Starfish Project: The Power of One

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One of the great things about working with socially responsible vendors is that you get to have a role in enlarging the circle of involvement at so many levels. When we tell you about the work an organization is doing, you know that your purchase supports that work. You might even find it meaningful to get involved directly with the work of that organization.

Starfish Project is one of those amazing projects. It is work that demonstrates the power of “one” and how the contribution of one becomes the power of many through the contributions each of us makes. It is also work that in the face of potentially overwhelming need keeps a focus on the individual and through that focus accomplishes very big things.

Here’s the founding story from the Starfish Project, a story of how the contribution of one makes a difference:

THE PARABLE

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked, he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, sir.”

The old man chuckled aloud. “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”

The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man said, “I made a difference to that one!”

HOPE FOR THE ONE

At Starfish Project, we believe that each woman, each person, each “one” is important. The issue of women being exploited, mistreated and devalued is a global concern. None of us can solve the entire problem, but, like the boy in the parable, we at Starfish Project focus our efforts on restoring hope for each woman, each “one.”

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Jenny McGee, second from right end, with other Starfish Project staff.

THE WORK OF ONE FOR ONE GROWS TO MANY “ONES”

Starfish Project began in 2006 with a mission to empower exploited women in Asia. As Jenny McGee, Elkhart, Indiana native and founder of Starfish Project, walked through the streets of Beijing, China, she decided she wanted to reach out to women working in the brothels. With a small group of friends, she began to talk with women over time, gaining their trust and learning of their need for stable employment.

Eventually relationships grew strong enough that some of the women left the brothels and came to live in a Starfish shelter set up in that city. By 2007, the Project opened a jewelry business to provide work and business experience for the women in the shelter. Each woman in the shelter participates in various aspects of jewelry making and distribution, earning a salary while living in a healthy environment.

In 2011, Starfish Project was approached by organizations in other locations in China and decided to set up two more shelters. Today, Starfish Project serves more than 50 women, operating shelters in three cities in China.

Through the jewelry company, women have an opportunity to take on new levels of responsibility and leadership and are able to provide for their families through meaningful employment. Women can grow and heal through building relationships, counseling, vocational training, language acquisition, family education benefits and health care access as well as benefit from stable housing in the shelter.

2015 A BIG YEAR FOR THE STARFISH PROJECT

In 2015, Jenny McGee spoke to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, signaling a more international engagement for the Starfish Project, which most recently helps women return safely to their countries of origin.

Also in 2015, the Starfish Project was the Kering Foundation’s 2015 Social Entrepreneur Award Winner for China. Launched in 2009, and chaired by Kering Group Chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault, the Kering Corporate Foundation combats Violence against Women. It supports NGOs and social entrepreneurs, helps raise awareness on violence against women and encourages employee involvement in the Americas, Western Europe and Asia. More than 140,000 women benefited from the Foundation’s support since its inception. For more information: www.keringfoundation.org @KeringForWomen

A successful crowd sourcing campaign brought the organization. $73,770 in one month, allowing them to expand their work. An Advocate Program available on the Starfish Project website provides opportunities for others to get involved in this important work.

As they began, though, so the Starfish Project continues. Project staff and volunteers regularly go out to the streets to find and develop relationships with women still trapped in exploitation. These teams go out nearly every day of the week and seek to build meaningful relationships with each woman and serve them in practical ways, such as taking them for hospital visits, providing language and health education and celebrating the women’s birthdays. Nearly all of the women have histories of degradation and abuse before they became trapped in exploitation, so the Starfish Project seeks to affirm each woman as worthwhile and being of value.

With their growing visibility, influence, reach and accolades, the Starfish Project mission remains simple: like the boy in the Parable, to restore hope for each woman, each “one.”

At the Green Box Boutique, we are proud to carry this beautiful, socially conscious jewelry. Please stop in to view the collection, know that your purchase makes a meaningful contribution toward building new lives.

For more about the Starfish Project, visit their website, Like them on FaceBook, or Follow them on Twitter, @StarfishProj.

Want to know more about Green Box Boutique? Visit our website, Like us on FaceBook, or Follow us on Twitter@grnboxboutique.

Sustainability: Thoughts About the Meaning of a Well-Used Word

Definition from ‘Fashion A to Z: An Illustrated Dictonary’ by Alex Newman & Zakee Shariff.
Definition from ‘Fashion A to Z: An Illustrated Dictonary’ by Alex Newman & Zakee Shariff.

Sustainability is about having a view of the future: it’s about living in the world in such a way today that it will be possible for others to live in it in the same way in the tomorrow.

Another way of thinking about sustainability is that it means thinking beyond our personal needs and wants. It means seeing ourselves as part of something larger and shedding the illusion of self-sufficiency.

In his 2015 Lenten address, Pope Francis spoke about “the globalization of indifference.” Indifference is the opposite of sustainability. Indifference means being concerned with one’s own needs and wants without reference to a larger context. It’s a view that prizes self-sufficiency over interdependence. Ultimately it means alienation from the larger context.

The tension between satisfying one’s own needs and maintaining awareness of the larger context isn’t just a tension we feel as human beings: it’s in the DNA of the universe.

As human beings, we’re loaded inside and out with trillions of bacteria. These bacteria are called the human microbiome. In a healthy system, the bacteria carry out their various functions, balancing each other and maintaining the system. Sometimes, though, in a system that is out of balance, certain disease-producing bacteria will band together into a community in order to protect themselves from attack by the immune system.

These communities of disease-producing bacteria are indifferent to the larger context of the microbiome. They are indifferent to the health or even the survival of the human body in which they live. Their sole focus is on their own immediate needs, survival and growth. Their self-sufficient indifference to the whole may even lead to the death of their host.

As we look around us today and listen to the news, we see evidence everywhere of the insufficiency of our current worldview and systems: we are surrounded with environmental degradation, social unrest, economic vulnerability and failure and new diseases, the result of unsustainable food practices at a time when our medical technology has eradicated so many infectious diseases.

Yet we have opportunities to look toward a future that is amazing if we pause to think beyond ourselves in this moment. We know what needs to be done, and each and every one of us can participate in building a better future. No matter how small our contributions may seem, each one is important.

Each dollar spent with awareness of our wider context, the supply chain and labor and environmental practices that bring our goods to us, is a dollar spent for sustainability.

At the Green Box Boutique, we like to make those choices easier for you. We research our vendors to be certain they are committed to sustainable practices, and we share that information with our customers. Studies show that more and more people want information about the sources of their purchases!

We like being part of a growing community that looks at the larger, interdependent world, and we appreciate our customers for being part of that venture with us.

Want to know more about us? Visit us at www.greenboxboutique.com, Like us on FaceBook at www.facebook.com/greenboxboutique, or Follow us on Twitter @grnboxboutique.

Beauty is as beauty does: Organic, Sustainable, Fair Trade Fashion

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We can do it!

Americans like to spend money. In 2014, that means, among other things, we spent 82 billion on clothing (a trillion worldwide). That’s a lot of buying power, and used on behalf of organic, eco-sustainable, fair trade clothing, it could accomplish a lot.

As recent changes in the fast food industry demonstrate, we can shape policies when we vote with the dollars we use to purchase food. We can do the same when we purchase clothing and other items.

Brief Primer: Chemicals in Clothing

There are two phases to consider in looking at chemicals in clothing. The first is the growth stage of the plants, plants like cotton. During this stage, if the clothing is not organic, pesticides and insectides permeate the crop, and the residue remains through the second, processing, stage.

Relevant statistics cite that 50% of all fiber in the world is cotton; 10% of the world’s pesticide use is due to cotton, and 25% of all insecticide use.  Another report cites cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s land while using 16% of the world’s insecticides, representing very heavy saturation. In addition, it requires ⅓ lb. of synthetic fertilizer to grow 1 lb. of raw cotton in the U.S. and just under 1 lb. of cotton for one t-shirt.

Many chemicals then remain in the fabric through further processing into fabric. A Greenpeace study found harmful chemicals in both adults’ and kids’ clothing after checking over 20 of the big brands. These chemicals disrupt hormones and endocrine function, attack the immune system, and could be carcinogenic. Greenpeace presents a series of videos examining this problem and the beginning of solutions.

Organic clothing uses fiber grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers, materials like cotton, linen, hemp and wool.

The second phase to consider in relation to chemicals in clothing is the processing stage, that is, bleaching, sizing, dying, straightening, shrink reduction, stain and odor resistance, fireproofing, mothproofing and static- and wrinkle-reduction.

Many of us probably remember the days when clothing shrank fairly easily, when stains took hold more quickly and permanently, and ironing was a weekly, if not daily, chore. Probably don’t want to go back there. The chemicals used to achieve more care-free clothing, though, are daunting and include “formaldehyde, caustic soda, sulfuric acid, bromines, urea resins, sulfonamides, halogens, and bromines” as well as disinfectants. Organic clothing is not necessarily chemical-free at the processing stage, so it’s important to know your sources.

The power of One in making changes for the better!

We can shape policies when we vote with the dollars we use to purchase fashion items. When we buy clothing that we know represents what we would like to see in the world, we deliver a message that the big manufacturers will eventually hear — and some hear now.

Our purchasing decisions can:

  • Regulate the textile industry
  • Eliminate use of toxic chemicals in clothing
  • Require using natural fibers and low impact dyes
  • Eliminate carcinogenic waste from the production of synthetic materials
  • Reduce environmental degradation

In addition, since those small companies that produce organic clothing are usually fair trade organizations, our purchases have an impact on unethical labor exploitation.

If we feel beautiful in new clothing, imagine how much more beautiful we’ll feel knowing that the clothes we are wearing are making the world a better place as well!

Want to know more about us? Visit us at www.greenboxboutique.com, Like us on FaceBook at www.facebook.com/greenboxboutique, or Follow us on Twitter @grnboxboutique.