Happy Earth Day! Fair Trade means not only respect for producers like artisans and farmers. but respect for the environment that sustains us all. As a proud member of the Fair Trade Federation, we are committed to cultivating environmental stewardship, one of the fair trade principles that guide our practices.
Plastic bags are everywhere in Guatemala – in the streets, fields, streams, and even up in trees. In marginalized communities, environmental awareness often takes a back seat to the necessities of basic survival like feeding one’s family. There may neither be the infrastructure nor governmental services available to cope with the ubiquitous litter. More than a blight on the beautiful countryside, plastic litter also poses a health and safety risk for people and livestock.
Everything is colorful in Guatemala, even the plastic bags. And Mayan women, who weave and wear rainbows of meaning in their textiles, are experts at combining color and pattern. Enterprising Mayan Hands artisans. using the backstrap loom, a weaving tradition handed down by the goddess Ixchel to their foremothers and then passed from mother to daughter for thousands of years, weave the cleaned and disinfected plastic into sturdy and, even better, stylish accessories like handbags and change purses. An ancient technology successfully applied to a modern-day problem!
In a special partnership that links indigenous women living in extreme poverty in the remote Guatemalan highlands and their sisters struggling to survive in an impoverished urban community, the final products are sewn and assembled at UPAVIM, a women’s fair trade craft cooperative in Guatemala City that provides hope to families in the form of access to healthcare, education and employment.
Our recycled plastic project connects Mayan women with yet another group – their customers in the US and abroad who purchase the trendy accessories because they appreciate the design, the functionality and the fact that by choosing fair trade, they can help preserve cultural traditions and make a difference in the lives of hardworking women in Guatemala.