Monday, October 25, 2010

The latest news

It is with deepest gratitude for everything we have learned, for each friend and connection we have made, for all the fun and even the hard work of the past 5 years that we write to tell you we are closing up Small Planet Trading on December 31st. It simply has not reached an adequate level of sustainability that would allow us to continue.


Are we sad about this?  Absolutely.  We sit in the ambiguity of grieving what has been but also feeling the liberation of letting go and recognizing the end of a season. We know that the vision and inspiration that created Small Planet Trading go with us into our next adventures. 

Do we think there is a future for fair trade and sustainably run business in the Gorge?  Absolutely,  We continue to believe that in the next 5-10 years most businesses will be shifting to more sustainable practices.  We have had 5 years of being at the fore front of that shift at the retail level.  Now we are ready to release our energies from this angle and put them towards another place in the movement.  We know there is no shortage of opportunity and look forward to finding our new places in the future.

Are we ready to explore what’s next now?  Not really.  We plan to focus on  closure with Small Planet over the next couple months first. 

What’s the plan for the rest of the year?
We are fully stocked for the Holiday Season and ready to help you find the unique and meaningful gifts that you love to give. Come shop today for the best selection. Throughout the holidays we'll be keeping our regular schedule and be here for business as you've come to expect it with a Small Planet flare-- goodies on the sample table, high quality handmade housewares and gifts, reasonable prices, and the Alternative Gift Fair in the shop for your giving convenience.

December 27-31 we'll be open every day with a final sale of any remaining inventory.

Will there be special sale prices before Christmas? No, much of what you see in the shop still belongs to the artist or Fair Trade wholesaler until you purchase it, so we don't control those prices. But after Christmas, any inventory left that we own will be discounted for quick sale.

Is the store still for sale? Why yes, if you or someone you know would love to own a wonderful, established shop, it is still for sale. 

Is there anything I can do to help?

Yes, continue to shop at Small Planet through the year and bring your friends.  Support our letting go with a understanding comment or two but know that we are beyond the time of debating the merits of should we stay or should we go. 

We look forward to enjoying the shop and you all for the rest of the year. 
DeLona and Karen

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A different view

Having never taken a business class or marketing course, we at Small Planet Trading tend to forge our own way in the world of business.

Many times people, usually friends who care about our "bottom line", tell us that we are too generous.  That is one way of looking at some of the choices we make in regards to business-- donating 25% of sales on Common Good Thursdays or offering you discounts and prizes for our special events, even our daily sample table.

A different view of those business decisions are actually a lot less philanthropic-- we are first and foremost a business that only exists because people spend money buying our goods.  We know that you have many choices in where to spend your money.  Businesses compete for your attention through marketing and branding.  This is big money.  There are many different ways to play in the marketing business-- print, radio, tv, magazines, maps, guides, signage, and the list goes on.

Our marketing budget is limited and often non-existent.  So we try to be creative with the free options, like this blog.  But we also think that using our marketing to further other goals is a great way to leverage our most important marketing opportunity-- you telling your friends to come in and shop.  So yes, we feature your favorite causes and donate a good chunk of your purchases.  And we give you discounts and prizes, because we'd rather spend our marketing budget on you.  It may not be very traditional, and it's not the fastest way to gain customers, but we like it, and we hope you do too.

So, don't hesitate to shop Friday, October 1 through Sunday the 3rd. Everything in the store is 20% off PLUS you can Spin to Win prizes.

And tell your friends to come in too.  (We'd love it if you became a fan on Facebook and re-posted the sale!)

Thanks for 5 years.
DeLona and Karen

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sustainable Lunches

School is starting again soon and so, like many parents, I'm thinking about lunches.  Three kids and their parents eating a meal outside of the house each day can be a challenge in many ways.  I don't have any new secrets for how to get kids to eat what you put in the lunch-- but I do have some kid-tested ways to pack up the food that will lighten the load on your wallet and  planet earth.

Recently I saw a statistic that every year 20 million plastic sandwich baggies go in to the trash-- I have no idea if that is a true number, but even if it's just a rough estimate it's still a staggering thought.  So what's a busy mom/dad/student to do? Wrap it all up in re-usable, unique gear!

Moms often tell me that their kids always throw out their baggies or plastic containers, so they worry about sending re-usable bags or wraps-- but our products are so colorful, fun and interesting that the kids do not mistake them for a disposable item.  Let them choose their own wrap or baggies and they will reuse them all year long.

Lunch boxes made from recycled drink bags
Why we love them:
Easy open/close zipper for all ages
Easy wipe out cleaning 
Thermal-- keep food cold with a cold pack or cold drink
Colorful and original-- no two exactly alike
Made by a women's cooperative the The Philippines with a local Hood River company
    Why we love them: 
    Wrap the food, secure with velcro, unwrap and use as an instant place mat,  throw in the wash or wipe for easy clean up  
    Keeps food fresh 
    Made in Hood River by a local mom
      Why we love them: 
      Easy to use, easy to wash  
      All different sizes  
      Colorful and unique  
      Made from scrap fabric in Hood River
        Klean Kanteen bottles
        Why we love them:
        Several sizes with different drinking tops for different ages 
        Traditional single-walled stainless steel or thermal wide mouth
        Ethically made for people and the planet

          We've also got stainless steel food carriers, locally made napkins, and a variety of cute bags to carry it all in.  No more worries about what to send the lunch in-- so you can use your creativity on what food to experiment with instead.

          Friday, July 23, 2010

          It's about creative connections

          What do we sell at Small Planet that is both eco-friendly and Fair Trade and appeals to Harley Davidson enthusiasts, teenage boys, and hip fashionistas?  How about a messenger bag made from recycled inner tubes?

          Messenger bags, purses, wallets, cellphone bags... all made in Nepal in partnership with Ganesh Himal Trading.  Since 1984 Denise and Ric at Ganesh Himal have been working with many of the same craftspeople.  They have on-going relationships that continue to grow and, from what I can tell, become more creative each year.  Recycled rubber bags are just one example of how a love of people and the planet can produce creative connections near and far.

          Sadle, the Nepali group of artists who make the rubber bags, care about fair trade, worker's rights and the environment.  Denise says, "They are passionate about promoting Nepali goods that benefit the environment."  Besides recycled rubber, they create useful goods from wild hemp, no-kill leather, and organic cotton using vegetable dyes.

          A garage business across from Sadle would burn used inner tubes to dispose of them.  Sadle's manager, Aryal who also lives in the neighborhood, couldn't stand the black smoke and pollution.  The Salde group knew there had to be a creative solution-- so they decided there had to be something they could make from the inner tubes. 

          Aryal asked the other businessman if he could have the inner tubes.  The man was thrilled to get rid of them.  Then Aryal consulted with one of Sadle's customers to design a simple bag.  Soon after, Denise, Ric and their son Cameron were in Nepal and saw the prototype.  They thought it was fantastic and worked on the first two designs for Ganesh Himal Trading.  They were an immediate hit and more designs were quickly in the works.

          The garage owner then realized he had a sell-able commodity, instead of "trash".  He can now sell the inner tubes which increases his revenue and encourages re-use.  Ganesh Himal and Sadle continue to design distinctive new items and have incorporated wild hemp, to feature wild fibers of Nepal.

          The bags have been such a hit that they are hard to keep in stock and Sadle is buying used inner tubes from various sources to stockpile and try and keep up with demand.

          Creative connections for people, the planet, and prosperity for all, just a typical day in Fair Trade. 



          Monday, July 12, 2010

          Creativity, Convenience and plastic "spills"

          Most of us agree that single-use plastic shopping bags are a convenience as well as a nuisance.  Small Planet is always on the look out for more creative options for you-- currently in stock we have shopping bags made from recycled juice bags, from cotton, from fabric ends and re-purposed fabric, and from recycled billboards.  Those are just the bags, don't even get me started on the carrying baskets.  But single-use bags are still the norm for many shopping experiences and each day contribute to the environmental degradation of the planet.

          Plastic bags are made from petroleum.  They are made far away and travel around the world prior to use.  They don't hold much and are prone to ripping, and so more are used than needed.  They are hard to recycle and cause problems when recycled improperly.  They end up flying away and being swept to the water and out to the ocean.

          Which takes us to the ocean.  It's not news that there is a massive amount of plastic caught in the currents out in the Pacific-- but that has been on my mind as the news of the gulf oil spill continues to make daily headlines.  See, that plastic "island" is a type of oil spill too-- plastic is petroleum in another form and it doesn't totally go away, but breaks down in to shiny bits that sea animals  and birds eat, or that simply turns the ocean into a toxic mess.

          I understand that single-use bags are most convenient-- and I've been wondering lately if convenience doesn't often kill our more creative urges.  I know for myself that when I take the convenient route--whether it is with a shopping choice, a plan for my day with kids, or whatever, that the end result is way less interesting or fulfilling than when I get just a bit creative.

          So this week Small Planet Trading is signing on to support Environment Oregon's Ban the Plastic Bag Campaign.  Check out their website for the nitty-gritty details.  I have heard all the alternative ideas- from incentives, to taxes, to letting the market find the solution and consumer advocacy -- all great ideas.  In the end, there will need to be parts of each of these ideas to get at the change that is needed.  So why a ban?  So we can say that the plastic spill in the ocean is unacceptable.  It's enough.  And to allow a space for the more creative options to come through.

          Want to be a part of kicking off the campaign in Hood River?  Come on down to the shop of Thursday the 15th at 10:30 for a press conference and be a part of the change.  --DeLona

          Saturday, July 3, 2010

          The next step...

          Small Planet Trading will turn 5 soon.  Since we have an active 5-year-old boy living in our midst-- we know how amazing 5 years old is:  full of fun, so much is still new, learning through everything he touches, changing right before our eyes.  Having a business often feels like raising children-- you have high expectations and hopes, you give it lots of love, and you have to trust that all will turn out well in the end.

          Since the beginning of Small Planet, back when we were Pachamama, we've been an eclectic group of women with a vision of a retail store but also something more. We started with Fair Trade hand-made imports, mostly gifts for the holidays and grew to include local artists and manufactured products for earth-friendly living.  We've always held ourselves and our artist partners and suppliers to high standards for how people and the earth are treated.  We have hoped to be a sustainable, long term member of the Gorge community.

          Life goes on amidst the daily realities of business, and each person involved at Small Planet has seen many life changes over the years-- some planned for and some unexpected.  Change has been the only constant.  So it is not surprising that we find ourselves in the midst of the next change.  If you have visited us at the store recently you may have noticed, or have heard us talk about the latest stage of development.

          We continue to work for a sustainable future for Small Planet.  At this moment, Small Planet needs more investment than we are able to offer it.  It needs capital for inventory, marketing and continued investments, and it needs an investment of time.  Because we see clearly what could be, we are offering the business for sale in the hopes that the right person or people will have a vision that includes Small Planet and the investment to grow it to the next stage.

          Don't worry, Small Planet isn't going anywhere.  We'll be here, working in the midst of change to offer more products you need and want from amazing craftspeople around the world.  If an outright buyer isn't in the near future, we'll be open to other creative solutions.

          How you can help:
          • Tell people about the wonderful opportunity to own an established social enterprise.
          • Have creative ideas for keeping Small Planet vibrant? We're happy to hear them, send them our way.
          • Shop and support Small Planet Trading-- and tell your friends-- We are first and foremost a retail store, so people purchasing our goods is the only way we pay the rent.
          Thank you for being on this journey with us.  Again just like parenting, it takes a village to support and grow a vibrant local economy.  You truly do vote with your dollar (or RiverHour) and we appreciate it each time you entrust that vote with us.  --DeLona and Karen

          Friday, May 28, 2010

          Sustainable Smudging

          We had two customers special order smudge sticks in the last couple weeks - enough this month to nudge our favorite wild plants vender, Juniper Ridge to the top of the "to be ordered" list.  Smudge sticks are not one of our signature items like prayer flags or fair trade chocolate, nor are they very noteworthy to the casual shopper the way any of our items made from recycled materials are.

          Instead it's the item that a dedicated customer gets in her car and drives 5 miles into town for, scouts around a 2 block radius to find a parking space for, walks directly in the shop to the smudge corner, makes her choice without a glance at anything else and heads to the cash register for.  It's the item that quietly, unobtrusively sells out quicker than we can get the word out that they're back in.  Those who smudge regularly like to be stocked and will go out of their way for a good smudge stick. 

          And ours are good!  From the moment the plants are sustainably wildcrafted (carefully harvested in the heart of their range) "from the mountains and deserts of the West", bundled into sticks, and packaged in vegetable based biodegradable plastic - Juniper Ridge does it right.  

          And how exactly do you use a smudge stick? Here's what  Juniper Ridge has to say on their website, "Smudge sticks are the most natural form of incense—they’re just wild plant trimmings, nothing else. Just light the tip on fire, blow out the flame and let it smolder. Extinguish with sand or water when you are done. They’re also great in the fireplace."

          We have 3 varieties in stock at the moment - 

          White Sage:  Traditionally used to clear spaces of stale, or negative air, feelings, and energies.  When a change is in order sage is your herb to move out the old.  Found in the rugged mountains of the Southwest, Sage is used  ceremonially in purification rituals. 

          Western Red Cedar:  "In the Pacific Northwest, the people burn cedar for purification in much the same way as sage - it drives out negative energy; but it also brings in good influences. The spirit of cedar is considered very ancient and wise by Pacific Northwest tribes, and old, downed cedar trees are honored with offerings and prayers." (

          Mugwort:  Described best on the JR website, "Mugwort, also known as Dream Weed for its unique ability to stimulate dreams, is found in the mountains of the West Coast from California north through British Columbia. It is renowned as a smudging herb for its subtle, sweet scent and dream-inducing qualities. So burn a little before you go to sleep and dream sweet dreams of wildflower meadows heavy with the smell of the waning winter rains and new green life rising all around you."

          Get 'em while they last!