When I walk into my dad’s house it’s filled with paper. He fumbles with his new smart phone by day, but when the evening rolls around he finds no greater pleasure then thumbing through print magazines. He flips through the glossy pages to find recipes for the grill, good hiking trails, used car parts in the classifieds, and to learn about the newest innovations in his industry.

I also share his love for information in print. Like him, I end most days away from the neon computer screen, curled up flipping pages. But with my work in Fair Trade and studies in Anthropology, our interests don’t always line up, nor do our reading topics.

I usually don’t find my dad deep in his reading about cultural heritage and weaving in the highlands of Peru. And he probably won’t read this blog.  But where we do come together is in the celebration of craftsmanship, resourcefulness, and ingenuity in design.

recyceld mag multiSo when I told him about a group of artisans in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam who are making beautiful, functional housewares out of recycled magazines similar to those he has stacked around his apartment, he wanted to know more.

We print lovers know paper can really pile up. And the thought of newspapers and magazines being printed on fresh paper everyday is disturbing to many.

recyceld mag coasterThis is why my Dad and I are so excited about the scrap paper industry, which taps into the ongoing potential of collecting paper scraps and upcycling them into viable end products.

A growing number of paper upcycling efforts are popping up in the U.S, including undeliverable mail  being made into new envelopes and scrap paper getting recycled into biodegradable mulch mats for reforestation projects.

In Ho Chi Minh City, 60 artisans are employed in the creation of housewares handmade from recycled magazines and newspapers, coiled and wound in the same style as their traditional bamboo tableware.  The beautiful frames, bowls, plates & coasters wound from yesterday’s news, hold the dual function of brightening up your home while reducing the amount of scrap paper in the waste stream. My dad thinks that makes sense.

The business was started by Hien and Binh who were trained by their uncle Duc in traditional paper craft.  With the support of Mai Handicrafts, a Vietnam based World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) member that provides sustainable employment and business development opportunities for Vietnamese artisans, the business grew by incorporating their traditional techniques in the creation of innovative, functional products.

Today, 20 artisans work together in a workshop that undergoes regular inspection according to WFTO standards and 40 more work from the comfort of their homes.

Visit Global Exchange for recycled paper Father’s Day gifts!

Fair-Trade-Recycled-Paper-FThe Global Exchange Fair Trade Stores have partnered with Mai Handicrafts to make this innovative product line available to you. My Father’s Day gift this year will be a photo of Dad and me in a recycled magazine frame.  What better gift for Father’s Day then a gift that just plain makes sense!