Fair Trade Stockings and Wreaths

The winter holidays are going to be here before you know it. And here at Earth Divas, we already have Christmas on our minds. It’s our busiest time of year, and also one of the most wonderful because the end of the year is when we turn over all our profits back to our artisans. It’s an experience that no one involved ever forgets.

I wanted to highlight some of the new holiday decorations our artisans created for us this year. They’re fun, handmade, colorful, and every single one is unique and special.

1. Fair Trade Stockings

I love this handmade stocking of Santa being pulled by two of his reindeer. You can see this stocking here. We also have several different stockings this year. I’ve highlighted a few below, and you can see all of our new fair trade holiday decorations here.

2. Fair Trade Wreaths

This colorful, handmade felted wreath would add a splash of color to your front door. And right in the middle, Santa’s waiting to welcome your guests! You can see this wonderful wreath here. Below is my favorite wreath we have in right now. I love the bright green holly leaves, the red berries, and the beautiful handmade birds! You can see this wreath here.

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Fair Trade Holiday Ornaments

It feels really strange to start writing about the winter holidays already, but we just got in all of our holiday decorations and I couldn’t wait to put them up here on the blog!

Every year, Earth Divas has our artisans make a wide variety of holiday ornaments and decorations. And this year’s batch of Christmas cheer is wonderful, colorful, and as always, 100% fairly traded. I love decorating for the holidays, and I think it’s really important to use decorations that are handmade and fair trade, rather than something you can buy from China.

Using handmade decorations makes the holidays feel really personal and special. It’s even more meaningful because when you purchase a fair trade Christmas ornament or holiday decoration, you’re helping someone around the world live a better life. And, that’s an important aspect of what Christmas is about!

You can see a full list of all our new holiday ornaments here. Today and tomorrow, I’ll be highlighting some of my favorites!

1. Cute Holiday Decorations

Above is our Elf in Purple. This cute little guy would look great above the fireplace, or on an entry-way table. You could even use these little guys to decorate the table for Christmas dinner! These cute little elves come in several colors, which you can see below. And as you can see, each one has its own look and personality.

2. Handmade Advent Calendar Christmas Tree

Our handmade Advent Calendar Christmas Tree is amazing! Each day is a tiny pouch that will store a small gift or sweetie.

Tomorrow, I’ll be showcasing some of our new fair trade wreaths and hand made stockings!

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Africa is Producing Fair Trade Gold

Africa has long had a reputation for dirty gold. This country has the world’s largest gold deposits, and the gold industry’s history in this country is legendary for its cruelty, and its polluting practices.

But I’m happy to report that slowly, this is starting to change. According to an article published in The Guardian, Fair Trade International just announced that 12 mines in Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya are on track to produce the country’s first ethical gold within the next year.

This is a groundbreaking announcement on many levels. And it helps to first understand a small part of why producing gold “the old fashioned way” is cruel to both people and planet.

Toxic Gold

To get pure gold, many villagers burn mercury with charcoal and gold flakes. The mercury is vaporized, which leaves the gold behind. The problem is that as liquid mercury burns, it sends off waves of toxic fumes, which are then inhaled by the villagers. There are no official figures of how many people are poisoned by these toxic fumes, but sickness, memory problems, and vision problems are common in these areas.

And, this is just one small problem with the gold industry. Appalling working conditions, child labor, and an incredibly polluted environment all result from the dirty gold industry.

Here’s another example. In many mines, highly toxic cyanide is used to remove gold from low-grade ore. This job is done by women, who often have a child sitting on their knee while they work. This cyanide ends up the rivers or local watershed where it pollutes people and planet alike.

Stop and think about this situation. Would you want your child breathing in cyanide like this? Of course, all of us are appalled at the very idea. But this is the way of life in Tanzania. Even if you don’t work in the mines, you’re still consuming toxic chemicals because so many of them end up in the water, which is a scarce and precious resource in this country.

Workers within the mines, primarily men (and often children,) often work 24 hours shifts without shifts, helmets, or any other safety equipment.

Forward Progress

This is why forward progress towards ethical gold is so incredible. In Tanzania, over 15 million people work in the gold mines. Any movements towards an elimination of child labor, and more human working practices, are going to impact a lot of people.

I stopped buying “new” gold years ago because I have no desire to support an industry that treats our people and planet with such disregard, and I encourage you to do the same. Here in this country, we would be outraged if a company did this…there would be boycotts and protests until these practices were stopped.

I’m excited and encouraged that these mining companies are taking the first steps towards humane and ethical working conditions. But it’s still up to us not to support mines who aren’t willing to take these steps.

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Fair Trade Bags Fit for the Woods

Now that September is finally here, you can really tell fall is on its way. The nights are cool and crisp, the sun shines bright and clear during the day and, at least here in the mountains, the leaves are slowly starting to show the first signs of change.

I’ve been taking every opportunity to get outside to go hiking. Where I live in the Appalachians there is an abundance of places to go…I could live here a lifetime and never see them all!

The key to a successful day out in the woods is to go prepared. I don’t leave home without the essentials like food, water, a compass, insect spray, binoculars, cell phone, map, knife, and a journal.

If you’re itching to get outside in the woods to enjoy fall’s beautiful colors, then think about taking one of these great outdoor bags, perfect companions for a day of hiking and exploring.

1. Southwest Style Backpack

What I love most about our Southwest Style Backpack (besides how cool it looks) is its weight. It’s really light, which makes it a perfect bag to take with you out on a hike. This bag also comes in lighter pastels, which you can see below.

2. Recycled Bike Tire Tube Cross-Body Bag

When it’s hot, sometimes I don’t want to carry a backpack into the woods. And this has certainly been the case the past couple of weeks! On days like this, I prefer to carry a shoulder bag, like our Recycled Bike Tire Tube Cross-Body Bag.

This bag is great because it’s lightweight, and it’s the perfect size for a water bottle, a healthy snack, and your camera. This is one of my favorite bags we have right now!

3. Green Triangle Backpack

Our Green Triangle Backpack has a really unique and fun shape, and it’s a perfect hiking backpack. It’s rugged, and has plenty of room and pockets to store all your gear.

The picture below is of a small waterfall I came across on last weekend’s hike. Beautiful! So, go grab a bag and head out into the woods while it’s still warm and sunny outside!

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Women Posing As Men to Get Ahead

“Whatever women do they must do twice as good as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.”

– Charlotte Whitton

Throughout history, there are countless stories of women posing as men to either protect themselves, or get ahead in a male-dominated society.

One of my favorite examples is Jane Austen, who published “Pride and Prejudice” anonymously in 1813 because, as you can guess, women weren’t supposed to write books. The same is true of George Eliot, who wrote the literary masterpiece “Middlemarch.” Most people don’t know that George Eliot was actually the pen name for Mary Ann Evans. She wanted her work to be taken seriously, so she posed as a man.

This also goes for the Bronte sisters: Charlotte, Emily, and Ann. They used male pen names until their books were such a success they felt confident in revealing their true identities.

It’s tempting to think that we’ve risen above the need for women to hide their gender in order to get ahead. However, there are plenty of fairly recent examples that show we still have a long way to go.

Did you know that when J.K. Rowling wrote her first book, her publisher advised her to use only her initials because, it was thought, young boys (the target audience,) wouldn’t want to buy a book written by a woman?

Did you know that the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, Katherine Switzer, signed up as K.V. Switzer to hide her gender because the marathon was a male-only race? This was in 1967. And, once they spotted a woman running the Boston Marathon, one official tried to forcibly remove her as she was running. Fortunately her boyfriend, who was running beside her, knocked him out of the race instead, and she finished strong.

I could list many, many more examples of inspiring women who have beaten the odds in this way. And it’s sad that so many women have had to resort to hiding or disguising their gender to get ahead. There’s a wonderful article on Huffington Post that tells the story of 14 women who posed as men to achieve their dreams, and I highly recommend you give it a look.

Also, if you missed the PBS documentary Makers: Women Who Made America, please give this a watch as well. I watched it when it premiered back in February, and it was incredibly sad, inspiring, and uplifting all at the same time. It does an excellent job showcasing women who changed the course of history, and highlighting all the challenges women are still facing today.


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Fair Trade Wedding Dresses: Celia Grace

Photos Courtesy Celia Grace

If you’re planning a wedding, have you given much thought to the dress you’ll be wearing? And I don’t mean thinking about how stunning it’s going to be. I mean, have you thought about where that dress will be made? Where it will come from? How will that dress impact the environment, and the person who made it?

When I got married back in 2004, I’ll admit these important questions didn’t cross my mind at all. However, if I had it to do over again I would definitely spend time thinking about how my event, and my dress, might benefit someone else. If I had a do-over, I would  go with a fair trade or vintage wedding dress. And, I’m not the only one.

Marcelia Muehlke started Celia Grace after she was unable to find a wedding dress that matched her commitment to human rights and sustainability.  Celia Grace is a triple bottom line company, focusing on people, planet, and profit.

Celia Grace uses naturally-dyed, local silks made on non-electric looms. The seamstresses are members of women’s cooperatives located in places like Cambodia. They’re paid a living wage with regular raises and job security. They also have access to benefits, an eight-hour work day, and a safe, healthy, and bright working environment.

This is the kind of company we here at Earth Divas love to support!

Celia Grace’s fair trade wedding dresses are etherial and lovely. Take a look below.

The Susan

The Eleanor

The Marie

Celia Grace has eight wedding dress designs. You can see them all here!

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They’re Classics for a Reason

Throughout the summer, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time here on the blog talking about our newest line of fair trade bags. It’s always fun to see the new designs our artisans come up with, and I love highlighting their talent here on the blog!

But, we do have some bags that are persistent best-sellers. Some designs come and go, but these particular bags are always popular with customers. Here are a few of my favorite best-sellers.

1. Wool Crewel Work Bag

The craftsmanship on our Wool Crewel Bags is amazing; these bags are vibrant, colorful, and high-quality. You can tell just by looking at this bag that the artist put a ton of time in to make it. This is why our Wool Crewel Work bags is a huge best-seller here at Earth Divas.

2. Long Handled Embroidered Bag

Our Long Handled Embroidered Bag is similar to the Wool Crewel bags in that the embroidery and craftsmanship is amazing.

3. Sanskrit Hobo

Our Sanskrit Hobo is very much like a gypsy bag. With its black fringe and edgy look, this popular bag is perfect for festivals or a long afternoon touring a city.

4. Cotton Modern Eco Handbag

I think it was early fall of last year that this line of Cotton Modern Eco Handbags came out, and they’ve been a best-seller ever since. I think it’s because they’re classic, simple, and lightweight, and still very stylish and modern.

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My Favorite Fair Trade Baskets

If you’ve walked through any farmer’s market, Whole Foods, or Earth Fare, then you’ve likely see the colorful, handwoven baskets for sale there. These fair trade market baskets are beautiful to look at, and like many fair trade items, chances are it was woven by a woman struggling to feed her family.

I love looking at these baskets, and I’m ready to own one myself. So, I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite fair trade baskets that I’m thinking about getting.

1. Fair Trade Bicycle Basket

This colorful fair trade bike basket is sold through SERVV. It was woven by women working with Trade Aid Integrated, a non-profit organization in Ghana. These women are located in 17 communities throughout Ghana.

2. Bridge to Africa Fruit Basket

Bridge to Africa is part of the Earth Divas’ Divas4Divas initiative, and it’s a wonderful organization worthy of all our support! This amazing basket is handwoven by women in Swaziland using local lutindzi grass. The fair wage they earn by selling these baskets through the Gone Rural organization helps feed their families; these women also have access to health and education benefits through the organization.

3. Fair Trade Market Tote

This beautiful fair trade market tote is sold by Ten Thousand Villages. I love this tote because it’s definitely big enough for all my fruits and veggies at farmer’s market. I also love the open pinwheels that circle the basket! The basket is handwoven by women with Rishilpi Development, a non-profit organization who helps organize women in the Rishi caste of Bangladesh, and gives them the power to sell their handwoven goods around the world.

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Eco Friendly Backpacks for Back to School

Every year, come late July, those three little words start popping up everywhere…”Back to School.” I start seeing bright yellow pencils, single-subject notebooks, and snowy white bottles of glue lined up neatly on store shelves. I also start seeing parents eyeing eco-friendly lunchboxes, water bottles, and backpacks.

The backpacks we make here at Earth Divas are a great choice for your kids because they’re eco-friendly. Many are made from recycled material. And, they’re 100% fair trade. The artisans who make our bags are paid fairly for their work, and we also send 100% of the profits from Earth Divas back to them at the end of the year.

I wanted to highlight some of our backpacks for you to consider sending your kids to school with this year!

1. Small Aztec Backpack

Our Small Aztec Backpack is one of my favorites because it’s lightweight, bright, and colorful. It’s also matches perfectly with the Southwest/Native American style that’s so trendy right now.

2. Recycled Rice Bag Backpacks

Our Recycled Rice Bag Backpacks are one of our best-sellers, and with good reason. They’re incredibly sturdy, and they look really cool because they’re made of, you guessed it, recycled rice bags. I carry one of these backpacks myself, and I love it.

Our Recycled Rice Backpacks also come in several other colors.

We also have a super cool Recycled Rice Bag Duffle Bag. Here’s what it looks like. And yep, that’s our owner Ed modeling the new bag!

3. Triangle Backpack

Our Triangle Backpack has such a cool shape! It’s actually a lot larger than it looks. You can see this cool bag, in orange, on Ed below.

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Fair Trade Clothing? The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is Working On It…

For decades now we’ve had fair trade labeling and certification for food. However, the fair trade industry is still lacking a certification and labeling system for apparel. And, this is just what the Sustainable Apparel Coalition is trying to change.

This non-profit organization is trying to change the way the apparel industry treats its workers, and approaches sustainable.

Here is their vision:

An apparel and footwear industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities associated with its activities.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition created the Higg Index; this is a tool that helps companies and manufacturers measure the human and environmental costs of their clothing and footwear production. In their words, here’s what the Higg Index does:

The Higg Index 1.0 is primarily an indicator based tool for apparel that enables companies to evaluate material types, products, facilities and processes based on a range of environmental and product design choices.  The Index asks practice-based, qualitative questions to gauge environmental sustainability performance and drive behavior for improvement.  It is based largely on the Eco Index and Nike’s Apparel Environmental Design Tool, however it has been significantly enhanced through a pilot testing period.

I love the idea of the Higg Index because it gives companies and manufactures the chance to truly measure how their actions are impacting both people and planet. It’s a brilliant idea, and one that has the potential to change the entire clothing manufacturing industry.

Who’s Part of the Coalition?

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is made up of over 80 mid to large sized clothing and footwear manufacturers. You can see the full list here, but here’s a quick summary of who has joined this worthy cause:

  • Adidas
  • Asics
  • Burberry
  • Columbia
  • Espirit
  • Hanes
  • Levis
  • Marmot
  • Nike
  • Patagonia
  • Puma
  • H&M
  • LL Bean
  • REI
  • Target

I know the organization is still in its early stages. And there is still a long, LONG way to go before we can avoid another catastrophe like Bangladesh. However, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition is at least a start. And no journey can be started without these small first steps.

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