We've Got the Whole World in Our Stands
SF State Bookstore Offers Recycled and Developing World Goods
April 16, 2007 8:15 PM
Irene Tjoko goes to trade shows several times a year, but she described the first time she saw anything worth selling at the Bookstore that reminded her of her home in Indonesia.
When Tjoko, the SFSU Bookstore’s gift and apparel buyer, browsed the Mega Conference trade show in Reno for items to sell on campus in late 2005, the World of Good, Inc. caught her eye. The Emeryville-based company sells handcrafted, environmentally friendly or recycled items using Fair Trade practices.
She said she immediately ordered a display stand of worldly goods and then two more in the last year.
“It’s good for us to carry stuff like that, to show appreciation for recycled stuff, Fair Trade or something good for the environment and the earth,” Tjoko, 26, said.
Unlike the usual T-shirts, mugs and promotional products that companies typically offer at trade shows, she said the ceramic mugs from Bali, the embroidered hemp ornaments from Northern Vietnam and more practical items like pumice stone foot scrubbers from the Philippines stood above the rest.
The World of Good often sells items that faraway locals have made for generations. For instance, Balinese artisans make ceramic objects like the company’s green claymation creamer ($17.95).
She said nonprofits are now enabling these products to be sold in much bigger markets, with better financial reaping.
This is what makes the Fair Trade concept so great, according to SF State student Chantell Charpentier, who learned about world economics while studying for her master’s in world history.
“The theory at heart is that if more of the money goes to the producers or the product, it’s to their advantage,” Charpentier said while browsing through the World of Good products. “It goes to help the economy, not to the importer.”
In the case of the Good Fortune bamboo picture frame ($19.95), Vietnamese villagers are using traditional bamboo weaving skills and applying to a nontraditional product that the Western world uses, according to the frame’s labeled description.
As a direct application of the three Rs — recycle, reduce and reuse— Tjoko said the company also has a small line of bright tote bags ($29.95) and purses ($24.95) stitched together using second-hand aluminum soda cans or plastic juice boxes.
The World of Good also offers a line of Bamboolicious dishware; trays ($14.95) and large bowls ($29.95) that are handmade from pressed bamboo fibers and painted in family workshops in Hanoi, Vietnam, according to the company.
Bamboo, which is grass and not actually wood, is a sustainable material that can be harvested and grown every few years without killing the original plant. For this reason, and because it can be used to make anything from utensils to flooring, it has been hailed as a sound ecological alternative to wood.
What really got the bookstore’s Tjokro to start investing in the World of Good line were the little tags the company includes with every item that tells the story of its origin and the benefits of the product.
The tags also describe how far the company has gone to find products from countries that have been impoverished by years of colonial rule, ravaged by natural disasters or simply unable to economically compete with industrial nations.
The company carries items from Asian countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos; Latin American territories such as El Salvador, Brazil and Peru; and African nations such as Kenya and South Africa.
A country such as South Africa, which suffered from an economic slump since the end of the Apartheid, benefits from the jobs created by the production of World of Good’s freedom key chain ($8.95), which feature little metal African fauna.
For more information on World of Good products, which range from $3.95-$44.95, visit the SFSU Bookstore or the Web site: www.worldofgood.org.
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