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Nice one

January 3, 2010

I was feeling a bit apprehensive about the usual excess plastic consumption when Christmas approached, but it turned out I needn’t have worried.

Because it’s important to get off to a good start (and to safeguard a little bit) I bought myself the loveliest little present all the way back in November, a wooden brooch by the very talented (and local!) ms Beci Orpin, which I wrapped and later put under the tree (one of J’s bonsai pine trees). Very stoked about that one.

Then I was up in Sydney and happened into the Oxfam shop, where, because it’s important to remember why we celebrate Christmas at all, I bought a beautiful tree hanger nativity, with Joseph and Maria & co gathered inside the tiniest little gourd. Made by Peruvian craft workers who have used their traditional skills to making these wonderfully original pieces, the inside was painted sky blue with a myriad of little stars, while the outside was engraved with imagery of the wise men and their camels.

Apart from serving up little delicacies like this one, where consumers can help in a small way, Oxfam International has also got a campaign called Make Trade Fair, calling on governments, institutions, and multinational companies to change the rules so that trade can become part of the solution to poverty, not part of the problem.

Then early December a parcel arrived from my sister in Sweden, which I immediately opened to find this perfectly dimensioned tin jar made from recycled containers (Choke&Throttle Body Cleaner and Danish corned beef).

She’d picked it up at Indiska, as part of their Remake&Recycle range, which also includes things like this pillow made from 100% garment production off cuts.

While Indiska is not a Fair Trade company, their Ethics & Environment statement claims workers are paid at least minimum wage. It also describes various ways the company aims to improve work environment & safety through implementing their Code of Conduct.

What caught my eye though, was the mentioning of an illustrated poster version of their code of conduct (nowhere to be seen on the website unfortunately), produced in conjunction with a human rights organization in India and supposedly a world-first. It covers every production area they trade in and is posted in prominent sites in all factories for the benefit of employees, with additional text in Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam and English.

It sounds like an serious attempt to reach and educate workers that might otherwise be unaware of their rights (and in a creative way), and I’d like to get an idea of how they did it and if it could be implemented by other well-meaning companies as well.

Well, finally there were no sleeps left and Christmas morning arrived, and with it, this fine book bag (from the lovely husband, and with a book in it!), from Australian Fair Trade company The Dharma Door.

In its previous life it used to be a fish feed sack in Cambodia, which I love. There is definitely something special about a product that has a story like that infused in its fibres. And instead of going to landfill it has helped create sustainable economic opportunities for disadvantaged and formerly trafficked Cambodian women in their quest for a meaningful future. That’s all you need in a bag, isn’t it?

And, if I would ever need another bag ever again, it would most probably be this one, also from Oxfam:

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