• At Baskets of Cambodia, we care about environmental sustainability:
At Baskets of Cambodia, we abide by the firm belief that running an eco-friendly business is conducive of a successful and prosperous business. We depend on the continual re-growth of the “la peuk” that our baskets are composed of. We depend on the good health and wellbeing of the weavers to have a successful operation. We depend on the continual supply of packing materials to ship our product from Cambodia to the United States For these necessities to be maintained, we believe in nurturing the people and environments that make our business possible. Ultimately, we constantly look for new ways to improve our practices for the basic sake of good environmental stewardship. All of our products are made from organic grasses, free of any herbicide or pesticide treatment. We make a point to ensure that our product has a low impact on the surrounding environment and people connected to it. Below is an overview of our Operation Practices at Baskets of Cambodia, and what we are doing as a business to improve our environmental relationship.
• Our baskets are made from a fast growing reed grass called “la peuk.” This particular grass grows through out Cambodia. Because we believe in sustainable harvest, we leave enough of the natural grass to ensure it’s return the following year, but also take enough to help manage the land it’s growing on.
• The raw materials are all organic, free of pesticides and herbicides.
• None of BOC raw materials are subject to artificial irrigation instead, they depend completely on the seasonal rains.
• The dyes that we use on our products are certified non-toxic dyes by the European Union. We are continuing to strive to make our dues 100% natural, while also ensuring the quality of the dye.
• In 2005 BOC stopped using all Styrofoam products. That same year we stopped using all personal water bottles. We now relay on large 5 gallon containers of water and the use of reusable cups.
• The United States BOC shipping operation makes a point to predominantly rely on reused boxes and packing materials when sending out products. Boxes that are not suitable for reuse are recycled. Additionally in the office, we have a strong recycling program for the paper and plastics that we do consume.
• Our product itself is woven with strength to last a lifetime, resulting in less waste and garbage and ultimately a smaller carbon footprint.
• Most of BOC basketry is transported by bicycle before it is actually packed to be shipped overseas.
• Though shipping by air would be the quickest means of transporting our merchandise, at BOC we instead fill 40’ containers and ship overseas. While not carbon neutral method, this significantly reduces its carbon footprint caused from product transportation.
• Many of our weavers commute to work by bicycles or small motorbikes, and in general only travel a small distance to reach Baskets of Cambodia operations. The longest commutes are in our basketry regions where occasionally workers will commute by bicycle up to 9 miles each way.
• The designs themselves are not only unique in appearance, but are also designed to maximize shipping space. Many of our sets are nested to fit inside of one another or stack perfectly inside of one another.
Prior to Baskets of Cambodia purchasing the weaving Facility, manufacturers would often not take precautions when disposing of dye. Often, the non-toxic dyes would be dumped and allowed to seep into the soil. When BOC stepped in, we sought out assistance from the German Development Agency, GTZ, who helped to train and install new techniques for proper waster disposal. BOC has even further developed GTZ’s initial system, by utilizing an above ground charcoal filter system to filter the dyes and contain waste material.
Though we are a Fair Trade Certified Company, Baskets of Cambodia has room to improve practices. We continue to strive towards becoming Carbon Neutral, and are constantly looking towards new innovative ideas in regards to lowering our carbon impact. Though we reuse and recycle a majority of our packing materials, we are still looking for effective materials that could replace some of the plastic we use in packing. We are also continuing to look at different types of dyes we can use on our grasses, which will retain the vivid color that our bags are known for. Eventually, we hope to use 100% natural dyes on all our products, but in the mean time, we are open to suggestions and ideas.
Fair Trade Practices:
We joined the Fair Trade Federation in 2008. However, we have been upholding (and encouraging others to uphold) Fair Trade principles since we began in 1996. We constantly strive towards creating long lasting local economies with the help of our ideas and practices. Some principles that we continue to uphold:
• Transparency in all aspects of our business: We are truly an open book. The places our products are manufactured are open to any visitors that wish to visit the facilities. If you don't find what you are looking for on our website (or in person), please call or email us. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
• A decent wage: Our workers are paid a minimum of $2.50 per day, twice the going rate for the most marginal of crafts. In addition we provide various benefits to employees with special needs.
• Safe and open working conditions: As a Fair Trade Member, humanitarians, and environmental stewards, we are committed to the safety of the people who work with us, as well as the environment our production effects.
• Health insurance - We subsidize emergency health care for emergencies and are currently investigating the government sponsored health care programs for all those who work with us.
• Dental Hygiene education and care: Periodic classes on the importance of dental hygienge are conducted with the help of local dentists.
• Interest-free loans for emergencies .
• Paid time off for full time employees as well as company vacations. BOC honors all govcernment holidays- up to 25 days per year.
In summer of 2010 we took over control of production of a mat-weaving village, giving Baskets of Cambodia control over the purse-making process. This means we can ensure good wages and conditions for our mat weavers, dyers, all the way up to our purse makers. The only aspect of our business that we broker from an outside source is ceramic manufacturing. Unfortunately the facilities required to make the ceramics we need do not currently exist in Cambodia, so an outside company is the means to attaining this material. Again, we are always looking for ways to improve our business model, and are open to suggestions.
Update Summer 2013: We closed our weaving facility in the countryside because of management issues and now do all our dyeing at our collection facility outside of Phnom Penh (Russei Keo District). Here we have decided to use more environmentally friendly propane heat which is also safer to be around than the constant overpowering fires we used to heat our ovens. We no longer need to scour the countryside in search of wood which is not plentiful in Cambodia. By moving to Phnom Penh we also expect to lower the cost of our mats enough to provide a salary increase for our weavers who will now work from home, which for many is preferred.
Date: December 9, 2014