July 20, 2010

Carved from the Mine

For most of us, coal is nothing more than a (sometimes controversial) form of fuel, mined under questionable conditions and guilty of producing chemical by-products that environmentalists tell us are melting glaciers at an alarming rate.  A group of young entrepreneurs in the small mining town of Morca in Columbia (four hours south of Bogota) saw an opportunity in this homely mineral, however, and have started a small business carving coal into beautiful fair trade jewelry pieces that are then sold abroad to international consumers.

Young Entrepreneurs Carve Fair Trade Jewelry
Constant mining in the small town of Morca has made farming the land impossible, but inadequate safety supports and unsafe conditions make professional mining a dangerous alternative for young boys that need incremental income to support large families. Thanks to their budding fair trade jewelry enterprise, the boys of Morca are able to spend mornings at school, and afternoons working on the jewelry pieces.

Government support has been key in the development of this business.  Starting in 1995, the Columbian government began pouring resources into this sort of enterprise in the hopes that it would keep young boys out of the mines and reduce mining-related incidents.  The market for these elegant pieces is still expanding, and students with the National Pedagogical University Bogota are getting in on the project, to offer consulting and ideas for increasing demand!

Coal is nothing less then a young diamond, waiting for the rush of pressure and heat to crystallize.  Although it may not have a diamond's fire (or price tag!), carved and polish coal boasts a luminescence and mystery all it's own.  Either way, the rich coloring, organic shape, and fair trade label make these pieces a fit for the warm colors and textures of this fall's trendiest looks.

Learn more about Columbian Jewelry here.

July 2, 2010

Answers for the Socially Responsible Shopper: Bio-Degradable

Plastic is Evil.

That, at least, is the message we get when, as impressionable 6-year-olds, we are shown a variation on the following tramatizing image:

Thank you to Save Our Seabirds

In addition to shocking images of animal's being mauled by plastic, young minds are taught that plastic takes about a thousand years to decompose in land fills, where 93% of it ends up (Please see "How Long Does Our Garbage Last" for more details).  These delightful nougats of information, and others like them, turn plastic into a menacing predator with its sights set on world domination.

To try and skirt the bad taste plastic has left in the mouths of consumers, major corporations have begun using bio-degradable packaging in their products, and then stamping it all over with "green" messaging. 

What does "Bio-Degradable" mean? It is any substance made of plant or animal origins, which can be broken down by living organisms. This is great for the environment because it means the waste won't sit in a landfill for the next 1,000 years.  Natural processes can get rid of the materials!  Love, Peace, Hope for everyone!

Thanks to the Huffington Post
Unfortunately, if bio-degradable materials end up inside large plastic bags, it has no access to those organisms and therefore will not break down until the plastic does.  Soooo, approximately July 2, 3010 for the garbage you took out this morning.