January 07, 2021
Working remotely brings new challenges, namely staying comfortable in mind and body. Here are some tips on how to do WFH.
June 06, 2019
As if the “Who am I “ question wasn’t enough, I sometimes, oftentimes am compelled to truly consider what Global Groove Life is. Over the years, I’ve examined our motives, especially when folks ask us questions about the GGL “brand”. I’ve never thought of us as a brand, I’ve always thought of us as a team. Our family, volunteers, artisans, loyal patrons; Team GGL.
April 22, 2018
March 23, 2018
November 24, 2017
November 27, 2014
We sat in the back seat, five people side by side, two laps filled with children, holding one another close as family in the cab of a four wheel drive truck. From what I could see, I knew Pii Jane's brother in law was driving us to her mountain village in this car, but from what I could feel, amidst their energy with one another, something bigger was driving us to go to this mountain.
Pii Jane, the talented in-house, all-purpose, seamstress for Global Groove Life, comes from the Lahu tribe, a hill tribe in Northern Thailand. She is one of the many people employed with Global Groove Life with it's fair trade ethics. I had been invited to go with her to visit her brothers house on a mountain for a thanksgiving celebration, an introduction to a Thanksgiving outside of my own culture.
After a three hour drive into the mountains, we were welcomed into Pii Jane's brothers wooden home with hot tea, while the house erupted with the joyful conversation of a family reconnecting. It all sounded like a song to me, free to speak their local dialect with one another, and I am drawn to wonder what they share with one another.
After a few moments of sipping tea, white papers are passed around to each member, and the family sings in harmony an unfamiliar tune that I wish I knew. After three of these songs, Pii Jane instructs me to put my shoes on, it was time to walk to the church.
A dusty, up-hill mile later, we reach the landing and wade through an ocean of shoes and several rows of people seated outdoors to cross the threshold into the single-roomed, cinderblock building. Each pew is heavily filled, yet somehow five spots instantly appeared upon our arrival. I take a moment to absorb this new environment, and am quickly drawn to the contrast of the orange marigold flowers carefully strung across a room of sea blue walls. My eyes are drawn to the decorative fountain of golden plastic reflecting prisms of light from the center of the room, a party piece that seemed to be hung to evoke a spirit of celebration.
As the people share, Pii Jane whispers to me the reflection of their Lahu words into Thai as they take turns speaking in front of the group. Each one shares brightly, with no amplified support, of the gratitude they have for what God has done in their lives. One man, a farmer with a dusty hat in his hand, shares a story about how he had no food, asked God for help, and how God had given him food. The man stands speaking out his gratitude as though that reflection itself were his own offering. After these, each family in the room took a turn using only the harmony and melody of their voices to sing songs for the group. With a rotation of individual sharing, and family song, I recognize that nearly everyone in the room had something to say. I wondered then what my own words might be if I had shared.
Once the service finished, we stepped outside to tables lined with Lahu food prepared and place settings waiting for us, as though to say, "We have eaten, you can eat too".
We left that mountain in Thailand, driving past trees with leaves for rooftops, fields for rice, and clouds filled with rain, and I realize that here gratitude was more than just saying "thank you" for what you have, but that maybe gratitude is the freedom of giving what you have been given. Gratitude is a gift from the overflow of the heart.
November 13, 2014
In the USA, original Global Groover's Corinne (1999) and Taira (2002) reunite to whip the Santa Rosa Pop-Up Store into shape! Spray painting fixtures, things got a little silly...and a little peacock blue! We are loving this process and it is so fun seeing it come together. We are so excited that a place to buy fair trade goods will have a space in the Santa Rosa Plaza for the holidays. Thanks for all the help guys, the shop is almost ready to go, Santa Rosa!
We scored some sweet finds for the shop decor while thrifting. It's way more fun to find new uses for old things.
Greg putting up our awesome sign. Getting ready for our pop-up shop to be open on Black friday!
September 09, 2014
It’s at this point that yoga and Fair Trade truly intersect.
Yoga practitioners crave yoga products that have been produced in fair, ethical and safe environments, because they already understand honouring the spirit in others that is a reflection of the spirit in you - a true expression of 'namaste'.
Yoga and Fair Trade beat with the same heart.
August 26, 2014
Fair Trade gets a bad rap sometimes. It gets dismissed as the efforts of a bunch of hippies trying to push their left-wing protectionist agenda on hard-working people who have their own problems to worry about. Many of the people who hold this opinion haven’t taken the time to delve into the complexities of Fair Trade.
Because in reality, that’s not it at all. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
You see, Fair Trade is not about making anyone look better than anyone else, or trying to guilt normal, hard-working people into buying particular things.
Fair Trade is all about the opportunities.
Obviously, the opportunities for farmers and artisans are huge:
They get the chance to rise above endemic poverty, which they were born into and would likely never escape without a Fair Trade agreement on the table
Not only do they raise themselves out of poverty, but they have the opportunity to break the cycle for good, raising their children in relative comfort and teaching them the skills necessary to provide a good life for their children when the time comes
The people working in developing countries almost always have a deep sense of responsibility to their elders and the rest of their community. Just one or two producers can transform the fortune of an entire village by providing regular work and income to people who might otherwise not be able to earn.
They get the chance to participate in local economics in a meaningful way. As more and more producers become self-sustaining, they can put more money towards sustaining their local environment and building up local infrastructure to strengthen their community’s economic position, reducing the risk of exploitation and degradation of the culture.
And it’s not just the people that produce Fair Trade goods that are exposed to greater opportunity.
For us, the people working in Fair Trade businesses, the opportunities are of a less material nature, but are no less significant:
Working with Fair Trade producers means that our work is truly meaningful and creates real, tangible change in the world. We have the privilege of seeing what our hard work translates to - something many other business people are deprived of.
We have the opportunity to teach our children about responsibility and awareness with concrete evidence of why it’s important, and the impact your choices have on the world around you
The creeping sense of futility and emptiness of a life purely driven by the need to acquire ‘stuff’ is removed from our day-to-day. Every action we take and every resource expended has a purpose and creates positive change where it’s needed most.
The opportunity to end the cycles of exploitation and unethical business behaviour is a huge responsibility, but it’s one we welcome with open arms. Raising awareness in the general community about how important their choices are, and highlighting when big companies are wreaking havoc on small communities, is an opportunity to take our place among the great names who have changed the world before us.
And for you, the buyer, there are opportunities too.
It can be hard in normal life to feel like you could ever make a difference. There are so many causes that need attention, so many people to help, and so much cynicism in the world that it’s easy to become paralysed.
Buying Fair Trade gives you the opportunity to overcome that crippling sense of impotence. It allows you to directly affect the fortune of another human for the better. It gives you the opportunity to shift economic focus in your country to more sustainable production practices, and to start to address the huge imbalances between your life and the life of the person who produced the item in your hand.
So when it's time for you to buy things, be it gifts for others, accessories for your home, or even just a new yoga mat bag for yourself, choose a Fair Trade item.
It costs you very little, but the opportunities are priceless.
August 19, 2014
Travel is always such a whirlwind, isn’t it? There’s this manic scramble before you leave, packing, repacking and starting all over again, making sure you’ve got your cables and snacks and clothes and maps and lists and…. it just goes on and on.
But that’s the magic of it all, the unpredictable, unforeseeable beauty of gathering yourselves up and just going. We’ve been doing it a while now, and that is the only constant.
On our most recent trip, hauling ourselves all the way to the UK, and then bustling down into Nepal, we had some time to reflect on the process our materials and products have gone through as we grew.
Here we’d like to share some musings on that growth from a little while ago, when we rebranded from Fair Trade by HOPE to Global Groove Life:
Back in '98, after our first pop-up store, we literally travelled the length of India for interesting products to bring back to our customers in California for the following holiday season. Once we reached southern India, Mysore to be exact, we found ourselves not only high on the scent of sandalwood but intoxicated by the array of fine silks available.
Without a clue what we would do with it, we purchased yards of raw silk in just about every color imaginable.
This silk travelled on our backs via a third-class sleeper car from the southern tip of India back up and through the holy city of Varanasi. It travelled overland through a massive storm and leaky bus for three days from Varanasi to Kathmandu - over 1500 miles in total. And that's where we learned, after such a crazy journey, that Kathmandu was famous for embroidery!
Remember there was no Wifi in those days, Internet in that part of the world existed only in major cities and you could expect to wait up to three hours for your turn on the one computer. So we had no idea what we could expect to find anywhere in our travels.
So there we were with a pack full of silk surrounded on every street corner by the buzz of embroidering, and at Christmas 1998 we offered the most amazing silk cushion covers with intricate and colorful celtic knots that you have ever seen!
And now, in full knowledge of what Kathmandu has to offer, we carried fabric from afar once again. It didn't experience the authentic traveler's rite-of-passage journey as did our first go, but it did travel, albeit by jet...
From Chiang Mai to Bangkok to Delhi to London to Delhi to Kathmandu to Delhi to Bangkok and back to Chiang Mai.
Here in Chiang Mai the beautiful embroidered material is stitched into yoga mat bags, and then released out into the world to keep flowing to where it’s wanted. In keeping with Global Groove tradition, you can not get this in Kathmandu because the fabric doesn't exist there, nor can you get it in Chiang Mai, because this type of hand embroidery doesn't exist here.
It’s still amazing to us, after all these years, that travel and a small spark of inspiration led us to where we are today.
We started out with just a handful of artisans in the beginning, and now there are whole teams working to build this Global Groove Life together and to boost Fair Trade all around the world.
August 01, 2014
Here at Global Groove Life we’re proud of our Fair Trade certification, and we’re proud to be part of the global Fair Trade movement.
That movement has been riding a groundswell since the late 1940s, when a handful of religious and political groups, morally incensed by the horrors of World War Two, started started developing supply chains for from a small number of developing countries.
The products they started producing were largely sold into local economies - there was not enough awareness or demand at the time for department stores or chains to stock the cross-stitch and jute products.
It was not until the 1960s that Fair Trade really started to evolve into a social force.
The 60s are famous now for their political and social upheaval, and the blooming focus on social responsibility and individual ethics were one positive outcome.
At this time, students and young political players realised that boosting local economies was a much more effective way to help people than the scattershot approach to aid that most Western countries were applying.
In 1968, the UN adopted the popular slogan from the student movement - “Trade, not Aid.” That was the same year that Whole Earth Catalog, a broadsheet in the USA, started connecting producers in developing nations with the retailers and consumers who would start trading directly with them, effectively bypassing the bottlenecks of large corporate buying procedures.
By the time the early 1970s rolled around, dozens of ‘worldshops’ had opened around Europe, with volunteers running the stores to sell goods produced to fair trade standards in the developing world.
The 70s also saw a much greater proportion of individuals getting involved in Fair Trade. With many developing nations excluded from international trade on a political basis, thousands of volunteers took to selling products from their homes, churches and parks to support farmers in places like Angola and Nicaragua. This helped improved the general visibility of the fair trade movement, and exposed thousands more people to the concept of buying responsibly.
The Fair Trade movement faced a crisis point in the early 1980s. Many retailers felt that Fair Trade products often looked dated, and they were having trouble trading off the declining novelty factor. Demand for ethically sourced products plateaued, and a fall in commodity prices meant that the industry had to restructure - and quickly - to maintain any momentum.
Into the 1990s, many of these concerns were addressed, and ethical products became very successful in the Western retail markets.
Handicrafts slowly regained their popularity, maintaining the lion’s share of the Fair Trade industry. The emergence of agricultural products like coffee, tea, rice, nuts, cocoa, dried fruit, sugar and spices was key in the continuing growth of the industry.
A hugely important event in the development of Fair Trade was the introduction of certification. Up until this point, there has been no real regulation on the products being promoted as ethically sourced. In 1988, the first certification board was created in the Netherlands. This independent certification meant that Fair Trade products could be sold far beyond the confines of the little European worldshops.
At this point, Fair Trade sales really started taking off, as products started being stocked in large chains and department stores, removing the serious inconvenience consumers had previously faced in obtaining these products.
It also gave retailers and consumers alike the confidence they had previously been lacking - that they were truly paying for a product that would benefit the producer.
Soon enough, certification organizations had popped up all over the world, and in 1997, Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) had standardized the global certification process. FLO now sets the standard all Fair Trade products must meet, how inspections are conducted, how support is provided to producers, as well as harmonizing the message over Fair Trade between participating organizations.
These days, in order to be approved to carry the Fair Trade Certified stamp, the product in question must meet some key criteria:
Crops must be grown and harvested according to FLO standards
The supply chain must be monitored by FLO to guarantee the product’s integrity
The working conditions of the producers must be safe and healthy
Producers must be paid a living wage and not face exploitation
The organization must not engage any child or slave labor
The production process must protect and conserve the local environment
The organization must facilitate social development
These days, the proportion of Fair Trade goods on the market has switched from what it was throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Agricultural products now lead the charge, with a huge variety of goods falling under Fair Trade certification: bananas, mangos and oranges; sugar, tea and coffee; cocoa beans and cocoa; honey, nuts, seeds and oils; rice, quinoa, spices and wine. Handicrafts - such as clothing, jewelry, yoga accessories and homewares - now account for about a third of the ethical goods on offer.
July 30, 2014
The artisans we work with at Global Groove Life come from a diverse range of ethnic groups, and we’re privileged to work with such an interesting mix of people.
The different heritage, languages, belief systems and world views are always opening us up to new ideas, new experiences and a greater understanding of the world around us.
Thailand has a huge range of ethnic groups, each with their own languages, traditions and styles. Thais make up about 90% of the general population, while minority groups account for the rest.
Among the most well known of these minorities are the Karen.
With a population of around 400,000 people in Thailand, the Karen themselves are a diverse collection of smaller ethnic groups. Two of our artisans, Dia and Ning, are part of the Karen community who live in and around Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand.
The Karen are primarily from Burma (Myanmar), and have had a tumultuous history. From clashes with the central Burmese government and subsequent British administration throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the Karen have been massively displaced from their original land.
The Akha are another of the larger minority groups found in northern Thailand.
They also live in parts of Myanmar, Laos and Yunnan province in China. Civil war in Laos and Myanmar meant that like the Karen, the Akha were forced to flee, and now a population of over 80,000 are settled around Chiang Mai.
Ahsu and Nueng, our master jewelers, are from the Akha community. Many of their compatriots still work in agriculture, which has traditionally been the foundation of Akha economy. Today, however, ‘ecotourism’ means more and more people make their living from entertaining the tourists who come to spend a day in the life of the village.
Like the Karen and Akhu, the Lahu people are one of the largest ‘hill tribes’ now residing in Thailand.
Jane, one of our tailors, is Lahu and again, their story is one of displacement as a result of civil war. Once known as tiger-hunters, the Lahu now live sparse lives, relying on back-breaking subsistence farming, blacksmithing and weaving to continue their way of life.
All these people - their rich heritage and culture - will be eroded over time if they do not become empowered and autonomous.
This is at the root of why we seek out talented artisans in these communities.
Becoming part of a Fair Trade company gives artisans the power to make effective changes in their community.
For many it’s the difference between making a respectable living and doing something that would alienate them from their people and themselves.
It empowers them to care for family members who cannot work, to educate their children, and to contribute to their community in the unique and meaningful ways of each people. Fair Trade guarantees them a livable wage - meaning that the desperation that can destroy whole cultures is removed from the equation, person by person.
It’s this that we strive for every day.
Of course, we love delivering beautiful goods to our customers, and it’s our joy to have a business that creates such high quality jewelry, yoga gear and homewares.
But at the heart of it, our passion to see justice brought to the people who toil to create those goods is what drives us forward, and we’re honored that you’re along for the ride with us.