Fair-trade shopping: It’s not a new idea, but it’s a movement gaining strength in communities all over the United States. Socially conscious retailers who harness the fair-trade business model work with artisans, farmers and makers in developing countries and pay a fair rate for their goods. These relationships increase international trading equity, help better the producer’s business and livelihood and provide authentic and handcrafted gifts, coffee, cocoa, wine and produce to the hands of shoppers looking for something special.
Handmade scarves from Nepal are found at Ten Thousand Villages; sustainably sourced tropical-hardwood cutting boards from Costa Rica are sold at Yobel Market; and recycled-paper necklaces hand-rolled by female artisans in Kenya are at Momentum. Many items at these fair-trade shops display information about the artisans; products are often eco-friendly and sometimes associated with a benefitting organization that collects a certain percentage of the proceeds.
Each fair-trade shop in Colorado has a unique identity, mission and collection of products, but all aspire to positively affect the lives of others. Here are seven fair-trade shops that we love:
It’s stated on the shop’s website that, “Every item Momentum carries is crafted by the human hand, tells a story and provides employment opportunities for artisan groups around the world.” Jewelry, accessories, clothing, home goods, kitchenware and gift items are each tagged with information about the group of artisans they were handmade by. Wind chimes are crafted by Mira Fair Trade in rural India, an organization empowering women and underprivileged communities; mugs are hand-painted by the Mayan artists of Lucia’s Imports; and colorful lamps made of fossilized leaves are constructed by Filipino artisans of the Engage Home Design team. The socially conscious company Fair Trade Winds, which operates Momentum as well as six other Fair Trade Winds shops around the country, is also environmentally minded, utilizing recycled-bamboo flooring and recycled-cotton and denim wall insulation at the Boulder shop.
Ten Thousand Villages
Nestled in Denver’s Cherry Creek North shopping district is a shop representing Asian, African, Latin American and Middle Eastern cultures through its handmade items. The nonprofit’s mission is to: “create opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term fair trading relationships.” The profits are used to increase purchases from international artisans and expand the retail network. Established in 1946, the social-good retailers have products in more than 300 fair trade specialty shops, but only a few namesake locations. Each item inside Ten Thousand Villages specifies its maker—whether it’s a leather messenger bag crafted by an artisan from Colombia, onyx coasters made by Dominion Traders in Pakistan, or a decoratively carved cinnamon-bark box by the Mai Vietnamese Handicrafts nonprofit organization.
The two founders of Yobel Market were inspired to help displaced and struggling individuals during their time traveling abroad. They teamed up and began the socially conscious retail journey with a single microloan to Canaan Farm, which provided the capital for artisans to produce bamboo jewelry. After the inclusion of a couple more product lines, volunteer-run Yobel Market opened its brick-and-mortar location and established a business-essentials curriculum for entrepreneurs under the name Yobel International. Inside the Colorado Springs social-enterprise shop, find infinity scarves made by Life Stitch Sewing Center in northern Pakistan, partnered with a women’s empowerment and poverty relief mission; leather satchels from Kenya, supporting relief of poverty and orphans; and hand-knit baby booties from Peru, assisting women’s empowerment.
Two notions take precedence at Lillies: fair trade and eco-friendly. The shop, which has locations in Boulder and Wisconsin, partners with international and local artisans and brings in an assortment of handmade everyday items, clothing and baby wear made with organic, recycled and sustainable materials. American-made organic-cotton onesies with environmentally friendly dyes, recycled-metal decorative bowls from Indiabracelets using seed beads, sari fabric and telephone wire are among the conscious-minded items.
Just less than a two-hour drive southeast of Colorado Springs, this fair-trade gift and thrift store is located in the town of La Junta. No, it’s not a quick drive from the city, but for those traveling from Pueblo (south of Colorado Springs) across the eastern plains into Kansas, it is a must-stop. Gift items created with recycled materials by women working in fair trade cooperatives range from telephone-wire baskets to paper-bead jewelry. The upscale thrift-store section of the marketplace features name-brand apparel—even evening gowns—plus jewelry and antiques. The religious nonprofit’s missions are to provide a fair income to artisans, resell donated items at lowcost to the community, and utilize the proceeds for “relief, peace and justice through the work of Mennonite Central Committee and local service agencies.”
The Green Merchant
Nonprofits and organizations that are working towards solving a variety of social causes craft the eco-friendly, fair-trade products found inside The Green Merchant, located in the mountain town of Evergreen. The website states “… we want to inspire you to see the face of the person behind the product. We want you to hear their story. We want you to know the positive impact your purchase makes in improving the quality of a life and towards protecting our planet’s resources.” Handmade silver jewelry from Pakistan, metal art from Haiti and handwoven bags from Guatemala barely scrape the surface of items here.
The social enterprise was started as a way to create fair-trade opportunity for women—a mission sparked by its founder’s time spent living in Malawi. Dsenyo focuses on bringing in fair trade gift items as well as ethical fashion, including dozens of adorable baby and toddler pieces. Products are handmade by five women-artisan communities in Malawi, Zambia and Brazil. The only brick-and-mortar location of Dsenyo is inside TRI Vintage in Lafayette, but the shop’s items are also sold inside Lillies, CrossRoads MarketPlace, The Green Merchant, Momentum and Ten Thousand Villages. TRI Vintage, 107 S. Public Road, Lafayette, 720.502.4463