Monday, December 15, 2008

Five Steps You Can Take To Save Natural And Handmade Companies


Five Steps You Can Take To Save Natural And Handmade Companies

The word is out: The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act has cast such a wide net that many small businesses and natural toy companies are threatened with financial ruin by testing requirements that need to be overhauled if they are to be applied to them at all. Livelihoods, work-at-home arrangements, and the availability of handmade and natural products for our children are at stake. Here are five things you can do today to help force Congress to address the mess they've made before the law goes into effect on February 10, 2009.

1. Familiarize yourself with needed reforms. The Handmade Toy Alliance has proposed the following reforms to the CPSIA:
Exempt toys made or imported in quantities under 5,000 per year by companies making or importing less than 50,000 total items per year, as well as toys made entirely in the U.S. and other countries with a strong safety regimen of their own (Canada, EU), and pair this with mandatory registration by companies and random auditing with stiff penalties (the way the EU does it).
Assume that natural materials (wood, wool, silk, bamboo, cotton, and uncoated textiles) and food-grade materials (wood finishes made from beeswax and certain oils) are lead- and phthalate-free, and don't require them to be tested.
Allow manufacturers to accept third-party test results for raw materials, and require company testing of products based on manufacturing levels rather than specific time frames.
Don't require batch labeling for small runs of products not made from molded plastic, and don't require manufacturing dates to be a part of any labeling, as small batch toys are costly to label in this way.You can read their full proposal on the Handmade Toy Alliance's website.

2. Tell your local news outlets that this is a local story. Look up Etsy sellers in your city or town, then call your local TV station or newspaper, ask for a business reporter, and tell them that you could help them identify at least X number of sole proprietors in your community who are about to be driven out of business if the law isn't changed. If you have a locally-owned toy store that carries natural toys, mention this too - they'd be a great interview for the same story. Local news desks are overworked and understaffed; if you can connect the dots on a timely topic you will probably see a story.

3. Make some phone calls. Phone calls are better than form letters, and if you get the person on the phone you might actually get some useful information you can share with others through the grapevine.

Here are four calls you should make:

Call your current U.S. Representative. Republicans and Democrats claim to care about nurturing small businesses, but new testing requirements encompass product areas highly unlikely to pose a risk for newly-banned chemicals. The new law needs to clearly articulate feasible and logical standards for small businesses and companies that already meet international (EU) standards.Tell them how you feel about what will happen to many of the SAHM, small businesses, and natural companies that are already doing their due diligence to ensure product safety. Find out if they've been voted out or are still in for the next session; if they'll be replaced, ask by whom and if you can contact them at the same number. You can find out who yours is and how to contact them here.

Call Nancy Nord. She's the acting head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and she needs to hear from you. To reach her, call 301-504-7923 and ask for her; if she's busy, leave a brief, polite, but firm message.

Call the CPSC ombudsman's office. The number is 888-531-9070.

Call your Senator. Tell them you aren't pleased with the way the House wrote this bill or the fact that the Senate passed it in its current form, and that it is in dire need of reform before it sinks small businesses under exorbitant testing costs for products that are made using natural materials. You can locate contact information for your Senator here. If they're being replaced, ask them how to get in touch with their successor.

4. Join the conversation. Find Twitterers discussing the matter by searching for the #CPSIA hashtag. Browse new blog posts about the CPSIA and point others to them by giving them a bump on whatever social sharing or bookmarking software you use. (Links for giving a bump to this article are at the foot of this post - if you like this info, help spread it around!)

5. Sign some petitions. We believe that petitions are among the least effective steps you can take - the less effort it takes to make your voice heard, the less seriously your effort is taken by those you hope to impact; and signature rates inevitably underrepresent the number of concerned citizens, often vastly so - but it can't hurt, so here's one petition and here's another.