Book review: Sustainability with Style

Not long ago, I had a chance encounter with the author of Sustainability with Style, Lisa Heinze. My interview with Lisa was published on her blog. Since then, I have been enjoying reading her book before bed. I have to say, from the moment I started reading, I didn’t want to put it down. It is a lighthearted true story of how an image-obsessed fashionista who works in advertising made an incredible transition to become an expert in incorporating sustainability into today’s lifestyles. What I loved most about this book is Lisa’s honesty and humour.

Lisa tried to bring her friends with her on the journey of becoming an environmentalist, but she faced many challenges, confusions and setbacks. Lisa also faced internal conflict between her long term love for fashion and her new found passion for protecting the environment. In the end, there were lessons learned and Lisa found a balance, hence the title Sustainability with Style.

I admire Lisa’s determination, and much of it reminded me of my own. I found a passion for poverty alleviation in early 2013 following a life changing trip to Southeast Asia, and I set up my own charity Oz Fair Trade to help some of the world’s poorest people. Although I have the support of my friends, I have been struggling to convince my parents that:

a hard working and challenging life lived with passion is better than a financially comfortable life without passion.

Change is hard. Change needs to happen from a personal level first, before it happens on a societal level. It inevitably means that some will take longer to adapt to change. I don’t consider myself to be one of the first, but I’m definitely not the last.

I would highly recommend Lisa’s book for anyone who is interested in a stylish and sustainable lifestyle. In this day and age, it is possible to have both. Whether you are thinking of making the change, or you are curious of Lisa’s personal journey, I would encourage you to read her book.

Disclaimer: I make no commission from Lisa’s book.

How bombshells are turned into jewellery and spoons

Australia is a lucky country compared to Laos and Cambodia, where millions of undetonated bombs threaten lives every day. During the Vietnam War, the United States dropped more than 270 million sub-munitions in an attempt to block the flow of North Vietnamese arms and troops through Laos. This makes Laos the most heavily bombed nation per capita in the world. It is estimated that more than 30% of these sub-munitions failed to explode, leaving Laos with 80 million of undetonated bombs. Since 1973, there have been around 12,000 explosion-related accidents.

Cambodia’s notorious landmine problem is the product of a civil war that spanned three decades and claimed the lives of up to three million people, or one third of the entire population. Today, more than 40,000 people are amputees. The vast majority of the victims are men and thus the traditional bread earner.

It is very expensive to clear lands affected by undetonated bombs. Despite the efforts of the relevant government bodies in both countries, millions of undetonated bombs are still unremoved.

It is within this context that a new type of product was born: recycled bombshell.

Aluminium and brass are commonly used in the construction of bombs. Once exploded, the metals can be melted and made into spoons, chop sticks and jewellery. The local people started with making spoons out of bombshells to feed their children after the war. With the help of western designers and innovative thinkers, they started to turn bombshells into beautiful jewellery.

Recycled bombshell products are ethical in three main ways:

• recycles existing material

• provides extra income for land clearance

• provides job opportunities for local people

You can view how bombshells are turned into jewellery from our Oz Fair Trade’s YouTube channel.

It is estimated that it will take 800 years to eliminate all the undetonated bombs in Laos and Cambodia, but buying these recycled bombshell products can help hasten the process: each purchase supports landmine removal from 5 square meters of land. The farmer-artisans who make the products from wartime scrap metal earn a living for their families while bringing income and investment into their communities.

Q: How did people learn to melt the bomb metals?

A: There is a mysterious story about a man melting metals after the war and made spoons from them. A few men watched him, and the skill was passed from one family to another, from one generation to the next.

 

Q: Is collecting bomb scraps dangerous?

A: Each country has its own dedicated organisation that carries out skilled land clearings. The people there are well trained and experienced. Generating an income from recycled bombshell products help them to train more people to clear lands affected by undetonated bombs. These people have a very positive attitude: the bombs are here so we might as well do something productive with them.

 

Q: What is the process from bomb to jewellery/spoon?

A: The artisans use handmade molds, which are made of wood and ash from the fire. They make a square wood box and fill that box with ash or dirt, which is mixed with water. They make the shape – an impression on both sides of the mold – and let it dry to a plaster. When it’s all dry, they pour the metal that they’ve melted from disabled mines in their kiln into a little hole, shaping out the piece. Once it’s cooled, they sand it smooth – into a unique piece of jewellery/spoon.

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Own a piece of history. 

Spread a message of peace.

Wear something truly extraordinary.

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Top 10 Fair Trade Gifts for Mother’s Day

I visited my mum recently. My mum is picky, and in the past I have always had trouble finding her gifts that she actually liked. Not this year. Here are my top 10 picks of Fair Trade Gifts for this Mother’s Day. Happy reading and share it with your friends 🙂

Top 1 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Handmade Wool Felt Home Boots $34

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My mum loved them! I ended up gifting one pair to my future mother-in-law, one pair to my future grandmother-in-law and one pair to my future sister-in-law. They are super soft and super warm, hand stitched by Nepalese women. How do I know they are Fair Trade? Because their supplier is a certified Fair Trader by the World Fair Trade Organisation. For more information about how they are made or to make a purchase please click on the photo above.

Top 2 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: PEACEBOMB bangle $10

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This is the best selling product from Oz Fair Trade. Not only is it a beautiful silver toned bangle, but also a meaning item carrying a special message of peace. Each bangle is handmade from recycled bombshells in Laos. It helps to clear up lands affected by bombs and creates employment for villagers. Mums love them because they are both beautiful and special.

Top 3 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Bombshell Spoon Gift Pack $25

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These spoons are also the most popular items from Oz Fair Trade’s PEACEBOMB range. They are made in Laos using recycled bombshell aluminium. The gift pack contains a full size dinner spoon, a long spoon for stirring, a tea spoon and a miniature spoon. It comes with a story card and a beautiful origami crane, all wrapped in a delightful gift box as shown above. Christmas or not, this is our best selling gift pack!

Top 4 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Organic Hand Woven Silk Scarf $85

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This is a beautiful gift for an elegant lady who values quality and leisure. She might even be a weaver herself, or a knitter. We have a few unique pieces of hand woven silk scarves starting from just $19.95. Click here.

Top 5 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Bright Blue Dotted Wood Earrings $45

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This is a perfect gift for an arty mum, who loves aboriginal art and bright colours. We have a beautiful range of hard-to-find jewellery for women of all ages, starting from just $10. Click here.

Top 6 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Hand Embroidered Cosmetic Bag Featuring Farm Life $25

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Super cute and most suited for winter, this bright coloured cosmetic bag will put a smile on anyone’s face! We have them in white, black and red, and also in coin purses for just $15. Get your mum a gift fro this delightful range here.

Top 7 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Stylish Naturally Dyed Hemp Backpack $69

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This is for a nature loving mum who appreciates hemp as an eco-friendly and durable material. This bag is light weight and batik dyed with traditional Thai patterns. The stripes are comfortable. It makes a stylish backpack for a weekend getaway or a market day. We also have it in cross-body shape.

Top 8 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Batik Deer Eco European Cushion Cover $65

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A super cute cushion cover will definitely delight your mum! It is naturally dyed so it has no harmful chemicals. We also have it in elephant design. If you prefer cushions that come with inserts, we have quite a few standard size cushions with inserts made in Australia from recycled plastic bottles, starting from just $25. Check them out here.

Top 9 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Pure Alpaca Scarf $60

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Alpaca is the best material for winter. It is non-prickly and extremely warm. This scarf is handmade by Bolivian women. Your purchase helps them to have an income in their summer months. Choose from our beautiful range of pure alpaca scarves here.

Top 10 Fair Trade Gift For Mother’s Day: Pure Alpaca Gloves

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These super soft gloves will go well with our alpaca scarves. Keep your mum warm this winter!

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the Love for Music brings People together – my perspective on the National Folk Festival

National Folk Festival

For the past four days I have been volunteering at the National Folk Festival. My job was easy and hard at the same time: changing rubbish bins. Each day, I did a five hour shift during which I covered the Festival ground again and again. My feet complained but I was determined to finish my job and do it well. Each day, I also had a few hours to freely spend on festival events, and I loved them! There were musicians coming from all walks of life and all corners of earth! What I loved most was the spirit in the air, the smile on people’s faces, the bands formed on the spot, the kids who played music on the streets, the women who danced to music…

I played piano for a few years when I was young, but I never enjoyed it and never considered music as fun because in my mind it’s always associated with hours of practice forced upon me. But the Festival totally changed my perspective on music. People were having fun, so much fun! One person would start a tune, then another would follow, then another, then a band is formed on the spot! It was wonderful, and they were clearly enjoying themselves, because happiness is contagious.

Music was in the air. Music was everywhere.

Why cotton scarves deserve your attention

Qinnie, Director of Oz Fair Trade

Qinnie, Director of Oz Fair Trade

I’m a big fan of scarves. I admit it, I’m an addict. My collection is well over 100, comprising of delicate silk scarves, warm alpaca scarves and anything in between. However, I find myself again and again grabbing the cotton scarves at last minute before an outing, or just before going on an extended holiday. This hand woven cotton scarf of mine was a travel find from Yunnan, China many years ago. It has travelled with me all around Australia and to Southeast Asia, Tibet and Nepal; and I’m sure it will accompany me for many more trips to come.

Although I’m still deeply in love with my delicate silk scarves and super warm alpaca scarves, I find cotton scarves extremely convenient.

Easy to carry, soft to wear, fits in a handbag, machine washable, and after more than 10 years it is still as beautiful as when I found it in a little town called Lijiang. I was amazed at the hand weaving skills of the locals and felt instantly in love with the cotton scarves. I bought one, and I’ve searching all over the world to get hands on another.

So when I learned that one of my long term Fair Trade supplier in Laos made these scarves, I was very excited! When the box arrived in Australia, I eagerly opened it, and wrapped my face in those beautiful soft cotton scarves. I was delighted!

Of all of friends, none of them possess a hand woven cotton scarf. Perhaps it’s a fashion thing, or a status thing, that cotton scarves just aren’t seen as “cool” or “beautiful”. But they are!

They will only get softer as time passes, and they will be the most used scarves of all I promise you!

We currently have a small collection of organic hand woven cotton scarves made by Lao village women, so if you are interested please check them out here.

 

FREE SAMPLES: Fair Trade Lao Coffee and Tea

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Laos is my favourite country in Southeast Asia. It was in Laos that the idea of building a not-for-profit fair trade organisation was born. I wanted to help the kind and hard working people I met in Laos, and to help them to clear the farm lands affected by millions of undetonated bombs.

It has been a year since the organisation was founded. It’s a great time to introduce Lao Fair Trade coffee and tea.

Not many people know about the delicious coffee and tea that the land of Laos produces. Unfortunately I can’t drink coffee due to caffeine intolerance, but I love smelling coffee. Recently I got the samples from a fair trade producer in Laos and I loved the smell!

There’s also something for tea lovers! Phongsaly tea leaves are picked from 400 year old trees in Phongsaly province, and they have a very unique flavour!

We are giving away FREE samples of coffee beans and tea. Simply email us (admin@ozfairtrade.org) your address before stocks run out! 

Note: you’ll need a grinder for the sample coffee beans. In future, we will have both coffee beans and ground coffee.

UPDATE: ALL SAMPLES HAVE RUN OUT.

Do you still hang calendars?

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I love calendars. Not the ones on the screens, but the ones I can hold in my hands and hang on my walls. They have stunning images, and with every flip of pages there is a new start. At the end of a year, I will take down the calendar which recorded wonderful memories.

If you are still looking for a beautiful calendar or a diary to keep you organised throughout 2014, we have limited numbers of People & Planet Social Justice Calendars and Diaries available at 20% off for a limited time. You can even preview every page of the calendar and diary on our website.

http://www.ozfairtrade.org/categories/occasions/new-year.html

Voucher code: D7XAWD11A98N5

thankyou.co

thankyou water

“Live Everyday. Give Everyday.”

When I first heard of Thankyou Water sometime last year, it was a moment of “wow”. I thought, this was a social enterprise that has done everything right; this was a social enterprise that I could learn a lot from.

I was disappointed to find that Thankyou Water was not available in ACT. Then I sort of forgot about it, until I saw the familiar “thank you” on a cereal box in a supermarket. I haven’t felt this excited about trying a new product for a long time. The cereal looked a lot like Carman’s which I loved. So I gave it a go.

YUMmmm!

To give you a bit of background, Thankyou Water was born out of two discoveries by its founder, Daniel Flynn, when he was 19. One was the World Water Crisis in 2008, and the other was the fact that Australians spent a crazy $600 million annually on bottled water. A bold idea was born to join the extremes together. The result? A bottled water company that would exist for the sole purpose of funding safe water projects in developing nations.

Since then, the company has expanded into body care and food. What I love about this company is not only what they stand for, but also their total transparency. This is a company that’s leading the Australian social enterprise sector by example. I have long believed that the solution to poverty lies not with the public aid, but the private sector. I founded Oz Fair Trade out of this belief.

Love to hear your thoughts!

A Google addict

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Without Google, it would not have been possible, for me, to set up a website with no experience, to sell online with no IT knowledge, to do my business side of tax without accounting expertise, to access business advice at my fingertips, to find trading partners without multiple overseas trips, to explore the solutions for ending poverty without bury myself in libraries for years…

…you get the idea…

Like many people, I’m a Google addict, and I’m a happy addict.

Now I’m going one step further. I’m trying Google Apps for Business. In time, I’ll report back on my experience.

Floriade 2013

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Every year, Floriade holds a special place in every Canberran’s heart. It signals (hopefully) the end of a long and cold winter. Flowers are always stunning, and tulips are guaranteed delicacies. After living in Canberra for 6 years, Floriade still has its magic spell over me. This year, for the first time, I got on to the Big Wheel and viewed Floriade from a high angle. It was truly beautiful.

…and…what’s the duck doing there