Friday, October 7, 2011

They DO exist if you know where to look! A guide to vegan, fair trade Halloween treats.

We live in a very rural area and don't get trick-or-treaters, but for those of you who do, or who just like to have Halloween candy around for your own enjoyment, here are some great sources for fair trade, vegan treats!

Halloween orange bites or Halloween peanut butter bites (about 93 pieces in each tub), $33

Dark chocolate scary skulls, 1.28 oz., $3.25 each

70% Dark chocolate bites, $14.99 per half-pound (about 50 pieces)

Vanilla caramels, $10 for 3.5 oz.

Trick or treat chocolates, $25 for 50 pieces

I tried but was not successful in tracking down any non-chocolate treats that are made under fair trade conditions using only fair trade sugar. If you know of any, please let me know!

And if you need a reminder about why you might not want to buy from the big companies (like evil Hersheys), please check out my earlier write-up about fair trade chocolates, and this recent update on what kind of progress the mainstream chocolate companies are making towards their promised goals of eliminating child slavery from their operations. (I'll give you a hint - not much.)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fair Trade Rugs

We are slowly working towards remodeling kind of a junky older house into something that will hopefully beautiful and cozy one day, and we've made some progress in the living room (new paint, floor tile, wood stove and hearth so far, plus new windows and a new couch to come sometime in the future), so now I'm turning my attention to area rug shopping (or maybe just window shopping, we'll see).

Here's what the room looks like now. We still need to replace the windows you can just barely see on the left, and we're going to get a different couch at some point. I think a nice area rug will help tie the room together. Want to be grossed out by the 'before' picture? Click at your own risk and scroll down a bit. :-)

And here's the hearth that my talented and hard working husband built and tiled all himself. I'm hoping to find a rug with some blue in it to tie in with the Mexican tiles on the hearth. Also I'm planning to re-paint that wall in the background below - when I chose the chocolate brown color, I didn't know we'd be adding the colorful hearth and I don't like the way they look together. And of course the nasty wall heater on the left will also go bye-bye soon.

I absolutely detest wall-to-wall carpeting but it is nice to have some warmth and softness underfoot here and there, and in the past, it pains me to admit that I have purchased a few conventional area rugs. Now that I am a more educated consumer, I cringe to think about what went in to the production of these cheap rugs - most likely child labor, not to mention plenty of nasty chemicals.

I've begun my search for more ethical options, and have found some beautiful rugs. The only problem I'm having is that most of the high quality, ethically produced rugs are made from wool, which I tend to avoid as an ethical vegan. (Yes, I realize that the shearing of the wool does not directly result in the death of the animal; however, wool collection often results in poor treatment and painful injuries to the sheep.) I suppose this is one of those gray areas so often encountered by people trying to live a life of kind choices - buy the rug that's better for human workers, or the one that doesn't support the cruel wool industry? I haven't made my decision yet, and would love to hear what your thoughts are on the subject.

In the meantime, I will go ahead and share a few of my favorite rugs (alas, all wool)... oh, and there is some great information about fair trade rugs in general on the Ten Thousand Villages Oriental Rugs Page.

Red Kazak rug, 6'4" x 8'7", $2,450

Mehendi Gabbeh Natural Dye rug, 5'8" x 7'8", $2,295

Red Kazak rug #2, 5'0" x 6'10", $1,650

I found a few others that I like on This site doesn't offer the comprehensive information that Ten Thousand Villages does, so I'm less confident about the production ethics, but there are some more affordable options, and they do claim to be fair trade...

This one is too small for the living room, but it would certainly be a welcome bright spot of color on my kitchen floor. I think the Mexican design motif is possibly more complimentary to our overall decor as compared with the other rugs above; however, I think these Mexican rugs are thinner - more like a heavy blanket - and for the living room at least, I really want something thick and substantial.

This one is from Peru, and again, I don't think the design is quite right for our living room, but I love the flamingo theme (I've always loved flamingos!) and am wondering if I could incorporate it into my bedroom or studio somehow.

This one would complement the colors of our hearth nicely, but its low price ($409.99 for an 8' x 10' rug) makes me skeptical of Worldstock's 'fair trade' claim.

Well, I guess that's enough of that... I feel like this is a weird post with no closure - I don't feel right buying a wool rug so I guess I'll keep looking and pondering. It's good to know that some fair trade options exist, and wool does seem to be the preferred material for natural rugs, I just feel like I'm going to imagine bleeding, miserable sheep every time I try to enjoy my new rug.

This uplifting weekend message brought to you by your friendly neighborhood vegan! Urg...

Monday, January 31, 2011

Fair Trade Your Valentine's Day

Here's an idea - this year, rather than celebrating just your love for each other on Valentine's Day, why not make a pact with your sweetie (or yourself, if you're celebrating your singledom!) to make Valentine's Day a love-fest for workers and artists around the world? How, you ask? Fair trade, baby! :-)

Today I have fair trade alternatives to share with you to tried and true V-Day standbys (chocolate and flowers), plus some more non-traditional ideas.

Let's kick things off with chocolate, as I am often wont to do... my personal favorite is Sjaaks. At our local Sjaaks (i.e. Venlo Chocolates) storefront in Old Town Eureka (CA), I recently found the sweetest truffle gift box - not only are the chocolates inside vegan and fair trade, but the box itself is hand crafted from recycled paper by a fair trade womens cooperative in Thailand. And yes, you can also buy it online for $17.50.

Here's another adorable box - this time it's dark chocolate cherry truffles for $16.95.

Another option is Sweet Earth Chocolates. This gorgeous gift box is sure to wow your special someone! ($40.00)

And for the true romantic, I can totally picture these sweet foil wrapped hearts strewn across the bed along with some rose petals (don't forget to request vegan filling; $8.95). :-)

On to the flowers! About 80% of the cut flowers sold in the U.S. are grown outside of the country. Workers on these farms are often cheated out of salaries, abused, and taken advantage of by their employers to keep costs low. Fair Trade Certification is a guarantee that the farms will receive a fair price for their flowers, workers are paid and treated properly, and the environment is cared for. Because of Fair Trade, communities can reap the benefits of global trade while building sustainable social, economic, and environmental business practices.

So where can you find ethically produced fair trade flowers?

My personal favorite has to be these gorgeous dusky sunset roses from Organic Bouquet ($49.95).

And you absolutely can't go wrong with any bouquet from Organic Bouquet's Flowers For Good selection. When you purchase any of these charitable bouquets, 5% of the purchase price goes to a variety of deserving charities.

Now if (like me), you're not much of a Valentine's traditionalist, perhaps the idea of a charitable gift in your sweetie's honor might appeal to you. Here are a couple of options in that vein -

Kiva's mission is to connect people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty. Kiva empowers individuals to lend to an entrepreneur across the globe. By combining microfinance with the internet, Kiva is creating a global community of people connected through lending. A Kiva gift card is sure to make your charitably minded better half swoon.

Or, if you will indulge my promotion of my own personal current pet project (ha ha, bad pun), please consider donating a bed to the dogs at the Humboldt County Animal Shelter. I recently discovered that these dogs have nothing to sleep on but cement and an occasional blanket, so I'm working to outfit the whole facility with these comfortable, durable beds. My goal is 50 beds and so far I've raised enough money for about 18.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fair Trade Clothing

Yikes! It's been over a month since my last post. What can I say ... life gets in the way sometimes! :-)

I've been wanting to put together a really comprehensive post about fair trade clothing, but to be honest I have had trouble finding enough information on the subject to really do an in-depth write up. So in the interest of getting something - anything! - useful posted, I have decided to just share some of the fair trade clothing items I've purchased myself in the last six months or so, along with some thoughts about what I did or didn't like about each piece.

Better than nothing, right?

Dolman Sleeve Top by One Mango Tree, now on sale for $23.80 (regularly $34.00)

I like this top a lot, though I'd say it maybe runs just a tad on the smallish side. Affordable, stylish/unique, and nice color selection.

Long Sleeve Pima Organic Scoopneck Tee by Fair Indigo, now on sale for $20.30 (regularly $29.00)

I'm a basics kind of girl. Plain long sleeve tees make me happy. I got this shirt in green and I love it. I wear it all the time. The fabric has just the right amount of stretch, and the neckline is pretty - not too high and not too low.

Short Sleeve Pima Organic Scoopneck Tee by Fair Indigo, now on sale for $16.50 (regularly $25.00)

This is just the short sleeve version of the top above - I like it as well (I have it in some kind of a purple-ish color), though for some reason the neckline isn't quite as nice as on the long sleeve top I bought - it's a little stretched out almost. Still a nice top though, at a good price.

Long Sleeve Layered Pima Organic Tee by Fair Indigo, now on sale for $23.80 (regularly $34.00)

I like the cut of this shirt a lot, but I ordered it in kind of a taupe/beige color, and the color is kind of blah. My fault.

Long Sleeve Pleat Neck Pima Organic Tee by Fair Indigo, now on sale for $23.80 (regularly $34.00)

This shirt would be cute on someone else but doesn't suit my body type too well (I'm short - 5' 2" - and curvy, and this shirt is kind of long and skinny). The color is pretty though.

Women's Cotton 'Maya Mint' Sweater by, $82.99

Admittedly, this sweater was a bit of a splurge for me, but I loved the fact that it was totally made in Guatemala - the cotton is grown there and it's hand woven there - because my son is from Guatemala and I have a strong connection to that country. I'm really glad I bought it - it's a very unique cut and super comfortable and versatile. The sleeves are 3/4 length, which I didn't really notice when I ordered it. There's no closure of any kind on the front, though I suppose it would be easy to add one yourself if you wanted. Best of all, it's machine washable and dryable, which can be hard to find in a cute sweater.

Fun & Flirty Skirt by Global Girlfriend, $22.00

I honestly did not expect this skirt to work out - much like ordering jeans online, the chances of a skirt actually fitting right and being moderately flattering are slim - but I was pleasantly surprised when I received the 'Indigo' skirt in the mail the other day. It fits perfectly and the fabric is really beautiful. I tossed the satin ribbon 'belt' - just not my style - but I can tell I will get some use out of this skirt. And again, machine washable and dryable - hooray! - though I did feel that it needed ironing afterward. Worth it though at this price. :-)

After many fruitless searches for fair trade kids' basics, I turned to Basic Brilliance, which sells 100% cotton, made in the U.S.A. children's clothing. I haven't received this order yet so I can't comment on the items, but here's what I found there for my five-year-old son (who prefers comfort over style) -

Boys Cotton Sweatpants by Basic Brilliance, now on sale for $13.50 (regularly $18.00)

Boys Sweatshirt by Basic Brilliance, now on sale for $13.50 (regularly $17.50)

Boys Long John Pajamas by Basic Brilliance, now on sale for $16.50 (regularly $18.50)

My next challenge is shoes - my son needs some, but finding fair trade (or made in the U.S.A.) shoes that are also functional, durable, and vegan is no easy task. Please let me know if you have any great sources for ethically produced shoes or clothing!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fair Trade Stocking Stuffers

I recently went shopping online for some fair trade stocking stuffers (at our house, both kids and adults get goodies in their stockings) and I figured I might as well share some ideas with you all since I'd already done the legwork. :-)

Friendship Bracelet Trio from Trade As One, $12.00

No stocking would be complete without chocolate!
These Organic, Vegan, Fair Trade Peanut Butter Bites ($0.65 each) are my favorite indulgence from my favorite chocolatier, Sjaaks!

I think these Madero Mod Mirrors would please anyone from young to old - from Global Girlfriends, $12.00

How about a sweet barrette from The Hunger Site for just $2.95?

I know gelt is a Hanukkah thing and I'm talking about Christmas stockings here, but to me (and my five-year-old son), gelt is festive and fun no matter what holiday we're celebrating.
Hanukkah Gelt from Sweet Earth Chocolates, $7.50 for a bag of 15 pieces

This Galaxy Bracelet, also from Trade As One, was very popular at my gift party last weekend - it's prettier in person than in the photo, $19.50 (matching necklace also available).

For the tea aficionado in your house, how about some loose leaf Masala Chai from Art of Tea? $10.00 for 3 oz. (approx. 45 cups) - this is one of my personal faves.

I'll let you in on a little secret - Santa's definitely going to be leaving this adorable Rosebud Bracelet in my stocking this year! On sale for $11.40, also from Trade As One.

My son loooves his hackey sacks from UPAVIM Crafts, and they are just $3.50 each!

Of course, gift certificates are always a popular choice for stockings, and most fair trade sellers offer them. To select from a list of my favorite fair trade retailers, just head to the right hand margin here on the blog and check under the heading "Some of my Favorite Fair Trade Online Shops".

And finally, what stocking would be complete without some candy canes?
Organic Candy Canes by Pure Fun at Natural Candy Store, $3.99 for a box of 12

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fair Trade Gift Baskets

If you're feeling the time crunch as Christmas approaches, why not cross some names off of your gift giving list quickly and easily by purchasing a few fair trade gift baskets? I've rounded up a few of my favorites to get you started -

Unity Fair Trade Marketplace has as nice selection of fair trade gift baskets; one of my favorites is Chai and Chocolate for just $22.95.

The Global Exchange Online Store also has some great baskets - their Aromatherapy Gift Pack would make a thoughtful selection for a candle loving friend - $26.00.

Next on the list is the SERRV store, where my top pick from the gift basket department would have to be their Winter Warmth Basket, priced at $22.00 (I sampled some of the Divine mint chocolate at my party last weekend and it was really good).

Also from SERVV, I think this sweet little bag is a great choice for those on a budget at just $18.00.

Gift baskets have the added advantage of being able to be shipped directly to your friend or loved one, which can really be a life saver in these final weeks before Christmas. I avoid the mall at all costs during this time of year (actually, pretty much year-round). :-)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Just a quick post to apologize for the lack of content this past week... I always get super swamped with work this time of year, plus I've been really busy prepping for my fair trade party (tomorrow!). If you haven't already done so, please be sure to follow A Gentler World on Facebook; when I get overwhelmed like I am right now, I tend to post quick links and blurbs there instead of publishing full blog posts.

Hope you all are enjoying your holiday season! :-)