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Terra Experience's Commitment to Fair Trade & Environmental Responsibility

  • "We strive to support sustainable development, fair trade, local artisans,  their communities and environment"

[Note - this page badly needs to be updated. 
Its on my New Years Resolution list for 2012 - thanks for your understanding.  Lynn]

As owner of Terra Experience my goal is to grow and continuously improve Terra Experience as a socially and environmentally responsible for-profit small business that is able to provide a fair wage and empower the artisan families with whom we work.  I believe in and strive to meet the goals of fair trade and the commitments to fair trade of Fair Trade Federation members http://www.fairtradefederation.org.  Terra Experience is not a formal business member of the Fair Trade Federation at this point. We hope to become so in the future.  Some of Terra Experience activities to support this commitment to fair trade are summarized below.  You can click on each commitment to learn more about what Terra Experience is doing to support Fair Trade and be a "Green Business"

In January 2007 I retired after 32 working in Water Resources Management and Pollution Prevention for the State of Wisconsin. I am looking forward through Terra Experience have to more time to share my love of and respect for the Mayan people and culture and as well as the earth we all share.

For more information on how Terra Experience started, please check out the Capital Times article "Fair Trade Friends".  We welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions (as well as your purchases)

Lynn Persson,   lynn@TerraExperience.com

Terra Experience Owner

 

                                   
   Written in 2007, Being updated September, 2009


Fair Trade Federation's Definition of Fair Trade

http://www.fairtradefederation.org/memcrit.html

Fair trade means an equitable and fair partnership between businesses and organizations in North America and producers in the developing world. Fair trade businesses foster long-term and direct relationships with producers, because they know these connections are a highly effective way to help producers help themselves.

FTF wholesalers, retailers, and producers are fully committed to:

Paying fair wages in local context;

  • Doll Clothes, a fun product selected to provide a fair wage and support cultural traditions ---- Terra Experience was started in 1999 as a very small, socially responsible business to help Mayan friends in Guatemala earn some additional income for school supplies and other needs of their families.  Hand-woven Mayan doll clothes seemed like a good idea because they would take less time and materials for the weavers to make than the women’s traditional huipiles (over-blouses) that I collected that often took a woman 3 or more months to make.  I had a Girl Scout troop at that time and had been amazed by the number of 18" dolls and doll clothes they had and the interest in American history that evolved.  I hoped there might also be a market for fine hand-woven ethnic doll clothes that would allow me to provide a fair wage to Guatemalan weavers and give children in North America kids a chance to experience and support the living Mayan culture. An initial sale at a local school (http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/shorewood/shop.html ) was successful and so Terra Experience began and engulfed my spare time. 
     
  • Initial Focus, Supporting Children's Education --- When I first visited Guatemala in January 1997 it was the beginning of school year and the families I met were struggling to find the money for school supplies. The cost of pencils, paper, books in Guatemala was similar or more than that that in the USA. I talked to weavers whose husband made 3 or 4 dollars per day working in the fields who were trying to find $10 to $25 for each child's school supplies. Often their children dropped out at or before 6th grade because of the cost and need to earn money to support the family. Also many villages had no schools above 6th grade.   My initial aim with Terra Experience was to be able to buy enough doll clothes and other products at a fair price so that the weavers I knew would have enough profit to buy school supplies and keep their children in school. It wasn't a lot, but it was what I knew I could do. I worked with the weavers to design and to find a price that I could pay for their products that left us both smiling (that we both felt was fair) and we hoped would leave Terra Experience customers smiling.  Terra Experience's Doll Clothes were sold on eBay, at local events and eventually on the Terra Experience Web Site ( http://TerraExperience.com ).
     
  • Fair Wages in A Local Context ---  
    2007 --Today in 2007 like many other businesses that strive to support fair trade,  I am struggling to define what that actually means in terms the artisan and their families who make the doll clothes and other products that Terra Experience purchases and also compete in a world-wide market.  Terra Experience will be experimenting with the new Fair Wage Guide (http://www.fairtradecalculator.net/about.php  ) during the coming year to get a better handle on the time and materials it takes to make Terra Experience's Doll Clothes and what the average wage weavers are making for these products.  We hope to use this tool to continuously improve the products we offer our customers and the wages the Mayan weavers receive for these products as well as keeping Terra Experience a viable and growing small business in a world market.
    2008 - -  We had limited time in Guatemala this year. We did work with several of weaving families to try get a better handle on the time and costs that went into weaving doll outfits.  As a result we worked with several of the weavers to modify designs of the doll clothes for future years.
    2009 --   Got more information in use with the fair wage guide.  We are still processing this information

I was never sure, but I hoped that I was paying the weavers who usually spend 4 to 6 hours a day at their work at least equal to what their husbands might make in a full eight hour day of agricultural field work.  Generally this was the close to the $5.18  per day usually given as the minimum wage for Guatemala (International Labour Organization).  According to the US State Department the legal minimum wage in Guatemala for agricultural work has risen from $3.98/ 8 hour day in 2000 to $7.17 in 2006, but over 75% of Guatemala workers do not receive that wage (more information on Guatemala's Minimum Wage). 

Supporting participatory workplaces;

By buying from artisan families, fair trade wholesalers and nonprofit organizations Terra Experience supports participatory workplaces. We do not buy artisan products that are made in large factories or sweatshops.

Ensuring environmental sustainability;

Having worked in Water Resources Management and Pollution Prevention for the State of Wisconsin for over 32 years "Sustainable development” and “environmental protection” are part of my core values. They are reflected in the name, Terra Experience that I chose in 1999 for my "spare-time" business.  Terra in Latin means earth. Now, having retired in January, 2007, I am working to grow and continuously improve Terra Experience as a socially responsible and green business that strives to provide a fair wage and empower the artisan families with whom I work and to share with others my love of and respect for the Mayan people and their culture and as well as the earth we all share.  Some of the ways Terra Experience has already done so are:

  •  In Guatemala:

    • Try to increase awareness and understanding of environmental issues and the need for natural resources protection among individual artisans and their children.  I am friends with many of the artisans I buy from and have known them for many years.  We talk about our families, our work and things that are important to us.  As such I sometimes talk about my work for the Department of Natural Resources in Wisconsin and we discuss the importance of clean water and clean air and protecting natural resources air Guatemala.  Some of the books I gave artisans children have had environmental themes.

    •  Try to support environmental and public health awareness and education among some of the artisan communities that I work with and will continue to strengthen this effort in the future. 
      2007 -- Terra Experience has funded a $500 environmental education project with Maya Traditions and is helping financially two young Mayan women from Chajul become public health nurses through Foundations for Education’s Scholarship program.  Terra Experience has also helped out a group that is working to protect Lake Atitlan , Prolago (
      http://prolagoatitlan.org/pub/bin/perform.fcgi  on several occasions (when it was in need of start up money and after hurricane Stan).
      2008 --
      2009
       

  • In the United States:

    • Use paper with 30% or more post-consumer waste whenever available. Reuse backside of paper and don’t have my laptop computer networked to my printer to make printing an inconvenient and conscious choice.

    • Drive a hybrid Prius (50 mpg) and organize trips to minimize driving time and miles.   Occasionally use a minivan (20 mpg) when required to do so to carry inventory to shows.

    • Take advantage of Wisconsin’s wonderful recycling program and Green Valley Disposal’s service (http://www.greenvalleydisposal.com/index.htm ) to recycle all plastics labeled 1 through 7, glass containers, steel, aluminum cans and all grades of paper including cardboard.

    • Work from home much of the time and home worksite has over 1/3 of lot in natural area including a major wetland restoration area that acts as natural rain garden.  Have improved energy efficiency at the home worksite by installing a high-energy efficient furnace, hot water heater and energy efficient light bulbs.  The need for air conditioning is minimized by architectural design (roof overhangs that primarily let sun in during winter), shade trees and use of fans and simple things such as closing curtains during sunlight hours.

    • Continuously looking for ways to improve energy efficiency and reduce environmental impact.  Have a goal to set up a system to formally track progress in minimizing energy use and become carbon-neutral by the end of 2007. Sept 2009 Update:   

    • Our web site is hosted by a service that is powered by 100% Wind power. http://www.purehost.com/green/index.bml

Supplying financial and technical support;

  • For the Artisans Families that Terra Experience Buys Directly From
  • We always offer to provide “anticipo” (prepayment) for items we order directly from an artisan.
  • All items are paid for in full, immediately when they are received from the artisan producers.    
  • We have ongoing relationships with many of these artisans and their families and now their children’s families and over the years have helped out with school supplies, books, reading glasses, and occasionally other needs (school and health costs) during difficult times.
  • We have worked informally and cooperatively with the artisans discussing product design, material costs, artisan time and other factors to determine a fair price for the work that leaves both of us smiling and helps keep their children in school.
  •  Supporting Community Capabilities in Artisan Villages

Terra Experience has supported the ongoing work of selected fair-trade and nonprofit organizations that have an ongoing presence in Guatemala and the communities that the artisans from whom Terra Experience buys live.  Our focus in on groups that empower and increase capabilities of Mayan artisans and their communities especially through education, family health care and environmental protection. For more information check our "Ways to Help" web page.    

o      Maya Traditions:  (http://mayatraditions.com ) In 2007 Terra Experience provided Maya Traditions (a fair trade wholesaler that works with several women’s groups in Guatemala from whom Terra Experience buys many products) a $500 scholarship for students involved in an environmental project in their communities.  In the past Terra Experience has given books, dolls, reading glasses and general scholarship money to the group.   In 2008 Terra Experience provided

o      Clinica Maya ( http://www.clinicasmaya.com ):  This non-profit works with indigenous midwives in the Lake Atitlan area of Guatemala (where many of Terra Experience’s artisans live) to increase their capacity and has a clinic and several other projects.  We have information about the clinic on the Terra Experience web (http://www.terraexperience.com/la_casa_de_luz.htm - to help out before they had their own web) and have found and brought/shipped diabetes and other medical supplies, rechargeable flashlights, reading glasses and books to the clinic routinely over the past several years.  We have also encouraged friends and individuals to volunteer at the clinic.   

o      Foundations for Education (http://www.geocities.com/foeduinc/ ):  This nonprofit finds sponsors for middle and high schools students that are committed to returning to their communities and working as teachers for at least 2 years.  Terra Experience has supported a high school student from Chajul for the last three years. She graduated in 2006.  This year my husband and I are funding Elena and Manuela Caba Zuniga, two sisters from Chajul, El Quiche. They graduated from the Foundations program in 2003 and 2004 and have worked for several years in the rural areas of Quiche empowering women’s groups.  The sisters decided this year to study weekends at the University to become public health nurses so they can bring these skills to the women’s groups with whom they continue to work. 

o      Collegio Maya (http://www.terraexperience.com/options_to_help.htm ):  Sandra is a friend of mine who originally was from Guatemala and has lived for many years in Madison, WI.  She has informally adopted an elementary school "Colegio Maya" in a small aldea outside Cantel Quetzaltengo and a nursing home in Mazatenango.   Sandra works with her friends (including Terra Experience’s owner) to get school supplies, books, building materials to the 104 students in the school and basic clothes and supplies to the nursing home. 

o      Prolago  (http://prolagoatitlan.org/pub/bin/perform.fcgi) :  This is a Solola Guatemala based group that is working to protect Lake Atitlan.  Terra Experience has provided financial assistance to this organization on several occasions (when it was in need of start up money and after hurricane Stan). As Terra Experience’s business grows we hope to be able to grow our support of this organization. 

o      Wisconsin Nicaragua Partners: (http://wnp.uwsp.edu/news/postings/postings.htm ):   This nonprofit group has fostered partnerships between Wisconsin cities and groups with communities in Nicaragua since 1968.  They have established over 78 learning and sewing centers throughout Nicaragua.  Terra Experience supports their efforts by purchasing Chica Nica doll dresses and has donated Spanish language Singer Sewing books, sewing kits, and other things to the group. 

o      Pueblo to Pueblo: http://www.puebloapueblo.org / :  Terra Experience chose this group to help after Hurricane Stan in 2005.   Pueblo to Pueblo is a US non-profit that works with Asociación K’aslimaal a Santiago Atiltan based Guatemalan nonprofit focused  on re-establishing 24/7 health in the Mayan community at its “Hospilito Atitlan”. After the mudslide, the group did a tremendous amount to help weaver and artisan families whose homes were destroyed as well as re-establish medical health-care in the area.   Terra Experience helped create a Madison-Guatemala Network (see below) managed to raise $1000 that went to Pueblo to Pueblo hurricane relief efforts. Terra Experience continues to support Pueblo to Pueblo efforts.

Respecting cultural identity;

Terra Experience's Doll Clothes, Arts and Crafts and Books and our web site all indicate our love of and respect for the Mayan Culture and "Our goal:  to give kids (of all ages) the chance to experience other cultures while playing with the dolls and toys they love."

Offering public accountability; and, Transparency:

  • Who does Terra Experience buy its Products from? As a socially responsible business, Terra Experience strives to buy all of its hand-woven doll clothes and other arts and crafts products directly from:

  • Artisan Families --- Our goal is to pay the artisans who weave and make products a fair price for their fine work. We always offer to provide “anticipo” (prepayment) for ordered items. All items are paid for in full, immediately when they are received from the artisan producers.    We have ongoing relationships with many of these artisans and their families and now their children’s families and over the years have helped out with school supplies, books, reading glasses, and occasionally other needs (school and health costs) during difficult times. We have worked informally and cooperatively with the artisans discussing product design, material costs, artisan time and other factors to determine a fair price for the work that leaves both of us smiling and helps keep their children in school.  In the coming year I will be gradually working with artisans to evaluate our product payments using a new tool, the Wage Guide (http://www.fairtradecalculator.net/index.php ) to insure that we are providing a fair price in the local context.

In the few cases where Terra Experience is not able to buy directly from artisan families because the specialty item is made in a remote area of Guatemala that we do not travel to, we work with a local shopkeeper or wholesaler to order the item.  We try to work transparently, asking the shopkeeper what he or she will pay the artisan producer and telling the shopkeeper what Terra Experience will sell the item for, trying to insure fair compensation for all.  In the future we hope to find a way to meet the artisans and verify these payments.

In addition to Doll Clothes, textiles and arts and crafts Terra Experience sells books about Guatemala.   Our primary purpose is to share information about the Mayan culture and Guatemala with children and the purchasers of Terra Experience products.   When available Terra Experience tries to buy books that are produced in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, but they are often not available. Some of the fair trade and socially responsible books that Terra Experience does stock are Marilyn Anderson’s “Mayan Arts Coloring Book”, the NISGUA “Guatemala Arte Maya Calendars”, Foundation for Education’s "Threads Breaking the Silence" and numerous textile and children’s publications of the Museo Ixchel in Guatemala City.

  • How much does the Artisan Receive when I buy a Terra Experience Product?  We strive to pay a fair wage for the products we buy (see Paying fair wages in local context).  The amount an artisan receives for a specific product varies.   On the average, approximately 1/3 of Terra Experience's net income from sales goes to the artisan, 1/3 goes to the cost of doing business (travel, shipping, and selling) and 1/3 is profit that has been reinvested in the business.  This average includes both retail and wholesale sales.

Year

2005

2006

2007

2008

Items

$

Approx. %

$

Approx. %

$

Approx. %

$

Approx. %

Payments to Weavers and Artisans for cost of goods sold

7,904

33 %

6,867

30 %

7,010

31%

8,794

31%

Donations to Guatemala, Nicaragua and other NPO (*doesn't include donations received from others)

856*

4 %

1,442*

7 %

2,707*

12%

1,923*

7%

Cost of Shipping & Customs

759

3 %

876

4 %

660

3%

600

2%

Cost of Travel to Guatemala (**estimated)

1,000**

4 %

1,000**

5 %

1,000**

4%

1,000**

4%

Cost of Selling (web site, show and consignment fees, Paypal fees, advertising costs, computer and office equipment and supplies, displays...)

6,153

25 %

4,119

18 %

10,396

45%

8122

29%

Cost of Shipping to Customer

891

4 %

1,218

6 %

1,433

6%

2,001

7%

Net Ordinary Income from Sales (reinvested in business)

6,740

28 %

6,838

30 %

2,215

10%

8,644

28%

Total Income from Gross  Product Sales

$24,300

100%

$22,360

100%

22,989

100%

28,084

100%

 

We are small, but we are growing and as we grow we will share the benefits of that growth with Terra Experience's artisans and customers.

Year

Total Income from
Gross Product
Sales ($)

1999

  701

2000

5,894

2001

8,688

2002

4,657

2003

11,704

2004

20,622

2005

24,320

2006

22,360

2007 22,989
2008 28,084
   

Educating consumers

  • Terra Experience Website (http://TerraExperience.com):   We are working to build a website that contains fun and educational information and pictures about the artisans, Mayan villages and life, and opportunities to help support and empower the artisans.  Our web site is a work in progress, but a number of students, teachers and others have taken advantage of our desire to share information about the Mayan Culture as indicated by the website  statement: Copyright © 2002-2007   Lynn Persson, Terra Experience.  All rights reserved. Contents not to be used without permission.   But formally ask us, let us know how you plan to use (non-commercial), give us credit and we will be glad to share.
     
  • Support Local Groups that Share Interests:
  • Madison-Guatemala Network: (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MadisonGuatemala/ ) This is a group of people that live in the Madison Wisconsin area and have a common interest in Guatemala, its people and issues. We initially got together in October 2005 to coordinate our activities to help our friends in Guatemala who were affected by the floods and mudslides associated with Hurricane Stan.  We held a potluck and over 200 people attended and we raised $3,500 for hurricane relief.  We continue as a network for sharing information and working with groups in Madison and Guatemala.

  • CALA (http://www.calamadison.org/index.shtml ):Community Action on Latin America (CALA) is a Madison, Wisconsin-based student and community organization, founded in the early 1970s as a group committed to pursuing issues of social justice and U.S. accountability in Latin American affairs.  Terra Experience participates in and supports many of the activities of this local group including advertising and supporting its local Holiday Fair Trade festival

  • Wisconsin Coordinating Council on Nicaragua (http://www.wccnica.org/ ):  This is a Wisconsin based non-profit organization that works on Nicaraguan social justice issues and also runs a successful micro credit loan program.  Terra Experience is a member of the organization and also invests in the micro-credit loan programs.

  • Local Fair Trade Festivals: ---  We have participated in the Madison Fair Trade Fair for many years and have advertised and participated in other similar local events.  We also encouraged the development of a similar event in Burlington Wisconsin and hope to do so elsewhere in Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

We welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.  lynn@terraexperience.com


For More Information on Fair Trade check out the links below:

 

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Copyright © 2002-2014   Lynn Persson, Terra Experience.  All rights reserved.
Contents not to be used without permission.   But formally ask us, let us know how you plan to use (non-commercial),  give us credit and we will be glad to share
.