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!






Malia in Oahu

Update 11/28/12: A few photos of our bon voyage Malia staff lunch are now posted on Facebook.

“If you come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. If you come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” —Lilla Watson

In 1991 as a graduate student of International Relations, I signed up for a Global Exchange Reality Tour to Cuba. I wanted to learn about the impacts of the U.S. embargo on Cuba and understand what the current socioeconomic realities of the Special Period were on the nation. That trip dramatically expanded my understanding of the power of travel.

While I had backpacked to over 30 countries before that Reality Tour, I had never experienced that type of life sharing journey before. I engaged with grandparents, doctors, teachers, artists, musicians and politicians. In effect Reality Tours changed my life.  I experienced connection and insights, and returned to the United States committed to advocate for sane U.S. foreign policy. Once home, I promptly cut out and placed Lilla’s quote (see above) on my fridge. Little did I know that six years later I’d start working at Global Exchange, where Lilla’s quote found a new home on the Global Exchange office wall.

Ethical Traveler Tour to Cuba

Visiting Art and Hope in Cuba, with Ethical Traveler

Today it is my bittersweet honor to announce that after almost 16 vibrant years I am transitioning out of Reality Tours. Being the Director has been a true vocation. I’ve had the unique opportunity to combine my skills as an educator, social justice activist and alternative travel business woman to build up Reality Tours’ travel destinations, themes and reach.

Looking back I sit and smile thinking of all the talented, opinionated and solidarity minded people that ebbed and flowed through the Reality Tours department in San Francisco. And I think of the everyday heroes in the U.S. and all around the world whose  generosity of spirit welcomed us, collaborated with us and compelled us to meet them as brothers and sisters. We learned about their struggles, successes and aspirations which inspired us to seek changes in U.S. foreign and economic policies.

Princeton University in Mostar, Bosnia, 2012

I know the model of socially responsible travel to educate and inspire advocacy works. In fact, I could fill volumes based on my personal experiences and those often brilliant, joyful and incredibly painful moments of learning.

From the jungles of the Amazon and the struggle of the Sarayuku nation, to the healing and rehabilitation efforts in IDP camps of Northern Uganda; from facilitating thousands through migration in Havana and sharing the incredible tenacity of spirit of Cuban’s through the “fruits” of their Revolution and in their models of sustainability post “peak oil” to learning about how poachers become conservationists in Tanzania; from the smiles and solemn survival stories of children saved from the sex tourism industry in Cambodia, Nepal, Peru & Thailand to the important organizing efforts of elders training the next generation of leaders in Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Vietnam… I leave Reality Tours personally and professionally enriched with memories and experiences, and breathtaking vistas.

Malia with Yury, Ecuador Reality Tours program officer

To each of the program officers who so diligently work to take care of every creature comfort, airport transit, hotel reservation, and days and days of program confirmations, thank you for your solidarity!  It is such necessary work, yet it is painstaking and not so glamorous. When Reality Tours runs a 100 departures a year and 98 go off perfectly, nobody knows how much work it takes to make that happen! You are all stars.

Reality Tours would not exist without our members and supporters. Sometimes I’ve called you strangers, then associates and later friends, collaborators, teachers and alumni. I’ve shared some of my deepest human connections beside you, and cultivated some of my closest friendships.

Some of you “serial trippers” know I will miss traveling with you! Again, I could write volumes on what I have seen as humans blossom, when we disconnect from the phones, computers and to-do lists and when we truly spend time to talk, share and push our comfort zones to be and to grow. How many times have I lead a group when each person typically required 1-2 feet around them to have their “zone” of comfort, only by the end of a tour to see everyone touching arms and hugging their new friends good-bye? There are so many surprising rewards on a group travel experience.

Suffolk Univeristy group visiting an orphanage in Busia, Uganda

Suffolk Univeristy group visiting an orphanage in Busia, Uganda

For those of you I giggled with trying to find a bathroom to wash my fingers after blue ink was all over my face in Tehran, or scrambled to find  “relief” in the fields of Nagpur, India or tried out bartering in crafts markets in Amman knowing but a few words in Arabic, I thank you. To those I cried with, flooded by the power of the human spirit hiking through the Cu Chi and the Sarajevo tunnels; trying to get through check points from the Occupied Territories in Palestine into Israel; and being permeated by the horrific human costs of war in the War Remembrance Museum in Ho Chi Minh City and in Pyong Yang, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg… I thank you. To those I just held hands with as we heard the testimonies of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, and walking through the Killing Fields, I thank you. And, for those that I dragged out to teach salsa dancing to over and over, ya tu sabes, gracias.

Kevin and Reede being “Good Sports” as my sons dress up

Words cannot express my deepest appreciation to the Global Exchange founders Kevin Danaher, Kirsten Moller and Medea Benjamin to whom I  have been so blessed to work with. They each are hard working visionaries and phenomenal human beings, yet they are also friends, babysitters and cuddlers, and mentors. How I love and admire each of you!

Global Exchange has been a family to me. To all the members and staff, and especially to those that serve and have served on the Board of Directors, you are brothers and sisters and I thank you for your commitment to make this world a better place. Because of your tenacity and persistence, I know “another world is possible”.  I am who I am because of my years at Global Exchange, and I  look forward to moving forward pa’lante and continuing to using my life in service to humanity and to the planet, because its liberation is bound up with mine!

With Aloha,
Malia Everette

In honor of Earth Day on April 22nd, San Francisco’s Global Exchange Store (map) is highlighting exceptional examples of recycled and sustainably harvested goods. Fair Trade Certification does not only signify living wage standards for artisans worldwide, it also means that strict environmental regulations are in place.  Fair trade discourages deforestation and the use of harmful chemicals, and encourages organic farming  techniques, recycling post-consumer waste, the use of sustainably harvested natural materials, and the protection of natural resources.

A family owned workshop in Cairo, Egypt produces glass vases, bowls, and votive candle holders from 100% recycled glass products. By sorting discarded glass bottles by color and melting and molding new shapes, this small fair trade company creates beautiful, functional, and environmentally friendly products.

Just in time for spring, we have new recycled magazine gifts from Vietnam! Made out of long strips of magazine that are first soaked in glue and then coiled by hand, a lively spiral pattern adorns boxes, frames, and bowls in all sizes. This project not only keeps paper out of landfills, it also provides employment for over 300 artists in South Vietnam, aiming to promote self-reliance among disadvantaged people through education and training. A percentage of profits are used to fund various social work projects in communities, dealing with social issues, clean water projects, vocational training equipment purchases, subsidized teacher wages and a scholarship fund for the artisans’ children.

While recycling keeps waste out of landfills, sustainably harvested goods – made out of natural materials – keeps materials like plastic and paper from ever being made in the first place. Fair trade celebrates products coming from nature, and what better way to celebrate Earth Day than with Mother Nature’s own gifts.

A women’s co-operative on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua is taking advantage of an abundant local raw material – pine needles – to make beautiful, environmentally friendly, baskets. Starting in 1993 with a group of twelve women, it now employs over thirty women who make their living from weaving baskets. The sale of these baskets help to build a sustainable community in an extremely impoverished part of Nicaragua. These decorative baskets are a great example of a free renewable resource that can be crafted into a piece of art!

Ahimsa, or “cruelty-free” silk is wild silk that is cultivated on forest trees. The silk is spun after the silk worm has become a moth and flown out of the cocoon, which is often not the case for mass-produced silk. It is typical for silk farmers to kill silkworms by tossing cocoons into boiling water or hot ovens before they transform into moths, so that the silk cocoons will not be damaged. Ahimsa silk thread is spun from broken cocoons, which gives a slightly different texture than undamaged silk cocoons, but does not kill any living beings in the process.

Fair Trade Federation member Sevya is using ahimsa silk for their line of fair trade silk scarves (which you can see at San Francisco’s Global Exchange Store!). Sevya is not only helping to sustain the forests and ancient cultures that live in harmony with nature, but also sustaining the lives of those producing the scarves. Sevya works with non-profits in Jharkhand, India to develop training programs for low-caste and tribal women to use foot pedal and power operated spinning and reeling machines, self-help groups where the women save money weekly in a common pool, and micro-credit operations for the cultivators, spinners, and weavers.

We encourage you to deepen your commitment to the Fair Trade principle of environmental stewardship by consuming wisely. Think about the different resources used in creating all the things around us, and whether or not you can lessen your carbon footprint with your purchases. Celebrate this Earth Day by supporting the Fair Trade movement, and stop by a Global Exchange Fair Trade Store near you for recycled, natural, and sustainable handicrafts from around the world!

The concept of recycling has been around for thousands of years, back to the era of Plato in 400 BC. Recycling then was done out of necessity – reusing and converting materials when resources were scarce. But a few millennia later we had a little different problem – too many resources. Or rather, too much waste.

A key moment in the world’s modern recycling movement came in 1987. A barge named the Mobro 4000 was hauling tons of garbage from New York to North Carolina where it was supposed to be turned into methane. Once it got there, it wasn’t allowed to stay, so it continued on to Belize where it also was turned away. The barge had to return to New York and was finally incinerated. A media firestorm ensued regarding solid-waste disposal and recycling. Continued public discussion on the issue is credited with the increased recycling rates of the late 1980s and after.

Global Exchange is helping the recycling effort and promoting fair trade. Our Fair Trade Store is proud to say that it works with a number of producers worldwide to offer a variety of recycled products. A great example are the products we carry made of recycled magazines in Vietnam. Beautiful bowls, picture frames, ornaments and other products are made by cutting and folding old magazine paper, into long strips. They are then soaked in glue and dried. Once dry, the creations are hand-formed, piece by piece until the desired shape is completed. The products are part of a program aimed at helping street children and various other social work projects in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It is an income generator and education project for poor and neglected children, adolescents and poor women. It also provides appropriate training and promotes self-reliance for disadvantaged families and people of ethnic minorities. Please take a moment to visit our store and see our great selection of recycled products.

by Derek Hines, Global Exchange Fair Trade Online Store