What impressed me most about fair trade artisan shopping website Novica: The gorgeous, eco-friendly gift-wrapping job.

Novica packages

My packages arrived wrapped in beautiful, handmade paper — carefully beribboned so the packaging didn’t require any tape!

The green gifts inside too were eco-friendly. Novica, which works with National Geographic to connect shoppers in the U.S. with the work of talented artisans around the world, has a huge selection of fair trade corporate gifts environmentalists love. I got a pair of “Earth Checkers” Saa paper stationery sets ($17.96), designed by a woman called Yooprai Kaewtui in Thailand, who handcrafted the set.

Fair trade eco-friendly stationery from Novica

Saa paper’s apparently made from mulberry bark that regenerates each year! According to Novica, these trees can grow in difficult-to-access areas; “it takes a person a full day to harvest just five kilos of quality washed and dried bark.” The complex, labor-intensive process by which Saa paper’s made is described on the page for “Falling Leaves” environmental greeting cards — a set of which I also bought ($19.99 for a set of 8).

Fair trade eco-friendly cards from Novica

Novica also has a huge selection of fair trade jewelry — so I couldn’t resist these “White Forest” pearl drop earrings, crafted by a Balinese artisan called Nyoman Rena. I’m wearing them right now!

Fair trade artisan earrings from Novica

With a good selection of eco-friendly, handmade, and fair trade products that really are beautiful, Novica’s now one of my favorite online web stores. That said, the site and service does have some quirks. For example, each item incurs its own shipping fee — so buying multiple items won’t save you any money. And while I did appreciate getting an email with a FedEx tracking number that said I could start tracking my packages “within 1-2 business days, I was a little puzzled as to why these emails were sent four days after I’d already received the items.

Postcard note that comes with Novica products

Also, while the giftwrapping was really beautiful, I was getting these items for myself and just didn’t need them wrapped. The wrapping happens by default, though, and you can’t opt out of it. In fact, each item just seems to come with a lot of — stuff. The wrapping, the ribbon, the extra decorative black string with wood-like embellishments, the little booklet attached to the black string with info about the item I bought, the handwritten postcards that come with each package, plus the individually wrapped cards — All those items were prettily presented, but did seem a bit like overkill, especially for someone who’d already read all the descriptions about the items on the web before placing the order.

Postcard note that comes with Novica products

I’d love it if Novica started just offered gift wrap as an option instead of making the feature mandatory. Still, the service seems perfect for gifts I plan to give others who’ll not only appreciate the beautiful gift wrapping, but also maybe learn a bit about fair trade and eco-friendly products with the information included in the package.

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