Organic Top 17

Ode presents our pick of the best, most innovative, inspiring and sustainable products and companies around the world

Elbrich Fennema| October 2006 issue
First, a caveat. Not all the products listed in our Organic Top 17 are available everywhere. We’ve picked a selection of the best products from around the world to show how the ideas of green and sustainable are combining to shape a powerful global trend. After all, national borders—borders that Ode has long since crossed now that it is available in some 90 countries—cannot stop the spread of inspiration. Brilliant, innovative solutions derived from businesses can inspire people anywhere in the world. We hope you too will feel that inspiration.
The editorial staff
Your favourite!
We want to hear about the products or companies you consider the most inspiring. Please feel free to send us an email at editor@odemagazine.com. Your nominee could be part of next year’s Organic Top.
Argan oil
MOROCCO. In 1219, when the famous Egyptian doctor Ibn Al Baythar described the argan tree in his “Treatise of Simplicities” and boasted of its gastronomic qualities, he couldn’t have expected that the argan nut would help emancipate Berber women and preserve the landscape of southern Morocco. Since hand-pressed, organic argan oil from the German firm Argand’Or was named “Product of the Year” in 2005 at BioFach, the leading international trade fair for organic products, the number of co-operatives of Berber women that produce argan oil for Argand’Or is now 20, employing a total of nearly 1,000 women.
In conjunction with the local association of women’s co-operatives, the company ensures that the increasing demand for this delicacy isn’t disruptive to the Berber communities. Traditional production methods are maintained and the argan nuts are harvested using sustainable and ecologically responsible methods from the UNESCO-protected argan forest, which is unique in the world. Argand’Or supports projects for the cultivation of argan trees, which are among the few species that survive on the edge of the advancing Sahara Desert.
A 250-millilitre (eight-ounce) bottle of argan oil that costs 30 euros or $38 U.S. is available in Austria, England, France, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden and Switzerland. www.argandor.com(in German only).
Baby monitor
GERMANY. Every electrical appliance creates an electrical and magnetic field as soon as it is plugged in. Transmitting and wireless equipment also emit this radiation. The catch-all term for such output from electrical equipment is “electrosmog.” Look around and count the number of things with plugs and it becomes clear that electrosmog is omnipresent. And it carries a risk. Growing evidence shows that electrosmog can affect the functioning of our cells and the balance of our hormones as well as weakening our immune system.
It is therefore good news that the German electronics manufacturer Vivanco has developed an electrosmog-free baby monitor as an alternative to the usual models placed near a baby’s relatively thin skull. The Vivanco BM 440 Eco Plus baby monitor creates no electrical or magnetic fields and produces 95 percent less radiation than an ordinary baby monitor—but still has a range of 75 metres (250 feet). Vivanco also sells electrosmog-free baby monitors with greater ranges.
In making this baby monitor—which was rated “very good” by the German consumer magazine Öko-Test—Vivanco switched from the widely used DECT technology to hertz waves. Pulsed DECT signals are continuously interrupted waves to which the human immune system responds, causing unknown changes in the body. But hertz waves are “smooth” and give the immune system no reason to be distressed, according to the state-of-the-art science.
The Vivanco BM 440 Eco Plus baby monitor costs 70 euros or $90 U.S. and is available in Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, the Netherlands and Tahiti.
www.babyfon.com.

Coffee
UNITED STATES. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters began 25 years ago as a small coffee shop in Waitsfield, Vermont, that roasted its own coffee. These local roots may explain why Green Mountain, which now has a staff of 600 and revenue totalling $161 million U.S., is so intent on providing the best environmental and social conditions for its coffee beans, the coffee farmers and their children, as well its employees and customers. All this, of course, raises the company’s expenses. Green Mountain is listed on the NASDAQ exchange but has never paid a dividend. Nor does it expect to in the near future. For the time being, all profits are either given to one of dozens of good causes, or reinvested in the company. The shareholders do get some consolation in the form of a discount on Green Mountain coffee, and the satisfaction of knowing they are part of a socially responsible enterprise.
A 280-gram (10-ounce) package of Green Mountain Coffee costs $8.50 U.S. or 7 euros. Green Mountain ships internationally. www.greenmountaincoffee.com.
Computer mouse
CHINA. Bamboo is a strong material derived from a fast-growing crop. From an ecological standpoint it makes sense (and is increasingly common) to use bamboo as an alternative to wood, which grows more slowly and is usually not sustainably harvested. It turns out that bamboo can also be an excellent replacement for plastic, as evidenced by the optical mouse from Gold Choice Technologies in Hong Kong. This young company produces electronic hardware, using natural products. An added advantage of this innovation: The mouse looks good and operates smoothly.
The bamboo mouse costs $47 U.S. or 37 euros and is available worldwide through the Internet. www.nigelsecostore.com and www.gzccp.com
Vitamins
ENGLAND. In the fast-growing food-supplement industry, smaller companies are often more dedicated to the environment and health than their larger peers. Because these businesses produce in lesser volume, they are often better able to ensure compliance with best practises regarding additives and natural sources of the ingredients. One such small, progressive company is Viridian. This British firm stubbornly sticks to its credo of bringing “health and well-being to everyone it touches and that includes the planet.”
Viridian products are sold in glass containers, which can be returned to the store for a deposit refund; the company avoids styrofoam and plastic packaging. Wherever possible, the ingredients of the vitamin and minerals supplements are organically grown. Half the profit goes to organizations that support justice, nature preservation and health. The English magazine Ethical Consumer named Viridian as “best buy” in its 2004 review of vitamins, giving it the edge over larger brands like Solgar and Centrum.
Viridian products are available in Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Serbia and South Africa. www.viridian-nutrition.com
Goat cheese
GREECE. On the Greek island of Ios, a goat cheese is made using a method that is so old, it may well have been in place when Jason and his Argonauts made their long voyage to retrieve the Golden Fleece. One of the characteristics of the special cheese, called Niotiko, is that it can be preserved for a relatively long time at high temperatures. Just as they did during ancient times, the goats that supply milk for the cheese still roam freely over the island with their herders. They thrive on what grows in the mountains: wild sage, thyme, pine nuts. All this can be tasted in the Niotiko as well as mizithra, a kind of ricotta also made on Ios.
To ensure that this traditional method of cheese-making—as well as the landscape and lifestyle that go with it—can be preserved in the upsurge of tourism on Ios, Slow Food has taken an interest. This international organization—dedicated to the preservation of regional, traditional dishes throughout the world—has branded Niotiko a “protected cheese.” Production remains on a small scale, which is the intention.
Your best bet for tasting Niotiko or mizithra is to take a trip to Ios—or know someone who did.
Toys
ENGLAND. As everyone who spends time with children knows, nothing stimulates their imagination like a big box or package. This was the idea behind Paperpod, an English company that makes sturdy cardboard toys children can play in. The Paperpod playhouses are made of recycled cardboard and allow a child’s fantasy free rein. The toys can be easily folded up and stored between play dates.
The pentagonal Paperpod igloo model costs $68 U.S. or 53 euros and is available in England and, shortly, Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United States via the website: www.paperpod.co.uk.
Soccer
PAKISTAN. A hand-sewn soccer ball bears an average of 657 stitches. Until recently, this work was carried out mainly by children in Pakistan, where three out of four of the world’s soccer balls are assembled. Stitching a ball takes about two hours, and costs around 75 cents U.S. (50 euro cents) in labour. But since the soccer World Championships in 1998, increasing attention has been paid to the conditions under which soccer balls are manufactured—primarily thanks to the Fair Play! Fair Pay? advocacy campaign. Now most major sporting-goods companies guarantee that their balls are stitched under fair conditions. This is essentially good news, but there is a downside: The focus on improving conditions in factories threatens the livelihoods of some Muslim women who are often not allowed to work alongside men. To address the problem, the Fairtrade Labelling Organization has established some workshops exclusively for women. Fairtrade balls are made in in Sialkot, Pakistan, by these female workers who are paid a decent wage, given free health care, free education for their children and access to microcredit to start their own businesses.
Fairtrade soccer balls can be purchased online through www.fairdealtrading.com. Derbystar and Talon also have Fairtrade soccer balls, available in sporting-goods stores worldwide. Prices start at $18 U.S. (14 euros) for a practise ball, and go up to $100 U.S. (78 euros) for a competition ball.
Tote bags
INDIA. The Ragbag has won quite a few prizes, considering it’s been on the market less than a year. Both the professional jury and the children’s jury of the Egg of Columbus award for sustainability and innovation gave top marks to this colourful collection of high-fashion bags and accessories. The pro jury called it a “unique global project that not only involves making a beautiful product that anticipates demand in the fashion-conscious West but also makes it clear that the work is done on the basis of equality and reciprocity with a business focus.” The makers of Ragbag also managed to “bag” the European Business Award for the Environment.
The Ragbag was created following the discovery by Dutch industrial designer Siem Haffmans of the recycling company Conserve in New Delhi, India, which aims to fight poverty and stimulate recycling. The city has somewhere near 50,000 “rag-pickers”: people who collect and sell plastic bags. Conserve sorts the bags by colour, then washes them and presses them into sheets from which the bags are made. Haffmans considered this a great initiative, but thought the bags could use a spiffier look.
Together with designer Ellen Sillekens, Haffmans came up with the Ragbag. The collection now includes shoulder bags, backpacks, shopping bags, organizers and wallets. Ragbag products generate income for some 100 Indian plastic-bag collectors and factory workers. As a result, Ragbag has a positive influence on both the lives of people on the other side of the world and the environment. An added bonus is that the colourful bags brighten things up wherever they are spotted.
A Ragbag shoulder bag costs 46 euros or $59 U.S plus shipping and is available in Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, the United States and via the website: www.ragbag.nl.
Rice milk
UNITED STATES. RiceDream’s success story began in 1984 when Imagine Foods—at that time a small company with its roots in St. Louis, Missouri—presented an experimental alternative for dairy at a trade fair. This rice drink proved to be a fantastic alternative for the increasing numbers of children who are allergic to cow’s milk. RiceDream is mild and sweet, exactly right on morning cornflakes. Moreover, RiceDream is gluten free, Kosher, contains no GMO ingredients and is suitable for vegans, soy-intolerant people and those allergic to peanuts or corn.
A litre (just under a quart) of RiceDream costs $4 U.S. (3 euros) and is available in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. www.tastethedream.com.
Battery
ENGLAND. Cell phones, digital cameras, hand-held gaming devices, iPods and GPS gadgets are all eminently portable, and do things considered impossible just a few years back. There’s only one weak link: electricity. As soon as you move away from an outlet, you must eventually put your favourite toys aside. That is, unless you have a Solio, a portable battery that can be charged in an electrical outlet, giving it an extra dose of energy. Nothing unusual about that. But it can also do things considered impossible just a few years ago, like run on solar energy. That’s not only good for the environment, but lets you stay plugged in far from civilization.
This is possible because of Solio’s special collapsible wings, to which solar panels are affixed, allowing it to be recharged by daylight. The Solio is the first brainchild of Better Energy Systems, a British company that aims to bridge the gap between renewable energy and the consumer by developing environmentally friendly products that combine function with fashion. Employees of the Red Cross now carry Solio chargers so they can communicate in disaster areas without electricity.
A Solio battery costs $58 U.S. or 78 euros and can be purchased in Apple stores and online, among other places. They’re available in Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, Fiji, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland and the United States. www.solio.com
Building materials
THE NETHERLANDS. Clay is one of the oldest building materials in the world and has a number of amazing qualities: It insulates well for heat and moisture, contains no chemicals and is recyclable, fire retardant and relatively soundproof. Thanks to the firm Leembouw Nederland, which develops clay products under the brand name Tierrafino, this material is now more easily available for modern applications—such as clay stucco that can be plastered on plasterboard for the walls of our homes, and clay-based paint for surfaces that cannot be plastered.
Because using the product requires some expertise, Leembouw Nederland trains plasterers and organizes workshops for private individuals and professionals. Thanks to its pioneering work, clay is starting to stage a comeback as a building material. Tierrafino clay can be easily mixed to create an unbelievable range of natural, pleasant colours.
A 25-kilogram (55-pound) bag of Tierrafino clay finish (good for six square metres or 65 square feet), costs $79 U.S. or 45 euros. It’s available in Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States. www.tierrafino.com
Wine
SOUTH AFRICA. Only a handful of wine producers worldwide have earned a fair-trade quality mark and Stellar Organics Winery is one of them. In the vineyard 275 kilometres (170 miles) north of Cape Town, South Africa, the grapes are not only grown in compliance with the guidelines of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, but in line with organic principles for wine cultivation. Instead, the winery uses natural alternatives, like allowing ducks to roam between the grape vines and eat the snails. This wine house has been showered with awards at the yearly BioFach natural products trade fair. And as if that weren’t enough, along with producing the pricier “serious” wines, Stellar also makes less-expensive alternatives so that organic wine is available to a wider public.
A bottle of wine from Stellar Organics Winery costs between $7 U.S. (5 euros) and $15 (12 euros). Available in Angola, Austria, Belgium, the Caribbean, the Channel Islands, China, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Ireland, the Ivory Coast, Japan, Namibia, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. www.stellarorganics.com
Soft drinks
AUSTRALIA. No artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or GMO ingredients here: simply the real taste of lemon, ginger, bay leaves, camomile and lots more organically harvested flavours. Add the inevitable carbonation that makes a soft drink a soft drink and you have Australia’s Wort Organics refreshments in three flavours.
Four bottles of Wort (300 millilitres or 10 ounces each) cost $8.50 U.S. or 6 euros and are available in Australia, Belgium, England, Germany and the Netherlands. www.wortorganic.com
Shoes
CANADA. These sneakers are made from organically grown cotton and recycled rubber bands. And they are produced in a factory with exemplary labour practises. But this isn’t the Blackspot sneaker’s ultimate claim to fame. What really makes them stand out from other sports shoes is that the moment you buy a pair you’re a shareholder in the Blackspot Anticorporation.
An anticorporation? Indeed. This company originated with Adbusters Media Foundation, the international network (known because of the magazine of the same name) that bubbles with creative aversion to advertising, consumerism and corporate social irresponsibility. After years of playful protest, the Canadian headquarters came up with the idea of giving the big companies a “swift kick in the brand.” This led to the concept of “anti-entrepreneurship” and the Blackspot Anticorporation, which aims to make human and environmentally friendly products for which there is truly a demand and which aren’t pushed on us by endless, screaming advertisements. The Blackspot sneaker had just gone into production after pre-orders proved it would be not only popular but profitable.
Aside from an “anti-brand,” Blackspot is also an experiment in blending capitalism and democracy. Shareholders have a vote in how the profits are spent. In part, they fund campaigns against major corporations. Considering that Nike is the brand Adbusters most loves to hate, a decision has also been made to invest in the development of the Unswoosher, a parody of the Nike symbol.
And finally: Anyone who doesn’t want the sneakers but likes the idea behind them can put the Blackspot logo—a hand-drawn black spot—on the toe of their own sneakers. It won’t give you voting rights, but the symbolic swift kick in the brand is just as important.
The Blackspot sneaker sells for $59 U.S. or 46 euros, the Unswoosher $86 or 67 euros, plus shipping, when ordered online at www.blackspotshoes.org. See also www.antipreneur.org
Honey
A buzz on the wild side
THE NETHERLANDS. The daily noon meal at Ode’s editorial office in Rotterdam is a festive affair involving fresh organic vegetables, fruit and healthy juices. One delicacy that’s always on the menu is wildflower honey from De Traay. Its EKO certification guarantees, among other things, that the bees gather their nectar in untouched natural areas, where no trace of chemical pesticides can be found and the nearest road or industrial activity is at least seven kilometres (four miles) away. And not only are no chemicals used, but sick bees are treated with essential oils. Truth be told, though, what we really like about this honey is the taste.
A 900-gram (32-ounce) jar of De Traay honey costs $13 or 10 euros and is available only in the Netherlands (sorry!). www.detraay.com
Body care
Kiss my toxin-free face
UNITED STATES. The rocketing popularity of organic products means that a lot of what you encounter in the shopping aisles today is manufactured by latecomers to the cause. Many big food and care-product corporations like General Mills and Estée Lauder that have immense competitive advantages over the small companies that started the industry now distribute organic lines. So what’s to become of the original pioneers? Some have been absorbed by the bigger companies, but others remain stubbornly independent and thrive by pushing the boundaries of natural products. A good example is Kiss My Face, launched in the early 1980s by two earnest young men living on an organic farm in upstate New York. Now, almost 25 years later, Kiss My Face features scores of organic products including soap, moisturizer, shampoo, shaving cream, suntan lotion, bath gel, deodorants and more, claiming to be the first company in the world to retail all-organic, wild-crafted facial care products with no artificial ingredients. All items are vegan, with the exception of eight made from honey or beeswax and one from cream. No ingredient or product has ever been tested on animals. Many are fragrance-free, and most of the others are scented with essential oils. Gluten is found in only a handful of Kiss My Face products.
Kiss My Face care products are available in Canada, Croatia, Germany, Guam, Hong Kong, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, Taiwan, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries in Europe. www.kissmyface.com
 

Solution News Source

Organic Top 17

Ode presents our pick of the best, most innovative, inspiring and sustainable products and companies around the world

Elbrich Fennema| October 2006 issue
First, a caveat. Not all the products listed in our Organic Top 17 are available everywhere. We’ve picked a selection of the best products from around the world to show how the ideas of green and sustainable are combining to shape a powerful global trend. After all, national borders—borders that Ode has long since crossed now that it is available in some 90 countries—cannot stop the spread of inspiration. Brilliant, innovative solutions derived from businesses can inspire people anywhere in the world. We hope you too will feel that inspiration.
The editorial staff
Your favourite!
We want to hear about the products or companies you consider the most inspiring. Please feel free to send us an email at editor@odemagazine.com. Your nominee could be part of next year’s Organic Top.
Argan oil
MOROCCO. In 1219, when the famous Egyptian doctor Ibn Al Baythar described the argan tree in his “Treatise of Simplicities” and boasted of its gastronomic qualities, he couldn’t have expected that the argan nut would help emancipate Berber women and preserve the landscape of southern Morocco. Since hand-pressed, organic argan oil from the German firm Argand’Or was named “Product of the Year” in 2005 at BioFach, the leading international trade fair for organic products, the number of co-operatives of Berber women that produce argan oil for Argand’Or is now 20, employing a total of nearly 1,000 women.
In conjunction with the local association of women’s co-operatives, the company ensures that the increasing demand for this delicacy isn’t disruptive to the Berber communities. Traditional production methods are maintained and the argan nuts are harvested using sustainable and ecologically responsible methods from the UNESCO-protected argan forest, which is unique in the world. Argand’Or supports projects for the cultivation of argan trees, which are among the few species that survive on the edge of the advancing Sahara Desert.
A 250-millilitre (eight-ounce) bottle of argan oil that costs 30 euros or $38 U.S. is available in Austria, England, France, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden and Switzerland. www.argandor.com(in German only).
Baby monitor
GERMANY. Every electrical appliance creates an electrical and magnetic field as soon as it is plugged in. Transmitting and wireless equipment also emit this radiation. The catch-all term for such output from electrical equipment is “electrosmog.” Look around and count the number of things with plugs and it becomes clear that electrosmog is omnipresent. And it carries a risk. Growing evidence shows that electrosmog can affect the functioning of our cells and the balance of our hormones as well as weakening our immune system.
It is therefore good news that the German electronics manufacturer Vivanco has developed an electrosmog-free baby monitor as an alternative to the usual models placed near a baby’s relatively thin skull. The Vivanco BM 440 Eco Plus baby monitor creates no electrical or magnetic fields and produces 95 percent less radiation than an ordinary baby monitor—but still has a range of 75 metres (250 feet). Vivanco also sells electrosmog-free baby monitors with greater ranges.
In making this baby monitor—which was rated “very good” by the German consumer magazine Öko-Test—Vivanco switched from the widely used DECT technology to hertz waves. Pulsed DECT signals are continuously interrupted waves to which the human immune system responds, causing unknown changes in the body. But hertz waves are “smooth” and give the immune system no reason to be distressed, according to the state-of-the-art science.
The Vivanco BM 440 Eco Plus baby monitor costs 70 euros or $90 U.S. and is available in Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, the Netherlands and Tahiti.
www.babyfon.com.

Coffee
UNITED STATES. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters began 25 years ago as a small coffee shop in Waitsfield, Vermont, that roasted its own coffee. These local roots may explain why Green Mountain, which now has a staff of 600 and revenue totalling $161 million U.S., is so intent on providing the best environmental and social conditions for its coffee beans, the coffee farmers and their children, as well its employees and customers. All this, of course, raises the company’s expenses. Green Mountain is listed on the NASDAQ exchange but has never paid a dividend. Nor does it expect to in the near future. For the time being, all profits are either given to one of dozens of good causes, or reinvested in the company. The shareholders do get some consolation in the form of a discount on Green Mountain coffee, and the satisfaction of knowing they are part of a socially responsible enterprise.
A 280-gram (10-ounce) package of Green Mountain Coffee costs $8.50 U.S. or 7 euros. Green Mountain ships internationally. www.greenmountaincoffee.com.
Computer mouse
CHINA. Bamboo is a strong material derived from a fast-growing crop. From an ecological standpoint it makes sense (and is increasingly common) to use bamboo as an alternative to wood, which grows more slowly and is usually not sustainably harvested. It turns out that bamboo can also be an excellent replacement for plastic, as evidenced by the optical mouse from Gold Choice Technologies in Hong Kong. This young company produces electronic hardware, using natural products. An added advantage of this innovation: The mouse looks good and operates smoothly.
The bamboo mouse costs $47 U.S. or 37 euros and is available worldwide through the Internet. www.nigelsecostore.com and www.gzccp.com
Vitamins
ENGLAND. In the fast-growing food-supplement industry, smaller companies are often more dedicated to the environment and health than their larger peers. Because these businesses produce in lesser volume, they are often better able to ensure compliance with best practises regarding additives and natural sources of the ingredients. One such small, progressive company is Viridian. This British firm stubbornly sticks to its credo of bringing “health and well-being to everyone it touches and that includes the planet.”
Viridian products are sold in glass containers, which can be returned to the store for a deposit refund; the company avoids styrofoam and plastic packaging. Wherever possible, the ingredients of the vitamin and minerals supplements are organically grown. Half the profit goes to organizations that support justice, nature preservation and health. The English magazine Ethical Consumer named Viridian as “best buy” in its 2004 review of vitamins, giving it the edge over larger brands like Solgar and Centrum.
Viridian products are available in Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Serbia and South Africa. www.viridian-nutrition.com
Goat cheese
GREECE. On the Greek island of Ios, a goat cheese is made using a method that is so old, it may well have been in place when Jason and his Argonauts made their long voyage to retrieve the Golden Fleece. One of the characteristics of the special cheese, called Niotiko, is that it can be preserved for a relatively long time at high temperatures. Just as they did during ancient times, the goats that supply milk for the cheese still roam freely over the island with their herders. They thrive on what grows in the mountains: wild sage, thyme, pine nuts. All this can be tasted in the Niotiko as well as mizithra, a kind of ricotta also made on Ios.
To ensure that this traditional method of cheese-making—as well as the landscape and lifestyle that go with it—can be preserved in the upsurge of tourism on Ios, Slow Food has taken an interest. This international organization—dedicated to the preservation of regional, traditional dishes throughout the world—has branded Niotiko a “protected cheese.” Production remains on a small scale, which is the intention.
Your best bet for tasting Niotiko or mizithra is to take a trip to Ios—or know someone who did.
Toys
ENGLAND. As everyone who spends time with children knows, nothing stimulates their imagination like a big box or package. This was the idea behind Paperpod, an English company that makes sturdy cardboard toys children can play in. The Paperpod playhouses are made of recycled cardboard and allow a child’s fantasy free rein. The toys can be easily folded up and stored between play dates.
The pentagonal Paperpod igloo model costs $68 U.S. or 53 euros and is available in England and, shortly, Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United States via the website: www.paperpod.co.uk.
Soccer
PAKISTAN. A hand-sewn soccer ball bears an average of 657 stitches. Until recently, this work was carried out mainly by children in Pakistan, where three out of four of the world’s soccer balls are assembled. Stitching a ball takes about two hours, and costs around 75 cents U.S. (50 euro cents) in labour. But since the soccer World Championships in 1998, increasing attention has been paid to the conditions under which soccer balls are manufactured—primarily thanks to the Fair Play! Fair Pay? advocacy campaign. Now most major sporting-goods companies guarantee that their balls are stitched under fair conditions. This is essentially good news, but there is a downside: The focus on improving conditions in factories threatens the livelihoods of some Muslim women who are often not allowed to work alongside men. To address the problem, the Fairtrade Labelling Organization has established some workshops exclusively for women. Fairtrade balls are made in in Sialkot, Pakistan, by these female workers who are paid a decent wage, given free health care, free education for their children and access to microcredit to start their own businesses.
Fairtrade soccer balls can be purchased online through www.fairdealtrading.com. Derbystar and Talon also have Fairtrade soccer balls, available in sporting-goods stores worldwide. Prices start at $18 U.S. (14 euros) for a practise ball, and go up to $100 U.S. (78 euros) for a competition ball.
Tote bags
INDIA. The Ragbag has won quite a few prizes, considering it’s been on the market less than a year. Both the professional jury and the children’s jury of the Egg of Columbus award for sustainability and innovation gave top marks to this colourful collection of high-fashion bags and accessories. The pro jury called it a “unique global project that not only involves making a beautiful product that anticipates demand in the fashion-conscious West but also makes it clear that the work is done on the basis of equality and reciprocity with a business focus.” The makers of Ragbag also managed to “bag” the European Business Award for the Environment.
The Ragbag was created following the discovery by Dutch industrial designer Siem Haffmans of the recycling company Conserve in New Delhi, India, which aims to fight poverty and stimulate recycling. The city has somewhere near 50,000 “rag-pickers”: people who collect and sell plastic bags. Conserve sorts the bags by colour, then washes them and presses them into sheets from which the bags are made. Haffmans considered this a great initiative, but thought the bags could use a spiffier look.
Together with designer Ellen Sillekens, Haffmans came up with the Ragbag. The collection now includes shoulder bags, backpacks, shopping bags, organizers and wallets. Ragbag products generate income for some 100 Indian plastic-bag collectors and factory workers. As a result, Ragbag has a positive influence on both the lives of people on the other side of the world and the environment. An added bonus is that the colourful bags brighten things up wherever they are spotted.
A Ragbag shoulder bag costs 46 euros or $59 U.S plus shipping and is available in Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, the United States and via the website: www.ragbag.nl.
Rice milk
UNITED STATES. RiceDream’s success story began in 1984 when Imagine Foods—at that time a small company with its roots in St. Louis, Missouri—presented an experimental alternative for dairy at a trade fair. This rice drink proved to be a fantastic alternative for the increasing numbers of children who are allergic to cow’s milk. RiceDream is mild and sweet, exactly right on morning cornflakes. Moreover, RiceDream is gluten free, Kosher, contains no GMO ingredients and is suitable for vegans, soy-intolerant people and those allergic to peanuts or corn.
A litre (just under a quart) of RiceDream costs $4 U.S. (3 euros) and is available in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. www.tastethedream.com.
Battery
ENGLAND. Cell phones, digital cameras, hand-held gaming devices, iPods and GPS gadgets are all eminently portable, and do things considered impossible just a few years back. There’s only one weak link: electricity. As soon as you move away from an outlet, you must eventually put your favourite toys aside. That is, unless you have a Solio, a portable battery that can be charged in an electrical outlet, giving it an extra dose of energy. Nothing unusual about that. But it can also do things considered impossible just a few years ago, like run on solar energy. That’s not only good for the environment, but lets you stay plugged in far from civilization.
This is possible because of Solio’s special collapsible wings, to which solar panels are affixed, allowing it to be recharged by daylight. The Solio is the first brainchild of Better Energy Systems, a British company that aims to bridge the gap between renewable energy and the consumer by developing environmentally friendly products that combine function with fashion. Employees of the Red Cross now carry Solio chargers so they can communicate in disaster areas without electricity.
A Solio battery costs $58 U.S. or 78 euros and can be purchased in Apple stores and online, among other places. They’re available in Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, Fiji, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland and the United States. www.solio.com
Building materials
THE NETHERLANDS. Clay is one of the oldest building materials in the world and has a number of amazing qualities: It insulates well for heat and moisture, contains no chemicals and is recyclable, fire retardant and relatively soundproof. Thanks to the firm Leembouw Nederland, which develops clay products under the brand name Tierrafino, this material is now more easily available for modern applications—such as clay stucco that can be plastered on plasterboard for the walls of our homes, and clay-based paint for surfaces that cannot be plastered.
Because using the product requires some expertise, Leembouw Nederland trains plasterers and organizes workshops for private individuals and professionals. Thanks to its pioneering work, clay is starting to stage a comeback as a building material. Tierrafino clay can be easily mixed to create an unbelievable range of natural, pleasant colours.
A 25-kilogram (55-pound) bag of Tierrafino clay finish (good for six square metres or 65 square feet), costs $79 U.S. or 45 euros. It’s available in Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States. www.tierrafino.com
Wine
SOUTH AFRICA. Only a handful of wine producers worldwide have earned a fair-trade quality mark and Stellar Organics Winery is one of them. In the vineyard 275 kilometres (170 miles) north of Cape Town, South Africa, the grapes are not only grown in compliance with the guidelines of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, but in line with organic principles for wine cultivation. Instead, the winery uses natural alternatives, like allowing ducks to roam between the grape vines and eat the snails. This wine house has been showered with awards at the yearly BioFach natural products trade fair. And as if that weren’t enough, along with producing the pricier “serious” wines, Stellar also makes less-expensive alternatives so that organic wine is available to a wider public.
A bottle of wine from Stellar Organics Winery costs between $7 U.S. (5 euros) and $15 (12 euros). Available in Angola, Austria, Belgium, the Caribbean, the Channel Islands, China, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Ireland, the Ivory Coast, Japan, Namibia, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. www.stellarorganics.com
Soft drinks
AUSTRALIA. No artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or GMO ingredients here: simply the real taste of lemon, ginger, bay leaves, camomile and lots more organically harvested flavours. Add the inevitable carbonation that makes a soft drink a soft drink and you have Australia’s Wort Organics refreshments in three flavours.
Four bottles of Wort (300 millilitres or 10 ounces each) cost $8.50 U.S. or 6 euros and are available in Australia, Belgium, England, Germany and the Netherlands. www.wortorganic.com
Shoes
CANADA. These sneakers are made from organically grown cotton and recycled rubber bands. And they are produced in a factory with exemplary labour practises. But this isn’t the Blackspot sneaker’s ultimate claim to fame. What really makes them stand out from other sports shoes is that the moment you buy a pair you’re a shareholder in the Blackspot Anticorporation.
An anticorporation? Indeed. This company originated with Adbusters Media Foundation, the international network (known because of the magazine of the same name) that bubbles with creative aversion to advertising, consumerism and corporate social irresponsibility. After years of playful protest, the Canadian headquarters came up with the idea of giving the big companies a “swift kick in the brand.” This led to the concept of “anti-entrepreneurship” and the Blackspot Anticorporation, which aims to make human and environmentally friendly products for which there is truly a demand and which aren’t pushed on us by endless, screaming advertisements. The Blackspot sneaker had just gone into production after pre-orders proved it would be not only popular but profitable.
Aside from an “anti-brand,” Blackspot is also an experiment in blending capitalism and democracy. Shareholders have a vote in how the profits are spent. In part, they fund campaigns against major corporations. Considering that Nike is the brand Adbusters most loves to hate, a decision has also been made to invest in the development of the Unswoosher, a parody of the Nike symbol.
And finally: Anyone who doesn’t want the sneakers but likes the idea behind them can put the Blackspot logo—a hand-drawn black spot—on the toe of their own sneakers. It won’t give you voting rights, but the symbolic swift kick in the brand is just as important.
The Blackspot sneaker sells for $59 U.S. or 46 euros, the Unswoosher $86 or 67 euros, plus shipping, when ordered online at www.blackspotshoes.org. See also www.antipreneur.org
Honey
A buzz on the wild side
THE NETHERLANDS. The daily noon meal at Ode’s editorial office in Rotterdam is a festive affair involving fresh organic vegetables, fruit and healthy juices. One delicacy that’s always on the menu is wildflower honey from De Traay. Its EKO certification guarantees, among other things, that the bees gather their nectar in untouched natural areas, where no trace of chemical pesticides can be found and the nearest road or industrial activity is at least seven kilometres (four miles) away. And not only are no chemicals used, but sick bees are treated with essential oils. Truth be told, though, what we really like about this honey is the taste.
A 900-gram (32-ounce) jar of De Traay honey costs $13 or 10 euros and is available only in the Netherlands (sorry!). www.detraay.com
Body care
Kiss my toxin-free face
UNITED STATES. The rocketing popularity of organic products means that a lot of what you encounter in the shopping aisles today is manufactured by latecomers to the cause. Many big food and care-product corporations like General Mills and Estée Lauder that have immense competitive advantages over the small companies that started the industry now distribute organic lines. So what’s to become of the original pioneers? Some have been absorbed by the bigger companies, but others remain stubbornly independent and thrive by pushing the boundaries of natural products. A good example is Kiss My Face, launched in the early 1980s by two earnest young men living on an organic farm in upstate New York. Now, almost 25 years later, Kiss My Face features scores of organic products including soap, moisturizer, shampoo, shaving cream, suntan lotion, bath gel, deodorants and more, claiming to be the first company in the world to retail all-organic, wild-crafted facial care products with no artificial ingredients. All items are vegan, with the exception of eight made from honey or beeswax and one from cream. No ingredient or product has ever been tested on animals. Many are fragrance-free, and most of the others are scented with essential oils. Gluten is found in only a handful of Kiss My Face products.
Kiss My Face care products are available in Canada, Croatia, Germany, Guam, Hong Kong, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, Taiwan, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries in Europe. www.kissmyface.com
 

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