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New shop easy on the conscience

Scott Chaplin sports hemp pants, shoes and underwear (concealed, of course) as well as a fair-trade vest and shirt from Ecuador, all from his new Green Economy Outfitters Store on Main Street in Carbondale. (John Stroud/The Valley Journal)
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Carbondale resident Scott Chaplin has launched a fair-trade business that aims to ease consumers’ conscience in an age of sweatshops and forced labor. The wares at his Green Economy Outfitters Store of Carbondale were all produced in cooperation with the originating artists and vendors.”We get a lot of stuff from developing countries, from India, Zimbabwe, Ecuador, places all over the world where we have a direct connection with the producers,” he said. “So we know we’re not using any child labor or slavery. No one’s being exploited in the production of the products we have here.”The GEO, as the store is known, opened a month ago on Carbondale’s Main Street. It offers both local and international arts and crafts, organic teas, hemp clothing and environmentally friendly light bulbs, among other products. As much as 50 percent – “If not more,” Chaplin said – of sales goes back to the producer.

And 10 percent of Chaplin’s profits in turn benefit local nonprofits and projects devoted to creating a more sustainable economy, he said.The store’s most popular items are imported rings from the Govinda silversmith co-op in India. Julie DeVilbiss, daughter of Aspen City Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss, arranged the relationship during a trip to the city of Pushkar and designed the rings.GEO is part of a growing business trend in the United States that favors fair-trade practices and social justice. Chaplin, a Carbondale trustee, is not a fan of the North American Free Trade Agreement. “NAFTA benefited a few of the elite wealthy in both the United States and abroad, but basically hurt the working class,” he said.Chaplin’s business model was based, in part, on that of 10,000 Villages, a national collective that works to improve the lives of disadvantaged people in developing countries through fair-trade practices.

One difference in Chaplin’s business is the availability of local artwork and crafts. The GEO also hosts live music, and Chaplin envisions a teahouse down the road.His store appeals to “people who want to buy nice gifts but also feel like they’re giving the producer a fair shake,” he said.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com


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