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World Fair Trade Conference in Peru - Part 2

World Fair Trade Conference in Peru - Part 2
Conferences are often weird and so is this one. Daybreak is ushered in by the sound of panpipes ... that turn out to be small doves who, from vantage points around the grounds, call to one another du pa-pa-du pa-pa-du pa.  

Breakfast is happening in a large hangar that is open on two sides. I pass hotel staff painting the leaves of two large bushes in a luxuriant deep green.

The day brightens and a startling landscape emerges. We are in a small oasis; lush lawn, tall trees and birds. Beyond the manicured and watered hotel grounds is a dead desert of sharp hills, dry as an undertaker’s sense of humour.  (A desert is an area that receives less than 250 mm of rain a year; Lima gets just 10 to 30 mm!)

350 delegates from nearly 50 countries breakfast then troop into a large hall where we learn that the world is changing and Fair Trade has to adapt to survive. A generational shift is taking place and those who created the movement sixty years ago, in late 1950s America, could not imagine how things look today.

In the early days it was all about handicrafts, fair trade coffee and sugarcane. The battle cry was ‘Trade not Aid’. Customer bought gifts, that might or might not be useful, to support crafts and livelihoods in another part of the world.

The world has changed. A decade after the banking crisis a new generation of adults lacks the spare cash to throw at trinkets, they buy things that are, first and foremost, useful. Pointless but well-meaning ethnic ornaments are out; fair trade must adapt to survive.
Created On  22 Sep 2019 10:25  -  Permalink
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World Fair Trade Conference in Peru - Part 1 Arrival

World Fair Trade Conference in Peru - Part 1 Arrival
I flew to Peru on Sunday. We crossed the Atlantic ocean at 1000km an hour. As minutes turn to hours – over nine hours - you get a real sense of how vast the big blue really is. 

Finally we reach land. We fly over Georgetown, Guyana. Fifteen minutes or so later we fly over a patch of grey brown, the mountains of Raposa Serra do Sol. Brazil. 

I have never seen the green sea. I stand transfixed staring through a small window at the back of the plane. For 20 minutes I stare out at a landscape that contains not a single road, not a single village, no sign of humanity's presence at all.
Created On  18 Sep 2019 19:15  -  Permalink
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Climate Crisis Strike – 20 September 2019


Businesses have a key role to play in making a better world, and on Friday 20 September, Shared Earth, along with Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Lush and other concerned retailers, is closing its shops from 9.00 to 1.00 to support a worldwide action to tackle the climate crisis.

This will lose us a few sales but life is not just about profit! There are more important issues and we at Shared Earth believe we have a responsibility to do everything we can to raise awareness about global warming.
Businesses have a key role to play in making a better world, and on Friday 20 September, Shared Earth, along with Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Lush and other concerned retailers, is closing its shops from 9.00 to 1.00 to support a worldwide action to tackle the climate crisis.


Created On  6 Sep 2019 13:00  -  Permalink
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Say No to Plastics (including Thermocol)!

Say No to Plastics (including Thermocol)!In its recent campaign to reduce plastic, Shared Earth recently wrote to its suppliers requesting them to avoid the use of Thermocol (polystyrene) in packaging. Thermocol sheets are often used, for instance, to fill in gaps, when rolled up cardboard sheets can be used instead.

Created On  9 May 2019 12:28  -  Permalink
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Trip to Bali 2019 - Part 2: Making a difference

Trip to Bali 2019 - Part 2: Making a differenceWe have been sponsoring our dreamcatcher supplier, Wayan (a different Wayan) to make a difference in her community, with her matching our support with her own. But we have never found out what she is doing with the money.

We shouldn’t have worried. She explains that our funding has been supporting a clean and green project in her village.
Created On  11 Mar 2019 14:50  -  Permalink
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Trip to Bali 2019 - Part 1: Smiling dog – growling tiger

Trip to Bali 2019 - Part 1: Smiling dog – growling tigerThe dog lies lazily in the entrance, smiling happily beneath the growling tiger.  Ten metres further on a carved figure of a man clutching a chicken stands beside another entrance. At a street corner in a village a stone deer peers out from the undergrowth beneath a temple.

We are on a buying and information gathering trip in the most art and craft rich country I have ever visited. We are in Bali.

The word ‘art’ refers to a wide range of activities involving human imagination and creativity to create objects, performances or events that shape or change or reinforce the way humans view the world. In many countries the vast majority of people are consumers of art rather than producers. But not in Bali. Travel miles along Bali’s roads and you find that every second shop is packed with arts and crafts. Everywhere you look people are making things.
Created On  8 Mar 2019 11:08  -  Permalink
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Shared Earth is 32!

Shared Earth is 32!Dear friends and colleagues (you are friends because everyone who supports Shared Earth is a friend!)

This is a report on our progress, on the event of our 32nd Birthday. Shared Earth opened in York on 10 November, 1986, and grew quickly. By 2000 we had 5 shops and were importing Fair Trade products from about 15 countries. Then in 2008 came the financial crash; our shop in Birmingham made a huge loss and in 2010 we were forced to close all our shops except York and Liverpool. We struggled to survive.

So where are we now?

It took a while to get back on our feet after 2010, but we have done it. York and Liverpool were our busiest shops and their sales have continued to rise; and our wholesale sales have increased by over 20% each year for the last 5 years. This growth has allowed us not just to support our current Fair Trade suppliers with extra orders, but to take on many new suppliers.
Created On  10 Nov 2018 9:50  -  Permalink
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Getting rid of plastics

Getting rid of plasticsYou know plastics are out of hand when your wooden shelves are plastic veneer, your "biodegradable" cup is packed with melamine, your supermarket vegetables sit in plastic straight jackets, your toothpaste oozes polyethylene microbeads, your sausages are cased in nylon, your favourite team plays on a polypropylene pitch, while you comb your polyester hair with a plastic comb paid for with a polymer £5 banknote.

Shared Earth is working hard to rid itself of plastics, both in its products we sell and in the packaging that those products are shipped in but isn’t easy and don’t let anyone fool you to believing that it is. While we all welcome the fact that even the right-wing press are now calling for an end to the plastic tide that floods our lives, the truth is that there that talk is cheap. Greenwashing is easy and everyone is at it.

For example, how can we rid ourselves of the billions of plastic bottles that gather in our bathrooms and lunch boxes? In my family’s bathroom there are 53 plastic bottles. Fifty-three! OK I have three daughters but let’s be honest, boys too are interested in grooming and smelling good.
Created On  9 Apr 2018 22:40  -  Permalink
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Trip to India 2018 - Part 5: Visit to the weavers of Chaksimultala village

Trip to India 2018 - Part 5: Visit to the weavers of Chaksimultala village


Moons ago I visited the tropical house at Kew in London and breathed the hot humid air that sticks to your shirt and I walked among plants that were so busy growing you felt that if you turned round quickly you could catch them at it, sprouting leaves and fruit like popcorn leaping out of a pan.

Ninety kilometres south west of Kolkata I have that same feeling as we pass turquoise houses, and tractors heaving four times their mass of sugar cane, as if balancing a sofa on a roller skate.

Our guides stop repeatedly to ask the way. Onto smaller roads, we pass the busy sari shimmering haze of small towns, and squeeze through sun-hammered villages thick with lorries, shoppers, motorbikes, and shadows glimpsed through doorways. A canal appears alongside the road. I say canal appears but in truth no water is visible, only a long depression to our left into which someone has tossed an enormous and never ending salad of water lilies.

A slow gingerly shudder over a rickety wooden bridge and the driver cuts the engine. We have arrived.
Created On  2 Apr 2018 21:24  -  Permalink
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Trip to India 2018 - Part 4: Mud, colour, guns

Trip to India 2018 - Part 4: Mud, colour, guns
A lazy morning, it being Holi. Breakfast at 10am. Someone explains that all the food is vegetarian because hotels are owned by Jains. The same source assures us that all Jains are very rich because they eat no meat. This, plus the fact that they drive very large cars and either wear white clothes or no clothes at all, accounts for their stunning business acumen.

There is a kind of poetic justice about being filthy rich but condemned to walk around in your birthday suit, eating nothing but salad.

The taxi arrives. There are four of us: David and I, Febry and her friend Toby. We have booked for a large car. What arrives is probably the smallest car in Delhi, aside from Tuktuks.

Empty roads. The only people out on the streets belong to the species homo colourfulus. Red faces, yellow faces, multi-coloured faces … Quite a few are very definitely drunk. As convoys of motorbikes carrying multiple passengers kick up the dust around us I am reminded of a spaghetti western. A tuktuk lurches across a junction, four guys standing, leaning out, dancing and swinging their arms wildly in celebration. Struggling to keep the three-wheeler upright, the driver clings the handlebars with the grim look of a condemned man.
Created On  4 Mar 2018 21:55  -  Permalink
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