Simple Living with a Purpose

JENNY LYNN/New University Intern

With the hectic lives of college students revolving around classes, homework, jobs, family and friends, it can sometimes be difficult to take a step back from the complexities of life and find joy in the simple things. Natural occurrences such as the setting of the sun or the sweet tune of a bird become buried and unrecognized underneath the infinite demands carried by students.

For two college students at San Diego State University, these pressures often became overwhelming and they realized that they needed a break. After their college graduation, the two ventured off to the beaches of Panama and Costa Rica and started to appreciate the simpler lifestyles they encountered. This observation led to the creation of Pura Vida bracelets – an organization dedicated to spreading the joy of simple wonders and giving back to the community.

While exploring a small village in Costa Rica, the two friends came across Jorge, a man peddling bracelets off the street. They became captivated by the simple, handmade essence of the bracelets and asked Jorge if he could make 400 bracelets for them to take back to the United States. The friends thought these bracelets were the perfect representation of their journey and they wanted to spread the ideas they had learned to others.

After returning to the United States, the two friends decided to put the bracelets in a bowl at a local boutique shop. The bracelets sold out instantly and people began asking for more. The friends contacted Jorge and asked him to send more bracelets to them. The selling of these bracelets soon evolved into a full-fledged business called Pura Vida, meaning “pure life” in Spanish. The company began to embody the values the two friends had learned in Costa Rica – the desire to enjoy life slowly, celebrate good fortune and not take anything for granted.

What is unique about this business is that the proceeds of each sale go to help those in need. Part of the money is sent back to Jorge in Costa Rica, where he uses the funds to continue making the bracelets. He has a small business of workers who craft the simple, hand-woven creations. This business stimulates the economy of the small village, and helps the workers support their families and pay for basic necessities such as food, shelter and utilities. This business has also helped Jorge, who went from initially selling two to five bracelets per week, to now selling over 5,000 per week. Jorge originally lived in a small room with three beds all shared by members of his family, but he is now able to enjoy a nice home thanks to Pura Vida bracelets.

Additionally, with every bracelet sold, the company donates 1 percent back to “1% For the Planet” through the Surfrider Foundation. The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization that is committed to protecting the world’s beaches and oceans. This group spreads the importance of conserving the environment and coast through activism and educational awareness programs.

The Surfrider Foundation has over 50,000 members and is comprised of volunteers who have dedicated 140,000 hours of service. The people behind Pura Vida want to continue supporting this organization in order to make an impact on the way oceans and beaches are treated.

Pura Vida bracelets can be found online at http://www.puravidabracelets.com, or purchased through Connor Farrell, a UCI campus representative, who works hard to spread the word of Pura Vida and gives people the opportunity to purchase one of the handmade bracelets. When asked what exactly it is that draws people in to these creations, Farrell said that even though there has been a recent trend of wrist jewelry ranging from Silly Bandz to friendship bracelets, it is the fact that these products are “unique and come in a variety of colors” that attract so many clients.

Whatever the reason may be, these bracelets are a simple reminder to respect and preserve the beautiful land in which we all reside. With so many distractions that tear us away from this message, sometimes all that’s needed is some string to pull us back in.