Recycled and Fair Trade Beads

recycled glass beads

Autumn recently posted The Eco-Crafters List of Demands, asking green crafters what they would like to see stocked in the craft store of their dreams. Katherine Cota of Spindle Bell had quite a few suggestions:

My ideal craft shop would have EVERYTHING! I love it all. I would especially love a great supply of pretty recycled papers and unique recycled beads. Non-toxic glues/adhesives, glass etching solution, paints. Unique synthetic yarns AND more stylish (affordable) knitting needles/crochet hooks.

Katherine also mentioned that she had stopped shopping at mainstream craft stores, but had concerns about the independent online retailers as well. How do you know their business practices are any better?

I can definitely sympathize with Katherine. In my fantasies, I can walk down the street and shop at a grocery store where everything is organic and either local or fair trade. Anything I see that I want, I can have without worrying if I’m doing something bad to the planet or people. Put a craft store next to that grocery store and I would be in heaven.

While we wait, though, I thought I would round up some recycled and fair trade beads we can all feel good about:

While this isn’t the same as walking into an all-green, fair trade craft store, it’s a start. If you have a favorite source for earth-friendly, people-friendly beads, please share it in the comments.

[Image from eShopAfrica.]

Written by Skye Kilaen

Skye Kilaen began sewing at an early age and eco-rabble-rousing shortly after that. Many years later, someone finally told her that there are books about how to make quilts. Life was never the same. In fact, she spent more on her sewing machine than her car. Bringing her green and crafty passions back together, Skye is now happily discovering ways to create beautiful and useful objects using thrifted and sustainable materials. No, that's not just an excuse to visit Goodwill more often. Honest.


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  1. Thank you for sharing these shops Skye.

    I don’t have another shop to share, but I have a question. Would you buy beads that have been recycled from old broken jewellery? I make recycled jewellery myself but am thinking about selling cleaned and sorted beads.

    I would love to see a shop that sells recycled jewellery findings – I haven’t found one yet!

  2. Great article – I run a lot of stalls for various events in the local area such as fetes and fairs and have started to get to know fair trade and ethical goods stall holders quite well. I would recommend the following site in the UK:

  3. Hi, I am the owner of a fair trade business in Charleston SC. i sell fair trade arts and crafts mostly from Africa. I was delighted to read your article about the fair trade recycled paper and glass beads, aren’t they cool? Just to let you know, i sell these online as necklaces and bracelets already made from women in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda amongst other things.
    I also have my blog regarding Africa (and my pictures as a volunteer)and articles on Green issues within my website!
    Check us out:
    Thanks, i will definitely tag your website!

  4. Hi. I make and sell jewelry and recently became interested in fair trade beads and pendants. I like to shop at and Hope this helps!

  5. As I explore ways to “green” my craft activities, I find it helpful to shift away from the notion that I want or need everything that is available to me now to exist in a sustainable, fair trade form. It is probably not entirely realistic to wait for this to happen. Part of the problem is that we have become spoiled by the feast of inexpensive riches available to us for a pittance. To contribute to the solution, for me anyway, involves dialing back a bit on the notion of what I need access to in order to create beautiful things.

  6. I would like to recommend a truly Fair Trade Bead Site that has unusual beads from around the world with a huge selection of organic beads and recycled glass beads. The folks there are easy to work with, answered all of my questions, and my beads are a god price and always beautiful!!
    It is a family owned store that does all of their own trips/buying of their beads. It is family operated as well, so I feel good about supoorting a family business rather than a corporate store.

  7. I have a assigment to make jewerly but it has to be fair trade for this store that wants it.
    I bought my beads from a couple that runs there own bead shop. Everything that I bought is real you know lapis, turquois, jade, onxy, jaspar, amber and many more.
    My questions is can I sell all of it and say its fair trade?
    Also where than if I can’t say what I made already is fair trade….do I buy beads( not jewelry already made with beads) online that are fair trade certified? Or is there such a thing? Thank you Vanessa Lueptow Eunica Studios

  8. I am a jewelry and bead maker and work at a Fair Trade store that sells Fair Trade beads. I have serious concerns about the origins of some of Happy Mangos’ beads. The bead and jewelry industry is a horrible offender in terms of products being produced in developing countries in horrible conditions and using child labor. Most products are not produced sustainably. So for beaders who care, it is important to ask questions.

    Beads described as Fair Trade need to meet all the commonly accepted principles of Fair Trade, which includes guaranteeing that artisans receive a fair wage for their work. But that’s not the only requirement. Other principles include that ALL products are made in a way that is environmentally sustainable. I find it very hard to believe that the huge diversity of beads Happy Mango sells are all made sustainably. Fair Trade is also about long-term relationships with artisans. I highly doubt that they are working long-term with all the artisans who make their huge selection of beads and pendants. Paying fairly for beads from intermediaries is not the same. I found in Ghana that many people selling in markets were not the bead makers and did not even pay bead makers a decent wage for their beads.

    I am sure the Happy Mango people mean well and are trying to do the right thing, but if you’re not going to adhere to the basic principles of Fair Trade for ALL your products, don’t call yourself Fair Trade. In fairness to artisans and customers, Happy Mango needs to provide a lot more details about how they source ALL the beads they sell. As beaders trying to do the right thing, we need to be careful and ask A LOT of questions about what we buy.

  9. there is a great recycled, fair trade bead company based in Glasgow, Scotland – Mzuri Beads. Kirstie founded the company & they make beads out of recycled magazines, made in Uganda 🙂
    they design & make their own jewellery but also sell beads separately. Worth checking out –

  10. Elitist Drivel? I call it idealist.

    If we were all paid fairly for the goods and services we provided others, we would all be able to afford to buy the ethical goods and services that others provide us. Likely if we had more local, sustainable, fair trade, and/or organic options, and we actually cared about ourselves and others (which clearly most people just don’t), we would shift to a culture of less waste, less obesity, less credit card debt, and less junk, because and we would no longer be addicted to buying the cheapest possible lowest quality goods and services.

    People would hate their jobs less if they were making a fair amount that they could comfortably live on, and probably be less cranky and do more productive and healthful things than troll the Internet.

    Those privileged folk who are used to living in the lap of luxury at the expense of other people and our natural resources (like people who are literate, have electricity, advanced technology, a connection to the Internet, and the free time to do useless things like troll blog posts) would have to say goodbye to their exploitative lifestyles.

    If you can’t afford to support ethical consumption, try living on the budget and lifestyle of someone on the other end of your exploitative consumer choices, and see how fast your priorities change.

    I would rather give one friend a bracelet I made with fair trade, recycled beads, something that supports a single mother in a developing country, than give eight friends each plastic or alloy accessories that give them a rash or turn their skin green, and are made by a child that works 12 hours a day instead of going to school, just because I think I need to give something to everyone I know, and more is better, and I’m addicted to shopping/bargains. That’s the difference, to me, between being cheap and being ethical. It’s better to give something hand made to a select few than give garbage to everyone. I can easily make interesting greeting cards with recycled paper for everyone else. You aren’t required to be as awesome as Santa Clause for every occasion. If you’re worried about what people will think of you when you don’t get them a gift, you should be worried about what they’ll think of you when you give them another crappy gift.

    The same goes for just about anything, when you’re eating good food, you don’t have to eat as much of it to be satisfied. You may be buying less because you’re spending more, but you’re eating better, and you don’t have bulk produce rotting in the back of your fridge at the end of the month. If it’s a matter of convenience, use a slow cooker or dutch oven and freeze portions of a few different dishes.

    I’m a privileged person, and I do buy crap from the dollar store sometimes, and I eat food that came from a big box store pretty often, but I live on less than $15,000 a year, and I know that it’s totally possible to make a lot of ethical choices on a budget. Whenever I’m treating myself, and whenever I’m giving a gift, I want to make the ethical choice.

    You vote with your dollar. What kind of world do you want to live in? Cheap or ethical?

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