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April 17, 2008

Green Entrepreneurs

In early March I began to write some very short little pieces for Shared Vision Magazine talking to "green" entrepreneurs.

I've talked to an aromatherapist with a company called SmellThis!,a young mother who has a small baby products line made out of bamboo called Bamboobino, and Stacey Toews, a guy who owns a direct fair trade coffee company in Saanich called Level Ground Trading.

I don't know about you but it's not all that often that I meet people who really blow me away in terms of how they have crafted a life that has stayed true to their personal values and, most significantly, are doing something that has made a positive impact on quite a few other people. Their life is their example.

Stacey Toews would seem to be that kind of guy. After speaking with him, I would have no qualms recommending his product because I have no doubt that how Level Ground Trading interacts with the farmers and the cooperatives in the five countries where they work (Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Ethiopia, Tanzania) is above board.

His definition of direct fair trade means he has met the people in person, it's not a one-sided definition of the word "fair", it ensures the farming practices being used are sustainable, and he cares about how being in the community can impact the community positively through other projects.

When he and his wife met, about 16 years ago, they both agreed that they wanted to create a family through adoption. They had volunteered when they were in their 20's in South East Asia. He worked with street youth in a remote part of the Phillipines. So, they adopted three kids from Haiti with the help of an organization called The Foundation for Children of Haiti. As life would have it, just 6 months ago, they had a baby they made together, biologically. (I wanted to avoid saying they had their own baby because of course their adopted children are their own, as much as children are anyone's.)

When I talked to him it was really clear to me that we all need to become a lot more educated about the terms that are floating around now because even though I've heard the terms fair trade and direct fair trade, I didn't really know what the difference was. And, just because someone is using them, doesn't mean their business practices are following the spirit of the original intent.

So, the next time you go to buy coffee beans, buy direct fair trade and buy his. He sells at more than 300 locations in Canada and the US.

There's a big sustainable living Expo this weekend starting on Friday called EPIC. If you're interested, it runs until the 20th from 10:00 am - 5:00 pm at the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre.

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