Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability

SUSTAINABLE STYLE & ETHICAL LIVING

Recipe: Fair Trade, Organic Thai-Inspired Spiced Milk Tea

Special thanks to Numi Organic Tea for sponsoring this post

If you've ever been to a Thai restaurant (or better yet, Thailand) you've likely seen ombre Thai Tea served in a jar or a tall glass. My local Thai restaurant makes a great version of this with just the right amount of sugar and spice.

If you haven't had Thai Tea before, the flavor profile is reminiscent of iced chai or bubble tea depending on the spices used and the amount of sugar added. It's the perfect mid afternoon pick-me-up on a hot day because it's refreshing, energizing, and filling.

Traditional Thai Tea combines Thai Tea leaves with sugar and a spice blend of cardamom, cloves, and star anise. I wanted to put my own spin on it, so I opted for one of Numi Organic's spiced teas mixed with organic sugar, cloves, and half & half. Though the color and viscosity of my tea is different from traditional Thai Tea, the flavor and refreshment factor are right on par, perfect for a lazy afternoon spent reading in the shade of a porch.


Thai-Inspired Spiced Milk Tea for Two


WHAT YOU'LL NEED:

TO MAKE:
  1. Add 2 cups of water, 2 tbsp. sugar, and a few shakes of ground cloves to a small pot. 
  2. Heat on medium high heat. Gently stir until all sugar is dissolved. 
  3. Once water is boiling, take the paper tags off of 4 spiced tea bags and submerse in pot. 
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes. 
  5. Take pot off heat and let tea continue to steep until the water is room temperature.
  6. Pour room temperature tea and tea bags into a glass or plastic container and let cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours, or overnight. 
  7. After steeping, remove your tea bags, pour tea in two glasses, and add cold half & half to taste. You may add ice if you wish. 
  8. Drink immediately or place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


I've tried to make my own spiced tea at home before with less-than-stellar results. But this recipe is my new go-to when I'm craving a sweet spiced drink. It's easy enough to make on an easy Saturday morning in between other chores and tasks, and it stores well in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Let me know if you make it and how it turns out.

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See my previous collaborations with Numi here. 


Follow along with Numi on social media: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

Review: Harmless Harvest Coconut Water is Actually Delicious

Harmless Harvest coconut water review

When I was in LA, my hostess was guzzling coconut water like it was regular water and it gave me a hankering to go out and buy a few bottles. Fortunately, Harmless Harvest sent me a couple of vouchers so I could pick some up at my local grocery store.

I've tried coconut water before, but I didn't have a great experience. The liquid seemed milky and had a sour aftertaste. But when a fellow Ethical Writers Coalition member suggested she would kill for Harmless Harvest, I figured it was too good not to sample.

Every bottle boasts the Fair for Life certification logo and the brand employs a Constructive Capitalism approach that benefits all people through the supply chain:
This model values and respects each person and community contributing to the creation and purchase of a product. It is understood that all stakeholders should benefit from Harmless Harvest, whether it be the plants at the source, the customer at the store, or any step in between.
In addition, the bottles are made of BPA-free plastic, the coconut water 100% certified organic, and the process free of heating methods that contribute to that sour taste I took issue with in another brand.

So, what do I think?

Harmless Harvest coconut water review

I love it! A little bit sweet, smooth, extremely drinkable. I drank a bottle of it while I was editing these photos and I keep looking down at my glass to see if there's any more. Though I received a voucher for my bottles, the retail price at the local Giant was $3.29 for a small bottle. A bit pricey for an everyday beverage, but nice if you need a nourishing pick-me-up in the middle of the day.

You may be asking, "why is it pink?" According to Harmless Harvest, coconut water contains antioxidants like polyphenols that naturally vary in amount across coconuts. Some of these antioxidants are light sensitive, and turn pink over time. I always like a good science lesson and the color is quite pretty.

It should be noted that Harmless Harvest coconut water is most likely located in the refrigerated section of the natural foods aisle at your local store. I ended up taking a tour of the store before I thought to check there.

Harmless Harvest also provided vouchers to try their new coffee flavor, but my local store doesn't carry it.

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Find a local store that carries Harmless Harvest here. 


Review: Mable Delivers Sustainable, Self Standing Toothbrushes

Mable bamboo toothbrush review Special thanks to Mable for sponsoring this post. 

A couple of years ago, I switched from conventional plastic toothbrushes to those now ubiquitous recycled plastic toothbrushes, which I can pick up at my local Trader Joe's for a few bucks a piece. But, while the company has a pretty good thing going, I've continued to have some reservations about a product made of non-biodegradable plastic (it turns out they have a mail-in recycling program, but I had no idea until I wrote this post, so I've just been tossing the toothbrushes in my regular recycling bin and crossing my fingers that something good would come of it).

Then Mable reached out and offered one of their bamboo toothbrushes for review and I was stoked (can you tell I visited southern California recently?) to get a chance to see what the bamboo experience was like. Bamboo is a sturdy, fast growing plant, which makes it one of the most sustainable materials in the world. Plus it's biodegradable, which makes a huge difference when you consider that "nearly five-billion plastic toothbrushes make their way into the earth and oceans every year." The Mable toothbrush is made from bamboo and new nylon, and the handle is designed so that the brush can stand all by itself on a counter top.

So what did I think?

Mable bamboo toothbrush review
I have mixed feelings. In terms of sustainability and design, the brush is spot on. I don't have to send in my toothbrush once it's worn out because it will biodegrade naturally over time (though Mable does recommend taking the nylon out of the handle and disposing of it since it's not biodegradable). The silhouette of the product is also really cool. I feel like it makes my bathroom look like a fancier place than it is. And since bamboo is antimicrobial, I feel a little bit less worried about delaying the purchase of a new toothbrush or sealing it in a bag when I travel.

On the downside, the self-standing aspect isn't that useful to me because I have limited counter space. I usually store my toothbrush in a little ceramic cup on one of those relic-of-the-past, built-in toothbrush holders that's been mounted to the wall of my apartment since the 1960s, but I need to store the Mable brush on the windowsill so it won't end up falling into the sink. The bamboo also feels a bit weird against your gums at first, but it loses some of its friction with continued use, so I'm adjusting to it now that I'm a couple weeks in.

Conscious consumerism is often about finding compromises you can live with and, as far as bamboo toothbrushes are concerned, Mable is a good option. They offer a subscription service that mails you a new brush every three months at a reduced rate ($8.00 instead of $10.00) and they're working on broadening their options to include new colors and a range of bristles (currently, they only offer Medium bristles).

If you've got more counter space than me and love good design, I think the Mable Toothbrush may suit you just fine.

Hannah at Life Style Justice reviewed the Mable brush last week. Check out her review here.

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Shop Mable here.


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Making the Case for a Vacation from Conscious Consumerism

Making the Case for a Vacation from Conscious Consumerism
Crashing waves near Point Dume

As a rule, when I travel, I don't network. 


There are hundreds of brilliant, inspiring women (and some men) who write on conscious consumerism around the country who I would love to meet someday, but when I go on vacation, I don't make plans with them.

I travel to visit with friends and family. I often stay at their houses, work with their schedules, and ride in their cars. I have limited vacation time provided through work, so I don't often get more than a long weekend when I visit loved ones, and it's just not worth it to me to carve out a space for friendly networking, no matter how beneficial or fulfilling it might be.

I also travel to get some perspective on my day-to-day. I spend nearly all of my spare time (and some of my work time) talking about consumer ethics, manufacturing, and sustainability. I write and photograph for this blog. I pitch articles and tinker with html and obsessively check Google Analytics. And, while I find it immensely gratifying, I also tend to get tunnel vision fairly quickly and it's hard to get a sense of what matters most.

Physically leaving my environment and visiting with people who know me outside of that context helps me better gauge my long term goals and better understand my role within the world I occupy.

Making the Case for a Vacation from Conscious Consumerism
Daniel and me at a dusty outlook over the city


Sometimes, the best thing I can do for myself is not be a "conscious consumer" for awhile. 


Now, that's not to say that I shouldn't be mindful of the things I purchase on trips, throwing my moral convictions to the wind. It's to say that I strive when I'm away to remember that I'm a person, first and foremost. It's healthy for me to separate the "consumer" part from the "conscious" part for a few days, to practice being considerate of others and myself without that being attached to want.

On my recent trip to Los Angeles, I explored desert landscapes, people watched at Venice Beach, admired modern architecture, ate cuisines not available to me in Charlottesville, watched the grandest ocean sunset I've ever seen, climbed to the top of Point Dume, chatted with the locals, binge watched all of Stranger Things with friends, and took lots of naps. I helped with the dishes and chopped the vegetables for dinner. I set the table and took twilight walks.

And I felt like I was able to get real clarity on what I want for myself and what I need in both a career and in a life. I was challenged by the task of living in someone else's home for a week and learned how to compromise and work through impatience, which reminded me that this task of just being with people harmoniously is something hard and worth accomplishing.

Taking a pause from conscious consumerism to practice self care
The sunset in Malibu


I think a lot of us conscious consumers and ethical bloggers think that if we can reach some secular humanist version of enlightenment and make ourselves perfect, that will have a ripple effect and the world will be forever better. 


But I think that's a lie. If I become a vegan who makes all my own clothes out of hemp I've grown and hand dyed with herbs, if I live on a homestead and sing to the animals and paint with all the colors of the wind, I might find some personal gratification. But that's just a drop in the bucket. The world is vast and it's not my job to change it by myself.

I believe I have a responsibility to act with intention in small and big ways. I believe that my choices matter. But if I burn out, what good am I to anyone? If I forsake intimate relationships for networking visits, if I visit a fair trade store instead of climbing a mountain to see the sea lions play in the water below, if I am nice on the internet and mean to my husband because I'm too tired to practice kindness, am I really succeeding at bettering myself in the end?

Some days, being a person is hard enough.

My advice to myself and to you is to be as patient and kind as you can be to yourself and others. Take a break from your personal brand and watch a sunset. Sometimes in the clutter of war, sweatshop tragedies, and political turmoil, I forget that life is actually still worth living. I forget why I'm fighting or what I'm fighting for.

But after time away, I remember that I'm fighting for my and everyone's right to laugh raucously with friends and binge watch Netflix and get soaked by the cold waves of the Pacific Ocean. 


I'm fighting for a right to live, and live well.


Additional Reading:

Happy Fox Studio Jewelry: Minimal, Architectural, Sustainable

Happy Fox Custom reclaimed Jewelry
The custom, mismatched ear crawlers Allison made to my specifications

Allison of Happy Fox Studio makes modern pieces from vintage and reclaimed materials. We first got in touch on Instagram (gotta hand it to Instagram for putting me in touch with people I never would have "met" otherwise) and it's been great to learn more about her process and why she's passionate about sustainable jewelry-making. I'm impressed with her attention to detail and ethical sourcing. I hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes interview as much as I did.

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When did you first become interested in making jewelry?


I started making jewelry about 10 years ago, when I had a hard time finding simple jewelry that wasn’t, well, too simple!  I actually had someone at a bead shop show me how, but it wasn’t long before I started making my own, unique “findings” – the wire part of the earrings. It was a slow first few years, I really ramped up my making and selling in 2011.

What sets Happy Fox Studio apart from other independent jewelry shops?


There are a few things that make happy fox studio different from the majority of shops. The first is that the majority of my materials are reclaimed. For me that might mean something I bought at a creative reuse store, or vintage jewelry I take apart, or something from a “junk” bin at an antique shop. The second is that most of my pieces are one of a kind, but priced in a way that is accessible for a lot of people. Third, I want my customers to be super happy with their product, and working with reclaimed materials can sometimes present unforeseen challenges. Because of this, I work really hard to get feedback, and if there is ever a weakness in the materials, I find a way to fix it right away!

Happy Fox Custom reclaimed Jewelry


What are your favorite materials to work with?


Right now I’m sort of obsessed with finding individual, vintage earrings – I call them “orphan” earrings – and turning them into pendants. I also really adore working with vintage metal – I bought a whole stash of vintage copper and brass bangles at a ‘junk’ shop and have made around 30 minimalist, architectural necklaces with them. I’ll be very sad when it is all used up!

What inspires your designs?


There are a few things that really drive my style. One is architecture and design. My family is in construction and I had a career in urban planning, so that design element is always there for me. Another is simplicity – I feel like, for the most part, I don’t want my jewelry to be the first thing people notice about me. But when they do notice it, I want them to be like, wow, that is so cool, where did it come from? I love making jewelry that has a story, a history, way before it was made or purchased.

You mention you sell a lot of jewelry locally and in person. How do in-person relationships help you refine your craft?


It’s so important! I only make my best-selling mini earrings because they had such a good response when I made a template that people loved at a market. I make studs and ear crawlers because so many of my customers requested them! I love that my business is small and not static, so that when people show an interest in something, I can respond. (However, I probably won’t be making anything with druzy, despite multiple requests!) I do quite a bit of custom work as well. It’s really cool that my customers trust me enough to say something like “I want something medium length, maybe silver, maybe blue or green” and let me come up with the end product. I made my first piece of wedding jewelry this way, and she was really happy with it, it looked amazing, and I made something totally unusual and reclaimed.

Happy Fox Custom reclaimed Jewelry

What is your favorite design or piece to make?


I most enjoy making necklaces, I think. Sometimes they come to me as I am falling asleep, other times they are a labor of love, trying many different thing until one clicks. I love the process of finding materials that work together aesthetically and then making them work functionally. I also really love making my whorled studs because every earring is individual and I love all the variations. It actually makes them incredibly frustrating to make, too, but the end result is great.

How does sustainability and ethics factor into your process?


It’s a huge part of both how and why I do what I do. Using reclaimed materials and educating my customers on why that is important is an honor and a challenge. I have not found wire yet that I can verify the geographical source or recycled content, which has been frustrating. I guess it’s not a question many jewelers ask.

Anything else you'd like to add?


I’d encourage your readers to ask the favorite jewelry makers where they get their materials. The more people asking that, the broader the conversation is about our ability to reuse and recycled. One last thing - when I say I make reclaimed or eco-friendly jewelry, I think many people envision bottle-cap necklaces or paperclip rings! I hope that I can expand people’s idea of what eco-friendly jewelry look like, that it doesn’t have to look “different” – just awesome!

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Allison made me a custom pair of mismatched ear crawlers to my general specifications (she always puts her own creative spin on custom pieces, so it's truly a collaborative experience, which is awesome) and I'm really happy with them. Unlike other ear crawlers I've tried, once they're on and adjusted, they don't budge at all. She'll make you a custom piece, as well. Just ask. 


Shop Happy Fox Studio here and on Instagram



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Justice in the Wake of an Environmental Disaster, by Dominique Fu

This troubling, moving, inspiring post was written by Dominique Fu and originally appearing on Let's Be Fair.
natural gas leak and justice
A natural gas rig off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico

Disaster

This past Fall a massive natural gas storage facility in my community started leaking gas. A lot of gas. And it didn't stop. In the beginning residents complained about the rotten egg smell caused by mercaptan, a chemical that is added to gas to alert people that, well, gas is leaking. The smell got worse and residents started to complain of headaches, nausea, breathing problems and nose bleeds. The gas company assured everyone that these symptoms were merely side effects of the bad smell.

People started to move,
the well continued to leak.

A local school was shut down and all the children were relocated,
the well continued to leak.

Thousands of people moved. Hotels and pet boarding facilities within 25 miles were completely packed,
the well continued to leak.

Finally three months into the leak and after welcoming foster children into our home we were relocated.
We packed our bags, locked our doors and lived in a hotel 50 miles away for two months.
And the well continued to leak.

Then one day, after five months of leaking, the well stopped leaking.
But the damage remained.

Parks were shut down. There were reports of plants dying. Families went home to find "black oily spots" on their homes and vehicles. Previously healthy kids now had asthma. Noses were still bleeding.

We reluctantly moved back home.

Tonight I sit in my home on the eve of Earth Day and recognizing this is the first year I've actually cared about Earth Day. I'm not a journalist or a scientist so it's hard for me to discuss this experience concisely with all the facts in a row. But I did learn some things about justice during and it feels important right now to share it.

Propaganda Works

It still amazes how cleverly the gas company handled the initial complaints. They made it ALL about the smell. They said things like "people who are sensitive" to describe people having symptoms, as if those people were weak, it was their fault for getting sick. They assured everyone that it was the mercaptan, the smelly rotten egg substance that was causing problems. But when is the last time you heard of someone smelling something so bad that their nose bled? Mercaptan is added to gas as a warning...it is merely alerting you that there is a big big problem. But the gas company made it all about 'the sensitive people that can't handle bad smells' rather than 'the tons of toxic chemicals being dumped into your community'. And shockingly it worked.

Truth seekers are easily dismissed

There were several thousand people who weren't fooled by the mercaptan propaganda. They up and moved their families. And for most people, that was the end of that.

But there was another group of people who moved. People who dared to ask questions like "WHY are our noses bleeding?" "What chemicals were released into the air?" "Why is the house I haven't lived in for two months getting enormous gas bills?" These questions weren't being answered. So they got louder. They wrote their local representatives, they made signs and stood on corners, they protested and started Facebook groups. They were heard...And almost instantaneously they were dismissed.  "Conspiracy theorists". "Opportunists". It kind of got ugly fast. Even we were made fun of by some people about our 'vacation'. Now that we are home I can laugh about it, however at the time it wasn't funny to me at all. I was scared, confused and completely overwhelmed trying to do what I thought was the best thing for my family and the children entrusted into our care and no one was giving us any information.

If you can't see it, It's easier to believe that it doesn't exist

And isn't that the problem with so many issues related to injustice? If we saw with our own eyes, resumes getting ripped up because someones first name was "telling" of their gender or ethnicity, it would be easy to believe that Equal Opportunity still isn't equal. If gas had a color and it turned the sky black, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people would have fled and never come back. But you can't see gas just like you can't see injustice. Sure, you can see the effects but we can  always conveniently blame that on something else can't we? And it's easier to believe that it doesn't exist. The people who didn't move weren't uninformed, they just had the luxury of choosing to not acknowledge what was happening because they didn't feel sick.

california gas leak
A letter from Dr. Cyrus Rangan and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health sent to local doctors asking them to not perform toxicology tests on residents who felt ill due to possible environmental toxin exposure. When the letter was shared on a Facebook help group related to the gas blowout by a resident, the gas company threatened to remove it if it was not taken down. 


The system is broken, but sometimes it works

It took many months and hundreds of phone calls for local officials to get angry. However once they did, it actually became quite helpful.  The Department of Health was SUPER shady and downplayed everything but local officials, city councilmen, chambers of commerce, neighborhood councils really started to defend the community. They made demands of the gas company that we as citizens were powerless to do on our own. For the first time the voices of the people were being represented. Our political and justice systems are really messed up, but when we can rally together and use the system, sometimes it can actually work well.

Exposed corruption exposes corruption

Once the gas company finally got called out on the leak and was forced to admit that it was 100% their negligence that led to the disaster (there was no emergency shut of in place...not joking), it lead to more and more corruption from the gas company being exposed. There are literally hundreds of other leaks, rate hikes intended to 'do maintenance' that was clearly never done, enormous gas bills due to faulty billing technology and the list goes on. The internet can be a crazy place and a breeding ground for confusion and hysteria but in this situation I think it helped rally neighbors together to fight for their community and call out the utility company and corrupt officials publicly.

Justice is the work of long suffering

The hype is dying down, people are returning back to their lives and the legal process is slow. Last week I read that the CEO of SoCal Gas just got a three million dollar bonus...and yet we haven't been reimbursed for expense incurred. But I'm tired. Almost too tired to fight (although my credit cards will not allow me to be done just get) but definitely too tired to fight long term. The utility company is a monopoly. They can get away with this chaos simply because we don't have another choice. If we want gas we need them, plain and simple. So fighting them feels exhausting and futile and long.

This disaster is far from over. If you read this blog I would ask for your solidarity by keeping up with this and other disasters happening in our country. There are so many. Remind yourself that just because you aren't hearing about it doesn't mean it's not happening. Environmental disasters eventually affect all of us, we need to learn from it and support one another through it.

If you are interested in learning more about the Aliso Canyon gas leak here are some things worth reading:
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Let's Be Fair is a great resource for people who want to make conscious purchasing decisions. 

To read more from Dominique, check out the blog here!

Review: Nourish Organic Night Cream + Recovery Serum


100% USDA Organic Skincare


A few weeks ago, I received an email from Nourish Organic asking me if I'd like to sample two of their products. I'm always on the hunt for organic, ethically sourced skincare that won't irritate my skin, so I happily said yes. They sent me their Restorative Night Cream and Overnight Recovery Serum, valued at $25.00 each, to try. All Nourish Organic products are 100% organic, packaged in at least 25% post-consumer recycled content, and cruelty free. Their factory uses renewable energy and their warehouse is underground to reduce utilities waste.

I've been using both products for about two weeks now and I'm happy to say there's been minimal irritation and evident results...

Nourish Organic Skincare serum review
The first thing I noticed about both products (besides their lovely package design) was their heavenly fragrance, comprised of essential oils and other organic fragrances. Since my skin is quite sensitive, I generally shy away from scented products, so it felt like a spa-like indulgence to breathe in the floral and citrus fragrance as I gently layered the serum and moisturizer on my face.

I can feel the potency of these products as soon as they're applied, so I've done my best to adapt my routine to the path of least irritation.

Restorative Night Cream


The night cream is primarily comprised of aloe and shea butter, so the consistency is relatively thin while being quite moisturizing. Since using this product, I have seen a reduction in flaky skin and fine lines around my eyes. I don't need to exfoliate as often throughout the week and I haven't seen an increase in acne or irritation.

My Grade: A

Overnight Recovery Serum


The serum is a blend of safflower, argan, evening primrose, jasmine, sweet orange, avocado, and pomegranate seed oils. The fragrance is really lovely and the application is smooth (I generally use two pumps). I have to be careful with essential oils because their potency often irritates my skin, so I apply this over, rather than under, the moisturizer, because it feels like the small barrier of moisturizer reduces irritation, and I only use it every other day. Paired with the night cream, I have noticed a reduction in fine lines and flakiness. I apply a little more in areas that tend toward extra dryness. I have noticed minor irritation and have had some trouble keeping the serum from migrating to my eye area - it stings if it gets in my eyes. I also avoid using serum in the morning because the oil tends to smudge my mascara.

My Grade: B

Keep in mind that these are personal preferences based on my particularly sensitive skin. I am really impressed with the products overall and think they're priced fairly competitively for their market.

The packaging: My samples were packaged in a cardboard box. The plastic containers were each packaged in small, cardboard display boxes. Nourish is committed to using at least 25% post-consumer recycled content in their packaging, though I can't say which parts were recycled.

I'm thinking about trying the deodorant in Lavender Mint.

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Shop Nourish Organic here. 


Review: Nourish Organic Night Cream + Recovery Serum


100% USDA Organic Skincare


A few weeks ago, I received an email from Nourish Organic asking me if I'd like to sample two of their products. I'm always on the hunt for organic, ethically sourced skincare that won't irritate my skin, so I happily said yes. They sent me their Restorative Night Cream and Overnight Recovery Serum, valued at $25.00 each, to try. All Nourish Organic products are 100% organic, packaged in at least 25% post-consumer recycled content, and cruelty free. Their factory uses renewable energy and their warehouse is underground to reduce utilities waste.

I've been using both products for about two weeks now and I'm happy to say there's been minimal irritation and evident results...

Nourish Organic Skincare serum review
The first thing I noticed about both products (besides their lovely package design) was their heavenly fragrance, comprised of essential oils and other organic fragrances. Since my skin is quite sensitive, I generally shy away from scented products, so it felt like a spa-like indulgence to breathe in the floral and citrus fragrance as I gently layered the serum and moisturizer on my face.

I can feel the potency of these products as soon as they're applied, so I've done my best to adapt my routine to the path of least irritation.

Restorative Night Cream


The night cream is primarily comprised of aloe and shea butter, so the consistency is relatively thin while being quite moisturizing. Since using this product, I have seen a reduction in flaky skin and fine lines around my eyes. I don't need to exfoliate as often throughout the week and I haven't seen an increase in acne or irritation.

My Grade: A

Overnight Recovery Serum


The serum is a blend of safflower, argan, evening primrose, jasmine, sweet orange, avocado, and pomegranate seed oils. The fragrance is really lovely and the application is smooth (I generally use two pumps). I have to be careful with essential oils because their potency often irritates my skin, so I apply this over, rather than under, the moisturizer, because it feels like the small barrier of moisturizer reduces irritation, and I only use it every other day. Paired with the night cream, I have noticed a reduction in fine lines and flakiness. I apply a little more in areas that tend toward extra dryness. I have noticed minor irritation and have had some trouble keeping the serum from migrating to my eye area - it stings if it gets in my eyes. I also avoid using serum in the morning because the oil tends to smudge my mascara.

My Grade: B

Keep in mind that these are personal preferences based on my particularly sensitive skin. I am really impressed with the products overall and think they're priced fairly competitively for their market.

The packaging: My samples were packaged in a cardboard box. The plastic containers were each packaged in small, cardboard display boxes. Nourish is committed to using at least 25% post-consumer recycled content in their packaging, though I can't say which parts were recycled.

I'm thinking about trying the deodorant in Lavender Mint.

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Shop Nourish Organic here. 


My Ethical + Sustainable Back-to-School Wishlist

ethical and sustainable back to school shopping list

I haven't gone back to school in 5 years, but living in a college town (with a grad student husband) forces me - and probably most people in town - to organize their lives around a school schedule. Summers in Charlottesville are quiet; the normally crowded roads clear out and the student hangouts are suddenly populated by townies who were too shy to venture out during the school year. But things rev up again in early August and you can't help but get wrapped up in the back-to-school excitement.

So, I created my ideal "Back-to-School" closet update made up of ethical and sustainable items. Of course, I don't have any need to purchase 10 items in one go (and I own versions of some of these things already), but it's fun to think about what would supplement my current wardrobe and mentally narrow down this list to a few key pieces.


1. OESH La Vida Sneakers, $110.00

Made in Charlottesville with injection molded soles and nontoxic glue

2. FashionABLE Monochrome Choker*, $38.00

Made in Nashville, Tennessee

3. Sseko Designs Caramel T-Strap Sandals*, $59.99

Handmade in Uganda under fair trade principles, leather sources from small scale meat industry

4. Dorsu Rolled Sleeve Crewneck in Plum, $37.00

Made in Cambodia out of factory remnants under fair trade guidelines

5. Dorsu Roll-Neck Dress, $60.00

Made in Cambodia out of factory remnant under fair trade guidelines

6. Monkee Genes Indigo Denim Skinnies, $85.00

Made in England with organic cotton

7. Synergy Organic Clothing Sahara Full Skirt, $44.00

Made in Nepal under fair trade guidelines using GOTS certified organic cotton

8. Komodo Black Floral Skirt via MadeFAIR, $53.24

Made of sustainable tree cellulose (rayon) under fair trade guidelines in Indonesia

9. Braintree Clothing Latifa Hemp Skirt, $65.00

Made from sustainable hemp and organic cotton under fair trade guidelines

10. Everlane Dipped Mini Zip Backpack, $70.00

Made with transparent manufacturing and pricing in Dongguan, China


Are you going back to school? What items do you look for? I would love to see your wishlists and compare notes.


Maya Mountain Soap: Created by a Tibetan Woman for the Benefit of Tibetan Women

This post was written and compiled by Summer Edwards and originally appeared on Tortoise and Lady Grey.
maya mountain yak soap from tibet


From Leah: While good intentions often result in good results, that's not always the case, particularly when it comes to development projects and social enterprises. All the goodness in the world can't make up for lack of knowledge of need, infrastructure, and culture. That's why I love to hear about businesses that are owned and operated by locals who know firsthand what the greatest needs are and are able to train, motivate, and create community with other locals.

Local businesses - no matter what town or country they set up shop in - keep more of the profits in the local community, bolstering local programs and encouraging economic growth. So, I'm excited to share Summer's post about her friend Danma's new business in the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet: Maya Mountain Yak Milk Soap.

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From Summer: Today I’d like to introduce you to a very meaningful Tibetan social enterprise. Many of you will know that I am a community development practitioner,and I am passionate about the potential of social enterprise to contribute to meaningful change and sustainable economic opportunities. I particularly love sharing projects that empower women who are living their traditional lifestyles, to allow them to develop in ways that honour their valuable cultural traditions and way of life, taking the best from globalisation, and keeping the best from their own culture. Today I want to share you the story of a very good friend of mine and her social enterprise that is making a difference to the lives of Tibetan women in remote villages on the edge of the Tibetan plateau. 

The words below are Danma’s, written with the help of a friend.

This is the story of Danma, a nomadic Tibetan woman born to a herding yak family, who grew up in a small village on the edge of the Himalayan Plateau. The remote wilderness of the snowy Himalayan mountains is often associated with an array of medicinal plants; pristine lakes and herds of yaks. It is home to sacred traditions, rituals and cultural practices. But what is rarely talked about is the deeply ingrained patriarchal nature of Tibetan society, where gender roles are firmly defined.

Growing up, the only future Danma could feasibly see for herself involved bearing children, herding livestock, fetching water and collecting wood for fuel.

She observed first hand the realities of gender inequality, where women took on the most menial yet difficult of tasks.


But Danma’s ambitions for education, independence and self empowerment defied the constraints of her community. At 19 years old, she led a community project that brought running water to her village for the first time. After that, she applied for international funding to run a solar panel project to bring new energy resources to her village – and she got it.

Spurred on by her resilience and vision, Danma’s network of friends and supporters got her over to Australia to further her education. She was granted a scholarship by the University of Technology and completed a Bachelor in Public Communications (Social Inquiry).

She’s currently completing a Master of Social Work at the University of Sydney.


In 2015, Danma founded Maya Mountain, a social enterprise aimed at equipping Tibetan women with skills and opportunities to become self sufficient.

Maya Mountain produces 100% natural soap, lovingly handcrafted by Tibetan village women.


The enterprise is now at a point where it needs to fund the development of a safe and permanent facility for the Tibetan Soap Ladies to continue producing the soap.

To do this, Danma [has launched] a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to further develop the centre and to begin paying wages to the soap makers.


To find our more about Danma’s project, and how you can support it, and to get yourself a lovely bar of soap from the pristine Tibetan plateau, visit the Maya Mountain crowdfunding campaign

This project is designed and run by Tibetan women, for Tibetan women. You couldn’t find a project with better community development and empowerment principles than this one...


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See more from Tortoise and Lady Grey here.


Photo by Summer Edwards.

Giveaway: OESH Artemis 3-D Printed Sandals (Closed)

OESH Artemis sandals giveaway

If you missed yesterday's brand profile on OESH shoes, make sure to check it out. OESH is a Charlottesville, Virginia based, 3-D printed, woman owned, podiatrist approved, all-around innovative company that specializes in active footwear for women.

What I forgot to mention yesterday is that the 3-D print process allows them to build a honeycomb design into the sole that disburses pressure evenly on the foot and helps prevent injury. My ankles typically roll inward when I walk and somehow the design of these soles helps prevent that.

OESH just came out with the Artemis, a new version of their sandal that wraps around the toe, and they're giving away one pair in the color and size of your choice! Simply follow the prompts in the widget below.

  OESH Artemis sandals giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For an additional entry, find the Giveaway announcement on my Instagram profile!

Contest runs through August 10 at 12:00 am EST. Must be 18 years old or older to enter. Contest is open to international readers. Winner will be selected randomly 1-3 business days after giveaway ends and notified via email. 


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Shop OESH here. Read my review here.


Follow OESH on social media: Instagram // Twitter // Facebook

The Moral Wardrobe: Wear Anywhere OESH Shoes, 3-D Printed in Charlottesville



A few weeks ago, I was checking the StyleWise inbox when a familiar name caught my attention. I opened the email to discover that my friend, Maggie, writer of this piece on badass grandmas, had recently started working for a local shoe company called OESH, and that they were interested in doing a collaboration (they provided these sandals for review).

This would have been exciting regardless, but it gets better. Not only does OESH produce the bulk of their shoes less than ten minutes from my house (in a town not known for manufacturing), they 3-D print the soles! They recently won a National Science Foundation grant to perfect their custom printers, which use biodegradable pellets instead of the traditional cording, making the process more efficient and less prone to error. OESH is also a woman owned, woman operated company where employees like Maggie actually fabricate the 3-D printers, design the shoes, and program the printers on site. Basically, it's the coolest!



Maggie and owner, Casey (that's Dr. Kerrigan to you - she was a tenured professor before quitting to start OESH), gave me a tour of the operation one muggy Saturday afternoon, showing me the ins and outs of printer maintenance and design and letting me know why OESH products are superior to traditional footwear, namely because the shape and internal structure of all OESH shoes were designed with 20+ years of studies on gait (the way people walk) in mind.

OESH makes injection-molded sneakers, too, and they're careful to avoid the super toxic glues used in traditional footwear. They're working on developing the right 3-D printed design for flats that won't require glue at all. Almost all base materials are sourced in the US, as well, with many of the sandal strap varieties made in neighboring Waynesboro. The exception is the sneaker tops - they source those from China - because high performance athletic textiles just aren't available in the US.

Ethical Details: Dress - thrifted; Bracelet - c/o Candorra Artisans; Athena Sandals in Snapdragon - c/o OESH

I'm wearing the Athena Sandals in vibrant Snapdragon yellow, but this style comes in lots of other colors. The Athena sandal retails for $135.00. See another way I wore them here

I wore these every day for 7 days when I was out of town a couple weeks ago and my feet have never been happier. I'm serious. It's tempting to wear them every day with everything. And somehow they work with everything, even boho maxi dresses.

OESH just released a new sandal style, the Artemis, and StyleWise readers will have a chance to win a pair in the color of your choice! Stay tuned for tomorrow's giveaway post here and on Instagram!

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Shop OESH here.


Follow OESH on social media: Instagram // Twitter // Facebook

Natural Sunburn Remedies, by Stephanie Villano

This post was written by Stephanie Villano and originally appeared on My Kind Closet.
natural sunburn remedies aloe, tea

Even though you’re typically diligent with your sun protection and make every effort to reapply your  eco-friendly sunscreen and take other precautions like wearing a hat, this weekend you had a little too much fun in the sun and are now the sad bearer of a painful, itchy sunburn.  Even the lightest touch of soft fabric against your skin feels like sandpaper and you feel as though you’re radiating heat hot like fire or perhaps you’ve started to peel.

The following remedies will help to soothe and reduce the inflammation, pain, and itching often associated with sunburns.  The best part is that all of these remedies can be made at home and, with the exception of the aloe plant, you’ll likely have all of the ingredients already in your cupboard.  These are all vegan friendly and they’re certainly more eco-friendly than purchasing store bought creams, ointments, or gels that might have unsustainable packaging, or contain unnecessary additives or chemicals that may have been tested on animals or are not so good for the environment.

Aloe


Aloe plants are really pretty and easy to care for. As a bonus, they offer the benefit of being a natural skin soother and protectant for all types of burns: solar, thermal, and radiation.   Rather than spending the money to buy some aloe gel at your local pharmacy, keep a plant at home.  Please note that some people may be sensitive to aloe, so it’s best to test an area of the skin first.

For burn care simply choose a nice plump leaf, slice it open and place upon the area you wish to be treated. Or, you can squeeze the gel-like substance from the leaf and gently smooth it over your skin.

Cucumber Paste


There’s a reason that imagining a spa day by the pool might include cucumber water or the application of freshly sliced cucumber placed over each eye: cucumbers are cooling and anti-inflammatory.  To soothe a minor sunburn blend chilled cucumber into a paste and add some aloe gel or juice to get the benefits of both!

Green or Black Tea Compress with mint


Tea compresses are an old remedy used for sunburn. There is increasing evidence that shows both green and black teas have a variety of properties that lend themselves to soothing and repairing skin damaged by the sun.  It is believed that the tannic acids and theobromide found in both black and green teas help to remove the heat from sunburns.  It has long been held that polyphenols in tea provide benefits when ingested, but newer research shows the topical application to be beneficial as well.  For example, when applied topically, research has shown that green tea will provide a photoprotective effect, reduce the number of sunburn cells, and can even reduce the DNA damage formed from the sunburn.

To treat skin: Simply brew several bags of green or black tea in boiling water. Add some mint for an additional cooling effect. Cool the tea and then apply to the skin as a compress using a washcloth.

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See additional remedies at My Kind Closet