Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability


Ethical Giveaway: American-made Denim & Leather Clutch from Hem + Haw

Hem + Haw Conroy Clutch ethical giveaway, made in USA
This post was produced in partnership with Hem + Haw.

When Hope, founder of new domestically produced purse line Hem + Haw, initially reached out to me, she had no idea we shared the Charlottesville connection. It amazes and sort of baffles me how many people in the ethical consumerism space have lived for a time in Charlottesville. I'm grateful to be able to live in a relatively small town with all these interconnected, well traveled people. It makes it a heck of a lot easier to feel like you're a part of something, and to challenge yourself to be the best you can be.

Anyway, Hope lived here for several years while working for a local marketing agency, but she recently took a leap of faith to become a small part of the American manufacturing revival by producing high end clutches and purses with upcyled denim and American-sourced, new materials. In her words:

Here’s the thing that’s true about a good pair of jeans—they hang in there. It’s part of why we love them. We’ve worked to make our designs nimble, to maximize the material in a single pair of jeans as well as make use of the wide variety of washes available. 
Having seen firsthand what happens in communities when economic livelihoods disappear, we’re committed to U.S. manufacturing. We’ve sourced materials from all over the country and learned from a variety of local craftsman. We’re pretty thrilled that Hem + Haw bags have have been put together by hands that have been working in their respective fields for years.

Now Hope lives in Louisiana, but I had the chance to meet her at the Hem + Haw Launch Party she threw in downtown Charlottesville a couple months ago. Hope is one of those people who greets you like you're an old friend, and she's truly passionate about ensuring that every component of the line is traceable. She's also worked hard to ensure that the profit margin on each product is fair (a subject we ethical marketers and writers don't talk about enough, in my opinion).

The Goods...

Hem + Haw Conroy Clutch ethical giveaway, made in USA

Hem + Haw currently offers a mini collection of denim and leather clutches and convertible bags, available on their website. Today, they've offered to give away one Conroy Clutch in the color of your choice to a StyleWise reader, just in time for the Holidays.

The Conroy Clutch, valued at $95.00, is made from upcycled denim, American-made vegetable tanned leather and cotton, and Charlottesville-made antique brass hardware. Keep it for yourself or give it as a gift. Either way, you'll have a good story to tell about where the item came from and how it was made.

Hem + Haw Conroy Clutch ethical giveaway, made in USA

This giveaway will end on Tuesday, December 6th at 11:59 pm EST. By entering through the form below, you agree to allow Hem + Haw to add you to their email list. Open to US readers only. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giving Tuesday: The Ethical Writers Co. Shares Charitable Giving Picks

When I was in early high school, I went away for a couple weeks with a Christian youth band and came back with a sponsor child through Compassion International. For $30 a month, I could pay for the basic needs of a little girl in the Dominican Republic. I practiced the Spanish I was learning in school by sending her post cards of manatees and other Florida natural wonders.

The only catch? I didn't have a job. My parents gave me $20 a month in allowance and my friend was supposed to make up the rest. She flaked out almost immediately and my parents didn't like that I was spending the money I was supposed to save on a kid in another country. I still feel guilty that I pulled my sponsorship.

The point of all this is 1. my parents really should have let me keep the sponsorship going and, 2. giving responsibly and consistently - in ways that hopefully don't end in teenagers pulling monetary support for children abroad - is important, gratifying, and something you can teach, and learn, young. Even though I love giving and receiving physical gifts, I think there's value in considering the charities and causes that help build the type of world we want to live in, especially during the Holidays, a time that's meant to be shared with others.


Members of the Ethical Writers Co. were asked to share their favorite charities to challenge the idea that this Holiday season is only about getting.

Here are their unfiltered responses:

Alden | EcoCult

It’s hard to narrow it down from the dozens of worthy charities, but I’m asking for donations to the Environmental Defense Fund. It seems like the most appropriate for the situation, because the environment will need the EDF’s pragmatic, science-based approach in the next four years. They help craft bipartisan legislation, fund educational initiatives, and partner with corporations to make incremental changes that ripple across the business world to make a huge impact. They also have a score of 95 in Charity Navigator, which is excellent.

Of course, I should also add that I’ve had a recurring donation to Planned Parenthood for three years, and that is not going away. I believe giving families and women the tools to only have children when they are ready emotionally and financially is the key to raising the next generation of engaged, healthy, and responsible citizens. Planned Parenthood is under threat from VP elect Mike Pence. So do him a favor and make the donation in his name, with his office’s address, so he knows how you feel.

Stephanie | My Kind Closet

I’ll be asking for donations to Earthjustice, the nation’s largest nonprofit environmental law organization. Earthjustice works tirelessly in and out of the courtroom to fight for wildlife, clean energy, and healthy communities, representing all of their clients for free. In recent cases they’ve protected threatened coral reefs in Florida, defended the waters in West Kauai from pollution by agribusiness, are fighting to convince the E.P.A to ban neurotoxic pesticides that are harmful to people, and are representing the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in their fight against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Earthjustice is the organization behind many landmark environmental victories and we’ll need them now, more than ever, given the incoming administration’s anti-environment and climate-change-denying stances. So much is at stake, but I feel confident knowing that an organization like Earthjustice exists and will continue to demand accountability for those who break the law, and ensure that our planet and all her inhabitants are protected.

In addition, I ask that friends and family become more active in the causes that are important to them. One way to do this is to call your government officials to demand they block Trump and his administration from hateful and divisive policies and to protect policies already in place regarding civil rights and the environment.  As we’re gearing up for Thanksgiving, I am specifically requesting that friends and family call officials in N. Dakota to demand that law enforcement stand down in their abusive treatment of peaceful protestors.

Nichole | Green or Die

The day after the election, I set up automatic monthly donations to three organizations who I feel need our help now more than ever. I have become a member of the Sierra Club, the grassroots organization that helped pass the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act, because I trust they can (and will) get things done (with our help). Earth Justice is a non-profit that takes on legal cases to help protect the environment. Their slogan reads "Because Earth needs a good lawyer," and in today's political climate (pun intended) that could not ring more true. Thirdly, the Anti-Defamation League is one of the leading organizations fighting anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hate crimes the U.S.A.

This holiday season I am asking for donations to any or all of these three organizations. They can use all the help they can get.

Catherine | Walking with Cake

I’m a native Texan and we’ve seen a lot of our basic rights threatened or disappear over the last few years. I love my state and support local and grassroots efforts here, in an effort to improve things where I live. Battleground Texas, Texas Democrats, and Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas are on my regular contribution list. I’m also an advocate of independent news and support my local public radio and television stations, as well as The Guardian. Finally, as the mother of two young children, I’m concerned for their future. Their local school is a wonderful resource in our town, and I give my time and money to support it. I encourage everyone to support your closest public school, whether you have children or not, because you’re directly investing in the future.

Holly | Leotie Lovely 

At this present moment in time, apart from us ripping each other to pieces through wars and disagreements, us little Earthlings have - for the most part - avoided talking about the biggest threat humanity has ever faced. Despite popular belief, that threat isn't Isis (you have more chance of being killed by an asteroid than a terrorist), it's a much bigger and badder bag of worms soon to be unleashed in all its fury due to the global warming process. Thus far, America's trumpet President-elect has called global warming a Chinese hoax and threatened to scrap the regulations put in place to reduce US carbon dioxide emissions - including the Clean Power Plan. He has also vowed to to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency entirely and repeal all federal spending on clean energy. Without the United States leading the world with fortitude and passion into alternative energy sources and reduced meat and dairy consumption, we're headed towards huge ramifications which can only be described as apocalyptically troubling. The rise in temperature we’re due to see if our habits aren’t reversed and policy is not put in place is set to put 30% of animals at risk of extinction, will cause oceans to acidify, wildfires will get bigger, droughts more severe, and drown entire countries due to sea level rise. Donald Trump has tapped a climate change denier as his environmental advisor and thus donating to projects which protect your health and that of the planet through their work is paramount in fighting the evils put in place for profit over people. Thus, I’m asking for donations to EPA/EWG, and THE DAVID SUZUKI FOUNDATION (which is Canadian but has a huge influence on research and education worldwide), and EARTHJUSTICE, all of whom research, educate and lobby for the greater good in law and policy.

Elizabeth | The Note Passer

The most pressing cause for me is supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who are on the front lines protecting their land and everyone’s water from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Watch this video to find out more about the situation in North Dakota. Similarly, these charities are helping the people of Syria right now. Next, I want to support all vulnerable displaced people through organizations like Refugees International and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. Third, a climate denier in our highest office means we have to support environmental work directly. Everybody Solar creates a ripple effect of change; they promote solar infrastructure by gifting solar power to nonprofits which eliminates their electricity costs so they can maximize their total impact. Solar One helps New Yorkers move in the direction of energy efficiency and greater sustainability through school programs, green job training, building efficiency programs, and solar panel installations. Finally, I want to fund independent journalism through organizations like The Center for Public Integrity, Pro Publica, and the Global Press Institute, which employs local women journalists to produce ethical, accurate news coverage from the world’s least-covered places.

Chandra Fox | These Native Goods

I was a little late in the game so I had a chance to peek at many of the other wish lists before creating my own. Such great recommendations! I wholeheartedly believe that in our current political situation we need to support the organizations with causes that will face the biggest threat. Standing up for environmental issues, women’s health and human rights is incredibly important right now. The suggestions from my fellow EWC members are for awesome charities that do just that. I wanted to throw in a couple more options for protecting wildlife as well as our planet. Wildaid raises awareness about the consumption of wildlife products, fighting back against the illegal trade by strengthening enforcement and bringing these issues to light. Whether it is for sport (ahem president elects son) or for profit, the killing of endangered species needs to stop before it’s too late. Rainforest Action Network is helping to combat the increasingly devastating effects of the Palm-oil industry, among other causes. Modern day slavery, the displacement of indigenous peoples as well as wildlife, and catastrophic environmental damage are all results of this industry. With large western junk food brands being one of the biggest contributors to the destruction. Along the same lines of protecting the environment and her inhabitants, there is the North Dakota pipeline. Some of the other writers already talk about this heartbreaking issue but I wanted to add another donation idea for the cause. A photojournalist that I know is currently at Standing Rock, she is working with the water protectors to build up the camps and prepare for the freezing winter temperatures. She set up a GoFundMe for much needed supplies, please read the updates section of the fund for a full understanding of how your donations will be used to help the people.

Renee Peters | Model4GreenLiving

As an animal lover and environmentalist, I cannot think of a more pressing time to give back to charities fighting to preserve the natural world. According to the WWF’s 2016 Living Planet Report, “Populations of vertebrate animals—such as mammals, birds, and fish—have declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012. We’re seeing the largest drop in freshwater species too: on average, there’s been a whopping 81% decline in that time period.” The mass extinction occurring on Earth cannot be reversed with more climate change denial and corporate lobbying in the White House. Organizations standing up for nature need our help, now more than ever, if we are to keep its continued destruction at bay.

One organization that I have personally volunteered for, The Wild Bird Fund, is taking local action for wildlife right here in NYC. “The WBF rehabilitates over 3000 sick, injured or orphaned wildlife and releases them back to the wilds of New York City. NYC is a major stopover on the East Coast migratory flyway, and over 355 bird species live in the Big Apple or take refuge here during the spring and fall migrations.” Supporting the Wild Bird Fund not only heals injured birds, but positively affects the people who try to help them, and shows a desire to take responsibility for the impact that we have had on the environment of our precious wildlife. Check out this video for more information about them. On a global level, Conservation International is doing great work to protect our planet, and I also ask for support for them. “Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, they empower societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the well-being of humanity.” Donations made to either of these organizations benefit our planet and ensure that its wildlife and ecosystems are cared for.


On a local level (Charlottesville, VA), I’ll be asking for donations for the Shelter for Help in Emergency. Through my work at a local charity shop, I’ve seen firsthand the great work they do providing survivors of domestic violence with emergency necessities like clothing and household goods, and I also know that they do an excellent job finding long term, safe housing for their clients quickly and efficiently. I’ll also be personally contributing to and asking for contributions for the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is well respected for their broad and impartial human rights work - they have a 94% score for efficacy on Charity Navigator - and given the current political and social climate, there’s no doubt in my mind that their work will continue to be vital to building a kinder and more just America.

Ethical Sale Alert: Black Friday + Cyber Monday Sales and Campaigns

ethical and fair trade black friday and cyber monday sales and coupon codes

Check out the 2017 roundup here.

Cyber Monday Update:

Many sales have been ongoing since Black Friday. Those sales and coupon codes are listed below.

Give-Back Campaigns:

  • Braintree Clothing: 50% of proceeds donated to Refugee Council and second, crowdsourced option announced 11/23. Black Friday only.
  • Patagonia: 100% of sales donated to grassroots eco-organizations. Black Friday only.
  • Ethical Black Friday (MadeFAIR + Bead & Reel): 50% of sales from single item donated to Dressember Foundation. Black Friday through Giving Tuesday.
  • Belvele: 20% off with code, GIVEANDSAVE, and 20% donated to Natural Resources Defense Council. Black Friday-Cyber Monday.
  • Favor Jewelry: 15% off with code, SHOPSMALL, and 15% of sales donated to Raphael House Women's Shelter. Expiration date not specified.
  • Teeki: 30% off + 10% of proceeds donated to Standing Rock with code, TEEKICASH20. Black Friday-Cyber Monday.
  • Everlane: Proceeds benefit a Helmet Fund for employees at factory in Vietnam. Black Friday only.

Sales + Coupon Codes:

This list contains affiliate links.
  • The Body Shop: miscellaneous sales. See website for details.
  • Jacob Bromwell: 50% off with code, SAVE50. Black Friday-Cyber Monday.
  • Raven + Lily: 30% off with code, SOTHANKFUL. Now-Cyber Monday.
  • Meow Meow Tweet: 20% off. Black Friday-Cyber Monday.
  • FashionABLE: 20% + free shipping with code, HOLLYJOLLY. Black Friday-Cyber Monday.
  • Threads 4 Thought: 40% off with code, T4THOLIDAY. Ongoing.
  • lemlem: 25% off with code, GIVETHANKS. Ongoing.
  • Nisolo: 10% off sitewide with code, BLACKFRIDAY10, up to 40% off in total savings. Ongoing.
  • Causebox: $15 off + free mystery jewelry with code, BLACKFRIDAY16. Now-Cyber Monday.
  • Indigenous: 25% off the gift collection with code, GOODGIFT. Now-11/27
  • WeWOOD: 30% off full priced styles. Use code, WWBF, through Black Friday and WWCM on Cyber Monday.
  • Freedom Soap Company: 30% off with code, SHOPSMALL16. Expiration date not specified.
  • Ethica: up to 65% off on select merchandise. Now-Giving Tuesday.
  • Raven and Lily: 30% off + free shipping.  
  • Mercado Global: 25% off the Fall/Winter Collection with code, BLACKFRIDAY2016. Now-Sunday.
  • Enrou: 15% off. Now-Giving Tuesday.
  • Glad Rags: miscellaneous sales. Now-Cyber Monday.
  • Thistle Farms: free shipping. Now-Cyber Monday.
  • The Simply Co.: 25% off with code, BUYBUYSTAINS. Now-Cyber Monday.
  • Ethos Collection: 24 hour flash sales. Black Friday-Cyber Monday.
  • Gunas: 25% off with code, HOLIDAYLOVE. Black Friday only.
  • Mata Traders: 25% off, + free shipping on order over $100. Expiration date not specified.
  • Fortress of Inca: up to 78% off. Now-Cyber Monday.
  • Sseko Designs: 25% off with code, GIVEBETTER. Now-Cyber Monday.
  • Nudie Jeans: 30% off on seasonal items. Expiration date not specified,
  • Veja: up to 60% off. Now-Black Friday.
  • Tribe Alive: 40% off with purchase, GRATITUDE.
  • Alohas Sandals: select sales. See website for details.
  • Synergy Organic Clothing: 30% off with code, BLACKFRIDAY. 
  • Lur Apparel: 20% off with code, GIVETHANKS. Black Friday-Cyber Monday.
  • UKonserve: 20% off with code, PURPOSE20. Black Friday-Cyber Monday.
  • Hannah Naomi: 25% off with code, EARLYBIRD, + free gifts. 
  • Bourgeois Boheme: 40% off with code, TAKEITSLOW1, with additional sales through the weekend. Black Friday only.
  • Made: 20% off. Black Friday-Sunday.
  • Krochet Kids: 40% off with code, GIVETHANKS. Black Friday-Sunday.
  • Ekata Designs: 50% off with code, BLACKFRIDAY16. 
  • Oliberte: 30-60% off. Black Friday-Sunday.
  • Ten Thousand Villages: Buy one, get one 50% off on jewelry through Sunday. Select sales Cyber Monday.
  • Elegantees: Spend $25, get a $25 gift card; spend $50, get a $50 gift card. Black Friday-Cyber Monday.
  • Pact Organic: 30-70% off.
  • Amour Vert: 20% off with code, GREENFRIDAY. Black Friday-Cyber Monday.
  • Accompany: miscellaneous sales. See site for details.
  • Malia Designs: 30% off. Black Friday-Giving Tuesday.
  • Hazel & Rose: 30% off (some exclusions) with code, BLACKFRIDAY2016. Black Friday-Cyber Monday.
  • Alter Eco: 25% off with code, FAIRTRD25. Black Friday-Sunday.
  • Ash & Rose: 20% off with code, GIVETHANKS. Black Friday-Sunday.
  • Madison Street Beauty: up to 60% off. Black Friday-Cyber Monday.
  • Yellow 108: 20% off with code, SMALLBIZ. Saturday-Cyber Monday.
  • Anchal Project: 30% off with code, CYBER30. Cyber Monday only.
  • Hipsters for Sisters: 35% off with code, THANKFUL.

Feel free to add sales and events in the comments of this post. THANK YOU to everyone who has already commented with sales info.


In addition to all your other shopping, please consider purchasing items off of the 

Standing Rock Water Protectors' Wishlist

Make Your Black Friday an #ethicalblackfriday

ethical black friday, MadeFAIR + Bead & Reel

What would an Ethical Black Friday look like? 

Because it seems to me that it can't just be about diverting our crazed shopping to ethical companies (Did you know that from 2006-2014, there were 7 deaths and 98 injuries that occurred as a direct result of Black Friday shopping?) Conscious consumerism means taking the time to be more thoughtful: to slow down, look up, and make the best choice we can (and improve lives instead of stampeding over them).

MadeFAIR and Bead & Reel* believe that, too, so this year they're co-hosting #ethicalblackfriday. On Black Friday, both sites will redirect to, where you'll be able to purchase just one item - the handwoven, fair trade Linda Scarf - with 50% of proceeds benefiting the Dressember Foundation, which raises money for antitrafficking efforts around the world.

Read the full Press Release below:

Independently owned ethical and sustainable fashion retailers MadeFAIR and Bead & Reel are teaming up for an Ethical Black Friday initiative supporting Weavers Project and the Dressember in a joint statement addressing overconsumption, labor exploitation, and unsustainable fashion practices. 
This Black Friday, both online stores will be offering a new way to shop, shutting down for the day and redirecting to, where conscious shoppers will have the opportunity to support fair trade practices and this year’s chosen charity—the Dressember Foundation—with the purchase of the limited edition Linda Scarf. Visitors to the site will be encouraged to spend the day investing in experiences with family, friends, or by themselves.They can join the movement by sharing said endeavorson social media with the hashtag #ethicalblackfriday. 
The Linda Scarf is handwoven and fair trade, manufactured in Cambodia by the Weavers Project. It’s 100% unbleached cotton, with charcoal stripes that were hand-dyed using actual charcoal. Half the proceeds will go to Dressember, a 501(c)3 collaborative movement leveraging fashion and creativity to restore dignity to all women and end modern day slavery.  
Transparency is at the center of Ethical Black Friday, and a complete cost breakdown of the scarf is available so shoppersknow what their money is supporting. The price of the $50 scarf accounts for: $25 donated toDressember,$6 towards shipping, $9 profit split between the participating stores, $4 to the individual artisan who wove the scarf, and $6 to be re-invested in education, healthcare, and impact investments in Takeo Province, Cambodia.  
Last year, Ethical Black Friday sold out, offering 100 scarves that raising $2,000 for Made in a Free World. This year, the campaign has grown to include its own websiteand will have 200 scarves available until November 29th (or until they are sold out). Supporters can expect to receive their scarves on December 5th, and flat rate international shipping will be available.  
Both stores will remain closed through Cyber Monday and reopen on Fair Tuesday

While it's inevitable that we'll shop this season, even if just for simple gifts for family and friends, we can start off the shopping season with a meditation on what we need, what we want, and how our purchases affect others. I'll share a list of sales and discount codes over the weekend, but I plan to get outside as much as possible and enjoy the good things this Holiday weekend brings, like family, food, and autumn mountain views.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. See you on the other side.


Check out more info on Ethical Black Friday here.

Holiday Recipe: Rooibos Chai Shortbread Cookies

Organic rooibos chai shortbread cookies recipe Organic rooibos chai shortbread cookies recipe
This post was written in collaboration with NUMI Organic Tea.

My husband is the baker in our family. He's the first one who tried adding spices and tea to shortbread. and his sweet, spiced cookies have always been a hit at holiday parties and weeknight get-togethers alike. I've eaten Earl Grey and Chai Shortbread before, but it seemed to me that Rooibos would make an even better addition to this simple, seasonal cookie due to its naturally sweet flavor and vanilla notes. The addition of chai spices makes it the perfect holiday dessert, enjoyed after dinner with coffee or tea.

This recipe is also fairly fool proof, with a simple ingredient list and no special prep. I hope you enjoy it!

Rooibos Chai Shortbread...

Organic rooibos chai shortbread cookies recipe


  • 1 c. Softened, Unsalted Butter
  • 1/2 c. Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 c. Flour
  • 4 Roobois Chai Tea bags, opened, emptied, and lightly food processed (I used NUMI brand)

Organic rooibos chai shortbread cookies recipe
Organic rooibos chai shortbread cookies recipe

To Make: 

  1. Set oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream sugar and softened (but not melting) butter together in a bowl until fully combined.
  3. Place 4 teabags worth of tea in food processor and pulse until fine (see above photo for example).
  4. Add tea, vanilla extract, and flour. Knead dough in bowl with hands until ingredients combine.
  5. Form dough into log about 2" in diameter and wrap in wax paper. Cool in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Slice log into 1/2" pieces. Place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes.
Recipe yields 25-30 small cookies depending on how you cut them.

Organic rooibos chai shortbread cookies recipe

Shortbread cookies are great for gift-giving because their low humidity helps them keep for longer. I'll be making a bundle to give to my coworkers this Holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Love Trumps Hate, But Not Without Us

In the Wake of Trump

This morning I received a text from a friend checking in with me and recalling the anxiety and grief she felt as a result of the US Presidential Election. She ended it with "I'm sure you've been writing about it extensively." She was wrong.

As much as I like to holler about injustice, I was dumbstruck by last week's election results. While my fellow ethical bloggers living in different countries were quick to offer resources and solutions, I was sitting in my dark office at work hiding from my more conservative volunteers and trying not to have a meltdown. Daniel and I had thrown an Election Party that had all the frivolity of a funeral by the end of the night. I watched my friends' faces drop.

By 1:00 am, the hope had been sucked out of the room. It felt - physically in my chest - like drowning.

I'm a born and bred American and, until last week, I was proud to say that. I love to use the quintessential American phrase, "Because it's a free country," whenever I get the chance. Since last week, it's taken a turn toward dark humor, and I've been saying, "Because it's a free country...for now."

I really believed that Trump's overtly sexist, racist, homophobic, ableist, xenophobic - not to mention unprofessional and inflammatory - rhetoric and behavior would be intolerable to the vast majority of the American public. I really believed that the Evangelicals I grew up with had a strong enough grasp of Jesus' radical inclusion and outspoken love to reject the Republican nominee. I was wrong.

And I'm having to reconcile that with the fact that most of my family voted for him. I'm disappointed in them, I'm disappointed in nearly 50% of American voters, I'm disappointed in the people who opted out because they thought their vote wouldn't count.

I'm scared for the future. 

I was taking a week to sort out the emotions and figure out where I need to direct my action. I'd been under the impression that if I did my civic duty, the government would respond in kind. A rule follower by nature, I've never really rebelled against the system.

But now I realize that the democratic system in our country really is a rigged game, and there's no point playing against a cheater who doesn't have our best interests in mind. I'm going to have to push out, and push forward. It's time to rebel.

I'm treating the marginalized and people of color in my community with intentional sensitivity. I'm boycotting companies that support Trump. I'm signing petitions. I'm trying to wrap my head around the best ways and places to publicly protest. I'm refusing to be silent.

I'm refusing a false reconciliation that sweeps legitimate concerns and dangerous ideas under the rug. 

I'm trying to hear people out to at least understand what they're saying, but not every idea is legitimate, or gracious, or effective, or life-affirming.

I'm reclaiming my Christian faith, and emphasizing the counter-cultural love Jesus had, and has, for the other: for sex workers and refugees and the diseased and the corrupt and the racially marginalized and everyone who has ever been and continues to be othered by people in power, and people too scared to see past their own concerns.

Above all, I'm trying to take this seriously, as seriously as possible. Because the moment we all decide that we can just go about our daily business is the moment we leave room for hate to become commonplace.

I don't have much more to offer, but I'll leave you with a few posts and resources. Please feel free to start a conversation in the comments, or offer additional resources.

Alpaca Week: Top It Off in Ten Thousand Villages' Toasty Warm Alpaca Hat

Ten Thousand Villages Alpaca Hat Review
This post was written in collaboration with Ten Thousand Villages and I was provided a product for review.

Alpaca Week wouldn't be complete without a proper hat. A good, warm hat is imperative to bearing the coldest, darkest winter months because it keeps the heat from escaping from your head, and this Alpaca hat is incredibly cozy. Though we haven't reached peak frigidity out there yet, I've been able to wear it with lighter sweaters for a little added warmth in the evenings, which is much preferred to having to layer on a bulky jacket.

Ten Thousand Villages Alpaca Hat ReviewTen Thousand Villages Alpaca Hat Review

Ten Thousand Villages partners with Peruvian, alternative trade organization Allpa (which means "earth" in the Quechua Indian language) to source Alpaca products like this one. Allpa provides marketing assistance and training to artisans, most of whom rely on their craft as their sole source of income. Ten Thousand Villages began purchasing from Allpa in 1988, which means their relationship is as old as I am!

Ten Thousand Villages Alpaca Hat Review
Ten Thousand Villages Alpaca Hat ReviewEthical Details: Sweater - thrifted; Hat - c/o Ten Thousand Villages; Jeans - old; Necklace - borrowed from my mom; Boots - thrifted

The Alpaca Hat, which retails for $49.99, is made of soft, thin yarn knit close for maximum wind resistance. I was inspired to create an early '80s inspired look with high waist jeans, a slightly cropped cable knit sweater, and my mom's necklace from high school to show off the vintage-inspired fit and slouch of the hat.

Ten Thousand Villages Alpaca Hat Review


Shop the Tranquil Taupe Alpaca Hat here.

Follow along: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

Alpaca Week: PAKA Sweaters Asks Us to Live Well by Living in the Moment

PAKA sweaters Charlottesville Virginia photography

Introducing PAKA... 

PAKA is a new Peruvian Alpaca sweater company founded by local student-turned-entrepreneur, Kris Cody. Over the course of a few days this month, I had the chance to meet Kris, learn his story, and work with him on a photo shoot featuring two of PAKA's sweater styles, the women's Senda and the unisex Cusco.

The origin story of PAKA is more poetry than essay. 

Kris took a trip to South America last year with friends and during their stay in Peru he noticed women carrying huge skeins of Alpaca yarn to the markets. He was struck first by the image itself, of the sheer strength it took to haul those loads through the streets, and he became very curious about what behind-the-scenes work took place in the localized Alpaca industry. He came back to the States with the inkling of an idea to make connections with knitters and embroiderers in the Alpaca market in Peru, and set back out last summer.

Slowly but surely, he was able to ask around, traveling from town to town until he connected with the artisans he works with now. They worked together to develop the unique, contemporary aesthetic of the PAKA sweater line and stay in frequent communication, with plans to start designing the next line early next year.

PAKA alpaca sweaterPAKA sweaters Charlottesville landscape photography

Kris and his team are committed to full and fair partnership as they move forward, and they have plans to get fair trade certified as soon as they have the infrastructure and cash flow to pursue it.

I've been lucky to get to physically meet with people in the ethical manufacturing space recently and it makes such a difference to look someone in the eye and see where their heart is. I'm convinced that Kris - and PAKA - are going places. And it's not just because the social mission is a good one: I legitimately love the sweaters (I'm wearing one now, but that's not surprising, because I've worn one almost every day since I received them).

Alpaca is warm without being bulky. It's soft, but not flimsy. And I've heard from a few sources - including a local Alpaca owner - that happy Alpacas make better yarn. The interconnectedness of animals and people in the industry ensures mutual benefit. That's why I am fully on board the Alpaca train.

PAKA fair trade, Peruvian Alpaca Sweater reviewPAKA sweaters Charlottesville landscape photography

These photos were taken on an early morning a few weeks ago not ten minutes from my house. Charlottesville is full of surprises. It's built up in the city center so it's easy enough to miss the mountains if you're not really looking. But a slow drive through a residential area brought us to the stunning, ethereal scene of a lake boiling over with morning fog, the ducks shouting and coming near to see if I would feed them.

After a stream-side walk, we found ourselves at a clearing covered in frost that opened up to tall pines and mountains on three sides, old stables in their slow decay off in the distance.

I felt like I was inhaling everything through my eyes, the just, goodness, of it all. 

In the wake of the political turmoil in my country and a personal loss in my family, I'm trying to sit, eyes closed, and remember what it felt like to be immersed in peace and wonder during that long, cold exhale of the morning.

PAKA fair trade, Peruvian Alpaca Sweater reviewPAKA fair trade, Peruvian Alpaca Sweater review PAKA fair trade, Peruvian Alpaca Sweater review

Photos by Kris Cody.

Shop PAKA here. 

 Follow along: Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest

Alpaca Week: Eileen Fisher Sweater Weather

Eileen Fisher Sweater, Ethical outfit

Welcome to Alpaca Week. 

This week I'm featuring Alpaca products in every post to show off the versatility of the fiber and talk more about why it's a sustainable, ethical choice. For now, let me give you a few reasons why Alpaca is a wonder wool, pulled from the ZADY website:
Among natural, animal-based fibers, alpaca has one of the most highly favorable environmental profiles. Alpaca is more environmentally friendly than wool, which is produced from sheep, and significantly more friendly than cashmere, which is produced from goats, despite having similar properties with respect to aesthetics and functionality. Here are a few of the characteristics that make alpaca so great.
  1. First, alpaca are gentle on the land... 
  2. Second, alpaca are highly efficient animals... 
  3. Third, alpaca can endure in harsh climates... 
  4. Finally, alpaca come in a natural palette of colors, ranging from black and white to brown and beige, and a mélange of many colors in between. As such, alpaca fiber doesn’t have to be dyed if a garment is produced in a naturally occurring color. 
Read the entire info sheet (I highly recommend it) here.

Today, I'm sharing a simple outfit post, but stay tuned for a couple of brand features later in the week.

Eileen Fisher Sweater, Ethical outfitEileen Fisher Sweater, Ethical outfitEileen Fisher Sweater and Frye Tracy Oxfords Review, Ethical outfitEileen Fisher Sweater and Frye Tracy Oxfords Review, Ethical outfit
Ethical Details: Sweater - thrifted Eileen Fisher; Top -; Jeans - secondhand via Poshmark; Shoes - Frye

I finally had the chance to enjoy this Eileen Fisher Alpaca sweater I found at the thrift shop last spring. The texture is amazing and it's really warm. I've gotten to this point where I would rather thrift ethical goods than unethical ones. Even though secondhand goods don't increase demand for new products, I've grown attached to the fit and style of certain brands, and I've become more picky about quality and longevity, so a thrifted Forever 21 top is a no-go at this point. It just doesn't hold up, so why pay for it?

Speaking of quality, I want to tell you about about these oxfords. I had initially planned to buy a pair of Nisolo oxfords, but after reading a few less-than-stellar blog reviews about quality and comfort, I sought out an alternative. I have no doubt that Nisolo works for some people, but from the reviews, it looked like they started to look worn within a year, and at a $158 price point, I didn't think it was worth it. 

I checked out Frye because they're known for quality and craftsmanship. The Tracy Oxfords were exactly what I was looking for, right down to the color, and they were on clearance, so I bit the bullet and purchased them. Though they're made in China, Frye is beholden to the California Supply Chains Act, which provides a minimum standard for factory conditions. Honestly, I can't speak much more to their ethics at this point, but I plan on reaching out for details soon. At the end of the day, I wanted to purchase a shoe that is classic, extremely well made, and will last for years and years. Frye has that reputation. For now at least, Nisolo doesn't. That doesn't mean they're not worth the investment, it's just my attempt at weighing value. 

Bees + Betterment: Beelove Skincare Uses Local Honey to Bring Jobs to the Formerly Incarcerated

Beelove Chicago skincare social enterprise

It's been said time and time again, but the criminal justice system in America is broken. 

A system that punishes instead of reforms is inherently unethical, not to mention unsustainable, but that's not even the half of it. Black people and other marginalized groups are targeted more frequently than whites and their sentences are harsher. People are jailed for decades for petty and nonviolent crimes (my dear friend Margaret was left impoverished after appealing her son's drug charge. He didn't win and will be in jail for at least another decade in the state of Virginia. Where's the rationale in a 25 year sentence for selling drugs?). Though America comprises 4.4% of the global population, we have 22% of the world's prisoners. And when people finally get out, they have a much harder time getting and maintaining gainful employment. Pairing civil activism and meaningful reform with targeted social outreach programs is the way forward.

For the past few weeks, I've been trying out beelove (they sent me a few products free of charge). beelove makes organic, sustainable honey-based skincare products with a social mission to employ and train formerly incarcerated people in the Chicago area. First, honey from beelove's personal city hives is harvested, then it's combined with naturally-derived ingredients like shea butter, evening primrose oil, coconut oil, and their signature beelove scent. I have always had an affinity with bees because my nickname as a child was Leah Bee, so I'm glad to be able to support a company that respects bees and aids in their longterm preservation through sustainable enterprise, while also providing access to meaningful employment to people who are so often othered and excluded from regular work.

Beelove Chicago skincare social enterprise

There's no better time to receive a couple tubs of honey and floral scented lotions and balms than late fall. 

It's time for me to pay attention to how I treat my skin before the alternating dry heat of the indoors and the nipping cold of the outdoors work their destruction. Maybe this is TMI, but my second winter here caught me so off guard that the skin on my hands and feet was basically shot through most of the spring and summer. Since then, I've made sure to apply thick lotion every night before bed. Just a little bit of care goes a long way.
Beelove Chicago skincare social enterprise

My Review

beelove sent me their Body Cream, Ultimate Body Balm, and Honey & Brown Sugar Scrub to try.

I've tried a fair amount of lotions, scrubs, and creams and I normally don't find a huge difference in quality, but I'm actually quite impressed with beelove's body cream. It's thick, but absorbs well into skin, so it's something I can apply in the middle of the day without risking an oil slick on my hands that makes it impossible to go about my tasks. I've also used it liberally on my feet over the past few weeks and I awake to soft, happy feet.

For the past year, I've been using Thistle Farms (another U.S.-based social enterprise) Body Cream with great results, but I would say beelove is right on par with them in terms of quality, so I'll happily alternate between the two this winter. The scent is also pleasant.

I don't use body balms very frequently, but I am trying to get in the habit of applying this to my dry elbows and cuticles. Like the body cream, the balm is high quality and does what it's supposed to do.

The scrub is a classic product in terms of consistency, ingredients, and scent. I'm enjoying incorporating it into my monthly home pedicure.

The Verdict:

High quality, good consistency, made domestically, for a cause - beelove ticks all the boxes. Simple as that.


Shop beelove here. 

If Only In My Dreams: A Late Fall Splurge List

November List - ethical wishlist

Sometimes you just want to look at pretty things. 

With cold weather finally settling in over Charlottesville, I've turned my thoughts to things that are warm, versatile, and easy to layer. I normally try to create lists that are right in the comfort zone of my budget, but this month, I just want to dream a little - and celebrate good, ethical design based on design and function without worrying so much about price point.

That being said, there are certainly a few affordable options in this list, and some things - like that winter coat - that would work themselves out with cost-per-wear over time.

This list contains affiliate links.


1. Axiology Lipstick in Elusive, $28.00

Rad '90s orange red that also hearkens the '70s, two eras that have come back in full force this season.

2. Kendra Cable Knit Sweater, $228.00

Classic, thick, and warm.

3. Kings of Indigo Juno Skinny, $168.00

I am really digging a more classic cut that isn't quite as tight at the ankles, and the mid rise is much more comfortable for all day wear.

4. Komodo Egea Coat, $249.99

Just stunning, and the lack of lapel feels modern.

5. Fair Indigo Alpaca Scarf, $49.90

I loooove alpaca to an unhealthy degree, plus its sustainable and cruelty free.

6. Dorsu Long Sleeved Top, $24.99

A great basic for layering.

7. Fair Indigo Top, $42.90

The berry color is seasonally appropriate and the fit and design look versatile. Dress it up or dress it down.

8. VEJA Esplar Velcro Sneaker, $135.00

I don't know why I like these, but the black leather is cool and the velcro is appealing. I hate having to lace up my shoes in the morning.

9. Fair Indigo Keyhole Dress, $75.90

Pretty color and a classic, feminine silhouette.

10. Bhava Coco Wedge Bootie, $199.00

A low, walkable wedge that would pair with anything.


Just a note: I'm grieving over the implications of this week's Presidential election. Though I hadn't been without fear during the last year or so of campaigning, I was still holding out hope that this country was smart enough - and compassionate enough - to refuse to ignore Trump's lies and look past his insults. I was wrong. Reeling from the aftermath, praying for the future, and trying to figure out the best way forward. For now, I'm just trying to be as kind and attentive as I can to the needs of others, especially refugees, immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, Latinos, women, and every other group Trump's policies target. If you want to talk about it with me, please feel free to reach out at

Introducing Nokshi Crafts: Fair Trade Artisan Scarves at their Finest

Nokshi Crafts, fair trade handmade silk scarves, made in Bangladesh

Today I'm handing over the reins to Maisha Samiha, founder of new ethical accessories company, Nokshi Crafts, whose kickstarter just went live this morning. Thanks, Nokshi Crafts, for partnering with StyleWise and sponsoring this post. 

Maisha was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh but grew up in Toronto, Canada. After visiting Bangladesh earlier this year, she was inspired to use her interest in fusing art and fashion to build sustainable infrastructure alongside the talented textile artists there, and Nokshi Crafts was born.


I was always fascinated by the art of hand painting and handmade goods. Growing up, my mom's closet was filled with beautiful handmade garments with intricate patterns and designs and I knew from a very young age that I wanted to create a line of my own which would be unique, yet preserve the artisan traditions of Bangladesh. I completed my undergrad in 2013; around the same time the Rana Plaza disaster took place in Bangladesh, and that incident really struck a chord. All this time I used to go shopping and would get really excited to see a “made in Bangladesh” T-shirt or dress, but never did I think of those workers that were treated so poorly in the factories and many ultimately lost their lives. This is the dark reality of the retail manufacturing industry in Bangladesh.

I created Nokshi Crafts with a desire to provide opportunities for workers whose voices are unheard and give them a platform to showcase their talent on a global scale without subjecting them to inhumane working conditions.

The potential of hand-made production is often overlooked due to the focus on fast fashion where unfair wages, adverse working conditions, environmental pollution, excessive use of water and creation of waste is often the consequence.

Nokshi Crafts, fair trade handmade silk scarves, made in Bangladesh

I took a trip to Bangladesh early this year and met up with a few artisans and producers. I learnt that many of these artisans couldn’t live off of only making handmade goods as they did not have the proper connections to markets, and they had no choice but to be forced to relocate and work in factories under inhumane conditions. My exposure to contemporary production environments versus hand-made production environments was an eye-opener.

As a Bangladeshi born Canadian, my expedition to rural communities in Bangladesh has inspired me to provide the solution to a problem while achieving my dream.

At Nokshi Crafts, through your support, we could ensure the sustainable livelihoods of artisans in rural communities. Ethical production means our artisans are paid fair wages and are not subject to adverse working conditions. Matter of fact, many of our artisans are able to work from the comfort of their own homes, while being able to take care of their families. Through our mantra of social responsibility, we collaborate with these artisans to connect responsible consumers with ethically produced good on the world stage.

Nokshi Crafts is proud to be the first to bring ethically produced hand painted silk scarves in the market.

Nokshi Crafts, fair trade handmade silk scarves, made in Bangladesh

To ensure premium quality, we produce our own silk. 

Our scarves are made from Rajshahi Silk, a pride of Bangladesh – known for its soft buttery feel and durability. Silk farmers harvest small batches of mulberry leaves, which are fed to domesticated silkworms. Feeding mulberry leaves to the silkworms produce the finest quality silk. Once the worms form cocoons, the strands are then reeled to create silk thread. The thread is then woven to create our fine quality silk scarves.

Our commitment to environmental responsibility is also reflected in our choice of production techniques. Use of natural materials and hand-made production techniques means we do not rely on heavy machinery that use coal or electricity as source of power. Our production techniques also use very little water and produce minimal waste. This means our production process has minimal carbon footprint. We also use natural dyes made from vegetables. This significantly reduces the use of chemicals that are harmful to the health of the artisans and contaminate the eco-system.

Initially, our collection will include two product lines. The first one is our hand-dyed batik silk scarf. Batik is the art of hand stamping intricate patterns on a garment using a wax resist. Our batik scarves are hand-dyed using eco-friendly vegetable dyes. As a start, we are offering our hand-dyed scarfs in a combination of five different colours and five designs that you can choose from.

The second line is the most exclusive and rare collection on the market. We are super excited to bring our hand-painted silk scarves. We’re very proud to produce the first collection of its kind. Each hand-painted silk scarf is painted by single artists from start to finish, providing a human touch that is exclusive and rare. Our talented artists are able to tell a story through this personal touch.

Each of these scarves is a unique piece of art, and wearing them, absolutely elevates fashion.

Nokshi Crafts, fair trade handmade silk scarves, made in Bangladesh
We have chosen to launch a Kickstarter Campaign to take pre-orders of our scarves and to raise funds for production. Creating sufficient order quantities will allow us to retain a team of skilled and talented artisans who can focus on their task instead of worrying about making ends meet. Through the backer’s commitment, we can ensure that these artisans have steady incomes, which will create incentives for them to be more involved and empowered. And of course, as our mantra goes, we hope to scale up and expand production to steadily create more opportunities to support more artisans.

With a successful campaign, we intend to deliver to our kickstarter backers, but also use kickstarter funds to carry inventory for future orders placed through our website – This will significantly reduce delays caused by weaving, dying, and painting and shipping our products. Our plan is to provide a seamless supply of products, to best meet demands at all times. Therefore, Kickstarter is instrumental to our success.

We are testing the market right now with our first scarf collection, but if our campaign is successful we plan to expand our product line and include more varieties of handspun organic cotton and silk scarves, and hand embroidered scarves.


Support the Kickstarter here. 

Follow along: Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

Fundamentalism is an Ideology Problem, Not a Religion Problem

fundamentalism: christianity, vegans, et al.

I knew this day would come eventually. The day I finally articulated the thing that irks me the most about regular interaction with ethical and conscious living folks. This post has been stewing around in my head in a semi-articulated state for at least a year, but Holly's recent post finally gave me the push I needed.


It will come as no surprise to you if you've been reading my blog for very long that I am a practicing Christian. I like to refer to myself as a progressive Christian lest you think I'm a gun-waving Trump supporter, but at the end of the day, I'm still someone who identifies with a religious tradition that doesn't always get the best rap. It's complicated, but I decided a long time ago that the best thing I could do was not to throw out a belief system that I find to be important, challenging, comforting, and inspiring just because a few thousand loonies make it look bad. To borrow a term from feminism, I'm "reclaiming" Christianity and its terms in order to flip those bad connotations on their head. At least, I hope that's the result.

In any case, you'd think it'd be fairly easy among a bunch of conscientious folks, many with various spiritual practices and rituals of their own, to join in conversations of a more religious sort. But over and over again, I get the sense that I need to tread incredibly lightly so as not to cause a problem.

But my question is: how is it more crazy to believe in a resurrected Jesus than to use healing crystals and read Tarot cards and channel the goddess Isis?

Let's just admit something right now, among ourselves:

We're all crazy. It's okay. 

fundamentalism and ideology

But, I don't want to oversimplify things. I know why rubbing Jade rollers on your face in the name of cosmic healing is more socially acceptable than going to church every Sunday.

The problem is Christianity's association with fundamentalism. 

Christians are mean to gay people. Christians are unkind to women. Christians are legalistic and shortsighted. Christians are against social programs. Christians don't support the rights of trans people. Christians are weird about sex. Christians are authoritarian nationalists. Christians want to build a wall. Christians are racist. Christians are uppity and rude and insular and othering.

Yes. All of those statements can be truthful in context. But to generalize a broad, lengthy, complicated, culturally contextualized, diverse group - 2.2 billion people located all over the world - by the actions and words of a relative few isn't fair. But more than that, it simply isn't accurate.

Fundamentalists have inadvertently become Christianity's spokespeople because they yell the loudest. 

And Gosh darn, do they like to yell.

You know who else likes to yell?

Vegans. Intersectional Feminists. Environmentalists. Neopagans. Survivalists. Homesteaders. Conscious Consumers. Atheists. Etcetera, etcetera.

Let me break this down a bit...

If there's one thing I've learned from being friends with a whole bunch of Religious Studies folks, it's that Religion as a term is mostly unhelpful. What is religion but an ideology, a framework for seeing the world and interpreting stimuli?

We may classify religion in the West as a set of rituals, morals, and supernatural beliefs, often practiced in community, that facilitates our formation and behavior in the world. But there are plenty of world religions that don't have firm supernatural beliefs, and some practice takes place in virtually total isolation. Ask an Evangelical Christian what Christianity is and they'll likely give you a spiel about accepting Jesus into your heart and not even mention a communal or ritual element as mandatory.

The point is that religion is really just a vague grouping of ideologies.

One definition of ideology is:
the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group.
Ideology is everywhere. It's a way of organizing the world, creating a sort of shorthand, so we can actually manage the immense chaos of our lives. Capitalism and democracy have accompanying ideologies, like the American Dream, that help us buy into the system.

Ideology is a good thing, or at least it can be. It allows us to rally around a common goal and get things done. It shapes us around set moral and ethical frameworks, making us think before we act in ways that aren't consistent. If done well, it can temper our tendency toward hypocrisy.

Ideology is also powerful. It's no coincidence I waited 'til Election Week here in the U.S. to post this. Politicians create ideological worlds for us to attach ourselves to. They speak to our preexisting values, and once they've done that, they can begin to mold and manipulate them into their own specific take on what's best for us. It's easy to see how easily we become thoughtless sheep, or rats perhaps, following our preferred Pied Piper no matter the costs or the realities. Cheering and jeering. Like Artificial Intelligence bots that haven't yet attained consciousness.

ethical lifestyle fundamentalism

Here lies the rub. 

If you partake in any ideology - and you do - you can fall prey to fundamentalism.

In my experience, a lot of earth loving, sustainability-minded folks grew up with religious practices they've since shed, likely due to concerns over fundamentalism. But because they never pinpointed and dissected their experience, they don't realize that fundamentalism is not exclusive to institutionalized religious belief.

Fundamentalism's most basic definition is:
strict adherence to the basic principles of any subject or discipline.

When applied to religion, fundamentalism often refers to a strict, literal approach to scripture, or reading the text at "face value" without applying literary criticism or accounting for historical and cultural context. I would argue that this un-nuanced approach to a value system - one that doesn't take into account multi-layered ethical priorities, traditions, and social hierarchies - can and does occur in any ideology.

However, it seems to me that fundamentalism is more likely to crop up in ideologies that inherently require a higher degree of abstinence from the dominant lifestyle.

An example: 
The definition of "conscious consumer" is incredibly flexible and mostly up to the individual to define. I may buy only vegan products. I may buy essentials from fair trade vendors, but still make exceptions for shoes, uniforms, or formal wear. I may start a capsule wardrobe. I may stop wearing clothes. In a similar vein, I can believe in the American Dream without sacrificing an individual interpretation of what that means. If you watched Parks and Rec, think Ron Swanson and Leslie Knope. Total opposites, but both were taken with the romance of the quintessential American narrative and what it could offer them.

The definition of "vegan" isn't as flexible, at least not in its Western iteration. I may call myself a vegan and still eat meat on special occasions, but that doesn't mean that the vegan community recognizes me as vegan. I'm very likely to be called out by my fellow vegans for my willingness to be flexible. Similarly, in many Christian circles, the community dictates who is in and who is out regardless of how the individual may define herself. This exclusivity isn't universal, but it happens frequently enough to cause frequent PR nightmares for Christians everywhere.

To reiterate, that's not to say that all vegans - or all Christians for that matter - are fundamentalists, it's to say that it's easier to be a fundamentalist vegan or a fundamentalist Christian than a fundamentalist conscious consumer or American Dream lover because veganism and Christianity are all-encompassing, long term lifestyle changes while conscious consumerism and the American Dream are still a loose grouping of ideals.

Let me be clear, though: you can be a very dedicated adherent to something and not be a fundamentalist at all. 

Nuns come to mind. Often, the threat of fundamentalism is simply a quirk of the dominant rhetoric that needs to be addressed and re-framed. Conscious people in communities that sometimes have a reputation for bullying need to work particularly hard to change the conversation, even if it's not their fault to begin with. That's just the sucky unfairness of caring about social justice.

On the other side of the spectrum, you can find your way into a fundamentalist frame of mind even if the larger ideological framework you submit to is fairly flexible. To use the same example as before, while the conscious consumer community may be quite diverse, it's easy enough for me to form my own, more rigid ideas of what constitutes an "authentic" conscious consumer and make judgments based on the tiny ideological world I've built for myself. The difference is that there are enough people within the community not being a big meany about everything that I could (thankfully) be drowned out.

And one more small point before I move on: judgment that isolates, alienates, and others can happen a la carte, too. Just because you're normally tolerant doesn't mean you can't go off the rails. As Cari Romm says in a recent article on ethical shoppers, "being good for long stretches of time is exhausting." It's inevitable you'll snap if you're not gracious with yourself.

The Point:

The point is that if you have been burned by Christian fundamentalism either through your interactions with Christians or because of your own religious upbringing, you better make sure that you're not falling prey to your ideology's own brand of fundamentalism.

Fundamentalism at its root is objectification and othering.

It's refusing to listen because you HAVE TOO DAMN MUCH TO SAY AND YOU NEED TO SAY IT LOUDLY.

It's getting high on your rants and your shut downs and your cyber bullying, and thinking that counts as "activism."

It's blaming individuals by way of a "call-out culture" that fails to recognize the systems, narratives, and communities that fuel the flames of ignorance.

It's acting as if any of this is easy and obvious.

Nothing about conscious living, or religion for that matter, is easy and obvious. 

If you've convinced yourself it is, you've forgotten how far you've come.

As a Christian raised in churches that sometimes bordered on fundamentalism and often incorporated evangelism strategies that were based in fear and intimidation, I have a pretty good radar for this stuff and I'm determined not to use lazy, deceptive, and psychologically harmful modes of influencing people to build my little congregation. I'm determined not to roll my eyes at people who just "don't get it" or "don't care enough."

That's not the point. This isn't about me. This is about us. So stop with the judging and the generalizations and the sighing and complaining and be the thoughtful, perceptive, gracious person you always wanted to be.

You chose this lifestyle because you want better. Don't forget that.

Fundamentalism will never get you there.

Be firm with yourself, but be generous with others. Call out your friend who swore she'd start eating better, but don't do it to your poor uncle as he enjoys his turkey on Thanksgiving day. Buy sustainably sourced clothing, but give your mom a few recommendations for better, not perfect, options at her favorite stores. Model your values with integrity and consistency, and admit how hard it can be. That's when the payoff will come. That's when people will start to listen.