Ethics and Elephant Dung – An Excellent Combination!

It doesn’t take me long to realise that Kim Good from Import Ants is an extremely passionate person. What exactly is she passionate about? Why elephant poo of course! I’m delighted to share my interview with Kim about the amazing ethical products available that are helping people and elephants alike. 

Q. What is Import Ants and where did the name come from?

Import Ants is an importer and wholesaler of eco-friendly and fair trade products with our main product being 100% recycled paper handmade from elephant dung and waste paper. The name came about because these things we feel are a matter of “importance“. 

Q. How did Import Ants first become aware of the plight of elephants in Sri Lanka?

A Sri Lankan friend of mine was selling a small amount of the elephant dung paper in Australia and I fell in love with it and how it was highlighting the plight of the endangered Sri Lankan elephant.

Mr Elephant tells of the threat to his environment and how by using this paper you are helping to save his family and provide work for villagers in Sri Lanka

I turned 45 and had been looking for something more meaningful and a way to make a positive difference to the planet when she offered me the opportunity to import the elephant dung paper. My partner, John and I bought the business from her after visiting Sri Lanka and seeing the wonderful things that Maximus was doing to help the elephants.

Q. Can you tell us a little about the ‘Peace Paper Plan’?

The Peace Paper Plan was setup by Maximus to bring the elephant into the economy of the villagers that are effected by the wild elephants. Traditionally, in Sri Lanka, elephants and people compete over scare land resources causing injury and death on both sides. Wild elephants migrate across the country following the seasons between the National Parks.

Each month this calendar has a photo of the orphaned elephants adopted by the Millennium Elephant Foundation

This brings them into conflict with farmers whose livelihoods depends upon the crops they produce. When the initial factory was started in Kegalle, next to the Millennium Elephant Foundation and near to Pinniwalla Elephant Orphanage, and began to utilise the elephant dung from these places to make paper, Maximus always wanted to have the paper made in the village areas that were in conflict with the wild elephants.

Early last year they began production at their new facility in Rangirigama in the Dambulla area that borders on the jungle and is a conflict “hot” spot where wild elephants and humans compete. By providing a village based eco-friendly alternative income to farmers in the area that links the wild elephants to the economy we hope to change the attitudes and perceptions toward protecting the elephants in the long run.

A bright fun range of 3 sizes in journal and a paper holder with cute little elephant bottoms on the covers

Q. If you had to describe the Sri Lankan elephant in 3 words, what would they be?

1. Intelligent

2. Matriarchal

3. Endangered
 
Q. Who are the artists behind the wonderful designs on the Elephant Paper products available from Import Ants?

We have used a number of talented artists to create the ranges we have. Initially Roshan from Maximus did the designs. He has a fabulous sense of colour and design and does superb (a word he uses often) sketches of the elephants. So all our sketch cards are done by him and he has done a wonderful new set of drawings that I can’t wait to introduce next year.

Notebooks from the Aliya (meaning “elephant” in Sinhala) range

When we were at a trade fair in Melbourne I met Jo Lane, who specialises in pencil drawings of Australian flora and she also loved the elephant dung paper so we collaborated with her on a series of Australian plant designs which have been really well received.

A range of 5 illustrations by Melbourne artist Jo Lane of Australian Plants on our unique Elephant Dung white journals and gift cards

At the moment I am working with QArt, a Melbourne based group of artists with intellectual disabilities. They are wonderful people and their art is fantastic, we have been creating a series of Xmas swing tags for this year with a percentage being returned to QArt as well as the Millennium Elephant Foundation. I’m really looking forward to launching these at the Sydney Home & Giving Fair at the end of February. I know it’s a long way till Xmas but I want everyone to see these as soon as possible!

Q. Has paper made from elephant dung been well received by Australian consumers?

I have been thrilled by the reception to the elephant dung paper in Australia and the fact that as more people hear about it the demand for it has grown. When we did our first trade fair it was my daughter Erin who first approached people with a piece of paper and said “Have you ever seen tree free elephant dung paper?” and her approach has stuck. People’s first reaction is “What did you say, elephant dung paper?” and then they smell it and of course it just smells like paper and then they want to know more. Very occasionally we have someone who just can’t cope with the idea, but they are few and far between. After all an elephant only eats trees, grass and vegetation. They are really an amazing living pulp mill. It makes sense to feed an elephant rather than a machine to pulp fibre.

A card making kit for children made from elephant dung paper – kids will LOVE the idea of paper made from poo 😀

Q. Is there anything new and exciting on the horizon for Import Ants?

We are currently in Sri Lanka finalising new designs with the elephant dung paper and will have some little Mini Gift Cards with envelopes and we are expanding our range of wedding paper to include square envelopes and pre-folded square cards in a range of colours, as well as the new QArt Xmas swing tags.

This has been an amazing trip. We have been and seen a whole lot of new community based fair trade groups and have placed orders with many of them for a range of new products.

One of them is the Araliya Community Group Company which is a true co-operative where all members own a share of the company and its assets. The women have organised themselves into groups where each group elects its own board member and participates in all the company’s decisions. The women are paid fair wages, have superannuation and also contribute to a school for deaf children as originally the group was begun to help the mothers of deaf children. They are making wedding favour boxes from Palmyrah leaf for us and we have more things in development with them.

Photo albums have 32 pages of handmade paddy husk paper each separated by tissue paper with an elephant dung cover with brass elephant motif

I’m also really excited about our new range of Eco Xmas Trees and Wreaths and the Kitchen and Body brushes handmade from natural fibres. I had seen these brushes used in the villages and fell in love with them, they are so functional and utilise the natural materials that are abundant in Sri Lanka. It has taken some time to find a producer that could meet the standards we require both in the treatment of their workers and in the finished product. All the components used are natural unbleached materials such as the Alistonia timber and the natural sisal, or use waste products such as the coco fibre which uses the husk from the coconut and the rubber wood which is a waste product from rubber production when the tree has reached the end of its productive life. 

You can also find Import Ants on Twitter and Facebook

2 thoughts on “Ethics and Elephant Dung – An Excellent Combination!

  1. Dyani - Little Deer Creations says:

    I'm so glad you did this feature on Kim. I use Maximus elephant dung paper a lot in my work, and it really is a beautiful product. Thanks for helping to let more people know about the wonderful work that is being done to help protect these beautiful animals.

    Like

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