Lately it seems that being green is the new “it” thing and for once there’s a trend worth keeping around. What if I tell you there’s a way to be green, shop and make a difference in someone’s life as well? Well there is, thanks to several organizations that do fair trading with people and villages in many third world countries. Fair trading involves many aspects, one obviously being fair payment that is agreed upon by the sellers and the artisans or their representatives, a steady source of income, gender equality in terms of pay, making sure that the artisans get paid and that they are paid well enough to ensure that their working environment is safe and healthy and that production is environmentally sound and socially just.
These stores work with volunteers, artisans and other non-profit organizations to help bring handmade crafts from all over the world to the hands of buyers. The money then goes back to the artisans and their villages to help out in several ways. To many of these artisans it’s their only source of livable income, they’re getting paid for things they wouldn’t get paid for in their own country. In several countries women and young girls are forced into prostitution because they have no other means to earn a living. The few jobs that are out there for these women pay very little solely because they are women. Fair trading offers many women the chance to make an honest living for fair pay, money that will go to help feed, clothe and buy medicine for their families, send their children to school and give them a chance to make something of themselves.
Fair trading practices not only provides income to the poor but is also great for the environment because many of their crafts are made from recycled materials, and even materials that couldn’t be recycled. Just because it’s made in a third world country doesn’t mean you’ll be getting manufactured, generic copies of Wal-Mart quality items. Each craft is handmade by someone so each item, even a duplicate will be slightly different from one another. You’ll be getting beautifully crafted, unique items for a good price that will benefit both you and the artisans and not some large corporation.
Here are my top picks of fair trading stores.
Ten Thousand Villages: Ten Thousand Villages has both an online store and an actual store. I’ve been to the one in Houston and Austin and have in fact interviewed the store manager at the Houston location. There are tons of beautiful things to choose from but their online store doesn’t offer as wide of a variety. I would recommend trying their coffees and chocolates they’re absolutely to die for. For more information check out www.tenthousandvillages.com.
The Hunger Site: The Hunger Site has just about everything but I love their large collection of beautifully crafted jewelry and bags, so much so that I’ve ordered a monk bag for myself. It’s a very large site that works with other organizations for various other causes because you’ll find items that support breast cancer, animal rescue, rainforest preservation, literacy and child health. I like how they tell you how many cups of food your purchase of an item buys or how many square feet of rainforest you’re preserving. There’s even a section where you can buy a goat, shoes, dolls, etc. for someone in another country. It’s a wonderful site and if you’d like to know more please check out www.thehungersite.com.
Fair Indigo: If you’re looking for clothing and jewelry that’s a little more clean cut or mainstream and less ‘earthy’ looking you might want to try this site www.fairindigo.com. It’s a little more on the pricier end though.
Tilonia: This site mainly helps out artisans in India and they have some really nice home furnishing items. Check out www.tilonia.com.
Global Crafts: Don’t let their simple website fool you, Global Crafts offer a wide variety of products to choose from that can’t be found anywhere else. Visit www.globalcrafts.org for more information.
Why shop anywhere else when you can get what you need from a place that offers good prices for you while helping a family or village in another part of the world.