Wednesday, November 30, 2011

100 Billion Single Use Plastic Bags Are Used and Discarded Every Year

When you have a single bag in your hands, it seems like a small deal. What's one plastic bag going to add to the world's waste glut? But when you take a hundred billion of them and throw in the fact that each one takes 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill, you can see what a difference using reusable bags would make.

Here are some other not so fun facts:
  • 12 million barrels of oil are used to make a year's use of plastic bags.
  • Only 1-2% of these bags are recycled.
  • Thousands of marine animals and over a million birds die each year as a result of plastic pollution.
And that's just the plastic. 10 billion paper bags are consumed each year using the resources from 14 million trees.

Fair Indigo's decision to carry Envirosax Reusable Shopping Bags was not without much internal discussion. They are not made of natural or recycled materials. They are not bio-degradable.

But our philosophy has always been how to help consumers move the ethical shopping needle furthest and fastest. Organic canvas totes may be the purest solution, but they tend to be heavier and bulkier. Our thinking was that we could help hundreds of people change their shopping habits with canvas bags or thousands, maybe tens of thousands, with super cool, super stylish, and super well-designed Envirosax. With limited inventory purchasing resources, we went with Envirosax and have never looked back.

In fact, since late 2008, our customers have put over 60,000 reusable shopping bags in circulation. That's potentially 7.2 million fewer plastic bags used per year if each 40-pound capacity Envirosax replaced two plastic bags per week. A tiny drop in the 100 billion bucket, but a start. And with Envirosax's new designs every season, we're confident this is just the beginning.

Read more about or purchase these nifty bags here.

And check out this video showing how you can use Envirosax as a cool way to wrap your gifts!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The High Price of Free Shipping

When you get free shipping, you are more than likely deducting pay from someone else's paycheck.  It's not free for them.

One of the most frequent requests we get is "why don't you offer free shipping promotions like other companies?" To understand the answer, it's important to understand how other companies can do this using a combination of three tactics:

#1) If you're large enough (many times larger than Fair Indigo), you can negotiate lower rates with shipping partners (UPS, Fedex, etc.).

#2) You can raise the price of individual items to cover the lost margin. For example, a company with a $29.99 shirt may raise the price to $33.50 to cover the "free shipping policy." (As you may or may not know, you'll sell lots less $33.50 shirts than $29.99 shirts...basic price barrier psychology).

#3) You can go after your garment suppliers for lower costs to make up the margin up front.

It is safe to say that #1 and #2 have largely been exhausted. With high fuel prices, shipping rates are becoming more and more difficult to lower and most consumers have little appetite for higher retails on clothing after years of falling prices. 

So most companies are left with #3. Going after the price they pay the garment factory.

What goes into the cost of the garment? Primarily three things:
   a) cost of raw materials (e.g. cotton)
   b) cost of labor
   c) cost of transportation to get goods to
       the warehouse or store

The cost of raw materials has done nothing but gone up in the past several years. Same with the cost of transportation.  So...the workers take the hit. 

Let's be clear. Despite the sweatshop scandals that started with the Kathie Lee Gifford line in the late 1990's, and despite the Corporate Social Responsibility standards adopted by all major apparel brands, know this: widespread pay abuse of garment workers is real. It's still happening. And it's brutal. Here is an excellent and extensive article on the topic. While major apparel brands preach social responsibility, often with very good intentions, they mercilessly push for lower costs at the same time. They can't have it both ways.

I know from my own connections in the apparel industry that many companies are paying $2 for their t-shirts. For t-shirts they price between $20-$35, except during a 50% off "sale." (When I left the mainstream apparel industry in 2005, it was not uncommon to pay between $5-$10 per t-shirt).

Most of our t-shirts sell for $20 - $35 too. But we pay many many multiples more than $2 per shirt to our fair trade cooperatives in Peru and to our USA suppliers. And when we mark them down 30%, it's because we bought too many or designed a not-appealing-enough shirt (we call these dogs). Not because we planned it into our marketing strategy like most others. When we mark things down, the garment workers have already been paid. We take the responsibility and we take the hit (as our finance guy can vouch for!).

The math doesn't lie. Free Shipping is clearly brutal on the lives of garment workers.

This blog reaches a few hundred people at most. It is nearly impossible to compete with the multi-million dollar corporate "free shipping" campaigns you'll see. Please forward this to anyone you think will find it at all valuable or interesting. Thank you!

Alight with Joy and Hope

If you were to visit a certain village near Chiang Mai, Thailand, you'd see a thriving settlement filled with devoted families, a busy marketplace and a newly improved school. Yet two decades ago this was an area so desperately poor that families were often forced to send their children to work in Bangkok's treacherous factories.

But all that has changed.

See all 70 pictures of the Thai Village here. 

Today, more than 400 neighbors work with fair trade importer Pilgrim Imports of Milwaukee, Wisconsin to produce the intricate hand-made metal and beads ornaments you see here. The jobs are satisfying, clean and pay a living wage. No one thinks of dumping trash in rivers or using harmful chemicals because the villagers work where they live.

The "acid" used to clean the metal ornaments is citrus juice, unlike the toxic kinds used in mainstream factories. They are proud to preserve village traditions, so happy children don't have to migrate to Bangkok, and deeply moved people like you enjoy their art.

As brightly as these ornaments shine, their makers smiles shine brighter still. Share the joy by purchasing these fair trade ornaments for just about anyone on your list.

No Black Friday Here

No sale announcement.
No asking employees to report to work at midnight.
No dancing reindeer on our website.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we’d like to suggest
there are more meaningful things to do on Black Friday than lining up at 4am for the latest gadget or firing up the credit card online.

On the day that has come to symbolize over indulgence, how about donating to a food bank on  Black Friday? Take a child with you. Gather a group  of friends to join you. End the day with your heart feeling full. A few other ideas...

Unexpectedly call a distant relative or friend and thank them for a past kindness.

Thank the clerks you come across for working on the holiday weekend.

Write (don’t email) a thank you note to someone who doesn’t expect it. A crossing guard, a paramedic, a trash collector.

Without being asked, buy a homeless person a cup of coffee or a hot sandwich. Give thanks that you are not in his or her shoes.

In the very least, reflect on the bounty in your life. However modest or grand.

Do you have another idea or tradition? Post them on our Facebook page or email us at We’ll share all of them in a future email.

Finally we’d like to thank you. You have benefited workers around the corner and around the world with your support.

Happy Thanksgiving

Your friends at Fair Indigo

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How your gifts bring
joy to the world

We, actually we know because we've seen it, that education is the key to lifting individuals and whole communities out of poverty. The Fair Indigo Foundation financially supports education in the communities where our products are made, devoting 5% of our profits plus your $5 donations at checkout.

Think $5 isn't meaningful? Consider this: With just the $5 donations from last year, the Foundation in 2011 hired a full-time teacher, started a library, built a new classroom, installed indoor plumbing, and provided equipment for a computer lab across two schools in Peru.

Smiling faces at the Manchay School near Lima, Peru
Whether we're traveling across town to our jewelry maker or across the equator to our cooperatives in Peru, there's one constant. Parents want the best for their kids. There is no concept on earth that unites us more. Above are just a handful of kids who have been helped by your donations.

Genuine smiles amidst poverty so incomprehensibly crushing. There are few things more humbling. There are few things that put into perspective the things we deem stressful.
Manchay neighborhood near Lima, Peru
Rowena and Sergio
While the Foundation focuses its resources on necessities like supplies and books, this season we're going to throw in a little fun.

Our sourcing partners in Peru, husband and wife team Sergio and Rowena, visit "our kids" every Christmas with gifts of their own. This year we're sending them with a big sack from Santa!

Sergio and Rowena will bring toys and fun books to the and books they can take home, something nearly unheard of in their community. Thank you Sergio and Rowena for playing Santa on our and your behalf!

Subscribe below to follow this blog and watch joy delivered.

And thank you for buying gifts that truly do make a difference.