On the eve of the G8 summit this summer, an NPR reporter asked an African
man what he hoped the summit, with its conscience newly pricked by the Live
Eight concerts, could achieve. The man answered that beyond any G8 actions,
what Africans really needed was the opportunity to grow and sustain small
This renewed my efforts to shop off the mainstream grid and research
businesses, nationally and internationally, that seemed to be part of a
solution and not a problem. Here are a few that I found.
From Africa itself, there's BeadforLife, a business exchange between
(mostly) women from Uganda and (mostly) women in Boulder, Colorado. The
Ugandan women create jewelry from beads made out of magazine paper, and the
Boulder group markets them. You can find their story, and jewelry, on line.
I wore a wonderful BeadforLife choker on almost every gig of my last tour.
I also wore hemp-silk pants by my new friend, Sara Cross, from CoolNotCruel.
The pants looked great under the lights and also dressed me up for weekly
press events and two weddings.
Alterra Coffee, out of Milwaukee, was my winner for shade grown, organic,
fair trade coffee. They also use geothermal heat in their lakeside café
location and have plans for the largest photovoltaic spread in Wisconsin at
their headquarters. And they donate their compost to an urban community
garden program. They'd win my support for their practices alone, but their
coffee, even the strongest roast, is also great.
There's also Maggie's Organics, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, which has taken a
common sense, innovative step to ensure fair trade by having their clothes
made by a Nicaraguan sewing collective that owns their shop.
I feel incipient panic when I see how our present government has allied
itself with pro-"global"/anti-planet business-as-usual. But then I tell
myself that if I really hate what corporations are buying and selling, it's
up to me, a consumer, to stop paying them.
So pardon all my business plugs (most of their websites are their names, by
the way), but by supporting artisans, collectives, organics, farmers
markets and other forms of more sustainable fair trade, we can contribute to
an American artist's salary that keeps her from selling factory-made jewelry
at a big box store, we can help kids from developing nations go to school
instead of mass-producing our clothes, we can allow human-scale farms to
survive in our communities, and we can vote our dollars in a way that
supports, sustains, and even transforms the world.