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Ooffoo Laureate

Some time ago, I saw something about writing a piece for something called the ‘Ooffoo Laureate’. Ooffoo is a community based site connected with the Natural Collection where you can air your views and learn more about being green. (Apparently OOFFOO is the html code for green – cunning eh!) The people who run it say Ooffoo exists to be “a thriving and positive space that encourages¬†new and innovative ideas,¬†sustainable thinking, a peaceful approach to living.” Isn’t that lovely!

So anyway, they were running a competition, and as you may remember, I entered a piece on supporting small British craft businesses. Then today I got this email:

Dear Tara
We wanted to write and personally thank you from the bottom of our
hearts for having the courage and passion to enter the Ooffoo Laureate
competition. I am pleased to announce that you successfully made it on
to the shortlist. Well done! That in itself was no mean feat as you
faced very tough competition to get shortlisted. The winner and two
runners-up will be revealed at 10am on Friday 20th March 2009 via the
ooffoo.com homepage. And regardless of who wins we hope you will join us
in applauding all your fellow shortlist members and their shortlisted
articles.
Once again, many thanks for joining in…all change starts with a single
spark. You should be very proud…
Kindest regards
Al Tepper

How nice is that?! I read several of the other entries and thought they were way out of my league. I was very touched that mine was considered worthy of shortlisting.

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Here’s an article I wrote for the Ooffoo Competition (prize ¬£500 and becoming ‘Ooffoo Laureate 2008’). It’s something about which I feel pretty strongly, so I thought, why not?!

Ethical products are fast becoming an everyday sight in shops and on websites. Great! As an owner of a website selling ethically produced gifts, I am all for this sudden explosion of conscience over the past few years.

Mostly, these products come from all around the world, in particular Africa, India and Asia. Purchasing a handwoven basket which was produced by a family business in Vietnam, or a pair of earrings handcrafted in a women’s cooperative in India enables us to help those who live a life so different from ours and so devoid of the daily luxuries we enjoy, that it is hard to imagine unless you go and see for yourself. Buying ethical products means we can ‘do our bit’, however small. There can surely be no argument against trying to redress the balance whenever we get the chance.

It’s probably going to sound like a ‘but’ is coming now! Well yes and no. I would always advocate buying fair trade and eco friendly products when you can – contrary to popular opinion there is not always a huge price difference, but there can be a huge difference in effect. However, I want to stand up for a moment for all the small businesses in the UK, in particular those that produce handmade goods in an ethical way.

In recent years the British craft scene has been growing from something slightly geeky and subterranean, to the coolest thing you can do. Knitting classes and groups like Stitch’n’Bitch have sprung up all over the country, and websites such as Etsy are growing more popular daily, with the recent emergence of the British version, Folksy, and countless others springing up all the time. I think these crafters have always been there, but now it’s much easier to benefit from and enjoy their hard work! It is no longer hard to find beautifully handcrafted wooden pieces, jewellery, ceramics, textiles and countless other practices that abound in our own homeland and with a stamp of Britishness on them.

The best thing about all this is the increasing combination of craft and environmental awareness. Many crafters are using vintage materials, recycling and ‘upcycling’ old into new in imaginative and exciting ways. These small businesses need our support too. Yes, fair trade is a valuable and worthwhile enterprise, and we should continue to buy the products with the little black, green and blue label on whenever possible, but let’s not forget those a bit closer to home who are also running small businesses using their skills and working with small budgets. Now that we are heading into recession, this argument stands up more than ever. It would be a tragedy to see small UK based businesses go under, and we can perhaps help to keep our economy going by spending a bit more a bit closer to home.

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