Spread Some Sustainable Love

by Elke Erschfeld

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and even though it’s a commercial holiday, it’s a nice way to express your love to family and friends

A few years ago, I received a beautiful heart pendant from Novica. The online marketplace connects thousands of artisans from all over the world with socially conscious consumers through handcrafted jewelry, home decor, unique gifts and art. You can read about each artisan’s culture and traditions from places like West Africa, Bali or India while browsing for gifts. My pendant arrived in a beautifully handcrafted box with a note that created even more of a connection with the artist.

Novica implements fair-trade business practices to support their artists and communities. The company’s guiding principles include a fair price for the products, safe working conditions and respect for the environment, while building sustainable businesses. Many artisans use sustainable and local materials such as bamboo or coconut shells that they turn into beautiful jewelry or sculptures with traditional technologies used by their ancestors. It’s amazing what skilled artisans can create without the use of chemicals and electronic machines. 

Some of my favorite designs for Valentine’s Day gifts are the heart- shaped filigree earrings and necklace from Peru, the brushed sterling silver and onyx heart ring from Thailand or the garnet and carnelian heart necklace from Mexico. Each design reflects the individual sensibility of the artist’s cultural background and heritage. Other heart-shaped designs include wooden boxes from Bali that fit together like a puzzle, as well as hand-carved sculptures. 

In 2012, Novica partnered with the microfinance platform Kiva, which allows individuals to lend as little as $25 to artisans so that they can build their business. Not being charged any interest makes it easier for the artists to repay their loan on time. The 0 precent interest loans are a great way to support them in a sustainable manner. Last time I checked, all loans were fully funded. It’s worth exploring in 2015, if giving is part of your New Year’s resolutions.

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