Friday, February 04, 2011
These books offer unique ways to tell a different kind of story.
In an exciting few weeks since their release, our new
School Paper journals and sketchbook have created a buzz of interest.
Both design and sustainable savvy communities are
talking about these books. And most recently, they were featured at the New
York International Gift Fair's SustainAbility Display. This exhibit introduces buyers
and visitors to the most innovative examples of sustainable product design, and
being chosen for it is considered one of the show’s highest honors.
So what's behind the success of these journals and
sketchbook? A closer look shows that they are called
"school paper" for a reason!
Taking pages from used schoolbooks, these papers are
then colored with natural tea leaf dye and glued to the covers. Each page is unique …
the words, charts and grading marks on each book, written in English or Hindi,
evoke a sense of familiarity that everyone can identify with.
One glance at these books and the story behind the
product can be recognized. And more importantly, the viewer will connect with
the people responsible for creating it.
Additionally, these books are trimmed with hand-tanned,
cruelty-free leather, made from cows that died of natural causes. And like all
of our stationery products, the paper inside each book comes from recycled
cotton scraps — a tree-free solution to papermaking.
These books may have an "old school" style, but they express a
dedication by Handmade Expressions to offer new, sophisticated product design
coupled with earth-friendly materials and processes. And we’re confident that's a positive direction for the evolution of fair trade and
the sustainable cause.
posted by Kelly Yarbrough at 09:28 AM on Feb 04, 2011
Friday, December 10, 2010
Human Rights Day action in India
10 is Human Rights Day – celebrated by the international community on the
anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For
those unfamiliar with the UDHR, it was adopted by the UN 62 years ago today to
set forth the basic human rights that should be secured by all peoples around
the world. These include rights to equal treatment under the law, freedom of
thought and expression, freedom from discrimination and slavery, and the rights
to education, work, and adequate living standards.
activist and advocacy organizations typically are the leading participants of
Human Rights Day, it’s also interesting to see how business can fit into the
cause. Fair Trade businesses, in particular, play an important role in helping
to secure the basic rights of workers around the world.
such as Handmade Expressions, have a direct impact on the lives of workers
abroad. By committing to fair pay, safe and empowering work environments, and
respect for culture and traditions, Fair Trade businesses are making an
important step in the direction of human rights and equality. Social premiums
and community development projects aid in securing education, medical
treatment, and sufficient livelihoods for entire communities.
the state of human rights around the world is somewhat conflicted. Though advancements
were made in 2010 –Argentina, Cambodia, and the US had separate rulings against
protection for those who committed war crimes and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung
San Suu Kyi was released from imprisonment in Myanmar – there is still a long
road ahead in the struggle for human rights.
news today was focused on Liu Xiaobo, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize Recipient.
Xiaobo was unable to accept his prize as he is currently serving an 11-year
jail sentence in China for “inciting subversion of state power” (Amnesty Intl)
by asking the Chinese government to recognize basic human rights. Many others
around the world still live in oppressive, discriminatory, and impoverished
states, without access to clean water, education, medical attention, and/or
role does each of us play in securing human rights? And how can we do more?
Personally, I write letters and sign petitions through organization such as
Change.org and Amnesty International. I welcome your thoughts and actions that
others can implement into their work and personal lives to help secure human
rights for all.
posted by Alison Hanson at 07:29 PM on Dec 10, 2010
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Yesterday, Trade As One’s founder Nathan George stopped into the office after a
successful weekend event at Austin Stone Community Church. I had heard the name
Trade As One before and I knew they were major players in the fair trade circuit, but I
wasn’t exactly sure about their specific mission - or why they were at a church in Austin,
Texas. So, I sat down with Mr. George for a few minutes and learned more.
“I worked in the software business for eighteen years,” said Mr. George, “but really
longed to find more meaning in my work.” A businessman at heart, he wondered, “What
does business have to do with disadvantaged people in the world?” Having lived
many places as he was growing up, including India, Afghanistan, and Iran, and being
educated in the UK, Mr. George witnessed the impact that fair trade could have on both
consumers and the poor. In the UK, 78% of the population say they are familiar with
and have participated in buying fair trade. While the concept of fair trade had clearly
resonated with UK consumers, Mr. George was puzzled as to why the same was not
true for US consumers. He and his wife gradually started building Trade As One and
eventually set up headquarters in California. Mr. George knew, however, that simply
trying to sell general consumers on the idea of fair trade was too broad of a goal. He
decided to go to work through churches.
A partnership between fair trade and the Christian church is by no means a new thing.
Fair trade’s original roots go back to the Mennonite Church. Mr. George believes that
Christian values and fair trade values naturally align, and is driven to deepen that
connection. But, he also sees the danger in approaching churches with the term fair
trade: there’s the common misperception that fair trade means charity or socialism. Mr.
George, however, makes his stance on this clear: “Aid and charity don’t fix poverty -
only job creation does.”
Trade As One’s model, then is this: they partner with churches to come in and set up
a marketplace and perhaps give a short presentation about fair trade. They then leave
a “trading post” that remains in the church for the rest of the year, while the Trade As
One team moves on. These marketplaces are, as Mr. George puts it, a “live catalogue”.
Items are displayed around the room and shoppers are given a sheet to indicate what
they want to purchase. But instead of paying at that time, they hand in their orders, and
are sent an email from their pastor the next day inviting them to complete their order
online - where each customer’s personal shopping cart is loaded and ready for check
While Mr. George says his team is still developing Trade As One into the organization
that he envisions, he is encouraged by the progress he has seen and is positive about
the future. He believes it would be a mistake to, “underestimate consumers’ need to
find a different way of spending and helping the planet. Most people want to do the right
thing - it’s a failure of imagination and communication that often keeps fair trade from
having broader appeal or awareness.”
(Trade As One team. Nathan George on far right)
posted by Kelly Yarbrough at 09:07 AM on Dec 08, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Understanding and relating a culture of strong faith and belief to the supply chain.
The growing consumer interest in fair trade artisan products is
certainly welcome. Yet, along with the associated increase in demand
comes the usual — and sometimes, unusual — supply hurdles.
up the numbers dial might be a fairly simple request within a
mass-produced manufacturing environment, but in the artisan work
culture there are a number of … traditional … factors that can cause delays, such as festivals. The Hindu celebration of Diwali is one example of these traditional Indian festivities celebrated throughout the year.
A national holiday for Hindus throughout the world,
Diwali is the most important festival of the year, occurring between
mid-October and mid-November. Popularly referred to as the festival of
lights, this five-day event finds families participating in traditional
activities at home and in their local communities.
varying from region to region, the celebration typically requires the
preparation of foods and sweets, as well as the special lamps (called a
Diyas — made from clay, with a cotton wick dipped in ghee or vegetable oils) used to signify spiritual awareness of the inner light.
the importance of these national festivals, and the cultural passion,
excitement and participation they compel, it is understandable that
artisan production, both prior to, and after, the actual celebrations,
is not to say that work commitments are taken lightly. But, given the
competitive environment of global business, valid questions can be
the spirit of fair trade, where we seek to both help the artisan become
better traders, while respecting cultural traditions, should we
influence artisans to cut down their celebratory vacation and start
producing? Or do we embrace their lifestyle and plan our business
We look forward to your thoughtful comments on this topic.
posted by Kelly Yarbrough at 11:24 PM on Nov 15, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
The following is from Manish's sister and leader of our India team, Rashmi Dhariwal:
Running a Fair Trade organization the past few years has been a journey full of ups and downs. Having spent a considerable amount of time in this field, I know the challenges and sufferings of artisans in India and am continuously endeavoring to make a difference in their lives by making them self-sustainable through Fair Trade practices.
Before I started working in Fair Trade, I was a successful engineer working in a large manufacturing organization and heading the Technical & Quality Assurance department. Life was easy going and comfortable when I came in contact with an artisan community who had an amazing talent in hand weaving fine fabrics with intricate designs. While they were so good at their art, they had no hopes for a good income. The lack of access to a market and technology-driven competition were taking their toll on the artisans, and the art was dying along with their spirits. They had no choice but to force the next generation of the community to work as cheap laborers rather than pursue their rich art and culture. Seeing that struggle made me realize that there was a lot more for me to discover in life and that I should try to make a difference for these people. I suddenly had the notion that there had to be a bigger purpose for me.
That was when I left my job and spent some time with the artisan community, helping them design modern products and identify ways to reach the market. They used their art to make new designs and held exhibitions in various parts of the country, gaining appreciation for their art and business. This gave the artisans a lot of confidence and hope for the future of their art. At the same time, the entire experience helped me visualize a process which could be used to help other artisans achieve economic sustainability and growth. At the same time, my brother Manish was discovering Fair Trade in his own way in the US. I invited him to India to come see the artisan community I had been working with and to discuss opportunities. Manish decided to start Handmade Expressions from his home in Austin, Texas to import and sell artisan-made products in the US. But, before long, Manish realized the need for my help in India to keep up contact with the artisans. And thus, “SETU- The Bridge To Artisans” was born. After closely working with the artisan communities, we felt a need for carrying out various developmental projects, and so we laid the foundation of SETU- Society, abbreviated for (Society for Empowerment and Trade Upliftment of artisans) with the basic aim of serving humanity & promoting self-sustainability.
It’s a great feeling to know that I am now supporting justice in my work. Life has become much more meaningful. With Fair Trade, everyone can make a difference in the world, however small it may be.
However, there’s a lot more that needs to be done to bring about a significant sustainable development.
The majority of my artisan groups reside in the interiors of remote Indian villages, where even the basic necessities like health care, clean drinking water, electricity, higher education facilities, etc. are not available.
Positive change in their lives comes very slowly. Lack of education, lack of opportunities, traditional and conservative mindsets, unavailability of modern tools and accessories, home based working, etc. are some of the roadblocks to the artisans’ success.
Years of exploitation and casual enquiries/sampling by customers have left them bereft and devoid of hope. It now takes a great deal of effort for them to even trust people who actually want to help them out. Trust-building is one of the important factors for a successful relationship for development.
We often notice a strong resistance to change on their part, which can be frustrating. But, looking at the scenario from their point of view, there is an explanation. Artisans are artistic people and need to draw a creative satisfaction from each artifact that they create. It is therefore very important to carefully design products for them with an optimum blend of their traditional art and contemporary touch. Similarly, reducing the amount of art from a product to reduce the cost may be okay up to a point, but it also results in loss of creative interest of the artisans.
Artisan development is a complex issue that requires much dedication and compromise. A lot has been done, but a lot still needs to be done. Besides helping them with finances, workshops, trainings, design, etc., we need to understand their thoughts, respect their culture and tradition, and appreciate the hardships they face while giving beautiful products to us.
Fair Trade will be successful and sustainable only if we understand, respect each other, and learn from each other! Every small step counts!
Happy Fair Trading!!!
posted by Kelly Yarbrough at 09:22 PM on Nov 14, 2010