problem of human trafficking in the United States on another day; however, global slavery affects us whether it is in our city or halfway around the world. In fact, companies that you purchase from every single day use slave labor for their work instead of paying employees a fair wage.* Don't believe me?

Here are five companies that are using slave labor to make their products TODAY, and where you should shop instead.

Nestle

Nestle is one of the largest companies that has consistently carried out human rights violations all over the world. Not only did they illegally take water from California during the drought in 2015, but in the 1970s they got third-world mothers to use infant formula by selling it at reduced prices, and then when the mothers could no longer breastfeed, they raised the price of formula so much that many children were malnourished and starving.

Their most recent problems revolve around slavery in the cocoa industry. In 2009 several former child slaves sued Nestle because they were trafficked and forced to work on Nestle farms in Cote d'Ivoire. Another suit was filed by former child slaves in 2014, stating that "Studies by International Labour Organization, UNICEF, the Department of State, and numerous other organizations have confirmed that thousands of children are forced to work without pay in the Ivorian economy." In 2016, the Fair Labor Association executed an assessment of Nestle in Cote d'Ivoire. They claimed that 70% of Nestle farms were not trained on the prohibition of forced labor. Further, they stated that "there is no process in place to monitor, report, and remediate cases of forced labor at the farms." With this in mind, they did find evidence of potential forced and uncompensated labor. Additionally, they found evidence of child labor—many of these children never enrolling in school — in which children were getting paid little to nothing, and often working in dangerous conditions.

INSTEAD: buy from Ben & Jerry's or Theo. They will satisfy your sweet tooth and are Fair-Trade guaranteed.

Nike

Nike has REALLY cleaned up their act in the last several years, but with a standard of no slave labor, they still have quite a way to go. In 1992, activist Jeff Ballinger published an exposé in "Harpers" that revealed the story of a child in Indonesia working in disgusting conditions, and for a mere 14 cents per hour (far below the minimum wage in Indonesia at the time).

Since then, Nike has begun to report supply chain information. The most recent report claims that, in 2016, only 86% of their factories were up to the minimum standards they set. Though they give a good indication of how far the company has come, these standards are set by Nike and assessed internally, making it difficult to compare standards to a universal one.

INSTEAD: shop at Patagonia! All products here are Fair Trade Certified!

Starbucks

Starbucks claims a mission for ethical sourcing, meaning their company policy requires them to abide by a standard of "ethical sourcing" that they have created. They only have two Fair-Trade coffees available for purchase. After the development charity Oxfam reported that Starbucks was depriving Ethiopian coffee growers of $90 million every year, Starbucks was challenged by the public eye to “clean up their act,” and did so by creating their own “ethical sourcing” standards, that they implement themselves, and certify 99% of their coffee with. Whether or not these standards are viable, they are not Fair Trade Certified at this time.

The U.S. Department of Labor has a list of locations and goods that use forced and child labor. Starbucks lists coffees from countries such as Guatamala, Kenya, Costa Rica and Panama; however, none of these single-sourced coffees are certified by them as “Fair Trade.” Rather, they are all regions that are known to use child labor.

INSTEAD: buy the Starbucks Italian Roast and Café Estima; they are certified by Fair Trade! You can also order online from Café Justo, Jurang and Equal Exchange —entire companies dedicated to producing Fair Trade coffee.

H&M

A 2016 report stated that as of December 31, 2015, 31 out of 72 H&M suppliers were using illegal contracts. In other words, these contracts allowed for wrongful termination. Now I know what you are thinking: the current system of hiring/firing in the U.S. is full of problems, and it takes way too much work to fire a bad employee in most cases. Well, the situation in countries like Cambodia and India are a little different. Often times, employees of H&M will be forced to work for excessive overtime hours—far beyond the legal limit—with no increase in their weekly take home pay. They are also often working in sweatshop conditions, with no breaks and unsanitary environments. Moreover, the contracts allow the factory to fire a worker for refusing to work these long hours. In fact, a garment worker in Cambodia stated: "We often get sick around once a month. We don’t eat enough and work too much trying to maximize the piece rate. Also, we don’t stop to go to the bathroom. We often work through lunch breaks or go back into work early, so there is hardly any time to rest."

INSTEAD: shop at one of these other retailers that are guaranteed to have fair-trade labor!

Walmart

Well, this one is probably the least suprising yet. According to a 2016 report by the Wage Alliance on Walmart's value chain, Walmart refused to sign the 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh that 200 companies signed following the collapse of Rana Plaza. It also stated that all 14 factories in Cambodia were studied, and they all violated local overtime laws consistently, with some forcing 14 hour work days without overtime pay "in sweltering heat, without adequate supply of clean drinking water or any breaks." These same conditions were expressed by workers in factories in India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. The report continued to list countless instances of workers given severely less than they were promised, or even cases where owners of factories fled without paying workers at all.

INSTEAD: OK, I know it's hard to pass up Walmart prices. However, here is a full list of companies that are fair trade. Even if you start small, I know you can find a way to cut back on your slavery footprint! Want to know how many slaves work for you now? Visit the Slavery Footprint mission to find out.

*I use the term “fair wage” because many people who are enslaved are trapped in a cycle of debt bondage. This means that an individual or family works for pennies per hour to pay off an ever-increasing debt. Oftentimes this debt is passed down for generations. To learn more about debt bondage and other forms of slavery, visit the non-profit End Slavery Now, here.

Cover Image Credit: iragelb / Flickr

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6 Reasons You Should Love Thrift Shopping As Much As I do

I have been thrift shopping for years and I am proud to say I am saving my money as well as the planet for clothes that are rockin.

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Thrift store shopping has been one of my favorite ways to spend my money for as long as I can remember. There has yet to be a time where I walk out of a Goodwill, Savers, or consignment shop empty handed. Here are six reasons why thrifting is the best way to shop.

1. Chances are you will find clothing pieces no one else has.

I have found so many unique thrift store items that I have yet to see anywhere else. There are so many hidden treasures that lie within each and every thrift store. If you look hard enough you will find items you had no idea you needed in your life.

2. Two words: saving. money.

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The beauty of thrift stores is that everything is priced within the three to ten dollar range give or take a few items. You can find cute t-shirts, jeans, dresses, skirts all within a very reasonable price range. Who doesn't like saving money?

3. Lets talk about saving the planet too.

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The beauty of thrifting is that these clothing pieces, instead of getting thrown away, get a second chance at being worn. By thrifting you are reusing and upcycling clothing items that might have been discarded otherwise. Most retail clothing stores participate in fast fashion. If you are interested in learning about the negative effects of fast fashion click here

4. DIY your thrift store finds!

Another major bonus to thrifting is that you can make certain pieces even more unique by adding your own touch to it. You can crop t-shirts, add embroidery, get creative and really make the clothing piece your own. The best part is- if you mess up it is no big deal since the clothing piece probably wasn't that expensive to begin with.

5. Expand your fashion comfort zones.

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By shopping at thrift stores you will find a wide variety of clothing. From grandma sweaters to vintage mom jeans you can find anything and everything. If you are looking to try out a new style or purchase a funky new piece- hitting up a thrift store will allow you to get out and explore new looks for a whole lot less.

6. Thrifting isn't all about the clothes!

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I forgot to mention, thrift stores do not just sell clothes! (Crazy, right?) Sometimes I enjoy going to consignment stores and Goodwill's to see if I can find records, cool paintings, or wacky furniture pieces. Thrift stores are truly filled with many hidden gems and chances are if you look hard enough, you'll score a sweet item no one else has.

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