At Blossom Bottles, we believe in ethical business and full transparency behind where we source our products and how they are made.
Blossom Bottles is all about spreading the message of reducing waste and living a healthy, active lifestyle. Our bottles also give back to communities lacking easy access to clean water.
So, it might seem contradictory to our message to find out that our bottles are currently made in China. But we are not ashamed of this, nor do we try to hide this on our website. Instead, we would like to openly show our customers the production facilities where our bottles are made and shed some light on how China is rapidly shifting its perspective and improving quality across the board.
"Made in China"
"Made in China" has developed an extremely negative connotation in America, especially among sustainable-minded shoppers, that usually brings to mind the idea of low-cost and low-quality items, made by underpaid, exploited workers.
According to Gang (Kevin) Han, an associate professor in Iowa State University’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, this stereotype didn't always exist. In fact, years ago, he says, “People really enjoyed products from China. They viewed products, such as tea, furniture, or dishware, as unique. It was a quality product and there was a cultural value.” Han continues, “But when China became a world factory and produced so many items for so many brands, people changed their views.” (1) In fact, 50 years ago, it was Japanese products that were viewed as cheap and low-quality. But times have changed, and nowadays Japanese products are usually viewed as being quality-made.
This negative connotation that is held today towards "made in China" in large part has come from personal experience with low-quality Chinese products from mega-marts such as Wal-Mart, and media coverage regarding health and safety issues with products coming from China, as well as human rights issues in Chinese factories.
However, in a series of studies that Han and his team conducted and published in three peer-reviewed journals of journalism and communication, he found that how a story is "framed," whether in a negative manner focusing on risks, or in a positive manner focusing on benefits, can practically dictate the opinion that the reader will form. He says, regarding the stories in the news about products made in China, that the "framing" of the story is usually negative, which has greatly contributed to the overall negative public opinion of the "made in China" label. (1)
Things Are Changing in China
While this negative connotation of Chinese products in recent years may be well-deserved in many cases, things are starting to change in China, and fast. The Chinese government has recognized that the "Made in China" brand has been greatly tarnished, and has developed a strong interest in improving product quality. According to an article from Quality Digest, “Made in China” no longer necessarily means "cheap or knock-off," although lower quality products still exist. The author of the article continues, "China has the expertise, the engineers, and the infrastructure to make quality products, and is doing so. It also has the necessary drivers: a growing middle class with buying power, and the desire to improve the “made in China” brand and compete head-to-head in the global market." (2)
"There is no doubt the Chinese can produce high-quality goods. Quality has greatly improved, pretty much in every industry," adds Dan Harris, an authority on legal matters related to doing business in China. (2)
Making Strides Toward Sustainability
As explained in an article from the World Economic Forum from April 2018, China's government has declared a "war on pollution," and they're not joking around. The environmental issues in China have become too big to ignore, and after years of heavy industrialization, the Chinese government recognizes that the situation has reached a tipping point, in which environmental hazards could lead to a substantial risk to China's society and economy if not corrected quickly. (3)
The Chinese government has formed many new initiatives to combat pollution. China has taken a strong stance against coal and has started taking huge steps in dismantling coal power plants and reducing emissions. They've also consolidated previously scattered environmental and water regulation departments to form a new Ministry of Ecology and Environment, with a much clearer vision and stronger effort to clean up China's polluted waterways. (3)
China is also creating long-term projects for a green future. "Made in China 2025" is a government initiative that is aimed at transforming the nation into a "lean, innovative and green world manufacturing power" by 2025. (4) One way that China is working toward this is China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a global program with the goal of improving connectivity between countries, that is inspired by the ancient Silk Road. At the World Economic Forum's annual 2018 meeting, Vice Premier Liu stated that "reducing pollution is one of China’s main strategic goals" as it pursues this project. (3)
Sustainable Development Zones
In early 2018, the Chinese government approved three zones for sustainable development, which will implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. These regions are the Shenzhen region, the Guilin region, and the Taiyuan region. (3)
The Shenzhen zone is the "innovation engine" of China, which uses new technologies to manage sewage treatment and waste, as well as focus on ecological restoration, with the intent of solving resource management and pollution issues in the country. Guilin will work on creating solutions for desertification that can be applied in other regions, and Taiyan will focus on creating innovative ways to combat air and water pollution, that will be implemented in regions that depend on resource extraction. (3)
Also, China's major players in the tech world are helping to play a huge role in leading the way toward sustainable development. Companies such as Baidu, Tencent, and Alibaba are helping to speed up the sustainable changes happening in China with e-commerce, internet banking, and social media. For example, Ant Financial, a banking subsidiary of Alibaba, is also a founder of the Green Digital Finance Alliance, which aims to "use digital technology to advance green finance." (3)
Helping Small Businesses
Often, people think that only large, faceless corporations work with Chinese manufacturers to mass-produce cheap, low-quality products. But in reality, often the opposite is the case, where small, independent companies work with small factories in China to create high-quality products. “There are smaller, more specialized factories in China, and they will take orders of a smaller scale, something that's crucial to smaller businesses that can't risk or afford to order huge quantities,” explains Nancy Zhang, vice president of Otte NY. In other words, Chinese factories often understand the hardships of starting up a business from scratch, and the financial struggles faced to take off as a brand while sourcing wholesale. Many Chinese factories are willing to take it slow and start with low product quantities until a business can afford to invest in more. Much of the time, domestic factories in the US and Europe have high wholesale minimum requirements that are prohibitive to small businesses just starting out. (5)
Our manufacturers are located in the Shenzhen zone of China, and also work with Alibaba to help create change in promoting sustainable development in China. Our manufacturers have certified factories which undergo frequent inspections and are required to show that their employees are paid fair wages.
Image from one of our manufacturer's facilities
Each of our suppliers makes it a priority to produce quality bottles, using environmentally-conscious and healthy materials. They take pride in the fact that their bottles are high quality, resilient, safe to drink from, and BPA-free, all the while being beautiful to look at.
At each facility:
- Our manufacturers specialize in reusable and insulated bottle production, using high-technology, environmentally friendly techniques, for example, advanced water-stretching, no-tail vacuum, ultrasonic cleaning, dust-free polishing, and laser marking with the aim of minimizing pollution at every stage
- Bottles are made by high-quality, skilled employees with professional titles (not children or exploited workers)
- Products (for other companies as well) are made up to the highest quality standards (using glass, stainless steel, polypropylene (#5) plastic, Tritan, and silicone), to be exported to the markets of Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America.
- Each factory has passed the ISO9001:2008 Quality Management System certification and Wal-Mart inspection report. Products are certified by LFBG (food-safe product inspection, the "fork, and knife" symbol), CE (products meet European Union standards) and the FDA.
Product Display Room at Manufacturer Warehouse
How to recognize quality in products
When you see the "Made in China" label on a product, don't assume it is low-quality just because it is made in China. Ask yourself the following questions to determine the quality of the individual product.
- What materials is it made from? Check for all the information on the product about the materials used in each part of the product. The more information, the better. Check to see, for example, if there is a plastic part of a product, that the type of plastic used is clearly indicated.
- What is the price point? Sad but true, usually, you get what you pay for. If an item's price seems extremely low or too good to be true, it most likely has such a low price tag for a reason, due to low quality or low worker wages. More expensive does not always mean better quality, but the final price of an item is usually indicated by the manufacturing costs and labor costs that went into making the item.
- What information does the product include? The more information that a brand or company readily makes available about its products, the better indication of quality. Quality production is something that most companies are proud of - and will make sure that product information is clear and complete.
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All in all, China is making headway towards sustainability, due in large part to responsible manufacturers such as those used at Blossom Bottles.
We hope that this article sheds some light on the changing situation in China, and gives a new perspective to the "Made in China" label. Hopefully, by supporting manufacturers such as the ones we use for our bottles, we can help China to become a surprising example of sustainable development for the world to follow.
Comments or questions? Don't hesitate to write your thoughts below.
1. "How 'Made in China' Got a Bad Reputation." 7 Mar 2016. Futurity. https://www.futurity.org/made-in-china-1116202-2/
2. "Made in China: From Scary Bad to Scary Good." Quality Digest. 30 May 2018. https://www.qualitydigest.com/inside/management-article/made-china-scary-bad-scary-good-052918.html
3. "Here's how China is going green." 26 Apr 2018. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/04/china-is-going-green-here-s-how
4. "You're wrong: Chinese factories don't only make low-quality products." In-Touch Manufacturing Services. 7 Mar 2017. https://www.intouch-quality.com/blog/youre-wrong-chinese-factories-dont-only-make-poor-quality-products
5. "Next Time You Buy Clothes, Think Of This" 10 Nov 2015. Refinery 29. https://www.refinery29.com/made-in-china-manufacturing