Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability


#ConsciousLiving: My New Year's Goals, Big and Small

ethical living: my new year's resolutions

I wanted to write a year-in-review post, but this year has been such a doozy that it's going to take a bit of energy to sort it out. This is the first time I've had my head above water in at least 5 months, so I'm just relieved I can look ahead, setting new goals and clarifying old ones. 

I have a number of personal goals for the new year, some life-changing, some not so much. But I'm hoping to balance them with the mantra, "You are enough," constantly beating in my head. 

Resolutions aren't about perfection, they're about fulfillment.

I won't be disappointed if some of them fall to the wayside - that's just life - but I'm hoping a few of them will stick, or at least teach me something about myself. 


Rekindle my love for creative movement.

I grew up dancing (tap, hip hop, swing, Irish, you name it) and I even took an adult ballet class when I first moved here, but it's been years since I've had the chance to dance and move and trust my body to hold me up. I've been itching to try aerial yoga, but I'd also be up for a low key dance class.

Take photography more seriously.

I used to be really into photo walks and portraiture, but I just let life push photography to the wayside. I want to dedicate more time to getting the perfect shot, and I'd also like to make sure that every photo I post on the blog is something I'm proud of.

Give up coffee, at least for awhile. 

I've been meaning to do this for awhile, because I don't like my over-dependency on caffeine in the mornings. Headaches, crankiness, lack of focus. Not exactly a healthy habit. I am planning to replace it with a high caffeine tea for a less severe energy boost, and then we'll see how I fare reducing my intake after that.

Eat all vegetarian except for on special occasions. 

I cook vegan/vegetarian at home already, but I often eat out during the week and don't really pay attention to what I'm eating. While researching and writing my post on Christian vegetarianism, I was taken with the idea of meat being associated with ritual. Saving meat for special occasions means the animal is elevated to a place of honor, which reminds us of the sacrifice. I plan to reserve meat eating for rare occasions, like holidays and birthdays.


Make a part-time income on freelance writing and ethical brand collaborations. 

I've ramped up my freelance writing over the past several months and learned how to better negotiate with brands so that collaborations work better for both of us. I am looking forward to initiating long term relationships with the brands I love on this platform, and also picking up more freelance creative writing and copy writing/editing for ethical brands. If you're interested, hit me up here

Take a leap of faith and get the chops to go where I feel called. 

I'm leaving this intentionally vague because the details are still murky, but there's something I've felt vocationally called to for most of my life and I'm excited to finally be taking the steps to pursue it. It's scary, but it's time. 

Top 5 Posts of 2016

top 5 posts of 2016 on StyleWise ethical fashion blog

A quick year-end review of the most popular posts on the blog this year according to Google Analytics.

Most Read Posts of 2016


This one's from 2015, but it's my top post of the year for the second year in a row.


Also from 2015, I feel sort of guilty about the popularity of this one now that American Apparel is very likely going out of business. They tried to turn things around in recent years, but they just didn't do enough.


"I live in Everlane knit tees, particularly their classic v-necks, u-necks, and pima cotton half sleeve tees, and the store credit I receive when people order through my referral link ensures that I have an incentive to try new products as they're released."


Probably my most controversial post ever.


"One-for-one models, popularized by TOMS shoe company, operate under a 'Buy something, give something' branding strategy, wherein the consumer's original purchase triggers the donation of a good or service to someone in need. On the surface, there's nothing wrong with that, but in practice, the model often does more harm than good."

7 Ethical Fashion Brands that are Better Than Old Navy

4 Ethical, Fair Trade Brands that Are Better than Old Navy

Old Navy. 

What is it about the family friendly, fast fashion brand that makes people go crazy? I'm slightly embarrassed to admit this to you as an ethical fashion advocate, but I was OBSESSED with Old Navy until about 2 years ago. It all started when I was in middle school and my best friend started wearing their clothes. I was still too small to fit into women's clothes - and I was way too cool to wear the kids' line - so I pined away for their stuff until I grew a little larger later in high school.

I came of age in the GAP age, but my family couldn't afford GAP. Old Navy was an affordable alternative, and I was grateful. Even when I switched to ethical clothing, I was under the impression that Old Navy and GAP products were made with high labor standards due to their Corporate Social Responsibility statement, which I later learned was merely aspirational.

In fact, GAP Inc. (the parent company for GAP, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athleta) has committed some of the worst and most public labor violations, including being linked to Rana Plaza, which collapsed, killing 1,129 people in 2013. They've also gotten in trouble for child labor. They're about as bad as they come.

So, reluctantly, I decided to make a clean break with Old Navy a couple years ago. It's been a great decision for a number of ethical reasons, of course, but it also helped me break free from a single style and experiment a bit more.

There were also a few ethical brands that aided me in my transition. They're necessarily more expensive than conventional retailers because they use eco-friendly materials and pay fair wages, but I think you'll find that they hold up longer than anything you can buy at Old Navy.

Contains affiliate links
7 ethical brands that are better than old navy

7 Ethical Brands That Are Better Than Old Navy

1. PACT Apparel

Organic cotton, fair trade basics. Shop undies, socks, tights, and flattering clothing made with quality materials. I recommend their cotton tights, a comfortable and thick alternative to standard tights.

2. Siizu

Contemporary, minimalist fashion in sustainable, luxurious fabrics like silk and merino wool. I particularly like the waffle knit sweaters. 

3. Everlane

Everyday clothing with a decisive point of view made with radical transparency and better-than-average wages. I own several of their tees and can attest that they will hold up for years and years.

4. EcoVibe Apparel

Trend-driven clothing made with eco-friendly and vegan materials, and/or produced in the USA.


5. Krochet Kids

Fashion forward cotton tees, jumpsuits, dresses, and knitwear.


6. Thought

A diverse line of classic and printed clothing, socks, and loungewear for women and men, made ethically with eco-friendly practices.


7. Miakoda

Drapey, modern silhouettes made with eco-friendly fabrics.


Next time you're in the mood for an Old Navy haul, consider checking out the above companies instead. I promise it will get easier with practice. I've been Old Navy-sober for two years now!

What fast fashion brands would you like to find ethical alternatives for? Let me know in the comments and I'll add them to the list. 

Ethical Sale Alert: Boxing Day (Post Christmas)

Ethical Holiday and Boxing Day Sales

If you've got some money to spend, why not go for a few ethical items?

Below, a non-exhaustive list of post-Holiday sales (thought this Episcopalian would like to remind you that Christmas is actually 12 days long, so you've got plenty of time to keep celebrating). This post contains some affiliate links.

Post Holiday Sales


Choose What You Pay is back!

Sseko Designs 

Up to 60% off. No code required.

Krochet Kids

30% off  through 12/31 with code, HOPE.

The Body Shop

Up to 75% off + 40% off non-sale items.


Sale on hundreds of items while supplies last.

Fair Indigo

30% off everything through 1/1/17 with code, BY2016.


Select items on sale + free gifts with purchases over $300. Sign up here for $20 off your first purchase.

The Frye Company

Select items on sale. Link above will direct you to Made in USA items!

Azura Bay

Free shipping through 12/26.

Hazel & Rose

20% off party looks with code, PARTY.

Bead & Reel

20% off through 12/31 with code, GIFTYOURSELF.

Ten Thousand Villages

50% off Holiday items at participating stores. Store Locator.

People Tree

Up to 50% off. No code required.

American Apparel

40% off everything with code, TAKE40. American Apparel may be going out of business, so this could be your last chance.

Glad Rags

Free shipping through 12/16 with code, MYGIFT.


50% off your second pair of glasses with code, MAKEITTWO.

Ember Boutique

50% off everything through 12/31 with code, EMBER50.

Happy Fox Studio

25%-60% off select reclaimed jewelry on Instagram: @happyfoxstudioflashsale.

Ethical Sale Alert on


Did I miss a sale? Let me know in the comments.

Why I Do Ethical Sales Roundups: I don't want to promote mindless over-consumption, but I recognize that ethical clothing can be cost prohibitive, especially when you're just starting to consider your consumer choices, so I want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to purchase ethical fashion at a price point they're comfortable with. I trust you to use your best judgment.

Recipe: Fair Trade, Organic Ginger Tea Hot Toddy

I hope you all had a festive, comforting, and delicious Christmas (if you celebrate it). My mother-in-law has been in town for the last week, so we've been taking her to neighboring towns, museums, and wineries. We all worked together to make a traditional dinner yesterday, but for the most part, we've just been relaxing, listening to Christmas music, and watching Malcolm in the Middle on Netflix.

It's the perfect season for Hot Toddy.

I returned from Kentucky Bourbon Country in October with a real appreciation for the spicy sweetness of this true American beverage. I don't typically want it neat or on the rocks, but it seemed like the perfect thing to add to my evening tea.

Over the last month or so, I've developed a hot toddy recipe that plays on the traditional combination of lemon, honey, and whiskey, but with a twist: fair trade ginger tea. I won't pretend this combination hasn't been done before in some form, but mine might be the first recipe that uses fair trade ginger tea.

Whether you're enduring a cold snap or a winter cold, this hot toddy will warm you up.

Ginger Tea Hot Toddy


  • 1 Bag Equal Exchange Fair Trade Organic Ginger Tea
  • 1 Heaping Tablespoon Locally Sourced Honey
  • 1 Squeeze of Lemon Juice
  • 1 oz. Bourbon (I like Evan Williams' Black Label and Buffalo Trace's Benchmark)

To Make:

  1. Boil 12 oz. water. 
  2. Add 1 oz. of bourbon and a tea bag to your favorite mug.
  3. Pour hot water over tea bag. 
  4. Stir in honey and lemon. 
  5. Remove ginger tea bag after 1-2 minutes for best balance.
  6. Put on your flannel PJs and settle in for the night. 


If you're into Hot Toddy or tea cocktails, I would love to hear about your custom recipes. Feel free to share in the comments. 

Everlane Review: Ribbed Wool Cashmere Crew

Everlane Ribbed Wool-Cashmere Crew Review Everlane Ribbed Wool-Cashmere Crew Review Everlane Ribbed Wool-Cashmere Crew Review Everlane Ribbed Wool-Cashmere Crew Review

Everlane Review

I had some store credit, so I went ahead and splurged on Everlane's Ribbed Wool-Cashmere Crew in Charcoal. I liked the deep side slits that imply a cropped fit without sacrificing warmth around my midsection. It's difficult to wear a standard crew neck sweater with dresses, so I was hoping this one would provide the right amount of swingy-ness to look intentional layered over dresses this Dressember.

The Verdict?

I like it a lot! In fact, I might like it more than the standard Cashmere. It's a very thick, dense wool that keeps out cold wind and keeps me toasty warm. So far, the quality seems good and I'm not noticing any pilling.

As with all my sweaters, I plan on washing very sparingly, if at all, to ensure that it doesn't stretch or shrink.

I ordered my standard size small in this and the fit is perfect. I'm a sucker for dark gray, too, so the color suits my wardrobe well. If they had a light blue version, similar to the one from Siizu, I would have considered that, too.

The Ribbed Wool-Cashmere Crew retails for $98 and is made in Everlane's Fujian, China factory, which you can learn more about here. I do wish that Everlane would be transparent about their textiles sourcing, but I know several people have asked them about this directly, so hopefully they will start listening.


Shop Everlane here. 

Simple, Last Minute Mason Jar Gifts, by Faye Lessler

last minute mason jar gifts

This piece was written by Faye Lessler and originally appeared on Sustaining Life, a blog about sustainability, vegan eating, and ethical fashion. Faye works for an ethical fashion accelerator in NYC, does freelance writing, and shares the most delicious recipes.

If you're anything like me, you are still scrambling to finish off at least a few Christmas gifts - despite only having [a few] days before the deadline. As someone who actively avoids any and all holiday hubbub or excess that goes along with last-minute gift shopping, I have adopted a new strategy this year. Yep, you guessed it, I'm cooking up some holiday treats!

Not only is holiday shopping stressful and expensive, but it also comes with a lot of waste, excess, and mediocre gifts. By making edible gifts at home and packaging them in cute, reusable mason jars, I am happily avoiding all of that trash while ensuring that my gifts are both useful and enjoyable for everyone! These three edible treats are sure to please the loved ones on both of our gift lists this year. These treats and sustainable wrapping suggestions are cheap, easy, and can all be accomplished in one day. Now that is what I call an enjoyable holiday activity.

rosemary sea salt recipe

For The Home Cook: Rosemary Sea Salt

  • 4 cups coarse sea salt
  • 4 sprigs ( or tbsp) dried rosemary

  1. Chop dried rosemary with a knife or pulse in a food processor.
  2. Mix salt and rosemary together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Transfer to jars!

peppermint bark recipe

For The Snacker: Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark

  • 3 lbs of chocolate (semisweet, dark, white...)
  • 1.5 tbsp peppermint extract
  • a handful of candy canes (use more if you like more candy crunch)

  1. Create a double boiler by bringing a large pot of water to a boil and setting a smaller pot or glass bowl inside. Don't let the water get in the smaller vessel and don't let it touch the sides or bottom of the larger pot.
  2. If in large blocks, chop chocolate into smaller chunks.
  3. Add chocolate and peppermint extract to the smaller vessel of your double boiler. Allow to melt while stirring.
  4. Pour melted chocolate into a baking pan lined in parchment paper.
  5. Crush candy canes and sprinkle over top of chocolate.
  6. Spread evenly in baking pan and set in refrigerator for at least one hour. 
  7. Chop into large chunks and transfer to jars!


Get 1 more recipe + instructions for making turmeric-dyed cards on Sustaining Life.

Gettin' Around: See Me in Selva Beat and Bustle This Month

Selva Beat magazine Fall/Winter 2016

I'm in print! 

The team at Selva Beat was so kind to accept my piece, Dispatches from the Mall: What I Learned When I Gave Up Fast Fashion, for their Fall/Winter Issue. It was one of those essays that came easily, and acted as a reminder and self-inspiration to keep on the ethical fashion path. I love what Selva Beat did with page design and formatting, too!

Selva Beat is an Austin-based ethical fashion and vegan lifestyle magazine aesthetically inspired by '90s zine culture. I have been impressed with the attention to detail, fashion spreads, and touching articles and essays in the two issues I've purchased. I highly recommend it.

If you want to read my piece and get some ethical fashion inspiration, you can purchase digital and print copies here.

I'm on Bustle!

Fair Trade Fashion Bloggers in Bustle
I was thrilled to find myself listed among several other inspiring ethical bloggers in an online article a couple weeks ago! It's encouraging to get good feedback outside of direct channels like my blog and social media channels. I'm also crossing my fingers that this means people are really starting to look for communities that can help them find ethical alternatives when they shop. Read the article here.

I have also been writing pieces for the NUMI Organic Tea blog. Read my recent essay, Celebrating People: Why Fair Trade Matters, here.

Ethical Holiday Giveaway: Victoria Road Gold Chain Ear Cuff

Victoria Road Gold Chain Earcuff Giveaway Fair Trade

This giveaway is offered in partnership with Victoria Road

Affordable, fair trade luxury...

Some ethical companies are so good at telling their story that you can't help but be changed by the narrative. Victoria Road is a good example. Earlier this year, I featured Victoria Road in an informative interview and styled review, delving deep into issues of ethical sourcing and the value of timeless, ethical luxury.

I'm partnering with them this week to offer a giveaway that is sure to liven up your wardrobe. I'm not usually one for sparkles, but the Victoria Road Gold Chain Ear Cuff pairs classic glamour with an edgy chain detail that makes the piece feel very modern. I hand selected this item because I think it's the sort of thing you can wear again and again whenever the occasion calls for something a little fancy. In fact, this would look great with a festive New Year's Eve outfit, and fortunately, you'll have it in time for that!

Victoria Road Gold Chain Earcuff Giveaway Fair Trade

Pakistani designer, Rema Qureshi, designed the Gold Chain Ear Cuff from her studio in Lahore...

As a brand, REMA seeks to reflect the fusion of cultures in its on-trend designs produced in limited quantities with outstanding finishing and quality. The handcrafted jewelry is heavily influenced by Asian culture, the leather for the handbags is sourced from fine tanneries across the world, the hardware is from Europe and all items are crafted and perfected in Pakistan and delivered to clients internationally. Every time you wear an item from REMA, you embody the spirit of inclusive globalism.

Giveaway entry is simple. Just complete one or several of the entry options below.

By entering this giveaway, you give permission for your email address to be added to the Victoria Road newsletter. Open to international readers. Contest ends Friday, December 23, 2016 at 11:59 pm. If you win, this item will not be there in time for Christmas, but you should have it before New Year's!

Victoria Road Gold Chain Earcuff Giveaway Fair Trade


To shop the Gold Chain Ear Cuff (now on sale for $40.50), click here. 

To shop Victoria Road's full collection of clothing and accessories, click here

Ethical Gift Guide: For Men

This post was compiled and written by Holly Rose of Leotie Lovely. She's doing a fantastic #GoneGreen challenge, posting about ethical and sustainable living for 365 days! Check out her blog here.

Ethical Men's Gift Guide

Men can be either incredibly easy or incredibly hard to buy for, but over the past few years of married life with birthdays and anniversaries and such, I've found the items below to be winners in the husfriend departments. Each item is made by a conscious company who produces their products both ecologically and ethically and have proven, thus far, to last the test of time for he who normally wears out his clothing quickly.

While this season isn't necessarily about more stuff, I think a healthy mix of useful, wearable, sustainable products and donations on your loved one's behalf gives you a happy combination of the new and old traditions.

JUNGMAVEN | Shirt | $76.00

Eco & Ethical How? From my past year of research into eco fabrics, I'd rule Hemp as the greenest one. It grows the fastest, with the least amount of water and nourishes the land it is planted on. I could literally go on for ages about how amazing it is. Then there's this brand Jungmaven which has created a beautiful collection of hemp clothing and homeware for men and women which fits fantastically and is super stylish taboot. All their products are made in the USA.

Where To Buy?

VEJA | Shoes | $100.00

Eco & Ethical How? It's no secret Veja is one of my favourite brands in France, they make their products through sustainable practices using ecologically tanned leather, organic cotton, and wild rubber from the Amazon. Each piece is produced through fair pay and good working conditions and supports communities both here in France and in South America. My husfriend and I both own a pair and love them dearly.

Where To Buy?

PATAGONIA | Hat | $29.00

Eco & Ethical How? Patagonia makes all of its products with eco-friendly or recycled fabrics, this hat is made with Organic Cotton using fair labour practices, safe working conditions and environmentally responsible production.

Where To Buy?

MATT & NAT | Wallet | $60.00

Eco & Ethical How? This brand makes beautiful vegan leather out of 100% recycled plastic bottles and sustainable materials such as cork and rubber. They design their own custom hardware and produce their products under ethical standards.

Where To Buy?

HOUSE OF MARLEY | Headphones | $169.99

Eco & Ethical How? If you have a need for headphones, you probably like music, and therefore probably know this name. Bob's relatives created a company called House of Marley with a full line of over, on and in ear headphones made form sustainable materials and FSC certified woods. To top all that goodness off your purchases support the 1LOVE foundation which is dedicated to giving back through charities that empower individuals to take action for sustainable and responsible living. I bought my husfriend a pair a few years back and they're, according to him, the best headphones he's owned. I own a pair of the in-ear ones which have thus far lasted me 3 years without a single tangle (they're wrapped in fabric so they don't fray!)

Where To Buy? Amazon

JUNIPER RIDGE | Cologne | $35.00

ECO + ETHICAL HOW? This company is incredibly transparent, allowing you to follow them right to their field lab. Each product has a harvest number stamped on it so you can see photos of the plants and the fragrance extraction techniques used to create the item in your hands. They obtain their ingredients by exploring nature with their nose, sustainably wild harvesting each of natures gifts before wildcrafting their products through 100-year-old perfume making techniques including distillation, tincuing, infusion and enfleurage. They produce extremely small-batch, trail-made fragrances which are designed as aromatic snapshots, summing up their scents from that day of exploration. On top of carefully monitoring regrowth of their wild grown ingredients, they donate 10% of all their profits annually to a portfolio of Western Wilderness Defence Organizations.


ME UNDIES | Underwear | $20.00

Eco & Ethical How? My brother-in-law introduced us to this brand. Their carbon-neutral method of converting sustainably harvested beechwood pulp into silky modal yarn which not only stretches and molds to the body, but lasts. According to my husfriend these are the most comfortable underwear he's ever worn.

Where To Buy?

WE WOOD | Watch | $145.00

Eco & Ethical How? Each WeWood watch is made from recycled and reclaimed timber including Indian rosewood, mahogany, coffee tree and teak, each with different healing properties and meanings. The company has teamed up with ‘American Forests’ and ‘Trees for the Future’, and ‘Conservation Volunteers’ to plant one tree for every watch sold.

Where to Buy?:

URU | Socks | €39.99

Eco & Ethical How? A Conscious brand making interchangeable, unisex, intentionally mismatched ‘same, same but different’ socks made ethically from organic cotton, covers all the concerning bases. Each pack of their SOLO socks even comes with a spare sock in its pack for when that black hole or evil gnome eats one out of your perfectly sorted collection.They even come with a little tray for your dresser which helps you keep your sock stash organized and united and reduces (packaging) waste while you're at it.

Where To Buy?

Dressember Update: But, Like, What Is My Personal Style?

Dressember Reflection

The Dressember Challenge has been illuminating from a style perspective. When you're forced to wear a dress every day in colder and colder weather, you either have to think long and hard about how to make the outfit work or just throw up your hands and layer up. I've looked like a kindergartner dressed up for recess with my sneakers, jeans, mismatched socks, and dress more often than I'd like to admit. It has not done wonders for my self esteem. (Don't let the above photos fool you. Those were my good days.)

It's really gotten me thinking about what I'm actually drawn to right now, because it's forced me to pine away for certain items that just don't work with dresses. 

I miss my boyfriend jeans, my Everlane u-necks, and all of my delightful sweaters (I looove sweaters). I miss the un-busyness of my normal clothing routine. I like special details, but I don't need tons of crazy prints. I prefer to add unusual accessories and play with proportion rather than rely on a print to make things interesting.

This has not always been the case. I was obsessed with vintage printed skirts for a few years, for instance, but even then, I kept layering to a minimum. When I have to wear a dress in below freezing temperatures, I have to sort out where it will go in the layering lineup. I don't find it fun.

Plus, I've been wanting to do more of an Annie Hall thing for awhile and I feel like my hair right now completes the look, so I'm bitter that I'm sitting here in a dress I've worn several times instead of my calm, collected, and casual look.

Another lesson that's been reiterated for me during this challenge is that capsules wardrobes and I don't get along. 

If you think about it, Dressember is a capsule wardrobe project because it prioritizes some items over others and limits the ways you can wear the rest of your closet. As a result, predictably, I find myself wanting to shop incessantly for all sorts of things just to mix things up when, in reality, I already have way more than I need.

I am lousy at persisting in things I find silly, or things that lower my self esteem. Dressing in a way that feels representative of who I am and who I want to be is important to me, and having to forego that has made me increasingly depressed.

I suppose this is a lesson that keeps in line with the anti-trafficking mission of the challenge. I'm sitting here annoyed and slightly sad that I have to wear dresses for a few more days while millions of people are forced to do all sorts of things they don't want to do because they're literally enslaved.

I'm temporarily "enslaved" to this dumb thing I thought would be super fun. That means nothing in comparison to actual suffering. Shame on me.

But also, maybe I've learned that I can raise awareness and donate to causes I believe in without wearing a dress every day. After all, I don't like asking people for money. I'd rather share the message, raise money on my own, and encourage personal and sustained buy-in from the people I come into contact with. That's the message I've been sharing with my coworkers and friends this Dressember.

Still, there are 14 days to go, and I'm trying my best to stick it out. I'm raising my hot toddy to everyone else participating this year. We can do this.


Donate to my Dressember Campaign here. 

(I'll write you a haiku if you donate $10 or more!)

Better Shoes Foundation Marks the Path Toward a Sustainable Shoe Industry

Better Shoes Foundation, Sustainable Shoe Industry, Founded by Po-Zu

The dangers of the clothing industry are well known to me. Chemical dyes, cramped working conditions, long hours, poor ventilation, safety code violations, depression, child labor, poor medical and vocational resources. But I have to admit I haven't devoted nearly as much mental energy to the shoe industry, even though I'm a self proclaimed shoe-aholic.

I've always believed that the shoes make or break the outfit and I've had an eye for the unique and slightly weird since I was young. Even though I've switched to ethical shopping with a focus on buying less overall, I have a hard time resisting a high quality, beautiful pair of shoes. They make me feel good about myself.

Shoes are also important from a health perspective. As I learned from speaking with the founder of local shoe company, OESH, the way a footbed is made has a profound effect on joint and whole body health (Did you know that most shoe lasts are developed off of the male foot even though a woman's gait is distinctly different due to our broader hips? Not cool).

Shoes make us feel confident, make us taller, and help us take on physically challenging tasks. But, like most other things created by humans, the shoe industry has a dark underbelly.

A few introductory facts:

  • Global shoe manufacturing is a $195 billion dollar industry
  • The global footwear industry employs over 5 million people, with 87% of manufacturing done in Asia.
  • Only 2% of the final price of goods goes toward the factory worker's wage, even though assembly can take as many as 360 steps per shoe.
  • Shoe waste will reach 1.2 million tons, but only 5% of shoes and shoe parts are recycled.
  • Despite it being the 4th most toxic pollutant in the world, 85% of leather is tanned with Chromium. (Source)

In many ways, the shoe industry parallels the garment industry, both in terms of labor conditions and pollution. Yet the use of Chromium in leather processing - not to mention the massive amount of livestock that are killed to to maintain the industry's demands (though most leather is a byproduct of the meat industry) - contributes to greater ecological damage on a per-item basis. It's time we take notice. 

Better Shoes Foundation, Sustainable Shoe Industry, Founded by Po-Zu

The Better Shoes Foundation aims to do just that. 

The Better Shoes Foundation was founded by sustainable shoe company, Po-Zu in celebration of their 10 year anniversary. The website has an open source format in order to provide collaborative and up-to-the-minute information about the industry as a whole, from design to materials sourcing to consumption to post-consumer life. Get an overview of the industry or dig a little deeper. There are links, resources, handouts, infographics, and a brand directory to help consumers and suppliers join up and make more sustainable choices. 

Though the Better Shoes Foundation is primarily concerned with being a resource to suppliers, they offer fairly thorough resources for consumers:

The Brands page specifically celebrates companies that have prioritized ethics and sustainability from day one. I immediately noticed a few of my favorites, like Nisolo and Oliberte and several I'd never heard of, like Conker Shoes and D'Arçé. The list conveniently divides vegan and non-vegan options so you can shop according to your specific standards easily.

The For Consumers page provides a directory of apps and guides - like Good On You - that break down the ethical standards of specific companies.

In an industry and a world that tends to favor opaqueness over transparency, I'm impressed with the breadth and depth of information made available through the Better Shoes Foundation. 

As I've said before, I'm of the opinion that staying educated and being well-informed is part of the fun of being a conscious consumer. I could literally spend hours reading up on every part of the shoe making process. In fact, I will.


Check out the Better Shoes Foundation here.

This post was not monetarily sponsored, but I was gifted a pair of shoes from Po-Zu as a part of this collaboration. That being said, I wouldn't have heard about the Better Shoes Foundation otherwise, so I'm glad I got the chance to work with them. 

Image via Po-Zu.

Emma Suzanne's Silk Scarves Bring Ethical Luxury to Any Outfit + $100 Giveaway

Emma Suzanne Khmer Golden Silk Ethical Scarves
This post was produced in collaboration with Emma Suzanne and I was provided products for review.

Refined Luxury | A Better World

I know silk scarves. The thrift shop I manage is currently inundated with dozens of lovely silk scarves in every floral and stripe. But I've never felt a scarf as luxurious as Emma Suzanne.

I know that sounds like an overstatement, and I'm not claiming to know the luxury market all that well, but for the price point and ethical standpoint, Emma Suzanne scarves are a cut above the rest.

Emma Suzanne Khmer Golden Silk Ethical ScarvesEmma Suzanne Khmer Golden Silk Ethical Scarves

The Emma Suzanne scarf line is woven on handlooms in Cambodia using local silk and natural dyes, with an aim to incorporate organic cotton into the line in the near future. The handlooming process means Emma Suzanne's scarves are nearly zero waste, and since silk is a natural material, the products are also biodegradable.

Artisans work in their homes on their own time, and receive fair wages based on hours worked and adjusted based on local incomes to ensure that the broader infrastructure is left intact. In the brand's words:
Emma Suzanne is a value-based business: we value beauty, we value ethical and sustainable fashion and we value happy and sustainable village lifestyles.​ Being handmade, no items are ever exactly the same. By purchasing our products, you own a unique creation.
Cambodia has been known for its Khmer Golden Silk for hundreds of years. It is a delicate, slow-developing product that was nearly wiped out due to wars that decimated the silk worms' ecosystem of mulberry trees in the 1960s and 70s. Co-ops and family-owned silk farms are working to cultivate and preserve this heritage product so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come. Emma Suzanne uses this specialty silk in some of their scarves, including the lovely River Runs Scarf in Burnt Amber I'm wearing here.

Emma Suzanne Khmer Golden Silk Ethical ScarvesEmma Suzanne Khmer Golden Silk Ethical Scarves

As soon as I took the River Runs organza scarf outside, it began to dance in the light breeze, much to my delight. It's smooth and lightweight, but surprisingly warm, and the peach and amber hues are the accent colors I'm drawn to right now. They go with my hair and offset all the blue in my closet. The most surprising thing about the scarf, though, is that it's only about $50 USD. A splurge, yes, but at this price point you could justify getting it for a loved one as a gift (or with your Christmas money!) without reservations.

Emma Suzanne Khmer Golden Silk Ethical ScarvesEmma Suzanne Khmer Golden Silk Ethical Scarves

Emma also sent me the Luxe Khmer Silk Scarf in Indigo so I would have a chance to sample a range of styles. I love the deep blue of indigo - I was on an indigo dyeing kick a couple months ago and was tempted to dye everything in my closet with it - and the raw silk is a bit more substantial than the organza, so it creates a different aesthetic and is probably a bit better to use as a barrier from the cold in winter months. The particular tie dye on this scarf reminds me of fossilized seashells, a nod to my Floridian upbringing collecting shells on the beach and looking for fossils in the woods.

This scarf is a bit pricier, at about $67.00 USD (I'm converting from AUD), but the quality means it could be passed down as a family keepsake. As I've gotten older, I've begun to think about those sorts of things. I want whatever offspring I have to be able to inherit a few key pieces to remember me by. Maybe these scarves could be it.

In a world of fast, cheap, throwaway goods, people don't pass things down as often, and I think it's a great loss.

Emma Suzanne Khmer Golden Silk Ethical Scarves Ethical Details: Dress and Sweater - Everlane; Leggings and Boots - thrifted; Scarves - c/o Emma Suzanne

Emma Suzanne Khmer Golden Silk Ethical Scarves

Undertaking the Dressember challenge and finding ways to incorporate review products into the limited wardrobe I currently have has been a surprisingly fun and fruitful experience. I wouldn't have considered wearing a sweater under a dress, but the encroaching winter has made it necessary to layer up. This bright pink sweater accents both scarves well. If you donate $10 today, I'll write you a custom haiku!



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The Wolf Shall Live With the Lamb: A Christian Exploration of Vegetarianism

The Wolf Shall Live With the Lamb: A Christian Exploration of Vegetarianism
Last week, my church put on its annual Lessons & Carols service, an Advent celebration that includes nine Bible readings and nine carols that anticipate the coming of Christ at Christmas. Though a lot of Americans think we're already celebrating Christmas (It's December! Pass the eggnog! Play festive music!) in churches that use the traditional Christian calendar and follow the liturgy, we are in what's often termed a mini-Lent, preparing our hearts and minds for the miraculous incarnation of Jesus.

As such, the lessons in the Lessons & Carols service, and, in fact, all of the Sunday Bible readings throughout Advent, draw heavily upon the prophetic texts of the Hebrew Bible, the ones early Christians used to confirm that Jesus was the Messiah they'd been waiting for.

I was particularly struck by the second half of the reading from Isaiah (Isaiah 11: 1–3a; 4a; 6–9 to be exact), because it speaks of an ideal future that includes a totally transformed food chain:

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

It is apparent that the writer of Isaiah was moved by the violence of the predator-prey relationship and felt that a restoration of the world would include total abstinence from killing and eating meat. The text stands out, because, while the Bible often talks about eating - Kosher food law, ritual sacrifice, manna in the desert, the Last Supper, Peter's vision of unclean animals, the feeding of the 5,000 - most of those conversations have more to do with God and humans than with the animals themselves. In this text, the animals are vegetarians.

Notably, however, Kosher food law as it pertains to meat does seem to approach a sort of empathy toward the animals' feelings (Deuteronomy 14:21b, Exodus 34:26b, Exodus 23:19b ):

 You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.

But what does this mean? According to, there are a few Rabbinic interpretations, but for the sake of brevity, I'll highlight the one that pertains to this discussion:

" is cruel to cook a baby in the very milk that was intended to nourish it."

I first learned about this interpretation from a Jewish professor who gave a presentation in my Food Ethics class. It's compelling, because it challenges the widespread idea that the animals we eat don't deserve to be recognized as sentient beings that experience pain and sorrow. Keeping Kosher is no easy feat - it requires extra appliances, extra dinnerware, lots of pre-planning, and careful consideration - all in the name of honoring God, but with the side effect of forcing adherents to understand what they're eating and why. In fact, I know a Jewish couple who decided to keep a vegetarian kitchen because it's much easier to follow Kosher food law if you eliminate meat from your home altogether. The Jewish professor was a pescatarian for similar reasons (fish aren't categorized as "meat" in the Kosher food tradition).

It should also be noted that Adam and Eve were presumably vegetarians before the Fall. They were not required to till the ground or produce their own food until after their eyes were opened to good and evil, and to moral ambiguity. God made clothing of animal skins for them only after they became aware - and ashamed - of their nudity.

The Bible then, seems internally consistent as it pertains to the ideal of a flattening of the predator-prey hierarchy. It is considerably less consistent on any point that specifically talks about what humans should be eating.

Perhaps the most compelling case for meat eating is found in Acts 10:9-16:

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” 
 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” 
This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

This passage seems to completely override Kosher food tradition when read at face value. But it should be noted that the passage has layered meanings. In the early church, converts from Judaism often insisted that converts from other traditions be circumcised before they could fully enter the Christian community. The vision is very likely an attempt to show these Christian Jews that God accepted the uncircumcised into his community - no painful procedure was required for new converts. Adult circumcision would have been a significant barrier to conversion, particularly in a pre-pain killer era, so there are good reasons to read the passage this way.

The Wolf Shall Live With the Lamb: A Christian Exploration of VegetarianismThe other potential context for the vision's commands may have something to do with temple sacrifice. In Jewish tradition, an animal sacrifice was periodically made at the temple and, depending on the type of offering it was, portions of the animal would be eaten by the offerer and his family. Some scholars suggest that meat offered sacrificially would have been the main event for meat consumption in the life of Jewish adherents into the early Common Era (and that, in fact, it was unlawful in early Israelite practice to kill an animal outside of temple sacrifice). If this is true, it means that there wasn't a strong food tradition around meat outside of temple sacrifice and thus, when the temple was destroyed in 70 CE, meat consumption dropped off.

Christianity did away with the necessity of animal sacrifice altogether, which means that early Christians may have been largely vegetarians or vegans. The vision gives Christians permission to eat anything, but it doesn't mean they would have had access to much meat, and certainly not on the scale we have today.

So, what does this mean for contemporary Christians? 

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

According to the above passage (Luke 17:20-21) the Kingdom of God is already here, but it isn't completed yet. I reflect on this passage often, because it reminds Christians that we have a part to play in restoring the earth, in making it good. The Kingdom of God is both present and future, and we can do our part to extend grace, to build bridges, and to love one another so that glimpses of that future Kingdom are apparent. We can offer tangible, everyday hope. The passage reminds us that the work is ongoing.

But what does that mean for the Isaiah passage? If an ideal world means total pacifism, even as it pertains to the animals, what responsibility do we have to usher that in now? We can't turn lions into vegetarians - even domesticated cats need meat - but maybe we have a hard choice to make in our own lives.

Undoubtedly, the world is a violent place, and the daily violence that occurs for the sake of survival is perhaps the hardest to grapple with, because it's built into the natural order. But humans are an anomaly in some ways. Not only are we omnivores, and thus capable of enjoying a more varied diet, we're also incredibly aware of our options.

And in the US and other industrialized nations, we have greater access to food than our predecessors. We can eat anything we want, and we seem to be choosing meat.

So, the big question: should Christians be vegetarians?

Yes, and no.

The fact of the matter is it's not totally clear. What is clear, to me at least, is that we should envision as the ideal a world where no violence occurs, even if it's not yet achievable. That means considerably reducing our meat consumption, ensuring that the meat industry is well regulated and takes animal welfare into account, thinking long and hard about the meat we do choose to eat, and seeing animals as fellow creatures on this complicated planet.

Just because the New Testament does not make it morally wrong, or sinful, to eat meat doesn't mean that God calls it good. The Bible makes a compelling case to moving toward vegetarianism even if we don't fully embrace it.

I don't totally rule out meat consumption because I know that some people, whether due to food access or culture or due to specific nutritional needs, benefit from eating meat. I think we need to be aware of the shortcomings of our bodies as they've evolved in relation to meat consumption, and not shun those who thoughtfully consume meat. But we must come to terms with the fact that animals with feelings, relationships, and individual personalities must die if we want to eat meat.

As in matters of war, child bearing, and end-of-life care, eating meat is a life or death decision that must bear weight. 

From the Isaiah passage, we can also extrapolate a larger calling to pacifism. In order to live out the Kingdom of God, we need to ask hard questions about the death penalty, the prison system, war, and military occupation. We also need to seek to build systems that reduce drug-related and domestic violence, abortion, hate crimes, and suicide. We need to build communities and systems that offer access to care, preventative services, economic empowerment, hope, and restorative justice.

Nothing is cut and dried. We are all going to make moral choices based on a unique combination of life experiences. But I think the Bible, at the very least, calls Christians to serious work toward an all-encompassing peace, and that includes thinking long and hard about our meat consumption.

Food for thought this Holiday season.


This piece doesn't even get into issues of environmental stewardship or a discussion of the Eucharistic feast. It also doesn't attempt to respond to non-religious ethical arguments about meat consumption. Maybe I'll get into that at a later date.

Ethical Gift Guide: Artisan Made Etsy Finds

Until earlier this year, I maintained a small Vintage shop on the Etsy platform. It was fun while it lasted - and I was profitable at times - but the market became more and more congested, which made it difficult to find good vintage clothing locally and market it effectively online. Ultimately, I realized it wasn't my passion. My real passion is writing, so I donated most of my stock and pursued more blogging and writing opportunities. A few months in, I realize that this is much more fun than selling stuff!

That being said, when I no longer had a reason to log in to Etsy every day, I stopped paying attention to all my favorite shops. I decided to take a trip down memory lane, rekindle the romance, and find some beautiful, handmade things to feature in today's Gift Guide. 

1. Thief and Bandit Field of Dreams Turtleneck, $88.00

Hand block-printed from original designs and made in Canada.

2. Dai Li Jewelry Handmade "Hand" Brooch, $22.93 each

Porcelain, made in Australia.

3. United Threads Poppy Pod Print, $45.00

Archival print of an original watercolor. I own two prints from United Thread and they're even more stunning in person. 

4. Freedom Soap Company Pine + Eucalyptus Soap, $8.00

Palm oil free. I have purchased from Freedom Soap in the past and I LOVE the subtle fragrances and the lack of allergic reactions!

5. Skin Food by AB "Gimme a Beat" Organic Tinted Lip Balm, $8.00

Organic and local ingredients. Made in Ohio.

6. Grieta Knits Hand Knit Wool Socks, $53.08

Wool blend. Made in Europe.

7. Artifex Design Whiskey Tumbler, $20.00

Glazed porcelain. Made in Colorado.

8. LTGL Alpacas Francois the Alpaca, $20.00

Made in USA.

Ethical Gift Guide: Read, Play, Make

Clothes are great, but it's safe to say I've accumulated more than enough. I'm fortunate to get nearly two weeks off of work around Christmas time, so I'm always looking for games, books, and other activities to enjoy as I savor long stretches of free time. In light of that, I thought I'd share a Gift Guide that meets those needs. Of course, this is an ethical living blog, so the items I share are either useful for the ethical journey or ethically sourced.


Ethical Consumerism

  • Fugitive Denim by Rachel Louise Snyder
    • Snyder follows the intricate life of a pair of denim across the world, exploring the politics of cotton farming, design, chemical dyes, and trends. A great way to learn about the clothing manufacturing process without getting totally overwhelmed.
  • A Consumer's Republic by Lizabeth Cohen
    • A scholarly piece about the rise and politics of the consumer economy. A good reminder that ideology informs our attitudes toward economic decisions and the economy can change our ideology.

Society and Culture (Fiction)

  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    • Adichie artfully and poignantly explores race, love, and growing up across three countries: Nigeria, the United States, and England. 
  • Brick Lane by Monica Ali
    • Brick Lane follows the life of a Bangladeshi immigrant to London and the parralel life of her sister, who remains behind in Bangladesh and works for some time in sweatshops. An intimate look into the culture, struggles, and triumphs of women who have to make hard choices in order to survive and thrive.
  • The Road to Wellville by T. C. Boyle
    • A fictionalized account of John Harvey Kellogg's sanitorium and the clean eating craze of turn-of-the-century America. It's at once laugh-out-loud funny and horrifying. People - and diet fads - never change.

Christian Spiritual Exploration

  • Wearing God by Lauren Winner
    • Winner explores the more obscure metaphors for God. A meditative book you will want to read slowly and savor.
  • Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
    • Evans works through her loss of faith in the Evangelical Church by practicing and learning from the Sacraments. It's a story very similar to my own. I found it cathartic.


Music & Art



What are your favorite gifts to give and receive?

Ethical Giveaway: Dunitz & Company Leather Spiral Lariat Necklace

Ethical Giveaway: Dunitz and Company Leather Spiral Lariat Necklace


The Fair Trade Leather Spiral Lariat Necklace, made in Guatemala by Dunitz & Company. 
Details: Czech & Japanese glass beads and crystals, leather cord. $60.00 value.

See yesterday's post to learn more about Dunitz & Company and read my review! 

Fair Trade Jewelry Holiday Giveaway - Free, Coupon code

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// Additional entry on Instagram! //

The Fine Print: Open to international readers. Your information will only be shared with Dunitz & Company for entry confirmation purposes. Ends Wednesday, December 14th at 11:59 pm EST.

Ethical Giveaway: Dunitz and Company Leather Spiral Lariat Necklace

Lariats are the New Chokers: Dunitz & Company Jewelry Review

This post was produced in partnership with Dunitz & Company. Dunitz & Company fair trade Lariat Necklace reviewDunitz & Company fair trade Lariat Necklace review
Ethical Details: Dress - vintage; Jacket - Thredup; Leggings - old; Shoes - Frye; Leather Spiral Lariat Necklace - c/o Dunitz & Company

A choker that doesn't choke...

I really like that chokers are back in style, except for one thing: they make me feel like I'm choking. But I figured out a way to get the cool Victorian-era meets the '90s look I'm going for without fear of death. Wear a lariat necklace!

Lariat necklaces allow you to customize the tie, so you can wear them like a long string of pearls or as a choker, and the style means that you get two pretty pendants affixed to the ends of the strand for a unique, asymmetrical look. There are plenty of chokers and lariats offered on the conventional and fine jewelry markets, but I wanted something that was more of an everyday, wear-anywhere piece, and obviously it needed to be ethically sourced. Nancy at Dunitz & Company offered the Leather Spiral Lariat for review and it's turned out to be exactly what I was looking for.

  Dunitz & Company fair trade Lariat Necklace review

The Leather Spiral Lariat is made of delicate glass beads and lightweight leather, so it's not burdensome to wear all day. I can't overstate the quality of materials; you can tell by the way it feels that it's high quality. It feels feminine without being saccharine and, when worn like a choker, it transforms into something a little more hardcore. It's a great accompaniment to this vintage '90s dress and my secondhand denim jacket.

Dunitz & Company fair trade Lariat Necklace review

About Dunitz & Company

Nancy Dunitz founded Dunitz & Company in the late '80s as a response to a need. While visiting Guatemala, she met many talented artisans who had limited access to a viable marketplace for their goods due to political unrest...
During the early stages of Dunitz & Company, Nancy met two artists who introduced beading techniques to a few Mayan women. She began collaborating with these creative women, and soon a viable and sustaining business was born. “We were on the ground floor,” comments Nancy. “Beading was a new medium in Guatemala and by creating fashion-forward designs, I knew I could also create demand.”
Now, Dunitz & Company provides employment for over 100 women and men, providing fair wages and donating a portion of proceeds to community initiatives that assist with educational development and access to health resources. Dunitz and Company is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, which ensures that ethical standards are met throughout the supply chain, and a Gold Business Certified member of Green America, as well as a founding member of Fair Trade Los Angeles.

Dunitz & Company fair trade Lariat Necklace review

I've partnered with Dunitz & Company to give away this Lariat Necklace! 

Enter the Giveaway on Instagram and on the blog!!