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Fair trade at your fingertips with TenThousandVillages.com

March 15, 2009|Jen Leo

Forgot to buy your friend a gift from your last trip to Africa? Or maybe you'd like to fill your house with cool handmade gifts from India. TenThousandVillages.com has your back. The well-established nonprofit program works with artisans around the globe to sell their handicrafts and, in turn, give those who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed a fair wage.

What's hot: Shopping fair-trade items from around the world. I liked looking at the collections to get a quick scan of the products. The Fiesta collection led me to a recycled paper 6-inch-square hot mat, good for keeping warm dishes or moist tableware from marring a wood surface; it's from the Women's Multipurpose Coop in the Philippines and costs $8. The Verde collection led me to some noteworthy birdhouses from Haiti (a natural vine creation at $16) and Bangladesh (a "bird condo" at $14). There are a variety of items to choose from, including jewelry (tiger stone pendant from Peru for $68), furniture (a dragon bamboo side table from Vietnam for $78), pottery and wood (a serving bowl from Kenya carved from wood, $38). The website is intuitive, and you can use the "Gift Ideas" tab or even create your own gift registry. If you'd rather shop in person, see the long list of retail stores across the U.S. and in Canada. (In this area, there's a store at 496 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena; [626] 229-9892.)

What's not: The website accepts credit cards, but the online ordering process would be easier if PayPal or Google Checkout were offered.

-- Jen Leo

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