Fair Trade Wednesday: The Phone Call

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : June 6, 2007

We live in a complicated world; many Christians agree with the basic idea that they should buy justly and live simply, but few change their lifestyles in response. Why not? Because they don’t know where to begin. They are like the fat guy that never exercises and continues to eat poorly because the change required for a healthy life is out of his immediate reach. He doesn’t realize that it all begins with drinking water instead of Mountain Dew and walking to the post office 5 blocks away instead of driving.

image The best place to begin is with the simple things: food and clothing. There are all sorts of local grocery stores that sell fair trade goods. But fair trade clothing is hard to find locally. I should know. A while back I vowed never to buy clothing again unless I got it at a thrift store or it was fair trade. Since I’m a big guy, finding things at the Thrift store is difficult. Eventually, I found a store online where I can buy shirts for a good price–shirts that are Fair Trade, made with organic cotton, and are made in Bethlehem with Palestinian workers even though the company is run by a Jew. This company, No Sweat Apparel, is not only trying to sell clothing ethically, but also to pursue peace in the Middle East. They’ve been featured on al Jazeera, The Jewish Advocate, Sojourners, the Boston Globe, and the New York Times.

And so, I bought a couple shirts and added a link on my blog, and became a part of their affiliates program. A few hours later I got an email from some guy at the company:

Thanks so much for signing up, Mark. Very interesting blog you have there. I’d like the benefit of your advice & possibly assistance. As you may know, we’re doing some interesting work in Bethlehem right now. Here’s al Jazeera’s segment on the subject…

We’re getting just as strong from outlets like the Jewish Advocate. Evidently we’ve found a rare piece of common ground in the Holy Land, on Virgin Mary Street, as chance would have it. I’d like to engage the Christian blogshpere in this ground breaking project & I suspect you may know how best to do that. Can we discuss? If so, what’s a good # & time to call?

I gave him a time to call and watched the video. As I watched the video and looked at the web site, I realized that the guy who emailed me was the owner of the company, Adam Neiman.

Later that week, we chatted on the phone…Adam told me about his family and his company. He was curious about my ministry and surprised to hear about an “emerging” movement of Christians that cared about this sort of stuff that we’re birthed largely out of the evangelical movement. And we schemed about how I could help him get the word out about their company. He suggested that I begin by blogging about No Sweat weekly–to let my fellow emerging bloggers know about his company and what they stand for. In an email conversation, Adam wrote:

…[tracking] this pilgrim’s progress might be interesting. Report an unfolding story in a way traditional media can’t. What we’re engaged in is such an odd blend of the material & the spiritual, right in the very heart of the maelstrom. But it’s also a very common sense, straightforward proposition that doesn’t require any faith at all to support.

I’d like your input here. when I started No Sweat I wanted to preach way beyond the the secular, anti-corporate choir that was the sweatshop movement. With our organics from Bethlehem we can. And the emerging church seems like a perfect fit for what we do. Do you want to discuss further or do you want to start right in & we can discuss as we go? …for total transparency, we might even use the contents of this exchange as a starting place in a blog w/ a short preface. It’s where our conversation began, after all.

And so my blogging journey begins. My goal is to share the story of this one company–No Sweat–as I explore the Fair Trade movement. There are lots of good companies out there, but by focusing on the story of one company, I hope to demystify the movement, and help folks understand the industry.

for further reading . . .

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4 Responses to “Fair Trade Wednesday: The Phone Call”

  1. Surly Dave on June 7th, 2007 5:49 pm

    Cool. I look forward to following along, maybe even ordering something.

  2. wilsonian on June 7th, 2007 7:20 pm

    Yep. What Surly Dave said.

  3. Anna on June 8th, 2007 10:04 am

    I’m so glad some doors are opening for you, Mark! Looking forward to the unwrapping future.


  4. len hjalmarson on June 8th, 2007 11:24 am

    cool mark.. I’ve linked this post this morning..

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