Style Wise | Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade, Sustainability

SUSTAINABLE STYLE & ETHICAL LIVING

Ethical Sale Alert: Memorial Day

ethical memorial day sales
Image via Unsplash

An incomplete list of Memorial Day Weekend sales. If you know of any others, please comment and I'll add them to the post. This list contains some affiliate links.

Synergy Organic Clothing:
25% off with code, twentyfive, through 5/29.

PACT Apparel:
25% off with code, hellosummer, through 5/30.

ARO:
25% off with code, memorial day, through 5/30.

Accompany:
Up to 30% off sitewide through 5/29. See site for details.

Threads for Thought:
40% off sitewide with code, memorial40.

Ember & Aura:
40% off sitewide through 5/29. No code needed.

Eileen Fisher:
15% off sale items with code through 5/29. No code needed.
$25 off your order with code, efdress, through 5/29.

Hackwith Design House:
20% off sitewide with code, memorial20, through 5/29.

Alter Eco:
15% off with code, memday15, through 5/29.

Indigenous:
20% off with code, 3daysale, through 5/29.

Garmentory:
Up to 70% off select items through 5/29.

Schmidt's Naturals:
30% off your order with code, anniversary, through 6/3.

LA Relaxed:
30% off select items with code, memorial30, through 5/29.

FashionABLE:
Free shipping with code, summer, through 5/29.

Wrapped in Nature: Clothing Is An Agricultural Product, by Mary Kingsley

Cotton Plant in Fall

This piece was written by Mary Kingsley of forthcoming sustainable brand, Lady Farmer. Images provided by Lady Farmer. I met Mary and her daughter, Emma, at an event they hosted here in Charlottesville and they're the real deal - they even run a farm in Maryland! Read more about the brand in the footer of this post or on lady-farmer.com

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Here’s a question. Where do your clothes come from? 


The first thing you might think of is the retailer: LL Bean, TJ Maxx, Target, etc. But before that, before they land in the store, where do your clothes come from?

This might stump a few, but many people have a sense that our clothing nowadays is produced overseas, so you might be thinking China, Vietnam or Bangladesh. But before that, before they are actually sewn together, where do your clothes come from?

Before it’s all sewn together, clothing is made of some kind of material, and unless it’s something completely synthetic, that material is going to be fabric from some kind of plant such as cotton, flax or hemp. So going back that far, where do your clothes come from? 

Your clothes come from seeds placed in the ground with the intention of creating the raw material for a textile, almost certainly on a farm somewhere.

Clothing is essentially an agricultural product.

Agriculture, of course, is commonly associated with food production. In that industry we’ve recently experienced a huge increase in consumer concern with sourcing, as evidenced by the boom in organic foods, the proliferation of neighborhood farm markets and the rise of demand for local produce, meat and dairy. After decades of non-transparency in our food system and the resulting epidemic of metabolic problems, allergies, diabetes, heart disease, digestive disorders, certain cancers, and more, consumers are exercising their right to question the health effects of pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics in food production, and the environmental consequences of certain industrial farming practices.

There’s a movement towards fresher, simpler, healthier, maybe not-always-so-quick-and-convenient food, real food. Slow food. People are caring about what they put in their bodies. They are asking where their food comes from, what’s done to it, what’s added to it and how far it travels before it lands on our plates.

Hemp and Organic Cotton Fabric to be used in Lady Farmer goods

Likewise, consumers are beginning to care what they put ON their bodies and can begin asking not only where their clothes come from, but how the materials are cultivated, and how the process affects the product itself, the producers and manufacturers, and certainly the environment.  

They are waking up to the fact that current practices in apparel manufacturing present significant health hazards. Our skin is our largest body organ and absorbs the toxic chemicals being used not only in the growing of the textiles but in the processing, treating, and dyeing of garments. For instance, your brightly colored clothing accessories might well contain dangerous amounts of lead. And many of the chemicals used in the dying of fabrics can cause cancer and/or be disruptive to normal hormonal functioning.

All of those cozy fleece jackets and the ubiquitous yoga pants? Turns out they’re full of microscopic plastic bits that are showing up in our seafood! Watch out for the hazardous chemicals in your outdoor gear that “can cause adverse impacts...on the reproductive system and immune systems.” As for sleepwear for your child, beware those containing the “flame retardant,” shown to cause hyperactivity and reduced IQ.

The issues and concerns in the apparel industry are closely parallel to the problems in the food system. Yet because most textile farming and apparel production now takes place overseas, the health, environmental and human rights problems have been largely out of sight and therefore easily ignored by an unconscious consumer base. Cheap, easily affordable and accessible clothing supplied by retailers heavily invested in feeding this widespread consumer frenzy has created a juggernaut of addictive buying and toxic waste.

The average American creates 65 pounds of textile waste every year, creating an annual 10.5 million tons of clothing in landfills. Most components of these textiles are full of toxic chemicals and never break down.

Brown fabric dyed with black walnuts

When we think of clothing as an agricultural product - a result of soil and rain, sunshine, and microbes - we begin to understand it as one of our essential needs, an expression of the natural world. With this framing and perspective, we can become informed and use our power as consumers to shape the future.

The understanding of clothing as a basic human need affecting us every moment as we live and breathe, something that has its beginning as seed and is nourished by our own shared environment, this grounds us in our elemental connection with the earth, the bearer and sustainer of all life as we know it.

When we begin to care about these things is when we begin to care about our choices and recognize their power. It is at this juncture that true change can occur.  

Everyone eats and everyone needs clothes, but when these basic human needs come at the cost of our own well being, then something has to change. We believe that with this understanding, consumers will embrace “slow fashion” in much the same way as they have “slow-food,” and in doing so will rediscover something that goes well beyond what they’re eating or wearing.

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Lady Farmer

Founded in 2016, Lady Farmer was formed in response to the growing movement of women who identify with nature and its cycles, simple comforts, tradition and sustainability. Our community of women is invested in real change - in themselves, their families, their communities - in a way that is accessible on a daily basis, from what they plant to what they eat to what they wear. We want to make our ladies’ lives simpler and strengthen our connections to each other and the earth. Any woman interested in the intersection of her own well-being and that of the planet will find a place here.

YSTR Clothing Part 2: Building Conscious Community

YSTR Clothing beach club conscious community YSTR Clothing beach club conscious community
I was not compensated for this post, but I did receive items for review from YSTR Clothing, and there are some affiliate links throughout.

In yesterday's post, I introduced sustainable fashion line, YSTR, which produces a capsule friendly collection in California out of eco-conscious and deadstock fabric.

In today's post, in addition to showing a few more outfits, I wanted to delve into the number one, non-material way to make strides as ethical citizens: intentional community. 


Intentional communities have existed in one form or another for centuries, most often associated with religious sects, but also taking form around particular ideologies. At its core, an intentional community exists to promote "a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork." Participants make and eat meals together, participate in daily rituals, share resources, and co-promote a particular lifestyle. My town boasts a still-thriving 1960s era commune that produces tofu and a small but mighty intentional community run through the Episcopal church. I bet if you look around, you'll find examples of these tiny socialist networks, as well (is there a convent nearby?).

YSTR Clothing beach club conscious communityYSTR Clothing beach club conscious community

Close knit, co-reliant communities can be effective paths to social and personal change because they create a foundation that instills confidence and fosters creative conversation. Because people start with similar frameworks, they can more easily build upon each other's ideas, and progress comes more quickly. My experience in conscious consumer communities online has illuminated that for me. The only thing better would be if there was a space to have conscious conversations in person.

Turns out, there is.


YSTR owns a beach club in Malibu where calm and collaboration are meant to thrive. In their words:

The goal in hosting our members at the private beach club is to create a community of like-minded individuals that think, love, and inspire one another. We want to share with you what a conscious lifestyle looks and feels like, and link you with people who share the same passion for a better planet.

Tier 2 and 3 capsule subscription members get automatic access to the house as a part of their membership, and can bring up to three friends. Though I haven't visited myself, I am intrigued by the concept, and think that we should try harder in our own locales to create spaces where these types of conversations can take place. It doesn't have to be a formal commune. We can do our part to promote community by eating more meals together, hosting "salon" type events with particular topics in mind, lovingly holding each other accountable, and participating in local community organizing efforts. My friends and I attend church together and eat together 2-3 times a week. Seeing each other often helps us stay aware of each other's needs and push each other toward our goals.

YSTR Clothing beach club conscious community
A quick note on what I'm wearing:

In the first full outfit, I'm wearing the Edie Top with the Jett Tie Pant in Black ($178). The Jett pants are made out of a linen/poly blend that is somehow both structured and breathable. A simple elastic band and attached tie belt make these super easy to wear.

In the second outfit, I paired the pants with the Anaelle Top ($128), a drapey, textured pinstripe blouse with a high neck. I'm kind of fascinated by the details - from the slit in the back to the buttons to the ruffles at the neck - that add a lot of interest without becoming overwhelming. The blouse feels, paradoxically, quite simple.

To read more about YSTR, check out yesterday's post.

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Get $15 off your YSTR purchase with code, VIPXSTYLEWISE

YSTR Clothing: Made to Order, Effortless, Ethical

YSTR Clothing Ethical Jumpsuit Review
I was not compensated for this post, but I did receive items for review from YSTR Clothing, and there are some affiliate links throughout.


The first thing you should know about YSTR is that their clothes perfectly encapsulate laid back, California cool. 


The second thing you should know about YSTR is that their items are made to order in the USA out of eco-friendly and deadstock fabrics, packed in biodegradable eco-plastic, and sold in a range of prices that make it easy for anyone to find something that will suit them at a price that won't make them squirm.

It's so wonderful to be in the ethical fashion space during a time of massive change and innovation. When I first started blogging, companies that considered every little detail of manufacturing - design, raw materials, manufacturing, packing, long term education - simply didn't exist, or they weren't prominent enough to show up on anyone's radar. Now, they might not quite be mainstream, but they're out there, and that means they can set an example for the rest of the industry.

YSTR Clothing Ethical Jumpsuit Review

YSTR was founded as an antidote to the fast fashion industry, which depletes natural resources at an alarming rate, creates a throwaway culture that saps the intention from our purchases, and relies on exploitative labor around the globe. I'm (still) reading Corban Addison's A Harvest of Thorns and it has illuminated for me how quickly one type of injustice can lead to several others. When it comes to the global fashion industry, if you can spot one type of exploitation, you can be certain that others lurk just beneath the surface. It's completely overwhelming.

YSTR keeps everything in house to ensure that they can monitor their resources and work force responsibly. When you place an order, the team gets started cutting and sewing your order. The made-to-order model is a key to building a sustainable business model because it means that YSTR never has unwanted inventory sitting around on their shelves.
  YSTR Clothing Ethical Jumpsuit Review

But what makes YSTR particularly unique is that their brand is just as much about building sustainable community as it is about business. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll cover that in tomorrow's post.

The collection ranges from casual to semi-formal, but the aesthetic is absolutely cohesive. With that in mind, I wanted to mix and match some items to show you how they can work together.

In the first outfit, I'm wearing the Hardy Jumpsuit in Black ($198) with a simple tassel necklace from Love Justly and my favorite Melissa sandals. Made from an eco-friendly viscose and linen blend, it's soft, opaque, and slightly textured.

In the second outfit, I'm wearing the jumpsuit with the Edie Top ($68) and an old pair of espadrilles. The high boat neck and soft, ribbed cotton makes this piece perfect for everyday wear. I'm always on the hunt for flattering tops and tees that have a flattering, higher neckline because I find myself leaning over to pick up boxes of goods at the thrift shop all the time, and I'd prefer not to flash anyone while doing it.

I'm wearing a Medium in both items (my measurements are 34-28-38 and I'm "pear shaped").

YSTR Clothing Ethical Jumpsuit Review

In addition to offering mix and match pieces, YSTR offers a capsule subscription box with three tiers, great for someone who's in need of a wardrobe refresh and doesn't have the time or the interest to select individual styles. Each box contains 2-3 items with a total traditional retail value of $500, offered at a starting price of $99 a month, and subscribers can skip a month whenever they feel like it. Learn more about it here, then order your box here.

I'll be sharing two more looks and additional information tomorrow, so make sure to come back.

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Get $15 off your YSTR purchase with code, VIPXSTYLEWISE

Fashion is the 5th, not the 2nd, Most Polluting Industry

Image via Unsplash
This piece was researched and written by Alden Wicker and originally appeared on EcoCult, a resource for all things sustainable and eco-friendly, based in NYC.

Oh, journalistic hubris. I had it bad after I published on Racked what I hoped would be the death blow to the oft-cited “fact” that “fashion is the second most polluting industry in the planet.” I found no basis for this fact, no research, no compilation of data. Once I shared this with the world, I expected everyone to read my story, and stop using the fact. But of course, Fashion Revolution happened, and the fact continued to pop up in every article and panel, to my deep frustration.

The problem is, I had no fact to replace it with. All I could say was that we had no idea how bad fashion is for the planet, and we desperately needed research to ascertain that figure.

Well, the universe (or rather, the Danes) has provided. The Global Fashion Agenda, which is currently putting on the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, teamed up with the Boston Consulting Group to do some serious number crunching and put out the Pulse of the Fashion Industry Report. It’s a deep, deep dive into the fashion industry’s sustainability metrics, and makes the strong business case for better resource management by fashion companies – innovate or die, as it were.

The report came up with its numbers for carbon emissions, chemical usage, and water usage by building on the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index, which provides a framework for brands to measure their own supply chain impact. That data was extrapolated out through expert interviews and weighting by company size and price positioning.

The number they came up with, a “Pulse” of 32/100, will be remeasured each year and serve to measure the industry over time, which is great. But it’s currently meaningless to consumers and advocates without context. I’m sure I’ll be coming back to the report frequently to harvest from its hundreds of data points. But for now, I would like to answer a very specific question:

Is fashion the second most polluting industry globally, as everyone always says?


The report says that the fashion industry is responsible for the emission of 1,715 million tons of CO2 in 2015, about 5.4% of the 32.1 billion tons of global carbon emissions in 2015. (I’m going to caveat this next part to say that for global industry numbers, I’m working off of global greenhouse gas emissions, not carbon emissions. So we need to assume that the proportion of other gases – methane and nitrous oxide – is the same in fashion as it is for other industries, which it should be, because fashion is made up of these other industries).

TLDR; My calculations put fashion, as an industry, as less polluting than electricity and heat (24.9%), agriculture (13.8%), road transportation (10.5%), and oil and gas production (6.4%), and equal to livestock (5.4%).

That makes fashion tied for the 5th most polluting industry in the world. 

It’s the sixth, if you break electricity and heat production into its commercial and residential sectors. That is still really high, as one industry, but it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

What is bizarre about doing this sort of analysis is that the fashion industry involves all the industries I just mentioned. Electricity (often from dirty sources like coal and diesel generators) powers the garment factories. Cotton is an agricultural product. A small portion of clothing’s journey is done by road transportation. Polyester is made from plastic, which is a petroleum product. Leather is a byproduct of livestock raised for food.

Which just reaffirms the power of fashion. If you could fix fashion’s supply chain and lower its emissions, you would be lowering the emissions of the four most polluting industries on the planet.

Fashion, could in fact, save the world...

Read the rest of the piece on EcoCult.

Self Objectification and Personal Brand

blogging and developing a personal brand critique
Image via Unsplash

I have a confession to make: for the last 3-4 months, I've been having emotional breakdowns - I mean, full fledged weeping fests - like clockwork about every two weeks.

The culprit? Social media.

When I started this blog, I hadn't really considered a future that would include monetization or brand collaborations. It's not that I had ruled these things out. I just hadn't thought about blogging as a business that required clear branding, consistent marketing, and creative direction. I was in it because it seemed like a useful way to build connections with other people in my niche, and I have an obsessive need to write every day, so it was the perfect hobby.

Four years ago - even two years ago - I had the luxury of all but ignoring social media outlets like Twitter and Instagram. I had a small but insightful reader base and just enough opportunities for thoughtful back and forth. I didn't get on Instagram until 2015. I didn't own a smart phone until last year. And still, my blog moved forward thanks to in-person connections and one very good opportunity to guest post on Rachel Held Evans' blog. 

But things are different now. According to most advice on the subject, it is imperative that bloggers have a presence on social media, and particularly on Instagram, home of the instant gratification, eternally scrolling photo feed. To be honest, I have struggled. I don't intuitively get Instagram, I don't like hashtags, I don't like typing on a tiny smartphone keyboard. Not to mention that the "shadow ban" that may or may not actually exist is setting me on edge. While many bloggers and influencers joyfully recount the ways that Instagram has led them to new friendships and authentic connections - and this has been true for me to a small extent - they don't often discuss the draining demands of creating and maintaining a personal brand. 

But that's the dark, ever present reality of blogging in 2017.

What is a Personal Brand?

At its most basic, personal branding is the process of turning your distinct attributes into a compelling, consistent brand for the purpose of promoting your work.

Writers, academics, influencers, and even regular people are now encouraged to use traditional branding strategies on themselves - which could include photography, color stories, fonts, graphics, and taglines - in an effort to stand out amid the clatter of other users on social media. Chances are, you're currently following dozens of social media users who have reached you primarily because their messaging and visuals are consistent. 

I encourage you to scroll through some of the feeds you follow and notice the precise curation and voice. Then, ask yourself if you feel like you really know these aspirational figures in your digital life.

Because chances are, even the most sincere of the bunch read just a little bit like sophisticated Artificial Intelligence robots wearing nice clothes. 

This is not an insult to who these people actually are. It's a testament to the effectiveness of their personal brand. They're able to attract a large following because they represent themselves as consumable products. They're just doing what all the industry "experts" told them to do. 

And this is why I've been having breakdowns every few weeks. 

Personal branding by definition is objectification, the commodification of people.

It renders complex, embodied people into oversimplified characters in a virtual reality. When I post on Instagram, I very rarely feel as though people are seeing who I am at my core, and so the the responses ring hollow despite the commenters' best intentions (this is by no means a reflection of the people who engage with me). The more I fall down the rabbit hole, the more isolated I become. 

I am not alone in this. According to a recent NPR interview:

Being engaged in excessive social comparison decreased one's happiness. So it's not that you think that others are happier than you are, but you need to prove yourself to yourself over and over again, and these social comparison engagement makes you less happy.

I've been working so hard to get to that magical 5,000 followers mark employing all the personal branding tricks in the book, but the self-othering work required to achieve something roughly equivalent to racking up play money in the Game of Life is preposterous. Have I signed up for a race that's actually a hamster wheel?

I think most of us would agree that objectification is wrong, that it leads to moral ambiguity around people and personhood, resulting in harassment, othering, and abuse. So why aren't we more worried about objectification when we're doing it to ourselves? 

Today I'm committing to a mantra that grounds me in reality:

I demand to be seen, so I will not erase myself. I demand to be heard, so I will not censor myself. I demand to be recognized as fully human, because I know that if I can't do that for myself, it becomes harder to recognize humanity in others. 

Personal branding may be a requirement of success in an increasingly individualized, online world. But for my own mental health - and to retain a sense of my embodied reality - I recognize the need to take a step back and assert that I am more, that I am a whole person. 

I am not a brand, and neither are you. Don't let social media erase the you that can actually make a difference. Only messy, smelly, real people have the power to change the world.

12 Ethical Alternatives to ModCloth

12 body positive ethical alternatives to modcloth
Mata Traders, National Picnic, Beth Ditto

ModCloth, home of vintage-inspired attire and accessories for the adorable nerd, was recently sold to Jet.com, a subsidiary of WalMart. Given their reputation for promoting body positivity, gender equality, and inclusion, this was a disappointing move for longtime fans.

I quit shopping at ModCloth due to a poor experience with customer service a few years ago, but I still have a handful of friends who have been very brand loyal up to this point. Plus, I get lots of blog hits for people looking for "ethical alternatives to ModCloth," so it only seemed right to see what I could find for those hoping to maintain the ModCloth aesthetic without buying into a parent company that prioritizes CEO salaries over hourly-worker wages and benefits, and continues to overlook forced labor and poor working conditions in their overseas factories.

While ModCloth leans heavily on its commitment to photoshop-free images and size diversity as a marketing strategy, I would argue that true inclusion would take into account the wellbeing of the primarily female workforce that makes up the garment industry as well as the end consumer. 

The companies listed below prioritize sweatshop-free labor, ecofriendly practices, and diversity.

I've included links to both brands that produce new clothing and my favorite vintage shops. Because why buy "vintage inspired" when you can buy authentic vintage?

12 ETHICAL ALTERNATIVES TO MODCLOTH
This post contains some affiliate links


New Clothing


1. Mata Traders

Fair trade certified | Women owned, designed, and produced | Sizes XS-XL

Feminine block printed woven and jersey cotton dresses, skirts, and blouses, plus a selection of jewelry. ModCloth actually sells Mata Traders already, but you might as well go straight to the source!

2. People Tree

Fair trade certified | Women owned and produced | Sizes UK 8-16

Knit cotton separates in a variety of feminine and menswear-inspired styles, plus accessories. ModCloth used to sell People Tree.

3. National Picnic

Ecofriendly | Made in USA | Women owned, designed, and produced | Sizes XS-XL with some Plus Size offerings

Betsy, owner and chief maker at National Picnic, makes wearable and slightly quirky garments from eco-friendly fabrics in the USA. See my features on National picnic here.

4. Reformation

Eco-friendly | Low waste | Made in USA | Woman owned | Sizes 0-12

Sexy, minimalist, and vintage-inspired pieces made with deadstock and ecofriendly fabrics.

5. Pinup Girl Clothing

Woman owned | Many items made in USA | Sizes XS-4X

This is the closet match to ModCloth's in-house collection, featuring vintage-inspired silhouettes in a range of sizes. Check the listing for "made in USA" credentials, as not everything was produced domestically.

6. Thought Clothing

Ecofriendly | Ethical production | Sizes XS-XL

Thought Clothing has a laid-back, British vibe that aligns pretty well with the ModCloth aesthetic. Items are made with ecofriendly fibers and produced with fair labor standards.

7. Thief & Bandit

Ecofriendly | Made in Canada | Woman owned, designed, and produced | Sizes XS-XL

Screen printed blouses, dresses, skirts, and more in stunning floral and natural motifs.

8. Smart Glamour

Woman owned and designed | Ethically produced | Sizes XXS-6X

Fun, fashion forward clothing produced in NYC at accessible price points in a full range of sizes.

9. Beth Ditto

Woman owned and designed | Ethically produced | Sizes 14-28

Quirky, kitschy, and on trend plus size clothing produced in the USA.


Vintage & Upcycled

10. The Kissing Tree Vintage

Woman owned

A longtime favorite, The Kissing Tree offers a huge selection of high quality vintage pieces for women.

11. Smockwalker Vintage

Woman owned

Fun, wearable vintage at reasonable prices. Stay tuned for a review.

12. Neo Thread

Woman owned

Upcycled vintage and thrift finds, some featuring quirky hand embroidery. See how I wore a piece from Neo Thread here.

12 Ethical Alternatives to ModCloth now that they're owned by WalMart

I Found Ethical Nose Rings! Ananda Soul's Balinese Designs + Giveaway

Ananda Soul ethical nose ring review and giveaway This post was sponsored by Ananda Soul and I received a nose ring for review. Scroll down for the giveaway.

When I got my nose pierced two years ago, I wasn't really thinking about where to find ethically produced piercings. I was more concerned with avoiding infection and mean comments from my ever opinionated thrift shop coworkers.

Well, I got past those hurdles with only a few blips and then I was left with that, "oh yeah, shoulda thought about that" realization when I went out to buy new accessories. I succumbed to the pull of a sale at one of those goth mall stores when I couldn't find anything on the ethical market, but the quality was lacking and I knew that couldn't be an option for me longterm.

About a month ago, Christina at Ananda Soul reached out to me to discuss a possible collaboration and I emphatically answered, "Yes!" Finally, ethically sourced nose rings!

Ananda Soul ethical nose ring review and giveaway

About Ananda Soul

Founded by designer Christina Zipperlen in 2009, Ananda Soul employs mothers living on the margins in Bali and uses proceeds to ensure that their children are able to attend school. Christina sees the world like I do, believing that change must start in our hearts and extend to every interaction. In her words:


My vision is to empower women from the core, to inspire them to reach for their dreams, make them realize how powerful, significant, and beautiful they are. Each thought, each action, each smile, each encounter counts - and that is what we live by.

Ananda Soul is dedicated to ethics at every stage of the production process, ensuring that their gemstones and metals are sourced responsibly, using eco-friendly and recycled materials when possible, providing fair wages, using organic cotton in their textiles, and providing educational and health services to women and children in their network.  

Ananda Soul ethical nose ring review and giveaway
Ananda Soul ethical nose ring review and giveaway

Ever-present Faith Nose Ring

Sometimes life throws us a shadow and we walk through a moment of darkness. May you always know that you are loved, that you are held, that you are safe. May you always feel the bright faith of unconditional love in your heart.

I've been walking in a shadow for more than a month now, so these words mean more to me than I could have anticipated when I originally chose this nose ring to review.  It's funny how our subconscious minds can steer us toward things and experiences that are especially relevant to us even before we are aware of what we need.

The Ever-present Faith Nose Ring is made with ethically sourced 22 karat gold through Ananda Soul's fair manufacturing program. The high gold content means this piece is hypoallergenic even for the most sensitive skin. I had originally looked into a lower priced option in order to stay honest to my budget (I like to measure items I review by that standard even if I receive them for free), but Christina was kind enough to suggest this one instead (it costs $138).

It's a real treasure to me, something I want to save for special occasions and pass on to my future children (I guess I'll have to encourage them to get their nose pierced!). The bright gold is stunning and the simple dot detailing makes it feel special. You can also wear this as a septum ring if you have a septum piercing.

Ananda Soul carries a range of fine jewelry - including some extraordinarily beautiful engagement rings - organic cotton clothing, and a small selection of bags (currently, they have a computer case available).

Shop Ananda Soul.


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GIVEAWAY

Win a $100 Gift Card from Ananda Soul

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open to international readers. Must be 18 years old or older to enter. Contest begins at 1:00 pm EST, 5/15/17, and ends at midnight, 5/24/17. Winner will be randomly selected and notified within 1 week of giveaway ending. If I do not hear back within 5 business days, I will select a new winner.

Neo Thread Co's Upcycled Clothes Are Unbelievably Cool

neo thread upcycled and embroidered clothing shop
This post was sponsored by Neo Thread and I received an item for review.


When it comes to upcycled goods, there's a clear dichotomy between "craft" and "art."


Neo Thread's line of secondhand, upcycled, and hand embroidered goods definitely falls in the latter category. I'm all for experimenting with previously used materials to create new and inspiring pieces, but it takes someone special to achieve something remarkable.

Sarah Holley scours Albuquerque thrift shops for base clothing and materials suitable for repurposing before creating one-of-a-kind pieces to stock her shop, like the hand embroidered Peace Hand tee I'm wearing in this post. A testament to her talent, she was able to grow Neo Thread into a full time business earlier this year! I sent over some interview questions to get a better sense of her process and what inspires her.

How did you get started in this business? 

Sarah: I started neo • thread as a typical, broke, business, specifically entrepreneurial, undergrad student. I would frequent local thrift stores purchase and modify clothing to my liking and, to my surprise, the liking of others. Students started complimenting and asking where they could shop my look. So, on a whim,  I decided to stop getting ready and get started. I had always wanted to start a business that centered around creativity and improving the community and realized that nothing would make me feel ready for this endeavor so I best dive in.

Initially, I sold through Instagram through comments (pre-DM) then moved to Etsy. I graduated college in 2015, became discouraged, dropped neo • thread, and got a grown-up job. But the passion kept tugging at me, I wanted to create: to create well and for a greater purpose. At the end of last year, I decided to start neo • thread back up. I formulated the vision, filed the business paperwork, created the website, and got to work. I was able to leave my job and become full time with neo • thread this last February.

neo thread upcycled and embroidered clothing shop neo thread upcycled and embroidered clothing shop

Who is your archetypal customer?

The young, multi-mindful woman; that is, the young free spirit who is ethically, earth and style conscious.

Tell me a bit about your process for selecting base materials and customizing them.

I scour vintage and second-hand stores for high-quality articles that stand out to me. Whether that be in an oddly shaped dress with a great fabric pattern, a cool vintage jacket or top or a cozy sweater in need of revamping, I’m on the hunt for the beauty unseen. For me, it is important that neo • thread clothing makes a statement about its wearer. So, in customizing, I want the pieces to be stylish but not overly trendy. Meaning, you can wear that piece beyond the year you bought it. The fast fashion industry has trained us to throw clothing out after its 7th wear and that leads to more textiles in our landfill. I want to end that! I want to make clothing that is unique, lovable, and lasting.

How long have you been doing embroidery? Are you self taught or did someone train you?

I’ve been embroidering for about 4 years. My aunt gave me a tattered, embroidery book my grandma had given her in the late 1950s. I poured through every page, in love with the art that could be created with such plain materials. As a skill, embroidery is not difficult to learn. However, it requires a great deal of patience, which has been and continues to be my greatest challenge. I have a great love and appreciation for embroidery and hand-stitching for this very reason.
  neo thread upcycled and embroidered clothing shop

What are your long term goals for Neo Thread?

neo • thread is meant to be bigger than myself, an online shop, or even a place with cool, ethically-sourced clothing. The goal is to create a platform and community for other creatives to take part, join the movement, experience mentorship and do exactly what I do, modify discarded clothing into beautiful new pieces. These seamstress/artists would be mentored and trained on how to create and sell their items on neo • thread. I want these creatives to experience more life, and financial and creative freedom. All the friction of shipping, branding, and boring business work would be taken out of their way so they could focus their energy on doing what they love: creating! Imagine a world with more ethically-sourced clothing, more encouraged and empowered creativity and less and less textile being thrown to the landfill. This is my dream - it’s what keeps me excited and full of hope! 

neo thread upcycled and embroidered clothing shop Wearing c/o Neo Thread Tee, c/o OESH Sandals

You can probably tell, but this t-shirt really gets me. It makes me feel cool and comfortable in my own skin. The embroidery is impressive, even more so in person than online. And the base tee has the softness and give of a well-worn vintage band t-shirt without looking like something you would sleep in.

Since all of Neo Thread's creations are one-of-a-kind, this particular shirt is sold out, but Sarah has other cool tees in her shop, which you can check out here. Neo Thread also carries sweaters, dresses, shorts, and jackets.

Like Sarah mentioned, the goal is for Neo Thread to become a multi-maker marketplace centered around quality, upcycled goods, so if upcycling's your thing, make sure to reach out and see how you can get your products on Neo Thread.

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Shop Neo Thread here. 


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 A note from Sarah: neo • thread co. shoppers are adoringly referred to as neo • t girls. neo • t girls are about the clothing but even more so are about a movement. A movement towards self-expression, sustainability, ethical sourcing, and an empowered community. The movement has been represented with the call to action to “ be a #neotgirl”!

The Trouble With Charity: Why Giving Back Isn't Enough

charity models and social enterprise critique

A few nights ago, my husband and I were watching an episode of Dragon's Den, the Canadian version of Shark Tank, and a "social good" company was pitching their Haitian recycling program. It was a bad business concept poorly executed, but it didn't justify one of the Dragons' responses, paraphrased below:

You're going about this the wrong way! You don't create a social good business before you become profitable. You become profitable by whatever means necessary, and then you give back! That's how business works. 

Now, I'll concede that there's something to the idea that a business needs to be successful in order for a positive end to be achieved. But her response is not an unusual one in the business community, and more often than not, the American Sharks who invest in social enterprises also buy this "the ends justifies the means" argument. Put another way, business people as a rule - and no thanks to Capitalism - prioritize profit over social good. If some money can be thrown at a few noble causes at the end of the line, that's great. But do what you have to do to thrive, even if that means exploitation.

In an apparent attempt to combat that mindset, there are now hundreds of startup brands on the "ethical" market that use buzzwords like social enterprise, one-for-one, and give-back to describe themselves. One would presume by the marketing that being charitable makes a company ethical, and I've seen many ethical bloggers and influencers tout these brands as such, even when there's very little data on their supply chain. But it begs the question: can a company really be ethical if workers are not provided a living wage, if they're not working in a safe environment, and if no attention is paid to the sustainability of raw materials?

While give-back brands market themselves around the social good, how much good are they actually achieving? And is it enough?


Charitable small businesses believe that they are doing something different by placing a cause front and center in their marketing. But, on a practical level, if their supply chain isn't in order, they may not be doing much more than a conventional business. They may be even worse.

After all, those big, nasty corporations their marketing subtly critiques do the same thing. 

Large corporations have a history of giving back. GE matches employees' charitable giving, Johnson & Johnson recently pledged 1 million dollars towards improving air quality around the world, and, since 2006, the BP Foundation has donated more than 218 million dollars to community initiatives around the country. Even Walmart, through its Foundation, awards grants and scholarships, and donates money in $200,000 lump sums to all sorts of relief efforts and deserving programs.

Being charitable is not a new angle. You could probably make the case that it's actually an engrained component of American enterprise, as fundamental as having a business plan. Americans really love charitable giving. In fact, in 2015 alone individual citizens and American businesses gave $373.25 billion dollars to charity.

You can look at this from a couple of perspectives. On the one hand, it's really nice to know that these hugely profitable enterprises are designating at least some of their profits to charitable giving. It's certainly better than nothing, and for the recipients of these pledges, scholarships, and funds, it can be life changing.

But it also makes it awfully convenient for these companies to never address problems in their supply chain - or even company culture within corporate offices - because as long as they claim they're being responsible, they can practically get away with murder (but, more realistically, with gross negligence when it comes to their most vulnerable workers).

So, when a nicely branded "social enterprise" tells me they give back, I have questions. 


Where are your raw materials sourced? Who makes your product? Where? What's the wage? Have you visited your supplier? How did you choose your supplier, and why?

If they can't answer these questions with relative ease, something's wrong.

It's not that charity is bad. Charity is very good, and comes from good human emotions like empathy, love, and maybe a bit of guilt. Charity is what's needed in times of crisis - in famine, tsunami, and war.

But charity is also a bandaid placed on broken systems. 


Charities, by their nature, go where there is trouble. Uprising, corruption, colonialism, exploitation, bigotry, terror. No amount of external aid, even if given in love and good faith, can correct underlying systemic issues. Sometimes, charity makes things worse.

The documentary, Poverty Inc., explores the ways in which charity has become big business, delaying permanent infrastructure and job development. In Haiti, NGOs are often so poorly managed that money simply vanishes, given to inefficient subcontractors or wasted on lavish homes.

After an earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010, Americans donated tens of millions of dollars to relief efforts. Haitian communities were inundated with donated rice, forcing local rice farmers to compete with free product, running many of them out of business. Meanwhile, an onslaught of solar panel donations threatened local alternative energy businesses. Even if individuals were helped in the short term, the local economy was now dependent on foreign aid to keep it afloat. Not only is this unsustainable, it's unethical.

Change happens when marginalized communities are empowered to transform systems of oppression into systems of flourishing. 


Social good brands must realize that there are limits to charity, and that building a charitable business model without attention to the ethics of their supply chain or the long term efficacy of the nonprofits they support is both irresponsible and dangerous.

The best possible world is one in which charity no longer needs to exist because people are able to provide for their families and their communities. It is a place where individuals are valued and not exploited. Where the root causes of injustice are addressed before they can spiral out of control.

Charity is only good now because it is necessary. But the world we should be working toward is one where people are far too important to ever be turned into charity cases, where we don't get to feel good about giving.

Where we get to claim that we're good only when we know that everyone is being treated as the sacred beings they are.


In the words of John Wesley:

Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.

So, businesses, by all means give to charity. But take it a step further by seriously scrutinizing your supply chain for the slightest sign of injustice and exploitation. Care about company culture. Care about the environment. Vet the charities you support. Treat others the way you'd like to be treated.


I originally covered this topic on my post on One-for-Ones. I'm hoping to do another post distinguishing between charity as a virtue versus "charity, inc." soon. 

Macrame Is Back: Hand Up Global Goods' Bracelets for Social Change

fair trade macrame hand up global goods
This is a paid collaboration with HandUp Global Goods and I received product for review. 

A couple of months ago, after eating dinner with a friend at a shopping center near my house, I took a quick drive across the parking lot and meandered into a craft store. I carefully selected hemp cording and faux turquoise beads, crossing my fingers that my muscle memory would help me do what I had suddenly decided I needed to do: make macrame bracelets.

As a child and young teenager, I was quite the expert at the rope knotting technique known as macrame. I'd hook the end of the string onto one of my toes and hunch over for hours, weaving precise patterns and methodically adding beads until I had achieved the ideal bracelet, anklet, or choker. It was something that was easy to start and allowed for both creativity and skill development with each new bracelet.

Well, macrame is back. And no one in the fair trade industry is doing it better than HandUp Global Goods

fair trade macrame hand up global goodsfair trade macrame hand up global goods

HandUp Global Goods is a social enterprise that employs young men transitioning out of orphanages in Haiti. In addition to providing short term income, HandUp's programs offer financial literacy, vocational training, and spiritual support with a goal to build strong, confident leaders who can build sustainable infrastructure in their own communities. HandUp stands in as a partner to women-focused social enterprises, ensuring that disadvantaged men aren't left behind by broken systems.

Though I'm a Christian, I am very careful to ask about the specific types of "spiritual support" offered through faith-based social enterprises. Our cultural biases and colonialist history as Americans can create a lot of tension - and do a great deal of harm - if we aren't careful to enter developing economies with humility and a listening ear. The team at HandUp Global Goods was more than willing to answer all my questions, and made it clear to me that 1. employees are under the spiritual guidance of a local pastor rather than an outsider and 2. HandUp's curriculum is based in the universal tenets of Christianity and is not affiliated with a particular denomination. This shows me that they are willing to engage their faith in the least harmful way while remaining within their tradition.
  fair trade macrame hand up global goodsfair trade macrame hand up global goods

And, of course, the products themselves are so much fun. HandUp sent me their classic Akolad Encased Bracelet and a pair of the Pearl Macrame Earrings to review. They're each made of thin, strong cording and high quality beads, and the attention to detail is notable. The bracelets would look great in a big stack on your wrist, but my preference is to go old school, and buy a whole bunch to give out as friendship bracelets. They remind me of long summer breaks spent swimming, reading, and irritating my little sister.

That those beautiful, sun-filled memories can be conjured up from these simple but precise pieces is an indication of their connection to loving human handiwork. My hope is that programs like the one offered through HandUp Global Goods can make things a little more beautiful and sun-filled for everyone.

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Shop HandUp Global Goods.


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Host A Handmade, Fair Trade Picnic with GlobeIn's Picnic Box

GlobeIn Picnic Box Review, ethical subscription box This is a part of a paid collaboration with GlobeIn and I received a Picnic Box for review.

Picnics are the best. 


I was looking for a thoughtful or profound way to start this post, but the nice thing about picnics is that they really don't require much in the way of profundity to be a success, so I decided a clear, uncluttered assertion was appropriate. Picnics are about enjoying the simple pleasures of warm breezes, green grass, and friendship. It only makes sense to seek out similarly meaningful picnic tools that contribute to the well being rather than the exploitation of the makers.

I had been wanting to find a suitable picnic blanket to bring to wineries and local summer festivals, and GlobeIn's themed Picnic Box provided that plus a handful of other picnic essentials to help make packing up and seizing the day easy.
  GlobeIn Picnic Box Review, ethical subscription boxGlobeIn Picnic Box Review, ethical subscription box
Pickled Okra not included (:

GlobeIn's Picnic Box contains items that were produced ethically and with eco-friendly practices.

The picnic blanket was produced by artisans at Peace Handicrafts in Cambodia, where workers are provided a living wage, safe working environment, and job training. The top layer is cotton plaid and the base layer is made with upcycled, waterproof bags to ensure that you stay dry even if the ground is damp. In rainy Virginia, this is a must.

The simple wood cutting board was produced by an artisan-owned co-op in India; the cup was hand painted by artisan, Dilshad Hussain, at his shop and produced in partnership with fair trade organization, Noah's Ark; and the bottle basket was handwoven from locally sourced palm leaves by indigenous artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico. You can learn more about the producers here.

I took my box to a friend's house for a picnic for one (she was leaving just as I got there, unfortunately). It gave me a chance to use each item and test its functionality. The cutting board is perfect for a sampling of cheese or fruit and the bottle basket will hold either a bottle of sparkling water or wine, whichever you prefer (here in Virginia wine country, we'll probably use it for wine most of the time). The metal cup is a good partner to the metal cup I already own and the hand painted finish is impeccable, but it would make more sense if they'd provided two cups (you can buy extra cups individually here).
 GlobeIn Picnic Box Review, ethical subscription boxGlobeIn Picnic Box Review, ethical subscription box

If you're already fully prepared for a picnic, GlobeIn sells other monthly Artisan Box subscriptions like this one and individual products from their artisan partners (I purchased wool dryer balls and soap nuts from them in the past).

What I particularly like about GlobeIn is their dedication to attractive, well curated fair trade products that make sense for everyday use. So often, fair trade marketplaces are full of gift-y items that are great around the Holidays but don't otherwise make sense for my lifestyle. GlobeIn sells the kind of stuff that will be used and enjoyed over and over again.

I'm partnering with GlobeIn over the next couple of months to review two other boxes, which will give me a sense of the way their subscription service works. Stay tuned for those, and let me know if you have any questions. In the meantime, you can check out the Picnic Box's 5-star reviews.

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Get $10 off your first 3-month GlobeIn Artisan Box Subscription with code, STYLEWISE.


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6 More Myths About Buying Ethical Clothing

6 more myths about buying ethical clothing alden wicker
Photo by Alden Wicker

Alden Wicker of EcoCult is a great example of why the world needs professional journalists. She does the research, the networking, and the fact checking to ensure that well meaning conscious consumers have accurate information. And she's been killing it lately debunking some oft-repeated ethical talking points.

Getting our facts straight isn't being negative, it's making sure we can work to find sustainable solutions because we know we're moving in the right direction. Her piece below perfectly compliments 6 Myths About Buying Ethical Clothing, one of the first critical pieces I wrote for StyleWise (coincidentally, it was published 2 years today).

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This piece was written by Alden Wicker and originally appeared on EcoCult.

1. If you donate your old clothes to the “right” charity, they will find their way into the hands of an appreciative low-income American.

Repeat after me: No matter where you donate, it all goes to the same place. No matter where you donate, it all goes to the same place. Most people still believe when they donate clothing, they’re donating much-needed garments that people in need will gratefully take and wear with pride. But the fact is, Americans donate far too much clothing for the underprivileged in America to absorb, and much of it, as fast fashion has taken hold, is worthless and falling apart. Homeless and women’s shelters don’t even want your old clothing. They want bras, new underwear, coats, basic personal care products, and tampons. If you drop off a bag of your old Forever 21 clothing, it’s equivalent to you dropping off your bag of household waste, and expecting them to be thankful for the opportunity to sort through it and take out the bottles with deposits. That is how worthless and disposable old clothing is at this point.

The way clothing charities work, they take in your clothing, and then extract as much value as they can from it in order to run their operations. They’ll resale about 20 to 40% of it to the public. The rest is bundled up and resold for pennies on the pound to a recycler who will downcycle some of it into insulation or wiping rags, and will send the rest to developing countries to resell for a couple dollars. If you donate to Goodwill, Salvation Army, Housing Works, the Greenmarket textile collections, that church down the street, all of them go through this exact same process. So whether your clothing finds a second life depends not on where you donate it, but the quality of the clothing itself. If it’s well-made, timeless, and in good condition, someone, somewhere, will wear it again. If you bought it for $15 originally or it has a stain, it will be downcycled.

So the lesson here is not to worry about where you donate your old clothes – just pick a charity whose mission you support. And worry more about what clothing you’re buying in the first place, and whether it will have a long life. Oh, and if something has tears or stains, cut it up and use it for rags around your house.

You can read more about this issue in my article for Newsweek.

2. Your secondhand clothing is ruining clothing manufacturing in developing countries.

The truth about this is even more complex than the last myth. As the “common knowledge” goes, when your old clothing goes to Africa, the people who live there buy it and wear it instead of buying clothing that is made there, thus devastating the textile and garment industries. But that may not be true, as I found out when I interviewed a couple of researchers on the topic.

Let’s take East Africa, for example. When the economies were opened up for international trade in the 1980s, two things happened simultaneously. First, East Africans started importing secondhand Western clothing and reselling it in large markets, because it was seen as high quality, and it was a way for East Africans to get that cool American style – Nike, Adidas, etc – for a few dollars. Second, the East African textile industry suddenly had to compete with the international market, and because they were inefficient and had poor infrastructure, factories started closing down. The fact that these two things happened simultaneously gave rise to the myth that the secondhand market caused the factories to shut down.

The East African governments have proposed banning secondhand clothing. But if that happens, East Africans will not suddenly go back to buying traditional broadcloth clothing made in East Africa. They’ll just buy more super cheap Asian imports, just like we do. Secondhand clothing, domestic clothing manufacturers and Asian imports all fill separate needs for East African consumers, who want to be fashionable, just like you and me. Plus, secondhand markets provide income to many East Africans, and support tailoring jobs as well.

Now, I should caveat this by saying that Haiti actually manufactures the same stuff that we cast off, like t-shirts. So it may be that our secondhand clothing negatively affects their economy, though Haiti has so many economic troubles, it’s hard to separate out any one culprit. But I can tell you that when I was visiting the Dominican Republic earlier this year, I discovered that they have a thriving market for secondhand clothing, but also a huge clothing manufacturing base – it’s the third biggest economic sector after remittances and tourism, bigger even than agriculture. It has experienced a decline in the past decade, but according to this analysis, it was because of “high electricity costs, domestic cargo costs, maritime transport costs, and customs charges. But the most important factor contributing to the change in fortune was the phasing-out of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA) which… set limits, called quotas, on the amount of foreign-made apparel and textiles [the U.S. and Canada] would allow into their countries from any specific producing country. Once the MFA expired, the Dominican Republic was unable to compete with the cheaper clothing assemble in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Bangladesh, and it lost much of its share in the US garments market.” Notice the secondhand market for clothing is not listed as a culprit. But fast fashion is.

3. Only the privileged can partake in the sustainable fashion movement.

While we are on the subject of secondhand clothing, let’s address this charge, which I most often hear shouted in the comment section of Refinery29 at me. Yup, I am privileged. But I also know of about 25 stores in the city where you can get high-quality, sustainable fashion for $5 to $30: Beacon’s Closet, Buffalo Exchange, 10 Ft. by Stella Dallas, Housing Works, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Second Time Around… yes, I’m talking secondhand stores. Secondhand fashion is a great way to get affordable and quadruple-ethical and sustainable fashion:


  • Your money is going to a charity or local business instead of a fast fashion company.
  • No resources are being extracted to make your clothing.
  • Nobody was exploited to get that fashion to you.
  • It’s probably local fashion, brought in by someone in the same neighborhood or city, so transportation emissions are almost nil.
  • You’re keeping something out of the landfill.


And I promise, this is not crap fashion. Stores like Beacon’s and Buffalo Exchange are extremely picky about what they take. They reject anything with stains and tears, anything out of fashion, and even cheap fast fashion. I’ll often stop in to see what they have and walk out with some beautiful blouses, or super fun, trendy items for a vacation with the tags still on, all for the same price as fast fashion. Really, beggars can be choosers.

In addition, when I tell people how to overhaul their wardrobe to be more sustainable, my first four steps do not involve spending money. In fact, they involve saving money! It’s only in the final step do I tell them to go shopping, and to do it mindfully, with cost-per-wear and resale value in mind.

Lona from StyleLend once shared with me a saying: “I’m too poor to buy cheap things.” It means that it’s a waste of money to buy things that will fall apart after a few uses. So buy high-quality, secondhand, timeless fashion, and not only are you super sustainable, you’re also super budget savvy.

4. Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world.

Thoroughly debunked. We actually have no idea what its impact is, and we are in desperate need of a research team to figure it out.

5. If companies just manufactured in the U.S., then all these problems would be solved.

Yes, manufacturing is the U.S. is superior when it comes to environmental protections. Our EPA enforcement is far from perfect (the European Union is surpassing us in many ways) but it’s much, much more robust than in any Asian country, where rivers in garment manufacturing districts are devoid of life and foamy with poisonous runoff. But there’s a catch: U.S. garment manufacturing is not only much more expensive, because of our minimum wage, it also has a reputation for fashion industry insiders for being poor quality. Many a well-meaning fashion startup has struggled to produce in the U.S., got a lot of flack from customers for the inconsistent, poor quality goods, and then finally given up and moved onto Vietnam or Latin America, where they can get higher quality accessories and garments made for a lower price. Or they simply found success and outgrew New York’s or LA’s manufacturing capacity.

Plus, what would happen to the millions of Asian women who work in the garment industry in Asia if we somehow reshored all our manufacturing? Those jobs, as dirty and dangerous and exploitative as they are, represent a step up from rural poverty and forced marriages for many of these young women. They represent a dream. The answer is not to pull out of Asia entirely, but to figure out how to improve the working conditions and pay in these countries.

6. Fashion made in China is low quality and cheap.

Speaking of, this used to be true. But it isn’t any longer. Wages in China have risen to the point where it’s actually midrange, upscale and even luxury clothing that is now being manufactured in China, which has invested heavily in the latest technology necessary to create elaborate and quality garments and accessories. Larger ethical sustainable brands struggle with this fact, because they have found the responsible factories there, and yet customers get angry at what they perceive as a greedy, unethical brand choice. Yes, the environmental protections are still not great in China, but if you flip a tag over and see “Made in China” you can no longer assume that it represents the bottom of the barrel.

Read 8 more myths on EcoCult.

Finally, Residue Free Zero Waste Hair Care + Plaine Products Giveaway

Plaine Products zero waste, organic body care giveaway This post is part of a paid collaboration with Plaine Products and I received items for review.

I introduced Plaine Products on Monday in my Zero-Waste Your Morning routine post, but I didn't share a proper review. Today's the day!

To recap, the sister team behind Plaine Products invented the zero waste, subscription shower care company after waking up to the fact that the plastic packaging wrapped around most single-use products doesn't just go away after we discard or recycle it. To the contrary, it piles up on beaches, roadways, and landfills and gets lodged in the stomachs and around the mouths of millions of aquatic and land animals each year, killing or permanently maiming them.

Their solution was to create something that adhered to the ideals of the circular economy, which prioritizes high quality, reusable materials; regular maintenance and mending; and an overall reduction in resources and energy usage throughout the production process. Plaine Products come in stainless steel containers with reusable pumps. When you're getting close to using up a product, you simply head to the website and order a new one along with a return label to send back the old bottle. They'll then clean and refill that bottle and send it off to the next customer.

Plaine Products zero waste, organic body care giveaway
Dent courtesy of my clumsiness

Needless to say, the concept is amazing. I've been wanting something like this to come along for years, and I only wish I could find something similar for facial care products.

But concepts don't mean anything if the product can't speak for itself. Fortunately, Plaine Products are the bomb. I really mean it. I had been searching high and low for zero-waste shampoo and conditioner that didn't leave a lot of residue in my fine hair, and I'd about given up. But the organically derived, palm oil free (and no palm oil derivatives!), essential-oil scented, gentle line they've created has made my mornings so much easier.
  Plaine Products zero waste, organic body care giveaway

I've been testing out Plaine Products' full line - shampoo, conditioner, and body wash - for about a month to ensure my review could be as thorough as possible. Here's my verdict:

Shampoo

Aloe, Coconut Oil, green tea and other pure ingredients combine to make a sensitive-skin friendly, lightweight but moisturizing shampoo. I am dandruff prone because my scalp, like the rest of my skin, is very sensitive, so I was worried this shampoo wouldn't be able to tackle that, but I've had less dandruff and less itchy skin since I started using Plaine Products. With my amount of hair, I just need one pump to get a thorough clean. This is hands down the best shampoo I've used in years. It's not drying like other organic shampoos and, unlike shampoo bars, it leaves no residue.

Grade: A+

Conditioner

Shea and mango butters, jojoba oil, and other fruit extracts make this a medium-weight, replenishing conditioner. Like the shampoo, I only need one pump to throughly saturate my hair. I'm less fussy about conditioners overall, because my fine, straight hair doesn't require a lot of extra moisture, but I like the weight of this one. I actually LOVE this for shaving my legs and underarms because it's moisturizing and easy to spread.

Grade: For hair, A | For shaving, A+

Body Wash

Chamomile, sage, jojoba, and bamboo silk make this a nourishing body wash. Admittedly, I'm more of a bar soap person, so body wash in general doesn't excite me. I like this product to combat dry skin, but it feels a bit too heavy for hot, humid days. I'm looking forward to using it more frequently during the winter.

Grade: B (but hey, that's just me)

I would highly recommend that you try Plaine Products if you've experienced similar issues with shampoo bars and other organic, zero waste skin care products in the past. I can't imagine that you'd be disappointed.

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ENTER TO WIN A PLAINE PRODUCTS THREE PACK 

(SHAMPOO, CONDITIONER, AND BODY WASH)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Contest begins midnight EST 5/3/17 and ends midnight EST 5/16/17. No purchase necessary to enter. Open to US readers only. Winner will be contacted 2-4 days after giveaway ends. If I do not hear back within 1 week, a new winner will be selected.

Shop Plaine Products here. 


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