It's easy to become discouraged these days with all that’s happening around the world, in our country, and in the politically tribal divisions that seek to separate us rather than unite us toward a common goal: an enlightened democracy and a peaceful, healthy world.
That’s why it’s so encouraging to learn of the progress made in environmental stewardship, social justice, and equality by small companies throughout the world. These aren’t corporations or investment banks. These are women and men who see a problem and find a solution. Seeds for Kindness is honored to represent these companies and artists.
Here are some facts and figures from the artisans we have partnered with.
Take, for example, Kenya-based Ocean Sole. The beaches in Kenya are inundated with ownerless flip-flops brought in by the tides. They come from everywhere: from nearby landfills in Kenya, from other coastal African nations — even from Asia, an ocean away. Millions of flip-flops are carried along waterways and into the ocean currents where they eventually litter Kenyan beaches and create seawater hazards for turtles, dolphins, sea birds and many other ocean dwellers.
The founder of Ocean Sole, Julie Church, recognized the enormous problem of flip-flop pollution in 1998 and came up with an idea: combine the efforts of impoverished families who earn money removing flip-flops from the beaches with the skills of Kenyan artists, who then make animals from them. Since the company launched in 2005, Ocean Sole has collected over a thousand tons of flip flops from the ocean and waterways in Kenya, providing steady income to over 150 low-income families and contributing ten percent of Ocean Sole revenues to marine conservation charities.
Article22 is a company in Laos that makes jewelry out of shrapnel left over from extremely heavy bombing the country suffered during the Vietnam War. Article 22’s jewelry is handcrafted by Laotian artisans who melt down detonated bomb scrap. Each piece of jewelry sold includes a donation to Mines Advisory Group to clear clears ten square meters of bomb-littered land. To date, the proceeds from Article22 sales have cleared bomb debris from over 200,000 square meters of land.
California-based Rareform repurposes expired vinyl billboard signs into high quality bags, backpacks, totes, wallets, and even surfboard covers. These items are vegan, lightweight, eco-friendly, durable, and waterproof. Rareform has grown so quickly in four years that they now save 20,000 pounds of vinyl signage from the landfill every month.
Elvis & Kresse was formed by two women in the UK who saw a need to address waste materials in landfills from firehoses. In 2005, after a chance encounter with the London Fire Brigade, the two set about rescuing decommissioned firehoses from stations around the city to make beautiful hand-crafted bags, wallets, and belts. To date they have reclaimed 170 tons of firehose that would have gone to landfills. In 2017, they partnered with the fashion house Burberry to deal with the global problem of leather waste. Within four years, Elvis & Kresse expects to remove 120 tons of leather remnants from Burberry and turn it into handmade luxury items. The company donates 50 percent of its profits to the Fire Fighters Charity of the UK.
Aid Through Trade is a part of a global effort through the Fair Trade Federation and employs over 200 women artisans in Nepal creating Roll-On® Bracelets. The Nepalese people’s history is one of limited access to education; two-thirds of the country’s adult population cannot read or write.
Women and girls are disproportionately uneducated and often sold into child labor or child marriages. The women artists employed through Aid Through Trade are all provided with daily meals, a retirement fund, health care benefits and a work-from-home program.
This month, we’re excited to introduce a new group of artists as they bring their own unique environmental solutions to Seeds for Kindness:
• Bicycle tire jewelry and belts are designed by London-based fashion designer, Laura Zabo. The accessories are made from reclaimed bicycle tires and inner tubes, including those from competitive racing cycles. In Germany alone, ten million bicycle tires and inner tubes are disposed of in landfills every year — while their decomposition takes an average of 50 to 80 years. Every belt or accessory from Laura Zabo helps eliminate the amount of rubber in landfills. Whether you have your own bike, or know someone who loves to cycle, our bicycle tire jewelry and belts are a unique way to help save the planet.
• Circuit boards and steampunk aesthetic fuel the creativity of several EU individual artists who are now helping reduce the enormous problem of throw-away technology and gadgets. Of the $206 billion spent on consumer electronics in the US in 2012, only 29 percent was recycled. These artists have created earrings and necklaces out of used circuit boards, gears, and other bits of old watches to create unique steampunk owl pendant necklaces. For the true techie and The Big Bang Theory fans alike, these delicately made pieces help reduce our technological trash.
• Plush Critters are made by an artist in the USA. These adorable critters — and a few cute cacti — are made from repurposed clothing including sweaters, shirts and men’s suits. The average American tosses out 81 pounds of clothing per year, which amounts to 26 billion pounds of textiles and clothes in landfills. While we know children will love these huggable creatures, they’ll also add a bit of whimsy to your living room or office. Don’t be surprised if you end up hugging them too.
• Candy themed pouches are the creation of a California artist who saw the sea of discarded candy wrappers one Halloween and decided to do something about it. Candy wrappers are not as easily recyclable as other types of paper and plastic because they’re composed of mixed materials. According to the EPA, over 30 percent of municipal solid waste in the US comes in the form of packaging, including candy wrappers. These high quality, handmade pouches are made from iconic, instantly recognizable brands. They're beautifully lined and come with a zipper to keep safe whatever you put inside. They’re sure to put a smile on your face, and help reduce the trash in our landfills.
Every Little Bit Counts
Whether it's having a carless day, or taking shorter showers, each small action on behalf of the planet and humankind at large is like a ripple on a pond. And as more of us make those ripples, we soon create the wave...