Warm up with fair trade accessories

Photo: istockphoto.com/Gina Luck

Freezing cold one day, wet and soggy the next -- you need some winter accessories to keep you warm and dry. Pick out some fair trade gloves, mittens and scarves made with natural fibres for that cosy feeling inside and out.

Equitable goats
Cashmere is a featherweight wool popular for its silky feel and warmth. The wool comes from the Kashmir goats that live in the Alashan Plateau above the Gobi Desert, an area extending from Northern China into Mongolia. For years cashmere was a luxury item until China began building cashmere processing factories and over producing the goats. There are now over 25 million goats, which is 10 times the sustainable number, and the area is suffering from a debilitating drought. Many of the Mongolian farmers are not making a living wage so it's important to buy your cashmere from a fair trade company.

Cocoonu sells a beautiful four-panel cashmere scarves and shawls in a four-way colour pattern of natural shades. Greenloop sells gorgeous cashmere scarves and hats from Stewart+Brown, a company committed to using only sustainable cashmere. Greenloop also sells Deborah Lindquist's Recycled Cashmere Scarf with its soft grey dove pattern and her skull and bones cashmere beanie.

Ganesha sells a stylish tricolour scarf created by a Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) fair trade program in Mongolia. It's perfect for the lads.

Cosy up with a camel
Alpacas were first domesticated by the Incas about 5,000 years ago. Their wool is valued for its softness and silky sheen but also because it's water resistant and contains no lanolin (so has no smell) making it a perfect material for winter accessories. Most of the alpaca wool is produced in Bolivia and Peru in remote communities in the Andes Mountains where it can be difficult to make a living.

Rikchary Warmi is a cooperative of women artisans based in Huancayo, Peru that hand knits hats, scarves, mitts and sweaters. Since there is no middleman, all profits go directly to the women.

Fair Trade Online also sells a winter collection in earth tones. The Natural Collection sells Earth Rose scarves and gloves in a combination of alpaca and sheep's wool done up in bright, pastel colours. They also carry groovy wrist warmers in unusual designs and cheerful colours.

Closer to home there is Purely Alpaca, an alpaca ranch outside Seattle that creates all-natural, undyed winter wear with a wide variety of styles. They supplement their stock with fair trade alpaca from South America.

Pick up a pair of comfy camel wool mittens created by artisans in the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia and Pakistan as part of the Snow Leopard Trust. Proceeds provide an income for these remote communities and stop the environment from further destructions, enabling the endangered snow leopard to survive.

Wonderful wool
An excellent winter blend is hemp and wool. Hemp fibre holds its shape well and doesn't stretch when wet. When combined with wool, it creates a blend that is warm and durable. Taraluna sells a hemp/wool blend earflap hat and gloves that are handmade by a fair trade organization in Nepal. The same artisans also sell crocheted scarves and gloves made with recycled silk taken from saris. The colour and textures are exceptionally rich.

Visit the Grassroots store and pick up some whimsical reconstructed mittens crafted from reclaimed cloth and salvaged fabrics. With one-of-a-kind graphics and prints, this is one way to stay warm and get funky.