Today I’m super excited to share one of my favourite new ethical fashion companies with you. Green Banana Paper is a new company from one of the most remote islands in the world, Kosrae, Micronesia. The company was founded by Matt Simpson, originally from New London, CT, who moved to Micronesia as a volunteer teacher in 2007 and never left. Kosrae has a population of only 6,000, and most people work for the government or as subsistence farmers. After seeing the lack of job opportunities for his graduating students, and the need for sustainable economic development in Kosrae, Matt founded Green Banana Paper, a company that creates vegan, eco-friendly wallets from recycled banana trees, whilst aiming to break the cycle of a welfare nation dependent on foreign aid by connecting with the wider ethical fashion world online. As someone whose seriously old wallet finally succumbed to the elements last month and fell apart, I couldn’t have discovered Green Banana Paper at a better time.
Green Banana Paper creates opportunities for local subsistence farmers in Kosrae to earn extra income from unwanted banana tree trunks, and their small-scale factory works to directly employ and train as many local artisans as possible. Staff work in safe, ethical conditions and are paid 50-150% more than the minimum wage. They also have flexible 1-hour lunch breaks where they can relax and eat together by the beach or in the thatch-roofed rest house (which sounds far far dreamier than London). With a supply chain of 75 local farmers and 18 full time staff as of January 2017, they’re already one of the top private companies on the island, and they plan to employ 35 full-time staff within the next year.
Green Banana Paper’s mission is to use the most sustainable and available local resources to be a leading example of responsible economic development that doesn’t hurt the environment. Their factory is designed to use the natural elements: sun and wind is used to dry fibres, fallen coconuts fuel fire for boiling, the roof catches rainwater stored in catchment tanks, and a gray-water system neutralises water pH. They also work towards a closed loop manufacturing process, with any other waste from the banana trees used for compost to fertilise their small fruit farm. Any other off-cuts and paper scraps are recycled and transformed back into the original fibres with almost zero waste.
So far Green Banana Paper have recycled 80,000 kg of discarded banana trees, making wallets that are 99% organic and biodegradable, with the elastic strap on all wallets and the acetate window on women/travel wallets both being recyclable. The designs on the wallets use water-based ink which doesn’t harm the environment, and in wallet assembly the only glue used is both non-toxic and non-industrial. Essentially, they’ve thought of everything.
Green Banana Paper were kind enough to send me their Castaway Mens Wallet, (which I chose as I prefer a smaller size), and I really love it. It’s a little stiff when you first get it, but it does loosen up fairly quickly. On a practical level it’s a great size, holding everything I need without being as big as traditional female purses, and it’s fairly lightweight. On an aesthetic level I really like how the black ink looks on the banana paper, and I love the design itself, which is done with wonderful precision and detail without being overly fussy. There are options for coloured inks, but I’m glad I kept it simple and stuck with black, as I really like how it looks. From the first time I used this wallet I’ve gotten compliments and questions about it, and I love being able to tell such a great story about its origins and supporting new business and development in Kosrae, whilst also knowing that when this wallet reaches the end of its lifespan it can return to the earth naturally.
Basically, I think Green Banana Paper have created some of the most ethical wallets in the world, and I’m all for that. You can shop their vegan wallet collection here.
Until next time, stay magic y’all.