Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas!

From all the staff at Bishopston Trading Company and from our partners in K.V.Kuppam, we wish you a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Organic Fairtrade Cotton Tea Towels

Ros first joined Bishopston Trading as part of a work experience placement whilst at school in Bristol. Later she bacame a Saturday Assistant in our Bishopston shop. Later still she worked with the K.V.Kuppam Embroidery Society and the Jewellery and Screenprinting Society. Several of the products we still sell online and in our shops today (several years later) were designed by Ros.

Nowadays as well as running art and craft activities with children in Bristol, Ros makes bags, brooches, collages and prints that she sells on Gloucester Road, just up from our shop, in a little gallery called Fig. Recently she approached us with a very attractive design for a tea towel. These are now being produced for her in K.V.Kuppam and sold in the Fig shop.

Bishopston Trading Company grew out of a twinning link between the area of Bishopston in Bristol and the village of K.V.Kuppam in South India. Almost 25 years later, we are still an organisation happily embedded in the local communities at both ends. We thought the story of Ros' Tea Towels illustrated this nicely.

Ros' organic Fairtrade cotton Tea Towels available at Fig, 206 Gloucester Road, Bristol.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Fairtrade Nativity

I wish I'd written this post this time last month. Earlier in the year we were approached by a very friendly company with an unusual name who were enquiring about ordering our organic Fairtrade cotton cloth on a wholesale basis. The company's name is While Shepherds Watched!

Of course we were more than happy to supply them with the cloth and generate more work for the weaving community of K.V.Kuppam. In conversation with them however, we learned that we could do more than just supply them with the cloth: While Shepherds Watched produce ethically-sourced nativity play costumes, really effective but simple tunics which would be no problem for the K.V.Kuppam Tailoring Societies to produce.

So that's what we're now doing: not only are the costumes made from organic Fairtrade certified cotton, they're woven and stitched in the village of K.V.Kuppam by our Fair Trade partners.

It's probably a bit too late in the nativity-play season now, but bear it in mind for next year: Mary, Joseph and the Shepherds can all be clothed ethically and fairly!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


In my last post I mentioned that like all organisations, there are things that we at Bishopston Trading could be improving on to reduce our Ecological-Footprint. Here's a few:

Letting People Know about the Environmental Impact of their Clothing.

I've heard it said that the majority of a garment's environmental impact is produced by our care for it once we've bought it. I can't find an exact figure, but certainly the washing, spin/tumble drying, and ironing of garments over their lifetime can be energy intensive (tumble drying's a big no-no). We recommend using an eco-detergent, washing at 30 degrees, hanging our clothes on a line to dry, and then steam ironing them.

Turning Off our Computer Monitors at the End of the Day

Sometimes in our rush to leave the office at 5:30, we don't wait to turn off our monitors. I come in in the morning and see an array of little flashing green lights. We need to improve on this.

Reboiling the Kettle

I have to admit its quite common for me to boil a kettle of water to make everyone in the office and in the shop downstairs a cuppa, then answer the phone or start typing an email, forget about the kettle and have to reboil it 15 minutes later.... Definitely losing points on that one.

Lighting in our Shops

Our shops have to be well lit to show off the distinctive colours of our clothing range, its one of the main reasons given by our customers for why they shop with us. We're currently looking into the best low-wattage option for all these spotlights.

We like to think we're doing well, but as with everything we can always do better...

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Wave - 5th Dec

Like several thousand other climate-change warriors/worriers, I spent my Saturday marching across London calling on the British government to take a tough stance on greenhouse gas emissions at the Copenhagen Summit this week.

Despite the severity of our planet's situation, it has to be said that Saturday's march was a very sociable affair. Amongst others, I met Katie who was proudly marching in a Bishopston Trading classic embroidered jacket.

This got me thinking about what we already do as a company to reduce our ecological footprint and also what else we could do....

Here's are 4 things we're good at:

Starting right at the beginning, the cotton we use is 100% organic, sourced from Agrocel Pure & Fair Cotton Growers in Gujurat. Conventionally grown cotton is enormously chemically intensive: some people estimate 25% of the world's insecticides are used on cotton alone, and 10% of the world's pesticides too. Most of these chemicals are derived from oil. Organic cotton farming cuts this out of the picture straight away.

Next comes the cotton weaving. As I've mentioned at least once before here, Bishopston Trading Company works with local based handloom weavers in K.V.Kuppam, who produce the handloom cloth which we use in the majority of our products. Handloom weaving is a traditional craft that relies on no energy source other than the pulling and pedalling action of the weaver. Our felllow Fair-Traders People Tree claim that fabric woven on a handloom produces 1 tonne less CO2 per year than the equivalent cloth from a powerloom.

Now to production. Since the earliest days, Bishopston Trading Company and our partners in K.V.Kuppam, have produced all sorts of bags, accessories, toys and gifts. Not only do our customers love them, especially at this time of year, but they ensure that every last scap of cloth is used up after our clothing collections have been produced. The K.V.Kuppam Tailoring Societies are waste-free producers!

Finally, in terms of the business at the UK end. There's several things that would be worth mentioning, for example the electricity company we use, where we buy our supplies of tea bags, toilet cleaner, soap etc. But probably the most interesting thing we do, concerns how we dispose of some of our packaging waste. Our goods arrive in cardboard boxes (of course these are then recycled) which are wrapped in cotton cloth to ensure the contents are safe and the boxes last the long voyage to Britain. We then donate this cloth to various local organisations who use it in their various projects: our friend Kath uses it to make rag-rugs which she sells locally to generate funds for her charity work in Gambia, local ethical-entrepreneur Rachel uses it in her reusable sanitary towels, and finally the local scrap-store offers it as craft material to local youth groups.

Next time: where we need to improve...

In the meantime, check our these blogs by local campaigners, Valerie and Janine who are reporting from Copenhagen as the negotiations take place.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Fairtrade Cotton Chrimbo

That time of year's come round again.... advent calenders are being opened each morning up and down the country, and people are preparing themselves for the great Christmas-present-shopping-slog. We suggest making it easy for yourself and doing it from the comfort of your own home: take a look at our Christmas present ideas online.

Why not choose to hang up an organic Fairtrade cotton stocking this Christmas Eve. Or fill a Fair Trade Christmas sack with goodies for your loved one. Decorate your tree with Fair Trade biodegradable garlands and stars, and sit down to your Christmas lunch at a table covered with an organic Fairtrade cotton table-cloth, decorated with hand-appliqu├ęd holly leaves.

Christmas is a time for giving. Buying Fairtrade Christmas gifts ensures your purchases make a positive difference to the lives of the skilled farmers and artisans who cultivated the crops and spun, wove and crafted the final product. Make it a Fairtrade Christmas.