Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet




Tango Zulu
Port Gamble, WA

Tango Zulu is a small business founded in the tiny Pacific Northwest town of Port Gamble, Washington by husband and wife team Tracy and Drew Zhu. We specialize in fair trade African baskets, but carry a wide array of other artisan products as well, including hemp apparel and handmade soap crafted locally in the Pacific Northwest. Since our founding in 2010 we have grown steadily, and now have a small crew of dedicated employees whom we affectionately call the Tango Zulus. In July 2014 we opened our second store in the historic Pioneer Square area of Seattle, WA. We also sell our products through our e-commerce site.

Our over-arching goal is to make sweatshop-free products mainstream. To achieve that, we recognize that preaching to the choir isn’t enough. 100% of our products are sweatshop-free, but we know that isn’t a big enough selling point for many shoppers, especially those who equate fair trade and U.S.-made with a limited selection and high prices. Instead, we emphasize the quality, craftsmanship, and uniqueness of our products so we can appeal to shoppers other than those who are specifically seeking out ethically-sourced products.

We would feel silly calling ourselves a fair trade business if we didn’t treat our own employees fairly. We provide vacation and sick leave for our employees (all two of them!) who work 35 hours a week or more. We provide flexible schedules that are set well in advance, give consecutive days off, limit weekend work, and as employee Sarah Walsh says, “I can't think of a company that's as pregnancy/baby friendly as you are!” That said, although all the Tango Zulus are well above minimum wage they are still underpaid, and one of our top three goals for 2015 is to bring their wages up. Should we be fortunate enough to take a top spot in this contest, 100% of the cash will go to the employees.

Our products are nearly all made from either recycled or natural, sustainable materials: hemp, cow bone, recycled plastic, elephant grass, goat skin, organic cotton, wool and olive wood figure prominently in our selection. About 75% of our packing materials and shopping bags are from recycled materials. There is room for improvement in our break room and office supplies, and that’s an area we’ll audit going into next year to see where we can get greener. 

We’re happy and surprised to be considered for this honor, and wish all the best to our fellow green businesses.

store dress

LEFT: Tracy Zhu at the Port Gamble store. RIGHT: Organic cotton dress by texture clothing, a U.S.-based, green clothing company; cruelty-free leather handbag by Fair Trade Federation member Ganesh Himal Trading; and straw basket by Fair Trade Federation member African Market Baskets.