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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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January 6, 2006

It's getting easier being green

Thousands of people logged on to Co-op America to vote for their favorite green business of 2005. Ten Thousand Villages won the People’s Choice Award. This first-ever contest signals growing awareness and acceptance of business that commit to sustainability, and willingness to pay, maybe, a bit more for products that go easy on our good, green Earth.

The crafts for home and personal use that fill the stores in the Ten Thousand Villages network certainly are in that category—paper made from weeds that clog the streams in Bangladesh, whimsical earrings cut from old pop cans in Kenya, coasters formed from recycled newspapers in the Philippines and much, much more.

Concerned as this 50-plus year old non-profit, fair-trade business is about the Earth, it’s just as passionate about caring for people. Most of the crafters who produce the products in their villages in the two-thirds world wouldn’t have work—or a way to feed and house their families—if it weren’t for the orders they receive from The Thousand Villages.

I’ve told this story countless times to the people who walk through the door of the Evanston, Ill., store where I’m a Saturday volunteer. It never gets boring. And it’s never hard to amaze them with the skill and ingenuity of the drafters or the beauty and quality of what they make.

But here’s what I admire most about Ten Thousand Villages: At the end of the day, when the manager totals up the receipts—she translates dollars into people, telling us how many paying jobs the day’s take will support.

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