What does it mean to be a sustainable business? There are many different terms that are used to market sustainable practices – fair trade, organic, green, eco, social responsibility. At Handmade Expressions, we think sustainability is a combination of these, creating a positive impact for people and the planet. As an example of this holistic commitment to sustainability, we want to share with you a recently completed water conservation project with the artisan group who crafts our Eco Shopper bags.

HME began working with a group of hand-block printing artisans in the Barmer region of northern Rajasthan, India, about 5 years ago. This is a remote, desert region where craftwork is one of the few viable sources of employment. However, with limited access to export markets, these artisans were struggling economically. Handmade Expressions helped the group design marketable products that incorporate their traditional craft. The Eco Shopper was a huge success, and has remained one of our best-selling products for years.




Over time, the continued orders have contributed to positive socioeconomic development within the community and allowed HME to add an environmental lens to our focus. Water is a scarce and precious resource in the dry, desert region of Barmer. However, this art form requires massive amounts of water to dye and wash fabric. We noticed that the group lacked resources to recycle their waste water and it was drained into the surrounding fields. HME's India team, SETU, decided to take on this challenge and has been working since early 2012 to develop a water filtration system for this group. It was completed and installed in the end of August. This system now allows water to be reused up to 15 times and will save at minimum 5 million liters of water per year!


  

 

This was a wholly sustainable effort, combining our people-positive and planet-positive values to help this artisan community. Water filtration helps:

·       Environmentally – conserves water and blocks harmful effluents from being discharged into the land with waste water,

·       Economically – saves money from purchasing and importing clean water and increases work time efficiency,

·       and Socially – allows the community to continue their traditional craftwork in a  sustainable manner.

To us, sustainability is a way of working, of being committed to long-term positive change for people and the planet. While HME is proud of this accomplishment, we know this project could not have been completed without being a partner to this group or giving sustainable order volumes. We appreciate your support of the Eco Shopper and want to remind you, especially during Fair Trade Month, that your purchase can have a big impact! We hope to help you share this message through your community with a Fair Trade block-printing event.


 


Can one product or one company really make a difference? As a small company committed to sustainability, one successful product – the Eco Shopper – has made a huge positive impact. Imagine if all businesses adopted sustainable practices, what a difference products could make! We invite you to share your thoughts and impact stories of how fair trade and sustainable businesses have made a difference!


- by Alison Hanson