While yellow leaves to most of us signify the changing of the seasons, to the Mlabri hill tribe of Thailand they mean a complete change in their lives. Yellow Leaf Hammocks are a vehicle to change their health, environment, and financial independence.
These resilient people were able to create their own livelihood via these high quality hammocks, making over six times their typical income, which was derived primarily from slash and burn farming of their land.
Joe Demin went to go learn about this tribe, and was surprised that, despite the substantial change in income potential, enough to employ their former employers, they were still practicing this devastating form of agriculture. It turned out that this lucrative hammock making was a seasonal operation and business slowed dramatically when the rainy season washed away the tourists.
In one of the best tag lines I’ve seen in a while, they say, “Do good. Relax.” In a world where people are increasingly busy, and simultaneously ever more aware of the impact of or potential to help via their purchases (pink ribbon anyone?) these hammocks are an ideal way to meet several needs at once. When you ask someone to make a difference, while giving them a tool to support their own well-being, it’s a powerful thing, with great potential. And it’s just smart business.
There is further to go though, and you can play a part. Yellow Leaf Hammocks recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to expand the utility of the hammocks: they want to create a sustainably made sitting hammock stand. This would mean the decoupling of hammock and the need for a tree to tie it to.
From being nearly eradicated with less then 300 people to having now gained civil rights and citizenship in 2001, even creating one of Thailand’s first unemployment funds, the Mlabri people have come a long way. With the rest of the world now being able to enjoy their quality work, they can finally shrug off the need to damage their environment to make a living. It’s a win for everybody, and a solid example of a social enterprise done right.
Readers: What other well done, beneficial from maker to consumer social enterprises have you seen that we should know about?
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.