Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability

SUSTAINABLE STYLE & ETHICAL LIVING

Year in Review + Ethical Resolutions

The time has come to say goodbye to this glorious, tumultuous year. 2015 was a weird one.

year in review

THIS YEAR...


I feel like I came into my own as a writer. I took risks, got rejected, and published a few articles and posts that I'm really proud of (see one, two, and three). I worked with some cool companies, met some cool people, and befriended lots of ethical bloggers who have helped me refine my voice and find the confidence to press on.

Working in an increasingly crowded space means there's always someone else doing it better. There's always a prettier face, a more approachable writer, a bigger success story. But I'm learning that that's ok, because there's only one me and I've got to believe that I have something to offer or there's no point at all.

I had intended to start writing a book this year, but I realized early on that I need more time to define myself as a writer, blogger, and conscious consumer. That's ok. Things will work out in time. I'm also considering more formal study, but we'll see what 2016 brings.

This year, I feel like a real, capable adult for the first time, well, ever. And I understand that my words and actions have weight, not only in this space, but in everyday life. I'm learning the exhausting work of practicing kindess and fostering empathy for everyone - acknowledging my privilege, stepping out of conversations I have no business being involved in, and listening, even when I don't like what I'm hearing.

This year I've been angrier, more humbled, more sure, and more emotionally exhausted than ever before and I hope that the ride has taught me something. It's hard to keep the faith in a world of near insurmountable tragedy, violence, and catastrophe. Things aren't ok and it's easy to toss up your hands and say, "What's the point of trying?" every time another person dies in a mass shooting, or a refugee is denied entry, or another human rights abuse is brought to light. But we press on, because there's nothing else we can do.


new year's resolutions

WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, HERE ARE MY NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS:


1. Get a plan.


Figure out what I want to do in the long term and take intentional steps to get there. Ever since I graduated, I've been flailing around waiting to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I feel like I'm getting close to knowing, and it's time to just go for it.

2. Reduce my plastic and materials consumption.


I took a few steps to reduce my daily waste this year, but it's time to go all the way: bring my reusable bags to the grocery store, purchase reusable food storage bags, use what I have until it's gone, consider shampoo and soap bars over liquids that require plastic containers. I'm excited about this, because I know from switching to cloth pads and cotton rounds that it's really not hard!

3. Read more books.


I've got a big ol' stack of books waiting to be opened. All I need to do is make time to read them. From capitalism to theology, global manufacturing to quiet novels, I know that I need the knowledge and enrichment good books bring.

4. Write more articles on ethical living and theology.


I want to continue to pitch large publications and write better long form pieces for the blog, too. I have a list of post ideas and I just need to get started on them. If you have a question or a topic idea, let me know.

5. Integrate my values into everything I do.


I want to get better at reconciling my consumer ethics to my everyday behavior, and vice versa. It's all too easy to put things in boxes and fail to recognize the internal inconsistencies in my ethical outlook. I want to think harder about how my faith practices, political and social views, and moral perspectives play into one another.

6. Pare down.


It's time to get a grip on my "collecting" habit. I don't need to buy everything I like at the thrift shop. I don't need to keep my 11th grade notes. A few blank spaces on the wall never killed anyone. I have a tendency to buy and keep things just for the heck of it and I think it's time to say goodbye to a few things (responsibly, of course - I'll donate to local thrifts or sell on ebay).

7. Exercise like a responsible person.


I've spent all of my adult life justifying my near total lack of exercise. To be fair, I do work in retail, so I get more exercise than your average office worker just by going to work, but I'm starting to feel my age and I would like to start jogging, or at least power walking, 2-3 times a week.

8. Celebrate humanity.


Look for the good, in myself and others. Seek reconciliation. Always give others the benefit of the doubt. See my failures as normal, expected parts of being human. Know that being human is good enough (you know, but try to be a good human).

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I'm curious to know what your thoughts are on this year and the next one. What did you learn about yourself this year? What are you looking forward to?

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Check out my fellow Ethical Writers Co. members' Resolutions posts:


the moral wardrobe: Dorsu Slip-On Dress

oversized dress from dorsuminimalist ethical outfit from dorsu
Dorsu makes easy, well cut basics using remnant fabric sourced from Cambodia's clothing manufacturing industry. When I saw that they were doing a fundraiser a few months back to scale their business and build out their workshop, I decided to donate as a sort of reverse birthday present to myself. They were kind enough to reach out and send me a few items to review on Style Wise.

As the years roll by, I'm becoming increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of the things I purchase. Worker welfare is absolutely important, but we can't really say something was "made ethically" if we're disregarding the ecosystems and natural resources people rely on to flourish. That's why I love that Dorsu has intentionally filled a gap in the industry by setting up shop close to where remnant fabrics in the global supply chain go to die: right in the heart of a major manufacturing center...

We purchase fabric remnants leftover from garment factories who discard off-cuts during production. In the past, this waste was dumped into landfill or burned, however, it is now recovered and sold into a local market chain. Buying this fabric allows us to support the prevention of unnecessary waste in Cambodia, keep our supply chain as close as possible and contribute to local economy.

dorsu slip-on dress review

Here I'm wearing the Slip-On Dress in a taupe and black colorblock design. I like the relaxed fit - it looks just as good worn as a tunic as it does as a dress. Admittedly, it was warm enough this weekend to go sans jeans, but I think the layering adds a nice edge to the look. I had this balled up in my suitcase for days, too, and it's only a tiny bit wrinkled. The site says it's made of cotton, but it feels silky like rayon.
  ethical color block dress from dorsu
Ethical Details: Dress - c/o Dorsu; Flats - old and upcycled; Necklace - c/o Hands Producing Hope

Dorsu's site shows prices in AUD, but you'll be happy to know that they ship to the US and that the conversion rate is quite good! The Slip-On Dress sells for 49.00 AUD, which is about $36.00 USD (you'll have to add about $25.00 for flat rate international shipping, so keep that in mind). There are also a number of domestic shops that sell Dorsu, so I encourage you to hunt around or ask your local fair trade shop if they carry Dorsu.

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Shop Dorsu here. Follow Dorsu on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.



"Franchise" makes anti-Corporate artwork

SKIP Franchise artist Artegon

On our first day in Orlando, we stopped into new artisan marketplace, Artegon, on the recommendation of my sister's boyfriend's sister. We met up with my sister and our friends, Mary and Lui, to explore the converted mall.

Well, it looks like they're still working to fill the space with goods from a variety of local artists and makers, but there were a few things worth noting. Namely, the Franchise pop-up gallery and shop.


"WHEN I LOOK OUT THE WINDOW, I SEE STARBUCKS, BILLBOARDS, AND INSURANCE ADVERTISEMENTS."


SKIP is an Orlando propaganda artist who works under the name, Franchise, for a number of his projects.

He describes the inspiration for his work in his interview with Artegon:

The way I see it, when Van Gogh looked out his window at the world he saw fields of sunflowers and open skies, so that’s what he painted. When I look out the window, I see Starbucks, billboards, and insurance advertisements. As an artist, I feel a responsibility to not just replicate what I see, but actually put myself and honesty into advertising through the works I create. You’ll see that everything has a little bit of a twist to it. It’s not my goal to be so up front that I’m telling people what to think. I like to keep everything colorful, fun, and light so that the viewer can form their own thoughts.

SKIP Franchise artist Artegon

Though a few of his critiques are misinformed (he sells Catholic-style votives with a reference to Chik-Fil-A, for instance, when the people supporting Chik-Fil-A during their anti-homosexuality scandal were almost exclusively Evangelicals), I couldn't help but nod my head at the cleverness of his larger pieces.

I almost walked away with a mug that riffed on the Starbucks logo (see first photo), but maybe that would have just been an admission of my willing participation in over-consumption? In any case, it was probably made in a sweatshop, so the pictures will have to suffice.

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Read the full interview with SKIP and his pop-up partner, Chris Tobar, here

ethical sale alert: Everlane's "Pay What You Want" Sale and more (updated)


* denotes affililate links.

Read on for tempting ethical sales. I've got my eye on the Everlane Wool Trench and basically everything at Sseko Designs.

  • Everlane
    • My go-to online shop for everyday basics made transparently and ethically is doing their first ever sale. For the next 5 days, select items are offered at "Pay What You Want" prices up to nearly 50% off. Click here to sign up with my referral link. Click here to shop the sale.
  • Sseko Designs*
    • My favorite place for ethically made shoes is offering up to 70% off select items in their sale section, including steep discounts on several of their loafer styles. Click here to shop.
  • Elegantees
    • Comfortable, every day knits-with-a-twist brand, Elegantees, has an end of the season sale going on. Click here to shop. 
  • Fair Indigo
    • Fair trade ornaments on sale, up to 60% off original price. Use coupon code, ADORN, for the additional 30% off. Click here to shop. 
  • People Tree
    • Unique, fair trade clothes and accessories from the UK. Select items up to 50% off. Click here to shop.
  • Buy the Change
    • Get 40% off everything with code, GOODBYE2015, until 1/1/16. Click here to shop.
  • LUSH
    • All natural skincare. BOGO on select items while supplies last. Click here to shop.
  • ZADY*
    • Up to 60% off coats, hats, sale, and menswear items. Click here to shop. 
  • Krochet Kids*
    • 15% off orders $50 or more with code, 15OFF. Click here to shop.
  • FashionABLE*
    • Free hammered stacking ring with purchases $25+ purchase with code, NEWYEAR. Click here to shop.
  • Fair Indigo
    • 30% off everything through January 3 with code, NEWYEARS. Click here to shop. 

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If you know of any sales I haven't mentioned, let me know in the comments and I'll add them!

Charity Fraud is Big Business, by Tavie Meier

This piece was originally published on The Note Passer. Written by Tavie Meier of MadeFAIR. Illustrated by Elizabeth Stilwell.
charity fraud


Imagine if someone said, “I wish there’d be an earthquake that destroys the lives and homes of thousands so we can give money to them.”

That’s messed up, right?

FOR-PROFIT/NON-PROFIT: THE SAME, BUT DIFFERENT

A charity, by nature of its own mission, shouldn’t want to exist. Fundamentally, its existence hinges on people suffering from natural disasters or societal ailments like systematic oppression and war. The people who receive their charitable services function as their "consumers." This dynamic is often overlooked because charities don’t receive money from their consumers, but instead appeal to donors for the funds to deliver services.

The perversity of this economic model means that, to meet the demand that is human suffering, charities supply aid for consumption. A noble effort to be sure, but one that has been normalized within the non-profit industry, with organizations supplying aid for years, even decades, as well as mishandling funds. Charities leverage this demand in order to extract money from donors because without it, their projects, jobs, and services wouldn’t exist. But what should happen when there is a lack of demand for charity?

In the for-profit industry, when there’s no consumer demand for a product or service, businesses shut down. In order for a business to sustain itself, it requires consumers to buy what it's selling. For-profit businesses want money from their consumers; in order to survive in a competitive market, they need a good product and happy customers.

charity fraud


Conversely, charities should exist so their consumers can eventually sustain themselves. Markets will not exert the same pressure on non-profits, so it's entirely possible for several charities to deliver the same services despite poorly-executed missions and underserved consumers. If a charity does its job to perfection (or even just very well), it will reduce the demand both for its services and the amount of donor funds needed. Unlike for-profit businesses, charities should explain how, someday, their success will put them out of business.

When there is a lack of demand, charities that work only to keep their doors open are, at best wasting money, and at worst perpetuating the social problems they originally formed to fix.

WHO’S DOING IT WRONG?

When NPR and ProPublica ran an investigation on The Red Cross’ response to the Haitian earthquake in 2011, they found the organization raised an unprecedented $500 million to build six homes. They also found most of the staggering sum went to administration and non-service line items, and The Red Cross kept raising money after it had enough to complete emergency aid services — the organization’s mission — in order to pay off their $100 million deficit. To do this, they marketed development projects to donors and then failed to follow through with their promises.

The Red Cross’ need to sustain itself trumped the genuine needs of their consumers, leaving earthquake victims underserved and out of luck. Jean Jean Flaubert, the Haitian project manager for the Campeche neighborhood project, stated,

What the Red Cross told us is that they are coming here to change Campeche. Totally change it…. Now I do not understand the change that they are talking about. I think the Red Cross is working for themselves. 

This is, by no means, a “third world problem.” Flaubert’s sentiment about The Red Cross was solidified after Hurricane Sandy when 40% of available rescue vehicles were diverted to serve as backdrops for news conferences.

Outside of disaster relief, there’s a much bigger charitable structure that has enjoyed increasing donations year after year…after year, after year. In 2014, Americans set records for donating to charitable causes, most of which went to traditional charities. This model is so deeply-embedded in our giving culture that most people don’t look twice at its effectiveness.

Cambodia, one of the world’s poorest nations, attracted 450 INGOs (international non-governmental organizations) in the 1990s. Recently, Oxfam advocated for exit strategies to phase themselves and other INGOs out of the country. In this 2014 Phnom Penh Post article, Kevin Ponniah reports:

“If we INGOs are not thinking about our role in the future, we are not helping Cambodia,” said Sophavy Ty, an Oxfam program director.

The INGO study says that while such groups still have an important role to play, the development situation that drew about 450 INGOs to the Kingdom in the first place – Cambodians desperately in need of basic assistance – has changed..
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… “International NGOs should not be looking for a lifelong job in any country, and Cambodia is the same.”

World Vision, another INGO, wholeheartedly disagrees. Chris MacQueen, Director of Strategy at World Vision’s Cambodia office stated,

While malnutrition in children under five hangs static at 40%, and more than 230,000 children are forcibly involved in the worst forms of child labor…and while 50% of children by grade six are functionally illiterate…we will focus on the job at hand.

Chris’ “job at hand” has existed for nearly 23 years (since the UN’s 1993 occupation). If MacQueen’s statistics are to be taken at face value, then he’s actually advertising World Vision’s failure. The 450 INGOs need to reassess the services they’re offering their consumers, especially if malnutrition in children is “hanging static.”

Even with full financial transparency provided to us by sites like Charity Navigator, and news publications being increasingly more critical of charity, they are written through the donor’s gaze, addressing ways for people to get the most bang for their charitable buck. In fact, Charity Navigator rates both the Red Cross and World Vision with 4/4 stars for “accountability and transparency,” and has no feature to measure an organization’s impact on their consumers...

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READ MORE AT THE NOTE PASSER

shop local: Latitudes in Staunton, VA

Latitudes Fair Trade Staunton

Finally, a fair trade boutique that carries a variety of fair trade brands and products within driving distance of Charlottesville! 


Don't get me wrong, the local Ten Thousand Villages is amazing and the staff is kind and knowledgeable, but Ten Thousand Villages' products tend to be seasonal or gift items - it's not a one stop shop for ethically produced goods.

fair trade jewelry Thistle Farms display

Daniel and I decided to spend the afternoon in nearby Staunton last Saturday, because it has a charming, historic downtown and I swore I saw a shop that carried fair trade goods last time we were there. Funnily enough, Latitudes just opened, so I wasn't thinking about this particular store (there are a couple other shops that carry Made in USA and fair trade stuff, so I was probably thinking of one of them).


It was clearly fate.


There was a Mata Traders dress on the mannequin in the front window and a huge Thistle Farms selection on display as soon as I walked in the door. I felt like a kid in a candy shop, gushing and pointing at all the familiar labels.

Manos Zapotecasstriped socks fair tradeLatitudes Fair Trade Shop

Latitudes carries Greenola Style, Matr Boomie, Manos Zapotecas, Serrv, Mata Traders, Maggie's Organics, Thistle Farms, Level Ground, Equal Exchange, and lots of other reputable fair trade brands.

They've got clothing, home goods, accessories, jewelry, food, cards, and gift items, plus lots of free literature on the fair trade movement. 


I bought a pound of Level Ground coffee and a Thistle Farms candle, which I am happily burning as I write this post.

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If you're in the Charlottesville/Staunton area, make sure to check out Latitudes at 16 East Beverly Street. You can shop some of their selection online, too. 



Learn about other local shops:
Ten Thousand Villages
Betsey Boutique
Low Vintage

Gift Guide: alternative gifts in Charlottesville, VA

Life isn't about stuff, but stuff is so easy to give. If you're searching for an experience to give instead, I can help you out - if you're reasonably close to Charlottesville, VA anyway.

Here are my top choices for alternative gifts in the Charlottesville area:

bold rock cider

1. Winery Hopping: 


There are 23 wineries, cideries, and breweries within easy driving distance from Charlottesville, many of them critically acclaimed, all of them beautiful. Be the designated driver for a friend and let them enjoy tastings at a few wineries, or pick your favorite location and settle down for the afternoon with a cheese plate and a glass of your favorite wine.

Tastings tend to cost around $6-8 and most wineries let you keep your tasting glass as a souvenir. My favorite wineries are Veritas, King Family, and Loft Mountain. Bold Rock is a great choice if you prefer cider. Read more about the local wineries here.

2. Dinner and a Movie at Violet Crown:


Violet Crown is a new theater experience located on the Downtown Mall, a public, pedestrian mall in the heart of Charlottesville. Order food and a beer or glass of wine in the lobby and enjoy it while the movie is playing. I recently went to see Spotlight there with a Chicago-style hot dog in hand. I recommend napkins, both to dry your tears and to get all the mustard off your hands if you choose to partake in that particular experience. Pick your movie here.

skyline drive

3. Skyline Drive at Shenandoah National Park: 


There are two entrances to Skyline Drive within 45 minutes of the city. The scenic road spans 109 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains, but you'll probably want to choose your own adventure and exit the park at a convenient location for getting back home. This trip is great for people who love the outdoors, but don't necessarily have the stamina or the dedication to camp or go on a hike. Prepare to gasp at the beautiful, expansive views. Learn more here.

4. Hot Air Ballooning:


Hot air balloons are a big deal around here. On a calm day, it's not unusual to see half a dozen or more floating above you on your morning commute. There are several places to enjoy a hot air balloon ride, but Boar's Head is the one I hear about most often. It'll cost you around $200 per person for a 1 hour trip, but it will probably change your life, so really, it's cheap.

low vintage in charlottesville, va

5. Vintage Shopping:


Here's my ideal day: drive out to Circa and poke through all the weird, vintage and secondhand collectibles and pretty furniture, stop into ReThreads for a quick scan through the racks, then head to the Downtown Mall to scope out the vintage clothing and accessories at Low Vintage and Ike's Underground. Stop by Paradox Pastry for a slice of Almond Pave and some tea, then go home and take a nap. I should be doing that right now instead of writing this post.

There are lots and lots of secondhand shops around town and you'll never get to all of them in one day. Check out my Resources page for more local recommendations.

luray caverns luray, va


6. Luray Caverns:


You'll have to drive about an hour out to get to Luray, but it is definitely worth it. Boasting an underground lake, cathedral-sized rooms, and a charming Stalag-pipe Organ (I'm not kidding - someone made an instrument out of the rock formations and it plays eery music), if you like caves, you'll love Luray Caverns.

Admission costs $26 per adult, but there are AAA and other discounts available, so make sure to ask about special offers before buying tickets. Learn more about Luray Caverns here.

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Charlottesville is the bomb when it comes to unique, accessible experiences. I recommend that you check online for things to do in your locale if you're looking for alternative gifts this Holiday season. So much of this ethical shopping thing is about learning how to live with less stuff and enjoy life more. Don't be afraid to get out there and explore.

Gift Guide: your vegan sister

vegan and eco gift guide
*denotes affiliate links.

My sister prefers not to use or wear anything derived from animals as an extension of her vegetarianism. She's been a vegetarian for close to a decade now and it's admirable to see someone live out their values with both determination and grace. I can learn a lot from her.

Obviously, she was my inspiration for this gift guide for vegans. It's no surprise that a lot of the items I chose are also more eco-conscious and sustainable than standard goods. There's a proven correlation between reduced meat consumption and the health of the environment.

1. Ash & Rose Kariba Tunic, $62.00
My sister picked this out for herself and it's waiting to be shipped off to her for Christmas. It's a soft Hemp/Spandex blend with a flattering drape. Made in USA. I love Ash & Rose's selection of fair trade, sustainable, and eco-conscious goods.

2. Malia Designs Recycled Long Wallet, $30.00
Made from a recycled feed bag, this wallet has plenty of room for all the essentials and a one-of-a-kind print. Malia Designs' mission is to fight human trafficking in Cambodia by offering alternative, fairly paid work and donating a portion of proceeds to Cambodian anti-trafficking organizations.

3. Sseko Designs "Creativity" Charm Bracelet*, $29.99
Handcrafted from raw brass, this is the newest piece in Sseko Designs' accessories line. I chose the "creativity" charm set, because my sister is an excellent photographer and artist (Check out her miniature photography here). I'm a longtime supporter of Sseko Designs - their social enterprise model really works - and appreciate that there are more leather-free options to choose from these days. 

4. WeWood Laetus Azur Watch*, $125.00
Made from sustainably harvested maple without toxic finishes, this watch is a pricey option, but it could be the perfect thing if you were "late" sending presents the last few years and need to make up for lost gift-giving opportunities.

5. MadeFAIR Small Vegan Leather Purse*, $41.99
I love the marbling on this bag; the sustainably harvested cork adds a nice '70s inspired touch to basic outfits. MadeFAIR has a modern, laid back selection of clothing, accessories, and shoes worth perusing.

6. Hurraw! Black Cherry Lip Balm* via LoveGoodly, $3.79
All natural and made in the USA, this tinted lip balm is flavored with actual cherries. It's the perfect little accompaniment to a larger gift.
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What are you buying this season? Who are you having trouble finding gifts for?


the moral wardrobe: Candorra Artisans Bangles

conscious jewelry

I'm not sure whether to feel lucky or concerned that the weather's still so nice in early December. It's highly likely that this is a sign of things to come on the climate change front, but I'm still a bit relieved that I don't have to endure all the cold of winter just yet.

It also gives me the opportunity to show off my new bangles - provided for review from Candorra Artisans - sans gloves. Candorra was founded by Amanda Thornton in early 2014 and began working with artisans in Sri Lanka in June of that year. Candorra specializes in stunning, hand crafted jewelry and accessories made primarily by women in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Northern India, and South Africa. Artisans are paid up front and receive a living wage. (Amanda shared the brand story on Tuesday, so I recommend you check this post for more background information.)

  candorra artisans jewelry review
ethical outfit post with bangles

I've said before that I'm not much of a bracelet wearer, but these are the sorts of pieces you keep and hand down to loved ones as the years pass. The wire is plated in 24k gold with about 7 times the gold content of traditional plated wire since they're able to plate in house. There are tons of different stones (and world coins! - my coins are from Finland) to choose from and most options fall at or under $40.00 at regular price (plus, they're currently on sale). I'm wearing the Small Pyrite and the Gold Coin bangles.

fair trade banglescandorra artisan review Ethical Details: Top - thrifted; Cardigan - thrifted; Jacket - secondhand via thredup; Boots - old; Bracelets - c/o Candorra Artisans

Overall, I'm really impressed with the quality and craftsmanship of the bangles and I love the structure and mission of Candorra Artisans. Small-wristed folks may need to pull the bracelets up their arms a bit to make them feel more secure, as there is a danger of them slipping off, but that's to be expected with bangles. I'm looking forward to wearing these hiked up my arm with a sundress in the summertime.

For a limited time, all Candorra Artisans bangles are 40% off on their website. 


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Learn more about Candorra Artisans and shop their collection on their website. Follow along on facebookpinterest, and instagram

Spotlight: Candorra Artisans

Today Amanda from fair trade company, Candorra Artisans, will be sharing the brand story. Thanks to Candorra Artisans for sponsoring this post. 

Candorra fair trade artisans

At Candorra Artisans, we love people.


We also understand how our daily decisions can have a life changing impact on others around the world. Our passion is to unite women from all walks of life that understand the true beauty behind the conscious decision to support fair employment and equal opportunity. Every unique item Candorra carries is handmade by artisans that now dream of a brighter future and a new found hope.

Candorra fair trade artisans

Our goal is to create limited and unique handmade artisan goods by using elements of nature, bright colors, and lush textures that are high quality and versatile. Our handmade artisan gifts, jewelry, accessories, and baby clothes are inspired by traveling the world and creating treasures that cultivate the interest, emotions, and memories of the people we meet along the way.

We as a company strive to know our artisans personally and understand them as individuals.


The vast majority of the artisans we support are at-risk mothers. One of the aspects that makes Candorra special, is that we help bind together a community of small social impact businesses in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, and South Africa. Starting a business is difficult for anyone to do, but almost impossible with little to no education. We support these businesses directly by providing encouragement, mentorship, quality control, and on-trend designs. Most importantly, we give these artisans opportunities to sell through the US market, something that they could not gain access too on their own.

fair trade bangles

We find our artisan groups through a network of families whose passion is to bring hope and opportunity to those impacted by poverty through business. These families travel overseas to start small businesses, employing the locals, and teaching them business skills. We pay up front for every product purchased, and take care to make sure our artisans are paid at or above a living wage for their location. This model provides greater long term success for the artisans, and grows a sustainable business model for all involved.

Candorra fair trade artisans

There are situations where intervention is needed for social injustice or poverty, such as after a natural disaster or war, but long term care is about providing opportunity. At-risk men and women need the confidence and purpose that comes from starting their own co-op or business where they can build a future free of charity. At Candorra, our passion is using business as a tool for transformation and freedom. We love joining hands with people who support socially responsible companies and ethical fashion. 

We all have a part to play in this movement towards social justice.

Fortunately, by simply choosing to purchase artisan made products through Candorra Artisans, you greatly contribute to transforming, loving, and respecting women around the world!

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Get 40% off Bangles at Candorra Artisans. No coupon required.

Learn more about Candorra Artisans and shop their collection on their website. Follow along on facebook, pinterest, and instagram

I'll be reviewing a couple of Candorra bangles later this week!

Arms Wide Open: a sermon for the First Sunday of Advent, by Elaine Thomas

advent candles

I was touched by this sermon by my friend and priest, Elaine Thomas, and wanted to share a portion of it with you all. When you want to see loving justice done, you never get to stop thinking, processing, or doing. And it 's exhausting and disorienting. It can make you feel like you will never be able to do enough. 

During this season of Advent, we're asked to sit with our fatigue and our sorrow, but we're also asked to hope - and to work to make the world better. It's up to us and we won't give up.


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If you came to church this morning, this First Sunday of Advent, looking for happiness and joy and preparing to see the baby Jesus, I imagine you’re getting a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach about now.

In fact, you know how all those people think what we really need to do is to put Christ back in Christmas? Well, today, we put the Apocalypse back in Advent. 

There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. (Luke 21:25-27)

Nope, not a lot of sweet baby Jesus in that, is there?

In truth, Advent can be a confusing time. The world tells us it’s one thing – getting ready for Christmas – while the Church tell us it’s that plus something else. And it’s that something else that we’re about today.

...stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (Luke 21:28)

We are in the in-between time when Christ has come and yet is coming, an ongoing cycle of God being made known in the world in the first advent of incarnation and in the yet-to-be second coming of Christ to redeem the world. This liminal space, this threshold, can be disorienting, because all that we think that we know – Jesus was born, lived, healed, told stories, was crucified, died, was buried, and rose again – this is the story we’ve just completed. Some of us have lived this story in the life and liturgy of the church many, many times. And yet here we are, once again.

You might well be asking “why?” Why do we have to repeat this story over and over again?

The answer, it seems to me, is pretty clear: we haven’t gotten it right just yet. If we are participants in the creation of God’s reign on earth, then we only have to look around us to see just how far we still have to go.

The ‘distress among the nations” to which Jesus refers in our gospel could be taken to mean any number of the countries on our globe – Syria, Sudan, Burundi, Israel-Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria. The list goes on and on.

We are not immune. The latest terror unleashed by the so-called Islamic State hit a bit too close to home when diners and party-goers in Paris were indiscriminately targeted. Also close to home was the not-so-indiscriminate terror at a Planned Parenthood clinic two days ago.

We have witnessed a sharp uptick in the level of fear and anxiety in our country of late, and, as so often happens with fear and anxiety, it manifests itself in destructive ways.

Since the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman almost four years ago, racial tensions have been simmering and, in some instances, boiling over. This week, we had reported white supremacists firing on crowds of people protesting the death of yet another black man at the hands of police.

Syrian refugees have so feared for their lives that they have taken their families and boarded rickety boats, willing to risk all that they have – even their very lives – to escape their war-torn country.

The vitriol and judgment and fear of these refugees has been an eye-opening challenge to me as a priest and pastor and human being.

We can sit here and argue until the cows come home over interpretation of certain passages of scripture. We can debate what the bible says about sex and sexuality and the role of women in leadership, and good and faithful people debate these things all the time. What is not open to debate is this – scripture is consistent throughout, Old Testament as well as new, that we are to welcome the stranger.

This frenzy of fear that has so hardened the hearts of so many is contrary to the most fundamental commandment of God: love your neighbor.

From the depth of my being, I would rather die with my arms wide open than live with my fists clenched shut...


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Read or listen to the rest here. 


5 Ways to Make Your Wardrobe More Sustainable, by Maxine Bedat

ZADY fashion and climate infographic
Screenshot from ZADY's infographic on Fashion and Climate. 

This piece was written by Maxine Bedat of ZADY. For more information on sustainability in the fashion industry, check out ZADY's The New Standard

If you've already tackled the issues laid out in my piece, 5 Questions Every Conscious Consumer Should Ask, you might think of this as the next step in your journey - considering the details of production and the larger environmental and human costs of over-consumption.

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1. Choose Alpaca over Cashmere. 

It takes five cashmere goats to make one sweater whereas you can create five sweaters from just one alpaca. Furthermore, cashmere goats eat grass by pulling it from the root, thus leading to desertification in China and Mongolia. 

 2. Buy only what you love. 

Americans throw away 65-70 lbs of clothing each year. Invest in products you love and will own over the course of a lifetime. 

 3. Buy fewer, and better. 

More than 150 Billion garments are produced every year. That’s enough to provide more than 20 new articles of clothing to every person on the planet, every year. 


 4. Avoid clothing produced in countries with coal-based power grids. 

The top two countries for fashion is China and Bangladesh. Both of these countries rely heavily on coal, the fossil fuel for their power supply. And our fashion factories are not any different. These factories, are plugged into that coal supplied grid pumping out all that clothing that we end up wearing, on average, only seven times. 

 5. Choose organic cotton and natural fibers over synthetics. 

Polyester, a plastic material made of crude oil, is now the most commonly used fiber in our clothing, and the trend is only increasing. Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are needed to make the world’s polyester fiber each year-- enough to fill the Empire State Building 10 times. Polyester takes more than 200 years to decompose.

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A few takeaways:


Even though I've been researching and talking about ethics and sustainability for awhile now, I had no idea that China and Bangladesh were coal dependent or that I should care about it. I'm glad there are brands and organizations that have the perspective and the connections to see how pieces of the global manufacturing system work (or, in many cases, don't work) together. I'm reading a great book on the global manufacturing industry and it's crazy how convoluted everything is. I'll try to remember to review Fugitive Denim once I'm finished with it. 

Also, I just bought an Alpaca sweater thanks to a very nice friend (shout out to Mary!) who gave me a NOVICA gift card for my birthday, so I'll have more to say on that subject soon. 

*denotes affiliate links

Gift Guide: for older women


*denotes affiliate links.

Members of the Ethical Blogger Network have joined forces to create an Ethical Gift Guide series. Just click through the links at the end of this post to see tons of other picks for all of your loved ones. 

I chose "older women" or, more creatively titled, "your sophisticated grandmother," because I work with a lot of elegant older women and I think they deserve a place in the Holiday Gift Guide category. I chose these gifts with a particular volunteer in mind. Her name is Fiona (her sister's name is Hermione!) and she's originally from England. Her father was in the army and she grew up in prep schools. Her modest home is filled with perfectly pressed vintage linens and Downton Abbey-esque oil painted portraits of family. Though Fiona may not represent the average older woman, I think all older women are sophisticated and deserve thoughtful gifts.

1. Alex & Ani Cross Pull Chain Bracelet, $68.00
This bracelet is understated, but still impactful. Alex & Ani products are made in the USA, some out of recycled metals. I was told by several of my older employees that this style works well for people with arthritis, because you don't have to unclasp anything to put it on or adjust it.

2. Equal Exchange Organic Chamomile Tea, $4.50
I'm a longtime Equal Exchange fan and this organic, fairly sourced tea is the perfect thing at the end of a cold day. It's caffeine free, too, which means those with caffeine sensitivities can imbibe without repercussions.

3. Hand in Hand Soap in Rose Water, 2-pack, $18.00
Palm free (this is why that matters), cruelty free, American made soap: what more could you want? Soap is one of those everyday essentials I often forget to shop consciously, but I've been on the hunt for a palm free soap for a few months, because palm oil is destroying tropical forests and the living creatures that depend on them. And everyone can use a bar of soap, especially when it's packaged this beautifully.

4. Meditation Candle in Expand from Zady*, $30.00
This white floral scented soy candle is made in the USA. The jar is so delicate and simple that it's worth leaving out even after the candle's burned up. I recommend using an electric candle warmer for candles that you consider special, because it uses up wax slowly and evenly.

5. Love Goodly Box*, $39.95 for 1
I haven't tried this box yet, but I'm intrigued. There are lots of subscription boxes on the market, but this one focuses on all natural and sustainable skincare, so it's one size fits all. Boxes are sent bi-monthly and you get 5-7 full size products, samples, snacks, and eco-accessories. The older women I know treat their skin and themselves well, because they know it's the only body they have to work with, so I could see them really enjoying this box.

6. Spiral Tide Mug from Ten Thousand Villages, $18.00
This fair trade mug was produced by skilled ceramicists in Bat Trang, Vietnam. It's pretty without being overly feminine and would suit a variety of styles and kitchen themes, so I think it makes a versatile gift. It goes perfectly with the Equal Exchange tea.


Check out additional gift guides from the Ethical Blogger Network below: