While perusing the Fair Trade Federation’s website recently, I discovered a company I had never heard of, Mr. Ellie Pooh. While it was the name that initially intrigued me, it was their lovely journals and greeting cards that caught my eye. Made from 50% fiber form elephant dung (seriously!) and 50% post consumer paper in Sri Lanka, it was Mr. Ellie Pooh’s model of conservation through innovation that won me over.
I have a fondness for the gentle giants, and also for Sri Lanka, the tiny small island nation which is home to about a tenth of the world’s 40,000 Asian elephants.That number is dropping however, as elephants continue to lose in the human-elephant conflict there. As agriculture continues to take over more of the elephant’s natural habitat the elephants have began to eat the crops, and farmers regularly kill them to protect their livelihood.
Mr. Ellie Pooh has stepped in offer some economic incentive for the farmers to keep the elephants in their midst. By creating beautiful products made from an abundant natural resource, they have been able to offer farmers compensation for their ruined crops, as well as providing jobs and fair wages.
It is based on making as much natural paper as we can. The more paper we sell, the more jobs we create. These jobs are essential if our conservation program is going to work.
— Dr. Karl Wald, Mr. Ellie Pooh LLC
In 2004 I spent three unforgettable weeks in Sri Lanka. I sort of ended up there by chance and I immersed myself in a ten day yoga retreat. I was immediately smitten with this country. From stunning beaches to quaint hill stations with tea plantations, a plethora of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there is never a lack of sites to feast your eyes upon. I sampled jackfruit for the first time on this island, which comes form the world’s largest tree fruit and is is even delicious cooked. I enjoyed curd made from buffalo milk and served with coconut syrup. I also climbed Adams Peak, the sacred mountain that sharply juts skyward from the lush jungles. It stands 7,632 feet high and has the distinction of being sacred to the followers of four of the world’s major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.
Sri Lanka has endured a lot, a 25 year-long civil war as well as colonizations by the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British, to name a few. The people are resilient and welcoming. I am pleased that Mr. Ellie Pooh has found a clever way to help this country and utilize something that is so plentiful (on average an adult elephant produces 400 pounds of dung daily) to make a difference. Not only are their products appealing but they are saving trees, elephants and providing employment.