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Shopping with a conscience: Downtown shop offers fair trade

SeaCoastOnline.com

Socially conscious shopping is what Fa La Lo is all about.

Really.

The name Fa La Lo stands for “fair labor and/or local,” and the owners mean it.

“A year ago we had no idea we’d have this store, but it came about really fast,” said Liz Wright, “and not only is it a labor of love, we really aren’t in it for the money. We want to help.”

While both Wright and her husband have some retail experience, it’s not their main job. Wright is a professor of English and communications at Rivier College in Nashua.

“I was teaching my students about sweatshops and unfair labor,” she said. “They asked me, ‘Well, where can we buy such products?'”

Now, they and everyone can buy them at Fa La Lo, a genuine fair trade and local store. The array of goods ranges from fine crafts and arts to bags, jewelry, women’s accessories, cards, fine linens and much more.

You simply have to check it out yourself. The merchandise changes often.

Wright, who is known locally for co-hosting “Portsmouth at Large” on the community radio station WSCA-FM 106.1 Mondays at 10 a.m., interviewed a woman representing Handcrafting Justice. She loved the products and social responsibility the concept engendered. The nonprofit was a 10-year-old Catholic organization founded by an order of nuns.

“We sell crafts indigenous, handcrafted and made by groups who pay a living wage,” said Wright. “Many of these groups offer a meal, child care and sustain the local economy.”

In addition to selling fair trade art products, they also sell locally made products.

“We want to sell as much as we can,” said Wright, “because this is how it will really help those in need. Our prices are as low as we can possible make them.”

One particular item of note is the art form called Nanduti from Paraguay. Also sold are pill boxes made in Bolivia from orange peel.

There are also some religious figurines made in the Philippines from lava ash. Also from the Philippines are bags made completely from used potato chip bags.

Locally made items include a reusable sandwich bag made in York, Maine. There are also many Native American items that are made in Nashua.

The table linens from Madagascar are handmade.

“We also carry products through 10,000 Villages,” said Wright. “They have been in business for 60 years. We carry some of their Vietnam-made chairs as well as other things. Many of their products are made by disabled people.”

Another product of interest is the Huichol from Mexico, an indigenous art form made from string and beads. Each item has a handwritten message on the back from the artist. This is also true of the Haitian paintings the shop offers.

There are some very local, one-of-a-kind cards painted by hand from India. The form is called Skeleton pipal and has a tree leaf.

Fa La Lo sells bug spray, sachets and lip balm made by a local Exeter woman who grows her own herbs for the products.

“Everything I have I really like,” said Wright. “We just want to sell as much as we can to help those who really need help.

“We want turnover. The more we sell, the more help we give to those countries who really need it. It is a wonderful feeling to sell something very good and unique and know it gives back.”

Fa La Lo opened its doors this past Saturday and already business and interest is brisk, Wright said. There is a good array of local products. In addition to those mentioned above, there are locally made cards, painting and bird houses.

“It’s just wonderful to have this store and know we are helping needy people worldwide,” said Wright, “and helping local artisans.”

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