This article is part of our series on small companies with a big mission in five areas: women, kids, community, planet, and hope. Click here for more articles in the series.
Sometimes, size has nothing to do with how vulnerable you are.
At 13 feet tall and 14,000 pounds, African bush elephants are the world’s largest land animal. But despite their massive size, these lumbering herbivores are still considered vulnerable to extinction after an estimated 90% drop in population over the past century.
Both male and female African elephants have a pair of long, modified teeth known as tusks, but it’s this tool of self-defense that gets them into, rather than out of, trouble, at least where poachers are concerned. Despite a slew of international trade restrictions, demand for ivory is still high.
The other cause of their declining numbers stems from mutual contention with humans over who eats what. Elephants require up to 600 pounds of food in a day. Males in particular have been known to decimate farmers’ crops overnight, leading to direct conflict between the two.
Amara Conservation, an organization working to protect the elephant population in Kenya’s Tsavo National Parks, maintains the best way to conduct conservation efforts is through education and local activism, to help humans and elephants coexist in practical ways.
“Our role is to provide information, alternatives and opportunities in an atmosphere of openness, honesty and cooperation,” their website states. “Each community is unique and must find its own solutions to the problems of sustainability. We know that learning is an ongoing and constant process for all of us.”
Amara hosts in-depth discussions about Kenya’s wildlife and larger ecosystem, showing films which have reached everyone from nomads and subsistence farmers to local leadership.
As a former high school science teacher, Caroline Hovord knows the difference awareness can make, especially for the youngest members of communities – and so, half a world away, she launched a social enterprise that works with Amara to raise awareness through fashion.
In Search of a Mission
Elephant Moon debuted its first collection of ‘baby basics’ in 2018, catering to mothers who value clothes that are organic and sustainable, as well as decidedly minimalist. But the desire to make a difference began years before, when, as a student in grade school, Caroline teamed up with a few friends to begin an environmentally-focused group that donated to Greenpeace.
“That was the first instance I remember, where I really became aware of the impact humans were having on the Earth, and on different species of animals,” she says. “I remember feeling really worried and sad about it, and so did my friends. I’ve always followed organizations like Greenpeace, I’ve always wanted to do something which gave back, in that respect.”
Years later, when she started a family of her own, Caroline noticed that although the market for baby clothes was saturated, affordable options for organic, well-made pieces simply didn’t exist in the mainstream.
“I’m very into choosing products for myself and my kids that give back,” she says, and set about finding a solution for creating those rare sustainable pieces. It took a year to source fabrics, develop designs, and find a suitable manufacturer – but the company wasn’t complete without a larger mission to support.
Stumbling across Amara’s work “by accident,” she reached out to founder Lori Bergemann, a fellow former resident of Ann Arbor.
“While we haven’t even met, I love Caroline’s energy and all the work she puts into Elephant Moon,” Lori told us.
“The bi-annual donations from Elephant Moon goes towards our Conservation Education Outreach Program, which guides communities on the importance of conserving and works to create positive attitudes toward conservation,” she says. “With their help we have been able to reach over 350,000 people.”
Since inception, Elephant Moon has donated $2200 to Amara’s projects in Kenya, with the longer goal of giving 10% of all profits to conservation. So far, they’ve helped finance transportation and educational resources, as well as tree-planting efforts to check deforestation. Lori is regularly in touch with updates on progress in the region, such as photos of the deadly wire snares that her team had cleared.
“It made me feel really good … knowing the money had gone to help counteract that sort of awful thing that’s going on,” Caroline says, noting that her customers also share a desire to know they’re making a tangible difference.
A Product with Meaning
As the company grows, Caroline says she’s striving to expand Elephant Moon’s involvement with additional conservation initiatives. She’s currently working on a new line that will incorporate three new prints, each themed with a different animal and tied to the work of a nonprofit dedicated to protecting each one.
Currently, Elephant Moon offers a selection of certified organic cotton onesies, pull-on dungarees, separates, and swaddling cloths, comprising a “curated array” of essentials meant to simplify a traditionally overwhelming aspect of motherhood.
“I think there’s something about the first baby, where you want everything to be brand new, and look super cute,” she says. “The vast majority of people end up having way too much – stuff that you don’t wear, stuff that they don’t need,” which also contributes to larger cycles of underutilization and waste.
Besides simplifying the baby market for new parents, Elephant Moon also strives to make each piece of clothing last longer by incorporating features like double rows of snap closures and fold-over cuffs on many of its pieces, helping to cut down on the constant need to purchase new clothes as baby grows.
Unlike most fashion brands, even Elephant Moon’s manufacturing process does some good in the world. The India-based factory they’re working with provides ongoing support for women’s and girls’ educational efforts as well as funding clean water projects in the local community.
Caroline stresses the importance of offering a “product with meaning” that also preserves the majestic animals so frequently featured in nursery items and children’s prints. She believes it’s never too early to cultivate appreciation in the youngest members of society, while enabling parents to take practical steps to ensure elephants are a part of future generations’ world for years to come.
Spend for good: Onesies, rompers, separates, hats, and more – the online shop at Elephant Moon offers dozens of fair trade, certified organic baby items with a give-back model that supports Amara Conservation and its work to preserve the African elephant. Prices start at just $8, and free shipping is available.
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