Category Archives: sustainable

Friday Photo: Think cool thoughts

Like (almost) everyone else, I’m trying to keep cool.   And, while I’m definitely not a Christmas in July type–except for the fact that I’m in the midst of wholesaling Three Stone Steps’  line of recycled ornaments, trees, dreidels, and menorahs now– I thought a photo of a very cool, blue ornament wouldn’t be such a bad idea for a Friday Photo.

And, while global warming is pretty much at the top of a lot of people’s mind,  you should know that this papier-mâché ornament is made by hand from recycled cement bags outdoors in Jacmel, Haiti (where it’s actually cooler than it is here in Baltimore) by a mother and daughter team, so besides the shipping, there’s really no carbon footprint. And, should you not care for this cool blue, other colors and styles are available.

Happy (hot) Friday.

Papier-mâché ornament with flower

Blue and cool.


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Filed under Baltimore, Christmas, environment, fair trade, friday photo, Haiti, hanukkah, holiday shopping, judaica, new products, ornaments, recycled, recycling, sustainable

Recycled roosters

One day, we turned around and realized we were carrying a load of roosters.  (Ok.  This happened during last shopping trip to Haiti, which was way back in January.)

Here is just a bit of the selection:

recycled metal art from Haiti, roosters

they seem a tad coy, yes?

This piece, found here, is super popular, and made by one of the few female metal artisans in Haiti.

recycled metal art from Haiti, round rooster

rooster in the round

Coincidentally, this piece is also made by a female artisan, in fact, the wife of the artisan who creates Three Stone Steps’ love and peace pieces.  Depending on the decor, I can see this in a kitchen.  If you want it for yours, you can find it here.

small recycled metal art rooster among the flowers

this little piece should fit just about anywhere

Not shown to scale!  This small piece, 4.5″ x 6″ is perfect to fit anywhere.  And, need I say it, it’s A for adorable.  It’s right here.

And, that’s not all!

recycled rooster trivet from Haiti

keep your hot stuff off the table

Ok, this wise looking bird isn’t yet on my site–one day, I’ll have it updated to include housewares–but I always think that if Picasso’s cubist period took place in Haiti and if he worked in recycled oil drums, well, he’d make a rooster trivet not too different from this one.

Last but not least and not on my site, check out this wonderful papier-mâché rooster below:

Papier-mâché rooster from Haiti

Cute & life-like, but definitely not for the yard.


Filed under fair trade, Haiti, metal art, recycled, sustainable

Inclusive is our middle name: we have crosses

Here at Three Stone Steps we have a deeply ingrained sense of fairness.  A few years ago we carried these fantastic recycled ornaments from the Philippines (we’ll have them again this year) and the next year I thought, hey that’s not fair, not everyone celebrates Christmas, and worked with the women’s collective that produce the ornaments on creating fabulous recycled dreidels.  (They also will definitely be available again this year.)  One year, we made up these red, black, green Kwanzaa ornaments only to learn that people don’t really buy ornaments for Kwanzaa, but that’s another story.

When I first went to Haiti in 2008, I bought crosses to sell.   And, that silly fairness thing cropped up again, and I thought that not everyone is from a cross tradition, so had one of the artists I work with make a hamsa/hand of Fatima.  (There will be an entire blog post about this amazing symbol some time soon.)  I then created a line of Judiaca that I just wrote about this week and you can see more of  here.  And, I love my beautiful recycled metal Judaica from Haiti so so so much that I forget to blog about my crosses.

I’ve fixed that now.  Crosses below:


small star cross

if crosses can be hip, this one is

This cross is fairly small, and measures 3″ x 4.5″.

The next three crosses are still on the small side, but larger than the one above.  They measure 5.5″ x 7″.

cross with fish

fish in cross

peace cross

we all need a little peace

cross with birds

lovely bird-y cross


Oh, and these are incredibly affordable.  And, to insert my very own boilerplate language:  they’ll be up on the site soon.  If you want one now, just get in touch.

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Filed under Christmas, fair trade, Haiti, hanukkah, judaica, metal art, ornaments, peace, recycled, sustainable

Ghetto Biennale and other recycled art in Haiti

This current trip is my fifth to Haiti.  Usually, for a variety of factors, mostly involving the high cost of travel there, I rush through and do absolutely what I have to do and head home.   I changed things this time.

This has been by far my best trip to Haiti, in fact, one of the best travel experiences anywhere.  I gained new insights.   I met interesting people.  I listened to a variety of music that provided the perfect soundtrack to what I was seeing.  In a first for me in Haiti–although it tends to be my passion just about everywhere else–I ate street food.  I saw loads of art.

Yes, my first full day in Haiti was a very good day.

The first stop happened by chance, when I spotted a yard, if you can call it that, crammed with art from rusty old metal pieces and a sign that read “Ghetto Biennale.” (Despite the name, I think this is up all year long.)

There were a shocking large number of pieces of art with erections.  This was pointed out to me in case I missed it.  I hadn’t.  I’ve never quite thought about that subject in art, and I’m sure I’d have remembered it from Art History 101 had it ever been brought up.   I was, however, assured that it was an optimistic sign, a happy until the end kind of thing.

As I toured the space  it dawned on me that I had seen this gallery on the Haiti episode of No Reservations.  (A show I’ve watched the one time when it was about the country.)    I brought this up to the artist, and he didn’t at all recall meeting a famous American chef.  (And, strangely, this made me happy. )  Also, as I recall the episode, and I could very well be misremembering it,  Bourdain found the art deeply disturbing.  Perhaps he missed  a thing or two.

Nearby I visited another artist who works mostly with used auto parts.  (And, it doesn’t really hurt that I was in the section of Port-au-Prince where there are tons of used auto part stores.)  Some of these photos are included in the slideshow below.

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Amazing art and experiences continued since this first full day in Haiti a mere two days ago.  And, I’ll be back here writing more about it.

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Filed under artisans, food, Haiti, metal art, recycled, recycling, sustainable, travel

Love and stuff

Haitian metal art sign "love"

it's ok to love love

I don’t usually think about love.  It’s not that I’m anti-love or anything like that, it’s just that I have plenty of other things on my mind.  And, I do think about stuff, quite a lot in fact, since I’m pretty much in the business of finding and designing great, ethically made stuff and then selling it.

And, just recently, yesterday, in fact, I began thinking about loving stuff.  I had a wonderfully high number of great customers–and I do have the best customers–at The Under the JFX Farmers’ Market who were either buying stuff that they loudly exclaimed that they loved, or had come back, after buying something a week or month ago to say that they had a Three Stone Steps bag, or key chain, or bit of recycled metal art from Haiti that they loved.

you can love a key chain made from recycled juice packs.

It made me happy.  I told my customers that I loved it that they loved it.

And, I love most of my stuff.  Like a parent who doesn’t quite want to admit it, I do have some favorites.  I guess it’s only natural.

Ok, I admit it. This recycled metal snake is one of the pieces from Haiti that I have that I love.

Probably if I were to sit down and think about this all in my usually overly analytical way I might think it silly. Really, how do you love an object?  But, it’s not really silly at all.  I think people are not only loving what they bought (and who could blame them?) but loving how it makes them feel.  They love knowing that they got a great product at a fair price, made by real, unexploited workers, without harming the planet.  And,the product looked good on them, or fit their needs perfectly, or was an appreciated gift.

I love that.

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Filed under Baltimore, fair trade, Haiti, messenger bags, recycled, sustainable, trash bag

A bake sale to fight hunger: or why we’re not having an Earth Day sale

Years ago, when I worked my insidethebeltway job at a large public sector labor union, one of my colleagues read an article about a famine some place or another and decided to hold a bake sale to raise money to send to some feed the children or feed the adults charity. (I won’t even go into my entire rant about charities and NGOs, and how the main stream media covers events like famines.) I honestly thought it was a joke. Oh, how clever, I thought, a bake sale for starving people. What a riot! (It all reminds me of the line in Lily Tomlin’s play, “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” when Trudy the Bag Lady comes up with the idea of marketing snacks in developing countries, by saying something like, they don’t even have meals, and they’ve not even begun thinking of between meal snacks.) Of course, the bake sale was launched in all earnestness, and even included “diet” brownies, which just seemed to add another layer of Trudy irony to the entire event.

Moving forward:  Yesterday, I was at a sweet little Green Fest-type event at a small, business-oriented local college. It was supposed to be outdoors, but the weather didn’t cooperate, so it was moved inside. The organizers wanted to make the event fun, so they had a large tent, where college students could get in and jump around.  (I have no idea what this thing is called, and it does look like fun.)   So this large, loud contraption was moved indoors, all the better to see just how much energy this big, plastic structure consumed. Not only that, but a campus club had a book out about how to eat sustainably and lose weight next to a tray of candy. I actually pointed out the juxtaposition to one of the organizers, who just shrugged.  I pointed out the energy sucking thing in the corner to one of my fellow vendors, and he had that ah-ha, by George, you’re right look.

I didn’t think irony was that hard to see.  But, apparently it is.

And, the irony continues with Earth Day sales.  Someone who does get it, The Good Human, has a great post up, Earth Day Is Not a Holiday for Shopping  And, yes, he’s absolutely correct.  While a few of my fair trade and green colleagues are sending out their email blasts touting their sales, I won’t have one.  In fact, although Three Stone Steps is  in the business of selling ethically sourced imports that are good for people and the planet, I think Earth Day should be another Buy Nothing Day.  When we sell locally, as an itinerant retailer,  we often tell people that we’re about as close to guilt free shopping as you can get, since we’re local, green, and fair trade, but, really, we’re still about consumption.  We know that.  Part of our mission is to think about ethical consumption, but, even though you’re buying a piece of Haitian metal art, made from used oil drums, which is made without the use of electricity, so besides for the shipping, doesn’t add one once to a carbon footprint, it’s not a substitute for doing something for Earth Day.  Take a walk in the park, plant a tree, clean the alley, but don’t make shopping your main Earth Day activity.  Of course, should you want to buy a recycled key chain, ethically made by a women’s collective in the Philippines, please do, but just keep in mind that shopping’s no substitute for doing.

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Filed under environment, fair trade, green commerce, green week, Haiti, metal art, Philippines, sustainable

News from the United Nations

This fits in both the better late than never and the I didn’t know that, but I lived quite well without knowing that departments, but as of January 2009, we are in the International Year of Natural Fibers, or Fibres, if you prefer.

And, why does this matter? Well, Three Stone Steps is proud to carry three of the fifteen natural fibers/fibres listed. In the silk category, we carry that great silk Angkor shoulder bag, and fantastic silk scarves, and jewelry rolls. We’ll be getting more colors in the shoulder bag along with matching wallets, and great new colors of the silk scarves. And, while we’re at it, we’re also introducing fabulous new cosmetic bags, jewelry pouches, and great little purses made of silk, and a silk/linen blend from Vietnam.

For cotton, we will be getting in more of the popular silk screen on cotton messenger bag, and a new style bag in the same pattern.

But, what’s most exciting about this year is that it’s also the year of abaca. I won’t spill all the beans now, but be prepared for great new messenger bags, and other great things to carry made of this amazing, sustainable fiber. If you want a sneak peek, courtesy of the UN, check this out. Much, much more soon!

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Filed under cotton, jewlery rolls, messenger bags, scarves, silk, silk screen, sustainable