Jeremy Piercy, founder of Shared Earth, writes
I've always been mad keen on protecting the environment. Forty years ago, I was considered a crank because I insisted on recycling bottles, before even the idea of kerbside collections was considered. Twenty years ago I was planting trees. Today, I annoy our staff at Shared Earth by insisting we separate all our waste and throw as little as possible to landfill.
Since we first opened in 1986, I've always looked out for recycled products. When we started selling to other shops in 1991, we were one of the first businesses to wholesale cards and stationery made from recycled paper. Since then we've sold products made not just from paper, tin and glass but all kinds of weird and wonderful materials - old saris, bicycle chains, cement bags, door locks, computer boards, plastic bottles, shells and bullets from the war in Cambodia, bus windscreens - many are available here on this website. Often there's just one small workshop in the whole world making them, they're so unusual.
It was really exciting to visit Bali in the early 90s and find we could transfer our greetings card designs on to pencils and other crafts, using a wood called Albesia. This tree only takes about 7 or 8 years to grow; one of the artisans described it to me as a 'weed' which people were glad to remove from their gardens and villages. Whilst recycling is important, many products can't be made from recycled materials, and it's vital that we try to buy products which are sustainable (‘eco-friendly’ is another term commonly used). Fair Trade is about improving people's lives, but there's no point in this trade if orders dry up because the material used won't last, or communities are damaged or destroyed because the environment is not respected. (It's highly unusual for products to last so long, but you can still see some of these pencils on our website today, as well as many other products made from Albesia wood).
Just entering this part of our website shows you must be at least interested and maybe keen to support environmental values. It's not just businesses and politicians who make change, individuals too can make a difference. You are in the right place! I hope you enjoy looking at the products we have here. Your purchases will not only benefit the artisans who make them, they will also not have a negative effect on the environment, as so many products do that we see in the shops around us.