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!