Finding the Treasures, Seeking the Stories

Finding the Treasures, Seeking the Stories

• Tigger Montague

Often we are asked, “How do you find the items you sell at Seeds for Kindness?”
The short answer is: “It's an adventure.”

It can begin with a question. "I wonder what happens to airline seats when planes are refurbished?" The online search answer arrives: those seat covers mostly end up in landfills. The next step in the journey is the question, "is anyone making new things out of used airline seats?" And then we go in search of the answer.

It can start with reading an article on specific kinds of plastic in ocean trash, such as flip-flops. That's how I found the Kenyan company Ocean Sole, which harvests flip-flops that wash onto Kenyan beaches and crafts them into animals.

It can occur intuitively, sparked by a random, passing hunch. That's how I found our Survivor Jewelry.

It can happen when a member of our team knows a local artist who makes clocks out of old computer parts and used bicycle chains.

Which leads to a new search: what recycled and repurposed landfill items are other artists using? But finding an item is just the beginning. What story does it tell, how does it reduce landfill and ocean waste? The next step is to order the item so that the entire team can evaluate it.

When we receive a new item, we sit around a large conference table and pass it around. Each person evaluates it, and gives his or her opinion. In the case of jewelry, bags, and belts, we put them on, try them on, we look at how earrings hang on one another’s ears. We laugh, we roll our eyes, we think about what kinds of people the item might appeal to. We think about the impact: how will this product help clean up the earth, or how will this product positively affect communities and women?

Each product also gets inspected by Biostar’s Production Team; they are our gauges to whether something is cool, hip, or too boring.  Some items under consideration are then worn or used by various team members. We evaluate durability, quality, and responses from friends and family. Is it a "WOW" or a "Meh."

Because we seek global environmental solutions, many of our items come from all over the world. This is both exciting and challenging from a purchasing and shipping perspective. Several of the small cooperatives and individual artists aren’t accustomed to dealing with large orders. Most of the items that we carry are one of a kind, made by hand, and aren't mass-produced.

This is a great part of the charm and significance of the products we choose to showcase. A wonderful example of this is an artist we work with in Laos, who made a necklace medallion out of bombs dropped during the Vietnam war. It was a powerful piece. We ordered several, and now he has moved on to a new design. This necklace, of which he made a small number of, is no longer available with the exception of the few we have left.

Uniqueness is the hallmark of many of the offerings at Seeds for Kindness, and is for me one of the special qualities of our business. Every item tells a story, has a story, and contributes to help solving the environmental and social problems all over the globe.

Of course it's not easy to find these wonderful artists and small companies and cooperatives. It takes an enormous amount of time to seek, search, examine, and test out various products and items. None of us gets a paycheck from Seeds for Kindness for the work we do: from searching, to testing, to answering customer questions, to shipping the orders. We all volunteer our efforts on behalf of the planet, and on behalf of the charity that we have chosen to be our beneficiary: Sea Legacy.

This summer has been a flurry of activity as we gear up for the fall gift buying season. We have assessed over 50 different products so far, with only a third of them making the cut. It's everything I can do to keep my fingers under control as I type this, and not let out any hints or secrets of the new items we will be showcasing.

Every item Seeds for Kindness has been chosen with care, with thoughtfulness, and compassion for the earth. And always with a story to tell....



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