Can't Eco and Socially Just Gifts Cost Less?

Who Pays When Prices Are Squeezed?
Sep 30, 2009 4:20 PM ET
Summary: is a gift boutique that promotes social justice and eco-consciousness by offering the up-style creations of eco and socially conscious artisans and designers. Elegant Roots makes it Personal by telling the Story of every artisan/designer as well as the product and the vision for People and Planet that it reflects. Elegant Roots supports the transparency movement; we inform so purchases may be aligned with values. Buy less but buy better. Make it meaningful. And we deliver it all exquisite, eco-conscious gift wrap.



On September 27, Sami Grover wrote about Elegant Roots on  Sami's headline is "Elegant Roots: Green Doesn't (Always) Come Cheap".

Apparently, having been burned repeatedly by criticism of the "pricey-ness" of some green products, Sami felt compelled to an anticipatory rant in response using, as her subject, our $69 handmade, organic stuffed Penguin.

Sami concludes: "It seems to me that if someone is going to spend $60 on toys, then buying one or two well-made, safe and sustainable items beats filling up the toy chest with lead paint and plastic crap. (Not to mention there are plenty of 'luxury' toys out there that don't carry such green credentials...)"

We, at, agree wholeheartedly and appreciate greatly Sami's endorsement. And we agree emphatically that people should Buy Less But Buy Better. As she suggests, there may be some "green" alternatives in a lower price range. But there are other issues at play here.

Social Justice and soulfulness. We offer things that are handmade -- touched by the hand and spirit of the artisan. No machine-turned-out toy can match the feel. And, unlike the Wal-Mart ilk, does not squeeze price concessions from the artisans. A fair price for a handmade item is what we're all about. If a handmade, organic stuffed animal were to sell for half the price, who would bite it on that transaction? The artisan.

I guarantee a "similar" toy can be made in a sweatshop factory in China for a lower price. And who bites it on that transaction. The sweatshop indentured servant. exists to help create and sustain a market for artisan products that use traditional skills to create marketable designs (Penguins are not a traditional subject in Kenya). If there is no market for these products, traditional skills become economically nonviable. Traditional lifestyles are lost as people are forced to overcrowded cities to join the ranks of the displaced, dependent on sweatshops.

So, when people complain about the prices, what do they really want? Do they want social enterprises like not to exist? Do they want the artisans in developing economies to get squeezed to the bone on prices in order to try to compete with sweatshops? Do they want only "cheap" plastic stuff that winds up in the dump?

Bottom line, you get what you pay for. If you want a product created by hand by some one person with pride and care, working in a joyful community of women receiving fair trade prices, a Penguin from the Critter Knitters of rural Kenya is the perfect choice.

The same applies within the borders of the US. If you want a limited edition Kimochi "emotions" doll made by hand in the US by a noted doll artist, Cody Thompson, shop at

You'll be glad you did. So will the artisan somewhere (and we tell you where) who, because a market exists, can pursue his/her art and be independent.

And it all comes wrapped in our nonpareil, signature, and COMPLIMENTARY, eco-conscious gift wrap.