Do you often put paper around your neck? Do you keep your money and I.D. cards in the newspaper? What about your flowers in a magazine? Believe it or not, Fair Trade artisans often use the paper products we would throw away to do these very things. The Fair Trade movement is very green and also very innovative. From agriculture to packaging the Fair Trade standards hold true to their eco-friendly values and they've taken some creative avenues to do it. Many Fair Trade products are made from recycled materials, and this includes paper. Typically paper is used for books and fliers and little else, but in the Fair Trade culture paper has the potential to be much more!
Many are already familiar with the paper jewelry that comes out of Africa. Strips of paper are wrapped tightly into beads creating colorful necklaces and bracelets, like these ones from Global Good Partners. Creating these necklaces provides a source of income for many African women supporting children on their own, and sometimes even struggling with HIV/AIDs. There are many Fair Trade companies that sell this from different parts of Africa, and they are one of the many products The Welcome Mat is proud to sell.
Serrv is a company that has some particularly unique paper products especially in terms of home decor. These vases, bowls, and table runners are unlike any you've ever seen. Many of their paper products are made by Get Paper Industry, a 125 person cooperative in Kathmandu. In addition to recycling paper, this organization also uses old cotton rags and natural fiber from banana plants and corn husks.
Not all paper comes from trees, and in fact it's probably better if it doesn't. To prevent further deforestation there are different kinds of paper that can be made. The Fair Trading Company takes this to another level with their elephant dung products. This line of notebooks and stationary sets are safe and hygienic. The raw material is boiled and disinfected, washing away all excrement but the plant fibers left behind. It's these fibers that are turned into beautiful and useful paper.
This kind of innovation comes from not just the mind but from the heart. People in countries all over the world are using their talents, and whatever resources they have available to them to create beautiful and practical products that are both ethical and eco-friendly. The more we support groups like these and their entrepreneurial pursuits, the more we establish a new standard within our own economy, and our own culture. Just like the paper that has been made into something new, so our society can be made into something new in a very beneficial way.
April is Earth month, and this Sunday April 22nd will be Earth Day! It's this time of year when the sun is shining and the flowers bloom that we are reminded Fair Trade isn't just a movement benefitting people but our environment as well. We've spoken before on all the ways that Fair Trade is environmentally conscious and all it does for the planet as well as the people. But this week we get to talk about ways in which we as consumers can incorporate helping the planet while simultaneously helping people. Of course, one of the best ways we can stay green is how we clean! It's important to keep our homes clean, but many products we use in the process contain chemicals that are dangerous to the environment, and toxic to us. But believe it or not, there are some Fair Trade alternatives that are good for the environment too!
For our laundry, the New Internationalist Shop and Ten Thousand Villages sells Soap nuts. Eco-friendly, biodegradable, sustainably produced, as well as compostable, soap nuts are a safe and natural alternative to harsh chemical detergents. There are different ways to use them, whether by boiling them to excise the soap or just throwing them in with your laundry. In any case, this product has gotten good reviews. You can get multiple washes from them and they are affordably priced.
Dr. Bronner's is well known in the Fair Trade Community for their soap with "18 in 1 uses." Their liquid soaps while typically used as a body soap boasts even more uses than just that, including as a laundry detergent, surface cleaner, and even fruit and vegetable rinse. Their website has instructions on different concentrations to be used for each use. In addition to this they have also come out with another product Sal Suds specifically for surface cleaning, and like their liquid soap it is Fair Trade, eco-friendly, animal product free, and not tested on animals.
It's not easy being Green, and it's not easy being fair either, but the Fair Trade movement is actively thinking of ways to help consumers out in our ethical endeavours. When we support these products we are part of the Fair Trade movement, and part of the solution to a healthier planet.
is here! And with it the sun and the rain, perfect conditions for
gardening. Whether or not you've been blessed with a green thumb, The
Welcome Mat would like to give you some helpful tips on ways you can
make your gardening experience ethically responsible.Gardening
definitely requires skill. It's hard to get the right results if you
don't have the right tools. Here are a few places you can get what you
need! The what: If you are looking for some seeds to get started, West Coast Seeds, a company based out of Canada will have some options for you. Greenline
does as well, and they are based in the UK. However you will have to
become a member of Greenline before having access to what they have.
Remember that when it comes to produce, if you are having difficulty
finding a Fair Trade option, shopping locally is a good alternative.The
wear: Remember when working out in the sun, and sometimes with sharp
and/or dirty objects, it is important to wear the appropriate gear. Traid Crafts has Fair Trade gardening gloves, hats, and aprons for your convenience!The
how: Traid Crafts also has planting pots, garden trowels and tool sets,
tins, twine, and even mulch bags. Out of Wisconsin we have the Cobra Head! A unique and ethically made gardening tool. In addition to that Oxfam has terracotta water drippers and other handy gardening items. With
the weather on our side we can take our Fair Trade lifestyles to the
earth! And build gardens that grow fair, not just fairly grow.
This Friday evening marks the beginning of Passover which will last until the evening of April 14th. It also happens to be Good Friday, which means this Sunday will be Easter. Two major holidays from two major cultures equals one big opportunity to support the Fair Trade cause. This seems especially fitting for Passover, as it celebrates the release of the Israelites from their slavery in ancient Egypt. Contributing to the fair treatment of others, and the attempts to abolish slavery around the world this weekend is especially poignant. More chocolate is sold in the U.S. for Easter than any other day other than Halloween. With sales like that it is more important to support Fair Trade chocolate than ever. Luckily for us we have access to some Fair Trade options, such as these Fair Trade Easter candies, and baskets! Unfortunately Cadbury, a popular chocolate brand during the Easter season has Fair Trade chocolate available in the U.K. but not in the U.S. If you would like to do more than just buy fair trade chocolate, and you would like to support the abolition of slavery around the world, then you can sign this petition asking Hershey to make the Fair Trade change.
There are Fair Trade Passover materials as well available from Global Exchange and Fair Trade Judaica. You can incorporate Fair
Trade into your seder or sign a petition for Fair Trade kosher chocolate. After all, this year's theme for Fairtrade Fortnight is Take a Step for Fair Trade! The Fairtrade Foundation would like to reach a total of 1,500,000 new steps for Fairtrade. Perhaps your next step could be having an Easter or Passover tradition of incorporating Fair Trade into your holiday celebrations. In any case,supporting Fair Trade is never out of place for any holiday.
We live in a very futuristic age. We can electronically send messages with
our voices or with text, download music, play games, record video, watch TV ,
and even take pictures all with the same device. Because of this our electronic
devices are becoming deeply ingrained in our lives to the point that it's
getting hard to live without them. Unfortunately, recent events have reminded us
that just because something is important to us, or extremely useful, doesn't
mean that its been ethically made.
Within the last couple of years Foxconn
, a manufacturer of goods such as the
ipad and and kindle has been under public scrutiny due to the suicides
of many workers. A closer look at the conditions of the factories has led to
some insight as to why the suicides occurred. Employees have released complains
as to Foxconn's authoritarian structure and long hours. A saying
amongst the workers is "they use women as men and men as machines." Apple has now
the Fair Labor Association
(FLA) to inspect the factories that make their products.
Unfortunately steps towards fair trade electronics will not stop there. As
we know it is not just about the products being made but also the materials they
are made from. Many of the minerals are from African mines under the control of
government militias who use them as a means of oppressing their people. However
we can not lose hope. It could take years before changes can be made at that
deep of a
level, but that doesn't mean we should give up. If
anything this entire situation is an encouragement to keep the movement strong.
It's because such injustices as the mistreatment of Foxconn workers were brought
to the attention of consumers that the companies affiliated made steps toward
change. As consumers we have the power to maneuver the market, and if
distributors know that we will not support unethical practices, then their
practices will be made ethical. Hiring the FLA is a small step, but it has the
potential to be a giant leap for the electronic market.
Trade products are made from a variety of materials. Whether it is
cotton, burlap, wood, stone, or even recycled items, the materials have
to come from somewhere, and the people who create or harvest those
materials deserve fair treatment for their labor just as the artisans
so it is with silk. There is actually a long and involved process
before silk scarves can be made. We know silk to be the soft and
colorful scarves we wear in the summer, or the sturdy and cozy material
we use for bedsheets, but the cloth we know as silk is actually a
product of skill and thousands of years of east Asian tradition.
is a thread made from the cocoons of silk moths. But before those
cocoons must be made, the silk worm must feed on lots and lots of
mulberry leaves. This and and lots of fresh air is necessary for the
silk worms to stay healthy, otherwise they could get sick and their silk
will be of low quality. When the worm is ready it will spin a silk
cocoon around itself which will take about two days to complete. Humans have been harvesting silk moth cocoons for 5000 years,
so long that the insects are now completely dependent upon man because
of such selective breeding, and have lost the ability to fly. There are
many species of silk worm. The white is preferred because of its higher
production rates, but other kinds such as the yellow silk worm are
primarily found in places like Cambodia.
the cocoons have been harvested they are boiled to soften the fibers,
then the worms are removed and the cocoons stretched and spun into
thread. It is this thread that is dyed and woven into the high quality
products we enjoy so much!
Yesterday was International Women's Day, so The Welcome Mat would like to discuss all of the benefits Fair Trade has to offer to all of women kind. Even though Fair Trade is beneficial to everyone, not just a specific gender or race, for women in particular what fair trade does can mean so much more.
Opportunities for work- In the long run it can be harder for women to find employment then it can be for me, especially since the list of "female jobs" is significantly lower than that of "male jobs." But Fair Trade companies intentionally provide jobs for women, giving them a foothold in the work force and an ability to provide for their families in a way that they were previously unable. Divine Chocolate is a good example of a Fair Trade company that is empowering women to have a stronger part in their communities development.
Education and training- Many Fair Trade companies do not just provide jobs, but training in the community for work in their company as well as other professions as well. Asha provides training in catering, education, and childcare.
Education for their children- It's a little hard to teach your kids to read in addition to working. For many families in impoverished countries education and schooling is a luxury. However with the extra money received through fair trade, smaller communities are able to build schools and buy materials for their children's education. A good example of this is Rishi Tea, whom as we've said in our blog The Power of Tea has helped build schools in Asia in addition to other types of community development.
Better health care- Health care is a big issue all over the globe, especially for women. In addition to schools, the extra money received from Fair Trade programs helps provide medical care that would otherwise be unavailable to them. For instance, Tinsaba in Swaziland, Africa provides a mobile homeopathic clinic to combat the AIDs epidemic in their community.
Issues that affect women are issues that affect everybody, except a lot of the time it can be harder for them to overcome these issues because of their culturally lower place in society. Fair Trade gives women around the globe a leg up to a better life, and empowers them economically in ways they have so far struggled to achieve.
Now that the tinge of Valentine's day is fading from the air, and spring is
whispering on our calendars, love and new beginnings are on the mind. For many
this means a slough of weddings to attend as the late spring/early summer brides
put the finishing touches on their big day. Fair trade can be incorporated into
every part of our lives, and wedding ceremonies are no exception. Fair trade has
everything you need to say some ethical "I dos."
- Stationary: When preparing the announcements or invitations for your
wedding, give Vinati's Paper a look.
Vinati's supply stationary specifically for wedding invitations.
- Clothing: Mata
Trader's makes dresses for bridesmaids and flower girls, but of course
things get a little trickier when it comes to the bride's dress. As of right now
there is a lot of green and organic
options, but if you want something with an actual fair trade label then its not
who makes the dress, but what its made of that matters. Fair trade cotton is actually
growing in popularity for every day wear as well as wedding wear.
- Flowers: While many fair trade sources are primarily based in the UK, we are
lucky in America to at least have nationwide access to fair trade flowers. One World Flowers
delivers across the country!
- Gifts: Of all of the categories this would be the easiest to accomplish.
After all, if you want a fair trade lifestyle then just direct your friends and
family to buying your house wear items at fair trade stores like The Welcome Mat! And that isn't even
all. As we've said before there is fair trade wine and champagne available, as
well as ethical jewelry to match your gown.
The Fair Trade
Federation supplies even more great tips in their Fair Trade
Wedding Guide. With these ideas you and your spouse to be will be ready to
walk down the aisle Fair Trade style.
As a global fair trade store, The Welcome Mat
sells products from all over the world, sourced by multiple
organizations. One of our largest wholesalers, especially for our
selections from India, is Handmade Expressions. Founded in 2005 by Manish Gupta,
this company partners with multiple NGO's and grassroots artisan
co-operatives that source fair trade products from India. Many of the
artisans that Handmade Expressions employs have been marginalized in
some way, making them innovators in the empowerment of these people,
enabling them to compete in the global market through socially and
environmentally responsible products.
Welcome Mat values the legwork that Handmade Expressions undertakes to
make it possible for fair trade stores everywhere to obtain these unique
items efficiently and reliably. Handmade Expressions believes that
"economic sustainability and social empowerment are the keys for
community development." With this in mind, it is their mission to
bridge the gap between the talented artisans and the modern global
market by providing them with the resources to compete with education,
fair wages and health care. They also encourage artisans to be
environmentally responsible by using as many recycled materials as
one of a kind and unique as the products made by Handmade Expressions
are, the artisans themselves are much more valuable and important.
Handmade Expressions gives these hardworking artisans opportunities to
better their lives. It is exciting to see the good that Fair Trade is
doing all around the globe and it is a movement that The Welcome Mat is
certainly proud to support.
Last October The Welcome Mat celebrated Fair Trade Month by explaining the beginnings of fair trade, however our fair trade friendly neighbors overseas celebrate Fair Trade Fortnight, and this year it begins February 27th to March 11th!
Luckily for us, this years theme doesn't exclude the new world from participating in the fair trade festivities. This year the Fair Trade Foundation
is encouraging everyone to "Take a Step for Fair Trade." It can be any
step, big or small, that integrates fair trade into our lives more than
it has been before. Maybe you could buy fair trade coffee for your
office next time its your turn to buy, or you could make a change
permanently to fair trade sugar for your household.
Traders from across the globe are cataloguing their steps on the
official Fair Trade Fortnight site. The foundation's goal is to reach
1,500,000 steps by the end of 2012. As of right now the recorded steps
number nearly 7000, but more can still be done, and the fortnight has
yet to even start! Each step we take whether it is as simple as
requesting fair trade options at your local super market, or as big as
organizing a fair trade chocolate tasting at your school, supports the
fair trade cause! So what can you do? The Welcome Mat is here as
always to help you out, because every step is just another piece of the
journey towards an ethical market.