Sunday, 26 February 2012

Ethics and Elephant Dung - An Excellent Combination!

It doesn't take me long to realise that Kim Good from Import Ants is an extremely passionate person. What exactly is she passionate about? Why elephant poo of course! I'm delighted to share my interview with Kim about the amazing ethical products available that are helping people and elephants alike. 
Q. What is Import Ants and where did the name come from?

Import Ants is an importer and wholesaler of eco-friendly and fair trade products with our main product being 100% recycled paper handmade from elephant dung and waste paper. The name came about because these things we feel are a matter of "importance". 

Q. How did Import Ants first become aware of the plight of elephants in Sri Lanka?

A Sri Lankan friend of mine was selling a small amount of the elephant dung paper in Australia and I fell in love with it and how it was highlighting the plight of the endangered Sri Lankan elephant.

Mr Elephant tells of the threat to his environment and how by using this paper you are helping to save his family and provide work for villagers in Sri Lanka
I turned 45 and had been looking for something more meaningful and a way to make a positive difference to the planet when she offered me the opportunity to import the elephant dung paper. My partner, John and I bought the business from her after visiting Sri Lanka and seeing the wonderful things that Maximus was doing to help the elephants.

Q. Can you tell us a little about the ‘Peace Paper Plan’?

The Peace Paper Plan was setup by Maximus to bring the elephant into the economy of the villagers that are effected by the wild elephants. Traditionally, in Sri Lanka, elephants and people compete over scare land resources causing injury and death on both sides. Wild elephants migrate across the country following the seasons between the National Parks.

Each month this calendar has a photo of the orphaned elephants adopted by the Millennium Elephant Foundation
This brings them into conflict with farmers whose livelihoods depends upon the crops they produce. When the initial factory was started in Kegalle, next to the Millennium Elephant Foundation and near to Pinniwalla Elephant Orphanage, and began to utilise the elephant dung from these places to make paper, Maximus always wanted to have the paper made in the village areas that were in conflict with the wild elephants.

Early last year they began production at their new facility in Rangirigama in the Dambulla area that borders on the jungle and is a conflict “hot” spot where wild elephants and humans compete. By providing a village based eco-friendly alternative income to farmers in the area that links the wild elephants to the economy we hope to change the attitudes and perceptions toward protecting the elephants in the long run.
A bright fun range of 3 sizes in journal and a paper holder with cute little elephant bottoms on the covers
Q. If you had to describe the Sri Lankan elephant in 3 words, what would they be?

1. Intelligent

2. Matriarchal

3. Endangered

Q. Who are the artists behind the wonderful designs on the Elephant Paper products available from Import Ants?

We have used a number of talented artists to create the ranges we have. Initially Roshan from Maximus did the designs. He has a fabulous sense of colour and design and does superb (a word he uses often) sketches of the elephants. So all our sketch cards are done by him and he has done a wonderful new set of drawings that I can’t wait to introduce next year.

Notebooks from the Aliya (meaning "elephant" in Sinhala) range
When we were at a trade fair in Melbourne I met Jo Lane, who specialises in pencil drawings of Australian flora and she also loved the elephant dung paper so we collaborated with her on a series of Australian plant designs which have been really well received.
A range of 5 illustrations by Melbourne artist Jo Lane of Australian Plants on our unique Elephant Dung white journals and gift cards
At the moment I am working with QArt, a Melbourne based group of artists with intellectual disabilities. They are wonderful people and their art is fantastic, we have been creating a series of Xmas swing tags for this year with a percentage being returned to QArt as well as the Millennium Elephant Foundation. I’m really looking forward to launching these at the Sydney Home & Giving Fair at the end of February. I know it’s a long way till Xmas but I want everyone to see these as soon as possible!

Q. Has paper made from elephant dung been well received by Australian consumers?

I have been thrilled by the reception to the elephant dung paper in Australia and the fact that as more people hear about it the demand for it has grown. When we did our first trade fair it was my daughter Erin who first approached people with a piece of paper and said “Have you ever seen tree free elephant dung paper?” and her approach has stuck. People's first reaction is “What did you say, elephant dung paper?” and then they smell it and of course it just smells like paper and then they want to know more. Very occasionally we have someone who just can’t cope with the idea, but they are few and far between. After all an elephant only eats trees, grass and vegetation. They are really an amazing living pulp mill. It makes sense to feed an elephant rather than a machine to pulp fibre.

A card making kit for children made from elephant dung paper - kids will LOVE the idea of paper made from poo :D
Q. Is there anything new and exciting on the horizon for Import Ants?

We are currently in Sri Lanka finalising new designs with the elephant dung paper and will have some little Mini Gift Cards with envelopes and we are expanding our range of wedding paper to include square envelopes and pre-folded square cards in a range of colours, as well as the new QArt Xmas swing tags.

This has been an amazing trip. We have been and seen a whole lot of new community based fair trade groups and have placed orders with many of them for a range of new products.

One of them is the Araliya Community Group Company which is a true co-operative where all members own a share of the company and its assets. The women have organised themselves into groups where each group elects its own board member and participates in all the company’s decisions. The women are paid fair wages, have superannuation and also contribute to a school for deaf children as originally the group was begun to help the mothers of deaf children. They are making wedding favour boxes from Palmyrah leaf for us and we have more things in development with them.

Photo albums have 32 pages of handmade paddy husk paper each separated by tissue paper with an elephant dung cover with brass elephant motif
I’m also really excited about our new range of Eco Xmas Trees and Wreaths and the Kitchen and Body brushes handmade from natural fibres. I had seen these brushes used in the villages and fell in love with them, they are so functional and utilise the natural materials that are abundant in Sri Lanka. It has taken some time to find a producer that could meet the standards we require both in the treatment of their workers and in the finished product. All the components used are natural unbleached materials such as the Alistonia timber and the natural sisal, or use waste products such as the coco fibre which uses the husk from the coconut and the rubber wood which is a waste product from rubber production when the tree has reached the end of its productive life. 

You can also find Import Ants on Twitter and Facebook

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Blow a Kiss to the World this Valentine's Day

Love truly brings out the best in us – we become unselfish, kind and thoughtful. We want to sing loudly (usually off-key) as we go about our day, shaking hands with puppies and kissing old ladies on the head. It’s as if your heart physically expands so that you can fit more inside it!  

This Valentine’s Day why not take the opportunity to send your love further afield this year with these ethical gifts?

Recycled Stainless Steel Heart Earrings by Polli - These heartfelt accessories are crafted from 75% recycled stainless steel by designers Maja Rose and Tess Lloyd in a socially responsible studio in Sydney
Heart Print Camisole Dress from People Tree -Sweet nightie made from 100% organic fairtrade certified cotton
Passionflower Exotic Bath and Body Oil by Pure Fiji - This gorgeous blend of coconut oil and nut extracts will definitely put you in the mood for passion!
Huayruro Necklace from Knots & Stones - This gorgeous blood-red necklace is made with with natural bombona seed accents
Plant-a-Bloom Pop-up Heart from Love Eco - What a wonderful substitute for the usual Valentine's Day card! This delightful heart-shaped decoration is embedded with seeds so that your loved one also receives the gift of a new plant!
Reclaimed Rosewood Bangle by Kayoo - Instead of a single stemmed rose, why not hint that you'd prefer some recycled rosewood jewellery? Simple, elegant and very classy bangle handcrafted by Balinese artisans
Take Me, I'm Yours Ring by Linne Mclarty - I'd be over the moon to receive this stunning silver flower! Award-winning designer, Linnie Mclarty creates her jewellery using 100% recycled silver and gold that has been certified fairtrade and fairmined
Sweet Romance Gift Pack from Divine Chocolate - Go decadent with a clear conscience this year with fairtrade vegetarian friendly chocolates and organic rose! Yuuum!
Grace Bracelet by Kimberley Selwood -Lovingly crafted with recycled sterling silver this sophisticated yet ephemeral piece is available exclusively at ethical jewellery boutique Olive & Reg
Treeheart Love Card by Earth Greetings - I adore this unconventional card with its tweet as sugar parrot design printed on 100% post-consumer waste board
Kissing Swallows Necklace by Vling - Super cute swallow necklace made from upcycled vinyl records :D
Triple Story peaceBomb Bracelet Set from Article 22: peaceBomb - These truly unique bracelets are hand cast by Laotian artisans from aluminum Vietnam War bomb and scrap metal that litters their farmland; every purchase supports the livelihoods of artisans that work according to their own environmentally and culturally sustainable traditions. What a special way to tell someone you love them!
Aluma Cuff in Bordeaux Red by Oceanides - This luscious cuff was inspired by the delicate cellular structure of a type of microscopic alga found in the Southern Ocean. Surely nothing says I love you like algae?
I Like You and Naps Card by Sad Shop - What's love without some laughter? Tell it like it is with this love note to your Valentine and to nap-time ;o)
Beer Gift Hamper from Naturally Gifted - Does your Valentine like the odd drop? Then why not spoil them with this amazing selection of organic and carbon neutral beers with some organic tasty treats thrown in too!
Overnight Bag by Elvis & Kresse - Give the man you love a bag he'll be proud to show his mates - this overnight/sports bag has been made from genuine decommissioned!
Valentine Tees by Hendrick Boards - Doing something together to help animals is ALWAYS romantic! These charming tees from Hendrick Boards are made from 100% certified organic cotton and each purchase aids rescue shelters! =^..^= xox
PAWSitively Yours Charm Bracelet from Fred Myer Jewelers - This diamond bracelet is a very sparkly way to celebrate your love of all creatures great and small! Proceeds from each purchase go toward the very important work done by the Humane Society

For more Valentine's Day eco-inspiration check out my feature "I Heart Eco and I Heart You" in the fabulous Daisy Green Magazine!


Saturday, 4 February 2012

Rare Tee Clothing - Using Style to Save Species

Catherine Mullins from Rare Tee Clothing is helping people to wear their hearts on their sleeve by combining fashion and threatened species conservation! 

Catherine was gracious enough to chat with Kindness by Design about style, threatened species and living green. 

Q. Can you tell us a little about how Rare Tee Clothing was conceived?

I have been asked this question several times since starting the t-shirts, and it is always a favorite to answer. Rare Tee was created out of a want and need for an ethical fashion company. A need for a company who cares about how the garment is made and the message it conveys as much as the profits that might be made. While working in the fashion industry, I quickly realized ethical companies (fashion) who care about the earth, animals, and even people are few and far between. Rare Tee was created as a way to give to those who are actively helping animals in need and to educate the general public on the plight of endangered and threatened species through our graphic art. 

Giant Panda Racer Back Tank - This bamboo munching beauty has become a well-known symbol for wildlife conservation. Pandas have the digestive system of a carnivore, but they have adapted to a vegetarian diet! Learn more about this lovable species from WWF
Q. What are the keys factors that make Rare Tee Clothing an ecologically responsible choice for shoppers?

There are several key factors that make Rare Tee an eco responsible choice for shoppers. We manufacture all our products in Los Angeles only. Production is done within a 15 mile radius, cutting down transportation emissions. All of our tags, business cards, and packaging are made from 100% post consumer products. Most of the jewelry is made using recycled or vintage materials, such as scrabble tiles and recycled silver charms. We try to be eco conscience in every part of our business, even down to the paper we print on. 

Wood Jasper Bracelet
Q. Which wildlife charities is Rare Tee Clothing currently working with?

Rare Tee is currently donating to Jungle Friends, Mercy for Animals, and Wildlife Waystation. Jungle Friends is a primate sanctuary located in Florida. They offer a permanent, safe haven for monkeys from the U.S. who have been abused, confiscate by authorities, retired from research, or who have been abandon by thoughtless owners. Jungle Friends also speaks to audiences about the plight of primates in captivity, and that wild animals should never be kept as pets. They educate the public on the importance of keeping a wild animal in its natural habitat.

Philippine Tarsier Tee - This species lives in the lowland and coastal forests in the Philippines and is related to lemurs, bush babies, and lorises
Mercy for Animals is a national organization dedicated to preventing cruelty to farm animals through ad campaigns and undercover investigations. As a vegan company we feel it is important to support all animals, and those who rescue them.

Wildlife Waystation is a holding rehabilitation, medical, and problem solving refuge for native, wild, and exotic animals. This 24 hour facility is devoted to caring for and returning injured, sick, or abandon native wildlife to its natural habitat. Located in the Los Angeles National Forest , Wildlife Waystation has helped a variety of animals such as lions, tigers, primates, bears, opossums, foxes, deer, and birds. Their overall goal is to preserve wildlife and cease its abuse and mistreatment.

Q. What endangered species are you most passionate about?

There isn't a particular species I'm more passionate about than the other, I love them all. We do like to feature the "under dogs" in our designs; species that might not get the media or publicity as some others do. For example, reptiles, bats, and insects. If it's endangered we want people to know about it, even if they aren't cute or cuddly.

Panther Chameleon Tee - This gorgeous reptile is endemic to the forests of Madagascar. Astonishingly their tongues are two times the length of their bodies!
Q. Who are your favourite ethical designers?

Ecoskin is a favorite, beautiful color choices and wonderful knits. Popomomo is another favorite, they have amazing designs and great eco friendly fabrics. My friend Jennifer Miller from Mission Savvy introduced me to some great collections, and features a lot of them in her eco boutique.

Q. In your opinion, what is the most pressing environmental concern for the 21st century?

This question is a tough one. With a growing human population I think using sustainable, clean, and renewable energy sources is very important. Burning fossil fuels creates greenhouse gas emissions alongside another pressing issue...Deforestation. Removing large areas of forest for farming and or urban areas is devastating to the earth, so there is a desperate need for sustainable farming practices. All this threatens hundreds of species of animals and plants that help maintain a balance in our ecosystem. There are many environmental concerns for the 21st century, and all as equally as important as the other. Everything is linked together, and one issue will tie into the next and so on and so on.

Sea Turtle Earrings - Learn more about these ancient mariners at WWF
Q. What’s on the horizon for Rare Tee Clothing?

We have some exciting things going on in the future. We are introducing a new line of tees. The new shirts will have a new fit and will be made of 100% organic cotton. Again, all of our manufacturing will be done within a 15 mile radius, even our fabric miller is right around the corner! We will be working on incorporating new apparel pieces into our line. We also will be working more directly with small and local animal organizations. 

Why not connect with Rare Tee on Facebook and Twitter?

Hawaiian Monk Seal Tank - This species is known locally as Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua which translates to “the dog that runs in the rough (waters)”