This weekend I had the pleasure of attending Seattle’s annual Green Festival. I arrived at the Washington Convention Center on Sunday morning, just as the sun was coming out for the first time in what felt like ages. It was heartening to see so many people still happily shuffling through the indoor festival despite the tempting weather outdoors.
This year’s Festival was structured similarly to last year’s: plenty of vendors (everything from natural body products and all-natural pet food to Fair Trade gifts and sustainable home remodeling materials) to visit in between lectures and workshops. I saw one particularly lively area where storytellers in costumes told stories to enraptured children.
There was a strong focus on fair trade, including promotion of the World Fair Trade Day event planned for May 9th. There doesn’t seem to be an escape from the current reality that the United States is a nation completely dependent on consumerism, and yet one can still feel hope. The fair trade movement has raised awareness, little by little, in the importance of asking questions of ourselves about our purchasing habits and the repercussions of those choices. Beyond the impact made on our wallets, our continual stream of purchasing has ripple effects far beyond those to our own households.
My most memorable experience at the Green Festival was visiting with a lovely woman named Marina who, along with her young friend Elijah, sold beautiful tatami purses made with woven grasses from the Mekong River Delta in Cambodia. Marina, a single mother with warm, open brown eyes, was an engaging storyteller who took pride in telling the story of the women who made these purses to support themselves and their families. They hand-dye the grasses with dyes made from locally harvested plants and flowers, and create each purse in a cooperative team — some dying the grass, some weaving the panels, and others sewing the purses together. I think of the hundreds of celebrities in the world walking around with designer handbags and can’t help but wonder how much good could be done by redirecting that money towards these lovely creations instead. Marina is still developing her web site, so please check in with her small business from time to time: www.seagrasspurses.com.