By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
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“We’re not Coca-Cola, but our business model is working,” says Christian Tyler, owner of Rainforest Native, which makes jewelry from Amazonian seeds. He and his wife run their company the way the rainforest shamans taught them. “Sometimes the native people offer to sell us bags of seeds for a dollar, but I give them $12. If you release positive energy into the world, it will return to you. We’re now carried in every Whole Foods Market throughout the country. They buy from us in bulk.”
Make note of whether or not a product carries the Fair Trade logo, he advises. It signifies that a company is doing business in a moral way, is paying its employees well, providing them with safe working conditions, not exploiting them for slave labor, not mucking up the environs. He is fair trade all the way, he says. The Fair Trade Federation, based out of Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit certifying group that offers its own standards for business practices as they relate to human rights.
“Look around,” Tyler says. “Some of these people here today don’t do fair trade.” He’s seen many companies pay native workers $3 to drill 10,000 beads, then whip them into a bead-drilling frenzy by offering to pay a tiny bit extra for more beads.
After a lunch of Yerba Mate and vegan tofu eggplant stir fry eaten with a biodegradable potato-plastic fork, I’m all eco-ed out. Sure, I’ll save the planet . . . later. Of course, it probably won’t be around by then. I try to follow Tyler’s seed-bead trail to Whole Foods, the lucky recipient of a voluntary 10 percent of certain vendors’ sales. In fact, the Whole Foods emerald-green recyclable tote bags are everywhere in sight, dangling off attendees’ arms. The young man at the booth, however, explains that it will not be possible to speak with anyone, because the folks from marketing have gone out for chai tea.
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